30 August 2010

Spontaneous Saturday at Rizal

As my Saturday (August 27) plans got cancelled one after the other, I was ready to resign myself to an uneventful day of rest - perhaps busy myself doing trivial activities that have so long required my attention. Yet, my luck didn't run out as I've calculated. Marjorie responded to my SMS informing me she was free that afternoon for whatever I had planned. And although I didn't really have much of an itinerary set out except that I was ready for a back packing trip to wherever - we agreed to do a spontaneous adventure at Rizal. Bahala na si Batman.

Marjorie picked me up at 1.30 in the afternoon and we headed to Antipolo City. The first on our unplanned list of to-do things was to have her car blessed.

It has been a popular practice to bring newly acquired cars to the Antipolo Church - a beautiful shrine situated in the heart of Antipolo City devoted to the Virgin of Antipolo, also known as the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Having the car blessed is a tradition believed by many to keep the car, as well as its owners safe from harm especially whenever on the road - think of the many recent bus accidents. In addition, those who intend to travel long distances, go abroad for example, would visit the Shrine prior to their departure to pray for a fruitful and safe trip.

It was a fairly clear and sunny day, and we arrived with a funeral car leaving the church and a wedding about to commence. We were directed towards the office where Marjorie deposited a donation for the blessing.

With my dad's SLR, here are some of the unedited photos of Antipolo Church.

We found a photographer hanging around the place and requested him to take a photo of us near the church doors. So here I am, with Marjorie in the front steps of the Antipolo Church, baking under the August sun.

At a far right side of the Church, a rack of candles holders was installed, with a few lighted ones melting wax. A curious human-shaped wax figure (that somewhat resembles the gingerbread man) and three red candles attached to it with a thin cord caught my fancy, my initial thoughts were of course, voodoo or some sort of black magic. But then, I'm sure the Church wouldn't have tolerated that sort of practice being propagated on its grounds. Asking around, we learned that this oddly fashioned candle was meant to drive away bad spirits and diseases from specific individuals being prayed for by their relatives and friends.

Please, if I'm in grave sickness, just visit me and bring me some apples. Don't burn candles for me.

Before leaving, we passed by a small market place just outside the church grounds. There, vendors would hawk their goods - from casuy treats, sticky rice desserts to prayer booklets and special amulets. Knowing well that people aren't always inclined to purchase their wares, some vendors can be quite tricky and use emotional guilt against soft hearted passers by. Some of their lines after one's decline of a transaction are: "Maawa ka naman kay lola" (Have pity on this grandmother), "Pambili lang po namin ng bigas sa pamilya" (We need this so we can buy some rice for the family), "Para sa tuition ko lang po" (For my tuition fee).

Who are we to say no? - but when three or five are huddled around you, pushing their necklaces and figurines to your face, and you can see a whole bunch of new vendors eying you like vultures and hyenas ready to leap in after the hunters have enjoyed their meal, I just turned apathetic and walked away.

Antipolo is known for its amazing night view of the city, and that is one of the attractions we were hoping to see. With hours to kills before night fall, Marjorie and I decided to have a late lunch at the Balaw-Balaw at Angono, Rizal - the hometown of artists. Two of the Philippine's national artists hail from this town namely musician Lucio San Pedro and painter Carlos Botong Francisco.

I first learned about Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant at Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods and was curious of the different exotic dishes they have lined up. Taking from Pinoy Foods, here is a link to the exotic foods menu available at Balaw Balaw.

Upon entering, one is greeted by a variety of masks pentel penned with greetings, commendations and encouragement by celebrities and patrons.
Aside from being an intriguing gastronomical treat, Balaw Balaw is also a small-scale museum for the amusement of those with an appetite for the local visual arts. With the sculptures and paintings of Mr. Perdigon framed and displayed throughout the place, customers are given tours around the Perdigon house. Below are some of the photographs I managed to take of the place.

For those who'd like to pay a visit:
Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant
16 Don Justo, Dona Justa Village, Angono, Rizal
(02) 651-0110

After our late lunch of crickets (would've been perfect as a pulutan), adobong usa and crispy kangkong, we headed to Thunderbirds Resort, which was a few miles away. Before leaving Manila, my dad had been adamant about the place, insisting it was a must-go place. And due to the unexpected turn of plans, and Marjorie being intrigued after all my repetitious chatter about the place, we heeded dad's advice and were definitely not disappointed. Awe struck, the said resort felt like a nearby sanctuary we can easily retreat to when Manila life is getting a bit too wacky for our sanity.

It was a steep drive around a winding cliff, but upon reaching the top, only then do you realize the haven you've taken yourself to. Overlooking the Laguna de Bay, Thunderbirds resort is a quiet and relaxing space to gather oneself and take a breather. We were in such a divinely ecstatic state that Marj and I were already compelled to stay the night - of course, this wouldn't be possible for many reasons.

Driving down, we were greeted with glimpses of the city from below - a seemingly strange and other worldly vision of lights and buildings. We drove back to Antipolo and got ourselves seats at Padi's Point where the wide expanse of lights and structures lay abound. Dots of airplanes buzzing through the navy sky.

We wish we had taken a different, more serene hub to have our late dinner, but we were in agreement. Antipolo is definitely a great date place, and we intend to venture back there soon.

14 August 2010

Love is Like A Mirror

"Love is like a mirror.
When you love another, you become his mirror
and he becomes yours.

And reflecting each other's love,
you see infinity."

- Leo Buscaglia

08 August 2010

Mark and Jacque's Wedding

There is only one happiness in this life - to love and be loved."
- George Sand

August 1, 2010

The much anticipated day of Mark and Jacque's admittance to the world of the wedded, their momentous crossover from one status world to a higher, more responsible plane.
The Friday prior to the culminating event, our group, headed primarily by Christel, organized a bachelor slash bachelorette party for both the bride and the groom, but with the exclusion of hot sexy strippers, suggestive toys and outrageously orgasmic cakes. It was just a gathering of the couple's close peers and friends, some of which, came all the way from other parts of Asia, to wish the happy pair the best of luck as they enjoy their final days of freedom.

Quite a small party, it was held at the Astoria Plaza in Ortigas with a Gossip Girl theme dangling over our heads. Of course to stay true to the theme, everyone was requested to dress up as their favorite Gossip Girl character. Having not watched the series, I relied on my friends to direct me what to wear. Initially, I had wanted a Vanessa look, as her character intrigued me lots - but with my limited supply of boho clothes and accessories, I ended up going as a "Serena" wearing a dress bought all the way back from college.

The group prepared a selection of treats for the guests - macaroons c/o Tel, Delifrance finger foods (which I kinda pigged out on), and chips. We also had lasagna c/o Jacque's friends. Overall, everyone seemed to have had a good time, especially with Marj going around trying to make everyone drunk. I abstained from the alcohol mostly, as I was going to sing at the wedding and had to save the voice from any unwanted stress.

So below, is the photo of our almost complete group. As can be observed, the guys aren't really too keen on following the party theme.
The day of the wedding finally arrived. At 2 in the afternoon, the gang was already at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Everyone was dressed up, prim and proper, fully made up. Never have we fretted over our looks and fixed ourselves up this way since our prom days... which was, what, almost a decade back. Mark looked dashing - like a member of the Chinese mafia, we'd joke.

Marjorie was among the entourage, assigned the role of a secondary sponsor for the candles. Anne was one of the offerers. Christel and I didn't seem to have any major roles during the wedding ceremony.
I wasn't too keen whether the wedding commenced promptly, but what we recall most was the time when the big church doors opened to reveal a blushing, beautiful bride. Jacque looked absolutely beautiful, and it felt like we all held our breaths as she walked down the aisle accompanied by her parents.

We half-expected Mark to be teary-eyed, overwhelmed actually, by everything that was happening - but there he was, stalwart and happy with a semi-smirk lined upon his lips.

The wedding started and ended with none of the melodramatic objections, surprise twists or camera crew fails. It was a simple and generally straight forward gathering of families and friends sharing the exchange of eternal vows between two people in love.

Marjorie and Anne decided to drop by the house to freshen up prior to going to the reception. Also, to prepare our last minute surprise for the newly-weds.

Evening celebration was going to be held at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila at Ortigas Avenue, and I had to be there by 5.30 to speak with the host regarding my song number for the occasion. Their host was Eva Poon. Initially, we were all frightened by her, as she came across as forceful and exceedingly direct - but after managing to snag her for a few minutes to introduce myself, I understood her busy situation and believed that she was really a nice person stuck with a lot of work that had to be rushed.

As all good guests know and should know, there is nothing better that making sure the couple gets their money's worth when it comes to their photo booth investment. And we tried our very best to exploit it as well as we could. Mark and Jacque got Baicapture. Below are some of our group photographs.
The party, like the wedding, was simple - nothing exceedingly out of the ordinary that would make the event other worldly. None of those Lady Gaga look alike competitions, or Spocks' crashing in telling guests that the planet's under invasion, or zombies from the grave devouring pigeon brains out of its head - nah, none of those. But, I just did a song number (Lea Salonga's Two Words), and introduced the wonderful video presentation Christel did for the new Mister and Missus Tan - a compilation of the many pictures we've shared with the couple ever since the world began.

I even surprised myself many times as I felt high and crazed over minute details, or signs of affection shared between the couple. Not that those were all new to me, but because that was already the real deal. The contract had been signed. The mark had been made. There is no turning back.

That was surely the first time my zeal and glee had taken completely over me. Most of the time, I'd be apathetic of couples smooching with an endless five second count administered by a family member or friend - I'd be sympathetic even, to the poor pair that had to be put on the spot for everyone's entertainment. On this particular occasion, I was among the happy audience - hooraying at their orchestrated PDAs.

As the evening's merry making came to a close, and the friends gathered together - quite happy and content. Our exhilaration throughout the day was already wearing thin, and we all felt quite exhausted. Happy and exhausted. Wondering. When will be the next wedding? (Well, not really.)

Random Random

It took me almost three weeks to have one roll of film developed and suffice to say, I was pleased that the photos came out fairly well. This is my second photography post, my first one was Visitation of the Past. More of random photographs taken from different locations - Manila Memorial Cemetery, Dasmarinas Cavite and Antipolo City. Most of which have already been uploaded in my deviant art account.

"Old habits die hard when you got,
When you got a sentimental heart.
Piece of the puzzle, you're my missing part
Oh what can you do with a sentimental heart?"
- Sentimental Heart, She and Him

I am blue and green, and lots of orange in between.

Just another open window.

These are my little black soldiers.

"The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down."

Locked out.

Eulogy from Serendipity

You know, the Greeks don't write obituaries. They only ask one question when a man died. "Did he have passion?" - Serendipity, 2001

I cannot account any other eulogy more poetically written as this one. From the 2001 movie, Serendipity, one of my all time favorites, this is the transcription of the obituary written by Jonathan Trager's best friend, Dean Kansky as a resolution to Jonathan's successive losses of the women he sought and loved.

Jonathan Trager, prominent television producer for ESPN, died last night from complications of losing his soul mate and his fiance. He was 35 years old. Soft-spoken and obsessive, Trager never looked the part of a hopeless romantic. But, in the final days of his life, he revealed an unknown side of his psyche. This hidden quasi-Jungian persona surfaced during the Agatha Christie-like pursuit of his long reputed soul mate, a woman whom he only spent a few precious hours with. Sadly, the protracted search ended late Saturday night in complete and utter failure. Yet even in certain defeat, the courageous Trager secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, its a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan. Asked about the loss of his dear friend, Dean Kansky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and executive editor of the New York Times, described Jonathan as a changed man in the last days of his life. “Things were clearer for him,” Kansky noted. Ultimately Jonathan concluded that if we are to live life in harmony with the universe, we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call “fatum”, what we currently refer to as destiny.

07 August 2010

Chiang Kai Shek Fun Run 2010

My brain was registering only quiet darkness in its peaceful state of repose and repair, when suddenly the intrusive monophonic tune of Kefka's Theme began crescendoing faintly first in the backdrop of my pure blankness - forcefully kicking me into consciousness. It was 3.30 am; my cellphone alarm was violently vibrating on my bedside table. Time to wake up, it called. With a swift press of a button, it was silenced into a 5 minute snooze mode. Sleep was beckoning me back into it's wide armed embrace, when without warning, my cellphone once again rang scandalously. Leo was calling, it was my wake up call number 2. Time to get ready, Kat.

July 25, 2010. A Sunday. It felt awfully wrong to be waking up so early on my day of rest, but I had promised Leo and the others at the Grand Family Association that I will be participating in the Chiang Kai Shek Alumni Fun Run 2010. It was also a matter of school spirit - to support the activity of my dear alma mater. Thus, with a heavy, lazy body, I pushed myself out of bed and began to dress up.
The run won't be until 6 in the morning at the Mall of Asia Complex, but since I will be hitching a ride, I had to be extra early since Leo's school bus has other stop overs - Berns, Irene and their friend.

When we arrived, day was just about to break. The sky was still a lonely grayish blue, with hints of red violets. My stomach was slightly protesting over its emptiness, but we couldn't find any open stores that could cater to my sad tummy. I'll make it up to you later, I told it - and it quieted down like a child anticipating his big reward after some unwilling sacrifice.

A few morning stretches, a quick jog and we felt our muscles warming up. We found Liza and the others, who handed us our blue jerseys and numbers. I was Runner No. 4602 - going for the 5km run.
There were four categories, three of which are official - 3km, 5km and 10km runs, with gun starts of 6.00, 6.15 and 6.30 am respectively. The unofficial category is the 1M run.

I had no preparation for the said run at all - and had already resigned myself to walking for the duration of the whole race. On the other hand, Berns and Irene will be seriously running in the 10km category, as they've been participating in races prior to this one. Leo, Liza and the two Jerry's of our association, like myself will be going 5km - somewhat suspecting that we won't complete the whole path running.

Below is a map of the 5km run that we would be undertaking.
It was interesting to find so many of my peers and past classmates in the location, all taking part of the occasion. None of my ex-crushes though, FYI.

Armed with my iPod, already set on my "Make Me Happy" playlist, I felt the music pumping me up with energy. Promptly at 6.15, the 5km race was given a gun shot. It was a tortoise-like start as the runners slowly moved past the starting line, but after a few seconds of slow progress, the run has officially begun. Some began with a proud quick sprint, others with a steady jog, others still, just walked.

My first song for the run was Usher's OMG, just to keep me high. I began overtaking a couple of people, jogging happily, trying to keep myself oblivious to the fact that I was going to drain myself tired. The iPod was a great help, as I used it to determine the length of time I should be jogging. Three songs of jogging before I can reward myself with one song worth of walking. After a few more songs later, I was doing half-song jogging and whole-song walking.

The weather was extra cooperative, as the sun never really peeped out of the clouds - never attempted to barrage us with its glorious waves of heat and shine.

I caught sight of one of my classmates, Mark, in the crowd and began to chase him until I finally caught up. We ended up chatting most of the walk-run back, mostly about his upcoming wedding. As we neared the finish line, we began to run again more passionately this time, as we were about to end our almost hour long exercise. The finish line though was the downer, as we had to fall in line (which took quite a while) to have our numbers noted down.

This was the result of my first ever run this year (2nd run in my entire life). I'm in 575th place out of the 1651 5km participants. Not bad, as I'm in the upper 35% of the ones who finished.
Although I am not sure when my next run will be, I thoroughly enjoyed myself - thinking that the mind can really do wonders when you challenge yourself to achieve something.

For those who'd like to check out the results of the Chiang Kai Shek Run, click here.

Note: All photos, except my number and shirt, were grabbed from the Chiang Kai Shek Alumni website and Facebook pages.