Fix the Road to Tagaytay First!

I’m beginning to appreciate nationalism especially after Ondoy struck the country. I’m proud that a lot of people extended their helping hands to the unprecedented number of unfortunate individuals who are devastated by the typhoon. And the video with Apl. De. Ap is one of those that helped somehow uplift the spirit of unity and hope within each Filipino.

While I appreciate the efforts that our Department of Tourism has made to tap one of Black Eyed Peas member to promote our country, I cannot seem to stop my head from shaking almost like our car’s bobhead whenever I drive by the 20-kilometer stretch of the Aguinaldo highway on my way to and from school. It makes me always think if foreigners wonder what is worth their while in Tagaytay that they have to suffer the bumpy ride going there which is made worse by occasional traffic.

Yes, you read it right—occasional. For some good reason, my recent trips have been shortened by about half of what it used to take. If what I heard from my drinking buddies are correct, then the opening of the newly built road somewhere in Bacoor did decongest traffic flow. I have travelled several times this week and volume of vehicles is not the main cause of traffic anymore but rather the existence of the ever cratered-roads—potholed is a weak adjective.

But do not rejoice yet, you Cavite politicians—you know who you are. Before you smile and raise a toast for having at least one blog site appreciate your Molino road project, you’re wrong.  This project has been long overdue and you still have more things to do and patching up those craters of Aguinaldo Highway with thin layer of asphalt is not one of those. If you want to impress our foreign tourists, fix the road to Tagaytay first.

***

Another sad news for the tourism industry that I read today is about a couple of deadly crimes that occurred during the opening of the Masskara festival in Bacolod. What makes this news more disappointing is the fact that this actually isn’t the first time.

During every Masskara festival, the Bacolod plaza is basically a vast beer garden (among the other daily activities such as street dancing, etc.) and it therefore means one thing—lots of people are drunk, supposedly in the name of merrymaking, and they mingle with the sober public. When this happens, it’s like an accident or, more aptly, a crime waiting to happen.

It’s frustrating that Bacolod City’s public officials always fail to put controls to its annual event. To make it more frustrating, a large police station is just right in front of the Bacolod City plaza where the center of activity is. I don’t know what’s keeping them from ensuring a safe and a truly festive environment for both locals and tourists. So unless they get their acts together, they should expect only one mask expression in 2010—a pouty—and they can just forget about being called the City of Smiles. Ti abi.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Hope I can watch the ANC forum’s replay of its recent interview with the four presidentiables.)

Tagaytay Adventure

Just when I thought that another of our Tagaytay trip would be spent in any of our comfort zones—Starbucks, Carlos Pizza, Yellow Cab or just feeling the chilly wind in People’s Park—I was so happy when another idea came into the picture. We thought why not bring our baby boy to Residence Inn for a change. It would be his first and ours have been several years already since the last time. Besides, being inside the mall on a Sunday is already starting to be a bore for all of us.

The plan turned out to be better than expected. Coming from La Salette after hearing mass, my wife remembered that foods are not allowed to be brought inside the place so we decided to have lunch before coming in. After discussing where we’ll have our noontime meal, we chose Bag of Beans. It was just I and wifey when we first dropped by late evening last year. This time we tried the rest of their menus.

Bag of beans with Marcus
It’s no Starbucks, but believe me it may even be better.

After the hearty lunch of breakfast menus we headed straight to our main destination – Residence Inn’s zoo. Its parking seems to be a letdown because I can’t exactly remember if I parked our car several years ago inside (or near the inn’s entrance) or it’s been this way that parking for visitors is just along the road side left entrusted to the pasalubong vendors. Another surprising thing we soon discovered was that the entrance fee has already soared from just around Php 70 to Php 199. Ti abi. No fee for kids two years old and below.

The steep fee wasn’t that bad once we stepped inside. Seeing our little boy wide-eyed at the white lion just at the start of the trail cheered me up. And sooner as we went along the other cages in the zoo, my wife and I became like small kids as well.

Welcome parrot
This parrot welcomes everyone and must be the most photographed among other birds and animals.
Inns route
Be ready to spare an hour to complete the map.
Overlooking view
Stopping to check the overlooking view.

We spent more than an hour roaming around the whole zoo. Our baby boy, although being carried all the time, has already fallen asleep right after the last stop at the aquariums. Little did we know that the best of this trip is yet to come. We would visiting the Paradizoo farm through the Inn’s coaster–all inclusive from the entrance fee we paid earlier. Not bad. If they would have made this clear in the first place, I would not have complained.

Free turon
Free turon for everyone. You may get as much as you want – nice way to get the most out of the Php 199 entrance fee.

The ride from Rsidence Inn to Paradizoo took approximately 15 minutes where we were welcomed by a tour guide. I never thought that the farm visit would be organized as I was thinking that we would be dropped off and left on our own to discover what’s in it and just to be picked up after an hour. Gladly, another of my assumption and expectation that day came to be wrong once more.

Farm route
First stage of the Paradizoo Inn tour.
Veggie garden
Farm’s vegetable garden.
Souvenir shop
The farm also has a souvenir shop (right) and a cafeteria (left).

I never knew that our Sunday would be like no other Sundays and that somewhere in Tagaytay are two better places than the pricey coffee shops or pizza parlors. Being closer to nature and seeing the animals at the zoo are more exciting and educational than being inside the air-conditioned and over-crowded noisy malls.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks!

1000 Kilometers, 1 B-Movie, 3 Coffees

Yesterday, I had to bring the car back to Honda for its first 1000 km check-up even if it meant having only three hours of sleep and waking up by mid-day after a stressful 12-hour graveyard shift. I was at Honda Alabang at exactly 1 PM as scheduled.

Expecting the check-up to last only for about two hours, I spent some time eating in their homely cafeteria and appreciating the customer lounge’s comfy couch and widescreen TV which was showing an HBO thriller. I likewise tried some cat naps to fill my lack of sleep.

Two hours later I was called by the service agent but to my dismay it was just to fill in the service form and the actual check-up would commence right after I completed the needed details. I learned that the check-up itself would be after another two hours more. Damn. Two more hours of reruns. I was craving for strong caffeine already.

An idea then came up. ATC here I go again. I was thinking I could get doze off inside the cinema. Ironically, as I was preparing myself for a 115-peso sleep, my body, as if under hypnotism led me to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. My brain was trying to sleep but my body craved for caffeine. Just great. Inside me was an ongoing battle if who the really boss is.

So my body got its coffee, my brain came next and it was selecting between four movies. Well a sleep is what I need so the sleepy brain picked what seems to be a B-movie. Dreamland in the next few minutes.

Right after I grabbed my ticket for the movie Cloverfield, I excitedly entered the cool and almost vacant cinema, and then picked my spot away from the scattered moviegoers. I don’t normally enter in the middle of a film, but sleep was the main purpose.

I was 30 minutes late from the start of the movie and my brain was already trying to prep itself into snoozefest. I don’t know if I’m that dazed as I find the scenes quite dizzying but I realized sooner that it’s part of the movie’s effect. The Blair Witch Project came into my mind–Cloverfield is set to first person perspective thus creating an amateur effect. Perfect. A copycat is what I need to fall asleep.

I don’t know if my brain succeeded into getting its much needed sleep even after my body got its dose of the strong and large Americano. I never knew who won the who-is-the-boss struggle but I woke up watching movie trailers. So I looked at my watch and it was just an hour and a half. The movie finished earlier than I expected. It was a short film.

Upon checking my cellphone I found out that Honda still has not sent me an SMS to claim Mary. That gave me another hour to kill. So the curiosity to confirm if I was having nightmares while inside the cinema or had actually witnessed a weird ending of the movie made me decide to watch the film from the very beginning.

The trailers ended. The cinema lights once again dimmed and the featured movie starts once again. And just as I find the ending weird enough, the start itself is just as unpredictable. A couple of people actually booed after seeing the chroma bars and as some weird text negatives uncontrollably started appearing and rolling. Unknown to most of us, the film has started.

Cloverfield’s plot I soon found out is about a couple of young New Yorkers having a farewell party for a friend.One of them is taking a documentary of everything in the apartment. Some are recording their wishes and goodbyes in the video.

The twist of the story came. While at the peak of the merry-making a loud noise is heard and the place shakes with all the lights in every building outside going out momentarily. What happens next is reminiscent of the 911 attack. There is panic. Buildings crumble. People running around the ravaged and dusty streets. Everything looks surreal.

Chaos and confusion ensue and the video shakes further and everything blurs. Then the amateur cam captures a monstrous creature that would put Godzilla to shame.  It delivers a damaging blow to the Brooklyn Bridge and it decapitates the historic Statue of Liberty sending the head crashing on the parked cars miles away. Suddenly, I feel like I was among those running for their lives. Surprisingly, I was beginning to enjoy the movie. I was immersed.

As the plot thickens, and as emotions and mayhem intensify, I felt something in my thigh beginning to vibrate and buzz. I was wondering if I was experiencing a 4D sensation but damn, it was my cellphone alarm going off. It was time for me to leave. Never before have I hated leaving a B-movie. I went out  feeling bad not having finished the show. I walked out as if with the dilemma if I’ll stay and finish all of it or getting Mary out before Honda closes at 6 PM.

My mind’s made up. Ten minutes before closing time I was back in Honda’s service area. It’s getting dark outside when I drove away, and I was still thinking of what I’ve just watched. I was hoping that I’ll be transported back to Cloverfield and would have cared less if Mary and I gets entangled in the devastation. I really got hooked.

***

There were a couple more coffee shops Mary brought us within its 1000 km break-in period. She brought us to Bag of Beans in Tagaytay after a cold night dinner at Leslie’s with my wife’s brother and sister-in-law.

A week after that, we took the Talisay road going to Sto. Tomas Batangas. Mary endured the steep, tight and blind turns with me having her just at second gear for almost 15 kilometers to avoid careening off the road. Eventually, that trip took us to a cozy and warm coffee shop in Tanauan, Dairymoor.

And the verdict? All three coffees taste the same. I just can’t remember which shop costs the least. Definitely not The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

***

Wrote this blog’s draft while at our company’s parking lot, waiting for my wife.

 

Mary

“Freedom!!!” – William Wallace, Braveheart

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” – Ellen Goodman, RD Dec 2007 All In a Day’s Work

I’ve been holding on creating my first blog for this New Year, 2008, just because I find my recent ones were leaning on my pessimistic side. And so for a couple of weeks I was like someone in rehab trying to control my urge to an addiction. I promised myself that I’ll start this year’s blog at least with some positivity in it. Well, I will try.

During the start of this work week—Sunday–I found a new way to entertain myself while on the bus to work: I shut the curtains, close my eyes and guess which part of the trip I’m currently at. Amazingly, I rate myself 90% correct most of the time I’d take a look out of the window. I did it again on Monday with the same accuracy. But on Tuesday, I got an email that implies I might not be doing it for long. Thankfully? The email says “Please claim your guarantee letter.” Hmm. The one-liner worked like magic that day. It was like espresso.

That was the start of a covert operation that lasted for two days. Every time I got home and asked by my wife how my day went, I answered half-truths and half lies. “It was another stressful day…I had a bad day.” I’d picture myself as someone tied to a chair in musky room lit only by a swaying incandescent bulb but never saying anything to my interrogators. Deep inside, I was grinning hard like Joker in Batman ever ready with a plan. The secret tasks include maintaining a poker face during our discussions; deleting any sent items on my cellphones and emails just in case she checks about anything regarding the subject matter.

***

D-day came.

After waking up early today, I got the perfect alibi–I’m going out for a birthday celebration of a colleague. I left home with my car documents stashed inside by backpack appearing to be just going for a casual beer party. Instead I was heading to Honda Cars Alabang.

I mentioned in my blog before that I’ve been there like a car buff’s ghost yearning for a subcompact sedan. Well that wish is granted at last. Just more than four hours after I arrived there and with several documents signed and payments (there goes my savings!) I got out of the dealership with Mary, our lovely new Honda City.

Hurriedly yet safely, I drove and went back home. To my surprise my wife still remains clueless when I arrived. She was thinking that the car was someone else’s. She can’t believe that it’s the car we’ve been waiting for. If I said I was grinning like Joker, I saw her grin like Jim Carey in The Mask when I confirmed that it’s ours. Yes, that broad. To say she was happy to see it would be an understatement.

We gave Mary a quick trip together to Tagaytay, grabbed some Starbucks coffee and headed back home. That’s our way of breaking in the engine and the cup holders. Sweet.

Now this is New Year. Our New Year with Mary.

And by the way, ever wondered why we named it Mary? The name is from my colleague who is celebrating his 50th birthday today. Bawi na lang ako next time. But thanks for giving me the perfect alibi.

honda-city
Worth the wait.

Rio and Gino

 “The owner doesn’t pick the car, the car picks its owner” – Transformers, The Movie

This week Rio and Gino captured my attention. Rio is good. Gino is bad.

My recent promotion gave us hope to start considering a new car. So last week, despite my nagging headache and pouring monsoon rain, we dropped by the car showrooms near our place. I never knew that the idea of picking a prospective car would be more exciting than I imagined. Nope these are not Jeremy Clarkson’s favorites, but new cars nonetheless.

We dropped by Toyota first and inside I noticed that the saleslady was attractive…err, the cars I mean. Unfortunately, the car model we are looking for wasn’t on display as the sales agent said that we actually dropped by just a day ahead of its launching date. So instead we were given a catalog and an invitation for the next day’s unveiling event. (We weren’t able to attend it.)

Our next stop was Kia. From outside the glass door, I peered at the red shiny car but with my mind playing images of the Top Gear’s hosts sneering at it. Then someone from the poorly lit office led us in for us to take a closer look at the Korean underdog.

It was then that we were introduced to and greeted by Rio—Kia’s 2007 subcompact model. (I learned later that it is this year’s COTY for its category). Upon closer look and subsequent discussion with the sales agent we realized that it is within the price range of Toyota Vios’ base model. What make it standout from its Toyota counterpart are its features–power locks, windows and yes, the engine. Based on these, it seems like it could give the Japanese manufacturer a run for their money. Well, it looks like Kia’s “The Power to Surprise” tagline is proving itself true.

A couple of days after that, I received an unexpected invitation to test drive it. And of course, I’m not that foolish to let such opportunity slip away. I was so excited that I arranged for it to be done first thing on a Tuesday morning. On that day, I arrived on time for the test drive and learned that I’ll be driving a silver automatic Rio. Actually, any color will do for me, but the red one on display would have been better.

Since it was my first time to drive an automatic transmission car, I had a couple of minutes familiarizing myself with its gear shift and getting used to the weird feeling that one pedal is missing. The rest after that went smoothly. The car performed great on rough roads and executed an almost seamless acceleration. It was sweet.

The drive ended at their factory as the dealer was kind enough to let me see the other color schemes and likewise try out the manual models. I think they’re really considering me as a potential buyer. I hope the same way too. Fingers crossed.

***

If Rio completed my week, Gino ruined it. My wife and I went south the other night to de-stress ourselves, have a beer, a pizza, and a bit of bonding time away from work and our humid home.

In Tagaytay, we were able to fulfill our long-time curiosity to see and feel how it is to be inside Café Lupe–a bar just a couple of steps away from Starbucks Coffee. It wasn’t that bad, but I’d rather go next time to Cowboy Barn in Robinson’s Dasma. The ambiance there is better and the band we’ve seen so far didn’t disappoint us. But that’s another story.

After a couple of hours inside the bar we checked out the view outside. One thing that amazes me most of the time I’m there is that I rarely get bored looking at the Taal lake from that vantage point be it on a sunny day, gloomy day, starry and/or moonlit night. Any condition has its own fascination to offer. Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

Unfortunately, these natural wonders are lately threatened by the irresponsible acts of man. Take for example Gino who happens to afford a Starbucks cappuccino but didn’t have the manners to throw his cup in a trash bin after enjoying his caffeine load. Grrr. Tado.

Well did I meet the man face to face? Nope. But the unlucky cup which my wife accidentally stepped upon while on threading on the gravel has his name written on it (too much CSI?). I’m now thinking, how many Ginos out there are making this irritating mistake? I know the answer and it’s a depressing thought.

If I’d be chosen to perform environmental vigilante jobs, I’d be happy to oblige and get those other Ginos out of this wonderful planet. (Evil smile). Dear lord, let there be more Rios and less Ginos, please.