Monday, November 12, 2007

San Francisco International Ariport

Dear insansapinas,

Travel tips-The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.

We landed at San Francisco International Airport at exactly 8:00 in March 8 that year. I left the Philippines 6:00 am same date. If I am going to write this in my diary, I have travelled around the globe just in two hours. Hindi naman ako si Darna. Amazing, these time zones.

Every time the aircraft stops, there is a commotion in the cabin. Eveyone wanted to be the first to leave.

Since SFO was my destination, I remain seated and let those other passengers who may be in a rush to catch their connecting flights in another gates get their stuff and make a line towards the exit. Besides, I was also excited. I am now in the United States. I pondered on what life awaits for me. That was the end of my flight but my journey in life continues. A little ray of sun sparkled on the blue-gray clouds..

The knight-in-the-shining-armor (not) guy had disembarked at LAX. I looked around. There was a guy coming towards my direction. I stepped on the seat, reached for my suitcase and as the man got nearer, I made a loud Hmmmmmpppp. " Let me help you." He came rushing to unburden me with the load.

Tip # 1

According to my friend. Timing is essential in getting the help needed during travels.
See to it that there is always a man around when trying to lift a heavy luggage. Make him feel you needed some extra hand with the proper facial expression and little sound of distress.
Ang mga suplada bawal dito. Yon yon eh. Don't forget to say tink yu with a smile.

So I said thank you to the man and smiled the sweetest I could muster. The man smiled back. The lady behind him frowned and showed her displeasure. Might be the missus. Oh well.

After putting on the leather jacket that I bought from Pakistan for 1,500 pesos (I did not know that it costs $ 300 in the US), I took my small mirror and checked if there was a need for me to dab my face with pressed powder. Checked my teeth too for some lipstick smears. I supposed there will be a brief interview in the immigration.

Tip # 2

During orientation, we were advised to wear something decent and appropriate for your profession. When I heard the word appropriate, I asked mentally what's appropriate for a dancer? Like a ballet dancer? Like a chef? But it is just the humorist in me asking. The lady doing the orientation asked me if i have a question. Can people read my mind? Or they are simply amused by my facial expression. I will try to avoid that brow-knitting and raising habits. Promise.

I shook my head to tell her, none. I liked to finish the orientation fast.

She continued with a story that affirms Melanie Marquez' witty saying, "Do not judge him (his brother Joey Marquez) by his cover. He is not a book.". mwehehe.

One Pinoy engineer ' holding a working visa was almost denied of entry because he did not look like an engineer. This time, I raised my hand and asked, so how does an engineer look like? Like me for instance, I am an accountant, do I have to appear grouchy because I could not balance the books or do they have to expect numbers in my face?

The lady did not give me a straight answer.She continued her story about the engineer who was wearing a denim jacket over a shirt emblazoned with some Gothic designs, denim jeans and Rebook shoes. He was shorter than the average height. Filipinos look younger than their age , so the immigration officer must have thought he was a stow-away slash pinabili slash ng suka slash sa kanto slash guy. No brainer but the lady swore to her neighbor's death that it really happened. ' key.

I joined the line of non-immigrant visa holders. It was a slow processing than those with green cards and blue passports.

Then I came face to face with the first Caucasian I met in the US. I remembered my friend's story that she was looking for someone in uniform when she came to the US. She was fond of watching COPS and other police stories.

The immigration officer scrutinized my passport. "Hmmm, so you're an accountant." I wanted to
answer back, "hmmmmmmm so what do you think?" But I just kept quiet. I remembered the other tip.

Tip #3

If the question requires, yes or no for an answer, then respond with a yes or a no. If there is a follow up question, then reply accordingly. Never volunter to offer any information unless asked. I took note of that. Sometimes when I was in my jovial mood, if you ask me my name, I would even tell you the story how my mother changed my name so I would enroll in the first grade.

He looked at me from head to foot. I did the same to him but it was only from head to chest.
He was sitting inside a cubicle with only half body in view.

He looked at my face again. He must be searching for the numbers in my face to prove that I am an accountant? *heh*

Tip # 4

Look straight to the eyes of the person talking to you.

He looked at me again. I look straight into his eyes. I was wearing my prescription glasses. He was wearing a tinted one. Madaya.

I was thinking he would ask me questions just like what they do in the US Embassy interview.
Remember, I skipped the interview for the reason I do not know. But I theorized the following explanations:

1. Probably someone got enamoured to my photo in my passport. Ahem;
2. Someone got scared of my photo that if he will not approve my visa, something bad might happen;
3. Someone got off in the right side of the bed, went to work humming and just stamping the passport with a visa;
4. my passport fell in an inbox tray marked FOR VISA stamping;
5. or they must have seen my work-related travels in my resume.

The immigration officer handed me back my passport and said WELCOME to the US and have a nice day.

I said thank you and with that I walked past the gate. The suitcase felt lighter.


Little Christmas Tree

Dear insansapinas,

I was looking at Michael's flyer that came in the mail. It is my favorite store for art and crafts stuff. I felt nostalgic when I saw the Christmas trees for sale at bargain prices. It was only last year when I did not have a Christmas tree. I miss the lights, the Christmas balls and the ribbons.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

San Francisco Here I Come

Dear insansapinas,

If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

It was the dawn of early March, March 8 to be exact, when we landed at the first destination--LAX. Los Angeles is the second most populated city in the US of A.

Many passengers disembarked in this airport that the cabin was left practically empty saved for some few who were foreigners that we picked up from Japan.

I looked out by the window hoping to see blond and blue eyed Americans--my first ever in their own territory. But of course I have met many, back in Angeles City where I grew up. Our neighbor was an American family who had children about our age--Deborah (pronounced as Debra) and little David who was curious why we ate grass when he saw the sweet potato leaves (talbos ng kamote) that my mother made into salad. We were growing them a lot at the backyard. Then during July 4th, we would go to Clark Air Base to eat ice cream and toured the facility for the whole day.

Except for the aircrafts and the baggage carriers, I saw no one.

I decided to move to the five-seater, raised the arm rests with a plan to stretch myself and sleep in a supine position.

A lady who must be over fifty and with a gold-draped fingers sat by my side.

She asked about my destination. I know she just wanted to break the ice. If I did not get off at LAX, then it must be the next stop which was San Francisco. Obvious ba?

She said that her all seatmates took off. I saw her seatmates on my way to the washroom. She looked like a movie star. The other one must be the mother.

According to the lady, the beautiful young lady is a mistress of a big time politician.

"Ow" I responded with matching brow raising and o-forming mouth expression.

"So she's one among those "satellite families". He's not only spreading his oats, he is also spreading his wealth." "And why is she here, vacationing or pregnant? I asked the lady whose name I did not bother to ask.

" Ah she's going to get married", was the short reply of the woman who did not give her name to me.

"Why? Did she break up with sugar daddy? She must be insane." I asked again the lady without asking who she is and what's her name.

" No. She's being banished because Mistress # 3 felt insecure. She's prettier and younger.",
said the lady. She was powdering her nose but I still do not know her name.

"Ow". Another O-forming mouth for me. If I were smoking , I could have puff out perfect circles.

“But why is she not in the business class?" curiously I asked with the hope that woman would tell me her name.

" They're flying incognito. The people in the business class knew her. She's here to get married." This time the lady without a name was reapplying lip color. So she's responding even without looking at me.

"Really?" This is my wide-eyed expression of disbelief. "who is he getting married to? " I was tempted to ask another question and that was what is her name.

"Ah, it is an arranged married to some US citizen guy. Expenses are all paid for including the house where she would be staying with her mother. That's her mother she's with."
Thinking she must have given a lot of information, she went back to her seat.

" Oh by the way? I did not get your name. Are you a celebrity columnist or something?"
Finally I asked.

" Ana. I am not a writer. I am the mother's friend."

The light "Fasten your seatbelt was on. San Francisco, here I come.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

That's Entertainment in the Airplane

Dear insansapinas,

You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience.

Time for entertainment. A big screen was at the center of the cabin unlike these days when some jets have small screens at the back of the seats that you can watch whatever you like. Just pray that the guy seated in your front does not recline the chair.

For that airline, the earphones were free. A lady who must be used to carriers which charged extra, refused when offered these ear contraptions. The audio of the movie was muted for the sake of passengers who aren't going to watch.

Some preferred to listen to their favorite music from the different radio channels.

I saw one passenger. He got an earphone and it looked like he was swaying to a bouncy music.
With fingers snapping and all. The end of the earphone was not plugged at the armrest. Oooops.

The screen was blazing with action that most of the passengers were awake. It was mystery and suspense. Kulang na lang may sumigaw ng dali takbo na, ayan na...Kung meron noon, tatayo ako at sasampal-sampalin ko para tumahimik. Haah!!!

But this was just in my thought balloon. I could not do it. I could not even grab the hair of this pesky little girl who kept on running back and forth in the aisle--- shake her,threaten her that I am going to gag her, tie her up in her seat if she will not stop. I am missing all the actions in the movie. But all these evil schemes were just in my thought balloon which was about to burst.

Trust the mother's instincts. The girl's mother must have sensed of my "evil thought" towards her daughter.She grabbed her daughter the moment she run to her direction; gave her something to make her settle down. Then she glanced at me. It was not an apologetic look. It was more of "you just dare, dude to hurt my daughter".

How did she read my mind? Got to prick that thought ballon. It must have become visible to others to read. Whew!

With the little girl gone, I thought I could watch the movie in peace.

A stewardess' butt blocked the view. The two passengers in the seats next to me were complaining. By the time the issue was settled, the sign THE END was streaming down the screen. Waaah.

I did not even get to know who the killer was.

When I was a kid and watched movies with the adult members of the family, I would often hear the shout "Soli bayad." That was when the audience felt they were shortchanged when the movie abruptlyl stopped due to technical glitch or the next roll of film did not come on time becausethe runner who shuttled back and forth between movie houses was stalled somewhere taking a break. I mentally shouted, Soli bayad.

I did not want to wait for the next screening. I wanted to sleep just like my seatmates who were already alternately producing snoring sounds.

I could make use of the earphones. So I closed my eyes and snored too. I wonder if we produced rythmic sounds. Mine could be alto.



Friday, November 09, 2007

What is your Beef or Chicken?

Dear insansapinas,

-Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them.

Chicken it is.

With it were salad, bread, crackers, jam, butter, sliced fruit, water or soda, coffee or tea.There's also little sachets of salt, sugar and blackpepper and catsup.

I chose soda. A friend in the airline advised me not to drink water not unless it is served in a bottle still sealed. Didn't ask why. The reason is obvious. You do not know where water in the jug or bottle comes from.

I wrapped the bread, crackers and the jam in a plastic and put them inside my tote bag.Shame on me? Yeah. Babaw ko.

But if you have been stranded in a foreign country where you got cash just enough to buy you a bottled water, you may also do the same.

Got this bad experience in Singapore. The connecting flight was delayed for another eight hours because of the storm. My companion and I spent our last few dollars in helping the economy of Singapore; we shopped until we dropped. Cliche. Toink toink. The tourist guide was also partly to blame. He made us feel guilty of not buying from the stores with the blazing signs SALE in exchange of the free city tour with refreshments. It seemed that the tourist bus' GPS always led us to where we can drop a few or hundred dollars.

My lady lawyer/friend/companion in my trips abroad was fond of buying "pasalubong" for everyone in her big household, office and neighborhood. That included the security guards, the janitors and her manicurist/pedicurist. So thoughtful, so kind. Bless her soul.

We didn't expect the delay in the flight that long. We already missed our breakfast. And the time showed that it was already past noon. My stomach started to grumble.To forget the hungry pangs, I walked around the Changgi Airport. The beautiful jewelries, perfumes and books which I used to gloat over had no more effect on me. The jewelries looked more like asparagus or boiled "sitaw" with " sauteed bagoong in a kamatis as dip. The perfume's scent was more of the smell of the pork barbecue and the books looked like the green banana leaves
where steaming rice is spread all over.

Then she remembered the bread, the cracker and the butter and jam that she put away in her bag. She was a weightwatcher so she didn't eat everything served. We bought a bottled water and without thinking that we can come up with a miracle to multiply the single bread, we broke it into two, put a little butter and jam and hungrily devoured it. We were saved from " hunger" by that innocent bread hiding inside the bag saved by my friend instead of leaving it in the food tray to be recycled in the next flight?

Storm over, the flight was resumed. The stewardess barely finished the question, Beef or...?
we chorusedly answered Fish. Then we ate without much talking and burped. We asked each other if we ate like a glutton. The bland fish fillets tasted more delicious than they used to.

This habit could have started when I was a student. My classmates and I used to get extra sachets of sugar, catsup and soy sauce from the fastfood restaurants. They're handy whenever we ate our baon inside the classroom if we have no money to eat out.

My mother too was an influence. She berated us whenever we left something in our plates when we eat in restaurants. She said that every morsel of food was paid for. Even the extra soy sauce and catsup. So when you are invited to dine with us, don't be surprised to find catsup sachets with McDonald or Jolibee brands in the dining table.

Before 9/11, most airlines served food with stainless fork and spoon. Once used, they are sold to recycling companies. If you find some of them in household that means, they were kept as "souvenirs" of the flight.

A friend of mine was an executive in a company that manufactures the disposables and the give-aways of an airline. When it was rumored that the airlines was going to fold up its operation, the wife knelt praying in Quiapo Church.

After the meal, there was a long line to the washroom. I remember when I was a kid and was travelling by bus. The driver used to stop near grassy areas and shout. "O yong magbabawas, magbawas na." Men have advantage over women. They can do it anywhere-- standing. But I saw one lady also doing it--also standing with only the "tapis" as cover. nyahahah.

Time for sleep. It was a long trip. It was already evening but the sun was still shining outside.
The man by the window missed the beautiful sight. Gold rays penetrating the blue gray clouds.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Generic versus Branded Medicines

Dear insansapinas,

The pharmacist where I used to get my medications said that they do not carry that prescription given to me by the gastroenterologist and I could get the generic type over the counter from a big pharmacy.

So yesterday, I went to the pharmacy near our place. I asked the lady at the pharmacy counter where I can find those types of cream.

She got my prescription and made me wait for a couple of minutes. I thought she was looking for it. Then she handed me the medication. $ 28.00. I was expecting that it would be just over $ 5.00. She substituted it with another brand. Whew. A small tube of cream. So I decided not to give her the other prescription. Capitalist!!


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Gynecologist

Dear insansapinas,
I've been sleepy most of the time,making up for the sleepless nights in the past few months.

I went to a gynecologist yesterday. There were findings in the CTscan that he would verify if there's a need for surgery. The doctor turned out to be a man, about more than seventy years old with shaking hands. Ngiii.

But he was an expert. He knew what to do. After an invasive examination and a quick laboratory examination, he said that all those "cells" that were scanned in the uterus had already shrunk.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Up and Up Away to the USA

Dear insansapinas,

We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.

The cabin of the carrier is much bigger, more seats--three rows, three seaters for the right and left sides and five or was it six in the middle?

I got the window seat at the right side. The steward helped me put my suitcase inside the overhead compartment. No remark, just a grimace of pain and a little smile. Very pr-ish indeed.

I hoped that my seatmates would not make it. Evil thought. bwahaha.

Every time, a passenger walked towards my direction, I wished that he/she would get past me.
But almost all the seats were taken except those two on my left.

A big man in his late fifties came striding with his carry-all bag.He was fat with gold rings, a gold necklace with a gleaming gold medallion draped around his neck.

He looked at the seat numbers.
He stopped, he exhaled and picked up his bag and thrust it in the still open overhead compartment.

Then he talked with a voice that was a cross of those of Morgan Freeman and Franz Drecher. I raised my brows, asking if he's talking to me. Yes, to me. He asked me if we can exchange seats. He liked the window seat. He wanted to see the view. What view?
The cumulus, the cirrus or the stratus clouds?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Another journey of life commences

Dear insansapinas,

This is the twenty seventh in the series of the Family Tree Project that I launched to leave basic life lessons and work ethics for my grandchildren who would never know how their grandmother, biological or adoptive lived before their birth or age of reason.

He who would travel happily must travel light.

Carrying my heavy luggage, my leather jacket that must weigh another few pounds and my tote bag, I searched for my seat inside the cabin.

Mine was the middle seat, sandwiched between a man and a woman. They must be visiting the extra large section of the department store for their garments' need so that starving them during the whole duration of the flight would save them money from another-lose-20lbs- in- one month diet program. I mentally calculated the flying hours from Manila to Japan where we will be taking a bigger carrier. That was how long I have to endure the mental and physical duress in that cramped space.

I looked at the overhead compartment. Hmm pretty high. I should have obeyed my mother to drink my milk when I was a kid. I realized that being vertically challenged is a disability. I was "disable" to reach the compartment to put my handcarry.

A knight-in-a-shining-armour (not) guy helped me lift the suitcase. He was not doing it to help a lady in distress. He was in a hurry to put his-- a backpack.

" Did you bring Manila Cathedral with you. It must have weighed more than a ton." He complained.

"Ow, I did not get the Mayor's nod for the Quiapo Church so I just settled with the cathedral".
I retorted back.

I haven't even warmed my seat when the lady by the window stood up. She's going to the washroom. So I stood up; the man at the aisle seat also stood up.

I waited for her at the aisle because I thought she would be gone only for a few minutes. The clock ticked tocked and I realized that if I have brought a book of Noli Me Tangere, I must have finished the novel before I saw her emerged from the washroom. Did she take a shower or sumtin' ?

The flight stewardess served us peanuts and soda.

After the drinks had been served, the lady stood up again. I just thought if she has a bladder problem , why did she not ask for the aisle seat?

Anyway, so I stood up again and waited at the aisle again. The clock ticked tocked again.
No, I should not be reading a novel while waiting for her. I could have made gantsilyo and finished one bedspread with matching pillow covers for two.

Then we landed in Land of the Rising Sun. First stopover. Got to transfer to another airline.

The knight-in-the-shining-armour-not- carrying- backpack guy grabbed his stuff. It could be my pleading eyes that made him reached for my suitcase minus the sarcastic remark.

Any way I was ready with more names of churches such San Agustin, Baclaran, St. Jude...


Sunday, November 04, 2007


Dear insansapinas

This is the twenty sixth in the series of the Family Tree Project that I launched to leave basic life lessons and work ethics for my grandchildren who would never know how their grandmother, biological or adoptive lived before their birth or age of reason.

While other people could not wait to fly to the US even as a tourist, my working visa waited for me for months to use.

My mentor discouraged me from leaving the country. He told me about discrimination practices in the Land of Milk and Honey. I am lactose intolerant so I will just take the honey. :)

But I was depressed and I had one more semester to finish another doctorate in another university. Besides my employer already wrote if I am still interested of the position. Then I decided to go.

I had to give up my clients and when I did, I thought there was no turning back.

So I went to the US embassy for schedule of interview on the strength of the approved working visa of a petitioner.

Another CPA/applicant that I met in the agency where we were briefed how to answer
questions said that his application for the visa was disapproved. The consul asked him about depreciation and he failed to mention the depreciation method that was not discussed in any books in Accounting. I anticipated for some questions about my line of expertise.

When the date for interview came, I waited for them to ask me to come inside and face an interviewer. None. Instead, the lady handed me back my passport.(Today, the travel papers such as passport are delivered via couriers).

The first batch who claimed for their visa (working visa may be approved here in the States but the final decision rests on the local US embassy officers) told me that if the passport is returned without interview, it means it is turned down outright.

So I walked away from the embassy with the passport in my hand. I did not bother to look at it.

I went to the agency to tell them that I was disapproved. The old lady secretary asked for my passport while expressing her surprise why I was not even interviewed. Then she leafed the pages of the passport. And there it was visa laminated in my passport. Life lesson learned, ignore the bad news in pursuing a goal. Other people's experience may be different from yours.

Sabi niya, GAGA. hehehe. You're damned lucky that you were spared from interview. Siguro naman sa dami ng papel mo na ibinigay, they don't need to ask you questions to know if you are really qualified for the job. That's one thing I keep in mind. Be friendly to the receptionist and secretary. Some of them know better than their bosses. And some of them can just call you names without malicious intent. Muntik ko na siyang mahalikan.