Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello, TCA-981!

Driving to work this morning made me smile. I saw my old car, TCA-981, and I was very happy that it's in good condition. Seeing it brought back memories of my first years behind the wheel...

July 1, 1994 (or sometime close to Daddy's birthday)
It was early evening, we were about to close up our shop (which was then close to the Lopez Elementary School). We were just waiting for Daddy because it was his birthday and we were looking forward to a dinner outside the house. When Daddy finally came, we three siblings jumped up and down with excitement because he was driving our new car! Mommy knew about it of course, but I think they kept it a secret from us kids.

Anyway, it was a shiny and blue 1991 Toyota Corolla 1.6 GL that had caught Annapet's eye when she joined Daddy in one of his car-hunting expeditions. It became the family's travel companion, having gone to Baguio on family trips at least twice. The plate: TCA-981. 

It's the car I grew up with.

April 1998
Daddy began teaching me how to drive using this car. Kuya Junjun also lent a hand to teach me some parking skills. Poor car, it had to endure scratches every time I drove too fast across the railroads near the UPLB-IPB facility, every time I hit a curb with a miscalculated turn, and that one time I hit a dog (while driving at a heart-stopping 20 kph). I guess the engine also suffered too, because I used to make mistakes while shifting gears. Daddy had to bring it to the mechanic's quite a few times because of my dismal driving skills.

May 15, 2001

A day after the 2001 Philippine senatorial elections, Daddy finally allowed me to drive the family car!! He got convinced partly because my driving skills had considerably improved and mainly because my BSc thesis schedule was messing up his lunch hour. On weekdays, I'd drive the car and he'd be tailing me (in the family van). Mommy used to stay with him, but when he was sure I could drive properly, Mommy became my constant passenger. I just had one problem: since TCA-981 did not have power-steering yet, I had a tough time driving it: Mondays and Tuesdays were okay, but then I'd be asleep all day Wednesday out of exhaustion! Recovered, I'd drive to the BIOTECH lab Thursdays and Fridays, only to sleep all day again on Saturday. That schedule worried me a lot.

(Rochie's thought bubble: What will happen to my Wednesday sleeping habit when school term starts?!?)

Little did I know that Mommy would force me to have more courage while on the road. If it were not for her, I would not have driven the four hours to Sta. Cruz from our house, nor the two hours up the winding road to Liliw. 

Yes, I used to be a driving nightmare both for other motorists and for my passengers.

September 2001
At last, Daddy decided to assign me to the newer car, ANA-118, because that one was still covered by comprehensive insurance and I was the least experienced among the drivers in the family. TCA-981 was no longer covered, so it went back to him. Over the next few months, I would drive either car to school, depending on Daddy's car schedule (Biboy used to contest why I had the sports car, hehehe). 

April 20, 2002
Since I had to be in school earlier than the rest of the family for the UPLB-CAS recognition program, I drove TCA-981 to school. In the middle of the program, Daddy asked for the car key and went out of the hall (I thought he was just going to park the car somewhere else). When he came back, I asked for the key but he said, "Ah, naibenta ko na yung kotse mo. Sasabay ka na sa amin ng Mommy mo."

No last-minute checks; no good byes; no souvenir key chain even. Little did I know that my last day in college was also the last day I'd be seeing the first car I was assigned to. Thank goodness the timing of the sale was impeccable; otherwise, I might have been in mourning all day.

June 29, 2010
I've been wondering for some time now about how the cars I used to drive are coming along. Then this morning, I saw a familiar blue car. I know that plate number... whoa, that's my first car!! The glass tint's a lot darker, and the colour is not quite as blue as I remember it, but I still recognised it from far off. I guess some details don't really change.

What a way to make the days leading to my birthday light and happy. =)

My 29th birthday wish/shopping list

"What do you want on your birthday?"

I'm always at a loss when asked this. Since my birthday is coming up soon, I thought long and hard and finally came up with my birthday wish list a few days in advance (an achievement). The catch: I only get one item from the list; then I revise the list for next year. =)
  1. Quad-band cellphone
  2. Neutral density filter
  3. Tripod
  4. Sportswatch (more specifically, new batteries for my old one)
  5. Prescription sunglasses
I used to include the latest Harry Potter book in my birthday wish list, but I've already completed the set. 

This year, I ended up with a phone since it's been in my birthday list the longest. Thanks to rapid devaluation of phones and to BPI Installment Madness, I was able to get a quad-band phone (with wifi functionality, which I consider a bonus) priced under P10,000 at 0% interest, 12 months to pay scheme... and I also received an extra phone as part of the deal. =)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another surprise lunar eclipse!

On my way home tonight, I happened to look up at the evening sky. That moon is weird, I thought; it looked like a full moon except for a small part of the arc that seemed to have been chomped off very cleanly by Cookie Monster. When the skies had cleared, I looked up again. Lo and behold, a normal-looking full moon! I must have been imagining the misshapen moon due to the thick cloud cover. Or was that an actual lunar eclipse, and I just didn't realise it (again!)?

Apparently, what I saw really was a lunar eclipse. It's a partial one, and the Philippines had ring side seats to see the eclipse during moon rise. However, the rain clouds hovering over Manila made the moon hardly noticeable. Too bad I only noticed (and almost dismissed) the eclipse when it was about to end. I would've loved to see the maximum eclipse in which more than half of the moon was covered by the Earth's shadow. 

More details about this eclipse are in Wikipedia (see the link below):

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: No Country for Old Men (2007)

Genre: Westerns

A great film, but I won't attempt watching it when I'm alone ever again! The movie was SCARY. Five minutes after it had started, I ran out of the room and double-checked the locks on the doors!

I only continued watching, under pillows and blankets, because Tommy Lee Jones was in it (he played the sheriff, Ed Tom Bell) and I was waiting for his typical I-will-save-the-day scene. However, he maintained a low profile throughout this film, so atypical of his roles as a U.S. Marshall and a Man in Black.

Javier Bardem, as the hitman Anton Chigurh, was SCARY. Putting him in the cast was a great move by the Coen Brothers. Because of his portrayal of the antagonist, I had difficulty sleeping!

The lack of background music in large sections of the film echoed a feeling of hopelessness in such a violent community... and was SCARY. The colours used in the film were a bit on the sad side too, making the area look like a ghost town. Where were all the people?!? The feel of the neighbourhood made me expect a gun fight waiting to happen... and it did.

Such a crime-ridden town is indeed not for old men.

Review: Run Fatboy Run (2007)

Genre: Comedy

A healthy dose of Brit comedy. The film injected humour as it tackled the obstacles met by a man while training for a marathon and running his life. The turtle won over the hare again!

I just don't understand why the title includes the term "Fatboy". The hero was not that fat (or at least not as fat as I had thought).

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Balance Trail Run 2010

There are good days and there are bad days. Today started out badly. I woke up with a splitting headache and a bad feeling in the stomach, so I wasn't sure if I could finish this 5k. And the bad move: I ate cheese sandwiches on my way to Nuvali. Perfect, I thought, I wasn't going to throw up on an empty stomach. =|

But who could pass up this kind of challenge, right? I was determined to finish the New Balance Trail Adventure in one piece!

I walked/jogged my way slowly up and down the narrow trail to the finish line, and got to look around me. This was my closest approach to the Tagaytay ridge on foot! There was a lot of grass and a few scattered trees (quite expected). Clouds over the Laguna de Bay enhanced the already great view: cloud-covered sunlight casting a golden glow on vegetation and on muddy soil. =) Too bad I didn't carry my camera along during the run... what a waste of view. 

Fifty-one minutes later, I crossed the finish line. Headache gone. Stomachache gone. The day was getting better and better, finally!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's that up in the sky?

Thank you, Dara for pointing at the sky this afternoon!

As the sun was setting, strange bursts of colour were seen above the rain clouds. This was the first time I've seen sun dogs (or what I think are sun dogs). At first, we thought aurora borealis (but we're too far from the poles and it's too early in the day to see that) and then I thought oil spill in the sky (overactive imagination, right?). Or was it a horizontal rainbow? (a what?!?) Then I remembered Dr. Ken McNally mentioning sun dogs.

Whatever that is, the light scattering phenomenon surely livened up our early evening while still in the lab. 

Fe shows what your nose knows

How do you differentiate fresh from stored rice? Without the complex technological platforms used in metabolomics, the best instrument is still the NOSE. It, for example, can differentiate between jasmine and basmati, two forms of aromatic rice.

Basmati rice, usually eaten after a year in storage, is preferred mostly by South Asians; jasmine rice, eaten soon after harvest, is preferred mostly by Southeast Asians. Both types of rice contain the same aromatic compound but they have their own distinctive smell.

At the IRRI Seminar on June 10, Fe discussed the aroma profiles of jasmine and basmati varieties. Aside from the main aromatic compound, hundreds more contributed to the distinct aromas of the two rice types. These differences are detected by the human nose.

My first time at the SMX Convention Centre

Thanks to Al Gore's presentation, I was able to enter the SMX Convention Centre for the first time. Unfortunately, photography of any form was not allowed inside the lecture hall as the presentation was going on. The fear of having my camera confiscated prevented me from sneaking a photo (and they did reprimand someone who was photographing the slides – I think he had a better chance of writing down the references, and then downloading the images from the Associated Press website).

Yup, I was able to buy a bronze ticket. Actually, I wondered why I got a cheap ticket and yet I was seated in front. It turned out that the spot I was seated in had ring side seats of the giant screen... not of the stage with Al Gore on it. I had to sit sideways and strain my neck to see the people onstage. Once the talk began, the houselights were dimmed, and it didn't matter anymore that I was on the far left side. Al Gore was barely illuminated. The focus, evidently, was on the content of the presentation rather than on the speaker.

The stage, I assume, is where the white light is. After the talk, I was no longer in a hurry, so I had a few minutes to roam around the convention centre. There were some interesting exhibits. My favourite, though, is the commitment wall of the WWF (if I can remember correctly).

I totally missed the famous Manila sunset (yet again!). I'm happy that I caught the "blue hour", the time when the sky is dark blue, almost violet. The yellow lights along the Mall of Asia complex adds a warm contrast, which I like as well =)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Al Gore's talk: The experience

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..." 
– John Donne (1624)

Hans T. Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings, welcomed everyone to the SM Leadership Conference Series. His opening line, John Donne's "No Man is an Island", strikes home today's theme. What a way to introduce the man of the hour, a speaker who encourages environmental awareness: Mr. Al Gore.

The former U.S. vice-president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate brought his famed presentation "An Inconvenient Truth" to Manila, this time updated for the Asian audience. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as well as the movers and shakers of Philippine society, attended the lecture... plus a few fans who would never land in the society pages (including me).

Mr. Gore took the audience through a journey beginning with images of Earth taken from space: Earthrise (Will Anders, 1968 on Apollo VIII) and The Blue Marble (1972, Apollo XVII crew). Both images show that the Earth's atmosphere is so thin and is the most vulnerable of all the  components of the Earth's ecological system. From there, he started detailing what global warming is all about. He zeroed in on the detrimental effects of human activity on the environment, and then proceeded to how we can minimise our impact on the planet. 

Since I've already watched the film, I found that he did not deviate from his original message: Save the planet! No surprises there, making it an okay seminar. However, what made it a great experience was his passion about the environment that oozed out of him as he spoke onstage. Seeing his lecture live is so different from watching him onscreen. It didn't even matter too much that I was so far away and I could barely see him when most of the house lights were turned off. With a less effective speaker, I would have zoned out during the first few minutes of the talk; but he kept me listening the whole time!

He obviously had a lot of practice for the presentation, but the Q&A portion was a whole different matter. Cheche Lazaro, one of my favourite journalists, moderated the session! Her questions were both candid and difficult, just like in her interviews of Presidential candidates. Mr. Gore paused a few times to gather his thoughts before answering her (and the audiences') questions. Thankfully, difficulties in his personal life, which have recently reached gossip column and talk shows, were not discussed onstage (this was not a Sunday showbiz talk show after all). 

I just wish that there was some way to make his presentation more accessible and appreciable to people who didn't watch it. For instance, how to make people see that the extremely rainy 2009 and the extremely hot 2010 summer could be associated with cutting of trees and increasing population.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Helped end hunger, five km at a time

We trooped to Fort Bonifacio to participate in the Walk the World event on June 6. As usual, I did not dare run with my camera on me, so I took photos before and after the actual 5k run.

The skies were gloomy, in sharp contrast to the Neutrogena run (runners were basking in sunshine then), but everyone was in a happy mood, especially the walkers. They had with them a marching band and street dancers!!

Walk the World; End hunger

... and get hungry yourself in the process!

Fe, Dara, Crystal, and I joined the United Nations World Food Programme's Walk the World–Pilipinas. It's a charity event conducted to raise funds to help keep children in school by providing daily school meals (which cost around P10 a student) in conflict-ridden areas of the Philippines, such as Mindanao. I guess this is our way of contributing directly to the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

Instead of joining the 1k walk, we ended up running (and walking) the full 5k route. Noan and Tita Angie participated in the walk, complete with the marching band, the giants (higantes), the balloons, the tribal dancers, and the corporate participants.

I clocked 00:46:02 in my first 5k race, based on the time I crossed the finish line (unofficial race time). Not bad, I thought, since I was aiming to finish in under an hour. Dara and Crystal, also running 5k for the first time, finished the course earlier than I did. Fe, who walked the entire way, finished in 01:04:30.

Walk the World is also being done other countries in a 24-hour relay. According to the event's website, it began in Auckland, New Zealand and will end later today in Samoa.

Photos before and after the event are found here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Road trip 2010 (Leg 2)

After the Pahiyas (2010) adventure, we trooped to Tanay, Rizal to see the famous Daranak Falls. The general area of the waterfalls is a popular filming location; in fact, on today's trip, we passed by the road to the film set location of "Langit sa Piling Mo", a current GMA-7 television series. 

I'm glad that despite the fame of the place, it is still accessible to non-showbiz folk. The Manila East Road (which goes round the Laguna de Bay) is paved and relatively safe to go on (no traffic!). I loved driving on the hairpin turns and seeing the transformation of the scenery: mountain, lake, rice field, then back to mountain. There were also a lot of reminders to be alert for landslides because the roads cut through the Sierra Madre range. Keeping passengers not nauseated with the road was quite challenging in the Mabitac–Pililla stretch.

A lot of blogs have been written on how to go to the waterfalls via the Manila East Road, but most of the writers start from Manila. So for anyone from Laguna interested in visiting the waterfalls, here's what to do (going by private transportation):
  1. From Los Banos, drive past Bay, Victoria, Pila, and Sta Cruz. At Pagsanjan (across the town church), take a left to Lumban.
  2. Pass the towns of Kalayaan, Paete, and Pakil along the Manila East Road.
  3. Pass by Siniloan and Famy.
  4. Drive up the zigzag section of the Manila East Road in Mabitac (the last town of Laguna).
  5. Enter Pililla, Rizal and start descending (still on the zigzag road).
  6. Once on flat land, start looking for the intersection with a Shell station on the right. Turn right on that intersection. That is the Sampaloc Road.
  7. Stay on that road and follow directions to Daranak Falls. You're on the right road if you start smelling the unique aroma of poultry and hog farms. (I'm not kidding)
  8. Turn left at the small uphill road that has a sign board directing people to Daranak Falls. The road is quite steep and has unpaved sections which may be slippery during the rainy season.
  9. Park at the end of the road. You've arrived!

I'm quite surprised that despite the popularity of the place, rent of the tables and the entrance fees are on the cheap (really cheap!). In fact, when payment time came up, I only had to pay P75.00! To me, that meant the place is underdeveloped and may have a lot of visitors. I just wish that this waterfalls is not following the sorry path of Hinulugang Taktak, Antipolo City. I look forward to seeing it again (unchanged) in a few years.

The view of Daranak Falls was what I came for, and it did not disappoint. There was less water pouring from the cliff compared to what I remembered, but then the country is just coming from a nasty El Nino spell, so a smaller waterfall was expected. However, the water in the pool was still a stunning shade of blue and there were a lot of butterflies flitting about. The long drive was worth it.

Where to next?

**More photos of this road trip here:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ang Handaang Naghahanap ng Okasyon

melon, corn, sugar

Everyone contributed to the pot-luck halo-halo in the lab. Absolutely no occasion.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Something cool I watched in IRRI's Thursday Seminar: Social Media Revolution


Social Media Revolution: Is social media a fad? Or is it the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution? This video details out social media facts and figures that are hard to ignore. This video is produced by the author of Socialnomics.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review: Robin Hood (2010)

Genre: Action & Adventure

A feel-good Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott collaboration, more along the lines of A Good Year (2006) than of Gladiator (2000). I had fun watching the film because I liked how Robin Hood's legend was given an origin (no matter how far-fetched it could be) and because I had the good fortune of exploring Nottingham CBD for two hours (where everywhere in the city centre I turned I could see a trace of his legend).