Friday 31st July - Euthanasia

Many argue that they have a right to live, that doctors should do anything in their power to keep them alive even if they end up as a vegetable - I mean in a vegetative state.

So we we have the right to live do we? Do we also have the right to die? Doesn't that sound just a little bit like a paradox to you?

See, I'm thinking that the human race is getting a bit greedy now. Oh wait. We knew that already from when Eve decided her rumbling tummy was getting a bit too much for her.

Thursday 30th July - What a juxtaposition!

Astrology or Theology?

There are no prayers or religious services and even the camp fire songs have been vetted for covert references to a deity. (First article, both taken from The Times)

What I don't really understand is why one would go out of their way to omit religious words when 'religious' camps don't exactly ban children from learning star consellations. I get the whole we-don't-want-to-pray-to-something-we-don't-believe-in attitude, but does it really need to be called an 'Atheist' Camp?

If these camps began denouncing, let's say, Allah, what are the chances that the 'following' would consist of people wearing Fitness First bags? Ok, maybe I went too far, but you get my point (if you understand my reference that is). Geez.

Tuesday 28th July - Hong Kong

Going to Hong Kong was nearly as bad as attending a swine flu party.

Where do I start?
Well, after a nervous two-hour flight for my aunt (whereby she spent most of the time rocking back and forth with her fingers firmly stuck in her ears, muttering to herself - I think she has aviophobia), we landed in Hong Kong International airport (much to her relief).

Seeing as my aunt and cousins had never been on an airplane before, let alone left the Philippines, nearly everything was a new experience for them. One example included riding the Airport Express, where, upon seeing the numerous mountains of Lantau Island, my cousin screamed 'Amazing!' (in that cute 5-year-old voice of his) which in turn resulted in laughter from the other passengers. Another experience for them was using the Octopus Cards. These innovative pieces of plastic are supposed to be a step forward in making life easier, but instead appeared to be a step backwards. Or in our case, no steps were taken at all - the result of getting stuck at the barrier.

The first day was spent travelling (for what seemed an eternity) to our hotel, eating KFC (of all places to eat in Hong Kong), unpacking and having a siesta. It was not until the evening - when our time was spent relatively constructively - that we did anything remotely tourist-like. We went to the Avenue of Stars to watch The Symphony of Lights across Victoria Harbour, which was basically a spectacle of lights accompanied by music; an enjoyable sight and a great photo opportunity.

(Most of) The next day was spent at Ocean Park. Queues for rides were ridiculously long, and with two (very impatient and irritable) children with us, there was no time to stand around waiting in line. So we walked, and walked till we reached the top of the mountain where we were to ride a cable car to the lower parts of the park. Waiting in line - my mum being afraid of heights - I spotted her taking deep breaths in between reciting the chant 'Face my fear' sotto voce to herself. If only I knew beforehand that one could easily have taken a bus from the entrance to the lowland I would have saved her a hell of a lot of grief and a near heart attack.

Red Panda
Panda on the left: Hey! That's my pile you're eating from
Panda on the right: *yum yum yum yum*
Solo Panda
Anyway, we took the cable car, which seated exactly 6 people, just enough for all of us. As soon as the car left the station, the nervous mantra began.

I wish I could share the experience with you (we videoed the whole of the excruciating 9 min journey) but it takes what seems like a year just to upload a short video, so you'll just have to take my word for what happened.

From the start of the ride to the end, my mum's eyes were kept firmly closed whilst she recited various chants including the ABC, Otso Otso and counting from 1-42 where she started again from the beginning after feeling the car jolt as it made its steep descent to the lowland. During this time I had my finger permanently glued to the shutter button, my aunt was sat still, staring straight ahead as if she had just witnessed the end of the world and my brother was very considerate and sympathetic towards mum sporadically screaming at various points, telling her that it was a long way down and that we had stopped because the cable car was broken. Could you ask for a better son?

Mum 'coping'

Upon disembarking, my cousins headed straight for the kiddie rides, whilst I went point-and-shoot crazy at the panda enclosure. I was happy, my cousins were happy, but my mum was dreading the return journey on the cable car.

Back in Kowloon (after spending 6 hours in Ocean Park) we went to Ladies' Market (Chinese version of Portobello) and engaged in some light shopping.

Our final day was supposed to include trips to see the world's largest outdoor Buddha and Disneyland. But due to the long journey to the former (along with adverse weather conditions) we were not able to make it to the latter. The one time I didn't bring my raincoat (or even an umbrella) with me, Buddha took it upon himself to graciously send down the rain, and my, was he generous. After a few muggy shots and a couple of hundred steps later, we reached the top. Some high-five shots, a quick descent and a brief tour around Po Lin Monastery, we went back to Ngong Ping Village.

...small enough to fit in my hand
The view from the top
We were in a rush to get back, so didn't stay very long to take in all the sights and wonders. My brother and I took the cable car down whilst (understandably) the rest of them took the 45min bus ride back. The 25 min cable car journey was incredible, with an amazing birds' eye view of the airport, the surrounding sea and the magnificent landscape.

The cable car from Ngong Ping
Hong Kong International Airport

We stopped to eat our early dinner and found ourselves frantically running around Kowloon picking up our bags from the hotel, getting on the MTR and the Airport Express, only to find at check-in that immigration may find it suspicious that three British passport holders were travelling to the Philippines and not back to London. And so my mum embarked on a trek from check-in A to J to get our tickets from Manila-London and vice versa printed out. As if she wasn't tired enough. It was, in one word, stressful (to say the least).

Did I mention that I was wearing a very fashionable coned-bamboo hat the whole time? I got my fair share of stares AND looked cool. What more could one ask for?

Although, I have to say, my cool head gear was trumped by my cousin's:

How could I compete with that?

That's what I call daring
Don't you just love him?We just couldn't help ourselves
EDIT: The spacing between captions/photos and paragraphs are not my fault. Blogger doesn't want to comply with my editing. Damn Blogger.

Monday 27th July - *Cough Cough*

I've returned from Hong Kong but am pretty tired.

I have a splitting headache, amazingly not from the constant walking and the humid air, but my cousins.

I'll get back to you about it all. Ciao.

Tuesday 21st July - Darn

I won't be able to see the eclipse (that I travelled half way around the world to see) tonight as it's too cloudy.

...And there was me prepared to permanently damage my eyes (and my treasured camera) just to take a peek.


Saturday 18th July - Potty about Potter

The new Potter film was just fabuloso. Although, I could have done without the people behind me talking (it actually reached a point where I told them to be quiet) and my cousin informing me (quite loudly) that he was hungry.

We have been really busy this week, I don't really know why, but I do know we're off to Hong Kong this Friday which should be good fun. My cousins and aunt (who have never left the country - or even been on an aeroplane) are pretty excited about it all, but I'm more excited for them.

Nothing else to report, apart from the fact that I'm getting lazier and lazier as each day passes. Oh, and it has been raining here non-stop for a week. Not too different from London from what I hear.
And now, some more random shots from the past few days.

One mistake = A lot of laughs

A miracle

My brother's definition of 'fun'

Can you feel the love?

'Tis bagyo again

Friday 17th July - Sin City

It was 11 o'clock in the evening when my aunt walked into the room and said to get ready to leave.

To leave?
Yes your mum wants you to come with us to pick her up.
Where is she?
She's at KTV (Karaoke TV) with her friends, and she wants you to see what it's like.
*mumble mumble*

So we set off for Makati to pick up my mum. When we arrived my first thought was that we had stepped over the threshold into Sin City. Everywhere there were neon lights, so bright that I couldn't actually read what any of them were advertising. There were also a lot of really pretty young girls (not always a sign of sin, but in this case it was) with men old enough to be their grandads, most of them being foreigners. I suspect that this is the place that many tourists come to if they want to have a good time.

We didn't know where we were actually going and couldn't contact my mum as (wherever she was) she had no signal. After walking around for a bit we stumbled upon the (shady) entrance to KTV. We turned down the long basement corridor and found ourselves encountering another batch of beautiful young women dressed, I can only assume, as if their clothes had got caught in a shredder; not to mention the fact that they were sprawled all over one another.

Initial thought: Where the hell has my mum brought me?
We were directed to the private booth (don't jump to conclusions) where my mum and her friends were singing karaoke. I instantly noticed that many of them had been indulging in alcoholic beverages, some more so than others.

Long story cut short, we stayed for another two hours where I was subject to an interrogation by a tipsy (off-duty) police officer, at the receiving end of some really crude stuff, although I have to say that some of my mum's friends had good intentions announcing that a minor was present. We finally left but, to my disappointment, not to go home. Not only did we stop over at Starbucks but also to each of their houses to drop them off.

We finally got home at 4am. Man, was I tired.

Dark Night

I witnessed a scene that I initially thought would be of no interest to me.

A member of our extended family refused to return home this morning for one reason only - that being that there was no alcohol on the jeep. He had been drinking the whole day and tonight he was seen banging on the door of the house opposite to us.

Him being my gran's nephew, she took pity on him and called her other nephew (she has about 20) who's a member of the local 'police force' so that he could sleep off the alcohol in a prison cell, rather than out in the rain. If he was left to himself he probably would have either:
1. Hurt someone
2. Hurt himself, or
3. Get hurt by someone for shouting till the early hours of the morning

So she called for back up.

They arrived, 5 of them, with poles of wood (I assume to ensure that there would be 'no trouble') and tried to get him on his feet (he had been lying on the floor in the pouring rain outside our gate), but he refused to leave. After 15 mins or so of them trying to negotiate with him, of my gran asking what an onlooker was looking at and of her requesting that 'wag nila bogbogin' (translation - they don't beat him to a pulp), a police van (it actually looked more like a wagon) arrived and 10 other officers(?) helped get him into the vehicle.

We just hope that they keep their word...and that he will come to his senses and go back home in the morning once he's sobered up.

Monday 13th July - 'Words are all I (don't) have'

Words cannot really express the chaos that we experienced yesterday at our house blessing. We were only expecting 150 people, but when does reality ever meet our expectations?

The priest who blessed the house was abit taken aback by how many children were present (I don't blame him). After blessing the house he stayed for a bit and we started talking. He thought my brother was my husband! After I (duly) corrected him, he still believed that I must be married. See, the strange thing is that in the Philippines I don't look 14 but 25. Who'd have thunk it?
Anyway, I told him that I am a Theology student and his eyes lit up. His tone of voice was one of excitement and shock as he went on to invite me to show my face at Mass so that we 'could talk Theology'...

Sorry, I wasn't meant to ramble on; this post would become a thesis if I wrote down everything that happened yesterday. I'll let the photographs speak for themselves instead.
People start to arrive...
...but there are so many that they crowd the street instead
Getting ready to 'sabog' the money
A scrap ensues as the money is thrown
One of the 'litsons'
Some of the waiters (Nice setup don't you think? A bit grand though, in my humble opinion)
We unintentionally ended up closing the street...
What my brother and cousins were up to most of the day
I think I've found Bin Laden

Sunday 12th July - Padilla Street Hotel

Oh. Dear. God.

All I have to say is 200 people (at least 50 being children), a house blessing, catering (including 3 large roasted pigs), 30+ people needing somewhere to stay = manic house turned hotel, a closed street and me becoming a temporary babysitter, maître d' and photographer for the day.

I'll get back to you once I have the energy to type another wor...

Tuesday 7th July - All Better Now

UPDATE: I'm feeling a lot better now. It has taken a week for me to get back on here - not just because I have been unwell - as we have all been busy with trying to sort out the catering for the house blessing as well as the arrival of my mum and brother on Saturday, not to mention trying to book a holiday to Hong Kong.

This was supposed to be posted when I arrived from Balibago (a week ago). So here it is now.


Arrived safe and sound yesterday from my stay in Balibago, but was so tired from the journey that I slept for 12 hours and, alas, did not enter the blogging world to update you with my encounters.
From where we live in Metro Manila, it took us 2 hours to drive to Binangonan, Rizal where we were told that we were to travel by boat to reach Balibago. Now me being me, and the fact that I'm not a very confident swimmer, I wanted to know exactly where we were going. See, I thought that the boat ride would be, at most, 15 mins. Firstly, to my horror, I could not find Balibago on the map...and secondly, I was informed that it would take an hour and a half AND there were no life jackets on the boat. I nearly suffered cardiac arrest.
Boats here, in my opinion, do not look like that they can take more than 30 passengers or travel for longer than 15 mins:

But, I was proved wrong as 100 or so passengers clambered on to the boat which, in turn, endured 2 hours of travel - intact.

Anyway, we finally disembarked at the port in Balibago to be greeted by my godmother. I thought St Andrews was small but this village is miniscule in comparison. With everyone knowing everybody else, the term privacy is practically non-existent.

I was taken around the island by Barbie (or Barbs as she is known), my godmother's neice, when I came across some *cough* eccentric characters:

The tour ended at my godmother's summer getaway hut on her farm, and after a hearty dinner and an earful of Videoke I went to sleep.

The next morning was the dawn of Pagoda. Pagoda is a festival whereby the people of the barrio (borough) celebrate their patron saint(s). The day consists of going to Mass, eating heaps and heaps of food, throwing water at one another, sweet-giving (and eating), playing games (such as trying to hit a piñata) and attending a party on a boat. In other words, it is one big binge on holy-sweet goodness.

I didn't take part in the celebrations on the boat for reasons I explained earlier, but I did watch the procession of the statues of St Peter and St Paul from the my godmother's still-under-construction house.

I also took a stab at hitting the piñata...
..I missed.

Here are some of the photos I took whilst I was there. The views were just - breathtaking. More or less what I would expect from the Philippines.