Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Savour the Flavour

“Food glorious food” is a line from a jingle of a food ad here that my son loves to sing. Well who doesn’t think that food is glorious? Just the thought of rocky road ice cream melting in our tongue already activates our salivary glands 100% more than normal. Add chocolate moist cake to that thought. How about leche flan? I’m sure you are drooling now.

Well, I believe most people have sweet tooth. I do. Yet in this place where sweets are flourishing and sumptuous food which we only see in foreign cooking shows and magazines or a restaurant’s menu are burgeoning, my palate is yearning for the food it grew up with – steamed sweet potatoes, boiled saba bananas with ginisang bagoong, kinilaw, paksiw, green jackfruit with coconut milk and dilis, pinakbet and more.

Affordable thin or thick crusted pizzas of various flavours abound here. You can just go to a grocery store and a huge row of fridge is filled with it for your eyes to feast on or you can opt to buy from a variety of pizza shops where you can get it hot. You might say lucky me huh. Don’t say it too fast coz I simply miss the aroma and taste of hot pandesal and monay.

A couple of gold coins and you can have a pack of ready-to-cook French fries (they call it chips here) or hash browns that would last a week at home. Delicious? Oh yeah! But just for a little while. I still miss maruya and grilled bananas or ginanggang.

Get a gold coin and your thirst will be quenched with scores of bottled juices from numerous fruits to choose from. But after a while, your palate will look for that familiar cold sweet fresh buko juice.

Your pink bill here will give you apples, plums, strawberries, grapes, and pears enough to make a fruit salad for six. Oh definitely nutritious and profoundly heavenly. But then again, the palate that got used to green mangoes with bagoong, sweet ripe mangoes, tasty durian, juicy lanzones, and mangosteen craves for their tang.

The list of absolutely mouth-watering and delectable food here is endless but one thing is certain, there is no food like home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nanny McPHEW!

Helpers from Hell, is an article written by Ladylou who’s a friend from college where she recounts her horrible experiences with her house helps in such a great style and hilarious manner. Those who’ve had similar experiences would be laughing at the same time feeling her anger and frustration. I laughed. I got angry. I laughed again. Then I got inspired to write about my house helps as well.

Unlike Ladylou who was not blessed with a good helper, I had a share of both helpers from heaven and from hell.

From the ring of fire

Nanny # 1 was an 18-year-old who came from a province 5 hours away from our city recommended by my aunt’s friend. She wanted to save money to be able to go to school thus she applied to be a house help/nanny. She arrived just a week after I gave birth. Her main tasks were simple household chores like washing dishes, doing the laundry, making sure the house was extra tidy since we had a newborn, and the likes. I or my husband cooked the viands, she cooked rice. I emphasized cleanliness. I stressed that she’s a part of the family so everything we eat, she eats, we eat together. She nodded and I was pretty sure she understood. 

The next day I was left in total disbelief when I called her and said “pag hukad na kay mamahaw na ta” to which she replied “human na man ko kaon te”.  The nerve! I felt like my operation had been slashed open! 

Cleanliness didn’t seem to sink in as well. Once, I asked her to sterilize my son’s feeding bottles. Just as I was about to go to the toilet I saw her coming out of it bringing with her a dipper full of water. “Para unsa na?” I asked. “Para sa beberon te.” WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!!! I so wanted to pour hot water on her head! Where was she when God sprinkled ‘common sense’ on earth? I couldn’t do anything but try to bear with her stupidly ignorant presence as it was difficult to look for house helps and I couldn’t do household chores and take care of my newborn at the same time. 

It seemed like she was born to a rich family for she was simply inexperienced when it comes to basic chores. Dishes were still greasy, laundry smelled detergent if not white stuff became coloured, sunny side up eggs became scrambled eggs, fried fish became fish fillet because she kept turning it. My newly bought non-stick pans were scratched with steel wool. She simply didn’t remember repeated instructions on how to wash such pans.  Worse, when asked to dish out the soup, she placed it on a plastic container used for raw fish in the freezer. Worst, she vanishes without permission only to find out that she goes out with other house helps in the neighbourhood. That’s when I took a nap in the afternoon, leaving all the doors open and I was like a fool calling out her name in the quiet streets of the subdivision. Duh!

Corrections and reprimands were nicely given but her gray matter seemed to be too small to absorb them. She lasted a month. I was relieved she left.

Nanny # 2 was from the same province, a 17-year-old with kilay five-thousand! She was active and did quite well in the household chores. She was just a “balye girl”. I discovered it when on her 2nd day at home, she immediately commented, “te ing-ani gyud diri? Alas-syete pa mingaw na dalan?” Haleeeeer as if the place she came from was bustling with city life! I said, “ngano, sa inyo diay bibo?”. “O te, kay mamayle bya me”, she responded.

TV was on the whole day and chores were delayed because she would simply say, “kadali te ha, tan-aw sa ko” lying down on the couch with her legs calmly nestled on the edge.  

Two weeks later she asked to be sent home because she was bored. Reluctance was not in my vocabulary that moment.

Nannies with Hallows 

Nanny #3 was from the outskirts of the same province as the two previous ones. She was too big for a 16-year-old. She only finished elementary and had to work early for her parents were mere tenants of a small farm. My sister brought her and the moment she arrived I discerned she was good because she immediately helped despite her long travel and despite our insistence that she rest first.

She was a jolly lass. She woke up early. She always found something to do. House was speck and span, laundry was fragrant and neatly folded, and she was good in putting my son to sleep humming along with his nursery rhymes. Her days off, Sundays, were still spent at home because she didn’t want to go to malls. “Kalas ra na kuarta te, tigom ra ko kay padala kang mama.” She only spent money for her cellphone load as she enjoyed texting her textmates and then giggled every time she shared her text adventures to us.

We offered to enrol her to school the following school year. We simply waited for her birth certificate and other documents. Almost a year after however, she tearfully decided to go home. Her mom continuously asked her to be home. I didn’t want to let her go but neither can I ask her to stay. She cried bidding my son goodbye. I hid my tears. She remained in contact with us a few months after, constantly asking how my son was.
I learned she went back to school in their barrio. I was happy for her.

Nanny #4 was a fashionable 21 year-old single mom from Bohol brought to us by my husband’s cousin. It was her second time in CDO. The first was with her sister at a hardware shop.

Like the previous help, she was simply a veteran with house chores. There was no need to instruct her on what to do. She asked questions if she was uncertain of some stuff. She was so good with my then almost two-year old son keeping him well-fed and clean while I was at work. There was nothing else I could say. She was heaven-sent as we've been struggling for months without a nanny.

Her days off were spent with her sister window shopping or roaming around the city. A couple of times she brought her cousins to our place for a visit. At first we were apprehensive because these were strangers but they were okay. She went home for New Year and we gave her some stuff, some hand-me-down clothes for her little boy and toys as well.

We were jubilant that she came back. Our jubilation was cut short however because we had to let her go home barely a month later since we had to fly here already. If only I could bring her here. She cried when she sent us off. My husband’s family met her a couple of months later when they went to Bohol for vacation. We had a chance to video-chat. She shed a tear when my son was happily yelling her name.

In this place where house helps are not in and nannies are plainly expensive I often remember the very good nannies I had and laughed about the dim-witted ones.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


My son recently turned three yet it feels like it was only yesterday that I delivered a perfectly healthy baby boy to this wonderful world. I could still vividly remember every excruciating detail of my labour. The unbearable pain from the back of my spine down to my feet that no amount of comfort from anyone helped and would ever help. The very long wait in the delivery room, whimpering for the severe discomfort and praying for full dilation to occur soon while looking at the ticking clock. I still recall myself telling my Dr. to greet my husband on my behalf, who was also anxiously waiting outside the room with my mom, a happy birthday. The fear I had while I was being moved to the operating room. The worry while they were attaching wires to me before they asked me to crouch enough for my knees to almost touch my chin so they could inject me with anaesthesia. Pain and agony were replaced with unrivalled joy when I had my first glimpse of him. He looked like my husband, I grinned to myself while still feeling numb and cold. Exhaustion followed yet I still managed to utter a birthday greeting to my fatigued husband and thank you to my drowsy mom, both happily met me as I was being rolled to my room. I guess I slept the whole day but I didn’t miss the fun we had at the hospital room to celebrate his birth and his dad’s birthday though I was just deprived of the food they brought.

The seven pound bundle of joy who cried every now and then during the first month, who enjoyed eating his first solid foods on his 6th month onwards, who entertained everyone with his giggles and grins, who always had a good sleeping pattern (never woke up at dawn or in the middle of the night), who mimicked adults using the phone with his incomprehensible mumbles, who enjoyed watching Barney and Brainy Baby series, and who walked when he was one is now an inquisitive, silly (like his dad or even more), playful, sweet toddler. A toddler who’s so beguiled by helicopters and airplanes, a little boy who enjoys wrestling with his dad, who argues with me when I read to him and I change the characters’ names, who easily mimics what adults around him say or do, who loves singing and dancing (don’t know where he got it from) who messes the room with his toys and books often, and who explores everything around him.

I know he has a lot of things to learn as he continues to grow and I have a lot more things to discover as I go on with my journey with him as he explores the woes and wonders of this universe and become a mature adult.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

October FEAST

The past month began and ended with a feast.

On the eve of the first day my mind was set on the grocery list I had and the order of the simple menu I had to prepare for my first birthday far from home. My son and I were ready for our shopping day when my husband arrived from work. On the way to town he’s been asking me the itinerary for the day’s shopping spree and I gladly told him. He said he had to meet a co-worker, whose house is beside our dear friend, to get something. He will go to his co-worker’s house and my son and I were supposed to stay at our friend’s place. I wasn’t happy with the detour because I had a long list of errands to do with so little time and I didn’t want to just barge in to the house of our friend without telling her ahead of time. Nonetheless, I obliged.

Once inside the house, I felt more ashamed waiting for my husband because it seemed that my friend, I call her Ate, was expecting visitors for dinner as the table was set and she was busy preparing food. I was eager to get out. I never wanted to be in another one’s house uninvited. Then my housemates arrived. I wondered what they were doing there since they usually tell me if they’ll go and visit Ate. I was still confused and anxious for my husband to get back so we could get out of Ate’s house when another friend arrived and handed me a gift and then they all laughed. Then Ate gave me a hug. That’s when I realized my day was sabotaged by my husband, ate and her kids, and my housemates! I couldn’t help but cry. At that moment I was upset with my husband (a bit) for conspiring with them, I instantly missed my family, and was overwhelmed with the love Ate has shown - the lengths she had to go through to prepare the food, etc. despite her super hectic schedule. It was the first birthday surprise I ever had! The feast began, the grocery list forgotten.

A fragrant bouquet of yellow flowers tickled me at 4am - another surprise from my husband! My natal day was celebrated with friends served with simple food multiplied with fun!

A fortnight after that I had the chance to go on an all-girls weekend out with Ate, her daughter and my housemate to Adelaide. Our trip was filled with absolute fun of retail therapy and food! Oh yeah! Foooood trip! For a moment we forgot about our husbands and kids and simply enjoyed going through all the fabulous shops not missing out an open door. We merely stopped for our meals. Super yummy ice cream followed every lunch.

Our entire experience was great except for one grueling nearly one hour appointment. It was supposed to be fun because Ate was out to get her citizenship certificate when we were greeted by this petulant Filipina who treated us like we were ignorant natives who arrived in the city for the first time! Oh, how I wanted to pull her ugly hair out! She acted like she was somebody so important that we had to bow to her. Only to find out she was merely a volunteer assistant of someone else. Her boss, who happens to be a PhD degree holder and a representative of the Embassy of the Philippines was so nice and welcoming. Well, we managed to keep our spirits high despite her annoying presence and just gave her our stern gaze once in a while. We never opened our hands to clap for her when she was introduced and we were more than happy to leave that hall and forget that grotesque woman’s face!
We were all laughing about her and reminiscing on some bloopers we had afterward and moved on to our food trip and retail therapy that the car’s boot was nearly not enough for all the stuff we bought. What a fantastic weekend!

The couple of weeks that followed kept me busy preparing for my two boys’ birthday bash. I was just lucky to have Ate’s help again. Invites, decoration, food, utensils, prizes and more kept me occupied. I wanted their birthday to be simple yet much fun since it will be the first time we celebrate it without any close kin nearby. And it was indeed fun-filled!

October was and will always be a busy month for me. A month delighted with food and friendship.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Miss...

In this nation where telly (TV) is dominated by footy & cricket shows, 
car and shopping center ads, and my favorite US TV series; 
where TV channels sum up to more than ten but seem to work 
harmoniously with one another -
I MISS Boy Abunda's loud crisp voice saying "susunod" in The Buzz,
I MISS the long shiny glowing hair of famous actresses competing 
to bag the title "Most Beautiful Shampoo Ad",
I MISS, a bit, the local soaps (despite their predictable plots) and remakes 
of movies and foreign shows.
I MISS the squabble of TV networks and their talents, each trying 
to outwit the other.

In this place where various models of cars and beautifully designed 
houses crowd the quiet streets accessorized with pretty flowers -
I MISS the fun in riding the jeepney with its noisy conductor calling out passengers, giving and receiving fares,
I MISS the motorela and piercing sound of motorsikad,
I MISS the simplicity, solitude and comfort of my own house.

In this land where rows of beautifully decorated shops (boutiques) 
are neatly stretched along a very long street; where department stores and grocery shops are on separate buildings -
I MISS Limketkai's Corner Cafe' and all its kakanin and 
all shops within the mall, 
I MISS Ororama's Takuyaki,
I MISS DV Soria's crispy green mangoes and hot peanuts in wood carts,
I MISS Gaisano and SM's Book Sale Shops.

In this country where cheap sumptuous desserts and endless 
supply of fresh fruits and vegetables abound -
I MISS the buko halo of Dear Manok,
I MISS nilung-ag na kamote and saging, suman, and cassava puto
I MISS sweet ripe mangoes, tasty durian, cold buko juice,
I MISS the yell of some boys selling pandesal early in the morning,
I MISS fresh char-grilled fish, kinilaw, native chicken soup
with malungay and ginataang langka!

In this world where unfamiliar faces stare at you wherever you go 
probably because you are a stranger to them; where people are
surprised when you are able to speak English fluently; 
where fellow Filipinos try to make you feel welcome -
I MISS the all too familiar friendly smiles of acquaintances and 
friends you bump into once in a while in the malls,
I MISS the fun, laughter, dine-outs, & window shopping with close friends,
and I TERRIBLY MISS the conversations and warm fellowship with my family.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Lola. Nana. Grandma. Granny. Gramps. Mommy. Mommyla. These are names commonly used to refer to grandmothers. How do you call yours? I call mine NANAY. Everyone in the family calls her Nanay. When we want to tease her, we call her Nanay Sue, short for Susana her real name. When we want to tease her even more, we call her Nanay Susing.

Today is her 91st birthday! Yes! 91st! Amazing isn’t it? And mind you, she is still healthy for her age. She suffers from mild illnesses common to people her age like heavy breathing when she’s over excited or annoyed, high blood pressure, and arthritis. Apart from that, all her systems are working well. Her brain is still super active that she still knows everyone’s birthdays, from her children, grandchildren to her great grandchildren. She still reads and that’s without the aid of eyeglasses. She is updated with current events and watches television soaps that she likes. Her diet? Oh, she’s not the typical granny whose diet is limited. Well, when she was younger she was picky with her food. High-breed chicken was a no-no. Fish was limited to certain kinds. She ate and still eats all kinds of vegetables though. Now, she eats everything because according to her “makaon ka o ‘indi, mamatay ma lang angud” (whether you eat or not, you still die). Yeah, she now eats humba, adobo, lechon, sweets.She chews her food slowly. She's the first to sit on the table and the last to leave.

Grandmothers are usually doting, spoilers, and pampering. Not my Nanay. She is the ultimate disciplinarian of all. Plates had to be spotless after eating. No leftovers. It took several months and various processes before a grain of rice was placed on our plate, she said, so we had to eat without dropping a single grain. Noise wasn’t allowed inside, so we had to run around outside the house. Riding motorela or trisikad to the market was not in her vocabulary. It’s a waste of money to her. We had to walk so we can exercise. When you’re with her in the market, don’t expect to be given lollies or anything you want. “You don’t know what kind of hands made that.”, her reply to our persistent pleas. Afternoon nap was a must but my cousins and I usually escape when she fell asleep. Early morning devotions had to be joined by everyone or you get a long sermon afterwards.

For all these, I am forever grateful to my Nanay. These things helped sculpt me become what I am today. From her, I learned the value of money. I learned the importance of each member of the family. I learned priceless Christian values. I learned how my mom was trained thus cascading her discipline and values to us. The wisdom she shared will be treasured forever..

THANKS NANAY! May you still live to see more great-grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have always loved taking photos. I remember the first camera I had more than a decade ago. Olympus. It was a gift from my father. I would save money just to buy the film and take photos of me and my friends, rush to the printing shop and keep the negatives. In fact, all the negatives are still tightly kept in a chocolate box. :o) I then took pleasure in arranging the pictures in my albums, smiling along the way as I reminisce the events in each photograph.

Then came my Kodak advantix with its key feature - panorama view. Took good stuff with it at Mount Kitanglad and Bohol - all have panoramic views indeed!

Technology evolved so fast. Mobile phones with cameras became very handy. I didn't have to spend much for the printing and there's no need for boxes to store negatives in. 

The era of the digital cameras dawned. Cameras of various brands, features, sizes and prices have stormed the markets. While those who could afford enjoyed their cams, I only kept my desire to have one to myself.

Truly patience delivers sweet fruits. Now that we (my hubby and I) have finally got hold of the cam of our dreams, just imagine the heaps of photos I will be taking. Hence, I am sharing some of the first few shots I have taken. I know I still have a long way to go and much to learn about the cam itself and photography in general but that doesn't bother me. Shots are now unlimited, storage is easy, and scores of elements are waiting to be used and discovered.

Canola Plantation
Umpherston Sinkhole


my hubby at Valley Lake

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paradigm Shift

“A whole new world...a new fantastic point of view...” are lines that perfectly describe my current status. Career-woman to full time housewife. Outlining lessons to preparing menus. Constant yapping with lots of noisy students to listening to a toddler’s persistent demands and innocent questions. Researching to surfing the net or updating social networks. 360 degrees routine and lifestyle change.

The alarm buzzing at dawn sending me to harried preparations followed by the rush to catch the first trip van has been replaced by still an alarm buzzing but this time at 6 o’clock and a calm getting out of bed and leisurely organizing my husband’s baon for the day. Gone are the days where my tongue gets burned in my haste to drink my coffee or Milo. I now savour and enjoy the sweet aroma of my steaming hot coffee with garlic bread, pancake or scones. I miss pandesal though.

The hustle and bustle of a heavily populated classroom and school is replaced by an environment of deafening silence. Days consumed with checking projects, home reading reports, class discussions, meetings and other activities are over. Now, my days unfold with domestic routines - preparing food for and feeding my toddler, washing dishes, doing the laundry, tidying the room, bathing my son and sending him to his afternoon nap, and preparing dinner. Brief lunch breaks which used to be spent with chitchat or running errands is now used to surf the net, chat with family and friends, upload pictures, write blogs, cross stitch or my favourite of all READ. The few hours in the evening which were divided between attending to my child and my husband, and preparing lessons for the following day are now dedicated to bedtime story reading and conversations with my hubby thereby making me retire to bed earlier than the usual.

Hectic has turned to calm. My frenzied schedule has become stress free! However, I still absolutely greatly miss my busy blossoming career. I miss the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills to students and fellow teachers. I miss the professional exchange of ideas with friends. I miss the chaotic yet fun learning environment of the classroom. I miss putting on my lipstick and wearing high heeled shoes or sandals daily. I miss changing bags that suit the uniform's color. I miss scribbling red inked pen on students' work. I miss all of it but I don’t regret leaving it. I’m not leaving it actually, just putting it on hold for the sake of this newly built little family that I dearly adore. If that career won’t reappear, I will still not regret it because in this newfound vocation I found a different kind of fulfillment. Nothing can compare to the joy of seeing your son's development and growth every minute of the day. Yes, not everyone is given this kind of opportunity. Am I lucky? Certainly not! I am simply BLESSED!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

in awesome wonder

Like my home country, this place is just overflowing with wondrous views that make me realize even more how marvelous our Creator is.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Context Twist

Everyone who takes pleasure in word games enjoys Text Twist. It’s pure fun! It enriches our vocabulary. It makes us want to slap ourselves when we fail to solve a very simple word puzzle. It surprises us when we figure out a new word (which we thought did not exist) in the nick of time. At some point it gives us a sense of fulfillment. Or sheer frustration.

I find adjusting to life in an entirely new environment like that. There are lots of twists when it comes to terms used in conversations. Every time I find myself in such funny and sometimes embarrassing situations, I am constantly reminded of a concept discussed by one of my professors --- same form-different meaning. Such as langgam. To a Visayan it means bird, to a Tagalog it means ant. The list goes on. The reason behind the destruction of the tower of Babel? Absolute confusion.

I might have been an English teacher but mind you I have had, and certainly will still have, my share of confusion here in this place our folks call the land down under. Accent, spelling of some words and pronunciation differ. We were taught with American English while Aussies somewhat follow British English. Listening to them speak is like watching a Harry Potter movie. I like their accent. “How are you mate?” is their basic greeting. But mate is pronounced might. Long /a/ (American English) becomes long /i/. Day sounds like die, stay – sty, bake – bike. And so on. Spelling wise, the s in the word license becomes c while c in practice becomes s; o in color, honor, & behavior is followed by u. These are just some.

Then comes the Aussie slang! I’ve studied a list before we came here but it’s like you have to memorize a dictionary so I could only remember a few. Context clues indeed helped.

If you want to say you took a bath, you have to say “I had a shower.” or else they would think you soaked yourself in a bathtub filled with soapy water. To have a tea is like having lunch or dinner. It may also be a morning or afternoon snacks. If you want to offer just tea, your statement should be “Would you like coffee or tea?” Supper is a meal taken later than eight o’clock.

Lay away – lay by, dine in – eat in, take out – take away, buy grocery items – go shopping, call – ring, and jogging pants – track pants are just a speck on the long list. If someone says “I’ll wear thongs in the beach.” don’t laugh at that person or imagine him/her in his/her sexy undies because it only means he/she’s going to wear slippers. Slippers here mean another thing; it’s the soft comfy bedroom slippers we wear inside the house.

The list of new terms I’ve learned is endless. Certainly more will be added as the years of our stay here unfold. Exciting? YES! Frustrating? Oh, no! Toto (means bye)!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Travelogue (from the City of Golden Friendship to the City of Lakes and Sinkholes)

Beep! Beep! Beep! The L300 van stopped in front of our house as Nong Joey, the driver, called us out. Dex was frantically tying his shoes while Aaron was hugged and teased by Uncle Junjun and ate Yang2. I was still putting the locks to our luggage, mentally checking if I placed everything we need for our journey to a whole new life. My heartbeat went a notch higher than normal as reality set in. This is it! We’re finally leaving the house which in all its simplicity, we dearly love; Yang2, Aaron’s nanny whose diligence we’ll never forget; the casual afternoon chit chat with the neighbors and their children’s noise in the street calling out Aaron’s name as they pass by; our friends who call or drop by every now and then; and most specially our family whose physical presence we will absolutely sorely miss.

We finally loaded the van and said our goodbyes to everyone who stayed behind. As I glanced at the quiet street and our house my heartbeat doubled. We rode the van in silence with only Nong Joey trying to make a sensible conversation and talking to Aaron as if my little boy has any idea where he was going.

Mommy Liz and Lolo Sonnie greeted us at the airport. They hugged Aaron from time to time while we were waiting for our plane to arrive. I busied myself taking pictures of them to keep myself from crying. Then Aaron yelled “Wow, airplane!” That’s it. That’s our plane. Time to hug each other tight and Aaron got the tightest hug from them as he naively waived his hand and with a huge smile said to his grandparents, “Bye, see you later.” Yeah later...very very much later. As we entered the gate to the boarding area holding Aaron with my right hand, the other hand tugging the luggage I couldn’t help my tears falling. I stopped to dry my eyes with my jacket sleeve and looked back to where my parents stood, seeing them wave at us didn’t dry my eyes at all. I know my tears were a mixture of joy that we’re finally moving forward towards the fulfillment of a better life and of sadness because we’re leaving our family behind. I wanted to hold Dex’ hand to ease my chest pain but when I looked at him and saw his red teary eyes I felt more pangs of pain. We simply grinned at each other and understood each others emotions and hastened to the counter to give our tickets. Our emotions were cut off by the details we had to do to before finally entering the boarding area.

To Aaron, the huge room filled with strangers sitting on the rows of seats was simply a new play area with lots of goodies to one. For a brief moment, I forgot my chest pains as I run after Aaron who enjoyed the playroom and confidently says Hi to everyone. (Wonder where he got his confidence? ^_^) Dex was occupied by a friend he met.

I was still busy keeping Aaron at a halt when boarding time was announced. We moved along the line. Dex was two persons in front of me carrying Aaron who was gleefully yelling and pointing out, “Airplane o! Nana, come on, look, big airplane.” I was busy preparing my boarding pass and holding on to the hand-carry bags while making sure my camera is on. Despite the hot weather, the walk towards the plane was a joy to Aaron whose amazement to the huge plane ahead never ceased. He felt more jubilant when he sat down and got curious with the seatbelt which he was fervently trying to unclasp.

Dex and I finished texting our families and friends just in time when the pilot delivered his usual pre-flight speech and the gorgeous stewardesses went to their places in the aisle to demonstrate safety procedures. Amazingly Aaron listened as if he understood what they were saying. The engines roared as the plane soared. I took a deep breath, silently prayed, and concealed a tear that fell remembering my mom’s sms (we’re still here waiting to see the plane take off) when I peaked at Dex who was wiping a tear away too. It was the first time I saw him shed a tear. We cuddled Aaron (who was still savoring the moment with his eyes twinkling and constantly saying “ride the plane no”) intertwined our hands and together uttered, “This is it!” Dex continued, “Hah! Mingaw no?” I simply nodded my head, peeped down the window and saw hundreds of red spots in the middle of a vast green land – the distinct feature of the subdivision we lived. I was pretty sure I spotted our tiny house below. We sat in silence as Aaron dozed. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. Dex pretended to sleep as well.

A buzz woke me up. I looked down and saw heaps of what seemed like tins which were actually roofs of houses and tiny Lego blocks stacked up to form tall buildings. It means, we’re in Manila and we’ll be landing shortly as the pilot spoke. As we got off from the plane, Aaron’s excitement was boosted at the sight of dozens of airplanes around him as he relentlessly yelled “Yehey! Airplane.” and “Hello/bye airplane.”

We took turns in taking pictures to entertain ourselves while waiting for our ride. When it finally came, Ms. Swelyn eagerly greeted us and filled us in with funny and nice experiences of those who went ahead of us. To Aaron’s great delight, steamy pansit, was served for lunch along with paksiw and cold Coke. I silently asked myself if I would still be able to eat these foods in Australia.

Our flight to Thailand was still 8 hours away. Dex looked after Aaron whose curiosity nerves beavered away as he poked at holes, went up and down the stairs, examined the staplers, paper clips, fasteners and lots of stuff on Ms. Mariam’s table, toyed with the telephone, and pretended to read the call cards on one of the staff’s table. All this happened while I was away with Ms. Swelyn buying pizza for late snacks/early dinner and making our way to the super busy streets of Manila to have our peso exchanged with an Aussie dollar. I was pleased to see what Aussie dollar bills look like for the first time.

6PM came so we were off to NAIA. Bid farewell to Ms. Swelyn and the driver then joined the long queue to enter the boarding area. As I was concentrating on filling out forms, Dex was kept busy by Aaron (the only toddler in queue) who found the trolleys fascinating thus pushing and pulling them around. I looked around hoping to see friendly Filipinos travelling with us and I was glad to see one.Jet - she was on her way to Melbourne too to watch the Tennis tournament.

We finally boarded Thai Airways at 8PM. Elegant stewards and beautiful stewardesses in their purple, lilac, and pink uniforms with an orchid as hair accessory cheerfully ushered us. We were keenly looking for our seats while Aaron was jovially saying “Hi” to everyone. The Chinese guy only smiled at him.

Pre-flight preliminaries were done and we’re off to more than a couple of hours air travel to Thailand. Sumptuous dinner was served but we couldn’t eat everything due to butterflies in our stomach. Not because it’s our first time to ride the plane but mainly due to the fact that we’re now really, literally leaving our homeland for the first time. Thoughts of the new place, environment, and people occupied my mind. Dex was also staring into nothing, thoughts lost in space. I figured he was as thrilled and at the same time apprehensive as I was. Aaron hugged his all-time favorite pillow and in no time fell in deep slumber. A movie and occasional chat with Jet, the Filipina we met, kept me awake while glancing at my two boys snooze into dreamland.

Streaks of light were visible below. Thailand is not far away. Aaron hesitantly and sleepily said “bye airplane” as we got off, waving at the stewardess who stood by the door handing out fresh sweet-smelling orchid to every passenger. A neat, long, and extensive walkway welcomed us. You wouldn’t think it was almost midnight as people with all sorts of luggage were hustling around.

Aaron recharged himself with a bottle of milk while we waited for our connecting flight to Melbourne. He also managed to entertain a baby girl crawling and practising to walk in barefoot. Tennis players from around the world were among those who waited for boarding time. You could just tell by their jackets and racquets.

The advantage of having a two-year-old around when travelling is you get to be called first in line and boy we were happy! Stunning stewardesses ushered us in and assisted us to our seats. In no time the plane took off as we made ourselves ready and comfy for the eight-hour trip ahead. It reminded me of Margie’s fear of riding the plane. I consoled myself with God’s promise that wherever He leads, He provides. Aaron’s scampering around the whole day paid off as he easily fell asleep. Dex and I snoozed off as well after taking a few bites from the mouth-watering dinner that was served. The occasional jolts of the plane often woke me up as it sent shivers to my spine.

Sunrise glimmered through the thick clouds as luscious breakfast was served. Pretty soon exhilaration befell upon me as I gazed down and saw acres and acres of rich green land. This is Australia and very soon we’ll stand on it! Moments later, we huddled to the aisle as we prepared to depart the plane. A stewardess gave Aaron a book and reciprocated her with a shy “Thank you, see you later.” Afterwards he said “Bye Kuya” to the Chinese guy behind us who later asked what Aaron said, and “Bye Uncle” to the old American man who was still busy stooping down looking for his missing shoe.

After all the necessary checks done by the immigration staff (we got first in line again, thanks to Aaron being a two-year-old ^_^) we finally got to wait for our luggage. Dex was busy waiting for our stuff to turn up while I looked after Aaron who found the wheelchairs amusing. Suddenly a border security dog kept nudging at my hand-carry bag. I was a bit scared but then I realized it must have smelled the orchid that the Thai Airways stewardess handed to us. The dog’s handler then asked me what I had in my bag and I told her about the orchid. Good thing I threw it away, she said. They are definitely strict in here when it comes to goods coming in. After scribbling “cleared” in my boarding pass, they left and I was relieved!
Both Dex and I still couldn’t believe that we’re already standing on an entirely different continent. Ms. Vera’s familiar pssssst (reminds you that a Filipino is calling) broke our very short chat. We were then ushered out and as we crossed the street, chilling fresh air sent the hair of my skin standing as I gripped Aaron tightly. I simply looked up the clear blue sky, around the area, and stared at the new environment we’re in. I was a probinsyana who first set foot on a big city. So what? I savored the moment.

The ride to Ms. Vera’s place was exciting. Seeing the wonderful scenery (which we only saw in movies) along the way made me thank God silently for the safe trip and for allowing us to be here. This is it! We’re really here!
Her townhouse was fabulous! At 4PM, after we settled our things, I helped her prepare our late lunch - chicken soup with zucchini (a vegetable that looks like an opo which actually belongs to pumpkin family she explained), rice, and sweet oranges. She briefed us on our trip the next day, shared more stories about the Filipinos who would be Dex’ co-workers, and then encouraged us to have a nap. A nap that turned out to be very long coz we woke up the next day. If Ms. Vera didn’t tap our door, we could have missed the train!

We hurriedly munched on the toasted bread, oranges, and coffee she prepared for us, gathered our things and hopped into her car. As we headed to the train station, I was just too amazed of the fact that we’re in Melbourne that I didn’t stop taking pictures until we reached the station.

I bought some chips and water from the vending machine, mentally converting dollars to pesos and telling myself how expensive ($2.60) their 250ml bottle of water is! Then again, I realized that if I constantly convert, I won’t buy anything so I bought a couple more chips and a piece of that inviting Cadbury chocolate. I was sure we’ll get hungry on the train.

The four-hour train ride didn’t bore either Dex or me. The scenery just awed us and we just kept smiling at each other, taking turns in holding Aaron who made the train seat a small bed. Vast green pastures with hundreds of brown, black, and spotted cows and hundreds of gigantic balls of hay scattered everywhere. There were numerous sheep too.

Warrnambool, the last stop of the train is where we boarded the coach (bus) that carried us to our final destination. The two hours and a half ride culminated at the Lady Nelson Information Centre, Mount Gambier! It wasn’t a bus terminal like where we normally get off in the Philippines. In fact, it wasn’t a terminal at all. It was a visitor information centre and the bus we rode in was the only bus there. No one else was around so we just settled ourselves in the bench beside the road as we patiently and excitedly yet anxiously waited for someone to pick us up. THIS IS IT, Dex and I exclaimed! This is really it! The beginning of our whole new adventure!

Thirty minutes later, the familiar face of Sir Jeff got off from his white right hand drive car (the first adjustment we had to make) and warmly greeted us. He cheerfully oriented us of the major streets and took us to the astounding Blue Lake. To actually see the deep turquoise blue lake was marvelous. We’ve been reading about it in the internet. We even promised ourselves to make time to see it and there we were, marveling at its beauty on our first hour to this new city which will be our home for the next couple of years or so. Coles, a grocery store, was the next stop which was followed by the She’s Apples, a shop with a variety of fruits and vegetables. We then headed to our new dwelling place. Dex on the front passenger seat was busy answering Sir Jeff’s questions about our trip and listening to the initial orientation for his job. I, on the other hand, was gawking at the countless rows of pine trees on both sides of the street while Aaron was happily sitting on his car seat busy gobbling the bunch of grapes Sir Jeff bought for him.

The sight of a simple house with neatly mowed lawn situated in front of a cornfield, a huge piggery farm behind, and acres of pine trees to its right told me that we have reached our final destination after almost two days of taxing but definitely exciting journey. Nonetheless, I told myself our real journey begins here and now. Here in this strange new land, with strangers as housemates, with nothing but our luggage and ourselves yet I was assured of God’s love and grace as I was reminded of His word “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This was the future we prayed for, now that the future is here, we simply place the rest of our future in this new land in His faithful and loving hands.