Thursday, May 29, 2008

Welcome to the Jungle

One of the best things that come out of much traveling is learning about other peoples, cultures, and histories. You get to read about these in school, but it's taken at a whole new level when you get to a place and see, hear, smell and feel for yourself (taste as well, if you're into food tripping). If you're into all that culture thing, I really recommend going to Siem Reap and visiting the Temples of Angkor.

From Singapore, you can get to Siem Reap via Silk Air or Jetstar. the International Airport is remarkably good. The name "Siem Reap", if you haven't Wikipedia-ed it already, means "in your face, Thailand", or more accurately "Siam (Thailand) Defeated". The guidebooks will point out that ironically, this place eventually got overrun by Thais themselves in recent times. You can easily imagine this as a small town IF you take away the hotels that line up the main roads, and the ones being constructed almost everywhere else. Hopefully, it won't get overdeveloped.

We got up early in the morning the day after we arrived to get a head start on The Temples of Angkor which is this big area with ancient temples spread around within the thick jungle/forest. The tour guide wisely recommended that we just go to the more notable ones:
  1. Ta Prohm - the "Tomb Raider" temple
  2. Banteay Srei - the red temple with carvings of great detail
  3. Angkor Wat - the grandest temple, proudly symmetrical in many ways
  4. Angkor Thom - the old capital
You could cover all those in a whole day, even with meal stops back in the city and that's just what we did. It's a very good idea to bring shoes you don't care to be ruined, especially during the rainy season as it can get muddy. It's also helpful to bring or buy a hat (especially if you're feeling a bit Indiana Jones) and put on some sunblock before making your rounds. Sunglasses would be good for the high sun. Lastly, bring extra shirts and/or a hand towel, as you will sweat like a pig. Bringing bottled water is a no-brainer. It doesn't hurt to be a little prepared. There are clean toilets spread around the area, free of charge given that you buy entry tickets to the temples ($20 for a day pass, but we got our along with the tour package)

The following day, we went to Tonle Sap Lake to check out the floating village full of Vietnamese boat people. On the way to the area, you can observe from looking around that except for a hill or two, and a couple of mountains off just near the horizon, that is may be the flattest country you will ever see. In this trip, we learned about a lot of frustrations by the Cambodia. Whether they're geographically surrounded by jerks to the left (Thailand) and to the right (Vietnam), or how their government and monarchy are basically unpopular, it's no wonder they're nostalgic of their great king Jayavarman VII even if his reign was around a thousand years ago. I'll get back to the brutal recent history a bit later.

Other notable places you can go to in and around Siem Reap is the Artisan d'Angkor silk farm, and workshops, which are in two different places. I really, really wanted to buy some silk products, wood carvings and statuettes because I saw how much hard work these people put in them. But nothing really struck me as "a compelling buy", given that it's a bit pricey, despite the excellent quality. There's the old market Psar Chaa in the middle of town which will give you the usual pashminas, artifact replicas, as well as counterfeit junk (like Lonely Planet guidebooks for rock-bottom prices).

Lastly, spread all over the country are memorials about the grim period of 1975-1979 when the Communist Khmer Rouge regime instituted slave-labor, genocide and other human atrocities known as infamous The Killing Fields. Our excellent tour guide, had first hand experiences of how they were forced to work the fields and narrated how in light of everything that's happened, he's one of the lucky ones. Really gives you pause, thinking about what kind of people would do these sorts of things.

So again, I definitely recommend going here at least once in your life. Don't wait until you're old and gray. You wouldn't appreciate the amount of walking that you'll be doing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Havaianas vs. Spartan

I got this from an e-mail. It's funny 'cause it's true. I've got a pair of Havaianas myself, but I also have two pairs of Planet tsinelas so that evens out somehow. Uhm, somehow.

Pangalan: Havaianas
Lugar na pinanggalingan: São Paulo, Brazil
ah-vai-YAH-nas (Brazilian Portuguese)
hah-vee-ah-naz (American English)
OMG! hah-va-yaH-naZz! (Filipino)
Materyal na ginamit: Malupit na goma (high-quality rubber).
Presyo: Depende. Ganito na lang,
1 pares ng Havaianas = 100 pares ng Spartan.
Mga nagsusuot: Mga konyotik at mga mayayaman (na noong una ay nababaduyan sa
mga naka-de sipit na tsinelas at sasabihing, "Yuck! So baduy naman nila,
naka-slippers lang.")
Malulupit na katangian at kakayahan:
- Masarap isuot.
- Shock-absorbent
- Malambot ngunit matibay
- Makukuha sa sandamakmak na kulay, disenyo at burloloy
- Maaaring isuot sa loob ng Starbucks
- Mainam na pang-japorms
- Mainam i-terno sa I-Pod at Caramel Macchiato
- Mapipilitan kang maglinis ng mga kuko mo sa paa
- Maaari ka nang mag-dikwatro sa loob ng mga pampublikong lugar at sasakyan
- Magiging 'fashionable' ka kapag ikaw ay nagkukuyakoy
Olats na mga katangian:

Pangalan: Spartan
Lugar na Pinanggalingan: Metro Manila, Philippines
spar-tan (American English),
is-par-tan (Filipino).
Materyal na ginamit: Pipitsuging goma (Low-quality rubber).
Presyo: Wala pang 50 pesos.
Isang pares ng Spartan = 20 piraso ng pan de coco.
Mga nagsusuot: ang masa (gaya-gaya lang ang mga sosyal at pasyonista)
Malulupit na katangian at kakayahan:
- Maaring ipampatay sa ipis
- Maaring ipampalo sa mga batang suwail at damuho
- Pwedeng ipanglusong sa baha at putikan
- Pwedeng ipamalengke
- Mainam gamitin sa tumbang-preso
- Mainam gawing 'shield' kapag naglalaro ng espa-espadahan
- Mainam isuot sa siko bilang proteksyon habang naglalaro ng piko
- Mainam na pambato sa picha o shuttlecock na sumabit sa puno
- Mainam na pangkulob sa pumuputok na watusi
- Kapag ginupit-gupit nang pahugis 'cube,' e maaari mo nang
gawing pamato sa larong Bingo na
kadalasang makikita sa mga lamay ng patay.
Olats na mga katangian:
- Madaling magkawalaan kapag hinubad dahil halos pare-pareho lang
ang itsura
- Masakit isuot kapag may mga balahibo ang mga daliri mo sa paa
- Minsan kapag ipinambato mo ito sa picha o shuttlecock na
nakasabit sa puno, e nadadamay pati yung tsinelas

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I am on the way to recovery from coughs and colds that hounded me last weekend. There's a good chance that I got it sometime from my recent trip to Manila. It could be from the hospital, the airport or in the plane itself. Wherever it came from, it made me feel terrible for those five or so days that I was stuck at home. As I stated a couple of times before, I hate getting sick. Hate, hate, hate.

Yeah, so lesson learned: drink Vitamin C before flying out.


One of the worst parts about getting sick and staying home here in Singapore is the lack of televised NBA Playoff games. I accept that basketball is not at all big around these parts, but this is the damn NBA Playoffs!


Anyway, the first round is done and there aren't really any surprises. Even if I had picked wrong teams to advance (in my playoff bracket, I picked Suns and Mavs), those series could have gone either way, especially in the jam-packed Western Conference. What's more important is that the teams I'm rooting for, Lakers and Cavs, are still in.

The thing about the Lakers I really like the most this year is that I'd be fine with them not winning it all, which is a weird way of supporting the team. The point is, that I feel confident about the Lakers in the next couple of years such that if they don't win it this year, they're sure to have a better chance next year. Right now, I'm afraid to jinx it, but they're making it look real easy. There are reports that young Andy Bynum won't make it back into the team this season (or even early next), so that just puts in a bit more load into the superstars. However, soon-to-be-MVP Kobe Bryant, everybody-forgot-how-good-I-really-am Pau Gasol, all-around-good-guy Lamar Odom and the rest of the gang will do just fine for the rest of the playoffs. I just hope they televise the games at convenient times, and often.

For more on what mid-season acquisition Pau does in his spare time, check this article out:,0,6581390.story

Nice to see superstars doing normal people things like going to the grocery.


With Iron Man setting the stage for the summer blockbusters, here's to hoping for a good 2008 movie season.

Indiana Jones, you're next!


This looks to be a good place to retire: Queenstown, New Zealand.

I've been seeing a lot of ads on the newspapers (or what my boss calls propaganda) about real estate development in this area. If only I had the money...

In any case, if I am incommunicado in thirty or so years, I'm probably fishing for trout around these parts. Give me a visit.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

For Their Viewing Pleasure

SMS from mom:

Nanonood na ng tv si papa. Ganda! Diniliver 30 mins ago. Salamat ulit. Love you!

I did make mention before about buying some things for my parents. No real occasion, but maybe it'll cover the birthday gifts I've failed (and will fail) to give on their birthdays and gift-giving holidays.

For my mom, I bought a brand new Canon Powershot A470 to replace the handed-down Canon IXUS something-something (2.0 megapixel ancient artifact bought in 2001) that I gave her a couple of years back. Of course all good things come with a price:

Mama (4/17/2008 7:52:02 AM): okay. nagamit ko na yung camera dun sa first meeting namin sa reunion. sa ganda ng camera ko, ako ang pinagdadala ng camera sa reunion. ano sila sinuswerte. gawin daw ba akong photograher

For my dad (and the house), I got a good deal on a 32" Panasonic LCD TV from Best Denki. This was part of the IT Show last March. When I went back in Manila last March, true enough, the TV costs a lot more over there even with the shipping and handling I had to pay for to send the TV home from Singapore. I'd say I saved just under 20,000 pesos for that thing. So it was a good feeling.

Should be nice to see them enjoy the TV when I come home on Saturday. I just hope they don't forget to stop watching it to pick me up from the airport.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quick Bits for April

This morning I changed my normal breakfast of $2 Sausage McMuffin and bottled water to try out the newly-introduced-in-Singapore McGriddle sandwich. Needless to say, that was the first and last time I'll ever eat that piece of synthetic rubbish. Dreadful.


Once again, I have missed the opportunity of watching some excellent films in the Singapore Film Fest. One of our own, 'Tirador', has even won some awards from it. That just made me feel a lot sorrier for not getting to watch any of the films.

There aren't a lot of nice movies being shown in theatres. I'm really looking forward to The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Indiana Jones. Anything else I'm missing?


In the NBA, two of the three teams I'm rooting for are in the playoffs. Real tough luck to the Golden State Warriors, who couldn't squeeze in even with 48 wins in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

So best of luck to the soaring Lakers and the "asa pa" Cleveland Cavaliers.

Playoffs start this weekend!


I've finally sold out and registered in Facebook. Who knows for what reason?


Don't you hate it when someone tells you that they've got a story to tell you ... but not now.


I'll be back in Manila on April 26-28. I don't think I'll have time to meet people. So I'll just see you when I see you.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What do 96-year old nuns do in their spare time?

Why, they make bread shaped like pigs, of course.

In my short trip to Manila last weekend, Sister Rufina, lovingly known to the family as Lola Madre stopped by the house to give me these. She claimed to have made these. No, actually she claimed to have raised these in the convent. At least her sense of humor lasted longer than her sense of hearing, that's gotta count for something. Also she still has her original set of teeth (not complete, though). And something else that counts is the fact that she is 96 years of age and still traveling to and from the convent, which sits in N. Domingo, in San Juan. I had not realized that she is that old. She's one of those persons who's always been there.

She's the third, I think, of five siblings. The eldest, Lola Piring (aka Lola Champion, because of all the Champion cigarettes she puffed) would have been a hundred this year, had she not succumbed to lung cancer (natch) in 1992. The second, Lola Lucing (aka Lola Banana, from all the bananas she brought from General Santos) was the first to go in 1990. Lola Canding went in 2004. Grampa (Lolo Dioning), the youngest, is still there of course, though all alone in Bulacan, at one point an American citizen overstaying in the Philippines (he might have gotten dual citizenship already, but I'm not sure).

So every now and then, Lola Madre shows up at the house hollering for her apo. I meet her downstairs and she gives me something to give to my "girlfriend" (a concept that stuck after all these years), also reminding me to take it back if "we" broke up. I don't bother to correct her anymore, after years of trying. Otherwise, we might just go back to pre-girlfriend stage of me on the way to becoming a priest. Anyway, she gave different things every time, whether a rosary, a handkerchief, or a hand-me-down gift. This time it's them bread things that she might have gotten from somewhere. She could've made it herself, who knows.

But, wow, 96 years old, and still going. Wala kayo sa lola ko!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Almost literally "galing sa baul"

I figured that since I was back home for a few days, I could digitize (and potentially preserve) some pictures from prehistoric past. So laugh all you want, but I'm way past getting embarrassed for these pictures. Enjoy! :)

Less than a year old. Sleeping habits remains the same up until now.

Age one, superkid phase

Age 12 with the WTC in the background

Age 17, the stripey-shirt phase, at the Palace of Fine Arts

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession

My credit card bill is running to about half the limit. It's just about one of the highest levels it's ever been in. Ever. But I'm not panicking because these things are just due to "bad timing", in the sense that I've clumped up my spending at this time of the year. In contrast, I expect some months ahead to have minimal or no credit card spending (except for the standard electricity bill). Hopefully, that'll happen. On the bright side, I don't delay payment. The reason I swipe or scan (There's that cool pay-by-touch thing here that allows you to charge to your credit card by scanning your index finger, and without the actual card. Evil.) is to harvest the rewards points at some point in the future. Maybe an upgrade to business class on one of my flights every five or so years. Or maybe get me a nice new refrigerator or something.

But I probably don't want you to think that I'm living in the fast lane. (Though I admit I'm guilty of doing that sometimes. Not as often as you may think.) What I bought are mostly necessities (pants, office shoes, shirts), some are gifts (surprise), and few are just unfortunately expensive (2 trips to Manila). I didn't choose to buy an iPod Touch 32GB in Hong Kong because it's one of those nice-to-haves, but I did buy this equally expensive fancy-schmancy messenger bag (read: not Crumpler) which should last me a couple of years. That's not exactly "living simply so that others may simply live", a phrase I heard a couple of times in school (before they rolled out the required Otto shoes). Then again, I don't really care much about how others live their lives. Except when they're in dire need, of course.

So yeah, I could ramble on and on about my spending and consumerism. It could be my monthly or quarterly post (or vent). I guess the point is to do a self-diagnosis every now and then, to see if I'm on the verge of carefree spending. The result, thankfully, is still the same: that level-headed me still generally sticks to the budget. I can spend as well as I can "not-spend". What I don't mention in this blog is that I go for extended periods of time sticking to budget and going for maximum savings. That'd make for a boring blog post, by the way.

Day X: I didn't go out today and scrounged up lunch by eating leftover
food and toasting frozen expired bread. I did my long overdue laundry.
For dinner, yet even more bread.


Right, the trip back home.

I'm not really planning to do a lot back home. Just a couple of night outs with friends, a little necessity shopping (need to replace worn out undershirts), family lunch and dinners, and such. It should be enough for a short four day trip. I've a couple of surprises for good old mum and dad, who are probably bored to hell at home. So I got them a few things to make hell a bit more bearable. And no, it's not a new air conditioner.

The following trip, for April, is supposed to be for a wedding. That's if I got the date right. Hopefully, I got it right because the tickets are non-refundable. Boo-hoo.

If anyone wants me to bring home something for them. It's best to tell me this early.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Making the Jump

First of all, I'd like to apologize to those I didn't meet up with in Hong Kong. I'll make up for it next time. And there will be a next time, I'm pretty sure.

Ok, so now that that is out of the way, I'd like to share my jampacked Hong Kong and Macau experience and the one "once-in-a-lifetime" activity that made it all the more memorable.

We went to the spanking new Changi Airport Terminal 3 where things are just about squeaky clean, early in the morning to catch a flight to Hong Kong International. The brand new airport looks good and it's got that more wide-open feel, truly world class. Flying Singapore Airlines economy class has always been a treat, and for this flight, I got to watch 90% of the movie 3:10 to Yuma (as I ran out of time, I don't remember why), just short of the climax/resolution. In HKG, immigration lines were a bit long and took quite a while. After we were cleared, we gathered our luggage, got Airport Express Tourist Transport tickets, got money from an ATM and headed towards Hong Kong Island via train. Once on IFC, we took a cab to L'Hotel Causeway Bay, which is a stone's throw away from Tin Hau Station. It was a convenient location for a hotel. The weather was cool and damp at around 12-18C (I'm guessing). I wore a shirt, a sweater and a jacket which I occasionally took off.

The grand tour started at Tsim Sha Tsui, after that short meal in Cafe de Coral. Taking the Star Ferry from the terminal, we got a good look of the harbour despite the fog and smog. Bus 15C took us to the lower Peak terminus, and from there we took the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak. That afternoon, we were blessed with a relatively clear view of Hong Kong and Kowloon. We spent the evening with a long trek to Citygate Outlets way out in Tung Chung. Just before calling it a night, we decided to check out Causeway Bay and curiously watch people looking up at the big screens showing Edison Chen's press conference.

Day Two started in historic Mido Cafe near Yau Ma Tei. It started drizzling while we were walking to Mongkok along "The Golden Mile", Nathan Road. In the area, people were watching replays of Edison Chen's press conference. It really was a big deal to the locals. We continued our trek through Tsim Sha Tsui, looking for bargains, though nothing was really compelling. We spent just about the whole afternoon on the south side of the island to check out Ocean Park. The weather wasn't cooperating, forcing the park to shutdown the rides that we came there for. We managed to watch the dolphin show, go inside the atoll reef, and ride the Abyss. After the cable car ride to the main entrance, we got a chance to see the Giant Panda Habitat, which was a unique experience. Back smack in the middle of the city, we had dinner at Canteen in IFC Mall to watch a muted Symphony of Lights from the HK side. We got dessert at Lucky Desserts near World Trade Centre.

Day Three started with a quick breakfast at Cafe de Coral, after which he headed straight to Sheung Wan. That place of course is where we caught the (Turbojet) ferry to Macau. After enduring the bumpy 1 hour ride, we were at Macau Ferry Terminal. We took a cab to Macau Tower, where my pilgrimage will take place.


This probably merits a blog entry of its own, but I'm confident that I can fit the entire experience narrative in a paragraph or two. Here it goes.

The "once-in-a-lifetime" activity was bungy jumping from Macau Tower, the self-proclaimed World's Highest Bungy Jump at 233 meters. We could get into technicalities about how it's not pure bungee what with all the safety equipment, but who really cares. In any case, I got booked something like an hour before the scheduled time, which made me feel like dead man walking. During that time, I didn't think it was a good idea to have lunch even when I eventually did. The feeling is similar to taking the final exam in school, not knowing if you're prepared. You dread the event, and at the same time, you want to get it over with quickly. As the slated time approached, I signed a couple of waivers, got the complimentary shirt, and emptied my pockets of stuff which could potentially kill people at 9.8 meters per second. I was scared shit and excited, but I got a bit more confident when I saw that three Korean girls ages 11-16 were ahead of me. Maybe it's won't be so bad after all.

It started to rain lightly when I was outside the observation deck, which was the 61st floor of the tower (which I assumed to be 233 meters up, as advertised). It was pretty windy as well. After the three young ladies did their jump, I got a good insight of how the components of the contraption work. Each jump took about 5-10 minutes from when they tie up your legs to the time you head back upstairs from the ground. There were three guys operating the jump from the deck, two others to document (still and video camera), and two to pick up your body parts down below (kidding, but there were two at the ground floor). The view from up there wasn't really spectacular, no thanks to the weather and the fog. The scariest part of the experience was walking the plank and into position. I began to realize that there's no way to go but down. I still had the composure to give a thumbs up with a smile to the video team and to follow the instructions on how to jump: arms out, chin up, and try your best to fall over (instead of jumping down). Behind the smile was of course the frozen terrified smile which I held for a couple of seconds.

"Get ready!...5...4...3...2...1..."

The initial sensation was that of panic as I didn't expect the bungy cord to be so heavy as to actually pull my legs down. In fact in the video, you can see me momentarily flailing my arms. I must clarify that wasn't an attempt to fly but rather it was of wanting to fall forward. About a second in, the cords did it for me, and I was looking at the ground from that time on. The wind and rain smashed into my face, but I learned to trust the safety equipment, and eventually just enjoyed the jump. It really was a long way down and I got to look around the landscape on the way. I made it a point not to blink during that time just to milk it for what it's worth. Way short of the landing cushion, I got pulled back by the cord for another (relatively) high drop. After that was a lot of bouncing up and down until of course you settle in a really uncomfortable upside-down position, legs hurting from the strain. I got a chance to look around some more while they were slowly lowering me to the pad. And that was that.

You can see the video here:


After spending a considerable amount of time in Macau Tower, we hurried to the taxi queue to get to Largo do Senado and Ruinas de São Paulo. The plaza was packed with weekend loafers and tourists as it should be. The neo-classical architecture around this area was a sight to behold and looks good in the pictures I took (again despite the gray and gloomy skies). As in almost anywhere in the colony, The Casino Lisboa looms over the buildings like a giant overlord. Behind the polished tourist attractions were ugly old residential apartments. We trekked through the pedestrian mall and retail stores. Tasty Macau treats were sold on the streets, we got a box of egg tarts and a pastry which looks and tastes like local polvoron and puto-seko (I don't know what it's called). Up the hill was Ruinas de São Paulo, which was basically the facade of the original cathedral. That short journey was the end of our Macau city tour as we rushed back to the ferry terminal to catch the 5:05 back to Hong Kong.

Back in the former British colony, we managed to get seats at the delightful Shanghai Mian in World Trade Centre. We ordered dumplings, pork buns, seafood fried rice, shrimp, and smelly fermented tofu (which I found revolting).

The final day of the trip started with breakfast at a place whose name I can't recall right now. But it had excellent dimsum which was the perfect local experience. We followed that up with another trip to Mongkok to do some last-minute shopping. The next stop was Pacific Place in Admiralty which is an excellent shopping place for branded items. Lunch was near Lan Kwai Fong, serving various rice and noodle dishes. XTC ice cream helped take away the oily taste. One last look in Central and we were off to collect our bags from the hotel. Waiting for our 8pm flight wasn't so exciting but we got to look around SkyPlaza before going through immigrations. The plane was 15 minutes late, but it was OK. I finally managed to finish 3:10 to Yuma on the flight back, a very satisfying film. I tried to watch Bee Movie but I was unable to complete the damn thing. Not that I was entirely sorry, though. I thought the movie was cute and had some funny bits, but overall it was terrible and got a bit preachy as well, not to mention borderline bestiality wasn't far off (you didn't really need to read that). A couple of hours after and I was back in good ol' ever-humid Singapore.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Bohol Nine Yards

(Sorry, I ran out of clever titles. But I tried googling the phrase and it turns out nobody in cyberspace is as corny as I am. I should get plus points for originality.)

For Chinese New Year 2008, the troops headed for Bohol and Cebu for sights, sounds and sun.

Day 1: Arrival

We caught the midnight flight to Cebu, direct from Singapore via Cebu Pacific (kudos to one of the great developments in travel in recent history, budget airlines). The flight was relatively smooth, although I absolutely must point that the change in pressure (that causes your ears to pop, among other things) gave me a terrible headache. It's that excruciating feeling of your head about to explode. Anyway this happened just before landing.

We arrived at Mactan International very early in the morning. The officials at immigration provided for some wake-up by dishing out side comments:

Immigrations guy: (looking at my passport) Figueroa!
Guy loafing near immigrations counter: Figueroa ... mga alahero yan.
Me: ?

After clearing immigrations:

Guy: (looking at me pass by) Intsik pala mga Figueroa.
Me: !

So yeah, baggage and customs were pretty smooth. There was a currency exchange counter near the exit, which gave ridiculously unfair rates (as expected). Fortunately, I was able to withdraw some money at the BPI ATM outside, using my Citibank card. I learned afterwards that the rates were much, much better even if it's a different bank. We got cabs that went into the city of Cebu-Mandaue, looking for 24hr Jollibee outlets. Eventually, we settled on the downtown branch. The cab ride was a weird experience as our cab driver perfectly understood Tagalog, but kept replying in Cebuano. I assume it was because most of the entertainment media in the country are in Filipino, which is essentially Tagalog.

Pier 3-Supercat-Tagbilaran

We had about 15-20 minutes for Jollibee breakfast before we went to Pier 3 on the Supercat to Tagbilaran. It was 450 pesos, one-way. In hindsight, we should've gotten a return ticket instead, which costs just as much. The trip took about an hour and forty-five and the movie they played was Night at the Museum, which was mildly entertaining.

We were welcomed by a little drizzle on Tagbilaran port that lasted a few minutes. Gathering our things, we chartered a van that would take us to Panglao Island.


A good half an hour ride took us from the Port of Tagbilaran through the charmless island capital city to the rolling hills and chalk-white beaches of Panglao Island, where we checked in at Flower Garden Resort.

The resort is a good five minute walk away from Alona beach through Alona Palm Resort. While admiring the spectacular beach views, we found lunch at Trudis Place. We also found out that there was a brownout at the time.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach and had dinner at the iconic Alona Tropical restaurant. Grilled food and lots of rice was served to cap the day. Mixed cocktails and junk food followed soon afterwards.

Day 2: Bohol Tour

The next morning, after an excellent breakfast of one-peso pandesal with ma-ling and scrambled egg, we began our cultural trip of Bohol.

Sandugo-Baclayon Church

We were surprised that the package provided a very informative tour guide for us whose name escapes me right now. The first stop was the Blood Compact or Sandugo Shrine ( in Tagbilaran. The next was Baclayon Church and Museum which really had nothing so special about them other than the fact that they're very-very old.

Tarsiers-Chocolate Hills

Right beside Loboc River, where the nipa trees and kaong reside, was the famous tarsier sanctuary. Inside were a couple of insomniac tarsiers (as they were nocturnal), a flying lemur who doesn't like to move-it-move-it, and a couple of monkeys.

The next point of interest, and a natural wonder in its own right, was the Chocolate Hills in Carmen. On the way, we were able to taste a local delicacy called Alupi, which is made out of coconut, sticky rice and a couple of other things. We were greeted once again with a light drizzle on the way up to the uber-hill where there's a lookout deck to the picturesque view of the hills.

Man-made Forest-Loboc River

Backtracking to the mouth of Loboc river, we had a chance to take excellent photos at the man-made mahogany forest.

By lunchtime, we were able to take the Loboc River Cruise on the boat-restaurant. Halfway into the journey, we stopped by at a local Ati community that caters to tourists, obviously. After a couple of interactions and photo opportunities, we headed back to the boat which deposited us back where we started. The final stop of the tour was the souvenir store where I bought a couple of sando shirts and sweets.


It was a good tour that's well worth the money we paid for it. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Alona beach, having foot scrubs and body massages. As it was Chinese New Year, some locals put on a fireworks show from shallow waters much to the delight of the dining visitors.

Day 3: Island Hopping

Dolphin Watching

We had to wake up even earlier on the third day to do some dolphin-watching some kilometers off Panglao Island. Here's where my sorry-ass camera didn't get any action. The main reason being I wouldn't be able to enjoy the natural theatrics while trying to capture them in the viewfinder. It was a good thing because for the first time ever, I've seen at least two dolphins put on a show by jumping high up out of the water and spinning like hell. I swear they could have been in one of those water park shows, but these were wild dolphins.


After the "show", we went in the direction of Pamilacan Island for snorkeling, sunbathing, and lunch. Lunch consisted of fried native chicken (not so meaty but pretty tasty), sauteed vegetables, grilled fish and tinolang manok.

By mid-afternoon, we were back in Panglao indulging in halo-halo with ice cream. More grilled food for dinner.

Day 4: Cebu

We packed our overstuffed bags and headed for the Port of Tagbilaran. The Supercat ferry ride brought us back to Cebu amidst cackling and annoying student co-passengers. Cebu is of course, the Queen City of the South. I think it's a Manileño term judging from the presence of the word "South" (when it's really situated in Central Philippines).


The cab ride through the city allowed me to get a glimpse of how much different Cebu is from Manila. How much different? Not much. It's a mess of deco style buildings, tangled up power lines, and makeshift stalls, not to mention the crowded streets. Though not entirely charmless, there's not much effort to either modernize deteriorating buildings or restore historical ones. This could be testament on how much development is being focused on Imperial Manila.

At least the private sector isn't doing so bad. Late lunch was at CNT Lechon in Food Choices in the Ayala Mall. Eeeex-cellent Lechon Cebu. Dinner was at Gerry's Grill. We bought groceries in Metro Gaisano to bring back to Singapore and fill our cupboards with Filipino ingredients.

Day 5: Cebu

The final day was marked by a proper walk tour of the city, the definitive cultural immersion.

Cebu Walk Tour-SM City Cebu

From GV Tower downtown, we walked to a national landmark, Magellan's Cross.

A little aside here. Isn't it weird that Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães (or Fernando Magallanes) is best known in names other than his native language? How would he feel? I mean, nobody calls me Kristiyano Antoniyo back home (nor should they ever should).

Anyway, the cross at some point in time symbolized the beginning of the colonial era of the Philippines. Fernão was of course killed by Lapu-lapu's arnis-wielding posse soon after, as recounted by Antonio Pigafetta. They put up a shrine where the event happened. Lapu-lapu, of course, was a one-hit wonder and as far as I can tell, was never heard from again. But if they had wiped out the entire Spanish expedition with none to complete the journey, who knew how different things might have been.

Right beside Magellan's Cross is the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño. Then, a couple of blocks away is the old Cathedral (I don't know what it's called).

The last part of the tour is Fort San Pedro, a small garrison with nice views of the city.

After the field trip, we went back to the hotel, packed our things, and checked out at around noon. Leaving our luggage at the counter, we went for a final gimik at SM City Cebu where we ate at Chikaan sa Cebu.

Late in the afternoon we got cabs to head back to Mactan International to complete our journey.

There were five of us who flew that night and I think we just about exceeded the allotted 100kgs (20kg x 5 passengers) with our bursting checked-in bags.

Back in Singapore, there wasn't any trouble at all with customs and such. A couple of minutes past midnight and we were already home from one of the best beach vacations I've ever experienced.

Flickr photoset:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Overdue Quiz about my Ateneo experience

1. What's your ID number?

2. Passed or wait-listed?

3. How did you know about the ACET results?
Saw the results for myself in Xavier Hall

4. Was Ateneo your first choice?

5. Do you know what your ACET score is?
Who knows?

6. What course was your first choice?
BS Computer Science

7. Second choice?
BS Management Information Systems

8. Anong course mo ngayon?
BS Computer Science

9. Did you have any plans of shifting?
Not really

10. Chinito/chinita ka ba?

11. Taga-Ateneo High?

12. Did you have fun in your OrSem?

13. Saang gate ka pumasok nung first day?
Gate 3

14. Are you staying/did you stay in a dorm?

15. Ever had an F in your grade report?
Yeah. A waker-upper.

16. How about an A?
Two, I think.

17. Highest grade?

18. Lowest grade?

19. Worst experience in ADMU?
I may be exagerrating, but I thought I was on the verge of flunking out.

20. Do you always attend class?
I wouldn't say "always"

21. What are/were your orgs?
CompSUCK...erm...CompSAT and an unsuccessful stint at Ateneo Debate Society (I didn't actually join to debate)

22. How many units have/did you pass/ed?
I passed all of them (eventually)

23. Nangangarap/nangarap ka bang maglaude?

24. When will/did you graduate?
March 2001

25. Fave subject?
Amidst all the technical and core courses, Film Theory class stands out.

26. Worst subject/s?
Political Science 102. Teacher sucked.

27. Fave landmark sa ADMU?
Manila Observatory

28. Fave kainan?

29. How do/did you get to school?
Brought a car

30. Are/were you always at the lib?
Not always.

31. Ever gone to the infirmary when you were sick?
I don't remember going when I was in college

32. Do/did you have a crush in campus?
Of course!

33. May balak kang mag-MS, PhD?
No more school!

34. Have you ever watched a graduation ceremony?
Other than my own, nope.

35. Do you know the "Song for Mary" by heart?
Hoh yeah.

36. Memorize mo ba ang Fabilioh?
I think I do, but maybe just most of it

37. ...ang Halikinu?
Ye-bo, ye-bo, A-tene-o rah!

38. ...ang Blue Eagle Spelling?
Of course!

39. Are you part of Team Ateneo?

40. Who's your fave UAAP basketball player?
I'd have to go with Rich Alvarez, as well.

41. Ever had a perfect score in an exam?
Practical exam, yeah.

42. Ano ang ayaw mo sa Hell Week?
That fact that it exists.

43. Dito ka ba natuto uminom ng beer?
Nope. I think high school pa.

44. What do you like about our school?
The open space and the great view of Marikina and Sierra Madre. Oh yeah, and Magis.

45. Ano ang ayaw mo?
Lazy teachers

46. Have you ever bought anything at the A-shop?
Jacket and a couple of shirts.

47. maganda ba ID pic mo?
Quite the opposite.

48. Done anything illegal on campus?
Yeah, set up a MUD in one of the school servers.

49. Bought anything at National Katips?
Just about anything for school.

50. Ever gone to Starbucks Katips?
Yeah, I've gone.

51. May nakaaway ka na ba sa school?
I try to stay away from trouble in any institution I'm affiliated with.

The trouble with the rat-race... that even if you win, you're still a rat.


The year of the Earth Rat or Wu Zi, carries with it the image of the misty mountain. Thus, the prevailing theme for the year is clouded perceptions, and outcomes that are unexpected. The year will start on a positive note, but then backslide as we edge towards the end of the year, when the element of Water becomes overwhelmingly strong.


Thursday and Friday are holidays here in Singapore. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is also rumoured to be announced a half-day. All of these in anticipation of Chinese New Year.

Though I may look Chinese, I am not headed home to receive hongbaos ("ang paw") from relatives. Instead, I'm going to take a slight turn towards Cebu and Bohol, completely bypassing Manila. I think I long overdue for some UV rays. I actually think my skin is getting lighter, if that's at all possible.

As usual, I won't start packing until the last minute, which is tomorrow night. Our flight is the midnight run direct from Singapore to Cebu. A short Supercat ferry ride, and we're there.

And as usual, it's too late to get rid of the flabs for beach season.


The Grand Duke of the year, the Rat, will not be kind to Goats this year. However, take heart in the knowledge that the challenges of the year primarily are related to matters of the heart. Indeed, it is likely to be a blast from the past, or emotional baggage left over from an old relationship, that will be the primary cause of any misery you will feel this year. So if you can let go and move on, there's no reason why 2008 can't be a good year.

Career and financial prospects will prove to be excellent for Goats this year. Mistakes will somehow turn out to be blessings in disguise and you will have someone looking out for your interests this year. At work, expect your star to be on a rise. It might not be entirely smooth sailing in 2008 for Goats, but as long as you keep your eye on the prize, and stick out the valleys, you'll find you are closer to the peak than you thought.



LOST season four has officially begun. It's nice to see the castaways back. I think it's the long lull, but I'm not as intrigued or as excited as before, even after watching the season premiere ("The Beginning of the End"). I just hope it'll pick up soon. Some of the best TV I've seen in recent years comes from this series.


A belated congratulations to parents Frances and Noel, and a "Welcome to the real world" to Elise Madeline Hernandez. Hope to see you guys again soon!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

50 More Things You Don't Really Need to Know about Me

If you opened this, FILL IT OUT! Learn 50 things about your friends, and let them learn 50 things about you!

1* Do you like cheese?
You can't go wrong with baked cheese with any food

2* Have you ever smoked heroin?

3* Do you own a gun?
Aside from my Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator, no I don't.

4* Your favorite song?
Off the top of my head, it's Under The Milky Way by The Church

5* Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
Depends on what the appointment is for.

6* What do you think of hotdogs?

7* Favorite Christmas song?
Pasko Na Naman

8* What do you prefer to drink in the morning.
Water or any type of fruit juice

9* Can you do push ups?
Yeah, I still can.

10* Favorite super-hero?
Haven't been into reading comics for quite a while but the last one I liked was Bishop (

11* What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
I don't wear jewelry

12* Favorite hobby?
PC Games, if it's a hobby at all.

13* Secret weapon to get the opposite sex?
The Gilroy

14* Do you have A.D.D.?
Probably. But it's just all in the head, in my opinion.

15* What's one trait do you hate about yourself?
Dangerously content with mediocrity

16* Middle Name:
De Los Reyes

17* Three thoughts at this exact moment
a.) Why doesn't the id field auto-generate?
b.) What to work on next
c.) What time will I go home later?

18* Name 3 things you bought yesterday?
a.) Bottled water, everyday
b.) Toiletries
c.) Chicken salad for dinner

19* Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
a.) Water
b.) Season's Iced Lemon Tea
c.) Welch's Grape Juice

20* Current worry right now?
Cash flow and expenditures for the following year

21* Current hate?
That stupid leak in the bathroom which I don't have time to take care of

22* Favorite places?
I like all the places I've been to but Phi-phi Island is superb.

23* How did you bring in the New Year?
With a bang! Celebrating with family in Manila.

24* Where would you like to go?
Japan, Mainland Europe, Bhutan, Tibet, Palawan, Australia

25* Name three people who will complete this and return?
a) Shelley (maybe)
b) Nes (come on, Nes!)
c) Chale ('kaw na lang siguro, wala na eh! :P)

26* Do you own flip flops?

27* What shirt are you wearing?
Right now, light blue Banana republic shirt for the office.

28* Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
I just like sleeping.

29* Can you whistle?

30* Favorite color/s?
blue, green, red, brown, orange, gray, yellow

31* Would you like to be a pirate?
In the 21st century? No thanks.

32* What songs do you sing in the shower room?
Any song I heard last

33* Favorite girl's name?
Catherine (and variations of)

34* Favorite boy's name?
Anthony is fine.

35* What's in your pocket right now?
Disposable facial tissue, and a couple of coins

36* Last thing that made you laugh?
More cowbell! (

37* Best bed sheets as a child?
Blue sheets with nightsky, stars and moon.

38* Worst injury you've ever had?
I'm glad it never got worse than sprain or cramps

39* Do you love where you live?
Singapore is a nice place to work in.

40* How many computers do you have in your house?
2. Nes's and mine.

41* Who is your loudest friend?
I haven't seen Duch in a while, so it should be Chrissie.

42* How many dogs do you have?
We've got one in Manila.

43* Does someone have a crush on you?
It'd be nice if there's at least one.

45* What is your favorite book?
I'm going to count graphic novels as a book, so hands down Alan Moore's Watchmen.

46* What is your favorite candy?
Hershey's with Macadamia (Yum!)

47* Favorite Sports Teams?
Los Angeles Lakers, Barangay Ginebra

48* What song do you want played at your funeral?
Angels by Robbie Williams

49* What were you doing 12 AM last night?
Surfing the Internet.

50* What is the first thing you thought of when you woke up?
Shit, late nanaman.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Get to know yourself better (from Noel)

For one thing, I didn't know myself to be answering such things. But hey, there's a first for everything.



Get to know yourself better

Your view on yourself:

Other people find you very interesting, but you are really hiding your true self. Your friends love you because you are a good listener. They'll probably still love you if you learn to be yourself with them.

The type of girlfriend/boyfriend you are looking for:

You like serious, smart and determined people. You don't judge a book by its cover, so good-looking people aren't necessarily your style. This makes you an attractive person in many people's eyes.

Your readiness to commit to a relationship:

You prefer to get to know a person very well before deciding whether you will commit to the relationship.

The seriousness of your love:

Your have very sensible tactics when approaching the opposite sex. In many ways people find your straightforwardness attractive, so you will find yourself with plenty of dates.

Your views on education

Education is less important than the real world out there, away from the classroom. Deep inside you want to start working, earning money and living on your own.

The right job for you:

You're a practical person and will choose a secure job with a steady income. Knowing what you like to do is important. Find a regular job doing just that and you'll be set for life.

How do you view success:

You are afraid of failure and scared to have a go at the career you would like to have in case you don't succeed. Don't give up when you haven't yet even started! Be courageous.

What are you most afraid of:

You are concerned about your image and the way others see you. This means that you try very hard to be accepted by other people. It's time for you to believe in who you are, not what you wear.

Who is your true self:

You are mature, reasonable, honest and give good advice. People ask for your comments on all sorts of different issues. Sometimes you might find yourself in a dilemma when trapped with a problem, which your heart rather than your head needs to solve.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Best Laid Plans for 2008

2007 was a good year for travel

In the office, I had printed out a 2008 Calendar. When I'm finished with it, it should mark all the planned holidays I'm going to take. It's really helpful especially in determining long weekends and sandwich days. I'm sure project managers also appreciate the advance notice.

So this is what I've come up so far (starting March, the new fiscal period). This is a very-very early draft.

March - around Holy Week, originally planned for Japan. Unlikely to happen now, so might go to Cambodia instead.
April - going home to Manila to attend a wedding. Might squeeze in beach plans nearby.
May - one sandwich day and one long weekend. No plans yet.
June, July, August, September - no obvious long weekends. Singapore National Day, August 9, falls on a Saturday.
October - one possible 5-day stretch, and one sandwich day
November/December - going home to Manila to renew drivers license
December/January 2009 - Hopefully, back to the U.S. for Christmas and New Year. 2 weeks or so.
Feb 2009 - No plans yet.

Of course even if I filled in those sandwich days, I'd still have about 5 or so days for anything unexpected. Also things, will probably be much clearer once I sort out my finances. I promised myself that I'd take care of my long-term savings (if any) this year. Although that might mean cutting trips, it might also give me a chance to look after my health instead.

Thursday, January 03, 2008