Chosen Land: One

Well that took long enough. I didn’t have to wait the full 24 hours but it appears the Yahoo! log-in woes I’ve been experiencing are now a thing of the past. Huzzah!

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“Let Your Mane Down (d.notive Cover)”
Replacer
This song was uploaded earlier this week and I find myself listening to it quite a lot lately, hence it being here. I do like Replacer’s music, especially his vocals. I get an upbeat oldies vibe from it, and that is always a good thing. The fact that this song is about Rarity’s relationship with her younger sister, Sweetie Belle, just makes it that much better, so props to d.notive for that!

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Day One

In the wee early hours of Saturday, 18 February 2012, I got off of bed to prepare for my five-day trip to Manila, Philippines. I wasn’t sleeping mind you — I had just finished watching Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983), the final part to my Monty Python trilogy marathon. I couldn’t sleep the night before and figured by the time I did I’d very likely oversleep so this is a trick us night-owls have learned the hard way: if it’s important enough, don’t sleep.

Well it was either that or you could fix your sleeping schedule, which I now have.

After a brief hot shower and final inspection of my belongings, I set off to meet up with my friend and head on over to Changi Airport.

I intended to take photos the moment I stepped out of the house, but my arms didn’t have enough freedom of movement to comfortably wield the camera. A shame, looking back on it.

Changi Airport was crowded (by my standards) as usual. Thanks to my friend’s savvy planning skills, our check-in was relatively fast and painless, taking less than three minutes. We promptly strolled past the long lines of fellow travellers and into the safe, quiet haven that is the Departure Hall.

[Pretend there’s a photo of dim, empty corridors.]

Much to my surprise, almost all of the shops were closed. I had long assumed that they were round-the-clock establishments. Goes to show how long it’s been since I’ve boarded a plane. That fact always pains me, because I have a love-affair with the sky since early childhood. The sea can go suck it.

Anyways, since we had some time we decided to go grab breakfast since there wasn’t any food provided for the short flight. It ended up being a toss-up between Burger King and Délifrance, with the latter winning. Their combo meals weren’t ready yet since the soup was still being prepared, so we simply settled for stuffed croissants and a hot drink.

[Pretend there’s a photo of croissants.]

How I’ve missed Délifrance’s stuffed croissants!

Nice long walk past all the travellators with lazy Singaporeans on it and soon enough, we were past security, through the jetbridge (what I like to refer to as ‘the umbilical cord’) and into the airplan– good God-Emperor was it small!

Cue all the boring pre-flight passenger checks and onto the take-off runway. Hearing the jets whine up, seeing the landscape speed past, feeling the nose tilt up and then the plane blasting off away from the ground… best feeling ever. I can only imagine how much more fun it’d be in a private jet or even better, a figher jet! Hell, a low-orbit shuttle!

Right, getting carried away there.

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (1)

Good thing about a morning flight is getting to see the sun rise. Oh, wrong side.

I ended up taking a nap, which I immediately regretted after waking. The cramped seats don’t really promote sleeping.

[Pretend: Philippines from the air.]

[Pretend: Arrival Hall of Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport.]

Conveniently enough, we bought our prepaid SIM cards for our mobiles at the exit. I bought roughly SGD10 worth of credits without much thinking. Who the heck was I gonna call or text anyway?

After finding the taxi service provider arranged by our hotel, we dumped our luggage into the boot and set off into the streets of Manila.

[Pretend: Streets of Manila.]

It didn’t take long for me to draw comparisons between Philippines and Malaysia, the only country I visit most often thanks to its proximity to Singapore. It’s more like inter-state travel, really.

Like any other city, we soon hit upon heavy traffic, though it didn’t really bother me since I was busy soaking up the sights.

[Pretend: …Manila.]

Soon enough, however, we arrived at our hotel. It wasn’t a large five-star hotel but I actually did not mind. I was getting sick of residing in large buildings and having to climb the stairs to our second-storey room was a nice change of pace. What I gave up in terms of pampered luxury, I gained in quiet simplicity. I personally prefer lavish rooms only if I was at a resort anyway.

Around noon, after unpacking what we needed we made our way to the city to meet up with a local friend at SM Mall of Asia, one of the biggest malls in the region.

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (2)

They had an indoor skating rink in the middle of… somewhere. It’s quite like a bunch of malls, or wings, linked together. It’s unsettling because when you get the feeling that you’ve exited the mall, you find yourself in another!

It is here that I must mention that due to heightened security, you’ll actually see security guards almost everywhere in Manila. Armed personnel mind you, some stationed at mall entrances for compulsory bag checks, some on patrol and a few “mini-bosses” armed with shotguns.

Coming from a country where security guards were very much like information counter staff or parts of interior decor, this was all very new and exciting to me. Especially the shogtuns part. They were so shiny, my hands felt quite grabby.

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We had lunch, some local fare at one of the restaurants. The Filipinos do love their fried food, especially pork innards. Toss in sweet and sour condiments and you’re good to go. I honestly cannot remember what we had but it was good and a fairly large serving too.

We met up with the last member of our party and got to further exploration of the mall. To this day I still cannot tell you which parts I’ve been to. I did see more bookstores than I normally do in Singapore, however, which pleased me. Alas, with physical books come the problem of physical storage space, so I’m settled on getting an ebook reader. It helps that I got to handle the Kindle too (Amazon sells Kindle directly to the Philippines!) so it’s a matter of saving up now.

Soon enough came the time for dinner. A short cab ride later, after a couple of rejections from a few drivers, we arrived at Dampa, known for its fresh seafood.

But wait, you eat seafood?
Aha, only if there isn’t a visible corpse I have to pick apart, and as long as it doesn’t offend my palate with its alien taste!

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (3)

(I had to edit this in Flickr because it wasn’t straigthened, hence the drop in quality. Seems like I didn’t save that fix before I uploaded the set. Oh well.)

This is just one of the stalls from a whole stretch of stores, where we ended up being too busy to decline sale offers than to simply look. It is a huge selection though, so those of you who like eating these sea insects may find this place much to your liking.

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (4)

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (5)

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (6)

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (7)

Manila_2012-02_Day01 (8)

At this point we were well on our way into this culinary adventure and more food was coming in (I hadn’t played a part in choosing the sacrifice food) so there were quite a few dishes I didn’t manage to take, like escargot and tempura, because my hands were fairly oily.

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While I was taking these photos, I also noticed something else: the selector dial on the back of my Canon Powershot G11 was acting up badly. It’s been a little touchy in regards to its sensitivity for quite some time but it was never this bad.

You see, this dial selects some important things: like my aperture, speeds and manual focus. I could get the settings I want but it takes at least ten times longer than a person with a working dial would. Rather than spend more time wrestling with the dial than actually taking photos, I let my heart sink and did what I had no choice but to do: Program and Macro mode.

I’m not that adverse against using Program mode, but not being able to use manual focus really irks me, because I like to take close-up shots of my food (if you can’t tell by now) and more often than not, I get better results when I have control over the field of focus. The fact that I can’t change my aperture to control depth of field either makes it worse, which led to many photos that I cannot bring myself to work with or even put up.

I don’t consider myself a photographer, just someone who’s always had an interest. Still, it made me sad. Undoubtedly this brings up the question of whether I should repair the camera or use it as a good excuse to upgrade, but because money doesn’t come as easily to me as it does in video games and that this text is getting too long, I shall leave this topic for another time.

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We managed to finish almost all of our dishes, save for one plate. After remarking about how the table next to us ordered twice the amount we did with roughly the same amount of people, we retired for the night. It was still quite early but we were too full to do much more and my room-mate had already spaced out from the lack of sleep.

The taxi ride back to the hotel was, needless to say, long, as we ended up being stuck in traffic and somewhat lost in the back-streets. On the bright side, we passed by some of the red-light district areas, which piqued my interest quite a bit — not for the reasons you think! Brothels and prostitution aren’t my idea of intimate fun.

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Wish I had more photos of the first day. The text-to-photo ratio is a little skewed than what I would have preferred, but it will have to do. I’m contemplating appending Day Two’s content as well but that would make this terribly long so you know the deal: come back tomorrow.

I also must mention a new drinking habit I picked up. In my attempts to consume more water on a regular basis, I make it a point to visit the lavatory by the kitchen. This way, whenever I need to go play firefighter, I drain my current mug of water and fill it up on the way. My pee is now a shade that doctors would nod at approvingly. Bards will sing tales! Advertisements and movies made! Crowds that number in the thousands would line up to– hold on, toilet break.

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