Thank You Miss World, Miss Philippines is the New Miss Universe

Yey! Miss Universe 2018 is Philippines!  First of all, I want to say congratulations to everyone in my country.  Catriona Gray, our representative in this year’s edition of Miss Universe was crowned the queen! 

got this photo from catriona;s instagram

Catriona Gray was amazing throughout the Miss Universe pageant show.  She set a new standard of beauty pageant “walk” because of her now viral and infamous slow-mo twirl.  And her red fire gown during the finals night reminded me of Katniss Everdeen in the book Hunger Games!  She was the clear winner and she was indeed a cut above the rest! 

Since joining the elite beauty pageant world, Catriona has been amazing.  She has always been the girl to beat.  She did us proud when she landed top 5 in Ms. World a couple of years ago.  I thought during that contest, she should have won because aside from being so stunning, she gave the best answer.  But though she was robbed in that contest, I am now thankful that she was because she obviously is up for bigger and better things.

The Ms. World organizers must now be scratching their dense and dimwitted heads. So thank you Ms. World for letting us down during that time because otherwise, my country would have not clinched the most coveted pageant title in the universe for the fourth time.

In the past week, I got the chance to view YouTube videos of Catriona’s journey in Ms. Universe.  Her approach was really different as compared to other equally amazing Ms. Philippines representatives in the past.  Catriona chose to put meaning and representations in almost all elements of her joining the Ms. Universe pageant.  She is so in love with the culture and colors of the Philippines, that she made sure these are included in her presentations. 

fun art on catriona;s national costume. got this too from catriona’s instagram

After watching those videos, you would just know how much effort, time, dedication and heart was poured by Catriona in reaching for her ultimate goal of being crowned as the new Miss Universe. Equipped with beauty, charm, sharp thinking and excellent communication skills, Catriona Gray truly deserves to win!

Congratulations Catriona.  Congratulations Philippines!

Pinektusan ang Unibers!

Batad Rice Terraces: No Words to Describe

Majestic, magnanimous and magnificent are not enough descriptions for me to illustrate the beauty and splendor of Batad Rice Terraces located in Ifugao Province here in the Philippines. I have been to quite a number of beautiful places and I can confidently say that Batad Rice Terraces ranks very high for being one of the most breathtaking places on earth.

Elementary school lectures about its location, its structure and how the rice terraces were created eons of years ago by my Filipino forefathers were my only personal encounter in the past. And most of what was lectured during my childhood days was about the Banaue Rice Terraces, which is a totally different place.

i was close to crawling! hahaha!

Let me clarify though that Batad Rice Terraces is different and is not the more famous Banaue Rice Terraces. The latter is near downtown Banaue with more modern buildings and structures. Actually, a couple of tourists from Banaue Rice Terraces who just side tripped to Batad (whom some of us got to talk to) has attested that Batad was indeed more beautiful!

the batad team!
someone’s posing at the back!

So let me brag that I was actually at a more stunning version! I could not believe that I was no longer just seeing photos and hearing it from lectures. I have upgraded because my physical being stepped on it and my very own eyes got to see the beauty, brilliance and grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Getting to Batad actually is already half the adventure. I have been to quite a lot of places but Batad seem to be the most remote place that I have been to. After a 10-hour bus ride from Manila to Banaue, me and my colleagues then had to travel for another 1 and a half hour via rickety and un-air-conditioned jeepney. And after alighting the jeepney, we then hiked by foot for another forty minutes (some say it was only twenty minutes but since I walk so sluggishly, it took me 40) for us to reach the tiny and secluded village of Batad. But all intense exhaustion, buckets of sweat and excruciating body aches were all be gone once I sawthe massive splendor of the amphitheater-like rice terraces and remarkable landscape of the mountains.

Some world attractions would not allow tourists to enter or step into their renowned site. Others would charge for an entrance fee otherwise you would just have to satisfy yourself by seeing it from afar. But for Batad Rice Terraces, tourists are allowed to step in, can mingle with the farmers and get through the muddy catwalks of the terraces for free! This made Batad Rice Terraces even more admirable compared to other sites in the world.

For those planning to get to gorgeous 2,000-year old Batad Rice Terraces, here are seven tips to ponder before getting there:

  1. Bring lots of cash. No ATM around and no credit card payments accepted
  2. There is no such thing as five star accommodation in Batad. Actually, all accommodations seem to look like half a star or no star at all. But the view and the people more than compensates for it. It’s more than 10 stars!
  3. If you are the type who sweat buckets (like me), bring lots of shirts. Or if you are the type who would not mind smelling like a pig, then just bring 1 shirt per day of stay.
  4. Batad is the best place to get away and take a short rest from the internet world. There literally is no signal in the area. No choice but to get off-line during the duration of your stay.
  5. Bring Alaxan. Ibuprofen pain-relieving medicine was the most important piece of tablet that I popped as soon as I woke up after a dreamy night in Batad.
  6. Do it while you’re young. Batad Rice Terraces is not for physically challenged nor the fainthearted. I actually still could not believe that I survived and was able to accomplish walking through those dizzying slim and slender catwalk portions of the terraces.
  7. Pray! Pray that it won’t rain! Our tour guide told us that we were pretty lucky because the day before we arrived, it was raining all day. The terrain of course would be easier when it’s a bit dry compared to the muddy and slippery slopes of the mountain.

Prawd! Ay Surbayb Batad!

Touched a Weeping Column and Met a Coequal Villain at Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern as a tourist spot at the tourist-infested Sultanahmet area of Istanbul seem to have always been overshadowed by the more grandeur, more magnificent and more historically ornate Sophia Hagia and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). All these three spots surrounding the Sultanahmet Square are within short walking distances only.

But the Basilica Cistern seem to have always been the last choice that tourists would go to if the 3 places to visit in Sultanahmet would be Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Cistern Basilica.  This is why it dawned in me that it would be smarter to start with the latter before heading to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  Making the Basilica Cistern my first spot to visit would make me avoid the hordes of noisy and annoying tourists who later in the day would flock the underground treasure of a place after their respective visits to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

still with puffy eyes… need to drag myself from bed…
eerie yet majestic
no wonder Istanbul does not have an underground train system… treasure lies beneath…

My temporary smartness actually paid off.  On the morning I visited, there was actually only one Caucasian and a family of four Chinese tourists inside the cistern.  The rest of the tourists that morning I suppose were at a long queue at the gates of both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Without seeing yet and not yet been overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Istanbul’s icons (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque), I was able to fully grasp, value and appreciate the historical richness and structural splendor of the Basilica Cistern.  I was at awe as soon as my eyes were able to adopt to the underground darkness.

One mini-highlight was the Hen’s Eye column.  It is the only column of the site engraved with what looks like numerous eyes which appears to be weeping as dripping water from the ceiling runs down to this column.  The dripping water has left its mark over the years, turning this specific column into a medley of blue, brown and green hues.  The Hen’s Eye is also known as the weeping column which is said to be engraved in tribute to the thousands of slaves who died during the construction of the cistern.

weeping column
need to touch it

And since I had limited time to read about Basilica Cistern prior to going to Turkey, only when I reached the end of this ancient water reservoir was I surprised to realize that this place houses the head of my co-villain Medusa!  After giving some imaginary greetings and salutations to the giant Medusa heads, I never missed my chance of taking a photo with her.

Now I understand why Dan Brown has chosen this Byzantine-made murky, eerie and creepy expanse as the final site in one of his famous novels.  I truly marveled at the sheer engineering magnificence of creating such an expansive underground cavern below the colorful ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).  I was so thankful that there were few tourists around for I really got to see, smell and digest the beauty and richness of the place.  It made my Medusa and Basilica Cistern visit such a very gratifying and enriching experience.

co-villainous
medusa!
the wicked tandem!

Nagkamustahan bigla kami ng gagang Medusa!

Fun Queer Kids & the Leader of Chechen Republic

The Pride Month is over yet rainbow flags will never be folded and kept inside treasure trunks of the LGBT community.  The waving of these colorful flags will continue to signify the unremitting fight for rights and equality.

This is of course except for the Chechen Republic which is the worst place to live for the members of the LGBT community.  In that part of the globe, rainbow flags are kept in the innermost trunks and queer thoughts will forever be suppressed in the deepest annals of their soul.

mr. razman kadyrov

Last weekend, I happen to bumped into an old YouTube video.  After watching this fun and funny video, I wonder what the leader of Chechen Republic would feel after viewing it.  Will he be beaming with smile and even laugh while watching such an innocent and harmless kids who happen to be gay? Or will he get so furious he will order his military troupes to fly nuclear missiles to the Philippines so as to eradicate these naïve and blameless kiddos?  And if these kids were living in Chechnya, would he order that these happy minors be abducted and held captive in a gay concentration camps?

Aside from wondering what the Chechen Republic leader would feel, I am curious how the “free” kids of Chechnya enjoy being kids. Are they as unregimented and as diverse like the kids here in my country?  Are they able to strut spontaneous moves the way kids here strut their stuff?

With all these incomprehensible questions, all I could think of is being glad that these kids are happy living in a free country like the Philippines! These cute kids may not be rich and powerful but they sashay away with happiness…

Ang kwela! San ka pa?!

Best Venue for a Miss Universe Pageant

Like the rest of the Filipinos, I’m excited and anxious towards the result of the annual Miss Universe pageant.  There must really be something in the waters of the Philippines that makes almost all of the Filipinos become so eccentric and loony about this pageant.

And what is so weird is that we only get so thrilled and so tempestuous only for the Miss Universe title.  We are not as crazy and as zany towards the results of other international beauty pageants like Miss World, Miss International, Miss Supranational and other out-of-this-world beauty titles.  For us Filipinos, Miss Universe is the ultimate beauty contest.  Miss Universe for the Philippines is like the SuperBowl of USA, the FIFA World Cup of Latin Americas or the Eurovision Song Contest of Europe.

But unlike the previous years, my being anxious, excited and prayerful that Miss Philippines makes it to the top 3 spots this year is a little bland, vapid and nondescript.  It is because this year’s pageant was held here in the Philippines.

miss universe (from france)
miss universe (from france)

I agree with the opinion of the very opinionated Gloria Diaz, the 1969 Miss Universe.  She believes that except for USA (who owns the Miss Universe franchise and where the pageant is usually held), no host country should win the title.  I am actually a little glad this year that Miss Philippines just landed in the top 6.  At least no nation who joined this year’s contest would accuse the Philippines for holding a rigged pageant.

Filipinos I believe has the same sentiment as that of Ms. Diaz but with the exemption of course for the Philippines as the venue.  Since Miss Universe is the most prestigious title that any Filipina would want to have, we Filipinos would want our girl to win the title may it be held in the Philippines or not.  But if the candidate of a different host country where the pageant is held wins, then we Filipinos would construe that the pageant was doctored.

Can you just imagine a Miss Universe pageant held in Beijing and the crowned winner is Miss China or Miss Colombia winning the title when the pageant is held in Bogota?  Except for the Philippines as the venue, we Filipinos would most probably dub that year’s pageant as the best “cooking” show in the universe “with 3 Michelin stars”!

And because I agree with the opinion of Ms. Diaz. I just hope that this is the last time Philippines hosts the pageant.  I am saying this because I want our candidate to win fair and square.  We know that it is more pleasing, magnificent and majestic if Filipino brings home an accolade that was gained and bestowed from different country.

miss philippines maxine medina
miss philippines maxine medina

And because we are known to be the craziest fanatics of this pageant and we can seriously mock a country for being fraud, cheats and deceitful, no country then would dare host it and have their candidate win.  And since all participating countries wants to win, no country then would want to host it.  This results to a predicament of the Miss Universe Organization on where to hold the next pageant.

My suggestion? Try holding the contest in a neutral country.  A nation that does not participate in the pageant for reasons their country would only know.  Countries like Syria, Yemen or Iran could have been great neutral places but due to some folks with their radical Muslim beliefs, holding the pageant in these countries may be life threatening for the ladies and the organizers.

I guess the best venue for Miss Universe then would be the Vatican City.  A city state that has diplomatic relations with almost every country in the world, a country that does not have a prison system, and a tiny government run and enriched by some of the most religious people in the universe, Vatican City would be the most neutral, most friendly and most appropriate venue for the next Miss Universe pageant.  I would like to believe that a lot of people including Gloria Diaz would agree with me on this.

Kongrats sa nanalo…

The Imaginary Flaming Torch of Miss Philippines World 2016

The recently concluded Miss World 2016 beauty pageant shall be remembered as one of the pageants in history in which the best deserving candidate who gave the best answer was not bestowed the crown.

All top five candidates during the final Q&A portion of the contest – considered to be the ultimate component that will determine who shall be crowned as Miss World – gave pretty good responses to the question thrown at them by previous Miss World winners.  These past winners including the lady host (Miss World 2013 from the Philippines) who carried the imaginary burning torch of the pageant were still impressively beautiful.

During the final Q&A, one lady stood out to be the best among all these pretty candidates.  The whole world in fact loved the answer articulated by Ms. Philippines.

catriona gray: a big loss for the miss world organization
catriona gray: a big loss for the miss world organization

It was sincere, gentle and well composed.  It was so damn good, genius and impressive.   I could not see myself being able to organize such a metaphoric, to the point of poetic, type of thinking.  Too bad judges settled for a shallower and simpler type of response.  Thus, the crown goes to Ms. Puerto Rico.

I heard and read in social media, that Filipino netizens were truly upset about the outcome of this year’s Miss World pageant.  A lot of Filipinos tagged the pageant as this year’s the best cooking show in the world.

I guess, we Filipinos have the right to feel such.  I know we Filipinos will not berate or react this way if we know that the winner truly deserves to win.  Cases in point were the close wins of Shamcey Supsup the Miss Philippines during the 2011 Miss Universe pageant as won by Ms. Angola and that of Ariela Arida’s time during 2013 Miss Universe when the crown was given to Ms. Venezuela.  We Filipinos simply accepted the fact that these ladies were indeed deserving of their title and can indeed continue carrying the pageant’s flaming torch.

But we were similarly upset, annoyed and agitated when Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon who gave an impressive answer than Ms. USA but the latter was adjudged as 2012 Miss Universe.

And for this year’s version of Miss World, it was truly disappointing.  And being so upset and putting a pinch of metaphor on my disappointment, I would love to grab the imaginary flaming torch that Miss Philippines was talking about and throw it so freaking hard at the judges so as to burn them to smithereens!

Booo! Nasaan ang hustisya?!

Swooned & Captivated by the Sunset

After spending the whole afternoon at the mall with Nengkoy and family – watched a Filipino movie and have an early dinner treat – me and my nephew Luis decided to walk the three-and-a-half-kilometer distance from the Mall of Asia to our respective condo units in Vito Cruz.  I was actually in some way thankful that there was a traffic gridlock in our place and that taxi drivers refused to have us as passengers.  It is because on our way to our respective units, we instinctively slowed down, took photos and enjoyed this…

Capticating Manila Bay Sunset!
Captivating Manila Bay Sunset!

While walking the surprisingly breezy streets and intently listening to Luis about his school research/thesis, at the back of my mind I am realizing that appreciation for the beauty of nature is something that is innate and spontaneous.  Since it is instinctual, it is but a natural tendency for a person to stop, stare and be captivated.  It gives human beings a break from fretting over the past and a pause from worrying about the future.  Captivating beauty of nature makes you feel refreshed, relieved and revitalized at that very moment.

And for those who have been overridden by the acquired imperative of the need to be urgent, of the feeling to hurry up and of the thought to get things done immediately, I simply wish that you would someday take it easy and be swooned and captivated by the natural beauty of the sunset.

Teyk it isi…