Monthly Archives: September 2013

Thoughts on Turning Thirty

About ten years ago, I included traveling solo on or before I turn thirty in my list of to-do’s. Early this year, it dawned on me that I have only until this year to fulfill this goal and so as planned, I packed my bags a day before I get the big three-O and headed to Camiguin for a much-needed respite.

Away from the hustle and bustle of city life and the demands of my job, I spent my first two days volcano trekking and falls-and-cold-and-hot-springs-and-island hopping, while the last three days were for “me-myself-and-I” moments as I did nothing but nap on hammocks while my favorite sound of the crashing waves lulled me to sleep. It was a truly unique experience, especially since during this trip, I went on “digital detox” (read that as going “offline” from the world), and lived on a treehouse and by the beach without television, or even electricity at some point (more about these in my future posts).

celebrating the gift of my life in captivating Camiguin

celebrating the gift of my life in captivating Camiguin

As I had a lot of time on my hands, I was also able to reflect on what the past three decades of my life had taught me.

Faith is everything. In myself. In the people I love. In others. In God. Because I wouldn’t have gone this far if I didn’t believe in myself. And I wouldn’t have stuck to my loved ones if I didn’t trust them. My faith in people makes me believe in their capacity to be and do good, while my faith in God keeps me grounded and going.

Family is love. Yes, we did not choose them, but because we did not have a choice, we learn how to accept and love them as they are. Stitch said, “This is my family… Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.” My family has had its share of struggles, but it’s the same family that has and will always be my home.

Friends are the family we choose. So Edna Buchanan said. And it’s true. I have been told many times that I am choosy with people, but this same trait is the reason why I am surrounded with TRUE friends who share their lives with me in whatever moment of happiness, sadness, craziness, etc. we find ourselves in.

Life, like happiness, is a matter of choice. While we do not have control of life’s circumstances, we always have a choice on our attitude to everything. It’s not about the cards dealt to us, but what we do with them. I’ve had my share of “bad cards,” but I did not let them cause my defeat. I even emerged a better life player because of them.

Be yourself. I know this is a cliché, but this is one challenge everyone goes through. We all want acceptance of or at the least, understanding for who we are. I have done things – even bent myself out of shape at times – to please people, but this is not really necessary. As Dr. Seuss said, “Those who matter don’t care, and those who care don’t matter.”

Any relationship entails risks, and pain. Just because s/he loves you doesn’t mean s/he won’t hurt you because wittingly or unwittingly, s/he will. More often than not, our loved ones are even the ones who cause us our greatest heartaches, and we have to forgive them for this, and move on. After all, the world does not stop for our grief.

Truly loving a person sometimes entails excusing the inexcusable in him/her. It is not turning a blind eye to his/her frailties but seeing beyond the imperfections and beholding something totally beautiful.

It’s not enough to be kind to others, we must be kind to ourselves too. We all make mistakes. And despite our best efforts and most fervent of hopes, we fail. I used to be overly critical of myself. I was my worst enemy, but over time, I learned to do away with self-blame and self-pity. They’re self-destructive.

Expect nothing. For someone who grew up aware of people’s expectations of me and who has had her share of disappointments, I know that expectations place unfair restrictions on people and ruin spontaneity. Live without expectations and you will find that life and people are full of pleasant surprises if we only let them be.

Keep peace with the person that you were, are, and will be. In 2010, I wrote, “Closure isn’t just about putting an end to the vexations of the mind, heart, and soul. It is also coming to terms with the difficulties of the past and from hereon, beginning a life of acceptance, gratitude and learning, and in so doing, achieving the serenity we so long for.”

Age is just a number. I am thirty, and I may live to the ripe old age of ninety, but there will always be a child in me who will view the world with childlike wonder and still believe in happy endings. I will act my age, but I will not let my age hinder me from doing what others think I cannot do.

It’s been a good three decades for me, and now I look forward to more years of living life to the fullest.

Cheers!

Macau: Royal Hotel

We stayed here only for a night and spent most of our time exploring Macau so we only stayed in this hotel to sleep.

We requested early check-in, but was not accommodated, which was fine with us since as hoteliers, we knew that it’s subject to room availability. But they were kind enough to keep our luggage while we visited nearby attractions.

After our tour and lunch, we came back to check in and was given Room 1322, which was a pleasant surprise since it’s comfortable and quite spacious (I was expecting something small based on my experience with Hong Kong’s Dorsett Far East in 2010). The downside was that it had no view.

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The bathroom came with a bathtub. It too was spacious and clean.

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What I liked most about this hotel was their service. Though I had difficulty understanding the local staff’s English, they were smiling. They did have Filipino staff though that were very accommodating and spoke fluent English. One concierge in particular, Mark, was very helpful. He was the one who helped us with our itinerary and recommended A Lorcha, the restaurant where we had our best meal in Macau.

What I did not like about this hotel was their small lobby, which was always crowded and noisy.  Wi-Fi in the lobby was free.  I also found it weird that their lobby restrooms were kept locked, accessible only through guests’ key cards. This was actually not an issue until we checked out and had to use the restroom again and had to wait for a hotel staff to open the door for us, which was really inconvenient. The same lobby restrooms were also not well-kept. For the 2 days that we were there, there were always stalls with toilets that were not flushed. Though obviously some hotel guests were to blame for their lack of toilet etiquette, the hotel must do better to clean up after such guests.

All in all, I found Royal Hotel Macau a good hotel, but not as luxurious as its website claims.  Book this hotel if you want to be just walking distance to and from Guia Fortress, Ruins of St. Paul’s and Senado Square, but if you prefer to be where the action is, find a hotel along Cotai Strip where new and truly luxurious hotels and resorts are based.

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I’ll end this post with a photo I took of Vasco de Gama Park, which is located right outside the hotel.

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Royal Hotel Macau is located in Estrada da Vitoria 2-4, Macau. Visit their official website for more information.

Macau: A Lorcha Comida Portuguesa

Before leaving for Macau, a friend who was there a couple of years ago strongly advised us to try this really good Portuguese restaurant. Unfortunately, my friend has a rather poor memory so she does not remember the restaurant’s name.

In Macau, we asked around for this elusive restaurant’s name and our excellent Filipino concierge at the Royal Hotel recommended A Lorcha as the must-dine-in Portuguese restaurant when in Macau.

After touring the Ruins of St. Paul’s, Museu de Macau, and Senado Square, we headed to A Lorcha for lunch.

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Arriving without a reservation, we were surprised to see the place still full even when it was almost 2 PM. There were some waiting guests, but the mostly Filipino staff graciously accommodated us to the sole available table for 2.

Clueless on what to order since it was our first time to dine in a Portuguese restaurant, our very knowledgeable waiter recommended the clam and Portuguese fried rice. We added chicken to our order though in hindsight, this was unnecessary since the fried rice was so yummy it did not need any viand. And the serving was generous that we finished only half of everything. Here’s a list of our order and the corresponding charges:

1 Arroz “Chau Chau” a portuguesa
(Portuguese fried rice)                                        HK$98
Ameijoas “Bulhao Pato”
1 Clam “Bulhao Pato” style,
with garlic, coriander and olive oil                    HK$98
1 Frango assado na brasa com piri-piri
(Spicy charcoal-grilled chicken)                         HK$128

All prices are exclusive of 10% service charge so our total bill amounted to HK$356.40, excluding tip.

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This was our most expensive meal in Macau (including in Hong Kong, actually), but it was worth the money. The Portuguese fried rice was very similar to the Spanish Paella, which I like. The clam was good, but salty, which made it the perfect dipping sauce for my bread. The chicken was tender and despite being labeled spicy, was not spicy at all. And the bread was the best I ever had (though the bread from a Brazilian restaurant in Chicago will later change this).

Service was impeccable and prompt even when the restaurant was full. The waiters were knowledgeable and smiling and since we were their fellow Filipinos, had been very kind. They even gave us complimentary bottled mineral water!

If you ever find yourself in Macau, I highly recommend this place, but do reserve a table because it is always full.

A Lorcha is located in 289A Rua do Almirante Sergio, Macau Peninsula, Macau, China. Contact them via +853 2831-3193 or +853 2831-3195 or e-mail alorcha@macau.ctm.net. For more information, visit A Lorcha’s official Facebook page.

Macau – Day 2

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From the Royal Hotel, we walked along a colorful cobblestone street and took in this scenery to get to the famous Ruins of St. Paul’s.

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Ruins of St. Paul’s

When we arrived at the cathedral, I was very surprised to see a lot of people. And I mean A LOT – like busloads of mostly Chinese tourists who even had colored flags or caps to distinguish themselves among each other. It was thus very difficult to get good photos because there were just too many photo-bombers.

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The Ruins of Saint Paul’s refers to the ruins of a 16th-century complex in Macau including what was originally St. Paul’s College and the Cathedral of St. Paul, which at the time was one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia. It was built by the Jesuits from 1582 to 1602, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Behind the Ruins is the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt that houses relics and artifacts from the Jesuits who built the complex.

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Museu de Macau
On our way to the museum, I found a spot that offered a wonderful vista of the ruins. This is one of my favorites in this set:

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Museu de Macau required an entrance fee, but we’re not really into museums so we were content with just looking at some Sun Yan-Sen memorabilia outside the main museum. There was a pile of rocks too described as belonging to the first phase of construction around the original St. Paul’s College.

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Jardim Da Fortalleza
At the top level of the museum is the Jardim da Fortalleza, which has limited flora.

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I don’t know what these flowers are called, but they are my favorite in this set:

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Aside from these, the garden also provided us with views of Macau’s skyline:

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Afterwards, we headed back to the ruins.

At the bottom step is a signage about Macau and a pedicab photo spot.

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And on the opposite road were shops selling delicacies and Macau’s famous jerky with flavors ranging from the simple Whole Pork of Fillet to Spicy Beef and Barbecue Neck Pork (huh?!)

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To those planning a visit here, know that these shops offer free food taste.  My friend and I initially planned to dine in a proper restaurant, but got full from savoring Pastelaria Koi Kei’s delicacies.

Aside from the jerky, Macau is most famous for their Portuguese Egg Tart.

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Though somewhat full, we couldn’t resist buying one each. And it was indeed so good and worth all the talk – not too sweet, with flaky pastry and yummy custard filling.

Afterwards, it was time to check nearby points of interest but on the way there, I was again amazed at how crowded the narrow streets were.

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St. Dominic’s Church
After getting my foot stepped on and myself bumped into a couple of times, we finally got to St. Dominic’s Church, which was founded in 1587 by three Spanish Dominica priests. The first Portuguese newspaper on Chinese soil, A Abelha da China (The China Bee) was published here on September 12, 1822.

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Santa Casa da Misericordia (Holy House of Mercy)
Just beside St. Dominic’s Church was the Holy House of Mercy.

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This was established by the first Bishop of Macau in 1569 after one of the most prominent charitable organizations in Portugal. Holy House of Mercy is also responsible for founding in Macau the first western-style medical clinic and other social welfare structures that still function to this day.

Senado Square

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Senado Square has been Macau’s urban center for centuries. It is surrounded by pastel-colored neo-classical buildings that lend the place a Mediterranean vibe.

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And yes, it was crowded too.

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Honestly, I was disappointed with the last 3 parts of this travel. I’ve seen better buildings elsewhere, and they were just too crowded with people it was difficult to appreciate them.

Before leaving the square, I took this shot of their Post Office.

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Late Lunch at A Lorcha
Aside from the free food tasting, this was the best part of our Day 2 in Macau. It requires a separate post, though.

Museu Maritimo
We passed by this on our way to our next stop:
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A-ma Temple
A-Ma Temple was just beside A Lorcha, right after the Museu Maritimo.

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Its signage says that A-Ma Temple already existed before the city of Macau came into being, and that A-Ma is also known as Tin Hou (Heavenly Empress) and is the Goddess of  Seafarers.

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This last set of photos was taken on the bus that would take us back to Macau pier for our ferry ride to Hong Kong.

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Till next!