Amazing Pampanga…

They say that watching TV has its subliminal effect.  I may have to agree this time as what we’ve done a day after the Balloon fest is somewhat similar to the recently concluded Amazing Race Asia Season 2. No, there’s no running involved, no Henry-Trinidad-arguments and definitely no clues nor roadblock to beat. But of course there’s money to be budgeted (I always imagine myself saying, “Money is no issue!” kelan kaya?). I can somehow relate to the show though as my 2-weeks of “re-gym” made me somewhat near Marc Nelson’s six-pack abs. I wish.

Swagman ResortFlashback. Waking up at Swagman hotel still with the after taste of San Mig lights beer and the flavorful chicken curry my wife shared with me during last night’s dinner, we just did some stretch, a shower of course, then we packed our things immediately. We avoided having breakfast at the resort thinking that the breakfast menu is quite stiff.  Instead, we opted for the nearby McDonald’s and had our hearty late morning meal for just more than P100.

Actually, the reason why I’m trying to control our first meal, both budget and volume, is because we’ve been planning on checking out Everybody’s Café. So after Angeles, we were on our way to San Fernando, where the main restaurant is located.  We got the idea of going to this famous Pampanga restaurant from a TV (see, TV again) show which if I’m not mistaken is from the Food Network channel. The host of the show ate frog legs in this resto and that perk up my appetite to try this exotic food.

menwifeyeverybody's cafeWe arrived in San Fernando about an hour later. The city is surprisingly good and looks more developed than I expected. The presence of several major car dealerships reaffirms this observation. A couple of minutes after entering the city and spending a few more time asking for directions we eventually located our objective. To my dismay, it’s not the one that we saw on TV. My wife later mentioned that what we’re expecting is actually in Angeles – it’s their branch store. Ti abi. To save the day, and our grumbling stomach we proceeded still.

From the outside, the place looks just like any old residential house. And with only one SUV parked that day, a newcomer wouldn’t even think that inside is a restaurant if not for the large sign just at the right of the entrance. But just after stepping inside, the sight of the food display gave me a hint that we are in the right place. At this point I was already starting to check every food tray for something looking weird, with long legs and webbed feet, and that resembles those we see in ponds – frogs. Unfortunately, there were none. Good thing the old lady at the counter sensed my craving for kapampangan delicacies. She politely offered buro with mustard leaves, fried hito (catfish) and of course to my delight,  fried camaro (crickets).  We also ordered Tapang Kalabaw – this became my instant favorite since I had one in SM Clark’s Cabalen.

tapang kalabaw  Tapang Kalabaw    

 camaro Camaro!

Once the foods were served, I was a bit surprised that there was little hesitation (esp. from my wife) to dig the foods in front of us. The camaro tasted just like small shrimps if not for the hollow stomach and dark brown color that reminds you otherwise. And the buro and mustard leaf combination reminded me of my late lola’s preparation when taking the nganga (leaves and lime chewed usually by elders). Overall, we enjoyed the weird lunch. Burp. Spent: P500+

cricket look Too much cricket!

sleepy malls

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon finishing our kapampangan meal we still had time to check out San Fernando’s malls which we unintentionally discovered when we took the wrong turn while looking for the resto. So with full stomach we find window shopping a good way to burn calories – I’m still wondering if how much calories did the fried crickets deposited in me. I observed that unlike the malls in Manila and Cavite, Robinson Starmills and SM San Fernando are a bit deserted (and sleepy) when we came in.  So after grabbing some items, we decided it’s time we head back to Manila. Spent: P1000+

It was just around 1:30PM when we left San Fernando. Traffic at NLEX was smooth and we only got stuck starting in Cubao and the area before Ayala. We realize we still had time to kill; To the delight of my wife, I agree to drop by Glorietta Center in Makati. And besides, our car badly needs a wash.

Inside the mall, the temporary stalls located at one part of the mall reminded us that a renovation is still on-going to repair the site affected by the December 07 blast. Suddenly I felt like going back outside. However, that feeling was soon forgotten once we got in Glorietta 4. And as if to continue my quest for local foods I decided to take my snack from Taco Ilocano – Ilocano style empanada. My wife got something different too.  Right after the calorie pile-up, we went to watch the movie “The Eye” in one of G4’s cinema. It’s been quite some time since we last watched a film in this mall. Spent: P1500+

By around 6pm we were already on our way back home. And then the thickening traffic flow gave us another reason to make our final stop – we dropped by SM Mall of Asia (MOA).

Once we got out of the elevator from the parking lot, all the food we took a couple of hours ago seemed to just disappear out of our bellies – we are hungry once more. So we combed the area and found ourselves facing the Manila bay at the rear portion of the mall. And there in front of us we saw that something new has been recently built in that vicinity – SM by the Bay.

We excitedly crossed the bridge to check the area; and it was as if all of a sudden we were transported into another place. We kept on reminding ourselves that we are still in the Philippines. Whoever thought of doing this place deserves more than just a pat at the back. It was packed with people, it is clean, it’s enticing, romantic and more importantly, the choice of places to eat is overwhelming.  Almost an hour later of picking which is which, we eventually settled in Aling Tonya’s restaurant. We ordered calamares, sinigang na isda and of course, last but never the least, San Mig lights beer. What a wonderful way to cap the Balloonfest. Spent: P800+.

There goes another trip with my lovely wife, another well deserved outing for the two of us. Until the next road trip, and good food to deal with. And by the way, I need another set of coin banks.

   

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Balloon Fest’s Last Day

 

While my wife and I lined up at the event’s entrance gate, I heard over the PA system that there would be some delay in the morning’s program. Ironically, the wind that was supposed to make everything fly was the same wind that forced almost everything that flies grounded, at least for a while. So true enough, as we entered the area people were anxiously looking around and up as they wait for the show to continue.  (I noticed that this year’s attendance is better than last year’s, sadly there were less exhibitions this year.)

Moments later a rewarding sight came – the static line jump went through. The view of rounded gray chutes dropping side by side from a military cargo plane was just awesome. Back in the days, I assume, this view either sent hope or fear depending whose eyesight receives it.

There were several pauses again to wait for a tolerable wind speed and once the signal was given, the view overhead was filled with colorful skydivers’ canopies.  A number of sorties were made that pleased the whole crowd. Most were clapping as each skydiver flaired and landed one by one. Actually, since last year’s event, these skydivers, especially from the military had my respect. It was my perception then that most (my 1st and last skydive instructor is a Colonel) of the good ones are civilians due to budget constraints on the government side. They proved me wrong however when I learned and saw that they can actually execute long freefalls and some can even perform stacking. I’ve never been so proud of the Philippine military.

What followed next are the aircraft exhibitions.  Seeing a helicopter fly and a couple of small planes speeding past at low altitude and climbing at a dizzying rate in preparation for a nauseating roll is always fascinating. In spite of my basic knowledge of aerodynamics (howstuffworks.com, anyone?), I still can’t help but ask the questions, “What makes it fly? Why and how does it fly?” and “who is the lucky one who flies it?” I’m always green with envy when I shoot this “who” question.

As the shadows went shorter with the sun climbing higher, I went into multitasking. I acted as Air Traffic controller, Weatherman and Psychologist. I was reading the wind cone, checking the air temperature while reading my wife’s gestures. It seems like there’s a direct link between the first two factors and my wife. She was cowering into the remaining shades and faking a sleep – a tell-tale sign of irritation and boredom. I acted fast – just as any sane husband would, I asked her if she’d like a break from the event. Her answer was clear. Few minutes later we’re at SM Clark’s Cabalen restaurant, eating buffet lunch. Wifey at this point is now full and smiling. I didn’t regret doing so either. The tapang kalabaw is remarkably soft and tasted good.

Past 12 noon, we decided to check the hotel which I booked online. There I realized, that it seems like I have a knack of picking comfortable but nevertheless weird accommodations. This time I booked us in Swagman Resort Hotel for an overnight stay. Good thing we got an upgrade. Instead of the standard room, the hotel clerk gave us the deluxe family room still for Php 1400. Nice. High five.

Waking up after a two-hour siesta in the hotel room, we hurriedly went back to the balloon fest site. As I approached the parking lot, I saw that the balloon bursting contest is on-going. Little did I know that by the time we got settled near at the shady hangar, I won’t be seeing any of it anymore. What I saw outside was to be the last leg of the contest. Grrr. The price I have to pay for a siesta. I also don’t know if we missed the synchronized kite flying & kite surfing too, but what I witnessed once again is Mr. Bill Wright’s aerobatics (not that I don’t like it) and several sets of skydiving exhibition. I’m hoping by the way, that next year, they’ll place a jumbo monitor for the crowd to witness videos of the freefalls.

 

Keeping the disappointment of missing (or expecting to see) some of the shows to myself, I continued shooting videos of what’s going around the exhibition ground. And then I heard an announcement that made me interested once more. An awarding ceremony is going to happen at the event’s control center. And the names that were paged sounded familiar, so I eagerly left my wife at her post to see the ceremony.

And there it was in front of me is Peter (PFSG founder) who won 3rd place in the balloon bursting competition and Tonet (PFSG supremo). These are the guys I got to know and at least interact with online – Philskies.net (thanks of course to Mark, who by the way was with me last year. He gave me hangar access and I was able to see skydivers pack their canopies in front of us.) Surprisingly I was able to chat with Tonet (and his son, Carlo. Both of which are good pilots and bloggers), who in person is just as articulate as he is in his blog. Frankly speaking, I was star struck. Unknown to him, he is one of those who inspired me to have my own web log.

 

When I got back to my wife on her place in front of the hangar, I was actually thinking how I’m going to explain to her the lull in the exhibitions. No other reason I guess, but just to blame the windy condition. I tried convincing her to pose in front of the gun exhibits but to no avail. So we decided to stay still and entertain ourselves with whatever sight (met some colleagues in the process) is available around us. We can’t just go home yet, not until we see what I missed last year. And what we also missed this morning – the balloon flight and night glow.

Dusk came and the wind somewhat calmed down. One after the other, the hot air balloons inflated. Huge rounded canopies came into life. Around 20 different shapes and colors of balloons covered the horizon in front of us.  It was so massive that the last batch of skydivers and a lone Malaysian paraglider were dwarfed if not sidelined. And as if on cue everyone came near the fence to catch a glimpse of the spectacular sight. Every gadget that can capture pictures – from cell phone cameras to giant DSLRs – came out in unison to grab their own share of the scenic event.

With the feeling of accomplishing what we came here for, we headed back to our hotel together with the rest of the exiting crowd. It’s funny but I even find the sight of a hundred vehicles coming out of the parking lot on a very dusty trail a spectacle by itself.  The way going out of the area is so dusty that at some point there’s zero visibility and the only way to see the road again is to slow down in order to stay away from the vehicle in front of you until the dust settles down. Looking back, I saw a long trail of headlights waiting for their turn to reach the paved road.

Once we reached the hotel, we parked (worriedly) Mary in their weird parking lot and then tried the resort’s restaurant. And just as weird as the parking lot, we find ourselves having dinner in front of women who seemed to be practicing a dance routine. Deep in my mind, they’ll likely be wearing at least a swim suit come past 10 PM to the delight especially of the American customers. But fairly, we find the food great and of course needless to say, the beer is too. Cheers!

           

 

(note: pictures in this blog are either intentionally blurred or came out blurred from our point-and-shoot camera)

SNAFU to Clark’s Balloon Fest

“Very nice…High Five…” – Borat Sagdiyev

Having planned a road trip with wifey for quite some time even when we still have our trusty Kia Pride, the 12th PIHABF (Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta) came as the perfect time and reason. I filed for a 2-day vacation leave from work a month ahead in anticipation of this event. And just like ants preparing for a rainy day, my wife and I went shopping for clothing, food and storage (buying a Coleman cooler justified) a day before we set off.

Feb 10. Past 3 AM. After filling Mary’s boot with the things we need, we excitedly started our trip. The early morning drive went well as expected. Traffic was light from Cavite to the NLEX entrance and in the back of my mind I was already imagining picking a good parking spot and a good vantage point for us to witness the balloon flight before dawn. I fought the urge to floor the pedal so as not to exceed the 100 KPH limit. But at some point I noticed the speedometer pointing at the 120 scale yet the Honda City stayed stable despite it. Realizing the car’s capability, the temptation to go faster became so strong but my sanity and the presence of the speed limit marks along the highway kept me from doing so.

By the middle of the trip we decided to stop by Total gas station in San Simon to fill in some gas. That’s when the most unlikely thing happened. It was as if someone played a bad joke on us. While waiting for the attendant to fill the tank to the brim, my wife and I decided to step out of the car. I grabbed some water in the boot while she picked something in the gas station’s store. Unconsciously, we both locked the doors with the car key still inside. A minute after I shut the boot door and as I was lazily stretching myself I heard the car alarm’s beep followed by the sound of a latching door lock. Damn, for a moment I think I saw myself turned pale. I almost cried out in despair. We are locked out!

After hopelessly trying to wake myself up as if in a bad dream, I started considering some options and eagerly asked help from the gas attendants and other people who also stopped for gas. The inputs ranged from the ridiculous (yet the most direct) shattering of the glass window,  to the tiring and frustrating trip back going to Cavite (a 60 km ride back) to grab the spare key and to the most viable yet costly (Php 1000) option of hiring a locksmith to do the job. Also considered was taking chances if other Honda car keys will match. That one didn’t work, as expected. For the first time I hated Honda’s wave key and alarm feature.

The thought of missing the balloon fest (and ruining our trip) made me decide to seek the locksmith’s –who was referred to us by one of the gas boy – assistance so I called him up. I was greeted by man on the other end of the line sounding a bit irritated (I understand the feeling of being awakened early Sunday morning) yet he was kind enough to encourage me to keep on trying by opening it through the door handle using a stiff wire to reach into the lock. The mixture of desperation, thought of a Hazard Pay’s episode (Discovery TV show), a welding rod wire and persuasion from my wife seemed to work together after that conversation.

And after an hour of trial and error, the lock tab popped. To say I shouted for joy would be an understatement. Upon checking my watch, I learned that we’ve been locked out for almost 2 hours already. So without wasting another minute we continued our trip but only after dropping along their way home the two gas boys who stayed with us until their night shift ended. They were our cheering team during the whole ordeal. My wife and I exchanged congratulations several times on our way to Dau. We kidded ourselves as being able to be in cahoots as carjackers. Honda City owners beware.

We arrived in the Balloon fest area by past 7 AM, tired but glad we still made it. Parking far from the entrance gate didn’t matter anymore. Just being at the site bustling with people from various sex and ages gathered (or forced to, mostly by either husband or kids) with one interest – to watch an event featuring “everything that flies” – is satisfying enough.

continue…Balloon Fest’s Last Day.

Been To Malaysia…O Really….

It’s been almost a month already when we had our vacation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Even until now, pauses in between work & other activities, I would find myself wondering if I have really got to be in Malaysia. It was as if the 7-day trip went by so fast as an F1 car would drive through 1 lap.

Come to think of it, it was our F1 fanaticism that started this trip in the first place.

My wife and I planned this trip, initially, just to see the 2007 F1 Sepang race. Sooner we’d learn that the minimum number of days our time sharing account would allow us is 1 week. Well, who gets upset over an extended vacation? If there’s anyone, it won’t be us. So to make this a vacation more fun, we convinced her brother and his wife to tag along.

Our trip started on a Good Friday (pun intended).

The airline we got was Airasia. Despite the long drive from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Diosdado Macapagal Internation Airport we arrived earlier than expected in Clark, Pampanga. From there, our 4-hour flight to KLIA-LCCT started by 1145am. On time.

The flight was smooth and uneventful, as the weather was good. Even with the absence of in-flight entertainment (no TV, no games) the view of the distinct dark Malaysian flight attendants that are beautiful and attractive nonetheless came as a bonus.

Upon arrival at LCCT and upon checking out at Immigration, we were picked by a taxi service that took us to Duta Vista Executive Suite in Persiaran Ledang after an hour of interesting trip. I can still remember when I had to peer through the van’s window when I saw the Petronas Twin Towers dominating the afternoon skyline. “We’re in Malaysia indeed”, I whispered to myself.

Next: Day 1 (My 1st Nasi Lemak)

Been To Malaysia for real

It’s been almost a month already when we had our vacation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Even until now, during pauses in between work and other activities, I would find myself wondering if I had been to Malaysia for real. It was as if the 7-day trip went by so fast as an F1 car would in one lap.

Come to think of it, it was our F1 fanaticism that started this trip in the first place. My wife and I planned this trip, initially, just to see the 2007 F1 Sepang race. Sooner we’d learn that the minimum number of days our time share account would allow us is one week. Well, who gets upset over an extended vacation? If there’s anyone, it won’t be us. So to make this a vacation more fun, we convinced her brother and sister-in-law to tag along.

 Our trip started on a Good Friday.

The airline was Airasia. Despite the long drive from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Diosdado Macapagal Internation Airport we arrived earlier than expected in Clark, Pampanga. From there, our 4-hour flight to KLIA-LCCT started by 11:45 a.m. as scheduled.

The flight was smooth and uneventful, as the weather was good. Even with the absence of in-flight entertainment—no TV, no games—the sight of distinct Malaysian flight attendants came as a bonus.

 Upon arrival at LCCT and after checking out from immigration, we were picked by a taxi service that took us to Duta Vista Executive Suite in Persiaran Ledang after an hour of interesting trip. I can still remember when I had to peer through the van’s window when I saw the Petronas Twin Towers dominating the afternoon skyline. Yup, we’re in Malaysia indeed.

Duta Vista.