Saturday, May 16, 2015

A piece of my heart

I have been on a short-cruise vacation with two friends from my past work recently. Because it was my first cruise experience, I spent not just a lot of time preparing for what I need for the voyage but also money, on things that I thought I would need or use during the trip, most of those things though, I ended up not using at all.

I have a co-worker who went on the same cruise with his wife two weeks ahead of mine. The pictures they posted on facebook enticed me and made me more anxious excited to go. When he came back to work, I asked about what happened in the ship, the food, the entertainment, their experience at shore, and most importantly, where to go to taste authentic Mexican food in Ensenada. I wasn't expecting too much from 6 or so hours on shore but to sample the sea urchin tostada from the famous street cart of La Guerrerense and witness the blowhole called La Bufadora in Baja California, which our tour guide would often refer to as the natural phenomenon.

Day 1 at ship seemed a bit discouraging, we boarded late because of the long lines of people who also boarded late. I'm surprised to see that our boarding picture still came out nice, despite us starving and tired because of missing lunch. A couple of people were already drunk during the safety briefing at the Muster Station. A lady who was exceptionally loud and interrupted the safety person briefing us on how to properly put the life jacket on must be undergoing a divorce. I wondered why people would get drunk right after boarding. They are not having fun, it seemed they are trying to forget something, a problem maybe, or so, I thought. Later, I learned from my Aunt Godmother that these people who frequent the bars are the ones bringing-in profits for the ship. They compensate for the would-have-been higher cruise rates that people like me with limited budgets would not be able to afford. With liquor in their glasses, with every shot they take, they make cashiers, ship accountants, and the crew in general, happier. So now, I love drunk people in the ship.

Day 3 at sea was relaxing. This was duty-free shopping for most people, if not playing Bingo or watching afternoon shows. Certain purchases would earn you a raffle ticket for a chance to win a set of fashion jewelry or a loot bag of whatever from the ship. I have five tickets earned from souvenir shopping using the cruise money given by my Aunt Godmother. That is why I am so amazed at few people who were holding thick rolls of raffle tickets, they must have spent thousands in one or two hours in that part of the ship to earn those.

Day 2 was Captain's night. It is when we dressed-up for dinner. Most ladies opted for flashy and eye catching wardrobes, at least the younger ones I saw. Me and my colleague, I traveled with 2 other accountants, a male and a female, wore clothes, our male colleague said made us look like Pentecostal ladies. I think he meant “nicer than boring,” which is exactly how I wanted to look like, since Brack is not with me in this cruise. Food was not fantastic, but the abundance, and how you are served made up for some bland recipes, and made the dining experience pleasantly memorable. The time spent at the ship with all the pampering, first name basis from the housekeeping to your dinner servers, the 24 hour room service, the endless food served at buffets, the free entertainment, and little extras, made it so worthy of a redo.

Day time on Day 2 was our day at shore. We took an excursion to the City of Ensenada, to La Bufadora in Baja California, and finally back to downtown Ensenada. After taking a quick break of loading pictures on Facebook at Starbucks, we had a taste of the popular seafood cebiche from the street cart we thought was La Guerrerense but instead we didn't knew was El Guerro. The cart more popular with the locals than La Guerrerense which appealed more to tourists.

It is this afternoon on the streets of Ensenada that made me realise how fortunate I am to experience the pleasures and abundance in the ship. Suddenly, I felt a pinch in my heart seeing young children and older people beg for money. They are so careful and polite, trying their best not to bug the tourists. But in their transparent eyes, I didn't just see, but felt their needs. I can't give all of them money, and I don't have that money to spare. Still I regret saving some in my purse for extra tips for the crew at ship than giving it away to people on the streets.

“Come back again!” is the crew's message to us, the vacationers, during the final dinner on Day 3. To my mind, they don't even need to say. I will come back because I left a piece of my heart In Ensenada.

At home, I told Brack, mother, and the boys, the cruise is so worthwhile, not just for bacon at breakfast, and that we should all go the next time. I wanted all of us to see the full moon lit the deep waters, to smell the breathe of fresh air in the middle of the sea. And most importantly, because I need to go back to regain the piece of my heart I left in the city. How I'm going to do it, I have yet to know, on next cruise...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

i know why...

This time I should be totally withdrawn from the world and on a big do not disturb mode preparing for this major examination I am taking very soon. No one is disturbing me but its me distracting myself. I spent many hours facebooking in the last two weeks than I did in the past 2 years. I watched a couple you tube videos on how to focus and concentrate yet I seemed to be more engrossed on the deals at Amazon and Best Buy, and what's trending in Twitter. I have watched a lot more movies this weekend than what I had seen for the whole year.

Now I am blogging, and I know why...I'm stressed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The rooster and the scent of my youth

Sampaguita (Arabian Jasmine)
The excitement of having a tiny front space and a little backyard energized Brack to plant shrubs, vines, and semi-dwarf fruit trees. Amongst the firsts he planted were a couple of “Sampaguita,” (Arabian Jasmine) I got from Lowes. Sampaguita is the Philippines' national flower and one of the three plants/trees dearest to my heart, the other two were Rosal (Ever Blooming Gardenia) and Ylang-ylang. The first two existed at my grandparent's yard while two or three Ylang-ylang huge trees shaded my godmother's backyard which is adjacent to my grandparent's backyard.

These trees and its flowers hold innocent and happy memories of my youth. In grade school, I used to pick Sampaguita, make leis, and together with Rosal flowers sell them to neighbors for some change I used for school money the following day. There were times I'm lucky to pick Ylang-ylang by the fence and sell it too. Rosal was my grandfather's favorite. He worked wonders with its leaves, my grandfather played good music with it. I recalled he became a finalist at this contest but lost to someone who played music using a saw.

How I missed those days living with my grandparents. I would never forget it, in fact I want to relive them, if I can.

Now that I'm living in the Valley, somehow I am re-experiencing those moments. The lush vegetation, the mountains, the breeze of air in early evenings – reminiscent of the scent of air in my hometown. The rooster that crows at dawn, no one can imagine the happiness it brings me to hear them again after missing it for 11 years.

Rosal (Ever Blooming Gardenia)
In our backyard, I wondered why the builder would highlight this small unattractive plant with Malibu light. A few months later, tears fell from my eyes when Brack called me and showed me it has flowers. It is a Rosal. I sat and leaned forward to smell the flowers. Immediately, the memories went back, thoughts of my grandfather and everything else.

I told my teenagers the story of the flowers and my school money. A past I regret they didn't have the chance to experience. Treasures of real happiness no high-tech gadgets today could bring.

The Mini-Plum Tree
Weeks back I picked mini plums from our peaches.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mortgage and Ladders

After withdrawing from two offers to purchase, we finally closed escrow on my birthday and shortly settled in this humble Mediterranean-inspired home in Sylmar, a district in Los Angeles they call the rough diamond of the Valley.

Though not really superstitious, I appreciated that the main entrance faces sunrise in the mornings and the rooms properly located as in feng shui. Aside from being new, Brack and I were enticed with the calming breeze of wind and the lively sound of chirping birds during our first two visits to this community – thus, on third visit which happened to be our 19th wedding anniversary, we submitted the offer and immediately opened escrow.

Here in the US, people who buy homes for the first time are called “first time home owners.” Since this is not the first we own, because we also maintain one back home, I'd rather call us “first time mortgage holders,” for behind the pride of ownership, lies beneath, a long mortgage commitment. An agreement big and long-enough to strengthen our commitment to stay together until the debt is paid, so they say.

Along with the mortgage, we now have in our possession 4 ladders of different heights and uses. Something we never had before, not a necessity when we were renting. The ladders helps us handle the day to day activities inside and outside our high-ceiling abode. One “two-step”ladder for walk-in closet which doubles as a kitchen ladder. Another “two-step” ladder for cleaning our cars.

A “six-step” ladder for changing bulbs of the recessed lighting, in case they get busted, and to access the attic. And finally, a “twelve-step” ladder for cleaning the chandelier, the windows, and later for pruning the trees which may come many years from now because Brack just planted them.

Owning a home, or a mortgage, tremendously reduced our disposable income. It's a coincidence we own too many a-ladder because each step of those ladders represent the escalating expenses we must learn to manage, breaking even the joy of ownership.

The ladders then are our tools, a means of rising, a reminder that we should continue reaching out and upwards to meet our goals. I wonder how other first-time home owners are adjusting...they own ladders too, for sure.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The congestion, the homeless, the encounter

I resent traffic jams especially when I’m on my way to work in the mornings which is why I am not so fond of passing this 1.5 miles City driving route I take to enter the freeways. There is a newly opened school and a road construction that seemed to be taking forever to complete. Both contributes negatively to the time spent cruising this direction. But this blog is not just about the street congestion, it’s about an encounter while being stocked in the jam.

On this same obstructed street, you would often see homeless people begging drivers for money, which is common in Los Angeles, being the homeless capital of the United States. There’s this aged couple, the man dressed in Hawaiian shirt and the woman in Pink Sweater over a flowery printed dress and jeans. From their outfit and placard which says “Aloha!” you can assume they’re from Hawaii or at least that is what they are trying to convey, and I chose to believe. There’s also one or two middle-aged men dressed ruggedly carrying placards, one wrote “Hungry and Homeless…Please Help!”

So many helpless people depending to live by little cash each day but the one that makes my heart ache for pity whenever I see her on the street is a teen-aged looking woman with a backpack and carries a tote and a bunch of palm leaves on her hand. She makes flowers out of the palm leaves and offers it to drivers when the light turns red. Incidentally, the palm leaves and the flowers she makes remind me of Palm Sunday in the Philippines, a tradition I missed so much.

Usually, I see this girl in the afternoons, on my way home from work standing at the gas station. Last Monday, I saw her in the morning by the intersection. What hurts me most seeing her in the street is she is young, and she is a girl. I have two teen-aged sons, and it breaks my heart to see young people roam the streets because of homelessness. They are our future, they will pay the debts of the country, and they deserve to be in school, to be sheltered, to be cared of. And even if sometimes their teen logic is unacceptable and they rebel, we as older people should have stretched patience in dealing with our young.

I wonder if this girl ran away from home, is she an orphan? Did she eloped with a man and broke up with him later ashamed to go back home to her parents accepting she was wrong? Where is she spending the night? Where did she learn to make flowers of palm leaves? Did her parents taught her? her siblings maybe? Where are they? Why is she in the street? So many questions flash my mind as she walks towards my direction. This time, she doesn’t have palm leaves flowers , she just smiled so sweetly as I handed her the small bill, she said “God Bless You,” I responded “take care” but in my heart and mind, I whispered, “May God have you in His keeping.”

I continued to drive. I didn’t mind the traffic jam that much anymore.

I haven’t seen her since Monday and even if I want to see her again I hope not in the streets again.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

attack of the mental block


As a kid, my friends and I would walk to the beach, ride our neighbors’ small fishing boats and dive into the waters realizing drowning is possible if you can’t swim. That’s how I learned how to swim, to survive drowning. My youngest son didn’t risk drowning, he learned to swim from You Tube.

My husband learned to do his tie from his father. My eldest son watched from You Tube.

I wanted to learn to make authentic Curry. My husband said, “I’ll get you a Cook Book!” To which the children reacted and said, the two of them at the same time, “Mommy, just check You Tube!”

Before, if you looked good in pictures, people will say you’re photogenic. Now, if you looked good in photos, people would say, “OMG, you looked Photoshopped!”


J.K. Rowling’s career is impressive. I secretly dreamed of becoming a writer too. But even if J.K. and I share the same birthday there is no way I could own a piece of her fortune from writing. She got fertile imagination that creates a magical world; she introduced flying brooms as public transport and dragons as pets.

J.K. is to fascination as I am to real world - the real challenging world where my written words are not really spectacular. J.K.’s words are translated in different languages and read all over the world, mine is on WWW with only 5 loyal readers. People pay to get hold of J.K.’s books; I bet not one person would pay a penny to read my musings. J.K. earned honors and awards for writing, the only recognition I receive are comments from affinities.
Why I write?

I write to connect my voice in this noisy world. It expresses me as a person and stimulates my being. Writing preserves my present and relives my past, a bridge to my still yet to be defined future...

Monday, April 04, 2011

a certain longing

Two days ago I dreamt of her. This morning as I woke up, I prayed to God to let her know how much I miss her and that I love her very much, my grandmother whom I loved to call Mang. It’s her birthday today. Mang was the biggest influence in my life. I might have inherited her sweetness, her compassion, her love for cooking, and how she valued education, but I could never copy even an ounce of her patience. She was the epitome of a great mother, someone who sacrificed a lot for the sake of her children, and grandchildren, as in my case.

When I was younger, I lay my head on her lap and would easily fall asleep as she stroke my hair with her tender hands. I grew up with her stories which were my entertainment as a child, something I would love my children to experience but never experienced. Mang prayed day and night and lived with so much hope and perseverance. Something very difficult for me to emulate, even if I do pray a lot.

Time heals loneliness but it didn’t fill the emptiness. Something in me remained a child and I don’t know when it will stop longing for that certain comfort only Mang could fill. Two decades and a half since she was gone and I still want to sleep on her lap and feel her fingers run through my hair.