"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Start. Share. Save.

I'm finishing this post, because like what happens all the time when the year is about to end, everything else becomes hectic. So this will be the time to look back on 2011 and do a little review.

Here are some important lessons the year brought for me.


It's best to start the day right. I used to get up late during my college days and show up late for classes because they all started in the afternoon. It meant that I had leisure time to cook for myself and sit back in shorts at home and read. But lately, I had to practice time management and this taught me to wake up early. This is especially true for travels when I am usually booked on a morning flight (6:30 AM) and most call times for assembly and road trips are around the same time.

I used to be nocturnal, believing that all my creative juices came with the dark. However, lately I spend all my sleeping hours at night, usually retreating to bed at 8PM and getting up the following day. I found out that I can do more and finish tasks earlier if I get a good head start. A good cup of coffee and a hearty, simple breakfast makes it more inspiring for me too.


I have learned to share this year. I shared my skills and time to some kids and gave them tips about writing, became a speaker to some engagements. I have actively shared my thoughts and opinions and also other resources that I fully have access to. I'm proud to say I did my part in sharing what I could.


This is the most important lesson yet for me. There are many things I want, and a secret ambition I yet have to fulfill, the only means I can attain is by saving. So I'm starting and continuing this year. I do hope I am able to accomplish soon.

Full speed to 2012 and thank you to those who have been part of my 2011.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Misa de Gallo

This is Tetuan Parish, the nearest church from our house, but this photo was taken during the fiesta in our village. (Will be uploading what it looks like in Christmas soon!)

Only nine days before Christmas morning, Filipinos get up earlier to complete one of the long-standing traditions of the season, the Simbang Gabi. Beginning on December 16 and ending on December 24 with the Misa de Gallo, the Simbang Gabi or translated in Evening Mass is attended at 4 or 5 in the morning. The Simbang Gabi is a devotion to the Blessed Mother. In some churches on Christmas Eve, the panuluyan is re-enacted showing Mary and Joseph looking for a birthplace for the child Jesus.

The panulayan is a re-enactment of Christmas Eve, when Joseph and Mary were searching for a place for the night.

According to age-old beliefs, if a person has an important wish he wants to be granted, he has to complete the nine mornings of Simbang Gabi. Many stories can be heard regarding the personal wishes and fulfilments of those who have attended and completed the nine mornings.

The Simbang Gabi was adapted from Mexico and other Spanish colonies. It was first held in the evening, and the clergy noticed that most of the churchgoers no longer have energy from attending to the fields all day, the archipelago being an agricultural country by region, have decided to move the masses during early morning just before sunrise to make it more convenient. Filipinos normally begin their work early in the morning to beat the harsh temperatures of the weather.

The Simbang Gabi is a tradition which strengthens the bonds between family members, where prayers and Christmas wishes are prayed over during observation of the mass. After the mass has been offered, a common sight is the vendors selling native delicacies to bring home and enjoy such as the putong bumbong, suman and puto to be savoured with hot chocolate. And each morning, as Christmas Day gets closer, so does the ties between family and friends become.

Yummy Puto Bumbong (photo from dubaichronicles.com)

This is hot chocolate, Pinoy Style 

Simbang Gabi is not only practiced year after year to continue tradition. It is observed as a Catholic community to intensify our faith through spiritual preparation of Christmas. Its significance is whether or not the novena is completed, but the personal disposition in order to receive the Lord’s blessings. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Cum. Meh. Etc.

It comes as a personal curiosity and I have decided to read up on the following words which we might have heard or read, but do not necessarily know the definitions or origins. This is a simple etymological overview though. 

Etymology is the study of the history of words,their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. It is a major branch in linguistics.(m-w.com) Read more here.


Cum, as in, cum laude. Cum means "along with being". It is regularly used to form usually hyphenated phrases. The term was first known to be used in circa 1869, with Latin as its language of origin, akin to Latin of com-. 


I have encountered this word only yesterday. Online coach and entrepreneur Marie Forleo explained in her  How to Deal with Overwhelm video that meh means anything "that basically kind of sucks", like anything you're not passionate about, feel guilty about or pressured to do. 

Urban Dictionary defines meh as an interjection when there are no right terms to describe your state, often used to express boredom. It is also used when you aren't ok but are not too bad either. The use of this word arises when the person who says meh does not want to talk about how he is feeling because of not being in the mood. 

Scenario 1

person A: "hey dude! you ok?" 
person B: (feelin a bit pi**ed off but not at his/her worst and aint in the mood for going into detail!) "Meh!"
person A: "Oh its like that is it?"
*person-B doesnt even have to explain him/herself, person-A has established hehe!

Scenario 2
Person 1 - 'hey, how was your day'
Person 2 - 'Meh!'

Etc is a Latin expression that means "and other things" or "and so forth" which reminds me of the King and I's Etc, etc. It is expanded as et cetera, et meaning "and" and cetera means "the rest". 

If there are some more words you want me to hunt and research for, kindly drop them at the comment box below and I will get back at you! 

Where do you want to party? Play the #RIOMintsLab games and you might just end up in Republiq.

Where do you want to party? Play the #RIOMintsLab games and you might just end up in Republiq.

My ZamboangueƱo Christmas

The lights and lanterns are up, and the pueblo has started to resemble a little Christmas postcard without the snow. Downtown people have started swarming to City Hall to take pictures with families and friends. The fountain in Plaza Pershing is most colorful at night and some visitors have taken out their cameras to capture the moments before the crowd doubles, with Christmas Day nearing and the air becoming a little colder. 

This is City Hall in lights, tourists and other visitors take their photos with the facade when the decors and lights are in full swing. 

More details and angles below

Plaza Pershing has just recently completed its fountains and has become quite an attraction among the locals.

Street lanterns like these can be seen all over town.

The gazebo is also showered with lights and decors.

The street lamps in every corner are followed by street lanterns.

Balloon vendors also crowd the plaza at night for those who want to bring home a balloon as a souvenir. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The ZaNorte Road Trip

Here are some shots taken from the Zamboanga del Norte Road Trip last month. We went up north for a few days and toured the area. The locals have shortened Zamboanga del Norte to ZaNorte for its monicker to help promote the area for tourism. 

On the way, our van broke down in the Panubigan area so we were sitting it out until things got back to normal and resume the drive. 

We had a seaside lunch, here we are all standing up by the beach, longing for a quick nap just after the meal. 

This is the tempting view of the beach in Zamboanga del Norte, before reaching the municipality of Leon Postigo. 

This is the view from Leon Postigo's Municipal Hall. It is overlooking the park with the sea as its background. 

And we hit the road again, sticking to the highway meandering against the sea. Our next location is Poblacion, a coastal village where some Subanens live. 

The Subanens performed a dance for us to express their gratitude. 

The colorful costumes and gestures are so native and cultural. 

Some Subanens came to join the community to greet us in our visit. 

One way to get around is by tricycle, a local mode of transportation. School children take a ride in numbers. 

This guy is a regular at the Alvenda Mountain Resort in the Municipality of Mutia. 

He was curious with new faces in his property. 

Alvenda is a mountain resort which offers facilities like a swimming pool, a cottage for overnight, zipline and trekking in a quiet place with fresh mountain air. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Subanen Dance

I was part of a media tour hosted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development here in our region, last November, where media practitioners from various outfits get to visit indigenous villages in some municipalities up north. In the municipality of Leon Postigo where their sources of income are farming and fishing, some native Subanens can still be found. Some of these Subanens have been recipients of the government's social pension and poverty alleviation programs. To express their gratitude, they have prepared a Subanen Dance for us, with a gong providing the rhythm in the background. 

One of the touching moments to experience is for the native Subanens to express their gratitude through their traditional dances.

The dance has been performed in many rituals like christenings, weddings and other major festivities in the area. 

The gong is being sounded at a corner, some more Subanens dressed in their cultural attires have also come to say "thank you".

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Who would have thought this set of folders would be great for a photo background? Adjust the shadows and add vibrance to the colours, there you have it. That's my colleague with the Congress t-shirt, aware that I was taking photos. This was taken at the medical records section of the community hospital close to our office where the very first successful kidney transplant in our region was done.

What do you think of the photo? Comments are welcome. Thanks!

The Next Queen of Heaven

The Book

Another bargain find from my online book supplier, I had this reserved immediately.

I remember seeing a copy on display at Powerbooks, at their branch in Mall of Asia. I didn't have some extra cash for the purchase, and left it there, walking away with a little regret. Reviews and pictures of the book cover kept appearing in some websites I frequent, and so, it could not completely be erased from my mind. It's another creation by Gregory Maguire, one of the authors I follow regularly-and here he has introduced a varied style in his writing.

The book just arrived by mail, along with other copies I purchased. And the moment it arrived, I had to discipline myself to finish whatever it was I was working on before I lifted a single page to read.

There it is, right on top of my messy pile of journals, papers, notebooks and lists.

The Style

Based on Maguire's past works I have read (Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister) I still have my eyes on Matchless, and have not yet read Mirror, Mirror, his style with The Next Queen of Heaven has shifted from the traditional storytelling to the hilarious, contemporary tone. The dialogue is fitting, with ample referencing, and the book is sprinkled with generous doses of stubborn teenagers, (subtly) conflicting religious congregations and eccentric characterization.

However, as a past reader and active follower of  Maguire, I have to say that this novel is quite a departure from his melancholic, dramatic tone from his previous bestsellers. He is an expert in the field of converting the antagonist to the protagonist, as in the case of Wicked (now a Broadway musical hit), where the hardships and tumultuous childhood of Elphaba has stayed with the readers even after years of its publication. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister also did its work as it stole the hearts and imaginations of its readers by way also of its attention-grabbing title.

In the author's note, Maguire apologizes for the setting and vernacular (its being quite a surprise to readers who already know his writing style) by saying "Forgive me for my trespasses", so I will take it as a fair warning.

Is this still a worthy read for the Holidays then? I would have to say yes. But I still long to go back to the magical world of Wicked and the rest.

Dedication from the book

"For those who keep singing and for those who keep silent"

The Setting

It is Year 1999 and Thebes, New York is gearing up for the New Millennium, strange things happen. Single mother and dutiful churchgoer Leontina Scales has been hit hard on the head by a statue of Our Lady (of I forgot) and the rest of the characters catch up with life the best as they could. Hidden conflicts and perspectives of different religious congregations are revealed, as you read between the lines and more silliness brings the book to light.

Here, a singing group fighter against AIDS, Tabitha has a crumbly relationship with her mother, high school girls talk about the school slut who happens to have been stalking them, a list of eccentrics can be found in the town called Thebes, and women have the right to call their ex-husbands "was-bands".

Mothers still know how to embarrass their daughters in a music store. (Thumbs up to Mommy Leontina!) 

The Author

This is Gregory Maguire, whom I have met through Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. 

Gregory Maguire is an American author, whose novels are revisionist retellings of children's stories (such as L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Wicked). He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England (a non-profit educational charity).
Maguire has served as artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Hambidge Center. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.
His "wicked" signature
Other Books by Gregory Maguire
The Wicked Years
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
  • Son of a Witch
  • A Lion Among Men
  • Out of Oz
Other books
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
  • Mirror, Mirror
  • Lost
  • What the Dickens: A Rogue Tooth Fairy
  • Matchless: A Christmas Story