Of Flying and Airports

I’m afraid to fly and I don’t know why.

Yeah, I borrowed the lyrics from a song. I have fear of flying. Traveling by plane, to be precise.  My first plane ride was in college. I wanted to go home one semestral break and my friends weren’t going home so I have to travel alone. My father does not want me to travel alone by boat which was our usual means of transportation. Fetching me was not option. It would time consuming for it was 32-hour trip on a ship (one-way). Plane tickets cost a lot then but it was the more practical choice for such situation. It was only a 1.5-hour trip.  I had to get a ‘Flying Student’ card from PAL to get discounted tickets.

My fear of flying did not start on my first plane ride. It was on a flight to Manila in 2008. I developed vertigo two years prior to that. For some reason, the condition showed up when the plane lifted off. My world began to spin. Literally. Vertigo is caused by some unbalanced particles in the inner ear.  Our ears are responsible for balance. The ears are quite sensitive to air pressure inside the airplane cabin.  Thus, poor me. I was traveling alone. With no one to hold on to, I mustered strength to keep it together the entire 1.5-hour flight. Unfortunately,  I threw up in a friend’s car. She came to fetch me at the airport.  Lucky for her, I am an experienced ‘vomitter’. Years of motion-sickness during bus rides have prepared me for this kind of incident. I can anticipate puking and holding it in until I can grab a plastic bag. Zero-mess in her car.

Despite the fear, I’ve been to 14 flights this year. Three of which, I traveled alone.  Since that 2008 incident, I’ve never chosen the window seat again.  Upon checking in, I usually pick an aisle seat when asked.  I figured the plane is more balanced in the middle and I won’t feel the plane tilt nor see the horizon inclined. But, on my recent flight home, I picked the aisle seat. I wanted to take pictures from above. I took precautionary measures like covering my ears during take off , closing my eyes when the plane tilts a little and praying. Lots of praying.

Here is Butuan City from above:

Butuan is my security blanket. It is where I feel at home. The best part of traveling is coming home.

I still have that fear of flying. My love of travel helps me ease the fear.

Airport woes

Uhm. I don’t have one. I, the budget traveler, have never been to the worst airport in the world, NAIA Terminal 1. It is ironic that the budget traveler like me have the NAIA Terminal 3 for an airport. A great equalizer, I must say. I may not travel business class but my airport is not the worst in the world. Lucky me!

These photos were taken in 2008.

As a bonus, there is a live plant in the rest room. Not that it matters but I like it.

Noted.

I saw pictures of the embarrassing state of NAIA 1. I feel so sorry for people who had no choice but to use that airport.  Think about those foreign tourists lured by the beauty of this archipelago who have high expectations of the pearl of the orient only to be welcomed by sight of NAIA 1. I believe it should be renovated. The government seemed to agree.

On his Facebook page, internationally-acclaimed designer Kenneth Cobonpue shared this video.

It looks promising. I am hopeful.

Spring Cleaning in November

Among the many things that my mother and I never had in common was being a neat freak.  More like clean freak. My father and I were neat but we seldom clean. I am more like my father. We kept things in order but we seldom dusted the tables or mopped the floors. We fixed our bed when we wake up but our piles of paper and similar junk accumulated a counter top. We could live without changing the bed covers for months. Gross? I know. We could even skip bathing for a day. More gross. Maybe I should stop writing. You get the drill.

I got my package of garage sale stuff from a friend in the US. Thus, I got a boxful of clothes, bedsheets and bags with no storage space to keep them.

The only logical thing to do is clean up the closets. It has been 6 years since my mother passed away and  almost 2 years for my father. Their things are still in their closets. Maybe it was hard for me to move on or maybe I was just lazy to do all the dirty work. I am my father’s child after all. I love reading, writing and arithmetic but not the house chores. (Well, who loves house chores, anyway?)

I called a friend to help me. The people in the house also helped. Thus, the cleaning began. It was more like treasure-hunting for my helpers for the day.

I gave away clothes, bags, curtains, racks, etc. Once all these were discarded, I started to clean my own closet and my room.

I now have the cleanest and most organized closet in the house. Last night, I slept in my new bedsheets. I don’t want to rise from bed. I just want to sleep all day. Uh-oh. That’s not a good thing for a lazy bone.

On the positive side, I am hoping I can do a lot more writing because of this. My “office” area in my bedroom was also organized.

I even threw away my 14-year-old floppy disks which contained my college research paper. I don’t have a floppy disk drive in my computer. I have the hard copy of the paper if I need it someday. My college library has a copy. The disk might not even work or have a virus. To the trash, I am letting them go.

Kids, this are called the 3.5" floppy disks.

My aunts are now having a countdown on room’s cleanliness longevity. I will prove the doubters wrong.  HA!

Because I love to eat!

I love food. It is the reason why I have failed miserably in trying to lose weight.  I know, I know. Excuses, excuses.  As luck would have it, my mother did not want a skinny child. Her idea of parenting is to have a chubby kid. This would show that her kid is well-fed. Ergo, good parenting.  (Chubby or not, I have the best parents, by the way.) Thus, early on, my taste buds were already immersed into honest-to-goodness Pinoy food.  I thank my lucky stars that my mother was also a great cook.

Good old home-cooked meals can best satisfy the hungry stomach. I grew up with fish tinola (fish soup), nilagang baboy  (boiled pork), adobo,  and sautéed vegetables like pinakbet .  My mother could cook a mean dinuguan (blood stew). The downside of having great cook for a mother was the tendency to be lazy in learning the ropes. It felt like I could never cook as well as her.  So, I never learned to cook dinuguan from her.  Early this year, I missed my mother’ s dinuguan. I called my aunt’s former cook and begged her to teach me how to cook dinuguan.  Good thing, my mother taught her well.

When I  posted my photos on Facebook, it attracted comments from family and friends. For Pinoys, the love for food is universal. My cousins were quick to arrange a mini-reunion of sorts, pot-luck style.  I was assigned to cook dinuguan.  I can feel the pressure mounting on my culinary skills. Hopefully, I can deliver.

The process of cooking dinuguan

One of the ways to enjoy the ultimate in Filipino cuisine is to go to fiesta celebrations.  Any fiesta showcases the best the town has to offer. From lumpia, pansit, dinuguan to buko salad, everything is a delight to the senses.  It is degustation heaven for me.   No fiesta is complete without the ultimate Pinoy dish, the lechon (roasted pig).  Slow roasting the pig over a fire results to a divinely crispy skin. Just thinking how the soft meat dipped in vinegar is enough to make me drool as I type this sentence. The south of the Philippines claims to be the best when it comes to lechon.  No fancy sauces needed.

Fiesta food

One need not call on mom for home-cooked meals nor wait for a fiesta invite to be able to enjoy Pinoy cuisine. There are restaurants that serve good Filipino food. I learned to eat dishes like kare-kare, sisig, palabok and lechon kawali from eating out.  It does not even have to be a fine-dining restaurant. Some of my initiation to food from other regions in the Philippines is through hole-in-the- wall dining. Food, carinderia-style, can be as good as the ones in the high-end restaurants.

Restaurant and carinderia food

Whatever the occasion, Pinoy food is comforting and filling. It never fails put a happy smile on my face.

Joyride

I checked how to write joyride. Is it joyride, joy ride or joy-ride? If Wikipedia is to be believed, joyride is a crime of stealing a vehicle with no particular destination in mind.  This post is not about that. When I say joyride, it is riding a vehicle on a leisurely pace with no predetermined itinerary. In my case, I am on a passenger seat of my friend or my cousin’s vehicle.

I live in a small city but I have not been to every nook and cranny of my hometown so I welcome any invitation to explore barangays I have not been to. One fine Saturday, we went to a friend’s farm.  It is less than 30 minutes away from downtown Butuan but because the place was unfamiliar, it did not feel like Butuan to me. It is amazing how smooth the roads going to that part of the city- way better that the numerous potholes in city center.

It was raining.

We sipped buko (young coconut) juice and scooped out it tender meat.

Coconut meat: soft and satisfying

There is a hidden gem on our way back. My friend found this place before so she brought us here. There is a lake and rolling hills. I hope people will leave this place as it is. Sometimes progress has its way of ruining lovely places like these.

Later that week, my cousin ( upon my prodding) took an alternate route on our way home from an errand.  There is a newly paved road parallel to the main highway to the city. We took that route to check out we might see on that side of the city.

There were trees, lakes, hills and rice fields.  There were few houses.

I love this kind of joyride.

 

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. 

~Anatole France

 

 

Bicol Food!

As I am writing this post, it is raining. Typhoon Ramon hovers over Agusan and nearby provinces. Rain has a comforting effect on me that it makes me crave for food. We had arroz caldo for lunch and  champorado for dinner. Nothing brings comfort than a hot bowl of goodness in this cold weather.

Now curled up in bed, the sound of spattering rain drones on. This “aircon” weather induces me into craving for Pinoy food. Since the recent trip is still fresh in my mind, I try to remember the texture, taste and smell of Bicol cuisine.

Food adds more joy to travel. Bicol is a delightful place to sample new dishes. Bicolanos have ingenious ways of creating memorable dishes from local ingredients like coconut, gabi leaves, malunggay, fish and sili. Pili nuts grown aplenty in this region and I found myself hoarding pili delicacies to bring to family back home.

My first stop to sampling Bicol food was Geewan. Geewan is a dining place in Naga where Bicolano food is served. My friend suggested that I go easy into incorporating a Bicol dish into our lunch so as not to shock my Bisayan palate. We picked kinunot  to complement the sweet and sour meatballs and pork barbecue.

Geewan's Kinunot

Kinunot is a fish dish cooked in coconut milk (gata) with malunggay leaves. It was pretty good and it set my taste buds on what to expect from Bicol food. My friend asked if it is made with shark meat, the server said no.  Traditionally, kinunot is made with shark meat.  I would not order this if this was shark meat. It would break my heart to eat endangered species.

One cannot visit Bicol and not taste Bicol express and laing. Those dishes are two of the more popular Bicolano creations. I can even take home a bottle or two. But alas! My promo ticket did not allow me to have checked-in luggage. I could not have it hand-carried either. The airports frown at liquid-y stuff.  I even inquired if I can send the bottles thru courier but LBC said they don’t ship breakable items. I have to make the most out of our sumptuous lunch by making myself savor every bite ignoring the tightening of my waistline.

Laing and Bicol Express in the middle (Restaurant: Red Platter)

Laing is gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk the Bicolano way. It has a melt-in-your-mouth quality to it that perfectly complemented the crunch of the crispy pata we ordered.  Bicol express, on the other hand, is meat cooked in coconut milk with chilli (sili).  I have low tolerance for spicy food but, for some reason, Bicol express added a little kick to the grilled pork belly.  It left a little heat on my mouth which was easily washed down with iced tea.

Merienda time called for toasted siopao. The tanned version of the siopao filled my hungry stomach with its compact bun yet surprising soft dough inside. This hearty and meaty snack easily satisfied my hunger pangs.

Toasted siopao (Naga Garden Restaurant)

After all the touristy things we did, we were in search for a warm and comforting bowl of hot soup. Kinalas was the answer to our food craving. When in Bicol, one can easily find an eatery serving this dish. It is a noodle soup with vegetables and strips of soft beef in a flavorful broth. We choose the one with boiled egg added.  Paired with puto and cold soda, I sipped the broth one spoonful at a time alternating it with bites of noodles and meat. The aroma filled my nostrils and beads of sweat appeared on my forehead-a sign of a good soup.  It is hard not to smile after the meal.

My travel companions are the sweetest. Before we left Bicol, my friends surprised me with a birthday cake even if it has been two weeks since my birthday!  They bought a Concorde cake. Although the recipe did not originate from Bicol,  a bakery there makes it their specialty that it was featured in the travel guide my friend was reading. True enough, the layers of meringue make the cake light and soft. The chocolate buttercream was a delight. The cake’s sweetness and mix of a pleasure in my mouth was a delightful way to cap off my whole Bicol experience.

Till we eat again, Bicol!

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