Monday, February 26, 2007

the first few days...

i wasn't really sure what, if anything, we were going to be able to do the first full day we were in manila. although the paloma was recovering, i didn't want to push our luck or her health. my older sister, mrs. f, came over with her husband, mr. f and my youngest sister, soon to be mrs. s, in the afternoon to check on her.

the paloma was eager to get outside. come to think of it, so was i. as i mentioned before, manila was warm - sunny, not too humid and in the mid 80s every day we were there. the paloma's got horses on the brain too and near our hotel, kalesas (the filipino version of the handsome cab) were parked one after the other. she wanted to meet every single horse and find out their names. and that view of manila bay from our window was too inticing to ignore.

we agreed that we should take it easy on the paloma and maybe just get a bite to eat and walk around a nearby airconditioned mall to kill some time and help the paloma run off some energy.

my sisters thought that we should hit the mall of asia. since it's the largest mall in the philippines, it has a pretty diverse selection of restaurants and shops and random diversions for kids. i was shocked at the sheer size of it. we weren't looking to walk the whole mall. but even what little we did see was overwhelming and overstimulating - hello!? they had great shops like mango, marks & spencer, national bookstore (where i scored a bunch of adarna house books for the kids) and kultura filipino and the currency conversion was something crazy like 48 pesos to $1!!??

we ate at the yellow cab pizza co. my sisters couldn't believe that it wasn't a chain from the US. i was kinda surprised myself. i was expecting some kind of city-fied shakey's but it was better - gastronomically and esthetically.

here's a picture of mrs. f, me , soon to be mrs. s and the paloma... this was taken after a hearty lunch and a couple of spins on the indoor carousel. btw - this mall also has an olympic sized ice rink in it. then, home again, home again, jiggety jig.... later that evening, i got to meet one of my cousins, mrs j. and her husband, mr. j.

mrs. j is my lolo and lola's first grandchild. she's not that much younger than my youngest aunt on my mom's side (my mom has twelve siblings). the family was a little freaked out by her because my uncle and her mom split up when she was very young. then, after the family tracked her down again, via a detective, she ended up getting pregnant before marriage. blah, blah, blah... they ended up getting married after she had their first child and they had a second child a few years later. the kids are teenagers and she seems like a happy career mom. i can't believe this is the first time i've met her... she's so awesome. she's funny, irreverent, intelligent, spirited and very giving.

the following day, soon to be mr. and mrs. s picked us up to chauffeur spend the day with us. we visited their reception site, villa immaculada inside the walls of intramuros (the oldest part of manila), to tie up some loose ends, drop stuff off, etc... then, we headed over to fort santiago for some sightseeing.

fort santiago is an old spanish fortress within intramuros. it houses the jose rizal shrine.

the paloma gets to ride a kalesa for the first time. the driver was really nice and let her sit on his horse, "pretty boy", for a photo op.

there's a picturesque lily pond underneath the bridge that leads you into fort santiago.

this is the building where jose rizal was imprisioned. his cell was located in the damaged part of the building. there is a mock up of his cell with quotes from his writings on the surrounding walls. it's a very moving tribute. the museum houses many of rizal's personal affects as well as a reliquary that holds one of rizal's bones.

these footsteps mark rizal's final walk to luneta park. it looks as if the steps end just outside the fort, but it's just that some of the footsteps have been paved over... if you keep looking you'll find they'll lead you all the way to where he was executed.

here's a view from inside the gates of the park outside fort santiago. i just loved the wrought iron, the church (?) dome and the filipino flag...

later in the day, my sister checked into our hotel for the night to get ready for the wedding the next day. everything seemed to be going well until my mom got upset that her name was printed incorrectly in the wedding invitation. she got even more upset when she found out that she had to sit next to my father at the reception. she was offended and upset because she felt she and her second marriage were being disrepected.

i knew that situations like this would arise, but i didn't realize how volatile they would be. my mom refused to talk it out with my sister. she just couldn't keep her emotions in check - which i totally understood intellectually. she was threatening to not smile, not talk, just show up and go home. she wasn't willing to compromise. but, i couldn't side with her. it just wasn't her day. it wasn't about her. i really felt that she had a responsibility, obligation or duty to my sister to let the animosity (for my father and for the hypocrisy of the philippines) go for one day.

i talked to my sister and she started to cry which made me cry. she opened up about how stressful the wedding planning had been. how often she felt she had to compromise. how awful it felt all these years to defend her upbringing in a "broken" family. she just didn't want to do it again on her wedding day. i knew that that was what the invitation and the seating arrangement was about. i didn't think it was right that my sister just slip it all under my mom's radar, but i understood why she did it. it was then that she told me that we have a half sister. basically, everyone knows she exists, but no one knows where she is. my sister thinks she's about sixteen. she saw her when she was little. she doesn't know her name. my heart just about broke... for my crazy family, for my father, for my unknown sister...

so, after i calmed her down a bit, i went back to talk to my mom who ended up crying as well... she kept saying things like "i made all the wrong choices.", "i ruined my life and the lives of my children", "i hate myself", etc, etc... it was awful... i asked her if she knew about my half sister. she said she did, but she felt it was my father's job to tell me about her. i did and said everything i could to try to salvage that day... in the end, my mom was inconsolable. my mom is strong though. she would get thru it somehow... and she did.

that evening we were expecting to have dinner with my dad's sisters. but, those plans fell thru. they came over but too late to have dinner. honestly, at that point, we'd all lost our appetites. i just wanted to sleep it all off and forget. just start all over again. just one of those times, i wish life had a "refresh" button.


Angela said...

Thanks for sharing all your lovely pictures of Manila, the Paloma is beautiful. That's great you were able to do some sightseeing and meet relatives.

I am so sorry about all the drama and stress around the wedding. I know a little about that, my parents were going through a very, very bad time when my sister got married, the stress was unbelievable, I would have given anything for a Refresh button too.Hey, you survived it, now you know what not to do at any of your kids' weddings. It will be their day.

mamazilla said...

angela - thanks so much for reading my posts. i can't imagine it's all that interesting, but i just feel like i have to write about it. your taking the time to visit and read and comment means so much to me. :)

Ms Bees Knees said...

first of all mama z... beautiful pics of manila, i still hope to one day visit such a beautiful place... second of all, you handled the family drama with total grace and i commend you!! sounds like you pretty much saved the day. you gotta love those crazy huge dramatic filipino family weddings...;)

Puglet said...


Ouchie ouch. My brother got married in January, in Belize, which was gorgeous, but I was a month and a half out of brain surgery, and down there with my crazy undermedicated family, and I wasn't really allowed to drink rum because of said surgery. I empathize and understand. But a month later, I remember the drama less, and the beautiful scenery more.

mamazilla said...

ms bees knees - i have to admit that manila is not one of my favorite cities. i have this love hate relationship with it.... and y'know, with manila, it's all about the people. you can always head down to daly city and hang wid my peeps ovah there... ;)

puglet - good to know. looking forward to the future, when the past doesn't look so dark. i still can't unwrap my head around that faceless young girl out there who's my half sister.

Angela said...

Aww...shucks,gee whiz,(blush,blush), what are you trying to do to me...Koreans don't take compliments very well, we usually just get embarrassed and change the subject... so, how's the weather in Chicago?

Thank you for the lovely words. Please keep writing, I enjoy your posts, they're honest and real.

Andrea said...

I just came across your blog. I'm a Pinay who just moved to Chicago and I enjoyed reading your blog. I saw a photo of your sister who got married recently and she looks so familiar. I don't know if she was a schoolmate. I'm trying to recall where I saw her. Anyway, I look forward to reading mor of your posts.

Hope you enjoyed the warm weather in Chicago today. People were out in droves everywhere - from Michigan Avenue to the lakefront.


Dylan Block said...

I guess our OFWs are missing the Philippines after reading this post. I have been living here in NCR and somehow it took me few years to explore the beauty of Manila. Those were beautiful photos anyway. Great!

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