QT Knows No Age

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QT always comes with a side of music time.


Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been conditioned to believe that the way my family does gatherings was completely, one hundred percent, normal.

By Filipino standards, perhaps it is just that. If you’ve ever grown up in a Filipino family (or at least been exposed to one), you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s an all-day, grueling (but fun) process that usually looks something like this: you wake up, take care of your assigned party prep duties, maybe change before everyone comes, greet every single relative that walks through the door, eat, socialize with a few of your fifty or so relatives present at house, eat, make your way to the living room for some music time (and avoid being called on by Lola to play the piano you haven’t played in years, or, God forbid, bust out that tap routine you did at that one party when you were six), eat, gradually send off relatives as they go home, pack up (or – you guessed it – eat) whatever food wasn’t taken for baon, then wash a mountain of dishes and put everything back to normal before going to sleep.

(… Okay, so maybe not so normal, now that I reread the tap dance thing. #personalproblem?)

Needless to say, prepping parties on that kind of scale can be quite a daunting task, and could be perceived as a bit of a deviation from the norm. But, all duties and social idiosyncrasies aside, there is a certain something special present at these parties that marks these moments as my fondest memories in my mind. It’s what one of my beloved aunts always called “QT”, or quality time: this incredible, overwhelmingly warm sense of joy our family feels when we see each other.

What makes this phenomenon special, I think, is the tendency for QT to transcend generations: at our gatherings, it’s not an uncommon sight to see an uncle-in-law strike up a conversation about technology with a nephew, a lolo team up with a youngster to poke fun at an auntie, or a niece play guitar as an auntie sings along. Sure, there’s still this unspoken standard of honoring the chain of command and respecting your elders; but when it comes to spending quality time, the concept of age and rank seems to disappear.

One of the best times to witness this is during music time. Music time is that moment during family parties when someone magically pulls out a guitar or sheet music for the piano (because there is always a piano) they just so happen to have on hand, and a group of relatives of all ages gather in the living room to sing. Music time is inevitable, and more often than not you are dragged into it at some point, to some capacity.

This past weekend’s Easter celebration at my house was no exception. When bird-like  Bisaya among my lola and aunties soon turned into reminiscing about life in the Philippines, and reminiscing soon translated into singing old songs from my aunties’ and lola’s childhoods, I knew that music time was well among us. My lola and aunties took turns playing the guitar as others sang, and soon after my little sister joined in on the music with her ukulele. Even my Mexican grandmother from my dad’s side rose from her seat and started dancing along to the music!  How is it that these three generations of women, from different backgrounds (and even in different languages), managed to pull together a family band so quickly?!  To me, it could only be due to the magical properties of music time and QT.

So is my idea of the dynamic of a family gathering normal? Probably not.

Is it dizzying, perplexing, and overwhelming at times? Definitely.

But, nevertheless, it’s what I grew up with, and I’ll always remember these moments as some of the best times of my life.

I wouldn’t change that for the world.




Trend Alert: Anything Filipino

From the Desk of: Aiza

Apologies in advance. Maybe this photo is only funny to Filipinos.

Instead of trying to get all politically correct or make some kind of profound social commentary about being Filipino-American, I just want to discuss this growing trend of Filipino inspired cuisine. Yes. We know Filipinos can deejay, but get excited foodies we have some exciting culinary talents to contribute!

Current Favorite: Amboy

Presentation Grade: A+

Repeat. I’ve mentioned Amboy before in a previous post and I’m mentioning it again. I LOVE this place. I’ve been here multiple times already. I’m slightly obsessed with the pork belly (which really is lechon kawali but sounds so hip when referred as ‘pork belly’). Only lunch is served at this restaurant’s little window located in the Far East Plaza in Chinatown. I give Amboy serious points for food presentation as well. No Filipino foods in a Styrofoam take out containers here.

Current Intrigue: LASA

Located in the same Far East Plaza space, LASA is doing some pretty interesting Filipino cuisine. LASA serves a rotating tasting menu that also includes a vegan option. So, for all those folks that can’t get down with the Filipinos love of anything pork, here you go. I had a chance to try out this place a couple weeks ago and interestingly enough, I think I may have been the only Filipino person there other than the chefs and staff. It’s exciting to see non-Filipinos trending on our food.

Current Pleasant Surprise: Café 86

Ube cupcake with leche flan and ube truffles. Everything ube!!

I need to get out more because I didn’t know that ube desserts were even a thing. But visit this café right in Old Town Pasadena and you will find some really interesting coffees and desserts. I didn’t get to try the halo-halo bread pudding but I am going back eventually to check it out. Did I mention that I love ube ice cream and a café with ube milkshakes might just be made exactly for me?

Current Local Rotation: RiceBar

RiceBar is right down the street from my apartment. It’s a very small place but gets super packed for lunch. Here you will find simple tasty Filipino dishes incorporating various types of rice (hence the name, get it?). And I have to say, the staff plays some really good ambiance music too. All 90’s hip hop favorites. Nothing makes me happier than good music+good lunch+walking distance.

How to Not Give to Charity or The Homeless

Please sir, I want some more. 


On Charities:

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably felt some kind of guilt for not shaking that hand extended to you by that cheerful Greenpeace advocate standing outside of Whole Foods. Well let me tell you something, don’t feel guilty, my friend! You’ve done nothing wrong. Continue reading “How to Not Give to Charity or The Homeless”

Social Media, Adversity Appraising, and Resonant Commentary

Why is this so difficult? (Source: here)


My blog post for the week is turning out to be much different from what I had originally intended to write about. But after waking up to a Facebook feed full of updates on yet another tragic terrorist event yesterday, I would be remiss to forego addressing the gravity of this incident in place of my usual mundane topic of the week.

Now, I will be the first to admit that entering the arena of global affairs debates is about as enjoyable for me as stepping into a lion’s den. As someone who avoids rocking the boat the boat as much as possible, I strongly dislike engaging in debates about political science, and often think that these “discussions” involve an awful lot of talking at each other and a not a whole lot of insightful communication. But if there is anything I am remotely passionate about within this capacity, it’s a strong sense of advocacy for tolerant, respectful, and constructive dialogue – and a zero tolerance policy for trivializing other people’s views and experiences.

Which brings me to an unsettling pattern I’ve noticed on social media, not just in the wake of this week’s horrific events in Brussels, but also in that of many other attacks our world has unfortunately witnessed in the last couple of years: this strange, competitive sense of “adversity appraisal” evoked by tragic events.

What I mean by this is, it seems to me that every time news of a terrorist attack in the Western world goes viral, the flood of news is viewed by some people as an invitation to “appraise” the tragedy value of that event by comparing it to another equally (if not more severely) tragic event in a less-covered part of the world. For some, it almost becomes a sort of competition for who can best demonstrate their global intellect by naming the most devastating events happening in the world today.

If you’ve seen this kind of social media update, it is usually constructed, give or take, according to the following formula:

“I see all of you posting about Event A in Place A, but where were your prayers for Event B in Place B?”

Examples I see of this are:

Now, don’t get me wrong: I do see the value and intuition of this type of commentary. Thorough coverage of what’s happening in the world is incredibly important, and bringing lesser-known issues to the forefront of discussion is absolutely essential to understanding our world’s grave issues and how we’re going to fix them.

What I do see as problematic, however, is in the “valuation” aspect of comparing two events. With tragedy, it can be easy to weigh the magnitude of adversity in one situation against that of another, and even easier to completely overshadow the sadness of one event with anger that another event is not getting the same coverage. But why must I forego my sympathy for one tragic event to express compassion for another? Why can’t more comments highlight the significance of both events with a unifying inference or theme?

And then there’s the delivery with which this type of comment is made. It’s passionate, yes, but passion can often cloud resonant commentary; too much of it can turn a profound statement into a condescending, judgmental, and trivializing remark. Who wants to learn about a topic when it’s served to you with a slap on the wrist for not knowing about it sooner?

So, to all the adversity appraisers out there: if you wish to share commentary about terrorism and world peace, by all means, share it. But if your intention is to make a comment that will spread awareness and resonate with those in your social network, please – tread gently and thoughtfully. Exercising diplomacy and mindfulness in sharing your words will go a long way. I promise.

Fairy Tales


Family nights at Medieval Times
Family nights at Medieval Times.


In my life, I found fairy tales in unknown neighborhoods of New York City, in hidden bars and after nights of endless dancing and 4am spicy salted squid in Chinatown. But I also found fairy tales exist in a repeated family quality nights at Medieval Times in Schamburg, Illinois.

Continue reading “Fairy Tales”

Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry at The Met

Photo from: Metropolitan Museum of Art



Somewhere in between the ancient monumental architecture, the enormous statues of gods and pharaohs, the stylized sculptures, reliefs, and carvings displayed at the Egyptian art section of The Met is a small, easily forgettable room. Most visitors pass through only to touch the tomb in the middle before continuing on their way, understandably, to see the grander pieces next door. But what’s displayed here, although certainly not as awe-inspiring, is perhaps equally as resplendent: “Romance along the Nile: Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry”. Continue reading “Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry at The Met”

A Playlist for the Laundromat


You spin me right round, baby, right round.

One of my least favorite activities EVER is doing laundry in my apartment building. I feel like my clothes never really get all that much cleaner in our machines, and I get this weird anxiety walking to the machines thinking about whether they are occupied, if the person using them before me took out their laundry (seriously, why don’t people keep track of these things?!), whether the machine is actually working, etc.

Strangely enough, going to the laundromat is a different story. Continue reading “A Playlist for the Laundromat”