18 Sep2011

We got home late last night from our brief trip to the Northeastern and Northwestern parts of North America… An hour before departing from our hotel in Seattle, we ducked into the Pike Place Market and loaded up two small boxes with assorted produce to take back as checked baggage. Then we texted some friends in Manila to invite them to Sunday lunch, and on the menu, whatever cleared customs inspection at NAIA (the Manila airport). I was up at 5am with jet lag, and headed to the Centris market in Quezon City to pick up some herbs and other greens and I spotted these unusually stunning yellow birds of paradise (a member of the heliconia family, is that right?). At PHP100 for three blooms, they were a bargain.

I asked the vendor what they were called, and he answered “Sexy Yellow” and that was that. If you happen to know the scientific name, please leave a comment as my gardening skills are almost non-existent. :)

As we were on our final approach into Manila last night, I couldn’t help but think that the city was pretty dark and gloomy, a zoning nightmare, a fairly ugly place. It was an extremely negative viewpoint, I know, but fairly objective I think. We had just come from some visually stunning places, and it was inevitable that I would compare Manila vs. Vancouver vs. Seattle vs. New England vs. any major international city that I would personally like to visit and revisit again and again. I can’t imagine that droves of tourists would come to Manila simply to visit the city (as opposed to visiting family, friends or conducting business) as say millions would do so for Paris, Hong Kong or New York… I suspect if there were direct international flights to Boracay, Palawan, Bohol, etc. folks would bypass Manila altogether…

But we were HOME. And extremely happy to be home. So ugly or not, it is our city, and the place we call home.

Some of these reflections probably hark back to some of our conversations during the recent eyeball in Vancouver. It was wonderful to meet folks who read the blog, but more importantly, Filipinos from all walks of life who have chosen to make a foreign city/country their adopted homes. They have raised their families there, and their children, while identifying themselves as ethnically Filipino, will be for the most part, proudly Canadian, American, etc. as well. There are perhaps more than 10+ million Filipinos who have migrated to various parts of the world in the past 50-60 years, and millions of their children will have been born and raised in a new environment, many of them rarely or never coming back to the Philippines to visit. And yet when you meet them, there is that instant spark, that affinity, that streak of Pinoy that doesn’t fully disappear… And it is wonderful.

But there is that incredible pang of “what if”… what if we simply managed our country better. Making it a place that people wanted to stay in, to live here, work here, raise their kids here? That could provide good jobs, education, etc. What if indeed. Arrggh, it must be the jetlag. My apologies… But I can’t help but think that we have run across hundreds of Filipinos on this most recent trip abroad alone (and thousands on other trips) and it seems they know what it takes to just do it. They follow the rules, they act logically when needed, they are productive citizens in their adopted homes… So is it the management or is it the citizens? And don’t get me started on our “modern day hereos” — say another 5+ million who toil abroad in all kinds of jobs, to literally bring home the bacon, and who support tens of millions of family members back home. I agree they are heroes, but shouldn’t we also take aim at the morons (I mean this collectively) who have led us to the point where we have to see the bright side of this necessary permanent and temporary diaspora? This is what happens when we take a short trip… Now back to cooking lunch. If you live abroad, please answer the current poll. Thanks.

P.S. One pahabol (added) photo of the heliconias in the wee hours of the morning… MM up with jetlag at 3am. I think they are rather striking. :)



  1. Artisan Chocolatier says:


    Sep 18, 2011 | 10:33 am


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  3. Angela says:

    Welcome home! I hope you and the Mrs. had a wonderful time visiting the Vancouver and Seattle. I’m sorry I missed the eyeball as I had prior commitments.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 10:41 am

  4. nayannika says:


    Sep 18, 2011 | 10:46 am

  5. Mimi says:

    Mabuhay! That’s the ‘Welcome home’ equivalent right?

    Have not been home since 2008, but visiting later this year…fingers-crossed.

    Aside from the view, traffic is horrendous! From the airport to our house in Mandaluyong, when you get stuck in a jam, it is like the same flight time from Singapore to Manila.

    There needs to be a better traffic management too :(

    Sep 18, 2011 | 10:49 am

  6. pia l. says:

    After some search, found this name for the 1st and 2nd photos: Heliconia chartacea cv Meeana “sexy yellow”. 3rd and 4th photos would be a different cultivar of the same species I guess, perhaps “pale pink” or “sexy pink”. Will need a real expert on this one.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 11:33 am

  7. Connie C says:

    Just arrived “home” myself and was thinking of the eyeball (which I could not attend, GRRRRR) while I was on a class reunion cruise to New England and Nova Scotia. Among the places we visited that I particularly liked were Portland, Maine and Halifax NS with thriving art communities, well maintained homes and beautiful gardens and countless parks that made me feel these cities have their priorities right.

    Along the way I met many peoples of different nationalities while thinking to myself, how do these people feel being away from home home, for whatever reason. At Halifax which served as the “Ellis Island” of Canada, many immigrants were “processed” after leaving their home countries due to war or religious persecution only to encounter numerous odds and discrimination again in their newly adopted home country.

    On the cruise ship, I chatted with Filipino cabin crew and musicians who toil/entertain guests endlessly, these guys who are temporarily exiled from home for months on end, virtual captives ( albeit voluntary) of their jobs to send remittances to their families at home. I felt the pang of loneliness for them and especially feeling sentimental after I re-read Longfellow’s “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie”, the lovely epic poem that immortalized the exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, a tale of young lovers who were separated and made it their lifelong quest to find each other ending in Gabriel’s deathbed when Evangeline finally found him.

    So I finally arrive where I call home here in the US, feeling grateful and lucky and although my heart is not fully here, by the grace of God I am not in one of those ships or exiled elsewhere because I had to be. To me, home is where the heart is and that is ‘Pinas, warts and all.

    Welcome home again, MM.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 12:09 pm

  8. Ley says:

    Hubby and I went to the then Tabunok (Talisay) market almost every Saturday. It could very well be the dirtiest market in Cebu. When the market was transferred to a new location with new facilities and ample water supply, we thought it was a chance for the city, the vendors and the public to have a fresh start and run a clean market. Just 2 weeks after the new market opened, however, its sewers were already clogged with plastics and all market refuse dumped into them. Hay, why can’t we just put our acts together?

    Sep 18, 2011 | 12:11 pm

  9. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    What a stunning flower arrangement!!! Love them!! the Heliconia’s are the most expensive to buy here..Sexy yellow beautiful indeed. I would love to be at home with that Zen like peacefulness surroundings like your home .There’s no place like home!!My hubby and I whenever we are on vacation and stay on exquisite hotels, after a while it can get boring, We miss our Home, and like you, we are happy to be home.Welcome back home MM & Mrs MM.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 1:26 pm

  10. friedneurons says:

    You’re absolutely right. Manila as seen from final approach is definitely ugly. I have to say that the Makati and Taguig skylines are stunning, though.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 1:35 pm

  11. Ellen says:

    The last paragraph just hits the spot, MM!

    Sep 18, 2011 | 2:13 pm

  12. MP says:

    I’ve lived half my life outside the Philippines and have been to really, really wonderful countries but I always long for home.. Upon serious reflection, I have realized that more than missing home, I miss BEING home. I’ve now started my countdown to returning home for the holidays and finally trying Zubuchon. It is always good to have reasons to go back other than family and friends!

    Sep 18, 2011 | 3:01 pm

  13. millet says:

    my first time to see sexy yellows, but that still life with the sexy pinks is simply beautiful! welcome home, Mr. & Mrs. MM! My husband and I have discussed many times these same issues with friends, especially those with whom we travel. The answer seems to be the lack of implementation of laws here,because the authorities are easily bribed, or because no one really cares. A simple example is the use of pedestrian lanes and overpasses. People routinely risk life & limb not because they’re too lazy to walk a bit further to the crosswalk or climb the overpass, but because no one will apprehend them anyway. the authorities need to show they mean serious business and are not just trying to fleece the public.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 3:49 pm

  14. tonceq says:

    Democracy’s etymology would state that it’s power to the people yet it is funny how the contrary is exactly apparent in this country… But no matter what anyone would say, I still believe in he Philippines and see myself settling down here even after experiencing what other’s can offer… and world peace! :)

    Sep 18, 2011 | 4:23 pm

  15. maia says:

    i don’t know, but this post and subsequent comments really touched me.:) i feel a painful longing for change… haay, this has made me emotional. but thank you, MM, for the beautiful writing.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 5:17 pm

  16. Marichu says:

    I’m going home in 2 days! I could travel to other countries and experience different cultures and stunning sceneries, but nothing beats Philippines. The exhaust from cars that assaults your lungs everyday; the endless “Ma’am, pamasko” requests from NAIA staff; the mountains of litter next to, not inside, the garbage bins… Still, I love the Philippines.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 6:11 pm

  17. atbnorge says:

    I think Copenhagen is so lovely on the approach on a clear blue sky…I am awashed with orchids these days but those birdies are so stunning…You struck a chord with this post MM.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 6:11 pm

  18. Connie C says:

    Helliconias are not so difficult to grow, just well drained and not all too sunny locations. I have seen them in gardens in Cebu and they always make a beautiful tropical arrangement.

    BTW, MM, did you change the orange sofa cover under the beautiful painting? Or this is your rainy season cover?

    Sep 18, 2011 | 7:31 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    Connie C, very observant catch… after 11+ years, the red-orange covers have been changed to this dark blue color. Same upholstery fabric, just a different color. :)

    Sep 18, 2011 | 8:20 pm

  20. Vanessa says:

    I agree: most folks would be glad to skip Manila and head straight to other parts of the Philippines if flights allowed. I myself would.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 8:21 pm

  21. Gigi says:

    “…..The answer seems to be the lack of implementation of laws here….” I think it is the people themselves who cannot respect rules & regulations. I remember how people were so offended by James Fallows’ characterization of the Filipino damaged culture but there is an ounce of truth there.
    It’s quite sad how the best of Pinoy traits are seen proportionally more among the diaspora, than among the locals. But of course, this is anecdotal and I’m no expert!

    Sep 18, 2011 | 8:25 pm

  22. anna santos says:

    nice pictures of sexy yellow. was also at centris sunday market this morning. a pity was not able to see you. =) on my next visit will also get some sexy yellow. thanks for the inspiration.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 9:41 pm

  23. EJ says:

    @ Marichu, I may be one of the lucky ones but not once in more than 30 years of visits back home (once to 6-7 times per year), have I ever been asked for a “pamasko”, much less a bribe, by NAIA Customs staff.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 9:44 pm

  24. Guia says:

    Well said, MM and Connie C.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 11:23 pm

  25. marilen says:

    Thank you, MM, for your reflection and expressing sentiment s that are close to our hearts.

    Sep 18, 2011 | 11:34 pm

  26. millet says:

    heliconias are very easy to grow. In fact, once they do, you need to cut back frequently since the runners tend to shoot up fast

    Sep 18, 2011 | 11:41 pm

  27. Connie C says:

    I just have a similar color scheme as yours MM,and so I notice. Funny but i had a similar blue which I recently reupholstered to something in the yellow hue, but I am keeping the orange cover under a contemporary painting with similar color hues as the one you have.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 12:15 am

  28. cwid says:

    Stunning flowers…but what is that beside the arrangement on the table? Looks like a long sweet potato.

    Home is where the heart is. And when we say we are going to the Philippines, it is always “we are going home”, no matter if we have lived abroad for one or twenty years. However, being back is like coming home to a dysfunctional family and the experience is not always completely happy. Coming home, we are happy to see friendly faces, speak words that come easily, see familiar places. And we think, …maybe we can live here again. Until one is brought back to reality by the inefficiencies and the confusion in stores, in banks, in transportation, in government offices, in everyday life in Manila. Then you think … maybe not. Like a dysfunctional family, the Philippines will always be in one’s heart but one must leave it behind to keep one’s sanity.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 5:07 am

  29. Mary Kim says:

    MM, I’ve been trying to visit your site this week and there’s some kind of spyware/bug flashing on! It has been like six times this week. HELP!=)

    Sep 19, 2011 | 5:13 am

  30. cwid says:

    In answer to your poll, what makes behavior different for a Filipino living abroad is that in our adopted countries, generally, there are rules, customs, or practices that are followed and make life easy to navigate. So, when one transacts business with government offices for example, one knows what to expect. Because there are accepted norms that are logical and fair, one behaves according to these norms. In the Philippines, one has to wend his way through the maze of red tape and must learn the language of corruption and bribes before any transaction can be completed. It takes a lot of time, energy, patience and money to get anything done.

    Living in the Philippines is like living in a house that was designed by ten brilliant architects and built by ten different contractors who each had a different plan so that the resulting structure shows no rhyme nor reason. There seems to be confusion as to what the country should do to get out of the rut it is in.

    From all the literature that has been written examining what is wrong withthe country, it seems that everyone understands where work needs to be done. But why is it that nothing has yet been done ?

    Sep 19, 2011 | 5:40 am

  31. Marketman says:

    Mary Kim, try emptying your cache and cookies, and then try visiting sites again… I hope that helps. cwid, it is an antique enoteka, or Irian Jayan ceremonial penis gourd, intricately carved and all. :) millet, yes, actually my parents had lots of them in their yard, but these yellow ones were new to me…

    Sep 19, 2011 | 6:45 am

  32. present tense says:

    My lola did much to make her home look good. And this included floral arrangements. And much of that was ikebana. So coming across those photos were tearful, memorable, brought me back to a place where dragonflies were plentiful then. Salamat po

    Sep 19, 2011 | 7:57 am

  33. Foodie says:

    Pia L. is right. The yellow heliconia is Heliconia chartacea ‘Meeana’. I think the vendor called it ‘Sexy Yellow’ because it’s very similar to Heliconia chartacea ‘Sexy Pink’ which has been around for a while. There’s also a ‘Sexy Scarlet’.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 9:51 am

  34. Marivic says:

    One of the best things for me about traveling is coming home to the place and people I love but the depressing reality of our country’s inefficiencies slap me hard across the face as soon as I get off the tube. And I’m just talking about the physical appearance of the airport. You’d think that the president would pay more attention because it’s his name that’s on that decrepit structure. Nakakahiya talaga. If he had more marketing sense, the airport would get top priority. Imagine those new Chinese investors arriving at Naia1? They’d probably back out immediately. For every travel post I write, I could write another depressing one about arriving back at Naia1, but I don’t want anything negative on my blog–sorry for ranting on yours.

    On a brighter note, I didn’t realize sexy pink came in yellow, my favorite color. And love your heartwarming posts on meeting all those readers abroad. That canned aged cheddar is a favorite! Looking forward to reading more.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 10:01 am

  35. Isa Garchitorena says:

    What really frosts me is when Filipinos live abroad or visit anywhere outside the Philippines – they obey laws, don’t litter, follow street signs, come to a full and complete stop, wait patiently in line etc etc etc and then go back home and for the life of them, cannot follow rules in their own country. Is it just because abroad, they are afraid of getting caught? Because laws are enforced? And at home they know what and where they can do things and get away with it?
    Forget about getting caught. Obey the rules, police yourselves. How can you complain about anything that is inconvenient or annoyingly illogical when you can’t even stop at a red light? Imagine if we all followed traffic rules, one individual at a time, pretty soon – we won’t have giant traffic snarls.
    It’s one thing if you disobey rules and laws in any country you visit – then you’re just a jerk, but to choose to disobey them just in your own country? Then you really are an idiot.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 11:57 am

  36. Marie says:

    I go back home almost everyyear and despite the lure of all the good restaurants that i want to try in Manila, i always skip and take a straight flight to the province. I am afraid of the traffic, the pollution and all the other negative reports I always see onthe news :(

    Sep 19, 2011 | 12:03 pm

  37. Marketman says:

    Isa, I have to agree for the most part. But I think the vast majority of folks in the Philippines haven’t yet had a chance to travel abroad, so say 90% of the population has nothing to compare their situation to. But for folks who DO GET to go abroad and experience how things work elsewhere, AND return only to do the dopey things, yes, they should be put on the list for neutering or worse… :)

    Sep 19, 2011 | 12:08 pm

  38. friedneurons says:

    My most recent trip home was in February of this year. I was struck by just how crowded everything has become. The pollution is unbelievable, and poverty is so pervasive. Cautionary tales from friends and family made me super-paranoid about street crime.

    Having said that, I spent pretty much all of my time in Manila in the Makati CBD-Greenbelt-The Fort-Rockwell bubble. And I was struck by just how much economic activity is taking place, and how much money is being spent by so many people. I mean, quite a few of the restaurants in those areas are expensive even by Western standards. I kept thinking, “If the so-called ‘Sick Man of Asia’ is this economically active, this really IS Asia’s century.”

    Sep 19, 2011 | 12:24 pm

  39. Marketman says:

    fried neurons, you have to see the activity in HK, Singapore and some large Chinese cities… compared to Manila? Amazing indeed…

    Sep 19, 2011 | 12:36 pm

  40. titabuds says:

    When I get asked about where I would bring a first time visitor to Manila, I am usually stumped and can only think of a restaurant or a mall. Which is kind of sad because I’ve been to other major cities where one can spend and enjoy an entire day just walking around. You’re so right about tourists coming to Manila but not to see the city itself. We’ve turned formerly grand buildings into decrepit dormitories and ground floor stores all covered with tarps hawking shampoo and magic granules, etc. Our parks are trying to be more like the malls and less about trees.
    There used to be the Intramuros Clamshell Weekends in the 1990s which showcased a different region each time. It was a good place to bring visitors to or hang out with friends AND it was a hit with everyone. Politics, as usual, let it go to rot.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 2:23 pm

  41. Marichu says:

    @EJ: lucky you! My mother and I had different airlines once. I arrived earlier at Term 2 (I think?) and went over to the PAL int’l section. A taxi from the Term 2 to Pasay/Paranaque cost me P300. At PAL area, same trip cost my mother $20. And yes, they quoted and asked for dollars. Maybe I just have “gullible” written all over my forehead. I don’t wear jewelry, branded clothes, fake brand bags, etc to attract attention.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 4:17 pm

  42. juls says:

    im not sure these are birds of paradise, probably false birds of paradise otherwise known as heliconias?

    Sep 19, 2011 | 6:37 pm

  43. sur says:

    here’s a hypothythesis in the form of a rhetorical question [at the risk of a flogging from nationalists– or rizal turning in his grave ;-)]: had the colonists [both spain + us] stayed longer, could we have seen grander city planning efforts evinced in other places wherein they had time to ‘settle’ longer? i’m thinking of places that have decidedly european air: la plata/ buenos aires/ caracas/ santiago de chile/ valparaiso/ ciudad mexico/ havana [as it was meant…]/ santa fe/ montevideo, etc… in those and many cities in which european ideas had a chance to take hold, you see inkling of madrid and barcelona and paris and london albeit in lesser/less grander iterations….

    to the extent that the making of cities is willful [vis-a-vis e. bacon: http://www.fontillas.com/dbacon.htm%5D does the mess /formlessness of manila indicate the lack thereof in our — or i should say my former– country?

    …and why? [the obvious premise in the question of course is of a euro-centric slant]

    Sep 19, 2011 | 10:04 pm

  44. proteinshake says:

    Hi MM, so sorry to have missed you in Hongkouver ;-D

    To Isa : It is funny how even strong people can change to fit their new environment and their new norms.

    We have been in Canada for 20+ years and as a physician , I work mainly with children and their families. Often I am asked to deal with a behavioural problem in a child when on closer inspection, it is usually the result of the child’s reactive behaviour to his home life. Children have to live with what they are given.Some are resilient and have such better outcomes inspite of all the problems they go through. Most kids just cannot extricate themselves from the patterns of their dysfunctional families and end up with their own problems .

    Forgive me if you have heard this analogy before: I can compare the typical (89%) filipino to an adolescent brought up by parents who were also dealing with their own issues (eg self esteem, psych issues, drugs, poverty, divorce) and parents who are so self involved they had no time nor resources to equip their kids in resiliency and survival. Young adults are so impressionable and learn to live what they see. If there are problems, they may be ill equipped to handle without strong guidance from parents (the leadership of the country) . Like their parents, they may just learn to sweep obvious problems under a rug as long as there is the occasional party ,new friends/romance/music/a bit of extra money — “bahala na” and “sa awa ng diyos” .

    The 1% of the population are doing well and venerated and respected in this environment and they are relatively happy with the status quo.

    The rest (say 10%) of the population can be compared to the older, mature, more resilient, more educated and sophisticated sib who has to grow up and seen how other families (other asian countries, the developed countries) handle their own households . When these “grown up” kids get fed up with their immature/passive/clueless/indifferent sibs and their immature parents (politicians and leaders), they leave the home and try to send money back to help out or try to convince their younger sibs to rise up or to move out. They are so fed up with their dysfunctional families but they have to leave the situation to save themselves. In other countries, the environment is more rigid and structured to favour success — much like a more well run household where mom and dad are nurturing but strict. It takes more than 10% of the population to run a good household (country).

    For these older sibs in my metaphorical home, the 10%, there is always this guilt and sadness and longing for the old dysfunction. When they come back home, they are always surprised at how much worse things have gotten. But they revert to “home ” habits , like a young adult returning home from college for the summer. But they quickly tire of the old messy life and go back to their own sparkling apartments where it is clean ,organized, successful. But they ache for the family they left behind.I hope that more older brothers and sisters would eventually just come back and rebuild their home. I hope that more younger sibs would just grow up.

    Sep 19, 2011 | 10:55 pm

  45. sur says:

    After penning my earlier, and a former spelling bee champ in IN Im embarrassed to correct my spelling, ‘hypothesis’…

    An addendum:

    It may not be too tenuous a proposition to also suggest that our city fathers consciously/ decidedly did not want to emulate (parts of) old spain (or any grand metropolis) explicitly because of aversion to ( and the memory of oppressive?) colonial power… a fatal shortsightedness if true …

    And where are the bright architects (if they are not competing in ms univ pageants ;-) and urban planners who had surely been exposed to examples of good urban planning the world over?

    Sep 20, 2011 | 12:07 am

  46. Kasseopeia says:

    I only have Seoul and Bangkok to compare Manila with but one thing I’ve noticed aside from local Pinoys’ lack of respect for the rules is an almost ingrained desire to one-up everyone else. Makalamang, even if it doesn’t get them very far. Katulad na lamang ng sasakyang sisingit sa kainitan ng traffic just to get one or two car-lengths ahead. It’s almost as if the fulfillment comes from the very fact na nakasingit sila, not so much the actual distance gained. It’s sad, really.

    But, much as Manila (or CDO of my childhood) is not the cleanest nor most disciplined city, it is still home. =)

    Sep 20, 2011 | 12:20 am

  47. natie says:

    Sur, in an interview yesterday,the Architect/Beauty Queen did mention ” to improve urban planning” as one of her projects..as to how she could achieve that, I would love to know..it would take a whole lot more than just beauty and intelligence …

    I do intend to retire in the Phil in a couple of years. the only scary thought is driving in its wild streets.

    Sep 20, 2011 | 2:21 am

  48. Dreaming says:

    Try looking up Heliconia chartacea. If you add “sexy yellow” to the search, you should find it.

    Sep 20, 2011 | 12:10 pm

  49. Bagito says:

    Cwid, your first post sums up exactly how I feel, you nailed it. It does feel like a dysfunctional family–you love it but you need to leave it behind to keep your sanity. Sad but true.

    MM, love the last photo! Very striking indeed. Love the composition.

    Sep 23, 2011 | 11:26 am


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