THE WEB JOURNAL OF JOHN RAY

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

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