Archive for September 25, 2011

Finding One’s Match is Never Easy

There is this story I heard from my ever single and so available friend Ivan Mesa (that he also heard from another amazing single friend, Luchelle del Rosario) about a woman who earnestly prayed to St. Anthony de Padua for a life partner. Everyday this woman knelt before the image of the Saint that she dearly kept in her apartment. One day, after much desperation from a seemingly unheard prayer, she took St. Anthony's image in her hand and with a violent rage born out of a frustrated heart, threw it outside. As soon as she did, a man's voice said, "Ouch!". Realizing her folly, she rushed out and saw a man that she instantly recognized as heaven's answer to her prayer. She apologized, invited him in to check the concussion on the man's head and the rest is a fairy tale ending with a Catholic flair. This story sounds really good. If indeed it was true, this saintly image would be the hottest item sold in stores enjoying briskier sales than the sought-after Ipad 2.

New York City is not the best place for women who are looking for serious relationships. The usual lament of single women living here was glamorized by writer  Carrie Bradshaw, a Sex and the City character whose dating adventures and misadventures have been the endless source of topic for her column. She cried, "It's hard to find a good single man in New York City," with 'good' as the operative word. Bad news for  New York ladies is the reality that their city is one of 2010's top 29 cities for men to live. Clearly a "paradise for men," according to ultra-masculine website AskMen.com.

Statistics is not on women's side either. According to statistics collected by Richard Florida of the University of Toronto, single women currently outnumber single men in New York by 149,219. This number did not count the gays in the mix given that New York is one of the top cities in America with the highest estimated gay population. Even my gay friends complain, there aren't enough men for them. And to complicate matters further for the menu of religious-sensitive women, shave off the possibility that out of the very few available men, a lot are not practicing the same religion.

So with these growing surplus of women, the big conundrum is what to do to meet a good man in New York City?  There are a lot of ways one can try: Attend parties,  meet guys at work, pay good money in online dating sites enrollment, the quick-pick route aka speed dating, hang out in the 'good' places like bookstores, church, libraries, schools, parks & the works or go look out of town (good luck with long-distance affairs, that's another story). How about some really desperate measures like free posting on notorious Craiglist, or finally taking a long and thoughtful second look at your male best friend who just farted in your face five minutes ago, or WOW -- relocating. A lot would surely choke on the last option: leaving New York for a guy.

It seems like an endless desperation that is more like a norm than the rule. Now it feels like St. Anthony de Padua is the best recourse --- Armed with patience and prayers, one will see her likely match and hopefully, not after the man gets hit with a plaster of Paris image on his head.

Seriously, all Catholic single women of the world click here for St. Anthony de Padua prayers.

Pastoral Scenes

These are pictures that warm the heart of an immigrant who hasn't been back home for a while. Photos courtesy of Sikat ang Camiling, both a Facebook account and page.

Independence

I'm grateful to New York for a lot of things, but mostly for the gift of independence it has given me. I may have attempted to gain independence in my young adult life in Manila, but having a swarm of supportive relatives and meddling neighbors foiled my noble intentions of making it on my own --- being truly, fully independent in the most real sense of the word. 

Now I can pretty much do everything I want. I can run naked in my apartment and no one would ever know. I can  put my speakers on full blast and play the same song over and over again. I can stash my fridge with nothing but my favorite ice cream flavor and fill my cupboards with all the comfort food I love to munch. I can eat my favorite mung bean soup all day, all week and the whole month. I can have weird combinations of ingredients in my food experiments.  I can leave the house and arrive anytime I want. No one will check. No nosy neighbors. No watchful family members. No critical friends. No one will complain. I can sleep, wake-up, clean the house, wash clothes, eat meals, and potentially do all the verbs in the English dictionary my own way, in my own terms. With it, I feel so powerful. It fuels my creativity and curiosity.  Independence gave me a way to re-align my life, values then handed me a mirror to see myself in a different light.

But it's not all roses. I quickly learned having this  much freedom comes with tremendous responsibilities. It's cliched wisdom yet its different when you are actually living it to the core.

I know I can hold parties and invite friends to my house , but I don't. I made my home a sanctuary of rest and solitary recreation that I badly need in this city of fast paced transactions and stressful demands. I can leave my dirty dishes in the sink like what I would have done when I was younger, but I don't. I know no one will do it for me anyway and that it would be very expensive to hire the services of a pest control agency later if I start breeding roaches and rats with my laziness.  I can bust my budget on a great pair of shoes I wanted for so long or some expensive must-have gadget, but I don't. I know better to keep some savings for the rainy days. I can stay late every night and spend countless hours idling with friends somewhere but I don't. After all I know that when I get sick from staying up late and if I abuse my health with bad food choices and alcohol, there will be no one to take care of myself but me. No one will serve me chicken soup if I end up sick. No one will pay my bills if I miss my due dates.  Here, I don't have anyone to bail me out if I do bad. My closest relative who would do that is in California, which means I'm 6-hour flight away from redemption.

The best lesson of independence is an eye-opening irony: the more freedom one enjoys, the more responsible a person would grow.

Idi Nagawidak Diay Pilipinas

Our Ilocana contributor is a serious blogger, educator, and a UP Diliman schooled English major. The poem is about an OFW mother who after working abroad finally returns to her country. She laments about what she saw upon her arrival and realized she may not want to leave her family again.

Idi Nagawidak Diay Pilipinas

Aytoy ti istorya ti napan ko pinagawid

diay Pilipinas.

Iti rigat ti bumirok, ken may-yadayo

Adda pay dimmanun a balita da kenyak

A ni asawak- agpas-pasasa iti biag

Isu, uray kasanu ti kinangina ti flight,

Napanak a daras, simmugod ak

I-igkas kon ti makisina, ay haan kon mauray

A dumanon tuy pungtot ti biag.

Idi simmangpetak, atoy ti nadanunak

Nakaturog ti tallo nga annak

Ni asawak, naka-idda met, nagwara iti bot-bote

Ti gatas.

Niriing ko, in-ruar amin a marikriknak..

“Pasensiya kan, nabannuganak laeng..”

Kunana kenyak.

“Nagsiyaaten asawak, ta adda kan,

Ditoy ka lattan kuma Pilipinas

Adiay dolyar a maaw-awat, madi na mapunwan

Ti rikriknak- mailiwak, marigatanak

A awan ka nga abayak.”

Nu pababaen ti isturyak

ket atoy laengen ti ibagak-

Kalpasan ti amin a inko pinag-il-ilem,

immarakup pay laeng iti asawak,

Ti kunana, “nagsiya-aten ta nagawid ka,

addan ti makadwak..”

sa timmallikod, sa ko nangeg-

a nagregreg dagiti napispis-it a lua na...

Ngem idi simmangu, iti inna impakita-

aydi nalawag latta nga rupa na.

Awanen, awanen sabali a kasla ti asawak..

uray haan isuna ti natagari nga agayat,

Ammo kon itan, di nak uray man pay kaanu, isukat

wenno itulok na a mapasaktan ti riknak..

Awanen, awanen ti sabali a kayat ko

Napukaw iti amin a rantak nga sumina

ta iti sangwanak, dattoy ti asawak

a pakasarak, ulit-uliten man sangapulo nga biag

isu ket kakabsat, iti inyumay ko

iyayab. umay kayon to nga maki-baili, ta

talaga ipartiak, maykayon ta palayusen tayo

iti arak nga esteytsayd!

Reliving the Birth of a Second Life, a 9-11 Story

Ten years have passed since New York witnessed the terror attacks that claimed three thousands lives at its wake. Many still live with  the memory of that fateful day when their loved ones, dear friends and co-workers perished together with the iconic Twin Towers in Downtown Manhattan. 

Here's an account of  Joe Valdez, a Filipino-American of Ilocano lineage, who barely made it today. Let us follow him as he relives the birth of his second life and pray that this tragedy may never happen again to people of any race, nation and political or religious convictions.

Photo from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1249885/New-World-Trade-Center-9-11-aerial-images-ABC-News.html

Opening up to others about this day sometimes relieves the anxieties that remain.

On the eve of 9/11, I found myself working past midnight in my 73rd floor office in Tower 2. The following morning, I woke up late. As I rushed from the Wall Street subway station towards the World Trade Center, I did not notice the buildings were on fire. The blaze was above my field of vision and the large crowd running in every direction was normal for that time of the day in that part of the world. Fortunately, a police officer stopped me and that was when I looked up and saw the damage. Awe-struck, I made numerous attempts to call my co-workers to warn them to evacuate the building. Through all the chaos, I heard a thunderous crack from above immediately followed by someone yelling out; "RUNNNNNNN". When I faced up, I saw the building descending upon the crowd I was standing with. I was so close to the falling tower, I knew I was not going to make it and at that moment, I accepted death.

I simply stared at the massive structure collapsing above me. A lot of things were happening but it all felt like a dream in slow motion. My senses were completely numbed, I heard only silence and I could not believe what my own eyes were telling me. As much as I wanted to run away, I was simply mesmerized. I finally snapped out of it when someone else running away bumped into me and knocked me down to the ground. As I turned to sprint, I saw another horrific sight, a stampede of people trampling over each other for survival. You probably will never see images of it on TV but I witnessed a lot of innocent people, mostly women, thrown to the ground.

Before I had a chance to run away, I was suddenly engulfed in thick black smoke and visibility turned to zero. I was not able to see my own hands. I was knocked down a second time and when I picked myself up, I did not know what direction I was facing and which way to go to avoid running into the towers. I quickly remembered that I was on a one way street, so I used my hands to feel for the front of the parked vehicles to give me a sense of direction. From the start of the collapse to this point of the story took less than 20 seconds.

After I figured out which direction to run, I was faced with another challenge. The thick black smoke was also full of debris and particles from the building. My nose and throat had clogged and breathing became impossible. Suffocating and desperate, I had to put my hand in my mouth and down my throat to dig out the toxic debris that I inhaled and swallowed. But every time I heaved for oxygen, more of the debris would block my throat. So I unbuttoned my shirt and pulled my undershirt in front of my face and over my head to filter out the smoke. As I managed to walk a block down the street, I found a man trying to kick down a window of a building. I knew he was just trying to get in the building for safety and cleaner air. He was not able to knock down the window with repeated attempts but we were able to break it together. As he ran in through the window, he was nearly killed by large falling glass crashing from the top of the window frame. I followed him into the lobby and we felt a sense of relief. However, that sentiment did not last long.

 Within less than a minute of stepping into the building, other people from the outside also forced themselves in. Because of the openings in the windows, the lobby quickly absorbed the thick smoke we were all trying to avoid. So those people rushed to vacate the lobby. I somehow found the rotating exit door and I recalled that rotating doors were designed to keep air in and out of the building. So I parked myself in one of the slots of the rotating door and was fine for a while. Then some people ran into where I was hiding and forced me out. Once again, I found myself in the darkness outside the building. I ran across the street to try to enter another building. However, as I looked in from the outside, the building lobby was crowded beyond capacity and I was disturbed when they made no effort to open the door for me. My banging on the door was ignored and those inside all had the same blank zombie-like faces. As I stood there in utter silence, I heard faint cries for help in the distance and a frantic man’s voice behind me. The only words I was able to decipher from them were; “I can’t breathe”.

With many others, I struggled to walk down the street and breathing remained a battle until I finally found a delicatessen. I rushed in to grab a bottle of water and poured it down my throat, not caring that I was also swallowing the black silt that suffocated me. I noticed a young lady employee handing water to everyone who labored past her store. She was such an angel to so many people. Rejuvenated, I grabbed as many bottles of water as I was able to hold and ran back towards the towers. I found some people crawling or fighting to move on and quickly handed them water.

After I gave away all the water, I raced towards the Brooklyn Bridge and that was when I heard another low flying plane rapidly approaching. Once again, everyone around me scattered as fast as they can and the horror I was already feeling quickly multiplied. My mind just told me to run and do not stop. I was relieved when I realized it was a military jet fighter sent to secure the area.

However, the intensity of that morning was unforgiving. Standing less than half a mile away, I turned around to see the second tower collapse. From my perspective, it was a remarkable sight. As the rumble turned to silence, standing there motionless, the magnitude of the series of events that just occurred finally struck me with full force. Convinced that all of my coworkers and friends in the towers were dead, I collapsed and fell to my knees. This time, it took me a much longer time to pick myself up.

 I found myself walking through Chinatown when I felt the need for some water and I was amazed when the stores refused to offer their water for free especially to someone who clearly just went through hell. Desperate and disgusted, I threw all the cash in my pocket at the clerk for a small bottle of water. As I staggered on, I saw a clear reflection of myself on the side of a glass building and the only part of me that was not black was my eyes. I eventually walked over six miles to the Upper East Side to meet my mother, who had no idea if her only son was still alive.   The journey back home required another long walk to Queens with the largest migration on the Queensboro Bridge I have ever seen.

Three months later in my office, my coworkers found me in a random state of shock in front of my desk with tears running down my face. I had a number of sessions with a psychologist... Until now, I deal with the psychological damages from that day.

***

Republished with permission.

My New York Moment With a Dash of Pinoy Kilig

There's nothing quite like the word 'kilig' in the English lexicon. It's more positive than  jitters, much more meaningful than excitement. It's a non-sexual titillation and has more feeling than plain shudder. Most often it's a feeling one gets when face to face with a crush. No, it doesn't stop there. It's also what you feel when you see an object you wanted for so long and finally got it --- unexpectedly. Or at certain times, one gets kilig in an event that she has been waiting for in a long time. In idioms, it is close to 'having butterflies in the tummy'.

Almost three years ago, I had my share of 'kilig' while doing one of my favorite New York past times -- walking with my friends to or around an idyllic or truly New York spot. We started as a big group of 11 who trooped to several Lower Manhattan neighborhoods of SOHO, NOLITA, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Lower East Side. By the time we were at City Hall the number dwindled to four. That's when we decided to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in US that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan. Aside from the usual high traffic roadway bridges are made for, this has a long slatted wooden ramp that allows pedestrians and bikers to experience its majestic beauty. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is truly an experience; A New York tradition I always try to do every so often. As one walks through the Bridge, one can feel the oblivious speedy cars passing through underneath. From afar, the towers of Manhattan glisten, Manhattan Bridge dazzles, Brooklyn's DUMBO invites and even Lady Liberty is within sight. The massive metal cables, posts and screws are amazingly within touching reach. I wonder how all these came together to hold such a big torrent of people and vehicles in a 125 history that survived wars, terror attacks and nature's wrath.

So that afternoon was one of those times we just enjoy New York. Clueless, my friends and I thread the bridge like we always used to. There was a film crew up ahead. We weren't surprised. New York is used to location filming all over the place. But wait! It was an all Filipino crew and in their midst was John Lloyd and Luis! And was that Olivia Lamasan beside them? I turned red and despite my age, felt 'kilig' like a giggling teenager. Apparently they were filming the kissing scene of the gay movie In My Life that was released in 2009.

Click here for more Brooklyn Bridge, John Lloyd and Luis pictures.

Curiously, on that day I was more kilig compared to when I saw Johnny Depp and Colin Farrel at the Letterman studio, or Nicholas Cage as he filmed The Sorcerer's Apprentice in Williamsburg, Brooklyn just a block from my former office, or when Michael Douglas was Gordon Gecko cooly standing in front of the deli where I used to buy my morning sandwich or seeing Daniel Radcliffe stark naked in the play Equus  or watching Adam Levine and the rest of the Maroon 5 perform at the several locations and many more celebrity sightings. New York is as glitzy as a clear night sky. Stars are all over the place and unlike dear Hollywood, you just see them as they are -- easily assimilated to the big city jungle that is New York.

Yet somehow incidental seeing of Filipino stars garnered more ooomph than a horde of Hollywood hunks and stars. I guess several years in the States didn't change my tastes that much. Whenever in the mood for chick flicks, I still pine for John Lloyd films that would always be  number one in my truly Pinay heart. Kilig!

Related pictures are in the post John Lloyd Cruz Kisses Luis Manzano in Brooklyn Bridge.

John Lloyd Cruz Kisses Luis Manzano on Brooklyn Bridge

Here are pictures taken in April of 2009 when our group chanced upon the set of In My Life, a movie mostly set in New York starring Vilma Santos, Luis Manzano and John Lloyd Cruz. The film was directed by Olive Lamasan. The all Filipino crew was filming at the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City that is a favorite walking destination of both locals and tourists. For a post about said meeting, click here. Related post is My New York Moment With a Dash of Pinoy Kilig.

Kuratsa, a Waray Courtship Dance

One of the best things about New York is diversity. In this City, variety is the trend and in most cases, cultural differences are admired and celebrated with proud enthusiasm and vigor that may match its homegrown sentiment.

A popular version of the Waray folk dance was the cultural  highlight in the  send-off party held at the Father Demo Hall of the Our Lady of Pompeii Church in honor of Fr. Mike Lagrimas, a native of Samar in the Philippines. A big contingent from Samar was present that passed the authenticity of the said traditional dance performed that night. This dance is called the kuratsa or curacha, a popular Waray cultural element that grew side by side with the Philippine national dance, the tinikling that also traces its roots to that region.

According to Samareno Robert Bacaycay, Curacha Waray is ideally danced 'amenudo', which means only one couple at each time. The idea is the man chases the woman as they dance around a cloth while fellow revelers, in the olden times the wedding guests perhaps, participate in the dance by throwing in money or valuables into the cloth. The man makes downward swooping gestures that teasingly aim at the woman's skirt as he tries to lift it a bit to expose parts of the midcalf. The woman tries to evade the partner's advances as she ironically does flirtatious movements like swaying of the hips that further teases the man, while at the same time securing her skirt. The climax is the 'gapus' part wherein one of the revelers tries to restrain the determined man with a cloth tied around his waist. The dance is very joyful and has later evolved as fundraising activity wherein any willing partner may perform.

For detailed information about 'kuratsa', click here.

As many willing partners may dance and in the modern times, it need not be a couple. At the event, there were 5 to 6 pairs who did their own versions of kuratsa. After the dances, the dollar bills were generously piled up on the cloth. The event in New York has raised enough money for a cause in a joyous fashion reminiscent of festivals in the Philippines.

Click here to watch an impromptu Kuratsa featuring Samareno Yorkers Fr. Mike Lagrimas and Liza Delos Santos

Click here to watch an impromptu Kuratsa featuring Fr. Mike Lagrimas and Liza Delos Santos

For actual pictures featuring kuratsa, click here.

 

Kuratsa Photos from Greenwich Village, NYC

Below are pictures taken during Fr. Lagrimas' Despedida party that was hosted by the Filipino Pastoral Ministry-Our Lady of Pompeii Church. Featured is the Philippine folk dance from the south called kuratsa.

Photos courtesy of Gigi Gonzales. For a post featuring the dance, click here.