The Long Journey Home

We’re 46 minutes away from landing in Manila and I am excited beyond description. This is a very emotional homecoming for me after not having been able to go home the last three years. My last departure from Manila was in July 2019. My trips in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled because of the pandemic. When restrictions eased and fares went down reasonably, I grabbed the chance to go home.

I just want to see my mom. She’s 82 now and the only reason I have worked so hard to come home every year the years before Covid broke. And she knows I will no longer do the yearly journey when she’s no longer there.

Even with preparations beginning weeks before, I found myself doing more than my share of last minute errands that had to be done. And of course, there were things that I ended up forgetting, like my neck pillow which I had proudly taken for at least three trips back and forth between New York and Manila. It was ready, but I ended up buying a new one anyway.

This has been a very eventful journey.

First mishap was the handle on my balikbayan box breaking before I could even leave the house. Fortunately, it was strictly 50 lbs and so my Uber driver was able to lift it without my help.

I ended up getting lost sending my Uber driver to the wrong terminal at JFK and we had to hop to another two before landing the right one. I’d normally be totally upset after the first miss but I was in the zone and calmly handled the detour as a simple mistake. I had plenty of time, I had already checked in, and I had all possible tests done.. although I had miscalculated the timing.

When I got to the check in counter, I was informed that two of my four checked bags might not make it on this flight because it was full. (Yes, despite the fact that I paid for them.). I was asked to choose the two that I wanted prioritized. I was told the gate personnel would be able to confirm if my bags made it on the plane— but even after I boarded, that information wasn’t available. I guess I will find out when I get to baggage claim.

The boarding process itself wasn’t as chaotic as previous flights, but we had many kababayans grumbling and acting grumpy giving the ground crew such grief. For all their shortcomings, this crew actually performed better than the last few that I went with. I’ve always flown Philippine Airlines since they started offering New York- Manila flights again.

My only beef was they boarded from the front to the back, and I always take an aisle seat in the middle section at the far end. I will write about my logic behind that in a different post. It seemed more efficient to board in reverse order after the First Class passengers had boarded, but who was I to argue? I just wanted to board.

I got my seat without issue and my three seat row only had two passengers. Myself and a big burly guy in the middle. I told myself he will probably move to the other aisle seat when everyone got settled, but he didn’t. My thinking is he took the aisle seat because he didn’t like being jostled at the aisle, so instead he jostled me.

The crew for this flight was definitely better than the last crew I flew with who gave the passengers the cold shoulder, sans the usual efficient service. This crew was friendly, courteous, responsive and showed me they enjoyed what they did, despite flying with a full plane for 17 hours. Kudos to the crew who handled the second half of the cabin, most specially to Ma. Gizella Gonzaga. I made sure I got her name — displayed on her name plate— because I like recognizing good service. Not only was she so pretty even behind her mask— she served the passengers with a smile in her eyes, and she was not stingy with pleasantries or small talk. She addressed the passengers warmly, both in English and Tagalog. That’s the kind of service that we look for when we shell out our hard earned money to fly home. I am sure the group of seamen seated to the left of my section felt the same way.

The food was welcoming and homey.. from the adobo and then the pasta with meatballs, down to the corned beef with rice for breakfast. Drinks were plentiful and were supplied with meals and on demand. The common bathrooms were well maintained despite the constant flow of people. I’ve flown flights were the bathroom floor got nasty midway through the flight. This never got anywhere close

The group of seamen to my left were counting the hours as indicated by the flight tracker on the individual screens we each had. So after breakfast, I casually asked one how long he’s been away. He said 42 days. I told him he’s lucky. I haven’t been home in three years.

Like I always do, I changed from my cold weather clothes ( a turtleneck this time) to something more apt for the warmer temperatures in Manila. I put on just enough color on my face – just lipstick and eyeliner. I collected ng things in the bins in front of me and braced myself for touchdown.

I’m watching the sunrise across three men to my left and I am full of emotion. It feels good to be home. I am exhausted and ready to crash but I feel my adrenaline beginning to build. Mama must be as excited. My brother and niece are meeting me at the airport, and I am hoping all my 4 checked in luggage will meet me at baggage claim.

I can’t wait to breathe the air of my homeland.. to be in the midst of my people and the heat and traffic that goes with it. I can’t wait to be with family. Headache from lack of sleep notwithstanding, I am stoked.

Manila, I’m coming home.

The Long Journey Home

We’re 46 minutes away from landing in Manila and I am excited beyond description. This is a very emotional homecoming for me after not having been able to go home the last three years. My last departure from Manila was in July 2019. My trips in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled because of the pandemic. When restrictions eased and fares went down reasonably, I grabbed the chance to go home.

I just want to see my mom. She’s 82 now and the only reason I have worked so hard to come home every year the years before Covid broke. And she knows I will no longer do the yearly journey when she’s no longer there.

Even with preparations beginning weeks before, I found myself doing more than my share of last minute errands that had to be done. And of course, there were things that I ended up forgetting, like my neck pillow which I had proudly taken for at least three trips back and forth between New York and Manila. It was ready, but I ended up buying a new one anyway.

This has been a very eventful journey.

First mishap was the handle on my balikbayan box breaking before I could even leave the house. Fortunately, it was strictly 50 lbs and so my Uber driver was able to lift it without my help.

I ended up getting lost sending my Uber driver to the wrong terminal at JFK and we had to hop to another two before landing the right one. I’d normally be totally upset after the first miss but I was in the zone and calmly handled the detour as a simple mistake. I had plenty of time, I had already checked in, and I had all possible tests done.. although I had miscalculated the timing.

When I got to the check in counter, I was informed that two of my four checked bags might not make it on this flight because it was full. (Yes, despite the fact that I paid for them.). I was asked to choose the two that I wanted prioritized. I was told the gate personnel would be able to confirm if my bags made it on the plane— but even after I boarded, that information wasn’t available. I guess I will find out when I get to baggage claim.

The boarding process itself wasn’t as chaotic as previous flights, but we had many kababayans grumbling and acting grumpy giving the ground crew such grief. For all their shortcomings, this crew actually performed better than the last few that I went with. I’ve always flown Philippine Airlines since they started offering New York- Manila flights again.

My only beef was they boarded from the front to the back, and I always take an aisle seat in the middle section at the far end. I will write about my logic behind that in a different post. It seemed more efficient to board in reverse order after the First Class passengers had boarded, but who was I to argue? I just wanted to board.

I got my seat without issue and my three seat row only had two passengers. Myself and a big burly guy in the middle. I told myself he will probably move to the other aisle seat when everyone got settled, but he didn’t. My thinking is he took the aisle seat because he didn’t like being jostled at the aisle, so instead he jostled me.

The crew for this flight was definitely better than the last crew I flew with who gave the passengers the cold shoulder, sans the usual efficient service. This crew was friendly, courteous, responsive and showed me they enjoyed what they did, despite flying with a full plane for 17 hours. Kudos to the crew who handled the second half of the cabin, most specially to Ma. Gizella Gonzaga. I made sure I got her name — displayed on her name plate— because I like recognizing good service. Not only was she so pretty even behind her mask— she served the passengers with a smile in her eyes, and she was not stingy with pleasantries or small talk. She addressed the passengers warmly, both in English and Tagalog. That’s the kind of service that we look for when we shell out our hard earned money to fly home. I am sure the group of seamen seated to the left of my section felt the same way.

The food was welcoming and homey.. from the adobo and then the pasta with meatballs, down to the corned beef with rice for breakfast. Drinks were plentiful and were supplied with meals and on demand. The common bathrooms were well maintained despite the constant flow of people. I’ve flown flights were the bathroom floor got nasty midway through the flight. This never got anywhere close

The group of seamen to my left were counting the hours as indicated by the flight tracker on the individual screens we each had. So after breakfast, I casually asked one how long he’s been away. He said 42 days. I told him he’s lucky. I haven’t been home in three years.

Like I always do, I changed from my cold weather clothes ( a turtleneck this time) to something more apt for the warmer temperatures in Manila. I put on just enough color on my face – just lipstick and eyeliner. I collected ng things in the bins in front of me and braced myself for touchdown.

I’m watching the sunrise across three men to my left and I am full of emotion. It feels good to be home. I am exhausted and ready to crash but I feel my adrenaline beginning to build. Mama must be as excited. My brother and niece are meeting me at the airport, and I am hoping all my 4 checked in luggage will meet me at baggage claim.

I can’t wait to breathe the air of my homeland.. to be in the midst of my people and the heat and traffic that goes with it. I can’t wait to be with family. Headache from lack of sleep notwithstanding, I am stoked.

Manila, I’m coming home.

When Life gives you lemons..

I’ve had a long day, and I’m slowly trying to get myself set to travel next week, so I haven’t been in any rush to get home. Plus, there’s no rush to cook dinner for the son, because he’s eating at the cafeteria. That part I don’t totally miss, but it’s a routine that is part and parcel of motherhood— so I do pause to remember those days I’d run home.

I changed purses this morning and just as I was about to lock my front door, I did a quick mental run through of whether or not I had transferred my house keys to the one I was lugging. I said to myself, if I didn’t have it, I had a spare set in the office and I can grab those. Of course, I forgot about looking for the keys and I walked out of the office not remembering I actually might’ve locked myself out of the house.

I normally fish for my keys a few stops away from mine, and panic started to set in when I couldn’t find it. I’m carrying a rather roomy tote which wasn’t really full, so it didn’t take me long to figure out I didn’t have them.

After having been on the bus an hour, I desperately needed a bathroom and thankfully, there was a Starbucks at the corner and I ordered my Passion Tea, took care of business and waited for the bus heading to the city. Right on time! And so here I am — wanting to bop myself in the head. It’s a good thing I actually locked up a spare set of keys in my office drawer— specifically for emergencies like this! It’s a few hours wasted but not totally.

Here I am writing, after a WordPress notification that my stats are booming. Nothing too earth shattering, but an uptick in readership from “0” is always a good thing. People actually read me? Lol. It heartens me and inspires me to write more.

Five days since the last post isn’t exactly anything close to my plan to write everyday, but I’m back sooner this time around. And I’ve actually managed a decent piece. (But no, I don’t intend to lose my keys again anytime soon.)

So I did get to make my lemonade.. and then some. I am not sitting in front of the TV catching up on my shows for a change. And I’ve decided I was going to skip editing videos this time around, even if I have quite a few to prep for uploading. I wanted to write about my misadventure with my keys and the half wasted evening.

Half productive as well. There is always some good to the most disappointing of situations — we just have to make them happen or find them and make them work for us.

Here’s to the lemons and the lemonade we make of them.

Reboot for the nth time

So I’ve been meaning to come back here and write, and write some more — but Youtube has been front and center for me, of late, besides the regular things that usually preoccupy me like work and of course, the son.

It’s mostly adjusting to the son now being in college (Yay for the mom in me!), but it has also been a personal adjustment due to the fact that he has left home. Since I want to write an upbeat post, I will save the whining for later.

I am mighty proud of the fact that I managed to get my channel monetized in 4 months — racking up 4,000 watch hours (which translates to 240,000 minutes, mind you!) and just recently, managing to get over the 1,000 subscriber requirement which took quite the effort to achieve. That’s at least 2 blogposts in the making — but I am so over the moon with that accomplishment.

Being a content creator for the web in video format is more challenging than writing here, or posting photos or reels on instagram or tiktok — and the goal to monetize my channel took major effort on my part. So much so that I have neglected my other social media channels. The pressure was on to actually get people to like me — which was not like writing here, where I have always said that I write for my own benefit. I had turned my back on monetizing or commercializing my URLs because I had such a hard time trying to cope with the pressure to attract readership. And on this page or in my other accounts, when and what I posted was really all up to me. I didn’t have to worry about racking up the views, the watch hours or the subcription.

Not with Youtube.

But I made it — and it was rather exhilarating to finally cross the finish line as they said. The journey was not over at that point, though — it just shifted.

New York has gotten colder. Fall is here and life has sort of returned to normal. I’ve been back at work since April of 2021, so coming to the office almost everyday now during the week is not such a jarring change of pace for me. I am grateful I have a job.

I have stopped wearing masks only because of my personal bout with Covid sometime at the start of summer. Science says my antigen levels would be waning by now, so I am actually getting my masks ready again. I am bracing for the flu season, as well. We fifty-somethings and older should take precautions as life has a way of dealing us a reality check about our mortality during this season. (Reminder to self: Flu shot!)

I’m trying to get my life organized — as new goals and changes in my every day have fallen on my lap. I want to undertake a dozen projects to change my physical environment, but other plans are in the way. In time, I tell myself.

I am happy that I’ve been reading more than I had planned — and that I continue to read in print and on audio format. I am in a good place.

I look back at the past year with much gratitude. I’ve been fortunate to have been given the means to cope with the changes that came my way. I had tethered myself to the ground before the shockwaves came, so I stood strong — unfazed. And to be honest, I’ve been spared in many ways. There have been disappointments that have come my way, but nothing that broke me or brought me to my knees. For that, I am grateful. (Another blog post coming about that.)

I’ve learned to treat each day as a gift, and to look towards tomorrow as if it might not come. I’m trying not to fall into the trap of saying, I’ll do this or that tomorrow. Why postpone it when you can do it now? You might end up missing out on the opportunity to grab your chance if you decide to procrastinate.

I was actually here editing my “ME” page — updating my age, the age of the son, and adding the Youtube URL. I was ready to turn off the laptop, but I said, time to write again. And so here I am, fearlessly declaring another reboot. I am almost tempted to declare I will write everyday for the next 30 days. That’s a scary thought for me. I will be back soon. There is just so much I want to write about here. But I have videos to edit and create. How I wish there were more hours in a day.

Pinay New Yorker is back.. I hope you’ll hop on over to my channel and hit the subscribe button. We’re not stopping at 1,000 subscribers. I hope you like my content there, as much as you’ve liked reading about my world here.

Busy with Life

A note from Pinay New Yorker: I had actually finished writing this post Monday, and here I am hitting publish on a Friday.. yes, THAT busy!

I’ve been meaning to write but didn’t realize I haven’t been here a month. It’s a personal disappointment for me that despite all the things I can and wanted to write about, I haven’t taken the time to stop by. I actually started writing a post longhand last Friday, but now have to find that piece of paper and continue writing jr here. Hopefully the remainder of the year will see things taking a turn for the better.

Can you believe that fall is here? It’s the entry of the “ber” months which is the start of the Christmas season for folks back home in the Philippines. Not quite here in New York where we have Halloween and Thanksgiving ahead of my favorite holiday. Plus, we don’t all do Christmas here with the diverse faiths and beliefs so strongly present in New York.

I’ve been busy with transitioning to not having the son around the house, now that he is in college — somewhere not too far, thankfully. I’m actually doing a whole lot better than I thought I would, but it is still a process adjusting. All I know is that I am one proud mum.

He had known what field he wanted to pursue ever since he was in middle school, and he landed his number one choice as he got accepted to all the colleges he applied to. I am very excited for him as he embarks on this new chapter. It hasn’t been without any bumps, however. He is beginning to assert himself and I have to constantly remind myself that the boy is now an adult. But the heart remains the same — and to me, that is quite an accomplishment as a parent. We have our new routine of our daily check in — and calling mum or replying to my texts when he reads them is taking some adjustment, but we’re getting into the rhythm of it.

The postcards have been set aside for the moment, but a big postcard date on October 1 has gotten me back to it for the moment. (More on that on another blogpost— hopefully.)

What’s front and center for me beyond my usual work and motherhood has been my newfound passion as a content creator. (Meaningful pause.). I started to focus on my online presence a difference way beginning in June, and I’ve been seeing the world through a different lens since— literally.

I will leave it at that as I begin this Monday with the optimism of anticipating a productive and good week. I count my blessings and I am in a good place. I hope you are, too, as you look around you and see what good there is, instead of the burdens that weigh you down. Have a fab week ahead.

Bryant Park

BRYANT PARK has always had a special place in my heart because it was a park I frequented when I first arrived in New York, 22 years ago. In fact, I saw it before I even set eyes on Central Park. For the last 14 years or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked first, right across from it, and the last 6 years, literally a hop, skip and a jump away from it.

My countless videos and photos of the park is partly what encouraged me to get on YouTube, and below are two recent clips I’ve uploaded of it. A third went up based on clips from earlier this year when the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain froze again. (That’s a video for another blogpost, but you can hop on over to my channel to view it here.)

I often find myself passing through the park when I need to get my ride from the express bus stop on its Avenue of the Americas side, and even seeing it from a distance evokes a feeling of calm and a sense of home. Within the first few weeks of my arrival here in the US, I would come to the city and stay in the park and go around while waiting for my companion going home. I also spent hours in the New York Public Library fronting it, accessing the internet through their public terminals. You used to be able to use one of their units for 30 minutes each day, as long as you had a valid ID. (Now the library has a “reading room” where you can park at one of their many tables and access the WiFi for free, but using your own device.).

So there were many days when I’d linger in front of the library or stay and sit in one of the many benches, chairs and tables in the park.

I shot my favorite video of all time of a 6 year old Angelo holding a tube of lipstick as a microphone in the park one summer day– which, to this day, warms my heart no end.

I’ve sat across a former boss during one of the toughest times of my life, who gave me one of the best advice I continue to treasure and live by. Sitting across from each other in one of those tables, she told me to make sure that whatever I do or decide in my life should be something I would be able to explain or defend in my son’s eyes.

I’ve walked arm in arm with a friend, all googly eyed, after lunch at Bryant Park Grill, and to this day, he remains a dear friend. I’ve sat in one of these benches with my best friend, Donna, the first time she visited me here in New York. So many memories through the years of relatives and friends I’ve brought to this oasis of calm in the bustling streets of Midtown Manhattan.

You can guess by now that these will not be the last videos of Bryant Park that I will take and post. I’m already excitedly awaiting the winter village and the next time the fountain freezes again.

As we YouTubers say, please don’t forget to like and subscribe!

A late weekend

(This is a late post but wanted to publish it anyway since it’s been a while since I’ve been here.. )

We’ve been given a respite from scorching temperatures the last couple of days, and I’m hoping saying that doesn’t jinx it. The power of words, as some say..

It’s been a rather busy week for me, both personally and professionally. It was one of those weeks were I really felt I earned my paycheck, but not begrudging the fact that I do have a job. I was busy in a good kind of way. It reminds me of a conversation I overheard a few weeks ago in the cafeteria at work, when someone greeted another associate pleasantly with the usual “How ya doin’?” with a heavy hearted “Surviving..”. And it was only Monday! If I ever got to that point, I’d seriously think of looking for a new job. I have been fortunate to be one of those people who actually look forward to Mondays, even if I wish there was a third day to the weekend. This week, we actually got that extra day with the Fourth of July.

I didn’t have any special plans and just stayed home. Plus, I still feel easily fatigued these days, even if my mild bout of Covid ended two weeks ago. I am relieved that that’s all I’m feeling. So I don’t push it. I walk when I can walk — and I only aim for the minimum steps required and not pushing the usual 10,000 steps. As advised, I am listening to my body.

I’m also starting to prepare for the son’s move to college in a few weeks, as the fall term begins. I know he’s all grown and I see a man now where I used to cuddle a boy. Still, the idea of him being away for extended periods of time on a semi permanent basis is something I am still trying to wrap my arms around. Fortunately, he is actually going to be less than an hour away. It’s just that there’s no straight commute to his college of choice, and his Dad and I thought it would be part of his life’s education to actually go through the experience. So I am letting go. But first I need to get myself ready for that day.. getting there, a day at a time.

I’ve also tried to grow the YouTube channel, but subscribers are a tad harder to cultivate than racking up watch minutes. I just try to remind myself that this takes real work, and I have to invest my time and energy to make it grow. (so please subscribe if you haven’t yet! )

Please subscribe to my channel. Thank you!

My weekend officially began Sunday — and I’m finishing this post on my way to the city to watch The Kite Runner which is on a limited run on Broadway. (I’d provide a link but being that it’s a limited run, you will end up with the dreaded dead link..). I had subscribed to the daily alert to rush tickets on the TodayTix app— and I got lucky enough to get a seat to today’s matinee this morning for less than $40. My original plan to attend this month’s Metropolitan Postcard Club meeting had to give way to my vow to watch more shows on Broadway. This is already my third after American Buffalo, which I had second row seats to at the Circle in the Square theater, and Kenny Loggins’ “Still Alright” at the Townhall which was a night of stories and songs, just almost a month ago. (a separate Blogpost coming on these shows.)

It’s been a good couple of weeks that have seen me settle down to a calmer time. I’m getting more clarity on many things that have been on my mind the last couple of weeks. I hope you’re in the same good place where you are.

PinayNewYorker on YouTube

I’ve had the channel for a while, not really quite sure about which one I would focus my efforts on all this time. Yes, I have had the channel, the Gmail account and the domain name because I took them before others could think about using the ID. Way before blogs and vlogs were commonplace, I chose Pinay New Yorker as a monicker because I was literally one- a Filipina who was a New Yorker. While I’m usually shy about branding my web presence with an actual photo, you will find my likeness on the page, just so you don’t get confused with the other accounts that go with a number or other extension.

I’m trying to drum up content for starters and racking up the required watch hours and subscribers. It is not easy to get monetized on YouTube but I thought it was worth a try, given that I’m always documenting this dynamic city I live in. You can never really run out of content here in the city that never sleeps.. it’s a matter of organizing it and getting it out there.

So let me keep this short and introduce you to one of the newer clips I’ve uploaded featuring a place I literally walk into every day I’m at work. Unlike the other clips where I had not really put in captions, I thought I’d play with this one a little and give you my personal recommendations.

Grand Central Market isn’t really a place that many people seek out, despite the huge volume of foot traffic in the terminal itself. I like that it’s not that huge of a place and it has quite an interesting mix of establishments which are not your run-of-the-mill variety. if you’re ever in the neighborhood, this is one place where you can literally pull together things you might need in a dinner for two or a party of friends. From the flowers to the appetizers and main dish and of course, dessert— these stores will be able to give you what you need.

I love it for its visual delight and the atmosphere is just so homey and welcoming. Come visit when you can.

In my prayers

I had started writing a post over the weekend on a totally different topic when, after three paragraphs or blocks, I decided to hit delete and start again from scratch. I’m listening to Himig Heswita as I’m drafting this — and I guess that’s what sort of brought me to a more spiritual slant. (Eternally grateful to the Jesuits for their gift of knowledge in law school and music.)

Sometimes I think about writing and as much as I am dying to put the words to paper, I resist and postpone it for when I can sit and focus on it. That usually means it never gets written — because time has been precious and hard to find. Even blogging has been quite the struggle for me. I have always said how I wish I could write (and read) more. There just isn’t enough time to write all that I want to say.

Just like today. I wanted to write about a conversation over sushi and sashimi last Friday, and how I left that luncheon not just with a happy tummy. I walked back to my perch with a heart that was full. I am struggling with the words to put that together in a coherent post for now— so it’ll have to wait another day.

Then I remembered the husband and wife T and T and prayers. (Reminder to self: letter to T and T. Or even just T. )

Today I write about prayer. I start praying when I walk out the door, as I make my way to the bus stop (which is approximately 6 minutes away) at a leisurely pace. What do I pray for? I reaffirm my faith with The Creed, and then I follow a simple combination of prayers. I used to pray the rosary as I walked and ended it on the bus, but my prayer life has not been as devoted as that in years. Walking out the door with the son has also meant postponing the prayer for when I walk into the church on 43rd, because I end up talking him through what the day will be like. There are times when I put the earphones on and I start listening to the God Minute and I tell him I’m praying, in which case we walk in silence to the bus stop.

Still, I feel like I could pray more and do it with more heart.

Praying

I walk into Church and I stand at the back, mass or no mass. Like I wrote in a post not too long ago, I have a list of friends and relatives with health or emotional challenges I pray for by name. The cousin afflicted with cancer.. my bus driver friend with the tumors that they can’t operate on but which he gets treatment for each month. My siblings, and of course my mom. The mom of a friend who is also undergoing treatment. The grieving bestie at work who recently lost her Dad and has her medical issues. A friend back home who lost his grown son last year. My grade school friend who is trying to overcome cancer. A friend I never met and who found me through this space, fighting cancer for years now. A fellow postcard collector who is battling cancer in a land so far away from home. (I have postcards to write and send!) The friend of a brother trying to live through being HIV positive back home..

So no, I don’t pray to win the lotto — I am too busy trying to remember the ones that need to be on my list. I do pray that I be a good person each day — even if I know I don’t always succeed. I pray for a good day at work.. and then I have a very short list of two people I ask Him to keep safe here on this side of the world, besides my number one guy, the son. I pray that He bring the right people into my world— and to keep those who are not meant to stay, away from me. I pray for those praying in Church with me that very moment..

Sometimes, I do an express version of the list when I’m running really late. I start walking out before I get to the end of my petitions. I figure He would understand. I make the sign of the cross and walk out to start my day. And there are times when I just stand there in silence, not saying anything at all. I am just there — present.

I always remember to be grateful. One of the many retreats I attended in my younger years at St. Paul told us that praying is not just all about asking. It is also about thanking Him. And I thank Him for each and every day.

Last night, as I slept, I spoke in prayer to my older brother who died at birth. My life would be so much different had he lived to be the head of the family now. Four years my senior, he would’ve taken on the cudgels of making the decisions and of moving our brood this way or that. I never knew him growing up, but he would visit me in my dreams where he manifested as this person or other, but I was always aware he was not in the land of the living and he was who he was. And I always cried each time, more so when he hugged me. I was tossing and turning and doing my usual evening prayers. I called out to my “Kuya” (older brother or male relative), I whispered I was good and could handle my troubles for now, and I told him I wanted him to help my sister first. She needed him more than I did. I asked that he let her feel his embrace. Finally, I asked him not to visit me in my dreams because I would end up crying again like I always do. I know he heard me.

Prayer, really, is a matter of faith. And I have always been grateful that I was able to discover it early on in life. It has kept my footing steady when I would have otherwise stumbled and fell. It has helped me get up those moments when I lost my balance. It has kept me going through the good and the bad times.

So today I pray that He keep my heart steady.. and that He doesn’t let go of my hand. Amen.

Two years and counting

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I’ve basically stopped writing about Covid the last couple of months because I guess I was hoping that not mentioning it would make it go away. Well, that didn’t quite work. While most everyone is under the mistaken notion that things are returning to “normal,’ the truth is that “normal” has changed by definition. Everything we knew as “normal” pre pandemic is non-existent now.

I’ve been back to the office since April of last year, and the rest of the enterprise that was meant to return came back at the end of March 2022. I was profuse with my expression of joy at seeing more people in the office for a change, but we are nowhere near pre pandemic levels. Certain jobs were designated as fully remote, and those who returned mostly got designated hybrid, meaning they did not come back all 5 days of the week. There are still certain jobs that were denominated as “in Office,” meaning they were required to be in all 5 days. I’m hybrid.

UntitledWe dropped the mandatory masking on the premises a few weeks back, but the increase in the incidence of infections and hospitalizations in New York have caused me to wear the mask in most public spaces, even if masking is optional. Fortunately, most New Yorkers tend to prefer to err on the side of caution, as the memories of the start of Covid in 2020 and the ravages we suffered have caused us to be vigilant against the virus. Sure, more people are walking the streets unmasked, but there are also a significant number who keep their face coverings on.

I had set aside some masks I had cut up and marked to sew — which, I guess, I should get going on assembling in the next couple of weeks. The prediction is that the incidence of infection will continue to rise, and I have been fortunate not to have ever contracted it ever this whole time. (Knock on wood!) I only played hermit the first four months, and had braved venturing into the city soon as the lockdown was called off in July 2020. Like I said, by April 2021, I was back in the office 2-3x a week. I have religiously put on my mask, sanitized and washed my hands as required and more, and I’ve gotten vaccinated and once boosted.

Speaking of, I think I’m sticking with one booster for now. I don’t think my preexisting conditions merit a second booster jab at this point.

I take off my mask the minute I’m in my building where the high ceilings and air quality is much better than what I walk through as I cross the Grand concourse of Grand Central. Once in my space, I immediately either grab some hand sanitizer or wash my hands directly before I get there. I still carry my mask in my hand or in my pocket when I step out. And again, although I am met by a sea of people half of whom are unmasked, I am grateful for those who, like myself, are being careful and wearing one. When I enter an establishment that recommends but does not require masks, I put my mask on for as long as I can bear wearing it.

There are still one or two who wear gloves, afraid of touching something infected. Personally, I’m more afraid of actually inhaling infectious particles that might cause the virus to enter my body. So masking and generally avoiding prolonged exposure to air in enclosed spaces has been my rule of thumb. Will the rising incidence of infections and hospitalizations stop me from enjoying a concert or a play in the coming weeks? No. I’ve learned to take precautions and be cognizant of the symptoms. More importantly, I’ve learned not to let the threat of COVID stop me from doing what I want to do even if it means taking my chances swimming through a crowd.

More than the exposure, I think what counts is how we protect ourselves and practice personal precautions. There is a way to get ahead of the threat if we are careful.

So yes, I go out to restaurants and unmask at my table. I will watch that play and that concert. I ride the bus wearing my mask even if there are some passengers who actually board the bus without one, even if every bus flashes “MASK REQUIRED”. And while I do take it off occasionally to get a whiff of cool air during the ride, more so in the mornings when it can get warmer, I try to keep it on as long as I could.

I get all sorts of compliments for my “fashion-forward” masks — so I guess it’s time to make more. I usually try to match my outfit for the day, because masking is now part of my daily wear. I do a three layer mask of tightly woven cotton, usually cotton sateen to boot, and use a pattern that lets it land smug on my not so high of a bridge on my nose — but not too snug that I cannot breathe.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping the surge doesn’t get any worse. At least for the most part, it seems the vaccines and boosters and precautions are working, as people who have gotten afflicted have had much milder bouts of COVID. You hardly hear anyone getting intubated although there are instances when it is still necessary, so unlike the start when we were afraid we would run out of ventilators. We hope we will never go back to that kind of a desperate situation. We are, after all, continuing to learn to live with it and hopefully overtake it one day soon.

So I guess my Covid diary isn’t quite done yet.