Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In the Company of Fairfax

Marissa's Bunny is now officially dingy. Marissa's cousins have dragged her across the oceans to visit relatives, to share stories of Marissa, and to escape Virginia's already-mild winter. Unfortunately, humid and sticky weather doesn't help Fairfax's fur either. But she had a grand time, as these photos can attest.

Y'all know about the cosplay convention. Can you tell that the guitar lady was Fairfax's favorite?

Yes, Fairfax found a better coffee. She went for the local beans.

At the beach, Fairfax meditated on the serene sound of waves, punctuated by the sound of Marissa's cousins shrieking, as they played a loud card game called "1-2-3 pass."

Since Marissa's mommy can't make it to her godson's upcoming wedding, Fairfax gamely posed with them and their furry companion.

To establish her location (14,000 km away from Marissa), Fairfax asked to pose in front of the national hero's monument in Luneta Park with its usual visitors. Yes, it was a nicer, cooler evening, perfect for hugging someone furry (or not).

It's been 3 months, and Fairfax is ready to visit Marissa again, and to show off her pink Victorian mini top hat from the cosplay convention. That is, after her date with the dry cleaner.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Last Day, First Day, Thursday

3:30 a.m. April 16
Saying goodbye at Ninoy Aquino (Manila) International Airport

1:00 p.m. April 16
Celebrating Easter Thursday at Nagoya Airport's Starbucks Coffee

9:00 p.m. April 16
Papa time at A&J's restaurant, Annandale, VA

All in a day's travel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Building Memories

It all started with a Gingerhaus that Uncle John and Auntie Wanda gave us for Christmas. But with a week left to pack for our long vacation overseas, the gingerbread house kit ended up in the luggage.

As with all brilliant plans, this one almost didn't get done. Someone had to slave over a hot stove in a far away hot country to bake in the middle of summer, and because it was my brilliant idea, I had to do it on our last vacation day.

The young girl who was supposed to make the gingerbread house with us went swimming (it was that hot!) but Anda gamely assisted in the construction of this masterpiece.

But can artists remain spectators too long?

Apparently not! Anda demanded for a panel and a ziploc bag, and in two seconds, was creating a masterpiece roof for the gingerbread house.

Tanya, the dachshund loved it. Luckily, she was too old to be climbing tables and gobbling up designer houses.

Our playmate eventually took home a souvenir from her visiting friends, who kindly left two panels of the house for her to decorate as she reminisces about two balikbayans, yelling at the gate of her house, "Julianne, can you play now?"

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

"Ito ang araw na ginawa ng Panginoon; tayo'y mangagagalak at ating katutuwaan." Ps. 118

In the girls' short lives, they've already celebrated Easter in various ways: quiet family meals, fun lunch cruises, and loud egg hunts with cousins. But what has remained constant is their participation at Mass, either of the Easter vigil or on Sunday morning. This year, they experienced this special day in a new way.

Before 5 a.m. on Easter Sunday, they waited with the rest of our parish as the images of Mama Mary wearing a black veil and the risen Christ were processing from two different locations in the neighborhood. They watched as a young girl dressed in angel attire met the statue of Mary and lifted off the veil, and a chorus of "angels" sang Aleluya. As the sky brightened, the salubong celebration ended, and we all walked to church for the first Mass of Easter Sunday.

Back home, we shared a version of our own Easter tradition and decorated the bulletin board with paper flowers and scripture verses, and brought out the hidden Alleluia. As a special treat, the family feasted as the girls went bunny-crazy at the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

In the true spirit of Pinoy celebrations, the house specialties were prepared at home: roast chicken with lemongrass and sotanghon. Easter dinner was capped with a friend's generous gift of Pampanga's best -- Nathaniel's buko-pandan salad!

We are filled to the brim with wonderful memories that would take months to record in our vacation scrapbook. In these last few days, we are savoring every single bite!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Week to Remember

This Holy Week, the girls experienced Lent with all their senses. It was tiring, even though we spread out the visita iglesia and drove, instead of walked to 7 different churches in 4 days. At the beginning of the week, already there were signs of the color and sounds that would bombard them.

Parked near the municipal hall, this Birhen Dolorosa took shelter to avoid the sweltering heat and slight drizzle.

Church grounds were filled with all sorts of construction in progress, in preparation for the senakulo on Good Friday or salubong on Easter Sunday. (Our Lady of the Abandoned, San Roque)

In imitation of the other pilgrims, the girls have learned to reach out and touch statues and icons, as they pray at each church. (National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Baclaran)

A dress code poster has become a familiar sight, as well as information about the Reproductive Health Bill. In this country of "texters", mobile phones get its own poster.

But business goes on inside the churches, already filled with pilgrims following the Way of the Cross. Members of the Mother Butler Guild can be seen sweeping around the altars; carpenters and painters are working on various beautification projects; helpers drape statues and other images in purple fabric. Fortunately, we were able to visit (the exposed image) of our Blessed Virgin of Antipolo, whom we also visit in her Washington, DC oratory at the National Shrine. (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo)

For sentimental reasons, and because we also celebrate this saint's feast day as our name day, we went to the all-steel San Sebastian Church. The girls lit candles and went down their prayer list to remember their Papa, their little cousin Marissa, and their Italian great-grandmother Jill. (Basilica of San Sebastian, Manila)

All that driving around is bound to bring us to places that trigger fond memories for Anda and Papo. On our way to the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, we posed in front of the university that Marissa's grandmother attended. (This one's for you, Tita Femme!)

In this predominantly Catholic country, Masses are celebrated inside shopping malls. It was no surprise that the owners of the largest shopping mall in the Philippines (and the third largest in the world) donated land and built a church near their Mall of Asia. The mall, as most estalishments, were closed on Good Friday. But the church was filled with pilgrims. (Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Manila)

Most Filipino celebrations come with processions, lights, and songs, and if the girls' humming is any indication, some of the week's highlights have filtered through their being. It may have been a long and tiring week for the girls, with rarely a day spent at home for relaxing. But in the quiet that they'll find in VA, their senses will remember. (St. Paul of the Cross, Marikina; Maundy Thursday procession, Marikina)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Anime Fairfax

The girls' cousins are big cosplayers, so Fairfax, Marissa's Bunny got to attend her first Cosplay Summit. There were gamers and manga merchandise galore. Fairfax personally loved posing with Kitty-chan, who's celebrating her 35th year.

The girls, on the other hand, got to pose with very gracious (female) cosplayers. There were awesome (and gruesome) male cosplayers but we stayed clear of weapons and blood, and tried hard to stay Rated G.

We finally caught up with Kuya Kyle (sans wings), who worked on his costume for 3 weeks. It would have been out of character to grin at the camera so the girls did all the smiling for him.

Holy Days

We begin our Holy Week in the Philippines with the combined celebration of Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It's 91 degrees but it feels like 102, and the church (without AC) is packed. Unfortunately for the girls, the Mass is in Tagalog, and even with the help of their MagnifiKid magazine, (Thanks for sending it, Papa!) the drone of a language foreign to their ears only adds to their drowsiness. But there were enough new experiences to make today memorable.

First, we had to buy the palms! They are weaved in different designs, and this little girl got to pick one with a ribbon that matched her dress.

Being early helped, and not only is she armed with a fan, she got to pick a spot in front of two electric fans.

Then it was time to approach the priest for the blessing of the palms. Parishioners wave their palaspas in unison, mimicking the Jews welcoming Jesus.

There was an abundance of holy water, and one girl, who got splashed full blast, takes refuge. But the prospect of strawberry ice cream after lunch assuages her feelings of embarrassment. After all, it is a Sunday, which is not a day of penitence, and can only mean treats!

Holy Week will be still be filled with activities -- mostly a spread-out Visita Iglesia (Visit of the Churches) traditionally observed on Maundy Thursday. Fortunately, history lessons here often touch on the spread of Catholic Christianity, and we can continue with the cultural immersion as we visit the historic churches in Manila.

But we bring a little of our own Holy Week practices here, and have decorated our bulletin board with framed prayer cards and bookmarks, projects from our Little Flower Girls Club, to help us remember what the coming week means.