Saturday, October 30, 2010

Filipino-American Halloween

I was taught that on this day, we remember our ancestors and that no matter where we are in life, we should never forget that "we" are here because of them.
Earlier today, I drove to the mall for some window shopping, and I couldn't help but smile at the shoppers and sales clerks in Halloween costumes. I saw kids dressed as ladybugs, fairies and other fairytale or action hero costumes; they were the cutest as they visit each shop dangling their baskets half-filled with sweets.

Although I've lived in the US since I was 17, it's still vivid in my mind how my parents prepare for November 1st. Before this day, the men in the family would visit our relatives' graves, paint the headstones and make sure the surroundings are cleaned and cleared of weeds. Family and relatives would contribute to the paint cost and almost all the time, this results to a family squabble.

The evening before November 1st, our house would be filled with a permeating smell of sweet coconut and brown sugar that almost sticks to your skin and makes your mouth watery. Mom would busy herself preparing all sorts of food but the main dish would be the "inkiwar nga diket" (Ilokano sweet rice cakes made of coconut, brown sugar, and sweet rice). My sister would prepare the sweet rice while my dad busies himself with the whole process of coconut milk extraction: (1) peeling the husk; (2) breaking the tough shell; (3) grating the meat; and, (4) squeezing coconut milk. My older brother and I would be looking after the "uging" (coal) making sure it is kept going with the "anguyob" (Anyone know the English term for this one?). Well, I was, most of the time, the observer.

When the "inkiwar" is all cooked, my parents would make sure that an "atang" (offering) is made to our ancestors. My parents would set a plate full of "inkiwar," fruits, and a small glass of "arak" (liquor usually in the form of gin) or a cup of coffee. I was taught that on this day, we remember our ancestors and that no matter where we are in life, we should never forget that "we" are here because of them.

Then on November 1st, we would pile into my auntie's old ford fiera, with the younger ones sitting on their moms' or older sisters' lap, to visit our love ones' graves, light candles and pray for them. When we're at the cemetery, my parents, uncles and aunties would busily chat and catch up while we kids make up scary stories and play hide-and-seek.

To this day, I celebrate November 1st the Filipino-American way with costumes and giving out candies to the kids, rest be assured that I have "inkiwar" or some dish I can afford to prepare brewing in my kitchen and that a plateful of "atang" is there to honor and remember my ancestors. Because without them, I won't be here.
 Farmer cat staring at my front door. I think this is her "trick or treat" stare.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Request And An Award

Please allow me to make another request.

If you still haven't voted for your top ten PEBA nominees, please vote here.  I am nominee number 2 and my entry is entitled Outside Looking In.  Thank you so much to all who took the time to read my entry. Special thank you to Cher for promoting my blog.

This is an exciting time for PEBA, as they've posted some of the chosen judges for this year's 3rd Annual PEBA International Blog and Photo Awards. Please support their cause.


Lui, thank you for this award.

The Rules:

Be sure to thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
Share 7 things about yourself.
Pass the award to other bloggers who you think deserves it.
Be sure to let the bloggers know you chose them to receive the award.

Here are seven things about me:
  1. For months, I've been thinking of baking pandesal, but I'm not sure why I still haven't done it.
  2. I don't like my hair cut at the moment. My hair curves in funny ways.
  3. I think autumn is now my favorite season. It used to be spring.
  4. I gave up my handbags for a backpack. It's easier to navigate crowded trains with a backpack.
  5. No trick or treating at my house this Halloween.
  6. For some reason, I've been having a hard time finding my jackets and sweaters at home.
  7. I love the Canadian version of Heinz ketchup. It's sweeter and it's similar to the Filipino ketchup.
I'm passing the award to all my blogger friends, but special mention to the following:

- Candace
- Jayme
- The Gremlin
- Amelia

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Part 2: Virginia's Skyline Caverns

As we went deeper into the caverns, we met more characters inside and went through narrower pathways. If I'm not mistaken, the tour lasted from 45 minutes to an hour. When you do take a cavern tour, make sure to bring a sweater or jacket with you, as it gets cold inside. Also, wear comfortable clothing and shoes with a good grip because it could get slippery inside. Our tour guide said that if water drops on you from the ceiling, it's called the cavern's kiss and it is considered lucky. I'm happy to say that I've been kissed by the cavern and that I feel lucky.
A dried stream.
Three Kings
"The Shrine"
Flowstone formation.

How about a little geology lesson? One of the reasons why I wanted to visit Skyline Caverns is because it is one of the few caverns in the world that houses the rare Anthodites.  According to, Anthodites are also "called "Orchids of the Mineral Kingdom" and that they seem to defy gravity. Their delicate white spikes spread in all directions, including upwards, from their position on the cave ceiling. Their growth rate is estimated to be only one inch every seven thousand years. The mystery of how they form only adds to the beauty of the Anthodites.

According to our tour guide, there are only a few caverns where you can find Anthodites, but it is only in the Skyline Caverns that Anthodites are on public display. Anthodites are known to thrive in a vacuum type environment, so since their discovery and the vacuum environment unsealed and disturbed, these Anthodites have stopped growing. 
Protected by a screen, this 18-inch formation is called "The Chandelier" and it is believed to be 126,000 years old.

A peak into the underworld.
The tour was fun and educational. This photo was taken as we climbed back into the outside world.
Interesting Facts:

- Skyline Caverns was discovered in 1973 by Dr. Walter S. Amos, a retired geologist.  
- It  is home of the Valentine beetle which is believed to be only found in these caverns. According to our tour guide, the Valentine Beetle lacks optic nerves so it is completely blind. Seven beetles were found by scientists, but when they were exposed to outside light and temperatures, all seven beetles died; none has been found ever since. The Valentine Beetle is now believed to be extinct. The said beetles are now on exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. 
- This cave maintains a temperature of 54 degrees all year long.  
- The cave has tall and narrow tunnels also known as water tunnel or canyon with a roof, so imagine Grand Canyon only that it is underground. 
- There's a couple of goldfish that were introduced and now live in one of the cave's streams. It is part of a scientific experiment if fish could survive in underground streams. (Photo below)
Goldfish surviving in one of the five Skyline Caverns' streams.
    - Information and facts that appear on this post are gathered from the Skyline Caverns tour I took on October 23, 2010.
    - Skyline Caverns Website:

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Part 1: Virginia's Skyline Caverns

    If you happen to be in the Virginia area, don't fail to visit their caverns. I highly recommend Luray, Endless and Skyline Caverns just because I have visited all three. To my experience, each cavern has a specialty. Luray is known for its impressive, almost gigantic formations. Endless for it's name alone "endless" passageways and a fossilized mammoth's tooth. Skyline for its Anthodites (a.k.a. Orchids of the Mineral Kingdom) - that radiate spike formations resembling flowers, which I will be featuring on my next entry (Source:  I like visiting caverns because it reminds me of the caves I've visited in Sagada. I guess it's a process I do to ease my yearning for my mom's hometown.

    Upon turning into Skyline Caverns' entrance, my eyes were easily diverted to the colorful trees surrounding the entrance. Fall is so prominent in the Blue Ridge Mountain area.
    This house serves both as lobby and entry way into the caverns. Most caverns I've visited in this area have houses built on the caverns' entrances. At Skyline Caverns, there's a gift shop near the lobby that you can peruse while you wait for your tour to begin.
    Entrance to the caverns.
    I was greeted with winding paths and colorful ceilings.
    Excellent lighting really helps to enhance the cave experience.
    Once inside, it felt like walking into a different world. The air inside is much cooler, and I couldn't help expressing my oohs and aahs.
    Looking up the ceiling. I found taking photos inside the cave very challenging. Also, when I started editing my photos, I had a hard time identifying what part (ceiling or pathway) of the cave did I take a photo of.
    At some point, I was trying to catch my breath. Caverns do have uphills and downhills too.
    One of the five streams inside the cave. If you have an active imagination, you can see the Nativity Scene on this photo.

    To be continued...


    Entrance Fees:
    Adults: $16.00
    Children (7-13): $8.00
    Children (Under 6): Free

    Skyline Caverns
    10344 Stonewall Jackson Hwy,
    Front Royal, VA 22630

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Mushrooms & ABCs Of Me

    Last week, I was so busy looking up and taking photos of the yellow and red maple trees when I nearly stepped on these mushroom beauties. Oh what a mess it would have been.

    I think it's important to look down so as not to miss the beauty below.

     Here's a funny quote on mushrooms: “Falling in love is like eating mushrooms, you never know if it's the real thing until it's too late.” (Bill Balance)



    Here's something fun to do.


    The ABCs of Me


    Advocate for: human and animal rights

    Book: I'm trying to finish Tales of Beedle the Bard.

    Career: energy policy research

    Dreams: to be healthy, to be a good friend and partner, to see my family happy, to see the world

    Essential items: lip salve, hand lotion, ipod and planner

    Favorite song or music: I don't listen to a particular music these days, but I listen to pop and country while I'm driving.

    Good at: research, multitasking, travel planning, keeping up with my bills

    Hobby: travel, photography, writing letters, blogging and more

    Instrument you play: I can play the guitar, but I haven't practiced in a while.

    Junkie: peanut butter, kinder bueno and hershey milk chocolate
    Kindred Spirit: I think that all good people I have in my life right now are my kindred spirits. There is a reason why they're in my life and why I met them.

    Little known fact: I used to join a radio singing contest. I've won second and first place but didn't make it to the Grand Finals.

    Memorable moment: When PW took a day off to drive me to NIH for my bone marrow biopsy. I was amazed at how a friend would drop everything to help me.

    Name of best friend(s): PW and Weng

    Occasional indulgence: getting a facial and a massage

    Phobias: None that I can think of.

    Quote you like: Life is short. Live every minute of it.

    Reason to smile: two weeks in the Mediterranean next month

    Sorry about: failing to call home sometimes

    Things that are worrying you right now: my health especially my platelets

    Uninterested in:  reality TV, horror movies

    Vegetable you love: green beans

    Worst traits: I'm a worrywart. I try not to, but there are times I can't help but worry about anything to everything.

    X-marks my ideal vacation spot: Santorini, Corfu, Reykjavik, Dublin and Hawaii

    Yummiest Dessert: baklava and hershey's sundae

    Zodiac sign: Aquarius

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Thank You

    Thank you, everyone, for your well wishes and kind words.

    I am doing fine and that I am back at work today. I was able to see my hematologist on Thursday and that I need to schedule a couple of doctor appointments in the next few weeks. The four-day weekend was pleasant and relaxing. Although at times, I still can't stop worrying about what's going on with me healthwise.

    To take my mind off from my current concerns, PW and I drove to Virginia where we took a tour of the Skyline Caverns and spent a day driving through the Shenandoah National Park, where autumn foliage is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

    I will be posting some photos soon and I hope everyone's having a wonderful Monday.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    ER Adventure

    Who would have known that I'd end up at the ER on Wednesday? I guess there's always a first for everything, and this was my first ER adventure. My trip to the ER was more of a precautionary move, as I lost consciousness again at the train station on Tuesday evening. I hate fainting because it feels like dying especially when everything turns black and then you drop like a leaf. After fainting at the train station, I still managed to drive myself home.

    It was Wednesday morning when I had the chance to report what happened to my hematologist, and so he insisted I check in to the nearest ER just to make sure there's nothing else going on. And so I spent almost the whole day at the George Washington (GW) Hospital, hooked to an IV and under observation. Apparently, my platelets went down to 35 coupled with dehydration. The doctors and nurses who looked after me were so nice. Thank you, GW!

    IVs are not my favorite.

    Since yesterday, my office insisted that I stay at home and recuperate the rest of the work week. So here I am, at home and resting. In an hour or so, I'm heading to see my hematologist for more tests. I guess my day is just getting exciting.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    All I Want For Christmas

    I'm super excited about  All I Want For Christmas, an exchange gift swap between bloggers, which is being hosted by Prinsesa's Anatomy. Click here to read the mechanics and to participate.

    Okay, here's my wish list:

    Something small: a phone charm
    Something big: kulinarya cook book
    Something cute: stationery/writing pads
    Something soft: teddy bear or hello kitty or kim sam soon's pig stuff toy :)
    Something techie: blackberry
    Something fancy: dslr camera
    Something (insert your favorite color): pink or baby blue
    Something wearable: necklace or bracelet
    Something you need: a journal notebook
    Something you can use for work: monthly planner (small size)
    Something sweet: anything milk chocolate but milk pastillas, dates, kinder bueno, or cloud 9 will do

    All I Want For Christmas:  I am not picky and I will appreciate any present(s) given. On the more specific side, I'd love anything pink/blue and cute. But for this Christmas, all I want is to be home with my family.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Capturing Fall 2010

    Yesterday, I decided to spend a day with my Nikon. I know that my former apartment has these red and yellow maple trees, so I decided that, that was our destination for the day. Nikon and I were not disappointed. The maple trees in my old neighborhood were engulfed in their full autumn glory - waiting to be captured and immortalized.

     As the sun shone directly on the maple tree, it lit up every leaf.
     Yellow maple leaves.
     Vibrant red.
     Maple trees are a favorite.
     Some trees have fully adjusted to autumn, some are still starting.
    As the trees change their color in autumn, their leaves fall and pile up to paint the ground yellow and red.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Farmer Cat Ready For Hibernation

    Look who I found snoozing on my flower garden today. It's farmer cat. I guess after the busy spring gardening (see her at work here) and the fall harvest, she's taking her time napping and hiding at my flower garden. Well, I'm quite happy to see her all comfy and warm, as the weather has been cooling rather fast.

    I think I need to talk her into putting some Halloween costume for the kids. I think she'll make a wonderful Halloween cat or she can watch the sweets for me.

    A meowy Saturday to all!

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    The Dog Who Drank The Witches' Brew

    Special Request

    If you have not voted for your Top 10 PEBA blogs yet, please take a moment to vote here.
    Thank you so much for all who have voted. I'm hoping my blog will make the top ten.


    It's Friday and I'm so ready to kick my shoes off and relax, so I've decided to post something lighthearted and also in line with the Halloween theme. Enjoy and happy weekend to all.

    After the apple picking, we picked a spot to relax near the farm's straw maze close to some Halloween decorations like the three witches brewing some potion. Then this dog comes along and goes straight for the witches' cauldron. I guess he was so thirsty from the apple picking or pumpkin hunting.

    A dog's gotta do, what a dog's gotta do.

    Bury my face in the witches' cauldron for some witches' brew.
    I'm possessed and stop taking my photos...grrrr.
    Potion is working and I feel wasted.
    The potion didn't work. I'm still itchy. Damn fleas! Fake witches!

    And the dog ran and disappeared into the crowd.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Purple Bike

    It's been a long time since I rode my bike.  I actually wanted to buy a new one, but since it's still a good, sturdy bike, I decided to keep it.

    The recent weekend was blessed with beautiful autumn weather so I thought it was time to get back on the pedal. So we packed our bikes on PW's truck, drove to Gettysburg and spent the afternoon biking and just enjoying the scenery.  It was exhilarating to feel the wind through my hair as I freely rode my bike through several downhills. Although Gettysburg looks flat in the photos, there were uphill climbs that made me huff and puff.

    My bike and historical Gettysburg.
    Passing through green, open fields.
    This old water pump reminds me of the same one we have in the Philippines.
    There stood a bike and a few civil war cannons.
    Shade and getting some rest.
    Passed several apple trees and hear the fallen fruits pop underneath my tires.
    Segway tours in the park.
    A brush of yellow.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Pumpkins And Gourds

    In addition to apple picking, we also joined a throng of people psyched for pumpkin hunting. I thought pumpkins will be scarce this Halloween due to the recent flooding, but I was amazed that a lot of the pumpkins thrived and survived. It was lovely to see the kids out with their parents at the pumpkin patch, and it was a delight to see the deep orange pumpkins scattered all around.

    colorful gourds that come in weird shapes and sizes
    pumpkin pyramid and on the right is the apple orchard
    pumpkins for sale
    pumpkin patch with the catoctin mountains as backdrop

    Happy Tuesday!