Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meet my damn dog

Meet Lougee, my damn dog. Half-Dalmatian half-Labrador.

Occupation: guardian of my pad, raider of my fridge, terror of my bed

Favorite drinks: water, milk, and coffee (she prefers Pokka cappuccino)

Favorite food: anything

Nemesis: Pillows (she loves tearing them apart! damn dog!)

Pastime: sleeping, bugging me so I could play catch with her, chasing cats and birds)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My iTunes DJ Top 10 for the Day

1. Yellow - Coldplay
2. Heaven or Las Vegas - Cocteau Twins
3. Rifles - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
4. Hunger Strike - Temple of the Dog
5. Lost Souls Forever - Kasabian
6. She Is Love - Oasis
7. Everyday drive - Shiela and the Insects
8. I'll Be Around - Soundscape UK
9. I Need You Here - Color It Red
10. Take A Picture - Filter

Got a new gadget

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Picture of the Night: Eastwood City

Haven't been here in a while and it really is beautiful now. Fantastic job with what they did here.

Indonesia Diary

One of the first things I do when I'm a new place is to not only figure out everything in my environment but to make sense of what my days could be like. After the first two days, I began to settle down into a routine.

No matter what time I'd sleep I'm always up at 6am (it used to be an hour earlier but I've adjusted it now). I'd stretch then wash up and do my bathroom thing. Since I was sharing a room with one of the other writers, I have to be more cognizant of what could bother them such as playing music loudly or keeping the lights on at odd hours.

The bathroom, well, I've always been a sucker for cleanliness so no one has to worry about my end of the bargain (although I wish others were like that as opposed to being pigs).

I've got no wifi in my room so soon after I'm dressed I pick up my meal stub and hightail it for the coffee shop. Uh, breakfast will have to wait. I have an hour of internet time before I have my first meal of the day.

I usually check email, comments about what I write, then read the news of the day. I'm so happy that we have the International Herald Tribune here for free. It really is one of my favorite newspapers as it offers a varying view of the news around the world. I've always considered the writing topnotch and an inspiration. I save every single paper I picked up for the day and am bringing them home to Manila. I usually clip and file stories I like as reference or a guide for future stories.

Breakfast. Ah, the least complicated meal for me. The hotel food at the Sunlake doesn't vary too much from day-to-day. So I have to be a little creative. I'm a creature of habit so I have the cook whip it up this way -- I pick out sausages that are sliced, I throw in a generous amount of tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. I brought a couple of cans of sardines. So I sometimes substittue the sausages for the sardines. On a couple of days, the cook allowed me to fix it up myself. It might be the most simplest of food but it's something I do pretty well more so when I mix it up with other ingredients. I learned it while living abroad before. Hahahaha.

Then it's a plate of fruits -- lots of melon and some pineapple. Then a glass of OJ. Around 9-930am, I go down with my media colleagues to the swimming pool. The others go to the gym but me and Jun Mendoza swim for an hour before heading to the sauna. That's the fun part of having free facilities plus there aren't too many people using them at this time. One time I tried it out in the evening and there were too many people.

After that I bathe and prep to hit the road. Sometimes the team plays at 2; at times it's at 4. And they usually leave for the arean two hours before to get taped, stretch, and a last minute briefing. Sometimes I go ahead of mymedia colleagues as I prefer to watch all the games. I enjoy hanging around the venue and talking to people from the organizers to the media and coaches and players. I mean why hang out at the hotel right?

Before, during, and after the games, us media folks are always moving around looking for stories. We have deadlines but they all vary. This is a disadvantage for me since we put everything to bed not later than 7pm. With Jakarta an hour behind, if the game ends at 6pm that roundabout makes it 7 back home so either I draft a really short oen that's straight to the point or I can write parts of it earlier but amend it along the way.

Sometimes, I stay behind to watch the others games (the Philippines' coaching staff does the Justify Fullsame too) and if I don't hitch a ride with them in the chartered van then I go home by myself. The Mal Kelapa Gading is a short walk so I go here after the games to look for dinner. All that spicy food in the hotel got to me after a while that I simply couldn't take it anymore. The players felt the same too and so the team's benefactors would take us out for dinner. Shangri-La, Crystal Jade then Outback. On our last day, the Filipino community prepped us some good ole home cooking with adobo, menudo, and kaldereta (with some veggie stuff). Man, did that ever taste so good. Wish they had sinigang na pig my fave dish. Hahahaha. Bawal lang kasi.

At the mall as you can see from an earlier post, I had A&W (twice), KFC, and Kenny Rogers. One time I just had sanwiches and fruits.

One time CJ Giles and me just couldn't handle the spice anymore (this was after the Iran game where we lost) we ordered McDonald's. The team had KFC delivered.

At night I hung out at the coffee shop with the others. The players had a curfew at 11pm where they all had to be inside their rooms. The assistant coaches rotated in staying at the coffee shop watching out for anyone who might want to sneak out. No one did naman hahahaha. But this was one of the best parts of the day as we got to know each other better and gab about a lot of things.

Most of us -- media, coaches, and players -- brought laptops so everyone was chatting, watching stuff on youtube, emailing, or playing poker. Hahahaha. Some nights the guys went drinking but I stayed at the coffee shop either writing, chatting, or updating the blogs. Now that -- the latter one -- is one of the toughest. Hahahaha.

On the second to the last night, there was what was termed later on as "the summit." The coaches of Lebanon, Jordan, the Philippines, India, and reps fromIran all convereged at the coffee shop. They brought out their Cubanos and gabbed about hoops. One time, a couple of them sat down with me to talk hoops. And that ny friends, is one cool experience. I'll write about that soon. The following day people were asking me what transpired in "the summit" as the coaches said a lot to me about the game. I'll write about it too.

And I've said it twice that my bed is so comfortable. The pillows were some of the best ever and I have three which is my normal at home. I love pillows. Hahahaha.

Gotta hit the sack. Tired and sleepy. HBO here is for crap. Thank God they've got a lot of football here but the joke is on the Indonesians that they have millions of folks but have never produced one great footballer. Unless someone proves us wrong.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Mall of Indonesia

The Mall of Indonesia looks real nice from the outside and it was pleasantly nice once inside. It has the feel of Shangri-La... nice, elegant, but expensive. And there's a funland section of the mall with its indoor theme park and kiddie area.

I think it's okay but maybe I prefer malls with huge bookstores or music stores. Not too noisy but are there malls like that? Hahaha. Maybe not here. Sorry, I kinda miss Market Fair in New Jersey or the one in Newport Pavonia. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Central Jakarta @ Night

Driving around the city in search of good food and pretty girls. Traffic during rush hours... well, let me put it this way -- no one was rushing anywhere. 

The Grand Hyatt Jakarta located in the business district has got to be one of the most elegant hotels ever designed. I fell in love with its design and its location which just by the rotunda. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wake up, Rick. But I want to sleep some more!

I love my bed here at the Sunlake Hotel in Jakarta. So totally comfy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Picture of the Night: Howzabout one for the road?

Heinekens at the bar at Outback Steakhouse in Central Jakarta.
But I prefer San Mig Lights or Coronas.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Room 640 of Sunlake Hotel

My room! Cool ain't it? My iPod Touch is on my MacBook. On the telly screen is a Liverpool FC match.

Love the room for its spaciousness. The beds are so comfortable that it's really hard to get up in the morning. Makes me want to lie down on bed all day long.

My one regret is not soaking in the tub. 

Of course was my usual maarte self taking baths (when possible) four times a day. Bwahahaha.

Note to all travelers: when you avail of the laundry service make sure you list down everything -- take a picture and show them if even possible -- and get them to sign. I nearly lost my laundry but was fortunate to recover them. Some in our party (Joey Villar & Julius Manicad in particular) lost some of their clothes. 

When I went down the laundry room to personally look for my stuff, they had a whole closet of stuff that never made it back to its owner.

Whether they are scamming people or just plain inept I have no clue. So everywhere I go from now on, that's the norm.

Root Beer Floats Rule! A&W, yeah!

After my second day here at Jakarta, I just couldn't take all the spicy stuff anymore so after the games I went to one of the malls to look around. I told myself I needed to eat something different; something I'm used to. Normally I tryout the local McDonald's branch but so far I haven't gone to one yet. Then I saw an A&W restaurant at the Kelapa Gading Mall.

I got a deluxe burger, curly fries, and a root beer float that amounted to rp29,500!

I loved A&W back home except that it's gone now. So eating there was a no brainer. Root beer floats rule!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunlake Hotel Pictures

I took these pictures on our first day here. All these are from the hotel lobby. 

In the lobby sofa shot, that's Smart Gilas Head Coach Rajko Toroman hanging out with another coach. Sunlake Hotel is a cozy place. Not bad. 

The rooms are spacious and the hotel staff is plenty friendly with all. It's close to the malls (gotta take a Blue Bird taxi or hitch with the team buses that go to downtown Jakarta).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Picture of the Day: Happy Puppy Karaoke

Saw this karaoke bar near the Mall of Indonesia. Man, these are the dog days of summer all right.

Sunrise from my room

My side of the hotel fronts the lake and from sunrise to about 10am there's a certain sheen to the water that shimmers. Weekends they say here are full of activity -- by the lakeshore of course. 

Can't wait to experience it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jakarta Diary Day 1

With the rains threatening to put Manila underwater, I decided to leave early for NAIA. Except that it was a light drizzle. Nothing the city's clogged streets couldn’t handle.

But I arrived at the airport a good five hours before Cebu Pacific 5J 579 took off for Jakarta, Indonesia.

My media colleagues (Julius Manicad of the Daily Tribune, Joey Villar and Jun Mendoza of the Philippine Star, and June Navarro of the Philippine Daily Inquirer) arrived an hour later so we had time to chill and chat.

NAIA Terminal 3 is spacious; way too spacious that it could use some good cheer. It’s kind of lifeless. Stale and with a sterile look of a hospital.

Food choices inside aren’t much. There’s a San Miguel Food Shop where rice and noodle meals are double their price outside. There’s a sushi bar, a pasta and sandwich restaurant, there’s a coffee shop, and Jamaican patties.

I recommend you bring in your own food as well for one what’s inside (for now is expensive) and not that great. I saw some folks bring in KFC and Jollibee. Smart folks.

I know the flight takes three hours but it seemed longer than expected. As I’ve said before, I’ve got travel sickness and long rides or flights do not help. With the small seats of Cebu Pacific it was horrible for me. I had to transfer to another seating area that didn’t have its full 

complement of people. The plane has a capacity of 150 people but only 113 booked for it. Even worse, we had to endure several minutes of lousy turbulence as it was raining in Indonesia.

So it was a huge relief to finally touch down.

The Jakarta (Soekarno-Hatta) International Airport reminded me of the old Terminal 2 mixed with Singapore’s Suvarnabumi International Airport. It’s kind of dated and long.

On our way to Immigration, we got to see those scanners that check for swine flu. Flu babi as they call it. Hey isn’t “swine” called “babi” in kapampangan?”

We were met by our Indonesian liaison Lola (yes that’s her name but she isn’t anything close to that; in fact, everyone’s trying to get to talk to her) who escorts us to our van for the 30-minute ride (23 klicks from the airport) to Sunlake Hotel in the Danau Permai Raya Blok C1 area. We arrived around 1:30 in the morning, which is about 2:30am in Manila (we’re ahead by an hour).

We’re all given our room keys but I stick around in the lobby where they have free wifi. In the room it’s $10 a day! I’m sharing a room with Willie Caballes  (of the Manila Bulletin) who will be arriving tomorrow night. So for tonight I have the room to myself.

The room is spacious and I hear it costs about PhP 3,000. But I figure that cost is down because we got it on discount as a part of an international delegation.

The balcony offers a nice view of the lake where many water sports are held.

But right now, I’m kind of tired to be thinking of all that. Gotta get some shut eye because it’s a long day for all.

I got up for breakfast around 7am  Indonesia time. And joined the team at the restaurant for a spicy breakfast. The food isn’t that bad but too much of this will tell on the stomach. The way I hear it, the others feel the same way too.

The drive to the Britama Arena takes about 15 minutes. Us media folks ride with the coaches in this cool van where the doors open and close automatically.

Believe it or not, the arena is inside a mall! But the venue seats up to 5,000 folks. For today’s games, I’d say that it was half full. You’ll have to check my other blog for the sports updates.

After we filed our stories at the Press Room, we went to a nearby mall to buy some food stuff for the two-week stay.

Picture of the Day: Flu Babi

Sign at the Jakarta Airport about the latest epidemic.

It was cool seeing the scanner. Like what they first used in those Predator movies. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lougee goes to the vet

Since I was going to be out of the country for two weeks, I took my dog, Lougee, to the vet for some shots and medicines. She just loves riding cars where she can poke her head out of the window looking at everything go by in a blur and bark at the occasional street vendor.

When we got to her vet in Greenhills, she ran out of the car and was smelling everything like a damn bloodhound. As rambunctious as she was, she got frightened when she was about to get her shots and it took us a while to restrain her.

But it was over in a few seconds and Lougee lay down on the cool floor to get some rest.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What a dump! Revisiting Payatas.

I helped covered the Payatas landslide years ago for DZRH so you can imagine how much emotion this place held for me. I still have pictures of the aftermath and it still gives me the goosebumps today.

Back then, if you went to Payatas the first thing you notice is the smell that hits you even a couple of miles away. I remember walking up and down the mountains of trash trying to help in the recovery of the bodies.

I remember so vividly how people lit candles and placed them at where their homes used to be.

In case you don't remember, the mountain of trash fell like a landslide on the houses below the man-made mountain. I can't remember the death toll but it was gruesome.

In spite of the tragedy, there were still a lot of scavengers sorting through the garbage as if nothing had happened. I guess they still needed to eke out a living.

The second thing I'll remember was the toxic river of all the stuff that was distilled into yucky gooky stuff. It was black as oil but had a terrible smell that is so unlike oil. There was a river of that gunk. The thought of it makes me cringe. I have never seen anything like that.

And the third were the flies. Swarms of them all over the place. Not just on the dump but everywhere.

After many of the media people paused in their efforts to help and tell a story, we sought respite in a nearby eatery. Then you had to go through a wet market and I was appalled that the rice that was being sold wasn't all covered so the flies would drop all over. So when the DZRH crew stopped by a carinderia for some arroz caldo, I said no. Uh uh.

I still have those pieces and the poster I made for that tragedy and maybe one of these days I'll digitize it and post it for all to see.

But last Tuesday, more than 10 years after the tragedy I went back with some friends from Ateneo and Payatas -- the garbage dump -- had changed. It was cleaned up by Mayor Sonny Belmonte. And I have to say that I was impressed with their efforts. The smell is still there but it isn't as bad as it used to be.

There are no more scavengers up in the hill sorting through the trash. Everything is filtered outside in the various junk shops. This is what they literally mean that the money is in the grabage. And there's even a fumigation area.

The flies -- swarms of them are still there. But as in GK Molave, I am shocked how untidy and uncaring people can be about their environment. People just throw their trash in the streets! Terrible.

Can you believe that the dump now produces methane gas that powers the entire facility? And they've planted this Vetiver grass that was purchased from India to combat the soil erosion. And this place actually has become a tourist site! And there's even a jogging trail! For real and it's freaking unbelievable.

Hope you get a good idea of what it's like now through the pictures I am posting.

They have a guided tour by the way. When we went there, we had to get clearance from City Hall because security is tight and no one without an ID can get inside.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Picture of the Day: Hand in Hand for Unity

I took this picture in a house that is currently being used as a classroom for kids in the GK Molave area. It's the outline of the hands of the students. Cool, yeah?