Roxas City, Western Visayas, Philippines

Robinsons Mall / Roxas City / Panay / Western Visayas / Philippines

I had just left the pharmacy, where I had to ask a pharmacist whether or not they had any Vitamin D3 and turmeric capsules to sell. Readily available to purchase off a shelf in the United States, these are considered controlled substances in the Philippines and can only be handed over to your possession by a licensed pharmacist.

Because I guess kids be gettin’ wild, poppin’ dat turmeric.



Now Playing: “Mask Off” by Future


“Sorry, ma’am, we are completely sold out of turmeric capsules and the only thing with Vitamin D is this,“ he said, holding up a foil strip of capsule sachets labeled Calcium + Vitamin D3 + Minerals. “8 pesos each.”

+ Minerals. Not sketchy or flippant at all, I thought to myself. Like, for 16 cents a pop, here’s some of this stuff, then here’s the stuff that you actually wanted, plus some etc. etc. stuff that you may or may not want.

Cool, whatevs. “Twenty please, Kuya. Salamat.”

I found Mom at the supermarket portion of the mall. The malls here are their own, large-scale ecosystems where people go to bask in the air conditioned spaces – a luxury many don’t have in their own homes. You can do anything in a Filipino mall. You can buy every-day outfits, you can buy fancy outfits. You can buy home appliances and homes in general. You can do anything electronic, ever (the regular markets are adjacent to the flea markets – think Houston’s Galleria Mall with an extra floor on top that housed Harwin).

“Ma, they don’t have turmeric.”
“What do you mean, they don’t have turmeric?”
“I mean, they don’t have turmeric.”
“You should have asked the pharmacist.”
“I did ask the pharmacist.”
“And what did he say?”
“He said they’re completely out of turmeric.” And wasn’t dramatic about it at all, either.

Mom shook her head incredulously, almost as if she was more upset than I was over that silly little thing, then responded decidedly, saying, “Buko juice is a better anti-inflammatory, anyway. And since we are here, we can get it fresh.”

We headed to a Buko Loco stand (cause coconut juice can be sooo craaaazy #amirite?) and surveyed our options.

“So this is fresh buko juice?” Mom said to the poor boy manning the stand.

“Ma’am, yes ma’am, po.”
“With only fresh fruits blended in?”
“Y-yes ma’am.”
“Nothing else? Are you sure?”

His eyes darted to the poster behind him. “Yes ma’am, sure na ma’am.”

Mom pursed her lips as she handed over 180 PP – a little over $3.00, hands outstretched to receive the bag of buko juices.

“Okay, sigurado ka,” she said with skepticism in her voice.

Since you’re so sure…

Mission Peak, Fremont, CA

What was it that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell said about there not being a mountain high enough, valley low enough…?

Was that with or without Converse shoes?



Now Playing: “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” by Dionne Warwick


I missed the chance to visit my childhood best friend, Mandi, in San Jose during my last extended visit to California in October, so there was no way hell or highwater was going to “keep me from getting to [her] babe” during this stint in NorCal.

Well, maybe. Mandi was very excited to suggest that we go on a hike outside of San Jose, in a city called Fremont, and initially I said I was game because of how awry my diet has gone while being here in California (awry meaning, I’m eating everything again and am probably gaining beaucoup pounds per second… sorry, Dad). I didn’t anticipate what a beast Mission Peak was going to be for a pansy like me who decided to wear every bit of inappropriate clothing I owned for this trek:

  • Converse shoes
  • Socks without padding that kept slipping every which way
  • Sports bra without padding (and things got quite nippy as we ventured onwards and upwards!)
  • Beanie (which only served me well for ~20 mins out of the 3 hour hike)

It’s a good thing I have literally been best friends with Mandi and Don since we were babies. Seriously, we have the pictures. There’s even one with Don sitting on a gigantic diaper that had to have been soiled because WHY THE F is that diaper so big.

Pausing for a moment there.

At one point, Mandi looked down at her Apple watch and as she reported we were about 20% of the way up, I asked if it was wine-o-clock yet. 20% more and I had identified a nice little grassy knoll that didn’t have any traces of cow diarrhea on it (well, maybe), upon where I announced I would wait for them the remainder of the time and possibly do some reflective crap like write poems about hills while they completed the hike.

They wouldn’t let me budge. And thank God they didn’t.

Hitting the summit with these two life-long friends was incredible. The gusts of wind at the top were congratulatory chants blowing sweet everythings into my ear, regaling me with “Awesome job” and “You did it!” and “You believed in yourself!” and “Atta girl, chub, you’ve earned this grub!”

And we awarded ourselves with the snacks we had brought along as we waited in the obscenely long line to take a picture atop the Mission Peak totem pole, Mandi with her KIND bar and me with a Jack in the Box taco I forgot I had slipped into my purse.

It went extremely well with the Shiner Don had packed in a Hydroflask for us, because at the end of the day and no matter where we are, these three are always going to be Texans tried and true.

#MURRICA

Welcome Back to Petaluma, CA

The hills are alive… in Petaluma.



Now Playing: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole


I didn’t know about this place until about 2013 or 2014 or so. I know. Shameful, Jillian. It’s called geography, freaking learn about it. I was introduced to this charming little town of ~6,000 people or so by my (then soon-to-be) godsister Amy, and quickly learned in 2015 that this magic place truly must be where love grows.

A post shared by Jillian Fortin (@jillianfortin) on

My first visit in 2015 for Jace and Amy’s wedding restored my belief that people can fall in love and display affection publicly and not have it be gross or nauseating but instead actually really heartwarming and awe-inspiring. Yo, Petaluma – you did that. Y’all did that. Thank you. From the bottom of the heart that I’m told that I have *tear

And I’m serious about the “where love grows” thing. Five minutes later (and in the spring of 2016, specifically), Jace and Amy brought my adorable little nephew, Malachi, into this world. In fact, we’re celebrating his birthday next week.

Sweet baby Chi

Being back in Petaluma is exactly what the doctor ordered. The first order of business was a visit to the rolling-on-a-river-err-creek hills of Ricafrente Ranch, adjacent to the hill on which Jace and Amy were married just a short little while ago.

Auntie Jing & Malachi
View of the Ricafrente Ranch hills

No son ever loved his papa so
Hold on tight, Malachi! Safe in his mama’s arms
Crazy Tita Jing. What a (veggie) HAM

And OMG OLD CHICAGO PIZZA. Y’ALL. I had been dreaming about a slice of this heaven ever since I knew I was coming back to Petaluma.

OLLLD CHICAGOOO PIZZZAA Y’ALL
LAWWWD CHEESES
all the childhood memories I have that include trouble also include these two

A shared pie and a few brews over bikes with my lifelong bros was the perfect welcome back to this charming little town I’m calling home from now until… well… who knows? *slanty-wink-emoji

Union Station, Los Angeles, CA

PACIFIC SURFLINER | SERVICE TO SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

“Can I just say something?” the veteran at Union Station says to me, taking the seat directly in front of me and pushing his suitcase aside and out of our line of sight.

“Um, sure,” I reply, keeping my eyes loosely fixed to the screen of my laptop.

“You just have the most gorgeous feet.”



Now Playing: “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” by Sheena Easton


What the fuck, and what a liar, I say with my head. I’ve been complimented about my hair, my smile, and my brain, but never ever my feet (which, if discussed, are done with spurn and scorn, never praise).

“Thank you,” I say this time with my mouth, looking around me. Our seat mates don’t appear to be phased. Perhaps this is a common occurrence here.

“Yeah, real gorgeous,” he mutters to himself, giving them one last look-see. He quickly averts his gaze, smiling. “You can tell a lot about a woman by her feet. Some women have feet that make you want to cut things off of them, like things a whole foot long.”

He is the only one that thinks his pun is punny and laughs to himself, by himself.

“I can tell you’re a smart cookie. Do you know them computers, the Apple ones? If I were to go buy one at a pawn shop, you know, for $100, would it be harder for me to learn an Apple than a normal computer?”

I struggle with the millions of ways I can answer this question, avoiding what I’m sure would have been a lengthy discourse about operating systems, software updates, and how any computer you’d pay $100 for will be “hard” to learn on regardless.

“Yes, it might.”

He chuckles to himself, almost in congratulations. “Thass what I thought, just what I thought.” He opens up a clear water bottle, and after taking a long sip, offers it to me and says, “swig of Scotch?”

Our seat mates still don’t appear to be phased. Perhaps this is a common occurrence as well.

“No, thank you,” I politely decline.

He asks me to reconsider. “I ain’t sellin’ – I’m offerin’. Just for the record. You can always use a little whisky, no matter where you’re going. And where was that again? And what was your name again?”

I haven’t told you either.

“You know what, though? The great thing about the West Coast is that people aren’t just always ‘going,’ they’re ‘fro-ing’ – and you’re always headed to places you’ve already been to.”

The 9:55 AM Pacific Surfliner to San Diego can’t come soon enough.

“Listen, if you ever pass this way— you know, back into Los Angeles— would you like to have a drink sometime with me? I’ll buy it this time. Not bring it with me.”

My silent protestations become vocal as I gather my belongings and start to head towards my gate.

“Well, you be safe, pretty lady with the pretty feet. God bless, and I’ll see you again.” He takes another swig of Scotch from his water bottle and smiles, winking just a tad.

“That is, if I’m meant to.”

Breakfast with President Duterte

Mambusao, Capiz / Western Visayas / Philippines

We weren’t planning on having breakfast in the apartment that was built on the pulpit of the old church. Our mission that morning – having no choice but to accept it – was to book passage to Manila later that evening, whether it be by plane, train, or automobile. Please God, I prayed silently, by any means except for the latter two. Such had happened the last time we were in the Philippines less than a decade prior, and after losing and subsequently finding my passport, I didn’t think I could handle the excitement a repeat would surely bring this time around.

Continue reading “Breakfast with President Duterte”

Lazy Sunday at Adventure Park

Barangay Talon, Roxas City, Capiz, West Visayas, Philippines

I was fetched by Tito Guenie at 9:30 AM before I had a chance to brush my teeth. I had just finished eating breakfast when he arrived at Tita Elna’s. Tita Elna and her helper, Lynn Lynn, had prepared an impressive spread of chicken longanisa, boiled purple chamote (sweet potato), suman with mango, and Edna cheese omelette served with rice, buttered and toasted pan de sal, and a plate overflowing with citrine colored tambis. And to my delight, there were macaroons and cups of brewed coffee for dessert.



Now Playing: “Pagdating Ng Panahon(When The Time Comes) by Aiza Seguerra


Continue reading “Lazy Sunday at Adventure Park”

Just A Reminder (Thank You, Guatemala)

This past February, I had the privilege of spending six glorious days in Antigua, Guatemala. During that week, I threw myself in the local culture, regional cuisine, vivacious music and the Guatemalan art of celebrating life and beauty.

Then I came back to Texas and forgot all about it.

Not too long ago (and almost providentially, if you think about it), a new friend of mine that I met while in Guatemala sent me this photograph he took of me during our hike up Pacaya Volcano:

Sitting atop Pacaya Volcano. Photo courtesy of David Morrison (www.travelandcredit.com)

Pacaya wasn’t an easy climb, and if you’re friends with me on Facebook you’ll remember the summary of the experience I posted in my Pacaya photo album. When David sent me this photograph, I tried desperately to remember what I was looking at and what views I beheld. I tried not to cheat by looking at my photos, but it was hard not to. Then I stumbled upon this:

Pacaya Volcano at sunset. Photo courtesy of Jenny Robicheaux McKinney.

And then it hit me. Ahh, I said to myself. I was looking at the view… but looking for God. 

To be perfectly honest, my trip to Guatemala wasn’t simply to enjoy the company of one of my favorite cousins, observe the operations of an amazing e-learning start-up company, or paint the town red in a different country. I knew I was going to discover something about myself– or rather, rediscover something that is so easily lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

That is exactly what I saw when I looked over the clouds in Pacaya– the illustration of something that is something bigger, something better, something more beautiful that I can ever hope to understand or see for myself. The illustration that shows me I am part of something bigger, something better, something more beautiful than I can ever comprehend… and the realization that the Man behind it all loves me and wants me to be a part of it. When I feel weak, it’s all right because He is strong. When I feel little, it’s okay… because He’s bigger than anything that can hurt me or cause me harm.

How this experience changed me, I’ll never be able to fully express. But, to put it simply, I am so grateful.

Help me remember Your goodness, mercy, grace and love… every single day, no matter where I am. Thank you, Lord.