The Greenhills I grew up in

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THE THEATRE MALL in Greenhills

I have lived in San Juan all my life when I was in Manila.  Now that I’m in New York, the place I keep coming back to is Erap Country.  Greenhills has evolved before my very eyes — I used to pass it every day for the first 13 years of my life as I went to school in St. Paul College of Pasig.  Even when I transferred to St. Paul College of Quezon City for High School (they started high school in Pasig after my batch), I would stop by and get supplies for school projects, just have merienda or gallivant with my friend Donna in tow.

I was there when The Music Museum burned down.  As it was a mere 5 minutes’ drive away, I remember my siblings and I drove to watch the fire from the parking lot.

When I returned to Manila this year, I was there on my second day shopping for groceries in Unimart.  I had my chicken feet and congee at Luk Yuen, and lo and behold, Virra Mall was totally unrecognizable.

Seeing how Greenhills has evolved makes me feel old.  Yet I still remember the feeling of security being there used to evoke.  It used to be that you could roam without having to worry about crowds.  (Those were the pre-tiangge days of old!)  Celebrities and personalities milled about without fear of being mobbed or being stared at. 

The good old reliables are still there.. Choc full O’nuts (and yes, I did have the siopao and the yema as planned).. Regina’s (and I did take a peek..).. Unimart.. but the place is now overcrowded and has a different air about it.  It was also the last place I visited before settling down to pack my bags and return to New York.

It sure has evolved into a colorful and livelier place — the tiangge is part of its magic.  What I like most is the fact that they now have a real chapel in the area where there used to be a bigger fishpond.  While they used to hold mass in one corner of the shopping center, now they hold it in a rightful place of worship, where people can stop a while and say a prayer.


Putting things in perspective

There I was sitting on the 7 train to Grand Central Station, lost in thought (again), when a thirty-ish man neatly dressed in casual clothes started addressing the train passengers.  (This is a common occurrence in the subways of NYC.)  He had recently suffered a stroke and was visibly physically impaired, but he spoke as clearly as he could to let us know his family was in need of some financial assistance as his Social Security Check could barely cover his rent.  He still couldn’t work as he was undergoing physical therapy  6 1/2 hours 3x a week.  He presented his case clearly and succintly and before the next stop, I fished out a dollar and so did 3 or 4 others in my car.

He was profuse with his thanks and blessings.  All I could think of was this could be my brother who had 2 children himself.  Meeting this man on the way home helped me put things in perspective. It did not exactly make me feel good about my own personal burden, but it made me appreciate my situation better. 

Must be someone trying to send me a message again.  I’m not listening hard enough these days — but I’m working on that.



WHERE and IN New York

Two former batchmates of mine visited New York while I was in Manila, and now one of my dearest friends, Donna (based in Australia) has told me she is visiting New York next year.

I am all excited telling her about the New York I know and love.  The Pinay New Yorker is a perpetual tourist in this city teeming with life 24/7.  There’s always a hundred things going on everywhere, you will never run out of things to do.

If you’re visiting New York, try to get a copy of WHERE and IN NEW YORK, two travel/tourist magazines that are free in Manhattan.  They will give you a good glimpse of what’s happening in the city and what choices are open to you.  They beat shelling out money for Fodors (which I recommend only if you are staying longer than a weekend!), although you can always go to their website and see their recommended tours.

I got a copy of the two magazines and will be busily annotating them to send to Donna, something I will do every two to three months until we nail down when exactly her family will come visiting.

The easiest place to get these magazines are the hotels in Manhattan, or if you find yourself in Grand Central Station, walk to the Visitor Information booth by the Vanderbilt hall entrance from the main hall.

It was Adobo last night

I came home to some Adobo simmering on the stove.  My mother-in-law so kindly cooked dinner and we had a hearty meal.  My Tinola will have to wait another time.

And yes, Dheena, I can get the papaya easily, but I already have the chayote in my fridge.  It’s nice to try and tweak the flavors of local recipes sometimes, like how I would use merlot instead of vinegar for Adobo.  (Ces, have you tried experimenting with that?)

Cooking is a continuing learning experience for me.  It’s a hidden talent that was heretofore undiscovered until I landed here in New York, and I always approach it with the enthusiasm of a kindergarten student tackling finger painting.  You never know how pretty a picture you can paint, or how yummy something so simple can turn out to be.  But no matter how it turns out, you end up feeling good doing something you like.