Thinking of home sweet home and food!

The sound of cicadas reminds me so much of the scorching heat in the Philippines. The humming chorus of the cicadas was such a background noise as we live in the wood.
Growing up in a very small village in a remote area in the Philippines provided me with a lot of experiences that a person who grew up the bigger towns and cities might never get to experience unless of course if they happen to visit the far flung places.

The very first thing that I remember when I was a kid was those times we had to fetch water from man made stone wells. It may not even be called wells because they are certain kinds of stones where water is sipping through. and when they make holes on them, the water would get collected on the holes and we would get water using tubs to transfer water from these holes to the water containers. In some areas people would make man made pipes made from bamboos with the nodes removed so that water can flow freely. Since there were just a very few number of people, the entire village would share two or three areas of water source. I remember that as a kid, we would sometimes go as a group like it's a group game of hide and seek or a race, who gets to get their plastic gallons full first. And on our way back home we would catch dragonflies. At that time, well, that was almost twenty plus years ago, there's not much invention, so we use whatever we could find around. We would collect the sap from jackfruit tree to catch dragonflies. It is that sticky thing that they use to make bubble gums. We would wound it on a long stick and then use it as an extention as not to disturb the dragonflies. We would also catch butterflies as the place has a bundant butterflies. But nowadays, I noticed that a lot of these wild life are fewer in number compared to when we were young kids due to the cutting down of forests and woods for the purpose of farming.

A lot of these memories were triggered when I was sitting by our patio listening to the sound of cicadas and watching the birds just hop around from trunk to the branches. Makes me feel so close to nature. And then there are the squirrels playing around catching each other's tails. Their nails must be that sharp that they can just go up and down the trees and can even position themselves up side down.

I remember too that we would go to the woods and we would always find fruit trees. We used to go look for passion fruits, star fruits and even palm hearts. Real fresh palm hearts. Bananas, all types of bananas, and even banana hearts for dinner. I remember that we would invade our grandparents yards full of fruit trees such as jackfruits, star apple, pineapples, mangoes, guyabano. And at the back of my granparent's house they have this bamboo tree that is always abundant with bamboo shoots. The edible bamboo shoots. And just a few yards is a pond full of watercress and "gabi" or taro. Also "kangkong", swamp cabbage or water spinach. All these three do best in ponds or swamp. The pomelo tree they have withstand the strong typhoons that they had last year and is always abundant with fruits. It was already there eversince I was a kid. And it's still bearing fruits.

I had such glee when I was back at my parent's place. Just outside the portch by the yard is a mango tree and it has fruits. Although some of the branches have been blown away by the storm, there was a branch that had fruits. I just went out there and picked some fruits.And just by the side of the house are pineapples. A whole bunch of pineapples, almost ripe and ready. My mom, picked two ripe ones for me to bring to my sister's place. There is also a coconut tree right by our yard and some citrus trees. As my dad have been doing some kind of marcotting calamansi with some Australian citrus. These citrus fruits are actually being sold along the Nueva Vizcaya area, in fruit stands and in the market. Of course there are some trees surrounding the house. I guess, that's why I love Georgia because it has a lot of trees and vegetation which reminds me so much of home. It was such an adjustment for me not being able to avail of real fresh fruits and vegetables. I have noticed the difference of taste between foods from back home and what they have here in the US. During my last trip, the fruits and vegetables tasted so much better. Probably they are more organic and freshly picked compared to what they have here that has been refrigerated and/or frozen. Even the meats tasted so much better over there. I don't know if my taste buds are tricking me.I had a craving for Pinoy foods the few days I was back. I craved for freshly picked fruits and vegetables and seafoods. We had to rush to the Filipino store. But i was disappointed, it didn't taste the same. I got frozen tinapa. I loved tinapa when I was there in P.I., with freshly sliced tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt. But of course the frozen one has lost some of it's taste. It was almost bland.Haaaaaaaay!

I actually passed by a place in San Fernando La Union, where they make they manufacture Virgin Coconut Oil. Had I known about this product, I would have bought some when I was there. I am using a certain Indian coconut oil with some other herbs and lemon on my hair. It smells good. I put on my scalp for overnight and then wash it off in the morning. Coconut oil is suppose to have a lot of use. And now the Virgin coconut oil can be used to cook. I have been trying to use olive oil for a while now. It's suppose to be healthier. I do go for corn oil, canola and vegetable oil.I would usually use them alternately. I do sometimes use butter/margarine, it is good when frying up chicken breasts with garlic. The smell is very aromatic.

As a seafood lover I always eat fish and lately, I have been hooked to tilapia and salmon. Salmon has good essential oils good for the skin. Tilapia, I would deep fry it sometimes, bake or broil it. And of course I love crablegs. J would buy my two pounds of them. I just don't like the salt content. So, I avoid it sometimes. Shrimp too are among my favorites.

I have "bangus" or milkfish in the fridge, together with some bitter gourd and eggplant and kangkong. I would probably make rellenong bangus or whatever recipe I could find. Atleast that way I get to get in touch with my pinoyness aside from eating hopia ube and ampalaya and ensaymada.


Let there be silence and shut up.

Relax, be still
Let your mind take you where the wind blows
Let your body feels nothing but weightlessness
Free your mind, loosen your muscles
Let your breath sway with the blowing wind
Free your soul, let it soar up in the skies
Let it dance with the clouds
Let it chase the kites
Let it ride the clouds and feel nothing,just nothingness
Be calm, just let go of all the heaviness
Keep riding nad gliding among the clouds
As you sway and giggle.
Take a deep breath and look around you
Gather yourself and start a fresh new you.


Tongues, summer, and friends

Traveling is always a great way to experience different ways of life. It opens up your mind to other ways of doing things. You would hear other languages. In my trip I was able to speak different dialects. Once I stepped out of Hongkong airport I had to try my Cantonese a little bit with the locals. I forgot a lot of words that I learned already but I still could understand people talking within my earshot. Maybe not everything, but I did understand some. It was harder to go around and go to the small local stores if you don't speak Cantonese. It was hard for me to buy foods from the small restaurants that has menus written in Chinese. But I was able to get around.

When I was with my family in my hometown I had to speak Ifugao dialect called Tuwali. Of course it's something that I will never forget since it's really my dialect since childhood, my mother tongue. And the very language I speak, when talking to my family.

I find it a great advantage to be able to speak two or more dialects and languages. Going to different regions or provinces in the Philippines, you would be greeted in different dialects. And it's always great to know the dialect. One could always get around speaking Tagalog or even English, but speaking the dialect makes socializing even better and people are delighted that other people would like to learn their own local tongue. Of course if you are in Manila and other surrounding Manila like Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, you would hear a lot of Tagalog languages. As you go down Pangasinan, they speak Pangasinanse, Pampanga, Kapampangan and from Nueva Ecija , Nueva Vizcaya to Isabela and Cagayan, a great portion of people speak Ilocano. Since I grew up around these areas, I learned to speak Ilocano too. Although different towns may have their own accents and intonations, people can communicate. Baguio, they have a Cordilleran Ilocano accent compared to Ilocano from Ilocos or an Ilocano from Isabela. Of course in the Cordillera region, there are a lot of different dialects already. The region of course is composed of about seven provinces, Benguet,Abra,Ifugao, Bontoc, Kalinga, Apayao. And in each provinces the smaller towns may even have their own dialects. It's great learning a lot of dialects and languages. While traveling and going to places especially if one stays for sometime, they could actually assimilate the languages and/or dialects. I have learned so far by going to places.

When in Isabela, I spoke Ilocano, and when I was in Kiangan I spoke Tuwali and when in Manila I spoke Tagalog. It was a bit ackward during the first day, but it all came to me once I warmed up. It' was all stored up within me, I just had to exercise talking the dialect. Of course, I still have to pause and think of some words as my tongue gets rusty when I don't speak that certain dialect. But just like Taglish, I would borrow some words from other dialect mostly in Tagalog and use it if I couldn't remember the words. Ah, don't you hate when you suddenly can't remember the words. Of course I use English words as a remedy whenever I can't think of the word at that very moment.

Summer heat is here again. I love the spring and fall weather , but when it gets too hot, I don't like to be out there. I tend to wait till it gets cooler to get out into the outdoors. Find a shade or do things in the shade. I would even jog in the shade, opposite to what everyone else is doing which is getting some tan. I already got a great tan and of course if I overdo it, it won't be tan anymore but burned. It's so great to do a lot of outdoor stuff especially when the weather is nice. We had postponed our plan of going camping since it had been pouring the past two weeks. Now that the sun is out, my goodness, it get's up to 95 degrees F. What can I say, it is summer. We did some canoing already which was very enjoyable because the weather was not too hot. Of course we still spend time playing tennis when we get the chance. I would love swimming if we have an access to swimming pools. I went with a friend yesterday, but it was too bad.I didn't have fun at all because all I did was wait and I was the only one in the pool and the people we were waiting for never showed up until I got tired and declared we go home as things were not going as planned. I am trying to revive my gardenning enthusiasm. I got few plants this year. I learned from my past gardens that a lot of the plants die in winter when left outside so I am going for more indoor plants this time. Plants that I could bring in when frost starts.


What do you look for in a friend? I am not the type that would start a conversation that easy to strangers. I guess it takes a while for me to warm up. I normally don't do very well in a group. I prefer one on one conversations as I am weary about audience. I don't think I have a high standard for friends. I think I am always looking for some kind of satisfaction in a friend relationship. When I say satisfaction it may mean different things like how comfortable I am with that person, how much of me can I disclose to a person without worrying of being judged or critisized. Friends can become close friends in varying degrees. It's how close that matters.There is also the rationality issue, the intellectual side. When I say I want to be satisfied, I would say I would wish we could discuss anything under the sun. I guess two people got to have similar interests which could bring them together. Can and will do things together, if not can exchange interests.


From Here to There and Back

Visiting my hometown and my province made me more grateful about a lot of things in life. Especially things that I sometimes take for granted or some things that I forget after living in a world of convenience. I even get to appreciate walking, since walking is a part of everyday life in my hometown. They go to work, they walk, go to the stores, they walk, we walked everywhere, well, almost everywhere, if not walking distance we would ride the jeepneys and tricycles. It was so fun to be able to roam around the familiar places, seeing and meeting familiar faces. Well, a lot of changes of course with the places and people and so I didn't recognize some people. I saw new faces, new growing kids. The kids that I use to know have already grown up and even have their own kids now. Time has gone so fast. Changes are truly inevitable. Prices have soared up high since the last time I was there. Fares for public transportation have quadrupled.

Well, being there had a certain familiar feeling to it, but at the same time I felt like a stranger to my own hometown. Years of being away really makes a lot of difference. The people I used to know, have traveled milestones. They have their own lives now. It was almost like getting to know again my very own hometown. New buildings and new houses have been built already. New faces, new neighbors have moved in. The young kids I used to know are the grown ups already and are teaching to the high school where I studied. Others are working in the municipal hall. Others are politicians. Looking back to our younger years, you couldn't tell who's gonna be successful in the future. Meeting my former highschool classmates makes me realize how far we have gone in life. Some of them are now married with kids and are working as cops, as accountants, as professionals. Others, just graduated from law school, others pursuing nursing studies which seems to be the trend. Still, some others still have same lives since the last time I saw them. Meeting these people made me feel like a stranger. They are familiar yet, strangers to me after all these years. It's a different feeling.

I have observed during my short stay in Baguio that they don't follow written signs by the roads especially the sign that says " No loading, No Unloading Zone". Jeepneys stop and unload and load passengers right where the sign is, which I found ridiculous the first time I saw it.They don't take the written signs seriously, not only in baguio but everywhere else. In the province, it's very important to know how much the fare to your destination. They could trick you into paying more than what you should pay. I have noticed that a lot of these tricycles and buses and jeepneys seem to compete for passengers. It's not good to look like a tourist when roaming around since people try to trick you.

It was brutally hot when I was there that handkerchiefs or small towels and umbrellas come in handy. I was there at the peak of the summer heat. In May, it starts raining mostly at later part of the day like in the afternoons. June, the rainy season starts which could last till November. Going to the lowlands, like Isabela and the valleys where it's flat proved to be hotter compared to the elevated parts of the country like Baguio and Ifugao which are about ten degrees cooler.

My trip to Quezon province was such an experience.Too bad I didn't have a lot time and so, I had to rush. The trip back and forth to Manila was like seven to eight hours total. It was an interesting trip, the pahiyas was well toured by a lot of people so much so that we had a hard time getting from one place to another without having to squeeze in between herds of people and vehicles. It's a very colorful and famous festivity. I didn't get to see the whole event since we had to go back to Manila after a gruelling two hours of walking under the sizzling sun just so we could see the parades of ornamented houses. The ornaments were composed of edible foods and crops like rice grains, pineapples, string beans, coconut's, tomatoes and all farm goods since it's a harvest festival. Farmers give thanks to the patron saint San Isidro Labrador for great harvests. I have noticed that on our way to the pahiyas we passed by a vast plantation of coconuts. So, the along the bus routes and in the public transportations, you'll see a lot of people selling buko pies and other coconut products like macapuno. Something I am already familiar with since they sell them along the roads of Nueva Vizcaya, town one has to pass by when traveling to Manila from Isabela or Ifugao, it's also same route going to Baguio.
While roaming around Lucban, I have noticed that a lot of things are made of coconut leaves like the straw hats, slippers, bags,coin purses, a lot of things.I was able to glimpse at the famous Banahaw mountain. It was such a cool experience although the weather wasn't so cool. My friends sent me home longanisa and suman as take home pasalubong.

I would definitely like to explore other places the next time I go on vacation in the Philippines. One of the places that was on my list was Batad. It is located in my very own province, I just didn't have time to go since one should spend a few days there. It's supposed to be very rural without electricity and of course mountain climbing involved. There are a lot of places that I wanted to see next time but if hubby comes along, my list might have to be shortened since he can't take long hours and days of traveling especially if the weather is not pleasant. We'll see next time. Next time might be a few years, that will give me time to save and plan for the next trip.

Actually my first stop over was Hongkong. I spent three days there roaming around places that I am familiar with. I remember that I felt no longer petite the first time I went out the crowded streets of Hongkong. I honestly felt regular size wise when I looked around, people were smaller, the Asian size like myself. I didn't feel small at all. My only problem was not being able to read Chinese, so I had to go look for places to eat where the menus were written in English. The first place I saw was KFC. Even if I didn't want to eat chicken I had to eat there because the small restaurants menus were all in Chinese. I walked around and went to places, but as I said, a lot of the signs and labels are written in Chinese except some that has the English translations. I went to meet my aunt at Lok Fu where the wet and dry markets are. I had been to this place a lot of times before so I was familiar with the routes. The very common transportation to get around Hongkong is the underground train MTR and buses. All you have to do is to familiarize yourself with the routes, it's best to equip yourself with the maps and got to know the number of the buses and their bus stops. Taxi cabs are also everywhere, you got to know their color codes. Red taxis go to the Kowloon area, other colors have a designated destinations if you are coming from the airport. Most of the time, we went around walking, shopping. It wasn't a very hard for me to walk around by myself since I had been there before. Of course there are changes, but I could get around.

My next stop was my hometown, Kiangan in the Ifugao province. I was able to appreciate the beauty of the town where I spent most of my childhood. Surrounded by mountains and breath taking sceneries that I took for granted before. Like what most people do over there since they see it everyday. Too bad all the photos I took from my town were gone. So, I am left without photogenic,I mean photographic evidences.Except this which I took few years ago, the last time we were there. I have to make sure I will have a lot of pix the next time I go there.

I was able to see a very close friend of mine in her own small town. It was such a very emotional meet up, because she had been a very close friend since our school days. So much things have happened to her life too. She's already married and is on her way while taking care of her sister's son. Her sister is in Dubai working. It was shocking for me to meet her husband. I didn't expect that she would end up marrying this guy. Well, I know him,not personally but in a small town where everybody knows each other, he's not a stranger to me. It's terrible for me to say but I was a bit disappointed to meet the guy she married. I know I'm bad, it's just that I was expecting someone better. Oh well, it's none of my beeswax.

After spending a few days in Baguio, I went to Isabela. But before that, Baguio seemed a lot crowded way back when I was a student. The once empty lot, stands a tall plaza. Even vehicles and taxis have increased in numbers. More people crowded Session Road. And the Baguio mall is attracting a lot of people from neighboring towns like Pangasinan, Benguet, La Union, San Fernando and of course even manila and from the provinces. It was crowded when I went to meet up with friends at Goldilocks. It was a long walk from Harrison Road all the way up Governor Pack Road. So much so that when we got there, I was drenched with sweat. Luckily it was like ten degrees lower compared to the heat in Manila. As usual I went roaming around Burnham park and to the Wagwagan stalls and to the dry market at Hill Top. I didn't stay there longer, I wish I could have since the person I was suppose to meet had other things to do. I didn't go to Q.M. and Quarry, I wanted to go up Lourdes grotto too.Oh, well.

Isabela, I stayed in Alicia and helped my sister and brother with their small garden stall. I didn't know that plants and flowers were so famous. Mostly I suffered the heat as I insisted on walking around. I get bored just hanging out and watching people walking by. I enjoyed buko juice so much when I was there. Lots of mangoes too, green as well as ripe mangoes. After a few days of stay there I had to go back to Kiangan and pack my things for my trip to Manila. The bus took off at evening time, so it was a night trip. I tried to sleep in the bus since it wasn't too crowded, but had a hard time getting comfortable. I probably slept for a few hours but that's about it. It was already four in the morning when I got to Manila.

The rest of my travel was spent on planes and airports. The next thing I know I was back here with hubby collecting my lugages and welcoming me back home. And my first complain was that I miss Filipino food. Of course I brought me with me some souveniers from my trip.