Monday, 21 January 2019

Monday Mural - The Heart of God's Country

Another mural in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Manila, on the W Fifth Building on the corner of 5th Ave and 32nd St.
This gigantic mural was painted by San Francisco based artist Andrew Schoultz.  
It depicts nature and regeneration and was painted in 2016 during the Art BGC festival.
If you like murals or have a mural you'd like to post, this meme is for you; 
Just follow the Linky steps below.   Be sure to link back to this blog and visit your fellow mural bloggers.  Looking forward to your mural finds this week.  Thanks, Sami. 

Friday, 18 January 2019

Philippines - Batangas to Panglao Island

Saturday, 15th December -  
After an afternoon refreshing dip in the pool at the compound where Karina and Thomas live we got ready to go into town for an early dinner at the Estasyon restaurant.

The always empty pool, Coconut trees surround the area and Jose on the diving board

Because we were 7 and instead of Thomas or Karina having to return home to get the others, Karina, Jose and Benoir took a tricycle into town. I went outside the gates to see them off and take a photo.

Jose sits behind the driver and Karina and Benoir on the sidecar

Lunch was tasty and good value. 
Because Thomas's Mom Isabelle is celiac she is always worried about the food she eats and Karina had an internet printout in Tagalog and English about what foods to avoid. Every time we would go out, the list would be handed to the waiter to give to the Chef. 
This time there was nothing that was safe to eat, so Karina asked if they could just prepare boiled vegetables or a salad and a couple of boiled eggs, and Isabelle was happy with that.

Karina had mentioned this restaurant had the best coconut pies, so everybody was eager to try them, but when dessert time came the young waitress said they only had 1 pie available as the others had been pre-booked for people coming later for dinner.

One pie was ordered, it was huge so it was cut in 4, with Isabelle not able to eat it and Karina and Thomas not eating either as they could have it any other time.
The pie really was special with slivers of real coconut in the cream, the crunch biscuits and perfect pastry case.

Estasyon Restaurant, Coconut pie
European looking houses across from the restaurant was an Hotel, the local Church and the SM Shopping mall

After the early dinner we walked about 10 or 15 minutes down the road to the Brewista Coffee & Hookah Lounge, where we had been the day before, so that the coffee drinkers could get their espresso adrenaline shot 😉.
Even though we were walking on the pavement once in a while a tricycle would climb on the pavement to overtake a car or jeepney, although they drove slowly we still glued ourselves to the other side so as not to get clipped by them.

On our return home we packed our bags and made sure our possessions weren't left behind, as the next day we would be leaving.

Walking to the coffee shop after dinner

Sunday, 16th December
We woke up very early as we would be picked up by the driver (that Karina and Thomas usually hire)  at 7am on the dot, and he would drive us to the Airport in Manila.
We had a quick coffee stop midway the 80kms to Manila and arrived at the Airport just after 9am.

Manila Airport, our Air Asia flight, taking off over a foggy Manila

We joined the throngs of people in one of the queues, but a few minutes later an Air Asia official redirected half the queue to the other end of the airport.
Don't know why they haven't figured out that it would be easier to have one queue and then have people go to whatever counter is free instead of having a dozen different queues and then have people come from left, right and center when someone from the counter calls 😡😡 and then people getting upset that someone has gone ahead of them! 
Filipinos are also famous queue jumpers, as I often noticed!

After about 1 hour we managed to dispatch the bags and went through Security, which was actually reasonably quick.
The Domestic airport looked old and obviously not big enough for the amount of people that travel through it. The waiting lounge for all flights was crowded, and the smell of typical Filipino food being sold from the shops behind us was nauseating so early in the morning...

Even though our tickets mentioned we were flying to Tagbilaran Airport in the Island of Bohol, we were told that that old airport had closed on the 27th November, and our new destination airport would be the newly opened Bohol-Panglao International Airport.
The new "green" airport will be able to handle 2 million passengers a year.

Almost there - flying over turquoise waters

NEW BOHOL AIRPORT. The Bohol-Panglao International Airport will be the sole commercial airport servicing the province starting November 28, 2018. Photo from Cebu Pacific
The new modern Bohol-Panglao Airport (photo from net)

We took off from Manila at 11,40 and arrived 1,30h later, retrieved our bags from the carousel, and outside the driver from the Bluewater Panglao Resort was waiting for us.
Bags loaded, passengers strapped in and 15 minutes later we arrived at the resort.
We were warmly greeted by the staff, filled in the paperwork and left our suitcases to be delivered to our rooms after the 3pm check in time.

Street sign for the resort

The resort reception hall with the main pool in the background

Next came an orientation tour and finally we were taken to the restaurant close to the beach so we could have lunch as we were all starving!

On the way to the restaurant arrangements were being finalised for a wedding renewal taking place later that afternoon - the ceremony under a tree canopy and a dinner table under twinkling lights was being set on the small private beach by the restaurant. 

On the way to the Eating hall - corridor of bamboo, bridge over pond

Wedding preparations at the resort
The Meals room open to the beach on one side and a pool on the other

After lunch Karina and Thomas had a meeting with Sunshine, the wedding planner, while the rest  of us went back to Reception.  The porters carried our luggage into our separate rooms, two on each side of the two level building.  Not sure why but two of the couples were given twin beds, and the other two got queen beds. Still, they were large enough for two people and the room was spacious. The beds hung on the wall, no legs...

View from our bedroom, the spacious bathroom with a shower under a skylight and the spacious bedroom
Views of the main pool with a little island in the middle
Infinity pool next to the Eating Cabana  and leading to the beach

After a rest I returned to the beach area to take photos of the sun set at 5,30pm.

Sunset at the Bluewater Panglao resort beach

The Christmas decorations in the gardens were lit when I returned from the beach

From 2 to 4 pm and from 6 to 8 pm the Resort Bar had Happy-Hour. That evening before going to dinner at the resort restaurant we got together at 7pm for a drink. My choice was a delicious Pina Colada 😄.

Happy Hour at the Resort bar and 2 Pina Coladas

Our first day in Panglao Island was over, and it was a very happy day 😉
Bohol Island (right) and Panglao Island (left). Our resort was next to Alona Beach (bottom left)

Manila to Bohol-Panglao islands

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Philippines - Makati, Ayala Museum & Batangas

Makati - Thursday 13th December -  
Our last day in Manila and we had to vacate the Airbnb apartment by 11am. 
We would have to stay in Manila until late in the evening though, to pick up daughter Karina's in-laws who would be arriving from France via London and Hong Kong.

We managed to be packed and ready by 10am and walked to the nearby SM Mall of Asia where we could store our luggage.
Husband Jose wanted to do some shopping, so after sorting out the luggage storage we went to the SM Store, a department store chain that sells clothing, beauty products and home goods.
After trying out 6 or 7 short sleeved shirts Jose chose 4, paid for them and we retrieved our luggage.

SM Mall of Asia, a nice coffee cup light fixture, a pet shop

In the shopping centre was surprised to find a pet shop that even had little prams for the dogs. I had already seen 2 fancy ladies wheeling a dog pram, how extravagant when there are so many stray dogs all over Manila. 

We then caught a taxi to the Makati financial district where I had been with Karina a few days before when she was looking for her wedding dress.

Karina had searched online for luggage storage in Makati and found a sort of "Storage Airbnb" and the taxi dropped us at at the BSA Tower. It turns out it was an Airbnb apartment , whose renters would only arrive late evening, so they maximise the rentability by hiring it for luggage storage for a few hours! Clever idea!! 

The owner was waiting for us and after ascertaining what time we would be back we left and walked to Ayala Centre in the Greenbelt Gardens 500mt away and looked for a restaurant to have our lunch.

Ayala Centre at Greenbelt Gardens - restaurants and high-end shops

After perusing some menus on the outside of the restaurants we settled for Mesa Restaurant with modern Filipino food. Service was good, our choice of food was good and tasty, although I only remember the baked scallops with garlic butter we ordered for our entree and it was delicious...

Our baked scallops with garlic butter

After lunch we walked around Greenbelt gardens to the Ayala Museum just around the corner.

Greenbelt Gardens - lake, Chapel and statues

The Ayala Museum is privately run by the Ayala Foundation and houses ethnographic and archeological exhibits on Filipino art, culture and history.
There is a floor with an indigenous textile collection and a collection of pre-Hispanic gold jewellery and other gold objects on display. On another floor there was an art exhibit by Filipino masters - Luna and Amorsolo, which couldn't be photographed.

The Caravelles during the Spanish colonial period
The historical exhibition was amazing with about 60 huge dioramas depicting the most important historical moments of the Philippines.

15 Nov 1935 - Manuel Quezon is sworn in as President of the new Commonwealth of the Philippines

American High Commissioner Paul McNutt lowers the Stars and Stripes as President Manuel Roxas raises the Philippine flag among cheers from the crowd on Independence Day 4 July 1946.

It was almost 6pm and the Museum was about to close by the time we finished our worthwhile tour of the Museum.
The sun sets at 5.30pm so by the time we left the museum it was already dark. 

Outside the Ayala Museum in Makati
Outside we caught a taxi to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 7km away, hoping to make it in time as Thomas's (my future son in law) parents would be landing at 7pm.
Traffic was chaotic again but the driver weaved his way through a whole lot of side roads and we made it to the airport in just over 1 hour! 
At the airport we had a laugh when we saw this taxi decorated with Christmas lights.

Taxi lit up as a Christmas tree

At the arrivals hall we met up with the driver that Thomas and Karina use, that had driven up from Batangas (80km south of Manila).

Thanks to Whatsapp messages we already knew that Benoir, Thomas's brother hadn't boarded the same flight as his parents, as before boarding from London to Hong Kong he had lost his passport.
The airline had to unload his suitcase (they actually unloaded his parent's suitcase too) and he retraced his steps to see if he could find his passport. He found it at the Security where it had stayed in one of the trays. But either no one had announced that they had found a passport or because their English isn't the best they hadn't heard it.
At the best of times it's difficult to make out those announcements at the Airports anyway!

Isabelle and Max arrived well, but didn't know their suitcase hadn't travelled with them so waited at the carousel for a while. Eventually Max connected himself to the internet to let Karina know they were still waiting for the bag and she told them to come out as their bag would come later with their son.

Benoir in the meantime had boarded another flight 2 hours later and would be landing at 9pm.
Karina decided that because it was late and Isabelle and Max were tired, we wouldn't wait for possibly another 3 hours and would go home with the driver that had come to get us.
She called Thomas to arrange for another driver to be sent to the airport to pick up Benoir.

And so we climbed on the van, strapped ourselves in, and two hours later we arrived!
It took 2 hours to travel 80km, mostly on the highway, where the top speed is 80km and was chock a block with traffic.

We arrived in Batangas close to midnight, and sat down to have something to eat before taking a shower and going to sleep.
We had already gone to bed when Benoir arrived at 2am.

Batangas - Friday and Saturday 14th and 15th December 

The next morning after breakfast we took a walk around the Shell compound where Karina and Thomas live. It comprises about 50 houses, a small apartment building for the single people, golf course, swimming pool and a community house/pub where they hold events like Christmas, New Year or game nights.
The city of Batangas has about 300 thousand residents, so a big contrast to Manila with its 16 million!!

Karina's house (top left) golf course, mountains and bay (bottom right) the best garden in the street (bottom left)

Just down the street from Karina's house this strange "thing" on a tree caught our eye.
It was a weaver ants nest, where the thousand of ants construct nests weaving together leaves using larval silk. These ants can inflict a painful bite if disturbed and often spray formic acid on the bite wound resulting in intense discomfort.

Weaver ants nest

The sky was getting darker even though it was the dry season and eventually the rain started falling hard and we sprinted the last few metres to the house.

Later in the afternoon the family of 7 was driven in two trips to the SM Mall of Batangas.
As Karina and Thomas only have 1 car, first the ladies were dropped off and then Thomas drove back home and picked up the men.
We explored the shopping for a while and then Karina suggested we go and have an espresso coffee at Brewista Coffee & Hookah Loungea very cute coffee shop across the road. 
Apparently they are just about the only ones that can make a good espresso. Not being a coffee drinker I had tea.

SM Mall
I had already seen the lack of road rules in Manila, but even here in a smaller town of 300,000 people the same happens. No helmets, people clinging to the outside of the jeepneys, kids on bikes, answering mobile phones, looking at facebook at the traffic lights...

child standing w/dad on motorbike with no helmet, hanging on to jeepneys

The ever present jeepneys and the tricycles 

At night, after dinner we sang Happy Birthday to Benoir (Thomas's brother) and had a slice of chocolate cake which was delicious.
And so ended our first day in Batangas.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Philippines - Bonifacio Global City (BGC)

Wednesday 12 December - My daughter and I took a taxi to Bonifacio Global City or BGC as it's also know as, located about 9km from where we were staying.
Karina had told me about this upmarket financial and residential district in Metro Manila, where she had found lots of murals, and as we alighted from the taxi I could see it was quite different from what I'd seen of Manila.

BGC decorated signs in many corners of the suburb
Located next to Makati, another upmarket financial, BGC surpassed my expectations. 
I could have been in Sydney or New York, really, the area was that good!
The traffic wasn't chaotic, the pavements were spacious, there were cycling paths, lots of green areas, there were signs that pedestrians had right of way... that is unheard of in the Philippines. 
Nowhere else did cars stop on pedestrian crossings! Karina had told me the best way to cross a road on a pedestrian crossing is to start walking and put your hand out and the cars coming in your direction will reduce speed or stop 😏😏...hopefully. Scary, but it worked every time we tried it, mainly because they have to drive very slowly with so much traffic!

During the American occupation this area military land, but the area was sold in 1995 to developers and development started in 1998 and is still ongoing.
Lots of towers - commercial and residential, with many Filipino and multinational corporations having relocated their headquarters to this business district, and many international schools for the foreigners.

The High Street is the core of Bonifacio Global City, designed as a 3x3 grid of small office and residential buildings, shops, pedestrian friendly roads, public art, murals, landscaped areas, casual bars and restaurants, etc, that ensure the city centre is easy to navigate as well as being very usable.

High street sign
Quirky benches around BGC

Green areas and public art - heart, Specific Gravity boulder fountain,  stacked glass fountain and quirky pavement lights
Hearts galore at BGC

In the gardens in the middle of the High Road grid they had lots of Christmas decorations and the Pixar movie characters were very popular around BGC.

Christmas decorations on the High Road gardens
The Pixar characters all over BGC
We wandered around taking photos of murals - we found 18, but I'm sure there were plenty we didn't see, but the area was also a treasure trove of quirky signs which I can use for future "Signs" meme on Wednesdays.

We stopped for lunch at Salad Stop on the High street - where you can choose the ingredients and dressings to your taste. A very busy restaurant where we saw lots of Europeans who probably work for multinationals in the area.

At the far end of High Street is the Market! Market! (yes 2 x Market) 😉, one of the earliest developments in BGC.
It comprises a 5 storey shopping mall with market style themed zones with 520 shops - clothing, shoes, flowers, fruit and vegetables, food court, etc.
Next to it is the open market area where you can find stalls from the various provinces of the Philippines selling local products - honey, jams, pork crackling, biscuits, coconut products, straw bags...
I bought a small straw bag and Karina bought a big jar of honey.

Market, Market shopping mall
Open market with stalls from the provinces
On the Market square - Animals with green bodies
Down the road I was amazed to find car stands selling Maserattis, Porshes, BMW's, Lamborghinis... I didn't expect that in the Philippines for sure! 
With the congested traffic and maximum speed limit of 80km/h (49,7 miles) on the highways, I have no idea if anyone can get any joy out of riding one of these beauties, never mind the price tag!!

Karina spotted a craft beer bar The Bottle Shop and we went in to buy 4 boutique beers to take for Thomas back home at their place. Can you spot the funny named one...

And here are some of the great sculptures I saw in BGC:]

Kasaysayan Bawat Oras by Juan Sajid de Leon Imao, a 16 meter brass and cement sculpture, also used as a sundial with seven dolls on one side representing the 7,100 islands of the Philippines.

Pasasalamat -  on Rizal Drive, a brass representation of two fishermen's humble expression of gratitude to the Almighty for a bountiful harvest, by Ferdie Cacnio.

On the north end of BGC, the One Bonifacio Building is home to the Philippine Stock Exchange.
A had a good laugh when I saw a tiny girl taking a selfie in front of one of the three very cute Christmas domes in the green area by the Stock Exchange. She starts early with the selfie addiction...

Christmas Bears under the domes

A little girl taking selfies in front of the Christmas domes

Green area by the Stock Exchange

It was hot and humid and we were almost at the end of our day in BGC, so we stopped for a drink at Chotto Matte, a Japanese bar/restaurant.  Karina ordered a beer and I ordered a very refreshing watermelon cocktail.
When Karina asked for the bill the waiter said it was "Happy Hour" so we could get a second drink which we did.

Earlier I had spotted a bakery selling Portuguese custard tarts - Lord Stow's bakery and we bought 2 to try. A bit disappointed as it tasted very "eggy", and the pastry wasn't as flaky, nothing like the original ones.

Portuguese custard tarts, Watermelon cocktail

After our drink it was time to leave the beautiful area of Bonifacio Global City and catch a taxi to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) where we were picking up my husband Jose arriving on a direct flight from Sydney at 5,30pm.

Luckily we left with time to spare, as the 7,5km (4,66 miles) ride took us 1 hour, as it was peak time already!

Jose didn't have to wait for luggage as he was travelling with carry on only so he was out quickly. Then we joined dozens (it felt like thousands) of people on a long queue to catch a cab. We couldn't see the queue moving at all, a taxi would come once in a Karina decided to go and investigate other means of transport out of the airport.

The idea was to stop at a seafood restaurant en-route to our Airbnb. Karina came back and told us there were buses every 15 minutes going to the area we wanted to go, so we jumped on the bus as soon as it arrived after having paid the fee of 35 pesos each to the driver (about 0,90Aud). She kept the google maps app on so she could see the route and when to get out, but the guy sitting next to Karina and I (3 seats each side of the bus) had said to her that he was also getting out in that area.
When time came he told us to get out the bus with him, and the bus just stopped in the middle of the road (about 4 lanes) and then we did our hand out routine and crossed the road.
Then the young man pointed out an overpass bridge ahead and told us we had to climb the bridge and get out on the other side of the road and the area we wanted wasn't far.

We were in the middle of a night market with hundreds of little stalls selling food, water, vegetables, fruit, clothing...people all over talking, eating.
We weaved in an out of the crowd making sure we didn't lose each other, Jose with his bag and me clutching my handbag close to felt very scary indeed even though not many people looked at us.
The area was dirty and on the overpass bridge the stairs were full of discarded plastic bottles, food wrappers, boxes. A few poor people put out their hand as we walked past on the bridge.
On the other side a few more stalls and we could see a type of shelving units at the back and small kids slept on the shelves, no mattress, no pillow, just on the bare shelf.

After the ostentatious life of BGC here was the sad reality of the poorest people of the Philippines 😢 
Jose had the worst welcome into Manila, out of the airport and into a poor area.
But just a few streets down and everything was clean and normal again, but the restaurant we were looking for couldn't be found!

We hailed down a taxi driving by and asked him to take us to the next option which was actually in Manila Bay not far from our Airbnb - Sopahbowl.

Scallops and fried prawn
Outside we were greeted by two friendly transgender women, with beautiful make-up and clothes, and they showed us to our table, brought the menu and waited on the table.

Food was delicious, a bit pricey for the Philippines, but the restaurant was full of locals.
After dinner we took a waiting taxi to our place and went to sleep as we had a busy day ahead.

BGC map (from net) - the blue area is the High street and the yellow area close to C5 the Market/shopping centre