Ali Sotto: Home from Mexico
STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - September 20, 2001 - 12:00am
Back here in Manila for a visit after spending quite sometime in Mexico is Ali Sotto. Ali left the Philippines and her showbiz career last year to join her diplomat husband, Omar Bsaies, in his new post — at the American Embassy in Mexico City. (Omar is from Tunisia, but was educated in universities in the United States.)

Omar and Ali have been married since 1997, but it was only last year when they started making a home for themselves as husband and wife. Ali, you see, had a difficult time weaning herself away from her successful career in radio, television and in the music scene. But now, she is a full-time housewife in Mexico and lives in a huge three-bedroom house in Bosques de Reforma (the equivalent of our Forbes Park) with Omar and his son from his first marriage, Ryyan (it’s really with a double Y).

Ali starts her day at 7 a.m. when Omar wakes her up with a kiss. After seeing off her husband at the door, she pours herself a cup of coffee and, later, begins preparing lunch for him which she herself delivers to the embassy — about half an hour drive from home. (Ali swears that Mexican drivers are only slightly more disciplined than Pinoys.)

At the embassy, Ali takes in Spanish lessons which are paid for by the US government.

Her schedule is basically free in the afternoon — unless she has to prepare a formal dinner for Omar’s guests from the US Embassy. During these formal affairs, Ali — who is basically a fun- loving person — always has to condition herself to the fact that she is now a diplomat‘s wife. In one formal dinner they hosted for people in the diplomatic circle. Ali was reprimanded by her husband — "Kasi mas nauna pa akong kumain sa mga bisita," she laughs.

Acting stiff, formal and forever observing proper decorum — which is how it is in diplomatic circles — is the biggest torture for Ali. "Eh alam mo naman ako, luka-luka," she readily admits.

It’s a good thing, her husband’s friends go loco over the Filipino food she serves them: Kaldereta, lengua and — on one occasion — paksiw na bangus (bought all the way from San Diego). For dessert, she makes leche flan which is always a hit among the US Embassy personnel in Mexico. Sure, they also make leche flan in Mexico. But the leche flan there is not as smooth and creamy as the Pinoy recipe.

For regular meals, Ali cooks adobo and sinigang for Omar and Ryyan. To make her sinigang sour, Ali relies a good old Mama Sita sinigang mix because they only have ripe tamarind in Mexico which cannot be used for sinigang. And this is the reason why she practically kisses the feet of anyone who visits her in Mexico and brings her sinigang mix from the supermarkets of Manila. (Good friends Maila Gumila was among those who flew all the way to Mexico to spend time with her.)

When not attending to household chores (she has a Mexican maid named Isabel who comes in three times a week), she spends time with new-found friends who are all Pinays (wives of expats). Ali actually wants their names mentioned here — so here they are: Marivic Pelaez, Florita Avila, Bing Kawagoe, Marife Vreendenburgh and Sonia Teel.

In the whole of Mexico, there are only about 100 Filipinos. (Most Pinoys in that part of the region are in Guatamela — working in factories). Ali, however, is just so glad that the Mexican and Pinoy cultures are so similar to each other. "The Mexicans also love music and are a very talented people," she volunteers.

For recreation, she and Omar usually go to the mall to watch movies — Hollywood films with Spanish subtitles. One time, they went home with a headache after watching Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger because it had Chinese dialogues and subtitles in Spanish below the screen.

Ali has also developed a liking for Mexican food which is so different from what they make at Taco Bell. One Mexican food she adores is the sopes — which is a flat tortilla with beans and cheese. She buys this, along with tacos and quesadillas, in the streets of Mexico City. "Iba ang timpla ng Mexican food du’on. Mas masarap," she swears.

Ali also misses the food here — particularly the fishballs that are sold in the streets, along with a complimentary dash of Hepa-A virus.

But more than food, she misses her friends and her career — especially in broadcasting. "You can just imagine how I felt at the height of EDSA II last January. It was frustrating for a Filipino to be away from that important and historic event — particularly for one who is into broadcasting," she claims.

Although she is currently enjoying her Manila vacation to the hilt, she knows that she has to pack her bags again come Oct. 15 to rejoin her husband in Mexico. She and Omar have to stay there for two more years.

But as early as now, Ali has been praying that Omar be assigned to the Philippines so that she may be in the company once more of her family and friends and in the security of her beloved profession in local show business.

ALI ALI SOTTO AMERICAN EMBASSY BING KAWAGOE CROUCHING TIGER FLORITA AVILA FORBES PARK MEXICO MEXICO CITY OMAR
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