Thursday, March 22, 2007

Twenty Priceless Things

1. surviving a 12-hour long road trip from QC to Ilocos Norte with the entire family that includes an 8-month old princess and a 3 ½ year old tyrant
2. singing with Jen at the top of our lungs as we pass the familiar highways of Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac, to the tune of anything in my celfone’s playlist, from Beatles to Blue Jeans, Unfaithful to Under the Sea, O Sole Mio to My Immortal
3. finding out that there are still certain things your parents don’t know about each other even after they’ve been married 35 long years, as they swap childhood stories throughout the ride
4. the inviting waves of the beaches in La Union that look close enough to touch all the way from the car
5. a brother-in-law who lives two minutes away from Paoay Church
6. Paoay Church. Unesco Heritage Site. Built in the 1500s. Perfect from every angle.
7. the picture that I take of Jen against the backdrop of the Paoay church entrance, lovely and tragic at the same time
8. the sound of bagnet crunching in your mouth, in there with tomatoes, onions and bagoong, and Yoshi pleading for more of the “white” and “crispy” (meaning the taba and balat)
9. gobbling up Vigan empanada dripping in sukang Iloko while getting a kick out of the many production numbers in the Paoay Lake National High School JS Prom
10. the serenity and myth of the Paoay Lake as viewed from the balcony of the Malacanang of the North
11. calesa ride all around Laoag City with Yoshi dearly clutching on to his The Promise DVD that he buys from a Moslem woman who sells pirated discs right beside all the chichacorn and native delicacies
12. the myriad of colors of euphorbia blooms in Auntie Claire’s and Auntie Azon’s gardens
13. having my picture taken with Jen in a hallway draped with a million tivoli lights in Fort Ilocandia
14. the view of the coastline on the drive to Pagudpud, with Christian pointing to the exact spot on a big rock where the Wow Philippines commercial was shot, and Yosh bugging me thru-out, “Mommy, magbo-boobs ka ba?” (meaning am I going to wear my bikini hahaha)
15. the giant windmills of Bangui (and Popsy regrets not stopping at the look-out point that he sees on cable tv weeks after)
16. screaming in total abandon as the big, strong waves of Pagudpud kick you onto the shore, with Yosh, Teody, Ches and myself never wanting to leave the water, and the absolute lack of crowds and stunning beauty of the place
17. Cape Bojeador. Built in the 1500s and still guiding ships till the present. Offers a panoramic view of the South China Sea. Makes you forget you’re supposed to be acrophobic.
18. the cobblestones and brick houses of Vigan that take you back to another era
19. a funeral band that gamely poses for pix with Jen and later on play Cueshe’s Borrowed Time as the coffins are brought out of the Vigan Cathedral
20. Jen’s big fight and long extemporaneous speech directed at the Chow King-Luisita manager whose staff made the fatal mistake of not putting the right number of sago and beans in her halo-halo. Classic and priceless both.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


My sis and bro-in-law came home for a little less than a month after being in the States for two years. That night they arrived, we were shocked to see them both looking almost emaciated, none of the big tummies they left with. I guess Jen took to heart what I kidded her about – that if she didn’t stop pigging out in the States she was going to end up like our cousins who left the country model-thin and now look like your average obese American in their pix.

It was pasalubong galore from those two, as if they haven’t already been regularly sending us crates and crates of goodies. Yosh was the runaway winner with the long-awaited portable DVD player from Tito Teody (which has since turned him into an absolute movie addict where before he was merely a fanatic). My favorites were the Ariel shirt and Eeyore watch that Jen got for me from Disney World, the Hello Kitty hobo bag, the leather belt with flowerettes, the miniskirt with floral embroidery, and four Hello Kitty boylegs that look so much like what Izzy wears in Grey’s Anatomy. (Gosh, I haven’t even taken out the tags on these undies. They’re too exquisite to just fade away from use that I plan to never wear them and just look at them and touch them once in a while when I’m pissed with my life or something.)

The first day they were here we went duty-free shopping and just as we got home the even bigger boxes that they shipped arrived. I went home with like two years’ worth of everything from Yoshi’s favorite mac and cheese to canned salmon and chocolates for me and exotic nuts for Ches. My sister is something else, I swear. She organized like a whole set of apparel and toiletries and groceries and whatever else for each of maybe a hundred relatives and friends. If it were me I’d maybe give everyone who remembers to visit $20 dollars or something and be done with it.

We had Vada’s baptism the first weekend they were here. In Twin Hearts Parish in West Triangle and Max’s Roces, just like Yoshi’s. But while Yosh was screaming and flailing thru-out the entire ceremony and dinner (I swear, all you hear in the video is his piercing cries), Vada was just looking around, smiling and giggling. I will so love Vada forever.

We ate out practically every other night for four weeks. Jen had this crazy list of all these things she wanted to do while here. It included eating in truly Pinoy restos like Lydia’s Lechon, Barrio Fiesta and Aristocrat, as well as not-quite-local places like Shakey’s, Roasters and Chinatown. (What her criteria were for including certain restos in her list is beyond me. Didn’t matter as long as I got full and everything was free : )) The List included shopping, of course. (She went shopping E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y-W-I-T-H-O-U-T-F-A-I-L.) And driving lessons, too. Shucks, she actually learned to drive in the less than a month that she was here, and is now driving in Cape Cod already. Whereas yours truly’s student license is about to expire in three months a year after it was issued … and I’m still taking cabs. Aarrgghh.

The List also included shows she wanted to see. The two of us were going to watch MYMP on Valentine’s Day but ran out of the nicer seats. We did see Pooh-quiao in Metro Bar with the entire brood. This was my idea after seeing the guy do stand-up comedy on TV. What a riot. We also caught a concert of Side A, Jen’s long-time favorite. (Sheesh. Talk about generation gap.) But I did have fun here too, with their funky rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody and Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, Eric Benett’s The Last Time and their own So Many Questions. Like I said, anything as long as it’s free : )

The highlight of their stay was I guess the entire family’s roadtrip to Ilocos (well, everyone but Rino, who couldn’t bear to leave his dogs and birds and turtles and fishes behind. I swear, my brother should’ve been a vet. There are more animals than humans in that house.) We left QC past 5 AM and got to Paoay past 5 PM, with frequent stops for meals and snacks and Yoshi’s weewee. I was dead from the butt down before I even saw the Welcome to Ilocos arch or something. It was all worth it, tho. Teody’s relatives live a mere two minutes away from the breathtaking Paoay Church. Gosh, just the thought of that church makes me want to burst into tears, with its beauty and strength and sheer ancient-ness. (Dang. Why couldn’t I have married someone who lived near something even remotely magnificent? Why did I have to marry Ches who comes from land-locked and boring Tarlac that doesn’t even have a single tourist attraction? Groan.)

Ilocos rightfully deserves a separate blog. Suffice it to say I liked it even better than Bohol, which was previously my favorite place in the entire Philippines bcoz of its old churches, white-sand beaches and great, cheap food. There were just so much more churches in Ilocos, in all these different styles, complete with nearby bell towers, plus all the old houses in Vigan, too. There was Pagudpud, with the clear, blue waters, big, strong waves, and the absolute lack of crowds and commercialization that so characterize Bora now. There was Cape Bojeador, this ancient lighthouse that Regie and Rommel are obsessed with, and when I saw the view of South China Sea all around me from the landing I forgot my acrophobia and understood why. Not to mention all the bagnet and empanada dipped in sukang Iloko. Sigh. It’s a good thing we don’t stay there on a regular basis or Yosh and I will definitely die early from eating too much of these sinful stuff.

Just maybe if I don’t do anything nasty to Ches for a year he’ll take me to Ilocos again and maybe we’ll even get to stay in the astounding Fort Ilocandia. Sounds like mission impossible but hey, he actually realized what an angel I am compared to my maldita sister. This after she virtually killed the manager of Chow King-Luisita with her trademark huge-eyes glare and nonstop, show-no-mercy words as she complained that her super-special halo-halo had practically the same ingredients as Mom’s petite one. Am sure Teod felt sorry he got that halo-halo craving in the first place, which was why we stopped in Luisita on the drive back to Manila. It was terrifically funny, tho. A classic that no one in the family will forget for a long time.

I cried and cried when they left. I’ve never felt as sad in a long, long while. It was like losing a lover and being given a second chance only to lose her again after a too-short reunion. I already miss my sister’s absolute obsessive-compulsiveness (so unlike my anything-goes philosophy in life), and being able to text her mindless stuff without having to contend with time zone differences and roaming charges, and the fact that she was around and I didn’t have to be the big sister when we had family crises. I know she’s sad, too, having to be so far away and not being able to hug Vada and chat up with Yosh (who’s been bugging me why Tita Jenny and Tito Leng have to work in the States and whether Cebu is my States bcoz it’s where I’ve going too often to work lately). But I know we’ll get thru this, like the feisty females that we are. I mean, there’s always retail therapy.

It was a good 26 days with my sis and bro-in-law. Can’t wait for the next one, hopefully sooner than another two years.