IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 003 – The Global Filipina’s Guide to New Paltz, New York: Activities, Attractions, and Fun (Part 1)

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Several months from now my Fiancée will arrive in the States to start a life together with me.  I cannot stress how much I admire her bravery for undertaking such a huge leap! She’s never been here before, and will doubtless have much to learn and discover about this place as she makes her adjustment.  With this in mind, I see it as my duty to do all I can to make her feel welcome and comfortable.

Although nothing can substitute for genuine, first-hand experience, this is simply not an option just yet. Regardless, I still want to get started, and that’s how the idea for this entry was born.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the internet, I can provide Cecille with a virtual “window” to the USA via this blog. What better place to start then my hometown of New Paltz, New York?

First, a little bit of history and geography, so that you, dear reader, may orient yourself:

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New Paltz is located about 80 miles (130 km) north of New York City.  It was settled in 1678 by French Huguenot settlers, and their 6 remaining stone houses located on Huguenot Street is considered a National Historic Landmark:

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The population of New Paltz is about 15,000 people, which includes a sizeable number of undergraduate and graduate college students who attend The State University Of New York at New Paltz.  In fact, Cecille’s future home is directly across the street from the college’s main academic buildings.

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New Paltz is not some sleepy country town – actually, it’s quite active and full of life. This is due in part to the youth of the population (college students) as well as the town’s reputation of being a haven for artists, musicians, writers, and other such liberal folk.  We also attract our share of tourists here, most often being New York City dwellers who escape north to spend their money in antique stores, or sightseeing in the mountains nearby (more on that shortly), or apple picking, or touring the local vineyards for wine tasting.

OK, now that we have the setting, I’ll turn my focus to Cecille: my goal is to pair her likes & interests with local activities or places right here in her future hometown. So, what does she like to do?

Cecille is a health-conscious woman who will want to stay fit; her favorite way to do so is running.

About a 5 minute walk from my front door is the athletic area of the college campus, which includes an indoor gym, many playing fields, and a full-sized running track:

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Did you notice the amazing mountain view?  As long as I’ve lived here, I’ve found the views of the Shawangunk Ridge to be awe-inspiring…and I hope it inspires Cecille as she eventually runs on this track. By the way, Cecille, your new shoes are here waiting for you!

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Alternately, if we feel like walking, biking, or running on a nature trail, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail passes straight through the Village of New Paltz.   A part of the long-defunct local railway system was converted into a nature trail…it’s 24 miles (38 km) long and passes through 3 towns as well as farmlands, thick forests, across bridges and by a river.  As you may imagine, there’s some amazingly picturesque views along the way:

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Cecille is artistic, and will dedicate time to pursuing such endeavors.

Luckily, she will need to go no further than Manny’s Art Supplies, conveniently located right in the Village on Main Street, also walking distance from my house:

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Here, Cecille will likely get to mingle with other local artists and craftspeople as she restocks. They’ll have all she’ll need to get her creative juices flowing!

Art and exercise is all well and good, but what about when we want to indulge in the finer foods and sweets this town has to offer?  Like me, Cecille loves chocolate.  The solution? Krause’s Chocolates:

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Home made and incredibly delicious, Krause’s supplies the best chocolate in the area. Can you look at this and NOT drool? I know I can’t:

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But we can’t eat chocolate all of the time, can we?  As much as I’d love to, we have to worry about such things as nutrition and health, too. Fresh fruits and vegetables are Cecille’s favorite, and we’ve been talking about how we’ll fuse together Thai-Filipino and French cooking. We’ll need to study recipes and get creative!  Luckily, we’re covered because New Paltz has its own Farmer’s Market:

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I invite those of you with Facebook to check out the photos of the fresh, delicious vegetables, fruit, and other foods offered up by local farmers:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Paltz-Farmers-Market/133713611042

I’m sure we’ll prepare many healthy meals together with the locally grown food available at the Farmer’s Market!

And so concludes the first part in a 3 part series.  For Part 2, I will focus on restaurants and nightlife, and Part 3 will focus on places and activities in the environs surrounding New Paltz – such as apple picking, mountain hiking/climbing, and vineyard touring. Stay tuned!

IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 002 – Love Songs, Part 1: 恋の予感 – Koi No Yokan

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Music has always been a huge part of my life.  It has inspired me, entertained me, and sustained me. Some of my earliest memories involve music (mainly, The Beatles), and this is a direct influence of my parents: they both came of age in the hippy era…my mother comes from a very musical European family, while my dad got to attend concerts in New York City during his youth, seeing some of the biggest names in 60’s rock perform live.

So, while growing up music was always around me, and it didn’t take much time for me to set out to discover my own tastes as a child. After a steady dose of 80’s radio hits, and a brief foray into rap, I discovered heavy metal around 1985.  Since then, it’s always been a part of me…I also learned to play guitar and played in metal bands myself.

To those who don’t know metal, or can’t stomach the roar of distorted guitar, it likely sounds like a cacophony of noise.  In fact, metal has come to be one of the most diverse genres in all of music.  Metal has come to incorporate several different influences from other styles, often with good results.

This will be the first of (hopefully) several posts about music; I’ll often focus on metal because it’s my favorite, but I’m quite eclectic when it comes to what I like to listen to, so there will be some surprises as well. These first few entries will focus on “Love Songs”, specifically songs that I attach some significance to in terms of Cecille.  So, prepare for a mix of warm fuzzies and thunderous grooves!

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Here, I will focus on a specific album by one band, Deftones.  This particular album holds a special significance to me in terms of my romance with the lovely curator of this blog; first: the timing – it was released 12 days before I flew to Bangkok and met Cecille. But more importantly, the theme of the album and the mood of the music.

The title of Deftones’ most recent album is Koi No Yokan, which is a Japanese phrase which means “Premonition Of Love” 恋の予感, which fits the lyrical and musical theme perfectly.  Of course, it didn’t escape my notice that this American band chose a Japanese name for their latest release, because my love is in fact ¼ Japanese herself! More synchronicity thrown at us from the Universe? It certainly feels like it to me!

Deftones has a musical career that spans almost 20 years, and through their releases they’ve become quite adept at creating an ethereal atmosphere which is created by the layered, lush production, space-pop and trip-hop influences, but mostly by vocalist Chino Moreno’s unique and instantly recognizable crooning. They ensnare the listener by taking them on a journey between adrenaline-fueled catharsis and soft and subdued soundscapes. Chino’s voice can tranquilize like a lullaby or screech like a banshee, but his phrasing is sublime and his placement is perfect.  This most recent album showcases some of Deftones’ best songwriting to date, and quickly became the perfect soundtrack to falling in love.

 So without further ado, the first Deftones song I’m presenting is called “Romantic Dreams”

Even the very first line brings Cecille to mind:

“I process your constant changing phases”

Yes, nothing simple here – my love is a complicated woman. She keeps me on my toes…it takes some “processing” for sure 🙂 But this is a Love Song, so things are about to get a lot more romantic:

“So why wait to discover your dreams?
Now here’s your chance
I promise to watch and raise your babies”

Ah yes, a chance to discover love, the kind of love where the male protagonist entices with dreams, and promises of procreation born from said love, and steps up to the role of fatherhood. I imagine that for many women, this is about as romantic as it gets…Amirite?

“I’m hypnotized by your name
I wish this night would never end”

These words were echoing through my mind during the last hours I spent with Cecille before having to leave Bangkok and return to the US; I really wanted those moments to stretch into forever. They were full of smiles, tears, whispered promises and passionate kisses. Some of the most profound memories of my life so far.

Another song that’s grown close to my heart as Cecille has is called “Entombed”

This is a very mellow, atmospheric and moody song. Chino’s voice sounds like honey as he makes the following declarations to his love:

“From the day you arrived
I’ve remained by your side
In chains, entombed

Placed inside
Safe and sound”

“On the day you arrived
I became your device
To name and soothe”

The theme here is fairly obvious, and to me, it echoes the promises I’m making; it’s an expression of caring and devotion, even shackled to those notions, promising safety, definition, and “soothing”.

When I listen to this song I think of the future, of my Cecille arriving here…and beyond the promise of being her future husband, I acknowledge the challenges she’ll face in a new land and a new culture. My love, I will remain by your side, soothe you, and keep you safe from the moment you arrive. I promise.

And last for today, but certainly not least, is probably the most atmospheric and emotional track on the album, “Rosemary”

This was the PERFECT song for me to listen to as I was hurdling 30,000 feet in the air towards Bangkok.  Musically, it begins with a slow, building, spacey intro which ultimately becomes a thick, droning, groove based guitar riff, and the song alternates in this manner throughout, analogous with flying, lovemaking, intimacy, travel, and discovering “other planes” through all of the above. I remember leaning back in my airplane seat with my earbuds in, listening to this song with my eyes closed, feeling the throb and hum of the engines as I thrust through the sky:

“There’s no sound
But the engine’s drone
Our minds set free
To roam

Time shifting
We discover the entry
To other planes”

You know those moments when the “soundtrack” to what’s happening in your life is just sublimely perfect? This was definitely one of them.

And then in the very end of the song, which I interpret as the destination (“Just stay with me”):

“Stay with me
As we cross the empty skies
Come sail with me
We play in dreams
As we cross the space and time
Just stay with me”

Yes, in that moment I was still “playing” with a dream, while crossing space and time (it’s true, I crossed the International Date Line) towards that very dream, making it real and extending an invitation to The One I was about to rapidly fall in love with…come sail with me…let’s play in our dreams…just stay with me.

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Why Celebrate Monthsaries?

They say that monthsaries were invented because some people don’t even stay together long enough for them to celebrate an anniversary. One may choose to see it that way. As for me, each milestone is worth celebrating. Every single day you and your loved one are together is a blessing.

Although, I’m not really into Daysaries. That’s just too much! 😛

TA Te Ti TU TO: The Analogy of Ted Mosby, Timelines, The Universe and The One

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In my previous entry, I repeatedly pointed out how tired I was of waiting for the day when I would finally be together with Ian. Together as in: living in one house, one city and most importantly in one country.  Ian is my fiancé of – wait, how long have been engaged? It’s hard to tell, really. The truth is, we were officially a couple for only a week when we decided we wanted to get married. In less than a month, we managed to gather the official documents we needed for Ian to send his petition to the US government to marry me, an “alien.”  Two weeks later, we received our first Notice of Action (NOA1) letter: Our petition is now officially in a special government box waiting for the lucky bureaucrat to pick it up and move along the process. Some people may say we’re moving too fast. Maybe, but I don’t mind one bit. When it’s real, you just know it.

Phew! What a relief! I know that I kept complaining last week about being away from Ian and all of this waiting we need to do before I finally receive my visa. Come to think of it, I am far luckier than other people. I mean, at least I already know who I’m going to end up with, what my life is remotely going to be like, etc. Yes, I don’t know all of the details for sure but I’m guessing it’s going to be an exciting life filled with fun and challenging happenings. Meanwhile, so many people out there still exist in a limbo state, wondering what’s going to happen, who’s it going to be, where they would meet and exactly how it’s going to happen. Most importantly, how do you know when he/she is “The One”?

Ah! The One.

Today’s musings aren’t just a product of new relationship smugness (occurring when you begin a new relationship and you feel like it’s the best relationship ever) although I really do think I’m in the best relationship ever (possibly second only to my future in-law’s). Lately, watching re-runs of my favorite show, “How I Met Your Mother”, also made me think about this. In the episode “As Fast As She Can” from season 4, that’s exactly what they were talking about – Finding The One!

In the show, Ted Mosby (the protagonist) is a proud New Yorker in his 30s.  This fellow appears to be a good catch: he’s cute, an intelligent professional, he has a healthy sense of humor, cares for the environment, and speaks French! Ah, he speaks French! (Ian, you should really start watching this show!!!)  Yet he never seems to get it right in relationships.

Now you’re curious. Tell you what, he’s not a jerk. He’s also not a freak. Let’s get that out of the way. In fact, he’s sensitive, caring, sweet, and a big romantic – possibly everything a girl could ever wish for. The women he has been with could surely attest to that despite the fact that his affairs with them failed – including the most recent one, which failed miserably. So what is this guy’s problem? After watching countless episodes, I have come to realize that this guy’s biggest hindrance to finally settling down is: HE DIDN’T WANNA SETTLE! He didn’t just wanna settle for growing to love someone he was with. He wanted to fall in love hard: fireworks and all!

Yes! He is such a big romantic that he actually believes that True Love exists. That The One is out there, also wondering and waiting for him to arrive.

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-Ted Mosby

Perhaps he got it all wrong.

Maybe, what he failed to realize was that while he was desperately searching for this woman (or man, LOL), she was actually rushing to get to him too, AS FAST AS SHE COULD!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Universe plays with us mere mortals sometimes. Have you ever heard the saying, “We plan, God laughs”? Story of my life.

All of this time, I have been obsessed with my stupid timelines. My timelines are, yes, my guidelines to what I should be accomplishing within a specific period of time. Allow me to give you some examples:

My Timeline When I was 8 years old:
Be a lawyer I don’t know when! Just be a lawyer!
My Timeline
When I was 15 years old, by this time I already had an idea of how old I would be when I finished college
Be a Certified Public Accountant By age 21
Then, be a lawyer After I finish law school, of course, which I’m guessing would be when I’m 26
My Timeline When I was 18 years old
Finish nursing school and be a registered nurse By age 21 (Aha! Now that’s a twist!)
Be a lawyer Any time before I’m 30!
My Timeline When I was 24 years old:
Finish my Master’s degree By age 26
Get married on or before I’m 27
Start law school after getting married
Deliver my first child before I’m 30
Deliver all planned children before I’m 32
Get back into shape after delivering children because by that time my lawyer husband would make Partner in his law firm and all of the secretaries, paralegals and new, young lawyers would be swarming around him!

In early 2012, I was right on track with the latest version of my timeline. It seemed like I was on the brink of achieving it all. It seemed nothing could go wrong with my perfect little plan. Come mid-2012, some cosmic power, God, or maybe The Adjustment Bureau (I’m borrowing this idea from my friend and fellow blogger, Abi. Darling, I read the entry you linked me to) decided he/she/it/they did NOT want my plan to succeed, and so went ahead and destroyed it, popped my protective bubble and crushed my dreams in the process! Tsk tsk tsk! Mean!

What I did not know at that time was that this in fact was a blessing in disguise. The Universe didn’t want me to have what I thought I wanted because it wasn’t for me to have. When Ted Mosby’s fiancée, Stella, dumped him, he thought the Universe was conspiring against him. Isn’t that what normally happens to us when we encounter a crisis? The crisis converts us. We lose faith. Ted Mosby and I, for a period of time, became love skeptics. Suddenly, the sky is gloomy. Suddenly, you can’t trust anybody.

Seems like a stump, eh? But wait for it! Love skepticism is not a condition without a remedy. It only takes one person to heal the wounds, make the pain go away and the heart start beating again. It only takes The One.

I know that now. Months back, I never would have thought it could happen to me. That’s the beauty of it: Love happens when you least expect it, and when it does, it hits you like the Big Bang explosion which you couldn’t mistake for anything else.  That’s how you know it. You know it because suddenly the skies light up and the world becomes a much better place to live in. It’s like, for lack of a better word, magic!

In a lot of ways, Ian is like Ted. He’s a wonderful man too: lovable and very marketable (my appraisal is both biased and true). And he’s also in his 30’s and unmarried. Ian’s dilemma is the same. He didn’t wanna settle. And I’m glad he didn’t.  Nobody should, anyway. He/She/It will come. As Barney Stinson from the same show would always say, “(Just) wait for it!”

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Ian came to me when I least expected it, screwing my new and updated timeline in the process (for reference, read my first entry “Paunang Salita”). Love came to me as fast as the rush of blood I felt when I felt it. Love comes in different packages. In my case, it was delivered as quickly as FedEx. But who cares?  Who keeps track of how long we’ve been together anyway?

I do! And today, on our 2nd monthsary, I’m as sure as ever that Ian is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Unsuspecting, on that fateful day of July 3, I crossed paths with The One. My One. The stars were aligned in a special formation that day and it looks like the Universe knew what he/she/it was doing after all! One day soon, Ian will tell his kids the story of how he met their mother and it’s going to be LEGENDARY!

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-Barney Stinson

P.S. Happy Monthsary, Mahal ❤

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The Universe has spoken. I am fated to be yours. Nothing else matters now. Just Me, The Space and You. I Space You!

Living A Double Life

Suits Season 1 (2011) - Free Download

This week, I started watching SUITS. It’s an American legal-comedy-drama TV series about Mike Ross, a smart but not so lucky kid until he stumbles into a job interview for a firm which is searching for an associate lawyer. That particular firm happens to hire only Harvard graduates and well, Mike didn’t attend Harvard. In fact, he’s not even a lawyer. Senior Partner Harvey Specter hired him nonetheless based on the fact that Mike has an eidetic memory, is an avid reader (he has read all law books and perfectly remembers every word), and because he mirrors Harvey’s characteristics in a lot of ways.

Anyway, I’ve had the first season episodes in my laptop for over 7 months but I’ve only just begun to watch it now. And watch I did: watched it on my free time, on the way to work, 30 minutes before I start my job, after working hours and until I fall asleep. Yes. That’s what boredom does to you.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some dreary cat lady. In fact, so many things are happening in my life right now that you could even say “Wow, that’s fast!” But the thing is, I feel like I’m not exactly living my life, like this is not how it’s supposed to be right now. Allow me to explain:

You already know the story about Ian and I first meeting back in July. We’ve spoken all the time since then, and in November we sealed the deal:  We became a couple. In December, we decided we wanted to get married. While that was going on, I had just moved to and started a new job here in Thailand. My current position in my company allows me to make almost full use of my skills and talents. I am in the verge of many more learning and career opportunities to come. In fact, only three months into this job, my company is already sending me to Singapore next week to train for one of the latest operating room techniques in lung disease and cancer diagnosis and treatment. My boss told me so the day before my probation status evaluation. Today, it’s official: I am a full-time employee. What a wonderful welcome gift!

While that all seems very enticing, the truth is, I just want to get out of here as fast as I can. I know, I know, my job is amazing, my family lives here and Asia is the next economic tiger if it isn’t already. Right now, I am in the best place to be. Thailand is on its way to conquering the global arena side by side with Singapore, China and Malaysia. And with the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), things are looking up for every Asian.  BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE I BELONG HERE ANYMORE.

Going back to SUITS, like Mike Ross, yes, I feel like I’m living a double life. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is call Ian, ask him how his day went, what’s keeping him busy at the moment, and after a few minutes of idle chit chat and endless “I miss yous”, I jump into the shower, get dressed as quick as lightning and hurry for work.

That sucks!

 All I want to be doing first thing in the morning is wake up next to the love of my life, see his handsome face the moment I open my eyes, plant soft little kisses on his nose and forehead, jump into the shower with him, make us both breakfast and give him a big wet kiss before we both leave for work.

That’s how I should be living my life.

I know that in possibly less than a year, fingers crossed, I could actually be doing it. But really, I feel impatient – I can’t wait for it to finally happen. I can’t wait to be with Ian.

I once was a big believer in long-distance relationships. Well, granted that I am still technically in one now, I have to continue believing. But I must say that I am not such a big fan anymore. It used to work so well for me before. I am the type of person who enjoys a lot of time alone and away from my partner. I feel like it allows me more freedom and consequently, more personal growth.

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But what happens now, when my partner’s presence actually nourishes me, feeds me, sustains me, and cultivates me? With Ian, I can be in a relationship without compromising my individuality. I can truly be myself without the fear of judgment and/or rejection. In this kind of environment, I can be the best that I can be. I have never felt this before and IT IS awesome! Sometimes I wonder if maybe it’s not really about the circumstance, but the person you are with. What I thought I was really excellent at doing before, these days just drives me crazy. Now, I don’t like long distance relationships at all.

Of course, Ian constantly tells me that the long distance part of this is temporary. Sure, but while we are both still waiting, I am unceasing in my prayers that the hours may be shortened, the days will fly by quickly and the months will just speed past us so fast that I would hardly even notice.

Right now I am living a double life because instead of Saturday Skyping with Ian, I should be going to the farmer’s market with him to pick out vegetables for our  lunch that we will cook and enjoy together. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I am ordering lunch from restaurants every day. I am living a double life because instead of getting recommendations for a good fitness center from my Thai friends over here, I should be checking out the jogging/running routes in my New Paltz neighborhood. Ian tells me there’s a track on the college campus just across the street from my would-be house.

I am living a double life because instead of snuggling with Ian on the couch, sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows on an unforgivably cold winter afternoon and playing footsie, I am buried deep under my double comforters because my roomie just turned the temperature down to a degree my skin-and-bones physique can barely handle.

It’s all wrong! And I just want this to end. I may eventually end up unemployed my first few months in New York, my driving could be awful, I could burn the toast or screw up Ian’s favorite Angel hair pasta, or my skin might adjust poorly to the temperature. Hell I could freeze my butt off! On top of it, I wouldn’t know anybody besides my new husband and his family. But we would live in our own little world, living the life we should be living and that would be enough for me.

If I am being desperate, I would say Mike Ross from the show SUITS is better off. I mean, sure he is living a double life pretending to be a rookie associate.  But can another double life get any better? He is working in this prestigious firm, earning the big bucks, being mentored by the best legal minds and he gets to attend those fancy Harvard alumni soirees.  Not to mention his name is actually on the Harvard alumni website.  He has a fake Harvard diploma for the love of God.  On the other hand, I don’t even know if I could still get to pursue law school. But that’s another story.

Oh well! Too much of this pity party: Let’s liven it up a little bit.

 I am not only writing this for catharsis but also to express my admiration for the people who are in the same boat as me and my Ian and kicking ass at it. This is also for my dear friends Racel and Krishna, who both got to spend only a week or two (after their weddings) with their new husbands before their men had to fly back to their respective jobs and residences. Racel works in Saudi while her husband is based in Singapore. Krishna had to wait 9 months or so before seeing her husband again last November. Joan, my big sister based in Canada, is about to embark on a long distance relationship with her adorable man next month.

 If they can do it, so can I. It is tough but nothing is too difficult for two hearts strengthened by each other. As I told Ian after our less-than-traditional Skype pamamanhikan (which is usually the awkward first meeting of the two families of the soon-to-be bride and groom to discuss the engagement), seas and continents may divide us both, but I am okay when he is okay.  It doesn’t matter where we are because my heart is his home and his is mine.

And to all those couples and families loving each other across the miles, I dedicate this to you. May we all keep inspiring each other. Keep the faith! Keep Holding On! Double life or not, may the love keep us all alive.

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FUN FACTS! New Paltz to Bangkok: HOW FAR IS IT REALLY?

http://www.worldcities.us/distance_from_New-Paltz_to_Bangkok/

IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 001- A haircut and a plane ticket: Now The Leap!

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Wow.

Looking in the mirror that day, the change seemed drastic. Almost a foot of hair, gone.  I felt like I had gone from metal to ’92 grunge with just a few snips of my mom’s scissors.  Yeah, that’s right – I’m 37 and my mother cuts my hair.  It’s a rare occasion, perhaps once every year or two.  She’s the only one I trust to do the simplest, most even cut.  My fear is that a hairdresser or barber would get scissor-happy at the sight of 15 inches of straight hair on a guy. But this cut was particularly drastic – probably the shortest my hair has been since I was about 17.  Typically, I’ll request a healthy length around my shoulder blades, but today was different: I had somebody to impress.

That “somebody”, Cecille, had impressed upon me that my abnormally long hair would really stand out in Thailand.  It would attract attention, potentially unwanted.  Here in New Paltz, New York, no one really gives me a second look; but I’ve had long hair throughout my life, so I’m well aware of the negative attention that it can garner.  Basically, I couldn’t care less; it’s something that I had accepted a long time ago.  However I wasn’t sure how that kind of negative attention would translate for a “stranger in a strange land”, as I felt I was about to be.  Of course, Bangkok is a metropolitan, international city, full of foreign tourists and western ex-pats.  But to me, it was different of course; I’d never been East of France before.  So the idea of attracting attention that wasn’t familiar to me, of being a foreigner AND a freak somehow, wasn’t appealing.  Even more importantly, the idea of Cecille feeling awkward around me was even less appealing.  So there goes most of my hair, and I look unfamiliar to myself.

So I tie my hair back, and then I look just the same as before.  No one will even notice. And, I was right about that – since I’ve been back from Thailand about 6 weeks ago, not one of my friends or coworkers noticed my missing foot of hair.

I was restless that night; staying at my parent’s place, because they’d drive me to the airport in the morning. Tomorrow was a big day…my mind was on overdrive. First, what would the trip be like? I’ve never travelled so far and for so long.  But mainly, it was my reason for going that kept my mind racing; Cecille. What would meeting her truly be like? Would our chemistry translate to spending actual time together?  What would become of us, and what adventures were in store for the next two weeks?  Yet even as my mind raced with these questions, there also a sense of calm, resolute empowerment; whatever this turned into, my choices over the next days and weeks amounted to me taking control of my own destiny with my eyes wide open, and in a way I had never attempted before.  Come what may, I was ready…and it felt amazing.

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After a somewhat restful sleep, and a nice breakfast with my parents, I’m upstairs and in a skype call with Cecille.  We’re both really excited, knowing that what we’ve been anticipating is just hours away.  I would be a liar if I said that it was easy to get to this point; after all, we were both carrying a lot of hopes and even fears into what we were about to do. ..and there is really no way to predict such results.  But we had grown to care for each other over these past months, and both very curious about what the next step could be – so this was enough to keep us happily excited, and very very ready despite how nervous we sometimes felt. Case in point, I show Cecille my new lack of hair.  Well, not the reaction I was hoping for.  She told me she felt like crying, I had cut too much off.  “But I did it for you,” I told her. “I didn’t want you to feel awkward around me – I want you to LIKE being around me!”  Her response was to tell me that I had ruined her fantasy about being with a rock star.

Damn.

I did spend some time attempting to convince her that my hair grows quickly, and that if things go well with us, she’ll see it in all its long rock star glory again eventually. I was at this until my Dad started yelling up the stairway that it was time for us to go if I didn’t want to miss my flight.

Soon after, we left to drive to the airport.  My parents were excited for me; I know that they liked to see me so happy and excited to embark on such an adventure.  They knew I hadn’t done anything new or fulfilling for myself in a couple of years.  A spontaneous voyage to the other side of the world, to be a tourist in an exotic land and spend time with a woman I was getting close to was a positive thing for me and they were certainly more supportive and excited than nervous or worried. But, they are parents, so being nervous and worried was an inevitable part of it.  However, aside from the usual “be aware, keep your wits about you” kind of stuff, I didn’t get any lectures – save for my father’s one piece of sage advice: “Don’t get her pregnant.” Ha.

The security procedures at JFK weren’t as bad as I had expected, after reading numerous accounts of TSA’s strictness and even misconduct in news stories online.  Finally, I get to my gate and find a place to charge my phone.  I also check out the plane through the window: an aging 747. I looked at the hulking thing, imagining its immense weight getting off the ground and carrying me over Canada, the Arctic, and the eventually Siberia and into China.  My thoughts were interrupted by a flurry of activity around the gate counter for our flight. What was going on?

As I approached, I noticed a sign, which seemed to be a hastily-typed page affixed to a small sign stand. It hadn’t been there just a few minutes before.  Basically, it stated that our plane would need to stop in Anchorage, Alaska due to some “technical issue” and that thus our flight would land in China at least 3 hours late. Shit!!!, I thought, as I snapped a pic of the sign with my phone.  I then went to the counter and explained that I have a connecting flight to Bangkok after Beijing.  The harried attendant explained to me that I would miss the connecting flight and would need to wait until the next day in China for the next one.

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What a mess! I hastily sent the pic to Cecille, but I knew she wouldn’t see it until she woke up some hours later.  After a few minutes I just tried to relax and accept it: this was beyond my control, and I will make it there eventually. Nothing will stop me.

Nothing will stop me.  -That’s really how it felt to me.  I had set the wheels in motion as soon as I felt welcomed by Cecille, and since they began to roll they haven’t stopped.  I had to get to the other side of the world to see what would become of this; I wouldn’t be deterred by inconvenience or even fear, and the last thing I would allow myself to do would be to carry around such a big “what if?” with me for the rest of my life. I was going to meet this beautiful and intriguing girl that made me smile (and sometimes drove me crazy) no matter what!

There’s a new concept better than Idealism. It’s IAN.Y.S.M.

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It’s A New Yorker’s State of Mind is a periodic contribution from Ian, Cecille’s devoted fiancé, about the developing story of creating a life together with his Muse – and the journeys, trials, and triumphs that come with it. Born and raised in New York, Ian enjoys travel both domestically in the US and abroad to Europe (and now Asia!). An adventurous spirit, a music enthusiast, and an avid reader, he’s up for writing about places to go, things to do, music to listen to, and books to read. Unadulterated and direct, IAN.Y.S.M. is a refreshing peek on the male perspective, a companionate “side window” into Ian’s POV from New York, and a fitting rendering alongside the lovely msglobalfilipina’s riveting entries. \m/

Dating “Mr. Darcy”

Let me preface this with a disclaimer. This entry has nothing to do with women stereotypes of reading too much romance novels although I would say there’s nothing wrong with that especially now that I’m in love.  I, however, prefer to indulge into a wide variety of genres when reading as I feel it educates me more. But for this entry, I would have to make a Pride and Prejudice reference. I remember back when I was working as a nurse in Manila, I belonged to this wonderful group of ladies who called themselves Cambridge Girls. No, we never went to Cambridge University as we were all educated in different nursing schools in the Philippines. I was 23 going on 24 and housemates with some girlfriends who were of the same age bracket as mine. We lived in Cambridge Tower, Forbeswood Heights Condominium  right at the heart of Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Bonifacio), now a bustling residential-commercial hub and the most sought after address in Metro Manila.

Our nest was a 7-minute walk to our workplace, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City (http://www.stlukesmedicalcenter.com.ph/), a 15-minute walk to the neighborhood supermarket and mall, and an elevator ride down to the gym, the hippest clubs, bars and restaurants. We were young and single and on the cusp of achieving our dreams. In between trying to start good careers, surviving each of our respective life dramas, endless boyfriend gossip, dancing, drinking, partying until the wee hours of the morning, and balancing our finances in relation to the kind of lifestyle we live, I felt like we were living the life.

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Cambridge Girls
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Jade, Me, Caroline
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Me and Caroline
Sunday poolside lounging at Forbeswood Heights

Sorry. I got lost in memory lane. Back on track, right, Pride and Prejudice. The girls in my condo were voracious readers like me. We each had our favorite authors. Caroline was crazy about James Patterson (Michael Bennett series, Alex Cross series, Women’s Murder club series) and Jade loved the fantasy world of Neil Gaiman (Stardust, American Gods, Coraline). Meanwhile, as an aspiring lawyer, legal thrillers are my favorite. I have adored John Grisham since I was a kid. I have read 23 of his published novels.

While I wasn’t much into Patterson and tolerated Gaiman only for Jade, the three of us had a mutual appreciation for classics or for books set during the olden times. We liked talking about the plight of women before us: their joys, their pain and suffering, their fight for suffrage and equality in a man’s world, the thrill of finding a husband, their domesticated lives, their sexual suppression and the affairs that came with it. The Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance had been a much-talked about book in our place, discussing it until 2am while we were each lying on our respective bunks. We read and watched Pride and Prejudice many times and almost always referenced to Mr. Darcy when talking about “the dream man”.  Ugh. I never really liked him until one day Caroline said something that really struck me. Something like: “A real man should be able to express his feelings with writing”.   Yes. That’s what Mr. Darcy did. When everything seemed to be hopeless between him and Elizabeth Bennett, he poured his feelings into a love letter and BAM! The rest is literature history. If I were Elizabeth, I would have totally gone for Darcy too despite him seeming to be an obnoxious snob.

 I guess I will always be partial to writers. I mean, while Beyonce could sell thousands of records singing ‘If you like it then you should put a ring on it”, I say “If you really like me, say it through poetry”. Maybe I am just old-fashioned but what girl doesn’t like being wooed vintage-style?

Besides the fact that Ian is really cute and sweet and intelligent (and ah! the list goes on), he, too, is a very good writer, and that’s how he charmed his way into my heart suavely.

He has written me poems filled with both tenderness and passion, some unpublishable;-P.  I really admire him for being so and in a way, I feel like I have a piece of Mr. Darcy save that my Ian isn’t as fashionable and probably wouldn’t wear those pompous looking suits anyway.  Also, Ian is far from being a snob. He’s the most compassionate person I have ever known. He definitely isn’t perfect but I think that his only significant flaw is that he gets clingy sometimes (He is so gonna kill me!!!) so I tease him: “You are such a girl. I wonder if we are on the same cycle yet”.  He reasons that it’s just part of him being in love. Awwww! He is every girl’s dream come true. A lover and a BFF too! Maybe I should take him with me to my next salon appointment 😉

Okay. Kidding aside, I guess he really is just sensitive and it has nothing to do with being girly. In fact, a girl once coined a nickname for him: “Em” or “E.M.” (From his middle name Emanuel) meaning Everything Man.  Hot, right? And the best part is he is my man now. 😉 My romantic, love-letter writing rockstar therapist. My contemporary Mr. Darcy!

 As a supplement to this entry and as a follow-up to my Wind-up Girl entry previously, I am sharing to you Ian’s dedication to me at the back of my Wind-up Girl copy. It’s really sweet and moving; I think some boyfriends and husbands out there can learn a thing or two about how to treat a lady properly. Cheesy alert, everyone!!! XOXO

Click image to view and enlarge!

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Dated: 7 December 2012

By the way, that’s just a preview of Ian’s writing skills. Yes, that’s right. In the next few days or so, Ian’s writing will make its formal debut as part of his occasional appearances in my blog. I have asked him to write a “supplement” to my blog…anything and everything from his point of view (POV) to balance the hormones my entries are inducing, lest we all swim in estrogen. That way, men who come across my blog whether deliberate, by accident or by force majeure (read: forced by girlfriends, fiancées or wives) would have something worth their while too.

IAN.Y.S.M.

Coming soon!!!

REWINDING TO THE WINDUP GIRL EPIPHANY

In July, Ian and I had just met. He started talking to me about a book he had read the previous year. Being the sci-fi fan that he is, he thought it was very interesting since it was set about two hundred years into the future in a world where bioengineering companies run the planet and calories are currency. The book, Windup Girl, is bio-punk fiction filled with social criticism and political parables. But it is also a love story between what seemed to be two different beings who found love at an unexpected place, time and circumstance. (Please read my book review at the end of this blog). The novel is set in Bangkok, and in the context of our relationship, Ian thought it was amazing to meet a girl living in Thailand. He admitted that before he knew me, he didn’t know a lot about the Land of Smiles. He has only read about it in Paolo Bacigalupi’s award-winning book, which in fact was his most recent favorite. Naturally, he was curious about what I would think of it so he encouraged me to read it. I said: “Okay, I will try to look for it over here”. A week later, he asked me whether I’ve read it and I told him that I was having difficulty finding the book. So he decided to send me a copy, and the book took only 12 days to arrive. You could imagine how I felt when I held the parcel in my hand: I have been talking to this mystery man from the other side of the world and despite the fact that I would see his face and hear his voice, something used to tell me that the online world is almost like a fantasy world, very enchanting –it almost felt like “Skype Ian” and “Skype Cecille” existed in a dream state.

“You sign your name here”. Snap! Back to reality!

I was called to attention by the voice of the lady from behind the counter. She was pointing the tip of her pen towards the line beside the word “Received”. I noticed she was getting impatient at me giving her that dazed expression. She repeated her instructions to me in accented broken English, offering the pen this time. That was P’ Na, the condominium staff who takes care of mail and bills.

So there, I tightened my grip around the parcel, hurriedly signed my name where P’ Na indicated it and ran as fast as I could to the elevator. I excitedly pressed my floor button and fumbled for my keys as I got to my door.

I can’t wait to tell Ian I got it.

I checked on my Skype and saw Ian wasn’t back yet from walking the dogs. I had been talking to him earlier before he took his 30-minute break to take the dogs out, and I had just returned from buying yogurt from the store.

I set the parcel on the bed, looking intently at it. Tempted as I was, I didn’t wanna open it yet because I wanted to do so in front of him as if we were performing a ritual. Lub-dub lub-dub. My heart was beating loudly out of excitement and curiosity. I checked the time. He should be back in a couple of minutes.

“Hi”. I’m back”,  Ian Weinstein wrote, just in time.

I clicked video call as quickly as I could. “Oh my God! You are real! You are real!” There:  I blurted out hysterically as soon as he answered my call.  That’s what I’ve been thinking the whole time.  Just returning from outside, he looked confused. I was trying to tell him how unbelievable it seemed to me that I got a package from him.

He still looked like he didn’t understand what I was saying so I said “Hey, guess what I got in the mail today.” Before he could utter a word I took the book out from behind my back and said “Ta-daa! It’s in my hands. I’m holding it right now. This came from YOU.”  He nodded in agreement. Being polite, I kept saying my thank yous. He told me to read it first, and If I like it, that’s when I should say Thank You. I wanted to devour the book immediately after I opened the parcel.

The cover art was captivating, the details incredibly eye-catching: a mammoth elephant looking like it was being pulled by tiny men, an aircraft that resembled a flying submarine, towering structures, etc. Oh! My eyes glistened in child-like wonder upon seeing a new toy. I have always been an avid reader and getting books as presents has always brought me joy.  Getting a new book, especially coming from this person I was sure I was already crushing on felt like a combo of two powerful emotions.

But more importantly, it was in that moment when I first thought that if there was any possibility that these constant Skype sessions could ever lead to anything, the Universe just gave me the first sign.

An Epiphany.

In this instant I truly realized that I, Cecille C. and him, Ian W. were real people existing in this world. It was in that time when I first knew that while we were separated by seas and divided by continents, we were not really alienated; we could reach each other. We were capable of connecting if we willed it. What appeared to be a simple gesture at that time had a power in itself but we weren’t yet fully aware of it.

A few days before I got my mail, Ian went online to buy me a book. Little did he know, a   few months after that blessed day, he would go online again and buy a plane ticket to see his own Emiko in a country he never thought he would set foot in. He thought of sending me a book and when I got it, for me Ian became someone real and tangible, proof that I wasn’t just dreaming of this man that had only existed on my computer screen.  Little did I know that a few months later, I would actually get to experience the touch of his hand, the feel of his skin against mine, the warmth of his arms around me, and the head-spinning feeling he is all-so-capable of giving me: like an explosion of emotions, a blast of sensations, an orgasm of the soul. Because just like what Emiko found in Anderson Lake, my soul has found the one she has been looking for. ♥

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msglobalfilipina’s review (August 2012)
The Wind-up Girl is a ruthless rendering of a horrid possible future wherein man struggles to cling to his humanity amidst hunger, despair and societal collapse in an era plagued with treachery, abuse, corruption, selfish manipulations and power play.
Politically-charged, heart-wrenching, evocative (characters), (TWG is) a real cliff-hanger, a definite page-turner. You hurry to the end and realize you never want to leave the compelling Dystopian world Paolo Bacigalupi has so intricately created.

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Plot summary by Amazon:
‘Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?’

PAUNANG SALITA (Foreword)

We often hear our fellow Pinoys say things like “Uy, alam mo ba ang balita? Ang kumare nati’ng si Shirley ay American citizen na” (Hey, did you hear about our friend, Shirley? She’s already an American citizen!)” Most often, this news is either squealed in delight or excitement as if it’s that huge a deal or disclosed in hushed tones as if there’s intrigue attached to it.  Sometimes, depending on the tone of voice of the news source, you could tell whether she’s genuinely happy for the person or jealous of her new status. I say sometimes, because people are not really transparent all of the time. They could say one thing but mean another. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s their opinion. What would not escape my scrutiny though is the usual end-phrase “Buti pa siya” (Oh, she’s better off!) as if being a citizen of another country (in this case, let’s say, the United States of America) is an upgrade for a Filipino citizen. I find it heartbreaking how some of our kababayans can take more pride in carrying the name of another country than our own Motherland. Sure, there are so many ways that we can complain about Pilipinas, but is that reason enough for one to actually write “American, Canadian, British, etc.” in the space provided for Nationality in their information sheets? A Filipino can acquire citizenship from various countries (and hell he can write whatever he wants in the citizenship section) but can never change his nationality. Is it then a sheer ignorance in identifying the difference between Nationality and Citizenship? Well, one can Wiki everything these days!

Maybe I am being too emotional. Maybe my patriotism is frivolous and getting in the way of logical reasoning. Maybe I have to be more forgiving to people who have less than excellent vocabulary.  I can’t help it. It has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a developing fetus. I floated in my mother’s womb to the tune of 70’s and 80’s socio-political tracks  from Asin, Noel Cabangon and Freddie Aguilar. The first full-length song I learned at the age of three (3) is Ako ay Pilipino by Kuh Ledesma.

Ako ay Pilipino
Ang dugo’y maharlika
Likas sa aking puso
Adhikaing kay ganda
Sa Pilipinas na aking bayan
Lantay na Perlas ng Silanganan
Wari’y natipon ang kayamanan ng Maykapal

Bigay sa ‘king talino
Sa mabuti lang laan
Sa aki’y katutubo
Ang maging mapagmahal

CHORUS:
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Isang bansa isang diwa
Ang minimithi ko
Sa Bayan ko’t Bandila
Laan Buhay ko’t Diwa
Ako ay Pilipino,
Pilipinong totoo
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino
Ang Pilipino ay Ako!

The first stanza alone is enough to stir waves of emotions in me. So yes, maybe I don’t have an unbiased perspective on this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against other countries. I’m not even saying that I don’t want to go and live outside of the Philippines. I love travelling and I certainly dream of a European vacation one day. Besides, right now I am working abroad. I will continue living abroad if and when I have to. Six months ago, I had to leave the Philippines. I had my heart broken, and instead of bringing it with me and attempting to mend it, I left it there. No use in carrying extra baggage. What would I need it for anyway? I was determined to set aside matters of the heart. I would focus on myself and get my ducks in a row: Job, career, graduate school. True, the recent events have caused some setbacks in my timeline but I promised I would get it back in order very soon.

A few days before my flight, my friend Myrell told me over lunch: “Don’t worry. There are so many fishes in the sea. And in a very lively city like Bangkok, who knows? You might even meet a foreign guy and marry him some day!”  I remember laughing it off with her but at the back of my mind I really just dismissed it: “I will not go looking for love in Thailand. But if love finds me there, I will welcome it with open arms”, I replied with conviction. Back then, I honestly paid her no mind. With hindsight, wow, was she prophetic!

I met my now fiancé Ian exactly one month after I arrived in Thailand. Six months later, Ian petitioned his government so that he can marry me and be with me forever. Six months from now, I would hopefully be on my way to my future new home-The Land of Milk and Honey, The Land of the Free-The United States of America!

Wow! Younger Cecille would definitely be kicking me in the butt now. A heated confrontation would ensue:

13C (13-year old Cecille): Whoa dude, hold up! What about the things you said in your 9/11 editorial? What about your conspiracy theory?

AC (Adult Cecille): Sure! I still believe that.

18C (Placard-donning, sun-baked, street protesting 18-year old Cecille):  “Itigil ang pagtataksil sa sambayanang Pilipino at pagkapapet sa imperyalistang Amerikano!  (End the betrayal of the Filipino people and the country’s puppet days from the American imperialist!)

AC: Hmmm…maybe we should leave the politics out of this?!

3C (3-year old tiny songstress Cecille):  Ako ay Pilipino, Ako ay Pilipino, Ako Ay Pilipino, Taas-noo kahit kanino, Ang Pilipino ay Ako!  (I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino. Head held up high for everyone to see. The Filipino is me)

AC: Of course, I’m a Filipino through and through!

I am tormented by my nationalist conscience. My British colleague Joanna’s voice is ringing loudly in my ears. “How can you say you’re patriotic when you are marrying an American—he who hails from the land of your colonizer!”

And in what could have been my speechless, most shameful moment, I found my voice and managed a reply: “That’s exactly what Ian and I talked about. We don’t see each other as foreigners.  I don’t see him as American and he doesn’t see me mainly as Filipina. Those are just names, labels to promulgate division among the human race. We both wish that there weren’t any countries.  Right now, this BS bureaucracy is what’s stopping me and Ian from being together.  Without it, we would all be free to love whoever we want to love”.

I’m sure I did not say it as eloquently as that. But you see my point and I just want to stress it again: Leaving for the US doesn’t mean I am betraying my country. I promised myself that wherever I may be, I will never lose my identity and strive hard to raise my country’s banner.

Besides, at this point, it doesn’t seem like I have a choice. As I said earlier, when I left for Thailand, I left my heart in the Philippines. Then, Ian came to Thailand to give his heart to me. Now we share one heart. So, I have to be where he is and he has to be where I am.  For just as Siamese twins live with one heart, neither of us can survive without the other.

Let me tell you now: This blog is really a chronicle of love. But, it also tells the story of the Filipina woman—her passion, her hunger, her strengths, her weaknesses, her dreams and her heart. Each entry will be filled with her adventures and adversities, her travels and trials, her journey to conquer the world. We will watch her stand up after every fall, and recover from each little stumble: for she is of the noble blood of her ancestors. Dugong Maharlika. She is the Global Filipina. And she is You and Me.