Friday, 30 July 2010

Southern Comforts

Ole! With frequent weekend jaunts to out of town, I realized that I had not written thoughts on recent sports events like the World Cup or the Tour de France. All blogs were headed that way and spiced up by dear Paul the psychic octopus now turned global superstar.

The trips to the country's southern cities though work related and not particularly relaxing were interesting. For one, I have tasted one blueberry cheesecake that's to-die-for along with cafe mocha that somehow did not activate the acidity of my stomach. Just like the designer coffee havens in Manila, this featured cafe is situated along a buzzing strip for nightlife citizens who would as well find here dinner restos, wine bars, and an outdoor live band concert stage. Obviously, nighttime activities have moved to this part of the city. My cherie wondered whether the name of this coffee shop was a take off from a recognizable brand or was already bordering on plagiarism. Perfect chill out setting together with (as usual) netizens blazing away on their Facebook pages. Come and visit this fascinating city known for its unique whitewater rafting adventure. I won't tell you where this cafe could be found -- part of the fun in this blog -- but a prize awaits the first comment with the correct answer.

Cebu is another favorite destination considering the Manila-like comforts that abound from hotels and restos to taxis and shopping malls. It can be quite pricey however especially if you decided to stay in those Mactan resort enclaves. It has been raining at night when I was there this weekend but where doesn't and on occasions it had also rained over there on January (Sinulog festival time). Overall and if you are not going for business, Cebu City is a very safe destination for holiday seekers.

Davao City sprawls and because of that does not pretend to be preoccupied as much as Cebu City or Metro Manila. Despite numerous visits here, I have always wondered where the center of nightlife is located in Davao as it has never been visible to me or to someone around my demographic. They have a recent coffee chain called 'Cafe di Chicco' that serves respectable coffee (varied) and food. Some patrons even take their pets along and that's tolerated by the establishment. I'm sure the alcohol is somewhere.

Places for weekend meetings ot trysts. Haul your mysterious date/s out there [meet for the first time over there] and if he picks up on the invitation, that's your cue for some exciting days ahead. Forget about Boracay in the meantime; it's overrated and arduous if you've been going quite frequently. Let's hope your mysterious date is cute -- but you can mitigate that, can't you?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Nearly Khmer

Every now and then my country's embassy in Cambodia sends email notices of various official actions and citizen social gatherings and that's because I have registered with them when I was working there some years past. It was an interesting phase of life as it forced me to behave in ways that I did not intend on doing -- living an expat's life -- and thankfully for only a brief period that went without my even noticing.

Phnom Penh was a pretty contained city but with some parts specifically tailored towards foreigners. Every afternoon from work and as a daily routine, I'd quickly dump my laptop computer and backpack in my hotel room and head to the street corner bars for quick infusions of gin and tonic with incessant chatter from caucasians working as well in the country. Dinner afterwards from a price-reasonable selection of Asian or Western cuisine in specialty restaurants dotting various locations in the City. I was almost a fixture at Comme a la Maison, a restaurant  on Street 51. Certainly, I would not have been doing that on a regular basis if I were home but choices I realized have become quite limited in the absence of immediate family or a permanent home to come home to every night.

I had been forced to keep myself busy and entertained in the process of living away from home. There were limitations to patience in watching the cable TV programs. Without meaning to, I frequented the hot and humid Russian market on weekends purchasing what-nots that I didn't need. At one time, I simply took off one Sunday for the famed Siem Reap, a comfortable hour's flight away, where the world-renowned Angkor Wat temple beckoned. Simply hard stone and challenging to physically traverse -- that was what the huge and magnficent temple was. The City itself feels bohemian and is a worthy holiday destination as it has modern lodging facilities and interesting watering holes along what they aptly called Bar Street. The Hotel de la Paix, the boutique hotel that it is, appears lavish and expensive but there are less pricey alternatives around which are in fact to my estimation better than most hotels in the capital. Food choices are also varied and of excellent taste. I won't forget the Blue Pumpkin restraurant in the centre of town whose eclectic menu and savory bakery offerings would rival even its best parisian counterparts.

The locals were quite trustworthy as they tried their warmest best to please visitors like myself. That in itself was comforting to a stranger.

Despite the comforts, the relaxed (and sometimes luxurious) way of life, the nice people around, the pleasant weather, I had not felt settled. I looked forward to going home. I'm sure anyone who has gone away from home for a while and who knows that all that was temporary would have felt the same anxieties. Why would one want to live outside his country of domicile? What hard choices had to be made? What pressures attend to the individual and to his family?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

By Chance or By Design

Nadal hoists the Wimbledon trophy once more
Several years ago, I was walking uphill from a hotel in Barcelona to my school when a small crowd literally cut through my path crossing the road. I noticed that there were television cameras following a youngish guy whom I recognized as one who was then on the fast track to tennis stardom. That was Rafael Nadal coming from a  practice session at the Barcalona tennis club. For someone posturing to superstardom and worldwide prominence, he displayed much attention and affection for the local fans that joined him that day. Had I secured his autograph or photo then, that would have been visible on this post today. Either I was more concerned with making it to class or I had doubts about his chances of rising to fame, I could today only look back on those memories. A chanced encounter with the future.

One grandslam title after another convinced me that he was destined to glory. Last month, he re-acquired the French Open title and today did the same at Wimbledon -- winning in straight sets. I have watched this year both championship matches on television thinking that I have had the chances before of watching both grandslam championships from courtside on various years. I was in both cities during the weeks when the matches took place. Those were as well missed chances.

Winning to me is always by design. The determination to win is always coupled with exceptional skill and unbowed performance. Doing something for yourself is the same thing -- always by design -- not on the wing of chance. A victim of chance will always have the opportunity to later win on the crest of desire and design.

Have a great week ahead.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Subscribers of Amazon surely get mildly annoyed when they receive reminders of new releases, purportedly to motivate purchase decisions. I am not spared. But I admit that shopping for titles that way has been a pleasant and secured experience.

I have been purchasing the books of the featured author in this post through this route -- only because these are not available at local book sellers. Could that be due to the absence of a market or the simple  lack of awareness by book agents but I hope not a reflection of dangerous conservatism. My acquaintance with this writer began years ago as I was rummaging through a second-hand book store. Then my attention was caught by the title and thought that it was a book on food/cooking prompting me to read the teaser on the back cover. 

Anthony Bidulka has since written to my knowledge at least five other books around the same genre taking the reader to oftentimes popular but sometimes esoteric destinations. True, at some point one gets the sense of the author's writing style and then boredom sets in. But that has happened with me in most of the authors I have been following.

I am a sucker for the thriller; thus a big fan of David Baldacci. Never missed any of his books that I could build a library in his honor. I did not part with his latest book -- Deliver Us From Evil -- until I was done with it. It was the same experience I've had with a couple of his other books but could not say the same with others. This is the same observation I have about Grisham and might be the reason why he sometimes departs from law/courtroom drama for heartwarming plots. When in the university, I read Robin Cook who specializes in medical thrillers but have since left him as the language and the narrative echoed from novel to novel. We all need to be refreshed at some point in our choice of literature. However if there's an element that I have not given up in my choices it is the thriller to the extent that I sometimes have been disappointed with some authors. We also know that they may have ghost writers which could be gleaned from the changing styles from one book to another. This, I have noticed in Steve Martini's.

Therefore to all dear readers of this post, I am willing to give away one book of any one of the following (your choice): Bidulka, Baldacci, Martini. My way of sharing (again). Only to the first one who responds and is from the Philippines. Just let me know where to send.

Read. GO.