Saturday, June 16, 2012

To A New Start!

        I wanted to take a giant leap.  But I forgot that great things start from small beginnings.

So now I’m back in the bustling capital. I never thought six months of bumming around could pass by so fleetingly. And no, I didn’t go soul-searching, that’s just so pretentious and passe.  I simply just missed home. I did what I wanted – spent time with my family, and I got what I needed – a break. I got so cozy and comfortable living a care-free life that I had to pull myself out of it before I completely drown. Truth be told, I’ve always feared that I’d be as nothing as our neighborhood ghettos who, even at their thirty’s, still ask money from their folks to buy themselves beer and company. It’s just wrong and demoralizing. And maybe life would be better if they’d just buy themselves some purpose. 

 I had to remind myself that I am not getting any younger. And while some of my friends have gone finding their greener pastures, here I am still figuring out how to be successful, or at the very least, what I really want. Right now, I feel like a sixth-grader writing a school essay about “What I want to be when I grow up”, only that I AM a grown up. And it’s a pity how I still don’t know what I want. I feel like I’m being mocked and laughed at by the universe, despite how I learned from Albert Camus that it is in fact, benignly indifferent. I keep on feeling an extra ounce of sorry for myself every time I see a facebook picture of some of my friends getting themselves somewhere. I get happy for them but I secretly get envious and sad. It’s pathetic, really. And since I’ve mastered the art of faking happiness, no one really knows. No one CAN know.

Enough of emo-like sulking to self-pity! It's totally so not me.

So what’s the plan then? Right now, I’m back to basics. First get myself a job, preferably a higher-paying than the previous one. And thus, last week I have been busy job hunting here in the big metro. Technically, this is the first time I’ve been on a job hunt since my previous work came to me while I was busy with my undergrad thesis and I got employed a week after graduation. I’ve never felt so tired after every day of going to offices and companies! It is, after all not easy to buy yourself a purpose (I feel for you, neighborhood ghettos!). But do I seriously have the right to give-up? Shame! I know there are worse problems in this world and the last thing people would want to hear (or read) is the ranting of a middle-class yuppie trying to land himself employment. It’s just unfair to everyone who are experiencing REAL problems this very moment while I finish this crapola of a write-up on the 29th floor of an air-conditioned condominium at the heart of this posh city. Just kidding! BUT seriously, I have to get a job and then from there perhaps I will make that giant leap: towards building a career up, chasing other dreams, go places, be someone someday and etc. Who knows? Perhaps I might truthfully achieve the things I rambled in my sixth-grade essay of “What I want to be when I grow up” - whatever that is.

So here’s to resignations, job-hunts and future high-paying employments! And of course to new, small beginnings!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Ms Philippines 2012 and how Pinoys See Pageantry

The 2012 Winners, L to R: Ali, Nicole, Janine, Katrina, Elaine

In the end, we are all BUT spectators.

I have only been a recent fan of Philippine pageantry. Consequently, I also get excited and nervous come Miss Universe when that fateful filipina sashays the elegance and beauty of the Philippines to the rest of the world. We Pinoys look at pageantry as an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves as a nation.  If and when we emerge victorious, the pride we feel is tantamount as to when Manny Pacquiao knocks-out a boxing opponent. Most foreigners get annoyed with this “proud to be Pinoy” moments of ours but they can never understand it in full unless they learn our history and be Filipinos themselves.  Our experiences as a nation compels us to be dutiful in re-establishing our lost pride. Yes, at face value pageantry may just be entertainment but for us it is another avenue to present and stimulate a fresh perception of ourselves.

Everybody's favorite: Mary Jean /MJ

In light of the recent BB Pilipinas 2012 finals, majority of the fans got disappointed with the results. Mary Jean Lastimosa, who what majority thought was the strongest delegate didn’t get any crown. With her killer curves, fierce facial features and arresting persona, many thinks she is the best bet to coninue our top-five streak in Miss Universe. But the night ended in disbelief.

Or did it really?

Notwithstanding all the rumored conspiracies hounding the pageant, what happened on the finals night was in fact a deja-vu of the previous years. I wanted Mary Jean to win but my brain told me it would really be Janine Mari Tugonon – though heavily criticized for her flabiness and unpreparedness. I felt a resurgence of anxiety with the almost similar situation between last years favorite Patricia Tumulak versus the pageant newbie Shamcey Supsup last year. The latter won the local tilt and reminded everyone of the fighting spirit and resilience of the Filipino when she placed 4th during Miss Universe 2011, proving all her critics wrong. I hope the tides turn out the same for Janine. BUT just like Shamcey and Venus Raj, It all depends how much she fights for it.

As with many I was also disappointed with the results and sad for my favorite MJ. I turned off the TV, went straight to the kitchen and drowned my sorrow with a glass of water and then slept everything off. When I woke up this morning, I realized that the result is just as consistent as the previous years. Natural beauties always win. I realized I have no right to critique against it when I know only so little of pageants. It is also unfair to Janine when she still has yet to prove herself. I'll give her that chance the same way everyone did to Shamcey and Venus. Because wether we like it or not, Janine will wear the PHILIPPINE sash in the future and along with her is EVERY Filipino’s hope of a third crown. The real competition is out there. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Camiguin Island: My Private Sanctuary

Cloud affair: Arrival at the Port of Benoni

Born of fire and magma spewed out from volcanic eruptions is an island province abound with diverse ecological resources. Cradled at the bosom of the Bohol sea, Camiguin is the second smallest province in the Philippines. Far from the extensive arms of greedy commercialism, it remains to be among the few vacation destinations that has unspoilt natural charm and unadulterated scenery.  

Camiguin: Island of Fire
Mt.Hibok-hibok is covered by the white clouds

The usual traffic

The usual street-side view

Clear green waters to Mantigue Island and Sanctuary

Five hours away from my hometown, I have been to this Island a couple of times since I was young. Being an Island province, it’s a given that this small dot on our map is teeming with a lot of nature’s wonders. Life here is unsophisticated and uncomplicated yet just like the island itself, the people also beams with charm. From the the allure of old, antique houses lining the sides of clean streets to the smell of fresh provincial air down to its beaches, waterfalls, springs and even food is both a sight and an experience to behold. The island’s mysticism even ante’s up its rustic appeal. I hope that every wee bit of how and what Camiguin is, is preserved for years and unfazed from the damaging effects of an overgrowing and uncontrollable population. 

Almost sunset at Mantigue Island
(Php 550/5 pax boat ride to the island plus Php 20 environmental  fee upon arrival)

The usual architecture

The famous landmark: the 20 ft cross at the Sunken Cemetery
(Php 20/per head boat ride that takes you across the sea to the kiosk  below the cross)
When Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted in 1870's, it claimed almost one-thousand lives and buried some parts of the island. This marker is a reminder of that tragedy and to memorialize the lost lives. 

The trees have outgrown the old walls. 

The old Gui-ob church ruins in Catarman was also devastated during the eruption. 

A chapel built in the 50's inside the walls of the old church ruins.
Horizon highway

Boardwalk at a mangrove plantation on the way from the old church ruins

New church
Darn the ambulance

Faucet-like Katibawasan Falls
(Php 15/per head environmental fee)
The freezing waters of Katibawasan falls. And if it's not cold enough then take a dip 
at Santo Nino cold spring.

(Php15/head environmental fee)

But if you prefer a hot and relaxing evening: 

Me in my hot spring corner

(Php20/head environmental fee)

The spa-like Mt. Hibok-hibok Ardent hot spring pools is a must. Hottest at 39 deg Celsius water temperature

Didn't add photo filter on this.

The night scene at the shore of Sabacajan Cottages where I stayed. 

Tribal necklaces and trinkets for keeps

(Php 5/head environmental fee)

View from the 6th station
The walkway to the old Mt. Vulcan and stations of the cross. If I counted it right, there's about 14 stations you'll pass by before you reach the top. Once reached, the view of western Camiguin from the top is breathtaking. This time, I wasn't able to reach the top but I still vividly remember how it looks from there. 

This time, I skipped this for fear of getting burnt: It was a really hot day.

The famous White Island: A sandbar of powdery white sand. 

The famous VJANDEP Pastel of Camiguin
(Php 120/Box of 12 delectable buns)
One should not leave without bringing home VJANDEP PASTEL: A Camiguin pastry of supple BUN with sweet yema filling. 

The famous LANZONES of Camiguin: succulent and sweet
Every third week of October, the island province is in full festivity for the Lanzones Festival; A thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful harvest. 

How to get here: By air to Cagayan de Oro. From there, take a bus to Balingoan port then cross by     ferry to Benoni Port of Camiguin

I just love the sky

Side-note: Environmental Fees listed are as of March 2012.
                Playfully photo-filtered Images (except for White Island, Pastel and 
                Lanzones) are mine and are copyrighted. :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Hongkong Chronicle

The glass door slid open the very moment the bus halted adjacent the bus stop. A few blocks before, at the upper deck, we were already on our toes readying ourselves to step down. The moment the timer flashed 60, we hurried on alighting from the bus one by one. There were seven of us and a couple of passengers and all of us had only a minute, exactly sixty seconds to climb down the vehicle lest we all want to find ourselves on the next bus stop, a few kilometers off. As the bus sped away, I was fidgety on my scarf. I coiled it twice to add warmth over my nape. The temperature was at a freezing 11 degree Celsius. It was only until here that I had experienced this much cold in my life. I tucked both of my hands in my jacket-pockets as we started to walk. I tugged-on with my siblings while my folks were ahead of us a few steps away. Along with them is my mom’s friend uncle Rey, who relegated himself to being our tour guide. He has been here for almost 17 years. He likes it here more than in his land of birth. Who wouldn’t? Even I have found myself liking the place after only a couple of days. We were walking within Tsim Sha Tsui district. Getting lost but then finding our ways amid the dense crowd. With all the organized, effective and high-technology public transportation scheme this country has, one will find it amusing how most locals prefer to walk – even the old ones. We chatted our way until we stopped to sample the local street-food at a very busy stall. I had dumplings on a stick. The fusion of sweet and spicy aftertaste was great on the palate. “Tomorrow when we’re at the night market, we’ll sample their spicy seafood”, uncle Rey said while finishing his melon drink. I was talking to my brother when a woman approached him and muttered something to him in Cantonese. My brother smiled and stutteringly said “Sorry, I only speak English”.  My mom asked what that was about so I told her the incident and my dad laughed at it in jest. My brother has slanted eyes so it’s not really hard for him to be mistaken as Chinese though he looks more Japanese to me. We continued on our parade taking pictures of anything that caught our interests; amazing infrastructures, cutting-edge architecture and even of people we find fashionable - anything that we haven’t seen back home. 

The wind blew colder as the night got deeper but the crowd builds up by the minute. We found ourselves frolicking back in Victoria harbor. It was just last night when we astonished ourselves with the harbor’s symphony of light: a dazzling synchronization of laser, light and music multimedia of forty-four buildings.  “If I live here, I would watch this show every night giving up ten minutes of my life to pure awe and amazement”, I said to myself.  We all stopped at the promenade and sat at the benches admiring the city sky-line opposite the harbor. Our feet, weary of walk and our bodies, shivering from the cold. “The ice in Mongolia had melted and the wind is blowing all the cold here. In fact, temperature there has gotten below negative and some plants and cattle have died of it”, uncle Rey explained. “But this isn’t even the coldest yet, three weeks ago it was down to 9 degrees. February is the coldest month, you know”, he added. He went on explaining further about the light show; how expensive it was and how many tourists it draws every night. I listened eagerly until a familiar whisper of a warm, almost cry-like tone stole my ears. As uncle Rey’s voice grew fainter to my hearing, the melodious sound grew louder seemingly engaging on a duet with the frequent howling of the cold winter wind. I discreetly searched where the sound was coming from. A few benches away, a woman was romancing the strings of her cello as people passed her by. - Not a care in the world. I kept my eyes at her while I listened to her music. That rich, soothing sound and almost human-like singing kept me entranced for a long while. Ah! This should be life – not a care in the world for me, too.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Miss International Mom (late post)

And because it’s International Women’s Month, allow me the privilege to honor who I consider is the epitome of what an international woman really is (both literally and uhm, figuratively). Well it’s none other than my mom. Me doing this by the way is a rarity, in fact this is the very first time.
I have always been overly proud of my mom – in a secretive kind of way. I haven’t really praised her out loud, in the open and to other people because it’s just not me and neither do I want it to get into her head. Besides, she gets a regular dose of accolades (and jealousy) from her peers. She is distinguished within the realm of the academe. I’d say she is a superstar in her own right. On many evenings, we grew up with stories of struggle and perseverance of her youth. At one point, we (my siblings) orchestrated our little ways of escaping the dinner table because it was the same story over and over again. Imagine your mom reading to you Cinderella every night of your young life for say 10 years?  Although at times, she did manage to add twists of surprise out from the very mundane of things – only to deliver a point and to keep us interested for a few minutes. But now that I’m an adult and had been away, it’s just recent that I’ve really understood what she was trying to tell us. It was just a couple of nights ago during dinner that I heard again her life stories and I kept on thinking that if only I listened, I would’ve become as successful or accomplished as she is now.
She went through a hard life – that was always her point. Losing her mother at fourteen, her father became depressive, one brother became alcoholic and the family business along with their saved fortunes went awash by life’s ebbing current. But it never was a hindrance for her to pursue her goals. I’ve always kid her about having a soap opera kind of life but I’ve always understood why she is meticulous, perfectionist and workaholic. I’ve always understood that her reason for her later frequent leaving was because she didn’t want us to experience what she did. She was trying to make our lives different from hers: well-provided and smooth. But sometimes, I fail to understand her insatiable thirst for knowledge. She’d left us for months for trainings, seminars and researches abroad. She was pregnant with my brother when she was traversing her way through the forests of Australia. She was in the outskirts of Jakarta when I was awarded with honors in second grade. For years, she was finishing her doctorate in Malaysia while I was intentionally flunking subjects in high school. She wasn’t there in certain milestones of my life. But I never have even an ounce of resentment because she had always made up for her absence. An amusing memory is that while abroad, she made it a habit to call every other day and when she comes back, she brings with her a collection of phonecards, hundreds of them and in one shoebox.            
Today, my mom is where she rightfully deserves to be: the highest-ranking professor (and among the few highest-paid) in the state university she has been attached to for decades. Outside school, she leads a non-government team of environmentalists, conducts lectures and consultancy work, hold livelihood assistance forums to impoverished mothers who were victims of the recent typhoon while also leading various activities in church and elsewhere. She does all that while still being able to make sure that there’s enough groceries for the month, food on the table every meal, dusts wherever on the house being wiped-off and the toilet squeaky clean and free. But she always had a life of multi-tasking. I remember she (and my dad) put up a business of a boarding house with 90 plus residents, ensuring their every meal while taking care of then toddler me and my sister at the same time finishing her master’s degree. Later on, they put up a textile business and had my dad stop in the military and paid for his tuition to finish college. She had ever since prioritized education. That all being said, despite her humility,I will proudly claim how great my mom is.  
International Woman – Although I know that this month’s celebration is in a different context, I believe that such title serves her just right: For being well-traveled in 14 countries and for having been shortlisted for an Ivy-league school in the US and for just being everything.

Mom in Paris

And mom, if you stumble on this blog and read this (which I’ll ensure won’t happen),  please say NO to some commitments. You’re not 20 anymore for crying out loud! And what the hell is up with your recent administrative promotion for the nth time? So I guess you’re really not stopping huh? Then slow down a bit, okay? Don’t let this post bloat your ego and consider this as your birthday and mother's day post, too. 

-          From your secretly can’t-be-anymore-prouder son. 

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S MONTH! - All of you would probably soon be great mothers!