Ode to the Sampaguita

One of my favorite Sunday morning activity is gathering sampaguita from the garden, cupping them in my palms and smelling them. The sweet smell would linger in palm even after I loosely spread the small flowers in the altar as an offering.

Perfume from the garden. :D

Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac) is the national flower of the Philippines. It  grows on shrubs just like what we have in the garden. It is a nondescript plant with tiny and fragile looking flowers. Don’t be fooled with appearances. This plant is resilient. I can’t remember someone taking care of the shrub in the garden. It stood on its own. It is low-maintenance and sturdy. The flowers bloom regularly and abundantly all throughout the year. Flood came and went and the sampaguita survived gracefully against those calamities. Because of that, it is no surprise why it was chosen as the national flower of the Philippines. It is a lovely representation of the good qualities of the Filipino spirit-  resilient, strong and giving.

Let me try to wax some poetry for these charming flowers:

Sampaguita, dainty and pure
Pretty little flowers, oh so demure!
A whiff of your essence, alluringly sweet
My Sunday morning is now complete.

Hong Kong and Macau for the first-timers

Like what I mentioned here, my aunt and I went  to Hong Kong the day after independence day.  We slept at the airport the night before since we had an early flight.  The plane ride going there was uneventful. Thank you, Cebu Pacific!

I booked this trip in August of 2010 and we flew in June 2011. I had a lot of time to prepare for the trip. This forum thread is really very helpful. My aunt was amazed how easy it was for me to guide her through the itinerary I made. I was also her accountant. I kept her money and I pick what food to eat and what knickknacks to buy.  When we went there, it was 1 HKD= 5.5 Php. When she thinks  HKD100 is cheap, I would tell her, “That’s Php550. Would you buy that item for that amount in the Philippines?”  Yeah, I am frugal. I travel to see the sights and experience something new. Shopping takes a backseat.

Hong Kong is very tourist-friendly. Signs are everywhere so it is easy to get around the place. Their public transport system is very efficient.  Roads are well-paved so the more than 30-minute bus ride from the airport to the hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui was smooth.

Follow the arrow: To the city

In the middle of the busy streets like Nathan Road, there are still patches of green courtesy of the Kowloon Park.

Kowloon Park

There is also the Hong Kong Park just a train ride away from Tsim Sha Tsui area.

Two train rides away from Tsim Sha Tsui is the Nanlian Garden. It is worth the two train rides we took.  Plus, we had to go there twice because it rained the first time. All the hassle was obliterated once we set foot in the garden doors.

Nanlian garden

Since I traveled with a 65-year-old, walking can be difficult so I usually stick to the accessible  routes. This area could have been pretty at night but my aunt is too tired to experience the Symphony of Lights so we went to the Avenue of the Stars during the day.

Hong Kong Junk Boat: Here, it was used as a cruise boat for tourists.

The Avenue of the Stars is Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Notable Chinese celebrities have their stars in the boardwalk that stretched more than a kilometer, I guess. Hearing the whines from my aunt on how far we walked, I surmised that it was pretty far.  Of course, the most famous Chinese star gets a monument.

Bruce Lee

Almost every tourist  I saw who had their picture taken with the statue posed the same way. Haha! I had to restrain myself from doing the same.

HK Disneyland

Every kid I know wants to go to Disneyland. I am no exception. While my childhood was long over, my childhood dream is not. I just can’t go to Hong Kong and not visit Disneyland. So I allotted a day in Disneyland. Even if I read reviews that it is small and I can go to every nook and cranny of HK Disneyland in one afternoon, I needed one day in the park. At 9AM on the second day in HK,  my aunt and I are sitting on a bench near the entrance, holding our tickets, waiting for the gates to open at 10AM.  Excited much?

Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on earth! It is so hard to be sad inside the park.

I got to be a child again in Disneyland.

(Top) Train Station, Golden Mickeys Show (Bottom) The Festival of the Lion King Show, Sleeping Beauty’s castle

 Macau

Since we got 4 days to spend in this part of the world, we might as well visit Macau which is only a 1-hour boat ride from Hong Kong.  It was already the 3rd day of the trip. The weather is fine so we took the earliest ferry schedule to Macau. There were only a few of us inside the ferry. I was already warned by a friend that I should take Bonamine because the sea is quite rough. True enough, the breakfast I ate that morning found its way inside the vomit bag.

I am no stranger to motion sickness. Land travel messes up my equilibrium and it is a rare occurrence when I do not throw up during out-of-town land trips.  I take medicine for such trips and it usually do not work. What works is keeping a plastic bag and tissue paper at arms reach. While land travel is a bane, boat rides are okay.  But there is always a first time and it happened in one boat ride to Macau.

Albeit hungry, I arrived at the Macau Ferry Terminal whole. On our way out from the Immigration counter,  we were approached by fellow Filipinos offering their services as tour guides. I declined. I did my research so I know I can reach Macau landmarks using the free shuttle buses of the different casinos. Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia. Different casinos offer free shuttle buses to tourists.

Since we took the earliest ferry ride, we arrived at Macau around 8:30 AM. Shuttle bus services start at 9:30AM. (That’s what the guide told me. Thanks for the free tip. ) This was our conversation.

Guide: We can guide you in Macau for only 200. ( In my mind, 200 dollars? That’s 1,100 pesos. No way!)
Me: No.
Guide: Is this your first time?
Me: Yes.
Guide: You have a  friend here?
Me: No. We’ll just take the free shuttle buses.
Guide: Shuttle buses will be available at 930.  You’re going to waste 1 hour.
Me: We’ll visit the ‘Fisherman’s Wharf’ first.

I think I have convinced him that I know my way around Macau.  So, he bid me goodbye. (Thanks to the Internet!)

Fisherman’s Wharf is an area next to the Ferry Terminal. It is a recreation spot filled with different shops, restaurants, coffee houses, event arena, hotel. Different establishments have different themes. In one area, you feel like you are in Egypt then a few steps away, Roman columns beckon.

Fisherman's Wharf

We took a shuttle bus to Grand Lisboa and walked towards Senado Square. Our goal was to see the Ruins of St. Paul.

Grand Lisboa is an old landmark in Macau. It was a setting in one of the 'Bourne" books by Robert Ludlum.

The instructions I got from the Internet is to just walk along the road to the right of Grand Lisboa. You will know when you reach Senado Square.

(top) City street from Grand Lisboa to Senado Square; narrow streets from Senado Square to the Ruins of St. Paul (bottom) Senado Square, Sto. Domingo Church

The Ruins of St Paul. This is Macau’s most famous landmark.

Ruins of St. Paul

My aunt was too tired to climb up the steps. I bet there are sights to see out there. I’ll check that out next time. This was not my last trip to Macau. I’ll go back when I can.  We retraced our steps and headed back to Grand Lisboa to avail of the free shuttle bus to the Ferry Terminal.  Thus, we started casino hopping.

The Venetian. We did not ride the gondola. I think we had enough boat riding for the day. 😀

The Venetian

We watch the Bubble Show at the City of Dreams. I had to convince my aunt because she was not too keen on watching. I told her, “It’s HKD30 now. The next time you want to watch this, this will cost more. Better watch now and get it over with.”  Then, we realized we had to stand inside the orb while the curved screen above us projects all these effects. Dragons would look like they were flying above us (or were they supposed to be swimming underwater?).

City of Dreams

By this time, my aunt was already tired. I convinced her that we drop by MGM Grand on the way to Ferry Terminal. She obliged.

MGM

We could have visited a lot more places but the senior citizen wanted to go home so I gave in. This trip was for her anyway. I will just visit the other sites next time.

From the ferry terminal, I took a photo of the Sands Casino.  Bye, Macau!

The next day, we went to Hong Kong Island. It was raining and we got lost looking for the Peak tram. When reached the top, we can’t see the view because of the fog.

Foggy peak

On our way down, this was all I was able to capture.

VIew from the Peak Tram

We were able to visit IKEA in Admiralty. It is the smaller store. There is a bigger store in other part of HK but we were not able to visit there. IKEA is <3. We were wishing IKEA will open in the Philippines. Food was also delicious and cheap. We got the Swedish meatballs, hotdog and chicken wings. We bought some goodies, too. We got chocolates, biscuits and candies.

On our last day, we packed our bags and headed for Tung Chung to visit Ngong Ping.  Tung Chung is just a short bus ride to the airport that why we brought our luggage so we do not have to go back to Tsim Sha Tsui. Near the MTR station is a Citygate outlet. In the basement level 2, there are self-service storage lockers. So,we left our luggage there. It is a learning experience how to operate the compartment. What a techie way to secure our belongings! I should have taken a photo of the facility.

Ngong Ping can be reached by cable car or bus from the Tung Chung area. When we were there, the cable cars are under maintenance so we had to ride the bus. It was a long bus ride to the top of the mountain. I had my ‘Are we there yet?‘ moment. Amazingly, I did not puke.

What to see in Ngong Ping:

Giant Buddha

Po Lin Monastery

Ngong Ping Village

With this, our trip to HK came to a close. We took the bus to Tung Chung. From Tung Chung, we took the bus to the airport.

What an experience! I will do this again.  I wish my cousins can come with me next time.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.  ~Mark Twain

P.S. This blog post is still unedited.


Childhood recordings

I came across this blog post two weeks ago. We all know Sofia Coppola to be the daughter of Academy award-winning director, Francis Ford Coppola. She is now making a name for herself by being a filmmaker like her dad. In fact, she got an Academy-award nomination for best director for Lost in Translation. She collaborated with Louis Vuitton and came up with designs for their handbags.

In 1977, Sofia was 5 and Francis Ford Coppola was filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.  From the recording, Sofia learned to sing the Lupang Hinirang, the Philippine National Anthem, among other things. It is heartwarming to hear the conversation between Sofia and her father. Sofia was so adorable and  Francis Ford Coppola was such a doting dad. No wonder this photo from Louis Vuitton reflects the father-daughter bond.

Check out Julia’s blog for the recording: Bless my bag

After hearing this recording, I quickly scampered through my own recordings as a child. And laughed at the recording. Hearing my parents’ voices is comforting. The children today are luckier. With Youtube, Facebook and the likes, their life is documented and chronicled every step of the way.  Hopefully, when they are older, they will appreciate the wonderful memories each photo and video bring.

As much as I would like to share all of my recordings, it was in my first language, Bisaya. The funny parts might get lost in translation (incidentally, Sofia’s film!). So let me share a just a few seconds from the singing little Kat.

Kat, 6

I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay, 
To be once more a little child 
For one bright summer day. 
~Lewis Carroll, "Solitude" 

Before Ever After- The Movie

No, the movie is not in the works. Not that I know of. Not that I would know first. Come to think of it, that would be another awesome feat if the movie is being made just a little over a week after the book was released.

In my previous blog post, I wrote about asking Samantha who she thought would make a good Max and Shelley should the book be made into a movie. She said that she wants people to pick their cast.  Thus, I am writing this post.

Kat’s first picks: The Odd Bunch (but I will justify my picks!)

Sean Bean as Max. I know. He’s a bit older. He’s 52 while Max is 32.  I was watching ‘Game of Thrones’ while reading Samantha’s book so he came up first on my list. I do not even think Sean Bean has done a role where he is as funny as Max. He is always the serious type.  There is always a first. Who knows? He might say yes if I offer him the role. (Anything is possible in my fantasy world.) And the age? He played Eddard Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’ in his 50’s when the book states that Eddard is 35.  This is a make-believe world. Plus, Sean Bean is British!

Here’s a video of Sean Bean in an interview.

http://youtu.be/IN8l4VhDiBI

Paula Peralejo as Shelley. Shelley is 26. Paula is in her 20’s so age is not a problem. I do not remember how Shelley was described physically. All I know is that she has aquamarine eyes, dark lashes and beautiful. Paula can wear contact lenses. Filming the movie requires traveling to off-beaten paths, doing unique activities, diving, climbing, etc. Paula can do all those without hesitation. (Now I sound like Paula’s agent. Ha!)

I cannot find a youtube video of Paula so just google search and you will find plenty of photos of her on the web. If you’ve done your search, what do you think? Isn’t she lovely?

Patrick J. Adams as Paolo. I am guessing you would ask, “Who is Patrick J. Adams?” Like my choice for Max, I was watching ‘Suits’ when I thought of him as Paolo. ‘Suits’ is a new TV series about a very intelligent college dropout who ends up working as an associate in a law firm (pretending to be a real lawyer). I just like him to be a part of this fantasy movie. He’s got the right age. It is just that the book says Paolo looks like Max. Err.. he does not look like Sean Bean, my choice for Max. Hahaha!

Here’s a video of Patrick J. Adams being interviewed by Associated Press:

Second choices

From my first picks, it clearly shows I will never be a good casting director. (But in my fantasy world, I am the best there is! LOL! I rule in my own world, of course. ) I choose people based on my recent interaction with them through TV shows I watch and celebrities I tweet.

So let me think about other choices. Think, think, Kat! Max and Paolo look alike. The first look-a-likes that come to mind is Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace. (I am laughing at my choices right now.) I might as well get Kirsten Dunst as Shelley. What is this? Before Ever After- Spider-Man Edition? Max is not only immortal but he has superpowers. Haha! Samantha won’t be happy about the changes in my movie.

Here’s a video of Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace interviewing each other:

Third try

Like other casting directors, choices can change at some point. Top choices may be unavailable to film the movie so they look for other actors. If Wikipedia should be trusted as a source of information, Julia Roberts was not the first choice for the role of Vivian in Pretty Woman. So, these three actors should not be sad that they were not picked first.

Taking cues from the book, Paolo looks like Max. Max has amber eyes, brown hair and some hint of a cleft chin. Shelly has aquamarine eyes and dark lashes. Paolo and Max are 32 while Shelley is 26. Tada!! This is the best this lousy casting director can scout using google search and google images. I realize that it is hard to look for actors with amber eyes and brown hair.

Johnny Knoxville as Max. He is a comedian so I hope he can be as charming as Max. He can still look like a 32-year old man. Please try not to be a jackass (get it?), Johnny. Or I’ll fire you. LOL! As if!

Here’s Johnny Knoxville on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

http://youtu.be/GtJFS-Ycls4

Josh Duhamel as Paolo. He looks like Johnny Knoxville. (And he can be funny! Hmm. Should I cast him as Max, instead?)

Alexis Bledel as Shelley. She is in her 20’s and beautiful. She has dark lashes and eyes with a shade of blue. I dunno if her eye color will qualify for aquamarine.  This movie can catapult her to super stardom like Julia Roberts did in ‘Pretty Woman’ so she should say yes to my offer. Ha!

http://youtu.be/f0PGCsj395g

Conclusion

This has been a fun exercise but casting people for a role is difficult when you just browse thru photos. My choices can be odd and serve only me. I should call for auditions next time. 😉

See you till the next casting call in my fantasy world!

Gana Vida’s Bangus Pâté

I got 3 jars of bangus pate from my friends two weeks ago.  I have been nagging them relentlessly on Facebook after learning about this product. Of course, they know why I have been so interested in the product. Lea Salonga loves it!

Lea Salonga has a weekly column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer called Backstory.  In her April 13, 2011 article, she wrote

“One seafood company talks about its sustainable practice by giving employment opportunities to poor people and educating them on the business. I feel this is something special. Plus, the pâté is really good.”

This sounded like the organization that 3 of my friends are a part of. I shared the link on Facebook and tagged my friend to ask if she was the one Lea talked to. To which my friend replied, “Yes!”. Incidentally, Lea Salonga is one of UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) goodwill ambassadors.

Lea even replied to my tweet about it:

After weeks of nagging, I finally got to taste the pâté.  Delicious. My friend has a degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines and her husband has a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the same university. Both are part of the same organization.  Thus, we know that the product was developed by people who know what they are doing.

One test to determine if the product is safe is to check the ingredients. The ingredients used in their products are all natural (and easy to pronounce). The pâté has three flavors: Asian, Pinoy and Mediterranean. Each flavor has three variants: Regular, Chili, Lightly Salted. All in all, you have 9 choices.  If you look at the labels,  there are no chemical preservatives added.

Asian Style: with roasted nuts.

Pinoy Style: Malunggay is added!

Mediterranean: with eggplant

When my friend gave me my stash, I was told that the shelf life is 1 year. Once opened, you may keep it in the fridge and it will last more than a year.  Partly right. Nothing lasts in my fridge for more than year. My stomach takes over. In fact, I have no more pâté. 🙁  I have consumed them all. I did not even put it on a cracker and bread. I took a small spoon, scoop the pâté from the jar and off to my mouth it went. LOL!

What is most impressive about this product is that the organization is helping fisherfolks and farmers practice sustainable fishing and farming methods. In fact, when my friend brought me the pâté, he just came from a barrio near my city to educate farmers on cassava farming.

To know more about their organization, click here.

To get updates of their products, “Like” their Facebook page here. You can also shop for their products on this site.

 

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