The Japanese Maglev

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A Maglev in Shanghai source: Wikicommons

A new world record for speed was set for 590 kilometers per hour from Japan’s magnetic levitation bullet train. Astounding! I could not think of any other place to write this down and it genuinely interests me so here goes the word vomit on a train (#nerdgasms). I have a niece who loves Thomas Train so probably this is the adult version of certain structural and engine fascinations. This made me more intrigued to try riding one of these impressive and massive bullet trains.

Much of my life energy has been recovered significantly already. And positivity is pretty much one of those rare treasures, kind of like those new age energy bracelets that you buy for a fortune and then the seller tells you that it must not be touched by anyone or its potency will be diminished. That’s positivity. No matter how much effort other people will try to expend to derail you and make you feel bad, you should keep it together. This month, I had around two to four major invitations for someone to take away my positivity and I successfully declined them! 🙂 (Hurray for #smallvictories)

I evaluated the quality of my relationships and made certain decisions to let go of the emotionally vampire-like ones. Life for the last 2 years had been on such a relentless fast lane that I practically railroaded my inner guide, the one which saves me from bad decisions and some people who do bad things to me. I have learned to differentiate between friends who are true and friends who remember me only when they need something like a new connection, a job, or technical assistance. I just learned to say no, basically, to a lot of things I don’t need. I learned to simplify and it has helped me tremendously. I am gaining things that I cannot physically see but means a lot to me.

What else? I am slowly but surely starting to realize what works and what does not and who/what are my priorities in this limited life. Nerdgasms will always be nerdgasms but there is more to life outside the computer and this year, I try to balance my online usage for nerdgasms with offline pursuits. Also, I have taken more risks this year than any other; I have learned that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is wrong and crazy. I took bold leaps of faith and restructured the way I learn, the way I live, and the way I work. It’s not anymore the usual way I have done; and it frightens me a lot to do it, but I know that I am not really living if I don’t.

I continue to hope that I can just focus with bullet train speed levels for the important stuff, the stuff that I was really made to do in this lifetime. And ride a bullet train, for real. Haha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Cristina Falls’
Hydro Power Plant

I find it quite difficult to populate the Structure category of my blog, even when I began this in 2010. So I am making a post about a really nice structure that I found recently. I am doing this with the hope that I can write about more fascinating structures this year.

As a little girl, my only interest was to answer Maria Cristina Falls in Kasaysayan quizzes and exams. Being the country’s second tallest waterfalls and prominent source of hydropower, the power plant of Maria Cristina is just something that I accepted as a fact off a history textbook. I was not that much of a fan of history books while growing up. While I learn a lot from books, recent experiences showed me that textbooks sometimes miss out on the stories or colorful experiences that lie behind a standard waterfall picture. If only kids can learn about history through actual experience of the sights and sounds, they will find themselves more privy to a more lasting and resounding education.

At the time of our visit, the waterfalls was at its maximum capacity of 90% power provision for the plant. And there was so much water. Unfortunately, the viewing deck was closed when we entered Nature Park to see this beast of a waterfall.

A mojon marking three barangay boundaries in the power plant was unobtrusively standing in a corner near the viewing deck:

Maria Cristina Waterfalls Mojon

Maria Cristina Waterfalls Mojon

A mojon means something to me as a geodetic engineer because it symbolizes the traditional mode of work in my engineering industry of choice. It holds the location or coordinates that will allow land surveys to be made more accurate around the vicinity of the power plant. People who know about the mojon are familiar about my line of work. Usually, it’s the old people who know what it is. Often, I find myself having to explain to young people that it is necessary for traditional survey work. In English, it’s called the concrete monument which is established and distributed as a network of points for accurately marking locations on the surface of the earth. Since this is a Barangay Boundary Monument (hence the BBM acronym inscription), it is quite crucial and useful.

There were some old legends that mojons during World War II were destroyed because of the metal detectors. Metal detectors, according to old tales, were used by treasure hunters who were looking for the buried Hiroshima Gold. And in their quest, they ended up detecting these mojons instead of the treasure and ripped it out of the ground.  There is actually a fine or penalty for ripping out control points or mojon setups like these. But these were installed long after the treasure hunters wreaked havoc on the old Philippine control point system. Usually, it is easy to find these concrete monuments in prominent landmarks such as the Maria Cristina Falls.

From where we stood at the viewing deck, it was still a mesmerizing experience. You will hear the water literally making an eerily powerful sound. It howls and can be heard from a distance, or as far back as the gate of Nature Park. The power plant is designed just right beside this mammoth waterfall, towering at a height of 320 feet. Leafing through the pages of a history textbook will not prepare you for the breathtaking experience of seeing it up-close. At least, this is the closest we can safely get. It powers around 70% of Mindanao, and small wonder that it does:

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The formal name of the power plant is Agus VI power plant. I heard that there are other features inside but it was closed for viewing when we went. There is a public lanai or deck that has tables where you can enjoy your meal (breakfast or lunch) while listening to and seeing the waterfalls from a safe distance. There is also a tiny zipline near the entrance but we were in a hurry so we did not get to try it. (It was really more of a makeshift rope contraption that crosses from one side of the falls to the other.) The entrance fee was in a range of 50 to 80 pesos, I think.

Notice that I did not really take much photos of the power plant itself. I felt like the structure was an eye sore beside the majestic waterfall scenery. But it was a necessary eye sore because it powers more than half of the whole island of Mindanao.

After this trip, I decided to revisit my childhood textbooks and see what else I can experience firsthand as an adult for 2015. Someday, if I will be blessed enough to have my own children, I will help them remember the country’s heritage by taking them to places like these. I hope that exposing them early to these things will make them better than I can ever be as a person and more loving of this country than me and my husband. Because that’s really what matters more at the end of life’s short rope: the legacy we leave behind to future generations. Books by itself can spark the imagination. Book knowledge coupled with an actual experience can extend the imagination and stir additional inspiration.

 

Day 76: #100HappyDays
Stairwell Powernap

staircase

When I ride the LRT and depart at Gil Puyat station, I would see this thin man on the landing of the LRT stairwell, sleeping peacefully amidst the chaos of rushing passengers like me. He had a crutch on his side, a bunch of dirt on his face, and had no pillows. Yet, he slept like he was on a soft bed at a five-star hotel. It’s a humbling reminder of how grateful I should be every morning. The social responsibility does not end where our proletarian woes begin.

Today, though, I experienced a peaceful stairwell powernap. By some sheer stroke of morning memory lapse (aka stupidity), I forgot the key to my client’s quarters.

So I basically had an hour to sleep on the cold marble floor of the stairwell leading to the door. I was tired from my early morning commute so sleeping or staring at the ceiling were my only two options. I had my tablet for reading books but it was just too early in the morning to do so.

I decided to just lie down and use my footwear as pillow. I was surprised at the result.

It was a very liberating experience, I must say. There I was, alone in the quiet stairwell, possibly open-mouthed for twenty minutes and with a direct view of the ceiling when I open my eyes in between naps. Fortunately there were no lizards falling off or human beings trudging up the top floor.

It was so simple. I had none of my complex hotdog-shaped pillows or my soft foam at home. But I basically abandoned myself to that tiny space at that pocket of time afforded for me to get a few more minutes of genuine sleep.

Two words: WHY NOT?

I had such a fitful rest that I felt myself energized until the afternoon. The floor was cold and hard, as cold and hard as the realities of life as a working twenty-something. The ceiling was lofty and majestic in its own small way, as lofty as my dreams in my life and as hard to reach without the pair of heels and a staircase leading there.

I do not think that sleeping in staircases is something that I will want to do everyday but today was pretty eye-opening for me in more ways than one… It may be strange to read or in retrospect, but it was something that made me really happy today.

A Work in Progress

I am not the one who knows how to mince words. The flaws are apparent, and I even had the audacity to photobomb the patron saint of appropriately frank people, Saint Bartholomew:

st-bartholomew-san-bartolome-frank-person

When I was young, I was actually as docile and submissive as a mouse. Unfortunately, I was taken advantage of precisely for that reason. At that age, it did not work well for me. I was bullied by small-minded people with the maturity of a gnat. I would have accomplished a lot of things. Things happened, and I know that there was more to it than meets the eye. There was nothing to look back to after that dark episode of my life, and I knew that the things I experienced there were to shape the course of my life.

Life was colorful, but it was not without its requisite crosses:

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo- Crucifix

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo- Crucifix

When I was young, I went to San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan. It was a tiny parish, then. While people went out to play, I really sought God because I saw a lot of things inherent in this local society at a young age. I had questions, but no answers. And I basically lived life for so long without answers until I had my own means as an adult, until I was free enough to form my own opinions without having to be subjected to others’ preferences, dreams, and visions for the way I should run my life.

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-helen-mary-labao-visitation

At an early age, I was exposed to politics, peer pressure, and the toughness of being a poor scholar in a private school. In college, I kind of had some form of blossoming but it came to the point where I had to temper the strength I built for years.

I became a survivor, and in the middle of that mess, I decided to seek the spiritual side of things to get to know myself better and to heal myself of wounds from the past.

Only in my late twenties will I come to embrace myself fully for all my defects and strengths. I learned how to wind down, unaffected by what others think. And when I journeyed to elusive self-discovery, I was delighted to find that I had more life, light, and love to give to others:

With my latest baby sister Grace Ann

With my latest baby sister Grace Ann

I had to deal with a lot of things about myself, even ones that I was not exactly very happy to face. But I did that because I wanted to become a better person. Fortunately, there was love that makes all things possible.

As I opened my mind and heart to new things and changes, there was an immense amount of wisdom that came from various sources.

I realized that even if I came from the borderline of Gen X and Gen Y (millenials), the baby boomers had a thing or two to teach me: the tenacity, the stability, the reliability, and the humility of accepting even menial forms of work as an avenue for growth.

Generations

Generations

 

Mommy Mary and Daddy Seth at the Rosary Garden

Mommy Mary and Daddy Seth at the Rosary Garden

I gorged in a lot of reading materials in my quest for gaining knowledge and mastery of how I should move about in this world, and I only gain enlightenment in strides. Despite this, I am fundamentally thankful for the defective devout person I am, and the better person that I hope to eventually become.

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo's Beautiful Blessed Sacrament

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo’s Beautiful Blessed Sacrament

Sometimes, I just stop thinking. For a few minutes, I just look at the Blessed Sacrament. It gives me some sense of peace. In the host, He allowed Himself to be broken. He was Goodness and Perfection, and yet He allowed people to treat Him unfairly. It is quite hard for me to fathom how that can be done by me. I tend to like matching an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. As I temper my tendency to slay the outer dragons, I don’t win the physical war but I win the battle that rages within myself. And this is how I know that I am growing despite my defects.

I have learned to see people as inherently good, only bogged down by respective flaws. And that it takes a lot of respect for the human race not to criticize people harshly, that it takes a lot of inner waging battles to overcome my skill of “editing” people (and not just editing words on a manuscript)… I managed to have more peaceful relationships with various people of different life vocations because of my decision to look more on the good things, and to properly establish boundaries in my relationships.

Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo Parish Priest

Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo Parish Priest

with Antipolo's political figures

with Antipolo’s political figures

I also developed the acumen of detecting abusive people and energy sucking relationships. After purging the toxicity, the essentials remained and I became happier with the relationships I managed to continue building…

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-happy-pau-helen parish-immaculate-heart-mary-in-laws-bench

In addition to ceasing from the compulsive urge of being brutally frank, I have learned to be more one with nature, the ultimate demonstration of God’s sense of order, beauty, and peace.

The Rosary Garden's Area

The Rosary Garden’s Area

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-rosary-garden

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I wish I can just meditate on this tranquil goodness for long periods but there is still a lot of work to be done after I refresh myself in these peaceful places.

When things get too hard, I usually know instinctively where to go…

parish-immaclate-heart-mary-antipolo-rosary-mother-mary parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-altar

And I am fully convinced that when you share a huge thing like a pursuit of faith, relationships strengthen despite the dangers of damage brought about by our respective flaws. It’s not perfect, it takes a lot of work… But with love, nothing is impossible to endure or work on…

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-paulo-helena-1 parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-shades-hug parish-immaculate-heart-mary-joyful-mystery

Helen Mary with Mommy Mary

Helen Mary with Mommy Mary

I also realized lately that it’s okay to be weak and to ask for help and to seek others’ counsel, that not all people are out to get others for their personal gain.

That it’s okay when other people seem to succeed after they take advantage of you, or if other people decide to talk badly of you… It’s okay, for as long as you know yourself and that you are running your own race to becoming better over time. That others do not approve of you all the time.

Also, it’s okay to hold another person’s hand as you go through the best and the worst of times.

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-jesus-pau-helen

Because when you realize your moments of weakness, you get the fullest measure and potential of your strength.

So this is me now, still a work in progress but I am completely at peace with whatever that means.

Fundamentally flawed,

Parisian Shoes adorned with Ugat XD

Parisian Shoes adorned with Ugat XD

fascinated with life,

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and FINALLY FREE. 🙂

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****

reach-high-dream-deep

****

Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Hinulugan Taktak Road, Fairmount Hills Subdivision
1870 Antipolo, Rizal
(02) 696-4387, 697-0344

Day 8: #100HappyDays
Catching Up

It is really nice to talk with old friends. And an old friend with a new house just chatted with me yesterday. She updated me with stuff!  Really nice to hear from her after so many days of being a pseudo-hermit! 🙂

new-house

Her home has nice colors and the yard seems to be apt for a mini-Zen garden and a mini-fountain, I think. <3 I still do not have a peg for my dream home but I’d just like to share this one because having #100happydays is not just about me but the people around me who share good and happy things about their lives.

Joy shared is joy doubled! 🙂 Congrats Bessy! 🙂

 

Bacolod: Remembering Sweet Smiles in the City of Smiles

(One of the boons of exploring life as a reluctant traveler is the severe illness of not being able to update the blog as much as I should. It is putting all these travel experiences to waste. And so, I squeeze in a fraction of my precious time to write about the places I’ve been to over the last few months.)

Contrary to what most people did, I did not go to the beautiful Bacolod in the time of Masskara festival, where the Silay airport is teeming with people from all walks of life. I kind of regret not being there in such a festive time, but I had the distinct advantage of enjoying Bacolod in its off-peak period: Chinese New Year 2012 to be exact. This is a long overdue retelling of the gastronomic paradise experience I had in Bacolod City.

Unarguably, this was a place for people who want to fulfill the insatiable need of the sweet tooth. And while in Manila, I often went to Mang Inasal for another fast food staple, I am now a firm believer in the statement that you have never really tasted chicken inasal in the truest sense if you have not been to Manokan Country:

Bacolod’s Famous Chicken Inasal at Manokan Country

A night before my flight, I opened my fortune cookie and it advised me to “Take chances to gain some ground.” This year, 2012, has been really a year for taking chances and embracing positive changes that made me a better person. And I was sweetly rewarded by this risk taking decision by the yummiest of desserts in the famous Calea cake shop and the super affordable red velvet slice and beverage pair at Cafe Bob’s:

Calea Cake Slices

 

Tine and the Evening Gastronomic Treat at Cafe Bob’s

 

The scaredy-cat in me hates flying on airplanes or basically stepping out of my comfort zone. I suffer from homesickness beyond the fourth day of a journey in a different place, local or international. Fortunately, for Bacolod, I had my friend Tine, who successfully helped me overcome my paranoid fears and travel neurosis. She was also the first person who encouraged me to travel. When we were still staying in our Ortigas condo, she posted all her travel pictures on the wall. Despite my introverted tendencies, I was heavily encouraged to step out literally and try to travel for leisure. This is, by far, the first leisure domestic trip that involves riding an airplane. I got to Puerto Princesa and Cebu for data gathering purposes in my old job, but not much time to enjoy myself there. And she had a camera which basically amplified my camwhoring moments. I did have my fearful moments when the airplane did a weird noise on our flight back to Manila. But honestly, there’s no fun to life if you just  stay in the same place. Traveling has added another dimension to my life that helped me discover myself and be more independent as a person.

 

Sunny day landing at Silay Airport, Bacolod

Bacolod was my first place of travel leisure, and this is the place where I experienced FLASHPACKING. I have often heard of backpacking among the well-traveled individuals I have met. But the word flashpacking was quite new to me. Apparently, when you travel for leisure with a little splurge or provision for some comfort or luxury, it’s called flashpacking and not backpacking.

We stayed in this place for three days and two nights. And it was a place where I had a lot of my firsts in life, including the first climb to 7 waterfalls in Mambukal resort.

 

Of course, I enjoyed the sights, for in Bacolod, you never run out of things to do. It’s so laidback in there; it’s like time literally slows down and allows you to just chillax. It’s a far cry from the fast-paced urban world that I am used to. Honestly, I did not want to go back to Manila and I agree with what my old lady boss said when she told me that this is one of the best placed to retire in. Our stay in the Sylvia Manor was fairly comfortable. It’s not as expensive as L’Fisher Hotel (which was highly recommended by our friend Mia, who lives in Bacolod), but it has a hot shower, twin beds, and easy access to SM Bacolod and Manokan Country at 800 per head per night.

One of the famous places in Bacolod is The Ruins, owned by a sugar baron who was linked as one of GMA’s ancestors. The place is a frigging mansion. But quite interesting about it is the color transformation it undertakes by sunset.

The Ruins before Sunset

 

 

Sunset at the Ruins

This officially opens the chapter of the reluctant traveler’s life. Like we can have the ruins of the past mistakes and the general fear of not being able to make it. But at the end of the day, I realized that I am young, and I have the license for a few years to enjoy myself and take big risks. And so cheers to taking big risks amidst the wholeness and the ruins of life. I am as free as the butterfly I saw in the Butterfly Garden at Mambukal Resort. And this is the perfect time to find my footing in the vast terrain that awaits to be explored by my frightened feet…

Lovely Butterfly at The Negros Butterfly Garden in Mambukal

 

Thank you, City of Smiles, for serving as a gateway for more traveling smiles to an otherwise homesick and reluctant jetsetting engineer like me.

 

Still sipping sweets on the airport, flight back to MNL

Most image credits go to Miss Kristine Rowan, friend, ex-roomie, and kickass business school student in the US. 🙂 Thanks, Tiney! 🙂

Yuppie Explorers

Guadalupe Bridge Trusses and Your Balancing Acts for the Board Exam

I was thinking of how to present my fifth board exam tip, when I remembered the very eye catching truss bridge in Guadalupe. (I will save the posts on flippers for later, when I have taken a decent picture of the flippers I used for my board exam). It’s one of those things I genuinely like to look at whenever I ride the MRT train. It’s really nice, although I rode once in an ordinary fare bus and it was not as sweet smelling as it looks, thanks to the river.

I will try not to be too technical with my metaphor. But this huge contraption that we see is actually governed by a simple rule of balancing forces. Engineer readers will know that it just involves making half FBD’s on paper and then summing all the forces through its joints or through its members.

In layman’s terms, it translates to making sure that every bolt is in place and it does not handle too much stress on each part. The extreme pressures on the bridge are balanced or managed by distributing the load to the different parts of this truss here. If there was no balance,  there will be no way that this bridge can stand upright and strong enough, at that.

You, future board exam taker, may be likened to this truss in some way. You need to spread out the pressure and not let it crumble you down when push comes to shove. Balancing the small things that serve as the foundation of your board exam review is a very vital thing for success. (Yes! Ang suave ng segue ko diba? Hahaha)

What are these little things?

1. How you  perform on each subject. You make sure that you do not overdevote yourself to a single part of the exam. Make time for ALL subjects. In my experience, I was top 2 not because I had a lot of 90+ scores. And this worked for me also during the Pre-Board Exam in the review center. What I made sure to do is to BALANCE all my performances in each subject. They were all in the same range. It is useless if you are extremely good in Math but lousy in the Law portion. You have to be fairly good in both, since the Board of Examiners will actually tally the average. It will not care if you got 100% in the Math part, if you had a 76% pulling you down in another subject. Worse, you can fail in one and do too well on another, and that will just frustrate you!

2. Your own sanity’s balance. You actually have to FORCE yourself to take a break regularly. Go to church on Sunday, even if you feel like you can just spend the time catching up on missed lessons or whatnots. Make sure that in each week of study, you spend one day for fun. No reviewers, no flippers, no peeking  at the notes… Don’t deprive yourself of this one. Warning: If you do, you will have increased your chances for mental block during the actual exam.

3. Your meals and sleep time must be balanced too. Balance it too. Make sure you have more than enough rest and sleep. During my review, I was the most health conscious freak on the planet. I was afraid to get sick during review and during the exam. So, be good to yourself at this time. You can go vegan (leafy greens really help foster good memory!), drink more water and just avoid junk food. Instead of junk food, try nuts, soya and all the brain food you can think of.

4. Life balance. Everything may seem to depend on the outcome of your exam. But make sure you still get your spiritual and emotional nourishment. You will need that a lot. You may have to give up seeing your friends, but make sure there are still some humans you get to talk to in the midst of your review. At the time, I used the common ground of wanting to achieve with my review buddies. Though we were isolated from the rest of the world that time, we had a great time drawing strength and encouragement from each other daily. Find your buddies and don’t be too competitive. 😀

So there. Wait for the flippers and other posts. The best is yet to come.

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