Thursday, December 13, 2007

missing palawan

i wrote this for an inter-office magazine. methinks it won't get published, so i'll post it here. note that some of the places may not be around, or the prices may have gone up. for the past few days i find myself reminiscing about my NGO days in palawan. merry christmas to all!

(photo from travelphilippines website)

A visit to Palawan starts as a visual treat as the plane hovers aboard islands surrounded by crystal-clear blue water. It then becomes a cornucopia of sights, smells, tastes and feels of the island considered as the last frontier. It is wrapped in a mantel of rainforests, outstanding dive sites, majestic mountains, primeval caves, and pristine beaches. It is surrounded by a coral shelf that abounds with varied and colorful marine life. It is home to two of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-declared World Heritage Sites.

This is how many tourist websites have been advertising the province, but as an NGO worker assigned there for months at a time, Palawan offered more than that. For this writer, Palawan is home to the best island-hopping sites, the best seafood and Vietnamese food this side of the country and the most culturally diverse province in the country.

There are many unexplored and undeveloped beaches, apart from the famous Honda Bay, Amanpulo Island and the infamous Dos Palmas in Puerto Princesa City, and those found in El Nido and Coron. Some beaches I liked were Debutuna’ay in Busuanga and the Coco Loco Beach Resort in Roxas municipality—white sands, blue-green waters and cheap rates. Palawan is actually chock-a-block with resorts and unspoiled beaches. If diving is your thing, there is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tubbataha Reef in Cagayancillo, home to over a thousand species of corals, marine animals and plant life. Another good diving spot is Coron, where one can see sunken World War II ships along with the exotic flora and fauna. Diving fees range from around PhP5,000-10,000, depending on the area, the time and length of the dive. (photo at right from the Department of Tourism website)

For busy folks like this writer, there is island hopping. Rent a boat for around PhP800-1,200 and you can roam around Starfish, Snake, Luli (“lulubog, lilitaw”, since its appearance depends on the tide) and other islands at Honda Bay, as well as the Y Beach and Siete Picados in Coron. In Coron, too, would you get to visit Makinit Hot Springs, a nature marvel because it has salt water and considered to heal many bone and joint ailments. Another is UNESCO World Heritage Site, the St. Paul’s Subterranean National Park, or the Underground River.

On land, Palawan does not disappoint. For nature lovers, a visit to the Puerto Princesa’s Butterfly Garden, Crocodile Farm and Calauit Sanctuary in Busuanga allows you to see the island’s beautiful and unique plant and animal. Damage: around PhP100-800, depending on the area and how much you want to see.

After a tiring day of water and land adventures, food next comes to mind. Highly recommended seafood restaurants are Ka Lui and Balinsasayaw, both located in Puerto Princesa, where fresh seafood are served along with sumptuous fruits, good company and great ambience. Actually, seafood specialties can be found everywhere in the island, cooked fresh from the sea. Seafood restaurants charge around PhP200 for a meal, but trust me, it is well worth it.

Because Palawan became one of the destinations of the Vietnamese boat people who fled their country, it is not surprising that their culture were also integrated even in the food. Streets are teeming with chao long (noodle stew) places, serving great Vietnamese noodle stew and other dishes better tasting and way cheaper than Manila’s. A bowl of chao long (around PhP35) with garlic French bread (trivia: Vietnam was a French colony thus the transfer of cooking know-how), and coffee shake completes my Palawan visit. For a bit of culture along with good Vietnamese food, one should visit Viet Ville in Puerto Princesa. This village is home to several Vietnamese settlers who decided to stay in the country, purchased by the Catholic Church as a gift/aid to the Vietnamese settlers. After feasting on good Vietnamese noodles and other specialties, go visit homes making rice noodles and French bread (for sale), along with handicrafts and other items. My relatives usually compel me to bring a box of French bread (around PhP5/piece) and rice noodles (around PhP50-100/kilo) when I go home. Speaking of pasalubongs, they also have good cashew nuts, dried seafood, jewelry and handicrafts guaranteed to be appreciated by the receiver. (viet-ville pix from bambua-palawan website)

If seafood and Vietnamese food is not your thing, there is the chicken place in Palawan called Chicken Inato, which serves good chicken inasal, and Dang Maria’s, which serves a fusion of Filipino and Italian dishes. The pizza junkie in me totally adored their vegetarian pizza.

The island is also home to a diverse mix of people, from natives called Pala’wan, tribal people and settlers from around the country. All offer their unique brand of dialects and culture, but everyone can converse in Tagalog/Filipino (declared as their common language), as well as a dialect called Cuyunin (some words I got to understand and use working there) and smattering of their own dialects. I had a great time with these people and experiencing their culture, dreams and character in a land unique and exciting.

Palawan truly offers a diverse experience of sea, land and culture. Natives always talk of the so-called “come back curse”—once you were there, you have to come back once again. With an island like Palawan, who thought curses are always bad?

Monday, December 3, 2007

working hard for the moolah

one of the banes in a government employee's existence (apart from the not so good salaries and office politics) is being asked to attend budget hearings, where we serve as backstop or technical assistants to our head of agency, at the same time being a tiring and mind-numbing job we do while sitting.

this usually happens after july 30 of every year, where our chief executive passes the general appropriations act (or GAA) for the perusal and subsequent approval of both houses of the legislature--because they are mandated by the constitution to have the control over the country's budget.

formal meaning: your big boss comes in and defends the budget for your agency, justifying why you need to have this much money, what have you done with the money given to you the previous year, etc. informally, the head of agency gets to be subjected to questions not really related to the budget. since EO 464 mandates that heads of agencies have to seek the palace's clearance before appearing before the legislature, budget hearings become a venue for legislators to ask the questions they are dying to ask these big bosses. especially if your agency is "controversial". you know what i mean.

i should know, because for the past two years, i've been there.

in my agency's case, we do not just attend these hearings once, but twice. one for our own budget, and the other for the macroeconomic assumptions (or macro assumptions) with other agencies which makes up the government's economic team.

the macro assumptions is actually the start of the budget hearing season, as it gives legislators the overview of the budget--how much will be spent, how will it be financed, where will the bulk of the budget go, among others. it also features presentations on the country' economic situation-- like the overall economic growth, the state of the country's key sectors and other economic indicators, and the revenue situation--basically, how much the government getting as revenues and stuff. after these presentations, legislators take turns in asking the heads of agencies to clarify points and other concerns.

sometimes, these questions are not usually related to the budget. these are the questions i was referring to above related to the informal definitions.

whenever the house, the econ team and the agency goes to the panel twice--first, to the committee level (in our case, the committee on finance or appropriations) and then to the plenary of the said house (where the sponsoring congressman or senator ends up answering the questions posed to him by his/her fellow legislators). and whatever the committee or the plenary level, this means for any government employee a lot of wasted time waiting and waiting and more waiting.

to prepare for these hearings, i usually have a jacket to ward off the cold, a bottle of water, some snacks (usually candies/gum and cookies) and a stack of work-related stuff or gradschool readings to keep me awake (and sane). some of my officemates have a laptop to either serve as repository of needed information and (if the hall is wi-fi ready), check their office email to receive or send urgent outputs. a gradschool professor told me she has stacks of exams and papers to grade while these hearings go on. some of us have thick novels to read. anything to ensure that each of us are awake and ready to give the needed information to our bosses.

for this year, the macro assumptions hearings at the committee level of both the house and the senate took two days each (yep, you read that right--two days). the same number of days applied for the plenary level (including the sponsorship speech). for the agency, methinks it took us one day (i'm not that sure, because i was asked to do something else during the plenary hearing at the house).

at the house for the macro hearing, we start at 9am, and end at around 7pm, with a break for lunch. good thing the committee was nice enough to provide people with snacks and coffee (believe me, waiting+awfully cold committee halls=extreme sleepiness). because congressmen are more numerous than senators, these hearings can go on even during the plenary sessions (as long as the committee chair is present). those who would like to come in and ask questions are welcome to enter these hearings, ask their questions and leave. some of them come back if they want to ask more. usually, our prayers during these times range from sana wala nang dumating na congressman to Lord, sana hinaan yung aircon to please, Lord, sana matumbok na nya yung tanong nya.

and because these congressmen represent congressional districts, there are a lot of parochial questions (read: individual projects and programs in their area, district allocations, etc) in these hearings. since the agency is also in charge of approving government projects, our people at the public investment and project monitoring usually have a matrix of projects and the congressional district where they are located, just in case the congressmen ask for "his/her" project.

some of them use these parochial questions to call for additional funding for their district which usually end up in grandstanding--and at the end of the tirade, have no question at all. some also end up asking totally nonsensical questions--these usually end up as private jokes between spectators. and there are some who know what they are talking about (or their staff did a good job researching), ask sensible questions and help the agencies do their jobs better. lucky are their constituents, i say.

it is quite different at the senate at the macro hearing. we started at around 10am and end up around noon. this may be due to the fact that there are only 23 senators (22 if you don't count trillianes), and they are all needed during plenary sessions. at the same time, they don't have parochial concerns (except maybe, for their provinces or district of origin, or pet projects), the questions of that ilk are trimmed to a minimum. and (at least in this case), senators have read up (or their staff did their job well), it is not as mind-numbing, tiring or grandstanding-laden.

one particular sponsorship speech i liked during the plenary hearing at the senate was from a lady senator who said that she will only allow the minority floor leader to interpellate (ask questions) the agency she is defending. the others who dare to ask questions would earn her "undying enmity". the senators followed her advise--with the minority floor leaders, who happened to be her co-chair in the said committee, only commenting--and the budget was deemed submitted (or approved at that level). sana sya na lang and nag-defend ng budget namin.

however, the senator who defended our budget (and the budget of the other members of the economic team) was not lacking in skill, despite his age. imagine that he was at it for the last two days (he also delivered the sponsorship speech for the macro assumptions, plus interpellations). astig di ba?

after everything has been approved, the senate and congress comes together and resolves issues on their versions of the budget. when everything has been resolved, it now goes to the chief executive for signature (and by the way, s/he also has the right of line veto--she can strike out parts of the budget), and if s/he does sign it, we now have a budget.

we all work hard for the moolah. and it ain't that easy.

(photo credits: me. this is during one of the lull at the plenary hearing at congress last year. i even got the ire of the sargent-at-arms there, because picture-taking with flash is not allowed at the gallery. i should have turned off the flash.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

shattered dreams

(this is written as i finish a press release here at the office while listening to reports of the blasts that rocked glorietta this afternoon)

(image at left from the Philippine Daily Inquirer website. for more on their coverage of the Glorietta blasts, click here)

i was supposed to have dinner with a friend tonight. but then, the blasts that blown away part of the mall i usually frequent also shattered my plans, after calls from home begging me to cancel.

fast forward to a few hours later: i'm (still) here at the office.


while viewing the extent of the damage on TV, i bemoan what those responsible did to one of my frequently-visited places

they bombed the part of the mall where children's stores are located. i shudder at the thought that there may possibly be kids spending time with their parents or guardians, buying toys or clothes or food, having a haircut (yep, they have this cute salon for kids), or just horsing around in the play area, oblivious to the evil plans of that someone/s who planted that bomb.

i feel bad for the sales clerks and personnel of the stores damaged by the blasts, who were just there earning a honest living.

they bombed the mall during lunch hour. i also commiserate those who were there to have lunch, relax and get away from the stresses of work even for just an hour.

i empathize to those who lost their lives and were injured (and their families), who were there at the wrong place at the wrong time. i pray for the eternal repose of the souls of those who perished and for the safety and eventual recovery of those injured.

i rage at those who do this, whatever reasons they have. there is no excuse doing something that would harm innocent people.

i am at a loss, even as someone who study politics and international society, on why these things happen. i cry on what the world has come to, a world where violence, poverty and injustice reign. where kids beg on the streets instead of enjoying their childhood. where people lie, cheat and steal to keep body and soul together. where those in power and money abuse what they have. where people like me wonder why these things happen.

suddenly, my anger at those who shattered my plans of enjoying a night out after the stresses of work and graduate school becomes insignificant compared to the shattered dreams in each of us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

i should be...

...doing my literature review. as i told vani during one of our email conversations, i'm now enrolled in a research course in graduate school, thus the thesis proposal. while i don't need a thesis to get my degree (but i gotta get the comprehensive exams though), i'm encouraged/pushed by the professor to do well in the said proposal. major pressure--since i haven't even started something, and i need to submit it by saturday.

...reading for the said literature review. i still have three more journals to read. three days to go. panic mode starting to set in. and i have a dinner thing with gradschool buds thursday night. ayush sa procastination!

...on the phone to follow up on a press release. it is close to lunchtime, so i bet there's no one to answer on the other line. will do that by 1pm.

...drinking my anti-allergy medicine and avoiding dust. my ultra-sensitive skin strikes again. last sunday, my skin broke out into rashes that really itched. Mama said it might be the bagoong she added in the ginataang langka during sunday lunch. Papa supposed it might be the dust. the derma said its dust mites--those tiny creepy crawlies that thrive during these times. so apart from the thousand-peso bill for consultations and lotions/soaps, i'm forbidden to use anything scented (read: powder, lotion, perfume, etc), avoid dust and malansa food, and use the recommended soap/lotion. and i gotta be back to the derma next week. (mae, will you forgive me if i miss your graduation fashion show?)

...answering my uncle's email. damned philippine airlines! how can you mess up mabuhay miles credits?!

but instead, i'm...

...blogging. what can i do? this may help me get my mojo.

...thinking of taking a nap. reading + thick journals (made worse by bad lighting. Lord knows i need to get a better night light for reading in the dark) = late nights. late nights + showing up early for work = lack of sleep. but i can't. i mustn't. help!

wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

another ranting post

warning: if you're not in the mood for another ranting post, i suggest you skip this entry. go to another website. close the browser window altogether. if you're still with me, you have been warned.

tomorrow is supposed to be the press conference where the second quarter economic growth numbers will be announced, at the same place that it is supposed to be announced. it has been the practice as long as i can remember.

so i lazed around the day having finished what i usually do when this day comes--send out media advisory to all our contacts from the media (now you kinda have an idea what my job description really is), arrange for the ride to the venue, remind the staff about the statement we will be releasing and stuff.

imagine my shock when i got the call from our director (the direct superior is on official travel, and left me in charge of the said presscon) telling us that the said presscon has been moved to another venue. and to a venue that there is a major need for accreditations, security checks and stuff--all because the power-that-be wants to be in on the action?!?

thus, i rush to send out a correction on the advisory, got in touch with several people to let our media contacts in the venue, among other things.

now am still at the office waiting for more calls. and praying that everything will be all right.

lest we risk the major tongue-lashing of the said power-that-be.

this is the life of a government slave.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

current status

who would believe that tado can actually summarize a part of what i really feel for the past few weeks? and he did that in a show different from where you will get those words of wisdom?

during an interview for the mtv vj hunt, he asked the quotation below to be translated by a fil-foreign aspirant:

"pinipili ko na lang na maging masaya dahil mahirap ipaliwanag kung bakit ako malungkot"

my addition: "pero dahil pagod na kong maging masaya, nagiging malungkot na lang ako kahit mahirap ipaliwanag".


for the past few days, i roller-coaster from being awfully happy and makulit to being the quiet and sad. there was one week that i refuse to talk in the office (except when spoken to), which actually had officemates wondering what's wrong.

maybe i'm too pissed off with being too much of a doormat. maybe i'm pissed off with too much unnecessary stuff to bother you at work and in school (heck, even at home!). maybe all i want to do is make somebody or something pay for how bad i feel.

in the words of charlie brown, aaauuughhhh!

i apologize for the nonsensical, effing post. just got to get thing out of my system.

Monday, July 16, 2007

mobile quotes

for most text-crazy, always needing to be connected Pinoy, text messaging (or formally, SMS) has become more than a way for communication (who would've thought one letter, K, can be a source of comfort?). it has evolved to a source of inspiration, affirmation or comic relief to its recipient. in this phylum of text messaging comes text quotes.

may it be funny, inspiring, or mind twisting, text quotes are on-the-go solutions for the increasingly mobile individual who need a quick laugh or pick-me-up inspiration by just one peek of your inbox.

for me, the quotes i save in my phone are usually the funny or inspiring kind. the anti-sentimental in me immediately delete love-related quotes. to those who send me these kinda quotes, you have been forewarned.

my old N3530 actually have a folder especially for quotes. unfortunately, this feature is not available in my samsung C14. thus, my old quotes are (hopefully) still saved in that old phone, and my sister has not deleted them.


here are some of the quotes that occupy space in my inbox. first is a girl empowerment from longtime buddy, tabby

The smarter the woman gets, the more difficult for her to find the right man--Oprah

men, is that true? anyway, the quote below is from fellow single, shally

To the women of UP: you can walk into a room wearing a t-shirt and jeans with no make-up on, yet be the most attractive girl. For at the end of the day, the world will look up to you not because you look like the next top model, but because you are a thinking woman with opinion. Fashion sense helps, but brains will always be deadlier than a pair of stilettos.

my apologies to non-UP readers, but here's another UP-related quote, this time from gradschool buddy and fellow overworked employee, shirley

UP made you in such a way that when the world is sitting, you would be standing...
and when the world is standing, you will stand out...
and when the world stands out, you will be outstanding...
and when the world tries to be outstanding, you would be the STANDARD.

di naman obvious na taga-UP ako ano?

here's some of the many quotes from text buddy, hazy

if i were an angel, i'll guide you all the time.
if i were a genie, i'll grant all your wishes.
but i'm just human, so...wala lang!
kalokohan lang talaga ang maooffer ko!=)

Friendship has one law.
Never make your friends feel that they're alone!
disturb your friends as much as you can
like I'm always doing.

even officemates have their share of text space. here's anton with his take during easter

...a true friend is someone who knows you're a good egg, even if you're a little cracked...

turning religious (yan ba ang epekto ng lawschool?) mitch goes with this one

the shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor...the one who kneels to God can stand up to anything...before the night ends, remember, "that in all things, God may be glorified"

to end this entry, here's my cousin hazel and good buddy yya with several affirmations

Have you ever thought that when people say you've changed,
it's just because you stopped living your life...
THEIR way?

Superman isn't brave. You can be brave if you're indestructive. Its everyday people like you and me who are brave, knowing we can easily be defeated, but still continue forward. That's true bravery--Batman

Thursday, July 5, 2007

turning 26

yep, everyone. i'm officially 26. actually, i turned 26 two days ago, but because of several things (*cough* work *cough*, *ehem* gradschool *ehem*), just officially announced it now.

for those who remembered, thank you very much. your greeting, may it be by text, email, friendster message, phone call, instant messaging or in person, advanced, on time or belated, made that day extra special.

for those who did not, i understand.

for those who do not know, now you know.

am going back to work. being 26 is no excuse for being tardy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

my mother's sandwiches

(i wrote this a few weeks back when i was planning to submit an article for youngblood. we a bit tamad to do so, therefore, this gets posted here. anyway, it is my mother's special day toay)

Yesterday during news monitoring here at the office, I came across an article about malnourished kids and their canteen purchases. It pointed out those kids usually buy junk food and other low-in-nutrition food rather than healthy stuff like sandwiches. It also said that mothers now give money to their kids rather than prepare their snacks.

Growing up, I was not one of them. My Mama has been there to prepare sandwiches for me ever since I can remember.

Mama had her way of preparing sandwiches, from the most simple as slapping in a meant-for-breakfast piece of hotdog or fried egg between a split-open hot pandesal, to the most elaborate such as grating cheese, mixing it with chopped pimiento, salt and pepper, spreading it in a tasty bread then putting it inside the oven toaster to give it that crunch. Name a sandwich filling, may it be fruit preserve, peanut butter, tuna, chicken or liver spread, and we had that as a sandwich filling. During breakfast, she usually prepares them fresh from the fridge or the store, then wrap it with plastic (or sometimes, in tissue paper before the plastic), then place these things in the breakfast table to be taken by her kids before they rush to where they are going.

My younger sister and I have spent much of our school days with those home-made sandwiches as buddies as we handle schoolwork, friends, embarrassing moments and hunger pangs. We even shared our food buddies with friends who proclaimed our sandwiches the best they ever had—even fighting over who gets the bigger slice. At the same time, they tell us that we are lucky to have a mother who takes time out to prepare snacks for us.

Because of these sandwiches, we have also gained foster siblings. My mother, the soft-hearted soul that she is, usually has something extra to share around. These extra sandwiches usually found it given to a hungry classmate, thankful because our Mama has remembered him or her. My sister’s best friend actually declared herself part of our family when she started getting regular supply of sandwiches from my mother, while my high school group mates unanimously declared our house as meeting place for activities when my mother served tuna and chicken sandwiches while we were racking our brains for a presentation.

During college, these sandwiches became lunch buddies, usually coupled with a cold glass of Nescafe Ice. During these times too, my mother have upped the extra supply of sandwiches, telling me that I am lucky to be living in the city and can go home whenever I want to while my classmates are living in dormitories away from their families and miss home cooking which her sandwiches can hopefully provide. Mama was proven right when a classmate in freshman year wrote her a letter in my notebook thanking her for the sandwiches and how she battles homesickness with every ham or chicken sandwich she receives from me and orgmates who visit me at home never failed to stop and thank her for these goodies.

In my work life, these sandwiches became a source of income for us, as my mother briefly had me and my sister sell sandwiches to officemates and classmates. These sandwiches became comfort food to my officemates who did not need to get out of the office to get something to eat. Things have been busy around the house these days that the business took a break, but my work mates continue to sing the praises of these sandwiches.

These sandwiches have been more than food to us. It has been somewhat of a comforting presence for me and my sister; always there to tell us that Mama has prepared something to help us get through what school and work (and in my case, graduate school) has in store for us. Mama is there to provide not just relief from hunger pangs but a hug or some inspiration wrapped in plastic prepared with love. We know that whatever happens, we always take home wherever we go.

I had a sampling of that love before I went to work yesterday. Since I had to rush to work and would miss breakfast, Mama immediately had an alternative: she slapped sliced fried egg between two split-open pandesals and wrapped them in plastic and voila! Instant breakfast.

Happy 54th birthday, Mama. Your sandwiches are still tops in mine and Ericka’s list.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

food trip

let me tell you something about my family: like any Pinoy family out there, we love food. our family gatherings are non-existent without it. let's just say that every time, in both sides of the gene pool, there is food to go around.
case in point: christmas 2006, spent in my mother's side of the family in makati.

(from above: fried fish, nilagang baka, kaldereta, buttered shrimp. i forgot to take pictures of the dessert and the beverages).

let's just say nobody went home hungry after that.

now let me turn you over to the new year's celebration, this time on my father's side of the gene pool, at white plains.

(hmm...let me see. there's lasagna, pansit, humba, litson, chicken pastel...on the other table was soups and desserts).

again, everyone went home satisfied.

this shows two things: i'm either too preoccupied of taking a lot of food pictures, or my family just loves to eat.

(pardon this post. i'm just too happy to post pictures in my blog. tee-hee!)

next post: caffeinejunkie the traveller.

Friday, April 27, 2007

moving in

with my resident computer buddy mokong, let me welcome you to the my new blog. things are hopefully reloaded, more caffeine-powered (hopefully not too much to induce palpitations) and more into my thoughts. am still getting used to the new features (for one, i can post photos from my computer without a remote host, so that means more pictures for my blog. yehey!) and the need for more time, so the links and the other stuff from the old blog will be in place a little later. blog, new life!