Saturday, August 13, 2011

My 5-ton Truck

HQ 112
This picture was taken at a Warrior Base Motorpool in Tongduchon, South Korea, a U.S. Army Camp located 10 miles from the North and South Korean DMZ.  The truck was labeled HQ 112 (H meaning Headquarters) of the 5th and 20th Infantry Division, 2nd Batallion.
This is the motorpool where the truck rests after a hard days work. It is the same motorpool where I practice my donuts during the snowy winter. Would you believe that spinning a 5-ton truck with a diesel Cummins engine could be so much fun?

2nd Infantry Division Patch

I was Private First Class (PFC/E-3) at the time.  This is my room at the barracks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Butuan City

I miss Butuan City. This picture and many others linger in my head as I go to bed at night and wake up the next day. There is nothing more beautiful than a cool breezy blue sky surrounded with native coconut trees and the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the shore. It's been two years now since my last visit home and I can still smell the salty air. I feel the dark warm sand touch my bare feet. As I imagine walking towards the ocean water I see others swimming and splashing water and having a good time in a relaxing Sunday afternoon. The sand may not be white but this is a beautiful place. This is what lingers in my head when I think of Butuan City.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

I Love Lumpia

I was digging around my photo library and I saw this bowl of lumpia from last year and immediately my mouth started watering. Mix it with some hot chili sauce or Datu Puti coconut vinegar with soy sauce and I am good to go. I always think lumpia is very tedious to make. You roll up a bunch of these and put some in the freezer and pull 'em out whenever you get hungry for them directly into the deep fryer. You can buy the lumpia wrappers from any Asian food market. Make sure it contains the Lumpia Wrapper label and not eggroll wrapper. The traditional Chinese eggroll wrappers are thick as oppose to the lumpia wrappers which are very thin and annoying to separate from each other in the package. You can make them tiny by cutting the wrappers in half or use a full one. Lumpia is great when eaten with pansit or rice.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Transformers The Movie

"Transformers! More than meets the eye." I had so many transformer toys when I was young. I wonder how many out there who grew up in the "Thundercats, He-man, Smurfs, Transformers" generation are excited about this. The animation is way too awesome. Bumblebee, Grimlock, Optimus Prime, and Rodimus Prime are the names that I can dig up in my memory bank at the moment.
The preview looks awesome and I pray that Steven Spielberg does more in this movie than we expect from the story. I can hardly wait to see it. I am not sure Tyrese Gibson was the person I pictured for this role. So it will be quite interesting.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth

Eckhart Tolle
From Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth:

How spiritual you are has nothing to do with what you believe but everything to do with your state of consciousness. This, in turn, determines how you act in the world and interact with others.

I recommend the following books. It is spiritually enhancing and life changing. I know it has moved me in many ways and taught me a lot about myself and the our spiritual nature.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

About Me

I grew up in Mindanao, a Southern region of the Philippine Island. The Philippine Islands are comprised of three major regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (Top, Middle, Bottom respectively). The city is called Butuan City and the province it belongs to is Agusan del Norte.

Butuan (pronounced as boot-one) is one of the cities in the Philippines that show strong Spanish influence that ranges from churches, plazas, and even including but not limited to our native tongue. The name Agusan del Norte alone is a combination of the Butuanon language: (1) Agusan meaning flowing and (2) del Norte meaning from or originating the North.

The Butuanon dialect is a variation of the Visayan dialect that people from Cebu (referred to as Cebuanons) speak. Butuanons are able to understand the Visayan dialect but a Cebuanon would be easily confused on the other hand when a Butuanon speaks.

For example: The word cat is translated as:

  • apik (in Butuanon)
  • iring (in Visaya)

The Butuanon will understand what an iring is, but the Cebuanon will almost always looked confused when encountering the word apik.

There are five kids in the family. I am the third child. Our father left us at a very young age that even at this point is still a big mystery to us. The younger ones--including me--could hardly remember how he was as a father. Our mother raised five kids and suffices to say, we were no ordinary kids.

I came to the United States on the eve of Dec 7, 1985 together with my brother Daniel. I was only thirteen-years old and my brother was sixteen. When we arrived at the airport we had our first experience of Minnesota's arctic weather.

It was so cold that looking at the snow on the side of the road from the car the window sent a deep and cold shiver down my spine. Minnesota was very flat and if you add snow on top of that all you see is white. I never knew your eyes could burn from just looking at the snow all day.

Before we got to Minnesota we boarded the plane in Manila with the weather probably around ninety degrees Fahrenheit outside and landed in Japan, then Seattle, and eventually in Minneapolis with the temperature around the twenties--there was snow everywhere. We picked the most cold-perfect season to come to Minnesota. As we stepped out of Minneapolis International Airport, I could feel the cold wind and all I could think of was "How did I end up here?" Our father had brought us winter coats and even then Old Man Winter showed no mercy to a couple of tropical foreigners like us. As we walked to the car reality hit me hard and realized that there was no turning back and my life in the United States had just started.

As we disembarked from the plane we saw our father in the crowd. He looked a lot older than we had expected. It must have been over six years at least since we saw him. He was so happy to see us and gave us both a big hug. While he was hugging both of us I couldn't help but notice the big woman next to us. Not to disrespect all the big women out there but I've never seen anyone come this big up until that point. Growing up in Butuan our culture and tradition had always taught us not to question elders because in our culture elders are known to be wise and it would be a sign of disrespect to question them. Having said that, I did not ask any question on who this person was. Keeping things to myself I just could get my mind off it and kept wondering who this person was.

We got out of the airport and there were snow on the side of the road and the flat fields of Minnesota were just covered with the white stuff. The first restaurant our father brought us was KFC. Yes, everyone; Kentucky Fried Chicken. Tonight, we Feast! (A famous Klingon expression). We feasted on a bucket of chicken. It was nighttime and afterwards we drove South of I-35W down to Northfield, Minnesota. It was very strange ride home and I kept wondering who this woman was. As young and naive as I was back then I just though that she was just a good friend of my father. I was so preoccupied that I didn't even glance at Daniel's facial expression or take note on how he was reacting--maybe he already knew even before we arrived.

I vaguely remembered what happened next but I believe we came in to our new home and was shown our new room--my brother and I were placed on the same room. While we were in our new room our father had "the talk" and told us about the mysteriously large woman that came with us. When he explained her relation with her he never actually said that he was his wife because at that age you pretty much had to spell everything out to me.

All I could remember is that he said “This is your Auntie Linda.” In the Philippines a significant other of a relative is called a name like “Auntie.” For instance if your a Father remarries, he would introduce his new wife to his kids as “Auntie.” What a strange culture. Isn’t it?

So I was starting to picture things and thought why would my father have another wife? He’s not Mormon ;-). In addition, I had it in my head that my mother and my father were still married. So after hearing him explain I still had some questions.

We started to make ourselves feel at home and later on went downstairs. We were then introduced to a five-year-old kid. And so another shocking story in my life was that I had a little brother. As we got to know this kid, he was such a brat I wanted to give him a good ass kickin', but he grew out of it and turned out fine. His name is Shannon Anthony Lagnada. The naming convention is a break from the mold I got to tell you. All the males in our family are named Antonio but “Anthony” was slightly different…I guess it’s the English version.

December 8, 1985 was a Sunday. Monday came and we went to the local high school to register; then the next day we were students at a small-town American high school. What a total nightmare the first day became. But, that’s another story.

My High School Experience


I left Urios College (Butuan City, Philippines) as a freshman in high school and arrived in Northfield, Minnesota one Saturday evening, December 07, 1985. There were many obstacles I went through in high school: (1) The Culture Shock, (2) The Language Barrier and (3) Prejudism. Extreme prejudism (which also leads to discrimination) was not the most pleasant experience. Nevertheless, culture shock and language barriers were a given for any immigrant that comes to this country.


But before I get to the details I wanted to express how hard it really is to immigrate to another place (not just another country). The dilemma that someone will usually face is that the nature of immigration is really the uprooting and the settling to a different place. I think this is never a smooth transition because you leave a lot of things behind that defines your very nature. You arrive at a place where you begin a clean slate. You leave your friends, family, and immediate relatives behind. Not to mention that you also leave your culture behind. Things like what we do for the holidays and what we do when things are sad or happy is what mostly gets affected when we are in another place so far away from home. But the fact of the matter is that what defines us and what we believe in is always within us no matter where we go. It is in our spiritual nature.

In my case, The Philippines is so far away. Although it not as far as Vietnam or India, but it is far enough were a person cannot go home for the holidays to visit or call someone when they need advise because there was also the time difference. It is across a lot of miles and way too expensive to fly to. Although I was only thirteen at the time, I was placed as a freshman in high school. The difference between an American education and the school system in the Philippines is that the latter does not have seventh and eighth grade. So, kids in the Philippines actually graduate at an average of two years younger than most high school students here in the United States.

The high school counselors at Northfield High School evaluated the courses I attended at my previous school and decided that it closely matched the freshmen courses in their high school. I considered myself lucky because a distant relative of mine who was living in Philadelphia at the time actually got sent back to seventh grade and ended up wasting two more years in high school.

Northfield, Minnesota

Northfield is a small town located approximately 44 miles south of the Twin Cities. You might have heard of the two colleges in town - Carleton College and St. Olaf College. These are two rival colleges--one is a Liberal Arts Institution (Carleton) and the other a Catholic Institution (St. Olaf). Can you imagine the number pranks the students from both colleges pull each year? Carleton was the closest to my house and my Father worked there but St. Olaf is my favorite--I think mainly due to the fact the there were more good looking women out there. I was in high school teenager, give me a break ;-).

The ABC House

The City of Northfield was not very diverse in terms of race and culture and it starved for the minorities’ experience. The ABC House was established by an independent body for the effort of introducing minorities into this town. ABC stands for A Better Chance and it is an organization that specializes in the racial integration into cities like Northfield and gives talented minorities a chance to obtain high quality education (a prep-school in Layman’s terms) with the hopes and dreams to attend a respectable college or university afterwards. The ABC Students lived in the ABC House and they came from many various States in the U.S.

My Father and his wife were associates of this organization and they catered to all the needs of the ABC Students and we all lived under the same roof. There were approximately six ABC students and My Father, his wife, and his wife’s son from a previous marriage, their own son from this marriage, and my oldest brother and me. So there were approximately ten to eleven people living in this house. It’s a huge house not to mention.

Driver’s License

Most high school students would start taking driver's education and behind-the-wheel courses during their sophomore year. You had to be fifteen to take both of the courses. I never got to take mine until I was in my senior year. My friends here and there talk about how they enrolled in the class and are now behind-the-wheel with Mr. Puppy (he was our Math and Behind-the-Wheel Teacher). At the time I really could not care less and I felt that it just wasn't my time to obtain license. I really had nowhere to go and could not even hold a job at fourteen. I think I just spent a lot of time messing around on the library’s Apple IIe computers and watching a lot of cartoons when I got home. I believe Transformers, Thundercats, and G.I. Joe were my favorite.

My First Day in School

The following Monday after we arrived our father immediately registered us at Northfield High School and we were to attend class Tuesday the following day. As if we were not already having a culture shock from the last two days he surprised us some more by enrolling us in school a couple days after.

My first day first period was American History class. My first day was quite memorable in a very bad way. I was the new student and of course I was subject to questions, some harsh. Immediately on that day I felt belittled and very unwelcome. On top of that I was not very good in Speaking English. In my old high school we were all taught in English and we had English books (mostly American English) and nothing could ever prepare you for this day. I was not as witty as I thought I would be in answering questions and carrying on a conversation as I would in my own language. The day would come where my thoughts would be in English but back on this day my thoughts were in my own native language translated back and forth to English. So there was always a lag every time words came out of my mouth. American High School students were not patient enough for this situation.

I was not the most popular guy in my old high school but I had a lot of friends. I craved for the same attention and situation here in my new high school and boy was I so disappointed. I suffered the day-to-day bullying and was called a few derogatory names from time to time. I was never good and compartmentalizing these feelings so there were a lot of times that I was so depressed and at times broke down crying. As years went buy I became very protective and cautious on whom I made friends with and for this same reason I only kept a few trusted friends around.


The experience that I went through in high school was particularly strange. I was surrounded with students who were two years older than me. My maturity level at the time was not quite where the rest of the students where at. What was really surprising to me is that later on I will soon experience what most minorities go through in this country--the bigotry and hatred of the average small town Anglo-Saxon American High School student. Although I don't blame them for being who they are, I do believe that the hatred towards minorities was learned from home for most of these people.

What I began to experience in high school at Northfield High came to a big surprise--the experience of prejudism, bigotry, and discrimination. All the big words in that pretty much derive from fear. The high school as a whole was not particularly welcoming to minority students. There were only few of us there (less than 10) out of 1000 students. There were only three minority students in my class throughout high school: There was Harry Karlsen who was an African American raised by a Caucasian-American family. He was in the swim team; my distant cousin who was one-half Filipina; and the five ABC students that attended the high school.

No Shhpikah English

During my Sophomore year my grades slumped and they identified that I did not understand what I was hearing and reading; I was too stubborn at the time and my father had to force me to take the school sponsored English-as-a-Second-Language tutorial sessions. I hated the tutoring with Mrs. Knutson in the beginning. I was in denial and I felt I was so much better than that. The door to the ESL room had a very noticeable ESL and Mrs. Knutson label. The room is very visible from the hallway and students would be able to see anyone who goes in that room. With the history of being teased and bullied all the time I was too embarrassed and especially humiliated to be in this specialized session for minorities. After finding out my weakness in school my father banned from speaking our native tongue at home. He said, "Speak English!" So I didn’t talk much at home after that.

I was stubborn in the first few ESL sessions and displayed many signs of unwillingness to learn. Stubbornness was actually inherited from my father’s side of the family. Thanks Dad! I gave in to the ESL tutorial after I sadly learned that I really did not know a lot of English. I had no idea how to neither do the writing assignments nor understand what I was reading on the reading assignments in History and English classes. The only thing I pretty much remember were words like "Steinbeck" and "Pip" and the rest of what happened in the book "Of Mice and Men" were a total mystery to me. If only they had the movie back then.

Mrs. Knutson was excellent. I don’t know how she put up with me but I’m sure she had no choice. I was a challenge to her. I obtained my first A in my senior year's Humanities class. As I progressed through my high school years and assimilated the American High School lifestyle things were starting to turn around and I actually was starting to fit in as people knew me more and more. I made more friends that I could imagine during my junior and senior year.

Staying on Course

A concept that was new to me was the ability of students to register for courses without the parents' consent. I was very new to this idea and that not liking Science and Math courses at the time I decided to skip all the math and science classes in my sophomore year naturally. This is very ironic since later on in life I received my degree in Electrical Engineering which is a course known for to be intensive in Science and Math classes. I found out later on that there were minimum requirements in Math and Sciences so I had to take the missing courses during my junior year if I wanted to graduate. During my junior year, I had two take a couple of courses which I was the only junior in the class. This situation seemed like a blessing for me since I found that even though the sophomores were still a year older than me they were actually the right maturity level. I craved to be immature and unserious. I had fun with the sophomores and made lots of friends at that level. I have found that there is a blessing to every bad situation.

At the End of it All
My self-confident started to build up and by my senior year I had enough friends and I was enjoying the remaining months of my high school as every person should. This was my high school experience and I would not change anything else about it good or bad.