Monday, April 30, 2007

Butterfly Kisses

I was telling my friend P, who works with PAGCOR (the Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corporation), about how T and all the kids are all away now and I'm home alone. The house is dark, hot and quiet and I miss the sounds of the kids.

In response, P sent me the lyrics of the song Butterfly Kisses, by Bob Carlisle:

There's two things I know for sure:
She was sent here from heaven and she's daddy's little girl.
As I drop to my knees by her bed at night
She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes and I thank god for all the joy in my life
Oh, but most of all for butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer; sticking little white flowers all up in her hair;
"Walk beside the pony, Daddy, it's my first ride."
"I know the cake looks funny, Daddy, but I sure tried."
In all that I've done wrong I know I must have done something right to deserve a hug every morning and butterfly kisses at night.

Sweet 16 today.
She's looking like her mama a little more everyday
One part woman, the other part girl.
To perfume and make-up from ribbons and curls
Trying her wings out in a great big world.

But I remember
Butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer; sticking little white flowers all up in her hair.
"You know how much I love you, Daddy, But if you don't mind I'm only gonna kiss you on the cheek this time."
With all that I've done wrong I must have done something right to deserve her love every morning and butterfly kisses at night.

All the precious time
Like the wind, the years go by.
Precious butterfly.
Spread your wings and fly.

She'll change her name today.
She'll make a promise and I'll give her away.
Standing in the bride-room just staring at her.
She asked me what I'm thinking and I said "I'm not sure - I just feel like I'm losing my baby girl."
She leaned over ... gave me butterfly kisses with her mama there,
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
"Walk me down the aisle, Daddy - it's just about time."
"Does my wedding gown look pretty, Daddy? Daddy, don't cry!"

Oh, with all that I've done wrong I must have done something right.
To deserve your love every morning and butterfly kisses - I couldn't ask God for more, man this is what love is.

I know I gotta let her go, but I'll always remember every hug in the morning and butterfly kisses.

Alright, it's syrupy, of course, and the YouTube video is just further reinforcement of that. But hey, it's gonna be a long and humid summer, and there's not much to do other than blog away.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Blog, Therefore I Am

My Mom sent me an e-mail: "Are you still "working" for PhilWeb?"

I thought she'd been reading my blog and wondering where I find the time to do this. Well, to paraphrase Rene Descartes, "Blogito, ergo sum."

To my officemates, I'm probably like Dilbert's pointy-haired boss, trying to be "with it" by starting his own blog. At least, I can say that all these posts are truly mine. Or at least, I haven't found my own version of a Tina the Tech Writer to make my posts for me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Moving On Ceremony

Everybody moves on. Change is inevitable.

Oftentimes the occasions are happy, as when Tyrone had his Beacon School Moving On Ceremony two days ago. It's the school's transition from elementary to the middle school, which is grades 6-8.

In this photo, Ty is shaking the hand of his homeroom teacher, Mr. Quinto, who has been an enormous positive influence on Ty this year. His grades have progressed steadily, his focus is there and his teamwork markedly improved. Unfortunately Mr. Q is leaving Beacon to go back to the U.S. for the next schoolyear. He will be sorely missed.

Sometimes these same occasions are nostalgic, as when we load up pictures like this and wonder how much longer these boys will be clowning around, playing with their food. (More pix are on Kodak Gallery, for those in wilfing mode.)

Funny how I can still recall when I was in Grade 5, seemingly millennia ago, and remember which of my teachers were positive influences on me.

Ages and stages indeed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More Wilfing Stuff, Thanks to Freckle-face

Freckle-face left a comment on one of my earlier posts, so I clicked on the name and got led to her blog, itty bitty jots. While looking through, I noted her VisualDNA and decided to click through and make one for myself too.

Discoveries Whilst Wilfing

I was wilfing through blogs and discovered a website called in Cathy Babao Guballa's blog, Midlife Mysteries. allows you to load up selected pictures and then put them into a slide show that you can embed into a blog. You can also move pictures from Flickr or Friendster or MySpace so it seems pretty well-equipped to connect with other websites.

You can also add a Guestbook like this one below:

I wonder if Google will eventually buy these guys for $xxx billion...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dinner with Henry Sy

What do you do when the richest man in the Philippines invites you to dinner?

Have fun, of course!

Henry Sy wanted to have dinner with the Rufinos. His daughter Tessie explained that he was feeling a bit nostalgic, recalling how Tessa's grandfather, Vicente A. Rufino, had given him his first big break by renting him space in Quiapo to open his first Shoe Mart.

VAR passed away in the '70's, and Mr. Sy himself turns 83 this year. He is still strong but for longer walks, is wheeled about in his chair.

Celebrating the dinner were his children Tessie, Betty, Herbert and his wife Shelley, and Hans and his wife Carol. Two other children, Big Boy and Harley, were unable to come.

On the Rufino side were Paz, Marixi, Charlie and Cary. At the grandchildren level were Sandy, Paolo, Tessa and me, the only other in-law at the dinner. Interestingly, I discovered Shelley is also a scuba diving instructor.

Mr. Sy was also one of the principal sponsors when Tessa and I got married 13 years ago, a favor returned because VAR was a principal sponsor when he got married to Mrs. Sy.

All of which was a wonderful opportunity for a quick photo op with this truly impressive gentleman.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Apo Island - from Chicago to the real thing!

There's a neat, little, scuba diving triangle formed by Dumaguete, Siquijor and Apo Island, as can be seen using Google Earth. On the leg of the triangle between Dumaguete and Apo Island is a grey dot - the town of Dauin where the Atlantis Resort is located.

In fact, this entire Visayas area is becoming more well known for it's diving potential. The finger-like island pointed at Dumaguete is Cebu, which has great dive spots from Sumilon Island (partially hidden under the clouds) in the south all the way to Malapasqua in the north, best known for its early morning, thresher-shark dives. To the east can be seen the Bohol islands, which would include dive sites such as Balicasag and Panglao.

Apo Island has been a marine sanctuary for as long as I can remember but somehow in my 28 years of diving, I seem to have missed out on visiting this site. A few years ago on a trip to Chicago, Tessa, the kids and I dropped by the John G. Shedd Aquarium and saw their extensive and impressive display on Apo Island, part of their permanent Wild Reef exhibit.

That visit rekindled my desire to visit Apo one day, and this Easter holiday presented the perfect opportunity for Tyrone and I to dive the sanctuary. Atlantis runs a dive boat to Apo every other day, interspersed with boat dives along the Dumaguete-Dauin shoreline and trips to Siquijor as well. Occasionally, they venture beyond the triangle and head all the way out to Sumilon Island off Cebu.

Apo itself is remarkably well preserved. The dive operators have a "no gloves" rule which they strictly enforce. Since divers can't touch anything, they learn to put air in their BCD's and float above the coral. As a result, all around Apo are fields of intact cabbage corals, without the broken edges that are typical in Anilao and other glove-accepting dive areas.

One of the coolest things about diving the Apo triangle was finding animals that I haven't seen in a long time. At a dive site called Katipanan, I found a small cave at around 60'. Inside the cave was this beautiful blue ribbon eel, the likes of which seem to have become really scarce in the Anilao area.

Attractive as it is, this little eel can be lightning fast and vicious. I once saw one of these dart out from its hole, grab a passing fish and slip back into the crevice - all in a blink that made me wonder if I had truly seen it or just dreamed it after seeing it on the National Geographic Channel.

Just outside the cave was another rare sight, this tiny yellow frogfish, which could fit in the palm of my hand. It's tempting to try and actually do that but with the no-gloves rule, divers also avoid getting stung or scraped by things they really shouldn't be touching in the first place.

Here's another good example of something divers shouldn't be touching - the banded sea snake, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world:

This little baby is one of many we saw over several Apo dives. In general, these snakes aren't harmful. I've even seen a picture of a diver holding five(!) snakes in each hand. His expression was sort of, "What do I do now?!?"

Seriously though, from what I've heard the only times the snakes get testy is when you pull their tails when they're on the way up to the surface for a breath of air (well, who wouldn't be?) and when they're mating (once again, who wouldn't be???).

This is the last of four posts I've made about Tyrone's and my Easter vacation in the Dumaguete- Siquijor- Apo triangle. Tessa flew back from her flamenco vacation in Spain last week, so at least the house wasn't as lonely as it was when just Ty and I were home alone.

I'll end this post with Ty's favorite picture from our trip - this yellow moray that he found during his first night dive. In the back of the photo are the commensal shrimp that hang around the moray, eat his scraps and clean his teeth and gills in the process. It's a great, you-scratch-my-back-and- I'll-scratch-your-back, harmonious relationship. A nice mutuality to attain in any relationship!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fashion Faux Pas on Siquijor

It's Friday the 13th and nothing bad has happened today, so let me start off with a comment that a good friend left for me on my Kodak Gallery album:

"It's good to see you enjoying life, Dennis. Hey, I've been wanting to give you this fashion advice since I saw your Amanpulo pix. Speedos are a no-no in the beach! Cheers!"

When I first saw the comment, I was hard put to think of a shot of me in my Speedos but after a quick check through the 145 photos on my Dumaguete album, I found the offending photo.

Hmm. Yes, this is definitely not Tom Hanks in Castaway, is it?

Thanks for the tip, Chingkee! In my view, any fashion commentary from a lady should always be followed. I shall have to make that mental note: Speedos are for underwater hockey and never again to be worn on trips to Siquijor and such.

Other than that fashion emergency though, Tyrone and I had fun on Siquijor. We took a fast ferry to the island and from there rented a pedicab to take us to Coco Grove, supposedly the best resort on the island. Unfortunately, this was Easter Sunday, the one day in the year when there was literally no room at the inn. We had a quick peek at their pool and some of the huts but then were asked to leave (and I wasn't even in my Speedos!).

Next door was the Royal Cliff Resort, which had one room available out of the five they have in total. The staff was friendly enough and apologetically disclosed that they did not have much of a beach (the lack of which is highly visible in this photo!).

Oh well, Ty and I parked our stuff in the room anyway and went off for some snorkeling. It's a short swim to the resort's bamboo raft, the underside of which is covered with sharp barnacles and shellfish. Ty and I had fun swimming under the raft without touching any of the sharp stuff.

After a late but tasty lunch of freshly caught squid, we looked for shells on the neighboring beach. Then we headed off in our rented pedicab to check out some other resorts.

We found the Coral Cay Resort a few kilometers down the road, which to us, seems like the best deal on Siquijor. The beachfront was wide and the sand was brilliant white. The staff were helpful and the pool was inviting. And the pricing was cheaper than Coco Grove!

Unfortunately, we didn't spend the night at Coral Cay, although when we have the chance to go back, that will be my choice of resort.

We headed off to catch the last ferry back to Negros. At the pier, we found out all the tickets to Dumaguete were sold out! Luckily we had bought ours when we arrived this morning, so we were good to go.

In summary, here's my list of tips for Siquijor:
1. Buy your ferry return tickets early.
2. Stay more than a day - we never got to the old churches or the caves in the mountains or the waterfalls on the north side of the island.
3. If you like class, reserve at the Coco Grove. But the Coral Cay is more down-to-earth and cheaper!
4. If you wear Speedos, don't load up the pictures on the web!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Casarororo Your Boat...

One of the hidden gems of Dumaguete would have to be the Casaroro Waterfalls. It's a perfect three-hour activity for a diver visiting Dumaguete, usually on the morning before the flight out since diving wouldn't be possible anyway.

The falls are only about a 45-minute drive from Dumaguete, south and west towards the volcanic mountains just outside the city. The roads are surprisingly well paved, except for the proverbial last mile. Here concrete turns into a dried-mud track that runs into an incline which, during the rainy season, should only be attempted in a four-wheel-drive.

Another surprise is that the path down to the falls is a concrete stairway with a steel-pipe handrail. Obviously the local mayor has been good enough to make the trek more comfortable for tourists.

There's also a local lady in a little hut collecting a P10 entrance fee (half that for Tyrone and other under 12's). It's anyone's guess how these fees are ever accounted for, but at P10 perhaps everyone's just honest about it. (Hey, this is Dumaguete, not Manila!)

Our guide says it's only 368 steps down to the falls, but each of the steps rises a good 10-12 inches from each other, so by the time we get to the bottom I've had a good workout. From there, it's another 200 meters to the falls itself, but once you've arrived, it's well worth the effort.

Tyrone and I got there around 4 P.M. and there was only one couple enjoying the view, and probably wishing we hadn't shown up. Despite the summer heat, the waters were surprisingly cool, almost as cold as the Sagada waterfalls up in the Luzon mountains.

The river at the bottom of the falls has carved a deep chasm through the rocks, all of which is now overgrown with foliage. With the sunlight streaming through the leaves, it's a great place for a small picnic.

All I had were a couple of apples, some cheese and our water bottles. But with the birds chirping, the crickets going full blast and the waterfall's mist spraying us, that's all we needed to enjoy the afternoon.

All of which was great, until we realized we had to walk back up those steps!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Man (and Boy) from Atlantis

Dumaguete is the new Anilao. This rural city, located at the "toe" area of sock-shaped Negros Island, has some great scuba diving - for the macro photographer and small-critter-conscious diver.

For casual divers like Tyrone and me, it's just really relaxing, current-free, shallow-water diving. Ty and I just arrived from a week of diving the Dumaguete-Apo Island-Siquijor triangle and we've lots of great pictures and video to attest to the biodiversity of the area.

(I've more photos too, which can be found on Kodak Gallery, and videos, which are on YouTube.)

There are a surprising number of dive resorts along the southern coastline of Dumaguete. We stayed in Atlantis, which is owned by a German fellow married to a Pinay. This is a "typical formula," it seems, as most of the resorts are foreign-owned.

I personally think it's a great formula as the operations and cuisine are pretty upscale. I always feel good when I see foreign investment in the country. The resort guests are also from all over the world, as the foreigners have better marketing contacts to get tour groups in.

Most of the resorts have established small sanctuaries or house reefs in front of their beach area. These protected dive sites are remarkable - this grey giant frogfish (3rd photo from top) with a harlequin pattern was right in the Atlantis house reef.

The Atlantis reef seemed to offer everything in pairs. Tyrone and I found pairs of seahorses, leatherjackets (see right), lionfish, etc.

One particularly unusual find was a pair of sea moths, which I had never seen or even heard of before. They are so well camouflaged in the muck area around the reef (see 4th photo from top) that it is easy to miss them, and even this photo does not do justice to their uniqueness.

The house reef also has mandarinfish, but these notoriously shy but colorful creatures are tough to get a glimpse of. The best I could do was get its tail (see right). I also got a T-shirt with a full-color painting of one, but at $17, I probably should have just stuck with the tail photo.

As in any safari, dive guides are essential on these expeditions. Our guide, Gaby Flores, had the amazing ability to pick out all manner of stuff out of what seemed like grey muck. There we would be in the midst of what seemed to be a desert of expended coffee grounds when he would go "ting-ting-ting" with his magic wand on his tank, signaling a find.

When we would get close, he would point the end of the stick at what might look like a piece of sea grass or an innocuous rock. Closer inspection would reveal a brilliantly camouflaged animal, which he would then identify on his slate as a mushroom coral pipefish or a yellow sawblade shrimp (2nd from bottom photo) or pyjama cardinalfish or something that we would just kind of stare at, amazed that Gaby would even know the name!

There were other dive sites with bigger game. In Masaplod, we encountered a school of swirling silver jacks, just like in Palau. This huge school has been there, amazingly untroubled by local fishermen, for awhile. Underneath the jacks were literally dozens of baby stingrays, none big enough to inflict any Steve Irwin-like injuries but interesting enough to watch as they burrowed next to one another.

The photo of the jack with the remora attached (2nd from the top of this post) is from Masaplod. The poor fellow kept zipping past us, hoping the remora could be enticed to latch onto a diver instead. I was lucky enough to time the photo exactly as he sped by.

Ty was a trooper throughout the week. I kept worrying that he might get too tired but he was excited about it all and even did four dives on one day, the last one being a dusk dive that ended past sunset.

This was a bit of nod-nod- wink-wink as strict PADI rules say that you have to be 12 to go night diving. Technically it was a dusk dive and he had a flashlight with him, just for added safety. It turned out to be his favorite dive, he said.

We also did a lot of snorkeling, either in between dives or just to go and get wet again. And when he was done with the ocean, he would jump into the resort pool to cool off. I guess he's really a water person!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

April Fool's Day at the Sta. Elena Cup

Continuing my now-annual tradition of failure at the Sta. Elena Cup this year, I basically played like a zombie last Sunday, coincidentally also April Fool's Day. In my defense, this has only been my fifth round of golf this year. Such lack of fairway time results in this ugly swing, which can only be kindly described as ... enthusiastic.

This year, I was invited by Alex Y, in red on the extreme left. Alex and his wife, Marilen, are the main sponsors of the tournament, graciously offering the top raffle prize of a seven-day, Royal Caribbean Alaskan Cruise.

In contrast to my lackluster golf, our playing partners, Nonoy C and George W, were in top shape - both play-wise and display-wise. They have won the Best Uniform Award for two years running and this year decided not to go for a three-peat. Thus, their effort in this area was limited to matching madras shorts.

George has been seeing a relatively new pro, Abe Rosal, recently. Nonoy, on his part, has been playing for the Sta. Elena Orchard Golf & Country Club Federation Team, which has sharply honed his game. Thus, both scored in the 40-point area, enough to clinch the Class A runner-up trophy. Here are the stellar results of the Abe Rosal sessions:

After the tournament, the Awards Dinner is always a scrumptious, relaxed food fest. I asked Tyrone to join me, since the "boss" and Ty's sisters are all out of town and only the two of us are left in Manila.

Ty came with his cousin, Martin L, the same age but a good head taller. At the dinner, they met Rafa, the ten-year-old son of Alex and Marilen. Their bonding was done via wifi, as all the kids whipped out their Nintendo DS's and proceeded to ignore the grown-ups.

Of course, as we can see, the chocolate fountain was not to be ignored either.

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