My GF is super, tell me about yours!

Today I met “Ana”. She is a fellow Filipina nurse who works next door to my office. I have been with this company for six months and I never even knew she existed- until the day when my family came to visit. They were waiting for me outside my office, and she overheard their excited chatter in our mother tongue. Just as any homesick kababayan would, she approached us and introduced herself.

“Ana” is a single mother of two. She used to work in the Middle East in an Intensive Care Unit. She moved to Bangkok through the constant prodding of her sister, another “Ana”, who was already working as a Medical Report Nurse in our company.

We talked for about fifteen minutes, comparing our job descriptions, hiring process, day to day responsibilities and a little bit about our future plans. She told me she was recently transferred to her new department because the boss needed help with troubleshooting some issues. She later excused herself when she saw her colleague struggling with communication to a Middle Eastern patient.  She went to the nurse’s counter, spoke to the man in fluent Arabic and everything was fine again. This was Ana “troubleshooting” and kicking a** at it.

Today’s encounter made me remember my experience in Singapore just a few months back. My company sent me to train for an operating room procedure in Singapore General Hospital. On the first day of the workshop, we were supposed to walk around to visit the various stations to practice our skills in performing with a new technology called Transbronchial Needle Aspiration. Manning the booth was Fannie. Clearly and intelligently, she explained to the workshop participants the techniques for equipment preparation. I had more questions in mind so I spoke to her after her demonstration. I wasn’t surprised when she told me she is Filipina. We exchanged contacts and hugged each other goodbye on the last day of the workshop.

That was Fannie, the girl who was chosen to be in charge of representing her hospital amongst her other Singaporean colleagues.

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Fannie (in a gray sweater and white RN uniform) is a nurse in the SGH Endoscopy Unit.

Speaking of the chosen ones, there’s Joan; magna cum laude, student leader, columnist, photo-hobbyist, loyal friend, President of the Philippine Nurses Association of Mannitoba and future Fil-Canadian public servant. Among her many titles is Awesome Daughter to her dad and mom who are surely proud of her. I’ll make it short because when it comes to Joan, her voluminous credentials speak for themselves.

More about Joan: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/filipino-nurses-find-life-sweet-in-rural-rhas-78501942.html?path=/local&id=78501942&sortBy=newest&viewAllComments=y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zXuJRJltds

http://filipinojournal.com/v2/index.php?pagetype=read&article_num=12212009035211&latest_issue=V23-N24

http://winnipeg.filipinojournal.com/m/local-news/philippine-nurses-association-of-manitoba-officers-induction/

http://winnipeg.filipinojournal.com/m4/editorial/pnam-holds-1st-symposium-to-iens/

When it comes to families, I couldn’t think of a better role model than “Saori”. At 25, she is a proud full-time mother of two cute kiddos, an artist-entrepreneur and a loving wife to the man she’s loved since high school. She is a staunch advocate of exclusive breastfeeding and a practitioner of Modern & Smart parenting.  A lot has changed in child care and child rearing practices since and Saori is encouraging all moms to get into this amazing mommy experience.  Together with her mommyhood group, she strongly promotes innovative and baby-friendly techniques.

See:  Attachment Parenting, Baby Wearing, Cloth Diapering

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Saori is the proprietor of LIKHA NI SAOSAO’s custom art services: CLAY WORKS, GRAPHICS DESIGNS, PHOTOGRAPHY, & other ARTWORKS. Contact

https://www.facebook.com/LIKHANISAOSAO?ref=ts&fref=ts

I once met a girl in grade school who I will never forget. Her name is Kristine and she was my brother’s classmate. She once dreamt of travelling the world and now she’s realizing that dream. In her early 20s, Kristine already knows the value of money and saving. As an airline crew, she has been saving and investing her earnings wisely and has secured herself and her family’s future.

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Kristine was recently selected to be part of Saudia Airlines among 1000+ applicants and will be training in Jeddah for 2 months. She has previously travelled to United Kingdom and other locations worldwide.

Interesting stories, right? But why am I listing them?

We meet a lot people in our lifetime; some become part of our lives, and others leave marks, while most just silently drift away, only to become fragments of our memories. Yet there are some very special people, whether we’ve known them since childhood, met them at a summer camp, or during a Basic Life Support training, who manage to touch our hearts and inspire us. They are the women I have named above. To me, they embody the true ideals of a Global Filipina.

Who is the Global Filipina?

The Global Filipina is an inspiration to her fellow women. She is an asset not only of our country but of the world. She excels at what she does, may it be her profession, motherhood, or a vocation. Most importantly, she takes pride in what she does and who she is.

Take Reinabelle Reyes, a 28-year old astrophysicist from Princeton University, better known as “The Filipina who proved Einstein right”. When she was 26, she proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale. For us non-science geeks, that means she made a really cool and celebrated achievement in her field.

The complete story:  http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/2686-the-filipina-who-proved-einstein-right

The Global Filipina is motivated to succeed. She plans for her future. She saves. She dedicates her time to fruitful endeavors, whether it is climbing the career ladder, taking care of her husband and kids, or pursuing a worthwhile hobby that allows her to express herself.  She works hard while others slack. She strives to make a difference in our world. Whether she is a Filipina who lives in the country or abroad, what’s important is that she is proud to be one.

Meet “Lyn”, a young teacher in her mid-twenties, worship leader at Singles for Christ, and a doting big sister to a brood of 8 whom she helps send to school. She currently lives in Thailand, away from her family.

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Second from Right, Lyn poses with her fellow choir members after the Christmas mass.

 Like Lyn, we know stories of many of our fellow Filipina women who are conquering the world every day, miles and seas away from their families. These Filipinas are everywhere.  They are surviving the daily battle of homesickness to either provide for their respective families or pursue their careers.

Sadly, we also often hear stories about the insufferable conditions that many of our fellow Filipinas have had to endure. I thank God every day that despite my personal struggles, I am healthy and safe. Then I close my eyes and say a little prayer for them.

Amidst these heartbreaking stories, once in a while we hear of our countrymen’s amazing feats internationally and it somehow aids in healing our nation’s broken dreams.

Angela and Mikaela Guerrero, gifted siblings, are truly blessings to our Motherland.   In an article, both sisters were described to have high IQ and were considered child prodigies. Angela Guerrero is 15 years old and a 3rd year undergraduate student, BS Chemistry Minor Music, at Cal State LA in an Early Entrance program for the Highly Gifted, prior to enrolling at CSULA.

Mikaela Guerrero, the younger sister of Angela, was found to be exceptionally gifted, with an IQ of 167, and was assessed by Dr. Sheila Vaughan of the Mirman School. Mikaela is an 8 year old child prodigy who is also a gifted writer and excellent artist.

Read more: http://www.asianjournal.com/galing-pinoy/59-galing-pinoy/3276-gifted-kids-jonathan-malabanan-angela-and-mikaela-guerrero-child-prodigies.html

During my lifetime, I’ve met so many wonderful Filipinas: There’s Race from Bulacan, (now a Singapore resident), Jade from Las Pinas (now travelling the world through Qatar Airways), Rose from my hometown who is now in Middle East, Doods, Dione, Jo, Nina, Chingkai, Gwen, Abi, Regi, Zy, my ninang Marivic, my friend Marivic, Vanessa, Raeca, Kim who are scattered around various parts of the world …..and so many others! Please forgive me if I couldn’t mention everybody.

Personally, my Global Filipina is my mom, Juvy. She is a mother of four and a passionate educator. She was my first teacher. She has dedicated her life to us, her children and to her students. I have never met a teacher as dynamic as my mother. I know this because as a child I would wait for her outside of her classroom, listening as she finished her classes. My mother has been rocking classrooms for 26 years, both in the Philippines and abroad, and I am really proud of her. Off-duty, she is the sweetest mother that can be.

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Flanked by two girls from her class, my mom shows these Thai teens the love she has given her Filipino students. 

As I launch my new website, I would like to pay homage to all of the Global Filipinas who are out there: nurses and doctors who save lives, teachers who inculcate to children the important lessons in life, engineers, scientists and inventors who sustain life, parents who nourish life, and the friends  who make life worth living. My dear Global Filipinas, I salute you all.

My beloved readers, who is your personal Global Filipina? I invite you to nominate your own special lady. Describe her in three sentences or more, and please explain why she is your Global Filipina. Three sentences is only a minimum, you are encouraged to write more. Please post it as a comment under the tagline “Who is your GF (Global Filipina)?” below this blog entry. The best story will be featured in my next blog article.

Thank you very much for your support. I hope to hear from you soon, GFs!!!!

P.S. To my foreign readers, if you know a Filipina who embodies the GF characteristics, you are welcome to nominate her 🙂

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TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 4: Melancholic Reveries

 

February 25, 2013, 9:30 pm. I was back at the same exact station, but this time I was waiting for the train alone.

It felt like only just a few hours ago when the love of my life and I took the same railway going to the city proper.
Ian arrived to visit me again here in Thailand in the evening of February 15th. I met him at Arrivals and led him to the Airport rail link that took us to Ratchaprarop Station, approximately a 7-minute walk from Baiyoke Tower, where we were booked for the night.

As the passengers filled the car, Ian and I were all smiles, chuckling to ourselves in disbelief. We were in each other’s arms again! Our small corner inside the train echoed with our happy and excited chatter and my insistent inquiries about how his flight went. We were both grappling/vying for air time and oblivious to the world.

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Ten days later, as I sat solitary on one of the station benches, there was only silence and the hushed rolling and clicking of my 7-11-bought pen as my companion.

Imagining what I will return to, I was not looking forward to seeing the receptionist’s grouchy face in the hotel which had been our love nest for the past few days. His face could have been in a constant frown but it would definitely look happier than mine.

The PA announced the arriving train in two languages and I stood up to fall in line. As I took a seat, I looked back to our final minutes.

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I went with him to the airport to send him off. Outside the Passport Control (where only passengers can enter), we were saying our difficult goodbyes, exchanging promises and hastily uttered reminders (mine to Ian consisting mostly of repetitions to Take Care, Drive Safely Every day and Keep in touch). Right on cue, just like in the movies, an airline employee cuts in on our desperate last moments with a hand signal pointing to the clock/wrist watch as if to say “It’s time”.

Great! Make it easier for us.

Either he was just doing his job, or grossed out, or jealous of our blatant public display of affection. I was never big on PDA but with Ian and especially right at that very moment, the world around us had ceased to exist and I was shameless.
It was just he and I in our own perfect little world.

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I let go of Ian and he stepped onto the elevator that took him to the final security checkpoint and immigration. He never looked away from me-we kept mouthing our I LOVE YOUs until he was out of my sight.

Wow! So that’s it? Lea, Ian’s sister, was right. Those 10 days flew by so quickly. Of course, we both knew his visit was going to end but it didn’t change anything: the pain of separation is always the same. It’s as if the heart was torn from the chest because it follows the one you love, as Ellena, my future mother-in-law, had put it.
No matter how many times I said goodbye to Ian, I never got used to it. This feeling is only relieved when I see him again.

See him again… I had no idea when the next time would be and that made it all the more depressing for me. But before I could break down for a crying spree, a thought struck me:

Isn’t the Immigration Services right behind the glass wall in front of me? I remember from my recent Singapore trip that the Passport Control Section in Suvarnabhumi Airport was renovated in such a way that passengers have to take the escalator going up to some sort of boarding pass check, and then take an escalator down to appear before the Immigration officer.

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I rushed to see if I could get lucky and actually get a glimpse of Ian. My mind was racing, heart pounding, desperate for that one last goodbye. I positioned myself where there was a good view of the escalator and of the passengers going down. I didn’t want to miss him. Just moments later, he came through- in a hurry and with no time to look around him. He had a mission, to catch his plane. He didn’t bother to explore his surroundings. I was so desperate to catch his attention that I began tapping on the glass walls almost futilely. Then, with a bit of luck, a seemingly cordial middle-aged man behind him saw me and so I signaled to him to call Ian’s attention. He was kind enough to oblige and said something to Ian that made him turn his direction towards me. Seeing me unexpectedly lit his face up and my heart leapt for joy. Ian politely thanked the man and again started whispering his muted I love yous. I silently whispered back. Ian placed his hand on the left side of his chest. It is his way of telling me “Cecille, you’re in my heart”.

I know I am. It makes it seem all the more wrong for me to be sitting on a train back to a hotel room while Ian was set to fly thousands of feet above the ground. Moments ago, I was a woman loved and cherished by my man who was beside me. As I head back to Central Bangkok on my own, all of a sudden, I became a little girl again, caught in my melancholic reveries,and the city felt far too big for me.

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I was now a station away, and as I readied my train pass, I caught sight of the ring on my finger; now, Ian’s words echoed in my brain… “Whenever you feel sad and lonely, look to this ring and know I am always with you. We will be truly together soon, I promise”.
I desperately tried to suppress my sobs until I unlocked what used to be OUR room. As I pushed open the door, the scents of our frolicking filled my nose-remnants of Ian’s loving, comforting and reassuring presence not too long ago. Oh, dear God, I miss him already.

And that’s when the dam broke.

IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 004 – Does she speak English?

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Let’s face it: stereotypes will always exist. It’s human. And, while often carrying a negative connotation, most stereotypes do reflect a degree of truth – and if we’re honest with ourselves, we all rely on them sometimes. It’s our nature to have the need to simplify things – this isn’t always borne from ignorance or hostility, it can be just a matter of convenience in terms of how we interact with each other efficiently.

Stereotypes become dangerous when we accept them as universal truths, or as an interpretation of how things are “most” of the time – and even more so, when it impacts how we treat or interact with people we’re unfamiliar with. Do we judge them by their race? Color? Place of origin? Socioeconomic status? Accent? Hairstyle? Clothing? I could go on and on.

So, if I apply stereotypical thinking to everything I can observe about a person without ever speaking to them or getting to know them, how accurate would my assumptions be? How well am I describing who this person really is? Creating a person from a collection of stereotypes is fine for comedies, or comedians. But relying on stereotypes as your main way of understanding someone that you don’t know is simply ignorant.

Let’s get to the heart of this: Western/American guy. Asian woman from abroad.

Maybe she is a mail-order bride. Maybe he picked her out of a catalogue, or plucked her from the rice paddies.

Maybe she’s escaping a life if poverty. Maybe she’s after the green card and naturalization – and plans to import her rice paddy family too!

Maybe she’s an opportunist; a gold digger.

Maybe he is being used. There’s a long list of family members back home getting sick!

Maybe…

Maybe he’s a misogynist. The Western Women are too independent-minded for him, and he needs a submissive woman who will attend to his needs, desires, and follow his orders. (Anyone who knows Cecille is surely laughing at this point!)

Maybe, he’s a loser. There must be something wrong with him if he can’t even find a woman in his own country. It feels good to be getting all of these out of the way! Can anyone think of any more? If so, have at it in the comments!

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So it’s with these aforementioned stereotypes that we come to the inspiration for my post. This past Monday morning at work, I was at a meeting which is held monthly for all of the Managers at the Non-Profit Agency I’m employed at. At the start of these meetings, the facilitator (an Administrator who is also my boss) encourages the Managers to take a few brief minutes to speak in turn about anything they’d like: this is actually on the meeting agenda as “What I feel like saying…”

Typically, people will share either big life events, or simply anecdotes about their weekend activities. It had been a couple of months since I’ve been able to attend one of these meetings, so when it was my turn, I announced that since the last meeting, I’d become engaged.

Everyone in the room clapped. It was…well, cute. One of the other Managers asked me if I’ll be visiting my fiancée again soon, and I replied that yes, I will be traveling back to Thailand in May. To which she replied: “So does she speak English?”

I wasn’t especially surprised, but a bit annoyed to be asked in such a blatant way in that forum. But instead of switching to full-on defensive mode, I took it in stride and approached it as a “teachable” moment to explain that Cecille was fluent in English… She works in Thailand but is originally from the Philippines, and that English is the predominant language in the country. Everyone learned it in grade school. (In fact, Cecille learned it even earlier, as her mother is an English teacher.). Anyway, it would have been more tactful of her to ask me this question without the company of all of the other Managers in our meeting, but whatever…

I’d like to think that she was well-intentioned overall, or that maybe she assumed my fiancée is Thai and thus less likely to know English than a Filipina. While there are many Thais who speak perfect English too, it’s not ingrained in their culture like it is in the Philippines. I can’t help but to wonder if she would have asked me the same question had I said I’d be traveling to the Philippines.

If I’m especially cynical, I can also infer other meanings from this question:

First, that I would be able to marry someone that I couldn’t even communicate with. I could not. This may be an OK arrangement for some people, but not for me. Second, her question could be a reflection of the stereotype of Western Man/Asian Woman from abroad. (note – I add the phrase “from abroad” here because there are many American Asian women to which this stereotype doesn’t seem to apply). Knowing my fiancée is from Asia and further assuming the possibility that she can’t speak English seems to type-cast me as a potential bride-shopper, swooping in to rescue the hot but helpless rice paddy girl regardless of the fact that we don’t know how to talk to each other. That’s ok, because I’m the type of man who likes my women clueless and quiet… Obviously not.

Am I reaching here? Have I lost the ability to be objective and thus am overly sensitive to what people may assume?

All in all, does it even matter what people think? Yes and no.

No, it doesn’t matter because Cecille is my match regardless of what people may assume. Before I met Cecille (in person) I was attracted to her for her personality, her intelligence, her wit, and her charm. In fact, that’s what kept me talking to her so often in those first few weeks. The things that drew me to her then (and much more now) have little to do with her race, nationality, or where she is from. Yes, I knew she was Filipina, but more importantly, we later came to realize that we share similar values and dreams. Ultimately, during the two weeks I spent traveling with her, I fell in love.

I don’t have much previous experience with Asian culture or people – I’ve never had a close Asian friend before, let alone a girlfriend. That being said, the process of intermingling our two cultures and the resulting variety is one that I’m looking forward to.

Yet in a more general, and less personal way: Yes. It does matter what people think insomuch as it’s always a positive thing to challenge ignorance, to prove negative stereotypes wrong.

Cecille grew up on a farm. In fact, both sides of her family owned rice paddies. She would tell me stories of her life growing up in the countryside. She would often tease me that I did indeed pick a girl out of a rice paddy. But Cecille was also Editor in Chief of her college newspaper while concurrently the Vice President of the parliamentary debate club (which used English as the medium). She went to graduate school after her RN. For my future wife to have a solid resume is impressive – but more importantly, I would settle for nothing less than for my wife and I to truly connect and clearly communicate with each other – essential for any successful marriage.

In the end, I don’t look down on men who do the “mail-order bride” thing, or the women who marry them. To each their own, but it isn’t for me. The only reason for me to marry is when I have found someone that I truly love and cherish. But then again, this article isn’t meant to criticize other people’s preferences in choosing life partners. Rather, this is about the reliance on stereotypes to form opinions about people. And voicing such opinions publicly, especially in an inappropriate venue, rather than realizing you don’t really know anything and just keeping your misinformed judgment to yourself. Be careful with that, everyone.

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.

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.