Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Intrepid Traveler

One of the highlights of our trip was the day we escaped the heat of the city and headed up, up, up to Tagaytay, specifically to Tagaytay Highlands. My uncle was one of the architects for this project, and I think it gave him full access to everything. At least I think that's what happened since we...had full access to everything. There were a dizzying number of options: badminton, anyone? Bowling? Golf, spa, basketball, skating, tennis, squash...go-kart racing?! The kids were in charge, though, so the day's agenda became: fruit shakes, lunch at the Chinese restaurant, horseback riding, a visit to the zoo, and swimming.

I should make a correction: Vida was in charge. For whatever reason, she decided that this would be the day she would take life by the throat, look it in the eye, and say, "Hello. I'm going to LIVE you now." First, to honor her Lolo who was at home in San Mateo, she ate a fish eye. Here is the eye, being prepared by my Uncle Pudjo:

Here is Vida holding the eye on the spoon.

Here she is eating the eye.

Here she is saying, "Hmmm. Not bad."

Next, while her sisters showed a certain amount of trepidation in regards to mounting a horse, Vida basically jumped in the saddle and took off. Good thing she was accompanied by a groom, or who knows where she would have ended up?

At the zoo, she asked to hold some of the birds. Her sisters? Her sisters were all, "Um, no thanks." We could barely convince them to stand near Vida in this picture:

And, finally, in clear violation of stated pool rules, she decided she would cannonball into the water. When the lifeguard took her to task, she just flashed a smile and held up her hands as if to say, "How could I not?"

Vida does not take after me. But I'm thinking maybe I should take after her.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's In A Name?

There are only so many places to eat on Boracay, and we quickly found a very good one that suited all our palates. For me: crispy tadyang (I was obsessed with this dish throughout our trip; in fact, you should just call me Crispy Tadyang from now on), grilled prawns, etc. For the kids: ribs! For the spousal unit: chicken, calamari, etc. An establishment with a knack for unifying disparate tastes could only be called one thing:

We ended up eating there three times in all, and each time our waiter was this sweet kid named Walter. Risa, Vida, and Lea basically ate him up with a spoon; he was a particular favorite of Lea's. Everything was Walter this, Walter that, thank you Walter, Walter's so nice, let's go eat at Obama Grill so we can say hello to Walter, Walter, Walter!

During our last meal there, Walter happened to catch a glimpse of the SU's driver license. This inspired Walter to show us his official Obama Grill identification card. Much to my horror, it didn't state his name as Walter. The dozens of times we had addressed him as such ran like a slideshow through my head. I squinted at the card, hoping I'd simply read it wrong. No such luck. His name was not Walter; it was Voltaire.

"Voltaire?" I asked. "Voltaire as in the...French writer?"

"No Ma'am," he said. "When my mother was six months pregnant with me, she was—ano—electrocuted. So...volt. Voltaire."

Would you practically have DIED just then? Because I almost just about died.

Oh, Voltaire.

As a culinary aside, I must ask: is there anything finer than being served dishes of vinegar, soy sauce, red chiles, and calamansi alongside your steamed rice? No, I think there is not.

Just in case you missed them on Facebook, here is a public link to our Boracay pictures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Thing Is...

...our trip was SO not conducive to blogging. That's not the way I thought it was going to be. I thought we'd go about our business every day, and each night I would dutifully report the goings-on. Instead, we went about our business every day, and each night I'd do some reading and fall dead asleep. The only communication I could muster was the occasional Facebook status update. How did this happen?! How, for example, knowing that this awesome, only-in-the-Philippines picture was sitting on my iPhone BEGGING to be uploaded, did I not upload it?

Life is a mystery, my lovely people. But I vow, here and now, to make up for my grievous lack of blogging! I will inundate you with tales of our adventure, I will blog until you beg me to stop, I will blog until my fingertips catch fire.

Just...not tonight. Because you know what? Jet lag is a bitch.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nesting Ground: The Manila Edition

I'm lounging in bed, pillows piled high, as Makati goes about its fevered business fifteen stories below me. We did our part earlier today, dragging our overheated children all over Greenbelt for lunch and shopping and ice cream. It could be my imagination, but I feel we draw a disproportionate number of stares from passers-by; I can't tell if they are friendly stares, curious stares, or disapproving stares, so I've decided to ignore them altogether.

As always, the customer service here is superlative and sometimes even sweet. Our lunch waiter today—named, quite memorably, "Edz"—has been the best so far. After the initial setting-down of our meals, Edz took his leave, but reassured with the following: "I'd like to inform you, Ma'am," he said, "that you can simply call my name, and I will be here." Lea thought that was the most hilarious thing ever. She kept saying, "Call him, Mom. Call him." Later, he addressed the spousal unit as "Sir Andrew," which is something I think I may do from now on.

The kids are not having the easiest time adjusting to the clock, that's for sure. Each night, at least one person's eyelids begin to flutter and she flat-out falls asleep at the dinner table. No combination of strategic napping or swimming pool time has provided much in the way of relief; in fact, an afternoon nap seems to make things worse. We'll see what happens tonight. "We'll be fine, Mom," Vida has just said. But I think we'll stick close to the apartment tonight, as we have an outing to Tagaytay tomorrow.


The first time I visited the Philippines was with my dear childhood friend Jodi, when we were both fourteen years old. Back then we stayed in Greenhills at the beautiful, stately home of her grandparents, where many of her relatives also lived. Many of the family live in Alabang now, and they kindly invited us to Easter lunch yesterday. I was grateful for the opportunity to show the girls...what? How a Filipino family lives, I guess? How a Filipino family lives in the Philippines? It sounds so stupid, but I really did want them to see this one simple thing. There were plenty of kids on hand (about a dozen, I think), and while I sat and ate lunch I kept an ear bent towards their table so I might catch scraps of their conversation. Vida, as usual, was talking non-stop, and later one of Jodi's aunts told me she heard Vida pause mid-sentence to say, "Wait. I don't even know your names." Hahahahaha!


Sure enough, the kids were asleep at 7:30, and Sir Andrew and I were forced to order room service. Such an absurd thing to do in Manila, but there you go.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

One Tuesday Morning

Vida was home from school yesterday with quite the scorching fever. I wasn't too surprised, then, to be awakened at five o'clock this morning by a wail of distress from Lea's room. Known as "Queen of the Fever Spike," she who had been perfectly healthy the day before—even attending last night's softball game (go Panthers!) and playing robustly with her friends—was now a quivering little ball of heat. I dosed her with some medicine, and then tried to leave. Of course, this was not permitted. So there we were, one of us too hot and insisting on no blankets or sheets whatsoever, and one of us too cold. We finally fell asleep again around six, but were soon awakened by a kerfluffle in the hallway bathroom. The spousal unit seemed to have it in hand, so I took the opportunity to crawl back into my own—warm—bed. Soon, it became evident that the kerfluffle was becoming a kerboomboom.

I opened the bathroom door to find Risa, Vida, and the SU. "What's going on? Lea's sick, and she's sleeping. You have to be QUIET."

"We're having an emergency," said the SU.

The emergency was Risa, who had inadvertently fell asleep while squooshing a giant wad of neon orange silly putty. It was now deeply embedded in her very long hair. Not at the tips, mind you, but at her nape. She was weeping silently and trying to hide her head.

"Let me see," I said. More with the weeping, lots of refusal. "Um, hiding it isn't going to make it go away."

I had to keep from gasping when I saw it because, really, it was terrible. She must have rolled around on it every which way; the tangle was the size of one of those mini basketballs that people use for office hoopster-ing. It was its own entity. I tried to engage it, but it wasn't interested. Finally, I said, "Get me some olive oil."

I don't know how I knew it would work, but for the most part it did. After a few minutes of massaging oil onto the wad, it started to give way. Once she showered, I had to snip little bits here and there, but at least she was spared a Tuesday morning surprise bowlcut.

About twenty minutes after I sent the big girls off to school with the neighbor, my little Queen of the Fever Spike emerged from her room, fully clothed for a day on campus. "Hi," she said. "Where's Risa and Vida?"

"They're at school. I sent them with L. so I wouldn't have to wake you up."

She looked around, confused. "Oh," she finally said. "I'm hungry."

So I fed her and she laid down on the couch, not fully recovered after all. And of course, the phone rang at eleven o'clock and....