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There are only two things (barring an emergency) that would make me willingly get up from bed at the crack of dawn – an early morning departure for an out-of-town trip, and a countryside, mountain or ocean sunrise.

One of my Dumaguete rituals is to rise at dawn, watch the sunrise at the Boulevard (in front of Bethel Guest House), take a solitary walk, and then have breakfast (again at Bethel). This has become my favorite part of the day in the city. I thoroughly enjoyed this ritual when I was there last month. While Jeff and Trish caught up on their sleep after sunrise at around 6 am, I walked the length of the Boulevard from the lighthouse up to Silliman Hall. I turned left there, stopping at the corner of Hibbard Avenue. There were practically no passing vehicles, so I was able to stand right in the middle of the street and take a photo of the Silliman University entrance. It felt so good to do that in an intersection that would otherwise have been busy at any other time in the day.

I walked back to the hotel, only to find Jeff and Trish still sound asleep. I tried going back to sleep as well, but I was too invigorated by the walk. I was also feeling the beginnings of a headache (which usually happens when I wake up earlier than usual), so I grabbed my book and headed to the hotel cafe. I ordered coffee and toast and had a great quiet hour just reading, seated at a table facing the boulevard. All that time I was thinking, “Ahh, this is the life!” 😀

I love photographing the sunrise at the Boulevard because of how all the elements come together – the sunbeams falling on the stones in the water, light falling on the silhoutte of the trees, the combined reflection of the glowing horizon and lamp lights on the water by the pier, and yes, even the dark clouds. I also like watching the city gradually come to life.  I love observing the locals, sometimes even imagining myself to be one of them someday.

All of these make it worth the very early start to the day.  Here are some images from my sunrise-watching and early morning walk:

Sunrise Boaters

Sunrise Boaters

Dawn Lights

Dawn Lights

Colors of Dawn

Colors of Dawn

dumaguete-dawn4

dumaguete-sunrise

sunrise-cyclist

sunrise-over-silliman

silliman-university

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I’ve been closely involved with the hiring process in the office recently. Our department needs a Business Development Officer to initiate and negotiate partnerships with telecommunications companies worldwide. It goes without saying that excellent oral and written English is a must for an applicant to be hired! And though we prefer graduates from the top universities, we also look at other qualifications and relevant work experience, so graduates from other schools would have a fair chance as long as they communicate very well.

I’ve been put in charge of evaluating their essay and business letter writing exam before turning them over to my boss for the final interview.  It has been one interesting, frustrating, and hilarious task. Interesting because I always like to read other people’s writings; frustrating because of the difficulty in finding well-written pieces; hilarious because of the occasional out-of-this world grammar and style. I want to be kind, but sometimes I can’t help my reactions. The HR Officer already knows that if I wince or giggle more often than I nod, then it’s time to send the applicant home. There are times when applicants wouldn’t even make it to the exam stage, bungling the initial interview with the HR Officer with their incoherent English or terrible pronunciation and accent.  And a lot of them have degrees in Communication!  We’ve been looking for a month already and it’s been proving difficult to find the perfect blend of qualifications, character and acceptable salary requirement.

It is not a deliberate discrimination, but the applicants who pass the exam are always the ones from the top universities and colleges. And sometimes, there is also a problem with the way other applicants think and answer in the essay and the interviews.  They find it difficult to string together thoughts into complete sentences even in basic English.  I really do not want to generalize, but from what I see, only a handful of non-top university graduates make it through stringent English communication skills screening.

Have the English standards in most schools fallen so low?  I’ve observed that the college graduates of the generation before us spoke good enough English, even if not really perfect.  A lot of them did not necessarily go to the top schools, but their basic English communication skills are nothing to be frowned upon.  This is something that really needs to be addressed.  We keep on harping about how better we are at English than other Asians, but I think what it really means is that we’re better at UNDERSTANDING and not necessarily WRITING AND SPEAKING the language.  There’s also the laziness factor and the “pwede na yan” attitude.  A lot of people no longer make the effort of polishing their English.

Sometimes, in my frustrating and naughtier moments, I feel like photocopying the exams and taping the interviews then sending them to the English departments of the schools to let them see the kind of Communication Arts graduates they’re churning out.  Bad, but sometimes the frustration just gets to me.

Yes, I’m claiming it as my own. I went to Dumaguete for a fifth visit, with officemates Jeff and Trish time around. It was a very relaxing trip – aimless, even. We had no prepared itinerary whatsoever. Well, except for a loose food itinerary, hehe. Trish and I had our must-eats, and we got to eat them all. We had our common danggit, budbud kabog and sans rival. Aside from that, Trish had her Persian Palate and Mamia’s, and I had my Chicken Inato and native tsokolate.  Jeff eventually had his own food discovery – Hoy Lugaw!  What initially caught his attention were the seats, which were actually inverted casseroles, complete with blackened bottoms.  Then he saw the name.  He vowed to try it out the following morning, and so he did – and actually liked the lugaw (rice porridge).

One surprise for me was the Body and Sole Spa at a new location (near Chin Loong).  Their previous site burned down and I never found out whether they rebuilt or transferred to a new place.  I was also surprised that the full body massage is still at P250 even after four years!

Of course, we took Jeff on an obligatory tour of the city’s landmarks, starting with what else – the boulevard!  Then we went to Silliman University, the Cathedral, the bell tower, and the Provincial Capitol.

We had a relaxing and fun time at Silliman.  Oddly enough, it was my first time to actually set foot inside the campus.  We went to Silliman Hall, then decided to just hang out under one of the big old trees in the field behind the building.  We played an alphabet game where we had to supply words from A to Z to match a specific category.  We would always get stumped when it comes to Q, X and Z, but those were also the funniest and most fun letters to do.

Under the trees at Silliman University

Under the trees at Silliman University

We also hung out for quite a while at the benches on the garden in front of the Capitol.  We stopped there on our way to Sidlakang Negros for the Buglasan Festival.  (More on the festival on another blog post.)  It was actually my first time to visit the Capitol, though I’ve always passed by the site on previous visits.  I love the perfect alignment of the park, the Capitol, and the Cuernos de Negros mountain range behind it.

This trip wasn’t as activity- and adventure-filled as my other travels, but I liked it because what I need most right now is a total relaxation getaway.  So even if sometimes we would just take long naps inside the hotel room or just laze under a tree, at a park or the boulevard, everything was still worth the trip.  In Dumaguete, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts, but hard to get lost in your way.  The city is my perfect place for just walking around, hanging out under the trees, inhaling fresh air, and smelling the tang of the sea.  And once again, I vowed to come back soon while taking one last walk down the boulevard before heading to the airport.

Our definitive Boulevard images:

Happy to be back

Happy to be back

Lazy Sunday

Lazy Sunday

Sunrise Leap

Sunrise Leap

Day 2

Saturday, May 17, was Tintin’s birthday. I set the alarm for 5am so we could go sunrise-watching. Still no luck. It was raining hard when the alarm sounded. We woke up at around 8am. The rain had stopped, but there were still dark clouds overhead. After breakfast, we finally had the chance to spend some time at the ocean – not to swim and do usual things people do in beaches, but just to take pictures and look, walk and play around.  The waves were still huge and the water was still chocolate brown from the bad weather.  Every now and then, we had to run back inside since it would suddenly rain hard for a short while then stop again.  The rest of the day was spent exploring Takatuka and taking photos.  It was really fortunate that Takatuka was such a crazy, creative resort such that we never got bored and we never felt like our trip was a waste because of the bad weather.

Day 3

The sun shone for the first time!  Alas, the sunrise was behind the resort.  I really felt like screaming, “Come on, give us a break!” Haha!  The sun was up, but it was still a long way off from “beach weather”.  This is one beach trip wherein we never got to wear swimsuits and we went home with all our clothes dry.

We finally took the car service back to Bacolod City, and the trip took only 3 hours.  We left Sipalay at 10.30am and was at the Silay airport at 2pm, after some stops at in Bacolod to buy our favorite treats and pasalubong.  And then…

…our 5.20pm flight was able to take off at 8pm!!!  Our consolation was that at least the airport was nice.  Imagine being stuck that long in the old Bacolod airport!

Misadventures aside, it was still a good trip.  Out of the ordinary, if nothing else.  In fact, it seemed like every stage had a twist.  Loved it!

Next up: photos!

The Old Gang

I had a great Friday night – an impromptu dinner with high school friends! It’s been a while since what’s left of our original barkada were complete for a meal outside of a special occasion. I was just supposed to meet with Trina to sign something, then it turned out that Anna, Rebs and Claudes could make it. Trina’s husband followed, and Rebs brought along her new boyfriend. It was a fun evening filled with laughter and stories old and new.

We had dinner at Burgoo at The Podium. Nothing beats a great Friday evening with some of my oldest friends. Since we all share a common passion for traveling, a Baguio travel plan was immediately hatched, complete with seat plan, taking less than 10 minutes. We’re taking 5 kids with us (aged 8-4 months), with only 1 yaya. I can just imagine what a chaotic, happy bunch we’ll be. We’ll just be using 2 big vehicles and we’re staying in 1 house. Fun! I hope we’ll really get to go on the date we planned. If not, we’ll just have to keep postponing until we finally get to go! Baguio or bust. When I told my dad about it, he laughed and said he was so amused that I’m already doing that kind of stuff. He said he and my mom were veterans at such kind of trips. Indeed, they were! I still remember all those Baguio trips of my childhood.

Anyway, here are the pics: