Day 9 in Baltimore

I am becoming very bad at this whole remembering business. I left my passport at home on the way to the airport so we had to go back to get it. Thankfully, we were only about ten minutes away. Ate Mary Ann took me to the Long Island Airport where I got to experience a curbside check in for the first time. I’ll further remember it because I had to take out stuff from my check in luggage because it was overweight.

It was pretty easy to get through everything except maybe the x-ray machine. I had so many layers on on me because I had to put on a sweater I took out of the bag. They also tossed out the Nutella that I accidentally left in. Whoops.

The fight to Maryland was reminiscent of a Cebu Pacific flight except they had free beverages and refreshments. The pilot flew the plane the same way. Seating was on a first-come, first-served basis so I ended up near the  back. I got an aisle seat though!

Ninong Doc and Tita Avic picked me up and took me to this amazing Brazilian steakhouse. It was unlike anything I’d ever had before! There’s an unlimited salad bar and an unlimited streak service. They had sixteen different kinds of steak from fillet mignon to ribeye to lamb. They were ask deliciously grilled. Waiters would go around with meat impaled on long Skewers that they’d cut for you. Amazing! We had key lime pie for dessert.

Both of them work at Johns Hopkins, the number one hospital in America, and so they took me there afterwards. I got to see one of the oldest buildings as well as a terrific statue of the Risen Christ. I felt like I was on an extended campus tour! The weather was fantastic so we got to take photos outside.

We went to Cold Stone afterwards where I ordered a delicious mix of peanut butter ice cream with Reese’s, Snickers, and Butterfingers. I never got to finish it though. It was huge! I also got to see Costco, which S&R was supposedly modeled after.

We headed home for a sorry while to pick up the kids and pretty soon we were  off to a big mall called Arundel. We looked around and had dinner in the food court. I finally got to taste Popeye’s again! I missed those biscuits. There were a lot of outlets  too.given more time and more luggage,I would’ve probably bought a few things.

I wish I could’ve stayed longer. Baltimore is a great little town and there are so many things to try and do. I’m sure there will be a next time though. Colorado tomorrow.  It’s snow time!


Day 8 in NYC

It was my last day in New York, but it couldn’t have ended any better.

I got up pretty late today. I got up at around noon since we didn’t have to rush to catch an early train. Ate Dimples and I went to the city and headed straight for the first stop on today’s checklist: the Empire State Building. A tour guide approached us and told us he could get us tickets without having to line up, which is what we did. I don’t know how much the difference would’ve been, but we took it anyway. Our first stop was the New York City Skyride, which is like Rialto of sorts. It’s basically a short movie where your pilot, Kevin Bacon, takes you on a crazy space shuttle-esque ride around New York City. The chairs moved and all, and it was pretty funny, so that was a lot of fun. It was shot a long time ago though, so it seemed a bit outdated. But nonetheless, it was a lot of fun.

We headed straight for the 86th floor after a quick meal. It was freezing! But the view was amazing. We could see the whole New York, as far out as the Statue of Liberty. I took a couple of photos which I’ll upload soon. We couldn’t stay long because we were freezing to death so we went down after about fifteen minutes. We spent a total of about two hours in the whole Empire State though, and I don’t understand how that happened since it felt so short.

We took a cab to one place that I’d been wanting to go to for a long time–the Fountain Pen Hospital. It’s the Mecca for fountain pen collectors and I’d heard so much about it. When we finally got there, I was in awe. It was like a museum for fountain pens, all of which you could buy (assuming you had the money though). After looking around, Ate Dimples got a Parker for each of us. They were the same model but different styles. I can’t remember the name now though! We also got a bottle of ink each.

We headed for Battery Park next. We passed Ground Zero on the way although it was blocked by a lot of construction fences. I got some great shots on the waterside. I didn’t get the name though.

After all that, it was time for the event I was looking forward to most this whole New York trip–the Bulls at Knicks game! We took a cab to Madison Square Garden, “The Most Famous Arena In The World”. They had a sale on jerseys so she bought me a Stoudemire jersey since I already had a ‘Melo t-shirt from Kuya Jamboy.

We got hotdogs to eat, but I wasn’t really hungry. I was just bewildered at the sight of some of the greatest basketball players of my generation playing on the court in front of me. I saw Rose and Melo who had just been named All-Star starters for the East, as well as all the other players on the team. It was amazing! I got my five seconds of fame when I tweeted with the #Knicks hashtag and saw it displayed on the Jumbo Tron!

Experiencing an NBA game was one of a kind. It’s actually a lot calmer than a Filipino basketball game since people don’t stand up till the fourth quarter. It was a fantastic game, with neither team really holding a strong advantage. Rose was crazy, just slicing through the lanes and dishing assists like there was no tomorrow. Stoudemire and Melo played great too. Amare was dunking his way through and Melo made some great jumpshots. In the end, the Bulls won by three after Melo missed the potential game-tier.

To add the exclamation point, I left the plastic bag with our Knicks merchandise on the train. We had to drive back to the station to get it. Thankfully, nobody had gotten it and the train hadn’t left yet.

My time in New York was one I’ll never get. Thank you so much to Tito Leo, Tita Malu, and my cousins. Special mention goes to Ate Dimples for all she did for me today. I love you all! It’s off to Maryland tomorrow!

Day 7 in Boston and NYC

Okay, today was just absolutely crazy. Not physically though. Today was pretty much my lightest day when it comes to physical activity, but definitely the heaviest and most overwhelming, emotionally.

I woke up this morning to the news that the feature on Fine Dining and I would be aired on ABS-CBN’s Bandila. Jasmin Romero, a well-known broadcaster, had been interviewing me and assembling materials to create a feature on the whole thing. It was about 9:00AM and we were headed off for breakfast at IHOP so I didn’t bother finding a way to watch it. I figured I could just catch it online afterwards. IHOP was pretty good, although it wasn’t anything magnificent. American-wise, the meal I had was pretty good. I had two pancakes, two strips of bacon, two pork link sausages, and two eggs for $5.99. Given a choice, though, I’d probably stick with Pancake House.

We drove around for a while, and I checked my Facebook account while we were getting gas. Beside the Friend Request icon, I saw the number 221. It was probably a glitch, I thought. That was probably the total number of friend requests I’ve ever ignored ever since I started using Facebook, right? Nope. Apparently, all 221 had come in just after the feature had aired on Bandila! Wow, mga Pinoy talaga! I also had around fifteen private messages, some from people I knew, and some from people I didn’t. It was crazy! I also found people tweeting about Fine Dining and I. My five minutes of fame were extending a bit too long. I ignored all the ones from people I didn’t know. (If you’re one of them, I’m sorry. I like to restrict my Facebook page to my real-life friends only.)

Ate Mia and Kuya Joel showed me around Boston. I saw Boston College, Boston U, Ninoy and Cory’s house while they lived here, TD Banknorth Garden, and Fenway Park. I really like the Boston feel. It’s very town-y, and has a home-y sort of feel. They dropped me off at South Station (just like Alabang’s!) and I took the bus back to New York. It was delayed a bit because of some traffic obstruction, but I arrived in New York City nonetheless. I love how the bus had wifi and power outlets. It was very convenient.

I took the Subway to Union Square to meet up with my high school friends, Mig and Javier. We had dinner at this amazing pizza place called Artichoke. I had a pizza with Vodka Sauce and one with Cheese and Artichoke. It was delicious! We had cereal milkshakes in a place called Momofuku for dessert. It was interesting because it tasted like cornflakes with milk, but had the same texture as regular milk!

I’m now back home after a long day. I have no idea how I’m going to fit all the pasalubong I bought, but I guess I’ll have to do it somehow. I’ll be touring the city tomorrow, and I’m going to watch Bulls @ Knicks. Can’t wait!

P.S. I forgot to mention that the other day, I helped out an elderly couple work the ticket machine at the subway. It felt good! I guess it’s very American to help each other out and to ask “How’re you?”. I noticed they also say “That’s awesome!” a lot.

Day 6 in Boston

From visiting the best film school in the world, today I got to visit the best university in the world. I took the Bolt Bus from New York to Boston and met up with Michi, my friend from high school. Everything went pretty fast from there. We stopped by one of the cafeterias to pick up a quick lunch to go. I got a burrito to go, which was pretty good until I bit a chili and my mouth caught fire.

I sat in her Life Sciences 1B Class. It was quite an experience! The first thing I noticed was that there was a huge screen flashing a Powerpoint, and that there was a voice lecturing throughout. But, I couldn’t see where the voice was coming from. It turns out that the professor was teaching in the adjacent hall, and he was being streamed live from there. The hall wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the students so they had a spillover room. There were two professors in the second room to facilitate questions and to correct the lecturer and clarify the lecture. It was fantastic! The lecturer was incredibly funny and taught really well. It was too bad that I couldn’t understand anything because it was all about genetics. (I guess that makes it seem contradictory, but if I had background knowledge, I would’ve probably understood it.)

Afterwards, she had a short break so she showed me a bit around the campus. We got to see her dorm room, which was pretty big, considering there were only two of them in the room. It was also a lot better kept than the boys’ dorm at NYU. It figures–they’re girls. Haha!

We went to her next class afterwards, which was The Freshman Seminar on Happiness. I was blown away. It was a discussion type class, meaning the professor just facilitates a group discussion around a meeting table. It was all about the science and psychology of happiness. It’s the sort of class I’d love to take. It was about topics like how happiness is measured, introspection, the difference between happiness and joy, and what luck and experience have to do with happiness. Almost all fifteen students participated, and they were all giving very insightful, cognitive answers. Just what you’d expect from Harvard Students!

Michi had an interview to go to, so she dropped me off at the Coop, which is basically the Harvard Bookstore and Apparel Store. I thought the NYU Bookstore was huge until I saw this one. It was three storeys high and was probably as big as the Fully Booked in the Fort! They also had a huge collection of all the Harvard apparel and merchandise you’d ever need. And these weren’t just any apparel–they were branded! Adidas, Underarmour, even Ralph Lauren! I bought a shirt and some pencils for pasalubong. (Hi Teenpreneur Team!)

We had dinner at Annenberg Dining Hall. WOW, was it amazing! It looked almost exactly like the Hogwarts Great Hall! (Google it) They had a dinner buffet, and I got ribs, rice, a root beer float, and yoghurt. Afterwards, she took me around Harvard. I saw Kirkland (Zuckerberg’s House!) and the Charles River. It was beautiful! I can’t wait for the pictures.

I met up with Ate Mia, one of my mom’s former students, at a cafe called L.A. Burdick. They had the best hot chocolate ever! It’s out of this world! She took me to Target. It’s sad that I don’t have any more money left. There was some amazing stuff!

I’m now in their apartment. I got some great news as well. I was featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: and will be on a local TV show in a couple of days. I can’t wait! It’s back to NYC tomorrow. Wow, this traveling is tiring!

Day 5 in NYC

I didn’t really have anything planned for today, so it was mostly sporadic. I went with my cousin to work again today and headed straight for Times Square. I kept myself busy looking at the gigantic billboards and entering the different stores. I walked by the Wax Museum but it was closed. Fortunately, Ripley’s Museum was right beside it, and it was open. It was also a lot cheaper. Wax figures or crazy, bizarre people? Definitely the latter for me.

I really enjoyed Ripley’s Museum. Although I can’t remember half the things I saw inside, I was fascinated by everything. A lot of the exhibits were interactive, which was really cool as well. I got to do one of those laser mazes and clocked in an absolutely terrible time. I also got to walk through a black hole simulation. One of the coolest things was the bookshelf that opened automatically. You’d think you were in a dead end, but when you stand in front of the book shelf, it just opens right up!

After Ripley’s, I went into the Disney Store and M&M World. The things inside were pretty pricey though, so I didn’t buy anything. I also checked out a couple of stores that sold sports memorabilia. Other than that, there wasn’t much else to my fancy there. I liked Fifth Avenue better. It’s probably because I had more money.

I had lunch at Papaya Dog because Gray’s Papaya was closed. It was good, but it tasted the same as Nathan’s. I don’t like it with the relish.

After lunch, I took the subway to NYU. I went exploring for a bit and found myself in the bookstore. It makes the UP Shopping Center look like a second-hand shop. They had everything from NYU memorabilia, apparel, and, of course, books. When I say books, I don’t just mean a couple of reading materials. They had books on so many subjects! I really appreciated the bookshelf with books on Film and Television Production. I spent half an hour just trying to pick which book I should buy. I ended up getting a small pocketsized book on “Guerrilla Filmmaking” for about $20 and an NYU hoodie which was on sale for another $20.

It was quite an interesting feeling walking in the campus of my dream school. Although there isn’t really a campus within a boundary, just seeing all the amazing buildings and everything around made me a bit sad, but also a bit encouraged to work hard so that I could go there someday. I met up with Javier, one of my friends from high school, and he showed me around. We went to their library which was huge. It was like ten storeys tall or something. He showed me the dining hall and his dorm room which looked a lot like a boys’ dorm room, as evidenced by the unmade beds. One of his dormmates was a film student and I was looking at the books on his shelf. He had dozens of different film books. I wish they sold those in the Philippines!

Afterwards, we went to the fitness center. I couldn’t go in, though, so I left and headed back for Midtown. I stopped by at a bookstore called Strand which my friend recommended to me. They had books that were incredibly discounted, even the brand new ones. It was amazing! I picked up two more books on filmmaking. I figured it was now or never.

We had dinner with my cousin and his family, because it was his wife’s birthday. I spent the time playing with my nephews and nieces who are about as young as my brothers and sisters. They’re really a lot of fun to be around. I hope they get to see the Philippines soon!

I’m headed off to Boston in a couple of hours. Weather reports say it’s going to snow. Uh oh, here we go!

Day 4 in NYC

Today was a relatively laid-back day. I got up a bit late and found myself surrounded by a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast. First thing on the list was mass at St. Hugh’s of Lincoln. It was my first time to attend an American mass, which was pretty cool. I noticed that they had young girls serving in the mass, that there were no mother butlers (it was two gentlemen who passed the baskets during the offertory), and that both men and women served as lay ministers, and that they wore no special uniform. The most interesting thing though was that after receiving the Eucharist, there was another minister holding a chalice. It was optional to go, although I lined up there as well to drink the Blood of Christ.

After mass, I got to tour around Huntington Station. I saw Huntington Bay, where they had geese, ducks, and swan, and Coindre Castle, which was a legitimate castle that stands at over 100 years old. I also saw a couple of schools and churches. Huntington Station is a very small town but one that is very cozy.

We had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. Another interesting thing I noted was that it’s customary in America to order appetizers first, and then the main course afterwards. This means more waiting, though. I had a breakfast steak, although it was a bit too salty for my liking. (Need I point out that it was pretty big too?) The Cheesecake, however, saved the day. I had a delicious Snickers Bar Chocolate Cheesecake.

We got to look around Walt Whitman Mall afterwards. There were a lot of pretty cool shops, including Victoria’s Secret, where I bought pasalubong for a friend who requested. It was… an interesting experience.

Perhaps the most exciting part of my day was in Tanger Outlets, which is a small compound, probably similar to the Paseo de Sta. Rosa area, where they have outlet stores of different brands, like Nike, Reebok, Polo, Gap, Adidas, and more. I went to the stores that interested me and saw that the prices were slashed to as much as 75% off, plus additional 15% off. It was amazing! The most interesting thing was that I witnessed a shoplifting in Nike. A man ran out with a couple of pairs of shoes that he hadn’t paid for yet. All the salesmen, who were mostly in their 20’s, raced after him, but they couldn’t catch up. “I fu*king told you to watch him!” shouted one of them.

Tito Leo and Tita Malu ended up getting me a pair of Sperry’s Topsiders which I’ve been wanting for quite some time. It was about half the price of the shoes in the Philippines. I also got to try Nathan’s Hotdogs. I don’t see how it’s different from the Filipino hotdogs, except for the fact that it was brown, but it was pretty good nonetheless.

I had a slice of pizza for dinner, and I’m now reminded of how hungry I am. Although for now, I’d like to once again extend my thanks to everyone who has gone out of their way to congratulate me and to share Fine Dining on their walls. I am deeply touched by your actions. I’ve gotten a couple of interview requests lined up again and I’m really excited to continue moving on. Nowhere to go but up!

P.S. I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw Anne Hathaway walking along the streets of New York. She’s incredibly tall and thin! I also saw Waverly Diner at Waverly Place. Straight out of the TV series?


Day 3 in NYC

Today, the world stood still. Fine Dining bested fifteen other films and bagged the People’s Choice Award at the Manhattan International Film Festival, so I now get to call myself an internationally-awarded filmmaker. It’s a nice way to begin my 2012.

My day began with a quick breakfast at a nearby deli. The name escapes me right now. I had a New York bagel which is pretty big, but also pretty good. Then, we went into Marymount Manhattan College on the Upper East Side to begin the screenings. They screened the eight films by the directors that were present in the morning. I got to experience different kinds of films, from dramas to docu-dramas to documentaries. I enjoyed watching all the films and I hope everyone gets to catch them as well. I’ll try to share those that are uploaded online over here. My personal favorite was a film called Guilty Bystanders by David Moldover. I’ll let the trailer speak for itself.

After the screenings, Krzysztof Zanussi, the renowned Polish filmmaker, took the stage to give his Master Class. A lot of the things he shared resonated within me and I was able to connect with a lot of them because I agreed with a lot of the things he said. He talked about how it’s important to show conflicts within stories and how films should be based on observation of real human experiences. I was a bit disappointed because I was expecting him to critique all our films, and he didn’t. He did say that he enjoyed Fine Dining because it was about food and he loved eating. To quote him, “it was almost pornographic”. (In a good way, of course.)

They served lunch afterwards to the directors and I enjoyed that a great deal as well. I was able to talk to the other directors and exchange notes on filmmaking and technology. It was great to meet people who studied in NYU Tisch because they told me about how great the program was and how much it really helped them. I’m not giving up on that dream. I think it was the first time I really socialized with people that way. I was just walking up to everyone and starting conversations. It was really a lot of fun.

In the afternoon, they showed the films of the directors who weren’t able to come. Although some were really good, I thought that the films shown in the morning were, collectively speaking, a lot better. But nonetheless, it was a great form of exposure to different cultures since these films were from countries like India, Pakistan, and Rwanda.

After the film showing, they presented the awards. Fine Dining was awarded the People’s Choice Award for getting the most votes from the audience. Jason Stefaniak’s The Garden and Cecile Mavet’s The Calling were awarded the World Youth Alliance (WYA) Artist award for their excellent use of cinematography, while Benjamin Lorenzo’s Tengo Hambre (I Am Hungry) and Frank’s Tin Car, whose director’s name I also can’t remember, were awarded the WYA Dignity award for their excellent portrayal of human dignity amidst the trials.

Afterwards, I went with my cousin and some of their friends to have dinner at an Italian Restaurant called Gusto. I will never understand how Americans are able to eat such huge servings without rice. I had a pork chop and it was like two Filipino pork chops mashed together. It was a night of wine and great food. I also got to see the NYU Campus. It’s absolutely beautiful. We were supposed to stop by a comedy club afterwards, but it was fully booked. So I went to McDonald’s and got a Reese’s McFlurry as well. They should have those in the Philippines! I love Reese’s! I had a Carvel Reese’s Sundae too yesterday. They’re pretty big though. Their regular size is as big as the Filipino large.

The People’s Choice Award means a lot to me because it’s a testament that my approach to filmmaking is succeeding. I’m not the kind of person who’s out there to tailor-fit his filmmaking to please the critics, because I’m not really a fan of those artsy, open-ended films that are “open to interpretation”. I want to get a message across to my audience, the average Joe. When I’m able to do that, I’m satisfied. The best prize for me is when people just walk up to me to tell me how much they loved my work. That’s what’ll keep me going.

Speaking of people walking up to me, a number of people did to tell me that they loved the speech I gave about Fine Dining. They told me that they were moved and that they were amazed that such wisdom could come from an 18-year old. (I was the youngest person competing.) I’ll try to upload the video when I can.

I’m back home now, dead exhausted, but determined to keep my blog updated. It’s 2:48AM, but I’m absolutely thrilled. I never thought Fine Dining would go this far.  I thank the Almighty God every day for blessing me with these talents and accomplishments and I hope that the road does not end here. Praise be to God!