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.

Book Memory…or imagined?

A comment from Victoria – on recent post A Pound of Paperabout a book she was trying to remember the title of, got me thinking about my own quest for a book from yesteryear that remains an enigma.

Back when I was in school, I vividly remember reading a book about a patchwork quilt. The details still stored in my brain are thus:

A child is fascinated with a quilt and each square patch provides a mini adventure for the narrator.  I believe the adventures were completely in the mind of the child, as opposed to actually being trapped in the quilt.

One section fascinated me above all, a tunnel was the particular patchwork picture this time, and the child is walking through it.  It’s dark and footsteps echo loudly, they sound like someone following, paranoia strikes and some running towards the light at the end of the tunnels follows ensues.

As I remembered those specifics as well as I did, it must still be worth a reread just for that specific section, and so at every opportunity I trawl lots of charity shops, market stalls, libraries, and of course bookshops on a quest to enjoy my bit of nostalgia. Continue reading “Book Memory…or imagined?”

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”

WP 10th Anniversary

Whilst laboriously checking through all the WordPress notifications that had accumulated in my absence, I came across one informing me that I have now clocked up a decade on this platform, most of which is due to this blog, est. 2011.  Although it shouldn’t have, that milestone still came as a bit of a shock.

Plenty of things have changed in the preceding decade.  My writing and my taste in books in a personal level, but also the blogger generation that I first started with, sadly few are still writing after all these years.  I often wonder what the ones who left are up to, in my more melancholy moments.

My life has changed immensely thanks to this humble platform.  Travels abroad, new friends met from all over the world – some face to face – introductions to many new books and different ways of experiencing life, forays into the book publishing scene,  and those rectangular packages that sometimes arrive in the post.  And of course, most recently meeting my wife Crissy and subsequent move abroad. Continue reading “WP 10th Anniversary”

Bringing Book the Good Times

I’m finally back from a wonderful Christmas and New Year in England, and after fighting through the obligatory jet lag, as well as other demands, I finally find time to catch you up on things.

The most important being the books I managed to haul back over with me, which is a veritable, eclectic feast of words, split nicely between books to reread and new tomes to explore…

Continue reading “Bringing Book the Good Times”