Earth Hour

Zero Hunger Challenge

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, Pinoy Style

Merry Christmas!

This morning I joined the throng of Filipinos who went out to do their last minute shopping for the Noche Buena later tonight. I never thought that in spite having to wait in line for what seems like an eternity at the check out counter, I would actually enjoy the experience. There's something about being with a huge, pulsating shopping crowd to uplift one's spirit. Or maybe it is the non-stop playing of Christmas Carols in the background that did me in.

Whatever the reason, it made me feel even more that Christmas is indeed here.

I had a great time watching my fellow Filipinos happily buying the things they have saved up for and prepared for months. At least for this time of the year, all of us were able to let go of our worries that our budget will not be enough. And we all went home happy.

Next year, I will be part of this celebration again that we Pinoys have embraced for almost half a millennium already.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Intramuros Surprise

My father requested that we visit Intramuros last Sunday to view an art exhibit. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are still a lot to see in the old city! Places of interest that I haven't been to before are still waiting to be discovered.

For example, the Silahis Art Center were the art exhibit was housed also has a lot of native products and artifacts inside. There are also books on Philippine history and culture. Some items are also on sale so any visitor can bring home a part of the Philippines.



A few steps away from there, one can find the "Casa Manila" Museum. It's an old house preserved from the Spanish era, which gives the visitors the chance to experience what it's like to live in a bygone era. Casa Manila contains exquisite art pieces and furniture. Photography is strictly forbidden and you cannot touch any of the displays, except in the kitchen area.

Monday, October 8, 2007

City Life

I was on my way to a mall yesterday when something straight out of a TV public affairs program happened to me.

While crossing a major roadway yesterday, through a pedestrian overpass, I felt a slight pull on my backpack on my right shoulder. I looked around and I saw a man behind me, holding on to one of the zippers of my bag's pocket. The pocket was already slightly open but the contents were still out of one's reach.

I was so surprised I could only say, "What are you doing, you fool!" The man raised his hand, with an innocent look on his face. I gave him a kick on his shin and he fell to the ground.

We stared at each other until he got up and ran away from the scene.

I've seen a report of this in one of those expose on TV. A gang of men and women opening backpacks of unsuspecting pedestrians, taking anything they could get their hands on. But that was in another part of the city, so I was surprised it happened to me.

But what really surprised me was that, it happened to me at 11 in the morning in a very busy pedestrian overpass. While the man was down, some people even passed him by. Nobody looked at him or at me.

It wasn't like that before. Had it happened a few years back, someone would have stopped and asked either me or the man what was happening. It made me think that this is part of a city's transformation. As a city gets big, people become callous and wouldn't want to get involved in situations like that.

Or may be a crime like this is so common, people are not surprised anymore. It was just another incident in their busy city life.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cupcakes

There's a local donut in Manila that its patrons claim could give Krispy Cremes a run for the money. It's called Gonuts Donuts. I've tried their donuts before and found them good. Not as fluffy and smooth as KK but they give consumers a lot of variants to choose from.

They recently came out with cupcakes! Of course I had to try them. The cakes are yummy but the icing and toppings are way too sweet for me. Especially since I've been advised to cut down on the sweets.



One thing about these tiny cakes is that they are beautifully prepared. It really takes me sometime before deciding to bite in because I really feel sorry ruining such beauty.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Japan Home Center

With not so much to do at home, I decided to go to the Greenhills shopping center in San Juan, Metro Manila. Greenhills is a blog-inducing thing but I will write about it some other time.

This topic is all about Japan Home Center, a store found not only in Greenhills but in other shopping malls as well. It sells various Japanese products for home and personal use.

What's amazing about this store is everything sells for 88 pesos ($1.83 at the current peso-dollar exchange rate of 48:1)!

There are really nice things one can buy from this store. There are plastic containers to organize various objects at home. There are magazine holders as well as file containers.

One can even get soy sauce, sweet vinegar and white vinegar needed to make sushi. And of course, they carry my favorite snack, wasabi peas.

The store reminds me of the 99 cents store in the U.S. where one can buy practically everything to live. What's missing from Japan Home Center are the food stuff that are priced below one dollar.

Of course, buyers should understand that at that price, they shouldn't expect these things to last a lifetime.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pray It Rains

Earlier this month, the Philippines had a major problem. A prolonged dryspell caused severe drought in certain parts of Luzon. It was so severe that government itself told the people to conserve water or face dry faucets in the months to come. Rice farmers lost one planting season because there was not enough water to keep their plants alive.

The Catholic Church offered one solution (the Church is quite influential in our country). They asked the faithful to pray. So one Sunday, all churches in the country led the millions of Catholic Filipinos to pray for rain. And pray we did.

Our prayers must have shaken the pearly gates of Heaven because after a few days, rain started to fall. Every afternoon, the skies darkened, thunderclaps were heard and heavy rains ensued.

And it didn't end there. After another few days not one, but two typhoons developed in our area and dumped tons upon tons of rain water.

Provinces in the northern part of the country were inundated, the national capital region had to cancel school and work because of rising flood waters. There was literally water everywhere, from east to west of our archipelago.

In spite all the troubles, most Filipinos were still thankful. The rains brought relief to months of heat and humid weather. Dams were refilled to safe levels, irrigation wells replenished and the government announced that we won't be having a water crisis after all.

Yet, they say that we still need more rain.

Friday, May 25, 2007

US TRIP: Day Two in Hawaii

May 20, our second day in Hawaii. I woke up on a warm Honolulu morning. After a quick breakfast, we started on a very busy schedule.

We visited Pearl Harbor once again. Since we've already seen the USS Arizona Memorial when we first came in 2002, we skipped it this time and went to Ford Island which is connected to Pearl Harbor by a very long bridge. Private vehicles are not allowed on the island so we were brought there by a bus.

Ford Island was originally a plantation. It was acquaired by the American Military and used as a major air facility during the war. It figured prominently during the Pearl Harbor attack because of the number of ship moored there.

At present, it is home to the USS Missouri, the site of the Japanese surrender in World War II.



Big Mo or Mighty Mo as she is now called, was decommissioned in 1992. Its current position has a significance: its guns face the remnants of the USS Arizona guarding the remains of those who perished there so that they will rest in peace forever.




From the Mighty Mo, we took the bus once again to go to the Pacific Aviation Memorial. Upon arrival in the Museum’s lobby, we entered a 200-seat theater to view a 10-minute movie covering the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, including historic footage and accounts from servicemen who survived it.

Leaving the theater, we entered a corridor with photos, music and sound effects that made us experience what life was like in the islands before the attack in 1941.





The exhibit area features an authentic Japanese Zero, a light civilian plane that was shot during the attack, and also a P-40 fighter. There's also an exhibit that showed a Zero plana which crashed in one of the islands.

After the tour, we had lunch in the museum’s restaurant, “Lani Akea” (Blue Heaven). While waiting for the bus to come back, I bought a souvenir item, a shotglass.


We took the bus again and went back to the main island. This time, we visited the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. We were given an iPod-like device that guided as during our tour of this historic WWII submarine. The narration and dramatization helped us to imagine what life on board must have been like for Bowfin's crew.


After the tour of the submarine, we visited the Museum which houses an impressive collection of submarine-related artifacts such as submarine weapon systems, photographs, paintings, detailed submarine models related to the history of the U.S. Submarine Service.

Our tour ended here and we proceeded to the Aloha Auditorium where a weekly swap meet was taking place. This reminded me of a Filipino flea market called tiangge where goods are sold at really low prices. We bought some shirts and then went home to rest.

In the evening, we attended the birthday celebration of my brother-in-law's eldest brother. We also met my sister's in-laws during the party. Since the following day was Monday, the party also ended earlier.

US TRIP: Day One in Hawaii

I'm currently on vacation with my father here in the United States. We left the Philippines last May 19 on Philippine Airlines flight PR100. Our seats were upgraded to the Mabuhay Class so we travelled in comfort.

We landed in Honolulu at around 7:11 in the morning, some 35 minutes earlier than our expected time of arrival. It was still May 19. Passing through the immigration was easy, although I had to declare the food stuffs what we brought along as pasalubong (welcome gifts). After getting our baggages (which were taken out of the carousel by some porters without our knowing it), out we went to the warm but breezy Hawaii morning.

We didn't have to wait long before my sister and her husband arrived to pick us up. We went first to a Filipino store to buy some stuff for breakfast (pan de sal and taho) before proceeding to their house.

After a quick meal and a much needed shower (for me) off we went to Costco to buy my father's stuff, mainly chocolate, of course. We proceeded to the wet market in Chinatown to buy something for lunch, including clams!

A brief afternoon siesta after lunch and then off we went to Alamoana boulevard along Waikiki for a quick look and see.

We tried some chocolates from Godiva, bought slip-ons from Foot Locker and had dinner at Tony Roma's.

Since our orders took time to prepare, the manager offered us a 10 percent discount for the trouble. I ordered Tony's Sirloin Steak which was quite tender and juicy even when cooked well-done. However, the serving was so large I wasn't able to finish it.

After dinner we went straight back to my sister's place for a much needed sleep.

Friday, May 4, 2007

More Birthday Celebrations

My officemates surprised on my birthday last Monday. I don't usually go to work on my birthday but this year I had to go since I'll be using all my leave credits when I go on a three-week vacation this month.

When I got to the office, there was a small group who greeted me and they prepared some food to celebrate the day. There was the usual pancit, said to bring long life for the birthday celebrant. They also prepared my favorite barbeque and somebody brought in special cake! It's chiffon cake but the icing was made of sylvannas!

It was really a special treat since I didn't know about it. What a great way to turn 41.

GSIS Madness

Two days ago, I went to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Main Office to apply for a P10,000 cash advance loan. The GSIS came up with a new system they call GW@APS which, according to them, would make transactions easier with the use of Internet technologies. All a member with a GW@PS Card needs to do is swipe his card on a kiosk/computer terminal, use a forefinger print for identification and follow the instructions on the monitor to transact business. This system will make for a wireless, paperless transaction for the benefit of its members.

As a way to introduce the new system, the GSIS offered a cash advance loan of P10,000 to its members, payable in 2 years with very minimal interest. Since most of my officemates have availed of it, I decided to join the bandwagon and off I went to GSIS.

Although there's a center near my place of work, I decided to go all the way to the head office to avail of the loan. An officemate tipped us that fewer people go there so it's easier and faster to file the loan. Boy, was I in for a big surprise!

When I got there, I saw a short line heading for three kiosks. I said to myself that it's worth the trip and I'd probably spend only an hour or so for the whole thing. However, when I told the guard that I was applying for the cash advance loan, he pointed me to the left side of the building.

There was a short line and positioned myself at its end. I followed the direction of the line with my eyes and to my utter shock and disbelief, the line led to gigantic hall full of people sitted on rows upon rows of monobloc chairs!!!

I wanted to leave right then and there but the as the old saying goes, I already spent time and energy to get there, might as well bear it out.

I reached the last row of chairs after almost an hour standing in line, and listening to all possible reasons why one would apply for a loan such as this.

One lady needed it to pay for other bills. The man behind me would added the proceeds of his loan to the tuition fee of his daughter who's studying to be a nurse. Another lady had to send money to her relatives in the province. Others needed the money for some really important reason. Among these people, I must be the only one who had the flimsiest reason.

After another hour or so, we reached the middle row of the line. I looked back where we started and saw that the line was still as long as when I first arrived. It made me feel sad that so many people needed this money.

It was almost lunch time and the people in line didn't want to leave. They were afraid that their turn might come before they could finish eating. So most of us decided to forgo lunch that day. I already skipped my regular coffee break while standing in line!

Time seemed to move slow as we got nearer the kiosks. We have already shared stories about our previous experiences, good and bad, on applying for loans with GSIS and other lending agencies. I even found out about how some of my seatmates end up having loans without even applying for one because some unscrupulous person filed one on their behalf!

About three hours since I fell in line, the worst thing imaginable happened. The kiosks bogged down. All four of them simultaneously "hanged."

Almost immediately, the people who until that point patiently lined up for this turned into warfreaks. GSIS became the common enemy: it has become an inefficient, unsystematic and mismanaged organization that doesn't care much about its members and should therefore be overhauled. Others wanted to form another organization that will provide the same services and benefits as the GSIS.

Me, I was just waiting for the signal to attack so I could grab the ax in the fire cabinet and hack those kiosks to pieces.

It was not until another 30 minutes or so before the kiosks came back to life. A huge sigh of relief was heard across the hall. Some members went back to their usual chatter why I removed my sight from the ax.

All went well after that. My transaction was over in less than five minutes. Err... in less than 4 hours and 5 minutes. There was a lady there to assist those using the kiosk and to make it easier especially for those who are not tech savvy.

As I walk out the building, I wanted to pull my hair in disgust for having spent half a day for P10,000 that I don't even know what to do with. But then, thirsty and hungry, I had enough of torture for one day. Maybe next time, when I apply for another loan.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Birthday Celebrations, Part 2

This is the second part of my advanced birthday celebration today.

From the La Mesa Ecopark, we went to the UP Diliman Campus for lunch. My brother and sister-in-law found this nice place called "Chateau Verde", which is managed by a member of the University faculty. It is quite hidden so those who are not familiar with the campus won't easily find it.

Anyway, one can choose whether to eat buffet or a la carte. This lunchtime, the buffet consisted of Mongolian, ribeye steak, baked oysters, salads and desserts. We chose to order a la carte. I ordered salpicao made of tenderloin beefs lightly sauteed in olive oil.



My brother ordered paella, rice mixed with seafood, served in a skillet. My sister-in-law ordered lengua (oc-tongue) and my daddy, callos, a spicy stew of ox tripe.



The food was great and yet the price was relatively low. I would like to go back to this place and try the other items on the menu.

We decided to take a tour of the campus and visit the icon of the University, the Oblation. We were surprised to see the statue wearing a "sablay", a piece of cloth bearing the university colors and the initials of the university in ancient Philippine letters. It is worn by the students during graduation as a replacement to the "western" toga. We realized that the University has just had its Graduation.



After spending some time under the afternoon sun, daddy asked us for some halo-halo, a summertime favorite. We went to ChowKing, a fastfood that offers the delicacy and ordered one bowl for each of us.



I'll be turning 41 in a few minutes but I already had fun one day ahead.

Birthday Celebrations, Part 1

I celebrated my birthday in advance today with my Daddy, brother and sis-in-law. We went to the La Mesa Eco Park in Fairview, Quezon City.

It's a mini-forest at the rim of the La Mesa Dam, which is the source of water for Metro Manila. Now maintained by a private organization called Bantay Kalikasan, the park has an orchidarium, a flower terraces, and a salt-water swimming pool.

It was also an opportunity to try my Nikon D40 outside the confines of our garden.

Our first stop was the flower terraces. Here you have to climb a hundred plus steps of stairs to get a view of the terraces.





On top of the stairs, you'll get a great view of the entire park.



Next, we went to see the Drilon Orchidarium.





We left the place before lunch. There were already a lot of families in the ground, some preparing their meals and barbeque, while others took their nap under the shade of the trees surrounding the park.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Singkamas and HaloHalo

It's summer again. With temperatures rising to record levels, Pinoys are finding ways to relieve themselves of the heat. Some go to resorts, especially when they can afford it. But most, or almost everybody, go to the malls! Not to shop, mind you, but just to enjoy the cool airconditioning in the area.

Last Saturday, I went to a popular mall in Mandaluyong to meet some friends. The place was overflowing with people! No kidding. There were even babies, almost like newborns to me, in their strollers, and old people in their wheelchairs in the crowd. Luckily the airconditioning of the mall was still working fine inspite the influx of people.

The following day, I was not feeling well already. Old people tell us to avoid crowded places because it could make us sick. Too bad I didn't follow them. So the whole Sunday, I felt like I'd be going down with a flu. Add to this was that I had to endure the summer heat in the house.

Then it struck me. I could beat this heat with food usually associated with summer: singkamas and halohalo. I bought some singkamas (turnip) peeled and sliced it and then put some vinegar and salt to taste. The cooling effect was instantI I almost finished the whole bundle in one sitting.

For merienda, I bought a tall glass of halohalo from a neighborhood store. For the uninitiated, this halohalo is a mixture of ice, milk, sweetened bananas, camote, red beans, kidney beans, macapuno, langka, and sago. This is usually topped with a slice of custard and a sprinkle of rice crispies. The halohalo was a great merienda and a heat buster.

Actually it's been a long time since I had these two great food. That's why I truly enjoyed having them last Sunday.

My New Toy

I finally took the plunge and bought myself a dslr, the new Nikon D40. New because it was released only last September 2006 as the entry-level DSLR of Nikon. Though I've used digital cameras since 2000 (Epson PhotoPC 650 and Sony Cybershot l P71), using a DSLR camera is an entirely new experience to me.

I need to get used to some practices. For one, shots are composed on the viewfinder itself, not on the LCD. The photo shows up on the LCD after the shot is made. Sometimes I still catch myself looking at the LCD instead of the viewfinder. Also, I am still experimenting on the different shooting modes available on the D40. I like to do the macro mode especially with plants. Right now, I see that I would need to save for a lens with a greater focal range (an 18-200 mm perhaps?)

Here are some shots I've made so far. Hopefully I'd be able to post more later.



Monday, April 9, 2007

Oh no! We're having another elections!!!

All indications are there. Everywhere you look, smiling faces stare back at you, a set of real pearly whites exposed for every person to see. You are suddenly roused from your Saturday afternoon siesta by a loud music coming from a bad speaker, extolling the virtues of a candidate. Yes, we're having another election. A midterm election.

Watching the television became even harder these days. Every half hour or so, I see a TV ad of a candidate, telling me of his plans once elected to office. I can't help but squirm, and in some instances get plain angry over their promises. I think that's the problem with working in government. I have become jaded.

I've heard these promises before and at one point in my career have written press releases and speeches doing the same thing. Promising education, food, health services, shelter, etc. for every Filipino. Ugh! Yet every Filipino are still wanting of these same services. I am about to lose my faith on this institution.

Yet, only last week I was talking with a good friend and we were coming up with our line up of who to vote come May 14. I guess like many Filipinos, I haven't learned my lesson.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

TMNT

I watched the movie TMNT yesterday with some friends to find out what this new version has to offer. I enjoyed the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series on TV and the live-action movies as well. So I was looking forward to an enjoyable experience.

TMNT is much darker and edgier than the live-action movies. You'd think that the Turtles have matured and are past their teens. Raphael for one suddenly has issues and now questions his role in the group. And whatever happened to their passion for pizza?

Nevertheless, I wasn't disappointed and did enjoy the movie. The animation was awesome. The rain scene where Leonardo and Raphael had a duel on the rooftops was very impressive. Splinter's CGI iteration would make you wonder what digital animators would come up with next.

One more thing, I got dizzzy with all those camera work. My brother explained that a medical study explained that those of us born before 1974 have problems watching digital images. The study explained that our eyes do not have the ability to fully process moving digital images and that we tend to get dizzy with prolonged viewing.

Maybe this also explains why I have a hard time playing FPS games on any console. So while everyone's praising DOOM and HALO for their graphics and all, I avoid them like a plague.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Scenes from a four-hour trip

I recently went to the former Subic Base for a four-day seminar. The sponsors were gracious enough to provide us with a bus to get there. Even if it took us four hours to get to Subic from Manila, I still enjoyed the ride because it gave me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the countryside.

The Philippine countryside is wonderful. Forty-five minutes after our trip started, we were greeted by the green rice fields of the Candaba swamps. Far in the horizon is Mt. Arayat and even farther are the faint shadows of the Sierra Madre. I've been to other countries but I still say that the Philippine countryside is still one of the best. The bucolic views help a lot in untangling the frayed knots in a city dweller's body.

When we left the expressway, we were surrounded by more ricefields and rural folks doing their business. In a busstop, we had our fill of native delicacies, puto, bibingka and sago't gulaman. And their prices were really low!

There were also shops selling furniture and home decors made of wood along the road devastated by lahar flows from the Mt. Pinatubo. It's nice to know that people there have moved on after their hellish experience.

As we passed by barangays along the road, I was heartened to see graduation ceremonies being held in school grounds. Young kids dressed in white togas seated on one side and their parents on the other. In one school the graduating children were performing onstage in their togas. The scene made me smile. I remembered my high school graduation when, in the middle of a song, one of my classmates started to cry. It also made me sadly wonder how many of these graduating kids will go on to universities and fulfill the dreams their parents have for them.

Nevertheless, thoughts like those do not diminish the beauty of rural Philippines. Maybe one of these days I will take time off from work and take a bus to see more of our countryside.

Hello All!

Finally, my own blog.

I'll be posting a lot of things on this spot in the coming days. Just drop by when you feel like doing so.