Don’t Take Your Valuables

Last summer, we took a long road trip that took us from the cornfields of Iowa, to the mountainous wilderness of Montana, and to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles California. As we were pulling up into a parking lot in Los Angeles, we saw this sign that said, “Please take your valuables with you.”

I think that is a fair warning, as they don’t want you to lose something that is important. Or perhaps they just don’t want to take responsibility of any theft that will happen. Or perhaps they don’t want you to tempt others of bad thoughts by displaying something valuable, or something that they would think is valuable, inside your vehicle.

I don’t think this warning applies in Los Angeles only, as it is true in many parts of America and the rest of the world.

I remember when we were still living in New York City, somebody tried to break in into our parked car, and in the process broke the door lock of our car. And there’s really nothing of value inside, except maybe the car itself. They took my tire hub caps and antenna instead. Then we had some friends whose car windows were shattered just to get some change of coins and some barely valuable things inside their car. Maybe the thief needed coins so badly for a cup of coffee or for a ride on the subway.

Same in the Philippines. When I was still living in Manila, there’s an instance that me and my dad witnessed a car theft while we were parked near Binondo. It happened in a blitz, and they acted so smoothly that we think these guys were “professionals.” Bad use of their skills and talents, I guess. With dexterity and quickness like that, they could be show-time magicians. On second thought, they were already magicians, making things disappear!

Back to the parking lot in Los Angeles, we kind of chuckled when we read the sign. Not because it was funny nor it was an unreasonable or unusual sign. To us it was just interesting that few days before that, when we were in a national park in Montana, we read several signs that contain a completely different warning.

The warning sign when we were in the wilderness of Montana states, “Please take your trash with you.”


It was just sensible that they don’t want you to litter in such a pristine place. Plus the wild creatures, like bears, can get attracted to your trash and rummage through them. This may endanger their well-being. More so, your well-being and your life may get endangered as well, if the bear cannot find what it’s looking for (a jar of honey?) and is not happy with your trash and attacks you.

It was a totally different perspective. In one, “take your valuables with you.” In the other, “take your trash with you.”

Yes, there are places in this world that they don’t care about your valuables. It does not matter whether you’re lugging a Louis Vuitton bag or a DSLR camera with an ultra zoom lens. Just don’t leave your trash too!

This made me think, in this life, there are things that we consider our valuables. Like our fancy jewelries, our expensive toys like our cars and gizmos, our pricey wardrobes, our houses and estates, our bank accounts, and other worldly treasures. And it’s not only that there are places that they will not matter, but there will come a time as well, that all of these will be deemed worthless. Rubbish. Garbage. Trash. For you cannot take them forever with you.

I do hope that we discern what really are the important things in this life. The “valuables” that no thief nor anybody can take from you.

(*photo taken last summer in Montana)


Getting Around Getty

On our last California trip we visited the Getty Center. It is perched on top of a hill of the Santa Monica mountains in Los Angeles. This is one of the two campuses of the J. Paul Getty Museum. The other campus is called the Getty Villa.

Getty Center is a $1.3 billion project that opened to the public in 1997. Admission to the museum is free, though you have to pay for parking. It is like the dinner is free, but you have to pay for the fork and knife.

We parked at the designated parking area which is on the foot of the hill. Then we took a 1-mile tram ride up the hill to the museum. You can also walk from the parking area to the center, but it is a rather steep climb. IMG_5041 The building itself is a work of art. It was designed by architect Richard Meier. IMG_5048 IMG_5047 Below is the central garden of the Getty Center. IMG_5072 The museum houses priceless treasures of art. This includes European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, and decorative art. It also have 19th and 20th-century American and European photographs. IMG_5052 IMG_5051 Below is my favorite subject for paintings. IMG_5050 Nudes? No.The cornucopia of fruits! Silly. IMG_9496_2 The works are from famous artists. From Rembrandt’s portraits… IMG_5054 To Picasso’s abstracts… IMG_9537 To Monet’s impressions…. IMG_9535 And van Gogh’s paintings. IMG_9538 Even if you are not really into arts, you can still enjoy the museum just by looking outside the window, for there is more to see than paintings. IMG_5049 The view from the center is picturesque. From the bustling downtown LA…. IMG_5044 Up to the rugged Santa Monica mountains…. IMG_5042 And to the serene Pacific ocean. IMG_5057 It is also a beautiful location for a photo shoot. IMG_5065 I enjoyed our visit to the Getty Center. And to cap the experience, we skip the tram ride and instead briskly walked down the scenic path back to the parking area. It was breath-taking. Literally.IMG_5061

Pinoytransplant Goes to Hollywood

There is no place on earth that is synonymous to red carpet, bright lights and stars than Hollywood. So during our recent holiday trip to California, we visited this district of Los Angeles, which is the center for the motion picture and entertainment industry.



Obviously we would like to walk where the stars have walked. But since we were not worthy of a red carpet, plus we cannot find a red carpet anyway, we settled to walk down Hollywood Walk of Fame.



This is the place where the stars left their mark. I mean, literally.


Since there were no stars to see in person while we were there, we did the next best thing. We visited their replicas at the Madame Tussauds.


Madame Tussauds is a wax museum founded by sculptor Marie Tussaud, with the original site in London. Now the museum has several branches in a number of major cities, including this one in Hollywood. Here we saw hot stars of today, as well as of yesteryear.


Contrary to what you’re thinking, the above sculpture is not of me and my wife. They just have some resemblance to us.



Above is not a sculpture. Well, Sir Elton John is, but the one on the piano is my daughter trying to strike a pose.

Below are Paul Newman and Robert Redford as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The ones behind the jail bars are “pinoytransplant and his no-dance kid.”


There are other places to visit in Hollywood, like the Kodak Theater, the Chinese theater, and the one below, the Hollywood and Highland Center. It is a large shopping mall and entertainment complex.


If you look up into the mountains, besides the beautiful homes perched up on the hill, you will also see an iconic sign.


Here it is with magnification.


But we were not satisfied to see Hollywood from afar. We want to see it closer. I mean to see the “Hollywood” sign closer.

So my nephew who lives in LA, led us into a location, which is a far cry from an elegant red carpet walk. It was rather a rugged hike up the hills of Los Angeles.


It is also up in these hills where you can have a scenic view of downtown LA.


As I look into the Hollywood sign, I thought that maybe I can change career and pursue my luck here in Hollywood.


After all, Jack told me so.


But then again, my pretty face may just end up at the tip of Bruce Lee’s foot. In that case, I think I’ll pass.

From Hollywood,


yours truly,


(*all photos taken with iPhone)

City of Angels

Tall palm trees. Very wide freeways and convoluted interchanges and skyways. Bald mountains.

Those were my first impressions of USA. And even after many years of living in many different states of America, California still has a special imprint on me.

I arrived in America in 1994, through Los Angeles airport (LAX). I observed how diverse the palette of races were. I thought, I could easily blend in with the different hues of humanity here.

sign outside Los Angeles airport

I stayed with my aunt for a few days in California, before I flew to the east coast to have my interviews in different hospitals and medical institutions there. After my interviews, I went back to my aunt and stayed there for a couple of months while waiting for the results of which hospital would accept my application for post-graduate training.

After completing 6 years of training in the east coast, we went back to California in 2000, and lived with my sister-in-law in Los Angeles while awaiting the change of my visa status so I could start a real job. It took a long while for my visa to be processed, so we called LA our temporary home for about half a year. It was during that cold cruel winter of our lives that California took us in and sheltered us.

Two weeks ago we went back to Los Angeles.

No, we did not move to California, we just went there to visit our family and friends. We stayed again with my sister-in-law, who has the best of both worlds. She lives literally a few minutes drive to the bustling downtown LA, but still enjoys a quiet enclave in her “mountain” home in Los Angeles area. There were also several Filipino stores and restaurants nearby, even walking distance away from her home. That goes without saying that a large community of Filipinos lived in that area.

View from my sister-in-law's backyard. Beyond the canyon and the mountain are the buildings of downtown LA

When we craved for Filipino food, even though there was a Jollibee, or Red Ribbon, and Goldilocks, we opted for a more homey feel, of a “turo-turo” carinderia, like the “Lutong Bahay” or “Nanay Gloria’s”. And as we were waiting for the food that we ordered to take home, Joey Albert sang in the background through their piped in music. I felt I was in one of the turo-turo in Dapitan near UST, back in my college days, except that when I looked outside, the surrounding were mountains with more houses than trees.

sunset and the smog (taken from the front porch of my sister-in-law's LA home)

During our brief stay, we went to Costco in the LA area to buy some groceries. When we entered the store, it looked exactly like the one we have at home in West Des Moines, Iowa. In fact if I bumped my head and passed out and then regained consciousness, I could have sworn I was back in Iowa. Except for some striking difference: the store was so crowded, that it was almost impossible to get around without bumping your cart with somebody else’. After living many years in Iowa, I am not used to the crowd anymore. You could also hear different languages being spoken by the crowd of people shopping there, including Tagalog, my native tongue. And sometimes you would hear English too ( at times, it feels like English is the minority language spoken there).

As I looked dazed in the somewhat familiar but also unfamiliar place I was in, I did not realize that I was standing in the middle of an isle and blocking it. A shopper called my attention, and I hurriedly step aside and uttered, “Excuse me”. As she went past me, I saw her shook her head. Perhaps she’s frustrated that this place was full of idiots like me. Or maybe, just maybe, she had not heard the word “excuse me” for a while.

Yep, I was in Los Angeles alright.