Perfect Christmas

Last week, on the way to grocer, Jose Mari Chan’s A Perfect Christmas played inside the car. I’ve heard the song countless times before but it was the first time I got emotional. Siguro kasi nasa loob ka ng sasakyan, you have no choice but to really listen to the song. I was singing along to it and only understood the lyrics then.

It got me thinking about my idea of a perfect Christmas.

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. The moment I get back to the office in January, I already start daydreaming about Christmas again. Promise. Sobrang favourite ko talaga siya. It’s not just December 25 itself, it’s the weeks and days leading to it.

Btw, as you will realise within the next few lines of this blog, I’m not talking about the religious or Biblical sense of Christmas ha. I’m talking about the Holiday Season lang. Hehehe.

The feeling is really different during Christmas season kasi diba? Especially in the Philippines. Lumalamig ang simoy ng hangin, Christmas lights and decors are OA (just the way I like it), Christmas parties are grand, reunion dito, reunion don, Simbang Gabi, and most of all, may 13th month pay. HAHAHA.

I love the traditions my family have during Christmas. I have my own family na (in the form of my beautiful husband, Kevin), but I still want to spend the Holiday season with my parents. HAHAHA. Feeling ko ang independent ko na, living in a city far away from where I started, but when it’s December na, I want to crawl back to my parents’ home. I feel like I cannot create better traditions that what we already have.

Around two or three weeks before Christmas, Mami would already buy candies for children and groceries for some of the families we know. We are not a well-off family, kaya when we were young, we don’t “stock” on groceries. Pag naggrocery kami, maluwag pa yung basket na hawak namin. We only buy necessities talaga in the grocery. Sa sari-sari store lang kami namimili ng iba pa naming kailangan. That’s why when we do the groceries during Christmas, it’s the only time of the year that we use the push cart, and napupuno pa! That in itself, naffeel ko na yung Pasko. Plus the grocer would be pack with people and the queue to the check-out will be super long. Sobrang feel na feel ko yung Pasko talaga ‘non.

I don’t know how it is in other places, but in Tacloban, on the morning of Christmas, streets will be packed with kids na namamasko. They go house to house asking for candies. That’s what the candies that we buy in the grocer is for. We will buy around five varieties of candies for 250 children. Days before Christmas, Gail and I will arrange the candies, and start packing the 5 variants of candies together. It will usually take us the whole morning, and the whole floor of our living room. We usually do this while also watching a Christmas movie!

So on the morning of Christmas, we usually hear the Mass at 5 AM. By the time we arrive home, kids will be in front of our gate, waiting already. While we’re busy giving candies to the kids, visitors start coming as early as 7 AM as well! They are usually Mami’s cousins. We serve them food and exchange Merry Christmases with each other (and if I’m being honest, this is the time their unwelcome comment about my weight, life, lack of child/ren, etc. also happens HAHAHA). When lunch time comes, my mother side of the family arrives (Mami’s brothers and sisters and their families), to spend the rest of the day with us.

Just writing this made me feel nostalgic and happy. But at the same time, I feel like it doesn’t give justice to the traditions we do during Christmas season HAHAHA. Preview nalang ‘to, kumbaga.

Anyway, back to what my idea of a perfect Christmas: it’s being able to do all these traditions again with the complete family (Gail is in UK now, and Kuya and his family don’t always go home for Christmas). It also means my cousins are back home to spend the Christmas day with the whole family.

Some day.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

US trip, second stop: New York

AND I’M BACK! This is the second instalment of my US trip blogs (hopefully, there’ll be four).

After San Francisco, we flew to New York via the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey. From the airport, we rode the Go Airlink Shuttle going to New York. It’s a shared shuttle that costs only $20 USD per person. It will drop you off na to your hotel in Manhattan. It’s very convenient and affordable. The only downside is that you’ll have to wait for the next available schedule. In our case, we had to wait around 30 minutes to ride the van. Once we were inside the van, since we were the first to ride, we had to wait for the other passengers pa from different flights and go to the other terminals. I think before we finally started to head for New York, we were inside the van mga 1.5 hours. For us it was okay because we didn’t have any plans for the rest of the day, but the other passengers who were with us missed the Broadway play they were supposed to watch at 7 PM. The drive to Manhattan was around two hours (take note: it was a Tuesday, rush hour), and once in Manhattan, the shuttle driver will drop off passengers one by one in their hotel. You’re lucky if you’re the first one to be dropped off; but if not, tulog ka nalang muna (like what I did). We arrived at the EWR airport at 4:30 pm, and arrived at the hotel at around 8:30 PM.

Ang haba ng paragraph na ‘yon ah! Nakahinga ba kayo kakabasa? HAHAHA. Anyway, I’ll show you a picture muna. And disclaimer: I don’t have too many kwentos in NY (I think). So baka maiksi at boring lang ito.

That’s Rey. He’s a very good friend of ours who’s based in Singapore. We used to work together when I was still in SG. SOBRANG LAUGHTRIP NIYAN. When we’re together, kinakabag talaga ako kakatawa! We met with him in New York for this vacation. Sobrang kaladkarin niyan ni Rey! Kevin and I book our flights without consulting him, then we just tell him where we’re going, then before we know it, naka-book na yan. HAHA. We were with him also last year sa Europe naman.

Anyway, mabalik sa chronological order ulit. We were booked in Parker New York. It’s part of the Hyatt family (alam niyo na ‘yan, dahil ‘yan sa discount ng Tito ko HAHA). The location is good kasi it’s between Central Park and Times Square. Both are 10 minutes walk lang.

After checking in, Kevin and I went to the nearest Halal Guys to buy dinner. Kevin and I like Middle Eastern food so we were so excited to try the original Halal Guys. And the verdict is: okay naman! HAHAHA. Kevin grew up in Saudi. When my parents-in-law go home to the Philippines, may dala silang food from Saudi at ANG SARAP TALAGA. Mataas ang standard ni Kevin sa garlic sauce hahaha. So when we tried Halal Guys, just like its branch in Manila, it was just okay.

Rey arrived at the hotel that night din. We walked to Times Square na din that night just to check what’s the fuss (what’s the fuss?!?!??!?!?? HAHAHA). Then we went back to the hotel na din.

DAY 2. We woke up 11AM. San ka naman nakakita ng bakasyunistang tulog hanggang 11 AM?! HAHA. Jetlag kasi, sorry na! It was raining that day, and because we woke up late pa, konti lang napuntahan namin! First was Central Park (as in bungad lang!).

We probably only saw 1% of Central Park but it was soooo beautiful! Lalo dahil Autumn. These pictures don’t give justice to what it’s like in real life. Imagine such abundant trees amidst concrete jungle?! Ang ganda talaga even in the gloomy weather!

We then walked from Central Park (59th street) to 15th street where Rey had to get his things. 44 blocks din yon ah!!! It was tiring but it was a good idea din because we were able to see a lot of beautiful buildings that we would have not seen if we took the subway.

Ginagawa pa talaga yung Flatiron nung dumaan kami. May kulambo!

After Rey got his things, we had dinner at Jollibee. HAHAHA. Don’t judge us. Walang Jabi sa Sydney so we were more than happy to eat there! Ang laki din ng peach mango pie nila, guys! Too bad walang ganong size sa Pinas! (Wala nang picture ha?! Alam niyo na istura ng Jabi — same lang din sa NY hahaha). Also, nagtrain na kami hahaha! It was our first New York subway experience and what they say about it is true: medyo madumi nga! Hehe. But it wasn’t unbearable naman. Hindi lang siya malinis.

Dumaan na rin kami sa kapit-bahay naming Times Square on the way back to the hotel.

DAY 3. It was still raining kaya we weren’t able to visit a lot of places. Or even if we were, hindi ko ganon na-enjoy!

First stop was Raging Bull, then we walked to Ground Zero (we weren’t able to go inside anymore), Chelsea Market, then The High Line, and finally The Vessel. We went back to the hotel muna (as you would notice, ang hilig hilig namin ni Kebs bumalik sa hotel talaga kasi gusto namin yung nagpapahinga at nap! HAHAHA).

That night, we watched the Broadway Musical The Book of Mormon. I enjoyed that show so much! I wasn’t expecting it to be that good (probably one of the most entertaining Musical I’ve watched). Also probably the only musical show that didn’t make Kevin sleepy hahaha. It wasn’t the most visually appealing, but the storyline was great! I highly recommend it. I’m glad it was the first-ever play that Rey watched.

After the play, we went to the The Empire State Building Observation Deck. AAAAHHHHH. To see New York at night 86 floors high was so dreamy.

DAY 4. FINALLY, THE SUN WAS OUT!!! It was time to see The Statue of Liberty (fun fact: Mami’s name is Liberty, that’s where the “Li” part of my name came from).

We had lots of nice pictures in there. Lahat ata ng anggulo ni Liberty, in-aura-han namin. Usually it would be one of us taking pictures of the other two. But we were lucky enough to meet three Pinays who took photos of us (alam niyo yan mga turista: pag nakakita ng Pinoy, magpapa-picture sa kanila). Pero si Ate was so extra naman. Pinagppose niya kami ng mga tulad neto!!!!

Ate: “Itaas ang kamay, ang elbows, tuwid!”

Liisa: TOTOO BA?! *checks Rey and Kevin out*

Liisa: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BAKIT KAYO SUMUSUNOD!!!!

Anyway, in the end, sumunod nalang din ako kasi nakataas na kamay nila.

Kevin and Rey: “Gawin mo nalang, para matapos na”

HAHAHAHA. Mej pushy kasi si ate!

May photo din naman kami na di pinilit ang posing.

After that, we went to Brooklyn Bridge. Nagpa-picture lang talaga kami don ni Kevin.

We watched Aladdin that night. There were parts na nakaka-antok for us (maybe because we had heavy dinner in Shake Shack right before the show, and nagbeer pa nga si Kevin), but when Aladdin and Princess Jasmine were in the carpet and sang A Whole New World na, major goosebumps!!! Literal ata nakanganga ako during that whole song! The whole show was a feast for the eyes talaga!

After the play, we met with Rey and had drinks in Hard Rock. I thoroughly enjoyed that also. Kevin and I don’t really go out for drinks here in Sydney kasi mahal — we usually just drink cheap wine at home. That’s why siguro I like having this kind of moments when we travel, hehehe.

Day 5 was Day 1 of Las Vegas na. Hehe. We flew out of New York na this day.

I LOVED NEW YORK. I sometimes feel like the only thing I really saw in NY was Times Square, but writing this made me realise madami din naman pala kaming napuntahan hahaha. But unlike SF, Kevin and I didn’t prepare for our NY trip. We didn’t know what were the must-sees and must-dos (I still don’t know)! Umasa lang kami kay Rey.

That’s why we’ll definitely go back! Next time probably longer (maybe at least a week long?). And hopefully, hindi na maulan! We’d really like to explore more.

Mahaba na din pala tong blog entry ko noh? Hahaha. Until next naman! I have two more entries for this series!

US trip, first stop: San Francisco

Last Sunday, we arrived from our two-week trip from the US.

Maka-the US ako, akala mo ang light noh. Parang taon-taon pumupunta don. But it’s actually both Kevin and my’s first time in the U.S.A. And it’s kind of a big deal for us.

As a kid, I think the only country I knew growing up was the USA. I’m not like my nephew Luis and niece Isa whose favourite countries as kids were either Portugal or Italy. Highschool na ata ako nung namulat ako sa mga bansang yan hahaha.

When our relatives came from “abroad” when I was young, in my mind it was automatically “USA”. I made a big deal out of US in my mind. Never in my wildest dreams as a kid that I will be able to go to the US. For me, mayayaman lang yung nakakapunta sa US.

Buti nalang times have changed. Mayaman na ako. HAHAHAHA CHAROT. Pero seriously, travelling has been more accessible to and affordable for the working and middle-class.

Ganon pala yung feeling pag lumapag na ang eroplano sa US noh? Parang wala lang. Hahahaha. I mean I was definitely excited, pero wala palang feeling na “OH MY GOSH THIS IS IT, NASA AMERIKA NA AKO!”. My thoughts when the plane landed was something like, “FINALLY, makakastretch at ligo na ako!”.

Dami ko nang sinabi, pero intro palang yon HAHAHA.

So anyway, our first stop was San Francisco. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Union Square. Maka-Grand Hyatt na naman eh noh? Casual na casual. Parang hindi nakaka-apak sa mumurs na hotel. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Pero first time din namin talaga sa any Hyatt hotels! And the only reason why we were booked there because my aunt’s (Dadi’s first cousin) husband (so basically my uncle), works for the Hyatt, so he has family discount. AT ANG LAKI NG DISCOUNT. Staying in Hyatt was less expensive than it would have been if we stayed at the original mumurs hotel we booked.

Btw, kwento ko lang din our flight. We flew 18 hours via Auckland. 3 hours from Sydney to Auckland, 2 hours layover in Auckland, and 13 hours from Auckland to San Francisco. It’s the longest flight I’ve ever experienced so far. Before this, my longest single-leg flight was 8 hours, and longest flight was 14 hours. We left Sydney at 11:55 AM on Oct 25, and arrived at San Francisco at 12:00 NN on Oct 25, too! Pretty cool huh? Ako cool na cool ako bilang Promdi. HAHAHAHA.

So mabalik na sa chronological order. We arrived at our hotel at around 3 PM. We took the BART train from SFO airport to Powell Street Station in Union Square, then walked 4 blocks with our luggage hahaha. We checked in, freshened up lang, then labas agad like real touristas na ayaw masayang ang oras.

AY, MAY KWENTO PALA AKO!!! (Kwento inside of a kwento. Kwento-ception.) ANYWAY, going down the elevator, we met a middle-aged guy who worked for the hotel. Alam niyo na how Americans are, very ma-chika. He asked us how we are and where we were from. Apparently, he was half Filipino pala (didn’t look like it at all). We said our goodbyes na after that. Later on (when we met our family the next day), we found out that the guy was my uncle’s (you remember? Discounted Hyatt stay…) brother, and that they guy was Dadi’s friend!!! He visited Tacloban twice na pala, and both times, he would hang out with Dadi. ANG GALING DIBA?! Nagagalingan ba kayo? As in goosebump moment siya for me!

Anyway, mabalik ulit sa kwento: We didn’t have any itinerary for that day, actually, but Kevin wanted to visit the Chase Centre (the new arena where the GSW play) agad agad. Wala namang laro. Pero bet niya lang, so we went. I’ll show you a pic kasi ang dami ko nang sinasabi, wala pang picture. BORING BA? HAHAHA.

AYAN. That’s Kevin kilig na kilig just being outside the Chase Centre.

The next day (DAY 2), another aunt (still Dadi’s cousin), Tita Ophie, showed us around San Francisco. We covered all the touristy spots na: Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Wharf. We then went to tita Tess’ (the other aunt who’s husband is working at the Hyatt — madami bang characters? Hindi naman masyado diba? Kwento ko nga din who we met there as another side kwento) house to visit them and Grandpa Maning and Grandma Del. I’ll introduce them later, but let me entertain you with another set of pictures first.

Wala pala kaming picture sa Fisherman’s Wharf that day!!! ANO BA YAN. Oh well. Another reason to go back.

They are the family we met with in San Francisco (from left to right, standing): tita Ophie (Dadi’s cousin) and tito Tony (the husband), me and Kevin, tita Tess (Dadi’s cousin) and tito Tom (thanks to him we got discount), and Grandma Del and Grandpa Maning (Tita Tess’ parents, both seating).

I didn’t know I had family in San Francisco until a week before our flight. I mean I know my tita’s and grandparents, pero I just didn’t think about where in the US they live. I just assumed that they live far from where we’ll be visiting. But when tita Ophie learned we were visiting the US, she wanted to meet us daw; because, apparently, they lived an hour away from SF lang. I also learned from her that tita Tess and the grandparents live in SF! WHAT A PLEASANT SURPRISE FOR ME. I have met all of them na when I was young. Remember in the intro when I said that when family comes home from abroad (naaalala niyo pa ba sa dami ng sinabi ko na?! HAHA)? Sila-sila yung families ko na umuuwi from abroad (that time nasa Guam pa sila). Kaya I’m super excited to see them again after 20 years! The last time I saw Grandpa pa was when my Lolo (his brother) died in 1999. And I remember him vividly from my childhood. He was (and still is) funny, and all the Spam and imported chocolates I ate when I was a kid were all from him. Pati yung mga imported na lotion para kay Mami, sa kanya din galing. Sa kanya ko rin unang naamoy ang amoy-States! HAHAHA. Seeing and spending time with him made me really happy.

DAY 3. We arranged a Yosemite Day Tour for this day. The tour bus picked us up from the hotel at 6:20 AM (promise, saktong saktong 6:20 siya dumating!) (Ang dami kong side comments kaya ang haba na netooo. I can’t staahhppp!), and dropped us off at around 9PM na. Nakakapagod pero SUPER WORTH IT!

Ang daming puno, at ang lalaki!!!

Bet na bet ko yang talikod, random pictures. Buti alam ni Kebs. Kuha naman siya nang kuha.

DAY 4. Alcatraz Island Tour first thing in the morning. We finished around lunch time na, so we tried In-n-Out for the first time! Big deal din yan kasi ang hilig ni Kevin sa burger and fries! Spoiler alert: it tasted okay lang. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. Hindi ko siya i-ccrave ever. We then tried the famous cable car of SF. Then we visited tita Tess, tito Tom, Grandpa and Grandma again. Before we visited the grandparents, tito Tom met us near our hotel and bought us drinks. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Bakit kami nakangiti sa harap ng prison cell? HAHAHA
Our only picture in (and of) Fisherman’s Wharf!
Told you mahilig siya sa burger and fries! Ang saya niya pa kasi di ma niya natitikman HAHAHAHA

DAY 5. Flight to NYC na. We weren’t really able to explore San Francisco because half of our time there was spent with family. And that’s what we enjoyed most with our SF trip! San Francisco and its tourist spots will always be there — we can go back 10 years from now, and we’ll see it. But our loved ones won’t always be there waiting for us to visit them. Time spent with family is far more precious. 🙂

The other cities we visited were: New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. I promise you and myself that the other entries won’t be this long! HAHAHA.

I HAVE A NEW NOTEBOOK!

…THAT’S WHY I’M BACK!

LASING KA GHORL?! Ang labo mo eh. HAHAHA.

But seriously, my newly bought notebook is what brought me back here.

I have been wanting to buy a new notebook for my Bullet Journal. Just like here, I’ve been MIA in BuJo-ing for so many months (last entry ko sa BuJo ko was April pa — that’s more than half a year na pala!!!) because the paper in my notebook is too smooth — yung favourite Muji pen ko ay nagssmudge! PAKA-ARTE KO. HAHAHA. I tried using other pens, pero nagssmudge talaga nakakainis. That’s why I stopped writing entries na. And that’s why I’ve been in search for the best notebook. (Pwede namang ballpen ang baguhin, notebook pa talaga yung gusto kong palitan noh?! Hayaan mo na. Nabili ko na eh. HAHAHAHA).

So today, just before going home, Kevin and I passed by the bookstore near my office and I got my self a new notebook. (Mas) gaganda na ang buhay namin ni Kevin neto because I really believe that writing our plans, goals, to-do lists makes our lives better (because I also feel better — feeling ko responsible adult ako). And when I’m active BuJo-ing, I also write a lot of short journals in it. Hindi lang plans, goals, at to-do’s. I also write what happens in some days.

Parang ang dami ko nang sinabi, wala pang connect yung bagong notebook ko sa pagbabalik-blog ko today noh? SO ETO NA NGA. I’m so excited to write in my new notebook na. Being the slightly weird person that I am, syempre I opened my old notebook to say sorry (kasi konting pages palang talaga ang nasusulatan ko, aabandunahin ko na siya), and to check pano nga ba maging organised ng slight. Nakalimutan ko na sa sobrang tagal ko walang plano sa buhay (Side thought: siguro kaya di ako pumapayat dahil di na ko nagpplano?! Pero mostly dahil madami din talaga akong kinakain). That’s when I saw some journal entries (AYAN NA, mej nagcconnect na to blogging). When I say journal, hindi ito yung mga dramatic entries or yung mga deep and meaningful entries ha. Katulad siya netong pinagsususulat ko ngayon. Brain fart talaga siya. And nakakatawa! Natatawa ako sa sarili ko (oh diba at least man lang I find myself funny HAHAHA).

Yung pagbasa ko ng old journal entries ko yung nagpabalik-loob sa akin magsulat dito. Because mukhang magssmudge pa rin my favourite Muji pen sa new notebook ko HAHAHA. So baka hindi pa rin best ang nabili kong notebook after all. But I don’t want to miss random thoughts again. Instead of looking for a new notebook (na naman) or a ballpen that won’t smudge, I’ll use my new notebook for practical to-do lists na lang, and just use this blog for my journal entries. Literal na what I write in my BuJo, I’ll write here nalang kasi hindi ito magssmudge for sure. HAHA.

Before, I didn’t know what tone to use when blogging. I don’t know who to write for. Conscious ako who’s reading this. But then I realised na wala namang magbabasa neto HAHAHA Just like how walang magbabasa ng BuJo ko. I don’t know din naman the tone of my BuJo entries, and I don’t know who I’m writing it for as well. But I enjoy re-reading them. 🙂 Kaya ito lang din ang gagawin ko dito!

SO YAN ANG KWENTONG NOTEBOOK KO. HAHA.

Until next time. I’ll write about our US trip naman!