Singapore River Cruise

Singapore River Cruise

In a recent “unplanned with no expectations, but to chill trip” to Singapore, I was delighted to have surprise highlights of the spree – 2 museum visits and an experience of the Singapore River Cruise.

From a very shallow intention of just to “kill time” until the National Museum opens, we were brought to a cruise of discoveries that is reminiscent of the past and a glimpse to a vision of a future. Among the sweet finds while on the cruise are the Asians Civilization Museum for which was only a walk away from our port of embarkation and debarkation, and a short history lesson of Singapore through the educational video on board. My friend (who is also an epistemophile) and I were like kids in awe of the knowledge barrage for which was music to our soul.

The visit to the National Museum made us appreciate the river more as it brought us to its once cataclysmic past. The United Nations once described the Singapore River as an “irreversible environmental disaster”. Today, it freshly flows with pride of ditching its devastating past. In the beginning, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s call to clean up the river fell on deaf ears, but with his boldness and pursuit for greater things, and the participation of local heroes, he led the irreversible disaster to endless possibilities.

As I ponder on Singapore River’s inspiring transformation, I can only hope for our very own Pasig River. It is with sadness as I think of it. For now, I can only continue with my small acts of mindful consumption, disposal, and re-use.

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© rooks 2019

San Vicente, Palawan

In our 4th year of annual vacationing, we did not intend to go to Palawan (again) as we went to El Nido in 2017. But, unavoidable circumstances redirected us to Palawan. And in a span of only 2 weeks preparation of flight and hotel rebookings, we were all set for San Vicente, Palawan. We have bookmarked San Vicente in our bucket list to visit but not this soon. However, the group is excited and happy to venture into San Vicente.

San Vicente is located at the north west of the island of Palawan. It is 186 kilometers away from the capital of Palawan – Puerto Princesa. On June 21, 1969, the municipality of San Vicente was created by virtue of Republic Act 5821. It is politically divided into 10 barangays – Binga, New Canipo, Sto. Nino, Alimanguan, San Isidro, New Agutaya, Poblacion (San Vicente), New Villa Fria (Kemdeng), Port Barton, and Caruray.

San Vicente Barangays

We took the Manila to El Nido flight through AirSwift as direct flights to San Vicente are not yet available. Then a van took us to San Vicente. It was previously contacted through the resort where we will be staying. It takes 2-3 hours from El Nido to San Vicente. Direct flights will soon be available in the second half of 2019.

Club Agutaya

We stayed at Club Agutaya. The resort morphs with nature. It is an environment conscious green resort where they use state of the art Sewage Treatment System (STS) to convert toilet waste to reusable water and solar and LED lights combined with solar and wind power to generate a significant amount of power for the resort. One thing noticeable during our stay is that, the foundation of the resort is built with solid concrete, which makes it ideal for structures constructed near the shoreline.

The room where we stayed gave a lasting impression. The bed runner is newly washed. One could still smell the detergent used. The beddings are crisp and clean – a very delightful sign that every guest gets a first use in their stay. This is important for me to write because of some unfavourable experiences from other starred resort stays.

Cafe Lily

Another remarkable experience is the menu at Café Lily, the resort’s restaurant. CEO and Chef Propriétaire, Maria, created the menu and personally prepares the food. The menu gave a good selection of Filipino and some international dishes. Homemade bread is freshly baked and served as appetizer during lunch and dinner. Dip them in melted butter – it made my day every time. Dining at the café is always a surprise to the palate. Simple and fresh flavours. On all our meals, we picked personal favourites to reorder on our last meal. Chef Maria would go around the tables to chat with the guests and ask how the food was. One late night, an hour before the café will close, tired but fulfilled with our day’s activities, we were clueless of what to have for dinner, Chef Maria suggested an off the menu dishes – mussels in broth with an aioli dip, and tinapa. It was exquisite. If there is something to improve, it is their breakfast buffet variety and to hire a good barista. Accompanied by friends who know their coffee, we were not as enthralled as compared with the experience of the sumptuous meals we had. But, these 2 things for improvement are minute for us because of the overall excellent service. They make you feel comfortable and at home; and they constantly ask if you are happy every after a trip or experience.

Kuya Mark, the driver, tour guide, and arranger of our trips, was not only all of those but he gave us meaningful trivia of the life around San Vicente and life in general. Aside from his endless jokes that made us laugh (or not), it was the educational experience we had with him that made the trip also memorable. Among those he shared that made an impact to my endless quest for learning are these: (1) Every captain of the boat for island hopping in San Vicente undergoes the yearly 1 mile certification swim. (2) The boatman feels the temperature of the waters first before letting the tourists go for snorkelling or swimming. This is to ensure that there are no deadly jellyfishes lurking around. If the water is hot, they are likely to be present. This is a very important reminder for tourists to always follow the instructions of their boatman as unlikely incidents have already happened.

Previously, San Vicente is most visited by Europeans rather than by Filipinos, but, is now becoming more popular and visited. With the new airport about to open, it will be more accessible. I am not sure if I should be happy or sad or both about it. The dreadful thought of it as becoming the next Boracay terrifies me. The current state of downtown El Nido devastates me. There is an urgent call for responsible tourism. Hopefully, the master plan of Palafox Associates preserves its beauty.

Long Beach San Vicente

San Vicente is lovely. Beautiful is an understatement.

Vacations give us time to relax and refresh, but it can also be enlightening if we deeply ponder and listen closely to the people and the environment. One of my realization in this trip is that, do not go cheap with your tips, especially if they really give good service. It provides dignity to work. It boosts the morale of the locals. In fact, the experience gained through their good service is priceless. So, be extra generous and kind.

San Vicente, you are love that gets better. Keep being beautiful.

Nota Bene
We had 2 island hopping tours and below are the places we have visited.
Photos with “summer buddies” inscription are from the random shots of my friends in this vacation.

Exotic Island

Exotic Island

Maxima Island

Maxima Island

Inaladelan Island (lunch and farther in between the islands is swimming with the turtles)

Inaladelan Island

Turtle Spotting

Sandbar

Sandbar

Bigaho Falls

Bigaho Falls

Sunset at Port Barton

Port Barton

Barangay Sto. Nino (overlooking the 14 kilometers long beach of San Vicente)

Barangay Sto. Nino

Bato ni Ningning

Bato ni NingNing

Lazuli Kitchen for brick oven pizza

Lazuli Kitchen

Village Island (lunch and swimming)
Unscathed. Picturesque. With no other tourists, simply perfect. This is where I swam to my heart’s content. What is not to love with our islands?

Village Island

Philippine Islands

Kambingan Island

Kambingan Island

New Agutaya River (Kayaking for 2 kilometers)

New Agutaya River

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© rooks 2019

A Leap of Faith with an Option B

Leap of Faith x Option B

As I read a newspaper a few years ago, I came along an article of recommended books by a local celebrity who loves to read. One of the books that captured my attention was Leap of Faith by Queen Noor. Its back cover introduced the book as “a dramatic and inspiring story of a western woman’s remarkable journey into the heart of a man and his nation.” It further notes the memoir to be “…a love story – an intimate portrait of a woman who won the heart of a king and his country.” As someone who is exposed to local and western love stories as portrayed in the media, I read the book with great interest for which I gained insight not only in their love story, but on a culture that is different from what I experience, read, and perceive. The book is one of the reasons why I wanted to diversify my reading and to read more biographies.

Fast forward to today, I just concluded my reading on Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, the current Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Option B is Sandberg’s journey after losing her husband and finding joy again. Intertwined are also stories from a broad range of individuals that reveals a person’s indomitable spirit from the researches of her friend and top-rated Wharton professor, Adam Grant. Through the end of the last chapter, her eulogy reminded me of Queen Noor’s affectionate note (below) to her late husband in the epilogue of Leap of Faith. It is pain, love, and hope in poetry.

“I will not fail you, my love. I will continue on the path we shared, and I know you will be there to help me, as you always were. And when we meet again at the journey’s end, and we laugh together once more, I will have a thousand things to tell you.”

Sheryl’s conclusion to her eulogy for Dave was down to earth, humorous, and heartfelt.

“I promise I will raise your children as Vikings fans even though I know nothing about football and I’m pretty sure that team never wins.” Read the book for the continuation… Towards the end of the eulogy, she said, “Dave, I promise to try to live a life that would make you proud.”

Both women promised to move forward. Both women lost the love of their life, but like any woman (or man) in this world, they faced adversity, built resilience, and found joy to live, love, and laugh again.

Indeed, in life, Option A will not always be possible. We have to take a leap of faith with an open mind for Option B.

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© rooks 2019

Alone/Together (2019)

Alone Together

The popularity of the love team and the first breakthrough work of the director gives a certain level of expectation. But as movies (popular, high earning, hyped, etc.) commonly fall victim to a very important element of storytelling, that is, plot development, I came to the cinema to hopefully be surprised with good filmmaking.

With our mentality that is heavily influenced by foreign artistry, the movie is a good introduction to Filipino art. May it positively awaken in us a sense of pride and appreciation of our world class ingenuity and support for local artists.

Alone/Together is generally engaging. It is an artistically weaved romance with a recounting of the past, the traps of the present, and the indeterminable future. The shots, colors, oily student faces due to daily commute, and other notable minute details in a montage are well executed.

However, the main actors are yet to be at that stage of acting maturity. While Soberano gave a better performance than Gil, the needed emotions to be evoked of an uninspired woman who is haunted by her shattered dreams, and the demeanor of an award winning doctor, are found wanting. Additionally, its methodic ending gives a message that it is a movie with an intended audience in mind rather than a movie that is aiming to convey a love story beyond the expectations of a fandom, an audience to delight.

Do I like it? I enjoyed it, but sharing the same sentiments with a friend… I like it with reservations.

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© rooks 2019

Sakaling Maging Tayo (2019)

Sakaling Maging Tayo

A friend told me that there is a new interesting movie by JP Habac, Sakaling Maging Tayo, the director of I’m Drunk, I love you, for which we both love.

Sakaling Maging Tayo is organic, but sparks a lovely breath of juvenile attraction. Adults may find it awkward, shallow, and reckless, but that is precisely what young love is.

I did not have definite plans of watching the movie because I do not know anything about the lead actors. It shows much of my ignorance for local artists and shows.

The chance to watch the movie to fulfil a default duty as a volunteer movie assessor came this week. I obliged with no expectations. I only hoped that the kryptonite that most local movies succumb, that is, plot development, can take off like Kita Kita, Sakaling Hindi Makarating, etc. Most indie films have been able to develop their plot beautifully as compared with mainstream in recent years.

There is not much hype on Sakaling Maging Tayo as far as my social media feed is concerned. It must be too teenybopper that my peers are not interested. Maybe. But while the movie does not astound and I do not think it is intended to be so, it gives us a glimpse at the heart of today’s youth. It is carefree, fun, and pleasant but also hounded by the struggles of young love and the expectations of life that adults may ignore and perceive as frivolous.

For me, the plot was able to take flight. Feel good, creative, and down to earth.
Nice one, Habac. Take a bow.

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© rooks 2019

2018 Read Log

2018 Read Log

In earlier reading years, I prefer to read novels. And as I discovered and read the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey in my first year of college, I began to expand my reading preference to the media, psychology, motivation, biography, history, economics, science, leadership, fashion, politics, women empowerment, or anything that creates a stir or disruption from a local and global standpoint. The book was a turning point. I realized that there is more to the novel genre. I began to take interest. My mini library diversified. I am greatly drawn to the satisfaction of completing a read where learnings abound, silence is essential for reflection, a pen and paper to write, and the urgent desire to have a conversation with like-minded friends over coffee to share something impactful – life-changing.

In 2018, I discovered a number of brilliant storytellers. I am awed by the genius of Kutsukake, Bardugo, and Cleeton. As I was reading their work, my other side of consciousness was creating and hoping for a motion picture to be made. All three novels are page-turners.

As the new year walks through, the reading journey continues and the goal to read 50 from a variety of genres remains. Below is my 2018 list. I would be happy to have a glimpse of yours.

22 – [Dec 29] Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
21 – [Dec 27] Becoming by Michelle Obama
20 – [Dec 06] Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
19 – [Nov 25] Why I Love Being Catholic (How I Found Jesus In My 2,000-Year-Old Church) by Bo Sanchez
18 – [Nov 07] Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
17 – [Oct 28] Moonwalking with Einstein (The Art and Science of Remembering Everything) by Joshua Foer
16 – [Oct 19] Fight or Flight by Samantha Young
15 – [Oct 13] Unfu*k Yourself (Get out of your head and into your life) by Gary John Bishop
14 – [Oct 07] Leadership that Matters by Francis J. Kong
13 – [Oct 03] The Revenge of Geography by Robert D. Kaplan
12 – [Aug 26] The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting
11 – [Aug 05] The Inevitable (Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future) by Kevin Kelly
10 – [Jun 30] How My Maid Became A Millionaire by Bo Sanchez
09 – [Jun 23] The Nordic Theory of Everything (In Search of a Better Life) by Anu Partanen
08 – [Jun 03] Irresistible (The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked) by Adam Alter
07 – [Apr 28] Side Hustle (From Idea to Income in 27 Days) by Chris Guillebeau
06 – [Apr 01] Leader Eat Last (Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t) by Simon Sinek
05 – [Mar 10] Heart Berries: A Memoir by Therese Marie Mailhot
04 – [Feb 11] The Translation of Love (A Novel) by Lynne Kutsukake
03 – [Jan 28] Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni-Eddo Lodge
02 – [Jan 13] Seeing What Others Cannot See (The Hidden Advantages of Visual Thinkers and Differently Wired Brains) by Thomas G. West
01 – [Jan 01] ISIS (Inside the Army of Terror) by Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan

*** Indicated dates are completion dates.
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© rooks 2019

(2018) Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming, an autobiography by Michelle Obama will most probably be my last completed reading for 2018. And it is an honor to end my 2018 reading journey with an abundance of inspiration from the former FLOTUS. Published only last November 13, it became the best selling book in the US for 2018.

In her memoir, Michelle Obama does not mince with her words. It is funny, compassionate, enraged (for a good reason), and all the time heartfelt. It brings intimate scenes of her personal life before, during, and after the presidency of her husband, Barack Obama.

Amidst strict protocols, reasonable and sometimes absurd, she knew how to be human rather than be mechanical.

Intelligent and classy, the ugly blows brought forth by politics were met with a good combination of steadfastness, composure, and inner strength. As Michelle and Barack would try to live by and put it, “When they go low, we go high.” It instantly became my favorite adage amongst the deluge of wisdom the book could offer.

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© rooks 2018