My voice out in the open

My friends from the Philippines have been asking why I’ve been more active on social media lately. I’ve been posting regular Instagram photos with an enthusiastic note and a scripted pose, not to mention a bunch of tags like #hultambassador #globalgeneration #hultmoment. They know me well enough that I’m not the type of person to promote online, because I’m the more brooding type of girl who sits in the corner of coffee shops and write about my personal troubles in life. (That, and they expect me to be the pretentious writer I’ve always been.)

Fair enough, which is why they’re my friends–they are aware of how vulnerable I can be to the world and how scared I am of rejection if I open up just a little bit. But there’s a reason to all the changes that has been happening to me recently.

I wish I could still be the quiet Reina who thinks to herself in one corner about her problems. The girl who refuses to socialize (hint: network) because she’d rather just have people initiate conversations with her. Or the one who doesn’t speak up at all because she feels like her opinions aren’t welcomed. I wish I could just be all that, to just be comfortable in the silence, but I know that it will never be enough.

The world is calling me to go beyond myself, to pursue greater things for the better good of others, and that if I were to help people with the skills I’ve trained myself in all these years, then I should start putting my voice out in the open.

HULT gave me the initiative to do that. When I applied for the Global Ambassador Program, I had an interview with the Social Media Manager, Debbie Anne Gacutan, and she told me to just be myself throughout the process. Nothing requires more honesty and authenticity than a face-to-face conversation.

Before that, I submitted a short essay on what it takes to exemplify the HULT DNA and when I received the invitation for the interview, I told Debbie that if I were to promote HULT to the public, I would not shy away from telling the truth about it. That being said, I am to maintain the self-awareness that the school, just like me, isn’t perfect, that it has its ups and downs as well, that it can have some shortcomings from time to time.

But I am not giving up on it, in the same way that the school is not giving up on the shy, hesitant girl that I’ve always been.

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Career Boot Camp posters at school

I’ve met the other Global Ambassadors for the Boston campus and have started working on the Career Boot Camp article with the other students who are also collaborating with me from their campus. I don’t know how far my voice can take me, or how relevant my honesty can be in the times when promoting things tend to be sugarcoated with a different tone, but this I hope: it will all be worth it someday.

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A new family–and a good sports game

I remember choosing Boston as my home campus in HULT because I vaguely recall an uncle who lived here with his wife and son. That made me think to myself that it wouldn’t be that hard to adjust since I have relatives around the area–would have been cool too to have a family I could visit once in a while in the state. Apparently, that was years ago and my uncle has moved to California (from East Coast to West Coast) ever since. If you could imagine me panicking from the inside after finding that out when I received my grad school acceptance letter, then you’d understand. By our culture, Filipino families are closely-knit; we find ways to get together when time permits.

Luckily, my uncle introduced me to a Filipino family in the area. He gave me the number of his dear friend whom I could contact in case there was an emergency. I did exactly as he told me and some hours later, I received a text, not from my uncle’s friend, but from the daughter. I met Allysa, my Tito Tho’s goddaughter, a month after I arrived in the country. There was no need to mention how warm and welcoming her parents were to me the first time I saw them. Tito John, her father, invited me to go apple-picking with them and I absolutely enjoyed my time walking around the orchard and learning about the different kinds of apples. Tita Jo, her mother, invited me to have lunch with them right after.

 

Allysa, just like her parents, is a darling. She loves supporting the sports teams, a penchant she has just like her father does, but apart from that, she also loves music festivals, talking to children, especially her students and her cousins, and a lot of cool trivias, too. She explained to me the difference between American and Philippine education and how being a Filipina but not knowing enough Tagalog (or Bicolano, like her parents do) seems to be for her. Around September, she invited me to watch a Boston Red Sox game–my first, in fact. Allysa has been to the games ever since she was 6 months old. We met at the Kenmore Station and walked to the entrance of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. While waiting for the game to start, she introduced me to the Fenway Frank, told me about the players she knew were good, and sang along with Sweet Caroline in the crowd. Allysa was prepared to use her paper cup to catch a ball if it goes out towards the bleachers. No baseball went our way, but we had fun joining the wave.

Allysa turned 23 last October 12. There was good company, good Pinoy food. Tito John invited me over for dinner and I came with my roommate, Coco. The Lujares’ have a huge family in the States, all the Titos and Titas and cousins having migrated here before 2000. The siblings of Allysa’s parents were all welcoming to me; they knew me as Tho’s niece as my uncle was also fond of them when he lived near the area. It was a beautiful Pinoy family, almost like home to me. We had palabok, chicken inasal, longganisa, and other food that Allysa’s parents have made. Coco and I even went home with some baon for the next few days.

Sometimes I tell myself that there is no need to be sad of being far away from my parents and siblings, that there is a different kind of life waiting for me here in the States. I still can’t say for now that everything is going to get better, but I know that there are people who are there for me when things get tough. Allysa wants to watch a Boston Celtics game with me soon. I hope I find some time with all my requirements piling up, but I’m always a good one for the sports.

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Reading in Boston

I told myself I wouldn’t get distracted from grad school. But bookstores in Boston are really interesting and they have really good finds (even the stores themselves are good finds). Many, if not all of them, have a significant impact on the city’s history. Knowing that I can never keep myself from being interested in culture, I just had to indulge myself with books once more.

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Harvard Book Store was the first one I’ve been to. My friend Jorie and I walked around Harvard Square and came across it without meaning to. It was one train station away from where I live so it’s quite close by. Once in a while they have book sales and on my visit I found a d’Agata anthology for more than half its price! Beside it is Grolier’s Poetry Bookshop, the oldest poetry bookshop in the States. It has various collections from poets that I am fond of, as well chapbooks from new authors. I was so immersed from browsing all the shelves that Jorie and I went for the nearest food stop around the block.

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Celebrating my reunion with the essay over Mexican food.

One could never go wrong with the Boston Public Library at Copley, either. It’s right by the train station of the Green Line. The neighborhood around it is really lovely, too. I went there coming from school which is near Lechmere so all I had to do was just ride the subway (the MBTA, or T, as we call it).

Besides its good architecture (they have a cafe and a fountain garden, too!), they also boast a huge collection of books. I went there to apply for library card because it allows me to reserve some books and museum passes but I caught myself being amazed at its grandeur.

There’s so much to love about Boston. I keep on falling for it a little bit more each day!

Three states on my first week in the USA

I initially made this WordPress site for my Fine Arts project (MapaLakad, the Old Manila walking tour), but as I am out of my home country for a year or so, I’m taking this as an opportunity to write about the places I’ve been to while I’m away.

This is quite a throwback post as I’m currently uploading some of the photos I took on my phone to my Google Drive. Let this be some sort of a travel journal so I could collect my thoughts, reflect more deeply about them, and perhaps have the strong urge to write a personal essay once more.

Massachusetts

I arrived in Boston on the third week of August. My plane landed on the airport past 9 pm and the landlord couldn’t give me the keys to our apartment till the next day so I had to book an AirBnb for one night. My plan was to leave early after a good breakfast (and a great morning walk!) so I could head straight to my new home address.

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First morning in Boston

The next day, Marjorie, my university friend from the Philippines, went all the way from New Jersey (where she’s currently residing) to my place in Cambridge. We had it sorted out even before my flight: we would tour much of Boston and then head for NYC and NJ after three days. Her home in Lodi is just 15 minutes away from New York by bus!

New York

I am deeply grateful to Jorie for the time and effort. She toured me around Times Square and Central Park as she has visited these places several times already. She knew every avenue and had the right directions from Port Authority. I would have gotten lost if not for her navigation. Jorie was right, though — you have to love the chaos of New York in order to appreciate it.

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My first time at Times Square!

Many times I am reminded of Quiapo and Recto, the sights and smells in the streets, the noise in all corners, the penchant of a person to be in every place. We don’t have towering skyscrapers in the area, but it is the ambiance of New York that makes me understand why the Schuyler sisters in Hamilton would call it “the greatest city of the world.” I didn’t get to watch a Broadway show because of budget constraints, but I’d definitely put it in my bucketlist next time!

I also went to the Museum of Moving Images in Queens to meet up with high school friends who also completed their studies abroad. We haven’t seen each other in a while, so it was a great catching up while going around the Jim Henderson exhibit.

New Jersey

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Liberty State Park and its pretty view

Jorie drove me around New Jersey as well. She brought me to Seton Hall University where she would be taking her MBA and to Liberty State Park where we had a good view of the New York from New Jersey. In the afternoons till late evenings, her family would bring me along for a good conversation with their Filipino relatives.

I left their place on a Sunday morning after having spent four days in NJ. Jorie drove me to the nearest bus stop and we wished each other luck on our graduate studies.

I am grateful for this opportunity to be able to go to different places, to afford these things to while away my time before classes start. But I have no intention of forgetting my purpose of going abroad; things are going to get busy and real serious pretty soon. I had to hype myself before the homesickness starts kicking in.

Building bridges, not walls

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I have a view of my school across the river upon going home. Sometimes the bridge under my feet frightens me; it shakes violently whenever trucks pass by. That bridge isn’t perfect, but I’m sure its foundations are strong enough to stand the test of time.

Perhaps I am like this bridge in many ways. Being part of the global generation is not easy. Everyday I meet students of different backgrounds–from recent undergrads to young professionals, from Americans to Asians. Yet cultural diversity goes together with culture shock.

Most of the time, it’s easier to build walls instead of bridges, to just blend in rather than stand out. Everyday I remind myself that I’m not alone, that my family is cheering me on, and that there are people ready to welcome my ideas.

In our business school, we have three pillars of what we call the HULT DNA; it starts from assessing the self to how we deal with others and to how we work together as a team. I’m not here to parrot class lectures. It defeats the purpose of our learning. We don’t just memorize the words of our professors; we take them into practice. 

HULT does not only teach us the how-to’s. It also trains us to be leaders who listen. Questions why we question things. Teaches us to create lasting connections. There are no perfect bridges, but we can always build ones we are willing to improve and maintain over time.

Some updates from Boston

It’s been almost a month since I flew in to the States. I keep on comparing Boston to Manila, the U.S. to the Philippines, saying that everything is so much better where I am now. I rarely use cash because debit and credit cards can be used for almost everything. Besides, carrying coins is such an added weight the wallet. I resort to sticking to my own routines, doing laundry every Mondays, washing my own dishes in the evenings, removing the fallen hair from the bathroom drain and so–anything to help me from my homesickness. I’ve met a handful of Filipinos around the area, some of them students, most of them working professionals with families. In the apartment I live with three other Filipinas, but being able to speak in Tagalog outside the house makes me feel more at ease in another country.

However, needless to say, I still miss home. My mother is almost always asking for a video call whenever I don’t have much to do in the apartment. She and Dad know we are 12 hours apart but she doesn’t mind. I feel that it is my responsibility to convince her that everything’s going alright, that I feel more comfortable now compared to how I seemed to be during my take-off from NAIA (I cried for a good 15 minutes or so in the plane). I do not tell her that my proposed monthly budget was underestimated, that my jackets and sweaters I bought from the Philippines won’t help me from the cold, or that there has been a painful lump forming underneath my right toe. Please don’t tell her those.

I’m currently revisiting an old essay draft I didn’t get to submit to a literary journal, particularly because I didn’t know where to; HEIGHTS didn’t seem to be the best avenue for my works anymore, considering that the things I’ve written about won’t appeal so much to university students who do not have to think about the future just yet. I hope people still get to read my work even when my experiences are far removed from their own.

It is 6:20 am here. My class starts at 9:00 am and I still have two business cases to analyze; sometimes I pretend they’re works of literature and the manager is a confused protagonist in need of a good self-resolution and reflection. Kinda like an essay.

MapaLakad Tour: Review

All my thanks to my good friend and fellow writer, Carmel Ilustrisimo, for blogging about her walking experience with our MapaLakad group!

Carmel Reviews Things

by Carmel Ilustrisimo

Last week, I joined a few friends, old and new, on a walking tour around Old Manila. MapaLakad was created by our tour guide (and my good friend), Reina Adriano, as part of a school project. For P80, you get a free chapbook filled with beautiful prose poetry written by Adriano herself, along with the walking tour. We visited old buildings and sights in Quiapo, Escolta, and Binondo respectively.

Mind you, most of the places we went to were not tourist hotspots. It was what I would call “the authentic Manila experience.” We saw Manila at it its most downtrodden and squalid. We jumped over mud puddles, dodged trash strewn carelessly on the street, pinched our noses at the smoke and canal smells, and heard the loud voices of sellers calling out their wares. We passed by shanties with half-dilapidated houses and saw traces of old Manila…

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