THE WEB JOURNAL OF JOHN RAY

Setting Down Priorities

Posted in Comics, My Art by J.R. Bumanglag on May 25, 2009

After a very long vacation, it’s to go back to the real world. I still have a long way to go with classes coming up and a lot of free time on my hands. It’s so hard to just wake up every day wishing I had all the time in the world to do everything I need to. I realized back then, and some repetitious advice from dad, that I should live my life a day at a time. And it works! It’s like eating a big slab of steak – cut it into manageable slices and take your time. Piece by piece, you’ll eventually finish it.

Sample Page Update

On top of my list of things to do is my book illustration thesis. I estimate it to be 50% done with a lot of working hours dedicated to the comic pages. In a quick change, I will be digitally colouring the book instead of traditional watercolour. Preparing to hit the tablet, I’ll be attending the Pixel Pintura Workshop by Joel Chua in June.

I’ll be regularly updating my blog with thesis as its foremost subject. At the side, writing my stories and practicing the basics will keep me rotating from major and minor priorities. For now, a little teaser for what’s to come.

Update! I think this is a better image of what’s to come. I just couldn’t resist.

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A Man and His Chickens

Posted in Comics, My Art by J.R. Bumanglag on May 24, 2009

Elmer

Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer in the simplest sense, is a crazy idea taken very seriously. It took me a couple of readings to really appreciate the piece. The concept of chickens gaining sentience is possible enough to really think about it for a moment. It’s almost like George Orwell’s Animal Farm and the made-for-TV 1999 adaptation, minus all the other farms animals. It does seem hard to accept the fact that chickens, a frail and timid animal, can assimilate themselves with the human race. Truth be told, it’s all just a lack of understanding and accepting change.

So, I had a chance to offer my two cents on the subject. A final plate for my composition class required us to use mixed media on a 2 x 3 canvas. Running out of ideas, I turned to my comic books for inspiration and this was the product.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Seven

Posted in Books, Comics, Family, Manga, Movies, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 20, 2009

Casino Pauma

It’s finally come, my final week here in the US. Sunday, Tito Hip came over to the house and had a quick snack with us. Manang Jaz wanted to take me to the casino. Normally, you should be at least 21 years old to enter one. But, they took me to Casino Pauma where the age allowed was at least 18 years old. I’ve always wondered how it felt to be in a casino, after watching too much Ocean’s Eleven and 21. Disappointingly, I couldn’t bring my camera inside. The place was bustling with old people and slot machines, the sound of crackling coins all over. Every aisle and row had its own brand of slot machines. I was a little bit dazed because of the lights and sounds circling around me. It took some getting used to the idea of losing money to gain more money. Before I knew it, I was stuck to 1 cent slots for an hour or so.

Red Dragon

We went to a Japanese restaurant and ordered sushi to-go. I was craving for another round of sashimi and wasabi. At Tito Hip’s house, we feasted sushi along with homemade adobo. As usual, they were all speaking in Ilocano. I enjoyed the Red Dragon Sushi I ordered but found myself full in no time. We discussed whether to watch Wolverine or Star Trek. I was in favour of Star Trek, having no idea what to expect of the space adventure.

That night, we split into two groups. Tito Hip’s family was going to watch Wolverine while we were definitely going Trekkie. It was the day of the premiere so there were a lot of people lined up to see the movie. The clocked ticked away and pretty soon, we were entering the cinema. This time around, the theatre was packed and it was a good thing we found available seats. Lights dimmed. And the film began.

Star Trek

What can I say? The movie was kinetic and action-packed! Not one moment was wasted to ensure total involvement of the audience. For a casual movie-goer like me who has no idea of any Star Trek know-how, the film was in every way understandable and easy to swallow. The characters were lively and deserved every moment they had onscreen. On a particular note, some scenes depicting light flare effects reminded me of Michael Bay’s style of cinematography. The occasional humorous moments effectively balances the drama and struggle of the plot. Overall, this film deserves my praise and hopes for a sequel. May the movie live long and prosper.

Navy

One idea that made me excited was to wear the Navy uniforms my cousin had. One afternoon, Manung Totit ironed all his uniforms for me to wear. Although turning out to be too large for my size, it was fun having a feel to be part of the navy. I also wore his bike driving attire and rode his bike. Well, not to the point of driving it but that idea was very much open to me too.

Ouch!

Wednesday, Manung Totit invited some of his friends over for BBQ and beer. I was already imagining the juicy steaks at the table. At the garage, Tito Hip was busy tattooing his American friend. Just by looking at it, I knew it was very painful and agonizing. Maybe someday I’ll try tattooing as a hobby.

akira

As luck would have it, another day at the Book-Off churned out a great find. I was spending my time at the illustration section, making up my mind to what books to buy. Running out of options, I took the first volumes of Akira and Nausicaa The Valley of Wind. As soon as we were already leaving the store, I noticed that there was an English comic book section right near the entrance. Silly me! All this time, I was looking at the wrong places. It was there that I found volumes 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the Dark Horse release of Akira. Each of them only cost a buck each and I just had to buy them. It was a great find indeed.

Hooters

Hooters

Calamares

Texas BBQ Burger

I remember watching the movie Big Daddy starring Adam Sandler and wondering what it felt like to be in a Hooters Restaurant. Thursday, they took me to eat dinner at Hooters. Yes, I was very excited – no doubts there. The restaurant was very lively and the food was great. I had the Texas BBQ Burger and swirly fries. With all the sexual innuendos around me, nothing could really go wrong that day.

T-bone

And it came to pass, the day of my flight came and had to say goodbye. Friday, we left the house just around lunch time. We ate at Denny’s, a restaurant with breakfast as its specialty. I ordered the T-bone steak, medium well with a side order of onion rings and mashed potatoes. I was definitely stuffed and enjoyed every single bite.

Bikes!

Arriving at LA, we were very early so Manung Totit detoured over at Del Amo Motorsports. His love for bikes really showed when we were there. Time does fly when you’re having fun and a little while later, we were already at the airport. After a little snack at the lounge, gobbling sundaes and apple pies, I was ready to get into the plane. I said my farewells to my cousin and his family and to America. It was now time to come back to reality and face my priorities again.

What a trip it was to the land of the free.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Six

Posted in Books, Novels, Politics by J.R. Bumanglag on May 14, 2009

The Sunday of week six began with extensive browsing of the Shonen Jump issues I bought yesterday. I still am amazed by the use of recycled paper and the thickness of one single issue had. I’ve always dreamed of using the same process if I ever publish an anthology of my own. Sometimes I question the way Culture Crash Comics or Mangaholix printed their anthologies in full colour. But that’s just me!

X-Men Origins Wolverine

That evening, we went to watch Wolverine Origins at the Krikorian Theatre. Compared to the last time we were, there were many more people that night. I decided to eat hotdogs instead of nachos. I started to like relish because it had that certain sour taste and crunchy texture. This time, Joshua was a little less frightened, partly because his mom and dad were there to comfort him. Another thing was the theatre was almost packed. Good thing we found available seats just in time. After the long line of teasers, I sat back as the movie began.

X-Men Origins Wolverine

I thought Wolverine Origins was enjoyable but it had some boring parts. It did make up with some comedy from Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson and antics by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. The movie was a little too over-hyped and in so doing, was disappointing as the plot rolled on. One scene notable and obviously wasn’t given enough time was when Emma Frost and other imprisoned mutants manage to escape. It is revealed that Prof. Xavier helps Scott Summers find a way out and they all meet outside the island. The meeting scene was so fake and probably made over green screen. I do hope when they make a sequel that it’ll be better.

***

Monday, I began searching for new TV shows to watch. My former classmate Justine suggested I watch Gundam 00 and Avatar. I also found the series Planetes and Ghost in the Shell: SAC. I already finished the fourth volume of Heroes and am looking forward to the next season. Lost is a show I’ve always wanted to watch but never had the luck to find a complete season.

Central Pneumatic Airbrush CompressorThat afternoon, Manung Totit accompanied me to the hardware store. We were looking for a portable airbrush compressor. A week ago, he gave me his airbrush kit for me to mess around with. I’ve always wondered how airbrush painting works and finally I’ll be able to do it myself. Manung suggested that I buy the oilless version so that I wouldn’t have to maintain it. Luckily, we found a small 30PSI Central Pneumatic Airbrush Compressor Kit. I opted to buy another more professional airbrush kit too but it was too expensive. Manung told me he’d buy me one if was good enough to have it.

When we got home, Manung showed me how to operate the compressor and the airbrush. What I liked about it was that the compressor was small and portable. He also taught me how to maintain the airbrush and how to change colours. The only catch is that it is a 110V machine so I have to buy a transformer to operate it at our 220V outlets at home.

***

Tuesday, Manung Totit was done packing our two balikbayan boxes. I accompanied him to the Filipino store that’ll be sending our balikbayan box. Once there, we left the boxes in a room with other balikbayan boxes. They will be sent on Saturday and will arrive in about a month.

I read an interesting article on Gerry Alanguilan’s blog about the Great Philippine Book Blockade of 2009. As I read it, it made my blood boil to know that the Philippine government again is showing no signs of improvement. I just hope that this a case of “everything has to get worse before it gets better.” Question is, how worse can it get.

Here is an excerpt from Robin Hemley’s article, which you can read in full here.

“Over coffee one afternoon, a book-industry professional (whom I can’t identify) told me that for the past two months virtually no imported books had entered the country, in part because of the success of one book, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The book, an international best seller, had apparently attracted the attention of customs officials. When an examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of books, he demanded that duty be paid on it.

“Ah, you can’t be too successful in this country,” I said. “If you are, then people start demanding a cut.”

“Even before you are successful,” she said. “But, yes, I’m a Filipino, but I have to admit this is true. Have you heard of ‘crab mentality’?”

I’d been hearing of this so-called crab mentality since I first arrived in the country 10 years earlier. It’s the notion that crabs will climb on top of one another to escape the pot in which they are to be cooked, but, instead of letting one crab escape, the remaining crabs pull the other one back.

But most crabs I’ve encountered in the Philippines are small-time little hermit crabs or dashing sand crabs. The crabs in government are the kind you’d find in an old Japanese horror film, with an entire city’s population running in fear as the crabs snip away public works, entire highway projects, intangibles, such as hope and justice, and, now, books.

“Yes,” I told her. “I’ve heard of crab mentality.”

The importer of Twilight made a mistake and paid the duty requested. A mistake because such duty flies in the face of the Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of “educational, scientific, and cultural materials” between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free. Mr. Agulan told the importer that because the books were not educational (i.e., textbooks) they were subject to duty. Perhaps they aren’t educational, I might have argued, but aren’t they “cultural”?

No matter. With this one success under their belt, customs curtailed all air shipments of books \entering the country. Weeks went by as booksellers tried to get their books out of storage and started intense negotiations with various government officials.

What doubly frustrated booksellers and importers was that the explanations they received from various officials made no sense. It was clear that, for whatever reason—perhaps the 30-billion-peso ($625 million) shortfall in projected customs revenue—customs would go through the motions of having a reasonable argument while in fact having none at all.

Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government’s position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for “the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing.” For lack of a comma after the word “books,” the undersecretary argued that only books “used in book publishing” (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

“What kind of book is that?” one publisher asked me afterward. “A book used in book publishing.” And she laughed ruefully.

I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.

Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn’t educational.

“For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?” she was asked.

“Yes,” she told the stunned booksellers.”

***CSI: New York

Thursday, I spent most of the day watching CSI New York. I’m starting to love the series. It’s probably because it is set in New York and the characters are a respectable bunch of investigators. Out of all of them, Mac Taylor and Lindsay Monroe are my favourite characters. Mac, played by Gary Sinise, has this charisma and leadership that reminds me of my dad. Lindsay, played by Anna Belknap, is a rookie with a charm and the looks of an innocent girl. It’s just sad to know that I’ll be missing it when I get home because we don’t have cable.

Star Trek First Contact

On another note, the SciFi Channel was having a Star Trek Marathon in preparation for the new Star Trek movie that was showing in theatres the next day. At the time we were at home, I was able to watch Star Trek First Contact. For as long as I can remember, this is the first Star Trek movie that I have ever seen. For a non-Trekkie like me, I didn’t have to know any backstory to appreciate the film. Being a sci-fi fan, I was very satisfied with the plot and the scientific concepts proposed by the movie.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Five

Posted in Books, Comics, Family, Manga, Movies, Photography, Sports, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 13, 2009

For the most part of week five, staying in the house and messing around with my laptop or TV was the usual call of the day. I don’t remember much of what happened, maybe because of the tequila or just plain memory loss. What I do remember though are little snippets of a movie, a bookstore, a camera accessory, a nail-biting basketball game and a Filipino icon.

Monsters vs. Aliens

I experienced my first 3D movie with the DreamWorks Animation feature film Monsters vs. Aliens. Manung Totit had gone off early from work one afternoon. He had wanted to take Joshua to watch the movie, knowing that he’ll like it very much. Manang Jaz didn’t want to come with us so you can say it’s a night for two and a half men.

Terminator Salvation

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

Star Trek

Land of the Lost

Xmen Origins Wolverine

Year One

The Krikorian theatre was fairly typical with only the catchy name setting it apart – it’s called the Krikorian theatre. We each got 3D glasses along with the tickets manung bought. The last time I saw 3D glasses was when I was a kid, and it was still red and blue. Some of the coming soon movies really caught my eye. On the top of my must-watch list are Terminator Salvation, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek, Land of the Lost, Wolverine Origins and Year One. For snacks, we had cheesy nachos, buttered popcorn and sodas. I was excited to devour the nachos although I was disappointed because there wasn’t any sour cream.

So we entered the theatre which was surprisingly still empty. Joshua was acting up again because he was frightened of the dark and the loud audio. Once we found some seats, we waited for the movie to begin. Unlike pre-entertainment from back home where music is played, this theatre plays movie trivia and a lot of ads. A little more waiting and the film finally started. The movie was above par with a strong and potential premise. Overall, I enjoyed it very much. But I still think Kung Fu Panda is better.

Shonen Jump

Manang Jaz was telling me about this bookstore where everything was almost a dollar each. I just had to go there to believe this. On the weekend, we went off to Book-Off, Japan’s largest chain of used bookstore. True enough, almost everything in the bookstore are cheap. He first thing that I saw upon entering was this shelf full of English translated manga. All around the store, there are lots of books from every topic you could probably think about – politics, science, computers, crafts, art, design and etc. But the aisle where I hanged out more than any other place was the anime and illustration aisle. There were a lot of artbooks, magazines and manga anthologies that were almost 90% off the original price. After a lot of browsing, I took 2009 issues 8-13 of Shonen Jump, just so I could know how it feels to read Jump first hand.

Camera Accessories

Next, we visited Ate Riza and her family, Manang Jaz’s best friend when she was in college. They live in a little pad in San Diego. Joshua had a chance to play with Ate Riza’s son Patrick. I was particularly excited because I was going to purchase a polarizing filter and remote trigger for my DLSR camera today. So while waiting for lunch, Manung Totit accompanied me to the Henry’s Camera, photography supplies shop nearby. The trip was relatively quick as we passed by what my manung describes as Ghetto land. A little later, I finally got what I wanted – a Promaster 6 ft. remote trigger , a Hoya 58mm Polarizing filter and Tamrac filter pocket.

Manny Pacquiao Ricky Hatton

After San Diego, we went to the baby shower of Manung Totit’s friend. They had a feast set in the living room with a variety of Filipino and American foods. I enjoyed the pork ribs, chomping every meat on the bone. Aside from that, they also had a little sushi tray which completed my meal. It wasn’t only the baby shower that was important that day. The long-awaited match between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton was about to start that very afternoon. Amazingly, it only lasted two rounds. All of us and probably all pinoys from around the world were celebrating.

Celtics vs Bulls

And a little earlier from the fight, the instant classic Celtics vs. Bulls 1st round playoffs was about to end. I was definitely happy that the Celtics won and are moving on to the next round.

One thing I missed this week was the Free Comic Book Day in Comic Odyssey Robinson’s Galleria. The last time I attended a FCBD was when Planet X was opening a branch in Glorietta.

You and Me

Posted in My Art, Photography by J.R. Bumanglag on May 9, 2009

Collage

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Four

Posted in Family, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 6, 2009

San Diego

Week four’s Sunday was enormously fun because we went to the Naval Amphibious Base. It’s a naval installation located across the bay from San Diego, California. On the way, we crossed this long and winding road over the bay called the San Diego Bridge. First thing that came to mind when we entered the base – so quiet. Not a lot of people were there, an almost barren wasteland. Manung was supposed to take us to an aircraft carrier in the base. After a little going around, there wasn’t any. I guess it was deployed for service. So, drove nearer to the bay area to get a good look at the San Diego Bridge.

USS Midway

Just when I thought I couldn’t see an aircraft carrier anymore, the USS Midway Museum was already at the distance. The enormous ship will take anyone’s attention, even from afar. Surrounding the ship is the Broadway Pier – think Roxas Blvd. but with a carrier parked by its doorstep. There is also a special citation awarded by a certain Filipino named Sinforoso L. Duque, addressed to the Task Unit 77.4.3, for their heroism against the powerful units of the Japanese fleet during the battle off Samar, Philippines,  October 25, 1944. Talk about leaving a thank you letter on marble.

Love

Statues

Further away from the marble, there is a statue of sailor and his girlfriend kissing passionately – a very familiar scene in the life of a sailor. The statue is by no means just a statue. It stands about at least 60 feet high. It also seems to be the perfect shooting spot for newlyweds. Near the San Diego bay, there are also a group of statues, seemingly celebrating in silence.

Claustrophobia

We headed off to the ship and as we drew closer and closer, it got bigger and bigger. The gray metal is majestic on the outside, but the inside is a world on its own. The place can be turned into a venue for any kind of event because of how wide it is. There were folded planes, unarmed bombs and the air of war all over the place. Going down deeper into the ship can be like a maze. Little rooms act as dividers, slicing the slab of metal into organisable chunks. Take my word for it – you don’t want to wander around here and get lost. I could imagine the place as a nightmare for claustrophobic people. As we headed down to the brig and the engine room, we passed stairs going up and down, narrow doors and slim bunk beds. Getting around here isn’t that easy. Every room has at least a tidbit about the past, how the crew lived their lives through war.

Brig and Engine Room

The engine room was massive with a lot of giant pipes, confusing dials and a little bit of steam for authenticity. Back in the day, this must have been the hottest room in the ship. What I like about this museum is that it maxes out the visitor experience with optional self-guided audio tours that explain the history of the USS Midway and helpful staff that will answer any question you have about the ship.

Eject!

We then went back to the hangar to check out some planes. The hangar deck is used to stow aircraft when not in use. There are refuelling stations, plane cockpits, flight simulators and a gift shop for everyone’s entertainment.  We then headed up to the flight deck where a collection of decommissioned planes and helicopters were exhibited. Finally seeing these machines in-person gives me a great feeling of satisfaction. The flight deck is more than three times the length of a football field. From end to end, you could probably have enough of a cardiac workout.

The Island

Bye Mom!

The building on top of the flight deck, known as the island, is where officers can direct flight and ship operations. At the front of the ship, there’s a great view of the San Diego Bay. The long drop below can be nauseating, but I do wonder what it’ll be like falling from a height like this. The rest of the deck was just too much to swallow in one day. There are still so much I could learn about the place but time is the greatest enemy of all.

***

Nothing much happened the next Monday. We just bummed around the house again. Tuesday, we went to a restaurant called the Asian Seafood Buffet – my kind of place. I just stuffed myself with shrimps, crabs and sashimi. I have this affectionate relationship with seafood, which is very unusual considering that I grew up in the mountains. After dinner, we slept over at Tito Hip’s place. I never got to ride on his motorcycle though. I spent the whole night chatting with my girl instead.

***

Wednesday, we went to the outlet mall and window –shopped. Unfortunately, the heat was up and it was not nice. Unlike the humid air of Manila, the heat here is dry and stingy. A short time under the sun can become very uncomfortable. Good thing the place was mostly covered. So, Mom finally bought for herself new shoes and toiletries. I bought some lotions and lip balm for my girl. I couldn’t wait to go home because the heat was doing a bad one on me.

***

Thursday, we went to the bowling alley. It’s been a long time since I played bowling so my hands are a little rusty. Okay, so not a little. I sucked the whole game, but did make some strikes and spares. I forgot how fun this game was that I wanted to play more. Too bad we didn’t play long enough. Dinner was at In-and-Out. The last time we ate there, I had the animal style double-double, which I learned later on, packed almost more than 2000 calories. Ouch! So I just had a simple burger instead.

***

Bidding Farewells

Friday, Mom was uber busy packing all her things for her trip home. Mom was kind enough to extend my stay for three weeks more, and I’m happy for that. Later that afternoon, we left to bring mom to the airport. We had a late lunch at Burger King, where I ate a chicken burger. I try to keep in check what I ate these days, so as not to upset my health. The airport was busy as ever when we arrived at 6 pm in the afternoon. Mom didn’t have much to bring because most of the stuff we bought are to be shipped through a balikbayan box. When my mom was already checked in, we just hanged out at the coffee shops nearby. I was playing out mom again and acted as if I was never going to see her again. We then bade our goodbyes to my mom. She was thinking of coming back again next year.

***

Saturday, we went to Tito Hip’s place and had a get-together with their friends. They were cooking steaks and barbeques. I definitely enjoyed the steak and ribs because they were juicy and delicious. The kids were playing with the Wii, popping in Resident Evil. I still am very frightened to play that game. Later, we started drinking tequila and beer. The last time I drank tequila was when we had a house party at Paolo’s house.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Three

Posted in Family, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 6, 2009

And on the third week, we stayed more at home than outside. Sunday was an emotional day for my mom. I woke up a little too late than expected because I was up all night reading the manga Cased Closed (Detective Conan). It’s interesting to know that the Bayquen side of the family love reading books and Manung Ricky’s kids are no different. Len-Len borrows manga from the library and is already reading Ranma 1/2 and Cased Close. Brandon reads action-adventure books. I guess I’m a little more Bayquen on the inside and Bumanglag on the outside.

My cousins had planned to take us to the Fisherman’s Wharf while we were in San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf is a well-known tourist spot in San Francisco where Pier 39, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum to name a few are found. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go because time was against the tide. I’m going to miss the clam chowder Manang Jaz keeps telling me about and the cable cars I’ve always wanted to ride.

Ceres

Instead, we went off to Ceres, California where Lolo Vicente, my grandmother’s brother, was waiting for us. I slept almost half-way the 2 hour trip after devouring a chicken fillet burger from McDonalds. We arrived in a typical American neighbourhood. When we found grandpa’s house, it was a tad bigger than usual – almost like a mansion. The garage was open and messy and turned out that Lolo was in the process of moving into a smaller house right across the street. We were all eagerly waiting for him to answer the door. A few minutes later, Lolo arrived. For a 93 year-old man, he was still headstrong and able to drive a car. Mom introduced all of us and we all went inside the house.

ceres

After a long talk between family members, we all bade our goodbyes. Mom couldn’t help but cry because she missed her mom and the only living connection to her was Lolo Vicente. She asked for his blessings. We also said goodbye to our cousin Manung Ricky and his family. I wish I could spend more time with them to get to know them more. I do hope to meet them again someday.

Brothers

***

It’s Monday again and I am tired from the trip we had last night. Today I planned to finish Week Two of my Letters to Blumentritt, upload more photos and just hang out in the house all day. I shuffled my time uploading and writing everything I can. Good thing the house was wifi enabled. It made me work in my room while I watched TV.

Pala

That afternoon, our cousin took us to Pala Hotel for an overnight stay. I’m sure Manang Jaz was excited because she loved hitting the slots and testing her luck. We arrived just in time to meet with Tito Hip and his family who were staying at the hotel as well.

Mexican Resto

My mom and I stayed in a room with 2 queen size beds. The view from the window was incredible, over-viewing the hotel pool below. At dinner, they offered me to eat the authentic Mexican cuisine or plain old American hotdogs. Seriously, I was going for hotdogs because I already ate at Taco Bell. But they said it was going to be a different experience and advised me to try the authentic Mexican food. So I did. All us guys went over at a nearby Mexican restaurant to order some Super Nachos and Burritos. The setup of the resto reminded me of the carinderias back in the Philippines. The burritos were bigger and stuffier than Taco Bell. I could only eat half of it but it tasted great.

The rest of the night was a bore. I stayed with the kids as the grownups went to the casino. It wasn’t long until Mom came up and we retired into our beds.

***

The following five days, we just spent most of our time at home. Manung Totit was busy with his work and Manang Jaz was taking care of Joshua. I usually just watched a movie or a show on TV. I began reading the graphic novels I bought – Kingdom Come, Understanding Comics, Making Comics and Batman: The Killing Joke. Mom had already arranged for my extended stay, an extra three more weeks. I keep thinking about the art training and thesis I should be doing. The frustration is beginning to build up and just like my friend Isaiah used to say, “Nangangati na ang mga kamay ko.”

The dreams I’ve been having lately seems to touch subjects such as my high school friends, a sort-of class reunion and my hometown. In a way, I am subconsciously missing all of them. Thankfully, the internet exists in this time of age where the world is getting smaller and smaller. I sent a ping to some of my closest friends, wondering how they’ve been doing. It’s good to know that they still remember me and they miss me too. Sometimes the simplest things make you the happiest man in the world.