Friday, August 15, 2014

The Kadayawan Invasion 2014 Party

It's Kadayawan once again here in Davao City, and has got one big party planned for all of us this Saturday, August 16, 2014!

Watch these videos for a preview:

Called "Kadayawan Invasion", DJs from all over the country are set to spin some serious music for Davao's most hardcore partyphiles.  I'm more of a wine and cheese kind of person, but this sounds like fun!  See you all there!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lourdes, France

Never would I have imagined myself going to Lourdes, France, me, being a heretic and purveyor of religious jokes.  I was traveling with my mom, aunts and uncles, and I understood that it was one of their life goals to visit this city.

The Gave de Pau River flowing within Lourdes

Lourdes is located in Southern France, about a 6-hour train ride from Paris.  Lourdes looked nothing like Paris -- almost no people on the streets, littered with washed out, almost restrained architecture.  There were no shopping malls, an H&M or even a Starbucks. I'm like what on the Good Earth am I doing here?

I learned that tourists come here in droves and congregations not to go sight-seeing, but specifically for divine intervention.  Lourdes is famous for the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the now Saint Bernadette.  It is a town of merely 15,000, but attracts 5 million tourists a year, more than the Philippines!  The water flowing from the apparition site is said to have miraculous healing properties.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Interiors of the Sanctuary

A cup of the miraculous water.  For a one euro donation, you get this plastic cup.
Background shows the water fountains where you can get as much water as you please.
My aunts bought larger canisters and brought home the water!

Drinking the water coming from the Lourdes spring, or bathing in it, is believed to cure the sick.  I drank the water expecting fireworks and an out-of-body experience but I have to say it was probably the best tasting water I've ever had.  I think I came back to the fountains ten times and I did feel good afterwards.  My mom had just come from the baths and she coaxed me into trying it too.  With nothing to lose (but my clothes), I obliged.

The baths

The line to the baths was not that long, unfortunately, as I was not mentally prepared to shed my clothing in front of total strangers just yet.  My uncle was in line with me, which made it a lot weirder.  At the entrance, the attendants will assign you to a loosely-covered cubicle.  Good thing my uncle was put elsewhere.  I was asked to take off everything, yes, including THAT, and was handed a towel to hide my jewelry.  Seven other men were in the waiting area and I noticed that most of them seemed to be there for the heck of it and were regretting their decision.  But I noticed one guy who was there out of necessity.  He looked absolutely sickly and just really out of options.  I figured hey maybe I was put here for a reason -- to realize how dumb I was not to know how lucky I am.

When it was my turn, I was led into an adjacent room with a marble tub filled with the magical water.  I was asked to dip my feet into the tub and make a wish.  They removed the towel and with the help of the attendants, submerged me into the water for a few seconds.

Feeling renewed and refreshed, I saw the sickly guy outside the baths reunite with his family.  I felt so bad for him and I wish he got the miracle he asked for.

With my mom after leaving the baths
Site of the Our Lady of Lourdes apparitions

The Sanctuary sits on top of the rock that houses the apparition site

The scenic Lourdes countryside

With Tito Tony and Tita Ivy
I loved every bit of our time in Lourdes.  It's a nice place to relax and reflect.  Our next stop? Another religious place called Fatima in Portugal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Super Delayed Post About Japan

No I have not quit blogging yet! Instead of posting another lengthy excuse, I'll get straight to the point.

There's a 90% chance I'm going to Japan with my family next March to experience Sakura, the once-in-a-blue-moon blooming of the cherry blossom trees, or as I'd like to call it, a "beautiful mess". My mom had asked me to search for tickets online at the Delta Airways and Philippine Airlines websites. Like an ecstatic eagle scout, I obliged. The tickets for both airlines are in the $600 range. Expensive, I thought, but mom didn't seem to care. Our trips would last 8 days. Naturally, as with all trips with or without me, I was tagged responsible for creating our itinerary.

I've had numerous layovers in Osaka and Narita en route to the United States and back. In one unfortunate trip back to Manila, our flight had to be canceled. I, my mom, dad and aunt, equipped with no luggage, yen currency nor linguistic know-how, had to spend a night in Narita. I did not see much in Narita but for the hotel and a nearby convenience store where we bought bathroom supplies and underwear.

My interest in Japan goes well beyond the place. I want to see firsthand its insane people and more insane culture. I may have watched a little anime, eaten too much sushi, threw my money away at Saizen and Uniqlo, and stuff you'd rather not know... hell, I might was well be half Japanese! I see no better way to explore my pseudo ethnicity than an immersion in the Land of the Rising Sun, and that's finally going to happen next year!

Have you been to Japan? Any suggestions, tips, advice for a newbie traveler? :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Resolutions for 2012

It's 2012 and I'm thinking "hey why not come up with a new set of resolutions and publish them in a blog post?"

But before I do that, let me share with you my 2010 list and see if I'm up to no good.

1. Have a complete set of abs. - Well I realized that this isn't what I want. My abs are visible but not ripped, which is fine by me. :) HALF CHECK

2. Shop less, give more. - I have given away a TON of my clothes last year to flood victims. Made me feel good to empty my closet and at the same time helping out others! CHECK

3. Reduce my bills. - Switched my cellphone and web hosting plans to cheaper ones. CHECK

4. Travel less. - I came back to Europe and visited China last year. NO CHECK (no worries I had so much fun!)

5. Learn a new skill. - I learned tennis! CHECK

6. Make more friends. - I think I did. lol. CHECK

7. Run a marathon. - Only got to run 10km tops. NO CHECK

8. Design more. - Totally slacked off on this one. NO CHECK

9. Play Dota again. - No time for Dota! Ugh. NO CHECK

10. Play badminton again. - I'm back to playing badminton 2-3 times a week. CHECK

Scorecard: 5.5/10 Not bad eh?

Honestly 2011 was year full of ups and downs, with the downs outnumbering the ups. But I'm happy and looking forward to a great year ahead, and this is how I'm gonna do it: (drumroll please)

1. Travel to Vietnam or Japan. Already made plans with my travel cousin Tinky. If not I'll try to brainwash my friends to come with me.

2. Save up for a trip to London. Four of my friends who traveled to London in 2011 alone all say I should. So I guess I should! I'd like to emphasize that I'm merely "saving up".

3. Visit a local destination: Palawan. I'd love to see the Underground River and Coron. Yes, I have to do this! Right Mica and Renz? :D

4. Shop even less. Yeah I think now is the time to simplify my life. The less stuff I own, the better. And yes, London.

5. Have a more offline life. That means less Facebook, Twitter and Plurk. I'm slowly weaning myself away from Plurk, and cleaning up my Facebook and Twitter timelines. Online detox, so to speak. That, too, means some online properties that are giving me a headache need to be discarded.

6. Buy a new camera. In line with #3, buying a new camera will help me haul my ass off my computer chair and get out more. I wanna shoot nice pictures and possibly get into filmmaking. Hello there Canon 60D.

7. Learn a new language. Perhaps Chinese or Italian.

8. See my nieces more often. My three mini-me's (pictured above) live in Manila and I miss them like crazy. I plan to go to Manila at least twice this year. While I'm at it, I hope to catch up with my friends and my dad.

9. Read more. Now that I have an iPad (thanks to my dear Tita Nora), I can load up ebooks and spend my time just lying around reading.

10. Love life.

What are your resolutions this year?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lucerne, The Schnitzel and Other Swiss Concerns

Lucerne offered us a badly-needed break from urban Madrid. Trees, flowers, bushes, swans and lakes, it could not get any more zen-like than this quaint city (population: 59,000) of Switzerland. So ungodly is 8 o' clock in the evening, that most shops pretty much closed by then, which sucks (big time). Quirks aside, Lucerne is as good as it gets.

When I think Switzerland, I think of the majestic Swiss Alps. The view from Lake Lucerne was terrific, though we came at a wrong time because the train going up the alps were not in season.




Lake Lucerne is in itself a tourist attraction, perhaps Lucerne's main draw. Along the lake stands the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden truss bridge dating back to the 14th century.



The lake is also home to the elegant white swan.



... and cute ducks!



If you're in the area, be sure to check out the famous chocolatier Bachmann. Literally every few minutes a drove of Chinese tourists are bussed into their main store to try their huge selection of chocolates. Since I am about 50% Chinese I guess half of me came from that bus. The tiramisu cake was excellent. The gelatos, which I tried on my second day, were delicious.


Inside the store


And more chocolates!


Gelato Display

Scoops of Tiramisu and Chocolate Gelato

If you're into the religious stuff, the Church of St. Leodegar (St. Leodegar im Hof) is not to be missed. From afar it isn't difficult to spot the church's two imposing spires.

The horns gave it away

Me and my mom

Beautiful interiors of the church

The next day, I walked a few miles to see the Lion Monument or Löwendenkmal. It's a striking rock sculpture dedicated to the fallen Swiss mercenaries who served under France's notorious King Louis XVI. Narnia fans might find it familiar as it evokes the dying Aslan on the stone table.


I was so moved that I came back to the monument three times to take more pictures!


A Vietnamese girl took this pic :)

I read somewhere in my guidebook that I should try Lucerne's famous Schnitzel, a dish originating from Austria. Locally, it is better known as the "Breaded Porkchop". I also read that it was stupendously expensive. So I dropped by my bank to make a significant withdrawal.

This is where I hide all my money

My mom and I braved the freezing weather and walked to the Old Swiss House. The place has been maintained by the same family for generations, and assures that the recipe of their house specialty hasn't changed. I sorta wished their prices haven't changed either lol.


The Schnitzel costs 54 Swiss Francs or in our currency 2,500 Philippine pesos. Quite a sum for an oversized porkchop. The great thing though is the butler serving our table really took his time and care creating our dish. He took a big slab of boneless pork and dipped it in what looked like a mixture of cream and butter.


Next, he coated it with bread crumbs.


Then fries it to perfection!




The Schnitzel could feed a family of five, but there were only two of us. My mom said that our breaded porkchop at our bakery in Davao tasted better. I thought it was good and would order it again if I had the chance.

We came back to Etap Hotel where we are booked. I was supposed to share a room with my mom but the shower room had a see-through door!

See-through door is see-through :|

So I booked my own room. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mercado de San Miguel

My first weekend in Madrid was certainly something to look forward to. My cousin Tinky promised to take us to the Mercado, a place she fondly describes as a Valhalla for foodies. She knew I loved good food. I think I love spending money on good food is more like it.

We kicked off the day commuting to the Sentro district of Madrid, where the shopping and the hustle and bustle converge into one place.

It was interesting to see Spanish people of all shapes and sizes, including a mother with her youngest humped on the back of her bike, and an older son driving on his own. Seeing the child in such a precarious position made me nervous, but the commute system in Spain is very bike- and pedestrian- friendly. Every thoroughfare has a dedicated bike lane, though bikes are also allowed on sidewalks.

The first thing I see as I entered the Puerta del Sol is a statue of a bear seemingly groveling at a tree. It is in fact the heraldic symbol of Madrid. Storytellers have it that when Madrid was discovered by its first settlers, they found a bear sniffing a madrone tree (El Oso y El Madroño).

The next thing I see is a man and woman sniffing each other in the square. Ahh, Europeans!

From the market's exterior, the colorful display of fresh fruits and vegetables are enticing passers-by to come inside.

And I'm one of them!

Fresas (Strawberries)

Uvas (Grapes)

Manzanas (Apples)

I couldn't help but notice that the fruit names in Spanish are basically the same in the Filipino language. Presas = Fresas. Ubas = Uvas. Mansanas = Manzanas. Amazing! LOL

A barrage of hungry locals and tourists met us in the entrance.

Hands down, my favorites were the tapas. The ones shown above were made of Bacalao (salted codfish) (left) and Octopus (right). They cost one euro a piece from La Casa del Bacalao.

This one was made of Bacalao paste with fish roe.

Wagyu beef steak. Expensive is my only comment.

When I bought the cheese fondue everyone in my table got excited!

I ended the food binge with a wonderful cup of yogur (yes, that's how they call it) with mixed berries.

Me and my cousin Tinky :D

One aspect of traveling that excites me is the prospect of tasting the local cuisine. If you eat at the same old McDonalds or Starbucks then you are depriving yourself of experiencing culture. I can't say that I didn't miss the food back home, but while I'm away I make sure I keep my mind open to something new or perhaps something challenging. My trip in Madrid gave me that opportunity, and yes, this was just the start of it. :)

Mercado de San Miguel can be found in Plaza de San Miguel near Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. Visit their website: for more info.