14 December 2007

the 80s

for most people my age, we remember the 80s with fondness. which was why last weekend, some friends and i hosted a christmas party to wax nostalgic about the good old days. it was a great thing that most everyone came prepared, probably because we said there was going to be a punishment for those that didn't come in costume (which didn't really happen, because the guys got to the booze first).

notice the effort that was put in by my friends..

that was a lot of fun, i must say. it's a good thing they were all "game" to dress up, even my-boys-at-the-office showed up!

so here's to the start of the party season. an early "MERRY CHRISTMAS" to you, from me and my friends!

*some pictures from chilli d, chilli f and pretty m

more pictures from my cam

11 December 2007

happy birthday, papa!

my father is the original ofw in the family. most of my growing up years were spent away from him, as he travelled the world for work. and mind you, it's not the comfortable desk jobs like my friends' fathers. my father worked with his hands. back-breaking work, in the middle of the ocean for months at a time. his consolation for being away from family, i think, was the fact that he was always near the sea.

it's his element. until now, i am in awe when i see my father on the horizon (yes, the horizon, meaning the really deep end of the ocean), just wearing snorkels --no life jackets, and having fun in the water. and when he'd come back to shore, he'd always be carrying something. sometimes, it would be several oysters that we'd eat raw, or some of those jelly-like plants, and he'd have it served for lunch. there's a picture somewhere at home of him and his buddies holding up a shark they caught. yes, a shark..as in "jaws". how cool is that? it's too bad we don't go to the beach together often these days (now there's a plan for the summer).

even though my father was away most of the time while i was growing up, his presence was always felt. we'd be told to do good in our studies or else "when papa gets home...". whenever he gets back from one of his trips, we'd all be awkward around him for a couple of days. you have to remember, this was the 80s, no e-mails and cellular phones for us to communicate whenever we want to. our contact was an occasional greeting card, letters and the occasional (and expensive) phone call. so it would be a couple of days of trying to adjust with his presence (very commanding, i must say), and then, afterwards, the fun (however we define it in our family) begins.

i can't say that i am close to my father, that i tell him all my troubles and things that happen with me. because if i did, well..let's just say, i don't have enough bail money yet. but we get each other, you know? i distinctly remember last year, when all that was happening to me and i gave him a call just to say hello. the conversation went this way:

papa: o, kamusta ka dyan?
me: ok naman po
papa: o e kamusta naman kayo ni ano...
me: ay, wala na po
papa: (silence..clearly feeling a little awkward about this topic) eh...ok lang yun, maganda ka naman e. ano ginawa sa yo?
me: sus! wag na pagusapan yan, pagusapan na lang natin si erap

then he proceeded to give me a blow-by-blow of the behind-the-scenes of philippine politics, the rotten topic already forgotten. see? we don't talk about things like that. but i do know i have an ally, a defender should i ever need one.

and today is my papa's birthday. he won't be reading this entry anytime soon, but if you see him around manila, say "happy birthday" to him, ok? he may look daunting at first, but he's a real softie. and he's good-looking too.

one of my hazy childhood memories was when my father went up with me to the stage of the auditorium to get my award during graduation. i heard one of the single teachers say: "yan ba si mr. randrup? ang gwapo, parang si phillip salvador!" (naks!). but seriously, i remember that, and the child in me looked up at my dad, trying to figure out where the resemblance is. and i couldn't see it. sure he's tall and tanned (having just come back from one of his assignments), but he's just "Papa" to me.

he's the guy who taught me to drive ( i loved hearing his hoarse voice shout at me..hehe), how to jump start a car, how to cook isaw (which is really gross). he taught me how to hold a fighting rooster for sabong. it is from him that i inherited half my nose (hehe), my quick temper (i'm calmer now, though) and my big feet. and it's from him that the jologs side of me came to be. you see my dad likes everything simple and cheap (often too cheap). he's ok with eating at the nearest carinderia and talking to all sorts of people. marunong makisama, is how they call it.

so that's enough about my papa for now. let's all just wish him a great day.

happy birthday to you, erap!

01 December 2007

the start of the season

so how do you know the christmas season has begun? is it that chill in the air as you make your way home at night? could it be the lights they've turned up the whole length of orchard road? or maybe its the abundance of christmas sales on the countless malls here in singapore.

for me, the season begins when starbucks starts serving my personal favorite, the peppermint mocha latte. because i never did understand why starbucks singapore doesn't have peppermint syrup available the entire year. i have to wait till november rolls in to get my treat.

sure, there are other peppermint-infused drinks available in other coffee shops (tcc's version comes a close second), but starbucks' drink is still on top of my list.

so i'm going to savor starb's christmas treat while i can, amidst all the christmas hustle i have to do before going home to manila.

speaking of hustle, there's a reason why i need to catch up on a lot of things. aside from working the night shift the past couple of weeks, i have been reading this guy's work. ah yes, my new favorite show on the travel and living channel: anthony bourdain.

the guys writes really well, for a few minutes, i wanted to be a chef. a travelling chef, that is. but after a while, with the stories he's told about what really goes on inside the kitchen, i've had second thoughts.

seriously, it's totally engrossing stuff. too engrossing, in fact, that it accounts for why i haven't been getting enough sleep these days. i should put it down for a few minutes and join the real world.

because in the real world, people are now halfway through their christmas list. while i, unfortunately, haven't started on any of it. but not to worry, i have a plan. powered by my favorite drink, all christmas shopping and preparations will go smoothly...i think.

30 November 2007

another weekend trip

while i'm grateful that i'm living and working in singapore right now, there's another place that's fast climbing my "countries i'd jump at the chance to live and work in" list. hongkong. i'm loving it a lot, i've had no qualms about visiting it twice this year. the first one was in february with my college buddies, and the latest was with my family.

as a triple birthday treat to my youngest sis, older brother and my dad, the four of us went there for a weekend getaway.

colored art installation at the ifc

view from the top of ifc mall

the last time i went to ocean park, it was the height of summer and the place was packed. so getting on to the rides took a long time. but this time of year, it's really cold and there were few visitors to the park. this gave my brother and my dad the perfect opportunity to ride the rollercoaster. TWICE!

we spent time at the po lin monastery in lantau island to see the iconic giant buddha. it's a good thing i visited the place again, because i discovered my previous tripmates and i missed walking along the "wisdom path" which ended near lantau peak.

giant bell inside the monastery

at the end of the path is a hill with giant wooden planks formed in a circle, carved with chinese inscriptions. my dad says jackie chan practiced his kung fu moves on top of those planks. but i seriously doubt that. my brother was happy enough having his picture taken with a real-life monk.

at tussaud's, we had fun walking through wax replicas of celebrities. my dad was game enough to include himself in rembrandt's painting...

while i felt up aaron kwok...

and for a moment, i was mrs. beckham

there were other places we went to in hongkong. most, if not all, i've already been to. but there's something special about going to places with your family, isn't there? makes it more meaningful. so, to the three celebrants in the family, i hope you enjoyed the trip as much as i did!

p.s.:aside from this being the first out-of-country family trip (sans my mom and elder sister), it was also my first time to ride a helicopter. but that story's for another time...

more hongkong pics here

27 November 2007

roughing it up

a week later, while i had barely gotten over the whole india experience (will i ever get over it?), i went with a couple of friends to sulai selangor in malaysia. it's a couple of hours away from kl where, for a fee, you can go white water rafting and abseiling, and pretend that for a day, you're an extreme sports athlete.

since there was quite a number of us, it was decided we wear red shirts. i gleefully assumed this was to make it easier to find us in the river when we fall off our rafts.

pic from chilli d

it was a team effort to maneuver our rafts. there was a lot of slipping, and falling over. but there was definitely lots of fun.

pic from chilli d

as if white water rafting wasn't enough to get our adrenaline going, the tour operator challenged us to go abseiling. which means, we go down this waterfall..

pic from m

chilli f and one-of-my-boys-at-the-office, jp were the first brave pair to go down. and while the others were contemplating their strategies on how to go down without slipping and slamming themselves on the rocks (for amateurs, there's absolutely no way this isn't going to happen), i hammed it up for the camera. i was almost sure that i wasn't doing it..

pic from chilli f

when there were only a few of us left who hadn't gone down, ex-officemate m and i decided to do it. i figured, what the heck. i don't want to grow old and regret that i missed this experience. so we geared up.

pic from m

yeah, we were smiling that time. but when you're down there, with water pounding your body(and your face), struggling to look for some stable rock to put your feet on, you will definitely NOT be smiling. i thought i was doing fine on that first part, but towards the lower end of the fall, that's when i totally felt the water pressure.

we're proud to say we all finished the course. and not without some bumps and bruises. maybe next time, we'll go deep sea diving, or climb a mountain, or jump off a cliff... here's to more adventures, red team!

pic from m

*if you've noticed, i've been filching pictures from my tripmates. here are their albums:
chilli d, pretty m, chilli f

12 November 2007

the indian adventure - conclusion

late afternoon, we arrived in new delhi. since our first day, we weren't able to go around much on this city, santosh made a big effort to take us to the place's important sights. in a show of indian hospitality, he welcomed us to his home to meet his wife and kids.

needless to say, we were touched by this gesture. his wife made some chai (tea) and offered us biscuits for afternoon snacks.

on our way out of their house, we met a nice old lady smoking on her hookah. chilli a had the privilege of trying it out.

miss r's pic, modified a little by moi..

we had another solemn moment when we visited the rajghat .

the last place we visited was the red fort. unfortunately, we didn't have time to go inside. well, besides the fact that it was closed for the night, we had a plane to catch.

so aside from seeing some amazing things and meeting nice people in india, i learned something from this trip. well, several actually. first, that bollywood stars are really gorgeous. second, goat cheese tastes great. third, it's not the number of people who go with you on a trip that matters. there's a sense of intimacy (not to mention convenience) in travelling with a few (and good) friends. and lastly, travelling should be more about collecting stamps in your passport. it should ultimately make you let go of your preconceived notions of people and places.

this concludes my recollection of our little indian adventure. i hope you've enjoyed checking out the pictures and are encouraged to visit it at least once. i guarantee that it is definitely worth it.

now on to the next adventure(s)..

11 November 2007

the indian adventure -- part 4

how did we start our last day in this wonderful country? we woke up at five thirty in the morning. why? first, we were advised by santosh that it is best to go to the taj very early, to avoid the crowd. secondly, we were wearing something special. ah yes, the saris miss r and i purchased, as well as the punjabi suit for chilli a were to see the light of day on our very first

there is much ceremony to wearing a sari, i must tell you. it's six meters of beautiful silk that you have to wrap around your body, without any buttons or pins. and for people like us who're used to wearing just shirts and jeans, donning a sari is quite an experience. there's a certain skill to putting it on. santosh thoughtfully talked his friend's wife into waking up very early to go to our hotel and help us put it on.
(and hopefully, not the last) visit to the taj.

at about six thirty, we arrived at the taj. we had to transfer to an "eco-friendly" van to get us to the complex. and even then, it didn't take us directly to the taj. we had to walk a few meters, not minding the strange looks we were receiving from the locals who're probably wondering why we were attired that way.

we paid about seven hundred rupees to get inside. that included bottled water and something to wrap your slippers in if you're to walk around the taj's white marble floors. then, we haggled with photographers offering to take souvenir pictures of the three of us inside the taj, never minding that each of us had our own cameras. but we were tourists, of course. so we did take a package. here's the first picture...

everyone is subjected to a quick inspection at the entrance. no food and drinks are allowed inside, save for the bottled water given when the tickets are purchased. as opposed to ex-officemate j's experience with the lady guard at the entrance, i found her friendly enough to fix my sari, never minding the queue of other tourists behind us. so that stopped other lady tourists from coming in for about five minutes.

from that picture above, we set to walk in to the gardens. and there it was, from beyond the entry way, and above the heads of a lot of other tourists, our very first up close view of the magnificent taj..

as it was very early, the morning mist had not yet lifted, and from our vantage point, it appeared hazy, dream-like and very pink.

there was a sense of urgency to get closer. but our earnest photographer told us we had to take pictures from the entry. so, there was a fifteen minute pause to oblige. this was one hilarious picture taken of chilli a and i. the photographer insisted there just had to be a "couple" picture. chili a and i were incredulous, but did this cheesy pose anyway. i, for my part, couldn't stop laughing.

as we walked closer, our guide briefed us on the history of this structure. it took twenty two years to build the taj. as we know, it was a memorial to the shah jahan's wife when she died giving birth to their fourteenth child.

the taj is bound by two red sandstone buildings on each side. he pointed out that the one facing the east was a mosque (the taj is closed for tourists on fridays, it being a day of worship for muslims). we asked what the structure on the other side was for. was it a waiting area, a prayer area? our guide's amusing reply was: "it doesn't serve any purpose. it was built there for balance".

we went to the side of the building first...just to marvel at the realization that we are this close to one of the wonders of the world. and of course, to take a lot of pictures.

finally, we stepped on to the complex. wearing our paper socks, we joined the hoardes of tourists and local visitors to have a brief look inside. again, pictures were not allowed inside the tomb. there were two crypts (just replicas, we were told. the real ones were beneath the floors). the big one was for the shah, and the smaller, for his wife. there's a solemn feeling inside the tomb. i guess people appreciated the love between these two ancient people.

as we stepped outside the tomb, our picture-taking frenzy took over. similar to the places we've seen in india, the taj's design is also hand-carved, and hand-painted with mineral paint. imagine ancient workers engraving on the most valuable marble in the land. i wonder what happened if they made a mistake.

during our time taking pictures, there were several instances of some locals asking to have their pictures taken with us. one of those, was this nice lady and her family.

for about an hour, we walked around, alternating between taking pictures of the taj and the people. and ourselves.

i think we could have stayed at the taj for a couple more hours just to stare at it. unfortunately, we were pressed for time. we had to drive back to delhi to catch our flight that night. we left the taj a few hours before lunch time. after a quick stop at the hotel to change back to our regular clothes (fyi, i was loving the feel of wearing my sari by this time), and get some lunch, we were back on the road to delhi. on the four-hour drive leaving agra, i couldn't help feeling that i've just seen something surreal. and wonderful. and absolutely breathtaking.

oh, by the time we left, the taj was looking pristine and very, very white. (side note: they say, the taj can look different colors, depending on the time of the year, the time of day and appearance of the moon. so all the more reason to go back and find out what colors we can see the taj)

coming up: one last look...

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