Friday, October 15, 2010

Scenes from the Lisbon Oceanarium (A Blog Action Day 2010 post)

I took this video when I was in Portugal last year. It's a blood-curling thought that years from now, an oceanarium may be the closest thing we could ever get for an ocean.

Caramoan in photos (A Blog Action Day 2010 post)

Going to Caramoan, in the province of Camarines Sur in the Philippines, is like going through time to an age when the simple joys of life mattered, when a clear ray of sunlight and the blue waters of the sea were enough to make one smile and feel content. It's like going to a place that city dwellers now only know from books: abandoned islands of white sand and coconut trees, fresh fish for lunch and dinner, miles and miles of clean water that sustained life in the municipalities that surround it.
With its ragged beauty and simplicity, Caramoan has been a favorite destination for Filipinos in search of some R&R. It caught international attention, however, when several seasons of the reality show Survivor from various franchisees the world over came to shoot here. Caramoan, after all, is one of the few remaining frontiers of this once lush archipelago.
There has been a very noticeable increase in local tourism in such a way that there have been talks about building an airport and improving the condition of the roads, something that the impoverished communities in this part of the Philippines could benefit from.
And the challenge now is this: the island withstand the influx of tourists and preserve the very attractions that brought them in in the first place? An answer in the affirmative will be very much welcome.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

HOSTEL REVIEW: Hostal Mayrit and Hostal Ivor, Madrid, Spain

DATE OF VISIT: September 11 to 13, 2010 and September 15, 2010

PLUSES: Hostel Mayrit and Hostel Ivor belong to the same owner and are located in the same building. Ivor is on the 2nd floor and Mayrit, on the 3rd. The location of these hostels cannot be more impeccable. It's at the middle of the Calle Arenal, which means that you're near both Puerta del Sol (Spain's Kilometer Zero) and the Palacio Real, Catedral de la Almudena and the Plaza Mayor. The street itself is lined with shops, bars and restaurants, so grabbing a quick bite is not a chore. The nearest Metro stop (Opera) is a stone's throw away. The rooms are simple but are quite well-kept. There's airconditioning in every room should you wish to visit Madrid during the summer. There's a small TV, too, with the standard Spanish channels. The bathrooms are surprisingly very well-furnished for a budget hostel; there's free shampoo and soap, a hair dryer, and perfumed towels. The personnel has an outstanding rapport with the clients.

MINUSES: There's only a small elevator that connects the ground floor to the hostels above. If you're travelling with big luggages, the technique will be to send all the luggages upstairs in the lift while you make your way through the stairs.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Viva España (The Filipino Version)

As a teacher of Spanish, I always find myself scouring the Internet in search of materials to bring to class. I'm happy to have found today the pasodoble Viva España, originally sung by Manolo Escobar, in a version done by a Filipino strings group called Trio Latino.

If you could allow me this bit of linguistic digression: listen to the song and try finding out how many times the "sh" sound was used (as in, shempre). To my mind, it's the best indication of how Spanish would've sounded like had it remained a lingua franca in the archipelago.

The Philippines might have lost the Spanish language but it is comforting to see that there still remain a lot of the Spanish influences in our language, our outlook and our culture.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ondoy, a year hence

One year has gone by after typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) devastated Manila and caused flooding in many major cities of the Philippines, a day that saw how millions of Filipinos lost lives and properties. W.A.M. joins the Philippines on this day of remembrance.

(Picture courtesy of the Philippines Daily Inquirer)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Of Qur'ans and religious tolerance

I'm writing this during my lovely breakfast in a very nice hotel in front of Lake Leman in Geneva, Switzerland. As I do this, many Muslims have ended the holy month of Ramadan and have started to protest the plan of American pastor Terry Jones to burn the Qur'an.

As many pundits have already wrote in the blogosphere, it's disconcerting that such an insignificant act of a small but radical Christian church in the USA has caused quite a bit of a stir. And more disconcerting still is that we're creating these problems (a war of civilizations, if you will) all in the name of religion, of a God that supposedly heals and protects and renews.

Christians, Muslims and Jews have for a long time prided themselves for their great monotheistic traditions. It seems to me, though, that whatever name we call it (Him?), our God has been reduced to a primordial and banal concept. War, that is.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Earth's most polluted cities

This is the list of the dirtiest cities on the planet. First place goes to Linfen, located within China's coal belt. So polluted is the city that, according to reports, laundry hung to dry ends up black even before it finishes drying. A day spent in Linfen is equivalent to smoking three packs of cigs!

But if you think that pollution is a problem in poor and developing nations, think again. Guess which city got the second place. Los Angeles, USA, the city with the most polluted ozone! And it's interesting that in this list are included affluent places such as London in the UK and Phoenix, USA.

It's now time for these nations to take action.
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