Tuesday, 28 January 2014

10-min 2014 Chinese New Year Forecast of Marites Allen

with Maritess, Bianca and hostess with the mostest Tessa 
Love is in the air for 2014! And if you are not yet engaged, this year brings good marriage luck! This is the year to get married, start a new family and have another baby. That's the advise of Feung Shui master Marites Allen at Tessa's last Sunday.

I'm so happy that each year hostess with the mostest Tessa opens her home and celebrates Chinese New Year. Mind you, this is no ordinary party. Hers is complete with a lion dance, Chinese acrobats, her signature fun contests, Chinese dinner spread,  bazaar and a geomancer  - this is, Marites to boot to give us our lucky forecast for the year.

Feung Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of harmonizing the elements of any given space to assure good health and good fortune. The literal translation is wind-water.

There are 12 animal signs and this 2014, the animal sign is the Horse and basic element is Wood. Hence, this year is the Year of the Wooden Horse. which will commence on January 31, 2014 and end on February 18, 2015.

Marites warns that the wooden horse is quite aggressive and can be volatile. The best strategy is "to stay low key, be protected and risk taking should be kept to a minimum." All is not lost though because based on this year's paht chee,  she said that "there are positive indications for money-making and growth in the first half of the year."

Watch the 10-minute forecast of Marites:


The luckiest animal sign for the year is Sheep - this is, those born in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. The sheep are blessed with the Golden Deity Star and thus "everything is possible this year" she announced. So, if you have Sheep friends, stay close to them so you can get their positive vibes.

The most auspicious directions for the year are: Northwest, North and West, East is for mentor luck. South is lucky for wealth. However, do not face the South direction and do not disturb, dig or renovate because the Grand Duke Jupiter moves to the South this year. If you are facing this direction at home or at work, Marites recommends to carry a Tai Sui amulet. Good luck and Fat Fat Fat (for luck)!!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Day hike to Mt. Batulao (new trail)

Our destination, the 12th peak 
Brrrrr!!! It was freezing when we arrived at 7:30 am to climb the new trail of Mt. Batulao in Nagsubu, Batangas. Karen and Kebo, who just arrived from Geneva, were garbed in their winter coats while Marge and I were wearing bonnets, scarves and fleece. We didn't expect the cold weather, especially the winds.

The plan was to hike to the 12th peak, to the summit (812 meters in elevation) using the new trail  (left photo) and be back by noon to head to Tagaytay for lunch. That's two hours up and two hours down.

Mt. Batualo is easy to get to. It is located right at the border of Tagaytay and Batangas, about two hours drive from Manila. The jump off point is in Everest Golf and Country Club.

Warning though the climb can be pretty challenging. Most of the trail was made up of loose soil and at times, sandy gravel which made it quite slippery. Towards the summit, the last 2-3 peaks, we were clambering over boulder rocks. In case you don't want your hands to get cut or injured, wear gloves. We were  trying to grab anything that we can hold on to - weeds, plants, protruding rocks, name it -  just to get a grip and help pull us up.
loose sandy trail

clamber over rocks
It was particularly windy that day. We had to stop a few times to find our balance and even duck from the wind. Honestly, if I were a few pounds lighter, I would have been blown away and be rolling down the cliff!

at the summit with Karen, Kebo and Marge
The view from the summit was breathtaking! It offered a 360 degrees view of the whole of Batangas - the rolling green mountains, the blueness off the coast (my favorite dive site) and even Tagaytay Ridge.

After soaking in the view and inhaling the fresh mountain air, we settled by the rocks to enjoy some snacks. We chatted to a family seated next to us - note that they had in tow an 8-year old girl. The family said that they were going to traverse the mountain. This is, climb down using the old path. If the 8-year old can do it, anyone else can.

The downhill was easier but more treacherous because again, it's so slippery that one can easily slide and fall off the cliff.
Kebo rappelling down

Karen negotiating the descent
We got back right on time around 12:30.  The climb was manageable except for that day's windy condition. Marge though was surprised that trail was very slippery. She said that when she climbed last December, she could still get some ground traction. Now, it's all sliding down the trail.

I guess this is due to the number of people climbing Batulao in recent months. That day, there were over a hundred registered climbers. Note that the fee for climbers is P20 for the day and P30 for overnight campers. If you traverese the mountain, that's another P20 fee to pass the other side (or the old trail).

Antonio's Reuben sandwich 
After the climb, we drove to Tagaytay and stopped at  'Breakfast at Antonio's' along the ridge for some recovery food. The place was packed when we got there and had to wait for an hour to get seated.We ordered their signature green salad with balsamic dressing, fresh corned beef as main and salted caramel cheese cake as dessert.

On the way home, we dropped by Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm to shop for
the working bees of Ilog Maria
natural. organic bee products like soap, bee proposlis,  honey lemon vinegar, liniment, leather wax, beeswax candles, mosquito repellent,  etc.  The farm is located at Km. 47 along Aguinaldo Highway in Silang, Cavite. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to 5:30 pm.

As a side note,  if you're wondering why it's uncharacteristically cold right now here in the tropics, this strange phenomena is caused by the polar vortex.  According to Dr. John Holdren, President Obama's Science and Technology Adviser, "a [polar vortex] pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues... the waviness means that there can be increased larger excursions of cold air southward in the mid latitudes".  I stumbled upon his 2-minute explanation on youtube which I want to share with you:

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Black Nazarene from the balcony on Hidalgo St.

a devotee
The feast of the Black Nazarene is the biggest and longest procession in the country celebrated every January 9 each year. I've heard so much about it so when Mia invited to witness the procession from the balcony of her husband's ancestral home in Quiapo, I immediately said 'yes'. She did warn us though that we may wait long, until midnight.

I was actually quite nervous. That morning on TV, the news reported to expect millions of devotees to join the procession. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to make out of the devotees.

I was told that a devotee performs a panata a sacred promise to do the pilgrimage in exchange for a miracle. This may come in the form of a cure from a health problem, economic aid and whatever they are praying hard for. Their panatas must have been answered since the devotees are growing and now numbering by the millions.

Come to think of it. this devotion is no different from what I have experienced. I am a devotee of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran. When I was diagnosed with spondylosis (cervical slipped disc) in 1999, my upper left side was paralyzed. It was difficult for me to move. I couldn't bend, twist and walked with difficulty. My left arm was immobilized and I could only do things with my right. I was in pain. My orthopedist advised that I undergo surgery otherwise he said the recovery will take more than a year. That's when I started going to Baclaran every Wednesday to do the novena. In fact, one night, a friend (Rina) convinced me to kneel from one end of the church to the altar to, so to speak, speed up things. Believe it or not, in three months time after doing the novena, I was free from pain relievers and could move.

our view from the balcony on Hidalgo St.
It must be the same faith that drive the devotees - of all ages - to walk barefoot all day during the procession and trample on everyone just to touch or wipe [with a towel] the image. Those that I call 'extremists', carry the wood of the carroje (carriage) or the rope attached to it.

We waited and waited for the procession. I would peek out of the balcony from time to time, to check what was happening, As the crowd swelled, it meant that the Black Nazarene was coming close.

The temperature outside was strangely getting heavy. Mind you, January is usually cold at night, There was also a mix smell of sweat and urine wafting through the air. It was becoming more chaotic outside. One time I checked, I counted  six people who fainted and were being taken away in stretchers by volunteer medics.

a woman trying to touch the image 
At around 10pm, some of the guests wanted to go home.  They attempted to leave only to double back since there was way too much people and they couldn't move past the block to get to their car.

Around midnight, we could hear people howling and shouting "viva, viva, viva.."  I rushed out to the window and was absolutely stunned when I saw the procession. There were two rows of people pulling the ropes and moving snakelike from side to side. I don't know how they can survive being pushed, pulled and squeezed. I thought that only woman I saw in the sea of men was going to get strangled by the rope.

The crowd would mimic the movement and was moving side to side as well. Meantime, there were devotees who were stepping on the devotees, trying to climb up the carroje to touch the image. I've never seen anything like it. It's more of fanaticism than a pilgrimage.

The procession passed Hidalgo St at 12:30 am and arrived at Quiapo Church, a few blocks away at 2 am. The procession took a total of 19-hours. Thank god there were no casualties but at least 1,686 were injured.

Video of the procession from the balcony on Hidalgo St.:

Thursday, 2 January 2014

It's time to plan 2014, the list of Philippine holidays is now out!

The government actually announced the list of nationwide holidays early last year. It's just now that I got to post the dates. Unfortunately this year, there is only one three-day weekend which is this January 31 to February 2 and one four-day weekend during Easter on April 17 to 20. The August 21 and 25 dates can be stretched to a five-day weekend. Other opportunities are the May 1 and June 12 dates.

Here's the regular and special holidays for 2014:

January 1 (Wed)   - New Year's Day
January 31 (Fri)  - Chinese New Year (special non-working day)

February 25 (Tue) - EDSA Revolutionary anniversary (only for schools)

April 9 (Wed) - Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor)
April 17 (Thu) - Maundy Thursday
April 18 (Fri)  - Good Friday
April 19 (Sat) - Black Saturday

May 1 (Thu) - Labor Day

June 12 (Thu) - Independence Day

August 21 (Thu) - Ninoy Aquino Day
August 25 (Mon) - National Heroes Day

November 1 (Sat) - All Saint's Day
November 30 (Sun) - Bonifacio Day

December 24 (Wed) - Additional special non-working day
December 24 (Thu) - Christmas Day
December 26 (Fri) - Additional special non-working day
December 30 (Tue) - Rizal Day
December 31 (Wed) - Last Day of the year

The national holidays for the observance of Eid'l Fitr and Ediul Adha shall be announced after the approximate dates of the Islamic holidays have been determined with the Islamic calendar (Hijira) or the lunar calendar.

Happy planning and please take heed of what American author and poet Maya Angelo advised "Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers and friends can exists one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."