Sunday, December 21, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pope Francis' Forthcoming Papal Visit to the Philippines

Pope Francis will be visiting the Philippines from January 15-19, 2015. He will be there to comfort Filipinos devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda and earthquake that hit the Visayas or central part of the Philippines last year. This site has a lot of information about the Pope's Apostolic Visit of Mercy and Compassion. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Keep Calm Six Days Until Christmas!

Six Days Until Christmas! 
Out Shopping - Check Back!

Have you finished your Christmas shopping?  
I haven't, and at this point, I have to forget online shopping. I will have to brave the crowds in the department stores. I just have a few more items to buy, so hopefully it won't be so bad.

What amazes me though, is how cranky people have become! Drivers and shoppers are in such a rush and have become rude. Whatever happened to Christmas cheer?

The sun's out this Friday morning in California, although there's a chill in the air. Wish me luck as I venture out there later today.

Read also
The Philippine Parol Christmas Lantern
Christmas and the Nochebuena
Christmas Cards Versus E-Cards
Holiday Cheer with Maryknoll Friends in California
3rd Brainard Literary Soiree and Christmas Party

Tags: Christmas, holiday, shopping
This is all for now,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ghostbusters of the Philippines: Tony Perez and the Spirit Questors

Tony Perez

My mind is still on spirits and ghosts and I thought I'd let you know about Tony Perez, a writer and professor at the Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines, who is famously known as a "Ghostbuster." Tony Perez also works or worked at the US Embassy in Manila. I met him years ago when I did a USIS book tour in the Philippines, and I recall that when we were in Zamboanga, the hotel rooms that I, Tony, and the other USIS representatives occupied, had ghosts. Tony and I felt them (but that is another story).

In 1995, Tony Perez started the Spirit Questers, and the group  had the mission of providing their services to reach out to spirits who had not been able to cross-over. I'm pasting an excerpt about them from the Inquirer:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

True Story - The Ghost Children in Amboise, France

To follow up on Ghost Stories, I'd like to share something that happened to me several years ago when my husband and I visited Amboise, France.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

True Story: A Ghost Story, from Joan Cuyugan Bohlmann

I had an interesting chat about ghosts with Joan Cuyugan Bohlmann. She and I can "feel" supernatural presence.  I promise to write about my own experiences, but I have Joan's permission to share her story about "The Pink Lady Ghost."  

I hope you enjoy it. And if you have a ghost story yourself, email it to me,

From Joan Cuyugan Bohlmann

Here is my ghost story that I promised to send you. There have been many instances of seeing a ghost but this one stands out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

3rd Brainard Literary Soiree and Christmas Party

For several years now, instead of a regular Christmas party, my husband and I have hosted a literary soiree. Aside from the eating and socializing, we have a literary reading, with friends sharing excerpts of their work.

Thanks to those who shared their work at yesterday's celebration: Marilyn Alquizola, Carlene Bonnivier, Patrick Culbertson, Akemi Kikumara, Paulino Lim, Doug Noble, Julia Stein, Hilary Walling. The Readers shared their poetry, fiction, as well as personal essays.

The pictures show:
Top: Seated, l-r: Akemi Kikumura, Carlene Bonnivier; Standing l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Patrick Culbertson, Hilary Walling, Doug Noble, Paulino Lim, Julia Stein, Marilyn Alquizola.

The Christmas Season is rolling along quickly! Ten days to Christmas, folks! I hope you are enjoying the holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Cheer with Maryknoll Friends in California

I had lunch recently with Maryknoll College chums, Lucy Adao McGinley and Maria Navarro Ciocon. We were Communication Arts majors at Maryknoll College, Quezon City, and have remained friends since college days. The above pictures shows l-r: Cecilia, Maria, and Lucy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Guest Blogger: Manny Gonzalez Reviews San Francisco Restaurants - #SanFranciscoCalifornia

The City of San Francisco, California, is one of my favorite cities. This was the second city of the United States that I visited (after Honolulu), The minute I caught sight of its steep hills and Victorian houses, I fell in love with it straightaway. I lived there for a while and have many pleasant memories of this beautiful city.

I am delighted to share some reviews of restaurants in San Francisco written by my cousin Manny Gonzalez. These are reprinted with this permission.  A resident of Whistler, Canada, Manny Gonzalez is a Director/shareholder at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Mactan, Philippines. He travels extensively and enjoys reviewing the hotels and restaurants he's visited.

These reviews first appeared in TripAdvisor.Thanks to Manny Gonzalez for sharing these reviews in my blog.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Philippines: Christmas and the Nochebuena - #Christmas

When we were children in the Philippines, Christmas gift-giving wasn't emphasized. Celebrating and eating were, and the highlight of our Christmas festivities was the "Nochebuena" which was the gathering after Midnight Mass.  Those Midnight Masses were usually High Masses that went on forever, and I recall nodding off in church and feeling absolutely miserable. But by the time the Mass ended and we were in my aunt's place for Nochebuena, I bounced back to life. My aunts and uncles and a multitude of cousins were there, and there was feasting and playing until almost dawn.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Philippine Parol Christmas Lantern - #Christmas

In the Philippines, when we were children, we used to make the Parol, or the star-shaped Christmas lantern, a traditional Filipino Christmas decoration. We used bamboo sticks and tissue-thin colored paper that we called Japanese paper.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Cards Versus E-Cards - #Christmas

I am at this moment trying to decide whether I'll mail out (hard copy) Christmas Cards or email E-cards. I remember going through this dilemma when I had to decide if I wanted a Kindle or not (I did get a Kindle and appreciate how practical it is when travelling).

Christmas Cards seem more personal than E-Cards, although I've been seeing some nice E-cards by Jacqui Lawson.

Christmas Cards involve the destruction of trees; they entail more work and cost in terms of production and mailing. Frankly, after Christmas, I toss them away because I simply don't have storage space for Christmas Cards.

The idea of limiting the destruction of trees (from which paper is made), is very attractive to me.

Further, the greeting card industry makes so much money -- do I really want to support them?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Typhoon Hagupit Weakens, Spares Philippines

The slow-moving Typhoon Hagupit or Ruby weakened into a tropical storm, and while it killed some people and destroyed homes, spared the Philippines from the kind of destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda last year.

Psalm 86:13
For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.

Meanwhile, Southern California is expecting much-needed rain this coming Thursday and Friday.

This is all this Monday morning, have a great week!

Read also
Super Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Will Make Landfall in Philippines
Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Could Make Multiple Landfalls
Fiction: Typhoon (1912), by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Tags: weather, Philippines, Cebu, Manila, Ruby, Hagupit, typhoon, storm, hurricane, supertyphoon


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Guest Blogger: Celine Conejos Reviews Restaurants in Geneva, Switzerland

I am delighted to include reviews about some of these Geneva restaurants by our Guest Blogger, Celine Conejos. 

A Philippine Diplomat's wife, Celine Conejos is a permanent resident of Makati, although she currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. She reviews hotel, restaurant, and attraction sites in TripAdvisor under the name of Coellum. She says this of herself:

"My father was very fond of traveling. He passed on his wanderlust to me. I enjoy traveling and planning for my trips. People close to me benefit from this. My children have many good memories of happy vacations together. At present, I live in Geneva temporarily. Being in the heart of Europe gives me many opportunities to see new places."

 The following reviews first appeared in TripAdvisor and are reprinted with Celine Conejos' permission. I look forward to posting more of her reviews about other places in my blog. Thanks to Celine Conejos for sharing her reviews.

La Faviola - 4 Stars
Rue Jean Calvin 15, Geneve, Geneva 1204, Switzerland 

Photo of La Favola
This is a small restaurant in the Old Town. This is my third time here and the quality remains the same. For our starter, my husband and I shared a ravioli with truffle shavings. This is normally a main course but it is perfect as a starter when shared. My main course was spring lamb. It was tender with a delicious gravy. My husband had Osso Buco and this was also good. For dessert, I had cake with chocolate fondant served prettily on a glass plate.

Each time I have eaten here, I have enjoyed both the favors and the presentation of my food. It is a rather pricy place though.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Philippines: Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Could Make Multiple Landfalls

Ruby or Hagupit made landfall in the Philippines at 9:15 p.m. on Dolores, Eastern Samar. Because the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands, the typhoon is expected to hit other islands as it makes its way through the archipelago. Because Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda had devastated the Philippines last year, Filipinos have been particularly afraid of Ruby. In preparation for Ruby, over half a million people were evacuated from coastal areas.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Super Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Will Make Landfall in Philippines

Super Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit is barrelling its way to the Philippines and is expected to make landfall this weekend. Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda had devastated the Philippines 13 months ago.

Filipinos are asking for prayers.

Here are some links:

Read also
Updates re Typhoon Ruby 
Cecilia Brainard"s "Childhood in the Path of Typhoons" - CNN
Jews in the Philippines - 1940-2013
A Northern Cebu Couple's Story of Survival

Tags: supertyphoon, super typhoon, storm, typhoon, Ruby, Hagupit, Cebu, Visayas, Tacloban, Central Philippines, #supertyphoon, 

Literary Cats Reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My Literary Cats are at it again!

They've gotten hold of the book, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

They're excited about Christmas coming up and have been bugging me to start decorating the house They want the tree up so they can play with the breakable decorations; they also love climbing into the middle of the tree -- what fun!

To those interested, here's a summary of A Christmas Carol.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Amazing Facts About Rome That Guidebooks Won't Tell You, by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger, Manny Gonzalez, continues his travel account on Rome.

Amazing Facts About Rome That Guidebooks Won't Tell you
By Manny Gonzalez

There are hundreds of guidebooks about Rome, but few of them will give you fascinating and truly useful information, such as I am about to give you. Pay attention.

Where to Stay in Rome. Most guidebooks will helpfully tell you to go find a pensione, a boarding house most likely run by nuns. If you want nuns surveying your every move, this is indeed one option. Here are some others that guidebooks usually miss:

Termini Train Station, Free. Rome’s main terminal has toilets, some seating, and a roof. Close to the heart of town; has its own Metro stop.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Santa Monica, California: If It's Tuesday, It's Meals on Wheels Day

The storm hit Southern California as predicted and so it was wet and cold when my husband Lauren and I delivered food for Meals on Wheels West. My husband is a volunteer for this non-profit organization, and when I can, I help him. The job took one and a half hours to do. 

The people who receive the meals are not necessarily poor; in fact many of them live in swanky apartments in Santa Monica; but they are all home bound. Some are recuperating from surgery or some illness and will get better -- others will not, and are in a sense buying time to be able to live in their own homes.
They are all very grateful when we bring the food, and this also makes us feel good.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Two Philippine Historical Tidbits re Cebu and Names - #PhilippineHistory

Today I'm sharing two links about the Philippines.  The first one is a link to a video about the History of Cebu, an island in Southern Philippines.

 I was born and raised in Cebu, so I was interested in this video.  I'm including a Philippine map so you can see where Cebu is; it's the sock-shaped island in the central part of the archipelago (red in color in this Wikipedia map). The picture above is from the Boxer Codex showing Pinatados, or tattooed warriors from Cebu, Bohol, and Leyte. The elaborateness of the tattoos indicated the bravery of the warriors.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Southern California Rain: Sunshower, When the Spirits Marry

At last, it's raining in Southern California!

This rain is badly needed. We're facing our third year of drought, and 80% of the State is suffering from the drought. The dry spell we've been having has been affecting California's  agriculture; huge farms have gone fallow from lack of water. There has been an ongoing program in Southern California to encourage people to change their landscaping to drought-tolerant ones. This means, green grass has been replaced by gravel and sand; and thirsty plants have been uprooted and replaced by California native plants or even cacti.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Italy: How to Do Rome in a Day, Part 2 by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger, Manny Gonzalez, continues his travel account on Rome.

How to Do Rome in a Day (Part 2) 
By Manny Gonzalez

Last time, we started at the Colosseum and worked our way through the via dei Fori Imperiali, the Victor Emmanuel complex, the Campidoglio, Piazza Navona, morning coffee, and the Pantheon. And now, in our hypothetical one-day whirlwind tour of Rome, it is time for – 

#8 Lunch. Do not have lunch in front of the Pantheon, unless you are rich. More than in most other areas, the restaurants directly facing the Pantheon will try to skin you. Instead, head northeast and follow the continuous line of restaurants with outdoor tables. This is actually a kind of “restaurant corridor” that will eventually lead you to #9, the Trevi Fountain. A safe 3 minutes away from the Pantheon, pick any one of these for lunch.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Imitation Game & Baghdadi in Mosul, Iraq

I saw the newly released movie, "The Imitation Game" which is about the British mathematician Alan Turing's creation of the prototype computer that broke the German coding machine, and reportedly shortened World War II in Europe by two years, thus saving 14 million lives. Sadly, Turing, who was gay, was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, and he committed suicide two years later at the age of 42.

The movie had two points: the cracking of the Nazi Enigma Code, and his homosexuality.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Day 2014 - Family Pictures

Thanksgiving Day Pictures!

Thanksgiving Day this year was the warmest ever; it felt like summer. In other parts of the country, there were/are snowstorms with many travelers dealing with cancelled air flights.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Roast Leg of Lamb for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

For our family feast, I'm roasting boneless leg of lamb. (There will be the traditional turkey.)

I took it out of the freezer last night - rock solid. I left it on the kitchen sink and by the morning the lamb was thawed. I plan on roasting it at 325 degrees for around 2 hours; to be specific, it's done when the meat thermometer registers 120 degrees (that's rare meat).

I cut off the wrapper but left the stretchy string that holds the meat together so the roast holds its shape. I crushed an entire head of garlic with around 20 cloves. I inserted garlic through the stretchy string into the inside parts of the roast. I rubbed some salt on the roast - not too much because salt is drying. Then I rubbed black pepper as well. I cut some fresh rosemary sprigs and rubbed the meat with rosemary. I scrunched this rosemary and inserted inside the meat. I placed the roast on a roasting pan.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest Blogger: How to Do Rome in a Day, Part 1, by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger, Manny Gonzalez, continues his accounts about Rome:

How to Do Rome in a Day, Part 1
by Manny Gonzalez

You can’t, of course, do Rome in a day.
But most visitors to Rome being somewhat time-challenged, and also because I like you, here are some pieces of really valuable advice on what to spend time on in this city.

Manny’s Lazy-Thinker’s Guide to Roman Architecture (98 Percent Reliable!). The first thing to keep in mind is that central Rome (as you visit it today) is really four cities, built one on top of the other (or in between). Pay attention, and you will be able to seriously impress your friends with your architectural and historical expertise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guest Blogger: The Most Beautiful Women in Rome, Italy, by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger today is Manny Gonzalez who writes about:

The Most Beautiful Women in Rome
by Manny Gonzalez

As I almost never tire of saying, most of what I know, I learned from the movies.

At the Movies. From Come September (Universal 1961, Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida) and How to Murder Your Wife (United Artists 1965, Jack Lemmon and Virna Lisi), reconfirmed by Only You (Tristar 1994, Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei), I learned that Italian women are breathtaking. (Marisa Tomei is genetically Italian; don’t get technical on me.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Selfie Stick Anyone? - #Selfie, #Selfiesticks, #Androidcamera, #photography

Picture taken using Selfie Stick in Paris, l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Marily Orosa, Celine Conejos, Manny Gonzalez, and Chickie Feraren

My engineer son is impressed with me: I now have a Smartphone and a Selfie Stick.

For a couple of years now, he's been trying to convince me and my husband to get Smartphones, but we resisted. "We are fine with our regular cell phones," we insisted, an answer that disappointed this son who's been trying to usher us into the modern era.