Archive for the Travel Category

“Magtatawas”

Posted in Travel on February 1, 2011 by hangingbridge

Skeptics, brace yourself.

We left this morning for a roadtrip to Bulacan.  We were invited to make a visit to a known “Magtatawas” or “Hilot” (local healer) in barangay Pulong Buhangin.  The purpose of which is to “heal” any binat that I have (if I have any) from giving birth. 

Before I agreed to this trip, I keep asking why do I need to go out of town for something I don’t really believe in.  I believe in logical explanations and procedures and this one isn’t offering me any.

I agreed for the sake of complying to my mother’s (and my cousin’s) insistence.  Also, I could use a time out from my kid.  (Sorry Via but you are just getting heavier and heavier and my back needs a break.)

So off to the winding and rocky road to the home of this Magtatawas.  We got there around 11am.  We were next in line of the Magtatawas’ visitors of the day.

The place was very provincial and it was a drastic change the city two hours away. 

At the end of the hut was an altar making the whole place a very rustic humble chapel-like framework. 

The Magtatawas was sitting on a bench.  I thought the lady magtatawas was one of the guests.  She was sitting beside a round tin basin of water and was wondering what it was for until she began her short ritual.

She summoned me to sit beside her.  She was looking at me intently when I did which made me uncomfortable.  By the way, her eyes were a nice shade of caramel brown.  Then somebody handed her an itak or a machete.  I was only alarmed when I realized it was scalding hot when it was used to melt the candle sticks we brought with us.  The melted wax dripped unto the water basin.  And thus the wax solidifies and forms in varied shapes.

She did that three times and formed the three above.  From the solidified wax, she told me things she could have known only if she asked me herself.  I am not a believer of such practices.  The only problem was she was somehow really capable of what she says she could do. 

She told me I was about to get married to another person when I met the father of my kid among other things.  She said that I truly love the person that I am with right now.  The problem was she saw from those three that I was going to be the primary bread winner in the family if we are to pursue building our family together.  Well, it wasn’t a problem for me but it was to those who heard her say it.  They were totally against me marrying someone who can’t provide as well as my parents could.  (Truth is, I don’t know if I could provide my child the same way my parents provided for us… so patas lang LOL!)

I don’t know what the problem was with women being the primary bread winner of the family because she earns more than her husband.  I don’t get it.  What’s bad is if the husband just lies around the house rather than doing his best to earn for the family.  This is not the old times when the wife stays at home, relaxes or does the housework while the men works day in and out in order to put food on the table. 

What I didn’t like about the visit was when she told me that I should split up with the father of my Via because I could find someone better.  I know she meant well but her reasons were not enough to break some people apart. 

Another thing is that people around me kept saying that Via doesn’t need to have a complete family.  They said that I was enough for my baby.  What they don’t understand is this:  I prefer to provide my child a complete and happy family because that was how I was raised up.  I don’t think we would be this happy if my father was missing. 

(I slightly veered away from the topic already.) 

It’s always a wonder how some special people can read you with or without a medium like the Magtatawas.  I’m curious how they do that.  It’s like a super human ability if not super power to actually read into someone else’s life without actually being there.  There are so many people around who claims that they can (in exchange for money) and there are only few who can actually do so.

The Magtatawas we encountered does not leave her home.  She does not advertise her work.  It was by word of mouth that people have come to know that she exist.  She sits there on the bench waiting all day and people just come and ask her to do what she does best.

Advertisements

A Scary Cat Visit in Tagaytay

Posted in family, Travel on November 3, 2010 by hangingbridge

I spent the Halloween weekend with the whole family in Tagaytay.  I was having second thoughts in joining everyone for the weekend since I don’t think I’m fit to travel anymore.  I was holding on to the car’s handle bars and tried to lift myself every time we encounter a bump.  My eye was on the road everytime so that I could see if there was a road bump ahead. 

Good thing, we had a smooth road trip.  I was riding in the car with my parents while the househelp had the van for themselves.  I wouldn’t want to join them because one of them was bracing herself for getting nauseous and barfing anytime during the ride as she told me herself.  Heheh! 

That night, I get to sleep with my mother in the room in the first floor while my dad slept alone in the second floor bedroom.  At 2 in the morning, I was awaken by a cat that came from the dining area which was just outside the bedroom door.  I was wondering how a cat could get in because all the doors and windows were all closed and we couldn’t have locked the cat inside because I have NEVER seen a cat anywhere near the house ever since the house was built. 

The meowing was followed by a loud ruckus from Ate Sally, calling to the houseboy noisily on the intercom.  After a few minutes, they were both shooing the cat away from the house. 

I was thinking that they, especially ate Sally, must hate cats.  And I was very thankful since I could get back to sleep.

In the morning, they told me that everyone was thinking the same thing except for me. They all thought the cat was a supernatural being that visited the home because a pregnant woman was in the house.  They all believed that whatever is in the cat was after my baby.  

I was kidding about it for awhile saying that the aswang had to probably form itself as a worm to get inside through the closed door and shaped itself to a cat in order to make that ruckus.  But after awhile, I was checking up on the movements of my baby.  I wanted to make sure that she’s doing okay down there after the cat scare. 

It seems my baby girl is doing okay and moving a lot.  As I write this post right now, she’s kicking my insides a bit too hard.  I think her leg is bumping as far as my ribs.  It gets a bit scary as it is hurtful sometimes.

Tagaytay Weekend

Posted in family, food, Travel on October 18, 2010 by hangingbridge
During the weekend, I was invited by my mother to go to their house in Tagaytay.  I was to go along with my sister and my nephew.  Ordinarily, I would be out of the house in a dash but since I’m almost term, I didn’t really want to risk it.  My sister assured me that our driver would go under 80 kph in order to minimize impact of bumps in the road.  Also, I don’t know if my bladder can keep up during the relatively short travel.  
I sat up front and reclined as much as the one at the backseat would allow. 
Another thing was on my mind during trip to Tagaytay.  It will be my first time that I will see my father since I saw him in LAX to bid him goodbye  since he would be going back to Manila ahead of me.  I know he’s still unhappy with my decisions.  And I’m sure seeing my tummy now that it’s almost term, it would remind him of how I disobeyed and how I was uncooperative with their plans for me. 
When we reached their house, I was the last one to go inside of their home.  I went in with his back towards me eating his afternoon snack.  I tapped him on his shoulder and said hello, gave him a kiss on the cheek and a half hug.  He acknowledged my presence but didn’t utter any word.
In my heart, I’m just very happy to see him and doing well.  And that was more than enough for me.   Never mind the silent treatment.

Not yet ripe enough... but sweetness is just right

 The next day, we enjoyed my mom’s harvest from the nearby “palengke” which my mom and dad walk to upon waking up.  They bought the papaya especially for me.  My mom wanted me to start with the soft diet already. 

Haven't tasted this bread for a long time now

 I took my share of my father’s favorite “panaderia” bread.  I forgot what it’s called but it’s really good.  The bread is soft and the filling not too sweet.  I think it’s just recently baked.  It’s better than the pandesal my sister requested that my mother failed to buy. 

This is really good. Sweet and sour... so juicy!

I finished half of a whole guyabano in one sitting.  There was so much meat and juice with minimum seed.  Truly enjoyable. 

Bake and Churn's Black Forest Ice cream cake

 My sister was supposed to buy me just one cone of ice cream when we drove off to Robinson’s supermarket nearby.  But I begged her to buy the black forest ice cream cake.  I promised I’m not planning to finish the whole thing.  My mom and sister were giving me the look whenever I took a bite of my ice cream cake slice.  They all thought I was getting too much sugar. 

1st time to visit my parents' home in Tagaytay

clear skies during the weekend

The weather was good during that weekend.  I thought we were going to experience cloudy weather with rain clouds since my brother who was left here in Manila told us that it was already raining at home.  My nephew, sister and I were able to walk outside and enjoyed the cool weather sought in Tagaytay.

Gabino enjoying his freedom in the attic... nothing breakable here

In the afternoon, I found my sister and nephew playing in the attic.  I wasn’t supposed to climb up the stairs.  But since I’m taking each step slowly, I didn’t really think there was any problem at all.  I found my nephew running around the attic with his toys strewn all around. 

There was not much to do in my parents home.  Good thing I brought a book with me.  I wanted to roam Tagaytay but I didn’t want my baby to feel that I’m doing it in purpose so that she can get out sooner than later.

Cloak Of Shame

Posted in Current Affairs, Politics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by hangingbridge

Even Ms.Universe Fourth Runner-Up Venus Raj’s triumph or Charice Pempengco’s role in Glee or Pacquiao’s world title will not be able to redeem the country’s honor from what former police officer Rolando Mendoza has done to tourists visiting our country and from what our incompetent government officials has failed to do on that ill-fated 23rd day of August, 2010.

The dust of the hostage aftermath has not yet completely settled down but the bits and pieces of facts are beginning to paint a clearer picture of what transpired that day. It was all premeditated by Mendoza.

The now infamous Mendoza travelled early morning that day from Tanauan, Batangas to Manila which was around 3 hours ride. Carrying with him were weapons, blank placards and pen. The drama started 9 ‘o’ clock in the morning when the hostage-taker boarded his pre-selected ride to Libingan ng mga Bayani (but opted to hold his mission in Quirino Grandstand). He chose a tourist bus to take him where he intended to go. And as the world now knows, the tragedy ended nine lives, including that of Mendoza’s and probably also ended Filipinos’ relations with Hong Kong nationals.

The underdog has no good excuse for what he has done especially now that everyone knows it was all in his plan. Mendoza has been alluded to be someone who was honourable to his work and has been a victim of injustice in our social system when he was mistakenly charged for something that he claims he has nothing to do with. As Filipinos try to analyze what has led this upstanding citizen to commit drastic measures to gain back his lost compensation, I am still not convinced that he was that good of a citizen, much more a former man of law.

Some of those directly involved in the hostage-taking states that Mendoza was asking around a million Pesos to finally compensate his lost pension. Was it all about money? Was it his aspiration all along? I’m quite certain it wasn’t to clear up his name because to take a number of lives hostage wouldn’t do him any good on that aspect.

How many times have people, not only Filipinos, taken lives in their own hands just for money? Countless of times. In this country alone, crime rates are mostly because of financial reasons to be able to provide the needs that most of our fellowmen lacks – even the basic ones. My problem with Mendoza was that he had caused all this tragedy because of pride and probably, money. It was not because he was already dying of hunger.

If he wanted to get a message across, he could have surrendered and not taken any life at all. After surrendering, media will do its job to peel everything on its way to get to the core of things – a review of his misjudged case. I think he already sensed it when he saw the crowd and media coverage he was getting. He already knew he got our full attention. He was being interviewed until almost at the end of his shift as a hostage-taker.

Why did he chosoe a group of tourist to vent out his anger over the government? The tourists can do nothing about his problems. They probably didn’t understand even when he explained himself to them. The twenty-five passengers of that bus was looking forward to a relaxing day travelling all over Manila. It was very unfortunate for them that they were chosen to sacrifice their lives for something they don’t understand. It has been an unspoken rule throughout the world that tourists are not to be harmed in the country they are visiting. In return, they are not supposed cause mischief in the country they are visiting.

When real tourists take interest to visit the Philippines, it is a big deal. For the past decades, “tourists” are mostly military men, men who condone prostitution in the country, foreigners who have business interest in the country, international social workers and so on. It is only recently when people come here to enjoy themselves with what the country has to offer without the need to damage our self-respect.

I am personally fond of visiting Hong Kong and has been there thrice or four times now. I have enjoyed all of those trips even if the bus tours they offer go to almost the same places each time. Even if Filipinos work there as housemaids or equally undignified (for some), it is rare that citizens of Hong Kong will treat tourists badly.

After the tragedy in the Hong Thai Travel bus transpired, I’m in no disposition to travel anywhere in Asia. There is both shame and fear that once they knew I was Filipino, they would probably give me a hard time. How can a Filipino go around Hong Kong or China when we have clearly done harm in a number of their citizens? We can all sense their loathing over Filipinos after what happened. Hopefully, they would come to know that we, ourselves, are embarrassed by what happened. And even if the people directly involved in the hostage-taking last August 23, 2010 are trying not to own up to their mistakes, the nation feels truly sorry for what has happened.

Airport Security

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2010 by hangingbridge

It is no wonder why international ports do not trust our local security.

Any traveller who comes from Philippine territory has to be thoroughly searched again and again once they reach their destination. The Philippine passport becomes a red flag in relation to the packages the traveller is bringing with him or her.

There are non-stop flights from Manila to LA and back. There are also some flights which have one or two stopovers between the two cities. I have flown to a couple of times and have familiarity with both types of flights.

When I was a teenager, I flew straight from Manila to LA. When I reached the customs department, my baggage did not just go through the x-ray machines but was opened by the personnel himself. He had his, probably filthy, rubber gloves go through my personal belongings. Finding nothing worth questioning or throwing away, he left it opened and in disarray for me to arrange and close them again. By this time, I thought that I have to brace myself every time I pass the US immigration.

Another flight proved that it didn’t happen every time. I flew once again from Manila to LA but this time, I had one stopover in Japan. As I recall, it was a two-hour stopover in Narita Airport. There, everyone has to go through tight security even if you’re not really entering that country. Everyone, including those who are just changing planes has to go through their x-ray machines and the hands of the personnel. Baggage are opened and inspected as well. Eventually, we flew to LA. And once the airport customs knew that we came from Japan airport, they didn’t bother opening our luggage.

Just recently, a Philippine government official was detained in Hong Kong for allegedly “drug trafficking”. Congressman Ronald Singson, son of the infamous Chavit Singson, was caught with 26 grams of coccaine when he entered Hong Kong airport. He left Manila bringing the package with him. Speculations on how he was able to take it out of the country and fly across to Hong Kong ended when a video was shown last night on the news. The video showed how he was treated by airport security. He was treated like a common public official, as expected with our local security. They didn’t even bother to have his luggage scanned in the x-ray machine. And he did not even pass the metal detector.

Security personnel in the country should start paying attention once again. This incident verifies the fact that they lack the sense of responsibility and initiative to do their job and to do it well. They should be the one to know that there is no special treatment despite the “badges” displayed in front of them – especially by government officials. No one is exempted by the hassles of airport security no matter how high up you are in the social ladder.

To be fair to our local security, I also have to cite that almost the same, but not as serious as this, happened in one of the U.S. airport (after the 9/11 incident). Special treatment was given to Britney Spears in one of their airports. Have you experienced having to throw your water bottle before you enter a certain part of the airport? Well, I did. And for someone like me who values clean drinking water, it is hard to see personnel throw it in the trash, along with my body creams and cologne bottle, and toothpaste and a lot more. I couldn’t complain and I can only cringe at the act. Everyone has to comply. Well, a TV show called TMZ showed that Britney Spears was able to bring with her her Big Gulp drink as she passes throught the metal detector. And no one bothered to take it out of her hands and throw it in the trash can. Of course, nobody would think that there is something explosive in her drink. But still, the remarks were not kind with the airport personnel who let her have her drink.

I wouldn’t mind discrimination practiced in airports. Although the word “discrimination” may be objectionable, it poses necessity. Security must discriminate prudently in cases when it is impossible to search every nook and cranny the traveller brings with him.

When I was to leave Philadelphia airport just recently, I went through the body metal detector and my luggage went through the x-ray machine. When I was asked to pass the body x-ray machine, I refused because I told the personnel I was pregnant. The personnel said that it was safe for pregnant women. I still told them that I don’t want to risk my baby’s health. The personnel was a little irritated pointing out the note beside me that says it was okay for pregnant women. I wanted to tell the security that the sign will still not guarantee my child’s safety. So what they did was ask a female personnel to put on her gloves and start examining my whole body – head to toe.

If they could do that to a pregnant woman in the States, why can’t they do the same thoroughness with the our government officials, celebrities and the like here in the country?

When I reached our Centennial airport first week of August this year, I was reprimanded by the customs because I was talking on my cellphone like most of the travellers were doing. Due to the early landing of the plane, travellers were calling whoever is picking them up to come earlier than expected. Well, the customs personnel was irritated at me for speaking on the phone, instead of looking at him read my disclosures on the arrival card. Of course, before I even knew he was irritated, I got off the phone to give him my full attention but it didn’t matter because he was already annoyed as I approached his desk.

After he reprimanded me, he asked what was in my luggage. I told him my laptop and clothes and some food. He gave me back my passport and let me pass. What kind of security was that? Was he really doing his job? I wouldn’t really like the hassle if he asked me to open my bags and inspect everything and leaving me alone to arrange it again. But what if I carried with me illegal items from whereever I came from? Talk about slacking and paying attention to the wrong things just so he could impose his superiority over the traveller. A big difference between the Centennial airport and the Philadelphia airport.

It takes a village to make improvements in the security standards of our country, not just our airports. And it wouldn’t take modern and expensive technology to make it happen. It would only take diligence and great prudence in the part of our government workers. But what would it take to make them work like that? I wouldn’t know.

Waiting for Flight 1295

Posted in My Baby and Me, Travel with tags , , on August 2, 2010 by hangingbridge

This is my first time to be in Orlando Airport.  I’m waiting for my American Airlines connecting flight.  And this is the first and last (thank God) stopover from Philadelphia to LAX.  I was telling myself awhile ago that I should have taken and paid for the nonstop flight but, the cheapskate that I am, I didn’t.  This airport sure is big.  There’s, I think, 4 shuttles to take you to different set of gates. I think they have 70 gates around here.  I got off from US Airways, and reached an atrium where they were showing flight schedules and I panicked somehow when I didn’t see any American Airline flight to LAX.  Good thing, I saw people staring at a map and that’s where I knew I had to take the shuttle which was more like a tram/train.  This is a pretty modern airport compared to other airports I’ve been around the world. 

I had to suffer the ear pain because of the pressure of landing which I knew I had to go through again twice more later today.  My baby also reacted awhile ago during the landing and I was scared that he or she may be feeling the same kind of pain I was in during the landing. 

I’m in my 22nd week of pregnancy and I’m afraid that the travel and the emotional turmoil for the past 4 weeks or so has affected my baby one way or another.  I just hope he or she is tough enough.  I don’t want anything to hurt my baby especially at this critical time. 

I am so grateful to the flight attendant who helped me in carrying my hand carry in the baggage bin on the plane awhile ago.  He also helped me get it before we got out of the plane.  Thank goodness for people like that. 

I haven’t had any sleep last night, anxious of the 24-hour travel to Manila (from New Jersey), anxious of the heavy bags that I have to lift, also, excited that I’m going back home at last, and anxious again, because I don’t know what is in store for me and my baby back home.

Anyway, I’m kind of getting hungry right now.  I’m craving for spaghetti.  Hope they sell it cheap here.  I see a Sbarro-like place.  It’s name Famous Famiglia Pizzeria.  And then, I’m going to get a lemonade or something just as healthy (not sure about the sugar content, though).

Wow, I’m really going home… to my new family.

Dos Palmas

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2010 by hangingbridge

More than a week ago, a visit to the 14th island of Puerto Princesa Philippines was a visit to one of the pristine places in the country.  Dos Palmas has had its bad days which tags the resort for a couple of years already. One of these is the terror of the Abu Sayaff kidnappings of a foreign couple.  Another one is the questionable death of a Filipino matinee idol during his vacation with other celebrities.

Days before our flight to the islands of Puerto Princesa, I was kind of anxious that my company wouldn’t enjoy the 4-day vacation because it was going to be quiet in the place since it wasn’t a favorite summer spot after those ill-fated events of the past years.  I was half-expecting that we will be the only one visiting during that weekend.  Thankfully, I was wrong because there was a number of people who was staying in the resort during the weekend.  I guess the tarnished reputation of the island was now beginning to clear up.

Upon arrival, there was a band of the traditional local percussion and strings that made a welcoming noise to the incoming visitors who arrived by a ferry boat.

This was a pic when we were leaving for Manila but looks the same when we got to the Island almost 4 days before this pic was taken 🙂

There were only three groups of people in the ferry boat and was not at all cramped which made the one hour travel through Honda Bay more comfortable as we passed by the first 13 islands of Puerto Princesa.

During the one-hour boat ride to Dos Palmas resort, staff in the ferry boat bring with them palms and they create origami-like animals or figures to give to passengers.  They do the same during the boat ride back to Manila, or rather to the airport.

I get the grasshopper 🙂 on the way to the island.

The one who made the origami-like palm leaf art on our way back to the airport.

I get the lovebirds on our way back to Manila.

And then there was the usual welcome drink.  We were in time for lunch so we also get to enjoy the lunch buffet.  The outdoor restaurant was almost empty of guests.  I thought we were doomed in an almost empty resort until the waiter explained that the rest of the guest was having a picnic lunch in a nearby island.  Whew!  I thought, there was still hope for this vacation.

I'm on my 2nd plate so it was a little less than my first. The white cheese-filled cherry tomatoes were superb.

I was with my cousin and my parents during those days in the resort.  But basically, my cousin and I spent every hour on the island and left my parents by themselves for their vacation.

During our first night, my cousin and I spent a couple of hours on the bridgeway that connected the entrance/bay villas with the reception lobby/island.  I’m sure I have seen those many stars before but that night, it was like I haven’t.  The sky was filled with stars – inch by inch of the dark sky.  It was awesome to be able to lean back on the bench and look up and see nothing but stars.  So many of them.

It wasn’t all that quiet during our stay on that bridgeway that night because a couple of guests were going up and around like we are and a couple of gunned security guards were also roaming that night.  There were also a group of men who, we presume, were navy men who were wearing their basketball jerseys.  We saw their boat “parked” nearby and the resort staff said some of the navy men made use of the resort of the facilities and had their dinner or lunch in the resort while they were there.  This made me feel good.  At least, the islands of Honda Bay were definitely guarded.  After which, I wasn’t at all worried for the rest of our stay.

My cousin and I went to bed before it was midnight.  I had to pull my cousin from the bridgeway and head to our own beach villa which was less than 500 meters from the bridge way benches.

I chose the bed by the veranda.

I was physically and emotionally tired.  The phone calls I was getting wasn’t at all reassuring.  It would be nice to leave your cellphone alone after leaving the city with the thought that you left when it was all good to leave and it will remain the same when you get back.  But it wasn’t the case.  My caller was dumping me with problems and wanted me to go back as soon as possible.  The problem was we already paid for a four-day stay and it wasn’t cheap.  I don’t want to let it go to waste even though, it wasn’t out of my own pocket.  Secondly, my flight back to Manila wasn’t until four days.  So the call I couldn’t do anything to help the caller which absolutely made me feel so uneasy.  I was kind of irritated but what can I do about it.

So back to my vacation.  I was able to sleep despite the problematic calls.  We started our first morning in the island reviewing the schedule the travel planner gave our company.  From the short list she gave us, we decided to go ahead with the scuba diving lessons.

We need to learn inside the pool before we take us to the open waters.

post to be continued