Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jolly Season at Senado Square

The Senado Square. I could just sit there and watch people all day .

It was Christmas time when I visited Macau for a little bonding with some family members. A sister is migrating soon to another country. We made it a point to travel together since this would be our last trip together. I have been to Hong Kong several times. This is my first time to visit Macau. I got to know the place because of the way it was marketed---the newest Las Vegas strip.
Last year, I had a great time in Las Vegas checking out the sights, entertainment, hotels and casinos. I even experienced a sandstorm along the Mojave desert! So when I learned that Macau is trying to be a copycat of Las Vegas, I had to go there and spot the difference.

My first stop is the Senado Square---Macau's urban center for centuries. It is a few blocks from my hotel, walking distance. The former Portuguese colony is so convenient for tourists. Walk around and voila, you can see all the nicest spots---St. Dominic Church, Ruins of St. Paul's, etc.

Most of the stores from clothes (Bossini, Giordano) to beauty products (Sasa, Watson's) are located there. Starbucks and McDonalds are also in the area.

St. Dominic's Church

Ruins of St. Paul's

But Macau is not just about casinos. They have a rich culture. Within your steps are beautiful churches like the St. Dominic's Church (yellow) built during the 1590's and the Ruins of St Paul's built in 1602. I made sure to visit these churches so I can whisper three wishes to heaven :)

One of my biggest discoveries while walking around the Senado Square is the Portuguese Egg Tart! The bread is like a croissant with a delicious flan inside! So yummy, I keep on munching these goodies for MOP 7.

I enjoyed Senado Square a lot. It is a mixture of business, culture and newfound discoveries. Shopping, restaurants and sights are all in one place!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Students of Notre Dame of Tacurong College

Every time I get to visit the different schools around the county, I make it a point to shoot and document the students because they are my audience. In far away Sultan Kudarat, I get to see this sign: Speak English Be Global inside the Notre Dame of Tacurong College. I guess this is the influence of the Americans, colonizing us to believe that their language is much superior than ours.

Since Sultan Kudarat's image is somewhat tarnished by bombings and numerous military checkpoints, I noticed that the students lack a certain glow that I normally see in most universities I visited in Metro Manila. Fear of violence? When I asked them if it was true that they are indeed bombings in their town, they said yes. They even gave the date of the latest bombing incident-- as a trivia. I asked if they know any victims. "Yes," was their curt reply. There was no feeling of loss or pain. I guess you become numb with abnormal situations if they become normal circumstances.

Here I asked them to pose...for peace and prosperity! Had a great time with these teens. They were very curious about my line of work and the best part, I also got to learn from them!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Grand Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat

While at Tacurong, got an invite to peek at the half-a-billion peso Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat. At that time, the Kalimudan festival was ongoing. While the people were waiting for a free concert by Kitchie Nadal, we hided off to the offices of Gov. Suharto T. Mangudadat, Vice Gov. Donato A. Ligo and representatives 1st District w/ Tacurong City Rep. Datu Pax S. Mangudadatu and 2nd District Rep. Arnulfo F. Go. One word to describe the "palace"--- GRAND!

My gang walking towards the entrance...

This is the small-scale model of the provincial capitol...they are building a sports arena near the "palace."
I was waiting for Aladdin and his flying rug to come down and meet us...
Extravagant chandellier...
A photo contest exhibit near the lobby.
This the office of the governor. His family portrait is hanging on the wall---his five young, gorgeous sons are enough to form a basketball team!

This is where the officials and guests dine when they have meetings...

One of the receiving areas...

Gold is everywhere!

This is the chair of Datu Pax when he was entroned. When you sit on it, your feet will not touch the floor---believe me, the legs are so tall, I tried sitting on it!

It is a bit surreal to see how grand this provincial capitol is. You have to see it for your self. They have a tennis court on top of the building, a helipad, a prayer room with a nice view, etc. The people at the tourism office are hospitable and cooperative. I bet they will be glad to tour you or your group.
Irvir, no need to defend your hometown. Met some students there and I was really glad I visited the area. Btw, I tasted your pineapples (B/G3? forgot the name) and really loved it! Went back several times to the fruit stalls so I can bring them back to Manila, but the variety I want was always out of stock :(

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Secret Trip to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat

I got a call inviting me to visit General Santos City for a forum with some students. The voice sounded desperate because some of the invitees backed out. Since it was my first time to go there and I felt I have this calling for spreading film literacy, I said yes. In a span of a day, my airplane ticket and hotel arrangements were made. There was no turning back.
This is my point of view (POV) all alone waiting for my flight to General Santos City at the Centennial Terminal 2 ...was reading Twilight book at 5am!
I dropped by the General Santos City Hall and saw people fixing the building's Christmas decorations.
When the travel arrangements were finalized, I realized that I haven't really read the DETAILS. It said, I will land at the General Santos City airport and travel by road via a two-hour drive to TACURONG, SULTAN KUDARAT! The road leading to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat.
It became a secret mission. I did not inform my family that I was going to Sultan Kudarat because the mere mention of the place, my parents would say NO right away. They would not allow me to travel any near the place because of its image as a haven for bombings and kidnappings. But if I let fear conquer me, it would be a sorry loss for the students. So, Tacurong, here I come!I arrived around lunch time. The heat is different from the Manila weather. It is much hotter with the sun grilling you with his intense rays. Our host brought us to this carinderia type of restaurant known as 5R. On their menu is palaka (frog)---garlic, buttered, adobo! I wanted to try it because the only "weird" part I have tasted in Manila is deep fried frog legs at the President's at Chinatown, Binondo and boy, I love it---tastes like spicy friend chicken!
The frog specialty was unavailable so we settled for the traditional type---pancit, chopsuey, and buttered chicken. The carinderia was operated by an old couple. The service was slow because there were no helpers. While the man was cooking, he was also serving and cleaning the table! On the otherhand, the woman was taking orders at the same time, washing the mountainous dishes. We were really patient because it was a world so different from the Manila life. Life is so simple...
I stayed at this newly built pension house. It was comfortable with aircon, cable et al. I tried their lomi for P50 ($1) and was surprised because it was one of the best ones I have tasted. One thing I was amazed from this trip was seeing long, colorful flags posted in different establishments.I learned that the flags were put up because of a Muslim wedding ceremony---to lead the guests to the affair. I saw around three flags on different venues one Saturday so I guess Muslims love getting married! At my pension house alone, a wedding was taking place and I had to ask the girls for a souvenir shot :) One of the highlights of my trip is visiting the provincial capitol. Our host told me to "walk in faith." I was clueless about her words of wisdom. Yun pala, we went down to one checkpoint and walked MANY kilometers to go the capitol. The huge highway was not lighted and it was only the stars and moon guiding us. There were a lot of people flocking to the capitol because of the Kalimudan festival. "Walk in faith" because one really has to pray very hard that we don't meet a hardcore lunatic who will throw a grenade at us!

Everyone wanted to get inside the half-a-billion pesos newly built Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat. Security was very tight, people were shoving each other to get in!
I asked this Rambo for photo-op. In Manila, we don't have this kind of soldiers---they are designated for war-torn provinces.
When we reached the entrance of the blockade, it was straight out of the movie---people were pushing to get in and it was like a stampede. I felt like I was in a can of sardines. Armallite-laden soldiers were checking everyone. A soldier even stopped me to check my handbag. After the long walk, we awarded ourselves with a stop at a durian eatery. It was heavenly--- opening the durian right before our eyes, savoring its freshness and gulping softdrinks as its chaser. The seller gave us a tip: to remove the durian smell on our hands, we have to use the shell of the durian, put water on it and use it as our basin to wash our hands. The smell daw would go away!
I thought my adventure will end on my last day. But no, on my flight back home, the bellboy knocked on my room, got my belongings and went straight to the parking lot. I followed him. When I asked him who will bring me to the airport--he pointed to a man wearing a blue jacket. The man was unfamiliar for I have met the REAL driver who will bring me to the airport. I asked the man the name of the person he was looking for. He did not give a name. I went to the front desk to double check. The girl said the man asked for my room number and asked if I were from Manila. So they concluded, I was the guest he was looking for. Normally, I would go to the stranger for I am really clueless about these things. I have no sense of direction and I always get lost so a man picking me up to bring to me to the "airport" is a big blessing. But realizing that he did not know the passenger's name made me think twice. I called up our host to check if they sent someone to pick me up. She answered: "The driver is still at the school. Who could be that man!?" And so, I rushed to my room and prayed the fastest rosary I have ever recited LOL.

I came home in one piece although the flight was delayed for an hour. The first time I saw my parents, I shared my secret that I was at Sultan Kudarat and not at General Santos City as my earlier press release. I was happy with my mission, sharing, interacting and meeting the students and wouldn't change it for anything. There would be adventures that cater only to a one-time experience and this would definitely be my last. No more secrets...