I’m Filipino, and I love going to the mall. There, I said it. It’s true. Many people don’t know that many Filipinos actually love going to the mall. It’s part of our culture. In fact, if a person were to visit the Philippines, they’d see that there is a huge mall culture taking place. Why do Filipinos love the mall? Obviously, there’s the shopping. But also it’s place for people to congregate, to escape the heat and enjoy the AC, to eat, to window shop, to do just about anything! I didn’t get it at first, but once you visit a mall in the Philippines, you will see what the hype is all about.
Most malls in the Philippines are levels high! There are so many stores, levels, restaurants, even movie theaters, that is would take days, if not weeks to get through the entire thing. There’s so much to see and do, that you would never run out of options.
Don’t get me wrong; I do appreciate thrift stores, boutiques and mom and pop stores, but if I were to spend copious amount of time somewhere, besides the library, I’d go to the mall. I love going to different stores and enjoying the customer service where everyone greets you with “M’am/ Sir” and if you are looking for something in particular, they would never leave your side. You can’t find that level of customer service anywhere else. It’s like having your own personal shopper with out the hassle of them trying to sell you something you don’t need.
I admit. I actually have’t been to mall in months, possibly a year. Since the pandemic, I’ve grown accustomed to online shopping and have rarely needed to step foot into a store. And since moving to Las Vegas, the closest mall is near the strip, and I try to avoid going to the strip unless it’s absolutely necessary. Yet, I realized that going to mall is something I enjoyed doing with my family. I remember the days when we would go to our local mall, and my mom would buy a fresh baguette inside the cafe and my brother would head to the game store to get a video game. My sister would shop for clothes at contempo casuals, and my dad would sit at the lounge chairs and read a newspaper. Sometimes we’d eat crunchy tacos at Taco Bell and we’d stroll the mall together as a family. Now that I’ve moved and my entire family lives so far away from each other, it seems almost impossible to meet at the mall like old times. But the mall brings so much nostalgia to me that going to another place to go shopping wouldn’t be as enjoyable.
Although, it’s been while since I’ve gone to the mall, I think it will be on my to do list for this month. Perhaps the stores I once patronized are no longer there, I can create new memories and tell my family all about it. Maybe it will inspire them, too.
My COVID experience started on September 2, 2021, when I made a comment to my co-worker that I might not come to work tomorrow because my throat felt a little sore. It was very minor- just a scratchy sensation. I had been testing students one-on-one the last two weeks, so I assumed it was the overuse of my voice, or my body adjusting to going back to work, wearing my mask for long hours. The next day, more symptoms developed: congestion, body aches, tiredness, which felt normal because I associated them with my recurring sinus infection. On Sunday I spoke to the Kaiser advice nurse, on Monday I spoke to the doctor who expedited a COVID test. On Tuesday morning I took my test, and that night I received my results. It was positive. By then, when I lost my sense of smell and taste, I already had an inclining that I had COVID. The test confirmed it. Turns out, I probably had COVID sometime at the end of August, then symptoms developed 3-5 days later, and I didn’t test ‘till three days after that. It’s easy to see how the virus spreads so quickly.
You hear how unpredictable COVID is, how it affects people differently, how there is no definite way to predict how your body will respond. I know many people who survived COVID, but I also knew a few people who didn’t. I wondered where I would fall on the spectrum. I wondered if my asthma, my weight, my thyroid would affect my experience. When I developed a form of pink eye on the 5th day, I cautioned if my symptoms would unexpectedly turn severe like other cases I read about.
I don’t know how I contracted COVID. There’s a myriad of sources- my husband went to the dentist, I work at two schools where the students are not old enough to get the vaccine, my brother-in law visited one day. I wear a mask, I’m vaccinated and I’m as safe as I can be in public settings. But with COVID, especially with Delta we know it spreads faster and it’s more infectious than the outset of the pandemic. I believe my breakthrough COVID case was bound to happen; it was just a matter of time. It is also worrisome that at my schools, it seems as if there is a positive COVID case everyday; students are in the hallways sitting next to a garbage can, vomiting. The outdoor isolation tent seems to have students daily, waiting for a parent to pick him/her up. When I see students playing, hear them laughing, or witness them smiling with their eyes, it’s easy to forget that we’re in a pandemic, and it seems like kids at school is the right decision, but when COVID cases rise and as I see adults and students get sick and the after effects of COVID unknown, I’ve decided that school is probably not the safest place for people to be, especially those unvaccinated. I’m lucky that when I return to my job, my interaction with people will be limited, and I’m taking it one day at a time.
The support from friends and family, the daily calls, check ins or even the delivery of organic Gatorade from a dear friend were sources of comfort for me. I was also surprised with the care I received from Kaiser. They sent me a care package complete with high grade cleaning solution, sanitizer, alcohol wipes, body wash, shampoo, condition, face masks, gloves, eating utensils, plates, cups, even a thermometer. Although I had most of the items at home, it was reassuring to know that in all aspects of my life, including my health care, everything was easy so I could just focus on my health and healing. Even when I was contacted by Contra Costa County they offered to do the trace contact on my behalf and asked if I needed help financially and with food preparation. I wondered about all the people who were affected at the onset of the pandemic, when a lot was unknown, when the system and after care weren’t as robust, how lonely and frustrating and expensive it might have been, especially the immediate hours after testing positive. It’s an odd time. Many thoughts run through your head and the imagination runs wild. The care I received from my circle, including the County and Kaiser made things feel less helpless, less overwhelmed, less like I was a statistic. This was the care I received for my case; I only hope others receive the same care, especially those with more severe cases.
There’s a mental condition called Survivor’s Guilt , where a person who survived a life threatening situation, while others did not feels guilty for surviving. Many people have experienced this in traumas we’re familiar with such as 9/11, Pulse nightclub, a car accident, Cancer, and most recently COVID. While my COVID case was relatively mild compared to others, I do wonder about those who weren’t so lucky, particularly family members who died because of COVID. Some didn’t live long enough for the vaccine to become available to them, so by chance and by time, I was fortunate to have a chance simply because of a timeline. It could also be because I haven’t eaten meat in over a year, or that I received both vaccines of the Moderna, it could also be because my family prayed for me and my mother in law added our names to a congregation of nuns who prayed for us. Who knows why I was lucky and relatively unscathed. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge those who had a different experience, those who needed a pacemaker after COVID, those whose sense of taste never returned after COVID, those who will have life long lung issues after COVID.
And it wasn’t just me who tested positive. My husband, my brother-in-law and two other people , including a friend’s children, tested positive. It was clear that our 6 degrees of separation had been compromised. Could I have been the COVID culprit? Probably. Most likely. The conditions at my school make it the obvious answer. And I carry a lot of guilt for that possibility. It is wild when I think about it. How a simple action turned into something possibly life threatening. We found humor in the situation though. We jokingly thought about having a quarantine routine or eating an entire onion or durian. And I affectionately referred to us as the COVID Crew. My mother in law, in jest, said something to the effect of: “I can’t believe all my children have COVID all at the same time”. But it all turned serious when my niece all of a sudden had a fever of 103 and then my sister developed flu-like symptoms, the possibility of spreading the virus to them became even more severe. My niece is only three. She’s lived most in her life in the pandemic, and it didn’t seem fair that she was a bystander of poor actions. They ended up testing negative; which was a huge relief, but the guilt ensued. I was sorry and sad. I’m grateful that my family has been kind, understanding and has found humor in a grave situation. I love them very much.
As of today, day 10 of my quarantine, the only symptoms I feel are fatigue, loss of smell and taste and a slight congestion. My days are strange. I haven’t been outside since September 2, and I have urges to take long naps throughout the day. I miss my hikes; I miss my family; I miss my tastebuds. I don’t find pleasure in the things I’ve taken for granted like eating, drinking, or smelling my favorite perfume, a home cooked meal or the wonderful outdoors. I think about the possible long term effects I might endure like COVID brain fog or a persistent disorienting metallic taste in my mouth. I think about the last flavorful thing I ate: a nori roll wrap with sunflower seed pate, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, avocado. I think about the email I got from work urging me to take advantage of mental health services they are offering for free.
I go back to work tomorrow (Tuesday, September 14), and it will be 13 days since I set foot on campus. I’m looking forward to putting this behind me, but I do worry that COVID might make its way back, like others I read about who had COVID twice, like the CDC study in Kentucky. The most I can do is take the same precautions I took before: sanitize, wear a mask, physical distance, wash my hands, get tested regularly. But even with all of that in place, the chances are still there, albeit significantly less, but still there. What I’ve learned from this situation is that being infected with COVID means different things for everyone. Cases vary in degrees and people respond differently- socially, emotionally, mentally, physically. I think about the positives: the support of family and friends. The surprising outreach from work, Contra Costa County and Kaiser Permanente. It seems once you test positive,all hands and feet are on deck and on the ground and an army of people are there to help with the process. I’m thankful for the vaccine; I am assuming it prevented my symptoms from escalating and me being admitted to the hospital. I’m grateful to all of you who have also chosen to get vaccinated as well; it may have saved your life and others. If you are still considering not getting the vaccine, which is now approved by the FDA, I hope my experience encourages you to reconsider or at the very least to have a conversation with those around you, especially those who you love. Being positive affects your entire community. Even if you live alone, if you step foot outside your door, you’re impacting life all around you and there’s a strong possibility that your actions might impact the health of another person. I honor each person’s individual choice and what is best for you and your family. But after experiencing this and contending with all the possible outcomes that could have been, it would be irresponsible of me to not share this story, my story. A possible life may depend on it. And that’s a chance I’m not willing to take. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
Hi everyone! I hope you are all having a peaceful and joyful holiday.
I cannot fathom the idea that I posted for 25 consecutive days. For a newbie like me, this accomplishment is quite the feet. Granted, some posts held more time and attention than others, but I still attempted and posted.
Congrats to everyone who participated in blogmas. And to all those who took the time to read, like and respond to my posts, thank you. I appreciate you.
The other day, I received a notification from WordPress that I received 1,000 likes and 150 followers. I don’t share this blog actively, so the idea of getting responses and support from people I’ve never met, warms and lights my heart, especially during this dark time.
Most people tend to visit the majestic Grand Canyon during the summer- where the vast views are unobstructive by snow and rain. Yet, my family decided to visit during winter. The drawback was that many trails and activities were closed and cancelled due to the weather; however, we were able to visit one of the most renowned wonders of the world in such an intimate and unique way. It was like we had the entire park to ourselves.
If you’re like me, then this time of the year, nothing sparks the holiday spirit than getting cozy on the couch, sipping on hot chocolate, wearing thick wool socks, putting my hair in a bun and watching a cheesy holiday movie. To me, this is the epitome of relaxation! Watching romance with holiday glee is a recipe for pulling my heart strings. Although the holiday season just started, I was fortunate to get a head start on watching new holiday movies. Below are my top for now:
On the Hallmark Channel
Jingle Bell Bride – I enjoyed this movie because of the leading characters- both people of color. The main character is a work driven Latina New Yorker who unexpectedly finds herself in a small town where the people and relationships inadvertently spark her to reexamine the most important aspects of her life.
2. Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater
When it comes to movies, especially Holiday movies, it’s often difficult to balance romance and comedy; often times, most holiday movies tend to be more romantic than they are funny. What I loved about “Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater” is that it offers the balance of both- love and comedy! Just the title alone is a little obscure and enticing!
3. The Christmas Aunt
Who doesn’t remember Rudy? I always wondered what happened to Keisha Knight Pullam. I assumed she continued to act, but I pondered if being time casted hindered her from furthering her career. She shined in this movie! Very memorable!!!
4. Feliz NaviDAD
Of course I am not the one to change the channel when Mario Lopez plays a doting single father and a high school principal who also delivers packages on the weekends to make extra money for the holidays. I’m an educator, so I appreciate any movie that offers a small semblance of my life. I may not be a parent, but I know what it’s like to be work with high school kids and be in the need of a second income. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy staring at Lopez’s dimples?!?
5. Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding
I’m watching this tonight, but I already know it’s going to be a home run. Two words: Kelly Roland! If the 1/3 of Destiny’s Child is involved, then chances are it’ll be a success.
I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I did. And let me know any movies you recommend!
The parks just opened in our city, and despite it being still sunny at 6:30 PM, the area of the park we were at was empty with the exception of 2-3 kids at different times. The slide wasn’t very steep– about 6 feet and and everyone, including my husband, sister and her boyfriend took turns going down the slide with my niece, Aiza. But I didn’t. The slide has always been my least favorite past time in the park; I prefer the swings, but at the part we were at, it didn’t have adult swings available. Besides (TMI), I’m on my dot, so the idea of sliding down a flimsy piece of plastic did not seem comforting or fun. Instead I lived vicariously through my niece.
What was interesting is that she went down the slide about 20 times in the same way- butt down and feet first. When another girl about 2-3 years older than her came close, they immediately began playing together. The girl had on a mask and she was very friendly, even when my niece wasn’t talking very much. The new friend showed Aiza how to play the pretend steering wheel; she showed her how to stick her head out the window in the pretend store and then she showed her various ways to play on the slide. First she went down the slide on her stomach, feet first then Aiza followed. Then the girl went down the slide, stomach down, head first with her arms stretched out. What surprised me was that Aiza wasn’t even scared and didn’t ask how to do this. She just watched and followed along. Then a few minutes later, the new friend made a daring move and climbed up the the slide, all by herself. Because she’s a little older, she was able to do it without struggling. We – me, my sister – watched but we didn’t expect Aiza to follow. Yet, Aiza did. But when she reached the middle of the slide, there was no way for her to get to the top. If she bent down, she wouldn’t be able to hold the sides of the slide and there was possibly of her falling backwards. My sister and I were at a safe distance and could have easily come to her aid, but something unexpected happened. Without talking, the two friends she just made instinctively got on their stomachs and stretched their arms out to give Aiza a hand. They cheered her on and said “reach for my hand” and Aiza, not able to speak in complete sentences yet, understood exactly what to do. She grabbed their hand and the two strangers pulled her up! For a group of girls who met each other for the first time and had limited talking and interacting, this was the first real reminder for me that despite what’s happening during this pandemic, I’m reminded how resilient and strong young girls are when they are together.
Well, there comes a time in everyone’s life where in one day you experience the thrill of checking off a few items on your bucket list, all in one day. Today, that happened to me, and one wasn’t even on my bucket list.
I started off the morning watching a DJ on Twitch and within a few minutes, he announced that we would be virtually crashing a wedding! He was invited by a subscriber and was asked that after his Twitch show to crash a wedding with all his subscribers. That morning he had over 100 viewers. It was an odd experience- attending a stranger’s wedding while I sat at home, in bed, with my pajamas on. But by the time the bride and groom said “I do” I was full on emotional, crying into my pillow, thinking about my own wedding. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to crash someone’s wedding, even if it was virtually, in Las Vegas, being invited by a DJ with a hundred other people, who I didn’t even know. But when the classic vows were said, in that moment, regardless of the unfamiliarity of the situation, we all felt connected and one. It’s so amazing how the internet can bring people together to participate in a shared experience.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Growing up, I was constantly compared to my dad. The dark skin, the dimples, thin lips, our penchant for adventure and traveling. Then there was that one summer when my Dad and I went to Guam where I got to know him a little better. But today, when my mom and dad came to visit us at our new place and while I was showing them around, the similar interest my mom and I share was evident. I showed her my thriving plant collection, my color coded bookshelf, my highly utilized sewing machine in which I inherited from her, and the pan of japchae I cooked for the first time. My mother has had a green thumb her entire life. In the Philippines she has a garden filled with fruit trees and exotic plants. Check out the video and pictures below. Her house is always immaculate, being compared to a museum because of its cleanliness and aesthetics. My mom also sews (pillows, curtains, clothes, etc.) and is a trained chef at heart. Her palobok, siopao and flan are highly requested by family and friends. Growing up with such a role model can be extremely intimidating. There’s nothing my mom can’t do, well. So when it was time for me to do some things on my own, I definitely had big shoes to fill. Yet, when my mom came over and I pointed out all the meaningful things I’ve done, she said “you’re becoming like me.” At a different time, I would have cringed, but today I was beaming with pride.
Something that I didn’t even consider but was worthy of sharing today was hosting my family. In the previous homes I lived, it was far and didn’t have adequate space to have people over. But today, it was so pleasant to have my family (sans my brother who was helping someone move) come over. Our place is relatively small- we don’t even have a dining table and we eat on the couch or on the floor in our living room, yet everyone seemed comfortable eating Korean food and catching up on life that the space or lack of a table, didn’t seem to matter. We were so focused with what was in front of us that the moment was all around perfect and meaningful. I never thought I’d be able to host a dinner party without a table! It made me realize that we can’t hold back from the things we want to experience merely because the situation isn’t perfect. Many beautiful things are possible if we look, appreciate and utilize what we have.
Check out my parents’ front yard in the Philippines:
Pictures of my parents’ garden in the Philippines and a family photo of us today
Today I attended an impromptu dinner party at my sister’s house; this is actually one of the reasons why we moved–to be closer to family and create memories. I can’t tell you the last time I attended a dinner party, on a MONDAY. Living away from close friends and family didn’t give us the opportunity to experience much spontaneity. But today, when my sister sent a text around 12:00 non and invited us over for 6:30 PM that same day, we didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation.
Dinner wasn’t complicated: my sister made a hearty pasta with plant based meatballs. I brought over a salad with ingredients from my refrigerator– spinach, broccoli, shredded carrots and toasted pine nuts. We drank wine and played with my niece before she took a bath. We sat around and watched Shark Tank and somehow we ended up talking about identify theft.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a lasting memory; sure we could have made it more elaborate and complex but there was something about the uncomplicated, impulsive, and relaxed night that made everything easy and different.
I didn’t take a single picture tonight, so here’s one from the net. LOL
I can’t remember the last time I hugged someone besides my husband, and even then the hugs he and I exchange are more obligatory than they are passionate. Don’t get me wrong; I adore and love my husband, but when I was looking through old pictures of me in my early 20s, I noticed a stark difference. In almost every picture, I was hugging someone. Some were one arm over the shoulder hugs, but many of them were full embraces. I can’t remember a time, even before COVID-19, where I displayed such a genuine full body hug.
I don’t know if hugging is inappropriate for any situation over a certain age or if I was just living in a different time where one had to be conscientious of personal space, but it was clear during the early 2000s, hugging was the norm. I don’t know what happened as I entered my 30s and now 40s. Almost every picture I have of me, I’m off to the side, my hands on my hips, or waving a hello or peace sign. I rarely see any pictures of me hugging someone, not even a dog!
Now with the era of COVID, hugging is deemed unsafe. When I recently saw my mother in law, my first instinct was to hug her, give her a kiss on the cheek, but I knew better. I haven’t been tested recently , and she is susceptible to getting sick, so I had to refrain to what, at the time, felt natural. It was the first instance, in a long time, I instinctively wanted to hug someone, and then I realized how much I genuinely missed it. For years, I had the opportunity, now with today’s climate, I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance again.
Sure, the world will eventually return to a new norm, and I’m optimistic that how we greet each other in the future will mean more than what we previously knew it to be. When that day comes, I’ll be ready. My arms will reach over shoulders, backs and arms, and I’ll take my time to hold and embrace the moment. I don’t know why I refrained so much in the past, but it’s clear to me now how the single act of embracing someone with both feet planted firmly on the ground, bodies supporting each other, wrapping all your love in such a safe public display of emotion shouldn’t be taken for granted. I now know better. Hugs and all!
This isn’t a picture from yesterday, but I love this picture because we were coming back from the beach.
For a week, I have been looking forward to visiting my sister, brother-in- law and niece. We settled on the idea of making do-it-yourself pizzas. I went to Sprouts and spent about $100 on ingredients including two types of dough, three vegan cheeses, and a gourmet mozzarella ball. We had premier wine and watched a thriller starring Nia Long.
The best part of the day though?
When I cradled my niece on my lap and calmed her back to her nap. Her curly hair feathered my cheek, and for a moment, she smelled like a ripe coconut.