Back in the city by the bay | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I lived there in the mid-’60s, when the flower children were in full bloom.


UP, up and away! No, not on a beautiful balloon but on Philippine Airlines, off to San Francisco to touch base with family I had not seen in ages.


It was two days after Glenda struck. Alabang was still in the dark, even as Meralco crews diligently tried to restore power and slowly clear the streets of fallen trees and broken posts.


It was barely dawn when Glenda was at the height of her wrath. I watched, frightened but mesmerized, from my bedroom window. I saw huge trees sway, bend, dance and spin, break and fall. The sound of the wind was eerie and menacing. Even our solidly built house (“de materiales fuertes”) shook.


We prayed. I wondered at one point if our walls could take the full brunt of the storm. Thank God they did!


Did you know that Glenda was only half as powerful as Yolanda? According to one of the reports, Metro Manila took only a glancing blow from Glenda. I can’t imagine a direct hit.


My ride to the airport took almost two hours.  We crawled in zero visibility under a sudden downpour, spawned no doubt by Glenda on her way out to China. Street traffic lights were still out, and there was near chaos on the way to NAIA. But because I am, according to my children, “OA” about checking in early, we made it with plenty of time to spare.


In the Mabuhay Lounge, I warmed up with a bowl of world-class arroz caldo.


Memories of San Francisco


The last time I was in the beautiful city by the bay was a decade ago. It has quite changed.


I lived there in the mid-‘60s. It was an exciting and crazy time. The flower children were in full bloom in the Haight Ashbury district.  Thousands of young people were taking to the streets dressed in faded jeans and tie-dyed shirts and wearing flowers in their hair. They chanted about peace and love, and sang songs of protest while brandishing placards that damned the war in Vietnam.  The women wore no makeup.


We lived close to Golden Gate Park, and one morning while on a walk with my young children, I caught a whiff of their smoke of choice. It wafted in our direction and invaded our little special space near the duck pond. The odor was acrid, pungent and earthy.  I thought perhaps it was a different brand of cigarette. It was. We stopped going to the park.


We saw the emergence of the “hippies,” and learned about flower power and sexual freedom.  The era introduced a drug culture, and the use of LSD and marijuana became the “in thing.” It was an “in your face” attack on the establishment. Respect for authority was tossed out like rubbish. Truancy was at an all-time high.


The movement earned global attention.  Some called it a spiritual uprising, driven by young people who left home purportedly in search of the meaning and purpose of life.  Some lived on the streets or in communes. Others slept in VW vans covered in colorful graffiti.  Their message was one of peace. But it was far from peaceful wherever the hippies assembled.


Intrigued as we were by the passionate demonstrations in the park, we were too busy trying to eke out a living in the beautiful city where “little cable cars climb halfway to the stars.”


Despite the turmoil on the street, it was a happy time for us. We didn’t have much. Our tiny apartment on 2nd Avenue was part of a converted old Victorian house, furnished with things we bought from Salvation Army thrift stores. Someone else’s rejects were treasures for us.


Those were our “hungry years.” Unforgettable. Today I look back, and am more than ever convinced that wealth has absolutely nothing to do with happiness.


SF revisited


It was a smooth uneventful flight. PAL has a way of making one feel at home in the sky.


After a good night’s rest, I was raring to go, ready to bond with nieces and nephews I had not seen since they were children. Today they are grown men and women, a couple of them grandparents themselves. Where did the time go?


What a joy it was to reunite and play catch-up. We gathered in the sunny backyard of my niece’s 100-year-old house in Alameda. The conversation was non-stop, animated and waxing sentimental at times—as the wine flowed and we devoured the fabulous paella made by a nephew from South City.


We reached into the past. Several times I caught myself quietly scanning, studying the faces around me to find familiar features, a remembered smile, an expression.


They asked me questions about my generation. I answered as best I could. I had questions too.


I went to bed happy that night; the weight of the years lifted from my heart. I am blessed—and grateful.


A bit of Maya Angelou


I love reading “O,” the Oprah magazine. It is both informative and inspiring. I found the June edition in my bedroom the night I arrived at my sister’s in Atlanta.


In her column “What I Know for Sure,” Oprah writes about Maya Angelou.


“Her greatest lesson to me: ‘You are enough!’ The first time she said that, the words felt strange.  ‘I am enough…of what?’ I asked.


“You don’t need another person, place or thing to make you whole. God already did that.  Your job is to know it.”


Think about it.



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