Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Beautiful Angkor Wat

The Angkor Wat is on my list of places to visit. Sweetie though has been wary about going because of the fate one of his classmates met when she visited. I only understood his anxiousness when I finally got the chance to go to support the community in their first mapUp of Siem Reap. The temperature was extremely hot for me. My seatmate told me that it was hotter in India, but I told him that my doctor warned me about avoiding extremely cold and hot weather since it would be bad for my condition.

I was undeterred though since I really wanted the chance to see the Angkor Wat in person. I took extra precaution and brought extra bottles of water to keep myself hydrated. I had to make sure I would be okay so that my colleagues wouldn't have to worry about me. I hopped on the ride to Angkor Wat with colleagues and in no time we arrived at the largest religious monument, the 8th wonder in the world.

Angkor Wat

Oh my. It was awesome! And HUGE. I only found out then that there isn't just one temple, but a HUNDRED. My friend Jerome visited Siem Reap a few months back and I remember he told me that one day isn't enough to cover everything. So, of course, I had to take a selfie.

Thanks to Sovann, my Cambodian colleague for taking my photo!

Another thing I didn't expect (my fault for not reading up about the place before going) was the presence of monkeys! We were told though to keep our distance because they might bite. There was one fat monkey who grabbed the water bottle of one of the guests, opened it and drank. There was one guest who kept reminding us to stay away from the monkeys because she said one attacked her before. The monkey got attracted to her blond hair and sat on her head. It took awhile before they managed to get the monkey off her head. Scaredy-cat me decided not to stay any longer after that and left.

Naughty monkey!

Scratch scratch.

Much as I would've loved to stay to take more photos and explore the temples I had a flight to catch and I didn't want to push my body too much. Google Street View anyway has about 90,000 images of the Angkor Wat I could enjoy anytime. It's a great way to visit a place that you want to go to. I'm definitely exploring Angkor Wat through Google Street View (without worries!).

And here's the Pinoy contingent during the launch.

Clara, Gibbs and the Matanglawin crew.

More photos!

Mike Nelson and Manik Gupta, Google.

International journalists at the launch.

The Google Street View car at Angkor Wat.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

20 Years of Philippine Internet: My Love Affair with the Internet in the Last 20 Years

I was lucky.

My alma mater, De La Salle University, was the first university to get connected to the internet (AFAIK) when I was in college. My tambayan was the publications office so I got the chance to go online and chat with other students (using our ID numbers!) and then through MIRC. It was only in grad school though in 1998 that I started to use the internet more extensively. I researched using Lycos, the Altavista then Google. My web browser? Netscape of course. For email, I used Hotmail, then Edsamail, then Yahoo and then started using Gmail when my crush sent me an invite (that's how my love affair with Gmail started). I was stuck on using Yahoo chat though until around 2008 and then just put a permanent vacation responder on my mail letting everyone know they should contact me via my Gmail account.

My very first selfwe and digital photo taken by Tobie when I was in college. He was the only person I knew who owned a digital camera back then. Good thing social media wasn't in yet!

The internet fascinated me especially when I read the book by Tim Berners-Lee. The book left a huge impression on me and pushed me to learn even more. In 1999 my Mom and I started our export business and my Dad who liked reading about technology pushed me to create our website. So I self studied Dreamweaver and uploaded our catalogue. I started to do SEO (which wasn't an official term yet back then) by submitting our site URL (which was on a free site) to directories. Pretty soon we started to get orders online. Eventually though we closed the business and I ended up working for One Hundred Services, a company that incubated internet projects, including etc.

It must've been fate that I flunked the interview with the president of a large furniture company. They surprised me so I got tongue tied and failed the interview big time. The next day was also my final interview at OHSI so I vowed to do better (I crafted a full marketing plan just for the interview). I did well and I got accepted to be the product manager of Global Trade Directory, localized version of World Access Network of Directories. I worked on building the database of exporters from scratch and created exporter advertising packages. It worked so well the directory grew faster than the main directory the company was incubating, DB and revenue wise. It was then I got reassigned to manage to handle marketing and sales. I was in my mid twenties managing >30 people (some way older than me). I had to work harder to make things work. It did and then I was moved to the mother ship, Directories Philippines Corporation.

I spent several years at DPC. I had the chance to work on the print, web and mobile version of the yellow pages. My last project was LUK4, but what I really enjoyed doing even back then was training entrepreneurs how to use the web to generate business. That was the time when I got the opportunity to travel around the Philippines to do trainings. The experience I had was what eventually landed me a job at Google.

How did I get a job at Google? I applied one morning when I was so upset at how I was being treated by my boss. I had known about the opening for about 6 months already before I applied. I never expected to be called, much less be accepted. Google opened the world to me. I don't have a degree in computer science so I had to study, study and study - my relationship with Sweetie started with him teaching me the different programming languages on chat (haha). And now almost 8 years after I'm still learning a lot and enjoying learning from colleagues who graduated from ivy schools in other countries (it gets scary at times!).

Before I gained my Google 15, 2006 in Google HQ, MTV, California.

The internet has been in my life since it started in the Philippines. It made me realize that there is so much to learn and strive for. I never expected that it would be what my career would be related to since my undergraduate degrees are so far from what I'm doing now. But hey, that's just how the internet has democratized things. Doors may close, but there are always windows that are open.

My internet family (plus my blogger friends and colleagues, not in photo). 

I'm now in a new chapter again in my life. Focusing my time more on education initiatives relating to the internet and hopefully will have time to take further studies. Maybe in the next 20 years I would've contributed to onboarding at least a percent of the next billion of internet users.

Happy #PH20net to all Filipino internet users like me!

*Written on my Nexus 7 onboard a flight from Bangkok to Singapore.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Happy, happy birthday to my Favorite Kuya

I technically just have one brother, my Kuya Jojo, and he's my favorite (no choice there haha). But I must say that I have the best brother in the whole wide world because he's always been there for me, through thick and thin, through no fats with so much fat, through alive and barely alive. I know I annoyed him a lot when I was a kid and I still do (it's my privilege because he's 13 years older than me!), but I know despite that he loves me.

My Kuya with his family the day we both renewed our wedding vows!

So, happy, happy birthday Kuya! Love you!

The Legaspi to Naga Adventure

I was originally planning to fly directly to Naga from Manila, but there were no more seats available when I was booking so I ended up booking a flight to Legaspi. It was a blessing in disguise though because the Manila to Naga flight was cancelled due to bad weather.

I'm always excited to go back home. Naga is where my parents grew up and my Mom is Bicolano. Naga is where they met, fell in love and married during a typhoon at the Ateneo de Naga University chapel (the tiny chapel is gone now sniff). My Dad was the superstar basketball varsity player when he was in high school (and also played for the college team!) and he said he spotted my Mom at a baylehan (party), fell in love and the rest is history.

I was only about 8 months old when they first brought me to Bicol. We'd usually stay at Pasacao during the summer where it was cooler because our nipa hut was located beside the sea. They used to call me kutong tubig because it was always hard for them to get me out of the water. My skin never really darkened, but i remember painful instances of getting sunburnt because of my hard headedness.

So I had to drag Sweetie to come with me to Bicol. I was so excited to show the Mayon off to him since he's never seen it. The pilot announced "fair weather" in Legaspi so I was ecstatic. As we were about to land though it started raining and not even the shadow of the Mayon could be seen. We thought that maybe after eating lunch she'd show up, but noooo Mayon hid behind the fog remaining unseen. Local folklore says that Mount Mayon is quite shy and would only show herself to select people. I was quite disappointed because Mount Mayon always showed herself to me. I guess I'll have to bring Sweetie again to Legaspi in the future. Maybe during a family vacation.

After having lunch at the famous Smalltalk Cafe we decided to take a commuter van to Naga since it was more affordable (just PhP140 one way). We flagged a padyak and the poor driver had to peddle really hard through the soft rain to the terminal. It was a good 15-minute ride. Sorry Kuya! He brought us though directly to the van so I gave him a hefty tip. The huge smile on his face abated my guilt :)

The van ride to Naga though was entirely another matter. The first hour wasn't so bad and we managed to get some sleep. The next hour and a half was a struggle. We had to put our bags on our lap because there was no space and it was hard to balance because we felt like we were going through zigzag roads. Apparently there were roadworks being done in Pili so the driver diverted through the towns leading to Naga. I could barely stand up when we got to Naga (sign of old age!).

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Penafrancia

Ina's old home, the Penafrancia Basilica de Minore

We decided to stay in and rest when we arrived and just had a fun day the next day in Naga City. Visited the 2 Penafrancia basilicas, hung out with my relatives at Moderna Bakery (Casa Moderna) and spent the whole afternoon with educators at Ateneo de Naga University. We capped off our Naga trip with a romantic post-Valentine's dinner at Red Platter. Hopefully next time I can bring Sweetie to my other favorite places in Bicol - Villa Merced Farm in Pasacao and Naga's Centro!

My favorite Casa Moderna offering - the Pambonete!

Afternoon well spent with educators, GEG Naga.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Modern Day Prince

I was grinning widely when I was waiting for the lift this afternoon. One of my colleagues commented, "Oh you look really happy." I said I was really happy because I had just received a surprise from Sweetie. He mentioned a few days ago that I was going to be surprised at the least time I expected it. I thought though that since I was in Singapore and he was in Manila that he would just surprise me when I'm back home this weekend.

I was wrong.

As usual.

I have been quite busy hopping from one meeting to another (that is my life at work!) in the past week that I had totally forgotten that it's Valentine's. I even had mindlessly scheduled my check-up on Valentine's day (well they say it's "hearts" day so it's just the perfect day to have my 100% pumpin' heart).

I was in a meeting which stretched to about 2 hours and I had been chatting with Sweetie when I left my desk to meet my guest. I briefly saw this photo on G+ -

And I thought, "Awww Sweetie made a card for me!" I told myself it was something I'd look forward to seeing when I got home.

Me being dense.

As usual.

When my guest left I went back to my desk and saw the end of the bouquet -- which I thought was the bottom of a wine bottle! <my eyes fail me even with eyeglasses> I actually felt quite annoyed coz it was on my keyboard! But lo and behold! When I picked it up I was surprised to see that it was a bouquet! A bouquet of white roses! And there's only one person in this world who gives me white roses... with a copy of the home-made card. [Read the link if you're wondering why he gave me white roses, yup it was a FAQ throughout the day].

So I sat there. Stunned. Surprised. Ecstatic. But I managed to discreetly have my moment because I didn't want to disturb my seatmates (who were all not on their desk when I looked around). And then I blushed and tried to contain the warm, fuzzy feeling that was spreading all over me.

It is actually the third year Sweetie and I are not together for Valentine's. 2012 I was in Singapore stuck in a bus for 2 hours with two teenagers making moony-moony eyes with each other (ugh). 2013 I was in ICU and he already had to go home. And now, well here again in Singapore. But every single year we always surprise each other (my surprise this year though didn't work out, boo) and what's important is to make each other feel loved and important (and feel like a princess!).

So who ever said that romance was dead?

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Keep Calm and Listen to The Piano Guys!

One of my most favorite channels YouTube is "The Piano Guys". I listen to the channel all day because it relaxes me. I was really happy when Sweetie bought the album. I immediately put it on my iPod so I could listen to it whenever I travel.

Here are some of my favorite videos -

I'm a frustrated pianist (stopped studying when my teacher started me on Jazz music, my fingers just couldn't keep up!), so I really, really appreciate and applaud musicians. The Piano Guys have also managed to "modernize" (for lack of a better word) classical music. Their take on some pop songs is also refreshing to the ears (check out their cover on One Direction's most popular song).

Love, love, love!!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Goodbye London, Hello Singapore!

I was trying to take a panoramic shot of the Buckingham Palace when this bird distracted me!

I only had time to blog snippets of my day in the week I was in London and well it's hard to get my brain to work with jetlag and the cold, cold weather. I'm happy to say though that I fared well despite freezing everytime I went out. I was prepared for that, what I wasn't was my body's reaction. Compared to my trip to Zurich it was a bit harder to breathe while walking. I read up on it and apparently it's a normal reaction for those who have gone through surgery. Good thing I prepared for a few weeks by walking around our compound almost every night. I would have probably had a harder time if I didn't prepare for the trip.

Now I'm back in Asia where the sun shines even when it rains (well most of the time). It was a rough flight since I couldn't sleep. Ended up watching "Metro Manila" which was a really heavy film so I watched a couple of episodes of "Sex in the City" to de-stress (I watched all the available Big Bang Theory episodes on the way to London).

I'm so looking forward to this new chapter in my life! And so many new decisions to make to support this change. Woohoo!