Monday, December 31, 2012

Are You Celebrating the New Year with Alcohol?

If you plan on celebrating New Year's with a drinking party outside your home, please insure you have a DD ( Designated Driver) in your party. If you are alone, take a taxi home. It may save your life.

Here in Northern California if you get a DUI( drinking under the influence) citation or conviction, it may cost you at least $2000 versus a taxi fare of around $60 to $200 depending in how far is your home from the bar or party venue.

The Katague's will be celebrating New Year EVE in their residence with just a glass of champagne and watching television. Unlike our New Year Eve escapade in 1970 ( excerpts attached in this posting), our NY eve celebration will be quite and relaxing and no driving in the California tule fog.

Again, To you my readers from 166 countries all over the world, I wish you a Safe New Year. May 2013 bring you Peace and Happiness. I also hope you continue reading and supporting my blogs( by clicking on my ads) for at least another year.

Our New Year Escapade,1970:

"The New Year's Eve of 1970 was one of the most memorable events in my life in the United States. It was a peculiarly distinct night that I endangered us, me and my wife Macrine, by driving into the unknown, for a chance to celebrate a late dinner out. It was also the night we got to meet and know friendly strangers, who invited us to celebrate the New Year's Eve in their lovely home.

In September of 1969, I found a new job with Shell Development Company in central California. It was an attractive job offer which was difficult to turn down. Our family relocated to Modesto, California, and we were excited about living in a new community, meeting new friends and getting to know new neighbors.

The city of Modesto is located right in the heart of the central valley of California. It is the land of fruits and nuts, and also the agricultural region of the state. The central valley is also known for its sinister side, its tule fog during winter, which covers much of the central valley in poor visibility mist. The locals called it the "soup". The tule fog is a thick ground fog that forms and settles in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys of California's great central valley. This spectacle is named after the tule grass wetlands or tulares, as they are called, found in the central valley. Vehicular accidents caused by the thick and zero visibility tule fog, are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in central California.

During the last four months of 1969, we were occupied settling down and adjusting to our new home and community. We found a new school for our children, church, grocery, shops and parks. My life was thinly spread between my new job and home. We had no time to join any local group, and had no friends except for our neighbors.

Before the New Year's Eve, my wife and I wanted to find social interaction in our community, but we had no friends or family to visit nearby. We decided to go out for a late dinner in one of Stockton's nicer restaurants, to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. It is about twenty miles north of Modesto.

We reached the restaurant at about 9:30 pm, and the place was filled to capacity. We didn't realize that many couples had the same wonderful idea for the last night of the year. We had to wait in the bar before they could offer us a table. At the bar was another couple who was also waiting to be seated. They were a little bit older than us. The lady was of Asian ancestry and the man was Caucasian.

The couple appeared friendly, so me being the extroverted, outgoing and friendly individual, I started the introductions. I made small talk which initiated an animated conversation to pass away the time. We felt relaxed talking with the couple, and when we were called to be seated, we decided to get a table for the four of us together, instead of two separate ones.

Our dinner of steak and lobster was enjoyable. The conversation flowed freely, loosened by two bottles of wine. Based on our rapport and discussion, it appeared like the four of us were long time friends. We learned that the lady had Filipino ancestry. The couple is also Catholic, and has resided in Stockton for the last ten years. They had no children and had plans of adopting a child from the Philippines.

Their house was in a property near the restaurant, and a short drive away. We finished dinner and dessert at about 11:30 pm. Our new found friends decided to invite us to their home for an after dinner drink, and to avoid driving home in the highway at midnight, the New Year's Eve. With our adventurous spirit, Macrine and I trusted these strangers, and accepted their invitation without any fear or hesitation.

When we got out of the restaurant, the fog was already thick with only a few feet of visibility. I was not alarmed since the couple's residence was nearby. The house was tastefully furnished and decorated with several Philippine antiques that the lady had inherited from her Filipino grandparents.

We had a bottle of champagne at midnight and celebrated the arrival of the New Year. I only took a sip since I was the designated driver. We stayed at their home chatting and getting to know each other better. We talked about our families, interests, places we've lived and visited, and about the central valley. We ended the party at 1:00 am, and decided to go home.

As we stepped out of the warmth and comfort of their house, the cold air and the soup welcomed us outside; we could see nothing in front of us. It started to sink in my mind, whether we should proceed and drive through this very thick fog or not. I remember thinking; maybe we should pass the time somewhere, and let the fog go away before driving home. On the other hand, we could not delay the trip home to our children, and the babysitter also had to get home to her family.

I decided to start the car, drive slowly through the thick fog; my eyes open wide, a little bit nervous and anxious. We glanced at each other; my wife had the look of concern on her face. I remember her saying "this looks dangerous, and how will you see the road or the other cars on the highway". Seeing her worried look increased my growing apprehension of the peril of driving through zero visibility. The fog was so thick, my car's fog lights were useless, and we could only see a few feet away.

With arrogance, I was telling myself this was nothing to worry about. I've driven through blinding snowstorms, and snowy and icy roads in the Midwest. This would be easy; there is no rain or snow on the highway. I would manage this by driving slowly and totally focused on the road. Besides, at this time of the night there are few people and cars on the road.

Silence pervaded during the whole trip. No one dared to speak of negative thoughts. Both our minds were already consumed with thoughts of angst. I remember how distressing it was with all the worries racing through my mind. It made me imagine of graphic images of car wrecks, bloody and mutilated crash victims, and disturbingly, orphaned children left behind by foolish parents.

It took me a full hour to finally reach the safety of our home. It was a huge relief to find our children at home asleep. I was thanking all the saints in heaven that we were home safe and sound despite the danger that we just went through. The baby sitter was also pleased to see us back at 2:00 am.

Reflecting back to this experience, I cannot imagine that Macrine and I allowed ourselves to get to know and visit the home of complete strangers, who later on became our close friends. We continued our friendship with the couple until 1974, when we moved to the San Francisco bay area. I lost my job from Shell Development Company when it closed the agricultural research facility in Modesto.

This was definitely one New Year Eve's escapade that we will always remember for as long as we live."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Time to Say Merry Christmas in Different Languages

It is time to say Merry Christmas to all my FaceBook friends and blog readers all over the world. My stats indicate that I have readers from 165 countries, but this list include only 114 languages. Please add your own language if it is not included in this list via the comment section of this article. I hope you continue reading my articles/blogs and help support it by clicking on the ads. Again, Happy Holidays!

AFRIKAANS geseënde Kersfees
ALBANIAN gëzuar Krishtlindja
ALSATIAN gleckika Wïanachta
ARABIC ميلاد مجيد (miilaad majiid)
ARMENIAN Shnorhavor Surb tsnund
AZERI Noel bayraminiz mubarak
BASQUE Eguberri on
BELARUSIAN З Божым нараджэннем (Z Bozym naradzenniem)
BENGALI subho baradin
BOSNIAN sretan Božić
BRETON Nedeleg laouen
BULGARIAN весела коледа (vesela koleda)
BURMESE Christmas nay hma mue pyaw pa
CATALAN bon Nadal
CHEROKEE ulihelisdi danisdayohihvi
CHINESE 圣诞快乐 (shèng dàn kuài lè)
CORNISH Nadelek lowen
CORSICAN bon Natale
CROATIAN sretan Božić
CZECH veselé Vánoce
DANISH glædelig jul
DHOLUO bedgi sikuku maber
DUTCH vrolijk Kerstfeest
ENGLISH merry Christmas
ESPERANTO gojan Kristnaskon
ESTONIAN häid jõule
FAROESE gleðilig jól
FINNISH hyvää joulua
FRENCH joyeux Noël
FRISIAN noflike Krystdagen
FRIULAN bon nadâl
GEORGIAN Gilotsavt Shobas
GERMAN frohe Weihnachten / fröhliche Weihnachten
GREEK Καλα Χριστούγεννα (kala christougenna / kala xristougenna)
HAWAIIAN mele Kalikimaka
HEBREW חג מולד שמח (hag molad saméa'h)
HINDI Krismas ki subhkamna
HUNGARIAN boldog karácsonyt
ICELANDIC gleðileg jól
IGBO annuri Ekeresimesi
ILOCANO naragsak a paskua
INDONESIAN selamat Natal
IRISH GAELIC Nollaig shona
ITALIAN buon Natale
JAVANESE sugeng Natal
JAPANESE merii kurisumasu
KABYLIAN tameghra tameggazt
KHMER រីក​រាយ​បុណ្យ​ណូអ៊ែល (rik reay bon Noel)
KINYARWANDA Noheli nziza
KIRUNDI Noheli nziza
KOREAN 즐거운 크리쓰마쓰
KURDISH Noela we pîroz be
LAO souksan van Christmas
LATIN felix dies Nativitatis
LATVIAN priecīgus Ziemassvētkus
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Filipino ( Tagalog)
LIGURIAN bón dênâ / bón natâle
LITHUANIAN su Kalėdomis / linksmų Kalėdų
LOW SAXON vrolik Kersfees
LUXEMBOURGEOIS schéi Chrëschtdeeg
MACEDONIAN среќен Божиќ (srećen Božić)
MALAGASY tratry ny Krismasy / arahabaina tratry ny Krismasy / arahaba tratry ny Krismasy
MALAY selamat hari natal
MALAYALAM Christmas ashamshagal
MALTESE il-milied it-tajjeb / milied hieni
MANX Nollick ghennal
MAORI meri Kirihimete
MIZO Krismas chibai
MONGOLIAN zul sariin bayariin mend hurgie
OCCITAN bon Nadal
OROMO baga ayyaana dhaloota Kiristoos isin ga'e
PAPIAMENTU bon pasku
PERSIAN کریسمس مبارک (Christmas mobaarak)
POLISH wesołych świąt bożego Narodzenia
PORTUGUESE feliz Natal
ROMANI baxtalo Krečuno
ROMANIAN un Crăciun fericit
RUKIGA Noheiri nungi / webale Noheiri
RUSSIAN С Рождеством Хрисовым (S rozhdestvom Khristovym)
SAMOAN ia manuia le Kerisimasi
SARDINIAN bona pasca’e Nadale (logudorese) / bona paschixedda (campidanese)
SCOTTISH GAELIC Nollaig chridheil
SERBIAN Христос се роди (Hristos se rodi)
SHONA krisimas yakanaka
SILESIAN Radosnych godów
SINDHI Chrismas joon wadhayoon
SINHALESE suba nattalak wewa
SLOVAK vesele vianoce
SLOVENIAN vesel božič / vesele božične praznike
SOBOTA dobro dedek
SPANISH feliz Navidad
SRANAN switi Krisneti
SWAHILI heri la Krismasi
SWEDISH god jul
TAGALOG maligayang pasko
TAHITIAN 'ia 'oa'oa e teie Noera
TAMIL கிறிஸ்மஸ் தின நல் வாழ்த்துக்கள் (Krismas dina nal vaagethoukkal)
TELUGU Krismas shubhakankshalu
THAI สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส (souksaan wan Christmas)
TONGAN mele Kilisimasi
TSWANA (SETSWANA) Keresemose sentle
TURKISH Noeliniz kutlu olsun
UDMURT Shuldyr Ymuśton
UKRAINIAN З Різдвом Христовим Z Rizdvom Khrystovym
VIETNAMESE Mừng Chúa Giáng Sinh
WALOON ("betchfessîs" spelling) djoyeus Noyé
WELSH Nadolig llawen
YIDDISH אַ גוטע ניטל (a gute nitl)
YORUBA e kun odun Keresimesi
ZULU UKhisimusi omuhle


Monday, December 24, 2012

Spiral Honey-Baked Ham for Christmas, Again

Our main dish again this year for our Christmas Dinner is the spiral honeybaked ham.
This has been our family tradition since my retirement to Northern California in 2002. I have purchased a 5 lb ham ( we will have only 8 adults and one child for dinner this year) three days ago, to avoid the long lines. But I was mistaken. I still waited for 45 minutes to be served since there were about 100 customers ahead of me. If you wait to buy your ham today, expect a line from 1 to 3 hours. I was wondering why this ham is very popular compared to other hams. The reason is explained in this short posting from the Honeybaked ham website as follows:

"The spiral ham had its origins at HoneyBaked Ham Company over 50 years ago. Harry J. Hoenselaar opened the first HoneyBaked Ham Company store in Michigan. He made hams one at a time - and made sure every one met his exacting quality standards. He'd start with only the best quality bone-in ham, marinate it in his secret curing recipe, smoke it for as long as 24 hours over select hickory embers, slice it and then glaze it with his now-famous honey sweet and crunchy glaze. At that time, the spiral ham was born, Harry patented the unique spiral slicer he invented and the rest is history.

There are a number of benefits to spiral sliced hams. For one, spiral slicing is convenient. You don't need to worry about carving your ham when you buy a HoneyBaked spiral ham. Secondly, spiral slicing creates uniform, perfectly sized servings of our moist and delicious ham. Third, the spiral cut makes the ham more attractive when it's placed on your table. Plus, because Harry spiral sliced his ham first and then added his delectable sweet glaze, none of the glaze is lost during the slicing process".

I have tasted Chinese ham and other brand of smoked hams before. They are more salty compared to the honey baked which has a sweet taste and indeed really delicious. I paid about $6 per pound for the ham I purchased three days ago, not a bad buy. Of course besides the ham we will have other dishes such as Dungeness crab omelet, chicken macaroni salad, Filipino noodles ( pancit), chicken adobo with salad greens, mango ice cream, peach pie, Hawaiian rolls and steam rice. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Safe New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Yesterday, the World Did not End, but...

Yesterday, the world did not end here in Northern California, but....

If you ask me now, I would have been happy if the world ended yesterday. The day started with freezing temperature, no sun and a very, very gloomy day. At 9:30AM, it started to rain. It feels like freezing rain when my wife requested me to buy our Honey Bake Ham for our Christmas Dinner. On my way to the Honey Bake Ham store, I was praying since it is still three days before Christmas Eve, that the lines will not be too long. I was mistaken. The parking lot of the store was filled and I could see customer lines way at the front door of the store. Since it was raining, I stayed in my car and waited for a parking space. Luckily, I waited only for about 10 minutes. When I entered the store, there were around 100 customers ahead of me. There were 5 servers and it took only 45 minutes before I was served

In the previous years, we buy our ham on December 23 with the impression that the ham will not be fresh if purchased earlier. This impression is wrong. According to the store manager, the Ham will be edible and will not rot in the refrigerator from 5 to 7 days after purchased. This was confirmed last Thanksgiving Day when we purchase the Ham 5 days before Thanksgiving Day. It stayed in the refrigerator for a week, before it tasted stale, although not rotten. There was no line in the store that day.

After I purchased the ham, my errand for the day is to buy two additional cans of fruit cocktail and a few other items, we forgot to buy the other day. The lines in the grocery store was also long, but since I bought only a few items I was able to check out in the Express Lane. The rain started to get harder as I was going to my car and I almost fell since it was a little slippery. Luckily, I did not, since I already slipped on my knees last week, while we were in the restaurant in downtown Sacramento, celebrating my grand daughter second debut as a professional child actress in a play, The Christmas Carol.

After I got home, my wife asked what sized of ham did I purchased. I said 4.5 lbs, since there will be only 9 adults for our Christmas Dinner. My wife indicated this might not be enough and my blood just went to a boil, I felt like screaming but I did not. I just said if it is not enough, then I will not eat any ham. Please note that besides the ham, we will have noodles, chicken macaroni salad, vegetables, chicken adobo, fruit salad, a cake, and Dungeness Crab omelet, rice, Hawaiian bread, peach pie and mango ice cream . I know that the 4.5 lb of ham will be adequate, because there are other dishes. This is the reason why I am so mad( my trip to the store on the freezing rain was not appreciated and my decision to buy only a 4.5 lb ham instead of a 10 lb was questioned). So today, I really do not care if the world ends.

Note: I feel better after writing this post!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ten Things that I dislike about the Philippines

City Traffic and Pollution

In my previous posting, I listed the ten items that I love about the Philippines. Since there is no perfect place in the world, the following are the ten things that annoys me of my second home-The Philippines

The ten items that annoys me about the Philippines are listed below and in no particular order of annoyance.

1.Traffic and Pollution ( in big cities) There is always traffic congestion almost 24 hours a day, especially in big cities. The only time of the day when there is no traffic congestion in Manila and suburbs is between 2 to 4 AM. This is a good time to go to the airport to be in time for your 6AM flight.

2.Jeepney and Bus drivers: They drive like maniacs. They pick up and drop passengers in the middle of the road. Most provincial drivers drive like maniacs. They will overtake private cars on the wrong side of the highway and even on dangerous curves.

3.The long lines in the banks and ATM machines and people cutting-in the lines

4.The noise of crowing cocks and the barking dogs at 4AM or even earlier and loud karaoke music and out-of -tuned and horrible singing of the neighbors

5.When you invite one in your party, he or she brings one or two others, without advising you ahead

6.Filipinos seldom RSVP an invitation or answers their e-mails in a timely manner. Some have Face Books accounts , but seldom or never opens it. ( why open an account if you do not open it at all ?)

7.The heat and humidity during the summer months especially the months of March, April and May

8.The smell of fish and Durian-(probably only in Davao) in the wet markets

9.Litering on the streets and on the beaches, parks and urination in public places

10.Frequent brown outs/ black outs, typhoons and torrential rains in the provinces.

You could probably add more items, but the good things outnumbered the annoying things. Do you have any items to add to the list above. Please share!

Again as snowbirds, my wife and I are happy whether we are in the Philippines or United States. We believe that “HOME IS NOT A PLACE, BUT IN THE HEART!”.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ten Things that I Love about the Philippines

Photo from

If you are one of my blog readers from 165 countries, you probably know that my wife and I are snowbirds. You also probably know what the word snowbirds meant.
Just to refresh your memory, we call ourselves snow birds, because when it gets cold here in US ( winter) we fly to tropical Philippines where it is warm and no snow. So why did we choose the Philippines and not some other tropical countries? Here are my ten reasons:

These ten items are not in order of importance.

1.The cheap standard of living:The cost of food and services with the exception of electricity is cheap in the Philippines specially services. For example haircuts, massages , pedicures and manicures is much cheaper in Philippines than in US. A specific example are Mens’ haircut. I pay between 60 to 100 pesos in Marinduque, but here in Northern California, I pay between $12 to $14 for a haircut. For $1500-$2000 plus or minus 10% a month, my wife and I live like a Queen and King here in Marinduque. The current exchange rate is about 41 pesos for one dollar as of this writing date. For fast conversion from pesos to dollars or vice versa, use “40” as the factor.

2.The simplicity and peaceful life in the provinces. The locals are easy going and do not hurry for their appointments. There is not much traffic in the provinces and in small towns. (http://marinduqueonmy

3.The abundance of fresh meat and seafood, vegetables and fresh fruits ( papayas, mangoes and bananas) at a reasonable prices as well as the Filipino delicacies ( lechon, lumpia and pancit) and desserts ( bibingka , leche flan and Halo-Halo).

4.Accessibility to the beaches, mountains, caves , rivers , islets for picnicking, bathing, snorkeling, scuba diving or just relaxing ( I am talking about Marinduque, not the big cities).

5.The social support system is fantastic. The presence of friends and relatives specially during Christmas and Easter seasons is an experience one can not forget. The Philippines celebrates Christmas five months every year starting from September 1 to January 31. (http:/

6.Availability of all modern amenities, good restaurants, international food , modern health services in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu and other big cities and five stars vacation resorts all over the islands.

7.The dry and cool weather, ocean sea breezes ( at Chateau Du Mer )during the months of November to February. (

8.The numerous Fiestas and Festivals the whole year round, specially during the months of January and May. (

9.The hospitality of the people and their attitudes toward foreigners and visitors.

10.Historical and Cultural heritage we have as a nation from Spain , such as our old churches, folk dances, Kundiman music, Putong, Kalutang and respect for our elders and freedom of the press and speech and educational opportunities we had from the United States.(

Watch out for my next posting listing the ten items I dislike about the Philippines

Note: Today is my 78th Birthday. I thanked the Lord for all his blessings and to you all my readers from 165 countries of the world, my special thanks and appreciation for your support by continuing to read my blogs.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Longest Christmas Season in the World-The Philippines

Do you know that September 1 is the beginning of Christmas Season in the Philippines? It not only starts on the first day of September, but it ends 5 months later on January 31 every year. If you do not believe me, try reading some blogs about life in the Philippines from American and European expatriate nationals who are now living in the Philippines with their Filipina wives or read any Philippine newspaper in the Internet.

Speaking of Christmas songs my favorite Filipino Christmas song is Pasko Na Sinta Ko( Its Christmas, My Love) sang by world famous singer Lea Salonga. Here's a short video of the song plus another Filipino Christmas ballad( Sana Ngayon Pasko Na). If you are an OFW ( Overseas Filipino Worker) you will enjoy these two songs with background of the Philippine scenery, Filipino food and delicacies. I hope it will make you feel nostalgic about the Philippines.

Here in US, the Christmas Season starts after Thanksgiving and ends the day after New Year or sometimes after the Feast of Three Kings on January 6.

I believe the Philippines is the only country in the world that celebrate Christmas 5 months every year.

Am I right? Are there any other countries in the world that celebrates Christmas longer than 5 months? My advance Christmas greetings to you all my beloved readers from 165 countries all over the world.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Philippines Still Perceived as a Corrupt Country

Corruption Index, 2005-Image from ( Index from 1 to 10)

Today's news from the Philippine Inquirer reported that the Philippines is still perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This news really saddened me. The survey was conducted by Transparency International (TI) . The Philippines was given a score of 34 on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the least corrupt country.

The good news is that the Philippines scored better than the neighboring countries of Indonesia ( scored 32), Vietnam( scored 31) and Bangladesh scoring 26. The numbers are called Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

The top five countries perceived to be very clean were Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden and Singapore, while the five viewed as very corrupt were Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan and Myanmar.

One of the actions that has improved the Philippine image as a less corrupt country is the passage of the freedom of information bill according to the news report.. Other actions by the Aquino Administration that helped change the public perception were the impeachment trial, the declaration of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, the transparent process of replacing dismissed Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the general openness of the administration in its quest for a transparent government. .

Huguette Labelle, Chairperson of TI said that based on the 2012 CPI, corruption still continues to ravage many societies. According to him governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Their priorities should include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent, and making public bodies more accountable to people..

The news did not report the United States CPI score, but I have a feeling it is very close to 100, even though it did not make the top five least corrupt countries in the list above.

I hope that next year the Philippines will receive a higher score. As the saying goes, one can only hope for the best. Remember this is just a perception not the reality. In my mind the Philippines in reality has probably a score of 50 if not higher. What do you think? Comments?


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