THE WEB JOURNAL OF JOHN RAY

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Two

Posted in Family, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on April 15, 2009

Before I knew it, my first week here in the US was over. Thing is, time was going too slow for me here. With the sun only setting after 6pm and all, it was a no brainer why. Sunday was no different. Joshua still wasn’t feeling very well, which was unnoticeable by the way he acted. He was still jumpy and running around the place. Rashes began appearing all over his body. Stomach virus or not, I think it was something he ate. So we went to the hospital to pay the pediatrician a visit. It took them awhile to diagnose my nephew so I played with my camera a bit. I still am completely dumb-founded by my DSLR’s capabilities. There are still so many things I can do with it, and yet I haven’t used it in full capacity.

Mom

We had a coffee break just outside the hospital while waiting for Joshua’s meds. What is it about coffee these days? I don’t know. Everyone wants to be seen in Starbucks, sipping a Starbuck, holding a Starbuck and being a Starbuck. I guess it’s a social thing. And I don’t blame them for it.

Lot'sa Tickets

All that waiting made us want to grab a bite. I had a craving for spaghetti so we decided to eat lunch at Shakey’s. I don’t remember the last time I ate at Shakey’s. What I do remember is that there was this one branch in Baguio City Session Road we used to go to every Sunday. The buffet was worth every buck starting at only $6. I ate a lot of mojos and pizzas but no pastas. They didn’t have the spaghetti and meatballs that I was craving for. Joshua was craving for another thing – games. I won a lot of tickets on this particular game, where you have to press the button in exactly the right moment to win a lot of tickets.

***

Fry's Electronics

And there was Tuesday – the day we had to choose a laptop to purchase for me and my brother. I’m finally getting a new laptop and saying goodbye to my old reliable Acer. Manung Totit brought us to Fry’s Electronics, an electronics megastore offering everything from softwares and hardwares to games and appliances. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the specific laptop me and my brother wanted. I instead looked for a laptop bag for Milcon.

Manung Totit and Mom

Taco Bell!

For lunch, my cousin took us to Taco Bell and tryout some Mexican food. I had my first burrito which was sumptuous and delicious. My mom had a small taco, just right for her appetite. I have probably eaten only once in Taco Bell in the Philippines, right after a UAAP game. Now I wished I ate there more often than once. I was able to eat about 3/4 of the burrito before I was full. Another thing I liked was the free refills for drinks.

Mom Finding Some Shoes

Gap Gap Gap!

Mom wanted to go to the outlet mall and check out some clothes and shoes. The outlets here are quite small and in some ways almost the same as outlet malls such as those designed for AB social classes in the Philippines. Mom tried out some shoes because she had a hard time walking. We went to GAP after, to check out some clothes my ate asked for – tank tops and whatnot.

At The Grocery

Do-It-Yourself

Just before we went home, we went to the commissary to buy veggies, garlic bread and juices. We were having spaghetti tonight, just because I didn’t get to eat some earlier. The do-it-yourself counter was very cool too. It’s a very handy thing to do especially if the lines are long in the grocery.

***

Sea World

Jumping Dolphins!

Wednesday is Sea World day! Manung Totit brought us to the marine mammal park in San Diego on a bright and early April 8th. I was very excited to finally some dolphins, sea lions and orcas. One of the great things I noticed about the park is that it’s well maintained. These animals need a lot of love and care and I’m happy to see that they’re all being treated well. The first show we went to was the Dolphin Discovery. Manung Totit wanted me to seat in the front row but I knew better. The front rows are the soak zones, the best seats in the house in a way where you get a chance to get wet. Yes, get wet! But I wouldn’t want to risk my camera getting wet. The show began with an appetizing intro music by this guy playing a guitar. Then just on queue, the dolphins came jumping out of the water.

The Lucky Mom

Help!

The show also gave a lucky family a chance to interact with the dolphins. Before I knew it, the mom fell into the water and began to drown. As it turns out, she was also a trainer acting everything out. I was definitely convinced to the point of me worrying about her. But everything turned out fine.

Shamu

Enjoying Sea World!

Jump!

The next show we went to was Believe, a performance of Sea World’s iconic orca Shamu. Shamu is a stage name given to the numerous adult male and female orcas at Sea World. It means “friend of Namu” or “She-Namu” and was given to the first female orca ever captured. My first impression for these majestic animals – they’re just amazing! Friendly and gentle, who would’ve known these orcas are also called killer whales. They can jump off the water very high and have a big appetite. And the best thing about them – they can give a big splash! The front row seats were showering in 55°F of water. Now that’s cold.

Baby Back Ribs

I was hoping to feel my inner orca and eat a lot for lunch. We headed for the Shipwreck Reef Cafe to get satisfy our rumbling tummies. I had the baby back ribs, strawberries and whip cream which I shared with my mom.

Eels Eeeeek!

After lunch, we detoured to the Forbidden Reef where sting rays and eels were everywhere. Joshua got frightened by the dark tunnel so he didn’t come inside with us. It was creepy and ominous inside the forbidden reef, seeing those snake-like eels slithering through the water.

Sea Lion and Otter Show

Then we went to the Sea Lion and Otter stadium. Sea lions remind me of dogs – only with flippers and no fur. Their onstage antics were memorable and funny. Spoofs of shows such as Superman, CSI and Iron Chef were great as well. And the cute little sea otter almost stole the whole performance. At the end, I giant white walrus appeared in the scene. What a surprise!

Flamingo smell bad

The Bayside Skyride was our next destination. On the way there, we stopped and observed flamingos at the Flamingo Cove. Although beautiful as they were, their smell is unbearable. Phew! I will never see flamingos the same way again. Unfortunately, the skyride was closed for safety precautions because of the very strong winds. So the Freshwater Aquarium was our next ticket. I remember seeing archer fishes, piranhas, poison frogs, turtles, angel fishes, and bullfrogs. Another aquarium we went to was the Shark Encounter. There were tiger sharks, nurse sharks and everything you could come up with the name shark. Their teeth are razor sharp and ridged which would absolutely hurt anytime of day.

Pengiun Kingdom

After sharks, we were in for penguins at the Penguin Encounter. Not all penguins live in the southern hemisphere. Magellanic Penguins live near the equator, away from the ice. Just outside the Penguin Encounter building, Magellanic Penguins are housed in moderate temperature for bystanders to see. Inside the building, the air slowly dropped temperature. We rode a moving walkway just to see all kinds of penguins in a large aquarium filled with snow. There were Emperor penguins, Adelei penguins and some Southern Rockhopper penguins. I’ve never seen so many penguins in my life.

Prizes!

Walking all day already took its toll on us so we settled in playing games with Joshua at the Games Entertainment Center. I tried my luck in the basketball shooting game. The $10 for 5 shots was a little too pricy but what the hell. My first two shots were way off. But my next 3 were in the bag. I won a prize for my efforts and got a very big gorilla. Thinking I couldn’t take it home, I exchanged it for three sharks instead.

***

My mom was kind enough to buy a laptop for my brother and me. On a Thursday, we went to Best Buy to check out some models. I settled with an HP Pavilion with a cool case. Manung Totit also bought the same model for our nephew Nicole, who just recently graduated from high school and is planning to attend Ateneo next academic year. We couldn’t buy my kuya’s laptop because it wasn’t available in black.

Kumpares and Kumares

Afterwards, we went to pick up Joshua from the day care center. He’s going to school starting next year. I think he’s more than ready enough though. We waited for Manang Jaz to arrive because they planned for us to visit Joshua’s ninong and ninang in Morietta. It took awhile to get there so I slept all the way. Manung Totit and Tito Hip met years ago in the Navy. He’s a Fil-Am from Tarlac. When Joshua was born, he became my cousin’s kumpare. All of us had dinner at the Sushi Boat, a Japanese restaurant. I ate heartily that night, enjoying the sushi platter I ordered. Before I knew it, the night was over and we went home.

***

Kuya Boom emailed us that it was okay if black wasn’t available for the laptop he wanted. So that Friday, we went back to Best Buy and got his Gateway laptop. I bought myself a graphics tablet seeing that I had to learn to use one sooner or later. I wanted to get the game NBA 2K9 too but I changed my mind. I get distracted very easily so I bailed out. When we got home, we quickly packed our stuff for our trip to San Francisco to visit my other cousin, Manung Totit’s brother, Manung Ricky and his family. We left the house at 7 o’clock in the afternoon. The trip lasted 8 hours. I wasn’t very comfortable in the car but strangely enough, I had a good sleep.

That early morning was a stinger. We arrived in San Francisco at 3am and it was very cold. Manung Ricky lives in a condo with wife Manang Len and two kids, Len-Len and Brandon. Just like Manung Totit, I have not seen him in a long time. Not long after a little chit-chat, we retired to our beds for the long day ahead.

***

Wii Love Early Mornings

That Saturday morning, everyone was up, except me. Joshua, Brandon and Len-Len were all playing Mario Kart on the Wii. Mom told me to take a bath already because we were going to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bathroom here is very big – I mean really big. We took off went to downtown San Francisco. It reminded me of Baguio because of the slopes going up and down, the abundance of trees and the cold climate. I could already see the bridge from afar. There’s a bridge entering Cagayan Valley in the Philippines with an almost similar design with the Golden Gate. Although they vary in size, there’s no mistake that the link over Cagayan River is a rip off.

At The Golden Gate

Mom and I

As we crossed over the bridge, I could see Alcatraz Island over the distance. Some may remember the island in popular culture as the setting for The Rock and X-Men The Last Stand. The time it took for us to drive across the bridge wasn’t as quick as I thought it was, more than 10 minutes. We got off at the otherside and began taking a good look at this marvel of human ingenuity. It was little windy that day, but not enough to blow us off. Seeing the details close up is astounding. I could only imagine how they built the bridge a long time ago. I only wished I had a wide-angle lens to really give the bridge that majestic look. But hey, I have to do the best with what I have. I tried to look down below and it gave me a feeling of a bottomless pit. Maybe I should try bunjee jumping next time. Now that would be a test of courage.

Brothers

The Whole Family

Golden Gate

That bridge built me an appetite. We went off to Moonstar, a buffet style restaurant. One thing about me, I never miss out on seafood so I gobbled-up some crabs, shrimps and tuna sashimi. The crab legs were the longest I’ve ever seen. But everything tasted great! I wish I could go back again to eat some more.

Sea World Photos

Golden Gate Bridge Photos

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Letters to Blumentritt: Week One

Posted in Family, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on April 7, 2009

Some title huh? Well, since I’m half-way around the world, this may be the best title there is. I’m a brownman in New York…or make that California to be exact. Yes, that’s right! I’m on my official out-of-country vacation with my mom in the US. It’s the first time for me, though I’m not that excited. I don’t know why, but it would have been better if…oh…let’s not go there.

We left Manila at 10pm by Philippine Air Lines. The trip lasted almost 12 hours which passed by quickly because the in-flight entertainment was so-so great. The movies played were Quantum of Solace, Twilight and High School Muscial 3. Of the three, I enjoyed Quantum the most, even though I haven’t seen Casino Royale. In between those movies, I slept and dreamt nothing of what was to come. I had planned to read my books or listen to my psp but that didn’t go so well. The slippers I was wearing didn’t go so well either because my legs were frozen to death. Good thing the flight offered blankets, pillows, socks and whatnot to save me from suffering.

So we were over Los Angeles California at about 8pm local time (10am in the Philippines). At last, we arrived at our destination. I quickly looked around the LAX Los Angeles International Airport, trying to digest the surroundings. We had to wait for another hour because my cousin Manung Totit, who was going to pick us up, was in traffic. My mom was getting worried because he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Fortunately, he did come and we were off to his home in Oceanside California. I was still barely awake at the time, even though it was already night. We were talking with Manung Totit the whole trip, catching up on old and new memories.

Manung Totit is part of the U.S. Navy currently living with his family, Manang Jasmine and their son Joshua, in the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. On the way, I was checking out the GPS navigation device in the car and thought it was very handy to have while traveling. Manung Totit was driving his Honda Pilot, which I thought was a very cool SUV.  When we arrived at their home, at a push of a button, the garage door slowly rose up – another handy and cool thing to have. Manang Jasmine was still up doing her homework when we arrived. After showing us our rooms, all of us sat down and began talking about our lives again. After a while, we all hit the bunkers. Manung and Manang still had work the next day and Joshua had to attend school. I was definitely bummed too.

***

Basketball

I woke up a on a bright and early Monday March 30th morning, hungry and jet-lagged. I heated up the igado Manang Jaz left for us to eat and surfed through their HDTV. Man, that TV is big and wide! I also tried playing with Joshua’s Wii which was very cool. I played Guitar Hero for the first time using the Fender Stratocaster guitar controller. It took me sometime to figure the game out. One good thing about the house is that it’s near the playground and a basketball court. I went out to play basketball for awhile and found it very eerie because the neighborhood was very quiet. No living thing was in the area. Creepy! The air was very cold and windy. I forgot to bring by basketball shoes so I settled with my slippers instead. For the time I spent the afternoon trying to beat the wind from misaligning my shots, not a single drop of sweat cooled me down.

Applebee's

Later that afternoon, Manang Jaz and Joshua arrived from school. Joshua was excited to see me and my mom. At only 5 years old, this little guy is pumped up and energetic. Don’t let his looks fool you! It’s amazing to think how they handle him 24/7. When Manung Totit came home, dinner was only a drive away. We went to Applebee’s, the neighborhood grill and bar. Mom and I ordered Deep Fried Shrimp and Chicken Salad, a $20 for 2 meals promo. While we were waiting, Joshua wanted me to take photos of him. He was very friendly with the camera, unlike most kids. When the meal arrived, were we in for a treat. Everything definitely tasted great! Unfortunately, I knew I couldn’t finish all of them. By the time the food was only half way done, I was already full. Mom couldn’t finish the salad as well. So we had dinner to-go and left overly-satisfied.

Food

***

Stuart Mesa Housing

Another sunny day came, March 31st. We were still very stuck inside the house, which was getting boring by the minute. I had trouble sleeping, waking up very early in the morning at about 5:30 am. Nobody was up yet, so I watched some TV programs in my room. Some of the shows I enjoyed back home were on air, like Frasier, How I Met Your Mom and Friends. I had the leftovers from Applebee’s for breakfast. It still made  me so full that morning. I rested a bit and then went out to play basketball again. I concentrated on making free throws, perfecting my form. I still couldn’t perspire because it was a little windy.

Pala

Later that afternoon, we went to Pala Casino for dinner. We ate at this asian restaurant, offering different kinds of cuisine, ranging from Chinese to Thai meals. As usual, they still had big servings. I barely managed to finish the ramen I ordered. We went around the casino after. It was my first time to see slot machines lined up for everyone’s gambling pleasure. On the way home, I was very tired and sleepy. Joshua kept on bugging me to stay awake but I couldn’t help it. I went straight to the grave as soon as I stepped inside the house. All in a day’s work, so they say.

Pala

***

Mom

April Fool’s day was typically normal for me. We had to wake up early because we were off to Colorado Springs, Colorado to visit my mom’s former classmates from high school. Manung Totit drove us to the San Diego International Airport. On the way, Joshua wasn’t feeling so well. He almost threw up in the car. Good thing Manung Totit offered his jacket to throw up in to. I bet Joshua was a little bit happy, because he wasn’t going to school that day. Passing through the security measures was plainly easy and fast. But I still had this chilly feeling whenever they check my stuff – as if I was hiding something. Anyways, mom and I waited by McDonald’s. To my surprise, the clerks were Filipino, seemingly talking to each other in tagalog. I ordered a burrito, orange juice and coffee for mom. The flight was three hours away so I had time to look around.

San Diego Internation Airport

The flight was relatively short, about an hour or so. We stopped over in Phoenix Arizona, the valley of the sun. It was there that we met Tita Josie, my mom’s classmate. There began the unending string of kwentuhans between mom and tita. All of us went to our next flight to Colorado. I was so hungry at the time, but I couldn’t grab a bite because we were already leaving. The next flight took another hour. The skies were already becoming cloudy, signaling the coming of a blizzard. The moment I got out of the plane, the wind swept me off with a cold chill, a very cold one. We met up with Tita Glo and Tito Willie who were the ones picking us up at the airport. It was then that the blizzard touched down right as we were leaving the airport. Finally, snow! The flakes were passing me by horizontally, in gusty fashion.

img_1655

Tita Glo and Tito Willie’s home in Colorado was a welcome temple of joy. I was freezing inside the car, even though the heater was on. We quickly entered the house and cozied to the warmth. Jeremy, tito and tita’s son, came up to greet us. he showed me around the house. It was practically a snow storm outside, so I just had to introduce myself to the ice.

More Snow!

Dinner was already served – not! They forgot the most important thing of being a pinoy…rice! But that was okay. The rice came in no time. They served sinigang, roasted chicken and lumpia which had sotanghon in it. Jeremy invited me to play Unreal Tournament III in his XBOX 360. Then he showed me their dogs, two Pomeranians named Chelsea and Charlie. They were definitely jumpy for a small breed of canines. Later, Blu-Ray was the name of the game. Kung Fu Panda was great as I watched it in HD.

***

img_1675

Thursday was still as cold as ever, though the blizzard already left. We went to the U.S. Air Force Academy. The trip was long but enjoyable. The academy reminded me of the Philippine Military Academy back home. Our first destination was the Cadet Chapel. It didn’t seem so much as a place of worship at first glance. You might mistake it for something else, like a museum. I definitely liked the design of the building. The church hosts 3 worship areas for the Protestants, the Catholics and the Jews. The interior gives you an almost out of this world experience. It felt like being in a science fiction movie. While I was finding a good spot to take a photo, I almost slipped from the ice. Phew! At the visitor’s center, I bought some souvenir’s for my relatives and significant other – who I miss so much.

Air Force Academy

Church

Church

Church Interior

We ate lunch at IHOP, the International House Of Pancakes. I ordered a sirloin steak, a caesar’s salad and iced tea. Turns out, the iced tea wasn’t so sweet like a normal iced tea should be. The onion rings and ultimate burger my titas’ had was huge! But we were so hungry that it didn’t matter anymore.

IHOP

After lunch, we went to Jeremy’s school to pick him up. He’s a very good guitar player and played for musicals and recitals. It turned out he still had after-school practice so we walked around a nearby residential area. I was hoping to see what kind of teenage culture they had here. Too bad entering the school was not allowed. Awww! When he finally came out, off to the Garden of the Gods we went.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a place right out off the face of Mars. The rock formations are staggering and wondrous. It definitely deserves the name it holds. Along the trail around the park, there are many informative maps and trivia. I learned that the word “Colorado” is a Spanish term meaning “color red.” The name Garden of the Gods was coined by Rufus Cable, after exclaiming “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” A lot of people were walking their dogs and climbing the rocks. The park was also ideal for taking photographs. I took a lot of pictures, testing if I still remembered everything I learned in photography class. By the end of the day, I was so tired again.

Garden of the Gods

Sito Family

Climbing

***

It’s TGI Fridays! I had this weird dream about souls, demons and computers. What the?! I did have a good and long sleep, thanks to the cold climate. Today we went to Cripple Creek, a former gold mine located southwest from Colorado Springs near the base of Pikes Peak. It took us almost 1 hour to get there. We traveled across the snowy mountains and winding roads. The view of the country side is breath-taking. The winds were very gusty as well.

Cripple Creek

Heritage Center

Dinosaur

At the Pikes Peak Heritage Center, we learned the rich history of the county from the pre-historic era to its gold mining age. There were models of animals and dinosaurs, fossils and rocks and other interesting stuff. Pikes Peak was compared to alot of other mountains found around the world. Although Pikes Peak is already a high mountain, it is only a mere beginner’s challenge compared to Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro. There are also an abundant wildlife around Pikes Peak of which includes mountain lions, bears, turkeys, ducks and elks. The history of gold mining is one of the most interesting things in the museum. It reminded me of the time I visited Lepanto mines with my dad.

Stairway to Heaven

Stairway

Yeah!

Our next destination was Seven Falls located along South Cheyenne Canyon. It is an 181-foot waterfall cascading down seven distinct steps. Situated on the side are steps, a stairway to heaven. Before I climbed up, we met a small chipmunk restlessly moving around the park. The waterfall is a sight to behold from below. At night, it is magically transformed into a colorful wonderland, with colored lights decorating the falls. The stairs is a test of courage. My mom tried to climb but she could only go half way. I did it all the way to the top. I was definitely shivering as I slowly took it step-by-step. I would sometimes glance down only to blurt out a mince of fear. When I reached the top, it gave me the feeling of success.

Seven Falls

I spent my last night in Colorado watching the Dark Knight on Blu-Ray HDTV. It was amazing! I still couldn’t believe the level of clarity it had. If only I had the money to buy my own. Argh!

***

Saturday finally came and we were off to home. Jeremy gave me his PSP games, since his PSP was busted already. I took some pictures of their home (both interior and exterior), their car and dogs. My mom and her friends bade their goodbyes, promising to follow up their reunion as soon as possible. They brought us to the Colorado Springs airport and soon enough, we were off to Phoenix where Tita Josie bade her goodbyes as well. She was going home to Los Angeles because that’s where she lives. Another hour and we arrived in San Diego where Manung Totit played a prank on me.

On the way home, we passed by the Seafood Market, a Filipino owned supermarket where local products are sold. Beside it are Chowking and Red Ribbon. There I saw the biggest tilapias and bangus ever! We bought some for dinner.

U.S. Air Force Academy Photos

Garden of the Gods Photos

Pikes Peak Heritage Center Photos