Missing Japan

Spending my lunch break in solitude is one I long for the most. Yes I would also go out with officemates but I am not the type of person who longs for lunch companions in the office as a priority. Don't worry, I am COMPLETELY alright with the peace and quiet.

I get to choose where I want to eat ---except when the missus requires that I bring packed diet food for lunch (which is almost everyday). She has lost a lot of weight with a good combo of gym zumba and body combat classes, and a healthy dose of delivery diet food.

The packed lunch is a double whammy to me since (1) I don't get to eat what I want, and (2) I am forced to eat brown rice with fish (it is rare that I get pork or beef or chicken since the missus has first dibs the night before when the food gets delivered. I may have to do some ninja moves one time so that I get to switch packed meals to my favor. Even so, it's still with brown rice. #sadface).

Still, I get to walk around busy Ayala for a Starbucks fix. I have trained myself to take coffee without sugar thanks to their Cold Brew offering. Of course, I order it with a dark macadamia cookie on the side ---warmed--- to complete my post (brown rice) lunch compensator.

So I was having my Starbucks fix sitted in a comfy 4 chair low cushioned chair with a small square center table that is typical Starbucks when 4 Japanese (I assumed they were Japanese due to small Niponggo-like phrases) businessmen with one of their Filipino counterpart in suits entered the cafe. The place was full so finding a seat was a problem.

I tried not to look, but then I just automatically rose up and offered them my table. I was on my lonesome anyway so the stools by the window is ok for me, I thought. The Japanese men, as I quietly predicted, bowed and repeatedly thanked this wannabe millenial for the gesture.

It is their continous gratitude to me that made me thank myself in return. You see, long before this encounter, I have sorely missed Japan since our last trip in 2016. The kindness and discipline of the people there just left a mark on me that cannot be removed. Even when the missus insists that we try other countries for our family trip, I would still vote for Japan which of course does not win with the missus. Korea first, she said, to add to the list of countries in our passport (as if these were Starbucks stamps for the ever awaited planner).

Sigh, I guess the longing for kindness (and gratitude!) itself in the everyday hussle and bustle in Manila has reached a tipping point for me.

And only going back to Japan can bring it back to its proper balance.


Upgraded from an iPhone 6 to a Samsung S8 Plus

photo grabbed from assets.mspcdn.net
I've had my trusty iPhone 6 for almost 2 years now and it has served me well. Unfortunately, the GPS (and WiFi) has been acting up very frequently ever since I upgraded my iOS to 11.2.

The GPS specifically, has stopped working entirely in my Waze app ---which I use almost every day when I drive from/to work. I have somehow lost the advantage that Waze gives me for a shorter trip from/to work because of this. I have confirmed that the GPS is not working at all even when I switched to Google Maps.

The phone's WiFi radio(?) seems to have taken a hit as well. Our home router is just at the next room and the phone is attaching erratically to the WiFi signal. Hence, a very bad internet experience just before I sleep, wanting to catch up on my social media feeds before the day ends.

I browsed the net and even went to my friendly mobile-phone repairman but it seems that only a factory reset is a (possible) solution. However, I just found the issue to be a good chance for me to upgrade to a new phone.

And so, I bought a Samsung S8 Plus. (grin)

photo grabbed from cnet.com

I didn't consider an iPhone 8 or iPhone X as I got too traumatized by the iOS 11.2 upgrade. Maybe the GPS/WiFi issue I encountered could be inherited by those higher models, I feared. Plus, the S8+ was a cheaper option that I found online by about 30%.

So, almost two days onto using my new S8+ and it's world's apart from my iPhone 6. Ideally, it would be best to compare the S8+ with the iPhone 8 or 8+ which should be a better match up. But I'm coming from an iPhone 6 so what follows below is based entirely on MY personal experience between the two phones:

The S8+ trumped the iPhone 6 big time although I am missing the Apple podcast app dearly. Except for that, the S8+ looks to be a phone that I could be using for quite a long while. I highly recommend it. :)

But then, the Samsung S9 is coming 2018 Q1.



Ball Is Life

I still find it surreal that I'm playing real basketball with Lucas, my eldest son turning 11 this month, at our small makeshift half court at home. Matteo, now 8, also plays but not as intense and as dedicated as Lucas (he plays hours in the afternoon and waits for me in the evenings to play 1on1).
At the missus' friend's house a few weeks ago. Our court at home doesn't look better, hehe.

The missus and I bought a standard sized hoopset (with matching NBA logo) at one of the sports stores in Robinsons Magnolia last Christmas. It was our gift for them then, in the hopes that maybe they could be the next Teng brothers sensation in La Salle in the future. ;-) I set the height of the ring as standard as possible ---maybe a difference of 6 or so inches from the standard height. But it serves it's purpose as the boys make full use of it, especially Lucas.

Last night's 1on1 game against Lucas was typical as in any other night we played. It was preceded by a 2vs1 game wherein Matteo and I teamed up, beating him handsomely (as usual).

Onto the 1on1 game, it was as competitive as before, with me trying my best to emulate Kobe's turnaround shot and step back jumpers. I may have slightly went overboard on the taunts as the shots went in ("swoosh!") but Lucas didn't seem to mind....

...until he was getting crushed on the score line.

The game ended at 10-5 or 10-7 I think, with me winning the game. By the time I went off to rest, I saw Lucas about to cry but, like a man, tried his best to keep it to himself as he practiced his shots.

I challenged him to a recovery game of 21 which he obliged. He whispered to me "[Give me] no pity."

Again, I beat him (21-17). He grabbed the ball and was dribbling and shooting to recover. But this time the disappointment of his 3 game loss was more obvious, with Lucas almost about to pour his eyes out with matching hikbi.

I talked to him on how he should approach this setback, that he should man up, that it's just a game, and that there'll be a winner and loser in every game. I forgot the other phrases that I said, but I hope he got what I was driving at. The missus talked to him for a few minutes too when I left.

As a parent it is automatic that we should give all the best that our children should have. They are our most precious blessings and as such, we want to make sure they get everything ---including winning. But in basketball, I will NOT go easy on him for this is the only way he'll learn and improve. In basketball and in life, nothing is fair. He must learn to accept that. If I always set myself to lose, he won't be able to cope out there when the going gets really tough.

Just like how Michael Jordan's brother would beat him in their backyard games, I will take that role (with a heavy heart) of beating Lucas in basketball for this'll be the only way that he will try to find a way to beat me.....and perhaps become one of the best basketball players EVER to carry the Punsalan name on his jersey.

Lucas, if you find this post later on, know that I want you and Matteo to be the best that you can be ---whatever you want to pursue in life. Don't give a damn on what other people say ---especially if you lose. Just pick yourself up, get back into the game, and do your hardest (and smartest) to win!


Hell Week

Feb 13-19, 2017 will go down in my book as one of the worst weeks that will ever happen in my life.


Driving to work, I hit another car as I was turning left from Gil Puyat to Tordesillas. The opposing driver immediately called to my attention that I was on the 3rd lane trying to make a left. I quickly proposed to settle it without the need of going to the traffic bureau as his car only had a minor scratch on the front bumper. Paid the amount of P2,500.00 the next day.


Dad suffered a mild stroke after hours of driving between Paranaque and Ortigas. He was slurring heavily on the other end of the call and started making his usual habilins so I decided to drive from my Makati office to their house in Paranaque. He would normally resist invitations to take him to the hospital since he regularly encounters such episodes but this time he felt that this was different. He had loss of balance, his right arm felt numb, aside from the slurring thus we rushed immediately to Makati Med.

The ER tests confirmed what we suspected: acute stroke. There was a clot in his brain, detected by the MRI which, fortunately, can be treated thru medicine. He was released from the hospital last Sunday ---not after daily sermons from his cardiologist to change his obese lifestyle.


After visiting Dad with the missus, we were hit from behind by a Grab driver who quickly admitted that he was not focused on the car in front which was me. The car in front of me made a stop so I did the same. Unfortunately, Mr. Grab driver didn't and slightly crumpled the back of our Mazda.

Body repair costs P7,000.00 which he was able to pay last Sunday but will take 2-3 days to repair. This'll mean Uber rides for me to and from the office for the mean time.


After parking the missus' car in the gym to get the vital parking space due to high-demand of Zumba Titas for popular (and fortunately gay) instructors, I did my usual run around the neighborhood. After about 3+ kms of running, I realized that my shorts' back pocket had a hole and that my LTO license was missing. I ran an extra 2kms on my usual 6k run to trace my steps but couldn't find it. I went home and grabbed my road bike to do another sweep. Fortunately, with the help of our newspaper boy slash weekend roadbike warrior, it was found in a wet spot in the corner where he and his boy were resting after a day's delivery of newspapers.

If you look into all the mishaps that happened, you can see that there was always a happy ending to it. The two car accidents were settled amicably, my LTO license was found, and most importantly, Dad is all well and hopefully back to full recovery. Often the initial reaction to such incidents are shock, disbelief, and anger ---all of which are understandable at first. But once these things figure themselves out after some time, you just have to be amazed at how blessed you are to get things moving normally again.

Maybe a reminder from God that we need to be more thankful (AND more careful!) of what we have.


My Dad and Mr Ito

On our way to Tokyo after Christmas last month, I was able to watch the Japanese film "My Dad and Mr. Ito" via the Japan Airlines entertainment facilities. We were flying Economy but the good people of Japan Airlines made it a point to make the passengers in our class comfortable with in-flight entertainment and a good (complete) meal.

The movie was in Japanese but fortunately English subtitles were available. I enjoyed the film since it played out as how I expected it to be: a soft/quiet story of a young woman, her father, and her boyfriend, and how they go about living their lives under one roof.

I love to watch these types of soft films, devoid of the usual loud drama dialogues or action-packed scenes that most (major) productions employ. It is probably ones' longing for peace and quiet amidst the everyday hustle and bustle of life, the need to make the mind and soul relaxed and rejuvenated that watching these sort of films makes it enjoyable......like yoga.



Years passed and I find this blog again. Clicking on past posts that were read by recent visitors, it has somehow awakened the sleeping (wannabe) writer in me....again.

Opting to spend the remains of my lunch hour in my office cube and playing relaxdaily music on YouTube, my fingers could not wait to receive thoughts from my head that I wanted to type here, on my old blog which I originally considered to be my sacred place.

A place where I can write freely (and hopefully, wonderfully) whatever it may be. It can be about my family which I love so dearly, or whatever topic/experience for the day that I would like to write.

Maybe it's too much of watching Erwan Heusaff's Overnight travel series on YouTube that somehow wanted me to reconnect to blogging again. The random thoughts that I've collected all these years may have reached a tipping point, with a need to spill somewhere....like this blog.

But maybe, just maybe, I could write with a little more effect or pizzazz so to speak. That would be great.

I cannot guarantee that I'll be writing most of the time, but I will be more conscious that this blog exists, and it's blank pages need to be filled. In doing so I get a chance for my future self to look back and see how I have been during those years and, hopefully, end up with a contented smile on my face.

Epictetus once said, "If you wish to be a writer, write." I guess it's not gonna be any more simpler than that.

And so, I write.



My Osaka Tips

Just arrived in Manila after a 6-day, 5-night holiday vacation in Osaka with my family. It was a pleasant trip that I strongly recommend you to take. However, there were lessons learned that needs to be blogged so that next time (yes, we hope to go there again soon) we'll take good note of it. Hope these tips of mine help you as well.

  1. Change your currency to Yen at the Kansai Airport. Upon arrival there's a money changer just before heading out onto the terminal exit doors. I highly suggest that you change your money there as there are limited spots for some currencies, like Philippine Pesos. Further, the exchange rate there is better (2.05JPY to 1.00PHP) versus that in Namba Walk (1.83 to 1.00). There is the usual 10,000 (USD?) limit that you may need to abide to as mentioned by the highly courteous staff.
  2. Buy round trip tickets if you're using the airport bus express. Cheaper by about 200-300JPY per person.
  3. If you can't live without WiFi, there's a pocket-wifi rental store at the airport, just across the money changer I mentioned in #1 above. The rate is cheaper per day by about 40-50% versus my Philippine network's daily roam-surf rate. I find that going online is especially helpful when roaming around, especially if you know how to use Google Maps.
  4. Get a subway map upon reaching your hotel, and study it. This will be very useful when you go around (and outside) Osaka.
  5. Sheraton Osaka Hotel, where we stayed in, has a serious WiFi problem. I suspect that they limit the number of IPs connecting to their network which causes some of the phones/tablets not to connect at certain times.
  6. Alternatively to #3, free WiFi is abundant at the subway stations and around Osaka. You just need to sign in with your email and allow the network to get your FB basic info which I assume is for their stats monitoring. However, note that these Free WiFi spots are not available in all areas, so I still recommend that you take #3.
  7. Muji and Uniqlo sells cheaper in Osaka (or probably the whole Japan) vs the Philippines.
  8. On subway escalators, stay on the right side as the left side is for people who are in a hurry (express lane).
  9. Select "child" on the ticket terminals if you have young children with you. It's 50% cheaper.
  10. Go to Nara from Osaka on a day trip. Highly recommended.
  11. Go to Kyoto. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  12. One should go to Dotomburi for a food trip experience there. Namba and Nippombashi stations are nearest going there.
  13. Try the Family Mart Matcha Latte there, especially with a Minneken(?) waffle that you can also buy in some of the subway stations there.
  14. Lastly, forget about work or other things that stress you. You're on a holiday so enjoy every minute of Osaka while you're there.
Any tips you recommend as well? Do post it on the comments section. :)