Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Comment: Aleph by Paulo Coelho

Title: Aleph
Author: Paulo Coelho
No. of pages: 288
Published: 26th June, 2012
Read: July 09, 2014
In his most personal novel to date, internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho returns with a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Like the main character in his much-beloved The Alchemist, Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, his only real option is to begin again—to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.

Setting off to Africa, and then to Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian railroad, he initiates a journey to revitalize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before—and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, traveling a path that teaches love, forgiveness, and the courage to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. Beautiful and inspiring, Aleph invites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.
Got disappointed with this novel. I should have just read Coelho’s earlier novels instead of risking the fact that it’s one of his latest writings. I was expecting a lot more than the way he interpreted “Aleph”. This is the seventh novel I’ve read written by him and this has got to be the most disappointing. Maybe I am just being overly emotional but the book somehow portrays that it is okay to love two people at the same time and not be called a womanizer. You sleep together while you are traveling in search of your “Aleph”, miles away from your wife, and you meet a girl, sort of a “reincarnation of your most loved one in your past life” and it’s okay. Obviously this comment is from a woman’s point of view. And I can’t just easily accept it.

On the other hand, my mind opened to the realization that society can’t deny the fact that it happens, whether as absurd as a reincarnated loved one or simply the sad realities of married life, this happens. And even though at the end of the day, he goes back to his wife, tells the story to his wife, and to his wife it is okay, I can’t seem to comprehend the idea that it is okay. Added to this, this was not the first time. At the back of my mind, if this is what this “Aleph” leads to, just forget Aleph. Hahaha! The good thing though is the depiction of commitment to his wife regardless of these temptations the ‘aleph’ had brought him into. I may already sound silly with this book comment of mine but this is what I felt while reading the book. And with the back-of-the-book summary stating as “one of his personal novels”, I quite “questioned” Coelho’s credibility, not as an author, but as a man. Hahaha, I may sound OA, but I tried appreciating the essence of the book while reading it, but I can’t seem to really fathom its depth.

On the noble side of my own analysis, (apart from the seemingly bombast of comments above), just like his previous novels, the traveling signifies personal discovery, and during this time, Paulo, the main character, also trudges on the path to forgiveness. In this modern age, I guess this is one important aspect that each one of us, in one way or another strives at. Still, there was just this little disappointment that this segment could have been expounded more. But then again, I and Paulo Coelho weren’t able to really create a connection through this book. At some points, though disparate to other novels, there are still some points that made me rethink and reflect on my own personal journey. You might think that this novel can be likened to The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist but if I would rank Aleph, it would be at the bottom among these three.

With the disappointment I felt with this book, I’m giving it a 1 out of 5 stars rating.

"Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do."

"Travel is never a matter of money but of courage"

"Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning."

"Only two things can reveal life's great secrets: suffering and love."

"What hurts us is what heals us"

"In magic - and in life - there is only the present moment, the now. You can't measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. 'Time' doesn't pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we're always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn't act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we're going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don't want and how to get what we have always dreamed of."

"If you conquer yourself, then you conquer the world"

"It is possible to avoid pain? Yes, but you'll never learn anything. Is it possible to know something without ever having experiencing it? Yes, but it will never truly be part of you."

"To become really good at anything,you have to practice and repeat, practice and repeat, until the technique becomes intuitive"

"Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near"

"It’s what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future."

"Words are tears that have been written down. Tears are words that need to be shed. Without them, joy loses all its brilliance and sadness has no end."

"Suffering comes from desire, not from pain."

"If you spend too much time trying to find out what is good or bad about someone else, you'll forget your own soul and end up exhausted and defeated by the energy you have wasted in judging others."

"When we turn around and come face to face with our destiny, we discover that words (spoken) are not enough. I know so many people who are brilliant speakers but are quite incapable of practising what they preach. It's one thing to describe a situation & quite another to experience it.

"I realised a long time ago that a warrior in search of his dream must take his inspiration from what he actually does; not from what he imagines himself doing."

"We become imprisoned by our memories, and that makes our lives wretched."

"To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life."

"It's always easy to blame others. You can spend your entire life blaming the world, but your successes or failures are entirely your own."
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Fashion Friday: Giambattista Valli Fall 2014 Couture

It's the Paris Couture Week Fall 2014 and my eyes have been obsessing on so many pieces from different collections. But as I browse through my handy apps on my iPad, it was Giambattista Valli's collection who first caught my attention. It was pure inspiration to me. I like its silhouettes and the cuts. The pieces, as to my judgment, are not so fancy and maintain their own definition of elegance. It indeed gave justice to "from the bed to the blooming gardens" peg. Below are my top 23. I really like this collection it was so hard to reduce it to a top 10 or below. 

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Conquer Mt. Pulag 2014 and Life Realizations

It all began during our second book club session. We were all supposed to do this Pulag adventure together. To cut the long explanation short, only I, Kimy and Tin made it; and I tagged along Boss Amo.
It was sort of a "remote" planning since we didn't even meet once before we climbed except that one time Luke and I attended the orientation. Come departure night, we found ourselves, the four of us, in a rush!! Kimy was stranded for a day in Siargao while Tin, Luke and I were hassled by the Friday traffic. Call time was 9PM, guess what we arrived 9:30PM. Kimy even arrived ahead of us all the way from Siargao! Good thing was that the organizers had an hour allowance as our bus departed at 10PM. Whew! And so off to Baguio we went.

Tripinas was our organizer. We needed one as we were all first timers and to spare us the burden of the what-nots of climbing a mountain. It was also through them that we rented gears like tents, headlamps, and sleeping bags. No budget allotted to buy these gears. We just wanted to try out Pulag out of a rather sore pocket. We paid roughly Php4000 inclusive of Manila-Pulag-Manila transfers, meals, environmental fees, tour guide, the gears mentioned -- less worries. I highly recommend Tripinas. Their guides are really friendly and accommodating. Also their meals were really really good! Lutong bahay na masarap. By the way the gears are non-negotiable, believe when they say that it's non-negotiable! In terms of clothing, make sure you have enough layers too. It could be really freezing up there!
From Baguio, it was a three-hour ride to the ranger station. We had some stopovers in between: first was for a heavy breakfast and second at the DENR of Benguet where we had one interesting orientation. After DENR it was another ride to the Ranger Station. In our case though, we had an additional one kilometer trek to the ranger station due to roads being constructed. 

At the ranger station, we assembled together with our local tour guide. It is also in the ranger station that I availed of a porter. I don't think in my condition then  that I'd be able to carry my own stuff so I decided to hire a porter to carry my stuff. I had four liters of bottled water with me and my clothes and food are another thing. I paid Php590 for 20kilos. Some of Luke's stuff were already included. Less tiresome for the both of us. Boss amo's reasoning is that he needed to unload some of his stuff as well so whenever something happens to me he could just maybe carry me instead. Hahaha! True enough. We are planning to definitely go back. When that time comes, I vowed to try carrying my stuff with me but I also plan to keep the weight at the possible minimum haha!
The photos above are some of the photos during the earliest part of the climb. Kaya pang mag-smile. Lower  left photo is credited to Tripinas, our group's shot before we officially started the climb. It was also fun being with this group. Somehow, out of place, 'cos they seem like they've been climbing mountains already unlike the four of us. Infairness to Luke and I, we've trekked Taal. But Taal talaga?? Haha!  I included the lower right photo of me and Luke who is SMILING!! It's worth a blog post!! 
The photos above are taken on the almost half-way of the climb to base camp, after an hour and a half or so. I can't intricately describe because from what I have experienced, I was not really prepared hahaha! Hingal ako! I needed to frequent my sit-and-have-my-normal-breathing-back-break and drink water. There were parts that the air was really thin. But despite these, the surroundings made me appreciate the hidden beauties of my country. There were parts that I only saw in movies, like those enchanted forest scenes, or those Jurassic Park scenes.
Almost almost there, Merie!!! At this point, I started feeling really terrible. My head was pounding, could be a sign of dehydration as what our guide told us but I deliberately opposed. Each step was a burden. I reached that point I almost questioned myself "bakit ko ba 'to ginagawa??! Para san ba 'to??' Hahaha!
But people!!! I/we were able to reach base camp!!! Right in time before the rain heavily poured out on us!! After three hours for Luke and I, we reached our tent haven!!! Hooray!! Grabe yung feeling ko non, it was pure relief!!! So I thought it was relief until I started vomiting. Everything I ate, I vomited. And I started to lose my energy. While Kimy, Tin and Luke were enjoying the seemingly enchanting surroundings, there I was inside the tent taking a nap. Such a loser. Hahaha!
I needed that nap to do those things in the above photos hahaha! The skies started to clear out after some minutes of pouring. Snaps here and there. But I still vomit in between. Grabe nakakainis yung feeling na yun. We strolled around a tad and took photos. Grabe ang ganda! Ang ganda ng Pulag! Ang ganda ng Pilipinas! Base camp pa lang yan!

During the night, we had some expectations of star-gazing but the rain is such a spoiler so we were left with nothing to do but to make chika inside the tent. Luke and I had the chance to catch up with each other. It was pure quality time. There was an hour wherein the skies were having tantrums, heavy downpour!! Water started getting inside our tents, so we had to be awake. And then there was an hour that it was freezing, I had to come to the rescue for Luke. It was charged to experience. 
These are the only photos captured before the second leg of the climb. We needed to assemble at 3:30 AM to start the climb and get to the peak before sunrise. Headlamps needed as obviously hindi uso streetlights sa boondocks! We had our m&m's ready. In Luke's little knapsack, there were Ruffles, biscuits and sweets and water to help us feed ourselves along the way.

We had hot drinks first before we started the trek to the summit. So we started the trek... About 20 steps away from the kubo where we had our hot drinks, ayun I feel like giving up. I felt the effect of all the vomits I had and the energy I lost. I again felt the headache I was feeling and I started to feel like vomiting again. :( It was such such a hard phase of that climb. I felt so sad thinking I won't be able to reach the peak. Luke was already asking me if we would still push through, I was not reacting at all because there was a battle in my mind to go back or to go forward. But I don't want to be selfish. I don't want Luke to not reach the peak. So while not reacting and answering his question, I still try to walk, to rest if I feel like I need it, to get up, to walk again. I already felt like the trail was endless!!! Until...

Luke to tour guide: Ate mga ganu pa katagal?
Ate tour guide: Wala pa tayo sa kalahati.

Oh c'mmon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you serious??!!! Again there was a battle in my mind. I was praying for strength and endurance... In one way, God has blessed Luke and I with a tour guide. There were at least seven batches who already got past us. I needed to rest every time. I'm not sure how Ate knew about us being left behind, but this Ate never left us. I believe she's an angel sent by God. She together with Luke kept on pushing me. It was then I made up my mind, no turning back.

And it was all worth it...
We didn't experience the sea of clouds like what most photos show. But it was still a wonderful humbling feeling. Seeing the sunrise at the peak of Luzon is something not all people can do and not all people will be able to accomplish in their lifetime. It was another manifestation of how almighty God is, of His majesty by merely looking at the beauty in front of me on top of just one of the mountains of the Philippines alone. It just reiterates how BIG our GOD is.
After the climb, Luke and I actually had some what should I call it... Assessment?? He had his assessment, I had mine and we had some thin line of misunderstanding. But I know it just made our bond stronger. I will always be thankful for this climb in ways more than one. I am also glad I did it with Luke and I would not think twice to doing it all over again with him. Dalhin pa natin sa ibang mga bundok.
Yes of course it needs a lot of photos!!! We enjoyed the grassland! Feeling Teletubbies! It's our first time and not a usual activity that we get to do. It was wonderful, breathtaking, amazing, lovely, insert all synonyms of wonderful here. We also had some videos taken which I posted HERE.

But then we needed to go back... It was a success...

Cliché as it may seem, relationships are like climbing a mountain. At first, like the honeymoon stage, you get excited, you get adventurous until you started feeling the hardships of a steep climb of a muddy slippery trail, there will be parts of the trail that you need to be in a single file, or might I say one needs to be alone in a relationship, but know that your partner is still right behind you. Once you overcome the hardships you'll eventually see the beauty of it, the success of reaching the peak -- you both come out stronger and better. You both realize that you are both capable of struggling and winning it. And then as you go down the mountain, there will be a lot of times that you get comfortable, get bored maybe, there will always be challenges still, but it's how you get to enjoy the trek, you could just walk and never mind each other after all the trail is more familiar now; but you could also always talk, still be adventurous, try a different trail, take photos, capture videos, have fun in so many ways. And then when you climb another mountain, you know better. It's just like life generally.

(Photo cr: Kimy, Tin, Luke, Tripinas Facebook photos)

Sharing with you our itinerary and feel free to comment for any questions I wish I could answer:

Itinerary may vary depending weather, road conditions, amount and pace of hikers . In case Ambangeg-Babadak road is not passable, the alternative road adds 2 hours jeepney ride to the following itinerary.

Departure Date: Friday 16 May
2100 Assembly at Chowking near Victory bus terminal, EDSA south bound, Cubao, Quezon City.
· Meet the dispatcher (Mr. Tee) and the tour director (Mr. Mike)
· Sign the waiver form
· Gear check
· Get your bus tickets

Day 1 :  Saturday, 17 May
0400 ETA Baguio City. Assembly at 7-11 and board assigned jeep going to Ranger Station.
0430 ETD Baguio City.
0530-0630 Breakfast stop, breakfast (at clients, account)
0930 ETA Ranger station jump-off
·        Get a porter (optional and on clients' account)
·        The tour director will introduce your guide and your hiking mates
1030 Start of trek
1330  ETA Camp 2, pitch/set-up tents for the night. Lunch.
1730  Dinner
Day 2: Sunday, 18 May
0300 Wake up call, hot drinks
0330 Start of ascent to summit
0500 ETA summit for sunrise
0630 ETD from summit to camp 2
0730 ETA Camp 2, breakfast, break camp
0930 Start of trek back to Ranger station
1130 ETA Ranger station, lunch (on clients' account)
·  If you have rented some gears, give it back to the tour director
1230 Board Jeep
1400-1430 Photostop at Ambuklao Dam
·  The tour director will give you your certificate of conquest
1700 ETA Baguio City
·  Free time, dinner (on client’s account)
2100 ETD Baguio to Cubao
Arrival Date: Monday, 19 May
0300 ETA Manila Cubao. End of tour.

Contact Tripinas:
Team TRIPinas
TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures
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Monday, July 7, 2014

42nd and a Pudding

Anything that can make that seldom smile appear on your face; I'd do for you. Happy 42!!
It was a fifth on a Saturday, and we would usually go out on a date but due to some emergency we just met on the Sunday after and had date come Monday. He surprised me with supposed-to-be two puddings but he wanted to eat it so a pudding. Haha! Still sweet though.
Monday, we had a coffee chill and had some catching up. Oh these little things are what comprises a bigger universe called love.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Comment: What Women Don't Know (and Men Don't Tell You)

Title: What Women Don' Know (and Men Don't Tell You)
Author: Michelle McKinney Hammond and Joel A. Brooks, Jr.
No. of pages: 208
Published: 15th September 2009
Read: June 19, 2014
It's a dating book. While most might feel embarrassed showcasing to the world that they read this book, not in my case. It was surprisingly a good read. Again, this book is in a Christian perspective -- not for everybody. That title "What women don't know" got me apart from it was recommended by one of my churchmates. 
Now here's a photo of the back-of-the-book summary... If you think by just reading it you can already relate go and grab a copy. To my churchmates, I highly recommend it. I would summarize it this way: don't be stupid in love because God has better plans, don't just settle. In Filipino: 'Wag matigas ang ulo! The introduction even has a title "Use your head girl!", which let's all be honest, ang dami naman na kasi talagang nagpapakatangang babae ngayon. We, girls/ladies/women, are emotional in more ways than one, but we all know that we can't just base love and romance on pure emotions. Ouch right? But it's true! It is also sort of a wake up call that regardless of the modern age we face, the old rules of love still apply. Since it's in a Christian perspective, there were references of the love stories in the Bible which were all enlightening.
Again, just by the first pages of this book already shouts: Don't settle. Set a standard.

I am rating this book 3 out of 5 stars. Sharing some quotable's from the book:
A man who really wants you will do whatever he must to possess your love. So set a standard.

Happiness is part of being whole. It means having an understanding of your identity and purpose, an established feeling of acceptance and value, and a sense of destiny, joy, and peace -- all of which produce overall well-being. It is impossible to be consistently happy without these characteristics. All people need to know who they are, why they are here, and to whom they belong. Having an understanding of who we are in Christ is foundational to the belief system that allows us to possess these qualities. The Bible says in Romans 14:17 that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. You find in this passage all these characteristics that grow out of being in right relationship with God. His presence is always accompanied by peace and joy; in other words, a sense of total well-being.

While you wait for your godly man, you should maintain the posture of a well-kept woman [...] The person should add to, not take away from, your life. You maintain who you are and allow God to be picky for you.

God knows both your name and address. When the right man comes along God will lead him to your door. And that man will recognize your name.

You've got two witnesses here. Happiness is a wholeness issue. If you want to be happy, you need to be whole. If you want to be married, you simply need a mate. If you want to be happily married, you need to be a whole person married to another whole person.

[...]patience is the weapon that forces deception to reveal itself. It is the insurance against being deceived or making wrong decisions. Some things can only be made known by waiting. God takes his time.

Realize that maturity does not come with age but with acceptance of responsibility.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hillsong United Manila 2014

June 13, 2014 -- At the Smart Araneta Coliseum, I witnessed the gifted worshipers of Hillsong United. This is not a first time. Too bad that this Friday I had a jampacked schedule that we arrived late. All of us came from work, together with Jezrah, Grace, Emily (who again flew all the way from Davao) and boss amo. I on the other hand had to squeeze in between a client meeting. As shown in the photos below, we were not able to get a good seat, we were at the bad side of the coliseum. Konti na lang likod na hahaha.
We were not able to fully appreciate the event but we witnessed how the Spirit moved the audience. I saw a lot of jumping, hands raised, voices lifted -- I felt hearts longing for worship. It looked like a typical contemporary concert, only that it is for His glory. I prayed during those hours that let these very people share the goodness and grace of Christ through Hillsong United Manila's music. I prayed that the event is not the end. 
I also felt glad that they still sang their earlier worship songs. Yes people, they also had One Way as the encore, the very song we labelled as the youth's "national anthem". I had a nostalgia of remembering my youth days as an active youth ministry member. I uttered a prayer -- a prayer that I've been waiting for an answer since early last year. 
They also sang Mighty to Save, one of the songs that always captured my spirit. It was a beautiful scene. When that part "shine Your light and let the whole world see..." was being sung, that photo above happened. The lights were off, and only flashlights or phone lights were waving while a sound of angels were singing the lines. 
It was another night dedicated to the Most High with this pretty bunch. Now we are looking forward to Saved Festival 2014. 
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