Monday, August 26, 2013


Humor me and tell me I look 28.
Forgive the narcissism, it's my birthday, okay? Plus I really don't feel like 28, as I always say, age is just a number. I actually feel ageless. There are times when I act all grown up on things and most of the times, I just let my spirit run wild and free with vigorous youth. 

This year, my birthday is no different from any of my other birthdays. Common factor? The rain! I've always wanted to celebrate my birthday in a secluded place, maybe on an island or a mountain and just let it pass solemnly. I guess I either have to move my birth date or move the rainy season.

Anyway, spending it at home does not make it any less special. That morning, my mother cooked me an old-school birthday favorite - pansit! My husband and my brother filed their work leaves to be my slaves for the day. Yes, what a valuable gift. My husband worked his bun off all morning buying, preparing and cooking my requested lunch, kare-kare. He cooks the best kare-kare in the whole world, I'm telling you. I forgot what we ate for mirienda though. Dinner was our date time then. Me and my husband went out to a nearby coffee shop and ate pasta and panizza. It was a lovely dinner. By 9pm, we found ourselves watching a very cool reggae band in a sports bar. We ate, drank and just enjoyed music like crazy teenagers. Except that we weren't teenagers anymore because by midnight, we felt sleepy and exhausted. Lol, is that what they call 'signs of aging'?

The weekend, 2 days after my birthday, is an extension of my birthday since all, including my father plus a very close cousin, were at home. I rushed to the nearest Korean town in our place to buy some stuff for our Korean-themed dinner at home. We had samgyeopsal, cadol, ramyeon, fried egg with carrots and spring onion and of course, kimchi. It was fun, I gotta high-five my husband for the efforts of preparing it with me.

My birthday didn't end just yet until the following weekend. It was actually raining hard that Saturday but it was a lame excuse not to push through this very beautiful event that my husband planned for me. It was Bamboo and Yeng's concert. God how could I even start how I adore both of them. My fascination with Bamboo started almost 2 decades ago, right at the start of the Rivermaya. They are the first band that I ever watched live in concert. The next time I saw him, he was in his new band. It was in some university foundation concert which was not even my school. Yeng, on the other hand, got me impressed with her song writing skills and her great live performances. I saw her potential as early as her Pinoy Dream Academy days. I have such great respect for her artistry, which is very rare on local artists nowadays.

It's as if the universe knew my admiration for both artists that it decided to combine them in a one major concert. Of all people, it's them! Of all dates, it's a week after my birthday! How could I let that pass up. I bought our concert tickets online plus and a couple of vouchers for our Manila Ocean Park sidetrip. 

We braved the rain and commuted all the way from Pampanga to Cubao. Easy-peasy, I've been to worse anyway. We arrived 2 hours earlier since my desired position (lower box) was already sold out so we settled for upper box, which had no reserved seating, hence, we had to line up for good seats.

We had our dinner while lining up. What's the best standing-up dinner? Burritos. What's known as one of the best food chain offering burritos? Taco Bell. It was half-pounder but I devoured it all plus some nachos on the side. Oh, food food food, how I adore thee. 

Before lining up

The Big Dome was sold out!
We got great seats. They were right in front of the stage and the view is just perfect. The concert started an hour late so we were waiting for some good 3 hours. I was just about to go crazy with the ads looping on the big screen when they stopped them and got replaced by a countdown. I knew it was the cue that the show was about to start. The lights were turned off and then there was smoke. Then a choir appeared and sang Hawak Kamay solemnly with just spotlights on them. Energy in the dome was building up, then suddenly, the lights went crazy, the big background LCD screen lit up and there he was, Bamboo, elevating on a platform from under the stage. Classic entrance. Then he gave this iconic pose, a signature pose only Michael Jackson or Tony Stark can only pull off, and gave justice to it. The dome trembled with shrieking fans. He sang Hallelujah then midway, Yeng appeared and mashed up Hawak Kamay with it. The production was awesome! It was a beautiful combination of the two artists, giant screen's animations, smoke, pyrotechnics, dancers, the band and the choir. 
BY Request
I just learned while watching that the concert's name: BY Request is not just taken from their initials (B and Y) but that there was some sort of a theme on it. It was called BY Request since the song lineup came from the most requested songs of fans gathered on the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With this, they performed mostly cover songs from the artists today like Rihanna, Adele, Bruno Mars and the likes. It was a cool idea, especially for young fans who loves these songs. But I have to admit, I was somehow a teeny-weeny bit disappointed. I guess I was mislead by my expectation to hear classics like 20 Million, Hilo, Kisapmata, Panahon Nanaman, Hinahanap-hanap Kita, and the list goes on and on. Yes he sang 214 and Ulan but I wanted more of those instead of hearing 2 Bruno Mars songs. Yeng, too, sang some of her hits but in a mash-up kind of way and sang "today's hits" more. Oh well, overall, it was still very entertaining. My respect for their artistry just got upped a notch higher. 

We spent the night on a very decent accommodation that my husband reserved in advance. It was a cozy night. That morning, we proceeded to our next stop, the Manila Ocean Park. I scored ourselves online a couple of vouchers with the Pacific Sky Wonder 9 package. It includes nine different attractions namely, Oceanarium, Sea Lion Show, Marine Life Habitat, Fish Spa, Jellies Exhibit, All Star Bird Show, Birds of Prey Kingdom, Penguin Talk Show and Trails to Antarctica.

I have an unreasonable fear of fishes. As we explored the Oceanarium, I just thought of one thing... Good Lord, don't make me have nightmare of these. We saw different kinds of fishes, there were those who blends with the sea bed texture, those who looked like snakes, those who looked like they're upside down when they're not, those who emitted neon lights and a whole lot of weirdness. It was fun and educational though. 

We, then, proceeded to see the Jellies, dubbed as the dancing sea fairies. They were entertaining. They really looked like they were dancing as their movements were synced with the music and lights. Watching them was therapeutic. After that, we proceeded to the Trails of Antartica. This was my most anticipated attraction, finally, I will get to see penguins! Upon entering the gate, we were instructed to take the giant ice slide first. I saw the penguins from afar so, to hell with the slide, I ran towards the penguins. I have such strange fondness of them. I squealed like how a 4-year old kid would squeal upon seeing Jollibee or something. They were sooo cute and funny too. One would just stand still like a statue for minutes without ever moving a muscle then the other one would swim in circles nonstop. 

Oh hello there cutie!
After marveling over the penguins, we finally went for the giant slide. It was fun! True enough, the slide is covered with real ice. It then led us to the next door, the snowy room. Jackets were given upon entering as the room mimicked an actual snowy environment. The temperature was freezing and floors and decors were all covered in real ice. It was a very nice experience. I wanted to do a snow angel but I would look stupid so I'll just save that for the real deal some other time. After exiting this attraction, we walked the actual Trails of Antarctica. It was a hallway full of trivia about Antarctica. While at it, I was convinced that I wanted to experience Antarctica someday. It's a big leap but I'm setting my goal to that.  

It is the home of the Aurora Australis - the southern lights - Must. See. Those. Someday.
We've set the birds and sea lion shows last since they were the least to our priority. We've seen such shows anyway at Ocean Adventure in Subic. We checked out the fish spa instead. I tricked my husband that I wanted to finally try it to get over my fear of fishes. Truth is, I just didn't want to waste our tickets and I knew he wanted to try it anyway. I've seen fish spas on some outlets in SM but these fishies were gigantic! They were big and black and looking not anywhere near friendly. Well, believe me, I tried. I soaked the tip of my foot but when one comes near I quickly lifted it. Call me chicken but I just can't, period. 

To clear my mind off that embarrassing fish spa failure, we decided to try out the Penguin Talk Show. I expected an educational discussion and a live penguin interaction. I guess I expected too much, lol. I'm very sorry for those who made it but we stayed for just a couple of minutes. I think it was somehow educational but in a weird kind of way. The host was a poorly animated penguin shown on a big screen which was controlled back room. He was like a stand-up comedian, talking in Tagalog, making silly jokes about some audience in the room. Not my thing, I'm sorry. Too bad it was the our last attraction. We left the Ocean Park after that and went to MOA to grab some mirenda

There were some restos inside the park by the way, but I was craving for something else. It was a rainy afternoon so all I ever thought of was sipping a hot phở. I satisfied my craving at Pho Hoa restaurant together with fresh spring rolls, their special brew of iced tea and a hot jasmine tea. Oh what a hearty meal! 

Rain started to pour harder so we decided to head home already. Overall, my birthday this year spells awesome! I'm just so lucky to have a wonderful family and an exceptional husband who know exactly what I want and what I need... and actually provide for it.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Island called Potipot

Welcome to the small, secluded and beautiful island of Potipot. Located in front of Candelaria, Zambales coastline, this little wonder has been a quick fix for those who wanted to enjoy pure love affair with nature. There's no electricity and only scarce cellphone signal. While some people choose to sleep on resorts on the mainland in front of the island, we decided to go all-the-way and camped overnight on it.

It may look all jungle but nope, believe it or not, there are huts between those trees.
I'll be honest, I haven't had any interest in going to this island until the day before we went. The real plan was the mainstream Anawangin Cove. I planned this trip as our summer getaway with the whole family and few close cousins. There were 8 of us. The weather did not quite cooperate with this plan since waves got so huge the day before our trip. My contact person warned us that a 30-minute boat ride going to the  cove is just not feasible. A sudden change of plan was decided. We're going to Potipot Island instead. I did some research and yes, it was way safer. Waves in this part of the sea are calmer and it will just be a quick 5-minute boat ride. Downside? Drop off point is 2-hr farther than the original. That means we have to go extra early to reach the 8am boatman appointment. 

We left at around 5am with a lot of necessities in tow. As I've mentioned, we wanted to camp overnight and that means we should be bringing our own food, water and toiletries. For a group of 8 people, that's a lot! Good thing we brought our own transportation as the "park and sail" was also covered by our boatman. The trip took 4 hours give or take, including a breakfast stop.

As I saw a glimpse of the island, I was stunned. I was somehow glad we did not push through our Anawangin Cove plan. Yes it may  not have pine trees and a creek, but the beach made up for it. See why:

Clear turquoise waters.
Long and clean shoreline.
Decent fine yellowish white sand. Not the Boracay kind of fine but it's finer than Puerto Galera, Bolinao and Camiguin's sand bar (as far as I can recall).
What more can I ask for? The water even has some slightly strong waves, just the way I like it! The whole day was burned doing old school beach activities, swimming, having weird contests, laughing, teasing and just plain o'l chatting. And it was fun!

Few things worth mentioning though, typical resort water activities here are non-existent. Don't expect some banana boat rides, jet skis and the like, there are none, zero, zilch, nada. The point here is to beach bum, that's it. The island is so small you can walk its circumference in just 20 minutes or less. There are also no luxurious accommodations, just tents and huts. Also, the beach is as natural as it can get - there are some sharp corals on some point, water elevations are a bit dangerous too as they get real deep on a very close range, there are also insects and rodents at night, the far end of the island smells like fish and bathwater comes from a pump. That may sound intolerable for some, but it rings adventure for me. 

Then came night time. After playing some cards and eating dinner, we decided to call it a night. Of course, my trips aren't quite complete without some horror stories of misadventures. My parents decided to rent a hut to sleep in. It's a very basic hut, it had a small stair leading to the second floor which is a whole sleeping area then the lower portion is the dining area. It's quite huge actually as they say it can fit 20 people. Great deal, except that I wanted to sleep inside a tent. We had two tents anyway so what the hell, might as well use one to serve its purpose. I am more comfortable sleeping inside a tent, feeling the sand beneath it, rather than on a plain wooden floor. Me and my husband were already sound asleep when we were awakened by my mother's shout - she was asking us to go inside the hut as it's already drizzling. I quickly grabbed my things and noticed the floor was already wet and the tent's window was dripping with rainwater. Not again! This is Mt. Pulag's horror story all over again. As we ran towards the hut, the rain went ballistic and soaked me even more. Trying to sleep with wet hair and clothes was no fun at all but wanna know the worst part of that? I checked the time and it was only 9:30pm! Talk about long night!

A great sunrise matched with a sumptuous breakfast erased my rain trauma. 
Right after breakfast, I quickly changed into my swimsuit and plunged again. My desire to swim will always be insatiable. We enjoyed the whole morning in the water, doing more random stuff. Too bad we were almost running out of food and water so we had to come back to the mainland by noon.

Where they dock the boats. Not really a swimmable spot. The sand here is coarser and the look how close the deep water is.
It was a nice bonding with the family after all. It was again proved that a change of plan doesn't always equal to disaster. I know it was not the perfect getaway for my parents as they needed convenience the most at their age, but they were game all through out. I must say I got my bold travel spirit from them.