Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ocean Adventure

During the first long weekend (Oct 29-Nov 1), I took my family (mom, bro, and two nephews) to Ocean Adventure in Subic. It was a 3-hour drive from Manila and thankfully, the traffic was cooperative.

We left the house a bit late (our planned ETA was 6am but we ended up leaving around 7am) and we actually started off with a massive scare – I got caught in Subic for running a stop sign which we missed seeing since everyone in the car had their eyes focused on looking for the signs indicating how to get to Ocean Adventure. Then it turns out my nephew in the front seat didn’t have his seatbelt on since we had just taken a pit stop and we forgot to put it on him again when we got back in the car. But the worst of it was, apparently my license expired two month ago (naturally I did not pay attention to it during all the hustle and bustle of recent months)! Since no one else in the car knew how to drive, the initial option was that we had to be escorted out of Subic, but my mom was able to talk our way out of it (and honestly, I really wouldn’t have tried to weasel my way out of that situation if it was just me, but we had two kids in the car who would be extremely disappointed if the trip didn’t push through). In the end, we were let go with little more than a slap on the wrist and a warning not to go breaking any more traffic regulations ‘til we got out of Subic. Needless to say I was like a soldier the rest of the way, making sure I didn't run into any more infractions.

But aside from that hiccup, the rest of the day went fantastically well as we got to do practically everything you could do there. We arrived at 1030am, just in time to join the first dolphin encounter at 11am (the next one was at 445pm). My mom was initially thinking of just having the kids participate in the dolphin encounter (it was P2300 per person), but we decided that the kids may need adult supervision with the dolphins so I told my mom and my bro to do the encounter as well.

I decided not to go in anymore since I had already done one in Mexico late last year, and I figured it would be good for me to just take pictures and watch over all the stuff we had while they were in the beach with the dolphins. Ciera ended up getting scared so my mom had to hold him while he was with the dolphin (their dolphin’s name is Loki), but CJ was really excited. It was great too, because the people taking care of the dolphins genuinely cared for them (as they should of course). During the encounter, the dolphins actually sit on shallow part of the beach for a few minutes for picture taking, and the trainer said that Loki was tired of sitting still and wanted to swim a bit so that’s what Loki did before returning to the beach to complete the photo op.

We then had some lunch before heading to the El Capitan Stadium at 1215 to watch the first dolphin and whale show that day. It was great, the dolphins were “walking on water” and jumping several feet in the air. Then the false killer whales came out and started dancing with the trainers and performing all sorts of neat little tricks. At the end of the show, the dolphins and the false killer whales all came out together and jumped out of the water all at the same time. It was a great spectacle. The host then started talking to the audience how we should care for these animals and our environment.

At 1:30 we headed to the Nautilus Theater for the Sea Lion show, and it was great too. They started off the show by having one sea lion lipsync the welcome remarks of the host. I also didn’t know what the difference of seals and sea lions were before: I used to think it was only their size, but it turns out it is also the way they walk on land – sea lions prop up their front body by using their flippers as legs and as such can walk fairly efficiently on land, while seals practically crawl on their bellies. Apparently they are also really strong as they can lift up their entire bodies using just their front flippers (one sea lion even lifted her whole body with just one flipper much like a break dancer!). Then a few more tricks were done before the show was concluded by another lesson on the three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) and how we should not throw garbage into the oceans as it is the cause of death of tens of thousands marine life every year.

We then headed to the Sea Lion encounter area where my nephews and I had out picture taken with one of the sea lions named Madison. Unfortunately, our digicam ran out of battery so we only have a hard copy of the picture they took of us with their camera (by they I mean Ocean Adventure staff).

After the show, we headed to the Discovery aquarium, which is a collection really well maintained aquariums with an assortment of fish and other sea creatures like sea cucumbers, starfish, and even a lobster. My nephews naturally loved it and kept jumping from one aquarium to the next and back. We left Ocean Adventure at around 230 after what felt like a full day of enjoyment (this also meant that we got to Manila in the early evening). The place is quite expensive actually (even the lunch we had cost quite a bit), and when you compare it to similar facilities abroad, it isn’t as good. However, I think it is a great place to bring kids to (make sure you save for it though), and a great place to have an encounter with a dolphin here in the country (they also have whale encounters, but you have to be at least 8 years old to join that).

The rest of the long weekend was spent chilling out in Oakwood. I booked a two bedroom suite for two nights in Oakwood, and we headed there right after our Subic trip. Once again it was a lot of fun. We had good food and the kids enjoyed swimming in the pool and just running around the room. CJ also started drawing impressions of the animals he saw in Ocean Adventure, and my mom kept them all and decided to put them in a photo album along with the other photos we took of that weekend. After checking out on Monday, we had lunch in Outback because they had this promo where kids in costume got to eat for free. Both CJ and Ciera dressed up in pumpkin costumes. All in all, another great weekend.

Busy, busy, busy...

Hay, it seems to be that time of the year when things just go apeshit and my work-life balance tips too much towards the work side. Anyway, I'm checking in to say that I am alive, and that I am still around, but there hasn't really been enough time to blog. Which is kinda sad since, again, lotsa stuff has been going on. I think last week is the first week that I wasn't able to update my blog at all. Sucks when you realize that you can't even spare half an hour in the entire week for something like that.

Oh well, hope things get better soon.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Recently, an email about an answer supposedly given by Lara Quigaman in the recently concluded Miss International has been making its rounds. It’s a very interesting exchange and I’m copy-pasting it here:

Q: "What do you say to the people of the world who have typecasted Filipinos as nannies?"

A: "I take no offense on being typecasted as a nanny. But i do take offense that the educated people of the world have somehow degenerated the true sense and meaning of what a nanny is. Let me tell you what she is. She is someone who gives more than she takes. She is someone you trust to look after the very people most precious to you - your child, the elderly, yourself. She is the one who has made a living out of caring and loving other people. So to those who have typecasted us as nannies, thank you. It is a testament to the loving and caring culture of the Filipino people. And for that, I am forever proud and grateful of my roots and culture."

It’s a brilliant answer that not only gives a lot of respect to nannies but also uplifts the Filipino identity on a world scale. However, I’ve been told that this email was a hoax, that Lara Quigaman was actually never asked that question during the competition itself. Someone told me that she may have been asked that during an international press conference and not during the Q&A portion of Miss International.

Whatever the truth is about this e-mail, I am very pleased that it is landing in many an inbox. Primarily because it changes the level of respect that nannies (and people belonging to any other similar profession like maids and drivers) normally get.

People working these jobs, at least in this country, not only work very hard with little pay, but they are also looked down upon (sometimes on an unconscious level) by a lot of people with supposedly “more respectable” careers. One of the biggest insults maids and drivers get is how when someone who doesn’t look all that good is said to be ‘mukhang driver’ or ‘mukhang katulong.’ That is a terribly disrespectful comment on two levels. First, it means the recipient of that comment is looked down upon for not looking as good. Second, and immensely more disgraceful, is that it means that and maids and drivers have been made benchmarks of ugliness.

After all, imagine this. Someone was born into a poor family and is unable to go to school. However, since they don’t really have a lot of money, they decide to try and earn a living to help put food on the table. As they didn’t have enough funds for school, they can’t get any of the so-called respectable jobs. So they work as drivers and maids. Then they spend the entire day taking care of your kids while you are away, cleaning your toilet, cooking food over a hot stove, or waiting for you to get out of work and then driving you through two hours of traffic. And remember, they didn’t have enough money to go to school, so what would give us the idea that they would have the money to buy make-up and nice clothes?

Now, as someone who has had to wait a couple of hours in the car for someone I was picking up and then navigate through Edsa traffic during rush hour, I can safely say that by the time you get out of the car, the stress level actually shows on your face and you couldn’t really care less about anything else, least of all how you look. These drivers and maids and nannies all work to serve you and make your life better, not really having enough time to preen themselves. And why would they? If you had to clean a toilet, would you actually want to put on your best dress and look good for the cameras while doing it? I think not.

I find it really sad then that these people work hard to make your life easier, for a meager sum at that, and we think less of them for the way they look. Of course you can argue that you aren’t degrading maids and drivers when you say someone looks like a driver or a maid. But here’s a question for you – would you make that comment when there’s a maid or a driver sitting right next to you?

As such, I think it’s great that the supposed Q&A with Lara Quigaman is being read by an ever-widening audience as it can hopefully change people’s perspective a bit. I know someone who was once mistaken as the person who cleans rooms when he was in another country and he felt extremely offended by that comment. Now he says that, after reading that email, he no longer feels any less when he is mistaken as a housecleaner. One step at a time, I say, to make the world a better place.