This day has been an eventful one. Getting news my mom had to be rushed to the ER after falling off a chair due to low blood sugar. And in the course of contacting my aunt, I found out that my sister is not with my mom because she had to fly over earlier to the bedside of a dear friend who is critically ill. As the hours pass, it became apparent, her dear friend has passed away.
This friend has been so invaluable to us, for standing by with us through thick and thin, always a laugh away to cheer us up, and has that endearing grace under the line of fire, as she battled the big C. But alas, as to any lovely melody called life, everything comes to an abrupt end.
A life for a life..my mother luckily survived her fall, and we are so thankful that she only gets a sling and nothing else life threatening, has been discharged and is now home. My sister is on her way back to my mom, after paying her last respects to our dear friend.
Our dear friend is gone, she will be sadly missed, but her memories will remain in our hearts. Thank you Lord for easing her pain, thank you for giving her 48 lovely years. Thank you for allowing her to share her brief life with us. May she find continued rest and peace.
As promised here is the continuation of our vacation escapade. So heading to Manila via Eva Air, flight went smoothly, food is okay. I think I slept a lot, lack of sleep a couple of days before due to last minute errands, and the constant weighing/packing of our stuff. Another thing I like with Eva Air, we are still permitted to have 2 free check-in luggages, though, as with all other airlines weight limit has been reduced from 70 lbs each to 50 lbs each. Also at least on international flights, access to on-board entertainment is free, unlike in US domestic flights it is like being nickle and dimed for everything!
I always like to know where we are while flying high above, glad to be able to see our location every now and then. In this photo, we were just nearing Taipei.
Manila and Taipei are on the same time zone, and we reached Taipei at about 6:40 am. We left San Francisco past midnight already, so at least we only lost a day going to Asia.
Layover in Taipei went great, stayed there for about 2.5 hrs, enough time to gather our thoughts, and enjoy the airport. Then off again to Manila..excitement building up! It is about 2 hours flight time, so time for one more meal on board.
Flight arrived in Manila close to noon time and after 2 hours woohoo..out of the terminal. The distinct feel of heat and humidity in the air. But it is not that hot as I remember it in 2008 when I went home at same time of that year. My in-laws did say temps were considerably cooler than usual for a few days then and we are feeling the tail end of it. When they say it is cooler, they are talking about temps hovering in the 68F mark. Usual temps in Manila normally hovers in the 80F and higher range.
Metro Manila is a hodge podge of the old and the new, and there are just a lot of new shopping malls, enormous in size. There is also a big boom in real estate particularly condominiums. Finally, the country is slowly catching up to its Asian neighbors.
In our almost 3 weeks of stay, we have been doing a lot of mall hopping. Funny to even think of it, but there is just a lot to see, especially for my hubby who has not been home for the past 15 years. Land is getting scarcer here, so malls here are often built several stories high, and really intense marketing at play here. Whether actual shopping or just window shopping, always a lot of people inside the malls. I think in part because it is more comfortable with the airconditioning, than being outdoors in the heat.
But let's start with home!
This is home sweet home in Pasig...house pets taking their noon time siesta:
Looks great to see our place there. This is the time of the year we chose to visit the Philippines, I am comfortable it will not rain a lot, and no flooding danger. It floods in Pasig, and due to global warming rains have been heavier too. The level of water that enters the house reaches midway to the grotto, (where my hubby sits), good thing the pet turtle did not choose to escape. And when water reaches that spot, expect the road to be already waist deep.
I did some planting in the garden..cannot resist not to plant heheh! Planter box was empty, stray cats been digging out the plants or making a mess of it. So I found some nice jade plants one day. They also have lots of sanseveira, growing like gangbusters there. Have replanted some, though I have to move the jade plants a little more under the canopy, it might just not survive when the rainy season returns. Had to improvise with the soil, they do not really have cactus soil there. Soil in the Philippines is mostly loamy, thick, rich, soil. And I think some at home were from mud that came down during flooding too. It is just way too thick. Surprisingly, the sanseveira grows well in it even if the soil is too wet. So I think the weather and temperature plays a bigger role in its abundant growth. Being hot and humid, it bodes well for the plants to survive even in soil that will normally kill the roots already. Have to constantly remind them not to water these new plants everyday.In Manila, the general rule of thumb has always been water the plants everyday. So begging them not to water these plants sounded quite weird for them hahah!
I also found a Desert Rose in my mom-in-law's garden..luckily it is in bloom :-)
Anyone wants some pizza?? I have seen monster pizza before, but this one beats it! Just about 30-inch across and costs around 950 pesos (around $21), a special sale price, the seller promoting this humungous size. And this is not the biggest size yet..there is a 70-inch one too!
As I have mentioned earlier, Manila is a good mix of the old and the new. For something looking old, you will always find old churches in every city or hometown, like the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Pasig. It is a 15th century church and I have always admired its quiet grandeur through the years. A silent witness to all the important aspects of our growing years and beyond.
And now for the new..newer and bigger malls all over:
SM (short for Shoemart) has been building like crazy in most major cities. This one called SM MOA or SM Mall of Asia sits on reclaime land, with land area of about 42 hectares.
SM is owned by a Chinese corporation, and since it was just about Chinese New Year when we came, lots of Chinese New Year decor in the mall: Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Now going to another area called BGC, stands for Bonifacio Global City in the City of Taguig. BGC used to be a military base called Fort Bonifacio. In recent times, portions of the land has been sold and is now a premier tourist area, with lots of upscale condominums and shopping. One of the newest malls built is again in the SM chain, called SM Aura Premier. It is being promoted as a bit more high end mall with amazing panaromic rooftop views accessible to the general public. It is a nice mall indeed, but to be honest, ordinary folks will find it hard to shop there, quite expensive for most Filipinos. It may be attractive though to tourists and expats if they want to just to be able to shop in relative peace.
In front of SM Aura: this intersection is such a nightmare for traffic..
I like going here, just to be at the rooftop Sky Park..for the amazing views around Taguig and the ever changing skyline: click to expand photos
There is another mall nearby called Market! Market! Nice name for a grouping of various bargain stores and other typical mall stores. It is also an area were there is a huge selection for souvenir food and goodies. In the Filipino tradition of having a "pasalubong" or a take home present, it makes it really easy to make a selection especially if one is looking for regional delicacies. This mall also has various call centers. Like in India, the Philippines has a lot of call center representatives. They call this industry as BPO - business process outsourcing. The ability of most Filipinos to speak bilingually, helps this industry thrive.
Now off to another mall bordering the cities of Mandaluyong and Pasig, another SM property, called SM Megamall. When I was stills studying then later on working in Manila, this has been our favorite hangout, with its cinemas, and stores, and greather proximity to our home. Even then up to now, it is still a popular place to be in, have recently expanded its mall to give was to a Fashion Hall. It is so popular that it is a nightmare of a traffic to be near this place.
Looks like someone looking over my hubby's shoulder hehe!
More Chinese New Year decor:
Loads of people coming in everyday in this mall, escalators and elevators are running at its peak, all the time: feels like watching a subway rush hour spree!
And of course, shopping not complete till you start getting hungry and head to the food court or in other restaurants..so many choices, local or foreign cuisine.
And this is the new side recently opened: the Fashion Hall. It also houses their IMAX theaters, bowling alley and skating rink.
Another mall area we love to visit is the Glorietta-Greenbelt area in the City of Makati. Makati being the financial district, they have these mall area that really caters to the elite shopper while finding a good mix for the low-medium scale shopper. I like most their landscaping, they have maintained the lush outdoors nicely instead of just looking like a sterile grey urban jungle.
Truly love this hedge of vandaceous orchids woohoo!
Aside from mall hopping, we were able to fit in some much needed family bonding time. Brought our family to Manila Ocean Park. It is smaller in scale compared to the aquariums here in the US, but it is fun enough to visit for kids and students, and the rest of the family. When we came here, we were with busloads of students, so it was a bit crazy going in and out trying to dodge the crowd. But it sure was a fun day!
We also got the chance to go out of town to the City of Tagaytay. Tagaytay is noted for its cooler temperatures and the Taal Volcano. This volcano is still active and is noted for being a volcano within a volcano. It is about 50 km away from Manila and is said to be the 2nd most active volcano in the Philippines.
Lots of outdoors activities here in Tagaytay. We went to an area called Picnic Grove. Hiking, ziplining, bird watching..fun time!
A cool zipline view, of Taal Volcano. The body of water you see is the lake, which is actually the crater of the volcano. Inside this lake there is another protruding tip, which is another crater. Hence, a volcano within a volcano.
Another area we visited is called Palace in the Sky. No palace here for sure, just ruins of what would have been a presidential resthouse during the Marcos Regime. This place now just a place to get a good view, not too well maintained either as it is a painful reminder of greed and plunder in the country's political history.
So there you have it! Highlights of our vacation! Always glad to come home!
And best of all being with family!
It takes a lot of patience to be with family, same thing to return to our homeland, with its quirks and traffic, lots and lots of people everywhere. Just got to have the heart to enjoy it there! Till our next trip whenever!
We took a much needed vacation from late Jan to 23 Feb 2014, and headed home to the Philippines. My hubby's 2nd trip home after 15 years..way too long! I have been home several times, but mostly due to emergency and sad events, so this time took this opportunity to go, and just do it for the fun and leisure that we want it to be.
Normally, I would book a direct flight as I find it tiring to make transfer connections. It is a long 16-hour journey and finding ways to enjoy being cooped up in that flying log is hard as it is. However, on this journey I decided to try a different airline, so for this trip, it will be a first using Eva Air. Eva Air being a Taiwanese company, its hub for connections will be Taipei airport.
Well, am happy to say I am glad we did that change! My first time to visit Taipei even only through their airport and I am just so impressed with their level of service and sophistication. On usual airports that they just throw lots of little restaurants and duty free shops, here they took the time and effort to beautify their waiting lounges. Beautify is an understatement, it is really like a work of art. Nature and fun rolled into one. Took some photos to share with you all:
Big murals on the walls:
Hello Kitty decor rules this airport hahah! Themed waiting lounges and breastfeeding rooms with the Hello Kitty ambience:
And some of their aircrafts carry the Hello Kitty & Sanrio gang on their exterior designs too! Sanrio is a well-known Japanese company that makes these cute little toys and stationery/gift items, which I grew up with heheh!
Other themed waiting lounges: the numbers like C7, C5, C4 etc..those corresponds to the boarding gate, there is a staircase and elevator going down to the actual boarding gate. Makes it fun and easier to remember where your lounge is after hanging around all over the airport while waiting for the connecting flight.
Woohoo! And then I found their orchid display lounge! Happy, Happy me!!!
Chinese New Year was coming up when we arrived there, so it is a dominant decor too:
The layover in Taipei is well worth it! A chance experience to see the fusion of East and West..of art and nature. Plus their ever strong wifi connection is a definitie bonus! Made it easier to give updates to our loved ones via viber and facebook messaging.
For added fun during our trip home, I have now started my collection of Starbucks mugs. Ubiquitous Starbucks always there when you need 'em heheh! The Qatari mugs were a gift from a cousin of ours who works in Qatar:
And that's for the flight portion of our vacation..more to come for the Philippine segment. Till next trip Taipei!
As we all can now see endlessly on tv, on the internet and all other news broadcast, a terrible and tragically strong typhoon hit the Philippines. Philippines is my homeland, and any part of this country suffering hurts so much.
Our country is a veteran when it comes to typhoons averaging 20+ every year. During the past few years, we have observed in the Philippines that the intensity of the storms, has changed a lot. Places that did not used to flood gets flooded now. It does not even take a typhoon to cause flash flooding there these days. And then Super Typhoon Haiyan presented itself. Preparations had been made prior to its arrival. I read about it, warned my friends and family there, and everyone knew it was coming, and the uniform answer is our Lord will help us through. I was just not sure how much they did understand the intensity of this storm as it was being shown on all the forecasts. When I saw that storm on radar, and it was almost covering the entire islands, it really made me so anxious, but I kept praying that one way or another our Lord will help us through. The Philippine government has been proactive enough to make the necessary evacuations, cancelling classes ahead of time, cancelling plane and inter-island shipping activities to prepare for the storm, repeatedly reminding all the people to brace themselves for this monster storm.
But as we now see, this monster storm was just way too much to handle. It clearly blindsided everyone, and the tragedy is unfolding and getting worst as days go on. First responders cannot respond if they themselves are victims or are killed. Local government personnel immobilized due to damaged vehicles and themselves victims or likewise dead. The people followed orders to be evacuated, but it just did not work because the storm surge came in as high as coconut trees. The body count of dead is hard to ascertain, as many are either buried under their collapsed homes, or may have floated away to sea. Debris all over the roads, cadavers everywhere, no power, no communication..and the list goes on and on.
My Philippines is home, not a rich one but it is our homeland. Most may be financially and economically poor but our wealth is our family, our faith, our integrity, our will to survive. Right now, this is being put to a terrible test.
Human compassion is much needed now. Beyond religious, cultural and political differences, all we need is compassion. It will be a long haul recovery. At this time of the year when the holidays are just around the corner, lots of families have nothing there now..no home or destroyed homes, no livelihood, no family left or maybe missing family members.
The typhoon season is still not over, hopefully no more catastropic ones for this year. My own family is lucky enough to be in Metro Manila so they did not have to meet this horrible typhoon. My sister-in-law, who lives in Cebu, after a couple of days was able to send in message she is okay. Any good news at this point is a cause for joy. Very grateful for the outpouring of help coming from all over the world. A lot more challenges are going to come over there. One step at a time. In the meantime, prayers and help, for the victims, for our Philippines.
As I chat with my family in the Philippines yesterday evening, a sad event was happening in the central islands there. A strong earthquake occurred with a 7.2 magnitude hit the Visayas, particularly Cebu and Bohol. Our family advised us not to worry about our sister-in-law in Cebu, she is safe, and has already managed to call Manila to reassure everyone.
I have been to Cebu last 2011, my first time to enjoy the city instead of just a brief connection stopover. Love that city. Very quaint, and relaxed feeling, with its modern island vibe. We were actually planning to include it in our future trip early next year, to visit our sister-in-law too. Depending on how things go now, we may just try and meet in Manila, instead of Cebu.
More news updates coming up now as to the extent of the earthquake damage, lives lost slowly piling up. Old Catholic churches from circa 17th century destroyed, homes destroyed, landslides, road damage. In hindsight, it is providential that the quake occurred on a Tuesday, for more casualties would have happened if on a Sunday when churches are jampacked with parishioners. The quake was closer to the surface, so another blessing, no tsunamis triggerred. Another good thing, it was a local holiday there, so schoolchildren are at home with their families. Got to find the blessings amidst the chaos, however few.
Nothing else we can do for now but pray for all of them, for strength and hope, tougher times coming about, and as always keeping all of them close to our hearts.