Two Left Feet, Take 2

Two blogs with the same title may be stretching it. But this second one is about a more serious, more worrying issue.

It's about my grasping toes and how they’ve kept me in pain when walking for a year now. No doctor (neuro, ortho, rehab, and wellness) could solve it, so I have to solve it on my own or forever hold my peace.

“Have special shoes made,” suggested many friends.

What kind of special shoes? Are there shoes that can prevent toes from curling and grasping—and aching? 

Grace came in an unexpected way. One day last month, while I was resting in bed, the phone rang. I rushed to answer it as our phone is quite a distance from our bedroom. In my haste, my flip flops went on the wrong foot—the right for my left, and vice versa.

Surprise, surprise, my right toes did not hurt as much as they used used to. Upon investigation, I realized that wearing the left flip flop on my right foot deprived two of my toes from a grasping surface. Ergo, only two toes did the grasping. Ergo, I only felt 50% of the pain that immobilizes me. 

Immediately, I went to buy another pair of the same flip flops so I could wear the left on my right foot.

Getting confused yet? Here—two left flip flops for one relieved me.

The bad news is, these flip flops are only for places that don’t require shoes. Sometimes people notice, “Ma’am your slippers are on the wrong foot.”

What do they know?

But two left flip flops are not the ultimate solution for all occasions. I still need special shoes where my toes won’t have any surface to grasp.

Now, how things pan out is another story.  


Gatecrashing a Stag Party

Due to hubby’s unforeseen health issues in the US, our vacation timetable went awry. All my scheduled meet-ups with old friends were cancelled.

“Would you like to join us?” Tony casually asked, as a matter of courtesy, when two of his friends (grade school classmates) in LA called, wanting to see him.

This was not part of my own itinerary, but since I already had zero itinerary to speak of, I joined them. This, I suspect, surprised Tony.

From the time one of them, P, picked us up from our host’s place to the time he drove us back, I listened to “little boys” talking: unguarded, unpretentious, unaffected, and nothing highfalutin' (not about career nor business), just mindless chatter and merry laughter.

The other one, O, met us at a Vietnamese diner for lunch—and the group was complete. More chatter of the same kind, but with louder laughter. Here were two hard-core businessmen and one veteran physician, and all they talked about were inconsequential trivia, the polar opposite of rocket science.
The banter would have been similar with my own close friends, I mused. And I wished, if only people would let their guard down, be little kids again, and run free from all charades, this would be a happier place to live in.  

After lunch, one suggested to have halo-halo (“mixed together” shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans, coconut, agar jelly, tubers, fruits, and ice cream) at Pinoy-Pinay, a Filipino cafe. 

Then we moved to Leelin, another Filipino café for coffee and ensaymada (sweet butter bread).

We got excellent, special service in both since the owners/servers are patients of P.

All too soon, five hours of grace later, the stag party ended.

Try gate-crashing a stag party sometime. It’s fun!

"So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT) 


Philippine Diaspora:

Fish Balls in America

The term diaspora originally referred to the Jews, exiled from Israel by the Babylonians. It comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "to scatter about."

In these modern times, diaspora also describes the many people from different countries who are scattered all across the globe—Filipinos among them. As of this writing, about 15% of our population are permanently or temporarily living and working abroad. We are one of the largest diaspora in the world, spanning over 100 countries.

A huge number of our countrymen are in California, USA, judging from the many Filipino commercial areas in major cities.

While enjoying the grace of spring there, we visited several and, minus the biting cold, we thought we were back in the Philippines. All the goods, restaurants, shops, music, posters, and ambiance felt undoubtedly Filipino.

We even found a statue of Jose Rizal, our national hero, and our famous street food, fish balls!  

A friend in the US said, "Whenever I feel homesick, I visit a Filipino store and make like I never left home."

What could the Philippine diaspora mean in the future?

According to scholars, diaspora in general can transcend man-made boundaries and bring people of different cultures together. In the process of inter-mixing, "people's needs will change and the concept of diaspora will change with them."

So then, this is where we should go: "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28 (NLT)


A Glimpse of Home

No matter how grand or perfect one’s vacation has been, there is always something magical about coming home.

From our airport of origin—San Francisco, USA—my husband had to be in a wheelchair as he was nursing bad knees, a cough, and a fractured wrist. He had the doctor’s certificate to prove his state of health. He was one of only two people (the other was a Caucasian woman in her 90s with poor eyesight) who got the privilege.

Traveling mercies and grace saw us through an uneventful flight from the US to the Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan, for our connecting flight to Manila. Again, Tony had to be wheeled from our first plane to the next, while I tried to keep pace with my sore, aching toes.

Was I startled when I saw over 40 other Filipinos in wheelchairs, too! Many of them were much younger than I. This shot is only half of the many more people from other connecting flights that were added to this group minutes later.
It was a glimpse of home. 

According to someone from our own airport, able-bodied Filipinos (sometimes more than 100 in one flight!) take advantage of the wheelchair privilege to be first in line and get preferential treatment.

True enough, majority of the above were hale and healthy to walk briskly, pull their heavy luggage, and run to hug their loved ones outside the terminal.

This glimpse of home came even before I actually caught sight of our Motherland from the plane.   

Coming home is magical, until one sees the warts on wheels that make one wince and cringe, and the spell is broken.


Lily’s Long and Lively House

It is not easy to take a photo of Lily’s house, where Tony and I stayed for five days and four nights last year (the same length of time we stayed in L.A. California the other year and the year before that)—not with my phone. It is sooo long, one needs panoramic camera lens to do the job. So I had to shoot one part at a time for a composite photo. 

The picture below is the result of four shots, yet it does not capture the length and the width of it.
This one-story house, with a huge and packed attic, is beautifully sprawled on a half-acre lot. Once a week gardeners arrive to see to the plants outdoors, and a cleaning lady comes to see to the rooms indoors. 

There are all kinds of fruit trees and flowering plants in the gardens, and there are all sorts of collection (paintings, porcelain, glass, etc.) hanging on walls and sitting on glass-cased shelves.

What makes the house so interesting is that it bears the warm, personal imprint of Lily (Tony’s cousin) and her husband, who make guests feel so much at home. All the pieces kept there are either gifts from loved ones or items they both carted from different parts of the world.

Lily’s house is not only long in size, it is also long in happy history. She and her husband bought the property about 60 years ago. Through those years, the house saw Lily’s two children, plus some young nephews and nieces, grow up into adults now living their own lives.

All past and temporary inhabitants of that house (including Tony and me) still come to visit often. Not for its structure, but for the grace of memories long to be enjoyed and remembered.

"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)


Our Very Own Space Shuttle

Invented over 80 years ago by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Lego is an abbreviation of two Danish words "leg godt," meaning “play well.”  It is now one of the largest toy brands in the world, and named Toy of the Century twice.

Its products have undergone extensive development over the years—but the foundation remains the Lego brick which can be anything when the imagination runs wild while at play.

But for me, Lego is not just a toy you build but a toy that builds children’s character. Educators who include Lego in their classroom activities say that kids’ experiences with these interlocking bricks bring learning concepts to life.

Children who play with Lego create, configure, and craft intricate designs. In the process, they develop: creativity; persistence to see a vision realized; problem-solving skills (even mathematical skills as they fit little parts into a big ones); and self-esteem as they show what they have completed; plus many more.

I saw all these values in my grandson Adrian as he patiently interconnected big and small Lego bricks to form many intricate individual designs. Lego bricks offer unlimited building possibilities, which awed me in Legoland when we celebrated Adrian’s 10th birthday there last year. Anything with a shape can be formed with Lego bricks.

In California last year, Adrian built a space shuttle! It’s complete with an opening payload bay, a robotic arm, a satellite with fold-out wings, and a mini-figure cockpit—including an astronaut.

He said it took him two days, after he had done his homework, to finish it. Like a work of art that it was, the artist signed his name on it and presented this 285-brick masterpiece as a present to his grandparents.
It can't be anything but a gift of grace that we will treasure forever. 


Off-stage Character Goes Onstage

In ancient times, the theater had me only in the wings—either as a stage manager or assistant director. Most of my classmates at the Art Institute of Chicago, Goodman Theater, chose to be onstage, but I eluded the limelight by remaining off-stage, like a character mentioned in the play but never seen.

Decades later, during our last vacation in the USA this year, my daughter-in-law, G, requested me to be the subject of her lighting test shots for her next photo shoot (when she took up photography as a hobby, one day she found herself  doing it professionally).  I thought it was about time I went onstage to experience the glare of spotlight.     

“From all the photos we will shoot today, you can pick a head shot for your next book,” she said.

“But I already love the photo you took of me with your cellphone in the Chinese restaurant,” I countered.

“Oh, no, no, no!” she said vehemently. “That wouldn’t do!”

So we trekked to a farm, rustic and full of charm, reminiscent of my birthplace, except for the brrrr California spring weather. Click, click, and click.

“That’s good, very good, Mommy!” she’d encourage me.

We headed next to a Japanese garden—serene and quiet, disturbed only by the cawing and chirping of birds and the whispers of wind. Click, click, and click.

She took a total of over 400 shots (more than all the photos in my whole life combined!), but which she reduced to only 80 after fierce and merciless editing.

These are the photos G posted later to her Instagram account. 
Looking at them, I was drawn to how she captured the magic of nature—how softly it hovers over the subject, like grace lingering even with shifting shadows. A good photographer is blessed with eyes to see the subtle nuances of light, resulting in photos that delight the beholder.       

As for the cellphone head shot I wanted (left) for my new book, I agree that G’s choice (right) deserves the space.
Going onstage for one morning did not hurt—I enjoyed it in fact—but I think I was born to be an off-stage character and so I am back to that role.


Perry’s House (Again)

Nine years ago, I was invited to a party held at Perry’s house. An unforgettable event it was—not only for the fun I had with Tony’s friends, but for the joy of gaping and gasping over Perry’s overwhelming art collection. I was awestruck all night.

Writing about his house then was a struggle. It was difficult keeping my blog post within my self-imposed word count. Too many items to gush about!

Then last weekend, Tony said Perry was hosting a party at his house for his Rotary friends and, “Would you like to come along?”

Hah! Would I pass up the chance?!

I will skip speaking about the party and proceed to writing about his house (again!). It has changed from the last time I saw it—bigger with many more art things in it! A globetrotter, Perry has shipped home treasures from all over the world. My photos are just of the ground floor. I missed going up the 2nd and 3rd floors. 

What stunned me was an air conditioned room of chefs-d'oeuvre by Filipino master painters: Amorsolo, BenCab, Malang, Magsaysay-Ho, Manansala, HR Ocampo, Zalameda, etc. There were also prints of masterpieces carted from the Louvre. The cost of that room alone could easily translate to the price of a high-rise building. 

Totem poles, all sizes of sculptures in bronze, ceramic, terracotta, alabaster, marble, glass, etc. by famous names were strewn all over, some hanging from and sitting on exquisitely hand-carved walls and tables. Plus antiques galore! No space was spared, not even the ceiling. 

“Your house has changed from nine years ago,” I babbled.

“It changes every year,” he laughed. 

The house may have changed, but not Perry. He still is a gift of grace, with that huge tenor voice (he hired a jazz band) singing Broadway favorites that delight his audiences.

He still is a most sought-after neurologist as evidenced by hundreds of patients who fall in line and wait for hours to see him. I’d have gone to see him, too, for my errant toes, but his clinic is a five-hour drive away (or more with the horrific traffic) and my bladder can no longer bear the time frame.

Perry’s house is a museum-cum-art gallery extraordinaire—with a difference. The curator/owner has his heart in every exquisite piece.