I’m not religious, but I enjoy the heck out of Holy Week. I like the constant reminders for people to reflect on what the week signifies, and I like seeing that people are making the most of their time off. I even like observing the rituals. One of my most favorite things to do is the Visita Iglesia, specifically, driving my parents to their churches of choice. My favorite Visita Iglesia has to be the one we did when I was about to enter my third year of high school. We decided to go all out and do 14 churches, starting at the Manaoag Shrine in Pangasinan. We had to stop at the 13th church, but all in all, still a good roadtrip. 1
What I really love, though, is how quiet the city gets. But that is nothing compared with the Holy Week quietness we used to get years and years ago, when everything practically shuts down at the beginning of the week, there’s nothing on TV, and there’s no music at all. You couldn’t wait for the long, somber week to be over that when Easter Sunday finally comes, it truly feels like a blessing.
And after a while, we learned how to beat boredom during Holy Week. My sister and I would go to Video City and ACA Video to stock up on movies that we could watch while waiting for the world to come back to life. And eventually, we got cable, which meant we no longer cared that network TV had nothing to offer.
These days, stores and businesses remain open until Wednesday, shutting down only on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, with a lot of them reopening on Black Saturday. TV shows continue. Some radio stations stay on the air. My younger self would have been thrilled about that, but me, I somewhat regret not relishing all the quiet as much as I should have.
- Yeah, the Visita Iglesia to me is one cheery roadtrip and one of the rare times I set foot inside a church. ↩
It is highly likely that my blog is going to turn into a semi-birding blog.
Anyway, TJ and I took a couple of weeks off birding and resumed only yesterday. We returned to La Mesa Ecopark, modest gear in tow and hoping that we’ll be able to take some nice pics and see new birds. The trip didn’t disappoint. We managed to take pictures of the pied fantail at last. For the past month, it had been eluding us and taunting us with a wave of its tail.
We stopped frequently in the mini-forest, and at one point, TJ suddenly started taking pictures of a bird I couldn’t see, even though he said it was right in front of me. Turned out to be a mangrove blue flycatcher, and it had a snack in its mouth. What’s even more amazing is that it didn’t budge the whole time we were there.
We didn’t expect to see any more birds, though we heard plenty of calls. After stopping for a couple of minutes to observe tiny birds flying at the top of a nearby tree, we started walking again–and saw a strange bird cross right in front of us. It then hid in the underbrush, and very slowly and carefully, we tried to track its movements. It came to rest on a mound of soil, eventually climbing up a tree that produces berries and chattering to what we assumed was its mate. After a while, it swooped past TJ, and we didn’t see where it went.
Later on, we found out that it’s an ashy thrush, which is a rare bird endemic to the Philippines.
All in all, it was a satisfying trek capped off by a sighting of a rare, elusive bird.
Yeah, so TJ and I have been going around the city and taking as many pics of birds as we can. It hasn’t quite yet reached the level of obsession yet, but we’ve gotten to the point where we stop and look around whenever we see something flying around or hear birdsong. Oh, and we’ve finally figured out what kinds of birds are the ones that hang out by shopping malls at night: They’re swallows.
So here are some of the pics of birds I’ve managed to take so far. Spotted these in different places, mainly, UP Diliman, La Mesa Ecopark, and our neighborhood.
We took a pic of a white-collared kingfisher perched high up on a tree, but we’re hoping for better pics soon. We also spotted tawny grassbirds, a yellow-bellied flyeater, and a pygmy woodpecker, but have yet to get great pictures of them. TJ also spotted pied fantails and a colasisi near his workplace.
Basically, we’ve run through the list of 10 most common urban birds, and we can’t wait to see what other birds are out there.
Check out TJ’s awesome pics here.
So TJ’s actually been hinting about his interest in birding over the past few years, but I just failed to take his hints seriously. Oops. To make up for it, I asked my yoga classmate Rissa, who often goes birding with her husband, if we could tag along with them on a trip to the Candaba bird sanctuary at some point. A few days after, she messaged me that she and her husband were going birding on a Sunday morning and if we’d like to join.
TJ and I were at the Shell station on NLEX at 5 a.m.; Rissa and her husband arrived several minutes later. We trailed them on the way to Candaba which we reached probably 30, 45 minutes later.
I’ve never gone birding nor have I ever been interested in it. But my interest was piqued when I saw different kinds of birds in Candaba.
There were great and little egrets, purple swamphens, little kingfishers, zebra doves, shoveler ducks, and terns, among many other birds that I didn’t even know existed. Rissa said she initially wanted to tell us to manage our expectations because it was likely that we wouldn’t get to see anything. I suppose we got lucky, because we must have seen more than a dozen types of birds that morning.
Taken last night at 8:09 p.m. Really nothing special and right now, the pics I’ve been taking are pretty…discouraging. That will change.
Taken a few minutes ago. I’m wondering what the cluster near the middle is.
Taken from our front yard tonight at 9:01 p.m and 9:04 p.m. Part of my attempt to get into astrophotography, which is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages. Of course, this isn’t perfect, but the number of stars in this picture astounds me.
Yesterday, TJ and I went on the first of hopefully many mini-trips for 2014, in line with my goal to go to at least one new place every month. Our destination: Sundang Island in Cavinti, Laguna. I heard about the place last year, and of course, the thought of having a whole island to myself is alluring. I wanted to stay overnight or for a couple of nights, but I’m currently out of leaves at work, so that will have to wait until another month or so.
So I wrote to them to ask if it’s possible for me and TJ to stay there only for the day and take pictures. Fortunately, they said yes, and we were given a guests’ guide to the island, including rules and regulations and directions. The directions had me rattled for a few days prior to the trip, as it recommended taking the Manila East Road, a road on which I’ve never driven. The directions mentioned “go down a zigzag road” and “winding mountain road,” too. I have a strong fear of downhill roads (whether I’m walking, biking, or driving), but what the hell, it’s a new year, let’s try something new.
At 6:30 a.m., TJ and I were on our way, immediately getting stuck along Katipunan; we had no idea traffic in that area gets so bad so early in the day. Once we got past that, we headed up to Antipolo and made our way down to Teresa on the aforementioned zigzag road. The entire drive was interesting and an adventure in itself, as it took us around areas we’ve only heard of but never been to, like Pililla, Tanay, and Morong, and saw signs to other places we’ve only just heard of, like Jala-Jala. We also saw lovely views of farms, mountains, and Laguna de Bay. It was tempting to stop and take photos, but there wasn’t much by way of parking, as far as we could tell. A great deal of roadside stalls sold jugs of vinegar 1, jugs of lambanog, furniture, baskets, and an awesome array of knives. “Knives” doesn’t do them justice–itak and tabak are much better.
We didn’t go to Sundang Island immediately upon reaching the landmark in Lumban. Not having had breakfast yet, we ate at Jollibee in Pagsanjan 2 and bought chicken and rice from Andok’s. Then we drove back to Lumban and up to and past Lake Caliraya, where Tony, the caretaker of Sundang Island, was waiting for us at the parking area. The boat ride took about 10 minutes, and we were greeted by two dogs, Panda and Big Boy, when we stepped off the boat. Panda seems to be at an advanced age, still friendly and keen, but not quite as energetic as Big Boy. We were directed to the house, where we settled in and hoped for clearer weather.
Long story short, it was a very gray, gusty day with a bit of drizzling all throughout, dashing our plan to go on a boat ride to take pictures of the area. Given the weather, we were both very happy we brought jackets, because the place is a lot colder than Manila.
We ended up spending the day just walking around the island, taking random pictures 3, eating, chatting, and napping on the hammock 4. The island is easy to explore, and you’ll find a fair number of plants and unusual insects there, including a butterfly that looked like a leaf. There were also some interesting decor and details around the house.
The house itself is very roomy and homey, and it has everything you would need if you’re staying there for a day or more. We weren’t allowed in the bedroom, but we had a good nap anyway in the living room.
It may not have been the photography trip we planned, but it was a very relaxing day, and the island was the perfect place for it. Definitely looking forward to coming back and staying longer.
In the past, I would make grand New Year’s resolutions and then get very unhappy if I’m not able to fulfill most of them. Fortunately, I’ve learned to keep it simple. Last year’s resolution was very brief: do new things. And I exceeded that.
This year’s resolutions are a bit more ambitious than that, but still very much doable, I think:
1. Watch at least five movies a month.
2. Read at least one book a month. 1
3. Drink Coke only five days a week. 2
4. Walk 30 minutes a day.
5. Go someplace new at least once a month.
6. Draw something new at least once a month.
7. And of course, keep learning and doing something different.
I turned 32 yesterday, and the occasion was marked by lunch, grocery shopping, and work. In short, it was a day like any other, which is always something to be celebrated.
A chat with a friend reminded me that “wala na kami sa kalendaryo,” an expression which I think refers to a person’s so-called expiration date and which I typically hear used more often with women than men, given that society believes that if women aren’t married before 25, finding a man will only get harder, and if they get pregnant after 30, they will die in childbirth.
At my age, given my living situation, income, and my hobbies, I occasionally wonder if I’m doing this adulthood thing right. And just in time, TJ sent me a link to this video from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.
I read it as a depiction of how a certain form of adulthood is foisted on people whether they like it or it suits them or not, which extinguishes their actual selves and turns them into…everybody else. We’re often told that a certain age, we should be doing certain things already. Get married at this age, have a kid, have another kid after a few years. At your age, you should be a manager already. At your age, you should be earning this much. At your age, you should grow up already. You shouldn’t be doing these things or liking this or that. Do what grown-ups do already.
I don’t mind if people have opted for traditional routes, such as marriage and kids. The important thing is that they are doing it because it’s what they really want, not because, in the case of marrying and starting a family, the woman feels she should be producing offspring or because the man feels that after a certain amount of time, he should be proposing to his girlfriend. There are people who are stuck doing what they are expected to do, believing that because it’s expected, that must automatically mean that it’s right for them, without thinking of what they really want to do.
And that’s basically what I keep learning and relearning in the past year. There is no one correct way to be an adult, and for the foreseeable future, I will continue to enjoy cute things, animated shows, and pop music and artists even as I work towards financial stability and potential homeownership.
I have been looking at and been interested in purchasing property for years now, before condominium and development fever struck the country. I regret not having purchased one before the prices started rising and the unit sizes started shrinking. By now, I would have already made decent headway into the payment and, hence, towards full home ownership. Plus, had I started saving up for such a purchase the moment I first became employed, then I wouldn’t be baffled as to how people can afford to buy properties in the first place.
Of course, I have to stop beating myself up for my poor decisions and for buying so much useless shit over the years. The best thing I can do is to start scrounging up money for downpayment and for succeeding monthly payments, which I’ve already started doing. Then I also have to find prospective developments. My main criteria: a one- or two-bedroom unit in a midrise development in the northern part of Metro Manila.
I’ve ultimately decided on a condominium after realizing that I will never be needing a lot of space, as it will only encourage me to accumulate things to fill it up. The midrise aspect is a key consideration, as I’ve observed that such developments have more of a community feel about them. Even though I love heights, high-rise condominiums don’t seem advisable because earthquakes, and I’ve chosen northern Metro Manila because I like it here, thanks.
I should probably have more factors to consider, but right now, they’re being overshadowed by a bunch of questions I have about buying property. Based on what I’ve seen, homebuying is pretty prohibitive here in the Philippines; if you can’t afford it, well, you’re stuck living with your parents until you die or living in a crummy neighborhood. So I’m hoping someone could help me out with my questions.
1. How much money are people making nowadays anyway?!
2. And how are they able to afford property? Twenty-five to thirty percent for downpayment seems a bit much.
3. Do first-time homebuyers get a break at all? Are there any payment options that look kindly upon first-time homebuyers?
4. I’m a freelancer AND I have a full-time work-at-home job. Will people laugh me out of the bank if I try to apply for a loan?
And that’s just a few of them. Hopefully, I can find a real estate specialist who can give actual sound advice and go beyond saying, “Kayang-kaya niyo yan, ma’am!”