Tag Archives: Thinking about Manila 2008


My youngest brother, Nikolai, took the Physical Therapy Licensure exams over the weekend, and I have been waiting for the results eversince. It was a hectic day at work so I didn’t get to check at noon on the dot but when I did a few minutes after, I saw that the results had been published.

For some reason, it was a very emotional moment for me. I wasn’t even this easily moved to tears when I got the news that I had passed the Bar Exams more than 10 years ago. The tears were welling up in my eyes and I don’t know if it was because I so wanted to give Nikky a hug right that minute that I felt a tug at my heart.

They called me and we spoke. He was ecstatic… We celebrated this victory together. I have always been proud of Nikky but never quite this proud. He had always brought out the best in us, and to see him growing up to be the person he is right now gives me a unique sense of fulfillment.

He sure has come a long way. Congratulation, Nikky. You have made us all so very happy.

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It’s another hot Sunday here in New York.  The boys let me sleep til 9am which worked out just fine as my Dad was waiting for my call.  He got my padala and was very happy with what I had sent.  I’m glad he was happy.  We kept the call short.. just 5 minutes of catching up.  I’ll talk to him again soon.

Those calls home are always bittersweet.  Even if I just went home this Spring, it doesn’t quite make up for the months and months of separation from my family.  I still feel the 10,000 miles separating us even if it sounds like they’re just in the area.

It does feel good to hear the joy in my father’s voice.  I wish I couldn’t sent more, but there are limits to what I can actually do.  I wish I could celebrate his birthday with him — maybe nex time.  Happy birthday, Dad…

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Sending some love home

My father is turning 73 this weekend. As luck would have it, a high school classmate who is now a practicing doctor in Boston confirmed a lecture engagement before the previous weekend and was generous enough to have remembered me and offered to bring anything I needed sent to Manila, and vice versa. (There are times when the boss up there hears a request even before one is made.)   I find it very touching to have been remembered by a friend from way back at just the right time.  Talk about heaven sent!

I was hoping to get Dad’s requested bag, but I haven’t really found something suitable to send to him. Instead I picked up a La Coste shirt (genuine but bought on sale!), two pairs of cotton shorts, some packed chestnuts, and some cheese. I tried to be selective with what I was sending. I have already been overindulgent with the size of my package but I couldn’t help it. My niece has a pair of Heelys from Ninong Alan, but it would’ve made the package unbearably heavy.  This was was all for Dad. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed the box gets to Boston tomorrow. )

Every time I send something home on occasions like this, I feel a tinge of sadness as I find myself celebrating birthdays with my family 10,000 miles away.  I feel it most strongly with my father who is getting on in years.  I keep praying for another birthday which I might celebrate with him even if via long distance.  I have been fortunate that except for this year’s birthday, I have celebrated my Mom’s with her here for three consecutive years as she was with me here helping me take care of Angelo.

I want to send so much more in every package I send.  This one was a little “off” considering I packed some Polly-o string cheese and two slabs of edam.  My father loves the cheese but I really can’t send any via courrier.  It’s best sent with someone actually travelling to Manila to cut down on travel time and get it there all fresh and unmelted. (!)

The last time I celebrated a birthday with my Dad was in 1999 — 9 years ago.  Happy Birthday, Daddy…

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Precious Pili

Everytime I take a trip home to Manila, my favorite uncle, Pay Kiko (younger brother and youngest sibling of my Mom) brings us fresh seafoods and goodies from our native Bicol. And this time around, I had uber-fatty crabs which Mom cooked in coconut milk and malunggay leaves. Just thinking about it brings me back to those hearty meals when we got our ginataang alimango fix.

In addition to the fresh and succulent fruits of the sea, I always get a bag full of pili goodies. I love them raw, coated in sugar (as pictured below) or made into mazapan or pastillas. I may get pistachio nuts, almonds and macadamia nuts any time I want here, but the pili is always special for all the memories that go with it.

I remember how I would implore our househelp to crack open the thick shell of the pili in which it arrived in and one had to expertly hit it with an itak or larger knife so that it cracks the hardy case but does not cut into the nut. And when finally freed of its shell, one had to blanch the nuts to rid it of its brown skin or painstakingly shuck each nut free.

And let us not forget how the pili is the core of a meaty fruit that is boiled for its meat so the nut shell can be “freed” of the fruit itself. All these layers to get to the precious nut! Is it the bicolana in me or is it simply because I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of getting to know the pili as intimately as I have that makes me put the pili nut a cut above the rest? Whatever the case may be, it’s truly a treat that brings me home.

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Postcards from home

Alan and I have had this longstanding practice of sending postcards home during our trips even when he is doing it alone on business, when we are travelling without Angel, and more importantly, when Angel is with us.  I do it beyond being a postcard collector.  To me, it’s a means of chronicling our trip visually while providing him with short notes on what we did near or at the place pictured in the postcard.  We have tried our best to have the postcards mailed from the areas described in the postcard.  This means finding the post office or at least he nearest mailbox, and through the previous year, I’ve learned to travel with my own postage and address tags.

Sending postcards home has taken on more importance and meaning since we started addressing the postcards to Angelo.  We have more than double the postcards we had the first four years it was just Alan and I compared to what we have collected and sent home the last four years.

It is ironic that I have never really sent more than one postcard in previous trips home.  The postcards I acquired then were procured more for trading (as I was still actively trading postcards then) rather than to send home or use for myself.  So this time around, I made it a point to get the postcards at National Bookstore, the Ayala Museum, Bridges Bookstore in Virra Mall (which I just discovered is part of the Goodwill Bookstores family) and a shop in Glorietta which I failed to take note of.  During one of my many trips to the Greenhills Shopping Center, I actually took the time to look for the post office which used to be tucked behind Greenhills Theatre, and which I found almost at the same spot but in a decidedly more modern structure now that the whole shopping center has been undergoing facelifts and reconstruction through the past few years.

Below you will find the first 19 postcards I sent home to New York.  There are four more that ended up stamped but unwritten on which I sent home with some other things to my brother Nikky for mailing to us.  As a postcard collector, I know that the postcard takes on a different meaning when postmarked, and more so when postmarked from the country or place of origin.  I managed this for Paris, Chartres, Brussels and the other states we’ve visited — it should be easy for Manila.

I have also experimented with taking pictures of the postcards instead of scanning them like I had done with previous batches.  I find that the photo quality is better, making it easier for the viewer to appreciate the graphic online. 

The messages for this trip take on a different slant as well — they are more sentimental and more forward looking, taking into account the fact that I want to introduce my son to his roots through these postcards as well.  Come and share part of my journey home through these postcards to Angelo.

Rest your cursor over the thumbnail to read the caption I wrote on the actual postcard that travelled from Manila to New York. 
Clicking on the graphic will open a larger version of the postcard in another window.  Thanks for looking.

MAKATI AND AYALA AVENUE BY NIGHT --- No matter how I try to find a postcard that might show the building where we are staying, we are always 'hidden' because we are at De La Rosa Street. Maybe next time. We are actually on the left side, behind the last row of buildings you see
ROXAS BOULEVARD --- There are so many places people who live here take forgranted. Take this very famous boulevard. It takes a postcard for the people to see how beautiful something 'so everyday' can be. So as you grow up, I hope that you will look beyond what we see.
NIGHT LIGHTS --- I'm not too sure but it appears this postcard is as old if not older than Tito Abril. (Copyright 1967!) The Pasig River coast probably isn't anything close to this anymore. And to think I picked it up in a new bookstore in Virra Mall. One more for the collection
I feel bad that we only got to see this area during the day. There was so much promise but I heard a lot has changed since. We spent a day in this area when we went to OCEAN PARK with Grandma and then we visited the humongous MALL OF ASIA after lunch at ARISTOCRAT. It's a favorite 'pasyal' place of the ordinary folk. It was good to get the change to explore and visit
MANILA --- (Showing Makati, business center of the Philippines * Philippine Jeepney, a popular public transportation * Horse-driven calesa in historical Intramuros * Roxas Boulevard and Manila Bay) --- I cannot believe we're finally ending our very short vacation. =( It's almost 2am and I'm jsut about finished packing.. not quite but almost. It's been a fun 2 weeks and so many days.. you kept telling me you had fun.
MANILA SKYLINE --- The caption should actually read MAKATI SKYLINE although MANILA, of course, is more recognizable. This is right where we stay and I'm actually trying to figure out if the building we're staying at is actually somewherei nthis picture. I think we're somewhere behind the tall buildings. (I will ask Ninang Peng to help me figure it out.)
MANILA SKYLINE --- Although it doesn't look like we'll be visiting Rockwell this visit, we did get to look around the last time. It's a very posh community but a little out of the way. These buildings are actually visible from some parts of Makati where we always stay. (It's still technically part of Makati.) It shows one of the more affluent places around
MANILA CITY HALL --- Can you believe Mom actually worked here before? (MANILA CITY HALL, that is.) It was when I was trying to support myself through law school. I learned a lot about how things work in the government. One day, I'll tell you all about it.
Postcard Maps Collection: MINDANAO --- Another far flung area of the Philippines.. the farthest I had gone in these parts happen to be Davao & Iligan. There is just so much of Manila to see. I don't know if we'd ever get to see these very far places outside of it. I want you to see how beautiful the Philippines can be if you explore it beyond the urban areas. It is a gem all its own in a unique way. When you go out and see the world, I want you to have a sense of appreciation about how beautiful the Philippines is
Postcard Maps Collection: BANAUE --- Remember the Banaue Rice Terraces? (Postcard no. 7) This is a map postcard showing where it is. (Mom's map postcard collection hasn't grown much save for the map postcards from our trips.) Will we ever get to see the terraces upclose? I am not too optimistic about it so let's load up on postcards. (LOL) I can never get enough of this purported 8th wonder of the world although we didn't quite make it to the nomination of the new 7 wonders of the world. Oh, well..
Mayon Volacano, Legaspi, Albay Province --- Grandma comes from the province where this beautiful volcano is -- BICOL. I have seen it a lot of times during our travels to visit our grandma (your great grandma Tia) and as part of one of my old jobs. It's one of the few if not the only volcano with a perfect cone. Breathtaking!
Postcard Maps Collection: CEBU --- While it is very unlikely that we will ever get this far in any of our trips home, I wanted you to see more of the Philippines even if only in postcards. We have quite a collection o fpostcards from all over the US and even Europe, but this is the first time I'm really sending home postcards from Manila. Ironic, I know. From hereon, we will send a ton of postcards home when in Manila. Promise...
Ayala Avenue, Makati --- Here is Makati, particularly Ayala Avenue, up close. ASIAN MANSION II where we stayed this visit is actually behind the stretch of buildings pictures in the upper right hand corner picture and the lower left hand corner. These are actually all within walking distance of each other.
Manila --- The Philippines has approximately 7,100 islands -- and even if I have not had the chance to visit even half of it but I've been around. I hope that when you get older, you will take the time to get to know our country better. I hope you will want to vacation here even on your own. It is, after all, our home. Europe or the rest of the US will always be within reach, and to go home will take a little more effort, but it definitely is worth the cost.
Banaue Rice Terraces, Benguet Province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- This is one place I have always dreamed of seeing but it's just too far and will take up too much time. (Ninang Peng, however, has been there!) It's also one of my favorite postcard subjects. And I wanted you to see what is probably uniquely Filipino and something we are very proud of.
This is your second trip home to Manila and we know you're excited because it means seeing Grandma again. How many times have you blurted out 'I miss Grandma..'? So off we went on May 9, and staying until the 27th. We're almost halfway through our trip at this point.
Postcard Maps Collection: LUZON ---This is a map of the Philippines, and we stay in LUZON where MANILA is. The Philippines is a tiny country compared to the USA... you kept telling me you like the Philippines because of Grandma.. =) She missed you a lot, too, and was so happy to see you. You're really her only grandchild she had taken cared of. I could see her light up each time she saw you. Maybe we can convince Grandma to visit us again next year
The Colorful Jeepney --- This is the most popular mode of public transportation in Manila and some are decorated in very vibrant colors and artistic design. One day when you are bigger, maybe we'll get you to ride one one jsut because.. =)
Philippine Jeepney --- Here's another picture of a jeepney but taken in Makati where we stay whenever we are in Manila. (That's the Peninsula Manila in the background.) There are hundreds of them plying different routes

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Ensaymada, please..

Celebrating the famed Muhlach Ensaymada -- something we always take a ton of on the way back from Manila, and something we ask family to bring over for us as a special treat each time. Although ensaymadas are available here from local Filipino bakeries, iba pa rin ang Muhlach.
Can't get enough of them! Alan and I treat ourselves to a breakfast of two each every morning. I microwave them for 20 seconds or until the butter starts bubbling a little, but not too hot for the cheese to melt.
The Red Box -- gimme more, gimme more! Just can't get enough of it. Saying goodbye to my Muhlach stash almost feels like saying goodbye to Manila all over again!

Please rest your cursor on the photo to see the caption.

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Missing Manila already

I’ve been back in New York a week now and I’m still hung over from the trip to Manila. =(

I still have a ton of things to write about — pictures to be uploaded, projects to be started. (Scrapbooks, for one.). My father’s 73rd birthday is next month and I want to be able to send him a decent photobook — plus, of course, some presents I need to get in the next couple of weeks..

Too short… Two and a half weeks went by just like that. Alan and I have already decided we’re planning our next trip around his high school silver jubilee sometime in December 2009. A year and a half away… I can’t complain. The reunion gives us an excuse to “break” with Alan’s rule of spacing our homecomings to once every two years. I’m really not too keen about keeping that timeframe because my dad is getting on in years. I am willing to give up my goal of visiting Europe yearly for a chance to go back home to Manila more often to make the most of what’s left of my father’s time with us.

A year and a half will surely zip by fast…

Angelo and Grandpa

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My morning cup of coffee

I’m not really much of a coffee drinker, but because Alan is, I’ve become discerning in my own way.  I have always sung high praises for my programmable coffee maker which has made it possible for me to wake up to a freshly brewed cup of coffee every morning, cutting my breakfast prep by a mere three minutes, but enabling me to enjoy my morning cup three times as much as I normally would.

I’ve had my Muhlach ensaymada — I’m now nursing my morning brew and enjoying it before I start my day.  Alan always does his iced.  Between the two of us, we only consume two cups of coffee so a half pound bag usually lasts us a week or so.  We even have our own coffee grinder which has helped us have freshly ground beans from our stocks in the fridge. 

During our last visit to Manila, Alan’s high school friend Danny and his wife were so generous in giving us around three pounds of beans they bought from a trip to Baguio during the first part of our visit home.  I “attacked” this batch first because they were not commercially packed, although I made sure to give the rest of the beans its spot in my fridge.

The beans were smaller and rounder and drier, and once ground, the coffee was a golden copper brown.  I brewed the coffee based on my usual ratio of a rounded heaping teaspoon per cup and Alan and I both fell in love with this coffee from the mountain province.  It’s mild yet full bodied.  To my mind, it would make a great companion to something sweet at the end of a meal, and just beware that it’s so easy on the palate that you might find yourself drinking cup after cup after cup.

It came in a nondesript brown bag stamped with Garcia’s Pure Coffee with “KALINGA” presumably being the brew.  The address on the label says No. 9-10 Hanger Market, Baguio City.  (Since 1961 it says..)  For orders, you can text 0917-507-1885.  (Presuming I read the smudged label right.)  A second number given is presumably their local number in Baguio, so you can also try (074) 442-9864.  Or you can just go looking for them when you’re in Baguio.  (I’m wondering now if the Hanger Market is the one behind the main market which front the street — the same area where you could find the knitters as well.)

Have a cup on me!

Packed nondescriptly in brown paper bags, full flavored coffee beans
Order from Garcia's
I prefer to grind my own coffee
Thanks to the Pantaleon's for this wonderful discovery

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Missing out on some, hitting it home with others

Of the three trips I’ve made home since I moved to New York in 2000, this previous trip saw me seeing less people, going around less, but it has left me feeling I had done more of what really matters like spend time with my family.

I didn’t even get to visit the much talked about Trinoma (only because it was on the other side of Metro Manila by SM North EDSA, I heard), and although I had wanted to shop at SM MegaMall, the farthest I got was Shangri-la Plaza.  (So okay, I missed out on my usual Tan Gan shopping binge.)  We did manage to visit Mall of Asia which, owing to its size, really has to be visited at least twice to enable one to appreciate its length and breadth.  I saw the breathtaking view of Manila Bay when my friends Jonathan and Jo took me to Tagaytay Highlands Steak House on my second Thursday.  (More on this when I write my Food Notes.)

We did get to see Manila Ocean Park which was really quite impressive considering we caught the soft opening only, and after missing out on a visit the last time in 2006 (even as we stayed a block away from it only), we finally managed to go inside the new Ayala Museum.

We pretty much confined ourselves to Makati where we stayed, but Alan got a trip to Alabang courtesy of his high school friend, Danny, and I got my Divisoria trip more out of necessity as I shopped for additional goodies for Angelo’s loot bag.  We had our share of culinary treats so we don’t really feel like we missed out on a lot

Unlike my second trip when I even did a day trip to Manaoag and Baguio, my only out-of-town trip this time around was Laiya in San Juan, Batangas. 

I did frequent Greenhills Shopping Center where I literally grew up in, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.  While it has changed by leaps and bounds, Greenhills is Greenhills.  You’d understand what I’m trying to say if you grew up in the area like I did.

So what did I do during this trip besides lounge around Makati?  I spent time with my Dad in Kalentong (the San Juan side) and I just went around with my siblings.  I made sure Angelo spent more time with his cousins Audrey and Art with whom he is absolutely in love with.  It was so heartening to see him being the “kuya” to his almost three-year-old cousin, to the point that older Ate Audrey was beginning to feel bad that Angelo didn’t want to play with her anymore.

I visited Serendra and the stores of Bonifacio High Street with family, and I can’t help but be awed that we have such development despite what everyone says is a country steeped in desperate times.  But what made it special wasn’t so much what I saw or what I ate or what I did but rather who I did these things with.

I missed out on quite a lot of people who I would’ve wanted to see but just couldn’t zero in on time to do so because my schedule kept changing at the drop of a hat.  There is always a next time, I kept saying.  It can’t come soon enough.

The view outside my window 1
Our first dawn over Makati
The Manila Ocean Park
A rarely empty walkway in Greenbelt on a Sunday morning
Bonifacio High Street
Full moon over Makati
Greenhills Shopping Center
A view of Rockwell from the Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge
Laiya in San Juan, Batangas

Rest your mouse on the thumbnail for a caption. 
Clicking on the picture will take you to a Friendser album,
but no links returning to this blog will be available.

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Going down my list (Reminders to Self for the just concluded trip to Manila)

Sixteen days before we left for Manila, I wrote the list below and here’s a point for point follow up on each one:

1. Soap dishes/pH Strips for GP – procured them and actually managed to meet up with Gina twice.  Discussed some business possibilities and while the soap and VCO distribution shows promise, we’ve agreed to focus elsewhere which isn’t a problem for me either.

2. Special tea for Ms. L - Turns out the tea I wanted to get was not available in Target where I last saw it available.  What’s more, Ms. L and Ms. I were two people I didn’t get to see (part of a long list of friends who I had hoped to find the time for but didn’t get to say hello to… more on this later.)  There is always a next time, I say.

3. Gimmick shirt for R – Managed to meet up with Reggie although a Disney shirt for him to use at home was the best I could do.

4. Fridge magnet alphabet for Art – We received a LeapFrog Fridge Phonics® Magnetic Set from a friend for Angelo for his first Christmas and we’ve found it a very valuable tool in introducing him to his alphabet so I vowed I would get this for my almost three year old nephew, Art.  Got it and he is really enjoying working with this very educational tool.

5. Burn Scrapbook CDs for V -  I knew seeing my former batchmates beyond Gina would be a tall order but I failed to even burn the scrapbook CDs for V, although I think I’ll do this in the coming weeks and have Gina give it to her.

6. Get 2G memory card for self – never quite got down to doing this, but there is time.

7. PSP + games for Nikky – I did get Nikky’s bundle but the Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai game was out of stock.

8. Dual voltage hair dryer – Found one and used it while there then left it with Dad.

9. Salt & Pepper pack for hotel – Done

10. Pack away USB keys - Packed away 2 cute ones from the company but didn’t get to meet up with Jher and Jerome (again).  =(  I am missing quite a bunch of them but managed to give one to Abril.

11. Get usual meds: Aleve, Sudafed, etc. – Brought my stash though didn’t really have a need for them, and picked up my own stocks from good old Mercury Drug to bring to New York.  (More on this later).

12. SPF 45 Sun tan lotion – Picked up a generic bottle from the neighborhood Rite Aid store and was quite happy with my pick because it truly protected me from the sun when we were in Laiya.

13. Umbrella for Mom (her choice of brand) - This was out of stock before we left but I’m hoping to pick it up in the coming weeks.

14. Garbage, Ziploc bags – Got the ziplocs but not the bags

15. Mother-in-law’s decaf instant coffee - CHECK

16. MiracleGro for Mom – brought it but left it on the kitchen counter.  (Wise, I know.)

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