29 September 2010

Gilberd Bush Reserve

The Gilberd Bush Reserve is around 15 minutes' drive from Johnsonville. This is actually the third time I've been here. The second time, Jo-Lo and I hiked from our home in Paparangi and it's a good hour's walk.

The scenery here is breathtaking, as you can see in the photos. It reminds me of Tagaytay where you can have an impressive view overlooking Taal Lake and Volcano. In the case of this park, you get a view of the bay and Matiu Island.

There is a wide open space here, perfect for outdoor activities. The pathway is quite popular for joggers and people walking their dogs (or is it the dogs walking their owners?).
 There are two picnic tables where you can relax the afternoon away with friends.

In our case though, the famous Wellington winds prompted us to go to the deck instead where the slopes afforded us some shelter from the gusts.

Actually, I am not exactly sure if the place we went to is still part of the Gilberd Bush Reserve because if you have a look at the map view of the Google Map below, the territory does not include the right side of the park where we went to. At any rate, just follow the route going to this Reserve, then just head off all the way to the end of Ladbrooke Drive and you will get to the dead end / parking lot, from where the wide open space awaits you.

24 September 2010

Our unique history with Israel

It is a very little known fact that for two brief but significant moments, our history intertwined with the Jews' own: at the onset of the Second world war, and at Israel's declaration of Independence.

In the first instance, our Commonwealth government under President Manuel L. Quezon allocated 10,000 visas for Jews fleeing the Nazi tyranny in 1939. About 1,200 were able to make it to Manila and escape the concentration camps. But in 1941, the Japanese attacked and occupied the city of Manila. It was a trial the Filipinos and the Jews alike had to endure and ultimately survive.

When other countries closed their doors to the European Jews, the Philippines opened theirs.

The second event happened in 1948, when President Roxas instructed Philippine representative Carlos P. Romulo to vote in favor of the independence of Israel before the United Nations, breaking the tie between those for and against. Israel then declared its Independence on 18 May 1948, a celebration which Roxas sadly would not witness as he would die of a heart attack on 15 April.

Who would have thought that our humble country, the Philippines, was instrumental to such world events?

On 21 June 2008, a seven-meter high sculpture called Open Doors designed by Filipino artist Junyee (Luis Lee, Jr) was inaugurated at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon LeZion, Israel. The monument commemorates the 1939 event when Filipinos provided shelter to the Jews in the face of racial discrimination.

Learning about these made me proud to be a Filipino. Inherently, I believe that we have compassionate hearts and great courage, and that we have the ability to become better citizens of our country and of the world. We were a great nation once; if we work together we can be great once more.

Due credit must be given to then Philippine Ambassador to Israel Antonio Modena who launched this campaign to remember the Philippines' humanitarian support for the Jews. Sadly, he passed away only a year before and was not able to see his work come to fruition. Let us not forget again these momentous events in our history.

Read / watch these related stories from Inquirer.net:

Pinoy Holocaust Sculpture to rise in Israel
Envoy pays homage to Roxas role in Israel independence
Monument in Israel honors Filipinos

Youtube: Philippine Monument in Israel

21 September 2010

Time flies

I was Facebooking my Saturday evening away when my wife mentioned to me that the 16th of September marked our second year anniversary here in New Zealand. Wow, has it been that long already? I can still remember the uncertainties we felt when we packed our bags and set off for the Land of the Long White Cloud two years ago. We didn't know anybody here, and all we had packed in our 3 suitcases and hand-carried bags were clothes, my camping cookset, a laptop, a Lea Salonga CD, some Lego bricks, a Macross action figure, some medicine, a Yummy magazine, the Adobo Book, and a journal containing messages from my former office colleagues. We didn't have any job offer, nor did we have a pre-arranged place to stay in. Crazy, wasn't it?

We made it through the first two nights courtesy of Kuya Mon, a mailing list admin based here in Wellington who tried to help us find a place before we arrived but instead we switched to plan B which was a couple of nights at their place.

From there on we experienced the kindness of strangers: from taking us out on weekends to forwarding us job vacancy notices, giving advice on what we need to do, to giving things for the house. It was an eye-opener for me. I have been lucky to have good neighbours back in the Philipines too, but all the while I was assuming that we would be left to our own devices in this land. But we formed new, great friendships along the way.

The first year was quite difficult, to be honest. The first four months weren't so bad because I concentrated on finding a job. But when that was sorted and our lives gradually settled into a daily rhythm, I'd catch myself daydreaming about what I would've been doing at that time in the Philippines. I missed my friends, our mountain climbing adventures, our out of town trips, weekend movie nights, Friday gimmicks. I missed my family.

But that's not to say I'm not happy here. Sure, I lived quite a busy life in Manila and Baguio and enjoyed it tremendously. But now I also find this relatively quiet life suits me just fine too. This actually reminds me of the old days in Baguio when life was simple. I could spend weekend afternoons chillaxing at home with my family, or on sunny days friends are just a phone call away and nature trips are less than half an hour away. I'd love to do a camping trip soon.

For now, two eventful years have gone, and I look forward to more stuff life has to offer in the years to come.

18 September 2010

Saturday stroll at the Aotea Lagoon

Sunny weekends call for trips to the park. So after a series of phone calls to various friends, we were off to an impromptu trip to a place we've never been to before (although it's only about half an hour by car away): the Aotea Lagoon in Porirua, Wellington.

This place reminds me of Burnham Park in my hometown of Baguio City in the Philippines where we have a man-made lake popular for boat rides. The Aotea Lagoon is also artificial. But rather than being landlocked, the Aotea Lagoon is connected to the Porirua Harbour via a culvert located underneath the model windmill.
There is an 833m path that goes all the way around the pool which is a perfect spot for jogging. There's also quite a number of picnic tables and loads more green space for kids to run around in. Unfortunately, part of the children's playground was under renovation and the flying fox (one of the longest around) was not available. Still, there were other facilities the kids had fun in.

A railroad track runs around the park.  On Sunday afternoons a mini train actually runs through these tracks and is a popular attraction for kids.  I myself would feel excited riding on such a train as it cruises through tunnels and over bridges!  We went there on a Saturday so we weren't able to see this, unfortunately.

There's a Rose Garden too, and with Spring around the corner it will surely be a beautiful spot come Summertime.

There's clean toilet facilities, and free barbecue and picnic areas.  Fishing is permitted, as well as canoeing (but you have to bring your own canoe!).  Swimming is prohibited though so don't come in your bathing suit!

Feeding the ducks and seagulls is also a popular pasttime here.

The Aotea Lagoon is another place where the family can have fun amidst nature.  Truly a fun discovery!

Additional information about this place can be found in the Porirua City Council website.

14 September 2010

Renting in New Zealand: free seminar for new migrants

"Renting in New Zealand"

When : Wednesday 22nd September 2010
Time : 6.00pm -7.30pm
Where: Room 3, Te Awa Kairangi building,
corner of Laings Rd and Myrtle St, Lower Hutt

Presenter: Shayne Lyndall, Department of Building and Housing

Topics covered:
  • What to look for when looking for a place to rent
  • Rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords
  • Disputes resolution

There will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session.

Light supper will be provided.

To register contact

Vesna West
Settlement Support Coordinator
Phone (04) 570 6786
email vesna.west@huttcity .govt.nz

10 September 2010

06 September 2010

Disaster struck

You will truly never know when a disaster will hit.

Last Saturday, we woke up to a sunny morning. Winter weekends can be such a drag so when we see the sun up and about on a Saturday, spending the time outdoors is almost inevitable. Sure enough, we received a phone call from a family friend inviting us to soak up some sun in the park. My wife thought about our other friends and proceeded to ring them up. That's when we learned that there was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Christchurch at around 4:30AM!

We immediately tuned in to the news and saw the destruction. It was surreal, seeing those photos about an earthquake that happened in the South Island, so close to where we are and yet outside it's a shining as if it was another ordinary day.

Not so for the people in Christchurch... but it's a miracle that no one was killed.

This disaster has jolted us back to reality that an earthquake can happen when we expect it the least, and that we need to prepare for it by:
- allocating provisions of food, water and shelter
- having a disaster coordination plan in place in the family and with friends.

This disaster also reminded me of the major earthquake in Baguio City whose 20th anniversary was "celebrated" last June and frankly it's something I would rather not experience again.  But prepare we must.

My wife has allocated some foodstuffs and water, and we are currently on the lookout for a good tent just in case. And a portable stove.

Incidentally, New Zealand has a website that provides useful information in disaster preparedness. The Get Thru website also includes a checklist of things we need and to cope with a disaster for up to 3 days. There's information that not only people here in New Zealand but also in other countries can make use of.

Photo credit: Stuff.co.nz. View other photos and news in the Stuff.co.nz website
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