Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rice Genetics Symposium at the Manila Hotel

November 16 and 18, 2009

A lot of delegates from all over the world gathered at the Manila Hotel to understand the complexities of the genetics of one of the most important crops to mankind: rice.


Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visits Grain Quality!!

The princess came with an entourage of journalists and government officials. My supervisor, Dr Melissa Fitzgerald, gave her and Dr Robert Zeigler (IRRI's Director General) the tour of the lab. We, on the other hand, were nearby in case Melissa needed assistance with pulling up figures and data from the instruments. Plus, we were there to answer questions from the rest of the entourage.

She's got to be the highest-profile visitor we entertained to date!!

Mamang's birthday 2009




Anna and I took Mamang and Kuya Eldie out for lunch at Gerry's Grill and to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for coffee and milkshakes... all at the Alabang Town Centre.

Tita Dory's birthday lunch




Lots of good food, great company. This time, Vito was physically present, and not merely a participant via phone patch. ;)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: 2012 (2009)

Rating:★★★★
Category:Movies
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

The movie claims that the world, based on interpretations of the Mayan calendar, will end in 2012. Only a select few, based on their bank accounts and their genes, will be saved. The arks that would carry the chosen few into the next age were given country assignments. Curious that only a handful of countries were represented (mainly the rich ones) and that these nations shared spaces in the arks; with the exception of the US, which naturally had an ark all to itself.

Despite the US taking the lead (again!) in saving humankind from utter destruction, I actually liked this film. The interpretation of the Mayan Calendar was only touched upon, and the actual End of Days kicked off with a large bang: the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano! After that, the destruction of different landmarks all over the world is reminiscent of the scenes from "The Day After Tomorrow," which was directed by this movie's director, Roland Emmerich.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lost in translation

In the lab, I was trying to complete a Filipino saying, but I was struggling to find the words. My brain stopped searching, and I ended up saying,

"Huwag mag-count ng chicks habang hindi pa nag-hatch ang eggs." 

Any English speaker will know what the saying is without the English translation.

Too much soap on TV

I haven't been watching much local television in the past few years, thanks to the rigours of graduate school. But now, I have more time on my hands when I get home, and I have restarted watching the news (ending my newspaper subscription helped a lot in making me dependent on news on television)... late night, that is, because I'm still at work at 6 PM.

I miss the days when late night meant getting news at 10 PM and television stations signing off promptly at midnight. Those were the days of "The World Tonight" with Angelo Castro, Jr., if I'm not mistaken. Currently, late night news programs are aired close to midnight!! There are just too many soaps and drama series in between the 6 PM (are the news programs still aired at 6 PM?) and the late night news, I think. Add a daily dose of gossip which is even longer than current events shows, into the merry mix... and late night news is naturally pushed back to almost very early morning. What can be expected of the current event documentaries that are shown AFTER the news? They're thrown into the next day's program schedule!

A stark contrast to the objectives of these news networks: they want people to be more proactive and aware about what happens around them (i.e., the upcoming elections in May 2010). In fact, there are real-time audience participation activities in news broadcasts (mainly by SMS responses to surveys). However, if news and documentaries are shown in the wee hours of the morning because of the flurry of soaps and telenovelas during prime time, aren't these television stations failing in what they have set out to do? Many of the people they target might be sleeping by the time the news and the documentaries kick off! Especially if they are gunning for the working class, college students, and housewives.

What to do? I suggest that late night news be brought back to the 10 PM slot, with the documentaries airing right after.

Current events documentary pushed back to the wee hours of the morning :(


I must say I am a Cheche Lazaro fan.


I make it a point to catch "Probe Profiles," a documentary she hosts, which airs on ABS-CBN Channel 2 every Wednesday after the late night news. With the 2010 elections right around the corner, the show is currently presenting a series of interviews featuring people touted to most probably run for the presidency next year. The show is indeed a fantastic way for the electorate to know the backgrounds of the candidates, hear the opinions of people who oppose these candidates, and hopefully make informed decisions on Election Day.

The show has a HUGE potential of reaching a large number of televiewers both in the Philippines and overseas since it is being aired in one of the Philippines' largest media networks... if only the show is aired somewhat earlier than the 11:45 pm-ish time slot (Philippine Standard Time, GMT +8.00). With this late night-very early morning schedule, the show most likely capture the insomniacs and people who really watch out for each episode. I don't know if the show is being seen by the college students and the early twenties age bracket, who most probably are part of the target audience (many of them are voting for the first time).

I don't know if this essay would reach people in ABS-CBN. Nevertheless, I wish that whoever schedules shows in there move the show's schedule to an earlier time slot. I think a lot more people will benefit from "Probe Profiles" if it's aired earlier. 

Click on the link to go to the Probe Profiles website. =)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Before the pizza arrived




Kuya Eldie dropped by the house to check on the faulty electrical wiring that plunged the master's bedroom into darkness for almost a week. Then we ate dinner at Pizza Hut in Calamba while he updated us on our cousins' Tropical Storm Ketsana experience in Provident Village.

Thank goodness Kuya Eldie was there to help out!

(Photos by Anna and me)

Aragog, is that you?





Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.


I found this huge spider crawling about in the house a tad too late for Halloween. However, it's still welcome at home because it eats bugs. This way of pest control is way better, both for the environment and for one's health, than spraying insecticides inside the house. I just hope this spider isn't poisonous. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Christmas blends

Anna told me to drop by Boston Cafe because her friend, Melay, was there for the launch of the Havaianas outlet (which, according to the baristas, has a 20-30% discount on several designs until November 30). By the time I got there, Melay had already left; but Heidi was there to let me try out a drink in Boston Cafe's Christmas menu... and the really delicious chocolate cake.


I'm now a fan of the Caramel Toffee frappe (I'm not sure if the name is correct), which is huge change from my Boston Cafe staple: chocolate milkshake with peppermint. Caramel toffee is sweet but it doesn't overwhelm the taste buds. In fact, it's the perfect complement to chocolate cake. 

The other flavour, if I remember the name correctly, is the Christmas frappe (this one I bought). It has some amount of coffee mixed with chocolate, which I'm sure people would love. I didn't enjoy it as much as the caramel toffee primarily because I'm not a coffee drinker, and the bitterness of coffee takes over the taste of the chocolate. What I like about this drink, though, are the red and green Christmas tree sprinkles. 

Thanks to Heidi and Melay!!

Fire alarm!

What's a perfect way to jolt people on a hot and humid afternoon? Trigger the fire alarm! Unintentionally, of course.

Desiccants are materials used to keep other items dry. These pellets are blue when dry, and slowly turn pink while these absorb moisture from the environment. Pouring newly dried desiccant pellets wouldn't be such a big deal if it didn't stir up a lot of dust... dust that set off the smoke detector! 

Everyone went out of the building as the fire marshals determined which sensor was set off (and I, along with Tita Dory, Dara and Ate Lucy, knew exactly which sensor was triggered - it was above us). Many minutes ticked by before the Fire Brigade showed up, only to find out that it was a false alarm.

What a way to break the monotony on a warm (it's already November!!) and sunny Wednesday afternoon. =)

Table art and relieving hunger

Pasta is, I think, becoming a popular item in home decoration, particularly in the kitchen. It does come in a lot of shapes and sizes that, when mixed and matched, can be called art. However, in places where food security is an issue, is it really a wise idea to use food, albeit pretty when uncooked, as decoration?







Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lola Estay's 92nd birthday


This year's celebration is a much scaled-down version of her 91st birthday party (January 1 pictures). Just cake, pancit, macaroni, corned beef, lechon manok, and the family (that remains in the Philippines). Anna and I arrived separately just before dinner (with me bringing a cake, which was in danger of melting after a four-hour drive). Other cousins dropped by earlier, but I wasn't there yet to take pictures.

IRRI Duets Season 2: The Performance

The night's contest pieces (in order):

The Pinoy Big Brother theme
Endless Love
To All the Girls I've Loved Before
I Will Survive
Dancing Queen
Sun and Moon

Jenny Jarlego (a contestant from last season) sang "I Want to Know What Love Is" and students from a local college danced. The final intermission number was a performance by last season's hit makers: "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Donna, Achim, Bas, and Tanguy.

The winners this season were Fiona and April; they survived!


IRRI Duets Season 2: The Final Rehearsal

One final run-through of Kuya Teodie and Melissa's performance to let Ana get her cues.

... It's show time!!


IRRI Duets Season 2: The Props

I almost didn't make it to work because of the flash flood along the Calamba-Los Banos stretch of the national highway. I detoured around Mount Makiling via the Sto Tomas route after seeing that the fourth flood was too high for me to risk my car (Los Banos rest area). The alternate route led through Tanauan, Alaminos, San Pablo, Calauan, and Bay... an additional 60 km drive on top of the 18 km I had already made. In all, a 3-1/2 hour drive to work... the second longest for me. :|

However, I DID arrive in time to document the final touches to the props. Despite the torrential rain in the morning, everyone was in high spirits, looking forward to the performance in later that evening.

Post-Mirinae 01-Nov-2009


The Santa Cruz River swelled and went over the flood control measures, submerging a big proportion of Sta Cruz, Laguna. Lola Estay's house, which is very close to the river, was in waist-deep flood. In other areas, the current was so strong that people had to use ropes to traverse the streets. The public market, which has been under water since late September, was still plied by boats - Sta Cruz's very own Venice.

The waters near the national highway receded as quickly as they came, and Anna and I were able to visit on November 1. Before driving off to the cemeteries, though, I took the time to photograph the still swollen river and the nephew and the niece, Totoy and Trisha.

Manila Memorial 30-Oct-2009




Right after the lab meeting, I headed to Makati for my dental check-up, followed by a quick visit to Lolo Bats, Tito Nani, and the Aquinos. I didn't find Papa Mallari's grave though.

Had Lolo's grave cleaned up. It turns out that Lolo's marker is made of marble. Now I know.

Then it was time to drive fast back to the house. Typhoon Mirinae had made a slight change in trajectory and was hitting Laguna in less than 18 hours. On my way back, the rains had started...

Sunday in Eastwood

We trooped one more time to Eastwood City to visit Kuya Mitchie, Che, and Miggy. And then off to Mass at the Holy Family Chapel.

Eastwood City looks quite similar to Waikiki's hotel area, and to Gold Coast.


Weed it out

Nothing like a good hour out in the sunshine to put things into perspective. Gardening - more like removing weeds from the garden - on a slow Sunday is hitting two birds with one stone. As my dad puts it, " Habang nagpapahinga, naglilinis ng bakuran." I just have to agree, now that I'm in charge of doing this... and have no choice but to enjoy it. =)  

Removing weeds from the garden is therapeutic for me, I found out. It has the same effect as getting a really short haircut when I'm stressed; except that gardening doubles as an exercise. =)

The next question is, what do I plant in there? 

November b-days

  Happy birthday to:

Joycelyn - Nov 2
Kuya Junjun - Nov 3
Biboy - Nov 4
Lola Estay - Nov 7
Tina - Nov 8
Mamang - Nov 11
Ate Maddie - Nov 27

Did I miss anyone? 

Holidays are coming... again (sigh!)

Christmas is just around the corner, it seems. Though the wind hasn't picked up enough of the cold, I'm convinced because the lanterns are now on display along the national highway, Ayala Avenue is being decorated with giant maroon bows, and television ads have started spreading the holiday cheer. Even the news broadcasts have started their own countdowns.

This year's celebration won't be as festive as last year's, I think. The family is separate once again, and those abroad have no plans of going home for the holidays this year. What a letdown, from last year's enjoyable holidays. The typhoons surely didn't help brighten the mood.

Just the same, I have to reflect at the blessings bestowed to us this year, and be happy that the family is safe. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Undas 2009

No picture taking this year. Parking close to the cemeteries was a problem this evening, obviously because a lot of people were visiting their departed relatives. To make the long (more than two hours worth of driving) and winding (the detour led vehicles through a lot of curves) story short, I didn't get a chance to get off the car and walk. My passengers visited the graves while I was stuck in traffic. In the end, after three cemeteries, I just gave up and went back to my grandma's house.