Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, again

Weather was not cooperative. It was raining early in the evening of our 1-night Hong Kong stopover on our way from Surabaya to Cebu so the entire party had to move indoors. Our reservations at the swanky Rice Paper Vietnamese restaurant on the 3rd floor of the Gateway Arcade in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon originally was al fresco, on a wide balcony facing the River Ferry Terminal and overlooking a wide stretch of the Victoria Harbor. The vantage point was perfect for the Symphony of Lights.

Symphony of Lights from the Gateway

Nevertheless, I was in the company of friends and family. Dinner was animated. Conversations and jokes flowed. Food was not bad at all. Expensive but tasty.

Gateway view

When the clock turned 8PM, it time for the light show and we all gathered at the balcony. The sky actually cleared and beams of colors gradually filled the sky.

Symphony of Lights (bokeh version)

Clearly, recession has hit Hong Kong and the Symphony of Light show was not spared. Part scrimping and part defaulting, there was less light drama this time than when I saw it last year (check out the Symphony of Light part 1 and part 2).

light show

Not that the downscaling mattered to our daughter. Cacing had the time of her life, dancing with the flashing beams and bouncing happily with the music.

Symphony of Lights from the Gateway 2

With all our baby stuffs, I chose not to bring my tripod. I checked it with the rest of my luggage. This doesn’t happen a lot but I managed as these photographs hopefully would show.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the Cacing Diaries #37

at the Sukawati Art Market, Bali, Indonesia

There’s a certain window of time that Cacing will be in her full element, animated, alive and sparkling. It can’t be early in the morning as she is still gathering her bearing. Rule out lunchtime as she’d probably be sleepy, with 11AM her typical hour for a nap. You’ll also see her get cranky just before hitting the sack near 8PM.

with Ketut
Cacing being enamored with the bamboo chandelier. Here, she is with my friend Ketut

biker girl
Looking like a gangster moll on a bike

In our travels like the recent one in Bali, her biological rhythms were all thrown in a jumble. Lucky then that in Bali, our points of destinations were at least an hour apart by car and as is her wont, she quickly fell asleep from the white noise and the rocking motion of a moving vehicle as if they were lullabies.

as if she were in a shampoo commercial
This pose looks as if she’s in a shampoo commercial!

We have lots of pictures of Cacing in Bali. Here are a few that I took at the Sukawati Art Market. I tried to capture Bali - the wildness of the colors and the call of the exotic.

with Dia, shopping for Balinese housewares
with Dia, while shopping for Balinese housewares

shopping at Sukawati
surveying the stalls of Sukawati

Without a doubt though, the gem for me will always be Cacing’s smile.

her classical scrunched smile
Cacing classical scrunched smile is never far away

showing off her smile
Smiling for my camera again, while being carried by Mama Pingping (my wife’s mom)

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tai chi in the City

flexing at Chater Park, Hong Kong

There they were, about a dozen men and women, mostly seniors, performing balletic stances in the park, holding one pose for several seconds, then moving on to the next fluidly and effortlessly. The place was Chater Park in Hong Kong Central and the time was mid-morning on a Tuesday. A relatively younger guy was leading the group, demonstrating the techniques flawlessly and two young ladies were playing helpful martials for the troop. It is safe to assume that this was a class that is repeated not just in Chinese cities like Beijing and Taipei but also in major urban centers in Asia, Europe and North America.


The exercise is called tai chi or more accurately tai chi chuan, a form of Chinese martial art that is currently regularly practiced for health reasons. The art probably dates back to the 12th century, but the movement took root in the 15th century and exploded only quite recently in the later part of the 20th century.


Tai chi classes like the one I photographed in Hong Kong are becoming increasingly popular for its low impact on the body and soothing effect on the mind.

tai chi in the city

A sport even was developed from these classical poses, wushu, which is a mainstream feature of the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games (ASEAN). And when one says wushu, the images of kungfu and Jet Li aren’t that far from the mind.

park tai chi

There is enough scientific evidence that demonstrates that the practice of tai chi can lead to better balance, flexibility and weight reduction. Improvement on pain management and mental health are also well-documented.

under the shade

Whatever the motivation, adherents are one in the belief that tai chi is all for the good. No arguments there.

at Chater Park

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Monday, April 27, 2009

the waterworld island Dawahon part 2

continued from the waterworld island of Danahon, part 1 in

It was my second time in Dawahon. I was there three or four years ago but did not really get off from the boat as time was not on our side. This time though we left quite early at 7:30AM so by about 10:30, we already were pulling into the small speck of an island.
clear waters
the clear emerald and aqua waters in Dawahon

With seaweed cultivation in full swing this summer, the island looks like Leyte’s version of the water world. Farm houses and drying platforms of various make and sizes, from small bamboo affairs not more than 20 meter square to large 400 square meter platforms made of concrete have mushroomed around the periphery that Dawahon probably has grown twice in land area. Such is reclamation Dawahon-style.

Danahon Island "highway"
Dawahon’s only “highway” which connects the two sitio’s or villages

rainwater collectors
Dawahon has no groundwater source so rain water is collected in receptacles like these giant concrete jars. Potable water is available from a local desalination plant set up by an entrepreneur.

Dawahon, the island is quite dense. Officially a barangay of Bato, Leyte, it has a population of 2,000 spread over 2 villages or sitios, namely Fatima and Sto Nino. Each sitio has its own chapel (which means a different fiesta for each) and basketball court (which makes intra-island games possible).

barangay chapel
The chapel of Sitio Fatima at the western end of the highway

A short tour around the island definitely reveals that its main source of livelihood is seaweed. Fishing now has become a secondary industry. In every corner, seaweed is either being dried, tied, cleaned or weighed. These are well and good. It means that I have all the reasons to come back.

boat and the seaweed
a typical bamboo platform for seaweed collection and drying in Dawahon

seaweed harvest is transported from the farms to the platforms in motorized boats

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

the Cacing Diaries #36

Cacing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong was our stopover in our trip to Indonesia early this May. We really could not do a lot.

inside the plane
Cacing in her white “flight” getup

On our way to Surabaya, we arrived at Hong Kong almost midnight and left promptly in the afternoon. In the morning, we squeezed a short visit to the Victoria Peak, taking the famous tramway. Unfortunately, midway in the funicular ride, Cacing fell asleep as late morning is always naptime for her. We didn’t have the heart to wake her up so we took turns carrying our sleepyhead.

bundled up
Hong Kong was chilly during our visit so Cacing had to be all bundled up

It was the reverse on the way home. We arrived late in the afternoon and we had the evening to ourselves before our flight early the next morning. Cacing, who already had her nap in the plane, was full of energy. It showed in the pictures here.

at the lobby of Marco Polo Kowloon GAteway
group picture at the Marco Polo Kowloon Gateway

Hurrah to beauty sleep!

Cacing in Marco Polo Kowloon
strolling with her mom at the lobby of Marco Polo Kowloon Gateway

posing at the Gateway
posing with family and friends at the Gateway with the Hong Kong skyline in the background

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Food Fest at the Mactan Shrine

It’s the week leading to the Kadaugan sa Mactan or the Victory of Mactan and since 2001, the city government and the tourism council are sponsoring a weeklong food festival that would end on the eve of the reenactment of the April 27, 1521 battle between Lapu-Lapu and the explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

the obelisk at the Mactan Shrine
the limestone obelisk at the Mactan Shrine, Lapu-Laput City, Cebu, the Philippines

Expectations were high when we went there last Wed (April 23). While we don’t exactly do this annually, this was to be my third time to dine in this festival and I was looking forward on checking what food there are being offered by Mactan’s numerous resorts at amazingly democratized prizes. With cuisines from big names like Shangri-La, the Hilton, Plantation Bay, Maribago Bluewaters and Tambuli on display who would not be tempted?

We arrived at past 6:30PM. Parking always would be a pain in the shrine but we found a spot near the northern gate. We had initial trouble securing a table but the greater difficulty was choosing which stall to queue.

dining tables
a full crowd at the dining area set up near the beach

Eventually we picked the popular Shangri-La stall. Food was cheap! Large servings of the grilled chicken and beef with vegetables were at P60 each. The Plantation Bay’s noodles probably had the longest line though so we had to skip it. A Japanese restaurant had some appetizing offerings so we bought maki rolls and shrimp tempura, also at P60/serving. Ordinarily, they would be at more than 3x as expensive in but in the resorts and restaurants eschew revenues in favor of good PR and CSR (corporate social responsibility).

Mactan tidal flat
the tidal flat where the battle of Mactan occurred

Weather cooperated quite nicely. The skies were starless but the rains stayed out. Dinner was quite fun. A local band played Cebuano ditties atop the pavilion where the stalls were.

food pavilion
the food pavilion with a live band at the balcony on top

After getting some bit of desserts and baby-back rib takeouts of from the White Sands Resort (P150 including rice), we gallivanted around the shrine. I’m a pure bred Oponganon and I take pride of this historical place.

cooking at the White Sands Resort booth
live cooking at the food booth of the White Sands Resort

Next year, we hope to be back.

Battle of Mactan memorial
the marker and mural at the memorial at Mactan

To go: The food festival is held annually at the Mactan Shrine on the week of April 27, the anniversary of the battle of Mactan, where on 1521, the local chieftain Lapu-Lapu defeated the Spanish forces led by Ferdinand Magellan. Mactan is about 10 kilometers northwest of the Lapu-Lapu City proper.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Chua Ong- an incense coil special

pagoda-hopping in Vietnam part 3

This is the incense special.

dancing coils
Incense are mainly used in Buddhist temples for spiritual purification and blessing, not to mention for aromatic and aesthetic reasons.

Ever since I’ve been coming to Vietnam, I’ve always fancied going to a Buddhist temple and shooting the incense coils which so fascinated me. They are not available in the Philippines and I’m not sure if they are in Indonesia, at least not in the size and form that are common in Vietnam.

Chua Ong coils 3
Incense coils or spirals are made by extruding the incense mixture into a coil without a core.

Chua Ong offering
Spiral incense, depending on the size, can burn for several hours and even for days

So lo and behold, in my third (or is it my fourth?) business trip to Vietnam, I took the time to pagoda-hop in old Chinatown. I probably visited about four and it’s in the third temple, the Chua Ong, that I saw them in a beautifully lit array.

Chua Ong central temple
These incense coils are a type of direct burning incense, where the scents are released by lighting the actual incense.

Chua Ong hearth
Probably the most common scent of incense is sandalwood.

So here’s my tribute to those coils. Finally, I got them good.

Chua Ong coils 1
In a study in Hong Kong, incense burning, contrary to popular belief, did not increase the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers and surprisingly reduced the risk among smokers.

Chua Ong coils 2
It is possible people who regularly burn incense also engage in healthier dietary lifestyle, like eating more fresh fish and less alcohol.

For more of my pagoda-hop series in Vietnam, visit:
part 1: Thien Hau
part 2:Tam Son Hoi Quan
part 3:Chua Ong

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

It’s our second wedding anniversary!

Let me greet my wife a Happy Wedding Anniversary! It’s our second year since we walked down the aisle of St Yosef Catholic Parish in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia and pledged eternal commitment.

Two years and one Cacing later, here I am reminiscing the fateful day and what better way than publishing previously unseen pre-wedding pictures. As budgets go, I am no spendthrift. Throwing a wedding in Bali was costly enough – honestly, we estimated we would have spent more had we gotten married in Cebu but that’s another story – so we weren’t about to shell out precious rupiahs to a professional photographer in Bali, Indonesia’s most expensive city only to do all those corny and scripted poses.

Our thinking was, if we were to shame ourselves, we’ll do it at our convenience and our irreverent choreographed way.

So here goes nothing!

at our room in Ayodya Resort Bali
This was my best attempt to look pensive. I had the camera set on remote and took some pics at our room in Ayodya Resort in Bali.

at Ayodya
Same room but we made use of the bed’s gigantic headboard for drama. I think we sat on a pile of pillows to get a clean shot.

dining out in Frangipani (Bali Collection strip mall)
This was just a snapshot after dinner. I remember getting some curious look from other diners of the Frangipani restaurant in Nusa Dua’s Bali Collection strip mall when I set up the tripod.

inside the Moena Es Teler Denpasar
I guess I am too tall for the low-hanging bananas on display at the Moena Es Teler in Denpasar (photo by Ketut).

shopping for gifts at a watch store in Denpasar
This is another photo taken by my friend Ketut. Dia and I were buying wristwatches as gifts to my friend who opened his house for the lunch reception in Bali.

before Nasi bungkus stand
A feeble attempt of local color. We were buying nasi bungkus lunch packs when we had Ketut take the photo.

the fabulous Kuta beach
How could we omit the fabulous Kuta beach? We merely stopped for a few minutes and had Ketut take the picture and then off we went.

before a Saraswati procession at Seminyak
As luck would have it, in a short stopover in the temple of Seminyak, there was a Saraswati ceremony attended by some high school kids. (photo by Ketut)

at the foot of Pura Seminyak
I wanted to have a photo of us in front of a temple and this was the nearest one in the vicinity after our short visit at Kuta beach.

bussing at Warung Kartini, Kuta
The quaint Warung Kartini in Kuta was deserted so we played bussing lovebirds

posing with the Garuda
The giant sculpted figure of Garuda was too colorful and large for us to let it go. There was a couple of chairs too so who were we to deny the photo op?

also at the Mandarin Oriental
Also begging was the empty flight of stairs at the Mandarin Oriental where we stayed when we made the requisite personal appearance at the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta

posing at the Mandarin Oriental grand lobby
The lobby of the Mandarin Oriental became fair game for us too.

a corny version of the sunrise silhouette
This is a more corny and stiffer version of the sunrise silhouette

at a fabric shop in Kuta
Shopping time is posing time. Here in a sarung store in Kuta, we struck a pose.

at Warung Kartini
My knowing expression here still makes me laugh.

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