Perks of Having a More Successful Older Sibling

“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” –Margaret Mead 

They say the youngest child is the luckiest child in a family. I am not sure I can say that with the deepest conviction. Maybe it’s because in our family, there’s only my elder sister and me. That makes me the “younger” child and not the “youngest.” That does not make me the middle child either so I do not think I have the right to say I feel the sufferings of a middle child. Let’s just settle on being the last kid.

Growing up, I always felt like I was my sister’s shadow. It was like my whole being was attached to my sister’s. As a kid, I remember Mom buying two sets of the same clothes (some exactly the same or some in the same style but in a different color) for me and my sister to wear. Lots of people thought we were twins with my sister having the advantage of being the taller one. That was when our sizes were not too far apart yet because when my sister eventually grew at a much faster rate, we stopped wearing similar clothing. That is, she got to wear new clothes while I wore her old ones.

Hand-me-downs. When I was younger, I really felt bad about always having to use stuff my sister outgrew or got bored with already. I felt so undeserving of being spent on. It wasn’t until I started working that I truly learned the value of money and learned to see the positive side of hand-me-downs.

I recently went to Hong Kong and my sister wanted to buy a new Fitbit watch. She wanted the one that had a heart rate monitor because her Fitbit Alta did not have that feature. Guess who goes back to Manila with a Fitbit on her wrist? Uh-huh. You guessed it!

I remember all the other stuff that I my sister passed on to me every time she bought a newer version or model for herself. The first was her iPhone 4s, then the iPhone 5c in that bright pink color, then her iPhone 5s. Yeah, my sister is quite the Apple fan. I’m waiting for her to buy herself a new Macbook laptop so I can get my hands on her Macbook Air that she bought several years ago.

Being given hand-me-downs meant not having to buy expensive stuff for myself. Since I was not so particular about always having the latest model of phones, I was contented with her hand-me-downs even if that meant having the phone on life support (frequent plugging to the power bank) a year later. I used to be pissed about using stuff she already used but these days, when she asks me if I would like one of her old stuff because she’s planning on getting herself a new one, I highly encourage her to make the new purchase. I dare not question her choices at all (insert an rotfl emoji here).

Oh how things and priorities change when you reach adulthood…img_9159

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Hong Kong – September 2018 (Part 1)

“I have seen travel plans happen only when they were made overnight.” -Sanhita Baruah

I had to go see my sister. That was all I thought of when I booked my flight to Hong Kong. If I had to break my back and extend hours at work so I would not cause any problems meeting our deadlines, I was determined to do it. I had to see her, so I was going to do whatever I had to.

Fortunately, fate was kind to me and several events took place that made it okay for me to fly to Hong Kong without having to worry about deadlines that much. I will be eternally grateful because I was already missing my sister terribly.

img_8972As much as I wanted to fly via Cathay Pacific (my absolute favorite), I could only afford Cebu Pacific at the time. I figured that I was only going to fly for about two hours anyway and I would rather have more money to spend for shopping than for my flight. So, I booked my tickets online and I even learned how to pay for my tickets via BDO online banking. I made sure to pay for window seats going to Hong Kong and going home.

I booked an afternoon flight because I had to bake cookies for the birthday and baptism party of my boss’ daughter. I was going to fly at 5:40PM and I was so glad that the plane was already ready and waiting when I arrived at the airport at around 3:00PM. I immediately checked and learned that sunset was going to be at 5:51PM so I prayed to be able to get a good glimpse of the sunset up in the sky.

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Unfortunately, it started raining. Despite all efforts to have my camera zoom in on the sunset, it focused on the raindrops of the plane window instead. Even when it has stopped raining and there were no raindrops of the window, it was too cloudy to see the sunset. Oh well, maybe next time then.

My flight was very smooth and I landed around ten minutes earlier than the expected arrival. I do not remember having to ride a shuttle from the plane to the airport during my past trips, but I enjoyed seeing the huge planes from other airlines. Using my auditor’s eyes, I kept on the lookout for any Cathay Pacific plane missing the letter F. I saw none.

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I had no trouble at the immigration counter and the officer who checked my documents was familiar. I think he’s the same officer from when mom and I visited last Christmas. I think he’d be even more handsome if he smiled. But, I guess his job required them to keep a poker face or people will not take them seriously.

My sister was already waiting for me when I got there. She arrived too early, so she was also hungry already when I arrived. To my happiness, there’s a branch of my favorite restaurant at the airport!

We ordered my favorite pork dish and some lemon iced tea. Unfortunately, the tables at the airport branch did not have the adorable drawers filled with utensils like the branch we visited in Mong Kok back in 2016, Still, I enjoyed dinner with my sister.

img_9020We opted to ride the bus on the way home since it was only HKD40. It’s cheaper than taking the train that I think is around HKD100. Also, my sister said that since she took the bus to the airport, her trip going back was only going to be HKD20. Plus, we will not have to transfer to another ride because the bus was going to drop us near her place already. God, I missed the efficient transport system of Hong Kong. To my embarrassment though, I forgot how their tap card system worked and I kept tapping my Octopus card on the wrong place. At least the driver didn’t shout at me, haha.

Too tired for anything else, my sister and I spent the rest of the night watching shows on Netflix. We didn’t have any plans on what to do and where to go. That night, I felt how much it didn’t matter anymore because being with her made me happy already. Then, I realized we had to share her bed and I remembered how much she tosses and turns in her sleep. It was going to be a long night…

Missing Hong Kong

My sister is home!!!

I picked up my sister at the airport and I arrived just in time when the plane she was in landed. Talk about timing!

Anyway, while I was waiting for her, I started walking around. Then, I noticed this:

Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s got the same name as the Kowloon’s shopping and nightlife district. I started wishing I was in the airport to go to Hong Kong instead.

I miss traveling. That’s the thing I miss about my previous job as an internal bank auditor. I got to travel to so many places that I did not have to spend a single centavo for.

I shall make it a point to travel this year whether locally or internationally. So, I must save up!

Excited for: My Sister’s Visit to the Philippines!

I cannot count the times my sister and I made sacrifices for one another. I guess that’s sisterhood. You give and you take.

My sister has always been my rock. She was the stronger sister, the one I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. And while there were moments I felt like she was the favorite child, I knew that she was only doing the best she could in everything she did. She had the responsibility of setting the best example for me and that was not an easy task as well.

My sister is not the affectionate type. But, from time to time, she will become malambing (affectionate; touchy-feely) and hug me like I was a life-size stuffed toy. But more often than not, she expresses her lambing (affection) in other ways like buying me make-up or treating me to eat out or just getting me lots and lots of stuff. Yeah, she’s the type to shower people she loves with gifts.

She used to help me stand and walk. But a few years back, she had two knee surgeries that had her needing help to get around. The first surgery was worse. She could not walk at all for months. I quit my job and spent five months helping care for her. Suddenly, the roles were switched.

But, all of that paid off and seeing how she’s now based in Hong Kong and is always travelling makes me feel like it was not a sacrifice on my part. It was an investment. And that period showed me how much my sister tried to remain strong for me and mom during our most trying times. It made me understand her so much more.

I can’t wait to see her again!

Corn dogs and Memories

The most complicated relationship I have is the one I have with my dad. I never truly understood him and his ways. Sometimes I wonder if I did not try enough or if he never let anyone understand him at all.

I do not have a lot of fond memories with him in the twenty-three years I lived with him. I was mostly scared of or angry at him. No family is perfect and mine was far from being a perfect family.

Dad loved to eat. So, it’s no wonder that when I have to think of good memories I had with him, I end up thinking about food. Corndog, in particular.

Despite finding pleasure at eating, Dad disliked eating out because he found it an unnecessary expense. But from time to time, we went out to eat in fast foods like McDonald’s. But because Dad was more on the stingy side, my sister and I would have to share one meal. He would rip the lid of the styro container and divide the food in half. He would order a la carte for everyone except for one meal that came with a drink that he would upsize to the largest size. Then he’d ask for extra cups and divide that drink among all of us. Mom would feel so embarrassed sometimes at how stingy he could be.

So what’s with corn dogs?

When I was around eight or nine, we always went to Festival Mall in Alabang every Sunday because that is where we went for groceries. In the food court was a store/stall that sold corn dogs called Hotdog on a Stick. Nope, it’s not the Purefoods Tender Juicy stand. The store sold freshly-made corn dogs that were really yummy!

Dad never made my sister and I share one corn dog. He would get one for each of us and bought us our own drinks. He and Mom would wait for my sister and I to finish them and then we’d go to the grocery.

Eventually, the store closed and there were no more corn dogs on Sundays.

These days, it’s difficult to find corn dogs. I know Purefoods sell them in their hotdog stands but nothing could ever top that store I loved as a kid where I could watch it get prepared and cooked. The closest I could get them is from FamilyMart but it still is not as yummy as the corn dog from that store years and years ago.

I have long given up on having the father-daughter relationship that I used to wish for as a child. And these days, I do not see him or talk to him anymore. I’m still not ready to.

But from time to time, I buy corn dogs and remember the good times I had with him whenever we bought them before. I would remember him asking the store attendants to coat mine extra thickly because he knew I loved the coating. We would watch as it cooked and he would remind me to blow on it before taking a bite because it was too hot having just come from the fryer.

I have not sealed shut any door. I know that one day, I am going to have to see him again. I am not yet close to being ready for that. But, who knows? Maybe, when that day comes, it’ll be over a snack of corn dogs. Maybe, that time will also be a good time.

Back to Hong Kong (Part 4)

February 18, 2018. I was going home that evening. I didn’t want to go far anymore for more touristy activity. I just wanted to spend as much time as I could with my sister. Writing this post makes me miss her already.

IMG_3781We wanted to get breakfast at McDonald’s but they had a problem with their pipes so no drinks could be served that morning. Because of that, we opted to just go to Pacific Coffee instead.

We both ordered Pork Sausage Roll and Mocha Brownie Chillino. I loved the chillino drink! It was not overly bitter but not too sweet for my liking either. The sausage roll was very delicious too! It did not take like a hotdog that was just called a sausage. Rolled in the crumbly pastry was an authentic sausage, with all the spices and herbs to make it really yummy!

We also went to two Watson’s Pharmacy outlets because my sister wanted to get me this Sally Hansen gel nail polish that she was recommending for me to try. That was when I noticed the self-service checkout offered for those whose total amount of purchases are below HKD 1,000. Acceptable modes of payment are the Octopus card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Ali Pay, MasterCard PayPass, and Visa payWave.

I am thinking that HKD 999 (roughly Php 6,000) is a huge amount for a self-service checkout counter. This must mean that honesty is greatly valued and practiced in Hong Kong.

We also shopped at isai in CNT Tower, Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. My sister got a cute sweater with a bunny design in front while I got a long cardigan. We got a small koala coin bank as a freebie which I absolutely adored! I just love small, cute things!

For lunch, we went to Cafe de Coral which was just a few steps away from isai. I was amazed how fast the service time was and how big the plates were. I loved the pork dish we ordered because it made me feel so full.

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I was very lonely by this point already because being done with our very late lunch meant having to go to the airport already. I did not want to leave anymore and just wanted to stay with my sister just a little bit longer. I kind of wish I did not get the 7PM flight because it felt too early for me. However, I had to be in the office 3 hours earlier the following day because we had visitors from our offices abroad.

We took a cab to the train terminal that will take us to the airport. I did not have any problem with the check in. I noticed from the last time I was leaving Hong Kong (January 1, 2018) that there were no more immigration officers who will scrutinize my travel documents and take my picture upon leaving Hong Kong. In place was an automated process wherein I will just have to scan my passport and step towards the camera that was going to take my picture. Self-service again. Hong Kong residents must be very independent individuals. I love it!

One thing I liked about their airport as well were the strategically placed charging ports and vending machines. I used my Octopus card for the vending machine to buy this bottled water.

The flight was not delayed. However, it was my first time to board a Cebu Pacific plane that had nine seats per row. I was only used to the kind of plane I rode going to Hong Kong–six seats only per row.

I was on a window seat again and no one occupied the seat beside mine. That meant more leg space for me! I just have to sit a little bit sideways.

I passed time reading a book. Fortunately, there was no turbulence during the flight so I did not feel paranoid at any point.

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I got home on time. The bags arrived late though.

I booked a ride sharing service to go home. I was wondering why it was so dark in Manila. Like something was wrong with the street lights and some streets looked like there were no lights at all. So, I asked the driver if there was anything going on in Manila while I was gone. Turns out, he had heavily tinted windows. Ha-ha-ha!

I did not go all-out tourist in Hong Kong. I was more happy to share simple moments with the sister I terribly miss having home.

You may want to read about the rest of my experiences in Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year. Read about them here:

Back to Hong Kong (Part 1)

Back to Hong Kong (Part 2)

Back to Hong Kong (Part 3)

Back to Hong Kong (Part 2)

Kristine and I went to UA Cinemas at Times Square so we could watch Black Panther. I was excited to watch this since the trailer looked very promising. I got more excited though because it was my first time to see a movie in Hong Kong. I wondered how much different their cinemas were from ours.

To go to Times Square, we rode a tram. It was my first time to try it and I had a great time! It was cheaper than taking a bus but still quick enough for my liking. Of course, the bus would have been more comfortable but I did not mind.

We saw a lot of pretty stuff being sold in the streets on our way to Times Square. One of them were beautifully and intricately made greeting cards that I wanted to buy but was thinking of the practicality of doing so.

Kristine, on the other hand, could not figure out why she was so drawn to the old man beside the card seller. He was selling what looked like king’s beard treats. Those were her favorite! Because I saw how much she wanted them, I told her to go ahead. The seller had a gentle smiling face so no wonder my sister was drawn to him. We bought two packs for HKD 20 each, with six pieces per pack.

To our surprise, granny said something in Korean and my sister’s face lit up to ask if he was Korean. He nodded then proceeded to say something in Chinese. Maybe he was one of those Koreans who grew up in Hong Kong already. My sister jokingly said maybe she could smell the Korean in him that’s why she was drawn to him. Must be because of her Korean boyfriend’s influence.

In Times Square, Kristine and I struggled with the self-service machine that was meant to scan the QR code from her online ticket purchase. Apparently, we were holding her phone too close to the scanner. A staff of the cinema was very kind and helped us with it, even though he had to wait a few minutes because my sister accidentally deleted the e-mail when he approached.

img_4844After securing our tickets, we bought popcorn and drinks, opting to go for the large popcorn and two mega drinks combo, plus a hotdog sandwich to share. I prayed that the hotdog sandwich did not come with lots and lots of onions like it looked in the picture.

The drinks were way too huge for the amount of popcorn. I also wondered why they only had sweet and salty flavors for the popcorn (I want white cheddar!) but we bought the sweet one. It was something like a caramel coated popcorn with a bit of salt to taste. It was also very yummy though I still prefer salty ones when watching movies.

While waiting to be allowed inside the movie house, my sister went to the wash room. As I waited for her to get out, I saw a lady struggling with the self-service machine like we did. To pay the staff’s kindness to us forward, I assisted the lady with getting her ticket. She was very appreciative and looked genuinely relieved that someone helped her.

The cinema itself was really good. We had to sit at the third row from the front but the way the chairs were positioned were still okay to not make our necks hurt from looking up too much. The seats were also better and would not fold up when no one is sitting on them unlike in the Philippines. Here, it’s a struggle to hold on to your bag and popcorn while pushing the seat down before you can sit on it without spilling anything.

What I did not like though was that we had to fall in line and enter only five minutes before the film. In the Philippines, we have around fifteen to twenty minutes to go in before the movie starts. That meant more movie trailers to enjoy too.

Black Panther was awesome! I loved how the sound volume in the cinema was balanced, without any part sounding too soft and another like it was going to blow your eardrums apart. Total experience from buying tickets to the end of the movie is 4.9/5 stars. I only did not like the long queue to go inside the movie house.

We were looking for a place to eat but almost all of the restaurants were closed due to the New Year celebrations. Some were open though and were trying to entice customers to visit their place like Yum Cha. Ooooh, it’s hard to earn money. At least a guy/gal looked cute in his/her costume of a custard bun.

img_4849Kristine and I walked and walked to find a place where we could eat. Our walking led us to Meokbang Korean Bbq & Bar in Kyoto Plaza, Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay. I was excited to see how much different their Korean barbecue was to that in the Philippines. Thankfully, we did not have any trouble finding seats.

The first thing I noticed was that the prices were way more expensive compared here in the Philippines. We spent more than HKD 200 for the two of us (around Php 1,200). While there were lots of delicious side dishes (I loved the corn with melting cheese and the salad!), we only got two plates of meat. One was thinly sliced, bacon-looking kind and one with really thick cut, sort of like a pork belly.

In the Philippines, we pay from Php 399 to around Php 699 (depending on the place), for unlimited meat. Yup! You read that right. UNLI-FREAKING-LIMITED! We also get side dishes too. Lots of them!

But since only my sister and I were going to eat, what we ordered and everything else they served along were already very satisfying. Plus, we still had leftover drinks from the massive paper cup (though I personally think it would not qualify for just a cup anymore) we bought at the cinema.

On our way back  home, we were trying to see if the grandpa selling the king’s beard treat was still around since my sister and I loved it so much. We were sad that we did not see him where we found him that afternoon. We just thought that hopefully he had sold all of his goods by that time. A few more steps later though, we found him again! He just transferred locations.

We immediately approached him and when he saw me and Kristine, he smiled and recognized us. We bought two more and told him to keep the small change left from our payment. He seemed surprise and I think he asked us if we were sure so we made gestures to say it was for him already as our Chinese New Year gift. The way he smiled touched my heart. It was a genuine smile that seemed like while he was happy to keep the change, he was more happy that someone extended him the privilege to.

He seemed like a very nice grandpa. It kind of makes me wish I had more loving and sweet memories with my own grandfathers. From my dad’s side, Grandpa Jose died when I was around three to five years old. From my mom’s side, Abuelito Lorenzo passed away when I was eight. I don’t remember much of the rare visits we had with them growing up. I never got to meet my grandma from mom’s side either.

I wish I had a pic taken with the granny in Hong Kong.

We went home soon after but we rode the bus this time instead of the tram. We were so full from dinner and wanted to continue watching the Korean drama shows we had lined up.

A black tram passed by while we were waiting for the bus. It got me thinking that while we did not have so many activities for that Friday, I surely experienced a lot more than I expected to.

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How did you celebrate Chinese New Year last February 16? Were you in Hong Kong too? I would love to hear from you in the comments section.

If you want to read my other experiences in Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year, click on the following:

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Parting Time

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.” -Carol Saline

Going back home in an hour. I’m going to miss my sister again.

I remember the first time I left Hong Kong alone, leaving my sister behind because she was going to be working here already. I told myself I was not going to cry and even put on eye makeup so that I will feel bad about ruining it. A few minutes before we left her hotel, I was crying and refused to go out because I felt so sad. I had gotten used to being with her all the time and could not imagine what the house will be like without laughing, fighting and bickering with her.

More than a year later, I still feel sad every time we have to part. Every time I leave Hong Kong, it feels like I’m leaving a limb behind.

Maybe I’ll get completely used to the distance one day. Maybe I won’t. Maybe we’ll get to live near each other one day, whether it be in or out of the Philippines. Maybe we won’t.

Wherever life may take us, I hope we both will always be happy.