This comic strip by Liz Climo pretty much sums up Mother’s Day.
Just what can you do in two minutes (give or take)?
Well, Matthew can turn over a nap in the morning. He can browse the Internet. He cam play a game on the iPad. He can poop. He can run around the house half-naked. He can eat a snack or drink a beverage. For him, two minutes is quite a long time. And that two minutes is simply too long for adults like parents to comprehend. Of course, it is not that two minutes is the only extra time that he consumes when he asks for extra time. That would be one big fallacy. How much extra minutes he takes up is more like five minutes. And it is a bit much when you consider that there are a gazillion things that he needs to be doing. Unfortunately, explaining something like this to someone with no concept of time is practically impossible. I’ve almost given up (my missing hair is proof of this) but sometimes you just have to try again and again. Doing this over and over almost makes me think that I am immortal. Almost.
Two minutes happen every time I ask Matthew for something. Whether it is calling to do his homework or waking him up in the morning for his bath. He would always answer “just a minute” or “two more minutes”. In fact, it has become such a norm that I have had to adjust calling him two minutes earlier just to accommodate his two minutes to be on time. He takes an extra two minutes of sleep before bathing. Another two minutes before breakfast (he takes a nap right after his bath) and another two minutes before getting dressed up for school (he takes another nap after breakfast). Those six extra minutes are enough for us to bike to school. In fact, those two minutes do not include him stretching and slowly crawling out of bed (all that takes another two minutes each). If he loved math as much as he disliked it, he would be having a grand time adding up the extra minutes that he has been using all this time. And then he probably would stop wondering where all his time went, time that he could have used for playing with toys, for playing with the Xbox or for playing on the iPad.
So how much is two minutes exactly? On its own, it doesn’t sound like much. Bit compounded, two minutes add up to a lot of time. Time wasted or time used up productively is very subjective. But Matthew’s morning ritual definitely does not count as productivity in my book. I can’t wait for him to realize that on his own, because explaining it to him has proved futile time and time again.
We have always tried to attend the iLight Marina Bay event whenever it comes around. Although there was probably a year or two that we skipped it for one reason or another, it has always been a fun experience. The event has always been about sustainable energy for the future and the art/light installations should reflect that idea. And while some of those installations show their intentions in an obvious way (those bicycle powered light installations come to mind), some are not so obvious. And while I sometimes doubt the sustainability of some of those light installations, they always (well, almost always) manage to give a proper show.
And while we were not able to go through every bit of art this year, we did manage to walk around the general Marina Bay area. Some of the notable ones that caught our attention were the following:
You Lookin’ At Me?
With giant glowing eyeballs popping out from the ground, who would not be looking? I mean, the giant eyeballs seem to snap to attention when you pass near enough and attempt to scare the heck out of you with those moving life-like pupils. At one point, the green eyeball that I was taking a picture of slowly turned to an eerie shade of red like that Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings.
(Ultra) Light Network
It is worth noting that this installation (as it says in the brochure) produces a dynamic display of light patterns when there is an activity of people nearby. If lighting up different bars of light was dynamic, then the faulty fluorescent light at the office is truly artistic. There was a similar installation in the last iLight where you trigger a flash of lightning by pressing a button on one end of the tube. That made more sense than this to be honest.
Apparently this installation was inspired by microscopic diatoms and radiolarians found in the rivers and seas around Singapore. Diatoms are algae and radiolarians are protozoa for those of us not in this field. The figures themselves are made of plastic bottles which means they were re-cycled and is actually good publicity for re-cycling and up-cycling.
This is another installation made of re-cycled materials like wood and bamboo and made to resemble the heartlands of Singapore via a series of interlocking pavilions. Or so the brochure says. On the outside, it looks like a mix and match of materials that were strewn together by the artist. The work is supposed to act as a mediator between the urban and the natural found between the gaps.
The garden of luminescent flowers catches your eye the moment you see them. It is a sea of LED powered flowers that has been thoughtfully scattered around The Promontory. Each flower is powered by its own solar panel that stores the power to light up the flower through the night. This was one of the better installations in this year’s iLight.
This piece incites curiosity through light, reflection and form. It looks like an alien poop. Alien poop with lights coming out from its crevices. And from the concaves of those lights are mirror-like surfaces that reflected in nearly every direction. If you look at it, you’ll know what it feels like to be in a kaleidoscope, hence the name I assume. It isn’t the most beautiful thing that night, but it was an interesting piece nonetheless. As I said, alien poop.
I Light You So Much
They say that it aims to share a life experience of an object using light. It does this by using kinetic energy from the wind and the positive energy from bamboo, the wind blows and moves the object in the direction of the wind. The light helps to visualize this hidden energy.
Most of everyone should know the Northern Light (Aurora Borealis). It is one of the mysterious phenomenon that occurs in the northern hemisphere where beautiful light formations show up in the sky in waves of ever changing colors. Using a carefully programmed light story through 100 vertically positioned light lines equipped with LEDs, the dynamic movement of the light emulates the northern lights. With the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel in the backdrop of the Marina Bay skyline, the northern lights installation is one of our favourites.
The installation is formed by colourful cords connecting trees in the Marina Bay area in a simple looking manner by interlocking them with colors. A simple illumination at night merges the natural and constructed elements moving in the wind. Think of it as rainbows close to the ground zooming across a small patch of concrete in the city.
We thought they were jellyfish to be honest. Humongous jellyfish. Instead, they were urchins made of lace (artistically woven if I do say so myself) and displayed in such a way that it creates light patterns against the dark sky. If you stand inside, it feels like you have just been swallowed by a jellyfish and your friends can see you through them inside the light. It’s cool.
The last light installation in our route turns out to be from the ArtScience Museum. Year after year, the façade of the ArtScience Museum turns into a canvas for light art to be projected on. It becomes a walk-by movie theatre showcasing the latest interpretations of art that modern multi-media artists love to show off on. Secret Galaxies presents a confluence of visual imageries based on humanistic relationships with the night sky. Yeah, if you don’t read through the description, you wouldn’t have to bang your head thinking about the meaning behind it all. Just appreciate the artwork for what it is and enjoy the night.
We made our way across the Helix Bridge to find our way home from the Esplanade (and hopefully find something to eat). It’s here that we passed by Art-Zoo. It was an experimental inflatable playground meant for kids. But in Singapore, that means it’s fair game for everyone. The inflatable playground emerges as an interactive zoological garden with giant spiders, whales and carnivorous plants (ok, no, there were no carnivorous plants). Being inflatable means that it was going to be hot. Being lit up by giant floodlights means that it was going to be even hotter. But kids don’t care about those things so Matthew ended up dragging mum along for the ride.
That was the end of our iLight adventure for 2017. We still look forward to the event year after year, but we are hoping that something new and exciting really comes along to surprise us soon. And let’s not forget that Philips is exchanging LED lamps for your incandescent bulbs to help increase awareness and promote long term sustainability.
For Matthew, having both pairs of grandparents is a blessing. It means that he gets to share different adventures with both of them. After all, not all grandparents are alike. And naturally, Matthew seems to already have gotten the hang of being around his grandparents. He loves them to bits and he can change his character depending on who is around. He is a sly little monster like that.
We asked Mamu and Papu to come with us to Kamay ni Hesus. A church and healing shrine with a fifty foot statue of the risen Christ on top of a hill. The church is located in Lucban, Quezon. It was about a four hour drive from our place in Laguna. The road trip wasn’t exactly exciting apart from the fact that I was driving and was not too familiar with where we were going. Luckily, Papu still remembers most of the roads going to and fro. We had read and heard about the climb to the top of the hill to get to the statue and we were not initially planning on going up the 200 steps. But since we were already there, we figured there was nothing to loose. Papu and Matthew stayed behind and the rest of us climbed the steps, paid our respects and offered our prayers.
Our dates with Mamu and Papu consisted mostly of eating out and eating out. Which may explain the pounds that we incurred after our holiday. For example, there was Lydia’s lechon which was still one of the best lechons in the Philippines. And then there’s the Italian fusion at Alleggra’s. And let’s not forget the Lucban longganisa that we had when we were at Quezon. The rest of the time we spent shopping. It was not the most creative past time, but it worked for me.
Then there were the times that it was just me and the wife. Oh yes. Those dates were even better. Tuding’s pork chops, Lotsa Pizza, Sio-meow (you know, the Pao that is rumored to be made of cat meat), fishball, goto and the list goes on. That does not even include the knick knack snacks that we got from the grocery. One of the best things in the Philippines is really the food. It really is good. And if you ever had a craving from when you were a child that you missed, chances are that it still exists somewhere in the archipelago.
It was a shame that we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked. But it is always good to come home and stay with your loved ones. Your parents, especially, miss you a lot and it is always nice to spend some time with them. In this day and age where everyone is busy and we all have our own lives to live, slowing down and coming home really hits the spot.
Matthew had always been attached to our hometown. Our home. Our family. And while we strive to make a living in our foster home, it would seem that our roots remain in the Philippines. The last time we went to the Philippines, we had a road trip to Ilocos. We enjoyed our stay in Caramoan and the side trips to Vigan and Albay. It was a joy to visit places in the Philippines that you have not been to before. It makes you appreciate that there are far off places that you still needed to explore and places that you will appreciate the beauty of this country that was taken for granted all because you lived near the metropolis. (that is, until you discover that there is no WiFi where you are going to)
On this new trip, Judy decided that we should go to Bohol.
We took a domestic flight from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol. We dropped off our bags at the Henann Hotel resort and proceeded straight to our journey. Yes, it was time to become tourists in our own country again. We managed to get to the Hinagdanan Cave despite coming in late in the afternoon. Hinagdanan Cave is a small cave primarily made of limestone and is surrounded by beautiful rock formations. There is also a lagoon in that seemscto glow green because of the green limestone underneath. Our guide had been a joy to be with managing to explain the history and natural wonders of the cave. It was hot in the cave though, and dark. It was nice to see that cave (would have been better if we had gotten there earlier) in all its wonder. The trip had to be quick as it was getting dark (and the cave entrance was about to be closed for the day). We soon made our way to the Bohol Bee Farm. Since we were late, there were no more tours available as well, but the shop was still open and that was fine with mum and everybody else. It turns out, there was also a restaurant that served mostly organically grown ingredients a few steps below the souvenirs store. Another taste of local cuisine was enough to send our spirits on the way to sleepy town. The food was healthy and good and would be a recommended place to chill in. I would not need to recommend it though as the place was already filled with tourists, both local and foreign.
The Henann was absolutely great. The room was quite big and the beds were comfortable. The only thing missing was the bath tub (Matthew’s current de rigueur among hotels) although the bathroom itself was big as well. We definitely would spend another night there if we had more time. We woke up to a hearty buffet which was a healthy mix of local and western food. I don’t know about the rest, but they had me at bacon. The beach and the pools provided enough entertainment for the morning before we were back on the road. It was a good thing that breakfast was awesome, because it was going to be a long day.
We headed to Carmen to have ATV rides around the famous Chocolate Hills. It would be Matthew’s first time handling an ATV on his own and we all had a blast. The trail was muddy and it rained along the way, not to mention he crashed into a ditch four times during the hour long ride. It was the most fun we’ve had in a long time. After the ATV ride, we went to see the Tarsiers at the Conservation Area. It was fairly disturbing to be honest at how rowdy some tourists can be at this place. Even when there are signs all around telling people to be quiet. We did have a peek at some of these Tarsiers but something felt odd. It was as if the touring area had specifically placed Tarsiers in designated spots. I later found out that the Tarsier Conservation Area is NOT an official sanctuary and NOT run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation. I found out too late though, otherwise, we would have gone to the Tarsier Research and Development Center in Corella instead. That’s all said and done and dinner needed to arrive. Our last stop for the night was to watch the Fireflies at Abatan river. We never managed to get any good photos as it was dark, but it was one of the most beautiful sights that you would ever see. Imagine a whole tree decked out in blinking Christmas lights, until you realize that those lights are not lights at all, but fireflies. Mind you, it was not an easy trek getting to the fireflies. But when you are out there, you just stare at them in awe.
That was it for Bohol. We settled down to a small hotel near Tagbilaran Airport in preparation for our flight back home. It as nowhere near as luxurious as The Henann, but it served its purpose as our hive for the night. The next day, we had breakfast and were on our way back to Manila. No rest for the weary travellers as we only had a little more than a week to spend in the Philippines.
Singapore is a melting pot of culture and heritage and we start off the new year with 2017’s River Hongbao (RHB) as a celebration of the Lunar New Year. According to Chinese horoscope, this year is the year of the Rooster under the fire sign. In the spirit of the River Hongbao which has been around since 1987, this year’s event is lined up with lights, sounds, smell and taste. Larger than life lanterns light up the night. Fireworks make noise in the quiet skies. Delicious food abound usher in the new year. And nightly performances ensure that every one is entertained.
We didn’t have enough time to watch the show, not that the earlier rain helped to dampen our spirit. But we did enjoy the food. Actually, to be honest, that is really what we always come down for the RHB. We brought a couple of relatives down to get a feel of the RHB and while the rain played its part in lessening the fun, it did not keep us from coming around. The Nitro-Pop became the highlight of our visit, for sure. The lanterns seem to be getting smaller and less extravagant, but it still serves its purpose of giving the people a shimmer of light that their horoscopes tell. We aren’t really people who believe these outright, but it is fun reading up and thinking how true (or false) the predictions are.
We shouldn’t forget the carnival that came to visit as well. Surprisingly, Uncle Ringo wasn’t the default choice this year but it isn’t bad at all. While we didn’t go through everything that the night had to offer, it was enough for us to enjoy the display and watch the fireworks from afar. Hopefully, the RHB had blessed us with a good year ahead together with the people in our community.
Gong Xi Fa Cai! Huat Ah!
Late last year, we decided on becoming foster parents. After eleven years with Matthew, we thought that maybe it was time. We started to foster a dog from the shelter in December of 2016.
At the shelter, the dogs were (most of them anyway) trying to get the attention of practically anybody that is a potential adopter. In our case, we were already contacted by SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs) before we went to the shelter. So our re-homer already knew what type of puppy we were looking for and proceeded to show us a litter of pups. The siblings were quite big for puppies, but it didn’t take long for two of them to catch our eye. One was a feisty little girl but was really keen on being with people. The other one was a bit shy and timid but looked to be okay around people as well. Of the three of us, Matthew was the one with the least experience with dogs so my wife and I decided on the puppy based on what we thought would be good in our first meeting with the puppies. We took home a timid little girl named Kuching. Yes, we know. It was odd to name a dog a cat, but we didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
In the first few days, we had to get comfortable with having a canine in the house. She had to get comfortable living with us instead of her siblings and she had to start learning a few things. We were either lucky or I was a very good trainer because we managed to teach her to poo and pee outside in the grass. She had only had one accident peeing in the house and that was only because we were out for too long and we didn’t get her cue that she needed to go out urgently. We also managed to stop her from chewing on everything in sight in the house. It hasn’t been smooth nor perfect in that regard. She still chews on new things that she sees from time to time. And these are only items that we leave (accidentally, or not) on the living room table. So far she stays away from shoes and slippers which is good. We also managed to stop her from sleeping in the couch (that was a pain and it took as a while to do). The only real problem we have right now is that she tries to nibble on our living room carpet and turn it into spaghetti.
Coming to terms that we now have a puppy, our lifestyle did change quite a bit. The biggest change was that we could no longer stay out late or be out of the house for too long because there was a puppy waiting for us to let her out. And she needs to be let out to relieve herself. She has also been added to our budget as we no longer share our leftovers with her like we did with our dogs in the Philippines. She now has her own budget for food. Matthew also had us buy toys for her (and she now has a lot). And a bed too. At the moment, we seem to have covered the basic necessities in keeping the whole family satisfied. The puppy is happy, Matthew is happy and we don’t really have any major problems with the puppy. She has been an ideal companion for us and Matthew had repeatedly spoken out how good it was for us to have a dog in the house.
Which now begs the question. How long should we be fostering this girl before we decide on fully adopting her. It goes without saying, adopting a dog here in Singapore is no short feat. The cost alone is not something that you can consider in a whim (unless you have money sprouting from a tree). And taking care of one requires patience and dedication to make it work. We are in a happy relationship right now, and we are leaning more and more towards fully adopting her. We’ll probably decide on it soon. But right now, I’m satisfied with how both Matthew and Kuching have grown to be great friends.
In 2005, Matthew was born. That would be 12 years ago (if we don’t count the months and days, but bear with me). When he learned that 2017 would be the year of the rooster, his face lit up and he said, “Mum, I think its going to be a good year because its my year”. We couldn’t help but smile and agree with him that it will be a good year. All the better since this is the year that he would take on Singapore’s notoriously infamous PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam).
PSLE has been getting attention all to itself year after year, but this will be the only time that we will actually be going through it. All the best to everyone taking it this year then.
PSLE aside, I do feel that it is going to be a good year. It will be what we make it for sure, so having a positive outlook from the get go would probably be a good idea. And we believe that we should nurture Matthew all the way through with positive vibes starting with day one of 2017. As we look forward to the best of the days to come, we wish everyone the same.
December has almost always been associated with Christmas. In fact, for the most part, the whole of December is Christmas. Or at least it feels like it. We had quite a good adventure this December. We may not have left the country for a big holiday escapade, but we did try and make the most of what was here in Singapore.
There was the customary stroll to get re-acquainted with Orchard Road and its Christmas lit streets. You know it has not been the best year when there are hardly any lights on Orchard Road, and this year seems to be that year. It had only been as bright as any normal night. The only real Christmas display was at the Centrepoint mall with it’s sweet Gingerbread theme. The bakery and the sweets shop at Centrepoint was very nicely done. It was a picture perfect little corner that occupied quite a bit of sidewalk. And, of course, Matthew being Matthew, he didn’t want any photos taken (at first). Which meant that quite a few grumpy moments were there.
We went to Changi airport to experience a Pokemon Christmas at one point. And since the Pokemon GO fever has not completely died down just yet, the Pokemon theme was still a welcome attraction in Changi airport. We didn’t get to meet any of the Pokemon mascots, nor did we chance upon the fleet of Pikachus. We did get some pretty postcard pictures with the Pokemon that were around the airport public areas though. Yes, Matthew was still being all moody like someone being chased around by a paparazzi, but maybe I did get a shot or two that made the trip worth it.
Gardens by the Bay brought about its own Christmas Wonderland to town as well. Meeting up with Matthew’s cousins, we took in the lights and sounds of the Gardens. There was a carnival that featured kiddie rides and some games. The games were pretty generous, considering you do win. The so-called Luminarie was all over the Super Trees and so was the Festive Market. It was at the Luminarie gazebo that people flocked at the scheduled “snow” times. Yes, they made it snow in Singapore. Okay, no, they didn’t. It was just suds. But heck, if you lived in the moment, you can pretty much imagine sweating as snow fell. Our night was practically filled with food from the Festive Market, which wasn’t such a bad thing. It did leave a hole in my wallet, but the grub was definitely worth it.
Out of curiosity, we decided on having a Cheese Board Christmas dinner. Since I can’t drink alcoholic beverages anymore, we got non-alcoholic sparkling whites to go with our cheeses. We had water crackers and some ham to liven up the table as well. Matthew and mummy exerted some effort in fixing up the dining table with a white Christmas theme which worked rather well with our dinner.
When the clock struck twelve, the three of took our places at the table. We poured our sparkling white wine and set the cheeses with the ham and crackers. We sat down and prayed. We sent out thank yous and our wishes and wished Jesus Christ a happy birthday. We had a good time exploring the possibilities of cheese and wine and how the combination made us all fart. And we had a good time. A simple, quiet dinner surrounded by family sharing our love with one another. We couldn’t have asked for more.
We have been celebrating our Christmases in Singapore since eight years ago. Most of the time, it was Matthew, mummy and me. That is unless we have visitors or we went back to the Philippines to spend Christmas there. It would be fair to say that we are already used to spending small family Christmas dinners. It didn’t look like this year was going to be any different, yet somehow it felt different. And we had a good family Christmas, just like always.