Counting the Hours Til Nikky Faces His Fate

It’s almost 5PM and it’s almost 5AM Friday in Manila.  My brother, Nikky, has a 10:30 appointment with the US Embassy in Manila for his application to enter the United States.  He needs a visa.  And like the hundreds of hopefuls that will be lining up at the US Embassy tomorrow, he is pinning his hopes on being given a visa to enter the United States.

I want him here for selfish reasons.  I need a baby sitter and I miss him so dearly.  Nikky has been such a big part of my life ever since we decided he would become our youngest brother in 1985.  I have been sending him to school and he is now a Junior Physical Therapy Major.  He has grown up to be a good natured young man and I’m very proud of how he’s turned out. 

Just can’t wait to have him here..

Maggie Gyllenhaal Speaks Her Mind Out

I have read about what actress Maggie Gyllenhaal said and the reported furor that it stirred.  I am not out to crucify her nor praise her for what she says, but I just wanted to say people seem to forget that we live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. 

I am not an American.  I am a Filipina living in New York and allowed to stay in this country by virtue of a Permanent Alien Resident Card or what we refer to as a greencard.  I come from the Philippines which is deeply divided between its love-hate relationship with Uncle Sam.  Personally, I have no gripes about the superpower that America is, but there are a lot of things that Americans do not understand about how the world views them, in the same way that the world often misinterprets or refuses to understand what America is all about.

From a foreigner’s point of view, many will agree with what Maggie Gyllenhaal innocently said — that America is partly responsible for the events of 9/11.  In this great country’s pursuit of democracy, it has in many instances, accidentally stepped on the toes of more conservative countries who view our idea of democracy as a threat to their existing ways.

While Americans are well-intentioned, there have been many instances in the past and in the present when there were many sacrifices made by other countries as we tried to promote freedom in other lands.  A case in point is Iraq.  The United States went there to get rid of Saddam Hussein and the threat he posed to the free world — from the outside, that is all fine and dandy.  But for a country torn by internal strife, Saddam Hussein was the strongman who held the country together, keeping the insurgency in check, and while his ways were far from being right, some view the state of Iraq today as far worse than before the Americans came.

Again, it’s a matter of opinion.  Even the widespread hatred of America across the seas is something that many Americans cannot understand.  This, I believe, is what Ms. Gyllenhaal was speaking to — that it was the duty of America to start asking questions to arrive at the truth.  That as a superpower, it was incumbent upon America to bear responsibility where it lay — and to recognize that horrendous as the 9/11 attacks in truth are, there are reasons which bring us back to how America is perceived outside the United States, and how its actuations can invite such a heinous display of disdain from those who do not share its views.

In Manila, I was a witness to countless demonstrations by the so-called “left” who accused the Americans of being imperialist dogs.  In the University of the Philippines where freedom of expression is sacred, I saw students organizing for mass actions against the United States.  In in those times when people took sides, I stood back and and did not choose to condemn the so called multinational imperialists.  To me, the presence of the United States in my country was but a consequence of a third world country trying to make it in the real world.  If it wasn’t the US, it would be another more powerful country.  My husband has a totally different color politically, but we manage to respect each other’s views, fell in love and actually sleep side by side night after night.

I think we should give Ms. Gyllenhaal credit for saying what she said the way she said it. I just hope she doesn’t get crucified for exercising her freedom of speech in this country which prides itself to be the best democracy on this planet.

Nilagang Baka

I never really learned how to cook until I got here to the United States.  I have always jokingly told friends it was an undiscovered talent which didn’t come out until I was left on my own with the responsibility of feeding Alan, and now, Angel.  But even from way back, I had a knack for replicating tastes and flavors and cooking from scratch.  So despite a lack of knowledge about meat cuts and its translations in Tagalog, I managed to discover on my own that I could cook Nilagang Baka without going to the Chinese grocery for ingredients.

Soup bones with marrow are sold dirt cheap even at the local Waldbaums we go to.  However, they are already cut into small pieces which are, at most, an inch thick.  The good soup bones with tons of marrow are available for $1 a bag, though, at my favorite Chinese grocery in Main Street (here in Queens) called HONG KONG SUPERMARKET.  I usually grab a bag which would have a piece or two of good tendons and then at least 2 pieces of 2-3 inch long bones with ample marrow. My favorite part of Nilagang Baka has always been the kinste (kinche?) which turns out to be the not so cheap beef shank here.

I had to call my Mom long distance to find out how I could cook this right.  She said to simply boil the meat in enough water to cover it, tenderize, then add whole black pepper, some patis (Fish sauce), an onion, and cook until tender.  The bone marrow should be added later, but any bone parts with meat clinging to it should be cooked ahead.  Vegetables were to be added later and cooked through but not to the point of wilting.

One thing I have discovered is that you cannot microwave the marrow because it liquifies into fat.  So when I develop a craving, I do my nilaga.. a taste from home, serving one.

Another day done

Alan got lost on the Air Train like I did, so he’s trying to make his way to the correct train to get to the Long Term Parking lot.  I got lost on the Air Train, too, after I brought Mom to the airport for her flight home.

He should be here just around 7PM which makes me think I ought to be cooking dinner instead of waiting for him to get here.  I was thinking of meatloaf but Angel kept me pretty much occupied through most of the afternoon, I barely had the chance to put the finishing touches on my Nilagang Baka.  (Doing a separate blog post on that one..)

He’s been a good boy, actually.  Sometimes he’s just being the kid that he is, so he is so full of energy and just all over the place.  He constantly wants me by his side, and although he hasn’t been good taking his usual milk from the bottle, he has been nursing on demand.  That doesn’t do well for my attempts to start weaning him, but I guess I can do it a little at a time.  I’m thinking of starting to introduce whole milk in tandem with formula, and then shifting him to whole milk altogether.

Things were rather quiet on the work front because my boss lost her voice.  So she just shot me a short email and then all email traffic stopped in her mailbox.  The poor lady finally found an excuse to just rest.  It wasn’t as quiet in the office, though, because a colleague told me about how those covering for me were griping about having to do my job.  I guess they had forgotten my rank among the admins in the department, and how they would still be the ones covering my post no matter what the situation was since their bosses were under my boss.

The thing is the boss wasn’t even there, and the only thing they had to do at best was to answer my boss’s line.  I really can’t do anything about their griping because there are things I have to prioritize, and between pleasing them and taking care of the boss, taking care of the boss takes priority whether they give me flak or not.

It’s just so disappointing to hear them doing that because when I’m there, they can’t tell it to my face.  I guess that’s the corporate world for you.  They won’t be griping tomorrow because I’m going to work.  Alan and I made a deal that he would be the one staying home tomorrow, so I can get some work done in the office.

Time to get dinner ready.. he must be hungry.