A Pineapple Tale

During my last visit to the Philippines, I had a long talk with my mother. Not trying to be morbid, and in fact she was still in good condition, but with her advancing age I just asked her what her wishes were if in case she would be put to rest. She told me what her wishes were, but also told me parts of a story that I have never heard before…..

Almost 100 years ago, there was young man in Ilocos Norte who joined a wave of Ilocano migrants to Hawaii in search of a better future. It was during the time of one of the largest Filipino migration to Hawaii. Muscular and strong, he was picked to work in a pineapple plantation in Hawaii.


Hawaii plantation in 1900’s (photo courtesy of Hawaii state archives)

However after a few years of hard labor in the plantation, with long hours under the Hawaiian heat – homesick and longing for the love of his life that he left behind – he decided to go back home to the Philippines. Whether it was a wise or unwise decision, who are we to judge?

Once back home he married his childhood sweetheart. He was determined not to return to Hawaii, but rather try his fortune back in his hometown. He started building a house in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte for his family.

He worked incessantly, and one day while working on the house that he is erecting, he suddenly collapsed. The older folks said he suffered from “pasma,” but the doctor in me think it was something else, though I just cannot be sure what. He did not really recover after that and died shortly thereafter. He was in his mid 20’s.

He left a grieving young widow who was 8 months pregnant with their first baby. That baby was my mother.

My mother was born and she grew up without knowing her father. She did not even know what her father look like. All she had were the stories from her mother of how wonderful and loving her father was.

My mother pursued her own dream despite of their “unlucky” situation, so she made good in her studies.

On the day of her high school graduation, a supposedly happy occasion, she arrived home and found her mother slumped on the floor and unable to speak. She most likely suffered a devastating stroke. She died several weeks later, and left my mother a complete orphan at a young age.

My mother was still able to go to college with the help of her aunt and uncle who unofficially adopted her. She later earned a bachelor degree in education.

After finishing college, my mother took teaching assignments and taught elementary in different provinces. She was assigned in Baler, Quezon and stayed there for a couple of years. When she transferred to Norzagaray, Bulacan as a teacher, she met a handsome young man there. That was my father.

They fell in love and eventually got married. They moved to Sampaloc, Manila where they raised their family, and the rest was history.

I have no photos of my grandfather. Not even a grave to visit where his remains lies, as my mother told me that he was buried in a piece of land that the government subsequently bought and turned into a road. What road or highway was it, my mother was not sure.

We have no memorabilia of his existence. All I have is this story of a man whose likeness I most likely bear, as many say that I am a spitting image of my mother, and who knows, perhaps of my grandfather too.

My grandfather had no idea that one of his seeds will one day make his way back to America. Though not in the pineapple plantation of Hawaii, but settling around the cornfields of Iowa. Not as an unskilled laborer, but as a highly trained physician. He gave up his American dream, but in a happy twist of fate, it led the way for me to chase mine. I have migrant blood in me after all.


Dole pineapple plantation in Hawaii (photo taken during our visit)

About two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Hawaii with my wife and kids. We even visited the Dole pineapple plantation and ate some pineapple ice cream there. Never did I knew at that time, that part of my roots came from that place.

Pineapple is one of my children’s favorite fruit. They like to eat it as is, or mixed in a fruit salad, or as fruit drink, or even as a topping in their pizza. Maybe their great-grandfather liked it too. Or maybe he hated it, and hated it so much that he left the plantation.

But I’m glad he left the pineapple plantation and went back home. Thus this story exists. And I exist to tell this story.

In Search of Paradise

(Someone close to me requested me to translate in English the article “Hinahanap na Paraiso, ” that I recently posted. Nothing against Google Translate, but it just did not give it justice.)

As I peek outside our window, my morning was greeted with freshly fallen snow that blanketed our surrounding all-white. Because of the numbing cold, I pulled up the thick blanket over myself and dreamed of a much warmer paradise…..

our first snowfall this year

A paradise where the sun kisses the prancing ocean waves. Where the eternal summer breeze caresses the dancing palm trees. Where the proud mountains are always lush and green, and where mighty trees boast their broad and dense canopies. Where visitors are welcomed by hanging leis around their neck, while beautiful smiling women with flowers in their ears greet “Aloha”.

Not so long ago, my family were blessed to visit the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Here, we jaunted through the island and witnessed the enchanting places and scenery. Here we waded and played in its warm seawater. Here, we laid and unwind in its alluring beach. Truly this place is like a paradise, so it’s not a wonder it is one of the happiest places* on earth.

photo taken at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii

However this place is not totally free of its own problems and difficulties. The traffic jam can be terrible at times. There are beggars and homeless people who wanders around and sleep in the parks. And the local residents whine that the price of commodities are so high and the cost of living here is so expensive, that they say this place is only for tourists. Even on this “happy” place, there is no shortage of people who are forlorn in love.

If we would be familiar with its history, this paradise is the place of such vicious tragedy, a site of awful bloodshed, when the Pearl Harbor was attacked during World War II. Thousands of lives were lost, and some are still entombed in their watery grave up to this day.

My point only is that even in a paradise-like place, it has still its own troubles. In fact, even in a perfect paradise, the Garden of Eden, it still became a place of temptation, disobedience, and fall from grace. This has caused all of the misery of mankind.

Is there really a place of paradise? To me, a paradise is not a location. It is not a place that can be seen in a map. For me, it is a state or condition in life. A state in life where you are happy and contented. A state in life where your dreams are realized. A state in life where you are free to love and is freely loved. In paradise – love reigns.

I looked around where I am now. My wife and my kids were still fast asleep. They transcend happiness and peace in their faces. It is true that even in such a frigid place like this, a place buried in snow, can be a paradise.

my frozen paradise

(*According to the recent Gallup poll, Hawaii is the happiest state among the 50 states of USA. Iowa though, made it to the top 10 too.)

Hinahanap na Paraiso

Sa aking pagdungaw sa aming bintana ay binati ang aking umaga ng bagong bagsak na puting niebe na bumalot sa aming buong kapaligiran. Dahil sa nakakakilabot na ginaw, ay binalot ko rin ang aking sarili ng makapal na kumot at nangarap sa isang maiinit-init na paraiso………

our first snowfall of the year

Isang paraiso na kung saan ang araw ay humahalik sa naglalarong alon ng dagat. Kung saan ang kaaya-ayang simoy ng hangin ay humihimas sa mga sumasayaw na puno ng niyog. Kung saan ang mga hambog na bundok ay luntian at ang mga puno ay pinagmamalaki ang kanilang mayayabong na sanga at mga dahon. Kung saan ang mga dumadalaw ay sinasasabitan ng kwintas na bulaklak sa kanilang leeg, habang sumasalubong ang magagandang binibini na may bulaklak sa kanilang tenga, at bumabati ng “Aloha.”

Kami ay pinalad na makarating sa isla ng Oahu sa Hawaii, kamakailan lamang. Dito kami ay nagliwaliw at kung saan namin nasaksihan ang magagandang pook at tanawin. Dito rin kami ay nagtampisaw sa kanyang maligamgam na tubig ng dagat. At dito rin kami ay nagpahingalay sa tabi ng kanyang mainit na dalampasigan. Talaga namang mala-paraiso ang lugar na ito, at hindi kataka-taka na isa ito sa mga masasayang lugar sa mundo.

photo taken at Kualoa Ranch at Oahu, Hawaii

Subalit ang paraiso mang ito ay hindi malaya sa mga problema at kahirapan. Nagbubuhol-buhol din ang trapiko dito. May mga pulubi at mga “homeless” din na lumalaboy-laboy at natutulog sa mga publikong liwasan. At sabi rin ng mga lokal na naninirahan dito, ay sobrang mahal ang bilihin at presyo ng kabuhayan sa munting islang ito. Ito ay lugar lamang daw para sa mga turista. Kahit sa “masayang” lugar na ito, ay hindi pa rin mawawala ang mga sawimpalad sa pag-ibig.

At kung ating aalamin ang kasaysayan, ang paraisong ito ang pinangyarihan ng kahindik-hindik na trahedya at pook ng marahas na digmaan, nang bombahin ang Pearl Harbor. Laksa-laksang buhay ang nabuwis sa kanyang kanlungan.

Ang aking lang punto ay kahit sa lugar man na waring paraiso, ay may kanya-kanya pa rin itong mga suliranin. Sa katunayan, kahit sa perpektong paraiso, sa Hardin ng Eden, ay naging pook din ng tukso at pagsuway. Ito ang naging sanhi ng dalamhati sa buong sang-katauhan.

May tunay nga bang lugar na paraiso? Para sa akin ang paraiso ay hindi isang pook. Hindi ito isang lugar na makikita sa mapa. Kundi ito ay isang kalagayan o estado sa buhay. Kalagayan sa buhay, kung saan ikaw ay masaya at kontento. Kalagayan sa buhay kung saan ang iyong mga pangarap ay naatim. Kalagayan sa buhay kung saan iyong nararanasan ang malayang pagmamahal. Sa paraiso – ang pag-big ang naghahari.

Aking pinagmasdan ang aking kinalalagyan ngayon. Mahimbing pa sa pagtulog ang aking maybahay at mga anak. Bakas sa kanila ang saya at kapayapaan sa aming munting mundo. Tunay nga na kahit sa lugar na sobrang lamig at ibinaon sa yelo, ay maaring maging paraiso.

my frozen paradise

Basking in Hawaiian Sun

I regularly attend physician’s conventions and seminars. This is to ensure that I continue to sharpen my learning and skills (plus we need a certain Continuing Medical Education units every year to keep our certification), as well as to keep me abreast with the latest studies and trends of practice. This also allows me to stay in touch with my colleagues who are in other parts of the world. And of course, this gives me reason to travel.

It is due to this conferences that I have been to many places from one coast, like San Francisco, to the other coast, like Charleston, and many other places in between.

This year, it brought me to Hawaii! And I took my whole family with me.

Hawaiian island of Oahu

We stayed in Oahu island, and the hotel where we lodged (which is one of the official hotels of the convention) has a beach front location. The view from our room was beautiful.

view of the harbor and the marina from our room

However, after our first night in the hotel, we learned that the view in the other side of the hotel was more spectacular. So we requested to be transferred to a different room. Would you agree that the view in our new room was more breath-taking?

view of Waikiki beach and the Diamond Head at the distance from our new room

The ocean was so inviting. The water was warm and clear.

Waikiki beach

And if you don’t want salt water in your nose, you can cool yourself in these enchanting pools.

hotel’s swimming pools

I would not recommend swimming in “their” pond though, or you would make these creatures angry.

Are you talking to me?

There were exotic birds in the premises where we stayed.

pink flamingos
Penguins in the tropics? This is African black-footed penguin, who prefers warmer climate than the Arctic.

And not so exotic birds. Yes those are wild chickens that freely roam around. I was tempted to catch them and turn them to “lechon manok.”

wild chickens roaming freely in a park

We took a day-long bus tour around the island. The bus tour took us to many places from the sandy beaches of Waikiki (southern coast of Oahu) to the huge surfs of North Shore (northern coast). They say that you can drive around the whole Oahu island in about 3 hours, that is if you’re not stopping to enjoy the view.

This is Hanauma Bay, a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone. It is said that this is the best site for snorkeling in the island.

The exterior wall of the volcanic rim collapsed and ocean rushed in, forming a cove.
Hanauma bay’s floor is the crater of the ancient volcano.

We stopped at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, located at the foot of Ko’oalu Mountains. The Marcoses has a mausoleum here, where the former president’s body was kept in a refrigerated crypt for many years until it was shipped back to the Philippines. It also has this temple.

This temple is an exact scale replica of a temple in Uji, Japan. (Note the clouds nestled on the mountain)

We visited Kualoa Ranch where we rode a tram to tour around the property. It was also here where we stop for lunch.

Kualoa was considered sacred by ancient Hawaiians as it was residence of kings, a place of refuge and a sanctuary.
The small island in the distance is Mokoli Island, or also known as Chinaman’s Hat, due to its shape.
If you feel that you are in Jurassic park, well, that’s because it was here where that movie was filmed.

We also made a stop at the iconic Dole Plantation. It is the only remaining pineapple plantation in the island, as Del Monte closed a few years ago.

front building of Dole Plantation
We did not munch on pineapples, but pineapple ice cream.

Aside from touring the island, I also attended the conference. Yes, really. I have pictures to prove it.

The lobby of Hawaii Convention Center

It was estimated that there was about 6,000 pulmonary physicians and other specialists around the world who attended this convention.

This is just one meeting hall. There were at least 12-15 simultaneous meetings on different halls every hour-and-a-half block.

It was not all relaxing in this trip. We did some serious strenuous activity also while we were in the island. I joined the 5K run. (see previous blog)

me psyching up before the race

We also hiked up Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone, that forms a part of a crater rim. This volcano is not active anymore and now is a state monument. The hike is 1.1 kilometer up to the top, with an elevation of more than 700 feet.

the tortuous steep path towards the summit of Diamond Head

The view from the top was magnificent. It was really worth the uphill hike.

the ‘crater’ of Diamond Head 
downtown Honolulu

This tropical paradise is also a site of an infamous tragedy, when this island was attacked and bombed by the Japanese Imperial army during World War II.  The visit to the island of Oahu would not be complete, at least from my opinion, without seeing Pearl Harbor and paying respect to the thousands of lives that were lost there.

Arizona Memorial. Built on top of the USS Arizona ship where it is entombed under the water.
inside the Memorial

While visiting Pearl Harbor, I find it interesting that most of the tourists, at least that day, were Japanese people. I wonder if there’s a different significance of this hollowed site to them?

USS Bowfin submarine
USS Missouri battleship

I am now back in my home here in Iowa. As I now look outside my window, with the trees almost bare of their autumn leaves and with the bitingly chilly, and almost wintry winds, I’m sure am missing the tropical sun of Hawaii.

Me and Waikiki sunset

And speaking of the scenic ocean view that I cannot get enough of, I wonder how much would it cost me to put an ocean in my front yard here in Iowa?

ocean view

Conference Run

For the past 3 consecutive years I ran in the Des Moines Marathon, an event held in October every year. Before you faint in amazement, I want to clarify that I did not run the marathon course itself. For in that event, there was also the 5K run, the half marathon (21K), and the full marathon (42K).

During my first year of joining, I ran the 5K. It was actually my first ever road race. Though I run for exercise since I was very young, I never ran long distances before. Maybe 2 to 3 kilometer tops. I was more on doing sprint in my younger days. But after that run, I admit, I got hooked.

So on the following year, I did the half marathon. It took me a few months to train for it, but I did it. And I finished it with a respectable time (that means it did not take the whole day!) too.

Last year, I repeated the feat and ran the half marathon again. This built enough confidence that I wanted more. I felt then that I was ready to try the full marathon next time.

But not this year.

In fact, I did not even join the Des Moines Marathon event at all this time. I learned early this year, as I was planning my year-long schedule that I would not be able to join the run. There is an out-of-state annual physician’s conference this autumn that I just cannot pass, for the reason of where it is being held this year.

So to stay motivated and maintain shape and in good running condition, I did the next best thing. I joined a race in the city where I attended my conference. Though it was not a marathon nor even a half marathon.

I joined a 5K run in Honolulu. Yeah baby, in Hawaii!

Looks like Roxas Blvd, right? But's that's Honolulu harbor.

Here we go! To inhale the salted air. Do you notice the name of the run was “One Breath”? I think “Out of Breath,” at least for me, is more appropriate.

I'm somewhere in the back. I'm giving the other racers the head start.

If running has always this stunning view (I mean the ocean, not the lady doing the stretching), I really can get used to this.

The runner and the ocean.

What’s next? Boston marathon? I don’t think so. How about Boracay marathon (if ever there is such event)? That’s more like it.