Tessa & Scott Makes Me Wanna Be Canadian

There seem to be no good news in the Philippines for the past 2 years.  Everything on the news concerning the situations in my country were either so bad or gone worse.  Like any other ordinary citizen living in the Philippines, I long for some good news!

Because of the present economic, political and social circumstances of my country, I’m jealous and envious towards the citizens of progressive Canada. These feelings of envy was further reinforced when I saw a YouTube video of the winning dance skating performances of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the recently concluded Winter Olympics. 

Though the Philippines now send delegates, I don’t normally watch the Winter Olympics held every after four years.  Maybe it is because my country does not have a winter season that is why winter sports are so foreign and unfamiliar.

But when I clicked on a recommendation by YouTube about a couple of weeks ago while I was searching for good news about the Philippines in the net, I suddenly wanted to become Canadian while watching Tessa and Scott’s performances. 

My foolish admiration towards Tessa and Scott further intensified when I learned (also from Youtube) that they have been partners in the sports of ice dancing since their cute childhood days.  This made me further admire and fell in love with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. 

They seem so pleasant and amiable that is so typical of a Canadian. I totally admired them to the point that after the day this tandem won their Olympic gold medals, I Facebook-messaged a friend and former colleague (Chef Onille Pitogo) who is now based in Canada, I told her to say hi to both Tessa and Scott if she happens to bump unto this lovely couple. 

I thought that my wanting to become a Canadian would eventually wear off.  But this was again revived and revitalized when I saw a homecoming video of this ice dancing legends when they arrived back in their home country.

Can some nice Canadian adopt me until the next Philippine presidential election? Hahaha!  I badly need some damn awesome news about my country.  And while I await for such moment, my heart continues to melt towards this lovely Canadian couple.

Inggit much grabe! Ay wana be Kaneydiyan!

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Capricious Cappadocia

Flying a hot air balloon seem far fetched and was never in my bucket list.  It is because I keep my list achievable, rational and realistic.  Though part of my bucket list is to visit the transcontinental country of Turkey, my flying a hot air balloon in Cappadocia was just in one of the plenty of things to do that I would not regret in case destiny would not let it happen.

And when I stepped on the tarmac of Kayseri Airport (after a domestic flight from Istanbul), I already concluded that flying the hot air balloon would be next to impossible.  It was snowing!

Prior to going to Turkey specifically in Cappadocia, one travel tip I read in various blogs which I realized to be very significant is to book for a hot air balloon ride as soon as you arrived and checked-in in your hotel.  Since hot air balloon ride is synonymous to Cappadocia, I suppose all hotels in Cappadocia has contacts to hot air balloon operators.  A tourist must request/book for the soonest possible day of the ride because not all days in capricious Cappadocia would permit flying because of erratic weather conditions.

And since Cappadocia just experienced the first snow of the upcoming winter, I already gave up the idea that I would be riding the world famous hot air balloon in this part of the planet.  The hotel owner told me that it would be impossible for operators to fly for the next couple of days.  He nevertheless told me that I am booked on the day hot air balloon flying resumes.  On when it is, only the weather knows according to the hotel owner.

But on the last night of my 5 days stay in Cappadocia while I was packing my bags for my return to Istanbul, the hotel owner was knocking on my door to inform me that hot air balloon ride resumes early tomorrow morning.  That I got to be ready at 5:00 AM because a shuttle van will pick me up at the hotel so as to bring me to the site where all the preparations and flying happens.

When I told the hotel owner that I may not be flying anymore because my flight back to Istanbul is tomorrow after lunch, he gleefully told me that all flying happens in the morning and that I will surely be back at the hotel by 10:00 AM.

On the last night of my stay in Cappadocia, I concluded that part of the heavy snow that fell on my first day in Cappadocia must probably be fragments from a lucky star that were sprinkled by the heavens.  I got to ride the hot air balloon! 

When our balloon was landing on the plains of Cappadocia, I have already concluded that riding the hot air balloon was one of the unforgettable highlights of my Turkey journey.  It was so surreal, the exhilarating experience was actually more than achieving and crossing out an entry in my bucket list.

Jusko, jusko, jusko! Salamat!

A Candle Lit Visit at Nakajima Park

Nakajima Koen is the end point subway station of my family’s recent journey from Osaka to Sapporo in Hokkaido.  After reaching this station, the remaining thing that we have to do is to drag our luggage and walk for a couple of minutes for us to reach our designated hotel.

Upon touchdown at Hokkaido, we only got to personally feel the snow with our very own hands when we got out of Nakajima Koen station.  Everyone were so excited with knowing what the actual feel of the snow is, we literally left our humongous bags and luggage right at the doorstep of the station and ran towards  the northern end of Nakajima Park which is located right above and outside Nakajima Koen station.  And since its Japan, no one (of course) stole our luggage.

The following morning when we proceeded to Nakajima Koen to ride the subway, we noticed that artisans are starting to work on their snow pieces so as to decorate, spruce up and embellish the park.

Nakajima Park is actually not part of the 3 major sites and venues of the Sapporo Snow Festival, but this park was transformed into something very dramatic to support and in a way reinforce and bolster the joys of the ongoing festival.

lighted pathway
lighted pathway
love this shot
love this shot (I dedicate this shot as well as the music of the video below to my late friend, Red, who passed away while I was in Japan)
a totally different drama at nakajima
a totally different drama at nakajima

Nakajima Park turns out to become a ‘snow-lighted park’.  Japanese call it YukiAkari.  And after long and arduous preparations, YukiAkari will only run for three nights.  Lucky for us because we were there when it opened.

Inside the park is a small tent where you can draw anything on a paper cup (for free) and this cup will be turned into a lantern.  Your personal paper cup lantern in turn will be added as part of the park’s lighted decoration.

super cool
super cool gallery of sorts…
nengkoy was here...
nengkoy was here…
erika's "mon amour" piece is also lighted
erika’s “mon amour” piece is also lighted
peaceful
peaceful

Those ice and snow lanterns are so pretty!  The pictures don’t really capture the atmosphere of the flickering candles in the snow.

Bunder’s 2014 Vimeo video actually captured some of the feel and beauty of this portion of Sapporo.  Watch it…

This has been my personal favourite among the amazing sites I saw during my family’s Sapporo adventure.

Super nays…

Tsu Dome: The Family-Oriented Site of Sapporo Snow Festival

team langit conquering tsu dome
team langit conquering tsu dome

The first Sapporo Snow Festival venue my family went to before seeing the sparkling Susukino and the magnificent Odori Park is the white snow fields of Tsu Dome.  This site is our first snow endeavour as a family.  It’s so obvious that it is our first snow adventure because as soon as we arrived at the site the first thing me and my family did was to take shelter by getting inside a heated cabin and ordered the hottest instant noodles available!

nengkoy after being thawed by a hot instant noodles...
nengkoy after being thawed by hot instant noodles…
tsu dome! fun! fun! fun!
tsu dome! fun! fun! fun!

It was the first day of the festival when we arrived at Tsu Dome.  This is evidenced because the snow artists for the site’s snow sculpture exhibits has just started with their work.

The distinctive character of Tsu Dome as compared to Susuki and Odori Park venues is that the features are family-oriented and the site is more interactive.  There’s a lot of things to do in the site that involves snow-related family activities.  The site actually fits more to the children’s liking and I have never seen so much Japanese kids in my life until that day!  It’s the Sapporo Snow Festival that should not be missed if you have kids.

young sculptors up for something...
young sculptors up for something…
thatcher in a picture perfect moment...
thatcher in a picture perfect moment…
that is sooo japanese!
that is sooo japanese!

Good thing my genius nephews and nieces considered this place as the first site to visit among the three major venues of the snow festival.  Otherwise, this site could have become a little boring if our itinerary started with the bravura of the giant snow sculptures of Odori Park.

Anyway, aside from the outdoor snow activities, there are also lots of kiddie features, events and goings-on inside the imposing dome.  Channeling the kids in us, every one of us did the snow rafting ride as towed by a snowmobile.  I, my younger sister, nephews and nieces also cracked the thrill offered by the gigantic snow slide!

awesome!
awesome! after the doing a scary water rafting in davao river, this is kid stuff for nengkoy
super fun!
super fun!
picture muna
picture muna

Tsu Dome was a nice start.  It was a pure clean fun site of the Sapporo Snow Festival.

Ang kukyut ng mga bagets! Ang sarap pisil pisilin!

Spectacular Sapporo Snow Festival at the Odori Park

Feeling, seeing and experiencing the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido was the main reason of my family’s comeback visit to adorable Japan.  And true enough we were in Sapporo, Hokkaido during the week’s highlights of the snow festival.

breathtaking view from above!
breathtaking view from above!

Thanks to the genius talent and cleverness of my three dear nephew and nieces (Denden, Erika and Thatcher) who are all based in Osaka for arranging everything.  From domestic air travel arrangements, to accommodation as well as the well-organized itinerary for each day.  It was such a worry-free winter adventure.

The Sapporo Snow Festival as I learned during the trip has three main venues.  One of which is the Odori Park located right at the heart of Sapporo.  This is the site where spectacular and gigantic snow sculptures are aligned along the stretch of the 1.5 kilometer park.

It was my first time to see and watch an actual snowboard and ski jumping exhibitions!  It was super scary yet it was happening right in the middle of the park!

super thrill!
super thrill!
that ain't a bird!
that ain’t a bird!

Being a Filipino tourist in a foreign country, it is so remarkable and delightful to see and witness the Philippines’ participation in the festival. My family was very surprised to see the giant sculpture depicting the Manila Cathedral.  I initially could not believe that there is a Philippine entry, I was shouting “sNOw WAY!”

i was so stunned, i wanted to enter and hear mass!
i was so stunned, i wanted to enter and hear mass!
me and my dear sister feeling proud
me and my dear sister feeling proud
we love sapporo!
we love sapporo!

But because of its grandiosity, it is actually considered one of the most beautiful feature highlights at the festival and seem to be one of the most revered and photographed sculpture.  We were so proud we couldn’t stop taking its photo!

But the ultimately stunning sculpture was the almighty 50-foot tall giant snow sculpture of the Star Wars!  No doubt it was the most adored and most popular!

one happy gang!
one happy gang! (with my younger sister, niece and nephews)
wow!
wow!
may the force be with you...
may the force be with you…

It was so cool, the Death Star and three Stormtroopers were featured!  And since I adore movie villains, this giant sculpture easily became my favourite because there was no Star Wars hero present and instead the iconic yet most villainous Darth Vader snow-statue was mounted!

 

Super kool ‘di ba?!

My Hokkaido Ski Experience

Being a 100% Filipino living all throughout my delicious life in the hot tropics of Metro Manila, my DNA for sure is not coded for winter season and much worse for a winter sport.  But with my exceptional passion and spirit to be acquainted with these uncommon affairs, I built up enough guts to master what needs to be mastered about winter and its associated sport.

enjoying the cold with nengkoy and erika
enjoying the cold with nengkoy and erika
with dr. william smith scott at sapporo hitsujigaoka observatory hill
with dr. william smith scott at sapporo hitsujigaoka observatory hill
my dear sister on a fine powdery snow...
my dear sister on a fine powdery snow…
my three japan-based "pamangkins"
my three japan-based “pamangkins”

That is why while I was in Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan, the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, I took the opportunity to try and pursue the sport of skiing.  And true enough, I easily mastered the art of sliding down the snowy slopes of Sapporo.

Just watch the short video below on how I did the various skiing maneuvers.  From the Iron Cross, to 540 turn, to the Daffy aerial trick, to the Lincoln Loop and of course the Back Flip aerial maneuver. Given another 2 days, I believe I can win the world cup in both slalom and downhill categories.

But seriously, I think skiing is an extremely difficult winter sport that demands great physical stamina and skill.  I actually fell four times while doing a single round of the snow-filled Ishikari Plain at the Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill.

I also learned that falling with the ski on is much easier than standing up from it.  It took less than a second to plunge down on my butt but took me more than a minute to stand up and regain my balance.    I was not embarrassed though because the few people who were also skiing for the first time were also slipping and tumbling like tired toy soldiers.

And guess what? Right after I finished what seem to be an endless round of skiing, I was sweating so profusely I was craving for a strawberry ice cream!  It was never in my wildest dream to ski, but the experience is truly one for the books.

Pinawisan ako. Pramis!

The First Sub-Zero Escapade

Now that 2014 is now officially a memory, my first 2015 out of town adventure is appropriately significant for it is with no other than Nengkoy.  Along with a few members of our family, we decided to have a two-week holiday to our family’s favorite country (next to the Philippines, of course) Japan.

hokkaido adventure starts now!
hokkaido adventure starts now!

This adventure will actually be our first sub-zero winter season adventure.  Being inhabitants of a tropical country with abundant vitamin D, we actually do not know what to expect.  What we know is that this adventure would be a lot of cold and freezing exploits.

The mere thought of mountains of snow already makes me feel so icy!  Hokkaido, here we come!

Ginawin pa naman ang peg ko.