Betty Crocker saved the day!

Yesterday was my 34th birthday.  I woke up at 5am to attend mass. It was good to start my day with gratitude and blessing. I had a simple lunch with family. I cooked lunch (just spaghetti) and I baked a cake.

A cake is staple in my past birthdays. It makes a regular lunch or dinner a little fancier. It signifies a celebration.  I’ve had cakes of different sizes, flavors and designs.

This time around I baked my own cake. Betty Crocker came to the rescue. I found this box of cake mix in the local grocery.

Although I had six months of baking lessons under my belt, I did not want to sweat it out on my birthday. Baking from scratch is a lot of work. I was glad that the instructions written in the box were really simple: just mix and bake! No sweat!

What sealed the deal was that it was affordable!! Only Php141.75 (~ $3.3)! The price of a chocolate cake when ordered from a good baker ranges from Php 500-Php1200 depending on the size (and the reputation of the baker). Since I know how to make chocolate frosting, this is worth giving a try.

This is the baked product with frosting.  Tada!!

Haha! It looks bad. I need a lot of practice in the frosting department. Don’t tell me what it looks like. I already know what you are thinking!! Taste-wise, the cake did not disappoint. It was moist. I almost burned the cake bottom but it was still soft and moist. I think my oven was too hot that the cake was done earlier than the expected baking time. (Mental note: Buy an oven thermometer. )

Thank you, Betty Crocker! I will never bake a cake from scratch again. (The lazy bones in me are acting up!) I should have met you before I had the six months of baking lessons! Now I have this crazy idea of selling Betty Crocker cakes for Php500. (Cue in: evil grin)

More on the birthday:

I did not do much yesterday. I spent it lounging around. After the chitchat with family over lunch, I took a bath, napped and  read a book. I replied to Facebook greetings in between.  I was swamped with all the greetings. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for Facebook. Although I have issues with your privacy settings (the lack thereof and my confusion over the existing ones),  it is a nice feeling to receive greetings from friends. I tried to personalize my reply (as opposed to the standard “Thank you, _____!”).

“Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more–a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.”

– George Herbert

34 minus 1 day

As the title suggests, it is a day before my 34th birthday. It is reminiscing time for me. I want to write something thoughtful but I can’t seem to move forward. This is the empty page in my Moleskine journal.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to write something meaningful before the day ends.  I try to recall my past birthdays by looking through photographs. I am amazed at the birthdays my mother single-handedly prepared for me. Even if my parents did not have much financially, my mother was able whip something special for my birthday. Oh, how I miss my parents!

My favorite celebrations were the ones when we were all gathered in the dining table, eating, talking and laughing. Last year, I had a simple lunch with my aunts.

The parties with guests stress me out that I vowed to do that every 5 years only.  Next year, I am due to have a party with guests. For  tomorrow, it will just be a simple lunch again (or dinner?) with family.

As I reminisced, I tapped into my journals as a teenager. I had quite a number of them. Oh my! I was surprised at my entries. I had my share of teenage angst! I have always thought I was a calm and balanced teenager. I guess I poured all my heartaches and pains into those journals.  I am glad to say that I have grown up. The things that bothered me before do not bother me anymore. I must admit they were quite shallow.  How I cringe at the grammar mistakes! Well, that is part of the learning process. I was thinking of posting my entries here but I digress. Some things should be kept hidden.

I look forward to the future. As I welcome another year in my life, I’ll say to myself:

“If you’d never been born, well what would you be?
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a door knob! Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes!
Or worse than all that… why, you might be a
A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No, he doesn’t.
A Wasn’t just isn’t. He just isn’t present.
But you… you ARE YOU! And now, isn’t that pleasant!”

— Dr. Seuss, from Happy Birthday To You!

Discipline Zone

Confession: I do not know how to cross a street.  My cousins laugh at me because I wait for the street to be clear of vehicles before I cross while they cross the street even if the approaching vehicle is 5 seconds away from them. I can’t do that. Their argument: No driver would want to hit a pedestrian.  My argument: What if the brakes stop working? Even if the driver does not want to hit me, controlling the vehicle might be difficult if such trouble arises.

My lucky day has come. Butuan City will soon be strictly implementing several existing city ordinances that need to be followed for everyone’s safety. One of them is: “No Jaywalking”. Yes! Whenever I do my grocery which is two blocks away from my place, I always take the longer route.  I choose to cross the street where there is a traffic light. (Not all intersections have traffic lights.) I am sure that the vehicles will stop and I will be able to cross safely.

This morning, when I crossed the street, a traffic enforcer assisted me. Naks! I like that. For several months now, the traffic lights at the said intersection are not working. I do not know if that was intentional. The city might have discontinued the use since that street is no longer as busy as before since the completion of the new bridge.

Another concern of mine is addressed by another city ordinance: wearing of helmets for both driver and passenger of a motorcycle.  I have constantly nagged my cousin who owns a motorcycle to wear a helmet. I would often tell him: ” Say goodbye to that pretty face of yours if you do not wear a helmet”.  I would roll my eyes whenever I see him carry a helmet and hang it on his elbow while his head remained unprotected. ” Is your head that hard that it won’t break if it hits the pavement?”, I would often remark. Then, he started wearing helmet because traffic enforcers lurked around the corner and were quick to catch motorists not wearing helmet.  Thus, my cousin wore his helmet but he did not fasten the strap that secured it to the head. Oh my! He just won’t let me stop nagging. Recently, he came home a bit disappointed of a new directive: Motorcycle passengers must wear helmets, too.  “Of course!  When you have a passenger and you’re thrown off the vehicle in an accident, what do you think will happen to your passenger without a helmet? Fly?”  Whoever is responsible to strictly implementing these rules, thank  you! And the nagging stops.

This is the billboard posted on the streets. I used my cellphone camera so the resolution is not that great. Some other rules for strict implementation are “No smoking in public places”, “No parking in the highway” and “Loading/Unloading Zones enforcement”.

My aunt learned about the “No Jaywalking” rule the embarrassing way. Because she was used to just crossing anywhere in the street, she was already in the middle of the street when she realized her mistake because there is a  police officer waiting for her to remind her of the rule. She was relieved when all she got was a reminder. My uncle told us that strict implementation (with penalties) will start on September 16.

Today, the streets  are in order. Traffic enforcers are visible. People use the pedestrian lane. Nice job!

I just have one pet peeve. Can motorists not stop on the pedestrian lane? Vehicles should stop before the pedestrian lane! How can I cross when there is vehicle blocking my way? Pretty please?

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit. “
– Aristotle

Boat Trip to Magallanes

Anticipating the 4-day weekend this August, we already planned to visit Magallanes weeks ago. A friend, who lives there, is also celebrating her birthday so we decided that on August 27, we will be there and she will be our tour guide.

Magallanes is a municipality in Agusan del Norte. If you check out the map, the place can be reached (from Butuan) in two ways: boat ride and a land trip. We choose to ride the boat.

View Larger Map

Around 7AM on August 27, my cousin and I went to the Butuan Ferry Terminal at the PPA compound for our trip to Magallanes. The weather was good despite the fact that somewhere north of the country typhoon Mina is ravaging the area. The night before, my aunt warned us about the rain.

This was our conversation (translated from Bisaya)
Aunt: PAGASA said there will be non-stop rains all over the country. It was really raining hard this afternoon. Those who want to travel won’t enjoy the weather.
Me: Is it raining now?
Aunt: No.
Me: Therefore, it is not non-stop. (Don’t rain on my parade, Tita. I will see Magallanes tomorrow!)

When we arrived at the terminal, a boat was already docked and ready for passengers.

When I saw the plank, I doubted my ability to balance my weight on that  strip of wood. Failure was not an option because I do not know how to swim. I let my cousin walk ahead of me while I gathered courage to take a step. The boatman saw my predicament. He helped me cross that plank.

This was not my first boat ride to Magallanes. I spent 7 years of my childhood in that town. When I went to a kindergarten school in Butuan, Mama and I would shuttle from Magallanes to Butuan in this kind of boat.  I was kind of revisiting my childhood in this trip.

It took around 35-45 minutes to reach Magallanes but it felt like a shorter trip because there were so many things I found amusing.

This is a nice area. I wonder how to reach this place by land. Is this a private property?

Banza Church Ruins

Here’s the balangay docked at the Luna Compound in Bading, Butuan City.

When reached the port of Magallanes, we waited for our friend. There were benches in the port area and wind blew gently so it was a pleasant wait. It took some time before she arrived. She did not believe us when we told her we were coming. We called her the night before and thought we were just kidding. We went to her place to eat breakfast. We brought Spam, corned beef, eggs,  bread and brownies.

On our way, we passed by the municipal building.

Magallanes Municipal Building

I spent Grade 1 and Grade 2 here.  From the gate, I can see my Grade two classroom.

We dropped by the church to say a little prayer. After all, it was my friend’s birthday.

When we reached her place, we were met by her dogs.

Breakfast was yummy. It was already past 9AM. We were a little hungry so anything edible would be yummy for me. With spam, eggs, corned beef, brownies, bread and coke for breakfast, that was heaven!

The next stop of the day was to visit the Centennial tree.

I hope the marker will be replaced. I cannot read some of the text written.

This is the Philippine Centennial Tree. In the 1998 Philippine Centennial Celebration, there was a search to find the oldest tree in the country and this came out the oldest. The 500-year-old tree is called Bitaog.
The tree is so large that its branches canopied over the road.
The trunk is so wide.
To take a photograph of the whole tree, one has to walk several meters away to make it fit into the camera’s frame.
We already brought some meat to grill for our lunch. We only have to find a beach area where we can enjoy our humble meal.  Across the bitaog tree is a resort aptly name: Centennial Beach Resort.

They got a small pool area which we will try next time. We did not bring extra clothes.

The rates are affordable.

There are cottages for rent for large groups.  Rates ranged from P150 to P250.

For simple folks like us who only need a table,  there is a P50 table for rent.  The area is shady and cool. It is also near the grill area so we really like the location.

This was our simple lunch: grilled pork belly dipped in vinegar and soy sauce, rice, brownies and coke.  Burp!

We hang out a bit and we went off to see the Magellan marker then ride the boat home. When we reach the area, the site was closed so I took this picture behind the locked gates.

We walked to the port area. This time it is easier for me to walk through the plank.  There was an improvised railing which I held onto to be able to walk the plank.

See the novel way to add railing to the plank.

That was one cool trip. We arrived Butuan before 3pm. We will do this kind of trip again in the future. Magallanes fiesta will be on the 3rd Saturday of October and the town will celebrating their centennial this year.

The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Grammar and I

My friends found their way to my blog. Now, there is a teeny-tiny bit of pressure in my so-called unstressed life to check my grammar. I only told 4 people about this blog because I was not comfortable with my writing. English was not a favorite subject in school. Plus, this is a personal blog. I write a lot of “I”. I sometimes sound all-knowing and holier-than-thou.  It is because I am 50% Bisaya and 50% Butuanon which means that my character traits are 50% buotan (nice), 25% hambogera (braggart), 25% hinawayon (critical)*.

Since I am 50% nice, allow me to welcome and thank my friends for taking time to read my blog. MWAH!!

The fear of pulling a ‘James Soriano’

The Internet can be an unforgiving place for writers. Articles can be criticized at lightning speed.  This week, I got a grammar lesson courtesy of James Soriano.  Soriano wrote an article for the Manila Bulletin entitled, “Language, learning, identity, privilege”. Although the article has been removed from the Manila Bulletin website, a blogger was able to obtain a copy (c/o Google’s cache). It can be read here. From what I understood, he wrote that Filipino is not the language of the learned. Thus, it sparked a buzz (well, more of an outrage) in the online community.

In her Facebook note, Kat Nisperos wrote a funny reply to the article in Bekimon. Bekimon is gay speak. I hardly understood a word but I was laughing my ass off. Read the her reply here. Migs Bassig, a blogger, took a shot at editing the original article of James Soriano. This is where I got a grammar lesson or two.  The blog entry has red text color for the corrections plus strikethroughs.  Read the entry here.

Here’s my take on the issue:

The original article did not affect me much. It did not move me. It felt like I was reading a crammed high school essay. Why did Manila Bulletin think it was an article worth publishing? Forgive me for digging into my 25% hinawayon (critical) trait.  Let me redeem myself by using my 50% buotan (nice) trait: The article is James Soriano’s opinion and experience. I felt sorry for him that he never grasped the value of the Filipino language. The positive thing about his article is that it ignited a discussion on education: how one language is preferred over the other in its ability to educate.

More than the grammar lesson, I realize that I might write something offensive to some people in the future. Sometimes my edit button can be stuck at the back of my brain that I fear I might spawn posts that can cause such an outrage. Someone may have the time to correct my bad grammar and all, and post it for the world to read. Unlike James Soriano, Bisaya is my mother tongue. Thus, I have the propensity to scramble for the right English word to use. Although I got quite a sharp eye in identifying bad grammar in street signs and posters, I often miss my own grammatical errors. Worse, I get too self-conscious of  my own abilities that I end up committing errors. In one discussion with a classmate, I told him, “Made up you mind!”. I thought it was funny to say “Make up your mind.”  I was laughing in my head: “Make-up? He is a guy. He will laugh at me.” He shot back:, “It’s Make up your mind“. I got the correction I so deserved. Ha!

I found an alibi!

A week or two ago, “Taga ______ ka kung…” groups have sprouted like mushrooms on Facebook.  Translated: “Taga ______ ka kung…” = ” You’re from _______ if”. In my timeline, I would read entries from friends contributing posts to the “Taga” groups they belong to. I suddenly found myself  being added to ‘Taga-Butuan ka kung‘. I realized how this kind of group could flood my timeline. Even if I am on Facebook most of the time, I cannot keep up with the posts and some entries have become repetitive and annoying.  I turned off my alerts and tried to forget that I was ever part of the group.  Sorry po.

There was one group, though, that I lurk from time to time even if I was not invited to join in. It is the group for those who went to UP Diliman. One entry states, “Taga-UP Diliman kung di mo ma-take ang mga wrong grammar!” (You are from UP-Diliman if you cannot stand grammatical errors.)  The funny replies kept me giggling. While it is true that I can’t keep myself from correcting a poorly-worded sentence, I am not exempted from committing the same grammar mistake. The extent of my English skills is limited to the lessons I learned in subject-verb agreement. From time to time, I mix present and past tenses in a sentence. I sometimes end sentences with a proposition. My saving grace is that the replies to this entry are witty permutations of bad grammar after another.  Currently, there are 7,944 hilarious comments to this thread.

Such hot topic led some creative members into rewriting the lyrics of some frequently-butchered songs in videoke places. Here’s the first part of one of those songs:

Dan Hell

By: HansHaze Chicano Sebastian

♫You ask me if I wagyu
And I token my replied
I rather hurts you honest lead
Than misfeed you with a light

♫And who am I to dodge you
On what you see or dude?
I’m only jazzed beginning
To seed the real youuuuuu

♫And sometimes when we Tats
Di’ hanesty’s too mats
And I have to closed my ice and high
Joanna hold you til I died
Til we both make frown and cried
I wanna hole you, till the beer in me subsights

Thus, I declare:

If ever I commit a grammar mistake, my alibi is: “I am just getting in touch with my wicked UP humor. The mistake is intentional!”

Or I can say:

Even Google, the source of everything on the Internet, commits errors!


In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.  ~Winston Churchill

*I am prepared to duck under the table anticipating the stones my relatives will pelt at me. Haha!  I am hoping my relatives won’t find their way to this blog or else I would get a mouthful of expletives. Worst-case scenario: I will be disowned. My cousin and I already had an agreement. We will run away together if she gets disowned. She made a speech about the “family from Mars” and feared banishment.  I should talk to her soon to make the agreement mutual. 😀

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