May 31, 2012

31 things learned in life

sharing the 31 lessons in life learned from myself and from others to end the silver year.

1. attunement - loosen, tighten, pull, pluck, beat - what the six strings of a guitar must endure to play the musician's symphony. despite the unknown reason for one's existence, one has to go through suffering to play the music called life.

2. beauty - the appreciation of the battle scars and other marks perfected by time and experience. the reason why we always recognize ourselves in the mirror every time we wake up is because of the traces of the past we see in our faces. one cannot recognize the present moment when the past is not acknowledged and accepted.

3. change - if we are determined to change, no person, thing or any phenomena can sway a battering iron will.

4. chaos - there is no such thing as good and evil. good and evil are just our perceptions of phenomena. there's nothing beyond labeling which are either of the two. we just have to accept what is is, learn and move on. only through that way we can achieve greater heights.

5. destiny - in mountaineering, it's not how fast or how slow we reach the summit. it's all about the lessons we have learned in every successful and failed attempt we experience and how we apply the learnings for us to move forward to where we are heading regardless if we push for the summit or abort the climb to return to where we came from. in any case, there will be another day to give us new experiences and it's up to us to determine whether the next attempt will be a success or a failure, which again will result to new learnings.

6. discipline - discipline is the act of centering ourselves back to equilibrium the moment we are tipping over to any kind of polarity in our lives.

7. dreams - if you know where you are heading, you know what you are doing and you have a clear vision of the world you want to materialize, everything and everyone will follow. it's up to us to play our own music beautifully or off-key. we are the maestros and the musicians of our own lives.

8. faith - faith is the choice to love and devote in spite of one's knowledge of the other. it is the decision to put the blindfold on as we embrace the other wholeheartedly. 

9. fate - fate is the music that plays continuously in the background.

10. free will - in relation to fate, free will is how one responds to the music. sometimes we're only spectators who clap in astonishment, sleep in boredom or rant in dismay after a show. sometimes, we dance, sing, act or play a musical instrument with the music. however, if we choose to perform, we should perform gracefully.

11. heart - opening one's mind won't suffice in learning things. one should also have an open heart. 

12. humility - no matter how high or how far we fly, there's always the ground to catch us when we fall. and when we fall, it's up to us to determine whether we land gracefully or we shatter to pieces. the ground, in whatever form it may be, will always remind us where our feet belong. standing grounded is the most stable way for one to become high.

13. journey - when we're lost, we just need to keep on walking and see how far we can go given our own limitations. if you don't know what they are, you definitely will as you move forward. when things doesn't turn out fine, it's not a sin to turn back. learn from the experience.

14. left - "if things don't turn out right, turn left." the left hand is the one closest to the heart. it is often called the "traitor" hand because it is "uncontrollable". and thus, we associate being wayward to the word "left"  because being "left" is freeing oneself from systems. being "left" is being free. that's why they say, if you want to commit suicide, hold your weapon with your left hand. 

15. lesson - for us to learn, we must declare to the world that we know nothing regardless of the knowledge and wisdom that we have. the moment we say to a teacher that "i know" would compel him not to teach as we are giving them the message that we are superior and do not need the wisdom and knowledge that they have. "be hollow as a bamboo."

16. love - some of us are often advised to change our way of loving the next time we engage in relationships so we won't get hurt. i think nothing can constrict our hearts from loving truly. the reason why they say, "we need to become whole before loving another" is for us to give ourselves when loving. how can one love when he or she holds back? love is just a feeling and is ever flowing. it is our mind which decides when to stop or start. thus, we cannot really learn from past mistakes. what we can only hope for is wait for someone who will acknowledge and accept us when we give ourselves in loving.

17. patience - patience is the marker of one's capacity to will and/or to love. the absence of patience is indifference or, to the gravest extent, hatred. 

18. purity - is simply awareness. how many thieves have said to themselves, "i am stealing" during the act of stealing? do we really know what our actions are and what it means to us? 

19. relationships - acknowledging and accepting the other despite of who or what he or she is. 

20. religion - it's not about what others think you should do and who or what you should follow to become good. it's about what you think, feel, and intuit is right for you to become a better person and to inspire people to become the same in the process.

21. responsibility - responsibility is taking ownership of ones' actions and accepting whatever comes as a result of it without remorse.

22. self - identifying oneself as something or someone is bullshit. ask me tomorrow and i'll give you a different answer.

23. solitude - solitude is a convention with your self and your inner demons to strategize on how to survive life.

24. spirituality - spirituality is succumbing to the fact that although humans have free will, there are things which are beyond control. we can only do so much to survive and to achieve the things we want but rarely do we seek for the light within to show us the path to our journey. 

24. talent - every person wasn't born with something for nothing. once a talent has been untapped, it should be mastered and applied until heaven and hell knows when we know what it is for.

25. teacher - it's not about who the person is but what he or she can teach you to make you a better person. a teacher may not be the best role model. sometimes a murderer can give great wisdom than a person who earned ph.d's

26. values - if you know what you stand for, nothing can sway you.

27. will - the ability to say only "yes" and "no" and nothing else matters.

28. wish - acceptance of one's defeat. admitting that you can't do anything.

29. women - chinese acupuncture says that a woman's heart is the strongest muscle ever created. it compensates for the lack of muscles which men possess. it lasts a day of household chores and a career. it sustains another life than hers. it endures the long wait. the pain. if her heart chooses.

30. work - there is no such thing as "easy" work. the term itself means stress. we are all responsible for our own happiness and work is just one of the many means to get it; thus, one should control work in such a way that it won't consume you. 

31. zazen - "forget everything and sit down and shut up"

note: some of the things here were recycled from previous "mental diarrhea" entries

May 09, 2012

macau, the sin city of asia

grand lisboa
there definitely is a warp zone or a waypoint in macau. what i usually see in video games is a fuzzy scintillating ball of white light or a platform with inscriptions of incantations in an arcane language only the ancients could understand, which when you step on or pass through it will transport you to a different time and place. from the portuguese ruins, plazas and fortresses, i then found myself in in the rich and luxurious vegas with more worlds and times to warped into.

my 8-hour tour: the second half at asia's las vegas

after my quick shopping and sightseeing trip at san malo, we visited welkin at casino where they both worked, the grand lisboa. johnny told me that the grand lisboa was the first casino ever built in macau and the owner of the said casino is currently the richest person in macau. grand lisboa, it is the highest building in macau and is one of the highest in the world towering at 261m. he further tells that it was casinos which made macau a rich and generous government. it was the millions of income from gambling which had its residents enjoy allowances especially for those who have families.

as i entered the casino, johnny told me to keep my camera as the officials will confiscate it. taking photos in the casino is strictly prohibited to protect their clients especially the high profile ones. we went there minutes earlier before welkin's first break. i owe him that visit since i was way too late but i have to interfere with his work. while waiting for his break time, johnny showed me around. i told him that it's my first time to enter the casino in my entire life. we had a walk around the different card games sections, the roulettes, and the slot machines -- all of them i have only seen in the movies because my mom was too strict enough not to expose us into gambling. there were also pin-up girl shows on different stages to entertain clients taking breaks from games. came welkin's break, since he wanted us to take pictures of us, we met at the men's comfort room. i was lucky enough to wear a loose shirt and pants. then johnny gave me his cap to match my androgynous for me to be qualified enough to enter. after some catching up and camwhoring, we left welkin to proceed with our hotel and casino hopping since i only have a few hours left before my ferry leaves for hong kong.

you won't spend a cent in hotel-casino hopping in macau because the hotels offer free rides from various stations... not unless you gamble of course. however, if you'd like to delve into the hotel buffets, you have to spend at least 200 patacas for it. first in our list was venetian hotel, where i was warped to sunset italy complete with boatmen and women singers who some were undoubtedly filipinos. since everything is on dim light and my cam would only grain on low light photos, i wasn't able to take shots of river part of venetian.

hand painted ceiling of the venetian hotel to mimic the sunset scene as seen in an episode in boys over flowers

next in our list was a series of sands hotels which all have oriental ambiance. what astonished my in the hotel was the musical lights display in every part of the place. the place was well lit enough for my camera to take photos.

this statue person who welcomed us is a filipino too!

the awesome-est statue i have ever seen. if i could only take it home with me

art exhibit which showcases artworks in graphite or ink. each art piece tells of china's history.

as i hopped from one hotel to another, i realized i get bored easily with the life of luxury that i hid my camera more than taking photos. i finally concluded that i am indeed an outdoor person. i cannot deny the beauty of man-made marvels as seen in taipa but i guess a laid back life at the beach or at the mountain tops would give me more contentment than sleeping on a bed stuffed with millions of money. there's more adventure in cooking corned beef, sardines, and some mountain vegetables together not knowing how it would taste like in the end or it's effects on your tummy the morning after than enjoying an expensive buffet of meals served by well-dressed waiters and chefs at a single clap of your hand with violinists serenading you as you eat. johnny said that macau, like vegas, has lives lost to people's insatiable desire for luxury because of gambling or simply just being too rich. it's what i call "existential boredom on a silver platter" when your life is too perfect that you've seen every atom of everything money can buy but happiness and contentment would only cost a note not printed in any form of currency. having seen all these makes me thankful for being a simple sight-seeing tourist working on a shoestring budget for a quick glimpse of a multi-billionaire gamblers', or at least the hoping gamblers', world. 

we then received a call from welkin who told us to visit his home as his wife wants to meet me for dinner. thank heavens for the break! we rode the free buses going to grand lisboa then walked our way back to san malo where welkin's apartment is. san malo is san malo is more beautiful at night so i walked again at the central park to take some photos.

macau's signature tourism photo of san malo as seen in the flyers and maps. i never expected i captured a similar scene until i took hold of a map.

as we walked towards welkin and pauline's apartment, i found a hole in the wall food store with food similar to those tuhog tuhog karitons street foods we have back in our country. the difference is you have to pick your choice of food on a sticks which they will put in a small container to be flooded with sauces of your choice. each stick costs 2 to 10 patacas depending on what kind of meat, dimsum, or vegetable it is you're going to pick. i had mine with curry and spicy sauces. 

meat and veggies on a stick selections.

we arrived at welkin's and pauline's home after a few minutes walk from the stall. pauline had us watch tv with her and had a simple snacks of soya bean chips which are being sold by their indonesian board mate, who we first met at the chinese drug store.

crispy bean chips :} best served with chili vinegar or butter

the only content here i know of was hotdog. the rest of what i put in there were part of my food adventure. food tastes good until you know its contents so to hell with what those things are! they are delicious.

we left their home at 21:45 so i could catch the my ferry to hk. however, the bus came in late so it running like hell for me to catch make it to the boarding gate and good thing i made it a minute before the gate closed... a minute before the gate closed. all the walking got me tired that i slept the entire boat trip. 

hello goodbye hong kong and back to manila

i went back to my hostel room and was greeted by my roomy bosnian buddies who offered me shots of hennessy as we chatted the night away. the good thing about hostels is that you get to know other people. just pray they are not perverts or psycho killers. we exchanged juicy stuff about philippines and bosnia as if we're in show and tell at school. hiking was our common ground and them guys wanted me to pursue free climbing which i told them is not part of my priorities although it would be fun to try. we got comfortable with each other as the conversation progressed. we talked from mountains to world history to music. the topics were endless that i only had 2 hours of sleep and a small time to prepare to pack my stuff in the morning before my flight. they told me i have to drop the bomb in the morning because they have to wake up at the same time i will have to. 

and so 2 hours later i dropped the bomb. they wanted me to join them at disneyland but i told them i'll be returning back home for work so we exchanged contact information instead. i left earlier than they did and since they'll be staying longer, i left them my keys instead of turning them over at the reception. i took my last chung king sleaze walk then to the mtr station at nathan road. at lai king station, i had second thoughts of visiting dr co for the last time. but due to the delay of the trains going to tung chung, i took the green lines to the airport instead so as not to miss my flight. 

i will go back to hong kong and macau this august but this time, i will stay mostly in macau for welkin and pauline's child's baptism then a daytrip at hong kong for the co family for another set of errands. i doubt that i will visit this place less because of the people i spent time with. perhaps i will bring some friends with me in the future.

April 30, 2012

san malo, a huge binondo

ruins of st paul's cathedral at san malo, macau
it's normal for me to wake up in the middle of the night and toss and turn a bit. hearing two men snore in my room meant that my room mates came back from their night trip and have been sleeping soundly. no sound from my alarm yet so i went back to sleep. moments later, my body clock woke me up. as i grabbed my phone, there i saw 09:39. i did set the alarm at 05:00 but failed to set it on sunday.


my 8-hour macau tour: first half

i should have woke up at 05:00 as planned. on my phone, my sister has been messaging me asking for how i was. welkin, who i was supposed to meet at san malo in the morning, had been trying to call me as well. and so, i forced my lazy self to wake up and grabbed some breakfast (mostly last night's dinner's left-overs) at the fridge, and had a quick bath. i messaged welkin to tell him that i will be late... way too late, perhaps arriving at noon a few minutes before his shift starts. his plan was to give me a quick tour around the place with his wife before he goes to work at 14:00. since it's not possible for us to do everything a few minutes before his shift, he asked his colleague, johnny, a favor keep me company for the whole day. johnny was one of the lucky few who gets to have holidays on sundays. casinos are open daily so people who are employed have different day offs.

and so i sailed off to macau via turbo jet and arrived at macau port at 13:30. turbojet is the fastest ferry going to macau from hong kong. other ferries will take 2-3 hours of travel time. at the macau port, it was a mistake for me not to keep my passport because three filipinas took advantage of me being a young visitor at macau. i told them i don't need help because i am meeting someone at a casino but she insisted that i take them with me for 150 patacas so they could tour me and my friend around macau. i wanted to cut the petty disagreement short so i just went away and took the bus yet i was still hurled, "di na namin kasalanan kapag nawala ka" (it's not our fault if you get lost). my dad has always told me not to interact with fellow filipinos abroad, unless you were friends before, because they will take advantage of fellows and proving it a fact is quite disappointing. and since i was trying to escape the filipinas at the port, i forget to take a map! what's worse, my hk sim didn't work so i was not able to call or send messages to johnny and welkin. "i'm cursed" i said to myself but it's nice to get lost sometimes so i just waited for the bus to arrive at san malo and enjoyed the vast views outside my window in every bus stop.

when i dropped off at san malo, the phone booths saved me. i called johnny and told me that he will come in 15 minutes. while waiting, i took some photos of the scenes in san malo. the place gave me images of what was avenida sta cruz like as what my parents described it and which was what former manila mayor, atienza, was aiming for. macau was under portuguese rule just like hong kong under the british and the philippines under spain.

johnny arrived a bit late but i cannot complain since i was the one who messed up welkin and pauline's itinerary because of my tardiness in the first place. first in johnny's itinerary was the st paul ruins, which is macau's famous tourist attraction aside from the casinos. 

next to the st paul ruins is a walled fortress similar to what we have in fort santiago. 

my macau tour guide, johnny who doesn't want his face shown in any of my albums

under the ruins of the st paul church, there's a musuem which showcases relics during the portuguese occupation in macau.

there were also stuff from macau during the 1900's. these were the stuff the meteorologists used to tell the weather. johnny says that there was a time that they weren't able to predict the weather accurately causing people not to prepare for flood. flooding rarely happens in macau since the philippines always has the first hit during the typhoon season and such spectacles are uncanny for them.

chinese porcelain

going to the ruins was fun as there are a lot of bakeries offering free tastes of their products such as meet jerkies and pastries so lunch wasn't our problem. just don't let the promodisers recognize you when you go back for your second round.

eva, dr co's wife, told me about macau egg tarts which were way better than those being sold in tung chung. and they were indeed better! but you have to eat them immediately than letting it cool for a time; thus they are not good for take home gifts for friends back in manila.

after we went to the museum, i'm back to completing my errands. dr co, told me that he bought his medicines at shenzhen but i need to have a special visa issued by the chinese embassy in the philippines (had i thought of applying for a visa before, i should have crossed the mainland border). but instead of taking risks, he recommended me to buy at the stores in macau where herbs are cheaper and more fresh. i asked for welkin's help so i could visit the chinese apothecaries and was referred to a place just a few blocks away from san malo park. johnny showed me the way to the store, which isn't that hard to find and was greeted warmly by the owner.

at the traditional chinese medicine store
i was told to buy 4 herbs. the store owner didn't understand english nor mandarin so johnny tried his best in conversing in cantonese. the good news was, we were able to get all the herbs i need to buy. the bad news is, there's a communication gap in asking for the right amount as johnny isn't familiar with terms of units of measurement. i told him i wanted to buy just 100 grams. however, when he was putting all of them in the plastic bag, the herbs didn't weigh 100 kilos when i tried to weigh them by my hands. what he told to the store owner made him understood that i wanted to buy half-kilo of each! so for minutes, we have been doing all the sign languages we could think off to make him understand i just wanted to buy 100 grams. luckily, welkin's indonesian room mate who is fluent in cantonese, passed by and greeted johnny. we asked for her help in conversing with the owner so i was able to buy my stuff in their right amounts. johnny has been saying yat pong which meant 1 kilo and doing the hand gesture of cutting his hand in half meant we wanted half kilo. she said that the right term is yat kang. she then said that it was good that she saw us. welkin wanted us to drop by his home because she'll cook dinner for everyone. johnny told him we'll come in at 20:00 after we visit taipa.

after the transaction with the store owner was completed, we walked to grand lisboa. there we started our casino hopping adventure.