Monday Musings: Exploring my neighborhood

Monday musings in paper and ink

I’m trying to make up my mind about where I should categorize this post. In many respects, it belongs to “Monday Musings,” a staple here for quite some time now, and at the same time, it also belongs under my “New York Corona Diaries.” I will settle on the former. I would like to get on with writing about an idea that struck me this morning as I was on my morning power walk before it totally gets lost in the Ethernet.

Noomin’. For the last two months, I’ve been on Noom and dieting and exercising like I had never done before. The dieting was much easier than most other diets I had been on, but that is not to say there wasn’t any effort. The fact that I’ve consistently walked every day except for one day when the rain wouldn’t let up, and that I have topped 10,000 steps EVERYDAY for the last month is a personal achievement for me. See, I was one person who always said you’d have to pay me to make me exercise. I was totally averse to any form of physical exertion. I was just plain lazy.

So although my actual weight is a state secret — I will share that I have lost 15 pounds the last 60 days. I know I would’ve lost more had I not indulged in a treat or two (or three) during this whole course, but I’m not going to beat myself up over this. The point is that I have lost THAT much — in a healthy way that didn’t see any adverse effects like hair loss or rashes or some other reaction that I had suffered with other diets. And so far, it looks like this is a lifestyle change that I can actually live with. This one is working for me.

But today is not the day when I will share with you my favorite recipes from the diet or the learnings from the new eating habits I’ve acquired. I want to talk about how my daily walks have brought me around my neighborhood and made me explore it and see things in a new light.

Reacquainting myself with Mother Nature’s domain. I have lived in this neighborhood for the last 18 years, and yet, I had never gone that deep into the hiking trails in the forest that makes up part of Alley Pond Park. I have always stuck around the periphery, but never really went into the forest.

In My Neighborhood

I had never even fully explored the path around the main park which I had viewed from the street hundreds of times.. until I found myself there maybe after the second week I had started walking. I walked the circular path around and round the main field, but I soon tired of it. I didn’t want to have to walk with my mask on 100% of the time, and so I strayed away and walked the outer periphery on the other side.

In My Neighborhood

I preferred to walk solitary so that I could pull my mask down when no one was around, and I’d pull it back up out of respect to the people I came across. I would even walk off the sidewalk just to keep my social distance — again, out of respect.

I discovered places in the park where people seemed to be so familiar — and I had to pull out Google Maps to bring myself to the right side of the park I wanted to emerge from.

In My Neighborhood

Fortunately there was enough pedestrian traffic deep in the forest that I felt I was never too far from anyone to hear a call for help, should I trip or fall.

Most days, I will walk around the park — not in it. My days are structured around work, so I am not wont to aimlessly wander and explore. Most of the time, I turn on some fast beat dance music to walk to, so that I can make good time. I walk fast, but cannot run. Even with my renewed endurance for physical exertion, I know better than to push myself and punish my feet without further priming. These two gems carry a lot of weight day in and day out and the last thing I want is to suffer some injury because I wasn’t careful. I need to be at my laptop by 9am and logged on to work. Although I can respond to emails on my phone, I don’t want to end up tripping or falling because I dared to text while walking. (Although I must confess, I do.)

I’ve managed to count the steps around and know which routes to take to rack up the numbers I need. I still end up doing it at just over an hour, but I am pretty happy at this pace.

I have come to appreciate my neighborhood more. I’ve actually walked early in the morning, under the searing heat of the midday sun and during the night one particularly busy day. The landscape changes depending on the time of day, and I see and hear things differently now, from the many nights I would find myself walking home from the bus to my doorstep.

In My Neighborhood

I’ve walked to a favorite bakeshop maybe 10-15 minutes away by car, only to discover that it took only 5,000 steps — barely. So when I walked back, I had to make up for what I owed to make 10,000 going around my block.

I have come to realize that exercise will not kill me. I may not be doing much, but given that a 45 minute work out used to be such a dreadful thought, being able to walk for hours on end like I did in Central Park a few weeks back is a feat. It’s a personal accomplishment that I now feel anxiety when I see that it’s going to rain when I look at the weather app. So I’ve taken to walking with a small sling bag with an umbrella — just in case.

I feel good that I don’t get as winded walking fast, and I can actually look at the uphill incline without worry or fear. I actually enjoy the walk and look forward to it in the mornings.

We remember, once again

Every year, when this day comes around, I remember where I was and all that happened 19 years ago.

Last Friday, I wrote on Instagram across my accounts:

“One week after, we returned. I was there when it happened, on the other side of Wall Street, closer to the water. I saw paper flying everywhere when I got out of the subway not knowing the first plane had hit. I went to work and started getting the calls from other states and even from Manila, asking if I was okay. Then I heard the explosion of the second tower getting hit. I saw the rolling plumes of dust and smoke when the first tower collapsed. And then the second. We couldn’t see across the street as the building disappeared in the thick dust. I waited for hours before deciding to walk home with some coworkers. Dead pigeons littered the streets, overwhelmed by the soot. I finally came upon a working subway station around 14th street and I took the subway back to Queens. So many lives lost in what was a senseless attack. #gothamchickwasthere #weremember911 #gothamchicksays

Downtown one week after

Return to school dilemma

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4ALabor day falls on the 7th of September this year. In years past, this would signal the beginning of the school year a few days after and came with a lot of excitement about school supplies, new schedules, outfits, etc. This year, there isn’t as much excitement as there is anxiety — more so on my part.

My soon-to-be junior in high school had picked a school which was quite a trek from where we live. It meant going into the city via Express Bus like I do, then a one stop subway ride and a 6 minute walk from the subway to school. All in all, if there was no traffic, he could make it to school in under an hour. He would take the subway and the local bus on the way home because the Express bus took longer, and meant catching his ride based on a schedule. We had gotten used to this the last two years.

When New York sheltered in place, we switched to remote learning. I gave the school some slack given the sudden adjustment from in-classroom learning to virtual, which, I can imagine, was quite the challenge to the faculty. It wasn’t a huge student population, but it also meant there was limited faculty presence. We made do with the system, and I tried to monitor his progress through the remainder of the school year. Although he did very well during this time, I couldn’t help but feel he was missing out on much of what should’ve been learned had there be in person instruction instead. But what can we do given the pandemic?

Over the summer, the school administration kept in touch and came up with a novel proposal regarding the return to school come fall. The Department of Education had given several models to follow and choose from, depending on the size of the school population and the physical space available that would accommodate social distancing. Add to that the optimum distribution of faculty between in-person and remote learning. We had two options essentially: one was to be fully remote, and the other, to do blended learning. The latter meant that he would spend part of the time in school, doing in person learning and part of the time, remotely.

The principal of my son’s school took great pains to explain what they thought was the best solution, given the above factors. “Blended learning” would have to be a half day in school every two weeks. That meant that for 9.5 days of the 10 day two week cycle, the students would be remote. This would enable the faculty to focus equally on the 7 students who would actually be physically present in the classroom at any given time, and the rest of the student body doing remote learning. That seemed like quite a lopsided proposition at first, but after it was explained that 10 of the 30 or so faculty would actually qualify to teach remote due to pre-existing conditions, etc., it didn’t make sense to force any of the other proposed models. If we were to follow the DOE directive, it looked like our school would fall into the twice a week weekly, with a third day in school every other week model. It was confusing for most parents — and there was an uproar and some really bewildered people on the ” virtual townhall” I participated in. There was just no way to make it simple enough for everyone to understand. But I found the school’s proposal acceptable.

It’s bad enough that I have to worry about his commute. Everyone knows that classrooms are breeding grounds for infectious diseases among the younger generation. – pandemic or not. Masks all day? I wouldn’t trust my boy to do that unless I was watching. Sanitizers? Okay, maybe that one, I can trust him to do. Even at home, he has always taken to washing his hands often.

So we signed a petition to the Department of Education, endorsing the proposal of the school. And then we were turned down.

Last week, the principal announced that we would do the 2 days one week and 3 days the next week model. It was also revealed that 55% of the students had opted for remote learning. The boy chimed in that most of his classmates who opted to return to school either lived close by or were coming in because of the free meals.

I didn’t need much convincing to switch sides and opt for fully remote learning. I called the boy’s father and had a discussion and we agreed.

As a parent, I have tried my best to protect him during this time of social distancing and COVID worries. I was rooting for the school’s proposal because I wouldn’t have had any problems spending for Uber both ways for that once-biweekly class. But to have him commuting in what is a usually tighter than tight route even just by one stop was a cause of anxiety.

He and I have been lucky to have been untouched (so far) by COVID. There was a false alarm earlier in the summer when his father got sick but tested negative, and then tested positive for antibodies. Thankfully, the boy tested negative.

I have been trying to limit his social interaction with his friends, while acknowledging that I cannot totally keep him locked up at home. He has a small group of friends he sees once a week, with a strict rule of staying outdoors and not going into anybody’s house. We are lucky to be surrounded by lots of open space courts and playgrounds, along with an abundance of parks and greenery. Most homes like ours have courtyards or backyards to practice social distancing in. But school would’ve been totally different matter.

I cannot say I was torn between prioritizing his education over his safety. This was a no-brainer for me. His safety was of primary concern. During this time when it seems like so much has changed and uncertainty continues to permeate our everyday lives, there is very little that we have retained control over. And this one, I could steer one way or the other.

It’s one of the big sacrifices that the pandemic has imposed upon us as parents — while I would want school to go back to normal, I know that even having him there physically doesn’t mean he will receive normal instruction. Teachers would also be wearing masks . Interaction would be limited. Half their time would be consumed by work geared towards the students who aren’t physically with them. It is a test of wills on both ends.

Just today, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that school opening will be delayed 10 days to September 21. Apparently, the teachers and principals are up in arms, threatening a strike as they are apprehensive about their safety and the ability of the government to help protect them in the current scenario. Many of our educators also feel that they aren’t prepared to head into the blended learning scenarios and fully remote learning option that many children and their families have taken. I can relate. Unlike the children they will teach, the opening of school will mean they will have to be in every day. The cadence of school attendance was offered to the students — but not to the teachers.

Many working parents have been thrown in a bind due to this postponement of the school opening, particularly those who were relying on a semblance of normalcy with the kids off to school. Some companies have actually slowly started going back to work, although many companies have declared they would return next year. Still, parents who don’t have the option to work from home or stay at home are now caught between a rock and a hard place.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work from home all this time. I will not complain about the difficulty of doing what I had been used to doing in the office in my dining room. I am fully connected. Most importantly, I am continuing to work full time. We will eventually return to work, and while that is a source of mild anxiety, it is something I can prepare myself for both mentally and physically.

We all have to make adjustments. While I believe I am getting the short end of the stick with the option of keeping my boy home to learn remotely or sending him out into a Covid-ridden world on his own to go back to school, I will take the lesser of two evils. I have my own anxiety about the fall and all the things that go with it in this new normal. I had always lived by the tenet that although there is much that we cannot control, we must be firm about those that we have a handle on.

I am hopeful that there will come a time — hopefully soon — when our kids will be able to go back to school and actually learn in a classroom setting. I just know that we aren’t quite there yet, so for now, I choose to keep him at home. We will just have to make the most of it.

Finding time

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI have been busy doing other things in the real world and I haven’t really had the energy to write. That is not for lack of anything to write about , but I guess you can say I just had to pause and take a breath. I started drafting this post midweek and it has stayed in my drafts folder for days.

I was looking forward to a quiet weekend writing letters and hopefully sending them off by Monday or Tuesday next week. A bit of non a delivery glitch on something else I was expecting, sort of, delayed me. I have been seeing a bit here and there, and more projects await.

A friend actually asked me where I find the time. As these tasks or projects are a source of de-stressing and finding time to relax, I find myself stealing pockets of time here and there. Sometimes, it’s the midday lunch break. Or between logging off of work and cooking dinner. Or that window when the whole day has come to an end and I’m just about ready to turn in for the night.

No pressure. I do them when I can, which means it might take me a while.

I remember around three months ago, I said I was preparing for returning to work. Back then, even with the prevailing panic as numbers of deaths recorded and hospitalizations rose to staggering heights, there was a sense that this would abate and end. I felt encouraged as the numbers trickled down, and the panic finally subsided. For the first two months or so, I ventured out only every 3 weeks.. 2 weeks if there was a sense of urgency.

Then New York started a phased reopening. The numbers started raging upwards everywhere else and that dashed all optimism about anything going back to how things used to be.

So I adjusted my own projections and hopes. Still preparing for a return to work that can happen anytime in the next four weeks. Frankly, I am not looking forward to it even if I know it is an eventuality. Even the prospect of any return to work become voluntary does not assuage my anxiety, even partially. It is a situation that continues to evolve, but all we can do is cope.

I’m still trying to get my arms wrapped around the idea of returning to work. For the last month and a half, I’ve been bravely walking outside.. more to take care of myself really. I’ve been on Noom for as many days, and besides eating healthier, I’ve tried to move more. It takes some planning and getting used to wearing a mask while out and about, but I’ve managed. In more ways than one, these daily walking trips around have helped me get more comfortable with the new normal we all find ourselves in. I always carry a few pieces of disposable gloves, a small container of hand sanitizer, and a folded paper towel or napkin (to open doors with.

I find time every morning, or later in the day when I cannot to get my steps in.

One thing I’m grateful for during the challenge of the “sheltering in place” and “working from home” debacle is that there is now time to actually walk and do some physical exertion, no matter how minor a task it may seem to be. For someone who has always been averse to exercise of any sort, this is a positive change I’m quite happy about. When I see the clouds threatening with rain in the morning, I adjust for a later time in the day. Thank God, for the weather app on my phone!

Just another one of the many adjustments to this new normal we have all been plunged into.

Morning walk in my neighborhood

The school you choose

In the midst of the corona virus pandemic enveloping the globe, life decisions have to be made. There is comfort in the thought that the world continues spinning and each day comes and goes, reminding us that there IS tomorrow.

Although there is much uncertainty about the face of education given our current dilemma, there are hopes and dreams that cannot be put on hold — more so those that involve deciding where we will go, or what we will do. The school calendar hasn’t completely stopped — school has just taken on a new face, until we can grapple with the challenge of going back to what used to be without causing the spread of more infections.

I’ve been writing about life in New York in the time of the Corona virus, and I was ready to begin a post focusing on my day in Central Park two Saturdays ago. That will have to wait.

I woke up to this email at pinaynewyorker@gmail.com from a lawyer wannabe. That was indeed a pleasant surprise and at the same time, it is not, being that my most popular posts in the blog relate to the pursuit of a legal education. That’s the main reason why the posts dedicated to this topic are grouped together under a specific section. I am no expert in this field but I’ve lived it, and I’ve always been more than happy to give my two cents on this topic near and dear to my heart.


So our lawyer wannabe wrote:

“I came across your blog as I have been sad and lost for the past weeks because I did not get into my dream law school – the Ateneo Law School (ALS). I typed “I didn’t pass Ateneo Law School” in the Google search bar and your blog came out. Your stories are very inspiring!

I graduated from De La Salle University (DLSU). While taking the Ateneo LAE again next year is an option, my family and some friends are telling me to take DLSU Law instead since it is still a good school even though it is relatively new (10 years), and also it is the only school that is still accepting applicants for this year (2020).

My question is if your law school would really matter in long-run?
Say in the workforce? In firms or in the government? After I graduate law school and pass the Bar, I am also planning to live either in New York or D.C. And I think it is coincidental that I was able to find your blog.

Looking forward to hearing from you!”

And the Pinay New Yorker says:

Let me preface my answer with the caveat that this is MY personal opinion. This is in no way cast in stone and some people might disagree, but like I always said, I write here for my personal benefit, not to gain profit or followers, or to persuade others.

I am, however, being cautious. I have learned through the years that what I write or say here does make an impact. I have been heartened by emails or comments from young people back home — and some of those that have meant the most came back years later with an affirmation that their efforts saw them succeeding in their chosen path. I don’t take credit for any of that, just that as we say in the vernacular, nakakataba ng puso. It warms my heart.

So you asked if your law school would really matter in the long run.. Yes, it does.

But I think that’s not really your question based on whether or not which school you choose really matters. You’re asking if you should keep trying for the Ateneo School of Law. (It is ASL not ALS)

My personal choice/s. I had only three law schools in mind, and my first choice was UP Law, having come from UP for my prelaw, and the alternative — not a second choice, —was Ateneo School of Law. It was one or the other. I did take the entrance exams to San Beda Law as a back up. That was my second choice. I had gone to college to go to law school — so I was getting into a law school come what may. Being a lawyer was a dream I had nurtured long before I even graduated from high school. Everything I did was meant to get me there.

I wasn’t cocky enough to think either or both my first choice was a sure shot, because I knew I was competing with hordes of other hopefuls. My time in UP taught me one thing — I sit among people with the same if not more superior intellect than I possess. No matter how good I thought I was, there were hundreds more who would clearly edge me out. I took the entrance exams knowing that I was in a numbers game. If luck was not on my side, I would not be as high on the totem pole as I would hope to be to make the cut off.

I also took the exams accepting that making it to any one of the three schools would be my dream come true. Unlike you, I had not singled out one school. If it was meant to be, they would choose me. My grades were passable but not stellar, but I prepared with word power exercises with the intent to “exercise my brain” and improve thinking speed. There really is no “studying” for these entrance exams, because they are aptitude tests that gauge your suitability to the course based on what you already know. I knew I had the English to carry me through an eloquent essay. And I gave that essay my all.

So why did I choose these three schools? UP was obvious and not because I think it is the better school, but because I was from UP, and everyone thinks highly of the state university which is a reputation well deserved. Ateneo was as good a choice as UP because I consider their academic standard equal, but I also knew their bar passing rate was higher. San Beda appealed to me as a good back up choice because of their distinguished list of alumni which seemed to back a solid reputation as well.

At the time I made these choices, I was a full time student, our business was doing okay so I had no money worries, and I had the determination to land in law school. I was at the threshold of seeing my dreams come true.

So as it happened, UP said no, and Ateneo and San Beda said yes. But with a yes from ASL, that was that. I would have loved to have landed UP, but even if I didn’t make it to Ateneo and ended up in San Beda, it was the pursuit of a legal education that mattered to me. Then and even now, I lived by the mantra that if it was meant to be, it would land on my lap.

Does it matter which school you choose when it comes to finally going out into the real world? This, to my mind, is not an exclusively law school related question. This is a question that everyone asks even when it comes to college education. And the reality of it is, it does.

Whether it is in the field of law or of any other profession, when people hear you’re from UP or Ateneo or yes, even DLSU, they look at you differently compared to the other universities. When hiring people and going through dozens of resumes for any given position, your academic background will make you stand out. The truth is, the school where you come from gives you that added edge. If, say, you’re hiring for an entry level position, and you are faced with candidates who are fresh graduates from UP, Ateneo and DLSU and other schools, the resumes with these three schools will be on top of the pile. That is the plain truth. All things being equal and the position requires the mental acuity that these institutions are known for, you would pay the successful candidate the same starting salary. So there is a tendency to prefer one from the so called top schools over the others. That sounds very biased but it is how it goes.

Of course, this is not to say that the hiring manager has no other preferences to consider. Their own alma mater always figures, but is not always a deal breaker. In the long run, experience tops the academic background although it will always be a consideration.

I do believe that the better question that you should be asking is which school would best prepare you to pass the all important hurdle of the Bar Exam. This question is answered on a case to case basis, because not everyone has the same personal circumstances. Not having made it to your dream school doesn’t mean that you are not cut out for the legal profession — it just means you didn’t make the grade for ASL. Do not compare yourself to the others who made it — they might have performed better than you did during the actual test, or they answered the essay question a certain way. They might have better grades. It doesn’t make them better than you — it just meant that by ASL standards, they and those who passed, made the grade.

The Quality Percentile Index requirement of ASL is also very rigorous, seeing the original freshman class dwindle to half by the time they make it to the bar exams. So while working students may make it to the roster as freshmen, it is not the best environment for someone who is working full time during the day. It requires a different kind of focus and tenacity to make it through the rigorous curriculum.

If you feel very strongly about giving ASL another try, remember that they don’t accept transferees, so you cannot go to one law school this year and transfer next year. And I hate to say this, but taking the entrance exam a second time is no guarantee you will make it.

I consulted one of my friends who has a successful practice and is a name partner in one of the law firms in Makati. Here’s the voice from the other side of the table — the one hiring. I am paraphrasing his answer to your question, but he believes that the quality of applicants is apparent depending on which school they came from. But it isn’t one school vs. the other. He separates UP Law and Ateneo law as a class all its own. “There is a presumption of competence and capability as compared to other law schools. x x x. Those who came from these schools tend to have the ability to think critically and question the norm.”

I cannot speak about UP Law or San Beda Law because I came from Ateneo. I know that years after I left and I successfully passed the Bar with a cursory review, I realized what training I got from the case overload and the questions that seemed to be pulled from several different books or chapters I hadn’t even gotten to yet. Even the dress code made sense to me. What had appeared to be arrogance by some professors showed me a different side of the the legal field. I still hear the lectures I heard ringing in my ears when I reminisce sometimes. Through blood, sweat and tears, I lived my dream.

Weigh your options very carefully. If DLSU Law is an option — do not take the relatively young history of their law school against them. Faculty comparisons don’t always work as well as you don’t know which professors will be there when you take a certain course. Also, it’s not unusual to have two professors teaching the same subject, so seeing a star faculty member in one roster doesn’t mean you will get that professor. That is not unusual because these professors are not full time faculty — they all have a legal career. I have friends who are UP Law or Ateneo Law graduates and who are now teaching in UE and FEU, so do not belittle the lesser known law schools, and more so the younger ones.

Ateneo Law and UP Law have very rare “crossovers”, as most of their faculty are their own alumni, but it is not unheard of. During my time in Ateneo, I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to be taught by an esteemed UP law professor — the only one from the “other school” who taught in Ateneo at that time. So to land in DLSU law doesn’t meant that you won’t have those occasional UP or Ateneo Lawyers at the helm of a class. It has also been touted that they have the deep pockets to pay decent honoraria to these professors from the other schools to beef up their faculty.

My two cents: Focus on the here and now. While worrying about the future is a real question that you will hurdle in time, you are faced with the first important step to get there: making it through law school. You can land in your dream school, but getting from the first to the fourth year of that arduous course is going to be a big hurdle by itself. Get to a law school of good repute. They each have their standards — Respect that. And yet do not let yourself be cowed by their refusal. Instead, work on making that your crutch to prove them you will be a passing statistic for the other school that accepted you. That’s what I told myself — when I pass, I will be part of the passing statistic of Ateneo. That’s one less for UP.

Wherever you land, do not think of the “could have been’ s”. Think of the “what is.” Not landing in Ateneo doesn’t mean that you won’t be the best damn lawyer you can be in the future. Whether you decide to stay in the Philippines or move here to the US, you will always be a lawyer wherever you are. You will be a legal eagle whether you practice or not, for as long as you live your dream, survive law school and pass the bar.

If you choose to move here, will it really matter to the firms here that you studied in Ateneo or UP or DLSU? Only if they came from those schools themselves. When you get here, it’s a totally different ball game and another Bar exam. Right now, you train for that if that is your end goal, and any decent law school can bring you to that point.

Is money a problem? Is English proficiency lacking? Are you starting a family? Are you supporting siblings? No. The one big thorn on your side is that you didn’t get to your dream law school.

I get it, the disappointment is eating at you. You have to get over that, and get over it quick. You will have many more of that in whichever law school you land in. I remember many tests where I thought I did okay and my grade was many levels below what I expected. Or those days when I memorized dozens of codal provisions only to be asked about a case I didn’t even get to read the digest of. I remember telling a professor I did not read the case. He gives me a second chance with another, and still, I didn’t read that either. And I sit down, head bowed. I remember semesters when I nervously gritted my teeth as the grades were released praying as hard as I can that I make the QPI. (You will understand what I mean when you get to law school.). I was lucky that by my junior and senior year, all classes were in the late afternoon and evenings, and I kept going even when I had to work full time to support myself through the second half of law school. How I envied my classmates who were full time students — whose lives revolved around being able to study all hours of the day and saunter into class without worrying about rushing from work to school. And finally, when I sat for the bar exams armed with more hope than actual preparation, I wrote with the determination and feigned confidence that would convince the examiner I could argue my case, even if I answered the question incorrectly.

You have the English to get you through.. I can see that. You have the fire in your heart. Don’t let the fact that ASL didn’t accept you snuff that out. Don’t make it the be all and end all of this dream. Focus on what you have and work on that.

You want to be a lawyer.

Law school is just a step towards making that come true. Get yourself on that road by studying as hard as you can and never let go of the dream. And write me five years from now that you passed the Bar.

Related posts on the topic of law school and the pursuit of a legal education based on my personal experience can be found in this section: Lawyer Wannabe

Drop me a line at pinaynewyorker@gmail.com

I have missed you, Manhattan

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI remember the last time I was in Manhattan after our company ordered everyone to work from home. Someone I considered a daughter was visiting from Manila, and although we couldn’t go around, we agreed to meet at the apartment where she was staying to spend time catching up. That was in Mid-March, and I braved the city choosing to ride Uber going in and out. The city that never sleeps was practically quiet, with only a smattering of people here and there. Traffic was light.. most stores were closed.

I finally returned to Manhattan last Friday, and although the vibe is nowhere near what it used to be, it was a better cadence and more people were out and about.
Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Traffic wasn’t as light as the last time I was here, but it wasn’t as busy as I was used to. Most people going about their business were wearing a face covering. Masks, after all, have been mandated all over.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

It felt different. It was almost like there was an eerie whisper in a place that was always buzzing with life. I passed my building and wonder how it is over there now — yet I wasn’t curious enough to venture that way. It can wait. We are, after all, still officially working from home, so much so that I have indicated that in my voicemail. We don’t know yet when we will return to the office, but I am not excited by that thought.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

I feel grateful to be able to work from home, spared from having to deal with the anxiety and stress of commuting. Or of being in an enclosed space with others — and that was never even a thought before we were all overtaken by the virus. Not that I wish this to be permanent, but I know that I am not quite ready to go back yet.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Even Times Square which would usually be teeming with people all hours of the day was somber and quiet. The lights were still on like they always have been, but the place seemed to have been sucked of life with the absence of the people of all races and colors walking its streets.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

It’s so deceiving how the skies are blue and everything looks sunny and bright — and yet there is a pervading sense of gloom in the streets as many stores are shuttered, and there is a pronounced thinning of the usual street crowds. Restaurants are still not allowed to do indoor dining. Some stores have signs on their doors saying that they have decided to close their shop/restaurant indefinitely. And there are the boarded up windows on the storefronts that fell victim to the looting of several weeks ago.

It feels as though the city is in a state of limbo. As if everything is suspended.
Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Even my beloved Bryant Park wasn’t the same. It felt like a weekend morning when it was actually late in the day and a Friday. There were paths specified in the park and various signs around.

I terribly miss how the city used to be. But I missed it plain and simple that even in the midst of all that is different now, I was grateful to be back even if only for a short while.

The Whole Foods across from the park was closed. There was a sign saying this branch serviced online orders only and it appeared that this was their distribution center. Most fast food stores were open only for take out or delivery. The offerings were limited. My favorite Maison Kayser had signs that they have decided to close their stores temporarily. The hours were severely shortened. Most stores that were usually open even on weekends were now closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the stores screamed “We’re Open” in signs, both handmade and professionally produced, just to distinguish themselves from the other empty stores that were everywhere.

I could actually feel the city moaning in pain. But what could I do. Like the city that never sleeps that now seems to be bedridden and chained down with limited movement, I’m just riding the pandemic out.

I don’t want to hasten a guess as to which stores will be around when this is all over. The prognosis is not good. The business landscape of the rows and rows of stores here in the city will certainly change in big, bold strokes when we return.

It is a sobering reminder that nothing is permanent. Even the greatest city in the world can be cowed into submission. What I know is that no matter how bad things get, this city will overcome. We’ve done it countless times before. In the gloom and doom and the sense of loss of 9/11, or the pain that became manifest in many stores succumbing to bankruptcy in the economic downturn of 2008 — and even now, we have come back.

It may be a slow one, but we are getting back up on our feet again, come what may.

Wildflowers

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI’ve always taken pride in paying attention to the ordinary. From a very young age, I was trained to appreciate the simple things. I think it’s important for us to never lose our childlike sense of wonder. It keeps us hopeful and optimistic. It helps us see the light instead of the darkness. Much like the glass being half full rather than half empty.

The eternal optimist, that’s who I am.

During these walks I’ve taken the last 3 weeks, I’ve opened my eyes to the wonders around, tucked between the weeds that have crept upon the growth in the forest, or in the cracks in the concrete pavement. What colors — if we will only stop and pay attention to nature’s canvas.

I used to always think about doing this — just walking around to stretch my legs, or to try and get some exercise in. I never really got to until after weeks and weeks of being cooped up indoors. I can’t believe that I’ve been doing this for longer and longer stretches of time. And I’ve taken to paying more attention to the things I walk past each time.

Wildflowers
Sometimes they call out to us as a patch of color, but what strikes me more are the singular stems that stand out from the drab green, or the cracks in the sidewalk. Wildflowers here range in color from pastels like purple and the starker fuschia pink ones like this one I saw just this morning.

I just had to stop and take a shot. I’m sure the man walking around 200 paces behind me must’ve been baffled why I stopped in my tracks. It would’ve thrown off the distance we were trying to keep between us.

Wildflowers

And there are the usual blooms that we see everywhere, popping up from the ground in batches, just nonchalantly standing their ground and ignoring the rest of the world. If you look closely enough, you’ll see how nature has put them together in such an intricate fashion.

Wildflowers
More often than not, we gloss over their existence. To many, they are a nuisance ruining the monotony of the pavement where the earth gave in and a crack let them through. But such bright colors wave to us. Again, if you look closer, you’ll see how beautiful they are by themselves, or as a bunch on the ground we walk on.
Wildflowers

They’re springing up all over these days as we get deep into summer. I’m trying to catch them before they wilt away and the green gives in to the glorious colors of fall. I love fall for the tapestry of leaves and the changing colors of the season, but autumn signals the disappearance of these beauties, both wild and nurtured in the gardens around. We have to enjoy them while we can.

Wildflowers

See how intricate those spines around the berry-like center are? I cannot wait to see what springs forth from this bloom. I hope I see it tomorrow or the next day I walk past it again. I’ve made it a habit to look around with each pass, and stop the next time I go past it. It’s almost 400 steps around the entire quadrangle, and I usually try to keep pace with those who are ahead of me. Sometimes, I get lucky and I get to enjoy the space and have the place all to myself. I like walking here because there’s usually no more than 4 others who make sure we walk with ample space apart.

Wildflowers

This week has been such a visual delight. It seems that every day, there is a new bloom that pops up to surprise me. Even along the highway as I walk on the last leg of my morning ritual, visual delights like these little wonders abound.

I admire them from a distance and leave them be. I want to have them there, serving as a backdrop to my feeble attempts at exercising. They bring color to the toil of walking in the summer heat, and they bring a smile to my face.

There are so many things we should be grateful for. Little things that we should not take for granted. We should stop and take notice before they fade away and another season creeps up on us.

Tomorrow as I walk again, these little beauties give me something to look forward to. I will look at them with childlike wonder and hope they stay just a little bit longer. I can’t wait to see another surprise that will stand out from the rest. Some new wonder growing out of the ordinary, here in the wild.

I walk

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AMost mornings, the alarm on my phone wakes me up — but half those mornings see me waking up before the alarm rings. It’s the sun peeking into my darkened shades and which somehow triggers a switch in my brain that tells me it’s daylight and I need to get up. Still, I will usually look at the two morning news briefings I’ve subscribed to and read up on what happened around the world the six hours that I slept. Sometimes I just lay in bed for up to an hour before I convince my limbs to carry me off. Or sometimes my bladder wins and reminds the rest of my 54-year-old body that nature is calling. Such is my wake up routine.

I walk into the bathroom and wash my eyes.. I put on a special moisturizer, remembering age makes it imperative that I take better care of my skin. Then I weigh myself. A morning routine that can either be good news or bad news. Then I put on sunblock and change to my walking attire, brush my teeth and drink at a least a tall glass of water to hydrate. I put sunscreen on my face. Even before the pandemic, putting on a good facial sunscreen was part of my make up routine. You tend to take these things for granted in your youth, but hitting certain milestones remind you that taking care of one’s self takes more effort as the years go by.

I begin my exercise routine with a mini workout on the floor I picked up from Pinterest, of all places. I’m trying to work out my abdominal muscles with my pooch being a main problem area. That’s been a good warm up for me, too. After that, I fold my yoga mat and get ready to walk out.

Three weeks now, I’ve been walking every morning, or whenever I get the chance to, racking up not quite anything close to the 10,000 step goal, but still chalking up enough to make it back home sweating and feeling I did something good for myself. This is the first time in all my life that I have exerted effort for a healthier me out of my own efforts on a daily basis. I have even invested in a pair of running sneakers, although all I really do is walk.

I carry a pair of gloves — just in case I need to stop by the grocery or other store along the way, and a small container of hand sanitizer. I pick the mask of the day, put on my headphones (the airpods kept falling, so I have decided to go back to the wired ones), and I walk out.I walk

Often, I carry out something to throw in the garbage disposal. Bottles, cans and paper for recycling, or the trash when the bin is full. Then I choose a route to take. Going on three weeks now, I’ve sort of figured out the best routes to hit my minimum 5,000 steps.

I had taken to avoiding the park — being that I’ve encountered far too many like minded souls walking and jogging the paths, but without a mask. It was a lovely idea at the start, but I have come to realize that social distancing was more problematic because more people were there, and I really could do without the aggravation of walking past or after someone who felt that open air spaces meant a reprieve from the new normal of wearing a face covering. No thank you.

I walk I walk the streets around my neighborhood which are mostly empty. When I spy someone walking my way from afar, I calculate when to walk to the other side of the road or yield the sidewalk so that we can walk past each other with a minimum 6 feet apart. I also relish the empty sidewalks when I can lower my mask when no one is in sight. I pull it up when still a good distance from another who is walking towards me, not just as a precaution, but more as a sign of respect. Wearing a face covering these days is the new way to be courteous and kind.

I am aware how many steps approximately there are around the paths, so much so that I know 6-8 rounds of the field behind my son’s old elementary school will get me well past half my goal. I know when to start heading to the other side of the highway if I want to pick up a nitro cold brew from the neighborhood Starbucks, or if I need to pick up something in the grocery.

I like this new routine. Walking affords me a chance to be alone — and do something for myself. I usually listen to an audio book or a podcast. I listen to my breathing as I walk briskly — feeling the morning breeze on my face. I check my steps. I don’t just walk, I walk towards a goal. And yet it’s a means for me to unwind and relax, despite the exertion.I walk

I’ve explored my neighborhood like never before, going deep into a hiking trail in a mini-forest just blocks away from where I live. I’ve walked to places where I never would’ve gotten to without being driven there. The sense of adventure and exploration envigorates me. That’s something I really need after all this time that we’ve been cooped up because of the threat of the corona virus. Were it not for the prevailing scare, I’d be in the park walking with everyone else. But the virus has forced me to seek paths and trails where I can be alone.

Even as I walk my rounds around the field in my son’s former school, I worry that walking too closely behind someone might cause me to breathe in the air they expel. Paranoid of me, I know. But I take precautions.

I like walking. I like that I’ve somehow mustered the discipline to do it and keep on doing it this long. I’m already starting to worry about the winter months when this might be too difficult, or when we eventually find ourselves back at work when I wouldn’t have the luxury of doing this before logging on at 9am. I do have a gym membership at work — maybe I will find the time to do it.

I want to keep going and doing this — and hopefully, one day graduate to a jog. It might sound lame for a lot of people who are used to running or jogging as a form of exercise, but just getting myself out there is a feat at this point. More than anything else, I’m doing this for me, myself and I.

All the baking and cooking the last couple of months have caused me to gain 10 lbs above my weight pre-pandemic, and I’ve lost 6 of those 10. I’m hoping I can even lose more than what I gained, since I was overweight already even before the lockdown. The diet has helped a lot, but I know the walking has helped more.

I am one of those people who didn’t really give a care about exercising.. But the pandemic and the sheltering in place has forced me to look at ways and means to take care of myself, both physically and mentally. Now I know what it means to actually go out there and just let your feet take you where they will, and let your mind wander.

Here’s to more steps walked in the weeks to come.. as I work on getting to a better version of myself. Here’s to a healthier me.

Hope lives on

Monday musings in paper and inkIt’s less than an hour to midnight, and I’m going to write as spontaneously as I can and hit “publish” before the clock tolls the end of the day. I’ve been writing blogposts right and left throughout my day in my head, but I often get stuck with the thought and end up with no post written. I am trying. But here goes..

Passion project in the works. An idea which hit me last week has gotten me all excited, although it hasn’t turned out as easy as I thought it would be. But I am excitedly taking baby steps towards making this project a reality. I don’t want to write about it too much because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It’s just a good feeling to be working on something I know I can do, no matter that it isn’t exactly easy as pie. What’s more, I’m thinking about doing something I really would enjoy doing. While it is still in its infancy stage, I am very excited to be growing the idea in my head. It reminds me of a time when I was struggling to keep up with the expenses of being a law student in Ateneo and our resources were severely strained by business losses. I learned a lot during that time — and what I’m looking to do feels like a return to that first job I had, in a 21st century iteration. More to come..

Walking

I have been taking care of myself — even if it’s only walking. I’ve managed to go 13 out of 14 days straight, walking at least 5,000 steps, and getting some much-needed physical exertion in my daily routine. I’ve also been doing some mini workouts — and I know that doesn’t sound much for people who are used to spending hours in the gym or jogging miles and miles, but this is a big step for me. For someone who has abhorred the idea of exercise for decades, the fact that I’ve made this a habit the last two weeks except for that one day when the rains stopped me, is an accomplishment. I am proud of myself.

I gave in and started Noom. I am not quite comfortable writing about it yet, though, because I’ve only been on the program for two weeks. I was on the Keto diet for longer and although it did work and I lost weight, it was at a rather high price that made me drop the diet altogether. This one seems to be working just fine — and I like the way it’s structured. But more on that later..

I am picking up my tools again. It’s tax time and I get reminded during this time of the year how much I have literally invested in this business. It encourages me to try harder and I know I’ve been remiss with production, but I am hoping to get the shop going again soon.

Mask making has been put on pause momentarily. Just for a bit. I was cutting new pieces to sew last week — but I had decided to slow down, after the donations and then the batch I sent home with the balikbayan boxes. With the prevalence of Covid and the thought that this is really the new normal for the near future, I think wearing masks is something we really have to get used to. I am hoping to finish a few over the weekend. Taking my daily brisk walk around the community has also given me a chance to test which configurations work — and I’m planning to work on what I’ve discovered to make better masks.

Hope. I started this week hopeful. You know how sometimes you can’t help but be filled with dread and anxiety and all those negative feelings? While I am nowhere near giddy, this Monday finds me full of hope. Maybe I’ve found a sense of calm somehow — not that I am not affected by the rising numbers of cases in other states. New York continues to be in a cautious reopening phase, and we are nowhere near normal. But I am hopeful that no matter how difficult the challenges we face may be, the universe gives me a solution to help me pull through. The doors keep opening.

I am blessed to have that insight to find hope even when things can become overwhelming. And for that, I am grateful.

Here’s to an easy week for us — no matter what you’re doing this coming week, I hope you have it easy. I hope that you don’t get burdened by unnecessary stress. Take things one day at a time..

Happy Monday!

No littering please

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWhen the sheltering in place order first came down, I was fortunate to have been given N-95 masks for my son and I by a friend. I eventually lost it (my bad) — but I’ve made my own masks since.

That’s a project that’s still ongoing. From the choice of patterns, the appropriate fabric, the layers, and the elastic and nose wire, it’s an experiment that I’m still working on with each mask I try every day.

I have been using disposable gloves, though, making sure to tuck one or two into my purse or pocket, each time I leave the house. These days, I mostly leave the house to do my daily walk — taking me all around the neighborhood. I have tried very hard to limit my venturing out of the house to doing only what’s necessary. When I do, I grab my mask, a pocket sanitizer, and as little a purse as I can carry. I usually just walk out with my phone in my hand. My phone case has a back pocket where I can slip some cash and a card into. Plus, there’s Applepay anyway.

When I enter a store where I know I will need to touch something, I put on a disposable pair of gloves or just wear one on one hand, and then I throw away the glove upon leaving the establishment, but making sure I throw them in the trash.

With more and more people using these personal protection equipment or PPE, proper disposal is something we need to be mindful of.

I have been rather surprised and disappointed to see disposable masks and gloves littering the streets. It is disheartening.

No littering

With masks and gloves being part of the new normal, it’s alarming how these can eventually pile up and overwhelm us and become a problem. Not only are they unsightly, but these can clog drains and cause a host of environmental problems.

No litteringI realize that many people choose to discard them before entering their homes, or upon leaving establishments where they are required because of an increase of tactile incidence. You touch more, you expose yourself to higher chances of infection. If you know you will be wearing or carrying disposable gloves, I think it would be wise to consider their disposal once you are done using them.

What to do:

Carry a disposable trash receptacle like a used plastic bag. You can slip your used mask or gloves in them and dispose of them when you find a trash can.

Walk to the trash bin and take off your mask and/or gloves before you enter your car. Don’t throw them out the window.

Consider using reusable and washable masks. Most clothing brands and department stores now carry them. And in the long run, using something that you can wash and reuse later is more economical than using purely disposable ones.

Take off your gloves and invert them as you take them off and tuck them in your pocket until you can dispose of it. That way, that portion of the gloves that touched surfaces and items as you went about your day will not touch your hand again.

Let’s be careful about disposing of these items. They’re going to be part of a new habit, hopefully, to stem the spread of corona — so let’s start getting used to being responsible in using them.