Friday, July 13, 2012

Edna St.Vincent Millay and the Bard

I just unearthed two precious finds. A copy of What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, possibly America’s most romantic poet, and the collection of Shakespeare In Love poems from the Bard’s plays.
The rain I said is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain...
A poem Vincent(as she was called) wrote in one of her gloomy winter days.
As for me,I was able to escape the thunderous rain though my feet didn’t. I came home to the sound of 105.9FM which was playing Latin and Brazilian songs. I didn’t know I liked Feelings until I heard it in Portuguese accompanied by acoustic guitar. The fingers of the rain have quieted down and the gentle tappings on my windowpane ( like the raven) seemed like music to my ear.
And so lovingly I open my precious...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Macau's Mystique

Text and photos by Army Alcayaga-Granada
Published in the Manila Bulletin May 10, 2012

Ruins at St.Paul

Guia Lighthouse

Bright Nights
     Fresh from the Cebu Pacific flight, my two friends and I were giddy with excitement.   My son who worked at the Four Seasons Hotel picked us up at the airport. 
     We were thrilled to see tourist busses paraded for our picking, compliments of The Venetian, The Galaxy, The Sands, The Crown, The Four Seasons and The City of Dreams. Hotel hopping was an addicting experience. Other freebies in the casinos were bottled water, juices, maps and travel brochures from the concierge. Some of these places were nearby, giving us the chance to stroll from hotel to hotel.
      We were ushered into the extravagance of the Venetian Hotel and Casino. Several frescoes on the ceilings depicted Italian scenes. The dazzling chandeliers mesmerized us. Delighted and unabashed, we aimed our cameras at just about everything we came in contact with.
      Horror of horrors, a uniformed official sporting beret and red tassels literally ruined my chance to capture the shameful waste in that gambling arena. We were politely but firmly asked to erase the photos we took in the casino area.
      From out of nowhere there appeared masked medieval characters that regaled us with a spectacle only imagined in an Edgar Allan Poe tale. They paraded and danced with sheer debauchery; minstrels, jugglers, fire eaters and sorcerers. The scene was reminiscent of the “Mask of the Red Death”. One of the performers looked like Vincent Price, it gave me goose bumps.
     The Venetian experience will not be complete without riding the gondola on a stretch of a manmade canal. The gondola ride is 118MOP (642PHP).
Parched and famished, we tried the Chinese noodles which is 40MOP (240PHP) a bowl in the Venetian food court and cafes.
     We walked at night time for it was scorching hot at noon. Some hotels were nearby, giving us a chance to meander the Macau avenues and feel the thrill of just walking into any hotel without qualms because we were welcome.

Macau Tower

Great View from the Macau Tower

Market Scene
     The iconic Ruins of St. Paul is a popular destination and nearby is the Mount Fortress where one can see the Macau horizon, a place so well assimilated one can spot a cathedral side by side a Chinese temple. The Macau museum houses an extensive collection of treasures that can make Jack Sparrow and his band of pirates make another sequel.
      We stopped on Rua de Cunha to satisfy our craving for Macanese food. We ate at a nondescript restaurant but the food was heaven. We ordered beef brisket that melted in the mouth.  The dumpling I tasted was dipped in tamarind sauce that reminded me of the Indian samosas. The dumpling was 8MOP (40PHP) for 3pieces. Milk tea was 19MOP (103PHP). It’s better to find a grocery store where you can buy water and other drinks for a lot less.
     What struck me in Senado Square was the charm of the mosaic images on tiled pathways. There were sketches of gypsy women, galleons, religious icons, and more.  The famed piazza is the Mecca of tourists much like Rizal Park and Intramuros in Manila. Senado Square is at the center of historic public buildings. Portuguese influence on architecture is unmistakable in this Chinese port that jutted off from mainland China. There you can try the bicycle or the rickshaw. Many wanted rickshaw photos. I preferred the tried and tested strolling where I can hobnob with other tourists around Senado Square, tasting the dried meat jerky, cookies and champoy Chinese stores give away for free. Yummy!
     There were a lot of trinkets and souvenirs. I bought a small bust of Bodhisattva, the solemn Buddha .Souvenir shopping in San Malo felt like being transported to Avenida Rizal in the 70’s with it small shoe stores and other specialty shops. If you want mall ambience, go to The Venetian. There you can find original Pradas and Louis Vuittons.

The Soul of Macau
     I do believe that if we care for the soul of people in any place or country, we should create some small nooks and spaces where one can be alone, in company of butterflies and flowers.
I brought a book by Isabel Allende. I really meant to read the last chapters of the book in Macau. So my last two days, I went to a place I called ‘secret garden’ (actually the courtyard in Leal Senado) and refreshed my senses. The soul of Macau lies in its gardens, the Camoes, the Guia Fortress, Lilau square, small pockets of nature to soothe the spirit.

Ruins at St.Paul

Dreamy Day at the Macau Tower
      Macau Tower shot up high and mighty, lording it over the waters of Sai Van Lake and the waterfront. Before hitting the elevators, we got entrance tickets (adults/ 120MOP View only/ or 150MOP with snacks) for a view at the top. This ticket included a snack at the Cafe on 4 of mini bagel sandwich, tuna salad, and two pixie cakes. We took our sweet time enjoying food and mood watching the boats coming to and from Hongkong. You can stay at the top until night time. If you go there at 5pm, you can be dazzled by the sunset, and who knows by a full moon at night time. Awesome!

      After the much needed breather, my two friends and I rode the transparent lift to the top which gave us a sneak preview of the outdoor scene.
We stepped into a glass enclosure of 360 degrees of jaw dropping splendour. The sky descended and we were metaphorically in heaven. One’s spirit is at once uplifted. There were glass floors on which we posed dramatically as if falling from the tower. Tourists crowded us but the atmosphere was gay and the excitement unbearable.
     While we did our Vogue poses, screams would ring out as skyjumpers and bungyjumpers fall like birds from the top. There was all we could do to stop one friend from bungy jumping.
The tower was almost surrounded by water. God and man built this astounding scenery. There was sunset at the west, and mist at the east, buildings rising like sentinels guarding the secret of the dragons.
As I gazed into the landscape, I can almost hear Isabel Allende’s voice...
Barrabas came to us by sea...”

Food Avenue at the Venetian

The Venetian

Dad's Megamall: Buffet Extravaganza

Just a little           

Eat all you can for 600+
          The biggest buffet that includes Japanese,European, and Filipino food.
I never learned the trick of eating right at a buffet. Usually, I just pick a couple of my favourites and then some and that’s it.
          What I did that night was pick up tiny bits of diverse food selections that were laid splendidly before my eyes and voila!  There was never a dull moment in my mouth. Flavours exploded in my taste buds, like popping caviars making miniscule sounds in my brain.
          How was I to know that sushi can go smashingly with continental food? I loved the turkey and the ambience of having a fiesta in this welcome party was a memorable one.

 Of course the night wasn’t over yet. A group of us trooped to the Podium Starbucks to have a nightcap.

Twinkle eyes!

Dads SM Megamall 4th Floor Bridgeway, SM Megamall, EDSA, Mandaluyong City

Thanks to Cha Vargas for her Photos!

Hotel Sofitel: Top Place to Celebrate

If you want to celebrate and have a party and also see the sunset at the Manila bay,you're in for a treat at the Hotel Sofitel. With an old world ambience, and a realtively good service, thi is the place.

My school, Manila Japanese School had a blast last December.

With an out of this world backdrop of the sunset, my colleagues and I bade the 2012 school year goodbye at the Hotel Sofitel (formerly Philippine Plaza). We had a smashing time having photo-ops     left and right. The Treasure Island(poolside) was still the same when I used to come here during my heyday (disco fever days).
The fillet mignon was succulent, with a side dish of potatos, asparagus and a huge tomato. The staff were courteous and the coffee just bitter right.
Wine overflowed (into our glasses), that instead of it being a sombre goodbye to some Japanese teachers leaving for Japan ( Bye Tsutsui Sensei ), there was a little salsa and fun time. The night was just a perfect cap to a good year. 


Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila CCP Complex Roxas Boulevard , Pasay City , 1300 MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Thanks to Mace Cui and Cha Vargas for pics!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Anawangin Cove: Best Place in Zambales

Quest For Anawangin Cove 
by Army Alcayaga-Granada

Published in Manila Bulletin May 24,2012 

Manila, Philippines. Like anybody whose mind and soul have been crushed by daily grind, I long for space and respite from the steel and granite setting of Makati.
The quest for the fabled Anawangin Cove started with a hot cup of MacDonald’s brewed coffee and pancake with syrup. My companions and I left the city behind us and traversed the hilly Zambales region until we reached the town of San Antonio where the SUV snaked its way to a quaint fishing village called Pundaquit.
 We found ourselves in Pundaquit Paradise, a restaurant that serves sinigang na maya-maya (fish in tamarind broth). There was a sprinkling of European tourists relaxing and taking swigs of San Miguel beer. An unfamiliar Scandinavian tune drifted in the air.
We bought food from the local sari-sari store since food was pricey in the cove.  The locals were a tad curious but friendly. Children escorted us down the docks and fooled around on the sand. The boat danced on the sparkling waters, so cool and so blue, a luxury so unexpected, I allowed myself a sigh. The expert bangkeros put the banca in full throttle.
 I saw a school of fish weaving patterns in the sun. It was fun trying to catch them with my hands. After 15 minutes of relaxed sailing, we spotted strips of beaches where sun worshippers lolled with nary a care in the world. We rounded a bend and amidst oohs and aahs, the cove appeared.
At once, the pine grove beyond the sands greeted us and we were transported to a temperate place. Balmy weather, unruffled sea, the sand khaki white and soft to the toes, how remarkable to know we were just a few hours away from home! But forget home. For now, we were adventurers. We set up tent and gathered dry wood for the fire.
At the back of the pine trees is a stream that leads to the sea. We crossed the swamp up to a point where fresh water met brackish water. I was excited and a bit uneasy but it was exhilarating.
 In the middle of the water we took a break, and upon turning around and looking at the horizon, the glorious landscape that lay before us took our breath away. Pine trees surrounded the mountains and we imagined ourselves crossing the Alps.
There’s a saying that no two sunsets are ever the same. A perfect sunset capped the day for me. At dusk, most swimmers turned to their camps and left me alone on the beach. Some, though, were still in the dark waters a few yards away and all I could hear were their voices echoing in the silver and black skies while the waves whispered at me. Pam Munoz Ryan once said,  “Wander into that infinite space between soul and star...”
 I lay on the sand and watched the stars light up one by one.