Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A bit of Brussels and Cologne...

Brussels and Cologne were not in the original trip itinerary. Both cities were only included upon the suggestion of good friend Bernice, who was still then based in Amsterdam.

Looking back now, I wish that I allotted more days for both cities. A few hours of walking around the city centre were enough for me to say that I would definitely want to return again one day.

In Cologne, aside from the mandatory visit to the Cologne Cathedral, we also took a short cruise along River Rhine and did a tour of the NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne. The latter was the headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo between 1935 to 1945. I also managed to visit the Museum Ludwig, home to a large collection of contemporary artworks including Picasso, Liechtenstein, Pollock, Klee, Kandinsky, to name a few.

Brussels was also an equally wonderful experience. The leisurely walk around the centre that involved seeing the historic Grand Place, the Royal Palace and of course, the Manneken Pis, was truly enjoyable. Naturally, a few hours were spent at the museum. I was able to visit the Musée Old Masters Museum (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium) to marvel at the Bruegel and Rubens collections.

I should probably devote some posts to photos only.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Which HD to purchase...

I've been meaning to buy a new external hard drive.

At the moment, I am using a Lacie x Philippe Starck hard drive. It has been with me for four years now and I have had no problems with it whatsoever. The performance is very good. It has earned my trust. It is incomparable to the WD Elements I had which crashed in less than a year. Along with the death of the latter were my music files, my movies, my series. Thankfully, my photos were not stored there as I would have really gone into depression. Lol. Touch wood.

I promised I would never buy WD ever again. I swore to just use Lacie.

While jalan jalan at Wheelock earlier, I found not just one but a number of Lacie models available at Epicentre Wheelock.

The price range was within my budget.

What I need to decide on now is whether to get a portable one or a desktop model. The desktop model I've been eyeing is 2TB and the price is just right. The portable ones are cheaper by about $30 but they are only 1TB.

My thought is I'll get the 2TB desktop model and make it my main storage drive. I'll then use the existing 500GB as the portable one for times that I need to copy files or so.

I dunno. It does make sense, yeah?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

One very good guided tour...

Earlier, I had my monthly guided tour at the National Museum of Singapore.

For the first time, the group I guided was composed of all Singaporeans. There were about 12 people in the group. Two young couples, three married couples who are probably in their fifties or early sixties, a granddaughter (I assume), and a young woman.

Though I've been guiding for several months now, I still get nervous just before I start the tour. I'm worried that I won't be able to answer a question (It has happened a couple of times. My mentor said, "It's fine. We are not expected to know everything because we are all volunteers.). And to be honest, I sometimes feel strange that I talk about Singapore history to citizens.

This is why I think the intro to the tour is very important. It is the point when the docent establishes rapport with the tour group. It is the moment when the docent gets an idea whether the tour needs to be adjusted or revised. The few minutes before the intro are also important as it is a brief opportunity to get to know the guests joining the tour.

Earlier, I just gave my usual intro. My name. Where I'm from. That I'm a museum volunteer. That I love museums. That I love volunteering. That I've been volunteering even when I was still in the Philippines.

It didn't take long before I felt much more comfortable in giving the tour. The curiosity, the friendliness, the genuine interest of almost everyone in the group contributed to making the tour an enjoyable one.

As with the other tours that I give, I would always engage the guests. I avoid a monologue as much as I can because I certainly do not want to attend a monologue if it were the other way around. This afternoon, I can say that the group was able to do that.

I was really happy that the group was composed of young adults and seniors. At certain points, I would ask the seniors to share briefly about what they know/recall about the artefact. Paintings are also a favourite subject of mine because it is a chance for me to get everyone to talk and give their opinions about the painting.

By the end of the tour, I have already had created a good relationship with the group. I know that because as soon as I bid everyone to have a nice afternoon, the group applauded and most of the guests shook hands with me and sincerely thanked me for the time. One uncle even said, "Salamat po."

This was definitely one of my favourite and memorable tours.

As a side note: I've recently been seeing some online articles about the upcoming Philippine Independence Day with a lot of negative comments from I dunno if they're locals, PRs. I dunno if these people are posting with the real identities. Nevertheless, the content is just filled with hatred and negativity.

I actually wonder what percentage of the citizenship feel this way towards foreigners. Sure, there are those who are really anti-foreigner, but there is a part of me that believes it is a small percentage. Is it being too dreamy? Too wishful thinking? Too optimistic? I don't think so. A part of me really believes that there is a bigger "open-to-discussion, open-minded" group. Otherwise, I wouldn't have good Singaporean friends. Otherwise, I don't think my friendship with KK or with BT or with BC or with LL or with JL or with DP and PK or even WC would develop into a real friendship. Otherwise, the group I've had earlier wouldn't be sincerely applauding and shaking my hands after the tour even if a foreigner was talking about their nation's history.

During the recent Eurotrip, I had a very good experience in Brussels which my Filipino friend Gemma later pointed out to me. She has been living in Brussels for almost a year now and it has been a good experience for her. She shared that one thing she really loved about living in Brussels was that people do not "profile" people based on the colour of their skin or the shape of their eyes. Whether you're black or Caucasian or Asian, the first thing you would be asked is "English or French?" (referring to the language to be used in conversing). I had that experience at the hotel where we were stayed. The concierge's first question after politely greeting me was "English or French?" I thought it was really nice. I thought it would be great if it were like that everywhere. Okay, now this part I know is wishful thinking. But the earlier one, I know there is still hope.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jaycee Chan on Love Speaks...

It was my first time fly via Emirates and I absolutely loved their in-flight entertainment system - ICE.

There was a good selection of audio cds, podcasts, radio stations, video games, and of course, movies.

Believe it or not, I only managed to watch two films even with the wide selection of available movies.

Most of the time, I slept. Lol! And other times, I was just tinkering with the other features of ICE.

One film I watched was Twelve Years A Slave. The other film I watched was a Chinese film entitled Love Speaks.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for (most) Chinese romantic comedies. Hehe! I particularly like those Taiwanese actors. Haha!

Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie Chan, took the lead role of the romcom. He was absolutely adorable in the film. It was my first time to see him in a movie. I didn't even know he is the son of Jackie Chan.

Anyway, I found myself laughing out during several parts of the movie. I also loved how he tried to woo the lead female character. Haha!

I tried looking for a movie trailer on YouTube, but I am unsuccessful. The MV was all I found.

Thanks, Jaycee, for entertaining me during the last leg of the DXB-SIN flight.

Hope to see more romcoms soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The bambino who got a kiss from Papa Francesco...

I guess I should start writing about the recently concluded Europe trip.

Hmm, I'l probably begin with one of the highlights during the Rome/Vatican leg of the trip.

PG Boy and I woke up very early for the Papal Audience gathering. While I am used to waking up at ungodly hours, it was a huge challenge for PG Boy to wake up at 5AM. I'm really glad that he got up to join me for the gathering.

Thankfully, our place was within walking distance to Piazza San Pietro. We left the place close to 630 and reached the piazza 10 minutes later.

As expected, a queue was already forming.

By 7, the security started letting people in to the barricaded area. I rushed to one of the front rows close to the centre aisle. I thought surely the Pope will pass by this area.

Hours later, the crowd had swelled to tens of thousands. We were really grateful we followed the tip of my friend Krissie to be at the piazza really early.

Finally, the most awaited moment came.

While anticipating the Pope mobile to pass by our area, a group of people behind me called my attention. They probably realised I had a good spot. I thought they were going to ask to stand in my spot and I was more than ready to say no. Lol! I dunno if and when I'll see the Pope up close again; there was no way I was going to give up my spot.

One of the ladies spoke to me in Italian. I replied saying I do not understand Italian. She then just pointed to her son and said, "Bambino."

When I saw that the Pope mobile was approaching, I took the boy and raised him high. It was very Mufasa and Simba in Lion King. Haha! I was too starstruck though. I don't remember ever yelling "Papa Francesco!" The next thing I know, one of the Pope's security took the little boy from me and brought him over to the Pope.

The photo above shows what happened next.

When the security guy brought back the kid to me, I took the clueless kid and returned him to his mom. What followed was the entire group all smiling at us, patting me on the shoulder and saying continuously, "Bravo! Bravo!"

Today, I emailed the photo to the mom. I never even got her name. I just got her email address. Above was the reply I got.

Thankfully, PG Boy was able to capture the moment on cam. Without a doubt, it was really a huge thing for the family.

I'm glad PG Boy and I were of help.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back lah in Singapore...

Arrived this afternoon in Singapore from Europe.

For the past twelve days, I took 6 flights, three inter-city train rides, dunno how many metro/bus/tram rides and walked dunno how many thousand kilometres in four countries around Europe. Hmm, make that five since Vatican is technically separate from Italy.

What was just initially supposed to be a week in Rome and Vatican became an Amsterdam-Rome-Vatican-Amsterdam-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam trip. Haha!

It's been an awesome trip! I've got 4,700 plus photos to prove how awesome it was. Haha!

I need to find the time and the energy to sort the photos. I need to find the time and the energy to write about the experience.

For now, I need to get some sleep. Tomorrow, it's back to work and I am dreading the amount of emails I have to face. Haha!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Waiting for boarding time...

So, yup, I am finally going on a holiday. Haha!

At the moment, I'm at Changi Airport Terminal 1 using one of the PCs at one of the many Free Internet kiosks around the terminal.

Yeah, because I'm saving my phone battery. Hehe!

The trip planning started back in late 2013. It took quite some time to finalize everything. Even until this morning, I was still booking tours and museums.

The itinerary is this - Three days in Amsterdam, four days in Rome + Vatican, fly back to Amsterdam to take the train to Brussels, take the train from Brussels to Cologne, and from Cologne back to Amsterdam.

The main reason why Amsterdam is our main base was PG Boy and I were supposed to stay with my friend Bernice who's based in Amsterdam.

However, she decided to accept a job offer in Asia. By that time, PG Boy and I have booked our flights and accomms.

Oh well...

I guess the most exciting part for me would be Rome and Vatican. As mentioned in a previous post, we were lucky (or blessed?) enough to have been able to get a slot in the Scavi Tour aka the Vatican Necropolis.

This was after two failed attempts to secure slots in the said tour. Good thing I'm stubborn/persistent and decided to try again a third time.

There's another place I'm really looking forward to visit - the Scala Sancta. It is said that Jesus Christ himself walked on this marble stairs. Really looking forward to the experience.

Flight is at 1250AM. A little less than two hours to go. I hope PG Boy and I will have enough energy to start exploring immediately tomorrow when we arrive at Amsterdam.

So grateful, grateful for this trip!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Few more hours before holiday...

Few more hours and I can officially say I am on vacation.

Whooptidoo! As one person said... hehe!

The holiday trip will be a lot of firsts:

- First time to have a two-week holiday
- First time to fly via Emirates and via KLM
- First time to experience a long haul flight
- First time to take a high-speed train to cross countries
- First time to travel out of Asia

Really grateful to be able to do this trip.

As I was telling PG Boy, nevere did I even think that I would one day be going on a trip like this.

So I'm really, really grateful for this blessing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Best email for the week....

Persistence paid off.

I got a slot for a tour that I really wanted to join.

After being rejected twice, I still wrote again today to see if I can get a slot for me and PG Boy.

In the evening, I got the best email for the week! Haha!

I wasted no time to make the payment and confirm our attendance.

Thank you, Lordy, for this!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Series of MV talks on Saturday afternoon...

Yesterday, I attended a talk for museum guides organised by the MV Group's Museum Continuing Education Committee.

I gotta give it to the team. They really do a good job in coming up with talks/sessions that add more knowledge to what docents learned during the training session.

There were three topics yesterday: 1.) Chitty Peranakans; 2.) Parsis in Singapore and 3.) a fellow MV's trip to Iran. The last topic was related to the talk about Parsis and Zoroastrianism.

It was a very informative talk. The speakers were all very knowledgeable and had a lot of information to share.

Prior to the talk, I managed to squeeze in some time to check out the ongoing Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda exhibit.

The collection was not that big so I was able to go through the exhibit rather fast.

The exhibit features relics and artefacts found from the Famen Temple in present day Xi'an, China. Famen Si is one of the most revered Buddhist sites in China.

According to the exhibit gallery guide:"A finger bone relic of the Buddha and magnificent Tang dynasty objects of gold, silver, ceramics, and glass were sealed within an underground crypt there. For more than 1000 years, these treasures were forgotten until their chance discovery in 1987."

Interesting Saturday it was.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Third anniversary...

Today, I am more grateful than usual. It is my third anniversary with Wiley and of living in wonderful Singapore. Looking back, it is all thanks to the inspiration and the support of a number of people. You know who you are, maraming salamat!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another late night...

As expected, it was another sorta late night tonight. Haha!

I met up with my ex-Smart colleague-turned-PRU AVP Reena at Grand Hyatt for a quick chat.

Prior to heading down to the city, I popped by Ikea Alexandra to get some stuff for Tey, Rhyz and Moneigh.

Knowing that Reena was going to be in town, I checked with the girls what they wanted. I kinda expected the reply - Ikea chocolates! And this time, there was also a request for the chocolate butterscotch spread. I didn't know Ikea had it. I'm guessing it's similar to the Speculoos spread(?).

Since I was already at Ikea, I decided to have my dindin there. Luckily, there was no major queue at the cafe. I was quickly able to get the dinner of pasta and meatballs which I really wanted to have. Yay!

Done with dinner and buying the pasalubong, I walked over to the nearby bus stop and took 14 to the city.

Reena and I didn't get to spend much time chatting. She was in the middle of work and couldn't leave her colleagues.

Still, it was really good to see her. Always happy to see a familiar face.

In other news, few more days to 9 April!!! Woooohooo!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Busy nights this week...

This is the third night this week that I am heading back this late. Haha!

Monday night, I went for a late evening class. Last night, I went for some pre-holiday errands with Tipz.

Tonight, I met up with Mon and Richie.

What was supposed to be just a dinner became dinner + coffee + hours of chikahan.

And I wasn't rushing to head back as I know we'd usually be done by 10ish. That and because I dun have a gym class to attend tomorrow morning.

Richie suggested we have dindin at Jollibee. I was more than up for it since I dun get to eat that often at Jollibee.

Since I had time to kill before dindin, I went around Ion for some more pre-trip errands. I should already be okay in the clothing department now. Haha!

From Ion, I headed to LP to meet up with Rich who was already queueing. Thankfully, the wait wasn't that long. Mon arrives just as Richie was done ordering our food. Yay!

From LP, we headed to next door Paragon for coffee and dessert. I had my second macchiato for the day! Yikes!

While chatting among ourselves, we were also chatting with the gang in Manila. Great how the physical distance between Manila and SG is bridged by technology. Hehe.

It's always a happy time to meet up with Mon and Richie as we never seem to run out of things to talk about. Convo just flows naturally. It's a blessing to have that kind of friendship/relationship.

Tomorrow is going to be another late night. Meeting up with friend/former colleague Reena who's in town for a night.

Whew! Busy calendar this week. Haha!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How I manage to wake up early on difficult days...

Can't believe March is over! Woohoo! Hehe!

Having gone to Combat last night, I had a struggle this morning as to whether I will get up for Gentle Flow class or not. The class was at 7AM at Fusionopolis. I've already pressed my clothes for the day. My bag for the day is ready. It's really just a matter of getting up, washing my face and leaving the house by 6AM at the latest.

As usual, I set the alarm for 5:20AM. That way, I can snooze it for another 10 minutes and get up at 5:30AM. I dunno why, but doing this is a way of fooling myself that I actually got more sleep than I wanted.

When it does become really quite a challenge to get up, I recall one thing I learned from a university professor friend - heroic minute.

The idea behind the heroic minute is waking up a minute or two after the alarm went off. Another version I recall is waking up a minute or two before the alarm you set.

How does it become heroic?

This idea is part of a bigger idea that every action in the world can be sanctified. One does not have to be in a convent or a seminary in order to be holy. One can sanctify oneself right where he or she is. (Does this sound familiar? :D)

Applying this to the heroic minute, since waking up at that given time is such a difficulty, why not turn that difficulty into something more noble by offering it up for an intention? By doing so, by embracing that cross at that moment, not only will one be able to perform that task (in this case, waking up very early) but one is also able to offer a prayer for someone or an intention.

Hmm, I tried to intro the concept to PG Boy since getting up at 9AM on weekends is a challenge for him. Lol! Seriously, the only reason he gets up at 9AM on a Saturday is because I force him to. He's still trying to understand the concept though. I dun think one needs to be Catholic to do it.

To me though, it really makes sense. It is something that comes to mind whenever I have difficulty getting up.

Though I must say, I use it only on days that I really find it difficult to get up early, which is quite rare. Hehe!

Maybe there should be a heroic minute: evening version. When one is already supposed to be in bed by this time, one extends a minute more or two of being awake and offer that moment for some intention. Hehe!

The heroic minute is just one of the many things I learned from the university professor friend. There are several other things I learned that I still practice today. The friendship with the guy is no longer existing. But at least, I learned valuable lessons to last me a lifetime from our short-lived friendship.