JENESYS 2.0: Hello Fukuoka!

JENESYS 2.0: Hello Fukuoka!

June 24-28, 2013 

FUKUOKA J. Posing for the camera before leaving for Fukuoka. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
FUKUOKA J. Posing for the camera before leaving for Fukuoka. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

I woke up early perhaps because I was excited that we are finally flying to Fukuoka Prefecture and spend the next 3 days there for our local program. Fukuoka Prefecture can be found in the Kyushu Island, it faces the Korean Peninsula, and is nearer to the Philippines compared to the other areas of Japan.

I am now filled with so many expectations on how our trip and stay will go, but above everything else, I am excited about meeting my host family and have dinner with them.

After checking out from Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel, we proceeded to Tokyo’s other airport, Haneda Airport.

I was told that Japan airports are very strict, indeed Haneda Airport was. For instance, during the inspection of carry-on baggage, we even had to bring out our laptops. One ironic thing was that they allowed our umbrellas to be placed in the hand carry baggage, which is usually not the case in the Philippines.

We flew with ANA, Japan’s other flagship carrier and the trip was more or less 2 hours. It was smooth for the most of the flight; except that I had some friends who were experiencing motion discomfort.

Fukuoka is a humble prefecture that boasts its different advanced architectures and industries. You could say that people are so laid back except of course in the downtown area of Hakata or Tenjin where business establishments were usually situated.

NOH THEATER. This theater is where Noh and Kyogen Plays are performed. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
NOH THEATER. This theater is where Noh and Kyogen Plays are performed. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

With their rich culture, the JICE made it a point that our group could experience some of the things that make the Fukuoka culture. We went to this Opera-like house, which they call as the Noh and Kyogen Theater. It was a humbling experience to have thought first-hand by the different masters of the Noh Play. I must say, that it was very difficult to perfect and to master such form of art thus you will really need great dose of devotion, patience, and perseverance for your to perfect your craft.

TRADITIONAL JAPANESE LUNCH. Enjoying the lunch served by Kimono-wearing women. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
TRADITIONAL JAPANESE LUNCH. Enjoying the lunch served by Kimono-wearing women. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

We also had a traditional Japanese lunch in Fukuoka where Kimono-wearing women served us sumptuous Japanese cuisines. I liked the fact that they are really very welcoming and very accommodating.

The first day in Fukuoka was indeed full of surprises I least expected. Surprises from small things such as finding out that our hotel is very near to Hakata Station, and we can easily roam around Hakata or to big surprises about the diversity of cultures, customs and traditions of Japan. While I am writing this, it made me realize that we are very lucky, although lucky is an understatement. Lucky because we got to visit this place which is usually not included in the itinerary of tourists wanting to visit Japan for sightseeing. This towns or prefectures usually offer you the experience you cannot get from other places, or other countries. Here, the culture is more preserved, and more genuine making the experience itself, awesome!

First Day

AUGMENTED REALITY. Daniel enjoys the Augmented Reality of Next Systems. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
AUGMENTED REALITY. Daniel enjoys the Augmented Reality of Next Systems. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

The second day spent in Fukuoka Prefecture was filled lectures about the different best practices that the Fukuoka City has.

First, we went to the Next Systems Company Limited, one of the developers of augmented reality and kinect technology in Japan. We were able to get to experience this type of technology that we usually see only in CNN or other major media organizations.

They had this sort of technology, which allows you to look like you are wearing something on TV Screen. They also had this technology that allows you to control something shown in the screen, something like what the doctors do in Grey’s Anatomy, when they usually examine a certain part of the organ of their patient.

It was so amazing because this humble company from Fukuoka is such a competitive one, and they promised to develop even more ground-breaking technologies that would further ease the life of people.

ALL ABOUT FUKUOKA. Lecture from the Fukuoka Prefecture Government about Fukuoka's best practices. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
ALL ABOUT FUKUOKA. Lecture from the Fukuoka Prefecture Government about Fukuoka’s best practices. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

We also went to the Fukuoka Prefecture Governmental Office where we were received warmly by some of the officers. We had lectures about the different groundbreaking things in Fukuoka, such as the different initiatives that their government has started in the fields of Hydrogen Technology.

When the project is complete, I would not be surprised that it would be Fukuoka Prefecture’s name being credited for this kind of technology as they are now working so hard to perfect this hydrogen technology, which by the way they call as “Project Hylife”.

Second Day

CLASS TIME. Attending a lecture by the Oki Town Recycling Center, but managed to take photo of myself since lecture has not started yet. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
CLASS TIME. Attending a lecture by the Oki Town Recycling Center, but managed to take photo of myself since lecture has not started yet. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

We started our second day in Fukuoka by visiting the Oki Town Recycling Center. It was so amazing to know that the Oki Town had a Zero-Waste policy implemented, which I thought was impossible.

SEGREGATION. Representative from Oki Town Recycling Center explains how they segregate things into 25 different types. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
SEGREGATION. Representative from Oki Town Recycling Center explains how they segregate things into 25 different types. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

In Oki Town, they implement segregation of 25 different types of waste, unlike the 15 types in neighboring towns. They use these wastes that they collect to produce BGF or the Bio-Gas Fuel, which in turn is being used by their residents. If not BGF, they produce fertilizer distributed to their farmers.

I wish we had something like that in the Philippines so that we would not have a problem about our waste disposal.

CAR FACTORY. Our visit in Toyota Kyushu's plant was awesome. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
CAR FACTORY. Our visit in Toyota Kyushu’s plant was awesome. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

In the afternoon, we proceeded to Toyota Kyushu Plant, one of the largest in Japan. The Toyota Kyushu plant is the one manufacturing the luxury line of Toyota, the Lexus. Of course they didn’t allow us to take a picture, but their factory is mostly robot-controlled. They can produce 1 car for every 90 seconds. It usually takes 5 hours to make an entire car in such plant, such an amazing technology.

TOUR GUIDE. Our beautiful tour guide in Toyota Kyushu's plant. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
TOUR GUIDE. Our beautiful tour guide in Toyota Kyushu’s plant. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

It was also during this day when we met our host family in Asakura City. Before meeting them, we had a small lecture about what Asakura City is all about. This humble city boasts not only its different produce, but also their different products out of the persimmon fruit. From juice to dried persimmon, they all have it. However, since they are still on the early days of production, they are still experiencing their birthing pains. I know, with the dedication and the workmanship of Japanese People, they would be successful in this venture of business.

I was very excited to meet my family, since it’s my first time to experience going to a host family. It was only my Okasan (mother) who fetched me from the venue, and after some short pleasantries and introduction, we then toured around Asakura.

We were two participants assigned to Okasan, the other was Jacky Hsu from Singapore who had a very good command of Japanese. Jacky was the translator since I didn’t speak Nihonggo.

Okasan brought us to this Buddhist temple found on top of a mountain which offers a scenic view of the Asakura City. It was quiet, and peaceful there that you could almost feel tranquility at its finest.

SECOND FAMILY IN JAPAN. With my host family and "brother from another country", Jacky. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
SECOND FAMILY IN JAPAN. With my host family and “brother from another country”, Jacky. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

After that little tour around Asakura, we then went to my host family’s house where we met Otosan (father). We had a lot of things talked about over dinner, ranging from the different exchange experiences of Okasan and Otosan to our different experiences from our country. It was surely a learning experience for me given the fact that it became a venue for us to be able to share our different cultures.

ASAKURA CITY. Where my host family resides. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
ASAKURA CITY. Where my host family resides. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

Nighttime came, and we had to bid farewell to Okasan and Otosan. Although it was heartbreaking for me since I was starting to enjoy their company, I didn’t have a choice. Okasan dropped Jacky and I at the hotel, and I sure did promise to her that if there’s going to be a chance, I would surely come back and spend a week at their house!

ONSEN EXPERIENCE. Posing for the camera after my onsen experience with fellow ASEAN delegates.
ONSEN EXPERIENCE. Posing for the camera after my onsen experience with fellow ASEAN delegates.

Later that night, just few minutes before my birthday, I made it sure to experience Onsen (Japanese Public Bath) together with some of my friends from Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. We were all naked hahahah, but there was no awkward feeling when we were bathing.

The onsen was very relaxing, not to mention the Sulfur content of it which made it very therapeutic. I stayed in the hot spring for almost an hour then went to the sauna. Indeed, I had a very good way of welcoming my 20th year, in Japan.

Third Day

LUNCH TIME. With our new Japanese friends in Kyutech. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
LUNCH TIME. With our new Japanese friends in Kyutech. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

I had a busy birthday, but nevertheless enjoying. We spent most of the day in the Kyushu Institute of Technology, one of the prestigious engineering universities in the Kyushu region. It has always been my question why I was grouped with engineering people, but on the brighter side, it exposed me to the different technologies present especially those that are initiated by engineers.

We also had the chance to interact with Japanese students. There I met many Japanese engineering students who warmly welcomed us in Kyutech. We exchanged ideas, experiences, and things that are interesting be it in our place or our country in general.

When we got back to the hotel that night, I thought my birthday night would end in a boring way, so I braved the streets of Fukuoka, and walked from my hotel going to Tenjin Central Park. After reaching Tenjin Central Park, I ate ramen along the sidewalks of the grand canal of Fukuoka.

BIRTHDAY RAMEN. Enjoyed an authentic Fukuoka Ramen in Yatai. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
BIRTHDAY RAMEN. Enjoyed an authentic Fukuoka Ramen in Yatai. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

Fukuoka is famous for its ramen, so I really made it a point never to miss the chance to taste their ramen. In the stall where I ate ramen, I met Naoe and her friends. She easily knew I was not from Fukuoka or Japan, perhaps because of the way I ate the ramen? Hahahaha.

Naoe-san was a very nice person, and it was a good thing she was good in English, which made it easier for us to understand each other. One of her friends treated me a glass of beer and we had kampai!

Indeed, it was one such memorable birthday for me.

Fourth Day

SECOND MOTHER. Yamaguchi-san has been our second mother in Japan. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
SECOND MOTHER. Yamaguchi-san has been our second mother in Japan. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

It was time to go back to Tokyo. We bade farewell to our coordinators in JICE in Fukuoka. I would really miss Miki-san, and Yarimizu-san. They had been very tolerant of us despite our craziness and hardheadedness.

They were like our mothers from another country. If you are reading this, arigatou gozaimashita Miki-san and Yarimizu-san!

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JENESYS 2.0: The Tokyo Experience.

JENESYS 2.0: The Tokyo Experience.
HOTEL NIKKO NARITA. The hotel housed us for the first 2 days of our trip. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
HOTEL NIKKO NARITA. The hotel housed us for the first 2 days of our trip. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

June 23, 2013

As usual, I woke up late again. I am surely finding it hard to adjust to Japanese Time. Make no mistake though for I have been trying my best to adjust into this 1-hour-advance-difference to the usual time I am used to. For me it’s harder when the time difference is almost negligible.

Whenever my coordinator would ask me why I am late, my usual excuse would be that I have let my roommates use the washroom first, which is the half-truth though. The truth is, we woke up late, and yet I would allow my roommates to use the washroom first.

What I am excited about this day is that we would finally go to Tokyo. Japan trip wouldn’t be complete unless you see Tokyo, they say. After 2 days of staying here in Chiba Prefecture, we’ll be heading to the capital of Japan. What made me more excited about this is the fact that I am going to meet two of my relatives, who I have not seen for the longest time already.

After checking out from Hotel Nikko Narita, a hotel I am going to miss because of its Baguio-city-like weather, we hopped inside the bus and there starts our two-hour sojourn to Tokyo.

INDUSTRIALIZED. One of the industrialized areas near Chiba. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
INDUSTRIALIZED. One of the industrialized areas near Chiba. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

They say, Chiba Prefecture is in the countryside of Japan and although it houses the Narita International Airport, it has a rural life on it. It’s the kind of rural life you see in the foreign movies. Luscious and verdant grasses , houses that are distant from each other, and of course cars that are almost non-existent except for the buses or cargo trucks that go to Narita Airport.

As I am writing this part of the entry, I am inside the bus, amazed with the different wonders before my eyes. Unlike me friends who have explored the downtown area of Chiba Prefecture, it was my first time to go out from the hotel premises, so you can just imagine how astonished I was with the surroundings. Pardon the first-timer.

FUKUOKA J TEAM. Photo opp with my team and coordinator, Yamaguchi-san. Photo by: Teerapun Chinacit.
FUKUOKA J TEAM. Photo opp with my team and coordinator, Yamaguchi-san. Photo by: Teerapun Chinacit.

It was around 9 am when we reached Tokyo. For preliminaries, we went straight to the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center where we listened lectures about the ASEAN-Japan Centre, Activities by Trade and Investment Division of AJC, and Activities by Tourism and Exchange Division of the AEC. After the talk, the program emcee opened the Q and A portion. Without any hesitation, I fired a question to the speakers that goes this way:

“We all know that the ASEAN Economic Community will commence come 2015. With just 2 years from 2015, the entire ASEAN Community and their supporter-nations such as US, China and Japan are trying their best to weather the different offs in the formation of the AEC.

One important factor that might determine the success of this AEC is the transportation sector. Transportation that includes air, water, and land. Transportation is very useful in delivering goods especially for trade in the ASEAN region.

Where does the Japanese Government stand on the issue of maritime dispute considering that in the recent months, several ASEAN countries had disputes not only with China but also with other ASEAN Countries?

Should we expect, in the coming days, that there will already be a unified stand of the ASEAN with regards to this maritime dispute?”

“It was a tough question”, the speaker jokingly replied. I’m sure as hell it was one tough question, and it perhaps make them sweat, but I wasn’t satisfied with the answer he gave me, nevertheless, I didn’t insist.

SELFIE. First time to do selfie with the replica of the Statue of Liberty in the background. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
SELFIE. First time to do selfie with the replica of the Statue of Liberty in the background. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

After the talks, we proceeded to Odaiba. Odaiba is a recently-developed place in Tokyo. We ate our lunch at the Aqua City Mall where one can see a replica of the famous statue of liberty. The rest of the time was spent exploring Odaiba.

SEMI-JAPANESE. This room in Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel is semi-Japanese inspired. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
SEMI-JAPANESE. This room in Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel is semi-Japanese inspired. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

Afternoon cam and we had to check in, in the hotel. This time, we were billeted in the Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel. It’s the second hotel we stayed in this trip. What was great about this hotel is that the room was semi-Japanese inspired where we had Tatami beds. Also adding to the great experience was the view we had in our room. Great view it was of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay. In fact, right now, I am writing this part of the entry while gazing towards Odaiba and Tokyo Bay.

ODAIBA, TOKYO. A view of the Odaiba and Tokyo Bay from our room in Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
ODAIBA, TOKYO. A view of the Odaiba and Tokyo Bay from our room in Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

Evening came and my excitement has risen, this because I will be seeing my cousin and aunt.

After fixing myself, and after asking permission from my JICE Coordinator, we then went to downtown Tokyo.

TRAIN RIDE. Trying one of the busiest means of transportation of the Japanese. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
TRAIN RIDE. Trying one of the busiest means of transportation of the Japanese. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

Going to Shinjuku, we took a train ride. What surprised me was that the girls and boys are not separated unlike in the Philippines.

Shinjuku is a nice place especially at night. It is a shopping haven for adolescents said my aunt. It was indeed. You would see different designer brands from TopMan to H&M to Uniqlo. Almost every brand is there. It was a pleasant surprise that my aunt and cousin treated me for a shopping spree.

IN BETWEEN SHOPPING. With my cousin Seina, we pose for a picture in Shinjuku shopping area. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
IN BETWEEN SHOPPING. With my cousin Seina, we pose for a picture in Shinjuku shopping area. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
DOWNTOWN TOKYO. Where you can find many shops and many shoppers. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
DOWNTOWN TOKYO. Where you can find many shops and many shoppers. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

After shopping, my reaction was “I shouldn’t have brought anything for this trip”. Indeed, I am really thankful for the early birthday presents I have received from my generous relatives.

We ended the exploration of Shinjuku with a great dinner of anything but authentic Japanese Cuisine. I admit that I was never a fan of Japanese food in the Philippines, but once you have tasted a genuine Japanese food, in Japan of course, your perception would surely change, just like mine.

JAPANESE DINNER. After shopping, my aunt Esther and cousin Seina took me to a Japanese Resto for me to taste authentic Japanese cuisine. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
JAPANESE DINNER. After shopping, my aunt Esther and cousin Seina took me to a Japanese Resto for me to taste authentic Japanese cuisine. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

I ate a lot of sushi and sashimi. I also liked the Okonomiyaki and the Japanese style barbecue and fried chicken. The Japanese edamame or green peas was a good match for the beer that was served.

OISHI! Authentic Japanese food is really delicious. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
OISHI! Authentic Japanese food is really delicious. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

I’m finishing this entry facing yet again the beautiful view of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay at night from my room. Today might have been filled with nothing but excursions, nevertheless, there were a lot of things I have learned and experienced that I may not experience anytime soon when I get back to the Philippines.

Well, that’s it for now, as the hot water in the tub I have prepared for my hot bath is almost full. Sayonara!

JENESYS 2.0: Trust Issues.

JENESYS 2.0: Trust Issues.
TRUST OUR BUILDINGS. The orientation speaker repeatedly told us to trust the Japanese engineering and architecture of buildings as these are earthquake-proof. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
TRUST OUR BUILDINGS. The orientation speaker repeatedly told us to trust the Japanese engineering and architecture of buildings as these are earthquake-proof. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

June 23, 2013

I didn’t actually know I had trust issues with the buildings in Japan till during the general orientation of the program. Hahahah. “Just trust us, just trust our buildings” reassured the speaker during the program when he discussed about the earthquakes and the different things we should do during the earthquake.

But kidding aside, I actually appreciate that they are emphasizing on the earthquake part, since not a lot of the delegates had experienced an earthquake. Singapore delegation, for example, claimed they do not have earthquake. I kept mum, since Philippines almost always had an earthquake.

During the orientation, I have met with my fellow ASEAN delegates. It was nice of them (JICE, the organizer) that they have made it a point this time to group nations with other nations unlike in the previous programs where they would only group the participants per country.

Talkative as I am, I immediately brushed off any anxiety and started talking to them. Before I know it, I was already making friends with people. It is really great thing to note that these people, who are by the way not a native English speaker, are trying their best to communicate with us in English. “One family, one ASEAN” I told myself.

LISTENING CLOSELY. Roomful of ASEAN Delegates to the JENESYS 2.0 Program. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
LISTENING CLOSELY. Roomful of ASEAN Delegates to the JENESYS 2.0 Program. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

After the general orientation, we had a group orientation. There I came to know my group mates even more. It came as a surprise for me to know that we’re only two people majoring in Medical Field. Almost all of my group mates are majoring in engineering. From nanotechnology to civil to industrial, I felt I got mistakenly grouped.

Nevertheless, my group mates didn’t make me feel less welcomed. We even exchange some ideas about what we are majoring. They taught me what nanotechnology is all about, or what quantum physics is about. I also told them how you test samples of people from urine, blood, feces, sweat or smears.

It was surely a great day, and I have made a lot of friends.

As I went back to my room and plunged into a hot bath once more, I contemplated about many things. One, that no matter how diverse people are, there will always be things that would connect us –as for what thing, that, I will find in the coming days. Two, that hot bath is so relaxing I nearly slept in the tub.

JENESYS 2.0: First Experience of Japan.

JENESYS 2.0: First Experience of Japan.
MERCATO. One of the places I look forward to going whenever I'm in Manila. Photo by James Annjo Salomon.
MERCATO. One of the places I look forward to going whenever I’m in Manila. Photo by James Annjo Salomon.

I only had a few hours of sleep today after having spent the night with my high school classmates. Mercato is always a favorite destination when we hang out here in the capital. I bloated myself with barbecue, and more barbecues. It was surely a fun night despite the lack of sleep.

ROOMIES. My roommates in Bayview Hotel, Abdul Rauf Bara and Norhalim Casim. Photo by Abdul Rauf Bara.
ROOMIES. My roommates in Bayview Hotel, Abdul Rauf Bara and Norhalim Casim. Photo by Abdul Rauf Bara.

Our wake up call time was 6 am thus having just almost 2 hours of sleep, waking up was such a pain in the arse, bed was like a magnet. Uh oh.

REMINDERS. National Youth Commission Commissioner Georg Nava giving out final reminders for the delegates. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
REMINDERS. National Youth Commission Commissioner Georg Nava giving out final reminders for the delegates. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

Lunch time came and I found myself sitting in the Gate 9 of Japan Airlines. If yesterday, it felt like I had reservations in joining, today was a different mood. Although I still have feelings of hesitation, at least I am now excited about Japan.

SEATMATES. During the flight, my seatmate was Kath Emphasis from MSU-IIT. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
SEATMATES. During the flight, my seatmate was Kath Emphasis from MSU-IIT. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

The flight going to Narita was relatively fine, except for some heavy turbulence that came our way when we were exiting the Philippines. As a first time traveler to Japan, I couldn’t help but be observant of things. Especially that we are in one of their flagship carriers, Japan Airlines, I could say that my first encounter of Japanese culture will be on this plane.

JAL’s crew surely had never failed in giving us a first glimpse on what a Japanese culture is all about. It’s a culture that surely goes beyond the individual differences of people and races.

COMPLETE MEAL. I surely enjoyed the complimentary meal served by Japan Airlines. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.
COMPLETE MEAL. I surely enjoyed the complimentary meal served by Japan Airlines. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon.

What I liked the most about our trip to Narita was the meal part. (HAHAHAHA Obviously.) It was such a great meal. The best part of that “best part” was the Haagen Dazs Ice Cream. Okay, enough said.

TOUCHDOWN NARITA! Finally, my first glimpse of Japan. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon
TOUCHDOWN NARITA! Finally, my first glimpse of Japan. Photo by: James Annjo Salomon

It was around 7 pm when we arrived in Narita. Although the immigration officer assigned to me displayed a smug face, I didn’t let that cut short my excitement. “Japan is very clean”, was the first thing I told myself while we were going out of the Narita Airport. I didn’t have much time to roam around the airport as we were trying to run against time to check-in in Hotel Nikko Narita  nevertheless, it made me even more excited about the coming days.

To cap my day, I plunged into a hot bath and went to sleep.

JENESYS 2.0: Pre-departure jitters.

JENESYS 2.0: Pre-departure jitters.

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As I am writing this entry in my journal, I found myself seated in front of this native store, which sells expensive stuff here at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

I’m facing the entrance of the pre-departure area where there are a lot of people rushing to get inside. I got surprised I was no longer asked to take off my shoes, although they asked me to remove my belt. “Much better”, I told myself.

It has always been my practice that whenever I travel, especially when I am talking a flight going to my destination, I should be in the airport at least 4 hours before my departure time. I don’t know but perhaps it was life and common sense that taught me never to follow Filipino time when traveling. I’m afraid to be late or be denied check-in during trips, you can just imagine how expensive the tickets would get should that happen to me. I once had this close-to-being-denied-check-in experience years ago at our hometown’s humble airport, you can read it here.

Early bird as I am, I’m already at the airport at around 6:00 am although my flight is still around 8:20 am. But things were not good for me this early in the morning. The taxi driver who brought me here immediately rushed off as soon as I got off the cab. Fixated in the state of shock and awe, I was not able to do anything, even shout or run, name it. few seconds later, I realized I had to do something because the taxi was taking my luggage away!

In panic times, I usually tell myself to keep my calm and composure. So yes I did keep it. What a pleasant surprise it was for the airport guard, who I forgot to ask who his name was, to notice the incident and immediately hot hold of the cab’s plate and its body number.  He immediately radioed his colleague and ordered to stop the car from getting outside the airport vicinity.

I was really palpitating so hard, afraid that my luggage could not be retrieved anymore. Few moments later, the taxi returned with the driver asking me for an additional payment for his effort and gas. I of course declined to pay and ranted that it was not my fault since he was rushing off while I was still trying to ask him to open the compartment portion of the cab.

Lesson? Always be quick, you can never tell if people are going to take advantage of you.

If I was not able to retrieve my baggage, I surely would have cancelled and not push through in joining JENESYS. But God has a plan on why he allowed these things to happen.

MERCATO. One of the places I look forward to going whenever I'm in Manila. Photo by James Annjo Salomon.
MERCATO GRILL. One of the places I look forward to going whenever I’m in Manila. Photo by James Annjo Salomon.

Fast-forward now, I’ve always been fascinated with Manila although most people I know would disagree with me. Manila really is something that I always look forward to going, it never fails to surprise and entertain me. Not to mention the food at Mercato!

So you can just imagine how excited I am to go back to the capital after how many months.

MOA Signing. The National Youth Commission along with some selected delegates had a ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement. Photo by Reesa Facon.
MOA Signing. The National Youth Commission along with some selected delegates had a ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement. Photo by Reesa Facon.

Later that day, there was a heavy downpour of rain while I was on my way to Bayview Hotel. It made me think twice, whether to push through with this or not. It was actually my first time to feel hesitant in joining an activity. Perhaps it was because the program is going to be miles away from home or just perhaps because of the things I left behind. But I decided to go, and push through with the activity.

After the pre-departure orientation, I went out with my high school classmates. Where else would we go but in Mercato? Although I was already very full, who could say “no” to the oversized barbecues and isaws (chicken intestine), after eating at Mercato, we spent the rest of the night catching up.

At 3 am, we all parted ways leaving me worried if I could wake up at 6 am, our scheduled wake up time.

CATCHING UP. Ayana, Golda and I smiling for the camera, taken at Mercato. Photo by James Annjo Salomon.
CATCHING UP. Ayana, Golda and I are smiling for the camera, taken at Mercato. Photo by James Annjo Salomon.