I'm just a small fish in a small corner of this big Laguna, and this is how I've been swimming it

27 April, 2011

Tropical Hut hamburgers

     Why is the Tropical Hut fastfood restaurant in Paseo de Sta. Rosa still open? It can get totally empty some days. When we remember it's there (at the far end of the strip facing the highway), next to Razon's, we remember we like Tropical hut burgers and we would rather have these most of the time than Jollibee's.  I also love their chicken sandwiches, and each time we remember to go to Tropical for a snack, I remember how much I love them.

      The only other Tropical Hut I know of is the one in BF, Paranaque, attached to the only other Tropical Hut grocery I know.  If you are my age and if you grew up in Metro Manila like I did, then you would relate.  You would recall the Tropical Hut (original one?) at the corner of Ortigas and EDSA, across the POEA building. 

       I usually couple my sandwich with their mais con hielo.  I do wish they had sundaes like the other joints.  

       Who is the market?  Well, they were tuned into that FM station that plays annoying insane canned laughter, and this was playing. So figure it out.  What fun, though!

        Eva Eugenio! "Kay rami nang, winasak na tahanan...kay rami nang matang, pinaluha, kay rami nang pusong sinugatan...o tukso, layuan mo ako!"

      As classic as their burgers, I guess haha.  Kind of hokey but I like it this way.   

John Bamboo in Nuvali Solenad

    This is not a blog about restaurants nor food, so I am not prepared with photos of John Bamboo's offerings. I am just prepared to say, it is good, it exists.  An Indonesian friend let me know this when this was newly-opened, and it had her seal of approval.  Enak! (Delicious in Bahasa Indonesia) Masarap nga, even if it was just the "Martabak telor" we had for merienda. Authentic. I forgot to take a photo of it, the presentation was more hotel-like than street-food like.  

    We met the chef, imported from Jakarta. A very friendly guy, he said he was employed at the Hotel Intercontinental Jakarta for seven years before coming here (no wonder the martabak was pretty). As we knew Indonesian dishes from a past life in Jakarta, he talked to us about how John Bamboo was originally supposed to be just a sate house.  The owners, he claimed, didn't know about the 300+ Indonesian students at the Adventist University of the Philippines!  I found that hard to believe.  The Red Crab, which owns this, is a major company, which I'm sure, planned this carefully with research. Within the first two weeks of opening, they were also raided by expats--Singaporean, Indonesian, and Europeans who were previously living in the region.  With many Filipinos also having experienced the region's cuisine, missing it, and purchasing property in  the area, the timing is good.  The chef had to change the menu, which now includes favorites as bakso (soup that can be had in the streets of Jakarta in warungs or streetside cafes).  He has also done special requests such as a huge, party-sized "nasi kuning" (yellow rice formed into a cone) for an expat's surprise party.

    I am sorry I don't get the name John Bamboo, and seeing Rambo up there in the mural. I like the red furniture, but really, the place could have had bare walls and it wouldn't have mattered--the food was good.  They also have drinks such as Markisa 7-Up, and passionfruit syrup mixed with 7-up that is an Indonesian thing.  We had their "STMJ--susu telor madu jahe" or milk, egg, honey and ginger.  It was warm but so energizing.  They have "es cendol" I don't remember seeing any apulkat shake in their menu though. Apulkat is avocado, and this drink usually has lines of chocolate syrup dripping into the avocado green. It's something I miss. 

   The prices are very reasonable in this place. Really. Good value for money.  It is owned by the Red Crab group. Ah basta, try it already.  I'm so happy it's there. There is nowhere else in that Solenad I'd rather eat so far.

23 April, 2011

Jesus is not dead

     Close to midnight, the sound of struggling English by both Filipina (because yes, there are foreign ones living large in Manila, I hear) prostitute and Korean man, the sounds of their moaning, giggling too, again.

     I tried to ignore it all, while working by the window again.  I felt different this time, empowered by today's service at church.  It is Good Friday,and today from 1:00-3:00pm we heard the "7 last words".  Afterwards, there was a mass, people kissed Jesus' feet, and many of us went on trying to have a reflective, meditative day.  Tonight I remembered what the priest said about battling the devil. We are confident, because we have God with us.  Did Jesus say don't get mad?

     I shut off my lights, lifted my window blinds noisily, and banged the windows shut.  This made the girl jump off the bed. Then, the man peered out, standing at the window's side. Ha! I banged the window with my palm hard. This time I felt cooler and calmer.

    What I really wanted to do was yell "Do you know what DAY this is????" and "YOU turn your aircon off, hang curtains, and shut YOUR windows, not me".
I realized I was the one suffering the stuffy room, I was the one getting upset. SO against my conscience's pleading, I checked again. They were gone!  I looked down and their car was gone too!  Hurray! I don't care if they were really due to leave anyway, I scared them off. They got the message.  And I didn't have to say a word.

     Thank you Jesus, I prayed.  Talking this way about Jesus is not something I do often.  I keep my faith to myself and I have my conversations privately.  But tonight I just felt its true power.

     I just met an old friend, who also longed for the very quiet, restful Good Fridays of the '70s and '80s..when we were kids.  Now, many shops and services remain open, people go swimming (forbidden by our mothers), make noise at 3pm (we had to be quiet and praying). All in the name of respecting that not everyone is Catholic or practicing.  I do feel winds blowing back to the time of veils and Latin mass...I'm not sure I would like that extreme, but how do we compromise? In Bali, there is one day in the year reserved for a celebration (which I forget) where EVERYTHING is shut down.  Regardless of the presence of tourists, there is no work, people stay indoors, and it gets dark as well.  The tourists are expected to respect this. I wonder if they do to this day.  I don't even want to think of the wasteland that is Boracay at this time.

    In Sta. Rosa, Mercury Drug was open, most other shops were closed.  There was still the usual traffic on the highway, though I did not venture further out to really check.

    That's because it's Good Friday, and I had planned on (not even going online) meditating and reflecting on the Passion of Christ.

22 April, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

    My bell peppers whose seeds I simply scattered from a store-bought one.

Good Friday, good morning, bad neighbors

     So I saw them leave....three girls, one strangely wearing a huge I.D. card around her neck. Obviously not regular girlfriends, seemingly unfamiliar with the place, in movement and behavior. Carrying a garment shop's paper shopping bag (typical of those who spend one night?--I'd seen this in Malaysia, a young girl who had a one-night stand with a Filipino yuppie in town for a project. Another disgusting story...he was married).  Driven in the car by the Foreign Asian. The old foreign Asian saw them off. After this, men came and went, presumably for golf. It's just strange how they drove another black van, with plates, and the suv, back and forth to the parking area and another house...carrying a black golf bag--just one, back and forth from car to car and then finally to the house.  What's inside? Is it really golf clubs? Anyway, at least they've vacated the street, having parked away. 

   I should stop. Blogging has helped me deal with this disturbance but this is definitely NOT what I had wanted this blog to be about.  It is like the honeymoon with this place is over, and I am seeing its flaws.  I should stop lest I attract the very evil I am trying to conquer.

  Really need to pray to God, reflect, and find peace. 

Westgrove is not in Sta. Rosa

...but it is mainly accessed from the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay national highway and the Laguna Blvd.  This billboard and intersection has been my landmark for the area from way back when Westgrove was starting to sell and the lots cost Php 8,000. per sqm.  It's still there, and recently, got a new image on it.  One with people. Lots of people of all ages. The previous one showed the view of a grove from a porch. With an empty chair.  This one is warm like the summer...but I don't know if the red pigment was really done on purpose. You know, to project warmth, passion, life and because red is quick to reach the eye. It could, but then it just looks like bad printing(to little old me).  Anyway, it says "We Live". 
     I wonder if the megastar is aware that many think "Sharon" aside from "Sta. Rosa" when you say "Westgrove".  I am not a fan, but I like her enough, and I hope she gets the peace she enjoys in here.  Once I saw her children and husband at the Rustan's express.  I let him be (rather than start chatting with him about mutual friends), seeing how he was enjoying doing the ordinary with his kids.

   I like Westgrove for its green hills too. I won't survive though. You see, I actually am not fond of having or taking charge of household staff. To survive in Westgrove, assuming the house would be huge,  I would need more than two helpers. Can someone from Westgrove tell me--is there a shuttle for staff to get to the gate? Besides the helpers, I would need a driver, and while I could enjoy being driven, I can't really put up with everything you need to when dealing with staff. Unless you're really lucky and have efficient and good staff.  Then again, from this billboard to a house inside Westgrove is a long drive. I may reconsider the driver. 

Houses by the Church

   Houses by the town plaza, the church and the town hall were owned by the town's prominent citizens.  In the Philippines, we can still see many such houses, made of stone, with wide windows and imagine veiled women walking toward the parish at dawn on a Sunday. Having grown up in Metro Manila, and with no province of my own to visit, I do not have the sense of daily living in a provincial town that some friends and relatives enjoyed.  Maybe this is why I have been making a big deal of Sta. Rosa being actually a beautiful, historically and culturally wealthy old town. 

     I do prefer this "new" side to live in, that is to say, the barangays Santo Domingo and Don Jose. Sometimes though, the noveau nature of life here, fast surrounded by the usual food and services franchises can feel...boring.  I mean,  at Paseo de Santa Rosa, with its Kanin Club, Poquito Mas, Umenoya and Ippon Yari in the beginning, I thought this place would have its own charm.  Now there's no stopping its yearning to become a Makati Commercial Center. Even Alabang Town Center has its own atmosphere. Still, the Paseo area probably retains its own ambience (like that of its lone strip of an arcade with the bike shop and Safari car rental over a decade ago), somehow.

    The bayan has these old homes, with one structure, the Casa Zavalla open for visitors. It is a short walk from the church and close to its mortuary. They host some sort of "pulungan" sessions weekly.  There is a cafe as well.  With our luck, again, it was closed. This time, with chains and a padlock.  It seemed empty, most likely for the Holy Week.  Sayang, the museum security man excitedly told us we could have a snack and view antiques at the same time. 

 The wooden plaque says 1888-1997.
 The casa sits on a corner (of Zavalla St. I think). This is the casa from the corner. Why is there a bell tower?
 Interesting fish carving there.Must return to ask about it.
 The front entrance
 View of the church from the casa. See the Lipat-bahay ad on the electric post? Where's the "Tubero" signage? So like the Philippines :-) 
 structure next to (or part of?) the museum

 Note the Z on the grillwork. This house is a clinic.
 A huge, seemingly vacant house

He stands across the town plaza, in front of a tiangee, in front of Mercury Drug (which was, curiously, closed).  I'm sorry I do not know who he is and I was in the car at the busy intersection, being rushed by a traffic aide to go.

Museo ng Santa Rosa

Entering the bayan
  Museums are usually closed on Monday.  It was a Sunday when we first tried to visit the Santa Rosa Museum, and it was closed. We were told to return on a Monday. This seems odd, but then I do remember other government museums in other towns were closed on Sundays as well.  We dreaded going on a weekday, as the bayan looks really like your "anybayan" in Southern Luzon. Just see the "7-11" in the center through the archway above.  Cringe. At least it's not the Golden Arches nor the Bee I see.  I do cringe, but how phony of me to not enjoy the convenience--when we had earlier stopped by at a 7-11 to buy batteries, while my husband used the Jolibee restroom.

  So, it is Holy Week, and I thought it the perfect opportunity to enter this Museo.  This is right next to the  parish church. It smelled of...paint and dust was flying.  They were renovating, what luck.  An elderly construction man ushered us in, saying we could still go upstairs.  A very pleasant and accommodating security head met us, explaining the reason for the renovation.   There is some sort of international museum congress happening in May, and Sta. Rosa will be the venue for the Philippine museums meeting! We still saw a bit of the second floor. It's actually surprising that items were still out on display considering all the construction dust and movement.  Here is what we saw:

Table settings, houseware such as an old coal iron, mortar and pestle, jars
photos of the old archway circa 1920s

     When the man pointed out the photos of all the town's heads on the far end of the wall, at first I thought: Why is everything in a town all about the mayor as a personality most of the time. You know, with photos on tarps everywhere, and people referring with reverence to the mayor, or the congressman, etc when one is discussing the town. Then again, he probably pointed them out as the building used to be the town hall.
     Anyway, it is going to be open week after Holy Week, and then the meeting will be held in May.  We also inquired about the Cuartel (see post) de Santo Domingo. Security head seemed excited about our interest in the ruins, and led us to the tourism office.  The woman in there could not share our excitement--she seemed frustrated too, by the fact that even they could not visit the ruins.  She said they have even had to send their request to the Taguig camp. There is hope though, as she mentioned talks are ongoing between the National Historical Institute and the camp, to open the ruins for visitors.

21 April, 2011

Maundy Thursday Magdalene

    I am so affected, but it's better this way---I'm deathly afraid of being desensitized to what goes on in that room whose window my desk window is across from, by about car-width's reach. (see Sheer Curtains post. Actually they're not even sheer--they're transparent!).  It should go on bothering me, or else what will I have become.  My dear mother told me the next morning I should  not let my blood pressure rise over this...that the devil is next door, working to affect me so. She's right, I think.

    Maundy Thursday, 7:00 pm, can you believe it?  Action again.  More than one voice--a woman's and possibly a man's, but Filipinos this time, in that room, just talking. The woman, standing, seated, waving hands while talking.  Who are these people? This obviously isn't one person's bedroom. Are they pimps? 
There were three vehicles out front, and the annoying thing is their black, heavily tinted, plate-less van was parked in front of our house.  I would not mind a neighbor parking a car in that spot.  In this case, the foreigner, leaves this van overnight and the whole day to go golfing on weekends.  That's not really bad and I could care less...except when I think about how he ferries a different prostitute each time, using this van.  The security head could do nothing but shrug, saying "you know these men...".  Last month I had called security to say the van had been sitting there all day and night, and it looked creepy, black including the tint, and with no plates. How was it that a village sticker was issued to a plateless van, I failed to ask. He said it was the staff car. Yes, sure.  The house is a brothel, or just a halfway house for the men (who I'm told work for their country's popular mobile phone/television sets etc. parts manufacturer) to come and relieve their stress. Disgusting. 

   He's right, we can't really control their bringing prostitutes into the house. It's just so offensive, and my pain includes getting grossed out (diseases and all), getting grossed out by the actual idea of it, and on another level, I am a woman, am a Filipina too. We can't even complain in the same way we can holler if we smell strange chemicals coming from the house (you know, like a laborator for you know?). So, I just do what I can. Originally thought of sticking an improvised bumper sticker saying "I use prostitutes" or something like that. But then who knows what kind of revenge these men will have. Of course I can use "I will have you deported", but can I?  I hear these people have the gall to do anything they want in this country, because they know they can get away with it.  And come on...we do have Filipinos doing the same things overseas. So again, it's not a racial thing (shouldn't be, but it they have been offending my sensibilities lately with their manner).  Such a surprise, for I have a reputation as something of a diplomat and ambassador!

   Last night, when I heard "the sounds", I blasted something loud again. This time, not the angry woman shouting, but music.  Ama Namin by the Bukas Palad singers. Ha!

   Tonight, I switched my emergency siren on.  Poor offspring was about to go to bed, and begged me to turn it off.  So I did.  Blasted Bukas Palad again.  Then the room emptied, so I stopped.

   About an hour later, ewww...a very young girl, with hair fixed into a neat ponytail, in black underwear, stood, sat, stood again, draping her clothes on the bedpost.  Blast went my Bukas Palad.
   I don't know what happened, but the room emptied again.  I then heard the man speaking loud in his language, downstairs. Hm. My fantasy is that the music on the Maundy touched the girl so (as Bukas Palad music is wont to do)...that she decided to quit. Sigh.

   Okay, I'll just pray. Wait, maybe I'll tell the neighbor who introduced herself last December as active at the Parish, our sort of representative. That should freak her out. Then again, she might try to get me against the RH bill.  Still, I've proven chismis power works in this case.  And prayers, of course.

    Happy Easter.

Churches are our Castles

     Here is the less-than-a-year old Church of St. Benedict at the nearby Westgrove Heights.  The interior is very unique and awesome, conducive to praise and worship. However, I can't post the photos I took inside as my offspring posed in the foreground. (and I do not want to post offspring's pics). 

    Now WESTGROVE is the first place that came to former neighbor's minds when I announced our move to Sta. Rosa.  Technically, Westgrove is in Barangay Inchican, Silang, Cavite. I first heard the name bgy. Inchican from a receptionist at the beauty salon at Paseo. She said she was from that bgy. I also heard it from the carpenter who needed to buy from "the many hardware shops" at  Inchican. I had since wondered about what "Inchican" means. Imagining it spelled as Instikan, I had wondered if it meant something like a Chinese quarter of town.  Silly idea? Let me know if you know.  I haven't asked the barangay folk (whose barangay hall's design looks like it belongs in Westgrove hehe. nice.).

    This  church has no parish priest as of this writing.  They've got guest priests for the Holy Week, and the weekend masses are said by priests from the parish in Silang.  It is right next to St. Scholastica's Westgrove. 

     St. Benedict's is really elegant-looking, inside and out. It is sure to be A popular wedding venue. But of course our old Spanish churches are still our "castles", which, sayang, could serve as more important tourist attractions than they currently are.

     The church of St. John Bosco in Sta. Rosa near this church, is celebrating it's 10th anniversary this year. I promise photos next time.  Its design is reminiscent of the Sanctuario de San Antonio's in Makati, or the many other similarly designed '80s-'90s churches in Manila.  It is thus cozy, familiar, and just late last year, now airconditioned for everyone's comfort.  The cool (no pun intended) thing about this area is that the airconditioner is hardly used except for the summer months.  Don Bosco's addition of aircons is going to keep the flock coming I'm sure.  I mean, going to Sunday mass had always been difficult in the heat. No matter what a priest lectures about it being part of the sacrifice.  I just cannot focus on the Lord, blessings and prayers while fanning myself like crazy.

     Here is the Sta. Rosa de Lima parish, which is at the heart of the bayan  ng Sta. Rosa. Sta. Rosa is not just the area surrounding Greenfield, Ayala and the Paseo de Sta. Rosa!  Sta. Rosa does have a real, colorful history...which I have been failing to learn more of...until I get to talk to Ms. Nonia Tiongco, the historian of Sta. Rosa whose "Sta. Rosa Studies Center" eludes me. (more on this later).

     On the day of our visit, the Poong Nazareno (black Nazarene) was in the church. Vendors of replicas, holy oil, handkerchiefs with the novena printed on them, scapulars and miscellaneous Nazarene trinkets were outside in the heat of the church plaza/parking lot.  INSIDE the church, mobile versions of those vendors approached us every two minutes or so to sell their stuff.  Some of them were lying on the pews, some milling about, barking at each other. Well, talking, and it seemed they came all the way from Quiapo, the black nazarene's home.

      Here are photos of that church, built in 1796.  For those who have also recently moved to the "new" side of Sta. Rosa, know that here is the "old" town, ready for you to explore (in a later post, the museum and environs).

     The statue of Sta. Rosa de Lima was given by Peru in 1999.
There was nobody to talk to about the trompe l'√≥eil downstairs. This painting, not trompe l'oeil, looks like a typical 1920's rendition found in other churches.  Well, I hope we get to contact the Santa Rosa Studies group soon.  We missed their exhibition at My SM, My City two years ago. That series is where information could be gathered.

18 April, 2011

Cuartel de Sto. Domingo

    I didn't post the wrong photo. This is right past Crown Asia's Valenza Italian inspired village, and the area is Bgy. Sto. Domingo.  The Special Action Forces Training camp of the Philippine National Police, is here.  Fort Sto. Domingo sounds so familiar, but it took time before I realized the Cuartel de Sto. Domingo was most likely in that barangay, and not in the old bayan ng Sta. Rosa. I don't know why I had assumed it was in the other side--the Balibago, Tagapo sides where the city hall is located.   

     Even before this barangay, is Bgy. Don Jose, which covers the area of the Laguna Technopark, Paseo de Sta. Rosa and many small villages.  Both barangays have their metal arches marking the entrance to the barangays, on the right side of the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay national highway.  Again, I dislike saying negative things sana, but I have to note that both barangay's roads are dirt roads.  It is sadder to see this in the Bgy. Don Jose, because this road is between Technopark tenants such as Panasonic.  I mean, it's supposed to be a World-class city now, this Sta. Rosa, but I guess that just means that it is host to such corporations. 

    Anyway, I digress.  I had seen just one old b/w pic of the cuartel online.  Google it now, and let me know if you find new information and pics, as there is really just now. Now everywhere I've lived, I have been interested in what has gone before.  I creep myself out trying to imagine exactly what went on in the land I am standing on.  In Makati's Bgy. Guadalupe Viejo and Poblacion, I would imagine natives by the Pasig river...but it was frustrating as I could not find any stories nor sketches of such scenes.  I wondered what could be found by digging along those banks.  The scant info I got mentioned that the entrance steps of the Nuestra Senora de Gracia used to reach all the way down to the river!

   Ayayay, here I go again going off on another topic...

   Back to that boring pic of a billboard. There is a road right in front of it, and that leads to the training camp's gate.  The men guarding it were very polite, explaining that no visitors are allowed to enter unless perhaps sponsored/led by the barangay captain, or a PNP official, or some such authority.  Neither have there been field trips to the place.  Here are photos of the cuartel circa 1800 and 2000, that I took at the Museum of Sta. Rosa:

   They're just ruins, I know, but very important and interesting.  This land people have been moving to, buying new houses and lots, once saw battle! I still can't believe these artifacts dug up from the cuartel, were just sitting by the museum door with no case nor cordon.  I mean, some nut could just take a fancy to them.
     You will not miss the Crown Asia Valenza Italian village...it right across Nuvali,too.  After these, you'll get to "Japanese corn" vendors lined up on the sidewalks on weekends.  This is Bgy. Sto. Domingo, which I imagine, is getting "world-class" too anyway with all the new developments.  It is still more special this way, I think:

   Hard to imagine just over a decade ago--well around 1995, 1996...when we began taking this route toward Tagaytay, we were actually afraid of passing here in the evening.  We would take the old way, the one that comes out to Cavite.
This Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay highway was dimly lit back then, and it was common knowledge that "salvaged" victims were dumped here.  I know this to be true---I have a cousin whose car was carjacked on their way out of NAIA (it happened on the way from the Pasig area to Libis, the same old modus operandi) and they were then dropped off in Sta. Rosa. They were unhurt, but their driver sustained a gunshot wound on the foot.  They hailed a tricycle home.  Even before then, we had been warned to avoid this route once it got dark. 

   What is it with me today, this is going everywhere but the cuartel. Well, that's just it. We can't even visit the cuartel until some sort of agreement is reached between the PNP and the local government.   Bet most of the people living here don't even realize the historical aspect of this land.  It would give it so much more significance and interest to know. I mean, the newness of places like Nuvali, the kitsch of Georgia model showrooms and the commercial Paseo can just be so...blah sometimes.  There are people out there who would appreciate the ruins.  And I think our children ought to.

16 April, 2011

Hot in Nuvali

Summer has finally come.  Here are what I think are the most photographed koi in the world.  After two years of living here we finally took the taxi boat (Php 30 per head; min. 6 persons Php180) for the short ride 'round the lagoon.  A family flew a cute kite lakeside. 

I'm not into crowds, so I try to avoid this place on weekend afternoons throughout the year.  They've moved the 'tiangge' to the parking lot, so the space in front of the restaurants is clear.  You can stop by to/from your Tagaytay trip for refreshments, or to use the clean restrooms.  And to say hello to the koi, of course.  

15 April, 2011

Solenad 2 Nuvali

 Just received email from Nuvali Evoliving...Solenad 2 along the highway will open in May, with Robinson's Supermarket and True Value.  It doesn't really look halfway done at the moment...but what do I know about construction.  All I know is, the open space out there is fast getting filled up, traffic is heavier, with cement mixers coming and going.

There's a beautiful new field (fields) for soccer and baseball...but we can't just go and play. It is private, after all.

10 April, 2011

Desperate Housewives/Knots Landing/Peyton Place

     These are hit tv series about neighborhoods. Or the secrets within the small neighborhoods.  I mentioned previously that I was going to say something about mixed-culture kids. Their being of mixed races is not the point at all.  I also have friends who married foreigners and they are decent, lovely women.  Marriage is tough, and there are even bigger challenges when two cultures marry.  I have nothing against mixed-culture marriages. I'm hurt by generalizations made about us Filipinas who marry foreigners.

   What I mentioned was sad is really not simply about being a child of mixed races...but that a neighbor revealed to me how there are many women here who are actually unfaithful to their foreign husbands (presumably because they married them for one reason). I was surprised to learn that this Filipina mother of four daughters would bring men into their home, and (as they say) her "press release" was that this or that man was her cousin.  Apparently, the Asian husband (who has older kids back in his country) learned the truth, and withheld money from her.  She then left home and has not been heard from, leaving her very young daughters.  The husband is said to be very heartbroken and suicidal.  Well, his culture is known to use suicide as a way out...

   The other tsismis is that this other set of kids...has a gold-digger of a mother too.  This half-European set includes an eldest boy who actually told me in response to my query that he is not a cousin, but a half-brother.  However, I just learned that their mother's "press release" to the European father is that the boy is her sister's son.  Her sister has a baby as well who has an unidentified father. 

  Now I just realized...I have met both these allegedly gold-digging mothers.  I have never had a conversation with any of them...even in the party of the other mother's daughter, all she did was give me this smile. Not a word came out of her.  Meanwhile, the other mothers I have met--the decent ones, have extended more than just the smile...at the least, they would make small talk about--the weather.  Both examples make me sad, when I look at their children...

  On another scandalous note,  there is another neighbor who has disappeared with her lovely preschooler girls. I learned from the maid that her daughters' pretty young yaya and their father were going together!  It is soooo disgusting a situation. On top of that, the father, another European, is extremely obese and unattractive.   Said young yaya has shacked up with the man in the family home. Apparently he had put her up in another place when the wife and kids were still home. Eek. She actually locks herself in and hides, ashamed because the neighbors' maids know.  Well, I once saw her outside and she appeared self-conscious (because my maid had seen her with the man's arm around her out at a mall and she knew it), but I made like she was invisible. She immediately entered the house. Ha! At least she's "suffering". The man is a pig, period.

   My mother says this place is kind of like Peyton Place then. If you're in your 60s you would know this show.  The '80s had the same theme of neighborhood scandals, treachery and affairs in Knots Landing. And if you are 40 and below,  it's Desperate Housewives for you.

   Well, Santa Rosa is a normal city, and the newish villages ever moreso I guess.

07 April, 2011

Sheer Curtains and Open Windows

     This post is not for anyone below 18.  25, even! I don't want to ruin the innocence of youth with this kind of gross reality.     

     I have not even made a proper introduction to the raison d'etre for this blog about Santa Rosa. It was supposed to be all sweetness and light, with a sprinkling of tips for a way to live here. For awhile I thought I had moved to a Stepford-ian, leetel veelage, patroled by pleasant roving guards. I have been waiting for the almost inevitable power-tripping homeowner's association board member to appear, but so far, I have not heard of any such neighbor. This place is well-run, I've heard it called idyllic. All seems to be well.  There is just one irritating, disgusting, totally unexpected (by naive old me, anyway) kind of 'habit' going on in many "next doors" though even as I type...committed by expatriates.

  It's common knowledge this is technopark city.  Where I live, I am surrounded by various foreigners. Some houses have families, some with an entire student population stuffed into the average 300sqm unit.  Some are staff houses for transients, or men who work in 24 hour operations.  I learned recently it's also common knowledge that these men bring in paid women.  Well duh, I really thought they had girlfriends. This staff house next to where I am is empty during the day, and different men use it.  Sometimes I wonder if the landlady knows it is almost like just a place for that one purpose. I also learned everyone just shrugs it off as "alam mo naman, mga (insert Asian nationality here) tsaka mga (insert another Asian nationality here). The maids are disgusted, as are my friends in the neighborhood, but the bottom line is we cannot really do anything about it. I'm not focusing on nationalities or races here.  There's just one group that happens to have more presence here. 

  Their nationalities don't matter so much as the careless, indiscreet manner these men conduct their 'business'.  You see, at midnight, I sit by a window just a few meters from that neighbor's window.  And before you tell me to simply not look at his window, please imagine the scenario.  There is only a sheer---almost transparent curtain, like a spider web, really, hanging there.  The bed is by the window.  Said neighbor keeps the windows open, never using an airconditioner. I can see the fan and it is always off, this being Santa Rosa and quiet cool.  The lights are left on throughout. Sure, I can easily NOT LOOK,  but I CAN HEAR, and sometimes it makes me look.  And it has been happening since they moved in five months ago. I will be trying very hard to write, or read, or even pray at my desk.  Then I hear a girl frantically demand in a squeal "no! shower! shower! yes shower!" and the man, always incredulous "Huh? showa?".   Always the girl has to demand it.  And always after this, I will hear the shower come on. Our windows are that close, and the acoustics good, especially in the deep silence here.  My nerves get shaken with disgust.

    The man, who earlier refused to shower, would take long it seems, with the sound of the shower on. So I peek, and see the girl either already undressed or undressing. Ugh. I have never in my life seen this whole deal of a prostitute getting ready in real life.  Once, a couple of months back, I heard the man ask "How old are you?". I didn't hear the girl's reply, but I peeked and saw how YOUNG she looked. How skinny, too.  I can watch, but I have never done so. It's just too disgusting and gross. Painful, even. Why does it hurt my psyche, and not theirs?

    Twice, I have heard the woman demand "Condom! condom! condommmmm!!!".  I nearly puked.  Not because of condoms per se...but that she had to insist. I actually pitied her for having to scream this. Then I went back to being upset about it all. I mean, if I wanted to be hearing this kind of dialogue, I would have stayed in P. Burgos.  This place looks too much like Pleasantown to have this kind of...service going on.  And all they need is to shut the windows, turn on the airconditioning and install the darkest, thickest damn curtains!  I will not care and it's none of my business, just please do not let me hear or see anymore!

   Luckily I cannot really see the actual acts. Luckily they are always horizontal.  Fortunately for them, I don't have a child or teenager or young single offspring sleeping by this window. If I did, I would be capable of doing much more than what I have been doing to harrass them in the middle of their acts.

   It's laughable, what I do, too mild. But it has worked.

   When the noises start, with the girl demanding a shower, and then the actual SOUNDS of you know what, I enlist the help of YouTube.  The first time I did this, I turned up the volume to max, stuck the speakers onto the window
and played "sounds of police sirens".  No effect. I then used "crazy woman laughing". No reaction.  What worked (and has just worked again tonight) was "angry woman shouting".  I actually heard the two pause, mumble something, and then silence. Hah. A perfectly legal, easy and non-confrontational solution.  But of course it's still an irritant, hence this rant. 

    Oh it's still a pleasant place.  I do have more sunshine to share.  It has just occurred to me though, that a future post will have to something to do about another sad reality here.  Just to drop a hint, it has to do with the presence of many mixed-culture children, their step-siblings, and their mothers who give me mona lisa smiles, never any conversation.

04 April, 2011

South Supermarket

  Standing next to the Caltex station at the corner of Laguna blvd. and the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay national highway, the South Supermarket looks as if it has always been there.  It just opened in time for the Christmas holidays last year, and the neighborhood is there all the time. I run into someone I know each time I'm there, and that's nearly every week.  The staff knows many of us by face, in the same way the old Rustan's Express staff down the boulevard beside the St. John Bosco parish does.  Perhaps sadly (?) for Rustan's, many of our faces are...missed.  However, I'm sure it remains a destination for after-work, after-school and after-mass.

  There are still a few items South Supermarket does not carry, that Rustan's stocks up on, though. Things like Likas Papaya soap, and Antonio Pueo Excellente Chocolate tableas.  So I have been back to Rustan's occasionally for these. One of those times, the manager happily (and reassuringly, it seems, to her subordinate) reported to me that Shopwise is soon opening in Nuvali.

  Many Filipinos in the neighborhood are Alabang folk, and previously made the drive to the Alabang branch of South Super for their groceries. When we moved to Sta. Rosa and took the long route to the SM Sta. Rosa--via the bayan--we saw the old South Super Sta. Rosa along the way. It was "out of the way" for this side of Sta. Rosa, and the parking lot was EMPTY. So it was not surprising to hear they had closed down. Opening on this side, and smack in the middle of the busy intersection of Paseo and Laguna blvd, is, if I were a competitor, extremely enviable.  It is not only an after-work, after-school, after-play destination, it is also a stop for those traveling further to Tagaytay or Batangas.

  My own history with South Supermarket goes way back to my childhood in the Pasay-Paranaque border.  It was also the neighborhood store, very homey with red brick walls.  We would stop by South Super for groceries after school, or for supplies for school projects, or for a quick snack. There was a soft-serve ice cream machine, where a very kind gay man cheerfully served up twists of bland, creamy vanilla and chocolate twists of ice cream.  She/he knew us all as well, and if you were as kind to him/her, you could get an extra tall serving.  He/she later had to man an ICEE slushie machine as well. Remember that slushie drink with the Polar bear logo, and flavors colored ice blue, brown for cola, and red?  I later realized he/she watched many of us grow up, as I had a college friend from the same neighborhood who claimed he was a favorite of this server.  I wonder where he/she is now.  I wonder what happened to the ICEE brand.

   In South Supermarket Sta. Rosa, the barbecue kiosk lady who now knows us by face is fast becoming my kid's version of my ice cream vendor.  Now that I think about it...she looks familiar because she looks like that ice cream vendor. Or at least that is his/her smile I remember.  How uncanny.