Friday, June 29, 2012

Breaking Out of A Rut With Road Trip, Kanin Club and an Old Pal!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Two weeks after my fun trip around New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia, I found myself stuck in a rut. For some reasons, I have lost my desire to go anywhere. I prefer staying inside my room day in / day out doing some work on computer while still lying in bed and taking my meals on tray. It seems like it is wallowing time all over again.
Glad to finally be able to go out today and glad it was with a very good friend Raymond whom I haven't seen for twenty (20) years and just had our first contact through Facebook three (3) days ago.He was just supposed to visit me at home after his graveyard shift, but the night prior he receives an inquiry from interested renters for his house in Sta. Rosa Heights. Not wanting him to miss the good op, I suggested we could go drive there instead, hitting two birds with one stone - catching up and him scoring a one year lease contract!  
It was a perfect weather for the drive with the semi-dark- about - to - rain sky providing a cooler temperature during the two-hour long travel from my home in Valenzuela via Sta. Rosa Exit of the South Luzon Expressway. As we rant about our exciting life's stories, we were treated to a real breath of fresh air (quite literally) passing through the many open spaces around the eco-friendly residential community of Nuvali in Sta. Rosa (Laguna). I have never seen Philippine road that empty and that made me relax being too anxious sitting in the front passenger (or suicide) seat of my car! 
Like our younger years, we still love having longggg talks during commutes. I still remember how we would thank the traffic jam along Espana because it means having longer talks 'like there is no tomorrow' during that jeepney ride home from the Manila Philippines Institute of Religion in Recto, Manila to my house in Commonwealth, Quezon City. I still can't believe we will ever have that kind of conversation again after our two-decade long separation. It was 'no holds barred'!
Successfully closing the rental deal and a lil bit of costume change (can't carry the high heels eh!haha), Raymond brought me to Kanin Club in Paseo de Santa Rosa, a commercial center with lots of Outlets for signature brands for shoes and clothes like in the US. It was my first time there so another entry for my blog I thought, as we pig out like in the old days.  
We ordered Crispy Tenga (pig ears! Php 179),  Sinigang sa Miso na Salmon Belly (Php 254), Kanin's Club Vegetarian Delight - 3 kinds of mushrooms and tofu in oysters' sauce (Php 261)  and two servings of garlic rice (Php 33 ) with macapuno ice cream as dessert . The servings are generous, so much of our order went into the doggy bag for our midnight meal when we got home!   
Like the many great times I had with Raymond during our younger years, today is a good addition if not topping it all. Seeing him after two (2)  decades feels magical already, so finding that we haven't really lost touch after all these years is ecstatic and emotional. Surely, taking that road trip around Nuvali and dining at Kanin Club were good ways to break out of the rut but it is having a good pal like Raymond to do it with got me busted out of the slump leaving me feeling lifted and ready to take on fresh adventures and activities!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ojeda Family Home Evening: Scriptures

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Our Family Home Evening tonight is designed to get back our family into our goal of having a simultaneous daily reading of the Book of Mormon as a family, which has stopped when I left for New Zealand and no one was following up the reading. Tonight also we will have Shaznay Anne ("Shane") blow her belated birthday (June 15) cake so she'll start saying she is now 7!
                                                           Conducting: Joel Ojeda
Opening Hymn: Hymn 274 - 
The Iron Rod
          Chorister: Amy Ojeda
Opening Prayer:  Ian Ojeda
Scriptural Thought: Belenda Ojeda 
Lesson: Mhe-anne 
I gave each family a large sheet of paper with the following written on it:

"___1____ upon the ___2____ of Christ; for ___3____, the ___4____ of Christ will ___5____ you all ___6____ what ___7____ should ___8____." 

Then I gave each family a list of scriptural references so they fill in the blanks with the correct words: 

1. Jacob 3:2 (word 21)
2. Matthew 24:35 (word 9)
3. Psalm 46:8 (word 2)
4. Doctrine and Covenants 5:6 (word 13) 
5. Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 (word 5)
 6. 1 Nephi 7:12 (word 18)
7. Isaiah 34:16 (word 2)
8. Abraham 3:25 (word 12)
The completed puzzle is actually 2 Nephi 32:3 and read like this -

"FEAST upon the WORDS of Christ; for BEHOLD, the WORDS of Christ will
TELL you all THINGS what YE should DO.
Games: Scripture Quiz Bee By Hand Signs
Talent Presentation: Jay-A and Kyle, our incidental twins,
 dancing Super Base by Nikki Menaj. 
Refreshments: Ginataang Bilo-Bilo, Sisig and Chopsuey 
by Mami, Imee and Joel

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Travel Memories: 7 Super Shots in New Zealand

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Yeahey, I've been to New Zealand, the youngest country in the world! Another dream destination checked off my bucket list and I still can't believe how it all happened, how I was able to feed my wanderlust? Ah, you're right, I got really LUCKY! And with that luck, I came home with 5 shirts, boxes of chocolates as pasalubongtons of new friends, priceless memories, and drum roll --- thousands of photos! (I'm a shutterbug eh). 
Because I have taken too many photos (which by far the best souvenirs to take home for every traveler as the pics don't add up to our luggage allowance, even if we have hundreds of thousands of them!) , I thought of sharing my 7 Super Shots from among the photos I took while in New Zealand last May 31 - June 9, 2012 in the same fashion as that of last month's Hostelbookers' Photography Game!

(1) Photo That Takes My Breath Away  

Photo That Takes My Breath Away  

Long Bay Regional Park is a waterfront park with a kilometre-long sandy beach and a marine reserve, located in North Shore, now incorporated in Auckland Metropolitan Area, New Zealand. It was a cool, sunny day during our visit last June 7, 2012 so it takes my breath away seeing this picture taken from our car windows when we arrived!

(2) Photo That Makes Me Dream   

     Photo That Makes Me Dream       

Tupare Garden in New Plymouth, New Zealand is a beautifully landscaped garden on a hillside featuring a homestead and gardeners' cottage surrounded by majestic trees, water fountains and several plants in different settings. The place is so pretty that seeing this picture I took last June 4, 2012, while leaving the facility really makes me dream of someday being able to own such a beautiful home! (Check Related Blog EntryTravel NZ 2012: Tupare Gardens and Photo Ops)

(3) Photo That Makes Me Think                                         

Photo That Makes Me Think     

The lawyer in me always makes me want to visit courts of the place I am visiting, and being in Hamilton, New Zealand last June 1, 2012 was no exception. Good thing my host is a lawyer too so I had a chance to visit Hamilton District Courts which is only stones throw-away from their lovely house. Now every time I look at this picture it makes me think of the "role of lawyers in implementing and upholding the rule of law" ( which incidentally was the topic I spoke about as one of the panelists for this topic at the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference)!

(4) Photo That Makes Me Laugh (Smile)                            

Photo That Makes Me Laugh (Smile) 

Well, there is actually nothing funny about the picture if you just look at its artistic appeal. In fact, it is one of those pictures that takes my breath away literally and otherwise, since I took it more than hundred steps away from the bottom of the Japanese Hillside Garden. So why do I consider this picture as one that makes me laugh?It is in the name of the park and the shape of the water fountain in the middle of the lake. Ok, enough said! haha. If you don't laugh, that's alright. At least I know you aren't green minded! lol!

  (5) Photo That Makes My Mouth Water      

                  Photo That Makes My Mouth Water                    

During my 9 days stay in New Zealand, I have actually sampled uber-tasty fine cuisine prepared by Kiwi chefs (those served during the lawyer's conference) and my Pinoy favorites like Sinigang na Hipon, Adobo, Palabok, lovingly served by my Filipino relatives and friends. All has satisfied my picky taste buds (and put added "love" handles hehe), but it is this hot chocolate served with blue cheese & ham frittata with herbs/greens as sides that makes my mouth water while it brings back memories of the cold afternoon in Auckland last June 7, 2012 simmering a taste of good life by the built-in fireplace!

(6) Photo That Tells A Story    

         Photo That Tells A Story   

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's books and Peter Jackson's movies, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbits', this "hobbit hole(or smial) which is the "traditional underground home of hobbits built in hillsides, downs, and banks with colorful round doors and windows" tells a story of  Frodo Baggins, the Hobbit and his struggles to protect the ring from being used by the evil powers. Watch the feature films "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" to be shown in December 2012 and in 2013 respectively for more stories behind this photo. (Check Related Blog Entry:Travel New Zealand 2012: Hobbiton of The Lord of The Rings Movie Set )           

(7) Photo That I Am Most Proud Of (a.k.a my worthy of National Geographic shot)                             

my worthy of National Geographic shot

Pukekura Park  in New Plymouth, New Zealand is a picturesque 52 hectares botanical garden in the heart of the city. It has a diverse range of landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, bush walks, themed gardens, children’s play areas, and a sports area, plus the adjacent Brooklands Park and Brooksland Zoo. Inside this premier park is the famous Poet's Bridge from where I took this picture that I believe is worthy of a National Geographic spotlight!                  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Travel New Zealand 2012: Hobbiton of Lord of the Rings (Movie Set)

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Hobbiton is a village along The Water in the Westfarthing of the Shirea fictional description of Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit. 

The Shire was settled by Hobbits in the year 1601 and was subdivided into four Farthings or "quarterings" -Eastfarthing, Westfarthing, Southfarthing  and Northfarthing. If you're an LOTR fanatic, you know exactly what I'm talking about!

Although the Shire (Middle Earth) is said to be located at about the same position as England is on modern European maps, Hobbiton found its way in New Zealand when its son Director/Film Producer Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema did an aerial search of North Island. He spotted the Alexander Family Farm in 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata  as perfect setting for the filming of Tolkien's novels adaptation

Major construction took place in March 1999 to make the farm closely resembles Hobbiton as described in Tolkien's books. Filming took place from December of that year and three (3) months thereafter. 

But as part of the story line for the Return of the King, all the homes and trees have to be destroyed ("Frodo and his companions were stunned to see their homes, trees and hedges all torn up"). After the Scouring of the Shire, "Hobbiton was a peaceful and beautiful village once again"

Behind the Lake are the pubs, market, & stable, the Bridge and the Mill
In fact, Hobbiton has been completely rebuilt as it was in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and is all yours for the taking during a fascinating two-hour guided tour from 9:50am, 11:05 am, 12:20pm, 1:35 pm and last at 2:50pm for $NZ 66 (Php 2,223.50) for adults (15 years and older).

So when I was invited to attend the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference in Hamilton, New Zealand and a visit to Hobbiton was part of the line up of activities, I jumped for joy and almost did a cartwheel! Before I knew it, I was off to New Zealand and then welcomed at the Hobbiton movie set

Hobbiton is only 45-minutes scenic drive from Hamilton, passing through  splendid views of  Kaimai Ranges, the green hills, sheep and cows farms along the way. Our bus made a short stop at Shire Rest Cafe so a tour guide can accompany us to the movie set. 

Our guide is very knowledgeable and had plenty of funny stories about the behind the scenes of LOTR and The Hobbit filming. She walked us through the movie sets inside the approximately 500 hectare property being farmed as a traditional New Zealand sheep and beef farm with about 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle.

Inside the village, there are 17 of the 37 original "hobbit holes(or smials) that were used for the filming of both LOTR trilogy and the feature films "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" movies to be shown in December 2012 and in 2013 respectively.

Spectacularly scattered around a sheep farm setting, these "hobbit holesare the "traditional underground homes of hobbits built in hillsides, downs, and banks with colorful round doors and windows".

I actually went inside the first few smials mostly used for the LOTR (since those of The Hobbit movies are only for viewing until the movie is shown). With my height, I felt like a real hobbit (who are usually between two or four feet tall), I'm just slightly taller haha. Like every hobbit-holes, there was nothing inside ...but comfort.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. J.R.R. Tolkein" 

Bag End is maybe the most popular (and the most luxurious) of the smials (or hobbit - holes) in Hobbiton because this is where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings begin and end. When Bilbo Baggins adopted his cousin (nephew) Frodo Baggins (Elijah Woods),  as his heir, Frodo lives there and became the Master of Bag End.

Splendid view from The Hill next to Bag End
Bag End is located by the large Hill (The Hill) at the end of Bagshot Row. It is the home of Bilbo Baggins (which he inherited from his parents, Bungo and Belladonna Baggins) and has its door painted green, with a round brass knob in the exact middle. Inside, there are countless rooms with round windows, to look over the garden. This beautiful hole is a point of contention between Bilbo and his relatives, the Sackville - Bagginses, who very much desire to own it.

I really had an enjoyable time during the tour! Not only I was surrounded by brilliant minds (with childlike hearts) attendees of the 2012 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference, but also I was with the company of people with whom I can easily understand J.R.R. Tolkien's concept of BIG People and little people in Hobbiton. (see the pic to know why!lol) 

With  Craig Christensen, Area Legal Counsel for Australia/NZ  
Kidding aside, I was so mesmerized seeing the "party tree" (large pine tree where Frodo would disappear when he touches the Ring), that was already perfectly placed in front of the lake. The many decorated hobbit holes, gardens, bridge, The Mill, reconstructed oak tree in Bag End, pubs, stable & market, and The Green Dragon were so fun to see as exactly how they appeared in the LOTR trilogy.

And the timing of my visit was just right! I learned from our tour guide that this permanent movie set was rebuilt only last year for The Hobbit movies. Had I been in Hobbiton earlier like many of my colleagues, the experience will not be -as it is now - PERFECT!

P.S> Kudos to the organizers of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference for putting that huge smile on my face - esp. Tom (and Lynn) Suthcliffe (my host!), Soraya Barker and Neville Rochow. Thank you and till we meet again next year in Adelaide, Australia!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Travel Essentials: Get LUCKY To Fund Your Wanderlust!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

If wanderlust or the strong desire or impulse to wander or  travel and explore the world is a crime (glad it's not!) and my friends file charges against me, I would have to plead guilty during arraignment and will surely be convicted as charged! ! lol. Traveling is my passion, my lifestyle, a lifetime pursuit and one of the 2001 Things To Do before I hit the twig!
And since my wanderlust has already brought this 30 - something me to 660 cities in 27 countries, allowing me to score a high travel credit on Geckogo and getting that A-traveler badge in Lakbayan for travel in the Philippinesthe presumption (and allegation!) is that I am rich and has money to burn
As echoed by my friend Chat Catada Kent in her FB chats "sarap talaga ng dalagang abogada at maraming pera, gala lang ng gala. me business ka ba ng travel agency?" (so good to be a single female lawyer with lots of money, you can just roam around (the world!). do you have a travel agency?) I was laughing at the end of her comments!
Ok. Let's digress a little bit to see if she referring to me. Single? check. Lawyer? check. (see I told you "I'm smart that's why I'm single" haha). With lots of money? Eh, where??? With travel agency? None. (I wish!!).  So how could you afford to jet set around countries (almost monthly), spending long winter and  loong summer around the globe from A to Z she asked on cross-examination. Oh my! I'm on a hot pink seat. haha!
How do I fund my wanderlust? My reply was spelled out in my really old blog entry - I just get LUCKY! How is that for a tip?  That's right! It may sound funny, silly or even nonsense if you see LUCK as something that connotes an unpredictable attribute, something beyond your control to change or reverse. But that's not what I meant.
I mean LUCK as defined in the book “How to Attract Good Luck” by A.H.Z Carr The book differentiates “chance” and “luck” – words we often used interchangeably- but are only distant cousins according to Mr. Carr. “Chance” is defined as the “unknown, or unidentified, cause of events not subject to calculation” while “luck” is the effect of “chance” in our lives. Simply said, chance is not the only element in luck. Another factor is obviously involved - ourselves!
As I learned the true nature of luck, I made good luck a constant factor in any project I wish to bring to fruition - be it feeding my wanderlust by scoring free plane tickets, accommodations and travel expenses from generous boyfriend, best friend, client, boss, prospective client, friend, friend of friends, scholarships, and miles saved up from airline memberships; to landing a good job that pays well and allows me to be location independent, or something else. I constantly take positive steps to attract, recognize and strengthen luck in my life. 
qualities that ATTRACT lucky chances  
So as not to bore you to death, I will only focus on being ZESTFUL as one of the two qualities that attract lucky chances during my recent trip last May 29 - June 12, 2012, staying 10 days in New Zealand (around Auckland, Hamilton, and New Plymouth), 3D/2N in Singapore and an overnight stay in Batam, Indonesia and how I saved my bucks (without consciously doing it!) to afford, maybe, another trip next month.
*Expose Yourself to Strangers or "friends we haven't metand when you do you'll definitely gain a "friend" who can even be your "best friend"overtime. That was how I  met Jenny, a nurse from Siem Reap (Cambodia) who has been in New Zealand for about 5 years and my seatmate on Jetstar flight last May 30, 2012 from Singapore to Auckland, New Zealand! I do not remember how we started the conversation but I knew we both  felt like we have known each other for a long time! 
         When she leaned that I wanted to see Auckland for a day and not having booked a hotel yet, she offered me a room in their house! How trusting and how grateful I was! Offered accepted, which also came with a free ride from the airport courtesy of her boyfriend Frank
          I did not end up staying at their house that night  since I was picked up by Lynn, my host in Hamilton but Jenny & Frank offered to host me when I get back to Auckland. Again that didn't happen since my former office mate Nilo Penales and his family was very kind to host me. (see the series of lucky chances? how to recognize them is in this pic!). 
        Anyway, I was able to meet Jenny again and visited museum together when I was in Auckland! We are keeping in touch via Facebook now and who knows we might meet each other in Siem Reap next time (wedding bells wink* wink*!!). 
Don’t Be Shy or you lose a chance! - Pinoy travelers are quite timid. But if you are traveling solo, you will never be able to take photos or stretch your hard-earned bucks if you are shy. Alright you can set your camera on self-timer mode and find a trash bin to set it and pose (i did it many times!), but that isn't always possible like when I was touring around Merlion Park in Singapore. So I approached other solitary strangers (remember they are "friends" we haven't met!)  and asked them to take my picture(s) and then offered to take theirs in return. It saved me the cost of a tripod (lol).
        Timidity also has no place if you want to save some bucks! Don't be shy to ask for doggy bag for your left -over meals at a resto (unless you are in France where this practice is frowned upon). I did it in Chinatown, Singapore after being served fried rice and hot sour soup (good for 4!). It supplemented the hostel's free breakfast of toasted bread  and saved me some money! 
Try Something New, you'll be glad you do. I haven't stayed in a dorm-type room in a hostel before, but when I saw Beary Best! by Beary Good Hostel in Chinatown, Singapore with all the teddy bears around I knew I just have to try the place. Glad I did coz it did not only save me $ SGD 144 (Php 4,791.00) on hotel fee (since Marina By The Sands offered on discount by client would cost me $ SGD176 compared to the $SGD 32 by the homey hostel) but it
      also allowed me to learn how to wash my own dishes, prepare my own food and to be considerate of others since I have shared the room with 3 other girls the first night. On my return stay there I met another friend, Shyan Ung from Malaysia who came to Singapore for a job interview as a make up artist. That night I have someone to talk to, than just the empty walls or tv offered by five-star hotel! Shyan even gave me face masks she bought.
Find a Center of Interest.Since I am always itching to travel and to explore a new place, I surround myself with those others whose center of interest is constantly feeding their wanderlust. This is one sure way to save some bucks - either by getting tips where to buy cheap tickets to a destination, getting a free ride or being offered a free tour! 
When I was invited to the J. Reuben Clark Asia Pacific Conference as one of the panelists, I immediately noticed the tour to Hobbiton movie set of Lord of the Rings!  I knew I needed to be there to see middle earth and achieved my Pacific Triangle Dream sans the expense for the 3-day accommodation, food and tour! It was Rain Amantiad of PTB who tipped me about  Jetstar Airlines - where I  scored a $521 round trip ticket from Singapore to Auckland! And for the Waitomo Caves?Oh that again was checked off my bucket list through my friend LDS lawyer Helen Black from  Adelaide, Australia. She rented a car for 10 days and she offered me a ride to my cousin/uncle in New Plymouth, which allowed us to visit Hamilton Gardens and oh! Waitomo Caves!!! 
Expand Your Ideas. I chose Batam, Indonesia over its allegedly more exciting neighbor island of Bintan, after being able to read a blog post from another PTB blog Cheap Travel For Women. The ideas in the blog assured me that Batam is safe, cheap and doable for an overnight stay. I listed  down the things she did and places visited. But when I reached the place I put on the "Whatever Attitude" (literally.check my shirt!). I talked to the driver and other locals for their suggestions and added them to the list! I was able to enjoy Waterfront City, Ocarina Park and the food for so much less!!!         

So for 3 countries in 2 weeks, with 2 stuffed toys, 
5 shirts, boxes of chocolates as pasalubong,
 tons of new friends and priceless memories, 
I only spent $400 cash and 
used $77 on credit card 
for cashless transactions! How? 
I just get LUCKY!
I hope you do too!

This is my entry to the June 2012 Pinoy Travel Blog Carnival with the theme "How To Fund Your Wanderlust" being hosted by The Explorer James Betia a.k.a. Journeying James.

For previous Blog Carnival topics please The Visualizer Estan Cabigas' Langyaw.

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