Monday, September 8, 2008

I flunked culinary class!



So what’s new with that? I have never been at home in the kitchen, whether to eat or to cook. I mean I’m not a hearty eater (ever hear of the phrase I eat for survival?) I cook for survival too. Living alone for as long as I can remember has its effects and one of those is developing the habit to buy ready to eat or order from a fastfood whenever hunger strikes. Which is not very often in my case. The best and must-not-meal for me is dinner. Breakfast and lunch I can go without, but not dinner.

Anyways, I signed up for a culinary class for overseas Filipino workers at the OWWA office in Susupe a couple of months ago with 'ranch-mates' Junhan, Raymond, Tita Lits and Terri. What never occurred to me was that the classes would require five Saturday afternoons because if I did, I would have relegated my slot to somebody else. I know I just don’t have 5 consecutive Saturday afternoons free.

We missed the first session which was soup making. The second first session was into Japanese cuisine. Haha when I came into the class I felt I flunked right away. Everybody had an apron and a head gear or hair net. It never even occured to me to get one huhu.

Not a big fan of Japanese food myself (or any other cuisine in that matter) I just observed as Hermie the instructor whipped up sushi and all those rolled Japanesy-foods which I always thought comes in ready made packages.

I kept notes but now I can’t even read what I wrote. If I give it to a pharmacist Im sure I will be given prescription medicines. Tasting time proves rewarding for everybody else except for me.

On our second (and my last alas) session we were into pasta making. Alas, I never cared that much for pasta. I eat them but I can't or wouldn't die for pasta. We were taught how to whip up red and white sauce, spaghetti, soba, and the whole noodle family. I just sat on a corner feeling so drowsy for five hours of staying in one room (*ewww you don’t know how hard that was) The fourth Saturday I had to be on Tinian to cover the Poker tournament at the Tinian Dynasty Casino, so another absent.

Funny but I took more photos of my classmates and of the food and ingredients than what my mind absorbed. I still find it still easier to just point what you want and leave the messy job of food preparation to the expert chefs in the kitchen. I was a misfit in the kitchen. Maybe I was thinking of photography class afterall when I submitted my application form.

The graduation was last Saturday. Only Junhan and Teri were able to make it. We three flunked the classes because we had more than two absences.

Somehow there are some people who could never be at home in the kitchen and I am one of them. My sis and my brod took that talent when I was away and only two were given to each family I guess…

What I would have wanted to join though was the bread baking and cake decorating classes. That im sure I wouldn’t feel drowsy but the list is long and the next classes may be held next year yet.

Maybe I will just have to content myself with taking photos of food, not preparing them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let there be light...and there was no CUC

Welcome to Saipan…bring your flashlights.

9:20 p.m. I have an hour and 40 minutes before the lights will go out (again? Yes, again and again and again!) and I will have to grope my way around to my bed and summon all my forces to fall asleep. 2 a.m. is a long way off and If you are a nocturnal being like me, you could understand the torture I go through every night. Or until the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. change the schedule next week.

I mean power outages is nothing new in this island. We have tasted power outages at all shifts but this 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. has been my biggest problem so far. It leaves me with no choice but to grope my way toward the bed guided only by the blurry light from my cellphone.

I prefer the darkness of my room because I can not bear to light a candle. It’s been over three months since I suffered the biggest blow in my life but I can’t even look at a lighted candle without breaking down. It just digs up the pain that I had been bottling and forcing to bury inside me. Enough about the subject of candles, tears are threatening to fall.

The continued power outages on Saipan is nothing new and everybody’s suffering from it. Since my two housemates left, I have learned to monitor the load shedding schedule CUC publishes in the paper every Friday. I mean it’s actually useless because CUC never follows its load shedding schedule anyway. The power just goes off anytime.

I was rushing toward the Attorney General’s Office after a press conference at the public safety on Thursday, skirting the puddles of water on the way, but with three minutes left to be on time for an interview with Atty. Ed Buckingham, I was not successful in totally preventing the heels of my sandals from sinking in the muddy portions. I was directed to go straight to a room where Atty. Ed was waiting, and had to hesitate in the doorway.

The room was engulfed in darkness and I was sure I had come to a closet or a darkroom. I was about to back out when a figure turned around. Atty. Ed was working on his laptop using miner’s flashlight attached to his forehead. What a way to work. At the Justice building on Monday, court proceedings were suspended and the hallways were filled with a mix of lawyers, clients and court staff fanning themselves to survive the heat. The court needs at least 50 gallons of gas an hour for the generators to run and the court’s dwindling budget can’t afford to pay for gasoline.

Oppsss, gotta grab some dinner before the lights go out. I don’t fancy groping my way in the kitchen. I've got a flashlight bought for $1 at a garage but I have to buy batteries yet.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time off

The gentle rocking of the yacht and the cool breeze blowing is making me drowsy, not minding the noise and laughter my companions are making as they drowned bottle after bottle of wine in rapid succession.
We were in a cove in the Rock Islands and I was sprawled at the helm of the “Great White”, a yacht owned by Sam’s Tours, one of the leading dive operators in Koror. I had just photographed one of the best sunsets I ever saw, with the big red sun slowly setting over the horizon and splashing hues of reds, orange and vermilion over the darkening sky.

We were a few miles off the shores of the Palau Pacific Resort where a welcome party was in progress. Big waves started to roll in, prompting our yacht operator to head for some place where we can simply relax without feeling nauseous.
After finding a comfortable cove between two smaller islands, we dropped anchor and the party began.

Minutes later, a semi-full moon bathed the surrounding with a soothing glow, making the trees in the islands around us look like eerie figures that I almost imagined one of them will jump at us any moment.
This was the first activity of the yachting club and I grabbed the chance to join although I am not a member.
For the past year and four months, Wednesday nights had always been the busiest time for me and ex-Sunstar layouter Celina because that’s our newspaper deadline and we have to stay by until the last page is ready to go to the printing press.
Although we are a weekly newspapers, the manana habit rules, making us delay writing until Wednesday morning and by then that is too late.

The appointment of a new editor from Saipan lifted much of the burden of closing the pages from my shoulders. I was finished at 2 p.m. and was free to go with editor Fermin’s permission.
“Just keep your cellphone on all the time,” he warned before I and co-reporter Junhan dashed off.

I was in a trance-like state, half-awake and half asleep when three cubes of ice landed on my head and my feet. I jerked alert and discovered that my companions (Americans and a few Palauans) were engaged in an ice cube battle. They were getting noisier as the night went deeper. We were supposed to be home by 11 p.m. but from the looks of things, nobody was thinking of going yet. I was already shivering in my thin shirt when I heard the engine of another boat coming towards us. More people were joining the party and as we didn’t drink or smoke, we were starting to feel out of place. Luckily the boat operator had to go back to shore after dumping his passengers into the Great White so we grabbed the chance to go ahead of the others.
So much for the time off, it was time to go home but it was worth it.

The ultimate Balinese experience

She was a small lady, weighing maybe a little over 90 lbs and I looked her over, lingering on her hands while wondering if she can handle the job she was hired for.
I was inside one of the “Whisper Zone” rooms of the Mandara Spa at the Palau Pacific Resort (PPR) to have a taste of the free Balinese massage offered by the spa director, and was greeted by this small Indonesian whom I mistook for a Filipina.

I wondered how she would have fared if a 300-pound Palauan customer comes in for a massage, and it’s not unusual to find one because most of the Palauans are huge.

“Welcome to Elilei Mandara Spa ma’am. I’m Marge, your masseuse for the evening. If you will kindly step this way and take off your clothes….” she recited in a halting English.
I stepped over to the next room where I took off all my clothes and was given a a disposable underwear and piece of printed “kukur” cloth (kukurtinahin) to wrap around my body.

Marge led me to an immaculate elevated bed and instructed to me lie face down where a pleasant aroma of herbs and incense wafted straight to my face. It smelled of warm woods, lush tropical foliage and aromatic oil permeating the air that I felt as if I were in a private garden.

Marge rubbed some sort of ointment all over my body and pressed my ankle. I was startled at the strength she possessed. The pressure of her hand was firm as she started to apply the Balinese massage, making stretching, long strokes from my feet up to my hands and to my back, kneading and rolling my skin, applying thumb pressure techniques that I felt I were a dough readied for baking but it felt heavenly.

One thing Marge didn’t know was that I had a very hard time trying not to jump up and run from the bed at the beginning. I didn’t tell her I was ticklish in almost all parts of my body. I tried to think of other things like deadlines and the elusive business man I have to interview for my business profile and the huge pile of laundry in my hamper in order not to divert my attention.

I won the battle and before long, I was already feeling relaxed as I gave in to the professional ministrations of Marge’s skilled hands, feeling my tension evaporate as I breathed in the tropical aromas.

I got the invitation to sample one of Mandara’s services from the Mandara Spa director at the PPR, Dharsana Matratanaya and I did not refuse the invitation because I have always been curious about it going to one before although I classified the word “spa” as an expensive luxury that is way beyond my budget.
“It’s not just about having a treatment, it’s a total experience that involves all of the senses,” says Matratanaya, who turned me over to Marge after our brief chat.

Maybe next time I will go for the the ultimate in massage treatments, the Mandara Massage which is a unique blend of five different massage styles – Japanese Shiatsu, Thai, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, Swedish and Balinese to be done by two therapists working together in rhythmic harmony perform the spa’s signature treatment.
Yeah, maybe soon, and soon is I have no idea when unless I win the jackpot prize in the sweepstakes. But first I need to start buying tickets.

Gunfire!

In an island where guns are strictly prohibited and policemen are not seen carrying them, hearing a gunshot is a remote possibility and a remarkable event. The law is very strict about it, and anyone caught under possession of even just a bullet or an empty shell could mean 15 years imprisonment.

Before coming to this island of Palau, I had visions of joining regular shooting practices and tournaments so that by the time I would come back to Davao I could compete with the other journalists here who are sharp shooters. I envisioned long stretches of empty spaces with world-class shooting ranges but one year of staying here I was yet to see a real gun. That was remedied when I bravely asked a policeman if they ever carry guns around, and if I may see one. He looked at me long and hard before finally saying yes. He went to the police car and fished out a shining .38 caliber from the compartment, then took it back as if he was afraid I would snatch it from him.

The nearest sound to a gunshot one hears here would be the explosion of a car tire but that too, is not common. Palauans tend to change tires without waiting for them to “retire”. It’s funny but if you hear a car tire explode, that car for sure belongs to a Filipino because if it’s possible to put scotch tape or glue, they’ll do it to save dollars (including me). Palauans also do not buy second hand tires and service station attendants are finding a lucrative business reselling tires to Filipinos at $15-20 each.

But back to guns, our target.
A couple of weeks ago, the Senate president of Palau who happened to be the brother of my boss died in a fishing accident. At the funeral, the late senator was honored by a 21-gun salute. Seven policemen carried M-16 and garand rifles, and that was the first time I saw long guns here. They looked shiny as though they are framed inside cabinets with no intention of using. It was a big event for the locals!
Growing up in a “gun-infested” area in North Cotabato, the sight of guns and the sound of gunshots is nothing new. As early as grade four I have learned to distinguish a shot that missed its target, or a shot at close range. (This would be followed by piercing screams from the family of the victim).

The seven police officers took their posts and prepared to fire. At the command, each police officer pulled the trigger. At the first batch of gun burst, people near the shooting area were visibly shocked. Glasses and other objects fell to the ground as the people clapped their hands to their ears and braced themselves for the second and the third batch of gunfire. I couldn’t help but wonder if these people knew how fortunate they are that their place is relatively peaceful. The kids here are fortunate because they never knew what it is to live in nervous anticipation when or where the next round of gunfire will come from, or master the art of automatically dropping to the ground during an explosion. Lucky islanders.

Uniquely Palau

A few days ago I chanced upon an old file in a compact disk where I listed things that makes Davao unique from any other city...and the idea came up to make a list of things that will give you a glimpse of things unique in this island. This is not to offend the Palauans or the islanders but here are a few observations I had for the past year:

*Kids’ necks and faces sticking outside of car windows without the fear of any danger is a very common sight. In fact, it looks as natural as if it’s a car accessory.

*Drivers stop their cars in the middle of the road when they see an acquaintance on the street (or another driver from an oncoming vehicle) and chat with each other while other motorists wait patiently behind.

*Stray dogs in the villages (hamlets) come in hordes. I walked in a neighboring street one morning not too long ago. One dog barked at me. In two minutes flat, there seemed to be a hundred dogs of all sizes and colors barking a few inches from me. I walked on air in pure terror. Had one of them took a chance to bite me, nothing but scraps would have been left of me.

*Overtaking is looked upon as a “crime”. Try speeding up more than the recommended speed (considered slower than those in the slowest lane in the Philippines) and expect the wailing siren from a police car to tag you down.

*The weather is so unpredictable. You wake up to a very hot morning and wear light clothes. Five minutes later it is raining sleets. After a few minutes, then the sun comes out and you would never guess it ever rained.

*You can meet the president, senators, congressmen or governors alone on the street without bodyguards.

*Electoral candidates go out by themselves and stand in the street waving placards to vote for them to passing cars.

*The sight of a pair of shoes tied with together dangling from electric wires in the middle of the streets is common. I still wonder at the time and skill used by the pranksters to throw it there.

*You can’t see guns anywhere, even the policemen rarely carry one.

*Food servings are so huge that for me, a serving is enough for three meals.

*It’s common to see groups of men sitting in waiting sheds, coffee shops and other hangouts swapping fishing tales while women tend the taro patch (gabi plantation). The men fish for living, but it’s the women’s job to tend the farm. Women who can’t grow up their own taro patch are looked down.

*Leave your cars on the street for sometime and better bid goodbye to it forever. (Last week, a Pinoy’s car broke down in the bridge and he went to get help. When he came back a few minutes later, help was no longer necessary. His car was already burned. When you leave your car unattended on a street, here’s the scenario: First day- all four tires stabbed flat. 2nd day- all windshields and mirrors smashed. 3rd day- burned to a crisp.

*Obesity in a woman is a status symbol. The fatter the women are, the higher the prestige her husband will have in the community as a good provider, and “bilbil” is not considered as flabs. It called “love handles”.

*It’s hard to hide in Palau. Somebody is always bound to see you wherever you go. Everybody knows everybody, and they know where you are based on your car or slippers!

*The locals are made of sterner stuff. They don’t seem to get sick from common cold, cough and other seasonal epidemic. They are not afraid of the scorching sun (and the sun here IS very painfully hot compared to the Philippines) or of sudden rains. You can’t see them running for shelter when rains come.

Palauans hold countless custom parties like first bath, house parties and others where even the “seniorist citizens” join in till the sun rises. They chew betel nuts regularly. They eat a lot and dance gracefully, even the oldest and the fattest women’s bodies sway gracefully and when they feel the urge to dance, they don’t care where they are. One final observation- Palauans are cheerful, happy people.

Oh-one more observation. There’s no need for you to get numbers at the baggage section in stores. Just leave your packages and it will still be there when you come back. If you left wallets and valuables, it will remain safe ---unless a Filipino passes by! (sad thought!)

Moving out

I’ve been used to the peaceful second floor office our newspaper occupied for the past nine months, comfortable in having my own key so that I could come in anytime I feel like it, even in the middle of the night.

I shared the office with four other officemates but all of us has complete freedom with whatever we want to do without thinking somebody will walk in anytime and peek at what windows we are opening in our laptops. (including playing Zuma and other computer games when I get bored). Then one day our boss announced that we will be moving to a bigger office right in the center of Koror, and with it my spirits fell.

Before we knew it, here we were in our new office, a couple of miles from our from the former one. Its a huge cream-colored, two-storey building that can be classified as one of the most modern buildings in the island.
The office is huge, with a spacious parking ground (nah, I miss the old parking). The building spells “prestige”, with the boss’ office boasting of a huge bathroom complete with glass-covered shower room, huge wall to wall glass windows overlooking the parking area (meaning we’ve lost the freedom to come and go at our own convenient time).

Expecting a newsroom with sofa (place to stretch for a nap when you get mental block), table, a television, and a conference room where we could entertain visitors (and complainants, too), I was disappointed to find that we were assigned individual cubicles but with gaping doors anybody can just poke his head in.
My cubicle is at the second floor by the window but the sad thing is we were sandwiched between the computer technicians and the marketing staff.

Moving meant many things for me: the end to our privacy to work, the end of comfortable telephone interviews, the end to chats between the five of us, the beginning of headache as each one tries to outdo each other in the raising the volume of music (which is more like noise).
Worse yet, we have to pass by the main door, giving the boss a good full view of us passing by his office. One option is to pass by the company’s computer store to go up right by the table of our boss’ wife (our editor in chief), and before reaching my cubicle, I have to pass by the manager’s table.
Add the noise of hammers and all noise the carpenters are making with the finishing touches inside the office.

It’s irritating to know that when I stagger drowsily at the office at 11 a.m., eyebrows are raised (guess we still have to educate them that reporters are not 8 to 5 employees but we operate on our own time schedule).

When I stare out the window all I can see is the long stretch of cars below, rooftops with steel bars jutting out menacingly or electric posts with crisscrossing wires. I miss the sea view from all our windows back at the old office.
Oh sure, it feels nice to be going to a nice office but there are hitches to the changes which we have to adjust to. Life has to move on but I still miss our old office.

Missing the movies

IN a progressive city like Davao where movie houses are regular features in malls and shopping centers, going to the movies are as regular as eating in restaurants or going window shopping. I know I can always go anytime I have the chance or the required 50 bucks (balcony seat plus sitsirya and softdrinks) but more often, I get a chance to go to the movies on free tickets.

Looking back at it now, I realized that for the most times I go to the movies, I spent at least 25 percent of the time eating, 20 percent on the movie (unless the movie is a cartoon or a story that would captivate me in the first ten crucial minutes) and the remaining 55 percent is used for sleeping. I can’t recall how many times I had to clap my hands over my ears every time buddy Rex of Super-Balita gives me the “if-you-only-wanted-to-sleep-why-don’t-you-go-home-and-sleep-comfortably” sermon. The hardest and most challenging thing for me in a movie house is to keep my butt glued to my seat in one position for even 10 minutes so by the time I leave the movie house, they don’t need to clean the seat.

Alas, even a tiny-winy 20-seater movie house don’t exist in Palau. It seems that every single house, no matter how small, owns a computer, television or a home video set. To make up for this lack, video rental shops are everywhere and for the first time, I found myself renting CDs and DVDs from $1 to $1.75 each to keep myself occupied (and sane—hehe!) after office hours.
Back at our old office, I could work to my heart’s content or surf the internet till my vision gets blurry, hence I didn’t find the need to resort to locking myself in my room with four or five CDs a night. We’ve just moved into a new office and unlike the old one where we each had a personal key, this is a huge building where only the bosses hold the two keys available so when they go home, we need to go out or be locked in.

In fairness, the video shops (95 percent of which are managed by either Filipinos or Chinese) are up to date with the latest movies though so what we usually did is to surf the net for the latest ones and rent them.
In exchange for the sitsirya and the softdrinks I often have to buy with the movie tickets back home, I invested in big huggable body pillows so I could recline in complete comfort on my bed and view the movies from my laptop. An officemate donated a pair of Dell sound boxes, and with the thick walls of my room which makes them almost-soundproof (my means of communication with my other housemates is through texting), I can raise the volume and turn off the lights to make it feel like I were inside a real movie house.
I still miss the movie houses where we get to see plenty of other people. A high school students before, we used to throw peanuts at couples kissing below us. Somehow, the movies are much more funnier or scarier (depends on the film) when you view it with hundreds of others inside a darkened movie house.
When I get to go home (maybe next year) I will find a chance to visit the movie houses at SM or Gaisano Mall which we usually go to. And this time I promise I won’t sleep anymore.

November 13, 2005 Sunstar Davao

Meeting Mr. President

After a hiatus of more than two months from being a reporter, I seemed to have lost my footing and it felt strange when we covered a press conference with the president of this island dubbed as the Rainbow’s End a couple of weeks ago.

There were already two reporters from the other two existing papers in Palau ahead of us. The President’s chief of staff asked for our business cards (that, and an email address are part of one’s existence in Palau) and briefed us on the agenda of the conference.

Training my ears to listen and focus and jotting down notes seemed to require too much effort but I sat poised with my pad and pen when the president came into the room. He got our business cards and welcomed us (Aurea and I being the latest addition to the small media family) and I said, Oh great, this is the president of the republic calling us by name! Then he murdered my surname. I should have gotten immune to it because in two straight weeks my surname has been murdered so many times from the medical certificates, plane ticket reservations, to the actual print on the plane ticket and other documents.

The desk clerk at the Continental ticketing office back in Makati was helpful enough to print out something to prove that the ticket was really purchased for me because it did not agree with my passport. I’m sure my grandfather would have turned over in his grave) and now here is the country’s leader pronouncing it minus the letter N (uh-oh talk about coconut shell)!

When a Philippine president visits Davao City, a media practitioner has to pre-register with the Philippine Information Agency who will issue an identification card to certify that you are a legitimate media. Even with the ID card, you can only enter the room where the press conference will be held after undergoing through a barrage of briefings and a series of security checks, body check and get through hordes of burly presidential security guards. Once past all these barriers, you can’t ask questions if you have not pre-registered and indicated what you will ask the president about.
In a span of two years, my tape recorder looked like it came from the hospital from the number of stickers stuck to it by the presidential security group every time President Gloria Arroyo came to Davao City.

What a difference from the Philippines. In this country of barely 20,000 people, everybody seems to know everybody and you get to meet the senators, congressmen (delegates) and the president and they will tap you on the shoulders like an old friend.

The rest of the senators sat down but alas, the session was in Palauan. It felt awkward to sit there and listen to a conference going on in a strange language. The president cracked jokes (maybe those were jokes because everybody who understands Palauan kept on laughing). I whispered to Au that we were helpless if they were talking about selling us as slaves (just kidding). What I did was to keep on looking at the different colorful flags of the 16 states of Palau, wondering who the designers were for such intricate work. I couldn’t memorize the names of the states. I couldn’t even read them but I was trying to kill the time.

When the session was finally over, the chief of staff asked us to come back at 2 pm for the interview with the president. We were to learn later that the president usually hold interviews with the media after the Palauan session but had a previous engagement hence the change in schedule.

So much for meeting Mr. President, better luck next Wednesday. We went back to the office with our notebooks still clean and without a story to write.

Island hopping

Even before the Continental Airlines flight we boarded from Manila landed in Palau last October. I resolved to go around the islands I saw from the plane window on a boat trip.

After almost a year’s stay, I finally got the chance to visit some of the islands, braving a few hours boat ride and leaning on my daring, adventurous spirit for luck because until this time, I still don’t know how to swim. (I have started some lessons though- progressing only as far as staying for 10 seconds and blowing bubbles from under water).

Kayangel, the island number one in my wish list is at the northernmost tip of Palau. I always had this feeling that if I went to the place, I’m just a few day’s hours trip away Davao (or maybe a few days). I grabbed the chance to cover a ground breaking ceremony there last week, not minding the back and forth four-hour trip by speed boat.
Before we left the dock, I asked the operator for a life jacket and for the thousandth time, I received that too familiar “I-can’t-believe-you’re-serious-don’t- you-know-it’s-a-crime-not-to-swim-in-Palau” look I’ve been getting when I told him I want to feel safe and I don’t know how to swim.

Just before boarding the boat, a Palauan friend told me, “I hope you don’t vomit because the waves are real big out there and you have to cross three outer reefs,”
Some encouragement, huh.

The program pushed without hitches but while having lunch, the president, vice president and top officials of the island who were there, (and each being a fisherman at some time in their life) started to cast anxious glances at the darkening skies.

“Looks like we may have to spend the night here,” a congressman (they call it Delegate in Palau) commented, which worried me because I just parked my car under the shade of a tree near the dock and it’s not safe.
We declined the invitation to ride with the president in his boat, remembering how our spirits flew up and down and in and out of our bodies on our way to Peleliu State a few months back. (He drives his boat real fast and to think he said he slowed down because we were there!)

After lunch we hurried left before the torrent fell, but it caught us just the same when we were at mid-sea.
Rain was falling like a thousand needles pricking on my face and arms, and every time the boat creaked and groaned as it rides on an especially big wave, it took agonizing seconds before it goes down and for my heart to beat normally again.

I kept my head bowed, not in prayer or resignation but to protect my face with my baseball cap from the painful raindrops that threatened to erase my face.

By the time our boat reached the T-dock in Koror, my face and hands were already too numb to feel anything. I was wet from the head down to my toes and was longing for a hot drink to calm the shivering of my pale lips.

Jumping into my car, I turned on the heater and drove home as if the police were chasing me. I couldn’t stop the chills that rocked my body. I crawled into bed as soon as I peeled off my wet clothes and wrapped myself in a woolen blanket. With a normal body temperature and with Palau’s humidity, one could not sleep comfortably in a closed room without an aircon unit or an electric fan but I did.

I woke up an hour later, drenched in sweat and very thirsty. I went to the refrigerator and popped three ice cubes into my mouth, gasped at the cold impact and spat the cubes out at the sink. I made hot chocolate instead.
So much for island hopping, but you think I’m giving up? You’re wrong. I have another schedule sometime this month. This time to Angaur, the other end of Palau.

Coin Confusion

One of the things I find myself still trying to learn about in Palau is differentiating the coins and their respective values.
When we arrived here a couple of months ago, I had only one US dollar in my wallet, a gift from a Balikbayan friend from Canada years back and the edges are already worn and stained. I had been tempted to encash it many times when I had no money but the dollar bill never left its sanctuary in my wallet because of sentimental value. I dragged along plenty of Philippine coins with me I had to pay extra to the local airline we boarded from Davao City to Manila because I forgot to have the contents of my coin bank changed to bills but these are useless in Palau.

Aside from the solitary dollar, I was practically “penniless” until we were given loans from the office to tide us over until we get our first paycheck. Used to the heavy coins we have in the Philippines, I just tossed the coins around in my room during the first few weeks, leaving them on the bed, on the drawer, in my locker and practically anywhere. I did not feel its real value because they felt like useless coins. I was able to immediately recognize the quarter dollar because I had one in my coin collection years ago but I get confused with the nickel (five cents), the dime (ten cents) and the penny (one cent).

At a glance, the nickel and the quarter (twenty five cents) look almost the same save for a little difference in size but they could easily be mistaken for the other. The washing machine at the laundromat taught me the difference. A load of laundry here costs $.75 and you have to feed the machine three quarter coins. The dryer demands the same price. Without meaning to, I dropped three nickel coins and the machine refused to budge. People here very seldom handwash clothes. It’s faster and easier to wash and dry it at the Laundromat and you’ll be spared the waste of time and energy worrying if your clothes are still at the clotheslines when you come back.

During my first week here, I often wondered and asked why the nickel is bigger in size than the dime when the value of the dime is twice than that of the nickel but now I don’t. I have many things to worry and think about than coin sizes, my expanding waistline for instance (I’ve graduated from small to medium size now) but I can’t talk about it yet.

Many a time I have experienced embarrassing moments when I had to stand in the counter and fumble in my coin purse for the loose change needed, with an anxious-looking cashier trying to figure out if I have enough money to pay for my purchases and the long line of customers shuffling their feet behind me. It’s funny but customers all seemed to be in a hurry at the times like these.

I was at a gasoline station in downtown Koror, (Palau’s capital) counting (or trying to figure out which is which to be able to pay $1.75 to the cashier when I went out to buy bento one time for a late lunch. (Bento is a meal that comes with rice and usually two or three viands, packed in a transparent disposable container and tied with rubber bands. It is the instant solution for people who are too lazy to cook their meals like me.)

Hungry and pressed for time, I got exasperated in pretending to act like I know my coins and poured out the whole contents of my purse on the counter. Coins of various denominations rolled out in different destinations so that the cashier and I had a busy time catching and stopping the coins from rolling on the floor. I made her pick out the appropriate change she needed so I won’t have to wrack my brains trying to figure things out.

After two months, I still have to look up at the ceiling for a few seconds to calculate things before I will be able to extract the exact loose change I need for my purchases. Maybe I should paste coin samples in my headboard so I can study them before going to bed and upon waking up. What do you think?

Turn-about

The only permanent thing in the world is change, or so the saying goes. And so with this article comes many changes, first in the column name. For the past couple of years, I had named this column as LoCaL CoLoR but less than five hour’s plane ride from Davao City last week brought me and SunStar officemates Aurea and Celina to one of the islands in the pacific to work for another newspaper and to another set of changes in our lives.

This article is written not in Davao anymore but in the island of the Republic of Palau, dubbed as the Rainbow’s End, hence the need to change the name. I couldn’t think of any other name much more fitting than Island Color. Rainbow’s End sounds more like a fairy tale and one may even expect me to send you a pot of gold so I chose the latter, and so Island Color is it.

In this island where there seems to be more cars than people and you can rarely see anybody walking on the streets, the feeling of being “parang nasa Pinas pa rin” prevails. Majority of the people are Filipinos and you see them in the stores, offices, clubs and bars, hotels and practically everywhere.

Comes now adjustment time-stage one.
Although the three of us worked in the same office and seen each other’s shadow for almost three years but we did not live in the same house so normally we all have to make a lot of adjustments. Ever tried keeping your cool when the bathroom we shared already resembled a bat cave? you know what I mean, with all those wet “bats” that were supposed to be hang at the clothesline outside to dry up hanging from the shower hooks, falling hairs clogging the drainage, soap melting in the sink or stepping on empty shampoo sachets? I have.

I also learned a fast lesson in patience when Au practically takes forever in the bathroom while Celina and I wait for our turn to take a bath every morning. I was beginning to wonder if there’s a mass going on inside the bathroom that she only knew of and attends exclusively..(I hope Au will not get to read this because she might spit in my food and I won’t blame her. (She cooks our supper sometimes).

One thing that needs a 360-degree turn is my sleeping pattern. This is not easy and may take months or even years of trying because me, labeled as a “vampire” by buddy Michael from Cotabato because I stay up till dawn and is sleepy through the day have to make a complete turn-around. For the past nights I’ve stayed awake staring at the ceiling trying to count sheep and fall asleep or try to follow the rotation of the stand fan I bought for $23.25 a day after we arrived but to no avail. Bedtime for my body is still 2 a.m.

The hardest part is in getting up at 6:30 a.m. and wait for my turn to take a cold shower to wake up, (I usually go to the bathroom with eyes still closed and wake up only when the first squirt of water falls on my head), grab a quick breakfast which I very rarely do and rush with my housemates because I have no other means of getting to the office but hitch a ride in our housemate’s car. For the first time I saw what offices look like in the mornings but only digest half of what’s going on until late in the afternoon.

Another shock awaited us when we shopped for groceries for the first time. Everything is priced in dollars. I nearly collapsed when I picked up a bunch of string beans priced $1.25. Why, with the exchange rate of P56 to a dollar, that would cost P70! And to think that I would even snob that bunch in Bankerohan and grumble (and sometimes curse the vendor) for overpricing it at P6 a bunch!

I bought a plate, spoon and a glass for $3, whew! I had hordes of plates and mugs and spoons which had accumulated through my brief journalistic stint in Davao, but here everything is exported from the Philippines. Our Pinoy officemates advised us never to convert all the prices to peso “dahil talagang maloloko at makakalbo kayo” (you’ll go bald and crazy) but they understood us because they too, went through the same phase.

I do miss my body pillow, the one I bought with my first salary at Sun.Star but have to leave it behind. Buying a new one here would cost me $12. Converted, that would be P672! I could buy that in the PI (short for Philippine Islands) for less than P300 (There I go again…) but I’m going to buy one just the same when I get my first paycheck. It sure helps a lot to lure me to dreamland.

Uhm adjustment stage two…we still have to get used to seeing the natives chewing betel nuts.

Trekking shoe-less

(Published in Sunstar Davao, January 15, 2006 issue)

The invitation to go on a jungle and river trek came from friend Micmic Villaflor of the Tia Belau newspaper in Palau one Thursday afternoon. I said yes even before she gave me the details (I’m still the same “fly-now ask-later” type of person I was in the Philippines).

I became excited because I thought I already bid goodbye to my outdoor activities in Davao just before I left for this island called the Rainbow’s End. Co-employees Jacky, Celina and Denice delivered me in the company truck (no other car was available at the moment) to the headquarters of the US Air Force in Airai a few miles from Koror State and left me there.

I looked around and was dismayed to see everyone in their proper trekking attire, shoes and backpacks and a supply of drinking water strapped to their bodies. Uh-uh, I was in a light pink shirt, maong pants torn at the knees and rubber sandals. I said to myself they must have been overacting because I’m not new to mountain climbing and there aren’t no high mountains in Palau.

I approached one group of soldiers and introduced myself as a representative of our newspaper. One of the US Air Force captains who was in the midst of tying his shoelaces glanced at my feet and stopped in mid-air.
“Are you going with us in that?” he asked in disbelief, pointing to my sandals.
“I’m afraid so,” I shrugged. He stared at me incredulously as though I said I was going to walk barefoot on live coals. I bought my sandals just before the stores closed the night before at a staggering price of $9.95, the kind I could buy here in Davao for P150 or less.

“You need protection, we can’t take risks,” he replied. I told him I was comfortable in my sandals and I would never feel alright wearing closed shoes as it cuts off the circulation of my blood but he got an extra pair of large socks and insisted that I put them on. Uh-uh. Albeit mumbling I obeyed the captain and the trek began.

I was with soldiers and a handful of females who climbed up the steep slope as though they were walking on level ground. As the only form of exercise I get is in going up and down the eight rungs of stairs to our office everyday, I was panting in no time and was at the rear of the group.

The pathway narrowed when we entered the jungle (don’t get me wrong, there are no real jungles in Palau) and the real challenge began. It was so muddy and I kept falling down as we had to navigate the river for at least three-fourths of the trek. It was getting dark and the sandals gave me trouble as it got entangled in roots and shrubs very easily but I did not say anything. I ended up being at the rear of the group because of the sandals and gave the very same Air Force captain and another Air Force member headache because they had to slower their gait so as not to leave me behind. They were the group “sweepers” after all and were tasked to see that no one gets lost in the forest.

When we reached a deep portion of the river where a waterfalls dropped off, the trekkers were given the chance to either go around it or swim across and fight the strong current, with the aid of a tout rope tied to a tree at the riverbank. I opted for the later (as if I know how to swim!!!) but I was that confident. It turned out that I was the only one who used the lifejacket stationed there.

Anyway my sandals did not let me down, and we (me and my sandals) are going for another trek next month with the same group. This time it’s going to be a moonlight trek, and yes, I’m going to buy my own socks and a replacement as well for the pair I’ve damaged beyond redemption. My apologies to the Captain whose name I forgot to ask…

Transitions

The only permanent thing in the world is change, or so the saying goes. And so with this article comes many changes, first in the column name. For the past couple of years, I had been writing a column titled LoCaL CoLoR in the Philippines but less than five hour’s plane ride from Davao City three weeks ago brought me and officemates Aurea and Celina to this island in the pacific to work for another newspaper and to another set of changes in our lives.

This article is written in this place dubbed as the Rainbow’s End, and I couldn’t think of any other name much more fitting than Island Color. In this island where there seems to be more cars than people and you can rarely see anybody walking on the streets, the feeling of being “parang nasa Pinas pa rin” prevails. Filipinos are everywhere and you see them in the stores, offices, clubs and bars, hotels and practically everywhere.

Comes now adjustment time-stage one.
Although the three of us worked in the same office and seen each other’s shadow for almost three years, we did not live in the same house so normally we all have to make a lot of adjustments. Ever tried keeping your cool when the bathroom we shared already resembled a bat cave? you know what I mean, with all those wet “bats” that were supposed to be dried at the clothesline outside hanging from the shower hooks, falling hairs clogging the drainage, soap melting in the sink or stepping on empty shampoo sachets? We have.

I also learned a fast lesson in patience when Au practically takes forever in the bathroom while Celina and I wait for our turn to take a bath every morning. I was beginning to wonder if there’s a mass going on inside the bathroom that she only knew of and attends exclusively…(I hope Au will not get to read this because she might spit in my food and I won’t blame her…just kidding)

One thing that needs a 360-degree turn is my sleeping pattern. This is not easy and may take months or even years of trying because I, labeled as a “vampire” by buddy Peter Michael from Cotabato because I stay up till dawn and is sleepy through the day have to make a complete turn-around. For the past nights I’ve stayed awake staring at the ceiling trying to count sheep and fall asleep or try to follow the rotation of the stand fan I bought for $23.25 a day after we arrived but to no avail. Bedtime for my body is still 2 a.m.

The hardest part is in getting up at 6:30 a.m. and wait for my turn to take a cold shower to wake up, (I usually go to the bathroom with eyes still closed and wake up only when the first squirt of water falls on my head), grab a quick breakfast which I very rarely do and rush with my housemates because I have no other means of getting to the office but hitch a ride in our housemate’s car. For the first time I saw what offices look like in the mornings but only digest half of what’s going on until late in the afternoon.

Another shock awaited us when we shopped for groceries for the first time. Everything is priced in dollars. I nearly collapsed when I picked up a bunch of string beans priced $1.25. Why, with the exchange rate of P56 to a dollar, that would cost P70! And to think that I would even snob that bunch in Bankerohan in Davao and grumble (and sometimes curse the vendor) for overpricing it at P6 a bunch!

I bought a plate, spoon and a glass for $3, whew! I had hordes of plates and mugs and spoons which had accumulated through my brief journalistic stint in Davao, but here everything is exported from the Philippines. Our Pinoy officemates advised us never to convert all the prices to peso “dahil talagang maloloko at makakalbo kayo” (you’ll go bald and crazy) but they understood us because they too, went through the same phase.

I do miss my body pillow, the one I bought with my first salary at Davao but have to leave it behind. Buying a new one here would cost me $12. Converted, that would be P672! I could buy that in the PI (short for Philippine Islands) for less than P300 (There I go again…) but I’m going to buy one just the same when I get my first paycheck. It sure helps a lot to lure me to dreamland.

Time off

THE gentle rocking of the yacht and the cool breeze were making me drowsy, not minding the noise and laughter my companions were making as they downed bottle after bottle of wine in rapid succession.

We were in a cove in the Rock Islands and I was sprawled at the helm of the "Great White", a yacht owned by Sam's Tours, one of the leading dive operators in Koror, Palau. I had just photographed one of the best sunsets I ever saw, with the big red sun slowly setting down the horizon and splashing hues of reds, orange and vermilion over the darkening sky.

We were a few miles off the shores of the Palau Pacific Resort where a welcome party was in progress. Big waves started to roll in, prompting our yacht operator to head for some place where we can simply relax without feeling nauseous.

After finding a comfortable cove between two smaller islands, we dropped anchor and the party began.

Minutes later, a semi-full moon bathed the surrounding with a soothing glow, making the trees in the islands around us look like eerie figures that I almost imagined one of them will jump at us any moment.

This was the first activity of the yachting club and I grabbed the chance to join although I am not a member.

For the past year and four months, Wednesday nights had always been the busiest time for me and ex-Sun.Star layout artist, Celina, because that's our newspaper deadline and we have to stay by until the last page is ready to go to the printing press.

Although we are a weekly newspapers, the maƱana habit rules, making us delay writing until Wednesday morning and by then that is too late.

The appointment of a new editor from Saipan lifted much of the burden of closing the pages from my shoulders. I was finished at 2 p.m. and was free to go with editor Fermin's permission.

"Just keep your cellphone on all the time," he warned before I and co-reporter Junhan dashed off.

I was in a trance-like state, half-awake and half asleep when three cubes of ice landed on my head and my feet. I jerked alert and discovered that my companions (Americans and a few Palauans) were engaged in an ice cube battle. They were getting noisier as the night went deeper. We were supposed to be home by 11 p.m. but from the looks of things, nobody was thinking of going yet. I was already shivering in my thin shirt when I heard the engine of another boat coming towards us. More people were joining the party and as we didn't drink or smoke, we were starting to feel out of place. Luckily the boat operator had to go back to shore after dumping his passengers into the Great White so we grabbed the chance to go ahead of the others.

So much for the time off, but it was worth it.

They sure serve ‘em big in Palau

I was attending a luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club I covered for our newspaper at Penthouse hotel in downtown a couple of weeks ago started late and my stomach was already growling, protesting why it was denied food since the night before. There just wasn’t time to grab something to eat. Deadline was beating down our necks.

When Editor Maam Lei told me to order food from the restaurant, I did not hesitate but sat immediately at one of the tables. Being very hungry, I ordered the first familiar dish I saw on the laminated menu- - fried chicken combo meal. One serving costs $7.50++. (It’s always the ++ that scares me when ordering food from classy restaurants back at the PI).

I usually only buy bento, (a meal packed in plastic complete with rice and two viands priced from $1.50 to $2.50 and it is always enough to fill me). Anyway I was not paying so why the fuss.

When the Filipina waitress served the food, I gulped for there, set before me was a huge (and I mean HUGE) platter with rice enough to feed me for a couple of days, a mountain of raw cucumber, cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes, and five gigantic slices of crisply fried chicken. Half of one slice was enough for me I swear. The orange juice costing $2.50 came in a huge glass which looked like only a few inches shorter than a regular pitcher.

I looked around apprehensively, expecting to see sneers from other customers because with my 5-ft-98-lb frame, it would seem like I had been denied food for months but nobody was looking in my direction. I picked up my spoon and fork and began eating daintily. If the truth was to be told, I wished to eat with my hands. Food always tastes much better and satisfying that way. I just scraped the chicken skins and popped them to my mouth, (forget the calories, crispy fried chicken skin is just too tempting), one-fourth of the rice and half of the juice, ignoring the salad. I’ll never be a vegetarian. (Ever hear that eating too much veges may lure snakes to live in your stomach?)…

Housemate Celina and I ordered fried rice for dinner from Kumangai restaurant just last week.
“Isang order lang?” the PI waitress asked us. We both said we were very hungry and ordered one serving each. Mine is java rice and hers is seafood. You guessed right, one serving was good for three persons. We were still eating fried rice until noon of the next day.

One time I passed by a couple of locals grilling barbeque under the Japan-Palau friendship bridge where I went to take photos of the sunset. I cast an absent-minded glance at the spit but retraced my steps when I was five meters away to check if my eyes were playing tricks. The two men were grilling fish so big and chicken thighs resembling turkey’s thighs I wondered how it could be consumed. One half of a chicken thigh would make me burst. They saw me eyeing the barbeque and urged me to eat.
“You eat, why, you’re soooo small!” One of them said, but I politely refused their offer, swallowing the urge to insist that I was not that small but it’s them who were just so big.

It’s normal to see fish weighing 100 lbs or more, bread solid enough that one slice is equivalent to a full meal, garlic and onion as big as a giant’s fist, kindergarten pupils bigger than the normal elementary students in the PI, t-shirts (small size) that reached down to my knees when I tried it on, oh, name it, it’s big! Anyway, one month here in Palau has taught me a lesson. They sure serve them big. I mean food. And drinks, too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Missing Davao

Staying in an isolated island like Saipan does not necessarily make one a full-pledged islander. Maybe this does not apply for all but in my case, I guess the feeling of being a complete islander have not yet gotten into my system.


Having spent a huge number of years of my life in the urban areas which pulsed with life especially at night, a nocturnal being like me still finds it hard to momentarily settle for the rural life in this island-even after my five and-a-half months stay here, plus 19 months stay in Palau.

I wake up six mornings a week disoriented and grumpy, wondering why on earth I still keep the alarm clock whose screeching sound regularly wakes me up at 6:30 every morning. Maybe a lifetime habit of being nocturnal could not just change that easily despite constant clashing with my ex-boss, who was an early riser and could not understand the logic of working late in the night and waking up late, too.


Here in Saipan, one does not necessarily feel being a stranger because Filipinos are everywhere- in offices, stores, schools, construction companies, night clubs and anywhere. Some have stayed in this island for as long as 30 years and have totally adopted the island lifestyle, thinking only of going home to the Philippines for vacations. They have completely become islanders. Well, to name a few of the tastes, sights and smells I miss in Davao that’s hindering me from adopting the island life:


Never-ending stream of traffic. Looking at the flow of vehicles occupying every inch of the road is just fantastic, and riding on a jeepney and being a part of the traffic has never irritated me. In fact, getting squeezed in a heavy traffic jam gives me the perfect opportunity to day dream. (Need i mention how many times a week do i have to get a ride back because I already passed by my destination???)

Tsokolate and pandesal from Bankerohan. Here the pandesal tastes just like any ordinary, oven-baked bread. It’s extra hard that if you hit your head with it, a lump will grow so fast before you can blink. I miss the fluffy yet crispy and salty pandesal cooked in a pugon. At our barracks, (which I baptized the named Ranch House), a pandesal vendor toots his horn on early mornings. Once in a blue moon, I would be up and catch him but oftentimes i would lay in bed in wishful thinking hoping that he can read my mind and drop a bag of pandesal for me. Of course, he can't read my mind, otherwise he won't be selling pan de sal so early in the morning but out there making a fortune for himself. I would still be half in dreamland by then. By the time I decide I want that pan de sal, the vendor is long gone.


Tinolang native manok at the food stalls in Magallanes. Thinking of the huge slices of chicken here makes my hair stand.

Barbeque batikulon (gizzard) at Bankerohan side walk where I always buy three pieces on a stick for P5.


Manggang hilaw (green mangoes) with bagoong. You can buy a smallplastic of sliced green mangoes from street vendors for five pesos.


Durian. This is something I haven't seen on Saipan. Surely because it's prohibited. I miss our durian sprees at Magsaysay park.

The sight of news boys folding the Super Balita and Sunstar late at night in the office, and the newspaper-littered streets early in the morning as newsboys collate them ready for loading on their bicycles. (yes I'm up on some mornings).

Noise of internet cafes. Having no internet connection at Gwen's house, I had to walk exactly 300 steps to nearest internet cafe to do my research and bear the noise and smell of the kids as they swear and curse loudly while playing online games.


Wet markets where you can buy fish and vegetables and where the vendors tried to outdo each other in making the loudest noise to attract more customers. I always cover my ears and rejoice in the loud humming they made.


Bulalo and hinalang na baka. Where one serving is oftentooo huge for me to consume.


Halo-halo at Chowking. I don't care even if it's 12 midnight or 3 a.m. when the urge to eat gets at me, I go out. The halo-halo I've tried here so far is from Shirley's. So far so good. Only the serving is not big. It's huge!


Instant McDonald meals or chicken feet from Mandarin tea garden. I'm a constant customer at McDonalds here, but somehow, although the food is the same, i miss the ambiance of the McDo branches in Davao. There's no place like home, nai?


A bottle of beer (s) shared with office mates at our favorite restaurant at Times Beach after work, where we take turns (give me a safer word than backbiting...lol) our other office mates.


The eternal blowing of horns from jeepneys and public vehicles. You only blow your horns here on exceptional situations like if the driver of the car you’re following failed to turn on his lights, or if his tires are flat, gone square or missing.


The noise of the kids next door in my boarding house at S.I.R. although everyone knew I wished to strangle them every minute when i was there.


Kids swimming like tadpoles at Times Beach at the Magsaysay wharf. *sigh*. I let a wonderful opportunity slip through my fingers when Sam of Sams Tours, owner of the biggest dive shop in Palau offered to give me a free open water diving lesson. Alas, that is after I LEARNED how to swim and he gave me two months time allowance.I flunked the challenge and forfeited the opportunity to go diving. The possibility of learning how to swim stepped back two planets away from my reach, andthe possibility of diving? about 15 planets away.


Well, nothing would come out of just staring intospace and missing home. I’ve got some serious thinking to do. If you can't beat them join them. I've got five months to decide...

street ice cream

ginanggang or banana cue

Friday, January 18, 2008

Locked in the confession room

A one-hour notice last Friday brought me and four other companions to Manila to cover the final night of ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) celebrity edition 2 reality show last Friday. With such a short notice, we missed our 7:30 p.m. flight but we stayed by at the Davao International Airport hoping for a chance at the fully booked last flight at 9 p.m. Luckily, the rain must have caused some passengers to back out and we were accommodated.

The day after the big night, the famous Bahay ni Kuya was finally vacated, and after an interview with PBB winner Ruben Gonzaga, we were allowed to come in the house we had seen so much on television.


I went looking for the only room I was so curious about, the confession room. It was a room which has been a mute witness to all the emotions poured by the housemates, the room where instructions, decisions, sentiments and punishments were meted out by the voice of Big Brother. Finally, I located it at the farthest end passing the bathrooms and the punishment room. We went inside the mirror-covered room and I felt as if I were inside a room from a Chinese movie.


The famous red-padded seat occupied the center of the room, facing a huge TV screen and a camera. I sat on the chair and tucked my legs in, putting the throw pillow on my lap.

To make the effect complete, I went to the open door and closed it for total privacy. The resounding click seemed to come with a sense of finality in it but I did not pay much attention. We were so busy taking souvenir photos, pretending to talk to the invisible big brother on the microphone. When we were ready to go out, a surprise awaited us. The door refused to budge.


I twisted the knob and poked and pried but nothing happened. My companions Cris of Mindanao Times tried, Althea of ABS-CBN tried, but no matter what we did, the door remained firmly shut. We called out to the persons who were outside but they couldn’t open it either. We were locked from within. It seemed unnatural as the door latch looked normal but I began to get worried in case it was broken and we would have to wait until somebody repairs it. Uneasiness was slowly creeping inside me in that windowless room full of mirrors.

A few minutes before we were allowed to go in, I kept saying what if we would be locked and would not be allowed to go out? I could just imagine hearing the voice of Big Brother telling us we could not go out but stay for the “PBB media surprise edition 1”. Ha-ha, what a comforting thought but I was sure that the Kuya must have taken a day off from his house after the 84-day session with the latest celebrity edition

After almost 10 minutes of banging and shouting, I heard another click from somewhere up and door opened. Our host had a big laugh to discover that it was us who were trapped. What we were not aware of was that the door to the confession room was set with electronic locks. Somebody has to go to the controls to unlock the door. Thankfully, it was Sunday and there was not much traffic going to the airport. Otherwise, we would have missed our flight again and that was an idea I did not relish.