Taiwan, my Chocolate Factory

Prelude

A meeting over a cup of coffee with a friend sealed my fate. I was going to Taiwan. His advice was get a ticket.

During that time my passport was expired from 1995. The novice traveler argued that it was best to wait for a passport.  My sage friend countered my argument by saying buying a ticket would only allow me to put off my plan until the desire diminished.

To the sage I listened. I purchased a ticket. I let few of my friends know about plan. The next thing I knew, my friends Jun and, his girlfriend, Din were tagging along.

The plan started to take shape. From the realm of my imagination it,came the ticket. Then came my passport, and eventually the visa. It was going to happen. While my itinerary was mainly focused on Tainan and Jiufen, my friends did the groundwork for the Taipei itinerary.

The Arrival

We found ourselves chilling at the Taoyuan Airport. Literally. Their air conditioning system must have been top notch. We expected that going outside would spare us from the cold. It did not. The winds outside only made it worse for us.

There was a man in a suit, who appeared to be an airport assistant at first glance. He helped us put our luggage into the trunk of the cab. The mysterious fellow then took the driver’s seat. He was the cab driver. Before he stepped on the gas pedal, he made sure that we pay him and an extra $100 NT because of the holiday rate. He started the car and blazed the road.

The ride to Ximending was like we were in Fast and Furious. Vin Diesel had nothing on this guy. He drove with all his cool while bobbing his head to a Jazz tune playing on the radio. All ended well as we got to our transient home unharmed, body parts intact. The dude even had the courtesy to call our host at 3 A.M. in the tell our landlord we had arrived.

Taipei 101 and Getting to Tainan

That morning we woke up excited because we were going to Taipei 101. We bought our Easycards, and headed to the tower.

We went to the 89th floor of the Taipei 101 via one of the fastest elevators in the world. We got there in less than a minute. The view from the tower was breathtaking.

We had our not-so-food-court-like-costing Lunch on the ground floor of the commercial buildings. And had our dumplings at  Din Tai Fung, aa restaurant famous for their Xiao Long Bao.

That afternoon I parted ways from my friends because I was leaving for Tainan. But not without any internet connection, not to mention losing my data cable on the way to Taipei 101. So I looked for a store where I could hit two birds with one stone.

A store clerk, whose name I forgot, assisted me in getting me a sim card and a data cable. When he told me that there was no prepaid regular SIM card, he offered the one that would allow me to have unlimited data for 7 days. The only takeaway was that I could not make any calls, or send text messages, which wasn’t too bad of a deal as I relied heavily on the internet for communication. The best part was it was free. I only had to sign some papers and show them my passport and another valid id (my tax id). I just wished they were not deportation papers.

Going there was also an opportunity to ask how I can get to the Taiwan High Speed Railway (THSR) station. He gave me these options:

a) Taipei Main Station

b)Nangkang Station

But he later said that option B was better because it was the first THSR station. Since I would not choose to go for any reserved seats, it would be easier to get a good seat. Yet another piece of advice, but I did not take was I go to Kenting, similar to a tropical paradise. Maybe next time.

So I went to Nangkang station. I used my THSR ticket to enter the platform, but it didn’t work. So I gave it another try, but it was still no go.  I asked for assistance. The origin station I had chosen was Taipei, instead of Nangkang (which was $35 NT cheaper). To fix the problem, I just paid for the difference.

Return to Taipei Faux Pas

Upon my return to Taipei, I took the Tze Chiang Limited express as advised by Tainan local. He told me that taking a regular train, would give you a better view of Taiwan scenery. Unfortunately I did not get to see much because the train left Tainan at six o clock. It was already dark.

I took out my passport because I had not booked my Airbnb home for the rest of stay in Taiwan. I initially intended to stay in Shilin because of its night market.And its host required me to scan one of ids,but the efforts to scan the passport were futile. (Not sure if it was the Airbnb’s ID scanning service feature, or because my data connection was intermittent) Out of my frustration. I threw my passport back into the bag.

As the train was approaching Taipei Main Station— like a shrewd traveler would do, I checked for the things if they were intact. Except that it didn’t seem like I have my passport there, and I wasn’t smart enough to remember where I put it. My heart was racing. I was only a few stations away. The people shifted their attention to me as I was pulling all of things out of my bag.

It was an understatement: “Never lose your passport. Lose everything except for your passport” And I was minutes away from turning my vacation into a nightmare.

Or so it seemed.

The passport was pressed between the secret compartment and the inner sheath of the bag. I was safe. There was no need to appear National TV to ask for help. After losing face the situation, I told the old man who was in 60 or 70’s that I ‘d found my passport. He later started a talking to me. There was barely any English words. By some sort of trance, I somehow deciphered that he was asking where I was from. “Philippines”, I said, but “Manila”  had a better recall to him. He also wanted to know where I was staying in Taiwan and the places I had visited.

He suggested I visit a place. “Beitou” I thought he said. I was confident because I had seen a video on Youtube about it. He had a dissatisfied look on his face because I wasn’t quite getting it. So I took out my phone and looked for images of Beitou on the internet. He wasn’t happy with my progress, so I used google maps instead. It turns out he was referring to the Xinbeitou (Old Beitou) all along. To him it was the best place in Taiwan, and he was telling me to visit it.

The next words he said was indecipherable. My limited knowledge Mandarin  (as if I had any) had reached its peak. I kept asking him what he wanted to say. Sensing that we’re not going anywhere with our conversation, a soft spoken young man came into our rescue. With unease with his translation, the twenty-something said that the old man telling me to call him, so he could take me to Xinbeitou.

Because I could not make any calls in Taiwan, he just left me his phone number. When the nice man reached his station, he gave me his well wishes for my trip. The old man shook my hand as he reached his destination.

Back in Taipei

I didn’t meet the old man the following morning. Instead, I joined my friends, Jun and Din who were flying back to Manila; and Celest, their colleague.Who knows if I might have ended up scrubbing the old man’s back in Beitou?

Before parting ways with Jun and Din, we had our dinner at Ximen area.  We noticed the place was teeming with people. so we decided to give it at try. The kicker was they only had three food items in their menu: Noodles, Rice Noodles, and Duck.

It was homegrown cooking at its finest.

The Lantern Festival

I took the train to Ximen station where I had agreed to meet Celest. It was the Lantern Festival Celebration. They had stages set at various locations to match the Chinese New Year theme. The main stage, which aimed to amuse the children, was at Ximen starion. Because of the event, the trains were unusually crowded as it carried children and their parents who were going to see the main stage show. The regular exit from the station was crowded, so I decided to take on a different path. I followed the sign that said,”Lantern Festival” only to find out it was a warp zone. It took me to the other side of the station.

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The show was for kids. There a was a mascot, and the set that boasted a chick half out that from an egg that just hatched to match the Year of the Rooster theme on display. There were also performers were in animal costumes, and machines that spewed bubbles to match the evening’s festive mood.

It felt like I was ready to document to take on the world with my camera. I pulled the camera from its pouch, and pressed the button to turn it on. Nothing happened. I was armed with a camera that had no batteries. They were left in my room in New Taipei.

We went to the Raohe Market via the Blue Line, got off Houshanpi station, and took about 30 min walk to Raohe Market. We were following a travel guide off the internet which apparently wasn’t the best one. All could have been avoided, had we taken MRT from Ximen to Songshan station. No transfers needed.

We took pictures of the magnificent temple and the beautiful lanterns, and decided to just eat all of our blunders away in the best tasting food Roahe Market had to offer.

Xinbeitou and Jiufen

It was Sunday when I heeded the old man’s call to go to Xinbeitou— without him.

Betitou station was 16 stations away from Dongmen station, the transfer station the to the red line (if you are to board the orange line from Nanshijiao) It then required one transfer to the Xinbeitou line (Pink Line) from Beitou Station.

Xinbeitou station was not like any other station. It had an artsy display of faceless people enjoying the hot springs.  A train covered with a cartoon art arrived. The train ride was rather short, made longer by train’s sluggish pace. Outside the train station, it was even more beautiful.

As I walked towards the mountains. The view became greener. There were huge trees on the sidewalk. So were other plant species. It was a nature lover’s paradise. The plum trees by the side of a house-like structure that was inspired by old Japan were a visual treat as well.

The Taipei Public Library, an eco-friendly structure, was also popular with the tourists. Visitors had to leave their things, including their electronic gadgets ( if I remember correctly). So I decided not to go into the green library, and just took pictures of it from the outside.

Bathing in the hot springs was another activity I could have enjoyed there. But  upon checking the rules and regulations at the public bath house, I realized they were too complicated for me. The place was also getting crowded— taking a dip was no longer an option. I kept walking, and followed the sign to the Thermal Valley.

Steam arose from the hot spring, which was the source of the bath water Xinbeitou needed for its bathhouses. The old man was on point . Xinbeitou was the best place. Each spot just begged for your attention.

After the hot springs, it was time to cool down in Jiufen.  Back at Beitou, station, I asked  the receptionist some information on how to get to Jiufen. A middle aged man was nice enough to add more information. He was also on the train I boarded, where he was sitting few seats away from me. Before he got off at his station, he reminded me to get off Taipei Main Station.

I got off at Taipei Main Station, and transferred to the Blue Line going to Zhongxiao Fuxing,  as the man  had advised. As I was looking for the bus stop for bus no. 1062, the bus that would take me to Jiufen, a man approached me. He was holding a sign that had the number of the bus I needed to take. Only that it was not for the bus, it was for a taxi ride.

The man holding the sign led me to 4 people who were on the sidewalk. A group of tourists, accompanied by with the driver, were looking for last person to share the taxi fare with. And I was the perfect their candidate.

The cabbie was more adept in speaking Japanese as his English speaking skills were only subpar. He spoke Japanese mostly during the trip for the sake of the Japanese tourists on the backseat. During the trip; he played  testimonial videos of his previous Japanese passengers. Marketing stuff. The video was also shown to rid off any suspicion of driver’s intentions.  Apparently, the  driver had a good sense of humor– to the Japanese; as the tourists from Japan: Kaho, Airi, and Chika were laughing most of the time.

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The gust of wind blew past us as we got off, as if the mountain climate was not enough. It took me a while to get the jacket from the bag. My senses were betraying me. Any smart traveler wouldn’t have gone there just wearing a shirt.

Because I had only drunk Egg and Honey Milk Tea at Xinbeitou, I was hungry. Time for a break. I looked for the that didn’t cost as much, but was novel to my taste buds. The Vegetarian Red Vinasse Taiwanese Meatball, and a bowl of soup fit the description.

Aside from taking pictures of the place that inspired Hayao Miyazaki for his Spirited Away setting, I was also on a quest to get black tea for my cousin, and get pineapple cakes back in home country. At the end of my trip I was not able to bring home any of those heavenly cakes from Jifuen with me because there only few stores that accepted Visa cards.

Final Day in Taipei: Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Jin Feng Braised Pork

After eating breakfast my host Shinghuei prepared,  I went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. The weather was relatively warm the other day, so I left the jacket at the house. Big mistake. Only five minutes after leaving the house, the cold weather started seeping through my skin. Running to the train station would only give temporary comfort. Even though the winds at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial were brutal, it was not enough to stop me from capturing the moment on my camera.

Before leaving Taiwan, Celest recommended that I eat at Jin Feng  Braised Pork. She said the it was only a short walk away from CKS Memorial station Exit 2. Yes, a short work if I had known where Exit 2 was.

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I had already trotted around the walls of CSK memorial before getting to place  where they served the golden braised pork. Not too long after I was asked to join the queue, I got a seat.

The couple in their golden years, whom I sat with, looked at me. The woman whispered something to her husband. The wife looked at me and smiled. The husband said his wife whispered a compliment about my looks. A good icebreaker.

I planned to leave New Taipei at 6:00 pm. My host asked me if I could stay for some sweet potatoes. Afraid that I was pressed for time, I politely declined the offer. After thanking her for having been a gracious host, we had a groupfie with her cat, Hola.

 Reflection:

My  plan for this trip started on an blank slate. The sketchy plan of “just getting there” was completed through a series of events we could coincidences. serendipity. happy accidents— whatever you’d like to call it. They filled the gaps I had on my itinerary, thus making this trip a worthwhile adventure.

The ticket I bought on September 4, 2016 was my Golden Ticket. Taiwan was my Chocolate Factory. Except that in it, it had night market street food, nougat,  and pineapple cakes.

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Backscratchin’ in Tainan

It was Feb 7, 2017. The weeds on dangling power lines reminded me I was home. My 7 day Taiwan trip was over–two of which were spent in Tainan.

Two months before the trip, I met a cab driver who sold the idea of going to Tainan as though he was on Home TV Shopping. He spoke highly of Tainan and its locals. He even said that if you happened to lose your wallet, and  somebody found it; he would look for you to return it.

Was I going to dreamland? Too good to be true, huh? I wasn’t ready to buy into that.

The cabbie’s testimonial  did not get tested until Jan. 31st. When I got to Tainan station via THSR (Taiwan High Speed Railway), most of the shops were already closed.Luckily, a man, who introduced himself to me as Tank,  a Tainan local who was spending his vacation from work in Shanghai,  happened to be passing by.

Tank offered his help in finding a bicycle rental. We walked until we reached a dark sidewalk. He then asked me to show hand him my phone, so he could see as to where my transient home was, using Google Maps.

Cut scene: I’d seen  this episode. After handing the phone, he would sucker punch me across the face and run off with my  phone.

Not this one.

The man had a few drinks, and could not ride his scooter to his place.Since our search for a Bike rental went nowhere, he told me that he could take a cab and drop me of the transient house, an offer I initially declined. He eventually won.

I got into the taxi despite my fear of getting mugged. Tank and the driver were speaking Mandarin. I listened to every keyword as to what they were talking about that could give an idea about what fate awaited me— because  me being fed to the fish wasn’t the plan. During the ride, Tank was chatting with his friends about a goofy foreigner he found  at the train station—not doing any good to calm my nerves.

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I tried my best to look calm.

A few minutes later  we arrived at MAMA house where Mama (the host’s mother) was waiting. I survived . Unscathed. Not even  a Taxi fare poorer because Tank did not let me pay for my share.

Mama rushed to the fridge to us something to drink as soon as we were in her grocery store. After Tank left, she led me to my room.  She pulled down the shutter of  her grocery store,  then she introduced me to Apple, their dog.

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Apple was a little shy in front of the camera,

The next morning, I   got up at 4 a.m. so I could catch one of  Tainan’s most sought after food, The Ten Thousand Beef Soup.I took the cab going to the place. All was needed was show the piece of paper Tank had given me, and the driver knew where to take me. The note DID NOT have the restaurant’s address; just its name in Chinese characters, knew where to Yes, that how popular the place was.

The place was packed. I fell behind more than 10 people in the queue. The people didn’t even flinch when it started to drizzle. Thar’s how serious they were about their beef soup. It took me about an hour before I could get a seat and be served.

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We had to share tables. so customers can be accommodated. Three  other people joined me at the table: A couple, and the guy’s dad. Before the silence ruined our breakfast by making things awkward, I asked them if they spoke English. The guy replied, Yes. (Good at it,too). Apparently, he and his girlfriend had to catch a THSR train for Taipei, and they only had 10 minutes to finish their meal. The ten minutes expired fast. It was spent on having a good conversation over a delicious meal. Even better, the food was free. The dad paid for it. It was a welcome gift— Welcome to Tainan.

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Breakfast with some nice folks.

Taking occasional stops to take pictures, I allowed myself to get lost in the city before deciding to go back to my transient home… on foot.

 

 

I walked until there was only   bridge that separated me and the part of the city where I was living. But I wasn’t quite sure whether one could cross it on foot or not, so I tried to ask Tainan locals, who knew better.

I asked a man on a parked scooter on the sidewalk. Since he may not have understood what I was getting at, he wanted to check my phone for the location as to where I was heading.

Cut scene: I’d seen  After handing the phone, he would speed off with my phone.

Wrong.

He then gestured for me to hop on his scooter. He dropped me off MAMA house, said goodbye, and rode off. Day saved.

That afternoon I met my host, Candy, for the first time. We had only been trading messages through the Airbnb since September. She was cool and witty. It turns out that she was an English teacher, and she could keep up with the conversation until we reached  Old Shennong street, a street-long marketplace.

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Wirh Mama and Candy

Since I was a caveman on Shennong st, and didn’t know what to eat there, I landed at a vegan hub called Do Right and Green Cafe, since vegan food was familiar to me. I asked Kayhee and Quentin (who both work there) what they would recommend. They gave me Malaysian curry since it was not too spicy and had coconut milk in it.

The two kept their customers so engaged that they had smile on their faces as they leave the place. Some of their customers even asked to have a picture with Kayhee and Quentin— Such awesome people. I lost track of time just speaking with these two folks. They even let me charge my camera battery when they’d found out I needed it. Had it not for them I wouldn’t have been able to take pictures at Hayashi Department Store.

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With Kayhee and Quentin

After being stunned by the Architecture of Hayashi Department store (and their pricey goods), I went to the Tainan Flower Market, the largest night market in the city, Because I had agreed to meet Candy there at 10:00 p.m.  to pick me up, I got tempted to take the cab. But did not as it would hurt my budget. Sticking to the original plan helped—walk.

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Hayashi Department Store

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Tainan Flower Night Market

The food was great. The warm almond tea was simply heavenly.

Time to go home. My host told me take the cab as she would not be able to pick me up. But on my way out, she said she was on her way to pick me up.

We, along with her friend Lisa, got into the car. My host gave me the final instructions because she would not be able send me off for Taipei. Because she was a teacher, she simulated a class and quizzed me afterwards. I got an A+. (Kidding)

The next morning, I packed my things and headed to the grocery store where Mama waited. She gave me her final instructions to me in Mandarin, which lasted for about an hour, as we were doing “Charades“. (chalk it up to my lack of the language) I bade farewell to Mama and Apple, and left for the bus stop.

As I was waiting for Bus no.7, the one that would take me to the train station, a car slowed down at the stop. It was Candy’s. She knew that the buses were not as many since it was the holidays. She later revealed that she wanted me to see Anping, another tourist spot famous for its majestic temples and scenic views. But eventually, I chose to go to Xinshi Business District instead to check out some factories.

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How my trip ended doesn’t outweigh the fact I enjoyed my trip because of the Tainan locals (plus Kayhee, who’s Malaysian).The people of Tainan give the warmest welcome and go out of their way to help you out. When somebody tells you that people in Taiwan (especially those of Tainan) are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, they kid you not.

Who Cares?

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Who cares about your posts on Facebook?

Who cares about your pictures of with your pets (or pests), your family, your significant other, or your favorite bottle of beer?

Who cares if you liked the movie Alphaville?

Who cares if you listen to The Residents, (or Insert name of an obscure band here)

No one, perhaps. Maybe a couple of your friends do. Okay, maybe five of your classmates in college do (that’s being optimistic)

Your Grammar Nazi Facebook pal might has her prying eye on your next post, dying to penalize you with next mix up of “Your” and “You’re”

Seriously, do these things really matter?

Too anxious of what to say when you’re with a group of people talking about their interests?

Too worried about the possibility of alienating yourself with your obscure taste in music, movies, literature and whatnot?

If these annoying thoughts had been arrested, it could have saved people struggling with anxiety of extreme case. It could have improved my personal life tenfold.

This post started out with the thought, “Who cares?” And this is could be one probable reason I wasn’t able to write an entry in months. My thoughts were defeated. Everytime, I get excited about an idea, “Who cares?” Just creeps up.

But how can music as obscure as that as that of Merzbow/ John Cage’s 4’33” could find its audience just baffles me. Why do some folks revere David Lynch, given the peculiarity of his works?

One thing did stick out: These artists cared about their own ideas.

Ideas, whether it’s art or in real life, will find an audience themselves. Just shoot for it.

If not, don’t dwell on it.

If the writing communicates and stirs something within someone, it’s beautiful. If not, well, it can’t be helped.

-Bruce Lee

Take it easy, my friend.

Into Bukowski

In the documentary “Born Into This”— a peek into the life of writer Charles Bukowski, there’s a poem that struck a chord in my rotten heart, and it’s called “The Genius of the Crowd.” Even though some parts of it may have been omitted (some websites have the complete one, which I believe to be more offensive to a few. Just look it up.), I’d like to share the poem as it was when I first saw it.

Ladies and Gents, the magic of Charles Bukowski.

 

The Genius of the Crowd

There’s enough treachery, hatred, absurdity

in the average human being to supply any given army

on any given day.

 

And the best at murder those who preach against it.

And the best at hate are the those who preach love.

And the best at war.

-finally- are those who preach peace.

 

Beware

the average man

the average woman

Beware their love.

Their love is average, seeks average.

But there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you,

to kill anybody.

 

Not wanting solitude

Not understanding solitude,

They will attempt to destroy anything that differs from their own.

Not being able to create art, they will not understand art.

They will consider their failure only as a failure of the world.

 

Not being able to love fully, they will believe your love incomplete.

And then they will hate you.

 

And their hatred will be perfect.

Like a shining diamond.

Like a knife.

Like a mountain.

Like a tiger.

Like hemlock.

Their finest art.

 

Advice from a Novice/Hobbyist

One of my hobbies is drawing pictures, When I can’t think of any ideas, I just start doodling. It relaxes me. Sometimes from that point ideas start taking off.

Not that you care.

But if you’re  bored just as I am, I just have something that might interest you.

It was May 2. The family and I were out to celebrate my dad’s birthday. While the waiter was taking the orders, there was waiting time. The table was covered with white paper, so guests could draw over it. I just picked a colored pencil and starting sketching my niece without giving it much thought. It ended up as this one. I had not been drawing for months, but the result delighted me.

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Sometime in June, I had to replace my idea of covering a movie theme. I just didn’t have enough technical know how of music composition and the means for my ideas to actualize—and it was only days from Her birthday, so I resorted to drawing a picture. After I took many pictures of it over the course of its alterations,  This, I believe, was the best version of it. It’s now screwed up. Thanks to my perfectionism.

 

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One Sunday afternoon, things got pretty boring, so I picked up a pencil, I had been wanting to draw a picture of my niece with a touch of humor and absurdity. She is a Sumo wrestler on this one:Image

My Bastardized version of Butterfly artwork on the Mr. Bungle record California. I’d had a few failures over the past years of my attempts to draw it. This comes the closest to being a success.

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Art speaks best when the usual words fail. I didn’t out to be the greatest artist out there, but I’m pretty sure that each of us has our own point/s that we need to get across. Don’t let your skill level limit your imagination.  Your lack of training shouldn’t bother you, either.  It just takes some heart, and a put a little more to your work. Your odds of getting understood increase tenfold.

*There are plenty of great artists out there that could kick my lame untalented ass on any given day.

 

 

 

Spent too much focusing on the working title that I couldn’t get this done.

Every day on TV land, we see tons of advertisements of what life should be.
Try to go outside, and you’ll see all-you-can-eat buffets getting your attention. As the Mayor of Swallow Falls says,” Bigger is better”

If anything goes wrong resulting from that lifestyle, we got hospitals to take care of us right?

Think again.

Quite recently, I was in the hospital. It was horrible.

My bosses told me to consult a doctor because my headache was affecting my work. It had been there for two days. So see a doctor, I did.

Aside from determining what might have been causing the pain ( Sinusitis caused by an allergy), the doctor was only able to give me a three- page prescription of god-knows-what-chemical-they-are-for.

He also advised me to take a drug that (supposedly) relieves the pain after two minutes. After eating lunch, I would take the pill (When the pain became unbearable). Those two minutes came, and– Voila! It only made me sleepy. And for the rest of the day I would feel like a light-headed zombie.

The year was only two months in, but I’d had a few illnesses. I just had to do something.

I’m no nutrition expert, but I’ve been with this body for 28+ years. Guess, that’s enough for me to have a good feel for my body. And besides, I have no love for letting a few people to determine my fate.

So I relied on my ham-handed knowledge, and gave it a shot.

Here are a few things that have worked: Home remedies; a diet heavy on fruit, vegetables nuts, and grains. Avoid dairy, fried food, and red meat.

Hooray for vegetarian restaurants and health food stores! They have certainly made it easier for people to be in-charge of their own health.

Or you can just side with the Mayor.

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Worship Nite

A personal one I wrote back in September 2013, and has nothing to do with religion or any religious activity. Although it was written for an acquaintance [whose party I (sort of) gatecrashed] this was the motivational piece I wrote for myself as a reaction to the various circumstances that were happening (or not happening) in my life that time, including “joining” a multilevel marketing scheme, the job that I had quit a year before writing this. 

Enjoy! 

In my profession as an ESL teacher, I have collected many pictures. On a student’s last day at school, it’s an informal custom for a student to have his/her pictures taken with the people s/he had a close bond. And it’s a safe bet that s/he either forgot or hated you, if you’re passed over for a photo opportunity (Just kidding).
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Most pictures on my cellphone didn’t have a title. Maybe because I didn’t know what to call them, or that they were just mere snapshots of frozen memory in megapixels.

But when we give our pictures a name, they’re just no longer “those” pictures– it creates that lasting impression.
Sometimes, they can take a life of their own and create a story. Just like when Ransom Riggs found the (then unrelated) pictures that would later be interwoven to create Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

One particular photo that stood out from the rest was what I called Worship Nite:

An invitation to a party turned up. Even though I didn’t know the host that well, the idea of going there excited me. It was very unlikely for a social klutz like me, but I knew I had to be there (strange enough).

Working in a shitty business, I would come home from work empty handed, feeling like a robot. It was a perfect time for me to make fun of my predicament.

A lot of my co-workers were Christians, and they had this event they called Worship Night (which coincided with the date of the party). One day, one of them asked me if I could join them. But I declined, saying that I had my own worshiping to do. Some chuckling followed.

On the way to the party, that feeling of certainty began to drift away. I started to doubt my intentions. As I entered the room, I saw a bunch of strangers, and asked myself “Why the hell I’m here?” Of course, that was only the lizard brain talking– the voice in the head, that told me to bail out at the first sign of danger or discomfort.

But there’s no way I’d listen to it. “Gotta finish what I’ve started. Hush, lizard brain. Hush”

So, I did it. No harm done.

It wasn’t part of the plan, but the result was the photo, or should I say, this story of my small victories called Worship Nite.

Started the day drawing a picture.

Humans are creatures of habit. It doesn’t matter whether that habit is good or bad. It is an action repeated many times.  One small action could take you for a slide down that rabbit hole.

Nowadays, it’s easy to get sucked into the troubles of inaction/laziness, from the distractions wrought by technology. Smart phones, Tablets, PCs scream for your attention, “look at me”.

Yesterday, I started my day with drawing a picture for the idea I’d had that Sunday evening— draw a profile picture for my Instagram account and for this blog. That picture would answer the thought, “what if my face were fused with that of a chimpanzee?” Sounded good on paper, but working on it was another story.

It was the first thing I did in the morning. Not the first, first  (hygiene first, of course); but making the artwork was the first thing I chose over activities such as reading text messages; and checking my Facebook, Instagram, and Emails for updates. In short, the goal: resist the urge to connect.

 

 

A little lesson on how to create a fake identity online:

I downloaded one of my pictures on Facebook (The one with my eyebrows knit, so I could be a badass just for once).

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My phone’s web browser was also open for a picture of a chimp (No need to post one, right?).

A little alteration here and there, and I got the final result, thus avoiding its destruction due too much smudging of the nose with an eraser. Okay, drawing lessons over.

While this post is not about giving you drawing lessons (because I have never had one myself),  our good habits may/may not produce our best work, but it’s surefire way to produce your best self.

Time to work on it.

Fanboy me

As we only have a few hours before the year ends, I assume that you have watched or read countless stuff about the next year: fashion trends, celebrity predictions, and horoscopes. So watch out, Sagittarians! You will be prone to sore throats next year. *coughs

 

Now we have that out of the way, let’s have another common thing: flashbacks. This one won’t be any exception.

 

One thing that highlighted this year for me was meeting author Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), because we have been a fan of anyone at a point in our life, right? Anyway, the story goes something like this:

 

I had arranged to meet a former colleague at a mall, so he could return The Real Frank Zappa Book. As we were talking outside the bookstore, I noticed a poster of a Ransom Riggs’ appearance and book signing event in Manila. It had been only a few months after getting my own copy of his book, and there was that chance to meet him? Wow!

 

When I checked the rules of the event, one could only join by purchasing a copy of his book from one of their bookstores. Those damn capitalists!

 

I had always known I was a peculiar. Just needed some kind of proof.

 

During the event, Ransom Riggs and I talked about “Spaceboy”, a film which he had made in USC as his thesis (after I had mentioned the name, “Carl King”, another favorite artist of mine whom he grew up with in Florida). He even took a video of a nervous me saying, “Hi Carl….”. And then, he shook my hand and said, “see you later” . In the end, I got home with two signed copies because he was gracious enough to sign both. By the way, the other copy didn’t end up on E-Bay or anything.

 

 

 

It was a proud moment there, because among the people there, I was probably the only one who knew his works from his early years as an artist. That “See You later” meant more than just a farewell; it meant that I had to do my homework, so the next time we meet, it won’t be some zero-accomplishment fan and a bestselling author.

 

We can choose what kind of fan we want to be: One who follows a rockstar everywhere he goes; or one who buys memorabilia of her idols, and collects their pictures, enough to make a wallpaper; or simply, one who is deeply moved by works of art, and in turn, hopes his future works affect his audience as much as those of the artists he admires while growing up. That pay-it-forward kind of thing.

 

As I end this story, I’d like to thank everyone for keeping me an entertained Facebook user. Wish you all a fruitful year ahead.  And you, as a fan, will use that inspiration to go beyond being a mere container for breath.

 

Be a fan. Do your homework.

Questions and Answers (?)

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/strike-a-chord/

 

“Tell me something about yourself” the interviewer told me.

 

This type of question gets me into trouble, not only in job interviews, but in my casual conversations as well. Now, this is not about how quick a conversation with me gets sour. But rather, a thought which is difficult to answer.

 

If you care enough to look at my profile, my “About me” says:

 

I don’t know that much. As far as I know, I like Listening to music, watching movies, eating, and probably other things you guys like; but, I do know the difference between your Dad and me.

Like McPatrick Head, I may appear a physical and emotional mess but I am a sensitive man inside.

 

It was written around the time I joined Facebook. Let’s see if I can fare any better today and add on that.

 

I’ve been spending my time playing some guitar.

 

Guitar Lessons:

 

My first guitar lesson lasted for about a week– we met only once a week. When I was scolded by my guitar teacher for having my own strumming pattern known as “One, Two, One, Two”, that was it. I wanted a way out.

 

You know that romantic scene where you’re given a gift during childhood, let’s say a set of coloring materials, and then you suddenly discover your passion in life? Nothing like that happened to me. As a kid growing up, listening to Rock n’ Roll bands such as Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses made it seem cool to own an electric guitar. My dad and I walked into a music store, and this black electric guitar got my attention. I was, if I remember it correctly, nine. We decided to buy it. To test it, The store clerk showed his guitar chops (skills). After that, he told me if I kept playing seriously until I reached fourteen, I would surpass his playing ability. A few months later, we sold the guitar (to this day, not been fully paid) we bought to rust.

 

I spent the entire college days as a cheerleader of music, if you will. I just admired music from afar, not to mention learning a few basic chords to boost my ego.

 

Going back to the interview, he also asked me about what idea really attracted me, “Truth” I said (Note to the reader: I don’t ever recommend you answering this in a job interview.) I could not really explain it back then. I wasn’t thinking about thought in a kooky, metaphysical way. But rather, truth in in its practicality. To start from nothing to get to somewhere. To have this information, which was previously unknown to someone,  years, weeks or even days ago suddenly becomes at one’s disposal is pretty cool in my book. Anyway, I might be veering far off.

 

In September 2012, I took a break from teaching, and decided to go corporate. But instead of climbing the corporate ladder, I found myself descending to a dungeon. However, working there would lead to bringing my interest in guitar playing back to the foreground.

 

My job as a field representative for a charity dealt with stopping people, making a pitch, and hopefully, give me their credit card information. One eventful afternoon, under the sweltering sun, two beautifully dressed ladies came my way. Little did I know they were playing in a rock band. One of them, eventually became my teacher.

 

She was (and still is) very instrumental in my musical education, in terms of motivating me to pick up the guitar by raising the bar, thus, making me rethink my practice habits. She never misses to give me a pat on back as well after passing her challenges.

 

What made all these possible? Fate? That all has been set up from the start? A Slumdog Millionaire-esque story? Well, it can give one serious ego problems— just look at what it did to Hitler.

Or was it a series of random events that have no meaning, just merely coincindences? That “Look, snow is falling. What’s the meaning in that?” argument. Too strict.

 

As random as these events may have been, it there is one thing I can’t deny: the impossible odds. The (im)probability of such things happening.

But somehow, there’s seems to be an order in the middle of this randomness.

 

Other representatives were also at the site who were only standing a few meters away from me. In other words, the other field reps could have stopped those two ladies, as they had a better position of doing so. Or had I said the wrong words they could have turned on their distress button and walked away.

 

What do events like this tell us? Something? Nothing? It’s another game of Black and White. Whatever the answer may be, it’s okay to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Maybe we miss the answer the moment we stop and think about it. I don’t know. I’m just babbling. Any ideas?

 

As long as we don’t start with a conclusion, it’s healthy to ask more questions, even from the most trivial to the hardest of the philosophical ones.

 

So what better way to end this with yet another question: Where has the rest of the electric guitar payment gone to?