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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Short Trips is an anthology of my Travel Documentation, Photos, and Memories.: St. Joseph Seminary College

Short Trips is an anthology of my Travel Documentation, Photos, and Memories.: St. Joseph Seminary College

St. Joseph Seminary College

The author- first line - farthest right
1984- While the Philippines entered a year grappling with justice after the assassination of Benigno Aquino, my parents sent me to the seminary with only one intention – to become a servant of God. Without single idea on the kind of life I was joining, I was also grappling with questions a 12-year old kid could hardly muster. Classrooms became battlegrounds for the fitted and the elimination of the unfit.  Many young souls never made it to the fourth year – but few stayed with determined souls.

When I chanced this photo from the ultimate authority of memory keepers – facebook, memories flashed before me. And remembering those years of prayers, study and games, I could not help but smile and be nostalgic. As I lived with this line each year -Many are called but few are chosen.- the years that I spent with SJSC were the best years of my life. The discipline, ideals and formation are pillars that keep me strong as I continue living the life that is meant for me.

In the end, no matter where we are- we are still one of the chosen few to walk the paths we are led to.  It is just the place that makes the difference, but the calling still remains.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Originally planned as a long weekend, a short trip to Hong Kong totally altered the picture.  True to an old adage that life is all about meeting unexpected things, my short trip to Hong Kong was a trip down memory lane with twists and turns.  Aboard the Philippine Airlines after a two-hour delayed (PAL had to get an aircraft from Bacolod City because the passengers were restless), the trip was a bit uncomfortable because I was sitting next to Indian nationals with uninviting smell.

Eventhough it was the height of the anniversary of the hostage drama that involved Hong Kong tourists, Filipinos were unmindful of the issues on racism. True, shoppers care less with racism as wallets are apolitical by nature. Queue at the immigration was long and slow, but who cared? Get pass them and a piece of heaven is waiting at the conveyor.
BFF  beaming with smile after a long queue at the immigration.

We decided to take the tourist route- deviating from the usual itinerary of visiting the country (with the assistance of a travel agency).  We took the cab and welcomingly experienced getting lost in translation. A piece of paper with the name of the hotel in Chinese characters saved a 30-minute explanation and zoomed us to the Mira Hotel – a designer hotel, I read in their welcome card.  Sad I was addressed Ms. Garcia.

While the accustomed visit to the country received us with familiar tunes of the childhood past and structures of the early days’ memories, the Disneyland treat, this trip presented me an entirely different scenario.  Gone were Mickey Mouse and his friends. Gone were the boutiques of Princesses and Minnie Mouse, instead, shopping malls and boutiques of known designers.

Exactly like a buffet table with selections of various cuisines, the eyes of my BFF went full-size.  I could feel the blood rushing to her wallet, but it was cut short: we had to check in our luggage…ummm, my overnight bag, rather.

After a tiring two-hour delayed and the long queue at the immigration center, a short nap would guarantee me enough strength to battle the shopping dare, I told myself.  But the ambience of my suite room (read as SUITE ROOM 928 of the Mira Hotel…ha ha ha) gave me the chill. What will I do with the size of this room for an overnight stay? I could have brought my entire family and we still had enough space for the neighbors. The amenities were superb.  The toiletries were arranged beautifully but went straight to my overnight bag.  I could have ignored the toilet paper but the presentation was so inviting and that one too went straight to my overnight bag.  Armed with planned curiosity, I checked the list and anything not included in their menu went to my overnight bag.  Now that was the first leg of the shopping diva’s itinerary.

check my overnight bag...

The following hours were a random shopping of my BFF and her hubby.  With no list but fashion instinct, we visited the Gateway Mall and tousled with Tommy H and got a Tommy H boxer shorts for that.  Not a shoe person myself, I fell in love at first sight with Onitsuka’s shoes and gifted myself with their “New Arrival” brown suede rubber shoes named Tiger. While they went their separate way, a light dinner at the third floor of the mall was a cake topper.  I had Chinese food – whatever it was because it was in Chinese character and not a foodie myself even – a HK $95.00 dollar meal was a treat.

 And just before we called it a “half” day – we visited the first hotel we stayed, ten years back – the Quandong Hotel.  The area has a total make-over but we still felt the old feel of the place.  The money changer (that gave me my first HK dollar experience).  The magazine stand (where I first bought an adult magazine for $25) and the street food stalls.  We took some like the first time.  Memories of our first trip soon flowed as we tried (again) the sugar cane juice.  The former quaint look of façade of the hotel was all stripped down.  Though, it looks beautiful – but I just miss the old one. 

The following day (also my last day) was spent re-packing my things and a good breakfast at an ordinary Chinese restaurant but with impressive choices and a short stop at the tea store. While my BFF and her hubby decided to extend their stay - I had to go back to the Philippines. 

The line was long again at the check-in counter but there was no hint of restlessness as OFWs were so occupied with phone calls to their families back home.  Happiness and excitement were all over the area.  Fathers hand carried their gifts to their children.  While a particular husband proudly showed a pair of shoes for his wife (I doubt the wife would love.) and another father bought a lovely doll for his daughter whose birthday was so timely to his arrival. Almost teary eyed, I took a deep sigh and felt proud that families in my country still matter most.  And that there is no sweeter way than coming BACK HOME.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The sweetness of doing nothing.

The sweetness of doing nothing.  The phrase that has been my working maxim after I decided not to renew my contract with my previous employer. Although the decision was well thought of and the plans were all laid out – I still felt a sense of loss.  A sense of unworthiness…of non-contributing.  But in life we make decisions that totally change the path of our existence.  We may feel ruined inside – but as Liz puts it, ruin is a gift.  Ruin is the road to transformation.   And that road led me to appreciate life better.

When they say life is a box full of surprises...I got mine when I received a phone call for a job interview.  Actually, there were three rounds of interviews and passing each interview was like getting back my confidence.  And the third interview proved to be worth getting it back…and I even got a bonus…a job.

The first day at work was good and it made even better because  my bestfriend Liza and her family treated me to a good buffet dinner at the Marriott Hotel, Resorts World.  The ambience is delectable…the setting is mouth-watering. I held my excitement for a while but could not resist the temptation of taking a bite to their scrumptious prawns…presented in all its shimmering redness.  The dinner was a blast, though it is still comparable to Sofitel’s Spiral.  And a good cup of cappuccino was the best way to end the overindulging.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu, Philippines

My memories of Cebu City zero in to Sinulog, the shopping Malls (both in upper and lower towns they call it) souvenir shops and the sutukil stores.  Little did I know (before) that this city also boosts magnificent resorts. I come from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental and Cebu is just a 2-hour travel by boat but it never became accessible to me because I preferred Bacolod City which is a 3-hour travel by land.

Fast forward to working in Makati, Cebu City became my focused target market in the Visayas, occupying some parts of Mindanao because of its international airport. The accessibility Cebu City offers is so convenient that it almost became my second home.  But checking the resorts was not always part of my itinerary.  The nightlife had a good share of the pie. Cebuanos are party people. They are eloquent and gentle. They are good with etiquette and good manners.

When I joined the academe two years ago, my life took a total turn.  I became less of a travel person but my travel experiences were so useful in my lectures.  And two years after I decided to quit teaching (as full time professor) for soul searching – travel and writing are two of the things I decided to focus on.

Just before the fathers’ day celebration, I got an invitation from my best friend for a short trip to Mactan, Cebu.  Although my initial reaction was a bit excited because I just came from a 3-day visit in Ibajay, Aklan and felt restless because of the demise of my uncle, I packed my things again for Mactan trip.  We arrived in Cebu with the wholesome smiles of the Cebuanos.  Their distinct twang when they speak tagalog makes them more endearing.  We were met by the hospitable staff of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa and took a 15-minute drive from the airport to the resort. And with ease and comfort, excitement suddenly slithered in my spine.  

Words are insufficient to describe the beauty of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa.  Although I know the resort is pricey, but money becomes immaterial with its amenities, service and splendour.

I knew it was fathers’ day celebration and so I took my private spot in the beach, grabbed a bottle of beer and whispered a prayer for him…wishing one day we will swim together with the fish and spend a lazy afternoon at the beach of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa. But that calls for a big saving.

Truly, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa is a Shangri-la. 

A SHORT TRIP AND A FUNERAL. Daet, the gateway to bountiful Camarines Norte.

Right after I submitted my resignation letter, I only had three things in my mind – travel, write… and do my own version of Eat – Pray- Love, just before I’ll start scavenging for work…again.  And two weeks after that, I had only done the first one – travel and the writing part only lingered in my mind. But I never thought of travelling because I would be joining a funeral or visiting a dead relative. 

What happened was, three days after my resignation, I received a text message that my former officemate Cris died because of complications due to wrong diet regimen. Think of Karen Carpenter – coincidentally, Karen was his favourite singer.  And attending a funeral meant taking a 10-hour travel to Daet, Camarines Norte.

Since I was in a short trip mode, I readily accepted the invitation and left Manila by 4:30 A.M with just an overnight bag and my camera.  With occasional rain showers on our way, we arrived in Daet, Camarines Norte at 2:00 p.m. just in time Cris was brought to the church.

It felt weird at first to see a good friend lifeless, while you just had a merienda one Saturday prior to his demise.  Memories flashed back and life became too short to enjoy.  While we become too conscious with our love handles and bulges, we also forget that the beauty of the person does not depend on the numbers of “pandesal” he has on his abs or the perfect waistline.  It is on the quality of life you live.  On how many “pandesal” you offer to those in need. 

While we were on our way to the cemetery, a thought popped out.  What about writing a book on How to Lose Weight and Lose your Life.  Well, it was just a weird thought – I guess.

But the short trip was not all about attending a funeral.  After the fleeting drama scenes and saying our final farewell (skipping the “… well see each other again” line), we checked on some gems of Daet.  While the place is still developing, I fell in love with their KaySarap restaurant. The place was cool and I highly recommend their Empanada.  Although the sherbet was highly decorated, but it never passed my tang ( he he he).  I had chicken barbeque and it was great. 

Daet offers nice hotels and it only shows that with the number of hotels, Daet has a good share of tourist arrivals.  We stayed at Villa Mila.  The hotel is big. The family rooms are spacious and the air condition unit worked well except the water heater.

On our way home, we stopped at Lita’s Carinderia.  This one is for the record. Everyone who travels to Camarines Norte should take a short stop over at Gumaca, Quezon and savour their seafood at a very reasonable price.  When I say reasonable – I guess a generous slice of grilled blue marlin at P40 and a cup of rice for P10 with free soup of tinolang maya-maya is reasonable enough.  It is also the best time and place to stretch those tired legs and take a lungful of fresh air.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hong Kong: the Fragrant Harbour

The name "Hong Kong" is an approximate phonetic rendering of the pronunciation of the spoken Cantonese or Hakka, meaning "fragrant harbour".

The reference to fragrance may refer to the harbour waters sweetened by the fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River, or to the incense from factories lining the coast to the north of Kowloon, which was stored around Aberdeen Harbour for export before the development of Victoria Harbour. (Wikipedia)

With its etymology, it is no wonder why many Filipinos flock to this city for work, business and pleasure.
And I’m not an exemption. The moment I got my first round trip ticket (Cathay Pacific) from my kumare, I never stopped checking the sights of HK via google.  

And nine years with eleven visits (I hope my counting is correct) although I have not seen much of HK for reasons beyond my comprehension, HK still brings a special sense of excitement and joy.  I think it is visiting the place with my best friend – almost like a sister that makes each trip memorable and more than just visiting the internet-suggested places.

Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa Hong Kong

Taken from the Peak Tram at Victoria Peak.

Taken from the Peak Tram  around 2 P.M.  I was actually dreaming of a perfect shot
but what I got was a smoggy Hong Kong.  

I was expecting for a clear and postcard shot of this part of the city and I got this.

Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa, Hong Kong is the perfect place to visitand shop with your family. The shape of this shopping plaza which looks like a ship attracts the visitors in large numbers.

Rising over Hong Kong's commercial and entertainment district of Kowloon is the Gateway, a Marco Polo hotel. Housed in Harbour City – Hong Kong's largest shopping complex – Gateway hotel the ultimate in leisure accommodation and shopping experience.

Hong Kong restaurant offers a stunning array of cuisines from around the world.

Lavender garden boxes along Kowloon Area

Hong Kong is a veritable shopping paradise, shopping areas throughout Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories, gathered in a fashionable shopping malls and large department stores, there are bustling open-air market.

The magnificent Tsing Ma Bridge, the world's longest span suspension bridge carrying both road and rail traffic, is the key connection between Hong Kong and its international airport on Lantau Island. 

Hong Kong Disneyland bus station.  Visitors can take the buses for free
if they want to check/ take photos of the famous Disneyland Hotel and Hollywood Hotel.

The entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland.  This photo was taken around 4 p.m. on a weekday and it was raining.  The atmosphere was just perfect for an afternoon visit.  Less visitors.  More space. More fun. :)

It was a big surprise to see less people in Disneyland. But there were lots of "elbow" spaces. 

Taken right after the fireworks. 

The Main Street after the firework.

Disney @ nite.

One rainy Disney...

A blast of Disney past. 

Whoa, who would think HK Disneyland would be this spacious? We had fun. No rush. 

The drummer boys.

The Main Street Parade.  The Celebration in the Air.

Greetings from the Princesses.

And from the Lion King too.

Though I am not so "fan" of Buzz, but this float is amazing.

And I just love Lilo.

They are Pinoys.... i was told by a buzzz....

Nice one...fresh from a fairy tale book.

and another one...felt like Sinulog, actually.

And just in time for Panagbenga.

And our Ati-Atihan Festival... :)

A Magical Ride...

My place.  My time. My space.

While waiting for the Disney Bus

About Me

"There is no happiness for the person who does not travel. For Indra is the friend of the traveler, therefore wander!" by Brähmann On a personal note, I don't know Brahmann nor Indra, but the lines speak more than they are read. I gave birth to this travel blog, inspite of the fact that there are zillion of travel blogs out there, to share with you all that we can see the world without spending TOO MUCH. This is my Travel-budget-blog.