After the storm

I’ve been thinking of our kababayans as Alan and I sat through several news reports from ABS-CBN’s internet subscription, and like most people who have seen the coverage, were just dumbstruck by how bad Storm Ondoy hit Manila.  Our prayers and thoughts are with family and friends.  As for me, I got confirmation early on that my Mom and siblings in San Juan were okay, and that the waters had subsided where Dad was.  I  am thankful that they were not displaced by this natural disaster where many were not as fortunate.

So for now there is the cleaning up as the authorities continue to work on rescuing those who are trapped on their rooftops, and rendering aid to those who are now cleaning up after the floodwaters had subsided.  There is still much to be done — let’s just hope we don’t get hit by another typhoon in the midst of it all.

Just because..

I’ve been getting off a corner or two before or after my usual stop on Sixth Avenue the past couple of days no thanks to Fashion Week which ends today.  We had to go past and I ended up a block away, and amidst the hustle and bustle of the morning rush hour, I saw a homeless man with a sign declaring him as one and he was asking for food or clothes.  I was about to cross the street to my building but I doubled back and looked for a breakfast cart and found one a block further down.

I wasn’t sure I had enough cash in my purse, but all it took was a couple of seconds for me to realize that with all that I worry and complain about — what I felt I carried on my shoulders was nothing compared to this man.  His face was severely deformed, and he was deaf to boot.  I have always had a thing for not giving money.  I’d go out of my way to buy a homeless person food, but I have never given money.

I walked to the food cart and got two bagels and a large coffee.  I walked back and was disappointed to find him gone.  It had started drizzling and I guess he had gone to look for a spot where he could stay dry.  The clouds have been a threatening grey all morning.  I looked around and even went into the nearest subway station.. I crossed the street but figured the security men of the two new buildings on opposite corners would not allow him to take a spot along their sidewalk.  I crossed anyway and walked to the other subway entrance and tried to see if he was anywhere downstairs.  I walked to the other side taking me full circle but there was no sight of him.

My heart sank.  Just as I was trying to look across 42nd street to my guy’s perch, a cleanly dressed older man was hitting me up for a quarter.  I offered him the brown bag I was carrying, telling him I had bought the breakfast for someone but he had disappeared, and he actually refused the offer saying he never takes food from people (!… but he will take my quarter or any loose change.. ) 

Then I looked around to see several other people walking around Bryant Park, straggling to the coffee kiosk at the corner, trying to get ready for the onslaught of the rain.  I took one last look across 42nd street where I saw my guy originally but he was nowhere to be seen.  I tried to survey the men walking around, afraid my offer of breakfast would be rebuffed again, but this time, the older man I approached just looked at me and accepted my offer quietly.  Mission accomplished.

There are times when the simplest of things which usually go unnoticed make such a profound impact on our day.  I know this one did it for me.  I can’t help but look up and just say “I hear You…”

Craft rescue, etc.

I’ve been thinking of posting but have been unable to the last few days for one reason or another.  There were nights when I didn’t even open my laptop as was customary at the end of the day.  Then those days that I did, I ended up browsing for other things — not having the inclination to pay the blog a visit.  I’ve been busy.

But of course of this Monday morning, I cannot help but be drawn to what has become a habit of speaking out loud here on my corner of the web.  I thought I’d start by giving an update on what I’ve been up to lately.

The little tyke has started kindergarten which is a new phase for us all — Mom, Dad and Angelo.  While he had started Pre-K in the same school he’s in right now, I can see the big difference in terms of the whole set up — from school supplies to the almost all new wardrobe no thanks to the fact that he’s taller this year.  It’s also remarkable how he’s b een so excited about school — seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  I listen to him talk and I watch the animated expression on his face and I feel like wanting to freeze the moment and just replay it over and over.

I have also found a new hobby as Alan noticed.  I’ve been collecting small packets of beads from the trips home and from the trips to the theme parks (where they let you fill a bag with your choice of beads or stones for a flat fee, for as long as you can close the bag) tha past couple of years  but I have not seriously gotten into beading.  Crafty me, I’ve managed to string together an ID necklace (to hang the ID on) and repaired some pearl necklace and bracelet clasps that had gotten damaged.  I also made it a point to save bracelets or necklaces that had gotten damaged one way or another thinking I can probably repair it or find some use for it at a later time.

When I left Manila in 2000, it was also the time when Swarovski crystal bracelets were very popular and were being worn in groups, layered on the wrist to create a beautiful rainbow of colors.  I left with at least 10 of those bracelets which I have to this day.  They have not lost their sparkle, thanks to periodic soaking in soapy liquid.  My sister, sister-in-law and friends have likewise gifted me various accessories handmade from the Philippines through the years.   Everytime I manage a trip to Divisoria, I go to a favorite native aisle along Ilaya where I have picked up cow bone and wood beads.  The last time I was there in June, I also made it a point to visit Wellmanson, known for its distinctive supply of notions and other craft supplies.  I picked up a pair of plyers there which I am glad I did as they cost twice as uch here in New York.

I always go to buy a “banig” of sewing needles, some sewing thread, crochet hooks, perhaps some garter.  Since I’m very handy with the needle and thread, I try to do my sewing repairs at home instead of paying someone else to do it.  While these supplies are available here, they are much more expensive and available in smaller quantities unless you are going to a sewing supply store specifically. 

So through the years, I’ve managed to get bits and pieces which I haven’t really had the chance to work with until now.  It helped that I had always bought beads to bag in a specific color scheme — so it’s not like I have a hodge podge of different rainbow colored beads.  I have a good handful of blue beads in various shapes and sizes which can make for a good bracelet or two, and perhaps a choker if I chose to make one. 

I have received tons of inspiration from two friends who have their own handmade jewelry line (more on this later) — and which was also the reason why I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing the accessories at the department store sales over the Labor Day weekend.  No, it was not to purchase, but it was to look for ideas on how to group items together or how to do a progression of beads for necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  I examined bead wiring up close and hope to achieve the same clean worksmanship eventually — through practice and more studying.

I’ve visited several bead related sites online through the previous weeks where I learned more about the differente types of tools and implements.  I spent many lunch hours at learning the basics and getting ideas.  One of the articles that really made an impression on me and gave me great ideas about possible projects was a piece on “Recycling Beads: Creating  something new from something old” which helped me to create my first completed (well, almost!) project which was a charm bracelet.

So I’ve been busy crafting — and getting ready, too, to start knitting my first scarves for this year’s winter as fall starts creeping upon us.  Busy bee, I am.

Being color blind

Sometimes ,the biggest lessons of life are learned or revealed to us in the simplest of ways.  After a busy weekend,  we found ourselves in a family restaurant of no special distinction.  It was already past 8pm.  We were promptly seated and had ordered our food when two families occupied the tables to each of our side.  We were in the middle, and they had a view of each other across from us.

The family seating to our left was an elderly couple who looked like any older Caucasian couple.  Mom looked someone who would be your favorite school teacher or even principal.  Dad looked like some officer in a big corporation.  They had two children with them who were both African Americans, and not the light skinned ones, but very dark and unmistakenly adopted.  These family set ups no longer surprise me in a country which flaunts their adopted children to show people that “family” still matters to many.  I have admired the Caucasian families who have adopted Asian children — but this couple deserves twice the recognition for reaching out to the less fortunate and needy children within their own shores — and there are a lot of them who need caring and loving homes.   (Lesson 1)

The family on the other side was your All-American Caucasian family.  Mom was lugging a baby, with her was a daughter probably around 8 years old, another son around 10, and a teenage boy.  I could hear Dad but couldn’t see him.  We were in a hotel with a restaurant where children eat free, and none of them ordered any food for the adults, but the children had their fill.  The adults picked on the food of the children, sometimes even going to the buffet table themselves.

The little girl was seated with her back to us and the older couple with the two young African American children, but she turned around and stared.  My own son was curious about the noisier and animated bigger family and was starting to look and stare, but I pride myself in having trained him to listen when I tell him it’s not polite to do that, and he would obey even with just a simple look from me.  Apparently, not everyone is so inclined.  I didn’t notice until the mother with the two African American children noticed that the little girl from the all-Caucasian family was staring at them because she very obviously eyed them all as she went to and from the buffet table.  Even I eventually noticed it — and I could hear the Caucasian mother telling her African-American children not to mind her.  I could see she was irritated but she held up very well, probably because she was used to this kind of bigotry even in this country that prides itself with the maxim that everyone is created equal.  (Lesson 2)

The all-Caucasian family eventually stood up, not asking for the check, even if there was a charge for adults eating from the children’s buffet.  I guess they figured that as kids are supposed to eat free, if none of them ordered from the menu, then they will not be charged.  (Even as they themselves went to the buffet and ate..)  Maybe they don’t know that the premise of the  “kids eat free” bit is that it is presumed that there were adults ordering food.  We didn’t stay long enough to see if the restaurant staff noticed.  We stood up after the Caucasian family did.  It’s another way to view how “Ignorance (can be) bliss.”  Or at least pretending to be ignorant, that is. (Lesson 3)

It was sad to see how the young girl eyed the mixed family with such a strong sense of unease.  I pity her for seeing differences in color instead of seeing people for who and what they truly are.  I felt proud, though, that I know my son is growing up to be more broadminded than her — and that he will see the differences as something that does not make one better than the other — but something that makes each of us unique.

Angelo still has his moments — but I’ve always boasted to friends how we never had to give up dining in good restaurants even when he was younger, because he had always been well-behaved for the most part.  He’s done his share of staring, but he listens when I call his attention to it.  He doesn’t quite see the differences in color maybe because he himself is of a different color and to him that’s just “normal” or “ordinary”.  And that’s how I’d like to keep it..

US Tennis Open is here again.. and it's coming to Bryant Park tomorrow!

You know it’s US Open  (Tennis, that is) season again when you start seeing the advertising splattered al around you — but most New Yorkers already treat this major sports event as  one of our regular seasonal events here in this part of the US. 

I was lugging my camera as usual  before heading up to the office when I saw Bryant Park  buzzing with activity on the Great Lawn.  I searched for my favorite flower patches but was turned away at the far end of the park to detour to the outer walk, and I asked the kindly gentleman who was directing public traffic away what all the activity was about, and he told me they were constructing tennis courts.  Nope, it wasn’t Fashion Week.  (Too early..)

So here’s the buzz:  DirectTV and ESPN will be sponsoring the US OPEN EXPERIENCE featuring: ” …Venus and Serena Williams; former pros – turned TV commentators the Jensen brothers; the World’s current No. 1 Men’s doubles team the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike; and James Blake. ”

I guess I’m putting some sunscreen on tomorrow and wearing comfy clothing.  Weather forecast for NY is a hot 90-something.  Looks like the sun will be smiling (and even glaring) at the big apple, and this is definitely one event worth checking out.


Pre-Production: The US Open Experience at Bryant Park

Pre-Production: THE US OPEN Experience happening Wednesday, Aug. 26
The view from 41 storeys above Bryant Park
Click on the picture to go to my Flickr set of photos of the Park

Five things to be happy about

1.  Getting works of art specifically made for me by my little tyke

2.  Hearing him call me “Mama..”

3.  Getting an e-mail from Nikky

4.  Friends and family who are always there to support you

5. Nine years of wedded bliss with the one who still makes me laugh and sends my heart a-flutter when I look at him and whose hug feels even warmer and tighter as the years go by.

GMA & co. at Le Cirque

I have tried my very best to stay apolitical with my posts here not because I have no political views, but I feel that’s just not my cup of tea.  From time to time, though, I am moved by some point or other relevant to me as a Filipina living here in New York, and this is one of those times.

I spend my lunch hour in front of the online version of Manila’s newspapers, and I was surprised to see the headlines of the different newspapers blasting GMA (Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) and her party for ringing up a tab of P1 Million (roughly $20,000.00) for a dinner at Le Cirque here in New York last August 2.  According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, (the) Palace Won’t Say Sorry, quoting Press Secretary Cerge Remonde as saying “(I)f the dinner was really ostentatious, then there has to be an apology, but it wasn’t ostentatious and I stand by that.” 

The buzz started thanks to a short entry in the New York Post  where it was written:  “THE economic downturn hasn’t persuaded everyone to pinch pennies. Philippines President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at Le Cirque the other night with a large entourage enjoying the good life, even though the former comptroller of her country’s armed serv ices, Carlos Garcia, was found guilty earlier this year of per jury and two of his sons were arrested in the US on bulk cash-smuggling charges. Maca pagal-Arroyo ordered several bottles of very expensive wine, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000.”

There was reportedly a party of around 25 in the Arroyo group who had gone to have a late dinner at the famed restaurant upon the invitation of Cong. Ferdinand Martin Romuladez who had so generously treated them all to a lavish dinner at Le Cirque in celebration of the first couple’s anniversary.  (Something the good congressman is reportedly denying and passing on to the other Romualdez, Daniel, who was with the group.)

All this is hearsay as far as I am concerned but just to give our friends back home an idea of how this could happen, yes, it could have been possible given Le Cirque’s gastronomic offerings.  The current menu will give you an idea of the kind of money one would spend here, and given that they were a large party, they were surely charged the customary gratuity of 20% of the total bill which is protocol for large groups.

Zagat places the average cost per person at $99.oo, but that’s “average”, sans the “celebration”. 

For a party of 25 and deducting the gratuity which became part of the bill automatically, and setting aside another 10% for tax, which varies depending on whether it’s the food or the liquor you are taxing — that meant that the party actually consumed around $15,000 worth of food and drinks.  Divided by the purported number of people present, (25), that meant approximately $600/person.  Even if for the sake of argument we say there were 30 which is unlikely given that there were only 2 tables for the whole group, it was still $500/person.

Sure there was an occasion to be celebrated and as the good Press Secretary said, it would’ve been impolite for the President and the First Gentleman to refuse the invitation, but I believe the sponsor of such a lavish gift would not feel offended if the President were to request that they celebrate instead in a less ostentatious restaurant.  I agree with those lambasting the palace in saying that this is one restaurant where dinner is never “simple”.  And does it make this more palatable if we were to believe that some generous soul footed the bill instead of Juan de la Cruz?