Hey y'all what's up? I've been busy this month, but not too busy not to blog about interesting stuff I've done. So far life has been very good. Last week I visited the art capital of the Philippines, Angono Rizal and showed some of my friends my hometown, Tanay. They loved it. I'd like to talk my travel adventures in a separate post so I won't go into that yet. Instead, I'll talk about the things I did in the city.
Last Monday I attended the Unit Asia Jazz concert in SM North EDSA Skydome. I was with Chris, Nagi and Che. The event was organized by JFMO as part of the Nihongo Fiesta 2012 so it was free. Unit Asia by the way are, Hiroyuki Noritake (drums/Japan), Shigeki Ippon (bass/Japan), Tay Chier Siang (piano/ Malaysia), Isao Miyoshi (guitar/Japan), and Koh Mr. Saxman (saxophone/Thailand). This is their second time in the Philippines. I've seen them perform the first time they were here, so I knew that it's a must to see this concert. Let me just say that I'm not exactly a fan of jazz. I mean I like it, but it's the kind of music (for me) that has a time, place and mood requirement for listening. I like it when I'm in coffee shops (which rarely happens now) and reading Murakami books. But the thing about JFMO events is, they never disappoint, at the end of the show, I'm always impressed. I was impressed the first time Unit Asia was here, and I was impressed again this time.
I'm glad that I was with my friends this time, to share the appreciation. My favoritemembers of the group, then and now, were Mr. Saxman (saxophone) and Mr. Miyoshi (guitar). For me, their sound were the most powerful. Mr Saxman, was really playful with his sax and it was really fun to watch. There were tracks they perform with vocals and for that, they always collaborate with Filipino singers. They had Sitti before, this time they had Cooky Chua. They were great choices, but I liked Cooky more, I especially loved the Jazz rendition of "Paglisan". I'd say they performed better this time though I prefer the venue last time (Music Museum).
I'm very sorry for the poor video quality
At the end of the show, Mr. Siang and Mr. Saxman were really nice to come out of the stage to shake hands with the audience. I was able to shake hands with them and I even asked for an autograph, yay!
This Saturday, I booked my day for one thing. Hugo. It's a shame that I've only learned about this film recently. When the Oscars nominees for Best Picture were announced, I immediately checked them. Hugo particularly got me hooked because of the references to automata. I was ecstatic when, one day at the mall, I saw that Hugo will be shown in cinemas. I hoped for an IMAX showing, but sadly, it's only available on Digital 3D. I scheduled my day for the film anyway.
I asked my friend Jam, who works at SM Cinema, for the best Digital 3D cinema to see Hugo and she recommended MOA, so I decided to see it there. Che came along for a totally different agenda, Travel Expo, and I thought, it would be good to check it too since I have upcoming trips. We decided to check the MV Logos Hope floating book fair too so we could maximize the day. Since the book fair venue is the one we're not familiar with, and it opens the earliest, we decided to head there first.
The world's largest floating book fair is currently docked at Pier 15 in South Harbor Manila. It offers 5,000 books at affordable prices. The ship houses 400 volunteers from different countries. Its predecessor, MV Doulos had visited the Philippines many times, but this is my first time to come aboard. When we entered inside, we were ushered to a welcome area to watch a video clip about Logos Hope.
Then we were given instructions how to go around, how to pay. It's a one way navigation, there's no way to get lost, even for people with low sense of direction like me. From the welcome area, you go to the book fair itself, then pay at the cashier or exit. The price is in "units". One unit is equal to one peso.
Most of the books I saw are stuff I never heard of or see at the local bookstores. I didn't see anything from my wishlist. Instead I bought my niece an anatomy book for children and I got me an inflatable globe and Disney Cars and Finding Nemo greeting cards. The next stop is another selection of books, mostly academic text books, then you walk along an interactive exhibit of Hope's Life Experience, it's basically the story of The Prodigal Son, in a modern day perspective.
After the exhibit, there's another watching area, this time video clips showed missions and accomplishment of Logos Hope. Then there's the International Cafe where shoppers can relax and snack. We were pressed on time and we were gonna eat lunch anyway so we skip trying the delicacies. I've read that the ice cream at the cafe were really good, next time, I'll make sure to try that. At the exit, the crews are handing out books for free, but I was trying to limit the things to carry so I declined getting the free books.
Outside Pier 15, we opted to get a cab going to MOA. And what do you know, it's not an easy thing in this part of Manila. There are men who act like disptachers, and force themselves in getting a cab for you. I was like, no thank you I can do this. But man, this guy I encountered was so persistent, I was trying to hail a cab, my friend was trying to hail a cab from a different spot, and he was competing with us just for the sake of doing us a favor for a price. Irksome fellow I tell you. When a cab stopped by, he was so persistent in getting paid. I'd like to point out that it's nowhere close to the hospitality that we pride ourselves. I mean if you're desperate for a job, then find a decent one. I gave him a five peso coin just to make him shut up.
So we went to MOA, we decided to eat at Pizza Hut. We came in lunch time so we had to wait for a table. While waiting, I went to National Bookstore to look for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I initially scoured the Children's Book area but when I couldn't find it, I tried the customer service, which proved to be a wrong decision. NBS has one of the worst, if not the worst, customer service in the Philippines! I asked the CSR lady for the book, and she looked it up on her computer. She then wrote it on a piece of paper and called for her colleague. She told me that "the system" shows zero stock, but she'll have someone verify it. So after a good 5 minutes, the supposedly verifier came with a look that says, "I was having the perfect dream, why did you wake me up?". Anyway, she took the piece of paper and stared at it for a second, and immediately dismissed that the book out of stock. When an employee of NBS says a book is out of stock, that means you have to look for it yourself. I have lost count how many times it happened to me, but I never learn. Darn! So anyway, I went back to the Children's book section and looked for Hugo once more. And I was right. Man they still have 2 copies in stock. Now that tells me two things about NBS that are not right:
1) They have inefficient customer service; and
2) their inventory records is outdated.
The National Book Store is the largest bookstore chain in the Philippines. Seriously NBS? I wanted to go back to the Customer Service counter to point out that both the computer and the live person were wrong. But I was in a hurry to go back to Pizza Hut, besides, I'm too happy to complain. But one day, those ladies are gonna get it I swear, I'm gonna look for their manager. It's just disappointing, I came from a book fair ran by foreigners. The crew were very nice and friendly, they answered my questions with a warm smile, and they are not getting paid for what they are doing. They are volunteers. And then I go to a local bookstore, the largest chain in the country that prides itself for polite and helpful people, but I get inefficiency and attitude. Never mind the attitude, just do your job right lady.
Okay, going back to the good news, at least I got me a copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Yay!
And the day wasn't about to end anytime soon, the moment I've been waiting for is about to come!
So we had lunch at Pizza Hut (I'll never get enough of stuffed crust pizza) and I vented all my frustration to my friend (over NBS). We decided to get tickets for the 5:00 PM showing then go to Travel Expo, but when we're almost at the movie house, a long queue of movie goers loomed before us! Apparently, SM Cinema is undergoing an upgrade, so there's only one ticket counter to accommodate all customers. So I told Che that she can go ahead to the Travel Expo and I'll stay on the queue and catch up as soon I get the tickets. It was a good thing that I have the book with me while waiting for my turn. I browsed through Selznick's illustrations. I was just drooling with awe I didn't notice how long I waited. Before I knew it, I have my tickets on my hand already. SM Cinema by the way, is switching the paper tickets into reusable swipe cards, not sure though if that's the upgrade they're talking.
So I went next to the Travel Expo in SMX. There's a P50 entrance fee. I don't know anything about travel deals and booking, I always leave it up to my friend or my sister. My usual role in booking is entering my credit card information. But going to the Travel Expo is another brand new experience. At first, I thought that it'll just be a long line of Travel Agency booths, and it was by the way, but exhibitors are very creative. Too bad that I didn't get to take some pictures because my phone batt was about to drain. But I really liked the presentation of different countries. Each one has a gimmick. Most of the booths' facades are replica of popular architectural structures of the country they represent. Japan has a photo booth and free Japanese food taste and free cups of Pocari Sweat(I got me a cup of that!). Malaysia and China have dance presentations. They give freebies if you like their page on Facebook. While looking around, I couldn't help but wish that anime conventions could be that creative. While our very own country claims that "It's more fun in the Philippines", sadly, the (DOT?) booth didn't justify the slogan. I'm not saying this to criticize DOT, but if you would just compare the tourism campaign of each country based on the booths, it's very obvious why we are not faring in the competition. It's a sad thing. I look at the brochure of Malaysia and I can tell that we can do better. I don't have to be there to say that we have more beautiful beaches here. There's so much room for improvements. But hey, the hype it gave to travel enthusiasts was a good start. I'd like to believe our tourism industry is on the right track. Cynics like me just have to be patient. And because I like keeping souvenirs of events, I hoarded brochures and flyers of different countries hehehe.
By 4:30, Che and I decided to leave the Expo and go to the cinema. It was the moment I've been waiting for. Hugo!!! So, I don't wanna give away too much. All I'm saying is, it's about a boy who has a talent for fixing clockworks and he tries to solve a mystery by fixing the broken automata of a mechanical doll left by his father. I'm not be the best person to give an objective review of the film because of my fascination with automata, but the name Martin Scorsese should be enough to make you watch it. I LOVE the film! In my opinion, it should win the Oscars Best Picture. I mean, I've seen The Artist and I think it's great, but Hugo? Come on, I don't want to use a cliche here, but really, Hugo is a film that literally reminds me why I watch films. I swear you HAVE TO SEE IT. The only thing that made me sad here was the fact that it's not on IMAX.
So anyway, after the seeing the film. My energy started to drop really low. Che and I decided to eat the pizza left overs. We needed to fuel our body. We headed towards the back of the mall (facing the bay) to look for a bench to eat. But luck was on our side again when we realized that all walkway towards the bay side were gated. There's a Pyromusical event and you have to pay before you can get in. On normal days, the place is open to public. We just wanted to sit on a bench and eat pizza, but we have to pay for it too. We got interested in the fireworks anyway so we took the cheapest ticket, which is P100. The countries competing for the night were UK and Spain. I've seen Pyrolympics competition before, but it didn't have the musical component. This time pyropeople or pyromaniacs or whatever you call those who performs the pyros (?) incorporated music while doing the fireworks. I love music but I don't see the use of doing them together. The constant bang of the fireworks doesn't really mesh with the music. Maybe that's how they're being judged because Spain synched the fireworks and music better that UK. I did enjoy at first, but after a while, I just wanted it to end. Maybe it's just my low energy, or the guilt of patronizing an activity that's extremely harmful to the environment. But I swear I'll never watch another pyrolympics or musical or whatever in the future.
Traffic was horrible on our way home. I got home past 12 midnight, I was, once again, awake for more than 30 hours. I feel a tinge of guilt when I do that. I feel like I'm abusing my body. But it happens once in a while, so... zzzz....
I slept for 13 hours! <3 When I woke up, I saw my arms with 3 different stamps. So when my family asked me where I went, I just raised my arm in the air to show them, here --