Search This Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Home Again

Am in the Philippines. Since Friday. Enjoying so far.

Not much time, nor chance for blogging. I am where life is simple and unadulterated. Home.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


To signal the onset of summertime, the Japanese hold a string of fireworks festivals (which they call hanabi). These are usually held by the riverbanks where there are vast vacant spaces for the spectators to have picnics as they watch.

I missed most of the schedules last year so I planned to witness them this year. Unfortunately, most of them will be on the last week of July to the first week of August, the biggest of which will be that which will be held by the Sumida river.

But I got an invitation from a Japanese friend to attend an early hanabi last night. Her family had VIP section reservations, right in front of the launching area.

But spoiler rain fell hard. We had to watch the bursts of light through cellophane umbrellas. And since there wasn't much wind, the thick smoke at times overpowered the sparks, obstructing visibility.

I tried taking pictures but it was impossible to capture decent ones. I surrendered, fearing that the camera will get wet.

But it still was a nice experience. I didn't know that the Japanese take these fireworks displays seriously. I saw hundreds of teen-agers in full Japanese yukatta (robes). And despite the rain, people stayed in their mats until the very end. There were thousands of them there, so you can just imagine how the trains looked liked when it was time to go home.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ain't We Welcome Here?

Every time I return from overseas travel, I can't help but feel sad whenever I see these signs around Narita Airport.

These posters say "Welcome to Tokyo", translated in various languages. You can easily notice Bahasa Indonesian, Mandarin, Malaysian,Thai, Vietnamese alongside Arabic, Latin and European Languages. But sadly, Filipino is nowhere in the four variations I've seen.

This despite the fact that Filipinos now comprise the fourth largest foreign community in Japan. Estimates say that there are more than 300,000 Filipinos here and that is exclusive of children born of Japanese-Filipino parents.

Maybe we still have to really impress the Japanese to be afforded basic courtesies. Or maybe I am just being too sensitive.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Seoul Patrol

I just got back from another short visit to Seoul. After two postponements, the joint celebrations for Philippine Independence Day, Migrant Workers Day and Philippine-Korea Friendship Day finally pushed through. And as is normal for events like these, Pinoys came in droves. And since we were there for business, we hardly had a glimpse of the festivities as we were busy manning the company booth. It was pure hard work I tell you. I lost all poise as I sweated profusely with my barong on. The heat was unbearable despite the venue being a park beside a river.

And since there really wasn't much to blog about, let me just share some random shots that I took while walking around Seoul.

- I saw this makeshift sleeping box at the underpass near Seoul. From the looks of it, seems like the occupant is in deep slumber.

"Peeing Bridge"
- This is Banpo Bridge which shoots out water every once in a while, to the relief of the sun-scorched promenaders below it.

- This sign was posted at the airport duty free shop. We already rocked our brains out but still failed to decipher what it meant. Help, anyone?

- Whoever owns this motorcycle really puts it to maximum use. Those plants are for sale.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Most Expensive

They've just confirmed what we've already known and lived with the past year - that Tokyo now offers the most expensive living condition in the world. Moscow, the erstwhile top-ranked, now shares bridesmaid status with yet another Japanese city, Osaka.

When I arrived here, the US Dollar commanded a 1-110 exchange rate against the Yen (and for the residents, there was a time when it was 120 or more). Since middle of last year, the Yen has appreciated to at most 85. That's losing about 25,000 Yen every time one converts a thousand dollars. Add to the lesser value for the USD the fact that the cost of living skyrocketed by 13.1 % since 2008 and you get a painful double whammy!

Why does it matter to me? Because my allowance is pegged at the once mighty USD. So there goes my chances of saving something from what I'm getting here. Sigh.

People always advice me not to c0nvert values when I buy things here, but I can't help it. The pricing can be so crazy. Imagine a regular bottle of beer (e.g. the size of a San Mig Light) costing more than 500 pesos. That's the equivalent of one case in the Philippines! Bread that looks like our pan de sal sells at about 110 yen - more than 50 pesos each or the entire breakfast at home!

Yes, the salaries here are big compared to those of the other workers in the region. But whatever advantage that poses, such has dwindled tenfolds as the salaries have never really increased in recent years. Officially, Japan has been in recession since last year and there is yet no clear sign of things getting better.

Sigh. Another sigh...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kamogawa Seaworld: A Pleasant Surprise

I went with a group of Filipinos in a yet another "picking" tour last Sunday - blueberries this time. But I've got no pics of the orchard because my friends and I opted not get inside the farm. First, it was raining not just cats and dogs but an entire zoo! (Corny, He he). But the real reason was, we could have the fruits for free anyway, so we just waited outside and robbed those who bought pasalubongs (going-home presents). PGs! :-)

Anyway, the same breakaway group of four also decided to visit the Kamogawa Sea World instead of the cruise where the rest of the busload went. And honestly, I'm quite sure we got the better end of the deal, as Kamogawa Sea World turned out to be fascinating despite the heavy downpour.

As an islander, I could say I am already used to sea creatures. But when I saw the huge and rare animals in the park, I realized just how much I haven't really seen.

Kamogawa SW in Chiba Prefecture is actually not as large as the Sea World in Hongkong that I've been to - but it's compact and complete. Perched right on a scenic beach, it hosts adjacent amphitheaters where dolphin, killer whale, sea lion and beluga shows were being held right after the other.

It also features large aquariums featuring sea life from various climates, from the tropical islands to the polar glaciers (unfortunately we did not see the latter as we were busy escaping the rain). It was there where I saw and stood face to face with the biggest sea creatures I've ever seen in my entire life! They could be the stuff of nightmares if seen in open seas. But since the aquariums allow you to really get close to them, they really seemed like cute cuddly figures.

And yup, there were small fishes too! Honestly, I didn't know that Nemo was THAT small!