An Airbnb and a Van

Last December was a vacation with a different setup. No thanks to the near miss that almost ruined our Christmas and left us with only one parent. The good news she’s a fighter and is recovering fast but to lessen her stress of managing demanding guests, therapist, and helpers in one house, not to mention the growing pets, we all decided to use Airbnb. For the very first time, all of us visiting Bacolod lived in a house that wasn’t ours.

A breakfast at MyPlace.

It was a good thing that we found MyPlace on Airbnb. It appeared among the first set of search results given the number of guests. MyPlace can accommodate 13 with its four bedrooms but since there were only six of us checking in, the first issue we had was picking which room and which bed. Others were very minor and we learned to deal with it. Props to the host, Judith, and her staff who are very professional, organized, and friendly. They made sure we have what we need and familiar with everything, including the wi-fi password, before leaving the whole house to us. MyPlace in Bacolod City is an ancestral house that became our home for seven days.

Tempting to have a party with such space but house rules don’t allow rowdy ones.

On top of a house that’s fully furnished, MyPlace has a two-car garage. This encouraged wifey more to pursue renting a van instead of us flagging a taxi every time we need to go somewhere. In a busy December, it was a sound idea. Her spec includes that the vehicle could take two wheelchairs–one for my mother and one for Marcus–and luckily we found one that my high school friend owns. Vehicle was a white Nissan NV350 with only a few mileage on it.

Shot of the garage from my dash cam that I attached to the van during the entire trip.

I’ve driven several vehicles in the past but never a full size van so I had some anxiety about doing it since the thought of getting a rental started. But no guts, no glory as we used to say in my younger years, so we did and there was no regrets.

The van was surprisingly easy to drive. A few adjustments on day one and minor hiccups like driving with the emergency brake engaged, I picked up faster than expected. NV350 van is diesel and it’s a bit torquey on the first gear but I got used to it soon. Its wide mirrors made it easier to park and maneuver in tight December traffic so I never had any problem driving it. The white van made our trips to the malls, fast food breakfast runs, and every other trips needed a more convenient one. P2000 per day seems worth it.

It was raining on and off so I had to get the van washed at least once.

One week has past since we left Bacolod and join the rat race once more. I miss everyone back there, including our first Airbnb home. Of course I also miss the white Nissan van which has become my new dream car even if it will be hard to fit it in our space. Maybe I’ll stick to the Honda Jazz or maybe I’ll stick to our current City. Perhaps a new paint job to the 11-year old car will do the trick of shaking off that thought of mortgaging a new car.

***

While waiting to pick up sis and family at the Silay airport.

I wasn’t totally honest. There’s actually one thing that annoyed us. Nissans are known for their good air conditioning so I was surprised when the front blowers died while we were on our way to have lunch at Vikings SM Bacolod. My backseat drivers said the rear fans were working fine so we proceeded anyhow. On that same afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to have it checked and we later confirmed that my hunch about a busted fuse was right. It was late in the afternoon when a technician found the blown fuse so he replaced it with the only spare available but one that’s underrated. As expected, it blew up two days later after I absentmindedly turned the blower to full setting. Good thing the fuse box is easy to access so I was able to replace it myself and even bought extra 15 amps spare flat trumpet angle fuses for my friend’s future use. This fact however does not change my newfound love for vans. Marcus loved it too and it fits his wheelchair upright. I must win the lotto soon.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Each small bit of chocolates seem to stuff me up.)

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Evia has Evolved

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.

Evia’s Christmas decor beats the Ayala malls’ we’ve visited.
The tight elevator makes good effect.
At Bulgogi Brothers. Away from fatty pizza and burgers.
Cinema area looks nice.

***

Big question: what’s with malls that they would rather use a PWD elevator than build a ramp?

Evia’s wheelchair/stroller elevator.

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.)

Marcus Can Fly

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.

Me and the crew assisting Marcus after landing.

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.)

I Miss Baguio Weather

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.

First morning straight from a long trip.

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.)

Tough run.

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.

At the PMA camp. Stuff out of his COD game.
His first henna tattoo from the Wright Park.

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.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Avocado shake next.)

Not So Eager Participant

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

Fooling around at Camp John Hay.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks (Sleepy and tired is an understatement.)

Just One Empty Cheap Cologne

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.

12 years in possession.

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?)

History Made Interactive and Fun

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. 

Our bands.

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.

The red wheelchair joins History.

***

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.

These guys dismounted their bikes and willingly posed with Marcus.
Elmer Reyes (in red shirt) welcomed us inside their bike displays and I learned that his group, Laguna Choppers. supports effort to educate PWDs.
History Con showcases local talents. With wifey in front of local illustrators booth.
Marcus tries foosball.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Holiday but woke up early. Running is addicting, isn’t it?)