It’s Chinese New Year this coming Friday. To somehow get ready for the upcoming Chinese New Year, I and the 80-year old Nengkoy went to the world’s oldest Chinatown! Yeah, established in 1594, the Chinese-filled, Chinese-looking and Chinese-smelling Chinatown in Manila is the oldest.
And guess what? I have been on numerous times to Hong Kong, Taiwan and some portions of mainland China, but this is my first time to visit and traverse the street of Ongpin, the heart and center of Manila’s Chinatown.
Me, Nengkoy and my sisters proceeded to Chinatown not to greet the folks Kung Hei Fat Choi nor get there to immerse ourselves on some exotic Chinese food. We went there to optimize the potentials of our good fortune in the coming Year of the Dog. Believe it or not, we bought ourselves some oriental good luck charms and amulets.
It was such a fun experience when we reached and entered a store that sells various charms and amulets. A variety of glossy gleaming rocks and a cornucopia of gemstones, trinkets and ornaments that believed to dispel bad luck and will attract fortune, good health, peace of mind and even auspicious love life are all seem present in that store.
I got myself these…
The ritual of cleansing the purchased charms and putting a spell on it (as if switching on the potency of the trinkets) before it was handed over to us seem to enhance some authenticity to the powers of our chosen charms. It also adds up fun and amazement to the rare adventure we had at Ongpin Street.
Some would say that we may have made a fool of ourselves and we let ourselves be duped, tricked or conned by the sellers of these Chinese ornaments. But I have always believed that there must be something in these knickknacks that seem to influence human fate and providence. Nothing will be lost anyway if I am to practice or believe in these age-old Chinese tradition. Yet, what if it works? Hahaha!
But seriously, ,may it be effective or not, I know deep within my sensibilities that hard work, perseverance, Intelligence of the mind and the brightness of the heart are still the keys to good life and sought after fortune.
Every time a member of my family finishes his or her studies – may it be elementary, high school or college – the graduation dinner treat for him or her is always held at the old, not so expensive and not so savory Filipino restaurant in Malate, Manila (which I refuse to name). It has always been the tradition that Nengkoy got to insist that the celebration be held in that restaurant may you graduated with summa cum laude honors or you finished at the bottom of your class’ ranking.
But for the Master’s Degree graduation of my nephew Luis, I got to choose the restaurant! Nengkoy allowed that it be held someplace else maybe it is because the graduation is not just an ordinary bachelor’s degree but something higher, more advanced and more difficult to obtain.
I chose China Blue. Having previously enjoyed the savory food I this authentic Cantonese Restaurant located inside Conrad Hotel, Manila, I knew that Nengkoy and the members of my family in that dinner would truly enjoy some sumptuous treat!
And since I arrive early in the restaurant, took the liberty of ordering the dishes for our group. And when everyone arrived and each dish was being brought in into our room, I asked my family not to touch the dish until I tell them to because I want to take pictures of it.
Here’s the actual photos of some of our orders. And since I lack the ability on how to properly describe each dish, let me then attach a Chinese proverb for every one of it…
I failed to take a photo of the Buchi or glutinous rice dumpling with red bean filling coated with sesame seeds (our desert) which according to our waiter Angel was a very good choice because it was the award-winning dessert of China Blue Manila. My family are all sweet toothed, it would not come as a surprise that everyone would just rapidly dig into the delicately sweet Buchi and would not care if I have already taken a photo or not.
I really can’t figure out what specific dish was the highlight of that dinner. It is because every dish was beautiful, every dish was delicious and every dish deserves a big round of applause!
And when Luis would decide to further pursue his studies, doctorate degree that is. I’m pretty sure Nengkoy would again agree that Luis’ PhD graduation dinner be held again in China Blue Manila.
It has always been my personal stance that it will take an exceptionally brilliant movie for me to watch it again for the second time in a movie house. The two movies that I can recall watching twice during its regular run in the theaters were David Cameron’s Titanic and Pixar’s Inside Out.
Well, Titanic and Inside Out now has been equaled by the outstanding and admirable musical drama movie by Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman. I first saw The Greatest Showman with friends and officemates last Friday. And as soon as the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I just knew that I have to see and enjoy it again in the big screen.
Well tonight, I saw it again. This time I am with Nengkoy, my sisters and nephew Luis. Here’s the five reasons why I decided to see it again tonight (Sunday, February 4, 2018):
One: The Music
I think I have fallen in love with the music of the movie. Each song in the movie are so superb. The melody in the whole selection are so brilliantly easy to the ear. The songs in this musical are so infectious and addicting you just want to listen to it again and again and again. And the lyrics especially in five of my favorite numbers (A Million Dreams, Never Enough, This Is Me, Rewrite The Stars and Tightrope) are so powerful it cuts through deep into my being. It would be hard to listen to the songs and not get emotional.
Two: The Story
It’s one movie that is so light yet magically entertaining. You need not have a big brain to bring inside the movie house to comprehend and understand the undemanding plot of the movie. And since the storyline is clear-cut, easy and light audience ends up loving every character in the film. And most importantly the story is positive.
Punctuated with memorable songs, The Greatest Showman is a feel-good movie, I ended up flashing a relaxed smile and with a happy heart (in both occasions) as I walked walk out of the theater.
Three: The Message
An unabashed piece of pure entertainment movie would often end up without a substance. But The Greatest Showman is something rare and different. It is one of those highly enjoyable film that exudes the message of courage and acceptance.
The message of being yourself, issues on body image and embracing what makes you unique are well within the highlights of this brilliant movie.
Another rare feat for this movie is that (though it is not a cartoon or digital animated movie) there was no sex nor swearing in the whole length of the film! That itself is something extraordinary in this time and age of movies.
After seeing and enjoying it the first time. I promised myself that I will have to bring Nengkoy to the movie house for her see, hear and experience the joy, the dazzle and the spectacle that The Greatest Showman bestows.
Fifth: It’s a Celebration of Humanity
And lastly, as stated by one of the theatre critics in the movie, The Greatest Showman is one good representation of a “Celebration of Humanity”
One of the greatest gifts that a person can receive this Christmas (and for every Christmas for that matter) is the gift of laughter. And each year, this is one precious gift that I receive from my family.
Every year at Christmas Eve since their childhood days, my nieces and nephews would group up and do a presentation at Nengkoy’s house. Each group would got to compete for a prize money. I am always one of the judges along with Nengkoy and my elder sister. And since my nieces and nephews got their funny bones from their grandmother Nengkoy, all their presentations always turns out to be something so hilarious!
These year though majority of my nephews and nieces are now professionals and some has even gone married, each one of them still never failed to give the family some very good laugh. All these glee and hilarity really adds up to the joyful and happy spirit of Christmas every single year at Nengkoy’s house.
Only now that I realized that in the past 7 times that I have travelled to Japan, only few times did I went to a public art museum. Reason maybe is because Japan in itself is one whole country of a public museum. Everything you see, touch and feel seem worthy of being preserved, collected and exhibited.
When I go to a foreign country, I often set aside a day to visit either an art, cultural or historical museum. I call it my “cultural day”. A day when my soul is fed with art, history and culture. But being in Japan, everyday seem to be a “cultural day”.
Though it is my 8th journey to Japan, this visit is still something different. It is because I got to go and check on an actual museum. And what is so unique about it is that I myself seem to be part of the museum’s exhibit.
While my nieces and nephews settled to go to Osaka’s Universal Studios, accompanied by one of my nieces, I, my sisters and Nengkoy went to Osaka Museum of Housing & Living.
The whole museum is a replica of an old Japanese town, specifically during Japan’s Edo period. The cool thing about this museum is you got to rent and wear clothes of people during that era. Thus, visitors donned in kimonos and yukatas can interactively feel how it really was 200 years ago in Osaka.
Adding up the modern Japanese technology, the lighting and sound simulations of the whole museum would shift, in which visitors would get to witness how it is to be during early morning dawn, daytime and nighttime period of the Edo era. The awesome feeling was like stepping into the good olden days of Osaka!
The ultimate measure for the most favorite travel destination to a foreign country of a traveler is the number of times that traveler has returned. Intentions for such returns must be for leisure and never to count the reasons due to work, study, business or religion.
Me and Nengkoy’s most recent visit to Japan was our eight time. And Japan, Osaka in particular never ceases to amaze us. Both of us thought that we have basically done everything a tourist must do in Osaka and its nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara and Kobe.
We then decided to further plunged ourselves to the Japanese culture by attending and learning the Way of Tea, otherwise known as the Japanese tea ceremony. My niece booked us at Maikoya Osaka, a Japanese cultural experience center who fortunately holds some of their cultural classes in English.
We got to witness how the tranquil purification process was done along with the very elaborate and refined steps of the ceremony. The Way of Tea for me is like a transcendent ritual that truly demonstrate respect through grace, charm and poise along with the showmanship of how a high level of good etiquette should be carried out.
The Way of Tea ceremony is a total opposite from my being brusque, coarse and unmannered. The beautiful rite was so calm, serene and peaceful. It was so dreamlike, I wanted to lie down, sleep and snore right there at the tatami mat!
I thought my 8th visit in Osaka prefecture would be a bore but our first Way of Tea experience was such a refreshing encounter. It provided me reasons to come back and further explore beautiful Osaka and its nearby cities in the future.
Nengkoy (my mother) is used to check-in a 5-star hotel or resort every time she goes on a domestic vacation. Because of budget constraints and weak Philippine peso, it is the downgraded to 4 or 3-star hotels during international travels. However, in Nengkoy’s recent international trip her accommodation experience was further downgraded from a hotel to a hostel!
I am the culprit. It is because I am the one who booked and reserved a tiny room for three at A Dot Homestay via Booking.com.
Upon clearance from the immigration and retrieval of our luggage at Taoyuan International Airport, I Nengkoy and my sister proceeded to the nearest airport transport service. We booked a return exclusive luxury car service that will drive us to our hostel and pick us up to bring us back to the airport on our last day’s stay. The driver was quite surprised upon finding out that we have to be dropped not to a luxurious hotel but instead to an ordinary building where our hostel was located.
Actually, upon alighting the luxurious car, I never noticed where A Dot Homestay was located for there was no signage. Upon noticing that I seem to look confused, the driver was kind enough to point to us the building and entrance gate were the address of our hostel was. Shockingly, there was no reception desk where to transact our check-in. Instead, we proceeded to the 5th floor of the building, were asked to take off our shoes and was led to a dining table where we settled our payment and where the crew issued us our electronic keys to our room.
Nengkoy and my sister then told me after we have settled inside our room that both of them were already contemplating of pushing me to transfer to a legit hotel. It was obviously their first time to be in such a type of a lodging. They were not used to a guesthouse without a front desk, a concierge and an elegant chandelier in a lobby.
I have no intention of under estimating this hostel. It is because I, my sister and Nengkoy were quite impressed by the facilities, cleanliness and offerings of A Dot Homestay. After our first night, we easily adjusted and came to appreciate this cozy and comfortable establishment.
A Dot Homestay basically grew in us. Maybe it is because it offers remarkable facilities (comfy bed with fresh and spotless linens, clean and big common/shared toilet & shower rooms, a free-to-use washer and dryer, very fast internet connection, hot, warm and cold drinking water, a fridge that all guests can use and even a kitchenette if guests wish to cook their food). They even offer us to eat and try the free snacks placed and made available at the main table.
But aside from all these pleasant and amazing features, there are two things that I like most about A Dot Homestay. First is the warm, gracious and well-mannered staffs. All their staffs whom I encountered can speak English (Sarah, one of the staffs, according to her actually studied English here in the Philippines for 3 months) and everybody were so genial and are so willing to assist so as to make sure that we enjoy our visit to Taipei. They can even give you tips on where to dine and where to go to.
Second is the location. A Dot Homestay is literally just a couple of steps away from Exit 3 of Daan Station. The nearness of the train station is one of my main considerations why I chose and booked A Dot Homestay. I know that Taipei weather is like Manila weather. It is hot, boiling and very humid. Thus, it would be too difficult to walk on the streets so as to reach the station if the hotel would be too far a distance. I was also glad to have chosen this lodging establishment because I am with Nengkoy and my often-complaining sister who hates to walk under a blistering climate. Thus, the location of A Dot Homestay is just perfection!
Thanks to A Dot Homestay! It is because this establishment made Nengkoy’s first hostel experience a very pleasant and remarkable one.
Oh and by the way, on our last day, it was a different driver who picked us up and drove us to the airport for us to catch our flight back to Manila. He was driving a Mercedes Benz. It was so noticeable that the driver was puzzled and bamboozled why we were not picked from a luxurious hotel but instead by the bustling Xinyi Road in front of an ordinary-looking building.