Posts Tagged ‘pinoy abroad

15
Apr
14

DESERT SAFARI : DEFINITELY DUBAI!

A visit to Dubai is never complete without experiencing desert adventures. Dune bashing, sand skiing, dune buggy, barbecue dinners, camel rides, and for the more financially equipped, hot air ballooning during sunrise. These activities may be so touristy but heck, they’re almost synonymous with this future-forward city. Desert Safari’s one of the must-do when you’re in this part of UAE!

It was a blessing that my former students and I met for a dinner where I was treated to a Korean-Japanese gastronomic feast, and a spontaneous and no-brainer decision on my part to join them in Desert Safari was done in a blink. They arranged the tour and next thing I knew, I was with Karen and Joel seated comfortably inside Toyota Land Cruiser one Friday afternoon; what a perfect way to spend my day off at work! The same badass vehicle brought us to the sand dunes of Dubai within a couple of hour-trip.

After a quick mandatory stop over at a souvenir shop where necessary bladder breaks, removal of air from the wheels to make it more sand-appropriate, and ghutra-panic-buying on my part, we found ourselves ready and thrilled for the dune bashing!

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Mr. Azeem Rafaqat, our careful yet daredevil driver who picked us up in front of a hotel in Al Ghurair in Deira, Dubai, did very well on his job! It was an incredible and one-of-a-kind experience! There’s nothing like a sensation of  falling down from a steep mound of sand, followed by zigzag driving that made me feel we’re about to roll, scream and breathe my last! It was intense yet so fun!

About forty minutes after, we arrived at the camp. I was told by Karen who experienced Desert Safari 4 times already, that there are various camp sites where different tours operate. Upon the sight of ours, my Sympathetic Nervous System automatically slowed down as I savored an almost sunset-all-desert-view! Ahhhh, this is Dubai! :D

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I took photos of the friendly Emiratis at the camp site.
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Meet my Dubai Desert Safari travel-adventure buddies, lovebirds -Joel and Karen (both wearing sunnies).
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Did I give justice to that ghutra?  Say,YES! Hahahaha!
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And because dune buggy driving costs 100 dirhams for 15 minutes only, we were content with just photo-ops!
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Although I skipped the 30-dirham-camel riding, I felt like the happiest kid on the planet with a falcon on my head!  Here, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is my most recent brag-worthy portrait to date! *kidding*
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Barbecue dinner buffet, unlimited distilled water and soda, belly dancing watching, henna tattooing, wearing of  traditional Arabic attires, were all inclusive of the 100-dirham-package per pax we availed.
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Open-VIP rooms that are surprisingly installed with air-conditioning units and come with priority food service (you don’t need to queue on the buffet spread as food is served to your table), alcoholic beverages are all available on extra charges.

Moving on, do I look like an Arab here?
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Joel had his arm tattooed with a scorpion henna. The beautiful henna artist drew it in few strokes in less than 20 sec! Amazing!
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As the sun over Emirati desert finally sets to make way to the moon, the fun continued within the camp.

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Appetizer was nothing less than Chicken Shawarma, that has been my favorite!
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One of the highlights of Dubai Desert Safari is watching belly dancing! My eyes and camera were glued to two dancers who did fantastic shows!

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A faux sword on her belly. Belly Dancing, literally!

Audience participation made it more engaging!
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Then buffet dinner spread was served! Despite the queues were long as there were approximately more than a hundred guests that weekend, everything was kept systematic and in order. I got my food quickly on my plate and made sure I had everything I want to sample. Arabic food’s delicious!

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Grilled Chicken was well-marinated! It was simple yet so tasteful! Kebab was OK too, the same with Biryani, Potato and Veggie Salads. The Spaghetti was infused with real stewed tomatoes that appealed to my palates as somewhat authentic (as I’ve been to Italy! Hehehe!) as compared to my Filipino-Spaghetti-preference (that’s often sweet and rich). Over all, I liked everything on my plate! There’s no reason to complain.

While everyone was still feasting, a man in a traditional attire (of unknown Arabic origin) came out and went on stage. Karen was telling us, that this is the man she calls, the human BEYBLADE!

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And why not Beyblade? That man did nothing but turned and rotated and twisted non-stop!  I repeat, non-stop turning for more than 4 minutes! Not to forget he had props on his hands while dancing, err, turning, and his multi-layered skirt lit up like, uhm…beyblade!

I was worried he’d have nystagmus (oh, you know, the involuntary movement of the eyes after spinning like a ballerina, or worse, loss of equilibrium or ataxia) but No. He maintained his great stance and stood like he didn’t dance like a beyblade! Bravo!!!

 

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From 3PM-9PM that Friday (11/04/2014), I forgot all my worries, stress and problems.  Amazing what a few hours in Dubai Desert Safari could do to my being! I went home to our flat with satisfied wanderlust!

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

Azeem Rafaqat of Arabian Eagle Tourism | 055 2711018 | azeemrafaqat63@yahoo.com

>><<

04
Nov
12

MY WIFE’S CULINARY PROWESS PART 2

For five years of this blog’s existence, few loyal readers have witnessed how the love for food binds my family and I together. Tina, Gabby and I certainly love to eat! And our tastebuds have the same preferences either dining out or just eating within the comforts of our home.  Although I know how to perk up some tasteful dishes too, the credit goes to my loving wife who devotes so much of her TIME and EFFORTS not only at work but at the kitchen department to fill up our tummies with not just mediocre cooking but feasts that we usually crave for!

Here are some of her masterpieces, at least for Gabby and me!

This dish has shrimps, green bell pepper in light and sweet soy sauce, if not oyster sauce. It’s too delicious, I forgot to ask her what it’s called! :D

shrimps in oyster sauce

Vanhouten, sometimes Cadbury Chocolate Chamorado at Tuyo is one of our comfort foods! Even Gabby became biased with Champorado at Tuyo!  Yes, our 8-year-old kiddo loves tuyo, he eats it also sans champorado but with rice and dips its shredded bits on vinegar!  Regardless of the weather -rainy days or even when the sun is out; for breakfast or as late afternoon snack, this combo remains a personal favorite!

champorado at tuyo

Ebi Tempura and Chicken Cordon Bleu. All.From.Scratch!

prawn tempura and chicken cordon bleu
ebi tempura
prawn tempura

This one needs no introduction. Pass the vinegar, please! And let’s eat with bare hands, c’mmon! ;)

crabs

Bistek Tagalog with Blanched Veggies. I’m salivating now.

beef steak and blanched veggies

Some photographed pasta dishes the past months include this Crispy Noodle…

crispy noodles

and the classic Creamy Carbonara with homemade Garlic Bread that she made for our birthdays (Gabby’s last October, and mine’s September). While Gabby dislikes bacon and only wants the pasta and the creamy cheesy buttery sauce, I love it up to its last bacon bits. LOL! :P

creamy carbonara with home made garlic bread

For dessert, Maja Blanca con Maiz

maja blanca maiz

For someone like Tina who doesn’t have formal background in culinary arts, and for Gabby and me, those dishes are already superb despite its few imperfections. As mentioned, hours are usually spent in preparing them. Time and efforts for the family are always priceless!

With those few compiled food photos, one of my suntok-sa-buwan-wishes of putting up our very own food place someday lives on. Let’s see if it will materialize someday. Who knows what destiny brings? I am only sure of the fact that we love food and we like to eat – a lot!!!

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Part 1 of this blog’s series here : My Wife’s Culinary Prowess

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22
Jun
12

CARPE DIEM

As I wanted to seize the day with my family after we had lunch buffet at Flamingo Hotel  last weekend, we gave in to my son’s request to finally conquer Toys R Us at Gurney Plaza Mall…

Exhibit  A :  Ben 10 Ultimate Echo Echo

If you must know, Gabby has monthly earnings. Since we don’t have a car and our 11th-floor-seaview-appartment here in Penang comes with a car port, we’re having it leased by our neighbor for RM50 or almost PhP700 (USD 15.66) per month and the rental fee goes directly to Gabby’s toy fund personal savings. Whenever needed, I borrow money from Gabby too, so it becomes an emergency fund, hahaha!  (yes, the world revolves clockwise sometimes!) :)  But last weekend, opportunity presented itself when we found our feet inside Toys R Us and Gabby got hold of that Ben 10 Ultimate Echo Echo action figure for 70 ringgit (Too expensive if you ask me, but it has been a while since Gabby had a new toy so Tina and I allowed the boy to be happy, he saved the money anyway). He walked away from Toys R Us with Ultimate Echo Echo despite Tina and I were eyeing on those Avengers plushies at the backdrop, hahaha!

Exhibit  B : Gabby in long pants

Yes, our soon-to-be-8-year-old-kiddo bid temporary goodbye to his cropped pants (puruntongs) for denim long pants and corduroys.  He’s no longer a baby! *cue in crocodile tears*

Exhibit C :  Mangoes and Strawberries

We had afternoon coolers from Chatime; took some photos of course….And I believe my family can pass as Chatime’s ambassadors, don’t you think? hahaha! :D

Exhibit D :  Eating Japanese favorites for FREE!

We had our early dinner at Sakae Sushi in Gurney Mall and used our 50 ringgit (PhP 700) vouchers which I got when Tina and I attended the invitational Bloggers’ Event at Sakae Sushi First Avenue Mall (view blog post HERE).

Since Tina and I had already tasted Sakae Sushi’s 2012 newest menu during the Bloggers’ Event weeks ago, our choices for this early dinner were our personal favorites. My wife had Chicken Teriyaki which according to her was tender enough and tasteful however could have been better if they added more sauce on the rice toppings. Our wonder boy, Gabby had his default order of Ebi Tempura and had him smiled ear to ear. My mom savored grilled salmon with mentaiko mayo; the dish is called Salmon Mentaiyaki. And I opted for my favorite Japanese noodle dish, Sukiyaki. I liked it but sadly not as close as the authentic ones I’ve tasted in Tokyo back in 2010 (view blog post HERE get ready to drool, hehehe!)

Happiness from Tokyo 2010

Apparently, our family life isn’t perfect and challenges come and go. But come hell or high water, Tina and Gabby remain my life till I breathe my last.

*When did you last experienced moments you wanted to freeze?

Carpe Diem, everyone! ;)

15
May
12

SOMETHING ABOUT BARONG TAGALOG

It took me few days to bring my Barong Tagalog for its much needed dry cleaning to the laundry shop located just in front of the building of our appartment. I wore it proudly when I and my family graced the 2012 Malaysia International Tourism Blog Awards in Saloma Theater, Kuala Lumpur last May 8th. You all know by now what happened in the awards night; now here’s what happened inside the laundry shop :

  • Me : Hello! Good afternoon! Do you do dry clean here, Sir?
  • Old Malaysian man about age of 60s, perhaps : “Yes! What do you call that? ….Philippine!”
  • Me : It’s called Barong. Our national costume in The Philippines.”
  • Old Malaysian man : “Ahhhhh…. Barong!”
  • Me : “How much do you charge for dry cleaning a Barong, Sir? And when can I collect it?”
  • Old Malaysian man : “Today is Saturday, so tomorrow Sunday -store is closed. You can collect it on Tuesday. You pay 6 ringgit.”
  • Me : “OK, Sir, I’ll pay now and I shall collect it around 6:30PM, Tuesday.”
  • Old Malaysian man putting my Barong closer to his chest : “Can you wear Barong without a shirt inside?”
  • Me : “Oh no, Sir. We wear it with plain white undershirt underneath. Barong is worn in formal occasions.”
  • Old Malaysian man : “Ohhhhhh… Can you wear it with jogging pants, like this?” –pointing to what he was wearing.”
  • Me : “No, Sir. We wear it with slacks or formal dark pants.”
  • Old Malaysian man : “So if I want Barong, I go Philippine and buy. Where can I buy and how much?”
  • Me : “You can buy Barong Tagalog from Department stores or even in huge public markets.”
  • Old Malaysian man : “Ohhhhh… I see. How much?”
  • Me : “The price usually varies with the material or the cloth that was used. This Barong, I only got cheap for around hundred ringgit (FYI, I bought that particular Barong in Tutuban Mall in Divisoria, where else?) But as I have said, prices go up depending on the material. It can go as high as one thousand ringgit (Php 14,000) or even more expensive specially if it’s a designer’s label and/or the cloth is made of pineapple fiber.”
  • Old Malaysian man : “Ohhhh….the one worn by Marcos.
19
Apr
12

LET’S DO THIS!

Beyond Toxicity  X  Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards 2012

Here we go!  This personal blog that gives reverence to life’s simple pleasures – family, food and fun,  is one of the official entries to 2012 Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Awards 2012 under the Expat Malaysia My Second Home Category. You know how I love my country, the Philippines but living and working in Penang for almost 2 years has made Malaysia my second home now. 

There will be a 2-day conference set on May 8th and May 9th, 2012 at Seri Pacific Hotel, Kuala Lumpur that will highlight and feature talks, workshops and panel discussions on tourism and social media to be conducted by a list of esteemed speakers. Registration is FREE! To know more of the details and schedules of the event, visit MITBCA website at http://mitbca.com/conference.php

I’d like to thank MITBCA 2012 and Malaysia Ministry of Tourism for having this event to honor the people behind social media and their humble contributions to the tourism industry in Malaysia. I take pride in being one of the MITBCA 2012 nominees under EXPAT Malaysia My Second Home Category!

“Judging criteria is based on 80% public voting and 20% on judges’ decision (10% site or blog content, 5% design and layout, 5% on ethics and effectiveness)” sourced via MITBCA 2012

The awards shall be given on 8th May 2012 in Saloma, Kuala Lumpur (the date incidentally coincides with this site’s 5th birthday! Yes, Beyond Toxicity will be celebrating its 5th anniversary soon!). As mentioned, voting accounts for 80%  so if you think this blog deserves to win, show some love, support and care -tons of them by CLICKING THE VOTE BUTTON on this LINK :

VOTE FOR BEYOND TOXICITY http://docgelo.wordpress.com!

Maraming Salamat po!  Terima Kasih!  Thank you so much!

*to browse or review my blog posts about our Malaysian adventures, click the links on my sidebar under Another Day In Malaysia category. :)

*EDITED : Voting ended before midnight of May 1, 2012. Thank you so much to those generous people who expressed support! :)

21
Mar
12

JOY IN SIMPLE THINGS

Don’t be deceived by the photos above, they may look as scenes taken at wee hours of the morning but  it was almost seven o’clock when I captured them in a blink, en route to the first scheduled Catholic Mass one weekend (read : Tanghali na kung sumikat ang araw sa Malaysia at gabi na ang paglubog nito). I hopped on the bus at 15 minutes before 7 in the morning with my family in tow.  After the short bus ride, we strolled our way to the church. Gabby, Tina, my mom and I heard the 30-minute Mass in English in this parish called Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Hello, Mr. Sun! :)

Gereja Katolik = Catholic Church. The NBVM Church is located at the back of this old chapel.

That old chapel (or was it the parish office now? who knew?) in front of the church compound was always kept locked, or perhaps it was still early to open it. Nonetheless, I found a visual stimulus in its rustic metal padlocks over  textured wooden doors. :)

Because it was only half hour past seven in the morning and the mall and the grocery are still closed, we decided to take our first meal of the day in one of the local food stalls across the street.  The eatery or carinderia for us Pinoys, or as Penangites call it, hawkers is situated in front of a small Buddhist temple which apparently caught my attention.

The caridenderia’s big enough to sit 100 people; well ventilated and offers a variety of drinks and tummy fillers.

No, we are definitely NOT ALOCHOLICS but we have this LOVE AFFAIR with a variety of COFFEE available in Penang. Just in case you want to check out the common beverages offered in food stalls here.... one ringgit = more or less fourteen Ph pesos.

PRICELESS morning smiles…

Children, say, KEOY TEOW SOUP

LOVE at 8 o’clock in the morning…

With warmed stomachs, we took another bus ride to one of the malls in Penang mainland.

Lunch was done in McDonald’s, in favor of Gabby’s collection of Happy Meal toys currently featuring his favorite, Spongebob. Then we decided to see a movie at around 12:30PM.  It has been a while since we last munched caramel popcorn inside a cinema.

Disregarding the fact that Taylor Kitsch's "airport hassle" issue that happened in Indonesia and NOT in the Philippines, JOHN CARTER wasn't that bad movie. We were entertained, actually! But we read via online news this Disney movie plummeted at the box office; who's to blame? *just asking*

After the movies, must buy groceries…

No-Plastic-Policy in groceries and shopping malls in Penang. Let's Reuse, Reduce, Recycle!

After the groceries, must satisfy growling tummies again! ;)  We had purple yam balls which we didn’t like (nothing’s special),  taho or what they call here, tofoo far with brown sugar syrup, 3 bowls of dried scallop congee that we topped with fried bread called yoo tiao from the restaurant called, I love Yoo. The congee bowls were made even more tasteful with a dash of soysauce and sesame oil.  A tall glass of cold soya for Gabby, and a cup of white coffee for me completed the light meal. Solb!

Merienda over a very affordable restaurant called, I LOVE YOO (not yoU! mind you!).

We could not be unhappy when there are more reasons to be grateful! ;)

10
Nov
11

GABBY’S CHRISTMAS TREE

With no imposed obligations from them, I’m trying my best to give back to my parents by doing things to Gabby what they did to me and my brothers. It’s one of the simple ways I know to show gratitude to the people who raised us well.

Before I got married and raised a family of my own, I used to put up a Christmas tree with my mom, siblings and cousins on either the last day of October or after Undas (All Saints and All Souls’ Day).  Like ordinary Filipino family, it has been a tradition for us to welcome and usher the yuletide season in our home by gathering around our living room to assemble one of the most famous holiday symbols, the Christmas tree! :)

From malls to shops in Divisoria, we usually update our decors almost every 2 to 3 years back then. Once, our mom even brought us to a specific distributor of Christmas decors and novelty items somewhere in San Francisco Del Monte, Quezon City (a company called ‘Unique’ that supplies National Bookstores and some department stores in Pinas). We used to have 6 feet Christmas tree with decors that are older than my nephew and nieces.

While on Tina’s end, my in-laws are also fond of sprucing up the house with holiday cheers. Last year, Tina, Gabby and I unboxed my in-laws’ collection of Christmas village that they have purchased over the years from US. (View them HERE!)

Now that I have Tina and Gabby, it’s more apparent that a simple activity as raising a Christmas tree can foster family bonding. :)

With only 150-cm- Christmas tree and its decors, he did not contain his happiness! The moment was priceless!

Except for the Christmas lights, Gabby decorated the tree himself, piece by piece…

S & J, a novelty shop in Queensbay Mall, Penang issued their free quarterly “Bento magazine” to promote their items on sale. For the 3 of us, the most interesting items on the pages are the Christmas tree packages with mostly European themes.

There were a lot to choose from; themes were inspired by the key cities in Europe and few from other parts of the globe. There’s Barcelona, New York, Paris, Moscow, Helsinki, Rome, Edinburgh, and the one we brought that the three of us selected in its medium size (4 feet+) -Black forest (in Germany).  The ‘Black forest’ tree was described in the Bento magazine with phrase, “Mesmerize with fairytale toys of wonderland Germany.”

Not only with their themes, but sizes of these Christmas trees vary from small (120 cm), medium (the one we got at 150 cm) and large (180 cm).

Here are detail shots of our tiny Christmas tree….

We love Christmas balls in any color, in any size!

The Black forest Christmas tree package from S & J was lacking of stocks of two types of Christmas balls so the sales ladies asked us to choose from their shelves. Tina singled out little mirror-balls for our tree.

From Mr. Snowman to Santa Clause and reindeers, the decors are a delight to our eyes! Gabby enjoyed putting them on the tree that’s only a bit taller than him.

Got to believe in.... Santa Clause! :)

Putting the star on top of the tree is somewhat symbolic. We also wanted Gabby to do it however he told me that he’s already tired so I did the job for him. The boy’s energy was exhausted in our first Christmas activity, hehe! :)

Et voila….Gabby’s masterpiece! :)

With no explanations needed, Christmas goes beyond those glittery and sparkling decors. We anticipate more our celebrations of the reason for the season as we do this earthly preparations.

Our Christmas tree heightens our excitement to come home to the Philippines on the 3rd week of December.  We cannot wait to see how Manila and our relatives’ places have been decorated for this season!

24
Jul
11

OUR SPLENDID AFTERNOON AT THE BLUE MANSION

With Feng Shui perfection, this magnificent dwelling that fused aesthetics and opulence was built with the doors fronting the sea and its posterior on a mountain slope, the Penang Hill, described as “house on the back of a dragon” figuratively.

Its front doors have Chinese inscriptions that read, “Dancing Phoenix and Flying Dragons” which, according to Chinese beliefs can only be found in Heaven.  These and more enticed me and my family to listen and enjoy the very engaging one-hour-guided tour at The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion also known as The Blue Mansion.

23 July 2011. Saturday. My initial plan was to bring my family to the biggest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia located in Penang but I guess it had to be rescheduled some other weekend thus, one thing led to another.

The suggestion to pay the Blue Mansion a visit came from one of the Tsinoys I admire, who described himself in his website as “a self-designated life-long citizen and ambassador of Manila”, Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks when he left a comment on my post about our beautiful experience in Yeng Keng Hotel. 

With my parents, wife and our son in tow, I arrived with them at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion with ample time to take photos of its exteriors, prior to our scheduled 1:30PM guided tour.

Located in Lebuh Leith or Leith Street, the mansion site stretches 56,000 sq ft (5,202.4 sq meters) with a total floor area of 33,000 sq ft (3065.7 sq meters).  What’s amazing with Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion isn’t its expectedly vast than usual land coverage but its other remarkable uniqueness. For instance, its lot and its neighbors do not follow the alignment of Leith Street which runs in  a North-East to South-West direction.  This unusual construction was believed to be guided by Feng Shui or geomancy as preferred by Cheong Fatt Tze himself.

With my almost a year of being an expat in Penang, I’d say it is hard to miss this indigo blue structure that can be seen along George Town’s main thoroughfares such as Jalan Penang (Penang Road) and Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street). However, I didn’t have any idea of its cultural and historic significance until my family and I set foot on its courtyard.

with Komtar, the tallest building in George Town at its backdrop.

The entire tour of the Cheng Fatt Tze Mansion was truly worth indulging! The RM 12 (USD 4.03 or PhP 171) per pax rate of fee was nothing compared to the fascination and amazement we’ve experienced. Imagine stepping on the same venue where the 1992 notable Academy-award winning (1993 Best Foreign Language Film) French movie, Indochine that starred Catherine Deneuve and Vincent Perez was filmed. The Blue Mansion is equally interesting as the man who built it.

  

 In Tuxedo and in Chinese Mandarin Suit. The New York Times called him “The Rockefeller of the East”.  Having rags to riches story, with perseverance in his pocket, he conquered himself and had engaged in businesses dealing with pepper, rubber, tea, coffee, tobacco, rice and even opium; eventually became an investor in banks, trader of glassworks, cattle and textiles. He became philantropist and had abundant wives of 8 (of whom wife #7 was the favorite), concubines and hand-maidens.  He had his last will and testament that ordered the Mansion would only be available for selling after the death of his son (1989).  Photo sourced via www.penang-vacations.com

CHEONG FATT TZE

“Arriving penniless from Guandong province, China,to this part of the world at the age of 16, Cheong Fatt Tze grew to become one of the most historic and colorful personalities of the era. “One of China’s last Mandarins and 1st Capitalists”, such was his aura and fame that the Dutch and British authorities ordered that flags be flown at half mast throughout their colonies when he passed away in 1916.  Of his vast empire, Cheong Fatt Tze chose Penang to build the most elaborate of his homes and to raise his sons. It is reputed to be one of two such buildings of this size, outside China and certainly the most perfected.  While the Mansion’s floorplan is essentially Chinese, the overall effect is ecclectic and typical of 19th Century Straights Settlements architecture. Gothic louvered windows, Chinese cut-and-paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles, Scottish cast iron works and Art Nouveau stained glass are among the features to be found in this inspired work of art.  The aura and “chi” of the man pervades the entire edifice.

The dilapidated Mansion was acquired in 1990 with the prime intention of achieving a return to an authentic original form. Traditional materials and methods have been utilized and the end result has been nationally and internationally acclaimed. Winner of “Most Excellent Project” Award at the UNESCO Heritage Awards 2000, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has earned its place as one of Penang’s foremost tourist destinations, a historical reminder of a past era and a man whose dream will live on it the majesty of his home.”  *Sourced from the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown bookmark giveaway at the gate.*

Couplets, such as this door found at the side of the Mansion after its restoration are symbolic as the proverbs, “There is permanence in the rising of the sun and moon.”

The only disappointment I had was the fact that photography’s forbidden inside the Mansion. Nonetheless, I confirmed from our excellent tour guide, Ms. Lyn Fong a.k.a Sally, that once a guest checks in in one of the 16 rooms for a bed and breakfast (or any room or event package preferred), –yes, The Blue Mansion is one the gorgeous boutique hotels in Penang) taking of photos is allowed except during tour hours (11AM, 1:30PM and 3PM).

Chien Nien, or the technique of porcelain cut and paste shard works of art were very prominent in every corner of the house.  The process entails the use of small and colored porcelain bowls, each intricately cut to form a 3D effect on the designs that tells Chinese tales; piece by piece -the work was tedious but wonderfully restored!

We absolutely marveled at these features :  The center of the mansion has the greatest “chi” according to Feng Shui experts. That beautiful spot was surrounded by 4 metal pillars with intricate designs, made by Macfarlanes in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Mansion also has timber filgree paneling with gold leaf gilding which was also painstakingly restored to its full glory.

The walls and the ceilings were perfectly built in such a way that water collected from rain will be running quickly (water in feng shui means MONEY!) and the basin which has 2 openings in the center of the Mansion will let it run out slowly.

In the middle Ms. Lyn Fong’s tour guiding when we were at the center of the mansion and while she was discussing about water and money, I had my widest smile when she told me that I am sitting in one the luckiest spots of the Mansion which is one of the water openings.

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has all the essential elements : Metal, Wood, Air, Water, Fire (fire represented in the house by its generous oil lamps). Its stairs are made of 28 steps (28 in Chinese is good luck) of which the first 3 are made of granite, a good foundation to swiftly bring wealth.

The Mansion has fantastic glass stained windows with pineapple and fan designs to fan-in wealth inside the house. Windows have wooden shutters without nails but close and open with its Yin and Yang designs.

The tiles at the floor of the entire house came from Europe.

Obviously, red is auspicious color in Chinese and not blue. We learned that the Mansion was only painted indigo blue because at that time, almost entire George Town, Malacca and Singapore were painted with the same hue.

The beautiful day is incomplete without souvenir shots even only from its courtyard…

Gabby’s paternal lola and lolo.

If you’re planning a trip to George Town and a pit stop at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, make sure your tour will be flawlessly guided by Ms. Lyn Fong (a.k.a Sally) whose passion to her work emanates to what she does best. Thank you, Ms. Lyn! We hope to see you again in the near future!

Once again, I am impressed with what Penang has to offer.  It seems almost every weekend is a surprise! George Town has been consistent in drowning me and (now) my family in its diverse cultures and colors but one thing is definite, we are not complaining! :)

Tina and I hope that with Gabby’s smiles, he will soon appreciate his early exposures to the influences of this multicultural state, and may his inevitable immersion to such diversities contribute to his being positively.

Visit their website at *The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

12
Jun
11

DINING IN G CAFE, G HOTEL, PENANG

In the heart of one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, where century-old structures fused harmoniously with modern and restored ones, a gorgeous hotel stands proud and celebrates its contemporary and stylish designs with non-intimidating ambience.
Saturday, 11 June 2011.  When you’re living an expat life with your wife and kid and you both work 5 days a week with a daily routine that can be almost utterly boring (read : home-work-home-work routine), you strongly need to be creative in spicing up your weekends to break and prevent monotony.
 
Last Saturday, Tina, Gabby and I woke up at 5AM to go to an event that I will post next.  After being sun-kissed, walked up and downhill and felt fatigued, we decided to reward ourselves by trying out the buffet lunch at G Cafe at the lobby of G Hotel located in Persiaran Gurney, Penang.
 
Tina, being modestly frugal as she is, reminded me to be conscious of our budget.  So after we all went to the toilet to freshen up, I approached the counter at the entrance of the restaurant to inquire the rates of their buffet. We were keeping our options in mind in case the price is beyond our taste.
 
At around half hour before noon, a friendly and courteous banquet manager spoke to me and informed me that their International buffet lunch on a Saturday for adult costs RM 52++ (PhP 743++ or USD 17++) inclusive of free flow of fresh fruit beverages, coffee and tea, and kids of Gabby’s age eat for free. Well, that sounded like music to my ears! The price is definitely a steal and imagine, our little-big boy would eat for free! We gave it a nod and reserved a table for three at 12 noon.  
The cool and edgy atmosphere at the lobby is spontaneous. Other than the use of various wonderful and comfortable seats, I like the air of having tall ceiling and the presence of glass walls to stimulate appreciation of huge trees and lush greens outside surrounding Gurney Mall. Yes, if you are familiar with Greenbelt Mall in Makati, Philippines, G Hotel in Gurney Drive Penang reminds me of home.
 
The interiors of G Cafe also boasts of simple lines, repeated circles and other geometric patterns which are also apparent in the use of modern yet ergonomic chairs and tables.  
 
The use of those striking royal blue drop lights on the walls somewhat like echoes and matches with the drinking glasses of the same hue; isn’t it nice?
Who would not want a breather from the usual homecooked dishes, or worst, the repeated consumption of fastfood value meals? Luxury sometimes, comes reasonably affordable as we always keep in mind that our pocket dictates indulgence need not to be expensive.
 
Who would not want to dine under these lights?
Without idea of being rushed (as in quick bites every breakfast and that 1-hour lunch breaks at the office except on Fridays, 12-2:30PM) and most importantly, dining comfortably with your family with foods you love eating, the experience was truly divine!  
And so Tina, Gabby and I took our taste buds to another gastronomic adventure at this sumptuous lunch buffet at G Cafe.
 
I started with their creamy corn soup; i like its light buttery taste with thick and textured consistency. 
Salad comes next : My plate had prawn salad, cheese, mix salad (tossed with crab sticks) and one of my favorites, potato salad… everything was superb! the prawn salad’s flavor wasn’t overpowering; it wasn’t too spicy, neither too oily. Sarap! it was like a perfect prelude to this wonderful dining experience. 
I tell you, I can eat this seafood plate everyday! hahaha! :D
Although there were no sushi and sashimi, which God knows I am biased with (Japanese foods are only offered every Thursday nights at G Cafe as of present), and notable absence of carving stations except for some Peking duck and smoked chicken,  Tina and I concluded that when you enjoy every bite, everything seems to be complete.
 
At the spread, these burst of colors reminded me of my favorite season of the year, Christmas!
Defensively, we know buffet plates should not be stuffed with most from the spread to effortlessly look like you’re eating as if there’s no tomorrow, hahaha! but Tina had this plate because she wanted to share those dishes she preferred with me and Gabby, isn’t that sweet? :D
My wife recommends this Chinese prawn dish and comments,“It feels like eating in Ongpin (Manila’s Chinatown).”   My palate dictates that it’s the sesame oil that makes most Chinese foods taste Chinese.  I miss having some dimsum and dumplings, though.
You can never go wrong with Peking Duck and smoked chicken with honey syrup… Yum! :D  *unless you’re allergic to it*
Baked vegetables, spring rolls and calamares, anyone?
Delightful desserts!
Irresistible temptations!
Guinataan! Wow! :D
As I’ve always stated it, the world is so incomplete without ice cream, agree?
 
Fibers are essential, we know.
And coffee is a must to end our meals.
 
Above all, my family is happy. It was indeed, a happy weekend!
Tina and I were so impressed at their highly efficient wait staff. Our glasses were refilled with freshly squeezed fruit punch promptly, attended to our needs in a blink making their service almost impeccable!
 
I almost forgot to tell you that Amex credit card holders receive 15% discount  on top of the reasonable cost of this lunch buffet. :) We only paid RM102 (PhP 1,458 or USD 33.7) for two plates as Gabby ate for free, I know it’s the usual price of one buffet plate in some hotels when I left Manila last year, so it was truly a steal!
 
It won’t be our last time to dine at G Cafe in G Hotel, definitely.
I wish to bring back my family there to experience their room and amenities too someday.
After all, the view from their 300+ rooms include priceless sight of Penang bay and the tourist-famous Gurney boulevard. *wishful thinking*
——————————-
G Cafe, G Hotel
168A Persiaran Gurney 10250 Penang, Malaysia
Tel +604-2380000
20
May
11

KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : BUDDHIST TEMPLES

Being one of the towns bordering Malaysia and Thailand, Kelantan is obviously rich in culture and religion. It’s considered to be the cradle of Malay civilization and is predominantly a Muslim state but inevitably Buddhist temples sprung like mushrooms.

More than being tourist spots, these temples are apparently sacred sanctuaries.  However, one could not help but admire its architecture, interiors and ambience.

On our second day in Kelantan, we had temple visit overload. We went to see the Temple of the Sitting Buddha…

The Shrine of the Standing Buddha…

And a Reclining Buddha that’s bigger than the one in Penang… *yes! position matters!*

This Reclining Buddha is enshrined in a bigger than life gymnasium-like-temple.  At the lateral and the back areas of the enormous image are even more images!

Few kilometers away, we found ourselves appreciating the facade and interiors of the Sitting Buddha Temple which are truly spectacular!

Awesome looking dragons guard its entrance…

And there’s spontaneity in its interiors…

Tina and Gabby went inside the temple of the Sitting Buddha first, as I was still in awe outside. Then as I walked in, my wife hurriedly called my attention to see these art works…

A few we found to be disturbing…

Every detail gave us goosebumps, or we’re only clueless of this religion, sorry!

Can anyone share anything on this? *so busy  lazy to research and google!*

I wonder if people from other religions also get curious and fascinated with our very own. Either way, I am definite that whenever we go to a new place, my family and I will always include temples and mosques and other houses of prayer to visit.

Do we think the same?

————————————————————–

——-This blog series includes :

24
Apr
11

CHOCOLATES ON GOOD FRIDAY

I am not complaining but as a Catholic, I consider working during Holy Week particularly last Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as one of my atypical experiences to date.  The fact that I have been exposed to  several activities like watching and at time, participating in religious procession in Marikina City, and to my wife’s family tradition of chanting the Lord’s Passion or pabasa during these Holy days for several years, and doing Visita Iglesia (visiting churches to pray and do Station of the Cross) with her and my immediate family before, I needed to remind myself that we’re now based in foreign shores amidst religious and cultural diversities therefore things like going to work on previously celebrated holidays in our own country are just mundane and ordinary. Resistance as they say, is futile. Acceptance is difficult at first but offers great relief.

The Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, George Town, Penang on Good Friday 2011 where Holy Masses are celebrated in English, Mandarin, Tamil and Tagalog (every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month)

This year’s Holy Week has been personally different in the sense that the turn of events kept me grounded. I sincerely said my apologies to my Creator, and to those people I’ve wronged and received some sorries in return too. Admitting your fault and taking the blame may be a sign of weakness for some, but I believe otherwise. I feel, it takes tons of strength and courage to say you’re sorry about something and far from being arrogant. Humility in this day and age is still alive or at least, we take efforts in keeping it viable in our bloodstream.

Chance officially led me last Friday to leave work earlier to spend some time with my family and reflect. Before dusk, we attended the Station of the Cross delivered in English and Mandarin at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in George Town, Penang. This is one of the churches here where I find solace and peace of mind amidst uncertainties of living an expat life.

On a lighter note, just when every Catholic soul on Earth was fasting, my family and I only observed total aversion to pork for almost a week as our annual sacrifice; our appetite has been as usual :D 

Sinfully, we indulged a little.  Below are the proofs of my confession.

Although Beryl’s chocolate has been a favorite of most tourists who visit Malaysia, the diversity of choices from other brands is almost limitless.

We found this store called Cocoa Boutique located at Jalan Bagan Jermal, Pulau Pinang; it’s a stone throw away from Gurney Mall.

Vezzo Chocolate has wide unique variety : chili chocolate, curry chocolate, fruity chocolates (durian, banana, rasberry, apple, orange), tongkat ali chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, nutty, tiramisu, milk and dark and the list goes on…

I gave my wife and kid the liberty to choose their preference. We got (from top left to right) orange chocolate, tiramisu, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, cappuccino, almond+white & dark chocolates (Penang and Malaysian mini-bars) and rasberry chocolate.

Exquisite. Exotic. Exceptional. These are the 3Es on the label of these sweet-tooth temptation.  I have to state, these handmade chocolates are luscious enough to clear out your worries and make you feel stress-free even for a bit. Its texture and flavors are enticingly delicious.

The important thing about Lent is not giving up chocolates but it’s to give up sin.

How was your week?

Happy Easter, everyone! God bless!

22
Mar
11

THEIR FIRST FEW DAYS IN PENANG

Je suis tellement heureuse pour vous. Dis bonjour à Ma’am Santos :)

Que Dieu vous bénisse toujours :)

(I’m so happy for you. Say hello to Ma’am Santos :) May God bless you always) -This was one of the several comments I’ve received on facebook after I’ve posted a photo of my son and wife’s arrival in Penang International Airport last Saturday. Those words came from my wife’s student, Myeen, who’s born in Belgium and raised in France.  Pinas but spent her 10 years in Belgium and had traveled France and some countries in Europe. I always have my widest smile every time she posts comments on French; such a beautiful language I wish I could learn. Won’t you be happy if others are happy for you and your family as well?

20 March 2011, Sunday : On board the ferry that takes us to and from Butterworth to Penang Island; ferry takes approx 12 minute ride; kinda relaxing for me unless there's inevitable little isolated hassles. (tingnan nyo si ate, nakatingin sa mag-ina ko, hehe!)

And so I became the happiest man alive on the day I finally brought my family to Penang. They’ll be staying here with me until God knows when.They arrived safely from Manila to Kuala Lumpur via Cebu Pacific (4-hour-flight) then had another flight from KL to Penang via Air Asia (about an hour-flight). I saw them coming out of Penang Airport at around 6:10PM last Saturday. That moment was surreal!

We’re all thankful to the Lord for despite the vertigo episodes that Tina was having during their entire flight until they reached Penang (imagine, she fainted down to her knees in front of the immigration officer at Kuala Lumpur-LCCT airport) plus the fact that she was only one to carry all the 37 kg of check-in luggages and 13 kg of handful of cabin-bags, not to forget that the rains (only) poured from heavens when we’re already in the cab enroute to our condo, they arrived safe and sound. God was indeed good all the time!

Tina wanted to hear mass the next day but I knew there’s no scheduled English mass last Sunday at the parish where I frequent so we postponed it the following weekend.

We hopped onto Rapid Penang bus, hit the roads to the jetty, transferred to the ferry then took bus again to the Island. (Cest la vie for we’re still living in Penang mainland, but before August hopefully, we get to transfer to a new place in the Island itself).

I took them to Queensbay Mall, one of my favorite malls in Penang Island where I usually spend my days off inside its coffee shops and cinemas. Tina and Gabby only had one chance to go to Queensbay during their 2-week-break here last December.

At the Queens food court, we feasted on Beef Fried Rice, Yee Mee noodle dish, peanut and lotus balls (aka buchi) and Too Foo Far in brown sugar, of in Pinas we call it, taho less tapioca or sago. Sarap kumain pagkasalo pamilya!

Then we watched the movie that had Johnny Depp’s voice, Rango…

Rango : "No man can walk out on his own story."

It wasn’t difficult to like Rango for the three of us are all followers of most Johnny Depp’s kiddie-movies. The fantastic visuals and spectacular scenes plus the splendid voices rendered to the animated cast made the movie truly entertaining. Rango, like most contemporary cartoons is filled with matured themes and quotes that kids might find to early to absorb. Like how many kids can easily grasp the importance of a hero finding his true self? Nonetheless, I saw Gabby smiled and laughed at few chase scenes and that was enough for me as I start to fill in those days that we’re away from each other.

The following day after my work hours, we visited few of our colleague-friends’ home-away-from-home.

Gabby, striking his seriously wacky pose at the hallway of the condo we visited.

It’s so comforting that my fellow MD lecturers welcomed my family to their living rooms (actually, i personally requested if we can peek in at their condos for Tina to have an idea of how Pulau Pinang urban living looks like). You don’t have idea how hard it is to live as an expat with barely friends and relatives you have lived with since you existed until you become one.

Chance led me to discover the song that’s so apt for our present family status.

I honestly don’t know who Bruno Mars is and am completely clueless with his music until I stumbled upon this wonderful song that speaks my thoughts exactly. Please do yourself a favor, click the video and sing to your heart’s delight! Let me know of what you think.

Tina and I are aware that we took the big leap as we begin to live and thrive here in Penang that’s absolutely far from our own comfort zones. We’re taking one day at a time; hopefully in God’s will, we may be able to become happier, healthier as we begin our new life here.

What’s most important now is we’re one family again.

God bless all our loved ones!

———————o

19
Mar
11

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD

Another chapter in our family life will unfold today.

My life in Penang will be happier for this late afternoon, my wife, Tina and our kid, Gabby will arrive from Manila via Kuala Lumpur. They’ll be staying here with me on dependent visa until (my work visa expires) God wants us to be here.

I certainly know how difficult it is for my wife to leave Manila for she will be missing two valuables in her life -

-her Ate who’s a doctor and a medical educator too (happens to be my classmate-friend back in Med school) and is the only immediate family she got in Pinas; the rest of my in-laws are based in the US and

-her job as a clinical instructor and a skills laboratory lecturer for Nursing college students in which Tina have been passionate about for some years (I think she didn’t resigned but only filed an indefinite leave of absence).

My wife shall begin to work here in Penang as an Operating Room Nurse once her license from MNC is issued. While waiting, she’ll continue to be the best personal and private teacher to Gabby as we prepare him for schooling here (read : we need to save first for Gabby’s private foreign school because its cost is so steep although the cost of living isn’t).

I know that with my family’s presence, I’ll be more inspired to wake up every 5 o’clock in the morning to hit the roads to work.

Another reason of my excitement is the fact that someone close to my family will pay a  visit next week.

I already filed a replacement leave in our HR office because by mid next week, one of my best buddies of 18 years and counting, Rob of Sensory Replays  will have his lone backbacking trip for a week in Malaysia. He’ll start his leisure tour in Kota Kinabalu on Monday, then we’ll fetch him at the airport on Wednesday and will serve as his tour guide here in Penang until the next day before he leaves for Kuala Lumpur on Friday.  Rob is one of Gabby’s dutiful godparents so we expect pasalubong from him of course. haha! :D

It’s a whole new world for my family; a new life to begin. I am certain that there are reasons why the good Lord made all this possible. We cannot thank Him enough.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me, I’ll have to prepare to go to the island, kill few hours in the mall before fetching my family at the airport.  yeehaa! :D

20
Jan
11

SCHOOL IS COOL

I was smiling from ear to ear when I saw these last Saturday…

Too cute for words?

As a father to a preschooler, I cannot help but imagine how those innocent little hands molded these amazing creation. Impressive, isn’t it?

I and my 2 senior colleagues found these stuffs in one corner of the school we visited last weekend.

We were hunting for possible school for our kids here in Penang; for Gabby’s first year in Primary (or Elementary), and Primary and Secondary levels for the children of my colleagues.  (FYI, our son is finishing his last year in Preschool and is about to enter Grade 1).

From our respective places in Butterworth, we took an early bus trip and met up at the ferry waiting area at 8AM. Oh yes,  if you’ve been following this blog for sometime now, you know that we’re now used in crossing the sea via ferry for 12 minutes if we want to have a life go to the island where everything is.

Let’s put it this way –Malls, tons of restaurants, hawkers and eateries, Tina’s future work site and school for kids and other establishments are all located in the Island. So I’m afraid we have to live in the Island after my contract with our condo in Butterworth expires on August. Everything is still on a planning stage and we’re still keeping our options open, hopes sky high! :D

Who would not want his kid to study in this conducive for learning environment?

Because the school is located inside a seminary-retreat house and situated on hilly parts of Tanjung Bungah, it reminds me of Ateneo campus in Quezon City and Calleruega in Tagaytay…

So we inquired about details of intake (enrollment), uniforms, provision of service bus, medium of instruction (English for it’s a private school for foreigners), extracurricular activities (oh there’s a lot –from swimming, table tennis, musical plays, football, camping, family day, learning to play musical instruments) and of course, school fees…

Expectedly, we were given figures way beyond mediocrity and possibly at par with standards of teaching, location, and whatnot.

I recall, I had a deep long sigh and thought, “Kakayanin ba namin ni Tina?”

And just before I utter a word, the male senior colleague who have already raised professionals told me, “Ayos lang iyan; ikaw nga nag-uumpisa ka pa lang (magpaaral)…” I sensed the reality of  my parenthood in his statement.

Enough with the money matters. If it God’s will for Gabby to study there, then it shall be done. If it’s not, then we know, there’s a better plan.

I know Gabby will like these desktops…

Kids enrolled here get to learn their swimming lessons from the nearby Penang Chinese Swimming Club and other sports like football from their enormous playing field…

Apparently, kids here are taught more than what’s written on books…

Check out the school’s web page, they just staged Wizard of Oz production involving all their students. –>Sri Pelita. Faith.Hope.Charity

“Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.”
– Sir Claus Moser

It would take a lot of money to send our son to this private school, which is already considered reasonably priced compared to others we scouted.  But we only have 2 options –(1) Send Gabby to this school and work, work, work or  (2) Leave Gabby to my relatives in Pinas for him to continue his studies there as (Tina and) I work here in Penang.

The second option is rather painful.

As much as possible, Tina and I want to be with Gabby during his formative years. It’s so hard for any parent to miss the growing years of his kid.

If you are in our shoes, how would you come up with a critical decision?

C’mmon, educate me, please.

——————————————————o

25
Dec
10

HARRODS CAFE : CELEBRATORY INDULGENCE IN KUALA LUMPUR

Because it’s Christmas and everyone’s busy being generous and nice, by the time you read this post, we’re probably heading to the Kuala Lumpur-LCT airport to catch a flight back to Pinas or already enjoying the comforts of being home. 

Few hours before Noche Buena, I brought my family to a special restaurant inside Suria-KLCC Shopping Complex to grab quick bites of what this London-based food place has to offer.

 

Since I cannot afford to take my family and travel to Europe yet, experiencing a taste of it with Tina and Gabby  is the second best thing for me.

 

Tucked within its gift shop, Harrods Cafe is a serene and relaxing food place (noxious on the pocket though but its excellent food and impeccable service made our dining experience all worth it –*pikit-mata sa budget*)

Everything inside was fascinating.  The English ambiance that I and Tina only experience in few movies and literatures, to the little details of its interiors, table setting and foods that were served were truly note-worthy. 

Tina gave me the freedom to order for the 3 of us to share.  Our set included…

Complimentary pieces of  bread served with (herbed) butter.

Potato and herbs soup : Although thick and creamy, our tastebuds were quite alienated to it for I think we’re all biased to pumpkin.

I reckon Fish and Chips as a classic that one can never go wrong with.  And so does Harrods’ version… Never greasy, no foul-fishy taste; served with long and chunky potato fries and freshest green salad tossed in vinaigrette.  *sarap!*

A day in Gelo and Tina’s lives isn’t complete without a dose of caffeine.  We shared a cup of cappuccino; foamy as usual, the difference lies on its taste and presentation.  

Sugar cubes or brown sugar?  Gabby smiled his widest when he tried the tongs…

Tina was delighted too with those sugar cubes! :D

I’m happy to share the table again with my family.

Nothing really beats being with your love ones.

Happy holidays, everyone! :D

——————————————————–o

PS :  I wish to bring my family to Europe one day and compare how does KL branch fares with the original.

*wishful thinking* …malay nyo lang, this year KL, next Christmas Europe na, LOL! :P

20
Dec
10

LAST FRIDAY AT GEORGETOWN

Friday night was a blast, at least for my family and I. It was the eve of our trip to Genting Highlands Resort, the so-called mini-Las Vegas-mini-Disneyland of Malaysia. Excitement ruled as I brought my wife and kid for an overnight stay in a budget-friendly hotel in Georgetown, Penang Island.

“Wow, sosyal!” exclaimed Gabby soon after he tapped the card-key and opened the door of our room. Tina and I were smiling ears to ears with Gabby’s astonishment. It’s nice to see our kid happy and knows how to appreciate simple things.

There’s nothing grandiose but Tune hotels is still consistently clean, fresh and a real value-for-money.

It was already my second time to spend a night at Tune in that same branch and for only RM 88 per room (USD 27.9 or PhP 1240), one can have a restful sleep and worry nothing about catching a flight, or in our case, a bus trip to Genting the following morning.

I highly recommend Tune Hotels for those financially-conscious but won’t sacrifice quality of service and cleanliness. *do i get a discount for this, Tune?* :D

After few minutes, we walked through one of my favorite eating places in this part of Penang. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant called Santorini…

I wanted Tina and Gabby to experience what I and my colleagues/friends have been enjoying here in Penang. So I ordered my usual-Santorini meal for Tina; it’s Combo plate of various seafoods tossed in a delightful sauce with veggies.

I’m not surprised she liked it. I know her taste of course. :)

After filling our tummies, we strolled a few more steps from Santorini and found ourselves looking at aquarium tanks with fresh and salt-water fishes, dogs, cats and other domesticated animals in a 3-floor-pet shop. It was just too bad that cameras are not allowed in the store but nonetheless, Gabby was content seeing large kois in a pond and all those feathered and haired and scaled friendly creatures for free!

We left that airconditioned pet shop at its closing time at few minutes before 10PM and walked to Komtar, the tallest building and famous landmark in Georgetown. We dropped by at Prangin mall and marvelled at their holiday decors.

I honestly never expected a Muslim-predominated country will also dressed its establishments to a Christian-inspired festivity such as Christmas. We like it so much! Don’t you?

prangin mall, georgetown, pulau pinang

Their smiles = my bliss! :D

It’s truly almost Christmas even in this part of Malaysia!

Up next : Our Genting Highlands Adventures!

12
Dec
10

REUNITED

and it feels so good!

Once upon a time, I and my wife thought of working abroad for obvious reasons. But despite the fact that we’re both kids of OFW-parents, it never crossed our minds how difficult it is to be away from each other. Or perhaps, either we less know what to actually expect or we’re in denial that we’re not that tough to withstand distance.

As they say, “everything has its sweet ending.”

Those days of homesickness and loneliness for almost 5 months (read : not even half a year yet!) came to a close as Tina and Gabby arrived from Pinas to Penang (via KL) last Saturday morning, 11th December.

Breakfast treat by a colleague at McDonald's, Penang Airport. Sweet!

It was good for my family that they boarded the flight via Cebu Pacific with a fellow Filipino who’s a cousin of my colleague here. They only met at NAIA 3 and accompanied each other all throughout their waiting period at Kuala Lumpur-LCCT to Penang Airport via another budget-friendly carrier, Air Asia..

Teksi (bahasa melayu’s term for taxi) rides here in Penang can cost you a fortune (read : kuripot me), so we’re used to riding the wifi-ready Rapid Penang buses…

Gabby's first Rapid Penang Bus ride.

We went home directly to our appartment and they’ve finally met 2 of my 4 housemates/friends/colleagues. We took shower and freshen up and never wasted time by starting to explore what Penang has to offer…

Pulau Pinang Bound : Gabby on the ferry from jetty in Butterworth to Georgetown

From our place in Butterworth, we rode a bus again, reached the jetty where ferries that take passenger to and from Penang Island are waiting. Good thing that Tina tolerated the ferry ride despite the fact that she lacked sleep, worse has occasional vertigo.

Doc Anna with Tina and Gabby on board the ferry from Jetty in Butterworth to jetty in Georgetown

Apparently happy…

We’re hitting the roads the sea and even the clouds in this part of Malaysia on the following days.
Till then…

27
Oct
10

TRICK OR TREAT 2010

One of the agonies of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) like me is being physically absent in those moments that are supposed to be shared with the entire family.
But thanks to modern technology, those memories can reach you in a blink.

my 6-year-old son, Gabby is second from right, geared up as a scarecrow

This morning, my loving wifey, Tina immediately posted photos of our kid, Gabby in her facebook account. The pictures were taken from Gabby’s preschool Halloween Party.

She told me that they woke up at 5 in the morning, set up Gabby’s make up and dressed him up to the part for the 8AM kiddie party.

so there were ninja, pocahontas, glam girl, Gabby as scarecrow and lady vampire at Twinkle Toes Academy Inc. preschool Halloween Party 2010

And guess who won MOST CREATIVE HALLOWEEN COSTUME AWARD?

PANALO !!! Gabby with his preschool teachers, Teacher Ofie (Nursery) and Teacher Janet (Prep); not in photo Teacher Claire (Kinder)

Of course, GABBY!  He’s been winning it for 2 years in a row!

Last year, he was the coolest Ninja…

Even Mr. Edu Manzano commented, “You look good!” 3x when we spotted him at Greenbelt 5 last year.

Can’t blame the guy; my son’s really cute, right? he he he :D

Way to go, Tina+Gabby!

Victory Party at 711? LOL!

I love you so much! Miss you!

See you in a month and half time here in Penang!

19
Oct
10

UNTHINKABLE

These strawberries were completely clueless of their fate.

They didn’t have any idea whether they will be eaten wholly, bit by bit, crushed, blended, mashed, or juiced.

Alas, I forgo with the whipped cream and dunked a pair in my oatmeal+condensed milk.

Apparently, no one is certain in this so called life.

Every single thing we do has risks.

Either we go for it or we don’t.

Truth is, life is indeed a gamble.

We wouldn’t know best until we take a great leap.

————————————0

 

 

 

 

17
Oct
10

PIECE OF CAKE

Don’t you wish life would be like a piece of cake?

I don’t.  Honestly, I appreciate few difficulties, sad moments and bit of daily hassles not because I am pessimistic and masochistic, hell no! ha ha! :)  but like you, I know these things make us stronger and better persons.  Do we have the same perception?

Whatever you think, that chocolate cake made my afternoon last week. However, sweeter thing than that plate was the fact that I scored a 50% off promo airfares from MNL-KUL for Tina+Gabby from Cebu Pacific for my family’s 2 week-break here in Penang from second week of December to a day after Christmas.

Imagine, I only paid PhP 11,304.64 for their 2 roundtrip tickets; inclusive of 2-way seat-reservations and travelsure insurance; all in!  It may not be a better deal  than “piso fare” but I felt so lucky to availed it for them.

If the entire universe will conspire, I plan to go home with them after their 2-week-stay here for me to pig-out on lechon, excelente ham, keso de bola, kare-kare, pan de sal, tocino, longganisa, binagoonga, bibingka, puto-bumbong etc. spend New Year in Pinas.

I’ll make sure it’ll be a happier yuletide for all of us.  Now, I only wish we have a FFW button to press to pull the days to December; I’ll definitely do it in a heartbeat.

Enjoy the new week, everyone!

God bless us more.

———————————————–o

13
Oct
10

LAST SATURDAY

09 October 2010 –My friends/housemates and I decided to create another weekend adventure.

If you’re a follower of this blog, you probably know our route from Penang Mainland to Island, right?

If not, let me refresh you :  From our penthouse in Butterworth, we’d usually hopped on a public bus called Rapid Penang and take a 5 min-ride to Jetty, ride a 15-minute-ride via ferry to reach the bus station in George Town, Penang Island.

Cost of the trip is cheap (our place in Butterworth to Jetty = RM 2 (PhP 14);  roundtrip ferry ride  RM 1.20 = PhP 16.80 and we’re free on bus rides, well, not actually but we already purchased an RM 80-ride-all-you-want-for-a-month pass few weeks ago).

Another 45 minute ride via Rapid bus and finally we reached our destination. Luckily for us, Rapid buses provide free wifi (don’t you wish to have this in Manila too?) and one of my buddies have access to GPS via google maps on his mobile (make that mobiles, he has 3 smart phones and lotsa other tech gadgets!) so despite the fact that we’re clueless of the place, we’re guided by directions, cool eh?

After checking in at a backpacker’s hotel, we left our bags and trooped to Plaza Gurney again to unwind. We headed directly to the 7th level of the mall to buy movie tickets for the 7:30PM screening before having early dinner at CLINIC CAFE.

To forget all our anxieties, homesickness and whatnot, we opted to watch a comedy that made me laugh so hard from beginning to end.

Have you seen Dinner for Schmucks?  It almost felt I inhaled nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) the whole time we’re inside the cinema. :D

It was almost close to midnight when we arrived at our hotel which wasn’t as remarkable and as comfortable as Tune Hotels in George Town where we stayed a couple of weeks ago.

Oh and did I already tell you we slept few meters from BATU FERRINGHI?—>It’s a beach area in Penang Island where a lot of large hotels, restaurants, night market and souvenir stores are located. But did it impress me?  Read on…

Wish this was our hotel but it wasn’t, he  he :)

Some of our senior colleagues who first visited this beach mentioned only little praises about it. I cannot blame them. I and my friends were also bit disappointed with the shoreline, the waters and practically everything about Batu Ferringhi. :(

We woke up Sunday morning with eagerness and zest to walk on the beach, watch the sunrise and just stay lazy but we did not even spend more than 20 minutes; expectations failed, sorry.

It was exactly a year after Tina, Gabby and I savored Boracay Island so Batu Ferringhi truly suffered comparison to our local paradise back home.

Just look at the dirty waters on this beach; I’m sorry but Penang authorities have a lot of maintenance to do to at least fair with the crystal turquoise waters and pristine sands of Boracay or relaxing beach resorts in Cavite or Batangas at least…

We didn’t want to spoil the entire Sunday morning, so we rode the bus again and found our way to this restaurant with fascinating name.

We were just early and it was still closed when we arrived there; we failed to sample how it feels like to eat seafoods at the end of the world! :)

One of my friends suggested for us to continue our joy ride up to Balik Pulau; a small town at the other side of the mountains of Penang Island.

Don’t ask me if we enjoyed our morning trip. I slept through our 3-hour-bus ride en route from Batu Ferringhi to Balik Pulau to Komtar in George Town and back to Batu Ferringhi again to check out from our hotel.

What saved my Sunday morning was the fun of being with friends and the fact that we set aside our worries and stress the past week even for few hours.

See you on our next adventures!

———————-o

05
Oct
10

OUR BREAKFAST AT OLD TOWN

02 October 2010, Saturday –After our overnight stay in Penang Island via a short but restful sleep at Tune Hotels in Burma Road, 2 of my friends and I checked out at around 10AM and walked toward New World Plaza which is a stone-throw away. It was a hands-down decision to try and eat breakfast at OLD TOWN...

My wife knows how breakfast is so important to me. I cannot function fully when my stomach is empty. I need power breakfast or at least a warm cup of coffee. And so when my 2 housemate-colleague-friends and I headed to Old Town, I was silently jumping for joy like a kid for finally, I’ll get to try their goodies.

I ordered ROTI KUKUS KAYA and MENTEGA or

KAYA and BUTTER STEAMED BREAD, RM 4.20 (PhP 58.80)

Other than dimsum and dumplings, I haven’t eaten other stuffs direct from a steaming basket, have you?  This makes this bread fascinating; they’re one of the softest and a sure must-try when you’re in the region.  The combination of kaya (that tastes like mildly sweet coco-jam) and butter is just perfect.

As you may know now, I’m a coffee person, so I didn’t let the chance pass without sampling OLD TOWN WHITE COFFEE, RM 3.50 (PhP 49), hot also available for cold at RM 3.90 (PhP 54. 60).  It’s neither that bitter nor too sweet; was fine for me.

Other than coffee, I wanted something to further warm my tummy. So we asked the wait staff  her recommendation; like the best seller from Old Town; she pointed in a blink the first page of the menu…

HOR FUN (KWEOY TEOW HALUS) AYAM IPOH or

OLD TOWN IPOH CHICKEN HOR FUN, RM 7.50 (PhP 105).

Doc Ronnie and I ordered the Hor Fun and it was indeed comforting. I like the fresh flavor of prawns infused to the soup. We both like anything with prawns, actually. While Doc Alvin got himself  CHICKEN BARBECUE RICE; however he was told that Ayam BBQ (ayam=chicken) is finished (yes, they use the verb “finished” frequently, like I hear it more than 3x daily) so he opted to have the white chicken toppings and preferred noodles instead of rice. His order came with a fried dumpling soup and he got himself a tall glass of cold chocolate drink.  Solb!

After our satiating breakfast at Old Town, we walked through Burma Road and reached an Indian-owned shop for clothes called Kamdar where we bought some pairs of pants and denims at cheap prices. In the afternoon, we went again to Queensbay Mall to shop for much needed-grocery supplies and finally headed home before dusk.

Although I am seriously missing my usual choices for breakfast like tuyo, daing, itlog na pula, danggit, HOTDOGS and BACON STRIPS, LONGGANISA and TOCINO, with diversity of cultures and religions here in Malaysia, food variety is as wide as you can ever imagine.

————————————-o

01
Oct
10

MY SECOND MONTH ABROAD

30 September 2010, Thursday –It has been exactly 2 months since I arrived in Penang.  There has been a whirlwind of experiences; adjustments in work, diversity of cultures, colors and religions and life in general on my new ground  are still a work in progress.

Remittances to my family have been sent twice and there are a lot of other things to be grateful for.  However, despite the downpour of blessings, there are factors beyond control that even if you stretch your patience to the fullest still go down to your nerves and irked you out.  Cest la vie! –It doesn’t take one to be cerebral to understand that in this thing called life, there always black against white.

Anyway, I didn’t spoil my last day of September for nothing. After work, my fun-loving-housemates and I went straight to the Jetty in Butterworth and headed to the ferry with few things in mind –to enjoy the night at Penang Island; buy essential stuffs we’ve been wanting to have and just forget about whatever anxieties bugging us.

Sunset viewed from the ferry…

We roamed around a bit and reached Queensbay Mall where I bought myself a 500gb Samsung external drive and joined 2 of my friends for our late dinner.

Other than my family and a few friends, I miss a lot of foods seriously. Believe it or not, it took me 2 months to grab a bite of pizza again!  So every bite was like a piece of heaven!

pizza hut's super supreme pizza at queensbay mall, penang island

Two of my friends and I have feasted on this thin-crust pizza and plates of pasta…

Seafood Marinara for Dr. Ronnie…

Unfortunately according to him, it looked better on photo that it tasted.  It has an ingredient that he (or most of us including me) hates the most –curry.  At least we ordered pizza that I guess, saved his night.

Spaghetti Bolognese for Dr. Alvin…

He finished the entire plate, so he must have liked it.

Moving on to my dinner plate…

Seafood Lasagna…

It was cheesy with few shrimps and fish bits; just enough to compliment my pizza craving but nothing much to rave about other than it was new to my taste as I was used to tomato-based lasagna back home. Nonetheless, I was happy with my dinner. It was a soothing break from our daily meals.

As October comes upon us, we’re hitting the roads and waters again this afternoon to do much-needed grocery shopping and to buy other essentials.  I am taking a mental note to hold on to my few ringgits and not splurge too much on sale and discounted items here. For most shopping addicts, it’ll take super powers to resist 70% off ;  so help me God! :)

:) How was your September?

Here’s wishing we’ll have more blessings and positive things to come!

——————–<@

29
Sep
10

THOUGHTS ON PAYDAY

tina + gabby = love

Providing for my family may not be considered a JOB but it’s still my best WORK ever! :)

It’s so inspiring to have reasons for work, for everything actually…

I miss you, honey+gabby! ILOVEYOU! :)

————————————————<@

*photo above was taken last 30 March 2010 during Gabby’s Kindergarten graduation; my exact arrival date from Tokyo; it was the sweetest to join them back then... now, homesickness kicks in again. :(

29
Sep
10

PUTRAJAYA

23 September 2010, Thursday–My colleagues and I left our various condos in Butterworth at half hour past midnight after we’re fetched by the service bus assigned to us by the company.  We knew we’re in for another long trip!  We had our first Kuala Lumpur experience last August, that was the very first time I saw the iconic PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS ; I was honestly dead tired then but still, I was mesmerized by its beauty.

The bus that took us to KL had newer leather-covered seats with more leg room this time which provided enough comfort to our 6-hour-trip. I slept throughout the wee hours of the morning and when I woke up for a bladder break at a considerably huge bus stop complex bus stop, it was almost 6AM.

We had quick bites for breakfast, got to freshen up ; changed clothes and off we went to another couple of hour-trip.

*succeeding photos were taken while I’m curling up on my bus seat and still resisting to wake up…*

Sunrise is still glorious even when viewed on a bus…

Then few more minutes of dozing off, I saw this at my bus window…

“Located south of Kuala Lumpur, Purtajaya serves as the federal administrative center of Malaysia (Sourced via wiki).”

More shots as viewed from my bus window…

Masjid Putra or the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya Lake…majestic, isn’t it?

A roundabout with fountain…

Various government offices…

Proud display of Malaysian flag is apparently seen not only in public offices here in Putrajaya but even in private homes all over the cities…

This emerald-mirrored building reminded me of San Miguel Building in Ortigas except for its more distinct shape…

The blogger in me was a bit disappointed to have taken only few photos from my bus window.  For the second time around, I didn’t get any minute of photo-op with those gorgeous buildings and that remarkable bridge in Putrajaya but I completely understand for we came there twice for official visits and not merely for anything else.

Oh, well.

27
Sep
10

SHALL I RUN ?

Admittedly, I am a bummer. :D My wife, my family, closest friends and relatives know that I am far from being sporty and athletics is not in my vocabulary.  I prefer to curl up in bed, do a DVD marathon, munch on something to delight my palate than get out under the sun and sweat.  I may have been conducting health-teachings to patients and countless students since I got my local medical license but you may charge me guilty of not entirely practicing what I preach.

Last Saturday, when we spent the entire afternoon at Queensbay Mall in Penang Island, I spotted the concierge with some people registering for an event that made me interested.  It’s the Penang Bridge International Marathon to be held on 21 November 2010, a fun event for both serious and amateur runners…Am I ready to unleash the semi-flat-footed runner in me? *kidding* LOL! :D

I got a flyer, inquired about few details and relayed the info to my friends (a.k.a. my 4-housemates and colleagues).

FYI, Penang Bridge has an impressive length of a bit more than 42km and correct me if I’m wrong, the longest in Malaysia.  The marathon along its stretch has been an annual event perhaps to boost not only health consciousness but more so tourism itself.

Here’s the map of Penang (mainland and Island) with the bridge and the route of the run

( photos sourced via : Penang Bridge International Marathon)


The categories are : full marathon (42km in 7hour-finishing time), half-marathon (3hr-finishing time), 10km-marathon (1.5 -finishing time) and fun run(10KM -1.5 hours).  So much Ringgit (RM), freebies, and prizes are to be given away but if and when I finally decide to join (definitely with my friends; won’t do it alone for the first time), I’ll definitely do it not for the prizes but for the experience.

My friends and I as of present, are planning to join the (either 10km or) half-marathon (lakas ng loob! LOL!) but we haven’t registered yet.

Let’s see on November… so help me, God!

Will you be my cheering squad (and perhaps my prayer warriors too!) if and when I’ll run? :D

*For more details of the event, visit their website –> Penang Bridge International Marathon

Have you joined similar fun events?  Do you have any tips and pointers to share?

Note to self : Start jogging! LOL! :)

18
Sep
10

THIRTY FOUR

on my side table in my room here in penang : my life in photos

It’s my birthday today and it’s my very first away from home. :(

Update :

Drs. ronnie, j.sayao, roy, alvin, dante & anna (who took the photo) : they made my day warm and special, THANK YOU!

With only home-cooked spaghetti which was painstakingly prepared for hours to perfection by one of my housemate-friends, Alvin (salamat, sobra!) plus 3 medium tubs of sundae and some kiddie balloons, I had one of my most memorable lunches ever!

low-cost birthday meal but really heartwarming! sarap ng spaghetti, Alvin!

In the absence of my wife, Tina and our son Gabby whom I dearly miss, I felt special on my big day in the company of  my new found friends who now I consider my family here in Penang. Mushy it may sound, but I am sincerely thankful for making my very first birthday away from home, really special.

Perhaps like the others, I’ll be used to being an expat too, celebrating special occasions far from my loved ones. I know it’s part of the price we have to pay in exchange of a better future of family.

I’d like to thank everyone who greeted me here in my blog, posted messages on my facebook wall, and those who sent me e-cards.

Forgive me Lord, for my shortcomings. In any case, may those people I wronged be forgiving too.

Thank you Lord, for all the blessings and for giving me another year.  May you continue to bless my family, friends, blog buddies and relatives with better health and may You put us all in Your care always.  Amen! :D

Happy Birthday to me! :)

16
Sep
10

OUR SUPERSTAR PISCES EXPERIENCE

15 September 2010, Wednesday–Exactly 101 days before Christmas and 3 days prior to my big day, I had an experience of a lifetime!

Four of my colleagues who are now my new found travel and shopping friends (read: GASTOS ito! ….note to self:  SAVE more Ringgit!) and I went on an overnight cruise within Malaysian waters via Superstar Pisces. I was sort of the mind behind the plans of how to spend our eleven-day-vacation that began lunch time of  09 September, Thursday and will end on 19 September Sunday, within our limited budget of course.

I’ve been longing to experience a cruise with my family since the day my youngest brother traveled 30 European countries when he worked with Costa Atlantica few months after he finished his Tourism course in CEU, Manila. I know for a fact that it would cost me a fortune before I can experience such but not until I had a chance to be in Penang.

It was the early days of August when I first spotted that one of those remarkable Star Cruise liners is harbored in Penang bay. Soon after, I became intuitive with the travel agencies located in Prangin Mall, George Town. My itchy feet can’t wait since I’ve learned that Superstar Pisces is so affordable at RM 110/pax all in (PhP 1540 without room, almost RM 300 or PhP 4200 for twin sharing of a tiny cabin with toilet, at present rate) inclusive of buffet dinner and breakfast!.  Who would not give it a green light?

We were officially informed of our long-paid holiday about few days before we did the reservation. Needless to say, our preferred date of the cruise was already fully booked and the only available rates were that of standing pax only. :(  I thought, come what may, we have to push through with the game plan.

And so on the afternoon of  15 September, Wednesday, we trooped to the pier where Superstar Pisces is harbored. Check in started at 5:30PM until 7PM.

Swettenham Pier, George Town, Penang

Don’t you just like the name of this harbor? Sounds like sweet ham to me. :)

Upon entry, we presented  at the counter our booking confirmation which we just claimed from the travel agency half an hour before boarding. *wrong move! we could have claimed it days before* Then, the Chinese lady at the counter asked for our passports and handed us a cruise pass; somewhat like a credit card with your complete name on it and it’s the only thing you need when you purchase something on board.

Meet my travel buddies …

from left to right : Drs. Roy, Anna, Ronnie and Alvin.

We hopped on the lift and went directly to the 11th floor then headed straight to the viewing deck.

Here are some of the things and amenities you can enjoy with this wonderful cruise ship…

a mini pool and a jacuzzi

mirrored ceiling of the entertainment center where meeting rooms, an auditorium are housed

Seemed like we’re looking for our cabin here…oops, they’re all fully booked, remember? :(

On where we slept the night, I’ll just leave it to your imagination. :)  As for me, I had an hour and a half of restful sleep.

cabin hallway : follow the stars!

Do you know how to play mahjong?  …I don’t.

Souvenir shop, Japanese restaurant, Children’s Day Care Center, an arcade for kids and kids at hearts, karaoke bar, Galaxy of the stars where the singers and wait staffs are all Pinoys, casino and more…

Blame it on my shirt, we were easily recognized by a volume of Pinoy crew on board.  Seriously, we’re all proud to know that almost half of the 600 crew members of Star Cruise Pisces from 20 nations were from the Philippines.  Most of them just boarded few weeks back; some even joined the cruise ship for work on that very same day.

It’s so comforting to see kababayans who work hard for families back home. We stood tall amidst various colors!

Below are some of the warm Filipino cruise ship crew we met inside Superstar Pisces : Lovely, Josephine & Erica :)

Inclusive of the cruise rates were the buffet dinner and breakfast served at Mariners resto at 6PM-9PM and 6AM-9AM respectively.  Chow time made me miss more my wife, Tina and of course our bundle of joy, Gabby. I so hope that I can bring them over someday to experience this as well. :)

Our buffet dinner at Mariners…

Since Star Cruise Pisces sails within predominantly Muslim waters, they serve Halal-food.  We’re informed that the spread vary everyday but for our cruise, in the absence of pork dishes, we pig-out Ostrich with broccoli, Prawns with Garlic, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Chicken dimsum noodle  and so much more delicious foods!

As usual, my shameless display of my pig-out plate : Ostrich with broccoli, Sweet and sour Chicken, Seafood something and a load of my favorite Udang or Prawns in garlic! Yum!

Spaghetti Marinara, fruits and assorted desserts…

When I was scanning the spread, I met one of the chefs who happens to be Pinoy too.

After dinner, one can try their luck at the casino, play bingo and might hit the jackpot, relax in the spa with indoor jacuzzi and sauna, or just unwind and listen to the music by a Filipino band…

"Careless whisper" : care to sing along with the Pinoy band? =)

Breakfast time…

With my every bite, I miss my wifey and son, particularly when I saw the free flowing coffee and tea counter and yes, those cereals. Tina and Gabby love those for breakfast! :)

tina and gabby will certainly love this!

On my plates :

Eat like a king for breakfast!

Other than meeting Pinoy crew on board and experiencing how it feels like to be in one of the Star Cruises, the best part of our trip for me was welcoming the break of the new dawn at the deck of Superstar Pisces…

This was absolutely priceless!

Thank You, Lord for the new day!

Waking up in the middle of the sea on a cruise ship never happens on a daily basis...

Komtar, the tallest building in Penang Island is apparently stunning in the middle of the sea

We went down and settled our bills (I purchased a Star Cruise canvass pillow as souvenir) then claimed our passports before disembarking at past 8 in the morning.

I’m just glad we did the cruise; so grateful for all the blessings–big and small!

Star Cruise Pisces, it wasn’t good bye, but see you again soon, with my family. :D

————————-<@

PS :  Salamat po sa mga Pinoy crew na nakilala namin sa Star Cruise Pisces : Aime, Rhodalyn, Mike, Tirso, Erica, Lovely, Josephine, Gino, Joey, Mark, Godfrey, Chef Antonio at iyong ilang hindi namin nakuha ang mga pangalan.

13
Sep
10

OUR SENTIMENTS EXACTLY

“Clarisse, kausap ko si Paul noong isang gabi. Sinabi niya sa akin na, malungkot siyang uuwi ng Pilipinas, hindi dahil sa magkakahiwalay kayo. Malungkot siyang uuwi ng Pilipinas dahil wala man lamang daw siyang dalang appliances.”

“Pero sabi ko hindi, mali…mayroon kang iuuwi, Paul, mayroon….Iyon iyong SENSE of PRIDE mo para sa mga kababayan natin dito na nagtatrabaho. At sila ang tunay na KAPURI-PURI sa lahat, di ba?.”

“Minsan, madalas nakakagawa tayo ng pagkakamali…parang nakakalimutan na natin ang mga pinangarap natin sa buhay, iyong mga pinangako nating gawin. Tapos kadalasan pa, nasasaktan mo pa kung sino pa iyong mahal mo.”

“Pero kailanman, tayong mga Pilipino HINDI NATIN NAKALIMUTAN KUNG BAKIT TAYO NASA IBANG BANSA. NANDITO TAYO PARA SA MGA MAHAL NATIN SA BUHAY.”

“Kahit gaano kahirap ang buhay dito, kahit gaano kalungkot, titiisin natin iyon, para lang mapaligaya natin ang mga mahal natin sa buhay.”

“Sa bawat patak ng pawis natin, ng luha natin; alam niyo kung ano ang kapalit lang noon? Iyon lang simpleng ngiti na galing sa kanila.”

“So, kahit magkawatak-watak tayong mga Pilipino; hindi tayo magkita-kita, iisa lang naman ang hangad natin–Iyon ay MAGING BUO ANG PAMILYA NATIN.”

“At syempre, para matupad iyon, kailangan nating tumayo pagkatapos nating madapa para matupad iyong mga pangarap nila.”

“May kasabihan nga e, Ang PILIPINO kahit saan lugar mo dalin sa buong mundo, THE BEST IYAN!, THE BEST TALAGA.”

-Raffy’s monologue in a wedding scene from the 2005 Star Cinema’s  movie Dubai.

13 September 2010, Monday. One of my colleagues and housemates here in Penang who’s on a short break in Manila posted this scene on a video on his facebook wall. I wanted to post the said video on my blog and even sent request from the person who uploaded it but I’m itchy to share it.

Because we still have 7 more days off before we resume to duty next Monday and I’m having a lazy day, I painstakingly transcribed Aga Muhlach’s monologue in one of the Tagalog films that in my opinion,  best reflects most expats and OFWs’ sentiments and insights. Ricardo Lee who wrote the story and the screenplay brilliantly expressed my present thoughts exactly.

I have seen the movie several times back home but it didn’t cut through me until I became what I am today.

————

* Thanks to Mr. Romel Rivera for sharing the link to the video. If you want to watch it, click  here.

01
Sep
10

MUNTING SALO-SALO

31 August 2010, Tuesday, Holiday in Malaysia– My colleagues and I finally indulged in Filipino dishes that we all miss the most!  Exactly a month and a day since we left Manila for work in a medical university here in Penang, Malaysia, it was only yesterday that we feasted on foods that are so familiar to our palates.

Our casual get-together was intended to express our gratitude to our kababayan who brought us here.  She took the effort in orienting us to simple things in Penang, from gradual introduction of culture and beliefs to taking public transportations (bus, ferry, cab) and going to food places, shopping malls and of course, she’s our own mediator to our bosses.  And for all of those, we’re extremely grateful. :)  Because almost half of us have moved in already to our permanent accomodation, it was also a sort of house warming for all.  Our simple party was held at our condo in Butterworth.

We originally planned to have lechon which can be ordered from Chinese restaurateurs and eatery owners here but upon learning that the price of one roasted pig cost around RM 700 (PhP 9,800), the doctors who were in charge for the dishes instantly considered a more sumptuous options…

Pampagana : itlog na pula, hilaw na mangga at bagoong, kamatis at nilagang talong.

Pangunahing Ulam : Sinigang na BABOY! at Halabos na hipon…

Kilawing baboy at Kare-Kare!

Spaghetti at Ginataang Hipon at talong…

Panghimagas : mga prutas -mansanas, kahel at ubas; ginataang langka (not in the photo).

Thank you to Drs. JS and RM for preparing and cooking the feast; this can be addicting! :)  To the rest of the MD-lecturers who came, when will be our next party?  To Miss LMM, maraming salamat! :)

May the good Lord bless us and our families more so we can continue to be a blessing to others.

Certainly, we all miss our families back home and everything about Pinas but bonding ourselves together surely lessens the homesickness.

——————<@

01
Sep
10

THAT CHILLED MUG

I and my friends in pre-med used to frequent this fast food chain back in the 90s because of their double spaghetti promo for the price of less than PhP 25 and of course their famous rootbeer float.  Those were the happy days until it died down in Manila for unknown reason. :(

Some 17 years after, I was like a kid again when I and my 2 other colleagues went grocery shopping and enjoyed lunch at A&W in Jusco Mall in Seberang Prai City,  Burkit Mertajam…It’s so nostalgic! LOL!

I bet loyal Pinoy patrons of A&W before in Manila also miss that chilled mug of rootbeer float…

For someone like me whose daily lunch last month was mostly spicy and curried from the university canteen,  a bun of  cheeseburger, curly fries, and a large chilled mug of rootbeer float with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream were indeed pure happiness on a tray. :)

Although our kid is known partial to McDonald’s, I know Gabby and even Tina will like it too…

And you?

28
Aug
10

PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS

My dearest Tina and Gabby,

It was roughly 4 hours since we got home from Kuala Lumpur as I post this.  We’re all dead tired from going there from our place in Penang via our service bus but everything was worth it; it was such a fruitful day for all of us.

I was immensely mesmerized by the incredible beauty of the Petronas Twin Towers. Standing below those iconic buildings for the very first time was so surreal that I just wished both of you were with me.

Despite the long day, I was silently jumping for joy upon seeing  Malaysia’s pride as world’s tallest buildings before 2004 and what has remained to present the tallest twin buildings.

Suria KLCC 6-level-shopping complex located immediately at the foot of those magnificence houses almost all famous brands. I even saw Harrod’s which was notably high-end English brand with several labels that I only see from broadsheets and magazines.

Good thing was that they’re on clearance sale.  My eyes popped out when I saw G2000 formal jackets were discounted for only RM 99 (PhP 1386) from its original price at RM 600+. But my excitement diminished when I found out that their biggest size was only 52 while I wear 54. :( My fellows got some pairs and I just settled for a purple silk tie.

And so I decided to stroll alone and luckily found myself inside Zara Men at Suria KLCC’s Ampang Mall .  There I found my size; bought 2 formal jackets (they’re new ones, not overruns) for work and got a nett discount of RM 500 (PhP 7000) from their original prices plus I rewarded myself a Zara Men black mailman’s bag which I bought on its regular reasonable price (I’ll tell you my expenses over Skype, ‘ney).

When I was about to pay at the cashier, your voice saying, “Ang mahal nyan ‘ney, kaunting tipid!” rang over my ears or was it my conscience? LOL! :D  In my defense, those items I bought were really work essentials, honey.

My female colleagues went loco over shoes. One even bought eight pairs!  I can’t blame them for such great discounts. I  told myself I’m fortunate blessed because my wife isn’t fond of shopping for bags and shoes like usual females do.

Here are some shots before we entered Suria KLCC…

Dusk falls over Malaysia at around 8 in the evening. Succeeding photos were taken at around half hour past 6PM.

There are a lot of fascinating sights behind Suria KLCC and below Petronas Twin Towers.  We saw an establishment that seemed like a mosque to me…

KLCC Park  has jogging and walking paths, a children’s playground and a dancing fountain similar to that of Bellagio in Las Vegas less the music.

While the senior medical-educators went on their way inside the mall, the younger ones took time to kid around…

Apparently, we’re really happy with the experience.

After doing some shopping, all of us met up at around 10PM and headed for our bus back to Penang. We got home in Butterworth at 4:30AM, Saturday.

God willing, I can bring the 2 of you here one day.  We’ll see.

I’d like to doze off for few hours more before I start my weekend so bye for now;

Take care and I love you both! -tatay-doc.

26
Aug
10

UNDER THE CRESCENT MOON

25 August 2010, Wednesday –My fellow Filipino medical educators and I were honored to attend our very first event in Penang, Malaysia.

As you may know,  they refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn to dusk during these times. They practice this for patience, humility and spirituality.

Gathering for the breaking of the fast after sunset is Majlis Berbuka Puasa.

On crossed legs, we sat on the floor in front of each other; there were separate areas for men (lelaki) and women (perempuan).

The event which was in Bahasa focused beyond religion but concern. Videos about inundated Pakistan were shown to raise not only awareness but to plea for help. Donation box was passed on for voluntary contribution.

After they prayed, we feasted on what the’ve served…

Most of us, Pinoy meducationists graced the event wearing our national pride.

with Dr. Ermel, Ronnie and ACMS staff; photo taken by Dr. Lito

With my limited knowledge about their religion and beliefs and our gradual exposure to their culture, I welcome new learnings and experiences with arms wide open.

22
Aug
10

MY OTHER UNIVERSE

21 August 2010, Saturday – Finally, we moved in to our new home in Penang. :) From our temporary abode somewhere in Kepala Batas for more than 3 weeks, 4 of my male colleagues and I have began rocking a 2-storey-5-bedroom-penthouse at the 4th level of a condominium in Butterworth.

Look at the handsome lobby…

The first floor of this condo boasts of an inviting swimming pool, a gym and a sauna and a quaint Japanese kois pond.  I can’t wait till I bring Tina and Gabby here in late October for a short break, I bet Gabby will enjoy frolicking in the kiddie pool…

The 4 male-medical educators whom I am sharing the place with are my batchmates back in Med school.  Getting along with them isn’t new and far from being difficult. We all have experiences of living in dormitories and appartments during those days that we’re all cramming for exams, medical duties and other school stuffs ergo, living in a condo now in a foreign land is just a step higher from what we’re used to.

It was almost high noon when we transferred our luggages and essentials to our spacious new home.

Here’s a peek at day-1 of our penthouse-living…

The first floor has the dining and living areas, a kitchen and a laundry room. The unit is somewhat fully furnished except for 2 rooms without beds and wardrobes. But we’re not complaining because the fixtures and electric appliances seemed all new and what’s more amazing is the presence of split-type air conditioning  units even in dining and living rooms.

I am grateful to my fellows that they allowed me to occupy the master’s bedroom for I have a kid and wife who’ll be visiting every now and then and who knows, might consider living with me here next year (our contract to this beautiful unit is only for a year but renewable to another one, hence options are open!). The monthly rate is affordable specially when shared at RM 1500 (PhP 21,0000).  I say it’s hard to chance upon a place like this in Manila or possibly else where.

Take a peek at my room…

It’s equipped with Elba split-type a/c, a bath tub, wardrobe, a dresser and a king size chiropractic bed that’s so comfy I had a restful sleep on my first night.

I know you’ll agree to the fact that having a daily good night’s sleep or even a cat nap on a lazy weekend is priceless. So I prioritized to include in my first and few purchases in Penang a set of bedsheets, pair of pillows and a bolster.

My sleeping heaven is still a work in progress; I’ll try to save to buy few more sets of linens. I also want a firmer pillow; I prefer it than those softy ones.

I bought a wooden laptop mini desk with cooling pad in a furniture shop where my friends bought their other fixtures. I haggled it from the friendly Chinese owner from RM 99 to RM 88.  *best when Skyping with Tina+Gabby*

My room opens to its own veranda that’s too perfect for a coffee or reading nook.  Take note that the gorgeous sight of lush greens before the bay across George Town in Penang Island can also be appreciated morning after mornings from my windows.

The view from my veranda…

Almost all houses within the vicinity are outrageously huge and expensive; most are with luxury cars and whatnot.  We were told that the community is mostly of rich Chinese families and Malaysian aviators who report for duty at a nearby air base.

Despite the fact that we’re all boys in the unit, we managed to pull our resources, headed to the grocery and bought foods and stuffs needed for the next days until payday comes.

The boys got so excited in seeing non-Halal section in Jusco Supermarket in Prai City that they hoarded few pieces of raw meat; chicken (possibly for tinola for we got enough of curried and spicy chix at work place), and yes finally, PORK and BEEF!

One of us volunteered to cook (sarap ng luto mo Doc Dante!), another fixed things in place, while I washed the dishes.

FYI, after almost 3 weeks of being OFWs in Penang,  it was only last night that we get to cook our own meal. And guess what we had for our very first dinner after that long and tiring Saturday?

One of Pinoy favorites, PORK ADOBO spruced up with mushrooms and pineapple juice… Sarap! :)

Being in a country that does not patronize eating pork except in few Chinese eateries where grilled liempo is served, eating lean pork meat in soy sauce and vinegar (that’s also hard to find!) is such a big deal for us!

To Drs. Alvin, Carlo, Dante and Ronnie, here’s to more adobo-sessions in our little sanctuary!

19
Aug
10

SENTI

Matamis, kasing-lasa ng pan de coco at coco jam ngunit iba pa rin kung nasa atin ka.

Kahit pala simpleng pan de coco mula sa paniderya sa Pinas ay nakaka-miss kung OFW ka na.

It has been exactly 22 days since my fellow  Pinoy doctor-educators and I left our families, our country and our lives in Manila for work in a medical university in Penang, Malaysia.

Despite the frequent use of Skype, SMS, e-mails and phone calls, we’ve been seriously missing our loved ones and a whole lot of things back home.  We’ve started experiencing the discomfort of being away from places we’re so familiar with, to our daily routine and even simple things like enjoying our common meals.

Being away from our usual lives and getting out of our comfort zones make us more sensitive and sentimental.  I just want to perceive all these as challenges in exchange of a better life for my wife, our son and myself.

Inspite of a more lucrative career and a promising professional and personal growth,  nothing can ever replace the warmth of smiles, kisses and embraces from people who matter to us the most.

Note to self :  Welcome to buhay OFW, docgelo!  Isipin mo na lang, mas malungkot kung hindi ka nabigyan ng ganitong pagkakataon at higit na mahirap ang mawalan ng pera para sa pamilya. Cheer up, you’ve got so many friends & relatives backing you up and a lot of blessings pouring from Lord. :)

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

13
Aug
10

KNOCK, KNOCK!

Doors of opportunities open at a given time, it’s up to us whether we enter or leave.

I wasn’t ambivalent when the chance to work abroad came along about a couple of months back. I am dead sure to do the job that has been my passion despite the sacrifice of leaving my wife and son back home. I strongly believe that if you’ve set your mind and heart on something, the yield is nothing but positive.

On my 15th day of stay in Penang, Malaysia, my cup still overflows with gratitude to everyone who have contributed in bringing me to where I am now. I am only at the foot of the so-called mountain-to-climb but I feel so fortunate for each day has been a blessing.

Everything would not be possible if the entire universe did not conspire. To my family, closest friends and their relatives, to the people who brought me to this work in this medical university, I am and will forever be thankful.

I am sharing with you the simple words I’ve emailed to my employers this morning with the hope to infect you with gratitude.

Greetings!

I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude for giving me a chance to work with other Filipino Medical educators, and be a part of whom you called the school’s Meducationists. Rest assured, Sir, that I will contribute to the growth of the medical school and its people with the best of my abilities.

Thank you too, for facilitating our accomodation and making us feel so welcome in Penang.

I take pride in being a part of our institution.

Sincerely,
docgelo

13
Aug
10

LAST MOVIE I SAW IN MANILA

I watched Inception in Greenbelt 1, Makati City with Tina and Gabby (yes, even our preschooler son joined us in seeing this film; seemed like he liked it too!) last 28 July 2010, the day before I left for Penang, Malaysia for work.

I don’t know about you but I think it’s one of the most intelligently crafted and well-written stories for movies. It was talkie but never boring, digital effects was at its finest, the plot and the ending were both unpredictable;  a brilliant one for me.

Have you seen Inception?  What’s your take on this movie?

——————————–

My fellow Pinoy Medical Educators here saw Inception last weekend in Jusco Mall, Queensbay, Penang Island while I roamed around for a little shopping for essentials. Movie ticket cost RM 10 (PhP 140), almost similar to the price in Manila (but everything here, particularly cost of living is much affordable than home).

09
Aug
10

MY 2ND SUNDAY IN PENANG

Guess where my favorite Gola sneakers took me this Sunday morning?

on a ferry ride from butterworth, jetty to george town in penang island, RM 1.20 roundtrip.

We started the day at around 7:30AM by riding the college shuttle service bus along with some of  our International pre-medical students who are also members of the Catholic faith in a 30 minute ride to St. Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam, Penang Malaysia.

The church is beautifully located at the foot of a mountain thus, lush greens serve as its backdrop.

It’s so comforting that we now know the place of our Catholic community in a predominantly Muslim and Hindu country. One of my colleagues even found her Iglesia Ni Cristo church here.

After we heard our first ever Holy Mass in Malaysia, our service bus driver took us to a Chinese restaurant where they serve PORK!

After our 9 days of chicken, nasi lemak, and mee goreng, it’s was indeed an excitement for us to see this stall serving pork in a Halal community. For only RM 4 (PhP 56) per plate with rice, we have another reason to wake up early every Sunday morning other than to hear mass.

A  set of lechon kawali with asado sauce, rice and cold milo all for RM 6.50 (PhP 91).

Pork craving satisfied! :) Looking forward to next Sunday! :)

Our service bus took us back to the station in Kepala Batas then we headed off to Penang Island via public bus.  We took a bus for only RM 2.40 (PhP 33.60) from Kailan, Kepala Batas to Jetty in Butterworth where we had a 15-minute ferry ride to George Town.

We could have opted to ride the cab (teksi in Bahasa) from our place to Penang Island crossing the longest Malaysian bridge that serves as one of the landmarks of Penang, but it would cost us RM 35 and up; besides, riding a ferry in Penang isn’t that bad; it’s not congested and properly operated; it’s like our local RORO (roll in-roll out) back home where vehicles and people alight the vessel.

We arrived in George Town in Penang Island few minutes past 1PM. We took another ride via Rapid public bus to Queensbay where Jusco Mall, one of the largest malls in Penang was waiting for us to shop.

Can you resist a month-long storewide 50 to 70% SALE ON ALMOST ALL ITEMS? Teach me how! :)

Since we’re scheduled to move in to our permanent accomodation within the next few weeks, I prioritized buying some necessities like pillow, boltser, bedsheets for my queen-sized bed, some chips to nibble etc.

I bought 2 sets of bedsheets, one Nouvelle 250 thread count for only RM 29 (406) inclusive of queen-sized fitted sheet, 2 pillow and 1 bolster cases and a 330 thread count Momoji linen set originally priced at RM 149 down to RM 29.8. Now that’s a good buy or what?!

My colleagues and I cannot wait for the 30th of the month to have our first earned-Ringgit. It’s definite that after we send our remittances to our loved ones back home, we’ll surely buy more essentials for our new homes.

After eating Nasi Lemak, Nasi Goreng, Mee Goreng and other spicy Malaysian and Indian dishes, Sunday was a time for me to give in to my simple indulgence.

If you’ve been reading this blog for quite some time now, you’re surely familiar with my love affair with sushi. Imagine my smile from ear to ear when I saw a huge stall in Jusco Mall foodcourt that sells cheap but delightful sushi; didn’t think twice and bought one set for RM 8.80 (PhP 123.20).

It’s comparable to the authentic ones I’ve tasted in TOKYO last March.

Unagi set I had the last time we went to Jusco Mall, RM 11.80 (PhP 165.20).

Several hours of walks inside Jusco mall while my fellow medical educators were  watching movies for RM 10 (PhP 140), I found another craving…

AIS KACANG, their version of our local halo-halo, I enjoyed for RM 3.70 (PhP 51.80).

Although, ice was finely shaved, I like our halo-halo more because this has more nuts that sweets. I miss leche flan, ube jam, rice crispies in our halo-halo.

Final sweet temptation I had that day was a peach-mango flavored frozen swirl yogurt topped with almond flakes from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf; this one’s a bit pricey at RM 11.90 (PhP 166.60).

I may have been a glutton again yesterday but that’s because I made my taste buds ready for another spicy week ahead.

Now I’m missing my family again as I remember we usually go to church every Sunday and eat out together. Thanks to Skype for melting my homesickness away.

How’s your weekend?

Enjoy the rest of the week. God bless, everyone! :)

06
Aug
10

THE WEEK THAT WAS

I came to Penang from Manila via Kuala Lumpur exactly a week ago with 18 other Pinoy doctors to work as a lecturer in a huge medical college here.  Most of them are my batchmates from med school;  including one of our former professors and the others are medical consultants from all over the Philippines whom I met only on the flight.  Eight more physicians will be coming in next week  to join our teaching force with the hope that we can blend well with our foreign counterparts from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Australia, Myanmar and Malaysia.

Thank God my first week in Penang as an OFW has not been dreadful.  I didn’t set any great expectations but to earn and save for Tina and Gabby thus I am not disappointed yet.  It has been so far so good.

Here are some decisions I’ve made and some things I encountered and experienced in my first week here that I’d like to share.

1. Initially, I planned to bring Tina and Gabby here after a month or two because they ‘re eligible to have “calling visas” as my dependents.  I was told that Tina can also work here if she finds an opportunity. However, after a few days of touring the city and going to 3 International Primary Schools in Penang mainland and Penang Island, I found out with the rest of my colleagues who are married with kids, who also plan to do the same,  that the cost of private education here soars to the heavens.

Schooling in Penang is like in the western countries, it’s trisemester; they open September, January and April and ends in July. Facilities, staff and environment-wise, almost everything is at its finest except the fees.  Since Gabby’s age falls on their Year 1 level, I will be required to pay a term fee of RM 3500 (PhP 49,000) and another  term advance fee if he enters  IS here.  Plus, there are admission and registration fees amounting to RM1500 that should be settled upon enrolment. All in all, the cost per term enrollment is RM 8500 (PhP 119,000 or USD 2587), then add another 2 term fees to complete a school year making a grand total of PhP 217, 000 for Year 1 alone and fees escalate per level of course! Is that logical for grade 1? Granting that my minimal salary can afford it, isn’t it still too much for a primary education?

It’s not that I and my wife would like to deprive our preschool son of the best education but we’re just being practical. After all, it is because of my son’s future that I am here abroad.  By thinking so, we decided that Gabby will just continue his schooling as a prep student back home with my wife’s guidance.  I will just find means to bring them here for a week-long vacation whenever our schedules permit ;  perhaps either  before Gabby’s birthday on the first week of October or at the end of the same month during their semestral  break. This will give them a chance to experience life in Penang and probably if God wills it, I may enroll Gabby here on September next year, still depending on how we test the waters.  Another option is for me to go home on Christmas for the holidays.

2.  Penang is a beautiful city. The mainland boasts of colleges, industrial areas, freeways and countryside, while Penang Island cradles George Town, Malaysia’s own UNESCO World Heritage City.

A glimpse of George Town in Penang Island; it's Malaysia's own UNESCO World Heritage City. See you every weekend, George Town and Gurney Drive!

After George Town, we went to Gurney Drive where upscale hotels and hawkers meet before their glorious bay area.

One would take an hour or so to fly to Singapore or Thailand or other Asian countries from Penang.  Travel is more accessible now rather than a luxury because of availability of cheap airfares from low-cost carriers.

Would you believe that an overnight stay on a cruise ship that departs from Penang Island costs only RM100 (PhP 1400) ?  I can’t wait to experience it hopefully soon.

3.  I embrace being in a multicultural community. I’ve travelled a few times but it wasn’t this long that I’ve been breathing same air with other nationalities, colors, cultures and religions.

There are Chinese and other Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, a few Caucassians and others that peacefully thrive in Malaysian soil.

4. Food in Penang came from diverse communities too.  Mild to moderate spicy foods predominate the choices that are very apparent in halal dishes.  I don’t have a choice but to enjoy every bite.  What’s best with it, food is so affordable here that one can buy a Nasi Lemak for only RM 1 (PhP 14). How I wish the same scenario is true in the Philippines.

Chicken Tandoori with Cheese Naan from Kapitan's Nasi Kandar International located at Gurney Drive, Penang Island. SARAP! So affordable at RM8.50 (PhP 119).

5.  Buhay-OFW is totally new to me. Every minute has been nothing but a mixture of homesickness and  wonderful experiences.   I just pause and think the reason for my being here; then when the faces of my child and his mom flash on my mind, everything seems surreal.

To quote my fellow doctor here, “for OFWs, sacrifice is synonymous to remittance.”

02
Aug
10

HOMESICKNESS KICKS IN

01 August 2010 -Sunday– It was a long day with my colleagues; we were guided on how to go in and out of our work place via Malaysian public transpo : bus, ferry and cab.  From the main land, we went to Penang Island and explored a bit of  their malls, hotels, public markets and the bay area. We ate dinner at hawkers in Gurney Drive then came home to our temporary villas dead tired but nonetheless happy.

When I checked my emails, I first read my wife’s.  It has attachments that made me miss them more– photos recently taken in Tagaytay City the morning after I left the country. My wife and our kid together with my in-laws were brought there by our relatives. It was the very first major homesickness I felt. I cannot help but think that it could have been more fun if I was with them on those moments.

Would you not miss your son if you’re abroad and he tries the zip line even if it was for photo op only?

Gabby’s facial expression looked so real; artistahin? :)

from L to R : bro-in-law, Tina and Gabby, aunt & mom-in-law, Tagaytay City

Although I constantly communicate with them via SMS, calls, emails, and Skype, nothing beats being with them personally.

I miss them so much.  :(

LOVE KO 'TO!

I love you, Tina & Gabby! :)

*all photos in this post were taken by our uncle lou. thanks!

31
Jul
10

WELCOME TO PENANG, MALAYSIA

Dear Tina and Gabby,

I thank God that I and my other colleagues arrived safely at Kuala Lumpur Airport an hour past midnight yesterday.  From the 3 and a half hour trip, we were ushered to an exclusive deluxe bus provided by the company that took us to 2 bus stops from the airport to our new place in Penang.

This is my first authentic NASI LEMAK experience…

Most of us had this entire plate of their so-called national dish at RM 5 (PhP 65 to 70 or perhaps there are even cheaper Nasi Lemak in other areas); in an instance, it reminded me of  our very own Binalot, less the salted egg and tomatoes.  I didn’t forget to have something to wash down the spice by getting myself a glass of calamansi-iced tea for RM 1.50 (PhP 20).

“Traditionally, this comes as a platter of food wrapped in banana leaf, with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, hard boiled egg, and hot spicy sauce (sambal) at its core.” Sourced via Wiki

‘ney, although unexpectedly, I liked it, I don’t think you’ll love it the first bite; it’s hot that you might need a liter of fluids to washed it down. The glass of iced tea I had felt short to the requirement.  The chicken looked and tasted curried; was ok but not that tender as I wanted. I liked the slice of cucumber, dilis and peanut combination. It’s just too early to tell if  my digestive would take it easily as I, God forbid, might have this as breakfast on a daily basis. *kidding*

After that 2AM chow, we headed to another bus stop for our much needed bladder-break then we reached our work place’s office at around 7AM and was delighted to a FREE-Malaysian breakfast and some delicacies.

The turon-looking thing at the middle of the platter was actually like Okoy for it has bean sprouts filling but wrapped and coated with sugar and sesame seads. I just failed to get the names of these sweet treats, can anyone identify?  I like the green and white thing; tasted like suman, biko and maja blanco combined! yum!

At around 10AM we’re brought to our villas.

This will be our temporary homes provided by our employer until we get our permanent abodes (parang ang hirap i-type yung salitang “permanent”) soon.

The villa is right across the clubhouse with wonderful swimming pool.

Look, Gabby, there’s a kiddie pool and a playground too! :)

A peek at my temporary own room… It’s not that grand, but complete with essentials. Thank God, my first sleep was restful.

After we checked in our villas, we changed into our business attires and attended to the first meeting with the CEO of the company. He warmly welcomed us and brief exchange of smiles were done.

Then our last stop for the day was shopping for our own survival kits. We bought bottles of distilled water, some crackers, hangers for suits etc.

First dinner in Penang was only at a food court of the same department store we went to.

I avoided being adventurous at my plate last night, probably because I was literally tired the whole day and would like to keep everything safe.  Among the many must-try dishes from Malaysia, I only had  SWEET and SOUR CHICKEN which I purchased for RM 5.90 (Php 80).

I know we have more days (and years!) to savor, taste and experience Malaysia.

Today, we’re off to Penang Island before lunch time.

Stay safe there, ‘ney and Gabby.  I’ll try my best to check out the place and everything here first; and in God’s will, I may bring you here soon. I love you and incredibly miss you.

31
Jul
10

IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER LIFE

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11.

From this post, I’ll be blogging until God knows when far from our home as I begin a new challenging chapter in my life.

I have been to a  few places abroad; Tokyo, California and Las Vegas, Bangkok, Bendar Seri Begawan, Auckland, New Zealand and Hong Kong but this is the very first time that I am in a foreign shore not as a vacationist but as a father and a husband who seeks better life for his family.

I have made the decision to temporarily leave my wife and our preschooler son, to RESTART AND  REBUILD OUR FUTURE as a FAMILY. It is however with high hopes that in several weeks time, they can also follow and stay with me in my new work place abroad.  It’s a mutual decision between Tina and I as we both take part and contribute in EACH OTHER GROWTHS.

The thought  isn’t new to me.  In fact, my wife and I long to work abroad NOT because we don’t have hopes in our own country but personally, I believe we can CHALLENGE more our POTENTIALS to SUCCEED and further IMPROVE OURSELVES if we continue to pursue our dreams and gradually bring them to reality.

I am a child of OFWs; figuratively, “KATAS ng SAUDI.”  My dad was a former Supermarket Manager all over KSA, Kuwait and UAE for more than 17 years.   And just 2 years ago, my mom has extended her being an Accountant and Administrative Manager to the Middle East too.  But neither of them influenced me nor forced me to become one as well.  In fact, they constantly INSPIRE me with their perseverance, dedication, hard work, and above all, their LOVE FOR FAMILY.

I do have great respect to those Filipinos who continuously sacrifice their physical absence to most important occasions in their family in exchange of a more lucrative career.  I admire those Filipinos who tirelessly complete and often times, renew and extend their contracts with their employers abroad with indirect efforts to motivate others to do the same.

I wish that I can also do well in the job that has been MY PASSION and I’ll continuously pray hard for me to deliver the work effectively, beyond expectations.

To my dearest wife, Tina and our preschool son, Gabby, apparently your unconditional love and support drive me to be on my toes and be willed enough to do this for our family’s future.  With our constant communication and prayers, I know everything will yield positive things and bountiful blessings.

See you on Skype nightly and do keep your phone lines open to melt my homesickness away. :D

I am doing this for the Glory of God and for the sake of MY FAMILY, benefiting our country eventually.

Come follow me as this blog takes you to MALAYSIA and more.

This is it.

Let’s do this.


17
Jul
10

LEAVING SOON

Just a few days ago, some kind readers left their comments about my post on exploring possibilities of migrating and working abroad.   Now, I’d like to share with you what I and my family are expecting in the next few days.

Unless there will be sudden changes, yes, my days in Manila are numbered.

I’ve started buying few stuffs that I’ll be using and wearing when I begin to work with more or less 30 other great Filipino doctors who will be flying with me to Malaysia before this month ends.

We were told that work wear is strictly suit and tie; finally, I get to wear my few old and new shirts and silk ties from Marks and Spencer once more. :)

Seriously, I’m having mixed emotions about it.

I remain grateful to  the Lord for He isn’t only a great provider but indeed Almighty.

I try not to be overwhelmed with the quick turnout of events and be composed and collected at all times. After all, it was well thought of and God knows how determined I am to succeed, hopefully abroad.

I can confidently state that teaching my medical profession has been my passion and I guess, my noble mission for 6 years and counting. I like it when I get to inspire and motivate people to do more for themselves and for others.

Having handled around 6,000 students to date, both in college and review centers; produced countless local and foreign board passers and inspiring achievers, I believe I’ll be in the right track if I’ll continue to follow my instincts and Lord’s will.

What happened was I applied for a teaching job in a medical school on the last few days of June via email.  Soon after, I received a positive response and was scheduled for an interview  last July 1st.

Despite the fact that nothing will be paid; no placement and processing fees whatsoever, and there’s also a hard-to-resist offer of scholarship to take Masters Degree while working and although it is possible, we still thought it’s too risky on our part for us to go there altogether so Tina and I decided that they’ll just follow there probably after a month or two or whenever possible.

I wish this step huge leap will bring growth not only for myself but moreso for my beloved family.

It will be a totally different new and exciting challenges for us so I’ll appreciate if you include us in your prayers. Thanks!

Will you still follow and read my blog if I’ll post entries next month from Penang, Malaysia?

Wish me luck.

So help me, God.

———————————-<@

I’m currently savoring my days with my family and enjoying attending events that are worth a post. So stay tuned. :)

09
Apr
10

LETTERS ABOUT TOKYO #14 : PASALUBONG!

Dear Tina and Gabby,

Despite the very limited budget and only 20-23kg luggage allowance from PAL, I still managed to get you some stuffs from Asakusa, Tokyo Disney Resorts and Akihabara as my little pasalubong for you!  

From ASAKUSA TEMPLE, I got these ref magnets to add TO OUR FRIDGE MAGNETS COLLECTION

I got these 2 keychains as you’ve requested… (simple lang at maganda ang wife ko, keychain lang ang gusto!)

I bought a white Japanese tea-cup  mug with faces of Sumo wrestlers engraved as design for myself (not in photo). 

I also got something for our friends –chopsticks! :D

These pillow and cans of butter and chocolate cookies are all yours from TOKYO DISNEYLAND  and  DISNEYSEA

(FYI, my wife collects tin cans, that’s how simple she really is! So I thought these 2 tin cans  with  Stitch design and embossed Disney characters would delight her more than its contents.  I also brought home a zippered lunch box I got from my dinner set in Tokyo DisneySea for Gabby) :D

‘ney, I got this ‘kikay kit’ for you with Minnie Mouse ‘s soft and chewy sweets inside…  

Last but not the least…

Gabby, since I and your mom love you so much; not only because you are named 3rd Honorable Mention at your recently concluded Kindergarten graduation and has been awarded honors in your preschool’s Declamation and Academic Contests in 2 consecutive years,  we think you deserve something you really want.  

(with Dr. BPS)  went back  to AKIHABARA ELECTRIC TOWN  a day before my flight back home just to get you this present…

This is your most wanted pasalubong, right?  :D I bought those from Ishimaru store in Akihabara; glad you like it, anak! :D

Now you have both your gameboy and this new Sony PSP with 4-gig memory stick to enjoy during the summer break!  But promise me and your mom that you’ll continue to be a good boy and a smart preschool pupil, OK? 

I love you ‘ney and Gabby!

:D Tatay-doc. 

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Dear Kind Readers,

Beyond Toxicity will be celebrating its 3rd anniversary on May 08, 2010.  Because of this, I thought of giving away little something from my Tokyo trip. No, it’s not the PSP I bought for Gabby, but these wonderful pairs of authentic Japanese chopsticks; all yours when you join and win the small blog-contest that I will be throwing before this month ends (will be only open to all readers within the country and abroad who can provide mailing address within the Philippines ).  Simple and easy mechanics will be posted on the last week of April so stay tuned. :D  

Now, who wants these chopsticks?  :D

 This ends my 14-part-Letters about Tokyo series. Thanks for following!

Sayonara and Arigato Gozaimasu, Tokyo!

-gelo.

06
Apr
10

LETTERS ABOUT TOKYO #12 : ASAKUSA TEMPLE

Dear Tina and Gabby,

One of my memorable mornings  in Tokyo was spent in ASAKUSA TEMPLE  (heard them pronounced it as Asaksa).

 

From Gotanda, I rode a subway train alone directly to Asakusa; after few minutes of train ride, I’ve explored their so-called “traditionally Japanese atmosphere.” 

I had mixed thoughts on seeing human-powered-transport in the form of RICKSHAWS.  I think I cannot pay Y8,000 (PhP 4,000) for several minutes to an hour of a runner’s agony.  But it was nice to know that these runners have passed a licensure exam to do the job and know how to speak English for the sake of tourism.  

The gates to Asakusa Shrine…

The place isn’t hard to locate once you got off from the subway train.  It’s immediately across the main street guarded by a KOBAN or a Japanese Police Station because understandably, Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s main tourist attractions.

Asakusa has the largest CHOCHIN or a Japanese lantern made of framed bamboo wound in spiral that is located at the central entrance of  the KAMINARIMON (雷門, “Thunder Gate”).  After the Kaminarimon, visitors are greeted by souvenir stalls in parallel on way to the main temple.

This was one of the places where I got your little pasalubong. (read : I’ll have another post letter for pasalubong soon).  If you fancy something else that I failed to buy, at least I have captured them in pics, LOL :D

The souvenir shops along the path to Asakusa Shrine reminds me of the pasalubong stalls in Antipolo Church. :)  I did window shopping first and held myself from impulsive buying; after which, I found myself mesmerized by these Buddhist statues…

I like how this monument depicted motherly love; I remember how much you love Gabby, ‘ney

Then I also like this statue of a monk with one foot dangling.  His posture appears peaceful and sublime.

The place also features a 5-tiered tower and the essentials of a Buddhist temple –incense to purify their being; water to wash their hands and mouth; all done to prepare themselves for veneration.

A few steps more to the main Shrine…

Cherry Blossom began to bloom that day…

Lovely as any Spring…

 

In God’s time, we’ll visit Tokyo together and savor these wonderful places again.

I love you, ‘ney and Gabby!

:D Tatay-doc.

05
Apr
10

LETTERS ABOUT TOKYO #11 : EATING JAPANESE

*WARNING :  This post can make you SALIVATE  &  FEEL VERY SATIATED! :D  Enjoy!

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Dear Tina and Gabby,

My 14-day-stay in Tokyo could not be any happier if not for (my colleagues) our memorable weekends and these Japanese gastronomic delights.  You know how I like sushi and eating it as authentic as it gets was just divine! :)

My very first bite of sushi costs Y890 (PhP 445).   Funny that I have to share it with our head nurse, because we both didn’t know if it’s too pricey or not, since it was our first night in Tokyo then.

Luckily after we transferred accomodation, our colleagues told us of  a department store called Remy that sells all other things but most importantly  bread, sushi, salad, bento boxes and other food items at 30 –50% off every 8:30PM (and those aren’t expired yet; they just want to dispose everything within the day to keep things on shelves fresh).  Buying discounted food is one of the best things I have experienced in Tokyo (everything else other than Remy’s are expensive in Japan including train fares, particularly when you convert prices into pesos!).

These are some of my Remy purchases that kept my stomach full every dinner!

Each sushi set at Remy costs around Y480 –900+.   So it’s really a good buy when it’s discounted at night; although one has to wait until it’s labelled as such.

There’s this microwavable- Tonkatsu-set that was originally priced at Y480; then after 8:30PM, I bought it only at half of it’s price.  I had to keep most of my food spending for dinner on a low key for  the rest of my budget per day was allotted for water (yes, we even had to buy 2-liter-bottles of drinking water),  food for breakfast and lunch, laundry and laundry essentials,  pricey train fares  and other expenses.  Remember, Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world!  And EVERY MOVE IN TOKYO COSTS  A  YEN! 

At some nights,  I bought salad and a cup of dessert -sweet and fruity; in addition to my main dishes.

I love that salad set; it’s a combination of potato topped with kani strips, mac and cheese topped with boiled egg, and some cold salad made of cucumber and other veggie strips. I like it so much that I bought it for 3 or 4 times when I was there! :)

I like how Japanese are so keen on their calorie-intake.  Most if not all purchases, contain calorie counts to guide those diet-conscious consumers (not me! LOL!).   Like this Fish and Tamago bento that costs Y498 had 675 kilo calories.

I also found this bacon-wrapped rice so easy and convenient to eat; a real-whole-meal-in-one!  Not to mention it’s few of the things in Tokyo that comes in affordable price…

Their iced tea doesn’t taste that sweet even if it’s flavored.   But their coffee is something else, sarap! :)

Here are proofs that I also cooked and cooked and cooked in my room to save, save and save…

Ugh, the agony of staying abroad on a budget!  We all had to buy our own frying pan and syanse , cooking oil, soy sauce, some dozen eggs, (canned goods like spam for my colleagues) and chicken nuggets from convenient stores and groceries.

Still from Remy’s,  I was able to cook some Aussie Beef slices that I bought for a cheaper price (compared to local price in Manila).

Those rice patties wrapped with nori were already tasteful at Y120 (PhP 60) each at regular price;  I just can’t eat them sans ulam. :D

On one of those nights, I had Gyoza, Y260 (PhP 130)  and nothing more;  then the next night I had pig-out again by buying another microwavable dinner from Remy (I really love that store in Gotanda!).

That set on the right of 4-piece-fried chicken and fries (Y580) were so huge that I had it for dinner and breakfast too!

My lunch with my colleagues were also remarkable.

Rememeber I showed you this Sukiyaki set on one of my first letters to you…

This Sukiyaki set that costs Y1000 (PhP 500) was a lunch treat from the 2 Japanese guys I met there.  It’s one of the best-tasting Sukiyaki that I’ve tried.  Yummy!

Here are the other lunch sets that I had from a buffet spread of one of those restaurants…

One afternoon, I had salad, miso soup, desserts and an assorted tempura plate all for Y950 (PhP475 ).  Then another lunch time, I had salad again, miso soup, desserts and a burger steak plate all for Y850 (PhP 425).

In Tokyo,  one of their famous and affordable 24-hour fastfood chains, more like of our Jollibee or McDo here is Yoshinoya.  I know we haven’t eaten in Yoshinoya here in Manila, but my first take on it in Tokyo wasn’t that bad.  For a Y500 coin (PhP 250), you can have a set meal with Japanese tea in less than 5 minutes; really convenient especially on nights when I was too lazy to shop or cook for dinner (read : it was always single-digit-celsius when I was there; was always a “bed-weather” before and after dinner!).

Is it not too obvious that Sukiyaki is one of my favorites ? LOL! :D

Remember I told you that our colleagues also treated us in aYakiniku lunch buffet near Ginza Street; the resto is called Don.K! (pronounced by Japanese as donki).  It’s like Yakimix that we have sampled in SM Mall of Asia.  The price per head was just similar with Yakimix;  Buffet at Don.K! per pax costs Y1000 for lunch and Y3000 for dinner.

 At   TOKYO DISNEYLAND 

and  TOKYO DISNEYSEA , my late lunch and dinner sets were simple (but quite expensive too at Y790 and Y1450 with lunch box)

 

My last lunch at Tokyo was with Doc B.P.S  when we were in  Akihabara.   It was good that a day before my flight back home, he introduced me to a common Japanese eatery that requires diners to choose from a menu display of  plastic food on the window and pay via vendo machine (due to lack of cashiers); get the stub and hand it in at the counter…

I found this dining system very efficient and wish we could have the same here in Manila.

Katsudon at Y455 (PhP 227.50)  for my last lunch in Tokyo…

You may drool and burp now, hehehe!  :D

I may have had the best tasting sushi, sukiyaki and bento boxes in Tokyo, but every dining experience was still less without the two of you, naks!  :D

These foods may be authentic Japanese but nothing beats home-cooked foods shared together on our very own table.

I love you, ‘ney and Gabby.

Here’s to more simple indulgences together!

:D  Tatay-doc

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To my Kind Readers,

There will be more of my Tokyo experience that I’ll share with you on my next posts .  Thanks for following this series.

-gelo




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