Summer Dreams 2014

coming soon

Granada Nicaragua

In Search or the Perfect Ceviche and other adventures out soon in my TravelOkcity column, Leisure+Adventure Magazine, and here.

Marshall Islands

Got Wasabi? (A deep sea fishing adventure in the Marshall Islands)

Prairie Dog Town

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Hefner Lake Park

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Huahin, Thailand

The warm hospitality of a boutique hotel in the beach resort town of royalty in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Time of Adobo and Halo-Halo is now

Published by Planet Philippines
(Planet Philippines is a news magazine distributed in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, London, Melbourne, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles)
Qui Austin's kinilaw right in the middle

In almost every corner in the world you will find a little Chinese restaurant. Like the famed dumplings, Asian treats like sushi, pad thai, kimchee, curry, or pho have forever enjoyed the warm spotlight on the international dining table while our humble adobo grows cold in the shadows. But soon all that may change. Filipino cuisine, a melting pot of flavors from different cultures, is about to make its global debut, steaming and bursting with fresh flavors.

Multicultural ingredients

Filipino fare may be a bit strange to the foreign tongue, but the world is craving for new unusual flavors. According to an article in Thrillist, America is looking for a new East Asian food obsession and “signs are pointing to a boom in Filipino food.”  The spark of that flavor explosion started a few years back when Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods told that 2 years from now Filipino food is “going to be the next big thing.” He revealed this in 2012. That was about 2 years ago which means that the time for adobo is now.
Pig and Khao's sisig
“It’s just starting,” Zimmern explained. “I think it’s going to take another year and a half to get up to critical mass, but everybody loves Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, and it’s all been exploited. The Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique." Add our Indonesian, Malaysian, and even American influences are thrown into the pot along with our indigenous flavors and techniques from over 7,000 islands, making into one exciting cuisine.

We’re blessed with fertile land and oceans teeming with the freshest catch for us to create flavors and food art that should open the global palate to us. Our creativity and our practice of using every part of the ingredient (pig blood, chicken intestines, etc.) and using pork in almost every dish should make Filipino fare even more intriguing to whet the world’s appetite.

Looking sexy for 2014

Last year, in addition to Zimmern’s thumbs up, he also named Pinoy food as one of the highlights of 2013. In, he named “brilliant Filipino food” as one of the highs of 2013, second to cronuts. “This is the year, finally, that Pinoy foods have their day in the sun.” 

Maharlika's longganisa

Other food authorities are backing up Zimmern’s endorsement. Details magazine named Philippine fare as “the next great Asian food trend” and Zagat, an influential travel and food guide, named Pinoy Cuisine as one of the most exciting emerging cuisines. At the start of this year, Thrillist, a men’s lifestyle brand, was thrilled to report that Lumpia, Adobo, Pancit, Menudo, Inasal, Kare-kare, and Lechon Kawali will be the next East Asian food obsession. 

Meanwhile Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit claims that this year will be all about Filipino inspired food, greatly influencing how the world eats. Perhaps foodies are looking for a new twist on the pad thai or are finally acquiring the taste for oxtail stew livened with shrimp paste. Although considered strange, confusing, and even ugly (pig blood stew, anyone?), it is now considered as one of the sexiest cuisines in the world. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Summer Dream (2014)

It really does seem like a dream, this season, the way it quickly passed. Everything passes so quickly it seems. It is no surprise that I am writing this in the dead of winter under several layers of clothing. For now I will try to remember back to warmer days.

It was in the middle of summer when we returned from the Philippines, the fourth of July to be exact. And we were on the plane to Oklahoma City when everyone below started the lightshow. From 35,000 feet up, fireworks bloomed like little supernovas amongst a galaxy of stars.  Over it, the stubborn blue sky is burnt orange on the horizon. It was a wonderful homecoming that ushered in great things to come that summer, a season of sweet partings. 

During a short trip to Chicago to see an old friend.

One of the highlights of the season was my son’s first day of school. I knew it would happen someday, but I didn’t think he would walk out of my heart too soon. After we drove him to school, I shed a few tears. I cried for the time that we would never get back, back when he was a baby and it was joy to just smell his breath even if it was a little bit sour. I cried for the many moments when I was too tired to play with him. I cried for the number of times when I chose my computer over my son, because I had to get an article done or process a photo that couldn’t wait. Meanwhile he sat playing alone, waiting for me. These are the days that I knew I would never get back. These are the days I couldn’t do over.  I cried for the future, for the times when I will lose him over and over again, when he will let go of my hand to run to his playmates or when he’ll start to think that he’s much too old to hold his mommy’s hand.

First day of school Thanks, Dr. Seuss!

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn on the desk represents this major milestone in our life. It’s an Ed Press winner that I had bought way before my son was even conceived in our head, thinking that someday, it is story that I would like to read to my child. It’s about a mother raccoon sending her hesitant baby off to school with a kiss on the head, a reminder that he will always be safe, always be loved. 

The book came with heart stickers for the hand, a reminder of the kiss, of the presence of love. We had read this book several times in the past few years and had used the sticker each time until there were only two left.  I thought I would save the book and took it out for us to read on the eve of the first day of school, although separation anxiety has never been as issue with us. Earlier on, we try to raise him to be independent and to be able to explore the world even without us hovering, but knowing that we would always be around. 

Hanging out with new friends.

The book was a nice little ritual to share with him before he entered this new stage in his life. That night we used the second to the last sticker. The next day, when we were all set to leave the house for his first day of school, he piped out, “wait! My kissing hand!” It warmed my heart that even with all the excitement, he had remembered the kiss. We had that one last sticker to send him off with.

Summers are for playing barefoot on the grass.

Like in spring, summer was spent a lot in our backyard, playing (with new friends!), reading, and gardening. I never took an interest in gardening. I don’t have the green thumb my mother had (she could grow a garden in her bedroom window on the 15th floor right in the middle of a concrete jungle) and the only thing that I’ve really grown was a tiny eggplant that I had to planted for my home economics class back in grade school. I few cacti succulents have also died on me; that should give an idea on my gardening skills. But new friends had gotten me interested in gardening and the joys of harvesting things to eat from our very own soil. Sometimes, neighbors would leave a bag of produce picked from their backyard. Because we have such a huge backyard, I thought, why not engage in a little agriculture?

Shoot and play

Last spring, my son had sowed a few carrot seeds at the zoo’s Eggcitement event and soon as they started to sprout, we planted them in our backyard. To my surprise, they actually grew and by late summer, we harvested 2 tiny baby carrots that my entire family shared. Everyone must partake in the bounty of our soil. I also tried growing some scallions which also grew quite surprisingly, but I had left them out during one of the first frosts and died. Nevertheless I consider these few attempts a success and have then sworn to go full force come next spring. There is something very satisfying about the idea of just going out to my garden to pick a few sprigs of basil when I’m making my spaghetti or knowing that the onions I’m using come right out of our backyard. 

Moon over Granada

I’ve sort of lost steam in terms of enthusiasm for my Twitter account but it keeps surprising me. I’ve reached the 5k mark with over 300 fans (And as of writing – January – 12.4k followers and over 2.5k fans!). It also continues to open doors for me, although just a crack. Last May, a distinguished photographer and oral historian emailed about one of my photographs: Moon over Granada. He wondered how it would look like in black and white, adding that it reminded him of an Ansell Adam photograph. And he wrote:

Glad you see what I see; if you convert it, may I also see what it looks like?

It reminds me so much of that photo Ansell Adams took in the desert, I think the title was "Moonlight over (something - I can't remember), but you should look at it sometime to see how your photo has the same feeling...

I was beyond floored. For my work to be compared to an Ansell Adams’s photograph and to have such an established photographer take notice of my work (taking the time out to write to me) is such an honor and very encouraging. I have no illusions, of course. I know that I have a lot to learn, but every now and then a newbie like me needs some inspiration or encouragement. If you’re in the Connecticut area, Anthony Riccio has several book tours already scheduled in the next few months.

Nanay and New York (she went home also on September 11)

Since I am writing this several seasons too late, I am more than likely to forget many more milestones. And I’ve been trying to think back to remember the things that I need to include in the banner. But winter currently embraces me. The chill makes me forget. It’s all like a dream, so vivid but forgotten in the cold morning. For this reason, I decided to go with the actual look of my desk, so I don’t have to worry about items that I may forget to include on the banner. My desk is normally not as clean and organized. Usually it’s cluttered with mail, scraps of paper, trash, and my little one’s toys, but the pile of books, the box of cards sitting on the books, the votive candle holder, the bouquet of pens, the box of tissue, the little wooden jewelry box (a gift from a friend during her trip to Bangkok), the wooden cross, and the little shell are staples on my desk.

And right there, right where the sun’s arms had escaped through the window curtains, is my mother’s beautiful face, because the light had finally found her to take her home. Near the end of the summer came the answer to our prayers- the passing of our mother who had lain in bed, languishing for almost three years. We are comforted knowing that she can now be her old self: feisty, funny, and beautiful. 

My beautiful mother.

Whenever I return to my childhood home, I would try to bring back something with me as a reminder of my childhood and as a way of uniting my past and present homes. I also like to fill the house with things that have special meaning whether it be from travel, from a friend, or a memento from the past. I had brought with me one of my mother’s little tea sets, something she more than likely picked up from the Tokyo International Airport (I probably got my wanderlust from her, and my hoarding tendencies!). I also brought home some of her pictures, one of which is on the desk reminder of how beautiful she once was, and perhaps even more beautiful now that she is reunited with her Creator. I wrote a tribute for her published by You can read it here.

I always leave a post with a quote from one of the books I’ve been reading, so I think it would only be appropriate to leave one from The Kissing Hand, especially since this season was also about goodbyes between mother and child.

Chester took his mother’s hand in his own and unfolded her large, familiar fingers into a fan. Nest, he leaned forward and kissed the center of her hand.
Now you have a Kissing Hand, too, he told her. And with a gentle “Good-bye and “I love you”, Chester turned and danced away.

Monday, December 29, 2014

7 Sparkling Lessons from an Unconventional Mother

Published by
Read the complete story here.

I learned a lot about motherhood in the most unconventional way.

My mother is a beautiful complex creature like no other. She wasn’t like most moms, not prone to exhibiting sappy affections or wearing aprons. When we were newborns, she rarely carried us in her arms, afraid that we would accidentally slip off her fingers. The carrying was left to the nursemaids, but the nurturing she did herself in the most unconventional but still loving way. And she carried us through life this way. Even after she’s passed, she continues to carry us with her memory, memories that inspire and if nothing else, makes us smile.

1.       Make treasure out of trash

My mother was a packrat. During trips to the states to visit family, she’d return with balikbayan boxes of stuff she’d hoarded mostly from dollar stores. Amidst the packed towels and trinkets, I’d find pine cones. I simply dismissed it as part of her “hoarding” tendency, then I later discovered that they were pinecones that she’d picked up during her many walks with her grandkids. They’d collect pinecones, stones, and whatever “treasures” they could find, making an adventure of their walk. It was one of the things that my sister-in-law most remembered about her. I know now that the treasure was really in the memory. These seemingly insignificant objects that we tend to ignore have created a cherished memory for my family, more valuable than any precious stone. She had found joy in what had fallen or what nature had rejected. My son never had the privilege of walking with his grandmother, but he had “inherited” that interest in looking for treasures during our walks.

2.       Don’t let life bully you

“Be good,” “don’t start a fight,” are some of the usual reminders a mother would give her child when sending her off to school. Not my mother. What would stand out even to this day was: “if somebody pushes you, push back” and always, “fight back.” She is by no means a war freak but when it comes to her children she can put up a good fight. We are not to be pushovers, she said. She taught us to always fight back like she did, never allowing life to beat her down. Even on her deathbed, she wouldn’t let pneumonia beat her, holding on much longer than the doctors expected.

3.        Walk that extra mile

She loved to walk, whether it be for a religious pilgrimage or a shopping spree. She could walk the whole length of Nathan Road in HK till sundown and bring me to tears in exhaustion. And through all the miles covered, I never heard her complain. That kind of resilience she took with her to almost any life marathon she endeavored. No matter how hard life was, she kept on walking.
Dedicated to my beautiful Nanay.
Dec 25, 1935 - Sept 11, 2014
Read the complete article here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tips and Tricks on Traveling with a Toddler

Published by

It’s bad enough that you have to endure a long-haul flight with a crick in your neck, seated next to an overweight smelly passenger. Factor in a screaming toddler in the other seat next to you and you have yourself a 14-hour long nightmare. Oh, and the toddler belongs to you. 

Because I live abroad, flying back to the Philippines - without the hubby who has to work -is a reality that I deal with often. And I’ve managed to lug luggage and little one across the world a few times with no battle scars to contend with save for jet lag. Here’s how I did it without having to take out a bottle of Benadryl.

Published by

1.       Prepare now

Not days before. Not even weeks before. I mean NOW before you’re even planning the trip, because a well-mannered child is a great travel companion. My son is by no means perfect. We’ve had our moments. But we’ve never had to deal with a tantrum. We’ve either been lucky or maybe the following parenting technique works:

We never give him an audience. If he cries for no reason and we’re sure he’s not hurting or needing something, we let him cry it out. We explain why his behavior is unacceptable, and if he still doesn’t let up, we leave him alone for a bit.

I believe that trying to appease will only teach him that if he cries long enough, he’ll get what he wants. If you don’t believe in the “crying it out” technique, then try a little distraction (“I’m sorry we can’t go to the store now, but we can start packing instead, because we’re getting on an airplane! Should we bring Teddy?”). Be quick with the distraction before the waterworks start. Sometimes a change of scenery will help. Take him outside. The key is consistency. “No” means no, not yes after the 10th “no”. If you buckle, he’ll eventually figure out that persistence pays.

Read the complete article here.

2.       Use your golden ticket

Your child IS your golden ticket. In most cases, they give special treatment when you have a tyke in tow. Most airlines have kiddie meals and little toys for younger passengers. If the flight is not full, you may be bumped up to preferred seats which can give you and your restless travel companion more room. Other airlines also offer assistance at boarding especially when you have a lot to carry. You can also request for priority boarding so you don’t have to wait in line and get off earlier if you wish.

Read the complete article here.

3.       Pick the right location

When my husband once traveled with us, he had this idea of leaving one seat between the three of us. His rationale? Rarely does one want to sit in the middle. Besides who can refuse a request from a mother and child to scoot over to the next seat? The plan worked, because nobody dared to take the middle seat, giving our boy an extra seat to stretch in.

Like I said, you may have the option to take preferred seats for free, but I choose not to because they usually have arm rests that can’t be raised, so my toddler can’t lay on my lap and stretch over to his seat for a more comfortable sleep. I also prefer aisle seats so we can easily get in and out without having to jump over a sleeping passenger.

Read the rest of the tips here.