since my lola passed away a few days ago, my mother has taken out a lot of old photos of her that i'd never seen before. it's sort of sad, in a way, because i wish i could have looked at these together with my grandma and heard her stories behind them. at the same time, i'm happy to see them at all. and, one observation that seemed to be a trend throughout these photos is that my grandma and her sister have great taste in clothes. i can't get over how beautiful they are in their dresses.

tagaytay, taal & merienda

on our way back from laguna, we took a short detour to tagaytay to visit lake taal with its volcano. the taal volcano is the smallest in the world and still active. i remember coming here with my dad 11 years ago, but it's still beautiful as ever. the elevation is fairly high up so there's a really pleasant breeze as you look across the lake.

after checking out the view, we stopped at a little restaurant for merienda. if you're familiar with spanish at all, you'll know that merienda is a little afternoon snack in between lunch and dinner. and it's awesome. you usually eat some bread or a little pastry, but you can pretty much have whatever you want. we opted for some traditional filipino dessert:

halo halobibingka, caramelized sweet banana (can't remember the tagalog name) and turon. the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

childhood memories

when i was 7 years old, i spent june-december in the philippines with my mom, brother, and all of our family in mandaluyong. it was my first time in the philippines and to me, a really important experience in my childhood. being in the philippines as an adult 14 years later makes me look at things much differently. i see the poverty and the hearts of the people in a new light.

but somethings are exactly the same, and i couldn't be happier:

1. getting fresh buko (coconut). they chop it off for you and you can drink the juice fresh from the fruit. i hate brown coconut in america, but buko is so delicious.

2. jollibee. the largest filipino fast food chain. along with burgers, they also sell fried chicken, rice, and filipino spaghetti. this was daniel's first encounter with them.

3/4. riding the tricycle. it's a motorcycle with a little carrier thing attached to it and you ride inside. they get you where you want in the neighborhood for just 7 pesos.

5. stik-o chocolate wafer thingies and ube ice cream. some of my favorite filipino desserts. my aunt used to have a little sari-sari store in front of her house where she sold tons of candy, soda, soap, and a lot of random stuff. the stik-o's were my favorite. and ube (taro) ice cream is delicious. it's also extra cool because it's purple.

6. soda in a plastic bag. in the sari-sari store, my aunt also sold soda. in order to make sure that she got the recycling money back, she kept the glass bottles and put the soda in a plastic bag with a straw. maybe it's just nostalgia, but it's my favorite way to drink soda now.


my sister, daniel and i were able to leave busy manila for a night and stay with some family in laguna, south of the capital. my grandma's brother rented the house and all of his children and their children stayed for the weekend to celebrate father's day and some birthdays. the house had a really nice, private pool with a little fountain that fed water from the hot springs. we got there in the evening, swam, ate, swam, and went to sleep. the water was really warm and once in a while, it would rain cold water- probably my new favorite way to swim.

this house is so beautiful.

mama hely

things about filipino culture: you call your grandmother "lola" and most everyone has a nickname for their full name. our family is a little different. we have the nickname part down- "hely" is a nickname for "consuelo," but we call my grandma "mama hely" because she helped raise a lot of us and is basically another mother to us.

it breaks my heart that the last time i saw her was 8 years ago. i regret working almost every summer since i was 15 and going to greece last summer. why didn't i go to the philippines? why do we wait until times are desperate to finally do things we planned for the distant future? one of the things i've learned from all of my traveling is that if you want to do something, you can do it. it may seem too expensive, or unlikely, but if you want it bad enough than you make it happen. you save and save and make it happen.

mama hely, i'm sorry i didn't come sooner. i'm glad that we were able to see each other and that even though you have "bad days," you still have good days. that you're surrounded by family that loves you and that you still enjoy ice cream when you can't eat other things. i wish that i could have stayed longer but you're always in my thoughts and prayers. we love you so much. please keep strong.