Ah, Macau!

The four days and three nights we spent in Macau were quite challenging for me and my mom. We had no idea what was in store for us (well, aside from the unbelievable ‘ruins’ which was the highlight of every Macau trip).

On the first day, we roamed around the streets of Senado. Me and my mom dropped by every store which had a “Sale” sign on and we were lucky to have found some good items (Crocs, Izod and Giordano) at very low prices. We bumped onto several Filipina sales ladies who were kind enough to help us out since I found no one who understands English – no one! Our whole trip became a series of communication gaps and plastered smiles. I wonder why nobody told us to study Cantonese.

By the 21st of March, we had a whole day tour of the city. It was a race against time since we had to visit a lot of places although each destination were just a stone’s throw away from each other (Macau is small, very small!). After visiting the usual tourist sites – the Ecumenical Center, old churches, souvenir shops A-ma Temple, Grand Prix area, and revisiting Senado Square (way too popular!), we came back to our hotel (The Grand Emperor) battling our way out of a crowd of tourists taking pictures of the gold bars found at the hotel lobby (yes, we’re just stepping on them!).

The third day was a marathon! Me and my mom decided to take a taxi and go to Taipa Island. We visited The Venetian. It was a very splendid sight! Builders of The Venetian copied the iconic landmarks in Venice. Too bad we weren’t able to ride a gondola, but I enjoyed the scenery (breathtaking!) along with the classical background music. After that, we went to the Fisherman’s Wharf were we met more Filipinos. At night, we watched a Taiwanese performance across our hotel and took pictures of the bright and colorful Casino facades.

Personal Macau Notes:

·Streets are one-way. Good, disciplined drivers everywhere!

·Riding a taxi is similar to a race car driving experience (blame the Macau Grand Prix!)

·Car brands seen: BMW, Toyota, Honda… and more BMWs (plus a few MB’s)

·Funny Q&A:

Mom: Is this delicious?

Saleslady: 25 dollars!

·Historical sites in the Philippines are far more realistic

·You’ll get that “Portuguese” feel wherever you are

·McDonald’s = palatable food

By the way, according to our cool tour guide, the name “Macau” was derived from early settlers who introduced the area as A-Ma-Gao (Bay of A-Ma).I prefer, Ah, Macau!

Another Tourist Spot

Townsfolk say that the number of islands in the Pinoy tourist spot ‘Hundred Islands’ are 123. I had neither chance nor patience to count but when I reached the view deck of Governor’s Island, the experience was breathtaking. The awesome tourist attraction in Alaminos, Pangasinan is surely one place a Filipino should visit. This was my second time to visit Pangasinan, the first was in Bolinao. Known for mouth-watering sea foods, one restaurant made my family come back three times during our three-day visit – the grill located at the Hundred Islands Park wharf. Their sets of dishes ranging from fried local cuisine to grilled fishes were all sumptuous. The Hundred Islands are absolutely real-life wonders. I compare them to Bohol’s Chocolate Hills, the only difference is that they are larger mounds of earth floating on sea. My family visited around five out of the 123 islands and every visit was a different experience. Our favorite was the “Papaya (Lopez) Island” across the crowded Quezon Island. Papaya Island is a small patch of land with fine white sand. My Alaminos experience was generally fun but the only thing I didn’t want was the accommodation. There are no luxury hotels in the area and if you are a tourist from another country, the nearest 5-star hotel would be in Dagupan. I would suggest that tourist spend a whole day in Alaminos for a whole-day tour of the Hundred Islands then go back to Dagupan for check-in. This is one of the Pinoy wonders we should be proud of yet I wonder why the government was not able to develop the infrastructure and tourist area there. What did Fidel V. Ramos (a Pangasinense) do when he was President? We are in 2008 yet it feels like it’s the 80’s there. It should be given ample attention just like Boracay and Bohol, before it’s too late.

Summer Returns

A day after I queued to see my grades in school (at last, third year ends!), I packed a load of summer essentials for a 4-day stay in the island of Bohol. Our family left the house at four o’clock in the morning. With my eyes half-opened, we reached the domestic airport terminal 2 ½ hours before our flight. If there was a ‘too early bird’ award, give it to me please!

“Mga binibini, ginang at ginoo, kalalapag lamang po natin sa paliparan ng Tagbilaran.” From Manila, it only took a 1-hour plane ride to reach Bohol’s capital. I was surprised to see the very small airport terminal. It was peculiar because small houses can be found near the airport’s perimeter fence almost touching the wings of any plane that would land. Aside from that, there were no baggage counters. Upon reaching the arrival area, all the passengers waited for their bags. Alas! A truckload of baggage came and all of us swarmed over the bags like flies hungry for rotten food. We then rode a van bound to our real vacation destination.

Bohol Beach Club (BBC) was the place where our family stayed throughout our Bohol adventure. Situated at the serene island of Panglao, BBC is the perfect place for those who want to rest and unwind. Unlike the noisy and crowded shores of Puerto Galera and Boracay, BBC offers a peaceful getaway. I felt I owned the whole island, with a few Koreans and Europeans in skimpy bikinis as my guests.

The next day was our ‘tour’ day. With our cool and showbiz-oriented tour guide named Alice, we went to the yummy-looking Chocolate Hills and met the famous Tarsiers up close and personal. We also had lunch on a floating boat cruising the Loboc river. After that, we visited the centuries-old Baclayon Church, tasted some pale-looking ‘ube’ and bought ‘pasalubongs’ (plastic bags full of shirts, tarsier key chains and peanut kisses). Our day ended in BBC with a beachside dinner. While eating, we were even serenaded. We spent the third day dolphin-watching and enjoying the white sand, collecting seashells, drooling over starfishes and identifying the species of every invertebrate found there (unleashing the biologist in me, again!).

I would like to thank those who became part of my Bohol adventure:

ALICE (the tourist guide queen) for the chismis and facts about Bohol. ALBERTO and JACQUES (flight attendants) for their smiles while giving away PAL’s not-so-delicious snack pack. UNNAMED DRIVERS (drivers, duh!) for their stories while we were touring Bohol KOREAN TOURISTS (modern invaders of the country) for being rude whenever we get food from the buffet table (We have this thing called ‘line’ here!) PAUL or TONTON (the laundry man) for talking to me during my beach-roaming nights MOSQUITOS (not the Anopheles) for sucking my blood BLIND MUSICIANS for entertaining us while waiting for our plane .

Frustrated Pig

While watching a noontime game show hosted by a high-pitched, thirty-something showbiz figure, the thought of reviving my online diary popped in my head. After almost five months of rest, here I am again, tapping the black keys of my friend Toshiba. Once in a while, it feels good to share something online. Actually, I never really stopped writing. My collection of unedited works already piled up on my desktop. But I missed posting life discoveries and blabbing stuff which are significant for me and actually nonsense for others.

Recently, I found time pulling myself together after being torn apart by studies and responsibilities. For me, this year’s vacation has been the ‘king of all summers.’ I did a lot of things and I hardly gained weight. Before summer officially started, I made a promise to myself. I’m not underweight but I would love to see my body buff a little bit so I promised to try what my pals suggested – just eat, sleep and live like a pig. Sad to say, like many other promises, my ‘live-like-a-pig pledge’ was broken, and this was how it happened:

I spent two hours of April Fools Day morning with my family inside a plane. I was busy reading scary Neil Gaiman stories when I heard the monotonous voice of a cabin crew announcing that our plane has landed. It was the start of my four-day stay in Hong Kong. I considered this trip as a chance to eat a lot. I spent the first day munching KFC chickens while I left my brother running around Toys ‘R Us. Of course, this trip wouldn’t be complete without having our family picture taken together with the most recognizable mouse in the world – Mickey. Every time I ate Mickey-shaped popsicles and Goofy-cooked fries, I was waiting for my body to bloat right away. “When will I get fat?” I frequently asked myself. We spent the last days touring, and every time we walk, I felt that I was getting lighter again.

Gaining weight doesn’t happen in a snap. One other way was to get plenty of sleep. By the second week of April, I was hopeless. How can I get some sleep if I was scheduled to get a Henna tattoo in Puerto Galera, do some church work during Holy Week, and attend a leadership seminar in Laguna? Before Labor Day arrived, I faced the fact that I will never ever get to live the life of a pig.

May arrived and I decided to have a month-long self-pampering. First, I found this wooden foot massage thingy and I gave my feet some rest. I blocked the next two days of the week for a facial and a dental check-up. Then, I found time to catch up with my hometown friends. I spent nights watching a primetime fantasy TV series where my high school classmate plays the role of a magician’s dancing assistant who wears a skimpy yellow-green dress. No more pig dreams.

As of now, my hair grew similar to that of Darna’s leading man, my skin was protected from UV with the help of Coppertone, my body grew several centimeters taller, my American Idol bet Katharine didn’t win, my cell phone beeped a thousand times since Globe launched unlimited texting, and my body built stayed the same. What if I was fat and I needed to trim down? Oh, the vanity! I guess I should start focusing on other things which are more important than trying to be a pig. Maybe next time, I’ll try to become a dog. Like reality, it bites!

John Hay Day

Cool breeze welcomed my weary body as I opened our vehicle’s door and walked my way through the steps of Camp John Hay in Baguio City. I gasped. It was relaxing to breath in the invigorating aroma of pine trees surrounding the wooden halls of the open-air Golf Clubhouse. Surprisingly, banners of two rival schools were everywhere: One Big Fight and Animo (Ateneo and La Salle). Do you have a room for Thomasians like me?

Why not? A Golf Tournament between those two schools coincided with the day I was there. No big deal! Anyway, this was NOT another ordinary stay in this cold city, and Camp John Hay made it different. Aside from the tasty dinner combined with a refreshing climate, John Hay’s ambience and classic hospitality made my stay memorable. In fact, I made a new friend, Raul, whose talks made my boring two hours quite entertaining.

I brought the usual – Choco Flakes, Strawberry Jams, etc. – and it’s back to the normal heat-stroke causing temperature of my hometown. And for Camp John Hay Manor, here’s what I have for you: “I shall return!”

Singapore… That’s All I Ask You

Phantom of the OperaAboard the plane I was watching Phantom of the Opera and before I knew it, the fasten seat-belt sign was on and we were about to land at Changi Airport. Alright, here I go again, enthusiastically picturing myself as an Amazing Race contestant. To sum up my 4-day stay in this sophisticated city, here’s the coolest way I can think of (Thanks Tim Tayag of LAC for the idea— I just found this on your On-Foot credits!):

For 4 days in Singapore, I had a TOTAL NUMBER OF:

Hours of sleep:
“San Cai” look-alike seen:
Cans of Pepsi drank:
People who recognized me as Filipino:
People who thought I was Singaporean:
(I felt sorry for the tourists who asked me directions)
MRT rides:
Times I thought about my crush/es:
Britney Spears songs I heard:
(Ooops! Britney is big here in S’pore!)
Things bought for myself:

View from Allson Hotel The bustling crowds and the cityscape are two of the most observable things you’ll see in S’pore. People are running like crazy! Compare it to Makati 10 times. 90% of MRT Stations are underground. Then there are tourists from all walks of life – blue-eyed, brown-eyed, black-eyed *is there such?* name it! Okay, *Earth to Filipinos* this country is 20 years away from Manila. There are no shanties, no street vendors, no jobless people, and no stinky smell. I’ll say that Wow! Singapore is more appropriate than Wow! Philippines isn’t it? But their country’s tagline – “Uniquely Singapore” – aptly describes their nation as a whole. They have this carpeted airport, then the Raffles City is comparable to Europe (in fact, it’s 2nd to Barcelona!), their MRT’s are so fast, and most of all, the people are cultured. These aren’t usual in Asia.

Every portion of S’pore is an art. Landscaped gardens, paintings, sculptures and restored Gothic churches are well-preserved and maintained. Hospitality is a priority: “Goo monin sir, me i halp yu?” was an SOP. I feel very safe and at ease.

EsplanadeS’pore’s splendid development is attainable. This is something we can do in Manila, I always said to myself. There was no place for adjustment because there is no time difference and their climate is the same as ours. Surely, I will come back for another ride at the Sentosa cable car, another taste of the Chicken Rice, another night at the Safari, and another pictorial at the Esplanade.

As the curtain of my S’pore journey closed , I wished that someday, instead of craving for a trip to another country, all I will ask for is a trip here in my own – Philippines… That’s all I ask of you.

Off to Merlion City

Everything is ready: passport, ticket, and a bagful of essentials. On Sunday, I will be boarding an airbus bound to Singapore.

Although the rush of excitement runs through my veins, I regret the fact that due to this trip, I will not be able to be with my friends from high school. Light beer, dance-til-you-drop, chit-chats, pure laughters – those are just some of the things I would’ve missed this Friday just because of the preparations for my Singapore trip. Not to mention the apologies I had to make (sorry Camille, Ivan, James and the gang who planned this Friday night-out).

A new discovery *red light blinks*: planning an itinerary abroad is not easy. Plans went well for me during my former domestic trips, but abroad? Whew! We didn’t book for a “package tour”… in other words, we have to package our own trip – in a country with places with sooooo exotic names! (Boon Keng, Bukit Gombak, Tiong Bahru, blah blah blah!) Oh crap! Now I have to find hotels, landmarks and shopping centers (interesting but time-consuming) on my own.

Moments after I Googled in search for the perfect adventure, I found this activity (doing your own itinerary) very interesting. You are in control of where you want to go, and you even discover more about the country where you are going to. In tour packages, you are locked and unable to go where you want to but in this way of travel, you can do anything. Hmmmm, now booking an escort is possible… *giggles* I was just joking of course! I’m not even of legal age (that is why I still have to get a DSWD permit, how awful!)

Preparations are on the go *green light blinks* and there is no stopping us now. By the first day of June, I will be back. It’s a time-out for me (therefore, no cellphone so that I will enjoy the holiday). Anyway, my phone’s international roaming feature wasn’t activated. I am not even sure if I will be able to be online.

BRB soon.