Kindred souls

I’ve always thought I was an extrovert.  I always thought I was very social.  But these days, I am finding that I like my own company (even with Alan constantly around, I do find that I cherish the moments when I am alone with just me, myself and I).  I always say to people that I am a chatterbox (I always say that I know that Alan and I are so well-suited because he doesn’t talk as much and I pretty much talk enough for the both of us) and I find that I do like to have the occasional natter.  I can be loud but I find that I can’t be loud for very long.  I think Alan has rubbed off on me a lot.  I find that I appreciate quiet as well.  Companionable silence is also a good thing (and Alan and I have that a lot, which in itself is a comfort – I’ve read in an article that couples who appreciate their companionable silences and understand the wisdom of it are stronger…but that’s another blog entry probably).

Almost a month ago now, I went on my second Instagram meet with Alan.  It was for the London Disclosure hub (@londondisclosure) and there was a walk around London photo spots planned.  I was terribly excited about the meet because, as I wrote in my last blog entry I had arranged to meet the Filipinos that I followed on Instagram.

I was quite subdued when I wrote about our mini meet up.  But it was quite momentous for me.  I was slightly fangirling because I thought these people were very talented and I loved the photos they posted on Instagram.  They all have considerably large followings on Instagram and I was just starting out on my photography journey.  I was worried that reality wouldn’t be quite as nice as the online interaction.  I kept telling myself to not build it up in my head and to try not to expect too much.  The online world can be very different from real life interaction.  I was also worried that Alan would feel very left out as he usually does when I meet with my family because the language of discussion is always mostly Filipino and he feels like the odd one out(which is probably why he doesn’t look forward to going out with my cousins – because everyone slips into Filipino).

With trepidation (and a heck of a lot of nervousness on my part) we walked into Somerset House so that we could meet the Filipinos before the actual meet up started.  We’d all seen each other’s profile photos on Instagram so I felt that I would recognise them when they walked in.  They also said they’d all be in black (I didn’t follow the uniform – but I did have a black cross-body bag and black sneakers!).

I saw them before they saw me (at least I think so), so I whispered to Alan that I’d seen them.  Cheryl (who goes by the Instagram handle @chic.wanders.in), I think spotted me first because I saw her smile and wave.  I waved back excitedly and then in a few minutes, we were inundated with a friendly wave of Filipino smiles.  There was a flurry of introductions and they surprised me with a loot bag filled with Filipino sweets and snacks (it had Chocnut, a peanut-chocolate sweet, Yan-Yan, pretzel sticks that you dip in the accompanying chocolate spread, tamarind candy and Kopik0, which is a coffee flavoured candy) and a lovely Jose Rizal bust-shaped tag that Ellapot (my nickname for @barefootnomad who is a little firecracker of a creative person) made especially to mark the first ever Instagram meet for what would be what we all now call the #pinoylondongrammers group.

©IYMedina

I had my mind blown about how small the world was when Jools (@jetaime.07) and I started talking about what our lives and jobs were in the Philippines.  She worked with one of my friends from PSALM and before they worked together in a energy-related firm, we discovered that we had something in common because we both worked in the Philippine power sector.  So I had my little six-degrees-of-separation moment, and it always makes me smile when I think that we weren’t actually separated by 6 degrees!

I hadn’t met Karla (@clickers.click) and Hazel (@hazel.parreno) before (and to be fair, I wasn’t following them on Instagram before we met) but it was really good to meet other Filipinos who shared my keen interest in photography.  I had a cheeky look at Instagram after the meet and made sure I followed them (especially Karla because I think we all agreed to get her to a 100 followers and that if she did reach that number, she’d treat us all to a lechon – a whole roasted suckling pig! Yum!) immediately!  I also missed meeting Vanessa (@lil_kim426) because she couldn’t stay for the LD meet but met the rest of the group at the lunch (we have yet to meet!).

I was quite starstruck when I met Teddy (who goes by @mutyyyaaa on Instagram and who I call Teddymeister) because I did love his photos on Instagram and he already had quite the following on Instagram already.  I would always see his photos on the top lists of the London hubs that I followed.

It was a great meet up.  Because  everyone was as lovely as they seemed to be on Instagram.  What I appreciated the most was that they tried to speak in English so that Alan would be included (they did say he was now an honorary Filipino).  Of course we’d lapse into Filipino (hey, it’s instinctive!) but we’d all try to go back to English or I’d remember to translate so that Alan would understand what was going on.  I am also glad that Alan liked them enough to verbalise that he thought they were a nice bunch of people.  I put a lot of stock in Alan’s opinion because his opinion of the people I hang out with matters a lot.

©C. Enario

My WhatsApp has never been more active and I’ve never had so many laugh out loud moments whilst reading my WhatsApp messages or my Instagram comments and chats.  I actually feel like I’ve made friends.  Friends who share my passion for photography and my love of London.  Friends who I’d like to keep in touch with – not just acquaintances.  It’s nice to know Filipinos who love being Filipino and are proud to be Filipino.  I am so happy I’ve met a group of people who do not ascribe to the typical Filipino crab mentality that you see in a lot of groups of Filipinos who live overseas.  I’m so happy that I’ve met a group of individuals who actually support each other and lift each other up.  For the first time, in a very long time, I’ve actually met a group of people who I think I’d be willing to move for because I’d love to live closer to them so we can hang out properly.  It doesn’t hurt that Alan enjoys my stories and takes interest in what we talk about in our WhatsApp group.  He has now taken to asking me “what’s happening now?”  He doesn’t ask me because he’s irritated about the amount of time I spend chatting to this lovely little group, he’s asking because (I think and hope!) that he is genuinely interested in what we’re all talking about.

©C. Enario

I’m really happy we went on that London Disclosure meet.  I know we would have probably met eventually.  But that meet allowed me to meet kindred souls sooner rather than later.  And because of that, I feel blessed.

©C. Enario

Meeting the Pinoys!

On Saturday, Alan and I went to an Instameet of the London Disclosure Instagram hub.  It was a good opportunity to meet the people who take those fabulous London Instagram photos.  It was our second Instameet.  The first one we attended was organised by London4All and we had special, exclusive access to areas in St Paul’s cathedral.

What made this instameet event more special was that before the actual meet, I had the opportunity to meet the talented Filipinos that I follow on Instagram.  This lovely lot of crazy-talented and creative people take amazing photos of London.

It was nice to have an afternoon filled with taking photos and speaking in Filipino!  I had an absolute blast spending time with this lovely lot.  They are genuinely lovely people and I am looking forward to spending more time with them!

I have an idea brewing but first I need to ask permission from my new-found friends!

General Florencio A Medina

Ama ng PAEC

Arthur C. Clarke said “I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.” I beg to differ.

In my opinion, Brigadier General Florencio A Medina had one of the most brilliant minds in the Philippines.  He was a soldier in the armed forces of the Philippines and fought the Japanese in WWII, when he was captured, he endured the Japanese prison camp he was put in and survived it.  He was instrumental in the development of what is now the Department of Science and Technology.  He was a proponent of the Philippine Science High School (which paved the way for excellent and specialist science-centred-education and this gave a lot of Filipino students a chance to study in an excellent learning environment for free) and served as one of the early chairmen of the school board.  He was the first Filipino to be elected chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  He was a mathematician and a chemist and a published author.

But most importantly, he was my grandfather.  He was a good father and provider to his 13 children.  To those of us, his grandchildren, who had the opportunity to grow up with memories of him, he was a loving and very present grandfather.  He was very active, larger than life and…just…there.  I will forever cherish the memory of our time sitting together at the square table in the apartment in Mabuhay with the blue and white porcelain mantle clock and you teaching me how to tell time.

You would have been 111 today, Lolo Isiong.  I am so proud to be your granddaughter.

I love you three Lolo!

Leaving…on a jet plane…

In a few hours I will be traveling to the airport to get on a plane to get back to the life I have in a country 6,754 miles away. While my visit was (too) short, it was (very) sweet. I got a chance to see my family, celebrate my father’s 80th birthday with him, laugh and bond with my brother and sister and hug my mum loads. I went to church and saw my church family and met the new additions to our growing spiritual family. I managed to see the dentist, stuff my face silly with food that might not be, for all intents and purposes, exactly ideal for a diabetic, experience Philippine traffic in all its stand still glory, learned to use Uber and Grab, melt in temperatures that I would usually consider a heatwave, see my hair snap into weird unruly waves, and marvel at how much the Philippines has changed (how we are considered a third world country with all these vehicles on the road and all these malls and condominium developments, I will never know).

I will be going back to colder weather and it is with a heavy heart that I leave my loved ones yet again (kung pwede lang magkasya kayong lahat sa maleta ko!). But my heart is full and my spirit is recharged. It’s trips like these that make me realise how much I have in my life and how blessed I have that the people in my life are in my life. For that I will always be thankful to God. I have new memories to tide me over until the next trip.

I’ll see you all again soon!

Looking for Rizal in London Town

Dr Jose Rizal is the Philippine national hero.  He was an opthalmologist by profession.  Although he wasn’t directly involved with the actual rebellion against the Spanish colonial goverment, he was a member of the Filipino propaganda movement.  He wrote Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, two novels which are credited to have inspired the rebellion against Spain.

Rizal was well-traveled and well-educated.  He studied in Madrid, in Paris, and in Heidelberg in Germany.  He was a polyglot and a polymath.  I remember my early years in school, from Grades 1 to 3, we studied Jose Rizal’s life.  We learned about his parents, Francisco and Teodora, his siblings, Paciano, and his nine sisters, Saturnina, Trinidad, Maria, Lucia, Josefa, Concepcion, Narcisa, Soledad and Olympia.  One of the stories from our little Jose Rizal books that I distinctly remember was an anecdote about how devastated Rizal felt when his little sister Concha (Concepcion) died when she was only three years old.

When I moved to England, one of my friends told me about a blue plaque that bore Jose Rizal’s name.  The Blue Plaque scheme is run by the English Heritage, honouring the notable men and women of the world who lived in London by placing a blue plaque on the houses or buildings which they lived in or worked in whilst they were in London.  I didn’t know about this.  I knew that Jose Rizal had memorials in other countries, but I didn’t know about the blue plaque in London.

It was something I had to find.  I was Filipino and proud of my country.  I get all choked up seeing the Philippine flag flying and ruffling in the wind whilst hanging outside the Philippine Embassy on Suffolk Place!  I found out that Jose Rizal lived in the very posh area of Primrose Hill!  After getting the exact address, I did the only thing a proud Filipino would do, find the actual plaque!  I dragged Alan with me as I tried to find 37 Chalcot Crescent.  Before we found Rizal’s plaque, we discovered that the house he lived in was just around the corner from Sylvia Plath’s old house!

I didn’t want to do the cheesy thing of posing right next to the blue plaque but, oh my goodness, was I so proud to see the words “Dr Jose Rizal, 1861 – 1896, writer and national hero of the Philippines, lived here.”  He apparently lived here in 1888 as a lodger.  His rent was £2!  I’m sure that wasn’t exactly cheap then!

I only wish I’d seen this with my parents when we were traipsing around Camden, after our visit to the Jewish Museum.  I’m sure they would have beamed with pride, too, that this young, talented man from the Philippines, who lodged at 37 Chalcot Crescent, was recognised by English Heritage as a person of note.

Pinoy pride!

Jose Rizal blue plaque