Saturday, January 29, 2011

Of Airport Terminals and Tight Hugs

As I stare into the screen of Etihad Airways Boeing 777, where the scene changes from the lighted path of the runway into the gloomy dusk of Manila, I can't help but feel sad that as the scenes change the distance that separates me from my family also increases. This is why I'm not a big fan of airport terminals. Some may look at it as their gateway to adventure or freedom, for me, airport terminals, particularly the departure area are torture cells of the unwilling travelers.

Though, I'm not wholly unwilling to travel because I was leaving to join my husband. It is just that, a part of me is feeling so heavy because I will be leaving behind what I have considered my comfort zone. That Friday, while I rushed inside to have my stuff checked in, I was a volcano of conflicting emotions. The Ninoy International Airport was ready to burst with passengers heading out of the country. It was chaos everywhere. When I found the queue for Etihad, I panicked. The queue was so long, good thing they have a system. The first stop is the weight checker then passport/visa verification then lastly the main check-in counter. After checking in, I have to pay travel tax at another counter. I was a bit confident that I don't have to pay the usual fee anymore, unlike the first time I left for Abu Dhabi, because I have my husband's copy of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). Unfortunately, when I presented my passport with my visa stamped on it plus my husband's visa, they still asked for my marriage certificate to authenticate my relation to my husband. What?! I mean, my visa has already a "housewife" written on it, what more evidence do they need? But because I was running out of time, I didn't argue anymore, knowing some of those people there are just trying to milk money from Filipinos working abroad. The whole thing took me 20 minutes to complete. Then I was able to join my family outside again.

When I got outside, I knew my Nanay would start bawling any moment as well as my sister which will definitely be followed by more crying by me. I saw many families already crying while they kiss their love ones safe journey. When it was my turn to give them my goodbyes, the tear ducts opened like a dam. This is why I hate airports, it always make me cry. It made me think of a hundred and one reasons why I should not leave the country. When I finished hugging and kissing my Nanay, Tatay, my sister and my niece, I have to stop or I can not leave. So I walked straight into the entrance gate , I don't want to look back because it will just make me cry harder, but it was then that my niece decided to shriek and cry I started crying all over again. It was torture. Pure hell of emotional torture. In my head, I try recalling everything I would be missing - my Tatay's constant checking on everyone, my Nanay's loud presence and smelling like D&G Blue, my brother's moody attitude while talking about school, movies, tv series and books, my sister's rant about life while chasing little Drina, my brother-in-law's hirit while maintaining a poker face, heck, I would even miss our chabby Baleng for simple being her.

And I keep telling myself, that everything is just temporary. I will just think of the time that I will be seeing them again. I tried psyching myself that, if I go and work abroad, I could have the extra cash to help my family feel more comfortable. I guess, everyone inside that airplane was thinking of the same thing. That one day, Filipinos don't have to leave the country and look for a job to provide for his or her family. That one day, we could all spend birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases and other special holidays together. No more long distance calls for hours just to hear our families breath and talk nonsense stuff. No more pretending that I'm attending the party via Skype. One day, I would look at airport terminals without a tear but still with a tight hug to welcome me back home. One day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Singapore Day Trip Under S$5

If the weather forecast says its going to be a cloudy day, then its time for you to pack up your picnic basket and spend the day at the park with some friends without spending too much shilling.

There were those weekends, when there is no take-home work to be done. The laundry is already drying outside. And not much to do on a Sunday. Prepare some sandwiches, pack in some chips, a bottle or two of soda and an old blanket then head down to the nearest park. Singapore is a well planned city with the visible balance of green and concrete. Most residential areas have their own parks where residents can take a stroll whenever they feel like taking a walk. There are two parks I have visited in Singapore which I must say are pretty nice for a whole day picnic, either with a special someone or just hanging out with goofy friends.

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Kuala Lumpur in 24 Hours

It was one of those weekends when you feel like taking a different scenery for a change.  When shopping can already lead you to bankruptcy and people watching is already quite boring, you take another turn to release the stress - then you go to Malaysia.  This is what most Singaporeans would do on any given weekend.  Particularly if its a long weekend.  However, that was not our case.  It was my fiance's last weekend before going back to Abu Dhabi.  So along with some good friends we hopped onto the bus going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

San Pedro: Heart of Davao City

It is a Sunday, and my Nanay and I decided to hear mass at San Pedro Cathedral Church.

It has been some time since the last time I visited the church.  This church held a lot of stories, not just mine but most of the people in the city.  San Pedro or St. Peter Cathedral is located at the heart of the city.  It faces the city hall and the it stands right next to the busiest street of the city, yet when you enter this majestic dome, you can still feel the solemnity of being in a holy ground.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Autumn in Singapore

When the cool air of winter will start to caress your cheek when the sun sets, this only means one thing, autumn season is on its way.

After the buzz of the Great Singapore Sale from mid-May to mid-August has settled and the street partying of the National Day Parade starts to die down, its time to make way for the mid-Autumn festival.  Or in Singapore the Mooncake festival.  One night, a few years back, on my way home I stopped at the nearest grocery store to buy myself a cheap dinner, while walking I saw this person standing outside one residential building.  She was standing in front of a drum where there's a little fire going on inside.  She was holding some sheet of paper and a picture.  Incenses were burning and its odd smell wafting into the night.  I didn't know what that was all about and just mentioned it to my office mate the following day.  She said that activity was part of the celebration of the mooncake festival.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Exploring Bugis

Being alone in a buzzing country also have its benefits like exploring places on your own, and that in itself is already an adventure.

I rented a room in Tampines.  A modest flat with three rooms in it.  A Malaysian family owns the unit and lets the two rooms.  I rented the other one with a close window.  This is because it is directly facing the buildings walkway.  It's a privacy thing.  Anyway, Tampines is a hour train ride to the central business district.  This station is a residential area so most of the buildings here are apartments and condominiums.  Bugis is almost 30-45 minutes train ride from Tampines.  Both stations are along the same green line so no need to change trains to go there.

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Shopping on a Budget in Singapore

The first month in Singapore was a total nightmare.  One because I am all alone.  Second, I don't have internet in my room and third I don't know anyone there to consider my friend.  However, our office has an internet connection and I could check my mails and update myself on a forum I have initially joined before trying my luck in this new country.  So what to do?  I explored the city.  On my own.  There is a lot of advantages when roaming around a big and busy city all alone.  You don't have to worry about your companion and you get to do and eat whatever you want.  I must admit I was sort of the introvert that time.  But it was fun.  More time for my self and for discovering things.  Singapore always connotes shopping but since no salary yet, I opted to hunt down bazaars and flea markets.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Noodle Soup for the Rainy Night

The other night, on our way home doing some little shopping for my father's upcoming trip to his hometown Ibajay, Aklan heavy rain accompanied us.  I was smiling the whole time.  I love the rain and it just makes me want to snuggle beneath the sheets and dream the night away but for the rest of the people outside the car rushing for cover it was nightmare.  So we were driving a bit slower than usual, because my mother goes berserk when the speed goes over 40 kph and its rainy.  The road is slippery as she always justify.  And I was already thinking about food.  And what could be the best companion on a rainy night?  Noodle soup!  Of course, hot chocolate with marshmallows will also be on the top 3 list, but noodle soup?  Well, its a whole lot different.  This lures me back to my misadventures in Singapore.

Why I love Singapore so much, is because of all the noodle shops scattered everywhere.  I love noodles.  I could eat noodles for a month and still won't get enough of it.  Since my previous office is located in Chinatown we often take our lunch at the people's park building.  It is right across Pagoda street.  The ground floor of the building houses lots and lots of shops that sells all kinds of noodles.  My all time favorite is the one located at the farthest right when you enter the building.  For 5 months that I was there  eating almost everyday, I can't seem to remember the name of the shop.  Anyway, I always order meehon with fried egg.  Sometimes, I add another side dish if I feel a little generous on that day.  However, if I have some sandwiches which I prepared that day my office mate and I order mee goreng and share it.  Mee goreng is basically a Malaysian vegetarian noodle dish cook with so many chilies in it.  By the time you are in your 5th bite you would definitely be sweating already, thus the sharing scheme.  On the farther left on the other hand also sells noodles.  I don't know what really is its name but its really really good.  Boiled noodles seasoned with soy sauce and a bit of chili and garnished with grilled pork.  It even has a wanton soup to go with it as part of the meal.

For rainy days, which often happens anytime in Singapore, my office mate and I would go to another noodle shop that sells Ban Mian.  This is definitely the noodle soup you should not miss to eat when visiting Singapore.  Ban Mian has this wide flat noodles floating in a rich soup topped with minced pork, some vegetables, and some fried anchovies.  We often put some soy sauce with chili to go with it to give it a little kick.  Almost all noodles in Singapore have chili as side dish.  And its perfect combination.

There are gazillion choices of noodles to choose from.  If traveling in this country, might as well try them all and be the judge.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Culinary Feast in the Land of Zaby

While chatting with my husband who is already back in Abu Dhabi, I was asking him what his dinner would be for the day.  Back when I was there, I cook and basically the menu consisted of Filipino dishes that I know is healthy and easy to prepare.  But sometimes its fun to go out and explore other small shops that offer authentic cuisines of the middle east.  Here 's a little rundown of the food I have sampled:

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Singapore: My First Home Abroad

Burp!  Full stomach tonight.  I don't think I could still breath properly and I'm beginning to worry about my incision.  Is it possible that it could open up because of too much eating?  I hope not.  Need to ask my OBGYN though for precaution.  And despite the full tummy, I was still craving for some kopi bun on the way home.  This is really embarrassing, I'm not even pregnant yet but I am already eating like one.  Oh well.  So we stopped by Kopi Roti a coffee shop in Davao City that sells kopi bun, kaya toast and good Singaporean coffee.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Green Abu Dhabi: Where the Rain Rarely Visits

As I am enjoying a rainy night inside my room and still encased in my warm bubble of vacation bliss, I could not help but smile as the music of falling raindrops plays a symphony by my window.  I hardly experience this while living in Abu Dhabi.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

The title says it all.  I have been living in Abu Dhabi for 6 months to join my husband and I must say, no matter how many new things I saw, new adventures I have explored and new food I have tasted, nothing compares to home.

Since the Christmas holiday is one of the most important holidays for most Filipinos, we were lucky enough that my husband's leave was approved we get to celebrate Christmas with our families.  So we retrace the steps back to where we grew up and relive moments of nostalgia.

Our first stop is in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija.  A landlocked located near the heart of Luzon island, this province is known for covering most of its lands with long stretches of rice fields and this is home for my husband.  He grew up with the all year round of preparing the land, planting the seedlings, tending the crops, harvesting and finally sacking the rice.  The province over the years has stayed as rural as every province in the country.  Not much has changed per my husband, people still follow the same old routine, waking up before the rooster can even shriek out its first hello then the day ends just after a few moments it turns dusk.  What I like about Aliaga is a lot of quiet time to relax.  No rush activities of the urban life is felt there plus it is just a few minutes away from Cabanatuan home of the mouthwatering garlic longganisa.

This Filipino style sausage is a famous breakfast meal together with fried egg and fried rice. smack! smack! The old market place of Cabanatuan sells longganisa P200/kilo and P250/kilo for the bototay or the sweetened longganisa (which I prefer more, because I'm an Ilongga anything salty and sweet is heaven in my tongue)

Next stop is Davao city, my hometown.  This is where I grew up and this is probably where I would retire.  Davao is known to be a peace-loving city.  So many ordinances  are being implemented here and some of the cities in our country find it distasteful, but me, i think its brilliant.  It's one way of disciplining the people.  The city has a smoking ban.  You can not smoke just anywhere, there are designated areas where you can do your lung destruction.  A penalty of P10,000 if caught and an overnight stay at the police station.  Another thing I love about this city is that unlike Manila, taxi drivers here are honest and courteous.  Manila taxi drivers are just like robbers but with uniforms.  They don't give you back your change and they won't even let you ride if they think your destination is way too far - so much for Manila the city hub of the country.  Back to our real purpose of the vacay, my family decided to celebrate a late Christmas bonding at the Malagos Garden Resort.

This resort is an inland resort where you can do lots of things together with your family like swimming, playing around at the playground, horseback riding, and watch the bird show.  Schedule for the bird show can be seen at their website.  They also serve buffet lunch, and we were lucky that time because they had lechon de leche in the menu. Goody! My husband, my brother in law and my brother were so thrilled to see that in the table.  While eating lunch a family friend also happens to be there so the lunch stretched into more talks and more wine drinking.  The wine they were sharing was a bottle of Bignay.

It is a native cherry fermented and turned into wine.  The wine has a robust taste and its aroma slides into my nostrils and throat like a hot grape.  By the way, the resort is originally the plantation for orchids, so you could ask to have a tour of its gardens and see their orchid plantation in bloom.

This vacation would have been a lot fun if it weren't for a few setbacks. But, who ever had a perfect vacation anyway?  Still, going home always comfort me.  The taste, the sound and the feel of familiar surrounding will always be where I would always want to come back.