After battling writer’s block for the past week and a recent onslaught of the flu, I have finally gotten back to the one thing I stay passionate about. And so begins my most recent epic weekend experience, this time a week removed from my odyssey in Ifugao. And as with my earlier outing, the thing actually started out months before.

Back in February, just days after a religious benefit concert organized in Baguio City by my friend Doc Bob Aquino (which I helped host as per his request), he informed me that he was to bring his show to Asia’s Latin City, which was none other than Zamboanga City on the western shores of Mindanao island for July 10th. Needless to say, my wanderlust had me committed to the event well ahead of schedule.

Having consulted our maid (who was coincidentally from the same area), she joked me about Abu Sayyaf informants being on the lookout for fair-skinned, non-Chavacano natives who looked like my net worth was in the realm of a few million dollars or more. Nonetheless, this only dampened my enthusiasm minimally at best and I started planning my time away in a city I considered myself virgin to.

Just a week before the event, however, my friend informed me that he was unable to book tickets for me to Zamboanga City, forcing me to scrounge around for tickets on several airline services. I ended up going to the Cebu Pacific Air office in Robinson’s Galleria and purchasing a round-trip ticket there, as I could not make an online or phone-in reservation without a credit card.

After a two-hour wait upon checking in at the NAIA Terminal 3, and an extra one-and-a half hour flight in surprisingly pleasant conditions, I arrived in Zamboanga City by late afternoon and got picked up by a contact of my friend Doc Bob, who made me feel most welcome in their home. While waiting for my colleague to return for an urgent meeting that evening, I received a nice dinner and all the songs I could belt out shamelessly on their videoke machine.

The next day and a half passed on highly tense preparations for the concert, during which many typically heated exchanges occurred between Doc Bob as the director and almost everyone among the staff. And to boot, a number of schools had actually backed out of the show at the last-minute, citing various unclear and vague “reasons”.

Despite various challenges that came about before and during the show, the event ended up a rousing success and was well-received by many in the area. In fact, days after the event, people were still contacting my friend to congratulate him on its unique presentation and positive reception to the local audience. It was at that point that Doc Bob informed me that he received an invitation to bring the show back to Davao City in September, at which I said I could not commit for that time due to pressing personal matters that would affect my future availability for such events.

After a highly successful show the previous day, the cast and crew of the recently concluded Sail On concert in Zamboanga City relax at scenic La Vista del Mar Beach Resort.

The following day, one of our fellow staffers Mike invited us to a celebratory outing at La Vista del Mar Resort located within the city, both as a get-together for the staffers and his own birthday celebration. Later that night, we capped the day off by enjoying a drinking session at Mike’s place and belting out songs on their own (yes, you guessed it) videoke machine. We left at around 3:00 AM and we parted ways from there.

By Monday morning, I was up and about with my friend buying items for my family back home. I ended up buying several malongs (which are wrap-around blankets made by locals) as well as a couple of colorful native shirts for my vanity, and I was soon on my way back to Manila after checking in at the airport. Despite the terrible rush-hour traffic I met from the airport to the house as well as a nagging lack of sleep, I took it all in stride and put on my happy face at work later that night.

Notwithstanding the language barriers (Chavacano being the more commonly spoken language in this part of the country) and the rather limited means of transportation in going around the city, I still had a blast setting foot in a new place. There were so many beautiful parts of the area I wanted so badly to explore, such as the pinkish sands of scenic Santa Cruz Island and the remains of Fort Pilar, which now serve as a historical museum much like Intramuros within the City of Manila. Having known the city as a major fishing port and home to some of the country’s largest fish processing factories, I would have also loved to take a tour to find out how they process one of my favorite canned goods anywhere (which is obviously sardines). Fortunately, while time was not on my side on this trip, I had established a sufficient number of contacts with fellow staffers in the concert to make sure that I would have guides for an eventual return to Asia’s Latin City.

Thinking about it, this may have been the most epic pair of weekends yet. Hanging out on the upper reaches of Northern Luzon one weekend and chilling on the shores of Western Mindanao the next is the perfect way to end my epic weekend streak.

Now I can finally take a break from those “epic” weekends. I just got hooked on watching The Big Bang Theory after viewing the entire third season over the weekend upon my sister’s advice. Seasons One and Two, here I come. And it’s a good way to recover from the flu while I’m at it.

*****

Typhoon Conson (locally known as Basyang) left 76 people dead in its wake and left hundreds of millions of pesos worth in property damage.

The recent onslaught of Typhoon Basyang (international name Conson) left much of Metro Manila and parts of Luzon without power for as long as one full week, largely due to terrifying winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour which knocked down power cables in many key areas.

While these kind of weather disturbances are no surprise as part of the annual weather cycle, the death toll from the first tropical cyclone to affect the Philippines this year is a sad reminder that so much more stands to improve in our preparedness for the resulting aftermath. Already, outrage over the PAGASA‘s (Philippine Atmospherical, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) poor forecast and subsequent warnings have reached a fever pitch, with President Noynoy Aquino even giving the head honchos of the meteorological agency his own brand of tongue-lashing.

Then again, I also feel a pinch of pity for the technologically strapped weather barons at PAGASA. After all, while they admitted to their own failures, they also claimed that much of their equipment has remained out-of-date and decades behind their peers in even our neighboring countries. A number of documentaries and other investigative reports have exposed this, showcasing equipment that is not fully functional or obsolescent for years on end.

If there is one thing that P-Noy can do to kickstart his first 100 days in office, he can start by making sure PAGASA gets the money it needs to better track and predict the 20 or so tropical cyclones that wander nearby and even batter the country annually. It is long overdue, but any action now is better than none at all.

And oddly enough, while the typhoon reportedly dumped torrential amounts of rain during its 24-plus hour journey through the Luzon region, it has apparently done little to relieve the ongoing water shortage in Metro Manila resulting from the El Niño phenomenon. Water rationing has already started, and this does not bode well for so many who have just gotten back their electric power.

Ironically, the acronym PAGASA translated into English means “hope”. Unless something is actually done the next time around, not even that will survive the next storm. And that much lies in the hands of the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines.

*****

Congratulations to the Spanish national football team on winning the 2010 World Cup tournament. Ironically, they ousted the Dutch national team, whose country was known to have ruled the host nation of South Africa during the colonial era with an iron fist. While I do have my misgivings about the Spaniards’ 333 years of colonial rule of the Philippine islands, this is one time where I can look beyond the past and celebrate the unique heritage we share with these guys. Viva, España!

And it looks like Paul, the octopus who has remained perfect in his World Cup finals predictions so far, has now become more famous than the reigning champions. I can tell the commentary booth will get a lot more crowded (and probably waterlogged to boot) from hereon in.

*****

NBA superstar forward LeBron James’  move to the Miami Heat from his previous team of seven seasons (the Cleveland Cavaliers) has received mixed reactions from sports fans from all over. These have ranged from strong support to indifference and even to downright hatred, as evidenced by fans in Cleveland stomping and burning images and other representations of their former franchise player.

Personally, I find nothing wrong with his move to join fellow superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in a move to get his first championship ring. Ron Artest did the same thing last year, and he nailed a key shot in Game 7 last month to give the Los Angeles Lakers — and himself — an NBA title. And who could forget Kevin Garnett leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves to help lead the Boston Celtics to their 17th Larry O’Brien Trophy two years ago? While the Cavaliers have gotten to the finals once before thanks to LeBron, getting over that last hump has been impossible with a lack of additional contributors and questions over coach Mike Brown’s actual ability to adapt his strategies to changing game scenarios.

So King James may actually be on his way to checkmating his first title with the help of former rivals. If the past is any indicator, he is in good company. And in a sport where the level of play demands a lot from everyone on and off the court, he can’t wait forever for a championship ring to drop into his hands. Being a small fish in a big pond may be worth it after all.

*****

Despite having Pacquiao agreeing to his pre-fight demands, the sly Gayweather remains as elusive as ever.

Recently, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. had failed to complete negotiations for the resumption of the much-awaited bout with Manny Pacquiao, claiming that he was not interested in boxing at the time at a recent press conference. This was despite recent agreements by the reigning Pound-4-Pound King of Boxing to submit to additional urine testing as one of “Gayweather’s” original pre-fight demands.

It only proves further one of two theories I have about why the fight is unlikely to take place:

  • Gayweather is scared of Pac-Man mopping the ring with his fish lips, or;
  • Gayweather is looking to get a larger share of the fight purse than the original 48%-52% deal he got in the contract.

Either way, Manny has said he is ready to take on anyone placed his way and is no longer waiting on Gayweather. Hence the Filipino pugilist holds steady as the true Pound-4-Pound King, and the American is left choking on his dust.

*****

Initially, I was dismayed when I found out that singing sensation Charice was reportedly receiving botox injections in preparation for her 10-episode appearance in the blockbuster American musical series Glee. This early in her blossoming career, it appeared she had been swept away by Hollywood’s obsession with beauty and “picture-perfect” images and had stooped to an ultimate low to keep the limelight focused squarely on her. The report had become the topic of entertainment news shows within and outside the Philippines and the U.S., with mixed reactions from all around.

Shortly after, Charice’s publicist came out with a statement saying that the botox injections were meant to treat a condition with her jaw muscles and was not meant for cosmetic purposes. While I have my reservations as to the timing of the treatment, a medical expert interviewed earlier did corroborate the usage of botox for such conditions. This made me decide to give her the benefit of the doubt, for now.

If the singing phenomenon needs a tip or two in surviving the celebrity crush in Hollywood, she only need to look up Lindsay Lohan. The troubled star is to start her 90-day jail sentence for violating the terms of her probation on a drunk-driving conviction. Talk about being on the “highway to hell”, in AC/DC’s lyrics.

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