Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A short stop in Isabela

Part of my job as PR Officer is accompanying beauty queens in their media tapings/guestings. Last week, I accompanied newly crowned Miss Supranational 2013 Mutya Johanna Datul to her home province in Isabela to tape an episode for the ABS-CBN show Rated K. 

With Miss Supranational 2013 Mutya Datul (L, obviously).
Tuguegarao-bound via PAL Express. Mutya's hometown, Sta. Maria,
is about 30 minutes from Tuguegarao Airport. 
Mutya came from humble beginnings in Sta. Maria, a small town in Isabela. As a kid, she enjoyed catching beetles and grasshoppers in the fields--which she ate (after sauteeing them!). She sometimes rode a calesa to school. At 16, the world of beauty pageants came calling, and she never looked back.

This is the Datul home. It may look big, but actually it's quite small,
considering that about 10 people actually live here. Inside, the walls
are adorned with Mutya's photos and awards; the shelves lined with
her beauty pageant trophies.
Mutya waves to the crowd during her victory/homecoming parade
in Isabela. I'm not sure how beauty queens remain poised in sweltering
heat, because Isabela is a pretty hot province. Literally. 
Mutya visits her old school, Isabela State University, in Ilagan City.
I have to admit I've always had a soft spot for this girl, since she was proclaimed one of the winners in last April's Binibining Pilipinas pageant. But spending a few days with her in her hometown, eating the food that was meticulously prepared by her family in their humble home, and hearing her explain how she joined beauty pageants not just because she loves it, but also to help with her family's finances, made me realize that her story is truly inspiring. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to explore the province, even if we've pretty much covered about five towns and two cities in the three days we were there. I'm quite sure this province has a lot more to offer than searing temperatures (the Cagayan region, which Isabela is part of, usually has the highest recorded temperatures in the Philippines. I'm not sure why). 

It's very common to see this in the provinces. Grains are usually
spread on the roads to dry.
And can I just say, I'm amazed at the mighty Cagayan River. It looked like it could fit three Pasig Rivers in it when laid side by side. It was that wide! 

I tried taking a picture of the Cagayan River with my old point and shoot.
This was the most decent photo of the lot. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cash 101: Money Matters for Kids exhibit

It is for kids, yes, but that's not to say that adults can't learn from this cute little exhibit as well.

The Money Matters for Kids exhibit is a project of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (Central Bank of the Philippines) Financial Consumer Affairs Group which aims to promote financial literacy. The exhibit features colorful display panels that tackle various topics, such as the history of money, banking tips, and more.

At the entrance of the exhibit, you can read about the origins of money.
I have to admit I didn't know about this one. I've never seen a one-peso bill. 
There's also a display that features the different kinds of money from all over the world. I was immediately drawn to the UK Pound banknote.
There it is, a five-pound note on the upper right side of the picture.
There's also a mock ATM designed to teach kids how ATM machines work.
The toy ATM. The kids got such a kick out of playing with the machine
 that I was afraid they'd actually break it.
And a mock mini-grocery where kids can "buy" goods while trying to stick to a budget. Perhaps I should try this mock-grocery shopping exercise as I tend to get carried away when I do the groceries. 

There's a calculator so the kids can check if they're still within budget.
Even if you're not seven years old, I'm sure you will also have a grand time
learning more about money at the Money Matters for Kids exhibit. 
The BSP's Money Matters for Kids exhibit features colorful educational displays
and fun activities that teach children about the history of money, banking 101,
saving tips, and other important money lessons.
The Money Matters for Kids exhibit will be at the Level 1 Activity Area of Gateway Mall in Araneta Center, Quezon City until August 17, 2013. 

*Disclaimer: This is a project of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Araneta Center; I helped bring this exhibit to Gateway Mall. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

15-minute history

I take the train to work every day. On most days, I just try to get a bit of shut-eye in the 15 minutes it takes to get to my stop. Until about a few weeks ago, when I noticed these on one of the trains:

By the looks of it, anonas sort of looks like an atis. Or maybe it is atis.
J. Amado Araneta purchased 35 hectares of land that eventually became the Araneta Center.
Claro M. Recto is one of the authors of the 1935 Philippine Constitution. 
Turns out this is a thesis project of an Ateneo college senior. Called HistoRiles, the project aims to disseminate historical information to LRT2 commuters. The info boards contain information on the history behind the people/places each LRT2 station was named after. There are even standees such as these on select stations:

The HistoRiles standee at Recto station. If you didn't know what to look for, you'd miss this standee lined up beside product ads.
The HistoRiles standee at the Araneta Center-Cubao station. Apparently, Cubao got its name from the hunchbacks that were said to populate the place before it was developed. 
I got a kick out of reading each of the information cards. Made my 15-minute train ride to work more interesting and educational.

The website says the info boards are on display only until February 16, but the boards and standees are all still there. For more information on this project, visit HistoRiles.com.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Corregidor Island, 2013

Last Sunday, I went to Corregidor Island, located at the mouth of Manila Bay, for the first time with my good friend C. I've long wanted to explore this island, which played an important role in the defense of Manila (and the whole country) during the Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations. The island used to be inhabited, but now serves as a memorial to those who have given their lives on the island during World War II. 

Thanks to Old Manila Walks, we were finally able to go on a walking tour of the island's Topside (where most of the ruins and batteries are located).

We went to the island via a Sun Cruises ferry (the terminal is located within the CCP Complex, near the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas/Folk Arts Theater). We left the terminal at 8am. It took us about an hour and a half to travel from Manila to Corregidor.

8 am - on our way to Corregidor Island. The ferry ride was quite unremarkable. Or maybe it was just because I fell asleep minutes after the ferry left port (and after taking this photo).
We arrived on the island at about 9:30, and transferred to tram #7, where our tour group mates were. The trams were reminiscent of the old trams that ran around the island (and Manila) before the war.

The old trams used to be operated by MERALCO. Before becoming the country's largest electricity distributor, they used to operate a tram system in Manila and Corregidor. The acronym stands for Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company, which was the company's original name.
First stop: the old Spanish Lighthouse. Originally built by the Spaniards in 1836 on the highest point of the island, it was commissioned to guide ships entering and leaving Manila Bay. It was heavily damaged during World War II. According to the information plaque, the lighthouse is still operational.

Corregidor Island literally means "Island of Correction." Ships used to stop here to have their documents checked and "corrected" before entering and leaving Manila.
This is Caloy, our jolly, ever-smiling tour guide. 
Corregidor Island is riddled with ruins. According to Caloy, Corregidor became the second most-bombed island (next to Malta in the Mediterranean) during World War II, receiving about 16,000 shells a day.

One of the bombed-out ruins. The ruins were left in this state on purpose to serve as a reminder of the horrors of wartime.
Our walking tour focused on the island's Topside, where most of the structures are located. Most of the structures were built during the American rule. Because of the island's strategic location, the American government invested millions of dollars in fortifying the island (called Fort Mills) with anti-ship artillery and building a "tropical paradise" for the American soldiers stationed on the island.  

The Senior Officers' HQ. Notice the chimneys? The Americans built homes patterned after what they were accustomed to seeing in the United States, and that includes chimneys and fireplaces. Nevermind that fireplaces have no use on a tropical island.
An old bomb hull. Some of these old shells are displayed around the island.
Cine Corregidor. According to our tour guide Caloy, one of the last films shown here was "Gone with the Wind." 
The Mile-Long Barracks. This used to be the home of low-ranking soldiers. According to Caloy, it was called "mile-long" not because it was actually a mile long (it was about a third of a mile long), but because the soldiers were made to run from end to end, from the ground  floor and up. 
What I liked about this tour was that it was a walking tour--unlike the tram tour, our group actually went to explore inside some of the ruins. Even though that was exhausting, it was definitely more interesting.

This used to be a swimming pool inside the Mile-Long Barracks.
At the other side of the Mile-Long Barracks. This tour got us walking through the ruins. 
The Battery Way. Named in honor of 2nd Lt. Henry Way, Battery Way was armed with four 12-inch mortar cannons capable of piercing enemy warships.
Just in case we were thinking of doing just that.
At Battery Way
We then walked to the Old Hospital. In the 1960s, the hospital ruins served as a "dormitory" for Muslim recruits said to be training for a secret mission to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia. When the Muslim trainees found out about the true intention of their training, they refused to fight because they didn't want to battle with their Muslim brothers. To prevent the issue from leaking out to the media, it was said that the recruits were ordered to be killed.

About 70 people were killed (the actual number is unknown), in what is now known as the Jabidah Massacre. 

The Old Hospital. It was shaped like a cross to identify it as a hospital, but was still heavily bombed during the war. 
Graffiti turned into history. One of the Muslim recruits wrote this on the wall when he came to the island in 1968. He and his fellow recruits were murdered two months later.
It actually felt very eerie seeing these names permanently etched on the walls.
After the tour, we took a quick break for lunch at the Corregidor Inn, then we were off to the Malinta Tunnel for the Lateral Tunnel Tour.

The Malinta Tunnel was built from 1922 to 1932. The tunnel was named after Malinta Hill, where it was dug. The word "malinta" means "maraming linta" or "full of leeches." It was said that the hill had lots of leeches when it was first dug.

The traditional way of doing the tour was to take the Lights and Sounds show just along the main tunnel. But our tour took us into the deeper reaches of the tunnel, where we saw the caved in laterals from where the Japanese allegedly bombed themselves rather than surrender, and experienced walking through the tunnels in complete darkness just as the soldiers did during air raids.

The entrance to the Malinta Tunnel
The Lateral Tour took us from the West Entrance (left) to the Main Tunnel to General MacArthur's HQs to the 1000-bed hospital (upper right) before making our way back to the West Entrance.
A collapsed gas tank inside one of the laterals
These doors are original. This is the entrance to the female doctors and nurses' lateral. At night, the doctors and nurses locked themselves in.
A representation of President Quezon inside the tunnel.
A representation of a hospital lateral
Old and rusting, this desk was located in one of the laterals that served as offices.
Even though it was pretty exhausting, the tour was fascinating and enlightening at the same time. I loved every minute of the tour. This is why I love traveling and history. It's a chance to escape, to discover, to remember. I'm so glad to have discovered the island's story for myself, and not out of a book. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An introvert in an extrovert's world

I'm an introvert. It takes me a while to warm up to people, I enjoy being in quiet environments, and I don't talk unless it's absolutely necessary. I don't crave the spotlight; I prefer working behind the scenes. I've been labeled "shy," "anti-social," "masungit," and "deadma"--and I always felt that my being an introvert is a disadvantage, especially since I work in an industry that requires me to be the exact opposite. 

That doesn't mean though, that I don't work as hard or that I enjoy life less. As pointed out in this article (Do we really give introverts a hard time?) from the BBC website: "...contrary to popular opinion, introverts are not necessarily shy or anti-social, they just prefer environments that are not over-stimulating and get their energy from quiet time and reflection."

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Accidental Athlete

My second essay for www.smartsuperwomen.com. Link to the original post can be found here.

After finishing my first 5K, sometime in 2011. 
Photo taken by my friend and running buddy B.

I say “athlete” because I don’t think I am one in its strictest sense. I don’t follow a really strict training routine, or compete in tournaments. I’m not even excelling in a particular sport. But my friends say I’m an “athlete” because I’m into tennis and running. And I’ve tried (and loved) boxing. Now I’m learning to swim.

I never thought I’d end up an “athlete.” I wasn’t a very active kid. Sure, I was able to try volleyball, softball, and a host of other games and sports during my PE classes in grade school and high school. But outside of PE, I pretty much just sat in a corner and read books. I started tennis lessons when I was 13, and I loved it, even if I only got to play in the summer. My only other hobby that involved movement was dancing, and I didn’t even do that often enough.

Things changed, though, when I started working. The long hours spent researching, interviewing, transcribing, and writing articles, and fast food lunches and takeout coffees that had more sugar than actual caffeine, have taken their toll on my body. Ballooning to almost 170lbs wasn’t pretty, and I had to do something about it. So I signed up at a gym.

At first, I hated it. I couldn’t lift weights properly. I was exhausted after five minutes on the treadmill. I got cramps when I first tried the cardio martial arts class. But as months passed, as I got stronger and my endurance improved, I began to love gym more. I looked forward to attending group classes, even on weekends. After about a year of going to the gym, I went on the tennis courts again. And shortly after that, a friend introduced me to boxing.

I was enjoying my newfound love for sports, that I didn’t even notice the pounds slowly melting away. I just started feeling more confident and more content in my own skin. What started as a way to shed the pounds has led me to discover how I loved being active. It also gave me enough encouragement to try running (which I originally didn’t like, as I didn’t see the point of running just for the sake of running, and not because I’m trying to escape from criminals or zombies), and then swimming.

Sure, I still don’t have that 24-inch waistline (given my body type, I’m not sure it’s possible at all) and there’s still (lots of) room for improvement with muscle tone. But I’m proud of the 30lbs or so that I’ve lost so far. I’m even prouder of myself because I learned that I can last seven rounds in the boxing ring with my sparring coach, that I can finish a 10K run in less than 90 minutes, and that I can hit pretty decent forehands and backhands.

Being the accidental “athlete” has led me to a new passion; one that I never thought I’d be able to, or have the guts to do. For a very long time, I was branded the “chubby nerd” and “the inert one.” Discovering that I can do sports now, in my 20s, made me realize that you’re never too old to try something new, or discover an aspect of your personality you didn’t think existed. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another fresh start

I spent the last few months settling into a new job in a large corporation here in Manila. The new job is very different from my old one--I've had to change my whole wardrobe to look more corporate, for instance. The job itself is very different too, but I'm glad this job still requires me to write. Everything is new, exciting, and exhausting at the same time. It feels good to learn new things and discover skills I didn't know I had.

I've also recently started contributing to Smart Super Women, a blog featuring stories on education, parenting, and career written by women (though I'm not sure I fit their description of a "smart, super woman" haha). For my first entry, I submitted this short essay, which sums up my career switch: Testing the Waters