Sunday, July 14, 2019

Top Eight Tips for a Fabulous Family Reunion!


Our last Family Reunion was ten years ago in 2009.  Since then, kids have grown, some have gotten married, more kids have been born, and sadly, some relatives have passed on to the after life. As time ticks by, it becomes more and more important to reconnect! My family had a blast at our 2019 reunion! Here are my top eight tips for a fabulous Family Reunion!

The four remaining Saluta siblings!
1.  After you pick a date and a venue, reach out right away to those who have to travel so they can make their travel and lodging arrangements. After all, these are people who you probably don't see on a regular basis!

2. Choose a communication system to best deliver information.  For our family,it was Facebook (FB).  I would say 90% of our family is on it, so I just decided to create a Facebook group and post information and update documents there. I did print out about ten paper invitations for those families not on Facebook. I created a document in the FB group for people to sign up for the potluck and to head committees for the t-shirts, the games, the talent show, the set up and clean up, etc.!
I regret not adding a document for people to add their phone numbers and addresses so that everyone could keep in touch after the reunion, but like I said, most everyone is on FB! 
  
3. Incorporate pre and post reunion activities. I specifically chose the July 4th weekend date to help with minimizing time off needed from work and extend the week so that everyone could enjoy a holiday together. And it would be my summer vacation time!
Our reunion week activities included the following:
Wednesday: Welcome Dinner
Thursday (July 4th Holiday) Family Mass at Mater Dei Catholic Parish. It was also my paternal grandfather's birthday. This was a special way to celebrate the head of the family. We attended mass in the early evening and my cousins, Alex and Rhoda hosted dinner afterwards in their home.We watched fireworks from a spot in my cousin's neighborhood!
Family attending mass together!
Friday: Free Day! No formal activities planned!

Saturday: Day of the Reunion! Here was our program
Sunday:  Lunch hosted at cousins Ariel and Elma's house and a Farewell Dinner at our house.

Some pictures:
Celebratory Cake!
Lunch is served
Family tree history provided by cousin Alex and Rhoda
Third generation of Saluta's.
Talent show act!
One of the fun games!
4. Hire a photographer (and possibly a videographer) to capture all the moments.  We have a huge family so it was important for me to capture everyone in one shot.  Take a look!
2009 Reunion
2019 Reunion
Check out the cool video made by my niece, Jasmine, that captured the highlights. It was a whirlwind week but I think everyone enjoyed!

5. Get to know your out-of-towners and what they enjoy.  Our family from Texas stayed with us. Now that I know my cousin is into classic cars, I could've looked into a car show or something.  Our nephew is a gym rat, so luckily his cousins were able to accompany him to the local gym every day. Whatever it is, street food, musicals, museums, it would be nice to have them see what they love here in San Diego. After hearing my cousin tell some jokes about being Filipino (he is mestizo, so also half-Caucasian)  I introduced them to Jo Koy, via Netflix. By the sound of their laughter, it seems Jo Koy's Seattle show was a hit with them!  If I timed the reunion right, we could've planned attending one of his live concerts here in SD! 
PC: Netflix.com. He's sooo funny! Josep!
6. Have a photo backdrop for this instagrammable world. I enjoyed making this paper flower one. After the reunion, ask everyone to drop their photos from their phones into one location online and make a photo book to preserve the great memories!
Paper flower backdrop
Cousin Junior perusing our 2009 Family Reunion Photo book!
7.  Tap into the talent literally! We had to have our singers in the family participate in the talent show (A snippet of James singing "Circle of Life")! Also, one of our nieces, Clarisse, has a graphics design background so she designed the logo, another two nieces took charge of the games (Jasmine and Jamie, both nurses), and another niece who is talented in dancing took charge of the talent show, Gelli.  Our cousin Mikey, who DJs professionally, provided his services for the reunion! For sure, an event like this takes a team!



8. My last tip, before the reunion ends, pass the torch on for the next one! I'm hoping my nieces take on the planning for the next one in 2024! We can't wait another ten years!

Have a tip to share, please comment below! I wish you a great family reunion!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

My Balikbayan Box Story

"Balikbayan" - loosely translated, means to return home.  In my youth, I could always remember my Mom and Dad filling up balikbayan boxes  and sending them "home" to the Philippines. The boxes would contain cans of spam, corned beef, chocolates, toiletry items, and our old / outgrown clothing. Little did I realize that the contents of these balikbayan boxes would have a profound effect on me. I remember quite vividly a visit to the homeland when I was 13, over thirty five years ago!
It was 1983, I was 12 years old and we took a trip to the Philippines.  Since I was used to the mild, sunny temperature of San Diego, the climate of the Philippines shocked my physical senses as soon as I stepped off the airplane. The humidity and heat were overwhelming.  Within seconds, I was drenched in my own perspiration.  After such a long journey (15 hours or more), I longed to take a refreshing shower but would have to wait as the trip to my grandmother's house entailed another hour of riding in a taxi and little did I know there would be no running water in the restroom.
In the taxi, my thoughts quickly transferred from wanting to shower to being in awe of the mountain-high block-wide amount of trash that people were scavenging through to find I don't know what, scraps to salvage or recyclables, or even food. I could not stop watching the old and the young in bare feet picking through four story high hills of trash!  A feeling of shame then set on me. These people were trying to survive by sorting through garbage!  I thought to myself, what a privileged life I have been living. I was quiet the rest of the journey as I processed what I just witnessed.
When the taxi finally turned down my mom's hometown street, children mobbed the car!  We could barely inch through the crowd.  Faces were smashed against the window  looking in.  I was a bit fearful to even get out. I didn't know if I would be safe. The children were dressed in thread-bare shirts or tank tops, shorts, and flip flops or with nothing on their feet.  I was hesitant to open the door. I wondered if they were going to start touching me. They seemed so fascinated with us, the people from the "States."  
It was then I experienced another jolt of the day.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lime green track suit pants with yellow stripes running down the side pant legs.  Wait a minute....that looked awfully familiar.  It then hit me that this boy, who was a relative that I hadn't met yet, was wearing MY old pants from two years ago.  I loved that track suit! Yes, it no longer fit me, but I had wondered what happened to it! Here it was across the world. I never gave a second thought as to what went into those boxes my mom and dad carefully packed. Now I knew.

Since it was so hot, we slept with all the windows open.  I wasn't yet adjusted to the time zone change so the next morning I was the last to wake up in my room.  When I opened my eyes, I immediately noticed kids squatting on the tin roof next door just watching me through the windows until I woke up.
I was spooked and ran downstairs to find my mom, ducking my head on the wooden stairs as I almost ran smack dab into a 2-inch long flying cockroach!  Eww!

What else do I remember from that trip? I used a bucket with a long handle for the water (tabo) to give myself a bath.  I stood in front of a fan to dry my hair.  I poured talcum powder all over myself to keep my skin as dry as possible. I was bit eyelid to toe by mosquitoes who loved my sweet blood. I also flinched at least a  half dozen times a day when a lizard would pop out of nowhere and scramble across the wall or ceiling.
I remember going shopping and being embarrassed that I was a size extra large in clothing compared to my relatives. And when we ate a hamburger at Jollibee's,  I wanted at least two more, because they were smaller than my hand! Look at how actor Josh Garcia can probably finish his burger in two bites!
I also remember the hospitality of all we encountered who opened their doors when we visited and offered us plenty to eat and wanted to show us around. I also remember the grandeur of the local cathedral when we attended mass.
I remember seeing students in their white and blue school uniforms walking to class and wondered what their school day was like. I remember the sari-sari stores on the neighborhood streets and buying a piece of candy or something to drink.  I remember drinking soda from a plastic bag from a straw.
 I remember women and girls holding handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths as they stood on the sidelines trying to hail a ride. I remember riding a crowded Jeepney and being jockeyed up and down as it drove over the pot-holed streets.
Mostly I remember how that trip humbled me. It changed me.  My relatives didn't nearly have the amenities and luxuries I had but they didn't need these materials things to be joyful.  Laughter and smiles were plentiful!
I understood fully for the first time that it really was the simple things in life that mattered.  I learned how to be appreciative and how to be grateful for what I had. I understood what humility meant. I came back with a total paradigm shift of what was important to me. On that trip, all of those life lessons learned were packed in a balikbayan box and now are held in my heart and mind since.

Been on a life-changing trip? Please leave a comment here!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Avengers Endgame Smashes as a "Marvel"ous Epic Masterpiece!


Warning, this review contains spoilers.
Is it good?  Beyond good!  How good?  I'll tell you how good, no great, wait...fantastic, um,  EPIC this movie is!

  • If you don't have your tickets yet, stop what you're doing and get your tickets now! If you can, buy from a theater that has reserved seating so you can customize/optimize your experience! 
  • If your kids cannot sit through a 3 hour movie, hire a babysitter! It is worth it, trust me.
  • Time your meals before the movie! I'm all for keeping hydrated and keeping your sugar levels right but you don't want to miss any second of this movie because of a bathroom break.  I'm serious! Or wear a diaper. Your choice.
  • I also recommend getting in the right head space on movie day! Zen out and relax before the movie, wear comfortable clothes, and be sure to include some time to debrief the movie with your fellow Marvel fans after wards because you will not be able to stop talking about it!
  • Lastly, be present, be involved during the movie! I loved the 6 ft guy sitting next to me.  His vocal and physical reactions gave me strength; big bellows of laughter, sounds of amazement, of impressiveness.  "Oh My God!" "Wait, what?!" "Yes! Yes!" and then even some tears shed with sniffles as he unashamedly dried his wet cheeks a couple of times.  We both clapped loudly at the end. My hubby gave me the look, you know the "what are you doing?" look but I couldn't help myself.  This movie had me on a cathartic roller coaster of emotions that I shared with my arm rest buddy! I really should have stood up and clapped.  THIS IS HOW EPIC THIS MOVIE IS. 

This movie is a bit different than the others because it shows our Avengers dealing with disappointment and failure for an extended amount of time.  They lost Infinity Wars and five years pass.  Black Widow suffers from PTSD. She's unfocused, moody, un-assured, indifferent almost because she doesn't know how to make things better. She doesn't know how to be of service because her purpose is gone.  Similarly, Cap runs weekly group therapy sessions where he, like a robot, tells members to "move on".  On the other end of the spectrum,  Hawkeye becomes a mercenary, taking revenge on others for the loss of his family.  Thor also completely loses himself, becoming a fat drunkard.  The opening scenes are not our Avengers as we are used to seeing them.

The only two who positively get in touch with their inner selves during these five years post-war are Tony and Bruce.  Tony becomes a family man and lives a quiet simpler life near a lake with Pepper. Bruce reconciles his two identities into a jolly green gentle giant running a restaurant and taking friendly pictures with fans.

We see how pointedly affected our Avengers are by their emotions as they travel back in time to obtain the stones, carrying out the "Time Heist" plan, as crafted by Antman. Thor gets to see his Mother one more time.  The Queen of Asgard asserts her motherly instinct and can feel that Thor is present. She senses that he needs to hear some encouraging words.  Not once does she mention his disheveled appearance, his weight, his shabby sweats, his unruly, dirty hair.  Instead she tells him to "be who you are supposed to be." She builds him up and re-ignites the God within.  That's what mothers are supposed to do.
Mother and son when he was in shape!
Tony also gets to see his father back in time. Of course Howard doesn't know he is talking to his own son when they meet.  Tony gets to know his father not as the genius, but as a regular guy excited about the upcoming arrival of his son.  He admits he is nervous and says to Tony,  "he's not even born yet but I tell ya, I'd do anything for him." Just as Thor needed to hear his mother's words, Tony needed to hear these.

Since this movie involves time travel, it is inevitable (you'll see why I use this word) that past and present versions of themselves will meet.  The movie provides an entertaining Captain America vs Captain America fight scene and an evil Nebula vs good Nebula confrontation. These are demonstrations of how motives, beliefs, and characters can change over time.  And in the end, as it should be, good prevails.

Another major part of the appeal of this movie for me is the Girl Power movement!  Captain Marvel interacts with the Avengers for the first time and when asked how things will be different this go-around against Thanos, she answers with a confident, "This time you have me."  And since the release of "Black Panther", no Avenger fight scene would be complete without the female warriors from Wakanda. The final fight scene where many of our beloved heroines enter the fight (Rescue being one of them, surprise surprise!) had me cheering from the edge of my seat!  Captain Marvel flexes her supernatural powers to destroy Thanos' power central and in a later scene, Thor passes on his crown to a female natural born leader, Valkyrie! Kudos to comic writers and to Marvel Studios for showcasing GIRL POWER!
This movie was also different in that deep relationships were focus points. The first conversation between Steve and Tony after five long years is biting, full of "you broke your promise", "I needed you", "I have nothing left for you, no trust, nothing." And although Tony refused to entertain the idea of joining the Avengers on this last mission, we all knew he would come around. The team needed his expertise and brain to figure out how to time travel. When Tony shows up at Avengers headquarters, his talk with Steve about his non-negotiables is short and direct. After all these years, they understand each other and we as the audience have come to recognize their deep bond and mutual respect. It's a poignant pivotal moment that signals game time from then on.

Another prominent relationship highlighted is Tony and Pepper's. Tony has settled into a loving marriage, complete with adorable daughter. While the other previous movies had Pepper begging Tony not to go whenever he entered a fight, this time, when Tony tells her he figured out how to time travel, she knows that there is nothing she can say that will make him stay. The solemn look on her face shows the gratitude for the five years they had together.

And what of our relationship with these characters over the last decade? It is truly fitting that at the final fight scene, some of Tony's last words are "I am Ironman.", a declaration that this journey began with him and this war ends with him. And as he endures his final sacrifice, with Pepper rightly by his side, tears flowed openly from the audience, our heartstrings pulled one last time, as Pepper whispers to him "We're going to be fine. You can rest now."  I don't think I could have imagined a better ending.
Marvel Studios has given us an epic masterpiece. "Avengers Endgame" is the bow that wraps up the gift of the MCU franchise.  Just as Captain America passes his shield to the next hero, these movies are classic, timeless gifts that we will open again and again, pass on, again and again to our kids, grandkids, to endless generations. Well done Marvel, well done.

"Avengers Endgame" opens the weekend of 4/25/19. See your local theaters for showtimes.
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

2019 SDAFF Spring Showcase is here!

The 9th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF) Spring Showcase, presented by Pacific Arts Movement (Pac Arts) will be taking place on April 11-18 at the UltraStar Mission Valley. This year, a majority of the showcased films highlight South Asian and Southeast Asian stories. There will also be a special collection of milestone Filipino films shown as a part of the program “From The Claws of Darkness: Restoring Philippine Cinema”, which brings the second golden age of Philippine film to the big screen for audiences to enjoy once again, including “Moral,” “Himala,” and “Batch ‘81”and “Manila In The Claws of Light.” "With our extensive focus on new films from South and Southeast Asia and our retrospective of classics from the Philippines, we aim for nothing less than transforming the face of Asian cinema here in the United States,” says Pac Arts Artistic Director Brian Hu.

This year’s SDAFF Spring Showcase will also screen four films that shed light on queer Asian stories spanning time and place including “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga,” “Song Lang,” “Memories of My Body” and “First Night Nerves.”

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

  • FIRST NIGHT NERVES | Opening Night Film, April 11 An anticipated new play brings together rivals, Yuan Xiuling, returning to acting after a five-year retirement, and He Yuwen, the starlet who supplanted her as the queen of Hong Kong entertainment. Drama unfolds and past secrets are discovered both backstage and onstage in this comedic yet dramatic story by legendary director Stanley Kwan. 
  • MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT | Special Series, April 12 This year’s SDAFF Spring Showcase special series is From The Claws of Darkness: Restoring Philippine Cinema, a presentation of the some of the most important works of the second golden age of Philippine cinema and 1 of 3 a celebration of the 100 years of the country’s film history. Directed by Lino Brocka, “Manila in the Claws of Light” is the consensus pick as the greatest Filipino film of all time and bakes 1970s romanticism into gritty urban realism to create a sweaty noir masterpiece. 
  • SWING KIDS | April 13 & April 16 Director Kang Hyoung-Chul (“Sunny”), paints a picture of the harsh reality of life in a POW camp set to the sound of persistent tap shoes during the Korean War. Featuring K-pop star Do Kyung-soo (D.O. of EXO) and Broadway star Jared Grimes, “Swing Kids” is a thrilling story of overcoming obstacles of oppression and war through dance. 
  • EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA | Closing Night Film, April 18 As the first high-profile Bollywood film centering on a lesbian character, “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga” is a gorgeous drama testing the bonds of family with a comedy of misrecognition. Director Shelly Chopra Dhar not only is able to overcome an industry that is so invested in bloodlines, tradition, and marriage, but also reinvents the Bollywood film genre itself. 

COMPLETE SPRING SHOWCASE LINEUP 
● ARUNA AND HER PALATE ARUNA & LIDAHNYA (North American Premiere) – Indonesia, 106 mins, directed by Edwin*
● BATCH ‘81 ΑΚΩ 81 – Philippines, 108 mins, directed by Mike De Leon
● GO BACK TO CHINA – USA, 96 minutes, directed by Emily Ting*
● THE CROSSING 過春天 - China, 99 mins, directed by Bai Xue
● EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA - India, 120 mins, directed by Shelley Chopra Dhar
● FIRST NIGHT NERVES 八個女人一台戲 - Hong Kong, 100 mins, directed by Stanley Kwan
● HIMALA – Philippines, 124 mins, directed by Ishmael Bernal
● MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT MAYNILA SA MGA KUKO NG LIWANAG – Philippines, 125 mins, directed by Lino Brocka
● MORAL – Philippines, 140 mins, directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya*
● MEMORIES OF MY BODY KUCUMBU TUBUH INDAHKU (North American Premiere) – Indonesia, 105 mins, directed by Garin Nugroho
● MYSTERY KUNG FU THEATER – no details needed
● PHOTOGRAPH – India, 110 mins, directed by Ritesh Batra
● REZA (West Coast Premiere) – Iran, 94 mins, directed by Alireza Motamedi*
● SONG LANG (West Coast Premiere) – Vietnam, 100 mins, directed by Leon Le*
● SWING KIDS 스윙키즈 – South Korea, 133 mins, directed by Kang Hyoung-Chul
● WAITING FOR SUNSET KUNG PAANO HINHINTAY ANG DAPITHAPON (North American Premiere) – Philippines, 90 mins, directed by Carlo Enciso Catu* 

Ticketing Information Tickets General $12-15 | Student/Senior/Military $10

SPONSORS 
The 2019 SDAFF Spring Showcase is supported in part by funding from The City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, the County of San Diego, the City of San Diego, McGregor and Associates, Wawanesa Insurance, Stella Artois, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Crab Hut Restaurants, DPI Direct, San Diego Chinese Women’s Association, Zion Market, KPBS, and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

ABOUT THE SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL SPRING SHOWCASE 
The SDAFF Spring Showcase is a week-long presentation of the best of Asian and Asian American cinema including a special Sunday series focusing on a specific topic or individual, held annually. Past showcases have presented a curation of films on the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon in “Cinema Little Saigon,” the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 in “Right to Resist” as well as the 100th anniversary of Philippine cinema in “From the Claws of Darkness.”

ABOUT THE SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL
The 20th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival takes place from November 7-16, 2019. In 2018, the 10-day festival showcased over 160 independent and foreign films from more than 20 countries at six different venues across San Diego county. Over 15,000 people attended the star-studded red carpet awards night, screenings, Q&As, and panel discussions. The annual festival receives national and regional attention for its awards and premieres.

ABOUT PACIFIC ARTS MOVEMENT 
Pac Arts launched in 2000 when it debuted the San Diego Asian Film Festival, a presentation of Asian American and Asian international cinema. Rooted in the love of film and the arts, global citizenship, and Asian culture and communities, Pac Arts became an official nonprofit media arts organization in 2002, and is now one of the most significant exhibitions of Asian cinema in North America. Pac Arts presents major annual events celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander representation and storytelling: the SDAFF Spring Showcase (April), Chew The Scene (October) and the San Diego Asian Film Festival (November).
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