53 years ago, he came into this world, and then he left just as quickly as he did. I never met him, and yet in my heart of hearts, I know him. From time to time, he would visit me in my dreams in some form or other, and I would know it was him even if I knew he was in heaven already .. He would just say hello, and sometimes he would hug me.. and in that dream, the tears would come because I missed him so dearly. I knew I always had a Kuya who was always watching over me. So I know that though he is an angel in heaven, he is always with me, forever holding my hand. Life would have been so different with you around.. Happy birthday, Kuya Silvano.

#ThingsToDoIn2015: August update

Blog graphicI have been meaning to do a self check of this list for a couple of weeks now, but the trip home (yes, the second this year) and life in general, have gotten in the way.. My last update was in March (the first quarter), in reference to my first post at the beginning of the year.  It just feels but fitting to check on how I’m doing from time to time to actually get things going.  So where are we so far?

1.  Read six books. – Progress… I actually managed to finish a book while in Manila (Yay!) and am hoping to get on with my second… and I am positive I will make the 6 as promised.  It was actually refreshing to work through a book at a leisurely pace (read: mostly bathroom reading) and still enjoy a fresh read.  I have some serious material to go through in the next couple of weeks and hope to do some real reading to complete my goal of 6.

2. Take a trip to visit old girlfriends from SPCP/SPCQC — on my own — so that’s either Boston or California. – With two trips home and hardly any vacation days left, I’m going to edit this one and revise it to be just a simple meet up nearby — for now.  Planning something with some fellow Paulinians in my neck of the woods in the next couple of weeks.  Maybe a brunch or drinks?  Just to reconnect.

3. Do another craft fair and learn new techniques.  (Visit one, not sell in one.) – There’s only one more left for the year from my favorite craft fair organizers, Heirloom Productions, and it’s this October in York, PA.  So I’m a little iffy about even going given that I have a ton of craft projects on my planning board right now — and going will be craft heaven for me, but it will throw my current plans out of whack.  So unless there’s a craft fair closer to home, I think I will end up passing up on this one.

4. Take my little guy to ComicCon 2015.  (A request that was made in March and which Mommy committed to make happen.. ) – I would’ve wanted to buy tickets early but I wasn’t able to.  (Epic fail, I know..)  But all hope is not lost —  I’m still waiting on Midtown Comics to announce when they will sell tickets — and I’m almost afraid to even make a plan to go and grab a pair for my little guy and I when they do.  Everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — seems to be waiting on the big day because they are the only source for tickets this year that will still sell any.  Best effort..

5. Take at least one actual class beyond online.  (Yes, Elaine.) –  With the fall term coming upon me soon, I need to make a decision.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve made a decision to try and learn how to sew, but I need to have my sewing machine serviced first.  (I do well by hand, but I need the real deal to make what I hope to make.)

6.  Watch at least 1 concert — hopefully Billy Joel’s at Madison Square Garden.. – It looks like Billy Joel won’t be this year.  Still hopeful.. still planning.

7.  Watch at least 1 play or musicale on Broadway.  And I saw God… =)  Actually made a spur of the moment decision (budget be damned!) to watch “ACT OF GOD” with the fabulous Jim Parsons via TKTS.  I landed on the front row and right in the middle within kissing and spitting distance, but so LOVED every moment of it.

8.  Go to the gym at least once a week — and maybe even earn a locker!  (Go 10x the previous month and you get YOUR OWN LOCKER the following month.) – Uhm.. next please.

9. Lose another 10 lbs at least before April.  (Lost over 20 in 2014!) – While I had managed to keep my weight at bay through most of the middle of the year, the trip home always throws me off and I am currently in the process of trying to lose all that I gained.  Not a happy topic to discuss but I’m not killing myself over this one.  It’ll happen — soon enough.

10. Tweet/Instagram at least one positive thought every week.  (I thought “everyday” would be too big a commitment to make.) – I haven’t been keeping tabs, but I think I’ve been pretty good with this one.

11.  Find a rehearsal studio and actually spend an hour just touching the piano keys again. – Music sheet… check.  Rehearsal studio research… check.  (Found me one nearby..)  BUT — haven’t quite gotten down to this.  Promise, before winter.

12. Spend a Saturday a month, on my own,just roaming NYC or some other place nearby.  (Do something “only in New York”..) – This, I’m very proud to say, I’ve been very good at.  Even made it to Brooklyn Heights last weekend.. YAY!

13. Leave one preloved book out in the open once a month for someone else to enjoy/read. – It’s probably because I’m such a book lover that I find it so hard to part with my books — at all.  But again, I want to get this going, specially in the spirit of finding a home for the books I would rather not keep.

14. Destash: Give 5 items away from my current stash (clothes, books, art supplies, postcards) every month. – Still trying to get this down pat… like I had written a few months back, I have been good with the “give away” part, but have been slow on the 5.  I have successfully set aside half a balikbayan box full of Angelo’s clothes — time to do mine again.  I did a first wave sweep in March before my first trip home April 2015, but I have been finding others that I need to give away to someone else who would have better use of it.  Plus I’ve been shrinking in size, so I need to stick to the smaller and leaner me…

15. Write one letter long-hand every month. –  Yes, still happily writing.

While most of my list remains in the “to do” section of my life, I think I’ve made quite a bit of progress given where I was last year.  I’ll say it again, I’m in a much better and happier place.  One of the lessons I’ve learned is that “better” is not always synonymous with “happier”.  But that doesn’t mean they cannot be used in the same sentence or spoken in the same breath.  It’s a matter of choice, a matter of priorities —  namely, prioritizing yourself above the other more important things you feel should go before you even think of you.  And after a long, long while when I thought self sacrifice was the ultimate in motherhood and a person’s existence, I have let go and can say I am better and yes, happier.  One last quarter to go and we’ll check back at the start of 2016 and see.  Getting there…


My Travel Essentials

I have lived in New York City for 15 years now, and I believe I’ve taken as many long haul trips– mostly to home (the Philippines). I have around 4 other international trips involving other destinations, and the others were a smattering of trips I’m too lazy to try and count right now. But through the years, I’ve refined and narrowed down the things to bring and do while spending long hours between destinations, and have defined a routine as well as my “must pack essentials” for my carry on.

I’ve seen similar lists and don’t mean to knock anyone’s down, but I’ve found some suggestions helpful and hope that mine would be helpful for someone as well.  Remember that these are just suggestions and not commercial endorsements.  I actually use and buy the products mentioned.

Here are the things I always travel with, more so for the long haul flights home. It’s a pretty basic list which I have gathered simply out of habit and not necessity.  As long as I leave the house armed with the following in my carry on luggage, I’ll survive the trip, come what may.
1. My go-to medication plus a bandaid or two. I don’t travel with a full first aid kit.. not even a mini one.  Allergy meds and my pain reliever of choice are a lifesaver, more so since I usually end up with very little, if not no sleep at all, the night before a trip home. (Which means a major headache during the trip.)  Not all international airports like Seoul Incheon International will have a pharmacy in site– and that is such a relief when you forget your painkiller of choice.  I have also had at least one bad experience of being trapped inside an airplane with an allergen (lady next to me was sniffing and sneezing, too) and the handy allergy meds in my purse helped alleviate the discomfort. Allergy meds are also essential if you are traveling with a younger child who reacts to food occasionally like my 11-year-old. That is the reason I always have one tablet in my wallet and we always have the same in the car. (The Pinay New Yorker takes Claritin and Aleve.)

2. My face cleaning and moisturizing regimen in travel size portions in one ziploc bag or vanity case. I don’t travel fully made up but I hate leaving my face with any layer of make up overnight, even if my evening is virtual as its spent on the plane. I usually take everything off before I hit la-la land and then reapply an hour before landing.  This will allow your skin to breathe and rest. Travel is not an excuse to torture it with extended wear! If I come on board with just powder and no foundation, I would usually put on a layer of moisturizer before I sleep to refresh my skin. No, I don’t do facial sprays. My routine has always been to cleanse and then moisturize. Whether your moisturizer is Oil of Olay, baby oil or a more complicated concoction, I find that it helps me to sleep better and arrive well rested at my destination. (The Pinay New Yorker uses a medley of products from The Body Shop.)

3. Travel size your toiletries. No. 2 would require you to grab those travel set containers. Most dollar stores, pharmacies and superstores carry them, and you can even customize your kits from specialty stores like Muji and Beabi.  I got this nice set from one of the pharmacies here which has proved to be very versatile because of the choices that the varied sized containers give you.  Try not to keep buying travel size toiletries every time you travel. If you do, buy the brands and products you use so you can refill them from your regular sized supplies at home when they run out. I find though that most travel size items are still a tad too much for overnights or trip size portions. They can be bulky and difficult to fit in your purse even if they comply with the 3 ounce requirement.

Do make sure to fill them up or refill them a day or so before your trip because they can be time-consuming and messy if done in a rush. Fill them to the lid, and wrap the containers containing thinner liquids like your toner in plastic wrap if you have experienced spillage caused by cabin pressure before.

4. Always carry wipes and tissues and a pocket sized sanitizer to clean up messes or when you just have to sanitize. Accidents do happen on board, during or after meals. While the cabin crew will assist, you would want to be ready.

5. Accessories to keep you comfy and warm. Don’t shoot me but I don’t travel with a neck pillow. For some reason, I haven’t been able to find one I’m comfy with so I dispense with lugging one on board. During flights, “comfy” to me means keeping warm. So instead, I make sure I travel with a scarf big enough to cover my head and face with for sleeping (yes, I’m one of those who sometimes ends up sleeping with my mouth open when I sleep seated.). In addition, I bring a larger handkerchief like my precious tubao to tie around my neck. Even in the winter months, I sleep with a kerchief because I just get cold that way very quickly otherwise.

Because I choose to travel with comfy shoes and I don’t need socks during the summer, I bring a pair of leg warmers just to keep my legs what else– warm. A pair of socks is a good alternative, but that only takes care of my feet and not my legs. (I’m old, there!)

When I can, I travel in a sweater or jacket with a hoodie, but that is out of the question when I travel during the summer like today. I would bring a season-appropriate jacket which I may or may not wear to the airport. I have also found that bringing an extra layering shirt in my tote has been wise given how they keep the plane cabins cold. (Read; freezing.). Bring something light enough not to crowd your purse — just in case you choose not to use it. Sometimes a simple second shirt can actually make the difference even when you’re wearing a jacket or sweater.

6. Snacks of your choice. I have been traumatized by my initial trip to New York 15 years ago when the plane ran out of breakfast as the last meal between my connecting from Tokyo to Michigan before hitting New York. Be it s powerbar, a small bag of nuts or a candy bar, bring some.  Don’t bring a whole basketful as if you were going on a picnic, though, and be mindful of flight restrictions on the kind of food allowed past the security check.  I am also mindful of not bringing anything pungent or offensive smelling, so as not to be  nuisance to others around me.

7. A book, magazine in hard copy or on an electronic device — and something to write on and with if you write a lot like I do. This trip, I have brought a scratch notebook of sorts to scribble anything and everything on.  In addition, I packed a blank notebook to scribble on.  I always make sure I have at least 2 pens, but make sure all my pens are together in either a Ziploc bag or a pencilcase.  Some pens tend to bleed when the cabin is pressurized so be careful when you set the pen down on your writing medium of choice.

Travel is something that I have found enjoyable for the simple fact that it takes me — literally — from one place to the next.  And moving from the familiar to something different every once in a while is always worth the trouble it may entail.  Here’s to my next trip, wherever that may be.


Touchdown Manila

I’ve actually been here a couple of days, just taking things slow and trying to enjoy the down time.  While I was just here in April to attend a wedding, this time it was a spur of the moment decision we had made for Angelo to finally get his long-requested summer stay in Manila.  We had always timed our trips to coincide with the holidays, and that meant arriving for his vacation with a homework packet.  It was understandably a dampener to what would have been a period of fun and relaxation. 

The flight home.  For the first time, I flew our national carrier, Philippine Airlines — and while I had wanted to fly my usual airlines (KoreanAir, Cathay Pacific), I had to adjust to the travel arrangements Angelo already had because he had flown 5weeks before I did.  (Long story short, I didn’t get to choose this flight.)  I had flown PAL many times before domestically, and even as recent as last April when we all hied off to Cebu for that beautiful wedding where I stood as godmother.  I liked that trip, but this last one left much to be desired.

It helped that I had set my expectations low, so I wasn’t surprised that the plane seemed to be old and worn.  I have complete faith in the crews that fly PAL, so I told myself, as long as they get me to Manila, I’m fine.  And get me here, they did.  So I am grateful to the professionalism of the two crews who flew us first to Vancouver, and then the second crew who actually brought us home.

The food was typical PAL, and better than most served on American flights.  My two favorite airlines, though, are favorites, partly because of their inflight dining menu.  Give me the KoreanAir Bibimbap anytime!  (And they do give it at every meal.. which means a two-time serving on a long haul each way.)  I arrived okay — not starving — but we don’t fly for the gastronimic experience.

Yet, all was not lost, and this is the reason I decided to devote a good portion of this post to the flight.  Kudos to the crews that flew on PR127 from New York to Manila via Vancouver on July 31, 2015.  You are the saving grace of this airline.  I got efficient and courteous service (expected), and very generous help when requested.  So forget that the control panel on my armrest kept falling out (no, I did not get electrocuted and it WAS working even if hanging by the wires, literally.), and that there was this tiny screen hanging from certain vantage points on the plane.  Blame it on being spoiled by every other airline I’ve flown in recent years who had individual screens in front of me — whether I was flying state to state or overseas.  (Even Aer Lingus had this!)

Whether I went to the galley to request for a drink, or ask permission to open the porthole by the rear door to snap a picture, I got my answer with a smile.  Even my water was poured with such grace I couldn’t help but wonder if they had practiced that motion during training.  No matter that the menu offering had to be repeated to every person on every row, the question as to your meal of choice was asked with a smile, and without the smirk that made you feel like you were being stupid for asking him something about the meal.  (Meal service, apparently, is not a favorite chore among most flight attendants..)  I wanted to tell them all that they did a good job, but I was busy lugging my luggage down the very narrow passageways and trying to wish the pain in my behind away — grateful I was finally home.

NAIA Terminal 2 – hmmmmmm… All these years, I’ve flown in and out of the same international airport in Manila — and it was an experience I almost dread, but not because of the fact that the airport was really dated.   This particular airport is not a happy place for me except when I arrive — so I have mixed feelings about plopping down into unchartered territory, landing in Terminal 2.

First, there was the immigration line which was always a coin toss between having “long lines” and “VERY long lines”.  I guess I was lucky my flight didn’t arrive with everyone else, so while there was a wait, it wasn’t unbearably long.  A couple of years ago, I got caught during the automation switch of the Bureau of Immigration, and I had to agonize through a two-hour wait with Angelo in tow before we were cleared for the gate.  He was probably 2 or 4 then, so I was actually in line with a young boy on a stroller.  We inched slowly to the front and when I was finally there in front of the Immigration officer, I painfully watched him try to navigate the system.

So you can imagine my surprise when I landed with an older immigration officer who not only processed me with speedy efficiency –but he also rendered courteous and friendly service.  That I am actually raving about it here should prove how impressed I was.  I even sent a direct message to the current Commissioner to make sure that I got the praise recorded officially.. Thank you, Immigration officer Tabao.. Job well done!  We always hear about the “bad eggs” — it’s good to hear about the good ones from time to time..

I walked through the new arrival lanes to the baggage claim area which looked new and promising, until I found myself waiting for my luggage which didn’t come out until after an hour.  Thank God, Immigration sped me through — I had happy memories to keep me preoccupied while I twiddled my thumbs as I lay in wait for the carousel to start showing us bags.  I got to meet an OFW from Vancouver who was hoping his luggage would come out before his wife’s flight from Hong Kong arrived.  (I think he beat her arrival by a few minutes.)  I met a nun who was home for the first time in 15 years, but sadly, to attend her brother’s funeral.  We spoke to each other quite a bit and had a few laughs, and then I saw one of my bags appear and I excused myself.  (Second and third bags appeared almost a half hour later.)  I would’ve met more but my brother started pinging me he was near.. where will he get me?  I suddenly missed the lettered zone in the old airport.

I found the “Bays” and let him know where I was.  (very short spans, though.)  I got into his car and his first concern was whether or not I was hungry — and thanks to the Chicken Tocino from PAL, I was good.. I didn’t realize that the trek home to San Juan would take 3 — YES, THREE – hours.. so you can imagine, I was famished by the time I got home and gave everyone else a hug.  I knew I was back in Manila — traffic and all.

No matter what the hassles and how my behind kept reminding me throughout the trip how long a journey it was, I am always happy to be home with friends and family.  And as they say now, it’s always more fun in the Philippines!