Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TRAVEL LESSONS

People say that I have some birthmark in my feet soles. Well, I check them every day but I find none. That is actually a figurative way of saying that you are “fidgety”, that you can not sit still, you can not settle in one place.



I guess I am in terms of travel.


I love to travel a lot, I can not stay put or I get bored if I sit still in one place. Maybe this is why I am granted a job that requires me or that gives me opportunity to travel. My job that relates to traveling started when I worked with foreign-funded projects. First was in Department of Finance under its World Bank-funded Community Based Resource Management Project. Second was in Department of Agrarian Reform under its Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Agrarian Reform Communities Project. Third was in Department of Agriculture under its ADB-funded Infrastructure for Rural Enhancement Sector Project. And currently I am with Development Alternatives, Inc. under its US Agency for International Development-funded Philippine Water Revolving Fund – Support Program.


These projects have granted me the chance to reach and step on soils of the whole Philippine Archipelago (almost) from Cagayan Valley in the north down to Tawi-tawi in the south. I said almost because some rich provinces like Ilocos Norte were not included in the project areas. The Central Luzon also was usually not covered by the projects I worked with. And I have not stepped into Sulu soil, and I tell you I will never dare.


For more than 9 years now, I have earned lots of mileage and learned lots of travel lessons at the same time. The lessons learned from traveling as I am going to thoroughly discuss later focus solely on “survival”. My travel experiences do not only account for domestic trips but also some international (Asia Pacific, so far) tours I have afforded so far. Surviving in a place that is alien for you is the huge challenge. May it be domestic or international soils. May it be lands of people that speak the same language or not. Survival is foremostly a concern.


The following checklist of lessons that I learned from traveling around could also serve as travel tips to readers. I hope this can somehow help in one’s survival while in a new environment, new place, most especially in foreign lands.


Number 1. Have enough money, change or coins primarily.


This does not really apply for domestic travels. Basically because we know our currency (Philippine Peso or Piso), counting and changing monies is never a burden. But when you deal with foreign currencies, especially when it’s your first time to handle them, you will really encounter some level of difficulty. In regard to preparation of enough coins (barya in Tagalog or Filipino), Philippine transport requires barya only in morning trips or if you ride tricycles or pedicabs; buses are not really particular with that. However, buses in Hong Kong and Singapore require exact amount of fares; they won’t mind how much you pay for as long as it is not below the minimum. Excess payments are considered tips. So what must you do to find change? You go directly to customer service. You look for one within the airport, bus terminals, and train stations.


Number 2. Ask first if the person you approach speaks English.


You don’t need to find one when you travel domestically. Well, most Filipinos can speak English; even Carabao (uneducated) English is understandable. But all Filipinos can speak and understand Tagalog or Filipino so it won’t be a problem when you ask for direction or instructions or if you have questions. Unlike in foreign lands, especially in Hong Kong and Macau, notwithstanding the whole Mainland China, you really have to make sure first that the person you are about to ask for anything really speaks English. When I say speak, it means that he or she must not just understand English but can actually utter English term (never mind the grammar or composition and intonation). In Singapore, almost all people, Chinese and Malays, can understand and speak English. Only that understanding Chinese-kind of English-ing is difficult. I remember buying a bottled water in one of the Chinese hawkers, I was then asked by a Chinese guy who entertained me “pic os mol?” I really find it hard to decipher the message, in fact I ask him “what?” several times, until finally he signaled the message through his two hands. It was only then that I understand what he was talking or asking about, “big or small”. You just have to be courteous, patient and kind. English of Malays is relatively comprehensible. So don’t forget to ask first, “speak English?” When one answered yes or simply nods, then he or she is your guy.


Number 3. Always bring the map

Don’t ever forget tugging along with you maps. Maps of a place or country are available at the airports tourist information counters. Just make sure that it is in English or language understandable to you. Consider it as your bible when you are in that place. Losing the map will eventually leave you lost in the middle of nowhere and that’s the time to go back to number 2 tip. Another advantage of having the map is for the person, the last person you even find and ask for destination, to simply point your aspired destination in the map.


Or better yet…


Number 4. Plan your itinerary ahead of time.


Research ahead all the required information of your destination and then print it out. The printed itinerary will serve as your map. It should at least include answers to when and how to get there. I remember befriending a group of Cebuano youngsters during my one day tour in Macau, one of them kept checking loose leaves of printed articles. They confirmed to me that it was their pre-planned itinerary. I heard the girl reading “walk you way up” or “walk your way down” or “ride a bus to” sorts.


Before landing, ensure as much as possible that the itinerary is revisited. This strategy will facilitate smoothness in your travel events, from the purchase of theme parks tickets, to the familiarization of routes, to the mode of transportation to take.


Number 5. Travel alone, as much as possible.


Traveling alone is light, as in no baggage at all. This will lighten up your baggage, even if you bring with you long and huge travel bags, physically and emotionally. Touring in solo will save a lot of things. One is time; you manage your own time without compromise or maybe if you compromise your travel time, nobody else will be affected. Two is emotion. It will save you from feeling grumpy, especially when you appear to be the lead. It will also save you from feeling guilty of bringing along these people with you and lost in the middle of an alien place with them.


You may bring along someone that share the same zeal of adventure. Someone that is adept to any circumstances that come along the way. You tour to this new land might be planned but along the way you will encounter unplanned happenings or events. Events that can hold up, interrupt, or destruct your initial plans. Choose a company that can help you in anyway when needed; one that is proactive and primarily one that won’t blame you for any inconvenience or misfortune you stumble upon along the way.


Number 6. Enjoy the adventure.


You reach a particular new environment, alien place, foreign land because you want adventure, you look for new experience, and you hunger for up-to-the-minute escapades. Consider all the ups and downs of the tour as adventure. Being lost along some of the ways is more fun than the smooth-sailing journey. Plus, it is more lesson-learning or knowledge-building than unscathed tours.


Being in a new environment, in an alien place, in a foreign land is already an accomplishment. Hearing incomprehensible languages is a tough challenge. Being lost in the middle of unknown place is fun. All these and more have made your travel or tour or journey, whatever you call it, very much adventurous.


Register every single thing to your bank of lessons. You may prepare a journal or narrative report or a travel checklist to account every thing in every step of your way. So that by next time you travel, whether to the same place or a new one, you can check on it or them (if you take journals in your every trip). This will help a lot. Of course, you will encounter more new adventures, learn more new lessons, get lost more, but the point is that you have battle shields no matter how tin-made and thin, so to speak, at least you have cover or back up tips.


Number 7. Travel while young.


This is not really a requirement but at least you enjoy traveling or wandering around while at young age. Personally, I believe that touring, traveling, wandering is more enjoyed by youngsters than old adult people – I mean retirees. Let us accept the fact that it is an acceptable fact that for Filipinos, we tend to submit ourselves to hardwork when we are young and think of saving for our retirements. And only upon retirement did we think of enjoying life, having saved a lot for it. It is only then that we plan of traveling around, made a tour away from home or homeland.


For me, we don’t have to wait for retirement or retirement age to arrive. Saving for retirement is actually for mortuary purposes and not for other purposes, traveling included. Traveling while young is better, it lets you enjoy all the fun, rides all you can. Theme parks around the globe in fact are young people-friendly. Who would enjoy walking along Boracay beach in bikinis under the heat of the sun if you are old? Who would enjoy the roller coaster rides in Ocean Park or in Disneyland or in Harry Potter Wizarding World if you are old? Is it not awkward to queue for pictorials with Cinderella or Snow White or Fiona or Goofy or Pluto or Mickey when you look wrinkled and old?


My father always reminds me, “Save while you are young for your old age”. But I say, “Save and travel once in a while while at young age.” Once in a while I mean at least once a year. Travel I mean overseas. Enjoy life to the fullest starting while young so that when old age come the adventures in life could be a treasured memory.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

HONGKONG & MACAU: ROUND TWO

Day 5

Erick once mentioned to me the idea of working and living in Hong Kong. This may have risen after having enjoyed the country in many ways, other than the language. I found it a good proposition too. We thought of finding job vacancies in Hong Kong soon. As we checked in at the airport, we queued with fellow Filipinos. Speaking the same dialect, we find it easy to mingle and befriend others. Then I asked the lady next to me “How is it working in Hong Kong?” Without second thought, she replied, “HELL” with exclamation point. I was stunned. With that, I dared not ask her kind of work, or her age (coz she looked too young to be a househelp).


Another gal who queued right after us, her name was later known to me as Rowena, has asked our excess free baggage privilege. This is to save her from paying the excess weight of her two large suitcases. Well, only if the cargo is clean, we dared her jokingly. Of course it’s clean, just clothes and all, she justified. Anyways, I overheard them (with another lady, her best friend who send her off) talking about getting a student visa. Her friend objected to the idea saying that it will cost them HKD6,000 a month for the 10-month visa. Rowena defended that with her 14-day tourist visit alone, she was able to raise HKD7,000. “How much more the 10 months of living and working in Hong Kong?” she insisted boldly. I wondered then how the hell were they able to work out for HKD7,000 within 14 days as approved by HK Immigration for tourists. I wondered what kind of work they do in that period of time and earn that much. I wondered what this other young lady clamored about working as hell in Hong Kong that these other two ladies do not.


A mother (tugging along with her her daughter which she said she travelled with most of the time), who also shared our extra free luggage privilege after my backpack and Rowena’s bags, shared us her present day living. She told us that she is now doing buy and sell of Chinese products and she travelled a lot for that purpose. She was a former domestic helper in Hong Kong and later learned the trade of Chinese people of their products; she is now a “businesswoman.” She even bragged about living at her former master’s house every time she’s in Hong Kong. I believe she is earning much from this venture because she mentioned and cited lots of places around China that she has visited several times now. She even tipped us on how and where to stay at budget next time around, whether in Hong Kong or Macau or Guangzhou or Shenzhen.



Then maybe Hong Kong is the right place to work and live, I later thought. However, Chinese people, as per my observation, are difficult to deal with, unpredictable, arrogant, moody and bossy. That I can not work and live with. I would rather work my ass off here in the Philippines and visit Hong Kong and Macau and any state in China once in a while as tourist. Hong Kong still is a place I want to visit over and over again, basically for Disneyland and Ocean Park, as long as I can enjoy the fun and the rides.



On the last note, I noticed different design in the money notes in Hong Kong. It’s not their Central Bank that produced the circulating notes, instead their banks (commercial banks, I believe) as can be clearly marked around the bills. There is however a citation that the bank is liable to pay the equivalent sum to the bearer for the amount stated in the instrument. The three main banks I read from the notes I handled were Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), Standard Chartered Bank, and Bank of China. Only some of the ten dollar bills and the coins that I observed were produced and circulated by their government. Impressive! Right? This simply means that no faker exists in Hong Kong.

P.S. A personal tour in Hong Kong is very affordable. On our last day, we plot down our actual expenses and we found out that this 5-day tour for 2 cost us almost 40,000 in Philippine peso.

HONGKONG & MACAU: ROUND TWO

Day 4

Our last day tour was in Ocean Park. Erick and I agreed to arrive there early at opening time in order to enjoy all the fun with fewer crowds. We rode the MTR to Admiralty station after another breakfast at same KFC. We found the Ocean Park bus station effortlessly. We arrived at the entrance few minutes ahead of opening time and found the crowd queuing at the Tai Shue Wan entrance. This is the other entrance of the park. Last year, this section was mostly under construction (well, some are still is), but the Ocean Express, the Panda Village and Giant Panda Habitat, and the Goldfish Treasures are open for public viewing. We took pictures of almost all sections of this side of the park, from Sky Fair to Whiskers Harbor, from the Pandas to the Goldfishes. We both were wowed by the life-sized replica of the Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon movie characters. We enjoyed the movie more upon seeing them here, much more when we entered the maze and joined the game with the Mighty Dragons. It was however ridiculous to have failed in the encounter. I personally did not mind that it was a Q&A type of game. I simply pressed any buttons without understanding the instructions or reading the questions. All I felt then was an overwhelming awe, firstly at seeing real live Panda, even Red Pandas; secondly at watching the assorted bizarre looking goldfishes (I now called them balloon fishes, some with ballooning faces, cheeks, heads, bellies, even eyes.); and finally the fantastic near-to-real-looking dragons that I only knew and saw in 3D movie. Having enjoyed this early morning fun, Erick left his backpack in the middle of the maze. I did not mind it until a Filipina mentioned to us that she passed an abandoned backpack inside.

We were blessed with great people we met along the way in this trip. Today, even more gracious human beings of different descent and colors surrounded us. The first and foremost was that Filipina who sensed that one of us (Erick or me) has left that backpack she passed by inside the Mighty Dragons’ maze. We were almost at the finish line, which is the printing of certificates that says “Congratulations! You graduated from the Challenge!” I can be blamed partly by that loss because I stopped Erick when he attempted to go back for it. I was thinking then that he will go back to get what I took on his behalf, of course, not the backpack. Another was a heart-warming gesture from Indian nationals as we headed home under the rain. Since the general crowd headed home with us, so the queue for the public bus going to Admiralty MTR station snaked long. Despite the heavy rain, we held on to the queue, then an Indian child of about 8 or 10 lent us her umbrella. I was touched and I literally blushed. I was about to decline, well, Erick did decline, but her 3 other sisters with their mother have moved to let us borrow the umbrella. “We have our raincoats already and that umbrella is spare,” the mother added. They queued ahead of us covered with transparent raincoats. Then I remembered them as our seatmates on the bus on our way here that morning. So maybe because we’ve been seatmates already and for sure will be seatmates again, they were confident to lend that umbrella to us. “So kind of you,” I thanked them shyly. We were seatmates indeed; we once again occupied the upper deck rear seats of the bus. I believe they are of upper social status in India because they behave well, speak English well, very good-natured breed of people, way different as compared to our Indian neighbors around Mirador Mansion, especially the ones piling along Nathan Road to sell you stuffs.

Anyway, before that heavy rainfall, we were able to savor the fun-filled Ocean Park adventures. Having spent much time with nature, a moment with pandas; goldfishes; seals and sea lions at Pacific Pier; fishes, eels, sharks and stingrays at Atoll Reef; birds and flamingos, we readied ourselves for the wild rides. We started screaming at the Space Wheel; shouting our hearts out at the Raging River, we cried and sworn not to do it again in the extreme ride with the Mine Train, and my favorite roller coaster ride via the Dragon. I took the pleasure of hearing Erick screaming to the limit the “Oh My GOD!” as we turned upside down the three loops. It was during the Dolphin and Sea Lion Show when the rain started to rampage. All people were soaked and wet waited for almost an hour just to watch the 30-minute show. The waiting was further delayed due to the bad weather, as announced by the pager.

My socks and shoes, therefore my feet, were soaked with rainwater. I felt wet, cold and stinky. That was yet 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the park will close at six, but we waited no longer for the closing; we opted not to maximize the time of being in the park and headed straight home. We skipped the Sea Jelly viewing, even the show at Whisker’s Theater. We even cancelled our plan shopping that night at Citygate Outlets, located at the Tung Chung MTR station, where most factory outlets of known RTW brands (70 as published) can be found there, the likes of Nike, Adidas, Quicksilver, Club 21, Esprit and more, so largely discounted. Well, other then limited cash available on hand, we also ran out of time, plus it’s cold and it rained so badly then. We waited for rain to dissipate and we took the chance to take a short peek at the Avenue of the Stars along the Victoria Harbor and for the night view of Hong Kong Island. We already viewed its back when we were at the Peak; it is the front view that we were witnessing now. Erick got the chance to measure his palms on Jackie Chan’s handprinted star. We took turns to get a picture of Bruce Lee and the astounding Hong Kong Island’s view at night, packed with blinking city lights more like Christmas.

We retired early that day, foremostly due to cool windy night, and secondly to the fact we will need to rise early the next day for our trip back home to the Philippines.

A FATHER’S DAY MIRACLE

You know friends, I experienced God's miracle since June 20. And a friend of mine said,


“If I may, I would like to correct you. I think that you experience it everyday and just do not realize it. However I am sure there is one miracle in particular that you wish to share with me. Please do.” Mark Scheuerell, Chicago, Ill. USA


YES! I believe everyday is God’s miracle for all of us. But I say, this is BIG time, a BIG one!

June 20 was father's day, right? I greeted my father, Papa Tantong Sr., “Happy Father’s Day” through SMS that morning at 10 o’clock. Later in the afternoon we were informed, receiving a text message from my mother, Mama Dulcing, that our father was rushed to the hospital; Surigao Medical Center the nearest one. He was accommodated in the Emergency Room and the doctor, Dr. Go, declared that his heart is in coma. My sister dared to talk to the doctor over the phone. Me? I can’t, I just stared at her and the phone waiting and hoping for good news. I mean good prognosis. I am a licensed nurse, but if an immediate family, a Father in particular, as patient, I can not be a nurse. Then the doctor informed us that the heart attack happened at 12 noon. That was right after their petty celebration of the Father’s Day. Mama told me that Papa and two other Uncles ate “kinilaw” during lunch and shared a Tanduay rhum. She further informed me that Papa even requested for a refill of the bottle of Tanduay rhum they emptied. That Papa later climbed up the bed to rest. That was I think when he started feeling chest pains. Then at about 2 pm, ordered Mama to call my Uncle Mauro, my father’s younger brother, to drive him to the hospital. My father only declared his chest pain at 2pm, which the doctor said “was too late!”

En, my sister can no longer hold her tears. I interrupted her sobbing and pushed her to plea the doctor to do everything they can. What else can we do? What can I do to help? Nothing but plea. We are miles miles away. The doctor assured us that they're doing the best they can only that he sounded pessimistic then. Cardiac arrest like that of my father is seldom savable. They in fact inject epi or nitroglycerin (I think, I’m not 100% sure about the meds they put on him) to melt down the blood or to smoothen the arterial muscles so that blood can flow around the body, most especially to the vital organs, brain, lungs and heart. But his heart has stopped working, was in comatose, was in high fibrillation. Mama’s sobbing reverberated through the phone when it was declared code blue and my father was put in shock. I can imagine the scene from several movies, medical movie series, how shock is performed. That was when the person is near death. That was I believe what my mother has in her mind then.


That was really really unfortunate for Mom, that day when they rushed Papa to the hospital, because my sister-in-law, their only company at home, went to Butuan, the next city 2-hour ride away from Surigao to visit my nephew Entoy who schooled there. So my mother really was left alone to assist my father. I know how difficult it was for her. But I knew she is strong woman as she always been! Perhaps that is the one reason why she has enlarged heart because she kept everything to herself, especially matters of the heart. It was her cardiomegaly that actually panicked us when we heard her crying over the phone as my father was put to shock, crowded with ER doctor and nurses.


Mama asked me of my father’s chances of survival, of passing this dreadful episode, of recovery. I comforted her, not assuring her of anything. I just told her to be very accepting of the will of God. I was also crying deep inside me but I need not show it or reflect it in my voice while talking to Mama. I cried shyly during the Communion portion of the Sunday Mass we attended later that night. I poured all my heart pains hoping that it can restore my father’s heart.


Then I saw a bit of hope and of course it increased my faith when the doctor told us that the body still accepts ventilation. For me it means that the remaining circulating blood is still with oxygen. I prayed, I mean I demanded God to save Papa. We are not ready yet to lose a father, not in this manner particularly. God is so very Great that after being declared comatose for 7 hours, he (my father) opened his eyes and spoke at 9pm. He (God) granted our plea. Mama Mary interceded for us. Papa Tantong is saved from the claws of death. We were relieved! We too were revived from deep sadness. I was sort of lifted in heaven then! Then the doctor induced another drug to put him to return to sleep to rest yet. No moving, no talking, no drinking, no eating, to avoid loads of the heart yet.


I really don’t know how it happened...just that they, Mama included, told us he woke up and spoke. Miracle, right? We don’t need to check how, what, why…Don’t forget that this is a story about a miracle! Blessed be Jesus, Mary, & Joseph! GOD is GREAT! all the time!


Then later that night, Mama told us they actually spoke with my father. In fact father requested En, my sister not to go home anymore, that they can manage there. But I already booked and bought my sister's plane ticket. En insisted to come home. She's on her way home now. She will be of help to Mama. I will soon follow after all my business dealings here in Manila.  

The following day, En reached Surigao and attended Papa. She called me to update me every now and then. One important thing she relayed was about the declaration of the doctor. This is also relayed to her by our parents. That the doctor almost gave up in performing the 20th cardiac shock which for the first he endured the 21 times of putting electricity to my father’s heart. That the doctor declared that Papa was the very first cardiac arrest victim in the record revived that long and survived. This really made my father famous in the hospital. That the doctor then conversed with my now-conscious father that he has therefore this mission which God alone knows and he alone can realize. That the doctor advised my father to take good care of this second life granted by God and never waste it than fulfill the mission God has given him too. 

Later that day, the doctor talked to my sister. He told her, as relayed by En, that he is doing everything he can. He called his approach as conservative medical intervention, prescribing all relevant and available medicines in that can help alleviate my father’s heart condition. But he confirmed that my father indeed requires more substantive medical examinations and interventions. One of which is the examination through angiogram. This is to detect how many veins and arteries were damaged. That if only two or three were defective, then an angioplasty will be prescribed. However, if more than that number, then a heart surgery will be ordered. If the required medical attention sounds burdensome, its corresponding costs weigh more than burdensome.

And since God granted us the second life of our father, then I believe the necessary medical attention should be availed of, and the necessary bank account should also be available. I believe my sister En is right: “if Papa is given by Him the second chance, then there’s no doubt we will also be granted the ways and means to raise money for the same purpose.” Our primary purpose therefore from now on is to save my Papa Tantong’s life for whatever cost. 


MY FRIENDS’ REPLIES


Cris that was a real and great story to share with.........Get well soon to your Papa ha..........and I will include him in my prayers for him to recover fast and be back in your arms again............ your sis jasmin, pampanga


I didnt realize initially that this was about your Dad. I am truly glad to hear that your prayers for your father were answered. God's ways are mysterious indeed. Hope he recovers fast.
Alma D. Porciuncula
Chief of Party, Philippine Water Revolving Fund Support Program-Development Alternatives, Inc., Manila



Hi, Cris. Im really touched by how the Lord has answered your prayer. Indeed, He is our healer, an ever present help in times of trouble. Will pray for complete recovery of your father. I hope this will bring your relationship with the Lord closer and more meaningful.
Thanks for sharing. Im reminded of the many miracles He has shown me, too. God bless!
Thess, EcoGov Manila



Indeed cris, your family just had a miracle! My prayers are with you, especially your Dad, your Mom and the rest of the family..... Henceforth, red letter na gyud ang june 20 for you and the family.........hallelujah!!!
Marlene, PWRF-SP Manila


WHEW! GRABEH sir nnindog aqng balhibo! mkhilak mn pd ta sir oi!

ur ryt sir, GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME! ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD!
Lanie, Matanao, Davao del Sur


It was indeed a great MIRACLE...it reminds us all that GOD is really good and great!

still praying for your dad's speedy recovery!
Lorelie, Capaz, Tarlac



Sir cris,

our prayers is with your family.....May your father get well soon. God bless.
Bridget, Sydney, Australia



Hi!
God is great! Your friend is correct to say that we experience miracles everyday of our lives and it's true that we just don't realize it. We're too busy to even notice them. The air we breath, the sun that shines, the rain that falls, everything that surounds us and most especially the life we have are all miracles from God. All these God gifts are all miracles that we have to appreciate and thank God. We tend to realize God's goodness and love only when bad things happen and when God makes a great miracle out of it.
Your Dad's second life is a miracle that we really have to thank God. Very seldom people get a second chance to live and survive such a tragedy. Your Dad was given a second life for him to give glory to God. He's a very lucky man because still he's given the chance to announce and share God's goodness and love for everybody. This is also the time for him to change his life the way God wants it to be and to lead a true Christian life in the same image of God.
I'm very happy that you shared this miracle to everybody, for this is one way of glorifying and phrasing God.

I know that this miracle will not only change your father's life but all the members of your family. It's very very hard to walk in the image of God, but it's worth trying and sacrificing. We will not be able to make our life spiritually perfect but God will guide us through.
Extend our prayers and love to your mom and dad.
Ogie and Nanette, Marikina

wow, cris. i just finished reading your message. that was SO moving. so powerful. you believed your father was going to get better, and he did. that was a very uplifting email, evoking the power of belief, and i must admit i am hesitant to acknowledge this, but somehow that power of belief worked.
thanks to the grand architect of the universe. thanks to your faith. thanks to your father's will to live. thanks to your mother's love and hope.
i am so moved.
my thoughts are with your family.
Sansoy, London, England



It’s really a big miracle GOD IS SO GOOD TO US. PRAISE HIM!
Lolong Aldonza, Surigao City


I’m sorry to hear na nagkasakit father mo. All I can give is my prayers for his recovery. God Bless!

Ruth, Capas, Tarlac 

"huuuu... it's really hard but with HIM nothing is impossible! indeed, to HIM all our praises be!" 
Dupong, Surigao City 

"See how God's power and will works!!!! Amazing event!"
"Very good to hear that, Sir Cris.."
Tina, Quezon City

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HONGKONG & MACAU: ROUND TWO

Day 3

Macau was the destination for the third day. Joyriding was the main event. Language barrier was the bottleneck. New friendship was built.


We rose early from bed to take another breakfast at the same KFC store. We planned to check in the Ferry Terminal early to arrive in Macau early. I remember last year that we walked a circuitous way to look for the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal where the fast crafts or vessels going to Macau were berthed. I pitied Dupong then so soaked with sweat from a long walk from the Mirador Mansion down to the Victoria harbor where we wrongly thought was where the Macau ferries stationed. Then we were told that Hong Kong Ferry was on the other side, just a walking distance from that point. So we walked and walked almost the whole stretch of the Canton Road. We did find it but we were already exhausted by the wandering. That was when I noticed that the said ferry terminal was located near a park, which I believe was the Kowloon Park. So this time, I led Erick the walk along Cameron Street, the street along the Kowloon Park. I estimated that if last year we walked a circuitous way to reach the ferry terminal, then there must be shortcuts from Nathan Road to Canton Road. And that would be Cameron as one of those. Thankfully, my travel instinct worked correctly. We reached the Canton Road within a five-minute walk and the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal was in clear sight at a few more steps.


We bought a roundtrip ticket for two with definite 9pm return trip. Nine hours would be enough for a day tour in Macau. We booked the 10 o’clock departure. Pages and announcements were in two different tongues, Cantonese and Mandarin, and an English translation. When 10 o’clock arrived, an announcement was made in a dialect (I can not really distinguish which is Mandarin or Cantonese) that caused commotion to the Chinese-looking people. They crowded the elevators and the escalators.  We waited for the English translation of the (I supposed) same announcement, but nothing came. So we panicked thinking that it might be a call for us all to board. As we checked around, only Chinese-looking people were busy; all foreigners especially the white peoples stood as confused as we are. One of the white couple, the guy in red shirt, sitting beside us looked at me confused, “Do you understand what they’re saying?” he asked. No! I replied. “We don’t understand what happened. Are we really boarding?” the lady partner in black dress wondered. I mean, she asked to no one in particular. We all approached the lady at the departure attendant’s post; all English-speaking tourists crowded too. It was only then that we were ushered to go down and board the orange-colored First Ferry boat. There were of course other ferries docking on the other gates, one in red color that was also boarding. 


After passing the Macau Immigration, we hurried directly to the lobby to locate the Tourist Assistance booth to grab city maps and other tour brochures. Having now the clue to the city, Erick and I proceeded to the bus loading area. We have checked on the bulletin boards and directories around the station that bus number 10A will take us to the
Senado Square
, our first stop. I remembered that most of attractions in this state that has touched of Portuguese colony can be all found in the said square. A group of youngsters approached us and proposed to join us in the City Tour. Building new friendship in a foreign land is amusing and amazing. So much so that lover, Marian and Dominic, and Jec, Dominic’s elder brother, are Cebuanos and I can speak their dialect. Well, Erick can’t but can somehow understand the context. So the game is on when we climbed the bus. We took pictures of threes, twos, fours, or fives upon reaching the
Senado Square
.  
I led the way to the famous St. Dominic’s Church when a TV reporter, a lady in blue blouse and black pants wearing the sweetest smile, approached me for an interview. I don’t know the station’s name but I can recognize the logo. Anyway, she talked about the celebration of the International Non-Smoking Day that day. I was speechless at first considering that I am a nurse by profession but I was not aware that May 31 is the non-smoking day celebrated internationally. Well, I did not really practice my second profession since I passed the licensure exam, so I think I am excused. Then I found my ground and I replied sarcastically, “Isn’t that Macau a free smoking country?” Indeed, people here smoked freely anywhere, even in airconditioned areas. With that note, she started throwing me questions and the cameraman now busied finding angles of me and the reporter. He even pointed the lens almost at my face. (The following series of questions were not verbatim)


Do you smoke? And I said no. 


Why? What can you say about smoking? I said, as a nurse I have studied that smoking has no healthy benefits; it caused lung diseases and can lead to many complications.  


We do know the ill effects of smoking to our health. What countries can do to eradicate smoking? Institutionalize. Legalize. Put into law the ban for smoking, even in just some highly public areas. (I forget to mention to impose higher taxes on cigars and cigarettes)  


What can you do as a citizen of you country to eradicate smoking? Educate each other. I believe that awareness of the danger of smoking to our health should start from children and should be taught in schools. And the best way personally is to avoid smoking. For smokers, quit smoking. (I actually sound Chinese speaking in English) 


Do you think that celebrating a non-smoking day can help? Yes. One day of smoke-free earth is a big break from carbon emission. I believe heavy smokers can sacrifice a day for this reason. One day can save lots of lives, the smokers themselves and the second-hand smokers. Second-hand smoke is as dangerous as smoking, you know. (I sounded like Manny Pacquiao this time, gosh!)


Then she concluded the interview with last two questions, which country I came from and what will she call me. “You can call me Cris, from the Philippines,” I replied proudly. We then bade goodbyes and walked on separate directions.

My stage fright found me seconds after the interview. My whole body was shaking and I can not believe that I was interviewed in front of real TV camera. I felt reluctant though that it might just be some 5-minute joke interview. Was the interview for real? Will it be shown in TVs around Macau or even Hong Kong? Nonetheless, the ambush interview conducted in the middle of the Senado Square was over and we five believed that it will be soon shown in one of the Macau local stations. Sadly, if that was the case, we can not in any way watch it.

We took pictures of St. Dominic’s Church and the Macau Cathedral and lunched at the nearest Japanese cafeteria. After devouring the teriyakis and sipping the miso soup, we continued our tour and headed back to the bus stop we earlier dropped off. We checked again the directories and the maps only to find out that there was no bus that is bound to reach the St. Paul’s Church Ruins. That our next destination is just a walk away from the St. Dominic’s Church. So we retreated and went back to where we have been. At one street corner, we crossed our paths again with the white couple we sat beside in the HK Ferry Terminal pre-departure area. We said our “his” and “hellos” and agreed to go on tour together since they were also heading to the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church. And to my wonderment, the seven of us made the whole Macau tour together since then. I found out later that Lee, the guy in red shirt and cargo shorts, is British English and Kara, in gray dress and black tight pedal pants, is German; that they were not real “couple”; and that they met around Hong Kong few days ago and decided to go on tour together. We climbed the St. Paul’s, the Macau Fortress and Macau Museum, which we found to be closed every Monday; that very day. What a luck!

Almost all the tourist attractions in Macau with Portuguese influence are within walking distances from one another, though some require long walks. Walking was not a problem for us, it was the language barrier. People we encountered and approached to ask for directions do not understand our English and do not know how to speak English; we tried our best to use sign language but still to no avail. They can not even speak Portuguese. At least Portuguese tongue has a bit resemblance of our Filipino tongue, in that way I can somehow decipher the message. Since we all were saving from the expensive guided tours, language barrier was our biggest challenge. Guided tours in Macau may at least cost us HKD150; Lee and Kara told us that they were asked HKD600 each, which of course they declined. So tours for white peoples are pricier than for Asians. We utilized Macau’s bus transport guided only by the map that we spread fully every time we check. We followed the directions in red dots that indicate the bus line, bus numbers, the routes and the stops. I am convinced that all bus lines will cross all indicated tourist destinations, only that you will take note of the bus’ alphanumeric numbers. I did not expect though that buses there have to pass through bus terminals before turning back to its course.

After our last walk to St. Anthony of Padua Church, we took the bus 18A that we hope will carry us to the Macau tower. Well, that was exactly the bus number indicated in the directory that will pass through the said tower. We settled inside the bus enjoying the ride that snaked around downtown, then for a while we have not noticed any clue leading us to the tower until we reached and parked in the bus terminal. I instructed my company to stay inside the bus thinking that the driver who took off will just take a pee. But then he shouted from outside the window (with words we surely did not understand) arms stretched then swung, signaling us to vacate. OMG, we were lost! We took the wrong bus, so I thought. I felt down and disconcerted. Fortunately, somebody was so kind to assist us. He can not speak English but at least he can pronounce “18A” informing us that we should ride bus of the said number to take us to Macau tower. Then the bus we just disembarked queued at the loading area. We ended up riding the same bus. I entered through and through without dropping my fare thinking that the HKD3.20 I paid earlier is still due. However, the driver signaled again to have me pay again. It is therefore understood that the city buses will in fact turn around their designated lines and that you have to pay twice in any case that they pass through a terminal or transfer to another bus of the same line or number.

I felt irritated and guilty. Irritated to the fact, plus the fear, of being lost. That there is no English speaking people that can help us around the terminal in the middle of unknown Macau. Guilty to have dragged along with us five more people whose touring time has been wasted in the long bus ride that ended up at nowhere. Guilty that they might have other plans of getting to somewhere but were stuck with us. I was so ashamed to bring these people in my personal trip and lost them in this point of Macau. “I would rather be lost somewhere alone!” I snapped to Erick, whom I partly blamed, for he principally befriended them. It was shameful for me who has been to Macau before, they must have trusted me to head this tour, but ended up lost. Shame and guilt snowed over me during this once again snaking turnaround, until finally the view of the tower grew visible. I felt relieved when we dropped off at the tower’s fa├žade.

Same hold up happened to us when we headed back to the Macau Ferry Terminal. We all decided to close our tour by visiting the Venetian Hotel and Resort. The free bus ride usually originates at the ferry terminal. Of course, we will take the free ride than to pay an expensive taxi fare considering that the hotel is situated in another island. We rode bus 32 this time and as expected we did pass through another bus terminal. Before reaching the terminal, I noticed that we passed the Lotus Garden. This garden is just a minute walk to the ferry terminal. Had it been known to me that the bus will snake back to the downtown, I could have led the flock to alight at the garden’s spot. We could have saved time and another HKD3.20. Funny, very irritatingly funny! My irritation, shame and guilt came back for me. It only faded away when we finally boarded the Venetian Hotel bus.

On the upside of it all, taking the city bus that kept snaking around the whole Macau downtown was a chance to take a joyride that passed through all city streets in and around the country’s known Hotels and Casinos, Churches and Temples for a total cost of HKD16. It was a cheap tour, right? Just disregard the element of time.
 
We enjoyed the Venice-feeling inside the Hotel – the gondola ride with matching serenade and the Italian architectural designs over and under you; the feeling inside the busyness of the casino area – slot machines, poker tables, and other tables and gadgets unknown to me. Goodbyes came early that night. I asked Erick to initiate the farewell party. I can no longer carry the burden of shame and guilt to curtail their leisure time for my own pleasure. Maybe this is the time I can release them. Marian, Dominic and Jec planned to visit the souvenir shop; Kara and Lee opted to roam more around. Our reason to split up from them was because we were bound to take the 9 o’clock ferry back to Hong Kong while theirs were indefinite time. And it was about dinnertime, so Erick and I decided to find a corner at McDo (again!) to dine and relax from the very emotionally tiresome day tour (for me I believe). I was thankful though for the friendship we built within few hours in the foreign land. We were informed that Lee will be heading to New Zealand and Kara to Indo-China region after Hong Kong.

When we boarded the 8:30pm First Ferry trip, we have not spotted any one of them yet. But we are confident to find them again though Facebook. We exchanged facebook accounts before separating at the Venetian Hotel’s Mark Square, overlooking the wonderful veranda that entranced to the casino.

Friday, June 11, 2010

HONGKONG & MACAU: ROUND TWO

Day 2


Our day two started with a breakfast at KFC, the nearest one from our Hostel. It lies along the Cameron Road, which is two blocks away from the Mirador Mansion. I climbed up the 13th floor right after meal to claim our Disneyland ticket. I was told yesterday that the ticket will be available at nine in the morning, the best time we to reach the Disneyland gate at opening time. I climbed up the USA Hostel reception desk twice for the ticket. Had it not because of the Filipino hostel crew that entertained me while waiting, I would stone there on a stool facing at the frowning Liza, the Chinese owner. Well, she can converse in English well but I doubt if she will spend time during this frenzy morning for her to reciprocate any point of discussion I will open with her. This once again irritated me. Putting me to wait is not really my cup of tea; “patience is not one of my virtues,” I used to tell my friends who used to be late at our agreed meeting time. Or maybe that was how she felt that morning having promised me the 9am ticket availability. Or maybe this is how most Chinese behave at early morning, because last time, usually nighttime, when Dupong and I encountered Liza in the lobby, she projected warm and jolly mood. Or maybe I was just paranoid to observe her inside the reception cage cold and moody.

Finally at quarter of ten the ticket lady arrived. I mean the young lady who brought the ticket arrived. I climbed the back stairs hastily two floors down to our room where Erick was waiting. We run to the nearest subway train at Tsim Sha Tsui station, which I believed is just under the buildings around the block, Mirador Mansion included. We passed through the nearest entrance marked D1, right at the side of the building. This is one good thing in Hong Kong; all surrounding streets have corresponding entry/exit passages to and from every MTR stations. This saved everyone of us the traffic and the pollution (well, I can not really say there is pollution of any sort in Hong Kong, except the flocking of Indian citizens along Nathan Road that offer every passerby stuff on sale) up the busy roads. In our case, upon reaching the ground floor, we will be greeted then by the open (from 6am to 12mn) mouth of the D1 underpass. We boarded the MTR red line bound to Tseun Wan, otherwise known as Tseun Wan line (obviously), one of the eight MTRs that crossed around the country, with two drop offs, one at the Lai King interchange to transfer to the orange line or Tung Chung line and another at the Sunny Bay interchange to transfer to the Disney train. The fast subway transport helped us reach the Disneyland just in time that the gate was opened for public.

Disneyland Hong Kong is one adventure I would like to do over and over again. It is indeed so great for the time to be a child once more. Children’s world is indeed a wonderful place to live; children’s fun is something that adults like me should not miss or forego. I enjoyed every second of my life inside this fantasyland for or dreamland little kids or adventureland for older kids. Maybe because I have never known this, even the Disney characters in my childhood days. I have never read books or watched movies of Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, and primarily Mickey Mouse and his even expanding number of Friends when I was young. I outgrew my childhood without knowing Disney playhouse on toys or books or televisions; in short, we did not have or can not afford to buy toys, books or TV. Only when I grew up as an adult had I recognized them in stuffed toys, read them in books, and watched them in TV (my first owned was when I started working in 1997). Imagine how old I was to start enjoying the Disneyland. Yet I am not ashamed of it. I believe I am still young (though young adult) to have a taste of a dreamland, a fantasy land, a neverland, a wonderland, an adventureland. Inside this park, all the characters (mascots) were scattered around, and the photo ops with them is fun and should never be missed. Our photo ops started with Jessie of the Toy Story, then the principal characters, Mickey, Winnie, Goofy and Pluto. We skipped for some of them due to the long queue under the annoying rainfalls. But still I failed to take a picture with the Disney princesses. This surely means that I should come back for Cinderella, Snow White, and many others. I chuckled at this thought; images of expenses in Hong Kong dollars blinking around it.

This second time of wandering around this wonderland, I ventured into more fun, watched more shows, enjoyed more rides with Erick that I have not experienced the last time with Dupong. One of which was the Space Mountain in Disney’s Tomorrowland. It felt like riding a space shuttle or rocket amid the dark expanse of the virtually real outer space. It was actually a roller coaster ride, with special contrasting effects of the darkness and the lights that resemble stars and galaxies, except for the absence of loops. But for me, the roller coaster ride in the dark is more intense emotionally and more exhaustive physically. I also tried the Pooh’s journey which was under construction during my last year’s visit. The ride of the Pooh’s adventure was okay, only that it is highly recommended for little kids. I love Winnie the Pooh but I least enjoy his journey, among others. I never let rain stopped me from witnessing the Lion King Show, entitled the Festival of the Lion King, this time, unlike last year that Dupong and I decided to stay at the restaurant than to look for the theater under the heavy rainshowers. Erick was actually near upset at my suicidal stunt to reach the assigned theater in the middle of the Adventureland. I was upset too upon reaching the gate wet and found out that the next show will start at 4:30 in the afternoon, it was yet 2:00 in the afternoon when we wandered under the rain. One lesson I picked up was never to visit Hong Kong in June because it’s raining month. But I don’t think I will learn from it owing to the fact that the airfare during this month is very low and therefore highly affordable.

We went back at four, of course, and have in fact enjoyed the sing and dance presentation filled with effects, smokes, fires, flying trapeze, and gigantic floats. I did a repeat viewing, for the benefit of Erick who’s a first-timer here, of the Golden Mickey’s and the PhilHarmagic. We both enjoyed the It’s a Small World boat ride that we did it twice that day. We took the Jungle Cruise and the Disney Train. However, the course of the railway transit was cut in half, only from Fantasyland station to the Main Street station. I did not exactly inquire for the reason but I just noticed that the railroad for the turnaround that is from Main Street back to the Fantasyland was closed and covered. I guess there was construction of any sort related to Disneyland adventures going on. The most anticipated and inescapable finale for a day in Disneyland was the Disney in the Stars. This is absolutely fantastic rhythmic fireworks display closed our second day of Hong Kong tour. This grand finale is the time when all you can hear from the deafening crowd was the cry of OWs and WOWs.

Being at Disneyland is in fact a relief for us Pinoy-born whose staple food is rice which the Disney Foodcourts have plenty to offer. Even in the Banquet Hall that you do not only enjoy the food but also the interior make up of the hall where the towering statues of dancing Disney characters in tandem can be seen around, the likes of the Prince and Cinderella, and Beauty and Beast. Our day’s meals has always been a dine at McDo with fried chicken with fries are the only known recipe and edible for us. Thus, we regarded Disney’s eating experience a superb and enjoyable opportunity to savor rice menus or rice toppings as we call it in the Philippines. All roasted meats in the menu are mouthwatering; Erick chose the roasted chicken and I chose the roasted pork for lunch and for dinner was a variant of the same meat. We frolicked the whole ten hours, that is from 10 am to 8 pm, with intermittent rain as the only disturbance. Then we headed back to the hostel to retire for the night.
"I have been - to my suprise after watching the film 2012 -keeping track of all the possible signs of the world's annihilation in the coming ages. Indeed, it's very likely that the world is coming to its end if we base it on the mere occasions of horror that we are experiencing these days due to climate: earthquakes here and there, the agonizing heat of the sun, the floods decimating the population of the earth. Well, it wouldn't hurt to always be prepared, right? :-o"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

HONGKONG & MACAU: ROUND TWO

Day 1

I always believe in what people say, “there’s always a second time”.


Yes. May 29 to June 2 was my second time to visit Hong Kong and Macau. When my friends asked me which place that I’ve been to would I like to go back, Hong Kong is basically one of them. Macau, however, is included in the visit since it is just a short trip away and can be enjoyed in just a day tour.


Why go back to Hong Kong? Primarily because it is in Asia, no need of visa, and just a 2-hour airtrip away from the Philippines. It is not really the people that neither interest nor excite me but the variety of destinations to go back for, over and over again. Most especially the Ocean Park and the Disneyland, the two most interesting theme parks I would love to spend once in a while. Why not the people? It is because despite being colonized by the English, the Hong Kong populace never learned to speak English nor, shall I say, speak the way we Filipinos speak English. Well, some of them know how to speak English, particularly those who schooled, but the general population we tourists come across with in our tour really had a hard time to communicate with. You should first ask if they speak English otherwise it would be useless to ask them directions, to order food and drinks, to ask for information.


Language barrier is the main issue when one travel in China, Hong Kong and Macau included. I remember last time I toured in Hong Kong with my friend Dupong and we settled in one of the eatery along the Temple Street. Our order of one friend chicken and two cups of rice were taken by an old Chinese waiter. We simply pointed the order from the menu and signed our fingers for the number of order. We were shocked when the order was served to compose of two orders of fried “birds” (we never thought that birds for Filipinos were chickens in Hongkong) and two platters of rice. Yes, we were both hungry after striding the full stretched of the Temple Street night market, but for God’s sake we can not consume the platter. We can not even devour the fried parts of the bird on our plate. We were more stunned and disappointed when we were charged HKD200; that was worth at least 1,200 in Philippines peso, more expensive that the eat-all-you-can in Dad’s restaurant.


And here I was again on my second round of Hong Kong and Macau tour. What made it different from the previous year’s was because Erick, my boyfriend, accompanied me this time; my bestfriend Dupong has a separate schedule of visit in this states later this June with his mother and his priest-brother. Another difference was that we flew our way in via Clark Airport in Pampanga, apart from the usual NAIA in Manila. And that this time, there was no more AH1N1 virus scare that almost held Dupong and me up last year. Plus I swear this time, I won’t go back to the night market and eat in any restaurants along or around the Temple Street.


I promised this time I would venture new ways, new modes, new escapades and experiences. To start with, I proposed to Erick that we will ride the bus to Tung Chung station from the airport upon arrival. This is entirely different from last year that we rode the Airport Express train on our way to the city. Well, we Dupong and I arrived there late in the afternoon; this time it was yet ten o’clock in the morning. Our check in time is supposed to be at two in the afternoon. We took advantage of available time for tours; we took the Ngong Ping 3600 cable car, which was not available during our visit last year. We enjoyed the almost space ride to the Ngong Ping Village, to climb up the Giant Buddha, and to enter the Po Lin Monastery. Dupong and I reached the place through a bus ride because the cable car was then due for repairs and maintenance. The construction of the entrance hall was still going on. I observed this since last year. We reached the top of the 252 step-stairs (hope this is the right count) at hard-breath where the Giant Buddha sat and then headed back down after gaining some air. We went straight to the Po Lin Temple and Monastery and cancelled our idea of reaching the Wisdom Path which is about a kilometer of walk away. The cancellation was due to threat of rains and that the backpacks we were tugging along from the airport was now seemed heavy to carry. So we took the bus on our way back to Citygate Mall at Tung Chung bus and train (MTR they call it) station. To ride the cable car back is expensive and no longer enjoyable because of the thick fogs that came along with the rain. After taking our lunch at McDo, we boarded the MTR going to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon to check in the Hostel we reserved. I knew the place well because it was where we stayed last year.


Yes, I have been here once before but the one year interval has so much changes to offer. I thought that since it was my second time, it would be easier for me to locate the ins and outs of every way, to and from one destination to another. I was wrong! In fact we exited the wrong way when we arrived at the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. We appeared from the exit that was two blocks away from the supposed exit; we took the Cameron Road exit marked B1 instead of Tsim Sha Tsui East marked D1. Nonetheless, I am already familiar with the place so we reached the right hostel thirty minutes after 2pm’s check in time.


We checked in the USA Hostel and left our luggage at our designated room, now at 10th floor of Mirador Mansion. We were accommodated at the 13th floor before which was way better. We took the cheap accommodation now because we traveled on tight budget. And I personally believe that the comfort of our room won’t matter when we went home exhausted from the every whole day tour. So there’s no reason to describe our room or the amenities, just that we felt a bit of comfort in there. Since the housekeeper, a Filipina, was still making up our room, we postponed our intended retouch and headed directly to the Hong Kong Island to reach the Peak early. We took the MTR, the fastest way of getting there and actually the only means of transportation that I knew of, to cross the Victoria harbor. We brought with us no map, so I trusted my instinct and my past experience. Thus, we lost our way. I told Erick that Admiralty Station was our stop but we realized that it was incorrect when we dropped off and checked the posted directory inside the station. We got back to the next train again to Hong Kong Central Station. I followed the exit marked Lower Peak, Erick tailing me. As we reached the ground, we realized that the direction actually pointed to the Peak Tram Station. Again due to tight budget and that was our first day yet, so we can not afford riding the tram. It is faster but we chose the bus to the Peak, so we looked for the bus station. We asked every people we encountered, Chinese mostly, who did not understand English or can not speak English or did not understand our English. Whatever! It was so frustrating!


This incident aroused my grouchiness which in turn triggered Erick’s grumpiness. This was actually second freak out episode of the day between the two of us. Early this dawn the first one happened when we looked for the ATM machine back in Manila to withdraw for our pocket money. The machines, BPI for Erick and BDO for mine, near our condominium were out of service. So we got on the bus going to Cubao where the Five Star Buses, the bus which route will pass through Dau, Pampanga, were stationed. We were told by our friends that we will take the Dau-bound buses and transfer to a jeepney and then take a taxi to reach the Clark Airport. But along the way, I noticed a functional ATM machine, so we dropped there off. But then again, the machine malfunctioned. We both feared that it might capture my ATM card for it took the machine long enough to process and vomit the card. We looked around Araneta Cubao for more machines, Erick tailing me. He was now sweating and for sure irritated by this mess. We finally got the money withdrawn from his bank account. We walked back to the EDSA highway and hopped on the bus again. The Five Star bus station was just a block away from where we were but I understood that Erick might freak out more if I let him walk more. In fact we boarded the non-aircon bus this time without talking to each other and even sitting several seats apart. His shirt is soaked, his face red, his eyes angry for this inconvenience. I can not help him but to stay quiet and calm.


But here we go again; we are in Hong Kong this time. I let him walk long distances again because we lost the right direction to the bus terminal that will take us to the peak. I guess I was wrong to call it Victoria Peak the fact that nobody seemed to recognize it. Some people pointed directions here and there but looked unsure, and I seemed reluctant to follow. Until finally we found the right person, an authority I believe because of his uniform, who instructed us to climb and follow the footbridge to the other side of the road until we reached the Hong Kong MTR Station. Now I got it, the Central MTR Station therefore is different from the Hong Kong MTR Station; indeed we got off the wrong exit. Erick is pissed of with this flopped journey. And so did I. We actually wasted a reasonable time finding the right exit, the right direction, even the right bus number to ride. Sad to note, that even younger Chinese people that we asked for direction and information can not give us one. I am therefore convinced that they don’t understand English, or can not speak English, or do not understand our English. Thankfully, I found one guy, the right man, of authority to entertain tourist like us.


We immediately boarded the right bus, Bus 15 that is, and relieved to find Erick’s disappointment subsiding and later looked relax and back to adventure mood. In reality, I was also upset of myself, disappointed and angry to have lost the way. I highly expected myself to know the right direction given the fact that I have passed this way before, just last year. In fact last time with Dupong tailing me, I find it easy to locate the right spot and reached the Peak so smoothly. Maybe then I was not able to remember the spot because we have not lost. It is when getting lost or mistaken that we learn and have a good recall. Well, except for another one, the hold up at the Immigration counter on our way out of the country. Last year I was almost denied of passing because I was a government employee. Well, I was not but that was what I initially declared. Fortunately I convinced the agent that I am indeed not a government employee, that I was employed to work with government projects managed by a private consultancy firm. It was Dupong who is a government employee being the Accountant of a Water District, a government owned and controlled corporation. But of course I can not tell that fact to the Immigration agent, she might deny both of us. I totally forgot to mention this to Erick and to warn him not to tell the agent that he is a government teacher. Of course, he honestly declared that he is. Fortunately, he was given the pass when he told the agent that he is new and he did not knew about seeking a government clearance to travel abroad. I was tensed waiting for Erick inside the pre-departure area.


Here we are anyway; Erick and I reached the Peak in the middle of the rain. With rain pouring heavily, we opted to forego the climb to the Sky Terrace. Instead we flocked with other tourists at the midsection of the Peak Tower to catch the glimpse of Hong Kong at night, the skyscrapers so well-lit, full of dancing multi-colored lights. The beauty of Hong Kong at nightime ended our city tour, our first day.