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.


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


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


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.


Enjoying Sea World!


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.


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.


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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