HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Went to the bookstore earlier today to find a birthday card for my mom. I was off somewhere again and won’t be spending this day with her and the rest of the family. Maybe a (belated) card delivered thru courier would make me feel less guilty. But I couldn’t find one I liked. I wasn’t really surprised that there was very limited selection to choose from. With sms, e-cards and social media, who sends an actual card these days? I typed a few lines on my phone while having lunch, which ironically she may not read since my mom doesn’t even text.

How I always wished
to be the daughter my mom wanted.
Something more like my sister
who came years after me.
Sweet, dainty and obedient,
as I was unruly, stubborn, and rough around the edges.
She was one tough woman
to raise a child like me
who fought with her at every turn
and broke her heart too many times.
I didn’t get her…
and I won’t be surprised
if she didn’t get me too.
But as years faded into memories,
her voice became mellow,
her presence became familiar.
I was hearing her clearly,
her words,
her stories…
For how can I not know her,
I have listened to her heart beat
even before I was born

Happy Birthday, Mom!

REMINISCENCE

I bid goodbye to my old blog THiRTYSOMETHiNG and all my other blogs when I started Bacolod Walks in 2010. There is always that conscious effort to sound straight forward and avoid being emotionally charged. In other words, nakpapaka mature.

I reopened THiRTYSOMETHiNG a few days ago. (Fortunately, I still remembered my account name and password.) It was a compilation of handwritten notes and contents of my other blogs. A journal of some sorts but the entries were rather sporadic, mostly poems I wrote when I was brooding. My poor attempts at poetry were either depressing or foolish. A roller coaster ride that spanned 10 years. I smiled and cringed as I skimmed through the entries. But somehow, I am glad that I chose to keep them. It had been quite a journey.

“After Life” was one of the first poems I’ve written after a really long while. As I said, I love brooding.

AFTER LIFE

How does one learn to walk again
when the spirit is broken
and dreams are lost?
Will my prayers reach the heavens
when I’ve turned my back
and have fallen too many times?
Will he still be there
when I’ve chosen to doubt
instead of believing?
What is there beyond the sky
where light and darkness meet?
What is there beyond time,
beyond past, present and future?
Will we remember?
Will we forget?
(Written on February 2, 2000)

REDEFINING

The problem with adult life is when we reach that stage where we slowly begin lose the people that matter in our lives.  We know that death is a certainty.  It will surely come though we don’t know when or how.  I always thought I’d die young (What can I say, I was a morbid kid.) so the prospect of seeing and dealing with such loss wasn’t part of my so called “life manual” or natural defenses.

Death leaves us with a pain that never goes away.  It’s a heartbreak that never heals.  Somehow, I have learned to keep grief and hurt in that part of my brain that only responds to logic.  It sounds insane to reason your way out of sadness.  Somehow it works and distracts your mind from dwelling too much on the matter.  Though there will always be times, maybe not too often that the pain escapes and rolls down my eyes.  I try to find comfort in the memories.  If only I had more of them than regrets.

I have been going back and forth, trying to dissect my brain why on earth am I having another sensory overload.  I am used to managing my emotions and I just hate it when it gets the better me.  Suddenly, everything feels. (If that’s even a real sentence.)  I like being insentive, numb, and oblivious, that hardly anything or anyone gets to you.  I like keeping a safe distance, much like looking at life through a viewfinder and having a camera between me and everything else.

“Life is short,” my best friend kept repeating after she was diagnosed with a terminal disease.  How I wished it was just a scare or an error somehow.  But now that she had started treatment, it’s as real as it can be.  What can we do? I don’t even know what to say to her.  I try to make sense of it all but fall short each time.  It takes real effort to be optimistic and keep believing that she’ll come out on top of this.  Stage 3 is stage 3 after all.  But the will to fight is still there in her eyes.  Life is short is a clichè until you’re given a deadline.

I gave up asking why. There are just things that are out of our hands.  Maybe it’s not really about losing or the prospect of losing someone and the regrets that come with it but rather learning to appreciate those who are still with us.  Make time to build tons of memories and find the words to let them know how much they mean to us.  Now, I find myself trying to reconnect with old friends, finding meaning in random conversations, enjoying long drives with cheesy music in the background, wanting to get lost in the unfamiliar, learning to let go and forgive, chasing new dreams and not just sunsets, or just being totally content with sharing breakfasts with Mom.  How cornier can I get? (insert face palm)

There’s a sense of restlessness inside I couldn’t explain.  I’m not used to being overwhelmed with emotions, much less allow anyone else to see.  I’m blabbering again… probably bordering incoherence.  This is how I try to rationalize my way out of whatever this is.  Crazy? Nah! Just foolish, I guess.

OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONE

Had fun shooting last night.  Though initially I was apprehensive (more like frightened) with the prospect of taking photos of a roomful of judges.  How do you actually give instructions to people who make a career giving out orders? Then there was a variety of technical issues to worry about including lighting, color temperature, and composition.  On top of that I had to calm my nerves and at same time figure out how to make and keep my subject comfortable and relax.  Portrait photography is so much different from sports or street photography.

After a few clicks, I realized just like most people, judges (not all but a good number of them) fear and freeze when in front of the camera.  I can totally relate and I’m not even in front but right behind and holding the camera.  But when the tensed smiles and stiff movements have been replaced with chatter, giggles and unrestrained laughter, the eyes seem to glow and the expeessions more flowing.  As much as I would like to attribute the change of atmosphere to my pleasant personality 😂, the presence of friends and familiar faces, cheering and jeering in the sidelines lightened the mood for everyone and had people goofing around in no time.

Connecting and keeping your subject comfortable all thgh out the session is just as important than all the technical matters.  Portriture is a tricky thing.  Sunsets happen no matter what, you just have to chase them.  Just as we are sure that sun will rise again tomorrow.  We may catch it if we set our heart (alarm clocks)  to it.  But most people hate being photographed as much as they detest going to a dentist.  Not everyone warms up easily or will find their natural rhythm with a lens pointed straight at them.

No matter how many articles we browse through or youtube videos that instruct us how to take better portraits, there’s no substitute for practice.  I have a long way to go to feel comfortable with my skills both in handling the camera and connecting with my subject.  At times, I’m tempted to get a better lens or add another light.  A lame excuse to splurge on some new gear.  Often, I just hope to for a spark or inspiration to work on my long overdue and over planned portrait project. Because I need a reason to keep shooting portraits.

My modest plan is to just keep shooting and come up with a montage of faces.  A more ambitious goal was to put together articless and photographs of inspiring and strong WOMEN. I am fascinated with a good narrative as much as I am drawn to a compelling image.  So Ive been trying to convince some friends and people I barely know to pose and share their story.  It all boils down to finding an angle, whether in writing or photography.

I’m not giving myself a deadline.  I just need to find a starting point.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

It’s your first birthday we’ll be spending without you.  I’ve been telling myself that it shouldn’t make any difference because I have missed a lot of birthdays, holidays and family occasions since I often opted to spend them some place else or travelling.  I always thought that my absence was inconsequential since Mom, my siblings and (eventually) your apos are there anyway.

Last year, I was hoping we all could have lunch in Bacolod to celebrate your 75th year because the day fell on a work and school day.  And perhaps we could buy the shoes you wanted before you head back home.  But you said you’d rather celebrate it in Isabela.

I got you a watch as a belated birthday/Christmas gift, which I supposed you didn’t like since you gave it away.  Four months after, when you learned I was going to Manila, you asked me to buy you a watch and a pair of shoes.  By then, you were mostly confined to a wheelchair after you had a stroke on Valentine’s day.  Maybe you knew I was irked with happened after Christmas.  I told you we’d look for new shoes when you were walking again.

Got you some cheap plastic watch during my trip.  You were allergic to metal and why would need one since you don’t get out of the house anymore except for your check-ups.  I guess, that’s how I justified not getting you a decent piece.

You never got the watch tho.  We were supposed to send it together with your medicines and supplies Wednesday morning but you passed away even before the sun rose that day.  We got the call 3 or 4am.  I can’t remember anymore.  There were so many things going theough  my mind and a lot of things that needed to be done.  I should have been grieving but there was this long imaginary checklist messing up my sensory processing.  Plus I have to drive all the way home for the first time… and the farthest I have have gone was 35km from Bacolod.  I had no time to be melodramatic and breakdown like they do it in movies.

I’m writing all these down so the words don’t keep haunting me.  Remember, I used to write to you all the time when I was younger.  I left notes and letters in your closet.  You never answered them or said anything about it, but you kept the letters.  They were still there the last time I rummaged your closet.

Since day break of the 27th of April, I haven’t given myself a chance to grieve.   A father will always be their little girl’s hero.  But guess what, little girls grow up even if we don’t want to.  The world happens.  Reality happens.  And we begin to see our fathers with far less romantic eyes.  I can’t remember when and why we stopped talking.  All that didn’t matter anymore when you got sick except all those times I lost because I was upset with you.  I should have told you.  I should have told you a lot of things.

My brother and sister took care of you the last month or weeks before you left us.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am happy and grateful that they spent time with you.  I was home for one lousy day last April and I didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye.

It’s crazy how our mind plays tricks.  There are just times when everything seems to remind me of you.  So now, I am somewhere between trying not to remember and trying not to forget.  But it’s your birthday… and the Holidays are coming up, I’ll just have to brace myself for sensory overload.

To the only man who broke my heart, I miss you, Dad.

PSL GRAND PRIX 2016 : FOTON VS RC COLA ARMY

Most of my friends shifted to mirrorless and they have been trying to convince me to do the same.  The size and weight had been one of the more compelling reasons for making the switch from digital slr to mirrorless system.  Of course, it is hard to ignore the sexy retro look of the Fujifilm cameras.  Since I do mostly travel photography… or rather mostly use my camera when I travel, having a light weight gear makes a whole lot of difference.  That’s actually me trying to justify to my kuripot self why I need to get an X-T10 or the the X-T1 (aside from the fact that the X-Pro2 and the X-T1 are way beyond my budget).

If I get to sell my current gear, sige, I’ll go mirrorless. I told myself.

As I went over my stuff, camera body, lenses, etc., listing them down and taking photos of each one so I can put them up for sale, I suddenly had separation anxiety.  i know, I should not get attach with inert objects.  But Duckie is not just a camera, she’s my 2nd travel buddy.  Though lately, it has been Hiro (Fujifilm X30) who goes with me even to the office.

Maybe… one last ride.

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Jovelyn Gonzaga up against the towers of Foton

I seized the chance to tag along with pro photographer Winston Baltazar, who was patient enough to give me a one on one session on sports photography during last Saturday’s Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix games.  Didn’t get to watch the much of the first game between Generika and Cignal since I arrived towards the end of the third set.  Generika Life Savers ended the match in the fourth set, finally bagging their first win this season.  But I got to warm up a bit since I haven’t been using my DSLR nor do I get the opportunity to shoot sports for sometime.

I always use my Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 on a Canon 70D whenever I shoot sports.  But I brought a long instead a Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3, which I borrowed form a friend… to save space in my luggage.  I never invested in good and expensive lenses since photography was something I do to de-stress or draw inspiration from when I find myself in a bind.  My on cam lens (Sigma) wasn’t fast enough for shooting indoor sports.  I had to set my ISO was at 2500 to 3500 with shutter speed at 1/400, which wasn’t fast enough wither.  For the first time I, I was able to shoot from the four sides of the arena and at different levels.  Thanks to Winston, who had an “all access pass” to the venue being one of the official photographers for Sports TV5.

Foton Tornadoes was coming from a loss against F2 Logistics, their first loss after six straight wins.  They were looking to bounce back against the veteran laden RC Cola Army.  The match also marked the return of Jaja Santiago who had missed several due to the 12-day training in Japan with her collegiate team, National University.  The game was close all through out with the third set even extending to 29-27.  Foton emerged as the victor after five nail biting sets.

Usher takes a swing over the RC defense
Usher takes a swing over the RC defense
Salak sneaks one past Santiago-Manabat
Salak sneaks one past Santiago-Manabat
Dimaculanga to a running Ortiz
Dimaculanga to a running Ortiz
The Captain reminding her team to stay focused in the game.
The Captain reminding her team to stay focused in the game.
Tubino going against the double block
Tubino going against the double block
Acevedo alternating with General for defensive duties
Acevedo alternating with General for defensive duties
Stalzer skying over the defense.
Stalzer skying over the defense.
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Santiago top scoring with 30 points

The ever intense Foton coach, Moro Branislav was equally exciting to watch as he risked being called a technical after he entered the playing court.  His team was assessed with a rotation error in the latter part of the third set.  Disagreeing with the call, impot/team captain Lindsay Stalzer asked for clarification from the referee when Coach Branislav wanted to join in the conversation.  The second referee had to escort him back to the sidelines.  The referee earned playful jeers from some of the audience during the stoppage.

"Ano ba talaga, Ate?"
“Ano ba talaga, Ate?”
"Parang awa mo, Coach. 'Wag ka nang sumali. Noseblee na, si Lindsay pa lang."
“Nosebleed na sa kakaexplain kay Lindsay pa lang. Parang awa mo, Coach. ‘Wag ka nang sumali. “
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“Wala akong kinalaman diyan. Number 9 daw.”

It was nice to see Dindin and Jaja playing for the same team again after playing for one season with the National University Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP.  The older Santiago may not yet be in top form yet after she gave birth to her baby girl but she is still a threat at the net but it will be just a matter of time.  Mean while, Jaja remains to be a headache for other teams as she continues to improve her game.

The towering Santiago sisters
The towering Santiago sisters

How do you stop a Jaja Santiago? especially when you have three other players standing above six feet inside the court with her.  Santiago, now playing as an opposite spiker, had 22 kills, five blocks and three aces to finish with 30 points while import Lindsay Stalzer had 24 points.

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Foton’s tall line-up. (clockwise) Usher (6’1″), Ortiz (5’10”), Stalzer (6’1″), Santiago-Manabat (6’2″), Dimaculangan (5’6″), and Santiago (6’6″)

Team chemistry is the least of Foton’s problem.  The players evidently enjoy playing with each other.  Maybe the only problem if you’re part of this team is when do you get playing time.  Explosive wing attackers EJ Laure, Cherry Rondina, and Patty Orendain have to cheer from the sidelines while waiting for their turn to pinch hit for their starters who all seem to be doing well at this stage of the tournament.

"Pasok na po ba ako, Coach?"
“Pasok na po ba ako, Coach? Kaya ko pong lumipad ng kasing taas ni Ate Jaja, may cartwheel pang kasama.”

It was thrilling match and I enjoyed it immensely especially because Foton won.  But I love shooting the game more.  I learned to shoot sports by reading articles and looking at photos online.  Sometimes I get lucky and experienced photographers would answer my query in their blogs or social media accounts.  Being able to learn something new from someone who has been doing sports photography for a decade or so, and looking at it from another perspective made it even more of an experience.

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Holst’s served her way to seven aces
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Stalzer steered Foton to the title last year over then defending champion Petron

I’ve been looking at mirrorless cameras or (at least) an upgrade for my Fujifilm X30.  After the game, I found myself looking for an excuse to get a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

HONG KONG: TRAIN RIDES AND MISCUES

The day starts with the hunt for breakfast.  Scratch that.  Second day in Hong Kong begins with not wanting to get out of bed.  But I got up early just the same, trying to decipher which direction did the sun rise in this city.  There was a light drizzle and from the hotel window I could see people walking under their umbrellas.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad to get back to bed… at least not yet.  It was just a few minutes past six and from my readings through different travel blogs, the shops don’t open until late in the morning.  Maybe a few more minutes sleep.

With stomachs grumbling, we decided to head out for brunch.  It was past 10:00 am by the time we got out of the hotel.  Finding a place to eat wasn’t really much of a problem since there were so many restos and convenience store in the area.  The only trick (at least for us) is to find one with a menu we can understand, whether it was translated in English or with pictures we can point to.

In the next block was s famous local chain cafe, Tsui Wah.  There were posters of the food and menu we can see from the outside.  This one looks promising.  We were lucky to find a table since it was packed with people, both local and tourists.  What I really wanted for breakfast was HK’s famous French toast, which for some reason I could not find in their menu and I ended up with a noodle dish with shrimp dumplings and creamy broth.  Doc ordered  macaroni noodles with strips of ham also in a creamy broth.  We pointed to the next table and ordered what they were having, which looked like a good glass of lemon iced tea.  Our server mumbled something we thought we understood and immediately said yes.  She came back a minute later with our bill instead of food.  Apparently, they give you the bill first and you pay it on your way out.  Another surprise was when she served us with two glasses of iced milk tea.  So that was what she was mumbling about.  The food was okay — big servings and reasonably priced.

Before heading to Nathan road to search for the Secret Base, we bought Coke from the nearby 7/11 since Doc barely touched her milk tea.  We passed Mc Donalds, KFC, and a lot more stores and restos on both sides of the street.  After walking a few blocks, we didn’t find Sino Centre.  My map said it is nearby. We must have walked past it since.  From Shantung Street, we backtracked and found the building.  It was between Soy and Dundas Street.  This was definitely a toy collectors paradise: from cheap plastic knock-offs to expensive collector edition action figures.  If you’re looking for Mangas or some random cute stuff or scrapbook materials or electronic accessories or even photos of your favorite movie/pop stars, you’ll most likely find it in this labyrinth of tiny claustrophobic stalls.  All we could do was window shop since almost all of the stalls were still closed  after 11:00 am.

We went back to the ground floor and took the elevator.  Stepping out to the 20th floor, there were no stores, just a long narrow hallway with closed doors.  In one of the doors was a sign that said “Secret Base.”  It seemed secret enough since there were no displays or anything else that would indicate that there was store there.  Then we learned that they will open 3:00 pm.  They weren’t kidding when they said the shops here opened late.

We took the MTR fom Yau Ma Tei Station to get to Central Station.  We were meeting a musician friend who was based in Hong Kong.

We walked around Central passing the landmarks in the area: the HSBC Building, the Court of Final Appeals, Bank of China Building, and the many towering structures that create an interesting landscape when you view Hong Kong Island from across the waters in Tsim Sha Tsui or from high above Victoria Peak.

There was a very long queue at the Tram Lower Terminus.  By the time we got on, we had to stand since the train was full.  It offered a uniquely spectacularly perspective view of the city being one of the steepest railway in the world.  The skyscrapers on the right side of the tram glide past at what appear to be impossible angles while the tram makes its ascent.  I didn’t get to take any photo since I had to hold on to something to keep me from falling as we were in a reclining position as we were going up hill.

It rained late in the afternoon just as it said in the Accu Weather Forecast.  That literally dampened my hopes of watching the sun set from the Peak.  With grumbling stomachs, we were reminded that our last meal was brunch.  We looked for a place to eat while waiting for the rain to stop.  I wanted to try Mak’s Noodles which was often recommended by food and travel bloggers plus it had a Michelin Star but I had been eating noodles every meal since we got to Hong Kong.  We opted to sample some of the dim sun at Sweet Dynasty instead.  We tried out the hakaw, shiumai with truffles and a few others, leaving room for dinner when we get back to Kowloon.  But it was the crispy baked pork buns I immediately fell in love with.  The honey-glazed char siu filling encased in a sweet golden brown flaky crust was my unforgettable find yet.

Took the bus back to Wan Chai District and hopped on a train to Kowloon. As we emerged from Jordan Station, the rain was nothing more than a drizzle.  Wandering off Nathan Road, we found ourselves at the Temple Street Night Market.  If you’re into shopping, this was a good place to get lost in.  They sold a lot of cheap items from toys to electronics accessories to shirts to taser guns to cosmetics… and a lot more stuff vendors will try to convince you to buy.  We walked the entire stretch to work out an appetite.

For dinner, we found a street side resto that was packed with diners.  They seated us on a table on the side walk.  Good thing the menu had English translation with pictures to boot.  Our friend recommended a noodle dish, shells with bit of a spicy sauce, and an eggplant dish which was like tortang talong that did not set but it was surprisingly good.  The claypot rice with salted pork and two kinds of sausages didn’t look impressive but I was craving for rice after all the noodles we had for the last 24 hours in this city.  It tasted well especially with the soy sauce they serve on the side.

Called it the night after we cleared all our plates and emptied the bottles.  We had a date with Mickey the Mouse tomorrow and need to be up really early.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated the distance from the night market to our hotel and walked all the way through.  At least, we got to see Nathan Road all lit up with bright and colorful signage before we ended our exhausting day.

HONG KONG: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

Doc’s birthday was coming up and she set her sights on getting inked by Whang Od.  The prospect of a two hour trek from jump-off point to Buscalan, the small village where Whang-od lives already made me cringe.  Yes, it was a once in a life time opportunity to meet and photograph this 93 year-old mambabatok and living national treasure.  Yes, the sight of the great Cordillera mountains will nothing be less than breathtaking.  But a long hike passing through cliffs wasn’t really my idea of fun.  So I called Doc and asked if she would settle for meeting Mickey Mouse instead.

Two months later, many hours of research, Hong Kong bound! We wanted to make sure we have a head start just in case we got caught in traffic so we headed to NAIA Terminal 3 quite early for our 7:00 pm flight.  What do you know, there was very light traffic all the way to airport.  We were even more happy when the lady from the check-in counter allowed us to change our seating assignment and gave us 1E and 1F.  My jubilation was however short lived since Doc wouldn’t give up 1F.  She said there is always a reason for everything.  After paying for travel tax and checking-in, we had some snacks since the next meal we will be having will probably be very late in the evening.  We still had a lot of time to spare before our flight.  There was no rush in filling out the tourist cards and going through immigration.

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Departure Area, NAIA Terminal 3

Surprise! Surprise! Our flight was on time.  I settled for the middle seat since someone refused to give up the window seat and was preparing to sleep for the two hour flight once we got in the plane.  The passenger next to me was an elderly lady who asked whether I was going to Hong Kong for business (which I wasn’t).  Then another question… then another.  Before we knew it, we were almost in our destination and she still wasn’t done talking.  She gave us a brief palm reading and even invited us to a meal at her place… if we get to be on the same flight again.  Doc whispered to me, “You see, that is the reason why you got that seat.”

When they said Hong Kong International Airport was huge, now I know they weren’t exaggerating.  I was too busy trying to focus on the signs where to go next that I didn’t get a chance to take photos.  Plus the customs official had too many questions and even asked me if I had a camera with me.  We also had a bit of confusion when he asked where we were staying and I told him we were booked in “Inn Hotel.”  He asked again what it is the name of the hotel.  I had to show him the voucher from Agoda that the name of the hotel was “Inn Hotel.”

This was my first trip abroad… kaya medyo hilo.  After a few escalator rides and a short train ride, we got to the immigration counter where we were issued a “ticket-like” proof of entry instead of a stamp on my passport.  Then a few minutes of walking (and wandering), we finally found the counter that sold tickets for the Airport Express.  We paid 200HKD each for an AE and an Octopus card.  We also got some brochures and maps in the tourism booths we passed by.  Finding our way around the airport was an adventure in itself.  Just follow the signs! Fortunately, they all had English translations.

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Waiting for the train to start our HK adventure.

By the time we reached the Airport Express Station, we were way past dinner and our tummies were protesting.  I reviewed our route as we waited for our train: Airport to Tsing Yi, Tsing Yi to Lai King, then Lai King to Yau Ma Tei.  The Airport Express and the MTR was indeed clean and extremely efficient.  But upon reaching our third interchange in Lai King, we were counting down stations and was sooo looking forward to dinner.  We emerged from B2 Exit of Yau Ma Tei Station a bit disoriented.  We were guessing which way to Portland Street.  One turn and a few steps we found Inn Hotel.

Checked-in.  Fixed our stuff and headed out for dinner.  There were a lot of small restaurants and convenience stores near our hotel.  In fact, Mc Donalds and KFC was a few turns away.  But as I always said, there’s no better way to learn local culture than trying local food.

Up the street, was this resto that had large pieces of meat hanging.  Since roast meat, especially goose was on top of my list, I picked it immediately over the bigger place that had a sign the said Macau Food.

We were greeted by a friendly lady who ushered us in and showed us to the only vacant table.  There were a few more tables that were also occupied at the back.  The food must be good! I told myself.  The place looked small from outside but was really a narrow space that had a see-through kitchen in the middle.

I asked the lady if they had an English menu since the one in the table was all in Chinese.  “No,” she said.  We asked what was their specialty.  She pointed to the news clipping (which looked like a food review) with photos of (what we think) the food they specialize.  Doc pointed to the noodles hoping it was beef and wanton noodles.  We then asked if they had dimsun.  The man from behind the counter joined in and said something like “wanton.” I assumed that they didn’t serve any dimsun only wanton.

The lady then pointed to the nearby table where a solo diner was eating a noodle dish on a plate.  I told her we’ll have one of that.  She then asked, “pig’s hands?” Somehow between the signing and the  language limitation, I figured it was pig’s trotters.  Doc wondered if the noodles was to be eaten by hands.  It was a good thing we were seated near the refrigerator and only had to point to the Coke and Coke Zero.

From where we were seated, we could see the kitchen staff in action through the glass walled kitchen.  Large pieces of meat hanging, herbs bundled in baskets, pots and pans here and there.  I wanted to take a photo of the cook as he dumps noodles and ladles soup bowl after bowl.  After trying to phrase how to ask for permission, I changed my mind.

The food wasn’t bad… but nothing excellent either.  We paid more or less $75HKD.  We could have ordered just one dish for the both of us.  They had big portions and hardly I hardly finished it despite being hungry.  Well, it was either that or I had difficulty eating with chopsticks.  The pig’s “hands” was really challenging to eat.  There was no way you can eat it with chopsticks.  I guess, one should eat it with your hands.

Before retiring back to our hotel, we got local sim cards for calls, sms and data from Circle K.  I also bought ice cream to wash away the after taste of dinner.

First lesson on our first day: make sure there are a lot of diners in the resto so you have a lot more selection of dishes to point to just in case the menu has no translation.

DADDY’S LAST CAMPFIRE

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Scouting was Dad’s life.  Unfortunately, neither myself nor my siblings took interest in it. Camping and the outdoors were way out of my comfort zone.

Daddy took me to see the scouting activities at the plaza or at the school grounds.  I enjoyed the campfires and torch parades.  I was amazed with how many types of knots you can make or cooking rice in bamboo.  I guess, scouting seemed cool back then when I was a little kid. But not cool enough for me to want to give up a proper bathroom or sleeping accommodations.

Then came Christmases and New Years Dad spent in Jamborees and campings.  I thought I was used to it.  This was practically routine since I was an infant.  But when you’re away for school most of the year, holidays became family time.  It was annoying.  I didn’t understand why Jamborees had to be held during this times.  Scouting took him to different parts of the country.  But it also took him away from us during important occasions.

As an adult, it was kind of embarrassing when your father is described as a boy scout. No offense meant.  Maybe because I never learned what it meant to be one.  Citizen development he always said.
He loved to tell stories about his adventures… all those places he had been to, all the boy scouts who we were now successful grown men…  He was so proud of his boys.

This was practically how life was for us.  We weren’t his only family.  We had to share him with the entire scouting community.

Later, when I had my own advocacies did I understand what he held dearly.  In order to rebuild a nation, we must endeavor to make better citizens who will care enough to make a difference.  One boy at a time.  One child at a time.

Daddy always respected my politics and my choices as much as I did his.  We respected each other even when we disagreed.  We never voted for the same president since I reached voting age.  I was reared to decide for myself… and not to merely to accept what others said or wanted, not even from my own father.

Every father is their child’s hero. My hero just happen to be a boyscout.

Goodbye, Dad.

SUFFERINGS AND SUFFRAGE

IMG_6157 I was so excited when I turned 18.  No, there was no ball for my debut.  I couldn’t even remember if I had a party to celebrate my birthday that year.  But I was so excited that I was going to finally be able participate in the process of choosing local and national leaders, to express my choice on a law or enactment that might be submitted for a plebiscite or a referendum, or to be part of an initiative where the people directly propose or enact law.  To my mind, that was my right of passage to adulthood.

When I was younger, I would vote for someone I aspire to become.  Being young and idealistic, I wanted to believe in something.  I wanted to hold on to this idea of democracy and freedom.  That perhaps in this life time, we have a chance for greatness.  I guess, I was foolish as well.

Several presidents later, I cringed whenever another election draws near.  I couldn’t say I am wiser.  But I have began to dread the process of trying out someone new… and realizing that we probably made a mistake.  Then we have to wait another six years to try again.  (Though most of the guys I voted for never made it to Malacañang.)

So why vote?

Our right to suffrage was born out of the struggles to those who came before us.  Decades of colonial rule, deprived Filipinos to participate in the electoral process.  It took a revolution after revolution for Filipinos to finally be granted the right to self-determination… or at least to choose their representatives.  Though of course this meant choosing someone who was Uncle  Sam’s anointed one and the right to suffrage was limited only to men.  Well, we (Filipinos) always had the gift of optimism… of seeing a glass have full. The right was then predicted on gender and economic status.

For Filipino women, the struggle was even longer.  It wasn’t until 1937, when 450,000 in favor versus 50,000 who voted against women’s suffrage that they were finally allowed to vote.  This was an overwhelming win for women, who were only required to get 300,000 votes to be granted suffrage.

The right to vote is a political right or privilege, to be given or withheld at the exercise of the lawmaking power of the sovereignty.  It is not a natural right of the citizen, but a franchise dependent upon law, which it must be conferred to permit its exercise.  It can emanate only from the people, either in their sovereign statement of the organic law or through legislative enactment which they have authorized.  It is not included among the rights of property or of person.  Neither is it an absolute unqualified right, but is altogether conventional.  When once granted, it may be taken away by the exercise of sovereign power, and if taken away no vested right is violated or bill of attainder passed.  For example, those to whom the right of suffrage is guaranteed by the constitution cannot be deprived of it by any act of the legislature. (White vs. Multnomab County, 13 0.317)

As much as it is a right conferred by law, it burdens us with a duty and obligation to take part in making a national decision as to what direction will we take in the next six years.  Do we choose a someone who will solve the problems that have plagued this country for decades? Do we choose someone who will inspire us to be better? Or should we just settle for the lesser evil?

Political discourse and bickering are all over social media as the internet had become another venue for campaigning… and (for many) simple ranting about their chosen candidates or those they are against. When tweets or status updates pop up in our timelines as we near the May 9, there are times that it provokes us to think, or sometimes it makes smile or laugh, and but there are just those we try hard to ignore and refrain from rebutting.  It’s never easy to listen to opinion contrary to ours, especially when that one voice cuts deeply on the things we believe in.  But democracy, whether we like it or not, is someone advocating and shouting on the top of his/her voice something that you spent a lifetime fighting against.

Come to think of it, what is it we are fighting for? Presidents and all other elected officials come and go, and nothing really changes.  Criminality still prevails, traffic sucks, corruption is eating away our economy, we are helpless against foreign threats to our sovereignty, majority of our people are still poor… why do we still have to subject ourselves to this process when nothing really gets done? And this political exercise often end up deviding the country and polarizing people.

So why should we still vote?

Maybe it’s time to remember before demanding our right that we need to fulfill our duties and obligations as citizens of this country. That whenever we complain about traffic, we need to learn to use the pedestrian lane when crossing the streets and followe simple traffic rules. That whenever we are disgusted by civil servants demanding bribes or ‘padulas’, we should not try to bribe them to begin when we find it necessary. That whenever we curse whoever is sitting in Malacañang, we should try not to disenfranchise ourselves by failing to register or vote.

The right of suffrage is predicated upon the theory that the people who bear the burden of government should share in the privilege of choosing the officials of that government. This is the theory of a representative form of government. (Macolor vs. Amores, G.R. No. L-8306, Nov. 5, 1953)  

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And yes, change should begins with us…

OF SUNSETS AND MISSED SHOTS

As I was driving home from work today, the western horizon was slowly turning into graduated shades of orange and gold, the sun was hovering just a little above the horizon when I caught a glimpse of sakadas on top of a ten-wheeler truck, loading it with sugarcane, cleaning each stem to minimize trash, and filling whatever crevices with more sugarcane until the truck can hold no more.  A scene I have seen so many times, having lived all my life in a province that predominantly produces sugar… but hardly with a beautiful sunset on the background while familiar figures who labor day after day are nothing more than just silhouettes.

I wanted to pull over to the side of the road to take a few shots.  But I was at the inner lane and there were a lot of vehicles driving past and fast on my right.  With I sigh, I only managed a glance.  I consoled myself that not all beautiful scenery need to be photographed.  One only needs to enjoy the moment and savour the wonder as it unfolds.

I’ve written so many times how fascinated I am with sunsets… and often foolishly chase them.  Every day, I bring Hiro (my point and shoot) along to work.  You’ll never know what opportunities the day will bring.  Though not all memories are measured in pixels.

SILAY: CHASING SUNSETS

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It’s day 2 with Hiro (Fujifilm X30).  I stopped along the highway between Silay and Talisay just when the sun was slowly slipping the west side of the horizon.  The weather had been temperamental for the last few days.  The sky had cleared late in the afternoon and had turned into vibrant hues of orange, red and purple.

A youtube review said this camera is all about fun but since my last two camera’s have been Canon DSLRs, getting used to configuring the settings takes a bit of time to get used to.  After a few minutes, I figured out how to take a silhouette shot.  Simply turn it to manual and fiddle with aperture and shutter speed.  Just in time to capture the moment.  Hiro delivered.  I only added watermarks and straightened the image.  The colors was straight out of the camera.

It’s ironic to feel calm and serene when sunsets signify an end and a closing.  But we can always look on the brighter side and look forward to another day.

SNAPSHOT: THE ENCHANTING TOSLOB FALLS

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Like everything in life, when things gets overwhelming, you need to step back to see the whole picture.

The first time I went to Toslob/Mag-ambak Falls, I was so amazed with the beauty and the feel of the place.  Water cascading gently down a wall of umbrella-like rock formations creating a curtain of rain shower falling into a (not too) shallow pool hidden by bamboo trees and lush mountain vegetation.  I tried to get as close as I could, hoping to take a photo underneath the falls, looking up the sky.  Of course, that is easier said than done.  Firstly, my camera isn’t water proof.  Second, the widest my lens can go is 18mm.  But I did try… not too close tho.

When I returned after a year or two… this time, with another set of friends who very much enjoyed swimming in the cool waters of Toslob falls… I wondered away, followed the water as it flowed down stream from the main pool down to patches of smaller pools and rivers.  From a distance, the place is just as enchanting.

BACOLOD: MASSKARA FESTIVAL

IMG_3941It’s that time of the year again when Bacolod plays host to first time travelers and returning visitors who flock to the city to watch smiling masked dancers in flamboyant and colorful costumes dance to upbeat music in the streets.  It’s also that time of the year when the traffic gets really crazy (by Bacolod standard that is) from all the rerouting that takes place for the annual celebration.

If you’re planning to catch the MassKara Festival this year, it starts today until October 19.

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It’s 19 days of merry making, beer drinking, food tripping and street dancing in the City of Smiles.  It’s one big party after another as the people take the celebration to the streets… literally.  If you haven’t been to Bacolod yet, this is one of the best time to be here.  Just be a little creative in looking for a place to stay since most of the hotels and pension houses are fully booked.  But people hardly sleep during the weekend highlight of MassKara anyway.

SHAKEY’S V-LEAGUE 12: UP V CSB

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Pauso ng pose?

Coach Jerry Yee still has tricks up his sleeves as he gears up for the upcoming UAAP wars.  With thirteen new recruits, the Diliman squad had been busy with off-season tournaments… winning some… and losing a few.  But the game plan was simple, to give exposure and experience for the young crew.

Much of the burden of leading the youngsters now falls on the shoulders of its new captain, the sophomore setter Jewel Lai, and the veteran and most senior Lady Maroon, Pia Gaiser.  The not so veteran veterans Marian Buitre, Arielle Estranero, Vina Alinas, and Chester Ong were also returning to the fold.  However, the Lady Maroons has an (almost) totally new look… again… as half of the team are new faces, fresh out of high school.

It was a again a slow start for the Lady Maroons, dropping the first set against the CSB Lady Blazers.  But recovered in time to finish the game in four sets.  The victory against the College of Saint Benilde was their first after a stringing losses against Ateneo, FEU and UST when it entered the quarter final round.  The Lady Maroons were out of the running for a final four spot but each game mattered to the it spelled a difference in the development of the team.

But despite the setbacks, the rookies of Diliman had gained quite a following.  Fans had been talking about them even before Season 77 was over.  It wasn’t hard to understand why there was so much buzz about UP’s new acquisitions when you see them play live.  They were fearless and had fire in their eyes.  They had skills that matched their attitude.  Though they seem to have that calm and collected, no nonsense demeanor most of the Lady Maroons have.

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Diliman Trio (Tiamzon, Bersola and Araneta)

Season 77 had the Diliman Trio in Tiamzon, Araneta and Bersola.  Though UP’s rendezvous with destiny was cut short with the season ending injury of Bersola, the team was no longer a doormat in the league.

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(from top left) Carlos, Molde, Layug and Dorog

Will Season 78 see the coming of Diliman’s (Fantastic) Four? Much have been said and written about Isa Molde, Diana Mae Carlos, Maristela Layug and Justine Dorog in the forums and social media.  Is it just hype? Or will they be the next stars for UP and the league?

I’m not an expert of the game or any sport for that matter and I am not technically adept to dissect and analyze their skills.  I just love watching the games because it gives me chance to practice sports photography… but what’s there not to like about these rookies? I’d like to keep my expectations modest like most UP fans but it’s hard not to be excited and be overly eager with the prospect of a healthy Tiamzon and Bersola coming back to the line-up with these youngsters.

People just love the underdogs… especially when they learn to fight back.  That’s a making of a good story.  But when they overcome the odds and win… then it becomes a fairy tale.

BACOLOD: SHOOTING WIDE

It’s one of those days… you get up and realize you’re missing something badly.  You do what you got do, right? Something I learned when I was reviewing for the Bar Exams.  Even though it was late in the morning, I decided to pick-up my camera bag and head to Downtown Bacolod.    Didn’t really have any particular theme in mind, except shooting with a wide lens.  Been pretty excited test driving the new Canon 10-18mm lens.

Took very few shots since the summer heat was quite intense even before noon and I have shot in this area a lot of times.  But a place is never the same no matter how often you see it.  Roamed around the plaza and ended my walk at the San Sebastian Cathedral… though my last stop was really lunch at SM.

Should do this more often.  But I need to remember to put on sunblock… sunog na naman.

UAAP SEASON 77: UP V NU

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the final tour of duty

Angeli Araneta looked on from the sidelines during the dying end of the third set as the Lady Bulldogs came down hard and closed the match against the Lady Maroons.  She watched helplessly as her team crumbled, loosing the game and bid their hopes for a final four finish goodbye.  What if Kathy wasn’t sidelined by an ACL injury? What if Nicole scored more? What else could she have done? People could only guess what was going through Araneta’s mind.  The former captain only scored 4 points, a far cry from her outstanding performance throughout the season.  Season 77 was not a total loss for Araneta, who came back to use her fifth playing year after her team mates and UP fans campaigned for #OneMoreYearNeta.  Having been one of UP’s formidable wing attackers, Araneta was converted to middle blocker as she returned for her final tour of duty with the Lady Maroons.  Often criticized for her drops and soft taps, she would timely show off her strong and quick middle hits, which made believers out of her critics and turned skeptics into fans.

It was a no bearing game for the NU who was secured in 3rd spot of the team standing; while the Lady Maroons where in tightly contested race for fourth place.  UST, Adamson, FEU and UP were all locked in for the 4th-7th spot.  Despite the loss of Bersola, UP remained in the thick of the fight with Tiamzon and Araneta leading the way.  A win against NU would bring them to the Final Four, which had not happened for decades.  But the taller, hard hitting Lady Bulldogs spoiled the chance for the Lady Maroons, limiting Tiamzon and company to single digit scoring… and ended Season 77 for the Diliman squad.

UP’s date with destiny, wasn’t going to happen today.  The Lady Maroons was bowing out of the race at 6th place… a notch higher than last year… and with three more wins than the previous season.  It was back to the drawing board for Coach Jerry and his girls.

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“Signing off!” ~ Angeli Araneta

But for Araneta, it was time to hang her maroon and white jersey… and move on to bigger things.

SILAY: SHORT WALK

I went to great lengths to see Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Taal, Batangas because they have preserved their own historical architecture, and with heritage awareness.  But of they’re not the only heritage town in the Philippines and Silay is among that list.   Silay City is about 15 minutes from Bacolod City by private car and around 30-45 minutes by commute.  But if you’re from somewhere that requires a plane ride to get to Bacolod or any point of Negros Occidental, Silay is the first city you’ll get to… the (not so) new airport city… the gateway to the province of Negros Occidental.

It is a pretty town with a big plaza in front of a beautiful church.  Going around the town, one will find heritage buildings and ancestral homes, some have been converted in museums.  It’s usually one of those stops we take visiting friends for the sights and most especially the food.

I’ve been working in Silay for around ten months now and its a shame I haven’t taken the time to familiarize myself with this place.  Every now and then, I take along my camera to work but rarely do I get the chance take short walks.