Archive for February, 2008

Drug Testing ala Pinoy

Philippines driving license is easy to get, provided you pass the drug testing exam in flying colours. D was trying to get his driving license and we were directed to this center. First he thought he could pay some money to get everything done. Apparently that can’t be done.

Small centers like this are swarming around the Department of Transport. But isn’t it a weird regulation? Anybody can stop taking drugs for a week or so, take the test, get the license and go back to drugging. That just doesn’t make any sense.

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Another Wet Day

It is now officially flooding. The rain has not stopped since Feb 11th. The humidity is almost 100 percent. The laundry is suffering and I no longer have clean clothes. I think everybody has enough of my whining about the weather.

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The office provided the staff rubber boots last night. Those are D’s. I doubt they have size as small as mine so I guess I will just have to swim my way home.

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No plane has landed for five days in a row now. They would try to fly from Manila, but none has managed to land so far. The pilots would circle above the airport and then fly back to Manila. They said it is because of the visibility problem caused by the rain and fog, also by the length of the runway makes it almost impossible to land the plane in this weather.

It does make me appreciate the hot weather in Medan. Nowhere is like home, isn’t it.

Anyway, they said the weather should be clearing up by the end of the week. Yay!

Butanding – the Whale Shark

The only internationally renowned tourism attraction in this part of the Philippines is the Whale Shark watching (or Butanding for locals, in Bicol). Donsol – a seaside town – one hour drive away from Legazpi City. The whale sharks can be seen in the bordering seas, is the largest number of recorded sightings of whale sharks anywhere in the world. This largest fish can be seen around February to March each year. Swimming with whale sharks was featured in Time Magazine as the “Best Animal Encounter in Asia” in 2004.

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Our shark encounter adventure was last weekend. We drove to one of the many resorts, next to Donsol Tourism Office for tourists. We were required to register personal information and stated which of the attraction we were going to do. Butanding interaction or Butanding sightseeing. We teamed up with other couples – so the whole experience cost about USD 130 for a boat, a guide and some crews. Excluding the rental of snorkeling equipment such as mask, snorkle and fins

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Donsol Tourism Office

About 6 boats set out to the sea, each boat has one spotter who stands at the top of the sail searching for the shark. It is as big as a house, so very easy to be sighted. He said he was only looking for a moving shadow on the sea. When one spotter see one, all the boats will close in and swimmers will jump off the boat and start swimming towards the shark. 

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the glimpse of the Shark that I saw – once only

As a coward as I am, and also no snorkeling and flipper handling experience whatsoever, I freaked quite a number of times and the guide had to stay by me most of the time. I only saw the shark once, when the guide pulled me under the water and made me see one who swam right beneath us. It was gigantic. Thankfully, they are plankton-eating fish. There was like more than 20 dives only in 3 hours’ time. Very busy. At the end of the trip, I was one of the crew of the boat, helping people got on to the boat. D had seen more than 5 sharks, and the other Australian couple actually dived and swam alongside the sharks.

There were boats with Asian tourists (Japanese and Taiwanese, I presumed). The passengers looked as scared as I was, stayed put in the boat with life jackets on. Never once got off the boat. They were just observers. When the western tourists like my husband and his friends were jumping on and off the boats like maniacs chasing the sharks here and there. That was too funny!   

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D in the water – first from left – false alarm and the neighbouring boat full of divers

 So tips for other wild-life fanatics before going on the trip :

Learn to snorkle properly. Wear decent swimwear. Bikinis are not cool. Lots of sun block. Bring some snack and water on board. Bring water resistant camera (we bought one of those disposable ones – not yet developed) . Rental equipments are quite dodgy, if possible bring your own. 

It will so worth it.  

Legazpi City – Rain and Volcano

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I am now in Legazpi City, the capital of Albay province, at the southern tip of Luzon, Philippines. I have been here for 10 days now and ready to tell tales.

The city is a very small one, with population less than 200,000. The main livelihood is agriculture in coconut and rice. Not much, really. It is overshadowed by hills and volcano – the Mayon. The language is Bicol. It is a city that attracts natural disaster, I would say. Not only the worst kind of typhoon hits once a year around November and December, but the volcano is an active one. It has given out its worst hit – hot black sand and boulders, killed many and destroyed a lot more just two years ago.

It is a pretty little city with a lot of greenery – I suspect the earth is very fertile because of the mineral traces from the volcanic ashes. From the first glance of the map, I was thrilled that because it is a coastal town, there must be beautiful beaches in the bay area. Yeah it’s not. The whole area is barricaded by sea wall. The resorts build small stairs for tourists who wants to take a dip or a swim. But it’s not really beach vacation I had in mind.

The city has not stopped raining since I got here. It has been raining for 8 days straight. I have not seen sun and clear sky. Nobody has seen the tip of the volcano for weeks. I got the photo posted here from one of the staff in the office. It is difficult to catch the volcano in clear day, so I am quite pessimistic if I could get one.

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the mayon

What would one do in a small city like Legazpi … That question will be answered in my posts tomorrow and many days to come …

Chinese New Year at the House of Red

Chinese New Year last week at home was as festive as usual. Lion dance group came and performed. Guests came for the show and communal lunch and dinner. My red pockets were at minimal amount – tough personal finance generally. But things are going to be good this year so hopefully will make up for it next year.  

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mini mandarin oranges symbol of luck and gold

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table setting at the house of red

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living room of the house of red

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main foyer of the house or red

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lion dance group arriving

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getting ready for the show

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almost set

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ready to roll

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 lion dance at the house or red

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more dance

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 acrobatic moves

Where? When? Why?

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I had been gone for a while. Below are my excuses. Please read on …

Shopping for Chinese New Year goodies till I dropped and burned a big hole in my wallet

Helping my mother decorate the house with red lucky trinkets – she was indecisive by nature, so after weeks of decorating, she still took them on and off, which was very annoying

Speeding up unresolved issues at work so I could leave for holiday in peace and come back in one piece. I actually worry people at work are going to forget about me because I have never gone anywhere for this long

Chinese New Year party at home lasted for 10 hours. Photos will be coming tomorrow – I forgot to bring my camera today

Trips to 5 airports in 4 different cities, 3 countries in 2 days’ time was not a pleasant trip. It left me exhausted and jetlagged for days

When got to Legaspi City, Philippines, we took road trip to whale shark watching. That would be two more days of instability without internet connection

D got serious food poisoning and we spent two days in hospital. Again, no internet connection

Now I am settled down nicely (hopefully, no more surprises there) and ready to begin posting and sharing. And armed with D’s office internet connection, things will be back to normal, I think. I’ll never know. Life is full of surprises I can hardly keep up with …