Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rilke Writes

The problem with me is that I speed-read too much for anything of significance to actually sink in. We've hardly gone out this week so I had time to be re-acquainted with the French poet Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet". This is my sister's hard-bound copy so I've had to hold back on marking it with my ubiquitous Post-It highlighter. The letters came back at a time when I feel young enough to begin anew. A life of passion, art and writing exists in the parallel universe of my mind, and I'm glad to learn from a master how to yield to these wonderful things that beckon to me now, from somewhere faraway and hidden.

In his fourth letter, Rilke writes:

"...[H]ave patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that - but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don't hate anything."

It is a comfort to know that someone, even though long gone, understands the need for answers and encourages me to live with the questions. The struggle is not new, after all.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Official Christmas 2005 Photo

With the smallest Christmas tree we've ever had, which was a last-minute acquisition for Dr. Mel's apartment, we smiled in front of the camera for the rest of the family who are spread out in Germany, Australia, and the Philippines. Thank God overseas calls are more affordable these days. Merry Christmas!

Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez

One advantage of having a father whose undergraduate course at UST was Philosophy & Letters is that we had access to the best in Philippine literature at an early age. One of the short stories that captured so much emotion in very few words for me was "Dead Stars" by Paz Marquez Benitez, which my siblings and I were required to read from Papa's Storymasters series.

While surfing on this Christmas night, I chanced upon a webpage, "The Best of Philippine Short Stories". I quote my favorite part below. It still speaks strongly to me, of staring at stars and waiting for something to happen, only to realize that the dream you've had for so long does not yield the perfect happiness you had hoped for. Something like that. The original words sound much better.

She had not changed much--a little less slender, not so eagerly alive, yet something had gone. He missed it, sitting opposite her, looking thoughtfully into her fine dark eyes. She asked him about the home town, about this and that, in a sober, somewhat meditative tone. He conversed with increasing ease, though with a growing wonder that he should be there at all. He could not take his eyes from her face. What had she lost? Or was the loss his? He felt an impersonal curiosity creeping into his gaze. The girl must have noticed, for her cheek darkened in a blush.

Gently--was it experimentally?--he pressed her hand at parting; but his own felt undisturbed and emotionless. Did she still care? The answer to the question hardly interested him.

The young moon had set, and from the uninviting cot he could see one half of a star-studded sky.

So that was all over.

Why had he obstinately clung to that dream?

So all these years--since when?--he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.

An immense sadness as of loss invaded his spirit, a vast homesickness for some immutable refuge of the heart far away where faded gardens bloom again, and where live on in unchanging freshness, the dear, dead loves of vanished youth.

The website I copied it from said that "[t]his is the 1925 short story that gave birth to modern Philippine writing in English".

It just might give birth again to serious writing in this blog.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth, ' I said
'For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, December 24, 2005

On this Silent and Holy Night

Photo from the nativity scene at The Glory of Christmas production by Crystal Cathedral ministries.

Lk 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
(Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.(
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
(Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.)

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Now Showing: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

I love Lucy. I'm not referring to the TV series, although I saw a tribute to the late Lucille Ball in Universal Studios a couple of weeks ago. I love Lucy Pevensie, played by adorable little actress Georgie Henley. She could make anyone believe in the existence of Santa Claus, the goodness of Aslan, and the presence of Narnia.

I read the book "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis when I was very young and then watched the musical presented by Filipino theater company Trumpets when I was in law school. Afterwards, my Ate gifted me with a book containing the entire Chronicles of Narnia and I read the other six volumes in the series. I was then one of the millions waiting for the lion, the witch, and the famous wardrobe to hit the big screen.

The Chronicles of Narnia, brought to the screen by the certified feel-good masters of Disney, slowly unwrapped like a package of Turkish Delight. It erased the dark memory of King Long from my family's imagination (see previous post for my comments on the King Kong remake).
This movie made fantasy a happy reality for us. The special effects made sense and were essential to the story and were, in fact, flawless. The actors - played by four children, a witch, and a lion - were perfectly cast. Lucy's innocence and kind-heartedness captured the audience and reminded us all that there was no winter too cold that Aslan could not thaw into spring.

Christmas is the best time to watch this film. For unto us a child was born, but he died in our place, like what Aslan did for Edmund. And then He rose again, putting our fears to rest and bringing our hopes into reality. The priest at mass yesterday said that we should look at Christmas from the point of view of the Resurrection so that we could see the whole picture. This film's theme does exactly that, for it's not just about the adventures of four children who had to face their own war, but it introduces us to the world of Narnia, where Aslan reigns and brings life, one that may be lived to the fullest.

In Narnia, love does not kill, but it brings life - to trees, rivers, humans, fauns, and beavers alike. Humans rule as stewards of Narnia, waiting for Aslan's return. It is a story of hope and a story of faith as well.

I am looking forward to the next Narnia movie, but until that time comes, I have enough good memories to live by, for I believe in Narnia, and I wait with the Pevensie children for the coming of Aslan.

Caroling on Main Street

I was in the audience when my cousin egged me to pose for a souvenir photo. I was so shy and kept shaking my head when my cousin, camera poised and ready, motioned for me to move closer. The man with the top hat noticed and pulled me nearer so I could join the frame. I was used to caroling in QC, Pasig and Makati. It was my first time to do so on Main St., Disneyland.

Guess Who's the Princess

Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, and headless other Disney princesses (shot was taken by Papa, who had eyes only for his princess Ella.. Enchanted... short for Cinderella, I think). These are old photos I'm uploading, taken December 2 when we were at the happiest place on earth.

Holding Hands with Mel Gibson

I knelt in front of the Chinese Mann theater in Hollywood Blvd just to touch the hand prints of my guy Mel.

Now Showing: King Kong

Critics are raving about Peter Jackson's remake of the movie King Kong. My family and I beg to disagree. We came up with other titles for the movie:

"So Long, King Kong: What's taking you so long?"
"The Long Kong"
"Making the King Kong Too Long"

We went last Sunday night to the movies not because we wanted to see the huge gorilla but because it was Peter Jackson who directed it. Like the rest of the world, we wanted to see this genius' take on a monstrous story and be swept in the fantastic world of movie magic. After all, we saw some of the movie sets they used during our recent visit to Universal Studios in Hollywood.

Peter Jackson flexed his directing muscles all right, but clearly he was entertaining himself and not his audience. On the way home from the three-hour long hodgepodge of drama, action and comedy rolled into one, my sister, her bf, and my mom felt cheated of three hours of our lives.

Maybe Peter Jackson thought he was making another trilogy:

Part One: How the Blonde Girl Won a Role in an Imaginary Movie
Part Two: The Island and the Overkill of Monsters
Part Three: King Kong: Lost in New York

If George Lucas could use a scriptwriter, in my book Peter Jackson needs an editor, one who is more considerate of his audience's time. It took him an hour to get to the island and introduce the hero of the film and another hour to end the movie. Waiting for the film to end was like waiting for the dentist to finish your root canal. It was painful, yet you had to sit through everything to endure it.

I am an ice skating fan but there is nothing cute about King Kong sliding through ice while the residents of New York city were having the scare of their lives. I have no problem with temporary suspension of disbelief but this time, director Peter Jackson went too far. There were too many closeups on the beautiful, skinny heroine and too many bugs and too many monsters. Director Peter Jackson tried to communicate several themes at the same time - a satire on Hollywood, a tribute to great movies, a remake that seeks to improve on the original, a love story, and countless other sub-themes. One could see Moulin Rouge, Jurassic Park, Chicago and other films woven into this one's storyline.

My family and I would have appreciated the film had it been separated into three separate movies, one hour each.

Don't take my word for it, though, go watch the movie, but do it only when you don't have work the next day, otherwise you won't have the time to spare for this.

I am a fan of Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy. Maybe he did this film thinking of the pressure fans like me placed on his shoulders to come up with something half as good as the three classics he already accomplished.

You tried too hard, Mr. Jackson. I would have been satisfied with the love story angle alone (but that's just me!). Other people would have survived on the gore factor. Still, others would have been entertained enough with the vaudeville act.

You can't please all of us at the same time. We would appreciate your work more if you had kept your focus.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Seeing Sedona with Mama

We were awed by the Grand Canyon, but we loved Sedona. I agree with what the guidemap said: God created the Grand Canyon, but He lives in Sedona. The former is so vast and overwhelming that I was afraid to take everything in, partly because I felt dizzy when I looked down. The latter had a much more personal feel to it. I can say that this trip (Grand Canyon-Sedona) was the climax of our vacation.

At the Grand Canyon Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Run, Ella, Run!

A Polar bear ran towards me! There goes my vacation at Sea World in San Diego. Posted by Picasa

Picture in San Diego

At Nestle's house: Papa, Ella, Tita Lea, Tita Fe, Tito Ludi, Mama, Leila, Nestle, and Xavier Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 19, 2005

Now Playing: Let it Be Done

I have a new favorite song! I heard it during the 9am mass at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church here at Tempe, Arizona. I guess it spoke to where I was at the moment I heard it. I couldn't stop the tears from falling, but had to wipe them away because I went to that church for the very first time and I didn't want to cry in front of strangers.

It's a beautiful song and it captures the prayers of Mary and Joseph based on the gospel for today. It started with Mary's response, then Joseph's response, then finally I found myself singing about my own response to God.

I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for the lyrics, considering I didn't catch its title. I found it after using one keyword: "understand". It was also the word that struck me most. I may not understand the wisdom of Your plan, but I'll answer Lord, Let it be. Let it be done unto me.

Let it Be Done
Chris Muglia

1. When she heard the voice of God
calling her to be
the instrument he needed
to bring our world the King of Kings,
she could not understand
the wisdom of God's plan, but still she answered:
"Let it be. Let it be done unto me."

2. When he heard the voice of God
calling him to stand
and take the virgin as his wife
and teach her child to be a man,
he could not understand
the wisdom of God's plan, but still he answered:
"Let it be. Let it be done unto me."

And we say: "Yes, Lord,
we're ready to receive.
Yes, Lord, we're ready to believe.
Let it be. Let it be done unto me."

3. When we hear the voice of God
calling out our names,
Lord, we pray you give us faith
to answer you in anything.
And we may not understand
the wisdom of your plan, but we will answer:
"Let it be. Let it done unto me."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Spiderman, Spiderman

Ella, Spiderman, and my niece (hey Miko Tita Ella got this shot especially for you! Spidey didn't have webs with him because he said that they're sticky) Posted by Picasa

After the Arizona State University (ASU) Graduation

Posing with The Graduate and the ASU Balloon Posted by Picasa

Group Photo

From Left: Papa, Tito Ludi Cruz-Herrera, Peachy del Rosario, (hidden) Auntie Nene del Rosario, Tito Bing CH (hidden), Josh, Debbie, Richard, Mama, Uncle Bert DR, Dr. Melissa Cruz-Herrera del Rosario, Tita Yollie CH, and moi. Posted by Picasa

The Graduate

(From L) Papa, Mama, Dr. Melissa del Rosario, and her Professor, whom she calls The Boss Posted by Picasa

What an X-Man

Thanks, Jean Grey. You let go of him, he's mine. (Ella posing with Wolverine at Universal Studios) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Found a Dream House!

I started a dream that sent me dreaming more. Uncle Eddie del Rosario picked us up from Eagle Rock and drove us to Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes. The drive from the beach to the mountains triggered my vertigo! I could feel my stomach turning and my head spinning. I took my medicine, closed my eyes, and willed myself to get better in order to enjoy the scenery.

While under the influence of drugs (Serc lang, prescribed by doctors) I opened my eyes to see my dream houses. While driving along the mansions at Palos Verdes in LA I started to dream again of owning such a house in front of the beach. My Uncle said that mostly doctors, scientists, politicians, and actors could afford those houses.

Well I am a dreamer and that's what I do - dream. I met two new aunts (my dad's cousins) and an aunt-in-law who all encouraged me to, guess what, move to America. I could not get past the "What does your daughter do?" "She's a lawyer" (my mom/dad's reply) introduction. They've all heard of Sandiganbayan, my previous office, but not of Lingkod. To spare me from telling a very long story I did not elaborate, just that I'm working now for something I believe in, I'm fulfilled and happy, although not earning that much to buy my parents their dream house, let alone mine. :) But we're ok.

I don't have to clean a dream house - it's always perfectly clean. I don't have to worry about repairs and bills. I can close my eyes, with or without the side effect of drowsiness from my meds, I could clearly see my beachfront property.

Mama told me, "You could always marry a doctor who could buy you a house here. When you were young a fortune-teller said you would marry a doctor."

Fortune teller... I replied, "No, Ma, that was MY dream when I was young. I didn't need a fortune-teller to tell me that. Anyway that's not exactly the dream now."

The dream now is just the house.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Now Playing: A Whole New World

This is going to be girly, princess-y and Disney, so if you can't stand pink and all that jazz, go read another blog.

I just have to post the lyrics to this song that's been playing in my ear for a week now. I have like a hundred songs in my nano but not this one yet, so until I get my hands into my CDs back home, I'm just going to sing this duet with myself. Hey this is possible, don't think "doble kara", but imagine my nephew Miko who can sing Summer Nights from Grease doing both Danny and Sandy's voices. Speaking of Grease, let me digress a bit, my nephew Justine (By Ate Joy and Kuya Edwin Ruiz) is playing the lead role in Grease tomorrow and we're all going to watch. A whole barangay of us.

Now back to the song that I have to get out of my head and into my blog in order to get rid of it:

I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering splendid
Tell me, princess now when did
You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world
With you

Now I'm in a whole new world with you

Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky

A whole new world
(Aladdin: Don't you dare close your eyes)

A hundred thousand things to see

(Aladdin: Hold your breath-it gets better)
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be

A whole new world

(Jasmine: Every turn a surprise)

With new horizons to pursue
(Jasmine: Every moment, red letter)
I'll chase them anywhere
There's time to spare
Let me share this whole new world with you

A whole new world
A whole new world
That's where we'll be
That's where we'll be
A thrilling chase
A wondrous place
For you and me

Ok folks that's my share of cheese for the remainder of the year! It kinds of describes how I've been feeling the past few weeks. Every moment, red letter. Endless carpet ride. I know I'm not really singing solo. It's a duet, with God. It's a chorus, with the people He sends my way. It's an orchestra, with the beauty of His creation around me.

Is it possible to take in all these good feelings in a jar, or a photo perhaps, that I could take out on a rainy day, like when I run out of hope, or forget about being a princess and become a soldier once more? I can't document everything, but I sure hope the R & R is working its magic and storing the memories for when I need to use them someday.

I have a sinking feeling I'll need to be reminded of all these blessings once I get back into the rhythm of the real world once more.

All Themed Out

It's a Saturday night and we're all staying home. We got all themed out after going to four (4!) theme parks in a span of eight days.

Last week, we went to Disneyland and California Adventure on the same day, hopping from one theme park to the other following the pace set by my cousin, Ate Jean, who wanted us to see the best shows in just one day. I didn't feel the exhaustion then because at Disneyland everyone had a silly kind of happy feeling. People wore hats, ate sweets, smiled at each other, waved at cartoon characters who came to life, sang along Disney songs, and bought souvenir products at astonishing tourist prices. It was a beautiful day, marred only by the rains which soaked us while we watched the parade and hid the fireworks behind dark clouds. I missed Fantasmic too, where they projected the music and lights of Fantasia, one of Disney's earliest classics, onto the water. I might go back tomorrow to Disneyland just for that show! At California Adventure, we soared through California through Soarin; watched Golden Dreams, a story about how dreams came true for this state; and rode the Hollywood Tower of Terror, where I felt my stomach jump down all those thirteen (13!) floors. We bought our picture afterwards, showing our terrified smiles. At Disneyland I went through so many rides - Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Carribean, It's a Small World, Honey I shrunk the Audience, and the Disney Railroad.

Last Wednesday we were at Sea World, famous theme park at San Diego, where we were splashed with water by dolphins. We started out with the Arctic ... Zone? I can't recall at the moment, but I remember having a nice photo with a real live polar bear. We all enjoyed Shamu's show a lot, those killer whales just knew how to hold an audience well. In another life, if not a ballerina, actress, or figure skater, I would probably wish I could be a Sea World trainer. They all have beautiful hair and fit bodies and could swim so gracefully together with their prized fish. I took lots of pictures but cannot upload them yet - did I mention I'm having technical problems out here in Los Angeles? We also enjoyed Pets Rule. However I got a migraine from too much sunlight and all my aunts and uncles agreed that we go home at 3 p.m. for various reasons - they had aching joints, knees, shoulders, feet, name it, my companions had it. But they were all good sports, enjoying a kids' theme park for the sake of a first-timer --> yup that's me.

Today I went to Universal Studios with my niece Serena, Ate Jean, and my parents. Being a movie fan I expected to be awed by movie sets and to be surprised by Mel Gibson jumping out of a train or something. No such luck. The highlight of my day was posing with Wolverine! Hehehe. Jean Grey's loss. Eat your heart out, Rouge! Will post the photo, again, when able. I also have photos with Spiderman (several of them as he's my nephew Miko's favorite superhero), Storm, and Captain America. We went through the famed studio tour - which was simply a tour of sound stages and empty sets. I loved Wisteria Lane though, it was beautiful and I could imagine the desperate housewives walking in and out of those closed doors. We also watched the Special Effects show and the Waterworld show. We the younger ones rode the Return of the Mummy and all got dizzy afterwards. I remembered I had vertigo when they made us go through the high-speed roller coaster ride... backwards. I closed my eyes and joined the screamfest. The show I enjoyed the most was Shrek 4D. I wondered why it was 4D. Should I tell? Hmm let's just say you could get a little wet and a little blown away in there.

While eating ribs at the City Walk tonight, we made a comparison of all theme parks and unanimously agreed that Disneyland is still the best. Its claim of being The Happiest Place on Earth (now the happiest Homecoming, because it's their 50th anniversary) definitely has basis. Papa's most favorite show, however, was at Disney California Adventure - the Aladdin show. He especially liked it when he learned that a lot of Filipinas played Jasmine. While driving back home my niece played the theme song from Aladdin on her car stereo and now I can't get it out of my head!

A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew... I could sing that song forwards and backwards way back when... I thought it would be nice to sing on one's wedding reception, with the bride and the groom flying off on a magic carpet to go to a hundred places, but before I resurrect dreams here of being a Disney princess, I'd better stop blogging.

It is a whole new world out here. A magic lamp burns inside me even without a genie to wish from.

I seriously have to get this song out of my head.

The Glory of Christmas

I found the link to the Christmas production that we saw the other night at the Crystal Cathedral. Check out the flying angels and the smelly animals! Experience The Glory of Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rest for the Weary

Rest is doing me good. It should, I know, for that's why God created rest.

I'm away from my usual seasoning of worry-panic-anxiety-guilt-fear that I serve, live, work, play and sleep with. I'm taking steps towards freedom. This grand vacation might make me a better person after all, like what Jake Yap told me.

Out here I'm face-to-face with what I didn't have time for back home - a little laundry, cooking, dishwasing - because I help out. The great houses I live in don't come with angels named Jane (our helper back at QC). I like doing the laundry. I don't mind doing the cooking either! I have the makings of a happy homemaker. Why do pictures of the redhead from Desperate Housewives come to mind?

I've visited three Mission churches here in California - Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Diego. I saw the beginnings of the Catholic faith in the US, which came centuries after the First Mass was celebrated in the Philippines. They said since I'm a "missionary" I might like the missions (they = my parents and relatives). I've enjoyed those trips a lot.

Yesterday, at the chapel at Mission San Diego, I heard from the Lord. I haven't heard Him speak to me clearly in quite some time, perhaps even in months. He told me to "Continue on". I prayed to understand what He meant by that, and today I was assured during my quiet time with God that He has seen the striving that I had been doing - striving to leave my previous life, striving to adjust to a new life, striving to keep focused on my mission despite the material world that is America, striving to be true to myself and my gifts, talents, and dreams. He saw how unsure I was if I had taken the right path. I was being shaken once more, for here I was, a person with two degrees, earning less than our househelper. Have I been following the road set out for me?

Jesus answered me, "Continue on". That word has been impressed upon my heart since yesterday. Despite the uncertainties that I and my environment bring about at every opportunity, Jesus alone provides security. He provided the certainty.

I shall go back to Lingkod in January. To QC. To the Philippines. To my room. I shall try to be a better person, but I shall continue on. I remember now, isn't it written that He is faithful to finish the work He began in us?

I will lie down in green pastures and drink from still waters. I will rest, and then continue on the journey.

I haven't changed my mind (see previous blog).

The American Dream (theirs, not mine)

Being far away from home has widened my perspective a bit about everything that my rose-colored spectacles have seen and unseen the past three decades.

There was one question that kept popping up weeks leading to this trip and almost everyday since I came here to the U.S. of A.

"Ella, don't you want to stay here in the States?"

Almost every other adult relative I've come in contact with have asked me if I had changed my mind already. Surely the climate here should attract me. Or the convenient ways to shop they have come up with in this country. Or perhaps the success stories of all the Filipinos who have made it big here. There are Catholic communities here too.

Why do I have to keep on answering this question? Why is it on everyone's mind? Can't I just go here to rest?

I told them about my life in the Philippines. I told them law isn't exactly a transferable, let alone migratable, profession. I was told how much money paralegals could make here (I need only ask my law school friend Chip who works as one in New York). I told them I'm not inclined to study law at this point and to take another bar exam.

Will my parents be happier if they live here? The cold weather is bringing out Papa's aches and pains. How could we live without Jane, our angel for the past 10 years who cooks well and does the laundry, gardening, grocery-shopping and all our other errands?

I told them the answer is no.

"You will change your mind."
"That was what your Tito said, look where he is now."

Maybe I would change my mind. I'm female and I'm allowed to do that. But for now, let's stop asking that question, please. They might not like my real answers.

When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?

I could write a whole paragraph of hyperboles because of all the blessings that I have received ever since I arrived in the US last November 20. Every single day since then has been filled with surprises. Today my parents and I decided to stay in at Tito Bing and Tita Yollie's house, postponing Universal Studios and Disneyland (part Two) for the weekend, so we could catch our breath. I'm also doing the laundry today.

The past three days have been awesome. I went with four couples, take note, FOUR, most of whom are senior citizens (I won't reveal which ones, hehe) to San Diego. Tito Ludi, Tita Fe, Tita Yollie, Tito Bing, Tito Jimmy, and Tita Lea went with Papa, Mama and me to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano, Old Town San Diego, Mission San Diego, Sea World, and even the grave of Uncle Tonio (del Rosario). Together with Nestle Martinez, my uncle-in-law's niece, we discovered new restaurants, shows, and shops. She took us to duty-free window-shopping at the commisary. Her kids Leila and Xavier also joined us after school whenever they could. We ate Chinese food, Thai food, Mexican food, Days Inn food, Sea World food, and lots of chocolates in between.

When was the last time I did something for the very first time? It seems that it has been every minute for the past three weeks! Aside from the zillion experiences I've had already, last night I got a special treat. Our relatives took us to see The Glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral over at Anaheim. It was a spectacular, stupendous extravaganza showing, well, the glory of Christmas! The three kings arrived in a glorious display of colors, angels flew a la Celine Dione over the majestic cathedral - I will post a link here when I find it, camels, llamas, horses and other LIVE animals roamed around the stage, ballerinas twirled and singers soared to share the joy,beauty and majesty of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am thankful, so thankful, for everything that has been going on. I can't post a photo just now because I can't find the button to upload images on my Tito Bing's Power Mac, but I hope in words I was able to somehow describe how good God has been to me and my parents. Our hosts said they are also enjoying every minute that we spend together. Most of my relatives here are retired so they have all the time in the world to try new things with us. They even enjoyed Sea World and Disneyland despite the fact that they visited those for the umpteenth time already because new events, like the "Pets Rule!" - with potbellied pigs stealing the show - made the trip more special.

I told Tito Ludi yesterday that Christmas came early for us this year.

This morning was Christmas day once again. Tita Yollie gave me several pairs of shoes that she hardly wore because her feet are now killing her. She told me all those years wearing high-heeled shoes are now taking their toll on her, and she only has specific types of shoes she could wear now. My mom and I, who wear the same size shoes as her, received twelve pairs of shoes all in all! We live here, eat here, do our laundry here, and yes, receive shoes here.

At the back of my mind are still questions and doubts - is this for real? Am I gonna get in trouble after all this joy, this much fun, this huge load of blessings? Or is this God's way of showing me His way of loving, to help my unbelief?

Tito Jimmy said he has no wrinkles to this day because he doesn't like to worry. He noticed my propensity to worry! This was because Nestle, his niece, gave me a Coach hat. I said, did you tell her to give it to me? Nakakahiya po! Tito Jimmy and Tita Lea (my ninang who reads this blog regularly and who has given me countless gifts since last week) assured me that Nestle offered to give the hat,which matches my bag and my jacket.

They said this was no ordinary vacation we're having, that factors contribute to make it even more special, convenient, and wonderful everyday.

I tried to count my blessings last Tuesday, but since then a fresh portion, overflowing, and abundant, came upon my cup again. I am grateful beyond words.

Thank you to all who have been generous to me. Thank you for being instruments of God's love. I'm saying thank you even though we still have many more places to go to (Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Melissa's graduation, Universal Studios, etc.) because I have to. If I don't express my gratitude, my little heart would burst!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hollywood, Here I Come

I posed in front of the Kodak Theater with Elmo and Mr. Incredible. They work for tips. Elmo said I was very pretty. How old is Elmo??? I didn't change my tip for him. Didn't work, red buddy.

I also have photos with Mrs. Shrek, Willie Wonka and Johnny Depp's character from Pirates of the Carribean... what's his name again? My mom just stole shots of Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper while they're posing with others who paid for the tip, hehe. I ran into Peter Pan but I had no more one-dollar bills with me so I just smiled as he curtsied at me. Mukhang totoy!

I've been Hollywood-hopping since yesterday. Been to Rodeo Drive today. My jaw dropped at the stores. I looked like a tourist. For that's what I am!

I wish I would run into Brendan Fraser here, or Mel Gibson... do they shop at Macy's?

Minnie & Me

A younger version of me... yup it's yours truly with Minnie Mouse at Disneyland! My cousin Ate Jean (can't reveal her age) knows every nook and cranny of Disneyland and was even quick to take this picture. She's the perfect tour guide!

My other cousin Michael now works part-time as a Cast Member (apparently that's what the staff at Disneyland are called) and got me and my parents into it and California Adventure, for free!!! Was it my lucky day or what? I wanted my nephews to be with me but since they weren't there, I was the youngest girl once more, eating cotton candy and gawking at the Disney characters left and right. I was there with my parents, Tito Ludi and Tita Fe. Had a most wonderful time at the happiest place on earth. Will blog more when there's more time!

Papa is 70!

I'm blogging this from Tita Lea and Tito Jimmy's house at Los Angeles.

This was taken at Chevy's in Union City during Papa's 70th birthday celebration last November 29. He was given a sombrero and the staff sang a happy birthday song for him. Uncle Bert and family were our hosts.