Bangus and Nasi Lemak (Part 2)

While you much on the fish and the poultry, I must tell you something: I love writing. That's an understatement. I LOVE WRITING. Stories, I mean.

But I write codes for a living. HTML, jQuery, a bit of CSS, a bit of PHP.

Well, this coming year, I shall do both. Write stories as well as code. I shall be an author by night, a coder by day. Hey - I've got bills to pay. And I've got car loans and a future to save up for as well.

But I've also got big dreams and a lot of words swirling around the creases of my imaginative mind.

You must know that I've been going back to writing last year. I took up a 30 Day Challenge which I finished in up 11 months. So this year, I shall write more seriously. I shall write more frequently as well.

Which brings us to Stories from Distant Shores. "Write what you know," they say. Well. I know about the joys and the sorrows of living in a faraway land. I know about the twists and turns your tastebuds (and stomach) can form when you try new varieties of food. I know about immigration officers, losing passports, and getting quarantined inside hospitals because of positive AH1N1 tests.

And so I shall write these things down. Perhaps not in chronological order. But randomly, as our trains of thoughts in actuality are.

So there. I hope you'll enjoy this blog as much as you have enjoyed that bangus and nasi lemak.


Bangus and Nasi Lemak (Part 1)

Consider this to be a prequel of sorts. A prequel that has been split in two parts. A prequel that has snuck in just in the nick of time, just as the pre-movie trailers have ended.

I realized this blog hasn't had any proper introductions save from the compulsory about page. So I shall write one. A proper but maybe not so formal introduction. A prequel served with bangus and nasi lemak. 

* * *

The bangus - or milkfish in English - is the Philippine national fish. We have a lot of national symbols - a national tree, a national flower, a national house, a national dance - a national everything. Well, I ate our national fish as last night's dinner. Grilled, left over from the 25th's Christmas buffet, cooked Pinoy style.

And served with Malay sambal and nasi lemak.

Nasi Lemak - rich, literally "fatty" rice - is Malaysia's national dish. It's also one of my favourite delicacies. It consists of rice boiled using coconut milk, a teaspoon of roasted peanuts, a dash of fried anchovies, a piece of hardboiled (sometimes sunnyside) egg, a slice of cucumber, and chicken - fried or cooked masak merah or rendang style. Topped with a bit of sambal - red, spicy, chilli-based sauce.

My dinner was proof of the way the Pinoy and Malay way of lives have collided.

I came to Malaysia in 2009 to take up my Master's in IT. Schools in Malaysia offer good research grants and I wanted to explore a different land. My feet were itching to go somewhere new. Since I knew a couple of people in My - and since the Lord simply told me to do so (pardon me for sounding overly spiritual, but yeah, that's the way it happened) - I found myself here. Studying IT.

I graduated last year and found work in an international school. No, I'm not a lecturer. I am a web developer, but that's another story.

Really. And along with that story are a whole lot of other stories as well.

I've been living here for three-point-five years. I eat anything included in the wide array of local dishes. I sort of speak and sort of understand Bahasa Melayu, tapi sikit-sikit sahaja. I've been to a couple of notable Malaysian towns and cities and am planning to visit more. I also own several pairs of baju kurungs.

And yet I still get homesick a lot.

My aunt (who lives in Iowa) says getting homesick is normal. I miss my family. I miss friends. I miss certain someones. I miss Filipino weather (err maybe not so much) and I miss Filipino food (that, I miss a lot).

You may find yourself enjoying their nasi lemak but there's nothing like a good helping of grilled bangus.

(to be continued)

Christmas Far Away

Is not so bad.

A good friend and I prepared a simple Noche Buena for the 24th. Then we watched Brave and Love Actually. Brave because I hadn't seen it; Love Actually because we wanted something with a Christmas theme and she hadn't seen it -- and because we weren't able to find a copy of Home Alone 1, 2, & 3.

I got to Skype with my family 30 minutes before midnight. Thank God for technology. They tried to feed me  a stick of barbeque but the food couldn't get through.

My friend and I had a joyful midnight feast afterwards. Then we went to sleep. And prepared for another feast when we woke up the following day.

Note to self: Salt and pepper is enough for a salty Pinoy Chicken Adobo. Adding an extra chicken cube will make it extra salty. Tsk. Malaysian soy sauce is a bit sweet, so I felt I had to add more salt. But again. Salt and pepper is enough. I know that now.

So we ate and watched TV movies at Ate Di's house. A true blue hibernation day. 

It's back to work again tomorrow. But I am truly thankful for today - and for yesterday. I got some well deserved rest. I got to hang out with friends. I got to see a webcam video of my family. And I got to eat lots and lots of chocolate and lots and lots of marshmallows, too.

I'm thankful for Christmas. It's the day we remember that God became man (God Incarnate for a time), showing His great love for humanity. It's the day we spend time with friends and family. It's the day we celebrate His great love.

No matter how we celebrate it, as long as we celebrate His amazing love, we will truly be merry.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Lots and lots of chocolate. Lots and lots of marshmallows, too.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Have a blessed holiday season! Let's not forget the Reason for the season. Show some love -- like He showed His love to us.


Yes, that's a parking ticket you see there.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi was AWESOME. I'm planning to write a review (well, more like thoughts and insights) about the book-turned-film but perhaps I shall pen it down tomorrow. Or tonight, before 3 AM. But I'll probably publish it in So stay tuned. In the meantime, here is the trailer:

Again, I tell you, it was AWESOME.

After we watched the movie, we went shoe shopping. And laksa hunting. And garter + candle scouring. Don't ask. We wanted to find some garter for Ate Di's skirt project but the salesladies kept pointing us to the section where they held, uhh, rubber bands. And then later we wanted to find candles for a candlelit Noche Buena but they pointed us to the birthday candle section. Oh. Kay.

Anybody know where to find skirt garters and long candles in Malaysia?

Anyway. Life of Pi was AWESOME!!!

Note: I finally got around to writing my impression/review. Read all about it here:

Pasko na Sinta ko

Two days before Christmas. Two days before Christmas. TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. 

I am currently playing Christmas songs to get into the holiday mood. Noisetrade provides a lot of cool, free, unconventional ones. Check out Merry Christmas Goodnight, Paste Holiday Sampler 2012, The 12 Songs of Christmas, and Celebrate the Season if you want something more than the usual Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.

I should be sleeping. We'll be watching The Life of Pi later this morning -- a pre-Christmas celebration if you may. I'm kinda excited to see the displays in Midvalley. Sigh. Here, you'll only get to feel the Christmas Cheer when you step into big shopping malls. I miss the Christmas atmosphere in the Philippines. There, you can see parols everywhere, lights in every street corner, and --

I will not got homesick. This will be my first Christmas in Malaysia. I am determined to make the most of it.

A friend and I will be cooking up some stuff (macaroni -- as requested by her, smores, hot choco, whatever  -- as imagined by me) for our Noche Buena. We'll be having a Christmas Movie Marathon, too. I hope she has already found a copy of Home Alone 1, 2, & 3. 

So how bout you? What may your plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day be?

Christmas at the Mall. Part of the KLCC Suria Display.

How to get an OEC from NAIA 3

Okay, I don’t usually write “how to” posts. But I promised myself that I would write this post out because of the frustration that I felt two days ago having found no substantial information in the Internet about getting emergency OECs. So. Bear with me. This might be useful for some OFW who might find himself or herself going back home to the motherland for a very quick visit. Specifically, a visit that lasts only five days or less. I thank my friend who provided useful information through SMS, but I want to save future “Balik-Manggagawas” from having to go through the same frustrating ordeal that I went through. (Okay, I am exaggerating).
I am tempted to turn this into a long elaborate post, but I’ll be merciful and just cut to the chase. If you are reading this post, I am assuming that:
1. You are an OFW;
2. You are already an OWWA member (i.e. you have already gone through the costly process of processing POEA papers, you’ve already attended the PDOS, etc.);
2.  You’ll be going back to the Philippines as a “Balik-Manggagawa” (i.e. you are simply on leave and, after your vacation, you’ll still go back to the same job and to the same company written in your POEA papers);
3. You’ll be staying there for a mere FIVE DAYS or less;
4. You want to know how to get an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) so that the immigration guards will let you go back to your country of employment in peace (oh, and so that you won’t have to pay the airport tax and the terminal fee anymore);
5. You don’t have time to go to the main POEA office in Ortigas;
6. You don’t have time to go to any other POEA regional office;
7. You didn’t have time to get an OEC from your country of employment’s Philippine Embassy (or the Philippine Embassy there doesn’t issue OECs);
8. You are going back to your country of employment from an airplane departing from NAIA 3. (This post is specifically for NAIA 3 users – NAIA 1 and NAIA 2 are all foreign entities to me, unfortunately); and
9. You don’t have friends who’ve gone through this process before so you’re resorting to good ol’ Google instead. That, or you don’t trust them. Hehe.
If my assumptions were correct and you are still reading this, here’s what you have to do:
1. Go to the cluster of POEA kiosks near that corner where everyone else is paying for their travel taxes. There should be a booth next to the OEC validation booth where you have to line up to get a form so that you can apply for an emergency OEC. To get this form, just present your passport and your ticket. They’ll ask you when your arrival date was. If the number of days add up to five or less, they’ll hand you the form, tell you to go to the OWWA booth once you’re done with the form, and then you’ll have to go back to that booth to claim your OEC.
2. DO AS YOU ARE TOLD. When you get to the OWWA booth, you should have proof of your OWWA membership with you. A previous OEC that reflects that you have paid your membership fee will do. Your OWWA membership is valid for 2 years, so I guess the oldest OEC/receipt that you can have with you is a two-year-old one. If your OWWA membership has already expired, then I guess you should be prepared to pay the $25 fee here. I am afraid that I am not sure with this one. But you should be safe, money-wise, if your membership is still far from expiring.
3. Go back to the OEC processing booth with your accomplished form. Be prepared to show proof of your employment (your contract, payslip, or ID). They didn’t ask me for any proof, but it is always good to be prepared. They’ll ask you to pay Php 100 for the processing fee when they’re satisfied.
4. You’ll get an OEC that has a 24 hour validity (meaning you should only attempt to get this OEC if your flight is already on that day). Proceed to the check-in counter. There’s no need to validate this OEC, it’s already good to go.
The whole thing takes less than 30 minutes if there’s no queue. If it’s the peak season and every one is making emergency visits, then I should expect the processing time to be longer.
So there. I hope you (whoever you are) found this post helpful.
Happy flying!


Originally posted in my general/literary blog:

More Fun in the Philippines

Tourist. Dependent. Master’s Student. OFW. I’ve been to different countries under different travel visas. I’ve lived in two other countries under different travel visas. But despite my extended leaves of absence from the beautifulPearl of the Orient, I’m like Dorothy who, in the end, would say that “there’s no place like home.”  I may not be living in my home country at the moment, but I love the Philippines. And, despite its imperfections (hear me rant about the traffic and LRTs) I’ll keep loving it until the day that I die.
My family spent two years in the beautiful land Down Under back when I was a kid. My father was taking up his PhD in the University of New England. And you know how awfully lonely it gets, being away from family. Thus we spent the time that we could spend with him there, in Australia.
I remember being so proud of my home country that I may have annoyed my playmates to bits with my “In the Philippines…” lines.
“In the Philippines, we had this wooden ‘hanging bridge’ that would rock back and forth when you’d try to cross it. And it’s not just a bridge – there are holesand it’s way, way, way high up and there’s this huge river under it.”
“In the Philippines, they already taught us long division in the third grade.”
“In the Philippines, our whole clan would go out to the beach on my birthday… and guess what? The sand at the beach is black.” (I’ve never been to Boracay and I haven’t been to the white beaches of Pangasinan and Batangas yet, during that time of bragging).
Twas a good thing my friends were polite enough and didn’t abandon me when they got an earful of all those lines.
However, in 1999, my mom, my brother, and I went back home because circumstances called us to do so. We had to leave Dad behind, but I was so, so glad to be back home. Glad to be back home with the rest of the Lubricas, glad to go back to my old elementary school, glad to actually see jeepneys once again, and glad to walk over that much publicized hanging bridge.
And taking the cue from the Department of Tourism’s new tagline, I was just so glad to be back because, indeed, it’s more fun in the Philippines.
It’s more fun in the Philippines because when you step out of your front door, your whole neighbourhood becomes an extension of your family room – all your cousins, extended cousins, nephews, nieces, what-have-you’s are all already there, just one holler away.
It’s more fun in the Philippines because most elementary school kids go through a folk-dancing, poetry-reciting, declaiming, slogan-writing, poster-making, or an all-of-the-above stage.  (High School kids get in on the fun as well, but eight-year-olds  would always be the best kunday-kunday dancers.)
It’s more fun in the Philippines because journalism and sports events enable kids and teens to hone their talents early and allow them to travel from Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao.
It’s more fun in the Philippines because seven people can fit into a five-seater car and twenty seven can fit into a jeepney that’s supposed to hold only twenty.
And it’s more fun in the Philippines because only the typhoon Ferya could bring down an unofficial tourist attraction like Balili’s hanging bridge. (And okay, I’m not saying that typhoons are fun. Okay, maybe they are, compared to the predictable Malaysian weather. But you have to admit, as students, you’ve looked forward to those days of no-school. And, as professionals, you’ve seen the humour in trudging through knee-length water just to get to the workplace. Admiiitttt ittt…)
So what on earth am I doing here still in Malaysia? 
Sabi sa Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) na kinailangan kong daluhan noong nilakad ko ang mga papeles ko sa POEA, ang mga OFW daw ay gumaganap bilang “ambassador of goodwill” sa mga bansang pinagtratrabahuan nila. Lubos akong sumasang-ayon sa pahayag na iyon. Nandito ako para itaas ang bandila ng mga Pinoy! Hindi ako umalis ng Pilipinas dahil hindi ko ito mahal. Subalit, isang dahilan kung bakit ako’y nandito pa ay dahil sobra ko siyang mahal. Sa aking mga taon ng pag-aaral dito sa Malaysia, napansin ko na may maling kaisipan nabubuo laban sa mga Pilipinong nagtratrabaho dito. Gusto kong mabasag ang kaisipang iyon. Nawa’y sa aking pamumuhay at sa aking pagtratrabaho dito, makikita ng mga tao na sikat at kakaiba talaga ang Pinoy.
Gusto ko ring makakuha pa ng karanasan at kaalaman na maibabalik ko pa sa Pilipinas, pag bumalik na ako doon. Hindi ba’t tumira si Pepe sa mga bansang banyaga ng ilang taon din? At tingnan niyo naman ang naging epekto ng buhay at mga kasulatan niya sa bansang Pilipinas.
 Marami pang ibang dahilan kung bakit kahit na madalas ay uwing-uwi na ako (at kahit na madalas ay pinaglalaban ko pa ang pasaporte ko), pinili ko parin na manatili dito. Kaibiganin niyo ako at mag-usap tayo ng masinsinan at malalaman niyo rin. Pero wag niyo sanang isipin na lumabas ako para lumabas lamang. At hindi ko rin sinasabi na ang Pinoy ay lumalabas para makalabas lamang. Marami akong kilalang mga Pilipino na saludong-saludo ako, subalit dahil sa kanilang sakripisyo, nabubuhay, napapaaral, at nagkakaroon ng masmabuting buhay ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Inuulit ko, hindi madaling tumira sa ibang bansa, lalo na kung malayo ka sa mga taong importante sa iyo.
So. I just chose to write all my reasons for staying here in the Filipino language, because it seems ironic that I’ve been writing a whole post about how much I love the Philippines in English. But for anyone reading this blog who’s from outside the Philippines, and for those who wouldn’t understand a word in Tagalog… Well, I am promoting my country to you. Google translate if you will (it’s inaccurate, by the way), but I hope that everything else I’ve written shows the sincerity of my love for my country.
We have our imperfections. But it’s a fun country and I love my homeland nonetheless.
I’m proud to be Pinoy. It’s more fun in the Philippines! :D

Originally posted in my general/literary blog: