Sunday, March 28, 2010

basic photography

What did I learn during the Basic Photography Workshop at the PCCI?


Cropped from this picture that I took during Jun Miranda's "Freezing Water" exercise:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

inside the volcano

From Wikipedia: "Mount Pinatubo is an active volcano located on the island of Luzon, at the intersection of the borders of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. Before 1991, the mountain was inconspicuous and heavily eroded. It was covered in dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aeta.

"The volcano's eruption in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century and the largest eruption in living memory. The colossal 1991 eruption had a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6, and came some 450–500 years after the volcano's last known eruptive activity (estimated as VEI 5, the level of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens). Successful predictions of the onset of the climactic eruption led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the surrounding areas, saving many lives, but surrounding areas were severely damaged by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and later by lahars caused by rainwater remobilizing earlier volcanic deposits: thousands of houses and other buildings were destroyed.

"The effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It ejected roughly 10 billion metric tonnes (10 cubic kilometres) of magma, and 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide, bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere—more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883. Over the following months, the aerosols formed a global layer of sulfuric acid haze. Global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C , and ozone depletion temporarily increased substantially."

Nowadays, tourists can visit the crater... which we did last month.

First, you have to get to Capas, Tarlac which is probably the last place in the country without any cellphone signal. You book a Land Cruiser with driver and trek guide and drive through the lahar fields for about 90 minutes.


It's some kinda alien moonscape.

You have to remind yourself that it's lahar, not sand.

Then, you get to the station where all the vehicles park and you have to start walking.

There are candy wrappers and cigarette butts all over the ground. Boo!

It took us 30 minutes, OK?

Start trekking.

Wear waterproof footwear. In our group, only the Crocs survived.

Pretty scenery.

Just when you notice that you've been going uphill all this time and think that you can't take another step in your so-called trekking shoes that are going straight to the trash bin after this... you encounter The Crater Lake!


Hundreds of steps to go down to the crater lake.

In warmer weather, the water loses its jewel-tone green and turns murky brown.

So amazing to have something like this in our own backyard!

Some French girls were swimming.

Even though there was this sign.

You can even go boating... without life jackets... in a lake of undetermined depth.

After you've taken your pictures and admired the swimming girls/scenery, it's time to go back up those hundreds and hundreds of steps.

One last look.

This time, it took us 15 minutes only.

Look for your Land Cruiser, get in and try not to think of the 90 minutes of lahar still to come.

Wishing for air-conditioning at this point.

We were the first to arrive at base!

Reward yourself with a super indulgent crazy expensive meal at C'Italian Restaurant at Clark, Pampanga.

off limits

I was so happy when the Sky Garden at SM City North EDSA opened last year. At last, greenery at the mall! The landscaping was very nice, and I especially liked the art installations that were scattered all around. Young couples, kids and the elderly loved the Sky Garden, too. Finally, a new place in Quezon City where you can feel grass under your feet.

Recently, Bunny Rabbit and I were walking along the Sky Garden and saw this:

Unfortunately, the security guard stopped us from going near it. I was very surprised. That's when I noticed that there were "keep off the grass" signs everywhere now. And even in the landscaped areas with stepping stones, nobody is allowed to step on the stepping stones. I don't get it.

And as for the outdoor art installations which are supposed to be interactive, nobody is allowed to even touch them anymore. Attention, artists. Is this what you want? For your outdoor sculptures to be off limits to the public? You should have just put them indoors then, inside a glass case or behind velvet ropes .

We had to content ourselves with this long shot taken by Bunny Rabbit, with me as the focal point:

Anyway, I heard that it's the same all over Metro Manila. The green areas at the shopping centers such as Greenbelt and Bonifacio High Street now have lots of restrictions regarding stepping on the grass and going near the art. Too bad.

What's the point of having something this beautiful and interesting when you can't get close to it?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

eat sh*t!

You gotta love Manny Pacquaio, the greatest athlete in history and the best doggone interviewee on the planet. He's just too adorable.

That face! That twinkle in his eye! That moustache! That sh*t-eating grin!

My favorite lines:

1. When Matt Eismann said that he liked Manny, the boxer replied, "Yah, I like myself!"

2. When Matt asked him something that he seemed not to understand, he gave a nonchalant "I don't care."

3. When asked to comment about Mexican pugilist Juan Miguel Marquez's habit of drinking his own urine, our Pambansang Kamao (literally means National Fist) Wapakman said, "That's why he wants a rematch, because he just (made a) mistake. He just drink his urine, but he forgot to eat his sh*t... That's why he's not strong enough in the fight, because he just only drink urine."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I made this picture with my Lumix LX3! Just before sunset on 18 March 2010 at Roxas Boulevard.

Courtesy of three grueling (but fun) days with fotoguru Jun Miranda, instructor of the course "Basic Photography" at the Philippine Center for Creative Imaging (PCCI). Idol!

Yez, I know the composition and timing could have been better. No doubt can be tackled during the next photography course.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

quotable quotes

Starbucks Boracay is one of our favorite hang-outs. The coffee is sure to be good, the place has AC, we can read newspapers and magazines for free, and there's a nice view.

Tell me: Is there any other Starbucks in the whole entire world which has a view like this?

The other day when we were there, there were no people at all! We had the whole place to ourselves.

We settled down in the highly-coveted cubbyhole with the couches, and read some newspapers. (The big fight is today, by the way.)

Oh, no. Manny is trying to speak English again.

Quotable quotes:

1. "If you disrespect me, I will never talk to you."

2. "Once we put them on, if he hits me I will hit him."

3. "Yes. Then he can call me or I can call him."

I read the article again and realised that hey, that's not Manny! That's Clottey talking!


Friday, March 12, 2010

why i love jerry

After J.D. Salinger died on my birthday, I resolved to buy the rest of his books. I only had "Catcher In The Rye" and "Franny And Zooey". Thank gad Fully Booked has such a great selection of books that no-one else seems to have. I was able to buy "Nine Stories" And "Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction".

I started reading "Nine Stories" a couple of weeks ago, and although I enjoyed it-- especially "Down At The Dinghy" and "For Esmé-- With Love And Squalor"-- I was still waiting for the thunderbolt. You know, that awful, unbearable truth that only Salinger can write in his particular way. That you will think about late at night in bed, as you stare at the ceiling, wide-eyed. That you read over and over again so often that you'll forget to read the ending. That makes the story unforgettable, haunting you during your day's silent moments.

Tonight, in the last story, "Teddy", I found it. When asked if he loved his parents, ten-year old Buddhist mystic Teddy replied:

I have a very strong affinity for them. They're my parents, I mean, and we're all part of each other's harmony and everything... I want them to have a nice time while they're alive, because they like having a nice time... But they don't love me and Booper-- that's my sister-- that way. I mean they don't seem able to love us just the way we are. They don't seem able to love us unless they can keep changing us a little bit. They love their reasons for loving us almost as much as they love us, and most of the time more. It's not so good, that way.


Photo by Bunny Rabbit using Nikon D40

Thursday, March 11, 2010

what i'll remember: singapore

We arrived in Singapore in the evening, and left in the morning. So instead of five days, we actually only had three full days. Because we weren't used to the heat, we spent our afternoons hiding in the AC comfort of our hotel, so that didn't leave a lot of time to go around. I'll have to plan another trip there.

We were able to go to the Night Safari on our second night. Originally, my parents didn't want to go with me, but as I was about to leave the hotel, they were at the taxi stand waiting for me. (Anovah talaga?) When we got there, Pop said, "Why is it so dark?"

Mom enjoyed the fish nibbling at her feet very much. Freaking expensive at SGD10 for five minutes! I can't believe we extended to ten minutes. But she loooved it so much.

Pop was very impressed by the new casino that's being built near the marina. He called it his giant ship in the sky.

I was awestruck by the Louis Vuitton window at the Ion Orchard. Very nice.

At the basement of the Ion, I saw this and stopped in my tracks.

Takoyaki! Mmm... tasty. The six good-sized balls with a cold matcha-flavored soy milk cost SGD6. Like I said, not cheap.

The last time I was in Singapore was 1996. A lot has changed, but for the better, I think. For one thing, you can smoke on the street now. Just look for a trash bin and stand right next to it. There's always, always toilet paper in the public restrooms, and the toilets flush by themselves. There are no traffic jams to speak of. There's artwork scattered in public spaces. There's greenery everywhere, with nary a leaf out of place. Everything's clean. Everything works. The native population seems to be more relaxed now, compared to Lee Kwan Yew's time, but still anal retentive. Love it!

I end my Singapore blog series with my picture of the Merlion. Look, even the buildings seem to be toeing the line.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

the queen's chocolates

Dear Hot Tuna,

At Changi Airport in Singapore, on the day of our departure, I decided to buy some chocolates. I went to the chocolate displays and was so dumbfounded by the endless array of chocolates that I immediately looked at my watch and thought, "This is going to take a while."

I figured that American chocolates were not worth looking at. Although the Japanese display was quite tantalizing with those cute labels that nobody can understand, i.e. you're never sure what your package will reveal when you get home-- I decided to stick to European chocolates.

I steered clear of the Toblerone, my favorite, because they are available everywhere and not worth lugging around. I picked up a box of Belgian seashell pralines. I felt that I was being boring, but I held on to it as a safety net. My other choices would be more adventurous. I needed my seashells in case my other purchases turned out yucky.

I chanced upon a shelf of liquer-filleds, or in some cases, liquor-filled. I bought a box of vodka chocolates for myself, and for my sister-in-law, rum chocolates. Because every girl needs chocolates and alcohol sometimes.

Bunny Rabbit had recently taken a liking to after-dinner mints. I zeroed in on this box.

It says: "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen manufacturers of chocolates Bendick's (Mayfair) Ltd Winchester"

I bought the Queen's chocolates. Tonight, we ate them.

Bunny Rabbit and I both like it. Our first experience of Bendick's Chocolate Mint Crisps is this hit of peppermint going up our nostrils. It clears the sinuses, as if to prepare us for the initial bite.

As we were chewing, there was a strange crunchy texture, but only what CSI would call "trace amounts". The crunchy bits melted away after a second. Perhaps it was the "crisp honeycomb pieces (10%)" as it says on the box.

And then came the chocolate coating the tongue. It's dark and slightly bitter, a perfect foil for the sweet refreshing peppermint.

So, am I making you want to go out and get some Bendick's now?

Incidentally, we were watching "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren earlier. Bunny Rabbit was totally into it. He was so outraged that the royal family could be portrayed that way. We were halfway through when the DVD quit. Blasted pirated DVDs!

All the best,

near-miss before take-off

On 22 Feb 2010, as I was about to step out of our taxi at the airport in Manila to catch our flight to Singapore, a huge-ass van drove up next to me, hit the taxi's door and almost tore it off its hinges.

Good thing I didn't get out yet.

It was funny how the van's passengers and our little coterie completely ignored one another. We just left the two drivers to work things out and rushed to our check-in counters.

Ah, Mabuhay Class is truly the only way to fly international. Too bad the food was excruciatingly horrid. Like we were being punished or something.

Gave new meaning to the phrase "rubber chicken".

The service was fantastic, though. And the view-- the cloud formations were kind of unusual that day.

Super squeaky-clean windshield.

We arrived in Singapore in time for dinner. After checking in at the Meritus Mandarin on Orchard Road, we crossed the street to Paragon where we found the Crystal Jade Restaurant on the fifth floor.

Still busy at 9:30pm.

Since it was our first time at Crystal Jade and we were tired and hungry, we ordered some safe bets...

The hot and sour soup warmed the tummy.

The stuffed scallops were pretty good. I ordered salt and pepper fried scallops, though. Miscommunication.

But we couldn't resist a few things that were out of the ordinary.

A slice of crispy pork on top of some goose liver and a pancake. The whole thing was about 3cm across and cost US$7.50 EACH!

Yez, it's a duck's foot. With the web and all.

Wiped out by Pop.

Verdict: Crystal Jade was just so-so, OK lah. It was our first night in Singapore and although I noticed that the food was not spectacular, I thought that maybe it was just me. After going through my pictures and trying to remember how everything tasted, I realised that our meal was really not that great. But the service staff were nice and I loved the decor.

P.S. Two days earlier, in Manila, my wallet got stolen at The Landmark Department Store at Trinoma. I was going up the escalator when this girl wearing a surgical mask brushed against me. A few minutes later, I became aware that my handbag was open. My wallet was gone. I lost my ATM cards, credit cards and my driver's license. My cash was not in my wallet. Haha! The joke's on you, surgical mask stealer girl!

I asked for assistance from The Landmark's security guard, who told me to "just go to Customer Service, ma'am." Eff-ing useless! I immediately got on my phone and called all my banks to block my cards. I didn't bother looking for the thief. All she had to do was remove her mask and I would never recognise her. Also, she was most likely part of a gang. If I had confronted her, her companions would have come to her assistance, and I was all alone. I could have been stabbed and left exsanguinating on the floor, and the eff-ing incompetent security guards would tell me to go bleed at Customer Service.

So first my wallet, then two days later, I almost got killed by a Toyota Grandia. This explains my previous remark about malignant forces surrounding me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

side trip to arabia

I wanted to go to Arab Street because of Haji Lane, but Arab Street itself was very interesting, too. The shophouses were so photogenic. Most were selling textiles and carpets.

Check out that kooky building that looks like a flat sheet hanging in mid-air.

The center of the community is their massive mosque, which looks sexy (!) from any angle.

I knew that I wanted fish head curry that day, but it completely slipped my mind that we were in the wrong part of town. Good thing we didn't have to go to Little India. I asked a shopkeeper if there was any decent fish head curry around, and he told us to go to the back of the mosque and cross the street.

Verdict: It was forgettable. In fact, I'd already forgotten the name of the restaurant. The fish head curry was OK, but while eating it, I knew that it was better somewhere else. But we were all starving and short-tempered by that time, so it was lucky that what I wanted, albeit a pale version, was available right there. We also had a chicken dish and a squid dish, but I can't remember how they tasted.