Sun and smiles in Southern California

I keep on thinking about California, and quite fondly at that.

It's not the most beautiful place, I admit. After staying in Maryland and venturing into the northern states of the East Coast for three months, I half-expected the rest of America and especially California to also be full of wonderful landscapes: vast open fields on this side and trees of various kind and size on another. Instead, I was welcomed with jam-packed highways and tall palm trees at least fifty meters away from each other. I guess I should have done more research...

But the food and the shopping made up for it. I tasted my first In-N-Out cheeseburger complete with animal-style fries and chocolate shake, and altogether it was divine! Besides that, the rest of our meals were home-cooked. We had our chef uncle who flew in from Chicago to celebrate with us and prepared a feast for everyone at least twice during our short vacation. And as for the party, the family hired a Filipino caterer who served all things heavenly. I may have gained more than five pounds after my trip, but it was with no regrets.

Now the shopping was a different story. How lucky were we to be staying at our uncle's place which was right across a huge mall?! For sure our wallets weren't spared. On Thursday Melissa and I stayed there for four hours, going through all the stores that looked promising and ended up bringing home three plastic bags filled with loot. Before the party, I accompanied my aunts and uncles to look for summer attires and other stuff needed at the house. And finally the day before my flight back to Baltimore I crossed the street again—this time by myself—to scavenge through the sale racks. Though Asians rule the populace in this side of the country hence limiting the good choices of clothing and increasing the scarcity of XS/S/M-sized apparel, I believe this was all part of the experience and I was happy with the things I bought.

And did I mention the people? Aside from the theme parks, I always want to come back to the Golden State because of the growing number of my relatives around. While some of them lived in the Philippines for the first half of their lifetime and/or visited home once a year back in the day, there were some who were born in America and never got the chance to fly to Iloilo. I saw to it that I meet each and every one of them during my entire stay in the country. At this rate, I'm doing a very good job.

We had a lot of reasons to celebrate and arrange a get-together that weekend—Tito Marc's birthday, Tito Ted and Tita Ehleen's new home, EJ and Melissa's new life in the US, and among others—but the main cause why everyone flew in/drove down to Huntington Beach was Shiloh's baptism and first birthday. She's the second youngest grandchild of my lola and lolo and possibly the cutest and prettiest one around!

Come lunch that Saturday we all had our luau on, minus the leis which were unfortunately tucked in a box, hidden in the messy garage. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about the garland, which wasn't much of a big deal judging from our wide array of clothing choices. From beach dresses to tropical wear to laid-back and simple summer attire to outfits with wild, bright, and colorful prints...you name it, we had them all!

Being reunited and spending some time with my aunt Jessica (22) and cousin Malyssa (19), whom I've shared a couple of memorable summers and Dinagyangs about five to ten years ago with, had to be the one of the greatest highlights of my trip. I remember Ica and I getting sick at eight and ten, when the clan was bound for Boracay the following day. We both had to stay at our aunt's home the entire weekend while everyone else were enjoying the white-sand beach and then-clear waters of the paradise which was six hours away. We spent our afternoons taking naps, reading storybooks, and, the evil little kids that we were, praying that it would rain in the island. That way, it would be fair that we were down with the bug and stuck in the comforts of the house.

Meanwhile, Mal claims that though it has been five years since, Sana Maulit Muli is still unforgettable. And why shouldn't it be, when you have twin cousins who talked you into watching the weekend marathon from start to finish and translated every Filipino line into English so that you would understand what was going on? The best part of the telenovela was obviously the ending, when the bigger picture was revealed. It was already three in the morning and all fourteen-year-old Malyssa could say was, "Wow, I really liked it!" And to be honest, I enjoyed all the English-speaking we did.

The evening of the party, my high school classmate and friend who lived nearby picked me up so we could have dinner. Keith moved to America a few months into senior year and though she has returned to the Philippines for short trips twice ever since, we haven't had the chance to meet up. We shared a serving of squid balls, beef basil spaghetti, and a velvet by night toast box over a glass of milk tea (finally!!!) and never-ending stories at Cha2O Restaurant & Dessert Lounge in Cerritos. I was even lucky enough to meet her boyfriend, Sanz.

And who would have known, we had matching outfits: stripes, blues, and seafoam flats! Sanz and Keith gave me a rather quick (all thanks to the endless traffic) tour of the area and of Long Beach the rest of the night. We went to Signal Hill to get a breathtaking view of the city and later drove by Downtown Long Beach so I would be acquainted with the area in case I come back (and I most definitely will!). Keith and I were supposed to have a sort-of exploration of shooting locations in Los Angeles and nearby towns that Friday but due to conflict of schedule (I'm looking at you, Disneyland and California Adventure), we had to cancel. Nonetheless that wouldn't stop us from attempting to start with it, and with Erin Silver's house no less!

I'm looking forward to resume our "stalking" when I return on December (This is the last rebooking, I promise!). That, and see more of California and meeting up with relatives and friends. Meanwhile, I am trying to catch up with long overdue entries and some poetry class work. Wish me luck and thanks for reading!


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Sasa! My dress at the first picture was from Forever 21. :) Though I really loved it, I couldn't buy it because it didn't fit me well...