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Sunday, January 31, 2010

QWERTY

I recently bought a Blackberry Curve 8900 for myself. One of its many wonderful features is a QWERTY keypad. It's my first time to own a mobile phone with this kind of keypad so it took me a few days to get used to it.

After being used to the multi-tap keypad of Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones, my first day with the BlackBerry was full of misspelled words and other mishaps. Aside from tapping on the keys multiple times, the small buttons also made me key in a different letter than the one I intended to.  But gradually, I got the hang of it and I now enjoy using it.

After only a month of using it, I have become an advocate of the QWERTY keypad on mobile phones.  It is so cool because I don't need to wait for the key to be available to enter the next letter.   Anybody familiar with the arrangement of the letters on the keyboard will not have any problems with it.  In fact, I am now thinking of changing my other phone to one that has a QWERTY keypad.  Maybe not a BlackBerry considering how pricey this little thingamajig can be but that Bold 9700 looks so tempting. Hmmmmm.....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Northern Trip (Last Part )

Along the way to Pagudpud, we passed through several towns that seemed deserted.  Maybe it was because there were no lampposts in most of the streets that we passed through during our trip.  We arrived in Pagudpud a little before 9 in the evening. and spent the night at my brother in law's house. 

It felt good to wake up in the morning without the usual sounds of a busy city.  We walked a few steps from the house and admired the view.  The skies were clear and the rice fields were green.


The mountains were dark blue from afar. On our way back to the house for breakfast we found some of the kids riding a carabao.  I haven't tried riding on a carabao and have no plans of doing so.  I've tried riding a horse before though, when I was still studying in UPLB.

After having breakfast, we went to the beach and enjoyed the white sands of Saud Beach.   The water is still clear and the sand, still clean. Hopefully, the place will remain in good condition as it is today although efforts are now being made to promote it as an alternate destination to Boracay.


The waves were a bit rough that day though. In fact, I almost lost my flip flops when one big wave hit the shore and swept to the place where I left them.  Luckily, a second wave hit again and returned my slippers.

After soaking in the crystal blue waters of the beach, we went to another must see part of Pagudpud, the Patapat Aqueduct.  It's one of the longest aqueducts in the country.  Something else caught our sight though.  There was a ship stranded in the rocky shores of the sea.  There was nobody around to ask what the ship was doing there but it was such an eerie sight.


We also passed by the Bantay Abot Cave. It was such an awesome display of nature's power of creation. A large whole was carved by the sea on the side of a hill.  From afar it looked like a giant whale washed ashore. We had to carefully go down the rocky shore because the concrete stairs and railings were reportedly damaged by the typhoon Pepeng.


We spent another night in Pagudpud and left the following morning for Manila. Since my sister did not join us the previous day, we had to go back and visit the Patapat Aqueduct and the Bantoy Abot Cave again.  It seemed that the places took on another appearance but maybe it was because of the morning light which made the place looked softer.

Along the way, we passed by the now famous Bangui Wind Farm.  This energy producing project of the provincial government reportedly provides some 70% of the province's requirement.  The beach where it's located is also very nice to see although the waves were very strong when we were there.



We also stopped by the centuries old parola at Cape Bojeador in Burgos.  The lighthouse found on top of the hill was still functional until late last year but something broke and the spare part has not arrived yet when we were there.  The caretaker even said that he doesn't want to spend the night there because of some ghostly visits.


The sight from the balcony of the lighthouse was fabulous, it looked out to the South China Sea and the deep blue color of the ocean was so relaxing and calming.  I didn't go up the lighthouse though because of the spiral staircase.  I don't really know why I am afraid of spiral staircases.

When we got to Laoag before lunch time, we bought some longganiza for our baon in Manila.  After this, we went back to Vigan to visit the house where Padre Burgos was born.  It was not open when we were there three days ago but this time it was open.

I was disappointed with the house though.  It was in total disrepair.  I know that those in charge of maintaining the place wanted to preserve the structure as it is but the place looked like it would crumble anytime.  It needed some repairs here in there to ensure that future generations may still be able to see it.

Our last stop was the belfry in Bantay.  According to our driver, the belfry was known to change colors depending at the time of day.  It turns into fiery red or gold during sunset.  We cannot wait for the sun to go down though because we still had several hours to go to get to Manila.



After travelling non-stop, we got off at La Union to buy the dried fish we planned to buy earlier.  Once again we were mobbed by the vendors selling the dried fish.  It was total chaos with the vendors, some speaking in their local tongue, trying to outdo or may be outsell each other.

After this, it was a 5 hour drive to Manila and we arrived at around midnight, exhausted but truly enjoyed our Northern Exposure.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Northern Trip (Part 3)

It was already late in the afternoon when we reached the Marcos Museum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.  The burial chamber of former President Ferdinand Marcos was still closed when we arrived so we waited for the caretaker to come back.  We went around the museum and the mansion and checked out the memorabilia of the late President.

When the chamber was finally opened I opted to stay outside.  I've seen him three times already and I knew that there's nothing new to see inside.  I chanced upon a small store in the compound and at first I thought that there's a Starbucks shop there but it turned out that the sign read Storebucks! I knew that I have to take a picture of it for posterity.

Afterwards, we bought some goods and I got some Sweet Potato (kamote) Chips.  I liked it so I decided to buy a few packs for my officemates.


Our next stop was the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Paoay Church also known as the St. Augustine Church.  No matter howw many times I've been there, I continue to find it so beautiful.  It was built in the 18th century out of coralstones that were locally available. The architecture reminds me of other Asian temples too.  I stayed outside as family members went inside and checked out the interiors of the church.

We drove to the Fort Ilocandia Resort afterwards and also passed by the Paoay Lake and got a glimpse of the Malacanang of the North. 

From here, we went directly to Laoag where we had our dinner. We took advantage of the city's new mall to buy other supplies we needed before proceeding to Pagudpud which was still two hours away.



Next: Pagudpud

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Northern Trip (Part 2)


From Manaoag, we proceeded to Vigan in Ilocos Sur. We travelled non-stop to Vigan, passing through the province of La Union. We just took note of the places we would stop by on the way back to Manila. Of note were the stores selling dried fish in all variants.

We reached Vigan after sundown. We had difficulty looking for our hotel, The Cordillera Inn because of the different directions given to us by the people we asked. It turned out, much to our relief, that the hotel was at the center of the historic Calle Crisologo of the Heritage Village. Most of everything to see were just a few steps away.

After checking in at the hotel we went out to have dinner as well as take a walk around the city.  We passed by the Empanadaan, which is the place to get the famous Vigan Empanada.  We didn't have our empanada at that time but once again we promise that we will try them before leaving the city.

Our night tour of the city ended with a brief visit to the Vigan Cathedral.  It was closed at that time but the place was well-lighted so I was able to get some photos again for record purposes.


Before going to bed I took some more picture of the cobbled stone streets of old Vigan.  With very few people in it, the street where our hotel stands took on a different personality.  Looking at the pictures I took of the scene makes me wonder how it must have been before there was electricity and all the modern stuff we enjoy now.

The following day, we went around the city to explore more of its beauty.  I was also in Vigan last year but back then, the city was brimming with people and so it was crowded and a bit tiring to go around. 

This time however, it was almost as if Vigan was our alone to enjoy.  Even though it was a Sunday, the area was not crowded, no noisy tourists to distract us in enjoying the scene.  Sometimes though, we had to stay in the pavement to give way to the Calesas that provide tours at only 150 pesos.

We went to the cathedral to hear mass, took our photos in front of the old houses and visited the Tourist Information Center.  After all these, we finally had our Vigan Empanada for our midmorning snack. 


Just beside the place where we had our empanada was a monument dedicated to Padre Jose Burgos.  He was one of the three martyred priests called GOMBURZA who were garroted by the Spaniards for being suspected of aiding the cause of the Filipino revolutionaries.  Honestly, I didn't know he was Ilocano until now.

Then we visited the Crisologo Museum, which was the ancestral house of a political clan in Ilocos Sur.  The house contained memorabilia from the family's political history, including the clothes worn by the patriarch who was gunned down by unknown assassins while inside the cathedral.


We went to our next stop, a private zoo of a politician inthe province.  The place is called Baluarte (Bulwark) and it is now open to the public.  The main attraction in this place are the tigers, which were in cages at the entrance of the zoo.  It was almost midday when we got there so the heat was intense.  I was only able to get to the Butterfly Garden and then gave up.

After this, we checked out of our hotel and drove to Ilocos Norte.

Next: Batac and Paoay

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Haiti Earthquake

As I write this, the people of Haiti, an island nation in the Carribean, continue to suffer from the effects of an earthquake. The 7.0 magnitude tremblor all but leveled this country that is considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

The tragedy also involved some Filipinos who are there as members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.  Reports indicate that at least 3 of our countrymen were trapped in some of the collapsed buildings.  We still hope that they would be found alive.

To help in this time of tragedy, you can find a link to the relief effort of the American Red Cross at the sidebar of this blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Northern Trip (Part 1)

As I've mentioned earlier, I started 2010 with a long road trip with my family. We rented a van and started a four-day trip to Ilocos Norte on the early morning of January 2.

Our first stop was in Tarlac City where we had our breakfast. We then moved on to Manaoag, Pangasinan to visit the image of Our Lady of Manaoag.

There was an on-going mass when we got there so naturally, the church was packed with devotees.  We managed to squeeze our selves through the crowd and I managed to snap this picture of Our Lady.

After being blessed by the priest we proceeded to the area where candles and prayers were being offered.  My sister bought some candles and after reciting the intended prayer, we lighted the candle and placed in the designated area.

From the church, we proceeded to what people claim as the apparition site of Our Lady.  The place was on a hillside and it reminded me of the 1980s movie, Himala.  At the foot of the hill was a well.where devotees get water which was believed to have miraculous powers.

A steep, concrete set of stairs led to a mini-shrine on of the hill.  Inside was a small image of Our Lady and an inscription that I could not read because it was obscured by smoke and candle wax.

Before we left, my family bought some items from the vendors on the site.  My sister in law bought a curious icon, an infant Jesus no bigger than half an inch with a penis! The vendor said that it brings good luck, safety during trips and success in business.  I look at it closely and realized that the infant Jesus was sleeping on the palm of a hand.

We left Manaoag before noon and headed towards Vigan where we planned to stay during the night.

Next: Vigan


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Happy New Year... Again

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well the 2010 is not that new anymore, it's already two weeks old. It's only now that I am able to open my account here and actually update my blog.

Speaking of this blog, it has been three months since I last updated it and I only posted 7 times the entire year. It's not because there was nothing to write about, it's because I was too LAZY to write. Hopefully it would be different this year. But I am not making promises.

This year started with a me on a long road trip! I will be writing about it later but me and my family went on a four day trip to the northern part of Luzon. It was the same trip I took in December 2008 with my nephews and nieces. I will really make my self write something about it. It's been a week since we got back so hopefully with the help of photos I took of the trip, I'd be able to recall the places we went to.

I'll end this post on that positive note. Happy new year again and hopefully, this one would be better than the last.