Friday, January 18, 2019

Retirement: Are there other options?

As most of my friends already know, I retired from work last May.  It has been 8 months since I was last inside a classroom, teaching.  I: was excited then because the troubles I had working like commuting to and from school, lazy students, recording grades, planning for the week, etc... are over.  The first thing I wanted to do was to go far away from it all and I could only do that by traveling and travel I did.  I went to far away Brazil to join my daughter, Kim, and her husband, Renan. It is by far the farthest country I have ever been and I stayed there for almost two months.  A couple of months after my return to the country, I was on a plane again, this time to the US.  My first stop was Los Angeles. After ten days, I traveled to Oregon to attend a wedding, the event  that gave me the  idea to travel to the US again.  After the wedding, I went to the East Coast, my first time there.  While at the East Coast, I traveled to several States like New York, Maryland and Virginia.  I was supposed to visit a friend in  South Carolina but my body was a little tired from all that traveling.

Now that I am back in the country, I have not really been idle.  I have produced two oil paintings and several watercolors.  True to my original intention, I have been painting and sometimes did some writing.  So the options are still there. Unfortunately,, to my regret, while I have been painting and writing, I have not been doing these religiously as I should have been. Part of my routine is to go to the gym, exercise and try to stay fit.  However, this makes me very tired to go to the apartment/stiidio and paint. I only manage to paint at least two hours everyday as a consequence of having to go to the gym first.   This prompted me to reverse my schedule and work first in the morning then go to the gym around 5.  This scheme did not, however, improved my painting time.  I manage to wale up at around 5 am, walk my dog, Dookie, and sit if front of the tv.   Sitting in front of  the television is not a good idea.  I lose track of the time and before I know it, it is already 10 am.  This gives me only about an hour to paint as I have to go home and eat lunch.  Thereafter, I take a rest and sit in front to the television and lose track of time once more.  I manage to leave at around 3 pm and stop at around 5 pm as I have to take a bath and go to the gym.  This had been my habit and I am not happy.   I remember my friend, painter/sculptor, Omi Reyes, saying that he works eight hours a day, just like as if he was working for a company.

While musing in front of the tv, I begin to realize I miss having a regular job.  I miss having to wake up early in the morning, dress up and drive to school. Ironically, I miss the steady doldrums. of being an employee, the predictable day to day routine. I  miss being with young students, vibrant, innocent and mischievous.  I miss my friends terribly, our useless banters, exchanges of opinions and nonsensical idle talk. Most of all, I miss earning money for myself.  I miss receiving wages that make me afford to buy whatever I like.

It is for these reasons that I would like to once again enjoy being in the classroom even for only a short time.  How I wish I could do these things once more.  But then I know if God does not want me to that anymore, it will not happen.  Maybe there is a greater thing waiting for me.  Maybe the Art world is waiting for me.  That would not be a bad turn out for after all, it was originally what I wanted from the very start.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Dios ti kumuyog. Agyamanak, Trining!

Beauty is useless but character is the best
Trinidad Ancheta Toto

When my mother-in-law’s age hit the 80’s mark, there had been a sudden influx of witticisms or sayings and a number of songs or jingles that she began to blurt out of nowhere.   I can only guess these were adages or songs learned from her youth, probably from her Filipino elders during the American period, as these were all in English.  I do not recall exactly when it started but we just started hearing her recite these phrases or sing these songs that we never heard before. 

Everyday, everyday, brush your teeth the proper way
Toothbrush it, toothbrush it, brush your teeth we say

Soon enough, these were caught by my children and they would either be reciting or singing these to her when her Alzheimer’s began to worsen.  She would catch the phrase or song and she would join them and  finish the sentence or the song by her lonesome much to everybody’s delight… until ten years later when she can no longer remember them and all she would do was to stare at us and wonder. 

It is believed that nobody is pure and that everybody has a skeleton kept inside his or her closet.  There is also a saying that there is an exception to every rule.  If both could be considered as true, I guess my mother-in-law shall fit the bill .  She hid nothing from anyone and she was true through and through.  I don’t think she has any secret tucked inside the recesses of her brain.  In her later years, she just sat quietly at the table, fixing her gaze at her dolls, feeding them,kissing and talking to them just like she did with her grandchildren.  Old habits do not die! It was  just like when she was stopped from feeding solid food, she would go through the motions of picking up food with her fingers and slowly bringing these to her mouth, feeding on air.  

One time, one dinner, during her more lucid days,  I asked her jokingly, Mamang, what would you do if there will be an American suitor interested in you.  Her reply brought us crying on the floor with laughter.  I will tell him I am not a virgin anymore, was her reply.  Amidst the guffaws, I just realized to this date that the response has a lot of historical significance.  (1) She grew up in a time when virginity was of prime importance…that it would be the best gift a woman shall give her husband and she believed that were so  - (2) the fact that the American represents the liberating hero that everybody looked up to and that his satisfaction should be served, and that (3) he is the epitome of a handsome guy .

A peculiar trait she had, being an Ilocana, was her penchant for vegetables and the stingy way a dish of left over fried fish shall find its way to a new  recipe of bagoong and vegetables.  Practically every meal time was accompanied with a long litany of promoting the consumption of vegetables more than of meat - for long life, she would say, and I believe her now!  Not so many people have been blessed with a life lived until their 90's.

I remember that we would be at odds on many things simply because I did not believe most of what she believed in or the practices she has grown up to. A true Ilocana by heart, she grew up with a lot of superstitious beliefs none of which I adhered to.  To my young mind, these were all none negotiable  I cannot surrender my principles thinking that it is not true that we could follow the belief even if we do not believe in them for after all, nothing is lost if we succumbed but plenty to gain if it were true. Unfortunately I was not a follower of this thought.   My thinking is that something big is lost-- like advancing towards progress, for one thing.  And yet, we managed to survive without any real animosity towards each other.  We have learned to co-exist and I have learned to trust my growing children to her care – which she did a spectacular job. 

No, there was no animosity between us. As a matter of fact we lived harmoniously in all the 33 years that we lived together and that I am more than thankful that my children grew up with her caring for them and teaching them her values.

We always celebrated her birthday with a bang.  My brother-in-law, Abet, would design t-shirts that bore a design testifying how we adored her. Designs like We Love Lola would be worn during the party or sometimes to  the point of having a theme like being dressed up in  Hawaiian clothes or bearing the Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears.

On December 9, 2018, we were gathered at her hospital room which the children decorated to perk up that depressing place  with her feeding on tubes and being aided by an oxygen tank to breathe .  We sang happy birthday, ate cake and prayed the rosary to her withering body, her feet locked and crumped as if she wanted to be small and enter the womb again -  a process of rebirth, I guess. She turned 95 years old.

The following day, as we were about to go with our daily routines, my eldest sister, Linda, who was with her, called and told us that the doctors discovered that her heartbeat was weakening and  that  her BP was dropping.  She was told to call the relatives as the time for her to leave the world is at hand.   We all rushed to the hospital and true enough, she expired. The time of death was 10:25 am  having succumbed to infection in her blood.  We all bade her  goodbye for the last time.

I have had  close encounters with Alzheimer's disease.  My first encounter  was with my mother who passed away in 2006 at the age of 87. Just recently, my mother-in-law had the same affliction. Alzheimer's disease  is commonly  associated with old age although there are cases of younger people having it.  It is a progressive disease where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years.   In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but in its later stage, the  afflicted  individual loses the ability to carry on a conversation and respond appropriately to the environment.

 Such a clinical definition does not capture the essence  of the disease and what it does to both the  sufferer  and the loved ones.  It does not capture the extreme disappointments experienced by everybody involved. The despondency becomes  lighter with the afflicted person coming up with many funny situations but the pain of not being able to communicate with a loved one just like before becomes painful when one realizes that the person is no longer the same.

I have a more positive take on the affliction,  though.  Having seen this natural phenomenon first hand, I am beginning to believe that it is a coping mechanism, an anesthesia  if you would, that drives away the pain of knowing that one is at the final stage of his/her life.  That soon enough one will not see her loved ones anymore, that the person will no longer be able to do what he or she was capable of doing before and just watch as the world pass by doing its own business, enjoying the company of loved ones.   Much more so, it is a numbing of the awareness of the possibility of having to survive with the use of painful tubes stuck in one's body, that one shall be fed using a tube or being able to breathe by virtue of a respirator.  This was a realization after having witnessed how my mother-in--law was survived until even the doctors advised the family that she probably has had enough and to just sign a waiver that she would no longer be subjected to all the hassles of keeping her alive through artificial means.

Two to three weeks prior to my mother-in-law's passing, the doctors asked a very painful question to the surviving children.  Should we resuscitate her if and when she has a seizure?  Thinking that my mother-in-law has lived a full life at the ripe old age of 95, her children decided no more.  They signed a waiver and let nature take its course rather than subject her to a grueling experience of being poked with a lot of tubes, needles and a life with a  machine.  The question of should one fight nature and try to extend life as possible always come in when a loved one is at the brink of death.  In 2006, I wrote a poem that  summarizes my thoughts about the issue of either fighting for one's life or no more.

A simple request

Oh Hipocrates, save me
please, but only
if you believe
I have yet more years.
But if these be spent
to suffer and shed more tears
spare, let me be
and let my spirit free

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Memories kept in my heart

Finally, the day that I have to say goodbye to the US has come. My fifty-day stay is over and I am due to fly home from the JFK airport in New York.  Just when the day turns into another brand new day, I shall be aboard an aircraft waiting to take off and take me home to my country and my family that I miss terribly now.

I shall be bringing home with me wonderful memories of my stay here in the US.  I shall forever remember the beautiful scenes along the highways of Southern California, Portland, Oregon, Maryland and Virginia.  I shall remember the traffic in interstate and local highways which is really not so strange a phenomenon coming from a land where traffic has been a problem since the 90's stepped in or maybe even earlier. I shall remember the beautiful paintings at the Getty, Norton and the LACMA, even the naked dancers at Sinn in Hollywood.  i shall have etched deeply in my mind the awesome paintings of European and American artists - from the Renaissance till the modern period noteworthy of which is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci followed by Rembrandt and the impressionist painters.

I shall remember the rain that got me soaked as I was dressed in formal attire, vest included, as two of my friends are being married in  Oregon.  I shall always remember that very brief stay in Seattle and the casino where I lost $20 and when my baggage and bags were left open at the hotel in Portland that prompted my good friend to fix them and had me checked out just because I could not make it on time.
I shall remember the sites and sounds and the hustle and bustle of New York, the ubiquitous wailing of sirens in contrast to the tranquility of Maryland and Virginia.  Who can ever forget that wonderful Thanksgiving celebration knowing that my gratitude towards the bountiful blessings bestowed upon me by God.

I shall always remember that surprise, almost off-season snow that fell for one whole day, thinking that it was God's plan to have me experience how it is for snow to accumulate  almost a foot deep as fast.  And I shall always remember that chilling, icy cold feeling  whenever I have to go out of the house that got me wearing several jackets to protect me from frost bite.

I shall always remember walking inside a cave without the dangers of spelunking but like I was window shopping inside a mall inside and yet it still was mesmerizing knowing that I was inside Virginia's tummy. Or that magical tour of Harper's Ferry I truly enjoyed as it was like living in the old west and where I experienced John Denver's Coutry Road, Take me Home song.

But most of all, I shall remember that amid the frigid environment, I was enveloped in heat, even warmer than any jacket could produce, caused by the love offered to me by friends and relatives.  These people composed of long time friends who migrated here, grew a family with fantastic children and earning new ones, those with whom I got the pleasure to be with and enjoy their company like we have known each other for a very long time.  I will never forget the warmth of friends and relatives who adopted me and went out of their way to show me their city. These people who not only gave me shelter and food but also embraced me as one of the family.  i can never thank these people enough.

A warm hug to:

South California:  Khriss and Nino, the Del Carmen family, Keno and family, Rikki Avecilla, Annabelle Reyes, Ochie Dionisio, Fr. Aaron Galvizo, Gloria Laven and ther clan, Cesar Chaingan, Becky Cajucoom and Vanessa Lyon

Portland, Oregon: Empol and Evelyn Ferma, Edison and Craig Cabrera Manalo, the Cabrera clan, Angela Moore

Seattle: Tess Niera and her family

New York: Froi and Leovie Diaz, Norman Gutierrez, Oswaldo de la Cruz, Jane Tuatis and her famlly, Bheng Pargas Yenko, Leon Gamboa, Jun Rupaniana and everyoone who attended that reunion party

Virginia: Gil and Rhea Lacqui, Dave and Alona Saturnino Barker, Joon Alfoonso, Bugs Datu and everybody who attended the party.  Bong, Blessie and Rose Tibung

Noel and Janet Encarnacion and Mario and Au Sta Ana and her family and Jojo Santa, his wife and sister and her husband

Lastly, I would like to thank my nephew Ed and his wife Adet for embracing me with love and loving care.

Final Note:
I have always believed that once one has seen one  State, it will be just the same like the others.  Now that I have seen more than California and that I have experienced being in both the East and West Coasts, I can now see the very subtle differences. That each state will have its own glamore and will provide you with a lot of resources, both man made and natural.  While California would be kinder to a Filipino, simply because one can see a lot of Asians and people seem to be just like who you are making me think that the whites are the minority there. Climate wise, it will be a little colder than Baguio but definitely not as cold as those where snow comes during winter time.  New York is close to home in terms of the hustle and bustle of a city but it would be in the small counties in Maryland or Virginia where one can truly feel that one is in the USA! For one thing, it has four seasons and there are more whites than there are Asians. Oh well, these are my impressions, at least.

Goodbye New York

Today ends my New York journey. I will always remember the wailing sirens in the streets, the chilly climate, the trains that serve as the blood that run through its veins, but most of all my friends of long ago that I have reconnected with, all of them eager to show me what life has done for them as they individually braved to live in a foreign world and how they thrived, built a family and successfully adapted to a city that seems to be always busy. Thanks to my hosts who unselfishly shared their wonderful home during my stay - the lovely and kind children, Floyd and Frankie, parents, ama and ina, but most of all, to Froi and Leovie Finis Diaz. To my good friend Norman who tirelessly took the role of being my tour guide taking me to wonderful places, with matching gift of recuerdos, Oswaldo Dela Cruz, for a sumptuous buffet dinner at Mizumi, who thinks sponsoring dinner was not enough, that he had to gift me with several socks and a new pair of shoes. Dinner together with Jong, who, i was told, could not be taken out of his hectic schedule, and Brader Joel was a night of nothing but fun. Bheng Pargas Yenko for hosting that evening of merriment and finally, e cannot view everything the Met has in one whole day,mMary Jane Allam Tuatis and her family for taking me out the whole day yesterday. To all my friends who took time out to be with me, I truly appreciate it and am so glad we met again and be together albeit a very short but a very meanngful moment.
Now, after having seen New York, I can say that I have seen a much different world the US can provide. It encaptulates the life of city dwelling and with all the chaos,large population and all that, it has its own charm far different from all the other places I have been to.
Knowing that I have barely scratched the surface considering one cannot see and know what New York is all about in just one week, like one cannot view the Met in just one whole day, I still have yet to see the MoMa and Guggenheim, for example, I am already itching to find my way back. Once again, thank you New York. I can't wait to share you with my family one day!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Family is everything

My stay here in California is winding down.  I shall leave during the wee hours of the morning of Friday, Oct 26 with my niece Khriss and her husband, Nino. They have been fantastic hosts and it has always been like a  home away from home for me since I arrived.. There is no place I would have felt as comfortable as here in Olive St. in Orange County.

If there would have been a theme for my stay here in the US , it would be "family".  I started out with Nino and Khriss, a very young couple who is working out to start a family of their own. Then there is this family who has transitioned from a complete loving family losing a very important member of the house to cancer - Danny Dionisio, the patriarch and sole bread winner. We visited the wife, Rosita and I could feel the agony of the loss of a beloved husband.  I have witnessed the closeness this two have for each other and considering that practically all the children are married except for the youngest who is  now working and independent, I truly feel the pain of the wife being alone.

Then there is the family of in-laws, husband and wife Ogie, Baby, Kuya Ben's sister, and Keno, the couple's son.. They seem to be a family who is now very much in tune to the American way of life with Keno who has a stable job, promising to be a rich millennial soon.

Of course, my friends Rikki and Annabel,. always the true friends that they are, took time out to take me to the remarkable Getty museum. They have always been like family to me.  Thereafter, Khriss, Nino and I went to meet with my relatives, Ate Bini who played a very important role in my life  as she helped me transform into a decent human being.  Thanks to his son, Nats who invited his siblings to meet with me, I got reunited with the family. I shall always treasure the sumptuous seafood dinner they hosted but even more so the happy reminiscing we had of the past.

OnTuesday, my niece took me to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. Another noteworthy museum with a fantastic collection.  We met with former DLSU professor, once neighbor and friend, Becky Cajucom and her boyfriend Martin. They treated us to lunch and we had a great time checking the collection. We were all fascinated with a sculpture of a modern monkey that was supposed to look like a balloon tied up together.  Thereafter, Khriss and I went to visit Bong, a family friend who now lives in Buena Partk.  UInfortunately her husband Danny and her son were not there yet when we visited.

For my spiritual upliftment, I was surprised to be invited by a friend who is now a priest and the chaplain of Cal State University in Fullerton. Our tete a tete was very fruitful as we discussed wonderful things over another seafood dinner at Claws where he treated me.

Talk about reminiscing, nothing could compare with my reunion with elementary classmate and best friend, Cesar Chaingan.  He is the only classmate from my La Consolacion days that I have reconnected with. The perfect host that he is, we started out at the evening of Friday and ended up after midnight. Then we devoted our whole day the following day with his wife Carole joining us for lunch and dinner.  He has taken me to wonderful places and my fb account would testify to that --the Norton Museum and the Griffith Observatory among others being the highlights of my visit.. I even made a painting of the famous Suicide bridge where we went for a stroll just to get perfect shots.

On Sunday, I got reconnected with a very beautiful lady, Vanessa Lyon, once a model in the Philippines who worked with my two girls and now an upcoming Hollywood star. She is still that very sweet and down to earth woman I have known her to be.  Hopefully she would stay that way even when she has reached the pinnacle of her dreams.  We had breakfast at the Urth Cafe and we had a very nice conversation talking about the past and the future.

That afternoon, I met Gloria Pimentel Laven and her family. Whereas before it was just her and her husband John who I got to meet, this time I was welcomed to some sort of a family reunion and was able to meet her son, Alexander and his son, three year old Luca, her grandsons Adrian and his Filam girlfriend and another brother whose names escape me now, her 91 year old mother and sister, Sylvia.

So far, I had the opportunity to see how Filipino families thrive and survive the US and it pleases me that they are doing great! I can't wait to see how the others live at the other side of the country, the East Coast. In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting my experience of witnessing my first gay wedding which shall be happening in Oregon. Another happy pairing and expecting a happy family of their own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Age of discernment?

There is a proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility from fifteen to twelve years old.  This proposal, known as Senate Bill 2026, is filed by no less than the present Senate President, Vicente Sotto III. This idea arose from the increasing cases of misdemeanors committed by minors. The move is set on the idea that lowering the age of criminal responsibility will deter minors from committing a crime.  The question is will it really solve the problem?
I will leave it to the experts who have the means to use and/or do extensive research on the various aspects – professionals who are more qualified  to argue for or against. Neither do I have the expertise nor the time to do an extensive one.  Yet, I do have, at this time, an opinion regarding the matter based on gut feeling and my, hitherto, sense of logic.
My position is that the issue at hand is the same as the age-old debate on capital punishment.  Will the re-imposition of capital punishment, for heinous crimes, at least, be a deterrent to committing a crime? My answer is in the negative. I believe that a person who commits a crime, especially heinous ones, never considers the result of his/her wrongful act.  A crime is committed willfully and without regard to whatever consequence shall befall the offender for such is committed only with the selfish purpose, whatever that may be, the offender has. I have yet to see a rapist, for example, stop his craving for sex simply because he knows that the punishment, if caught and proven guilty, is death.  No, his or her evil intentions should be fulfilled regardless of what the outcome of such a dastardly act shall be. The same thing is true with a criminal who will kill someone just so his purpose is served. More importantly, capital punishment is anti-poor.  Rich offenders can pay their way to freedom no matter what crime has been committed.  Only poor people who cannot defend themselves are incarcerated. Secondly, capital punishment is final. There is no more hope of reformation – the true idea behind putting an offender in jail. It is merely a vengeance to make the victim or the relatives feel good.
By the same token, lowering the age of criminal liability will not solve the current situation of minors committing a crime.  The issue is even more complex than we think it is.  Criminal responsibility is set because we believe that it is the age when a person has reached fully the age of discernment -meaning that said person has truly grasped the difference between right and wrong. What this age is is still unknown. There has been no standard and each country has set its own. This fact is simply because no study has been made that has proven what such an age actually is. Psychologists will argue endlessly the point and will never come up with a solid, acceptable answer.  Think about it! We incarcerate people who have done something wrong in the hope that they can be reformed.  That does not usually happen. On the contrary, people who are taken to jail even become callous and numb and more likely to be hardened by the experience. If such is the case with mature adults, this will be doubled in the case of minors who are more susceptible to his/her surroundings. Put a minor in jail and chances are he/she is more likely to become a grievous offender in the future. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) policy and research officer Jackielou Bagadiong says, To put children in jail would be like putting them in “school(s) of crime. She elaborates by saying,  If a child enters jail, one can be assured that when he or she comes out, she will have had a network of criminals that can assist him or her later on. 
One of the arguments given by those in favor of the bill is that lowering criminal responsibility will put an end to syndicates using children do their work for them. The problem with this argument is that the real offenders are the syndicates, not the children. Why should the children be punished when they are just being used unwittingly to commit a felony? Why not go after the real culprits and punish these usurpers of innocent children? Lowering the age will not deter the syndicates from using children for they do not care what happens to their pawns. What is worse is what will stop them from using even younger kids? When they do, we are not just back to square one but we will find ourselves in a deeper hell hole than we already are.
It is true that the government should look at ways for its people to have peaceful, contented lives. According to Thomas Hobbes, a government’s main function is to protect and provide. A government should ensure the safety and protection of its people from each other and from foreign foes. To do this, government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break. It is very clear that government should protect its citizens.  This being the case, the government has the responsibility to take care of its minors.  It has to ensure that the minors receive total protection and assurance that they shall all be taken care of.  To do this, it is the duty of the government to strengthen the family as a very important unit. In the absence of such for an unfortunate child, the government should assign one for the child to ensure that he/she grows up a responsible, conscientious adult. Thus, the government should make laws to make sure that parents take full responsibility of their children as they should.  Keep them off the streets, nurture, educate and love them for they were the ones who brought their children to the world.  Education is the key.  If these children are given adequate, quality education, they would have sufficient knowledge to get by rather than fighting for their very existence in the streets.  Lowering crime responsibility is not the right response to the problem. It is merely a short cut for law makers.  What we should do is strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, the very law that addresses the problem of erring juveniles. Bagadiong states that with the JJWC, the child still has this liability … it would harm our future generation if we do that. I totally agree.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sao Paulo, Brazil Impressions: Land of the Beautiful

Any Filipino's introduction to Brazil would have to be via its famous slippers called Havaianas, the Portuguese word for Hawaiians. How it is so called is unknown to me but I suspect the originator was thinking of the beach and that said product is a beach wear and what better way is it to represent the beach other than Hawaii? Brazil is more than that.  My personal knowledge of the country  far exceeds this footwear as I am familiar with the country's music - the samba and  the bossa nova.  When I  asked one of my acquaintances, Rafaella, for the difference of the two art forms, I was told that samba is popular and more dance-able while bossa nova is classic Brazilian music.  My introduction to this genre of music started during the 70's when I got interested with  that American form of music called jazz.  Jazz in its many forms. would include Latin jazz as its form and structure is the same as that American music. From Latin  jazz,  I got to know the famous group led by Sergio Mendez which further stretched to the more hardcore Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stanley Getz, Astrud Gilberto and my favorite guitarist, Joao Gilberto.  What attracted me most with bossa nova is that most of the songs utilize  the guitar as the main instrument.  The rhythm, the chord progressions and shapes are distinctly Brazilian. I envied those who  can  play it so well like Bong Penera of the Batucadas when  he was still based in the Philippines. Also, my first classical guitar piece was composed by a Brazilian, Heitor Villa-Lobos dubbed as the best known South American composer of the 20th century. Other than my fascination with Brazilian music and that footwear, my knowledge of its culture is practically nil.  My first impression of Brazil is that it is wild and dangerous that one should always watch one's back or get mugged at the very least.  Well, my hunches were correct but mostly in the wrong part, the popular Rio de Janeiro.  I went to a more peaceful place, Sao Paulo.

Sao Paulo. located at the southeast region of Brazil is the most populated in the country and  having the largest GDP in Latin America,  is at the same time, the wealthiest state in Brazil,. Ranked as an alpha global city,  a city which is a primary node in the global economic network. Sao Paulo is very progressive that is easily felt with its infra structures, roads and bridges, trains and everything that modern man has access to.  With a topography the same as Baguio, hilly that one has to traverse the road with its ups and downs, the climate in Sao Paulo city while I was there was very cold.  It is replete with parks where people can relax and exercise, as part of these parks are exercise contraptions which anybody can use anytime of day.  The biggest park, the Ibirapuera Park has a land area of 158 hectares that include several museums and pavilions and has a recorded 14.4 million visits in 2017. There is a huge bicycle rental as one enters the park to help you see the various amenities as it  is so large one will have a hard time seeing the whole place by just walking.  The main features also include three giant fountains in a lake that is surrounded by vast picnic grounds. It is also quite common to have at least two football fields in some of the parks - football courts is to  basketball courts in the Philippines.

I would have to be honest.  The reason for my visit was twofold.  First, I would like to see a new country, experience a culture that is unknown to me but mostly because I wanted to see how my daughter is doing all by herself in a land so far away.  I know that while she is living now with her husband safely, I still wanted to see for myself how she is doing. I would like to make sure that she knows how to get along with her husband and most of all, her in-laws.  She had always been under the protection of the family and I wanted to see how she is getting along.  How does she keep the household, manage the bills, etc. In other words, does she know how to live outside the protection of mom and dad?  Luckily, she did. Her in-laws loved her and take her as their own. She, although has still a lot to learn, is beginning to run the house like her mom and that is a good thing.  So, after seeing that she is perfectly doing fine on her own, I started to look at another perspective - the Brazilian way of life.

My first impression of Sao Paulo is that it is a land of beautiful men and women.  It is very common to see beautiful people in the streets, trains and places where people congregate.  The people I met, for example, are very young and very beautiful.  The mixture of different races,  the greatest of which are Italians followed by Portuguese, Germans and Spaniards not to mention those of Afro lineage, probably brought a new breed of Brazilians accounting to their physical attributes. They have a beautiful physique which most of them develop through exercise. This probably explains the influx of Brazilian models particularly in Asian countries like China and the Philippines.  Most men and women are sporting at least three tattoos, an art form that has been a fad for quite a while.  What I liked about the people I met, those I have been acquainted to or even just met in the streets, are kind and very accommodating.  They are well-mannered and respectful of one another.

Brazilian cuisine is, while not strange, a little different.  A mixture of different influences, Brazilian food is a good variation from what I usually have. First and foremost, while I have the habit of eating three square meals a day, I noticed that Brazilians do not eat that much.  Their biggest meal would have to be lunch and would mostly only have some bread for dinner and would sometimes skip breakfast altogether.  Their favorite dish seem to be the feijioada, a mixture of beans and different stewed meat.  They love to eat beans and a good plate would be composed of either white or black beans at the bottom then topped with rice which they steam with garlic, onion and sometimes with some herbs - truly delightful.  Then they would layer this with meat and green salad laced with oil dressing. I always, shamefully.  had seconds every meal.  Angela, Kim's sogra (mother-in-law) is a very good cook that I enjoyed her dishes very much.  The main staple would have to be churrasco or grilled meat which the cook sends out to the guests right after it is done or it would be a little tough if overcooked or has gone cold.  One of my favorites was the coxinha or Brazilian chicken croquettes. It is very much like our empanadas.

I have mentioned that Brazilians love to stay physically sound.  They exercise a lot to maintain that whistle bait figure.  The main sport would have to be football. I was lucky that I arrived during the World cup held in Russia and I got to have a glimpse of that Brazilian spirit.  Every time the Brazil team had a game, the people were anxiously waiting for it to happen and even have fireworks early in the morning.  During game time and the team scored, fireworks would be heard. I would have had the best time of my life experiencing the glory of the Brazilian people had Brazil won the cup.  Fate was not in their favor when they lost to Belgium during the semi-finals. 

Sao Paulo is rich  in the arts that it can easily be a haven for artists.  There are a lot of museums, theater  halls and sculptures one can enjoy.  It is replete with nature that can inspire an artist to work. I, alone, in my more than a month stay, was able to produce about 21 watercolors. The country is replete with the arts in various forms.  From folk art to the classics, the country is beaming with art works as a result of migration making the country as a melting pot of different cultures combining it into a synthesis  of a rich culture.

If only I would be able to stay for a longer period of time, independent, knowledgeable of the language and have its entire culture known to me, I would welcome it. If only I were single and young!