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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Los Angeles Anyone?

What do you think? 
Day 1 - May 25, 2011, 6:53AM

On-board Philippine Airlines flight PE 102, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the window seat (I actually grinned at the guy at the check-in counter at hearing this). I anticipated for the acrophobia to kick in once the plane had already taken off but surprisingly,  my constitutions were strong enough for me NOT to be scared. In fact, seeing Manila become nothing more than a network of bright lights and highways was nothing short of magical. I had my mouth open the entire ascent into the atmosphere.

With a wide array of movies, TV channels, games and music to choose from, the flight definitely wasn't a bore. I couldn't even say that it was 12-hour flight. I was watching The Green Hornet and Ocean's Thirteen during the flight and was engorging myself with the delectable airplane food, (which wasn't as bland as they say it would be). 

Apart from the airplane food, the spectacular view of California from 33,000 feet up in the air is something no LA-bound passenger should miss. The flight took about 10 hours from the moment the plane had taken off before I could see land from up above.

From the plane, all you could see were majestic mountain ranges that appeared like dessert dunes from the air, things I like to call "crop squares" and the California freeways. 

You could tell that the plane was approaching Los Angeles when you begin to see a huge mass of buildings and highways. It's like an urban oasis in the middle of the dessert. At this point, you could only imagine how frantic I was during this moment of eye-gasm. The sight was so foreign, so alien, so spec-friggin'-tastic that I couldn't keep my mouth closed yet again.

Big fish
I arrived at LAX at about 9 in the evening or 12 noon in the Philippines (Note: The sun was very well up during this time of night.  Based from the amount of daylight, you couldn't tell whether it was actually 9PM or 9AM). During all the immigration and customs formalities and claiming of baggages, it would take some amount of belief that in you're in a foreign land to believe that you're, in fact, in a foreign land. LAX was teeming with Asians, of which the majority were Filipinos, and it wasn't far from the usual cultural setup one could observe in Metro Manila.

So there I was, a first-time immigrant in America. But it didn't let it show. In a land were customs officers actually SCREAM at you for asking directions, I knew I had to have a decent amount of swagger so as not to be appear totally vulnerable in a totally alien land. 

Walking briskly at the arrival area with my distinctive silver blazer, purple v-neck, a pair of body fit shorts I'd like call "gay shorts", a pair of slip-ons that may strike as Toms shoes at first glance, and an apple green travel bag, I was fish out of water. I believe the fashion statement Filipinos would adhere to - trying to look Western, or too Western - makes us easy to spot in any foreign land.

It's sort of ironic how non-Filipinos would look more Filipino than most authentic Filipino people with their loose-fitting pants, plain t-shirts and big rubber shoes. But I digress.

Anyway, being the fish out of water I was, it didn't take time for Mama to find me in the arrival area. Along with my Papa and Tita Lenny, they all hugged and kissed me like I came out of a burning building or something. But I couldn't blame them for being that way. It was more than two years since I last saw my parents and it took our family about ten years for me to get there as an immigrant. So basically, them jumping around in the airport and speaking in tongues during my arrival was still an understatement.

It was a delight to see that Papa had a Honda Odyssey, which to me is the perfect family vehicle. We drove from LAX to our residence in Pomona, California. As we drove past long and multiple freeways, I was trying yet again to imagine how different things are around here from the Manila setting. 

I'm no expert on Los Angeles City but I think I know enough to say that NOBODY CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT A CAR in California. And I mean that quite literally. It's just like my Tita Lenny always says, "You can't go to the toilet, without taking the freeway." I pictured myself on the freeway on a jeepney and commuting. It was a scary thought.

Before we dropped Tita Lenny off at their hime at Walnut, California, we grabbed dinner at a wonderful place called In-N-Out Burger. Food service in California is different from that of the Philippines in terms of hospitality. But I couldn't care less about hospitality, I came here to eat after all.

A mouthful
I ordered the Double Double Burger which I figured was the equivalent of the Double Cheeseburger of McDonald's in the Philippines. I was dead wrong. Here's what I've noticed: In the Philippines, food chains try so hard to exaggerate their product names so hard just to sell or make them appear bigger and tastier. On the other hand, food chains here need not employ the same strategy. What you read is what you get. And if you've read that what you're ordering is a Double-Double- Cheeseburger, then you better put some elbow grease on your mouth because you are definitely going to need it.

The Double-Double Cheeseburger. It's the most beautiful creation I've ever seen. It had two very thick beef patties in it, lots of tomatoes, lettuce, onions (my favorite!), overflowing sauce and catsup and cheese this thick! In short, THE WORKS!

Partnered with french fries and a bottomless glass of Dr. Pepper, I must say that my first fart in the United States was by far the best I've ever had.

My Tita loves country
When we arrived at Tita Lenny's, everyone had to be quiet while watching the TiVoi-ed American Idol finale. Personally, I didn't really care about Idol anymore. Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina were clearly not my favorites as manifested in my Idol-related rants and ramblings in Facebook and I didn't intend on watching the finale either.

I explained my non-fascination with this Idol this season to Tita Lenny who responded that country was really a big thing Stateside. This gave the impression that having two country artists battling it out in the Top 2 was not a big surprise for Americans. They really seem to love their country music, especially Tita Lenny who was all "kilig na kilig" at the chemistry Scotty and Lauren had.

But just for the heck of it, and since it has always been one of my simple dreams to cast my vote on American Idol, I dialed for Lauren Alaina. You could stone me to death right now.

(Watch out for more Los Angeles, Anyone? posts! We've only just begun.)

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