30 December 2010


This is a trip that we have been waiting for over a year to happen. This is a chronicle of our adventures and experiences as first time Balikbayans.

We booked our tickets last April and I had already asked for permission to take at least a month and a half off work. And finally on the morning of the 18th we finally started to take our journey back to the Philippines courtesy of our good friend Glen who kindly offered to pick us up at 4 in the morning to take to the airport.

From Wellington, it took a little over 3 hours to go to Brisbane. The Air New Zealand flight was very pleasant. An activity kit was given to Jo-Lo to while away the time, but the individual monitor consoles were more than enough to keep him occupied. The plane service was also top-notch.

At Brisbane, we had to wait for around 5 hours for our connecting flight via Philippine Airlines. While waiting at the terminal, we befriended some fellow Filipinos. There was this very fun little girl who played with Jo-Lo; they definitely made the waiting a bit more bearable.

Oh, and in case you are also first time Balikbayans like us, I would like to inform you that the airport establishments accept only either Australian dollars or credit cards (at least, those we went to).  We had some US dollars with us thinking this will suffice but we did not want to exchange it with AUD and be stuck with unspent paper bills.  So we used Visa credit card instead.

Finally, we saw the Philippine Airlines bus head to the passenger terminal.

After the Air New Zealand experience, I was also expecting the Philippine Airlines facilities to be similar, especially since it is a 7-hour flight.  Sadly, the plane was one of the older models where there is a projector screen on the wall and a couple of small overhead screens.  Oh well.  Service was good though, so that's ok.

When we finally landed in Manila International Airport, my good friend Harry was there to welcome us and bring us to his pad where we were staying for the weekend.  It was great seeing him again!  He pointed out things that were new in the city while Jo-Lo initially got confused about the location of the steering wheel.

My wife and kid were very tired to go out for dinner so they just ate what he had with us while I was keen to have a look around the nearby mall.  So Jo-Lo's first official meal in the Philippines was a Jollibee breakfast which he loved!

Right after breakfast we crossed the road to the Don Bosco Chapel where we wanted to hear mass, this being Sunday and all.  We were quite fortunate that we were able to hear a beautiful mass, coupled with carols by the Don Bosco Seminarians.
And then it's back to the mall to buy mangoes! And bananas!

And while walking around, I spotted Quickly which is in my foodie to-do-list so we ordered and promptly sipped it up in one sitting!

to be continued

27 December 2010

New Year Filipino Observances (Pamahiin)

We are currently here in the Philippines (Baguio, to be exact) celebrating the holidays.  It's been a rough start unfortunately, as the three of us became ill the few days after we have arrived.  But we are feeling much better now, and hopefully this will continue on as we have a lot of things we'd like to do while we're here.

In the meantime, a segment on Filipino customs caught my eye on the morning TV show awhile ago.  It's about our pamahiin for welcoming the New Year.  It is interesting to note that we have actually been observing most of these too back in New Zealand, but due to some special circumstances we could not, as explained below.

1. Collect 12 different kinds of round fruits for prosperity on all 12 months of the new year - this one was especially difficult to do in New Zealand because there is only so much variety in the market: apples, oranges, lemons, cherries, kiwifruit, grapes, watermelon ... while here in the Philippines, add guava, atis, chesa, santol, chico, rambutan, aratilis, duhat... depends on the season too I guess but we have lots more choices.

2. Wear polka dot clothes - My wife has a polka dot shirt!

3. Have spaghetti or pancit on the table for long life

4. Place coins in your pocket and shake it when 12 midnight comes around so you will have money all year round!  Make sure you also have paper bills in your wallet or you'd end up with loads of coins only!

5. Jump around at 12 midnight!  This is especially for the kids; they will grow taller in the following year.  Adults can also share in the fun, and at the same time makes jingling of the coins more fun!

6. Open all doors and windows and turn on all the lights by 12 midnight to usher in good luck.

7. Make lots of noise to drive away bad luck!

8. Make sure your rice container is filled to the brim so it will not run dry in the new year.  My Nanay always takes note of this.

9. Standing at the main doorway, we scatter coins all over the living room, followed by the other rooms.  There is a mad dash for getting these coins because they are considered lucky.

These make our New Year celebration all the more fun and special, especially with family and friends around.

Only a few more days to go... advanced Happy New Year to all!

15 December 2010

Here we come a-carolling!

Last weekend, the Filipino kids here at Johnsonville in Wellington had a Christmas carolling to various Filipino homes. This was made possible by the parents who banded together and thought of getting the kids experience something that we usually have at Christmas time in our own country. The main difference here is that the kids have to be transported by car, as the homes are quite far from each other.

With lively guitar accompaniment by Glen, the kids sang to "Ang Pasko ay Sumapit" and such favourites as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Silent Night. Feliz Navidad was also a pleasure to hear again!

07 December 2010

Johnsonville Christmas Parade (Part 1 of 2)

We had a proper summer last weekend as temperatures rose (some of the highest recorded, I believe), and it was a welcome respite from the cold, windy winter that seemed to extend all through spring. The day was just right for the Johnsonville Christmas parade! People came out to bask in the sun and enjoy the spectacle, which is a yearly event for the town.

One thing that amuses me is their use of heavy machinery for their floats (versus our floats in our Flower Festival where we try to make the vehicle blend with the decorations and make it as undetectable as possible).  Huge trucks are a normal sight.  Kids are usually on the floats and it emphasizes even more how immense the trucks are.
I couldn't decide on which photos to leave out and which to display here, so I'm doing this article in two parts instead.  Enjoy!

The Hare Krishna is quite a popular group here I think.  I sometimes see them chanting their familiar song around Cuba Mall in the city. 

04 December 2010

Cartoon / Anime overflow at Facebook

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood, and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday next week, we hope to see less human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of childhood memories. This is for awareness of Violence against Children, a great cause.
I first saw this announcement on my Facebook wall from some of my Camp V5 friends as they changed their avatars to anime characters.  I followed suit, just in time to see my other friends change their avatars as well.  It's quite a fun activity this has turned out to be!  A lot of my friends chose characters from my generation and I love my anime and cartoons so it has become a sort of time travel to the Saturday Fun Machine for me.  It was interesting to see what my friends' favourite characters are.  I can readily identify majority of these; there were only quite a few that I was not familiar with.

The fun ends on Monday.  More importantly, this activity reminded me (and hopefully a lot of other people too) that violence against children is a big no-no!

Only a couple of days left if you'd like to join!

Related link: Children's Charities Benefit From Mysterious Facebook Trend

30 November 2010

Disaster Preparedness Seminar organised by the Filipino Chaplaincy

The Filipino Chaplaincy has invited the Wellington Emergency Preparedness Office (WEMO) to conduct a Disaster Preparedness Seminar especially for Filipinos. It will be held on the 2nd of December, 5:30-7:00pm at Pearce Room, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Mt.Victoria (Fr. Ambet's parish).

We never know when disaster will hit us, so it's best that we are prepared. This seminar will provide us with information and useful tips about what we need to do and what to prepare when disaster and calamities strike.

So do attend this FREE Seminar. Encourage other friends to attend too, so please pass this information on to your networks.

(source: email announcement from Didith Tayawa)

24 November 2010

The great outdoors?

One thing I sorely miss is "roughing it out" in the great outdoors and sleeping in a tent.  I browse through my past trekking and camping adventures in my blog and loved each and every one of my trips.  What's not to like about sleeping under the stars, cooking food out in the open, spending the day with friends, chillaxing throughout the day?  It was good exercise, and it gave me a better appreciation of the natural treasures our country is blessed with.

In the meantime, my great outdoors is the lawn... awaiting the time when I can build a tent atop a mountain once again.

19 November 2010

Filipino Community Christmas Fair and Children's Party

Christmas is just around the corner! The KASAGIP Charitable Trust would like to invite you, your family and friends to the 2010 Filipino Community Christmas Fair and Children's Party with the theme “Paskong Pinoy” to be held on December 4, 2010 at the Heretaunga College Hall beginning at 3pm. This immediately comes after the Santa Parade in Upper Hutt.

This is open to all Kiwis/Pinoys/Kiwi Pinoys and other interested individuals in the Wellington Region and neighbouring communities. Part of the festivities include a Christmas Lantern (Parol) Making Contest. You may also be interested in renting out a booth during the Fair. And give your Christmas a homey feel by getting a Parol through a $10 donation.

Read more at the KASAGIP Charitable Trust website

15 November 2010

St Brigid's School Fair

When we attended the School Fair last year, Jo-Lo was still in Kindie. Now, he's in Year One! My wife is part of the volunteer crew at the Asian Food stall so we were there a couple of hours early to prepare. But even then we were not able to do much looking around as the day progressed. The Asian food stall is quite popular. I was able to get a hard-bound cookbook though when I did a quick look around with Jo-Lo. Along with a couple of kids' books, for only 3 dollars. A bargain! And then Jo-Lo did some shopping all his own.

Jo-Lo bought Walkie-Talkies for a dollar

It was a fun day but I hope we'll have more opportunities to shop around next time :-)
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