Monday, March 26, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Parade

St. Patrick's Day is huge in NYC given the large number of Irish folks living in the city. They celebrate it with a long parade and a long day of drinking and getting smashed. Seriously, people were drunk by 10am. If drinks in the city weren't so expensive, I'd have gotten drunk too. Poverty, is the cure to alcoholism. Unfortunately, most of the pictures are taken from behind people's heads. But I'd like to think that those heads frame the photo well. hahahaha.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MOMA with Claudia

It was my third time in my MOMA, this time with Claudia. I just can't get enough of this place. It's simply awesome.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


It was only my second time experiencing snow.  I didn't take a lot of photos thinking there would be other pictures since it was only January then. How wrong was I. It never snowed again. Maybe next winter then.
click here for more pics.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy bday Dr. S!

It was Dr. S's birthday.  He really is one of the best people in the world. Uhm, this isn't Dr. S btw. It's Brittany Borg. If you haven't figured it out yet, I always use the "better" photos as cover for each post.

IPED nights


One of the best things about being in IPED are the people. And I wouldn't mind spending my Thursday nights with these folks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Focolare NY retreat

On one of the long breaks from school, I went on a retreat/congress with the Gen of the Focolare Movement. It was both refreshing and restful. It was held in Luminosa, which was utterly beautiful.

After party

I've always wanted a tattoo. I'm just always afraid that someone would get into an accident and I won't be able to donate blood.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring break with the nieces

DSC_0863It was the first weekend of the Spring break and I got to spend it with my nieces. Sometimes I wonder why I decided to be a grown-up. It just isn't as fun. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NikkoY in NY with Claudia

Nikko Y. and Claudia came to NY and I got to tour around the city with them. Not a bad excuse to leave the books behind for a while.  Trivia: I met Claudia online when she thought I was NikkoY. She started chatting me up in Italian. hahaha. We finally figured out that she was looking for the other Nikko. All is well that ends well because we got to hang it in NYC:)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

To my grandmother

My grandmother died 3 days before I left for New York.

It was a terrible time that went by in a flurry of hurried movements, packing, meals, tears, hugs and goodbyes. Days before my flight, I was trying to spend as much time with my friends in Manila, delaying my travel home to Tarlac, not knowing what was to come. I came home on my grandma's 90th birthday. She died 2 days later.

While everything else went by in a haze, those last few moments in the hospital seemed to move in slow motion, as though it would never end. Even now, in this moment of remembering, those moments remain clear and slow-moving.  I remember her empty eyes looking through us, her tongue hanging out of her mouth. A couple of times she would stop breathing and the doctors would revive her. Until finally they couldn't and she was finally gone.

The funeral was lovely. I took so many pictures of those days when family and friends came to visit her. But they all got lost on my way to the states when my camera broke. But never mind, my gratitude for those who came and told stories about her remain boundless.

I had to leave. I could not be present when they buried her. But family and friends say it was a beautiful and quiet ceremony. They had a horse pull the carriage carrying her coffin.

Here in New York, I cling to her memory at times like a lost little boy. I find myself talking to her, saying "lola" every now and then. Of course, there are times that I grow afraid that she would actually show up when I call her name. I miss her. And i wonder what it would be like if she were alive. People kept telling me, days after her death, that her dying was her last gift to me, that it would have been terrible if she had died while I was in the states and I couldn't go home. That may be true on some level, but nothing would be more wonderful than if she were still alive today.

If she were alive today, she would be sitting on our porch, watching over her little store, calling on the kids passing by. She would be sitting on her rocking chair, fanning herself and nodding off to sleep every now and then. She would be gossiping with a couple of our neighbors. She would be feeding my pet turtle. She would be scolding our cats for being cats, for being playful. Then she would feed them, too.  She would be waiting for my mother's arrival. She would be peeling onions and folding old news papers to be sold for a few hundred pesos.

If she were alive today, I would give her a call and she would ask me about my day and tell me not to go out at night and ask me to go to bed even if it's only 7pm because in her mind I remain to be that little boy who would spend all afternoon playing outside with with dirty kids. If she were alive today I would write her a letter. I would tell her how much I miss her. I would tell her of my new friends here and the places I've been too. She had always wanted to go up the mountains, 6 hours away from our home town. We would promise to take her, but we never did. I would tell her about my adventures in the city, about the cold weather and how different it is from her normal 85 degree day.  I would tell her about winter, about snow and how lovely it is when the streets and trees are blanketed in white and everything seems peaceful, even here in the Bronx. And I would tell her how terrible it is when snow begins to melt and the ground turns into mud and how the freezing wind would howl through my jacket. I would tell her that she is better off in her rocking chair where it is warm and dry. I would send her pictures of me posing stupidly in front of park statues and city monuments. I would show her all of this so she could leave our little porch through me.

I would tell her to be very careful in walking around. She was still a strong woman, given her age. In her 80s she would still go to the market and buy me corn on which I put salt.She would still chase away our dog, Kim, when he would pee on the carpet or crap in the kitchen.

I would tell her how much I want to be home, to hug her and sleep beside her, only to be woken up by her screaming because I did not turn the lights off in my own room.  I remember sleeping in my own bed and being woken up at ungodly hours by my grandmother trying to switch the airconditioning off.

But now, in the face of death, I will tell her these: that she continues to live through me, that my struggles and victories are hers just as her struggles and victories to keep the family safe and together are mine. I will tell her that wherever I go, I will carry her in my heart. I will tell her that even now as I advance in age, I remain that lost little boy in awe of her and her walking stick.  I will tell her that long after the pain from her death has gone, my love for the woman, who helped raise me in my youth and cared for me until the end, will remain.

Inside the Walls of Intramuros

Still part of the Philippine class was a trip to the Intramuros, the Walled City of Old Manila. It was fun, educational and tiring. But our tour guide never gave up on us and was always on his, uhm, toes. We ended the night with a fancy dinner near the Presidential Palace.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A note on my faith.

First: I have no intention of sounding righteous. This is not an issue of what I believe in versus what others believe. I am blogging about this because I am a "writer" ( not an actual writer, but someone who studied and loves writing) first and an "economist" second (not an actual economist, but someone who is studying economics and is learning to love it) and I am able to organize my thoughts and feelings most accurately when I write. For days, I have been trying to regroup and gather myself. And I feel that I must begin with this affirmation of what and Who I believe in.

Back in the Philippines, it was very easy for me, not just to be Catholic, but to be spiritual, to talk about God and his kindness because, hello, it's a Catholic country. It was even easier when I worked for Jesuit Volunteers Philippines (JVP) because the context actually called for someone to affirm God's presence and love.

I remember being able to go to mass everyday and visiting the chapel every now and then during my breaks. I remember my random conversations about God and how amazing He could be. I remember the seminars I helped organize with JVP and how the aspect of spirituality is just as important, if not more, as service, social justice, simplicity and solidarity in the sessions we had. I remember how, during my visits to volunteers in the communities they serve, it was often enough to comfort a volunteer by assuring him of God's unending love and wisdom . It was all too easy and convenient.

with my mom.
But now, here in New York, things have been very different. It's not that I don't have any freedom to talk about these things here, it's America after all, the land of the free. The enemy has mostly been myself. Sure, not all of my classmates are Catholic, many of them are in fact, agnostic or aetheists. And that's perfectly okay and has never been or will be an issue. And in general they have mostly been very kind. If there's anything that I am grateful for in my several months of stay here, it's my classmates in IPED. They are just awesome. And I know that some of them have even tried to talk to me about faith and spirituality. The problem, I think, is with me.

My grandama's empty chair.

Every time someone would ask me about my spirituality or religion, I would simply just brush it away and quickly move on to another subject. When people discuss why they don't believe in God, I hesitate to talk about my own reasons for believing in One, even if they ask me, until I finally decide to just keep silent in a corner. Maybe I'm afraid of being judged. May I'm afraid of how others will see me. Maybe my faith isn't so deep that I can comfortably talk about it. Maybe I'm also trying to be sensitive in that I don't want to cross the line between talking about my faith and shoving it down people's throats. Whatever the reasons, I'm not okay with where I am now in terms of my spiritual life. The problem of faith is also a problem of the self.

There are consequences, of course, and I feel that my relationship with Him is slowly deteriorating. And maybe this is why I'm writing this. I haven't written anyone a letter since I got here.  So let this be my first letter to anyone since I got here. Let this be my love letter to Him.

Should anyone ask me what I most firmly believe in, this is what I'll say :

I believe in God. Not just any god, but a God who is all kindness and love. A God, who throughout my life has been there, constantly affirming me of His presence. I believe in a God whose light shines brighter as day turns into dusk and dusk into night. I believe in a God who brought me to where I am now. I look behind me and see the days full of despair and uncertainty and realize that all this time, I was never alone.

I know that God is present to me in the people around me, in my mom and my family in the Philippines and New Jersey, in the new friends I've met here in the states, in my old friends who remember me from time to time back home.

I see Him in every homework and paper that I finish, in every opportunity I get to expand my horizon and see the world, in every gathering of friends, in each day I spend at work and in the classroom.

He exists to me, most especially, when it is most difficult to live and love and when the light of hope is most dim.

To me He is everything. To me He is my beginning and my end. I know that there is nothing else I want to do in my life than serve Him. I go through each graph, each political science book, through each mathematical equation, even if they're not as fun as poems or fiction or painting or movies, knowing that they can only make me better in the service I wish to do in the future. I want to be able to work with the poorest of the poor because I know that that is where I am most called to love, in the same way that some are being called to work for banks or state institutions.

This, I think is my first picture in NYC.

I know that not everyone will understand my faith, and that is okay too. If they decide that they can't have me for a friend because of what I believe in, then that is their choice. If they decide to laugh at this, then that is their choice. As for me, the choice I struggle to make is to serve and love. And that is a choice that I have not always been good at.

Fr. Arrupe S.J. once said :Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination,will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love; stay in love,and it will decide everything.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ang bayan kong Pilipinas

Part of the Philippine class I took last January was an immersion/project assessment in the Quezon Province. We were mostly in the mountains, but when my foster dad offered to take us to the beach, we couldn't say no. I had no idea what was in  store for us. Matthew joined us. As it turns out it took us an hour and a half of trekking the mountain. It was difficult because of the narrow and muddy paths but it was well worth it to see the beach.

At the MET

It was my first time at the Metropolitan Museum/ The MET. It's AAHHHHMAZING.  This is basically a photodump that does not capture a quarter of everything they have in The MET. If I lived in Manhattan, I'd stay here all the time!

IPED Chinese New Year

It was the Chinese New Year. And in IPED, that means food, food and more food. See for yourselves!

On my own in NYC

It was just one of these days when I had to go out and take a very long walk. So I did. 

First NBA game

I was able to watch my first live NBA game. It was the funniest game ever. :) Thanks to the Hernandez family!!!! :)


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Why you should Travel (click photo)