June 2012

My reaction:

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I am now living in a beer commercial. Those are my feet in the photo above, and just past them are the sands and waters of Alona Beach on the island of Panglao, a satellite island of another island named Bohol, which in turn is one of the islands in the Visayas region of the country where I was born: the Philippines. In the distance are catamarans which take tourists farther out to sea to visit some of the neighbouring islands or go snorkelling, scuba diving or dolphin watching. Above me is the welcome shade provided by palm trees. To my right and out of the shot are a couple of ice-cold cans of San Miguel beer.

The view above is the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself when my view was the one below:

This view is from “my hospital week”, when I spent in the ICU shortly after getting separated (“dying of a broken heart” is no longer an abstract concept, as far as I’m concerned). Fever-induced delirium — and hey, I’ll admit it, fear also played a role — makes you do things you normally wouldn’t, and I remember putting together a mental list of things that I would do if I got out of the hospital alive. If you noticed that I’ve been living larger than usual over the past several months, you now know why.

One of the items on the list was to visit the Philippines and go to a beach there with my family. My prior situation was such that I’d made peace with the fact that I’d never see the homeland again, but after twelve years, I’m back.

I stayed at Amorita Resort, which is located atop a cliff on one end of Alona Beach. The photo above shows a view of the beach from the resort.

The photo below was taken from the same vantage point, just with the camera panned slightly to the right:

The months of June through September are the lean season for this area; June is the start of the wet season as well as the school year here, so there’s elbow room aplenty. For every occupied lounge chair on the beach (which are mere steps from the water, yet quite well-covered with shade), there were two free ones.

There were more boats moored offshore than there were people swimming. It was probably as close as I was going to get to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s private beach setup (he just bought most of the Hawaiian island of Lanai).

I took the photo above from the same lounge chair where I took the first photo for this article. Amorita Resort is at the top of that small cliff.

As you walk farther down the beach, you’ll see all manner of places to eat. Most of them are cheap, cheerful and locally owned — no chains like McDonald’s here — serving a mix of Filipino food as well as half-decent approximations of “foreign” food. A couple of places are owned by expats who married Filipinas, moved here and set up shop, so there’s a place that bills itself as a bierstube as well as a joint run by a French guy who includes crepes suzette and coupe denmark (which is really just a French fancypants way of saying “chocolate sundae”) on his menu.

If dining on sand and patio furniture is too much like roughing it for you, there are other places on the beach that might be more to your liking.

Sunset happens more quickly as you get closer to the equator, and the effect is kind of magical. It’s even more so on the beach.

At night, the restaurants turn on the lights and the beach becomes a patio party.

We had dinner at one of those cheap-and-cheerful places on the beach. This one has plenty of freshly-caught fish on display; you could point at one and they’d happily grill it for you. I picked out a red snapper and fifteen minutes later, it came to me simply and perfectly grilled with a bowl of a soy sauce/fish sauce/chopped tomato/chopped onion mixture and a heap of garlic fried rice on the side.

This was my view at dinner:

All in all, a very nice Tuesday.

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Precisely the Wrong Thing to Say

by Joey deVilla on June 26, 2012

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I’m still in the Philippines, but as I write this, I’m no longer in Manila — I’m at Amorita Resort, located on Panglao Island, just off the island of Bohol (the map above shows my location). Bohol is in the Visayas, the cluster of islands between the Philippines’ two big islands: the northern island of Luzon (where my home city of Manila is) and the southern island of Mindanao.

We boarded an early morning Philippine Airlines flight at the domestic terminal of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which took us to Tagbilaran City, the air gateway to the island of Bohol.

Tagbilaran airport’s (airport code TAG) terminal is a single-storey building, so there isn’t a jetway. You board and debark the plane Beatles-style, using an old-school stairway. Here’s a shot I took as I got off the plane:

That’s the end of TAG’s single runway, just under 1800 metres (5,800 feet) of asphalt. It’s long enough to handle the Airbus A319 that took us there, but just. The only airport I’ve been to recently with a shorter runway is Toronto’s Ilsand Airport, but it doesn’t accommodate jets — not even the “puddle-jumpers”.

Once you get off the staircase, you walk a very short distance on the tarmac to the terminal. The nice thing about this layout is that you get a really good look at the jet, which is a bit of a treat for me, a planespotter since the age of eight.

They’d never let me get this close to a jet at Pearson or O’Hare!

I had to get a self-portrait with the plane’s tail, showing the Philippine Airlines logo.

Here’s TAG’s baggage claim before they unloaded the plane’s cargo hold:

And here’s baggage claim after they unload:

Sure, it’s not all fancy-pants like Heathrow, but it gets the job done. It didn’t take very long to get our bags.

Next stop: Amorita Resort! Here’s the view from their open-air, roof-topped dining room, which overlooks their swimming pool, which in turn overlooks the beach…

Here’s a closer look at the pool and Bohol Sea:

This is the view of the beach from the pool. A staircase just to the side of the pool takes you right down to the beach:

Here’s another view of the dining room. It’s rather like the dining room at the resort in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall:

Another look at the beach:

If you look away from the beach, you’ll see a number of boats anchored a short distance from the shore. Many of them are used to carry divers to their destinations.

I here until Thursday afternoon (or very early Thursday morning, if you’re in North America). I’ve been poking about the resort — it’s great — as well as the beach, which is far better than what I’ve become accustomed to in North America. More notes from Bohol soon!

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Every Little Meme She Does is Magic

by Joey deVilla on June 22, 2012

…and for reference:

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Regret: The Film

by Joey deVilla on June 22, 2012

Christopher Richardson giving his regrettable valedictory in 1987.

It must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. In 1987, Christopher Richardson was finishing his undergraduate program at the University of King’s College in Halifax. He was his class’ valedictorian, and as such, he was to deliver an address to his class at their graduation ceremony.

“I wanted it to be a decent speech,” says Richardson, “but my memories…but when I think back on that, it didn’t actually go the way I thought it was going to go.” The speech he gave was a tribute to the Animal House side of university life, an ode to drunken revelry, throwing up, and end-of-adolescence hijinks. At one point in the speech, he even pulled out a bottle of beer that he’d hidden in the podium, which he used in a toast. It might’ve worked at the post-convocation party or some other less formal event, but as a valedictory, his classmates said it was an embarrassing mockery of the ceremony.

He calls it “the worst valedictorian speech in the history of the University of King’s College”, and it was at least bad enough that speeches in the years to follow were subject to review by the university.

“I’m embarrassed by it,” he says. “I’m ashamed of it. The only time I felt good about it was five minutes before I was about to give it.”

Christopher Richardson today.

It’s now 2012, and with his upcoming 25-year reunion coming, Richardson had decided to use his feelings about his mistake as the inspiration and fuel for his documentary film, titled Regret. He talks about confronting his own feelings of remorse for the speech he gave, interviews a number of people who like him, have one particular moment or decision in their lives that they deeply regret. He also talks to experts about the psychological and neurological bases of regret and looks at they ways people are taking on their regrets — which includes, as one might expect, the internet.

Regret is a work in progress expected to be completed at the end of this year. There’s a trailer for the film, which I’ve included below:

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The executive apartments where I’m staying in Manila — The Ascott — has a pretty nicely-equipped fitness center. Here’s a photo I took of its entrance:

Note the refrigerator to the left of the reception desk. I decided to zoom in to get a closer look:

Nothing tops off a good workout like a pint of Haagen-Dazs!

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