31 October 2007

Of Birthdays and Friends

Last week was a most hectic time for me and team marketing, for it was golf week. Our company holds an annual golf tournament for our customers every year to coincide with our company's anniversary. Marketing is the de-facto organizer for this event, and it can really get very busy!

And so I had two hours' sleep last Friday and ran all over the place coordinating things til 7PM, all the while I not having a decent breakfast or lunch because with all the tension that comes with being an organizer, you can hardly find the appetite to eat. And so you can just imagine how totally drained we were after this event.

I went home to Makati and I decided to sit for a while before packing up to go to Baguio. Bad idea! I fell asleep and woke up at the 7:00AM Saturday sunshine! I left for Baguio at lunchtime and arrived 7.5 hours later. I practically spent my birthday in the bus.

IMG_5563But a pleasant surprise awaited me at home. I was greeted by this birthday banner on the wall. Isn't that sweet! And I had two guests: my best friends since way back in high school, Sonny and Leo! We had a lot of fun catching up.

IMG_5551We had a simple dinner of my favorite tinola which my wife cooked and had a couple of beers while we caught up with each other's lives. It was already 2:00AM when we called it a night. What fun! We promised to meet again before the Halloween vacation is over.

IMG_5554The following day, we went to my parents and brought with us a simple food celebration for my father's birthday, which was still going to be on the 29th but we decided to celebrate it on the 28th instead so it can be a double birthday celebration. My father was actually requesting for a brand of red wine but the liquor ban due to the upcoming elections caught us unawares so that will have to wait.
Monday was quite uneventful apart from being my father's birthday and the local elections. We exercised our right to suffrage and then we were supposed to be on our way to La Union but my wife postponed it. So I stayed at home with baby Jo-Lo and his cousins.

I have limited access to the internet at this time so my next post may be after the Halloween vacation already. So until then, have a meaningful All Souls and All Saints Day ahead!

24 October 2007

Blogger's EB

Last Sunday was a fun day for two families as the Ballesteros family met the Zafra family in Baguio City. Aside from being a small reunion (Arnold and I once lived in the same apartment here in Manila), it was also like a Blogger's EB because I have a blog, and so does Arnold (aczafra.com), his daughter Arianna Shay (happy birthday!), and Jo-Lo.

My wife with Jo-Lo, and Arnold's wife Sharon with daughter Arianna

We met for lunch at O Mai Khan near Rizal Park in Burnham, then proceeded to Oh My Gulay (which was closed!), then took a cab to john Hay for coffee. We went to the butterfly farm (I'll post photos of that next time) afterwards.

Darn, I want a camera like that!

When we went to John Hay, I remembered there used to be a firehouse at the entrance (I think this was called Gate 3 before but is now the main entrance). This is gone. There was also an indoor skating rink nearby with flooring made of wood. That's gone as well. In its place is a food and coffee place. At least, the basketball courts are still there. Nearby this is the butterfly garden.

Inspite of these changes in John Hay (and I love musing about the past and saying that the old John Hay was the best), I found myself enjoying the pine trees, the cool weather, and the company of friends and family.

For more photos, head on to Jo-Lo's blog.

20 October 2007

In the blink of an eye...

... lives are lost, and we are once again faced with the fact that terrorism can hit anytime, anywhere. Our prayers for those who perished in yesterday's Glorietta 2 Mall bombing.


17 October 2007

How do you like your cereal?

Phil commented in my jogging post a couple of articles back:
Jogging is overrated. Stick with the brisk walks. Your knees will thank you someday...

This sent me and Harry researching on which is the better exercise. Our finding: other than joggers burning energy faster than brisk walkers and the time it takes to cover a certain distance is faster for joggers, the benefits between these two are relatively similar. Calories burned by brisk walking can equal that of jogging by doing longer walks. Plus, jogging and running incurs more injuries than walking. So we intend to do more brisk walking in the succeeding days. Running, however, will prove to be very useful when we attract howling-mad dogs. Other than that, we will keep jogging to a bare minimum. Thanks Phil!

[Google "jogging vs walking"for info]

Now we come to the pleasant task of breakfast. Before my jogging days, I usually wake up at 7:30 and I skip breakfast, favoring an occasional small mid-morning snack. Now, we wake up at 5:30 at return to the pad at around 6:15. And then we prepare for work at 7. This new schedule has made me crave for breakfast. Simple solution: I bought cereal. But I'm not particularly fond of the taste so to liven it up a bit, I returned to the grocery store and bought bananas and apples.

And then I thought, what if I just bought processed fruits? They will last longer, and I no longer need to peel anything. But when I saw the price of these bottled fruits, I made a beeline back to the fresh fruits section instead.
Hmmm... what about putting fruit cocktail into my cereal? I wonder how it will taste like?

And then I saw these pre-chopped fruits at 20 pesos per pack (see left side of photo below)! Interesting. One pack can last me three days. So I bought one for testing purposes.
I made a quick detour to these goodies and bought dried red ginger, dried meat, and dried pineapple. Chinese sweets! Ummm... I didn't like the dried shredded meat at all. Sayang.

So I had my cereal with the pre-chopped fruits and I added a banana to it. I like how the banana tasted with the cereal, and the crunchy apple gave the meal some texture. I didn't like the orange wedge, though. I'll stick to the apples and bananas medley until my supplies last. And then it's back to the drawing board, so to speak.
So how do you like your cereal? I'd appreciate a tip or two on how to jazz it up. Is there a milk substitute? My stomach is not exactly fond of milk either. Thanks!

15 October 2007

Take a stand today for Nature

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

In my treks and travels with friends, I have seen how tremendously blessed we are with natural resources. Fresh water flows freely amidst lush greenery. At night, nocturnal creatures sing in a celebration of life while fireflies hover about.

However, in this same light, I have also seen the wanton destruction of the very source of our life: mining for gravel in Quezon, dynamite fishing in Nasugbu, carving off the side of the mountains for roads and houses in Baguio, Laguna, Manila, and Batangas, serving of endangered species in Tagaytay, and garbage everywhere. You see the wonder of nature and the destruction of man, and you know that the clock is turning rapidly towards the destruction of these beautiful things. These are just a handful of places, now imagine that happening to the rest of the country!

I think that, in order for us to be truly successful in bringing about change in the way we treat Mother Nature, two important things must be done:
(1) Educate. Let the people know what is happening. In this case, I applaud the efforts of the documentary teams in our local TV stations for their work in environmental issues. Recently, Channel 7 reported news about the Angel Wing Clam, a delicacy found in the waters of Aklan which is being harvested even in the off-season which has caused its rapid decline.

Another documentary showed seahorses being dried up for export to China, Hongkong and other Asian countries where it is being considered an aphrodisiac. To which custom I simply must shout: HELLOOoo! MODERN MEDICINE HAS SOMETHING FOR THAT! Leave the poor, defenseless seahorses alone!

(2) Alternative livelihood programs
Our fisherfolk, farmers, and people living in these areas have to put food on the table, and they have no other alternative but to do what will give them the most money. Their philosophy would be, why look after the welfare of these animals when my own family is dying of hunger? NGOs have been successful with their ecotourism projects; the government can likewise step-up similar activities in the countryside as livelihood sources.

I actually have a third item on my list; it's the active reinforcement and implementation of laws that are supposed to protect our flora and fauna. Empower the guardians of nature by providing them with the necessary equipment and salary to help them do their job efficiently. But this third item may just be the most difficult to enforce, unfortunately. Such is the reality in our beloved country.

So we must do what we must. Educate ourselves and those around us. Begin by segregating and recycling trash. I am proud to say that my wife has started a trash segregation scheme at home.

There are small things that we can do to help the environment which matters a lot when everybody will do it:
(1) Throw your plastic wrappers in garbage bins; recycle, segregate trash; don't let faucets drip; turn off lights when not in use; carpool.
(2) Do not buy products from endangered species! Support my advocacy not to eat Tawilis! Include the seahorse, angel wings clam, and other endangered species in the Philippines.
(3) Spread the word about these endangered species so others can have informed choices.
(4) Volunteer your time or contribute to an environmental cause. Check out Hands on Manila for activities
(5) Go out and experience nature! Visit La Mesa Ecopark, a success story on how organizations can make a difference. Or join an ecotour of the World Wildlife Fund and see for yourself how truly blessed we are, and what we stand to lose if we don't act now.

09 October 2007

May himala!

Ladies and gentlemen, there's a miracle! May himala!

The jogging session my padmate Harry had been planning for weeks has finally started. He was actually waiting for me to be ready, and today was D-day.

Miracle #1: I woke up at 5:30! Well, Harry actually roused me from my restful slumber. I groggily searched for my worn-out rubber shoes and got ready while Harry eyed me by the doorway. Excited? hehe

Miracle #2: We're jogging! I would have preferred brisk walking for starters but there we were. I did a combination of brisk walking and jogging. We circled the block, then moved to the rooftop of the condo for more rounds.

Miracle #3: We're going to the office at 8! We won't be late!

On the downside, I'm not really a morning person so I still feel a bit sleepy as I type this entry on the way to the office. I wonder if this newfound activity will make drastic changes to my morning habits. Yeah, waking up early for one things is really drastic for me. It's a good thing, though. So let's see!
Sunrise, is that you?
["Himala" photo credit: Database of Philippine Movies]

01 October 2007

Taytay Falls in Majayjay, Laguna

Majayjay is one of my favorite destinations because it's relatively easy to go to whether by private transportation or when you commute, and there isn't really a hike involved to get to the falls, there are stores near the registration area for food stuff, and it's simply the nicest way to relax in the midst of beautiful nature.

But ever since the road was constructed, throngs of people have been visiting the place. It can sometimes be an inconvenience when you arrive later in the day and find that every inch of prime camping land has already been taken.

We were, however, taken by surprise when we arrived last Saturday. There were only a couple of tents in the area! We were thus able to get a rather wide space that's quite near the falls. I learned later on that there was actually a storm brewing up. So that's why! Good thing we experienced only drizzle every now and then.

But still, people started coming in droves by late afternoon and soon the bank became a colorful sea of canvass. But still not as many people during the summer.

We had adobo for lunch. Janice cooks a mean adobo!

Not many people around. But it was a different story altogether when the late afternoon brought crowds with it. Still, it was fun having other people about.

This water source was conveniently located beside our camping site.

c-c-c-c-cold water!

This pile of rocks are a new addition to the lagoon. Part of the overhanging cliff used for wall climbing crashed down early this year. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. However , there is a rather disturbing, cinematic reason why such damage was incurred. I have yet to watch a movie to see if the incident narrated to us really happened. Will update you on that.
Cooking dinner
There were 4 of us on day 1. Later that afternoon, Sir Sam and Mommy Helen, as well as Harry arrived in time for dinner and socials. Yipee!

We had a couple of guests from one campsite, and the guitar was loaned to us from another campsite. Why can't we all live in harmony like this in the urban jungle?

Come Sunday, we had loads of fun goofing around in the lagoon and taking photos after our late breakfast. At around 11, we started packing up. But guess what. It rained! Just when we were about to pack up, and we had changed into our dry clothes already. We waited for the rain to stop but after half an hour, we decided to hastily pack everything up. We got wet again, including our bags and mats.

We stopped by a restaurant along the way for late lunch, and I arrived home at 7:30PM. What a trip. Lesson learned: check the weather!

It was still a fun trip though. And we have lots of amazing photographs for memorabilia.

I love it!
Warning: For those who wish to visit Majayjay, better make your trip very early in the morning. Traffic can be terrible because south Superhighway is being renovated.

[some of these amazing photos courtesy of Dave David]
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