November 29, 2009

Munich, Oktoberfest part 2

4. Beer tents
Now the main reason why millions of people flock to Oktoberfest every fall – the beer tents. Those huge tents are setup as early as July and can hold up to 10,000 people and another few thousand in their outdoors areas. Each tent is hosted by one of the famous Munich breweries, so one criterion for choosing your tent could be your beer preference. But every tent also has a particular crowd to it:

Armbrustschützen-Festhalle and Augustinerbräu: traditional, authentic Bavarian tents; a favorite among the local folks who want to avoid the rowdy tourists and party youngsters. Here's where you'd see the real dirndls and lederhosn.

Bräurosl and Fischer Vroni: commonly known as the gay tents as they host the gay and lesbian days on the first and secondd Sunday of the Oktoberfest.

Hippodrom and Käfer’s Wies’n Schänke: Smaller tents, but not the less posher. The who is who of Munich society meets here. Those tents are also notoriously known for the high flirt-factor.


Schützen-Festzelt and Schottenhamel: Yearly, Munich’s mayor taps the first keg of beer in the Schottenhamel tent announcing the official opening of the Oktoberfest; only then may other tents start serving beer. Nowadays a young and hip crowd gathers in and around the Schottenhamel tent and its nearby neighbor the Schützen-Festzelt. The motto is dress to impress.


Löwenbräu, Hackerbräu and Hofbräu: young and old, local and from all from all corners of the world – these tents are the meeting place for all seeking to drink, have fun and party as if there was no tomorrow.

When’s it open:
Oktoberfest serves beer from 10am until 10.30pm; rides are open until 11.30pm. On the weekend, everything opens at 9am. Weekends are generally very crowded and it is not unusual for tents to shut their doors early to prevent overfilling.
The 2010 edition will be from September 18 until October 3.

What to say:
Make sure you know 2 words while at the Oktoberfest: Prost, which means Cheers! and Mass, which is the word for the 1 Liter mug of beer you'll be having. Ask the waitress for "Eine Mass, bitte" (one mug please). Now a popular way of toasting in beer tents is to the tune of a song called Ein Prosit zur Gemütlichkeit (a toast to coziness), followed by a crowd cheering Oans, Zwoa, Droa, Gsuffa (1, 2, 3, drink up!) and mugs banging into each other.

What will it cost:
There is no general entrance fee. All rides must be paid separately. You may enter the tents for free but don’t expect to get a seat unless you order. The price of a beer ranged from 8.30-8.60€ this year and will most likely increase by next year. Also, beware of stealing the beermugs. There's a 50€ fine if you get caught.

How to get there:
U-Bahn station Theresienwiese or S-Bahn station Hackerbrücke, from there simply follow the crowd.

November 17, 2009

Munich, Oktoberfest

Another year, another Oktoberfest. This century-old town fair is the epitome of Bavarian lifestyle. As a true Münchner Kindl (a Munich child) this is an event you do not dare miss. And as an out-of-towner, this is an event worth traveling to Munich for. Here’s a quick guide on the things you should know and the stuff you shouldn’t pass up on.

1. History
Why is it called Oktoberfest when it actually mostly takes place in September? The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September.

By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over "die Wiesn" or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.

Different styles of dirndls

Lederhosen revisited

2. Fashion
A true blue Bavarian girl wears the Dirndl to any special event may it be a wedding or a formal birthday party. Nowadays with traditions taking a backseat with the youngsters, the Dirndl is mostly seen at the Oktoberfest only. And what once was a ankle-length long skirt with apron is subdued colors like black, moss green, brown or red, is now often seen as miniskirts in flashy pink or turquoise. Guys wear Lederhosn (leather pants). Those are traditionally custom-made, hand-embroidered and last for a lifetime (weight permits). Not much has changed in this department except maybe that sneakers are the preferred shoe wear. Also more and more women are seen wearing Lederhosn, which caused quite some uproar amongst traditionalists.

But despite the many people frowning upon the new trends, one thing is for sure: the recent years have brought a new sense of nationalism with young girls and guys looking forward to dress up for Oktoberfest, despite the outfits not being quite as what they are supposed to be. It is cool to dress up and people spotted without Dirndl or Lederhosen are often labeled as tourists.

Chocolate-covered fruits

Gingerbread heart

Haxnbraterei and its famous pork knuckle

Roasted almonds

3. Food
You don’t go to Oktoberfest expecting gourmet-worthy food. But like at every fair, you can find some good grub here too. Chocofruits are definitely one of my favorites and I never leave the grounds without having a stick of milk chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas (3€). Another sweet treat are roasted nuts. Vendors have now come up with all sorts of varieties ranging from choco-chili macademia nuts to cognac flavored hazelnuts. I usually stick with the classic delicious, tasty, crunchy and sugar-roasted almonds (5€).

On the savory side, D. has become a fan of the Haxnsemmel, which is basically pork knuckle meat in a bun of bread – the local version of a hamburger. The crispy skin of the knuckle and the tasty meat inside a crispy bread bun make this the ultimate after-hour food (7€ at Haxnbraterei). Other typical foods you can find at Oktoberfest are roast chicken, sauerkraut, brez’n (German word for prezl) and sausages. If you want to bring home a little taste of Oktoberfest, grab one of the many designs of gingerbread hearts. You can even have your message customized on it (5-20€)

Oktoberfest at night

Chain carousel

4. Rollercoasters and rides
Although the vast majority of people associate Oktoberfest with beer drinking, it is only half of the story. Growing up, beer wasn’t on my mind. I wanted to go to Oktoberfest for the rides. Half the grounds of Theresienwiese where Oktoberfest takes place every year (hence the local name Wies’n), is occupied by fair attractions such as rollercoasters, bumper cars, haunted houses and ferry’s wheel. On Tuesday, all attractions offer special discount for the so-called Family Day.

More to follow...

November 4, 2009

A French girl's guide to a Filipino man

Ever since I can remember my mom’s family has attempted to play matchmaker and find me a decent Filipino guy.
Ever since I can remember I refused and they failed.
To tell you the truth I’ve always imagined myself with a tall, blond and blue-eyed man and eventually have cute blue-eyed children.
Because, ever since I can remember I didn’t see Filipinos as being “my type”.
A few years ago, I met this wonderful young man. He was tall, yes. He was charming, he made me laugh. He seemed to have a similar take on life as I did. He had ambitions and his head on his shoulders, but without taking himself too seriously. He was smart and witty without trying so hard. He was all I ever asked for. But he wasn’t blond and his eyes were far from being blue. That day I fell in love with a Filipino.

Now, I’m a European through and through. And though, my DNA is supposed to contain the best of both worlds, I grew up in Germany, lived in a French home and went to a European school. Filipino culture, food, even language was as foreign to me as to any other expat out there.
I grew up in a melting pot so you could assume it’ll be easy to live a multicultural relationship. Far from it, we deal with challenges everyday. I’m a strong believer of individualism and often refuse to generalize. But here a few things I have learned during these past years. Here is my quick guide to dealing with my Filipino guy and how we grew stronger out of the differences we face:

Understand the value of family
More than in any culture I know, family plays a crucial role in a Filipino man’s life.
The respect of the elder is a concept that is – unfortunately - rare to find these days in western countries. However it is also a tremendous adjustment to understand the relationship between your partner and his parents for instance. I am love my family, but I flew out of the nest as soon as I graduated high school, I express my opinions clearly when I disagree with my parents and I live my own life. It therefore took me months to realize that my independence from my family wasn’t a concept D. could easily understand, let alone identify himself with it.
But true love is about embracing one another’s culture. I struggle at times, I admit it. But on the other hand, as frustrating as it can sometimes be to suddenly have to remember the names of several dozens of titas, titos (aunts and uncles that is) and cousins, it is a cultural difference that I’ve learned to value as I’ve always hoped for a partner that would treasure, value and ultimately take care of his family.

Modern chivalry
Who said the true gentleman was a dying breed? Well girls, I found my Filipino man to be far more courteous than the European ones I’ve dated. The act of courting a girl is far more romantic and reminds you of the old school of chivalry, which I honestly thought was nothing more than an old Hollywood myth. During the first months of us knowing together, he was at his best behavior. Dare I say on his best foot forward? He picked me up from my place and brought me back. He gave me flowers and chocolate cake. He would call me everyday just to see how I was doing. I never had to open a door or carry a bag. And my bill was always paid for. Little niceties but I must say, for an emancipated and independent woman like me, it felt weird suddenly being confronted with pre-gender-equality chivalry. I was brought up to be strong and capable of living without a man’s help. Were Filipinos considering women as inferior beings?
Today I understand I was completely wrong. The woman plays an important role in the Filipino society, reason also for the internally matriarchal system. Men are brought up to protect and respect their mothers to the utmost and transfer this behavior into their relationship.

“NO” doesn’t exist in his vocabulary
In the spirit of always being the most friendly and courteous, the Filipino men seem to avoid the word “no”. Any question is answered with a smile and a “sure”, “maybe”, “why not?” But do not mistake this positive answer for anything else than it really is: a negative one. Out of fear or simply conflict avoidance, D. prefers to please me at first and deal with the issue once it arises. I have gone mad about this behavior. A planned trip out of town is all set in my mind, but is cancelled last minute because it was never really confirmed in the first place. Conflict avoidance is the keyword here. A negative answer is associated with negative feelings. And this spans outside relationships as well. Contractors would rather start a less than mediocre job and claim that they can do it rather than turning it down and admitting it can’t be done. Over the years, I have lost my temper numerous times and have yet to understand why it seems so difficult to give out clear answers. In Western cultures, a clear “no” is definitely less hurtful or frustrating than a half-meant “yes”. Be firm and get the truthful answer you deserve.

Notoriously late
Or am I just notoriously punctual? I spent most of my life in a culture that considers punctuality one of the highest virtues. In Germany being late meant arriving at the said set time. Being on time meant arriving 10 minutes early. Anything else was out of the question. I can’t help but feel nervous and stressed whenever the clock ticks and I know I won’t be able to be on time. With unpredictable Manila traffic that can change a 10-minute trip into a 1-hour journey, I had to learn that my punctuality was going to be challenged. But more than anything, I believe it’s in the nature of Filipinos to be worry-free and take things as they come. I have learned to relax a little, but we are usually still the first ones to arrive at any dinner or party; sometimes even before the hosts get there.

Bottom-line is that no matter how many pet peeves might drive you crazy, the greater values and ideas are what will make or break a bi- or tri-cultural relationship. And I’m lucky enough to say that while disagreeing on many issues, we definitely agree on those.

October 29, 2009

Ups and downs of independence

I keep telling myself and everyone who wants to hear it how awesome it is to live on my own. And truly it is. Who am I to complain, living in a 140m2 condominium with pools, badminton and basketball courts (not that I play any of those sports), gym, playroom, plenty of green areas, and plenty of shops and restos within walking distance.

I can eat nutella of the pot with a spoon. I can wear hideous jogging pants. i can even walk around naked. I can decide not to make my bed in the morning and watch as many corny reality TV shows as my brain can take. I can have cereals for dinner (which I just did).

But no matter all the freedom living on my own gives me, the other side of the medal isn't quite as shiny. Truth is, living alone can be quite lonely. All those meals by myself, watching a funny movie with no one to laugh with, no one to greet you when you get home after a long day of work and at night... I won't even go there.
As much fun it is to have dinner on the sofa while watching Bravo TV shows, it doesn't compare to having dinner and a decent conversation with a real person.

Now, I've never been the ultra-social type of personality and I truly enjoy my alone-time, but moving to the Philippines brought me to a whole other level of independence. In a culture, where moving in together before marriage is frowned upon, I find myself missing the college days of sharing an apartment with a roommate or even the days of living at home with my parents.

Now, I know that in reality life isn't a fairy tale. I am lucky enough to say that mine is somewhat close, but I had one thing I would ask my fairy Godmother to swirl her wand for, it would be to have D.'s warm body wake up next to me in the morning and sit down to have breakfast with me.

More than in any culture I know, family plays a crucial role in the Philippines. It is a tremendous adjustment for me though, since as much as I love my family, I flew out of the nest as soon as I graduated high school. But true love is about embracing one another’s culture. I struggle at times, I admit it and I disagree with a lot of the traditions, but at the end of the day, I also know how to respect them. Everything has a price. This is mine. Cultural differences.

Battle of the Persians

There's a new kid in town - well, not sooo new. Although Behrouz has sentimental value to me since it's linked to fond memories of our early dating stage with D.; I undoubtly found a new contender in the battle for best Persian resto in town.
Persian Square is one of the many new hotspots that emerged with the rise of Sykes in Ortigas Home Depot.
Owned by an Irani business man, the resto serves traditional Middle Eastern cuisine with all the favorites you might expect and some new dishes you will enjoy. We've been tried it out soon after its opening and have become regulars ever since.
I'm not an adventurer when it comes to food and I like sticking to the classics. We usually order hummus, but Iast time I wanted to try out the Mirza Ghasemi, which is mashed grilled eggplant sauteed in onions and garlic with Persian spices and home-made tomato sauce. This is without a doubt my new favorite appetizer.

Their perennial classic Chelo Kebab Kobideh comes with a huge serving of buttered long grain basmati rice and two grilled tomatoes. A dish definitely large enough to share, unless you're glutons like we are. I'm still a little disappointed that all restos serve butter in those little plastic single serving cups. Persian Square, unfortunately, is no exception.
The Chelo Morg is also worth a mention. Thin slices of fillet mignon marinated in onions and lime juice. Very delicious. For those who favor chicken, there's always Chelo Joojeh; tender chicken fillets marinated in saffron, lime juice and onions. Very juicy and tasty.

And a friend told me that Persian Square serves the closest thing to a shawarma since she moved back to Manila from Saudi. I have yet to try that out.
The design reminds me more of dungeons&dragons (fortress type architecture) meets Barney (purple is the predominent color scheme). Every you look you can see that the owners are in the tiles business (I heard over 3000 squares are to be found in the restaurant) and your experience will be topped off with the tantalizing sounds the Arab MTV that plays on the plasma - which by the way always gets me head-bopping.
Verdict: if you're looking for minimalist, edited design and style, go elsewhere. But if what you want is authentic persian food, you found your bet here.

July 19, 2009


Being involuntarily exposed to the European community through my previous workplace, I noticed quite a curious phenomenon: people were consciously searching for their fellow countrymen while living abroad. I, on the other hand, would avoid them like the plague and had zero to no social interaction with Frenchies outside of office hours. Now is this just another testament for my weirdness? I keep on whining about homesickness, feeling like an outsider, struggling with life here and yet I alienate myself from those who, one would assume, represent the closest to home I could get around here.

Just last week I was invited to the Bastille Day celebration hosted by the French Embassy. I figured I should go, network a little, and enjoy the free food in a lovely setting. By the time I stepped into the ballroom, I felt the immediate urge to turn on my heels and flee. But I didn’t and made my way through the crowd. I saw a few familiar faces, spoke to a couple of people and avoided plenty more. I am the first to say that it is refreshing to meet someone with a similar background, but nationality alone doesn’t provide that. Except for the fact that it is quite pleasant to be able to speak your lingo after having spoken a different language for the longest time, nothing links me to fellow countrymen aside from our passport.

More often than not, such encounters even turn sour, when the views and opinion of the Philippines differ. Sadly, I have met quite some foreigners with a colonial mindset, assuming their supremacy over the country that welcomed them as guests. In those moments, I consider myself more Filipina than anything else, and find myself defensive about the country and its people, uncontrollably ranting about foreigners who I deem not respectful of their host country. Note, that I just subconsciously called fellow countrymen “foreigners”. On other days, I am particularly European; craving for the cuisine, the culture, the language, the architecture, and the weather, while being increasingly cynical and negative about the Philippines, vowing to never send my future children to a local school, cursing the inefficacy of work processes and wondering if I will ever be able to handle the informal family hierarchy that rules society.

Confusion and contradiction are the name of the game. I don’t identify with Frenchs, or Germans for that matter, and I still feel outlandish around Filipinos. Bottomline - part of me will always be alien, no matter where I am.
I know this all sounds like I am extremely anti-social and difficult to please. Yes, that’s partly true, D. will confirm that in a jiffy. But, I do meet people that I feel I can relate to. Nationality isn’t a criteria. A similar background is defined by worldviews, mindsets, values, and experiences. There is some kind of stereotype when it comes to the people that I feel most comfortable with and whom I’ve considered good friends since: all of them are well-traveled, have been exposed to different cultures, are open-minded and have strong personalities. Once I refrain from taking sides and just accept my position, maybe then I’ll feel peace of mind. Meanwhile, until I can actually put my wise words into action, I just have to deal with the reality that I will always be torn in between 3 worlds. Never quite in, never quite out.

July 7, 2009

Summer memories

I don't know why, but I just had a childhood flashback today. I think it must have been because of Twitter and someone posting about their trip in Provence. I love how I get to travel the world without living my sofa, how i get to meet people from all over the globe and share experiences and opinions.

My family used to have a tiny summer house in Cogolin, South of France. From my bedroom I had a view on the castle of Grimaud and from the pool you could see the marinas of Port-Cogolin and Port-Grimaud. A stone throw away is the fabulously decadent St.-Tropez. I had sudden images of colorful Sunday markets, picnics at the beach, overpriced Orangina at the Café Senéquier, homemade fries and grilled meats on our summer house terrasse, golden tan by the pool, Brigitte Bardot at the supermarket, scrumptious tarte tropézienne, fish soup with garlicky rouille sauce, fun rides and mini-golf at the Luna Park, flower icecream in Ste-Maxime...

Here are some of the memories in my head...

Colorful boats at the side pier of St.-Tropez

The castle of Grimaud

Streets of Ste.-Maxime

Café Sénéquier, best for people watching

Streets of Cogolin and old movie house

Flower-shaped icecream, funky vinegars, fragrant olives, and deliciously sweet tarte tropézienne

Pool and house (actually this is our neighbor's house, but ours looked just the same)

July 2, 2009

Hong Kong - GrEAT Food Hall

Weekend in Hong Kong - It was raining hard and I struggled balancing my H&M, Zara and various other shopping bags and my umbrella so I decided to head for the next mall where I could have access to all stores, a Starbucks and clean restrooms. I took a chance and went to Pacific Place not knowing what kind of mall it would be. Pleasantly surprised I recognize Zara and Seibu from the corner of my eye, as well as the green striking letters of Starbucks (desperately in need of an iced tall non-fat caramel macchiato extra drizzle upside down). So I stroll around on the lookout for some lunch and follow the signs to the GrEAT Food Hall thinking this would some sort of foodcourt. But I ended up in a gourmet concept food hall. Not quite Dean&Deluca, but very nice nevertheless.

Wait?! Holy cannolli is that Orangina on display!?! I forget about my coffee and my need for a restroom. I grab one of the shopping carts and place all my shop bags in it. I head straight to the Orangina pyramid. They have the bloodorange version, the light one and of course the regular flavor. I immediately get the second to the last bottle not worrying about my limited baggage allowance. I walk around and subconsequently discover Teisseire grenadine, Bonne Maman et Le Petit Ecolier biscuits. I also want to take home French yogurts, fish soup and cheese but refrain myself from doing so.

GREAT has a wide selection of gourmet foods from all over the world. I see cheeses, charcuterie, pastries from the U.S., Japan, Italy and of course France. I spot an olive oil bar, a soup, a juice bar, a traiteur (French for gourmet take-out food) and a gelateria. I end up buying a fresh buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich and a small bag of Kettle sea salt&vinegar chips for lunch.

After raving about it to a friend the same night, she tells me that there is a imilar concept supermarket in Elements mall in Kowloon station, called ThreeSixty. I only had time to walk through it quickly the next day. The focus is clearly on healthy and natural food, but they also offer environmental-friendly household items, organic cosmetics and fair-trade product. On-the-spot dining is represented through their Burger bar, Asian gourmet bar, sandwich bar and dessert bar.

Now you might wonder why I get so excited about Hong Kong groceries that I take the time to write about it? Well, whenever I find food that reminds me of France or Germany or whatever "home" I am far away from at the moment, it gives me a warm, homey feeling and I instantly get a happy boost. So while orange lemonade and chocolate cookies seem trivial items to shop for, I cherish them like little treasures because they allow me to bring a little piece of my childhood back to Manila.

Great Food Hall
Basement Pacific Mall
MTR: Admiralty

1/F Elements
MTR: Kowloon

July 1, 2009

How Mr. Brightside makes me happy

I have a make-me-feel-good playlist on my Ipod. I've been neglecting it lately and found it again while waiting for the once more delayed Cebu Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Why can't they just change their flight schedule if they f$@&ing know they won't make it on time?!?!
But this is not a rant post. I waste enough time on Cebu Pacific already, literally!!

This is about Mr. Brightside. He makes me feel happy. He makes me wanna get up, dance and sing out aloud! I'm in the boarding area of Ninoy Aquino Airport so of course I won't. But I'm screaming out the lyrics internally and frantically whipping my foot to the beat.

Once in a while you come across a song that you can't get enough of. Even after several years, you still turn up the volume whenever it plays on the radio. The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" does that for me.
I know the song is actually about cheating, jealousy, mad love and all the stuff that would make you depressed rather than happy. But for once I don't analyze the meaning of the lyrics but simply enjoy it for what it is. A great song. I'm listening to the Jacques Lu Conti remix which is my favorite rendition.

This song reminds me of the year when D. got his white Mazda and we had a CD in the player with that song. I would replay it over and over again, singing... no blurting along until he would beg me to move to the next song. It reminds me of our nights out clubbing when I would jump up and down when i heard the first few notes. It reminds me of my friend C., who's now in Australia and who wouldn't mind getting up right now and dancing wild and weird in the middle of an airport. It reminds me of good times, happy times.

I have to stop listening to this emotional rock stuff and stick to happy music. I called it happy house for a reason, now I remember. ;-)

June 25, 2009

Swimming with sharks

Ever wondered how it felt like to swim with dolfins?! Well I can't tell you. But I can describe the overwhelming, out of this world experience of swimming with whales! Yes, whales! As in whale sharks. Hmm wait, so technically I swam with sharks... Anyhow, the whale shark can grow as long as 12m long and is the largest fish species. Luckily it only likes plankton and microscopic organisms, so there’s not much risk it would accidently swallow you.

Donsol in the Sorsogon province of the Philippines is an eco-miracle. It's unique in the world, as that there's a yearly swarm of whalesharks feeding on plakton in that one particular little bay. During the peak season from February to May, one can get lucky and interact with as many as 10 whale sharks.

It's best to arrange for the tour ahead of time and register at the Donsol Tourism Office for the introduction video, which serves as an interaction briefing a day before, so that you can get on one of the first boats out the following day. Whale sharks are most likely to be spotted in the early morning. After a wakeup call at 5am, a quick breakfast, we got our snorkeling gear together and headed for the beachfront, where our guide and the boatcrew were already waiting for us on an outrigger boat. Out in the sea, the guide explained that once a whale shark, or butanding as they are called here, was sighted, we had to get our gear up quickly and jump into the water at the guide's signal. We all were nervously anticipating the signal and when he shouted "Now!" we hastily put on fins and goggles on and sat on the edge of the boat. "Jump!" and so we did. The boat positions itself so that the whale shark swims toward us and we swim toward it. Once we cross path, we turn around and swim parallel to it.

Through all the commotion and the fins flapping through the water, I could barely distinguish left and right, let alone the position of the whale shark. And then suddenly, out of the murky water, there it was. We all screamed through our scuba!! This huge creature was within an arm’s reach (or so it felt) away from us. It was grey with plenty of white spots and swam calmly in slow motion next to us while we were desperately trying to keep up with it. And then it suddenly dove into the depths of the ocean. We climbed back onto the boat, awestruck, knees shaking, shouting ecstatically “Did you see it? Did you see it?”.

Barely a few minutes past to calm down, did the guide shout “Get ready!”. I hesitated, not sure if I could handle another such intense moment but I convinced myself that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Who knew if the whale sharks would return next year, maybe discouraged by the raising number of tourists disturbing their natural environment. So here we were jumping back into the water, swimming alongside another gentle giant about 7m long. All in all we had 8 interactions with the whale sharks, the last one of which lasted for about 15 minutes. We headed back to shore, pressed for time to catch our plane back to the urban jungle of Manila. Our bodies tired from swimming in open waters, our minds restless from the surreal memories. This privileged encounter with one of Mother Nature's wonder was like an underwater safari, now I just need to save up enough money for a trip to Kenya.
I wonder if D. will consider it for our honeymoon?

Approx. budget per person
Roundtrip airfare: P1,500
On-ground transpo: P500
Accommodation: P1,500
Whale shark tour: P500
Snorkeling gear: P300
Food: P500
Total = P4800

Don’t forget:
- Sunscreens
- Packed food and bottled water
- Snorkeling gear (although you can rent at the resort)
- Underwater camera (no flash!)

Where we stayed:
Woodland Resort, double occupancy rooms with A/C and hot water, P1,500.
Contact Marichu at +639219699544

How to get there:
From Manila to Legazpi via Cebu Pacific (45min flight) and from Legazpi City to Donsol (1.5 hrs ride), several private (approx. P2,000 for 10-12 pax) or shared (approx. P70/pax) vans leave from Satellite terminal in Legazpi. Some tour guides also wait for tourists at the airport.

Follow the rules:
The government and WWF made conscious efforts to develop the responsible eco-tourism in the area and the local fishermen have gone from hunting down the animals to serving as experts and tour guides, promoting the preservation and safety of the whale sharks.
1. Do not touch or ride the whale shark
2. Do not restrict the movement of the shark or impede its natural path
3. Maintain the recommended distance from the whale shark is 3 meters from the head and body and 4 meters from the tail
4. Do not undertake flash photography
5. Do not use scuba, scooters, jet ski or any motorized underwater propulsion
6. A maximum of six (6) swimmers per shark is allowed

Other things to do around the area:
- Visit the Cagsawa Ruins and Mount Mayon in Legazpi
- Take the Firefly Tour
- Go island hopping or diving and have a picnic on a deserted beach

June 9, 2009

Home is where work is?

I never considered myself being particularly girly, or kikay as they would say in the Tagalog. I shop, but not as a sport. I wear make-up, but only on special occasions. I do get giddy when I fall in love with a particular pair of shoes, but that happens once in a blue moon. I read fashion magazines, but I wouldn't say that I have a particularly strong fashion sense.

But here I am now. Working in the beauty industry. Dealing with the hip and beautiful, haha. Too busy to keep my blog updated (soweee!), I've been coming alive in my position at VMV. I don't think I've really changed in terms of girliness, but I sure have blossomed somehow. Now that the job isn't all new anymore, I relieved to find out that I don't just enjoy it coz it was new and fresh, but because I actually... enjoy it.

If it weren't for this job, my torn-apart between countries feeling would most likely be a lot more prominent than it is. They say "love is where the heart is". I suppose that's true. After all, I did move here to follow the call of my heart. But - and I am sorry to disappoint the romantic ones amongst you - I don't think it is enough. I learned my lesson in life and believe I can only be as good a partner as I am an individual.

So I'm here, working hard, soaking in all the knowledge like a sponge, listening avidly to all that my boss/mentor has to say. I'm building my PR network and trying to leave my mark in this company, all while subconsciously strengthening my roots to the Philippines. The best of it all? I am actually constantly exposed to the world. The beauty industries in the US and in Europe is our constant benchmark, our markets are spread all over and I get to travel the world representing the brand.

The stronger I expose myself to globalization in all its colors - music, culture, food, work etc. - maybe the closer I'll feel to my homes.

June 8, 2009

Feeling social with social medias

I'm a geek. Always have been, always will be. So when my work demanded some innovative (read budget-friendly) marketing ideas, I was all giddy about exploring social media as a marketing tool in line with the rise of the web. Finally, a valid reason to be logged in Facebook at the office all day long. Hehe. 

But with FB, Twitter, LinkedIn part of my daily routine now, I realized that - aside from being a fascinating marketer's instrument - it helped me keep in touch with the different "homes" I was missing. I was suddenly talking to grade school friends from Munich, college classmates from Quebec and people who at some point in my life crossed my road and are now all over the globe. Of course, I could have simply picked up the phone or send a postcard. But truth be told, aren't we all too busy and too lazy to do so? This was a way of touching base with any efforts.

One may argue the value of social media and its tendency of decreasing actual social interaction (then again it is called social media, hmm), and yet for someone like me, who often feels lost and abandoned, it's a wonderful invention that brings "home" right inside your computer screen. The internet alone is a wonderful invention, that brings you the world whenever and wherever you need it. No more missing out on world news, the newest trend in French fashion or the raved-about bar in Munich. It is a virtual world I admit, but maybe the notion of what is real and what isn't is simply shifting? One thing is for sure, it provides instant gratification for those who's world is divided onto several continents. Do these networking sites replace shopping sprees with your best friend and family dinners? - certainly not. But for a split second - and just a click away - I can be wherever I wanna be and pretend I never left.

January 29, 2009

Barcelona, Tapas24

I am a full-blooded chocoholic. But even for an expert in the matter like me, the combination of chocolate and salt sounded a little to experimental. Boy was I wrong! Tapas24 in Barcelona made me a believer. Our culinary friends brought us there, as it is known in the industry to be one of the best tapas bar in the city. We couldn’t not have tapas while in Barcelona, so D. and I happily obliged. But before I had my life changing choco-salt experience, my palate was delighted by other delicious delights.

We had scrumptious Croquetas with Jamon Serrano and Tapa d’Or, which is a simple combination of tasty squished tomatoes, rock salt and fruity extra virgin olive oil. The ingredients sound so common, but their quality made all the difference! But we all agreed that the Chistorra (type of chorizo) dish was to die for and we promptly order a second one. Imagine tasty chorizo bits, mixed with fried scrambled eggs over home-made fries! I meant to replicate this seemingly easy and yet mind-blowing dish ever since we got back, but simply haven’t found the time to do it yet. 

The sweet tooth in me simply couldn’t leave this place without dessert. Still full and happy from the many tapas, we just ordered one item on the short dessert menu: Chocolate Ganache with Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil. I figured I could always just eat the ganache if I didn’t like the fancy add-ons. But oh no!! The combination of the three flavors was a match in heaven. The sweetness of the chocolate was counterbalanced by the salt crystals, which added an interesting texture to it as well, while the fruitiness of the oil gave it a perfect ending. 

I suppose you can’t use you regular supermarket olive oil to achieve this dish, but picture my excitement when my dad brought back chocolate bars with fleur de sel in them! Tapas24 is a place I’d recommend without hesitation to anyone who gets the chance to go to Barcelona! People don’t line up in the street for it for no reason!

Tapas 24
Diputacio 269
Metro: Passeig de Gracia or Placa de Catalunya


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