Tag Archives: Tor

Arriving in New York : Day 1.5


August 2, 2012

8 pm-ish

Nat’s Apartment

Hell’s Kitchen , Manhattan

New York City




Was all I heard, as I started to peel my eyes open.

“Halloooo! Welcome to New York!” exclaims Nat!

I gave him a huge hug while still laying on my back.

He had just awakened a few minutes earlier. He decided to doze off for a bit after Kyrk left the apartment because he couldn’t rouse me. *laughs*.

I dunno what time Nat made it to the apartment from work. I think he came in just as I was about to fall asleep because I do have a vague memory of seeing him come in through the door and talking to Kyrk in kitchen. If my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, I think Nat was wearing a dark blue cardigan of sorts.

He told me to get up because it was already 8 pm and if I sleep any longer, I might not be able to sleep later that night. It was also time to grab some late dinner. So I stretched by jet lagged ass awake. Put on some shorts, brushed my teeth and off we went in search for dinner.

Earlier that afternoon, after dropping by my school, I begged Kyrk that we head back for Nat’s apartment. I was getting quite tired already. Having been awake for almost 24 hours was making me cross-eyed as the afternoon continued on.

Not five minutes into getting into the apartment, I told Kyrk that I was about to pass out.

Indeed I did.


Nat and I headed out, crossed 9th avenue and started walking down. He was busy pointing me to various restaurants, various bars, the laundromat, the way to the subway, and the café he frequents.

“Let’s have dinner here in Vynl*. This is where we usually have dinner.” says Nat as he gently opens the glass door of the restaurant. I was surprised that we only walked 2 blocks down to the restaurant.

IMG_4003 As I sat down on the table we chose, I was amazed by the decor on the wall.

I see dolls.

No, not Barbie. But dolls made to the likeness of Cher and Elton John. There were other dolls displayed around the restaurant but I couldn’t remember who they were. I think the rock band KISS had their own dolls on display too.

So we had a hearty meal mixed with stories of life. I can not remember what I had, but I distinctively remember how friendly the staff were. Nothing beats a restaurant with friendly staff members.

We were about to finish dinner when I excused myself to go to the toilet.

“You’ll enjoy the toilet. You’ll see why when you open the doors.” said Nat as he pointed me to the right direction.

IMG_4002I got a bit confused when there were three doors to choose from. I couldn’t remember which door I opened first, but I was quite surprised to see a mosaic of Cher in front of me. After getting over my initial shock, I heard Cher’s song “If I Could Turn Back Time” playing through the speakers. Now I understood what Nat meant.

I went to the next two bathrooms. One belonged to Elvis and one belonged to Dolly Parton.

I pissed in Dolly’s bathroom.


“Let go have some “Welcome to New York” drinks at the bar near the apartment!” said Nat.

“Yes, I need one!” was my enthusiastic reply.

So we started walking up 9th avenue. Much to my surprise and to Nat’s amusement I had just realized the bar is located right at the corner of  9th avenue and 53rd street. Which is like, a stone’s throw away from the apartment.

We were now lining up at the entrance of the bar called “Flaming Saddles“**. What apt a name for a gay bar right? As we neared the door, Nat told me to prepare some I.D.to prove that I am over the age of 21 to be allowed to enter.  This has been a common thing for me to do every time I entered a bar or a club for my entire stay in New York. And I always pity the man by the door trying to locate my birth date on my Philippine drivers license. Took one guy more or less 5 minutes to find it.

IMG_0265Country music was playing from the jukebox as we entered and the bar tenders were dancing on the bar. With their skin-tight jeans tucked into their cowboy boots, it’s no wonder the clientle were cheering them on and making cat calls towards the bar.

I have never been exposed to anything Country prior to entering Flaming Saddles. Well, maybe except for a few songs from Dolly Parton and Shania Twain plus the occasional western film I’ve seen made during the 50’s I’d see on TCM. But never like this.

A Western film was showing on the two big plasma TV’s. I dunno what the title of the film was, but I sure do know Doris Day when I see her.

There were boys talking to each other with a southern twang. Boys in trucker hats. Boys who look like lumberjacks. Men in suit and tie.

And then, there’s the occasional tourist, me.

IMG_0260Nat and I found our way to the bar as the dancing bartenders were making their way down from the bar. We ordered some Vodka Redbull ($10 each plus $1 tip quite cheap for around this part of town I’ve been told.) , found a nice little spot while we enjoyed our drinks, enjoyed boy watching and cheered to a fabulous 2 months ahead in New York!


754 9th ave @ 51st, NYC
212 974 2003


**Flaming Saddles Saloon

793 Ninth Ave
between 52nd/53rd Streets
New York, NY 10019



Arriving in New York : Day 1



August 2, 2012

12ish PM

On a Yellow Cab from JFK to Manhattan

New York


The cab was now zooming on what appears to be a freeway.

I am holding on for life.

“This cab driver must be Italian.” I said to myself. I subtly stole a look of him through the rear view.

He had bushy eyebrows and dark eyes.

He was multitasking.

He was busy talking with someone on his phone via a headset while he snaked our way through cars down the thoroughfare. A morbid thought came to my mind, I just came off a 14-hour plane ride and I might die of a car crash. I silently rolled my eyes and decided to enjoy the view. After all a meteor can strike Manhattan in the next 5 minutes.


We crossed over a bridge and I expected to see The Statue Of Liberty.  Thanks to my lack of geographical knowledge, I was disappointed. I just saw rows and rows of decrepit warehouses.

“Where was the address again?” he asked in a heavy accent, which I could not place.

“West 53rd between 9 and 10.” I replied in a casual voice, feigning to sound like a native New Yorker.

We must have been in Manhattan already because I saw that the streets were already numbered and red brownstone townhouses were around me.

We passed E10th Street.

Through E25th street.

And finally he turned left unto E53rd Street.

“We must be close.”, I assured myself.

I continued looking outside the window throwing my worries to the wind.

Skyscrapers towered before me, its reflected white light bearing down on the street.

I see people. Lots of people and lots of pigeons.

I see a vendor peddling his goods on the pavement.

A tourist buying an NY cap.

A man in a suit gobbling up a hotdog on a bun.

A dog pissing on the “No Parking” sign while the owner waits for it to finish.

To my surprise we passed by the MOMA. I made a mental note that it was just along the street where I will be living for the next two months.

After a block or two. Or three.

“Where here?” asked the cab driver, snapping me out of my reverie.

As instructed by Nat, my best friend, I gave him the instructions in verbatim.

“By the green awning at the right. Beside the construction.”


My cab driver helped me unload my luggage and makeup kit. I handed him 60 bucks (the standard rate plus a hefty tip) and, out of curiosity, asked him “Where are you from?”

“Russia.” Was his only reply.


I gave him my thanks and bid him goodbye.

I stood on the spot for a minute and looked around my surroundings. It’s exactly how it looked like on Google maps. *I laugh*

I slowly made my way to the door of the apartment building and pressed on the button that marked Nat’s apartment.

“Yes?” came a voice.

“It’s Mon!” was my reply.

I’m finally here after 12 long years of waiting.


Friends I have known below Fourth Year High School know me by my childhood nickname, which is Mon. And Nat knows me by that. Hence everyone I’ve met through him in New York knows me as Mon.

Kyrk, one of Nat’s New York friends, met me at the bottom of the stairs. I’ve only seen him in pictures. Nat was right. He looked like a supermodel version of Rhianna. Svelte, amazing skin tone and legs from here to eternity.

Nat was at work and he couldn’t meet me when I got to the city, so he asked Kyrk to hang around his apartment until I arrived. He also asked Kyrk to bring me to school for I needed to “show” myself to complete my international registration. Standard operating procedure as stated on the letter entitled “arrival procedures”.

After settling down for what seemed like five minutes, Kyrk and I went to lunch. Following his lead, we walked down 9th avenue.

I was giddy with excitement. I felt like a young child with eyes wide open, trying to let everything soak in.  We passed a number of restaurants, cafes, and a variety of shops. We just kept on walking and walking and walking.  After what seemed like an eternity to my jet lagging body (looking back I just realized we walked 8 blocks), we arrived at a restaurant named Southern Hospitality (645 9th Avenue between W45th and W46th streets).

“Justin Timberlake owns this restaurant!” said Kyrk as he opened the heavy wooden door. Well I’m not really a fan of Mr. Timebrlake, but I don’t mind sampling some of his barbeque.

We got to know each other over a HUGE serving of grilled chicken burger (which was left half eaten), fries and a TALL glass of Coke. I needed my carbs. The meal cost $50 for the both of us. A relatively expensive restaurant, but hell it’s my first day in New York! Might as well splurge.

Before heading to school, Kyrk suggested that we pass by Time Square as my first touristic landmark. Since he used to work for the Official Tourism Bureau of New York City, I was in good hands.


ImageStanding in the middle of Time Square is like being in a New York movie. Everything is a blur as the camera turns in a full circle.

The lights from the huge screens are flashing and changing colors by the second.

The huge number of people concentrated at such a space sound like bees buzzing in a hive.

A horn from a yellow cab blasts through the air and I swear in shock.

The “hop on hop off “ tourist bus passes through and you can hear “oohs” and “aahs” coming from the top of the bus.

“I should do that. Must be a different view from up there.” I said to myself while making a mental note of taking the bus tour of New York City within the next few days.

Kyrk then points me to Sephora. Apparently that was one of the stores that Nat frequents for work.

Nat, at that time, worked as a Retail Executive for Miracle Skin Transformer and Hydroxytone. These skincare products are carried in stores like Sephora or Bloomingdales for retail purposes.

“Would you like to go inside? Nat might be there.”

“Sure!” was my reply.

Nat wasn’t there. He must have gone on to a different Sephora.


We started walking to what seemed to be the general direction of the subway. We were now heading to my school, Makeup Designory, in Soho. To this very day I couldn’t remember which station we went to. My mind was in a haze because of a combination of jet lag, excitement and sensory overload.

Kyrk brought me to the ticketing machine for the subway ride. I bought a 7 day ticket. Which cost me around $29. It was a relatively easy purchase. I intended to buy a 30 day unlimited ticket but I was short on cash.

We then went through a maze of stairs, through a rush of people, waited on a platform and got on a train.

I was silently holding on to the handrails when Kyrk said, “You don’t look like a tourist at all.”

I turn to him and said “I try not to look like a tourist. I prefer to blend in.”

Actually, I was spacing out trying my best to keep myself awake while the subway car rocked on its tracks all the way to Soho and Kyrk’s statement got me thinking. Does this mean that native New Yorkers have this “spaced out / trying to stay awake look”?

Will find out soon enough.

The Usual Introductions


I never thought that I would be able to travel as much as I already have.

You see, I grew up in Cebu City  in the heart of the Visayas region which is approximately an hour away from Metro Manila by plane. Though it is the second most significant city in the Philippines, it is yet quite provincial in many aspects. Including my frame of mind (at that time anyway).

I grew up with my grandmother in a small house in Sindulan Street in Barangay Mabolo that we rented for seven hundred pesos. She has been paying that amount since before I was born (April 11, 1982) up until the day that we left the summer of 1997. Quite a bargain I should say! My grandmother was a very stingy woman. Looking back at that time, I now understand why. We just never really had extra money, we just had enough to be comfortable.

My grandmother and grandfather had 7 children. At that time, I had an aunt and two uncles living in Cebu, one in Iloilo, my mom , an aunt and an uncle lived in Manila.

While my schoolmates were spending their summers in The States or in Europe (places totally alien to me), I spent mine in Manila. I must have been around 10 or 11 years old when My Aunt Gyn (the first child of my grandmother from her first husband) left for the United States and about the same time, my Uncle Jerry also left to work in Japan. They were the very first among my family to travel to places I have only heard of!

Their pictures fueled my imagination for years.

 I must have been around five or six years old when I first rode on an airplane ALONE. I couldn’t recall who would send me to the airport and check me in at the Mactan Cebu International Airport but, I do remember after landing at the old Manila Domestic Airport I would be waiting in my assigned seat inside the airplane until my Aunt Mela would arrive and wait for me at the bottom of the stairs. It was through this early experience in my life I knew I wanted to travel. I even told my family that I wanted to be a Flight Attendant when I grew up.

Then I found out that there were people called Pilots. After High School I remember telling my mom that I wanted to take up Aeronautics so that I could become one, she said, “Sure.” BUT she’ll enroll me through the Philippine Air Force. I told her to forget it about it! This was the time that everyone in my family, including my extended family wanted to “straighten up” a gay guy like me. I’ve been through enough military training to know I wouldn’t want to go through it for Four Years.

I ended up taking Fine Arts.

Fast forward to a few years later, I was a semester shy of graduating when I started applying as a Cabin Crew for Qatar Airways and Emirates Airlines. My application was accepted but they required me to fly to Manila for the initial screening process. So I flew in. Went through all of the exams, the interviews et cetera, but I didn’t get it. About the same time Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air were also hiring for Cabin Crew Members. I ended up staying in Manila for a month for the application process. Yes, I went through every single interview and  physical exam. No, I didn’t get the job.

That was a bummer.

Now, I’m 29 years old. I am currently a Makeup Artist for TV, Commercials, Weddings… the whole shebang! And I have to say, to my surprise, my job enables me to travel for business and pleasure.

Boracay Sunset

As I have stated earlier, I never thought that I would be able to travel as much as I already have. I am extremely grateful that I am able to do so. It is because of this I would like to share through my eyes what the world has shown me. And I hope in doing so, I can inspire those who seek to see the world.