Monday, 31 December 2012

Thank You, #1330, For 'The Hobbit' and 'Les Miserables'!

Last November, the Korea Tourism Organization's hotline for tourism-related information #1330 held an event where they gave away prizes just for calling!

So, I called when the event started...and kept calling everyday until....I won!  I received a text that I did win and a lady called me to ask what I wanted as a prize. They had coupons for cafes and movie tickets! And since I love watching movies, I opted for the latter.

I received the e-movie tickets on my phone and I had to use them before 2012 ends. So, I waited for the two movies which I wanted to see before I would fly back to the Philippines for my Christmas vacation!

Luckily, The Hobbit was showing at CGV Yongsan Station on the weekend before I flew out. I have seen the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and this prequel was as equally amazing! From the landscapes, to the costumes and make-up of the hobbits, dwarves and other creatures, this is one of must-watch movies. 

Although it ran for almost three hours, each minute was never boring as the scenes were out of this world-ish, making it interesting and fantastic. 

This one is a must-watch movie.
Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne deserve Oscar nominations for their work in this film. This movie also ran for more than two hours, but with its storyline, production design, costumes and most of all, the actors' performances, I was glued to the screen all throughout like everyone else in the audience.

The story of this Victor Hugo's classic is very sad. That's why  most of the people seated around me were either sniffling or dabbing their eyes with tissue. And me? I was singing. Ha-ha-ha! 

The voices of Hugh, Anne and Eddie fit their characters, but Russel Crowe's was really off for Javert. It was painful listening to his singing. Instead of being feared, Javert sounded comical. I found myself chuckling during his scenes. 
So, if you haven't watched these two movies, make sure you do, even if you don't have the free CGV tickets from #1330.

But thanks to KTO, I was able to watch them for free! And in 2013, I will be looking forward to their free-movie events, and perhaps win again!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Island Eating: Silay City's El Ideal Restaurant!

 When I was a kid I remember reading a feature of Silay City in Reader's Digest describing this city as the Paris of Negros because of its numerous artists and artisans. But what Reader's Digest failed to mention was that Silay City is also a haven of native Negrense delicacies which everyone loves until today. Well, I stopped reading Reader's Digest, but I haven't stopped craving for these delicacies. 
                    (That's my favorite salab - the brownish delicacy 
      wrapped in plastic. Photo taken on my previous visit.)
           (Bitso-bitso is another favorite - cruller made of
            ground sticky rice and brown-sugar coating.)

Growing up in Negros Island in the Philippines, I remember an old lady vendor from Silay City, whom we called Tia Bodok. During the week, she would travel from Silay City and roam around my hometown, Victorias City, selling native delicacies. My two favorites from her wide basket were salab and dulce gatas! Salab is like a fried pancake made with coconut strips, while dulce gatas (also known as dulce de leche) is a very sweet dessert made from fresh carabao's milk. She would walk throughout the morning carrying her wide basket on her head, balancing it like a pro. By noon, all her goodies would have been all sold out, and she would go back home to Silay City.
 But now, Tia Bodok is no longer around, and I miss all the salab and dulce gatas. Luckily, there are some shops which still sell dulce gatas, but I hardly had seen one selling salab, until I dropped by one time at El Ideal in Silay City!
                                      (Cassave cake and buko pie, too!)
It's not just a store where you can buy all those barquillos, puto and other baked goodies to bring home. It is also a small restaurant where you can enjoy salab, fresh lumpia and bitso-bitso sitting down!
Last year, on my way to Manila, I dropped by El Ideal to get some salab and ate one inside the pre-departure area of Bacolod-Silay Airport, and another one in the plane! It was the best domestic in-flight meal I ever had! Ha-ha-ha!
                                                                (Ube-flavored puto!)
So, today, even if it was already late in the afternoon, I dropped by El Ideal to get some salab, but unfortunately, wala na! Waaah! Salab was all sold out for the day!
But I cried not! There will be salab tomorrow and the next day...and the next! And perhaps, when I drop by again this week, I would finally get some while I am here. 
                                         (They also have sandwiches!)
And when that moment comes, I will offer the first bite to Tia Bodok, wherever she may be. So, thank you, El Ideal, for letting me enjoy all those memories again of Tia Bodok and her salab.
El Ideal is just next to the Silay City plaza, just next to the intersection of the road going to the Silay-Bacolod Airport. So, if you happen to land at that airport, or if you're catching a flight, you can always swing by El Ideal. Those yummy snacks and delicacies are just a few minutes away! :-)

Friday, 21 December 2012

An Airport With A Poscard-Perfect View!

From the pre-departure area, that is!
I sit there waiting and eager to already board my flight for Manila, but also eager to sit longer and enjoy the view of the mountains, the haciendas of sugar canes and the blue skies over Negros Island. I have passed through other domestic airports in the Philippines, but I don't remember any other with a postcard view such as this. I only remember television sets entertaining those bored passengers waiting for their flights.

But this is no ordinary domestic airport. This is my airport. Ha-ha-ha! The airport which always welcomes me home!

The Bacolod-Silay Airport in Silay City replaced the Bacolod Airport as the Negros Province's domestic airport. Completed in 2007, it started operations in early 2008, and it welcomed me in September 2008! 

Since this was even closer to my home in Victorias City, I was happy the government had this airport built!  Before, flying out of the old Bacolod City airport was such a hassle. I always had to leave Victorias City early in the morning to make it to my mid-day flight to Manila. As the old airport was located on the southern end of Bacolod City, and I would be coming from the northern end, we had to traverse the whole city!

But this new airport in Silay City, which is just separated from my hometown by a municipality, is just about 20 minutes away during a sunny, fine weather. 

And today, as I leave Manila en route to the Negros Island, my plane will be taxing down the Bacolod-Silay Airport while being watched by the awaiting passengers seated at the pre-departure area, who must still be enjoying the view of the mountains and the fields of sugar canes while also waiting for their flight.
                               (Is this Mount Silay?)

And did I say it is also an international airport? 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Checking In, But I Forgot My Passport!

I finally arrived at the Incheon International Airport. Thanks to the very convenient airport limousine buses passing through my neighborhood in Seoul, I was able to get to the airport in just about an hour.

And instead of a hop, skip and jump to the Cebu Pacific check-in counter when I arrived at the airport, it was rather a hop, skip and drag. Dragging my heavy luggage, that it.

I found the 'J' row of check-in counters, which made me feel I was almost almost home. And standing there to check in, I opened my handcarry bag to look for my e-ticket and my passport. I pulled out the e-ticket printout, but I couldn't seem to find my passport. 

Hmm. It must be somewhere inside the bag. I tried looking again and again, and again, but couldn't find it. Could this be happening?  I think the unthinkable just happened...

...I FORGOT MY PASSPORT!  Waaaaah!!!

I could not believe it. As I stood there helpless at the check-in counter I was asking myself, 'how can this happen?' I am soooo organized that these things do not happen to me! How can this be?!

I took me a few moments for the whole horror movie of an experience to sink in. Then, training kicked in, so to speak. I had to think of the quickest way back home: the express train to Seoul Station, or an expensive cab ride from the Incheon International Airport to Hannam-dongDo I have time?

And as I was pondering which option to take when suddenly....

I WOKE UP!  Whew! 

I was soooo relieved it was just a dream that I'd rather not experience in reality. Or it could have been a real nightmare.

I guess these dreams come up in one's sleep when travelling is all what one thinks about. Oh well, luckily, it was just a dream. I am sure it won't happen to me in reality. Or at the Incheon International Airport. Ha-ha-ha!

Have passport, will travel. Ha-ha-ha!
Passport. Don't leave home without it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Our 2012 Merry Christmas Party In Seoul!

Last year, it was a 'Cirque de Soleil' Christmas party, where everyone came (or at least tried to) in those circus-y costumes. That time, thanks to the Namdaemun Market, I was able to find a costume at the last minute.

                            (My favorite kare-kare in the bowl 
                                 made by Teresa!)

And luckily this year, everyone has an easy task: a Christmas carol costume! And even luckier for me, the toy alley at the Dongmyo Station was very helpful! (Actually, most of us at the party were able to find our costumes here!).

And every year, before everyone flies out of Seoul to spend their Christmas vacations elsewhere (Manila-Bacolod-Iloilo for me), we made sure we are all gathered for the last time before the year ends.

                  (Suman wrapped in banana leaves!)
                          (Fruit salad and ginata-an!)

This year, Joy and Archie hosted again at their home in Seongbuk-dong, which has always been tricky for everyone to find. Their neighborhood, for everyone who knows the area, is a labyrinth of twists and turns where getting lost always happens before being found. Ha-ha-ha! Unless you have a navigator, be prepared to do some sightseeing at some huge houses (I heard Bae Yong-Joon has a house here) first before you finally find your correct destination.
                   (A special cassave cake flown in from Manila! 
           I wonder where Loren bought this? It was so good!)
Me? I always take the easiest route: getting off at Hansung Station and taking a cab with the address written in Korean backed up by a series of photographs I took from my cellphone the last time I visited, showing the streets, landmarks and the corners leading up to their home. With these, I am always able to find Joy and Archie's residence. I guess, with my perfect sense of direction, I am better than a compass. Ha-ha-ha!
Our party this year was more special as old friends, Loren and Arlene, who used to live in Seoul, came to Seoul to visit friends and do some shopping. And before they flew back to Manila, they both joined us to celebrate an early Christmas party in Seoul.


And since we are a Pinoy family, the party wouldn't be complete without the Pinoy cuisine everyone enjoys. Pinoy favorites like kare-kare, pancit, lumpiang prito and caldereta, plus lasagna, roast pork and chicken were all laid out on Joy and Archie's buffet table like a perfect reminder that within days of our Christmas party in Seoul, we all will be enjoying more Pinoy dishes at our noche buena with families and relatives in the Philippines.
                       (My exchange gift from Arlene! 
                    Scented candles from Faceshop!)

And as tradition, we exchanged Christmas gifts and had our annual Christmas carol sing-along, which was videod for posterity!

To make things more fun, we played our 'Wear your Christmas costume' game as planned, where everyone had to name another's Christmas carol based on his or her costume. Well, some were very easy, and some, like my costume, was tricky! Nobody was able to guess mine; nobody knew 'Good King Wenceslas' until Vangi sang it for everyone.

We also played 'Wrap me a Christmas gift', where two teams had to wrap someone and turn her into a Christmas gift! Yes, two ladies were turned into gifts as the wrapping papers wouldn't have sufficed to cover up the tall guys. Ha-ha-ha! This was fun actually, but demanded a lot of creativity. But since it's all about Christmas gifts, we had the three most objective judges who chose the winner: Ethan, Charlie and Patrick, the youngest members of our family!  
Most of us have flown out of Seoul by now to spend our Christmas holidays with families, relatives and friends at our respective hometowns. But early next year, as we fly back to our second home, Seoul, we bring back memories of our holidays and perhaps, extra poundage from all the Christmas parties and get-togethers, not just in the Philippines, but also at other countries some of us call home.
But in the meantime, from all of us, we all wish you a Merry Christmas and happy celebrations here in Seoul or wherever you and your loved ones may be!