Archive for August 23, 2011

The Day New York Rocked— Literally!

New York City. August 23, 2011  Click here for a news article about the East Coast earthquake.

Originally from a country located in the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire' ( a successful poetic take on an actually scary earthquake and volcano belt), seismic tremors are not new to me. We always have earthquakes in the Philippines to know that after a major tremor, aftershocks will follow suit. So when our office building swayed at 1:58 pm resulting from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake today, the first thing I did was to look for a sturdy piece of furniture to hide from any falling debris.  I was already in all fours under the table when the ever-reliable adrenalin brought me back my wits. I  realized three things:

  1.  Given a possible worst case scenario, I'm on the upper floor of a mid-rise building that was built on top of a huge subway station which could  also cave in under me.
  2. None of the furniture look sturdy enough to protect us. In fact, the table was a post-modern style pre-fab wood that has a trendy yet flimsy metal frame stand.
  3.  The drills we practiced during my grade school years in the Philippines didn't apply to US, much more in metro New York where tall buildings and busy underground tunnels and subway systems are the norm.

Upon realizing these facts, I rushed to the doorway where everyone else went. Our building caters to healthcare-related businesses so there was a lot of disabled and geriatric patients who scrambled to the exit together with the hordes of office workers whose reactions varied. Some were smiling and seemed amused with I don't know what .  A lot were nervously in a panic and were shouting names of those who got lost in the flood of people. A few others led the people out and were comforting those who looked disheveled and obviously out of synch. In the confusion, I could hear five different languages being spoken. Mobile networks were jammed. Elevators were shut down.  In my head, scary scenes from a disaster movie I watched recently came to mind. Gripped in fear, I prepared myself for the worst. As we walk-run down the stairs, I took my female CFO's hand and grasped it hard until we were out in the streets. I prayed and thought of all the people who were in much taller buildings. When we got out I was teary eyed mostly because of emotional shock, but also because I remembered the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated the Ilocano North in 1990.

It was an afternoon in July 16 when the fateful earthquake struck Central Luzon. The epicenter was Dagupan City, barely an hour drive away from my hometown in Camiling, Tarlac. At that time, I was a 10 year-old kid enrolled in a public elementary school that has old post war brick buildings for classrooms.  Our class was in session; we were taking a difficult Math test when I noticed the pencil roll off the desk. Then one of my classmates yelled in Ilocano, 'Aggingineg!' that meant there is an earthquake. We immediately evacuated the old building and were piled up in the schoolyard as we waited for our parents to pick us up. Huddled together we watched how a few boulders from the nearby historic St. Michael's Catholic Church  fell down. That same day and even days after, the aftershocks were so violent that at one point our chandelier almost hit the ceiling as it swung from left to right. Parts of our concrete house had hairline cracks and some antique vases were smashed. My neighbor's huge aquarium crashed killing all those oriental fishes that broke the children's hearts.

Further north it was at its worst. It was estimated that  more than 1,500 people died. The whole world watched in horror as local and foreign press agencies showed rescuers pull out one body after another from the rubbles of a 4-star hotel and many other poorly built establishments and schools. Baguio City -- dubbed as the summer capital in the Philippines because of its location in mountainous Cordillera -- together with the big Northern cities such as Dagupan and Cabanatuan, suffered the most damages with collapsed residential and commercial buildings, destroyed major roads and thousands of  residents displaced without access to electricity and potable water.

Now scanning the news feeds, I am glad that there was no serious damage. My friends and relatives in Virginia and the East Coast are all fine. It was scary ... Surely one hell of an experience especially to a shocked New York that is much more prepared for man-made disasters rather than nature's wrath. It stands as a strong reminder that no one and nothing is invincible --- especially when it is Mother Nature who chooses to strike.


Hyatt Hotel- Baguio City in the wake of the July 16, 1990 earthquake

 Click here for EARTHQUAKE PREPAREDNESS checklist of Red Cross.          

Ilocano York Now Welcomes ANONYMOUS Posts

Ilocano York is now open to anonymous contributions! Since I welcomed contributions to my blog, I had persistent requests that names be kept confidential. I was hesitant at first thinking that a writer or contributor might submit works that aren't his own. Now realizing that not everyone is bold enough to provide a face and name to an experience or literary creation, I finally conceded. Yes, ANONYMITY is now welcome. All stories need to be told. Some people have stories that might run against common belief.  Some are afraid to publish because of public persecution. Some might have secret desires and dreams he would want to be kept as it is. Now they have a place in my blog. The freedom of expression should be upheld.  Keep the ideas flowing, and your identity in the closet. Ilocano York has matured. Email Anonymous contributions to  **LIMITATIONS**
  • All opinion articles should be published with a name. Also videos, pictures, recipes, critiques, technical and news articles cannot be published anonymous.
  • Only original journal entries, essays, reflections, open letters, poems and anecdotes will be accepted as anonymous contributions.
  • All articles will be subject to editing in accordance to Ilocano York standards.
  • Ilocano York keeps the right to reject and accept contributions.
  • Note that subject should lean towards the immigrant experience of Filipinos.

It’s raining … An excuse to stay home and eat champorado

Lazy Sunday afternoon, 71°F , New York City Even when I was still full from lunch, I couldn't help but salivate when I saw the  picture of  New Yorker Betsy Rhae Vergara's home cooked champorado on Facebook. She paired her version with danggit, salten-dried variety of fish that is a popular Cebuano product. Her picture brought back memories of the days when we used to have champorado and tuyo (dried salted fish best eaten when dipped in vinegar with garlic and Bicolano chili or 'labuyo) at least once week. The last time I checked, no Filipino restaurant in NYC serves this Filipino favorite on their menu yet. Champorado or chocolate rice pudding is made with glutinous rice cooked and sweetened cocoa powder  or cocoa blocks. Evaporated milk is sometimes added just before serving to loosen up the sticky consistency of the porridge. Whenever I cook it, I put coffee (instant or freshly brewed espresso) to give it that bitter coffee taste that I prefer. Chocolate is a much beloved Mexican cooking ingredient. While they cook their meats, vegetables and practically everything in chocolate, we relegated its use to desserts, drinks and sweets. This breakfast or snack dish is actually an adapted version of their Champurado, a thick chocolate drink usually eaten with churros (long and fried pastry that originated from Spain).  When our Mexican brothers  entered the country through the Spanish Galleon Trade, they introduced this delicacy to the natives. Owing to our love of rice, we cooked it with the sticky grains and dropped the churros altogether, then ate it with what else ---tuyo! TIP: Try eating it with a few drops of spiced Datu Puti vinegar as well.

Betsy Rhae Vergara's Champorado or Chocolate Rice Porridge


"‎Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language." Whenever speaking in English, many times my closest friends would catch me mispronounce a lot of words. They would laugh heartily as they constantly ask me questions leading to answers that would require me to speak the mispronounced word repeatedly. Slow to realize it, I would fall for the language trap several times. Initially irked, I would later see the mistake for all its worth. I realize that such paux pas isn't an insufficiency from my part, but a disadvantage stemming from a competency in another language. Phonological confusion is a production failure common among mutilinguals who speak languages that have varying phonological structures. A lot of times, in the most excited moment, a word is blurted out wrong even if the speaker has already attained fluency in a second language. Recently, I overheard a friend say, "hamberjer". Many times I said "iskars" to mean scarce or very little. The local priest says "tenk yu" to everyone, while a Marian devotee invited me to a "sinakel". My linguistics professor in college often corrected me whenever I say "etch" for letter H, instead of  "aitch". To a lot of Ilocanos I know, table becomes "teybel", edible is "edibel" and there becomes "dear". P sound  is interchanged with F, B with V and TH-sound with D. Filipinos lose the aspiration (or the air coming out of the mouth as one speaks a sound) when pronouncing words with initial sounds like T, B, P and K. Being mutilingual, though a gift, sometimes have its compromises. But it's okay. Mispronounced or not, I think I am luckier than my American neighbor who only speaks one. Here are YouTube videos about Filipino accents: Video 1 Funny yet informative language lesson with Mikey Bustos  Video 2 Russel Peters'  joke on Filipino Accent Video 3 Tim Tayag's stand-up act about ESL Video 4 Archiezzle on Filipino Accent

Ilocano Word for the Day – Agas

Agas (n)– means medicine or cure. /a-gas/ with the stress on second syllable.    Agas daytos iti sakit ulo.=> This  is a medicine for headache. => Gamot eto sa sakit ng ulo. Ilocano => English => Tagalog Agas => medicine , cure=> gamot


Everyday I sit on same chair by the window, sipping same blend coffee and similarly prepared breakfast sandwich done by the same deli guy as same cookie awaits on same side of the table. I listen to same song, at same exact minute everyday with same hope that somehow something will change out of the sameness of my routine. Whatever happened to seizing the day?

Ilocano Word for the Day – Nariro

Nariro (adj)– means confusing. /na-ri-ro/ with the stress on second syllable.    Nariro daytoy mapam.=> Your map is confusing . => Nakakalito ang mapa mo. Ilocano => English => Tagalog Nariro=> confusing=>nakakalito

Paalam, Sampaguita: Love Off-shored

A riveting Tagalog song about a man left behind in the country as lady love migrates to American shores. Man sings acceptance of the harsh reality, a migratory phenomenon that saw 11% of Filipinos living abroad. This is written, composed and performed by 1990s punk band Yano, a University of the Philippines-grown group known to sing about social and political issues that beset the country. Dong Abay's Paalam, Sampaguita For Full Lyrics of Paalam sampaguita, click here.

In your supreme greatness, grant me the wisdom to understand, the strength to do things, the courage to speak, the heart to feel, and the will to follow what is right.

Ilocano Word for the Day – Takrut

Takrut (n)– means coward. /tak-rut/ with the stress on second syllable.    Takrut iti agtaray nga umuna.=> The first to run is a coward. => Duwag ang unang tatakbo. Ilocano => English => Tagalog Takrut => coward=> duwag