Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'll Be Okay

I don't know when and I don't know how exactly I got here.. All I know is, little by little, I've been thinking more happy thoughts than I used to. I've started writing and blogging about better stuff, gradually taking out all the bittersweet melancholic nonsense that was so characteristic of my earlier blogs. It felt like I woke up one day with a renewed and a more positive perspective in life... although not really knowing when that morning was.

Last night, I was browsing through my blogspot and came across some entries I posted earlier this year. Surprisingly, there were more "feel good" entries than those that harbor the "dark side of me." Hmmm... I tried to trackback so I can determine when exactly this new found happiness began.

I wonder if this started late 2007 when I began listening and understanding Daughtry's songs (yes, I am a fan!). His songs, well, some, were like Alanis Morisette's, full of angst. Others, full of hope and the need to move on. I particularly like this one song, "Over You," but at that time, it never really felt like it was really over. The lyrics, though, were so inspirational.
_
"Well, I never saw it coming, I should have started running a long, long time ago! And I never thought I'd doubt you, I'm better off without you more than you, more than you know. I'm slowly getting closure, I guess it's really over, I'm finally gettin' better. Now, I'm picking up the pieces from spending all of these years putting my heart back together. 'Cause the day I thought I'd never get through, I got over you!!!"
_
I wonder if the two-week-four-countries trip I had with my friends had something to do with this "happiness" as well. People who knew me 6 to 8 years ago would never have guessed that one day, I will be able to travel abroad at my own expense (yes, definitely, not work-related). Although my friends and I, together with my son, have travelled to Asian countries in 2007, the places we went to, the length of time we were on vacation, and the money we had to spend made the 2008 Holy Week adventure quite a quantum leap! (Only a European adventure would top this! Hahaha!) But is financial gain a true gauge to measure happiness?

I wonder if the last stop we made in Singapore made all the difference in my life. Despite being the one who makes the itinerary for our trips, I really cannot dictate where we should go and where we shouldn't. It's a decision we all had to agree on. Since the cheapest flight back to Manila that we could get was getting through Singapore first, I had to prepare myself, emotionally, to set my foot on the place that played a major part on my life's sudden twist of events almost a decade ago. Naks!

We only had a day and a half in Singapore. Since most of us have been to Singapore or were too broke to make more tours, we decided to spend the day separately. I was more than pleased with that. If I were to go back down memory lane, I would definitely want to do it alone... Well, not technically. I was with my son who served as my strength all throughout the Singapore leg.

And I survived Singapore! I have planned to write this on my blog for several months now. Up to today, I am still too ecstatic to even write a title about it. Yes, I still can't get over the fact that I have survived Singapore. Yahoo!!!

I wonder if the photos I had of our Holy Week adventure slapped on to my face what happiness really meant. Although I've seen our photos about a hundred times already, I remember the day when it finally dawned on me how this one photo of a jumping shot became a perfect photo of my current state of being. It was my jumping shot at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I entitled that photo as "Lovin' my life... finally! And this is my new portrait: happy and free as a bird with God right behind me." Isn't that photo so me now???

I wonder if this happiness is brought about by the fact that I finally realized, life is better now. A ghost from the past came alive and slightly (yes, slightly) came back into my life. I have deeply pondered on whether he should know the truth, but decided, things might be better left unsaid. I have a better life, he doesn't. It seemed like a fleeting victory on my part but really, do we have to gauge our success based on other's failures. He was a part of my life and whether I admit it or not, whatever happens to him, still matters to me. But then again, he was never a part of my misery before. So even if I triumph on his losses now, it still doesn't make any difference. He didn't do me any wrong.

I wonder if the great sunrise I witnessed at Bantayan Island, Cebu was instrumental in making me realize how insignificant I am to all the great wonders that this world has to offer... That my problems are so small compared to whatever the Lord has suffered to save me from being as depressed as I was. No, I was unworthy. I found myself sitting by the beach, in silence, greatful for the magnificent sunrise, not only of that day, but also of my life.

I wonder if the projects I had these past two years helped in seeing me through my most difficult times. Sure, it helped a lot. But having no projects at all when my director was on vacation didn't exactly pushed me back to my "milieu of unfathomable darkness."

Maybe "Cosme" has something to do with this as well... But then, I also believe in what Ate Faye wrote a couple of months back: "I've been wanting something, but can't have it, so I've been getting substitutes for it, food, shopping... but of course, they can't make my happy... no, they can make me happy, because happiness is based on outside forces, but inside, I'm not really happy. There's no joy." (taken from Ate Faye's "Kilala mo ba si Joy?" blog entry. And I know, in my heart, I have joy and inner peace... Definitely something that "Cosme" can never provide.
_
SIGH... After all is said and done, I still don't know when exactly I started being okay. All I know is that in 2008, I started being okay.
_
And in 2009, i'll be okay as well. No, better. Definitely.
_
It's been almost a decade now... I deserve to be okay.
"Fate has a way of changing just when you don't want it to... Throw away the chains, let love fly away. Till love comes again, I'll be okay..."


-- Amanda Marshall "I'll be Okay"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Be Thankful


Having had the time (too much time, actually) to ponder on what I should be thankful for in 2008, I realized that I simply cannot limit this with a mere list. I’ve been extremely blessed these past few years and 2008 has been an extension of these blessings that continuously pour into my life. I am humbled, by the mere thought of it, of how different life had turned out for me. Truly, I am loved.

But still, I’m gonna come up with a list… Basta, gusto ko eh!

I am thankful for the good health I’ve had throughout the entire year making me able to do my work properly. Although I got sick and spent Christmas Eve and Day in the hospital (got admitted on the 23rd and was discharged on the 27th), I believe its God’s way of saying, “There’s peace in silence, my child…” I am well now and will be able to welcome the great new year with a bang! (‘Wag lang masyadong malakas, please. Masakit pa rin sa ears… Hehehe!)

I am thankful for the 11 months and 10 days of nicotine abstinence. Although I faltered, God gave me back my strength to control myself the very next day. I am now on my 13th day.

I am thankful for the all the work and projects I’ve done. Although some tested the limits of my physical capacities, others challenged my mental and emotional abilities. More importantly, though, each and every project had its lesson to learn. And they were definitely well-learnt.

I am thankful for the few good men and women in my life called friends; those who stayed with me then and continue to believe in me now. Their support makes everyday a bearable day (which I realized, of course, on my very first day in Hong Kong! Hehehe!).

I am thankful for friends who have been enlightened; may they continue to hold their stand and enjoy the new challenges of life. (To you, I’m just a text away…)

I am thankful for all those who sent Christmas greetings through text, e-mail and yes, cards! The boring Christmas Eve and Day I’ve had in the hospital seemed tolerable after all. Forgive me if I had not returned most of your text messages, I was probably too groggy on my medz at that time. Pasensya rin to those who texted my Globe phone, merry Christmas na lang po. My phone was low in battery when I was admitted to the hospital and wasn’t able to charge it until I got back home. Since it’s a Jurassic phone, I lost all my messages.

I am thankful for all the opportunities to travel to different Asian countries with my son. Who would have thought 6 to 8 years ago that I’ll be able to do all these… with my son pa! God is truly amazing… And every time I think of it, I know that all my prayers of gratitude will never be enough.

I am thankful for my family who has steadily stood behind me in all these years. My life is good now because of all of your love.

I am thankful for my camera, yes, Cosme! For it not have been through typhoon Cosme, I wouldn’t have marveled on God’s great creation. Photography paved the way in re-discovering ME… The one I’ve set aside to give way to the parent in me. May I continue to be an instrument in showing others how blessed we all are because of all of God’s gifts.

I am thankful for them – they rocked my world, brought the storms in my life… But I am more thankful for the patience and understanding; I have survived them and continue to survive them… I am a true-blue survivor.

I am thankful for my son who’s turning out to be a fine, young boy. He’s my rock, my reason for being and my savior.

Do I need to ask for anything more? Yes.

I pray for strength so I may continue to fight the good fight and serve as a living testament of how powerful God’s love is – that it pierces through even to the most stubborn and unfaithful.

Cheers to a great 2008! May we all have a better and brighter 2009!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Paalam...


Friday, December 5, 2008

I Got my Starbucks Planner!!!

Yun lang...


Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas at Policarpio Street


In the spirit of Christmas, I decided to drop by the famous Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong City with my son.

It was kinda disappointing though as there were only a few houses adorned with Christmas decorations. But though these houses were few, they were all elaborately and so expensively designed with all sorts of Christmas paraphernalia. It was still worth the trip.
More and larger Policarpio Street photos are in my Multiply site: http://byahengbarok.multiply.com/photos/album/63

Sunday, November 30, 2008

NCP @ Subic


Since I wasn't able to go with Os and Roselle to Zamboanga City, I decided to join the Nikon Club Philippines in their model photo shoot @ Subic, Olongapo City, Zambales. These set photos, though, are landscapes and sceneries lang taken at the Waterfront near Dady Ed's Bar, Subic Bay Yatch Club, and Mangrove Graveyard. I have yet to photoshop the photos I took of the models. (Paano kaya gawin 'yun?)





More photos can be viewed in my Multiply site: http://byahengbarok.multiply.com/photos/album/62/NCP_Subic

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Avilon Zoo



Here's the second part of the Saturday shoot with the Nikon Club of the Philippines members at the Avilon Zoo in Rodriguez, Rizal.

C&Cs are welcome :-)

Larger photos are in my Multiply site:
http://byahengbarok.multiply.com/photos/album/60

Wawa Dam


Joined the NCP for an early call time, 4:30am (shooting ba itu ng TVC?), to have a sunrise shoot at Wawa Dam.

Wawa naman kami sa Wawa Dam. Di na nga sumilip ang Haring Araw, ang dami pang manong na naningil ng kung anuanu-anong fees!!! Grrr...

But despite these letdowns, it was still a great morning shooting with the NCP members.


Larger photos are in my Multiply site: http://byahengbarok.multiply.com/photos/album/59/Wawa_Dam

Monday, November 3, 2008

What a Way to Start the Week

I bring my son to school every morning for his 7am class. Usually, I would go straight to work, with or without something to work on that needed early attention. I just like being at work earlier than most people and enjoying my quiet little time to check personal e-mails, update and be updated on the different social networking sites that I belong to, drink coffee without having to rush it, etc.

Working on 3 different projects right now meant that by 9am, my phones will start ringing (eh, 2 pa mobile phones ko!), e-mails about work will start pouring in, co-workers will start talking with you about work or whatever, and a gazillion things about this and that will have to be done right away.

So, when I got to work at exactly 7:30am, I went on with my usual routine. Took out my mug from my locker, went to the pantry and made my coffee. Went back to my table, pulled out my laptop from my bag and... Geez! I froze! Where the hell is my power cord?!

Waaahhhhh!!!! I left it at home!!!

Maybe my battery will last until my brother could bring my power cord here in Makati. So, I called up home hoping he has a meeting somewhere in Makati this morning. But I was out of luck. He doesn't have any meeting.
No choice.

I got my sling bag, made one last look at my coffee, and left the office.

It took a few minutes before I could get a cab. When I finally got into one, rain suddenly poured. Whew! Close call. Since it was still a bit early, it only took 20 minutes for me to get to my place. I asked the cab driver if it was okay for him to go back to Makati later, he politely declined saying that traffic will be worse by the time we go back. Yup, I have to stress politely because not many drivers will decline the way he did. Ok, no problem.

As soon as I got my power cord, I left the house and hoped that a sidecar (de padyak) would be somewhere out on the street so I can go to the main road faster. There was none. And if all bad luck really comes in three, the rain suddely poured. Grrr...

I got to the main road and waited for a cab. It was already 8am and by this time, cabs are really choosy especially if your destination is Makati. A jeepney pulled in front of me. Hayyy, eto na lang. So I went back to work in the same route and modes of transportation I usually take every morning. That's 3 jeepney rides, 1 tricycle ride and 1 block to walk to.

Haggard!!!

When I got to my table, I looked at my comfort drink and hoped it was still warm enough to really comfort me. Syempre, it was not. Frustrated, I went back to the pantry and made myself a new mug of coffee.

Kainis! What a way to start my week!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Of Life, Death and Hearing Aids

I was meaning to write the first part of this entry a couple of weeks ago... But since work started to get in the way, writing about a death in the family was pushed to the back of my priorities. Until another family member died...

- O -

Two weeks ago, I got a call from my second cousin looking for my mom. My mom wasn't at home at that time so I just got her message. My 'Ta Rosie (Mom's cousin) was rushed to the United Doctors' Medical Center due to high blood, pnuemonia, diabetis, etc. Too many complications.

When my Mom arrived, she called my second cousin immediately to know exactly what appened (since I'm so useless for family stuff like this). My aunt was already in a critical condition solely dependent on a life support system. My Mom rushed to the hospital. 'Ta Rosie was her nearest relative here in Manila, and probably closest na rin as we've lived in the same street for more than 30 years.

When my Mom got home from the hospital, we finally had a clear picture of how serious 'Ta Rosie's condition was, even the cost of staying in an ICU and the medicines needed every 3 hours or so. My Mom started calling relatives in Bohol, Davao and in the States to inform them of this bad news.

By nighttime, my second cousin called my Mom again. They were asking my Mom to decide if they should pull the plug or not. Odd really, because at that point in time, my Mom was the farthest relative my 'Ta Rosie had. The decision to pull the plug should really come from 'To Rudy (the husband) and the children. But obviously, it was a hard decision for them to make. My Mom, also, cannot decide at all. The next few minutes were spent on the phone crying.

Don't grieve for me. I didn't cry. I have always been "indifferent" with death, causing me to think that there might be something seriously wrong with me. When my Lola Naling died a few months ago, I felt no sadness, I shed no tears. I blamed it on the fact that since she lived in the States and came here to Manila for short vacations, we never became close. But 'Ta Rosie was a close relative. I grew up frequenting their house which was a just a few meters away from us. Still, I felt quite normal.

The one that bothered me most was how my cousins were having a hard time deciding to pull the plug or not. I even saw it from my Mom. Being the tactless and insensitive creature that I am, I turned to my son and said: "Francis, listen. If other people will ask you this question (without telling or explaining to him what the question was), you tell them YES! Understand?" "Opo," was his reply even if he didn't understand what we were talking about. I just hope that when he grows up, and able to discuss things like this, he will understand why I want him to say yes.

To make the long story short, the family decided to pull the plug. My aunt held on to dear life for more than 12 hours before finally giving her last breath. I only went to the wake twice, for just a few hours. But it was enough to see how 'Ta Rosie's death affected 'To Rudy's condition. He looked gravely thin and he seemed to be in such a frail condition.

- O -

In all the commotion that a sudden death brings to a family, my Mom was the one diligently updating relatives from all parts of the country, and even the world. And even if she was worried to be the one to announce to her aunt, my Lola Dading, that 'Ta Rosie died, she found an effective way of telling her, without causing another death in the family. (Hehehe!) Of course, it wasn't easy. Not only was it emotionally difficult to say it, but to do it a soft manner while shouting....? Confused? Lola Dading can't hear quite well anymore. Quite well... Hmmm... She recognizes a few words but it's really difficult to let a sentence pass through her.

- O -

A few days ago, we got a call again from our cousins informing us that 'To Rudy was rushed in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. He constantly needed blood transfusion and our cousins were asking us to donate blood as a form of payment to the blood they're getting from the hospital.

Sorry for being so insensitive, but I jokingly told my Mom, "Ano ba naman si 'To Rudy, di pa nga nakakarecover mga anak n'ya eh... Di pa nga tapos magbayad sa ospital at sa punerarya."

But even though I joked about the current scenario, it was also a clear indication of how true love ends... it never ends. Naks! We can look at it as 'Ta Rosie wanting 'To Rudy to be with him, or 'To Rudy not wanting to live a life without 'Ta Rosie. Whatever it may be, I found it romantic.

Today, November 1, 'To Rudy died.

- O -

Commercial:

My Mom immediately called Lola Dading in Bohol. While crying, she was shouting over the phone so Lola Dading can hear what she had to say. Remember, my Lola Dading is almost deaf. When you hear my Mom shouts over the phone, it becomes so irritating. She keeps on repeating her words, getting louder with each and every word. My brother and I were telling her to talk with other people in Bohol. But Lola Dading was all alone at the house.

My Mom finally gave up. She'll just have to call her later when she thinks that other companions at her house have arrived. Before putting down the phone, my Mom heard Lola Dading said in a very Boholano tone: "Bilhan mo ng ensyor si Ro-de."

And my Mom burst into a laughter while she cried.

- O -

Mommy: Francis...

Mokong: Yes? (Looking up from his gameboy)

Mommy: Pag ganyan na si Mommy, bilhan mo naman ako ng hearing aid ha...

Mokong: Ok. Ano yun?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Concept of Losing


At what point in our lives do we understand the concept of losing? At what age do we realize that there's actually pain in losing?

When my son was younger, he cried a lot whenever he lost a game. In playing Monopoly with him, I'd usually get the higher bills everytime he needed to pay me or the bank. This way, he wouldn't feel that he's losing based on the number of 1-dollar bills that he's still holding. Eventually, of course, all his 1-dollar bill will be used up. Expect World War III to start by then.

Whenever my son goes into his tantrums, my Mom would usually say, "Hay, naku! Nag-mana sa Mommy n'ya!" Hehehe! At first, we manipulated the game so he can end up the winner, just like what they did to me when I was younger. But really, that's not the way to raise a child.

Little by little, I tried to make him understand that not everybody end up as winners. Losers gain a lot, too. Whether we end up as winners or losers is not what's important, how we played the game and how we gave our best are the things that matter.

When Francis first joined a taekwondo tournament, I silently objected to it. Not only was I a swimming advocate, but I felt he was still too much of a baby for such type of competition. But he insisted, and I could really see in his eyes how genuinely he wants to join the tournament.

He lost his first tournament. I don't even think he understood what the whole tournament was all about at that time when he had a fight. We left the venue immediately after his fight and watched "Batman," which he had been longing to see for several weeks at that time. We also went to Tagaytay and spent the rest of the afternoon for a much-needed bonding moment. At the end of the day, I honestly think he has forgotten all about the tournament he just had and the fact that he lost.

Yesterday, my son joined his second tournament. I still didn't want him to join any tournament as I feel his kicks still lack strength. But as usual, he insisted. Not that I often give in to his wishes, but I also cannot think of any reasons why I should prevent him from joining one. Win or lose, I think he will benefit from it both ways.

I try not to be the kind of parent who shout their hearts out whenever their children are playing or performing. I'm the quiet one. My son gets easily distracted so I just spent the entire time watching the game through my camera lens.

Like any other parent, I also wished for my son to win. Or at least, move on to the next elimination round. But his opponent was far more advanced. Despite being a yellow-belter, he was used to doing headshots (well, that's what I heard other parents say).

I wanted to close my eyes everytime my son receives a kick on his face. But I also don't want to stop taking shots as I might miss a good kick from my him. In fairness, his taekwondo skills have improved. There's more effort in kicking his opponent instead of simply throwing his legs aimlessly, as in his first tournament.

But headshots are two points each. My son lost.

From where I sat, I could see his coach talking to him, and my son drinking water. Is he scolding my son? Is he consoling my son? Is my son crying? I'm too far away to know.

My son gathered up his stuff and went straight to our seats. Still several meters away, I could see how hard he was trying to pull back his tears. But when he saw me, he walked faster, then ran towards me, embraced me and cried.

Have you ever had that experience? I did. And the most recent one was just a year ago when my friends and I climed down from an unsuccessful attempt to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu. I had no trouble climbing up, but the climbing down was extremely difficult for me. To make the long story short, when I reached Timpohon Gate and saw my friends, all the tears I held back came out in one surge. I knew my time of pretending to be strong was up, I can now be myself with them.

My son had the same moment. He knew he could just let go right there in my arms. It took several minutes before he stopped crying. Thank Heavens for PSPs, they make problems go away in a snap.

After a while though, I asked my son why he cried. But everytime he starts to say something, his eyes get watery so he goes back to playing his PSP. I offered reasons on why he cried, but he kept silent. Until I asked him if it was about my brother's promise of a Micro Game Boy should he win his fight. Ayun, he started crying again.

When we left the stadium for lunch, I asked again why he cried, not fully satisfied with the Game Boy Micro reason. He softly said, "natalo kasi ako, nahihiya ako."

I wanted to console my son with kind, comforting and encouraging words, but I, too, had a lump in my throat. I remembered Ate Faye's blog entry: "It pains me to realize that I had no control over things, over her. No control at all." As much as I want to protect my son from everything else that might hurt him, I simply can't. More than the physical pain he must have experienced during the fight, how can you ease his emotional pain?

We spent the rest of the day roaming around MOA, capped with the fireworks display at night, which Francis was looking forward to all afternoon. Somehow, it feels different this time. My son was happy with the fireworks display, but I also knew that he still feels disappointed from losing his game.

"And as a mom, I just watch like a hawk and go to her when she needs me... I need to let her fight her own battles, it's not at easy as it seems." -- Still from Ate Faye's Mommy Randoms blog entry.



Postscript
:
Mommy: Francis, wala kang taekwondo practice sa Tuesday and Thursday kasi exams ha, sabi ng coach mo.
Francis: Ok.
Mommy: Sa Saturday na daw, aattend ka ba?
Francis: Opo.
Mommy: Ayaw mong mag-absent?
Francis: (nods his head)
Mommy: Sasali ka pa ba sa tournament? (with a tone of sarcasm)
Francis: Opo.
Mommy: Pa rin?
Francis: Opo. Sabi ni coach, tama daw 'yung ginawa ko (pertaining to the talk he and his coach had after his fight). Sa November, may tournament daw uli.
Mommy: Ha? Sasali ka pa rin dun? (naka-recover na kaya sya nun?)
Francis: Oo. (with a matter-of-fact tone... and take note, hindi na sya "opo").



Postscript #2
:
I referred to events that happened yesterday, but the tournament was really last Saturday pa. I just couldn't get myself to write about this without having a lump stuck in my throat and a tear forming at the corner of my eye.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

52 Weeks of Frozen Time

We learn by practice. Period.
_
As much as I want to practice freezing time everyday, my work (what else is new?) limits me to do this. Limit, but not stop.
_
So, from now on, I will take photos and practice as much I can. Every week, I will choose one photo (out of how many or how few I'll be able to shoot) which I will upload here. That one photo should be my best for that week... Well, at least best for me. Camera details will be in the description portion.
_
And you!!! Yes, you!!! You are all very welcome to make C&Cs. The more C&Cs, the better, thus, helping me improve. Good and bad? I'm here to learn.My only rule for this "personal project/contest" is that the photo to be uploded should have been taken during the current week (from Sunday to Saturday). Parang photo diary, pero weekly nga lang.
_
By next year, around this time, I should have been able to upload 52 photos. And I should have improved by then? Sana... Let's see.
_
Covered week: October 5 to October 11; Camera Model: Nikon D80 (as if I'll be having a new camera model anytime soon! hehehe!; Flash Mode: No Flash; Focal Length: 50mm; F-Number: F/22;E xposure Time: 1/90 sec.; ISO Speed: ISO-800; Metering Mode: Pattern; Exposure Program: Shutter Priority; Exposure Compensation: 0 step; Date/Time Taken: 10/11/2008, 7:34am; "Unphotoshopped" except for putting in my watermark
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"In learning and straightway practicing is there not pleasure also?" -- Confucious

Friday, October 10, 2008

First Day Back at Work

Today is my first official day back at work. Although I've already been making timetables, researching references & fixing treatments these past few weeks, I did all these at the comfort of my own home. But since we already have an awarded project and today is the first scheduled meeting, I have no choice but to go to work.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I have a project. I've been hibernating for almost 6 weeks now and it's high time to go back working my ass off. But resting can also be addicting. It's like a drug that overpowered me. Not only was I able to watch TV at anytime, go online for hours, or sleep like there's no tomorrow, but finally, I had all the time in my hands to be able to do the things I've always planned on doing.

I had 2 trips during my hibernation -- one, with my Holy Week friends in Bantayan & Malapascua, Cebu; and two, with my son for our birthday celebrations in Hong Kong & Macau. What's so special about that? Two trips without mobile phones, that's why! Now, how often that does that happen? (Like... Never!)

I was also able to enroll myself in a photography workshop that I've been eyeing since July. Having so much time in my hands, I was able to concentrate more in doing my assignments. I also made use of the opportunity to scout the metro and practice shooting on my own taking pleasure in the discoveries I made which I, initially, thought could only be done by serious hobbyists and pros (but mine's nothing pro-like, still learning...).

So, despite the six-week hiatus from work, in a way, I was still busy -- blogging and cataloguing my files and photos which I can't seem to do for several months now (and I'm still not finished); fixing my papers and payments for PAG-IBIG, SSS, etc (the burden of a freelancer); going to a
doctor for check-ups (and we're still not done yet); spending sleepless nights to finish an assignment for my workshop... Marami pa. It's like I had to rush and finish everything up before my director gets back here in Manila, or else, everything will be pending again as to when he will have another vacation.

And today, all of a sudden, I'm in a state of panic. I felt everything that I planned on doing before this "vacation" started hasn't been fully accomplished yet. I'm going back to work, whether I like it or not.

I like it. Going back to work, that is. But can you blame me if I'm having an anxiety attack right now? Yup, I'm worried that previous plans I made may not push through again and I'll fall back to the same ditch of home-work-home routine. I'm worried that I won't get to see new found friends and re-establish my life back since my son has obviously started to establish his life without me. I'm worried that I will stack my camera inside a cabinet and forget I even have one (remember my Nikon F-301?).

SIGH...

Isipin ko na lang... If I don't work, I can't travel. If I don't work, I can't buy the flash and the lens that I like. If I don't work, I can't send my son to school.

SIGH...

Eto na, nagbibihis na po... Getting ready to go to work.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mugs


Thank Heavens for an assignment we had in my photography workshop, I was able to try out a crude do-it-yourself lighting set-up to take photos of some kitchenware. Since I kinda liked the result, I did the same crude lighting set-up again, this time, to photograph my mug collection.

Yes, mugs.

My mug collection started in 2000 when I bought myself a souvenir from Sagada, Mountain Province. Being a coffee addict, it was only natural for me to buy a coffee mug. But when I got back to Manila, I felt the mug was too artistically-made to be used merely for my morning coffee. Wag na lang. I opted to display it.

Since then, I've been buying all sorts of mugs from all places I've been to, here and abroad (some of my mugs were given to me). Yup, instead of pins, keychains, or refrigerator magnets, I collect mugs. Unfortunately, not all provinces or cities have souvenir mugs. In their absense, I opt for shot glasses. And if there's still none, anything that kinda looks like a mug will do. Hehehe!

I still lack a lot of mugs. SIGH... So, if you happen to go to these places, pwede ba akong magpabili? Hehehe. Or does that mean I'm going back to these places? (I wouldn't mind, really!)

- Rizal (oo, ang lapit, diba?)
- Cavite (sa dinami-dami na nang napuntahan ko sa Cavite, wala talaga akong mug nila!)
- Nueva Vizcaya
- Siquijor
- Antique
- Capiz
- Guimaras
- Bataan (kahit Corregidor na nga lang uli eh)
- Zambales (ilang beses na ba akong nag-shooting sa Subic?)
- Quezon
- Agusan del Norte- El Nido, Palawan (although meron na naman ako ng Palawan)

Adik ba ako sa mga mugs? Kasi naman, I realized recently that my mug collection represents the different stages of my life. Uh-huh. So, instead of being regular souvenirs, I treat them as my trophies from battling the many adversities of my complicated life. Simply put, these mugs are my mugs of accomplishments.

Drama! Eto na nga ang mga photos ng mugs ko...

Individual photos of my mugs are in my Byaheng Barok Multiply site.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hong Kong & Macau Photos in Multiply

Finally, after several days of hybernation, tapos na akong mag-upload ng photos namin sa Multiply. Mokong's set are, of course, his photos in the different tourist spots we went to. My set are all the practice shots I made for my photography workshop (sana, tama nga!). Hope you can check out these links:
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Francis' Emmanuel's Multiply Site
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Byaheng Barok's Multiply Site
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Akin ang Macau


That's exactly how this trip was like. The Hong Kong leg is all for Francis, and the Macau leg is all for me: "Sa 'yo ang Hong Kong, akin ang Macau." Syempre, para di naman ako lugi sa trip na 'to. But being on foot for the entire Hong Kong leg, hindi pa man nakakarating ng Macau, lugi na ako. Still, I tried to make the best out of this trip, since Macau was suppose to be a gift for myself.

Getting into Macau from Hong Kong is easy as 1-2-3. There are two major ports with several ferries that ply the Macau-Hong Kong route. The one nearer the City Econo Guest House where Francis and I stayed while in Hong Kong is located near the Royal Pacific Hotel. Although it's nearer, a Pexer advised me to take the one near Sheung Wen Station instead since I have a kid in tow.


Buti na nga lang, I followed her advise. As soon as we got off at Sheung Wan Station, signages can be found where the ferries to Macau are located. What's even better was we didn't have to leave the building where we got off! The Shueng Wan Station was at the underground level, while the ferry port was at the topmost level. Cool! Puro lang kami escalator.


Schedules aren't a problem too. There are ferries leaving for Macau every 15 minutes! We bought tickets for a 4:45pm trip since we were walking slower than usual (pagod na ang mga tiil namin!!!) and we still have to pass by the immigration area. The 30-minute leeway we gave ourselves was just enough. Five minutes after we got to the pre-departure area, we were already called on to board the ferry.


The ferry is big enough and clean. Unlike most of the ferries here, theirs is, of course, well-maintained. So, even if you book a seat in the economy class, it still feels like you're taking a plane ride unless, you look out at your window. Promise! There's no foul smell of grease or oil eminating in the air or even noise from the machine roaring down below.


There are seat numbers, too, so there's no need to hurry to save a seat. There's a huge area for big luggages as well so you can sit comfortably for the less than an hour trip.


Unfortunately, when we got to Macau, all the banks were close. Nyaiks! I didn't have any Patacas with me. But there's no need to worry, according to the Customer Service personnel, I can simply use my Hong Kong dollars to pay my way to the hotel. Hong Kong dollars are very much used in Macau.


I brought a Chinese translation of the hotel where we're staying so I never had a hard time communicating with the driver. They also have a computation table ready to convert the cost of the fare to Hong Kong dollars. In no time, we were pointed to a street towards East Asia Hotel.


We rested for more than an hour in our room before finally going out to look for a restaurant and have dinner. I brought my camera and my tripod along just in case we pass by something worthy enough to take a photo of.

We walked along the Avenida Almeida Ribeiro to look for a decent place to eat. We still don't have any patacas so we're also on a look out for a money changer.


Luckily, there was one open several meters before reaching the Largo do Senado. While looking at the exchange rates, a man asked me "Ano po ba ang ipapapalit n'yo?" Hayyy, salamat! Pilipino ang guard! We exchanged our remaining Hong Kong dollars to patacas. And then Francis said, "yehey, may pera na tayo, pwede na tayong mag-taxi!" Kawawang bata. He's just as tired as I am.


We saw the "M" signage not far from the Largo do Senado. I think it's high time we have dinner in a place that Francis loves best, McDonald's.

Right after dinner, I begged Francis to allow me to take just one photo along the way. Of course, that one photo became several photos, but it was all the same building, the General Post Office. I wanted to take more photos of the buildings at Largo de Senado, but taking another step farther away from our route back to the hotel is such a painful process. Pagod na rin talaga ako.


My son and I went back to the hotel to have an early rest, dreading the long walks we need to do the next day.


Ocean Park, Hong Kong

If I were given a choice, I would scrap the entire Ocean Park tour and spend the rest of the day in our room sleeping. But I don't. I have already bought two discounted Ocean Park tickets from Miss Jenny of the City Econo Guest House and Francis was already looking forward to going to Ocean Park, even if he has no idea what he would see there.

So, back at the MTR, we took the train to get to the Admiralty Station. We went straight to Exit B and looked for Bus No. 629 that will go directly to Ocean Park. Using our Octopus cards to pay the fare, we boarded this double-decker bus and chose seats on the upper deck.

The moment we got off the bus right in front of the main entrance, I knew this tour would be such a waste. Sana, nag-Ngong Ping 360 na lang kami. Better, we stayed at the guesthouse and slept.

But we're here now, so we'll just have to make the most of our time while we're here.

As soon as we passed the huge main entrance of Ocean Park, the pathway leading to the rest of the park became surprisingly narrow. Hmmm...

We tried to queue up first to ride the Sky Star but when we got in line, we were told by the park attendant that from the point where we were standing up to the Sky Star ride will take out 90 minutes. Ha? 90 minutes? That's an hour and a half! Ang tagal naman. We queued in line pa rin thinking that it might be an exaggeration. But 15 minutes under the sun and we're still moving slowly, we decided to scrap the idea and move on to the next attraction.

We went straight to take the Cable Car so we can transfer to the Headland area of the park. This isn't Francis' first time to take the cable car, but surprisingly, he's more afraid now. He has difficulty transferring from one seat to the next so I can take a photo of him in all directions. I don't know exactly why, but maybe, this is higher than the cable cars in Singapore? Or he's more aware of his fears now? Or is it simply because the windows of our cable car are wide open? Whatever the reason may be, fact is, he now fears high places.

But then, when he saw the Ocean Park Tower, he practically begged me to queue in line so we can ride in it. I really didn't want to since we've already taken this same ride in Singapore and there's really nothing spectacular to see on top. But due to insistent Francis' demand, we took the ride.

Right after this, we ate a bit and rested somewhere near the Boardwalk area. We were killing time since the show at the Ocean Theatre is still an hour away.

"Sea Dreams," the show's title at the Ocean Theatre, is a parade of exhibitions that the park's marine mammals can do. If you have been to other similar parks before, then there's nothing new to see in this show. We waited for almost an hour for the show to start. We were already sitting on the bleachers and it was like a hundred degrees out there. When the show ended, Francis enjoyed it a lot, of course. I did a lot of shooting so I guess I benefitted from it also. But really, we could have done something else.

That's one of the disappointing aspects of being at the Ocean Park. They're not on schedule! Before we took the cable car, we were waiting for Whiskers to have a photo with him near the Lowland Cable Car Plaza. The schedule said 10am to 5pm. We were waiting for 30 minutes and even inquired from the park attendants near the area about the schedule. We were told to just wait. Eh, 10:30am na kaya! We left without seeing Whiskers at all.

And then there's this "Sea Dreams" show. The show should have started at 11:30am, but it started way past 12noon already! Hayyyy! Mali ba ang relo ko?

After eating hotdogs at the Ocean Theatre, Francis wanted to see the Talking Tree he saw in the map. It was kinda far so I told him that it would be the last place that we will go to before heading back to the guesthouse. He's okay with it.

Unfortunately, we got lost and ended up at the Pacific Pier. Since we're there, we went inside to check out what the place has to offer. Well, the pier houses some marine mammals where guests are allowed to feed them. They even have an underground viewing area of the pool. But other than the bottom parts of the sea lions swimming, there's nothing much to see.

Finally, we saw the escalators that wiill bring us down near the Tai Shue Wan entrance area. Francis kept on asking me to hurry up as he was so excited to see what the Talking Tree was all about.

When we finally got there, nyek! Eto lang 'yun? For all the trouble of getting here and walking way past our route, eto lang pala yung talking tree? It's a tree alright, with eyes, ear, nose and lips. It has a cockatoo bird above which did most of the talking. Francis said, "hindi naman 'yung tree ang nagto-talk, 'yung bird eh!" Hehehe!

After resting a bit at the entrance of the Aviary, we headed out to the Flamingo Pond. A few pictures after, we were inside the fully-airconditioned Treasure Place to buy souvenirs... Pero wala namang nabili. Nagpalamig lang.

Finally, we were out. We went straight to the bus stop to take Bus Number 629 that will bring us back to Admiralty Station. Hayyyy... Sayang ang araw.

So, will I recommend this to kids and other travellers? Hmmm... Depends.

Francis and I have gone to Subic's Ocean Adventure, Manila's Ocean Park, Kuala Lumpur's Aquaria and Singapore's Underwater World. Let's just say, I enjoyed them more than I enjoyed Hong Kong's Ocean Park. Here, there are so many pathways where you can see nothing except for galvanized sheets covering the sides. Not much activity to think we were there on a Sunday.

But, if it's your first time out of the country and first time in a marine park, then do check this out.

BUT!!!! Again... If you have a kid, and have already visited Disneyland, try other tourist spots then. For sure, there's a lot more enjoyable things to do even for kids.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Teary-Eyed at Disneyland


When I decided to spend Mokong’s birthday in Disneyland, I was a bit worried that he might not enjoy it. His list of beloved cartoon characters started with Superman way back 2003, then Batman in 2004, then Spiderman from 2005 to 2007. This year, he started going gaga over Pokemon and very recently, Naruto. Disney characters doesn’t seem to have a place anywhere in his system.

But when he saw the Disney-inspired train which we took to get to Disneyland, he became very, very excited. As soon as we got off the Disney station and climbed the stairs to the huge complex entrance, he was grinning from ear to ear and kept on saying, “Wow, Disneyland!” I didn’t even have to say, “Francis, picture.” He was the one who asked me, “Mommy, picture mo ako.” I was so happy because I can really see in his eyes how happy he was. Even when we were already walking towards the fountain area, Francis simply can’t contain his excitement. He kept blabbing how he would like to have a picture with Mickey Mouse, that he would finally get to see Mickey Mouse in person, etc, etc. That’s when I got teary-eyed.

My sister and I grew up with Disney and Sanrio characters all our childhood life. Our father used to work in Japan and all the gifts and pasalubongs we had were all adorned with Disney and Sanrio characters. But we never get to see Disneyland.

That’s when I realized I am a much better parent than my father was. Sure, he worked hard in another country to be able to provide for our needs, but he never really spent quality time with us when he’s here. I am working just as hard, but I also knew when to play with my son. I don’t think I ever felt the way Francis felt today.

Unmindful of how it might affect my son, I told Francis, “See, Francis, you’re so blessed. I never had this when I was younger. Hindi ‘to ginawa sa ‘kin ng tatay ko.” Nonchalantly, he replied, “Yes, Mommy, I’m so happy!” Buti na lang, he didn’t heard the angst from what I just said.


The rest of the day was just like any Disneyland experience. It was exciting and tiring. We lined up for a photo with some Disney characters, got into some rides (even the Space Mountain which Francis now dreads), watched stage shows, etc. The end of the day was capped by the fireworks display behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

When everything was over and we were walking towards the exit, Francis was telling me how much he loved the fireworks display, how he dreaded taking another roller coaster ride, how he liked Stitch talking with the audience, how he liked Tarzan’s treehouse, how he loved the Lion King show… He just won’t stop. If Francis could smile more than his already ear-to-ear grin as he talked, he would have done so. He was really very happy.

And that’s when I got teary-eyed again. Because I, too, was happy to see him THIS happy.


Happy birthday, Francis!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Peak


I chose to go to The Peak because I think the Peak Tram is worth seeing, plus, I know I'll be able to take photos of the cityscape at night.

So, immediately after our stroll at the Avenue of the Stars, my son and I went back to the MTR to get to the Peak Tram terminal. From the Tsim Sha Tsui Station, we took the same Tsuen Wan Line to get to the Central Station. Since the information I got from PEX were so detailed, we went out of the Central Station through the J2 exit.
From there, we turned right and cross through the Chater Garden until we reached the Garden Road. Even the landmarks that we would pass by, the Bank of China Tower and the Citibank Plaza, were all stated in PEX, so it wasn't really hard finding the Peak Tram terminal at all (lakad ka nga lang nang lakad, man!). The signages all over the streets are a lot of help too!

If walking is a bit of a problem for you, I suggest you take a cab from wherever you're coming from. The Garden Road is an uphill so aside from the tired and caloussed feet that you already have from walking all over Hong Kong, sore muscle from walking uphill will further kill you.

My son and I bought the Peak Tram Sky Pass which consists of the fare to take the Peak Tram with a return trip (which is wrong because we could have used our Octopus card for this!) and entrance fee to The Peak Tower Sky Terrace. The Peak Tram Sky Pass costs HKD 48 for adults and HKD 23 for children 3 to 11 years old and senior citizens from 65 years old and above.

Riding The Peak Tram is an experience itself. The tram's design was maintained to look like the one used in the 1800s. Aside from the tram, the ride of going uphill is great as well. Seated on a slanted position, you'll get a chance to see how the view from the window changes from concrete wall, to trees, to buildings, to cityscape. Francis, amazed at the scenery outside his window, kept firing his camera too.

A few minutes later, we reached The Peak Tower. We were ushered into this souvenir store to get into the mall. I was suppose to buy souvenir items during this time, but I thought, it was too early to buy souvenirs yet. And besides, the items might be more expensive here. But, of course, I would regret that decision later on as prices here are relatively cheaper than in other tourist spots area in Hong Kong, plus, I never got to go to any other souvenir shops after this. SIGH.

Anyway, my son and I decided to take a stroll inside the mall. We were taking our time as we were already tired from too much walking. We ate at Burger King because my son's choices of food are quite limited to fastfood stuff. We also went outside the park as Francis was so fascinated with the fountain area. That's when I realized how weird the clouds were. It seemed like they were rain clouds but the heat of the sun was so intense, I'm sure it wouldn't rain. When you look at the horizon, you couldn't see much of the Kowloon side. Is it foggy today? Or is this pure smog? UGH! Whatever it was, raindrops started falling. So, my son and I ran back to the mall.

Saddened by the idea that I might not be able to take photos of the cityscape because of the rain, we strolled more inside the mall, not really knowing where else to go. Tired from walking around, we tried to get to the Sky Terrace and check if there's an area there where we could stay out of the rain.

Syempre, there's none. It was one huge viewing deck and there's no where to run to if the rain pours down. Luckily, the rain stopped. I made a quick "location check" of the entire viewing deck. Ba't ganon? Parang ang kapal ng clouds all over. It really looked like it's gonna rain. And it's really so hard to see the Kowloon side, how the hell I'm gonna take my photos? Finally, I chose a spot in this one corner which I thought would be able to give me a good view of the city. Wanting to reserve the spot, I set up my tripod and waited... And waited... And waited... It was only 5pm then and I thought sunsets will happen around 6pm. Hindi pala. Good thing I brought Mokong's gameboy so he can while away the time as I waited for night fall.

Finally, the sun sets and the influx of tourists came as well. Hayyyy... Buti na lang, I was there early. But really, the clouds are so panget. Di bale, I was here for practice, right? So, practice shooting then! Fire!


Avenue of the Stars, Hong Kong


Today's first in the itinerary is the Avenue of the Stars and the Waterfront Promenade.

I wasn't really hot about Hong Kong movie stars, but it was the only tourist spot I can think of that I can pair with The Peak that wouldn't make me rush from one place to the next. I initially wanted to go to the Ngong Ping 360 but climbing the steps towards the Giant Buddha might be too time consuming and we might not be able to make it to The Peak by sun down. I wanted to take night photos of the city from The Peak and I just deemed it more important than Ngong Ping 360. I'll just have to try it then when I get a chance to go back to Hong Kong again.

Anyway, back to the Avenue of the Stars and the Waterfront Promenade.

Since our guesthouse was just a stone's throw away from the Jordan MTR station, my son and I took the MTR to get to the next station, Tsim Sha Tsui. There are a lot of tourist spots in this area such as the Museum of Art, the Space Museum, etc, etc, but all these fell short on my list of places to go to. I was more interested to make a "location check" of the Waterfront Promenade as it is the venue for the Symphony of Lights by 7:30pm. Again, it's all because of wanting to practice taking night photos.

It wasn't very hard to find the Avenue of the Stars. As soon as we got out of the Tsim Sha Tsui Station, there are a lot of signages pointing us to the right direction. The MTR system is also so effective that some of its exit points are connected to the underground levels of some shopping centers that we didn't have to go out and walk under the scorching heat of the sun. Pero lakad kiti lakad pa rin ang mga tiil! Gazh!

When we got to the Avenue of the Stars, it was a little bit disappointing. I was expecting ala-Hollywood style of Avenue of the Stars, but it was just a very simple waterfront promenade situated behind a shopping center, very much like our own promenade at the back of the SM Mall of Asia. Sure, "stars" are all lined up on the promenade but since Hong Kong actors doesn't ring a bell to me, it wasn't such a thrill being there.

Dying from the glaring heat of the sun, my son and I decided to go to The Peak earlier than what I planned. We stopped by at the Space Museum, not to check it out, but just to rest our legs from the long walk we just had. Sayang, nag-Ngong Ping 360 na lang sana kami.

City Econo Guest House, Hong Kong


I found the City Econo Guest House from PEX. Although Os pointed a nearer guesthouse at the Tsim Sha Tsui area, the USA Hotel, I decided to go for the City Econo Guest House based on the raving reviews from the Pexers who stayed there. I found 1 negative comment though but I figured that was probably from a person who wasn't used to staying in guesthouses.

The City Econo Guest House can be reached from the airport by taking either the bus or the train. According to the guesthouse's website, bus numbers A21 and A22 will bring us to the Jordan MTR Station, the 14th bus stop. But since we couldn't find the bus stops at the airport, my son and I decided to the take the MTR. Although there were four train interchanges, the C2 exit at the Jordan Station was just a few meters away from the entrance of the City Econo Guest House.


The City Econo Guest House is situated near the busy area of Nathan Road. The road where it's at, Pilkhem Street, is very much like any of the streets we have at Binondo. So, if you're looking for hotels found at the Nathan Road, I don't think the City Econo Guest House is for you.

Even the building entrance may be a shock to others with no experience at all staying at guesthouses or pension inns. The entrance was filthy and narrow. The elevator looked like it could never ever get to the 6th floor. Now I understand why one mother in PEX gave negative comments on this guesthouse. It really looked kinda gross.

Trying to keep my spirits up, I recalled some of the reviews I read about other guesthouses in the internet. A lot of foreigners complained about these type of guesthouses in Hong Kong, but there were also some who posted their personal photos of their rooms which I think looked decent anyway. A lot of these guesthouses rent the entire floors from old and not-so-well-maintained buildings and simply beautify their specific floors. I figured, this might be the same case for this guesthouse.

As soon as the elevator door opened, the entire scenario looked different. It was like we were in a different building.


The lobby or reception area, if you can call it that, is small but very, very clean. I was met by Jenny, the one I was corresponding with via e-mail. We were ushered to Room 612 along a very narrow, but well-ventilated hallway. At the end of the hall is Room 612.


Our room is, well, small and narrow. It has a double bed, aircon, a small table, a chair, a TV and 1 bathroom. I really don't want to be anal about the size of the room because, really, when I think about it, the available space to walk around the room is just about the same amount of space I have in our room in Manila. Francis, though, laughed when he saw the bathroom. "Ang liit, Mommy, hindi kasya si Ate Norma!" referring to his yaya (bastos 'tong bata na 'to!)

But the room is comfortable, very cool and squeaky clean, I have nothing to complain (just don't open your windows). It's good enough to stay for a good night sleep, which is our purpose of staying here.


The City Econo Guest House also has a refrigerator along the hallway where anyone can store their bottled drinks (just make sure it's properly named!). They also have their own pantry with microwave, water heater, sink, mugs, spoons, etc. Not bad at all.


As a bonus, they sell Disneyland and Ocean Park tickets at a discounted price, HKD 10 less than the original price.


So, would I recommend this place to other travellers? Yes!!! But only if they're very much aware about guest houses and pension inns in Asia.

First Time Mong Mag-MRT, ‘Neng?


Ever since I booked our flight last February, I've been plotting out our itinerary with more details than necessary. Thank goodness for deligious Pexers who are so familiar with Hong Kong, they have answered all possible questions that you can think of without having to ask it. The specific bus numbers, MTR stations, the look & current design of the Octopus card, where to turn left & right when you're at a certain road, etc, etc. As such, our itinerary was so detailed it could never ever come close to any of the itineraries I've done for the Holy Week Travellers.

I made a detailed itinerary because it was my first time to travel alone in a foreign country. Well, technically, I'm not alone. Pero wala naman kasing mako-contribute ang anak ko for finding directions or even making decisions. Although my son and I already went to Puerto Galera on our own for a 3-day get-away, it was booked through a service-oriented resort. The moment I got to the Manila office of Coco Beach Resort, ni hindi ko na nahawakan ang bagahe namin.

Anywayze, back to our Hong Kong trip. As much as I thought I have prepared myself for this trip, nothing had prepared me for the complications of riding the MTR, Hong Kong's version of our MRT (but a lot, lot better!). Dahil first day namin sa Hong Kong, I made a lot of booboos riding the MTR. Hehehe!

Booboo # 1: "Nothing to declare here." Sucess! I didn't get lost looking for the immigration & baggage claim areas. We’re actually here at the arrival hall! But wait! I need to find the "Airport Express Counter” or the “Customer Service Counter" so I can buy an Octopus card. I saw a kiosk just outside the door after the customs area. Mukha namang bilihan ng card yung kiosk. Kaya lang, may ibang design yung cards, baka generic lang. So I went to the Airport Information Desk and asked the female manning the counter. Sus! Yung kiosk nga na may iba't ibang card ang bilihan ng Octopus card! Anube!

Booboo # 2: "Load 300 please." That's how much I told the female from the kiosk to load in my Octopus card. "300? You can easy load anywhere," says the pakialamerang female in her broken English with Chinese accent. "Yes, 300," with conviction ko syang sinagot. "Even children?" "Yes!" Ba't ba? Eh, mayaman ako! Hehehe! Pero hindi pumayag si pakialamerang girl. HKD 250 lang ang niload nya sa akin, HKD 170 naman kay Mokong. Mahaderang 'to! Hmp! Nilayasan ko nga sya pero with a smile naman and I said my thank you. Nung nakalayo na kami, I took out my kodikong itinerary. Nyek! Oo nga, tig-100 HKD lang nga dapat ang binili namin ni Mokong. Ba't ko ba naisip na 300? Ano 'to, load ng celfone? Duh!!! Anyway, pwede namang mareimburse yun eh.

Booboo # 3: "Mommy, sa'n ba tayo pupunta?" Hayyyy... Hindi ko rin talaga alam. According to the City Econo Guesthouse website, just take bus no. 21 or 22A and get off at Jordan Road. Eh, san ang sakayan ng bus? Nyaiks, anong gagawin ko? “Taxi na lang kaya, Mommy?” asked Mokong. Pero wala akong Chinese translation nung guesthouse namin, baka di pa kami magkaintindihan ng driver, uminit pa ulo ko. Hayyy... Sa sobrang detailed ng itinerary ko, kulang pa din pala! Mga 5 minutes kaming nakatayo sa gitna ng arrival hall trying to figure out what to do. Hayyy... I miss my adik friends.

Booboo # 4: "Mommy, trains to the city o". Oo nga naman, sa 5 minutes naming itinayo doon, nasa harap lang kami ng sakayan ng train. "Ok, anak, check natin MTR map." In fairness, pwede naman talagang mag-MTR going to our guesthouse. Maraming lang kasing MTR interchange kaya hindi ko kinareer yun while I did my research in Manila. Pero dahil hindi ko na alam kung saan kami sasakay ng bus, sige, "trains to the city" na kami. I got myself a map of the MTR system and studied it.

Booboo # 5: Based on the MTR map, 4 times kaming magpapalit ng train. From the airport, baba kami sa Tsing Yi. From there, we change train using the Tung Chung Line to go to Lai King. From Lai King, we change train uli using the Tsuen Wan Line to get to Jordan. Finally, eto na yung last stop. Pero wait, baka naman may iba pang faster route 'coz I can see a nearer interchange. Kaya lang, I also read somewhere in PEX na hindi kayang lakarin yung distance na ‘yun from one station to the next. Hmmm... Tanong ko nga sa Customer Service. I waited until she's not attending to any customer when I approached her. Baka may makaintindi kasi sa amin na shushunga-shunga kami. Hehehe! I asked her how to get to Jordan, pero I also told her how I planned to do it (para mukha namang may alam ako sa Hong Kong). Parang nagtaka sya sa gusto kong gawin sa buhay pero dahil limited lang siguro ang English nya at baka magtagal at lumalim pa ang misunderstanding namin, nag-yes na lang sya. Pero syempre, later during the day (when we went to Central to get to the Peak Tram), nung medyo sanay na akong mag-MTR, nun ko lang na-realize na pwede naman palang lakarin yung mahabang distance na sabi sa PEX eh hindi pwedeng lakarin. Eh, di sana, twice lang kami nag-change trains. Hayyyy…

Booboo # 6: "San sinusuksok 'yung card? Wait, Francis, wala yung magsa-swipe ng card natin?" So, balik uli ako dun sa girl na pinagtanungan ko ng papuntang Jordan. "Miss, I use this for there?" Sabay turo, of course, sa tracks. "Yes" ang very eager n'yang sagot. Pero sa’n ko nga isa-swipe ang card? Syempre, hindi ko na tinanong ‘yun sa kanya. Feeling ko, obvious na obvious nang shushunga-shunga nga ako dahil this is the second time I went to her for a question. Oh, well, pag may sumita na lang sa amin kung pano kami naka-sakay ng train without swiping our Octopus cards, deadma. Finally, the train arrived. Taray, ganda ng seats! Pero sa'n nga ini-swipe ang card? Di pa rin ako mapakali, diba, kahit na seating pretty na ako sa loob ng train! I tried to relax. Promise, pag may nanita, I'll just cross the bridge when we get there. And then, I saw the sign! Free airport shuttle naman pala itu!!! So, kahit magdamag akong maghanap ng card swiping machines, good luck kung may makita talaga ako!

Booboo # 7: Kung nawala siguro yung kodiko kong brochure na may map ng MTR system, maninirahan na lang siguro ako dun! Kahit 1 station lang ang ita-travel naming mag-ina, puro kaya ako double check at triple check kung tama ang ginagawa namin. Maliban sa brochure, maya't maya din ang pagche-check ko sa lighted MTR map system na naka-display sa loob ng MTR. Hayyyy… First time ko bang mag-train?

Booboo # 8: “Next stop: Lai King.” It’s just one station away from the Tsing Yi Station where we can change trains that will go to Jordan. An influx of commuter went straight to the lift. Sunod naman kami ng anak ko. In fairness, I saw a sign at the elevator door that says “Level 1 Tsuen Wan Line.” That’s the train we need to get into to reach Jordan. But when we reached Level 1, parang lahat ng arrows ng trains, pabalik sa taas! Ha? Bumaba kami para umakyat uli? We scouted the area first thinking that we might have missed a different sign. Pero wala talaga. So, I went to the Customer Service Area and asked where the trains to Jordan are. As usual, broken English uli, “that wide entrance, there, far entrance, go up.” “Ah, ok, thanks!” Hmmm… Sa’n kaya ‘yung wide entrance na ‘yun? Eto kayang swiping machine na wider ang entrance than the rest of the card swiping machines? Pero ang layo ng turo nung girl, so I went to the other end. When I got to the end, escalator uli going upstairs! Eh, parang dyan nga kami galing. So, I went back to the card swiping machine with the wider entrance to check it out, hagdan going upstairs din! Hayyy… San ba talaga kami? Balik uli kami dun sa dulo. And during all these back and forth scouting, I was dragging all my stuff around, syempre, kasama din si Mokong. Finally, may naawa na siguro sa akin na kanina pa kami nakikitang paikot-ikot, “Ate, sa’n ba kayo?” YAHHHOOO!!! Pinoy ka, Ate? Eh, kung di ba naman ako isang libu’t isang gaga, tinagalog na nga ako, tatanungin ko pa kung Pinoy s’ya! In fairness, tinulungan naman n’ya ako. Dun nga kami sa card swiping machine with a wider entrance. Hayyyy… Did I say I so miss my adik friends?

Booboo # 8: Finally, we were able to get to Jordan, find our guesthouse, and rested for about an hour. Our first itinerary for the day was to go to the Avenue of the Stars. As usual, we had to go there via MTR. Since I had so many booboos in the morning, I decided to study the MTR map carefully and read all the signs at the stations. In fairness, nakarating naman kami ng Tsim Sha Tsui Station nang walang aberya. We didn’t bother to go to the other points of interest near the Tsim Sha Tsui area. I was more concerned kasi to take night photos at The Peak so by 3pm, we were back in the Tsim Sha Tsui Station to make our way to the Central Station. “O, Francis, alam mo na kung pa’no ‘to, ha. Ikaw na hahawak ng card mo.” When we got to the card swiping machines and tapped our Octopus cards, walang nangyari sa mga harang. Hindi bumukas! Ha? Did I do something wrong again? Kahit ‘yung kay Francis, ayaw din magbukas. Wait, Francis, baka iba ‘yung entrance ng mga Octopus card holders. Ikot na naman kami. Parang isa lang naman ang entrance. Try ulit. Promise, ayaw mag-bukas. So, I went to the Customer Service Area. Ay, ang daming tao… Hiya akong magtanong. Try ko na lang ulit card, pero promise, hindi talaga nag-open! Hindi ko na kaya! I will swallow my pride and ask the guy at the Customer Service Area booth (buti na lang, wala nang pila!). The guy checked the balance of our cards. Syempre, ang dami pang load so imposibleng naubusan kaming mga-ina. Then the guy said, “Tap then push.” hah hA Ha? “Tap,” sabay palo sa desk nya, and “push,” sabay action ng push with both hands. Ahhhh… Ipupush pala ‘yun para mag-open. Hayyy…. Ang tanga mo, Barok!

Booboo # 9: Finally, the Peak Tram. I bought the packaged ticket so we can take the tram to get to the Peak and allow us entry to the Sky Terrace. Maayos naman naming nairaos ang buong Peak Tram at Sky Terrace experience. Nung pauwi na kami and took the Peak Tram again to get back down to the city, naloka ako sa isang girl na forever nakatayo sa likod ng driver. Hindi ba sya nahihirapan na nakatayo forever eh naka-slant pababa ang position ng tram? ‘Yun naman pala, papara kasi sya sa isa sa mga stops ng tram. Ay, pwede pala ‘yun? Oo, naman... Kasi, public transportation din naman ang tram. Hayyyy... At parang with “hallelujah” light ang mga pangyayari nung na-realize ko na public transportation nga ang tram. Eh, di syempre, pwedeng gamitin ang Octopus card! At ‘yun nga ang ginamit ni girl na nakatayo sa likod ng driver.

Hayyy… Unang araw pa lang ‘to pero parang ang haba-haba na nang itinagal ko sa Hong Kong. Ano pa kaya ang ibang pwede pang mangyari sa mga susunod na araw?

P.S.:
Huling hirit sa MTR… Added on September 13.

Booboo # 10: Second day. Disneyland. Pauwi na kami from a long and tiring day in Disneyland. By this time, hustler na ako dapat sa MTR. That’s what I thought. As soon as we got off the Disney train, dali-dali lahat ng tao to get to the other train at the Sunny Bay Station. Kami rin ng anak ko. We were so tired and we wanted to be the first in the train so we can get seats. In fairness, konti lang ang nakipila sa amin. The rest of the crowd are on the other side. Confidently in queue at the Tung Chung Line, my son and I waited patiently for the trains to come. “Mommy, trains to the city ulit o,” pointed out my son at the other side. “Hindi, dito tayo, anak. Ayan, o, Tung Chung.” When the trains came, we were able to seat comfortably inside. Ang konti nalang kasi ng tao. When I checked the status of our direction in the lighted MTR map system inside the train, that’s when it dawned on me that we were in the wrong train! We were going to the Tung Chung Station! That’s the end of the line of the Tung Chung Line! Tama nga si Mokong. Dun kami dapat sa “trains to the city!” Tung Chung Line pa rin’yun pero opposite direction! Di bale, don’t panic. We can always interchange at the Tung Chung Station.

Booboo # 11: Tung Chung Station. Since nasa wrong side kami, we quickly transferred to the other side so we can take the train to get back to the city. Ay, ba’t ganon? Walang pila? As much as I wanted to ask any Customer Service personnel or kahit janitor na nga lang, parang wala nang tao. Parang buong station, sarado na. Nyaiks! Ang layo pa naman ng Tung Chung sa city. Kung magta-taxi kami pabalik ng Jordan, magkano kaya aabutin? I finally saw the electronic signage that flashes “Trains to the city will depart first at platform 1”. Hmmm… Ano kaya yun? Promise, wala talagang ibang nakapila sa kinakatayuan namin. Pero sa kabila, dun sa train na binabaan namin, may mga sumasakay! Hmmm… “Trains to the city will depart first at platform 1.” Ahhhh…. So, yung train na sinakyan namin is at platform 1 pala and it will be the one to go to the city! Hayyyyyy… Buhay!