Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hang Loose

July 16, 2016
Flowhouse Manila

I was glad to know that Flowhouse Manila is open once again, and that I can again give flowboarding another stab (they closed for several months since January). I actually had a liking for it in the  three times that I 've have tried it. In fact, I think I prefer flowboarding more than wakeboarding. 

I rode for two, 1-hr sessions this time. I could see that I am improving. Hopefully I can do this more frequently now.

Friday, June 10, 2016

In Transit

June 10, 2016, 3:45pm

I am currently (with three colleagues from work) in Narita Airport on a 4-hour layover. The onward flight is to Minneapolis, then to St. Louis, via Delta Airlines. We took the 747-400 from Manila, then the 777 to MSP.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Company Picnic

April 16, 2016
Club Morroco, Subic

Every year the company I work with conducts a summer outing, with my colleagues in attendance. This year the picnic, which is usually overnight, was held in Club Morocco Resort, in Subic, Zambales. I always attend these company picnics, as it's a great way for me to connect with my colleagues, especially those from the different departments. It also means that I have one trip guaranteed for the year, although I don't have a choice to the venue. 

We set out early in the morning from the office, around 5 am. There were two buses full plus a coaster of employees who were attending. I was in the coaster, and we were the first to leave as the advanced party. I have the drone with me, and I will be taking some footage to used for a presentation later in the evening. We arrived just before noon due to some traffic in NLEX, and the fact that the bus did not go through SCTEX, but rather went through Bataan. I took some aerial photos as soon as we arrive. There was some scary moment for me when I flew the drone one time; the wind was blowing strongly that I can see the drone drifting until I wasn't able to see it. I increased its altitude until I was able to locate it again, then struggled to land it near the pool. On my mind, the words "oh no, not again" kept repeating over and over until I landed it safely.

The resort was good enough. The place is spacious, and we have the whole resort for ourselves. The pebble beach is nothing to write home about, but the view of the Subic Bay is great. 

There were  a lot of team building activities lined up throughout the day which kept everyone busy, but we all had the chance to lounge in the pool to cool down and drank a few beers (the temp is scorching so nobody went to the beach well until sundown). More activities were done in the evening. There was a bonfire at the beach after dinner, and more beers flowed until late at night. I was so tired after that I slept until 9 am the next morning. We went back to the metro just before lunch time.

Saturday, April 9, 2016


I took so many photos during the visit to the Clark Air Base that I think a second post is warranted. 

I saw two more A10 Thunderbolt deep in the apron, but I gt shooed away by a US serviceman, so I just took a photo using the zoom lens.

I can't get enough of the FA50 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force. Here's a video of it being towed to the tarmac as well.

Before the FA50, the only jets in the PAF inventory are the Aermacchi S211, bought in the late 1980s-early 1990s. They look so small now. It is armed with small unguided 2.75-inch rockets

The E3 Sentry AWACS aircraft with its distinctive radome, which contains the radar. 

The P8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft, which will replace the P3 Orion. If it looks familiar, it's because it is based on the Boeing 737 passenger jet.

The V-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that enables it to take off vertically like a helicopter.

US personnel posing in from of the HIMARS rocket launcher.

The AGM-65 Maverick missile under the pylon of an A10 Thunderbolt. 

Air Force City

The visit to Clark Air Base in Angeles City this Saturday is apt, as the nation is commemorating the Day of Valor, celebrating the Filipino bravery during the World War II. What a better way to celebrate that by viewing military aircraft that was displayed at the end of the Balikatan military exercises (between the US, Philippine and Australian forces) in Air Force City in Clark?

KAI FA-50 aircraft

We set out early, me and my friends from the UP Astrosoc, James and Ramon, (plus two friends of James who tagged along), driving to Clark via NLEX. We arrived there around 10 am, and after registering in the visitor center, went to the hangar to view the aircraft on display.

AugustaWestland A109 Power helicopter

Among the highlights were the recent purchases for the Philippine Air Force: the KAI FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer, the Italian-made AugustaWestland AW109 Power helicopter, and the PZL W3 Sokol helicopter, made in Poland and used for SAR missions. 

The Polish-made PZL W3 Sokol SAR helicopter

I was particularly glad to see the South Korean-made FA-50, as it is the first supersonic aircraft for the PAF since the F5 jets were decommissioned more than a decade ago. I think I was fangirling when I saw the two aircraft being towed to the tarmac after doing some flybys over the airbase. I can almost hear Kenny Loggins singing Danger Zone in my mind while I was watching the aircraft flew overhead.

I chatted some of the PAF personnel while it was being towed, and I think they were happy with the purchase as well.

The CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter

The US military displayed many of their wares too. Among them are the A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, the P8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster II and C-130 cargo planes, an E3 AWACS early warning and electronic warfare aircraft, the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, several helicopters (the CH-53, which is the largest in their inventory, and the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter), and a carrier-based transport aircraft. They also displayed the HIMARS rocket launcher system.

Inside the cavernous cabin of CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter

There was some talk that a B-52 strategic bomber will be displayed as well, but it was a no-show, so it was kind of disappointing not to see the 50-year old aircraft.

The C-17 Globemaster strategic lift aircraft

The A10 Thunderbolt

The HIMARS rocket launcher

Inside the C-17

For the Australians, they showed their P3 Orion ASW aircraft, and while not on the display area, an A-4 Skyhawk attack plane. I went inside the Orion and was able to talk to the pilot and the weapons specialist, querying them them about the weapons and the sonobouys that they use to detect the submarines. I was also able to take some snaps while sitting in the pilot's seat while inside the cockpit.

The P3 Orion ASW plane cockpit

I think the sunburn was all worth it today.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Aftermath

This post is not really travel, per se, but it's a bit of traveling back in time. I, with my friend James, went to take some drone photos of the University of the Philippines Faculty Center, which was gutted by a fire on April 1. Fortunately the guard and the building administrator gave us their permission to fly the drone from a road adjacent to the building. I promised the admin I'd send him copies of the photos, which he said could be useful in the investigation.

The building, colloquially called FC by the students and staff, is one of the places in the university that is memorable to me. I used to work there as a student assistant when I was in college (Department of History). Almost all of my History professors hold offices there too, as well as my European Languages and social sciences professors. Almost all of my class cards, with good grades and bad, I claim them in FC. I spend a lot of time in FC in every enrollment period, waiting for the profs to give me a slot in the classes. 

The building is very important to the university too. It houses several departments, including History, Anthropology, Philosophy, European Languages, and Linguistics (you'd think Indiana Jones lives here with that amount of scholarship in a small building). I heard from my prof, and from our former department admin assistant, Ate Vicky, that a lot of manuscripts, rare books, thesis and dissertations, and student records were lost in the fire, which really was more tragic than just losing the building itself.

Hopefully the University can build back better, and the academic community that has been nurtured by this building can bounce back. 

Here's a video too: 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Cruise in the Fragrant Harbour

Hong Kong Day 1

For the Holy Week I joined Arvy and his family on a trip to Hong Kong. Though it my third trip to HK, it's been five years since I've been to the former British colony (the last time was with my mom, in 2010). We flew via Philippine Airlines, on a morning flight on an Airbus A330-300. The flight was pleasant enough; it left on time, and the aircraft is spacious. 

The bus ride from the airport to Causeway Bay, where the hotel is, was a bit of a doozy. We were all standing for most of the 1-hour trip, and the driver was a bit of a speed demon, zigzagging along the freeway like he's racing to the john or something. It was rainy (and cold) when we reached Causeway Bay, and after a bit of navigation, reached the Park Lane Hotel (it was swanky!).

After resting for a bit and having a late lunch we took a cab to the Central Pier to take a cruise around Victoria Harbour. The historic harbor was instrumental for Hong Kong becoming a trading center, and it offers the best place to see the city from a different point.  

The cruise started around five in the afternoon and it lasted for about an hour, making a circuit around the harbor and stopping in three piers, in Central, Wan Chai and Tsim Tsa Tsui. It was rainy at times so the sky was overcast and there are times we stayed inside the boat, but most of the time we were on the deck taking pictures and admiring the view.

I was able to pick out the interesting buildings and structures that frame the Hong Kong skyline as the cruise progressed, and I noticed there are a lot of changes from since I last visited. I also saw several Chinese junks lumbering along, as well as large cruise ships bringing in tourists, aside from the hulking container ships laden with goods.

As dusk approaches the skyscrapers started lighting up, the neon lights of the buildings giving color to an otherwise gloomy sky. The cruise completed the circuit as the boat docked in Central Pier, and we disembarked and made our way One Financial Ceter, to stop by the Apple Store, then to Central Station to catch the MRT to Causeway Bay and back to the hotel. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Rock and a Hard Place

This is still painful to write.

I spent my Saturday exploring the Tinipak River in Tanay, Rizal, which is about 2 hours or so from Metro Manila. Tinipak River, which is located at the foot of Mt. Darait, a popular climbing spot near the metropolis. I woke up early to get a van from Starmall and the trip to the town was uneventful. I then got a motorcycle to go to the village of Daraitan - about 22 kilometers over paved and unpaved, rocky two-lane roads. 

During the rainy season this bridge will be unpassable
The driver told me that it was his first time to bring a passenger to Daraitan, and I think he was regretting it when we drove over the rough road. We have to stop a few time to ask for directions too. After a while we crossed a wooden bridge to get to the village. After I then paid the driver, and registered in the barangay hall. I got a guide, Michael, who will accompany me on the hike.

Looks like an alien landscape

The from village the hike to the rock formations is about 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the stops you're making. There were a number of people, mostly in groups, at some point on the trail. We stopped several times for me to unpack and assemble the drone. I managed to fly it with no issues on the first two instances, although it has a bit of difficulty acquiring GPS signals, we being in a deep gorge. It is something that I should have taken as a foreboding for something later on. 

Drone selfie

Michael made some small talk and commentaries about the place and the visitors while we were trudging along the trail. The sun was almost high up, washing the landscape with a harsh light and making it look like a setting for a sci-fi movie set on an alien land. I can feel the sunburn coming as we continue. White boulders are everywhere, as if strewn by an ill-tempered giant done playing with his toys. The surfaces are almost smooth, the products of millions of years of water flowing through, carving the the deep gorge where we are passing now.  

The magnificent Tinipak River

At last we reached the end of the trail, and the formations here are more impressive than the ones we so far passed. The gorge is very deep too (about 80 meters, according to the drone's data). I survey the place, admiring the magnificent view and surveying for a spot to launch the drop. I took some photos with my ActionCam and phone too. I assembled the drone after finding a suitable area. I turned it on and and waited for it to acquire its GPS fix, which it did after a long time. I launched it and it's kind of difficult to control, it drifting from side to side. I managed to take many great dramatic pictures. 

The selfie before everything turns to disaster

The real drama was when I was trying to land it. The plan was to let it hover a meter from the ground and then catch it, as there wasn't a lot of even surface in the area. We almost succeeded but then this idiot of a girl suddenly barged in while taking a selfie. She was almost hit by the drone; I was able to pull it just in time to avoid her face. The drone continued up, drifting on the side for a bit. I was struggling to control it, as it continued to ascend and drift. It veered to the right and clipped a branch of the tree growing at the top of the gorge. 

The drone fell right around the whirling waters near the campers

My heart sank as I see it fall, tumbling down and hitting the side of the cliff, then splashing into the water. Michael and I clambered over the rock to reach the other side. He also called another guide, who dove into the water to search for the drone. We managed to recover the body, which was immersed in the whirling waters. The gimbal was smashed to smithereens, and the battery was lost. The camera module, miraculously, did not fall into the water, and still intact with the memory card (and the priceless photos) inside it. It was a cosmic consuelo de bobo, if there was ever was one. 

Surveying the damage

I had to sit to gather my faculties while trying to dry the smashed drone with my shirt. I felt like crying, replaying the final moments before the crash and going over what should and shouldn't have happened. After a while I signaled to Michael that we should be going back. On the way we made a detour to a camping area with a clump of balete providing shade to rest. I took a dip in the river while I was there, hopefully to wash the regrets I had.When we reach the village I hired a habal-habal to take me to town, then took a van back to the metro.

This was a sad day.