Friday, May 29, 2009

The 2009 HK GiMiK - Part 3 (Hongkong Disneyland)

The Riddle... Prologue to Another Day to Remember A Love Story

While exchanging volleys at that training center's tennis court that breezy Wednesday afternoon, the young couple in their early 20s were like a knight in shining armor and a beautiful enchanting princess. The neon-coloured tennis balls bearing the resemblance of red hearts were like adornments in the air. Earlier that day, the knight and the princess were gliding through one of Bohol's mangrove forest unknowing that destiny awaits over the horizon.

The merry month of May is said to cause the sinking to a few inches of this paradise-island. There is not a single day in the island that doesn't have a scene of festivities and merry-making. And the local inhabitants, wherever they are dispersed - domestic or global will constantly go home during this traditionally festive season.

That particular month, the island could have submerged some few millimeters more as a group of around 20 extension specialists of the Asian Development Bank - Aquaculture Development Project had a month training at the BFAR-FAO-UNDP Brackishwater Aquaculture Training Center in Calape, Bohol. Majority of the trainees were fresh graduates of the University of the Philippines College of Fisheries in Diliman who may be well-heeled and abounding in aquaculture theories and principles but may be deficient in the practical and sensible way of executing the knowledge from the academe. (This is probably one of the reasons why the UP System moved the College of Fisheries to UPV in Miag-ao since it is in the region where the seat of aquaculture in South East Asia is located.)

Humidity was fair that morning but you will see the young man profusedly sweating as he was cutting with a spade (tagad) the pond bottom soil into blocks (tableya) to make a dike of the pond. She was dressed like a princess of a fishing village with a wide brimmed hat as her crown standing by at the wooden slab waiting to carry the soil block like a scepter that would be passed to the rest of the relay team where it is stockpiled with force to the boundary line marked with a rope. Soil blocks upon soil blocks were piled amidst giggles and laughter and soon the minimum requirement for the trainees to accomplish was realized.

The 'dike workers' walked merrily from the mangrove forest through the foot path back to their digs to have their de rigueur shower.

Seemed like in a flash that the fragrance of sweet scented-people gathered at the lobby did not show any trace of the mud they were earlier draped that morning. The young lady looked pretty and striking in her summer apparel while the young man bragged his biceps and pectoralis formed after the morning exercise made prominent with his tight gray sleeveless shirt.

She bashfully pulled out something from her pocket and gave it to him. It was a girlish folding of a perfumed pink stationary and in it were carefully and painstakingly written words: "I come before 50 Romans. Nothing comes before 5. Invert 3 and add you!!!" He may be a bright young man and may be good in Math but it took him some few minutes instead of just few seconds to figure out what the riddle was all about. The moment he got the answer, a loud 'yeeessss!' reverberated at the lobby and his fatigued-face was transformed to a wide happy grin exuding high spirits and excitement.

That was 24 years ago today and the young man to this day admits that he really never immediately solved the riddle through his mind but knew that it was 'I LOVE YOU!!! from the prompting of his heart.

It's not all a bed of roses, chocolatey, sweet tweetums, and icing-on-the cake kind of relationship for the past 24 years for this couple but they have managed to survive and make that riddle even stronger than it ever was. They have included a third party in their relationship whom they consider the third cord that binds them even stronger together - the Great I Am!

Read more of the couple's story: Another Day to Remember A Love Story


24 years have passed today and they are no longer together in the aquaculture industry.
She has given up her childhood dream of becoming a medical doctor but instead
pursued the young man's dream of becoming a lawyer. She is now a trial court judge.
Meanwhile, the young man is still with the aquaculture industry but is no longer
cutting soil blocks and making pond dikes. He is an OFW managing the
Harvest & Logistics Support Service Department of the
world's biggest aquaculture project.


Someone called me and said that he still can't figure out the riddle.
So for those who have a hard time figuring this out, here's how it is solved:

I come before 50 Romans. I L (L is Roman numeral for 50).
Nothing comes before 5: 0V (nothing means zero '0' and V is Roman numeral 5)
Invert 3: E (3 when inverted will look like E)
and add you!!! : you!!!
I L0VE you!!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

As the Sands Get Into the Eyes and the Mouth, the Desert Fashion Emerges!

Before I slept at 2am this morning, I updated my Facebook status about the massive and powerful sandstorm yesterday which lasted from early afternoon to midnight. The visibility was down to just a few meters (almost nil I suppose) and the heavy winds disrupted our shrimp harvest operation.

All the tractors, trailers and trucks used for our nocturnal activity were all using their high beam lights so they can move safely along the pond dikes. It was a terrible day.

The lukewarm shower that turned the colorless rain into a brownish-liquid gushing against an immaculately white tile backdrop was so refreshing that it ushered me to a very relaxing and restful slumber.

The ringing of my alarm clock at 6:30am was like a tap on my shoulder, like a spin on my head nudging me that it was time to get out of my bed. It was time for my prayers and affirmation that today was going to be a beautiful day. As I opened the curtains, there are all these wonderful signs that it was going to be a beautiful day - the sun rays were glowing in the skies. Today's gonna be a beautiful day!

As I dashed out of the villa, the dust started to creep to the southern skies. I had no choice but to go back to my flat and hurriedly get my leather jacket and my Yemeni-shomag (shawl) in preparation for the day's climate change.

Business as usual for us in the morning... I presided over our morning production meetings involving the first line and senior managers of Grow-Out, Harvest Support, Processing Plant, QAQC, and Sales and Marketing which was held daily at the dust-free factory's meeting room. Everyone discussed about yesterday's sandstorm and how it has affected the operation... The workers turn out was low. The bus service for the workers to and from their accommodations was also a hit in the meeting. Despite the delays and hiccups, two thumbs up rating were given by many managers for the previous day and night performances. The 8-9am meeting ended up with everyone wishing one another for a happy and safe sandstormy day.

Two termination harvests were extended throughout the day but I did not go to the field but rather preferred to stay at the office. I need to catch up with a lot of reports to complete... still a carry over effect of my 2 weeks absence. I need to work on the reports from morning till early afternoon before the sandstorm rages.

I presently hold office in a portable cabin at the sprawling Processing Plant Complex. This was supposed to be our temporary office for a year until we are permanently transferred to a dust-proof state of the art office inside the factory. But it seems that the temporary status is getting delayed... Well, the delay is caused because there was no long period of factory shutdown that happened last year nor is there any schedule for this year. Our shrimp volume has always stayed at an average of 50 tons a day.

Don't get me wrong, but we love very much this 120 square meters porta cabin that has not just become our office but a home to the one and a half year old department. It is a witness to all the meetings, counselings, coachings, discussions, squabblings, rantings, promotions, increments, and celebrations.

This cabin, although dwarfed by the surrounding buildings that are no longer measured by square meters but by hectares, has become a significant marker of an office of a team that has evolved from a small section into one of the biggest departments of the company. It is home to over 150 staff that will hopefully reach 200 by the end of the year once the newly hired recruits would come on board.

The only regret I have in this office is its not being "dust-proof". My staff tried so many times to cover the tiny holes with silicone but this helped only to stop the bigger-sized sand from getting inside. The fine sand can still manage its way to your eyes and into your mouth especially when you open it so wide.

I was about to close my laptop to vacate to my dust-free flat when my skype call rang. It was a call from my wife and kids and they saw me wrapped like a shawarma. They couldn't believe at the sight they saw. You will hear their laughter that echoed through out my room and the next. They had fun and said that I was sinister-looking and appeared like a wanted terrorist. Our youngest Chloe added that I should be holding a high-powered firearm to complete the props. I flippantly told them that it was going to be the fashion for the season.

There it goes! I wanted to believe otherwise but it's going to be the start of the sandstorm season here at the desert. The season may last for another 4 to 5 months and we will be wearing the fashion that we wore today.


To give you an idea of the fashion that I am talking about, here are some snaps that I happened to click on today...

this fashion will be for a season (4 to 5 months)
the use of colors and fabric may change... styles may vary and alter... but the inspiration of the fashion will always be the same! Preventing the sand from getting into your EENT (Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Throat [representing the Mouth]).

The Arabic Shomag...
The shomag here is not properly set. What do you expect from this Filipino blogger anyway?

This is a combination of a Shomag and an H1N1-inspired mask worn by our
Saudi Receiving Yard Coordinator Ahmed Salem

H1N1-inspired mask with cap is one of the most popular headgears in the desert.
They are modelled by Emerson, FLM, Filipino; Abdullah Manna, Coordinator, Saudi; Mustaq, Sr. Officer, Indian

tailored-headgear with goggles is worn by Zakkir, our Bangladeshi Harvest Supervisor,

This shomag with goggles is worn by Shobanan, High End Skilled Worker, Saudi

This simple kerchief is worn by Raju, our Nepali Office Assistant

This Abu-Sayyaf inspired bonnet may not be that effective but it's the easiest to wear when one needs to put something into his head. It is worn by Iqbal, our Bengali Receiving Yard Assistant Supervisor.

Everyday, for the next 120 days or so, I will be rising up expecting for another sandstormy day but that will not stop me from uttering my morning prayers and affirmation that the new day's gonna be a beautiful and a blessed day!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blue Tree's GOD OF THIS CITY as sung by Kris Allen

You're the God of this city, You're the King of these people, You're the Lord of this nation, You Are.

You're the Light of this darkness, You're the Hope to the hopeless, You're the Peace to the restless, You Are.

For there is no one like our God. There is no one like you, God.

Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done, in this city. Greater things are yet to come, And greater things are still to be done here.

You're the Lord of Creation, The Creator of all things, You're the King above all Kings, You Are.

You're the Strength in our weakness, You're the Love to the broken, You're the Joy in the sadness You Are.

For there is no one like our God. There is no one like you, God.

Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done, in this city. Where glory shines from hearts alive, With praise for you and love for you, in this city.

Greater things have yet to come, Greater things are still to be done, in this city.
Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done here.

There is no one like our God. There is no one like our God. Yes, there is no one like you, God. There is no one like you, God.

Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done, in this city. Where glory shines from hearts alive, With praise for you and love for you, in this city.

Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done, in this city. Greater things are yet to come, And greater things are still to be done here.

Still to be done here. Still to be done here. Still to be done here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On Kris Allen's Winning the 8th Season American Idol

I’m no American Idol fan but my kids are, especially the two girls who would get so excited watching the show. They were initially cheering for the early favourite Danny Gokey until he was ousted by virtue of Kris’ rendition of Kanye West’s ‘Heartless’. After Gokey’s departure from the competition, I knew they rooted for Kris Allen but were sceptical that he will come out the winner as he was earlier considered a long shot heading into the battle for the top two spots. They well knew that the more popular Adam Lambert, who was considered the frontrunner since early in the season, was going to win it... hands down.

Lambert always dazzled the audiences and the celebrity judges with his falsetto singing style, black nail polish and daring wardrobe. He had off-the-charts vocal range and dramatic flair. Adam Lambert got a great voice. He has the wit and boldness to use this talent for a maximum blow. He represents a social potential – that of politics of sex and identity and I admire him for being true to himself.

Nevertheless, the clean-cut Arkansas student and a devout Christian church worship leader Kris Allen, won over audiences with his all-American good looks and by putting his personal spin on popular tunes. He was himself shocked when he unexpectedly won the eighth season over singing rival Adam Lambert on the most popular U.S. television show.

So, contrary to ‘expectations’ but to the delight of my dearest kids – Kevin, Gabrielle and Chloe, "The underdog, the dark horse, comes back and wins the nation over!" This is how host Ryan Seacrest said in announcing the result of the viewer vote.

I always have that soft spot in my heart for the underdog, the "dark horse." The one in the pack that's not expected to rise and win. That is something which my 3 kids got from me and my wife – having that heart for the darkhorse.

For the past two seasons of the American Idol, the darkhorses David Cook and Kris Allen triumphed over the favorites David Archueleta and Adam Lambert. It happened twice and we’ve got to learn something out of this. There’s a life lesson in here – that of people’s exploring their full potential even in a judgmental setting that believed the contrary. It’s a lesson where one can grow, reach goals, prove himself, and surprise everyone in the end.

Yo kids! With all the commercial trappings that the American Idol has, let’s look at it as more of life’s lessons than just a popular US television show. It’s a lesson about character than just competition, and more about what people could become than what they could have been had the wrong choice was made.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm Finally Back...with Qatar eB Post

After that warm ad lib eye ball (EB) with The Pope (Palipasan) and Mrs. Pope in Doha, Qatar last Friday, this is what welcomed me when I dropped by direct at my office from the Jeddah International Airport.

I had to pinch myself and shake my head... Reality bites! I'm finally back at the desert and I'm no longer in HK's Disney Dreamland with my wife and kids... Waaaah!

I had a warm and affectionate welcome from my staff when I arrived... For all of you who know the Arabic culture of hugging and kissing someone who's not seen for sometime understand why I described the welcome as affectionate. It touches one's heart to be welcomed warmly. But hey! I suddenly realized that probably the reason that I had all these warm welcome was because of something else... (malesh for the bad thoughts...LoL) I only thought of that when I saw my table groaning with the weight of so many pending reports that have been long overdue! Hmmmn... it was their way of saying that I need to immediately switch back to work mode... T'was the price I had to pay for one of the most wonderful vacations I had with my family. "Never the mine" as they say, but my 2-week vacation, that has bonded and has drawn our family closer together, was more than worth the "mine" and the sleepless nights that I would have to catch up with the review and finalisation of all these piled up documents and reports

Four days after landing, I completed 2 major documents, finished all those documents requiring my signature, settled issues requiring my approval, and did all my routinary day to day affairs and responsibilities including the giving out of the all-time favourite pasalubong from Pinas - the exotic dried mangoes. I still have one major document to go and I will be back to my normal busy schedule... Posting in my blog at the moment is still awkward to do because of the demands of my work and the only thing that I could insert during these momentary fleeting coffee breaks is to post some comments and status updates in my Facebook account.

As promised, I'm going to post soon the chronicle of my 2-week vacation but here's first the appetizer - the Qatar eB.

The Qatar eB

My hotel room at the Best Western Doha Seef Hotel

Located close to the Corniche, some 5 minutes drive from Doha International Airport, the Doha Seef Hotel is a magnificent hotel characterized by a unique blend of traditional Arabian hospitality with modern luxury. The hotel is set amidst the city’s finest landmarks and central business district, with easy access to shopping centers and leisure attractions.

When I got there that night, I was informed that The Pope left his contact numbers and while I was still at the front desk, returned the call of The Pope. Had a warm welcome from The Pope and we set the eB at 8am the next day.

I was billeted at Room 415 which is, the Pinoy bellboy kept on telling me while we were on the lift, one of their best rooms... (tell it to the marines kabayan! I didn't believe it at first). So when I finally saw the room I took a crisp SAR20 as I had no Qatari riyal to give to him as a tip and as a simple gratitude for bringing me to one of their finest rooms.

It's a 4-star hotel... new hotel... very clean... modern structure and the ambiance is cozy and relaxed. The services are great... I got my internet cable quickly and got a free connection (instead of paying QR30 per hour)... I hope the Pinoy front desk staff who was very helpful and courteous throughout the check-in procedure will not be reprimanded once a hotel management, reads by chance this post and finds out about the free connection ... I guess, posting this positive review of the hotel should be more than enough payment for my free internet connection...LoL.

Friday, 14th May 2009

I woke up at the sound of my cellphone alarm set at 7:30am and had a quick shower. The aroma of coffee which was made from just a 3-in-1 sachet and not from the coffee brewer was very well like an "upper" which filled the room while I watched the morning news and intermittently ran to my laptop to chat with my wife.

The Pope came at 8am but took sometime at the front desk looking for my room number as my name wasn't found in the registry of guests. He found out later that it was just the inefficiency of the guy in this shift that caused the delay... isn't it obvious na di Pinoy ang reliever in the next shift?

I thought the eB will just take place at the Hotel Lobby but The Pope had better plans.

Tour of Doha, Qatar

Breakfast at the SouK

The Pope was right in deciding that we move around the state. There was no traffic in the roads. Being a Friday (just like a Sunday to many of those who have even spent a decade or two in the Middle East), the roads were deserted. Everyone's still in their bed to recover from their sleepless Thursday night. But not at the Souk that we went to... The place was filled with Pinoys who just came from their "Sunday" mass and services, or from their morning jogs and other activities... buying their favorite pan de sal/tasty bread or taking Pinoy breakfast at the resto there. I don't
usually eat heavy breakfast except for a cup of coffee and a few slices of bread but after seeing a lot of kababayans enjoying the gastronomic meals with delight, I started to queue with The Pope for some few minutes to place our order of one siopao each to go with our goto. After we had our fill, we went to The Pope's house to fetch Mrs Pope to be with us in our next destinations... By the way, our blogger-friend is the only Pope that has a Mrs. Pope.

The Pearl - Qatar's Masterpiece

The Pearl is a riviera styled man-made island built off the coast of Doha, Qatar. It is said to be one of the largest real estate developments in the state of Qatar and is set to be the most technologically advanced real estate project in the world. The island offers an ultra modern living environment in one of the world's most relaxed and serene locations.

The Pope, Mrs Pope, Boboy and myself imagined that we were in the Riviera. I kidded The Pope that with the signature shops around, our wives would probably consume the credit limits of their cards. That was the joke until we saw the Ferrari and Maserati display room right there in one of the stalls at The Pearl. That silenced us because we knew that even if both husband and wife credit cards were combined together, it wouldn't be enough to pay off for just even the wheels of these cars.

The Crooked Buildings of Doha

If San Francisco, California has its crooked streets, Doha does not want to lag behind by having its crooked buildings. It really puzzles me as to what was on the mind of the architect when he designed these buildings but then we thought of getting some few shots for you to also wander what these twin buildings are up to.

Located near the vicinity of The Pearl, these ala-twin towers looked like very strong buildings... seem to have withstood a very terrible earthquake where they were left unshattered but crumpled... LoL!

The 15th Asian Games Arena - The Magnificent Khalifa Stadium

By hosting the 15th 2006 Asian Games, Qatar has placed itself on the international sports map. The Al Khalifa Stadium was the centerpiece of the 2006 15th Asian Games. It was built in 1976 and was expanded in 2006 for the 15th Asian Games.

The Villagio Mall

The Villagio Mall is located in the Aspire Zone in Doha, just a stone's throw away from the Khalifa Stadium. It is designed with a European touch and it resembles very closely the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Villagio is where you can do anything... even ride in little boats (ala mini gandolas)... It has a skating rink which is converted to a hockey court at times. It has lots of signature shops... a 3-D cinema and hyper supermarts.

The Mall is designed such that different areas and wings of the mall represent different times of the day – so you bet, you can see sunrise, sunset, night time(complete with street lamps)and day time!

Watching a Hockey Game

I'm not a Hockey fan but it was a great way to get some breather after a quick tour of the city... The fresh fruit juices that we had were truly thirst-quenchers and refreshers that led us scamperring around to look for rooms of relief.

Toy for the Big Boys - Spyker - C8 Laviolette

It was supposed to be the time for me to be back at the Hotel for the shuttle to the Airport but The Pope wanted me to see the car on display at the Mall. It was an 8 cylinder, 300-km per hour speed sports car that costs a whooping 1.2M Qataris (PhP15.6M).

Not really surprising, but it was not only us Pinoys who took pictures and posed near the car for memento but a lot of white-skinned Westerners were as curious and had more camera clicks than we did.

I was finally dropped by at the Hotel by 12:00noon and the shuttle service was no longer available. The Pope had no other choice but to wait for me while I packed my bag. Because
I missed the shuttle to the airport, the hotel staff thought that I intentionally did not show up and was no longer interested to proceed to my next destination . Whhhooah, they suspected that I have escaped to become an illegal alien in Qatar. Sounds funny but this happens a lot to many hotel transient guests!

In Retrospect

Approximately 4 hours of bonding with a blogger-friend... the first time that we met each other after becoming blog friends for about 3 and a half months... the camaraderie seemed like being friends for many years.

As we cruised from the hotel to the airport, I pondered on this thoroughly modern phenomenon on the friendship and camaraderie of bloggers not only in cyberspace but in the real world itself. I realized the truth that of finding a blog is like finding a friend. That is the a mystery that is brought about by bloggywood.

Thank you Pope, Mrs. Pope and Boboy, for taking me out to this stop-over treat.