Dear Dad…

Tomorrow, June 20 the whole world will celebrate Father’s Day. Coincidentally, the next day is my Dad’s birthday so it’s a sort of double celebration for our family back home. I texted my mom the other day to ask their plan for the 2 occasions. She said they already bought fresh products in the market which they will cook so the whole family can eat together. God, I miss my family. It has only been 2 months since I came back home for a short holiday but the memories of that trip still remains. I was able to enjoy a family outing and spending more time with them catching up.

Now that all of us children are already adults, I can proudly say that our parents have brought us up well. They are good role models and has always been there for us. However, since Father’s day is coming as well as my Dad’s day, let me make this post a tribute to my dad. Btw, we affectionately call our Dad, “Papa”.

My dad was a Police Officer when he met my mom. They eventually got married. Because of the risk of the job and since my eldest brother was already born, my mom requested him to resign from the police. He then worked for the Central Bank for many many years until he retired. His passion for work has been an inspiration to all of us especially now that we have our own careers. I can still remember those days that he wouldn’t mind going to work even though there is typhoon or flooding which is a common scenario then because our city is located in a low lying place. He is the breadwinner and my mom is a plain housewife. Having said that, I cannot imagine how they are able to raise 5 children well, send to private schools and always have good food in our table. Life may be hard but our parents would never let us feel it.

My dad loves reading. He has tons of books in our house ranging from dictionaries, English communication books to almanac as well as constitution and governance. As books are plenty, I developed the habit of reading as well. Almanac was my favorite book then maybe the reason why there was a point during my High School when I was able to memorize almost all capital cities of the world.  🙂

He also enjoys writing. He writes very good letters from a plain excuse letter at school, to solicitation for sponsorship of a basketball court in our village to the local government and I think there was even a point that he wrote a letter to a president of a certain country (I totally forgotten which country it was and not sure if the letter ever reached the desk of that President).  I think I also inherited his writing skills though I must admit that he has a wider vocabulary knowledge than me.

During monthly exams in school, he would ask us to read the topics for the exam first in our text book then everyone would have their turn to be asked various questions about the lessons from my dad. My other brother would even have to pretend sleepy or sleeping already so the question and answer part will stop.

With all these, you might think he is a strict father. On the contrary he is not. I cannot remember a single time that he used his hands to reprimand us kids. He is also very generous to all of us. When he was still working, Mother’s Day or my mom’s birthday will never be complete without any gift from my dad from perfume to blouse or even orchids or rose (not in bouquet but plants that can be grown cos my mom loves gardening). There was even a time that my younger sister already gotten used to having a cake during her birthdays. Unfortunately on that day my dad was unable to buy the cake. My sister started to cry profusely and my dad had to buy the cake from somewhere far cos there was no bakeshop in our area then.

Two years ago, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer of the bladder. All of us were very worried but he did not show any signs of depression or desperation. Many procedures were done and up until today is still being undertaken to prevent the cancer from developing further. He has to avoid many foods and habits that are not good for the health. He lost some weight but I still see him very active. He loves taking care of his grand children so it’s a good exercise as well. His well being is always in my daily prayers.

When my friend visited me here sometime ago, my parents requested for some stuff to be brought to me and inside the box was a letter hand written by my dad. The message of which comes from both of them. In the letter they asked me how I am, that they missed me and always pray for my success and safety. They also hope I will like the stuff they sent. I was really touched by the gesture.

I am not vocal showing affection to my parents but in every way or every opportunity I have, I do not hesitate showing or making them feel it. Even up to this day, I would kiss my parents in the cheek to say goodbye which is not a common gesture for children these days.

My dad may not be able to read this blog post since he is not using computer these days but I know in my heart that he loves us so much and he is proud of all of us and surely he knows that we love him very much and we are thankful to God that he is our dad.

Dear Dad…Happy Father’s Day. Happy Birthday. I love you.

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Pumasyal sa Pilipinas kahit puno na ang Jeep…

Many Tourism promotions always highlight that the Philippines has 7,107 islands…Too many islands to explore right? But the million peso question is “Where are all the Tourist gone?”  According to a tourism report, tourist arrival grew to 5.2 million. This is actually a positive sign if compared to the past years but I believe this figure includes Balikbayans or Overseas Filipinos visiting Philippines for Holidays. So even with the positive figure, why does it sound like I am whining?

Thailand enjoys over 14 Million visitors a year, Singapore in March alone enjoyed a brisk arrival of 928,000 and projects tourist arrival to 12.5 million at the end of this year especially with the opening of new Integrated resorts like Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. Malaysia tops the list of SEA countries in terms of visitor’s arrival at about 21.5 Million in 2009.

Figures don’t  lie ayt?

Why am I highlighting these facts? Simply because the Philippines has all the factors to be the Tourism Haven in Southeast Asia (perhaps even whole Asia).

1.) We are the 2nd largest English-speaking nation in Asia (2nd to India). Everywhere you go even on the boondocks, locals can more or less communicate or understand English. Very Tourist friendly. In Thailand, some of those working in the hotels or restaurants cannot converse fluently in English. But Tourist still flock.

2.) We have the Sun, Sea, Sand and smiles. Activities and attractions are endless. Boracay still remains a big draw to tourist with its talcum powder-like sand and party atmosphere all day and night. Palawan is simply the best and so is Bohol, and Batanes, and Camiguin and Cebu and Davao..the list goes on and on.

3.) We are a melting pot of cultures. It’s true some countries have very strong and easily recognizable culture and heritage like that of China, India, Japan, Thailand. However our uniqueness lies on so many cultures and traditions to explore and experience at such a smaller place than the former mentioned places.

4.) We have several of the biggest shopping malls in the World. The newly renovated SM City North EDSA is the 3rd biggest mall in the world. SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall and many others are also included in the biggest mall list.  Why simply can’t we be the Shopping Haven of Asia? Why are so many Pinoy businessmen into retail business buy clothes and accessories in Bangkok, Hong Kong or mainland China?

5.) Our country has the geographic advantage.  We are in the heart of Asia and the Pacific. Easily accessible to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, there are also critical reasons why we do not get the numbers that we want:

1.) Lack of infrastructure- our Airports and sea ports cannot compete with our neighbors. Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Incheon Airports are highly recognized for efficient service, cleanliness and all the awards you can think of. Not to mention the size of these airport are simply humongous. Our road network also needs face lift. Few years ago, I was on the way to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa. The scenery is simply breath taking if not out of this world. Imagine a river traversing under a mountain and tourist is underneath this mountain for about 45 minutes going in and another 45 minutes going out. Really awesome. But to reach that spot, you have to travel by land for about 2 hours from the city and an hour of which is on a very bumpy road. The tour guide would always joke it is a natural body massage cos you are literally shaken and twisted by the rough road. Even thousands of tourist flock the Underground River, the road badly needs cementing or even asphalt for many years now.

Our public transport like MRT, LRT and even Bus or Jeepney transport are not tourist friendly. Either it is too crowded, or needs to be pulled to the garage especially a lot of public Buses and taxis.

2.) Lack of Promotion. Some months ago, I was dining in a Seafood Restaurant in Bangkok with a friend and beside our table are a couple of Hong Kong citizens. We tried to be friendly and asked if it is their first time in Bangkok and what is the purpose of their trip. We were surprised on their answer. They said it was not their first time and the purpose of their trip is just to eat Seafoods! WTF! Eating seafoods but you have to spend on airfare, hotel and travel 3 hours? But it is understandable because seafood in Hong Kong is very expensive. They can enjoy seafood dinner ever day or night while they are in Bangkok but the price is nothing compared to having just one full seafood meal in their country. And Thailand is actually earning a lot on Culinary Tourism. Cooking schools in Chiang Mai are very popular. Thai cuisine has been one of the factors why tourist visit this country.

Malaysia is very good in their PR campaigns to promote their tourist spots. Every time I meet a foreigner and I told them I am from Philippines or Manila, they usually ask me, what can you do in Manila or Philippines? Is Manila in an Island or near the beach? Many other questions. It is due to the fact that our Tourism related campaign is either insufficient or lacking of magnets to lure the tourists.

3.) Traveling in the Philippines is expensive. It is good now that Cebu Pacific has started the trend of budget airfare across the country which paved the way for the healthy growth of Domestic Tourism. Hotel accommodations in tourist spots in the Philippines are very expensive and so are foods and souvenirs in these areas. Going back to my story earlier about the couple traveling to Bangkok just to eat, I believe many of our fresh sea foods are being exported to Hong Kong, Japan, China and nearby countries wherein the prices if served on the table are triple or quadruple than the local price before being sent overseas. If we can only find a way for these seafoods or even fruits to be enjoyed here in the Philippines and no need to be sent for export, not only will the prices be cheaper but everyone will be able to enjoy (tourist and locals alike). If tourist go to the Philippines, airlines will be full, hotels will be occupied, restaurants can cook. Many establishments will benefit.

There are many more advantage and disadvantages. Maybe my blog is not enough. However, I still believe our country is great and we can show it to the world. The Aquino administration is coming in and there was a recent controversy about a rumor that President-elect Noynoy Aquino is considering Talent Manager, Boy Abunda to become the next Department of Tourism Secretary which got some nods and some flak from supporters and critics alike. But come to think of it, why not put former DOT Secretary Richard Gordon in this post again? Not so familiar if the law would allow it, but if this is possible then he is the best man for this post since he is outgoing Senator anyway and I believe he performed well during his stint in the DOT or even at Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. Btw, He was my Presidential bet. Unfortunately, he lost.

Tourism is very important. Tourism creates business. Tourism brings money to our coffers and contributes to our GDP. I just wish the time would come that tourist arrivals will full our sights to the rafters similar to the picture above..and so us OFW will not have to work abroad cos many jobs are waiting for us.

So bring in the millions (of tourists).  🙂

Life is like a hot chicken soup

Ideas really come unexpectedly. I was thinking for sometime now what topic I must write in my next blog post. I have not written for quite sometime and I want my post to be good. Anyway, no pressure so I just let it be..

For dinner tonight, I cooked “Tinolang Manok”, a tasty chicken soup with green papaya and chilli leaves (unfortunately despite chilli being a staple ingredient of Thai cookery, I cannot find any chilli leaves being sold in the market). I served dinner for myself around 8pm.

I have not eaten Tinola for quite sometime now so I was actually craving for it that’s why I decided to cook it. I was so hungry and the soup is still very hot as I just removed it from fire. First few bites, I tried using spoon and fork to eat.

However, being a Filipino wherein when at home the best way to eat your favorite dish is to use your bare hands I tried hard to eat the food in my plate at all cost.  The more I tried to grab a piece of chicken or papaya the more I feel a somewhat burning sensation.

Then I realized, life is like eating the hot Tinola Soup. The chicken parts or papaya are like us humans. It is put on fire to cook. We are also put into fire (problems or adversities) so we can be better individuals. Soup are seasoned to suit the diner’s taste buds. The cook keeps on adding fish sauce, water or other seasoning to make it perfect.  In life, we also experienced something that makes it more memorable- from being in love, to being promoted at work, winning the lottery or just finding the right pair of shoes that’s on sale.

Once the soup is cooked, we remove it from the fire and serve it on the table. I compare it as our preparation for building our own lives such as studying hard, molding our character through our family, friends and loved ones. Once we are ready to face the world, we take the leap of life and let others know what we are made of.

If we sip the soup while it is hot, our tongue will be scalded. Same thing for life, if we are not yet ready, many will seize the opportunity to pull us down or bring us close to danger or worse become the instrument for our failure.

But if we wait a bit and make the soup’s temperature just perfect, we can enjoy a good meal. As for life, if we wait for the right opportunity, then we reap the rewards of life.

I really hope life is as easy as preparing Tinola and eating it to our heart’s content. As they say, well…that’s life.