Home again

I’m back in New York and feeling a tad bit nostalgic about the home I just left again.  Manila for three weeks is never enough.  Manila for any stretch of time just doesn’t sate the thirst to be back where I grew up — amongst the family who nurtured me through the years, my family here in the big apple notwithstanding.  There are just choices that stick with you and remind you about what you gave up in exchange for your gains.

No regrets.  It’s just that  leaving Manila is always bittersweet.

I arrived at night and saw my first daylight this Friday.  I looked up at the skies when I stepped out to grab some groceries and saw this picture of a blue sky.  The trees are now bare, ready to receive the onslaught of the cold.  The cold wind greeted me with a sharp kiss to the cheek.  I’m home again, indeed.

I tell myself I made a lot of strides this homecoming even if it seemed everything was laid back and slow.  I got to spend a lot of time with the people who really mattered.  I may not have left the confines of Metro Manila but I saw more of it than the previous visits home.  I saw less people but got to see the people I really wanted to spend time with.  So forget that I didn’t even step into the hallways of Megamall, or that I didn’t get to go to Quiapo or Divisoria this time — I felt like I had accomplished as much if not more than previous visits when I did.

The Road Home

This is one of two views that I see when I stand outside the home I grew up in.  It is where the road to home literally ends.  I have walked to and from and traveled to and from this road countless times.  It is now a busier street — a favorite shortcut between two major thoroughfares — but the road basically still looks the same.  Except for a handful of high-rise buildings, things are unchanged.

So in a few days, I will say goodbye to this road once again.  I am looking to return in another 2 years — give or take a few months.

I hate the “leaving Manila” part every time my vacation comes to an end.  I don’t mind the long flight home to New York so much.  It’s the people, things and places that tug at my heart each time I set foot on the airport departure area to board the plane taking me back to the place I’ve called home for 11 years now.

If you ask me, THIS is my home.  But for the last 11 years, I have started anew in the big apple — raising a family.  Someone told me there’s the career to consider — but the truth of it is, work is work.  My career is motherhood. =)  I’ll be coming home in the thick of winter, shifting from comfortably cool to horribly cold — and it’s like reality hitting me straight in the face.

Of course there will  be other homecomings… other opportunities to make that favorite trip back to things familiar and loved.

What matters more

I used to have an action packed, booked solid vacation every time I went for a homecoming here in Manila.  I did that maybe for the first two or three times I vacationed here, making sure breakfast, coffee before lunch, lunch, merienda, dinner and drinks were covered.  I stuck to a schedule and saw as many people as I could.  I scheduled it so that venues were adjacent to each other.  I might be having breakfast in Greenbelt 1, then I move to Greenbelt 5 for lunch, etc.

It was fun and I saw a lot of friends, but I ended up terribly stressed and harrassed.  Fatigue would catch me at the end of the day and I still ended up missing an appointment or two because sometimes things got rescheduled or I missed something.

My last real vacation before this current one was December 2009.  My schedule was thrown out of whack because my father had to be rushed to the hospital before Christmas and that had me ending up staying an extra week making it a month-long vacation with Angelo.  (Alan left earlier than Angelo and me.)  I couldn’t schedule anything because my own was dependent on what was happening to my Dad and where I was needed.  I had tried going with Alan and Angelo to the Tagaytay Highlands on the invitation of Alan’s friend, but I ended up staying all night waiting for our hostess to wake up so I can have her driver bring me to town so I can go home to Dad who had to have emergency surgery.

One lesson I learned from that trip was that although I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, and I didn’t see as many people as I could have, a more fluid schedule allowed me the chance to actually enjoy my vacation more.  There was less stress, less pressure.  I allowed myself to reschedule.  Since the meet ups were not one after the other, it was easy to accommodate meetings that ran over.  If I was having fun or particularly enjoying the company of a friend or group of friends, I didn’t feel short changed as I didn’t have to cut the meetings short.

I might’ve overdone it this visit, though, as I found myself spending more time just relaxing than heading out and meeting up with friends.  I’ve even kept the meetings with relatives to the minimum.  I feel like it’s a regular vacation back in the US where I wake up at leisure and do things without any pressure.  (Save for the long lines and all the walking in DisneyWorld every time we go..)  I take it a day at a time, planning spontaneously.  Maybe it helped that everyone else has been so busy, so they haven’t been asking for time to spend together.  This has allowed me to enjoy my vacation more.

Just five more days and I go back to New York.  Leaving Manila is always bittersweet for me, but all I do is just think about the next vacation and that tides me through.

A favorite song: Somewhere Only We Know by Keane

Here’s a song from Keane I’ve always considered a favorite for its haunting melody and message and I’m uploading for the benefit of a friend who just discovered the song recently.

Around a year later, Lifehouse did a cover of the song and here it is:

I can’t quite make up my mind about which version I like better but both are haunting and just as addicting to listen to.  It just sticks with you.

Somewhere Only We Know

Songwriters: Chaplin, Tom; Hughes, Richard; Rice-Oxley, Tim;

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete

Oh simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?

Oh simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go somewhere only we know?
Somewhere only we know

Oh simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go? So why don’t we go?

Oh, this could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go somewhere only we know?
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know

Blogging at PinayNewYorker.com

Food must have: Suman

I have a list of food and food outlets I must seek out and make sure to try every time I make the journey home.  Suman sa liya is one of them.  Unlike the other food items I seek out from specific outlets, I specifically look for the street variety suman from the market denizens and other itinerant vendors I bump into in the streets.

It’s a delicacy made of sticky rice and steamed to perfection wrapped in banana leaves.  It is generally not sweet and is mixed either with a creamy sauce of diluted  panutsa, or like I prefer, I mix it into shredded coconut and sugar (or in my case, Splenda.)

My mom would usually bring me some from a trip to church to hear mass or from the market, and we’d sit down and share this for breakfast.  I’ve had at least two versions since I arrived a week ago, and although one was different from the other, the feeling the food evokes and the sensation of actually biting into the yummy delicacy is as good each time.

I remember how I had always looked forward to the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) kakanin sale every first Sunday of the month at the Mount Carmel Church where I always got some suman as my weekend treat decades ago.  (Wondering if they still hold this to this day..)  It’s that kind of treat that you can’t quite get anywhere else with the same kind of oomph, no matter how they try to replicate the delicacy.


Pandesal for Angelo

Angelo, my 7-year-old tyke, has taken a liking to pandesal.  Whether it’s the one from the neighborhood bakery or from Pan De Manila over at Ortigas, he’s taken a liking first to the inner portion and of late, the toasted crust.  He has enjoyed taking a tricycle during the mornings that we bought the day’s supply and I’m beginning to worry about how I will deal with his cravings once we are back in New York.

He eats it not just for breakfast but for merienda (snack) as well.  It’s such a thrill for me to see him acquire a taste for something local and yet ordinary like pandesal.  Of course we have our versions in New York, but it’s not quite the same.  It’s not as soft, chewy nor as delicious.  The real thing back here still beats their American versions.

He likes it so much that his “can’t-live-without” goldfish crackers have stayed untouched for the past week we’ve been home.  (And to think I brought a ton for baon.)

He’s also back to Nuggets with Rice at McDonald’s.  (Only in Manila!)

I wish he could imbibe the language quicker, though, although it seems he’s starting to pick up phrases faster.  Three weeks just is never enough..

Random on the Blackberry Cam

I know I should’ve whipped out my regular cam but was too lazy to fish it out of my tote. So instead I took the blackberry out and snapped a pic.  My blackberry cam is better than its predecessors but the low light and the quick snap doesn’t do this awesome sight justice.

I was walking around THE FORT last night with my sister Ofie, trying to check out a possible condo/hotel but I guess the place was more of an extended stay facility rather than something for transients like us.  It looks like we’re sticking to our original plan.

Tastes that bring me the flavor of home

It’s the time of the year for bibingka and puto bumbong — but it’s the everyday taste of Manila that truly brings me home.

Tonight, it was balut.  My sister and I were waiting for the kids to return from a screening of Arthur Christmas when I heard the call resonate from somewhere down the street.  I called back.. and before I knew it, I was sitting down enjoying the juicy delicacy of you know what.  (No sense grossing out the uninitiated.)

I wasn’t always a fan of balut but learned to savor its delicate and filling flavor back in the day when law books kept me company into the wee hours of the morning.  Did it have a placebo effect on me, I wonder.  I, of course, was one of the many believers that it gave you stamina.  As they say it in the vernacular, pampatigas ng tuhod.  But now I simply love it for its taste.  Plus the fact that while they are offered by some Asian and Filipino stores back in the big apple, they are not quite as flavorful nor as enjoyable coming from a cloth lined basket from whence it came tonight.  Yum!

I waited for the taho vendor this morning but he did not come — probably owing to the heavy rains.  Maybe I’ll get lucky tomorrow.  Sure hope so!

Almost home

I am trying to put in my first post about this homecoming as I round up my almost 18 hour trip home to Manila.  I am looking at the mountains that are visible from the Hong Kong International Airport, listening to Christmas carols piping through the sound system, and random chatter between some senior citizens who, like Angelo and I are coming home for the holidays.

Any homecoming is special to me no matter how many times I’ve made the trip home since I moved to the big apple in 2000.  Christmas in the Philippines, as Lou had said, are “incomparable”.  Indeed.

There’s this feeling of excitement that envelopes me each time I make that penultimate stop before landing in Manila.  Can’t wait.


It was a rather foggy morning that greeted me as i walked out the door.  It felt like it was still early in the day when I actually started walking to the bus stop at a few minutes past 7am.

Rain they said, so I walked out wearing my polka-dotted rainboots.  (Better to be unglamorous rather than unprepared!)

Two days more to go.  In a sense I’m in a panic because that means I only have two days to go before I need to schlep everything away.  I feel like I’m unprepared and will end up leaving many things undone or unfinished.  Story of my life.

But I am terribly excited of course. (The thought brought a smile to my face.)