Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Is It In Iskandar Puteri (JB)?

The skyline of Johor Bahru, seen from Woodlands Waterfront
Most of my visits to Johor Bahru are not a matter of want, but rather a matter of need (napilitan lang, kailangan eh J).
Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim with a beautiful model
 My first visit was when we went to Kuala Lumpur where we took a bus from Larkin Terminal which is situated within Johor Bahru Sentral. Other succeeding trips were mainly to tour around families and friends visiting Singapore for the first time. Johor Bahru, commonly called as JB, is Malaysia's southernmost city, just across the border from Singapore. Currently, I live in a suburban town in northern Singapore; thus, going to JB is as easy as going to the downtown. I can even see the buildings in JB from our flat!

Getting across to Johor Bahru from Singapore is quite cheap. Bus fare to and fro will only cost about S$4.00 (roughly about Php130.00). If crossing the border by foot is allowed, then it will only cost a few calories to get there. Unfortunately, walking is prohibited. One must travel by bus or a car.
Based on experience, it was very stressful travelling during rush hour on weekdays (morning 7am-8am/6pm-8pm) and almost all day during weekends and public holidays; as there were too many people pushing and shoving, not to mention the long queue for the bus and to get through immigration. It would be more orderly and quite to travel during weekdays.
The city doesn’t have that “wow” factor that you could get from other places in Malaysia. Though JB does have tourist attractions like Legoland, Hello Kity Town, Pulai Waterfalls, Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, Danga Bay, Johor Zoo and among others, these are not within the JB Sentral. During our past visits, we only had day trips. So we only walked through the city center which seems a little run-down, scary, smelly and a bit messy. It is really not a tourist-friendly place. Travelling alone for a foreigner is a “no” “no” unless you’ll just stay inside the mall. Speaking of malls, there are myriads of shopping complexes in the city. Some offers quite competitive price compared to shops in Singapore. However, if it is compared to other cities in Malaysia, it’s a different story. I think shopping for souvenirs and other local brands in JB is much more expensive compared to Malacca or Kuala Lumpur.
Nonetheless, we managed to enjoy our little adventure by visiting some of the popular landmarks in the city. First stop, we went to Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim. It wasn’t allowed to go inside the gate, but we sneaked in while the security guard was sleeping. We get caught in the end and we were shooed away. After a few walks here and there, we reached the seemingly bizarre Bazaar St and paused for a while at the Red House in China Town. As we went on, we found ourselves in Little India. We climbed to the Hindu Temple and we walked around barefoot just like the others. Did we pray? Hmmm, we took a photo that’s all. J
After the long walks and laughs, there was nothing more to do than to fill the growling stomach. So we ended our day at the City Square Mall where we enjoyed a fresh juice and seafood delights. What’s really in JB? Nothing much, it’s just a perfect short escape from Singapore. Whether you just want it, or need it.
Family poses in front of the KTM station
Sumakay sa bas. Tumawid tulay. Sumakay naman ng teksi. Bumaba sa bangunan. Nakipagpatentero sa tawiran. Naglakad sa d mataong bazaar st. Nasilip ang bahay-tsino. Lumiko sa gawing little india. Pumanhik sa templo ng hindu. Nakarating sa City Square. Kumain, nagpalamig at nag-window shopping. Umakyat sa escalator. Sumakay ulit ng bas. Tumawid sa tulay at nakabalik sa bahay. Ganun lang kabilis ang maglakbay. J


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Simple Dream of Revisiting History

Façade of Fort Santiago
As a normal student who attended history classes during my elementary and high school days, Intramuros has always been part of the lessons. I've heard and read about it countless times. Back then, I sometimes wonder when I can visit this popular historic place. Since I was born and bred in the province, it was like a dream going to Manila during those days. As such, going to Intramuros was also just a dream. When I moved to Manila after schooling, I was busy making a living and so I have forgotten about this simple dream.

I only visited the heritage site few weeks before I left the Philippines in 2010. It was a dream came true (isang mababaw na pangarap)! I travelled with someone who is quite familiar with the place. I forgot how we arrived at the site, but one thing is for sure, we took a jeepney and not the calesa.
As first timer visitor, I was fascinated as I walked through its uniquely structured streets; obviously it has a touch of the Hispanic Culture. The Walled City, more commonly known as Intramuros of Manila or Ciudad Morada, is situated at the mount of the Pasig River. For few centuries, Intramuros was the Spanish quarter, seat of colonial government and home for vast number of Spanish colonist.

We started our walk-through at Fort Santiago or Fuerza de Santiago. This is the oldest Spanish fortress in the country and one of the major attractions inside Intramuros. Some of the must-see attractions at Fort Santiago include World War II artillery and underground tunnels used by the Japanese, the former Spanish dungeon of the main square or Plaza de Armas, and Rizal Shrine - former prison of National Hero Jose Rizal.
The San Agustin Church
We've also visited the San Agustin Church which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage. There's also a museum beside the Church but we didn't bother going in. Instead, we went to souvenir shops which showcasing Filipino crafts. I didn’t buy any because I took a lot of pictures as souvenir, but my companion did. (Later on, she found out that they gave her defective products.)
We went further into the streets to see what else that needs to be seen, only to be dismayed by litters, unpleasant smell, pollution and the slummy area in some portion of the historic site. Nevertheless, I’ve read in the newspaper, quite some time ago, that the historic site is up for rehabilitation through public-private partnership programmes by the Aquino government. Let’s just hope that they can come up with a comprehensive solution in dealing with the urban poor now squatting inside Intramuros.

Back then, I was dreaming of just revisiting the history; but now, I'm hoping for a litter-free, crime-free and shanty-free Walled City. It may be just a dream for now, but I look forward to the day that it will come true. Perhaps on my next visit to this place, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Inside Fort Santiago
Calesa or Spanish-era horse-drawn carriage

Trompe l'oeil ceiling
Hispanic style front door


Flashback: Day & Night in Shah Alam

Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque
It was another day of work away from office, this time in Shah Alam. When I heard of the meeting venue from the client, I turned to my iPhone and googled the place. Alas, it is where the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque is, also known as the Blue Mosque. Shah Alam is the state capital of Selangor, Malaysia which is located about 25 kilometers west of Kuala Lumpur. It replaced Kuala Lumpur as the capital city of the state of Selangor in 1978 due to Kuala Lumpur's incorporation into a Federal Territory.
 Excited about the trip, I dragged a 'pinsan' ("hoax" cousin) to come along. We took the Air Asia flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur then a cab going to Selangor. It took us about 45 minutes to reach Shah Alam from the LCCT Airport. Compared to other cities in Malaysia, Shah Alam is rather a quite place. There are fewer malls, less traffic jam and I haven’t seen any single bar around. You seldom see people walking down the street at night unlike Kuala Lumpur that seems very busy even in the wee hours. In fact, Kuala Lumpur never sleeps.

Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam

When we arrived at the Grand BlueWave Hotel, we specifically requested for a room with the Blue Mosque view. Without a doubt, the room has a magnificent view of the blue dome. It is indeed one of the most stunning structures in Malaysia. But we didn't know the real price of getting the grand view until the night and early morning came. We were awakened several times due to the loud sounds of early Morning Prayer of the Muslims. "Allahu Akbar...allahu Akbar" and the sounds went on and on.

It was still a good experience, a different one. It felt like I was in the middle of "middle east" or somewhere else. At least I had a big breakfast and delicious pizza for lunch at the Semarak Café. After a short yet tiring event in Shah Alam, we headed to Kuala Lumpur for another workshop.

View from my hotel room

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ang Piso: Finding and Realising Value In My Home Country

Perlas ng Silanganan (Purchased Image: Dreamstine)
The Philippine government has described 2012 as "one of the best years ever for the Philippines with economic growth expected to surpass the targeted 5 to 6 percent and the stock market ending the year on a 38th record high, making it the second best performing market in Asia behind Thailand."

Indeed, the Philippines stands firm as an ideal investment destination in the Southeast Asian region since the start of the Aquino administration marked a renewed economic confidence in the country. The top priority sectors being promoted by the government include agribusiness; renewable energy; IT and business support outsourcing; electronic manufacture; sustainable mining; shipbuilding/ship repair; steel fabrication; tourism; logistics; garments and textiles; jewelry/fashion accessories; auto parts and components; and mass housing. Several tax incentives and concessions are set in place by the government for those who will venture on these sectors.

As the country offers many opportunities for new market entries and business expansions, the net inflow of foreign investments is expected to rise as well. However, we Filipinos shouldn't be left of out of this economic growth. We Filipinos shouldn't just wait for these foreign companies to create job for us and rely on salaries alone. It's time for the mass to participate in activities that we thought just for the “rich”. It's time to build a business; it's time to invest.

Philippine Currency (Purchased Image: Dreamstine)
We often see news snippet about Filipinos' unending negative reaction about the overall economic conditions of the country. Some of the common sentiments we've heard a million times -- "poor becoming even poorer", "government is not doing enough", "commodity price hike", "no salary increase" and others more. We always heard family, friends or colleagues complain about not having enough money. We know that majority of Filipinos are just constantly making ends meet. However, with proper guidance and adequate financial literacy training, each and every one can have a good chance to improve his/her own financial status. There are a lot of investment opportunities out there; we just need to take the risks and be willing to do it. If you want to grow your money, then do something to make it grow. Observe, learn and absorb. Read financial literacy programs; attend business opportunities talk; seek help from professionals and go to seminars.
As a start, it’s good to attend the Pesos and Sense Seminar Series. This one-day seminar aims to deliver critical knowledge on budgeting, saving and investing. It will also provide valuable insights on different venture opportunities, key challenges and strategies in investing.
Module 1: Make Your Money Grow
We all dream of a better life, a new car, a house, a financially secure family. But when we look at our bank account, we wonder when it will be possible for us to achieve our dreams. Don’t downsize your dreams–learn how to Make Your Money Grow!
It covers the following topics:
  • How to budget and save
  • Why you should invest
  • What keeps you from investing
  • Factors to consider before you invest
  • Overview of major types of investments
  • How to choose the right investment
Module 2: Time Value of Money
Time is the only non-renewable asset we have. How you spend your time today will determine the quality of life you will live tomorrow.
Imagine your life 20-30 years from now. Are you still working and making ends meet or are you living comfortably, enjoying your time and money? When the picture you see isn’t so good, know that you can change it today!
The seminar will help you:
  • Understand how just a few years can translate to bigger earnings in your investments.
  • Determine realistic financial goals
  • Identify good investments vs scams
  • Ask the right questions when being offered investment products
  • Use simple formulas and applications to make your own financial calculations
  • Choose and align the right investments with your goals in life

To register, please click the link: Pesos and Sense Seminars

If you want to learn more about other business opportunities both abroad and in the Philippines, please leave a message
"Only those who will risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go." -- T. S. Eliot


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rediscovering Pinoy Food and Art

Quite some time ago during my short vacation in the Philippines, we dined at Atelier Museum Café and visited the Nemiranda Arthouse which is within the cafe itself. The art cafe is located in idyllic town of Angono, which is the art capital of the Philippines. It is about 45 minutes from Ortigas Center and just few minutes from our home in St Monique Valais. We were lucky to meet for the first time the artist and owner of the restaurant, Nemesio Miranda Jr. He gave us a warm welcome and we even had small conversation about his arts. We really appreciated his hospitality.
Art Sign outside the Cafe with Malakas and Maganda.
Assorted work of art.
Wooden horse sculpture
Each corner of the Atelier has interesting element. From walls to ceiling, even hallways to restroom doors, you will be fascinated with so many beautiful works. The art pieces at the museum were constructed using local materials like bamboo, sawali and old recycled wood coming from the old church and convent of Angono. Majority of the paintings that we have seen at the Art house depict the local folklore and Filipiniana themes -- barrio living scenes, women in mythical characters and even images of Filipino heroes. There’s another portion of the art gallery, located on the second floor which showcase "nude" paintings. Each painting is intricate and detailed. It really is a work of a talented individual.
There are so much art pieces to see and enjoy at the gallery. And there are also so many foods to choose from at the restaurant. The café offers various traditional Filipino dishes like sinigang sa miso, pangat na isda, pork sisig, pinakbet, adobong itik and among others. The price is quite reasonable and the service is excellent.
I do cook and eat Filipino food quite often, even here in Singapore. But it’s not every day I get to experience these kind of food in an extra-ordinary setting. The Atelier Museum Café dining experience together with my Nanay and sissy was incredible. It was a day of rediscovering my appreciation of local food and art. I will surely return to this place.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Once Upon A Farm

My nephew, Biboy, on top of the mossy rock.
At the back: A little pond full frogs,
croaking loudly at night.
Maysa nga nakuyemyem nga aldaw, napan kami nagpasyar. Haan nga idiay cadawyan a pagpaspasyaran, no di kitdi idiay kataltalunan. Kaduak iti maysa a nataragsit nga ubing, ni kaanakak ken ni Nanang. 

Nanay and Biboy walking hand in hand
along the pathway with
grass on either side
and  so muddy.

Pinagna mi iti lubo nga bingngang ken kinitkita mi amin nga madalanan - lawa-lawa, lamok, ru-ot, bulbullong, sabsabong, nagango nga sangsanga, billit, igges, alibot, ken ado pay nga haan ko managanan.
We passed by these shallow water. Nanay was cleaning Biboy's dirty boots.
At the back are some bamboo plants. It's not ours so we never take any of the bamboo shoots.

Mayat ken naragsak a kadua iti ubing. Makaado ka iti katawa kadagiti simple nga saludsod na ngem komplikado nga sumbatan no dadduma. Manipod rugi angginggana ungto idiay dalan, ado nga "ampay kastoy", "ampay kasdiay", "anya atoy", ken "anya adiay" iti saludsod ni kaanakan.

Look, it's a Sweetsop, commonly known as Atis in Filipino.
He wanted to eat it, but it wasn't fully ripe yet.

Our small farm.
Napintas iti agpasyar idiay taltalon. Nagpariir iti angin nga agmalmalem. Nakaay-ayo nga makita dagiti pagay. Ado mapuros nga natnateng ken prutprutas. No nagaget nga agmula iti nakimbagi, kankanayun nga adda maani. No nasadot tao nga agmula, ay ke mangnamnama iti mayted ni karuba. Ngem addo latta mabalin nga makan. Makaala ka pay iti nateng nga agtubtubo lattan idiay kasuksukan ken paraangan - kasla parya a balang, u-ong, singkamas, saluyot no saan ket saguyepyep. Ken no adda iti kawayanan, rabong iti madi nga maliplipatan. No madi masiputan, takawen latten iti makadalan. Agkalaukan iti saluyot ken rabong, sagpawan lang iti intunno nga lames, naimas nga pangaldawen. No awan may tuno nga sida, ay ket agpauraga ka iti baboy lattan ahno saan agparti iti manok nga taraken, ayossen iti pangmalem. J

Uray simple panagbiag idiay probinsya, uray addo iti tsimosa, uray maawawayan iti kwarta, uray addo pay nga uray, mayat latta. Mabbiag ka latta nga naragsak no ammom agyaman kadagiti adda man nga inted ni Apo. Ken mabbiag ka latta nga a nasayaat no haan mo kabkabilen iti padam a tao. JJJ

Living in the farm is not so bad.
If you knew how to utilize of what you have; you will never have an empty stomach.
If you knew how to deal with negativity like “tsismis”;
you will live peacefully with your neighbors.
And if you knew how to be grateful for everything that you have;
you will feel truly rich and blessed.
One day during the sunset years,
we will come to a point that we need to go back to where we started.
I want to be that day in a "farm", to feel the freshest air,
see the unending green fields, watch the birds in the sky, 
and hold the hands of my loving husband.

Little Treasures in the Farm
"Say It in Ilocano"


Tarong - eggplant

Pagay - rice plant
Riik - unhusked rice
Bagas - rice
Dalanghita - tangerine orange 
Kaburaw - citrus
Naata nga kamatis - unriped tomato

Kayo iti Mangga - Mango tree
Dakkel nga kayo - big tree
Nasam-it nga mangga - sweet mango

Saba - banana
Sabunganay - banana heart

Inain/Agukop nga manok - hen
Piyek - chicks
Nangiset - black

Pato - duck
Puraw nga pato - white duck

Takong - sow
Buryas - piglet
Baboy - pig
Nalummeg - fat

Billit - bird
Dua nga billit - two birds

Kayo - trees
Ruot - weeds
Nasamek/Masukal - dense; wilderness

Beauty & Words - Simple Inspirations