An advanced Mother’s Day treat, I’d like to think. Can’t say enough about how lovely and enjoyable my vacation was with my family. Lazing it out on the beach on a fabulous spring day is unmatched. Especially when spending the time with family.
My son John, daughter-in-law Natasha, grandson Eliott favored me with a very special treat by taking me to Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, for a week’s visit with my daughter Joy and son-in-law Matt. Hermosa Beach is a charming home-townish community sandwiched between Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach in Los Angeles. Hermosa Beach somehow has retained the simple, more laid-back, down-to-earth ambience so much more conducive to comfortable relaxation, sans the hassle and glitter of a commercialized tourist resort (like its close neighbor, Manhattan Beach). Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t complain if someone gave me the gift of a week’s stay at Manhattan Beach. But I was perfectly happy with my grandiose vacation with my family at Joy and Matt’s Hermosa Beach home just a block and a half from the shore.
Fun, heartwarming, magnificent, perfect just about sum it all.
The perks of our Hermosa Beach vacation [Photos by Joy Jacob Rosenburg (1); Eliott Nathaniel Jacob (2); John Stanley Jacob (3)]
I’m sharing this article that I came across on Google (from paloaltoonline.com) – a piece I wrote and published in the Palo Alto Weekly soon after my husband and I visited Palo, Leyte, Philippines, the first sister city of Palo Alto, California. Reading my article (again) surged warm nostalgic memories. For many years we were very active in Neighbors Abroad, one of numerous sister cities programs in the country that successfully bridged cities across oceans, through initiatives that fostered friendships, promoted inter-cultural understanding, and developed projects that contributed to the educational, socio-economic progress of communities. Most meaningful were the resulting acceptance of cultural differences, celebration of similarities, and maintenance of personal as well as group friendships in the interest of peace in the global community.
Palo Alto adopted other foreign sister cities in the program: Albi, France; Enschede, Netherlands; Linköping, Sweden; Oaxaca, Mexico; and Tsuchiura, Japan.
Publication Date: Wednesday Mar 24, 1999 (paloaltoonline.com)
A portrait of Palo, Palo Alto’s first sister city
by Linda P. Jacob
Editor’s note: Linda Jacob and her husband, Stanley, visited Palo in January as part of a trip to their native country with Harriet and Keith Clark, co-presidents of Neighbors Abroad. The Jacobs, who moved to Palo Alto 26 years ago, were making their first visit to the Philippines in a decade. Upon returning, Linda filed this report on life today in Palo Alto’s first sister city.
In the wee hours of Oct. 20, 1944, troops commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur stormed across Red Beach in the Philippine city of Palo. The soldiers met heavy Japanese resistance. The battle raged for several days and claimed hundreds of lives. But in the end, MacArthur fulfilled his “I shall return” promise of two years earlier, taking back the first Japanese-held stronghold in what would become many more months of island hopping until the war’s end.
Today on the shores of Red Beach is a reminder of the landmark World War II battle. On a stone memorial accompanying an eternal flame are inscribed the words, “In the spirit of reconciliation, peace, friendship and economic cooperation.”
I was struck by what my grandson Eliott shared about his youth meeting at the First Presbyterian Church on Cal Berkeley campus last week. What stood out for him was the discussion on dropping bad habits and learning good ones. So appropriate especially during this season of Lent, a time for self-examination in regards to our relationship with God,
Lent is a powerful reminder of the Father’s unconditional love that led to His son Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the cross, for humanity’s redemption and the promise of eternal kingdom with God.
So, I asked my grandson (not intending to poke or be nosy – or maybe, just a little bit), what habit did he want to break. He couldn’t think of one that moment. So I asked, what habit did he want to assume – immediately, he responded, reading more the bible. Interesting, I said – that’s exactly my thought and hope for myself, too.
Have you thought about habits you want to break or learn? In contemplation, prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we seek ways on how we can prepare our hearts for Easter, the glorious celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Maybe, we can start with habits.
Family bonding, the best perk of a vacation
But for a weekend trip to Monterey, CA with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson some months ago, I haven’t really gone far from my home since the start of the pandemic. Thus, I look forward to our trip to Los Angeles next week, traveling with my son and his family to visit my daughter and son-in-law at Hermosa Beach. Did I mention beach? Can hardly wait – but that’s just background to a mini family reunion of some sort, a real treat for me.
Sunset at Hermosa Beach (Photo by Joy Jacob Rosenburg)
My grandson Eliott recently introduced me to a word game online called Wordle. Choose random words and see if the letters jive with those of the mystery word. Initially, it seemed impossible to find the letters to place in perfect order in the blocks — clues that lead to the right guess. It was confusing. It was frustrating. My interest, however, piqued and I got hooked after I guessed the mystery word, with several attempts, of course. That one correct answer made me want to play some more.
Eliott and I played this during his 2-minute breaks during his piano lessons. All these, at facetime. Now, every time I facetime with my grandson to watch and listen to his piano practice, I not only look forward to his music performance, but also to the short breaks that might be sufficient time for us to play wordle again and again.
This brings to mind another word game that my husband and I spent numerous hours on, that it felt almost like an addiction many, many years ago – Scrabble.
Immediacy. A word that grabbed my attention when I attended a recorded worship service of First Presbyterian Church on Berkeley campus last Sunday. It was an interview of Dog Hewitt, a missions director of a non-profit group involved in efforts at refugee resettlement, helping them feel welcome, start a new life in the area, find employment, train for jobs, and acclimate to society and economy. In the sermon series entitled “Conversations with the Divine/Serving Others”, Pastor Tom and Pastor Charlene posed questions that led Doug to explain how God prepared him for a life of service, serving others as ambassador of Christ and partner with God. An insightful question posed by Pastor Charlene touched on the expectations for immediate results from his work. He emphasized the virtue of patience, realizing that God prepared him through all the years when he dreamed of living in the Colorado mountains. Instead, God has taken him to the city where he serves refugees trying to survive. Trusting the hand of of God in his service keeps him from expecting immediate results. After all, God is always working.
The virtue of staying patient and waiting for the voice of God – that struck a cord in my heart. Honestly, a gentle rebuke for me.
My Papa’s birthday is coming up. He left this world near my 21st birthday. I think of how grateful I am to him – he figured significantly in my childhood, my growing up years, my phasing in to young adulthood. His teachings, principles, guidance, wisdom, hard work and fine example contributed tremendously to what I am. Enjoy your blessed birthday with Mama and other loved ones, in God’s heavenly realm, Papa!
Timeless tribute — a re-post from January 2019 on BBL:
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.
The new year didn’t come with bravado. Absent were the usual fireworks extravaganzas that most look forward to, whether at public displays or on TV. Absent, too, were the parties and assemblies; most, if not all, cancelled due to restrictions stemming from the rising pandemic cases everywhere. Family celebrations had to be curtailed to a few or less representations. But 2022 came anyway. It came with a promise. It came with hope. It sneaked up on us like a new dawn.
2021 was a challenge in many ways primarily due to the onset of COVID variants. But that does not deter us from realizing the fact that we have reached 2022, and we have been favored with God’s protection. Thus, we leave 2021 with full gratitude for our benevolent Father’s loving care, for He is ever faithful and gracious.
I see 2022 with promise and hope. Don’t you?
2022, the birth of a new dawn (Photo by Mary France Kim Pandes)
Wishing all — blessings, good health, safety and joy for the New Year – however 2021 turned out be, we thank God for pulling us through in His protection, that we might be ready to meet the fresh promise of a New Year. May we always stay in the grace of God. Happy, happy New Year! – lpj
It’s Christmas again! Christmas always comes fresh, always like a new dawn, always like the new day that we look forward to, always the joy.
The songs over my TV music channel jubilantly celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. Like Bing Crosby’s song says, it’s Christmas again and the bells are ringing — they’re ringing because of the carol we sing in our hearts.
It is our hearts that God sees and listens to. It is our hearts that Jesus came for — to claim back our hearts for God’s eternal love and joy.
This Christmas eve, as I sit in my living room, staring in awe at the brilliance and beauty of my Christmas tree, the luxury of beaded lights and the ostentatious array of shiny ornaments, I think about the baby Jesus born in a humble stable with the horses’ trough covered with hay for His bed. The king of kings born as a human in a lowly setting.
Oh wondrous night. Oh holy night!
Then I stare back at my tree. I catch sparkles from the tree lights. Magnificent illusion created by the slight movements of my head. Then I think of that night in Bethlehem, when the stars shimmered brightly and one big star guided the shepherds and the Magi to where baby Jesus lay. A cold crisp piercing the balmy night, but a sacred hush permeating the air – the son of God has been born.
Oh joy to the world!
Merry, merry Christmas one and all! Let’s celebrate with hearts devoted to the Almighty, the King of Kings.
It’s almost Christmas! Just a day away. I cannot help but marvel at how it was over 2,000 years ago, when baby Jesus was about to be born. I especially think of Mary, His earthly mother. Her belly so big; the baby perhaps kicking, raring to come out into the world, while she and Joseph are busy looking for a place where she can deliver. Do you wonder how Mary felt then? I do, especially because, as scripture tells us, she knew who she was carrying in her womb. The angel Gabriel announced to her that God chose her to be the mother of the most awaited one, the Messiah.
In Luke 1, verse 30-33, the angel Gabriel appeared to an astonished girl of 14 and said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor [a] with God. You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
A mysterious and mystifying message, though a sacred one.Read More »
A dear friend, Dr. Elna Nidea Chia, posted on our high school batch online chat network, an intimately erudite exchange I call, “Conversation with God”. This thought-provoking piece carries no author’s name, she said. She shared it because it struck a special chord in her heart, as it struck mine. In reading it – humbly, I hear God’s strong, compassionate and loving voice, speaking to a broken world cradled in all the beauty and splendor He created it with. He speaks to a broken heart, not really broken, but just “breaking through and becoming.”
It is my hope that this precocious piece, spiritually captivating and stirring, can inspire contemplation, soul searching and help prepare hearts as we anticipate the celebration of the glorious birth of Jesus, son of God, during this 4th week of Advent.
A conversation with God:
Me: Hey God.
Me: I’m falling apart. Can you put me back together?
GOD: I would rather not.
GOD: Because you aren’t a puzzle.
Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down onto the ground?
GOD: Let them stay there for a while. They fell off for a reason. Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.
Me: You don’t understand! I’m breaking down!
GOD: No – you don’t understand. You are breaking through. What you are feeling are just growing pains. You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back. You aren’t falling apart. You are falling into place. Relax. Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don’t need anymore to fall off of you. Quit holding onto the pieces that don’t fit you anymore. Let them fall off. Let them go.
Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?
GOD: Only the very best pieces of you.
Me: I’m scared of changing.
GOD: I keep telling you – YOU AREN’T CHANGING!! YOU ARE BECOMING!
Me: Becoming who?
GOD: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion. I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear. Let those things fall off of you. I love you! Don’t change! Become! Become! Become! Become who I made you to be. I’m going to keep telling you this until you remember it.
Me: There goes another piece…
GOD: Yep. Let it be.
Me: So…I’m not broken?
GOD: No – but you are breaking like the dawn. It’s a new day. Become!!
Sometimes, what you plan is not what you get. For me recently, I got something else so much better. I planned to pick up a quirky custom, carried from my youth, of treating for my birthday. Instead, wonderful friends gave me the party. Though not the plan I had in mind, I am so thankful for a gorgeous pre-birthday treat which Cai and her husband Genhai very graciously hosted in their lovely San Jose home yesterday. This really resulted from my inviting them to lunch with me and some other friends, to try authentic Filipino cuisine at a restaurant in Milpitas, CA. I might have unintentionally uttered that I wanted to treat because of my birthday. Immediately, Cai grabbed the opportunity to say, she’d rather do a lunch for me instead. I recall quickly explaining that where I grew up and in my youth, the celebrant was often teased for a “blow out”, meaning, the celebrant does the treating. Cai would not hear of it despite my flamboyant insistence. She was relentless, and she won. I’m glad she did, though, because her lunch was superb, and the social, a bouquet of liveliness and fun. A real gift.
A very heartwarming birthday treat (Photo by Genhai Zhang)
Thanksgiving celebration isn’t just on Thursday. This popular holiday draws family members and friends from afar, for a merry observance of this joyous occasion that extends over the “black Friday” and on to the weekend. My Thanksgiving started with a hefty Thursday lunch at my sister Susan’s home in Palo Alto, California that lasted the whole day. It was a welcomed opportunity to be with friends we hadn’t seen a long while due to pandemic restrictions. The animated, incessant chats were interrupted repeatedly by urgings to come to the buffet table for more eats. We succumbed. There was a priest there, invited by my brother-in-law Mario for a second house blessing. But for some minutes of subdued, respectful prayers, the party conversations were exuberant and loud, punctuated by intermittent outbursts of cries from a super cute seven-month-old baby Julie, my sweet playmate that day. As customary, we happily took home food still left on the buffet table.
I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with my son John, daughter-in-law Natasha and grandson Eliott Friday night at Sundance restaurant in Palo Alto. After eight years, I got my heart’s craving – a 10-ounz prime rib medium-cooked with a zesty, lightly sweetened and spiced sauce poured over the robust and moist meat glowing in its own juice. Deliciously soft, creamy spinach and pieces of sliced carrots and broccoli more than just adorned the presentation on the side of the plate. My son made the perfect choice of restaurant. An old, popular dining establishment in Palo Alto, the place was full and quite lively that night — brought back fond and nostalgic memories of when my husband (now deceased) and I frequented that restaurant when our children John and Joy were very young.
With all the scrumptious leftovers from those feasts, I continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with an abundance of delicacies that fill my refrigerator at home.
As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving is also today, as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent.
Thursday Thanksgiving lunch (Photo by Susan P. Veloro)
Prime rib from Friday Thanksgiving dinner (Photo by John S. Jacob)
Thanksgiving, by my preferred definition, is the Feast of Gratitudes. This brings to mind Thanksgiving celebrations which we traditionally hosted at home when my husband was alive. A custom we adopted before the meal and while everyone gathered around the festive table was asking all to mention what they were thankful for. The first time we did this, we caught our guests in surprise. They either stuttered for some long seconds, digged deep for answers, stumbled over words – or were just stunned quiet. Funny and amazing to me – I privately surmised, shouldn’t we be quick in identifying what we’re thankful for.
Perhaps, the difficulty was prioritizing the names or things. Perhaps, it was an unexpected query into what one values in life meriting gratitude. Maybe, it was a painful question of the moment, an uninvited peek that lent confusion. I honestly don’t know. But what I remember is that the next year we broached the improvised custom before Thanksgiving meal, the same guests were ready. It was like listening to endless thank you’s during an Oscar awards night. No awkward tension in the air, but hearty declarations of gratitude that put smiles in everyone’s face.
Gratitude is the real meat of Thanksgiving. For me, I always top my list with a love-filled thank you to our Father God in His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit – and then, to family, loved ones, friends … and on and on and on, a list hard to interrupt, like the garrulous rush during the warning from orchestral music on Oscar awards night.
Let’s be ready with our lists in our hearts and minds, for the coming Feast of Gratitudes. Happy, blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!
Symbolical painting by Peck Piñon, celebrated Filipino artist
So fascinated by a photo that Jaja, the son of my nephew Chito, sent me, that I share it here in my blog. It is a picture of an oil painting on canvas by Filipino celebrated artist Peck Piñon, who also distinguished himself as a comedian/actor. The framed artwork is a gift of Chito’s Uncle Narding Paco, a retired businessman and modest art connoisseur and collector. Now in his late senior years, Narding has seen the heydays of his thriving business and its decline due to unfortunate circumstances. Chito and his siblings regard this uncle and his wife Lety with extreme gratitude for the selfless role the couple has taken in generously helping the family through challenging times. The priced painting is a precious gift to Chito from Narding.
Picture of an oil painting on canvas by celebrated Filipino artist Peck Piñon (Photo by John Albert Pandes)
Today, I pulled out some packed food from my freezer, leftovers from last Sunday’s party at home. Contentedly I thought, ah, the party’s not over – for me at least. After a quick nuke in the microwave, the food looked as enticing and fresh as it did last Sunday. Then straight to my salivating mouth. I love good leftovers! Don’t you?
Sunday’s birthday celebration for Lili, Linda and Cai (current and retired work mates) was a potluck extravaganza. The long table was fully laden with a festive variety of dishes representing different ethnic backgrounds: American continental, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Filipino, and several in between (with traces of cultural influences but not distinctly identifiable). My regret was not having a picture of the attractive culinary array. We were all so eager to dive into the main activity of the gathering after a robust happy birthday song. At 1 p.m., perhaps, we all were starving and raring to partake of one another’s delicacy.
Funny, I wanted to write a poem about this autumn day. In the midst of a bad sciatic nerve attack that has restricted my movements for days – I fancied writing poetry. Strange, don’t you think?
No, not really. This autumn day in Palo Alto, CA, as I woke up and gazed out my glass patio door, I spotted droplets of early morning rain on my balcony rail, and a gentle sprinkle from above. Slivers of sunbeams pierced through spaces between billows of dark clouds in the sky and danced in the transparencies of the dew drops. I saw the breeze flirting with tree branches for a light shake that caused a dash of colors to slither to the ground. I saw yellows burst out between the bold reds and the earthly browns. Yet, to the left of that brightly spruced tree is a deciduous with leaves that stubbornly stay freshly green, and I wondered why it hasn’t kept pace with its neighbors. And then, I heard the eerily rapturous whisper of the wind pass my balcony glass door.
The truth is, I determined to find reasons to distract me from focusing on the clutch of sciatica. I found them. For one, today shows traces of rain from the night before, and more promise of rain by the looks of the sky. In California, good, temperate rain is manna – the nemesis of fires, the quencher to drought in the land, the much welcomed fresh spray to the air. On a miniscule scale, the plants outside my front door have perked up. The leaves of the jade plant have turned succulently plump, and the slender tendrils of the spider plant convalesced from their sluggish crouch for an aggressive and longer reach. A lot to be thankful for this autumn day.
So, you see why I was inspired to dabble in poetry this autumn day.
A stunning picture of autumn in the Colorado mountain (Photo by Cai Zhang)
Outdoor dining, result of pandemic restrictions, actually carries a casual charm. Strange, or maybe not, I take preference for outdoor seating whenever I go to a restaurant. Last weekend, I yielded to a craving for fish and chips that I enticed my sister and her husband to lunch with me at Dinah’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto. I was not disappointed. The setting was perfect. Tables and chairs were arranged under large umbrellas by the poolside, with adequate distancing between tables. Servers were masked. Customers took off their masks when eating We couldn’t have asked for better weather.
The wide pool was teasing and inviting. The clear turquoise water that shimmered in the sunlight matched the blue of the sky. Families swam and played to unwind in the pool, or just waded while carrying on conversations with friends and family members. Respectful of dining customers, people in the pool did not engage in rowdy activity or loud conversation. All in all, the atmosphere was of delightful conviviality. But the special touch to the dining experience was the friendliness of the lady owner, who not only busied herself in helping to serve, but took the time to stop at tables and chat with customers. She lighted the place with her genuine interest in her customers and the service they get.
Cod fish on garlic fries at Dinah’s restaurant (Photo by Susan P. Veloro)
A jubilant and resounding congratulations to the first Nobel Prize winner of the Philippines – Maria Ressa, Filipino-American Journalist and Author – 2021 Nobel Peace Laureate — for her outstanding work of courage in her honest, factual and soul-searching journalistic work that upholds and exemplifies the integrity and forthrightness of media reporting, and its vital role in conserving the strength and essence of society’s soul.
Ressa: educated in Princeton and the University of the Philippines, 2018 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, former CNN Reporter and Bureau Chief for Southeast Asia, Co-Founder of Rappler. — lpj
[This is a reprint from my second book, “Something Curious, Book 2: Simply Awed (expressions in poems, vignettes and dreams)” published in late 2016. It’s a contemplative piece that aims to remind how one’s perspective defines the significance of the moment or of the day. Trivial mundane things pale against what’s important, or what really matters. In my article, I share that it took a young little boy (my grandson) to remind his Lola (Grandma, and that’s me) that her propensity for trivia veils the proper curiosity for matters more important. The upshot is, it was “fun” to ask. In concurrence with the general theme of the book, my article is clinched with a reflection.]
Our grandson is a bundle of delight. When he started kindergarten two years ago, we, his Lolo and Lola (Grandpa and Grandma) were all curiosity to know how he felt about school and the activities he experienced. With little control and all interest, I bombarded this little kid with questions which he either answered forthrightly, or refused to answer. The latter happened when my questions tended to be trivial and perhaps unnecessary. I’m the grandma who clings to every word my grandson utters. His words are music to my eager ears. But I admit, my questions then bordered between silly and obvious. To such inquiries, my perceptive grandson responded, “Does it matter? It doesn’t really matter.” A very adult-like comment from a 5-year old.
Common cliché is “music is the language of the soul.” I dare say that it’s more than that – it triggers memories dear to your soul. Have you ever wondered what music does to you? I’ll tell you what it does to me.
I enjoy music of any genre, as long as there’s captivating melody and, if with lyrics, the words make sense. Good music to me is like eating good food. It satisfies.
When I take a break from computer work at home, I sit listening to classical music on the TV arts channel or PBS. I take delight in Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, Saint Saenz, Vivaldi, Bach or Beethoven. Relaxed listening is perfect respite from work. But when Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite comes on and “Dance of the Flowers” is played, I jump to my feet to render waltz moves, swings and sways with ballet-like lifts congruent with the movement. My mind then drifts back to my college years when I was part of a dance troupe that performed the lively interpretation of the piece. The dancers were decked in flowery costumes aimed to represent different colorful blooms. I was a sunflower, perked up by the vivacious harmony of wind and strings from the school orchestra. A lovely stage experience that I re-live over and over again, with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.
Flowers and music – they make me dance! (Photos by Monette C. Valencia and Nikki Gordoncillo Arellano)
Music and fine dining – a fabulous mix. That was a marvelous treat from a lovely couple, Linda and Dan, who invited me for outdoor dining at La Boheme in Palo Alto, California this week. I hadn’t gone out much in the evenings during the pandemic times, except for the August weekend in Monterey with my son and his family, and dinner with my sister and her family at a Filipino restaurant in Milpitas. So, that night was an exhilarating break for me. To boot were professional performers who sang opera, Neapolitan and Broadway numbers with vibrant accordion accompaniment. Strong tenor and soprano voices pierced the mildly cool night air – and jubilantly rang out for the benefit of neighboring outdoor diners for sure. I couldn’t resist mouthing some of the lyrics I knew, short of volunteering to go up front. Much to my delight, the lady at the table to my right was softly crooning as well.
Seated under a canopy with subdued lights beamed from nearby street lamps was like basking in the moonlight. The atmosphere and surroundings were exquisite.
Superb climax of the dinner – rich chocolate fondant and mousse (Photo by Linda L. Yasukawa)
My 15th visit in Monterey, California since the ’70s, and it seemed like it was the first. A fun and relaxing August weekend in Monterey with my son John, daughter-in-law Natasha and grandson Eliott flashed back fond memories of early visits when my children were younger, and my husband was the tour guide and driver to numerous relatives and friends visiting California. Monterey was our favorite go-to place for sightseeing, beach strolling, seafood dining, or just breathing in fresh ocean air. Last weekend was not lacking in any of these pleasurable amenities and advantages. It felt good to play tourist again.
I bought the wrong rice for a sushi-making party at home weeks ago. Our appointed sushi chef, naturally kind and respectful, showed no visible disappointment when I told him that I cooked the sticky rice for the sushis. He thoughtfully considered as he remarked, sticky rice will make it difficult to manage the rolls. Nonetheless, he concluded, we’ll use it. Too late to get the right kind of rice anyway. The guests had arrived. He was right, the rice stuck to my fingers when I worked on spreading it on the mat and topping it with the fillings. The stickiness caused the fingers to work awkwardly and with extra care. More effort expended in the process. The wonder of it all, the sushis produced tasted superb, regardless. Even with the wrong kind of rice. Of course, our sushi chef brought delectable sushi fillers. Maybe, that’s why the rolls ended up superb. Though privately I thought, the sticky rice in the rolls tasted marvelous.
What I didn’t share with the sushi chef and guests was that earlier in the day before they arrived, I tried four times to boil the rice to find the perfect consistency. Used different amounts of water for the boil. I decided, the best result was with the fourth try. Did my persistence pay off? Hmmm …
Hidilyn Diaz makes history. After almost 100 years in contending at the Olympics, the Philippines finally won its first Olympic Gold medal. Hidilyn Diaz earned Gold in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event at the Japan 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. She lifted a total of 224 kilograms, outperforming the Chinese world record holder of the past several years, Liao Qiuyun who ended up getting the silver medal with her total of 223 kilograms.
In Diaz’s interviews with the media, she attributed her victory first to God, the very cause and reason, she emphasized, for her ending up where she is. And yes, where this 30-year-old is now is at the top of her sport, the crème of the country’s pride, the toast of celebrations, and a bright, distinguished place in Philippine history. She remarked that her victory also is due to the tremendous help and encouragement from her family and friends, the support from the nation and several organizations and, not to forget, the very hard work she had to undergo for this competition, in the midst of the pandemic. Testimony to the resourcefulness and determination of her competitive spirit, not having actual weights for her practices, she persevered to prepare for the event by lifting heavy water jugs as substitutes for weights. A glorious yet humble win.
Diaz, the new world’s record holder in women’s weightlifting, garnered the silver medal in that event in the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. The Philippines now has a total of 11 Olympic medals won since its first Olympic participation in 1924.
A toast to the Olympic spirit
At this juncture, I take the opportunity to mention one other Philippine contender at the Tokyo Olympics, Margielyn Didal, who competed in women’s street skateboarding.
Faith. The very jewel in the heart of our existence. Its presence or lack of – that defines our existence, the path we choose to tread and the goals we reach for.
In very simple terms, we understand faith as belief in the unseen. For me personally, faith is my belief in the one sovereign, almighty God who sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to earth to sacrifice and die on the cross for our redemption. And that Jesus rose again and defeated death. The power and love of God!
Faith — the conviction that love triumphs over hate and indifference, light over darkness, good over evil.
Faith – belief in things unseen. Yet, I see God in the myriad of manifestations in the world/universe that He created. Simply put, I see Him in the beauty of the flowers in the garden outside my window, in the strength of the trees with their overarching branches outside my porch. I see Him and hear Him in the laughter of children riding their bikes on the street, in the hummingbirds circling the buds on the camelia plant outside my patio. I see Him in the glow of a moonlit night as I gaze through my sky roof. I see Him in the faces of my loved ones. He really is everywhere. So how can I not have faith?
The whole wide world is rich in faith, if only we recognize and receive it. It’s there, and it’s freely given.
It was the mid-60’s. An era marked by tension over the Vietnam War, the gloom over young lives lost in the battlefields, the infectious rigor of drummed up peace movements, the heightened clamor for civil rights, flower children with beads around their necks and colorful bands on their hair, and peace signs everywhere.
That was the time I came to the US for a year’s stint as an American Field Service (AFS) scholar and exchange student to Pennsylvania. Starry-eyed and full of expectations tinged with anxiety, I stepped off the Pan American plane from Manila, and at San Francisco airport, extremely amazed how 15 hours of travel took me to the opposite side of the globe. That was my first travel outside of the Philippines.
A bus load of teenage exchange students from the Philippines and other countries of Asia was transported to Stanford University campus for a 3-day orientation. That bus ride was magical during that August early evening. Silhouettes of tall buildings dramatically marked the San Francisco skyline, and lights of houses on the hillsides sparkled like fireflies. We were mesmerized. I remember exclaiming – isn’t that the acropolis? Remembering of course my lesson on Greece and its history. Those who knew what I meant chorused – oh yes, like the acropolis. Yet none of us had been to Greece. But we felt we were in Greece. Was this America? Silly, yes of course, our chaperone said, and she drew our attention to the hazy blue of the bay to our left, with glittering lights on the far shore. Ah, the Mediterranean, a few of us remarked. So that was it – San Francisco was like Greece … a strange first impression for me and some others in the bus. Unforgettable first impression!
Scores of greetings for my husband’s birthday today have been quite heartwarming. Poignant is the word that describes the appreciation, respect and love that many hold for Stanley, deceased in December 2015. We who love him find great delight in the realization that he is not forgotten. A treasure of memories reminds us of how much of a caring, thoughtful and fun guy he was, smart, witty and rich in humor. His earthly birthday brings him to 80 today, but his heavenly birthday (December 4) is two weeks before my birthday, and three weeks from Christmas. Lots to commemorate in December.
Not strange at all to me that I should dream of him early in the morning, a vision so real that it woke me up right before my alarm clock rang. I didn’t need that alarm clock. My day began sweetly and beautifully. I think I was mysteriously energized.
While we do not fully comprehend the thread that runs through the spiritual realm and existential reality, this I’m convinced – love does not end with death. And in the palm of God’s hands, our connections endure.
So, happy blessed birthday, Stanley – and as I said in my Facebook post – enjoy the celebration with the saints, angels and loved ones in the beyond – and especially sing your best tenor before the Lord!
A most enjoyable sushi-making spree with work colleagues at my home last Sunday. Before I tell you why, I’d like to share the photo of stunning flowers I received from retired colleagues who drove all the way from Davis, CA to partake of the fun in our sushi-making gourmet adventure. Purely delightful!
My bonus from last Sunday’s sushi-making spree — flowers given by guests from Davis, CA
Cañada poolside getting ready for the big July 4th festivity with fireworks from nearby Pasadena Rose Bowl down the hill (LA area)
Strange and amazing how one picture can stir up remarkable recollections. This one did, one posted by my Auntie Rose Cruz on Facebook as part of her Father’s Day tribute to her father. Wenceslao Manuel Sr., my Lolo (Grandfather) on my mother’s side. Upon seeing his photo, I was immediately transported to another time, another age, just out of the sixth grade.
It was a sultry summer in the farm called Auayan (or Awayan) in the Bicol Region, Philippines. An expansive agricultural land of gentle rolling hills both sides of a railroad track. While the west portion was populated with coconut groves, the eastern areas were heavily spotted with rice fields and orchards bordered by a river whose green waters snake between thin strips of sandy shores. I’m trying to pierce my memory for the reason why that summer stood out for me. For one, I just graduated from elementary, and was taking a respite before gearing up for high school. But no, that wasn’t the reason for that remarkable summer.
I stare at Lolo’s picture again, and memories flood back, almost like a movie reel progressing in spectacular panoramic color. Center of the flashback is Lolo, with Lola at his side, seated at his usual spot in front of the large farmhouse window equipped with panels laden with little squares each framing old, shiny white Capiz shells; the panels, always slid aside to let the breeze flow into the expansive square house of rare, sturdy native wood, some yakal, some molave.
But why, again, was that summer so important to me then, and even now?
First, a most respectful Father’s Day greeting to the Father of us all — Our Father God, the source of true love.
Then, Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere — and our gratitude for their loving and steadfast care.
A wonderful vision — fathers in heaven being celebrated by the One great Father of All — and an endearing thought: they are looking down as they fervently pray for God’s blessings on the fathers on earth and their families. What a glorious thought.
Really … it’s all about love, Father God’s love, in His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, for all of us, His children.
Again, Happy Father’s Day on this glorious day! — lpj
It’s an awesomely lovely Saturday, and I’m not out enjoying the California sun. Not a bit bothered by this, because as I write this blog, from my mezzanine, I am happily looking through the large window above my patio glass doors and observe normal but interesting activities in front of my front lawn – pedestrians leisurely walking and pausing in the shade of the towering trees outside; cyclists with family members, chatting abandonly as they maneuver their bikes on the street sparse of cars driving by; the regular trek of a dog owner only this time, the dog is without a mask; the sweet elderly couple ambling carefully on the pedestrian lane. And yes, the delicate-stemmed yellow daisy bushes across the street just lazily dancing with the light breeze. Oh, what a glorious day – and I’m definitely enjoying it from indoors.
But wait – I check Facebook postings from my son and daughter to see what they’re up to at this moment. My vicarious enjoyment of the day continues. There’s more to take pleasure in. I delight in beautiful pictures of Laguna Beach/LA, and starkly attractive photos of San Carlos Beach at Monterey. I am in for a big treat!
Jackson sitting contentedly at Laguna Beach/LA, CA
Burt enjoying his first kayaking experience at Monterey, CA.
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.