10 Things I Remembered About my Friend, Erwin

“Our memories, they have to be passed down by those who knew us in life – in the stories they tell about us.”

-Hector from the movie, Coco.

I recently lost a friend and the loss deeply affected many of us who knew him. I should have written about him when he was still alive. He would have read what I thought of him. Honestly, I never realized the many roles Erwin played in my life until I browsed his profile on Facebook and clicked those three tiny dots that led me to that “see friendship” option. All the memories flooded in and I need to keep them alive somehow so let me share my memories of Erwin through the years in this blog post.

1. Erwin was a childhood friend. Although I am very close to Ernelyn, his wife, Erwin was my friend long before I became friends with Ernelyn. We were classmates in kindergarten and from Grade 4 to Grade 6.

2. Erwin was my partner in one beauty pageant. I do not remember what happened in the selection process but Erwin and I became the unlikely representatives of our section to a Mr. and Ms. Science contest. I would like to believe we were natural at strutting the runway for we ended up among the pairs to represent the grade level after an elimination process. Unbelievable! Ha! Palakpakan naman diyan na hindi kami na-eliminate! I do not have a picture as proof but just believe me that it really happened. (So now we know where Josh got his pageant genes from. Hehehe!)

3. Erwin was my ally in the morning class (buntagon) vs afternoon class (haponon) rivalry. In many get-togethers, my friends and I often talked about our school years since most of us came from the same grade school. Our batch was the only batch with two graduations- one for the morning class and one for the afternoon class. Erwin and I belonged to the morning class. Many of my friends who were often present in gatherings belonged to the afternoon class. Whenever I was outnumbered by them, I would call on Erwin to my side. (Absent man gud Wela pirmi bah. Hahaha)

4. Erwin was a fellow September baby. Mitzi, Erwin and I often took pictures together whenever one of us celebrated a birthday.

5. Erwin was my secret access to Ernelyn’s yummy leche flan. This was our interaction when I missed one of his birthdays.

6. Erwin was a cool travel buddy. I went with Erns and him to Lanuza. Twice. And on both occasions, I threw up 5 times along the way. I never heard him complain or even tease me for squatting down the curb each time looking like I was trying to empty my guts out. Poise be damned, I looked worse than those people who had way too much to drink yet I never heard him mention my sorry state as a joke. I would have if tables were turned. This goes to show that he was really a nice person.

7. Erwin was one of my go-to drivers. If I went to parties or watched movies late at night, I knew I would not have to worry how to get home whenever Erwin and Ernelyn were around. I did not even have to ask. Erwin and Erns would drive me home in a heartbeat.

8. Erwin was supposed to be a godfather to my imaginary future wedding. I think I have declared this several times that it already became annoying. He tried to take matters into his own hands. There was one time when one of our friend’s mother mentioned that they had one of their bachelor’s pads rented to a foreigner, he asked if the foreigner was single because he wanted to introduce him to me. Ha! He was a better wingman than Erns. (And the answer to the question? No, the foreigner was married.)

9. Erwin was a devoted husband. He was always quiet. He never complained. He never fought with Erns. (Oh well, nobody ever dared to fight Erns anyway. Hi, Erns!) He always let her win any argument. He was a smart, smart man. Happy wife, happy life! He always went with Erns in many of our gatherings. He did not even mind all the girl talk even if he was the only guy around.

10. Erwin was a loving father. He constantly reminded Erns what the kids wanted and needed. I remember that in several times that they drove me home, they would drop by a bakery or convenience store for the food that the kids wanted them to bring home .

Thank you, Erwin, for the friendship. You are sorely missed.

One Musical, Two Museums, Loads of Dimsum and Overflowing Inspiration

Metro Manila is not really a favorite destination of mine. There is so much traffic. It is so crowded. It really drains my energy. Navigating its streets is always a challenge. Nonetheless, there is no other way around it but to just face it. The place is unavoidable for someone like me who loves to travel. Metro Manila is a hub for a lot ot things I love. I just have to learn to survive and find a way to get the most of what it has to offer. And that was just what I did last March.

I knew that the musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” was running in the Resorts World in March and I wanted to watch it. With the trip to Korea coming up, I worked on fixing my schedule to allow me time to watch the musical. “Ang Huling El Bimbo” is a musical featuring Eraserheads songs. The Eraserheads was the band of my generation so it was easy to convince three of my friends to watch “El Bimbo” with me. Incidentally, three of us went to the same university as the band members who rose to popularity while we were still gnawing our way in the dog-eat-dog world of college life. The scenes and some of the drama easily brought us back to our teenage years because the cast and their performances were awesome. I did not mind the possible neck strain of the partially distracted view of the stage because I bought the cheapest tickets. My view shifted every now and then from the stage to the large screen on the left where they projected the video. My friend got a good deal of ribbing from me for crying during some heartbreaking scenes. It was my way of fending off that tear that was trying to break free from my lacrimal glands. I really enjoyed the show. I look forward to watching more Filipino musicals!

I had a day to spare in Manila so I asked my friend, Shirly, to accompany me to visit the museums. Our first stop was the National Museum of Fine Arts. The museum was heaven for me since I love to paint. Immediately, when one entered the main gallery, Juan Luna’s Spoliarium stood with such jaw-dropping splendor. It covered almost the entire wall of the gallery. Incidentally, Eraserheads had a song of the same title and it was a soundtrack playing in my head while looking at the painting.

Spoliarium is so grand!

The museum had different galleries featuring different Filipino artists. Many of Juan Luna’s works were displayed. One notable painting is the Portait of a Lady. Esquire published a comprehensive history of the painting and it was a very interesting.

Another Juan Luna painting being displayed was The Parisian Life which was acquired by GSIS for around Php 45 million.

These were the other paintings/displays that caught my eye.

These sketches of Fernando Amorsolo gave a glimpse of the painting process of the national artist known for depicting rural scenes. One could see that there was a lot of planning being done to create a masterpiece.

It became easy for me to spot an Amorsolo painting.

A new favorite of mine is Vicente Manansala. I was drawn to his painting because it was a little modern, colorful and it was done in watercolor, my favorite medium.

This is another Manansala work.

I am not really intro abstract but I like this Jose Joya work. (Yung feeling na parang kaya ko naman ito gawin siguro pero hindi ko maexplain or mainterpret ang painting. hahaha)

And I am a fan of Araceli Dans’ lacework.

After immersing ourselves with all the artworks, off we went to the National Museum of Natural History. The museum was opened last year and it housed a lot of specimens of Philippine zoology, botany and geology.

There is a atrium in the middle which makes the space bright and airy.

The remains of Lolong, once dubbed as the worlds largest crocodile in captivity, can be found here. The bones are displayed suspended from the ceiling.

The ‘taxidermied’ crocodile can also be found in the one of the displays.

It was funny that I wanted to visit this museum but only to realize later that there was one particular animal that I was (and still am) afraid of and I knew that it would be displayed in one form of another (a photo, drawing, taxidermy or the real one inside a jar of formalin). Before we walked through an exhibit hall, I would ask my friend, Shirly, to see first if there was such a display. And indeed, in some halls, the display of such animal existed. Hah! I looked like this frightened woman in a horror house. I always took a peek first at the surrounding and spot the possible area that might had that kind of display. Yes, I could be crazy and paranoid with my phobia. All in all, it was a pleasant experience.

After all the walking around, we were done with the museum-hopping, we decided to go to binondo. I wanted my milk tea , dimsum and milk tea fix. Not counting the trip to the 168 mall years ago, this was my first time to walk around the streets of Manila’s Chinatown. My first order of business was to visit Eng Bee Tin.

This is Shirly and our Milk tea order. Hi, Shirl!

We dropped by this dimsum place. The place was small but teeming with waiting customers and they only sell this type of dimsum. I think the draw was that it was freshly made every time. Oh, I want this one product kind of business.

And off we went to Greenbelt to meet up with friends. Metro Manila is not that bad after all if you plan your day right.

And because I had a lot of art inspirations, I was pretty productive after the trip. I hope to paint more.

Push lang, Kat! 😉

Chasing Cherry Blossoms in South Korea

Annyeonghaseyo! My friend, Gail, and I initially planned to go to Japan for cherry blossom season. We have been waiting for good deals for airfares but we have not found something that fits my budget. Then, this photo appeared on my Facebook feed.

This got me thinking: How about Korea? The country has cherry blossoms. With this package tour, we did not have to worry a thing. Or, so we think! Ha! We have been DIY travelers. I have traveled with Gail to Coron, Bacolod, Iloilo, Siargao, Taal and Taiwan. We have relied on our research skills in planning for these trips. Oh, let me rephrase. I have relied on Gail’s research skills in planning for these trips. No travel agency, we booked our own plain tickets, hotels and what-nots. Not having the control can be daunting for us. It was reassuring for me that it was Globelink who took care of us. My cousin owns the travel agency and I know her well. It would be easy to just sit and relax and let them do their job. And yet, we still bombarded them with a thousand and one questions through texts, emails and messenger because we, as travelers, were built that way. We were giddy excited and just wanted know everything. Hahaha! Thank you, Globelink, for your patience.

This was also the first time for me to travel to a country that requires visa for Filipinos. Waiting for the visa application results was nerve-wracking. I couldn’t continue planning for the trip with that cloud over our heads- that they could deny me that visa. Thankfully, we were granted visas. We were really only after the cherry blossoms. The Philippines is too beautiful a country to leave behind for long.

Anyway, back to South Korea. We strategically chose travel dates when the cherry blossoms would possibly start to bloom. There weren’t much forecasts on Korea’s cherry blossoms so we just picked the first week of April.

We arrived at the Incheon airport in South Korea at 10:30 P.M. The airport was huge. We had to ride a train and walk thousands of steps just to get to immigration, get our bags and look for our guide. We had to wait for others in our tour group, too. There were 43 of us in the tour group.

Early April in Korea is cold. It was really cold. That blast of cold wind greeted me as we stepped out of the airport doors to wait for our bus. We actually did our research. Temperature forecast was around 14 to 18 degrees Celsius. I figured that would be “aircon” weather. I have been to Baguio earlier this year; the temperature dropped to single digits and I survived with layers of clothes. I figured I could handle early spring in Korea. Nah! If only I brought enough coats and jackets! I brought only 1 coat! Talk about traveling light! But I am a trooper so I just winged it and still had fun.

Our spirits were still up while waiting for our hotel room assignment. Gail’s mom and her mom’s friend also traveled with us.

The room was clean and the bed was comfy. We had a heated toilet with a bidet that worked with only a push of a button! No more tabo (dipper)!

We woke up to this view. We were near some port area near the Yellow Sea.

But not for long! We were off to Nami Island for sightseeing.

Nami Island is popular with Filipinos because it was the backdrop of ‘Winter Sonata’, a K-drama shown in the Philippines. I have only watched 4 K-dramas so far. Three of which I watched in the early 2000s and I hardly remember the scenes so everything is new to me.

We found cherry blossoms in Nami Island!

The advantage of having a package tour is that you do not have to worry about meals (except for 2 dinners and 1 lunch). There was buffet breakfast every day. And lunch was also arranged. These were our meals during the entire tour.

We made a quick stop at the Soyang River Skywalk.

We also visited the Sokcho Fish Market.

We made a quick photo session with the cherry blossoms lining the streets because we almost forgot them when we spent some time inside the market.

Oh we bought fresh strawberries and our guide gave us face masks so we used them that night at the hotel. We stayed in a new accommodation nearer to the Seorak mountain, where we were off the next day.

The Seorak mountain range was magnificent!!!

We did not find cherry blossoms there but there were pretty magnolias.

Look at all those tourist buses!

The guide, Mr Park, showed us where we should take pictures with the cherry blossoms. They lined along the highway going to the Seorak mountain.

And so we took a lot of photos.

This was a dream come true for me!

Next stop was Everland. Our guide called it the 2nd best theme park in the world. It was the Korean version of Disneyland. Because we had only a few hours to spare here we quickly searched for the Four Seasons garden after having lunch.

Look at all these tulips!

We also went to a safari ride where the bus went near tigers, lions and brown bears.

We rode the sky gondola ( I forgot what it was called) and the cable car.

And off we went to Seoul! I took of this cherry blossom while on the tour bus.

Our first stop on our 3rd day of the trip was the ginseng museum.

I did not know that it takes 6 years for ginseng to mature and, after harvesting, the land where it was planted on would not be used for 10 years because the ginseng already absorbed all the nutrients. Thus, the Korean ginseng they were showing us was very expensive – top of the line. It was supposed to prevent/cure many diseases. I already forgot what ginseng does. All I know is that it is good for the body. My thoughts were on the price- around 200 thousand pesos for the premium one. The cheapest was around 35 thousand pesos, I think. I still cannot afford. Ha!

As part of the tour, we were also toured to the red pine tree shop that sold some medicines and the cosmetics duty-free. The back of my hand was so smooth after trying Korean skincare! As much as I would love to have those products they were demonstrating to us, they were way beyond my budget. I only bought face masks at the cosmetic duty free. I think that if we had done the DIY route, we could have visited other tourists spots instead of these shops. I was not built for shopping but it was an interesting tour nevertheless.

We visited the National Folk Museum. We learned about their culture and traditions.

We saw some cute girls in hanbok.

We hung out at the Cheonggyecheon stream. We ate some Korean street food. We did not stay longer because it was sooo cold.

There was supposed to be a nearby monument of King Sejong, who invented the Korean characters but it was too cold to walk towards the monument so we went to the mall where there was ample heating. Ha!

Night time was free time. It was also the time we planned to meet our high school friends. Since we were staying in Myeongdong area and it was more than an hour before our agreed meetup with friends, we decided to visit the Myeongdong Cathedral first. It was beautiful.

We were able to catch the end part of a mass. It was in Korean though. It was still early so we decided that we roamed a little in Myeondong shopping area. Gail and I walked ahead while her mom and her mom’s followed behind. There were crowds and crowds of shoppers and when we glanced at them, we lost them. What supposed to be a leisurely stroll turned into a manhunt!!! Ha! We retraced our steps and we did not find them. We went back to the hotel and found our high school friends waiting for us. We told them about losing Gail’s mom and we got them involved in the search. Still, we did not find them. We just decided that we eat dinner and hoped that Gail’s mom and her mom’s friend would find their way back to the hotel.

We walked back to the hotel after dinner and Gail found her mom in her hotel room. I could hear myself sigh in relief.

This was a memorable night! Glad to see you, Popay and Clint! Thank you for enduring the search!

On our last day in South Korea, we went to the Namsan tower.

We can actually see the tower when we went to the rooftop of our hotel.

It was grand up close especially with the canopy of trees.

There is a wide open area on top where we could see the Seoul skyline.

We also went to Deoksugung Palace. Many Korean dramas were filmed here but my only concern was to have a photo with the cherry blossoms here.

And here, too. So pretty!!!

This was the grandest one I have seen in this trip.

We also went to the seaweed museum where we learned how to make gimbap.

Of course, I also got to wear the hanbok, a traditional Korean dress.

Last stop was outlet shopping. Since shopping was not in my list, we just hung out with our LINE friends. I actually use LINE to chat with some of my friends.

And just like that, the vacation ended. We said goodbye to our tour guide, Mr. Park. He could already go home to his family after spending the week touring us around.

Kamsahamnida, South Korea!

The compilation of the videos I took during the trip is now up on my YouTube channel.

How I Got an Item Replaced through Shopee

I started online shopping several years ago when Zalora started their business in the Philippines. They offered free shipping then with no minimum amount of purchase so I ordered the cheapest shirt they sold and I got my order the following day. I have been ordering online since then. I even ordered from merchants on Facebook where I had to deposit my payment first before getting the item. I even ordered my camera online where I had to asked the merchant to refund me because the item was not yet on stock. I was at the mercy of the degree of honesty of the merchant. The amount was returned in full. Yes, the Php 26,000 I deposited to their account. Shoutout to DBGadgets!

I have never encountered receiving an incorrect item until a month ago. I ordered a foundation from L’Oreal’s official store on Shopee. (Why I ordered makeup is another story.) I was surprised to get a box that is bigger than expected. When I opened this is what I got.

A hair dye.

I do not color my hair. I had no use for this. I was already imagining the inconvenience I have to go through. I should have bought the foundation from the mall.

This is what I have to go through to get this replaced.

I was bent on just returning the item and getting a refund since there is no option for replacement. I immediately clicked on the return/refund button in Shopee. I printed the return slip that looks like this.

I was given three days to return the item through MLhuillier. I found the time to go to MLhuillier only on the second day after I printed the return slip. When I was already at MLhuillier trying to hand the package, the staff told me that they no longer accept returns. So I went home thinking if I should start dyeing my hair. hahaha

But I knew that it was not my fault that they delivered incorrectly and that I deserved to be refunded if they could not replace it.

So I emailed Shopee. I anticipated that I would not get a prompt response since they only promised to reply within 24 hours. The system only allows me to return within 3 days and my item’s due date is the following day.

I called the hotline. It was busy. So I used that chat option in the app. In just a few seconds of waiting, someone was replying for Shopee. I went as far as going to another MLhuillier branch as suggested and still the return was not accepted. The customer service agent on the other end assured me that I will not pay for shipping back the item. They would just arrange in their end how to go about the retrieval of the item given that MLhuillier no longer accepts them.

While I lodging my complaint to Shopee, I also sent a complaint to L’Oreal thru chat . Knowing that it was their mistake, they offered to replace the item.

They said they would arrange the retrieval of the item and replace it with the correct one. For this to happen, I had to cancel my refund request and just arrange everything with the seller (L’Oreal). As a precaution, I extended my Shopee guarantee as a protection. “Shopee Guarantee is a feature that protects buyers and sellers against fraudulent transactions to keep mobile shopping and selling safe and easy. Shopee Guarantee protects users by withholding the payment to Sellers until the Buyer confirms the receipt of the order. Once the Buyer accepts the order, the payment will be released to the Seller.” By extending, I still have the option to have the product refunded.

Three days after arranging this, the courier came to pickup the item. By this time, the Shopee guarantee extension already expired. The item is no longer with me and I can no longer refund if they fail to deliver the replacement. It was a 485-peso risk. I was willing to risk it to check how reliable they are. I had only 485 pesos to lose but L’Oreal will lose future sales from me if they fail to replace.

I kept asking for updates to let them know I am still waiting for the replacement.

Lo and behold, I got the item on February 27, 25 days after I ordered it.

Shopee and L’Oreal get virtual brownie points from me for giving me feedback every step of the way.

While I may have a positive outcome with my experience with online shopping, I cannot guarantee all sellers are like this. I am just sharing to let you know that replacement of online order is possible and there are several channels you can course through the complaint.

Achieving Little Things While Watching TV

Watching TV can be a great way to relax and unwind after a long day, as well as being an excellent way to spend time with the family. It’s easy, however, to spend a lot of time lost in your TV set and not really achieving much. Learning to multitask, however, can be a good way to make some improvements to your health, well-being and more without missing out on your favorite shows.

Put your multitasking skills to good use with these simple things you can do while watching TV to achieve something great with your day.

women's blue denim jacket
Image Credit: Unsplash under Creative Commons

Start a blog

Ever wanted to start your own blog? What’s holding you back? There are plenty of blogging tips you can follow to get started and help you enjoy writing your own blog. Blogging can be a fun and creative outlet for you to discuss the things that you’re interested in, and it can be easy to get writing while you’ve got the TV on in the background. Choose a niche, start jotting down some ideas and get writing to get your blog off the ground to embrace a fantastic new hobby.

Earn money from surveys

Want an easy way to earn money? Getting paid to do surveys can be a quick and easy money earner that you can do in front of the TV, while travelling or while you’re out walking. Websites like Surveyjunkie can provide you with short and simple surveys that can help you boost your income or help you earn funds to treat yourself with. Make sure you review your chosen platform carefully to ensure it’s legitimate and won’t leave you wasting hours of your time for nothing.  

Do some exercise

Working out while watching TV is a great way to multitask. By doing short 30-minute workouts, you can improve your fitness, reduce your stress levels and won’t have to eat into the rest of your day to fit in exercise. Mix up your workouts with a range of cardio, strength and stretching moves to help you become fit and strong.

Pamper yourself

We all need some time to relax, and pampering yourself in front of the TV can be an enjoyable way to spend your evening. Give yourself a facial, use a face or hair mask or a DIY mani-pedi as a little treat that can help you unwind and ease the stresses of the day.

Write letters

Instead of writing emails or texts to loved ones, why not spend time writing some old-school correspondence and sending some letters instead? A little note in a card or a longer letter to family and friends can brighten someone’s day, and can also be relaxing for you too. We spend so much time on our phones or online that some classic correspondence can help you break out of the tech bubble for a little while.

There are so many great ways you can kill two birds with one stone and enjoy doing something a little different when you’re watching TV. Why not start tonight by settling down in front of the TV and achieving something great with your evening?

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