A party, Pacquiao and Peyups

I was Filipino-ed out over the weekend. While the EU member countries held an open house of their respective embassies last Saturday, I was in a different sort of open house, but not of the European type. I had a view of an embassy and I was in a house, or at least on the rooftop of one- on the apartment of a Filipino diplomat whose wife celebrated her birthday (which was last month). As the saying goes, better late than never.

I again had another- small-world experience. I bumped into Crissy, a co-volunteer at the WWF-Philippines in 2003. She turns out to be in D.C. over the weekend after attending a retreat of their organization in North Virginia the past two weeks. She turned out to be a friend of one of my current colleague, Jeneen, also a Filipino.

Later that night, I was in the company of another group of Filipinos from work. We watched the boxing fight of Manny Pacquiao against Shane Mosley. I’m not a big fan of boxing, but kudos for winning the fight. It was worth the five-hour stay in the sports bar!

And yesterday I attended the PeyUPsbook gathering at the Lincolnia Senior Center (!), Thanks to Ferdie who invited me to a carpool and off we went to the suburbia of North Virginia. PeyUPsbook is a portmanteau of Peyups (which is the inverted way to say UP, which stands for University of the Philippines. The inverted wordplay was a slang and popular way of speaking in the 70’s ) and you guessed it right, Facebook. There I met members of the UP Alumni Association Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia Chapter (UPAA DC-MD-VA). They come from different campuses but a majority are from Diliman. It was nostalgic to listen to my university hymn, and a handful of OPMs (Original Pilipino Music). The event was also a tribute to the choir master who is leaving soon for professional pursuits in Bangkok.

There was good food, good music, and good company. If it’s from UP, it must be good. I recorded a video of their performance, but my filming talent does not do justice to their musical talent:

I can now proudly say that I am a published author. I did not write a book or publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal. It was an essay included in a book called 50 Kwentong Peyups (stories of UP)- a collection of stories about experience of past UP students.

It was first published in a newspaper three years ago as part of a series of essays called 100 Kwentong Peyups in celebration of the UP Centennial in 2008. A lady emailed me some years back informing me that my essay was selected for inclusion in this collection, and requesting for my permission to publish it. I never heard from her again, and the book project, until I received an email in the UPAA DC-MD-VA about the book. I googled about the book and after my frantic search learned that it was in March last year. I traced a Facebook page of 50 Kwentong Peyups, left a question on its wall inquiring if my essay made it to the select 50, and it (he? she?) replied a few days later that it was indeed, part of the collection.

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First month in Washington D.C….

…and the city does not disappoint. I’ve been here for a month, and the past four weeks or so went like a breeze. Many significant events have happened: a friend has visited me, OBL is dead (I was sound asleep while people trickled onto the streets to celebrate in front of the White House). The past month was fleeting and full of anticipation, like the blooming of cherry blossoms that greeted me as I arrived in the city.

I’m  staying for the mean time in Dupont Circle, a trendy neighborhood with not so trendy (read: expensive) rent. But I’m glad to be paying a fair price for a room in the happening part of the neighborhood. Bars right across the street! Grocery store a couple of blocks away! The best part is my office is just a 20-minute walk away. I found it through a friend of Tony La Vina-  a Facebook friend and a prominent international environmental lawyer with whom I share similar passion and interests.  Call me resourceful, lucky or opportunistic, but it was just a little too difficult to find a room while I was still in Germany. Craigslist-ers are just too wary of scammers that they refrain from dealing with inquiries from people not in the U.S.

I meet a lot of people in and out of work. Lunch meet ups with other colleagues at the World Bank, Junior Professional Associates, and other Filipino professionals are a normal occurrence. This adds variety to the regular people I interact with on a daily basis, with whom I also go out for lunch. is not to say are not  Speaking of the getting into the Filipino network, I’m attending a birthday party of one of the consuls in the embassy of my home country. Later tonight I might meet up in a bar with another group of Filipinos to watch the Manny Pacquiao fight.

Everyday is an exciting day, except for that one day this past week when, realizing I’ve been here for almost a month, I sensed an urgency to find a room asap. It must have been triggered by my previous precarious housing situation in Hamburg (and more about it here and finding a room here), but that is now history.

I have to cut this blog post short for I need to prepare and leave to take a look at a room just a block away. There are many more stories that I want to tell, and for sure there will be more to come.

Introductions and indicators

As a newbie in D.C., I’m going out of my way to meet as many people as possible, may they be friends of friends, Rotaract MeetUps, or an alumna the university I attended. Most of them were once newcomers, yet most of them have spent a couple of years in the city. Telling people that I am new in D.C. seem to spice up the conversation a bit. When I volunteer this information, people are as fascinated as I am that it is my first time to be in the city, and it gets more interesting as they show some sense of disbelief when I tell them it is also my first time in the country.

People who chose to settle in the city and call it their home come from different countries and backgrounds, and we share the same reason that brought us to this city, which is work. Other than the exchange of names and what-brought-you-to-D.C. question that goes into the usual round of introduction, another default question is about one’s work. And everyone seems to be preoccupied with interesting work that tries to solve the problems of the world. A boyfriend of a friend from Germany works in the city planning office. The nice couple I met last night for happy hour and dinner do food policy research.

People seem to have a tight knit of professional and personal network. Everybody seems to know a common acquaintance I recently met in the city or have known way back during my undergraduate years in the Philippines.

I’m fortunate to have colleagues who are competent that is conducive environment for work and productivity. From my own observation, it is far from the cut-throat competition which seems to be the norm many big organizations. It is far from laid-back as there is a high turnover of work to do and things to learn.

In my line of work, I often read about indicators. I’d like to believe that one way to know you like what you’re doing and how you’re living is looking forward to waking up in the morning, and realizing you’re happy to be a part of this city, and ready to take part in it. Based on my experience, that’s no proxy indicator.

A corny story

On my search for a room here in D.C. I went to visit a house last Sunday afternoon. The place, owned by a young couple, was quite nice, and the room was quite spacious and private. The room is on the basement where there is also a private bath. The kitchen was one floor up on the first floor. It was room I would consider living in and could call home.

The house is located in the Shaw neighborhood, commonly known as Shaw. Shaw is still “transitioning”, “rough around the edges” and where “there’s not much going on” according to my DC planner friends. When I asked the couple if the area is safe, they said there’s no such thing as a safe neighborhood in D.C. Another guy who was also on the hunt for a place told a story of  a guy killed in Georgetown one of the upscale and supossedly safer part of the city. Point well-taken.

It was early in the afternoon and soon I left to meet someone for a bike ride around the District. It was a Sunday, and so the streets were mostly empty. As I was walking toward the general direction of the nearest bike station, I spotted an Africa-American from the other side of the street. He saw me walking alone, and jogged to my side of the street, looking to his left and ride before crossing the street to see that no car would flatten him. I picked up my speed, and walked briskly to the next intersection where I’m hoping there would be more people, more of hoping that their presence would give me a sense of safety, and not as witness to a crime. The guy following me kept up with my speed, while I ignored him. “Would you like some corn?”, he asked me. I looked at his produce, just to make sure that a corn is not another term for a nozzle of a gun.

His offer, though, did not look like corn kernels, corn on a cob, or even pop corn. He was not even sporting a corn hair. The closest it resembled a corn was cornsilk. As if offering me a smoke, he showed me some dried root-like strips (corn roots?) cut in strips wrapped in a pink plastic.

He gave me a more lucrative  offer by inviting me for beer some time. Some free corn and a beer. How do you turn down such an offer? But the freebies and the good deal turned sour when capitalism took hold, and he asked for a quarter. All the while, I walked briskly and he soon gave up his sales pitch and left me alone.

He must have approached me not only because I was alone, but because he saw I’m Asian. His lack of market research cost him his sales quota for the day. Of all things, why corn? I would have given it a second thoughts and bought a couple of kilos if it were rice.

Cycling around D.C.

I went on a bike trip this afternoon. My tour guide, Mike, is a city planner of Washington D.C., whom I met through a friend who is now in Hamburg. Naturally he knows a lot about the goings on in the city, from the up-and-coming neighborhoods and likewise the shady areas to avoid.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see quite a lot of green spaces in D.C., where I expected only a lot of high-rise buildings. In fact, the height of buildings are regulated up to five-storeys, I think. This was triggered by the construction of the 12-storey Cairo apartment. Residents protested against this ‘skyscraper’ that led the government to implement a building code. All these of course I learned from Mike. Here are some snapshots I took this afternoon.