Doing the Universe of Good

A few months ago I watched with amusement at the resulting celebrations rising from the announcement that the Philippines had yet again won Miss Universe.  Putting my book down for a few moments – a struggle such as that was – I joined the party because it meant a chance of free food!

A couple of things of late have reminded me about Catriona Gray, firstly Ren’s post on Filipino films, especially Buy Bust which is set in Tondo, and secondly, the below music video, again set in Tondo, where Miss U does a lot of charity work.  It gives an insight into one of the areas so often glossed over when people talk about the Philippines.

The last question posed on finals night was, What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life and how will you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?  Her answer:

I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is very… it’s poor and it’s very sad. And I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it; to look in the beauty in the faces of the children, and to be grateful. And I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this I think if I could also teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children will have a smile on their faces.

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A Writing Retreat

This weekend saw us go on an adventure to one of our favourite places, Bag of Beans, in Tagaytay.  Battling the usual heat, and a cold – which rendered my voice incapable of anything above a croak – it was a relief to clear away the cobwebs and stretch the legs.

The view is always going to be the major pull, inspiring as it is, and has the added bonus of effortlessly making my photography skills seem like talent, despite being a bit ropey in reality. Relaxing here is always the perfect pay off after yet another crazy week.

Despite the beautiful and distracting vista, there was also plenty of reading and writing successfully done, accompanied by a pleasant, cool breeze. An iced mocha at my elbow further stimulated the brain cells into action.

Breakfast was an absolutely treat as well. Sweet and savoury combined to complete my satisfaction, and a creative day was off to a great start.

An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a Huge Surprise!

Recently Crissy and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and before I made my way to Manila on the afternoon of the 28th Jan, a bunch of 99 red roses were duly delivered to the Philippine Airlines offices, to make a statement.

Travelling to Manila is always an ordeal, standing for an indeterminate amount of time under the beating midday sun, with little to no shade.  This time made more interesting by the two pickpockets, who assumed that I had no idea what they were doing.  I had to suppress a snigger every time they checked a box off of my mental checklist of Robber Form; shuffle surreptitiously near target, separate, distract, engage in conversation to show no threat, etc.

Leaving these two inept thieves behind, I got on a van which took the scenic route to Mall of Asia.  The highlight of the journey being when the driver attempted to thread our van through the eye of a needle, that being a concrete wall and speeding articulated lorry, it was pretty fun actually!

Its been a great year, reflecting on the adventures as I made my way around MOA, I thought of the build up to the ceremony a year to the day, then the wedding itself and the people who attended. The adventures had since.  I also had time to read a bit of book as well.

Heading to posh casino Solaire (chosen partly because it has a free bus to and from Mall of Asia, we are by nature frugal people) later that day, we get to our buffet restaurant early and took advantage of the photo ops whilst it was quiet. Continue reading “An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a Huge Surprise!”

Sand, Sea, Mountains, and My Poor Toenail

The last time I caught you all up on my adventures was back in August and since then a good few things have happened, including losing a lot of photos so what remains is below.

We took a cruise around Manila Bay, one Friday evening. Whilst we headed up the bay, we ate a tasty rice based meal and were treated to an aural accompaniment by a musical duo.  This ranged from ballads to the Spice Girls, because that is what happens if you ask for requests from tone-deaf people with no sense of atmosphere.

As we made our way back down the bay, the sun had finally set and all the lights started to flicker on, which made Manila look surprisingly beautiful.  Although I do hold to the opinion that it is a beautiful city, it just depends on how tenuous about the word beautiful, or romantic you are about it.  We had prime seats for the regular Friday night firework show, which was another bonus.

It was great to see the city from another angle, one less seething with people, and free from the traffic and the noise.  Watching the planes coming into land every couple of minutes, encouraged me to muse on the people arriving. They would soon enter the fray, and fight through the chaos to wherever they are going.  I hoped they were prepared.

In November, it was All Souls Day which is a bit like Mexico’s Day of the Dead but with less make up.  We went to the cemetery, with its party atmosphere –  complete with fantastic barbecue smells and balloons for sale – and had a big family picnic, before planning an impromptu trip to the beach the next day.

It was beautifully and sunny, with good food and plenty of swimming.  I spent a few hours floating on my back, watching the occasional plane fly over thousands of feet above, before the odd rogue wave would wake me from my musings.  It wasn’t a busy beach and as the sun set, there were some gorgeous photos ops to be had. Continue reading “Sand, Sea, Mountains, and My Poor Toenail”

When Will You Visit?

I spent ages looking for a good video with which to entice you over to this part of the world  in the near future – one that didn’t include people needlessly showing off – after a good twenty-five minutes of searching, finally this one was settled on.

I did want a shorter, snappier video but  – although quite long at seven and a half minutes – it does a very good job of capturing the beauty of both the country and people, whilst, towards the end, balancing that out with the poverty that is so often glossed over in such videos.

We’re Walking in the Air

This time last year, had it been suggested I would be flying back to England for a vacation so soon, I would have doubted it but as I am reminded each day, you really can’t plan ahead in the Philippines.

Now returning with some of the Filipino side of the family in tow, for a few weeks in the cold, in late December, it will be very intriguing to see England through the new and fresh eyes.  It will be a relief to leave the mosquitoes behind as well.

Flying for around 14 hours on the new Airbus A350 (shown off above with a neat introductory book that has a pop up plane in the middle), reminds me with a shudder of the ‘joys’ of prolonged air travel and the dramas of avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis.  Continue reading “We’re Walking in the Air”

Catching Up on Things

Every morning I feel extremely privileged to wake up in The Philippines.  Now in my tenth month of living here, it really is ‘more fun in The Philippines’, as the saying goes.  Despite its status as a third world country, there is so much more to this archipelago than that label. Here people deal with life in such a positive way, day-to-day living here can be hard, the early morning commutes to an ever busier Manila for example, the fight to get on the transport, the endless queueing, and everyone (except me and – thankfully – the driver) grabbing a nap whilst they can.  Yet despite all that people are happier here, perhaps the sunlight is a factor but whatever the reason, despite the challenges people endure, they love life and will make any excuse for a gathering, with more food than its physically possible to eat.

Standing at the door armed with a cup of coffee, usually around 6am (when the temperature has yet to hit thirty degrees but is almost there), I love to look at the palm trees and hear people catching up, sweeping their house fronts, and doing regular people-in-the-morning things.  As I settle down to my own work, the sun usually shines relentlessly, the ebb and flow of passersby changes with the waxing and waning of that fiery ball in the sky, and I get lost in words, and ideas for the future.  Today I realised that, apart from neglecting the blog  -due to other important things that needed doing – I haven’t really mentioned a lot about where we have gone in recent months, so in no particular order and without further ado:

Whilst Summer was still with us we took a trip to Laguna for a day at the hot springs – situated halfway up a mountain – and the most important thing to do was to find a good vantage point and take a photo of the great view spread out below us. That done we rushed down the hill to have a go on the slides!  The so-called express way we took to get there has frequent toll gates which was a new and surprising detail, this of course meant more queueing (an unsurprising detail) but it was worth it for this view alone.

In an effort to fly off the end of the orange slide as far as possible, I threw myself down with reckless abandon and as a burnt my back but to balance that out, I did get a cheer from the people at the bottom of the green slide when I exploded off that one, my nose felt like it had been smashed with a concrete slab, it was brilliant!  There was even some really good reception to Skype with my parents later on, as we munched on our squid dinner.

I was lucky enough to be invited once again to Join the Kiwanis crew for more work in the community. If you missed my first adventures with this wonderful charity, you can read about it here, I’ve lost a lot of weight since then.  This time it was a colouring competition and the kids were really talented, I’ll bring you more about the charity soon.

One of my favourite places to go is Tagaytay, The view from up on high at Sky Ranch, with a glimpse of Taal Lake and the many trees, is always a welcome thing to see.  The breeze was lovely and gazing out with the other impressed visitors really brings home the beauty of this country and also the worrying spread of building which threatens places like this.

Further around the lake at Charito’s, there is another beautiful scenic view, with fishing boats, small villages and on the right of the island is Taal Volcano, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes and was active as recently as 2011.  Food and drink is always abundant and full of seasoning, as well as the obligatory rice, but it tastes even better with this sort of scenic vista for company.  When we were in Bali, I really missed the food of the Philippines, and I am eager for you all to hunt out a Filipino restaurant and go sample some of the delights.
Continue reading “Catching Up on Things”