Monday, 17 December 2012

So this is not christmas yet!!! a.k.a screw you time! you go too fast!

IT'S DECEMBER!!!!!!
What the hell has happened people? Seriously, what the hell? Did months January through to August decide to give me a huge fuck you and promptly walk out of my life without even a Dear John letter to ease the heartache?
My baby nephew is turning one soon, I don’t really know how that has happened.


So, as mentioned, I had a 'photo shoot' with a friend, showcasing my antlers and other random things.  To be honest, it was my one and only chance to be all fancy and model-y and fashion-y and do those things that other cosplayers, lolitas and genuine models do in fancy clothes.


I failed, epically.  

I have no idea how they do that posing thing, especially without looking like some pretentious fool who is pretending to be whimsical but is most likely just holding in a pretty huge fart…
not that I was, or anything.
I give massive kudos to Emma for putting up with my derp face, her every instruction was logical and sensible, it is my fault that I couldn't pull a pose without suddenly cracking an idiot laugh or pulling a face.  My natural state in front of a camera is semi-conscious, awkward, weirdness.  Especially when we are making an effort to make me look nice.

One instruction that got us laughing was her telling me to feel like 'a wood sprite' – I promptly grabbed the nearest branch and held on for dear life.  I assume that is what wood sprites do right?
Anyway, derp aside, Emma did a bang up awesome job. 

Hire her, seriously.
Also – Class has restarted BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Terrible, terrible stuff. I have completely forgotten how to do oxford referencing, and even worse; how to write in brief sentences.  I am so screwed. I just submitted my first ASSignment.  I really hate writing essays.
However, I have officially become commander of a shiny SR2!!! – she isn't the Normandy, but her name does happen to be Indie.  Which is sort of close to sounding like EDI. 
Sadly, I speed, a lot.  Not a good sign for my mother's health.
My computer is completely dead.  So no video games for me for the next few months, which might be a good thing since I am so overwhelmed by study and work.  So, in short – I will never sleep with Anders and Fenris in Dragon Age 2.  That's the only reason you'd play right? cause, there really isn't any other one in my opinion.  That game is pretty lame.  I am loyal to Origins, can you tell?

However, I have been arting; a lot!

However, none of those artses have been finished… hmmm
Speaking or arting and stuff – I received my SW337L007 from forum buddy and awesome comic artist Smars, whose Kickstarter campaign I contributed to a few months ago. 

And, in the vein of fellow artists who are awesome and epic and working so damn hard to get their epicness out there, (I use the word epic too much don't I? god I'm hipster), head on over to read this thrilling comic by Hjels.  He is up and coming and his story is compelling and beautiful.  I really recommend it for a good read.
Another local artist that you should totally check out and listen to his podcasts is the world of Pandeia by Paul C.  Not only is he a wonderful acquaintance and all round awesome guy.  He provides awesome mentoring and software tips on his blog. 

As for my own pieces...  Whelp that fiction novel I wanted to write? yeah… um, that's been on hold for a bit.  Ugh.  I'll get to it I promise, one day.
However, any progress is progress and I have drawings and notes to get me by.
Finally, and it is with huge and deep melancholy that I make this announcement.  For even those who, to whit have never cared or known about this condition of mine will now be informed that…
I have quit Lolita fashion.  For good.

What?

Its serious, I spent money on this!

But in short.  I no longer see why I found it so attractive. Be it age or just the usual vicissitudes of life, I find the style tedious, pretentious, expensive and far too artificial for my tastes now. 
Maybe you just move on with life and find other and better things to do.  I no longer hold Lolita in any realm that I would spend too much or any of my time on.  Sorry.  I would expand on this and make some sort of dissertation about how I've become increasingly uncomfortable with a hyper cute fashion that despite all arguments against, does in fact cling of a visual glorification of child-like-ness and pretend innocence.  But here's the thing.  They're just clothes.  Anymore cogitation on the subject is just plain silly.  See! I used the word 'cogitation'.  FUCKING SILLY.

It was fun, but no more. 
If anyone is interested in buying a skirt or two holla at me. I'll send you a list of the things I am getting rid of – I'll even throw in free accessories with every purchase. 

That having been said – have you seen this website made entirely out of eyecandy?!?!?! Its amazing and beautiful and unjustly expensive.  I may have spent a lot of money on Lolita clothes (well, actually not as much as some to be honest), but I cannot ever for the life of me justify buying spandex leg wrappings for that price.  Sorry, I guess the costs of maintaining a starship like Indie tend to override the need to look fabulous. 
(oh god it makes me so sad I really really really want a pair!!!! boooooooo)
having said that my birthday and xmas IS coming up… nevermind. FORGET I SAID ANYTHING!!!!


I also have calmed down in the realm of cosmetics.  Probably because I now own every colour under the sun and have also found that my epic Illamasqua loot bag is really, really big and all that spending is excessive.
I see a trend here, I'm becoming stingy, but you know – that SR2 is not going to calibrate its plasma cannon by itself you know.  (i.e. Holy shit – I didn't realise fuel was that expensive!!!)

Also – GUESS WHO IS PLANNING A TRIP TO THE EXOTIC LAND OF THE USA?!?!?!
That's right, I'll be there next Easter.  Anyone up for lots of beer and inappropriate bar conversations?! eh? eh? I'll be mostly in the West Coast area – as in mainly Castaic in California.  But I may be able to take some time to go to Frisco and if I am really lucky – go to Florida because I really want to see if Miami Dade is really as fancy as it looks on tv.

Apologies to my Eurofriends though, I promised I'd go home to the Netherlands but full time work only allows me one holiday a year.  Maybe I'll see if I can spend xmas with you guys and spend time in the north.
Not that I'm looking for sexy Vikings or anything… maybe just a daytrip to Oslo.

I miss Leiden guyze OMG!!!! I hope that once my studies are over I can start applying to the plethora of NGOs, MNOs and IJCs up there but for now, I'll have to make do with this desk job and a comfortable permanent salary.
Ok – being sad and homesick time is over.  Xmas is coming up which means I'm going to get drunk quite often, and it wont even be at company xmas parties.  So, what are your plans for the holidays? we only get three days off from work! terrible!

I'll be swimming in the beach or at the very least in a body of water that is more or less sanitised.  Hopefully I wont be drunk.
Lastly, XMAS CARD EXCHANGE PROJECT!!!! get stuff like this!!!


Do you want a handmade card? I'll send you one!!! just read about the project here and hey, make yourself feel loved by a stranger for around 6 seconds with a badly drawn piece of card with a dedication.  I cant guarantee it will get there on time, because, you know, Australia is far from every planet.  But hey! free attention.

Ok – I'm done rambling for the month.  Enjoy Stephen Fry's nipples, I know I did.


It was lovely being velvety with you all this year.  I am looking forward to the great 2012 armageddon.  Let us embrace our Mayan armageddon gods and zombie alien overlords with zeal and haste.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Save this place? - filla filler file-er

OK SO THIS IS NOT A PROPER ENTRY I AM SO SORRY!!!

Stop nagging me on facebook.  I am going to post soon. 

I just finished reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman - I am emotionally fragile! Which is why I read vols 1 and 2 of Fantastic Four's Future Foundation.  I will admit to peeing my pants a little bit from excitement.

This doesnt justify my poor correspondence.

I listened to an interesting podcast this morning.  It made me think of this.  I hope this offering can give me your forgiveness:


I am going to post very sooooon - I have assignments and presents and thingies waaaah imsosorrryyyyyyyyyy.

Also - I am the only one in my group who hasn't finished Dishonored.  Damn straight you should feel sorry for me.  PITY ME! I DEMAND IT - fuck that shit - challenge accepted.

Till later folks.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Convention taime! - Animania

Ok so - I am so super duper sorry that I happen to be a lazy motha, I really am, its only going to get worse because Post-grad uni work starts NEXT WEEK, I'm going to die I'm going to be a little busy.

Are you sufficiently jealous sick satisfied with my revels in Filo-land? I'm not.  

You cannot Imagine the 'homesickness' I feel for the Philippines.  There have been genuine tears of nostalgia.  And waking up wishing Little A was sleeping next to me.  And the puppy and the sunshine and the noise and the pollution and the mayhem and the food and family.

Ugh.

Aaanyway.  I went to a convention.

Behold!!!
After getting back from Manila I went to into a flurry explosion of craftingness and made decorative antlers and headbands to wear for my new collection of products to sell at the T'EMPorium. 
I made a set a day and managed to make a relatively decent haul – at least to cover costs and make a bit of profit, which, yay! I did.

Sold!
Sold!
I was super duper happy to be seated next to Nekochii, The Geeky Bee and Curious Empire, K, A, J and I split our time between chomping down on lots of chocolate, watching J power through a level 80 sandwich and eventually got bored and started scrapbooking by the last day.  Also - Nekochii's J was also AMAZING and collabed with me by making adorable soft cuddly deer ears that accompanied my antler pieces!!!

slide on ears!
Also – I had the flu.  Fun times.  I caught up with K on the set-up day before the con and he got to behold me degenerate into this (again):
It was acceptable at the time...

Our conversations revolved mostly around watching Rambo, zombies, Abraham Lincoln (I guess cause of the vampire hunting movie? I don’t remember) and my obsessive lust for frozen yoghurt, which he kindly took me to buy after we finished setting up.  When not chatting I was wobbly-ly singing Maniac in order to not collapse in a fevered heap.

I lost my voice! I had watery eyes! made worse by coloured contact lenses.  I swear that was an exercise in futility.  The contact lenses were 'Aqua', and they did not make even so much make a smidge of difference on my eyes.  HOW THE HELL?!?!?!? AQUA IS AN ENTIRELY WEIRD COLOUR FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS BROWN-ISH EYES!!!!

Day two got my Orchid Purple lenses which sort of scare me.  They look like circle lenses and you can still see the brown underneath. 
Seriously, how do them gyarus and ganguros do it?

Aaanyhoo. It was pretty fun playing dress up, and I got to really take good advantage of my Illamasqua stash to make some interesting looks.  However, I will say this – False Lashes are the Enemy.  I really wanted to take a chance on them since they just look oh-so-pretty on other people but damnit, they are stubborn little shitty thingimabobs and will always, ALWAYS find a way to somehow curl in and poke me in the eyeball.  They ended up making a huge mess and I had to peel them off before the day was done. 


More importantly, I managed to set up my table, the format was the same as last year.  I was sat next to my good old buddies but I must say, my neighbours on the other side of me were a somewhat unfortunate (or not? see further) choice. 

Three tables worth of Manga art books and Llama plushies are certainly harmless, and the Llama plushies are a sure fire heart warmer for the likes of me, but what really got me were the body size love pillow-cases hanging on the walls of their booth, one was almost infringing onto my wall.  All naughty bits were covered by bright neon yellow post-it notes.  You know, for modesty.

oh the sexy (little girls)....
While I would have laughed and made 4chan jokes in my earlier years, I barely batted an eyelid (not just because it was glued open by lash-glue).  I am no stranger to giant, bouncy, bulbous, glowy…vegetables.  I am also not bothered by boobs. Love pillows are not that alien to me and hell, there have been times when we (I do mean collectively, my friends and I) have pitched in to buy a friend a pillow case in order to reinforce the joke that the receiver is most likely some sort of sad-sack.  I would give a few more choice descriptions, but the internet fills that insult void better than I do.

What did bother me was the somewhat excessive amount of lolis prevalent in the designs.  I know hentai has focused a lot on the hyper sexualisation of females who look underaged but this was getting damn uncomfortable.  And while I could talk about how buying a love-pillow with a seductive, innocent looking loli on it is better than let's say, making a pass at some young girl, the fact that this was even acceptable as being a product to be sold at an event was just downright saying something.  What that something is, I haven't worked out yet.  

Further, while I didn't really see many of these pillows getting sold, (because really, what self-conscious teenaged boy is going to go up there in front of the eyes of so many onlookers and say, "uh, I'll take the one with the pigtails please"?), I heard a ridiculous amount of immature guffawing. 
"Uhyuk, hawwww, lookit that, nekkid gurls! haw haw!" And yes, this is an almost true-to-life quote.  I kid you not.  It was like being in a corral of donkeys.  And it wasn't just the boys, it was EVERY ANIMU WEABOO FAN THAT PASSED IT.  Ok, I understand, young people, potential boobies, titillation and all that.  But really?  But having that stall next to me was just so weird. I'm not sure if it hurt sales, but it did hurt my eardrums.
a bit too close... just a bit

It was great meeting up with old friends though.  Andrias from Poporetto and his sisters were there and I managed to add an adorable miniature Captain Ameriwuff in a bottle (along with a free badge!) to my collection.  I now have a veritable album of their work and they always get better! Also I have a new cute beer bottle opener, SWEET!!!
Loot! (Triforce!!!)

Old friends from Void also attended and I got my table cleaned out by a very enthusiastic girl and her boyfriend (aka – human wallet).  She bought so much from me it was crazy! I gave her a free bracelet for her enthusiasm. 

people wanted the ponies more than the merch...
All in all, I sold decently, at least on the first day.  Sunday was atrocious.  I started to make beaded rings just to add new things to my table to sell.  I was bored and began to make scrapbooks and generally hallucinated after a while because my voice was totally gone and my eyesight was doubled and effed up three ways from Tuesday. 

Singing 80s tunes helped, until I started dancing… 
TELL ME THIS IS NOT MOTIVATING!!!

I will take moment to give special acclaim to the vendor of ILikeShinies.  She messaged me a few months ago saying that I had inspired her to make her own little miniature cakes and sweeties accessory shop.  Frankly, while that was a really sweet and flattering thing to tell me, I cannot for one second believe it because this girl is AMAZING and I cannot possibly imagine how I could have inspired such adorable and well made products when I used to have so much fucking trouble making my own.  Ugh, I bought a small bottle of young mandrake root in a bottle and she gave me a Triforce pendant and a small bottle of Felix Felicis.  I gave her a customised sketchbook with all sorts of deco-den stuff all over it.  We hugged and squealed and I felt awesome despite my flu.  

I also got to have a chat with Blue Fishies regarding the sales of indie art and admired her epic draw skillz.  Damnit photoshop – y u no do that for me?

Its times like those when we share badges and talk to fellow vendors and exchanging art that I feel completely and utterly satisfied about attending things like this. 

Sadly, everything else was lacking.  There were less cosplayers around and from what I heard, the staff made it difficult for photographers to do their shoots at the venue.  The focal Japanese lifestyle booth was horrible beyond belief.  Normally there is a booth with a nice display of some sort of Japanese cultural theme.  Last year, it was a tea ceremony display, the year before it was Lolita.  This year it was this horrifying wishing tree display with dirty cheap xmas trees and badly tied paper wishes tied to the branches.  And you had to pay to pick a wish!!!! 

Also – it looked like the Maid Café was a disappointment of epic proportions for all fans of things moe.  

NoooooooOOOOOOOOOOOooooOOOOOOO!!!!!
The skits were bland, boring and repetitive and THERE WAS TOO MUCH GANGNAM!!! Even I got sick of Psy after one hour of constant repetition.

But hey, we did well and Nekochii and I celebrated with long awaited beer and Korean food. 
Now, I am going to work on new projects, and I have a nice photographing session coming up to showcase my stuffs.  I am so excited but am equally nervous that every photo will have derp-face. 

Also – I regretfully must mention that:
I got my postgrads! Yes, plural, certificate and diploma – YAY ME my studies was for naught, I now have pieces of paper. 

paper paper paper
On the other hand, it also means – MORE STUDIES NOOOOOOOOOooooOOOooOO!!!!
I have enrolled in my second-to-last class before I receive my masters and damnit, I am so NOT looking forward to this.  It’s a policing course and I feel really out of my depth.
But as I say to that elusive masters qualification: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. T_T…
Also – another niece/nephew is on the way!!! EEEEeeeeEEEEEEeeeeE!!!! clucky time!

Also – new art projects, just because I am restarting my studies, I am not going to give up on my work.  So yes, full time job, part time studies, all-time gaming and most-time crafting and arting.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED AGAIN!

test project!
Also – gaming, my computer is dying (sadface).  Cant finish Borderlands, let alone start B2 cause my computer keeps randomly shutting down!!! Its an overheating issue I cannot fix myself so I need to save up a bit to get it repaired.  So no B2 or Dishonored for me – or XCOM (sob!!!!)

Also – I still haven’t finished Dragon Age 2 – its so boring!!!! Why??? I love killing things and running and armour and magic? I'll finish it eventually, Borderlands is more fun at the moment and I am so incredibly exited to play Dishonored. 
Also – I am actually still enjoying WoW.  I love going from one place to another.  Buggered if I know what the quests are about? I never read the descriptions.  I just like the pretty landscapes.

So much true ;_;

So – until next month, which hopefully has more pictures and better humor and hopefully news that I have finished something, be it an academic paper or a friggin video game.
Toodlios!!!

Friday, 21 September 2012

A dally in tropicana - my Filo Holiday!

Behold – traipsings!!! – also this post is very long! but on the plus side – Story time, with Pictures!
funnest times ever
Those of you who were confused by my posts of visions of paradise on Facebook, fear not. This very lengthy entry provides an explanation.

I was in fact in paradise for a month.
see, paradise!

Paradise is also known as the Philippines, which as all my Pinoy friends have heard me rant about, is not, in fact, paradise.
At least not socially or politically, but really, I still think the Phils is one of the most amazing places ever, and
that isn’t because of ethnic bias I swear.

My month-long adventure starts in Manila, with the heat sweltering and the pollution migraine inducing. Nonetheless, we spent time with beloved family and friends, caught up with my magnificent and loverly cousin who is also a T and had a violently ecstatic time buying shoes. And I do mean violently ecstatic. The result; hordes of eyeliners and three new pairs of shoes…


Melissa shoes with Maleficent... aw yeah!

Also – I took the time to get fat and happy on local delicacies. Oddly enough I didn’t actually gain a lot of weight. Be it from the heat, the huge amounts of walking or maybe just the fact that I was eating steady meals with fresh produce and gorging on Calamansi Juice – which is actually super duper healthy.

 
 
Ma and the little A share a birthday so we had a double whammy birthday party. Cuteness ensued. My little cousin A has the most hilarious speaking habits and I call him ‘The Little Canadian’ because he ends every phrase with the term ‘eh’. He also adores the Avengers and I get a kick out of asking him to name them because he pronounces them in the cutest ways ever.

Iron Man: Ayan Man, Thor: Tuor, Hulk; Haurk, Captain America; Atchumeli (no idea why). Either way listening to him tell stories about Bumblebee shooting Iron man while the dinosaurs were eating and Optimus Prime was there but he jumped and Haurk got angry and then they were all flying and shooting and then they went home, is one of the most entertaining moments I’d had.

fighting with Ayan Man!

After spending time locally, we finally started visiting the provinces and visited friends and family there. In my regular trips to the Philippines, we had never left the province of Luzon, not even to go to Boracay (which I still refuse to visit, if I want to see white people at the beach I’ll go to Manly).

We finally went down to the Visayas and went to Bacolod, sugar cane central. There we visited the mother of a Sydney friend of ours who kindly put us up in her home for nearly a week.

Filo hospitality is well known for its friendliness and overabundance of food, I cannot stress how true that is.
before

after
Lola S took us around and proudly showed us the local sights. Bacolod is a wonderful city in that it isn’t too developed and people are not keen to imitate the capital city in terms of construction. Highrises are short by most standards and even the atmosphere is friendlier and more down to earth than in Manila. This tends to be the case however in any provincial city.


Lola S’ son leased some land in the mountains and turned it into a local travel resort. It is a fantastic place and it is so incredibly beautiful. There is no electricity there so the facilities were dependent on traditional forms of sustenance. The huts were of traditional weave and the food was local and cooked traditionally. Their swimming pool was sourced from a freshwater stream from the top of the mountain and was THE MOST AMAZING THING TO SWIM IN. I actually got super sunburned the next day and didn’t realise it. The weather that day was cool and breezy.

a local pet monkey
playing mahjong, what else?

I cannot stress how amazing this place was and it was one of my all time favourite places. I can’t wait to go back to visit them again since Lola S’ family are also the most wonderful people.

We were also taken to Mambukal, which is a more developed mountain resort with a nice sulphuric hot spring.

 

My sunburn didn’t appreciate the hot water but I still enjoyed it immensely. There was also a lovely butterfly house where you could buy souvenirs of perfectly preserved dead butterflies in resin.

 

On our last day, we were taken to some of the old ancestral houses and ruins that reflect Bacolod’s old colonial heritage.
The ruins were made by a very well known and old family in the province around two to three hundred years ago. The man who had it built made it to honour his wife, a Macao Chinese woman whom he fell head over heels for and died in Bacolod in childbirth. The cement used to make the house is so fine that the walls feel like marble.
During WW2 local guerrillas burned the building down to prevent invading Japanese troops from using it as an outpost. I guess it was better to lose the building than to give it up to the invader. But as the flamboyantly adorable tour guide said; ‘I guess it’s a good thing, or else I wouldn’t have a job now’, what a cutie.

The house took three whole days to burn down since the quality of the timbers used were so good.


After Bacolod, we decided to tour Manila, which was the weirdest thing ever since Manila is our home town. We went to Intramuros (literal Spanish meaning ‘Within the Walls’) and started off at Fort Santiago, where the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal was imprisoned and later shot for ‘treason’ against the Spanish Crown.

I could go on and on about the importance and history of Rizal. As far as national heroes go, this guy is incredible and a shining example of not just how amazing a person could be if they used a sharp intellect as a tool for national freedom, but how dangerous a finely honed mind can be to any form of oppression. In short, he is how an education can set you free. 


Later we went to this cute animatronic statue tour about the history of the Philippines and a dramatic recounting of Rizal’s struggles.
At Rizal’s prison, there was a copy of his books as were published 200 years ago, but more astonishingly, the original copy of the Ultimo Adios (Final Farewell), an incredibly moving poem that Rizal wrote in his final days in prison before he was executed. The piece of paper he wrote it on is no bigger than the palm of my hand and in it, he expresses 14 stanzas of the most moving, and beautiful sentiment on dying for his beloved Philippines.

The Spanish of course is just absolutely amazing and the English translation simply cannot do it justice.

After, we went to Manila’s Ocean park. It’s a cute little place where they tried to create this sort of fun-park meets shopping mall meets trendy night spot but ultimate feels a bit weird. You had to buy separate tickets for different parts of the park or buy an incredibly expensive ticket which allowed you to go to all the places and events. 
We bought general entrance to the aquarium, entrance to the ‘ocean foot spa’ and entry to the jellyfish gallery. 


There was also entry to go in a cage and be lowered into the shark tank for shits and giggles. I am ultra glad I didn’t do it for reasons I’ll explain below.

Like many things regarding organisational skills in the Philippines, entry took forever, the ticket readers weren’t working.
So, instead, the staff insisted on pushing the ticket readers to keep trying to read tickets and held up the line for ages.
Clearly because, you know manually reading the ticket and letting the masses of people through quickly and efficiently is not as fun as trying to get a ticket to scan at least 6 to 7 times before saying, ‘aww screw it, let me just check it myself’ with every single person in the line.

The aquarium however is really nice. Enclosures were small and some were sparsely furnished, the fish/eels/
crustaceans seemed a little cramped or sad at their unexciting homes but I thought the place looked great anyway, there was a lot of information provided and the layout was great, it hardly felt crowded inside.

The last part of the aquarium has the Ray and shark enclosures. The rays looked pretty happy swimming around in the underground glass tunnels with all the other fish but the sharks looked like the saddest pumpkins to ever grace the bottom of a swimming pool. One even hid his head in a rock. It was hilarious and a bit sad to see.
Sad shark is sad...
I know that feel bro
Being lowered in a cage into a pool filled with these saddos would have been heartbreaking for me since I bet that they wouldn’t have even mustered the energy to swim around had anyone been lowered in there.

Next we went to the Fish Spa. This was a pretty interesting experience which involved Turkish Doctor Fish. They’re sort of like piranhas in that they nibble away at dead skin on your feet and legs when you dip your feet in the pools. It was excruciatingly ticklish and they all seemed to swarm my legs and avoided everyone else’s. I was half screaming in laughter by the time they were through with me. Mum said it was mine were the only white legs in the pool ha!

huge... ticklish and huge

Thing is the fish were meant to be tiny, the ones having a go at us were the size of Tilapia.

We got stuck in a monsoon on the way home. Most of the main roads were flooded and catching a ride home was hard, but it was one wet, windy adventure.

After, my uncle took us to Tagaytay, which is a province around 45 minutes by car from Manila. 


I love Tagaytay and always make it a point to go there when I visit. The main city (Tagaytay City) is high above in the mountains of the region with most buildings and restaurants overlooking the breathtaking view of Mt. Taal. Tagaytay is actually a huge volcano which got flooded in and another small volcano rose in the middle of its flooder crater, making it a volcano inside another volcano. 

a pretty local spider... in that it is also pretty huge
 The views are magnificent and some of my favourites since I was a kid.


 We also went to Antipolo, which is also outside Manila to visit my cousin’s café and to visit an art gallery converted from the home of one of the land owners there.

Antique religious statues - very popular in the Philippines
The place was lovely and quite idyllic with fantastic views of Antipolo’s hills and mountains and housed some typically outstanding Filipino art.

Let me note that Filos are premiere artists, its something in the blood, with the stereotype that follows that the Chinese are good at maths and drawing, the same goes for Filipinos and Karaoke. Especially Karaoke.


For our last provincial trip, we went to Davao, which is my late grandmother’s home town. There we met up with our great uncles and aunties who are my mum’s second and third cousins. Let me say first of all that this place is PARADISE.




My grandmother moved to Manila after the war after she married my gramps. But all her life she always told us that she was Davaoeña and was very close to our relatives there. She was well loved in Davao and every time she went back to visit, she was treated like a prodigal child and treated like a princess. Turns out, it was literally because she was.

My great grandfather was a former governor and had also been appointed as datu or tribal leader of the region. I near flipped out seeing photos of my great grandparents displayed at the local museum. There is even a bridge named after
him.

We stayed at a really nice hotel in Davao, it was pretty quiet and the views of the beach overlooking to Samal Island, a Island just of the coast where most of the reef resorts were. I swam at their pool every day and made an effort to stay in shape (a bit), despite the serious amounts of bacon and pancakes I was eating every day for breakfast.



We spend most of our days being shown around by the relatives. It was a fantastic and surreal experience. Our family ties to Davao are super deep. Our family and extended family there is deeply ingrained into the social history of the city.
One particularly weird moment was being driven in the car up a main street and realising that the street was named after my great aunt’s side of the family.

Golden Pheasant
There in Davao, your family name has weight. This is both a bad thing in that some families, like that of the current mayor have monopolised positions of power into dynasties. (The current mayor is the former mayor’s daughter, the vice mayor is the former mayor, once her term is over, she will most likely give it up to her dad and thus the position gets recycled, this is despite having free elections), and a good thing in that, in Davao at least, these families, with their deep histories have a deep respect for the land and their legacies so that despite being the main land owners or the political leaders, they work hard to keep the integrity of their society and preserve the history of the place and take care of the city because technically, it is their own. As a result there is a city wide gun ban, a city wide public smoking ban and despite the obvious poverty in many places, the city is clean and there is little to no public unrest. (Ok, so the mayor also employs their own personal army, but they used it to clear out not only some political rivals but to literally wipe out almost all gangs and drug rings in the area).

a typical farm shanty
We were shown about the properties of the family, they are all farms. Our great auntie explained that they have no interest in developing the land into housing or to sell (the land comes at premium price there) because farming is a family tradition and a simple farm life is the only life for them. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

at the farm


The farms they took us to were so well maintained and so beautiful and so fertile that I cannot imagine why anyone there would want to work at anything else. We spent some time with some of the farmers and people who tend to the fields and live there and it was one of the nicest places to spend time in. My great aunt told us that her favourite days was when she would go to the plantations and have lunch with their people. I can see why.



We also got taken to my third cousin R’s farm where he keeps horses. These aren’t the pithy rickety Filipino horses you find in Manila, but beautiful pedigrees that he loves to ride. I had so much fun getting my hand licked for salt by some of these pretties. I couldn’t ride them cause I was only wearing sandals and I am snobby in that One does not ride an Appaloosa in strap on sandals.

There was nothing unnatural about my love for this horse

We were also taken to one of the banana plantations where I got gobsmacked by the sheer size of the land. These places are actually well cared for and native trees are kept alongside fruit trees (which are also native). Overall, I got the impression that a lot of the farmers in Davao have a deep respect for the natural landscape of the region and did little to alter it. In fact, my great aunt also owned a rock quarry where they mined stone to make cement for the local roads.

Banana flower

Once they found out it was eroding the local riverline, they immediately stopped and carried on with a less dangerous venture.

 

Back to our hotel though. While we could see the lovely Samal Island beyond the beach line (we were not allowed to swim at the beach of our hotel, it was horribly, HORRIBLY dirty and polluted), our great aunt told us that the hotel itself had a strong tie to our family history.

Ok, so my grandmother was an epic story teller. She spoke about Davao all the time so I was very familiar with her childhood and what she and my grandfather went through during the war (my grandfather’s story is a separate one all together too harrowing to tell at the moment).

My grandmother told us war stories all the time. She was the only girl out of 7 children (or was it 11? I cant remember). This particular story was repeated to me by both my grandmother and my mother who also spoke about my great grandmother’s experience.

Basically, when the Japanese invaded Davao, the people fled to Samal Island to get away. Remember that bridge that is named after my great grandfather? there is a second one named after my grandmother’s older brother. He blew up one of the main bridges into the city to delay the Japanese from entering. He was on the bridge when it exploded.

The location where our hotel was at was the exact place (according to my great aunt who remembers it) where the Davaoeños fled.

It gets crazier. My grandmother’s brothers were the ones helping people in boats to get them across the small stretch of water from the coast to the island. They were the last to go across once everyone was safe. As they rowed to the island, an American fighter plane flew over, chasing the Japanese troops that had already breached the city. Mistaking my great uncles for Japanese (I guess they all look the same, civilian natives and armed Japanese soldier), the shot them down in the water. My great grandmother watched it all from the island, she dragged her sons’ corpses to the shore. It affected her so much she stopped talking for years. My mother remembers how laconic she had been until one day she just got better and was a spry active lady who took care of my mum and uncles and aunties as children and even raised some of my older cousins before she died.

It was disconcerting to say the least to stand on the shore there.

We later went to the day to Samal Island. It is now parcelled off into several beach resorts. We went to one of the quieter but prettier ones called Chemas. Its literally only a 5 minute boat ride. We spent the whole morning there enjoying the sun and the impossibly clear water. Only that in the morning the tide washed in all the rubbish, so I did my civic duty and gathered all the rubbish (chip packets, cans, plastic bags even a dirty nappy!) before going in for a swim. I had a brief love affair with a beach dog. It was magic.

Puppy!

We spent a lot of time with our distant relatives in Davao, including a third cousin around my age who was great company and an enthusiastic chatter and shoe lover. We are definitely related.


When we got back to Manila, we got homestuck because of the terrible floods. It rained and rained and rained. I’m not talking about the pitter patter of drops on the roof. I’m talking about a hellion taps left on during the night. It poured, there were no drops of water, there were just constant streams washing everything away. Manila bay’s flood walls got breached and the ocean took its vengeance by tossing back on the city more than 2000 trucks worth of rubbish that people had thrown in. In other places, people lost their homes and whole houses (including that of my cousins’) got flooded up to the second floor. The flooding wasn’t just caused by non-stop rain, but also by bad gutter infrastructure and a lot of people lost their homes because they lived in poor districts that were prone to things like this, eg, under bridges for example. The current Pres has been trying to relocate a lot of people to avoid these kinds of things and to
try and fix the butters of most districts, but you know, politics in the Philippines is the most ridiculous sport you will ever watch.


The cat seemed to not care about the rain and slept on the roof regardless
At one point one of these local braindead airheaded TV celebrities who was doing volunteer work at an evacuation centre said in an interview something like ‘I didn’t realise the gap between the rich and the poor was that big’.
I don’t know about you but I am not even local and I know that the rich/poor gap is obscenely wide. Clearly you are not only living in Lala Land but you are an idiot (that is my politest description). I would get into a rant about the sorry, sorry state of social and political affairs that country is in but those of you who have seen my posts on Facebook, I’m guessing I don’t need to repeat myself here… yet.
These are a facade of 'fake' empty house fronts used to cover up the poor shanty house district along one of the main highways

All I can same is that it’s a damn shame that such an amazing country is literally falling apart because of people who are too stupid or greedy or self obsessed to care about lifting the country which is lagging behind its neighbours.

I absolutely LOVED going ‘home’ to the Philippines this year. I got to spend time with family that didn’t involve rushing to get xmas presents wrapped. I reconnected with family that I miss terribly and I got to see my little cousins get a bit bigger. I really, really love my family, can you not tell? As a kid going back home to Spain after Xmas in the Phils I always got really depressed because it was always just me and mum again on our own after a holiday spent in the boisterous company of my relatives.

It was great visiting new parts of the Philippines and getting away from Manila (which is my least favourite city, except for Trinoma mall, which has the Melissa Flagship store [shoes!!!]). I am definitely going back to visit Lola S and her family in Bacolod and I will definitely make it a point to go Davao every time I go back and visit my extended family there. I hope to one day take friends to discover how amazing this place is, and kindly ask them to ignore me when I froth at the mouth when political or social affairs t here make my blood boil. Its only because I think the Philippines is a country that deserves better than the shit it lives through.

An old electric fan in our garden


Next time I go, I am definitely going to go scuba diving and maybe catch some Whale Shark sight seeing. There is so much to do still and I cant wait to go back. MISS YOU ALREADY!!!!!!

End of looooong gush.

T out.

PS – Hands up who wants to come with me next time I go? Seriously, I cant imagine why not.