Sunday, June 17, 2012

Around Makati City Hall

These are the views at the 22nd floor of the Makati City Hall. Photos taken last June 09, 2012.
Below, facing Makati CBD.

Views at the back, facing Pasig River.

Divisoria, Manila

I took these photos only last Sunday, June 10, 2012. Divisoria is always full of people, seven days a week, whole year round, with thousands of sellers, buyers and plain curious visitors These are still "lean" crowd as (a) it was a Sunday afternoon and (b) there was a Pacquiao-Bradley fight.

Below, upper photos, taken from the 6th floor parking of the newest (and only high-end) mall in Divisoria, the China Luckytown Mall. Upper right photo I think, is the extended 168 Mall.

Lower photos, well not in Divisoria, but in neighboring Quiapo, a faith healer. I asked her what kind of diseases she can cure, she replied "All -- diabetis, cancer, tumor, headache,..."

Below, the creek winding around Divisoria. It's very dirty, coming from various solid waste that, although generally collected, there are still many left over wastes that are simply thrown or draining into this creek.

Below, no longer the creek of Divisoria. This is part of Pasig River draining into Manila Bay, not far from Divisoria. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kitzsteinhorn Ski Resort, Austria

In early November 2008, my German friend Christian Beil and his family, hosted me for the second time in his house in Miesbach, Bavaria, Germany. The first time was in October 2003, when I came from Sweden, then Netherlands, to Germany.

In my second visit, Christian brought me to a glacier in Austria. I have never been to a glacier before, so I was super-super excited for that trip. Here, the base of the ski resort, just outside the parking area. We were going to a place that is more than 3 kilometers above sea level in elevation. Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines, is about 2.9 kilometers high above sea level.

To reach our destination, we have to ride 3 different lines of cable cars. Below, views on the first of 3 cable car rides to the top.

I can't remember now if this is the 1st or 2nd of those 3 cable car rides. Austrian technology in cable cars I heard, is among the best around the world.

A ski shop after the 2nd cable car ride, going to the 3rd and final ride.

And we were climbing higher and higher...

Photos before reaching the summit -- via cable car, not by foot :-)

More photos while inside those cable cars, going up.

Finally, the main structure of the ski resort, I was super-super happy to reach that place then. At. 3,029 meters above sea level. I told Christian that I felt like hungry or tired or dizzy or what, at the top. So I ate and rested for a while. I only realized later that it was sort of an "altitude sickness". At more than 3 kilometers above sea level, oxygen level is low, the heart has to palpitate more, that's why.

It took me about 20 minutes of rest at the top, before I got used to the new environment. Ahh, the chance to walk outside, step on those ice in a glacier -- priceless for someone coming from the tropics.

Stepping on a glacier, one of my most memorable trips last decade.

* See also, Kitzsteinhorn ski resort, Austria, February 16, 2009

San Salvador, San Carlos, Negros Occidental

Last June 05, 2011, I travelled from Bacolod City to San Carlos City via San Salvador. Then from San Carlos I went to Canlaon, and back to Bacolod. It was a Sunday, I left Bacolod around 11 am and was back by almost 8pm.

This is Mt. Silay on the horizon, beyond wide plains of sugarcane plantations.

San Salvador Benedicto is also known as the "summer capital" of Negros due to its relatively high elevation, cooler temperature, and many beautiful scenes. I think it's nestled on sort of a plateau between Mt. Silay and Mt. Canlaon.

This is the bus terminal in San Carlos City. The city proper is a bit far from here, one needs to ride a tricucle or trisikad. I was amused at those mini-buses that carry passengers up the roof.

The tricycles here are a bit weird looking.

Canlaon, Negros Occidental

Canlaon is a mountainous city in Negros Occidental, Philippines. Canlaon volcano, an active volcano several kilometers from the city proper, is the most prominent place there These photos I took last year, June 05, 2011.

It's a "sleepy" place, I did not see big structures there. But one can see and feel the imposing presence of the volcano from the city proper.

Various views of the volcano. My bus was going from Canlaon to Bacolod City then.

Hills and small mountains, winding road from San Carlos City to Canlaon.

Kaingin farming, or slash-burn-land clearing, converting lands from forest to non-forest use, usually various agricultural crops, is visible on some parts the road.

It was my first visit to Canlaon actually. Glad that I made that trip.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Weird food in China

I got these photos from the facebook photo album of a friend, Lynette, who recently went to China.

Let me guess them, from top left clockwise: scorpions (variety A), scorpions (variety B), centipedes,  bugs...

And these are tarantula, right? Yikes, didn't know they are edible.
Meanwhile, some weird translations: What is a "naked flame"?

Thanks Lynette.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

San Francisco International Airport, California

I have visited San Francisco, California twice, in April 2008 then in May 2009. In the former, I came from Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Atlas Liberty Forum; in the latter, I came from Los Angeles, also for an Atlas conference. My two trips here were just short side trips before flying back to Manila. I was hosted by several Filipino friends there.

These 4 photos are from wiki,

All photos below I took on May 02, 2009, on my flight back to Manila via Korean Air (SF-Incheon-Manila). I just took the train, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to the airport, it was easy, cheap and convenient. It's a huge glass-steel structure.

Upper left photo is the entrance to the airport from the train station. Below it, I liked those lighted protrusions at the airlines check in area. There seemed to be not too many passengers on that day at the airport.

Some of the shops and artwork at the airport. Bottom right is not an artwork, it's a passenger who probably came too early for his flight. The carpet is soft enough for the back.

I am thankful to friends who hosted me there. Monchit Arellano in San Ramon, and Cris Asinas-Cabrera in Rocklin-Sacramento.

Bus Terminals: Mabalacat, Cebu South

These are old photos, sometime in 2009-2010. Just hiding in my computer albums, need to bring them out.

Dau Mabalact bus terminal, Pampanga. This is the biggest centralized (by the local government) bus terminal in central and northern Luzon. The city government of Mabalacat earns huge money from this terminal. P80 per bus (I don't know if they already raised it or not yet) per entry, and there is probably one bus entering every 30 to 45 seconds.

The city government also collects a lot from the shop/stall rentals, plenty of them. For the toilet, the terminal charges P5 per person, and the toilet is not even clean.

Below, upper photos were from Ali Mall, Cubao terminal, on a Holy Week 2009. Lots of buses going to Bicol, Samar-Leyte, down to Mindanao. Or going to Mindoro, down to Panay island (Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo provinces). I think the bus terminal in Cubao has moved to another place.

Lower photos, the Ceby south-bound terminal. The city government also collects a lot -- each passenger, each car or taxi enterring, each bus going out -- pay to the terminal. I would say that this is a huge racket by the Cebu City government for charging passengers for entering the premises a "terminal fee". Of course they also earn from the rental of shops and bus lines inside the terminal.

Have not travelled by bus in far provinces recently.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Getting a Minor's Passport

I got my younger daughter's passport middle of last month. Me, my wife and two daughters have passports already. My elder daughter got her passport in May 2008. I brought her and my wife to Hong Kong in June 2008 when I attended the 2nd Pacific Rim Policy Exchange where I was given a travel scholarship (plane fare, hotel, registration fee, all free) by the main organizer, the Americans for Tax Reforms.  My daughter was only 1 year and 8 months old then.

The requirements to get a passport for my second child, below two years old, were simple:

Traveling with mother only:

* Passport of mother, original and photocopy.
* Original Birth Certificate from NSO in SECPA
* Personal appearance of minor with either parent.

Getting an appointment online is simple, but for those who have no access to the internet, they have to call a customer service agent (service is free, at least) and be interviewed by phone, normally would take about 15 minutes.

Problem is that if one is rushing to get a passport due to some emergency situations, the soonest time that one can get to have an appointment is about one week from the time he/she has applied online or called the customer service center. After the personal appearance on appointment day, the soonest time to get the passport is after seven working days for express service (fee is P1,200) while who are not rushing can opt for the regular service, passport released after 15 working days (fee is P900).

Our passports. Mine will expire in April next year. But technically, a passport has only 4 1/2 years old validity because if the passport is expiring within six months, a person cannot travel, he must get a new passport again.

This means lots of revenues for the DFA as tens of millions of Filipinos get a new passport every 4 1/2 years or so.

I wished that the DFA Passport Division will end those long lines. Get more staff if necessary, be open 12 hours day, or be open 6-7 days a week if necessary. When you make a person with work stay for half day just to get a passport, and there are thousands of Filipinos that line up there each day, that is several millions of man-hours that are wasted.