Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Memories of My Childhood (Pandesal, Spanish Bread, Pandecoco at Taho)

I woke up at 4am and could not sleep anymore, so I sat by the window and watched New York City come alive this first morning of August 2012. Suddenly, I hear my stomach grumble and find myself pining for my hometown, Baguio City, and get whisked away to memories of the Baguio of my childhood. I grab the ipad and start writing to immortalize these memories which I hope to share to my daughter when she grows up. 1. Freshly Baked Hot Pandesal, Spanish Bread and Pandecoco When I was about six years old, I remember waking up to the aroma of freshly baked bread. We used to live above a bakery. Mama would send me downstairs to buy hot pandesal (Filipino breakfast bread). I'd sneakily buy less than told and spend the rest of the centavos on a piece of Spanish Bread (sweet bread stick) and pan de coco (bread with sweet coconut filling) which I eat as I happily skip back home. Here in NYC, I get my pandesal fix from a pre-packed pandesal bag from Filipino stores. Sadly, heating them up in the oven toaster is nothing compared to watching the baker open his big oven, take out the pan of steaming hot pandesal and place them in a brown paper bag. Not even the pre-packed pandesal from Red Ribbon can compare to the sweet Baguio pandesal of my childhood. PS: Yes, it is common to send children on short errands to bakeries, sari-sari stores, etc. in the Philippines  2. Taho One of our neighbors used to sell taho, made of fresh soft tofu, arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup), and pearl sago (like pearl tapioca). I can still remember the steam and aroma coming from the taho as soon as Manong Magtataho (taho vendor) opens the covers of his aluminum taho containers. I get amazed with how expertly he scoops up the excess water on top, and gives me my hot taho in the glass (recycled Nescafe container) I provide for him. I remember getting very excited to ask for dagdag (extra) of the arnibal and sago. Then I watch him walk away crying out "Tahooooo! Bili na kayo ng taho! (Come buy taho!)". I am amazed with his sheer strength as he balances over his shoulder the two aluminum buckets that hang from each end of a yoke, the larger one containing the the tofu base, and the smaller bucket with the arnibal and sago "pearls". Here in NYC, I have only had taho once which a friend got for me from Chinatown. The pearl sago was a missing ingredient, so it is nothing compared to the delectable steaming taho of my childhood. To be continued… (The bed summons me to continue my sleep. Hopefully my dream whisks me away to Baguio, my hometown of wonderful childhood and yummy memories :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

THINKING with "A Girl You Should Date"

Remember the time...
- when we made mixed tapes?
- when having our own landline (then pager, then cellphone) made us feel so cool?
- when we used to swap pocketbooks with classmates and friends?
- when we listened to the radio to catch our favorite song so we could jot down its lyrics?
- when we had to research and physically go to the library and actually thumb through card catalogues, books and magazines?
- when we had a library card in hard paper listing all the books we have borrowed (and hopefully read)?
- when we actually had to go and see a friend to find out how they're doing and really spend time with them?
- when facebook, youtube, google, did not yet exist?
- when life was much simpler?

A good friend and I talked about this today after I gave her a peek into my day as a literacy teacher. We wondered why many students seem to be even more abandoned with the No Child Left Behind Act. We chatted about teaching and learning, about how it was "back in the day", and yes, about how old we must be getting since lately we allude more and more to "back in our days, it was such and such...". This then led to us wondering about where our fast-paced lives, all these advancements in technology and changes in education, government-society are taking us. It is all quite amazing and yet scary at the same time. I feel like something is lost in the process of our inevitably moving forward. I wonder what is to happen ( is already happening OR perhaps even what has already happened) to our moral fiber, sense of purpose, substance, empathy, critical thinking, IQ, EQ...

Then tonight, I stumbled upon the following blog post. It does not seem to be directly related to my above concerns, yet it comforted me and deeply resonated with me. It challenges me as an educator to make sure I really do my very best to make sure that my students really read, write, question, challenge and assert themselves.

by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero.

That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baring My Soul: Father’s Day

I cannot sleep and still am very much wide awake at 5:15 am on Father’s Day...

Ah Father’s Day …

One specific topic that strikes me to my very core is my father (or his absence in my life).

Discussing it always turns me - a supposedly strong, confident and accomplished woman, into a young vulnerable girl once again who constantly wonders about, and yearns for her father.

I hardly know Papa, yet I miss him a lot. How I ache for him, especially during the past few days, as I prepare for one of the most, if not THE most, important occasions of my life.

As the sun rises today, on father's day, I found myself writing the following poem...

How I Wish Papa Were There

How I wish Papa were there

to read me a story

and tuck me in bed when I was a kid.

How I wish Papa were there

to hold my hand on my first day of school

or teach me how to ride my first bike.

How I wish Papa were there

to share his interests with me

and laugh and be amazed

at how very much alike or different we were

yet still insist that I do take after him

How I wish Papa were there

to cheer for me on graduation day

and beam with pride for my accolades

and say, “Yep, that’s my baby girl up there”.

How I wish Papa were there

to jokingly threaten my boy friends

to help me nurse a broken heart

or my bruised pride

and give me advice on love and life.

How I wish Papa were there

on birthdays and graduations

when I landed my first job

and share all those other moments

that have brought me joy and otherwise

But most of all

Oh how I long

for Papa to be there

On my wedding day

To walk me down the aisle

To give me away to my beloved

And kiss me on the forehead

As we do our father-daughter dance

How I wish Papa were there

To see his grandchildren grow up

And shed some truth to what people say

About grandparents loving their grandchildren

Much more than their own children

Nonetheless, I know deep down

That Papa has always been with me

Smiling from up above

or perhaps even right next to me

Each and every minute of my life.

So Papa, I thank you

For being a source of strength

and inspiration.

Who and where I am today

is partly and perhaps, even wholly

because of you

I appreciate and cherish

the fleeting,

yet special moments

we spent together.

I hope you are

proud of your little girl.

I love you dearly and unstintingly.

Below is one of my favorite father and daughter song, "Butterfly Kisses".

I dedicate this song to Papa and all the other fathers, parents and children out there.

Please treasue every moment you have with your loved ones.

Butterfly Kisses

by Bob Carlisle

There's two things I know for sure

She was sent here from heaven

And she's daddy's little girl

As I drop to my knees by her bed at night

She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes

And I thank God for all of the joy in my life

Oh but most of all

For butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer

Stickin' little white flowers all up in her hair

Walk beside the pony daddy it's my first ride

I know the cake looks funny daddy but I sure tried

Oh with all that I've done wrong

I must have done something right

To deserve a hug every mornin'

And butterfly kisses at night

Sweet 16 today

She's lookin' like her mama a little more every day

One part woman the other part girl

To perfume and make up from ribbons and curls

Trying her wings out in a great big world

But I remember

Butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer

Stickin' little white flowers all up in her hair

You know how much I love you daddy

But if you don't mind

I'm only gonna kiss you on the check this time

Oh with all that I've done wrong

I must have done something right

To deserve her love every mornin'

And butterfly kisses at night

All the precious time

Like the wind the years go by

Precious butterfly

Spread your wings and fly

She'll change her name today

She'll make a promise and I'll give her aways

Standing in the bride room just staring at her

She asked me what I'm thinkin'

And I said I'm not sure

I just feel like I'm loosin' my baby girl

And she leaned over

Gave me butterfly kisses with her mama there

Stickin' little white flowers all up in her hair

Walk me down the isle daddy

It's just about time

Does my wedding gown look pretty daddy?

Daddy's don't cry

Oh with all that I've done wrong

I must have done something right

To deserve her love every mornin'

And butterfly kisses

I couldn't ask God for more than this is what love is

I know I've got to let her go but I'll always remember

Every hug in the mornin' and butterfly kisses

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Linger on the Joyful Mysteries of Life

As we... have leisure to indulge our memories,
we should choose with care the memories we indulge...
They shape our moods.

If we are seduced into ...
sore memories, resentments and grievances,
then people will avoid us.

The world is hard enough
without doses of other people’s gloom to darken it.

But we can lift our own and others’ moods
if we linger on the joyful mysteries of our life,
on the people we love
and the experiences that we feel as blessings.

We don’t want to bore our friends
with complacency or boastfulness.

Gratitude for God’s gifts is different.
It is one of the basic themes
of any mature spirituality,
and it makes us easy to live with.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Cityscape: Surveying the Urban Biotope

85-degree Sunday was a good day to pack my bag with a blanket, books, badminton & boyfriend :-) and head out to the park.

The day got even better when we found out that it was the opening day of "Cityscape: Surveying the Urban Biotope" The park was filled with art works exploring the presence of nature in the fabric of urban life.

Other than the art pieces, it was a gorgeous day to be in the park, bump into friends, and observe the:
- dogs, children and adults walking, playing and running around the park
- amazing concentration of the man doing tai chi
- ice cream truck luring everybody to get cold and yummy frozen goodies
- neso sound asleep oblivious of the dog licking his leg


May 2, 2010; Socrates Sculpture Park, LIC, NYC

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New York People & Places

Every year, I give a mini-talk to my former grad school professor's class at Long Island University. After the second session yesterday, he introduced me to Rachel, an undergrad student of his from the Philippines.

We hit it off right away and spent the rest of the evening checking out the beautiful neighborhood of Clinton Hill and ended up having dinner at Umi Nom (Filipino-Thai Resto)

It's really amazing how we make connections with people. Discovering the lovely Clinton Hill neighborhood was also amazing. More things to love NYC - its places and people =).

As wiki describes Clinton Hill:
Clinton Hill is a neighborhood in the north-central portion of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. It is bordered on the east by Bedford-Stuyvesant, on the west by Fort Greene, on the north by Wallabout Bay and on the south by Prospect Heights. The neighborhood is served by the NYPD's 88th Precinct.[1]

By the 1840s, Clinton Hill had become a fashionable neighborhood for the wealthy of Brooklyn, who could commute to Manhattan by way of stagecoach to the Fulton Ferry in nearby Brooklyn Heights. By the 1880s and '90s, Clinton Avenue was lined with mansions of millionaires, many of which have survived to the present day. The most prominent of these are linked to Charles Pratt, who built a mansion for himself and one each as wedding presents for three of his four sons (pictured, right). These four mansions can be seen on Clinton Avenue between DeKalb and Willoughby. The Pratt Institute of Art, founded by Charles Pratt in 1887, is located a few blocks from his former home. Due in part to the presence of Pratt Institute the neighborhood boasts an increasing arts community, and many bohemians are flocking towards the yet-to-be gentrified industrial areas adjacent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Life is good. Count your blessings.

This is one of the things that I always tell myself. This weekend, has given me many things to be thankful for. I tried to capture these through snapshots that I compiled in my online album.

- reconnected with an old student/theater colleague. Last time I saw him was 9 years ago.
- finally tasted the food at “Taverna Kyclade”s, acclaimed as the best Greek Restaurant in NYC
- had a fun date night with the extremely entertaining “Kick Ass” movie and enjoyed the rain on the way home
- had a get-together with friends and video shoot for our $10 Initiative non-profit organization (
- checked out Astoria neighborhood on Greek Independence Day
- enjoyed spring weather, flowers in bloom and beautiful scenery

And I continue counting...