Saturday, 30 August 2008

At Home and Abroad

I just read that Barack Obama's speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday was watched by 38.4+ million people in the U.S., making it one of those rare times more people have watched an event of substance than a finale of American Idol. Aside from myself, I know of two others here in the Philippines who also watched the speech...and they aren't Americans. It was truly a worldwide event, and this generation's equivalent of man landing on the moon.

Of course, the most important aspect of this is that it shows that at last people are truly interested in an election, in what direction the US will take for the upcoming four years and beyond, and the sense that they must be a part of it. Almost as if people are (*gasp!) working together!

Perhaps Obama is a twenty-first century JFK.

After eight years of a stubborn stumblebum and the prospect of electing a once-respected maverick-turned-Stumblebum Jr., I guess the voters want to be sure they don't make the same mistake they've made twice already and hear as much as they can from the candidates. Well, we'll see next week after McCain's Nielsen ratings are tallied whether people want to listen to what he has to say.

Meanwhile, while reading and watching this on-line, I spotted this very disturbing ad:How a pregnant woman drinking wine helps sell automobiles is beyond me!

Number 1: Isn't it verboten for pregnant women to drink?

Number 2: Isn't drinking and driving both dangerous and illegal?

Number 3: When was the last time you saw a sexy pregnant woman beside a car on the cover of a car magazine?

Number 4: Who is it they are targeting here? The unwantedly pregnant? Britney Spears, or those who look to pattern their lives after hers? Alcoholic Soccer Mom's Anonymous (ASMA) members?

This whole image is just, as I said, beyond me!

And, speaking of images, during Obama's speech, did any of you happen to notice the eerie resemblance of some of the audience members in Mile High Stadium to the passengers aboard the Axiom in the movie Wall-E? Just an observation...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Iconography, Anyone?

Icons. And I'm not talking screen icons like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean.

I'm talking being surrounded at seemingly every turn by vendors hawking everything from tiny figurines to tremendous statues of Christian iconography as you pass through the mall.

This is:
1. A weird dream by a Catholic who has been sleeping in rather than going to Sunday mass.
2. Nightmare of a Muslim, Hindu, Jew...
3. A hair-raising suspense scene from a psychological thriller.
4. Everyday life in the Philippines.

Gold stars to all of you who guessed the latter.
The name of the stand as you can see, is Victoria. What's that supposed to mean? Some girl named Victoria owns the place? Shouldn't it be Victoria's? Perhaps there's no Victoria at all!

I have a better idea: Torquemada's Tchotsky Town rolls off the tongue nicely, don't you think?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Meditate on This!

To reduce water and electricity costs, the Columns has modified the water features at the entrance to each of the three towers.

That was what the memo told us.

Here is our above-mentioned water feature:As you can see, it is surrounded by potted plants. Large potted plants. And connecting those pots is a long blue tape.

Water and electricity savings aren't the only reasons for the modification. The tape fencing off the shallow pool of water has been there for many, many months now. The plants have been there even longer.

Apparently there have been some people who have fallen in the shallow water features. Several times. Repeatedly, I'm told, people have mistaken the water for tile flooring.

Does your tile flooring bubble and ripple like the water does in this picture?

Does it light up at night in colors that change from blue to green to purple to yellow?

If your tile flooring does this, it may be an indication you have a poltergeist...or, more likely, a water feature in your home!

The rows of large potted plants didn't help. People still walked right in the water.

While Darwinism was clearly working to root out the least fit humans, electricity prices have been rising due to the sky-high cost of oil. Apparently economic concerns win out over comic entertainment for the guards as they watch the hapless plunge into the waters of our tranquil water features, and something equally tranquil is to replace our lovely, simple, elegant water feature (Also known as water bowl for local kitties who, by the way, have never accidentally fallen in; once again proving the superiority of cats over humans).

Our water features, as well as the children's sandbox in the 7th floor play area, have all been transformed into spaces of zen meditation:For the entrances, this is just as nice as the water feature I must admit. Although at night it isn't anywhere near as impressive.

But how is a child going to find zen meditation as intriguing as a sandbox?! Especially when the vast majority of Filipinos are Catholic, not Buddhist? Zen Buddhist at that!

I'll not be holding my breath waiting to hear a child cry Mommy! Mommy! I want to go meditate by the slide! Can I, please?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Just Don't Talk With Your Mouth Full

Don't talk with your mouth full was something my siblings and I heard a lot as kids. After some years that changed for me to Hurry up and finish your food. I'm a slow eater.

I talk a lot during a meal. And if I don't talk with my mouth full it's obviously going to take a while longer to eat.

I could be anti-social and starve, too.

Here's just a few meals I've had over the past month that may have kept others waiting at the table:

July 20th in Bulacan:
Chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

Fresh bread and fish.

Spaghetti, shrimps, and marinara sauce.

After that meal we drove into town to buy chicharon (pork rinds):
A chicharon store.

Another chicharon store. Gee, she doesn't look too busy. Let's not buy any here. Wouldn't want to wake her!

How about here?

You readers may be interested to know all three of these shops are on one part of a small, mostly residential street full of nothing but shops selling chicharon. I took pictures of just these three because there was only enough room for eighty-six more shots on the memory card and I didn't want to run out. ^_^

That last shop had the doors open to their kitchen. So this is what it looks like when chicharon is being cooked.

As much as everybody that day loved chicharon, it is a snack mostly lost on me. I did eat some, and freshly prepared chicharon is better than pork rinds you buy in a bag in the grocery store that have been there for who-knows how long; but I'll never be addicted to it.

When our dear friend Opal was here for five weeks we went out to eat with her a lot.

And I mean a lot.

That isn't all we did, but that was most of it!

Thanks to my swimming laps most days and Opal doing the same every day, we have no titanic tummies to show for our meals, but we do have pictures to remember them by. August 7th:
Here's Opal at Sala, in Greenbelt.

Great food. It better be. Our meal was one third what some people in the Philippines earn in a month.

After dinner we went to a place owned by one of our friends (it is also in Greenbelt), Classic Confections.
Here's just to prove we were all there.

We recently discovered a new place in Greenbelt called Flapjacks. As the name implies, they specialize in breakfasts.

I'm a big fan of breakfasts at non-breakfast hours. A lot of restaurants don't understand that mentality here, especially when it comes to western ideas of breakfast foods.

Pancakes and waffles.

Sausage and bacon.

Eggs done any way you like.

(Aren't you hungry just reading this???)

We were pleased to add Flapjacks to our short list of places to go for a good breakfast meal. It was August 11th, the last opportunity we'd have to see Opal for a long time, and she was excited to try it as well!
Tastes as good as it looks, folks!

This last weekend we had dinner with some of Edson's friends from his student days at UP. This time we strayed from Greenbelt to Serendra, in Ft. Bonifacio, and dined at Tatami.

As is obvious from the name, it is a Japanese restaurant. It's quite good, too. We'll be back for several reasons:

1. Unlike many of their neighboring restaurants, they don't seem to charge extra just because they're located in "Ft. Bonifacio Global City". Their prices are on par with other better Japanese restaurants.

2. Edson got a Japanese curry dish that reminded him of those served at our favorite restaurant in Ithaca, NY.

3. My zaru soba noodle dish (lower left in photo below) was served over a bed of ice, which kept the noodles nicely chilled.
I did find it unusual that the music playing in the restaurant was all by Enya.

Culture clash you're thinking?

It actually reminded me of my first time in Japan, back in 1993. My friend Hideaki's girlfriend liked to be lulled to sleep by Enya at night.

Oh, there's actually a 4th reason to go back to Tatami: to give us a reason to get us out of Makati once in a while!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Crispy Pish

So I went to Brother's Burger yesterday for lunch. I felt like something different for a change and had never tried their chicken sandwich. So I saw the girl behind the register, went up to the counter, and ordered a Crispy Chicken sandwich...

Girl: Crispy Pish.

Me: No. Crispy Chicken...and onion rings. Do you have onion rings today? (Most other times I've ordered them, they are out.)

Girl: Yes sir. Onion rings. Drink sir?

Me: I'll have green tea.

Girl: OK sir. Is that all, sir?

Me: Yes.

Girl: That's one Crispy Pish, one....

Me: No. No Fish!

Girl: Wait a while, sir.

Here she calls into the kitchen and whispers something. A moment later the manager comes out, inserts his key into the register, and hits a few keys. Obviously, she had rung me up for a, fish sandwich and didn't know how to take it off the order.

I know, it's hard to distinguish from chicken and fish. Just ask Jessica Simpson. Of course, once they're both butchered and breaded, they do look quite similar, even to me.

Anyway, I paid and waited for my order. Five minutes later I had my Crispy Chicken, not Crispy Pish sandwich. It was huge! There were two chicken breasts on it. But it didn't have a distinct chicken (or, fish) taste. The garlic mayonnaise drowned it all out!

At 160 pesos for a sandwich alone, I expected more. While I got more in quantity, I wasn't sold on the quality. For less than that I can go to the only other place with a good chicken sandwich, Wendy's, and get their chicken breast sandwich with fries and drink...and perhaps a Frosty.

Oh well, it's a longer trip, but back to Wendy's...

Friday, 15 August 2008

News of the Weird...from Home.

This just in from the Cincinnati Enquirer via My Yahoo! news updates:

CINCINNATI - An Ohio man who says he doesn't trust paper money has delivered enough coins to cover half the price of a brand new pickup truck.

Employees at a dealership in the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale say 70-year-old James Jones plunked down 16 coffee cans full of coins Tuesday for a new Chevrolet Silverado.

Salesman David Crisswell says employees spent 90 minutes counting the collection of dimes, quarters, half-dollars and dollar coins, which covered half the $16,000 price of the pickup.

Jones and his wife, Betty, wrote a check for the other half of the cost.

Jones' son says his dad has always preferred to pay with coins. Dennis Jones says he's most amazed that his penny-pinching father decided to replace his 1981 pickup, which struck his father when its parking brake failed last year, putting him in a hospital.

Doesn't trust paper money, but he wrote a check for the other half?

I worked with people who had a very tough time getting their paychecks because they didn't believe in banks. I'd tell them, "Look over there. See that? That's a bank. They exist. Go get a checking account."

Banks exist here in the Philippines as well. This is the sign that greets you as you enter:
I must wonder if these signs have deterred would-be bank robbers.

Well, no I mustn't.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Our Boracay Adventure: Day 4

I know, by now I shouldn't even be titling this as an adventure in Boracay, since this day begins with us in Kalibo at the resort.

You remember the resort, right?

No, I won't include any more photos of it. We've all suffered enough.

So, we awoke, had a great breakfast (their food is good!) and the resort vans drove us the 10-15 minute drive to the airport.Standing inside waiting to check-in and see if we'd be delayed yet again.
That's the entire ticketing area as can be seen by the 38mm wide-angle of my compact camera. To my extreme left is the entrance and an inoperable x-ray scanner. An operable unit is located as you enter the departure lounge (note its entrance in left of photo above).

We stayed in the departure lounge long enough to see the end of a Chinese film about soccer teams, full of special effects, flying people, demons, fiery, supernatural soccer balls, etc...probably all against the rules in soccer, but it all makes sense in a Chinese film. Then we saw the last fifteen minute of the 1980's film The Goonies.
That was followed by some inane Philippine game show before our flight finally showed up, almost an hour late.

So out onto the tarmac in the sweltering sun we strode.

One of the great things about rural runways is that they aren't surrounded on all sides by crammed squatter communities constructed of scrap tin, wood, and cinder blocks. Instead, you see quaint farm dwellings. Why people want to locate the structures so close to the noise of the runway is beyond me. To each his own.
At long last we were in the air on our return to Manila. That's Kalibo below.
For much of the flight back we had a view of nothing much more than clouds...and the wing of our Airbus. Cebu Pacific's fleet of Airbus jets are very new, making this my first flight on an Airbus product that I enjoyed. On all others the fit and finish of the parts seemed very much lacking compared to Boeing, and even older McDonnell-Douglas planes. Before, I was used to Airbus planes rattling away like crazy once in flight and wishing I'd been aboard a Boeing. This time I didn't worry about the wings falling off.
About an hour after departing Kalibo we were over Manila. We could see a few landmarks below. Here's Cubao and the Araneta Coliseum:

And here is Quezon Memorial Circle:

Upon landing, the plane made its way to Terminal 3 and stopped...hundreds of yards away from the waiting gates.

There were a lot of waiting gates.

But, like the two planes ahead of us, we were stuck waiting for airport personnel to give us access to said gates.

So we waited.

And our exasperated pilot apologized. He'd been dealing with these delays every day for the past three weeks. It's one thing to experience inconveniencing delays as a passenger. It must be really aggravating to experience them every day, though!

And we waited.

In all, we sat there looking at the back of the new terminal for between thirty and forty minutes before the airport got their act together and grounds crews appeared to guide us towards the gate.

It was half past three when we deplaned; just about twenty-one hours late. Edson was supposed to have been at work at nine that morning, as were his two officemates traveling with us. Of course we'll all have something the others in the office never experienced: the precious moments of our stay at the Sampaguita Gardens Resort.

No, I'm not going to end with another picture of the resort. I'm not that cruel.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Our Boracay Adventure: Day 3

After our adventures "island hopping" and, well, eating on our second day in Boracay, we got a good night's sleep. At least we did until our roommates had to wake up early to catch the first flights out that morning. We were booked on the last flight out, so had the luxury of sleeping in and enjoying the beach and more before our flight would leave at four.

I had a good friend in college named Noi, a student from Thailand. He was an extremely nocturnal person and disliked mornings to the extent he set his schedule so that all his classes began after lunch. He would have loved our room at the Boracay Tourist Inn. It seemed much like his dorm room in college after he outfitted it with an opaque shutter system behind the curtains over his window to keep all light from entering the room. Noi may today be one of the owners of the Boracay Tourist Inn, as you can see here:
In questioning others in our party, we found all rooms had the same scenic view! What can you expect from a place who's slogan is: an affordable place to stay?

After breakfast, we set out along the beach to catch some sun and more of the great sea air. The waves were still quite strong, as you can see by this jetty awaiting its group of divers for their excursion.

A bit further down the beach we came upon MaƱana Mexican Cuisine.
We didn't eat here, but I have to mention it for two reasons:

1. I question the reason for the name of the place. Is it just because that's a Spanish word and the alliteration with Mexican worked for the owners? Or does it have something to do with how long diners can expect to wait for service or their food?

2. I finally learned how to insert tildes over letters and here have reason to show off this newfound ability.

So where did we eat? I know you must all be terribly interested in that.

Well, even if you aren't, I'm going to mention it.

We had mild chicken pocket sandwiches at a funky little Korean-run restaurant at D'Mall.
They were wrapped in these wrappers with interesting Engrish print:

They were very tasty, er...good taste, as were the mango/pineapple/banana tropical shakes all made from fresh fruits. Ironic, isn't it, that what turned out to be one of the most fun, tasty meals of our trip was so simple, cheap, and just a couple hours before we left to catch our plane!

Before we left the island I thought I should capture some video to share with you. Here's the windy day as we saw it:

When we did make it off the island of Boracay and to the airport and this is what I saw:
I thought I'd include it here for all those in the states, since we haven't seen these in many years. Isn't the Marlboro Man dead? I thought I read that somewhere.

Remember a few bloggings ago I mentioned the problems being encountered with the new Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3? Well, those problems affect all flights on Cebu Pacific, the airline we were ticketed to fly. Many of Edson's officemates were scheduled to fly out at one in the afternoon. When we arrived at the airport at two for our four o'clock flight, they were still there. They had been re-booked for the our flight, and ours was canceled.

We were to spend an extra day.

But not in Boracay.


Where then?



Kalibo, a city two hours away (by car/van/bus) that real airplanes (jets, Airbus, etc....a.k.a. not turbo-props) fly out of.

The airline would feed and provide accommodations for us.

I was wondering how much worse the accommodations would be compared to the windowless room we left behind. Plus, there were two of Edson's officemates who were also booked on our flight. Would we all four have to share a room?

We had a two-hour van ride ahead of us before we would find out.

Our accommodations for the night turned out to be the Sampaguita Gardens Resort. It was a truly unexpected place. Firstly, the name is quite ironic, in that we found no sampaguita garden or flowers anywhere on the property; which truth be told, is rather large, so perhaps we missed it. It was also unexpected because at Sampaguita Gardens it is Christmas 365 days a year.

Oh my.

Thankfully there was no Christmas music playing. It's still too early for that, though the decorations will begin going up nationwide in a month.

Here's what greets you upon entering the gates of the resort:
As seen at night:
That's Jo Jo's Christmas Cottage.

A three-story Queen Anne large-as-life dollhouse a "cottage"
, you and I both ask?


But the "best" part is what's inside:

Oh my God.

Yes, this is here in the Philippines.

Precious Moments everywhere (and all, interestingly enough, priced in US dollars!).


Well, it seems Sampaguita Gardens Resort is owned by the man who made his fortune from those cutesy characters.

Now, for as tacky as the place is, I must give them credit for outstanding food, nice rooms, good service, beautifully tended grounds, and amenities galore. Mercifully, no room's window looks out upon the Christmas Cottage lit up at night. All windows face the ocean instead!

The resort has a convention center, spa, fitness center, art center, pool, restaurant, the SJB Family of Companies corporate office (owns Precious Moments), and the Samuel J. Butcher mansion ('cause the guy's got to live some place when he's visiting, right?).

While the resort boasts circus rides, it seems they haven't operated in some time, as we found them rusted and tattered. Here, a carousel horse looks on at the dilapidated ferris wheel.

That's enough for now. Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting conclusion to our adventure out of Boracay!

PS: Edson and I had a room to ourselves.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Our Boracay Adventure: Day 2

Day two of our Boracay adventure had us rushing out of our room without breakfast to go island hopping. That's a fancy way to say you'll be taken to one other island. An island that's privately owned, charging admission for you to walk amongst their tacky concrete animals and seek shelter in a few buildings erected there which, no doubt, offer overpriced snacks or souvenirs. Our group (pictured below) nixed that idea as soon as we arrived there.

We then returned to Boracay and went snorkeling. By we I mean everybody but me. While I can swim in our pool at the condo, ocean waves and I don't get along and my interest in snorkeling cannot be measured it's that small. Funny thing is, we had brought a single-use underwater camera with us from Manila, but had left it in the hotel room that morning! It actually never saw any use on the entire trip. Oh well, I guess we can use it at the pool...

Anyway, while others peered into the water below (or just held onto the outriggers for dear life---what I would have been doing) I snapped pictures of/for them. Here's Edson and his officemate Steph.

After the island hopping adventure we stopped at the Paradiso Grill for lunch. This smiley fishy was one salty part of the feast.

Here we are happy after our morning adventure and with full tummies.

After leaving the restaurant we were greeted with some nice weather and a beautiful scene.

But before we spent too much time enjoying it we needed to clean up a bit from our morning adventure. So back to the hotel we went.

Won't you come with us on the trek?

It's just a walk down the beach until you turn right onto this path here:

The path ends just ahead.

Always look both ways before crossing the street. And if you're going to photograph it, don't bother with the less photogenic side. (Yes, this is the photogenic side! No it isn't, but you can see a good deal further down the road in this direction.)

Once clean, refreshed and dressed we were back on the beach!

That day, the wind and waves were quite strong as you can see.

We didn't experience waves like that on our previous trip to Boracay last year in May. At that time the waves are quite placid and very calming. Waves like these are good for the wake boarders, and we saw several.

Others, like us, preferred strolling and sunning.

There were plenty of boats lined up on the beach one could hire.

Here's something I liked: these stamped signs that ornament the sidewalks. Most all are brightly painted like this one here.

As the sun was beginning to set, so were we (for a nap before dinner). So we set back for the hotel once again.

So here I leave you with a final picture snapped just before we arrived at the hotel, located just this side of the street across from the beautiful bougainvilla you can see in it's colorful glory in the distance.