Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Amazing New Tech Discoveries


          That doesn't mean I discovered the products, but rather I found out about them later than sooner because they have been around for a few years. Out of certain necessities, my discoveries are of FreedomPop cell phone service and the MagicJack Android app.
          For the past 15 to 20 years, I've used prepaid cell phone service from Virgin Mobile and AT&T with no data plan and each call and text message cost a few cents. Since I hardly use my cell phone for calling and messaging, it has worked well for me so far, specially that Virgin Mobile only cost me $20 every three months and AT&T, not much more at $25, as long as I didn't use all of those credits within the three months. I mostly use MajicJack on my home computer to make phone calls (more on this later).

          I signed up for Freedompop maybe last year or earlier this year but never used their service, but finally bought a refurbished phone from them about 2 months ago. However, after activating the phone, I just let it sit unused. Finally last week, after almost draining my credits with AT&T due to more text messages than usual, I tried the LG Volt 2 phone I bought from FreedomPop. By signing up for their service, I get 200 minutes of free calls a month, along with 500 free(!) text messages, and also for free - 500 megabytes of data on 4G LTE! I know, I know, those are paltry numbers for a lot of people who mainly use their cell phones for calls, messaging, the internet, and social media, but for me who uses wi-fi most of the time, those paltry numbers are more than enough. And did I already say that it's free? To save on data, I downloaded Facebook Lite and set it to only show low resolution photos which didn't seem to make too much difference to look at on a small phone as compared to  high resolution photos. What helps a lot is that the 4G LTE only kicks in when I'm out of wi-fi range (I wasn't aware of this before because I never had a data plan). I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to use all of the 500 megabytes of free data in a month, but it doesn't roll over to the next month, but that's ok because, didn't I already say it's free? Ha Ha Ha! Besides I don't intend to use that data to surf the internet, maybe just for social media and email. I used this free data a few days ago by checking in my location 3 times on Facebook while out for a run. So if anyone of you saw those check ins, that's the reason why. Not that I will, but if I wanted to, I can also now play Pokemon Go out of the confines of wi-fi, LOL! I read it only consumes about 10 megabytes per hour.


          Ok, so much for FreedomPop. Now my MagicJack which I've been using as my VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone for the last 5 years or so for only $20 a year for unlimited calls within the U.S. and Canada. This the reason why I've saved so much by using my prepaid cell phone sparingly for calls.
          Last week, the MagicJack app on my computer stopped downloading my contact list, but I considered that a minor inconvenience. Then today, I couldn't connect to the service despite trying the usual solutions like restarting the app, disconnecting and reconnecting the dongle, or rebooting the computer. Awhile ago, I had seen that they had an Android app, but I never downloaded it. Since I couldn't connect to the service via computer, I decided to read more about the Android app. Turns out, if you are already a subscriber to MagicJack, you can use the Android app for no added cost to make calls via wi-fi. So I downloaded it and gave it a spin. Hmm, very interesting. I entered my username and password and it immediately identified me and my VoIP phone number. I made a phone call to another area code and to my surprise (I don't know why), it connected flawlessly. Yay! In case I can't connect via my PC ever again, at least I have a back up. Not only that, the Android app also allows me to send and receive free text messages as long as I'm on wi-fi of course. I also tested that by texting from my prepaid cell phone to the FreedomPop phone and vice versa. No problem.
          So I just finished testing something else just a few moments ago. I turned off the wi-fi on the phone with the MagicJack Android app to see what would happen if I sent a text message to it with the wi-fi off. Lo and behold, the message was waiting for me after I reconnected to the wi-fi!
          Small technological conveniences like these still keep amazing me. I can't wait for teleportation so I don't have to drive to and from work or fly to and from other places for vacation! Good times!

My Amazing New Tech Discoveries


          That doesn't mean I discovered the products, but rather I found out about them later than sooner because they have been around for a few years. Out of certain necessities, my discoveries are of FreedomPop cell phone service and the MagicJack Android app.
          For the past 15 to 20 years, I've used prepaid cell phone service from Virgin Mobile and AT&T with no data plan and each call and text message cost a few cents. Since I hardly use my cell phone for calling and messaging, it has worked well for me so far, specially that Virgin Mobile only cost me $20 every three months and AT&T, not much more at $25, as long as I didn't use all of those credits within the three months. I mostly use MajicJack on my home computer to make phone calls (more on this later).

          I signed up for Freedompop maybe last year or earlier this year but never used their service, but finally bought a refurbished phone from them about 2 months ago. However, after activating the phone, I just let it sit unused. Finally last week, after almost draining my credits with AT&T due to more text messages than usual, I tried the LG Volt 2 phone I bought from FreedomPop. By signing up for their service, I get 200 minutes of free calls a month, along with 500 free(!) text messages, and also for free - 500 megabytes of data on 4G LTE! I know, I know, those are paltry numbers for a lot of people who mainly use their cell phones for calls, messaging, the internet, and social media, but for me who uses wi-fi most of the time, those paltry numbers are more than enough. And did I already say that it's free? To save on data, I downloaded Facebook Lite and set it to only show low resolution photos which didn't seem to make too much difference to look at on a small phone as compared to  high resolution photos. What helps a lot is that the 4G LTE only kicks in when I'm out of wi-fi range (I wasn't aware of this before because I never had a data plan). I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to use all of the 500 megabytes of free data in a month, but it doesn't roll over to the next month, but that's ok because, didn't I already say it's free? Ha Ha Ha! Besides I don't intend to use that data to surf the internet, maybe just for social media and email. I used this free data a few days ago by checking in my location 3 times on Facebook while out for a run. So if anyone of you saw those check ins, that's the reason why. Not that I will, but if I wanted to, I can also now play Pokemon Go out of the confines of wi-fi, LOL! I read it only consumes about 10 megabytes per hour.


          Ok, so much for FreedomPop. Now my MagicJack which I've been using as my VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone for the last 5 years or so for only $20 a year for unlimited calls within the U.S. and Canada. This the reason why I've saved so much by using my prepaid cell phone sparingly for calls.
          Last week, the MagicJack app on my computer stopped downloading my contact list, but I considered that a minor inconvenience. Then today, I couldn't connect to the service despite trying the usual solutions like restarting the app, disconnecting and reconnecting the dongle, or rebooting the computer. Awhile ago, I had seen that they had an Android app, but I never downloaded it. Since I couldn't connect to the service via computer, I decided to read more about the Android app. Turns out, if you are already a subscriber to MagicJack, you can use the Android app for no added cost to make calls via wi-fi. So I downloaded it and gave it a spin. Hmm, very interesting. I entered my username and password and it immediately identified me and my VoIP phone number. I made a phone call to another area code and to my surprise (I don't know why), it connected flawlessly. Yay! In case I can't connect via my PC ever again, at least I have a back up. Not only that, the Android app also allows me to send and receive free text messages as long as I'm on wi-fi of course. I also tested that by texting from my prepaid cell phone to the FreedomPop phone and vice versa. No problem.
          So I just finished testing something else just a few moments ago. I turned off the wi-fi on the phone with the MagicJack Android app to see what would happen if I sent a text message to it with the wi-fi off. Lo and behold, the message was waiting for me after I reconnected to the wi-fi!
          Small technological conveniences like these still keep amazing me. I can't wait for teleportation so I don't have to drive to and from work or fly to and from other places for vacation! Good times!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Blog About Running...Again

Long Beach City College - Veterans Memorial Stadium
About 3 weeks ago, I shared on social media that I did my longest run in years when I managed to finish an hour and 12 minutes which covered 6 miles and a pace of 12:01 minutes per mile. That was a proud moment for me since I haven't been able to run in recent years due to my permanent ankle injuries made worst by myalgia or pain on both my thighs caused by cholesterol medications. This often resulted in strained thigh muscles whenever I tried to run longer or if I increased my pace. My doctor has since discontinued my cholesterol medication for the past 3 months and prescribed the over the counter supplement called Omega 3-6-9 complex. We are going to re-evaluate this strategy on my next physical exam this coming October. As a result, my pain in my thighs have diminished. I can't do anything about the PTTD (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction) in my ankles because they are permanent injuries other than limiting my mileage and not try to push off my ankles to pick up the pace. Thus, I've had to make changes in my stride which makes it feel unnatural for me, namely, shortening it and keeping my feet lower to the ground to lessen the impact. Anyone who has run with me in the past know how noisy my natural stride is. Maybe nowadays they won't hear it as much due to the stride adjustment and the cushioned shoes. This has enabled me to run about twice a week the past couple of months with lots of recovery days in between runs. To take care of my thighs, I've been using a rolling pin to massage them and it seems to help.
Running at the Dominguez Gap
I haven't written about running in a while, years even maybe. Neither have I shared restarting it because I hate to jinx myself by getting reinjured and stopping again. But here I am writing about it and hoping that I can stay consistent without getting injured, even if it means just running twice a week.
I also reconnected with my former running partner Katherine, a neighbor whom I used to train for marathons with years ago. We have been running once a week from her house to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach City College. She would do repeats on the stadium steps while I jogged around the track, and the last time we were there, I managed to do 8 repetitions of walking up and down the steps. We were going to do the same thing today (June 23rd) but when we got there, a sign was posted saying that the stadium and track would be closed for maintenance and renovation for the next two months.

Katherine suggested that we run all the way to the Campfire Girls Lodge on the corner of Carson Street and Los Coyotes Diagonal. I said "what!?" my legs can't take me that far and still run back home! I said, why don't we try making it to the next intersection first (Clark Avenue) and then the next one, and the next one, then I'll tell her if I give up and ask to turn around. Well, we made it all the way to the lodge in 50 minutes so that meant that we had at least another 50 minutes of running to get back home, and I was already plodding before that. Remember, my longest run was an hour and 12 minutes and that really exhausted me. Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? With Katherine pulling me and me willing myself to reach the next intersection with hopes that we would hit a stop light, I kept plodding along which felt like I was running about a 12:30 per mile pace. A couple of weeks prior, I did a solo run which covered 5 miles at a pace of 11:31 and that was really pushing it based on my reduced stride and aerobic capacity.

I finally told Katherine that I was going to stop running when we reach an hour and a half then walk back the rest of the way, while she kept on running. When my watch ticked 1:30, I started walking and Katherine was nice enough to walk with me the rest of the way. After 12 minutes of walking, we made it back to her house. My goodness, that was only 2 minutes over our anticipated finishing time of 1:40! Did we manage a negative split up to the one hour and 30 minute mark despite what felt like a much slower pace going back home? Katherine said it was a 9 mile out and back course so I entered our time and distance on a running calculator and it spit out the results: 11:20 minutes per mile pace. What!? That even included the last 12 minutes of walking in the equation.

After the 1:12 run several weeks ago, my next goal would have been 1:15 or 1:20 to see if my legs hold up, so it was a shock to the system to go 1:30 suddenly. Hours after the run, my legs still feel ok although I expect them to be sore for a few days. I'll be doing the rolling pin massage as soon as I finish typing this. Wish me luck with hopes that I may be able to continue doing this exercise without further catastrophic injuries. This mainly means practicing self control because I tend to overdo it, hahaha!

BTW, Katherine can still probably push an 8:00 to 8:30 pace if she wanted to, so I was really thankful for her running ahead and pulling me all the way and talking to keep my mind off my heavy legs and heavy breathing :D

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trying The Most Affordable Amazon Fire Tablet


Well I bought this Amazon Fire tablet which is on sale at Best Buy this week (June 12 to 18, and also at Amazon.com) for $39.99 because my Windows 10 laptop could no longer connect to the wi-fi at work. Sure I could still connect with my Android phone, 2012 Nexus 7 tablet,  and 4 year old Asus Transformer, but the phone is too small to type with and the tablets aren't too responsive anymore or at all. For the price, what have I got to lose, right?
I've been using the Fire for a couple of days now and despite it having only 1 gigabyte of RAM and 8 GB of storage, the responsiveness is pretty amazing. Sure it lags sometimes when a lot of apps are open but that's easily taken cared of by closing some. The home page is cluttered with Amazon apps that I mostly won't ever use but they cannot be uninstalled. A little research on the web showed how you can just put what you don't need in a folder thus decreasing the clutter. You can also supposedly only download apps from Amazon but not from Google Play. Well back to the web we go and sure enough you can download the apk file of any Android app and install it by changing the settings to allow non-Amazon apps. I've downloaded the Chrome browser and Dropbox apps and they've been working well so far other than I have not been able to sync my Chrome bookmarks. Now my desktop looks more like a regular Android tablet. Of course with just 8 GB of storage, it limits how much I can download until I can add a micro SD card. I added an SD card later and it's ok for storing files and photos but if you move some apps there, they tend to lag more because Amazon recommends a Class 10 SD card whereas the one I got from Ebay last year is just a much slower Class 2. Typing with either 2 thumbs or one index finger is pretty slow and limiting if you are used to touch typing, but tolerable. That's why I prefer tablets with physical keyboards. This post is the first time I tried typing on it.
Nevertheless, for the price of $39.99, you can't beat it, specially if your main use is just for surfing the web, social networking, or reading ebooks. The battery life is quite good too and with the way the way I surf the web and use Facebook, the battery still had 43% of juice after about 8 hours.  Well, that's my nonprofessional review of the Amazon Fire tablet after just 2 days of use and so far I like it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Philippines Vacation - The Last Day in Tagaytay & The Flight Back Home





Tagaytay - Balay Dako Restaurant
My last full day in the Philippines was Sunday, March 31st. The family had planned on visiting Tagaytay and having lunch there, but due to Momsie Pilaring’s illness, there was a possibility of a cancellation. She didn’t like it very much when the doctor told her to rest at home. Nonetheless, Larry, Ninette, and I proceeded with the plans because we were meeting Ben, Elgee, and Uno there. Thankfully, there was not too much traffic that morning and we arrived at about 11 a.m., just in time for lunch. The family had mentioned a very good restaurant in the area called Balay Dako, which means big house in the Bisaya dialect. Apparently, the chef who owns the place is from one of the Visayas provinces. The place was packed as it was very popular with out of towners. There was a bit of a waiting period so some went to buy some goodies from the bake shop while others went up to the patio to take pictures. I went outside to explore and just as I reached the gate, I saw Ben, Elgee, and Uno driving in. They parked then went inside the restaurant to look for Larry and Ninette while I stepped out to the street to look around. The street was lined with restaurants since the location was a great viewing area for the dormant Taal Volcano. Is it really dormant? I’m not sure anymore.
Ninette & I with Taal Volcano in the background from Balay Dako Restaurant
After about a 45 minute wait, we were finally escorted to our table where the waiter took our orders. The specialty of the house is bulalo, which is essentially beef shank and marrow bones in broth, but in this case it is served sizzling and covered with some kind of mushroom sauce. We also ordered vegetarian kare kare. This usually comes with the same kind of beef parts as bulalo, but I guess since the bulalo already had a lot of meat, the kare kare became vegetarian. Who knows? I’m just guessing here. Anyway, when people talked about the sizzling bulalo, they made it sound like something out of this world and a new way of cooking it. It turns out that the sauce was the same kind and taste used for beef stroganoff. Well, my expectations were deflated, to say the least, but other than that, it tasted really good and the beef was very tender. With beef stroganoff that you eat in cafeterias all over the United States, sometimes the cubed beef is tough to chew. I know we ordered some other food but I can’t seem to remember it now. I’ll have to check out the photos we took to see what was on the table. Thanks to my sister in law Ninette, I found pics of the food we ate in her Facebook photos.
Sizzling bulalo - the specialty of Balay Dako (below are: kare kare without the baka, prawns, & BBQ chicken


After lunch the Bautista Family had to return home and meanwhile we drove to a Taal Vista Hotel to take some photos, then to a nun’s convent to visit the chapel and say some prayers. It appeared that the nuns were cloistered because I don’t remember seeing any. I walked around the place and they had statues around the compound depicting the Stations of the Cross. Nice touch.
Larry & I with Taal Volcano in the background taken from Taal Vista Hotel
Pretty soon we were heading back home and for about the first 45 minutes, it was uneventful. When we were about to exit the town of Carmona in Cavite towards the South Luzon Expressway, suddenly we were being pursued by a police motorcycle with two cops on it. They told us to pull over and told my brother he had run a red light. My brother said, he noticed the red blinking light and not understanding what it meant, just followed the cars ahead of him. Hmm, there seems to be no standard traffic signals in the Philippines which leaves you to guess hopefully correctly. Nonetheless, the police officer started to take out his tickets and told my brother that the standard fine for running a red light is 1,000 pesos, and get this, my brother had to come back the next day which was a Monday to pay the fine at the Carmona town hall since it was closed on Sunday. My brother pleaded that he had to work the next day and will be unable to come back, and can we just pay a reduced fine to the officer himself so the officer can pay it at the town hall. Apparently, this was double talk for bribery, which in most cases is acceptable in that country. So they negotiated for half of the quoted fine and I handed over 500 pesos to my brother and he surreptitiously slipped it on the palm of the officer. Having made the deal, the cop let us go, and for the first time in my life, I was complicit (or is it aiding and abetting?) in bribing the police. It is something that will never happen in the U.S. (for me anyway). Checking on the exchange rate today, that bribe of 500 pesos cost me a whopping $10.70!
Well, the inevitable happened when we reached the city. Traffic. We crawled slowly towards Ateneo De Manila where Ninette had to sign some papers before going home. It was already dark when we got there so a security guard escorted us to Ninette’s office. This was by the way one of my requests during my visit – to see her place of work. The others were to see Larry’s school which I accomplished on the day I was in Greenhills, and to visit the hospital where he had his kidney transplant, which we did when Pilaring had her check up.
On the way home from Ateneo, we stopped by a grocery store where be bought some durian ice cream which I had been craving for. Lacking the real fruit, the ice cream came a close second.
The next day at about 8 a.m. Larry drove me to the airport in a circuitous way through Manila because he said since I arrived, we always drove via Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue. Larry dropped me off at NAIA 1, we gave each other a tight hug, expressed our brotherly love for each other, and said our goodbyes.
I made my way to the China Southern Airlines queue and checked in. Since I hadn’t exercised that day yet, I went looking for a long hallway to walk in. My boarding area didn’t have a hallway so I had to ask a security guard for permission to walk in the only long hallway in the terminal. I completed my requisite 30 minutes walking up and down that hallway and soon entered the boarding area. After about 30 minutes, we boarded the plane and headed to Guangzhou where it was raining. We had to get off the plane in the rain to board some buses which drove us to the terminal. I was supposed to have a 7 hour layover so I put in another walking workout through the large terminal, which made up for the lost day I had on my way from L.A. to the Philippines. That darn layover was so long and if that wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t access the airport’s wi-fi. You needed a special login from the Chinese social media app called We Chat which I couldn’t download because I didn’t have access to the internet in the first place. I walked some more and  tried to take short naps to pass the time. If that wasn’t bad enough, the flight was delayed for an hour thus making it an 8 hour layover.
I got hungry while waiting so I finally gave in and entered one of the terminals' restaurants. I asked the server how much a certain noodle dish was in dollars and she said $14. Oh well, I didn’t have a choice but to order the food since I was starving. While I was eating, another man came in and asked if he could buy a cup of coffee so he could use the restaurant’s wi-fi. Guess how much that cup of coffee cost him? Yes, $14! Perhaps that was a fixed price for anything if you had to pay in dollars regardless of how much it cost in yuan or RMB.
After waiting another half hour in line, we finally boarded the plane for the long 14 hour flight. When I found my seat, I was appalled to see a couple with their baby who was already crying. OMG, it was going to be an excruciating 14 hours if that baby was going fuss the whole time. I readied my eye mask and my earplugs just in case. Well what do you know but that baby slept for about 11 or 12 hours while I probably slept intermittently about 7. Thank you for resting little one, and thanks for giving me some rest too.
My seatmate on the flight back home
We arrived in LAX about 8:30 p.m. and I had some leeway before the reserved shuttle bus stopped running at 11 p.m. Going through customs, I was surprised at the new computer terminals for U.S. citizens where you inserted your passport and the machine verified your identity. Then it spit out a printout of your face and some other data. Then we picked up out checked baggage from the carousel then headed out. There was one more stop to make before exiting the terminal. We passed by some uniformed officers where I noticed the passengers handing something to them. I asked the officer if he needed my luggage tag and he smirked and said he needed the printout of my face from the computer I inserted my passport earlier. I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to diminish your position as a Customs Officer. With that I went out to look for the shuttle bus pickup area. Since I wasn’t sure where it was, I called the company and was directed to the correct place. After a few minutes wait, 5 of us boarded the bus. Two were headed to the San Pedro cruise ship terminal, one to the border of San Pedro and Palos Verdes, and the other to Belmont Shore in Long Beach. If the plane flight wasn't long enough, I was dropped off last. I finally made it home just before midnight, thankful to be back in the good old U.S. of A.

Bonus photos: Top - Saying goodbye to Uno. Bottom - Visiting a gastrobar in Quezon City
Thanks again to Ninette for all the photos posted here. They all came from her Facebook page.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Philippines Vacation - Days 11, 12, and 13 (Rod Marfil, Tim Ho Wan, NKTI, Auntie Fermonaira, Auntie Faida, Tes Marfil

Dinner with Auntie Faida
Day 11 – Rodrigo Marfil then Dinner at Tim Ho Wan           
Thursday, Day 11 - The day after checking out the condo in Cubao, my brother Larry was off from work and he drove me around Quezon City to show me where places I knew used to be. He also took me to an area with high rise condos and shopping centers way past Ateneo de Manila University. The name of the location escapes me now. He brought me there because Ninette mentioned the previous night that some of her colleagues may be moving and selling their condos. Nice location but I had already made up my mind about not buying.
Rod Marfil at FilMar Auto Trends
We then visited one of our cousins- Rodrigo Marfil at his automotive repair shop. I didn’t recognize him at first because he had lost so much weight. Apparently, he got sick a few years back and never gained his normal weight back. Last time I saw him was in high school where he was the bass and snare drummer for the Notre Dame of Jolo Boy’s Department band. His claim to fame at the time was that he was never absent from school from elementary all through high school. After reminiscing briefly about our days in Jolo, we bid him goodbye. Interesting note: Rod and all of his brothers and sisters have been single all their lives.
Tim Ho Wan dimsum
Larry and Ninette had planned on doing some grocery shopping in Trinoma, another shopping center a few miles away. I thought we were going to do that, then go home to have dinner. I asked them if we could find a place for a snack between then and dinner but they said that we were going to have dinner at a place called Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin Star awardee. Larry went to do the grocery shopping while Ninette and I went to SM (Shoemart) so I could buy more pastillas to take back to the U.S. 
Afterwards, we proceeded to Tim Ho Wan and was seated shortly thereafter. While waiting for Larry, we checked out the menu and Ninette told me what their specialty was. The award they received was mainly due to their meat bun (bao or pao or siopao) which instead of having a soft covering, had a crusty one. Larry was stuck in the grocery store so we ordered ahead. Larry arrived a few minutes later. I had been hankering for congee for a while now, so I had that for starters. We ordered the meat buns, chicken feet, and others that I no longer remember. If I find the receipt later, I’ll just add it to the list. I had to agree that the crusty bun was very good and it was the first time I’ve tried what they call Adidas (the chicken feet). Well, that was indeed a great meal and while I’m no foodie, I think the Michelin star was well deserved. We brought home some of the meat buns for the others who weren’t able to join us.

Day 12 - NKTI & Lunch with Auntie Ferm
On Friday, day 12, we took Pilaring (Ninette’s mom) to see a doctor at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute for blood tests and an X-ray since she had been having an ongoing cough. NKTI was where Larry had his dialysis and kidney transplant 2 years ago. Ninette is his donor. While Pilaring’s tests were being done, I did my workout by walking along the perimeter of the hospital and even ventured out in the traffic of East Avenue. Then I went inside the hospital to look for Larry, Pilaring, and Vangie.
Lunch with Auntie Ferm and Alain
For lunch, we had arranged to meet with Auntie Fermonaira Carpizo Labiano at a Thai restaurant in SM Aura. Auntie Ferm is a retired nurse from Abu Dhabi who now lives near SM Aura. She is a very animated woman whose walk reminded me so much of her mom, Lola Taram. A few minutes later, one of her sons, Alain, arrived and joined us. Auntie Ferm seemed to know everyone in the mall and joked with the owner of the restaurant and the servers, and did the same when we later went for coffee at another restaurant. She cooked and brought us a special Tausug dish called pianggang which we took home afterwards. Thank you so much for the pianggang Auntie Ferm, as we rarely get the chance to eat it anymore.
After saying out goodbyes, we went to pick up Robynne from her school in Makati, then returned home.

Day 13 - Early Dinner with Auntie Faida
On Saturday, Day 13, I pretty much lost track of what I did in the morning, but in mid afternoon, Larry and I drove to Maharlika Village in Taguig to meet with Auntie Faida Carpizo, an older sister of Auntie Ferm. She was going to serve us more Tausug food along with another cousin, Tes Marfil who lived with her. She first served us daral for snacks and when Tes came later, she had the satti and pastil. They also had cucumbers and sambal, plus more pianggang cooked by Auntie Faida this time. Our cousin Farid, who owns the house came home shortly along with Alain whom we met the previous day. I haven’t seen Farid since he was a little boy and still living with his parents in Quezon City back in the early 70’s. With smiles all around, photos were taken and the food was enjoyed by all. Thanks for the feast, Auntie Faida, Tes, and Farid.
Satti, pianggang, pastil, and sambal

Meanwhile, Larry was getting phone calls from home about Pilaring having some sort of medical episode, so we had to leave Maharlika Village and head back to NKTI to meet with Ninette, Pilaring, Robynne, and Vangie at the doctor’s clinic. Pilaring’s lab results and X-ray indicated pneumonia so she was ordered to stay at home and rest. She was none too pleased with that since there were plans to go to Tagaytay the next day.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Philippines Vacation – Day 10: Checking Out a Condo in Cubao & Grab Car Rides

One Bedroom Specifications
Studio Specifications
The day after my visit to U.P., I had made an appointment to meet with a real estate agent in Cubao. Since everyone at home was working that day, they suggested that I try Grab Taxi or Grab Car which is an Uber or Lyft type service. I opted for the Grab Car since they charge a flat rate instead of the Grab Taxi where the regular taxi meter is used. Since I wasn’t familiar with the streets in the Philippines anymore, it was in my best interest to have the flat rate in case I got an unscrupulous taxi driver who might drive me around in circles. I downloaded the app and ordered a car to my location, it gave me the driver’s name, license plate number, and cell phone number. As soon as he arrived, we were off to Cubao. Since I was about an hour early, it gave me a chance to explore the surroundings and try to get my bearings. Cubao was a frequent hangout when I was still studying in U.P. I walked around Araneta Center and SM (Shoe Mart) before I got a call from the real estate agent whom I arranged to meet in front of Rustan’s Department Store across from the Kia Theater. Two of them showed up and they were going to take me to see two buildings but I said one was enough. We took a taxi and I was shown the building which was still being constructed, then we went some other place to look at the floor models. There I saw a bare studio, dressed up studio, a one bedroom, and a combined one bedroom and studio option. Well, the studio was so tiny that if you were claustrophobic, you would not even consider it. The one bedroom was slightly larger but the bed and sofa still had to be positioned flush against the wall to create more space. The combined one bedroom and studio was only about 2/3 the size on my current 1 bedroom condo in Long Beach. I took pictures and videos but since it’s one dimensional, it’s hard to really discern the smallness of the units. Next I found out that the price quoted was only for the condo unit and didn’t include a parking space. The realtor said the parking space costs almost as much as the condo itself. Nevertheless, we went to the business office to look at available units and do calculations on costs and amortizations. I had to keep using my calculator to convert pesos into dollars. I told the realtor that I would consult with my family later that day and decide whether it was feasible for me to buy a condo in the Philippines or not.
Studio Condo - bare and staged

One Bedroom Condo - staged

The two realtors brought me back to where we started from and upon getting my bearings, I walked towards the construction area of the condo building. It was only about half a mile at most from the Araneta Center and was close to a supermarket, eateries, entertainment areas, and most importantly, a gym, not to mention not too far from Larry and Ninette’s home. Cubao also has nice sidewalks to walk on which was a plus. It was also very close to the light rail system. Suffice it to say, I really liked the area.
Amaia Skies construction site
Over the next few hours, I kept on walking around and went in and out of several stores and malls. At SM, I even found pastillas candy which I had planned to taking back to the U.S. for presents. In the end, I bought a few bags of those plus a wallet for myself. I fired up the Grab Car app again and a car picked me up in front of the Kia Theater and drove me back to U.P. Professors Subdivision. The cost of the ride back home was cheaper because it was not peak time.
Grab Car ride
That evening, I told Larry and Ninette about the condo and discussed the pros and cons of buying one. The condo company required a reservation fee of about $300 after which I was supposed to make a down payment within 30 days. If I failed to make a down payment, the $300 would be lost forever. In recent years, I’ve always been cash poor since most of my savings are in retirement plans in which if I withdrew money before I turned 59 and a half, I would be penalized by paying a surcharge. Not only that, whatever I withdrew would be taxed. I had given this information to the realtors earlier too. If I decided to buy, I would also need to give Larry my Special Power of Attorney so he can sign papers for me and make payments on my behalf. There was also an added pressure of time. The condo company said that on April 1st, which was only two days away, the prices of the condos and possibly some other fees would be going up and they said this occurs every quarter of the year.
After so much consideration and in spite of liking the location of the condo which was going to be ready by 2017, the negatives outweighed the positives. I could not get over the terrible traffic, the heat, the mostly bad sidewalks in most places, and the lack of a parking space with the condo price. The added pressure of having to decide within two days didn’t help either because I don’t like to make rash judgments like that specially that costs a lot of money. I don’t think the Philippines is a cheap place to live in anymore if you want to live in an urban area. I spend much less here in the U.S. than what I would in the Philippines if I retired there. I already had second thoughts about retiring there when I wrote about it a year or so ago. Perhaps, I, like a lot of people have taken living in the U.S. for granted until we experience living somewhere else. It has made me appreciate my humble abode in a not so very good part of town more, where the sidewalks are much better and the drivers are mostly more disciplined and follow lane lines.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Philippines Vacation Day 9 – A Visit to the University of the Philippines & Trying Red Horse


The University of the Philippines Oblation
Day 9 which was a Tuesday started out pretty quiet. I stayed home in the morning while Larry went to work, Ninette worked upstairs, and Robynne studied. After lunch, the helper – Vangie, had to go to Ateneo to pick something up for Ninette, so I joined her for a jeepney ride so she could show me where to get off so I could visit my Alma Mater – the University of the Philippines.
The previous entrance when I was still going to school there was beside Vinzons Hall. So when I went through the new entrance, I had get my bearings first. A lady walking beside me asked me where she could find a certain building. I apologized that I could not help her because I myself was no longer familiar with the place. So I started walking down the street (Osmena Avenue?) which I knew led to the tennis courts I used to play in as a member of the tennis team. I encountered some students doing some kind of experiment and a bunch of kids just walking about and one of them asked me for money. This street had a dedicated lane for runners, walkers, and cyclists, which was new to me.
Jeepney ride to U.P.
I proceeded to the tennis courts and looked around. A group of 3 guys were hanging out and talking. The clubhouse looked different and I didn’t recognize anyone there. Then I went looking for the College of Human Kinetics which used to be the Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation. They had moved the building at another location so I had to ask for directions. When I got there, I went to the gym floor. The setup of this old repurposed giant hangar hasn’t changed much except the concrete bleachers were gone. I didn’t see any teachers present so I went out and towards the rear of the building where I found the faculty offices. On one of the doors, I saw a familiar name and I asked one of the staff about her and was told that that person had retired. She used to play guard in the women’s basketball team. Not having recognized anyone, I left the college and walked towards the administration building where I asked a woman who appeared to be resting after a bike ride, to take my obligatory photo while in U.P., with the Oblation. With nothing else to do, I went back to the tennis courts where I met a man who gave me the impression that he was some kind of club pro or at least a club manager. He asked me if I played and I said I couldn’t anymore because I can no longer run due to leg problems. He remarked that I probably still had my stroke, which was true based on my previous Nintendo WII tennis game experience. Anyway, I told him about my playing days in U.P. and the people I used to know. Mind you, this was way back in the mid to late 70’s so he didn’t know the people I talked about.
Selfie with the Oblation
I begged my leave and walked back to the gym, saw a group of people playing soccer on the wood floor and a couple of girls who looked like they belonged to a varsity squad. Still not recognizing anyone, I left and went to Molave Residence Hall, a dormitory I lived in during my freshman year. When the security guard asked me if I needed some help, I told her I used to live there. I showed her a photo of my old I.D. and she said she thought it was a picture of my son. She was surprised when I told her it was me.
Molave Residence Hall
University of the Philippines I.D.
I soon left and found my way to the old shopping center where we used to go to have papers copied or mimeographed. The place is still pretty much the same except for the mimeograph machine. There were various places to eat and what looked like internet cafes as well as school supplies (the Blue Book!) and places that sold clothes. It was on one of those places I found a U.P. tank top which I bought. It felt ok when I tried it on over the clothes I was wearing but upon my return to the U.S., I found it to be scratchy. Anyway, it’s good to have some kind of souvenir since my varsity jacket was long gone.
University of the Philippines tanktop
Afterwards, Larry texted me that he was going to pick me up on his way home and to meet me between the U.P. Theater and the College of Music. While waiting, I noticed a lot of people exercising on that same street with the dedicated exercise lane. Larry picked me up and we drove home. I was spared a jeepney ride back home and the probability of getting lost.
Later that evening, I had a hankering for a beer and went to one of the sari-sari stores in the neighborhood. They had run out of San Miguel but had Red Horse which I had never tried before, so I bought one of those which came in a half liter (16.9 oz.) bottle. My first impression was that it tasted like malt liquor. Upon reading the label, I found out that it was brewed by San Miguel and had a higher alcohol content. Well, in combination with the volume and the alcohol content, it certainly gave me a huge buzz. That Red Horse sure had a strong kick. Soon after the buzz and dinner, it was beddie bye time. Regardless that things had changed tremendously and I didn’t know anyone anymore, it was nice to be able to revisit my past haunts during my college years.
Red Horse beer

Monday, April 25, 2016

Philippines Vacation - Day 8 – Monday in Greenhills, Xavier, & Rockwell

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor
Larry was still working for a couple of days before his schools' summer vacation began and he usually leaves home at about 4:30 a.m. to beat the traffic. I joined him Monday morning while he drove to Xavier High School in Greenhills. He showed me what building his office was in then drove me to Greenhills Shopping Center where I was going to spend my day before walking back to Xavier High School to meet up with him. I had to keep my eye on what streets I was on and where to turn to get back to Xavier from the shopping center.

Before dropping me off, Larry drove around the perimeter of the shopping center where a bunch of people came out every day to exercise. Then he left to go to work. I did some stretching then started a slow jog counter clockwise around the shopping center. To my right was a covered parking structure where music was playing and a couple of Zumba classes were going on. As I circled the area, I saw other runners, walkers, and run/walkers mostly going in the same direction as I was. After a couple of laps (which was approximately 1 kilometer in distance per lap or about 2/3 of a mile) I began to notice that despite of my slowness, I was proceeding at a steadier clip than most people and began to negative split each lap. I encouraged some kids who were running then slowing to a walk to go more slowly so they can run longer. I smiled at other exercisers and was enjoying the moment of being able to run on an even sidewalk and not have to dodge cars along the way.

I noticed a gentleman running at a steady pace which appeared to be the same as mine but he was running clockwise. So the next time I encountered him, I turned around, introduced myself and asked if I could run with him. He agreed and while we ran together I asked him if he was a marathoner because he appeared to have a very economical stride suited for long distance running. He replied that he used to do that in the past but not anymore. He then asked me how old I was and upon hearing that I was almost 59 years old, he looked surprised that I was still able to run the way I did and matched him stride for stride. But he was probably not more than 10 years younger than I am. So we ran and talked for a few more laps until on the last one, he did a sprint on a short straightaway that I didn’t match for fear of injuring myself. I increased my stride slightly until I caught up with him during his recovery jog. After his cool down jog, he had to go and I thanked him for letting me join him. I ran a few more laps until I reached 45 minutes (my goal for that day was just 30 minutes but because of the company, I was able to extend it), then walked for 15 more minutes.

While walking, I saw this pretty woman running but I had filled my running quota for the day and if I had done any more, I would have risked injuring my fragile ankles and legs. I bumped into that woman again later when she was done and as she walked back to her car with breakfast in hand, I asked her how many laps she did. She said “just 4”. I said that was better than most people, and it was then that I noticed her green eyes. I bid her a good day and went on my way. The green eyes? Well, they were probably contact lenses. It was fun interacting with other exercisers again. It what I mostly miss about not being able to run the way I used to.

Having started my workout at 6 a.m. and finishing at 7 a.m., it was another 3 hours before the shopping center opened. While I walked around, I saw a lot of security personnel in the area and they were conducting a hostage situation drill inside the still closed mall. Some pretended to be hostages hunched on the floor, others acted like they were injured, while others were rescuers carrying either another human being or a dummy from inside the mall to a triage area in the parking lot. In spite of the drill, the Zumba exercisers kept on dancing, the walkers kept on walking, and the joggers kept on jogging.
Greenhills Shopping Center swap meet
My legs got tired from exploring so I sat in one of the chairs in the taxi waiting area. Later on, I sent a text message to a real estate agent I had been in touch with for several months, to arrange for a meeting to look at some condos I was interested in. We agreed to meet on Wednesday in Cubao.
Before the mall opened, I noticed a badminton club on the third floor so I went up to check it out.  I used to play that sport competitively in my youth. There were a couple of middle aged guys and a couple of young guys playing, as well as a beginner’s class with about 5 students. I observed for a few minutes, then went back downstairs. Pretty soon the mall opened and was I glad to be finally indoors in the air conditioned building. The first floor had all sorts of merchandise and it reminded me of an indoor swap meet we have in Long Beach. In addition to jewelry, there were a lot of brand name merchandise like Under Armour, Nike, Birkenstocks, etc. When I did my calculation from pesos to dollars, they were remarkably cheap! Until I realized they were most likely fake. The second floor which Larry described to me earlier, was full of technical stuff like cell phones, cell phone accessories, tablets, etc. After experiencing the harrowing boat ride a few days before and almost getting my cell phone drenched in sea water, I bought myself a transparent waterproof case which cost about $6. I explored all the floors of the mall then went to a Smart phone store to have my cell phone checked out since I couldn’t get the 4G data to work. After a slight delay, the technician copied the Android settings from her own phone and my data plan started to work. I thanked the lady and gave her a fist bump before leaving.

I was getting peckish so I went around looking for a place to eat. There were plenty of course but I was looking for a congee place. Having found none, I found lomi (a type of thick noodle soup) in of all places, an eatery called Sizzler’s. Now, I don’t think it had any connections with the Sizzler’s in the U.S. but they also served steaks. So I ordered the noodles and while I was eating, Ninette texted me asking how my day was going and informing me that there was a bomb threat in her school – Ateneo De Manila. She was working from home of course. Anyway, there were not too many details yet since the situation was ongoing. She asked me to buy some bread floss from a shop called Bread Talk. Bread floss? She explained that Bread Talk was in a another building. When I paid for lunch, the waiter brought me my money back and informed me that a couple of my 20 peso bills were no longer in circulation. Those were the bills I got from the cashier at Solaire the day before! I paid with the proper bills then headed off to another building to look for the bakery that sold bread floss. It was in the building where the movie theaters were. That reminded me that I once took an ex girlfriend on a date in the old Greenhills Shopping center when the theaters were still located in a different area. Anyway, I went up to the third floor where the theaters were and found some benches to sit on while waiting for the time for me to walk to Xavier High School to meet my brother. When that time came, I went to the bread floss place and made my purchase. I thought it was a meat filled piece of bread but I later learned that the meat was actually the shavings of floss-like substance on top of the bread itself. That shows you how ignorant I am about these supposedly gourmet things.

So I walked back to Xavier on the usual irregular sidewalks with parked cars and having arrived a few minutes early, texted Larry that I’ll be waiting in the student drop off and pick up zone. He called security who escorted me to his work area. The faculty had an end of the school year party where they complimented each other, said goodbye to departing teachers, sang karaoke, and of course had some food which they invited me to partake. I respectfully declined since I felt I still had a bellyful of lomi. We excused ourselves shortly and Larry gave me a brief tour of the school. He would be transferring from the New Technology department back to his previous position of Athletic Director next school year.
Power Plant Mall in Rockwell Center
We left Xavier and headed to Ateneo Law School in the Rockwell area of Makati to pick up Robynne. While waiting for her, we walked around Power Plant Mall. Apparently this area was the location of a former power plant which I no longer remember. My goodness, I used to take jeepney rides there with another ex girlfriend whose family lived in that area in 1979! As I was to learn a few days later, my ex girlfriend’s mother still lives just one street away from the Power Plant Mall. When Robynne arrived, we went to an office supplies store where she had to buy some school stuff while I found myself buying 4 tri-color pens for about 16 cents each. Then it was time to hit traffic again on the way home. It was a full day for me. As you can see, it took 2 and a half pages to write about it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Black Saturday and Easter Sunday - Days 6 & 7

Before going any further, here are a few more photos from Ninette's camera from our trip to Nagsasa Cove. These were taken on the way to the cove when the waters were calm. Fortunately we were spared from photos taken on the way back when we looked scared but pretended not to be.
Larry & I on the way to Nagsasa Cove
I was still able to stand up due to the calm waters
Ninette & Ben
Elgee, Robynne, & Uno
So what happened on day 6 which was Holy Saturday or Black Saturday depending on whom you ask? Later that day, Black Saturday certainly lived up to it's dark name. Well, let's see. I woke up at about 5:30 and from Big Foot, I started walking towards downtown where they had the religious procession the night before. Other than people waiting for the buses and jeepneys, the crowds were gone. I turned around and walked back to Big Foot. I'm telling you, the dirt sidewalk was better in this town than the one in the city.

Walking to the Town Hall of the town which name I can't remember
The plan for the day was spend a few hours at Capones Vista Beach Resort then drive back home at about 3 or 4 p.m. We checked out from Big Foot rest house and by the time we arrived at the resort, they were already at capacity. The receptionist gave us a pass since we were repeat customers and allowed us to stay. Some went swimming (you can't keep Uno away from the pool), some like me just lounged around too exhausted to do anything else from the activities of the previous two days. After lunch, we gathered all our stuff, drove to where mangoes were sold on a roadside stand, bought some, then wended our way towards the main highway leading out of town. There were a couple of reasons why we left on Saturday instead of Easter Sunday: Larry, Ninette, and Robynne had tickets for Sunday to watch Les Miserables back in Manila, and to avoid traffic on Easter Sunday when everyone else who went out of town was expected to head back to the city. Well...
Sample of Philippine traffic (photo courtesy of jmobraindump.wordpress.com)
The first half hour or so, we were at top speed, then just as suddenly, we were creeping inch by inch (literally) in traffic somewhere in Subic. There must have been some accident up ahead but to this day, I still don't know what went on. As I was learning, or this is just how I perceive it, this is how driving is in the Philippines. On a narrow two lane road, you may fit a third vehicle, and if a dirt sidewalk has some space, then you can drive a fourth vehicle there. A double yellow line separating the street doesn't mean anything because one can cross that line and drive against opposing traffic. Cutting off another vehicle is acceptable and if you consider courtesy on the road, that means you don't hit the other vehicle when you cut him off or vice versa. Everyone fights for every inch they can get regardless of the miles-long bottleneck it creates. I'm guessing it took about 3 hours to cover a couple of miles, if that. At the end point of that particular bottleneck, we had to stop for gasoline and a bathroom break. The women unfortunately had to line up for one toilet, while the men were directed by a security guard behind the gas station with a request to please not to pee on the wall but do it on the gravel covered ground. There were a whole bunch of men plus a little girl (who was squatting) doing what they had to do for relief. After gassing up and perhaps passing gas, we were back on the road for more traffic. This time we proceeded in feet instead of inches. Traffic finally loosened up as we approached the former U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base. We traveled at a good clip until we only had a few miles left on the superhighway before home. Why the heck there is traffic on a superhighway at 9 p.m. on a Saturday, I don't know. By the time we arrived home, the drive had taken 7 hours or more, even longer than our trip outward bound. But at least we were safely home, sore butts and all.

On Easter Sunday, I woke up early as usual and went for my walk. I headed out of UP Professors Subdivision, made a right on Congressional Avenue, all the way to Luzon Avenue, went up the elevated walkway to cross the street, and walked back to where I came from. Afterwards we went to mass where a Vietnamese priest conducted the service, and since Christ died on the cross and forgave us our since two days before, I felt comfortable enough to receive holy communion. I may no longer be an actively practicing Catholic, but you still cannot take the Catholic out of me. Hey, I satisfied one of the holidays of obligation after all. We took Pilaring, Ninette, and Robynne home then Larry and I went the have the car washed.

After lunch and much later in the afternoon, I went with them to Solaire (https://solaireresort.com/) where they were going to watch Les Miserables while I explored the area. Well, I didn't really have to leave the building because there were enough areas to check out: a casino, some restaurants, and some kind of art gallery in the hallway. Plus there was free wi-fi.
Larry, Robynne, & Ninette

Les Miserables wall at Solaire
While my three companions headed to the theater, I went in the casino to find the cashier so I could exchange some dollars into pesos since I had run out of the local currency. The exchange rate was slightly lower than the one I got in Cubao but I didn't have any other options (I found out the next day after eating in a restaurant that the Solaire cashier had given me a couple of old, no longer accepted 20 peso bills). Afterwards, I was getting hungry, and knowing that the show was going to last 3 hours, I headed to the food court. The first eatery I went to had a twenty minute wait so I opted for another. Having had my fill (I don't even remember what I ate anymore), it was time to explore Solaire.

The casino was just like any other casino I've visited in the U.S. - smoky and noisy, which left me smelling like a chimney again. I didn't hang around long enough to develop a smoker's cough from the second hand cigarette smoke. The usual slot machines and card tables were present. I made a mistake to taking a selfie on the casino floor and a security guard approached me and asked me to delete it while pointing out a sign saying no photographs could be taken in the playing areas. I guess this was to protect the privacy of gamblers and/or if they were men, if they were there with their mistresses.
Weird Mona Lisa paintings in Solaire
I then walked up and down the hallways checking out paintings, then scouted the restaurants so I can give my companions a heads up on what was available for dinner after they came out of the show. Next, I went upstairs to see where the play was being shown. It was all in all a very nice resort, casino, and theater building. After the show, we went to eat at one of the noodle restaurants inside the building, then went home for the night.
Lucky Noodles Restaurant at Solaire

Thus ended day 6 and 7 of my vacation. The traffic in the Philippines was starting to turn me off and I was beginning to have second thoughts about possibly retiring there.

Some photos in this post courtesy of Ninette's Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Philippines Vacation 2016 – Days 4 and 5

Capones Vista Beach Resort
My family had planned to spend the Easter weekend at a beach resort in Zambales and it was decided that we were going to leave at 3 a.m. on Thursday to avoid all the vacation traffic. We were joined by Elgee’s (Ninette’s sister) family consisting of husband Ben and son Uno driving in another car.  Well…only the 3 a.m. departure time worked out because it appeared like everyone had to same idea for avoiding traffic that it created the opposite effect and made traffic worse. It’s what we call in California a SIG Alert, only much longer. I’ll spare you the details, but what should have been a 3 hour trip lasted for 6 hours. All that time in traffic, I was thinking I hope this beach resort was worth going through all that (and it was). The trip back home? Well…you’ll hear about that later.
The Family
After escaping the initial traffic, Waze guided us directly to Capones Vista Beach Resort. It was quite a sight- there were rooms for rent, 2 fresh water pools, the beach, the sea, and across the sea were three islands. There were no more rooms available for weeks so my brother had made a reservation at a rest house in town where we checked in later. We found ourselves two tables where we could lay our belongings while we spent the day. For me, first things first: I had to do my workout for the day and that turned out to be a walking workout back and forth on both sides of the pools, occasionally extending it to the driveway and out the dirt path and back, until I finished my requisite 30 minutes (all in my flip flops which fortunately had good arch supports). When I returned, Uno was already in the pool enjoying himself, as he had been dying in anticipation to do this for days. The rest of us lounged around and settled down, and some wandered around to take the mandatory selfies and groupfies (?). Thoughts of the earlier traffic nightmare were gone by then. On this day, I was finally able to wear my newly bought flip up/flip down sunglasses for the bright sunlight.
Larry & I beside one of Capones Vista's pools
Soon enough it was the adults’ turn to enjoy the pool. Even my brother, who had a kidney transplant a couple of years ago (Ninette happens to be the donor), and required the perfect pH in the pool water, joined in the fun. He did a few laps and tried to teach Uno how to exhale in the water. The rest took a few strokes here and there and just generally enjoyed getting out of the stifling summer heat and humidity. I have not swum in decades and while the stroke was still somewhat acceptable, the endurance was gone. The 15 meter pool felt like 50 meters long. We played with Uno some more then ordered lunch. If I remember correctly, I had the fried milk fish, fried egg, and rice (bangsilog), and most of us ordered something similar. We swam and lounged some more before heading to town to find Big Foot, well…Big Foot Rest House, that is, where we would be spending our sleeping hours for the next couple of nights. Ninette and Larry had reserved 3 rooms: one for the men and boy, for the women, and for Pilaring, Liling, and Vangie.
Ninette enjoying her post swim margarita
We had Chinese food dinner at the Big Foot restaurant next door and afterwards returned to our quarters. Since it was Good Friday the next day, the restaurant was going to be closed, so we preordered our breakfast and coffee before the restaurant closed for the night. I was so exhausted that I was in bed before 10 p.m. It was the first time since 1973 that I shared a bed with my brother. Back then when I was 15 and he was 10, we shared a bunk bed in Jolo, Philippines. Well, that’s not entirely true because we also shared a bunk bed briefly in 1979 or 1980 when we lived with Auntie Faida before I moved to the U.S. I almost forgot this part - Liling knocked on our door at about 2 a.m. and reported that something was wrong with Pilaring. Larry and I went to their room and it appeared that Pilaring had an episode of sleep paralysis where she couldn't be aroused. Her respirations were pretty even and normal though so I was hoping it wasn't some kind of stroke. After several minutes of trying to arouse her, she finally woke up and we returned to bed.
I found the YETI
The agenda for the next day was to take a boat ride to lagoon an hour away. I woke up at about 5:30 and was out the door at 6 for my mandatory daily exercise. I walked 15 minutes one way and 15 minutes back, and by the time I got back to Big Foot, everyone was ready to leave for the boat ride. Pilaring appeared none the worse for wear despite the sleep paralysis episode she experienced just a few hours earlier.We had to leave the cars behind because the owner of the boats called my brother to tell him there were no more parking spots left. So be boarded several tricycles to get to the launching area. When we arrived at the beach, we waited until they had the food we were going to bring with us was cooked, then boarded a medium sized outrigger canoe (banca) which was just enough for all 10 of us plus 3 boat handlers. We donned our day-glo orange life jackets and were soon underway. At a steady clip on a calm sea, we went straight for about half an hour then made a left for another half hour before we arrived at a lagoon with a beach semi full of day trippers like us. On the way, we saw plenty of outriggers coming from and going to different beachfronts in the area. I think the one we went to was the least crowded because it took longer to get there. The place was called Nagsasa Cove.
Launching area for the outrigger canoes
Outrigger canoe (banca) ride on calm seas to Nagsasa Cove
Elgee, Larry, & Ninette in Nagsasa Cove
We got off the boat to find a shady place to set our things. All the huts were occupied but after waiting a few minutes, one became available and we were able to use it for the day. Ninette and I went exploring and she wanted to find a trail that was mentioned on the internet. We saw the trail but were unable to get there because the path through the shallow water was too rocky. There must have been another way to get to that trail but we couldn’t find it at that moment. She took a few photos of the views and ourselves of course, then went back to our family who had since settled down at the hut (well, it was a big table with a roof). By then, the sun was blazing hot and the sand was burning if you were barefoot. We entered the sea water to get some relief and thankfully the water gradually deepened the farther you went compared to yesterday’s beach where there was a sudden drop into deep ocean after only a few feet of beach. We swam a little bit but generally just enjoyed the coolness of the water.
Uno, Robynne, Ninette, Ben, & Elgee keeping cool

Me in Nagsasa Cove
We had lunch of fried fish, grilled fish, squid, rice, and other things that I had already forgotten about. After a brief rest, we dipped in the ocean again and oh my God (!), Larry went in the water too. He had already put into consideration that he didn’t have any open cuts on his skin and that he wasn’t going to “put his head in the water so his mucous membranes weren’t exposed to whatever bacteria was in the water. Some of us were not too pleased with what he did, but begrudgingly accepted it.
Lunch Time
Larry taking a daring plunge into the ocean
Taking shelter from the heat under the hut
The boat was supposed to come back to pick us up at 3:30 p.m. but they were slightly delayed. The boat handlers said the sea was getting choppier and to expect to get wet on the way back. What an understatement! They should have said “get very wet and get very scared of dying”. Casting off the beach, the waves didn’t feel so bad, but the farther we went, they got increasingly larger. Well large in proportion to the outrigger. Splish Splash and everyone was taking a bath. Hit a wave, bounce up, get splashed with sea water, and this went on for an hour and a half. Yes, it took 30 more minutes to get back because of the waves. Some were freaking out, others quietly stoic (or is it stoically quiet?), while a few had no fear due to their confidence in their swimming abilities. I was thinking I was about to meet my Maker on my vacation but kept quiet about it. After all, we were literally and figuratively on the same boat, weren’t we? Names shall not be mentioned but one older lady got so fed up with all the bouncing around that she exclaimed “bababa na ako!” (I wanna get off!), which made for a lighthearted moment and made everyone laugh despite the situation we were in. We soon saw our landing area up ahead but it still seemed to take forever to get there because we were battling cross currents, and when we did we had a hard time getting off the boat due to the waves. What a great relief to be back on dry land! We had survived the harrowing boat ride and our very own Good Friday Calvary at sea. Believe me, it was probably more scary than my capability to describe it in words.

Another tricycle ride and we were back at Big Foot Rest House (still no sighting of the Yeti). Well the Philippines is such a Catholic/Christian country that most of the restaurants were closed on Good Friday. We were caught in yet another traffic jam downtown when we ran into a religious procession while trying to find a place to eat. We ended up getting take out and eating in our room at Big Foot. Another vacation day full of adventure had ended.
You can read about the first 3 days here: http://aboutlifeandrunning.blogspot.com/2016/04/philippines-vacation-2016-first-3-days.html

Attribution: Some photos from this post were taken from Ninette's Facebook page.

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