How I Spent The Summer: June 21-26 (NJ-NY)

DAY 9: I move to live with my cousins in New Jersey. On the way to their house, we pass by a monument of someone strangely familiar and as it turns out…it's my buddy JR! Add to to-do list: Take snapshot before I leave.

DAY 10 is spent gallivanting around Manhattan with Tita Nennette and Tito Jimmy (former neighborsof ours in Cagayan de Oro). We go to all the touristy spots: St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Plaza, Victoria's Secret's Annual Sale (haha), we even stop by The Palace, Serena van der Woodsen's home away from home. We're too destitute to try the $50 Gossip Girl-inspired grilled cheese sandwich, so we make do with people-watching at Central Park. Despite my aunt's stories of the celebrities she swears she's seen at Central Park (e.g. Eva Longoria), we spot no one of stalkerazzi value. Still, I have to admit, the view's not bad. =D

DAY 11: Laze-Around-The-House/Catch-UpOn–TV-Eps-I-Missed Day. Also, Finish-Work-For-Research-Paper Day.

DAY 12:
I watch Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The plot parts I suspect were written by George Lucas seem pretty unconvincing but the action is entertaining enough. And you know, it's Harrison Ford. and Shia LaBeouf. So no complaints there. I also sneak in to watch Get Smart for "free."

DAY 13: Because I don't think it'd be worth it to actually go up to visit the Statue of Liberty (and okay, I'm too cheap to pay the cruise fare), I hop onboard the Staten Island Ferry which offers a view of the Statue of Liberty AND is free. Of course, taking a picture of yourself with the Statue in the background, while keeping your hair from blowing all over your face is a talent that hmm…probably only Mackie possesses. In fact, the ones I took were so bad, you'll have to make do with the scenery shot without me (on left).

On Staten Island, I visit the museum and take a quick look around the park. It's too hot to really go around the island so I take a ferry back to Manhattan to visit Battery Park.

Battery Park is one of those picturesque parks you've seen a lot of in rom-coms. Everywhere you look, there's monuments to long-ago heroes, children eating hot dogs, musicians playing in the street, a guy having his portrait sketched, and vendors hawking their wares (I buy the cutest pair of earrings from this really friendly black woman who makes all her jewelry by hand). There's also Castle Clinton, which is, less of a castle, really, than a stone wall—hardly a fort, in fact, but they call it a castle nonetheless (silly Americans).

The ImmigrantsMan SleepingPhp180 for a Popsicle?!Obligatory Fountain ShotStatues of Liberty

Across from Battery Park is the National Museum of the American Indian, which I also visit. (p.s. Hope you got the ecards I sent!)

DAY 14:
Do-Nothing-At-All-Except-Shower-Sleep-And-Eat Day

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How I Spent The Summer: June 13-20 (NY-Philly)

DAY 1: I arrive in New York just after noon and head straight to my cousin Chris's house where, of course, the first thing I do is dig into an old-fashioned Filipino meal cooked no less by (yay!) Lola, who's been visiting. And oh lord, if that wasn't enough, I finally had my favorite Knorr seasoning (how I missed you Knorr!) and UFC banana ketchup (sorry Heinz, but you just cannot compare) to complete the meal. Mm-mm. More than made up for that paltry bag of peanuts they gave me on the plane. All this, of course, while the Filipino channel blares away in the background of the living room, playing Kris and Boy's latest show. I swear, it's like I never left home.

DAY 2: We meet up with our cousins who live in New Jersey and convoy all the way to Philadelphia to attend Charles's (Chris's older brother) graduation. Charles just got his Master's degree in Digital Media something (visual/graphic design, that sort of thing). Best part of the day is the look on my family's face when, after dressing up in their formal best, they see my cousin wearing under his toga only *gasp* shorts and old black shoes. And without socks no less! Incriminating picture on the right.

DAY 3: Shopping at the King of Prussia Mall. At the end of the day, we drive back to New York.

: We hang out in New Jersey. And I get indoctrinated into the confusing world of Lobo. I also find out that my old classmate, Marc Abaya, is now acting in a teleserye.  As one of the male leads. Weird.

DAY 5: I insist on watching Iron Man, which everyone in the entire world has already seen. Lola insists on making binignit. And Chris insists on skipping Don't Mess with the Zohan to catch Lobo. Everyone is happy. Except for me. I'd rather have listened to Adam Sandler make jokes in an Israeli accent than Piolo explicate his love for Angel Locsin. But I am quickly placated by binignit. :) 

DAY 6: My cousins give me a walking tour of Manhattan before catching a musical. At Times Square, we see the Naked Cowboy strutting his guitar  and I whip out my camera to take a pic. But I'm too slow to catch him. Frustrated, I start practicing taking solo shots of myself a la Mackie. I do this all the way to Broadway where the lady behind us, feeling sorry for me probably, offers to take a pic of us three.

Attempt #1Attempt #5Broadway - Lined up for Chorus Line

Mario Lopez, who's in A Chorus Line, the musical we go to see, is all kinds of scrumptious. I'm a little disappointed he doesn't actually sing but he does dance. WOW. I walk out of the theater half in love with Slater (though it was always Zack for me) and singing 'What I Did For Love" in my head.

: Tito Chester, Charles, and Lola fly back to the Philippines. The rest of us console ourselves by going shopping and stuffing ourselves with the diniguan, callos, and mango float Lola made just before she left.

DAY 8: I take a train ride, by myself, to Connecticut to visit Chocopolgie, where I hear the world's most expensive chocolate is sold. I buy the "cheaper" chocolates of course. One bite of their coconut white chocolate truffle and I think I'm in love again. Mario who? I spend the rest of the day exploring posh Norwalk before catching a train back to New York.

Tandoori Chicken and NaanAt the Norwalk MuseumMe with Raggedy AnnChurch in Norwalk

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How I Spent The Holidays: Dec 22 (Napa & Back Again)

DAY 9 of our trip is slightly more planned, though no less alcohol-filled than the day before. First stop on the second day of our Napa excursion is COPIA, where Mackie and I tour the wine and food exhibits, the Edible Gardens, take Wine Tasting 101 and Wine and Food Pairing classes and attend a cooking demonstration (with wine, of course).

COPIA Edible GardensCOPIA Smelling StationCOPIA Food and Wine Pairing ClassCOPIA Food Demonstration 1COPIA Food Demonstration 2

After COPIA, we drive over to the Darioush winery for more photo ops (and a bag of pistachios):

Darioush PillarsDarioush FountainsDarioush SculptureDarioush Vineyards

Sadly, Darioush is our last official stop in Napa. Mackie and I soon head back to my sister's house in Cameron Park where we meet up with her and her husband, Adam for a pre-Christmas dinner with my relatives in Elk Grove.  The highlight of the dinner comes afterwards when my cousin, Dexter, brings out Rock Band and everyone tries their hand at being a rock star for one night (as usual, some people are better at this than others).

Rock Band 1Rock Band 2Rock Band 3

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How I Spent The Holidays: Dec 21 (SF-Napa)

DAY 8: Mackie and I do a rushed tour of San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge and Monument, Fisherman's Wharf) followed by shopping (at least on Mackie's part) in Haight & Ashbury. After lunch, we drive to wine country Napa Valley.

I wish I could accurately describe the sight of Napa's vineyards which, even in winter, are still beautiful, or even give you a picture of the view from our hotel room but unfortunately we don't have really good pictures. Why? I'm not really sure. What I do know is that after arriving in Napa and a quick nap for Mackie (the driver), we're ready to do more than just appreciate the view. First, however, we pick a new identity. This time, we try to pass off as coño Filipinos touring the States. This lasts for about 10 minutes (again, Mackie's fault not mine since maglisod gyud daw siya'g Tagalog). We have a little more success with the next pretend identity we pick which is British (but for some reason, not really looking British), inspired by our GPS car system, Daniel, who we endow with a British accent. It lasts a little longer, I think because after doing some local sightseeing, we get slightly tipsy from our wine tasting session at the local shopping district (yes, we go shopping again and yes, Mackie again bought more clothes than me). Because pictures are always more fun than words, here are a few photos we took during our first night in Napa:

The aftermath of our wine tasting sessionInside a Doll ShopIn front of Napa's Mosaic Fountain

Joanna also joined us later that evening in the hotel so we were able to take some pics with her in front of my laptop:

Photo 84Photo 103Photo 104Photo 110Photo 111


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How I Spent The Holidays: Dec 20 (San Francisco)

DAY 7: Mabelle's birthday. The day begins with us having breakfast at The 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood, near Brian and the guys' hotel, where they shot scenes from the movie Swingers. At the coffee shop, Brian spots someone he thinks may be famous and later on turns out to be maybe Danny Nucci. We're not sure. But since we've already met up with the Zac Efron, we're not really too excited about maybe Danny Nucci anyway. After breakfast, Brian drives me, Basil & Mackie to San Jose where we pick up our rental car and drive to San Francisco. In the evening, Mackie and I meet up with Mabelle, Mabelle's husband (not pictured), Basil (also not pictured), Mabelle's daughter, Yvanna, and Joanna.

In San Francisco, Mackie and I also try to pass ourselves off as Mexi–excuse me–Latin American tourists but we're not very successful at it, partly because our Spanish sucks (well, more Mackie's actually, not mine) and apparently, Mackie is terrible at lying even when it's just pretending actually and doesn't really harm anyone. Hmph. Party pooper.

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How I Spent The Holidays: Dec 17-19 (still in LA)

DAY 4: After a month of working on it, my stat paper finally gets finished in the wee hours of the morning. Mackie heads to the office for work and I spent most of the day (after having breakfast at Jollibee) shopping with Mackie's mom. In the evening, we meet up with Brian Cagadas and the other St. Marians in LA for an SMS Mini Reunion in, of all places, Max Restaurant. Here's a pic of that dinner, stolen from Kuya Fred's Facebook page:

DAY 5: I join Brian and the rest of the SMS boys (sans Mackie who still has work) for a rainy day trip to Universal Studios. Photos, which should be coming from Brian Cagadas, are, sadly, lacking and will have to be uploaded another time but for now, here's a pic of the guys (right) in the tram ride (Kerville went with us too but he's seated in the same section I'm in, so he's not in this picture).

After trying out most of the rides (The Mummy, Jurassic Park) and watching the shows (Shrek in 4D is just as ugly as he is in 2D), we meet up with Julie and Mackie for dinner–I don't remember where but I do remember there were mojitos—and dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.

UPDATE: Brian did get to send me more pictures but since I'm too lazy to post them here, check them out at my multiply site.

DAY 6:
Mackie and I visit the Getty Museum where we indulge our pretentious souls and, of course, take more pictures of ourselves:

Getty 2Getty 14Getty 8Getty Mirrors

And then, because it's my last day in LA, I take my picture with The Breakfast Club (sorry Macks, gi-cut tika; singit man gud ka; first pic below) and have one last Filipino dinner with the SMS group:

The Breakfast ClubSMS Alumni Reunion

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How I Spent The Holidays: Dec 14-16 (LA)

DAY 1: After arriving in LA, we head to…USC campus, Mackie's beloved alma mater where I spend the obligatory amount of time working on my stat paper (30 mins tops). Mackie then proceeds to enthusiastically drag me from building to building in the cold, cold night in search of Tom Brady, who we later find out is actually from Michigan. Oops. Here's a pic of me freezing my ass off in front a favorite Filipino must-have-in-pic fixture, the fountain:

DAY 2: Mackie's birthday. We pig out on an all-you-can-eat buffet and drop by Palos Verdes where we take our picture in front of yet another fountain:

We also drop by Buffy's old school, Sunnydale High:

DAY 3 was a busy day for us. First, Mackie is tricked into going to church (sadly, there is no picture for this), then we drop by the "plaza" in Carson City to visit my old buddy, JR, and the veterans (left).

Next stop: Lunch at Redondo Beach with 1) Mackie's mom and Kuya Fred's wife, 2) Kuya Fred and his daughter, Faye-faye (tama ba ang spelling Macks?) and 3) super tabi-an boy whose-name-I-can't-remember (click on pics to see enlarged versions)



After lunch, we pick up my friend from UP Spanish class, Arnel, and stop by the LACMA for the Salvador Dalí Painting and Film Exhibit. Then it's off to Hollywood where we do the usual touristy stuff (below), including having dinner at an expensive restaurant where the haughty Italian host reluctantly took a picture of some low-class Filipino patrons. And then, of course, we hang out with our favorite HSM buddy.

Me with Marilyn Monroe's PrintsArnel & Jimmy Stewart's PrintsWith Ricky Martin's StarAt L. Ron Hubbard's Winter Wonderland At Haughty's Restaurant

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