Wednesday, April 30, 2008

revisiting baguio after 17 years

yep, you read right. the last time i went to baguio was when i was nine years old. and from then, i haven't had the chance nor the urge to go back.

this year, it was different. susie invited me to go up to the city of pines with him, and i felt the strong pull of
ukay-ukay calling to me.

i intended to have a nice, relaxing time up there, that's why i didn't read up much on the places i could see. we were only going to stay in baguio for a little less than 36 hours, so i didn't want to tire myself by trying to see everything. besides, the city's cool weather was meant for relaxing, not for getting stressed out. i did, however, try to ask around for great places to dine in.

we left manila at 2am, taking NLEX, and exiting at sta. ines. we arrived in baguio a little before 8am. a six-hour drive with minimal stops. not bad, eh? after getting our much-needed sleep, we ventured back out so that i could see baguio in its new, modern splendor.

i was appalled by the traffic and the smog. i didn't even get a whiff of that distinct baguio pine scent because of all the smoke from the cars. i was actually afraid to breathe in, for fear of having my lungs collapse. thankfully, baguio isn't just about the pine scent. the weather was lovely, and was perfect for leisurely strolls.

of our 36 hours there, here's what i got to see and do:

pnky cafe
a cozy little cafe on leonard wood road, across the teacher's camp that serves great food without breaking the bank. the place was so warm and inviting that susie and i ate two meals there out of all three that we had in baguio.

pictured on the left is pnky's beef it or not, which is steak a la pobre served with kiangan rice and vegetables. susie still praises his rib-eye to this day, and vows to go there again.

aside from the cafe, pnky also has a bed&breakfast and a home store that sells furniture and other home accents.

baguio ukay experience
after lunch, susie and i decided to check out the ukay scene. after consulting my list, we walked over to hilltop, which is behind the baguio city market. i scored 2 tops for 30 pesos each, a skirt for P120, and a nice large bag for P150.

when susie had to go to his meeting, i walked around on my own, and found bayanihan, an old hotel northwest of burnham park. thanks to ukay-ukay, the hotel is now thriving again, holding four whopping levels of ukay shopping! definitely a shopper's paradise!

burnham park
after hours of climbing stairs in bayanihan, i decided to take a break at burnham. bought myself a large corn on a stick, and sat down on a bench. i was glad to see the park teeming with people.

the park still had the lake that i remembered as a kid, with paddle boats and large duck-boats. there was also a biking area, filled with kids forcing their parents to rent them a bike.

it's a pity that i didn't get to see if there is indeed a skating rink.

minesview park
this is the lone photo of minesview park that i have. i couldn't take pictures, because, as you can see, i was too busy enjoying my grilled corn and strawberry taho.

sadly, the view of the mines is not as impressive anymore. the only good thing to do in minesview is to shop for baguio goods--brooms, barrel man figurines, strawberry wine, strawberries, and other souvenirs.

as for me, i enjoyed the edible goods. i had two grilled corn, a shot of strawberry wine, and a cup of strawberry taho.

camp john hay
the day we left, susie took me to camp john hay, just to drive around. it was a nice, leisurely drive, but i wasn't impressed by anything i saw.

we did have breakfast at house of waffles, where i had an american breakfast of eggs, hash brown, ham, sausages, and bacon, paired with ice-cold beer! it was a great way to bid baguio farewell!

so, even though i wasn't able to completely explore the city, the trip was fun and memorable. any trip with great food, bargain shopping, and funny adventures is always a trip worth remembering. and i'm looking forward to going back up to baguio soon for another laidback weekend.

information on establishments:
address: 13 leonard wood road, baguio city
tel. no.:
(+6374) 446-7094; (+6374) 444-5418
PNKYhome bed & breakfast

camp john hay
address: loakan road, baguio city
tel. no:
(6374) 446-0231 to 50

baguio guides online:
the city of baguio
go baguio
baguio insider

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

should i still fly cebu pacific?

should i still fly cebu pacific?

do a search on "cebu pacific bad service," or "cebu pacific sucks," and google will churn out 6,070 results about people's bad experience with the airline.

my friends and i booked tickets to bangkok for november, and we're all pretty anxious to find out how we're going to be treated the day of our flight.

i did a simple search on "cebu pacific cancels flights" today and the first result was about cebu pacific cancelling a flight to bangkok.

as if delayed and cancelled flights weren't enough, cebu pacific also fails in the customer service department, with agents that are just downright useless and rude. take a look at this response regarding her complaint about her destroyed luggage:

and with all these stories and bad experiences, i have yet to hear any explanation from the airline. it's this blatant disregard that pisses me off, because they're not doing anything at all to address the issues.

most of the "victims" of cebu pacific's appalling service are calling for a boycott, but i'm going to be honest and say that as disgruntled and disappointed as i am about their performance, i know that at one point or another, i will be forced to book a flight with them again. as much as i would love to teach them a lesson by not supporting their products, at the end of the day, i don't really have much choice. i am someone who wants to travel without burning a hole in my pocket.

it's such a shame that budget travel here in the philippines is suffering because one airline wouldn't even try to rectify their mistakes. they just let the complaints pile up, thinking it would go away.

and to think i was pretty pleased with john gokongwei's speech in last year's ad congress, where he said, son Lance and I had a vision for Cebu Pacific: We wanted every Filipino to fly.

Inspired by the low-cost carrier models in the United States , we
believed that an airline based on the no-frills concept would work
here. No hot meals. No newspaper. Mono-class seating. Operating with
a single aircraft type. Faster turn around time. It all worked, thus
enabling Cebu Pacific to pass on savings to the consumer.

How did we do this? By sticking to our philosophy of "low cost, great

you read right, folks.

oasis hongkong airlines folds

i've been saving up and planning for a possible trip to europe next year. i thought i'd finally see ireland, spend time with friends in madrid, and visit an aunt in portugal.

we all know going to europe is hell on the wallet, which is why i've been planning and saving up in advance. consulting kat mascardo, a budget travel guru (will post something about her soon), the plan was to take oasis hongkong airlines from hong kong and land in london gatwick, since it was a budget carrier. from there, i can just take a plane to madrid or ireland, depending on my itinerary.

but that plan has just dissolved before my very eyes when i read the news that
oasis hongkong has gone into liquidation:
Oasis was well known for offering low-cost tickets from Hong Kong to London for as little as £65 (before tax), undercutting Cathay by around 20 per cent in its early days. The company had been operating daily on this route as well as serving Hong Kong-Vancouver six times a week. But judging by this experience it would seem that the budget concept may not be viable on long-haul flights.

rising oil prices is acting like Death on a lot of businesses, mostly airlines, and more and more carriers are getting the scythe. to confirm everything, i decided to check out the
oasis hongkong website, and true enough, this message was up:
It is with regret that Oasis Hong Kong Airlines announces that the airline has applied to the High Court of Hong Kong Special Administration Region to appoint provisional liquidators on 9 April 2008. The Court has appointed Edward Middleton and Patrick Cowley of KPMG as the provisional liquidators, and they have assumed control of the airline with effect from 1400h the same day Hong Kong time.

for those of us who aren't familiar with the term, "going into liquidation" means:
Liquidation is a formal procedure whereby a liquidator is appointed to ‘wind-up’ the affairs of a limited company, which involves selling the company’s assets and paying creditors. When all the assets have been sold and the money distributed, the company is dissolved, which means that it no longer exists. (taken from CEL Reference Guide: General Liquidation Theories)

the phrase "no longer exists" just keeps echoing in my mind, but this is not over. my airline of choice may have closed down on me, but i am determined to push through with this trip. i have 14 or so months to go, and a lot can still happen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

renew philippine passports through passport direct!

is it time to renew your passport already?

for philippine passport holders, renewing your passports, and even applying for a new passport, is made easier with online applications through passport direct!

while this service doesn't eliminate personal appearance at the department of foreign affairs, as you have to go there for thumbprinting, it does make things less of a hassle, as they will be picking up your passport at the address you indicate, and send the renewed passport, and your old one, to your address as well.

what's more, you can alter the date of your personal appearance, as well as the pickup date of your old passport, to suit the time that's convenient for you.

another perk in renewing your passport through passport direct is that you have a priority lane when you get to the DFA for your personal appearance. according to the site, this lane reduces your time down to just 30 minutes.

the website provides an online application form and a tracking feature so you can check on the status of your application. new applications and passport renewals are accepted.

the catch? the passport direct service costs P1,300, up P800 from the P500 regular processing fee. but do realize that this already includes pickup and delivery costs. it's up to you to weigh whether the perks are worth it. i personally think it is, considering you only have to find time to go to the DFA for one day, and stay there for just 30 minutes or so.

link: requirements for new application and passport renewal.

passport direct - online passport renewal service
24-hour hotline: (02) 737-1000

busy weekend

slowly getting back to going out on the weekends. after months of mostly staying indoors or taking short out of town trips, i'm back to enjoying my weekend nights.

friday was spent in the rockwell urban bazaar, as i wanted some new clothes for the summer. i was actually looking for new fisherman's pants, but didn't find good ones at the bazaar. the bags of bagsinthecity were pretty tempting, though! also got to meet up with mlnw couple, isa and adrian. isa designs maria creations. :D do check her out!

we had dinner in brazil! brazil! i don't know where i've been, but i really didn't know about their barbeque buffet! good thing susie felt like pigging out that night, or i wouldn't have been able to gobble down slice after slice of yummy cuttlefish! the buffet costs about P750.00, and you're given endless access to the goodies burning at the grill. there was lamb, different kinds of beef, cuttlefish, chicken, pork spareribs, and even grilled corn. methinks i'll be taking the family to pig out there soon, maybe on mother's day.

saturday was also jam-packed. since i came home from the bazaar empty-handed, i went to goldcrest in glorietta and got myself 5 new tops, all for just P400! how great is that? :)

after that, i met up with susie and we went to instituto cervantes for dia del libro, where a bunch of books were up for sale. i got a couple of f. sionil jose titles, and susie treated me to merienda--a slice of spanish tortilla from the gaudi booth! it was yummy! soft, with a lot of potatoes.

since we had some time to kill before our next "event," we decided to go to the fort and look for libingan ng mga bayani, since we've both never been there before. visiting hours are from 6am to 6pm. we just drove in and looked at the lawn of crosses. it made me sad to think of all those soldiers, buried in the ground, unidentified. to die and not have your family know what really happened.

as we drove along, we also saw a lot that seemed to be dedicated to the country's national artists. i saw ang kiukok, and n.v.m. gonzales, to name a few.

a quick merienda at mckinley hill, and we were off to saguijo, for milagros dancehall collective's album launch, which was scheduled to start at 6pm. we were the first to get tickets, entitling us to a free album each. i even won an all-body wax treatment from lay bare, one of their sponsors. it's been a while since i bounced to live music, and it was fun to do that to lively dancehall beats.

so that was my weekend. sunday was spent watching television and working on some stuff. i'm looking for more "productive" and fun weekends as the months pass. :) i don't think i'm up to partying till the wee hours, but it's nice to know that i still have the enthusiasm and energy to do it once in a while.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

driving down to pila, laguna

no major trips for me for the long weekend. i'm serious about saving up for next year's big europe shebang.

but to make up for my travel diet, i asked susie if we could drive down to pila, laguna to check out the old houses. we were told that it was considered the vigan of the south, because of the old structures that line the streets.

since there wasn't much information on the internet on how to get to pila, we relied on a map published in 1985 entitled luzon by car. and according to some of the tourist maps i found, pila was between los banos and pagsanjan--quite a long stretch of land.

from south luzon expressway, we exited at calamba (exit 50A), and drove on, passing calamba, los banos, and bay. after the junction to calauan, where a huge duck can be found, we were greeted by the pila town marker.

true enough, the streets, particular rizal street, their main thoroughfare, was lined with old ancestral homes, which are being used as homes or as a cafe or a store. i was pretty glad that the houses and structures were still being used, as it assures that they will be renovated and maintained.

the main attraction was definitely the san antonio de padua parish. though it wasn't too impressive from the inside, the interiors were definitely something to brag about!

the church was designed using white and wood, giving the entire place a clean, elegant look. lines were all clean, and even the modern furnishings, like electric fans, were in keeping with the theme. no bright, jarring colors, just crisp paint and nice wood.

we took a break from the exploring at hardin sa casa ni juanito, which was a backyard with different tiny stalls selling food and drinks. there were small tables scattered in the garden.

photos of my pila, laguna daytrip.

town information:
pila, laguna on wikipedia
pila historical society blog
map of historic structures in pila, laguna

Thursday, April 3, 2008

celebrate international day of the book at instituto cervantes

i missed last year's international day of the book celebration, and i have no intention of passing it up this year.

the celebration of dia del libro, or day of the book, started in catalonia, spain, where people would exchange books for a rose. in keeping with this tradition, all book buyers at the international day of the book celebration, to be held at instituto cervantes, will be given a rose as well.

aside from the book fair, instituto cervantes has cooked up a number of events to keep everyone entertained. you can learn how to dance latin and salsa for free, watch spanish movies based on popular books, have local writers sign books, listen to poetry readings, and partake of the wine and cheese that will be served.

i'll see you all at instituto cervantes on april 19!

photo taken from here.

event details:
international day of the book (dia del libro)
date: april 19, 2008, 10am onwards
venue: instituto cervantes
855 t.m. kalaw street, manila
tel. no.: 5261282 to 85

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

oslob church destroyed by fire

oslob church was one of the churches susie and i visited during our trip to cebu last year.

we were both pretty impressed to find that such an old structure is still left standing, and in good condition at that, hundreds of years later.

but today, i saw an email from ivan henares, saying that the oslob church had been gutted by fire. most of the 178-year-old structure was lost in the flames.

a news story on the inquirer says that even though the church was just 50 meters from the fire station, firefighters couldn't do much to stop the flames, because "they could not respond because their two fire trucks were defective." they even had to "ask some residents to help them push one of the fire trucks to the church, so they could hose the fire down."

this is such a big loss in our heritage treasures. and restoration would be difficult, because, as ivan pointed out, there was no documentation made on the church. there are no diagrams to refer to should anyone want to put the church back as it was.