31 October 2005

Me and the volcano

I went to see a volcano today.

Actually, I just wanted to get out of the city and take a long, nice drive and I thought having that as an excuse sounded exotic and extra-ordinary. So off I went just as the sun was starting to shine.

Once on the road, just hearing the car engine efficiently working at high speed with the tires hugging the pavement was enough to make me feel excited for the day. With the early morning sunshine in my face and the seemingly endless view of the expressway extending in front of me, I knew it was going to be an enjoyable trip. And I was right!

The 2-hour drive (including a quick pit stop) was just what I needed. Plantations and the wide expanse of green on both sides of the road were enough to make my city-weary soul feel rejuvenated.

When I felt my ears pop because of the change of altitude (the volcano is above sea – level), I knew the city was already far behind me and so were my worries. So I drove with my windows rolled down to let the cool air blow my hair and chill my cheeks. I felt so free!

I drove through fog and sunshine along the two-lane winding roads of this tiny place where the volcano is the main attraction and enjoyed every minute of it. I did not see the volcano just yet because of the thick fog but I figured I had all morning to wait for the sun to claim its place for the day.

By lunchtime and after a hearty meal of mushroom burger (the burger patties are cooked with cultured mushrooms and topped with a special egg omelet that tastes so good!) and buying plants and flowers from the roadside shops, I was already invigorated. A trip to the nearby market to buy fruits and vegetables was part of the route as well so that by early afternoon, my car was full of the earth’s bounty and I felt renewed.

By the time my car was making its way down the road, I realized, I haven’t really stopped long enough to see the volcano! That would be an insult to the town if I do not even take a moment to enjoy its number 1 crowd-drawer. So before I hit the town’s main road that would take me back to the city, I parked my car at the roadside and chose a good spot to see and enjoy the main event.

And there it was, as glorious and as breathtaking since the last time I saw it. The small crater jutting out of the lake that formed within a larger crater. I’ve seen it a dozen times but the sight still takes my breath away. I am still awed by its beauty and magnificence and it never fails to give me goose bumps.

After a good number of shots from my camera and saying a soft "I'll see you again." to the natural wonder, I hoped back into my car and drove into the freeway en route to the metropolis. With dusk slowly claiming the skies and my car full of great finds, I drove at the minimum speed and no longer in a hurry. For me, the trip always seemed to be shorter when I go home from an adventure.

As I entered my garage and turned off the engine, I told myself: Back to reality. I couldn’t help but smile though. I figured I may be back in the busy city, but I have another rich and wonderful experience tucked in my memory bank for me to reminisce during those dreary days.

And besides, I saw a volcano today! Who could top that?

*photo by Summer 10-31-05

29 October 2005

Shabu-shabu, anyone?

Have you ever felt stressed and tired before and after a meal? I have. I’m not talking about coming-home-from-work-tired-and-you-have-to-cook-your-dinner-type-of-fatigue.
I’m talking about having to cook your dinner in your own table with heaps of ingredients waiting to be cooked!

Tonight I ate at a Shabu-shabu restaurant with my family and I have never felt so pressured to cook my own food and eat it too!

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese way of cooking where you toss slices of beef or pork, eggs, chicken, lobster, shrimp, crab, noodles, vegetables, tomatoes, corn, fish balls, yams, spices and almost everything edible into a pot of boiling broth built into a marble table. If there is one food adventure you must experience, I would say this is it.

It is such a healthy way of eating (no preservatives and oil!) and only the natural flavors of the food makes it a gastronomical feast in itself. I think that’s the reason I plunged into this food experience. But if I had a choice and knew it would be a lot of work, I would have gone to a pizza joint instead.

I am not a culinary expert. My genius in the kitchen is just about cooking eggs and cup noodles. I could bake a mean cake but that’s not exactly cooking isn’t it? So when I was faced with the task of cooking my own meal, it felt a bit daunting. I had to ask my 17- year old niece how it’s done.

After I tossed almost all of the ingredients that could fit into the pot, I told myself: It’s not so hard. My confidence waned though as my niece checked my pot and kept saying, “Tita, your vegetables are getting burned.” or “Tita, your crab is overcooked”. How could I know? I was busy eating the first 100 ingredients I scooped out of the boiling broth.

From then on, I was frantically multi-tasking: Checking on my ingredients, eating my soup, slurping on the cooked noodles, stirring, eating my crab, sipping my watermelon shake, and so on. By the time I was done with the fish ball, I was tired. And I haven’t even scooped up the squid I tossed in first! I never imagined this whole shabu-shabu experience was this stressful!

After what felt like almost 2 hours, I had to give some of my noodles to my niece, my crab to my mom and the rest of the overcooked and soggy ingredients to my dad. When I finally decided to end the adventure and did one last scoop into the pot,I finally found my 2 pieces of squid!

The experience ended with an equally hefty dessert: a big bowl of fresh fruits in crushed ice and sweet milk. It was a fitting end to this food adventure.

I must admit I was stressed through it all. It was a good kind of stress though. Good enough that I can’t wait to bring my friends to a shabu-shabu adventure as well!

21 October 2005

Amazing Thailand!

20 things you must do when in Bangkok, Thailand:

1. Stay at the
Baiyoke Sky hotel and wake up or retire to bed each day seeing the great view of the city from the tallest hotel in the world.

2. Indulge yourself in a glorious Thai massage and feel like a princess when soaking in warm water mixed with aromatic oils and rose petals.

3. Eat at the Sidewalk eatery and feast on bowls of
Tom Yam soup, grilled prawns, hot, white Thai rice and sautéed Morning Glory greens.

4. Nurse a 3-month old Bengal tiger cub with an infant’s bottle filled with milk, run your hand through its glorious gold and black fur and feel the cute animal purr.

5. Go on a night cruise on board the Chao Phraya Princess and feel the cool Thai evening air in your face as the 350-ton vessel glides through the calm waters of the
Chaophraya River, and along the famous Bangkok landmarks such as the temple of the Emerald Buddha, Rama 8 Architecture Bridge, Temple of Dawn, and the Grand Palace.

6. Shop till 11pm or until your feet hurts and your hands feel strained from carrying all those plastic bags of excellent finds from the Night market.

7. Take a safari tour while in the comfort (and safety) of an air-conditioned, double-deck bus and watch various animals live harmoniously and share the same pile of fresh grass.

8. Be awed and mesmerized by the countless exquisite jewelry on display and for sale at the
Gems Gallery. Don’t forget to ogle at the display cabinet that has a gleaming, 100-carat blue Topaz the size of a block of butter!

9. Take lots of photos of the temples and pagoda architecture that dot the city and strain your neck while looking up at the tallest standing buddha covered in glass mosaic and gold-leaf as it glistens in the sun.

10. Feel the rush as the speedboat zooms and weaves it way through the water canals to take you to the
Floating market and give you a glimpse of the everyday life of the people who live along these waterways.

11. Watch the Elephant show and witness a traditional Thai wedding and Thai boxing in the
Rose Garden while being cooled by giant fans that spew cold mists of water.

12. Ride the
Tuk-tuk at 40kph through the city’s busy streets and let you hair blow in the wind while you tightly grip the stainless handles and anchor your feet on the metal flooring to keep yourself steady during those fast and tight turns.

13. Buy yourself a glorious Thai silk wrap skirt in gold and your favorite color and feel like royalty when you wrap yourself in the rich and intricately woven fabric.

14. Start the day with a more than hearty breakfast at the 76th – 78th floor of the Baiyoke Sky hotel while the early morning sunshine greets you and warms your face.

15. Be thrilled by clever sea lions, dolphins, beluga whales, parrots and parakeets at the
Safari World theme park and be impressed by their intelligence.

16. Get to ride the elephant or have your photo taken while you sit at his lap and feel his giant ear flap in your face while you squeal with delight.

17. Learn the graceful Thai gesture of greeting by putting your hands together and bowing slightly and feel cultured.

18. Interact with the gracious Thai people and be taken by their genuine charm and warmth.

19. Have your breath be taken away by the panoramic view of the city from the 83rd floor revolving deck of the Baiyoke sky hotel.

20. Be impressed by the precision, planning and coordination of the tourist industry as it transports thousands of tourists across the country to enjoy a truly amazing Thailand!

*all photos by Summer Oct 18-21-05

19 October 2005

My Element

It felt almost like I was in a dream. The familiar bell of the airport public address system at the departure lounge seemed to announce my arrival. There was the usual hustle and bustle of people activity at the airport but not even that could take me out of the serene state I was in. It has been 3 years since my last trip out of the country and this day is the day I am in my element once again.

The wait at the airport was a time to let all the memories of my 12 years of traveling come back. For a brief moment I was transported back in time and could feel the same emotions when I would wait for countless hours at airports: reading, praying, people-watching and waiting for the familiar boarding call. I could write a book about my experiences at airports alone!

Even the walk to the aircraft seemed like going through a tunnel filled with memories. I could almost see myself again; traveling alone with strangers and quietly falling in line to board the aircraft that would take each and every one of us to our destinations and new experiences.

Once in the aircraft, the smell of a clean cabin, with the mixture of sanitized air and brewing coffee welcomed me. I was almost expecting to see familiar faces of cabin crew whom I have recruited when I was working for the airline, but since it was a different carrier, I only saw smiles from unfamiliar faces. But it was good enough to keep my spirits high.

As I settled in my seat, it felt like a friend’s embrace of welcome. The soft seat cushion, the soft hissing of the air from the air-conditioning unit, the sound of overhead compartments being opened and closed, seat belts being buckled, the view of the aircraft wing from the window. They were all so familiar to me it was almost overwhelming. I missed all of it and being able to experience them once again was wonderful.

As the aircraft started to taxi in the runway, I knew this was what I had missed during those years: to travel. My emotions grew as the aircraft engines roared to build its thrust for take-off. I was sad and happy at the same time. Sad knowing that I could not travel as often as I liked and did before, but happy that I am able to make it happen this time after a 3-year hiatus.

By the time the aircraft lifted to the clouds and its landing gear retracts, a few tears had escaped my eyes. I knew I was back in my element and it felt like home.

05 September 2005

Change is good

I started working in a different work location today. I was bit apprehensive of this move because it will mean a complete change in my routine.

As the day progressed though, I could feel a sense of contentment settling in me. I like the spacious work area and wide desk space. And most of all, I like the view. I missed having a view when I work and for me, having a desk beside a window is a very welcome treat. (In my previous employer high above in the 25th floor, I could see the waters of the Bay and enjoy looking at the mountain ranges that surround me. It was great!)

The new location is quiet and is very conducive for uninterrupted work. I don’t hear the never-ending babble of a co-worker who is now safely based in another location. His absence made it possible for my brain to rest and not be clogged with his sarcastic and irritating comments. I guess there is the blessing there!

It felt like I was in a real office now. I no longer felt like I was in a sardine can cramped with 60 other fishes. I could actually freely move without having to worry about hitting someone’s head when I stretch my arms to yawn. Time flies quickly and I get to accomplish a lot more work. And to top it all, at the end of the day, I don’t feel as tired when I was in the old location. I actually feel excited to go to work!

When a friend of mine asked me how did I find the new location, I couldn’t contain my excitement. She was laughing at my obvious enjoyment of the place. She summed up the entire experience for me though in 3 words:Change is good! And I couldn't agree with her more!

03 September 2005

Day of firsts

Today I had my first ever facial and foot spa. I was feeling low and thought it might do me some good. And it did!

I had never had a facial nor had my toes cleaned by someone else so this is really something to write about. I consider both activities as vanity, but I realized otherwise after having gone through it. It dawned on me that they help rejuvenate parts of my body that works a lot for me.

My face is what I show to the world. It is the first thing that people see and the last thing that they will remember. I have underestimated the need to take care of it, or pamper it once in a while. I realized that a facial does just exactly that. It pampers the skin and gives it the special attention it deserves. The dermatologist said it would make my skin glow, and it did.

But you know what? I think what actually made my skin glow was the good feeling I got after the facial. I knew that I deserved it and that I have done something to make me feel good.

As for the foot spa, it is a luxurious experience that I found both fun and refreshing. I remember I used to tell myself that I would not have anyone scrub my feet. But today is a day of firsts, and for today, I had to set that statement aside. It was a good decision.

The warm water felt great and having my soles scrubbed was both ticklish and relaxing. I can actually feel my feet getting refreshed while being scrubbed and rubbed with aromatic lotions. It felt wonderful!

I walked around today a little taller and lighter. With my face and feet scrubbed and refreshed, I was ready once again to face the world with a renewed spirit. And I think it’s time to start saving a little budget for it from now on!

28 August 2005


This is my first attempt to learn what millions of people are now doing: How to blog.

So here goes!