Monday, January 23, 2006

To UPCMC and Back Again

The invite said "Tawag Ka Ni Aling Suming." Only a fellow graduate of the UP-CMC would know who Aling Suming is and understand what a big deal it is if she was personally calling you back to the College. I initially had no plans of going to yet another Alumni homecoming thing, but after gentle prodding from bosses and co-workers, I found myself walking up to the front steps of the College one Saturday afternoon, where an old professor greeted me with a smile on his face. "Kamusta ka na? Buti nakarating ka," he said. I never took any of his classes, so he probably didn't know me from Adam (and he was, most assuredly, no Aling Suming), but I nevertheless appreciated the welcome. (Later I would find out that Aling Suming herself couldn't be there. Bummer.)

A student walked up to me after I had paid the registration fee and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed over DZUP, the college radio station. I saw no reason to decline, so she took me to the spanking new studio on the second floor of the Media Center. It was an odd feeling, having to answer questions like "What were your fondest memories of college?" and "What's your advice for students so they can survive CMC?" I didn't feel like I was wise or experienced enough to dispense advice, particularly the kind that actually makes sense and kids can actually use, but I answered anyway and managed to get through the interview without making a complete fool of myself.

Needless to say, the UP CMC has produced some of the best media practitioners in the country today, and many of them heeded the call of Aling Suming and were there to support the college. Sadly, there weren't a whole lot from my batch, but it was good to see some of the older and more prominent graduates there, like former Sen. Loren Legarda and film director Maryo J. delos Reyes. Of course, some of my colleagues from work also dropped by, and we all sat there patiently as the hosts explained what the real purpose of that get-together was: to raise funds for some badly-needed improvement projects for our dear-old alma mater. As always, the college lacked money for everything from research and development projects and curriculum improvement to building maintenance and salary upgrades. With the amount of funds they raised from pledges from the alumni and other sources, I'd say they're off to a good start. Let's not kid ourselves though; it's gonna take a while though before they raise enough to actually make a difference. Suddenly, the P500 I plunked down seemed insignificant. But it's something, at least.

Afterwards, my co-workers and I had dinner at Treehouse, a grill-type of restaurant of the Dencio's and Gerry's variety right inside UP. I didn't even know about that place, which just tells you how long it's been since my last visit to the campus. We talked about a lot of things, including work, but we also chatted about our own memories of being students in UP - places we visited, professors we hated, things we did (and didn't do), and a bunch of other stuff. After dinner we headed back to the CMC and by that time, the place was practically deserted. (I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say this, but...) Over a couple of bottles of wine we had won earlier at the raffle (yeah, we won bottles of wine at the raffle!) we, did some more chatting and reminiscing. For a few hours, it felt like we were students again, just hanging out after classes. I would have wanted to have seen Aling Suming personally, but all in all, I thought it was a Saturday well-spent. She may not have been there, but her influence, and the college's influence, still reverberates in every one of us. And for that, I'll always be grateful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The world is a book...

...and those who do not travel, read only a page. So said St. Augustine. I've never gotten around to writing about my Southeast Asian journey a couple of months ago, but here are a few photos from that trip. Just in case I start wondering if it all really happened...

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The Inn Crowd, the hostel I stayed at in Singapore. Hip, clean and comfy. Highly recommended.

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Hooters in Singapore. I just couldn't pass up the chance...

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Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. Truly marvelous.

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Wat Arun or The Temple of the Dawn in Bangkok. I've been there before, if only via the Pex TAR-FG.

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Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Closed to tourists on Mondays. Guess what day I was there?

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The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City in Singapore. Supposedly the world's biggest fountain (they have the Guinness certificate to prove it).

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One of my favorite views in Singapore. The fantastic Fullerton Hotel is in the middle. Next to it, you can just make out the water-spewing Merlion.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I did battle with Mcdonald's...and lost

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The Golden Arches

For most of 2005, I have strived to avoid eating at or ordering anything from Mcdonald's. Ask me why and I can't really give a straightforward answer. No, it doesn't have anything to do with the documentary "Supersize Me" because I haven't seen it (although I've heard it won't exactly make you run to the nearest Mickey D's to get your Big Mac fix). And no, I haven't totally sworn-off fastfood joints...yet. I still run to the nearby Jollibee or eat at KFC when the mood for greasy fries or deep-fried chicken hits. Of course I'm aware that the loss of business from one customer is insignificant to a multi-billion dollar quick-service food chain, but it's just Mcdo that I stay away from and I don't know why. It's gotten to the point where the mere smell emanating from inside the Golden Arches is enough to make my stomach turn. It's really strange how you can train your body to like (or in this case, detest) stuff. (Now that I think about it, I used to hate gata and kalabasa when I was a kid. Now I can't get enough of the stuff).

But I learned you can't really fight fate.

On a recent trip to Singapore, I found myself (almost) running out of cash just when I was on my way back home to Manila. At Changi airport, I planned on exchanging the value left on the MRT train card I had with me to cash so I could get some breakfast. After I checked-in, I went through immigration thinking I could go back out to the MRT station right there at the airport (yeah, Singapore's transport system is so efficient it makes ours look ancient. But that's another story). This mean old lady however said I couldn't go back out once I got past immigration. So there I was, almost penniless and starving inside the airport, and my flight wasn't due to leave for another two hours. And since I was on one of those budget airlines that didn't serve inflight food (unless you paid for it), it would be hours before I could inject some sustenance into my system. This is where Mcdonald's came to the rescue.

Apparently, as a person at the information counter there explained, the value on MRT cards is as good as cash on all Mcdonald's outlets there in Singapore. Which meant I could use my MRT card to buy myself breakfast. Luckily, there was a Mcdonald's there near the departure waiting area. So, abandoning my resolve not to eat anything from Mcdonald's, I went ahead and ordered a Big Breakfast meal: scrambled eggs, a sausage Mcmuffin and iced Milo. I could have used my credit card to buy food someplace else...but I trained myself not to whip it out unless it's absolutely necessary. Besides, it wasn't so bad. (The Mcdo breakfast, I mean).

I still don't have any plans of scarfing down a cheeseburger from Mcdonald's anytime soon, but it's nice to know Mcdo didn't let me down that time. It may be easy to proclaim your principles and shout out to the world how much you believe in one thing or another, but all that means shit if your stomach's empty; everything goes out the window.