Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kidd's Top 3 Tokyo Spots (Part 2 of 2)

Ghibli Museum

You know when they say "save the best for last"? Well, there's a reason why I put Ghibli Museum on the last of the list. I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, it was such a fulfillment to finally come here. I can't remember how long have I been looking at pictures and videos on the internet before even coming. A friend told me that I'm gonna miss the "surprise factor" and I didn't care, still the feeling I felt when I made it inside the museum is something I can't explain. It was magical.

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I know Totoro is the superstar here, but can you find the soot balls?

It was probably, no, definitely my favorite part of the trip, that even though this is a compilation of my trip's highlights, I decided this one should get a separate post.

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The entrance door of the museum

Let me just say, for one thing, getting a ticket to the museum is not easy for somebody living in the Philippines who has no close friend or relative in Japan. It's not sold in the museum, you have to purchase it on a kiosk called Loppi at Lawson combini (only in Japan). I thought of getting one when I get to Japan but the museum is very popular, it limits 200 visitors a day, I probably won't get a slot for the time I'm staying if I do that. I could make it easier by joining another tour but it's way more expensive and I didn't like my visit to be time-bounded so I looked for other options. I tried to ask the staff of the hotel I booked if it's possible to buy a ticket on my behalf and I'll just pay when I get there. They politely decline as it is something beyond what they can do. Thank God for the internet, I found a better option -- a shopping agent! Bridge.Jpn offers a proxy buying service in Japan, they bought the ticket for me for a fee but still a lot cheaper than joining a tour. I asked them to send the ticket to my hotel then I picked it up when I checked in. You don't get the actual ticket by the way, instead you get a reservation ticket, when you get to the museum, you hand it to the entrance counter then they'll give you the actual ticket. The complexity of the ticket procurement process was worth it, the ticket itself is a keepsake. It has frames of an animation film as ornament, lucky me, I got one from my favorite anime film!

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I remember this scene

Photography inside the museum is prohibited and I am not sorry for this policy. The principle behind is for one to enjoy the experience through eyes and senses rather that a camera's lenses. To take the unique experience as a special memory not even a camera would capture.  I have so much respect for Miyazaki I gladly abide the rules.  It's okay if I can't take images with me, because I'll definitely see it again.

The building and the interior of the museum was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself using drawn storyboards, and I know he's a genius, but oh my God, when I think about the interior and the landscape of the museum, I have no words. Just like his films, there's a strong European architecture influence. Everything in the museum is intricately decorated, you know when I say that Japanese put art into everything, well, this one is taking that notion to the next level. I don't know if I have stressed this enough but I have no words, that's how amazing this place is. And let me tell you, I've never seen a more beautiful and elegant toilet in my life.

The first floor showcased different animation techniques. Be prepared to be enchanted and get some goosebumps. I looked at the display and suddenly I understood why I prefer the traditional animation than CG animation. The gallery is graced with Joe Hisaishi's amazing music. It really gave me that feeling of being transported in another world. Some displays are interactive, child and adults alike are welcome to play. It was so fun, it would surely bring out the child in you. The Saturn Theater features Ghibli short films, you can only watch once, the film I saw was Hoshi Wo Katta Hi. My only dilemma here was the absence of subtitle. I am not that fluent in Nihonggo. I did get the context of the film through the scenes and few familiar words I caught, but I still would want to understand everything.

The second floor features a mock-up animation studio to show how Ghibli animators work, this is also the part where artworks of Studio Ghibli films are exhibited. Another wing of the second floor is for the special exhibition. This year they are featuring "The Lens at Work In the Ghibli Forest". Basically it's a showcase of functions of lens and the magic they create. I was so fascinated and inspired by it, I started collecting small viewfinder toys (not to mention I own a view master and a stereoscope prior to this trip).

The third floor has the Museum Cafe, Mamma Aiuto (souvenir shop), Trihawk reading room/bookstore and surprise, surprise, the Tonari no Totoro catbus. It's still inside the museum, but this I couldn't resist taking a photo. The only disappointing part here is, adults are not allowed to get in or play with it. Strictly for kids only. How unfair is that?!? I heard there's for-adult version of this one somewhere in Tokyo, but I didn't really have the time to check it.

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I didn't get to taste the delicacies at the cafe because of the long queue, I didn't want to spend too much time waiting for my turn to buy food. But there was a hotdog and ice cream counter for express orders, I lifted all my diet restrictions for this trip so I settled with hotdog and ice cream.

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They do allow pictures outside the building, The most photographed part of the museum is probably the robot soldier, the sculpture in the middle of lush vegetation is perfect. There's also a replica of Laputa's floating block. It was cool, but it's the not really the best spot to hang out on a sunny day.

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The museum grounds view from the roof top

I didn't really anticipate spending too much and I was doing great the first 3 days until I entered Mamma Aiuto, the museum shop. A lot of Ghibli novelties here are not sold anywhere, Ebay sellers make a lot of money out of it, they mark up the prices too much. I figured, it's better to seize the opportunity to buy souvenirs. They were expensive but still cheaper than buying online. I bought cookies, t-shirt, a glow-in-the-dark Kodama flower vase, a stereoscope and of course a music box.

Princess Mononoke music box and a Kodama flower base (no flowers yet)

I wanted to stay longer but I had to go as it was getting late. I've already said it early on, but I'll say it again, this was my favorite experience in Japan, I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you are not a fan of Ghibli works or anime. As for me, I can't wait to go back!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Kidd's Top 3 Tokyo Spots (Part 1 of 2)

First things first, a disclaimer - the title does not necessarily mean that these are my ultimate favorite spots in Tokyo, I can't really decide on that one yet when I haven't fully explored the metropolis, but when I decided to go to Tokyo this year, I immediately identified 3 destinations essential for my first visit. There are many places that I want to go to, but given the time and financial restriction that I had, I thought of 3 places that I MUST set my feet on at all cost. You might have thought that it would have been easier if I came up with a title that would describe the context of this post but the creative juice isn't really pouring right now, thus, a disclaimer.

Anyway, on to my top 3...

Tokyo Tower

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Tokyo Tower behind Zojoji Temple

I don't really want to start with negative stuff, but this needs to get out of the way. During my research, I've read a lot of bad reviews about Tokyo Tower. It's not because the place sucks, but because going in the observatory is expensive (JPY820 on the first deck and additional JPY600 on the second deck), and they are pretty reasonable (the reviews). I mean why would you spend that much when you can actually get a bird's eye view of the city at no cost. There are skyscrapers with open-to-public observatory deck for FREE. But, I'm no ordinary traveler, I don't just visit a site for it's beauty and historical importance. I also take pop culture references into consideration. Huge consideration, I must say. The main reason I wanted to go there was because I'm a huge fan of CLAMP and we all know that Tokyo Tower plays a significant role (landmark that is) not only on many works of CLAMP but other famous anime and manga like Please Save My Earth and Sailormoon, plus, Always Sanchome no Yuhi is one of my favorite films, there's no way I'm gonna miss it just because some budget conscious tourists think it's not worth the buck. Seeing it in my favorite movies and anime made me want to go there and recreate similar scenes. I also see Tokyo Tower as a symbol of the Japan's impressive rise to power after the devastation of World War II. It's just one of the many things I really admire about Japanese people.

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Always Sanchome No Yuhi is a nostalgic film about life at the time Tokyo Tower is being built

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Diorama display of the setting of Always Sanchome No Yuhi

There are lots of attractions inside the Tokyo Tower, at the base of the tower is a four-story building at the called Foot Town. There's an aquarium, wax museum, hologram gallery, and more. They have separate admission fees so I didn't try them. I only get to see souvenir shops and nothing really appealed to me. In the main observatory, there's a cafe, souvenir shop, a stage for musical performance with a DJ and you can request songs too, and a Shinto shrine. I tried the soft ice cream at the Cafe because I remember Sakura Kinimoto and friends having that when they went to Tokyo Tower. It's not bad, but I don't find it spectacular either.

Collaboration between Tokyo's night scene and music

Now let's talk about how I feel about my overall experience. Let me just stress the fact that I love Tokyo Tower. It's an impressive structure and I really think one must not miss it when going to Tokyo. But some things were missing and they could have made my first visit a perfect experience.  For one thing, there was an ongoing maintenance work. When the tower lights finally lit up, there was a portion unlit, so from afar, it looked like some sort of a gap. It kinda disappointed me.

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Beautiful but the gap was a disappointment

Another thing is, The place is a popular spot for couples. Being single doesn't really bother me, but sometimes, when I go to places that are obviously invaded by couples, I can't help feeling a little bit out of place and lonely. When I hopped in the elevator on the way up, I was accompanied by 4 couples, each pair was occupying each corner of the elevator, while I was in the middle all alone. At the observatory, seeing the city night lights shine like stars, again I can't help but think how romantic it would be to watch it with someone special.

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A Shinto Shrine inside the main observatory is said to be responsive to fulfillment of love and school success

But those things I mentioned were minor stuff. I will definitely definitely go back to Tokyo Tower someday. I would love to see it again in daytime and fully illuminated at night time. I'll have to think twice if I'd go inside the Foot Town and the observatory again. Maybe when I have more pocket money or if I have someone special with me hehehe.

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Tokyo Tower is celebrating its 55th year

Mount Fuji

Another disclaimer, Mt. Fuji is not really located in Tokyo, it lies about 100 km southwest of Tokyo, but it's part of my "Tokyo trip" and it is visible in the city on clear days. Now here's another huge symbol of Japan. I anticipated Mt. Fuji just as I anticipated Mt. Mayon last year. I kinda think of them like a pair of maternal twin sisters. I booked a day tour to Mt. Fuji through Japan's largest travel agency JTB. The package I got included a stop at Oshino Hakkai, Shiraito Falls and Shengen Taisha Shrine. This is the nature leg of my trip, I was really excited for this one, unfortunately, Typhoon Wipha made a landfall the same day my Mt. Fuji tour took place, it rained all day so it didn't turned out the way I anticipated it to be. Funny how I imagined Mt. Mayon to be Mt. Fuji when I was in Albay, but looking at the clearest image I got of Mt. Fuji, one can easily mistake it for the other. I wanted to see it with an ice cap, but the weather betrayed me.
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Summit view from Fifth Station

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The clearest picture I got

Mt. Fuji is divided into 10 stations, with the 10th station being the highest. The tourist buses can only go as far as fifth station. Climbers can go further but climbing season is only on summer (July-August) due to severe cold weather. At that time, the temperature in 5th station was 2°C, it may not be so much for some, but for someone living in a tropical country, that is COLD (the coldest I've ever been, in fact). Our tour guide, Emiko-san, told us, that if somebody questions us for claiming of having been to Mt. Fuji, we can always show our picture with the marker, and in my case, this is it:

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I may have not see Fujisan in its full glory, but I did get to enjoy it in other aspects. Ever wonder where the melted snow cap goes? Of course it goes down in all places and it is beautifully laid.

Oshino Hakkai is a set of (8) pristine fresh water springs of melted snow that has sunk into the ground over long years. It was absolutely gorgeous. A tranquil ambiance dominated the rain, the thatched roof farmhouses were lovely. A fine weather would have made a perfect experience.

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With Claire, a British woman who was traveling alone, some of my pics on the tour was taken by her

Another snowmelt fed site is the Shiraito Falls. It is said to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Japan. It is 200 m wide and 20 m tall. I love waterfalls, the bigger the better. I crave the idea of swimming in cold water, if only I could take a dip. But it's a protected area, I think they don't allow allow people to swim there.

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The last leg of the my Fujisan tour touched the religious aspect of the mountain. The Sengen Taisha shrine deifies Mt. Fuji itself, and its okumiya, or "inner shrine", is located at the very peak of the mountain. The main shrine is a registered important cultural property.

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Omikuji tied in a wire surrounding a Sakura tree to repel bad fortunes

Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha is located in Fujinomiya City in the southwestern foothills of Mount Fuji. Originally built over 1000 years ago for the protection from volcanic eruptions, it has become the region's most important shrine and the head shrine of over 1300 Sengen and Asama shrines (a type of Shinto Shrine centered on the worship of the god of volcanoes) nationwide. The grounds has about 500 Sakura trees and is a popular hanami spot during spring. I could have taken better pictures but I was already tired at the time and the weather started to intensify, also my camera's battery got drained so I switched to my phonecam, most of my pictures here are really not blogpost-material, but heck!

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Meet Yuu-chan, a very cute Akita dog, I couldn't resist

At the end of this tour, Claire asked me if I think I wasn't meant to see Mt. Fuji, all I said was, "I think I am meant to go back". Oh I will definitely go back, maybe I'll try another season, spring perhaps. I am not one with you yet Fujisan!

To be continued...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Post Japan Thoughts

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Well it finally happened, yep I've been to Japan, I've partially fulfilled my life-long dream. I said partially because there are still many places that I wanted to go to but I'm short of time and resources so I just have to compromise and settle on coming back. My thoughts aren't really organized right now, there are so many things I want to put in here and I'm not sure if my vocabulary bank is enough to justify the amazing experience I've had. I won't go into details right now, today I'll just give an overview of my short stay as a tourist.

It's hard not to be biased, I practically worshiped the place for a very long time, and being there, realizing the scenes I've played on my mind for so many times, I'm just happy to say, it didn't disappoint. I found myself falling in love with Japan all over again. So yeah, you're most likely to hear only good things,  but my pre-Japan worries turned out to be warranted, the typhoon disrupted my schedule so there were places (in the itinerary I drafted) I didn't get to see. I missed the Yasukuni Shrine, Imperial Palace and the St. Mary's Cathedral (designed by the world renown architect Kenzo Tange). But it did give me a perspective how everyone is prepared to handle disaster, they reduce the speed limit in highways, offices advise people not to go to work, there are train status notices, safety is a top of priority. While I was inside my hotel room I hear sirens and afterwards some announcement, the only thing I understood was the word "kudasai" at the end of every announcement. I get to see the extreme politeness of people first hand to the point that they apologize for something they didn't even do -- our Mt. Fuji tour guide, Emiko-san, would always say "I'm very sorry for the bad weather" "I'm very sorry for the traffic jam" "I'm very sorry for the delay (because a tourist came in late)". 

I love the fusion of the old and the new, despite being an ultra-modern city, some things that a lot of people considered to be a thing in the past are still very relevant. Payphones for example are obviously still widely used. Even though most people are munching on their smartphones, I saw a lot of people reading physical books in the train. Then everyone seems to own more than one bicycle, it was probably the most ubiquitous thing in Tokyo (or next vending machines). I hardly see a motorbike. Salarymen in coat and tie, old people, mothers taking their children to the school - they are all on bicycles!

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Payphones, still widely used

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A mother taking her kids to the school

I love how strong old people are (one time I came across an old lady carrying a huge suit case while on the way to the train platform). Speaking of trains, the subway system is very convenient, efficient and not as confusing as I thought it would be. Thanks to the Romanji signages, I didn't get lost! Though I got a little too cocky that on my way to the airport, I did get lost and got on the wrong train (different types of train were on the same platform, I didn't know I had to check the timetable to make sure I'm getting on the right train).

I am amazed with the culture of honesty, coming from a country where you always have to be on guard with your valuables, that was a big thing. I miss being able to walk around and just have my backpack on my back and my tablet stashed in my backpocket without worrying that a wandering hand would intrude to get something. I lost my camera THREE times and I was able to retrieve it every time. The bikes are parked in legal places without locks. I don't see security guards either on business establishments. It made me really cringe with envy. I thought, why can't we emulate this culture of honesty? I am tired of hearing blames on poverty, Batanes can pull off this behavior, and though I haven't been to Batanes, I can tell that the the state of poverty is just as evident as the other places in the Philippines are. Is it really that hard to act like a first world citizen in a 3rd world country?

I miss the huge parks with full of trees, I miss the museums with rich diversity of audience (here people choose to flock to the malls, the under appreciated museums' regular customer are either tourists or students), I love the presence of art in everything, the efficiency and convenience of the subway system.  I could go on, but I guess what I'm just trying to say in this post is I loved my short stay in Japan and I miss it badly.

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Art in everything: A manhole with Sakura ornaments

But I wouldn't go as far as saying that it's more beautiful than my own country (or vice versa). No matter how rich or poor a country is, I believe that it has its own charm and beauty that you won't find in other countries. Yes, they are all equally beautiful. But we have a loooonnnggg way to go, we've got so many problems here and the idea of moving and living in a country where my frustrations are addressed is really tempting. When I got back home, I was full of wonderful stories, I didn't waste a minute in telling everything to my mother. Then she asked me if I'd like to go back to work there. I paused for couple of minutes and sighed, "nah, I'm staying here, it's much more challenging here". That's an absolute truth, and this I think is a testament how much I've grown up and change. Ten years ago, if you ask me if I'd be willing to migrate for greener pasture and change my citizenship, I wouldn't bat an eyelash and would have said yes. But now, if asked the same question, all I could say is, I refuse to runaway from the problems, I choose to be a part of the solution.

But I'm still going back to Japan for travel and leisure hehehe. Oh I can't wait to go back!

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My first peek of Nippon

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pre-Japan Thoughts (and Worries)

More than 13 years ago, I fell in love with a country that produced a lot of my favorite TV series, or should I say, animated series. To say I was a big fan of anime was an understatement. I still am by the way, I just happen to be very picky nowadays. When you've seen a lot, you tend to look for fresh and edgy material. My excessive fondness of anime and manga ultimately led me to embrace almost anything Japan related. The language, the culture, the people, the place... I wanted to move there and work. Of course things don't always happen the way you planned, sometimes it's just not meant for you, and sometimes, you change, you grow up. I no longer have that desire to work or stay there for a long period of time. But going there for a visit never left my bucket list. As I write this, I am a sleep away from fulfilling a life long dream. I am finally coming to Japan.

I should be happy and excited, right? Right, but there are these last minute hurdles and threw apprehension, frustration and even sadness into the equation. Obviously, I don't have to explain the positive side of this mixed emotion I feel, let me explain the negative side.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I noticed my monthly period got prolonged than normal. When I saw no sign of stopping, I consulted a gynecologist. Apparently, I've got this hormonal imbalance going on, I am now on medication, the bleeding has stopped, but my (internet) research tells me I should expect to bleed soon. In fact the past days, the symptoms of PMS had manifested in me --the annoying occasional cramps. I hate it. I can imagine the discomfort it would give me while exploring a foreign country.

Then there's this weather situation, extreme weather situation. I thought typhoon Santi (Nari) was a concern, apparently not, it's on its way out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) but a new storm is threatening not just my travel but Japan itself. Typhoon Wipha is forecasted to enter Japan by October 16 (I'm leaving Philippines the 14th), how great is that? What makes this really frustrating is, usually storms move in a one quadrant direction (at least in my amateur sky tracking experience), but Wipha's track is shaped like a boomerang, it's moving northwest then at some point it'll move northeast? And I'm like, is this some kind of a big joke? 'Cause it's not funny.

Remember our disbelief when Typhoon Peping (Parma, 2009) after pounding north Luzon, made a u-turn and made a second landfall, bringing more damage than it already had?

The truth is, it's too early to tell. It's just forecast, a prediction, the storm can still change its course right? But it's a scientific prediction and my pessimistic side is getting the better of me. I hate it. No I don't want it to go towards the Philippines or anywhere else, just dissolve or go in area where no casualty will occur. Sounds like a long shot eh? But hey, miracles do happen, so...

Another thing that's making me a little bit sad is the fact that I'm traveling solo. It's not so much of a big deal, it's not an issue of independence, it's just that I didn't actually dream of going to Japan alone. I shared this dream with some of my closest friends. I was looking at my 2004 pocket journal and saw a note I left in March 28, it was a promise I made with a friend, that we'd go to Japan 2 years from then, and like I said, people change. Priorities change over time, she's still wanted to to, but she's in a different situation now, and Japan would just have to wait until such time when circumstances are leaning onto her favor. I also wish I could bring my parents, but I can't fend for their expenses. My dad wanted to come with me, but there was a problem with his birth certificate and getting an authenticated document from NSO took time. The visa policy of Japan had eased, Thailand and Malaysia got exempted from visa requirements, I wish they included Philippines from this exemption, it would have been a different story if it were the case.

I hate to admit it but, yeah, these worries and sad thoughts are kinda overshadowing my excitement. I still have not packed my things, somehow it doesn't feel real anymore. Nevertheless, I'm still pushing the trip with much anticipation, and while I am no longer expecting for things to go perfect on my first visit, I will try my best to have a blast. And even though I haven't even touch down Japan, I know for a fact that I will definitely go back.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bakit Ako Galit?

Para maiba naman, mag-boblog ako sa wikang Filipino. Ito'y napapanahon lamang dahil ngayon ay buwan ng aking Inang Wika, at ang mensahe na gusto kong iparating ay importante na maintindihan ng bawat Filipino (at dahil naaaliw din ako na paglaruan ang Translate Button ng blog ko hihihi).

Kung ikaw ay aking contact sa Facebook at Twitter, malamang mapapansin mo na nitong mga nakaraang araw, madalas akong magbahagi ng mga balita at komentaryo tungkol sa isyu ng anomalya sa paggamit ng Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pork Barrel). Marahil ay nagtataka ka dahil sa totoo lang, hindi ako mapolitikong tao, bagamat bukas ang aking tenga sa mga isyung panlipunan at sensitibo ako sa mga isyung pangkalusugan, kalikasan at edukasyon, hindi ako mahilig makialam sa politikal na aspeto ng mga bagay-bagay.  Ang isyu ng pangungurakot ay hindi na bago. Alam nating lahat na ito ay hindi lamang sa Pilipinas nangyayari, kundi sa bawat sulok ng mundo. Pero alam mo yung pakiramdam na meron kang kutob, alam mong me nangyayari, pero pag kapag nakumpirma na ang iyong hinala, ay talaga namang nakakapanggalaiti. Ang lumabas na report ng Commission On Audit, na detalyadong inilantad ang katiwalian ng mga mambabatas sa paggamit ng Pork Barrel ay talaga namang kahindik-hindik! Ang saklaw ng report ay maliit na halaga lamang kung tutuusin, humigit kumulang na anim na BILYONG piso (P6 B), sa maikling panahon (2007-2009). Isipin mo na lang kung ano pa ang ating matutuklasan kung hihimayin ng mga eksperto ang buong alokasyon simula ng naipasa ang batas ukol dito noong 1990 (P25B/year).

Ngayon bumalik tayo sa aking tanong. Bakit ako galit? Ako ay halos sampung taon nang nagtatrabaho, sumusweldo ako kada kinsenas, at bawat sweldo, malaking bahagi ang nakakaltas para sa Income Tax. Nakakahiya mang aminin, pero kung susumahin ko ang aking ibinayad na buwis sa loob ng sampung taon, mas malaki pa ito kesa sa naipon kong pera sa banko. Bukod pa dyan, dahil isa rin akong mamimili, ay nagbabayad din ako ng Value Added Tax sa bawat produkto at serbisyo na aking nakonsumo. Pero sa loob 10 taon, lahat ng lumabas na pera para sa tax ay parang walang kinahinatnan na maganda, as in wala akong maisip o makitang konkretong ebidensya. Hindi ko maramdaman na sumusulong o umuunlad ang ating bansa, palala ng palala ang kahirapan sa kabila ng report na consistent ang paglago ng ekonomiya ng Pilipinas (ang pinakamataas sa Asia as of Q1 2013!). Sampung taon na akong nagcocommute papunta sa opisina at pauwi ng bahay, sa maikling panahon ng pagbibiyahe araw-araw ay nakikita ko ang ILAN sa mga problema ng ating bansa -mga sirang daan, mga batang namamalimos sa kalye, madumi at mabahong lansangan, milyung-milyong iskwater, at marami pang iba. Kung tutuusin, sheltered pa nga ako sa tunay na estado ng kahirapan (I have not seen the worst!). Sa halip, ang buwis na sana ay nalaan sa pagpapabuti ng buhay ng milyung-milyong Pilipino ay nawawaldas lamang sa kapritso ng mga hayup na magnanakaw at kanilang pamilya. Hindi ko maintindihan kung paano nila nasisimukra na magwaldas ng perang kinuha sa kaban ng bayan at mamuhay na pawang mga maharlika. Sigurado akong pamilyar ang mga ito sa kasaysayan ng mga Marcos, bakit kelangan ulitin ang kasaysayan? Bakit ba kung sino pa ang may pinag-aralan ay sila pang walang konsyensya, maari bang isama sa kurikulum iyon?

Ang isa pa sa nakakalungkot na bagay sa scam na ito ay pagkakaroon ng negatibong pagkakakilala sa mga NGO (Nongovernment Organization). Hindi nakakapagtaka na di masyadong nagtitiwala ang mga tao sa mga NGO. Ang mga NGO na tinutukoy sa nasabing scam ay pawang mga HUWAD, ang mga totoong NGO ay malinis ang layunin na ayusin at baguhin ang mundo. Ilan sa alam ko ay hindi tumatanggap ng donasyon galing sa mga korporasyon at gobyerno para makasigurado na walang conflict of interest.

Buwagin ang PDAF.

Ngayon, paano ba aayusin ang gulong ito? Ang sigaw ng taong bayan, i-scrap na ang Pork Barrel. Dahil ito naman talaga ang puno't dulo ng pangungurakot ng mga mambabatas, unang-una, ang trabaho nila ay gumawa ng batas, 'di nila kailangan ng ganong kalaking pondo. Naiintindihan ko ang mabuting layunin na bigyan ang kongreso ng kapangyarihan na matugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga distritong kanilang kinakatawanan, pero ito ay ideal lamang sa mga opisyal na may malinis at tapat na intensyon na magsilbi sa bayan. Pero sa totoo lang, halos imposible yatang mabuwag ang Pork Barrel. Unang-una, ang mga taong responsable sa pag-ammend ng batas ay sya ring mga taong sangkot sa katiwalian. Tapos ang Pangulo mismo ay hindi sang-ayon sa pagkabuwag ng sistema, sa kabila ng opisyal na pahayag na "Panahon na po upang i-abolish ang PDAF" pero ang totoo ay revision at renaming lang naman ang ibig nyang sabihin. Ayoko namang magpaka-negatibo pero kung gusto nating baguhin ang sistema, bakit 'di na lang buwagin ng tuluyan at gumawa ng panibagong sistema. Siguro kasi malaking trabaho, saka baka wala na ring tumakbo sa kongreso at senado, ang susunod na tatargetin ng mga buwaya ay kung saan madidivert yung budget, kung ma-centralize sa executive branch, naku dudumugin ang mga posisyon sa LGU!

Parusahan ang Maysala.

Samantala, wag din nating kalimutan na kelangan managot yung mga sangkot sa katiwalian lalo na yung mga paborito kong consistent na top 3 - Juan Ponce Enrile (my God, he's been a public servant since God knows when, I cannot imagine the amount of wealth he amassed, tsk tsk tsk!), Bong Revilla at Jingoy Estrada.

Ipasa ang FOI Bill.

The State recognizes the right of the people to information on matters of public concern, and adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, subject to the procedures and limitations provided by this Act. This right is indispensable to the exercise of the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making (FOI sec. 2, Declaration of Policy).

Di ba napakaganda ng layunin ng batas na ito, kung bakit naman hindi naisulong. Halatang ayaw ng mga opisyal na ma-scrutinize ang mga "projects" at "transactions" nila. Ngayon, nararapat lang na maipasa ang FOI Bill, parang suntok sa buwan din ito katulad ng pag-abolish ng PDAF, pero siguro naman, mapipilitan na ang mga mambabatas na isulong ang batas na ito ngayon. Ayokong mawalan ng pag-asa.

Ngayon, kung ano man ang magiging resulta ng mga imbestigasyon at ammendments, sa tingin ko, ang pinaka-importanteng tungkulin ay nakasalalay sa taong bayan mismo.


“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.” - Helen Keller

Noong unang nilabas ng Inquirer ang expose sa Pork Barrel scam, ano kaya ang mangyayari kung walang nagreact, kung ang lahat ay busy sa kanikaniyang mundo. Malamang "business" as usual pa rin ang mga walanghiya. Isipin mo na lang, ilang rebolusyon na ang nangyari sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, simula sa himagsikan ng mga Katipunero? Masasabi ko naman na may mga pagbabagong ring naganap. Pero sa banda roon, nagsimula na ring magsawa ang mga tao. Kung matatandaan natin ang mga EDSA People Power na naganap (parang apat na yata), yung dalawa don ay tinangkang patalsikin si Gloria, pero sa dismaya nating lahat, walang nagyari. Kung anong liit nya, sya namang kapal ng mukha. Pero sa tingin ko, malaking bagay din na maraming nawalan ng gana sa pagprotesta. Bakit kamo, eh papatalsikin mo, tapos ganon di ang papalit, o baka mas masahol pa. Hindi ko masisisi kung maraming nawalan ng pakialam. Dahil para na lang tayong sirang plaka na paulit-ulit.

Aaminin ko na dati, isa ako sa mga walang pakialam. Pero nagpapasalamat ako na namulat ako ng maaga, hindi pa huli ang lahat. Malaki ang paniniwala ko na may pag-asa pang bumangon ang Pilipinas. Malaking tulong ang internet at social media sa pagmobilize ng mga tao. Sa oras na ito, mahigit walumpung libong netizens ang nagkumpirma na sasama sa malawakang protesta sa Luneta at iba parte ng bansa gaya ng Naga, Baguio, Iloilo, Cebu, atbp. Di gaya ng mga nakaraang People Power, ito ay nagsimula lamang sa palitan ng kuru-kuro sa Facebook, mga taong bayan na nagbabayad ng buwis at galit na rin sa sistema (obviously hindi ko alam ang buong kwento, basta hindi sya sinimulan ng anumang political group na may sariling agenda). Plano kong sumama, kahit na pakiramdam ko, malabong makinig ang mga kinauukulan (the legislative and executive branch seems to be firm in revising but keeping the Pork system), pero ang desisyon ng pagprotesta, para sa akin, ay isang paninindigan sa aking paniniwala.

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Hindi ko sinasabing kinakailangang mamartsa ang bawat Pilipinong nagbabayad ng buwis, ang ibig kong sabihin, ang makialam ay sapat na, kahit pa nasa bahay lang. Yun bang, magbasa-basa lang tayo, intindihin ang nangyayari, paminsan-minsan mag-share sa social media, o kahit ipagdasal lang natin na maayos na ang lahat. Ang importante ay may pakialam tayo, kasi dito tayo matututo. Kung ang mahigit na 11 milyong Pilipino na hindi bumoboto ay may pakialam (myself included, I'm not gonna wash my hands, but NEVER AGAIN), malamang nakapaghalal tayo ng mas karapat-dapat na mga opisyal. Baka hindi ganito kalala ang sitwasyon ng corruption. Hanggang kelan tayo magrereklamo sa bulok na sistema? Di ba mas maganda na maging parte ng solusyon kesa reklamo lang ng reklamo. Nagsisimula lahat, sa pakikialam.

It's the effing golden age of information, nobody has the effing excuse to stay ignorant, silent and apathetic towards issues that will define our future!

Hindi ko alam kung ano ang mangyayari bukas, at least sana maging mapayapa, walang masaktan, walang umepal. Mas maganda kung makikinig ang Pangulo, sapagkat sa kanya na nanggaling, tayo ang boss!

Monday, July 01, 2013


This airport misfortune happened more than a week ago, I do forgive but I don't forget. There's no way I'm letting Cebu Pacific go off the hook that easily. I have to tell this awful experience and let this be a lesson, if you're flying somewhere DO NOT choose Cebu Pacific Air.

Cebu Pacific is the WORST airline ever!

It all started with a book drive project that my friend, Che, initiated, the Booksail Project (I'll post more about this project soon). It's been on the planning for months, we've been collecting books and school supplies to benefit the children of Palumbanes Island in Catanuanes. We planned on the itinerary and logistics, we selected a date to turnover the donations, we decided the group would come in 2 parties. The first group will take the bus and endure a 14 hour travel period, the second group will take the one hour plane ride. Obviously I chose the second option, I felt that time and well being are much more important than what I would save from the bus trip. So I booked a flight to Virac Catanduanes, to my ignorance, I chose Cebu Pacific Airlines. 

I anticipated the trip with pure excitement, Che and I would talk about it on our coffee breaks. I often joked that her group is leaving Thursday afternoon, while I'm scheduled to leave the next morning, yet I'd end up waiting for them in Virac. Or so I thought.

I was scheduled to leave on early Friday morning, June 21, 5:45 AM. I slept over at Nagi's place, woke up at 3:00, we ate breakfast at 3:30, I hailed a cab and left for the airport at 4:00. I arrived in the airport at 4:15, there was no queue at the entrance, I made my way to the check in counter. Everything was going smooth and according to plan until a few minutes in the check-in queue, I noticed a commotion among the passengers at the counter. I thought those passengers had a problem with their baggage or something, but nothing that concerns me. But then it turned out to be a problem for ALL the passengers bound for Virac. 


Yes, we all learned about it right there and then,  some passengers behind me held out their phones and said they just received a text message to inform them of the cancelled flight. RIGHT THERE AND THEN. I, of course, was shocked and upset beyond believe. How can it be? I always talked to Che that she should have a plan B in case something happened, like a bad weather, but I never thought of making a plan B for my own mishap. 

A staff approached us to officially inform and explain that it's an "aircraft situation" and provided options. Listen carefully, this is Cebu Pacific's brilliant plan B's for the cancelled flight. The first is to cancel the booking, get a full refund, and re-book for the earliest next flight, which was Sunday. There was no way I'm taking that because our group was scheduled to turnover the donations on Saturday, plus we're all leaving the coming Monday. The trip was for a volunteer work and not for a vacation, I cannot afford to put off my departure. The second "brilliant" option is to take the earliest flight to Legaspi City, we will be taken to Tabako port and ride the ferry bound for San Andres, Catanduanes (from there we can take a Jeep bound to Virac). We will be given P500 to cover the boat and jeep fare (and lunch) AND as a compensation for the INCONVENIENCE, they're giving a free one way flight to any domestic destination. Sounds enticing eh? Let me just digest this situation into further details, just to give you an idea. 

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So you see, the red line was the original flight, the yellow and orange was the 2nd option Cebu Pacific offered, simple eh? NO! In the flight I booked, I was scheduled to depart Manila at 5:45 AM and arrive in Virac at 6:55 AM. In the rerouted flight they offered, I will take the 7:20 AM flight to Legaspi City, will arrive at 8:30 AM (this schedule was not followed either), take a one and a half hour shuttle ride to Tabako, ride the 1:00 PM ferry trip to San Andres, it's a 3 hour boat ride mind you.  I will be a little nicer and dismiss all the inconveniences that came with it, but here's the part that really annoyed me to the Nth level. From 6:55 AM, my arrival schedule was stretched to 4 PM. I was supposed to wait for the other party, but the tides were turned, they had to wait for me. I had to endure a NINE HOUR trip to Catanduanes. NINE FUCKING HOURS!

NINE FUCKING HOURS y'all! That's a one full work shift and the recommended amount of sleep. I looked at the other passengers with really huge baggage and I thought, they could be balikbayans who were gone for so long, they were just robbed of nine hours of quality time with their loved ones. They say time is gold, NO, time is priceless. The one way free flight was nothing close to a compensation. There's no way you can pay off for that lost time. 

The worst part was being all by myself through the whole ordeal. When I was talking with a Cebu Pacific Staff, I was wishing so hard that Claudine Baretto's spirit would take over my body so I could pull off my own version of Thrilla in NAIA. When I called Che to inform her of my situation, she told me to demand, I have every right to do so. But I couldn't do it, specially when I'm all alone. I could only walk away while throwing my fists in the air and mutter profanities that would make my  late grandma roll over in her grave. 

When I was at the boarding area, I got a little preoccupied with the game 7 of NBA finals, I jot down some observations in my journal. I  time-stamped announcements of delayed flights and gate transfer of Cebu Pacific, until I lost count. My now 7:20 flight even pushed further, I noted boarding at 9:26 AM and lifting off at 10:06 AM. This is not a surprise though, ask any frequent flyer, Cebu Pacific has a notorious reputation with delayed flights!

I do not blame the airline for cancelling the flight for having an "aircraft situation". Safety must come on top of everything. But I'm upset that the options they gave us are the best they could come up with. They claim to be the country's largest airline, surely they could make things better. I heard that some airlines would actually take the responsibility of booking the passengers with closest flight from other carriers. Or what about a back up plane? And perhaps the service could be improved, after making me sign a waiver for taking P500 from them, they just left me on my own. They were supposed to give us free breakfast but nobody gave me instructions how to claim it, that I should watch out for their announcement. Why not take me to the fanciest eatery in the airport and make me feel comfortable while waiting for the flight to Legaspi, why not give me a riveting book to keep me from looking at my clock every now and then to count off the remaining hours I have to wait, or a travel pillow to help me rest and lessen the inconvenience that the prolonged trip had to offer. I could go on, but the point is, Cebu Pacific's plan B's suck!

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Doodling my frustation: Cebu Pacific - Now everyone can fly (with off the scale amount of INCONVENIENCE)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

This One's for You Don...

I am walking away from this room beaming with inspiration and at the same time, a heavy heart. Why, it all started with Twitter. I was looking at Jim Paredes' tweets, it brought me to his tumbler, then to an over a month old post about Dolores Hart's attendance to the Oscars last year. She looked familiar I thought. When I read on, I learned that she started in Elvis Presley's first Technicolor film, Loving You. So I remembered, I bought a DVD copy of the film for my parents (it was a clearance sale). I watched it, didn't really leave an impression, nothing remarkable, I thought. Anyway, the interesting part was,  after making a few films, Hart left Hollywood and became a nun. I found it interesting because she seemed to have a promising career, she was VERY beautiful (and still is), and she was engaged too. Yet she chose a secluded life exposed to hard labor and renounced comfort and luxury. Boy, that calling must have been crystal clear and very powerful too! 

Anyway, I am always drawn to inspiring stories like this, I wish to meet her and  more inspiring people whose lives are fueled by something greater than power and money, something we will definitely take in the afterlife. 

So here is the documentary film, God is the Bigger Elvis, about this amazing woman. It was nominated for Best Documentary Short at the 84th Academy Awards, where Dolores attended the ceremony, her first  Oscar attendance since 1959.

The heavy part of the documentary has something to do with her former fiance' - Don Robinson. Although he dated other women after the engagement broke off, he never got married. He admitted that he never got over Dolores, that he still love her at the time of the interview like he loved her more than four decades ago. He died in November 29, 2011. Throughout his life, he visited her during Christmas and Easter in the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis  (Bethlehem, CT) and they remained close friends. He said that "every love doesn't have to wind up at the altar".

When I get to witness something so pure and profound, I could not help but shed tears of indescribable feeling. Perhaps it was because the theme of unrequited love is just too close to home.  I've known it too many times that it's impossible not to get pricked. 

When I contemplate on Don's side of the story, the song Eternally plays on my mind. So I shall end this post with this song and a promise, that one of these days, I will lightt a candle for him and pray for the repose of his soul. 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Today is Epiphany!

Yep it is, today we commemorate the visitation of the three wise men to Jesus (in a manger). It's officially the end of Christmas celebration here, and so let me tell you, HAPPY THREE KINGS! I just learned from Wikipedia, by the way, that traditionally, Filipino children leave their shoes out  so the 3 kings would leave some treats like candy or money inside, kinda similar to Santa's stockings. But I was surprised. We never observed it like that. We only go to the church and hear mass, the church would usually have something for the kids after the mass, like earlier, they were giving out apples. I was with my sister Pipay and my niece Rome, but we didn't bother to get an apple. It's not a popular fruit in our household and we're still feasting on the ones we bought for new year. But it's nice to have that kind of thing after the mass.

Meanwhile, I'm having a different kind of epiphany. I think I'm starting to figure things out now. I think I'm finally getting a lead how to make most of my life. I'm starting to have plans and get directions for my future. I'm working on it now. I don't want to disclose it yet, I have this attitude of keeping things secret until they succeed, one thing I know is, this year is gonna be different.

And there's something I (re)discovered this morning. There's a honey bee colony in our house! A honey vendor came in and told us that he ran into my sister and he was told we've got honey bees. He bargained to harvest it for us then we can split the honey. It was inside the ceiling of our front porch, it's really high so it's not really a threat. Occasionally, I'd see a bee flying around in our garden, I never really thought there's a whole colony nesting somewhere. But it's a lot, not enough to make profit but just right for our consumption. I love using honey on my tea.


I vaguely remember an episode in my childhood when my mom had a bee colony in our home exterminated. At the time, it really felt like some kind of threat, I've heard cases from my class where a bee sting caused a fever. So my mom was being careful. But earlier, I saw how the vendor dealt with the colony to get the honeycomb. He just puffed a smoke (with a cigarette) to calm the bees, and wallah, he got the package! I felt sorry for some bees who clearly sticked and died during the process. 


He did split the honeycombs and he said we can expect another batch of honeycombs and he can harvest for us every 3 months. Ivy and I extracted and filtered the honey afterwards, it's not as fun as we thought it would be. We got a jar's worth of honey, probably around 250 ml. Like I said, nothing close to turning it into profit, but it's nice to know that we could get it for free. Yay!