New ZeaLand Down Under – Queenstown

New ZeaLand Down Under – Queenstown

Last week, we went on a short trip to New Zealand.  We bought the tickets back in November since they were selling them really cheap.  We chose to go in May since we wanted cooler weather. It’s been so hot here in Manila that it feels like it’s 40 degrees Celsius.   It was a welcome change from the hot and humid.

New Zealand is a really pretty with a lot of scenic places to go to.  We weren’t able to to go to all the places since we were only in Auckland and Queenstown.  We did go to Milford Sound and Hobbiton which were the highlights of the trip.  As cities go, Auckland is so so. It’s pretty compact but its not really comparable to other more cosmopolitan cities. I say just go straight to the more scenic spots in New Zealand.

Queenstown is a resort town in the South Island and is surrounded by the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu.  It’s one of the top tourist destinations in the country.  My friend told me that I could miss everything else but I shouldn’t miss going to Queenstown.  He was right. It’s a very picturesque and beautiful town all year round.  It’s for adrenaline junkies but we didn’t do anything remotely adventurous during our short stay.

We stayed at the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside which had an amazing view of Lake Wakatipu.  You are literally a few steps from the lakeside.  I ended up taking pictures of the every morning.  The view was simply majestic.  You can walk around the whole town and finish in less than half a day.  I got acquainted with the town streets really fast.  The cool weather helped and it was easy to walk around town and enjoy the scenery.

This is the view of the Remarkables from the airport.

view of remarkables from airport

Here are some views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. When we arrived, it was dark and cloudy.


It snowed the next day so it became snow-capped mountains.



Singlish Ho Say Bo

I moved to Singapore in November 2010 for work.  When I first landed, I had a hard time understanding everybody.  From the taxi driver uncles to the store clerks, I had no idea what they were saying and I would just nod my head and agree.  Half the time, I didn’t know what was being discussed.  I got away with smiling and nodding.

Singapore is an multicultural island city-state with many official languages.  These are English, Malay, Putonghua Mandarin and Tamil.  Its only natural that their English would not be the typical American English many are accustomed to.  I was born in the Philippines but grew up in North America.  Filipinos speak good English but we still have our own Filipino twang when we talk.  I can do both Filipino English and American English since I am accustomed to both.  I wasn’t prepared for Singlish at all. It was a bit sing-songy and the pronunciation is totally different.  Lucky for me,  as  a Chinese speaker, I also understood the Singlish Hokkien terms.  Out of the 4 official langues, I can speak two.

It took a few months before I got the hang of it.  Once you’ve grasped the intonation, everything else is easier.  I roll my eyes whenever I hear people add “lah” to every sentence just to say that they’re speaking Singlish.  Its not just “lah”.  There’s a lot more to Singlish than just that one word.  I remember asking my colleagues for the meaning every time I encountered a word or phrase.  You build up your vocabulary and use strategically use them in conversations to show your mastery of the language.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 2.50.48 PM

I even downloaded this app from the App Store called Hosay! and it even shows you how to use the word/phrase in sentences.  Words such as “aiyoh”, “atas”, “ah beng”, “shiok”, “alamak”, “blur” or even “vomit blood” or terms you won’t hear anywhere else.  I admit that I do miss hearing Singlish occasionally since I left Singapore in 2014.  Every time I land at Changi Airport, I get this tingly, good feeling hearing Singlish again for the next few days. 

After almost four years in Singapore, I can do Singlish well enough.  Not like a local, but I can do a spot on Singaporean accent. I can add that to my repertoire of English languages such as Taglish (Filipino English), normal English, and Singlish.

By the way, ho say bo means “all good?”

Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up

It’s summertime and that means it’s time to go to the beach! Last time I was at the beach was a  year ago.  We decided to go to Balesin Island which is a 25-minute plane ride from the city.  It took us the same amount of time to fly to the island as well as going from the house to the airport. Our flight was at 5AM so the traffic situation was non-existent.  But enough about the traffic because we are here to chill and relax.

Balesin is a private members-only island paradise. The island is 500 hectares and you literally have the whole island to yourselves, aside from the other guests.  When we were there over the weekend, there was a total of 400 guests.  I was suprised because I honestly didn’t see much people.  It was that big and private.  We stayed at the Balesin Village which is the Filipino-themed village.  There are other themed villages such as Bali, Phuket, Toscana, Mykonos, St. Tropez and Costa del Sol.  Our villa was the closest to the main clubhouse and had the best beach in the island (in my humble opinion).   My villa looked like this.  We even had our own private jacuzzi.

We were not able to get beachfront villas as those have been booked ahead but our view was still fantastic.


This was the beach by our village.


I’ve included below more pictures of the other villages in this amazing island.

Lastly, some more pictures with magnificent views.

I’m having  #sepanx moment right now wishing I was still at the beach.  Anyway, it was a good weekend trip and this will make me look forward to my next island/beach trip.  When? I don’t know.  Hopefully soon.  Really soon.

Pinto Art Museum Saturday

Pinto Art Museum Saturday

Last weekend, we decided to go to Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo to get away from the city.  I’ve been there last year with a different group of friends.  We met for lunch and proceeded to sightsee afterwards.

There is an entrance fee of PHP200 to enter and and PHP20 road fee if you want to park your car inside the village.  Everything in this museum is owned by a private collector and this is a residential property converted to a museum.

Some of the modern art pieces are shown below.

It was a great way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon with friends and we got to sit in the al fresco cafe for some much needed catch up stories.


Maundy Thursday In The City

Maundy Thursday In The City

Having about 86% of the country’s population as Roman Catholics, the Philippines was on virtual shutdown as the country went on holiday for both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  A lot have gone back to their hometown provinces while others took the opportunity to go on a long holiday.  The rest just stay home, chill and relax till the stores open again on Saturday.

Aside from the closed stores, local television networks are off air on Thursday and they go back to regular programming on Friday.  I remember when I was younger, there was nothing on TV except for religious programs for both Thursday and Friday.  With the advent of cable TV and internet, those staying in have more viewing choices. Yay!

I consider myself a semi-practicing Catholic with only having revived my status as a practicing Catholic to a larger extent recently.  It has been ingrained in me since childhood to give up something for Lent.  It must be something that truly feels like a sacrifice in order help me grow deeper in my faith and relationship with Jesus.  In the years past, I’ve given up sweets, cakes, desserts, alcohol, coffee or any combination of those.  These are things that I really love.  I mean not really alcohol, but if you go out, there’s always going to be a glass of wine.  That means I will be nursing a glass of water the whole night.  It’s doubly hard to give up sweets and alcohol for Lent especially since my birthday falls during Lent every year.  No fail.  Many times, I’ve had my birthday on Good Friday, Black Saturday or Easter Sunday.  How to give up birthday cake and birthday drinks right?  This year, I settled on coffee which was still a challenge. Next year, I am thinking of giving up social media for Lent. That’s an idea. A very painful idea. 

Today, I went with friends to do Visita Iglesia.  This was the first time I’ve ever done it.  My other friend wanted to go visit the churches in Old Manila, not the newer, more sanitized churches in the suburbs.  We had breakfast at 10AM, finished at 5PM and visited 8 churches in sweltering heat.  Let the visitation begin.

  1. Santo Domingo Church, otherwise known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila.  This is the largest church in Metro Manila and one of the biggest churches in Asia.
  2. Quiapo Church or Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. The Black Nazarene statue was first brought to Manila by a group of Augustinian Recollect friars. I didn’t get to see the statue this visit. FullSizeRender 20
  3. San Sebastian Church  is a Philippine Historical Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure.
  4. Abbey Church of Our Lady of Montserrat – I went to Montserrat a few years back when I went to Spain but this was my first time to go to this church. FullSizeRender 16
  5. National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus Manila holds a special place in my heart.  I went to the Catholic School beside the church until I finished elementary.
  6. San Agustin Church – I haven’t been back to this Church in ages and I think is the oldest church in Manila.
  7. Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral) is the most popular church in the city and serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Manila.
  8. National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church) – We go to this church every New Year to give thanks for the past year.FullSizeRender 28

I’m happy I joined my friends and was able to do this Catholic tradition.  Better late than never right?

Florence in My Mind

Florence in My Mind

July 2016 will always be a magical summer to remember.  Every time I think of my month in Italy, I just smile wistfully.  I first went to Florence in 2008 with friends.  We visited Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.  I fell in love with Florence then.  It was just the perfect size and walkable.  The place was full of art and history.  I read up on the Medicis and anything to do with Florence and I promised myself I’d be back.

When I decided to go on a break, Florence was the first place that came to mind.  I knew I wanted go back and that there were many art schools to choose from.  And like a cliched summer student/tourist, I flew to Italy for the trip of a lifetime.

Upon arriving, I went to the Duomo for the obligatory facade shot. The weather was perfect. Oh, how I’ve missed you Florence.IMG_3506

And this was my buon giorno Ponte Vecchio shot…


Next up. The view of the city from Piazzale Michaelangelo.


And who could forget the summer crowds?


And Santa Maria Novella.  I went in the Church to pray and bought perfume afterwards. I like their stuff but you can’t beat Aquaflor. The have the loveliest smelling perfumes. Wait. Picture time.


Finally, my buona sera Firenze shot.


These were places I passed through almost everyday.  I just realized I posted mostly touristy shots of Florence. I will look through my pictures for more everyday life pictures.  I can’t help it, I smile whenever I look at the pictures.  I want to go back again sometime soon.  In the meantime, I will just have to remember Florence in my mind.

Not Painting By Numbers

Not Painting By Numbers

Last summer, I spent a month and a half in Italy. One month was in Florence since I took an art class. I signed up for painting the human figure at the Florence Academy of Art. I had always been interested in the arts but taking a business course was more practical than being an artist. (Note: Interest is different from ability.) I had always been apprehensive about drawing or painting the human body or portraits. It wasn’t something that I was sure I could be good at so I didn’t do it at all. I decided to push myself and try with this class.

My classmates were mostly seasoned artists who were there to improve their skills. Whereas, I, had neither done a face nor a human body. I was a fish out of water and totally unused to being in this environment. I’ve done some oil painting in the past but mostly stills and landscapes. This was something totally new and challenging for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

Classes were in the mornings and we had the afternoons off to do whatever we wanted. Some went to the museums to sketch the statues, while others went around the area to sight-see. I was one of the latter ones and used the afternoons to explore the city and the Tuscan countryside.

Week 1 –  I was a bit late coming in to class so I got the back part of the female nude model.  I was somewhat disappointed because most of my figure was in the shadow and I didn’t have more fleshy tones to practice with. The first week was spent making sure the body’s angles and proportions right as well as marking the light and dark parts of the body.


Week 2 – This week was all about differentiating between the light and dark shades.  We had to do tones and shades for the skin and the shadows.  It didn’t need to be perfect but we just needed to mark the areas with the correct shades before we proceed with adding tints to the skin.


Week 3 –  For the better part of the third week, we had had to put in more details and fix the lights and the darks.  My light source came from the left topmost area so I had to make sure that the body parts that were illuminated corresponded with it.  This week was all about mixing different shades of tones and lights and applying it to the different parts of the body to make it look realistic and life-like.  As you can see, I had trouble with the face, even if it was just the back part.  I was quite satisfied with the body, though.


Week 4 – The final week was all about finishing touches. The lighting is a bit off on this picture so the colors don’t come across as vibrant.  I worked out the shadow and the lighting on the feet area as well as making the most of the face.  I had the hardest time working on the face.


I learned a lot about techniques and accomplished a lot within this course.  I never thought I would be able to paint a human figure and it turned out decent enough. I was so worried that mine would be the worst in class.   I ended up being thankful that I got the back part of the model. The view was more sensual and less in-your-face nude.   It’s now by the side of the wall in my room since I don’t really know what to do with it yet.

Aside from the painting class, I made new friends and spent weeks in one of my favorite places on earth, Florence.  I would love to go back and stay there for weeks at a time again and enjoy the Tuscan countryside, the friendly people and the food.  It was indeed a summer to remember.