Sunday, November 24, 2013

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The Sunday Currently #1

I am currently...

READING The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt last night and, I don't know, I'm still deciding what I think about it. The prose was so pure, like clean stream water slipping through my fingers. I enjoyed the ruminations about art and fate, the loving characterization, those foggy tripped out scenes. But later, I became baffled and then unmoved by Theo Decker. My feelings for the main character undermined what the book was trying to tell me. ANYWAY. Finishing The Goldfinch has somehow restored my confidence to tackle more challenging novels, so Kavalier and Clay. I'm also dipping into Drown, the only book of Junot Diaz's I haven't yet read. I recently acquired a paperback of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell so I've also been re-reading favorite parts when the blues catch hold of me (which has been often in the past few days).

LISTENING to mostly old playlists, although Royals by Lorde has been stuck in my head for days now. Lem and I are constantly singing "You can call me queen bee" at each other. Curse that catchy song.

WATCHING The Day of the Doctor. (I KNOW!)

WRITING my thesis. (Sigh. I know.)

THINKING about the scientist as communicator.

SMELLING freshly laundered socks.

WEARING cardigans. I'm totally digging the cold mornings in Quezon City. They feel like a prelude for when I'm happily back in the mountains, in harsher, more familiar, temperatures.

WANTING to run more. Last Monday, I attempted to revive my running, which was all but forgotten during the slog that was September and October. I took it easy, knowing my body has once again become used to a stationary way of life. There was more walking than running, but it felt good to be outdoors and upright. After all the places I'd been and everything I'd done in the last two months, the neighborhood still looks pretty much the same and that is comforting.

NEEDING to be less morose about things.

FEELING that I'm between and betwixt.

The Sunday Currently is a weekly series hosted by Lauren at siddathornton. Write your own post (because lists are therapeutic) and link back at siddathornton to keep the love flowing. Have a fantastic week, wombats.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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Getting to Villamor Airbase (for the commuting volunteer)

A commuter's guide for dummies (me), Quezon City to Villamor Airbase edition

I'm a Baguio girl whose rather narrow home range in Metro Manila is Quezon City; everywhere else requires a map. My knowledge of Pasay City is more or less that it contains NAIA, and I've gotten there mostly by taxi or hired van that I didn't have to pay for myself, hehe.

I've seen numerous posts about the need for Yolanda relief volunteers at the Villamor Airbase, but not too many about how to get there. A Google search yields a couple of forums with cryptic instructions about riding anything from Magallanes labeled FTI (apparently, Food Terminal Incorporated) and getting off at the Villamor interchange. They didn't say where to find these mysterious vehicles or where to go exactly once arriving at the Villamor interchange. It is any lost soul's guess.

So! Since taking a cab from Quezon City to Pasay would cost you your left kidney and wouldn't be as eventful anyway, here is a not-so-cryptic guide for public transport to get you to the relief stations inside Villamor Airbase:

Take the MRT 3 southbound and get off at the Magallanes Station (Fare is PHP15 if coming from North Ave). Cross EDSA to Alphaland Southgate Mall. From the mall, walk south towards Chino Roces Ave. You can also pass through the mall, which has an exit to Chino Roces (it's the one with the Booksale, haha). Keep walking southwards to the SLEX West Service Road. You will need to walk the length of an overpass (or underpass, if you look at it from the Skyway).

At the West Service Road, ride a public utility jeepney (PUJ) bound for FTI (cryptic instructions work after all!) and get off at the Villamor interchange (PHP8). You should be able to see the entrance to the Villamor Golf Course on your right. There is an unloading area, so don't panic when you come upon the ridiculous, pedestrian-unfriendly knot of flyovers and loops (because I totally did). From SLEX, walk right following the roundabout and into Sales Road, which skirts the wall of the golf course. You should see a line of PUJs for Nichols Ikot a little past the gate.

  • Villamor Airbase Gate 4: Riding a Nichols Ikot PUJ (PHP8) will take you to Gate 4 at the corner of Sales Road and Andrews Ave (Resorts World on your right and NAIA Terminal 3 already visible on your left). Tell the driver you are getting off at Gate 4. Just inside the gate, to your right will be the Philippine Air Force Museum. You can take a shuttle there to either the Repacking Station (where it stops first) or the Grandstand (where it stops next).
If you know of an easier way to get to Villamor Airbase via public transportation, let me know in Comments. :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

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Tacloban after PAMS and Yolanda

The other week, I was in Tacloban City for the 12th National Symposium on Marine Science. For three days or so, over 400 coastal and marine specialists, exhilarated by fellowship and the prospect of sharing new science, laid claim to the city.

Many of us attending the symposium flew out on the day NAIA was dealing with its radar system upgrade. It was a novel kind of purgatory for someone like me whose most eventful airport debacle was being unable to find a quiet spot to read. While getting off the plane at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport nearly five hours after our original ETA, my boss/ friend Mags gestured at the darkness beyond the runway, pointing out that we were surrounded by water. We walked towards the terminal, marveling at this proximity to the ocean. This is what I thought of when I read the tweets about the Tacloban airport being all but wiped out.

The symposium was the first time I would present what I've been working on for my Master's thesis. I also had additional duties as a member of the communications team. With everything going on, I didn't really see a lot of the city.

But I remember the people.

The symposium was held at the UP Visayas Tacloban College, a small but lovely campus, much like my UP Baguio. Dr. Marge De La Cruz, the lionhearted dean, and her tenacious faculty made all 400 of us feel welcome. The secretariat, even when they had no idea who I was or why I always appeared to be hyperventilating, helped me out whenever they could. The college chorale group and their mad vocal skillz serenaded us during the first symposium dinner, their rendition of an Imelda Papin classic an instant crowd favorite.

New images from Tacloban show that much of the campus has been destroyed. I bear the news with sorrow and disbelief, and this tugging helplessness in the face of all things being transient.

Photo from Rappler/ Rupert Ambil

The night we arrived, Mags and I with biodiversity conservation warrior queen Nanay and a research assistant Audrey ended up at the Italian restaurant Guiseppe's for a late dinner. I had the pumpkin soup and the ravioli ragu. Our waiter was a character, a young man made memorable by his affable (and slightly subversive) cheekiness. At the end of the meal, he surprised us with complimentary shots of amaretto.

The night before my very early flight back to Manila, I worried about getting to the airport at 4AM. But the girls working the front desk at Hotel Consuelo arranged a ride for me, no problem. The driver of said ride, upon learning that I didn't have change for fare, stopped at different gas stations (at that ungodly hour) until we found an attendant who could trade me smaller bills. When we reached the airport, the driver gave me his name (Victor) and number, and told me to call if I needed a taxi service in Tacloban again. I thanked him and promised I'd recommend him to other graduate students who'd often return to the city for fieldwork.

I think about these good people now in the midst of all that suffering and devastation, and hope they are okay. 

Many of the people I work with have families in Visayas and Mindanao. It's extremely frustrating not being able to do much to comfort these friends who are sick with fear and worry. The right words escape me, but my thoughts and prayers are with them and their loved ones. And in my heart of hearts, I'm thankful that my own family is safe, far away in the mountains.

The intrepid Solera sisters from Cebu, Leilani and Ligaya, initiated a small relief effort among their friends, and it has gone a long way. I'm grateful to these girls and others like them for being strong for us, for opening up avenues for us to extend some measure of help. I'm drawing light from these individuals, and trying to follow their example. Here, from Rappler, is a list of ways we can assist in relief operations.
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