Imagining there is gives comfort to my daughter who just lost her beloved Oliver, a handsome and loving German Shepherd who succumbed to cancer. On his 12th year of age, and diagnosed only a few weeks ago, Ollie seemed to be his usual determined self, loving the walks on the Atlanta Beltline a few blocks from where my daughter, her husband and their three German Shepherd dogs reside. As soon as my daughter and her husband (the doggies’ Mommy and Daddy) heard of the shocking news, they decided to give Ollie the best time of his life and took him on his favorite activity, walking every day, allowing him to lead them to places he favored. His best was Ladybird. How did Mommy and Daddy know? Every time they walked by that place, Ollie would pull them to that direction. Ladybird is a dog friendly restaurant that offers delicious grilled meat. Furthermore, the staff, servers and customers are all so very friendly, and Oliver basked in the attention. But who wouldn’t pay notice to Ollie who always looked regal, long ears straight up, and a poise that showed so much aplomb. Best of all, he was quite friendly himself and captivated with generous smiles.
Last week, I stayed tuned in to a NASA broadcast that featured a Q&A forum presided by a high-ranking NASA Executive. Not sure if it was a taped broadcast, but it definitely sounded recent. The subject of the discussion revolved around planned missions to the moon and Mars. Space exploration. That subject fascinates me. So, I stated tuned in.
One question stood out. Why does the US need to engage in exploring the moon? The NASA rep elaborated on details of the mission’s goals, among which were:
– Why not – a lot of countries are pursuing their travel to and exploration of the moon. The US wants to be on the forefront of all space exploration.
– Apollo missions have shown the presence of water ice caps on the moon, as well as elements that are thought to be results of meteor fallouts and solar emissions from billions of years. These elements are not present on the earth. All these would be resources for research that would benefit the earth and its inhabitants.
– Studies of the moon may lead to knowledge of whether it is habitable or not.
– The moon can be the jump board for travel to and exploration of Mars, and later, other bodies in the solar system.
Food is the magnet for gatherings. Don’t you agree? An amusing phenomenon hard to deny and easy to accept, I dare say. Often, a common remark to someone you hadn’t seen in a while – let’s get together for coffee or lunch. I said just that to relatives from Daly City whom I had not seen in over three years. A mini-reunion, one might consider. It was so delightful to see my 92-year-old auntie, and her children. A cousin from Union City and her family and I met them at one of the best buffet seafood restaurants I’d been to. At past 1 p.m., my group was starved, so we started to eat before the Daly City folks arrived. That was quite all right, since we ended up indulging in that restaurant for nearly two hours, just leisurely savoring every dish our eyes could take fancy on. Eyes are usually “greedier” than the stomach, and for some reason, we give in to our eyes. Did that happen to me? Kind of, I admit. I particularly fancied the boiled clams, baked salmon and spiced crab dish. I ravished them all; none wasted. Though my gut hesitated with the steak flanks.
Not to forget, the company was outstanding. Spending time with kins is truly heartwarming, especially when memories of old times resurge, stories of past funny incidents bring joyous laughter, and kind banter ricochets around the table for comical moments – and as the teasing and story-telling grow, so does the eating.
Atlanta, Georgia has always fascinated me. It was the setting for Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”, an epic story set around America’s Civil War. Atlanta today is far from the Atlanta of Mitchell’s 1936 novel, but somehow, the city exudes that esoteric charm and classic sophistication mingled with the cutting edge and contemporary … and a cryptic tinge of the southern ways.
I visited Atlanta, the second in two years, spent a week’s vacation with my daughter, her husband and their three big German Shepherd dogs. This time, Atlanta held a new fascination for me. It’s called the BeltLine.
Have you ever walked to a glass wall thinking it’s the exit, and bumped your head to full alertness and chagrin? I have, just yesterday. Luckily, the glass didn’t break – and I was not hurt.
That happened after a hearty breakfast at the bakery in a market across from my daughter’s Atlanta home. Slowly walking the vicinity and checking out adjacent stores and food take-outs, I recounted the little incidents that happened as I leisurely munched on egg and ham sandwich and sipped mocha latte richly topped with cream. What seemed like an uneventful morning turned out to be a very interesting hodgepodge of amusing occurrences. Proof that nothing is uninteresting or dull. Trivial, maybe, but with quirky significance.
A mother’s love is so magical. I cannot say enough about my Mama’s love or that of my Lola. I have written blogs as tributes to them. My words can only try, but they never do justice to the magnanimity and depth of their love. It is Mother’s Day this weekend, and fond memories of Mama and Lola come flooding back. They nestle in a special place in my heart.
This blog is my tribute to some mothers in my family, all of them younger than my baby boomer age, each unique in ordinary and extraordinary ways. The common thread, however, is the deep love and caring they nurture for their children.
A welcome spice to any day is a nice surprise. Often, our days run in routine fashion that we can almost predict what occupies the next minute, the next hour. Routine is comfortable; the familiar is easy and less stressful. Now and then though, we’d like an unexpected surprise or two – the good ones, that is. I’ve had those, and I’ll tell you about some recent ones. Perhaps not spectacular, but wonderful for me — moments that bring out a laugh, a chuckle or a broad smile. Trivia, maybe, but not for me. And I hope you take interest or derive amusement in these little stories that I share.
Japanese tea set
Two friends and I recently enjoyed a simple tea ceremony at home. We just couldn’t decide whether we’d do it the English, Chinese, Japanese or Filipino way.
Tea pot set from Kyushu, Japan
Continue reading “Good surprises, big and small”
Good Friday. A time to contemplate the greatest love of all. We pause and yield to the thought of that dismal day so long ago, when one so perfect and innocent bore the sins of humanity, one who loves so much that He suffered and died on the cross in Calvary to redeem all of mankind. This is what Good Friday commemorates. It is a time for reflection and introspection. I write this blog in the evening of Good Friday, in stark awe mingled with humility and gratitude that one so mighty and sovereign should be humbled and crucified because He loves us all … because He loves you and me.
And soon, it will be Easter. Great joy! The message of Jesus’ resurrection is one of hope on the wings of faith – the belief in the victory of light over darkness, of love over despair, and in Jesus’ resurrection, of life over death, and that God’s kingdom is eternal. Happy Easter one and all!
I remember many happy Easters of past years. The memories are like gems. They shine and sparkle every time I take them out of my memory chest. Randomly, I take out a few to share with you. Continue reading “A reflective Good Friday ushers in a joyful Easter”
Easily, many delights slip notice. If we pay close attention, we can find small and big pleasures from ordinary and extraordinary things, moments that could color and brighten our day: add a lift to our step, put a smile on our face, glow to our eyes, a zing to our tone, a song in our heart. Don’t lose or waste those moments. They can enhance our perspective of life. I keep my own collection of delights and will share some with you, hoping that you, too, will find your own delights.
A puzzlingly fun adventure on a mixed weather day happened for me Wednesday last week. My first solo trip to San Francisco from Palo Alto (California) – that alone, made my criteria for adventure. It started at 7 in the morning, on a dark and blustery day. I wasn’t exactly solo … well, I ubered. What would have normally taken a little over one hour took two slow hours in the midst of persistent downpour and dense traffic on the 280 freeway, with a penitent driver who repeatedly apologized for the agonizing turtle-paced flow. I actually didn’t mind. The pitter-patter of rain was lulling me to doze on the back seat.
Uh, I almost forgot – yes, I did mind! I needed to make the 9 a.m. appointment. That anxiety actually perked me back to awareness every time my head nodded for a doze. The movement of cars on the road was painfully slow – and the clock on the dashboard was mercilessly ticking fast. Oh yes, I minded. But I kept my cool.
The itch to cook good Filipino food led me and three friends to drive to Union City (California) last weekend. The goal was to grocery shop for ingredients at Island Pacific, an Asian market. But first, we had to satisfy our craving for a Filipino lunch, so we stopped at Lechon Manila.
The dishes were not spectacular or elaborate, but simple and authentic – the criteria for food craved by four very hungry people. Explaining to our Japanese friend that we were going the “turo-turo” cafeteria style, we demonstrated the pointing system of indicating to the servers choices from an array of food offerings laid behind the counter. The challenge was describing to the non-Filipino what the dishes were or what they contained. How could we possibly soft pedal describing “dinuguan” (meat cooked in pork blood), to entice the Japanese friend who had never seen nor eaten it before?
Indulging in nostalgia can be a sentimentally sweet activity. That’s what my colleague/friend and I did this afternoon. She started it, shared stories about her “old country” (Portugal) where she lived when she was a little girl. Reminiscing the culture of her youth, she related heartwarming and precious memories of growing up under the watchful eyes of two very different yet loving grandmothers. I love to hear about old times. I encouraged her.
This lady, also a Lola, turned misty eyed as she dreamily recalled her maternal and paternal grandmas. The simple matter of a dress code was one example of a major difference she had to contend with as a young girl. Her maternal grandmother tolerated her miniskirts. The paternal grandma would pull the hem of her skirt down in kind rebuke, duly imparting the message that skirts should always be longer. So one day, that young girl borrowed someone’s long dress, put it on despite the over size, with a skirt that reached the floor and hair combed in tight pigtails, she dramatically presented herself to the very old-fashioned woman – and mischievously quipped, “Now, how do you like this, Avo (Grandma)?”. The old lady totally beamed with approval and delight, never mind the teasing ridiculousness of her granddaughter’s appearance.
Do you have a Grandma/Lola like that?
I just came out of hiatus. Not a pleasant one. It was a tug-and-pull kind of a battle for a week and a half. The nasty flu strain and me, at war with each other. I pulled hard, and here I am, without the fever but fighting an annoying cough and congestion. Like they always say, flu shots are for certain strains, but not for all. Whatever I caught certainly avoided the shot’s target. I’m just grateful that I’m feeling so much better now … thank you for wondering.
Strangely, being sick carries a few positives. It forces one to slow down and rest, to get enough sleep, and drink a lot of water or juices. That’s just what I did. On the negative side, I could hardly eat. My appetite was gone. Bitter taste stayed in my mouth. And for me not to be able to eat when I love food is a huge downside. The fun for eating was gone for me, as I struggled through the fever. Weakness in my body settled like a most unwelcome visitor. But to compensate for lack of food, I almost binged on chocolate truffles. I needed the sugar – and I actually loved it. The sweet in my mouth dominated over the bitter.
A couple of days ago, my appetite came back, an indication that I’ve bounced back. Now, I’m all ready to pounce on my pot stickers, egg rolls, crab fried rice and wanton soup (that I ordered from DoorDash, the food delivery service). Yes, I’m back!
Valentine’s Day. Normally associated with romantic love. However, over time, it has evolved into a special occasion for expressing honor, appreciation and affection to loved ones (besides spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend) – i.e., parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, other family members and friends. Recently, I cut out a big heart out of a bright red folder for a Valentine card for my nine-year-old grandson. I drew a chain of hearts inside the fold and taped a little pouch, so I could insert my Valentine cash gift. I was proud of my artwork; it came out attractive and lovely. Last weekend, I handed the red card stuck to a small shiny red box of See’s candies to my grandson and called the package my pre-Valentine gift. He couldn’t wait, tore the package and card open – that was OK, too. There is nothing premature about a love greeting, I thought.
So, who is Valentine anyway that we celebrate his day with “I Heart You” signs every year? Continue reading “Valentine’s Day — and memories of courtships in the old veranda”
January 27th is Papa’s birthday. He left this earth nearly five decades ago.
Very interesting that my best memory of him is when he was teaching me my first lesson in algebra. Seated deep in a rattan and narra wooden chair, balancing my thick algebra textbook on the armchair, he patiently explained the elements of the algebraic equation. That mathematical language was Greek to me then, but somehow, he injected such clear logic behind understanding the movement of numbers and symbols from left to right or right to left of the equal sign. He put in plain simple English the language of mathematics for this girl barely in her teens.
I haven’t given much thought to my Papa in quite a long time, except when briefly alluding to him in some of my blogs that travelled memory lane. I haven’t thought about the man and traits nor his talents and abilities, much less speak about him in great length to my children who were born many years after he passed. This blog is a tribute to him, and if it doesn’t accomplish anything else, I am gratified that I have been inspired to think more and write more about my children’s Lolo John.
We came back from the Asian Market this afternoon with happy faces, my Japanese and Chinese friends and I. Who wouldn’t be happy and satisfied, with loads of groceries and heaping boxes of cooked food. It’s like hitting the jackpot despite paying the price. The prize was more than the price – we came home with lots and lots of food! That’s the jackpot.
My bonus today was discovering that red cured Chinese ham (that’s how I call it) was superb with pickled kelp. The red colored meat carried a very distinct sharp barbecued flavor accented with sweet, most delicious with steamed rice. One of my best simple meals. I can have that combo over and over again.
As I was driving from the market with two Japanese and Chinese friends, I listened to the oldies radio station and half sang along with the music. Suddenly, I felt like yielding to subtle dance moves. I did, while focused on the road, of course.
Working in the week between Christmas and New Year is like strolling downtown after stores close at 6 p.m. The only businesses open are the restaurants. I worked three days after Christmas. It was quiet, relaxed and quite pleasant. I actually had so much done, including some catching up that required focused attention. Who says that working while most are on vacation isn’t fun? It was earnestly fun in pragmatic fashion – because I got a lot done, and you know what satisfactory feeling that gives!
Well, the week after the New Year was different.
Where has time gone? A question often asked not just by older adults, but a question asked even by the young. Catch time, if you can. Hold it a while in the palm of your hand, every second, every minute, every moment. And use each second, each minute, each moment well. Then let it go, with a thankful heart, as you graciously await the next second, the next minute, the next moment.
It seems just a few months ago when I was blogging about the exiting 2017 and welcoming the new year from the covered patio in my brother’s home in Las Pinas, Philippines. I was blogging while listening to passing street vendors just outside the bougainvillea-curtained window, and relishing the sing-song voices of women calling out their trade, like “Turon-turon” (deep fried bananas), or “Mais con yelo” (iced corn kernels in sweetened milk), or a man’s baritone loudly announcing “Isda-isda!” (fish), and relenting that I missed the turon because I was mesmerized by the wide-eyed fish carried on ice in a cart (see blog: Soaking in the raw ambience of a live stream market on the street ).
It seems months ago when I sat befuddled in my room in our Los Banos, Laguna home, trying to decide what to pack and what to leave behind as I readied my luggage for the flight back to California. I got tired not from packing, but from guessing the weight of one item, and another, and another. A dilemma that led to the decision to leave some clothes but carry all the gifts of native crafts, nuts and candies. (see blog: The dilemma of packing for a trip ).
The spirit of Christmas is joy and love for/to all.
A very Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year, one and all!
Enjoy the holidays with family, loved ones and friends.
And ever keep gratitude in your heart.
Baby Boomer Lola
Seated in the veranda of my home in Naga City on a Saturday afternoon, poring over a required reading for sixth grade English class, I was suddenly interrupted by jovial voices by the staircase. Girls in bright red and pink apparel, about to start a song and dance routine to the accompaniment of two guitars. Pastoras-a-belen, they were called, carolers that livened up their holiday greetings with delightfully choreographed movements. They went from house to house in the neighborhood, expecting to receive money for their performance. My reading paled in comparison to this spectacular random showing. I loved the pastoras. Maybe, I secretly wanted to be one of them.
When the leaves of trees in front of my home turned yellow, I started to think of Christmas, even before Thanksgiving! In fact, I got so inspired to put up the pre-lit Christmas tree in the living room and wreath on the front door. My nine-year-old grandson’s reaction when he stopped by during Thanksgiving likely echoed everyone else’s – why so early, Lola?
I don’t know … perhaps because I just felt like living up the joyful spirit of Christmas. Or maybe, the lavish autumnal scene outside urged celebration of the lively holidays. Why start celebrating early? I blame that on the magnificent and vibrant colors outside my door. There’s a holiday magic about them.
If Santa Claus ran out of gifts, or had no money to buy presents, what would he do? I think he would still fly around in his carriage steered by frisky reindeer, slip through chimney tops, and this time, show himself, to visit families, and children, and especially, the elderly.
A dear family friend in her late 80’s fell twice in two months. Her son recently moved her to an assisted living facility close to his home. The son will drive her to my sister’s house in a few weeks, and we’re having lunch with her. For sure, there will be a plethora of happy memories, of times she and her late husband hosted us at grand parties in their Saratoga home. Her husband, a Stanford alumnus and a business professor, was a kind and humble man who served his guests in the most hospitable and domestically savvy ways, while his lovely wife entertained and chatted with guests. That wife was a wonderful cook. Her culinary skills and artfully presented dishes never failed to draw Oh’s and Ah’s from beneficiaries of her cooking. Well, we’re seeing that wife in a few weeks, and our conversations will certainly wax sentimental over a myriad of fond and fun memories.
A visit with her will be most delightful. I love old stories.
I prided myself for getting Christmas decorations early on, before Thanksgiving. Following my daughter’s suggestion, I chose the pre-lit Christmas wreath and tree. The boxes arrived a few days ago, soon after my daughter flew back to Georgia. Figglesticks! I wanted her to set them up for me. Now, I have to figure it all out: assembly, electrical connections and all. Knowing that I hide behind my baby boomer age and tend to shy from mechanical or technical stuff, I won’t be surprised if she thought, this would be a test for me. Hmmm …. I must pass this test.
So, I opened the boxes this afternoon, resolutely bent on assembling the parts and working out the battery and electrical connections. Gave myself a huge pat on the back – I figured out putting together the wreath and installing the batteries for the colored lights to turn on. Voila! All lit in the right places, lovely and enchanting. But wait a minute – it’s supposed to be hung on the front door. The truth is, I was stuck – trying to make the stick-on hanger to work. I decided to fiddle with the tree package instead. Hanging of the wreath can wait.
Uh-oh! I couldn’t even pull the tree out of the slender box. So tightly packed. Was afraid to break the branches. Should that wait for later too? Part of passing the test was, I didn’t procrastinate. Somehow, things got done.
Continue reading “Starting to celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving”
Just got back from watching The Nutcracker movie with my daughter. I didn’t read the reviews or film version before watching, so I expected the story to be similar to the stage version. Well, I was surprised – it’s far from the stage version. Yet, I liked it. I really enjoyed the spectacular fairyland production; was enthralled by the music and pompous palace sceneries, and thoroughly entertained by the animation of little animals and transformation of inanimate to living beings, all like magic unfolding on the screen.
I’m a sucker for fairytales.
An eclectic tradition in Philippine culture – All Souls Day on November 1st. While communities in the US celebrate Halloween, in the Philippines Nov. 1st is the day of the dead. Cemeteries buzz with lively activities hinged on remembering loved ones who have passed. Light bulbs, candles, flowers liven up the place. Tombs and grave stones whitewashed for the annual commemoration become the center of gatherings of family, kins and friends. Think about a fair – that’s the atmosphere that permeates on the grounds. No spookiness at all, but a pervading impression and feeling of vitality. The irony is, what goes on at the cemetery on Nov. 1st is not like a memorialization of death, but a celebration of life.
Visitors roam about the cemetery grounds looking for friends come home to pay respect to their beloved dead. People stroll about the cemetery grounds seeking folks they hadn’t seen in quite a while, or just checking out how fancily some tombs are dolled up, or maybe, to get invited to partake of drinks and food. Strong aroma of food brought by families permeates, and who wouldn’t want to get invited! Happy greetings and boisterous conversation accent the air. Some even bring stereos blaring loud music enough to make one think of a shindig. You would wonder if the dead were floating among the living, shimmying it up and feasting with the living. Who knows!
Continue reading “Shadowing sentiments and recollections of a November 1st tradition”
When the children are grown and on their own, or married and living with their spouse or family, it is a huge treat when they visit. Every visit is like fireworks, and when the hoopla is gone, you want some more. It’s like Christmas in the fall or summer or spring. It’s like a celebratory feast each day of the visit, and you want to max your fill. Because this isn’t a perfect world, if or when any disagreement pops up in the interaction, the undercurrent is always love. The visit is still a gift. Many fellow baby boomers or parents would agree, I’m sure.
My daughter visited this week. Not to sound selfish or seem like I just wanted her home for pragmatic reasons, I am grateful that she was most helpful in driving me to far places that I normally would not drive to, for very important errands. Quite a “handy woman”, she even fixed the broken latch of the shower door. Since I shy away from freeway driving, she also took me, as on other visits, to my son and his family’s place to engage in family times with them, and attend church with them on the Cal Berkeley campus.
When all the errands were accomplished, my son treated my daughter and me to an afternoon at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. My first visit at that highly rated and popular museum that contains a rain forest, aquarium and planetarium. My surprise was that the Philippines figured prominently – on exhibit were rare forest trees, plants, butterflies, fish from that tropical country. It was breathtaking to watch fish of various sizes and colors swim over and around the spectacular Philippine coral reefs in the grand aquarium. The umbrella-structured jellyfish fascinated me. In the magical rain forest, Philippine yellow winged butterflies fluttered beside striped and big blue butterflies the size of my palm, often, whizzing by just above our heads or before our faces. A sign posted on the wall says, do not try to catch the butterflies; shake them off your hair or clothing, in case any alights on you. They’re so fetching that the urge to touch them is so tempting. Funny, I didn’t care to look at the slithering mammals. My son took the videos and picture shown here (to view the videos, click the IMG below).
My auntie just lost her husband to an ailment that made him bed-ridden months before he passed. Though he was very sick, the loss is still hard for her to bear, having lived with him for some 58 years. Her loss brings to mind my own raw grief upon losing my husband in December 2015, after dialysis of four and a half years. Last night, I exchanged messages with my auntie. She was quick to respond to my comments. This exchange followed a video that I forwarded to her – a warm presentation about how to age graciously, mostly sound advice applicable to living life joyfully. One of the suggestions, however, intrigued me, as it did my auntie. It said – “If worry makes you happy, then go ahead and worry.”
That comment did not fare well with me.
Mountain View city, adjacent to Palo Alto, California holds one of the best lake parks I’ve seen, just around a 15-minute drive from my place. The park is located on a landfill beside the bay, a wide expanse that contains a man-made lake of around 2.4 acres, a golf course, a lakeside bistro fronting a line of sailboats, canoes, paddleboats and kayaks available for rent, and a path leading to the reclaimed bay lands for bikers, runners, joggers and walkers.
That Saturday, the hilly picnic area was fenced off for re-grassing. When the project’s all done, I’d like to go back there just to sit or lie down on the lush grass and feel the cool blades against my skin, or watch gleeful children recklessly roll on the low hills, or listen to picnickers’ laughter as they carouse over their food and games, or just look out to the lake where white sails and colorful windsurfs speckle the surface of the water over shimmers of sunbeams.
Last night’s rousing discussion about love and romance carried through all evening till midnight. This Lola battled the wits of two female career singles in their near mid-30’s, in quite a stimulating intellectual bruhaha that ended on a plateau to agree to disagree over what a good relationship or marriage should be.
I engaged in a lively brainstorm with two highly professional women from two different countries, each, a medical doctor niched in solid careers. I do not know enough of the lovely ladies’ background or experiences in life, but I know enough to suspect that the impact of life’s circumstances wheeled them to the single-minded perception of the significance (or lack thereof) of love and romance.
Wouldn’t you have wished to be a fly on the wall to eavesdrop on our intellectual dissection of love and romance?
Totally unplanned. A surprise, you might say. Last Wednesday was the birthday of my Japanese friend that I shall call M. We intended to celebrate with lunch by the lakeside two weekends from now, when our Chinese friend, whom I shall call Y, returns from her Seattle trip. However that day, unknown to me, Y decided to pick up a lemon cake from the bakery and set it on my dining room table for M who was coming later that night. And unknown to Y, from the farmer’s market, I picked up some big red strawberries and plump figs which I arranged on an orange plate set beside Y’s lemon cake. A simple, surprise celebration was quickly concocted that night. Though that was far from our intent, we just went with the flow.
Y decided to whip up some soup recipe of rice noodles and large bok choy (leafy cabbage). After setting the delectables on the table, ready for M, I thought of practicing my newly learned skill of taking pictures with my smart phone (Y taught me how). Then I emailed the pictures to my laptop for me to post on my website.
Voila! The email attachment was sent, and the photo was stored on my laptop — a great feat for this Lola who’s always happy to learn new technology (my nine-year-old grandson may find this funny; he creates short films on his iPod). There’s beauty in simplicity, I always maintain. Just look at this picture – isn’t there beauty in this simple surprise birthday dinner?
Not the usual Sunday for me. Didn’t rush home after worship service and Sunday class. I stayed longer than usual in church today — parleyed with friends, ate a church-sponsored lunch offered in celebration of the church’s 70th anniversary, engaged in more social chats over lunch, greeted old friends I had not seen in a while, walked to the ladies’ powder room where I met twin sisters whom I’ve seen but never spoke with before, then drove home.
A very rewarding, meaningful Sunday for me, and I’ll tell you why.
Big fiesta right now in Naga City, the heart of the Bicol Region (south eastern part of Luzon Island), Philippines, old home of my youth. It’s the week-long feast of Mary, mother of Jesus, the revered Lady of Penafrancia, object of much adulation and fervor among the Catholics. I can imagine the flurry of activities. I can imagine the vibrant multitudes. I can imagine the cathedral and shrine tightly packed with devotees from far and near. I can imagine the abundance of food prepared in every home. I can imagine the joy in every home where college-age children and relatives come back to celebrate.
While the festivities ride on deep religious devotion that evokes prayer and attendance at masses, the atmosphere is electrified with robust events such as the “Traslacion”, the transfer of the image from the Penafrancia shrine to the Naga Cathedral the week before, and the fluvial procession the Saturday after, for the return of the Lady back to its permanent shrine. Those two major events book end all the celebrations and activities. The Penafrancia fiesta is embedded in the culture and hearts of Catholics in the Bicol Region.[“Naga Smiles to the World” Traslacion and Fluvial Procession photos]
(Repost from blog of Aug 18, 2018 — with picture and video)
What is it about homesickness that it hits you like a frisbee unexpectedly thrown at your belly and you can’t help but double up and cringe. Homesickness happened 25 minutes ago when I read my niece’s email with photos and videos attached. I am hungry for any correspondence from my old home – from family, friends, relatives. Needless to say, I ravaged my niece’s email while eating my brunch. Just couldn’t wait. Teared up when I saw her message opener, “We miss you.” I choked up, couldn’t swallow morsels of bread left in my mouth, thus pushed my plate aside to focus on the email on my laptop.
Lo and behold! Attached were many pictures and videos of vibrant activity in the garden. I honestly wanted to be there.
Omiyage. A Japanese word I just learned, means gift. I am so looking forward to my omiyage of authentic Japanese rice cake. With chagrin, I assume it’s my gift. My Japanese friend related that her friend, a young male scientist coming to California next week, persevered in line along with seniors in a Japanese store, to claim bags of tsuki, the rice cake. Tsuki, not sold everyday but only seasonally, is very popular especially among the older folks in Japan. So, imagine her distinguished scientist friend elbowing his way through a long, aggressive line of senior women, to grab my tsuki! That picture seems ludicrous.
Wait a minute – did she really say that was my omiyage? Now, I have to be sure. Maybe I’ll ask her (shyly) when I see her today. She knows I go gaga over those rice cakes.
Continue reading “Excited for my omiyage”
Decisions – decisions! Where to go for dinner when you’re international with friends of different ethnic backgrounds: Japanese, Chinese and Filipino. I decided, since I played host and offered to treat. Thai it is. Everyone heartily agreed. I just wondered: if the choice was cuisine from any of our backgrounds, likely, a friendly argument would ensue. That would be utter waste of time, especially when we all were pitifully starving; some of us, having missed lunch in expectation of a huge dinner. Thus, we headed to Amarin, a pleasant Thai restaurant in Mountain View, CA.
Now, here’s the caveat, I warned my curious group.
Continue reading “Getting international and savvy with food”
What is it about homesickness that it hits you like a frisbee unexpectedly thrown at your belly and you can’t help but double up and cringe. Homesickness happened 25 minutes ago when I read my niece’s email with photos and videos attached. I am hungry for any correspondence from my old home – from family, friends, relatives. Needless to say, I ravaged my niece’s email while eating my brunch. Just couldn’t wait. Teared up when I saw her message opener, “We miss you.” I choked up, couldn’t swallow morsels of bread left in my mouth, thus pushed my plate aside to focus on the email on my laptop.
Lo and behold! Attached were many pictures and videos of vibrant activity in the garden. I honestly wanted to be there.
Embarrassed to admit, but I’ll say it anyway. Technology perplexes me. It frazzles me. For the past week, my web consultant and I battled the consequences of shifting to a newer version of the domain site, supposedly, to benefit from additional features. We were too excited with the prospect of enjoying the advantages over the old program, and either failed or refused to expect challenges and issues with the updated mechanism. The thrill of having something new was just too irresistible, for me at least. But stress crept in.
(Repost from blog of Oct. 28, 2017)
Jitters attacked me. It was the night of the junior-senior prom at my American high school where I was an exchange student. The grand ball of the year, where high school seniors and juniors swept out of their ostentatiously decorated cars in their best gowns and tuxedos, where girls became ladies hanging on to the genteel arm of their handsome escorts, where boys turned gentlemen opening car doors and pulling chairs for their ladies. It was a splendid night of putting on the ritz.
The opening event was a march of the voted homecoming king and queen and their royal court. Having been voted by the school population as third runner-up for homecoming queen, I was thus designated as a princess of the court. That night, I felt like a pampered princess in a lovely apple green machine-embroidered cotton gown sewed by my American host Mom. My escort, blond, blue eyes, six-foot tall and all seemed like a prince. The prince, however, was terribly shy and barely spoke 30 words that night. He could have been a frog. If he croaked, that would have thrilled me. But he was much too quiet. Bring two bashful youths together, and the result is disaster … though now, quite funny to me.
(Repost from blog of Nov. 27, 2017)
Today, I’m in my brother and his wife’s home in a suburb in Las Pinas, Philippines, for a week’s staycation. I’m sitting in the patio converted receiving room. To my left is a tall and wide grilled window bordered with pots of bougainvillea bearing newly opened fuchsia, white, yellow and pink blooms. True to its reputation, the orange one is slow in flowering. Sitting on my favorite polished molave wooden chair, I savor the aura of a Philippine setting. An observation suddenly loomed. I’ve always assumed that roosters crow at the crack of dawn. Now, I realize that cock-a-doodle-doos sporadically toll all times of the day. Chicken calls echo from various distances like a continuous repartee, and at times, like choral refrains. The resonance doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, it delights me. After all, I don’t hear symphonies of cock-a-doodle-doos back home in Palo Alto. Perhaps, I should record them for nostalgia’s sake.
Babyboomerlola.com turns one year old this month. It’s been an interesting journey with intriguing surprises for me. In writing my blogs, I learned to be more transparent about my thoughts, feelings, expectations and observations. Sharing my reflections and memories wasn’t easy at first, I must confess. There was this little voice in me that wanted to dominate, telling me that the “world” does not have to know my opinions, thinking, or experiences, and that I could very well convey stories about others, but not about myself.
The compromise is, not every blog is about me, I argued with that little voice. Though I agree that my blogs mirror my perception of happenings or events – and that’s where “me” comes into the picture. I admit, it took a little while to be comfortable with this. Sharing my thoughts, feelings and memories is letting you into my world. Hopefully, you’ll agree, that when you engage in my world – I engage in yours, too. And when we “connect”, this world becomes a “small world”. And that’s what I love about Babyboomerlola, it’s not just my creative outlet – it’s also a venue to connect. To date, this site carries 61 blogs plus the sidebar.
Continue reading “Sharing good news and reflections about Babyboomerlola on its 1st anniversary”
Do you wonder sometimes how you can honor someone so special in your life and who’s now gone? I do, and I found one of many ways – I honored my late husband by attending his hometown organization’s annual anniversary event at Stockton, CA this past weekend.
The Santiagenians of the USA is a club founded in the Bay Area in 1974 by Filipinos from Santiago, Ilocos Sur, a province in the northern part of Luzon, Philippines. Since its inception, the association has grown to include members from various states and localities in the US. Those not from Santiago can join by affiliation. Spouses and children are included. Each year, communities represented in the organization take turns in hosting the annual two-day event: the dinner-dance on Saturday, and a picnic in the park on Sunday. The vibrant 44th anniversary was celebrated in Stockton, California — with a novelty, and I’ll tell you what that is later.
Summer reminds me of Midway. Midway was the designation for the reunion at Washington DC of the year’s American Field Service (AFS) exchange students. It was an impressive and animated congregation of youths from various countries around the world, all starry- and misty-eyed from missing the American host families and friends they left behind, yet eager for the return back home to be with their own families.
It was at Midway where the AFSers — who had just graduated from their American senior high school and said goodbye to their American families and friends the week before — struggled with the hard core of conflicting emotions: a crazy mix of sadness, nostalgia, longing, yet with the joy and anticipation at the thought of going home.
Midway carried a mysterious fascination for me in my youth, and you’ll later know why.
Continue reading “Happy and tickling flashback of Midway”
Chili on a warm summer day. Perfect for July 4th. Hadn’t done this in years – attending the chili cook-off on July 4th at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. So, it felt like a novelty again: braving long lines of chili enthusiasts, savoring fresh made, delectable chili in small paper cups, basking in the sun and the music, watching impromptu dancers in the circle — a delightful and fun way of celebrating the 4th.
Continue reading “Associating July 4th celebration in Palo Alto with chili”
It was a wonderful time of bonding with my daughter, my son, his wife and my grandson. No thought of work or household chores, no rushing on tight schedules, from me, not even a gentle nag about blogging. Just leisurely enjoying the time with family. Just letting the hours chug by with interesting conversation, a good deal of catching up, and lots and lots of eating.
We decided to pamper ourselves with staying at the hotel for the long weekend. My son and his family joined us at the Claremont at Berkeley, mainly for its swimming facilities and dining on the balcony-patio that overlooks a picturesque scene of the lower valley bordered on the horizon by the bay. The evening was most spectacular. The panoramic view from the restaurant’s patio or from windows of our sixth-floor room showed shimmers of lights from the Bay Bridge, homes and industrial buildings in the distance. The night sky was clear that time, with Venus reigning bright amongst all other tiny sparkles above. Extraordinary location, weather and food – spokes in the wheel for mammoth fun that long weekend. But the driving force of that special moment was family bonding.
Continue reading “Family bonding”
There’s always a reason for deciding on a whim. From church on Sundays, I often turn right to go back home. Instead, today, I turned left and found myself driving to the Orchard store to pick up flowers for my husband’s grave site. I had planned to visit when my daughter comes next week, or next time my son and his family drive to Palo Alto. This morning, I acted on impulse. I took a left.
I stalked the urge to celebrate Father’s Day at Alta Mesa, my husband’s resting place in Palo Alto.
Transitions convey anticipation and excitement and, often, a triumphant sense of achievement. At the same time, they prompt some wonder of what lies ahead and how one can ride new challenges. Graduation goads transition that specifically highlights passage to the next stage, the next adventure, the next milestone.
I take exception from not mentioning names in my blogs with these congratulatory blurbs for certain individuals.
My niece, May Gordoncillo Payabyab, my web consultant, is graduating next week with a degree in Master of Arts in Communication Research from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Years of careful and thoughtful work in completing her thesis centered on new media have brought her fresh and deeper insights into the influence and confluence of technology on mass communication. Like anyone about to embark on new ventures, May eyeballs various possibilities and opportunities, recognizing that narrowing down to a career direction hinges on how well and how much she knows herself. I wish her the best.
Now and then, we crave for comedy. We want to laugh, to feel lighthearted, to find amusement in the silly and even accept the foolish in hopes that there’s a lesson to be learned. Last weekend, on a whim, two seniors and I decided to watch a romance comedy. A bold decision. Spontaneity is not these seniors’ regular fare.
Excited to embark on this impulsive adventure, we three seniors abandoned our chores at home, dressed quickly and rushed to the movie house to catch a showing of Book Club. The film preview captured our interest, because the story runs a narrative about four elderly women’s escapades and eclectic experiences. Our bubble of expectation for a good watch burst when the ticket seller announced that tickets were sold out. Also for the next three days. Why … aha! It’s a holiday long weekend – we forgot about that, we remarked boisterously and simultaneously, as though we each had a light bulb switch on in our heads at the same time. Or, we surmised, maybe Book Club is a smash, not only with the young once but also with young ones, and that’s why all tickets had been taken.
Continue reading “The comedy is us”
A lot of great things can be said about watching sports. It serves as a panacea for stress or tiredness, even boredom. It makes one forget, at least for the moment, worries and anxieties. An escape, a cynic might say, but definitely, a respite from the doldrums or pressures of the day. Watching sports can stir the adrenalin to such highs. It builds excitement that fires the spirit of competition. And competition spurs more excitement – a merry vicious cycle. I’m fine with that.
Continue reading “Feeling frenzied yet rested while watching sports at home”
Enamored, fascinated and star-struck. That’s what I was as I witnessed on television Prince Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding at Windsor, England. I do not usually gush over royalty, or become bewitched by pomp and splendor. But I do, for Meghan and Harry. Watching them being wed in real time entranced me. The pageantry was remarkable and spectacular. Yet there was a simplicity about it, a beguiling warmth and genuineness that shaved off the stiffness and topped all solemnity. I just couldn’t take my eyes and myself away from the full coverage on CNN. I was definitely hooked. It would be no surprise if the millions who watched this glorious event felt the same as I have. If you watched, you would understand.
Continue reading “Harry and Meghan: a triumph of love – for England, for the world”
Mother’s Day is one of the most love-filled days of the year. The tribute is a celebration of love — love enshrined in the heart that never diminishes, never forgotten, never tainted by circumstance or challenge. It is pure, enduring and honorable. Not unusual that the genuine concept of a mother’s love is discerning of sacrifice. Sacrifice that is selfless and giving. Every mother can relate to that. And every child should understand that.
Family and friends often ask if I engage in regular exercise. My impulse is to answer no. As you can expect, I get chastised, though kindly, that sometimes I’m inclined to crack an ambiguous yes just to soothe their concern (and nosy curiosity, kind though). Yes, if I consider walking in the office several times a day, from my desk to the cafeteria, the comfort room, the laboratories where researchers continually and devotedly pore over their experiments. Yes, if I include my boarding the elevator and sauntering to the purchasing department on the second floor each day of the three days that I work. Yes, if I include my trekking up and down the stairs at my home and the concrete steps outside to where my car is parked. Yes, if I add walking back and forth many times to the refrigerator and the kitchen when I’m home. So you see, without batting an eyelash, I can vouch to family and friends that I do my daily exercise.
Continue reading “What is your idea of exercise — I tell you mine”
Pa and Ma, if alive, would probably frown at this. I am joining a fundraising trip to Thunder Valley in early June. Thunder Valley is a casino close to Sacramento in California. To some, the word casino pipes a jaundiced, unsavory ring – that means gambling. I’m not a gambler, though I have experienced working the coin machine a few times, using just nickels and dimes — and many years ago when the casinos were a cacophony of tinkling coins, victory bells, screaming jackpot sirens, and the thud of sliding levers that pained the players’ stiffened arms. Well, this coming trip is worth $31, a fundraiser for my brother-in-law’s architects’ group in North CA. Not bad at all.
The cost includes a simple breakfast on the bus, a $12 coupon for an all-you-can-eat lunch, $20 worth of tokens for playing if desired, and of course, the round-trip bus transportation. Who can resist this offer? I didn’t, so I’m going with my sister and her husband and friends on this trip. Mind you, I’m not going to “gamble”. I’ll just “play my luck” with the $20 tokens. Is that OK?
Continue reading “Buying fun with a few tokens … before marshaling restrain”
It was an adventure today. I broke my resolve not to eat by myself in a restaurant, since my husband passed. My exemption – some fast-food restaurants in grocery stores. The reason for my resolve — dining in a public place with no company would both be awkward and a bore. Besides, I don’t want to be perceived as trying to “pick up”. Very silly, isn’t it? Whenever I say this to friends, they laugh at me. It’s all in my head, and nothing wrong and extraordinary with eating solo, they argue. I am compelled to quibble some more when this bickering happens. But then, I console myself, they won’t understand; they’re not me. I leer at them and dramatically order: hey, just let me be.
Today was different. What happened to my resolve, I don’t know. I decided to pat myself on the back with food after a regular medical checkup that showed a good blood pressure result. Perhaps that was excuse to yield to a craving ignored for so long. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, and hunger had started to creep in. I practically flew out of the clinic, walked fast to a Chinese restaurant nearby. Only two lady customers were in the room, with a male waiter standing by. Great! Good time to eat by myself, I thought. If my friends could see me now, they would laugh, and they would tease.
Continue reading “My offbeat adventure of eating solo in a restaurant”
I just got back from grocery shopping this afternoon, feeling blessed. Not because of the ample groceries heaped high in my cart. Not because of the few summer blouses I impulsively bought. Not because of the fat hamburger and fries snack I treated myself to. No, none of the shopper’s natural highs. I feel blessed because I spoke to a stranger – an elderly woman who asked if she could sit on the bench in front of me while she waited for her friend.
Her friend, she explained, was making the store rounds. In my mind, the friend was taking her sweet time inspecting items she most likely didn’t need but would buy, and this lady stranger had not the strength nor the interest to shop on the whim. Her wait turned to forty minutes of exchanging pleasantries with me. I even shared my big order of French fries which she hesitantly accepted and consumed.
Continue reading “Blessing from random conviviality with an elderly stranger”
Recently, I blogged about meeting Siri up close for the first time, through my grandson’s new iPad. Unashamedly and embarrassingly, I admitted I was awed by this talking lady on the computer. I also wondered and opined on how much technology progress has changed our world. In my youth, personal computers were just a phantom of the imagination, some brilliant inventors’ imagination, or perhaps, some prophetic allusions in fiction novels and the comic books. And look now. Stretching this line of thinking – will the Marvel characters and their proficiencies be realities in the future?
Continue reading “Tinkering with thoughts about robots”
Don’t laugh. I’m excited over meeting Siri for the first time, on my grandson’s new iPad, while we were facetiming. Kind of behind, you think?
Two years of saving for his own iPad, my eight-year-old grandson finally came up with the dollars and recently purchased his own, the latest in the series. When I facetimed over a week ago, he was playing a game on it. Quite engrossed as usual, he wouldn’t take his eyes off the screen. As I admitted in an early blog, this Lola finds it a challenge to compete for attention whenever the boy is busy on the computer. His Dad, however, interrupted his game and suggested that he introduce me to Siri. I blanked out – Siri, who’s that? At first, I didn’t get it. Then I remembered — ah, the talking lady on the computer. She has no face, but projects a pleasant voice. I never spoke with her before, so she intrigued me.
Continue reading “Met Siri for the first time – and I’m intrigued and fascinated”
Humility. What is it really? A virtue of the noblest kind, that’s what I think it is. It is defined as a perception of one’s importance lower than others. It is the antithesis of pride by which one elevates self; in pride oneself is superior to others. It is meekness, modesty corollary to the desire to serve. Humility is not cowardice. On the contrary, it is courage and strength of spirit that stays above the fray of mundane cares and appearances.
The paradox about humility, however, is it doesn’t come easy. It can be elusive many times and in a lot of ways. When you catch it, hold it close, because it gets away, like sand that escapes through your fingers when you try to clench it in your hand. When you do have it, you feel an inner peace, and beautiful in the inside. That inner beauty is like light that cannot be quenched.
Continue reading “The mystery about humility — and the promise of its bounty”
A comment I heard yesterday intrigued me, about a realist’s cynical perception of love — that love can evoke stupidity: it can make one think, feel and act stupid. I went home amused by the idea and indulged in my own flashbacks. It is fun to ruminate in hindsight because the humor of it all surfaces in such a taunting way that accentuates the absurdities. I wondered – did I do stupid things when I fell in love? I believe I did … though I’m inclined to calling them silly moments. A few examples I share here and perhaps, they will sound familiar to you, even kindle memories … funny or embarrassing – or stupid?
I came out of a glorious Easter celebration last Sunday, feeling exhilarated. Remarkably, I felt blessed, and I like to think that I was not the only one. Never before did I hear so much applause during a church service, as I did that Sunday. A liveliness immersed in a sacred aura prevailed. Aggregate spontaneous appreciation was generously bestowed, and it was quite infectious, like a forceful wave that flowed – from the clapping hands to the smiling faces and to the hearts, and to the spirit. I couldn’t resist it. I clapped, and smiled, and teared up, and rejoiced.
Some would argue that “happy” is short-termed bliss lacking in depth, tenacity and nuance. The better word, pundits say, is “joyful” or “joyous”. I do agree that “joy” carries a solid ring to it. It rests on a foundation of significance, purpose and transcendent supremacy. It is deep rooted and can be inexhaustible. Having joy is far superior to having happiness.
Lasting joy flows from Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his sacrificial death on the cross for the redemption of humanity – resulting from God’s ultimate gift of unconditional love. This we commemorate on Easter, a powerful reminder of the Father’s unfailing promise and our restoration to His glory.
Now back to being “happy”. Nothing wrong with that, if it makes good and sound sense. I am very thankful for happy moments, as well, because they emanate from God’s blessings. Blessings are like a cold breeze on a blistery day; or the trickle of ice-cold water on parched throat, or the fragrance of a rose bloom. I share with you here some insights or thoughts of what makes me happy – in the hopes that you, too, would find your happy or joyful moments. They are blessings to be grateful for.
I daydreamed just now about being at the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, outside Alioto’s restaurant, inching through a persistent crowd to buy a foot-long shrimp sandwich from the sidewalk stall — taking that sandwich and a cold drink to the concrete bench across the street, and watching a swarm of pigeons swirl around as I gobble up my favorite sandwich. Happy thought, isn’t it? But then, I felt sad, because that’s what my husband and I often did on many weekends when he was alive – ride the train to SF and jump on the bus just to have that big shrimp sandwich at the wharf, sometimes with fried calamari or zucchini. I never did that again since he passed two years ago, and that made me sad.
Yesterday, I listened to music shared by friends on FB, sentimental renditions of romantic Italian songs by Il Volo that my husband and I loved to listen to. Il Volo singers are superb. In the fashion of Neapolitan minstrels, their voices enthrall, woo and inspire. But sadness hovered when “O Solo Mio” was sung. That reminded me of my husband who used to charm me with love songs in his wonderful tenor voice. As I listened, I thought, “I’m solo”. And I became sad.
Last night, I listened to pop music of the 60’s and 70’s on the PBS TV station. It surged memories of my teens and early adulthood. I love the old songs. They carry charming melodies and lyrics. Reminiscing the old days and daydreaming come easily while listening to them. Baby boomers would agree that these oldies nostalgically remind us of our youth — days of fairy-tale dreams and overblown ambition, the restlessness for adulthood, the carefree spirit of gaiety, spunky defiance and miscalculated invincibilities. Maybe that’s why I like the old songs so much; they make me feel young again.
Here’s a little of me, or a lot of me, as I delve into the realm of transcendental precepts and keynotes of faith. This is Lent. It inspires reflections and self-examination hinged on a relationship with God, the Father who, with unconditional love, gave His only son to suffer and die on the cross for the redemption of humanity. I share with you my reflections from a place of vulnerability pivotal to the knowledge of self and to a deeper connection with one who created all. It is prudent to pause from mundane cares and tasks to ruminate on a higher plane, and dive into spiritual depths to grasp what is profoundly significant in life.
Carved out for you are teasers from blogs in Babyboomerlola.com — thought-provocateurs presented here in the hopes that you’d be enticed to read the full articles, if you haven’t yet. Take a curious peek, travel your mind, feel the pulse, enjoy the cadence; just click the titles.
… life isn’t just all about the gain … there’s something better, something deeper, something you can barely touch, but it’s just there, like a sacred hush. (Blog: Birthday parties – and all that jazz … or some of it )
The summers of my youth in the farm are clearly the nugget of the magic Auayan held for me. And the magic is still there … waiting for me to reach out … I have reached out. (Blog: The magic of a place haunts the memory – is there such one for you as there is for me?)
The crabs tantalizingly smelled like the sea. Our table reeked of the sweet-sour aroma of vinegar. No one cared. (Blog: Hard to refuse an “all you can eat” meal – especially if it pitches crabs)
I appreciate the chance to get up earlier than usual in the morning, pick an attire appropriate for the office, prim my hair and prep my face, fix a quick breakfast, take the vitamins and scheduled meds, wash the cup and plate I used, bag my baon (packed food) for lunch, check the stove, then out the door. Work is good for the soul, mind, body — and yes, the pocket. (Blog: The mystic about retirement)
I’m a sucker for birthday parties – other people’s birthday parties. The livelier, the better, rigged with balloons, glittering confetti, robust birthday greetings and singing, food in abundance, sweet cake with candles to blow, and all that jazz. For me, especially now that I’m a baby boomer, I’d rather have my birthday celebrated at a quiet dinner at home or a restaurant with family and/or close kins or friends. None of all that jazz – or, maybe, just a little bit of it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for full blown parties given for my birthday. Nor that I don’t enjoy the party. I really am not a party pooper. I just would prefer the other way … but that’s just for me. For other people’s celebration, I want all that jazz.
Is there a place you visited or stayed in that haunts your memories or continues to live in the heart? There is such a place for me. It’s my grandfather’s farm called Auayan or Awayan, an immense stretch of land in the northern part of the province of Camarines Sur in the Bicol region. Nostalgia prompts me to write about Auayan, more than 600 hectares acquired by Lolo (Grandfather), a surveyor, and which eventually was subdivided among his ten children. He also generously offered some hectares to Grandmother’s two sisters, spinsters who devoted to helping Lola (Grandmother) care for her children and the family home.
Auayan is a wide expanse of rolling hills and valleys bordered on one side by a river that gently snakes toward a bay in the far town of Libmanan. The puzzlement about this river, especially where it flows beside Grandfather’s farm, is that its slim banks glisten with white sand. Often, I wondered how the sand from the ocean’s shores got carried to Auayan’s river banks. The river beach, as I call it, stands out in a picturesque way against the turquoise glow of the waters. That’s another of my puzzlement: why the river always looks the rich shade of blue-green. Perhaps, because of abundant vegetation underneath the waters, like a thick blanket of vibrant moss on the river bed. But in the evenings, the waters turn a deep mysterious green that cascades in eerie silence.
What is it about “all you can eat” that just draws folks to restaurants that pitch that on the menu. I admit, I’m a sucker for it, aren’t you? When I’m with a group and we struggle with the very important decision of where to have lunch or dinner, and someone interjects, there’s an “all you can eat” seafood place – no need to push me. I’ll push everyone else. It’s a mindset that can be deceiving. Can make you think you can eat as much as you want, with no consideration at all for the capacity of the stomach, nor its ability to digest large and mixed portions. Darn the advertising draw that’s so powerful. I go anyway.
So, last weekend, I attended a church fundraiser in Palo Alto, an event I always look forward to every year – an “all you can eat” crab dinner. It was no surprise that 90% of attendees were baby boomers or older. Is it this generation that falls easy prey to “all you can eat” offers? Or, is it this generation that worries less about calories? Or, is it this generation that scrimps on meals every day for health or other reasons, that a big break is so welcome. I’m glad I went. The crabs were meaty, plentiful and free flowing. The heads and legs kept coming. I wondered if the sponsor cornered the entire supply of the Bay Area. I was afraid to ask – didn’t want to jinx the table service.
This Lola still works, part-time, three days a week. I appreciate the chance to get up earlier than usual in the morning, pick an attire appropriate for the office, prim my hair and prep my face, fix a quick breakfast, take the vitamins and scheduled meds, wash the cup and plate I used, bag my baon (packed food) for lunch, check the stove, then out the door. That’s the routine for work days which, I admit, I’ve gotten the hang of and which I miss during prolonged vacations. This routine could all flow in a rush or in a slow, pleasurable progression. Either way, it’s rooted in my system.
What I’m saying here is, partial retirement seems best for this baby boomer. While having some days off is necessary for errands, appointments, personal chores and rest, maintaining a regular work schedule on other days provides variety and challenge, two ingredients to sustaining vigor, interest, positive outlook and the excitement of anticipation. Work can be a motivation to stay healthy, for what good is determination if the body is not able or lazy. But knowing there are urgent matters to complete or deadlines to meet can goad the body to move and overlook the pain or the tiredness, even the laziness. Work is good for the soul, mind, body — and yes, the pocket.
Last night, I heard an energetic rendition of a waltz by Chopin. I stopped working on my computer and immersed myself in the piano music by my house guest. It was moving in the sense that it made me stand up and perform fancy footwork on the floor to the rhythm of the piece. Suddenly, I stopped my swaying and sycophantic moves and sat down. A memory so vivid crossed my mind. I allowed it to float fully into my consciousness.
I was a young girl, lying on my thin pillow, ready for sleep at around nine in the evening. Something kept me awake, however. It was that same piece by Chopin played over and over again in hopes of perfecting it, perhaps. I remember the music came from a beige-painted 2-story house across the river, just almost the opposite side of ours. Our house stood around 12 meters from the river bank that was dotted with a few banana plants and a couple of sampaloc trees with branches often laden with lumpy fruit pods. Sampaloc pods contain seeds embedded in fibrous substance which, when ripe, are sucked for their tangy sweet and sour flavor. Thinking of that river reminds me of sampaloc.
I ask myself why I don’t engage in cooking my favorites often anymore. For one, my children are grown and married and living away from home. I would have loved to cook for my grandson, but he, my son and his wife are an hour’s drive away. My husband had gone to the beyond two years ago. He loved the few cuisines that I mastered, though he really was the master chef at home. He had such talent, creative skill and speed in cooking, he never failed to amaze me. Cooking was not his profession; it was a hobby and a passion. The man of the house often was the toast of the party, and I was very proud of him. Adding here, that I always cleaned up plenty after him. Small pay for the gourmet dishes laid out on the table. So, cook for myself? Hmmm … not much motivation there. Unless there’s a party to prepare for at home … or a potluck to contribute to … or, I’m craving my own favorites, like now.
I’m sitting in front of my laptop, searching my brain for what I can write about this moment. So, I think about today. A lot of happenings, true, but so little to write about. There mustn’t have been anything that interesting to share. OK, what about what I ate for lunch. That came from my sister who now and then gives me samplings of her cooking. I can’t say much about the food, except that it was a delicious dish of bitter melon sautéed with eggs and tomatoes; I gobbled it all up. So, what about my dinner tonight? That was good, too. Oops, too bad, I didn’t cook that either. I bought it from an expensive high-end grocery store in the neighborhood. Can’t tell you how that was made either, except that it was one of the best stuffed cabbage I’ve eaten. Think, there must be something!
It was a sleeping beauty then – in December 2017 when I was on tour with my relatives in Legazpi, Albay of the Bicol Region some 330 kilometers south of Manila, Philippines. Mayon Volcano, as in my other past visits, hid her face behind low cottony clouds. She is said to be bashful. My opinion is she’s veritably private, what with streams of visitors from various parts of the country and the world, eager to see her, waiting for the cloud cover to lift so they can view her alluring face.
Romantic legends tout Mayon as a timid maiden known as Maganda (meaning beautiful). Maganda captivates numerous suitors that lie frustrated on her slopes, because the elusive lady is imperious and difficult to please. And when she concedes to occasional outbursts, suiters scramble down her slopes away from the fuming maiden. Almost untouchable, but imperial in a mysterious way – poised proudly with a perfect cone magnificently pointed to the sky, and graceful slopes shaped by eruptions of the past, the latest of which was in 2013, and then now. And now, what audacious, impertinent prince kissed her that she is roused?
Jet lag – for me, it happens not upon arrival at the destination but upon arrival back at the place of origin. Why is that? When traveling through different time zones, the destination gets no jet lag. The body clock doesn’t seem to need any adjustment. Doesn’t the body recognize the difference there? But upon return to the place of origin, the body stresses over the time difference when, in fact, that’s always been what it had been used to before. Or, is the body just tired from all that traveling. Hmmm … the jet lag lags.
I opened my refrigerator to reach for a snack and settled on cold spaghetti. I teetered between microwave or stove heating – but decided to eat it cold, with the rich tomato sauce curdled around the noodles. It was really good! Didn’t need any heating. The coldness gave it a fresh snack-like zing. I ate it all. The problem is, that was my dinner – not my snack. Oh well, I looked at it as early dinner, or, I simply skipped dinner. I got peachy full anyway.
Try cold spaghetti – it’s awesome!
“The Acropolis!” Several of us in the bus chorused as we passed lighted houses on the hillsides on our way from San Francisco Airport to the Peninsula. Obviously, several of us high school students remembered our Greek studies. Those that didn’t simply exclaimed “Wow” multiple times at the lovely sight. We were all very excited. For some twenty high school students from the Philippines, this was our first day in America. From the first step off Pan American Airlines, I could hardly contain myself. I knew, the rest in my young group were like me, eager, happy and anxious.
I was in Palo Alto, California for a three-day orientation along with other American Field Service (AFS) scholars from Asian countries, several decades ago. We stayed at Stanford dorms in Escondido, two tall structures a few stories high – a rarity since at that time there were few (if at all) buildings in Palo Alto that were more than a story high — two buildings that stood like twins easy to spot even from El Camino Real, the same that stand even now on campus, stalwart through the decades.
Ever wonder why boys and girls seem frivolous? They’re quick to giggle or laugh, quick to find something funny, quick to react, quick with their wits, quick to emote, and quick to forget. I know, because they’re young. A 26-year old, who’s not much older than the teens in the party, steered my attention to the three girls obviously enjoying themselves and finding amusement in reading each other’s cell phone messages and viewing each other’s pictures. The girls acted giddy, without the alcohol, but with just plain entertaining tete-a-tete and banter between them. Girls in their late teens, squirming and laughing as they exchanged cell phones and indulged in such hilarity enough to make everyone else around jealous.
My sister in Palo Alto did it again. She arranged a surprise birthday party almost a month after my birthday. She‘s very good at it – always manages to pick a day when I don’t suspect there’ll be anything special happening. It happened last Sunday, when I scheduled a regular visit with my pasalubongs (gifts/treats upon arrival from a trip) from the Philippines. I looked forward to a chat over merienda (snacks) or perhaps soup, and regale her and my brother-in-law with stories about my vacation and updates on family and relatives there.
It was late in the afternoon when darkness was starting to creep in. I knocked. She promptly opened the door. We hugged and lavishly exchanged new year greetings. The house was dark. She said she needed to open the lights. I walked to the receiving room. Total quiet. I looked to my left and considered imagining statues on the floor. I blinked. My jet lag and adjusting body clock must be playing tricks, I surmised. I turned to my left again and realized the bodies were frozen as they crouched on the floor. Then it hit me – they’re springing a surprise. But no one dared move for many seconds – just eyes staring at me. Very strange – shouldn’t they jump up and yell “surprise”? Then I heard my sister’s voice loudly greeting, “happy birthday!” Was that the cue? The bodies moved in a wave that began with the younger ones. The seniors slowly stretched and carefully got up. A very interesting and lovely mixed group, I should say. – late teens, middle-aged and seniors.
I’m back in California, my home away from home as my youngest sister puts it. Seven weeks of vacationing in the Philippines around the holidays are enough to get pampered all over again – with “angels” (appreciative name for household help) in the house, who would refuse being served like a queen? I didn’t. I luxuriated and loved every minute of it. Having taken residence in the US for over 40 years, I realized I missed this kind of lifestyle – well, somewhat. And every time I went to visit, this was what I looked forward to … well, for a period and to a degree.
I most enjoyed my vacation in the Philippines especially due to frequent and close bonding with family members; visits of far places to see relatives I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years; touring new attractions that were undeveloped areas years before; seeing tall commercial establishments where there were barren fields and small sari-sari (mix or hodgepodge) stores before; and indulging in exquisite authentic Filipino cuisine. All these were what made my vacation remarkable – and will make me go back to visit again.
After five weeks of being away, of being pandered in comfortable ways by house “angels”, for some strange reasons, I started to be antsy. I longed for the “eat whatever I want days”, or “not eat until I’m hungry days”, or “wake up and get up late for breakfast days”, or “do my own thing” days.
I’m looking forward to fireworks in the neighborhood tonight. Though I hear that a fireworks ban was declared this year, many predict it won’t be widely followed — in the Philippines? It’s where over the decades, ushering in the New Year has been celebrated in the loudest fashion and with the most spectacular fireworks displays in the sky. But we’ll see tonight. I still look forward to witnessing the traditional, garish way of celebration.
So how has 2017 been to you? For me, it went by so fast, regardless of what the sage says that time goes by more quickly when you’re older. I heard some young folks claim it went by like a breeze.
Battling the cold and cough is far too much of a struggle, especially when they linger past the one- or two-week scourge. More than a struggle, it’s an embarrassment trying to suppress a sneeze or a cough because of the perceived threat of contamination to those adjacent to you. When you burst out sneezing or coughing, you can’t help but get the furtive looks, or imagine you’re getting them, like darts thrown your way. Worse, people start walking away from you – or you imagine them walking away when in fact, there could be a perfect excuse for that, like the need to get a glass of water, or go to the restroom, or the conversation’s just plain boring. Even sadder is when folks who swear they’re fond of you turn their stiff back on you and walk away. You feel abandoned, like no one cares about your battle. Then you’re inclined to indulge in a one-person self-pity party. And just sulk away.
I have procrastinated too long. My suitcases are waiting to be packed, a task I need to do in preparation for my return trip to the US a week from now. The urgency of the chore is to make sure my heavy items purchased for pasalubongs (gifts to family members, friends upon arrival) can be accommodated within the weight restriction: 50 lbs. (or 30 kilos) for each of two check-in luggage. By the looks of it, I may have some excess weight. Now the question is – which do I leave behind? Perhaps, some clothes? Perhaps, some candies? Perhaps, some gifts from relatives here?
Now, see my dilemma? It’s best to procrastinate. I don’t need to make the decision now. But every “now” turns to a yesterday. I’m bushed, just thinking about this. Too much pressure … I’d rather nap over this.