Archive for united states of america

(lg2a) enclaves of the rich and famous

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, history, interior design, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by mijodo

Oh to be famous and rich. Well I can comfortably settle for just being rich – in fact, filthy rich.

Cousin Barbara and I, together with some Los Angeles tourists,  hopped on to this white, open top, vehicle that should bring us to the hills of Hollywoodland and its environs. Again, just like what we had done at the Oscar grounds (https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/oh-oscar/), we became gawkers and probably even snoops of such exulted showbiz personalities and their real estate acqusitions.

Again, my cousin and I, make ourselves small, just by listening to such trivial celebrity information amusingly dished out to us by our driver/travel guide as we meandered in the uber exclusive roads within the Beverly Hills and Bel-Air Villages. But our first stop was where the famous Hollywood sign was perched on the top of the hill. Our driver mentioned that  in the 1930s one young aspiring actress who had been frustrated with her unsatisfying career, climbed up on one of the letters of the Hollywood sign, and leapt to her death. The following day, a letter arrived to inform her supposedly of a starring role on a film.

On a more fun note, the tour went through the houses and mansions of Hollywood and American society A-listers and some B celebrities, including Dr. Phil, Bob Barker of Price is Right,  Laurence Fishburne of CSI, Richard Gere, the late red head comedienne, Lucille Ball, and the prepubescent’s idols, the Jonas Brothers.  Each home is palatial, grand, and speaks much of the owner’s taste and requirements. At the outside, Nicolas Cage’s residence is romantic yet dark in tone, with patches of garden moss attached on its brick red facade. Celebrity heiress, Paris Hilton’s family residence has its name – West Haven, emblazoned on the perimeter wall.  Such shows the Hilton family’s self importance.  Even the guide, acerbicly asked us, “Does your house have a name?”

But whose ego is said to be as big as his Beverly Hills estate? According to our scornfully loquacious driver – it is no other than  Tom Cruise.  While tangentially passing by Tom Cruise’s place (we never actually saw his home at the top of hill, blocked by other houses), our driver mentioned that if Tom Cruise’s presence is inside the mansion, a white flag is propped up in his property.  Well during our trip, there is no flag to signal his actual stay in the mansion.

The story may just be one of the legends concocted by these enterprising travel guides to make the trip fun and interesting. Afterall, such big showbiz royalties don’t announce their presence just like that –  for obvious security reasons.  I am even wondering, how is it possible that such enclaves are open for curious tourists and outsiders to see, and possibly furthermore to inspect their actual garbage bins outside their homes (saw several at Richard Gere’s charming home.)

Certainly, homeowners of our own exclusive villages in Makati, Ortigas and Alabang will never allow such oglers in their territories. It is just too risky in terms of security, and too outlandish in terms of privacy. But yes in the Philippines, posh enclaves for the rich and probably infamous have burgeoned for several decades. The old rich , and even the ambassadors to the Philippines, may have settled in ritzy Forbes Park and Dasmarinas Village in Makati. The noveau rich may have opted to dwell in Ayala, Alabang or in the tall glass buidings of Fort Bonifacio.  But of course, there are still members of the family manning the genteel homes of Malate where the wealthy families took residence during the pre-war era.

While it is sure that these great big homes, whether in the Philippines or in Los Angeles, have happy families and individuals occupying them, there are still houses and haunts that have saddening and even paranormal experiences.  Our driver at the roadtrip had a serious tone when we passedby the last residence of Michael Jackson where he had been last taken out to the hospital for drug overdose. He also made mention of Marilyn Monroe’s apparition, visiting a favorite hotel – the Roosevelt Hotel at Hollywood Boulevard.  And just before his death, John Belushi’had gone to one favorite nightclub, the Guitar Center, and even ate his last meal – consisting of lentil soup.

And of course the tour would never be complete without the driver pinpointing where Hugh Grant made his scandalous mistake with a local prostitute – at the alleyways, near the KFC store. Oh, to be rich and horny, this time.

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(lg2a) oh, oscar!

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, fashion, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by mijodo

 

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“Forgive them, celebrity worshippers!” one mockingly said to another while they passedby a group of frenzied kibitzers hanging around to gawk on celebrities walking through the Oscar Award at the Kodak Theater last Sunday, February 27, 2011. In the cold Los Angeles afternoon, people still waited and sorrily grasped on wire fences, even if the Los Angeles Police were asking them to get out of the perimiter that divided the stars from the spectators who didn’t have the pass to get into Oscar territory.
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Well admittedly, I together with my cousin Barbara, was one of those celebrity stalkers, hungry to gaze at some film superstars like Anne Hathaway or Steven Spielberg. But too bad, we never got to see anyone remotely well-known during our brief stake out at the very end of the red carpet where stretch limousines had dropped their celeb passengers, near the Hollywood Wax Museum.  Apparently even our hurried travel to some other parts of Los Angeles as tourists made us still awfully late in having  exceptionally rare, face to face encounters with showbiz A-listers.
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Yups to some, the experience was lame, particularly that we never had seen even one notable personality.  But this annual affair is being shown to about 2 billion people, world wide, in 200 countries. And for us, just to be at the center of the hoopla was one distinct occurrence, never to be dismissed at all. Furthermore, Pinoys who are incredibly avid Hollywood movie junkies, are big about the Oscars such that the whole event is shown live on television, preempting morning and noontime shows in the Philippines.
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 For several years now, the Philippine movie industry has tried to submit films, worthy to be among the five nominees for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. In fact, Filipina ace star, Judy Ann Santos, even had an earnest campaign, costing her some precious Dollars, to include her movie, “Ploning,” among the nominees several years ago. Too bad, nothing came out of it.
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However, in this year’s edition, a handful of Filipinos have been nominated in their particular categories, including 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, nominated as Best Supporting Actress for the film, “True Grit.” Apparently, she lost to Melissa Leo of “The Fighter” though.
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There have been interesting highlights and sidelights though within the Oscars presentation itself that should tickle the Filipino in us.  In 1993, at the 65th Oscars, Lea Salonga had a lavish production number with Brad Kane. They sang “A Whole New World” which was nominated for Best Original Song from the Disney animated movie, “Aladdin.”
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In 1986, right after the EDSA Revolution, Jane Fonda had flashed a “Laban” sign on live Oscar television presentation just before she rattled off the nominees  for a particular movie category. Obviously, our revolution has gone Hollywood.
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Recently, even at the red carpet, big shot actresses sashay their stunning gowns that have been exclusively made for them by Cebu raised, Monique Lluhillier who is now based at Los Angeles. This year Mandy Moore proudly wore a creation of this now esteemed couturier.
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That afternoon, instead of getting excited about the personalities and their outfits on the red carpet, we had to make do at ogling at some bargained Oscar statuettes at $9.95 each on some souvenir shops along the boulevard.
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Then the following day, we decided to go back to the same site, hoping to get better posterity shots of the giant statue right in front of the Kodak Theater. But heck the efficient organizers had removed such gold icon early morning and the only reminder of the past evening was the installation of “The King’s Speech” as 2010’s Best Picture at one of the mini marquees that give out the theatre goers of all Oscar Best Picture Awardees since 1929 (see picture above).
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Philippine movies may not have really won at the Oscars, but just like what the other losing nominees would say, “To be part of the Oscars, is like winning itself!”  Hence, just being part of this year’s Oscars presentation makes me and cousin Barbara winners, without necessary making a speech and “thanking the Academy.”

(lg2a) give me the dirty, the dingy, the dazzling new york city

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, news, people, religion, sports, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2010 by mijodo

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“This reminds me of Cubao, Quiapo and Makati altogether,” one sister declared.
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Yes it can be true. Just go to the heart of New York City – Manhattan that is, and you get a melange of all our iconic busy places in Metro Manila. The monumental glass buildings and skyscrapers, and fancy boutique glasswindows remind you of Ayala Avenue. The corner delicatessens, the quaint coffeshops and small emporiums, and the ubiquitous hotdog stands are reminiscent of the old Cubao, just before the posh Gateway Mall was built. Oh yes, the seedy, dirty streets, the incessant scaffoldings blocking pedestrians, and  the chaotic volume of people, crisscrossing the grid streets (which then Manila Metropolitan Commission Governor Imelda Marcos wanted to impossibly copy for the layout of Metro Manila )of Manhattan implore a Quiapo feel overall.
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“I will never come back here,” another sister threatened. She is happy to stay in a quiet suburb somewhere in the midwest.
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It is not only her who seems to be disillusioned by New York City. Aside from the disarray of Manhattan, some have outrightly warned of the bedlam that happens in the Big Apple such as frequent muggings and  the saucy attitude by the New Yorkers. There was even a time when all patrons were forcibly asked  to leave a store just because it was already closing. My sister pointed out such crudeness to a store manager. The store got some rude awakening from a Detroit diva there!
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But it is the diamond in the rough that makes New York special and iconic to many of us non-New York dwellers. The Statue of Liberty at the harbor, United Nations Headquaters and the Financial District appeal to those who have romanticized the ideals of freedom, harmony and capitalism. The beaches at Hamptons, the artifacts of the numerous galleries and museums, the runway fashion shows of designers, and the explosion of architecture connect highly to the desires and senses of the erudite, the avantgarde, the sophisticated, and the moneyed from all over the globe.
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But for many of us, hoi-polloi, including me, it is the razzle-dazzle of pop culture that makes us warm with delight in the City that Never Sleeps. Aside from the music and stories that are churned out from musicals and plays of Broadway and the numerous movies which featured the city, it is the weekly and probably daily television shows, old and new, that familiarize us with a piece of New York life. Shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City give the couch potatoes a weekly dose of insights regarding independence, fraternization and even perhaps fabulous urban living, aside from the quality comedic scripts that comeout from these shows. It is the involved appreciation of such shows that make travelling to this megapolis quite surreal and a definite treat for pop culture afficionados. 
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It is quite a testament to New York City, a city that has experienced trouble in the last few years, in terms of finance and security, of how it has remained on the top, for visitors and travellers passing by America.  No matter how shoddy and dirty New York is, the spotlight stays on that Big Apple.

(lg2a) boo!

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, locales, people, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by mijodo

Towards the first day of November, we, Filipinos, busy ourselves in remembering and honoring our dead.  Ordinarily, the feast for the commerating the dead is on November 2, however we seem to start trekking to the cemeteries on the first day of November for some reason.

As November approaches, we ask family members or our handymen to repaint the tombs, niches or family mausoleum of our dead relatives for All Saints Day or Todos los Santos. We spruce up the surroundings, trimming overgrown grass. Then we lit up candles, and buy a pot of flowers as an offering to our dearly departed. Some try to remember their loved ones with quiet prayer and masses, but some opt to have a grand reunion party in the very place where the dead is buried. Obviously, just like in any family gathering, filipino fare, like suman and pansit will be served for everyone who remembers. Some cemeteries will even allow some dance music and a little gambling for the people to while away until the wee hours of the morning.

However, in most parts of America, many prepare for Halloween instead. Americans busy themselves preparing their houses, with scary decorations usually made out of carved pumpkins for jack o’lanterns or some familiar creepy figures to entertain, and perhaps spook out kids, asking for some candy treats from them.

It is said that next to Christmas, halloween is the most anticipated celebration in the calendar.  Parents try to look for some fun costumes  to be worn by their kids during the day. The origin of wearing costumes with masks is done to ward off and confuse the evil spirits roaming around during this season.

It is quite interesting to see how Americans have incorporated the otherworldly into their tradition and customs such that the whole country even celebrates halloween with gusto, and with no religious guilt.  Surely, the Philippines is rich with folklores and mythical creatures like the manananggal (usually a woman who can detach its upper torso from the lower body part), tiyanak (evil toddler), or mangkukulam (witch).  And it is even very popular to scare ourselves about ghosts, hauntings and other deathly concerns during this time through television and movies, and in print. However, our national government is not into celebrating the ghouls and the ghosts of the netherworld, much less putting the event in the timetable of Philippine holidays.

However, there was one time when a certain province in the Visayas Region unabashedly played out its infamous reputation through a festival observance.  Some non-government offices in Capiz, a province in Western Visayas, thought of the Aswang Festival, despite its controversy as aswang is another diabolic folkloric creature that changes in form, from human, usually a woman, to an animal, usually a dog that pounces and eats the fetus of a pregnant woman.

But for some unknown reason, the Capizenos have been unfairly and preposterously identified as aswangs through generations. Probably many of them are offended by the connection, but some have played along with some chagrin.  Some creative Capizenos just tried to utilize the labelling as another way of promoting the province in terms of tourism.

By October 31, 1994, a day before the yearly Todo los Santos, the Aswang Festival was celebrated through parades and  costumes that depict the evil mythic creatures of the Philippines, just like the Halloween festivities in America. However, local government and the Catholic heirarchy intervened, and condemned such celebration as it relates to the evil spirits, and may just make the stigma of the aswangs in the area even more pronounce. It seemed that the festival died out eventually years after.

As they say, to each his own.  Whether we celebrate Halloween or All Souls’ Day/All Saints’ Day or both, may the good spirit be with us always.

(lg2a) stripped

Posted in architecture, culture, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by mijodo

The handsome architecture of new hotel buildings won’t be enough.  The exemplary performances showcasing magic and circus combined (Cirque de Soleil), broadway musicals (such as this time, Phantom of the Opera and Jersey Boys), and starstudded concerts (Celine Dionne) may just not satisfy.  Travellers, from all over, even from the Philippines, come to the Las Vegas Strip probably for one reason – gamble  till their pockets run dry!
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People somehow can’t be blamed for getting weak in the knees and  possibly wasting much moolah. The casinos just know how to create a sensorial experience to entice people to risk their hard earned money, and hope for some more cash at the end – if not, take the jackpot!
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The plush casino dens’ interiors. The slot machine monitors’ blinding lights and striking indoor colors (usually red). The fanciful computer sounds and animation. The heady mixed odor of cigarette smoke and casinos’ own Glade-like scent.  It is quite a rush to win some, and win some more as the people press intensely the slot machine buttons, and see which patterns create more cash for them.
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Aside from the rows of slot machines, there are quite a few tables for those wanting to beat the odds on card games like, poker and blackjack. Roulettes, dice, and large monitors that simulate horseracing  just enhance the playing experience.
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Bellagio, Harrah’s, Mandalay, and the venerable Caesar’s Palace  in Las Vegas provide high-rollers (those who spend much) hotel rooms for free to lure them to play some more. To the just-initiated, some coolers or Margarita could do the trick for them to wage again. Who knows, this newbie could turn out to be a gambling afficionado.
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To many, gambling in Las Vegas (or even in Manila where one casino is right across the newest airport) may just be another fun getaway. But to others, gambling can be a cruel experience as one may lose everything, including his shirt, not only for a day, but probably for a lifetime. As such, there are responsible casinos that offer psychological help to those who have the addiction to gambling.
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Actually, the compulsion to gamble can be explained through the theory of stimulus-response conditioning.  If certain stimulus or set of stimuli (gambling apparatus – slot machines, card tables, etc) do not produce a reward (cash winnings) given a response (gambling behavior), then gambling will decrease or will be extinguished. However, if the stimuli give out  rewards at different intervals such as the gambler wins at times or loses at different times then the behavior of gambling increases, and may be difficult to extinguish.
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Obviously, this stimulus-response model translates to all forms of gambling, including the most prevalent ones in the Philippines, including sabong (cockfighting), majhong, bingo, lotto, and even of course, jueteng (illegal numbers game).
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Here’s hoping that through this behaviorism constructs, we get to be more aware of how gambling can induce a malady of addiction. Have some fun, playing at that slot machine, but don’t let that machine work on you – stripped dry.

(lg2a) this is not panama city, panama

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, food, health, history, interior design, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, sports, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2010 by mijodo

 

An aunt from Canada was to attend a family member’s wake and burial in Panama City, Florida. However instead of going directly to one of the gulf cities of Florida, she found herself in another part of North America –  at Panama City, Panama.

Probably this story has been retold amongst family members countless times, just to regale ourselves and have some hearty guffaws at such an oddball experience.  But it did happen, and can happen even in the Philippines. If you want to go to San Fernando, make sure which Luzon capital city you are stopping by – the one in Pampanga for some culinary experience or La Union for some surfing action in nearby town, San Juan.

When you think about “Cagayan,” you do ask yourself, “Is this the capital, Cagayan de Oro City of Misamis Oriental of Northern Mindanao or is this Cagayan Province of Northern Luzon?” Cagayan de Oro City boasts of whitewater rafting activities and a busy seaport while Cagayan Province has cave exploration and spelunking for tourists. But “Cagayan Province” should not be confused with “Cagayan Valley” or the whole Region 2 area,  which is composed of the provinces of Batanes, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Cagayan Province.

Another name, “Davao,” set in the Mindanao turf, sets chaos probably among the minds of Filipino students studying for a geography quiz. Davao City which is the business and tourism hub of Mindanao is independent of any province, including Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur. Davao del Norte’s capital is Tagum City while Davao del Sur’s is Digos. Interestingly, and even probably more confusingly, Davao del Norte’s official and newest name is Davao Province.
But heck, after some stressful geography lessons in the Philippines, I guess it is time for some destressing which you can get plenty of in Panama City Beach Florida which is distinct from Panama City, Panama.
(For some personal pics on my travel to America, please click on this: https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/letsgopinas-goes-2-america/)
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Panama City may not be a top of mind destination in Florida. Miami and Orlando should be prime city targets among travellers in the socalled Sunshine State. However Panama City, together with adjacent environ, Panama City Beach has so much to offer for the sunworshippers – torquoise waters, powdery white shores, and magnificent sunsets. Americans from the Southern states usually enjoy the beaches and the countless high rise accommodations that line the area. Families during the summers and students the socalled springbreak troop to the 27 miles of stunning beachfront sceneries of Panama City Beach.
And between Panama City, Florida, and the country, Panama is the Carribean Gulf. This piece of info should settle the confusion once and for all.
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As we try to hairsplit these geographical names, how about finding out where the phonetically troublesome and originally named town of “Sexmoan” is.
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How about “Sasmuan, Pampanga.”

(lg2a) a world upside down

Posted in culture, events, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by mijodo

You think everything seems to be running smoothly. You feel that everything seems to be right with your life, just swimming along contently, comfortably in a world that offers much for your existence. Then a letter comes.

The letter asks you to radically alter your life; in fact the letter pushes you to move out of your shell and explore another world – America.

Hastily, you set on a journey to find out what USA is all about.  Then you get to realize that this part of the world is not “Sex in the City” sexy nor “Beverly Hills 90210” bitchy. Much of USA is all about strong work ethic and generosity of spirit – whether it is in the farmlands, industrial towns or the suburbs. There is apparent indication about the dire economic situation in almost every other town or city that I have been to, but it is the Americans’ friendliness and openess that warm the heart of this immigrant.

In the few days I have been here, this newbie has been welcomed and embraced by the relatives and friends who have worked long for years in their adoptive land either as medical professionals or bluecollar workers. I am still weighing the many options regarding my supposed stay here in this country. I am not quite sure how things will work out here in America, but I am assured by their love and concern about my unsureness, my unsteadiness. And I am overwhelmed and humbled with such gestures.

As my world has turned upside down, and some of my initial thoughts on America have completely been disregarded and erased, still the Philippines that I have cared much through this site has never been more pronounced and more vivid than ever.

In this regard, there will be postings on places and my musings on America that will intersperse intermittently with articles solely on the Philippines and Filipinos in this blog. Such thoughts on America will hopefully be relatable to what Philippines and Filipinos is all about, and should even enhance more my love for anything Filipino.  Such articles and postings will be categorized as “Letsgopinas Goes to America (LG2A).”

As early as now, let me also say that I miss my life, friends and family in the Philippines (I miss my work and bidet too). And I thank everyone who has been supportive and cared about me in my nativeland. From the land of supposed plenty – let me say to them “Ingat lagi at salamat.”