Monday, August 31, 2009


Meet Lanika Ferrer -- my new love and joy. We have a good relationship, me, Yas and Lanika. Except in the early mornings when I prefer playing with Lanika. That really annoys Yas. Lanika Ferrer. Fresh in the entertainment industry ... ukulele industry, that is :)

Since I'm now an impoverished student and no longer able to buy a guitar, I decided to settle for a ukulele. That's actually a bit inaccurate. I did want to buy a ukulele because of its unique and rustic sound. While playing, it gives me the feel of warm beach sand and the gentle sound of crashing waves as they accompany the strumming of Jack Johnson and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Yes, warm beach sand under my feet. That feels good ...

All right, my real reason for getting a ukulele was to help me imagine all these things while Yas and I freeze in our poorly insulated attic. And, of course, I always dream of jamming with Jack Johnson in Hawaii one day.

So far these are what I've learned to play in my ukulele. Enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Discovering UN

It's been almost a week since the end of my UN internship and I still barely have time to write an entry in my blog. As expected, a 2-months internship is hardly enough to complete one report and two research papers. I guess I should say goodbye to my remaining 2 weeks of real summer vacation!

My UN internship was a cornucopia of emotions -- a meshing of rapturous delight, frustration, pride, humility, sadness and happiness. We arrived awed, then departed skeptical. Came in optimistic, left somehow thwarted. It was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. High in our eureka moments, but low when overworked and stymied. In spite of the radical shifts in our moods, I still wanted to get into the system. The sneak peak into the colossal bureaucracy had only enliven my desire to become an international civil servant.

What made the experience extraordinary were the friends and family who hopped on the roller coaster ride with us -- the co-interns we commiserated with over lunch and coffee breaks, family members who provided support, and the better-halves who received most of the brunt. Weekends became the highlight of the "play" component of our intern lives. Exploring the best gastronomic places became routine, stretching our palette from Asian to Latin American and to African cuisines. The long walks in Central Park, midtown and downtown Manhattan were more than pleasant, even when the 30-blocks strolls and the hot pavement had worn out our shoes quicker than we imagined. Free concerts were always worth the 1 hour commute from Secaucus to Manhattan.

The mix of feelings towards the end of my internship was even stranger. I was sad to see my friends leave (I stayed a week longer), though ecstatic and excited for Yas's arrival and my parents' visit. Although my final week was utterly stressful, it was wonderful to end it with my family watching my final presentation and the relaxing trip to Niagara Falls. Now that I'm back in Syracuse, it's good to just sit back, contemplate and reminisce the great two months of adventure in NYC.

Thanks so much to all my new friends (Annick, Samantha, Carla, Marianne, the yearbook committee), old friends (Jeff, Elaine, Mitul and Yaying), family (Dad, mom, ate claire, kuya troy, tita viging, tito lito, and marcel) and Yas for the fun-filled summer. UN would not have been this memorable an experience without you. To all my new friends: Annick, I'm sure we'll see each other often; Samantha, we'll visit you in DC next year; Carla, I'm not sure if we can visit you down under anytime soon, but I'm sure we'll be able to do so in the future; Marianne, hope to see you in ADB!


Monday, June 1, 2009

At the parliament of men (women)

I was in 5th grade when I made a diorama of the United Nations headquarters. It was made out of illustration board held together by elmer's glue and cut-out paper flags glued on toothpicks. I did not have the dream of working for the UN then. All I wanted was to impress my history teacher and receive a grade of 90% for the project. Who would've thought that nineteen years later I would be walking the halls and corridors of the very buildings I modeled my diaroma project after? Well, my history teacher certainly did not.

"250 out of 5000. That's the odds of getting accepted to do internship at the UN headquarters," exclaims the assistant secretary-general as she welcomes the interns in the orientation program. I guess I was lucky to have a supervisor who knows someone from the inside. Although the statistics may seem overwhelming, it was some other thing that struck me the most in the welcome ceremony. Even at the start of the orientation we were already referred to as future diplomats. The heck, I never really imagined myself becoming a diplomat. All I wished for was to become a policy analyst. That's all. Environmental policy analysis and none of the international relations stuff! I never had the skills of playing with politically-correct words anyway. Nonetheless, here I am amongst the company of the world's established and would-be diplomats. I wonder where this brief stint at the parliament of men (women) would take me. Only time will tell ... approximately five years from now.

To my 5th grade history teacher, I think I deserve 100%.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"It's good to be home" - Joe Biden

It's good to be home. These were the very first words of Vice President Joe Biden's commencement speech at Syracuse University last Sunday. I pondered for a while upon hearing this line. Do I now consider Syracuse as my second home? Surely after coming from a long travel, say from another state, the thought of coming back to Syracuse is akin to "coming home". After living for almost a year now, I have learned to accept my cozy little attic and the friendly Westcott neighborhood as my new home. I guess it's just like the time when I learned to accept our Clementi HDB flat as our home in Singapore. Now I'm beginning to realize how weird it feels to be jumping from one place to another. I wonder if it's for the better to explore the world and slowly watch the gap between myself and my "first home" to grow wider. I wonder when I could finally and sincerely say to myself, "it's good to be home."

This is realizable for some of us who are about to leave the walls of SU and ESF. After 3 long years of grueling doctoral studies and being apart from family, Jing is now concluding the remaining few paragraphs of her Syracuse chapter. As for Yas and I, it will still be another 4-5 years of journey here in the US. I guess we won't be able to say "it's good to be home" in the truest sense for a long time, but we do look forward to that day when we can truly unpack our luggages and settle down for good.

One commencement down, four more to go. Congratulations to Jing and Nilo! It may be a short acquaintance, but definitely long enough to make us miss you a lot.

Pinoys in front of Bray Hall at ESF

SU and ESF commencement at the Archbold Stadium

Jing receiving her diploma from President Murphy (aka Dumbledore)

Dr. Toledo-Bruno and mommy

Maestro Alcala and Dr. Toledo-Bruno

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Congratulations Maestro Alcala!

Our friend, Nilo, had his recital on Sunday and the pinoy group came to give its all out support. It was a proud moment for us, knowing that one day this guy could make it to Broadway, Hollywood, or one of those prestigious conservatories. If not, we're confident he'd write the score for the next hottest telenovela in the Philippines.

Posing in front of Crouse Hall (AKA SU Hogwarts or College of Music) with the Maestro an hour before his recital.

The Maestro conducting his 14-piece choir.

The music was very interesting -- too contemporary for my taste, but I'm sure he got an A+ for his recital. Good thing my best friend introduced me to contemporary composition back in college. At least I did not have to sit through the entire concert, like most of the other pinoys, wondering why the music was so atonal. Nonetheless, I think they appreciated the part when the choir was making native american-like sounds while stumping their feet.

Congratulations Nilo! The pinoys and Billy Joel are so proud of you!

Mabuhay and pilipinas!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Farewell Freeman

I was shocked to hear the passing away of Francis "Kiko" Magalona.

Here's my tribute to this great Filipino musician.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Back to letter writing

I immediately felt the difference upon coming home from the airport. The clutter was not in its usual place anymore, although that blue, puffy jacket was still hanging near the banister of my attic staircase (funny how in an instant I began referring to "our" attic as "my" attic). I went to the kitchen to help myself with a glass of OJ and stared at the leftover cookies on the dining table. I pitied them cookies, knowing that they would probably sit there for three more weeks rather than being appreciated for less than a day if the circumstance weren't so different. I went back to bed again hoping to just sleep through the somber experience, but stacking two pillows did not help at all. I then figured that perhaps it would help to recall my first few weeks here in Syracuse, when the best way of assuaging bouts of the blues was to rely on Blogger, Skype and the US postal service.

The realization came: It's back to letter writing, at least in the next six months.

Sometimes I wonder if we're taking this "letter writing" theme in our relationship too seriously. That our love for the postal system has inevitably created a world for us to constantly act the roles of a long distance couple. Nah, I seriously doubt it. I don't believe in The Secret crap anyway. Letter writing is always here to stay in our relationship, even if it's just a week of being apart. It's not a dismal reminder of our sad state, but a proof of our endurance to cope with dramatic changes in our relationship. Ten years from now we would proudly say to our kids, "We wrote a hundred letters when your dad entered the academic convent." One of those letters would say:

"Thanks for visiting, Yas. Now I know how it would be like when you unpack your suitcase for good in August. Love -- Marbs"