Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Going back home…

After a month spent at the Uni, it was time for me to go home! I arrived early enough at the Sydney International Airport to check in my bags and roam around. At 12:30pm,I found this big kangaroo doll in one of the souvenir shops, so I decided to buy it, and some pasalubong for the family. Since I needed to be at the gate by 12:50, I thought I had 20 minutes to luxuriously check out the shops. I totally forgot that there was still the security checks for handluggage, and the usual stretch of floor space going to the gate!

True enough, this inexperienced traveler left the shops at 12:45, still relaxed that I had enough time. Especially since the announcement said that my flight was now boarding. Calmly, I queued for the immigration… then there was customs/quarantine counter… and then there was the x-ray machine! By the time I got out of the long line, the announcement board indicated that my flight was on its final call!

Then I started to get worried. But it became worse… The directions to the gates indicated that I was supposed to go to a gate midway to the other end of the building, which was an eight-minute walk away! I broke my gait and started to run… barely hearing the calls for passengers who were delaying their flights.

When I finally reached the gate, I was breathless from running (with the fear of being left behind). I was relieved to see that the passengers riding in economy were still queued. Apparently the business class and first class passengers were seated first. Whew! That was a relief!

I was more relieved to find out that the passengers being called over the speakers were for a different airline.

The flight to Manila was uneventful… I had to go over more data during the flight. When my computer’s battery finally died (thankfully less than an hour after the flight took off), I welcomed it as a chance to relax and enjoy the eight-hour ride.

Looking back at that experience on May 30, I felt like I ran a race in the airport. It was fun and exciting - NOW. And I have a good laugh every time I share the story to friends and relatives. But during that time, I was really scared and worried.

I’ve learned my lesson: no more shopping in airport Duty Free shops until I’ve cleared security and customs! Better yet, no shopping at airport… PERIOD.

The question is, will I remember it?

Finally seeing the university I’m enrolled in

My first reaction was… Whoa! this is huge! 

The University of Sydney is actually smaller than UPLB (the campus in which I studied in since pre-school). I was excited to see how the Sydney Uni campus looked. But I wasn’t prepared for the towering castles and grand buildings that made the school a tourist spot.

On my first few days there, I didn’t tour the campus. So on my first weekend, I started to check out the different buildings and gardens. My favourite building was the Main Quadrangle, which I think hosts the museums and the carillon of the university. It’s Gothic in architecture with so many gargoyles of lions and kangaroos. Then, inside the main quad, I found a huge garden… I felt like I was on set of a Harry Potter movie! Outside the main quad, there’s this big garden that led to Paramatta Road (which merges with the City Road leading to the Sydney central business district). Seeing students wearing graduation robes or high school uniforms further made me think that I was walking on Hogwarts.

Then, there’s the Wentworth Building, which can be reached by a footbridge over City Road. Since it’s supposed to be the Student Union Building, I was expecting the usual food stalls and the work areas that can be found in UPLB’s SU building. But I was wrong. This building hosted a coffee shop, banks, travel agencies, a clinic…

The cafeterias on campus are in a building called the Manning Bar… inside, it looked like an airport lounge with all the glass and stainless steel rails. Not a cozy place to eat (well, I was expecting the sotanghon to be hot… but it was cold! like a salad!) but a very near one to the chemistry building.

A most interesting spot in campus is the Grafitti Tunnel. Students who had things to express were free to spray the tunnel red. But sadly, the vandalism wasn’t limited to the tunnel. Many messages were written or sprayed on stairs, on walls, wherever there’s space.

The Sydney Uni Camperdown Campus dwarfs in comparison to the UPLB campus. But I like it just as much as I like UPLB.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

… Arriving in Sydney (2006)

The sky was clear and the air was crisp when the plane landed at the Kingsfordsmith International Terminal. This reminded me of my arrival at the Orlando International Airport sans the cold temperature. After a brief queue at the Customs gate, I started looking for the student KCPC had sent to fetch me from the airport. True enough, Dom had a placard with my name on it (because we didn’t know each other). After organising my stuff, we took a cab and went straight to the University of Sydney.

It was a tough day because I was adjusting to the temperature (to which I was complaining about two hours after I’d arrived and the time difference, and the food choices. At the end of the day, Dom helped me lug my stuff to Marion and Patrice's house (Newtown NSW).

Another adventure was beginning to unfold… this is an adventure!

Going to Sydney (2006)…

It was almost surreal… I had everything planned out. Tuesday was the teleconference with my supervisors. I’d plan the week out depending on what happens at that meeting. But roughly, the week looked like my last week harvesting in the farm, then starting the analysis of the samples… in other words, routine stuff.

That was until that fateful teleconference. While discussing further tests, the topic of going to Sydney, New South Wales was tackled. I was ready to hear that I was going there sometime late this year. But I was wrong… the final decision was that I was supposed to be there the following week! In the university, it’s a requirement of enrolment that I got a student visa. In essence, I could fly off and be there anytime I was required. I felt the earth close in on me because I was in shock. This turned into panic because there was so much needed to be done before I left: samples for analysis, the OJT turnover to a new supervisor, last minute experiments, sample preparations, getting airline tickets… the list went on and on in my head like flashing headlines. And I had only barely a week to prepare!

But as luck would have it, I couldn’t get onto a flight to Sydney until the first week of May. At first, I was elated because there was enough time to prepare stuff, and I could still go to Ilocos with my cousins. I finished all lab work just in time. But as the day drew nearer for my flight, I was getting sadder and sadder because I knew I was going to give up the Ilocos trip… the road trip from Vigan took 12 hours, and there’s a big chance that I’d arrive at home roughly 12 hours before my flight. There’s not enough time to take a rest or even prepare anything else. So, I gave the trip up the day before my cousins and sister left. But I was relieved because by deciding to stay behind, I gained a few days to prepare things and go to the different churches in Manila during the Holy Week.

Finally, the day came for me to depart from Manila. I still went to the lab in the morning to do some last minute packing and to say good bye to officemates. Then I was off the the airport.

At the airport, I hung around the Sampaguita Lounge (which is a bit off from the Transit Lounge) where there was an internet Wi-Fi access and a buffet of food (for a fee). I did some more work; time flew so fast, that I barely started working and it’s time to go to the boarding gate.

I felt really sad about leaving the Philippines, even if it’s just for a few weeks. Primarily because I was going to miss all the family activities planned out for May, and secondarily because the airplane ride was no longer a novelty. I was so excited the first two times I took international flights. But this time, it was no longer new to me. I missed the exciting feeling of riding in a plane. Plus, I was going to miss the house, the car, the cats… aside from my sister and all my relatives.

But once in the plane, all feelings of sadness went away to be replaced by the adrenaline rush of seeing a new place and examining the nooks and crannies of a new city. It was a prospect too hard to not be excited about, so I forgot all about my sadness.

The flight was almost eight hours long. And I just slept for two hours during the whole trip.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lunch in Broadway

No, not Broadway, the theatre district in New York, USA. Rather, Broadway Shopping Centre in Sydney. 

This shopping centre was the first one I've visited on this trip. And I kept going back for the ice cream at Royal Copenhagen... Never mind that it's really cold (yes, it's my first winter ever!) and the ice cream was draining my wallet; I wanted ice cream to fight off homesickness. 

On this occasion, I happened to visit the mall with fellow students from Prof. Bob Gilbert's research group and his French post-docs, Marion and Patrice. They also happen to be my hosts on this school visit. While they were traveling in Europe, I was tasked to house-sit (I first met their house before I met them). They also had given very clear instructions not to throw out anything off-odoured from the fridge because these were cheeses. 

I'm still figuring out how to deal with the cold and with my leaky wallet. Obviously, I can't spend for lunch like this everyday... and I can't use my credit card all the time. How I can I explore Australia if I can't afford to eat?!? 

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A match of rugby at the Sydney Olympic Park

I wanted to see a bit of Sydney on my first ever visit to the country. On my list of things to see was the Sydney Olympic Park, where the 2000 summer games were played. I can't remember if the Philippines ever placed in that one but still, I wanted to see what an Olympic Park looks like.

So I caught a train in Newtown and went to Homebush Bay, which was a few minutes away. When I got to the Olympic Park, I didn't know what I was expecting but I certainly didn't expect it to be seemingly deserted. But then there's the Telstra Stadium.

And I haven't been inside one of these stadiums. I just had to go in and check it out.

My wallet said it can't afford the cost of a guided tour of the stadium. My brain's telling me that I could live on pizza for another week if I have to but I just had to see what's inside. Curiosity got the PhD student, right?

Forest of Poles behind me.

The Olympic cauldron, transformed into a fountain.

I was about to go bankrupt because I wanted to demystify this olympic stadium.

Alas, there was no tour of the stadium, according to the ticket vendor because there was a match. A rugby match. I have never seen people play rugby before. I just had to see it (here we go again...) so I bought a ticket that was priced the same as the tour ticket.

I was quite shocked to find out that I bought one of the more expensive tickets, one that was three rows away from the pitch! I could see the players quite clearly, and the hotdog sandwich mascot too! Last time I watched a sports event, I was in the general admissions section of Araneta Coliseum, barely seeing the wrestlers of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation fake-duke it out in the ring (I was high school then; Daddy brought Anna, Biboy, and me to see that show). And then now, I got an almost-ringside seat!

Oh boy, what a mistake that was.

Someone (aka Google) should have warned me on how violent a rugby match could be. I mean, the players were seemingly not wearing any protective gear and they kept butting each other to get a ball and bring it to the other end of the pitch. Look at their necks... they're thick!

At the end of the match, I still didn't understand rugby. But at least now, I've seen one. I'll probably stick to watching soccer. It's more straightforward, I think. Definitely, no rugby-watching from now on...

Friday, May 5, 2006

"Hindi excuse ang bago kang dating para hindi ka mamasyal."

I knew Sherry Lou, my classmate in Microbiology courses, has emigrated to Australia some time ago. So when I got back to Marion and Patrice's house in Newtown (an Inner West suburb) after school, I contacted her intending to ask about what I could see in Sydney. Since it was my first day in the city, I was fully expecting a quiet night after eight hours of traveling and then school. Also, it was already dark when I got back from school... I didn't want to venture into a new city at night, without a map, without a plan.

However, Sherry Lou said that being new in a city is certainly not an excuse to not see it on my first night. So I just dropped off my school bag and then caught a bus to somewhere in the middle of Sydney, following her instructions. To my surprise, the area where she directed me to meet her and her friend was still bustling with people! 



We went to Circular Quay to see the touristy lay of the land. 

We saw the Sydney Opera House. Unfortunately, I was not able to see what's inside the venue; but thanks to this trip, I intend to watch a show there at some point. It looks really pretty at night.

And then there's the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It's beautiful! I've heard that people could take a climbing tour of the bridge but it's way too expensive for me. Probably next time. For this trip, I'll try to walk across it, at sidewalk level. That's enough for me.

At a different view point, still in Circular Quay, we had a stunning view of the night lights of Sydney's Central Business District. If I hadn't been to San Francisco last year, this view would have made me gasp because there are so many buildings out here! However, San Francisco looks (to me at least) like it's about to burst, with so many skyscrapers in such a tiny area. There's still a lot of sky over Sydney, I thought. Of course, it must just be the view; right in the middle of the CBD, it must be crowded even more.

We parted ways at the Central Railway Station. This has got to be the biggest train station I've ever been to! I mean, it even has restaurants in it! In the Philippines, you're lucky to find kiosks and places where you can grab food to go in the bigger train stations. And the banner above, and the inscriptions on the floor about the Da Vinci Code movie reminded me that this is a movie I was not about to miss. Hopefully I get some free time to see it in the cinema while here.

So many things to see and to do in Sydney! Let's see how much of my check list I can tick off. Adventure down under has begun!! Thank you so much, Sherry Lou and Sherry Lou's friend, for showing me around!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

visita iglesia 2006

On Maundy Thursday, I found myself, for the first time, without my parents and siblings. So, I went to visit different churches with Daddy’s elder sister, Tita Ising, and her husband, Tito Sibing.

This was a big challenge for me because it’s my first time to drive to the Pasay area on my own. But the good thing is that it’s a holiday, so the roads were less congested than normal. I found it a bit easy to drive to several churches in the Manila area today.

Malate Church. 
Found along MH del Pilar St in Malate. With high ceilings, the church was bright and cheerful, almost welcoming to parishioners and pilgrims. It was interesting to watch the kids rehearse for the Passion play on stage. There were lots of stained glass pictures too. Because the parking lot on church grounds was full, I had to keep the car across from the church. We had to make the trip quick because I was parking on a resident’s parking spot! But I was able to take photos.

St. Vincent de Paul Parish. 
This one is right beside Adamson University along San Marcelino St. in Ermita. It felt old… it was dark inside the chapel. I just stayed at the back. Tito Sibing was a parishioner there for 10 years… from 1956 to 1966.

St. Joseph the Worker Parish.
Located in Palanan, Makati, I think this is one of the smallest churches I’ve seen because it’s in the middle of the road (as if it’s the building separating the opposite lanes. But the interior of the church is beautiful, and it was quite cool inside because of the high ceilings. This was my first time to go through back roads of Makati.

St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish.
This chapel is currently under renovation. It’s right inside Magallanes Village. The makeshift church is interesting because the roof is made of nipa. I was imagining that maybe, the churches in the old days looked like that: open air with wooden posts and nipa roofs.

When a church is stripped down to its essentials, I think that a structure like this is enough. There’s no need to build grand buildings… except of course if the goal of the early friars was to impress the pagans with pomp and pageantry, and grandeur of the new religion… but that’s in the 16th century.

Manila Cathedral.
At last I was able to see this world-famous church. It was built in the 1580s but was destroyed by fire and by typhoon. Inside, the arrangement reminded me of the Lipa Cathedral. There were so many people! There was even a van of GMA7 parked by the church’s facade! According to the marker, this church has been elevated to a basilica minore. It’s huge! Anyway, the first few churches were relatively empty, and I had an easy time finding a parking spot. But when we got to the cathedral, there were so many cars parked by the sides of the church that I had to slow down and hunt for a good spot. I finally found an empty space almost beside the GMA van (hehehe!). My parking skills were put to the test because I had to park at a weird angle in between a van and an electric post. But because I have been practising backward parking, I was able to park there without embarrasing myself.

Going back to the church, the green dome is the centerpice for this church. I think it’s been renovated recently because the blocks look a bit new. But the wooden carvings on the door looked really really old. I find it interesting that the clock on the bell tower is actually working! Another novelty is the rayadillo patrolling the streets… It’s like travelling back to the Hispanic era when the guardia civil were controlling traffic flow!

The vendors and the hawkers outside the church reminded me of the time when Jesus walked to the temple and overturned the merchants’ stalls. The cathedral was so busy with people outside that it’s a surprise to find solitude inside it.

San Agustin Church.
A few minutes away (by foot, the road was blocked off) from the cathedral is this chapel built by the Augustinian friars. It turns out to be a UN World Heritage Site (like so many of the churches I’ve visited in Ilocos during the Hum 2 field trip under Prof. Zafaralla). The facade is not impressive, though (it was painted pink, for crying out loud!). But the interior of the church is a different story, though. The chandeliers reminded me of the stained glass panels in the Winchester Mansion (San Jose CA) and of the wooden chandeliers in the Agoo church.

When we got there, it was quite dark, so I took the tour of the museum. That was a treasure chest of Philippine history. The curators of the museum were able to integrate the history of the country with the development of the Catholic religion. There were vestments, 18th century books, statues, paintings, relics… they also included the crypt as part of the museum! That’s the creepy bit.

Tita Ising and Tito Sibing were married in this church, and she said it was magnificent when the lights are switched on. True enough, the lights were lit at 4pm in time for the washing of the apostle’s feet. Still on tour, I took a detour to the choir loft. There was a gigantic book of hymns and wooden chairs for the choir (it must be hard to sit on them!). But the view of the altar from the loft was the best part of all. The yellow glow from the chandeliers (with the sparklies from the crystals) was a sharp contrast to the red carpet and the colorful vestments of the priests. I thought I walked into the set of movie shoot.

The feel of this part of Intramuros was similar to that of Vigan. There were old houses, a plaza, and a convent (I think) that made it look like a life size museum. Except that in Vigan, cars are not allowed to drive on the cobblestoned roads. But in Manila, they just traverse it… and the streets are full of trash… very Manila.

Shrine of Jesus: The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Found at the Central Business Park at the reclaimed portion of Pasay City, I thought this church would be deserted and parking would be a cinch. But I was dead wrong! There were vehicles everywhere, and I had to park parallel to other cars. But the view of the sunset was heavenly… even the view of moonrise was breathtaking (too bad my camera died on me for the nth time). There were so many people that many of them were sitting on the steps. We got there in time to see the washing of the feet, but we didn’t stay long. I thought the church was big, because of the grand facade. However, the interior was almost as small as that of the St. Joseph the Worker Parish.

After saying prayers, we decided to stroll a bit farther to the bay. There were less cars and the walk was wide. People can actually fly kites there and breathe the fresh air. The view was also great. It’s better than Baywalk because I get irritated with the cars parked right along the highway and on the sidewalk. Plus, there were so many restaurants and comedy bars that it looked like Malate was uprooted from it’s spot and transferred there!

That’s my Maundy Thursday adventure this year. I wonder what’s in store for me next year. Another city? Another province? Who knows?

Sunday, April 9, 2006

A Bullet Runs Through It (Part 2)

This CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode is my favourite so far in the sixth season (my all time fave being Grave Danger).

This episode picked up where the LVPD left off, at a huge crime scene involving a shoot out with drug dealers where a police officer was shot by friendly fire. There were also several other shoot outs near the crime scene, making it really big.

I love this episode because it showed so much raw emotion from the characters. Sofia, the police officer suspected of firing the shot that killed a fellow officer, was at the brink of breaking down but she didn’t have anyone to turn to for help. Sara finally showed seething anger directed at Sofia. Jim Brass was so sympathetic to Sofia because he had been through it before. And as always, Grissom was the image of grace under pressure and logic because he never abandoned the science. I just couldn’t believe that he was so detached even as a hall full of angry people were demanding an explanation about the shooting of a high school student near the drug dealer shoot out.

But the best scene, in my opinion, was when the the wife of the downed officer met the police officer who accidentally shot her husband. To err is human; to forgive, divine. The wife was the epitome of this adage. I was expecting her to slap the shooter during the wake… or maybe to punch him in the nose. Instead, she hugged the officer. The officer, on the other hand, was so overwhelmed by emotion that he broke down and cried. I won’t mention who this officer was; watch out for the replay on AXN or Studio 23.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

lost in Quezon

After the wedding, it was time to go to the reception. By the time the wedding ended, I made a couple of acquaintances. We went together to the Queen Margarette Hotel for lunch. That’s the hotel I passed along the diversion road before reaching the church. After a delicious and filling lunch, we decided to leave. I decided to go to Sta Cruz first to visit Lola Estay, and since the route via Tayabas and Luisiana is shorter than going all the way back to San Pablo through the busy Maharlika Road.

My new friends told me that that road was more mountainous, but that wasn’t a problem because I’m used to going through the PCARRD-Jamboree road and the road to Cuenca and Alitagtag in Batangas. I just didn’t expect it to be so deserted! The view was spectacular… there were many coconut trees along the side of the road. Some portions of the highway seemed to cut through the forest because there were so many trees whose branches hung over the highway (I had to remove my shades while driving through the Luisiana area). Plus, the gas stations were few and far in between. Rice fields covered the gap between trees and gas stations. In Cavinti, there was this big bukal and there was a bridge over it. The water was so blue and clear… and cool to look at. The rocks on the stream reminded me of those at Flat Rocks and at the Botanical Garden in UPLB. So beautiful. Then, the view of the mighty river (is it the Pagsanjan River?) appeared. Even from a distance, the river could be seen so clearly, cutting through the green of the forest and the rice fields. There were many tour buses parked along the side of the highway so the view was more like a glimpse. After ninety minutes along this road, I finally got to Pagsanjan… and from there, the route to Sta Cruz was very familiar.

Somewhere in Cavinti, I saw a man getting bananas ready for the market. He was an interesting sight to see, because he seemed so isolated from the modern world, what with all the trees behind him, and there were no cars along the highway (except for my car, of course).

It’s just a shame that I drove alone… I couldn’t take a picture of the view because it’s dangerous to multitask it with driving (especially on the sharp curves… where the breath-taking view can be seen). And there’s no one to take the pictures (and I brought my camera! *sniff* *sniff*) for me. Ah, the hazards of being a driver. :0(

The next time I ply this route, I have to bring someone along… looking at the map was hard enough while driving at the same time. Plus, there are lots of pictures to take… Wait, I have to be the passenger! I’d love to use the SLR the next time, not the digicam.

too fast too furious trip to Quezon

During the last week, I asked around how long a trip to Lucena City, Quezon would take. Everyone answered around four hours by bus from Los Banos. Since I should be in Lucena by 9am, I planned to leave the house at 5am early today… but as it turned out, I was too poofed by the harvest yesterday that I slept in until 5:30! Yikes! My companions for this trip backed out Thursday afternoon, so I went to Lucena alone.

I finally left the house at 6:30am, and was worried about possible traffic congestion in the Pansol area since it was Saturday. Thankfully, I left early enough, and the drive was smooth all the way to San Pablo (I got there an hour later! This is nothing short of a miracle). That’s where the traffic began to slow down. The San Pablo section of the Maharlika Highway was a bit crowded by trucks coming in from the Alaminos area, so I was forced to go a bit slower.

But once I got past that part, I picked up speed until I was running at around 80kph (driving to the beat of Chillout Project House Sessions 2 by Anton Ramos — enough to get the blood pumping, and to get me awake). I sped past Tiaong, Candelaria, and Sariaya, averaging 70kph (a bit slower because of the cargo trucks going to the Dalahican port), covering much ground by 8:30. Finally, I heaved a sigh of relief when I got to the Lucena boundary at 8:45.

The next challenge was to find the church in 15 minutes. In Lucena, I took the diversion road leading to Bicol, and had to ask questions at various gasoline stations and carinderias because there were no posters or bulletins saying where I should go. I even entered the Grand Central Terminal by mistake (this was at 9am). After a few errors, I finally took the correct turn that went up to the church where a college classmate of mine was getting married. I got there at 9:30. Not bad for a newbie… I got to Lucena in 2 hours and 30 minutes… and arrived at the church in 3 hours.

Friday, April 7, 2006

planting season is over!

Today marks the end of my first attempt at planting rice. And through this exercise, I’ve realised that my mom and my dad’s lectures were true: we shouldn’t waste rice because farmers spent blood and sweat to get every grain onto the table. Well, it’s literal for me: I got cut while harvesting, and I had to work in summer conditions (I had to drink lots of water to avoid heat stroke).

The saga began late in December last year, just before the Christmas holidays. I had no idea how to start this project, so I enlisted the help of Kuya Jun and Kuya Ferdie (two of the technicians in the lab). I was really worried because I did not even know anything about rice production, or even about the population I was prepping. All I knew was the samples were sensitive to hot temperature (perfect! and I’m planting them right smack into the dry season! impeccable timing!). After breaking seed dormancy, we transplanted them into seed trays. During the holidays, I was in the glass house, watering the plants. I was too worried that they might die if I forgot to water them.

At last, the new year arrived, and my next worry was where to transplant them. Fortunately, there was an empty screenhouse behind the "mentos" tower so I set my plants there.

Still the worrywart, I was in the screenhouse everyday, including Saturday or Sunday, to water and de-weed my plants. But I eventually gave up de-weeding (it was a fruitless endeavour… the weeds keep on growing too fast).

Thankfully, my plants grew green and tall. I was beginning to rest easy. But then, my panel of advisers (specifically the technicians from the crop science division, and Kuya Jun and Kuya Ferdie) kept on reminding me that the tough part wasn’t over yet… the plants should flower and the grains should grow plump; otherwise, my work would have been a huge waste of time. So, I continued to water them until the early days of April when the summer air began to scorch the field.

I was so happy to see that my rice grains were plump and filled. The next challenge was to harvest all of them in the shortest time possible. That ordeal began on April 5. The novice that I am, I had no idea how to work the fastest until the next day. The advisers were all thinking it would take me a long time (at least a week) to finish up. But, surprise, surprise! I was done with 3/4 of the "farm" by 5pm yesterday. The only setback was I was dead tired. I was on the field from 9am (right after getting updated in the lab) up to 12nn (no snack break… when I’m focused on one thing, I act like the Energizer bunny). Lunch was a welcome break because the sun was so intense! But after getting cooled down a bit, I had to return to the field to work. So I was there again at 1pm til 5pm. I was working at a fast pace because I wanted to finish harvesting before the weekend. But I was too exhausted to carry all the harvested seeds by hand; I had to load everything in the car. Everything ached, even my fingertips! When I got home, I couldn’t sleep!

Today, I was back in the field from 9am until the lunch break. The good thing was that before I left, there were only around 12 pots left. So right after lunch, it just took me an hour (seems slow, maybe, but considering that I was really tired and my knees were ready to give out — after three days of working like this) to finish the harvest. Sa wakas!

After three days of field work, I got roasted to a beautiful golden brown complexion, just like my lola’s fried chicken. Anyway, I was religiously applying sun block spf 30 so I wasn’t worried about sunburns. Only the legs remained pale because I was wearing pants. The joke was I was sun-bathing on the field. Hehe.

As I was harvesting my plants, I was reminded of the Tim Allen-Kirstie Alley movie in which their characters hid in an Amish community during the planting season. Allen’s character was amazed because the plants he cultivated were all grown up, and he only watered them. I share the same sentiments. I am amazed that the seeds I had three months ago matured into grown plants with fruits of their own. And all I did was water them everyday (well, God made them grow; that’s in answer to my prayers that the plants survive the summer conditions). Really amazing. It was quite sad though, to see them wither and die.

Then again, that’s life.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

the OJT season has begun

I thought that my role in supervising undergraduate students was over when Raina and Charisse were done with their thesis. WRONG! With the arrival of the summer heat came the on-the-job trainees. They are third-year college students who have internships as part of their requirements for graduation.

Last year, I was largely uninvolved in the OJT program. But this year, I found myself volunteering to handle one OJT over the summer to help me in analysing around 600 samples. So far, I’m very impressed with the performance… well, I’m easily impressed, so that’s not a big challenge for anyone.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

i dread driving through Makati traffic!

I absolutely dread driving my car to Makati. The only reason I would bring my car there would be if I needed to get there in a hurry. For example, I volunteered to bring my sister to her office because she had barely an hour before her shift started (I got lost finding my way back to EDSA… that was past 10pm, and with the traffic at the Sales Interchange, I got home 1am the next day!). Or that time when I had to go to my orthodontist for my appointment, but I left the office late (and I had to drive through the notoriously slow Sta Rosa traffic).

So, the THIRD time I drove to Makati was on March 31; again there was some time constraint because I was attempting to beat a deadline. I would have loved to park right in the building I was going to. The problem was I was unfamiliar with the one-way streets in the area. It was easy to walk along Ayala Avenue and the side streets because I didn’t have to worry about the traffic flow, but it was a different story altogether when I brought the car.

From Los Banos, it took me two hours to reach the turn to Ayala Ave from EDSA. I decided to park at the Glorietta basement parking lot near Oakwood. Lucky for me, I found a spot in basement two near the mall entrance! That concluded my trip to Makati.

On the way back, I left Glorietta at 6:30pm, hoping that the traffic would be a bit lighter (because the truck ban was still being enforced) than the last time I was there. True enough, I got home in an hour and 45 minutes. I was just worried about the buses that were out of their lanes while waiting for their passengers (this was along EDSA). Since I shifted to a subcompact, my main fear was being squished by trucks and buses just because the drivers couldn’t see the car!

Whew! What a trip!

One thing I was reminded of that day was how much I miss my dad and my brother, who both made driving in Makati seem easy!

the ayala museum experience

Intrigued by articles about the Ayala Museum, I decided to go there myself to check it out on March 31… and to try to absorb as much culture as possible. :0)

Anyway, as luck would have it, I got in with a discounted admissions fee because some of the exhibit areas were closed. The only open exhibits were the dioramas about Philippine history and the paintings by Fernando Zobel and his nephew, Jaime.

On the 2nd floor… I thought I’ve seen the dioramas before (was it in fourth grade?). The gallery started with the prehistoric tableaus like the Tabon men in Palawan. Then, the arrival of Chinese and Arab merchants were protrayed in separate viewing areas. After them came the early explorations of Spaniards. The rest of the exhibits were quite predictable because they spanned the Spanish period until the Japanese occupation in the 1940s. What made that part of the museum unique was the multimedia segment. This was about the EDSA revolution in the 1980s. It featured the newspaper clips from that period and photo mosaics of nuns and civilians and military men. The pictures were larger than life, and was quite a sight to behold. Along the path, images of the past presidents were interspersed with the dioramas. I found it interesting that Carlos P. Romulo was quite vertically challenged (his height was around 5′0").

On the 3rd floor… This was a gallery of the artwork of Don Fernando and Don Jaime Zobel. Frankly, I did not get the point of Don Fernando’s work. All I saw were violent lines splashed on the canvas. I felt uneducated in contemporary art! In Hum II, I couldn’t remember discussions on the topic… I recall the emphasis on the classics (da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc) and the impressionists (Monet was my personal fave).

Still on the third floor… Being quite unhappy about that, I proceeded to check out Don Jaime’s work. I liked his better. There’s this fine art print that looked like clumps of red crystals (that I liked so much!). The lines were so solid and dark, contrasting to the luminiscence of the reflection passing through the prism. And there was a huge painting of birds flying over cogon grass. The curves were so fluid and smooth, just like the syllables in the haiku written next to it. I enjoyed these works better!

Back on the 1st floor… I started to hear the beginnings of a pre-concert warm up of a pianist. Too bad I couldn’t stay longer to watch the concert because I still had a long drive ahead of me. And I wanted to avoid the Friday rush hour traffic, which I’ve heard was bad in Makati.

The Ayala Museum was a great museum to go to. It’s not to academic like the National Museum, and there’s an emphasis on the arts. Too bad I went to museum alone. Anyway, there’s always a next time.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Photo shoot

Photography has been one of my hobbies since I discovered my 1978 Minolta SLR when I was eight years old. Since then, it’s a rarity to find me in pictures because I was always the one shooting them.

…Until one day in late 2005 when the journalists covering the agriculture beat went to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to tour the facilities. As luck would have it, I was busily working in the lab when a photographer approached and asked me to slow down so he could take action shots. :0) It turned out that he was from the Agence France Presse (AFP). Aw! I kissed my chance of getting copies of the pictures good bye; unless I chance upon them in the newspaper or in a book, or somewhere.

Today, I DID stumble upon one of the pictures! I was browsing the net when I came across my picture in an AFP premium article. Hehehe. :0)

Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images

I should get used to this…

Saturday, March 25, 2006

the march 18 challenge

March 18, 2006 — The date my cousin, Kuya Bimbo, was getting married… And I was assigned to drive the bridal car. I had dropped in late the night before, and parked my car in my uncle’s (his dad, my mom’s brother) garage (because the guys there would clean it) before going to my aunt’s (my mom’s sister) house to sleep there.

The next day, I was up at 6am, I went to my uncle’s house with my niece. She was scheduled for flower girls’ makeover, while I was to get the car and have it dressed up by the florist back at my aunt’s house. Everything was set and ready to go before 7am. I then had breakfast and proceeded to getting myself ready.

At 8:45am, while my aunts and cousins were getting dolled up, I went ahead to fetch the bride, Ginny, and her parents at a hotel in a different part of the town. To my surprise, I found SUVsthere, with a pair of motorbikes. It looked like a VIP entourage! The motorbike drivers, who turned out to be our escorts, were equally surprised to find out that I was driving the bridal car. After making sure that the groom’s entourage was en route to the wedding venue, Ginny and her parents boarded my car together with the cameraman… full wedding coverage.

I had never been a part of a convoy before, so I was really tense while driving at an average of 80kph tailgating the motorbike escorts, and being tailed in turn by one of the SUVs (the other one went ahead of the convoy). We made it to Kamayaan sa Palaisdaan in half the time I typically spend to drive that distance! That’s thanks to the escorts who made sure that oncoming traffic would stop and that the vehicles in front of the entourage would go to the shoulder of the road.

When we arrived, Kuya Reggie and Kuya Jobel, who I called MIB (men in barong — hehehe!) were waiting for me, and they asked how it was for me to drive that way (I think I disobeyed every rule in defensive driving that day). The ceremony was delayed a bit because the priest was late. But finally, the wedding began, and I stood in the back ready to take over the hosting chores from the lector for the reception.

Finally, the wedding ended and the reception began. I was just given general instructions by Ginny, and the camerapersons (to be politically correct) were not giving specific directions, so I just decided to wing it. Everything went on smoothly until the queue for the buffet table began. It turned out that the food table was in a narrow part of the reception area, and that the guests should be organized to get there (to avoid congesting the area). Anyway, Kuya Reggie and I became usher and usherette while Kuya Jobel was busy with the guestbook signing. As expected, both of us were vastly outnumbered by hungry guests, so we finally gave up with the ushering. Since I was still the emcee, I had to speak a few lines while lunch was being eaten. I barely had five bites of my food before I was called again… this time as errand girl. I had to collect some things (the souvenirs and a board where people sign their greetings) from the car, and follow instructions from the maid of honor.

Good thing I decided against wearing a gown or a sundress. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able move as quickly as I did. I was wearing a skirt and a blouse (very apt for the humid conditions), though I was wearing high-heeled sandals (to keep with the formal setting). Another brilliant decision I had was to bring my slippers in the car. So when the reception had ended and the guests had left, I changed into my slippers; just in time because I was about ot get cramps in my legs… and I won’t be able to drive with that!

Despite the challenges in the background, it looked like all the guests were fed, and the newlyweds were enjoying the festivities. Overall, the Odejar-Alfonso wedding was a blast. My congratulations go to Kuya Bimbo and Ginny. :0)

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

thesis defense at PUP

As said in my previous post, I was in PUP Sta Mesa earlier today. I was with Vito, Tita Dory, Melissa, and Kuya Jun to watch the thesis defense of Raina and Charisse, the undergraduate Chemistry students who worked on their project in IRRI.

I was excited to watch how the two would present the paper, and a bit worried because we haven’t seen the slides. However, I knew that they would do well because the IRRI team assisting them made sure that all bases were covered: that they understood the procedures, the principles behind the procedures, how the machines worked, the significance of their results, and how these related to the conclusion. Raina and Charisse, as early as January, were prepping for their defense by asking intelligent questions, and projecting what the panelists would ask. Plus, their adviser at PUP was also grilling them like a panelist when they were in campus. Basically, the two girls were well-prepared.

When we got to the venue, Raina and Charisse were nervous and went to ask us questions about some of the finer details in their talk. But by the way they were asking, we knew they were ready. Vito and I sat at the back with Kuya Jun (the girls approached us a few times to review some points in their discussion) while Melissa and Tita Dory stayed in the front of the audience ready to take questions from the panelists in case the girls couldn’t answer something from the panel. The support they got was tremendous!

We were happy that they presented their paper with so much confidence… they even went away from the podium to point parts of the graphs and stuff, which was a surprise to us. I was so proud that they were able to discuss the complex results very very well. In Hogwarts terms, they got a grade of "exceeds expectations" (at least from me). All their efforts paid off and they are now looking at a possible nomination for a competition for the Best Thesis Award in PUP!

There are a few things that have to be sorted out and improved on before they go to the competition, though. But those are minor details and missing points, which will be fixed this week. We are so excited!

I now understand the joy of professors and mentors when their wards move on to achieve things. I was a part of the team that helped these kids work on their thesis, and I knew part of the difficulties they faced. Working on equipment that you’ve never learned before is a long and difficult part of the learning curve, and it’s no joke to study it for less than a year.

Looking at thesis work from a different perspective is also good too. I was in the students’ spot a few years back, and I know that it’s really hard. I learned a lot about my field of study and about my limits when I did my thesis. But through helping them out, I learned even more about my study, because they asked such intelligent questions that I got challenged… I was forced to think outside the box a lot.

Aside from all that I’ve learned about myself and my field of study (this is quite deep), I am very thankful to the girls for the token that they’ve given me… a teddy bear! I felt that my birthday came a few months early!. I never expected that!

Congratulations to Raina and Charisse! They’ve done a great job! :D

yet another road trip… this time to Sta Mesa, Metro Manila

This morning, I joined my supervisor and two officemates in going to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta Mesa, Manila, to watch the thesis defense of two chemistry students who did their thesis in the Grain Quality and Nutrition Research Centre for the past semester.

The trip began at 7:40am at IRRI. With our supervisor behind the wheel, we sped through UPLB and the Jamboree road. We breezed through the normally congested national road (because the rush hour has just ended) up to the Halang, Calamba, where we turned left towards the bypass to Real and the South Luzon Expressway. The trip through the SLEX was also fast, with only a stopover at the Total Station for gas and coffee. On we went along the SLEX and the Skyway without a hitch.

The slow traffic began at the approach to the Quirino Avenue, where we had to turn right towards Nagtahan Bridge. At Nagtahan, we took the bridge going into Sta Mesa (the Padre Jacinto bridge, or whatever it’s called). That’s when the trouble began… we had to go around in circles and ask for directions at every other corner. The trip should have ended if the walkway going straight to PUP was open to vehicles. But since it wasn’t we had to find another way to the campus. We even went into a tunnel under some bridge and drove through a one-way street past a really crowded public market!

Anyway, after a few minutes of going searching, we finally reached the PUP campus.

That was one of the most stressful trips I’ve been on because we got lost… and in Manila too! Plus, we had to go through the narrowest of roads, and dodge away from pedestrians. I don’t think I’d dare drive to Sta Mesa yet. I’m too chicken to do so.