Pinoyspotting: Dominican Republic and Curacao

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The Dominican Republic

 Our tour group was met by these ladies at the Atarazanna Restaurant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Our tour group was met by these ladies at the Atarazanna Restaurant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro)

 I enjoyed frolicking in a Punta Cana beach in the Dominican Republic. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

I enjoyed frolicking in a Punta Cana beach in the Dominican Republic. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic has wonderful beaches, both on the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea Sides. But the country is not all play. It is in the capital Santo Domingo, that one encounters history and culture. Zona Colonial, which is in the heart of the city, is a living museum where cobblestone streets lead to historic edifies. A must-see place!

 Franklin Cespedes de la Cruz and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Franklin Cespedes de la Cruz and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

I stayed at the Vista Sol Beach Resort in Punta Cana. The porter who brought me to my room was my cousin: Franklin Cespedes de la Cruz. The latter is his mother’s maiden surname.

 August Samek Jr., Aries Samek, August Samek, Joanna Magno Samek, Autumn Samek, and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro)

August Samek Jr., Aries Samek, August Samek, Joanna Magno Samek, Autumn Samek, and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro)

I “Pinoyspotted” Joanna Magno Samek at the Vista Sol Beach Resort in Punta Cana. She was vacationing with her husband August Samek, and their children: August Jr., Aries, and Autumn.

Joanna is in sales planning, whereas August is a personnel trainer. August Jr. and Aries are avid baseball players. And Autumn loves dancing and playing softball.

The family lives in New Jersey.

 Francisco Javier de la Cruz Mercedes and the author.  (Photo by Andres Mota, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Francisco Javier de la Cruz Mercedes and the author.  (Photo by Andres Mota, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

I took a day trip to Santo Domingo. Our group stopped at Los Tres Ojos (The 3 Eyes National Park). Our guide, Andres Mota, called out my name, “De La Cruz!” A tour-bus driver, who was sitting nearby, approached us and said his last name is de la cruz, too. He even showed us his ID: Francisco Javier de la Cruz Mercedez. De la Cruz is his father’s surname. Later in the day, I saw him again in another stop. He said to me, smiling, “Mi primo! My cousin!”

 Ramon Pimentel de la Cruz and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Ramon Pimentel de la Cruz and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

I sat on a bench in Santo Domingo, and I met a private tour guide, who was on the bench before me. He spoke fondly of Filipinos. He worked in cruise lines for 10 years, becoming friends with many Filipino crew members. He had visited Manila and enjoyed drinking San Miguel Beer. His full name: Ramon Pimentel de la Cruz. The latter is his mother’s maiden surname.

Ramon was the last cousin I met in the Dominican Republic.

Curacao

 Willemstad, Curacao, has many colorful historic buildings. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Willemstad, Curacao, has many colorful historic buildings. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Curacao was the first place where I heard Papiamento. A Creole language, it has elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French, as well as Arawakan and African languages. Papiamento is also spoken in Aruba and Bonaire.

Curacao was the 100th country I have visited. What made my trip more memorable – I had an iguana soup. Extra bony but utterly delicious!

 Curacao’s Yato Caves were where escaped slaves during slave trade hid. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Curacao’s Yato Caves were where escaped slaves during slave trade hid. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

 Clarivel Cruz, Angelo Cruz holding Daniela Cruz, Leah Cruz, Crystal Cruz, and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

Clarivel Cruz, Angelo Cruz holding Daniela Cruz, Leah Cruz, Crystal Cruz, and the author. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

I was waiting for my tour of the Curacao Ostrich Farm to begin when I “Pinoyspotted” the Cruzes: Angelo Cruz and his wife, Clarivel, and daughter, Daniela. He is a financial analyst in Florida. Traveling with them were Crystal Cruz and Leah Cruz, his sister and cousin, respectively. Both live in New Jersey.

 The author, Maria Regina Diaz Groves and Greg Groves. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

The author, Maria Regina Diaz Groves and Greg Groves. (Photo is courtesy of Rey E. de la Cruz, photo editing by Ivan Kevin Castro.)

I had the honor of feeding an ostrich at the Curacao Ostrich Farm with Maria Regina Diaz Groves (Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija) and her husband, Greg Groves. Maria is a realtor in Maryland, whereas Greg is retired.

After a lengthy conversation, Maria and I found out that we were contemporaries on Mendiola Street, where our high-school alma maters in Manila are located: she from the College of the Holy Spirit and me from San Beda College.


 Rey de la Cruz

Rey de la Cruz

Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., Positively FIlipino Correspondent, writes from Chicagoland when he is not loving the arts and traveling. He is the author of the children’s book, Ballesteros on My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines, which also has Ilocano, Spanish, and Tagalog versions.


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