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Friday, August 29, 2008

Divine Mistake?

People make mistakes. Nothing can be truer than that. And with that as an unassailable given, all that’s left for us is to recognize our faults, show contrition and just do everything humanly possible to make amends.

Thus it truly amazes me when some, after erring, take comfort in the rationalization that “maybe, God wanted this to be so.” That’s absurd! It places God in the center of an issue or controversy not of His own making! It makes Him an active participant in the commission of a wrong, thereby making Him responsible for the willful acts of persons who are fully cognizant of the effects of their pursuits.

If I were God, I will send these escapists some minute lightning strikes to teach them a lesson or two in taking responsibility – that of owning up to the results of the choices they make and the actions they take.

End of sermon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Capturing The Elusive Mt. Fuji

After two failed opportunities to set foot on Mt. Fuji, I finally had another chance last Sunday. A group of Filipinos organized a bus tour, the first stop of which would be Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station, perched 2,305 meters above sea level.

But sadly, rain fell hard (remnants perhaps of the typhoon that just passed by the Philippines). Early on, even while we were still assembling in Tokyo, we recognized that it will be difficult for us to get spectacular views while we’re up there. But the incurable optimists that Pinoys are, we still crossed our fingers that the skies will clear out when we arrive.

It didn’t. In fact, it rained much harder, reducing visibility by just about a few meters.

Hundreds of would-be trekkers to the summit were stranded.

For me, the biggest frustration was not finding anything special to shoot.

The 5th station is home to many souvenir shops so it was where most people waited for the rain to stop. The others queued by the Mt. Fuji postal office, and just contented themselves with sending souvenir postcards to loved ones all over the world.

Resigned to not having a view of the surroundings, our group decided to go down to Kawaguchi Lake, which in better days would have had a very romantic view of Fuji-San.

But instead of getting this …… (pic lifted from the net)

....this was what I got.

Well, maybe next time. One day, I will still get my most-coveted awesome shot of the very elusive Mr. Fuji.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beauty in Simplicity

Many park-developers try hard to attract people, that in the end, they get confused as to what to really focus on. What results is a park with a mish-mash of features supposedly meant to make everyone happy.

Me, I prefer parks that are simple – just a place where man can bond with nature. I do not want flashy installations; just trees, flowers, ponds are fine with me. My only requirement is that it be clean and well-maintained.
And that precisely is what I got when I visited the Aichi Forest Park, a very unassuming patch of greenery in what is essentially a sleepy town called Owariasahi. It was a very simple park, but it is that simplicity that awes the visitor. The lawns were kept wide and manicured, great for those who want to play in an open field. But what fascinated me most were the raw marshlands, which at the time were filled with blossoming wild flowers. The entire place was ... picture-perfect, to say the least.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Atami, Shizuoka

On our way to the Tokuma eyeball-cum-photshoot, we had a brief stop-over at the famous resort city of Atami (literally “hot ocean”). I was told that the place is historically known for its hot springs, but the beach steals the show come summer time. True, we did saw a lot of sun-baked bodies when we strolled around.

For the photos , we positioned ourselves at the viewing deck of the Sun Hotel. The view from there was quite spectacular, something that reminds you of European resort cities (yeah, like I’ve been there, he he). Here are some of my souvenir shots.

Food was great too, as seafood was expedly abundant. It took us a while to decide where to eat. But of course, we never forgot to click our cameras as we wandered.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My First Official Photoshoot

With my new Canon 40D in tow, I joined a group of photography enthusiasts (primarily from the Filipino on-line community Timog Forum) in an outdoor photoshoot. The venue: the forest and man-made falls in Tokuma, Yamanashi Prefecture – by the mountain range that proudly holds Mt. Fuji as a brother.

It was a tranquil place filled with lush greens and clear waters, a showcase of how Japan takes great care of its natural treasures. Undeniably, it was the perfect place to train ones hands in the challenge of capturing on lens the captivating beauty that the Great Provider has showered the earth.

But aside from nature shots, we also had the opportunity to take portraits of the members of the community who gamely undressed (opps!)/dressed up for the photographers, who pursued them as hungry parazzi would hound celebrities.

The newbie that I was, I tried as much as I could to learn from the Canonites (note: there was fierce competition with the Nikon-jins!). At the end of the day, I thought I already had great shots, good enough for my camera’s baptism of fire.

But transferring the photos to my laptop turned out to be a ”nye!” moment.

Disappointingly, the pictures didn’t look as good as they were on the camera screen. The images were smoky and the colors diluted.

Verdict? Some of my point-and-shoot outputs seemed better, he he he.

I really have yet to learn more on this stuff called real photography.

(Happy Note: I also met bloggers Scion and Totomai during the photoshoot-cum-excursion-cum-eyeball.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Toyota Automobile Museum

I’m not really deep into cars (what I’m sure I cannot acquire, I’d rather not fantasize about). :-)
But even if my interest falls primarily into their utilitarian aspect, getting inside a place filled with cars in all the forms they have taken through the years, somehow changed my perspective. Uncharacteristically, the exposure I had into the history of car-making managed to amaze and amuse me.

And that, I would agree, would not be uncommon, as such reactions come quite handy when one visits the Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagoya. This was the museum built by the world’s biggest car manufacturer solely for the purpose of showcasing mostly vintage cars – the cars that have fascinated the world over time. As a tribute to its founder Kiichiro Toyoda, Toyota collected both the real ones, if available and replicas, if such have already been dumped into the dustbins of history.

The good thing about the museum is it’s not centered on Toyota alone – it also has on the line-up other models built by competitor-manufacturers. That makes the visitors’ experience more comprehensive as they fully grasp the evolution of the cars we see today.

I am featuring here some of the cars that attracted my awe and admiration. I would have placed the model names alongside the pictures, but on second thought, it seems I’m more inclined into knowing whether my readers are car aficionados.

Might as well give a gift to whoever gets to identify the most number of models. Dare? He he.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crushed... Almost!

I was crossing the street towards the office this morning (with my ipod blaring some obscure ballad) when I heard a loud thud and a long screeching sound. There were two persons in front of me going the opposite direction and they suddenly had look of shock as they scampered, avoiding what seemed to be coming from my back. My knee-jerk reaction was to lunge forward.

As I looked behind, this is what I saw…

These two cars collided hard and halted just a foot away from me. I was standing exactly at the spot where the policeman is in the photo below.

Lucky me …..

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Meeting Pinoys in Daegu, SK

(Dong Daegu Station, SK)

One aspect of my job that I truly enjoy is meeting Pinoy workers in the various countries I visit. While some “expats” try hard to disassociate themselves from OFWs (ooops!), I on the other hand, always look forward to mingling with them. Such is partly work, of course. But most importantly, I seek them because I easily bond with them. With them I feel at ease; through them I get to vicariously live other challenging lives.

Theirs is one large cache of life stories and I must have heard just about a handful. Usually, every OFW lives his own heart-tugging plot, from the teary drama type to the spirit-lifting success stories. All those I want to hear and hopefully one day, those materials I’d be able to write about in a befitting medium.

(Basketball: the Pinoys' most common pastime) (Daegu Industrial Park)

In my recently-concluded visit to Korea, I was able to visit a group of OFWs in one of the factories at the Daegu Industrial Park (two hours by express train from Seoul). My contact, an inaanak from way back our Taiwan days, brought me to their spartan dormitory where kalderetang kambing and papaitan was served for lunch (the first I devoured, but I still have to acquire the taste for the latter).

Immediately thereafter, I was brought to their tambayan for the reglementary bottle-downing ceremony (he he. Inuman lang po yun). Needless to say, I had fun. And at the end of the day, I was a few stories richer.

(tropang Ilocano)

Every rendezvous with overseas Pinoys leaves me with a commitment to spreading the word: that the life of our OFWs is not as easy and as glamorous as perceived. While many envy the fact that they work abroad and earned bigger bucks than their home-based counterparts, it is easily forgotten that the life they live is far from ideal; that while they maintain a happy and prosperous countenance, truth is, a battered soul lurks beneath each one of them.

I have always expressed hope that the families they left back home would realize that every centavo they send is a product of long hours of toil and even abuse. Similarly, I hope it is realized by the government that they still need help and support (their common dream is that jobs are made available in the Philippines so that could stay home), as it seems content with simply patting their egos by calling them modern-day heroes. (rice cakes being sold in downtown Daegu)