To Puerto Princesa and Back

Posted in Family, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on August 26, 2009


The last time we had a trip beyond the Luzon area was when I was just but a wee ten year old running around in his short shorts. So when I found out that we were going to Palawan for the weekend, I just had to bend over. But knowing that I still had a lot of responsibilities to finish, second thoughts began to boil. Instead of missing out of the fun, I took my work with me so at least the guilt could melt on the way.

Day 1

The trip lasted for about an hour and we arrived in Puerto Princesa at about 4 in the afternoon. The weather there was warm, as the setting sun was burning brighter than red. Dad’s work acquaintances were already waiting to pick us up at the airport. We proceeded to the Palawan Village Hotel to settle down and get ready for the long weekend. While we were waiting for dinner, dad and his workmates were busily planning for the schedule of activities. I nestled myself in the room for awhile, watching cable TV and setting up my camera.

Day 1a

Dinner came and we were off to Kalui, a Filipino-themed restaurant in the city. The place reminded me of a bahay kubo, albeit better built and lavishly decorated. We had to leave our shoes and sandals by the door, quite the formality I long for in today’s Filipino homes. The ambiance was warm with varnished bamboo walls and wood floors. The decorations were undoubtedly beautiful, full of Filipiniana themes and images of the life in the farmlands.

Day 1b

Day 1c

Behind it all, the food was the highlight of the night. I’m a seafood lover –which is really weird because I grew up in sea-less Baguio – and have always longed for a taste of lobster. That night, I did devour this unique crustacean and was left satisfied. Compared to the usual crab, it was easier to pick off the white succulent meat. The vinegar was special as well, having a sensation of sweetness. I also enjoyed eating our national hero Lapu-Lapu along with shrimps.

Day 1d

After dinner, we went night-seeing at the city baywalk. We rode a tricycle with a less than practical design but way cooler than most of what I’ve seen in Luzon. The nightlife here was alive and kicking, all thanks to the numerous tourists who come here. Arriving at baywalk, the place immediately reminded me of MOA’s baywalk. Unfortunately, the place is still under construction. We learned that the place used be a squatter area but was eventually burnt down in order to give way to modernization. A lot of people were there from different walks of life. There were kids and adults who were making rounds with their rented bicycles and pedicabs. Some were relaxing in the company of friends and family. After we made a round for ourselves, we went back to the hotel and slept like kings and queens.

Day 2

The next day, we woke up as early as we could. After a quick breakfast, we went off to a two hour land trip to Sabang Beach at Barangay Cabayugan, Sitio Sabang. One of the best things about Palawan’s tourism is that it is well implemented and planned. Tour guides and tour transportation are bustling in and out of the city continually circling the visitors around the island. We had a very good tour guide who was full of information about Palawan. Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, is the largest city in the Philippines in terms of total land area. The city has 31 urban and 31 rural barangays, a total of 66 barangays. Recently, Puerto Princesa was declared a highly-urbanized city.

Day 2a

The trip to Sabang Beach brought us into the thick forests and high mountains along a winding road. We would seldom pass by farmlands and rock formations. As we were nearing the beach, a beautiful resort stood over the distance. The place was packed with a lot of tourists like us. Good thing lunch was already served as we proceeded to the huts and ate to our hearts delight. After I ate my share, I toured myself to the beach and took photos and such. I enjoyed the serene seascape and mountain range, the quietness of the moment was more than welcome to a busy life.

Day 2b

Day 2c

Day 2d

After lunch, we went to the nearby port and road a banca. The trip to the underground river lasted about thirty minutes. The scenery reminded me of the movie King Kong, with all the rock formations, blue-green waters and unending jungles. I was trying to be very extra careful with my camera, covering it with my vest because the waters were not very friendly. We landed on another beach, the final step towards the heritage site. We could already smell the stench of the river as we were wearing our safety helmets and vests. One boat accommodated eight people with the front passenger in charge of the spot light. The entrance of the underground cave was already a sight to behold with natural rock formations greeting her visitors. Our tour guide estimated that the round trip into the 8.2 kilometer river would take 45 minutes. Nearing the belly of the beast, a lot of bats and other-worldly creatures were creeping around us. Stunning stalactite and stalagmite structures played images in our minds, creating a scatoma effect. They formed religious icons of Moses, Mother Mary, Jesus’ face and the three kings; animals such as snakes, horses, dogs and bird feet; vegetables such as pumpkins, eggplants, banana hearts and whatnot.

Day 2e

I realized how important nature really is to the human race. These natural wonders will not last forever, not unless we as stewards of this Earth will take care of them. So play your part. Vote the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Search for the New Seven Wonders of Nature at

Day 2f

Reaching the dead end of the cave, the boat turned around and we were headed for the exit. Approaching the light at the end of the journey, we cherished our final moments with the majestic. The experience was definitely unforgettable and probably once in a lifetime. Another photo session at the welcome sign and we were headed back to the city proper. At this point, I was already tired and slept all the way.

We arrived at the hotel at about 5 in the afternoon already. I was just in time to watch the DLSU-UP match and that just made my day. A little shower here and tidy there and dinner time came. We headed to another well known restaurant Kinabuchs. It was like Gerry’s Grill or Dencio’s. I enjoyed my favourite appetizer Kilaweng Tanigue and Baked Tahong (a variation of Baked Scallops). I avoided eating rice again to not quickly find myself full. We walked our bellies off at the baywalk again. Another day done, one more to go.

Day 3

Day 3a

In our last day, the family sans dad went to the middle of the sea and took a peek into the life in the coral reefs. We rode a banca at the port and were dropped off at a man-made kubo-island. I didn’t join with the activity because I just wanted to take photos. If only I had the proper gear for underwater photography, that would have been great. There were still a lot of tourists, with a moderate amount coming and going. With little equipment, you could already look into the underwater world. After this activity, we rode the banca again to our next destination.

Day 3b

Day 3c

We proceeded to another island where there was a clear beach waiting for us. Like any other beach, huts were lined up for tourists to enjoy. But one thing was special about this beach. This time, I joined another snorkelling activity and was stunned. Not far from the shore, there was already a coral reef and marine life was bustling. You wouldn’t really notice it at first, not until you take a look under you. There was a fleeting feeling of flight as I was trying to reach the bottomless abyss. This moment was very inspirational, a feeling of a meeting with God himself. I wish I could stay there forever. What an experience!

Day 3d

Day 3e

Day 3f

Day 3g

Day 3h

We didn’t have to change our clothes and made the wind dry ourselves. Not long after, we were back at the hotel. We took our last shower and readied our things for checkout. For lunch, we went to the Badjao Seafront Restaurant. As soon as we were walking through the bridge, I knew the place was great. Surrounding the restaurant was a gorgeous mangrove forest. The water was clear and tiny fishes were swimming about. The place was welcoming as the afternoon breeze greeted us inside. If I had a house of my own, I would base it on this – with less people and more room of course. The food was great – as I’ve always been saying so far. The view from the veranda was breath-taking.

Day 3i


We went to the Congressman’s house atop a hill over-looking the island. Then we headed to Baker’s Hill, a sort of bakery-theme park-zoo mix up. The houses there were top notch, homes of the kings. Statues of looney toons, animals and pirates inhabited the place. There were some real animals too like a cat-like owl. We bought pastries for pasalubong and snacks. I also bought pearl earings for Joy waiting for me in Manila. After Baker’s Hill, we passed by the Puerto Princesa City Hall and then headed to the local tiangge. And after a very long weekend, we all headed back home to our lives. Back to Manila. And back again.


Check out the photos below!

Puerto Princesa Food Trip

Puerto Princesa Part 1

Puerto Princesa Part 2


Letters to Blumentritt: Week Seven

Posted in Books, Comics, Family, Manga, Movies, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 20, 2009

Casino Pauma

It’s finally come, my final week here in the US. Sunday, Tito Hip came over to the house and had a quick snack with us. Manang Jaz wanted to take me to the casino. Normally, you should be at least 21 years old to enter one. But, they took me to Casino Pauma where the age allowed was at least 18 years old. I’ve always wondered how it felt to be in a casino, after watching too much Ocean’s Eleven and 21. Disappointingly, I couldn’t bring my camera inside. The place was bustling with old people and slot machines, the sound of crackling coins all over. Every aisle and row had its own brand of slot machines. I was a little bit dazed because of the lights and sounds circling around me. It took some getting used to the idea of losing money to gain more money. Before I knew it, I was stuck to 1 cent slots for an hour or so.

Red Dragon

We went to a Japanese restaurant and ordered sushi to-go. I was craving for another round of sashimi and wasabi. At Tito Hip’s house, we feasted sushi along with homemade adobo. As usual, they were all speaking in Ilocano. I enjoyed the Red Dragon Sushi I ordered but found myself full in no time. We discussed whether to watch Wolverine or Star Trek. I was in favour of Star Trek, having no idea what to expect of the space adventure.

That night, we split into two groups. Tito Hip’s family was going to watch Wolverine while we were definitely going Trekkie. It was the day of the premiere so there were a lot of people lined up to see the movie. The clocked ticked away and pretty soon, we were entering the cinema. This time around, the theatre was packed and it was a good thing we found available seats. Lights dimmed. And the film began.

Star Trek

What can I say? The movie was kinetic and action-packed! Not one moment was wasted to ensure total involvement of the audience. For a casual movie-goer like me who has no idea of any Star Trek know-how, the film was in every way understandable and easy to swallow. The characters were lively and deserved every moment they had onscreen. On a particular note, some scenes depicting light flare effects reminded me of Michael Bay’s style of cinematography. The occasional humorous moments effectively balances the drama and struggle of the plot. Overall, this film deserves my praise and hopes for a sequel. May the movie live long and prosper.


One idea that made me excited was to wear the Navy uniforms my cousin had. One afternoon, Manung Totit ironed all his uniforms for me to wear. Although turning out to be too large for my size, it was fun having a feel to be part of the navy. I also wore his bike driving attire and rode his bike. Well, not to the point of driving it but that idea was very much open to me too.


Wednesday, Manung Totit invited some of his friends over for BBQ and beer. I was already imagining the juicy steaks at the table. At the garage, Tito Hip was busy tattooing his American friend. Just by looking at it, I knew it was very painful and agonizing. Maybe someday I’ll try tattooing as a hobby.


As luck would have it, another day at the Book-Off churned out a great find. I was spending my time at the illustration section, making up my mind to what books to buy. Running out of options, I took the first volumes of Akira and Nausicaa The Valley of Wind. As soon as we were already leaving the store, I noticed that there was an English comic book section right near the entrance. Silly me! All this time, I was looking at the wrong places. It was there that I found volumes 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the Dark Horse release of Akira. Each of them only cost a buck each and I just had to buy them. It was a great find indeed.




Texas BBQ Burger

I remember watching the movie Big Daddy starring Adam Sandler and wondering what it felt like to be in a Hooters Restaurant. Thursday, they took me to eat dinner at Hooters. Yes, I was very excited – no doubts there. The restaurant was very lively and the food was great. I had the Texas BBQ Burger and swirly fries. With all the sexual innuendos around me, nothing could really go wrong that day.


And it came to pass, the day of my flight came and had to say goodbye. Friday, we left the house just around lunch time. We ate at Denny’s, a restaurant with breakfast as its specialty. I ordered the T-bone steak, medium well with a side order of onion rings and mashed potatoes. I was definitely stuffed and enjoyed every single bite.


Arriving at LA, we were very early so Manung Totit detoured over at Del Amo Motorsports. His love for bikes really showed when we were there. Time does fly when you’re having fun and a little while later, we were already at the airport. After a little snack at the lounge, gobbling sundaes and apple pies, I was ready to get into the plane. I said my farewells to my cousin and his family and to America. It was now time to come back to reality and face my priorities again.

What a trip it was to the land of the free.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Five

Posted in Books, Comics, Family, Manga, Movies, Photography, Sports, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 13, 2009

For the most part of week five, staying in the house and messing around with my laptop or TV was the usual call of the day. I don’t remember much of what happened, maybe because of the tequila or just plain memory loss. What I do remember though are little snippets of a movie, a bookstore, a camera accessory, a nail-biting basketball game and a Filipino icon.

Monsters vs. Aliens

I experienced my first 3D movie with the DreamWorks Animation feature film Monsters vs. Aliens. Manung Totit had gone off early from work one afternoon. He had wanted to take Joshua to watch the movie, knowing that he’ll like it very much. Manang Jaz didn’t want to come with us so you can say it’s a night for two and a half men.

Terminator Salvation

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

Star Trek

Land of the Lost

Xmen Origins Wolverine

Year One

The Krikorian theatre was fairly typical with only the catchy name setting it apart – it’s called the Krikorian theatre. We each got 3D glasses along with the tickets manung bought. The last time I saw 3D glasses was when I was a kid, and it was still red and blue. Some of the coming soon movies really caught my eye. On the top of my must-watch list are Terminator Salvation, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek, Land of the Lost, Wolverine Origins and Year One. For snacks, we had cheesy nachos, buttered popcorn and sodas. I was excited to devour the nachos although I was disappointed because there wasn’t any sour cream.

So we entered the theatre which was surprisingly still empty. Joshua was acting up again because he was frightened of the dark and the loud audio. Once we found some seats, we waited for the movie to begin. Unlike pre-entertainment from back home where music is played, this theatre plays movie trivia and a lot of ads. A little more waiting and the film finally started. The movie was above par with a strong and potential premise. Overall, I enjoyed it very much. But I still think Kung Fu Panda is better.

Shonen Jump

Manang Jaz was telling me about this bookstore where everything was almost a dollar each. I just had to go there to believe this. On the weekend, we went off to Book-Off, Japan’s largest chain of used bookstore. True enough, almost everything in the bookstore are cheap. He first thing that I saw upon entering was this shelf full of English translated manga. All around the store, there are lots of books from every topic you could probably think about – politics, science, computers, crafts, art, design and etc. But the aisle where I hanged out more than any other place was the anime and illustration aisle. There were a lot of artbooks, magazines and manga anthologies that were almost 90% off the original price. After a lot of browsing, I took 2009 issues 8-13 of Shonen Jump, just so I could know how it feels to read Jump first hand.

Camera Accessories

Next, we visited Ate Riza and her family, Manang Jaz’s best friend when she was in college. They live in a little pad in San Diego. Joshua had a chance to play with Ate Riza’s son Patrick. I was particularly excited because I was going to purchase a polarizing filter and remote trigger for my DLSR camera today. So while waiting for lunch, Manung Totit accompanied me to the Henry’s Camera, photography supplies shop nearby. The trip was relatively quick as we passed by what my manung describes as Ghetto land. A little later, I finally got what I wanted – a Promaster 6 ft. remote trigger , a Hoya 58mm Polarizing filter and Tamrac filter pocket.

Manny Pacquiao Ricky Hatton

After San Diego, we went to the baby shower of Manung Totit’s friend. They had a feast set in the living room with a variety of Filipino and American foods. I enjoyed the pork ribs, chomping every meat on the bone. Aside from that, they also had a little sushi tray which completed my meal. It wasn’t only the baby shower that was important that day. The long-awaited match between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton was about to start that very afternoon. Amazingly, it only lasted two rounds. All of us and probably all pinoys from around the world were celebrating.

Celtics vs Bulls

And a little earlier from the fight, the instant classic Celtics vs. Bulls 1st round playoffs was about to end. I was definitely happy that the Celtics won and are moving on to the next round.

One thing I missed this week was the Free Comic Book Day in Comic Odyssey Robinson’s Galleria. The last time I attended a FCBD was when Planet X was opening a branch in Glorietta.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Four

Posted in Family, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 6, 2009

San Diego

Week four’s Sunday was enormously fun because we went to the Naval Amphibious Base. It’s a naval installation located across the bay from San Diego, California. On the way, we crossed this long and winding road over the bay called the San Diego Bridge. First thing that came to mind when we entered the base – so quiet. Not a lot of people were there, an almost barren wasteland. Manung was supposed to take us to an aircraft carrier in the base. After a little going around, there wasn’t any. I guess it was deployed for service. So, drove nearer to the bay area to get a good look at the San Diego Bridge.

USS Midway

Just when I thought I couldn’t see an aircraft carrier anymore, the USS Midway Museum was already at the distance. The enormous ship will take anyone’s attention, even from afar. Surrounding the ship is the Broadway Pier – think Roxas Blvd. but with a carrier parked by its doorstep. There is also a special citation awarded by a certain Filipino named Sinforoso L. Duque, addressed to the Task Unit 77.4.3, for their heroism against the powerful units of the Japanese fleet during the battle off Samar, Philippines,  October 25, 1944. Talk about leaving a thank you letter on marble.



Further away from the marble, there is a statue of sailor and his girlfriend kissing passionately – a very familiar scene in the life of a sailor. The statue is by no means just a statue. It stands about at least 60 feet high. It also seems to be the perfect shooting spot for newlyweds. Near the San Diego bay, there are also a group of statues, seemingly celebrating in silence.


We headed off to the ship and as we drew closer and closer, it got bigger and bigger. The gray metal is majestic on the outside, but the inside is a world on its own. The place can be turned into a venue for any kind of event because of how wide it is. There were folded planes, unarmed bombs and the air of war all over the place. Going down deeper into the ship can be like a maze. Little rooms act as dividers, slicing the slab of metal into organisable chunks. Take my word for it – you don’t want to wander around here and get lost. I could imagine the place as a nightmare for claustrophobic people. As we headed down to the brig and the engine room, we passed stairs going up and down, narrow doors and slim bunk beds. Getting around here isn’t that easy. Every room has at least a tidbit about the past, how the crew lived their lives through war.

Brig and Engine Room

The engine room was massive with a lot of giant pipes, confusing dials and a little bit of steam for authenticity. Back in the day, this must have been the hottest room in the ship. What I like about this museum is that it maxes out the visitor experience with optional self-guided audio tours that explain the history of the USS Midway and helpful staff that will answer any question you have about the ship.


We then went back to the hangar to check out some planes. The hangar deck is used to stow aircraft when not in use. There are refuelling stations, plane cockpits, flight simulators and a gift shop for everyone’s entertainment.  We then headed up to the flight deck where a collection of decommissioned planes and helicopters were exhibited. Finally seeing these machines in-person gives me a great feeling of satisfaction. The flight deck is more than three times the length of a football field. From end to end, you could probably have enough of a cardiac workout.

The Island

Bye Mom!

The building on top of the flight deck, known as the island, is where officers can direct flight and ship operations. At the front of the ship, there’s a great view of the San Diego Bay. The long drop below can be nauseating, but I do wonder what it’ll be like falling from a height like this. The rest of the deck was just too much to swallow in one day. There are still so much I could learn about the place but time is the greatest enemy of all.


Nothing much happened the next Monday. We just bummed around the house again. Tuesday, we went to a restaurant called the Asian Seafood Buffet – my kind of place. I just stuffed myself with shrimps, crabs and sashimi. I have this affectionate relationship with seafood, which is very unusual considering that I grew up in the mountains. After dinner, we slept over at Tito Hip’s place. I never got to ride on his motorcycle though. I spent the whole night chatting with my girl instead.


Wednesday, we went to the outlet mall and window –shopped. Unfortunately, the heat was up and it was not nice. Unlike the humid air of Manila, the heat here is dry and stingy. A short time under the sun can become very uncomfortable. Good thing the place was mostly covered. So, Mom finally bought for herself new shoes and toiletries. I bought some lotions and lip balm for my girl. I couldn’t wait to go home because the heat was doing a bad one on me.


Thursday, we went to the bowling alley. It’s been a long time since I played bowling so my hands are a little rusty. Okay, so not a little. I sucked the whole game, but did make some strikes and spares. I forgot how fun this game was that I wanted to play more. Too bad we didn’t play long enough. Dinner was at In-and-Out. The last time we ate there, I had the animal style double-double, which I learned later on, packed almost more than 2000 calories. Ouch! So I just had a simple burger instead.


Bidding Farewells

Friday, Mom was uber busy packing all her things for her trip home. Mom was kind enough to extend my stay for three weeks more, and I’m happy for that. Later that afternoon, we left to bring mom to the airport. We had a late lunch at Burger King, where I ate a chicken burger. I try to keep in check what I ate these days, so as not to upset my health. The airport was busy as ever when we arrived at 6 pm in the afternoon. Mom didn’t have much to bring because most of the stuff we bought are to be shipped through a balikbayan box. When my mom was already checked in, we just hanged out at the coffee shops nearby. I was playing out mom again and acted as if I was never going to see her again. We then bade our goodbyes to my mom. She was thinking of coming back again next year.


Saturday, we went to Tito Hip’s place and had a get-together with their friends. They were cooking steaks and barbeques. I definitely enjoyed the steak and ribs because they were juicy and delicious. The kids were playing with the Wii, popping in Resident Evil. I still am very frightened to play that game. Later, we started drinking tequila and beer. The last time I drank tequila was when we had a house party at Paolo’s house.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Three

Posted in Family, Photography, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on May 6, 2009

And on the third week, we stayed more at home than outside. Sunday was an emotional day for my mom. I woke up a little too late than expected because I was up all night reading the manga Cased Closed (Detective Conan). It’s interesting to know that the Bayquen side of the family love reading books and Manung Ricky’s kids are no different. Len-Len borrows manga from the library and is already reading Ranma 1/2 and Cased Close. Brandon reads action-adventure books. I guess I’m a little more Bayquen on the inside and Bumanglag on the outside.

My cousins had planned to take us to the Fisherman’s Wharf while we were in San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf is a well-known tourist spot in San Francisco where Pier 39, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum to name a few are found. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go because time was against the tide. I’m going to miss the clam chowder Manang Jaz keeps telling me about and the cable cars I’ve always wanted to ride.


Instead, we went off to Ceres, California where Lolo Vicente, my grandmother’s brother, was waiting for us. I slept almost half-way the 2 hour trip after devouring a chicken fillet burger from McDonalds. We arrived in a typical American neighbourhood. When we found grandpa’s house, it was a tad bigger than usual – almost like a mansion. The garage was open and messy and turned out that Lolo was in the process of moving into a smaller house right across the street. We were all eagerly waiting for him to answer the door. A few minutes later, Lolo arrived. For a 93 year-old man, he was still headstrong and able to drive a car. Mom introduced all of us and we all went inside the house.


After a long talk between family members, we all bade our goodbyes. Mom couldn’t help but cry because she missed her mom and the only living connection to her was Lolo Vicente. She asked for his blessings. We also said goodbye to our cousin Manung Ricky and his family. I wish I could spend more time with them to get to know them more. I do hope to meet them again someday.



It’s Monday again and I am tired from the trip we had last night. Today I planned to finish Week Two of my Letters to Blumentritt, upload more photos and just hang out in the house all day. I shuffled my time uploading and writing everything I can. Good thing the house was wifi enabled. It made me work in my room while I watched TV.


That afternoon, our cousin took us to Pala Hotel for an overnight stay. I’m sure Manang Jaz was excited because she loved hitting the slots and testing her luck. We arrived just in time to meet with Tito Hip and his family who were staying at the hotel as well.

Mexican Resto

My mom and I stayed in a room with 2 queen size beds. The view from the window was incredible, over-viewing the hotel pool below. At dinner, they offered me to eat the authentic Mexican cuisine or plain old American hotdogs. Seriously, I was going for hotdogs because I already ate at Taco Bell. But they said it was going to be a different experience and advised me to try the authentic Mexican food. So I did. All us guys went over at a nearby Mexican restaurant to order some Super Nachos and Burritos. The setup of the resto reminded me of the carinderias back in the Philippines. The burritos were bigger and stuffier than Taco Bell. I could only eat half of it but it tasted great.

The rest of the night was a bore. I stayed with the kids as the grownups went to the casino. It wasn’t long until Mom came up and we retired into our beds.


The following five days, we just spent most of our time at home. Manung Totit was busy with his work and Manang Jaz was taking care of Joshua. I usually just watched a movie or a show on TV. I began reading the graphic novels I bought – Kingdom Come, Understanding Comics, Making Comics and Batman: The Killing Joke. Mom had already arranged for my extended stay, an extra three more weeks. I keep thinking about the art training and thesis I should be doing. The frustration is beginning to build up and just like my friend Isaiah used to say, “Nangangati na ang mga kamay ko.”

The dreams I’ve been having lately seems to touch subjects such as my high school friends, a sort-of class reunion and my hometown. In a way, I am subconsciously missing all of them. Thankfully, the internet exists in this time of age where the world is getting smaller and smaller. I sent a ping to some of my closest friends, wondering how they’ve been doing. It’s good to know that they still remember me and they miss me too. Sometimes the simplest things make you the happiest man in the world.

Letters to Blumentritt: Week Two

Posted in Family, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on April 15, 2009

Before I knew it, my first week here in the US was over. Thing is, time was going too slow for me here. With the sun only setting after 6pm and all, it was a no brainer why. Sunday was no different. Joshua still wasn’t feeling very well, which was unnoticeable by the way he acted. He was still jumpy and running around the place. Rashes began appearing all over his body. Stomach virus or not, I think it was something he ate. So we went to the hospital to pay the pediatrician a visit. It took them awhile to diagnose my nephew so I played with my camera a bit. I still am completely dumb-founded by my DSLR’s capabilities. There are still so many things I can do with it, and yet I haven’t used it in full capacity.


We had a coffee break just outside the hospital while waiting for Joshua’s meds. What is it about coffee these days? I don’t know. Everyone wants to be seen in Starbucks, sipping a Starbuck, holding a Starbuck and being a Starbuck. I guess it’s a social thing. And I don’t blame them for it.

Lot'sa Tickets

All that waiting made us want to grab a bite. I had a craving for spaghetti so we decided to eat lunch at Shakey’s. I don’t remember the last time I ate at Shakey’s. What I do remember is that there was this one branch in Baguio City Session Road we used to go to every Sunday. The buffet was worth every buck starting at only $6. I ate a lot of mojos and pizzas but no pastas. They didn’t have the spaghetti and meatballs that I was craving for. Joshua was craving for another thing – games. I won a lot of tickets on this particular game, where you have to press the button in exactly the right moment to win a lot of tickets.


Fry's Electronics

And there was Tuesday – the day we had to choose a laptop to purchase for me and my brother. I’m finally getting a new laptop and saying goodbye to my old reliable Acer. Manung Totit brought us to Fry’s Electronics, an electronics megastore offering everything from softwares and hardwares to games and appliances. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the specific laptop me and my brother wanted. I instead looked for a laptop bag for Milcon.

Manung Totit and Mom

Taco Bell!

For lunch, my cousin took us to Taco Bell and tryout some Mexican food. I had my first burrito which was sumptuous and delicious. My mom had a small taco, just right for her appetite. I have probably eaten only once in Taco Bell in the Philippines, right after a UAAP game. Now I wished I ate there more often than once. I was able to eat about 3/4 of the burrito before I was full. Another thing I liked was the free refills for drinks.

Mom Finding Some Shoes

Gap Gap Gap!

Mom wanted to go to the outlet mall and check out some clothes and shoes. The outlets here are quite small and in some ways almost the same as outlet malls such as those designed for AB social classes in the Philippines. Mom tried out some shoes because she had a hard time walking. We went to GAP after, to check out some clothes my ate asked for – tank tops and whatnot.

At The Grocery


Just before we went home, we went to the commissary to buy veggies, garlic bread and juices. We were having spaghetti tonight, just because I didn’t get to eat some earlier. The do-it-yourself counter was very cool too. It’s a very handy thing to do especially if the lines are long in the grocery.


Sea World

Jumping Dolphins!

Wednesday is Sea World day! Manung Totit brought us to the marine mammal park in San Diego on a bright and early April 8th. I was very excited to finally some dolphins, sea lions and orcas. One of the great things I noticed about the park is that it’s well maintained. These animals need a lot of love and care and I’m happy to see that they’re all being treated well. The first show we went to was the Dolphin Discovery. Manung Totit wanted me to seat in the front row but I knew better. The front rows are the soak zones, the best seats in the house in a way where you get a chance to get wet. Yes, get wet! But I wouldn’t want to risk my camera getting wet. The show began with an appetizing intro music by this guy playing a guitar. Then just on queue, the dolphins came jumping out of the water.

The Lucky Mom


The show also gave a lucky family a chance to interact with the dolphins. Before I knew it, the mom fell into the water and began to drown. As it turns out, she was also a trainer acting everything out. I was definitely convinced to the point of me worrying about her. But everything turned out fine.


Enjoying Sea World!


The next show we went to was Believe, a performance of Sea World’s iconic orca Shamu. Shamu is a stage name given to the numerous adult male and female orcas at Sea World. It means “friend of Namu” or “She-Namu” and was given to the first female orca ever captured. My first impression for these majestic animals – they’re just amazing! Friendly and gentle, who would’ve known these orcas are also called killer whales. They can jump off the water very high and have a big appetite. And the best thing about them – they can give a big splash! The front row seats were showering in 55°F of water. Now that’s cold.

Baby Back Ribs

I was hoping to feel my inner orca and eat a lot for lunch. We headed for the Shipwreck Reef Cafe to get satisfy our rumbling tummies. I had the baby back ribs, strawberries and whip cream which I shared with my mom.

Eels Eeeeek!

After lunch, we detoured to the Forbidden Reef where sting rays and eels were everywhere. Joshua got frightened by the dark tunnel so he didn’t come inside with us. It was creepy and ominous inside the forbidden reef, seeing those snake-like eels slithering through the water.

Sea Lion and Otter Show

Then we went to the Sea Lion and Otter stadium. Sea lions remind me of dogs – only with flippers and no fur. Their onstage antics were memorable and funny. Spoofs of shows such as Superman, CSI and Iron Chef were great as well. And the cute little sea otter almost stole the whole performance. At the end, I giant white walrus appeared in the scene. What a surprise!

Flamingo smell bad

The Bayside Skyride was our next destination. On the way there, we stopped and observed flamingos at the Flamingo Cove. Although beautiful as they were, their smell is unbearable. Phew! I will never see flamingos the same way again. Unfortunately, the skyride was closed for safety precautions because of the very strong winds. So the Freshwater Aquarium was our next ticket. I remember seeing archer fishes, piranhas, poison frogs, turtles, angel fishes, and bullfrogs. Another aquarium we went to was the Shark Encounter. There were tiger sharks, nurse sharks and everything you could come up with the name shark. Their teeth are razor sharp and ridged which would absolutely hurt anytime of day.

Pengiun Kingdom

After sharks, we were in for penguins at the Penguin Encounter. Not all penguins live in the southern hemisphere. Magellanic Penguins live near the equator, away from the ice. Just outside the Penguin Encounter building, Magellanic Penguins are housed in moderate temperature for bystanders to see. Inside the building, the air slowly dropped temperature. We rode a moving walkway just to see all kinds of penguins in a large aquarium filled with snow. There were Emperor penguins, Adelei penguins and some Southern Rockhopper penguins. I’ve never seen so many penguins in my life.


Walking all day already took its toll on us so we settled in playing games with Joshua at the Games Entertainment Center. I tried my luck in the basketball shooting game. The $10 for 5 shots was a little too pricy but what the hell. My first two shots were way off. But my next 3 were in the bag. I won a prize for my efforts and got a very big gorilla. Thinking I couldn’t take it home, I exchanged it for three sharks instead.


My mom was kind enough to buy a laptop for my brother and me. On a Thursday, we went to Best Buy to check out some models. I settled with an HP Pavilion with a cool case. Manung Totit also bought the same model for our nephew Nicole, who just recently graduated from high school and is planning to attend Ateneo next academic year. We couldn’t buy my kuya’s laptop because it wasn’t available in black.

Kumpares and Kumares

Afterwards, we went to pick up Joshua from the day care center. He’s going to school starting next year. I think he’s more than ready enough though. We waited for Manang Jaz to arrive because they planned for us to visit Joshua’s ninong and ninang in Morietta. It took awhile to get there so I slept all the way. Manung Totit and Tito Hip met years ago in the Navy. He’s a Fil-Am from Tarlac. When Joshua was born, he became my cousin’s kumpare. All of us had dinner at the Sushi Boat, a Japanese restaurant. I ate heartily that night, enjoying the sushi platter I ordered. Before I knew it, the night was over and we went home.


Kuya Boom emailed us that it was okay if black wasn’t available for the laptop he wanted. So that Friday, we went back to Best Buy and got his Gateway laptop. I bought myself a graphics tablet seeing that I had to learn to use one sooner or later. I wanted to get the game NBA 2K9 too but I changed my mind. I get distracted very easily so I bailed out. When we got home, we quickly packed our stuff for our trip to San Francisco to visit my other cousin, Manung Totit’s brother, Manung Ricky and his family. We left the house at 7 o’clock in the afternoon. The trip lasted 8 hours. I wasn’t very comfortable in the car but strangely enough, I had a good sleep.

That early morning was a stinger. We arrived in San Francisco at 3am and it was very cold. Manung Ricky lives in a condo with wife Manang Len and two kids, Len-Len and Brandon. Just like Manung Totit, I have not seen him in a long time. Not long after a little chit-chat, we retired to our beds for the long day ahead.


Wii Love Early Mornings

That Saturday morning, everyone was up, except me. Joshua, Brandon and Len-Len were all playing Mario Kart on the Wii. Mom told me to take a bath already because we were going to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bathroom here is very big – I mean really big. We took off went to downtown San Francisco. It reminded me of Baguio because of the slopes going up and down, the abundance of trees and the cold climate. I could already see the bridge from afar. There’s a bridge entering Cagayan Valley in the Philippines with an almost similar design with the Golden Gate. Although they vary in size, there’s no mistake that the link over Cagayan River is a rip off.

At The Golden Gate

Mom and I

As we crossed over the bridge, I could see Alcatraz Island over the distance. Some may remember the island in popular culture as the setting for The Rock and X-Men The Last Stand. The time it took for us to drive across the bridge wasn’t as quick as I thought it was, more than 10 minutes. We got off at the otherside and began taking a good look at this marvel of human ingenuity. It was little windy that day, but not enough to blow us off. Seeing the details close up is astounding. I could only imagine how they built the bridge a long time ago. I only wished I had a wide-angle lens to really give the bridge that majestic look. But hey, I have to do the best with what I have. I tried to look down below and it gave me a feeling of a bottomless pit. Maybe I should try bunjee jumping next time. Now that would be a test of courage.


The Whole Family

Golden Gate

That bridge built me an appetite. We went off to Moonstar, a buffet style restaurant. One thing about me, I never miss out on seafood so I gobbled-up some crabs, shrimps and tuna sashimi. The crab legs were the longest I’ve ever seen. But everything tasted great! I wish I could go back again to eat some more.

Sea World Photos

Golden Gate Bridge Photos

Letters to Blumentritt: Week One

Posted in Family, Travel by J.R. Bumanglag on April 7, 2009

Some title huh? Well, since I’m half-way around the world, this may be the best title there is. I’m a brownman in New York…or make that California to be exact. Yes, that’s right! I’m on my official out-of-country vacation with my mom in the US. It’s the first time for me, though I’m not that excited. I don’t know why, but it would have been better if…oh…let’s not go there.

We left Manila at 10pm by Philippine Air Lines. The trip lasted almost 12 hours which passed by quickly because the in-flight entertainment was so-so great. The movies played were Quantum of Solace, Twilight and High School Muscial 3. Of the three, I enjoyed Quantum the most, even though I haven’t seen Casino Royale. In between those movies, I slept and dreamt nothing of what was to come. I had planned to read my books or listen to my psp but that didn’t go so well. The slippers I was wearing didn’t go so well either because my legs were frozen to death. Good thing the flight offered blankets, pillows, socks and whatnot to save me from suffering.

So we were over Los Angeles California at about 8pm local time (10am in the Philippines). At last, we arrived at our destination. I quickly looked around the LAX Los Angeles International Airport, trying to digest the surroundings. We had to wait for another hour because my cousin Manung Totit, who was going to pick us up, was in traffic. My mom was getting worried because he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Fortunately, he did come and we were off to his home in Oceanside California. I was still barely awake at the time, even though it was already night. We were talking with Manung Totit the whole trip, catching up on old and new memories.

Manung Totit is part of the U.S. Navy currently living with his family, Manang Jasmine and their son Joshua, in the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. On the way, I was checking out the GPS navigation device in the car and thought it was very handy to have while traveling. Manung Totit was driving his Honda Pilot, which I thought was a very cool SUV.  When we arrived at their home, at a push of a button, the garage door slowly rose up – another handy and cool thing to have. Manang Jasmine was still up doing her homework when we arrived. After showing us our rooms, all of us sat down and began talking about our lives again. After a while, we all hit the bunkers. Manung and Manang still had work the next day and Joshua had to attend school. I was definitely bummed too.



I woke up a on a bright and early Monday March 30th morning, hungry and jet-lagged. I heated up the igado Manang Jaz left for us to eat and surfed through their HDTV. Man, that TV is big and wide! I also tried playing with Joshua’s Wii which was very cool. I played Guitar Hero for the first time using the Fender Stratocaster guitar controller. It took me sometime to figure the game out. One good thing about the house is that it’s near the playground and a basketball court. I went out to play basketball for awhile and found it very eerie because the neighborhood was very quiet. No living thing was in the area. Creepy! The air was very cold and windy. I forgot to bring by basketball shoes so I settled with my slippers instead. For the time I spent the afternoon trying to beat the wind from misaligning my shots, not a single drop of sweat cooled me down.


Later that afternoon, Manang Jaz and Joshua arrived from school. Joshua was excited to see me and my mom. At only 5 years old, this little guy is pumped up and energetic. Don’t let his looks fool you! It’s amazing to think how they handle him 24/7. When Manung Totit came home, dinner was only a drive away. We went to Applebee’s, the neighborhood grill and bar. Mom and I ordered Deep Fried Shrimp and Chicken Salad, a $20 for 2 meals promo. While we were waiting, Joshua wanted me to take photos of him. He was very friendly with the camera, unlike most kids. When the meal arrived, were we in for a treat. Everything definitely tasted great! Unfortunately, I knew I couldn’t finish all of them. By the time the food was only half way done, I was already full. Mom couldn’t finish the salad as well. So we had dinner to-go and left overly-satisfied.



Stuart Mesa Housing

Another sunny day came, March 31st. We were still very stuck inside the house, which was getting boring by the minute. I had trouble sleeping, waking up very early in the morning at about 5:30 am. Nobody was up yet, so I watched some TV programs in my room. Some of the shows I enjoyed back home were on air, like Frasier, How I Met Your Mom and Friends. I had the leftovers from Applebee’s for breakfast. It still made  me so full that morning. I rested a bit and then went out to play basketball again. I concentrated on making free throws, perfecting my form. I still couldn’t perspire because it was a little windy.


Later that afternoon, we went to Pala Casino for dinner. We ate at this asian restaurant, offering different kinds of cuisine, ranging from Chinese to Thai meals. As usual, they still had big servings. I barely managed to finish the ramen I ordered. We went around the casino after. It was my first time to see slot machines lined up for everyone’s gambling pleasure. On the way home, I was very tired and sleepy. Joshua kept on bugging me to stay awake but I couldn’t help it. I went straight to the grave as soon as I stepped inside the house. All in a day’s work, so they say.




April Fool’s day was typically normal for me. We had to wake up early because we were off to Colorado Springs, Colorado to visit my mom’s former classmates from high school. Manung Totit drove us to the San Diego International Airport. On the way, Joshua wasn’t feeling so well. He almost threw up in the car. Good thing Manung Totit offered his jacket to throw up in to. I bet Joshua was a little bit happy, because he wasn’t going to school that day. Passing through the security measures was plainly easy and fast. But I still had this chilly feeling whenever they check my stuff – as if I was hiding something. Anyways, mom and I waited by McDonald’s. To my surprise, the clerks were Filipino, seemingly talking to each other in tagalog. I ordered a burrito, orange juice and coffee for mom. The flight was three hours away so I had time to look around.

San Diego Internation Airport

The flight was relatively short, about an hour or so. We stopped over in Phoenix Arizona, the valley of the sun. It was there that we met Tita Josie, my mom’s classmate. There began the unending string of kwentuhans between mom and tita. All of us went to our next flight to Colorado. I was so hungry at the time, but I couldn’t grab a bite because we were already leaving. The next flight took another hour. The skies were already becoming cloudy, signaling the coming of a blizzard. The moment I got out of the plane, the wind swept me off with a cold chill, a very cold one. We met up with Tita Glo and Tito Willie who were the ones picking us up at the airport. It was then that the blizzard touched down right as we were leaving the airport. Finally, snow! The flakes were passing me by horizontally, in gusty fashion.


Tita Glo and Tito Willie’s home in Colorado was a welcome temple of joy. I was freezing inside the car, even though the heater was on. We quickly entered the house and cozied to the warmth. Jeremy, tito and tita’s son, came up to greet us. he showed me around the house. It was practically a snow storm outside, so I just had to introduce myself to the ice.

More Snow!

Dinner was already served – not! They forgot the most important thing of being a pinoy…rice! But that was okay. The rice came in no time. They served sinigang, roasted chicken and lumpia which had sotanghon in it. Jeremy invited me to play Unreal Tournament III in his XBOX 360. Then he showed me their dogs, two Pomeranians named Chelsea and Charlie. They were definitely jumpy for a small breed of canines. Later, Blu-Ray was the name of the game. Kung Fu Panda was great as I watched it in HD.



Thursday was still as cold as ever, though the blizzard already left. We went to the U.S. Air Force Academy. The trip was long but enjoyable. The academy reminded me of the Philippine Military Academy back home. Our first destination was the Cadet Chapel. It didn’t seem so much as a place of worship at first glance. You might mistake it for something else, like a museum. I definitely liked the design of the building. The church hosts 3 worship areas for the Protestants, the Catholics and the Jews. The interior gives you an almost out of this world experience. It felt like being in a science fiction movie. While I was finding a good spot to take a photo, I almost slipped from the ice. Phew! At the visitor’s center, I bought some souvenir’s for my relatives and significant other – who I miss so much.

Air Force Academy



Church Interior

We ate lunch at IHOP, the International House Of Pancakes. I ordered a sirloin steak, a caesar’s salad and iced tea. Turns out, the iced tea wasn’t so sweet like a normal iced tea should be. The onion rings and ultimate burger my titas’ had was huge! But we were so hungry that it didn’t matter anymore.


After lunch, we went to Jeremy’s school to pick him up. He’s a very good guitar player and played for musicals and recitals. It turned out he still had after-school practice so we walked around a nearby residential area. I was hoping to see what kind of teenage culture they had here. Too bad entering the school was not allowed. Awww! When he finally came out, off to the Garden of the Gods we went.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a place right out off the face of Mars. The rock formations are staggering and wondrous. It definitely deserves the name it holds. Along the trail around the park, there are many informative maps and trivia. I learned that the word “Colorado” is a Spanish term meaning “color red.” The name Garden of the Gods was coined by Rufus Cable, after exclaiming “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” A lot of people were walking their dogs and climbing the rocks. The park was also ideal for taking photographs. I took a lot of pictures, testing if I still remembered everything I learned in photography class. By the end of the day, I was so tired again.

Garden of the Gods

Sito Family



It’s TGI Fridays! I had this weird dream about souls, demons and computers. What the?! I did have a good and long sleep, thanks to the cold climate. Today we went to Cripple Creek, a former gold mine located southwest from Colorado Springs near the base of Pikes Peak. It took us almost 1 hour to get there. We traveled across the snowy mountains and winding roads. The view of the country side is breath-taking. The winds were very gusty as well.

Cripple Creek

Heritage Center


At the Pikes Peak Heritage Center, we learned the rich history of the county from the pre-historic era to its gold mining age. There were models of animals and dinosaurs, fossils and rocks and other interesting stuff. Pikes Peak was compared to alot of other mountains found around the world. Although Pikes Peak is already a high mountain, it is only a mere beginner’s challenge compared to Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro. There are also an abundant wildlife around Pikes Peak of which includes mountain lions, bears, turkeys, ducks and elks. The history of gold mining is one of the most interesting things in the museum. It reminded me of the time I visited Lepanto mines with my dad.

Stairway to Heaven



Our next destination was Seven Falls located along South Cheyenne Canyon. It is an 181-foot waterfall cascading down seven distinct steps. Situated on the side are steps, a stairway to heaven. Before I climbed up, we met a small chipmunk restlessly moving around the park. The waterfall is a sight to behold from below. At night, it is magically transformed into a colorful wonderland, with colored lights decorating the falls. The stairs is a test of courage. My mom tried to climb but she could only go half way. I did it all the way to the top. I was definitely shivering as I slowly took it step-by-step. I would sometimes glance down only to blurt out a mince of fear. When I reached the top, it gave me the feeling of success.

Seven Falls

I spent my last night in Colorado watching the Dark Knight on Blu-Ray HDTV. It was amazing! I still couldn’t believe the level of clarity it had. If only I had the money to buy my own. Argh!


Saturday finally came and we were off to home. Jeremy gave me his PSP games, since his PSP was busted already. I took some pictures of their home (both interior and exterior), their car and dogs. My mom and her friends bade their goodbyes, promising to follow up their reunion as soon as possible. They brought us to the Colorado Springs airport and soon enough, we were off to Phoenix where Tita Josie bade her goodbyes as well. She was going home to Los Angeles because that’s where she lives. Another hour and we arrived in San Diego where Manung Totit played a prank on me.

On the way home, we passed by the Seafood Market, a Filipino owned supermarket where local products are sold. Beside it are Chowking and Red Ribbon. There I saw the biggest tilapias and bangus ever! We bought some for dinner.

U.S. Air Force Academy Photos

Garden of the Gods Photos

Pikes Peak Heritage Center Photos