2013 was good to me. Lessons. Gifts. Love.
Looking forward to 2014. Happy New Year all!
2013 was good to me. Lessons. Gifts. Love.
Looking forward to 2014. Happy New Year all!
One of my oldest and dearest friends in New York, Sparrow Hall, recently launched a fantastic digital experience dedicated to travel, culture, and design in Upstate New York: An Upstate of Mind. I've written a roadtrip diary about one of many wonderful weekends spent upstate. Check it out :)
Back in October, I posted an old photo of my maternal relatives. It's a lot more unusual for me to see old photos of my father's side of the family. I loved seeing these. It may very well be the first photo I've ever seen of my great grandmother (center) and the first time I've ever seen such a large group photo of my paternal relatives.
Take a WILD guess which one my father is. It's so obvious, it's hilarious. He's the man with the thick framed glasses on the left (he's standing directly behind his dad, my grandfather). Funny that decades later, we would share similar taste in eyewear! I love the suit and the hairstyle as well. Well done, Pa.
I also love this photo below. I love how handsome my grandparents look here. My dad is second from the right. The look on his face already showing a faint defiance – a hint of the little trouble maker he apparently grew up to be. Ha!
With my mom and her mom both celebrating October birthdays (14th, 28th, respectively), it was only fitting to share another recently discovered gem of a photo. It's a follow up to the photo I posted in July. Thanks to my cousin Joel for sharing photos he recently unearthed in Manila. That's my lola (grandmother) in the middle, my parents to the right and my my mom's sister-in-law, sister and brother-in-law to the left. This must have been in the very early 70s. I love how elegant everyone looks. My mom looks like a teenager here. But she had to have been in her early 20s. Whenever I see old family photos, I feel like I know my family just a little bit more. And I love that.
Happy October birthdays to Mama & (my late) Lola!
A few months ago, my cousin Camille, the Managing Director for Cosmopolitan Magazine Philippines emailed and asked whether I was in fact in New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks. And if so, would I'd mind writing a personal account of my experience that day for an upcoming issue.
Below is the unabridged version of what I submitted. It published in Cosmopolitan magazine, Philippines back in June, 2011.
I was home in Brooklyn getting ready for what was to be my first day freelancing for Rollingstone magazine. I recall hearing a loud noise and discussing it with my roommate. We both figured it was a building explosion somewhere in the area. I saw a huge, thick plume of smoke traveling across the sky on my way to the subway station. But I assumed it was a big fire somewhere in Brooklyn. People on the street did not alert me to anything unusual. All I was concerned with at that point was getting to work.
It wasn't until the subway car I was in crossed the Manhattan bridge (which was several stories above ground) that the entire car full of riders let out a simultaneous gasp as soon as we looked out the window and saw two burning black holes in both World Trade Center towers that I realized where the smoke was coming from. One burning hole was so new that at that point it was still in the shape of a plane hitting the building at an angle.
I was in disbelief and I remember thinking to myself: There's no way people would be at work yet at the WTC, it was too early. So therefore, no one must be hurt. I was in denial of course, as my heart pounded loudly in my ears. I knew that people in the financial district are known to come to work early. The entire train was plastered to the window, none of us could believe what we were seeing. I heard from a passenger from listening to the radio that The Pentagon buildings also had been hit or bombed. The facts were not clear then since we were all just learning (and witnessing) everything. It really sunk in at that moment that this was not an accident – that this was most definitely a very aggressive attack on the US. I was full of questions.
By the time I exited the train at 51st St. and 6th Avenue – in front of Radio City Music Hall, the WTC buildings had collapsed. The subway system had been shut down and the streets were more chaotic than usual. It seemed everyone was out on the street. Everyone was confused. I decided to head up to the office, not being clear on what I should do. I was also scared. My art director at the time took one look at me and said: "Catherine, what are you doing here? We're being evacuated! They don't know what building might be hit next." I told her I just didn't know what to do. Granted we were only on the second floor but I was officially terrified.
I left the office in a daze. People on the streets frantically trying to get a hold of their loved ones. Some were in tears. I stood and watched the news on a TV that the NBC offices has wheeled outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza so that people could figure out what was happening. I also read the news on the ticker tape that wrapped around the NBC studios building to try and make sense of it all. We collectively tried to remain calm as we struggled to hear the news reporters while fighter planes zoomed above the city combing the skies and sirens from fire trucks screamed by constantly. No one spoke.
I had tried unsuccessfully to call my family on my cel phone. I knew that the lines must have been jammed from everyone calling each other. I was told later that the cel towers that were atop the WTC towers collapsed along with the building, interrupting service for many people. Eventually, my parents in Manila got a hold of me and the moment I heard their voices on the phone, I cried. I was shaking. But I explained that I was fine and I was trying to make my way home.
I headed downtown from 51st Sreet on foot. The subway system would be shut down until later that afternoon. Somehow I was able to track down a cousin of mine that I knew lived in Manhattan. We managed to find each other in the East Village. I had been walking for at least a few hours and was exhausted. I finally made it back to Brooklyn around 4 or 5pm. I took the same subway train line back and saw the space where the WTC towers stood only a few hours before. Still stunned.
My roommate told me that someone in the apartment building had run an errand to pick up a watch she had repaired at The World Trade towers just a few minutes before the attack. We tearfully sat glued to the news for the next few days. Spent hours sitting in Prospect Park wondering what would happen next and how this would affect the already ailing economy. We talked to people in the Park Slope neighbourhood about what happened. I remember walking away from a conversation offended (and furious) at someone we casually knew who angrily spouted racist remarks at people from the Middle East. I thought: Wow, this event had already triggered a reaction not unlike the one after Pearl Harbor, which was in a word, racism. Had we not learned anything from that experience? I had no idea that it would be just the beginning of what would unfold following the events of 9/11.
We had both been through lay-offs only a few months prior to the attacks. Thanks to the dot com crash. What are we going to do now? Over the next two weeks, at least, New York City was transformed. It was a city deep in mourning. Humbled. I have never seen New Yorkers be as nice to each other as they were following the attacks. People looked at one another in the eyes. Everyone was uncharacteristically helpful and kind. The stranger seated across the subway car wondered quietly whether you personally knew someone who perished that day. Lower Manhattan smelled like smoke for the next month at least. Residents of the area had to move out completely.
It took a long time for the city to recover. In many ways, it STILL is recovering. I remember the day vividly, like it was yesterday.
My cousin Joel sent me this photo of my Lola (grandmother) and her kids that I have never seen before. Her name was Leonarda – Lony for short. Doesn't she look fantastic?! I love that she looks so relaxed and elegant. My mom is the one to the right of my grandmother. I've seen very few photos of my mom at this exact age. It inspired me to write another post about my family history as a kind of follow-up to my post last year. Another thing that inspired me today is a comment someone left on my old blog about my ancestors. It was nice to be reminded of your ancestry.
My Lola lost her husband, my grandfather Tomas, when he was only 51 years old. He suffered from severe asthma for years and eventually lost the battle. Back then, there were limited options for treament. I never actually had the chance to meet him. He probably took this photo, now that I think about it. My grandma was left to raise six kids on her own. From what I can recall, her family was fortunate enough to own several pieces of property in and around Manila. She earned a living collecting rent from tenants of several apartment buildings. I still remember going with my grandma to collect rent. Between raising six kids and managing property, she also spent a great deal of her time volunteering for an organization that helped the poor. I also remember accompanying my grandmother many times to visit the sick and the poor. Even as a child, I found this to be very humbling. She would always bring them baked goods that she made. She would sit, hold the hands of, and and talk with people who were sick. It was all very much a part of what my Lola was about. The Lola I remember was eternally (and fiercely) independent, generous, sassy and charming. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind. She had to. During the 60s until she passed during the 90s, she was on her own. It's also great to learn that she descends from a long line of strong women — matriarchs. This of course means that I, too, (along with my mom and her sisters) are part of this lineage. I realize that it's a big part of who I am, too. That's something that's to be proud of.
I just caught wind of this Intel Museum of Me application/campaign this afternoon. I must say I'm thoroughly impressed. It takes your Facebook data to create a virtual museum exhibition about your life. The application walks through the museum when it's done gathering your information. It's amazing. It's spreading like wildfire on Facebook. This is a product of social media. It feeds our collective self obsessions that have been brought on by social media: the ME monster. It also feels like a post humous memorial and is, oddly, moving as a result. It's brilliant!
It's already Mother's Day where my mom is. So I figured, a slightly early post would be just fine.
That's my mom in the center of the photo with her cousins next to her. I recently finished restoring this image. I love this photo so much. Everything about it. I even kept the skewed angle it had originally been scanned in. Perhaps it's simply because I love her look in this photo. She's beautiful. It must have been taken of her in the 60s before I was ever born. I really first learned about style and how to love clothes from my mom. She did dress me and made a lot clothes for my sister and me when we were young. It made me think: my mom was my original stylist! ;)
Thanks, Mama. Happy Mother's Day!
I love you.
Perhaps the most inspiring experience that came out of my Montreal trip was finally getting to see People Power – a very powerful and moving play about the non-violent revolution in the Philippines back in 1986 that lead to the toppling of former president Marcos' nearly 20 year corrupt dictatorship. It was written from diverse points of view, all seamlessly represented by the cast. All of it honouring the unsung heroes of the revolution: such as the people of the working class and the activists. Not only was my sister, Christine part of the brilliant cast, she is also part of the CBT Collective that wrote this smart, rich, multi-dimensional, modern, sensitive (and sometimes humourous!) piece of theatre. Not only is my sister active in her theatre work, she's also a talented freelance art director and designer like me! I loved seeing this play and was incredibly inspired by the role my sister played in it's creation.
Toronto-based, Carlos Bulosan Theatre is also lead by another good friend of mine, Nadine Villasin, who is the theatre's artistic director. My other, multi-talented sister Caroline also designed the costumes and my brother-in-law was responsible for the sound design. I am pretty amazed and humbled to be surrounded with such talent and creativity here in Canada.
People Power has received numerous accolades. Not the least of which are the several Dora nominations for many cast and crew members as well as a Dora Award* winning actor, Nico Lorenzo Garcia for his very moving portrayal of an average Filipino taxi driver in People Power.
*The Dora is the Canadian equivalent of the Tony Award)
If you happen to be in the Montreal area between now and October 2nd, go see People Power. There are five shows left before it closes. You will be as inspired and moved as I was.
Photos by Reese Baguio