May 23, 2016

New York City's Manhattan

Big Apple (New York City) Adventure

When I was living and studying at Syracuse University, one of the most enjoyable ways to travel to the Big Apple is by train. Amtrak trains provide a scenic view from Syracuse to New York City as they roll beside the panoramic Hudson River. Passenger seats opposite (the loading ramp at) the Syracuse train station offer the most appealing view.   The landscape on the other side is not as enjoyable.

If you have a car, nothing beats rustic Route 17, once voted the most scenic highway in the United States.

Another option is the Binghamton bus route, which picks up State University of New York and Cornell students.  It is also shorter than the eight-hour Albany (bus) route.
During the summer, universities in the (New York) city provide reasonably priced places to stay for as short as one night.

Trump Towers Public Restroom at Ground Floor
Our New York adventure begins in Manhattan on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street at Trump Tower.  Good bathrooms, or bathrooms for the public are hard to find.  A clean and accessible restroom is one of the hardest things to find in New York City.  At the Trump Towers, however, you are welcome to use the marble facilities.

A quiet place to relax in the city is under the bamboo trees in the indoor IBM garden.  Across the street is a free museum, AT&T’s Infoquest Science Center.

The Rodin Outdoor Exhibit at the top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one site to visit while uptown. Featured exhibits at the Met include the Egyptian Temple, gold jewelry and mummies wrapped in 1000-year-old linen.

If you are a die-hard shopper, Bloomingdale’s (Department Store) stands on one of the busiest street corners in America, 59th and Lexington Avenues. Century 21, 22 Cortlandt (with a t) St., near the World Trade Center, offers discounts on signature suits and clothes.

Reasonably priced electronic equipment can be purchased at 47th Street Photo, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.  Ray Ban sunglasses are sold here at cheap prices.  The shop sits in the diamond district of Manhattan.

Glutinous Experience
Aside from shopping, New York City has some of the best and most inexpensive ethnic restaurants.
Hop Kee, a basement restaurant on Mott Street, offers scrumptious Cantonese food at bargain prices.  Across the street is Mott 21, rated as having New York’s most delicious dim sum.

Some of the “coolest” tasting ice cream is at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Boyard Street, near Mott Street.  It is easy to spot – look for the yellow marque with a yellow-breasted panda. (Try their heavenly Lychee flavor.)

Across from Canal Street is Little Italy.  Little Italy  is pricier than Chinatown and offers the trendiest desserts in town.  One specialty is Tiramisu, a mouth-watering concoction of rum and cake that goes well with cappuccino or espresso.

On the Upper West Side, one can stop at The Hungarian Pastry Shop. It is the only café  that has the atmosphere of a library – everybody is reading and it’s quieter than Bird Library (at Syracuse University). 

In the same block is V&T’s , which makes excellent pizza.   

Another must-see for New York City visitors  is the Winter Garden  at the World Financial Center across Wall Street.  The lobby is decorated with tall coconut trees. Many commercials are shot here.

Pocket Full of Kryptonite on 42nd Street and Second Avenue, close to the United Nations, is the Daily News Building made famous by the Superman comic strip.  The big globe in the lobby pictured in the comic strip rotates in sync with the earth’s movements.

To get the true “New York Feeling” hang around and watch  people at Grand Central Terminal  between 5 and 6 p.m.

Instead of taking the subway, try walking along Amsterdam Avenue and veer toward Columbus Avenue. As you pass the Museum of Natural History, you will see stores offering unusual knickknacks as well as various men’s and women’s boutiques.

If all of this walking around has made you hungry again and you like spare ribs, stop in at the Dallas B-B-Que (27 W. 72nd St.) a popular hangout for college students.

The Dakota Building, home to such stars as Yoko Ono, is just around the corner.  And across Central Park West is the park’s Strawberry Fields, dedicated to the memory named in honor of the late John Lennon. 

Going to New York City isn’t complete without seeing a Broadway show.  You can line up at the TKTS booth at Times Square to purchase half-price tickets.

Some world-class music can be heard for free down in the subways.  If you’re lucky, hang around during peak hours in the N/R train (subway) stop below Bloomingdale’s, where some of the best performers in town play for free, or a dime if you have a heart.

If you want to watch a talk show such as Donahue or Saturday Night Live, than hang around NBC (building) at 30 Rockefeller Center, across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in the morning and ask for waiting-list tickets from an NBC page.

This article was published on February 11, 1993!  The perspective is your coming from places like Syracuse, Buffalo and Toronto.

Galibi Leatherback Turtles

Amots unusual shot - not the poportion - but a hatchling (from a different mother) next to a leatherback that just nested eggs!

In remote Galibi, a briefing was given along the banks of the Marowijne River, no loud talking, no lights.  It felt like we were about to board a ship under night cover for an impending battle. 

Dark with some starlight, windy, the waves seem to be lapping on the shore stronger and stronger.   In two motorized canoes we traveled for about an hour in silence - all fifteen of us plus two guides. Eventually we landed on the Galibi Nature Reserve beach at the corner facing the Atlantic Ocean and the Marowigne River.  About 50 yards away, from a dark lit cabin, emerged silhouettes of motion: two men and a woman – park reserve security patrol.

Then our trek began, looking for sand marks that would indicate the presence of a sea turtle.  Our guide, an Amerindian, fluent in English scouted ahead for a sand hump – a sign that a sea turtle is nesting.  Twenty minutes later, with two signal flashes, he beckoned us to come nearer to a bush.

One by one in a line we tiptoed in the sand, knelt, and saw a National Geographic scene.  Spotlighted from behind with a single hand-held flashlight, we saw a leatherback laying white golf-size eggs in a dugout hole. We were told we can touch the leatherback turtle’s back and the flippers as the sea turtle is in trance when laying eggs.  Actually a no no as I found it later.

After she has deposited all her eggs, she woke up from her trance and began to flap her front and black flippers to brush back the sand and cover her underground nest.  She will return to the sea in a few hours.

Boats in the town of Albina for trips along the river including Galibi
The two Carib villages of Galibi, Christiaankondre and Langamankondre, are situated on the North East coast of Suriname approximately an hour and a half by boat from the town of Albina.   There are no roads to Galibi.   

The best time to view the nesting is from April to July.   

Two to three months later, the eggs will hatch from July to August.

Here is a video in German that will give you a visual idea

May 22, 2016

First Filipinos in Canada

If you look at history books, all of them will say the first Filipino immigrants in Canada arrived in 1930, mostly residing in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


While I was in Bowen Island, which is about a 20 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver,  across a distance of 3 nautical miles, I went to the library and got hold of the book titled “Bowen Island 1872 – 1972”  by Irene Howard.  I wanted to know the history of the place I was about to explore.

On page 36, there is a reference to the arrival of new settlers around 1898.  And to my amazement  I read, “From the Philippines, Benson, Matilda and William Flores, the men beachcombers and fishermen.”   

 (A beachcomber is someone who "combs" or searches the beach, and the intertidal zone in general, looking for things of value, interest, utility or food like crabs).

Benson (Ben) Flores with an unknown child in Bowen Island

Referring to Benson

On page 42, “ … and Ben Flores, who had a float house in the Cove, and liked to play the concertina and sing, could make a little money renting boats.” ( A concertina is a free-reed musical instrument, a relative of the accordions)  
Flores family cabin at right.  Mother and kids in the background unknown.

Years later, a much improved Flores family cabin in a cove in Bowen Island
On page 43  “ And sometimes Ben Flores would paddle around in his dugout with a sack of crabs and dump them on your beach.”
An older Ben Flores in front of his cabin, everyone's friend in Bowen Island in the 1890s

Dorothy Lawson archivist, at the Bowen Island Community Museum and Archives, said the Flores family were in Bowen Island before the Dormans, one of the early families.  She thinks Matilda and William are Benson's wife and son.

Dorothy Lawson e-mailed back ( , “His ‘shack’ no longer exists.  It ought not be called a shack as many of the other settler’s houses looked much the same as they were made of cedar shakes …  Apparently, he was everyone’s friend.”
I interviewed Dorothy way back in 2012.  I learned she past away early 2016.  The new curator Catherine Bayly found a note that said Ben was a fisherman already in Bowen Island when the Dormans came in 1890.  Catherine wrote on April 13, 2016:

Hi Joseph,
I have attached a scan of the only reference we have to Ben Flores in our Biographical Database. It looks like the information was written on the back of a photograph however I cannot locate the actual photograph it was written on. I will send on any other information we may find in our search.
Thank you for Irene Howard’s email address.
Catherine Bayly
1014 Miller Road, Box 97
Bowen Island, B.C.  V0N 1G0
Here is the note:

So there you have it, the first Filipinos in Canada at least on record was 40 years ahead of current encyclopedic documentation.  BC makes sense as the first landing of Filipinos because at that time Filipinos were a significant part of Hawaii.  Within the same straight, Salt Spring Island had a community of Hawaiians in the 1870s.  It was highly likely that some Filipino Hawaiians were part of the enclave, and through word-of-mouth, other Filipinos from Hawaii  and south of the border might have been adventurous to explore other areas of Western Canada.  There are however no records of Filipinos in Salt Spring or other places in the province.  If you find one, please tell me.

The Author

Last April 11, 2016, I had tea and cookies with Irene Howard. author of “Bowen Island 1872 – 1972”.  At 92 she walks quite briskly now living in a lovely Seniors Home in South Vancouver.  Her room had lovely pieces of furniture and wall art she bought through the years of raising a family.
Upon the request of Bowen Island residents, Irene embarked on writing the book, taking her two years finishing the project in 1972.  She wrote three other books including a story of miners in British Columbia weaving in the life of her family because her father was a miner too. 

Born from both Scandinavian parents, when asked what her mantra in life is: she said it is from a Norwegian saying, Livet Går Videre meaning Life Goes On Further or No matter what happens the world continues to spin.  This is usually said as an uplifting advice to someone who is down. 

For Irene, if anyone asks her “How are you Irene?”  Her response will always be: “Still walking and talking.”  
I asked Irene if she has any regrets in life.
“Regrets?  What life has no regrets?  Regrets are part of life.”

I asked her, Are you happy?
“I don’t ask myself if I am happy.  I don’t start the day asking if I am happy.  It’s like taking temperature.  I just do it and go about doing what the day requires.”
To read her bio, please see: Irene Howard's Writer Profile

Here is a great song by Rasmus Seebach is a Danish singer-songwriter about

This article was originally published March 19. 2016