Friday, December 30, 2011

Travel 2011: Rabbit Year Rewind

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

The days are counting down so quickly! In a day, 2011 will bid adieu and the year of the Metal Rabbit will sleep as the Dragon makes a roar in a few weeks. But before I get too caught up with the excitement of traveling in the coming year (and add more backlogs in my list), let me wrap up and rewind how the Rabbit year has been.

I jumped start the year with a leisurely  Road Trip To Pangasinan. It was work related, with lots of opportunities to discover more the tale of two cities of - Urdaneta and Dagupan, known to be the safest/cleanest city and the Bangus Capital of the world respectively and visited the many places of interest in its capital - Lingayen passing along the equally endowed municipality of Binmaley, the Seafood Capital of the North.

Then before January came to a close, I had a chance to be in Tagaytay once again to tour around three couch surfers from Taiwan (Ryan, Nikki and Jordan). The itinerary for that day became my entry to the Pinoy Travel Blog Carnival' Best One Day Itinerary.

For the love month of February, I did a Douglas Mc Arthur and returned to the romantic  capital of Pangasinan - Lingayen, to complete the property due diligence assignment. The work was easily coupled with pleasure, spending the night at the nearby Hundred Islands National Park In Alaminos City, which is only 45  minute-drive from the capital.

On our way back, we stopped in Calasiao for a sumptuous feast of crabs and shrimps courtesy of my friend Atty. Rubenita Bigol in addition to its famous puto and kutsinta treat for travelers.

March ushered in with a quick road trip to Cavite and side trip to Antipolo City but followed by frequent road trips to Pangasinan, an opportunity to get to see more towns like Mangatarem, Bolinao, BaniSan Carlos, Bayambang, and Villasis  in addition to the usual do.

The month of April literally opened up with a travel to Binangonan on April Fool's Day (not for some prank jokes but) to attend my aunt Liway's post birthday celeb slash pre-reunion prep for the first ever Lavarro Family Reunion. Then for the Holy Week, I had a hometown treat discovering the paradise right in our backyard - the Calaguas Group Of Islands in Vinzons, Camarines Norte.

With my new-found friends in Calaguas, we went on a Summer Road Trip Around Laguna in May enroute to enjoying the Kiping and Other Colorful Stars of Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon. And as my month won't be enough without a drive to Pangasinan, work required me to go back there affording a chance Meeting With the Best and the Beast of Urdaneta City, napping at a quaint town of Binalonan and attending the summer destination wedding reception of my friends Delilah and Randy in Manaoag. 

June was my busiest month work wise - with more frequent road trips to Urdaneta City  almost on a weekly (and sometimes on a weakly) basis. Well I had to be nice to my bosses and clients you know, to get the green light for my month-long trip to the United States at the end of the month! But still I was able to start my Lakbay Jose Rizal At 150 Heritage Trail  with sites visits around Manila (Rizal Park),  Antipolo City, Malolos, Bulacan and San Fernando, Pampanga. Finally, the feat of being in Four Countries In One Day added to the mid - year excitement!

Travel wise, July tops prettily in terms of the most number of flight segments, covered road trips distance,  new places and exciting experiences. In order, my month-long vacation took me to Daly City, San Francisco, Sacramento, Coloma, Martinez, Vallejo, Marin County, Hayward, San Jose , Oakland (all in California) , Las Vegas (Nevada), Newark, Freehold, Edison, Atlantic City (all in New Jersey), Cincinnati (Ohio), Denver, Castle Rock, Aspen  (Colorado),   St. Paul Minneapolis (Minnesota), Pennsylvania, Indiana, Downersgrove & Chicago (Illinois), Cleveland, Kirtland (Ohio)  and New York City, Palmyra, Niagara Falls (New York). Blog wise, I was able to blog daily (albeit belatedly) with 30 posts! yeahey!

Back in the Philippines from my month-long US vacation, the travels for August were limited to a 4D/3N get-away with friends in old, familiar destinations watching a parade! I was in Hongkong with my high school friends Lanie, Angie, Dolly and Kuya Mike enjoying Disneyland's Flights of Fancy Parade in the mid-week. Then, flown in Davao with my friend Nilo to watch the Kadayawan Festival Parade along with the fun Pinoy Travel Bloggers (PTB) friends, which culminate in  my gutsy commute to Cateel, Davao Oriental the following day. 

The month of September was  a month of many exciting and not-so exciting firsts! On the first day of the month, I found myself arriving in Brunei Darussalam for the first time, with my parents, brother Joel and friend couple Jojo and AA. It was my parents and brother's first travel abroad while it was first travel abroad as a couple for newly weds Jojo and AA. During the 4 - day stay, we were able to experience for the first time meeting a royalty and attending a Hari Raya Aidilfitri Feast At the Sultan's Palace and to get to know for the first time a  Golden Treasure named Jonathan, a  complete stranger who paid for all our rooms in a five - star hotel for two nights stay! 

But the not-so exciting first (sad!) was when I missed my flight to Dipolog  due to heavy traffic and not-so-trained driver. It should have been 3D/2N adventure with my Kuya Mike, checking off the 10 sites featured in the Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail in Dapitan, Katipunan and Dipolog.

Wow, except for a quick road trip to Urdaneta, Pangasinan (work related) and in my hometown Vinzons, Camarines Norte for the long week-end,October, my birthday month was almost travel-free, less busy month this year (unlike in previous years) where I had birthday adventures abroad. It was, of course, for a good reason! My prince, announced I could either be in Idaho (his parent's hometown) and other US States (for Christmas and New Year) OR Europe (Austria, Germany and London) for his birthday (January 19). Both were appealing and so I can't and didn't want to choose! He agreed after I promised to not spend on travels for October and November!

Still part of the travel deal with my prince, I did not go anywhere far for the month of November!  This allowed me to host, Joy, a couch surfer from Beijing. I picked her up from Clark, Pampanga where she arrived from Cebu and brought her to the American Cemetery, Mall of Asia and NAIA 3 the next day. Travel preparation wise, this month is full of stuff to blog about as it was the time to get all the visas needed for the mini RTW (round-the-world-trip) in December and January!  I applied for my first ever UK visa which was surprisingly fast and easy (took a day) and my second Schengen Visa before the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

And finally the most-awaited month of December brought excitement by being able to fly on three (3) new airlines (Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Continental), meet my PTB idol Ron Cruz of Flip N' Travels during a lay over in Changi Airport (Singapore), have a five - hour lay over in Frankfurt, Germany, celebrate Christmas with my prince and brother's family in New Jersey, USA and enjoy every unhurried days left this month with my prince until the coming year!

Surely 2011 has been a blast! Oh! the excitement of checking off some bucket lists and receiving high travel credit ratings both in Lakbayan (for Philippines Travel) and Geckogo (for World Travel).As I counted it today, I had 22 flight segments aboard 9 airlines (Asiana, United Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Delta Airlines, Singapore Airlines,  Lufthansa, Continental, Cebu Pacific and Tiger Airways),  visiting 12 States in the US,  (4 of them -Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota new and added to my 28 US States to date), 12 new US cities, 5 countries in Asia (Hongkong, Seoul, KoreaTokyo, JapanSingapore and Brunei Darussalam), 1 in Europe (Frankfurt, Germany), and 1 in the Philippines (Davao City) with 82 rounds of road trips around the United States and the Philippines - ALL within whoaah, 92 days(who says you can only get 15 days paid leaves?). 

In sum, 2011 has been much of a Rabbit year for me - affording me longer vacation time for a  more relaxed, unhurried and calm travel experiences! I kinda like it that way!! Do you?

Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter 2011: In Flight, Frankfurt Germany

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda
Date:December 23, 2011
Location: Frankfurt (Germany) International Airport

I flew on Lufthansa Airlines from Singapore and changed my flight to New York (USA) in Frankfurt (Germany) International Airport. It was my first time in Frankfurt,so I had earlier (gotten a Schengen Visa) planned a long lay-over to allow me to go out of the airport and get arrival and departure stamps on my passport (to possibly claim that I've been to Germany (lol.) 
Alright, the premeditated (evil) plan didn't work quite that well since I wasn't able to go out of the airport, but my passport has Frankfurt's arrival and departure stamps! Yeahey!!
(one of the shops in Terminal II where I got my teddys)
Frankfurt Airport is a huge airport with two terminals connected by bus and a Sky Train. My flight deplaned at around 6am in Terminal I which has five levels based on the touch-screen info-terminals I passed along the way. My flight (and all other flights) to US leaves in Terminal II which means I have to take the Sky Train on Level 2.I walked miles to find the Sky Train, which I didn't mind because it was an opportunity to take lots of pictures. Thankfully also, I have only the red bag to carry around which proves that traveling light is such a bliss!!   
(view from the Waiting areas at Terminal II)
Sky Train is Frankfurt Airport's free shuttle trains that run on two - minute intervals between the two terminals.It was such a short ride, I couldn't take pictures of the view lol. When I got to Terminal II and passed through security check, things started to drag  since my gate assignment did not appear yet on the flight screen monitor and I didn't wanna roam   around until I knew which gate to go for my flight.But after constant checking for almost 30 minutes to no avail, I decided to do the airport tour that was mentioned in the airport pamphlet. 
(free sleeping beds between Terminal I and II)
The pamphlet did not provide much info on the Frankfurt Airport Walking Tour except that it starts at Level 0 of Terminal I.Well, at least that's a good reason to actually get my dream Frankfurt arrival stamp! And so I got the stamps and exited. As I walked though I learned that the walking tour begins at 10:30am (it was only 7am) and normally lasts 3-4 hours (ouch my flight leaves at 11am), so I headed back to Terminal II, approached an Immigration officer and in a few seconds I got my dream Frankfurt departure stamp! Easy huh!! 

Back at Terminal II, my remaining hours were spent browsing through stuffed toys and souvenirs from Germany and finally buying two teddy bears (after exchangin $100 for Euro), grabbing a healthy drink and mixed nuts, using the free wifi computer, and just people watching and basking at the non-stop activity at the airport!   

The IF's at Frankfurt Airport
-if you can't find the Airport Guide 

1. If you have at least 7 hours lay-over between 10:30am onwards, go in one of the airport tours of exciting places just outside of the airport. No advance booking is required. Just go to Airport City Mall in Terminal I, Level 0 to purchase ticket. It is 12 Euro each with 5 other   people doing the same tour (or $75 if alone). 

2. If lay-over happens in April-October between 10am and 6pm, you can score an impressive panoramic view of the action on the apron and airfield from the Visitors' Terrace located in Terminal II at no cost. 

3. If you have children, there are several play areas in both terminals.Terminal 1-Concourse A, Level 2 & Concourse B .Terminal II-Concourse E, Level 2 & Bet.Concourse D & E, Leve 4.

4. If you want to save yourself a long walk, look for Terminal Express Shuttles for a free ride after passing the boarding pass check.

5. If you do not have a lounge accommodation at your airline, but wants to enjoy relaxed moments, get entertained, work or doze off, you can go to Terminal II Level 3 and avail of Sky Lounge accommodation for three hours for $40.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Travel: Packing Light,Possible?

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

I’m leaving on Thursday for a 33-day travel around the United States, United Kingdom, some countries in Europe (with short stops in Singapore) to celebrate the holidays with my prince and meet family and friends. I am pretty excited. Everything is ready - all visas (US,UK and Schengen), tickets (courtesy of my prince) and world travel insurance!  With that I can now officially start packing!

I opened my so-called "winter closet" and put to good use the coats, gloves, mufflers, thermal wear, boots, sweat shirts, socks, hoods since it is winter in US and Europe at this time. In February 2009, I spent the winter mainly  in the US (California-Boston-New York-Philadelphia-New Jersey) for only three (3) weeks. I  survived the freezing temperature only because I have 2 suitcases of clothing that I could wear! Glad. I didn't have to travel alone frequently with those two big suitcases!

But for 33 days, I could easily see my winter clothing ensemble to fit at least 2 big suitcases with a carry-on luggage since I want to wear different clothing everyday (for picture purposes)! SO how then can I pack  “light” and fit everything in just one medium size luggage with no carry-on? If I don't pack light, I will punish myself carrying all three (3) suitcases as I migrate frequently between countries!

Well, I learn that the trick is to layer, and just change base layer every day AND do my laundry as needed! So, for my final count I am bringing the following items:

2 shoes - a pair of boots a and a water proof sneakers (SUPRA for added height)
2 coats - a water-resistant, black coat and a red cardigan coat for holiday color
4 pairs of socks - one red long (almost a full leggings), two knee-length and one toe socks
5 hooded mufflers - maroon, gray, white, pink and green
1 knitted cap and 2 scarves
6 tops including a thermal wear
6 bottoms - 2 jeggings (jeans leggings, black and blue), 3 leggings (black, white and gray), and a thermal.
10 pair of garments
1 polo shirt (to be worn on flight to Asia)
2 pairs of pajamas
1 pair of black sports attire
2 Sunday's Best clothes

Let's see if this will be enough to carry me through and enjoy the winter holiday without freezing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Journey To Gutsiness: Un-Buckle Up WIth A Backpack In And Around Davao!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Arrived in Davao International Airport last August 21, 2011. It was my nth time there, but wow felt like a first time. I was in casual attire, carrying only a backpack without any checked in luggage to collect from the carousel, a far cry from the usual deck up during past travels in the largest province of Mindanao.

Soon enough, I realized the daunting task ahead of me! It was my friend Nilo's first time in Davao and he was counting on me to make all the decision - including choosing the cheapest way possible to get to our destination! I may have given him a wrong impression that I know how to commute while in Davao. My previous trips were no help, being all business-related and company arranged for everything including a rental car with driver. Worst, I really can't travel on vehicles without buckling up (though I wasn't driving or sitting in the front seat). Oh yea, George Cayley's seatbelts for me are the greatest invention!!

Stepping out of the airport was met with trepidation. I don't know where to begin (how to get out of the airport even!) on public transportation. But I am determined to give my friend Nilo a good three days in Davao. So let's go, I remember saying to him as I nodded in agreement to a smiling-face guy holding a signage for taxi to the city. It was an SUV (which I thought is a good deal at Php 350 giving us enough space to stretch our legs). But it is a bit old and viola! no seat belts!

"No Fear" I told myself (as if I read the sign on this colorful tricycle in Compostela Valley in my mind!). At this point my unbuckle up in a backpack journey has begun! Oh well, I later realized that with Davao's unique, exciting and varied public transportation, seatbelts are unnecessary!

Next to the SUV , the second type of Davao transport we hopped on was the taxi from our hotel to Ecoland Bus Terminal. The trip during early morning cost us Php 60 since taxi fare start at Php 40.00 and will add Php 3.50 per few hundred meters. I sat behind the driver and looked for seat belts but there wasn't any. The travel was fast and smooth though so I soon forgot the need to buckle-up!

From Ecoland Bus Terminal, we boarded a Mallen Express Bus to Cateel, Davao Oriental via Compostela Valley. We were seated in front but opposite side of the driver. Again, I noticed that there was no built - in seat belt. None of the passengers seemed to mind that at all, so I too embraced the five (5) hour - ride on alternating paved and rugged roads without the safety belt! (with silent prayer for Heavenly Father to keep us safe!).

When we got to Cateel, my "un-buckle in a backpack journey" seemed to get more adventurous. I spotted a motorcycle with four persons, with the person sitting sidesaddle on the gas tank in front of the driver. I was told it is called habal - habal and common transport in Cateel to stand the rough, narrow roads. I silently told myself, I will definitely not try the habal-habal, not only I have to buckle up but also I have a motorphobia(or the fear of riding two -wheeled vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles).

I spoke too soon! Our host Rhoderick "Dodong" Emboscado (brother of PTB Olan Fernandez Emboscado) already contacted a motorcycle driver to tour us around. Motorcyles are the cheapest, fastest and most common transport in Cateel, the only option if we want to see the enchanting Aliwagwag Falls located about 45 minutes on rough road from Poblacion. I hesitated big time! But getting the boost and the cheers from friendly Cateelenos, I pushed myself, and had the ultimate heart-pumping thrills of my life - on a motorcycle minus the modified seat for the habal - habal!

Back in Davao City from Cateel and after getting over the motorphobia, I opted for more transport adventure. According to the Davao Tourist Map (I've gotten from the airport), going to Philippine Eagle Center in Brgy. Malagos can either be by bus or jeepney. The jeepney fare is Php 40 while the bus fare is cheaper for only Php 30. But to take the bus, we would have to go to Annil Terminal located at corner of Quirino and San Pedro Extension. We decided to get off at Magsaysay and with the help of local police, flagged the correct jeepney that ply to Calinan. Of course, there was no seat belt, but I don't care anymore.My adventurous nature overpowered me that time, so I enjoyed the ride even though the uso-uso jeepney we boarded was a bit driving fast and playing annoying loud music!

The jeepney driver was very helpful though. When he passed by a bunch of habal-habal, he stopped and asked if they can bring us to the Philippine Eagle Center. I told the driver, we didn't want a habal-habal (coz my backpack is heavy, I don't think I can balance like in Cateel). I told him the map said there are tricyles in Calinan Public Market for Php 10 each and that's what we wanted to try. He obliged. So when we reached the market, he called out for the driver of this unique pedicab which to me looks like a motorized wicker.When we asked the pedicab driver how much the ride to Malagos, he said it is Php 80. I felt that was a rip - off, so I revealed to him that the tourist map was mentioning a Php 10 tricyle ride and a Php 6 pedicab fare. Not sure where the wicker ride fall but Php 80 is too much. He suggested we go to the common terminal which we did.

Inside the Calinan Public Market is a terminal for the shared tricycle for six (6) persons costing Php 10 each. The driver normally fills up his trike before it leaves. Since there were already three (3) passengers when we get there, plus the two of us, I decided to pay for the one passenger missing. That gives me a space for my backpack.(note: my backpack is the black one, but I always carry Nilo's beige backpack coz it is lighter!) It also shielded me from falling out, since I don't have the safety belt!

Returning to Davao City from Malagos, we basically went on the same route on the reverse but this time took the shared air con L300 van from its Calinan terminal instead of jeepney. When we reached the city, we went to People's Park. There, I enjoyed another unique Davao transport - a goat ride! haha. (Well, earlier at the Kadayawan Festival - there were so many colorful transport options. I'll write about it in another post).

I am so happy with this experience. I learn to trust in the Lord to overcome my fears. I know that while I wasn't wearing an actual seat belt around me, Heavenly Father provide me with an invisible one to keep me safe from harm and enjoy one of life's simple pleasure - traveling!

This is my entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December with the theme ‘Memorable Journeys Taken as Traveler’ being hosted by Kara Santos of Travel Up .

For previous Blog Carnival topics please visit Estan Cabigas' Langyaw.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Brunei Trip 2011: Omar Saiffudin Mosque (From Every Angle)

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

With its marble minarets and golden domes, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque dominates the skyline and visible virtually anywhere in the Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei. The main dome is covered in pure gold and the main minaret is the mosque's tallest feature in combination of Renaissance and Italian architectural style.

(view of the mosque from Kampong Ayer)
My family and I literally checked the mosque from every angle and count off the different places where we found postcard perfect views of this majestic mosque last September 2-3, 2011. Our first picture was when we were sailing around Kampong Ayer's Water Village

(with my parents and brother Joel at the gate of the mosque)
Named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien is an iconic symbol of the Islamic faith. The interior of the mosque has magnificent stained glass windows, Shanghai granite walls, semi domes, Italian marble floors and white columns. Since the inside is for prayer only, taking pictures is not allowed and non-Muslim females (like me,mama and AA) have to wear the abaya available at the entrance. All visitors are required to remove their shoes when entering the mosque.

( with my whole family inside the courtyard)
At the left side of the prayer hall is a door that leads to the courtyards and lush gardens full of fountains. Islam faith believes that mosque symbolizes heaven so it was built in 1958 with an artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River and surrounded by a number of trees and floral. Across the lagoon is a bridge to Kampong Ayer and another marble bridge that leads to the replica of a 16th Century Sultan Bolkiah mahligai barge. The Sultan's mahligai replica was built to commemorate the 1,400th anniversary of Nuzul Al-Quran in 1967.

(near the artificial lagoon)
We enjoyed our tour inside this mosque that Saturday morning, since we missed seeing the inside of the other stunning mosque, Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. The mosque is closed to visitors every Thursday and Friday and during the prayer time and we were lucky it fits well with our schedule.

(right side of the mosque)
Another great view of the mosque is from the Taman Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien (like our Rizal Park).From this point, one can have a good picture of the whole mosque showing the highest minaret and its elevator that goes to the top where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. It was closed when we visited and we couldn't find anyone to inquire about it.

(taken in front of the Taman Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien)
After dining at our fave Jollibee (yes our Pinoy's fastfood chain), we were surprised to catch a good view of the mosque from the parking lot of the Yayasan Shopping Mall complex.Though a bit far, couple Jojo and AA posed for a picture!

(couple Jojo and AA at the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hasanal
Bolkiah Shopping Complex near the mosque)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Before I Hit The Twig: Be A Game Show Contestant- Eat Bulaga's Pinoy Henyo!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

In The Holding Room
Eat Bulaga! is the longest-running and most popular noon-time variety show in the Philippines being aired by GMA Network Weekdays and Saturday at 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm. Ask everyone about Eat Bulaga!and they will say "Pinoy Henyo!". Which makes a lot of sense, since “Eat Bulaga’s” “Pinoy Henyo” quiz is not only entertaining but also educational and the words are within the level of even elementary school kids.

Pinoy Henyo Contestants
In Pinoy Henyo (or Filipino Genius in English)three teams with two people in each team compete. The guesser must guess the secret word within two (2) minutes by asking questions answerable only by Oo (Yes), Hindi (No) and Pwede (Can Be).Other replies will incur a 3 second penalty for every wrong reply which will be added in the team's official time. Four (4) Dabarkads hold a hidden prize of P10,000, P15,000 and P20,000. The Dabarkads chosen will go to the flushroom. If the contestant guess the word correctly, the Dabarkads is spared from getting wet and the contestant win whatever the prize the Dabarkads is holding. If the pair failed to guess the henyo word, the Dabarkads get wet and the team take home a P5,000 consolation prize. The team with the fastest time, heads to the Jackpot round.

In the Jackpot round, the winning pair will play again following the same concepts except this time, both of them would have to guess the word, taking turns. Also, they are only given one category and is to answer three words correctly in 3 minutes. Each correct answer is P10,000, but if the pair answered 3 words, they take home additional P50,000 pesos.

With Osmenians and Friends After Eat Bulaga
The November 18, 2011 portion of the Pinoy Henyo's Alumni High Edition was more special compared to the daily Pinoy Henyo that I watched in the past. That time, I was inside Broadway Centrum and one of the competing pairs along with my kuya Mike as partner. The Alumni High Edition requires graduates of high school 5 years ago and onwards, with both contestants in the same graduating class.Since kuya Mike and I were both batch '89 of Pres. Sergio Osmena High School - Manila, we volunteered to be our school's representatives and headed to audition.Luckily we passed and were chosen among 24 other pairs auditioning that day.

Kuya Mike During The Introduction
Our mutual goal is to make it to the Finals and bag the P500,000.00 grand prize for our alma mater.During audition, we learned that the individual players will also win for themselves a P300,000.00 during the grand finals in addition to the daily prizes.

With a Henyo Word "Palay" or rice grains in English, the first team (Green) had a really tough time to guess. The word was unusually problematic because it cannot fit squarely in the five (5) categories (Tao, Bagay, Pagkain,Hayop at Lugar) with Pagkain the closest. Based on the guidelines for Pagkain - it cannot fit into Ulam, Prutas or Gulay since it is Halaman (plant)or Butil (grains).

On Henyo Seat 
Our word was also complicated — Gripo (or faucet). Kuya Mike was chosen to guess the word and he did really well in locking in the word to be located inside the bathroom with only 25 seconds from our time.He was even praised by host Joey De Leon for his category ("may hawakan"). Sadly, he couldn't guess the word in time. It was a fun experience though.

The third pair (Blue), also suffered the same fate as the first and the second teams, although the word they picked out wasn't a Henyo word and quite easy - Ortigas. But as a contestant myself, I can understand the pressure when you are on the Henyo seat. With that none of the three teams played for the Jackpot round.

Here's the link to the video of this gutsy experience - Pinoy Henyo November 18, 2011 - "Volunteer to do something you've never done before " which is one of the 12 life-challenging strategies that Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant mentioned in August 9, 2005 Family Circle issue. Although, we were not able to qualify for the grand finals, the experience taught me that stepping outside the box can open endless doors. Many friends told me how they enjoyed watching us and how telegenic we are! See,we might get an offer soon to appear on tv! haha.

P.S. With this I have checked off No.343 in my list of the "2001 Things To Do Before You Die" Be A Game Show Contestant


Feeling Gutsy? Head to Broadway Centrum from 3pm until 5pm Monday to Friday to get application form from the security guard at the gate. Audition starts at 5pm so you should be with your high school batchmate, who graduated from high school at least 5 years ago and have with you your HS diploma or YearBook and a 2 x 2 picture. During audition, you will be given only a minute to guess the word unlike in the actual game. So the key is to be energetic and fun as it won't matter whether you guessed the Pinoy Henyo word or not. Like with our audition, I was given the word Flower Vase which I wasn't able to guess but came close. Kuya Mike was given the word Kidney and had a mental block so didn't even mention the Tao category haha. But well, that landed us the ticket to be the contestant out of the 24 pairs who auditioned November 16, 2011. At 6 in the evening of November 17, 2011 I got a call from Eat Bulaga Pinoy Henyo staff telling me that we will be playing for the November 18, 2011 Pinoy Henyo portion and we have to be there at 9 am! The rest is history!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Celebration: 100 Things I Am Thankful For!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

True, I have previously written that Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada and not nationally celebrated in the Philippines. But Americans or not, we ought to give thanks since it is a commandment by our Heavenly Father in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ("In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you").

So as and by way of celebrating Thanksgiving Day, I take the challenge to count my blessings! John Hilton III and Anthony Sweat in Liahona December 2011 issue, suggested to list 100 Things You Are Thankful For by breaking those things by 10s.

Ten (10) Physical Abilities I Am Grateful For

One of the great blessings I received when I came to earth is a physical body which was endowed with special gifts, talents and abilities. I am grateful that:

1. I can travel.
2. I can blog and write.
3. I can lead a group.
4. I can scuba dive.
5. I can play chess and scrabble.
6. I can parasail.
7. I can sing.
8. I can swim.
9. I can do river rafting.
10.I can dance.

Ten (10) Material Possessions I Am Grateful For

1. Passport with Visas to the United States, United Kingdom, Schengen countries, Australia, China, South Korea.
2. SUVs to make traveling easier.
3. House and Lot.
4. Watches.
5. Dresses and Shoes.
6. Bank Accounts.
7. Law Office.
8. Books (Own for royalty, and those books as tools of the trade).
9. Investment Funds.

Ten (10) Living People I Am Grateful For

1. My loving and supportive parents.
2. My bestfriend Dearie.
3. My caring boyfriend Mark Poff.
4. My family (brothers, sisters-in-laws, and 12 nieces and nephews).
5. My extended families (Ojeda and Lavarro clans).
6. My LDS Friends (mission companions,childhood friends and Office of General Counsel Colleagues and Deparo Ward Family).
6. My very reliable driver - Jojo Bautista.
7. My J. Reuben Clark Law Society members.
8. My unselfish generous couch surfing friend in Brunei - Jonathan Beveridge
9. My High School Friends, College Girlfriends, Law School Friends and colleagues.
10.My Pinoy Travel Bloggers new friends and acquaintances.

Ten (10) Deceased People I Am Grateful For

1. Prophet Joseph Smith
2. Pres. Gordon B.Hinckley.
3. Dr. Jose Rizal.
4. Uncle Ramon Ojeda
5. Grandpa Eulogio Ojeda.
6. Grandma Modesta Ojeda.
7. Grandpa Luis Lavarro.
8. Uncle Isagani Lavarro.
9. Uncle Wilfredo Ojeda.
10.Friend Leni Pelobello.

Ten (10) Things About Nature I Am Grateful For

1. Sunrise.
2. Sunset.
3. Trees.
4. Beaches.
5. Waterfalls.
6. Rivers.
7. Mountains.
8. Tropical Climate.
9. Snow.

Ten (10) Things About Today I Am Grateful For

1. Chatting with Mark.
2. Mark sending a ticket reservation for our trip in Germany and a hotel reservation in Munic Germany for five days.
3. Getting My UK visa after a day's wait (although I was advised I will get it in 3-5 days!).
4. Being issued a World All-Risk Travel Insurance instead of an insurance required for Schengen countries in just 30 minutes.
5. Getting a Schengen visa interview schedule at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany for a Monday schedule.
6. Having an hour body massage and half - hour foot spa at Tonton's Massage in Greenhills.
7. Being able to park at a private parking space in Annapolis Greenhills.
8. Having a reliable and dependable driver who helped me do no. 3 to 7 on time!
9. Getting a court decision on the Annulment case of a friend client who is wanting to marry.
10.Having kuya Mike as a paralegal who juggles his time to do all the office stuff including getting a copy of the court decision!

Ten (10) Places On Earth I Am Grateful For

1. Philippines' Beaches.
2. Utah's Salt Lake Temple, General Conference Center and Church facilities.
3. Niagara Falls.
4. Great Wall of China.
5. Paris Eiffel Tower.
6. Australia's Opera House.
7. Historic Kirtland (Ohio, USA).
8. Historic Palmyra (New York, USA)
9. Sweden's Royal Palace.
10.Homey New Jersey.

Ten (10) Modern Inventions I Am Grateful For

1. Computer (Laptop, Netbook, Deskstop).
2. Cellphones.
3. Telephones.
4. Refrigerator.
5. Hair Dryer.
6. Electric Chair Massager and foot massager.
7. Airplanes.
8. Cars.
9. Television.

Ten (10) Foods I Am Grateful For

1. Chocolates.
2. Shrimp and Crabs.
3. Pesto Pasta.
4. Watermelon.
5. Ice cream and Yogurt.
6. Korean Ramen (kimchi noodle).
7. Sprite or 7-Up.
8. Gummi Bears.
9. Chicken Wings.
10.Chowking Lomi.

Ten (10) Things About The Gospel I Am Grateful For

I can't imagine what my life would be like without the blessings of the gospel and I am grateful each day for the blessings of:

1. A true knowledge that God is our Heavenly Father.
2. The full gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Opportunity to become a famiy forever through Family Home Evenings.
4. Temple Marriage and sealings that are binding on earth as well as in heaven.
5. A true prophet and church leaders to guide.
6. Opportunities for service to others.
7. The Book of Mormon and other scriptures (Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price)
8. Sunday School.
9. The Priesthood.
10.Relief Society.

How about you?What are your 100 Things You Are Grateful For?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mindanao Bliss: Cateel, Davao Oriental!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

I have been in many places in Mindanao.
In fact, I went white water rafting in Cagayan De Oro, did a tour in Marawi, saw sunken cemetery in Camiguin,rode the colorful tricycle in Bukidnon,awed by the majestic Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City, lakeside viewing in Lake Mainit of Surigao, enjoyed the downpour in Sagpulon Waterfalls in Misamis Oriental, cruised along Agusan River in Butuan, swam in Pearl Farm in Samal Island and enjoyed Kadayawan Festival and nature tripping in Davao City. Still, I can't say that I've been in Mindanao (or the whole of it) since Mindanao encompasses six administrative regions which are further subdivided into 26 provinces. At most, I have been to Northern Mindanao and a few places in Southern Mindanao.

As Mindanao is the second largest group of islands in the Philippines (Luzon being the largest and Visayas the smallest in terms of land area), a random visit to a few places will not justify a label - positive or negative for the whole of Mindanao. So depending on who writes it, Mindanao is stereotyped either as the " notoriously turbulent area " or a Land of Promise. Conflicting right? With that I learned not to just take the writer's word for it. For the ones that are known to be tension-free like the ones I visited, I come to see it for myself!

And so it was for Cateel, one of the oldest towns in northeastern Davao Oriental. Travel Teller Olan Emboscado's entry to Hometown Blog Carnival in May 2011 that I hosted gave me a foretaste of Cateel's pride like the majestic Aliwagwag Falls. The pictures on Travel Teller's post are postcard perfect. But I knew that Cateel really has to be seen in person to be appreciated. So aboard the Mallen Express, my friend Nilo and I left Davao City at 5 in the morning last August 22, 2011. We didn't have reservations but glad the front seats were vacant. The next five (5) hours travel on alternating paved and rugged roads via Compostela Valley was filled with fun anticipation but with a slight worry of the unknown since Cateel is in the outskirts. To date, this trip maybe my bravest stint in traveling.But it is so worth it!

The Municipality of Cateel ( named after a kind of rattan that abounds in the place) is bounded on the North by the Municipality of Boston, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the South by the Municipality of Baganga, and on the west by Compostela Valley. In October 29, 1903, Cateel was created as a municipality under the American military government with a long and varied history in its cap. I learned that the Spaniards took the town in 1614, but lost it to the Americans in 1900. Now, Cateel will personally be remembered as home to my memorable moments of friendship, adventure, excitement, pleasures and delights in another place in Mindanao. Truly, there is so - called Mindanao Bliss.

Friendship and Adventure

Arrived in Cateel at around 11 in the morning. PTB Olan's brother Roderick "Dodong" Emboscado picked us up from the bus station and brought us to their home where we have stayed for the night. He also contacted a motorcycle owner who was our adventure buddy for the day.

Motorcyles is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to travel the off-roads condition on the way to Barangay Aliwagwag, the home of the enchanting Aliwagwag Falls. Problem is I have a motorphobia (or the fear of riding two -wheeled vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles).Thanks to the friendly and helpful motorcycle driver slash tour guide slash photographer and other neighbors. Sitting at the rear for 45 minutes one way from Poblacion to Barangay Aliwagwag, I had the ultimate heart-pumping thrills of my life. And Aliwagwag Falls did not disappoint.

Excitement, Pleasures and Delights

Aliwagwag Falls is said to be the highest in the Philippines with 1,110 feet and one of the most beautiful falls in Mindanao. It is a series of 84 falls cascading like stairway to heaven with various heights among the steps in the midst of virgin forest. I felt a sense of pride for overcoming my fear and not missing this majestic beauty. I bet, I am one of the few travelers who are able to see the Aliwagwag Falls up close and personal.

We wrapped up our Cateel scenic nature tour enjoying the Maglahus Bridge (which again I have a phobia but I managed to cross it while playing with the kids), sunset viewing and sumptuous dinner at Santa Filomena Beach, visit to the St. James Church and enjoying the cool night at the Cateel Centennial Park with the tallest Jose Rizal Monument. Indeed, an overnight pack trip of another Mindanao Bliss! But don't take my word for it,come and visit Cateel to agree!!!

This is my entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for November with the theme ‘Mindanao Bliss’ being hosted by Travel Teller Olan Fernandez Emboscado.
For previous Blog Carnival topics please visit Estan Cabigas' Langyaw.

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Trotting The Globe

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I've been to 660 cities in 26 countries
Mhe-Anne is an explorer that:
does their own thing
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