The family celebrated the 34th wedding anniversary of our parents in Shanghai, China. Here’s a few snaps I took with my Motorola Milestone.
Not very pleasing experience here that I will not be divulging. The Consular Section is at the World Center, 330 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City. Come early and take a number. Business hours begins at 9:00am. Requirements: New Visa Applicant – Completed application form, passport with a least six months validity, birth certificate, marriage certificate (if married), NBI clearance, bank certificate with OR and P50k show money. Previous Visa Holder – Completed application form and bring the old passport with the Chinese Visa.
Yes, they have flights to Shanghai. I think they just recently added Beijing to their new destinations. On time, maybe even earlier at times. Cheap. No food.
We arrived at Pudong International at around 11pm. Had some cash changed to Renminbi or Yuan (￥). They can also change your Peso, so you need not have to change it to USD ($) back home. Our chauffeur was there. It took us over an hour to get to our hotel. A series of skyways and flyovers. Simply spectacular. The moment we got out the van, cool breeze. Around 18-21 degrees Celsius. Very nice. Chun Shen Jiang Hotel is situated at East Nanjing Road in the heart of Huangpu District. Where everything is. Food, shopping, everything.
I suggested we eat something familiar for breakfasts so as not to upset our stomachs for the day. They try to be as environmentally sound as possible, no plastics or styrofoam here. No rice though, but they do have strawberry jams for pancakes and ground black pepper packets which I particularly liked.
When in Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a must see. Fastest elevators I’ve ever ridden. Don’t forget to check out the Sight-Seeing Deck. 360 degrees of clear walking glass.
The Shanghai World Expo opened on the 1st of May 2010 and will run until the 31st of October 2010. ￥160 for a standard day pass, ￥100 for seasoned citizens. Luckily, we have two. Security was tight. They even held me for some time due to the Starbucks Shanghai City Mug I bought for Abbie. Expo hours begin at 8am and closes at 10pm except for times when there are special activities which can go on until midnight. The park is massive, as in colossal. Like a small town with hundreds of thousands of people. It’s impossible to scan the whole park in one day that’s why they’re selling 3-day and 7-day passes at ￥400 and ￥900 respectively. We just breezed through some. There’s a number of electric cars which serve as free ride in the long “highway” of the park. The longest queue: USA Pavilion. It has three short movies for its presentation mostly themed on saving the environment. Of course, we definitely have to see the Philippine Pavilion but unfortunately it was just a so-so. As we entered, a male vocalist sings Freddie Aguilar’s Anak followed by a lady singing a “kundiman”, a Filipino serenade. Then followed by a DJ… a DJ?! WTF! The pavilion showed the immense influence our conquerors. There is “hilot”, a Filipino massage/therapy, of course with pay. And the only one with a restaurant inside. Filipino food at skyhigh prices. The only thing good about the Philippine Pavilion, Pinoys need not queue. Another thing I noticed, Filipino travelers are one of the snobbish bunch there is. Don’t be like one, smile back. Did I say the park was enormous? Huge portalets. Food is everywhere. Expo goodies galore. Everything is 20-30% more expensive though. Tip: Wear you favorite, most comfy footwear.
Some of the best authentic dimsum I’ve tasted are found here at the Shanghai Tea Houses near the Yuyuan Garden, center of the Old City. My favorite, the “Soup Siopao”. You stick a straw in it and sip its juices, tastes like “balut” soup. Yum!
The nearby Yuyuan Shopping City is the “Divisoria” of Shanghai. Haggle-fest! Sub-story: Dad and the rest of us had a miscommunication on where to meet up after an hour of shopping. Hence, we waited and searched for him for four hours. We even summoned the assistance of the police. Tin went on the PA system which was funny-cool. Later he claimed that we’re the ones who got lost 😀
Boxing Cat Brewery‘s Knockout Stout. Two of this and you’re done. Crazy soccer hooligans pack the place at the time of the World Cup mania. Located at the French Concession, 82 Fu Xing Road West (Near Yong Fu Road), Xu Jia Hui District.
Xintiandi is a small district in Shanghai where old China and new China meet. The best restaurants can be found here. One is XinJishi Restaurant located at Building 9, Xintiandi beili, No.2, Alley 181 Taichang Road. The tofu is my favorite.
The vacation would not be complete without a trip for the faith. St. Peter’s Church is situated at 270 Chongqing Nan Lu. English Mass at 5pm every Saturday and 12noon on Sundays.
Free. ‘Nuff said.
Before flying out, I had a bowl of beef ramen from Ajisen Ramen at Pudong International.
To end, Shanghai is a beautiful megacity. You cannot capture it using a Motorola Milestone. Do not be discouraged if the locals turn you away when you ask them for directions or what not, they just do not speak English. Shanghainese are kind, welcoming people. Would love to go back and have more fun.
7:52am, 19 June 2010.
I was at the Power Mac Center in Greenbelt 3 a few hours ago. Had my sister’s MacBook checked after it froze, crashed and blinked a folder with a question mark in it. A not-so-Genius guy attended to my needs. He was courteous enough but he lacked the tech savvy which I was expecting of them. The not-so-Genius guy’s assessment: “I think we’re gonna have to replace the hard drive. And it’ll be a week or two to get it done.” That was after he looked at the history of the MacBook in question. Duh! Good thing it was still under Apple Care warranty until September 2010 that’s why I didn’t act like a rude customer and reply sarcastically at his stupid conclusion. He also said the store will be closed starting February 13 for renovation.
9:48pm, 8 February 2010
My sister’s MacBook froze. She tried to Force Quit some running applications to no avail. So I opted to Force Restart the damn thing, and all I got was a blinking folder with a question mark. It crashed. If this were a PC, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. I’ll just tear it down and build it back up. But this one’s a Mac. I’m not quite familiar in troubleshooting Macs. I’ll just bring it to an Apple Genius for safety. It’s a shame not all Power Mac Centers have a Genius Bar, they have one at their Greenbelt 3 shop. Hope there’s no physical damage.
8:50pm, 7 February 2010.
My mom was admitted to a community hospital this morning. She suffered dizziness due to high blood pressure. 200/110. An ambulance near her work was nice enough to take her, with sirens and all. Everybody immediately left work or dropped whatever they’re doing to attend to her. That’s how important she is. She was in the ER when we arrived, me and my brother. My sister was with her already. Mom was in a good mood. That was nice. The doctor suggested she stay in the hospital for the night, she gladly obliged. Dad arrived. The gang is complete.
We arranged for her to have a suite room. So she can be on her own. We don’t want her to share a room with somebody ill while she’s in this vulnerable state. After getting her settled, we left for home. My sister stayed to watch over her for the night, she’ll go straight to work from the hospital tomorrow and dad will take over for the rest of her stay. On our way out, I noticed an empty room. I paused for a while. It just affirmed my belief when I was younger. “An empty hospital room is the saddest sight in a hospital.” Think about it.
9:13pm, 3 February 2010.
The year 2009 started gloomy for me.
A big promotion in my former office opened up. Fought hard for it. The appointment was held from February until August due to legal actions I have coursed, still favoritism prevailed. If I was in prison, you can say I was gang raped. I was knocked off by a subordinate! Talk about leadership, obviously, they have NONE. Once, I was dubbed as “The Bright Hope of the Regional Office”, Ha! Vile leeches and wannabe preachers. I picked up myself and moved on.
In the middle of all this work mess, I found time to clear my head. In Singapore! Three days with my sister, Tinay and brother, Jeng. A birthday celebration for me and the latter. Grand time if I may say so. The trip cleared my head of everything. It was just the moment and the Lion City, that was it. Perfect vacation.
After the Singapore trip, I began to up my SMS to a certain someone. A very special lady. I still have some of the more memorable messages on my phone. Now, we laugh about it.
June 19, 2009: The Big Date. I was giddy-anxious, if I could put those two words together. That day made me smile the biggest for a long time. It was a long drive to Makati, due mostly to the ongoing Skyway construction at the South Luzon Expressway. Which is projected to be finished by May 2011. Bummer! I left my former office in Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba City at exactly 5:00pm and I got to Glorietta at around 7:15. Waited for her at Powerbooks on the 2nd level of G4, her favorite store. Seated at a rounded couch with two random people. I don’t recall what I was reading though I remember it had pictures in it. It must be the nerves of excitement. I specifically positioned myself facing the entrance/exit of the store to see who comes in/out. She emerged after 15 minutes or so with a “Hey!” I smiled back. We exchanged pleasantries, chit-chat as we headed for the movie house. While we’re standing, checking out the big overhead board for movie schedules, somebody intentionally bumped into her. For a second, I thought it was an office strife. For real. Happy it was a Force of Nature with her fiancé. Hi’s and hello’s. We went on to choose The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a remake featuring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. The movie has already started and I’m not a fan of starting a movie in the middle. In my mind I thought, let’s just go to dinner. Yet we still decided to go for the movie. Both nervous of what we’re doing? For me, yeah. The movie was short plus add to it that we came 15 minutes into the movie. At that point, I was starving. We went to North Park in G5 for dinner. She ordered her North Park staple, salted garlic squid. I picked the lapu-lapu fish fillet. Dinner conversation: So-so Love Saga of 2009. Nothing else. My favorite part of dinner, I got to revel at her lovely face. I drove particularly slow going home, an average of 50kph. My selfish-self wanted the night to last longer with her. Said good night’s before their gates. No kiss on the first date, she’s not the type.
Next significant thing of 2009, my transfer to our Central Office in Makati. It was the 9th of September when I received a facsimile instructing me to report to my new post. I was very happy to oblige. The very same day, I went to our Central Office. Coincidentally, it’s our 43rd founding anniversary. Raffles and Rivermaya. As for Rivermaya, only the drummer is the original member of the group, who is also the son of our Vice Chairman. He had Jolens, his girlfriend, with him. She even graced us with a song. After all the hoopla, I appeared before my new boss and he said I should come in on the 16th to have everything cleared from my former office. After the band sang their last song, I picked up Abbie, the Big Date in the story above. We had dinner at Pancake House, Petron SLEX to celebrate. I even remember her saying “So, you’re happy na. I can go na. My job here is done.” Of course, she was kidding. I think. I say my special thanks to my mom for helping me throughout my transfer process. I would also like to acknowledge the guidance of Dir. Edna Costa, Atty. Owen de Luna and Atty. Reynato Alberto who were very instrumental in relating my concern to our Vice Chairman Comr. Eduardo Escueta. I am humbled.
A sad episode entitled: “It’s not you, it’s me.” – 20th of September, 2009.
I really thought that was it. Still have the text on my mobile. However, it turned one-eighty after she invited me for her mom’s birthday the very next day. We got to talk and crawled back into it. I somehow knew, she also has this thing for me but she can’t make out anything off it at that time. We agreed to take it slower. I smiled again.
October 16, 2009: The Happiest Day in my Life for a Long Time. A regular workday. After office, I went to Ayala Avenue to pick up Abbie. This time I walked. From Buendia Avenue, I walked across to Makati Avenue and turned right to Paseo de Roxas Avenue. It was a nice evening. Not humid as what usually is. I got to her building early. Played Scramble on my iPod Touch while I wait. She came out 30 minutes after. We were hungry and both agreed to have dinner at North Park in G5. She had her usual. I got the pork spareribs in oyster sauce. It was the first time we didn’t have any leftovers. After dinner, she said YES! She green-lighted the idea of us being an official couple. Girlfriend-Boyfriend. Boyfriend-Girlfriend. North Park in G5 is beginning to be my favorite restaurant ever. This was the first time I felt her hold my hand so tight, I couldn’t feel my fingertips. I was in 8th heaven! We were walking along a pedestrian lane towards the Intercontinental Hotel to go to the parking area where the shuttle services were when she spilled this disclaimer, “Di ka naman agad magyayaya magpakasal, di ba?” I laughed hard. Getting married was far from my line of thinking at that time.
My good friend Allan got married to Caren on the 26th of December. He had chosen our common friend Pey, who’s working/living in Hong Kong, to be his best man. But schedules didn’t pan out. He couldn’t leave work. So I got an early call from Allan saying “Pare, upgraded ka na. Di makakauwi si Pey.” This call made me feel great. I know Pey is the true first choice of Allan since they were together for the longest time being high school buddies and all. But second choice made me feel great because he could have chosen another from the gang but he still stuck with me. See, Allan and I had a falling out. Due to some circumstance I will not divulge here. He once said to me “Sinungaling ka! Kala ko matalino ka! Bobo ka pala!” He literally disowned me as a friend, as a person. But time really heals all wounds. I say SORRY to you, Allan. I have failed you before, never again. I embrace him as my friend and as my brother. Here’s my wedding toast: “Good evening, everybody. Christopher was supposed to be the Best Man of Allan. But he can not make it since he is working abroad. So I was upgraded. Matagal ko na rin namang kilala si Allan. Cute pa sya nun, magkalaro na kami. Cute pa rin naman sya ngayon, pero mas mukha na syang konsehal. Could everybody please stand up and raise your glasses for the newlywed. May you be blessed as a couple, as you were blessed as individuals. Cheers!“ This time I didn’t fumble. Good luck guys. Best wishes.
Let me end this blog with a photo that says it all for me for the year that was 2009.
Goodbye, twenty-o-nine! Hello, twenty-ten!
Happy New Year!!!
10:55pm, 31 December 2009.
A few of hours ago, my mom, my sister and I were doing some holiday shopping at Shoppesville, a popular “tiangge” (bazaar) in Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. It was expected that loads of people will be there being it’s a Saturday and Christmas is fast coming, and still there are some who hasn’t done their holiday shopping yet. We decided to split-up so we can find what we are looking for faster and to finish up early. I went on my own while Tinay accompanied mom. I got to this t-shirt shop which I like and picked up a couple of shirts. One for me and the other as a gift. Both ended up as gifts, I got it one size smaller 😦 Went to V-Mall next, a mall adjacent to Shoppesville, a nice place where you can get cheap electronics and other gadgets. I got my Xbox 360 here, a STEAL if I may say so, for it is an awesome machine! Gift it for Christmas and your loved one will love you more for it 🙂
Anyway, I started window-shopping. Had no plans of getting something there, just wanna see what’s new. But this X-Mini 2 made me think.
I take it this speaker system came out less than a year ago. Much better than its predecessor. Costs only P1,600. Perfect fit for my iPod Touch 1st Gen. I’ll think about it some more.
After ogling at some nifty gadgets, I went back to the “tiangge”. An odd man caught my attention, he was carrying a paper bag on his left hand and was following a couple who were looking left & right at the clothes area. My first instinct was snatcher. I was right. I tried to follow the guy around for awhile. I think he noticed my presence, we even exchanged a stare for a second. He walked faster and left his prey. I saw him a few meters ahead talking to someone, as if telling me to back off for he has company. I periscoped the area and he was not kidding, there were at least 3 more men with him. Now they’re all looking at me. My phone rang, it was Tinay. She told me if I could get her big bag from the car and take it to her at her friend’s shop on the 2nd floor. While I was talking to my sister, it happened. It was swift. The guy bumped into his prey intentionally, said sorry and got the money from the poor guy’s right front pocket. If all of the bills were in P1,000 denomination, I believe it’s worth more than P10K. I paused my talking cause I was in shock. My sister even said on the phone, “Naiintindihan mo ba ang sinasabi ko?” (“Do you understand what I’m saying?”) In my head, millions of calculations occurred. Will I or not? I felt I had an obligation to intervene but I didn’t. The call ended. The group of snatchers were gone. The poor guy didn’t know what just happened.
I hesitated because I didn’t know the enemy. They’re exact number? What weapons they do or don’t have? Will I get help from the other people around? And so on . . .
As for the poor guy, I think it’s half his fault. Never withdraw money from an ATM in a very crowded place. That makes you an easy target.
10:59pm, 19 December 2009.
How important to us Filipinos is the concept of “Ninong” and “Ninang” (Godparents)? What does it mean? And its association with Christmas?
Customarily, this time of the season is the point where we (only) remember our Godchildren. Notice the parentheses. Like what I did. I made my list and got to thirteen (13), six boys and seven girls. Ranging from ages 1-12. But I actually attended the baptisms of just five. Am I a bad Godfather for that?
For a certain period, I was an extravagant “Ninong”. Going out my way to personally pick out costly gifts. It was hell difficult to keep up. Every year, besting your previous Christmas goodies was tough. Kids these days remember all too well. In the age of massive information in multiple media formats, the young ones are equipped with the knowledge and skills unlike any generations have gone before. Like what they say, elephants remember. And the kids of the 2000’s are today’s elephants.
The last three Christmases, I became lethargic. Cash. Cash. Cash. All I handed out was Cash. I once thought that my Godkids would like to get something they really like and not the ones I gave. Pragmatism is always welcome in my book.
But is this the essence of being a Godfather? Christmases and birthdays. The one called next-in-line if something unexpected happens to the parents (knock twice on wood)?
We are the luckiest people in the world. Family and friends entrusted the care of their children to you. It is an absolute honor to be chosen. All these statements may be considered true if the parents truly and faithfully know why they chose you over the other.
Age defines your role to your Godchildren. When you all grow mature, as your Godfather, I say: come to me IF you want an opinion on what course to take in college; come to me IF you have problems you couldn’t bring up to your mom or dad; come to me IF you want to break an addiction; come to me IF you impregnate somebody or get pregnant; come to me IF you accidentally shot someone; come to me IF you are heart-broken; come to me IF worse comes to worst; come to me IF . . .
I will show you why your father and mother chose me.
8:56am, 29 November 2009.
The family was supposed to stay home this All Saints’ Day due to the recent weather condition, mom’s runny nose and the car issue.
First issue, weather. The sun shined brightly that Sunday morning. Sky was high and blue. Typhoon Santi was long gone. After ravaging the Southern Tagalog region, she left with at least 14 dead and millions worth of damages. At least she was quick. Like what I tweeted a couple of days ago, “#Santi is like most men. They come in quick, do their thing & leave without saying goodbye. Most times, they don’t even remember your name!” – @witt24, 6:48pm October 31st.
Second issue, mom’s runny nose. For starters, she was scared not to visit her parents and in-laws. Terrified, actually. The night before, she had a dream. It was so vivid that she can see all the characters in it very clearly. Her story: “You (that’s me) were with me and Nanay Bireng (her mom) and we saw Lola Choleng (her mom-in-law) across the road. You (me again) ran up to her and everybody was happy and smiling.” A simple dream undeniably forced my sick mom to go visit everybody.
Third issue, the car. Our 12 year old Honda City was in the shop, having a badly needed paint job. She was starting to look like an old lady with bad patches of grey hair. My brother Jeng was keen on having the car refurbished. He even put up the money for it! Good son, good brother! Anyway, I was the one who frequently use the car to work in Calamba and since my timely new assignment to our Central Office in Makati (a place where I cannot afford to take the car regularly to) led to the “checking-in” of the car in the body shop. After more than a month or so in the shop, too many pending jobs there at Precision Spray but excellent paint job though so it was sort of worth it, it was released on the 31st of October. Just in time for the Day of the Dead.
All was set. Weather’s fine. Mom’s nose still running, still cracking stupid jokes. Car was semi-okay, having some trouble with idling and the fumes of the new paint still lingers inside. We headed out at around 8:30am. First stop, Cavinti. Mom’s hometown. A small community atop a mountain in Laguna. We passed through Pagsanjan and we saw this:
All photos taken while in a moving vehicle by Tinay.
Good thing, local chief executive Mayor E.R. Ejercito was on top of things. He was definitely hands-on. He was out there directing clean-up drives with the help of the armed forces, the police and local volunteers. Assisting in traffic management and abating the residents and visitors of his town that everything’s gonna be alright. The boatmen were also back at work, flagging-down would be customers. The famous rapids was murky brown though, I don’t think anyone would like to shoot it that day. In the latest report, one death was recorded in Pagsanjan.
The zig-zag climb to Cavinti was a breeze. Normally, we are accompanied by a number of other vehicles racing towards the towns of Luisiana, Lucban and Cavinti. But this time, we found ourselves alone for most of the zig-zag. Maybe people decided to stay home this time in view of the events that occurred. Some fallen trees along the way, most of them were cut and placed on the sides of the road.
At our ancestral house, we ate dinuguan and pritong tilapia prepared by my uncle, lazy but a superb cook, before leaving for the cemetery. The cemetery in Cavinti is on top of a hill. Very perilous during rainy days. Muddy slippery slopes, next thing you know your left foot is in an open grave. It was hot as hell that afternoon. We stayed for a few minutes, said our hellos and goodbyes, and left.
Next stop, San Pablo. It’s been a while since the last time I was in San Pablo, the Coconut Festival in January, I think. My two passengers were asleep as I traverse back via Calauan. I wanted to pass through Liliw, Nagcarlan and Rizal but mom and Tinay said we do not know what happened in those roads in the past 48 hours, we might get stuck. So we took the high road, uphill road of Calauan to San Pablo. My dad was anxiously waiting for us to get there, he was there first. We let him take the bus at Turbina for the reason that he wants quality bonding time with his two celibate (unmarried) sisters. This trip is on a time constraint by the way, hence the swift visit to the cemetery. I had little to eat back in Cavinti so I ate some more when we got to the house in San Pablo. My tita cooked chopsuey, fried chicken and menudo. I was expecting paayap which was the usual there, nevertheless, everything was yummy. After the banana I had, I decided to stay home and not join them to the cemetery. I was up at 2am that day and a short nap was what I’m yearning for. Slept on the all too familiar couch, where I rested a number of times before. At around 515pm, after a few chit-chat, we left San Pablo for home.
The trip home was fairly smoother via Alaminos and Sto. Tomas. All roads are go. No slow traffic whatsoever. We were home by 630pm. A total of 175 kilometers registered on my trip odometer, Pacita-Cavinti-San Pablo-Pacita.
11:46am, 2 November 2009.