Home is this great city, New York

#Foggy #ChryslerBuilding this #muggyday in #NewYorkCity . Still #elegant no matter what the weather.  #nofulter #myny #mynyc #midtown #manhattan #lookingtowardstheeastside #eastside #ilovenewyork

That I live in one of the greatest cities in modern times is not lost upon me.  Every day that I head to Manhattan to start a work day, I know I’m walking amongst people who wished they lived here and breathed the air I breathe 24/7, instead of being mere tourists or visitors to the city that never sleeps.  I get it.  It IS New York.  I’ve lived here the last 15 years and it never gets tired.

#OnMyWayHome: Went a different route after spending the day with a bunch of 11-year-olds in #Manhattan today and caught this glimpse of a different side of the #manhattanSkyline. #mynewyork #sunset #NewYork ##NewYorkCity #NYC

I have been at my happiest and my lowest of lows.  And yes, I have thought of leaving this city for good many times.  It’s not that I had gotten tired of it all — there are just times when there are bad memories that make leaving such an attractive proposition.  And yet I am always drawn back — mostly because a young man I brought into this world considers this his home.  And his home is my home.  Such is the consequence of parenthood — you don’t just make decisions thinking only of what you want or of yourself.  For the last 11 years, my world has been beyond what I felt and what I thought — it involved that other tiny person for whom I made day-to-day decisions.

I used to think it would be the same for every parent.  I have realized it is not.  There are just those of us who are constituted differently.  Instead of “we”, there is only “me”.

I am brought back to my Mom’s words of wisdom.  She used to tell me I should not look for my virtues in others — we were not created equal.  If we were, I wouldn’t be better than others.  In the same token, there are many created better than myself.  Amen.

#FifthAvenue with the #EmpireStateBuilding peeking from a distance down at everyone as they started making their way home.. I was zooming by in a #schoolbus after doing #momDuty with #myLittleGuy in #manhattan. Tired but feeling all warm and fuzzy insid

I’m good with that.  I try.  I’m not the perfect parent.  I have my weaknesses and shortcomings.  But I would fight tooth and nail for this little guy who means the world to me.

He’s finishing fifth grade this school term and moving on to the bigger boy world of middle school next year.  Give it a year more and he will probably be as tall if not taller than me.  His expressions have changed and his face and gait is evolving to a soon-to-be tween.  I recently chaperoned him and his friends on a senior trip, and I marvelled at how different he is with his friends.  He seemed even more grown up and more vivacious.  In the company of these other young men, he was his own person.  I found myself feeling wistful as the reality that my little guy is growing up stared me in the face.

I should be so lucky to have this young man a part of my life.  I have been truly  blessed.  And this IS home to him.  So home to me, it IS.

The #EmpireStateBuilding #today.  #myny #mynyc #mynewyork #NYC #NewYorkCity #NewYork #manhattan #midtown #lookingtowardsdowntown

The last year has seen me planting my feet firmly where I am right now.  Not that I have stopped thinking of what life would be in other places — but I have made myself at home with the plan to stay right where I am.

And I think I’m good with that.  Perhaps it’s part of sifting through the lessons of life that I have come across.  What am I complaining about?  Others would give an arm and a leg to be where I am.  Everything is falling into place, even if they are falling in places other than where I would have wanted to if I had a say.  But come to think of it, it’s not at all that bad.  In fact, if I allow myself to step back and see the bigger picture, it’s actually just fabulous as it is.

Daily Prompt: Nomad?

DAILY PROMPT:  If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?

In my early adult life, I had a thing for taking long rides in public airconditioned buses — and no matter how excited I was to get to where I was going, I had a silent wish for the bus ride never to end.  Forget the mandatory pit stops, I just wanted the bus to keep going on and on and never reach its destination so I wouldn’t have to get off it.

These days, the longest trips I take are on planes across the oceans to make it to Manila.  But that doesn’t count as far as living a nomadic existence.

Again, when I was much younger, there was a rebellious side of me which had me imagining landing some place hidden and far away and just “disappearing” into the crowd, blending in with the towns’ folk.  Maybe even living under an assumed name, and going about life as if I was meant to be there.  Not in the city, not in the midst of the action.

The fantasy didn’t quite take for long because I would be the first to admit, disappearing into the crowd is not very easy for me.  Not here, where the darker color of my skin already screams “outsider”.  Not back in the Philippines where I am not the darker but the fairer-skinned stranger.  I cannot even try to blend into the crowds in Divisoria and not know that the people see me as a likely target for over pricing or for some other such ploy, even if my Tagalog is twang-less and fluid.

If I were to hit the road, though, I know I’d be able to take care of myself.  My skills would get me a job, be it at the diner, at the office or some other place.  I adapt well.  But gone are the days when fantasies like those crossed my mind, because living such a nomadic existence would mean hitting the road on my own.  And immediately, I’m hit by the fact that that will never happen because I cannot bear to be apart from the little boy who holds my hand and who calls me in the middle of the day to tell me he misses me.

I would always be drawn back home.  It would be nice to dream of a never-ending journey from place to place, but that will never happen for as long as my little boy is home.  And I cannot take him with me on this adventure.  By the time I can, I’d probably be too old to try.

Anonymity appeals to me.  Just being the woman renting the house or the room from some place else no one knows where.  But anonymity and motherhood don’t mix.  My feet will always take me home, no matter where my dayderams take me.

I dream of maybe doing that in my twilight years.  When I know that saying goodbye to this life is all but a matter of time.  I’d love to live in a place where no one knows the title attached to my name, or that I had once lived in the greatest city in the world.  I’d like to be just “Tita Dinna” to everyone.  The old lady who putters around her house crafting, and who disappears every once in a while to visit her son who lives in a far away place, without knowing where that might be.  Not a nomad, just a stranger in a place where people wouldn’t bother to know who or what I used to be.

It’s a nice dream to think of venturing out into the world out there — for as long as the money came, there would be another bus trip to take.  It would be nice to move from place to place.  Travelling through this great land or through my homeland from end to end.  There was a time when I reached the farthest places I never thought I’d visit in the Philippines — but there is so much more to see.  I’ve never been to Banaue, and I’ve never been farther than Iligan in the south. And even then, I was always in the city.  Never in the barrio.  It is always difficult to disappear into the provinces because of the language distinction.  I’m not too good with the dialects.  And again, the color of my skin and my general features will give me away and make me literally stick out like a sore thumb.

In my dreams, I roam.  Only in my dreams.

Midnight high

I’ve started drafting my next blogpost on the 30 Days of Blogging Prompts Journal I’m putting together, but the second prompt is a tad bit too deep for me to write as quickly as the first I attempted last night.  I’ve made a list of what make up three of my legitimate fears (and how they became legitimate), but it’s not as simple as listing them down.

I’ll get to it tomorrow.

I really should be off to la-la land now, but my siblings called and we had an hour to chat and catch up.  I even got to speak with Mom.  That is always good, except when she’s upset about something and she was okay today.

DSCF0220My mom turns 73 on the 9th.  I was in Manila to celebrate her birthday last year.  That celebration of the woman who made me who I am today was one of the few happy memories of 2012.  This year, we’re celebrating birthdays apart, but I’m trying to convince her to come over.  That is if the Embassy gives her the requisite visa when she goes for her interview on the 12th.  I’m not too worried.  I’m more worried about convincing her to take the trip after the visa renewal is granted.

Mothers are a strange specie, and I say that as a Mom myself.  But what would we do without them?  Where would we be if they weren’t around?

I love you, Mom.  We all do.  I hope you’ll give me the chance to spend some time with you soon here on my side of the world.


Thoughts that take me home

Three days ago, I woke up to an update from a dear, dear friend I have known for probably 41 of my almost 47 years on this planet. She belongs to a select few who I consider my true “kababatas” or people I grew up with, although we did it in the confines of the classroom. These days, the ladies in Manila are fortunate to be able to meet up and have reunions and catch up on the challenges and joys of motherhood, married life and work. I am green with envy. My best means of being a part of those heart-warming get-togethers are the pictures they post on Facebook, and the occasional e-mail.

I try to keep in touch through the birthday prompts I get. Not much, I know.

We always expect good news when we get an update from friends and family, but I wouldn’t consider the update I got as good nor bad — but it made me pause and sigh a prayer to the heavens.

I know that the e-mail update took all of my friend’s strength physically and emotionally to pull together. There are letters like those that I wish I could muster the strength to write, but the subject matter is, by itself, too heavy a burden to sit through with pen and paper. So I let the thought linger and fade.

All I can do is say a prayer.

I see my friend in the pictures — and she’s still smiling. That makes me smile with hope because it shows me she is fighting on. I close my eyes and I think about her and I picture myself surprising her and giving her a hug.  I smile but the tears threaten to come. I am reminded yet again that life is short. I send another prayer to the heavens hoping I be given another chance to hug her, even if I don’t know when I can go home again.

Even writing about it can bring me to such emotional ambivalence. 

I have been fortunate to have been blessed with many dear and true friends.  In that respect, I consider my wealth priceless.  During those times when I felt like I was at my lowest point, they have helped to bring me back to my senses and have showed me that I am more than blessed beyond the treasure that my family is to me.

These are the thoughts that take me home… to my dear, dear friend for whom I pray for the healing touch of God.

 Central Park in the fall (Great Lawn)

Summer Sunday

I think I’ve had an awesome weekend if only because I spent most of it resting at home.  Well, most of it.  (I can’t remember when was the last time I spent four hours napping on the living room couch.)  Yes, I was grumpy.  So I lay down and just dozed off.  The boys left me a grilled chicken snack wrap.  (I would’ve preferred a big mac or a chicken sandwich, but for some reason, the snack wrap satisfied me.)

The house is quiet at almost 7pm.  The boys went for tennis walling and I just got a  call that the tyke didn’t like the pan de sal from the nearer store.  Sigh.  I guess I’m going to have to trek down to Woodside sometime this week and pick up two bags.  I don’t hear any silverware klinking but I gave my mother-in-law dinner already and I opened her airconditioner just to cool her room down.  I’ve done my online grocery shopping (via FreshDirect) which I’m hoping to get tomorrow.  I just picked out a unique ice cream brand I think I ought to try — just as a treat.  So I unclicked the Magnum.  (This old body can only take so much calories at this age…)

Tomorrow starts another workweek.  Hmmmmm… Work is work.  Never changes.  I’m trying to plot when I’m going to take the ‘day off for me’ in August, more so since I might need to assist a peer of the boss when he’s out.  I was sort of torn between trying to make myself useful and just keeping my mouth zipped, but with the job situation prevailing here, you cannot NOT be proactive.  So I volunteered.  I think I ought to check what’s happening around Manhattan in the next couple of weeks and take a pick from there.

Meanwhile, it’s the last week of summer camp for the tyke.  (I am relieved only because he’s grown soooo dark despite the suntan lotion I patiently spray and slather on him every morning. )  He’s been trying to convince us not to send him to day camp next year — but keeping him at home the whole summer would be such a waste of precious time and the father wouldn’t hear of it.  So between now and the next summer, I’m going to research “other” things he might be enrolled in for next summer, and keep him busy at least the first four weeks or half of it.

We’re trying to plan another vacation. We’re thinking of returning to Williamsburg, Virginia which is a favorite vacation spot for us, usually alternating between years we head for Orlando and Mickey Mouse country.  Since we did Disneyworld last year, we’re thinking of taking the drive down through this historical area this time around, and maybe stopping by to visit another place or two along the way.

Can you believe that other than finishing my Art Journal Every Day entry posted below, I didn’t do any crafting at all?  Well, blame it partly on Batman.  Can I say how completely awesome The Dark Knight Rises happens to be?  I am probably partial because Gotham is New York and it’s MY New York I saw in great splendor throughout the two hours and forty-five minutes the movie played.  And ROBIN IS FINALLY HERE!  (Funny how Angelo was asking how come Robin wasn’t in the movie…then he got an answer straight from the screen towards the end.)  I guess we’ll just have to sit back and wait for the next installment and this time, with the dynamic duo together.

Well, the boys are back.  Time to take care of dinner.

Back to New York

Written while on the plane, March 21, 2012

I’m finally on my way back to New York after two weeks in Manila.  It’s pitch black outside.  7ish in the morning in New York.  My boy is getting ready to go to school.  I told him when he wakes up, I will be there with him.  I miss him so much I can’t wait to show him I brought home some of his favorite pandesal.  (Actually had to stop for it on the way to the airport this morning.)

I am exhausted, physically and emotionally, after two weeks in Manila.  There are meetings that just sap you of your energy, and two meetings with the creditors did just that.  I left with no solution on paper yet, but we got as close to one as we could get.  I feel like I did accomplish what I had come home for.

My mom has grown older again.  Not just age-wise, but I could see it in her eyes.  She still smiles, but she looks weary.  I’m glad I was able to come home to help.  My siblings, I know, were more than relieved.  They have been waging this battle for so long they left all the negotiating to me.  I couldn’t blame them.  It is indeed a wearying task – one that can really knock you out, but one which you do not have the luxury to quit from.  You get knocked down, you just get up.

But we got up.. we negotiated.. we’re getting there.

Getting Ready for the Journey back to New York

I know I’ve been writing in stops and starts but I’m getting to that point where everything is being lumped together now as my trip begins to wind down.  I am getting ready to pack the bags and make a mental list of what else I need to get.  At this point, I’ve reached out to everyone I need to see and have wrapped up all the pending meetings.  I guess the others will just have to wait until the next trip.

For once I cannot wait to get on the plane taking me back to New York, but I have two or three things still pending here at home.  I am hoping everything gets settled by tonight so I can wrap up tomorrow and head home feeling I have accomplished what I came here for.  In many respects, I know I have.  Whatever I failed to do or didn’t quite finish, I know I gave it my best shot.

So today I have a possible meeting tonight hanging over my head — otherwise, it’s just getting things together for the trip home.  Going to grab some groceries this morning, meet up with some friends midday and in the afternoon, and then the meeting (if it happens) or a dinner with friends (if it doesn’t).  This is the bittersweet thing about leaving after any visit here in New York — it’s trying to make the most of everything I’m leaving yet again for the nth time.

Getting there…

Journey Home: Layover in HK

I landed here hungry and tired.  We landed at 1:30pm but the airline didn’t serve lunch.  So after clearing the security inspection, I searched high and low for something substantial from a franchise or restaurant that wasn’t American and familiar.  I landed at the Red Lantern where I feasted on dimsum, chicken feet and some glorious steamed pork buns.  Jasmine tea that tasted as authentic as can be — and of course, washed down the feast with Coke light.  I headed straight for the gate where my flight was set to leave 2 hours hence, and so I’m here.

I’ve tried texting people back home that I’m heading their way but the signal might not be too good.  I am feeling heady for lack of sleep.  While I managed to nap on the first leg, I didn’t really get to sleep, no thanks to this ill-mannered passenger seated to my left in a three-seat middle aisle row of chairs.  I managed to survive the flight without bopping him in the head or telling him off for his elbows landing near my mid-section, and for his knees constantly rubbing against mine.  If it were Brad Pitt, I wouldn’t have minded, but he was loud, uncouth and looking for first class legroom on a coach budget.

It’s only 3:30 and the clouds in Hong Kong are overcast.

Hong Kong was my first trip outside the Philippines, and I was lucky it was for business and not pleasure so I got treated to some of the more expensive restaurants in the territory, and I even managed to view the storeys – tall mural of the Shangri-La.  After two trips here, I have not gone back to visit — only to pass through.

Oops.. battery running out on me.. have to publish and cut out now.. until I land in Manila, that is!

Journey Home: From New York to Hong Kong

I’m drafting a blogpost between New York and Hong Kong as I go on another journey home with a two-pronged objective of surprising my mom who celebrates another birthday this Friday, and secondly, to help conclude the negotiation of a deal that might help us solve our problems with my Dad’s estate.

Going home was a spur of the moment decision which I didn’t make lightly, except that my family back home offered to foot the fare which tilted the decision in their favor, of course.  Still, being away from my boys for any long period of time is not an easy decision to make.  I have this illusion that I am indispensable to the lives of father and son, although they attest to the fact that they will be fine without me, just as they were on two occasions before.  (When Dad became gravely ill the first time, and when he eventually passed.)  Of course I cannot help but worry, but deep inside, I know they’ll be fine.

I was actually preparing a package to send home, and had to get presents and other pasalubongs rather last minute.  I left New York with butterflies in my stomach hoping the trip was going to be worth it.  I fortunately have the time to spare at work, and the boss was traipsing around the world himself on business, so out of the 12 days  I was out, he was in the office only for 4 of them.

Despite the odds, I got a ticket at a good fare, got the nod of the boss, and am now on my way to Manila.

I am going home with mixed feelings because there’s the happy occasion celebrating Mom’s birthday, but there’s also the daunting task of helping resolve a stalemate in our situation with a creditor who is sitting on an offer of settlement we have made.  The deal has been heading south the last couple of weeks on many fronts, so we are hoping I can help push it in a more positive direction.

It’s one of those tasks that fall under things you just have to do.  Call it giving it one’s best shot, even as an act of desperation.  You try to get things moving in the direction you want and then rely on prayer and luck to get you the desired results.  You just hope for the best.

When you miss your bestfriend so…

It’s been 11 years since I left Manila, and while I have settled nicely into my home here in New York, I would have thought the friends I had left behind in Manila would’ve adjusted by now as well.  Apparently not.

My family has done a better job only because I think they know that I may be in Alaska and stuck there and unable to do my almost every year and a half interval between homecomings and we are still family, but my friends have not been as lucky coping.

My bestfriend, Fe, has avoided Makati for many reasons through the years, traffic being one of them. But per her admission, there are just things she cannot bear doing because she would end up doing them without me. She has purposely avoided going to the places we used to go to together because she says it just hurts to be there. We had made it a habit to sit and just people watch — be it from the food courts, from one of the restaurants, or even just lounging around at Starbucks. Going back without me there, according to her, is very painful.

Once she chatted up someone I had used to go out with and he gave her the same reason. That going around the places I used to frequent was just not the same. That one, I can understand perfectly. There is always a sting to returning to places once shared with someone you were involved intimately with after a parting — specially a painful one.

But between bestfriends — can it really be that painful after 11 years? Apparently. I guess I didn’t go through that because I was the one who moved away. Everything was new to me — so I didn’t have any memories to avoid about the places I visited. When I walk the streets of Manhattan as I have a conversation in my head with Fe, I dream of one day walking these streets with her. It helps that she’s been here once before I moved here, so we have shared favorite places and memories of the things I see and do. One day…

During this last homecoming, we walked around Greenbelt and while waiting for a cab back to the hotel, she tells me she hadn’t been around Makati as often as we had gotten used to. When I asked why, she said it was because I was gone.  I wanted her to go see Cyndi Lauper’s concert this March for us — or watch her forever idol Dolly Parton’s new movie Joyful Noise, and she simply said “No. x x x It’ll be too painful.”  I wish it were not, but I know that pain in a different sense.

I was just telling another friend this Sunday how difficult ir is when all your friends are back home.  Facebook, G-mail’s Google Talk, regular e-mail and text messaging have helped to bridge the distance somehow and makes it so much easier to stay connected, but it isn’t quite the same.  That’s why I’m grateful that I got to see the people who mattered the most to me during this previous visit home.  It gave me a lot of memories to take home here to New York.

Here’s hoping we get to see each other soon, my friend.  Hang in there..