Tuesday, December 18, 2007

looking back: 2007 in places

even though i keep complaining that i don't get to travel much, my 2007 record begs to disagree. to keep reminding me to shut my trap and just be thankful about what i got, i decided to write about the places i've been to this year:


susie took me along on his yearly trip to mariveles. while bataan shouldn't be foreign to me, it was actually my first time to set foot on mt. samat and see the cross. we also got to walk along the sandy shores of montemar, and freeze in the chilly waters of the swimming pool. the town of mariveles was a surprise. lovely landscape, that town has.

la union.
going to la union is always a treat. this year, susie and i went and discovered little surf maid, a wonderful new resort in san juan. we caught some of the action during the competition, enjoyed meals in midway, and just simply lazed around. and i even got attacked by a dog. i am ashamed to say that this is my only trip to the place this year, and i haven't gotten on a board for more than a year now. sad. maybe i can do better next year.


hong kong.
one of the highlights of my 2007. since the lunar new year fell on my birthday, i felt it was only right that i celebrate it in a place where chinese new year is greeted with a bang. ayeen and i had a blast exploring hong kong for nine days. we got to meet people, learn new things, pose with disney characters, meet up with the hong kong folks, and eat delectable meals.


casa san pablo.
i decided to surprise susie with a trip to casa san pablo, in laguna, for his birthday. antiques were everywhere, which gave the place a quaint and charming look. we got to stay in the hotwheels room, and eat fresh tilapia and other yummy, yummy dishes. casa san pablo was a great discovery, and serves as the perfect quick getaway. it's now one of my favorite places.

not to be outdone, susie then toured me around casa manila and san agustin church in intramuros one weekend in march. it was a place that i've always wanted to explore, but never got around to visiting. susie served as my tour guide, dishing out information every now and then. thanks to that weekend, i can now take couchsurfers who want to see the walled city.


viaje del sol.
instead of going off to boracay and fighting off people for sunbaking space, i decided to back off this year and do something else. exploring the different places along the viaje del sol route proved to be a more relaxing pursuit. and i even got to see a lot of places in laguna and quezon! fellow explorers were my bratty sister shobe, fellow adventurer zaneh, and faithful driver susie. :D

my first beach trip for the summer, and i got baked pretty darned good. we got to explore megan's cove (we were marooned there for about 3 hours) and climbed up to see the lighthouse on capones island. stayed once again at megan's resort, where the people are accommodating, and the food is good and cheap.


pasig ferry ride.
i remember being grumpy this time of year, possibly because i've only gone to the beach once. so once again, susie stepped up and took me on board the pasig ferry, where we floated along the river and reached escolta in less than an hour. despite the filth on the river, i thoroughly enjoyed the ride. even got to write about it on click the city.

the folks here at work decided that we needed to beat the heat and go away for the weekend. we ended up in el puerto marina resort in pangasinan, where we got to enjoy the pool by jumping and taking photos of ourselves. the food came in droves, too, and we weren't given a chance to actually go hungry. drinking and singing was done at night. a pretty good weekend, all in all.

zambales part two.
yep, we couldn't get enough of zambales, so we went back, this time with des, nico, g, and carlo. we weren't able to check out megan's cove this time, and the others didn't get to see the lighthouse, but we did get to firedance along the beach and spend time playing with hermit crabs on capones island. food was also goooooood!


sta. teresita, batangas.
we were supposed to go and get soaked at the parada ng lechon, but we were tired from the drive, so we stayed at carlo's place in batangas, where the girls and i firedanced some more. that buhay baboy weekend served as our despedida for carlo, who's now in australia.


southeastern cebu heritage trail.
for our anniversary, susie and i decided to explore the churches in southeastern cebu. because we were able to take advantage of piso fares, we decided to rent a car to drive us around so we wouldn't be so tired. we saw churches in oslob, boljoon, alcoy, argao, dalaguete, and carcar. i want to go back and explore argao some more!


punta fuego.
july wasn't my best month. i got so stressed, i lost a phone, and i let go of a moneymaking raket. everything spilled over onto august, but thank god susie decided to save the month by taking sarah and me over to punta fuego. we spent the weekend just lazing about--dipped in an infinity pool, ate chips and cookies, watched the simpsons on dvd, and slept. it's so calming to be a sloth.


i don't know why we ended up going to boracay, but the cheap airfare and cheap accommodation just pushed us to go, despite the storm at the time. we didn't do any of the usual boracay stuff--no swimming, no island hopping, no sunbaking. we just ate and drank to our heart's content, slept when we were sleepy, and woke up for more food and booze. :D


malacanang walking tour.
i haven't gone to malacanang ever, so i decided to join a walking tour by old manila walks. we checked out san sebastian church, a benedictine abbey, malacanang palace, and la cocina de tita moning. i was lucky that i got to do a tour with some nice folks, who allowed me to join their private tour.

casa san pablo.
again, i make my way to san pablo, laguna, but this time, it's for my good friend hamie's birthday surprise! she thought she'll be going on a trip with me, but tanya and izzy are in on the surprise, too! we had a blast doing what girls normally do when they're together--gossip, talk about other people, and catch up on each other's lives. okay, basically, we just talked and ate the whole day. it was fun, and i hope hamie had fun, too!

global fun carnival.
an impromptu get-together of "adventurous" ladies and gents. we got to be there during the opening of global fun carnival, and had a great time being kids again. we all realized we had gotten old when we all got so dizzy riding the swing. i even threw up after riding the flipper. things are not as easy as they seem now that we're in our twenties. but we had fun, nonetheless!


my last trip of the year. decided to use up my mother's mabuhay miles to go to singapore and visit my beloved friends. pats offered her place for me to crash in, and i just had a blast meeting her friends and spending time with friends that i've missed oh so badly! and i now don't wrinkle my nose at the idea of going to singapore. in fact, i wanna go back!

i am almost certain that my calendar for next year will not look like this. i vowed to do less mini-traveling so i can save up for big trips. don't think i'll be doing europe next year, but there are other trips being planned as i type.

how about you? where have you been this year?

Monday, December 10, 2007

i don't care; i want one!

i started the year with a thirst for my own laptop. prior to this, i never had a desire to own one, but with the amount of traveling i do, i thought it would be nice to stay connected, or at least have a chance to be.

my first idea was to get a simple and cheap one, because i had a desktop at home i could use for heavier computing. but then i decided to go full on, to get a laptop that i can use for all my pc needs. i kept hunting for inexpensive ultraportables, but couldn't find one. they were all in the P80,000 and above range, which was out of the question with my current social status. :p

i ended up buying this:

it's a neo empriva 572svb. even with its built-in windows vista interface, i've grown to love it because of its 12-inch monitor. and i like the way it looks, too.

but when i saw this:

photo from www.slashgear.com

i was filled with both anger and excitement. i felt betrayed by technology for doling out this gem this late in the game. just when i've bought my laptop, just when i've shelled out my moolah for other things, they do this.

come on, how can a vagabond like me not want one? display is a mere seven-incher, which means the tiny thing can fit in any of my bags. it weighs less than a kilo, so i can pretty much lug it around without getting tired. batteries can last up to 3.5 hours (depending on use, of course).

of course, with those features, it's only but natural that the storage size is at 8gb at most. if you want something in the 80gb range, be ready to fork over P100,000 for an ultraportable.

but that's just what i love about the asus eee. it's a very straightforward machine. it says, "all i can do is let you use the computer, upload your photos, listen to some tunes while you're on the go. but hey, i'm cheap at P19,000." which is really what i want. i want to stay connected when i'm away, without having to put all my files in danger.

so the plan is, when the price of the asus eee goes down next year, i purchase one. never mind if you think it's capricious, i myself believe i need it. i won't be selling my neo, because that will be my main computer, where all my files will be stored. the eee, on the other hand, shall be my travel companion, because it features a solid-state disk that can withstand bumps that other laptops cannot. i can choose to pack it inside my check-in luggage, or even carry it with me on the plane.

or maybe this is just my way of telling you guys of this travel must-have of every traveling technophile out there. if you're tired of dragging your heavy laptop around, maybe this is the answer.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

what can we really say?

i was watching tonight's episode of imbestigador, hosted by mike enriquez. for those who don't know what the show is, it's a public affairs program that investigates on various issues in the country. most of the time, they cover scams and serve to expose people who take advantage of the hapless. but sometimes, they feature something else that veers away from the lines of exposing and raiding illegal activities.

tonight's episode involved the status of transportation here in the country. mike enriquez went to singapore, malaysia, thailand, and indonesia, and compared the status of those countries' transportation to ours.

one comment he had was about the restrooms in malaysian trains. he marveled at how the train had toilets on board, and compared to our own PNR trains, which, he said, had cars that people treat as toilets.

my mom kept commenting how mike made things sound so bad, and that he just kept putting us down. i thought about it for a moment, and told her that when it comes to transportation, we really can't compete. and that's coming from me, someone who absolutely loves riding public transportation in this city. as much as i love the training that our public transportation has given me (making me a lot braver in trying out public transportation in other countries), everyday, i can't help but lament the state of our transportation system.

everyday, i take the train, the MRT, to work. and as "convenient" as it seems, that rail system is the worst of the three in the city. sure, it takes you from one stop to another in a matter of minutes, but getting to where you really have to be is a chore. moreover, the stations are not that easy to access. sure, they're all along edsa, but have you seen the stairs that lead to the shaw boulevard platform? anyone looking up those stairs will really have second thoughts about taking the train. escalators and elevators aren't that reliable, either, making this mode of transportation almost impossible to use by the handicapped and the elderly.

when i don't feel like getting pushed around a tiny train, i opt for the bus. of my almost-8 years of commuting, i remember only one particular bus that did not deter me from putting my elbow up by the window. most buses here seem to be do double duty as cockroach colonies, not to mention universal trash can, with bus tickets, gum (HATE), paper, peanuts, and what-not littered on the floor.

and should i really get started on the driving, the pockmarked roads, and the utter lack of a proper system of loading and unloading? even with the rails that line the sidewalks, preventing people from just getting on and off anywhere, people still risk life and limb just to get on their bus of choice. drivers seem to think they're maneuvering tiny sports cars, with the way they swerve in and out from lane to lane, further devastating their already dilapidated vehicles.

and that's why i can't blame mike enriquez for saying what he said. because i see it everyday. my brains get banged around in my head on a daily basis, because of the uneven roads. i always have to watch out for whatever sticky thing i might step on when i board a bus. i've gotten used to the long lines that greet me when i get off the train and try to get through the turnstiles.

what's even more disappointing is that i know we can do better, but those in power would just rather not. the MRT can be greatly improved with the addition of more turnstiles at every station, and more vigilant guards who can keep lines in order. old buses should be taken off the streets, and an efficient loading and unloading system can be put in place, instead of just building railings and steel bars by the sidewalks to keep people from hailing public transportation anywhere. regular repair and inspection of road conditions will surely help, too. it will make traveling faster and safer.

and maybe we as commuters can also do our share. stop littering on buses. stop inserting your tickets anywhere inside the bus. don't just spit your gum out on the floor. please stop writing on buses, too. it's not funny anymore. train commuters can do well by not blocking entrances. just do that much, at least. stop shoving yourself in when there are still people exiting the train. follow lines, for heaven's sake. everyone will get their turn to exit the station.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a feast at newton

before flying off to singapore, i swore to myself that i would eat nothing but hawker fare. unfortunately, my stomach wasn't very cooperative; it wouldn't go hungry at the right moment, and i always had to just make do with whatever's there rather than seeking out a hawker centre for my meals.

but pats made my dream come true by bring me to newton circus hawker centre. the place reminds me of that activity center in blue wave, only it's larger, and with more food options. we were joined by aslinda, pon, stina (pon's friend who flew in from bangkok), chrissy, and chester.

i was surprised by the feast that we had. they ordered crispy squid, cereal prawns, stingray, kang kong, and some satay. the servings were huge, and we all had a hard time finishing it all. i also fell in love with their cold rose tea, even though it was pink.

of the dishes, my favorite was the crispy squid, which i just couldn't stop munching on. i was also enamored by the cereal prawns. the prawns were gigantic, and the crunchy oatmeal that covered it didn't help the stomach any. the meal was very filling, and i wish i had more space in my tummy for more.

this set the mood for a night of talking and semi-drinking over at emerald hill, possibly the only place in singapore where people are allowed to litter. emerald hill serves complimentary peanuts to everyone, and you can throw your peanut peelings on the floor. it was such a shock to enter an establishment with a floor covered with peanut shells. we had a blast having peanut shell fights while catching up on goings on in manila and singapore.

we called it a night (or a morning) at 4am, after having yet another meal at a hong kong cafe called xin wang in cathay. we ordered milo dinosaurs and a meal that i can't remember. it was a blast staying out late with friends i haven't seen for a long time. and it was really great to see that they're all enjoying their lives despite being away from us manila folk. maybe i should go out there and join them. hmm?

more photos of newton hawker centre, emerald hill drinking, and what-not here.

newton food centre
along clemenceau avenue north
nearest mrt station: newton

still in singapore: two museums and a river

after finishing my refreshing karkade from altazzag along haji lane, i got up and walked along north bridge road to look for the bugis mrt station. my next stop: the singapore art museum. before i finally got there, though, i just had to cross the street and mistake a simple underpass for the mrt station. there was a man sitting by the stairs of the underpass who saw me go down the escalator. he greeted me again when i was making my way up: "mrt? over there," he said, pointing to another direction.

i thanked him and made my way to the direction he pointed. crossed a parking lot, and saw the bugis station. i got off at city hall station, and followed the exit that said singapore art museum. i was expecting the museum to greet me when i step out, but i actually had to walk a little more to get there.

on the way, i passed chijmes and took a few photos. and then i reached it. singapore art museum. and i was lucky to catch their lunchtime promotion--free entrance every friday from 12nn to 2pm. what's more, i also got to go on a free guided tour at 2pm, with varuni, a friend of the museum.

we started with a history of the museum. turns out it was a lasallian school as well (lasallians reprezent!), which was turned into a hospital during the war, and then was reverted back to a school. today, it holds galleries of paintings and other exhibits. varuni then moved on to the pieces of the museum's personal collections. we touched on chinese art, modern abstract paintings, filipino sculptures, and some works by affandi, whose works were on the display in the museum at the time.

i swear by these guided tours, because it really helps a lot if a painting is explained to you. you know more about the motives of the artist and the background of the piece. took a few photos around the museum after that, then walked along and took the mrt to orchard to do some necessary shopping.

i was asked by the folks to buy some stuff, and fortunately, i found the ones on the list. i stopped by mos burger to have a late lunch, then headed off to the river to have some quiet time.

by the river, i met philippe, a french comedian who was out exploring asia for four weeks. he asked me to take his picture, and we talked for a bit til he had to leave for his flight. that's one of the things i love about traveling alone. you never know who you're gonna meet.

after taking some more photos by the river, i decided to tackle the ancient civilisations museum, which was standing by the river. it's a pity i didn't have much time to explore it, the stuff on display are really interesting. i learned about the history of the river, and some ancient information on southeast asian countries as well. i met drew, an australian backpacker, while trying to figure out the interactive gizmos they have there. i vow to go back and finish out all the exhibits.

and after that, we were off to have dinner at newton. my first hawker centre meal! stay tuned for photos of the feast we had.

more photos of singapore art museum, asian civilisations museum, and the river here.

museum information:
singapore art museum
opening hours: 10am to 7pm, 10am to 9pm on fridays

admission: sgd 8.00

address: 71 bras basah road

nearest mrt station: city hall

asian civilisations museum

website: http://www.acm.org.sg
opening hours: mondays: 1pm to 7pm; tues-sun: 9am to 7pm; fri: 9am to 9pm
admission: sgd 10.00
address: 1 empress place
nearest mrt station: raffles place

Friday, November 23, 2007

early start in little india and kampong glam

friday morning, pats and i were out the door at 8am. we took the green line towards boon lay, but i got off at raffles place for the red line interchange, then changed trains at dhoby ghaut for the purple line.

in a matter of minutes, i found myself walking out of the little india mrt station, taking out my little india walking tour guide, and checking where i should be headed. i was to start at serangoon road, which was a short walk away.

i can no longer trace how i strolled around little india, but i was amazed at how well they have maintained the shophouses of old, which are still in use today. i was attracted to a certain, colorful shophouse, which, i soon found out, was the residence of a chinese confectionery merchant called tan teng niah. he was one of the few chinese residents of little india. i guess his chocolate must be really good.

after strolling further through little india's arts belt, i decided to have breakfast at a vegetarian restaurant called ananda bhavan, where i ordered a simple roti prata with warm horlicks. i really really missed horlicks, and took every chance i got to have it. i was surprised to find that roti was really heavy in the tummy, and it kept me going til way after lunch.

around little india, i spied flower garland sellers, shops selling figurines, and a number of hostels. but what made my little india walk memorable is definitely my first trip to a mosque. i saw the masjid abdul gafoor mosque, which was a highly photogenic place of worship. i took my shoes off by the yellow line and gaped at the yellow, white, and green wonder in front of me.

after that, i decided to just walk through serangoon road, where i spotted the sri veeramakaliamman (whew! i was able to type that without checking travel sites!) temple. it was pretty busy, which meant it must have been time for worship when i walked by.

i walked a little further until i reached syed alwi road, where the famous mustafa centre is located. i exchanged a few dollars for singapore dollars and decided to check out the legendary shopping centre, which is said to have EVERYTHING. from my stroll, the darned place did contain a lot of stuff--DVDs, women's bags, luggage, baby products, gadgets, toys, clothes, curtains, linen--i can believe that it does have everything. and what's more, the mustafa centre is open 24 hours!

a bit pooped, i decided to pamper myself a bit and took a cab to arab street in kampong glam, another quaint little area of singapore. its landmark is the sultan mosque, which i got to take a few photos of. quite majestic, but pretty hard to take pictures of if you're on the street.

i walked down arab street, where you can find store after store of fabrics. apparently, it's where you go if you need to find cloth or textile for a dress. and as in chinatown and little india, kampong glam has made use of the old shophouses too.

as pats recommended, i turned onto bussorah street, a brick-lined street dotted with shops, mostly of souvenirs and some cloth. sleepy sam's, a backpacker's hostel, is also on this street. the place is quite cozy, and they serve some food and drinks as well. i decided to just some souvenirs for some folks back home.

i walked further and found myself on haji lane. tired and thirsty, i stopped by altazzag, an egyptian restaurant, for a drink. i decided to have a karkade, a cool, tea-like drink made from petals of hibiscus (gumamela to us pinoys). it was refreshing, and tasted like sweet, sweet wine, and it really refreshed an exhausted soul.

that break marked the end of my trip in little india and kampong glam. the rest of my day was spent in the singapore art museum and the river, which you can read about next.

more photos of my little india and kampong glam adventure here.

ananda bhavan vegetarian restaurant
address: 58 serangoon road, little india

altazzag egyptian restaurant
address: 24 haji lane, arab street

Thursday, November 22, 2007

with friends at clarke quay

i got to meet up with my friend chester, who has been working in singapore for five months now, on my first night. he chose to have dinner at swensen's at chinatown point, a stone's throw from where i was having a drink of canned barley.

i walked over to chinatown point and spotted him waiting. it was great fun to see him again after five months. we sat down and actually ordered a baked macaroni and cheese and a pizza. i know, it's funny to have those meals in singapore, but chester's the boss.

ting, another friend, joined us momentarily. he ordered pasta and chicken, and we got to talking about their lives in singapore, and how life is back home.

after dinner, we headed over to clarke quay, which is the place to go if you want to have some drinks, dance, and listen to music. we were supposed to have drinks at cafe iguana with pats and her friends, but the three of us decided to sit down and have coffee so we can continue our talk.

it was great have people show you around. i didn't have to plan my nights, or do touristy things. i was shown around to places they would normally go to, which gives me a peek at how their lives are over there. i got to see the river and the lit up riverside point, which looked great at night.

food was not as expensive as i expected it to be, mainly because servings are large (except in swensen's!). alcoholic drinks will really burn a hole in your pocket, so you really have to abandon your love for alcohol if you want to save up in singapore, or have some money left over for shopping. the bars over at clarke are interesting, though. every bar was so different from the next. it was evident that the bar owners clearly thought out their concept and executed it beautifully.

it was a relaxing, steady night, spend with good friends over coffee and tea and a muddy mud pie at the coffee club. it was really great to have people to talk to after going around by myself in the city. while i greatly enjoy solo traveling, spending time with friends after a tiring day sure helps ease the body a bit.

getting the hang of singapore

my first day was pretty much spent trying to get the hang of public transportation in singapore.

i arrived on time, despite the plane leaving 40 minutes late. the flight was quite turbulent, due to the rains in manila, but i still managed to squeeze in an hour's worth of sleep during the flight.

changi airport was huge and state-of-the-art. everything looked so clean and sparkly. immigration was a breeze, and baggage claim even easier. tourist maps and other brochures are readily available all over the airport. signs were posted at every possible junction, to make sure that you are not lost.

that's why i found my way easily to the MRT station, so i can finally get to the city and meet up with my friend pats, who will be hosting me for my entire stay. even though it was my first time in the country, i didn't have any reservations about traveling to her office building by myself. i usually arm myself with information about the place i'll be visiting, and i'm a big fan of public transportation. it delighted me that i'll be doing this by myself.

i bought my ezlink card at the ticket office. it's quite convenient to have one if you're planning to go around singapore. you can use the card to pay for your train and bus fare just by tapping it on the sensors at the mrt turnstiles or at the entrance of the bus. a card costs SGD15. 5 dollars for the card, and the remaining 10 will be your transportation credit. if you need more credit, just go to any station and "top up" your card.

on the train, i immediately recognized how different things were from manila and there. for one thing, trains were clean and spacious. people, even though they would hurry to get inside, didn't feel like they were pushing you. nobody squeezed themselves into the seats; they won't force themselves to occupy a seat if there's no more room. unlike here, where people will try to finagle their way into sitting at a sliver of a portion of the bench.

i met up with pats near international plaza at tanjong pagar. we had a quick lunch at a restaurant near her place at tanjong katong, where i ordered kaya toast and a cup of horlicks (i missed it!), and pats had a cheese prata. both meals were very very good.

after dropping my bags off at my friend's place at tanjong katong, i dropped off some tapes for an errand for a friend, then took off to tampines mrt station, where the bus interchange to changi village can be found. i was instructed to take the sbs bus 292 from the interchange, but being overexcited, i took bus 29 just because it said changi village. the bus crawled so slowly and stopped at every single bus stop along the way. i started to get impatient and longed for the inefficiencies of our transportation system back home.

i ended up in a place with buildings and a hawker centre, which obviously was not changi village. since it was already getting late, i opted to just go and check out changi chapel and museum, which used to be a prison during the war. it gave off an eerie feel, but the exhibits were interesting. there was a diagram on the floor, outlining the size of a prison cell, with an 18-inch high slab of cement, which served as the bed. that was particularly striking for me.

the chapel was small and charming, made of wood. on its walls and altar were letters and notes remembering those who perished during the war.

i made my way back to tanjong pagar after that, and decided to explore chinatown. i got to see the buddha tooth relic temple and museum, but only from the outside. it's a large temple, between sago street and sago lane, which used to have death houses where people went to die.

i must have come at the right time, because the stalls and booths were already up all over chinatown. the usual wares--chopsticks, pendants, amulets, and souvenirs--were being sold everywhere you turn. there are even electronics shops every now and again.

i decided to quench my thirst and rest my weary feet at a restaurant right across the chinatown heritage centre on pagoda street. since they only served "normal" drinks, i decided to order the most unusual one, which was a can of cold barley. it was okay, i suppose.

when night fell, i met up with a friend for dinner, but that will be for the next entry. :)

singapore changi airport

website: http://www.changiairport.com.sg

ez link card
cost: SGD 15.00
website: http://www.ezlink.com.sg/index.html

changi chapel and museum
address: 1000 upper changi road north, singapore
admission: free
opening hours: 930am to 5pm daily
website: http://www.changimuseum.com

chinatown heritage centre
address: 48 pagoda street, chinatown, singapore
admission: SGD 9.80 for adults, SGD 6.30 for children
opening hours: 9am to 8pm daily
website: http://www.chinatownheritage.com.sg

airport woes

after four days, i finally find time to write about my singapore adventures. but before i get to my experiences, let me start with my PAL centennial terminal experience.

i never completely understood the need for arriving two hours before your flight until my experience last thursday. my flight was at 720am, and i arrived at around 530am. checking in was a breeze, but it was the other processes that came after that were real hassles.

as much as i love how the centennial terminal looks, it was obvious that they did very little planning on its layout. they provided more than a dozen check-in counters, but only two booths for terminal fee payment. imagine the line that wormed around from the terminal fee counters.

after that, you're up at the immigration booth, which had even longer lines. about five or six booths were provided, at the corner of the airport, so that people were squeezed in such a small space by the wall. what's more, there were no airport officials to facilitate the lines. the booths closer to the wall had less people and shorter lines, but nobody was telling the other people that there were other booths available. the number of people were so much so that you won't be able to see the other lines. thank god i was traveling alone, and easily wound my way around crowds.

another hassle was that after having your passport stamped at the booth, you will have to fight your way back through the crowd just so you could get to the boarding gates. unlike in hong kong or singapore (or probably other countries), where you can then walk past the immigration booth to baggage claim or the boarding gates, here, you will have to walk back and go to another section of the airport.

on my way back through the crowd, i told the other people to line up at the booths closer to the wall, just so the volume of people wouldn't be concentrated by the tiny entrance to the immigration area. i swear, if only they used a little more brain power to construct a more efficient flow to the process, things would be so much better.

i finished with the entire process at 7am. a few days later, at singapore's changi airport, i arrive 45 minutes before my flight. check-in and immigration took all of 10 minutes. now why can't that happen here?

Monday, November 19, 2007

singapore: not enough time

not enough time indeed. that was the prevailing theme of every single day of my singapore trip. i admit, i highly underestimated the country. everyone kept telling me how tiny it is, so i assumed i had time to go around and see a little bit of everything.

boy, was i so wrong. as tiny as they say it is, singapore offers a whole lot, and you really have to stay for a long time if you want to see them all. another setback was that commuting, as efficient as it is, still takes up a lot of time. on the upside, the place is spotless, the sights are interesting, and the people are so so so friendly!

but what really made my singapore trip so much fun was the fact that i got to see my friends again! it was so great to see them all doing so well out there. they also showed me around and had me experience stuff that other tourists wouldn't get to try out. they are the bestest. :)

i'll be writing about the entire trip soon. stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

off to singapore!

in two days, i'll be flying off to singapore to explore the tiny, bubble gum-free island. i'll be traveling on a very tiny budget, which means mostly hawker centre fare and long walks. i'll also be visiting quite a number of museums. the night safari and sentosa attractions will be left for another visit. :)

i can't wait to see what singapura has in store for me. i'll mostly be by myself for the first two days of my trip, leaving me to drink everything in and be all touristy. the weekend will be spent with friends who work over there.

from my research, singapore has quite a number of parks, and i will surely enjoy my time there. they have rollerblades for rent, too, which is getting me all excited for the trip!

here's hoping i get home safely, even with a tiny amount of moolah in my pocket. :)

Friday, November 9, 2007

pls. vote! susie is a finalist!

remember our boracay trip a few months back? susie and i thought it would be fun to try out for the picatoo-seair flying smiles photo contest.

and guess what? he's a finalist! for this silly picture:

o, di ba, mukha akong psycho? but i don't care. :D 'sus will win a 45-day fly-all-you-can pass for all seair destinations if he bags first prize!

to vote, please send

FlySEAIR 7 Surprised
your name


contact information

to contest@picatoo.com

awarding is on nov. 16, so please vote now! :)


Thursday, November 8, 2007

couchsurfing: making the world a friendlier place

when traveling to a new, foreign place, i often find myself wishing that there was someone, a local, who can take me to places that aren't written of in travel guides. while some guided tours are helpful, these usually further drive the point that you're a stranger in a strange place.

thankfully, i found couchsurfing (cs), a network of travelers from all over the world who offer their couches, their time, and their travel expertise to each other.

i registered for an account sometime in may, but forgot all about it until i was contacted by another member who was then living in london. he was asking if i could offer a couch (accommodation in cs terms), or be able to take him around manila when he arrives here some time this month. that's when i realized that i haven't done much to let people know who i am in the cs community.

much like a resume, your cs profile says a lot about you, and can be another traveler's basis for contacting you for a "couchsurfing experience." aside from the usual personal description, you will be asked to write a little something about your "couch," or what you can offer other cs members.

don't worry, you're not required to offer anyone sleeping space in your house. you can opt to meet up with someone for coffee or a drink, so you can show them around some of the places that you hold dear in your own town.

if you're worried about your security, couchsurfing has varying degrees of access so you can choose just how much information others can view about you. you can also choose to search for members who have been verified, to make sure that you're corresponding with someone who's checked out to some degree.

couchsurfing also focuses on your travel experiences, and will ask you to enumerate the places you've been to, places you have lived in, and places you'll be going to in the near future, so that other couchsurfers who want to contact you will know where you are.

already, i've met a number of couchsurfers who were asking for help about their trip to the philippines. there were also some who were willing to just chat and exchange opinions about my country and theirs. and next week, i'll be meeting up with some CSers when i arrive in singapore. for the moment, i am satisfied with meeting up for coffee or a drink, and haven't completely plunged into asking for anyone's couch.

thanks to couchsurfing and the world wide web, traveling today doesn't only open your eyes to new places and sights, but to new people, relationships, and experiences as well. if you want to meet people from all over the world and get travel tips from those who've been there, couchsurfing is a great way to start. you can also join some of the groups and communities for specific interests, so you can share your views with like-minded people.

if you're interested to register for a couchsurfing account, just go to http://www.couchsurfing.com. registration is free and easy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

reliving childhood at the global fun carnival

my last "carnival" visit was perhaps my trip to hong kong disneyland. but that theme park had very few rides, and i was mostly amused by the characters that i had to chase around to have my photo taken with them. i'm a big fan of amusement park rides, because i'm willing to try anything just for the heck of it.

that's why when my friend jo asked me if i wanted to join them at the
global fun carnival, i just couldn't resist. i decided to drag along three other girl friends, to make the evening even more fun. true to our crazy form, we were already screaming in the car when we saw the ranger ride--we imagined how our stomachs would be turning when we try it out.

we were lucky to get discounted entrance fees, for it was the first day of the carnival. we only paid P210 each for a ride-all-you-can band. food inside the carnival were simple treats such as hotdogs and fishballs, which cost P25 to P35 pesos.

aside from the rides, game booths were also scattered all over the park. you get a stuffed toy if you manage to win a game. you can opt to knock out three dice from a round platform with a soft, pillow-like "ball," or knock out six tiny milk bottles from the platform. there are other games that you can choose from, and each can earn you a furry stuffed animal to take home. we tried our luck, but managed to come home with zero animals, much to my friend des's dismay.

our favorite ride is most definitely the roller coaster, which, to our surprise, had to be pushed by the carnival attendants to get started. the ride was hilarious, with the coaster speed changing at different points on the track. it will just lurch forward for no reason, then speed up and send you careening down to the drop. it wasn't scary nor extremely exciting at all, but we just found the inconsistent speeds and the pushing of the attendants rather funny. we left the ride with aching stomachs from too much laughing.

other rides we tried were the swing, much like the flying fiesta of enchanted kingdom; the ranger; a ride that i actually enjoyed, even though i was really uncomfortable hanging upside down up there; the bumper cars, which is always a lot of fun; and the carousel, which actually gave me and des extreme dizzy fits.

the cherry on top of our carnival sundae was the flipper. it features eight round disks with seats mounted on top of a bigger disk (discworld and the great a'tuin comes to mind). when the ride starts, the small disk spins you back and forth, rocking your innards and your head, while the bigger disk rotates and tilts the smaller disks up. that's why it came as no surprise that i was ready to hurl after the ride. the right was such a trip, sure, but i wished i didn't eat those fishballs right before i dared to try the flipper out.

still, though, even with that, i would recommend the carnival to anyone who wants a simple, fun night with friends. what better way to enjoy each other's company than by bullying each other to try the different rides around the carnival? no matter how old you are, these rides never get old.

more photos of my carnival adventure here.

global fun carnival

outside sm mall of asia

website: http://www.globalfuncarnival.com

opening hours:
monday to friday: 4pm onwards;
saturday, sunday, and holidays: 1pm onwards.

admission fees:

entrance only: P100

ride-all-you-can, mondays to thursdays: P250
ride-all-you-can, saturdays, sundays, holidays, and whole month of december: P300

Friday, October 26, 2007

strolling down busy manila

saturday morning found me waking up at 7am to be able to make it to my power, palace, and a shot of beer! walking tour with old manila walks. of all their tours, this was the one i was really looking forward to, because i haven't been to this part of manila.

meeting place was at the san sebastian church steps at del carmen plaza. ivan man dy was our guide for the day, and he was dressed in a katipunero outfit, with a hat made of upo.

he started us off with a little history of the basilica san sebastian. the church is known for its steel foundations, and is the first steel church in asia. ivan also revealed that it was alexander gustave eiffel who supervised the engineering of the church in belgium before the parts were shipped here and put together like lego. this steel foundation was the church's answer to the frequent earthquakes that happened back then, which destroyed the first three san sebastian churches.

it's quite sad that the church is now suffering from old age. while still majestic, rust marks are clearly seen on its facade. ivan shared that in order for us to keep the church in great shape, we will have to strip off the paint once every year. that's a lot of work! when you enter the church, you will first think that it's made of marble, but it's actually just an attempt to hide the rigid look of steel, because while steel is sturdy, it's not very pretty.

next up was mendiola. we walked along centro escolar university and crossed to san beda, where ivan ushered us into a benedictine abbey. ivan calls it the jewel box of the area, and it indeed was a treasure! while it didn't have many pews, the ceiling and other interior details were impressive and well-maintained. i actually wasn't able to listen in on ivan's lectures, as i couldn't stop taking photos of the place!

ivan then herded us over to the old millionaires row, where large houses line the road near malacanang palace. we tiptoed into the entryway of arlegui mansion, where former president corazon aquino resided during her reign as president. the mansion was modest for a head of state, but quite enough for us regular people. photo-taking wasn't allowed during this part of the tour, so i can't show you the mansion. i found it very elegant.

and then we were off to the palace. it's quite a shame that weekend walks don't include entrance to the malacanang museum, as i've always wanted to see the inside of the place. maybe i'll book a weekday tour next time. but the guards that day were pretty lenient and friendly, and allowed ivan to deliver his malacanang spiel just outside the gates.

we then walked a little bit to freedom park, which faces the palace, where we talked about the old san miguel brewery. this was where the country's favorite drink was originally brewed.

sensing our exhaustion, ivan led us to la cocina de tita moning, where a delightful pre-lunch "merienda" was waiting for us. we were served tanglad (lemongrass) iced tea, kangkong salad, fettucine with tomato sauce, baked chicken, and bread pudding. everything was delicious, and i thought we had come to the end of the tour. but ivan had something else in mind.

la cocina de tita moning now stands in the former legarda mansion. much of the mansion has been preserved, and now serves as a museum of sorts, for people to take a peek at how life used to be for affluent families along millionaires row. the ground level alone boasts of about four to five rooms.

the first room on the left houses train sets that the children used to play with, a testament that these children did not grow up in any ordinary filipino home. across that room is a library, still well-preserved with its large armchairs. and when you walk down a narrow hallway, you will be led to the doctor's old clinic. it was actually where he delivered his children (he was a gynecologist). across that is a room filled with photography equipment--lenses, cameras, film, magazines. it was clear that this doctor valued his hobbies.

the second floor has been converted to a dining area, for guests of la cocina de tita moning. but some of the rooms were kept the way they used to be--a room containing all radio memorabilia, and a fancy boudoir, where the matriarch prettifies herself before a fancy gathering. this home also houses a painting by felix resurreccion hidalgo and juan luna.

just like that, my trip to the past was over. i love being transported back in time by walking the same pathways that people used to tread on. and i believe we're pretty lucky to have guides such as ivan and carlos celdran who are doing their part in letting more people know about the history of the city of our affections.

view more photos of my old manila walk here.

tour details:
power palace and a shot of beer!
website: http://www.oldmanilawalks.com
mobile: 0917-3291622 (ivan man dy)
price: P850 with merienda
advanced notice is required.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

plan your outfit for your flight

while most of the trouble we hear about airlines in the philippines involve delays, there's no telling if they suddenly make like southwest airlines and enforce a random dress code on passengers.

throughout the year, i've been hearing all sorts of news about members of flight crew asking passengers to leave the plane for the strangest reasons.

there was kate penland who flew aboard continental express with her son. as their plane started taxiing down the runway, penland's son said, "bye, bye plane," which apparently ticked off a flight attendant: "it's not funny anymore, you need to shut your baby up." as a consequence of penland's baby's babbling, they were asked to get off the plane in houston. full story here.

another child-related incident happened on a freedom airlines flight, when emily gillette was asked to "cover up" while breastfeeding her baby. apparently, you don't get much freedom on a freedom airlines flight. this caused a furor among mothers everywhere. full story here.

and then there are the clothing-related incidents. one of the more popular incidents is that of kyla ebbert's, who was escorted off a southwest airlines flight for wearing this:

i see nothing wrong with her outfit, and her case was actually televised on the today show. southwest apologized to ebbert publicly on the dr. phil show, and offered her free travel tickets, which she declined. southwest actually had the gall to turn the incident into a fare sale. and what's more, this case came from an airline which had their flight attendants wearing this in 1972:

jetblue airways joins the airline dress code hoopla with raed jarrar's case. jarrar was wearing a shirt that said, "we will not be silent," in english and arabic script. he was asked to change his shirt or turn it inside out, which he refused. he was then later given a shirt to put over his own, which jarrar then gave in to, lest he miss his flight. what's more, an airline official actually told him that, "going to an airport with a T-shirt in Arabic script is like going to a bank and wearing a T-shirt that says, ‘I’m a robber.” jaw-dropping, ain't it? full story here.

but southwest will not be outdone. they score another bad point in airline service with joe winiecki, who was wearing a t-shirt that said, "master baiter." he was approached by a flight attendant, asked to change his shirt, turn it inside out, or get out. not wanting to miss his flight, winiecki changed his shirt. and yet southwest still maintains they don't have a dress code. full story here.

i'm hoping these incidents won't make their way over here. imagine flying to caticlan in jeans and having to change into shorts before you get on the pumpboat. we can also consider taking masking tape to cover our and children's mouths to make sure nobody says the wrong thing while on board.

all of a sudden, my cebu trip comes to mind. i was in the pre-departure area of the cebu airport, waiting to board our plane. i notice that there's a tv in the lounge, but had to do a double take when i saw what was on. they were actually showing air crash investigations, followed by seconds to disaster. imagine how people who have a fear of flying would have felt. thankfully, no such people were on my flight, and no protests were made. still, such callousness should not be tolerated.

if we passengers can't say "bye bye plane," or "hi, jack!" or "you're da bomb!" then you airline and airport folk should not be allowed to scare us out of our wits before we fly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

cebu pacific china seat sale

thinking of visiting china? i know i am. and cebu pacific is making it very difficult for me to stay away from the country where part of my heritage is from.

so if you want to avoid the china rush during the 2008 olympics, i suggest you take advantage of this seat sale!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

fares to guangzhou, macau, shanghai, and xiamen are priced at just P1!

i tested a flight booking, and chose a roundtrip manila-guangzhou-manila flight, and it came out at P4,518.00. that's just like flying to boracay!

sale runs from october 9 to 15, valid for travel dates between november 1, 2007 to january 31, 2008.

cebu pacific also offers 3-day, 2-night packages to macau or xiamen for P4,745, shanghai or guangzhou at P5,788. that already includes airfare (but not tax and surcharges).

Monday, October 1, 2007

heritage recycled: heritage conservation society 2008 calendar

in time for the coming holidays, the heritage conservation society (HCS) has compiled a calendar/postcard collection entitled heritage recycled. the compilation features heritage structures that function as "commercially-sustainable business projects." And according to HCS:

Adaptive re-use is a creative mode of conservation that gives heritage
structures new and alternative functions other than the original ones that
may no longer be required.

Adaptive re-use is applicable to most heritage structures. These need not
be as grandiose as the vintage Department of Finance, now the National
Museum. HCS did not include it to show that ancestral homes of modest
proportions, obscure town halls, colonial watchtowers and bridges,
warehouses and train stations can also be recycled into sustainable

by purchasing the calendar (P200 per copy), you will help HCS with their advocacy. I, for one, am planning to buy a few copies to give to friends whom I know will appreciate such a gift. :D

if you're interested in getting a copy of the calendar, shoot an email to info@heritage.org.ph.

more details:
heritage conservation society
website: http://heritageconservation.wordpress.com
address: G/F Museo Pambata Building, Roxas Boulevard, Manila
contact no.: +632 521 2239

free films at cine europa 10

after pelikula pelicula in greenbelt 3, you film connoisseurs ought to troop over to shangri-la plaza for this year's cine europa, featuring films from 16 european nations. and what's more, screenings are free!

here's the lineup of films this year:
austria - summer with the ghosts
belgium - the kiss
belgium - dead man's hand
czech republic - kolya
denmark - the leap
finland - fc venus
france - la mome
germany - summer in berlin
hungary - just sex and nothing else
ireland - inside i'm dancing
italy - facing windows
lithuania - you am i
the netherlands - ellis in glamourland
slovakia - meeting the enemy
spain - carol's journey
sweden - jalla! jalla!
united kingdom - taming of the shrew

more information over at the delegation of the european commission to the philippines.

event details:
cine europa 10
oct. 5-8, 2007
onstage, ayala center cebu
cebu business park, cebu city

oct. 11-15, 2007
gaisano south city mall, davao city

oct. 18-31, 2007
shang cineplex, shangri-la plaza

admission: free

pelikula pelicula: spanish films at greenbelt 3

great news for film buffs! from october 2 to october 14, instituto cervantes will be holding its 6th spanish film festival at greenbelt 3, cinema 2. admission is P65 per film, so it's really a steal! :)

i thoroughly enjoyed two of last year's films, elsa y fred and seres queridos. i'm hoping this year's lineup will be as interesting.

screening schedules may be viewed here. links to the synopsis of each film are also provided in the said page.

see you there!

event details:
pelikula pelicula: 6th spanish film festival
oct. 2 to 14, 2007
greenbelt 3, cinema 2
admission: P65

Monday, September 24, 2007

boracay on a budget

boracay seems to be on most people's list of places to see. most people have this impression that it costs so much to go and stay there, but actually, you can enjoy boracay for less than P10,000.

i remember when airfares to boracay would cost around P7,000 per person. today, flying can cost somewhere between P3,000 to P5,000, depending on the airline. cebu pacific's go fares come to about P3,000 to P4,000, depending on your departure date and time. seair and asian spirit are more expensive, but they land in caticlan already, saving you about P200 on bus or van ride.

we were pretty lucky that the philippine travel mart was on when we decided to go. we were able to score P2,705 roundtrip fares via seair, which lands on caticlan. because of the season and the condition of the waves, we had to go to tabo port instead of the other port that i've grown familiar with. we took a tricycle ride for P70.

upon arriving at the airport, we were charged P50 each for environmental fees and P2 for the terminal fee. the boat ride itself costs P19.50 per person. when you get to tambisaan port, which is the boracay end of the ride, you'll be charged P20 for a non-chartered tricycle ride to boracay civilization (a chartered, or "special" trike ride goes for about P100). i don't recommend walking from the port to your resort. i highly doubt you will like it.

for accommodations, low season offers the best rates (but not the best weather). still, boracay still has a certain allure even when the sun is behind the clouds. we were able to get a beachfront room at chez de paris, at station 2 (beside le soleil de boracay) for P1,120 a night. we were surprised to find two double beds in our room, so if there are four of you, P1,120 a night comes to about P280 per person, per night. can you say affordable? :) during peak season, accommodation costs will double. so that's about P560 per night. still not bad.

and finally, the food. there are many, many, many choices in boracay when it comes to food. in fact, because of the rain, all we did during our visit was to stuff our faces till we were about to burst. there's something for everybody--grilled, greek, portuguese, seafood, japanese, chinese, pinoy. since our beach activities were limited, we devoured food every chance we got, and spent about P1,000 a day. take a look at what we ate:

you can order a la carte, stuff yourselves with a buffet, or enjoy tiny snacks through the barbecue kiosks that line the path. if you're thinking of splurging on food, it's safe to allot P500 per meal, so that's P1,500 a day. but if you're a big group, you can order large dishes and share. nightlife expenses (read: beer and other alcoholic drinks) doesn't need to cost so much. just choose your establishment well. you can buy a bottle of beer for about P30 to P50.

here's a rundown of our expenses for this trip (per person, unless otherwise stated):

rates will change by the season, of course, but still, a visit to boracay need not be the daunting trip everyone expects it to be. with a little research, and some stubborn haggling skills, your visit to this island need not be an experience in bankruptcy. :)

check out my boracay pictures here and susie's photos here.

travel details:
airlines plying the manila to caticlan route:
air philippines
asian spirit
south east asian airlines (seair)

airlines plying the manila to kalibo route:
cebu pacific
philippine airlines

chez de paris resort
station 2, beside le soleil de boracay
mobile number: 09212516300