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Pia Besmonte

is back

From California, Happy Thanksgiving

This is the first moment I get to sit down and have some personal writing time after we left home. I am taking this opportunity to talk about family, oral traditions, and stories. From California, happy Thanksgiving.

I have been away from home for more than a week now. Traveling with an infant came with challenges, but Mango was a great travel buddy. There were less incidents than I had anticipated. The most stressful part of our travel was hearing from Auntie Zenai, who had to travel on a different flight from us. She had to go through Immigration by herself. Auntie did great and she is with us now. Enjoying huge vegetables.

Because our flights to the US were moved but our flights to LA weren’t, we had to fly right after we got here. Dexter’s dad and stepmom wanted to take us to Disneyland, or even Legoland. However, because Mango was recovering from sickness and traveling everywhere for the first time we asked to just take it easy. They rented a house in Carlsbad and we had a wonderful staycation.

They took us to Redondo Beach again, to show Auntie around. I am no foodie but I profess my love to crab from Captain Kidd’s. Dexter’s dad took us to the arcade, and admittedly I enjoyed my first time actually playing at an arcade. I have had such a serious academic life. Having my own family is teaching me wonder and the value of play.

We are now in Fairfield, at Dexter’s mom’s place. They all adore Mango. We’re preparing food for Thanksgiving.

Family

I have reached an age, a sense of self, a disposition in life where I can finally decide how I exist within and interact with family. I am no longer the youngest child who gets picked on by everybody. No longer the weird child whose interests doesn’t match with anybody else in the family. The outsider. The misunderstood.

I have come to accept my multitudes.

I will contribute who I am to my family. I will not try to shy away from building relationships. I will interact with difficult members of the family.

Oral traditions and incomplete narratives

Growing up in a big family means that I have always struggled with incomplete and untrue stories about me. My biggest pet peeve — and my family would ALWAYS do this to me — is hearing other people talk about me in front of me. As if I am a household chore that needs to be done. Or damaged furniture that must be fixed.

I have always resented my family never knowing how to talk to me in the way that considers my sensitivity and my appropriateness. Now I am strong enough to correct them with courageous honesty. And I now dictate how I am to be spoken to. Because of this honesty, my appreciation for and desire to hang out with family has greatly increased.

I even invite family over to my home more often than before.

So here is a life tip: if you don’t like the way your family knows you, regards you, or talks about you — change it with courageous honesty. Life will be so much more enriching when you don’t feel like family is an adversity.

From California, happy Thanksgiving.

May we all have a deeper appreciation for family. As well as a deeper knowledge of the (real) history of Thanksgiving.

Bridal Fair and Filipino Entitlement

The fiancé and I woke up early to attend the “Here Comes Thy Guide” Bridal Fair in Tagaytay. We spent the whole day wrapped in fog and rain.

Bulalo for Breakfast and the Oxymoron of Filipino Entitlement

We didn’t get a chance to have a bite of breakfast at home so we asked to drive by Leslie’s for some warm sabaw (soup). The place was empty when we got there. We ordered a bowl of bulalo (beef marrow soup) and fried tawilis (freshwater herring).

The fiancé told me that his family ate there once. There was a performer who was missing most of his front teeth taking song requests. One of the fiancé’s relatives requested Journey’s Faithfully, without much expectation. The performer killed it.

As the brunch was winding down, I received a message from Nana asking permission to get Mango some fish meat (he eats semi-solids now). We had already left cash for them (Nana and Auntie) to spend however they see fit. The fiancé asked me why Filipinos don’t assume any kind of entitlement.

I told him that it comes from being underprivileged since birth, sometimes for generations. It comes from being colonized and dispossessed. We are not raised by family, church, school, and society to demand things.

For Filipinos it has always been this: ask only for what you need. The rest is excessive and sinful. We can be so poor that we are grateful even if we only have our lives left. As long as we are alive we can rebuild.

This is why Filipinos don’t feel they have agency when it comes to politics. The average undereducated Filipino hates activists and unions — for them rallies and strikes are an “inconvenience”.

This is why poor people rely upon luck, the lottery, network marketing, get-rich-quick schemes instead of working slowly towards financial stability.

This is why the waiter who processed our bill was confused when we gave more than the amount indicated on the receipt. Tipping is not common in the Philippines.

More on this later. We were an hour late for the fair.

Bridal Fair

We went at the invitation of our wedding planner. This is Mavie, our wedding planner:

the pinayist bridal fair Mavie events

With Mavie’s help, we booked the last three suppliers for our January 2018 wedding. There are a thousand more decisions to make, but at least we already know the persons and businesses with whom we will be working.

PianDexter2018

This is our beautiful wedding website, made by the fiancé. He had to learn how to make an RSVP form for four different itineraries using Typeform. It took him three weeks.

I asked him for permission to write about him. I assured him I won’t use his name. You know what he said?

“Use it! So everybody knows it is me marrying Pia Besmonte!”

His name is Dexter.

Newly discovered, been around for a while

After we left the fair, we asked our driver for the day some recommendations for a decent full body massage place. He said something to the effect of say no more fam, and took us to Nurture Wellness Village.

the pinayist nurture wellness village

We got a package called Mangsing-Irog Massage (Lovers’ Massage). They led us to the massage room (named Gayuma, or love potion) which was quite a long but leisurely walk inside the compound. The place was beautifully landscaped. Trees and plants everywhere.

The massage was glorious. My therapist Rissa was skillful, and she worked on my back pain like a CHED scholar during finals.

Apparently they’ve been around for 16 years. We vowed to come back, maybe even stay at their BnB next time.

Phallic Pastas

There’s something irresistible about gourmet menus. The fiancé craved for Italian so we had dinner at Taza in Taal Vista Hotel. They always need to make food sound more sophisticated than they really are.

For instance:

Pizza

Salsa Verde with Pancetta

When it arrived it was thin-crust pesto and bacon pizza. Not to mention drowning in olive oil. It was good.

Because we never get to go on non-parent, couple dates anymore, I decided to get the most pricey pasta: the Lobster Fettuccine. It turned out like this:

the pinayist Taza lobster fettuccine

It was delicious. And sexually suggestive.

A Note to Car Rentals

We arrived home at 10pm, after a short altercation with the car rental. It was supposed to be a complimentary trip because they booked us for two days in excess of our previous itinerary. The fiancé booked from 7 am to 9pm for a day trip to Tagaytay, never mind the second day. Instead they wanted us to pay for the hours in excess of one day.

Car rental companies need to streamline the process from booking to contracts to billing. It is such an inconvenience to argue with your drivers for things that we have agreed upon in the contracts.

The concept of car rentals is supposed to be good because

not buying a car – carbon footprint = not contributing to climate change

Let’s not make it so complicated.

Growing up alone

Maturity is when you start doing the right thing. Naïveté is expecting that everyone is going to start doing the right thing because you first made the choice.

Today I learned

that human beings may be assigned to grow old together as siblings, but growing up takes solitude.

The simple story

For weeks now I’ve been trying to confirm whether or not my older brother is coming to my wedding. He not so subtly said that he’s not coming without his plus-one. The reason I didn’t invite said plus-one is personal, and has to do with my being a mother to a boy. The complexity of my brother’s relationships is his story to tell. The bottom line, for me, is that he refuses to send his sister away on her most important day.

The complex story

In the last two years that I have been away from blogging and social media, I have been working on myself.

After my mother passed away and my surgery, I grew distant from my family. I made a mess of my life and career prospects straight out of college. I became severely depressed. I hit rock bottom. I felt alone.

When I decided to pivot, I met my fiancé. He was the first and only person I allowed to see me at my most vulnerable. He saw me with tears and snot dripping freely from my face as I tell the stories that haunted me to silence. He simply listened.

I finally found the person who — unlike my family — didn’t criticize without empathy, who didn’t tell me what to do but encouraged me to rebuild my life with my own bare hands.

When I was ready, my fiancé invited my family to my book launch.

Reconciliation

The day I launched my first book was the beginning of my reconciliation with my family. They listened to my lecture and they witnessed what I do, which is write, teach, and perform poetry.

From then on and throughout my pregnancy, I got my family more and more involved with my new life. When I gave birth, I called my sisters. They came over our place for lunch on some weekends. They were all present on my birthday party in July.

As I plan my wedding, I make provisions for my family’s comfort and happiness as they come to our destination wedding in Tagaytay.

Alas, I can’t have it all. And I guess this is the challenging part of family, that you can never have perfect harmony with everybody all at once. And now that I think I’m a little more mature, I’m going to have to live with that.

 

Consular Report of Birth Abroad

My son is a Filipino citizen by place of birth. His father is an American citizen, therefore he is also an American citizen by blood.

The decision to process his American citizenship was borne out of necessity. Mango’s paternal grandma got seriously injured, which caused her to miss my fiancé’s brother’s wedding in July. Her progress from physical therapy is miraculous, and we figured a visit from her first grandchild would make her happy so we are flying Mango to the US for Thanksgiving.

I am familiar with the requirements of the US Embassy in Manila because I was a US scholarship grantee. Last year I had to apply for a visa to the US. That was the first time I returned to America after my stint as a Global UGRAD exchange scholar to Barnard College, because the grant requires alumni to finish our degrees at our home universities. We also cannot apply for a visa to the US for at least two years after our grant.

I was detained by Homeland Security

Something happened with my J-1 visa. For some unknown reason, they didn’t cancel it when I went home. So, when I applied for a tourist visa, they thought I already have a student visa. The consular office at the US Embassy then gave me a single-entry tourist visa.

When we landed on US soil, I was held by Homeland Security. At this point I was seven months pregnant and my feet were swollen from hours of air travel. I was escorted to the holding area before I could find my fiancé and tell him what was going on. The security officers were curt. They asked me questions about my exchange scholarship which I readily had answers to. Good thing that I scanned my college diploma and had some documentation on my coming back to the Philippines, including giving talks at the US Embassy in Manila on my experiences as a US scholarship grantee.

My fiancé was flustered and livid. He demanded to see me because I was pregnant and I didn’t have any way of communicating with him (my phone didn’t work in the US) or anyone from home for that matter. He argued with the airport staff that I was being held for no reason. I was very calm, because I knew I was in the right and I didn’t break any law. Eventually they let me go. That was a very bizarre experience.

My son is Filipino and American

And he will grow up having the best values of both cultures. For now, we’ve just mailed in his application.