Word Travels

I read somewhere that watching a movie is almost like traveling, since it takes you into another “world.” I couldn’t quite agree because such a comparison would depend on the movie’s production value, casting, and screenplay. I’d agree more that the cheaper, less time-consuming, no need to approve leaves form of traveling would be reading a good book. Like a movie, it depends on the characterization, the plot, and the vivid and powerful descriptions. But there are more than enough books that have pulled thousands into another world. My word traveling journey began with Harry Potter–being a Muggle (read: non-magical folk, in case you haven’t seen the movies) has its perks (read: owl vs cellphone/email, cars/airplanes vs brooms) but it was like immersing myself into another culture as I read of Harry’s spells and the different creatures roaming Hogwart’s greener grounds.

Then there was the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Unlike Harry Potter, the starving, murderous dystopia was not where I’d go to unwind and forget the reality that is a 9-5. It felt like I was reading an investigative piece on another profit-hungry war, coupled with the sufferings of extreme poverty. But it still held that sense of an unfamiliarity partnered with a fascination of a place I’d never been to.

These days, it’s Westeros I pine for from 9 to 5, care of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (more popularly known as HBO’s Game of Thrones). Like the Hunger Games’ districts, it’s not a place I’d book the first horse out. High chance I’d get raped and robbed (two things I avoid on a daily basis as a commuter), then killed–and as a woman, my only ambition would be to marry a high lord (rolls eyes). Nonetheless, reading through each chapter and anticipating the next book always require one thing that a traveler needs: A MAP!

You can click on the image for a closer look into the different kingdoms of Westeros.

As one house wars with the other, and as characters move from north to south, east to west, it certainly feels like I’m traveling with them, navigating the difficult terrain and hoping to reach the next destination. The itineraries I join each character in aren’t ones I’d plan for myself, but the characters I root for and the surprising events that happen are more than enough to make me stay.

And with Typhoon Mina limiting any spontaneous lunches, dinners, or late nights, Westeros is clearly the destination of choice for this long weekend. Now I’m off, as I am to join Dany at the Free Cities. 😉

Courage, the cowardly foe

Fear cuts deeper than swords. -Syrio Forel, the first sword of Braavos, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones

I’ve been having a lot more time for myself compared to the months past. You could say it started from having not-enough-cash-to-go-out-more, or maybe it was from that dinner when a good friend of mine asked, “What do you want to do next? What’s your plan?” Or maybe it was since that good friend’s girlfriend, Johna, reminded me that we shouldn’t lose sight of what we dream of, because as time passes, we will lose interest and the heart to do those things.

I haven’t exactly been firm with myself in pursuing my dreams. At times, I’m not quite sure what they are, because financial limitations, the lack of connections, and the time I juggle leads to think “maybe in a year,” or “when the time is right,” or “after so-and-so happens.” But then a year passes, and the time is never right, and so-so doesn’t seem likely to happen. Because I’m just waiting. Waiting, staying in the same zone, sticking to what I know and not moving on. The courage to move on I’m scared to start…because courage is not found, it’s something you work on. The risks I need to take, I’m too scared of going ahead and suffering some of the consequences. But I know the negatives–those awful, heartbreaking, and disheartening things–aren’t talked about, unlike the rewarding fulfillment or willingness to go through those for the sake of accomplishing something. There’s no denying I’ve gone somewhere, and I am doing something I dreamed of, but as life goes on, I know there is something more. There are walls that confine my current state, limitations that could leave me stagnant and not keeping up with everyone else.

Not that what people think matter. The regard of others can only last for so long–what matters really is the influence of my responsibilities and how at the end of the day, it’s worth sacrificing for and getting up early in the morning to accomplish. What I do now is worth the latter, but not so much the former. I am not a martyr–I know what is deserving, and sometimes I am not given so.

So in order to find that next great step, I need to make it. I gave that good friend an answer, and last night, I wrote it down. Writing things down is like how some people think saying something out loud makes the act more real. So I will swallow my fears, or at least, set them aside, for this decision. I will do what is required to make it happen. Slowly, but surely. Enough avoiding. Time for more living.

An almost robbery

Last Wednesday, I woke up later than expected. I had only 30 minutes left to bathe, dress, and grab a bite. Not wanting to hurry, I decided to just take a taxi to work. This was out of pure laziness and not wanting the inconvenience of running to work. There are just some days where the baneful commute to Rockwell (an ultimately, uncommutable area) isn’t worth the everyday trouble. But breaking from my usual routine proved to be dangerous just for that day.

(next few paragraphs come from my tumblr, wondernot.tumblr.com)
I’m sure some of you have read about this taxi’s modus operandi. To sum the link up, basically the taxi driver asks for an extra charge, then sprays something onto the aircon. A funky smell comes up, leaving you dizzy and sick.  I grabbed a cab (TYU 233) from the driveway of our condo building. Usually it takes some time since most cabs are occupied or a guard calls it for me. This one, however, stopped. I mentioned that I would be going to Rockwell, Palma St., and he agreed. But he did ask for Php20 extra. I agreed since I was in a hurry. He also said to take the Pasig line route (going through Kalayaan), which I had done before, so I agreed also as this is much faster than going through Kamagong then Makati ave.

Things started getting suspicious when we passed through Zobel Roxas. He suddenly asked if he could stop by and check “kung tapos na yung pintura.” It sounded vague, but it was clear in his voice I had no choice in the matter. He turned left to a smaller street, then stopped in front of a lady selling street food. He inquired about the guy he was supposed to pick that paint job from, but the lady said he wasn’t available. Upon knowing this, he left his seat then opened the trunk. I didn’t see if he had actually left something to the lady. He went back in then drove on. 

He drove further, turning back to a main road. My suspicions grew further when he brought out a bottle and sprayed a liquid onto the aircon. Then he called someone with his cellphone, going on and on about the paint job. I could hear the person on the other end; it seemed as if he/she wasn’t in sync with what the driver was saying. My kutob ringed an alarm, so I texted my boyfriend the taxi’s plate number.  I recalled the blog I had read a week ago, and started breathing through my mouth. This was difficult at first, but I managed it until he hit Kalayaan avenue. I gave my nose a break and whiffed some of the sprayed smell—it was awful, and coincidentally, smelled like paint, but with a rotten tinge. Considering how strong and awful it was, I wanted to get to work alive (and with my possessions bought/earned from hard work), so I looked for a jeep that was headed to JP Rizal. A few started driving ahead, as the driver continued talking on the phone and strangely, slowing down his speed since Zobel Roxas. Most cab drivers are in a hurry to avoid traffic! As soon as a jeep drove beside us, I told him dito na lang ako bababa, and he agreed, still talking on the phone. I handed him 90 (the fare was 85 on the screen) and he didn’t bother asking for the extra 20. As soon as I got out, I boarded a jeep and the scent of polluted air never felt fresher. 

After work, I reported the incident to the police at a station near our condo. As the policeman was taking notes of my report, another commented that “uso pala ung ganun noh? (it’s a trend nowadays?)” The modus operandi was familiar, but apparently it was a new scheme that was returning. They said that it was good I was aware, otherwise, I would have woken up with all my things gone. Who would have thought breaking out of my habit could have led to a dangerous end? 

That incident certainly traumatized me. I won’t be taking cabs for a while, not unless I’m with a guy or a large group. Buses and sleeping over someone’s house are much safer options should late nights occur. It saddens me though, that until now, women still cannot go out alone without worrying about being taken advantage of. I realize that being on guard would prevent so, and a man probably would suffer the same fate if it came to kidnapping….but we will always worry about more (rape, getting beat, etc.). It was morning by the way, when the incident ALMOST happened, so time isn’t a factor. How frustrating is it to always be at the dangerous end of a man not thinking with the right head. Same goes with poverty…had I lived with a better economy and a government that provides the basics, these people wouldn’t resort to such terrible acts. Then again, one can contest that it takes more than desperate poverty for such an elaborate act.

In any case, one cannot change another’s motives or economic status. We can only protect ourselves and ensure that life goes on as smoothly as it can.  

Hello Hanoi (and hello again to my blog)

About a month ago, I was lucky enough to join my sister and mother on a vacation to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. After months of collecting vacation days, I was able to make the most out of the six days spent in a country so near, and yet so far (culturally and well, atmospherically), from our own.
It was a chance for me to revisit the city I traveled alone earlier this year, Ho Chi Minh, and discover another with two favorite ladies of the family. Ho Chi Minh was just as erratic yet comforting as my last trip, yet Hanoi provided another perspective. One thing’s for sure, I’d rather spend three days and two nights there compared to Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam’s capital is much more laid back, cleaner, and well, prettier. People seem more polite, and it’s less Manila/QC…more Alabang/southern provinces, atmosphere wise. Being a southern city girl, the laid back atmosphere will always win.

That, and the amazing food we got to try! The croissants in our hotel were top notch, and we could see so many bakeries as we walked the streets. French influence is much more pronounced in Hanoi compared to Saigon, so we were able to see some beautiful looking buildings along the way.

History museum
Hanoi is also the best place to start from if you’re planning to visit the mountains and waterways north of Vietnam. We were able to book a day trip to the Ha Long Bay, one of the world’s wonders. We got to ride a gypsy junk, enjoy fresh seafood for lunch, and kayak into large limestone coves. The experience was stellar, with the limestone formations reminding me that order and balance is still present in this world. How the design came together, the position of the limestones…I could only stand back in awe and thank God for making this world so beautiful.
Floating city along Ha Long Bay
Frog with citronella! Not sure if this makes you lamok-proof
I’m still happily hungover from this trip, and ever grateful I got to see more of this wonderfuld world. It’s quite a shame, though, that I only got to sit down NOW and write about my vacation. Work has otherwise been keeping me preoccupied, along with social engagements after, and George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones in between. I apologize to myself for not writing here more often. So much materials has happened yet the calling I have chosen is only seen in comissioned/paid for articles (two of which, will be out soon this week…yes, shameless plugging!). It’s good to get back to this blogging groove again. Let’s hope the days of being a MIA blogger are over.