Tale of Two Islands


Whenever I hear or say the word “island,” it now automatically comes blaring in my head with the theme song from Moana complete with voice and instruments.  That’s our road trip song that beats out Hallelujah covered by Pentatonix or Hakuna Matata from Lion King.  It’s the song we listen to over and over through days of driving.  It’s the chorus Mew Yee’s daughters, Ning and Hue, Cass’s children Matthew and Sophie, know so well as well.

“I know I can’t be the perfect daughter” keeps ringing and hitting home.  I will disappoint my parents by wanting to discover and live on an island of my own in Mainland China.   “But I come back to the water.”  Does it mean I will always come home to the Philippine Islands, eventually when the time is right but not now when the home that is calling our family’s name is across the sea.

See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

Lyrics from Moana: How Far I’ll Go

Oh, but I’ve deviated from what this blog is about: the tale of two islands, the tale of one and a half secrets of New York: Roosevelt and Governor’s Island.  The former is a hush-hush gem few tourists know about and the latter is probably a little more well known as a place where you can spot the Statue of Liberty from or where to go when you’ve seen Central Park.

For two days, we were treated to the rare privilege of living on Roosevelt Island, a residential area on a sliver of an island in between Manhattan and Queens.  My friend, Mew Yee lives there and what an amazing way to enjoy the guilty, almost sinful pleasure of having the best of both worlds – being in close proximity to the maddening crowd while maintaining a demeanor of peace and calm.  The only way you can get from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island is by cable car or subway.  The only way you can drive a car into the island is through a bridge from Queens.  So the island is saved from traffic noise, hassle and danger, a true oasis.  It is almost the island of my dreams.  When I was very young, I envisioned living on island connected to Manhattan by private subway and on that island is my very own amusement park with roller coasters and rides.  Was this a Michael Jackson complex of sorts?

Mew Yee is my friend who shared the same dream of living in New York when we went there over 20 years ago on an architectural holiday.  The dream came true for her via a job for her and her husband at the United Nations.  That’s another dream I had way back when I wanted to save the world and I always asked my Lola Pilar, “Who is the Secretary General of the UN?” countless times during meals when we played trivial Q & A.  I had visions of running the world a’la the Justice League.  It was the stuff of little girls’ fantasies – weird little girls with Michael Jackson complex.

We rode the tram to Roosevelt Island and it lay before our feet a most glorious, glorious view.  Why do people pay overpriced hop-on, hop-off tours and other packaged tours of Manhattan when right here you can have it for $2.75?  And you can take it again and again as much as you want, like an infinite loop which Jason, Joshua and Jimmy did at night with the amazing lights on, using Mew Yee’s unlimited monthly subway card while Mew Yee and I had story catching up to do.

The next day, Mew Yee planned a whole day trip to Governor’s Island with her friends Cass and Choy and their two kids, Matthew and Sophie who were closer to the ages of Joshua and Jimmy.  The four kids plus Mew Yee’s teenage daughters had a blast on an island built for the kid in each of us.  It’s a giant playground that could be accessed through a ferry especially crowded because it was Memorial Day weekend.  But the inconvenience paid off.  The island delivers the goods: everything from a hammock grove, bubble-friendly grass, picturesque picnic spots, playgrounds, unlimited climbing, long slides down a hill and of course, ice cream trucks.

It was another friend from mountaineering days and who also happened to work at the UN who delivered us to Roosevelt Island.  We picked her up from her famous workplace where across the street, a woman on a megaphone was screaming like a broken record, “Communist government is the Chinese mafia” with a heavy accent.  I prayed for Melody to show up soon because my husband didn’t appreciate the propaganda against his country.   Melody rode the bus with us to the tram station on 59th, introduced us to the cable car and walked us to the end of Roosevelt where you felt like being on a ship’s prow moving off into uncharted territory surrounded by sea water.

I didn’t have to go to art galleries and museums.  Art was everywhere including Mew Yee’s home filled with Ning and Hue’s creations.

Also, Cass happened to be a cartoonist on the side.  These are too precious not to share:

Whatever happened to that little girl with delusions of running the worldwide government?  It didn’t connect with the rollercoaster island, did it?  It has been superseded by other age-appropriate, context-specific fantasies, the current one of which is settling into a home and getting a couple of dogs I promised my two boys.  Final fantasy?  I think not.


P.S.  I don’t know if you could call it a weakness or a bad habit.  Because I love and adore books, I have a predilection to poke into people’s bookshelves, searching for commonalities and book ideas that I could possibly purchase on my kindle.   Kin Hui, Mew Yee’s husband had some books I wanted to read and he, knowing it brings me great pleasure, told me I could have it even if was in Africa at that time of our visit.

Forgive me; I need to quote from Ryan Holiday’s book.  If I can give it to certain people as a hint, I would, but it’s a hint mostly for me, too.  I’m so intrigued with the book, I want to get Holiday’s other title, Obstacle is the Way.

Maybe you’re young and brimming with ambition.  Maybe you’re young and you’re struggling.  Maybe you’ve made that first couple of million, signed your first deal, been selected to some elite group, or maybe you’re already accomplished enough to last a lifetime.  Maybe you’re stunned to find out how empty it is at the top.  Maybe you’re charged with leading others through a crisis.  Maybe you just got fired.  Maybe you just hit rock bottom.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego.


It’s when the notion of ourselves and the world grows so inflated that it begins to distort the reality that surrounds us. . . .  This is the ego . . . that sucks us down like the law of gravity.

In this way, ego is the enemy of what you want and what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight.  Of working well with others.  Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity.  Of repeating and retaining your success.  It repulses advantages and opportunities.  It’s a magnet for enemies and errors.


We surround ourselves with bullshit.  With distractions.  With lies about what makes us happy and what’s important.  We become people we shouldn’t become and engage in destructive, awful behaviors.  This unhealthy and ego-derived state hardens and becomes almost permanent.  Until katabasis forces us to face it.

Duris dura franguntur.  Hard things are broken by hard things.

The bigger the ego the harder the fall.


If ego is the voice that tells us we’re better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s