31 August 2010

Casa MANILA Cathedral

So….. My stupidity had brought me back to Intramuros. It was easier this time since we already knew how to go there literally.

30 August 2010

There Goes My Buka Puasa

This place is crazy.
They’ll let you pay RM18 to eat all of these...
..alone.
It is a steamboat and you’re free to pick your own choices of food. Nine (9) of them altogether.
And it is not just an ordinary steamboat. The specialty lies in its broth. It’s porridge!
And always come with complimentary drink. ALWAYS.
Upon loaded into the broth, it has to be constantly stirred up to avoid the broth from ‘solidifying’ and crusting.
Oh well..
There goes my buka puasa.. Burppppp! Syukur...

26 August 2010

My Biggest Lesson in Manila: Always DOUBLE CHECK!

So, Intramuros is like a whole world different from the Metro Manila that surrounds it. The moment you come through the gate, you’ll be thrown into some little European town – with the sweltering tropical sun remains to burn you head out.

23 August 2010

Manila: Finding Our Way to Intramuros

Waking up on my second day in Manila, I had my very first view of the sprawling metro Manila from the veranda of the hostel.

20 August 2010

MANILA Mania!

While The Philippines is geographically so close to Sabah (2 hours flight), it is in fact so close to me personally too. Thanks to the influx of them in Sabah, I literally grew up surrounded with Filipinos and I have had the best of friends from the Philippines. My early encounter with beautiful girls at puberty was dominated by Tagalog girls I had almost believed that Sabah was cursed with errr, not so pretty girls. Hehe.
No no. You don't know her. She is my ex-Filippino girlfriend before I changed my name to the current one. If you may ask, my previous name was Jericho Rosales.

17 August 2010

Lest We Forget

As listed in my list of events, I went to attend the Sandakan War Memorial Service at the Sandakan War Memorial Park last Sunday. Having missed it last year due to oversleep, I learnt my lesson this time by making my way out of the neighborhood just when the dawn was breaking.
People were beginning to pour in when I got there.
There was a registration counter at the entrance but I was lucky to have been spared of the hassle because only foreigners were required to register.
I had my imaginary moment of being a soldier when I had to tail behind a group of them as I was heading up to the monument. *kri nan kri! kri nan kri!kri nan kri nan kri nan kri!
Welcoming the visitors is a loooooong line of school kids in uniforms of which every one of them greeting a good morning I actually got tired of good morning them back after awhile. Smiling and nodding was the best I could do.
Their parents must be proud of having their children participating in something so significant to the history of Sabah and Malaysia as a whole. 
Apparently being there quite too early, I had to wait for at least one hour or so before the event began.
Ohh, and they actually gave each visitor a batch to be put on your shirt during the ceremony. Sandakan Municipal Board is so stingy they actually asked them to be returned after the ceremony. With so many police officers around, there was no chance for anybody to take it away without getting arrested.
Hehe. Just kidding. They actually gave it for free. Not quite bad for something that I came to attend for free too.
I knew instantly that VIPs were coming in when a loud orchestra by the Polis Diraja Malaysia PDRM blasted its way over to the monumental area. And sure enough.
Among the VIPs that attended the ceremony were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang and Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. Leading the Australian entourage was the Government-General of Australia, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce.
It was actually an honor for me personally to be there being a part of the ceremony which was held to commemorate the endurance and perseverance of more than 2000 soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and Britain who were held captive by the Japanese during the World War 2.
Memorial Services for them are actually held every year in major cities of Australia on a day they call The Anzac Day but there is nothing like holding it right at the exact location of the captivity.
I was in the worse position to be sitting from where all I could see was this out-of-place big tree back-dropping a bunch of heads big enough to cover the 32’’ TV screen that they had provided for back-benchers like me.
Taking the risk of being shooed away by the heavily armed security personnel, I actually went against the rule announced by the emcee earlier that all the attendees are required to stick their asses to their seats when the ceremony is proceeding.
Besides, I didn’t go there to watch TV!
Two out of only six survivors of the tragic marches were there on hand to tell the story. It was such a heart-wrenching moment for everybody I actually found myself struggling to hold my tears. I suddenly realized how this ‘MEN DON’T CRY’ philosophy is bullshit at times. God didn’t give you a dick to give you a 'crying immunity'. Hehe.
But seriously, the best way of taking in the moment is by putting yourself into their shoes. Just how does it feel like watching 2700 people dying ONE BY ONE in the worst imaginable way possible right before your eyes?
It’s like a simple math of counting but in the mean time waking up every day to question whether you’ll live long enough to finish the count. Any time, any day, it could be your turn. The escape made them survive but the nightmare keep haunting them up until today.
The ceremony continued as a number of people including some of the VIPs, army personnel as well as family members and relatives of the POWs took to the monumental platform to perform the laying of flowers.
Done with the laying of flowers, everybody then stood up for the national anthem played beautifully by the Malaysian Royal Army while the flags of Britain, Australia, Malaysia and Sabah were being raised.
Singing out loud in the beginning, I had to turn my volume down after awhile when I realized I heard nobody’s voice but mine. It really is true that Malaysian has this silent patriotism. DUH.
The only people that I heard sing was a bunch of kids at an adjacent housing area and they were not even singing Negaraku (Justine Bieber’s Baby Baby Baby ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Erkkkkkkkk! E.T.A.H!)
And when the turn for the Australian national anthem came, the voices were thundering! It was like all of the Australian in attendance was singing and they were singing loudly and heartily! OH NO. I wanted to run and hide. In fact, I even heard more voices sing when the British national anthem took its turn and there must be less than 20 people of British people in attendance.
The flag-raising marked the end of the ceremony and I promptly broke myself away from the crowd. But not before I went to shake hands with the Government-General (Errr, no thanks Datuk). 
I was actually heading back to the entrance when I was told that there’d be a launching ceremony for a book entitled ‘Blood Brothers’.
It tells how the people of Sabah are actually originally from Australia and that Sabah should have joined Australia and not Malaysia.
Back off ISA! Do not arrest arrest me! Hehe. OK, this book by Australian historian Lynette Silver actually details the true grit, valour and sacrifices of the heroes who helped the Allied Forces during the Japanese Occupation in Sabah. This book also serve as a note to the people of Sabah who played a major part during the World War II.
Oh well, I do like books but it wasn’t the book that I was really interested in.
YES! You’re right! I was more attracted to the amois in the traditional costume.
Then came my favorite part of the morning – breakfast.
It was quite a feast actually. Lots of foods and well-dressed and uniformed people, I felt like I was being at a royal garden party or something.
Being in the fasting period for the Muslims, the food was left to be plentiful for those who were not fasting. The food was quite good, fulfilling and most importantly FREE. Who doesn't like free food? You? Kiss my ass. LOLz
Oh well, as much as I wanted to feed my stomach with as much food as possible, I actually surprised myself by picking up nothing but this.
Foolish you may say but you have no idea where I was heading to later.
I wanted to spare the space for something much more related to the 'F' word.
No no. Not that word. What I mean is FOOD. And it means something more than just feeding the stomach.
Here, WE EAT FOR CHARITY. You eat and you already did a charity. Cool huh?
But of course, that is another story. :=)

14 August 2010

Tribute to (Cast Away) Teachers: My Journey to The Middle of Nowhere

[I was actually planning to spare this entry for next year’s Teacher’s Day but since that seems to be so far and away from now, I decided to put it on earlier. After all, sacrifices made by teachers should be appreciated all the time and not only on a single day (although they get paid quite handsomely:-P)]

So, this short documentary by the Education Ministry of Malaysia has captured the hearts of so many people including myself who see the honorability in the sacrifices made by some of our teachers as something to be deeply appreciated. This documentary, according to some of my teacher friends, has been played in front of newly-graduated teachers at teaching colleges and universities all over Malaysia before they get posted to their respective schools. Needless to say, what was intended to give them some kind of self-motivation actually scare most of them to death. Hehe. Ohh, and YOU GOTTA WATCH IT..
I WAS VERY LUCKY when my job required me to go to THAT VERY SCHOOL in THAT VERY DOCUMENTARY recently – a school called SK Abuan which is located in one of the innermost parts of Sabah.
We set off the adventure by undergoing a free massage for about an hour – except that this kind of massage would be very likely to break your bones if you haven’t drank enough of the calcium-enriching Anlene.
For one thing, the road is not really a road. In fact, it is a road roughly built to accommodate the needs of logging activities that had been going on very intensively in this area for so many years now.
Our boat ride started off at this bridge here which looked more like a makeshift to me.
Again, don’t get fooled, it wasn’t built for the rakyat but more for the logging needs. Whatever mean of infrastructure here wasn’t actually built for the rakyat but more for the money they siphoned in at the cost of our natural wildlife habitat and precious rainforest.
By going on a boat ride along the turbulent and sometimes ferocious Sugut River, we actually put our lives in the hands of this father and son here. Errrrr, literally.
Oh and to all the contractors, if you happen to have one of those unfortunate asses to get a project in any of the kampongs only accessible by river, it is advisable to bring your own supply of petrol. Believe me, it would save a lot on your money and use it to buy something else, say, beer. Hehe.
The boat ride started off quite well in the beginning that I actually found myself camwhoring every now and then.
Everybody was having the biggest smile. We felt more like being in yet another advertisement for Cuti Cuti ...... Australia!LOL!
Even this 'Aussie' boatman looked so relaxed and tension-free. He seemed to be enjoying the smooth ride as much as we all were.
We were visually fed with the beautiful greenery on the river bank of the Sugut River and I was somehow reminded of the fun that I had had when I went for the river cruise in Sukau last year.
I was especially attracted by long rows of trees with their eye-catching red leaves that seem to dominate the riverside panoramic view along the Sugut River.
They seemed to add on some extra color to the already beautiful lush greenery which reminded me of the paintings I used to paint-brush when I wowed my Art teachers SO MANY TIMES back at school. :-P
But of course, our smiles died down almost immediately when the first sight of rock clusters loomed up right in our direction.
WE all knew there was no way of avoiding them. We had to 'glide' over them. The goyang kaki time for a Cuti Cuti Australia advert was over. It was time to get a good grip of the boat and waited for the real adventure to begin. *gasping
To tell the truth, with quite a number of us on the tiny boat and mostly errrr, with respect, overweight, I wasn’t confident that the boat WAS NOT going to lose its balance and flip over if a strong current struck over it.
As the boat nearing the cluster of rocks, I found myself counting 3….2…..1….. and suddenly got panic.
In the middle of my panicky state, the boat handler stuck one of his legs out onto a stone to keep the boat from spinning around. You see, the boat should never be allowed to spin around and let the strong current strike over the side. It would definitely flip over.
We are talking about the power of water and you know how damn powerful it is. In this case, experiences are what matters most. The boat handler seemed to know what to do.
We managed to get through it. Wave of relief washed over us. The smiles returned... :-) 
More and more of human settlements were seen along the riverbank. FYI, most of the people that stay in this isolated part of the state came from the native tribe of Orang Sungai which is by translation – the river people.
They were said to be a sub-ethnic to the bigger group of Dusun – something that most of them have been vehemently opposing over the years. They’d rather declare themselves independantly an ethnic group and not a sub (whatever you people...)
Sugut River is actually full of big rocks so ready to rip your boat apart if you happen to be unlucky enough to bump into them.
Believe me, it isn’t a game that you wanna play play with.
After the first challenge, I couldn’t give my thumps-up to the boatman YET knowing that they’d be more challenges waiting for us ahead. And sure enough.
Counting again (1…2…3….) and panic again.
This time, the boat handler had to work his ass off harder than the first one.
There were quite a number of panic moments that we went through but of course I couldn’t capture all of them. I was too busy trying all I could not to get thrown out of the boat.
With so many stuffs that I had stupidly brought with me, I wasn’t yet ready to say good bye to my IC, credit and ATM cards, driving license, Prudential Insurance card (ehem!) ahd my hard-earned 50 bucks that I had had in my wallet. Soooooooooo many of them LAH!
After a long series of ebbs and tides and near heart-attacks, the intended destination finally came into sight. 
Ladies and gentlemen.... we have reached the famous SK Abuan!
We were there just when the children were about to leave school.
And believe me; nothing could prepare you with the sight of children very much in the middle of nowhere carrying so much hope in their faces and still uncertainties abound.
But then, I might have said it in the past, and I am gonna say it again. EDUCATION IS HOPE. Somehow I felt relieved that they DO go to school. AT least the future holds SOMETHING for them. Imagine those stateless kids that roam the streets of Kota Kinabalu.:-(
So, stepping out from the boat and on to the ground, I suddenly had the visual of myself being Cikgu Azli in the documentary – and I was there to report for work on the very first day. o.O
Whoever gets posted to teach here for sure would bear the biggest challenges on their backs. I FELT for Cikgu Azli.
Many of my teacher friends that got posted to the inner parts of Sabah confessed how BOREDOM is their biggest challenge. Some of them enjoyed the solitude after quite awhile but the loneliness could be a constant ache to them.

The geographical factor only allows them to go out to the world of civilization once in a month if not months. There really is nothing much to do to kill time – every day of the week – every week of the month – every month of the year – and if they are ‘luckier’, every year of the years!
No KFCs, no McDs, no Giants, no Servays, no kopitiams, no movies, no karaoke, no beer, no girls, no errrrrr, sex may be? I don't know. That's what they told me. Hehe. It's like being sent to the land of nothingness.  
Being in the middle of nowhere with nothing much to do to pass by time, most of them would opt to succumb to farming.
Growing up in a farming family (yes!), I personally think farming is quiet therapeutic though. If I were them, I would do the same.
I mean, how many teachers that you know that can grow maize plants as successfully as they do here? Ohh, I know quite a lot of them actually. They grow just about everything. Errrrrr, at least in the facebook's Farmville. :-P
As being somebody who loves to meet people very much, I can’t imagine myself having to stay there for even a week. I’ve really got nothing but respect for teachers LIKE Cikgu Azli. What they do is such a heroic act.
Saying good bye to SK Abuan later, it was time to get back to the nightmare boat ride again.
OH well, my logical thinking had expected that it would be a much more easier a ride on the returning trip considering how we’ll go with the flow of the river this time.
I was wrong. In fact, the strong flow would be more than happy to accelerate the boat forward and shove it right into any of the rocks.
Hence, there was a need to be more careful.
You can actually give a little bit of contribution by doing something like this.
We were spared from the water in the outbound journey but not quite so in the inbound.
We HAD to jump out of the boat because the boat was flipping over.
Not really, in fact it was dead stuck. Hehe.
It would be too cruel to stay in the boat when the boatmen had to try very very hard to get it moving.   
After quite awhile, I actually found all the adrenaline rush to be quite exciting and I kinda enjoyed it. I knew I was not really so bad a swimmer so getting thrown out of the boat wouldn’t really kill me. What killed me was the idea of ‘losing’ my baby. My baby LX3! After all it wasn’t waterproof. :-P
Which was why – seeing the bridge again finally was such a great relief.
I was back on the soil and everything of me was safe.
Halleluiah!
And of course, another moment picture of us – the people who survived the ferocious Sugut River. :-P
SO, that was how our little adventure had turned out to be. For your information, the documentary was taken many years ago when the idea of constructing a road across the district of Paitan was still far from reality.
Thanks to the Government’s commitment in providing a better access to the logging areas in the district and in expanding the Palm Oil plantation for the ‘western’ companies to siphon in more money from the land of Sabah – the Paitan road has made reaching the villages such as Abuan much easier now. In fact, we managed to return to the main road just before 4pm.
Ohh……… and to all the teachers who are to be posted next week (hello friends! Welcome to Sandakan! Welcome to the real world! :-P), if you happen to get posted to SK. Abuan (heard there are 4 vacancies to be urgently filled there), do not die of a heart attack yet. SK ABUAN is now much more reachable than it used to be. With a full RM1500 of allowance coming into your pocket every month, believe me, it’s not gonna be the end of the world for you. Good luck! He he he. *evil grin 

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