Turkey Trot

By now, you already know that I like to run. No, not running from responsibilities, but running as in road races. But I missed the annual Des Moines Marathon this fall, in where I usually run the half-marathon. It was because I was in New York during that event.

To scratch that itch to run, this Thanksgiving, I decided to join the Des Moines Turkey Trot. In this event you can either do a 5K or a 5-mile run. I did the 5 miles.

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You may say, I was crazy to run on a Thanksgiving Holiday, where one should just be resting and relaxing. But as you can see with my photo below, I was not the only crazy one.

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I was surprised on how many runners join this event. According to the official results, there were about 3,000 finishers. I’m not sure if there’s more that started but were not able to finish the race.

The event was more of a family affair, as I saw many parents with their young kids who participated in the run. Unlike in the marathon or half-marathon events, which definitely were longer runs, there were more “serious” runners or even elite athletes joining those runs. I’m not saying that I am a serious or an elite runner. Far from it.

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The course took us through downtown Des Moines. The most difficult part was the uphill climb around the Capitol building. Good thing it was in the first mile.

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After going around the Capitol, it was mostly downhill from there, or at least no more climbs.

I was slow, but I was not the slowest. See, I was already heading downhill while others are still going uphill (photo below). On second thought, maybe they were released much later, as runners were released in waves, and I was just among the first wave of runners to start, giving me my imagined advantage.

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I finished the 5-mile run under an hour which was my goal. However, when I checked the official results, I was indeed one of the slowest finishers. There were runners in the 5K and 5-mile that finished with a pace of 5-minute mile! I was wrong in thinking that there were no serious or elite runners joining that race.

At the end of the race, it really does not matter if we were slow or fast. We were all finishers, and that is what’s important. As in all other endeavors we participate in.

One thing for sure, running this event gave me a reason, or more of an excuse, to gobble (gobble, gobble!) more food. It was Thanksgiving after all!

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Me and the turkey (hindi kami bati)

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Of Hawks and Turkeys

Last Saturday was gray, damp and cold. It was windy too with strong wind gusts all day. It was a dreary day. I hope Thanksgiving would be a better day as it may be hard to be in a thankful spirit when you’re freezing, fighting fierce winds and just trying to hold on to your hat.

As we were going out, I noticed a large bird hovering high above a field. It could be an eagle as we have eagles in Iowa, though rare. But I believe it was a hawk, as they are so many here in our area. Hawks and strong gusts of wind are what we have in abundance here in Iowa, so no wonder our two big State Universities’ sport teams are called Hawkeyes and Cyclones.

I know hawks or even eagles may not be the right bird to talk about during this occasion. We should be discussing turkeys, right? By the way, wild turkeys abound in our area as well. You can spot them just hanging out in the empty corn fields. Perhaps we can skip the grocery and just capture one of them and make it our dinner for the Thanksgiving.

Enough of the turkey, and back to the flying hawk that I saw. Maybe flying was not the right term, for it was barely flapping its wings. It had its wings open, and like a big kite, it was effortlessly gliding in the sky. It did not seem to mind the strong gusts of wind, and may even be thankful for it. For the stronger the wind, the higher it soared.

Sometimes the strong winds in our lives, those gusts that we think will shred our plans, and those storms that can blast our dreams away, may just be helping us soar to higher heights.

Last week, the lady in the gym’s reception desk, the one who greets me cheerily every time I come in, gave me a book. The book was entitled “Praise God for Tattered Dreams.”

I have observed this lady as always upbeat and has a sunny disposition in life, day in and day out. I am impressed on how she remembers all the names of the gym goers, as she greets everyone by name. And I mean everyone.

Few months ago this lady, after greeting me for years since I have been coming to this particular gym, learned that I am an ICU doctor. She then told me that she was a patient many years ago, in the hospital where I work, and even stayed in the ICU. But that was a couple of years before I came to Iowa.

Since then whenever she sees me, she would always try to convince me to write a journal about my experiences as an ICU physician. She said that it may be interesting to share those stories, and I may even make some money from it.

Last week, after coaxing me to write a journal every time we meet, I finally told her, that I was indeed already writing a journal. Well, sort of. I told her about ‘this’ blog. I rarely tell people I know, that I blog. Why? So I could write about them!

After learning that I write, she went to the back, retrieved a book from a drawer and handed it to me. She told me that she wrote and published this book, and it’s about her trying experience. She added that I can borrow and read it, but if I spill coffee on it, then I have to buy it.

She narrated in the book that she was a vibrant mother with two young boys, and with a promising career, when out of the blue, she suffered a near-fatal stroke. It was a large bleed in the head. She was only 33 years old at that time.

She was close to death when she was brought to the hospital. The doctors, including the neurosurgeon, gave her only 10% chance to live.

But she lived!

She was comatose for several days and spent 3 weeks in the ICU, and a total of 3 long months in the hospital. This does not include several more months of rehabilitation after being discharged from the hospital.

She described that half of her body was paralyzed and was unable to speak for a while. In that dark moment of her life, she found God and discovered a new purpose in life. When she felt that her dreams have ended, God showed her that she was only beginning to live a more meaningful life, for which she was very thankful for.

Now she is speaking and walking with almost unnoticeable residual of her stroke. She is happily working in the gym and encouraging people to be healthy and happy. She definitely has a story to tell. From tattered dreams to an inspirational life.

As we gather around our dinner table this Thanksgiving, with our roasted holiday bird, (the turkey, not the hawk), let’s thank God for everything. Including our trials and disappointments. For storms and strong winds can make us soar higher.

Happy Thanksgiving!

IMG_5638(*photo taken with an iPhone)

 

Turkey Run

Here in the US, there are two occasions in a year, that people are strongly compelled to exercise. During these times there is a considerable spike in gym attendance. This is based at least in my observation and purely my opinion only.

The first one is during early January, when everybody is jumping on the band wagon for the New Year’s resolution to exercise, lose weight, and join the gym. However by the end of January, some if not most of them, have already fallen off the wagon.

The second occasion is right after Thanksgiving, when many are feeling guilty they over ate during the holiday. According to one study, an average American will gobble 3000 calories during Thanksgiving dinner. But with all the snacking throughout the day, it can easily amount to 4500 calories in that day alone.

Some will reason that they can burn all those calories when they go shopping on Black Friday. However, unless you go jumping rope while shopping or you’re hauling or carrying a piano, the amount of calories burned is not even close.

One exercise physiologist estimated that in order for a 160-pound person to burn 3000 calories, he has to walk 30 miles. Or if you want to burn them faster, you can run. For 4 hours!

So this weekend, I avoided the gym altogether since I know it will jam-packed. This morning, I decided to run outside instead.

The problem is during this season, in this part of the world, it is already pretty cold. In fact, we already had snow and freezing rain this past week. Today is no different, the temperature was subfreezing.

Good thing is that I have invested on nifty cold-weather running apparel that I can be warm and toasty even if the temperature is below freezing. So I layered up, summon the spirit of the Black Ninja runner  (see previous post), and ran.

I was a little chilly when I started but by the second mile, I was already feeling warm that I took off the hood from my head. By the third mile, I already unzipped my outer layer. I ended my run after 4 miles, and I was all sweaty and hot that I even took off my jacket, at least temporarily, as I was walking to cool down.

I checked on my smart phone, and the temperature was a nippy 29º F (-2º C).

I believe my run will partly burn off all the turkey I ate. Though I still have to burn all the kare-kare* and krema de fruta*, which were what I really feasted on during the Thanksgiving dinner.

Now I’m feeling hungry. Where’s the left over kare-kare?

(*traditional Filipino dishes)

Rest Stop

Thanksgiving time is hands down the busiest time of travel here in the United States.

It is estimated that there will be about 24 million people scuffling through the airports during the Thanksgiving season. If you think that is an impressive number already, that is only a very small portion of all travelers, as 90% will be traveling by car. And more than 50% of these road warriors will travel more than 100 miles.

If you are driving for long distances, you must be thankful for rest stops along the way, where you can pull over and stretch your legs, or take a toilet break, or even catch a few winks before you continue on the long road ahead. We have done long drives before and we appreciate the value of a rest area.

Iowa, where I reside now, is smack in the middle of America, and the house where I live is just 2 miles from I-80, which is a major road artery that connects the east and west of America. Interspersed along I-80 are some of the biggest and nicest rest areas you can find.

Though some friends of ours, who travelled from California to Toronto, or Michigan to California, or even shorter drive from Indiana to Colorado, and were passing through I-80, have stopped over our home for a break and a visit. Of course we did not charge them for bed and breakfast.

Yesterday morning, I learned that our place was some other form of rest stop as well. For the birds.

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I was out on my Sunday morning run, and as I approach a pond, I heard a ruckus. Lots of trumpeting and flapping. When I looked up there were flocks of geese circling above me.

They were taxiing for a landing.

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I realized that this season, with the winter approaching, is also a busy time of travel for the migratory birds, as they fly to warmer places. These birds travel from few hundred miles to several thousand miles depending on the species. Some will fly a few thousand miles non-stop until they reach their destination. While some will have some rest stop along the way.

Obviously these flocks of geese were stopping over in our place. Maybe it was for a quick bite and bathroom break. Maybe it was to cool their wings. Or maybe it was for a relaxing swim in the pond. Whatever it is, I believe it was due to our excellent accommodation. And we don’t charge them!

Below is a short video clip of this rest stop.

If only turkeys can travel and migrate too during this season. They would be flying (or running) away to some safer place. That is away from our dinner table. Yet the only rest stop they will end up this Thanksgiving is inside our belly. Aren’t you thankful you’re not a turkey?

In any case, wherever you are traveling to this holiday season, or wherever your final destination in your journey in this life, may you have a safe trip.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(*photos and video taken with an iPhone)

Home Sweet Home

Several weeks ago, when my son came home from a weekend autumn camping, as soon as he entered our door, he shouted: “Hoooooome, sweet home!”

Maybe he sorely missed his comfortable bed after sleeping for 2 nights in a tent and on a hard ground. Or maybe he was yearning for a warm shower, as he had not showered for 2 days, for the campsite where they went to did not have shower facility. Or maybe he got sick enough from using the porta potty, as again they did not have restrooms with running water. Or maybe he was longing for his mother’s delicious home cooking. Or maybe he just missed home.

But this was not an isolated occurrence. In fact, every time we come home, whether it was from a rugged camping, or from a luxurious outing, from a short excursion, or from a long road trip, or even from a dream vacation, like Disney World and Hawaii, he still calls “Hoooome, sweet home!” as soon as we enter our current home here in Iowa.

That makes me ponder, do my kids really regard our home as a “sweet home?”

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Recently, my wife have transposed our old video cassette tapes into DVD’s and we watched a few of the tapes we have. I enjoyed specifically the ones when my daughter and son were much younger, when we first moved in to this house. Our first summer. Our first Thanksgiving. Our first winter. Our first Christmas. Our first Christmas tree. And other special events.

But there are also the “not-so-special” events that may have not been videotaped, but captured in my memory nonetheless. My kids running in the yard. Raking the fallen leaves and then jumping into the pile of leaves. Watching the deer in the yard, eating our flowers. My wife chasing the deer away. Plowing and shoveling snow (though that’s not my favorite). My kids making snow forts and igloos. The hurried breakfast. The more relaxed dinner. The bedtime rituals with my children. My kids playing music. And the times we just plain playing goofy.

We have lived in this house for barely 10 years, yet I am already packing so much memories in this home, that will last a lifetime. I know I have cherished memories from our home in Sampaloc Manila where I spent more than 25 years of my life. But those memories are now being rivaled in this home where we currently live.

As I looked into every corner of this house, there’s a fond and loving memory attached to every nook of it. The porch. The stairways. The kitchen. The family room. The sun room. The basketball driveway. The yard. And even the guest bedroom, where my mother who have recently passed on, spent several months with us, every time she came for a visit.

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Yet in the end, I don’t think it is the house itself.  Rather it is the people that we surround ourselves and share these beautiful moments with, that is really more precious. And those people, we call our family.

As we approach another Thanksgiving season, just like the Pilgrims of old, who celebrated and gave thanks for their new country and their new home, I join them, and as a pilgrim myself, in thanking God for our home sweet home.

Last night, as we experienced an early snowfall this season, and after driving, or should I say slipping and sliding in the snow, and after a few tense moments of treacherous travel, we finally arrived home safe and sound. After pulling up in our driveway and entering our garage, my son once again exclaimed, “Hooooome sweet home!”

Right after he got out of the car and entered the house, he also complained, “Mom, it still smell like fish in here!”

It is home alright.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Summer is Gone

I woke up this morning to the sound of howling winds. I may have left one of the windows open. It rained all day yesterday and most through the night. At least the rain had stopped. But it was still overcast. It was a gloomy day.

The temperature also plummeted to 45º F (7º C) this morning and did not rise much above 50º F today. Though I heard it was above 100º F today in Los Angeles. But this is Iowa.

Tomorrow the forecast is that we will be in the 30’sº F in the early morning. This probably would be our first frost of the season. Time to bring in the outside pets and potted plants. Time to bring out the jackets. Maybe we also need to throw a blanket over our tomato plants in our garden tonight, which still is producing a lot of fruits, so it would not freeze.

We had a good summer though, and for the past few weeks we have experienced warm weather, even if it was already September. So we really cannot complain.

In fact last weekend my son went camping with other scouts, and he grumbled that he should have packed shorts instead of thick pants for it was hot. He said it was warm inside their tent that he did not zipped up his sleeping bag when he slept.

But it is October now. Almost overnight, the summer ended. Cold autumn is here to stay and bone-chilling winter is not very far behind.

The cold winds have blown off most of the leaves in our trees, and our yard is a scattered mess. Is it time for a fall clean up as well? Yet, I must confess that my kids like raking leaves and playing in the pile of leaves that they have gathered.

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my son raking leaves (taken 2 autumns ago)

Fall can be a beautiful season though. With the bursting colors of the trees’ foliage, people wearing fashionable jackets and trendy boots, the farmers enjoying their bountiful harvest, and with the much celebrated Thanksgiving holiday and feasting, it is not hard to imagine why this time of year is the favorite of many people. Not to mention, it is also time for many bargain sales.

But not for me. I am kind of summer guy. I like wearing shorts and t-shirts. I may complain about the heat, but I can bear it. I grew up in a tropical country, for crying out loud!

Yes, I know that summer is gone. Yet in one last act of defiance, I refused to wear my jacket when I went out today.

Of course I was cold!

 

 

The Letter

Dear Dr. (Pinoytransplant),

On July 12, 2012 you saved my life – and I’ll always thank you.

                                                                                    Kindly,

                                                                                    Mary Ann (last name withheld)

This is a letter I received a couple of weeks ago. As I read that short letter, I tried to think who Mary Ann was, and what did I do to deserve her gratitude. But I am really bad with names, so I had to look her up in our electronic medical records to remind me who she was. After reviewing the records, I remembered her clearly then.

I was the ICU attending physician that month. It was July, the deadliest month to be in the hospital according to a study*, let alone to be in the ICU. The reason July was determined to be the deadliest month, at least in the United States, is that it is the time when the newly minted physicians-in-training start their work in the hospital. And new physicians means, less experienced, and thus more prone to making mistakes. But there could be other factors too, like if it is a full moon, or if it is Friday the 13th, or if there is a solar or lunar eclipse. That is if you believe on those superstitions.

I know I was extra careful that time, and I was really supervising my medical residents (physicians-in-training) like a hawk, as I don’t want my ICU to be a part of the prevailing statistics. High mortality? Medical errors? Not on my watch. Or at least that was my intention. And there was even a Friday the 13th that month!

We were also very busy that month as I recall, averaging 15 to 20 ICU patients under our service in any single day. Then Mary Ann got admitted to our ICU. She had worsening lung infiltrates or pneumonia and deteriorating respiratory status. She underwent bronchoscopy (procedure to look directly into the lungs’ airways with a scope) and lung biopsy so we can determine exactly what was going on in her lungs. To make matters worse, she bled profusely after the biopsy due to her underlying blood disorder.

Our patient went into respiratory failure and was intubated and was kept on a ventilator for a couple of days. It was touch and go for a while (including that Friday, July 13th). However with methodical care, and her determination to get well, and perhaps also good luck (that is if you also believe in that) or plainly due to Divine intervention, she eventually improved. After five days of ICU stay, she was transferred out.

Mary Ann made a full recovery, and was ultimately discharged out of the hospital. She beat the odds, you may say. Definitely she did not become a casualty nor a statistics of July.

The kind of letter that I received from my patients, like Mary Ann, are few and far between. Most of the time, my ICU experience could be somber and downright depressing. With the current ICU admissions’ average mortality** of 10% to 29%, means a lot of deaths in any given day in my line of work. It is not really about the care (though that contributes), but more to the severity of their disease. And that can somehow get into you. Although I also have received a few letters from our patient’s family thanking me for the care I gave, even if their loved one had died. Those letters are more humbling.

So when I am feeling down, or when I start to doubt our efforts, or when I am feeling overwhelmed with the stress of the ICU, or when I feel troubled on how many death certificates I sign (see previous post here) – I have these letters to remind me, that it is still worth doing this.

Maybe I should laminate Mary Ann’s letter, and hang it on my wall.

*******

*study from University of California, San Diego, published 2010

**statistics from Society of Critical Care Medicine

Burning the Turkey

Despite of what the title might suggest, this article is not about cooking. Let’s make it clear – I don’t do the cooking. I leave that to my wife. For if I do, that’s exactly what I will do: “burn” the turkey.

This morning, I went to the gym and found that it was jam-packed. All the treadmills and exercise machines were occupied. Even the open floor for stretching was full of people. What’s happening? Since I am a regular to this gym, I knew this was not an ordinary phenomenon.

Then I realized, it was the first day after the Thanksgiving weekend. That was it! People perhaps felt guilty of all the feasting they did and stuffing themselves with food (so it was not just the turkey that was stuffed!) during the holiday and now they are trying to “burn the turkey.”

I read in one article that according to the University of Michigan Health System, an average American devours 3000 calories during the Thanksgiving meal or dinner. Screaming turkeys! That much for one dinner? And since most of us also do a lot of snacking throughout the day, it will amount to about 4500 calories consumed for the whole Thanksgiving day. That is more than twice the recommended caloric allowance for a day. And considering that some people gobble ( gobble? yes, pun intended) that much calories whether it is Thanksgiving or not, no wonder we have an obesity epidemic.

But you may argue that you could have burned all those calories perhaps when you did your Black Friday shopping. Yes, you might have walked, ran, pushed, pulled, shoved, lift, and even jumped to get the best deals on the biggest day of shopping. That will certainly burn some of the calories you chomped, but it is not enough. Not even close.

An exercise physiologist from the American Council of Exercise stated that in order to burn the 3000 calories, an average 160-pound person need to walk 30 miles. Holy turkey smokes! That’s more than the distance of a full marathon! Well, if you want to burn much faster, you can run, right? Then you need to run at a moderate pace for 4 hours. And if swimming is your thing, you need to swim for 5 hours to burn that 3000 calories you packed from the Thanksgiving dinner alone.

After the holiday, we perhaps still have a lot of leftovers that we are trying to consume, even if it is in excess of what we really need. I know it is very hard to have good food go to waste, especially in some cultures. Coming from the Philippines, where food can be scarce for some families, it is inculcated in us by our elders, that it is almost like a heinous crime to throw away food. But you know what, in some instances, it may be better to have the excess food to be in the garbage, than the “garbage” to be a part of your belly fat, where it will stay there for a long, long time.

Now that you are enlightened, put down the turkey and start walking. The whole 30 miles of it.

(*image from here)

Thankful Pilgrim or Dreadful Turkey

For the past several weeks now, I have been dreading the coming Thanksgiving Holiday and its weekend. It’s not that I am hosting a big and extravagant Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not that I am having difficult and crabby guests for the holiday. And it’s not that I am fearful of how much my wife will splurge on shopping on Black Friday. Nor am I panicking that I have to do the early Friday morning shopping myself and fight the huge crowd of rowdy shoppers. No, it’s not all those at all.

This year I got the short straw of the draw and I will be working on Thanksgiving holiday and the whole weekend.  That means I am starting my call on Wednesday night, the whole Thanksgiving Day (Thursday), up to Black Friday, and continuing to the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). Yes, that’s more than 100 continuous hours of being on-call. This is the reason I don’t feel like a grateful Pilgrim. I feel more like the turkey that will be slaughtered for the Thanksgiving dinner!

As the holiday comes nearer, the more foul (or fowl- like a turkey!) my mood turns and the less thankful I feel. Until this morning….

In our clinic today, I met this “unfortunate” patient. He just buried his wife a couple of months ago, after she had a long battle with cancer. Now, he in turn was also diagnosed, a few days ago, with an unresectable cancer, that already spread. He was scheduled to start chemotherapy and radiation therapy right after the Thanksgiving holiday. And he is barely in his fifties. But in spite of all of his troubles, he managed to keep a positive outlook. He told me that he will celebrate this Thanksgiving with his daughters, for there are still “things to be thankful for.”

That man put me to shame. I really have nothing to complain about. And I really have a lot to be thankful for.

I am thankful that I will be working this holiday and the weekend, for that means I have a job. Considering that about 10% of Americans are currently unemployed (I have no idea of how many people are jobless in the world, probably millions), that is something to be grateful for.

I am thankful that I will be taking care of the sick patients in the hospital, and not the one who is sick that needed to be taken care of. Considering how ill our patients are, especially those in the ICU, I should really be filled with gratitude.

I am thankful that even though I may not dine with my family for the Thanksgiving dinner, at least I have a family that I can dine with, and be with, the rest of the days of the year. Considering that some people have no family to be with, I should be more appreciative of what I have.

Most of all, I should be thankful to my Creator that he created me as a human, so that I can experience how to laugh (and sometimes cry), how to love (and be loved), and how to live. Considering that I could have been a turkey. Really.

Thanksgiving, I believe, should not be limited to the observance of just the specific day itself. Thanksgiving is supposed to be the attitude of our life, and it should be our way of living. Nor should thanksgiving be limited to the specific circumstances in life that we are in. For as my wonderful patient have reminded me, there are always “things to be thankful for.”

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, whether you are working or off this holiday, whether you are with your family or not, whether you are home or have no home, may we experience the right spirit of this season. Happy Thanksgiving!

I wonder if they will be serving turkey in the hospital cafeteria?

(*image from here)

Pinoy Pilgrims and Thanksgiving

(The following article was published in Manila Standard Today on November 11, 2010, in their Diaspora section.)

One tradition of the American culture that is new to me is the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday.  The Philippines has no equivalent holiday like this one.

I am not saying that Filipinos are less thankful people. In fact we have several sort-of holidays, called fiestas thanking different patron saints. Each city, town, barrio, barangay and even individual street have their own fiesta. Moreover, we as a people find many reasons to celebrate by feasting and drinking. Just like people in my neighborhood where I grew up: all they need as a reason to celebrate was that it was night, and they would gather in our street corner and have their endless rounds of beer and pulutan. I am just thankful that they did not have karaoke. That will be pure torture.

The holiday of Thanksgiving here in the United States dates back to the 1600’s from the early English settlers called the Pilgrims. After surviving the treacherous journey across the Atlantic when they left their motherland England, aboard the ship Mayflower, then surviving the harsh winter in their new land, and then finally after a successful fall harvest, that they held a thanksgiving festival. Though it became a yearly tradition of the new colonies, it was not until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday to be held every November.

Thanksgiving celebration by the Pilgrims

Over the years the tradition of Thanksgiving have evolved to how it is celebrated now. First, it is also colloquially  known as the Turkey Day as the traditional main course of the Thanksgiving dinner is turkey. During this season everybody will be giving thanks except for the more than 45 million turkeys that will be “sacrificed” for Americans to celebrate this day. Definitely not a good day if you are a turkey. For me though, even after several years of being here in the US, I still don’t care much for the turkey and would prefer galunggong over it.

Then there are  the Thanksgiving parades. The most popular is the Macy’s Parade in New York City, with all the colorful floats, performers and music bands, and beautiful gigantic balloons. We lived in NYC for a few years but did not have a chance to see it live. Perhaps we’re just afraid of the bone chilling cold to stand outside for a long time, so we just watched it on TV in the comfort of our heated apartment. Now that we moved out of NYC, I still watch the parade on TV. If more and more Filipino migrants will be celebrating this holiday, maybe someday I will see an Ati-Atihan band (wearing parkas?) in the Thanksgiving parade.

The other big thing in this holiday tradition is the nationally televised football games during this day. Every level of football, from high school, to college to NFL games, are played during this day. Though “football” in the rest of the world means soccer, in the US, football is the American football.  I am not a fan of football,  and it took me some time to understand the game, in fact, I still don’t fully understand it. It sure has more complicated rules than tumbang preso. I though find it amusing when the players push, shove, hit and pile over each other.

Thanksgiving Postcard circa 1900 showing turkey and football

The most important thing, I think, for this holiday is the family reunion and gathering. Family members that are scattered from all over the US will travel back to their home, regardless of how many miles away they are, to gather around the table as a family for the Thanksgiving dinner. This is one of the most busiest time for travel whether by roads, trains, or air. The family reunion part gives me a twinge of longing, for as a transplant, I have no “real” home and family here in the US that I can go to, to celebrate this holiday.

During our years in the US, we celebrated Thanksgiving with other Filipino friends who just like us have no real family here. So we fellow Filipinos have become our new adopted and extended family. We will celebrate it the Pinoy way, with kare-kare, tinolang manok, and relyenong bangus as main dishes rather than turkey. Maybe we just don’t know how to cook the turkey. Then we will have leche flan, buko salad, ube and other Pinoy desserts rather than pumpkin pies. Our food is more like a barrio fiesta rather than the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but perhaps our spirit of thanksgiving is closer to the first pilgrims’. We as a group, have also left our motherland, aboard not by the Mayflower ship, but rather by Boeing 747 fleet. We survived a harsh transition into this new country and now giving thanks for our blessings.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

More recently, when we moved to the Midwest, we have been celebrating Thanksgiving with a certain family and it is becoming our new tradition. The head of this family is an American and he is married to a Filipina. They are very good cooks. The American husband introduced us to the real traditional American Thanksgiving cuisine. He prepared roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, bread stuffings, green bean casserole, mashed potato, yams, pomegranate gelatin and pumpkin pies. Now I can say that I have had a real American Thanksgiving dinner. Of course we still have the pansit, fried tilapia, and buko pandan.

As I sat in the Thanksgiving dinner table, I just can’t help but think to myself, here I am, in my new adopted tradition, my new adopted cuisine, my new adopted extended family, and in a new adopted country. But I am still the same Pinoy, with the same thankful heart.

I join all the Filipino pilgrims in the world as well as all my countrymen back home in giving thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!