Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Yup, it's that time of the year again when the Phil. Travel Tour Expo rolls around and i make the annual pilgrimage to SM Megamall. Just the thought of walking through this giant hollow block of a mall already makes me tired, but there's nothing to do except suck it up and venture forth. . .

I take a lot of ribbing from my sisters and close friends, who point out (quite accurately) that i go there and collect all these colorful and glossy brochures and tour packages, but i hardly go anywhere! Sad, but true. Nevertheless, this year might be different. Who knows?

So there i was, paying P50 entrance fee (THIS IS HIGHWAY ROBBERY!!!) and walking inside the Megatrade Hall. This year's theme was "Travel Lifestyle: Experience the Difference", but judging from the usual assortments of booths, promo girls egging you to join their raffle, etc., things were pretty much the same as in years past.

I try to steer clear of all these travel agencies offering Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, etc. packages, as well as the various Boracay resorts. After all, the point is to find something new, something different from the places one has visited before, right? From the looks of it, Angkor Wat (Cambodia) / Hanoi (Vietnam) / Luang Prabang (Laos) are gaining in popularity; even Turkey and Greece and South Africa seem to be more promoted now.

For those so inclined, one travel agency was offering this special alternative tour called "Gay Bali", which included a stay in a "100% clothing optional resort". Hmmm. . .ano ba yan?? [What the f**k is that??]

On the local scene, Buri Resort in Puerto Galera seems interesting, as well as Puerto del Sol in Bolinao, Pangasinan. A very intriguing possibility is this Banca Safari booth, which operates a 70-foot traditional banca boat at Subic. It offers various trips such as their Visayan Safari (visiting Cebu, Bohol and Dumaguete) and West Palawan Safari. I initially thought you'd have to sleep right on the banca, but thankfully their trips include beach resort accomodation per night.

Closer to the metropolis is the Avilon Zoo in Montalban, Rizal. I have friends who have gone here, and their feedback is uniformly positive. And it is pretty reasonable too, at only P208/person ( i don't understand why they don't round it off to P220 or even P250, and make more money in the process. Haha:D). When i went to their booth, i was asked, "Sir, do you have a calling card?"

"No." And that was that.

But as i was moving to the next booth, i overheard their staff ask the same question to this old lady. It turned out that if you give them your calling card, they give you two FREE tickets to the zoo! Duly chastened, i backtracked and sheepishly told the girl, "Ahh, i do have a calling card after all." Thus, yours truly was able to score 2 tickets! [applause, please]

There were some booths selling native food as well, and even one selling all sorts of knives (from butcher knives to balisongs). I happily bought some Napoleones (pastry with custard filling), mainly because the lady selling them said they came from Bacolod (my close friends know Bacolod is one of the places i've been dying to visit. Hehe) But they were quite good (and fattening), so it's money well-spent anyway.

As i turned a corner, i nearly dropped my ten-kilo load of brochures. I couldn't quite believe my eyes. Two men dressed in drag were handing out flyers! Curious, i got one and thus was introduced to Club Mwah, which is basically some sort of cabaret/musical revue place where men in drag perform choreographed dance numbers.

They billed their establishment as the "Philippines' latest tourist destination"; well, i wonder what the Dept. of Tourism and Dick Gordon has to say about that! :D Then again, if busloads of unsuspecting Korean tourists can be shepherded to watch the Amazing Philippines Show at the Film Center (yes, the very same Film Center which is supposedly condemned due to structural weakness; and which is supposedly haunted, due to the workers who were entombed in concrete during its construction, courtesy of our very own Imelda Marcos), then i guess anything is possible.

(For more info, check www.avilonzoo.com.ph and www.bancasafaris.com)

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Some random rants and observations to end this wonderful day (since it was my birthday :-D):


When you line up at the bank to deposit a cheque, etc., sometimes the teller calls out "Override, please" and a more senior person rushes over, punches a few keys on the keyboard and your transaction goes through. I've always been curious about this practice, and after some nosing around, found out that the tellers are authorized only up to a certain amount (say, PHP20,000). Beyond this figure an "override" is needed.

One day, as the new teller (who was friendly-looking and rather chubby) was punching in my cheque deposit, she called out "override, please" and someone materialized beside her in a few seconds, punched a few keys and my cheque was duly deposited.

I jokingly told the teller, "Surely after doing so many overrides over the course of a day, you know the password your colleague has been typing by now?"

She just smiled her friendly smile and remained silent.

Undaunted, i pressed on, "In fact, to save time, you could probably just punch in her password yourself. That way, there'd be no more need to call her, diba?"

She laughed and said, "Ah, sir, we are not allowed to do that!" (being new, she was probably still too green and polite to tell me, "Do you want me to go to jail, you idiot?!")

Oh well.


One of my pastimes is going to the record store to check out the new local and foreign music releases. Not necessarily buying records, since at P450 a pop for a foreign CD, they are expensive. Good thing local artists' CDs are generally at P250 - 280 each; otherwise, i don't think anyone would buy them.

And i must say those listening booths with headphones at Tower Records and Music One outlets are a great invention. . .you can listen to your fave songs without buying! Haha. And i just hope these are cleaned or at least sprayed with alcohol every day. I've yet to hear of anyone who has gotten an ear infection from dirty headphones, but you never know.

Tower/Music One also plays a featured artist or band through their piped-in sound system constantly. Unfortunately, their Quezon Ave. branch seems way too enthusiastic and plays the CDs at FULL BLAST all the time. Requests to tone down the music are hardly heeded.

So, while i'm trying to listen to the enhanting Sitti (an upcoming bossa singer, who is a delight to watch live) or the Pin-up Girls (the best Pinoy indie band you've never heard of), the sound system is pumping out the likes of that wretched band Coldplay, or dreadful Nickelback; or much much worse, Chillout Sessions by Anton Ramos at full volume. Grrrrhhh!!!


I made a serendipitous discovery today. We all know that shampoo, ketchup, mayonnaise, even shoe polish are sold by the sachet nowadays, but did you know that even branded perfumes can be bought by the milliliter (ml)?

Yup, that's right. Whether you prefer CK One, Drakkar Noir, Colors by Benetton, Clinique Happy, or (God forbid) Jovan Musk, all you need to do is go to the new tiangge building between Podium and SM Megamall, look for the stall with the sign "Perfume Extender" (or was it "Perfume Lengthener"??). They have some sort of laboratory test tube-type of thing where they presumably pour out your selected scent from its bottle and measure accordingly the amount you are buying.

Quite weird, yet funny, isn't it? I thought it takes things a little too far, but then again, it makes perfect sense. Buying a whole 50 ml or 100 ml bottle of perfume is a rather significant investment, given that: a) you might tire of it at some point; b) your loved one hates the scent; c) it burns a hole through your meager savings; or d) all of the above. Of course, buying by the ml is a more expensive proposition, but i doubt any young Romeo out to impress his Valentine's date in order to get to second base with her would think that far ahead.

So, i guess love is not only blind, but also prone to dizzy spells from too-strong perfume.