“Decisions, Decisions”: A True Love Travelogue Series – Part 1

24 November 2012

I woke up a few minutes after 5 o’clock in the morning, as usual; save that there was nothing usual at all about that day. It was the day that would change my life forever.

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I felt really tired, and my back muscles ached from staying up late the previous night. I got up from my bed feeling dreamy, as if what transpired the night before was indeed just a dream.

It was his call over Skype that had awoken me, and while I knew he was telling me something important, I found it difficult to shake my sleepiness off. Less than five minutes into the video-call, my eyes had begun to droop again and his words were only a mumble-jumble to me.

“So I cut my hair”, I very faintly heard him say.

“You what??” I jolted.

“I asked my mom to cut my hair, see?”

“Why?!”, I exclaimed in panic.

“Because you wanted me to.”

“No!!!!”

“Cecille”, I could hear desperation in his voice. “I thought you said I will attract unwanted attention over there and you don’t want that”.

Now I do remember telling him that. “I don’t know…I don’t know…I liked your long hair. I’m not used to seeing you like that!”…I seemed almost a child, unreasonable. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted anymore. Confused, tears started rolling down my cheeks.

“Oh, Cecille, please don’t cry.” He was almost pleading. “I have to go now, okay? My parents are taking me to the airport. It will grow back soon, anyway”.

It felt really weird for him to be consoling me then. He was the one who had one foot of his hair cut off and yet he was the one who was trying to make me feel better. I know he was kind of “attached” to his hair. He’s had it long since he was 11 years old. Looking back to it now, I thought it was frivolous for me to even mention the haircut. Of course, I tell him I never forced him, I was  just…sayin’.

When we first started talking online, I didn’t really care about his hair. I thought it was hot and I was attracted to that mysterious side of him. As the day to our meeting drew closer, I became concerned. I think it must have been my conservative influence. Men with long hair are sometimes stereotyped as bad boys: wild and probably addicted to dangerous drugs! How ignorant does that sound?

Not all long-haired men are like that of course, but it was all about the image of it. I knew my family was going to meet him and I just wanted him to make a good first impression. I was like, “Who knows? We could end up getting married!” 😉 Little did I know, he was going to impress them anyway with his charms, his very polite demeanor and, as my father said, his outstanding table manners. But more on that later.

After sleeping a while longer, I got up to check my messages. I wondered if he’d left me anything before he boarded the plane. Boy, did he!

airchinanotification

“Great! That’s all we need”, I muttered.  A glitch right in the beginning of the two-week itinerary that we’ve been planning for months is a downer, I thought. My nerves were already wracked at the thought of seeing him, finally in the flesh, after four months of relentless correspondence. I was on the cusp of being stressed.

I waited until 8am for business hours to begin so I that I could speak with the hotel personnel regarding his reservation. He was supposed to arrive at 11 o’clock that night so I called the hotel to let them know that he would be arriving the next day instead. The unexpected detour in Alaska was going to delay his flight for 3 hours. This also meant that he was going to miss his Beijing to Bangkok flight, the last flight for the day. He was going to sleep in a hotel in China, alone, and catch another flight to Thailand on the following day. I could imagine how anxious he must be, travelling halfway across the globe for the first time, to places where he doesn’t speak the language, while encountering these mishaps at the same time. The horror!

I smile at the thought of him making that gesture to see me. I’ve got to admire him for being so determined. I was actually sad that I had to cancel the chauffeur service I had previously booked  to pick him up. I wanted him to at least be comfortable when he arrived, after all the stress of intercontinental flight. I asked the lady if they could move the booking for the following day but she said they were fully-booked. Oh well! I tried.

I decided to let the stress of the rescheduled arrival go. There was really nothing we could have done about it. I thought: it’s only one night. I was going to see him tomorrow. At 1pm, I went about with my other scheduled appointments: Last minute girly preps that, without getting into much detail, included a nail spa. I would later reap the fruits of my tortured labor when he says the very first words that came out of his mouth upon seeing me. 😉

It took me several hours to finish and when I was finally settled in the couch, checked my messages again. Lo and behold! He was online and was typing to me, possibly as fast as he could!

“I’m in China. We did not stop in Anchorage”

“What?!?”

“Will you be able to pick me up?”

“Uhhh…I changed my plans for the day. I’m here at my mother’s place”. Yeah, I forgot to mention that!

“……….” Nothing from him. It said he was typing.

“Oh!” He finally replied. Goodness! What was I doing?!? I must be freaking him out!

“Of course, I’ll pick you up!” I typed in haste. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do it in my condition.

“Okay. Boarding now. I’ll turn this off”, he said.

I sent a quick goodbye then his little green circle was gone. I exhaled in desperation.

Now what? Decisions, decisions.

I jumped up from the couch, picked up my backpack from the floor, and began packing haphazardly.

“Where are you going?”, my mom wondered.

Silence. You can almost hear the wheels turning.

“I have to go, Mom”, almost a whisper.

“Go where?”

“Back to my place”,

“But your foot!” Right! I forgot to mention that too. I had stepped on something earlier. I needed minor surgical intervention and my two feet were bandaged. Did I mention it was painful?  I’d been downing pain killers the whole day.

“I’m okay Mom, I’ll be fine”. She was observing me as I was cross-checking my stuff with my list in  hand.

“I thought you’re staying here tonight.” I didn’t respond.

“Just tell me what is it, okay? So I’d know.”, she prodded…I was worrying her.

“It’s Ian.  He’s arriving tonight.”

What ensued was an exchange between a worried mother and a stubborn daughter who will do what she wants, even against advice.

“Will you at least let your brother take you to the airport?”

……

……

……

For all of my life, my family and friends were always there to support me. I’ve always had people to consult with for all of the major decisions I’ve made. But as I said, it was not an ordinary day.

“No. I’m doing this on my own”.

I’d made up my mind.

TO BE CONCLUDED

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CURB or CURVE: That is the Question

So today at lunch a co-worker from the table across asked me if I’m pregnant. “Cos you know, you gained weight”, she said.

“No they didn’t!” was my fiancé Ian’s reply when I called him later (I skipped the courtesies and immediately launched into “They asked me if I’m pregnant” in my best Oppressed Cecille voice).

“Baby, are you crying?”, he asked when I didn’t answer.

“No” is what I should have said…Instead, I said “Yes”, lobbying for sympathy. (Well, I was feeling bad, okay?)

“Don’t mind them, Baby. They’re just jealous of you because you’re beautiful and sexy”. (Oh yeah, my fiancé is awesome, isn’t he?)

See, when you have somebody telling you that, you don’t really care if you gain a few pounds. This isn’t the first time the girls at work have said something about my weight, but I never really minded them. I know that I’m healthy and I’m secure about my future husband’s attraction to me no matter what.

Today, I’ve decided that I’m sick of co-workers picking on my weight every chance they get when I don’t even give a damn. Jesus Christ, I’m 49.5 kg at 5 feet 3 inches. Is that so bad?

To be honest, it’s indeed a jump from the 45.5 kg I weighed at the same time last year. But it doesn’t really bother me much. Well, until last month when I couldn’t stop saying: “I’m fat”. I seriously thought that I was beginning to have body-image issues. I took a beating when my co-workers’, with their prying eyes, started to notice my weight gain. And boy, did they remind me every day!

I once took the lift carrying take-out dinner. This girl I ride the shuttle with every day came in and commented that it’s already 7pm and that I should have eaten dinner before 6pm! It doesn’t end there: I have girls knocking on my door asking me if I want to go to the gym. When I’ve wanted to buy a chocolate croissant for dessert, I’ve had to sneak out to the bakeshop, making sure my colleagues didn’t see me, or risk being told “Ceciw, you eating again?!? Khun Ian see you, he say: What happened to you? Now you are uaan (Thai: fat)!” 

 Sigh! It’s exactly these kinds of “criticisms” that have been souring my mood. I’ve always been happy and confident with my body.  Like I said, I don’t give a damn. But I guess that’s why: They want me to give a damn!  Like really, telling me I should stop eating rice every day or else my fiancé would leave me for a skinnier woman?!?

As annoyed as I am, I really don’t blame them for the kind of mentality they have. It’s all the media bullshit they see in TV commercials, bus and train ads, posters, etc.

Have you seen Beyonce’s Cavalli  ad?

In the poster, we see an extremely stylized image of the songstress to the point that her famous curves completely disappeared! Instead, we see  B’s head on top of an exaggeratedly skinny CGI body with spider-like extremities that makes her look more abnormal than a Barbie doll.

Here’s the Skinny: Roberto Cavalli is the official designer for Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show. The poster is supposedly for the tour’s campaign.

Famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was, of course, widely criticized for the release. The photo was immediately removed from circulation after the slamming from fans, nutritionists, health advocates, feminists, etcetera.  Cavalli’s camp had explained – and I quote: “the image of the gown (sic.) is a sketch and not a photo, and therefore it is only meant to be a stylized and artistic vision”.

I get you, Roberto, but you know that the damage is done.

Beyonce, of course, was reportedly upset about the whole fiasco just as she was when H & M airbrushed her swim-suit photos (to make her look thinner) and insisted the original/unedited versions be used for the official summer campaign. She is currently suing them for millions of dollars.

Speaking of H & M, this was a really ironic move considering that their April 2013 campaign featuring Size 14 Jennie Runk earned them positive raves and accolades.

24-year old Ms. Runk here is billed as the heroine of self-loathing women, especially teenage girls who suffer starvation, amongst other scary means of losing weight. She is said to be helping women feel better about themselves because she heralds real beauty and that she has “the body of a normal woman”. Ha!

While I admire Ms. Runk’s beauty and support her message, I couldn’t help but see this as a dubious stunt—big corporations preying on vulnerable women’s craving for approval from the mass media. Even Ms. Runk can be just a pawn in this giant scheme. I hope not.

But whatever, if it works for the deflation of the over-all insecurity of the female population and teen suicide rates, then it’s fine with me. Besides, whatever the billboard ads say is “trendy”, then that’s what is “trendy”.  Ugh!

Obviously, trend varies depending on the market these companies cater to. The disparity between the message of Jennie and Beyonce’s H & M ads says it clearly: There’s the normal market and the other markets. Jennie Runk isn’t’ exactly labeled as just a “model” but a “plus size model”. Ask any beauty or fashion magazine and they will tell you that the normal sized- women are supposed to look like this:

Scary!

As an advocate for women and a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, this issue has always been close to my heart. I have always found the popular standards of beauty to be ridiculous and unrealistic for most people.  To condone this is outrageous and it sickens me to think how many women have suffered (and are suffering still) both emotionally and physically just to fit into the accepted “beautiful” and/or “sexy” category mostly perpetuated by selfish companies with vested financial interests.

 But, why this sudden lashing? Well, because, I too have become a victim of this vulgar commercialism and I can’t just stand there and take it.

I live in Thailand- where girls eat garden salad for breakfast and have dinner before 6 o’clock in the evening, where women go out of their houses as if they forgot to put their pants on, flaunting their chicken-skinny legs! Here in Bangkok, a popular cosmetic hotspot, co-workers eye you with disdain every time you put food into your mouth.

I am not arguing that women should just eat with abandon and not care about their bodies at all. I say we should all take measures to ensure our bodies are healthy and that includes eating in moderation and proper exercise. Certainly not by skipping meals, or even worse, fad dieting.  More importantly, on a bigger scale, the bashing has got to stop!

It’s not as if this is a life and death situation where one has to curb her diet or run the risk of gaining, whoa! unwanted curves! Yeah, because that’s really the worst thing a woman could have!

This obsession with these (and I say this with a bitter taste in my mouth) “standards of beauty”, of an ideal sexiness is pushing women to go to absurd lengths- pressuring them to achieve a figure that may not be healthy for them. By the way, these ideals are not only promoting malnutrition, they are also cultivating a culture of mean-spiritedness and superiority complexes in those who fit the criteria, and low self-esteem in those who aren’t welcome into the category.

I do know that some women are just naturally skinny and they don’t gain weight no matter how much they eat. I don’t have anything against them. I do think they can be indeed sexy too, but not just because of their vital statistics. There are a million things that can make a woman sexy: wit, wisdom, kindness, sense of humor, skill, perhaps? If I were a man, these would certainly attract me.

It’s very sad that nowadays, the art of husband-hunting has almost regressed to merely an aesthetic tourney.  They used to laugh about women in the time of Jane Austen or the 1950s that had to be educated in art, literature, music, geography, science, language, home economics and the like to make a good match, when eventually they will be consigned to the home to attend to their men’s needs and look after the children. Well, at least they had to use their brains; these days, women only have to look good, wear a perfect smile, be a size 0-2 and they can land senators, business tycoons, heirs to fortunes, etc.

Lastly, these days women don’t really seem to try to look good just for the hell of it. When you hear people say “Oh you should do this and that so you can get a boyfriend” or “Oh you should be like this or else your husband will look somewhere else”, it makes you think, is it really all about attracting men?

I love it when my fiancé compliments me and this encourages me to try to look good. But also, I just want to look good for myself…just because it makes me feel good. Do you know what I’m talking about? I mean, these decisions about our bodies are ours to make and should not be influenced by peer or social pressure.  It should also be about us!

Sweating it out, running around the park, and working my butt off in the fitness center? Yes, I do it because I want to. I know I have a responsibility to take care of my body. I do it and I will keep doing it – not because some damn commercial is telling me too or that I am afraid of Ian Weinstein abandoning me if I bloat.

CURB or CURVE? No! I am not letting anyone or anything decide for me whether I am “sexy” or not.

I believe that in every woman is an innate seductress, a charming maiden, an irresistible nymph, a goddess… no matter what her shape and size. We only have to claim that inner vixen…and tell her she shouldn’t be intimidated by whatever people around her say. Let her out, because she should be freakin’ running the world. Size 2 or not.

Piña Colada, Prose and Poetry: Parting Ain’t Pretty

It’s been 43 hours since Ian left. I am still not ready to face my life…my life in Thailand, to be exact.

My thoughts keep repeating: I don’t belong here anymore.

I am at the point where my reality feels unreal.

My real life is in my fiancé’s arms.

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I’m supposed to be cheery. This last visit marks the final leg of this K1 journey.  In a few months, I will finally be with my love for good. We will never be apart again. But I’m not exactly feeling like Missus Positivus today.

I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m blaming it on the fact that after 10 days together, I got so used to Ian being here. I wrote him a poem earlier and in it, I expressed my melancholy…

My darling…

It’s only hours from your departure

And even the skies in Bangkok

Cry tears of grief

Your absence has sucked

The life out of my city

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I know…I know…I can be overly dramatic sometimes. Or hormonal.

There’s something different about this last visit though, aside from (but possibly related to) it being the last. I feel like this time I am bluntly refusing to feel all of the agony of longing. I cried so much before Ian even left, so maybe that’s why I didn’t have any more tears to spill after coming back from the airport.

Ah! The train trip back to the hotel – always the worst part of Ian’s every visit.

This time, I managed to scribble a note aboard the coach:

Dear Ian,

It’s 9pm and you must be boarding your plane now. I’m at the basement level of the airport, waiting for the next train to arrive.

I am safe. Don’t worry about me (although that’s impossible for you not to do). I’m a big girl and I will take good care of myself-I can handle it. 

So this is it! We’ve come to the last leg …three exciting, exhilarating and extraordinary visits. We have definitely made tons of memories that will last a lifetime. I want to thank you, with all my heart, for everything you’ve done to make these visits possible. And of course, for all the things you did while you were here. You have made me feel very special in countless ways.

 

Absolutely special! Years back, I used to wonder: How do you know when the person you’re with truly cares about you and cherishes you? I never found the answers until I met Ian. I know now, even without putting so much though into it, I am truly deeply madly loved. I feel it in every word that comes out of his mouth, every little lazy croon of endearment, every single touch and breath…

I am secure.  He makes certain I feel that way every day.

On my end, I am equally and irrevocably in love with him, powerfully so.

Have you ever thought of being in, or staying in a relationship just for the sake of it? Have you ever felt like keeping it the way it is because, after all, it was a good-enough set-up for you?

It’s not the most wonderful thing in the world.  But some say, you won’t really know the difference until you are in a relationship where both partners are truly crazy and craves for each other, respects, trusts and values each other like they would themselves, admires  and adores each other and expresses said admiration and adoration for each other through words, actions, etc.  It’s elusive, this seemingly ideal thing I am talking about, but it’s not impossible to have it. It does happen to mere mortals like us. Once you have it, you’ll be wise enough to follow Christina Perri’s example:

I will be brave I will not let anything

Take away

What’s standing in front of me”

 The PA announced the train’s arrival to Makkasan Station…less than 13 days ago, Ian and I got off at this stop to go to our hotel. That place is special to us because it’s the same place we stayed the first time Ian came here. Being in its lobby, rooms and dining hall once more was reminiscent of our very first few moments as a couple…It was in this place that we first said the three little words that made us both the happiest people in the world that minute…

(more of this in TRUE LOVE TRAVEL LOGS…Coming Soon!)

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20 minutes after my departure from the airport, I was still sitting in the little corner I found inside the train. I kept writing:

“Your plane is probably flying back now. I pray for a safe flight for you my love. Know that I am always sending positive thoughts your way.

Darling, I already long for you, even though we were together only a few minutes ago.”

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It’s almost silly how I could miss him already when we were together only a few minutes ago. Silly, yes, but ironically it’s more sad than silly, how Farewells are.

You say goodbye with the promise that you will see each other soon…as if the promises will make it less painful. It doesn’t. But they give hope. It’s almost like grimacing a smile, or swallowing a bitter pill that you know would heal you and end your suffering…Thankfully, his farewell kisses (like the Pina Colada I had back when we frolicked on the beautiful island of Koh Samed), were sweet, full of promise, with a burst of salt from my tears…they were a reprieve.

“Parting is such sorrow, but your warm embraces and loving whispers are sweet sugar cubes to our otherwise bitter cup.”

But I know Ian and I know each other more than anybody else does. Our love transcends. I am connected to him and he is connected to me no matter how far apart: We are two photons entangled.

b-w photons I+W

“I am pressing my lips, savoring the memory of your last few kisses: quick but passionate still, urgent but not any less meaningful, a public display which yet delivers a secret only our two hearts will understand…”

Yes. I truly believe you my love. We will see each other soon.

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 🙂

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.

Immortalizing International Love through Photographs-An Engagement Pictorial (1 of 2)

It’s wedding season for my age bracket! Lately when I’m on social media networks, I’ve been seeing my comrades getting engaged, marrying, and having babies. Love is in the online air!

It’s amazing what modern-day communication affords us. I can truly attest to this. My mind is blown because of how with one click, I am able to talk to old friends I haven’t even touched base with for a while… people I would otherwise only see again in the pages of old yearbooks, class pictures or night-out photographs of years past.

I remember frolicking under the sun with as kids with some of these old friends. Others were high school girl friends that I used to share colognes and crushes with. The rest were either colleagues from previous workplaces or someone I knew through somebody. Now in our mid-twenties, discussing wedding plans with them after several years of inconsistent communication is both unexpected and refreshing.

“We are at this stage, huh!?” we would comment to each other. Yes – it seems like we are not getting any younger.

On the subject of weddings, it is usual for brides-to-be to share and compare wedding plans with each other. Crucial topics such as the ceremony venue, reception, cake and catering services, florists, and for some, preferred officiating ministers or priests are thoroughly discussed.  Then they fuss about invitation printers, save- the- date ideas, table cards, giveaways, and of course the entourage’s outfits and the bridal couture! Ah, and the wedding dress!

To my dearest grooms – keep in mind that holding everything together is difficult enough for the bride to do even with her bridesmaids in assistance…and for an occasion as big as this, the ladies always put their best foot forward so that absolutely nothing goes wrong and everything is perfect come the big day. Minor glitches are not even tolerated. Women plan for and organize their weddings like a platoon strategizes before battle. It’s do or die. But in terms of wedding planning, women are even more feral and unforgiving when they don’t get their way and/or things don’t go as planned. Hell hath no fury than a bride and her entourage scorned. It’s like “Bridezillas Unite!” and you, poor little groom, don’t want to end up as collateral damage. So if you value your life, DON’T EVER commit the crime of ripping even just a teeny-tiny portion of the train of her dress on your way home from picking it up from the couturier. I’m telling you, she will definitely lose it. You’re a dead man walking. I can’t even begin to tell you how justice will be served…

(Yes, Ian. The whole paragraph about keeping the wedding dress safe and secure is essential to this entry and so you must not edit it out. ;-))

So, a few weeks back, I started talking to my ladies about wedding planning. Gentlemen, when we ladies talk weddings, this includes the blow-by-blow scrutiny of each one’s grooms: how helpful and participative they are with the organizing process, do they go to food tasting sessions, have they picked out their suits, were they aware the guest list just ballooned to 200..what??!!?, etc. Luckily for my darling Ian, I’m not quite in that Crazy Bride mindset (yet…that would be later, baby…hehe). I explained to my girls that since we are in a not-so-traditional circumstance, we can’t really do the whole big wedding thing (yet). Ian and I will say our vows in front of a Justice Of The Peace. Or, a city mayor – I  am not certain. I am not even sure when I’ll get my visa or when I’m leaving.

Naturally, this plan was met with raised eyebrows.  People gab about getting married as being a once in a lifetime deal (true for some people), and that couples are supposed to make it as memorable as possible. And so they ask me, “Why aren’t you throwing a big wedding? Don’t you want your friends and relatives to celebrate this occasion with you? Don’t you want your loved ones’ blessings?”

It’s not that we don’t want it – of course we do. But we can’t just yet. Basically, the plan is for me to leave for the US as soon as possible after my visa is approved. After I step foot on American soil, I intend to marry Ian as soon as we can.  After all of this exhausting bureaucratic work and the agonizing longing and waiting that came with it, I doubt I will have the time and energy for any kind of wedding planning.

So, civil courthouse ceremony it is.

Of course, that was not how I imagined my dream wedding would be. And this is absolutely not my mother’s dream wedding for me. But as I told you in my earlier entry, we make do with what we have. If there is anything my love journey with Ian taught me, it is to prioritize the things that are truly valuable in life and let go of all of those things that are material, temporary, and unnecessary. As for the two of us, to be in each other’s arms forever is blessing enough.

Besides, it’s not the wedding but the marriage. I know it’s not an original thing to declare, but it is certainly true. How many extravagant weddings have you been to and later found out that the couple split or that the bride ran away with another man? In 1974, Ian’s parents, Bob and Ellena, were married by a Justice Of The Peace too. Forty years later, they are still together, very much in love, and renewing their vows over the coming (American) summer.

Oh well, who knows? Maybe Ian and I will have a nice wedding in the future…we are certainly dreaming of it. Don’t be upset if we require guests to wear cloaks, tunics or kilts, because what we are imagining is a unique Game of Thrones inspired medieval-style wedding in honor of the circumstances of our first meeting. DIBS!!!! Dare duplicate my theme and my dragons will be after you!

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But for the time being, we have our minds focused on priorities.  We are taking it one step at a time. Among the important details we carefully planned for and arranged was our pre-wedding pictorial.  I believe the engagement photoshoot is as important as the marriage ceremony itself. It says a lot about the couple and their love story. Also, it is sentimental because it is both a formal declaration of the couple’s betrothal and probably the last formal portraits of the couple as unmarried individuals.

Some people make an effort to come up with unique themes for their shoot. Some go with the customary and pose in bridal couture. Either way, the theme selection process is never easy.  Yet for Ian and I, our love story and our theme were a match made in heaven. Our theme had always been there since we first knew each other. We chose to channel The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, a novel which is very close to our hearts. You do remember me telling you about Emiko and Anderson Lake, right?

 For my first-time readers, and for those who have forgotten, here’s a link to one of my earlier entries:

https://theglobalfilipina.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/rewinding-to-the-windup-girl-epiphany/

This riveting novel, although fictional, had repeatedly tugged on our heartstrings as if it were real. We were moved by the harrowing possible future reality presented by the author. We empathized with the characters, and in our imaginings, they became alive. When we were deciding on a concept, there was no doubt in our minds. This had to be it.

After rigorous research, we found out that no individual or group has thus far done a detailed interpretation of The Wind-up Girl, either through stills or film. Good! We wanted to be the first.  With the help of our hardworking team, we breathed life into the pages of the bestselling book.  So to Paolo Bacigalupi and to the many sci-fi/dystopian future fans out there, here’s our offering. We do hope that our version is close to how you imagined these characters.

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Also, we would like to share an exclusive sneak peek of some behind the scenes activity.

THE INSPIRATION

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THE MAKING

A day prior to the shoot, we met with our team to finalize the details of our endeavor. Like us, our photographer and stylists had done intensive research on the concept. We were all eager to make this shoot an unforgettable one.

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(Notice the photo of Audrey Hepburn on my laptop? More of it on Part 2 of this entry)

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Also, we did a pre-photoshoot location visit so that our team could become acquainted with the surroundings.

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Finally, here we are in action on the day of the shoot.

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Earlier that day, Ian and I encountered an inconvenience. His parents were worried and so they were calling him from the States. That’s him picking up his phone.

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Our team was eager to start and so they were waiting on us.

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This was me asking them to give us a minute. They did.

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Minutes later, Ian was still on the phone.

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 And still on the phone….So we waited.

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“Baby, they want to start”

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Ian was so stressed he needed re-touching…

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And some more last minute touch-ups…

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Me too, apparently…

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Then, our main photographer RJ gave us instructions…

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And more instructions…

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Finally we are ready to roll…

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The first few shots were awkward of course!

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But then they just kept taking photos….

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And more photos….until we were both exhausted.

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And so they gave us some break time

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(The Windup Girl photoshoot location was just outside the Champs Elysees Condominium compound, where my parents live. We shot the remainder of the photos inside….Stay tuned for Part 2)

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More retouching for me….and Ian was back on the phone!

It turns out; it wasn’t very easy to solve our dilemma that day.  Lucky us, Ian’s parents were to the rescue. They were very supportive even from thousands of miles away. From afar, they ended up saving the day. Thanks B + E.

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Back to work! RJ was relentless in motivating us.

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He did well at taking charge

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This time, the more intense shots….

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And finally, we shot the last set.  Everyone was quiet while these pictures were being taken. The scene was so solemn and so moving that I swear I saw my uncle shed a tear. Personally, I was being emotional. The stress of what happened earlier finally got to me…but what helped the most was when I was internalizing Ian’s impending departure the following day…It was a heartbreaking thought and maybe you can tell when viewing the final published photos how somber I was….

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But all is well that ends well. We finished the first part of our pictorial session right before lunch. Relief! Also, food was waiting for us back in my mother’s place. So, we had the perfect excuse to be playful in this photo.

There you have it folks, the first part of this photoshoot entry. Stay tuned for the next installment. I promise I will publish ASAP!

To view the complete set for this photo session, click here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.411157965640497.95111.150758515013778&type=1

Our Compliments and Special Thanks
Photo Credits:
RJ Protacio and RJ Protacio Photography
Jared Villegas Teves
Hair and Make-up Artists:
Kittikoon Khinkhajorn
Auyjung Naja
Co-stylists:
Clint Lopez
Jan Jay Espino
Production Assistant:
Karl Castillon

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 3: Fidanzamento a Prego Trattoria (Betrothal at Prego Trattoria)

It was 30 minutes past the scheduled dinner time and my parents and brother were nowhere in sight. Our invited friends were already seated and I was as anxious as any bride-to-be could be on her engagement dinner night.  Ian, my ever active and supportive fiancé, was busy supervising some last minutes details such as instructing the restaurant staff, while also being a gracious host by greeting and mingling with our guests.

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Like a Boss.  My fiancé was doing such a superb job of supervising the staff that he might as well have been running the place.

45 minutes. My young uncle Clint wondered aloud: “Where are they?”

Exactly my question. Where are they?

Is it possible my family has decided to ditch my engagement dinner?

Were they upset enough about me marrying so quickly that they decided they didn’t want to show up?

The phone ringing disrupted the million thoughts racing through my mind.

Arjay, my brother’s close friend who had arrived earlier, picked it up.

“What? I can’t hear you. What happened?”

Reflexively, I turned my head to where the voice was coming as my heart skipped a beat.

“Is that them?”, I mouthed to Arjay.

“Yes. I’m already here”. Arjay kept talking to the caller who I assumed by now was one of my family members.

“You may go down in front of the main entrance, pass through the hotel lobby, and take the left door going to the restaurant”.

I was overhearing the one-sided conversation amidst the almost synchronized clatter of china and cutlery coming from the restaurant kitchen. It was my mother on the other end of the line asking for directions. Apparently, they had some trouble finding the place. Seriously? She helped me choose this restaurant and she can’t remember where it is!? And for the love of God, where were they?!?

“Baby, she’s asking you what drink you would like.” Ian, calm and in control, pointed to the waitress who was awaiting my order. “She will have a beer,” Ian, sensing my stress level increasing, informed her when I didn’t answer.

“Yes please, beer would be perfect!” I managed to respond after a delay. Dear Lord, it was a long night ahead of us…

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It wasn’t so long ago that Ian’s path crossed with mine on that fateful day when we stumbled upon each other online, of all places. It wasn’t so long ago when he traversed the International Date Line to see me, alive and breathing, for the first time, and when we went on an adventure together, exploring The Land of Smiles’ cities, provinces, islands, rivers, seas, villages,  railways, streets -every nook and cranny . It seemed only yesterday when we spontaneously fell in love…

Yet it had already been days, weeks, months since Ian and I decided we wanted to spend every day of the rest of our lives with each other.

And so there we were, all dressed and decked out on a night that could have been just any night only that it was not. It was a time that meant more to us than any night ever had.

It seemed surreal to be surrounded by a familiar crowd, some family members and close friends I would otherwise spend regular Sunday nights with. But there isn’t a minute to spare for second-guessing. We have finally arrived at the moment that Ian and I have rehearsed for several times in our heads and I’d be damned if we weren’t ready.   It was the night we vowed to celebrate the promise of our unwavering commitment. It was our chance to toast to and savor our little victory: We came to claim what we have toiled for, what our hearts have desired for in the first place- validation, acceptance and joy in the arms of the person we truly cherish and adore. We came to venerate a love so sincere it can cleanse even the most impure of souls, a love so pure it undoes human errors, it forgives mistakes. It is real, unadulterated, proud, defiant, unbent. We wanted it. We willed it. We have it. We paused for a moment to marvel at our masterpiece, borne out of sacrifice, patience and lots of hope. What wonderful music we have created, he and I!

Like artists at our gala, we basked in accolades. We indulged critiques. We smiled at each other secretly. We knew only one truth. Whatever may be, nothing can change anything, for our love is unbowed. We are unyielding.

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It was our night and not even my pamilya’s “Filipino time” arrival could have rained on our parade. Finally, at 7 o’clock, my mother, who was dressed to the nines and could have been mistaken for my sister, showed up with my father and brother in tow.

Ian politely greeted and thanked them for coming. Meanwhile, I motioned for the appetizers. The night was just beginning.

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Our engagement dinner was somehow designed to make up for the fact that my family and friends didn’t and won’t have enough opportunity to spend time with my fiancé to get to know him better. And since I barely discuss our future plans with anybody, it was also their chance to ask questions, verify information, and clarify anything and everything they’d want. Needless to say, everyone in attendance was thrilled, curious, and participative at the same time. If it was to be their only chance, they wanted to make the most of it. Arjay, my brother’s friend, former college roommate, and our “adoptive family member” was our impromptu master of ceremonies and facilitator. My brother Karl said grace before meal, and while pasta was being served, Ian showed off the ring on my finger and retold its compelling history. Our table echoed with oohs and aahs.

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Unretouched photo by RJ Protacio Photography
The Motherlode. A true Weinstein treasure, this ring previously belonged to Regina, Ian’s paternal grandmother.  He explained that the center stone was  the solitaire diamond on his grandmother’s original engagement ring which was given to her by his grandfather, Benjamin, in 1933. Then, in the 1950’s Benjamin had the engagement diamond re-fit as the center stone in a new ring featuring 6 smaller diamonds arranged into a bow shape; he gave this to Regina as an anniversary present.  After Ian’s grandparents passed away, it was decided that this heirloom should be passed to the next Weinstein male to get engaged, and over a decade later, this beautiful ring is fulfilling its destiny.

As encouraged by Arjay, everyone took turns in wishing us well. I held my breath when it was my parents’ turn to speak. I kept waiting for signs of bombs dropping but thankfully they never came. Phew! It wasn’t until later that I found out, upon returning from the powder room, surprised like an unsuspecting mother bear who went to hunt for her children’s food only to come back to find her cub surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves,  a horde had pounced on my Ian! Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

To lighten up the mood, our Uncle Clint and Cousin Jan Jay prepared a “How Well Do You Know Each Other” game to test our couple acumen during dessert. It was supposed to be a quiz but it actually did well to soothe my nerves. After all, we had nothing to fear: we knew each other well. All too well.

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Here Comes Mrs. “See? I’m Right”.  What is/are Ian’s favorite book/s and who is his favorite author?

Added to my relief, the food was good, the ambiance both classy and cozy, and the restaurant staff offered their best kind of service.  I’d say it was a wonderfully fun time overall.

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I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You. Molten lava cake for the lovers.

However, the ambiance, the food, the service, etc. was not the heart of it all. We were happy that everyone was gastronomically satisfied and there was laughter here and there during the night. But more than ever, Ian and I were glad that when they left the restaurant that night, we knew that they felt in their hearts that Ian and I know what we were doing and that we’re doing it as fairly and rightly as we can.

It’s no secret that what we have is a less than traditional courtship. Both of our families would have wanted more than Skype meetings, virtual greetings and overseas gift-giving sessions.  Ian and I want to give our parents and siblings experiences as close to the customary ones as we can. Even with the limitations, we labor to give our best. It would have been better if we could actually do more.

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Heads Up! The men in my family didn’t seem impressed, LOL!

It would have been a happier occasion if Ian’s side of the family were there in attendance. Instead, they got a full report over Skype on the following day. Later this year, Ian and I will be married in a civil courthouse ceremony with his family in attendance. My family will probably be watching the ceremony via live feed. They are not happy about it.

My parents prefer that I be wed before I leave for the States. As any parent would, of course. I assume that just as Ian’s clan would want to witness a marriage of a Weinstein man after several years of not having a wedding in the family, my parents and siblings would also want to see me struggling, er, walking down the aisle in a white poufy dress. They might even have hinted so to Ian when I excused myself for a few minutes to go to the powder room (along with the many other strong hints). I personally have been dreaming of my wedding since I was a little girl.

But for those of you who are familiar with the K1 visa, you’re aware that the rule is for the fiancée to travel to the US unmarried and to then marry on American soil. Any such violation on our part could jeopardize my eligibility to marry Ian in the future.  The way I look at it, my chances of being with the man I love for the rest of my life is entirely in the hands of a bureaucracy. I will not risk pissing them off.

My fiancé and I are in a challenging circumstance.  Honestly, we don’t like it either. We want to please everybody but there’s only so much we can do at the moment.  I can only tell you – and you must believe me – that we really try. In this crucial time, we need all of the support we can get. To all of our well-wishers, you must know that we really appreciate your kind words. We cherish your approval. We find comfort in your acquiescence. For without those, it almost feels as if it’s just us against the world.    Ian and I, we make do with what we have. We can only hope it’s enough.

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On the way home, I could tell that my family and friends felt better after having their queries answered. We felt better knowing that we were able to be transparent to them. People who love us have worried and will worry more for us. It’s human nature to care for one’s flock. Ian and I knew from the start that we are going to be okay. Now, they know that too. Going home, they had heavier stomachs and lighter hearts, more information and lesser worries, a better frame of mind and reduced anxiety. We couldn’t ask for more.

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A Walk to Remember

 

Gallery

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Her Perfectly-Styled Hair. It took longer to style my mother’s hair than for me to put together my entire look. She went to the salon. I did mine on my own. She wanted to look parfait, and so they were late! (It doesn’t rhyme…grrr!)

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Anything for Ms. Castillon? A name change is in order.

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Practice Makes Perfect. I’d like this pose for our wedding pictures too. Good rehearsal!

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The Couple flanked by the Board of Inquisitors

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BROck on!

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Bro Backing Us Up

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MAFIAmily. Er…My Family
Compliments to the staff of Prego Trattoria Italian Restaurant @ Novotel Hotel
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Prego-Trattoria-Italian-Restaurant/269051753122091

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 2: Mothers, Lovers, and A Daughter’s Prayer for Peace

16th February 2013, Saturday, 11:30am. Ian and I returned to our Baiyoke Tower suite 30 minutes before check-out time. We had just gotten engaged on the top of Thailand’s Tallest Tower and what we really wanted to do was to turn off our phones, no internet and stay cooped up in our room until who knows when, if you know what I mean. But hotels here in Bangkok are particularly strict about check-out time because of the tourist traffic. Besides, we had obligations to fulfill such as Ian’s courtesy call to my family upon arrival and some more errands to do such as changing hotel rooms, getting ready for our engagement dinner on the following day, etc. So we scrambled to gather all of our things, pack our luggage and head to the hotel lobby for check-out…

It took some time for us to get settled into our new hotel room. Also, we had to travel to the suburbs where our previously chosen accommodation is located. My family lives in the area so in the interest of accessibility and convenience, we chose both this hotel and the restaurant for our engagement dinner to be in that vicinity.

We had plans to meet my mom and my brother in the afternoon to help Ian and I find clothes and accessories for our engagement dinner and pre-wedding photo-shoot. I had done my personal shopping with my stylist-cousins beforehand so technically this shopping trip was for Ian. I really appreciate my mom for agreeing to do this with us. I would say I am fashion-savvy; When it comes to men’s clothes, I may be able tell if it looks nice but I’m not an expert. My mom has three men/boys in the family and over the years she has gotten really good at shopping for males. So I intended to rely on her expertise. Besides, I thought it would be a good bonding opportunity for her and Ian (including my brother of course) because they had the chance to talk/get to know each other on only a few occasions before.

Admittedly, in the beginning of my relationship with Ian, it might have seemed difficult for my mother to process what was happening. To her, Ian could be just another “farang” (Thai term for foreigners particularly Westerners) with “yellow fever”. My mom was brought up a conservative and is very prudent in romantic relationships. She advocates a long courtship more than anything else and prefers two families of the couple to also know each other well before venturing into a “merger”.  As you know, it’s not very easy in our situation because our families are separated by miles, mountains and seas. As my mother, it’s understandable for her to have some qualms and hesitations about my impending marriage to a Cano (Filipino slang term for American man as in AmeriCANO) I have known for 7 months.

It doesn’t help that she hears horror stories from friends and colleagues about Filipina/Asian women who were into terrible circumstances while being involved with a white guy. I couldn’t blame her. Unlike me, she didn’t have the chance to interact with Ian on a regular basis. But I know that when she gets the opportunity, Ian’s charm, innate kindness, intelligence and obvious sincerity has the power to possibly win her over – as he did with me – and make her an instant convert.

My mother has been the primary constant in my life, good times or bad. I always treasure my fondest memories of my mother and I, such as her combing my hair and doing my hairstyle (I think she does the best braids and pontytails), putting night creams on my face and lotion on my skin while I’m sleeping because I’m too lazy to do it myself and I hate the sticky feeling. I seek her advice about even the simplest of things such as clothing and food options. To this day, she still calls me when she sees a lovely dress in the mall and thinks it would look nice on me. She would ask me if I’d like for her to get it for me.  My mom is my valiant protector; when I am hurt, she hurts more. When I had my heart broken in the past, it seemed to pain her more so than it did me.

I know that she wants the best for me.

So, in the cab on the way to the shopping center, I was crossing my fingers for good luck. Ian asked if I’m okay and I knew he could tell I’m a bit anxious.   I relied heavily on this shopping date for Ian and my mom to establish better ties.  Needless to say, my mom’s acceptance of my future husband matters to me. More so, I thought it would be great if the two people I love the most actually get along. At that point, I prayed to Mother Mary to intercede for me. Maybe she can warm my own mother’s  heart.

So we arrived at the mall and my mom was just finishing her grocery shopping. As I approached her, she asked me if Ian would like some pasta. My brother has perfected his version of spaghetti since we demand for his cooking every weekend. Apparently, she has been bugging Karl to cook so we’ll have something on the table when entertaining Ian.  I smiled secretly. Not a bad start.

To keep the friendly mood, I asked if anybody would like to eat. Everyone agreed that they were hungry so we headed over to one of the Thai restaurants for merienda (afternoon snack time) which was actually a late lunch for Ian and I. Over Pad Thai (stir-fried Pho noodles), spring rolls, chicken wings, Khao Pad Moo (pork fried rice), etc., my mother asked about Ian’s flight, his parents and sister which launched them to the eventual conversation about Ian’s family tree. Ian’s missionary aunt who was in Asia (particularly in the Philippines and China) for several years was mentioned and this captured my mom’s attention. My mother, who was raised a Catholic by her devoted aunts and was sent to Catholic schools from kindergarten to college pleasantly welcomed stories about Ian’s relatives who went into priesthood and nunhood. Ian’s maternal grandmother is Scottish Catholic. Many of his grandmother’s siblings lived as nuns, priests, missionaries and monks…. I interjected in the middle of their exciting convent-sation that my mother always wanted one of her sons and daughters to “respond to the calling” which ultimately lead to the mention of my brother Karl, who was enjoying the last piece of chicken wing, being a seminarian back in college. He finished Philosophy and just like Ian, he loves the big talks relating to theology, existentialism, physics and the purpose of life. Besides that, my brother plays the guitar and is into metal. Additionally, he very well liked Ian’s present during his last visit: a New York Yankees baseball cap. That being said, I don’t have any worries about my brother and his future brother-in-law getting along.  And the way the conservation between my mom and husband-to-be was going, it seemed I would have one less worry too…very soon. I prayed for my mother’s saints to watch over my cause. I could only hope they weren’t sleeping.

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Two brothers and a mom

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My Men. Enjoying Häagen-Dazs chocolate truffle ice cream for dessert

Someone mentioned that it was getting late, so we picked up the bill and started heading down to the department stores. Did I mention we were in Thailand? So that meant endless choices at ridiculously cheap prices for good quality garments. Evidently, my mother and my brother had already started scouring the mall for shops on sale before we got here so as to save time once we finally arrived. So in a systematic fashion – carefully supervised by my shopping expert mother –  Ian started his “ordeal” of trying on shirts, blazers, suits, etc., beginning with the brand Pierre Cardin which thankfully was at 50-70% off! (Oh Ian, aren’t you glad you’re marrying me?!) Halfway through the marathon, sweat began trickling down Ian’s forehead and my mother promptly motioned to me to wipe my darling fiancé’s forehead. At the fourth long-sleeved shirt, I couldn’t hide my frustration for the lack of available sizes for Ian. In Thailand, when you say large, it means American small or something. No kidding!  I am convinced it’s another one of the government’s grand schemes of regulating this aesthetically-motivated and figure-conscious country’s citizen’s weight.  As soon as I started with my tsk-tsks, my mother started with her disapproving stares: “Don’t be like that. Be patient”. Those were her words of wisdom followed by orders of “Wait for him outside the dressing room”, “Don’t leave him” and more. My mother was barking like the How- to- be –a- Good -Wife -101 professor.  After 25 years of marriage, I guess my mother has earned for herself a master’s degree in Wifehood.

We finally agreed on a light blue striped long-sleeved shirt for Anderson Lake (The Wind-up Girl),  a gray suit with matching skinny tie for Paul Varjak (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and a black suit and white long sleeved shirt for our engagement dinner. Phew! Done at last! Male shopping is definitely not my favorite sport. After a tiring three hours or so, we called it a day. My mom thought Ian looked really tired so she ordered us back to our hotel to get some rest in preparation for the dinner the following day. Riding the cab on the way back, I was in lost in my silent reverie. Generally, I was happy with the outcome of that day: My mom was gracious and I knew she was making her best effort to show that she is reaching out. Although with my mom, it is not very difficult for her to appear welcoming because she is naturally a thoughtful person-she genuinely cares about and is very mindful of people’s needs. I was really hoping that Ian felt welcomed because I knew in my heart that if I were in his situation, my mother would also like me to be welcomed by my in-laws to be. This memory brought me back to our non-traditional Skype “pamamanhikan” two months back:

Our families were scheduled to teleconference at 8 o’clock breakfast time in Bangkok. Meanwhile, in Katonah, New York, Bob and Ellena – Ian’s parents – had just finished their dinner at home. At one point in the conversation, my mother expressed her apprehensions about my move to America:  She was telling Ian’s parents that she is very worried because I don’t have aunts or uncles or any close relatives in the US and so she wouldn’t know where to refer me to in case something happens to me. In response, Ellena recounted her own experience back in 1974 when she was only 20 years old. (Ian has told me that she came to the States with nothing but the clothes on her back). Coming to America for the first time, Ian’s mom said the only person she knew in all 50 states was her husband, Bob.  But Regina, Bob’s mother (and the original owner of my engagement ring) welcomed her with open arms and let her into their family and hearts like a true daughter.

“Juvy, that I will do for Cecille, too”.

Observing this genuine and poignant exchange between two mothers sent a shiver down my spine. I swear I saw my mother become teary-eyed. Thousands and thousands of miles away, Ellena was able to project through an LCD screen connected to various wires and microchips powered by technology, a sentiment as old as time—human empathy, loosely defined as “caring for other people and having a desire to help them, to experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions, to knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other”.

To me, it translates as “Juvy, I feel you. I am a mother too”.

Thousands and thousands of miles away, Ellena struck me in the heart and in that instant I believed that everything is going to be okay. I will be okay in a foreign land away from home because I will have a second family. Across all of these thousands of miles, I felt a sentiment so much older than me but  so rarely experienced by many these day:  Faith in humanity.

I know I was supposed to tell our story, mine and Ian’s. Yet it is said that a good story is one that tells another story within. This story is not solely mine but also that of my mother, Ian’s mother, and of all the mothers, parents and families who are taking a gamble at letting a “stranger” claim their children as being theirs too (“stranger”: referring to fiancés or fiancées). Isn’t this difficult for parents to do? They are supposed to welcome into their homes and into their hearts the person who is about to take their child away from them and claim to have responsibility over them from then on. As parents who cared for their children from the time they were fragile babies, to naughty children, to troubled teens, and finally to present day adults, it is almost impossible to believe that yet another person could possibly care for their respective little prince or princess better than they have.  Again, faith in humanity –  so mainstream, but also so scarce. It is a tragedy of life that these days it is a stretch for a person to bring himself to put his trust into the hands of another man. That is why it is unavoidable for parents to quiz the future new family member about his background, circumstance, upbringing, viewpoint and opinion on things that they think matter. They want to know whether their future son or daughter- in- law can protect their interest.

I am proud of my Ian. I think I couldn’t have chosen a better man. Had I been an FBI agent’s daughter, my father would be disappointed to see Ian’s dossier to be so clean that he doesn’t have a bone to pick with him.  He would even be more disappointed to find that my Ian is a man about it: he looks forward to the interrogation with cool, respectful, confidence. He is not arrogant but he is also not intimidated.

The logical next step is then for my FBI agent father to take is to assume I am crazy, and that I do not know what I am doing getting married so soon. Surely, he knows me better than I know myself. Surprise, surprise!

It is very common to hear from parents the words: “No one else knows you better than us”. Maybe they do. But also, maybe they don’t anymore. With all due respect:

This is the sad truth for our dear Parents. Yes, once your children were little kids running around freely without any sense of direction other than what you had set for them. However, children grow to become adults just like you with jobs, responsibilities, and plans. Children, too, eventually mature to build a life and family of their own.

I do not mean for this to come across as being negative. Rather, I would like to bridge the gap there is between future in-laws from both sides (although this may not be applicable to everybody). Maybe, the marriage of your son and daughter must not be seen as another person taking your child away from you, but instead as one more person loving and caring for your child as much as you do. Maybe having a son or daughter in-law is not a burden, but instead a happy addition to your growing family, regardless of said son or daughter in-law’s color, race or creed. Maybe negative perceptions must be changed.   Perhaps the strict concept of exclusivity must be loosened a little bit.

The family is the basic unit of society. And wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if in our society there is harmony amidst diversity?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all just get along, despite our differences? This should apply especially when different parties have a common stake: to secure the lifetime happiness of the one they claim to love. Case in point: Me.

That is my opinion.  My parents, just like any other parents, also wanted to air a piece of their minds. Ian and I promised they will have a chance at the engagement dinner. That was only 12 hours later after we said our goodbyes in front of Central Chaengwattana mall.

As we bade each other farewell, my mother gave my darling Ian a “beso-beso”. I prayed to God it wasn’t a Judas kiss. Maybe this time God listened.

To be continued…

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!