Past eleven last night, I got a difficult call. My daughter Joy, between sobs, informed me that her German Shepherd pet dog, Daisy, had passed. On her 10th year, Daisy had left a distraught “Mommy and Daddy” who raised and cared for her, loved and appreciated her for her gentle nature, and for the calm, affectionate and observant ways she had endeared herself to the family.
After listening to my daughter’s grief-stricken words, I said a silent prayer and a soft goodnight, hoping that the night’s rest would give pause to grief. And to my sadness, too. This morning, I woke up and as I engaged in my usual morning prayers, thought about Daisy, still with a heavy heart.
Sadness peaked when I read my daughter’s Facebook post from last night:
“RIP, Daisy Bear. We will miss your loving affection and quiet solitude. As is your nature, you came inside tonight to kiss me g’bye, plopped down in your bed, and quietly left this world. Oh sweet, sweet girl. My heart is broken.”
And my response in a post:
“Sweet, sedate, loving Daisy — You were Daddy’s and Mommy’s girl — and Grandmama’s girl, too. Pleasant journey on the rainbow to dog heaven.”
The merry month of May is the glorious month of flowers. So appropriate that my youngest sister Chichi messaged me today about a rare flower that bloomed last night, in the veranda of our home in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines. The Queen of the Night, scientifically called epiphyllum oxypetalum, made its dramatic appearance, spurring tremendous excitement that reached far California. I got very excited, too.
As to be expected, the demure visitor stayed just a few hours. Like a thief in the night, the blossom of this mystifying flower lingers only for one night. Growers, like my sister, have to keep watch and be alert for any sign of bloom. This flower is much sought after around the world, Chichi told me. Perhaps, that’s the very reason the Queen doesn’t stay very long, not long enough for any admirer to grab it off its stem. The Queen is of a succulent cactus that prefers to grow in the shade. Best to station it where it gets only indirect sunlight during the daytime. When fully open, the flower can stretch to nine or ten inches in diameter. Besides its allure and elegance, the Queen also effuses a delicate whiff that spreads over a wide vicinity, its royal court so to speak.
I can imagine my sister and my brother-in-law peeking out every night to check for any clandestine visit from the Queen of the Night. I just wonder – if I’m back there, would I carry my blanket and pillow out to the veranda and, despite the balmy night air, would I take my position beside the Queen?
I dote over my own arcane flower at home in Palo Alto. The red camellia that my husband planted decades ago, at the corner right outside our patio wall, wakes up from hibernation every spring.
Queen of the Night (Photos by Drs. Dodong and Chichi Gordoncillo)
Petals fallen from one mystifying camellia — gathered and looking like rose or cyclamen (Photo by lpj)
My daughter Joy called me this morning and asked if I had opened my front door. Strange question, I thought. I had no clue, but I opened the door anyway. Surprise! If inanimate objects could speak, this one would. A very lovely vase with a stunning mix of flowers was staring me square in the face right in front of the door – like begging to come in, cajoling, “Let me in, let me in!”. This clueless Mom all of a sudden realized it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow! All along, I thought it was the weekend after. Of course, I let the flowers in. Very carefully, I lifted the intricate and heavily laden glass vase and took it to my dining table, while a voice on the phone cheerfully chimed, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!”
Funny, I responded, “Thanks! Happy Mother’s Day, Sweetheart.” Immediately popped the rationale that yes, to me and to her, because I remembered her reminding me a few years back that she’s a mother, too, a Mom to two delightful German Shepherd dogs. And of course, the best greeting of all – “I love you” to each other.
And to all the Moms in my family, my daughter-in-law Natasha, my sisters, aunts, nieces and friends, Happy, Happy Mother’s Day!
Flowers from my daughter Joy and son-in-law Matt happily remind me it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow! (Photo by lpj)
Very common question – have you been vaccinated? Likely for some, the curiosity is audacious. But the audacity has its purpose. Since the trend leans toward striving to move toward a semblance of normalcy, it remains of importance that the pseudo-normalcy infers health precautions and pursuance of safety measures. Just plain sensible and sensitive.
Admittedly, I find myself audacious – yes, because I tend to inquire of those I’d like to invite to a small gathering for a birthday celebration at home – have you been vaccinated? Much as I desire more friends to attend, I bear in mind the wellbeing of my guests (and myself included). But also imperative is the safety of those not yet vaccinated. Those of us who have been administered two doses of the vaccine wisely choose to be considerate of those who haven’t, specifically, not incur the possibility of carrying the virus strain to those not vaccinated (or vice versa as well).
Be it for a gathering indoors or outdoors, the audacious question pops up.
Fresh vegetables from an LA market remind me of what I need to get for the birthday celebration at home (Photo by Matt Rosenburg)
My cousin Monette’s family outing on the mountain slopes of Baao, Camarines Sur, Philippines – don’t we wish for something or more like this? (Photo by Monette Cruz Valencia)
Humanity doesn’t fail. It teeters and wavers … maybe many times than desired. But it gets back up on its feet, with a heart strengthened through despair, or pain, or chaos, or uncertainties – through challenges and victories — the heart of humanity nurtured by a wise, just and loving God, We cling to hope; it will not fail, for as long as we keep alive the decency of humanity’s soul, with a steadfast, empathetic, compassionate heart – for all. —– lpj
After our first Pfizer vaccine shot, a Mexican friend, a Japanese friend and I enjoyed a dine-out last month. Exuberant with that experience having gone through a year of pandemic restrictions and intermittent lockdowns, we decided to schedule meals together once a month, be it at a restaurant or here at home. Today was our follow-up eating social. Having received both doses of the vaccine, we happily take the privilege of getting together, mindful, however, of continuing to follow safety guidelines when we go out.
Today was a most relaxing respite from my friends’ lab work and my remote work, a Saturday afternoon well spent in just leisurely enjoying spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, ice cream, cookies and a mound of sweet strawberries and grapes. The conversation was most delightful. Some catching up after minimal social meet-ups, and a little chat about work And of course, food as usual emerged as the favored topic while eating.
Enticing fruits leftover from a simple lunch social (Photo by lpj)
This time encourages us to contemplate where we fit in the conundrum of world events, understanding the work of the hand of God in human affairs, aligning our priorities with the very purpose given each of us on this earth — a purpose wedged in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, His death and, ultimately, the triumph of His resurrection. May the Spirit of God fill each of our hearts. — lpj
My Auntie Rosie posted spectacular pictures of her garden on Facebook. Staggering beauty – flowers in full bloom, some bushes profusely crowding her garden fence, others just primmed on pots strategically placed to draw imminent admiration. With her permission, I show a few of her pictures on this blog mainly because they make me think of Easter joy. Gazing at them brings back memories of past glorious Easter celebrations. A few, I share here. I cling to those memories because they give such warm joyous feelings, unmistakably reeking with sweet nostalgia.
But this week is still Lent. Sobered by the thought that the son of God, both human and divine, sacrificed and died on the cross to redeem us back for God’s kingdom. To commemorate Lent, we enter into self-examination, a spiritual discipline aimed at humbly coming before the Lord, preparing our hearts as we meditate on the Father’s unconditional love, sending his only son, Jesus, to come down to earth and bear the burden of our sins for our redemption. A time to bow before God, confessing our iniquities and shortcomings while trusting in His unfathomable forgiveness and compassion. A time to take stock of our priorities and align them with the purpose given us by the almighty Father, cognizant of where our treasures lie, treasures that truly matter and count for eternity.
We dwell in all humility of spirit and contemplate the boundless mercy of God. Before jumping to Easter joy – we need to remember what transpired before Jesus’ resurrection, the depth of His excruciating pain and agony, and ultimately his most humiliating death on a tree — in the culture of that time, the most despicable way of making a man die – and all that, because He loves us so much.
But the dawn of a new day is near, and we look eagerly to celebrating the fact that the King is alive!
Lovely pictures trigger memories of glorious Easter celebrations (Photos by Rose Manuel Cruz)
Funny that people are curious how COVID vaccines pan out. This interest is peaked by numerous reports circulated on media outlets and social platforms. They tend to prompt fear. That’s normal in the “new norm.” I was anxious, too. Though fully cognizant that negative reports claim just a miniscule fraction of the total results, still, I entertained a nudge of doubt myself. Admittedly, I had a pinch of anxiety, but I’m much relieved that my second Pfizer vaccine shot was administered a few days ago. Now, family and friends inquire into my wellbeing after the second dose. There seems to be a veiled quasi-obligation to satisfy the third degree from concerned family and friends.
However, before sharing my all-too-familiar vaccine narrative, I would like to offer my gratitude and compliments to the myriads of health care workers, employed and volunteers, who make the tedious process of vaccinating the public a very organized and well managed “event” – so efficient and smooth running. I’m certain that everyone vaccinated appreciated the 15 to 30 minute rest soon after the shot, to be observed, while in the facility, for any immediate possibly adverse reaction. That’s how it was for my first and second COVID vaccines.
Applause & gratitude to all health care workers who tirelessly help to stave off the COVID pandemic! ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Just came back from a lovely lunch outdoors, my first dine-out with friends since the start of the pandemic. I believe it was their first dining out, too, since March last year. A young lady from Mexico, a young man from Japan and I leisurely walked two blocks to Bill’s Café in Palo Alto. The perfect spring-like weather, a bit coolish, blue skies, sunshine, light breeze from shady trees lined at the side of the lane. We couldn’t have asked for more. We were euphoric to be able to socialize outdoors. Never mind that we waited in line for half an hour. The important thing was, we thoroughly enjoyed the chat during the wait, and we got seated soon after 12 noon at one of the best situated round tables under an umbrella.
What I didn’t correctly hear was that we were supposed to order with our cell phone reading a programmed plastic pasted on the table, a technical innovation that I hadn’t experienced before. So when the waiter came to take our orders, we hadn’t made our choices. We were waiting for the regular menu. Again, we didn’t mind the delay in getting our food. After all, it was delightful just chatting away to get caught up on each other’s news, as we basked in half shade, half sun. A peculiar celebratory atmosphere dominated. From the cheery conversations and liveliness of people around, this was the general feeling. And it felt good!
Little children. They bring out the sunshine. They bring out the stars. Smiles, laughter and candies, too.
Little children overwhelmingly charm with their antics, playfulness and especially, their refreshing innocence. They warm my heart, as in a magic spell. Only that, the endearment does not go away. I shall share some of that charming spell.
Gerlyn, mother of my grandnephew Tian-Tian, told me that her son loves the blog I posted on this website, “No Tian-Tian, Godzilla is not in California”. In that article, I mentioned how he got quite concerned about me after watching a Godzilla movie with California as its setting. Just turned 5 on Feb. 20th, Tian-Tian staunchly appreciates a piece written about him. So delighted is he that to this day, he cajoles his parents Siegfrid and Gerlyn to read the article to him every single day. I am enamored by this one admirer of my writing, barely out of his toddler age, yet soaking in the pleasure of a tribute posted on his birthday. If no one pays attention to that Godzilla blog but for this one little boy – I am euphoric and grateful.
Tomorrow is my little grandnephew Tian-Tian’s birthday. He’s turning 5 on Feb. 20th, and that’s today in the Philippines, since it’s a day ahead there. I should remember to video chat to greet him tonight; that’ll be around noon there, party time with family. He calls me Auntie, just like his parents, though I hope he’ll learn to call me Lola (Grandma) I’m the sister of his grandfather. Though I admit, Auntie sounds young, I want that extra special umph of the name ‘Lola’. A great deal of wisdom and warmth emitted by that name (not to mention the soft and delightful “privilege” of the hierarchy). But the little boy doesn’t know that, so it’s fine that he calls me Auntie.
❤Happy 5th birthday, Tian-Tian!❤
Tian-Tian (nickname for Sebastian) is a very smart and lively little boy, inquisitive and curious. Ask him for the capital of every country on the map, and he’ll answer you correctly with no hesitation at all. Singing is one of his talents. When he was three during my vacation in the Philippines two years ago, he sang me a sweet little song in Tagalog that lent homage to the brilliant moon. I fondly remember his rendition of “Sa ilalim ng liwanag ng buwan” – meaning, under the light of the moon. So whenever I see the moon, feeling enchanted, I hum Tian-Tian’s little tune and insert my own poetic lyrics — in the Filipino language, they sound haunting and spellbinding. Isn’t the quasi-mysterious aura of moonlit nights supposed to bind a spell? Well, in a way it does to me, that often, when gazing at the moon traveling the sky, a quirky habit creeps up. Randomly, I dispel poetry in the tunes I spin around “Sa ilalim ng liwanag ng buwan”. Moon-struck, you might say. I have Tian-Tian to thank for that.
Often, writers look for pictures to fit the subject, or underscore the thrust of the article. In this case, I scratch my head for ideas or thoughts that can fittingly relate to spectacular photos that my grandniece Kim recently sent me. Not to use her scenery shots would be a waste. And beauty is not to be wasted. So, I share the photos with you here.
But first, I quiz myself — what is significant about these pictures beyond their alluring artistry? I then engage in a process, and for a moment, I keep still – like listening to my soul. The calmness is refreshing. The quiet is purifying. An overcoming feeling, something of nostalgia, edges in as I remember. There really is so much to say, as prompted by the lovely pictures.
Kim, the teen-aged daughter of my nephew Chito and his wife Benita, took the pictures from the balcony of her home in La Union, Philippines, a richly charming place I made a point to visit during my vacations. The draw for me was not just the incomparable beauty of a home built on the fringe of a narrow shore, but especially it was the comfortable warmth of a loving family – of my brother Albert and his wife Cecile (both recently deceased). With unwavering tug at my heart, I look at these pictures, reminiscing the happy vacation days spent in that exquisite place.
The sceneries in Kim’s photos show the “backyard” of that beach home. These pictures summon up flashbacks a few of which I shall share with you.
“Backyard” of a beach home in La Union, Philippines (Photos by Kim Chua Pandes)
Inspired by my previous blog on love and tradition, I write about old-fashioned courtship in the days of my youth, a nostalgic reflection of how a family-imposed preference easily became our accepted norm. I grew up in a family in a province in the Philippines where old-fashioned ways and discipline ruled. One of several daughters in the household, I was not spared stern expectations and rules specifically about the manner of courtship allowed. Looking back, it seemed like a different world then. If by strike of magic I find myself in my youth again – would I want to be back in that world? My answer is a resounding yes! But why, you might ask.
Amusing as they are, I teeter with embarrassment as I share memories of courtship in the old veranda. There’s a delicate coyness about admitting being the object of admiration. So, regaling stories about the courtships in my youth still somehow elicits a blush. But this baby boomer Lola will cite the stories anyway, so the young generation will know how courtship was in the good old-fashioned days.
A PBS documentary on the making of “Fiddler on the Roof” which I watched days ago revived my fascination for the movie. I hadn’t seen the stage version of the musical, but had viewed the film six times over the years. Definitely, I can watch it again another six times. The story, based on the book by Joseph Stein, weaves around nuances of Jewish culture vortexed on religion and tradition. Quite skillfully, it renders a sensitive narrative about lives intertwined in the Jewish village of Anatevka, a settlement of Imperial Russia in the early 1900’s. Never lacking in artistry, the movie is especially gifted with exceptional music by Jerry Book, song lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and choreography by Jerome Robbins.
Gripping and moving, the story portrays an amicable Jewish community hinged on social customs primed on religion, culture and loyalties. For this blog, I focus on what I believe is the bull’s eye of the story – conflict between love and tradition.
Sharing with you one of my many blessings of 2020, a strange year not without its positives. Pollyannaish, you might think. I always like to say, blessings abound. Maybe, some in the nooks, crannies and crevices. You may just have to search hard to find them, And when you do, celebrate and be thankful.
Mine, I found while staying home during this pandemic guidelines-dominated era. Beyond some remote work hours, I found time to squeeze considerable bits of creative writing. With encouraging suggestions and feedback from my 11-year-old grandson Eliott, a fairy tale was born, “Something Curious, Book 3: Stratucopia, a starry tale”. This book, third in the “Something Curious” series, just came off the press, literally speaking. The story aims to interest both the youthful and adult readers. Ninety-page “Stratucopia” features vibrant illustrations, including one drawn by my grandson just before he turned 11 in July 2020. He also is the creator of the abstract artwork used as cover for all of the books in the series.
As a teaser, I include in this blog the Prologue of the book.
A land not so far away, floating atop a heavy mass of white billowy clouds, enjoying the same blue ceiling of a sky as the earth below, is Stratucopia. Stratucopia is as real and vibrant as the cosmic earth, as lovely as the forest and rivers of the Amazon. It can be as peaceful as the pastures of Montana, or as turbulent as the erupting volcanic craters of Hawaii. Stratucopia sits solidly on thick billows of clouds. It is just there, gliding above and holding lives of inhabitants unperturbed by earth’s current events, because it, too, has its own current events. It has no connection to the earth below. But its residents are like earth’s people, with the same looks, same needs, embroiled in life’s daily demands, drawn by the same magnetism for relationships and lo, strapped by the same rules for survival.
“Happy Birthday!” is like the “sound of music” ringing joyfully in the celebrant’s ear. The greeting is a powerful reminder that the birthday itself comes from life, a gift from the Almighty God. The deeper message of birthdays is that life is precious. We live wisely according to the purpose that God has given us on this earth. Especially in these times and age, we momentarily forget that despite being mired in uncertainty, and striving through the risks of pandemic threat and consequential changes to lifestyle and livelihood, life continues, and we commemorate birthdays with much gratitude.
On the lighthearted side, birthdays give ample reason and avenues to celebrate. Mine was special. I started to receive scores and scores of greetings the day before, on the 17th in the Philippines. I was a day older in that part of the world, but didn’t mind at all. The fact is, I thoroughly enjoyed my baby boomer milestone celebrated with myriad wishes for more and abundant blessings for me. I love blessings, and I will take every bit of blessing I can get – of course, from the will of a super generous giver, God.
An interesting pattern I’ve observed – my birthdays are sprinkled with elements of surprise. This year, while my daughter Joy sent her early greeting on facetime, I didn’t expect to receive a lovely and extraordinary vase of mixed flowers with a colorful balloon floating on top. What I was waiting for that evening was my Amazon delivery of chicken chicharron (crispy fried skin) which my mouth was salivating for. When I opened the door after two rings, I discovered an even better surprise! Flowers and balloon for my birthday, from my daughter Joy and her husband Matt. Forget the chicharron. I’ll take this beautiful surprise anytime.
Another surprise that day. From my son John, my daughter-in-law Natasha and my grandson Eliott – in the mail came a most impressive 2021 calendar that John designed with interesting family pictures and several photos of Eliott with his long, thick hair moussed for a comical and delightfully raised tousle – absolutely lovable. Usually the calendar arrives before the end of the year, but this time, the timing was perfect for a surprise birthday gift. I have a collection of the yearly calendars, precious memorabilia.
A semi-surprise was my sister Susan’s gourmet renditions of various food offerings dropped off before lunch by her husband Mario.
Flowers from my daughter and her husband for my birthday (photo by Linda PJ)
Calendar 2021 from my son and his family (photo by Linda PJ)
Superfluous birthday lunch from my sister (photo by Susan P. Veloro)
It’s Christmas in my home. This started when I put out my tree, trimmed it with colorful and shimmering balls, then lights, and voila! Next, I hung the evergreen wreath on the door (really ever, ever green because the large ornament is a lovely replica of pine leaves and branches glued to a ring). Replaced the batteries, and voila, twinkling lights! The Christmas spirit is rife in the air. And I love it.
A Christmas tree mirrored on the glass wall, and a sparkly wreath on the door (photos by Linda PJ)
With the Christmas spirit comes my Christmas wish ,list. Do you have one? For the fun of it, I’m going to whip out mine and share it with you.
Advent. A truly exciting season that anticipates a “coming” or “arrival”. First, it ushers in a season of preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, an event so central in the lives of believers. Second, it underscores waiting for the second coming of Jesus, a paramount event prophesied in Scripture and which many look forward to with great longing — Jesus, the Messiah, coming back to earth in full glory to rule a thousand years along with the chosen faithful.
Significantly, Advent is a compelling reminder that there is hope — hope that many are so needy of and ardent for. In today’s world, challenges to faith and reason lurk in dire circumstances. The blight of the pandemic to the economy and specifically, to people’s livelihood, is outmatched by the fear of losing loved ones to the mysterious virus that has drastically changed lives and the norms of living. In the broil is the clamor for social reform accented by the cries of the hurting poor, disadvantaged and marginalized. Anxiety and fear of the uncertain become the norm, and as to be expected, discontent and unhappiness creep in. This is not what the Lord wants for us, this I believe. Light shines at the end of the spiral. So then, comes Advent. Yes, Advent is here — hope overpowering the strain and weariness of dark circumstances. Hope abundant in the mercy of a very loving and compassionate God.
As I was reflecting on Advent last Sunday (the first of four Sundays of Advent), my attention was caught by pictures posted on Facebook by my son-in-law Matt and my daughter Joy – lovely and captivating scenes evocative of God’s power in the beauty of His creation. All for our enjoyment. All for our pleasure. These pictures are shared below.
Westward beach in Los Angeles (photos by Matt Rosenburg)
A good heart. What is it really? That was the bull’s eye of a conversation I recently had concerning intriguing current events and conditions in the world these days. Confusion, chaos, natural disasters, pandemic threats, social turmoil and inequalities, political upheavals. The list can go on and on. There is no intent of sounding dismal here, but just relaying an exchange not rare at all – but rather, common anywhere and any place these days. The casual discussion peaked to a perplexity accented by the question – what is happening? Are these the signs of the time? Some may wonder what that question alludes to. Almost like a cliché used when baffled about widespread dire occurrences. And usually, the question is asked with some alarm.
Without advancing theories or ideas that may stir fear or anxiety, I bring this up because of the way my conversation ended up. In a nutshell, my take was this — there are circumstances beyond our control, and we watch with some helplessness because we desire solutions, rectification, a fix. The truth is, we can do something. We all can contribute to making life more purposeful in a better world. How? Keeping a good heart. Sounds too simplistic for a complicated and ambivalent world whose proclivity is success without a soul, you might say.
So what really is a good heart?
When churning ideas to characterize a good heart, I thought of my Mama, Leoncia Manuel Pandes, who passed on Nov.7, 2017, a month shy of her 101st birthday — a beautiful woman with a good heart (sketch by Marie Recine – used in my book, Something Curious, Book 2: Simply Awed).
Easily everyone’s sweetheart. That’s Burt, my grandson Eliott’s new pet dog, a 2-year-old mix-bred Terrier and Lhasa Apso. Actually, I’m not sure about the dog’s full lineage. If a Cairn Terrier, Burt’s breed originated in the Scottish Highlands. If a Lhasa Apso, his breed came from Tibet. But whatever it is, this I know, he immediately grabbed my heart. I’m sure he grabbed my grandson’s and his parents’ hearts, too.
It is so endearing to see Eliott and Burt hit it off immediately from the first day the dog was brought home. I suspect, it was that way at the rescue center when the two just met. On facetime, I see Burt quietly following his new buddy around. I read up about terriers. One remarkable characteristic they have is their natural fondness for kids. On the other hand, the Lhasa Apso dog is a great family companion. Burt fawns on Eliott. When the dog realizes his buddy is not in the room, he ambles from room to room, looking for him. This is not without saying that my grandson has fast developed an affinity for his very first pet dog.
Welcoming the new member of the family (photo courtesy of Eliott’s family)
Highly politicized and strangely divisive. I was pondering over this mask phenomenon upon hearing news on TV about the mask controversy. A very simple thing, yet on the hot seat of public opinion. While we have the freedom to choose or take sides, my inclination leans toward common sense and well-being, all politics aside.
As I was tinkering with this thought, I spotted a picture on Facebook posted by my son-in-law Matt, who touted the lovely and relaxing day he spent at Laguna Beach, Los Angeles with my daughter Joy. Two seagulls, one carried a mask in its beak. The other was just ambling ahead to meet the waves. Hmmm … my interpretation was that the first bird wanted to wear the mask. Smart seagull, I thought. But someone else remarked that the bird was going to throw the mask out to the waves. Interesting. I was just toying with the tension between both sides of the controversy in my mind – and there appeared the seagull picture in front of my eyes, oddly mirroring that controversy.
Seagulls at Laguna Beach, Los Angeles (Photo by Matt Rosenburg)
Well, what do you think? Venture to guess what’s on the seagull’s mind. This does not advance any rhetoric, but whatever your response is reveals what side you’re on (regarding the use and value of the mask) … of course, politics aside (really?!).
Monterey – a tease for seafood and poetry
Then, I saw a photo on FB of my son John, daughter-in-law Natasha and grandson Eliott at Old Fisherman’s Wharf in beautiful Monterey, California. Immediately, I imagined fish and chips.
Fish & chips, seafood sandwich ordered on a whim (Photo by Linda PJ)
The new norm teaches new habits and preferences. Some welcomed and some not. Some good, and some less good (a softer term than bad). I speak here about the welcomed and good. Sheltering in during these pandemic times diminishes or veils the attractions and distractions outside the home. For some, the confinement is difficult, since the limit of outdoor activities has stretched for months. While we understand the wisdom of following health guidelines, we adjust our basic instinct for freedom of movement, and for some, this curtailment can be painful. Yet, we have a choice. The choice between playing it safe, or the impulse to ignore advice. I choose to follow good advice as best I can.
A few times, I’ve been asked if I get bored staying mostly at home. The question never baffles me. Quite normal. Being “holed in” is a challenge. Even squirrels and gofers need to get out of their holes at least once in a while. But my answer has always been – no. And thank God for that. What do I do, they ask. I just try to find simple pleasures some of which I shall share with you here.
I sit in front of my laptop and surf for interesting Facebook postings of friends. I especially search for upbeat messages, and most especially for beautiful pictures with stories behind them. While some people decry the disadvantages and cons of this social medium, it definitely owns some benefits. I focus on the benefits.
Today, a lush picture of an orchid plant grabbed my attention.
Simple pleasure — free to behold (photo by Debbie Dillon)
A most relaxing Sunday for me today. The usual of the new norm. Late Sunday mornings are generally spent attending the livestream worship service followed by a sermon discussion session on zoom. Today’s was special, just like on other Sundays. The whole conglomeration of praise songs, community prayers and teaching inspired by Scripture created a sacred aura almost magical in a high spiritual sense, and soothing to the heart that seeks calm and peace in the midst of worldly clamor. Pastor Dan’s message, based on verses from First Peter in the Bible, touched on the steadfastness of faith and what church is to the people of God.
After the service and discussion online was a light lunch for me, slow and totally unhurried, while digesting a bit of weekend news capsules from the TV broadcast, I then shifted to sit in front of my laptop and pored over Facebook messages and postings. One particularly caught my attention – a stunning scenic picture shared by my nephew’s daughter. The photo triggered happy memories.
“Backyard” of the La Union beach home (photo by Kim Pandes)
The University of the Philippines (UP) recently gained major international acclaim. It garnered the highest citation score in the 2021 Times Higher Education University World Ranking for pre-clinical, clinical and health research (91.9%), according to a report of the Business Mirror. In this regard, UP ranked over the University of Oxford, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, Johns Hopkins, University of California Los Angeles, among other top renowned institutions of higher learning. Outrageously awesome!
Especially during this time of heightened COVID pandemic concerns all over the world, health and medical initiatives are of utmostimportance and relevance. This distinction brings to the forefront attention to the efforts, knowledge, skills and contributions of health professionals who, in various capacities, work for the health and well-being of humanity. Our hats off to them in extreme gratitude.
“Lola,” my 11-year-old grandson asked me one day recently, “why did you say I don’t laugh enough?” A very astute question from a young boy. My surprise was, he remembered and mulled over my comment that was casually expressed in a conversation. It was during one of his piano practice sessions when he heard me blurt out a short laugh upon hearing a movement in the music that evoked a vision of dancing bears – to be exact, fluffy bears stumbling and rolling over each other in awkward dance moves.
“What was so funny,” he quizzed me after his lesson. “I just imagined dancing bears,” I think that was my retort. “Wouldn’t that be funny?” I pressed. “Not funny,” he shot back. I knew he was working hard at perfecting those music intervals (when he heard my stifled laugh). All of this exchange on facetime, with a computer screen in between was even funnier to me. It seemed I was on the hot seat just because I laughed. So I laughed even more. In my impulse to hug my grandson, I blew him a kiss.
“You don’t laugh enough,” I fondly teased. Well, he remembered that comment weeks after. This was my explanation to my darling grandson.
Lonely times. Hard times. Grief springs fresh anew. My dear sister-in-law, Cecille Paco Pandes, passed yesterday, in Philippine time, September 12 at 2:49 in the afternoon. This, a month after she lost her husband, my younger brother Albert, to cardiac arrest. Cecille battled with pneumonia and succumbed to a collapsed lung. Thirty minutes prior to a scheduled tracheotomy, she left this world.
She leaves a very devastated family that’s trying to comprehend the demise of two beloved parents (and grandparents) whose departures are just weeks apart. The pain of grief is searing. But it also bows our knees to a posture of prayer to the One Almighty God who knows the count of every hair on our head, every line in our palms, every sigh of our heart, and catches every tear that falls. Only He knows where paths converge and diverge, how every life is lived, and where every purpose on earth peaks. For these reasons, we trust Him, in His son Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and of love. We trust that our Lord has settled Cecille and Albert in His beautiful castle up in the heavenlies.
Taking a break from working in front of my laptop, I sat listening to a television interview of a retired Lt. General of the US Military Service, Mark Hertling. I shall not delve into politics, because that is not the thrust nor direction of my blogs. But I shall write about my sociological and psychological interpretation of what I thought was very interesting and relevant in today’s anxious and confusing world (as it was for previous generations). The General spoke about “transactional” versus “transformational” behavior or reaction.
What’s the difference, I pondered as I sat at the edge of my seat, waiting for his explanation. And what does it matter?
What prompts this extraordinary trend? I notice a rise in social media group sites majority of which celebrate memories of years long ago. This year, I responded to three that I was invited to join. One I joined the year before. The participants are definitely of varying ages. The common thread runs along streams of nostalgia traversing memory lanes. Bits and pieces of history accompanied with vintage pictures are among the favorites. No one can deny curiosity about the past. Often, memories revolve around the old alma mater, the city of one’s youth, the old neighborhood, old friends and former classmates, former teachers, notable events in the community’s life, and of course, what has become of everything and everyone from our past.
One group site posts old photos of Naga City and the Bicol region (Philippines) before commerce took over the development of the area. Interesting pictures show how the universities or schools looked many decades ago, old class pictures, popular professors now gone, the downtown district not crowded with vehicles then, sidewalks not filled with a milieu of pedestrians the way they often are in modern times, and even photos of movie stars and other celebrities, pride of Bicol. All these stir a chain of comments and mini stories of life long ago — morphing into a kaleidoscope of colorful and sentimental memorabilia. A tinge of nostalgia surfaces, not without gratitude for the past, not without appreciation for how the past has birthed what now is the present. But definitely, awe for all that changed.
The perks of social media – and I’m thoroughly enjoying them.
Grieving is painful. That’s exactly what I feel right now. My younger brother, Albert, will be buried at Manila Memorial Park cemetery in a few hours. Back to dust, as Scripture starkly says about death. Tears are rushing down my cheeks unchecked. Surely, am missing him. And here I am in California, not able to travel to the Philippines due to restrictions around the pandemic guidelines. So, I stoically wait for the zoom to start for the funeral service.
Grief is painful. It reminds me of losing my dear husband five years ago. When a loved one goes, we seek comfort in the thought that the spirit lives on and is back home with God. Spiritually soothing. Yet the tears flow, shedding from a hurting heart.
I especially hurt for Albert’s wife, Cecile, his children and grandchildren. Feeling very sad, I sit here trying to write a tribute to a brother five years junior to me, a brother who, up to the time of his recent sick days, never shied from displaying pure delight whenever I vacationed in the Philippines to visit family, or every time I skyped to chat with family there. The last time I saw him alive was a few days ago on skype – with a face that perked up for a greeting, he waved his good right hand (having been half paralyzed from a stroke early this year) — his arm, suspended prolongedly in mid-air, waving, waving, waving.
Pwn, pronounced as “pone” means to “utterly defeat an opponent, especially in video games”, according to Wikipedia. Webster defines pwn as “to have power or mastery over someone. The word is also used to describe “the act of gaining illegal access to something.”
Recently, I blogged the disturbing experience of being scammed. When I related the ugly story to my daughter, she said, “Mom, you got pwned”. Only then did I know such a word exists, and it lives right in my scam story. It’s been a few days since the sad experience. I am getting over the personal shame of allowing myself to be victimized, and I exposed this in last week’s blog that bared naked my vulnerability. Writing it was an astute challenge, but I did anyway. If exposing my weakness could warn, or better still, save at least one other person from hideous scams, then relating my story is well worth the struggle.
After the “mea culpa”, what has come next, you might ask. For this reason, I am writing this sequel to my scam story –- the self-examination and soul searching for lessons learned.
I was scammed today! Not smart enough to detect the deceit. Not alert enough to stop the scamming process. Too trustingly foolish. Though not a pleasant story to tell, I am sharing this in hopes that this won’t happen to you.
This morning, I received notification from an email address that included the words Amazon.com, asking me to confirm my order of Samsung Smart TV and cell phone totaling $4,600+, for shipment to Massachusetts. I did not make the order, so emotions immediately peaked. The same email said that if that was not my order, I should call the Fraud Production Team no. 1-888-343-2253. I followed a crazy impulse without checking anything, and called that number. Not aware at that time — I was calling the scammer’s number!
Hair-pulling craziness … but I didn’t know then. Pure nuts! Read More »
Got good news lately? Against a backdrop of anxiety over the corona virus and intrigue over brewing social issues, there is hunger for good news to ride high on whirlpools of uncertainties. Anything to brighten our days. Life goes on as we forge through challenges. But no dimmer switch for hope that comes with the realization that blessings abound for us and around us. One of the blessings is getting good news.
So, have you gotten your dose of good news lately? I have.
AGEUK, based in London, is the umbrella for a massive network of organizations and charities supporting in various capacities the senior population of the United Kingdom. AGEUK‘s overarching mission pivots around efforts to educate, inform, instruct, advice, assist seniors for the purpose of bettering or uplifting their wellbeing, and raising the quality and comfort of their aging process. An admirable and noble stretch of the human heart.
I was asked to contribute to an article on AGEUK suggesting activities for seniors in their homes. I am posting here what was published in AGEUK Mobility online magazine (November 2018). My text in quotes is part of a lengthy, comprehensive piece (the magazine’s comments are in italics). AGEUK‘s entire thoughtful piece on toolkits for seniors is a nudge to remind us of the importance and value of the senior population to humanity. Being a baby boomer myself (and a stubborn romantic idealist at heart), I’d like to think that we are the gems of wisdom, the “Yodas” of this world’s generations.
Technology still fazes me at times. I’m not embarrassed to admit. As I’ve often said, this baby boomer Lola keeps on learning. I love to learn. Learning is a spice of life that should never fade. So, you might ask – what’s the latest from technology for me. Well, I’ve never been really interested in zoom. Facetiming and skyping have been favorite activities with family members and friends – but group zooming I wasn’t really into – until shelter-in-place started. Since virtual meetings have become part of the new norm, and by virtue of its pragmatic functionality, zoom has become a buzzword. I have definitely learned to appreciate it.
Catching up with the rapid pace of technology is a challenge. I’m a baby boomer, and I’m convinced technology is on a fast track – nonetheless, I enjoy the challenge (I think).
This afternoon, I sat enraptured listening to two friends performing Schubert Serenade on the piano and violin in my living room. I’ve heard it many times before, but this time, it especially kindled memories of my father singing in his rich baritone lyrics of his favorite love song evolved from Schubert’s music. Back of our home in the province where I grew up is the Bicol river. Still clear in my mind, he often would stand by the river bank and sing with full gusto the enchanting melody of Schubert Serenade. Being a romantic at heart and even as a little girl, I enjoyed imagining that the leaves of nearby malongay trees and the long blades of cogon grass trembled at the vibrancy of his voice. And of course, Mama swooned. A good time to remember – it’s Father’s Day on Sunday. So, happy Father’s Day, Papa, wherever you are in God’s spiritual realm.
In my living room is my husband’s handsome portrait used during his funeral four and a half years ago. If eyes could smile, his do, especially in that picture. I call them twinkling eyes, and as I relished strains of Schubert Serenade, I imagined that his eyes twinkled even more, and his smile broadened even more. Strange, you might say. But that’s just my playful imagination. Read More »
I sat through two hours of Peter Paul and Mary feature re-run on PBS station last week. Utterly delightful. But more especially, nostalgic. I reminisced the days of my youth when I was a high school exchange student in Pennsylvania around the mid-60’s –- peak of the anti-Vietnam war sentiments and staggering support for troops at war, cultural shakeup by the hippie and peace movements, height of the civil rights initiative and public demonstrations. Peter, Paul and Mary’s music carries all those rich sentiments, bearing messages that transcend time. Hearing their music again some nights ago, when protests continue to crowd the streets of cities around the country these days, was just too powerfully moving and overwhelmingly sentimental.
Baby boomers remember Peter, Paul and Mary – stellar performing artists who channeled their music and songs to rallying for human rights and justice around the world. Their folk songs remind me of hootenannies, singing parties I so very much enjoyed as a teenager in Pennsylvania. Friends and I and our contemporaries were not much into jam sessions where rock n’ roll was king of the dance floor. Rock n’ roll was not the craze of youths in the area where I lived with an American host family for a year. Maybe because we all loved music and singing, and we gravitated to any singing party in town. Hootenannies were the fad.
If you’re a numbers cruncher and relish poring over statistical data, Travis Scott Luther’s “The Fun Side of the Wall” will indulge you. If you dig the exponential bombardment of academic logic to support the whys and wherefores of a social hypothesis, his book will cloy you. But if your curiosity urges you to skip the stats percentages and just dive right into the rationale, this book is for you, too.
Fast forward straight to the point, Luther’s book explains why populations of US baby boomer retirees live in Mexico.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. It shouldn’t be, but it is a sad day. So much confusion. One trouble after another. Many questions, and not enough answers. Great rumblings; the voices are loud and mixed; hard to find clarity. Passion stirs activity, emotions and hysteria. There is need for understanding of what’s going on.
Before this week, we tried to stretch our comprehension of what’s happening in the world with the vengeful threat of coronavirus. But today, the stifling fear of the mysterious virus has been dominated with grief and anger riding the streets of big cities in the US.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. A time to celebrate the sending of the Spirit of God to the apostles, disciples, and then the multitudes, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus sent His Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles. The Spirit is for all, old and young, believer or non-believer. It is up to every heart to accept through faith in Jesus.
Gazing out my window is still my favored pastime during the shelter-in-place. It’s amazing that what I see outdoors never fails to entertain me. A lot of times, it beats watching TV. Because what I see provokes meanderings of the mind, some amusing, some puzzling or intriguing and even some, nostalgic.
I notice more bikers pass by than before the shelter-in. After all, the street in front of my house is perfect for biking, especially this time when few cars drive by. Besides, the tree-lined street offers a scenic view that makes it more enjoyable for cyclists and pedestrians.
Strange to see is that the bikers, compared to pedestrians that walk by, show greater enjoyment of their freedom and activity as they whoosh by – almost like an infectious lighthearted abandon. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not judging – just observing and sharing impression, maybe a crazy one at that.
Milk was top of my grocery list. Just had enough for one coffee break. So, I told my daughter Joy when I facetimed with her that I planned to go to the store next day. Her reaction was a stern advice – no, Mom, don’t go; just use Instacart. Now, for this Lola, Instacart sounded Greek. And since I don’t know Greek, I replied, I’d rather drive to the store just 10 minutes away. She insisted that I stick to the shelter-in guidelines still enforced in our county. Better still, she offered to do the ordering for me from her home in the Los Angeles area, using Instacart. I gave her my short list, thinking it would take hours or a day for delivery to come.
Lo and behold, the delivery arrived in two hours. And the nice surprise was, a big bundle of pink-orange roses was delivered along with the food items. How awesome is that! Not only do I have my needed milk, eggs, bread, carrots and tomatoes, almost in a flash, but also the unexpected gorgeous bouquet – for Mother’s Day! Immediately, I facetimed my daughter and blew a generous flurry of my thank you flying kisses. A lesson from her – learn to use Instacart, especially during these shelter-in times.
My son John emailed me the image of my grandson’s drawing for inclusion in my Something Curious, Book 3, a fairy tale. My 10-year-old grandson Eliott has been instrumental in shaping my story material with valuable comments, suggestions and insights, tremendous feedback from a young boy. Working with him on the story, I genuinely felt humility – while this baby boomer Lola truly felt elated, I, too, felt humbled to learn so much from this youth who, even now, doesn’t realize how his ideas effectively motivated and inspired the completion of my story material.
A routine activity I indulge in during this shelter-in period is watching my favorite public TV channel 32, alternating between music and NASA programs. Today, after enjoying two hours of fabulous music, excerpts from concerts, opera, Broadway and shows, I watched a replay of Apollo 11 moon landing. A remarkable documentary of a historic world event involving American astronauts Armstrong, Eldredge and Collins. This flooded back memories which I so gladly welcomed and enjoyed, in the middle of a late breakfast with no one but just the TV and me.
1969 – I was in the cusp between my late teens and young adulthood. I remember elbowing my way through a crowd of some 19 young adults huddled in front of a black and white television in the living room of a large and elegant Spanish house in Bulacan, Philippines. Our group of first-year graduate students just finished a full day’s field work, walking from house to house for a direct survey aimed at finding out the effect of radio educational broadcasting on the community population. We were students of mass communication on a two-day mission for a course-related university project. Our two mentors managed to secure a night’s accommodation for us in the city.
That night was eventful, not just for us, eager group of young people and our professors, but for the world. You see, that very moment, we witnessed on the screen the first walk on the moon. It was absolute euphoria, knowing especially that we were watching the same occurrence with people all around the world. Incredulous! Gathered around the TV in that city in Bulacan, strangely, we all felt part of that historic drama.
I am taking stock of what I have done during this shelter-in-place period. Overall, and this surprises me, I’ve been busy! While many have expressed, very understandably, restlessness and boredom to a certain extent due to confinement, it’s been absolute relief that confinement has not really been rough for me. I don’t think nor claim to be alone in thinking this. So, what have you been doing? I will gladly share with you peaks of what has kept me busy.
For one, I continue on performing office tasks that I brought home for telecommuting. As a part-time worker, my schedule doesn’t seem to have changed much, devoting the same number of days to my job. True, working from home can be limited after factoring in that certain duties are “office-based” due to accessibility to personnel, equipment, files, etc., yet, much of the work can actually be accomplished remotely from home, thanks to technology.
Sunday’s a coming, but today is Friday. Meaningful words uttered at the Good Friday live-stream worship service held jointly by three churches in Palo Alto: Vineyard Church, First Christian Church and Peninsula Bible church.
Readings from the bible recalled events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross. A pastor from each church presented expository of the sorrowful moments that showed how humanity’s sin and transgression were borne by an innocent man, Jesus, the Son of God. All the anguish and pain of the world’s iniquities snowballed into a humiliating death on the cross. And at His last agonizing breath, He gave up His spirit to the Father who, at that very instance, was separated from the Son for mankind’s redemption. The Son bore the sins of the world, and the separation from the Father was the most pain, more searing than His physical wounds.
The greatest sacrifice of all. The biggest love of all. But the most victory of all — the victory of the cross over death. “This is Friday – but Sunday’s a coming,” proclaimed a male voice at a dramatic presentation during the online service. Yes, we look forward to Sunday and the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
I just came back into the house after dragging my garbage can back into the garage. Strange. It felt good! Some years back I used to rib my husband (now deceased) that I would never throw the garbage. He and my son would take turns. But today – why did throwing the garbage seem like a pleasant chore? Actually, the day’s so lovely outside. Very blue skies with nary a cloud but the beams of a glaring sunshine, and a mild breeze blowing the branches ripe for spring. But there’s something out of place in this glorious picture – the awful anxiety over an invisible enemy called COVID-19 gripping communities. A battle is raging, and there is chaos in the world.
Yet, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, using the words of a legendary TV host, Mr. Rogers, long gone but still much beloved and celebrated. Maybe, if he were alive today, he would still be singing that catchy song. Because in these anxious times, we look forward to hearing something cheery and good.
My point is, there is beauty in the midst of chaos. We take every effort to find beauty, and in finding it, we find hope, we find God.
The splendor of God’s beauty in nature, even in the clutch of chaos — blue haze on the mountain adds mystery to this breath-taking view from Jeanne’s Spanish hamlet (photo courtesy of Jeanne J. Ashkenazi).
Pastor Dan delivered a powerfully moving message during Sunday’s live-stream worship service online. The genuineness and vulnerability carried the words of God straight to the heart. He bared his soul. And in these times when people seek answers and relief to a confusing and horrifying phenomenon plaguing the world, a personal story about how God works is comforting and hopeful. His was a story of faith, hope and trust.
Just like last Sunday’s online worship, yesterday’s was very special in a sacredly intimate way – like God was speaking directly to me through Pastor Dan’s preaching. Obviously, it was with great pain that he shared a trial culled from his wife’s very difficult ectopic pregnancy, supposedly with their first baby. It was heart-rending, especially when the doctor urged the couple to make a life or death decision. Horrific for this couple who always strived to be steadfast in their faith and convictions. Alone in my room while watching this man on the screen agonizing over his testimony with such raw emotion, I sat at the edge of my seat, in uncomfortable suspense for the resolution of the couple’s dilemma, and in empathy, strangely I prayed to hear something good.
A stark reminder, there still is beauty in this world even in the midst of chaos — from Jeanne’s garden in Spain (photo courtesy of Jeanne J. Ashkenazi)
Today is Sunday. I watched a live-stream worship service, the first I ever attended online. Like many other churches, worship services have been cancelled in attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Part of the preventive over-arching norm called social distancing. Initially, I intended to read scriptures for my Sunday prayer time at home this morning. Instead, I tuned in to my Palo Alto church’s service online. I am so thankful that I did.
Never did I expect that experience to affect me strongly, like the pastor was speaking to me directly. It felt like I was receiving the words of teaching and counsel from the Father Himself, through the preacher’s mouth. I was being spoken to, with no one else about me. Just me and my laptop – and that powerfully moved me to tears. Amazing and awedly strange.
The world is ridden with fear over the uncertainty of the duration and effects of a phenomenon, the outbreak of the corona virus. Society is shaken. Lifestyles are changing almost to the beat of an eerie drumroll that vibrates over oceans and continents. Social norms are switching from close and friendly neighborliness to keeping distance between persons conversing – no hugs, no kisses, no handshakes, no high fives, no touching, no congregating, and on and on. Isolation. Be like an island, at least while the drumroll lasts.
But the drumroll will end. The island will welcome visits again. There will be handshaking again, and people can give hugs, or pecks on the cheek, or high fives, and hold hands again. Maybe not in this present reality – but a turn in the road will come. Just trust.
So, you ask, how?
We are extremely grateful for the efforts of medical first responders that risk their own health and well-being by braving the front lines where they take every initiative to combat the dreadful invader as they treat and care for those affected. We take special notice of governments, officials, institutions and groups who spearhead policies, provisions and send substantial aid and resources where they’re necessary. With thankfulness, we send our encouraging thoughts to those laboring and burning the night lamp to find cure or preventive measures through intensive study and research. And of course, our hearts go out to the affected families and individuals while we ourselves take every precaution in this battle.
But with all the concerted influx of human effort – there is one most needed especially in these times of trouble. Prayer.
Prayers to the God who made us all – to One whose love for us is never ending – to One who cares for and accepts us despite our foibles and inadequacies, and even in the depths of our own spiritual vertigo. Yes, let our hearts join in prayer that God will fight this mysterious conundrum that is shaking lives all over the world. Because He is powerful; He is mighty; He is kind; He is all-loving. He truly cares, as He has sacrificially shown through Jesus, His son.
Pray with trust, hope and humility — as life goes on, with a purpose entrusted to us on this earth.
‘Torete’ about my grandnephew and grandson
Five weeks of vacation in December-January was intentionally packed with travels to far provinces, mainly to visit relatives, but also to tour lovely sights and enjoy nature’s gifts. In my previous blog, I mentioned the highlights of my vacation. But here, I want to give special mention to my niece’s newly born son, Zi. Meeting Zi was the crème de la crème of my vacation.
When I look at Zi’s photo, I sing my favorite Filipino song I learned when I was in the Philippines – “Torete ako sa iyo” (I’m cray about you – or nuts over you). I belted out this line to Zi when I was with him in hopes of keeping him awake so I could play with him. But every time, his eyelids would droop, and he’d fall peacefully asleep on my rousing tone – my funky crooning mustn’t have been as crazy and energizing as I thought it was. A strange and quirky lullabye. Anyway, Zi — “Torete ako sa iyo!”
Zi (Photo by Nikki)
I’m very “torete” about my grandson, too, now 10 years old, who at the moment of this writing, is enjoying Tahoe with his parents. I just watched a video of my grandson skiing and zigzagging the long and spectacular California trail. The activity looked invigorating. Funny, I felt invigorated … I wasn’t even there.
One of the highlights of my week that I so look forward to is facetiming late Sunday afternoons and watching him practice and rehearse pieces on the piano. Always a lovely treat! He is a wonderful delight that I thank God for.
The Sausalito treat
Last weekend was perfect for a drive to Sausalito north of San Francisco. A spontaneous and lavish treat from a nephew, his wife and daughter on a spring-like day.
Within a week of each other, I attended interesting and fun (but supposedly goodbye) parties. One was for a retiree; the other, for someone moving to another state. The gatherings were graced with delicious food, lively conversation, incessant chatter and spiced with lighthearted jokes and teasing. All the necessary ingredients for a great party, the kind that after all the consumption and laughter, you come away declaring – hmmm, that was so much fun.
Ironical, isn’t it, that supposedly the gathering is for “mourning” the loss of one whose company you had learned to appreciate – as one retiring or moving away. Yet, the goodbyes turn out to be moments of merrymaking. Amazing that during the party for the honoree, no tears are shed, just joyous reminiscing. The gathering morphs into a delectable journey through memory lane. And believe me, the memories tend to be all so funny. Read More »
Have you ever gone on a lengthy vacation, enjoyed it a lot but got so tired that you wished to go home? Well, I just have – but I’m not ungrateful for it. I loved it! Just had too much fun, too much food, too much partying, too much traveling on the road, too much packing and unpacking, too much restaurant hopping, too much talking and storytelling. Too much, too much, too much! But don’t get me wrong, I loved it all – just got too tired and wished to be home.
Now I’m back in Palo Alto, resting somewhat from that hectic vacation, so to speak. Let’s break down this “too much” agenda.
Fresh buko (young coconut) juice – naturally and mildly sweet, the perfect respite from a hectic schedule during my vacation (photo by Nikki).
Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, Philippines erupted during my vacation. Grave concern is for communities lying on the volcano’s rim. Total evacuation of those areas has happened, and there is outpouring of help for affected families.
I was traveling with relatives from La Union back to Manila and Los Banos a few hours after the eruption. The roads were fogged up with ashfall, especially around Santa Rosa where drivers struggled with 0 visibility. Los Banos roads were clearer, much to our relief.
I’m on the tail end of my vacation in the Philippines. It felt like a tail spin. So fast.
The ocean and the sky at Rabon in Rosario, La Union, Philippines (photos by Rorie Pandes)
It is Noche Buena in my sister’s household. A small evenly brown roasted pig (from Sir Dodong’s Lechon in Los Banos) sits in the middle of the large round dining table designed along a carriage wheel motif. A beautifully cooked lechon that I had ever seen – a rich gloss of brown skin (balat) tightly chiseled all over the small pig’s body; a thin tail stiffly perked upwards; an elongated head featuring a tranquil face that seems to denote contentment in the outcome of its process. A most delectable object.
The urge to pick on the crispy skin is hard to resist. My fingers feel the itch, and my brother-in-law notices my eyes furtively focused hungrily on the lechon skin. He cuts a piece and the crunch pierces the quiet in the room. It is a sound that waters the mouth and tempts. So my sister asks for a piece, and her husband carefully shoves it in her mouth. Heavenly crunch, crunch. Merry Christmas!
Sir Dodong’s Lechon — Wonder about the patches? Someone or two couldn’t resist picking on the crunchy skin. And what happened to the tail? Hmmm …
It is the 23rd of December as I write this piece. Almost Christmas! It’s been a while since my last blog. The weeks since zoomed by so quickly. Necessities of work grabbed time with preparations for my vacation trip before the holidays. Like a whirlwind. Now I’m in the Philippines enjoying a rather hectic schedule of get-togethers with family, relatives and friends. A happy whirlwind. Fortunately, no jet lag … yet.
Mahjong. Learning it was an adventure. More than that, it was humbling. Totally ignorant of the game, I was, however, very curious. Mustering patience and genuine interest, I listened to instructions from a Chinese friend who quite obviously struggled to find words to explain the game’s basic steps, nuances and intricacies. While I kept in rein the nasty urge to fill in the gaps in his pauses as he searched for right words, I admit, I was more engrossed in my fascination with the sparkly heavy cubes teal-colored on the top, creamy white on two narrow sides, and with images and characters distinctly embossed on the main surface.
Others in the group attempted to translate my teacher’s instructions, but I wasn’t lost in the translation. Guess what, I quickly learned the play!Read More »
The holidays push the thought of giving to the forefront. For one, requests for donations inundate the mail. Additionally, the media present varied opportunities to contribute to helping the disadvantaged and poor who, too, have the right to celebrate the holidays but have not the means to do so. Afloat is a remarkable effort, especially by non-profit organizations and church groups, to bring cheer to the needy who might find no cheer during the festive season or anytime of the year. Hard to ignore the pleas that attempt to stir compassion and action – give to help the poor.
Frolicking on the lake
Paddle boating on the lake isn’t just kid stuff, I insist. Adults love it and have the best fun, too. Last Saturday afternoon, friends and I went paddle boating on Shoreline lake in Mountain View, my second time ever. Regulation says only four can ride the paddle boat, so one guy had to work the kayak on his own. For some bit of excitement, our boat often crossed path with the kayak, and lightly bumped it intentionally but teasingly. We felt like kids giddy at play.
Do you ever wonder back to the games you loved to play during your childhood, your youth and on to your adult years? I do, and then I realize … wow! Times have changed. Either those games are no longer popular, or have changed in mechanics and structure, or they no longer exist. Take for example jackstone.
Jackstone was my favorite game in the primary grades. A small group of friends would sit in circular formation on the cement floor in front of our classroom during recess in the all-girls’ school. We played with crisscrossed light metal bars, each about an inch long, painted with bright colors. Two bars glued together looked like a star. Each glued pair was called a jackstone. There were ten jackstones, scattered randomly on the floor and individually picked up each time the small rubber ball about an inch in diameter was tossed in the air and bounced off the floor. Precision and speed were key to the game. The goal was to pick up all ten. I remember the nuns and teachers striving to make clear the path on the corridor amidst groups of players on the floor. My secret fear was that a teacher in high-heels would inadvertently slip over a jackstone gone astray from the huddles. Or that a nun’s hurried steps would unknowingly kick a renegade jackstone to the far end of the corridor.Read More »
It’s parallel to asking, is there really something in a vacuum? I think there is. Science will argue that molecules abound in a vacuum. So, we can’t say that there is nothing in a vacuum. In similar sense – we cannot claim that in any span of time, there is “nothing to do”. Now, I’m really pinning myself down on a circular argument – but I ask it anyway – what do you do when there’s nothing to do?Read More »
In my congratulatory message to a dear young couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, I interjected – keep your humor, for love thrives in humor.
What exactly is humor? Among many of Merriam Webster’s definitions of humor are:
“That quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous.”
“The mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous: the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny.”
From your own life experiences, how would you characterize humor?Read More »
Devastating news yesterday morning. My daughter called to say she and her husband received the veterinary doctor’s diagnosis on Marley, their 10-year-old German Shepherd. The dog’s pancreatitis had worsened and sepsis had set in. Marley was suffering. With dismal prognosis, there was no other option.
A hard blow. Two months ago, Oliver, their 12-year-old German Shepherd succumbed to cancer. Still recovering from a heartbreak over Oliver, this news was just too much to take. Over the phone, I could hardly make out my daughter’s words. Sobs so deep blurred her speech. But when I heard “Marley has to go”, my heart sank. Hearts are being broken all over again. These dogs are my daughter and her husband’s “kids”, and I’m the grandmamma. How much more pain can one take?
I take secret pleasure in personality studies and character analysis. My tool is conversation. I delight in intellectual discussions. Especially the kind that delves into deep thought about ideas and ideals. Generally, the talk revolves around abstracts. Not sure exactly if that’s a pattern chosen to stay on the safe side of deliberations. But when the shift turns to exploring one’s inner self and attitudes, revelatory of one’s inclinations and preferences, it sparks wonder and amazement at how much lies behind a face, a behavior and actions – whether of one’s self or someone else’s. At this stage of the casual discourse, the likelihood of jumping into specifics is hard to ignore, and a dynamic shift occurs in the intellectual exercise.
Animated conversation stirs up energy in any gathering. The party in my home last Sunday was full of zest, not to mention two 4-year-old girls and one 2-year-old boy romping up and down the stairs and dodging between chairs. It was a lovely chaos, the kind that makes you feel you’re in a fiesta or a rigorous birthday celebration without a singular celebrant. We were all celebrants, loudly exchanging notes on how we cooked our potluck dish, and urging everyone to pick a portion of our delicacy on to their plate. The buffet spread was enormous and impressive, and before anyone could touch any of the items on the food line, cameras busily clicked. I still am waiting for copies to be sent to me.
Four languages were represented in this gathering: Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog and English. I didn’t mind at all that Chinese was predominant in conversations. After all, majority were Chinese. And being usually active in the exchange and interaction, this Lola often steered the conversation to English which to a few, was a bit of a struggle. For those few, cell phones clicked open for English words to complete the sentences. Funny, the English speakers were saintly patient. We wanted to hear those full sentences. And ah — such victory when they were completed. Somehow, we all understood one another – but importantly, it was enough that everyone was clearly having a great time. Even the children were having a blast in their spontaneous squabbles.
A sumptuous musical treat right in my living room
Right now, I’m listening to a Japanese friend practicing with her friend Schubert Serenade, a piano-violin duet. Lovely! Brings back memories of my father singing the lyrics in his rich baritone voice. Though I’ve heard this music practiced for the nth time, I don’t tire of it. I can almost picture the flats and sharps on the music score. But what I particularly appreciate is noting the blossoming of expression in their collaborative musical interpretation. What I look forward to is their playing in full length Elgar’s Salut d’Amour which the two musicians have been learning the past weeks. Since they practice in my living room, I get to be the all-too-willing audience. And as they grow in their familiarity with the piece, I grow in my appreciation of the musicians’ pain (or occasional frustration) as they struggle to perfect a classic meant only to be performed with utmost sensitivity and skill.
Another sentimental journey last weekend, the 45th anniversary of the Santiagenians of the USA (SUSA) held in Stockton, California. SUSA is my late husband’s hometown organization made up of members who either originated from Santiago, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, or are children or relatives of those who did. As to be expected, the common medium for communication or conversation was Ilocano, a language so different from Pilipino or Tagalog, and seasoned with rich guttural sounds that create a consistently accented pattern of speech. I can pick up some words, a few that I learned from my husband who claimed he wasn’t really adept in Ilocano since he and his family moved to Manila when he was a little boy. Nonetheless, he could speak good conversational Ilocano. So, all throughout this two-day event, there was this rich language floating around me. Totally fascinated by it and teasing myself, I reflected this was one of the times when I listened so much more than I spoke. A great feat, I dare say. But of course, English was the common fallback for a universal and inclusive form of communication.
At that anniversary weekend, there was a myriad to celebrate and enjoy. An event much looked forward to now has become a gold medal on the club’s wall of memories and fame.Read More »
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.
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.Read More »
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.
Nikki’s Nalu, exotic kitty (Gab’s photo) – read about Nalu in this blog
Joy’s Daisy, lioness dog (Matt’s photo) – read about Daisy in this blog
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?
(Photo below: from top to bottom – pancit, dinuguan, binagoongan pork and rice)
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.
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?Read More »
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!
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 ).
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, before 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 wreathe 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’m stuck – trying to solve this hanger stick-on to work. I decided to work on the tree package instead. The hanging of the wreathe can wait.
Uh-oh! I can’t even pull the tree out of the slender box. So tightly packed. I ‘m afraid to break the branches. Should that wait for later too? No, that didn’t wait — I was on a roll!
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.
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! Read More »
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 pictures shown here.
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.”
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 is a picture of 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. Read More »