Vegan pancit canton

Growing up, my interest in cooking was marred by my mother. As a self- trained chef and baker, everything my mother cooked was naturally delicious. It was very difficult to cook anything under her shadow. Compared to her, my dishes came out under seasoned, under done, under cooked. And because my mom didn’t have recipes and relied on her instincts, I was very intimidated with cooking. 

It wasn’t until I discovered youtube that I became more comfortable with cooking. My confidence in the kitchen increased when I watched youtube shows like Laura Vitale, Panglasa Pinoy and Chef John. With video, I could easily follow along and replay if I was confused.

Tomorrow, I will be at my mom’s house for Easter and we all decided to bring a dish. When it comes to cooking Filipino dishes, my skills have been mediocre. To me, certain Filipino cooking requires an intermediate to advance level of cooking, where as I’m still performing at the beginner. By with faith and youtube, I attempted a Vegan Pancit Canton recipe and made it today. It will be the dish that I bring to my mother’s tomorrow. 

My husband, my taste tester, said it was delicious. I’ll say my mother’s reaction will be true testament. Stay tuned! 

Blogmas #23 // DIY Holiday nails

A few days ago I posted about my deep longing for long, healthy, decorative nails. I fantasize about painting long esquisite beautiful nails that reflect my personality. On Instagram, I scroll through pictures and admire the meticulous designs, colors, lines, shapes and details that go into nail art. Because I tend to have short nails, there’s less surface space for creativity. I had hoped that this Christmas, I could grow my nails long enough that I could get a manicure and perhaps some nail art. However, I live in California, and all the salons in my county are temporarily closed.

One thing I discovered while I scoured the internet is an alternative- Dashing Diva. This company makes artificial nails that you can easily apply to your reals nails. Now I know this is not a new concept, but I held a disdain for fake nails for many years due to their unnatural look. However, once I received my package and applied my nails today, I must admit that the easy application and believability made me reconsider.

Also fun…there’s so many styles to choose from! I ordered five packets, and it was so hard to choose. I decided on red because Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I wanted to be festive.

Although I didn’t get to grow my nails long this year or visit a nail salon to get nail art. But I was able to stay home, save some money and in less than 15 minutes, have a new set of gorgeous nails.

Blogmas #22 // Giving Tuesday

About six years ago, I experienced my first giving Tuesday with YouTube Influencer and home chef Laura Vitale. I was selected from hundreds of applicants to join Laura on a virtual cooking event where we cooked and conversed together via google hangout. Obviously this was way before COVID, so a virtual event of this kind was very unique.

I bring this experience up because since then, I have donated to a cause, non- profit or organization/ person in need every season. Over the past few years I’ve donated to meals for children, ending sex traffic, local businesses, book launches, and more. This year I focused on PAWA- Philippine American Writers and Artists. I chose this non-profit this holiday season because they have offered me so much space and support as a budding writer.

To begin with, since the pandemic, I have attended at least a related PAWA virtual event once a month, if not more. I attend classes, panel discussions and have even participated in several readings as a special guest. PAWA is a community in which I belong in and a few years ago I didn’t think I could be in such regarded company. Since my involvement with PAWA I have met some amazing people and writers and have greatly benefited from their guidance and support. Many of them have encouraged me to take the next step with my stories, but I don’t think, even with their vote of confidence, that I am ready to share my writing with the world.

PAWA provides the necessary space for me to feel held, with no judgment, no pretense, no vex. The community is one that welcomes all writers and artists and encourages each person at their own pace and trajectory.

I know this is a season of giving, but this year is fiscally challenging for many. I know there are a lot of causes and organizations that need support, but if you can help PAWA in any way, I encourage you to do so. During this pandemic, if you have relied on books, art, movies, music or any form of creative expression made by a Filipino American, to provide escape, entertainment or enlightenment during this very dark time, then I encourage you to donate to PAWA. They support writers and artists to continue to do this work so that we can all benefit from these enriching experiences.

For more on PAWA.. click below…

http://pawainc.com/

Blogmas #21 // Christmas Star

There are times during this pandemic that seem hopeless and despairing. Yet, there are moments, especially today when we experience the polar opposite. Today, my husband and I hiked our usual trail — Lime Ridge Trail Head in Concord, California. The hike takes us roughly 2 hours to complete, depending on how slow or fast we approach the incline. Today, we sped our pace because we anticipated when the sun would set.We wanted to be able to have enough light to traverse back to our car. Yet we needed it to be dark enough to see the Christmas Star.

The Christmas Star, or more appropriately the conjunction, took place tonight about an hour after the sun set. The conjunction is when Jupiter and Saturn appear closely aligned in the sky that it’ll look like a double planet. To me, they looked like they were kissing. The last time this happened took place in the Middle Ages. The next time this will happen will be 2080 and then again on 2400.

It’s amazing how when we’re in need of a good omen, especially when we are all experiencing a pandemic, all we have to do is look up at the sky and witness a celestial miracle. Years and decades from now, I can say that in my lifetime, I survived a pandemic but also watched as Jupiter and Saturn could been seen on the cold winter solstice night, seemingly with the naked eye. What a time to be alive!

Six Weeks in Distance Learning

It’s been a very tough week for me. We’re finishing up our 6th week of distance learning, and just when I feel like I’ve got a handle on things, some thing else will come and a whole set of other challenges will ensue.

I find my work very meaningful and purposeful, and when I look back years from now and I’m asked how I helped with remote learning, I’ll be able to say that I may not have had all the solutions and answers, but I was there, helping teachers and students navigate their way through the most uncertain and challenging times of education.

I don’t know how long remote teaching will continue, nor do I know if I’ll be in education next year, but the skills I’m acquiring today will prepare me for other unexpected situations. Like the many teachers and students who I’m supporting, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and who knows if we’ll be prepared, but I know for certain that our resilience will prevail.

I Failed in Being a Couch Potato

For the entire day, I had one goal: watch movies. It was an intentional decision, and one that I’m proud to say I didn’t fully commit to. It’s now 8:00 pm, and I’m going into my third movie, which isn’t a lot for one day.

I wanted to take the day off because I’m going back to work soon, so I’m not sure if I’ll have another day where I can afford hours wasted away. Sure there’s a lot I could be doing like jogging, sewing my apron, reading my book, listening to a podcast, but I wanted a day to dedicate towards watching the movies I have been meaning to watch. 

After dinner, I hadn’t planned on it, but I got on the treadmill and speed walked for 15 minutes, then I got on the computer and I decided to write a blog. As much as I wanted to solely focus on watching movies today, my intuition was telling me I at least had to walk a few minutes and write a few lines. After the jog, I needed fresh air, so I relaxed for a few minutes on our porch. As I sat out and enjoyed the setting sun, I caught a rare sight: a hummingbird flew in front of the property tree. I recognized the bird by its long beak and wings. Had I not made the decision to jog, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of this beautiful bird. Although I didn’t get to watch as many movies I would have liked,  I at least saw mother nature, even for a moment, in real life.

 

flying hummingbird

Photo by Cristina Andrea Alvarez Cruz on Pexels.com

My writing process during sheltering in place

Tonight I attended a virtual reading with Lysley Tenorio which was moderated by Mia Alvar. I am a huge fan of the both of them as they both write stories with a Filipino American lens. At the end of the reading they allowed the audience to type in questions in the chat.

In blue, my question is below:

 


His response wasn’t something I expected. He basically said that despite having won literary awards, given fellowships and having a secure job, this didn’t allow him to write as much as he wanted. He confessed that he didn’t write for years.  His stories and characters, for the most part, lived in his heart and head and he thought about them all the time, yet he still didn’t write, especially after his mom died. He mentioned that sometimes life gets in the way, not necessarily forcing you to stop writing but because sometimes writing involves a process, not a practice.

His honesty spoke to me. I assumed an accomplished writer like him, with two books under his belt, wrote all the time. I imagined the stereotypical  image of a writer hard at work at an oak desk with a soft lamp and a sturdy underwood typewriter with classical music playing in the back ground. I envisioned Tenorio typing away, taking occasional breaks only to stretch or crack his neck or take sips from his cup of whiskey. The words naturally flowed from his brain to his fingertips as he punched each typewriter key with vigor and fervor. Instead, the truth is probably similar to the process I currently have.

I, too, go for days, weeks, months, even (at one point) one year without writing. Yet when I do, often times, like now- it’s usually away from a desk or without a typewriter or alcohol. Instead, I’m at the kitchen counter, sitting on a swivel chair with my feet up, glaring at my Macbook Air with cookie crumbs nestled between the  greasy keys of my keyboard while I take sips out of 7.5 fl oz can of diet 7 Up. There’s no soft music or light; just the fluorescent light over me and the silence behind me. One aspect of this situation that resonates a smudge of the truth of the glamorous version I envisioned is that at least I’m writing– maybe not in the most ideal environment or practice, but at least, I suspect like Tenorio, the words are easily flowing from my mind and onto the virtual page. 

 

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Here is sceenshot of me with my two favorite authors: Lysley Tenorio and Mia Alvar.

 

Dog Eaters

I first heard about Filipinos eating dogs when I was in the 7th grade. I was in the library where a cultural forum was held with student representatives from each cultural group from the school. Our Filipino representative was an 8th grader who was widely known in our group of friends; he was “Mr. Popular, Mr. Cool.” He often wore a Cross Colours denim jacket, won multiple breakdancing battles and had a sister who could sing like Whitney Houston. If anyone was going to speak on my behalf, I guess he was the best.
The moderator asked each panelist, what is one thing you would like the audience to know about your culture. I was expecting “Cool Joe” to offer many insights: the traditional dances, attire, music. Because his family was musically inclined, I thought his remarks would head in that direction. “Cool Joe’s” response: “Filipinos do not eat dogs.”
There was a palpable gasp in the room. Some snickered. Others had a look of disgust. Me? I was in shock- literally. I had never heard this accusation before. I thought about all the dishes my mom and family made and the only two that were out of the ordinary from the American palate were balut and dinuguan. But dog meat? It seemed bizarre, uncivilized, savage. I thought about all the stray dogs during my visits to the Philippines- the ones who roamed the streets, ate leftover rice and mango skins, who despite all the trash they rummaged, had ribs protruded from their lanky, malnutrition bodies. Why would anyone kill them? I immediately accused “Cool Joe” of lying, and I suppressed anything he said as a fact. I was humiliated by his misrepresentation.
For me, dogs were never served for dinner, or for any special occasion, nor known to be hidden meat in adobo, pinakbet or kare kare. Dog meat was not a known cuisine. I’m pescatarian now but growing up, my family ate the usual: chicken, beef and pork. Sometimes we’d have special proteins like oxtail, squid and pork belly. but the idea of consuming dogs seemed foreign. Because it wasn’t in my reality, this taboo simply didn’t exist.
It wasn’t until last night that I was reminded of the truth. I had encountered my first real example of dog eaters from an unexpected place: Jose Vargas.
Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winner, PEN award receipt and writer of Dear America, a novel that chronicles his life as an undocumented immigrant. In one of the chapters, Vargas wrote about his acclimation in the United States and how, in a middle school version of show and tell, he told his classmates about his pet dog Rambo who was killed, ceremoniously, for his mom’s birthday.
Believe it or not, this was the first time I had witnessed someone testifying what I once thought was once a figment of my imagination, was now confirmed as the truth.
I was visibly upset. I put the book down and told my husband right away. My voice cracked. I felt my eyes welt. My reaction came from a disturbing, true place.
The following day i went down the rabbit hole and googled dog meat consumption. I found out that it in the Philippines, eating dog was once a traditional consumption but is now a very popular commercial consumption. It is the “third most consumed meat, behind pork and goat but ahead of beef,” and half a million dogs are slaughtered every year for consumption.

The stray dogs are dognapped, rounded up off the street, paws tied with steel cans around their noses. Half of the dogs don’t make it alive to their final destination.
I wondered about all the times I had reached out my hand and felt the comfort of thick, soft dog fur or the salty licks on my cheek or the wet nose nuzzled on my neck. Our family dog Friday, before she passed away from cancer, walked with me for 5 miles in the rain and never left my side. Or how our current family dog Lucky sits on top on my feet when we’re snuggled in bed and I can hear her deep breaths through my goose down blanket. It’s hard for me to fathom that someone, a family, let alone an entire half of a country is looking for their dog while the other half is eating them.
I know that many animals are killed every year for consumption. I don’t shame anyone in their dietary practices. I understand that at the end of the day people need to eat- cow, pig, dog- to stay alive. Sometimes there’s no choice. And there is no shame in eating certain proteins for cultural, traditional reasons. In fact, some countries believe eating cows is barbaric! The food chain is a complex and vast one.
When I think about my 7th grade experience in the stuffed crowded library, I often wondered why “Cool Joe” chose his remarks as his last impressions to the audience. Obviously, it was something that meant a great deal to him. It certainly wouldn’t be the first thing that would come to my mind if I was asked about my culture. But it was 7th grade. Stereotypes, subjugation, bullies were often at the crux of peer acceptance. Perhaps eating dog was more of a reality than I had accepted. Either way, I’m not sure why “Cool Joe” left with that last impression. As an 8th grader, he was brave enough to address it. Despite the reaction, he taught the audience, including myself, a difficult truth to swallow.

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“Friday” she was our first dog

Mama Said Knock You Out

Just like anything important in your life, if you let it fall to the wayside, it’s even harder to come back. Admittedly, I have done that with my writing. As I sit here at my desk, typing these very words, I don’t feel the confidence I once felt during the “glory days”–when I was unemployed and dedicated most of my time towards writing.

But all that drastically changed when I returned to my job a few months ago. Rather than enrolling in classes about short stores, I enroll  in classes about being a better teacher. I write lesson plans rather than short stories, and I attend  parent teacher conferences, not literary events. I wish I could say no to these commitments,  but it’s not that easy. One, they are professionally mandatory and two, I love my job. So, naturally it’s difficult for me to scale back.

Yet, I know that if I continue to perform this unbalancing act, I’ll continue to ignore a part of my life that is important to me, and  eventually, in a matter of time,  I’ll be filled with resentment. As a teacher, I’ve learned that it takes drastic effort to see drastic change, which reminds me of one of my favorite rappers, LL Cool J, and  his song, “Mama Said Knock you Out.” In his first line he states,  “Don’t  Call it a Comeback, I’ve been here for years.”  The story behind the opening line has left me with a lasting impression. Supposedly, during a time when LL’s popularity and success were waning and he was having difficulty with the direction in  his writing, it was his grandmother who encouraged him to “knock out” his insecurities and critics. She simply told him to believe in himself and use his time off from music as a motivator. LL wisely took the advice from his grandmother which lead to the birth of  an award winning song, eventually earning him a Grammy. Had it not been for his wise grandmother and time away from his craft, I doubt if the creation of the song we know so well well today would’ve ever been created. Like LL, sometimes we have to step away and hear some tough love to bring us back to our calling.

Today marks the 6th of November, and usually this time of the year is a special time for writers. It’s NaNoWriMo–national writing book month, when individuals pledge to write a 50,000 word novel in 3o days. It’s also NaBloPomo– National bloggers post month– when bloggers post a blog every day of November. If followed with fidelity, these challenges are supposed to encourage writers to elevate their craft of writing and encourage a daily routine. But I see them as LL’s grandmother giving me the encouragement I need in a time where I’ve lost my direction and need help to refocus.

It’s going to be a busy month–besides work, I’m applying for grad school, planning a trip to the Philippines, studying for the GRE, and writing  a book or 30 posts in the month of November are commitments I won’t be able to invest in.  Yet, like I stated earlier, sometimes we need drastic change in order to see drastic results.  In the case of LL Cool J, the drastic advice and hiatus led him to one of greatest songs ever recognized in hip hop music.

Today, despite the odds against me, I pledge to participate in NaNoWriMo, which means I’ll have to write a book in the month of November. It won’t be an easy feat; challenges already lay ahead; for example, I’m six days into the month and I haven’t written anything, which means I’ve lost a lot of valuable time. Yet, I  just have to take the advice of LL’s grandmother– if I continue to feed into the negativity and excuses and allow time to slip away, I won’t be knocking out anyone, including my skeptical self.

So wish me luck, it’s November 6 and the only thing I have written is the title of the book: ‘otherland. If I count the title, then my word count is one. 49,999 words left and 24 days to go. Time to knock it out.

 

 

 

No Filter

I was recently at my mom’s house looking through old family albums. Most of the albums were showing their age, perforated pages breaking, adhesiveness from the glue weakened. Although the photos were discolored, faded and washed out, there was something about being able to touch the pictures, rubbing my finger on the wax and plastic that hit a sentimental chord. No, I was not reminiscing about the people and places in the photos. Instead, I was mourning the photo albums, thinking and wondering about the future of them. I tried to recall the last time I saw someone use a camera, develop film and place pictures in a photo album. I couldn’t help but question if years from now would albums be obsolete, in the same way Poloroid cameras are no longer sold, stamps are declining in sales and Twinkies are off the shelves. It saddened me to think that albums could have the same ill fate as these once valuable commodities.

Maybe it’s because I consider myself a neo luddite—for many years, I refused to purchase a Smart phone, reasoning that my flip phone had the necessary functions that I needed. I owned a typewriter rather than a laptop, and I’m certain that I’m one of the rare people who used a rotary phone as a land line, in the 21st century. Maybe it’s because I’m aging and I refuse to go with the modern times or maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to learn something new. I’d like to think that, at best, I‘m a true romantic– fantasizing about the day when someone will send me a love letter in the mail as opposed to an email or text message. The thrill of typing my next poem on my Underwood typewriter and hearing the ring when I have reached the margin enthralls me much more than the actual sound of my ring tone.The Nintendo 64 on which I play Street Fighter, the Atari joystick I use to play Ms. Pac Man, or on the wooden Tricky Triangle I solve puzzles,these old school games elicit more emotion and satisfaction from me than playing with the latest piece of modern technology.

However, I’m not entirely opposed to all things contemporary. There is definitely a need for technology, especially for our progressive, modern lives. For instance, the concern of being lost is completely resolved thanks to Tom Tom,Garmin or even Siri. We can navigate from point A to B easily, within a blink of an eye, and never have to worry about getting lost and pulling into a gas station to ask for directions. Also, there’s no need to ever go to a library when there’s Nook or ipad. Anyone can read anywhere at any time and, conveniently, people from all over the world can download any book within seconds and purchase the latest copy of their favorite novel without ever setting foot in a bookstore. Or how about being able to communicate with anyone in the world? A person doesn’t need to open his mouth in order to converse. He can send a “like” or “thumbs up” to anyone with a profile and immediately let them know that he approves of what theyre doing, where they’re going, who they’re with, and also what they’re eating. Technology is so vast, robust and encompassing that there is virtually nothing that we can’t do. And this great sense of satisfaction and capability builds a strong and thriving community that has the world, literally, in their fingertips. I mean, the accolades of technology just goes on and on.

But I wonder, in the midst of all these technological advancements, have we forgotten the simplicities of life where we relied on the human capacity rather than the capacity of a computer? For example, what is more impressive than an assured woman knowing her surroundings, with a keen sense of direction, who can easily look up at the sun and know, confidently, which direction is north, south, east or west? Or the person who goes into a book store and purchases a hard back copy of their favorite book, turning actual pages and being able to write or make notes and feel the texture of words of the pages and cover; or being able to smell an old library book and wonder about the homes and hands in which this book was held. That can never be mimicked in any Kindle or Ereader. But most of all, we sometimes forget the power behind good old fashion human interaction. What ever happened to simply picking up the phone and listening to someone’s voice and hearing their reaction to a joke or even a simple “hello”.

Perhaps I’m more of a traditionalist than I want to admit. Perhaps I’m holding on to a past life that has no place in modern times. Perhaps I’m just crazy. But when I’m out with my friends, and everyone is on their phone “checking in” or when conversations are being replaced with texts that end and begin with LOL, that is where I draw the line. There’s a raging fire inside of me that flames every now and then when I know that a copious number of dinners are taking place with people interacting behind cell phones and updating how many “likes” they‘ve acquired on their check in have  or a society communicating in abbreviated messages such as BRB and ❤ and #nofilter.

But I know technology advances year after year, day after day, and minute after minute. Gone are the days of singing telegrams, A tracks and ghetto blasters. There’s nothing I can do about the race for modern revelation nor that I would want to. But my only wish is that as we move forward into new modern terrain that we still remember the things that genuinely define us. And we don’t forget that the human capability is smarter, stronger and more complex than the capability of any mega gig.And we don’t underestimate that the simple and daily exchanges amongst people of a smile, pat on the back or nod will always be more favored than a “like” button or a virtual “thumbs up”. Finally, it’s okay to get lost every now and then because when we rely on our own instincts to guide us, intuition will eventually direct us safely to where we need to go.

Most of all, it would be reassuring to know that years from now, when I’m am old and gray, just like my Underwood typewriter that functions but is past it’s prime, it would be comforting to be amongst people that still hold a strong value in books, paper and library cards. And despite all the ingenious technology that will eventually ensue, I’d like to know that I will live in an innovative world where there will be sentimental love letters in the mail, romantic books on the shelves and maybe, possibly, if I’m lucky, memorable pictures in photo albums.