We broke routine this weekend. Christmas is getting closer and yesterday’s advisory on SLEX’s LED monitors showed hint that grinches, I mean shoppers, are flocking to Alabang onwards. But luck was on our side this time.
Our recent plan to check out Evia Lifestyle Center once more was timed right. For the first time I drove coming from Calamba to Daang Hari via MCX and parted ways from motorists on SLEX who were then pacing slowly like reindeer-less Santa sleighs. Traffic to this mall in the middle of the Villar-owned properties was light with only a slight hitch at the toll gate. Thanks to RFID we got through faster than those queuing at the cash lanes.
Evia has evolved and improved a whole lot since we first set foot two years ago. It now has more stores and more parking spaces. Basement parking is also now open and there’s an extended parking area across the mall close to Petron gas station where free shuttle service to and from the mall is available from 10 AM until 10 PM.
Evia Lifestyle Center is part of the growing Vista Mall chain and construction is ongoing. I realized this must be the reason some of the guards are as confused as us. We asked a couple of them for directions to the cinemas and we were advised we can take the escalators with Marcus in his wheelchair. We obliged despite protest but soon figured there are two elevators we should’ve used. First is the one that’s only until the 2nd floor and another that reaches the cinema level.
Evia’s 3rd level offers more than just movies. We discovered after spending a thousand for two persons for dinner that there are cheaper alternatives like pizza, pasta, burgers, churros, and even street food snacks. No regrets though as Bulgogi Brothers served us a nice hotpot plus the staff were very accommodating.
Evia has a newly-opened iMax cinema but Marcus has his mind set to the new Fortnite season and was also anxious to get back home to see our dog which is why we skipped the movies this time. Anyway I’m sure we’ll be back some other time soon.
Big question: what’s with malls that they would rather use a PWD elevator than build a ramp?
Ayala Town Center has this similar elevator which remained broken until our last visit and it was the reason I didn’t like going there anymore. Hopefully they already fixed it is our access to the cinemas, North Park, and the sports store that sells nice shoes. Wink, wink.
Mood: 5/10 Honks! (Weather’s nice but I got cold to deal with.)
An ultralight adventure got us back to Pampamga. After more than 10 years I drove the car up the north route again, its seven of eight good spark plugs doing their job. Our unplanned stopover at the Total NLEX gas station where wifey and I got locked out before made the trip even more nostalgic.
Last year I read about ultralights flight being safe and affordable and since then I wished we’d someday do it. A month ago a friend’s video on an ultralight became the final reminder so we booked our son for his first ever ultralight flight.
The drive to Angles City Flying Club took about four hours in a surprisingly moderate traffic on a Saturday morning. One hundred and sixty kilometers later we arrived at our destination although we later learned Waze could have done better had it directed us to Mabalacat exit instead of Mexico, Pampanga.
Incidentally, World Ultralight Fly-In (WUFI) 2018 was also happening that same day so Marcus had to stay and wait in the queue with other eager flyers. There were five ultralights per batch. Our son was number 29.
Marcus soon took off and didn’t back out of it but the other kid in his batch did bail out so a second take off was made. Flight time above the scenic Woodland Airpark in Sitio Talimundok, Pampanga was about 15 minutes with his pilot giving him a taste of how to control the nimble ultralight sometime during flight.
A copy of the video we received a week later would confirm what Marcus said he experienced. Strapped and having poor control of his muscles, he wasn’t able to look around while up in the air. He said he was limited to what he could see up front and within his peripheral vision. Nevertheless, another achievement unlocked. Marcus was able to fly.
Luck was on my side that day. Vince from Travellog.Ph who assisted booking Marcus for this event offered me a free ulttalight ride. I’ve done static skydive and tandem skydive in the past so I thought nothing could be more exciting. The ultralight flight proved me wrong.
Here are tips for a better ACFC ultralight flight experience.
1. Bring a GoPro. ACFC’s 15-minute flight is only Php2,888 but availing the package that includes shirt and photo-video costs an additional Php1,700. Shirt was cool but the photo and video aren’t worth it. So bring a GoPro if you have one as the plane has a GoPro mount.
2. Memory, memory, memory. I didn’t avail the photo-video package (firstly, got my ride for free) so I used a traditional Canon point-and-shoot attached to a selfie stick to record my flight. I was enjoying every bit of the experience when in the middle of the flight the dreaded “insufficient memory” error started showing up. Sucks that the thrilling turns and stalls weren’t captured.
3. Pick your pilot. Ask around, look for dizzy yet happy passengers when the planes land. I flew with a crazy local pilot and it made the free flight double the fun. Check my video above. Find that guy.
Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Sunny Sunday and I wish we could fly again.)
Contrary to what I believe that Baguio is no longer cold as before, no thanks to climate change, I was in for a surprise when we stepped out of our rented Foton View Traveller van after a 5-hour trip.
The place still chills almost like California. “It’s like US,” Marcus exclaimed when the early morning air of Camp John Hay hit him. Our initial plan was to travel light and ditch thick clothing but good thing I got the Accuweather app so I packed hoodies and jackets for us before we left Batangas. Brewed coffee from 7-11 wouldn’t have been enough if I didn’t check the forecast.
Temperature was about 16 degrees Celsius and peaked at 26 around noon. Obviously far better than the scorching 32 degrees back home. Home where it’s hot and humid that running has become more challenging. Waking up from a sweaty sleep wasn’t a problem though.
Like this morning I had to make an effort to put on my running gear to do a 5K. I wouldn’t have done it if not for the servings of strawberry–fresh from Baguio–that I turned to milkshake yesterday. I downed 600 plus calories out of that sweet guilty pleasure. (My curiosity of how much calories the shake would make had me use MyFitnessPal’s recipe entry for the first time.)
Baguio weather is perfect for runners although its hilly terrain is a different story. We stayed in a transient house located somewhere in Wakat which has roads so steep that I almost let go of the idea of running the moment I saw the inclined first hundred meters right out of gate. I summoned enough motivation to continue nevertheless.
Aided by Waze I completed a 10K run to Burnham Park and back that Saturday morning. It was a cold run. I had two layers of clothing and bonnet for my shiny bald head. Every now and then I would see breath vapor or steam forming as I run. I now miss that day.
Do I want to return to Baguio. Yes and no.
Yes because it’s cold and good for running. That’s it. Why I might not return has more reasons mostly centered on Marcus’ perspective.
While he enjoyed the sights and adventure during the three days and two nights vacation, wheelchair access was a big issue. Sadly, there are just limitations despite our best in trying to help him out.
Sanitation was also an issue for Marcus. He’s very picky especially when it comes to toilet cleanliness so his portable urinal was our best friend.
I on the other hand despise litter. More so now that I have to push Marcus’ wheelchair around. Burnham Park was a disappointing sight for one. Trash can be found scattered, people ignored the no spitting signs, and vermin fed on residual food dumped carelessly around the park. On the bright side. Marcus was fascinated that the rats seem unafraid of him staring at them. Well, Baguio’s next tourist attraction? Hope not.
Day 2 in Baguio and so far so good than expected. Marcus is able to hold himself from manifesting his bratty side but every now and then it would rear its ugly head. His patience has random limits.
Still he, or we, is getting along well with the rest of the group. Must be his age or must be the new adventure away from his Xbox games or must be my constant reminder for him to behave especially when in front of other people.
I just hope that this isn’t the last time that we get to mingle with our relatives and I really hope Marcus continues to have a positive outlook in life whether he can walk or not.
Here are shots I took at the house of the late John Hay
Mood: 5/10 Honks (Sleepy and tired is an understatement.)
Declutter. Dispose whatever is not needed. These are rules I’ve been following, or trying to follow, regardless if a stuff is something sentimental or not. I’ve disposed a lot and surprisingly so far I didn’t have any regrets. Must be the effect of reading about minimalism on my Facebook timeline.
If I could walk the talk was once again tested last night. While looking for a tool I found an empty cheap cologne container. There’s nothing special to it if not for how and where it was kept. It was among my valuable keepsakes.
By some interesting coincidence, exactly 12 years ago I took this cheap cologne on a special trip. Its scent filled my room each morning while I get ready for the day’s equipment training, it competed with the aroma of strong brewed coffee and fresh breakfast muffins I would hoard from Holiday Inn’s little pantry. The smell reminds me of Watertown, Wisconsin which was my first trip to the US, one that was unexpected. There’s some anxiety but I am now letting go of this cheap cologne. One stuff down, more to go.
I was contemplating on getting our cable subscription disconnected as we seldom watch the tube anymore. Every now and then we would but Netflix was tough competition. Plus there’s Marcus who has commandeered our flat TV.
So wifey had a win-win idea: Transfer the cable connection to our bulky Sony Wega. This got me occupied after dinner last night which led me to finding the cologne bottle ahead of the tools that I really need. Need to declutter more I guess.
Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Some trivial suffs do keep big memories, don’t they?)
We’ve all been there. For once in our lives we sat in a classroom checking our watches, looking out the window, doodling like each stroke matters, daydreaming in between, and wondering when our history teacher finally ends ‘his story.’ It’s the history subject as we know it.
History was inescapable and it’s a fact that those who don’t know history is condemned to repeat it or, at the very least, flunk it. So no matter how we dislike listening for hours about what happened in the distant past, we persevered to pass this subject among other demanding classes. I don’t exactly know but I suspect that it’s either the claustrophobic classrooms or our monotonous history teachers–or a combination of both–who’s to be blamed for our utter lack of interest in this subject matter. Whatever or whoever it was, we survived this class anyhow and highly likely promised ourselves to never attend anything that has got to do with it ever again if possible.
Then came the History Channel. This cable TV channel presents engaging documentaries and shows for all audiences, not to mention no boring teachers. But some say there are flaws to the facts presented on TV, some say it’s commercialized history—not only on History Channel but those on TV in general. Fine, argument acknowledged. Not one learning setting may be perfect but no thanks, count me out of future history classes unless it is interactive and fun.
This is how History Channel changed the game. It puts a brand to the once bland subject, history. Because of this channel there is now better recall and mere mention of the H word attracts more attention than it used to.
So last weekend we became part of history. Thanks to a Facebook friend who is affiliated with our cable TV provider, we got two passes for the event for free and only paid for Marcus’ entrance. That Sunday we found ourselves inside a packed History Con 2017 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. It was the second year History Channel sponsored the event and this time they say was bigger, better, bolder.
More than its interesting exhibits, H Con 2017 made the experience a whole lot better with the warm treatment Marcus got from different people: ticket agents, bouncers, exhibitors, shuttle driver and even the janitor (the restroom was clean!!!) all did a superb job making Marcus enjoy the day.
Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Holiday but woke up early. Running is addicting, isn’t it?)
A very rare opportunity happened this last weekend. Thanks to family coming from San Francisco, our party of nine once again reunited in Palawan for a weekend experience that would likely remain in our memories forever. It was three days of ups and downs, of uncertain weather, of adventures we didn’t know what to expect but ended enjoying it nevertheless.
Day one. The three of us– wifey, Marcus, and I–arrived ahead of everyone in Puerto Princesa and were picked up by Munting Paraiso‘s shuttle for an early check in. We stayed in room number nine and sis and family would take eight. My mother, father, and elder sister stayed somewhere nearby, Paboreal, where we all converged for lunch before our first Palawan vacation activity.
Friday afternoon was spent on a subtle city tour. It was our first feel of the dizzying Puerto Princesa City’s streets. We passed by their baywalk, the crocodile and Mitra farms, Baker’s Hill, and a souvenir market. All these getting in and out of the van plus the unusually humid weather worked up our appetite for dinner. Our elder sister who previously visited Puerto Princesa reserved accommodation for us in one of the city’s popular resto called KaLui but since the place sticks to its 6 PM opening so we waited for an hour in their garden. It felt like an eternity. Good thing that the long wait was worth it.
KaLui is a Filipino-themed restaurant. Its structure, wooden furnitures, menu, and yes, its observance of an old-fashioned practice of removing footwear upon stepping inside the place made us feel like visiting a home rather than a commercial establishment. Our low-seating arrangement complemented the native dining experience. KaLui has interesting artifacts and even has a mini art gallery, and a restroom so clean that walking in barefoot didn’t matter. Too bad I didn’t return to take a picture of the restroom as I got busy tasting everything that was served on our table. Its local brew was nice as well but I soon learned it was pricey than San Miguel.
The sky opened up early Saturday morning and it felt like nothing could be accomplished that day. We all left for the Underground River tour anyway in spite of heavy downpour but without wifey and Marcus. Good thing our tour guide kept the rainy drive interesting for everyone including our foreign guests as he speaks good English and provides insights about the place. We reached the port after about an hour and 30 minutes.
Weather improved when we reached the ferry port. Only challenge left was to have our 82-year old father get on the ferry and deal with some slight bumpy ferry trip to the Underground River. All efforts paid off when we started getting a glimpse of the rock formations along the coastline. The main attraction would be more striking.
While the briefing on our way gave us some idea on what to expect, our senses were overwhelmed the moment we entered the cave. The Underground River is a spectacle and it is hypnotic. I find it also a blessing that my automated voice module didn’t work because all I heard were natural noises. The rhythmic splash of the paddle, the echo of the boatman’s voice, the sounds of bats flying all over the cave, and the water dripping from the cracks above with some of it hitting our hard hats every now and then. Darkness during the entire trip cut only by the lights from our and other boatmen’s helmet added to the sense of mystery and awe. Then there’s that distinct stink of guano. All elements combined beat any movie visual and sound effects. No question that the Underground River is among the seven natural wonders of the world.
Part of the tour package is a buffet lunch at Gusto Grill and Resto where the highlight would be the chance to try their exotic offer, the Tamilok. I learned that this local delicacy is a mollusk rather than a worm which explains why despite its intimidating length and texture it actually tastes like oyster. My father and I had one serving each and we could’ve taken more. Too bad our American guest didn’t dare touch it.
Sunday started just like the day before. Peaking out of our room’s native Zebra blinds reveals that we’re in for another soaky day. It’s a make or break day especially for wifey and Marcus who got left behind yesterday. I don’t want them to remember their Palawan vacation as just staying in the room and swimming in the pool so we braved the rains. Marcus was excited to do some driving adventure on our last day.
We headed to MAX Palawan with anxiety if the rain would let up. With Marcus in mind, quitting was an option if rain continues to pour hard. Fortunately, luck was on our side and it was like heavens just readied our day’s playground. After few minutes spent putting on our safety gears and a quick orientation, we got ourselves strapped in the dune buggy. My sister partnered with my wife in the other car while my in-law and their son got on their respective ATVs.
The track was rocky, twisting, undulating, and muddy. And we enjoyed it. It was wet and wild and exhilarating. MAX Palawan’s dune buggy allowed me to drive with ‘controlled recklessness.’ Marcus enjoyed his role as navigator and never cared if mud and puddle water came splashing in. That’s my boy, willing to get dirty to save the day. We definitely didn’t regret picking this forty-five minute adventure over snorkeling or scuba diving. MAX Palawan is on Facebook , check them out.
We beat the clock on our way back to the hotel. Barely clean after a quick pressure hosing just to remove the clumps of dirt, we settled in MAX Palawan’s van with most of us still wearing our clay-stained clothes. Thanks to the preparation wifey did in the morning, we were able to accomplish the fastest check out we’ve ever done. We transferred to a cheap hotel as we wait for our flight to Manila.
Our Palawan weekend was short and sweet. We didn’t really get to see the other popular attractions but the fact the we spent the weekend with family in a place we’ve visited for the very first time makes the experience irreplaceable. I also like that we were able to prove the advisories wrong. Philippines is still generally peaceful and its people and places could still create an experience that we could be proud of especially to our foreign guests. There will be a next time, we will be back.
Munting Paraiso is good place for groups or individuals who prefer quiet accommodation as it has only less than 12 rooms and it is located 1-2 kilometers from the city proper. The way the streets going to the hotel are setup also made it appear farther.
Their rooms’ interior and exterior designs are good and I think each of it has a veranda with a native hammock where one could lazily hang out while waiting for their next adventure.
Lighting though is dim so reading books could be a challenge at night. We had a hard time assembling Marcus’ new Lego as we had to use cellphone lights to follow the instructions.
I also learned later that my sis family’s room has a foul smell which my in-law said could be a backed up drain which prompted them to transfer to another hotel the day we parted ways. So it seems like it wasn’t me smelling guano when I entered our room’s restroom coming from the Underground River trip. My clogged nose that weekend was a blessing in disguise.
Is Palawan PWD-friendly?
Trips are always a challenge with someone in a wheelchair. So strangers who offer help are always appreciated. One offered to carry my son’s wheelchair so we can see the bigger crocs at the crocodile farm’s elevated walkway but since I can still carry him I politely declined it.
The tour guide also assured that they could accommodate Marcus and his wheelchair had we decided to bring him along. The wheelchair may be left somewhere at the finish area of the Underground River tour.
MAX Palawan was also PWD-friendly. They picked us up and the wheelchair fit just fine inside their van. The buggy’s four-point harness also ensured a safe ride for a 9-year old boy.
I received a call from an unknown number while taking a siesta in D’ Lucky Garden Inn. It was from the airport clinic in Cebu. The caller advised that my mother got sick coming from Palawan and while waiting for their transfer flight to Bacolod. Good thing the doctor soon allowed her to be transferred to Mactan Doctors Hospital with my father in a wheelchair tagging along. I felt helpless that we can’t be there for them at that moment. My elder sister who got another airline eventually arrived there and took charge. They all missed their flights but were out of the hospital the next day with the doctor allowing my mother to fly back to Bacolod. Whew. Definitely a weekend to remember.
Mood: 2/10 Honks! (We’re almost back in shape. Marcus and I were nursing a cough while in Palawan.)