Thursday, December 31, 2009

my Santa story

This is a shameless rehash of last year's post. I had just been wondering what I was doing at this same day last year and figured I would turn to my 2008 posts for a clue. And I stumbled upon this, and because I haven't written anything Christmas-y this year, I thought I would re-post. I know. I'm lazy. I still have 3.5 hours, though, maybe I can write something New Year-ish. Anyway... This is my Santa story.

It's a Santa story among many.

When I was a young kid, I, like so many others, hung up a sock every Christmas eve. We didn't have a chimney, so, to spare Santa the hassle of having to pick our locks, I left it outside our main door. I would write Santa a letter explaining what I wanted that Christmas (which would invariably be a Nancy Drew), and he would write me back.

And he had the same handwriting as my father! I thought that was cool. They even used the same type of ballpen (a blue Mitsubishi). I looked up to my father, and I simply figured that all great men wrote like that. If I had thought about it, I would have expected God to have the same handwriting. Nope, the aspiring detective in me didn't sense anything out of the ordinary; the Math geek didn't put two and two together.

Santa was cool. He was never over-generous -- no blank checks, or elaborate Barbie Houses, or anything like that -- but he knew how to please a kid. Aside from the books, he would give me a stick or two of Toblerone. And he would write reams of good advice. (He even talked about the same stuff my father did.) And I will never forget that time that he asked me to take a look at our neighbor's sock. I don't remember the exact way he wrote it in his letter, but our neighbor's sock was empty, and he told me it was my chance to be generous. I remember taking some of the stuff in my sock and putting it in the other. It felt so wonderful to give, and I was so happy at the chance to make Santa proud.

My sister and I loved Santa.

One time, while we were vacationing at Bukidnon, I chanced upon my father's wallet on the dresser. Some impulse made me open it and rifle through the contents. To my slow surprise, I discovered one of my letters to Santa inside the wallet. I was older then, and I had gone through the stage of insisting to my classmates that Santa was real. When I finally found the explanation for all those coincidences, I wasn't shocked, or hurt, or jolted even. I didn't feel the walls crashing down on me, didn't feel betrayed, didn't lose faith. I remember being actually thrilled at the discovery, thinking, "well, that makes sense," and still feeling that nothing had changed.

Because, well, nothing had. Santa was real, even if he didn't ride on a sleigh and lug a sack around. Some kids never got to know him, and that makes me sad. Sometimes, I think that was his greatest gift -- he made me believe in good things, in magic beyond comprehension, in generosity conquering the limits of possibility. He gave me his values, he showed me the power of kindness, he imparted standards to live up to. I had such a strong idea of what he stood for, so that when the red suit faded, he was still there.

I kept up the ritual for a while (I hadn't told my sister). I forgot when we stopped. I don't regret one bit of it. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And those of us who were lucky enough to have had him in our lives truly have got a gift beyond measure.

Monday, December 28, 2009

two love stories

The first, 500 Days of Summer, was just starting to play when I got home yesterday afternoon. I sat down, watched a few scenes, and forgot to stand back up. The movie follows, in non-linear fashion, the love story between Tom (a greeting card writer who originally trained to be an architect) and a girl named Summer (hence the title). It offers a lot of insights into how relationships work, and why they don't. You would think a non-linear movie would be confusing, but it wasn't. It was fun and sad without being corny or melodramatic, and I loved it. ( a world where Elizabethtown was lambasted, I'm not sure my opinion counts. Hehe.)

The second is a classic story from the early 1900's, Daddy Long Legs, written by Jean Webster. The book is actually available at Project Gutenberg, but I would never have heard of it (much less read it) had Bingbing and Francis not given me a paperback version yesterday. It's the story of an orphan named Jerusha who is sent to college by an unknown benefactor, whom she calls Daddy Long Legs because she once caught a glimpse of his shadow on the orphanage wall, and he was so long-legged his shadow looked like a spider. It's not strictly a love story -- it's more like a fairy tale, with an unexpected happily-ever-after. I started to read it last night, before sleeping, and couldn't put it down. (Thanks Bing and Fran! Loved it.)

There is a third love story, that feels like it has been going on forever, and still seems like it has only just begun, but that will have to wait. :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Macau 102: The Hotels


Macau is actually composed of three islands, sort of. There's the Macau peninsula, and then there are the islands of Taipa and Coloane. The airport is in Taipa, as is the Venetian. Most of the tourist attractions are in the Macau peninsula itself. Since we were arriving late in the evening, our first impulse was to just spend that first night sitting on a [preferably comfortable] chair somewhere that was open 24 hours, like, say, the Venetian. We didn't want to waste money on a hotel room that we would be vacating shortly after we woke up the next morning. However, Ria insisted we get rooms, as a sleepless night would absolutely ruin her mood the next day.

Ole London Hotel was my sister's idea. It was cheap but did not look too shabby in pictures. We had some trouble locating it, though I suspect it was more because two friendly Filipinas had offered to help us find our way -- I think a cab driver would have perfectly understood the map I had intentionally printed in Chinese!

We couldn't have been more pleased when we arrived at Ole London. The lobby was charming -- think: orange walls, a violet chandelier...and they didn't clash! For slightly over three thousand pesos, we got a room with twin beds, a big desk (perfect for Lani, as she had brought some schoolwork with her), a flat screen TV, hot and cold water, toiletries, and tea in the most charming cups. They just didn't provide breakfast, which was a drawback for me, because I'm the type of person who always has breakfast. And the location wasn't bad, although it could be better. Otherwise, I would gladly stay at Ole London again!

If Ole London was perfect in a quiet, charming, small-hotel kind of way, our next hotel was...not. It was big, bustling, over-the-top, overwhelming, opulent. And we loved it!

The Hotel Lisboa is classic Macau. It is actually the oldest casino in Macau. Unlike, say, the Wynn, the MGM Grand, or its seven-star sister, the Grand Lisboa, the Hotel Lisboa's facade doesn't dazzle you with metallic brilliance. It even kind of looks shabby, when seen from the casino entrance with its gaudy sign. But don't be deceived. The moment we stepped inside the hotel, we all drew our breaths in amazement. The artwork, the chandeliers, even the tiles in our bathroom floor dripped with five-star luxury.

Time for a disclaimer here: I haven't actually been to that many five-star hotels, so I don't have much basis for comparison. But, see, this is what the bathroom floor did look like:

And the rest of the bathroom:

And the rest of the room:

And the rest of the hotel:

'Nuff said.


speaking of Macau, there's a Buy 1 Take 1 promo for trips to Macau at PAL right now!

Buy 1 Take 1 From Cebu or Davao or Manila to Macau

Buy a Cebu or Davao or Manila to Macau ticket and GET ANOTHER ONE FREE!

Hurry! Call or visit your nearest PAL ticket office or travel agent.

  • USD 218 round-trip fare on Fiesta (Economy) Class. Fare is exclusive of surcharges and taxes.
Conditions for travel:
  • Ticket holders must travel together bothways
  • Minimum of two days and maximum of eight days stay
  • Valid for travel (OUTBOUND) from 15JAN10 to 15MAR10 or 01JUN10 to 31JUL10
  • Travel is not permitted from 13 to 17FEB10
  • Tickets must be issued from 14 to 31DEC09
  • Stopovers are permitted at a charge of USD50
  • Changes are permitted
  • No Show Fee USD75
  • Cancellations:
    Before Departure - cancellation is permitted at a charge of USD 50. Refund shall only be allowed when both full revenue and free tickets are presented at PAL ticket office
    After Departure - Ticket is non-refundable
  • Children/infants discounts do not apply
  • Free Baggage Allowance is 15 kilograms per passenger
  • Above fare do not include hotel accommodations, travel taxes and other charges and fees.
  • This promo is not available through the Online Booking facility.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Macau 101

"But there's nothing interesting in Macau!" I protested when Ria suggested a weekend trip to the former Portuguese colony. All I knew then about Macau was that it was becoming a gambling capital to rival Las Vegas, and casinos aren't my cup of tea. The 50% off sale at Cebu Pacific was hard to resist, however, so I booked a round-trip flight for myself and my sister on the last day of the sale.
Lesson No. 1: Flights booked during big sales might actually turn out to be more expensive than usual. Check out each flight's regular prices. If you book early enough, you might get a better price.
Ria and Jo Anne booked their flights a couple of days after the sale, and these turned out to be cheaper than ours by several hundred pesos.
On a silly, feeling-rich moment while booking the flights, I decided to pay an extra hundred pesos each to choose our plane seats and picked the frontmost row for the extra leg room.
Lesson No. 2: If you get to choose seats, don't go for 1D, 1E or 1F. You won't be able to store your bags at the overhead compartment directly above you because the crew use that for storing stuff for the pre-flight demonstration. You would have to put your bags further back, which is difficult because you would then have to go against the flow of disembarking passagers to retrieve your stuff.

photo from this Flickr site

Near the end of our short evening flight, our spirits instantly rose when we caught sight of the amazing hotel and casino lights illuminating the dark Macau sky. Even if I wasn't a blackjack/nightlife sort of person, it was exciting to be in a place with a pulse quite different from home.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

it's Christmas time

When you get caught up in work and to-do lists, it sometimes takes a while to sink in that Christmas is just around the corner. But it is. In three days, misa de gallo will begin. In six days, my sister will arrive. In twelve days, it will be December the 25th.

For me, listening to Christmas carols and watching the lights change on our Christmas tree usually do the trick. But the spirit of Christmas isn't about recapturing a magical feeling. Stripped of its ornaments, Christmas is really about the Boy born in a manger, giving us hope. That beyond this world is another, and though we don't deserve it, we can get there, because the Boy grew up and lay down His life for us.

And so THIS is Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

yoohoo! people with chutzpah! here's a restaurant for you! bwahahahaha! (another "seriously?" story)

There is a restaurant in Makati that has lately been getting more than its fair share of attention -- the kind it probably doesn't want -- and it has no one to blame but itself.

Upper East proclaims, "A word to the wise: UPPER EAST is not for those sans chutzpah and those unwilling to pay the price for a taste of New York style."

It then goes on to say, "[Y]ou can expect only the very best offerings from AHA's culinary expertise delivered to your table. Just don't expect to dine whenever you want to. After all, UPPER EAST is not always open for business. We close our doors when we want to, and we certainly won't wait around for guests who, frankly, need to get a move on. No lunch is served after 1 p.m. and no dinner after 9 p.m."

And finally: "UPPER EAST is not for scrooges and stiffs. We tolerate sharing, although it's not exactly de rigueur, is it? As for splitting? The fine is set at P250, not including our wait staff looking down their noses at you. This is the UPPER EAST experience. And this is the price you pay...if you can get in."

From which I gather that Upper East is for the wanna-bes and the TH.

I haven't had a Seriously? story in a while, and this looks perfect.

Of course it doesn't matter what a plebeian like myself thinks. (In a burst of plebeianisn, I had to look up chutzpah in Wikipedia, hahaha!) And since it doesn't matter, let me say it while the saying is good: "Seriously?!?!?!?!" :D

It seems to me that the clients this restaurant wants -- those willing "to pay the price for a taste of New York style" -- should very well be able to afford to go to New York. And, enlighten me: do the rich really want to go to a restaurant that closes its doors when it wants to? Because we poor people like to know that when we go some place for lunch, we will actually get fed. And if I were really a highbrow restaurant serving a highbrow clientele, I would be raking big bucks in and would not mind any amount of sharing or splitting.

Oh my God. :D Let me never get caught being this pretentious and tasteless.

(And let me not get caught kissing-a$$-for-a-price and name-dropping either.)

Thanks to Jessica Rules The Universe for bringing this to our attention. I haven't laughed this hard in days. :D

Sunday, December 6, 2009

my life according to a fortune teller

"There's a sucker born every minute." - P.T. Barnum

Back in Dumaguete, we had a co-intern who insisted on reading our palms, and we always laughed at the fortunes she dished out. We teased her endlessly about making a contradictory prediction about Brian and Tonette, and we even kidded her about not being able to predict that her husband was going to be a wuss. (Arlyn, you crazy girl, I miss you!) The Barnum effect refers to personality readings, strictly speaking, but the principle behind it is also applicable to fortune telling and chain messages: there's a sucker born every minute!

Nevertheless, when I got offered a free palm reading during my birthday last November, I sure didn't turn it down!

In fortunes, as in espionage, your right hand must apparently never know what your left hand is doing. When I offered the fortune lady my right hand, she asked to see my left instead. I obliged without asking why, because, I figured, none of it probably makes sense anyway.

The lady started things rather unwisely by telling me that I would have a short life...but that it would continue afterwards. Watda?! It either doesn't make sense (again), or she was talking about eternal life. Or she meant my fate was to be a Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, I'm not sure. At any rate, she hit [what I sure hope would be] jackpot with her next reading: I would only love one guy my entire life. (Oie dapat lang! I prefer an uncomplicated life, thank you very much.)

She then said that my family and my love life are currently taking a back seat to my career. What career?! :D

She also said I easily got stressed, which was true enough.

My so-called career would also allow me two opportunities to work outside the country, the lady continued. (Consul, you didn't know it at the time, but you might just have saved my life. Definitely my sanity. But that's another story.) Anyway, I don't really have a burning desire to work abroad, so...whatever. But I would like to get paid to travel and write about it. Lonely Planet, yoohoo!

That short crease at the base of my thumb apparently means that I would have a funny looking kid. See, that's why I resent the preference given to left hands! My right hand has nothing like that! Boo!

The lady assured me that I would have my own house in the future. Possibly two. My left palm says so. I don't know though. I can spot the house in my palm if I try hard enough, but what I really see is a baseball diamond. I've got a feeling I'm destined to own the New York Yankees.

And finally, by measuring the distance from the base of my hand to the tip of my ring finger, the lady predicted I would have just enough money to be comfortable. I won't have to scrounge through the garbage, but I won't get to own the Yankees either. Bummer.

catholic masses

Different parishes have different ways of celebrating Mass. Just minor differences, but they make one wonder what the correct procedure really is. At some parishes, the people kneel after "Lamb of God." At our parish, we don't. At some parishes, they continue holding hands after the "Our Father" and wait until "For the kingdom..." is done to put them down. At our parish, we stop holding our hands up immediately after the Lord's Prayer. (And I know a priest who doesn't want people to hold each other's hands!) People at other parishes stand up after saying "May the Lord accept the sacrifice..." but at our parish we stand up while the priest is saying "Pray brethren that our sacrifice may be acceptable...."

Trivial differences, really...until you try putting together a misalette!