Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy birthday, Anna! :)

One reason why Anna and I were keen on trying the flying trapeze that night was because it's her birthday weekend. After two hours of adrenaline-pumping flight, we decided to wind down at the International House of Pancakes. That's IHOP for you and me. Yes, there's IHOP already in Manila. This was my first time to try it here... almost ten years after I had my first IHOP pancake almost ten years ago in Florida.

But a birthday celebrated by just us isn't so fun so we continued the party the next day with our family in Sta Cruz. Ate Madie made a great suggestion: Calda's Pizza, which is basically a walk from our ancestral home... And boy, the food was DELICIOUS!!!

If I had some influence to this birthday celebration, it is with the cake. I convinced Anna to get the chocolate mousse from Red Ribbon... my all-time favorite. 

Happy birthday, Anna!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Videoke night out with high school batchmates

Grace, a friend of mine since high school (thank goodness she hasn't forgotten me!), is getting married in October! This is why we celebrated her departure from singlehood last September 12. No, it wasn't hyped bachelorette party that people see on the telly...

We had dinner and then we went to a videoke bar. Funny thing is, there wasn't enough singing. Instead, we were all just catching up with stories from when we last saw each other. And we talked with two friends, who didn't attend the party, over FaceTime and and Skype. One even remarked that if she just knew that that's what we'd end up doing, we should have gone to a coffee shop instead. Haha!

Friday, September 26, 2014

I've just been handed precious rice grains!

Heirloom rice varieties 

There are times when the very thin line between my professional life and my personal life disappears. And most of the time, this line vanishes because of the rice I have to eat. If it's not obvious yet, I am a big rice eater! I have this habit of going to the supermarket to buy rice grains of different colours and I go to great lengths to try out rice varieties whose trade names I haven't heard of before (just like when I ended up with five kg of rice from remote parts of the Philippines after intending only to check out IFEX 2013) and buying two kg of rice (again!) at the World Food Expo 2014

And then there are days when rice varieties just get handed to me... for cooking and tasting, mind you, just like what happened today. I didn't receive just any regular white rice. I was given grains of three heirloom rice varieties grown in the Cordillera region. These are Ingudpul, Chorchor-os, and Ominio. Ominio, in particular, is not a run-of-the-mill heirloom rice; it is one of the rarest of them all, according to what I've been hearing and reading. I feel happy that I got enough grains to cook and to taste. The presence of these varieties in the market shows how vast the Filipino culinary culture is... no, we don't eat white rice only; we've got colored ones, too. 

If these varieties are not used and appreciated, they'd eventually go extinct. So the best way to make sure that these varieties survive the next few decades into the next generation (aside from the scientific approach, of course) is to eat them! And this is why I feel honoured and given a big responsibility. Eating these heirloom rice varieties (aside from for their health benefits) is my small contribution to the preservation of the richness of the Filipino culture.

And there's one more thing: A rice farmer once emotionally reminded an audience of scientists, "Do not waste the rice that you're eating."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AdMU days: witnessing the beginnings of the MMDA's C-5 traffic light scheme

I've taken up a teaching assignment at the Ateneo de Manila University. This semester, I teach Biotechnology for Everyone, a course designed for non-biology majors. I'll write about my experiences from time to time.

C-5 Road is the route I take to go to the Ateneo because it's the fastest route to school. For years, the road has U-turn slots that a lot of people are not big fans of because these are associated with bottlenecks caused by vehicles occupying at least two lanes when making U-turns. The Metro Manila Development Authority, in response to the complaints of many commuters plying the C-5, decided to install traffic lights at intersections and to remove a number of U-turn slots.

On the first day of installing the road signs showing lane assignments, I couldn't help but scratch my head: Trucks were supposed to use the innermost lane. Vehicles that were supposed to take a left turn at the intersection were supposed to stay on the lane adjacent to the truck lane. If I were to make a left turn, how was I going to achieve that if trucks occupied the innermost lane? When the light turned green, these trucks would surely block any left-turning vehicle!

Somewhere near Julia Vargas Avenue, Pasig City (northbound)

Somebody's made a big mistake on that one, I thought. But it wasn't one road sign; all truck lane signs were like that along C-5! The good news was that the traffic lights were still not switched on so the truck lane assignments weren't in effect yet.

A few days later, I noticed that the truck lane and the left-turning lane got switched. This was more logical, I thought, since trucks going from NLEX to SLEX and vice versa wouldn't block vehicles turning left at intersections.

Approaching Eastwood, Quezon City (southbound) 
I was amazed at how orderly the traffic became after that. Admittedly, though, I'm not a fan of the traffic scheme as it's implemented along Katipunan Avenue because it has slowed the traffic down significantly. For instance, my five-minute drive has become a thirty-minute one... and that's on a good day. 

I hope that the traffic scheme can further be improved to ease the traffic in and around the city. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vigan's famed Calle Crisologo

I felt like I traveled back in time. 

Stepping out of Grandpa's Inn after the rain subsided, Ate Bing and I explored Vigan's famous street, Calle Crisologo. This was where the rich and the famous used to live back in the day when the Philippines was still under colonial rule and a flourishing trading system with Acapulco. While walking on the cobblestone road, I was imagining what it was like when horse-drawn calesas were the major means of transportation and not just a tourist attraction; what it was like when the street lamps were fuelled by gas and not by electricity; what it was like when the music being played behind every window were live piano or string performances rather than radio broadcasts or recorded music....

Toog... toogs... toogs... toogs... toogs... 

... Hang on, were those deep bass beats I heard?!? Please don't tell me that there's a dance club in the middle of a street that time has seemingly forgotten. Were they serious?!? 

Oh yes, they were. In the middle of the night, smack in the center of this age-old street, there's a vibrant dance scene. Ate Bing and I had a look through the open door when the bouncers took a break as we were passing by. So that's where all the night owl tourists went after a day in the sunshine. Aha!

The morning light certainly gave the street a different vibe. Tourists were all over the place having their pictures taken, buying souvenirs, riding the calesas like the dons and doñas of old. Calle Crisologo took on a lively and vibrant atmosphere that I had difficulty not joining in, after all, I was a tourist as well.

I ended up with three bottles of the famous sukang Iloco, trilby hats, a table runner and a set of placemats. Alas, Vigan was just a pitstop on our  Ilocos adventure. I'll go back here someday and explore the rest of what Vigan has to offer. After all, it's been more than a decade since I had my last empanada here and I missed it during this trip.

Monday, September 22, 2014

AdMU days: Looking the part

I've taken up a teaching assignment at the Ateneo de Manila University. This semester, I teach Biotechnology for Everyone, a course designed for non-biology majors. I'll write about my experiences from time to time.

As with any speaking engagement, my last concern is always, ALWAYS, what I should wear. Honestly, for my teaching semester at the Ateneo, I had thought that I had enough business-y clothes for the whole semester so I didn't think this through well enough. After all, my mom and I went on a shopping spree at Old Navy last Christmas and I got a lot of office-attire-worthy clothes at seriously huge discounts.

... I realised soon early in the semester that I was dead wrong. 

Good thing is I have a sister and a bunch of friends who are willing to help me with boosting my office/teaching/conference wardrobe. Anna gifted me with a skirt; however, she bought a size too small... I have to get thinner to fit in it. She's also with me when I saw a pair of nude pumps at Marks & Spencer (way before school started), a pair that has fast become my favourite pair of school shoes.

On a different shopping day out, Joann and Kor were with me at the Festival Mall branch of Payless Shoes where I got two pairs of pumps at very low prices: a bronze pair and a purple pair. We were there when a lot of the shoes were being sold at a huge discount! During that same trip, they helped me find a nice tangerine orange wrap dress that is now one of my go-to dresses.

And on another of these recent shopping expeditions, Matty helped me further boost my dress collection. He found two dresses that instantly screamed "Buy me!": an A-line belted dress at Debenhams and a piped fit and flare dress at Banana Republic (I felt like I was muted down version of the Girl in the Green Scarf).

he's the sharp-eyed fashion consultant that afternoon
My sister and my friends did a great job, if I may so myself. They helped me get pieces that I could wear in school and when I attend formal occasions. The rest, then, depended on me carrying the clothes well when I need to be in front of an audience.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On a cold, rainy night in Ilocos...

Ate Bing and I arrived in Vigan, Ilocos Sur some 300 km from Tarlac City via TPLEX. If we arrived in the afternoon and if the weather were perfect, we would have been able to walk around the city to see the dancing water fountains, eat al fresco near the church, and gone around Calle Crisologo as dusk settled. However, we arrived late on a stormy night, famished, and exhausted.

But did the rain stop us from venturing out to see the city? No!

As soon as the rain stopped, we walked around the late night version of Calle Crisologo and then went to Cafe Leona, a famous Vigan restaurant near the town plaza. The restaurant is supposedly known for its Ilocano fare but since we already had dinner, we opted to have dessert instead. As usual, I just had to have the coldest option of them all despite the evening's drop in temperature: Nestle's Dutch Speculoos ice cream. I felt this cookie flavour's been chasing me since my birthday week! And yes, I just had to order the ice cream by the pint, not by the scoop.

The ice cream was paired with capuccino and with Ilocano hot chocolate (apparently, and I just learned it on this trip, Batangas does not have a monopoly on cacao tablets). Yum!

Cafe Leona reminded me of my dinner at the Napoleon House in New Orleans, Louisiana with Casey and Elaine two years ago. The two houses were old and teeming with a historical and an artistic atmosphere. The servers were cool and friendly as well... a great example of warm Ilocano hospitality.   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Following Juan Luna's tracks

For some reason, this year (so far) has been about me (and my museum-hopping friends) unintentionally going to locations connected with the famed Filipino painter, Juan Luna. For the past few years, it's always been about Jose Rizal... but things are different this year. It's quite curious really. I just noticed it while going through the pictures I've taken during my historical/cultural adventures.

During the epic Ilocos road trip, Ate Bing and I visited Juan Luna's birthplace in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Unfortunately, the house was being repaired (not surprising after the recent typhoons) and so we could only look at the façade under the protective shade of a mango tree across the street. 

While looking on at the house, Ate Bing and I were able to talk with a tricycle driver who was also watching the goings-on with the construction of the house while seeking shelter under the mango tree. According to him, the house wasn't there when he was a child; it was previously a vacant lot. The former First Lady Imelda Marcos, according to the tricycle driver, launched the project to rebuild the house. The structure that's presently standing on the property was based on pictures taken by a neighbour (I think the owner of the house right across the street) when members of Juan Luna's family were still staying there.

But before this drive-all-I-can adventure, I was at the National Museum's art gallery with my museum-hopping friends to check out Juan Luna's obra maestra: the Spolarium. This painting never ceases to amaze me, not only because of the intricate details and the highly emotional and gruesome scene but also because it's so huge! I think this must be the largest painting I've seen as a child and it has left a significant impression on me. So just wait until I've seen the Sistine Chapel... the inner child will surely gasp and be amazed (and will talk about that ad nauseam).

Now that I've seen this painting at least twice at the National Museum, it was time for me to look at the details. I'm pretty sure that Juan Luna painted this from his imagination or from a recreated scene... not from the actual battleground because he's a few centuries too late to have seen an actual gladiator match, yeah? 

Viewers have a penchant for looking at the painting in a nationalistic context: for instance, the painting is supposedly a symbol of the Filipino struggle for independence from Spain. If that's the case, why did Luna have to show a fallen gladiator? If he really was intending to symbolize the Filipino fighting spirit, did he mean that the country's road to independence would lead to utter failure? So my guess is this: he wanted to paint an emotionally charged scene that spectators normally didn't see in a gladiator match (a post-credit scene, perhaps) to get noticed by judges in the arts competition he entered. Although his painting might not have been about the path to independence, he wanted to prove that the Filipino is world-class and can be as good or even better than the colonisers.

On the same day as the museum-hopping expedition to the National Museum, we went to the San Agustin Church. Walking around the crypt, I noticed a small spot high up, adorned with flowers. Taking a closer look, I realized that I was looking at the place were Juan Luna's remains now rest.

Unlike Jose Rizal or Andres Bonifacio, Juan Luna's resting place wasn't an open-air space that people can visit frequently. His was in a crypt in the Philippines' longest standing stone church, a structure that has been through earthquakes, fires, and wars. A place which, like his art, has withstood the test of time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

AdMU days: let's talk about mutants

I've taken up a teaching assignment at the Ateneo de Manila University. This semester, I teach Biotechnology for Everyone, a course designed for non-biology majors. I'll write about my experiences from time to time.

How could I not touch upon mutations in a course called Biotechnology, right? But how do I discuss this topic with students who aren't biology majors and get their attention? 

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie billboard along the southbound direction of C-5 road gave me an idea. When the day came to discuss mutations, I gave these pizza-loving characters as examples, albeit fictional, of mutants. I couldn't remember who the mutant rat sensei was in the cartoon series. 

One student blurted out, "Master Shifu!" That ground my science lecture thoughts to a halt. I totally didn't expect that answer. 

I responded, "Wrong cartoon! This isn't Kung-Fu Panda."

Another student addressed the first student, "Dude, it's Splinter; the sensei is Splinter."

Just as I thought the class was ready to move out of pop culture and was ready to discuss the scientific details of mutations, I got barraged by questions:

Is the mutation of Wolverine (adamantium in the bones) possible in real life?
Can the mutation that happened to Captain America happen in real life?
What about Spiderman?
How about the rest of the X-Men?

Goodness! This has got to be one of the most actively participated lectures I've handled! I was just relieved that I've seen most of the movies they mentioned... and they didn't ask about characters in the DC Universe (I'm pretty sure Superman isn't a mutant... hehe).

Lesson learned: When I talk science to students, I also have to bring with me an arsenal of pop culture references. A huge one.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

somewhere out there...

Anyone remember Fievel Mousekewitz and his sister, Tanya, singing under the same moonlight in An American Tail? Well, as I was looking at this beautiful sunset in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, very close to the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, I wondered if other people were also staring in awe at the same sunset elsewhere in the country. I mean, I pulled over the side of the highway by a cliff just to take this photo. 

In the words of the rodent siblings in the cartoon:

Somewhere out there,
Beneath the pale moonlight,
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight.

Somewhere out there,
Someone's saying a prayer,
That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there.

And even though I know how very far apart we are,
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star.

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky.

It was, somehow, heartwarming to learn that a few of my friends were indeed staring at the same sunset as I was that Sunday evening in August, albeit in different locations and in different coasts. It was a shared experience, that sunset-watching was.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I've reached the northwestern edge of Luzon!

I may have a knack for exploring the edges of a country I'm visiting. When I was studying in graduate school, I ended up reaching the easternmost part of mainland Australia (Cape Byron) while on a drive with friends and acquaintances from the medical profession. Then I've been to Calatagan, a beach town right in between the West Philippine Sea and the Balayan Bay.

During the Ilocos adventure, Ate Bing and I made a pitstop at the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. This is one of the oldest structures I've ever seen before that is still functional (others have been converted into other uses). And this is the first lighthouse I've visited, as far as I can remember. 

By the way, this is also the northwesternmost part of Luzon island.
Located on top of a hill, this lighthouse is not an easy walk in the park to reach, nor was it an easy drive up with its narrow hairpin turns. Moreover, the long and winding stairs, sans handlebars, prove that a strong sense of balance is needed (for visitors) to reach the top of the hill. 


But for everyone who took the time and the effort to reach the lighthouse, it's worth the fatigue because the view's amazing! Imagine having a bird's eye view of the town! Times like these, in which I could see from high up, are really rare. So I'm drinking the view all in.

As always, I ended up trying to learn more about the place aside from what's written in the historical marker. I 'interviewed' Mang Celso, the lighthouse technical crew about the structure. According to him, the light automatically turns on and off at specific times of the evening. He sounded very knowledgable about the Bojeador lighthouse and has had what seems to be a long and colorful career taking care of different lighthouses. He showed Ate Bing and me the interior spiral staircase of the lighthouse tower, a place that visitors couldn't access without a guide. We just weren't allowed to go up the stairs; only the technical people were allowed to go up. As late afternoon approached, it was time for us to leave as Mang Celso started packing up.

No rest for the weary, though. Cape Bojeador was just en route to our final destination for this leg of the road trip: the windmills of Bangui. Now that's a sight to behold!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the storm chased us north.

It was an easy enough drive up north from Tarlac to Pangasinan via TPLEX. The journey to La Union was likewise uneventful. It was, in fact, sunny! However, once we've set foot onto Ilocos Sur (specifically in Santa Maria), I started noticing that the rainclouds were following us wherever we were going. As if the clouds were not ominous enough, the rain had to fall as I was driving alongside the West Philippine Sea! I am afraid of floods and I am even more afraid of storm surges. So great timing to be on this side of the country, right?

Thankfully, the rain let up for a few moments to allow us to have a view of the sunset, still somewhere in Ilocos Sur, a few hours south of Vigan. If the sunset is stunning at the Manila Bay, it's also a sight to see on this northern part of the country. I relaxed a bit because the rain had stopped; no more storm surges, no more lightning, no more reduced visibility. I didn't think, however, that night was coming in fast...

... and it's highly possible for the rain to fall again! Where did all those clouds come from? There's no typhoon warning, as far as I knew! So perhaps these clouds originated from the mountains of Cagayan or the Cordilleras, who knows? Anyway, there's no turning back since we were too far away from home and were so close to Vigan, our second pit stop in this Ilocandia adventure.

Somehow, I remembered the scene in LOTR: Return of the King in which Pippin was singing sorrowfully to Denethor in Minas Tirith as the Orcs started attacking the city and as Denethor slipped deeper and deeper into madness (yes, of all times to geek out, I chose this rainy evening!): 

Home is behind, the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadow, to the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight

Mist and shadow
Cloud and shade
All shall fade
All shall fade

Indeed, the view started to fade to black as afternoon turned into night. The rain started pouring again as well! This turned out to be a difficult segment of my drive up because I wasn't familiar with the road and the weather wasn't cooperating. I was just so happy to arrive at our destination: Grandpa's Inn, Vigan City.

Monday, September 15, 2014

books that have stayed with me

My sister, Anna, tagged me on Facebook for this.

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard—they don't have to be "great" works just ones that have touched you. Tag 10 friends, including me so I can see your list, too.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)
2. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
3. Apollo 13 (Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger)
4. Marley and Me (John Grogan)
5. An Inconvenient Truth (Al Gore)
6. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs (Carmine Gallo)
7. Everyone Worth Knowing (Laura Weisberger)
8. Outbreak (Robin Cook)
9. Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
10. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)

Since there are more than 10 books that have stayed with me, I shall add a few more. Forgive the all-out nerd mode (and for not following instructions)...

11. Rizal Without the Overcoat (Ambeth Ocampo)
12. Principles of Microbiology (Ronald Atlas)
13. Father Brown Stories (G.K. Chesterton)
14. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
15. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
16. Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
17. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
18. The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
19. Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
20. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

history as showbiz central

Ambeth Ocampo, one of my favorite Philippine history authors, held a lecture on the Luna brothers one Saturday afternoon and I attended it. (Yes, I'm on a Philippine history streak these past few weeks, including the Ilocos adventure that Ate Bing and I took on.

I like Ocampo's style of talking about history because it's not about the dates or the labels attached to people. He has a knack of making (super)heroes human again to the audiences' eyes. For instance, I can never remember the stats about Jose Rizal's life abroad but I do recall that he used to pretend that had already eaten just to not lose face in front of his landlords. 

In the case of the Luna brothers, I only recall that both had fiery tempers and that Juan, in particular, became famous due to his paintings. Ocampo's journey to learn more about the artist let us peek into the lifestyle of a clique of rich Filipino students abroad. The historian showed the audience where Juan used to live, to paint, and to eat in. He showed us the pictures and the legal documents chronicling Juan Luna's goofy side and the tumultuous family life he had led. 

Honestly, I felt like I was watching a Sunday showbiz talk show... If only Juan Luna can talk right now and say his piece on issues surrounding him! I learned more history through this lecture than through textbook-reliant classes!

Friday, September 12, 2014

AdMU days: a student has perfected my exam!!! :D

I've taken up a teaching assignment at the Ateneo de Manila University. This semester, I teach Biotechnology for Everyone, a course designed for non-biology majors. I'll write about my experiences from time to time.

That second long exam was tough to prepare. Since the students mostly got high grades in the first exam, I thought it's a good idea to crank up the difficulty level to see how much they've actually understood about the topics covered and not just what they've memorized. And because I know this was to be a difficult exam, I peppered it with a lot of bonus questions, with the hope that the kids would all pass.

What I didn't realize immediately was that a tough exam was also difficult to grade. Two weeks after the exam and I still hadn't finish scoring! I was feeling a bit down already because (1) it was taking too long to check and (2) I could see that the students at least tried to solve the problems but they just didn't arrive at the right answers.

Until the wee hours of Thursday morning...

I was checking the last part of the exam (essays) and one student had a perfect score. That drew my attention. Hang on, a student actually answered it perfectly! I was so happy I just had to sum up the student's scores to see how he fared overall.

Guess what, he PERFECTED the exam! His score even went over the perfect because he's answered some bonus questions correctly. His score? 92/80. That just made my day. Made my day. Thank you!

With that boost of encouragement, I happily finished correcting exam blue books. What made me even happier is that the majority of my class passed the exam. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

remembering 9/11

Yes, it's been 13 years since the terrorist attacks in the USA that fateful September day. No, I was not in the USA at that time. I was, in fact, a fourth-year university student in the Philippines then. 

I remember that night...

I was driving from Mayondon, Los Banos, on my way home after feeding my chickens (the site and the subjects of my undergraduate research project). The FM station I was listening to interrupted regular programming for a special news report about planes flying so close to the New York twin towers. At first, I thought someone was having a good laugh and that it was just a joke... a bad one, in fact. I was fuming when I arrived home because I thought that the radio jocks were just evil that evening. 

When I got home, I found my dad in his rare do-not-disturb, open-the-garage-gate-yourself moods. My mom was equally quiet. Only the sound of the telly from the living room could be heard in the garage. I was about to greet my folks and rant about the news I'd heard on my way over but they just shushed me. My parents were glued to the CNN coverage. That's when I realized that I wasn't being spoofed... There really were airplanes flying low! In fact, I was about to sit down in front of the telly when the first plane crashed into one of the buildings! I can't remember now if we even ate dinner that night because we're just staring at the horrific images captured live, on the other side of the planet.

Events that occurred that day have strongly influenced the global sociopolitical climate we are in at the present. I wonder... what if 9/11 didn't happen, what would the peace and order situation be like today?

Friday, September 5, 2014

My top 10 road trip essentials

After that epic 15-hour drive over the weekend from the Ilocos region (and at least five more major road trips that I did earlier this year), I list down my top 10 road trip essentials. 

 1. A great music playlist
Imagine driving on the beautiful winding roads of Ilocos and the expressways without music. Absolute torture! On the Ilocos trip, I had about 280 songs, enough for a very long trip. There were songs that were Buddha Bar-esque, funky, hotel lobby-esque, and ballroom-y. But what I kept playing on repeat were the songs with strong bass and fast beats to keep me awake; not necessarily rock songs though. I even had quite a few instrumentals; Vitamin String Quartet, 2 Cellos, and The Piano Guys were staples.

 2. Lots and lots of munchies
A few friends have learned to fear my wrath when there's no food in the car; more specifically, when there are no potato chips or chocolates. I tend to binge on chocolate when stressed out on the road. I'd be very happy if these are Maltesers or Choc-Nut, but any chocolate that melts in the mouth, not on the hand will do.

 3. Venti soy caramel machiatto
Since I've been introduced to the caramel machiatto, it has become my go-to drink for trips. It's not too bitter (for me) like espresso but it still delivers the last-mile kick I need at crunch time.

And thanks to my lactose issues, I always get the soy option. Because I'm normally ready to go to la-la-land once I arrive home, the beverage rarely causes me to lose sleep. I just readily fall onto bed despite 20 oz of caffeine running through my veins! Moreso when I just got back from Ilocos... I had 40 oz of soy caramel machiatto in 12 hours. Yes, in 12 hours! I'm not even a regular coffee drinker! Of course, my default drink is still choco shake with soy milk, whipped cream, and peppermint syrup. 

 4. Great sense of humor
There's nothing more draining for people in the car (particularly the driver) than passengers who don't have an easy laugh; or passengers who seem to weigh the rest of the group down with their negative vibes. At one point, a friend, who I've requested to share what's going on in her life with me and another friend on a long trip, decided to tell us a rather energy-zapping story. I was forced to change the topic because I didn't want to hear her drone about the sad story for the next 90 kms of the trip. Sorry, really, but I couldn't stand it.

 5. Maps, maps, maps
No, I'm not afraid of being lost. I do, however, do not enjoy losing time and wasting fuel because of unnecessary turns. Plus, my dad trained me early on that maps always help on road trips, specially if the drive is long. The Ilocos trip actually was a trip down memory lane to my first navigation lesson (I was eight years old): as long as the sea was on the left, I'm driving towards Vigan, and Laoag after that.

This time, however, I was no longer limited to paper-based maps. My phone has a built-in map and I also use Google Maps (which here shows an unrealistic travel time on Philippine highways). Sometimes, if I need realistic estimates for arrival times, I just use Waze.

 6. Small bills and lots of coins... Or tollway RFID tags
To Manila and back again, done frequently enough convinced me that I absolutely need an RFID tag for SLEX. Since I got one already, why not get the other one? So I also bought an EC tag for the NLEX tollway even though I had no idea how often I'd be up north. We'll, I have been on the NLEX four times now so it's worth the purchase.

The cash is kept at the ready for STAR, SCTEX, and TPLEX. I wish that the E-Pass for the SLEX can also be used on STAR Tollway and the SCTEX and TPLEX are Easytrip ready so I wouldn't have to deal with coins anymore (and use the coins for groceries instead).

 7. Never-ending stories
When I was younger, it was my job to keep my dad entertained (and awake) during the wee hours of long road trips. There was a time the family had this crazy idea of eating dinner in Baguio City after a Manaoag pilgrimage and then go back home the same evening... This was before the days of Skyway, SCTEX, and TPLEX, so a Baguio trip could easily take 12 hours from Calamba. Now that I do drive, I expect passengers (and I warn them so) to take over the story-telling role. But no; I still end up with the epic-long stories because my passengers tend to be more tired than me on long drives. How that happens still stumps me.

 8. Camera
It's difficult, to be honest, to take photos while on the road using my SLR. Therefore, I finally accept that if I see something interesting, there is a big chance that I will have to take a photo using my mobile phone's camera app. The SLR is still with me on road trips but I use it during pit stops... Not while stuck in traffic along the highway.

 9. Patience
Road rage is never cool. Patience is a virtue, they say. And it is very important to have it while driving long distances, in heavy traffic, or when passengers are irritating.

It's even more challenging when the driver is sleep-deprived and has driven hundreds of kilometres in one day.

10. Drinking water
During the six-hour drive to Bataan, I failed to drink water because I didn't know if there were good toilet stops along the way. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I started shivering from dehydration and exhaustion. Since then, there's always at least a bottle of water or juice in the car. I don't leave home anymore without my trusty 500-mL Starbucks travel mug, which I bought on a day that I lacked sleep and I passed by a branch.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's been a year since the Jazz.

They say that time flies fast. Indeed it does. I cannot believe that it has been a year, seven hours, and 57 minutes since I passed on the keys of the Jazz to its next owner

September 4, 2013. The day the Jazz and I parted ways was, sort of, a day I dreaded because the day Biboy and I traded the SiR in January 2006, I was traumatised (I was in mourning: could not eat, was catatonic the rest of the day). Yes, cars are inanimate objects but they've become reliable companions when on the road... the Jazz particularly because it's my car all throughout my grad school days and it's been used so much (186,000++ km in seven years plus a few bruises here and there). It had never been to Ilocos or Bicol while it was with me, take note!

Anyway, I just remembered it this rainy evening; earlier today, the Civic reached another milestone: 24,000 km.

Happy birthday, Mommy!

If Daddy and I were born on the same month, September is the month shared by Anna and Mommy.

I have been tagging old digital photos and I bumped into this one of me still adjusting to the cold temperatures of Nevada and of Arizona while my folks were just in normal attire (in late summer 2012, I think). I couldn't take my bonnet off because it was just too cold! I even had gloves with me in my pack during the trip in case the temperatures took a sudden deep dive. A year later, I realized that it wasn't that cold when I visited them over my Christmas break.

We're in one of Vegas' famous lobbies in this picture, right after the family's biggest adventure to date (sans Anna): a road trip to the Grand Canyon West. My mom had no choice but to conquer her fear of heights as Biboy and I enjoyed strolling on the glass floor overlooking the Colorado River.  

Happy birthday, Mommy!! I won't be with you on your summer getaway but I am looking forward to hear stories about this next big adventure. :)