Newly divorced, my mom decided to send me and my brother to Wichita, KS to spend the summer with our family friends, who had also immigrated to the U.S.  I was 12 and my brother was 16. I thought for sure we’d get lost or miss our connecting flights.  Airports are marvelous and bewildering places. Luckily, my brother has more wits about him than I gave him credit for, and he got us to where we needed to be. He’d actually work for Delta Airlines once we got back from our extended vacation.

How hot is it in Kansas in the summer, Ichiro?


Furniture contract

We were moving from a smaller to a bigger place, so my mom made me and my brother go through our stuff, call dibs on which things we wanted, go to arbitration when there was an item in dispute, and draw up a contract which we would sign so that it would be one less fight that we had. We fought A LOT, so she always tried to make sure things were equitable and peaceful.


Balboa Park Passport

My Balboa Park passport. All students in the 5th grade go to Balboa Park instead of school for a week. I don’t remember much except that I got to hold a boa constrictor on one those days. What are the benefits of such a program  if I can’t even remember anything that I learned? Same thing with 4th grade in Old Town, and 6th grade in Palomar Mountain.

This is the kind of meaningless crap I’ve held onto!


FiftyFifty 2014

This is my third year of participating in the FiftyFifty Challenge. I’ve yet to even come close to watching 50 movies and reading 50 books each year (or combined!) but I do start it in earnest. Doing these things give me ideas and get me thinking, so committing to something like 50/50 helps me keep them a priority.

I was keeping track using a Google Site, but it was cumbersome to update and keep up.  I’m trying to figure out how to use my set up here on WP to document the process.

The organizers added “Plus” this year, meaning I can tack on another project that will yield 50 discernible outcomes. I’ve picked photo portraits, since this is something I really need/want to improve.

Breaking it down, that’s just about two movies, two books, and two portraits a month. Sounds doable, right?




This letter, written some time in 1993, is one of the only things my father has ever given me, and the only thing I still own. Well, that and my knack for making poor decisions.

He was banished from our house, demons and all, when I was barely two. I was seven when we last saw each other. He took me to a carnival, just me and him, to celebrate New Years. I left the Philippines a year later.

Translated bits:

  • Sorry for not writing more. I am shy because I messed up, you know that.
  • Thanks for remembering my birthday.
  • It made me happy to hear about your studies and honors.
  • You and your brother continue to do well, it’s a consolation to your mom.
  • I wish you and your brother wouldn’t fight like you did here.
  • He is your brother and if he does something you don’t like, tell your mom.
  • I’ll stop here.
  • Regards to your kuya and mom.

I feel like I should think about him and the relationship we didn’t have more than I do. I hardly ever, really. His absence is so profound and touches every aspect of my life that it is not this big, loud pain that I face everyday. It’s more like a deafening silence throughout my awareness, so that every move, every feeling, every decision just kind of fills in this space where his presence and influence would have been. 

My first pair of glasses


My first pair of glasses. My mom didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t see the board in class. Had to tell my 4th grade teacher who sent me to the school nurse, who informed my principal, who then told my mom. Our lines of communication are not much different today.



During the holidays, I had a generous two weeks off which allowed me time to sift through my memory boxes and get rid of things that no longer mean that much to me. Why was I keeping a half-eaten package of Sweet Tarts from the 5th grade? Oh, because a cute 6th grader gave it to me.

There were some things that I did want to keep in some way, so I scanned everything! I spent the entire first day of the year holed up in my apartment, digitizing my analog memories before throwing them away. It hasn’t really freed up that much space, so I’m dubious of whether this was a worthwhile project, and I’m not entirely sure what to do with them now except post them on a blog and make them available online so that if someone, someday, searches for “chester cheetah 90s”, my little holograms might help them with what they’re looking for.

So, right, on with it.

These are holographic cards of Chester the Cheetah, the Cheetos mascot. They were a giveaway that came with the snack. This was before I began eating hot Cheetos so they are stained a normal, nuclear orange rather than diabolic red. You can kind of make out the movements he is making: one moment, he is a fierce animal predator wearing RayBans® and engaging in some extreme sport, the next, he is stopped in his tracks by a delectable bag of processed cheese puffs. God has never made a better junk food. The end.

My grandmothers

Mariana and Concordia

These are my grandmothers. My mother’s mom, Mariana, is the one on the left (your left) and my father’s adopted mother, Concordia, is the one on the right. I knew them, simply, as “Lola”. I’ve been thinking a lot about these two lately and wish I had more time with them than I did. I left the Philippines in 1990, and they passed away some years afterward.

My mom’s mom lived with us in Manila. We’d feed the chickens in the backyard and I’d sit there and mimic her winnowing rice. I wish I had a video that showed her doing that. It was like magic, the way that only the husks would come flying out of her basket. This Lola and I would always bicker, too, because she’d task me with getting her cigarettes. I was told by my aunts that she wasn’t allowed to smoke and I’d tell her so, but she’d always sweeten the pot by adding some extra cash so I could get something for myself. Begrudgingly, I would go and come back with a few sticks for her, and a drink for me. She’d light up, laughing at me while I sat there all grumpy, sipping my bag of sweet sago. This Lola also tried to teach me not to be afraid of bugs. She’d tell me to hold my arm out and be still while she placed a mantis on my hand and let it bob and weave its way up to my shoulder. We did this almost every day, and I was just as creeped out the next day as I was the last. I hated when I “graduated” to grasshoppers because they were meatier and uglier and shot out unpredictably in all directions. I shudder to think what else she would have used had my bug training progressed.

Me with my Lolas and brother

My other grandma, Concordia, owned a farm in the province of Baliwag. She raised fishand poultry- most notably, quails! My brother was like a prince to her and he adored her just as much. She’d peel tomatoes for him just because he didn’t like the skin. Peeling tomatoes! He’d leave the city to spend the summers with her, while I gladly stayed behind. She knew I didn’t like to go over there and branded me as salvaje, making me pump water and spanking me for who-knows-why whenever I did visit. Needless to say, my tomatoes were left unpeeled. Listen: her compound had bats, snakes, and cockroaches the size of my head. It wasn’t a pleasant place for me, and I’d much rather stay in the city and not have my brother around so I could play with his toys. It wasn’t personal, Lola, really.

One of my earliest memories, though, was her sitting me down and teaching me a prayer. It was an easy one, non-denominational, actually, that simply gave thanks and asked God to bless my friends and family, one by one. I still use the same prayer every night before going to bed. She was also the person who told me that I would see and hear better because I had moles near my eye and ear (for the record, without corrective lenses, I have terrible eyesight and am legally blind).

There. Now you know as much about them as I do. Two paragraphs and less than a minute’s worth of memories.

I wish they were around so I could ask them stuff. Can I take your picture? Which plants do I eat when my stomach is upset? How do I make sinigang using fresh tamarind? How do you love? How do you fly?



This semester, I decided to mix up my weekday commute by riding my bike and riding the bus at least one day a week. Ideally, I’d only ride my bike but the hilly, 14.5 mile one-way commute to work is too physically strenuous for me at this time. So, I’ve bought a subsidized student bus pass through SDSU for $155, which is good until the end of the semester. It was $20 more than the $135 I would have spent for a parking permit. Now, instead of parking on campus, I park my car at a Park and Ride, then catch the trolley, which drops me off at State. Also, I’ve been trying to go car-less at least one day every weekend. All of this is part of a more concerted effort to reduce my consumption of gasoline for both environmental and financial reasons. Continue reading →