A family affair, terrible timing, and forgiveness

Unfortunately, and yet as expected, my short stay in California has been nothing but that: short. Quick. And now, gone. Long over. It's been already a week since I got there and half a week since I returned. Although I am fully aware that time and timing hasn't exactly been good friends of mine, I was willing to take a chance on them. Bad idea. They wouldn't give me a break, I have learned, especially while I was in my favorite US state; several plan changes crept in and regrets were more than happy to follow.

Despite that, I forgive them anyway. Looking back, I may also be at fault. I expected too much, I admit: I had an exploration map on one hand and a cellphone with my adventurous ready-for-anything friends on speed dial on another. Somehow my thorough Google-search and other methods of scouring the Internet wasn't enough to create a foolproof to-do in California checklist. I didn't make room for issues such as horrible traffic, closed roads, the availability of my frolicking buddy, the time of day, and among others.

However, these backfires don't bother me anymore. Ultimately, I guess there's something about family and good company that easily mend upsets and disappointments. That weekend was mainly about the barangay that is my mother-side relatives all over America, and I feel blessed that we have spent a few days together. Reunions and catch-ups are the perfect picker-uppers.

California Instagrams and mobile uploads by me and my oh-so techie relatives:
(My thanks and love goes out to EJ, Tita Lalee, and Tita Yayon. Miss you guys!)

1. Breathtaking 2. Additions to the US clan 3. Cousins bonding (Baby Shy!)
4. Our first In-N-Out 5. We meet again(!) 6. Endeavor over Tomorrowland
7. Derp faces #ftw 8. Here's to more adventures 9. That crazy elevator ride
10. Obvious Mickey 11. Cutie Mater bread 12. Still my favorite (Soarin'...)
13. My 22-year-old aunt 14. Where the party's at 15. Catching up with Kitt
16. Newport Beach 17. Non-alcoholic boat lol 18. Uncles I miss and love ♥
19. Choco-loco, back in MD 20. Warming up to Ewok 21. Asian cuisine week

That's it for now, just a little teaser. Since I've been away for nearly the entire week last week and decided to keep my distance from coursework, I obviously had a lot to catch up on my online Modern Poetry class. Well, except for my first essay. I wrote my first writing assignment, which is a close-reading of an Emily Dickinson poem, while I was there and in the midst of what may be mistaken as a daycare that is the living room with all my cousins below the age of seven. Crazy, I tell you! That's my clan for you! 'Til next time, thank you for reading!


Thoughts on a Cali-bound plane

Good morning from Huntington Beach! I've been awake for twenty-six hours before finally getting a three-hour sleep, but let me begin Day 1 with a list:
  1. I love the view from up here! Always have, always will. How exhilarating!
  2. Flying across timezones excites and fascinates me, especially now as I head towards East. It's as if time traveling truly exists and I can re-do something or change what I've done entirely. At 9 o'clock I have just eaten my dinner. At 9 I'm writing this. At 9 I'm asleep. At 9 I'm dissecting a poem. It's a brilliant thing!
  3. The woman behind me is on the phone with her boyfriend and this weekend they're reuniting in Los Angeles after two months of being apart. Tough love they got, but I'm so encouraged that they seem to be dealing with the distance very well.
  4. I feel like I'm being judged by the guy in his early twenties who's sitting on the other row as I take a bite of my pepper steak dinner. I'm sorry if the smell bothers you, but if you want some you could ask politely. Besides, that's what the Filipina behind the cashier of Manchu Wok told me: "Inggitin mo sila kasi masarap pagkain mo."
  5. However, I seriously need to return to my half-rice diet.
  7. Now I think the lady beside me is wondering what kind of word exercise I'm doing. And I'm thisclose to endorsing ModPo and Coursera to her. But I resist, because I want some time to sleep.
  8. Just keep walking, just keep walking. Philly International, why must you be so huge and such a pain? To apologize, you could have at least given me a cute guy my age as a seatmate! But then I realize that men my type are probably busy finishing their degrees at top universities or catching up with work requirements, and thus unable to fly across the country in the middle of the week.
  9. Of all the things I would forget to pack, it had to be a ballpen! Good thing Tita Jan had an extra...and yet it's not working very well. Bummer.
  10. I hate to admit that part of me dislikes traveling, but that's only because I dread having to bring what must weigh like five gigantic barbels! Although my in-transit motto had always been to dress down and travel light, and despite always opting to bring a duffel instead of a maleta, I make the most out of the allowable weight. Which would explain my worn-out body and the clots on my shoulder the following day, case in point: right now.


Falling slowly—

The past week and a half had been a breath of fresh air...literally. I'm loving the cool weather that fall brings. We don't have much of that back at home. That said, I'm embracing autumn with the things that I love: food, kids, poetry (Yes folks, I'm "back in school" thanks to Coursera), and being outside!

And I'm California-bound in a matter of hours!!! I'm looking forward to being with my other relatives again and explore Los Angeles and places nearby! Dear reader, please pray for my safe travels. Talk to you when I get back! Ciao! :)


Becoming a pirate at seven

Three weeks ago today, on the day of his birthday Joey celebrated his seventh year with a warm second grade welcome in the morning, tasty cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies for his new classmates in the afternoon, and a deliciously moist chocolate cake shared with the family in the evening. That night we had an abundance in two things: 1) noodles for the long life, as the Chinese tradition would suggest, and 2) matchsticks because as usual, the boys had trouble sharing. They each wanted to have their own turn at the cake. I guess they're brothers in more ways than one. In the end, to settle things, they agreed to blow the candles out together.

That weekend we headed down to the historic Annapolis Harbor with a bunch of Joey's friends and sailed away on the Sea Gypsy with the Chesapeake Pirates. And may I say, it was quite an experience! The kids dressed up in colorful stripes and bandanas like real pirates, got their face and arms painted with mustaches and mermaids, learned about the rules at sea, read the map that would lead them to the treasure, received a message in a bottle that warned them about the nastiest of all pirates who was lurking nearby, defeated the evil Pirate Pete with the ship's powerful water cannons, found the sunken treasure and enjoyed the loot and refreshments inside. The smiles on their faces were priceless!

We continued the merriment back at the house with our special seafood dinner: shrimp, crab legs, crab balls, fish, and a lot more. However, we also added some chicken wings for the kids and yet again, more pancit to uphold tradition. The night swung by with the adults' stories and laughter and the kids' screams and yells. We capped the celebration off with Joey blowing out his Cookie Monster cupcake and everyone else singing him a birthday song for one last time.


California dreams and comebacks

Image via Flickr

California, I can't believe you're only three sleeps away! And while I wait for my fateful reunion with the love of my life that is the Golden State, here are three songs from the past decade that I may have played over and over partly because I'm biased with the title but mainly since I have been wanting to return to California the moment I left it when I was 9:

1. California by Phantom Planet
California, here we come, right back where we started from

Popularized by the hit television series The O.C. in 2003, this song takes me back post-USA grade school days. Although the theme parks were all a little girl like me could think about, that two-month long trip had changed the game and ultimately turned everything around. And even at a young age I could already tell, someday I know I'll be settling down there.

2. Cali, Cali, Cali by Alyssa Bernal
If I could just feel the sand on my toes and remind myself that there is some hope

My dream to visit California was put on hold when matters of school responsibilities and lack in funds got in the way. A trip almost happened though! However, instead of an American escapade, my twin sister and I opted for a birthday party for our eighteenth. Hearing this song for the first time that year kept me hopeful. I know in my mind, I will always have California.

3. California Gurls by Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dog
You could travel the world but nothing comes close to the golden coast

I was a few documents away from finalizing my exchange program applications in a university in California when mom and I dropped everything and decided not to push through with it anymore. No more nonstop dancing to California Gurls, I told myself. The pursuit felt rather rushed and something done out of the spur of the moment, we were afraid that once we signed those envelopes there may have been unwanted consequences, consequences we fear we can't handle. I won't lie and say that I didn't regret it; that year I found myself more sad than ever. Since then it had been one of my top goals to visit California as soon as I could.

And look where I am now—with an itinerary waiting to be printed out, a trolley bag to be packed, and four full days of sunshiny adventures to be carefully planned out and executed. To say that I'm excited would be an understatement. I have waited over eleven years for this moment. Surely, there is no other place I'd rather be.


More than bright lights and bestsellers pt. II

On Day 2, I was honestly so surprised to wake up without any ache in my body. What with all the standing and walking we've done in the past twenty-four hours and the fact that I haven't had any form of exercise since my PE classes in college sophomore year, I expected myself to be extremely exhausted, demanding Tito Tan that we stay in for the rest of the weekend. But there I was, happily jumping off from bed and getting myself ready as soon as I heard the alarm. Although we've covered a lot on Friday, there were still a lot of places to go to, and sights to see and take photos of! We were growing wary of the weather, however, since the forecasts called for cloudy skies, with a chance of showers. Nonetheless that wouldn't stop us from exploring New York City!

By foot, we embarked on yet another search for a nice place to eat. It was almost eleven and I could already hear my stomach grumbling. We passed by Madonna's lofty apartment (Imagine living a few blocks away from the diva herself!) before finally deciding to give the quiant coffee shop tucked in the corner of Madison Avenue a try. Other than your dose of caffeine, Nectar Cafe serves your typical American meals and is mostly frequented by locals after their early morning jog around the park. For brunch, Tito and I ordered pancakes, eggs, fries, and bacon, which are primarily my go-to food of all time!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a must on my list not only because of the famous steps where the Gossip Girls (Blair and her minions) often have lunch, but because it's been so long since I had my humanities fix. As I may have mentioned before, the arts is my guilty pleasure. It would come as a shock to some but back in college, when I'm not busy listening intently to my Introduction to Aesthetics and Great Books professors while scribbling down notes on this and that, I would take solitary trips to the art gallery where I found solace in the paintings and sculptures that surround me. These things further develops my appreciation of the beauty of and in this world. Unfortunately, as we were pressed for time and my mind was already wandering elsewhere (The fast-paced city life is already getting to me!), we breezed through the halls, checked out the more well-known works, snapped a few pictures, took a peek of the city skyline from the rooftop, and dashed off to our next destination.

We took the subway to Downtown Manhattan and made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has played huge roles in a couple of movies I've seen: it is usually where lovers would meet, resolve their fight, and from then on live happily ever after. So I wanted to see the bridge for myself and check if there really was some kind of magic to it. That, and because it is a true work of art, has a significant part in history, and is evidently swarmed by tourists like me.

I never really intended to cross it, however, until Tito asked me to. To my surprise it was his first time to walk on the bridge though he has been living in Manhattan for two years now. The first few minutes of our crossing was when the tiredness and pain due to all the walking caught up on me. I had to ask Tito, who is used to the rush, being the true New Yorker that he is, to tone down his pace and that we take our time and enjoy the view. Sadly, there was an ongoing construction and so the walkway had to be covered with all sorts of metal, hindering us from seeing the bridge and New York in all its beauty.

As the sky turned gray and gloomy and I regained my strength after taking a short break on a bench, Tito and I brisk-walked past the streets of Chinatown (which reminded me a lot of Manila) to the shops in SoHo. SoHo has always intrigued me; a lot of my fashion-savvy friends say it's one of the best places to go to when it comes to shopping. And they were right: you could get lost in the endless number of boutiques and outlets there! Tito and I couldn't resist the sales and discounts so we ended up buying a total of five shoes from different stores!

We figured we had to give our wallets some rest and continued walking, only to realize we haven't had lunch or any heavy snack since our rather light brunch at the Upper East Side. Just our luck, we were met with this huge crowd at what looked like a very festive street. Down the road you'd see red brick buildings adorned with colorful signs, while on the sidewalks were open umbrellas and tables of all shapes and sizes laid out. For a moment I wondered where in the world we were but the checkered tablecloth served as the giveaway: we have reached Little Italy!

My heart was full of glee; I am a huge sucker for all things Italian and being there was as close as I could get to Italy, my dream country of all time! They were in the midst of the Feast of San Gennaro, which would explain why everyone was out in the street, enjoying their meals al fresco. Soon Tito and I were entertained by this big elderly man who happened to be the owner of La Mela. He got us a table and served us with our shrimp and scallops pasta. Nothing like authentic Italian cuisine! We left with tasty chocolate gelato in our hands and the hope of being able to come back and see more of what Little Italy had to offer. If not, I guess the real Italy would do! (I wish!)

Grand Central Station was so beautiful, I tried my best to keep my cool and be in my best behavior. I didn't want to be the obvious tourist, browsing every inch of the place while her mouth was wide-open and taking pictures of anything at least three times. But I was exactly that: I can't stop the wows and whoas from coming out. It gave me the same feelings I have when I'm at airports: like I'm on top of the world, able to see everyone, people from all walks of life, and that I'm in control on what lies ahead of me. It brought out the hopeless romantic in me. Tito and I were next to a man who was proposing to the love of his life! There's no place sweeter and more dramatic than terminals and stations. Cliche, but it works.

We returned to the streets of the Upper East Side, bought a few more items from the stores, and made sure to pass by St. Bartholomew Church (where It Takes Two's Alyssa and Amanda helped Diane stop Roger from marrying what would be an evil stepmother) and New York Palace Hotel (home to the Basses and the Van der Woodsens in Gossip Girl) before going back to Tito's apartment. We did the usual round of picture-taking, especially at the Palace. Even their bathrooms looked like suites! I only wish there weren't renovations at that time because the place couldn't have looked any better and true to how it was in the show without the metal bars.

Despite reports, it didn't rain the entire day. And that only meant that fate was on our side. However, for our own good, I requested that instead of pushing our limits and going back to Times Square for the third night in a row, we should stay in, order some Thai food (been craving for something spicy for a long time!), and enjoy a good film. How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days was on TV and I thought it was the perfect movie to watch—set in New York City, revolves around magazine publishing, and centers on dating and relationships. It made me want to dream a little bigger and it was as if I was seeing it for the first time!

Little did we know, though we went to bed earlier than usual, we hadn't slept until it was three in the morning. Tito and I spent the wee hours catching up, talking about family issues (we have a big one!) and plans for the future. It had been one of the most meaningful conversations I've had with anyone so far and I'm looking forward to more for these "true meaning of life" talks, especially when I get to see more of the clan when I come to California. I had thought growing up would be tremendously scary; however, with the right people to back you up, you'd be fine.

On Sunday, Tito and I ventured off to the nearest 1950's-themed diner, Big Daddy's. To our dismay, it was closed down for the weekend due to a construction violation. I got really disheartened upon reading the notice at the door because from the outside looking in, it was the kind of restaurant I'd been wanting to visit. We settled for the diner at the other end of the road but it wasn't as interesting and bursting with life as I had hoped. At least I had the french toast that I asked for... Problem solved.

I bid Times Square goodbye with more clothes-shopping (can't seem to get enough!) and the Broadway area by promising to watch other shows once I have the chance to hop on a New York-bound bus once again. I also took a quick peek of Sardi's, where Finn and Rachel of Glee had a sweet dinner date while they were in the city. Aside from their good-quality food, Sardi's is known for their wall full of caricatures of the famous celebrities that dined there.

And finally, there was my bus ride home. It was more stressful and disappointing than my trip to the city: we left the stop half an hour later than our ETD and the ride itself took an hour and a half longer than what was stated on our itinerary. That, and there was no wi-fi. The only consolation was that I had a kind-hearted Spanish lady for a seatmate who didn't look a day over forty (though she was already in her mid-fifties), fondly called me "sweetie," and selflessly shared her candy treats, her daughter's love for Broadway musicals, and tales about her life when she first came to America and resided in New York.

Indeed it's an entirely different experience to be waking up in the city that never sleeps. For the most part, although the media (be it in books, shows, and movies) depict New Yorkers as—aside from downright workaholics—snobs and rude people, in the little time I spent there and the limited number of people I encountered, I reckon that they aren't exactly so. Instead, they come to me as individuals who are energetic and full of life despite their busy full-time jobs. I guess there's something about the big city that makes them feel alive, and as much as I envy them for it, I must admit that out of curiosity it's something I too want to take part in.

I used to think having dreams of living in NYC is overrated (and sometimes I still do) but after coming over, I now understood why. It isn't necessarily as life-consuming as I had expected it to be; in fact it exudes that. Never mind that it's so crowded and compact; even for its small area, the Big Apple is complete on its own, which makes it so distinct and original. If you can make it here, you can definitely make it anywhere. That said, of course I would visit again in a heartbeat.