住めば都 [Sumeba Miyako] Home is Where You Make It

A Japanese teacher I’ve worked with over the past year told me about this phrase and explained this is a principle a lot of Japanese live by as many of them are ready to be assigned anywhere, including abroad or in a different city.

I thought it encapsulates one of the ways I’ve employed to survive living in two different countries or in other cities.

As our world gets smaller and smaller due to opportunities opening up to anyone wherever he is in the world, it has become even more important to find a stabilizing force in your life – something that you consider “home.” In my case, I carry home everywhere I go.

What does home mean, anyway, and how do you carry it with you? Home for me is finding people I can be myself with without fear of being judged or lied to. It’s also being in an environment that gives you the proper tools and allows you to practice your creativity and problem-solving skills in order to come up with the best solutions for problems. Home is the atmosphere that reassures you that when something is right, as long as you are sincere and open-minded, you can speak up and suggest ways to improve things. Most importantly, home is where there’s peace, joy, and contentment that doesn’t depend on your circumstances. It’s the sort of thing that you bring with you wherever you go, and one that attracts people you interact with. I’m blessed beyond belief to have found this, thanks to Christ. It’s hard for me to imagine how to live in worry, fear, jealousy, and all of those negative emotions. Unfortunately, no amount of renovation or no distance could ever fix that.

Over the past year, the ability to carry home with me was proven more useful and my ability to do so was tested to the max. During the first half of the year, I was assigned to a junior high school and two elementary schools. Normally, assignments are given for a whole year but since a teacher quit on short notice, they were obliged to have someone take over quickly. My original assignment was to make rounds on preschools all over Ise City.

I was assigned to a pilot project where English will be taught to preschoolers. I started doing it on the second half of the year. In such a short period, I have visited 22 preschools and have taught two elementary schools every week. One of them is the biggest elementary school in the city.

Imagine the stress of making a good impression on new co-workers and bosses and multiply that by 25 – the total number of schools I visited this year. Wait, make that 26 because I stay at the city’s Board of Education (BOE) office to prepare for preschool lessons.

If you think there’s extra pressure when you’re starting a new work anywhere, you’re right. But the Japanese take it to a different level. There’s a Vice Principal who followed me wherever I go for the first few weeks, and another one who would regularly asked me to enumerate what classes I’m having – what level and what period, even though the schedule is posted on the bulletin where everyone can see.

I had to introduce myself to 26 sets of people and learn about the hierarchy at the BOE by asking questions. No one introduced me and explained who is who. I had to find someone to explain so that I would be able to give the proper respect and deference to whomever I owe it to and to know who to go to for different things. As a rule, though, I think it’s important to give everyone, no matter what the position, the respect due to him.

When it seems like everyday, you’re meeting a lot of new people and trying to impress them, it’s crucial to find something constant. No matter where I go, I try to identify at least one good thing about the teachers or school staff I meet. For example, one Principal is so good at cleaning and organizing that her office deserves to be featured in an interior design or Housekeeping magazine. One preschool teacher is able to discipline her big class so much that I smile to myself thinking how in the world can 30 preschoolers sit quietly and intently.

Of course, I encounter some teachers and staff who may not be as friendly or as helpful but that happens everywhere.

With the physical nature of the job as well as the pressure to make a good impression, there were times when I had to visit the doctor’s office. I’m just thankful to have a boss who genuinely cares for her subordinates and who provides the right tools so I could do my job well.

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Another thing I’m grateful to have experienced last year is when our friends – a team from the US visited Japan and participated in some classes I previously handled in the junior high school, as well as observed and met the students, teachers, and school officials at Obata Elementary School, the biggest one in our city.

 

Looking back, I wonder how I could have managed to organize and participate in all those activities on top of going to 24 new places. But the answer is not very far from home. It’s actually home.

 

I found home in this team as well, and so did the people that met them. In an environment where a lot of teachers are trying to outdo each other and comparing themselves to one another and killing themselves by working so much, it was a breath of fresh air to have people who came to connect and make friends. No, they didn’t want to sell anything or force you to do or believe anything. They gave their precious time and resources because they believe that they have received so much love and grace that it’s but natural to give back.

I am far from from where I want to be and this year, I felt frustrated about myself so many times. I wish I were more patient, nicer even when tired and hungry, and slow to react to things that could be upsetting. I learned that life can throw you so many curve balls and that there are enough things, hurtful words, and people that hurt people that I don’t need to add to that.

No matter how far I stray, though, or how I mess up, I am comforted by the fact that the moment I feel lost, home is within reach.

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Thank You for Four Years, Tamaki!

 

Before I came to live and work in Japan, I’ve never heard of Ise, much less Tamaki, the small town where I was to teach for four years.  Barely had I gotten used to the usual demands of my job when I first desired to be reassigned somewhere – Tokyo or Osaka maybe, just not in this small town where it was so hard to make friends.

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Cherry Blossoms at the Tamaki Junior High School.

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Playground of Tamaru Elementary School.

For some reason, my boss wasn’t really enthusiastic about moving me somewhere and I also have been praying for a sign so I decided to stick it out.  Before I knew it, I met a true friend and some more.  They reminded me that I would rather live somewhere slow and predictable than to move in a big city where people could be snobbish and indifferent.

Fast forward to four years and I’m still here with no plan to leave anytime soon.  After staying put, I was reminded that I’m not really a city girl.  I was born and raised in Bataan, which is somewhat like Ise, Toba, and Shima.  We had beaches and mountains aplenty.  While I lived in Manila for about six years to study and work, I stayed mosty because the best opportunities for learning and working were there.  Other than that, I didn’t get excited at the thought of frequenting the malls that so many Filipinos like.  I couldn’t see the point of finding delight in a huge box that people go into.  I would much rather walk around my campus that are full of nature.

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Traffic in Manila is even more tiring than a full workday. Photo from iMoney Ph.

I hated commuting in Manila.  If you weren’t worrying about making it in time because of the traffic, you were wary if there were any dangers awaiting you.  Somehow when you out, there’s the risk of losing your belongings.  That doesn’t mean there’s none if you stay home.  I didn’t particularly look forward to falling in line for half an hour just to get into the MRT and escape road traffic.  Getting anywhere is already one arduous task.

So when things calmed down and I felt more comfortable at work, I realized all of the good things that Ise had to offer.  It has most of the conveniences of a city without the many hassles.  Ok, so there’s no decent Mexican or Thai restaurant.  But with the ingredients, it’s not impossible to try to whip out international cuisine yourself.  Plus, Nagoya is less than two hours away and Osaka a bit more.  It feels great to be able to have these big cities within reach and not to live there everyday.

I could go for opportunities in Tokyo or Osaka but now I’m choosing to stay here because I felt like I’ve been chasing something since high school.  For once, I just want to move slowly, run steadily so as not to over exert myself and get tired way too early.

I’m thankful that on my last year in Tamaki, my Dad and two visitors from the US who love intercultural communication and connecting to Japanese people were able to pay my class a visit, learn more about Japanese culture and the small town we work at courtesy of my diligent students and teachers who practiced and prepared, and share more about themselves, their work, and lives.

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They were overwhelmed by the warm welcome extended to them by my Principal, Vice Principal, teachers, and the students themselves.  They said they never expected that the kids would be that sweet and welcoming to them.  Even I was impressed.  We have been conducting classes as usual weeks before my visitors came and they were able to hide the fact that they were practicing for a short presentation about the school and about Tamaki for that special day.

It felt great that somehow, the kids could meet people from a totally different background.  It felt even better that my Dad and friends could see and understand what it is about Tamaki and its people that made me fall in love with the place.

Before the special visit, the English head delivered the good news that the Principal agreed for my visitors to come and interact with the kids.  After that, she asked me why I chose their school when there are three other schools in Tamaki that I regularly go to.  Without hesitation, I told her, “because I trust you and respect you.”  I have known and worked with this teacher for four years.  Even as a newbie, she treated me with respect, explaining things for me when I could barely speak Japanese (not sure though if much has changed), being enthusiastic in our classes together, and most importantly, giving me the benefit of the doubt and not judging me when others could have.

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Almost a year has passed since then and I now have a different set of challenges at a different place (more on that later), but every time I remember that special school visit or see pictures of it, my heart swells and I’m reminded why all four years of my stay in Tamaki is so worth it.

Gaijin Follies

Look what Tarsier Lady is sitting on.

Look what Tarsier Lady is sitting on.

After more than two months of staying in our apartment in Ise, I just realized that the pink plastic box inside the washroom is not just decoration but actually a fully functional garbage box. One eureka moment! Gosh, why do the Japanese have to make everything so cute?

If you think that was genius, wait until you hear some of my other discoveries in the Land of the Rising Sun:

[WARNING: Kids, and even big kids, don’t try this at home!]

1. How not to answer the doorbell

My first day in Ise, the rental car delivery came and rang the doorbell.  I only realized that when I saw this video on this box mounted on the wall.  So, I figured I would have to push a button to answer this guy or make him magically appear on the fourth floor.  But which button?  Hmm.. I thought about it long and hard after pressing the smaller buttons and nothing happening.  Then, I remembered what my flatmate said the night before when I first arrived.  She was showing me how to use the exhaust fan in the kitchen.  “If you’re not sure, just press all the buttons and nothing bad will happen.

Hello Telephone!

This machine can get you arrested!

I loved that principle and thought the same principle should work here.  So I pressed the biggest button.  That must be the magic button as it’s so different from all other buttons and it even has red markings on it! As soon as I pressed it, the alarm sounded.  My first thought was ‘Oh no! It’s only my first day and I shouldn’t cause trouble to my flatmate.  What if the police comes and they bring me to the station?’

But I’ve learned that panicking does not help during emergency situations.  I took a deep breath and tried to fiddle with the box.  If I could do something to stop the alarm, then it would be less embarrassing.  After removing and reattaching the part near the big button, it did stop.  Whew! ‘Now, I’m safe,’ or so I thought.

About 10 minutes later, someone comes.  Could it be the police?  I couldn’t speak enough Japanese to explain myself or to ask if he’s a policeman and if he has come to arrest me. Finally, I realized that he wasn’t and he’s the security guy assigned to the building.  Good thing he understood it when I said: Mistake!

2. How not to park

Like everyone else, I was excited and a bit apprehensive on my first day of school.  It was also my first day to drive just by myself.  My housemate was kind enough to drive to the school the day before to show me how to get there.  But without her and with only the Google Map lady as my companion, I wasn’t sure I could do it.

It was a little nerve-wracking to have to turn right at an intersection because the system in the Philippines is a bit different.  But I was able to do it and the Google Map lady was telling me I was only a minute away from the school.  She didn’t ask me to turn left on that small road leading to the school so I thought that maybe the parking lot was located somewhere else.

I thought that road was narrow but this road (where she asked me to turn left) was even narrower.  When she said ‘turn left,’ I wanted to ask her ‘are you sure?’ But I don’t think she’s that friendly, so I followed her advice. The further I go, the more my worries increased.  But I couldn’t turn back because I might get arrested for traffic obstruction.

Sa bukid, walang papel

Yes, that’s right. This is exactly where the Google Map lady led me to.

This narrow road was right in the middle of the rice fields but since it’s near the school, I hoped that there would be a pathway leading to the school.  But no! By the time I realized that, I was only inches away from the concrete.  I tried to back out but I was soon in danger of falling into the rice fields.

It was the first day of school and I couldn’t afford to be late! I read somewhere that being late for just one minute could lead to a sour relationship with the school.  So I hurriedly picked up my stuff and left the car.  I just prayed that I would be able to get out of that sticky situation.

The Vice Principal opened the door to greet me and the first thing he asked was ‘Where’s your car?’  I wondered if he has some superpowers or if he was watching me demonstrate how not to park.  Long story short, he asked for my key and parked my car properly.  It’s probably not the best way to make a good first impression.

3. How not to use the washing machine

I heard that Japanese appliances are known for their intelligence and versatility.  Imagine an air conditioner that cleans the air you breathe.  You have also probably seen or heard about a toilet bowl that can sing.  While ours is not exactly as talented as that, it did amaze me when I first got here.  The toilet seat cover even opens automatically when it detects someone standing before it, and it closes automatically too.  The downside to that is that I got spoiled and now feel weird when I go to the elementary schools’ washrooms and see the toilets that would require you to squat.  Good thing most of them have a normal toilet but I have to remember to open the lid myself.

Having heard so many wonderful things about Japanese appliances, I was expecting that my relationship with the washing machine would be sweet.  But like most men, it’s just so hard to figure out.  Look at this!

A washing machine with 12 different courses

A washing machine with 12 different courses

You would think that of all the amazing features they add to the appliances, it would be no trouble to add short English words on the buttons.  But that’s not the case so I had to hand wash for a few days until I got someone to explain what the 12 options mean.

Most of them don’t make sense to me.  But you can choose to have it washed mild or strong. You can even choose an option for when you’re in a hurry and you want it to finish quickly.  There’s also an option to put your dirty clothes there and set the timer so that it would start washing at a later time and finish just when you want it to.  And best of all, the washing machine can clean itself.  How I love Japan!

So you ask me which option I normally choose?  It’s the last one on the left side which allows me to choose whatever.  At least I can say, I did it… my way ♬♫♬!

 

*Gaijin is a contraction of the Japanese word 'gai-koku-jin,' which means a person from a foreign country.

Mom, You Are Loved!

Thinking of Mom on her special day…

How she’s always been there

Mom carrying Tim during her Wendy hair days.

Mom carrying Tim during her Wendy hair days. She really made a lot of effort to make our birthday celebration fun.

How it’s always fun to go somewhere and eat out with her. When she was younger, she enjoyed shopping but nowadays, the thought of eating something delicious excites her.

Benjo, Mom, and Dad in a small Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in Angeles.

Benjo, Mom, and Dad in a small Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in Angeles.

How she would remind me to be still and leave things to God. She knows that I have a tendency to be impatient and to take matters into my own hands.

How funny she can be when she responds to Dang’s, Angeli’s, Paolo’s, Benjo’s, Momo’s, Janno’s playful accusations.  How she makes us laugh!

Benedict, Janno's beloved teddy bear, clinging to Mom.

Benedict, Janno’s beloved teddy bear, clinging to Mom.

How fun it is to travel with her. She was there on my first trip abroad.  Dad would even tease us because on our first two trips abroad, we would leave the country all excited but when they pick us up from the airport, we would be fighting. Ok, I admit, it was due to my shabby behavior.

It's so fun to travel with Mom!

It’s so fun to travel with Mom!

How she worked so hard and helped me so much in completing the documents needed for me to secure my job.  That instance when she got to the university registrar late and she prayed that somehow she would still manage to get the document, and she did – in my heart, I felt so grateful to God for giving me a mother who cares for me and for each one of us and does her best to connect to us.  Life hasn’t always been rosy for us but each time I think about my mother, I’m reminded that God knows best and that He’s always there to comfort us and help us get through each difficult circumstance.

Mom likes keeping things clean and organized.

Mom likes keeping things clean and organized.

I know because I’ve seen Mom when she was happy, when she was depressed, when she was bored, when she was mad, and everything else in between.  But the things that God allowed to happen in her life has made her wiser.  She’s one of the most considerate and sensitive persons I’ve ever met.  Hopefully, that has rubbed off on me even for a little bit.

She’s never concerned about saving face.  But she’s genuinely concerned about each of her seven children, wanting what’s best for them, even if things don’t quite turn out as she expected or wanted.  She knows how to wait upon the Lord and to let Him do His magic.

It’s a pity that my last few weeks in the country were so hectic that we couldn’t even afford to have a quiet dinner in our favorite Mexican joint.  I never even got to thank you properly for all that you’ve done for me – from getting the documents to helping me buy stuff and pack them properly.

I do hope that on your next birthday, we could celebrate in a nice restaurant somewhere here in Japan, maybe, or whatever it is that you would enjoy the most.

I love you Mom, and happy birthday!

Bed

 

 

 

The Blog that Irked Filipinos

By now, most of you must have read or heard about the blog post that irritated, angered, and piqued the curiosity of many Filipinos.  The title itself, ‘I Would Rather Go Hungry than Eat Filipino Street Food Again,’ is somewhat abrasive.  Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as harsh if the blogger said ‘Filipino (Street) Food is Not for Me.’

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The blog that sparked a thousand comments

One thing I can say about many Filipinos is that they often take things personally and they sometimes overreact.  Take for example what happened to Claire Danes, the actress who played Juliet along with Leonardo diCaprio’s Romeo.  She visited Manila back in 1999 and said the city “smelled of cockroaches,” the people have no arms, no legs, no eyes, no teeth, and that the city was “ghastly and weird.”  As a result, her movies were banned in the Philippines and she could never visit the country again.  Personally, I think that was too much of a punishment and that would make us appear to be too sensitive.

Out of curiosity, I visited the blog that attracted a lot of hate comments and other types of feedback.  After reading the post, here’s what I have to say:

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Eating camaron rebosado, buttered shrimp, and other seafood at the dampa (small wet market).

1.  The blogger made no effort to befriend or even consult a local.  She kept on insisting that eating on the streets or in the food stalls is the best way to “experience local cuisine.”  That is a general statement that can be true in some cases but then again when you travel and experience different cultures, you’ll learn that people can have a different way of doing things.

As most commenters on the blog quickly pointed out, many Filipinos avoid eating in food stalls and would rather eat at home.  This is because Filipinos love to eat with their family members and with people dear to them.

Lechon

Our dear friends excited about trying lechon.

2.  Not enough research was done to provide a more balanced post.  You would think that any competent travel blogger would have networked with other bloggers and locals to at least get an idea of where they should go and what food they should try.  So many Filipinos will confidently say that you can eat healthy and delicious food in the Philippines for less than $25 a day, which is their guiding principle for every trip.

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You can get these for cheap in Palawan

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a picture of the blogger holding a hotdog sandwich from 7-11.  She complained that she was given an American style hotdog sandwich when she asked for longganisa.  First of all, nobody in his right mind would look for authentic cuisine at 7-11.  In her defence, she did say that she asked someone and that person pointed to 7-11.  I am a Filipino and if you looked for longganisa and you’re in Ilocos, no one would point you to 7-11, unless you said sausage.  With a few clicks, they could have learned that there are only two seasons in the Philippines and that not all fruits are available  or aplenty all year round.

3. Something in her tone and the way she wrote the post tells me she’s trying to antagonize Filipinos and perhaps improve her blog traffic.  I couldn’t agree more with Nathan Allen, the blogger that has captured the hearts of Filipinos.  Thank you, Nathan, for sharing your two cents.  You can read his post here.

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This is a bilao (platter) with grilled milkfish (bangus), pork, shrimp, fish fillet, fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes and green mangoes, and fermented rice.

Oh, and by the way, Agness, antagonizing Filipino readers to improve blog traffic is just not worth it.  Filipinos are avid supporters of celebrities and people they like.  This is why our past representatives to the Ms. Universe pageant won the Miss Photogenic award even if they weren’t even included in the finalists.  So many Filipinos were willing to take the time to vote for them.  You’ll have a lot more going for you if you have us as fans or friends.

4. If you want to earn a living by blogging or attracting an audience to your online site, it’s your responsibility to strive for fairness and balance.  The blogger repeatedly said that it’s her personal opinion and that she’s entitled to her opinion.  That’s true but not in all cases.  I remember what we have discussed on our Ethics class at the College of Mass Communication (University of the Philippines).  If you are a public figure or if you earn a living because of being one, you are accountable to your audience/readers because without them, you won’t survive.

At first I couldn’t understand why our professors made such a big deal out of getting all sides of the story or doing extensive research.  But I guess this particular blog post helped me understand why.  When you publish stories or pictures for the world to see, there’s a good chance that many people would believe what you say or take your word for it.  The poor vendors she wrote about might not even know about it, and they won’t even have a chance to defend themselves, esp. since not all of them serve unhealthy or oily dishes.

We often talk about our right to freedom of expression but we forget that with that right comes the responsibility to be careful about what we say and to be fair to others.

The vendors that this blogger wrote about, the Filipinos working in the food(tourism) industry, and the Filipinos who stand to benefit from tourism and the positive image of the food industry in the country stand to lose if this blogger and other travel bloggers/authorities are not careful about how they present things.

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Gigantic tuna being sold in a Palawan wet market.

In the spirit of fairness, I think that there are several lessons we Filipinos can take away from this:

1. If we want to be taken seriously by food tourists, we need to impose a stricter standard for food vendors on the streets.  I’m sure many Filipinos would agree that we avoid eating in food stalls because we think that they’re dirty and the food they serve are sometimes unhealthy and not prepared well.  The Department of Tourism or even the local government unit can issue a certificate proving that a food stall has been inspected and has passed the standards they’ve set.  This way, more Filipinos and tourists will be encouraged to eat on the streets without fear of contracting hepatitis or some other diseases.

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2. The media should feature food carts or food vendors that have unique offerings.  The Department of Tourism can also hold a contest for the best street food vendor and reward the finalists accordingly.  This way, we can encourage them to use their creativity and develop their skills further.

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A type of seaweed that’s really popular in Palawan

When I went to Thailand, I was amazed at the variety of street food there.  I could hardly believe that the hawkers there can cook elaborate noodle and rice dishes on the streets.  I even saw a food card with fresh sushi rolls!  I was happy just seeing the different colors, texture, and shapes of their offerings.

3. We can also have cooking shows/contests specializing in Filipino food.  If Cristeta Pasia-Comerford, the first Asian Executive Chef of the White House and a Filipino is good enough for the President of the US, won’t she be good enough for the rest of us?

I know you also have a lot of great ideas and I would love to hear from you.

Spending Time with Grandma in Manila

Grandma is happy to spend hours reading or walking around this area.

Grandma enjoys reading and walking around the Sky Garden

Today, I’m in Manila with my grandmother.  As I write this, she’s sitting next to me reading the Bible.  These past few weeks, her blood pressure has been unstable, and she even had to be confined in a hospital for a few days.  This is why my aunt convinced her to stay in her condo unit in Manila for sometime.  There were three other people aside from us.  One looks like a college student studying for an upcoming exam.  Another one is working on her laptop.  She’s probably writing an essay for school.

The View from the Sky Garden 2

This is the view from the Sky Garden 2. The building is across UP Manila.

I used to dislike the idea of living in a condo unit – an enclosed space inside a tall building.  But after enduring several summers working at my home office, I changed my mind.  Somehow, the humidity decreases when you go to the upper floors, so you don’t suffer from the heat as much as when you’re living in a typical two or three-storey house.

Grandma enjoying the view

Grandma visits the Sky Garden several times a day to relax and to get some exercise.

When you’re tired of staying inside your room, you can go to the sky garden or the swimming pool.  I found that I am more productive in this atmosphere than I am at home.  Maybe the ambient noise present in these places is just right.  No wonder I saw some elderly Japanese inside the elevator.  It turned out that they’re living in the same floor.

Mom and grandma are enjoying the view.

Mom and grandma are enjoying the view.

Shortly afterwards, my Mom joined us.  It was probably heart-breaking for my parents to have to close the business that they operated since I was a small child.  But in a way, it’s a blessing too that they’re not too busy.  They can spend more time with the family, including my grandmother and participate in the ministry while waiting.  The last time my grandmother went to the hospital, my mother was her companion, always on call even during the middle of the night.  So devoted is she that she even spent her birthday in the hospital.  But I think both of them enjoy it.

I love sitting on these chairs!

I love sitting on these chairs!

After about 20 minutes of walking, my grandmother proudly announced that she completed 20 rounds.  So far her blood pressure has been stable and she has been sleeping well.

Grandma felt intrigued so she decided to try sitting on my favorite chair. However, she felt a little dizzy, so she decided to go back to her old spot.

Grandma felt intrigued so she decided to try sitting on my favorite chair. However, she felt a little dizzy, so she decided to go back to her old spot.

I had a great time chatting with my grandmother.  I even showed her pictures of our recent vacation.  I even shower her pictures of me and the family (with her) taken about two decades ago.  She asked how I managed to put them on the computer.  And I explained that there’s a machine that allows you to copy old pictures and to put them on the computer.  I think she was amazed but she understood.

Grandma loved the breeze.

Grandma loved the breeze.

Visiting the Underground River in Palawan for the First Time

March has been a crazy busy month.  It got even busier when my aunt from Canada arrived and we started planning where we’re going to bring her.

Her visit was special because she would be celebrating her 60th birthday here in the Philippines.  We had fun swimming in a nearby resort and we also enjoyed eating the roast pig that she ordered for the event.

Because we’re both celebrating our birthday in March, we decided to go on a trip.  Guess where we went?

My aunt posing for a picture before we rode the boat that would bring us to the Underground River.

 

We chose to visit Puerto Princesa because of the variety of activities that we can do there.  It also had a good reputation among tourists both here and abroad.  Most of its residents are honest and trustworthy.  Unlike other places in the Philippines, the vendors and tricycle drivers won’t overcharge you even if they find out you’re a tourist.

There are just so many things to do in Palawan and so many places to visit.  If you love nature, you’re going to enjoy it here big time.  You can spend a week there and still not be able to visit all the places worth seeing.

We loved the flowers and the baked goodies in Baker's Hill!

We loved the flowers and the baked goodies in Baker’s Hill!

My aunt enjoyed buying fruits in Palawan.  On her first day, she bought some lanzones, soursop (guyabano), and bananas.  It’s a bit difficult to find soursops in Manila and even in Bataan.  The ones in Puerto Princesa are much juicier and sweeter than the ones we have back home.

This soursop (guyabano) weighs more than a kilogram.

This soursop (guyabano) weighs more than a kilogram.

Our favorite place to eat was Ka Lui.  I heard that a visit in Puerto Princesa is not complete without eating at this special restaurant.  We had to make reservations just to be able to have dinner there.  Because of its popularity, you have to make reservations hours before your mealtime.

Ka Lui is one of the best restaurants in Palawan. They serve fresh seafood and fruits.

Ka Lui is one of the best restaurants in Palawan. They serve fresh seafood and fruits.

This is what you can see inside the restaurant. You'll be asked to take off your shoes or slippers before going inside.

This is what you can see inside the restaurant. You’ll be asked to take off your shoes or slippers before going inside.

This was what my aunt got when she ordered grilled tuna. It included red rice, eggplant tempura, atchara, and seaweeds. Our favorite was the Ka Lui Special Set of the Day

This was what my aunt got when she ordered grilled tuna. It included red rice, eggplant tempura, atchara, and seaweeds. Our favorite was the Ka Lui Special Set of the Day.

This was probably one of the most fun trips for my aunt as she got to experience different things.  She was able to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Underground River.

Our group was about to enter the Underground River.  We were in the front seat so that means we were tasked to hold the flashlight while inside the cave.

Our group was about to enter the Underground River. We were in the front seat so that means we were tasked to hold the flashlight while inside the cave.

This group's about to enter the humongous cave.

This group’s about to enter the humongous cave.

Apart from the exciting adventures, we got to meet interesting people.  There was a woman about my aunt’s age who just retired from her job as an auditor for the Australian government’s tax office and her companions, as well as a Filipina who has been living in Germany.  She came with her Mexican boyfriend.  Then there’s also a Filipina with her two twin sons in tow.  I thought she was so fluent in Japanese.  It only made sense when she said that she has been living in Japan for 27 years.