confession tuesday

7,107 islands. That's how many there are in the Philippines. We used to memorize certain facts like this in elementary school, along with geographical definitions of an archipelago, an island, a river, a sea, an ocean. I grew up in a land surrounded by water on all sides that now as an adult I get anxious when I'm not close to one, its as if a part of me is missing. The important part.

I don't know if any of you have heard the news lately, but my country has been badly hit by a typhoon last Saturday and there's been so much flood in Manila and its surrounding areas that everyone is just overwhelmed by it. We usually have about more than 30 typhoons in a year so this is not new to us but last Saturday's calamity caught everyone by surprise - 6 hours of heavy downpour that was worth a whole month of rain and no one was prepared for the onslaught of flood that followed.

The effects of this typhoon was compared to Hurricane Katrina. Watching the news and looking at videos online fills me with so much sorrow, and yes, guilt. How is it possible that I am here, worrying about what to wear for my cousin's wedding next weekend, while back home so many people are cold, hungry, displaced?

Thankfully the typhoon did not hit our island as badly as it did in Manila and my family are doing well. I was on the phone with my sister the other night and I could hear the winds blowing outside. It brought back so many memories, images that I seldom allow myself to remember because doing so means treading on difficult emotional ground. But perhaps I needed those memories because hours later, I found myself in a coffee shop writing away, writing until my hand and my heart hurt.

Love means you breathe in two countries. I've always loved this line by Naomi Shihab Nye. I am living this line. Sometimes I wonder why I make things complicated, if I miss my country and my family so much, why not go back? Why not? I really can't answer this question and maybe only time can tell if I ever will.

P.S. That's my sister in the photo, I took it the last time I was home, on our way to a boat ride that took us to a small, uninhabited island with the whitest sand its almost like a dream.

marshmallow for you

Because we all need something to cheer us up on a Monday.

This video is a variation of a psychology experiment on self-control that was done in the 60's (read more here). Aren't these kids just adorable? I think the redhead girl who just went for it is my hero. And oh, the blond boy and his expressions are hysterical, he looked like he was in such pain. How about you, do you think you would have waited or eaten the marshmallow right away? I would have waited, just 'coz I was such a goody two-shoes as a kid and always followed the rules.

Video by Steve V via A Cup of Jo

bright star

I went into the theater trying to downplay my enthusiasm for Bright Star, first because I didn't want to be disappointed and second because I didn't want my love for poetry to color the way I saw it. Well all that flew out of the window in the first few scenes. This film is pure poetry, from its cinematography down to its costume design. I was literally tearing through half of it and my heart was aching so much that I had to take a lot of deep breaths.

One of my favorite scenes is when Keats wrote Ode to a Nightingale while laying down on top of a tree. It was so serene and yet so ecstatic at the same time and it definitely reminded me of those rare moments in a creative process when you know that something magical is about to happen. And did I mention that the acting was superb? I think both lead actors, especially Abbie Cornish, deserves an Oscar nomination for their powerful performance here.

making me happy

Sushi in Japantown with my favorite cousin.
Free concert tickets to see Jason Mraz.
Going to San Diego in two weeks.
This book by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Handwritten letters from friends.
Dreaming of nutella croissants.
Making chai tea, the traditional way.
French music coming from my neighbor's window.

* * *
Have a lovely weekend my friends!

Photo via Toast

Hong Kong on my mind.


I was cleaning out my computer files and found this picture, taken on Christmas in 2007 at a subway in Hong Kong. Its been almost two years and yet the memory of that spontaneous trip with my 80-year old grandmother is still so vivid that when I think about it, I am simply flooded with joy. So much so that its hard for me to write about it.

Like my first glimpse of Hong Kong from a rain-smeared window of an express train, arriving just after midnight and finding our quaint little hotel on top of a hill, my grandmother's white cotton nightgown silhouetted against a pitch-black city sky, an open market that never sleeps and the rush of people talking in a language that I don't understand, the smell of dim sum and chicken noodle soup, spending Christmas Eve walking around the city square and listening to young children singing carols in the park, the feeling of being giddy, nervous, alive, open - all those things that you feel when discovering a place for the first time.

One of these days I know the story that I've always wanted to write about that Christmas in Hong Kong will come to me. But until then, I'll have these images, bits and pieces of a time and a place that I keep close to my heart.

that full feeling

View from where I was sitting in downtown Tiburon, 9.20.09

"When I was a child in Chattanooga, seven or eight years old, I remember sometimes in April when that spring gold light would come in at the end of the day and just be there for 10 minutes...that gold time, well, I could hardly stand it as a child. I would lie down and hug myself and my mother and father would be playing bridge with the Penningtons. Lying on the floor hugging myself, I'd look at her and say, 'Mama, I've got that full feeling again,' and she'd say, 'I know you do, honey.' So I grew up in an ecstatic world in which it was okay to lie on the floor and hug yourself or maybe just sit out on the bluff and watch the river." -- Coleman Barks

P.S. I had such a lovely weekend. How about you?

Quote taken from Never in a Hurry

making me happy

Click on image for a larger view

This Literary Map of San Francisco. I love it, I want to have it. No, I need to have it. (via SFist)

Finding a dress that I love on e-bay -- new with tags, a quarter of its original price! And because I'm terribly shallow, I think its destiny. Ha.

Writing again. Exercising again. Getting over my 'under the weather' phase, because frankly, it doesn't look good on me and I'm sick and tired of being tired.

A bag-full of tangerines and strawberries for $2.25! It's amazing how much cheaper things are on the other side of town.

An elderly Chinese couple holding hands in front of a movie theater. He was carrying her purse, she was gazing adoringly at him. Ah, love.

Reading some of my old journals, laughing out loud in the middle of night. Some of the things I wrote were just too silly.

This book by Naomi Shihab Nye. I am absolutely blown away by her beautiful writing.

Writing old-school letters and notes. I keep a stash of notecards in my purse and try to write on them whenever I can. E-mails are overrated.

Walking everywhere to do my errands. Especially walking to the library, there's something so magical about carrying books while walking up and down the hills of Noe Valley.

"Your face is written/ on the setting sun, all colors/ and fire, all warm." (San Diego, 12.11.08)-- scribbled on my planner, makes me smile.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

gazing at the sky, gathering stories

It's been quiet here lately. Work, the beginning of a new school year, and trying to get organized are taking over my days. I just realized that I'm not really good with the in-betweens, this transition between seasons, particularly because it feels like summer had just started for us here in San Francisco. All these blue skies and intoxicating afternoon light makes it hard for me to believe that its already mid-September, and yet there is definitely a certain chill in the evening air, a sign that fall is just around the corner.

This morning I drove by what used to be a neighborhood grocery store, saw the sign that says "Gone Fishing", and felt really sad. I 'know' of the couple who owns the store, middle-aged Italian men who were very warm and welcoming, and I remember all those times when I used to go there for my lunch breaks, cold and sleep-deprived, and their homemade soup never failed to lift my spirits. They didn't talk much but they always made sure that I had everything I needed - napkins, plastic utensils, salt and pepper, etc. and placed them in a brown bag before I even asked for it. What will happen to them, I wonder? Will they still live in the city or will they move somewhere else?

Why is it that some people, even the ones you only spent the briefest of moments, leave you with a certain impression than others? Is it a recognition, a sense of kinship, or just a case of "the right time and the right place"? For instance, there are days when I'm on the train and I couldn't remember even a single person around me, what they look like, who they are with, and there are also times when I see high school students chatting while doing their homework in a coffee shop and I'm instantly drawn to them, curious about their lives and dreams.

A month ago I was walking around my neighborhood, an elderly Japanese lady walked up to me and asked, Do you live around here? I must have nodded yes and the next thing you know we were already walking together. She told me about her husband, how he is 10 years older than her, how they go to the Y every morning, how she walks around the neighborhood in the afternoons, how she used to have a best friend who's Filipino but she passed away and she'd lost contact with her friend's children, how convenient it is to live in a walkable city.

In turn, I told her a little bit about myself, how I come to live in the city, what I do, and which local shops I love to hang out in. She couldn't believe that I live alone and thought that I should be with my family or a boy who will take care of me. I remember thinking to myself, how do I explain to this 65 year-old woman who's lived with her husband for more than half of her life that I'm actually happy being on my own?

We walked for about 10 blocks, parted at the intersection that leads to her street, and her last words were, you be careful, okay? I stood at the intersection for awhile and watched her walk up the winding hill. I don't know why, but in that moment, even though our lives are completely different, I felt like we both understood each other.

Photo by peta mazey via Marvelous Kiddo