Category Archives: Life

Leap

Ada

Probably my only shelfie

Four years ago, I spent the leap day waiting for the results of the bar exams. This is a good day for posting old writings.

***

The Barrister, Official Student Publication of the San Beda College of Law-Manila, started printing my column in 2008. This was my last piece for Line Break.

The Power and Failure of Words

In the 1991 film Class Action, civil rights lawyer Jed Ward handles a case filed by affected customers against an automobile company. The company’s legal counsel is his daughter, Maggie Ward. My favorite is the scene where, while they’re having a personal argument, Jed attempts to slap Maggie. She says: “Finally, words fail the great Jedediah Tucker Ward.”

As law students, we were trained to use words appropriate for the legal profession. We were taught how to craft our sentences and that skill was crucial to our recitation and exam scores. The hours we spent each day on the acquisition of knowledge were meant to achieve an end: to give power to our words.

Our words work sometimes, but there are days when they just fail. I believe I’m not the only one here who played Justice once in a while and invented my own jurisprudence in a few exams. (Let’s make sure we won’t need to do that in the November 2011 Bar Exams.)

The times when we run out of words remind us that we have limitations. Because we committed to give our best to this profession, our task is not only to know those limitations, but to defy them if necessary.

It is the silence – that failure of words – that oftentimes pushes us to strive further. Maybe great lawyers have those moments, too, and not only in films.

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Hello, gradpic

This is my last column for The Barrister. I will read this issue the way I read the other issues for the past four years. I’ll read the articles as if I haven’t seen the content several times already. I’ll look at the photos. I’ll check again if there’s anyone who wasn’t given proper credit for his work. Then I’ll go to the part where the names of my co-editors and the staff are printed, and as always, I’ll stay there for a while.

I always take a little more time looking at the masthead, a silent “thank you” for all the efforts exerted by each person whose name is printed there.

Thanks to Grace Wilson and Janelle Reyes, good friends with whom I shared the responsibility of choosing the right pizza flavors for two academic years. Thanks to those who were here before us – especially Attorneys Pambie Herrera, Kai Rosario and Shirl Nuevo – for believing that we can do the job. Thanks, too, to the editors and staff of The Red Chronicles, for keeping journalism alive there at San Beda Law-Alabang.

***

Law school can be heartbreaking. Our consolation is that we have families, relatives and friends who still believe we’ll be great lawyers someday, even though evidence to the contrary abound at times.

I thank my parents, Mr. Juanito Angeles and Dr. Amelia Angeles, for giving me the strength I needed to get here. Most importantly, I thank them for instilling my faith in God. I’m grateful for the support and inspiration given by my brothers Jeri and Kristopier, Ms. Rosebud Ebalo and my nephew Mikhael, Mr. Cirilo Dizon, Ms. Imelda Dizon, the family of Drs. Catalino and Edna Calimbas, all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

A million thanks to my grandmother, Ms. Adelaida Javillo Dizon, who listened – until the last days of her life – to my testimonies about lawyers with souls.

***

To my Lambda Rho Sigma sisters and Lambda Rho Beta brothers, I know how much effort you’re already exerting this early just to make sure everything will be fine in November. Things will be great, because we’re Lambda Rhoans.

To the wonderful volunteers of KaEskwela (www.kaeskwela.org), I hope more people will be inspired by the belief that there are things that can be done for education, even by an ordinary person like me.

To my former students and colleagues from the Bataan Peninsula State University; the brave pilots, soldiers and employees of the Philippine Air Force; my officemates, friends and mentors at the RCBC Corporate Risk Management Services; and everyone I’ve worked with and learned from – thank you very much.

Thanks to my friends from UP APSM, BATO, Block 1C 2005-2006, Section 4S 2009-2010, the next batch of bar topnotchers and lawyers, all the people I grew up with, and those who were patient enough to watch me grow.

Thanks, too, to the professors, for the knowledge they shared. More importantly, for helping us unlearn a lot of things in order for us to become better students of law.

***

In this last column, I am restrained less by the word limit than by the thought that any number of words will not suffice. “Thank you” has its limitations. This is one of those moments when words just fail.

And I can only strive further by making the rest of my life an expression of gratitude.

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Sky Train, October 2014

Dear _____,

I remember seeing you at the National Stadium Station of the Sky Train in Bangkok. You didn’t have enough coins for the ticket vending machine. I offered help and found out that you were also on your way to the airport. (You spoke to me in Chinese first and I said that my Mandarin is too limited for any meaningful conversation. You smiled and said “your English is good.”)

During that train ride, I learned that you spent a few weeks in Thailand. You were about to go back to China, where you work as an urban planner. Every trip is a form of research, we agreed on that.

I asked if you’ve ever been to the Philippines. You said “no” and that you wanted to visit but got scared because of news in China about Filipinos killing Chinese people here. I wish I could tell you everyone is safe in my country, but personal experience prevents me from saying that until now. I just told you that I doubt Filipinos would kill a person just because of his citizenship, that there are safe places here, that I’m willing to show you around if you ever swing by. We said goodbye at the airport.

If you ever go here, I will give you a tour in my hometown first. By that time, I’m sure I’ve figured out how to say nicely that it’s the West Philippine Sea, as we watch the sunset.

Dahican scrambled waves

I’m sure you’ll ask for another beach trip. I’ll take you to Dahican Beach, Mati City in Davao Oriental. It’s a sunrise beach, for a change. There’s a 7-kilometer stretch of white-sand there, but in the morning we can wake our feet up along the rocky parts. We’ll have scrambled waves for breakfast.

There, we will not argue about the name of the ocean.

Dahican wave

I celebrated the Chinese New Year in Dahican weeks ago. Sure, there were no fireworks and lion dances. I spent time reflecting about the past years and planning for the new one. At the quiet shore, I could almost hear my heart’s rhythm like a steady beating of a drum.

Dahican skim

It was also a weekend of skimboarding and surfing, spent in the company of talented but humble new friends. Vince, my surf instructor, works at the Philippine National Police. Based on his quick talk about crime rates, I’m sure we won’t have to worry about safety while we’re in Davao.

Dahican hatchery

Can you guess what I loved most about Dahican?

Mention the word “pawikan” and surely, whether you’re talking to older locals or one of the skimboarding kids, you’ll get a rundown of facts about the marine turtle. Someday, people will love that, too, about where I came from. That’s one of the main reasons why I was in Dahican that weekend. And I will be back for more lessons, both on conservation and boardsports. I wish you’d give the wonderful place a try.

Dahican tricycle

You wrote your e-mail address on a piece of paper before we parted ways. I’m sorry, it got lost during my trip back to Manila. I don’t even have your full name. But if you’re planning to come here, you’ll be searching the words “Philippines”, “beach”, and other related tags. Maybe you’ll be led to this blog. Maybe you’ll drop me a line.

Fat chance. Like how it was, seeing you at the train station when I had that one extra coin in my pocket.

Cheers,

A.

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Surf Village Hostel, Dahican Beach

Dahican hostel

When I was at Dahican Beach early this month, I stayed at the Surf Village Hostel. The place is about five minutes away from the shore, maybe three minutes, depending on how beach-deprived you are. Since it was a weekend of reflection for me, the location was perfect. The distance for walking was welcome.

The rooms are made of local materials, mostly wood and bamboo. I wouldn’t call it a cowboy place, because by my more hardcore friends’ standards, cowboy means making a home out of a hammock you brought with you. At Surf Village, you get a comfortable bed and free breakfast.

Dahican company

On my first night at Dahican, I had a few drinks with the Surf Village Team and guests from Finland. It was also a salubong for the birthday of Chris (former Team Captain of the DLSU Men’s Volleyball Team), who was on a solo trip that weekend as well.

That night, Skimboarding Champion Bayogyog (the Surf Village kids call him Yogi) showed me his training scars. We talked about figurative heart scars, too, and that’s how  I discovered that this board athlete’s alcohol tolerance is lower than mine. Yogi has been in the sport since he was six. I hope he gets more sponsorships and support.

Dahican surf and shoot 2

The owners, Harrison and Irene, stay at Surf Village and can easily be reached through info@surf-village.ph. You may also text them through the number above. Harry, Vincent and the boys at Surf Village will also be happy to help you out with surfing or skimboarding lessons.

Visit their website at www.surf-village.ph and Facebook page: Surf Village Hostel.

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Dapithapon, Samu’t Sari and maybe more beer

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The song Dapithapon (2010) is a buddy who’d drink heartaches away with me at Sarah’s in Diliman. When I first heard the song – just Johnoy Danao’s voice and his acoustic guitar – I decided to get hold of the artist’s album of the same title. Six copies, to be exact. Back then, Johnoy himself would meet you to deliver the CDs. He delivered and signed my copies at a friend’s kitchen somewhere in Teachers’ Village.

I’d put the song on repeat, its lyrics seeping through my heart’s cracks, the way the grilled chicken intestines (OK, isaw manok) and beer filled my stomach. It was the song for a sadness both raw and slow: “Ang pag-ibig nga naman, kapag hindi na maramdaman, hindi kayang pagtakpan ng sumpaan.” It was a friend who would ride the Ikot jeep with you to Krus na Ligas, who would divert her photocopy allowance to beer fund, so you’d feel better.

The first album has twelve original tracks, half of which were written by Johnoy. My other favorites are Tara Na, Bayan, written by Sammy Asuncion and Isang Iglap, a song about dreams ruined by calamity. Remember that this was released in 2010, we were still reeling from Typhoon Ondoy. Johnoy’s voice, with the riffs, percussion and backing vocals, take you back. Remember, with lyrics like “Nadungaw ko si Tatay, nagtatanim ng palay / Umaasang ang butil ng pawis niya’y maging bigas / Ito namang si Nanay, nag-aayos ng bahay / Ilang taong pinag-ipunan nang kami’y masilungan.”

I admire Johnoy for the acoustic songs he performed alone. His covers made me watch Good Times With Mo (GTWM) on YouTube even though Mo Twister is such a pain to listen to sometimes. But it’s always interesting to hear Johnoy collaborate with other musicians.

GTWM may have helped him go mainstream. His second album, Samu’t Sari, was released under Universal Records in 2014. I bought one copy in a shopping mall.

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Samu’t Sari is a mixture of remakes of familiar numbers, two tracks from the first album, and new songs. I’m not comfortable listening to his cover of Imago’s Sundo, but I forgive Johnoy and the band for trying out Beer and lacing it up with saxophone. Try listening to it while stuck in EDSA traffic after work, when you’re too weary to sing along to the more upbeat original by Itchyworms.

The second album has the hopeful Buntong-Hininga as opening track. This is Johnoy inviting us to fall in love again, almost four years after Dapithapon.

“Sa aking palagay, tayo’y nagsasayang / Ng araw at gabing sa’tin dapat” – I, too, would need a band complete with ukelele and harmonica if I’m going to express this. The song Ikaw at Ako from the first CD is included as a bonus track. If sometime between 2010 and 2014, you already met someone who can help you relate to the lyrics, it’s a bonus, indeed.

The song Dapithapon comes back in the album, Johnoy plays it with the band this time. The Dapithapon of 2014 is the same drinking buddy who has been working in Makati City for years now and like me, uuwi nang walang nag-aabang. This friend might still find me heartbroken, for reasons different from those of 2010. We hold our glasses of whisky and pretend we don’t miss Sarah’s.

***       ***       ***

It’s February, month of freebies. I’m giving away a signed copy of Dapithapon.

This is so easy. Just be the first single person to share this post publicly on your Facebook account, then tag me in the comment. You will be required to present proof of singlehood (i.e. lack of romantic/love relationship) before I send you the prize.

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Hello, 2016!

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Cebu sunset

When Tatay Cirilo (my Nanay’s father) was last confined in a hospital, he talked about a dream he had while lying in the operation room. In the dream, he was walking in a forest so deep he almost couldn’t see its end. That was one of the last few words I heard from him.

Months before that, he told me maybe I can already start thinking about building a family or a relationship, at least, because my career is already going well. That was the first time I heard him say that. Far from his usual authoritative voice, the suggestion was uttered softly. It sounded as if he was trying not to embarrass and pressure me in front of the other family members. But I stayed true to character and just changed the topic.

We lost him early last year. His life lasted for more than nine decades. Before 2015 ended, I found myself looking back and thinking of his words.

The past few months left me with the lesson that I should stop spending so much time stressing about the future and learn to value what I already have. That may sound like a cliche. But some time ago, I ignored that simple lesson and the hurt I caused was far from being predictable. It was not like anything that I imagined.

Tatay Cirilo handpicked the wooden foundation of the house he built for his family at Poblacion, Morong, Bataan. That ensured that the foundations were of high quality and would last a long time. I only figured out recently that at the hospital, he might have been dreaming of the time he was looking for wood.

Relationships – with family, friends and loved ones – require hard work. For someone who works in a profession that requires careful use of words, I can be careless when it comes to personal matters. This year taught me that in any area of life, I should always make sure that my words reflect my intent. More importantly, take time away from the noise of words and let my actions catch up with my promises. Take time to carefully and lovingly pick the foundations upon which I build relationships. What I want to remember in my last hours is the forest I walked because of love. For people who matter to me.

There are so many people to thank for what they shared with me in the past year. But as I said before, I will just make my life an expression of gratitude.

Thank you, 2015.

***       ***       ***

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River of my childhood in Morong, Bataan

Hello, 2016. Here’s my partial to-do list for this year.

  1. Help set up an art exhibit.
  2. Join the TNF trail run in Benguet.
  3. Train for the TBR Dream Marathon 2017.
  4. Skim and surf in Davao Oriental.
  5. Visit Palawan.
  6. Ride the Pasig River ferry.
  7. Donate blood.
  8. Get a new tattoo.
  9. Start a new business.
  10. Climb a mountain.
  11. Organize a free museum trip for kids from Bataan.
  12. Donate books to a public school.
  13. Finish a painting.
  14. Finish reading at least three of the books I bought pre-2016.
  15. Publish a literary work.
  16. Plant at least 10 native trees in my hometown.

Help me cross out each of these goals before 2016 ends. One by one, I will tell the stories of how these are connected with the lessons from the past year. This will also be a period of learning, collaboration and adventure. Happy new year!

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Banaue and Batad trails

Gongstart instead of gunstart

Gongstart instead of gunstart

You know you’re in a different trail race if the organizers say this at the opening program: “This is not a competitive race. Take your time, enjoy the view.”

For the first time in my life, I ran with a camera strapped to my wrist.

Marcky and I started our trip to Ifugao at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, August 22, 2014. We booked seats at Ohayami Trans days before, because the trip to Banaue is just once a day when it’s not peak season. The passengers in the bus were mostly runners. You’ll say it’s easy to see because of the gears they carried and wore. I say it’s because of the energy and the familiar smiles. We arrived at Banaue at about seven in the morning.

The tourist assistance center is right beside the bus station. That morning we found out that the Hillside Inn at Batad was about an hour away from the starting line. We booked a room at Hillside weeks before the trip. It was difficult to reach Hillside through phone, so we wallowed in our worries for a few seconds. It was our first time in Ifugao.

We approached Team Malaya’s booth. It was also our first time to join a race organized by this team, so I wasn’t sure if they’re an accommodating bunch.

Toper from Team Malaya told me there was a room available at Stairway Inn, where the team also stayed that weekend. Stairway is less than five minutes away from the starting line. We got a room beside the organizers’, which means we won’t be late. Which means, for a moment, I wanted to offer a dance to the rice terraces.

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View from our room at Hillside Inn

After getting the room at Stairway, we went back to the bus station to reserve seats for the trip on Sunday. Monday, August 25, 2014, was a holiday. We planned to spend it as recovery day, so we hoped to get seats for the Sunday bus trip. Unfortunately, the Sunday trip was already fully-booked and we had no choice but to buy tickets for the Monday night trip to Manila. I could already imagine how painful my body would be when I go to the office just an hour after the trip.

But it was our first hour at Ifugao, we had enough good vibes to be able to look at the brighter side. We were lucky the owners and staff of Hillside considered our (desperate) circumstances and allowed us to move the booking to Sunday night. We need not worry about where we would stay next and what we will be doing with the extra day we had. But seriously, up there in the mountains, what kind of runner-wanderer worries about an unplanned day?

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One of our hydration stations. We took a quick shower here.

I started joining races in 2011. My pace in Ifugao is the slowest so far, but I don’t mind. Mini-falls as hydration stations, Banaue coffee at the carbo-loading booth, breathtaking view of the rice terraces as we went along the route, and ah — the sunrise that greeted us a few minutes after the gongstart — setting a new PR was the last thing on my mind.

During the race, I witnessed a runner throwing trash along the route. I e-mailed Team Malaya about this. They were quick to respond and they said they are considering sanctions for this offense in the next races that they will organize.

Note to runners: If you can’t respect the ground you’re allowed to tread, don’t even set foot on the trail. There should be a rule at all trail events that runners who throw trash along the route would be declared DNF. That, or I’ll just kick their faces at the finish line.

The first of our sets of recovery meals that weekend.

The first of our sets of recovery meals that weekend.

After the race, we were greeted by free recovery meal at Dreamers Bakery. That was one of the best after-race food I had. When it comes to recovery meals, there’s nothing like freshly picked ingredients, just boiled and sauteed a little to bring out the flavors of the dishes.

We wished we could stay longer for a few more rounds at the feast there at Banaue, but we had to move on to Batad. We then went to the Saddle Point on board Kuya Jun’s pink panther tricycle.

Kuya Jun, our guide

Kuya Jun, our guide

At Saddle Point, a guide welcomed us and offered to show the way to Hillside Inn. Kuya Jun (wow, the mountains had an abundance of Juns) is already more than sixty years old. He has been working as a tour guide for most of his stay at Batad, where he moved from Nueva Ecija after marriage in the 1980s. That weekend, he said, the tour guides in the town extended help to the runners who joined the race.

On Monday morning, we trekked for more than two hours to Tappiya Falls. Kuya Jun told us the night before that, with our running skills, we can reach the Falls in about forty-five minutes. He might have overestimated our skills and/or underestimated the stalling power of the rain over me and my running buddy.

If you need transport service at Banaue-Batad, contact Kuya Jun through 0910-741-5047.

If you need transport service at Banaue-Batad, contact Kuya Jun through 0910-741-5047.

We set a schedule with Kuya Jun, the one with the pink panther tricycle, and he agreed to meet us at Lannah Junction on Monday afternoon. Then he would be driving us back to Banaue, so we could hop into our ride back home.

The Junction was an alternative trail, which we decided to traverse instead of the Saddle Point route. It was more difficult, even more dangerous than the trek to Tappiya Falls.

When Marcky and I started on our way, without any guide but a few directions given to us, we believed that we can reach the Junction in about an hour.

It took us more than two hours. We were lucky we met new friends from France along the route. They had a guide. Kuya Jun also patiently waited for us even though we were late for our schedule.

I learned that while walking and running at the sides of the mountains, where you could slip and roll down more than a thousand feet of rocks and mud, you can’t help but talk to yourself.

“Ada, live long enough to witness more wonders like this. Please lang.”

I'll climb mountains for this brew.

I’ll climb mountains for this brew.

The other thoughts that ran through my head were:

Oh, I can’t wait for that natural high from going through the route without injury. I think I need to have laser eye operation already, just so I can efficiently climb mountains. I’ll be back, but maybe during the dry season. And, this same time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting in the office, may be typing an e-mail and waiting for manong to deliver a hot serving of ginataang bilo-bilo, as I sip my coffee from Krispy Kreme.

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Turning 31 in Vietnam

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A newstand on our way to Cu Chi

It is easy to remember Vietnam for the war. After all, I came from a state that still uses American lenses to examine other countries most of the time. I grew up in a town where Vietnamese people sought refuge for more than a decade, starting in 1980.

As a kid, whenever I heard the word “Vietnamese”, I thought of helicopters, killing fields as portrayed in American films, and refugees. When I was in grade three, my school’s marching band played at the refugee camp because a politician was coming for a visit. I got so mad when one of my bandmates lent my melodica to a Vietnamese teenager.

My perspective changed as I grew older, of course. But I was turning 31. I owed myself some kind of education, if not redemption. I decided to spend my birthday weekend in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Tunnel vision

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Harvesting vegetables for the cooking class

A good friend advised me to have my tour at the Cu Chi Tunnels scheduled on Saturday. He believed it might ruin my celebratory mood if I’d go there on my birth anniversary. Good point.

Trang picked me up from the hotel at 9:00 in the morning. She got there a bit earlier but didn’t want to make me hurry. She waited patiently at the lobby until I went down. I feel a lump in my throat whenever I pass by the reception, where a sign says: “Prices exclusive of 10% VAT.” Value-added tax in Vietnam ranges from 0% to 10%. There. I just had to let that out.

Our first stop was HCM Villages, an organic farm that also offers cooking classes. It was about an hour away from the hotel, which was near the Tan Son Nhat Airport.

I told Trang that I wasn’t able to eat breakfast before the trip. We made a few stops along the road to the farm. First, to buy iced coffee from a mobile coffee store. Second, to eat pho. And lastly, to buy gas masks.

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Got my first coffee for the day here

The trip to the organic farm served as an alternative to the educational tour I was supposed to join for my course at the University of the Philippines – Open University. While I was busy sniffing about ten kinds of (legit) herbs and picking up other ingredients for the cooking class with Chef Tan at Ho Chi Minh Villages, my classmates were going around Laguna for the required class trip.

The menu for the cooking class had banh mi with pork barbeque, honey chicken, barbeque eggplant and banana spring roll with coconut cream sauce. There were just two students in the class, myself and Quinn. Quinn has been practicing law in California for almost two decades. She’s now taking a break and visiting a few countries and every trip includes cooking lessons. That got me inspired: maybe all of my solo trips should include some culinary education as well. Let’s see.

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Boiled tapioca and tea at Cu Chi

After the cooking class, Trang brought me to a shop and showed me how rice paper is made. On our way to the tunnels, we stopped at a rubber tree plantation. It was a quick stop since the odor of the rubber is not good for the health.

At Cu Chi, I wondered how it feels to be an American citizen and see the documentary film and the writings there. But really, the Americans at the tour didn’t seem to mind. I thought of my great grandfather’s little monument at Capiz. The old man was an officer of the Katipunan. He remained loyal to Gat Andres Bonifacio to the very end, my lola used to say, and as a kid that made me feel courageous. In the tunnels, I saw how the Vietnamese fought. I thought of General Douglas MacArthur’s statue in Leyte and for some reason that made me feel less brave.

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Craftsman at Cu Chi, making the “inverted slippers” from tires

It was raining hard on our way back to the hotel. We wore raincoats and braved the Ho Chi Minh traffic and rain for less than an hour. Trang asked me a few times if I was all right. The whole trip back I was just worried that the two jars of tay ninh (or shrimp chili salt), which I bought earlier, would get soaked. Thank you, reliable backpack rain cover. We stopped somewhere near the hotel to buy slippers because my running shoes were already wet and I was a baby that way.

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Ceremonial haircut

That evening I also got my ceremonial pre-birthday haircut. The good thing about having a haircut in a country where you don’t know the native language is that hair grows back anyway. I ended the day with a meal of hu tieu and banh mi.

Birthday

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Silkworms for sale at Ben Thanh Market

The day began with a market tour. Chef Khang of Hoa Tuc Restaurant guided us around Ben Thanh Market, where we bought the ingredients for our lessons. That morning, I learned how to make (1) Saigon fried spring rolls, (2) chicken stew with basil, ginger and coconut sauce and (3) water spinach salad with dry prawns and quail eggs.

There were more students there compared to the class I attended the day before. But everyone was friendly, I didn’t mind the touristy feel. Also, Chef Khang was generous enough to teach me how to make the beef pho that wasn’t in the menu. He also gave me the recipe for that.

My, Hoa Tuc’s supervisor, offered me a ride on her motorbike and brought me to the Post Office after the class. I spent the rest of the day exploring the district, mostly the museums and galleries. I dropped by at Tara and Khys’ Gallery at Dong Du Street and got myself a print of one of Tara’s paintings.

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My friend, the Phu Quoc ridgeback dog

One thing I noticed along the streets were the elevated trash containers. That would be useful along the streets in Manila, which usually gets flooded. Also, the garbage trucks have automatic bins where the collectors put trash bags. The bin moves and the bags are dropped into the middle part of the truck. All the garbage collection crew were wearing gas masks.

“Why am I watching garbage collection in another country on the night of my 31st birthday?” I asked myself. I walked on and bought souvenirs and a few spices from the shops. I also had a massage. If you’re a millionaire for one weekend, it helps to have your bills divided and organized. I had clips for four-,five- and six-digit bills.

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Hu tieu

Before going back to the hotel, I ate seafood pho and drank cafe sua da. The hours of walking made me feel entitled to a feast, but there’s a plane to catch before midnight. There was no time for more food tripping. I picked the nearest food stall. The cook and owner didn’t understand English, we had to resort to pointing to the menu, even for the payment.

In the ’80s, a storekeeper at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center taught me a Vietnamese term: choi oi. It’s a cuss word. I wish I tried to learn conversational Vietnamese before visiting the country. I wanted to tell the stall owner that the food and coffee were fantastic, but all I had at the tip of my tongue was a cuss word.

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