July 19, 2009


Being involuntarily exposed to the European community through my previous workplace, I noticed quite a curious phenomenon: people were consciously searching for their fellow countrymen while living abroad. I, on the other hand, would avoid them like the plague and had zero to no social interaction with Frenchies outside of office hours. Now is this just another testament for my weirdness? I keep on whining about homesickness, feeling like an outsider, struggling with life here and yet I alienate myself from those who, one would assume, represent the closest to home I could get around here.

Just last week I was invited to the Bastille Day celebration hosted by the French Embassy. I figured I should go, network a little, and enjoy the free food in a lovely setting. By the time I stepped into the ballroom, I felt the immediate urge to turn on my heels and flee. But I didn’t and made my way through the crowd. I saw a few familiar faces, spoke to a couple of people and avoided plenty more. I am the first to say that it is refreshing to meet someone with a similar background, but nationality alone doesn’t provide that. Except for the fact that it is quite pleasant to be able to speak your lingo after having spoken a different language for the longest time, nothing links me to fellow countrymen aside from our passport.

More often than not, such encounters even turn sour, when the views and opinion of the Philippines differ. Sadly, I have met quite some foreigners with a colonial mindset, assuming their supremacy over the country that welcomed them as guests. In those moments, I consider myself more Filipina than anything else, and find myself defensive about the country and its people, uncontrollably ranting about foreigners who I deem not respectful of their host country. Note, that I just subconsciously called fellow countrymen “foreigners”. On other days, I am particularly European; craving for the cuisine, the culture, the language, the architecture, and the weather, while being increasingly cynical and negative about the Philippines, vowing to never send my future children to a local school, cursing the inefficacy of work processes and wondering if I will ever be able to handle the informal family hierarchy that rules society.

Confusion and contradiction are the name of the game. I don’t identify with Frenchs, or Germans for that matter, and I still feel outlandish around Filipinos. Bottomline - part of me will always be alien, no matter where I am.
I know this all sounds like I am extremely anti-social and difficult to please. Yes, that’s partly true, D. will confirm that in a jiffy. But, I do meet people that I feel I can relate to. Nationality isn’t a criteria. A similar background is defined by worldviews, mindsets, values, and experiences. There is some kind of stereotype when it comes to the people that I feel most comfortable with and whom I’ve considered good friends since: all of them are well-traveled, have been exposed to different cultures, are open-minded and have strong personalities. Once I refrain from taking sides and just accept my position, maybe then I’ll feel peace of mind. Meanwhile, until I can actually put my wise words into action, I just have to deal with the reality that I will always be torn in between 3 worlds. Never quite in, never quite out.

July 7, 2009

Summer memories

I don't know why, but I just had a childhood flashback today. I think it must have been because of Twitter and someone posting about their trip in Provence. I love how I get to travel the world without living my sofa, how i get to meet people from all over the globe and share experiences and opinions.

My family used to have a tiny summer house in Cogolin, South of France. From my bedroom I had a view on the castle of Grimaud and from the pool you could see the marinas of Port-Cogolin and Port-Grimaud. A stone throw away is the fabulously decadent St.-Tropez. I had sudden images of colorful Sunday markets, picnics at the beach, overpriced Orangina at the Café Senéquier, homemade fries and grilled meats on our summer house terrasse, golden tan by the pool, Brigitte Bardot at the supermarket, scrumptious tarte tropézienne, fish soup with garlicky rouille sauce, fun rides and mini-golf at the Luna Park, flower icecream in Ste-Maxime...

Here are some of the memories in my head...

Colorful boats at the side pier of St.-Tropez

The castle of Grimaud

Streets of Ste.-Maxime

Café Sénéquier, best for people watching

Streets of Cogolin and old movie house

Flower-shaped icecream, funky vinegars, fragrant olives, and deliciously sweet tarte tropézienne

Pool and house (actually this is our neighbor's house, but ours looked just the same)

July 2, 2009

Hong Kong - GrEAT Food Hall

Weekend in Hong Kong - It was raining hard and I struggled balancing my H&M, Zara and various other shopping bags and my umbrella so I decided to head for the next mall where I could have access to all stores, a Starbucks and clean restrooms. I took a chance and went to Pacific Place not knowing what kind of mall it would be. Pleasantly surprised I recognize Zara and Seibu from the corner of my eye, as well as the green striking letters of Starbucks (desperately in need of an iced tall non-fat caramel macchiato extra drizzle upside down). So I stroll around on the lookout for some lunch and follow the signs to the GrEAT Food Hall thinking this would some sort of foodcourt. But I ended up in a gourmet concept food hall. Not quite Dean&Deluca, but very nice nevertheless.

Wait?! Holy cannolli is that Orangina on display!?! I forget about my coffee and my need for a restroom. I grab one of the shopping carts and place all my shop bags in it. I head straight to the Orangina pyramid. They have the bloodorange version, the light one and of course the regular flavor. I immediately get the second to the last bottle not worrying about my limited baggage allowance. I walk around and subconsequently discover Teisseire grenadine, Bonne Maman et Le Petit Ecolier biscuits. I also want to take home French yogurts, fish soup and cheese but refrain myself from doing so.

GREAT has a wide selection of gourmet foods from all over the world. I see cheeses, charcuterie, pastries from the U.S., Japan, Italy and of course France. I spot an olive oil bar, a soup, a juice bar, a traiteur (French for gourmet take-out food) and a gelateria. I end up buying a fresh buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich and a small bag of Kettle sea salt&vinegar chips for lunch.

After raving about it to a friend the same night, she tells me that there is a imilar concept supermarket in Elements mall in Kowloon station, called ThreeSixty. I only had time to walk through it quickly the next day. The focus is clearly on healthy and natural food, but they also offer environmental-friendly household items, organic cosmetics and fair-trade product. On-the-spot dining is represented through their Burger bar, Asian gourmet bar, sandwich bar and dessert bar.

Now you might wonder why I get so excited about Hong Kong groceries that I take the time to write about it? Well, whenever I find food that reminds me of France or Germany or whatever "home" I am far away from at the moment, it gives me a warm, homey feeling and I instantly get a happy boost. So while orange lemonade and chocolate cookies seem trivial items to shop for, I cherish them like little treasures because they allow me to bring a little piece of my childhood back to Manila.

Great Food Hall
Basement Pacific Mall
MTR: Admiralty

1/F Elements
MTR: Kowloon

July 1, 2009

How Mr. Brightside makes me happy

I have a make-me-feel-good playlist on my Ipod. I've been neglecting it lately and found it again while waiting for the once more delayed Cebu Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Why can't they just change their flight schedule if they f$@&ing know they won't make it on time?!?!
But this is not a rant post. I waste enough time on Cebu Pacific already, literally!!

This is about Mr. Brightside. He makes me feel happy. He makes me wanna get up, dance and sing out aloud! I'm in the boarding area of Ninoy Aquino Airport so of course I won't. But I'm screaming out the lyrics internally and frantically whipping my foot to the beat.

Once in a while you come across a song that you can't get enough of. Even after several years, you still turn up the volume whenever it plays on the radio. The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" does that for me.
I know the song is actually about cheating, jealousy, mad love and all the stuff that would make you depressed rather than happy. But for once I don't analyze the meaning of the lyrics but simply enjoy it for what it is. A great song. I'm listening to the Jacques Lu Conti remix which is my favorite rendition.

This song reminds me of the year when D. got his white Mazda and we had a CD in the player with that song. I would replay it over and over again, singing... no blurting along until he would beg me to move to the next song. It reminds me of our nights out clubbing when I would jump up and down when i heard the first few notes. It reminds me of my friend C., who's now in Australia and who wouldn't mind getting up right now and dancing wild and weird in the middle of an airport. It reminds me of good times, happy times.

I have to stop listening to this emotional rock stuff and stick to happy music. I called it happy house for a reason, now I remember. ;-)


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