2019 Trip to Hong Kong: The Flight

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Finally! March of 2019 came. This trip to Hong Kong with my awesome friend, Jana, was almost a year in the making. I booked the trip way back in November of last year and made sure to file my leaves ahead of time.

The events leading up to our flight was not smooth at all. For some reason, I was so stressed out and was uneasy. To add to that, I almost terribly damaged my eye in the process.

You see, I bought contact lenses to wear during our travel because I wanted to look nicer in our photos. I bought my pair from one of the more accessible optical shops. When I tried to wear them two days before my flight though, my right eye started to feel terribly irritated. Lubricating felt like my eyeball was on fire and ordinary eye drops to refresh my eyes felt the same thing. I could not see any scratch and could not remember getting something in my eye before it suddenly felt so dry that I had to drop on some lubricant.

The following day, my eye was still a little bit pink (a sign it’s still irritated) and eye drops still made my eyeball feel on fire. I immediately contacted our family’s ophthalmologist and was advised to have it checked just to be sure. However, since I could not go to his clinic, I opted to go to another doctor in the hospital near my office. I told my original eye doctor what I was prescribed, and he did not seem to have any problem with the anti-inflammatory drops I was asked to use. He did tell me to visit his clinic soon when I got back.

img_1300On the day of the flight, I was still uneasy. I cannot understand why. Maybe it was because it was going to be my first time to travel to Hong Kong without my sister picking me up from the airport. I was also feeling responsible for my friend who was going on her first out-of-the-country trip. So, when we were invited to have our carry-on luggage checked in for free because of anticipated volume of carry-on luggage of a packed flight, despite my gut feeling telling me not to, I opted to have my bag checked in.

Upon boarding the plane, I asked two flight attendants in two separate occasions to ensure that my bag was indeed checked in. They assured me of the process, but I still felt something was going to turn out wrong.

At the immigration in Hong Kong, it was my first time to be ever asked for itinerary. So, make sure you have yours prepared just in case they ask for it. If you booked packages over Klook, please make sure to show them your bookings from your phone. Also, before giving them your passport, make sure to remove it from its jacket/holder.

Only my big suitcase arrived on the carousel. Ten minutes after all bags from our flight from Manila were already taken, my carry-on luggage that was checked in still did not arrive. I panicked immediately because the bag contained documents my sister needed. I immediately asked the assistance of the personnel at the Baggage Enquiry Desk while I tried to contact Cebu Pacific’s hotline.

I was amazed at the efficiency of the personnel at HKIA. They were understanding and supportive. They remained calm, so I did not panic even further. However, I was disappointed with Cebu Pacific because I was told to wait up to 48 hours for them to get back to me. No, scrap that. I was asked to call them again after 48 hours. So much for using the word “escalation.” I was fuming at this point!

Twenty-one minutes of long-distance call and Php 2,500 charge on my bill later, Jana told me she saw my bag already. It arrived together with the bags from the flight from Mumbai. I guess at the last minute, they remembered I checked in my bag and had it brought to the carousel.

Maybe if I had a little more faith on the ground crew of Cebu Pacific, I did not have to make the phone call. Still, it was my first “lost luggage” experience so I guess I should not be so hard on myself. I am grateful they did not lose my bag and I still think they should improve on how their customer service personnel handle cases like this. Please don’t sound as if you’re as helpless as your customers.

img_1296Almost lost luggage aside, Cebu Pacific still provided us a comfortable flight. Our seats were upgraded to the seats near the exit so, we had more leg room. Jana and I had fun trying to figure out how to open the exit door in case of emergency. The flight attendants were very nice and attentive to our needs. I guess, I just need to not be so uptight.

I am also thankful that I was not alone that day. Somebody could have picked my bag while I was still at the Baggage Enquiry Desk.

Lessons learned: If you can check everything in, check everything in. Once you decided to have carry-on luggage, don’t have it checked in anymore unless necessary (no more space at all).

Despite the tears, numerous eye drops and the tugging and pulling around my right eye, my Maybelline HyperSharp Powerblack Eyeliner and Essence I Love Extreme Waterproof Volume Mascara did not budge when my contact lens irritated my eye. Talk about product review after a mishap!

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Quick Trip to the Past – Visiting Intramuros

“Intramuros! The old Manila. The original Manila. The Noble and Ever Loyal City…” — Nick Joaquin

The last time I was in Intramuros, I was a kid. I cannot recall anything except that we (my sister and I) were brought there once. How that can happen to someone who prides herself with great memory puzzles me. Was I disinterested at that time? Was my mind somewhere else? Oh well. I will never know.

So, when I had the opportunity to tour our visitors from Bangalore around, I was excited for it. I printed out maps and took note of entrance fees.

The thing about going to Intramuros is that you have to go there early if you want to go to every museum and tourist attraction. Having left at 1:30 in the afternoon, we only had time for San Agustin Church, the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago. We also stopped by Ristorante delle Mitre for lunch.

Ristorante delle Mitre looked like an antique house that was turned into a restaurant. There was an “old times” feel to the place but not so old that you will hesitate to go in. Their food was delicious and I regret not being able to take photos before we dug in.

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Our first stop was the San Agustin Church that’s practically across Ristorante delle Mitre. There was a wedding that just concluded and the married couple were having their photos taken with the visitors. There was another couple outside having their photos taken. Whether that was already a photoshoot before or after the wedding. Maybe a pre-nup shoot? Anyway, I have to admit that San Agustin Church is a beautiful church to get married in not only because of its vintage facade, but also because of how solemn the atmosphere is when you go inside.

That is until I looked down and saw…

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Oh…my…God! Are there really dead bodies underneath those?!

68429552_UnknownI should not be surprised because when I had my confirmation in San Miguel Church, there were gravestones along the walls and in the front yard. My own great grandfather was buried in that church. Why these gravestones in San Agustin Church still give me heebie-jeebies is beyond me. Maybe because there’s a certain fear that the dead will pull cause a massive opening of the ground and pull my leg? Hahaha…

I started asking one of our visitors about weddings in India. He told me that visitors can reach about a thousand or more when there are weddings there. He even said that it sort of doubles as a family reunion because you get to meet relatives you have never met your whole life. He also shared that the entire ceremony can take a couple of days, sometimes lasting a week. What?! A thousand visitors?! A week of ceremonies?! My introvert self would die!

Still, I cannot help but feel that all the music, the dancing, and the beautiful colors of their attires (Indians love colors, I was told) makes a wedding quite a memorable one. Our visitor said that should I get to visit India and there’s a wedding happening, they will take me with them so I can experience the “Big Fat Indian Wedding.”

Our next stop was the Manila Cathedral which was about four minutes away from San Agustin Church. It was also nice walking in the afternoon because it wasn’t so hot anymore.

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There was another wedding going on in Manila Cathedral. I guess it was a day to get married as it was a long weekend and people could party out all night.

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While it has a vintage facade, inside was a little bit more modern. The church has air-conditioning system so it wasn’t very warm. Near the entrance/exit doors, there was a lady selling necklaces with crosses and medallions with saints on them. There were also small statues/images that were beautifully carved and painted.

Processed with MOLDIVI bought a Saint Benedict medal necklace for myself since I gave my previous one to my former boss. It flips like a time turner so I never have to concern myself which is the right way of putting the necklace on. It’s also two-toned so I can pair it with my other accessories be they gold or silver.

Surprisingly, they do not sell these at a very expensive price. That is awesome because tourist attractions usually have sellers pricing goods at exorbitant prices to take advantage of tourists who still feel they are getting stuff at bargain prices. This medal only cost Php 50.00.

I love how despite only one of our three visitors is Catholic, the other two did not just stay outside the churches we visited. In fact, they showed interest on what was inside the churches! Oh yeah, gotta love diversity and inclusion!

As it was nearing sundown, we decided to go straight to Fort Santiago where the entrance fee was only Php 75.00. The site was not crowded with people so, it felt nice to walk at a leisurely pace.

We saw a lot of pigeons along the way. Thankfully, none of them flew and landed on our heads.

Alas, we have reached the main gate of Fort Santiago! Inside are prisons and dungeons that housed several prisoners. One of them was Jose Rizal, the unofficial (but very much loved) national hero of the Philippines. I shared with our visitors that he was considered a hero because despite not using violence in his fight against oppression, his written works inspired a lot of the other heroes to fight for the country’s freedom against the Spaniards.

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Once inside, we went to a little corner that led us to see the Pasig River. It was not that pretty of a sight but at least it does not smell too funky anymore. I truly wish more efforts will be put into cleaning up this river to make the water clear again.

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There was a staircase leading up to God-knows-what. I think that’s where soldiers stayed on the lookout for approaching enemies. Well, I did not see any, but I did see the beautiful beginnings of a sunset.

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That was basically the end of our Intramuros trip. We then went to Mall of Asia to spend the rest of the evening.

On the way to Mall of Asia, we shared our experiences about learning history. Some of us loved the stories but hated having to memorize all the dates and specific places. Despite that, the lessons that history taught were what we treasured most.

Back to blogging

I am finally back! Yes!!! The last three months at work were so busy that I did not have that much energy for my blog. At least I was able to write a thing or two every now and then.

Despite my failure to post regularly about my baking adventures, I did whip up a few treats during my absence.

Cakes in tin cans are kind of the trend in the Philippines lately. It’s the lazy baker’s perfect solution for not having be very artistic about cake decoration because you only have to worry about the top part. It’s also a convenient way to give cakes as a gift without worrying about how to transport them because tin cans are more sturdy and less accident-prone than your usual cake box.

For my share of hopping on the trend, I made carrot walnut cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

This is my first time to ever make carrot cake with frosting and I fell madly in love with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting recipe by Nancy of https://www.twosisterscrafting.com. I did adjust my ratio by using less powdered sugar because I do not like very sweet frosting. I only used 2 and 3/4 cups compared to her required 4 cups. Since I was not going to pipe it on the cake, I still had a pretty decent consistency for spreading on top of my carrot cake. Topped with royal icing carrot decorations and chopped walnuts, you’re good to go!

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I still badly need to improve my decorating skills.

cookiesI made tons of cookies for Christmas. Someone ordered 200 cookies to give away as gifts. I also made hundreds to give to my colleagues.

If I learned anything about cookies, it’s that no matter how consistent I try to be with temperature and baking time, each batch comes out differently. Some will come out thick and puffy while some batches will come out think and nicely spread out.

I guess people are the same way. We react differently to situations because we bring with us different points of view and we were all raised differently.

I also finally got to make brownies! Rich, chocolaty, fudgy brownies! Thank heavens for the recipe from Tasty.  I was skeptical at first when I watched the video because I wasn’t sure if the goo truly was from the chocolate chunks or if it was due to underbaking. I chose to trust the recipe and it didn’t fail me!

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I brought some to work and sure enough, there were colleagues who went for seconds! Two recipes gave me around 35 pieces of these squares.

Baking aside, I also got to hop on the plane again. This time, we went to Cebu because my uncle is having a house built there. Mom had to check on the progress so she can report to her brother.

I terribly missed Cebu! The last time I was there was exactly two years ago. It has not changed much but my Cebuano language skills has gone way too rusty so I still felt like the place was very foreign.

We went to my Mom’s half cousin’s vacation house before we left for Manila. I terribly missed that house and uncle’s jetski, haha. Too bad though because there was a very low tide that day so riding the jetski was not going to be a great idea. To pass time, I just took pictures of the flowers in auntie’s huge garden.

My sister came home a week before Christmas. With her was her Korean boyfriend. I was sad that my work schedule (3PM to 12MN) did not allow me much time to hang out with them. I actually spent time with them on the day they were going to leave and go back to Hong Kong. Guess I’ll just have to visit Hong Kong soon to spend time with my sister.

Anyway, as usual, every time my sister and I see each other, I get tons of hand-me-downs and also new gifts. For one, she gave me her old iPad (she got herself a new one) and brought with her the Pooh plush toy I asked her to get me from Disneyland!

Christmas and New Year were pretty much uneventful for me. If there was anything I did, it was to sleep a lot and reserve energy for our Q4 sign-off at work. I am so glad it’s over now.

Please stay tuned on my next adventures this year. Hopefully, there will be more travels to write about.

Majestic Bloom: The Queen Sirikit Flower

Again, while in Fontana and my friends were enjoying the pools, I wandered around trying to find something interesting. In my wandering around, I noticed a plant with pink petals so I immediately got my camera to take pictures.

But when I got close to the plant, I was quite surprised that what I thought were pink flowers was actually a yellow flower with these pink petal-looking stuff that I do not know whether they are also flowers or if they are leaves.

Meet the Queen Sirikit.

This flower is a mussaenda that came about by crossing of West African mussaenda erythrophylla and a selection of mussaenda philippica from the Philippines (thank you Learn2Grow.com!). I learned that the yellow part is the actual flower and the pink stuff surrounding it are groups of sepals/calyces. Those were the biggest sepals I have ever seen!

A variety of mussaenda philippica, Queen Sirikit has the following ladies in waiting defined by the color of their sepals and actual flowers, respectively:

  • Doña Luz (salmon pink and yellow)
  • Doña Aurora (white and yellow)
  • Doña Evangelina (dark red and white)
  • Doña Alicia (very bright pink and yellow)

Oh yeah! Because women should stick together and lift each other up!

I was so glad there were no bees around when I went to the flowers. I experienced being stung by a bee before and my arm felt like it was getting chopped off. That was how painful it was for me. Funny though was that there were no flowers around me when I got stung!

I hope to visit more places and get to know more flowers I have not encountered before.

Do you like flowers too? What is your favorite kind?

Berry Poisonous

“That necklace contains an herb called Vervain. It protects you from being compelled. I wanted to protect you from Damon’s influence. But I also wanted to protect you from me.” -Stefan Salvatorre

Remember the flower I saw in Fontana? I finally know what they are called! Thanks to Chelsea Owens for asking her neighbor what these are!

These are lantana camara flowers known in the Philippines as kantutay. I know, sounds awkward for a pretty flower.

Anyway, thank God I didn’t try the berries. I read that the berries, especially unrip ones, can be toxic.

Further research led me to learning that it’s a relative of vervain. Yup. It’s that herb they used in Vampire Diaries to prevent being compelled by a vampire. Now I wonder if they planted these to ward off any similar creatures… Creepy!!!

Jacuzzis and Discoveries

The earth laughs in flowers. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A recent trip to Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino had me dipping alternately between hot and cold water. I went with my former colleagues who happen to have become my really good friends.

I am not sure about the temperatures stated because the jacuzzi was not as warm but the cold water pool was as cold as the winter in Hong Kong.

We had fun teasing some of our friends into diving into the cold water without warning them how cold it was.

The jacuzzi was relaxing although I would have liked it just a tad bit hotter.

Because we swam towards the time for the sunset, we did not have to worry about too much sun exposure or the weather being too hot for comfort. Although, I admit wishing we started a little bit earlier, like an hour earlier.

While the others were still in the pools, I wandered a little bit because I saw this flowering plant with buds of flowers bursting with bright pink, yellow and white colors. They looked so cute I had to snap a photo! But since it was a little bit windy, I could not get the flower to stay in the center.

Just when I thought the flowers were the most exciting part of this plant, I was surprised by something else.

It has fruits! Or, at least I think they are fruits.

I tried researching what these flowers and fruits are but I guess I am not using the correct keywords because I was not getting what I wanted.

That’s me, sometimes. I zone out and withdraw from the group to recharge. Along the way, I discover little wonders that I probably would not have seen. If I stayed in the pool, I would not have see these cute little wonders of nature.

The nice things about the friends I have made in my former work colleagues is that we all have our quirks and unique qualities but they are accepted as part of who we are. We do not bother about “fitting in” so much because there was no need to in a group so welcoming to the idea that we are all different.

They called me when it was time to go to a different pool so I bade the plant goodbye. I do not know why it was alone (I did not see more of the same plant around) but I wish I got to let it know that it was so beautiful.

Remembering Boracay

It was in August 2017 when I got to go to Kalibo, Aklan. Naturally, Boracay was in the list of places to go given that it was already very near Kalibo. It was my first time in Boracay and I had high hopes to enjoy this very beautiful and very famous island. Thinking it was just a beach resort destination, I was surprised at how big it was and how many businesses and residential areas were there. It’s my fault for not researching beforehand.

The water and the sand were truly lovely! I enjoyed the walk along the beach and the fire dance performances at night (it’s what excited me the most about going). There were lots of activities to choose from so one will not run out of things to do.

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The water was so blue and the white sand was so fine! It was then that I saw what was making Boracay famous to tourists from all over the world. Indeed, there were lots of foreigners around at that time, although I don’t think the resort ever runs out of visitors unless there’s a typhoon. Unfortunately, it meant the beach being very crowded too.

IMG_0060We went for an island-hopping tour which was lovely until I got tempted into joining the snorkeling activity. Unfortunately, my life vest was not working with me with so I had a hard time maneuvering in the water. To top that, despite screaming for assistance, our guide was just watching and laughing at me even if I was truly having difficulty getting back on the boat. Still, I enjoyed the rest of the boat trip, the last stop being the island with a very feisty monkey.

The island was once home to several monkeys. According to the guide, though, there was a typhoon that killed the monkeys, leaving only one. It had quite a temper and was very protective of the island, scaring anyone who dared go near. I wish the local government would do something about this though. I imagine it’s so lonely for the monkey to live by himself in the island.

Despite how beautiful the island was, I cannot help but feel that it was becoming too crowded for comfort by business establishments and by tourists already. That’s why I am glad that the government took steps in trying to improve the place, going after business establishments that are not complying with regulations.

What I am unsure of is if six months closure is just right or is too much, considering a lot of people will be negatively affected like those who rely solely on tourism to be able to food on their table. I hope the government works on the rehabilitation as quickly as possible without sacrificing the quality of output so that. I also hope everyone involved will cooperate to get things done right away in the right way.

I also hope that they can do something about the unregulated providers of activities because the pricing of activities in Boracay are so crazy. Some overcharge while some charge very cheaply with the risk of not being provided with sufficient safety gears and equipment. I would love for Boracay to be a place where tourists will not feel ripped off.

Overall, my experience in Boracay was pretty okay. There were other similar places where I had more fun though. Despite that, I am eager to see what the government will do to transform Boracay to an even better and more beautiful tourist destination. That being said though, a casino is not one of the improvements I have in mind.

Lakawon, Cadiz, Negros Occidental

Lakawon is an island off the coast of Cadiz, Negros Occidental.

Its shape is like a banana, giving you a long shore to walk by to enjoy your choice of the sunrise or the sunset (or both!). It has beautiful white sand that can compete with that of Boracay despite being on the coarser side. The water is so clear and refreshing to the eyes! Look at all that blue!

There is a resort on the island but there are not much recreational facilities yet. As such, it may not be as exciting as Boracay or Puerto Galera. Rather, it’s more suited to being a place to unwind, relax and appreciate nature’s charms.

You may ride the Ceres bus from its terminal in Bacolod. It will take you to Cadiz where you can ride a tricycle to get to the boat terminal where you can ride to Lakawon.

Read the rest of my adventures in Negros Occidental! Click on the link to see where else you might want to visit and be Occidental-y in awe!