singapore – day one

Our trip to Singapore became less an exploration of a new place than a meditation of what we’re missing in our own city. We spent a lot of time talking about home and how tired we were that we couldn’t have this. Every conversation must have ended with a sigh and a sad “Buti pa sila”. (Lucky them.) Emerging on Bugis Street from the train, we became very much aware of the nearly deserted streets, the lack of security personnel at the entrance of malls. The humidity and the sun reminded us of Manila but without the chaos of Manila. Singapore is like Manila that turned out right. (But then right is relative; as a tourist — a first-time visitor — I can only comment on Singapore’s skin but not it’s heart.) As a friend mentioned over dinner, it is the little things that will make you stay in Singapore: the fact that you can time the arrival of the bus on your way to work, the fact that you can get on the MRT wearing your backpack and not worry that a fellow passenger will grab your wallet and phone. The little things can make you stay, and it’s also the little things, like splinters, that burrow under your skin and will make you want to leave.

But first:

Ah. Speaking of things that make you want to leave.

NCR Aviation Security Unit chief sacked amid NAIA ‘laglag-bala’ scam

And so we had to do this.

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It made me feel pretty stupid but what can you do.

We flew Cebu Pacific at 5:45 AM on Friday (the plane taxied for sooo long I had to remark, “Are we going to drive all the way to Singapore?”) and arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 9:20 AM. It was an unremarkable flight, which was great. (I’m not a fan of flying. It was the longest flight I’ve ever been on — I haven’t traveled to the US or Europe — and I was bored.out.of.my.mind. But when flying, boring is good.)

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Relevant source: Changi Airport Guide

One Singapore dollar is equivalent to around 33 Philippine pesos. We had our money changed at Sanry’s Money Changer before our trip. You can check out this link about the cost of living in Singapore to help you with your budget.

This is mine. I must tell you now that I over-budgeted on nearly every line item. You’ll be comfortable with less than S$200 pocket money.

Sample Budget $15 per meal 9 meals 135
$2 per water bottle 10 water bottles? 20
tourist pass 30
$10 per meal (snacks and coffee) 3 meals 30
Shopping 50
Pasalubong 50
Wiggle room money 50
 TOTAL 365

Our kaya toast meal (kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, coffee with condensed milk) cost S$4.30 each, to give you an idea.

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From Terminal 2, we headed to the Changi Airport MRT station to buy a 3-day Tourist Pass. The pass, which gives you unlimited access to the buses, MRT and LRT, costs S$30 with a S$10 deposit. Go crazy! Get on and off every station if you feel like it! Just surrender the card and you’ll get your 10 bucks back. Unless you’d like to keep the card as a souvenir.

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There’s no shortage of maps and brochures at the airport. It’s a pretty Type A city. I love it.

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Relevant source: MRT Map

Getting around is pretty easy. (That’s coming from a girl who gets lost all the time.) To head to the city from Changi Airport, hop on the train heading to Tanah Merah. At Tanah Merah, switch to the East West line (green on the map) on Platform B.

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We got off at Bugis station and checked out Sim Lim Square.

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Sim Lim Square has a guide. Type A, like I said.

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It reminds me of Greenhills.

The store J wanted to check out was still closed, so we had a snack. Sim Lim Square has a food court in the basement.

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After that stopover, we walked to get to Victoria Hotel, which was on Victoria Street. I’d like to pretend I own the hotel. (And the street.)

We stopped for lunch in Bugis Village.

Laksaaaa.

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Victoria Hotel has a pretty great location. I recommend it.

We rested for a bit before heading to Gardens by the Bay to meet with Victor and Patricia, who have been working and living in Singapore for 15 years.

Remember when I said just a few paragraphs ago that I get lost all the time? So yeah, I got lost here. We have been waiting at the wrong ticket counter for 30 minutes until J realized, Maaaaybe there’s another ticket counter?

Sorry for the wait, Victor.

While lost, I snapped these shots:

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Victor took us on a tour of the two domes in the Gardens — the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest (S$28 for both domes, but Victor generously paid for our entrance fees: “Ken Liu [who attended the Singapore Writers Festival] wanted to go to the hawker stalls. I spent five dollars on Ken Liu.” So now I can say I’m more expensive than Ken Liu. Hooray?).

Victor said most of his friends from Asia prefer the Flower Dome, while Europeans more often than not prefer the Cloud Forest.

He was right. We loved the Flower Dome more.

(And to think we nearly skipped this!)

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I love the color of these deep purple flowers.

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Weird cactus.

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Hello, Little Prince.

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I love the shape of this cactus.

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I forgot the name of this flower, but it smells like rot.

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Another strange flower.

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Not a very good shot of a very tall cactus.

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I wish I knew more about plants! Victor knew a great deal about flowers and vegetables, which was a pleasant surprise.

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We had dinner and fun conversation at Supertree Dining. (J is still dreaming of that plum juice.)

Thank you Victor and Patricia!

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Day Two!

after lambana update + new poem + new story + surprise!

So! Some announcements.

1. I have a new story called “At the Diazes’” in LEAP + , magazine of the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators.

ESSAY : Filipinos write back by Jose Dalisay Jr.
FICTION: The Passport by Noelle Q. de Jesus
POETRY : A colony by Allan Pastrama
POETRY : If to measure the brief length of the plane by Allan Pastrama
POETRY : Octopus by Enrique S. Villasis, translated from Tagalog by Mikael de Lara Co
POETRY : Sing Like You Mean It by Joel M. Toledo
POETRY : Man vs. Himself by Joel M. Toledo
ESSAY : American Visa by Jack Wigley
FICTION: At the Diazes’ by Eliza Victoria
POETRY : Zoo Sonnet by Isabela Benzon
POETRY : Brief Letter by Isabela Benzon
ESSAY : The Functional Value of Plain Jane by Augusto Antonia Aguila
POETRY : Beneath the Underdog by Jessica Hagedorn
POETRY : The Evolution of Bruno Mars by Jessica Hagedorn
POETRY : The Day a Storm with my Mother’s Name Came by Kristian Sendon Cordero, translated from Bikol by Marne Kilates
POETRY : The Sorrow of Ancient Fire by Kristian Sendon Cordero, translated from Bikol by Marne Kilates
INTERVIEW: The 5-Spot Interview: Andrea Pasion-Flores by Tim Tomlinson
INTERVIEW: The 5-Spot Interview: J. Neil C. Garcia by Tim Tomlinson
POETRY : The Sadness of a Tongue by Genevieve L. Asenjo, translated from Kinaray-a by Ma. Milagros Lachica
POETRY : The Water I Love is a Stranger by Genevieve L. Asenjo, translated from Kinaray-a by Ma. Milagros Lachica
MEMOIR: Sa Loob by Sandra Nicole Roldan
POETRY : How Our Towns Drown by Gemini H. Abad
ESSAY : Arsenal by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz
FICTION: Dai vidas du’l grandu investigadores: El caso du’l toro perduto by Dean Francis Alfar. (From The Lives of the Great Detectives: The Case of the Missing Bull)
POETRY : Charcuterie by Krip Yuson
POETRY : Disguise by Krip Yuson
POETRY : A country of bees by Brylle B. Tabora
FICTION: Enough of This is True by Ian Rozales Casocot
POETRY : One Life by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
POETRY : Self-Help by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
FICTION: Stress Management by Glenn L. Diaz
POETRY : Ballistics by Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
POETRY : País Tropical by Marne Kilates
ESSAY : A List of Advice for Traveling to the Country Your Family Departed by Laurel Fantauzzo
FICTION: An excerpt from “First Job” by Gabriela Lee
POETRY : The Traveller’s Song by Jose Rizal, translated from Spanish by Marne Kilates

This is one of the pieces in the collection of interconnected science fiction stories that I have been working on. Another piece is “The Target”, which will be included in the tenth volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction.

Click through to read, and of course feel free to share the link.

This is how it begins:

Chi was going through an inconvenient personal crisis that evening, and so he could hardly focus, or care, when the representative from the family said, “You’re not the Chief Engineer?”The girl, the homeowner’s eldest daughter, looked like she just stepped out of a cocktail party. Black dress, white pearls, no-hands glowing blue deep in her ear, probably the party host urging her to come back. Her, whatever her name was. Joanne told him on their way there but now he couldn’t remember. “Good afternoon,” the Hestia SmartHouse’s front door chirped, for the third time since the moment they arrived on the front porch.“There are no visitors listed in the log for this hour. Please enter the passcode to let yourself in.”

“No, ma’am,” Chi told the client, and out of nowhere came her name. Georgia. Georgia Diaz.

“He’s tied up in meetings at the moment and sends his regrets.”

“Ma knew the Chief Engineer,” Georgia said. “The lady who took my call said he’d come here personally.”

“We’re Senior Engineers, ma’am,” Joanne said. Stress on the senior, making it sound like Chief, only without the fringe benefits. “We’ve got you covered.”

They got the call an hour ago. Georgia planned to just drop by the house for a minute or so, grab a shawl she forgot in her room, when she was greeted by an empty house. She was afraid her family—her parents, her younger sister, and three younger brothers—got locked up in one of the rooms, activated the SoundEraser, and forgot the passcode to deactivate it. It had happened before, Georgia said. One time her mother forgot to close the door to the master bedroom, and her youngest brother, aged seven, slipped inside, locked the door, and accidentally soundproofed the walls. A bedroom in a Hestia SmartHouse could let you in but wouldn’t let you out without a passcode. It was one of the SmartHouse’s Anti-Theft features. Families had caught burglars that way. Or cheating husbands. Unfortunately, with the SoundEraser up, Georgia’s youngest brother had already screamed himself hoarse for two hours and his sisters didn’t even hear a peep.

Sometimes the SmartHouse is just too smart, Joanne had said with a shrug. It happens. Aside from the SmartHouse, Hestia Industries also designed manacles and jail cells, so it was a no-brainer, really.

2. I will have a new poem in an upcoming issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.

3. We won’t be able to release After Lambana in time for Komikon this month, but we will have this out by early 2016. Here, let me distract you with some art from Mervin Malonzo.

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4. I will have a new novel out from Visprint before the year ends. We’re done with the copyedits, and I’m just waiting for the cover and chapter art. More about this later.

See you!

pinoy reads pinoy books reads ‘a bottle of storm clouds’

I was supposed to meet with Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books on October 18th, but Lando had other plans.

We finally met up on October 24th at Lucky Bean Coffee Bar, in front of De La Salle University. I stressed out over this meet-up because 1) meeting new people makes me anxious and 2) unfamiliar places make me anxious (I got lost on Taft Avenue because of course) and 3) talking about my work makes me anxious.

It was fun, though. I had fun talking about the origins of the stories (one question that delighted me was “Are these two guys lovers or are they just really good friends? But why not??”) and my writing process/progress/aspirations, and I hope the book club members had fun as well.

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I also signed books using N’s lovely gift from a couple months ago.

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Thank you to Jayson and the rest of Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books. Check out the links below if you want to join them.

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We are Filipinos who patronize Pinoy books, our very own. When we say “Pinoy books” we mean all published works written by Philippine and foreign nationals about the Philippines or the Filipino experience, written in (1) our national language, Filipino (Tagalog), (2) other Philippine languages, (3) English, and (4) any other foreign languages but translated to Filipino or English.

Visit: www.pinoyreads.com
Follow us: twitter.com/pinoyreads
Like our page: fb.com/pinoyreads

six and twenty-nine

Jaykie and I recently celebrated our sixth anniversary and my twenty-ninth birthday. Confetti! Sampaguita garlands!

Thank you to Manix Abrera for this great sketch.

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Thank you to J for the books.

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J took me to a nice steak restaurant (wherein I ordered a pasta) and I bought a bunch of Halloween-themed donuts that I was not supposed to be eating.

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I had a quiet, carefree birthday this year. Just the way I like it.

And now, a word from Tits Palmer*:

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*from Kate Beaton’s fantastic Hark! A Vagrant

robots and humanity (speed magazine, january 2014)

The following essay originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Speed Magazine. 

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What if we had robots? What if we had robots when Yolanda (Haiyan) struck? Imagine a quadripedal military robot carrying medical and survival equipment, helping residents evacuate, carrying loads surpassing the weight our own soldiers can feasibly carry. Imagine a bipedal robot swimming against the current and pulling survivors to safety, or else digging through the rubble and pulling out the dead so the bodies can be reunited with their surviving loved ones. Imagine little insect-like robots suturing wounds and applying gauze.

Sounds fantastic, but even a storm the size and strength of Yolanda seemed far-fetched, until it wasn’t.

Robots figure prominently in the world of Project 17, the science fiction novel I wrote in 2012 and which was published and released by Visprint in September 2013. In February 2013, I saw this article which said that Francis Tolentino, chief of the Metro Manila Development Authority, is thinking of having “robot traffic enforcers”. “The Robocop will spell the end of the kotong cops,” he says. I shared this with my publisher, amused, because this was what I was thinking when I started writing the novel.

Corruption is an insidious, perpetual problem in this country. Its roots run deep. Every single one of us has been touched by a form of it, from the petty (traffic cop asking for “pang-meryenda” with a smile and a knowing wink so he won’t write you a ticket) to the systemic (politicians who had managed allegedly to appropriate billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money). Some of us have even been participants, handing over that hundred-peso-bill just so we can shift gears and go on with our day.

Humans are fallible. They have desires and motivations, connections and limitations. Why do cops ask for bribes? We can consider several factors: 1) they are underpaid; 2) they have family with needs that exceed the salary they can bring home; 3) the system allows it (i.e. they can get bribes without legal repercussions due to poor monitoring and public participation –  some people actually offer it to wiggle out of tough situations).

Now, let’s go back to Mr. Tolentino’s robot traffic enforcers. You can’t bribe a robot. You can’t “appeal” to its good nature. It won’t be moved by your tears, and they won’t complain to you about their poor salary. Actually, they don’t have salaries, same way your cell phone is not on your payroll despite the fact that it works so hard for you.

Will having these robots lower the rate of corruption? Maybe? Maybe it can improve traffic, make those buses waiting for passengers move along faster on EDSA. But consider the hurdles before we can even get such a project approved. Who will build it for us? How do we go about bidding the project to private entities?

Remember the government’s $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp.? The project, which aimed to link government offices throughout the country, was alleged by whistleblowers to be overpriced (in the hundred millions) to cover kickbacks. It was eventually scrapped.

The path to a world without corruption is, well, paved with corruption.

Technology is a tool. It can negate our fallibility, or magnify it. Advances in medicine such as minimally invasive surgeries now equip doctors with the technical and technological ability to remove kidneys through a single tiny incision, while the availability of the semi-automatic assault rifle (among other factors) gave us the heart-wrenching tragedy of Sandy Hook.

What will stop politicians from accepting bribes so our hypothetical quadripedal military robots will reach certain families first? What will stop them from sticking their names on the face of our fantastic bipedal robot? From making the robot surgeons turn away women seeking post-abortion care because abortion is a sin?

A high GDP and technological advancements will mean nothing if we – and our officials – continue to act without conscience and compassion. Robots can’t help us there.

Only our humanity can save us.

Eliza Victoria is the author of the short story collection A Bottle of Storm Clouds and the science fiction novel Project 17, both published by Visprint. Visit her at http://elizavictoria.com.

For more information about Project 17, please click here.

‘writer’s block’ on the galvanizers

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This is a bit old (published in July gasp what old content), but I may have forgotten to share this here.

Isa Garcia of The Galvanizers asked me about writer’s block, and I said:

Charlie Jane Anders wrote a pretty good article over at io9 called “The 10 Types of Writers’ Block and How to Overcome Them“. I’ve always defined writer’s block as that period when you can’t write anything, but as Charlie illustrates, you can have writer’s block even while working on something. And how do you define “writing” in this context anyway? “Writing” as in the actual act, the sitting down to type and string words together?

In writing (and any other creative endeavor), the work that requires the most energy and brainpower is not the act of writing itself, but the planning phase. An idea often comes unbidden, and before you can execute this idea and turn it into a story, a poem, a painting, a song, you need hours and hours and HOURS of thinking.

Read more here.

Speaking of writer’s block, I am working on a new novel and hoboy it is like pulling teeth. I wrote the first 30 pages pretty easily and just ended up facing a blank wall.

I hope tomorrow (next week? next month?) will be another story.

quezon city food trip, or quezon city, you’re so far away now that you may as well be a province, or we had to book a hotel room to do this

Our group’s original plan was to go to Cebu. Book a hotel room, play games, eat. Then one of us suggested: well, why don’t we start with Quezon City? With the traffic and the horrible road constructions happening simultaneously in Metro Manila, QC may as well be Cebu, in terms of distance.

On the first week of September, we booked a hotel room in Red Planet Hotel (formerly Tune Hotel, photos later) because there was a promo on Agoda, making it cheaper and affordable. The site says it’s 30 minutes away from the airport. The only sane response to this is hysterical laughter and some tears.

Day 1

First stop: Steveston Pizza in UP Town Center.
Recommendation: Black pizza (Honey glazed chicken breast, fig Gorgonzola and mascarpone mousse, walnuts and arugula julienne)

QC Food Trip Day 1

QC Food Trip Day 1

QC Food Trip Day 1

La Lola Churreria, UP Town Center
We enjoyed the chocolate-dipped churros. They’re served cold, with a chewy center.

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Photo taken while in Xocolat, waiting for Jammi to finish getting papers from the printer. Check out Jammi’s page here. She does tarot readings, sells crystals, and teaches classes on Reiki.

QC Food Trip Day 1

Photos taken in Red Planet Hotel. The room is small, but we didn’t mind. (I would probably mind if we paid full price. The price point is similar to Remington Hotel, which is located near NAIA 3.)

QC Food Trip Day 1

QC Food Trip Day 1

For dinner, we walked to Don Andres, a Peruvian restaurant.

Don Andres

Courtyard Building 26

Sgt. Esguerra Ave South Triangle

Quezon City (02) 364-4145

We recommend everything. QC Food Trip Day 1 Day 2

Breakfast at Breakfast & Pies.

Breakfast & Pies

39 Malingap St

Teacher Village – West

Quezon City

Some of the dishes we tried:

Ultimate Bacon Rice

Day 2

Huevos Rancheros  Day 2

Caramelized Spam (I had the rice removed, which probably confused everyone in the kitchen because it took them a while to get the order right.)

Day 2

Pieesss. They have a lot of great desserts, but I really enjoyed their key lime pie. We also checked out Pipino, the vegetarian restaurant next door. Day 2

We dropped by Uno Morato so I can buy some poetry books and play Barbarossa. Look!

Day 2

Barbarossa is a deck-building game featuring moe art. Jammi showed me some alternate cards featuring actual girls and they freaked me out. Let’s just stick with the moe.

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

My tiny book haul from Uno Morato.

  • Dark Hours, 10th Anniversary edition, Conchitina Cruz
  • Mula, Rosmon Tuazon
  • Shall We Be Kind and Suffer Each Other, Mark Anthony Cayanan

Day 2

We moved to Ludo to play some games, and dinner was at Full Belly, but I was unfortunately not able to take photos.

My poor belly and wallet needs a break now.