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I was BLANK – As I looked at my examination number printed under the list of successful examinees it’s as if those numbers slowly filled my vision.

Then COMPREHENSION – I’m in! I passed!

Followed by JUBILATION – the world is beautiful again and I can`t stop smiling and calling and talking to anyone who will listen.

Then DISBELIEF – as it sank in that I am truly one of the new students. How can it be? I’m so ordinary. So unexceptional.

Then GRATEFULNESS – for the answered prayers and support of everyone around me.

Then DREAD – for what is ahead. Questions of whether I’ll be able to fulfill what’s expected of me swirled in my mind. Whether I’m qualified for something like this. Am I ready? Will I ever be ready? I wonder…

And finally EXCITEMENT – for the new journey laid in front of me.

All these and more I felt as I beheld the ordinary piece of paper plastered on the glass wall at the entrance of the School of Letters.

I,  apparently got accepted for the PhD program for Linguistics of Nagoya University…

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I was supposed to write this ages (years) ago but for some reason was not able to. Still, I loved this experience with my friends so much  and I really want to write something about it. I guess recounting it makes me feel I’m back home…

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It wasn’t in the plan. Salve, Sherma and I were supposed to just attend a book launching courtesy of Armine. The thing is we were late and Sherma was the only one who heard part of the program (she heard the part where the author informed her guests that lunch will be served after the program!). But owing to Armine’s clout (she personally knows the author) we met with the author, conveyed our apologies for being late, bought her book and had it signed, had our picture taken with her and ate the free lunch. 😉

Afterwards, since none of us wants to go home yet and malling did not appeal to any of us we decided to go on a belated tour of Old Manila.

Starting with the National Museum

I am particularly interested in this area of Manila since one of my professors in college once remarked that the original plan of this area was to resemble that of Washington D.C. where major government agencies of America are located. The person who designed the layout was the architect Daniel Burnham – the same person who mapped out the City of Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Incidentally, he was also the architect of the building that currently houses the National Museum. As interesting as it’s history and architecture maybe, the treasures within are also of great value. But since I do not want to go on and on about the artifacts and paintings and wealth of information one can gain here just try and visit it for yourself. The place however does not house the works of great Filipino masters such as Amorsolo, Juan Luna etc. It’s still in the old museum which is quite a disappointment. It would have been great to see the Spolarium once again. sigh…

Luneta… perceived by contemporary Filipinos as a place to be avoided. For some reason it’s just not cool to go there. I however do not agree, the park has so much to offer – great sculptures, at least three gardens (which I wouldn’t have known existed if not for Lakbay channel!) and rich history. The place has witnessed a great number of events marking our history through the ages.

A virtual plethora of sculptures dotted the park but I was particularly drawn to this sculpture. Although it embarrasses me to admit it I forgot the title of this particular piece. When I tried searching the net for any info I was unsuccessful. Apparently there is no inventory of sculptures found in Luneta. The emotions that the piece evokes was what  has drawn me to it. Sadly it’s not prominently displayed where more people may be able to admire it.

Gardens Galore

An Orchidarium that I think would really be spectacular if we came at a time when all the orchids are in full bloom and not raining. There’s a falls there though – called Cascade falls. I’m not sure if it’s man-made or not. Actually we went there in search of good food… and found the restaurant closed!

So off we went to another garden. Who knew that there’s an incredible array of gardens to be found in Luneta. I certainly don’t!

Japanese Garden, as the name suggests, it evokes the same atmosphere as the gardens found in Japan. The same serenity which is incredible owing to its location – smack dab in the middle of Metro Manila. It has a pond with a bridge crossing through it. Its simple lines echoing the Japanese aesthetic.

It even has a gate that usually, in Japan that is, heralds the existence of a temple but in this case it merely serves as an architectural feature which nonetheless adds to the general air of being not in the Philippines but in another land. Hmmmm… the gate does however marks an important site – it marks the area where 13 patriots were executed during the Spanish Period known in history books as the “trese martires.” The engraved words in the marker are as follows:

Trece Martires de Bagumbayan

Here 13 patriots were executed by the Spanish authorities on January 11, 1897. Ten were masons, namely: Numeriano Adriano, Jose Dizon, Domingo Franco, Eustacio Mañalac, Geronimo Cristobal  Medina, Ramon Padilla, Antonio Salazar, Moises Salvador, Luis Enciso Villareal, and Faustino Villaruel . Benedicto Nijaga, Braulio Rivera and Francisco L. Roxas died with them. All were patriots.

The 13 paid the highest price possible for the freedom and independence of their country having perished for so great a cause. They deserve to live on in the hearts of their grateful countrymen, to their memory this marker is raised.

The Chinese Garden, on the other hand, exudes a different air all together. Whereas, the Japanese Garden is defined by its tranquil environs,  the Chinese Garden is full of motion and energy. Straight off, you’ll see people roaming around the intricate layout of the garden as opposed to the meditating people in the Japanese Garden. The designs both at the gate and the various cottages dotted throughout the garden is both lavish and rich.

After the gardens, we decided to go to “The Walled City of Intramuros,” which is quite near. And what better way to get there than go there on a “calesa.” Our first ever “calesa” ride, an exhilarating one at that. You would also find your kutseros to be polite and extremely knowledgeable of the history attached to the whole area and of various buildings.

“Calesa” is a horse-drawn carriage that has it’s origins during the Spanish Period. “Kutsero” [ku·che·ro], on the other hand, refers to the person who handles the “calesa.”

Intramuros

From the latin words “intra” and “muros” which literally means “within the walls.” Intramuros was build in 1571 and was the old capital of Manila (Maynilad back then) – a city within a city. It’s historical significance for the Philippines cannot be emphasized enough. Who hasn’t read accounts featuring the place from history textbooks. And if you’re like me (which I doubt) you would have wondered what it would feel like to actually be there. Stand there and retrace a prisoner’s footsteps in Fort Santiago.

And end up in the very cell where a national hero – Jose Rizal – was incarcerated for the last time. The very place where he wrote his poem. The very place that witnessed his anguish, fear and acceptance.

Thinking back, it was truly an escape for us. One that did not cost us much but paid us outstanding dividends in terms of satisfaction. All Pinoys, I think should make this journey. It’s one way of looking at our past as a country. Hopefully by looking back we will find something to look forward to in the future (eventhough there is not much to look forward to now. Still, one can always hope). I assure you, you won’t regret it!

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The ScRibbLeR at Kamikochi, Nagano. A day-trip with friends for Kouyou (紅葉). Kouyou literally means colored leaves or autumn foliage. Autumn is the time for Japanese to go to the countryside and the mountains to enjoy nature as the leaves turned from green to red, yellow and orange.  It’s a really interesting period and a much awaited one. Weather reports will usually include the best time for it. It’s a breathtaking sight and a wonderful opportunity for camera enthusiasts (like yours truly and a bunch of my friends).

Photo taken by Ronel (I think) or it could be Chi-chen 🙂

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Pinoys are notorious for their love of taking pictures. Laging camera-ready. Anywhere! Anytime! So it’s really no surprise that I have developed an interest in photography. A very recent one though. Before I would always be the one who’ll have their pictures taken. I personally call it modeling that is posing to death whenever there is a camera in sight. And If I happen to be the one taking pictures – I was the point and shoot girl with no thought to composition. And forget about taking pictures of people, places and events. If I am not in it or any of my friends are not in it it’s not worth taking. So i thought!  But because of some friends of mine, I learned to appreciate the thoughts and the techniques that goes into taking a really good picture. I learned that lighting is important. That the most beautiful time of day, the time when you get the most dramatic lighting effects are during sunrise or sunset. I’ve learned a lot and still learning and am looking forward to actually gaining confidence behind the camera lens. Since, I can neither draw nor paint I think this is the next best thing.

So to this end I finally bought myself a – JANJANJARAAAAAAN!

NIKON COOLPIX P80… my new pal! She’s with me all the time. Even sa kenkyushitsu! hehehe… Akiko teases me that she just might find me tagging along with all the lolos in the park. I’m so close to being called an otaku that it just makes me grin even more.

Actually, before I wanted to buy an SLR but then I found this great compact digital camera that makes you do almost all the functions that a professional camera has without the unnecessary bulk.  Love, love, love!

10.1 mega-pixels, 18x zoom and it’s NIKON!

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NOTO BENE:

I didn’t want this post to be a dry recitation of the camera’s specs so if any of you guys are interested in knowing the nuts and bolts of it here’s the site:

http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Digital-Camera/26114/COOLPIX-P80.html

Oh and the camera pix is from the same site as well… just making sure that there are no copyright infringement whatsoever. 🙂

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Summer vacation, no deadlines to meet what better way to celebrate than have a party with friends. Finally after a couple of weeks of trying to match everyone’s schedule a date was set – and today it is! I was supposed to meet everyone (Hanh, Akiko, Kaishi, Jaja) 2 PM in front of Kawana Station but for some reason or another we ended up meeting at around 3 PM (shades of Filipino time although they all have valid excuses which everyone invariably has).

Anyway, we did reached my place and everyone were all smiles. I prepared halo-halo (perfect for a hot sunny afternoon) and ordered a large scrumptious pizza (I’m working under the assumption that if the halo-halo fail to satisfy them then I have a sure bet with pizza). Perfect!

In the photo (clockwise) Jaja, Akiko, Kaishi and Hanh

I also made leche flan beforehand to add to the wonderful halo-halo that you see in the picture and although it’s a bit burned it did not however affected the taste. To quote everyone – OISHII! And yes girls, I prepared halo-halo for them although prepared is a bit presumptuous a word to use in this case. Okay… okay… I admit I bought prepackaged ingredients for halo-halo. And by prepared I mean I put the ingredients in the bowl. But in my defense, I did prepare the leche flan from scratch which for some reason everyone thinks of as a cake.

Anyway, the object of the get-together was just the usual chikahan among friends but then Akiko brought her hakama which she used when she was in highschool when she studied kyudo (archery). Of course we all have to try it!

In the picture: the ScRibbLeR wearing hakama which is originally men’s traditional clothes and was later adapted by women. Nowadays, everyone can wear it especially during graduation or while participating in kendo and kyudo. The ScRibbLeR on the other hand feels just like one of the characters in Samura X. uh… Kenshin? Is that you?…

Well it was so much fun that I had to unearth my kimona set (not to be confused with kimono) and malong for them to try. Then my maxi dress which is in a wonderful orange color. Everyone wanted to try it on but unfortunately can’t coz it won’t fit them. We were all laughing at this point when Hanh remembered my still unused yukata which she helped find a matching geta for. Before I knew it it’s cosplay time!

In the photo: Jaja and Kaishi. Two Chinese girls hiding under a malong. Will they pass muster as Muslims I wonder? hmmmm….

In the photo: Akiko (in the left) and Hanh (right side). A Japanese and Vietnamese girl. Akiko somehow was able to squeeze herself in the dress although we kept on insisting she remove the shirt so it’ll have a better effect. Hanh on the other had looked just like a true-blue Pinay. All she needed is a pait of bamboo for tinikling. 🙂

In the photo: Hanh posing like a muslim dancer… cute one Hanh!

In the photo: Presenting Kaishi wearing my beautiful yukata and the exceedingly cute geta. I wonder when I’ll be able to wear it… Kaishi was posing so cutely and insisted none of her cute poses be put to waste. Picture! Pronto!

A truly lovely and fun day was had by all. It was so much fun we have to do it again this time at Akiko’s place. But we have to wait by the end of September to do it when Hanh gets back from Vietnam.

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Hi peepz,

You know who you are. I know I haven’t been keeping in touch with you lately and it’s been some time since I last posted anything. Sorry about that. Let’s just say I’m having my period of introspection… hahaha! Salve and Sherma, if you were here you just might get the dreaded text message or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just hunt you guys down since I just need someone to cheer me up. Or maybe I just miss hugging you guys. Sigh! Luvy and Mae, can you believe me existing without hugging anyone? (point of clarification: I only hug girls my really close girl friends).  Or Missy Ai, I just might drag you to yet another session of i-max screening with food tripping interspersed (I just hope we don’t get jinxed yet again!).

Point of the matter is… it’s December. This will be my second Christmas here and I’m not there. I just feel so alone and so out of touch. I can hardly feel that it’s the holiday season which in hindsight is a good thing since I just might burst into tears during class… I can just imagine… (so not cool!)

So I figured since I’m so down and all why not make a list that will make me even more melancholic. I guess it’s one way of confronting a problem right? maybe if I have a really good cry I can get it out of my system… so here it is – the things I will miss this holiday season:

  • I will miss the Christmas decorations one sees on the streets, in the mall and in every house from the most humble to the richest. Especially the parol (a Filipino Christmas lantern shaped like a star which is constructed using bamboo sticks and colorful paper).

  • I will miss the blaring Christmas songs over the radio in the jeepneys, tricycles, buses, malls and from the house of my not quite so deaf but might as well be deaf neighbor (in my case the neighbor is actually a relative).

  • I will miss the puto bungbong (a purple colored grounded and glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes and placed in a special steamer. Once cooked the resulting sticky rice cake is often topped with butter, sugar and grated coconut.) that one can buy after simbang gabi (shameful admission this might be, that was one of the reason why I attend simbang gabi not to mention the wish you can make when you complete it).

  • I will miss karoling– kids going house to house to sing Christmas carols for some coin.

  • I will miss the cacophony of sounds produced by their improvised musical instruments usually made of bottled soda caps, pebbles and tin cans (which may not be harmonious but nevertheless charming).

  • I will miss the kids singing their thanks after you gave them their coin – “thank you, thank you, and babait ninyo, thank you!”

  • I will miss writing down “The List” – names of people that  I will be giving gifts to.

  • I will miss trying to remember the name of my latest inaanak then failing that writing the description of their progeny instead i.e. daughter of Ate Baneng’s sister, son or daughter of some aunt or other, etc.

  • I will miss the buying frenzy in the mall for Christmas gifts but most especially the trips to Divisoria where I usually end up lugging a sackful of goodies.

  • I will miss scouring the malls and every nook and cranny of Divisoria for that perfect gift for one of the people in my list.

  • I will miss the gift-wrapping mania that takes over me after I bought all the gifts and making some sort of system to monitor whose gift is which.

  • I will miss the manito-manita. The series of gifts one gives and receives before the big day according to theme –  circular objects, long object, soft objects, etc..

  • I will miss the office Christmas parties which is most often than not a costume party so everyone ends up wearing the weirdest of ensembles and everyone will think it’s cool.

  • I will miss receiving the Christmas bonus and the various freebies the company gifts to its employees.

  • I will miss giving the gifts I selected for each of my friends and of course receiving gifts from them as well. Hehehe…

  • I will miss the feeling of buying a round-trip ticket home for only 2,000 pesos mainly because I bought it weeks before I go home.

  • I will miss the feeling of packing all the gifts to take it home for the holidays.

  • I will miss the feeling of anticipation one gets when you know that in just an hour or so you will be home with your family to celebrate the holidays.

  • I will miss the feeling one gets when you see your family outside the airport.

  • I will miss the hugs and kisses, the laughter and the bickering – just the feeling of togetherness with my family.

  • I will miss grocery shopping for noche buena.

  • I will miss preparing the one and only dish I know how to prepare which unfortunately my younger brother can’t eat –  chicken macaroni salad. He is forever asking me to learn a new dish to prepare one he can actually eat, hmmm… maybe next Christmas 🙂

  • I will miss my mom’s barbecue, gelatin, special meatballs… my younger brother’s spaghetti. Sigh…

  • I will miss the noche buena with my family.

  • I will miss seeing first hand the expressions in my family’s faces when they opened their gifts.

  • I will miss sending text messages to friends on Christmas and new year’s eve. Actually, trying and persevering are the operative words, since everyone has the same idea as you so the lines are naturally busy but by persevering and patiently pressing the resend button one eventually gets through.

  • I will miss  receiving consecutive text messages from those same friends some unexpected all returning your greetings.

  • I will miss my niece’s shriek of laughter and kakulitan, my mom’s kalambingan, my dad’s excitement for his garden, my younger brother’s kakulitan and his updates about the latest anime, video games and such, my kuya’s stories and my sister-in-law’s bungisngis.

  • One thing I will NOT miss though – my flight back to work, back to the grind and to the smog, pollution and traffic of the metropolis.

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July 28 (Saturday)

Target Prefecture: Shizuoka

Shizuoka is one of the provinces of Japan located in the Chubu Region (which basically means Central Region) at Honshu (literally means “Main State, it’s the largest island amongst the four major islands of Japan which includes Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu) Island. It is famous for being the area where Mt. Fuji is located.

Hamanako Lake

We passed by this area on our way to the park. Our bus also made a pit stop in one of the service areas there. There was a viewing area at the side that I just had to take a peek and take a shot for posterity. The temperature was hot but it was breezy so it’s not uncomfortably hot and the sparkling waters was just so inviting. hehehe… making me wish I was home.

Ryuku Cha (Green Tea)

The famous green tea of Japan. Good for metabolism, so girls if you’re planning to lose some weight just drink green tea after every meal. Anyway, Shizuoka’s green tea is well-known all over Japan that it’s usual to see rows of green tea bushes being cultivated. It was a wonderful site too. At one point, there was an area that so reminded me of  “The Shire” that I was waiting for “Hobbits” to appear. No Hobbits though just Japanese farmers.

Destination: Fuji Safari Park

  • Address: 2255 -27 Aza Fujiwara, Susono City, Shizuoka Prefecture

  • Admission Hours: 9:00 – 17:00

  • Admission Fee: high school students and older (¥ 2,700); 4 year old to junior high school students (¥ 1,500); senior citizen discount – 65 years and older (¥ 2,000)

  • How To Get There: From Nagoya Station take the JR Tokaido Honsen and get off at Mishima or Gotemba Station then take Fujikyu Bus to Fuji Safari Park.

As I said before, the park is located at the foot of Mt. Fuji thus offering visitors a good view of this famous landmark on a clear day. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times. Still, the attractions offered by the park more than made up for it, most especially their Safari Zone.

Safari Zone

The Safari Zone, which is divided into several zones – Tiger, Bears, Lions, Cheetahs, Elephants and various Herbivores,  enables you to witness animals you see in the Discovery and National Geographic Channels roaming freely.

You enter the area by either using your own vehicle or the park’s jungle bus (a modified bus open at both sides with steel cage bars as side panels). But I suggest you go in using the jungle bus because it’s more atmospheric and you will really feel like your in an African Safari adventure. In our case though, we entered it using our tour bus but that did not stop any of us in enjoying ourselves immensely. The whole group (and most of it are adults mind you) literally became like kids in a zoo all craning to see the lion or the bear sunning itself or sleeping in the shade. For my part, entering the area of each zones actually reminded me of Jurassic Park. Each entrances has this enormous gate with a tower-like security post. All clear though, not a T-rex in sight!

Simba up close and personal

A lazy tiger combatting the heat of the day

Find the Bear Amongst the Rocks

Other Attractions

The House of Cats

  • Admission Fee: ¥ 500.00

If you love cats then this place will be your idea of heaven. Cats rules this house. You see them lazily walking by, sunning and even coyly playing with the kids and tourists alike. Although, I did had an encounter with a rather boorish cat (on second thought it might have something to do with me petting the poor thing while it was sleeping when it woke up it was naturally disgruntled).

Met Crookshanks there

Metro-Goldwyn Mayer… a rather sleepy version

The House of Dogs

  • Admission Fee: ¥ 500.00

You will literally be in the dog house! And there is no need for anyone to put you there for you will be there quite willingly. It showcases various small breeds of dogs and allows visitors to spend time with them. hmmm… I personally liked one of the dogs there so cute and ugly. 😉

Met Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua 😉

The Cutest Pug of Them All

Fun Transformation at the Souvenir Shop

Turned into Galena in cooperation with some of Sherma’s friends

MUST DO!

Walking Safari Adventure Tour

  • Admission Fee: ¥ 2,000.00

If you ever had a chance to come to this park make sure you have enough time for the “Walking Safari” attraction. It will take you at least 2 hours to complete the course but it will be worth it since it will allow you to get up close and personal with the various animals in the safari zone. Much closer than you’ll be if you go by their jungle bus. Alas! Much to my regret, Grace and I did not know about this attraction during our visit.

Now if you still have time and cash to spare you can join the park’s “Night Safari” on board one of the park’s jungle bus and observe the animals’ nocturnal behavior with night scopes. Hey, not everyone can afford a Safari vacation in Africa, might as well take the next best thing.

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