Friday, July 31, 2015

Chess and Bowling

I have read an article about Bobby Fischer who opted to go bowling instead of analyzing his game with Boris Spassky during their World Chess Championship Match in 1972 -

“Fischer's accomplishment cannot be overstated. A brash twenty-nine-year-old high school dropout, armed with little more than a pocket chess set and a dog-eared book documenting Spassky's important games, had single-handedly defeated the Soviet chess juggernaut. Spassky had a wealth of resources at his disposal to help him plot moves, including thirty-five grand masters back in the Soviet Union. Fischer, on the other hand, had two administrative seconds who served essentially as companions, and Bill Lombardy, a grand master, whose role was to help analyze games. However, Fischer did almost all the analysis himself—when he bothered to do anything. "After the games were adjourned, all the Soviets would go back to Spassky's hotel room to plan for the next position," recalls Don Schultz, one of the seconds. "Lombardy said to Fischer, 'That's a difficult position. Let's go back to the hotel and analyze it.' Fischer said, 'What do you mean, analyze? That guy's a fish. Let's go bowling.'” 

I have recently tried bowling, at first just to have a feel of the game (again), but more importantly a way of getting rid of stress. With too much work at the office, countless meetings and tons of paperwork, I felt I needed an activity that can provide some form of stress relief. Good timing, as I would say, there is bowling competition that is about to come up and new players are needed for a team that would represent the office. Try-outs are being scheduled and I decided to join.

It is not my first time to throw a bowling ball. But after along hiatus, I know I needed some adjustments. In bowling, the stance, timing and the manner of throwing the bowl is important and crucial. I tried to knock out as much pins as I can. I felt a little rusty but I made some spares and a few strikes. I had a number of open frames and I know I needed more practice. My goal however is simply to enjoy the game. Anyway, fostering "camaraderie" was the main goal of this office sponsored bowling tournament.

I think chess and bowling are great sports to get into. Chess is a game that is usually full of frustrations and stress. As a mind game, playing chess can sometime drain your energy level to a point of exhaustion. Yes, this is true! Try asking chess players who regularly compete in tournaments. Sometimes, after the end of each game, it feels like it as if you have just taken a very long examination - tired and exhausted. This is what is ironic about chess - though the players do not move - the exhaustion is not only mentally but physically as well. In fact, if you want to play great chess, you got to be physically prepared as well.

After playing several chess games, there can come a point where a diversion is needed. Sometimes, chess players got to find something to vent out their frustrations on the chessboard. As a very mind taxing game, chess is a cruel sport. While during the game, there seems to be no physical movement except moving the pieces on the board, chess is actually a game that tests one's stamina.

As a diversion, bowling is a game that we can recommend to chess players. Hitting the pins is like an instant stress relief after a very difficult game of chess. After a continuous analysis of moves and its numerous variations, bowling can immediately get you in the mood. By just throwing that bowling ball, you can immediately feel a sense of invigoration and release of stress.

If you would like to try bowling, there are several bowling centers in Metro Manila such as the SM Bowling Center and those found in other malls.  The rate per game though is higher during weekends.

Friday, July 10, 2015

168 Shopping Mall (Divisoria, Manila)

Divisoria is synonymous with bargains. Almost everyone who desires to stretch their budget finds Divisoria as their succor last resort.

In Divisoria, almost anything can be bought for much lower prices depending on your power of persuasion and creative haggling. Try to haggle for the best price in the most convincing manner. Most of the time, if you have mastered the art of haggling, you would get your desired item at the price within the confines of your budget. 

For those who have not been to Divisoria for a long time may still have that mistaken notion that the place is chaotic (well, even now considering the great number of people who visits the place), dirty (referring to some streets), haven for pickpockets (as most crowded places) and sweat provoking due to the heat of the sun while trying to squeeze through a horde of shoppers. In most cases, this scenario of Divisoria is still true. However, aside from shopping in the streets there are malls in Divisoria that are truly a sanctuary for shoppers and bargain hunters namely the Lucky Chinatown Mall where, on first impression is on the “high end” with its own branch of Resort’s World where you can play games in the Casino. Then there is 999 Mall – where items seem a lot cheaper and the well- known Tutuban Mall.

In the event that Lucky Chinatown, 999 and Tutuban Malls fail to provide what you are looking for (which happens only on rare occasions), try 168 Mall where the best finds, either in wholesale or retail, can be found.

168 Mall located along Sta. Elena and Soler Streets in Divisoria (very near 999 Mall) is a very good choice in looking for clothes (and lots of it including school and office uniforms, formal wear and a array of RTWs), bags, shoes, gadgets, toys, hardware, furniture, accessories, appliances and other items.  If a formal affair is on the wings (wedding, graduation or debuts), 168 Mall is a hub for reasonably priced formal wear. While walking around, we saw various stalls selling formal apparels. Just look at the barongs made of “jusi and pina fabric” made perfect for weddings and other formal occasions. Formal wear for women is likewise elegant and reasonably priced.

If you got the patience and the will, you can find almost anything at 168 Mall that is not hard on the pocket. I have seen various commodities and novelty items that are much cheaper compared to other malls. There is really nothing wrong in asking the seller what is the “last price” for your desired merchandise. In this very difficult time, every peso is worth protecting. Try to haggle with the seller in the most respectful manner but without losing your dignity. If the item is way beyond your budget, just move on with your shopping endeavor as there are a lot of stalls in 168 Mall.

168 Mall is air-conditioned, clean including its comfort rooms with conspicuous signs leading to it. If short for cash, there are working ATMs inside the mall. It is well lighted but it is easy to get lost. Finding a particular stall takes a lot of effort especially if it is your first time to shop here. Guards man the entrance for added security.  After hours of shopping, its Food Court can provide relief with its clean surroundings and very affordable prices.   

I68 Mall is truly a haven for bargain hunters. It is complete with everything you wanted to buy. Its location is perfect for exploring Divisoria and shopping is definitely less stressful.

While were able to find a parking space despite the weekend rush, I can see the limitations of this mall's parking space. Most of its parking spaces are already reserved for its residents.  With this in mind, I suggest shopping at 168 Mall earlier than usual.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The Heritage Hotel (Pasay City, Metro Manila)

At the southern end of traffic burdened edsa,  but before reaching the Mall of a Asia there is a respite for the weary traveler. Heritage hotel is one imposing landmark that is very difficult to miss.  Without the dreaded traffic from the airport, this hotel can be reached in less than thirty minutes. But traffic is now considered the new norm in Metro Manila and travelers to the city are advised to expect a crawl from the airport unless you arrived earlier than 4 am.

Since it is found in the corner of Metro Manila's main road, strategically everything is within reach. Aside from the gigantic mall situated at the reclaimed Roxas Boulevard, the National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help is  mere walking distance at the well known Baclaran. And since you are near within the Baclaran area, bargains can be found in every corner. Almost every item is affordable and within the budget. Just take some extra precaution and be alert when shopping around Baclaran. Dress simply and avoid wearing jewelries.

Across the road, is a hospital and rows of hotels. Since the Heritage Hotel is near the reclaimed area of Roxas Boulevard everything is within walking distance.  There is the newly built Bluebay Walk where one  can find coffee shops, restaurants and stores. Indeed, this hotel's location is one reason why travelers stay during their visits in Metro Manila.

We arrived at around 11 am. Usually, guests have to wait until 2 pm before they are allowed to  check-in but since the room is already available according to the front desk, we were allowed to use the room earlier than the usual schedule. Perhaps, it is because it is already a lean season.

After the completion of the usual procedures at its front desk, we were given two card keys. For added security, guests have to use this card key in using the elevators - something that is a  common feature in hotels of high standards. When its about hotel security, what comes to my mind is Lim Ket Kai Hotel in Cagayan de Oro.

We appreciated the staff at the reception. In hotels, receptionists have to immediately give that feeling that guests are welcome and  should expect the best service. Staying in hotels should always be a pleasant experience with the least stress as possible.  With all the hassles and stress, a "staycation" is often a way to reinvigorate oneself. 

Our room at the non-smoking section at its 7th floor consists of two clean queen size beds. It has a view of edsa and we have a first hand look at the traffic situation at this part of Manila's main road. As I look at the window, I can see how bad the traffic situation is. Aside from a very heavy volume of vehicles on the road, one factor that contributes to the situation is the lack of discipline among pedestrians, commuters and drivers. Despite all the schemes, traffic seems to be, as I said, the new normal.

The room is clean and the beds are comfortable. It is not new but it is well taken care of. It is complete with a led TV, refrigerator and all the usual amenities with a well controlled air conditioning. The comfort room is likewise clean but with traces of the old structure. The standard towels, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, and shower caps are available.

The hotel's interiors are quite archaic and evokes that feeling of "oldness" in a good way. Perhaps, the hotel intends to convey the importance of protecting heritage for posterity. Its lobby is imposing with high ceilings and decorated by chandeliers of metallic design. The hallways are carpeted with air conditioning.

The swimming pool is adjacent to its restaurant where we can hear the commotion outside. Except for the wi-fi, everything is within expectations. It is quite costly to eat at their restaurant, but it is convenient to buy food outside the hotel or eat at a fast food restaurant if you are on a tight budget.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

When Do You Stop Playing Chess?

Well, you don’t! And you should not stop playing chess. After a loss, stop to shortly analyze the game, learn from your mistake and get ready to play in the next round. Move on and forget about that game.  If you lost in the first round, there is still the second round. If you lost in the second round and so on, then there is still the next tournament. What is important is to continue playing chess despite initial losses and frustrations.

While it is a good feeling to win a game, what is more important is how you play chess. Camaraderie and gaining friends is more valuable in winning a chess game. But, this does not mean that I am suggesting playing the game for granted. Do your best in every game but be humble when winning and accept a loss gracefully.

All chess players, even today’s top grandmasters have suffered a loss and lots of it before attaining their status. As it is said, chess is a game that is easy to learn but difficult to master. During the learning phase, to experience losing is normal. And even if you attain some form of mastery over the game, expect to lose once in a while. 

Chess is a very complicated game and is dependent on the present state and psychology of the player. There are times when a player, because he or she is only human, suffers from  a certain form of mood that somehow diminishes creativity and strength where they end losing in the process. The lack of sleep is also a factor on why a chess player can lose a game.

Whatever reason it may be, anyone who loses a chess game should accept it and not blame it on whatever external factor there may be. Do not take away anything from your opponent. Give the whole credit. Chess is a game of Kings where losing gracefully is expected. Before and after the game, shake the hand of your adversary and put the pieces back in their original position before leaving the venue. Leave without any trace of anger though frustration cannot be avoided.

No matter what, never stop playing chess either seriously or just for fun. Chess brings a lot of benefits to our intellectual well-being. It is a game played for several centuries. Even with the advent of computers, chess has never been out of style. Today, there are almost a billion people who play chess around the world either professionally or just for plain fun.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Waterfront Hotel (Lahug, Cebu)

Its close proximity to Ayala Center is what makes this hotel an ideal choice while in Cebu. You can actually walk from this hotel to Ayala Center. However, on the other side of the street, there are rows of informal settlers where walking while carrying something valuable may not be a good idea. I suggest taking a cab instead.  If you desire a hotel where it is much safer to walk to Ayala Center, try Diamond or Quest Hotel instead.

Just like what is expected in a hotel of this standard, Waterfront Hotel's lobby immediately conveys the impression of  class. The usual and everything  in a first class hotel can be seen and felt immediately as  you step out of your vehicle and into its lobby with the addition of Cebu's  sweet accents and endearing hospitality.

This hotel is not only the choice of discriminating travelers but  an ideal venue for conventions and seminars that, more often than not, the lobby is packed with guests  and the entire process of registration and finding a room can take some time even with prior reservation.  It is at this  time that patience becomes a very valuable virtue. A weary traveler appreciates efficiency in the registration process. Time is very important to every traveler and every form of delay is an opportunity lost. 

It took us almost an hour to find a room. Finally, we got room no. 550. It was a relief! Usually, the process of registration, if with reservation, takes only a few minutes. But, with so many guests due to a scheduled convention, delays in the front desk are common. 

It was a nice room. Best for families and  friends. It is actually not a room but a suite - with a sofa, dining table, and a computer. It has two rooms with each room having its on CR. One is the masters bedroom, the other seems more like a childrens' room. The sofa is very comfortable and can actually be used as an extra bed. It has its own computer set with a very reliable wi-fi. Room service is commendable with most of our requests attended without much waiting.

In my most recent visit to Cebu, I have noticed a very remarkable change in their taxi service.  All of the taxis we hired were using meters. The City may have finally solved the dreaded "contract system" in hiring taxis. This is definitely good news for travelers and visitors who are beneficiaries of an honest and reliable taxi system. The traffic however  seems to be a problem without a solution.

If you happen to visit Cebu, consider this hotel as your second home.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Montemar Beach Club ( Bagac, Bataan)

Montemar Beach Club is an exclusive resort off the coast of Bataan.  It is actually a "members only" beach resort but on some occasions "non-members" are allowed to experience what is meant for the privileged few. Before visiting the resort, it is best to call and make a reservation.

Depending on traffic conditions, this resort can be reached after more or less a three hour drive from Manila via the nlex and sctx. Another option is to simply take the San Fernando Exit and the Lubao Bypass Road. Navigate the Bataan Provincial Highway and follow the signs to Bagac. Along the way, markers of that infamous "Death March" of World War 2 reminds travelers on the historical significance of this place. On the way to this resort, we saw signs leading to Mount Samat otherwise known as the "Dambana ng Kagitingin" symbolized by the big cross on top of the mountain and the turtle sanctuary. 

The travel is a smooth ride through a relaxing countryside of rice fields bounded by mountains. The momentary views of cliffs is a warning of some dangerous ravines mandating us to drive carefully. 

Kilometer zero of the Death March sign ushered us to turn left towards the direction of Montemar Beach Club. After traveling on a concrete road, we saw the entrance of the resort. The guard on duty courteously inquired on our business and after a brief security check, we were told to register at the front office. The front office is a short drive with signs along the way. 

Have I already said that this resort is "exclusive"? While avoiding being redundant, I think this primarily describes Montemar. It is a resort with practically its own beachfront. The cove, as if protecting the entire coastline, ensures privacy. The brown sands of the beach is fine and ideal for walking barefoot immediately creating those usual but fleeting footprints. 

According to the map, the beach caters to the West Philippine Sea - a primordial news item where we all have to be updated. The sea is calm during our whole visit which makes it ideal for swimming. However, whatever the temperament of the sea may be, safety is always a priority. Until the buoye, the water is more or less four feet deep. But, there are areas where the sands underneath cave in creating a sudden plunge and depth. This is very dangerous specially for non-swimmers. But, those who know how to swim should likewise take extra precaution against accidents. It is advisable not to swim alone. There are lifeguards at the beach and swimming is only allowed until 6 pm.

The resort has three swimming pools. However, one of the pool is reserved exclusively for "members and their guests". Prior or after swimming in the beach and depending on the intensity of the sun, we swam at the pool fully enjoying our time and the resort. There were few guests during our visit. There were times that we have the beach or pool for ourselves.  The resort also has a conference and a function room - a great venue for corporate and family gatherings. For those who want to sweat it out, there is a tennis, basketball and beach volleyball courts

There is a very relaxing tree house inside the resort. I enjoyed reading my favorite novel in it. The cool breeze and the nice views from this tree house  provided that much needed respite and a canopy of sorts from the scorching heat. The tree house is a very good place to stay  while waiting for the afternoon.

Inside the resort is a restaurant where the staff are courteous and attentive. They serve food which you can actually eat and enjoy but be ready to pay a higher price than the usual.   I think this is expected. Food inside a resort is expectedly of a higher price.

Montemar Beach Club is very near famous landmarks such as the Mount Samat National Shrine or the "Dambana ng Kagitingin".  This Shrine of Valor honors the bravery of Filipino and American soldiers during World War 2; the turtle sanctuary or the "Pawikan Conservation Center"; and the "Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar" which showcases Filipino Heritage Houses. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dahilayan Adventure and Forest Park (Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon)

In  Barangay Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon there is an “adventure” and a “ forest” park. The former, true to its term, is home to zip lines and more daring adventure rides. On the other hand, the forest park is more family and children friendly theme park. As both “parks” are located in the same area, they are usually visited at the same time and are often described together.

To reach Dahilayan Adventure and Forest Park, we passed inside Camp Phillips - a vast hectares of land dedicated to planting the famous Del Monte Pineapples.  The road leading to the park is an endless array of pineapples with a very relaxing view of a mountainous terrain. Everything is picture perfect and it is a sin not to stop by at this plantation and not take a photo.  
Del Monte Pineapple Plantation
As we were admiring the view of the plantation, we were told that Manolo Fortich is not only a plantation but also an independent community. It has a church, playground, basketball court and all other amenities for the welfare of the employees of Del Monte.

After the customary and obligatory taking of photos on the plantation, we headed to Dahilayan Adventure and Forest Park.  After a very short drive from the plantation, we finally reached the park. At its entrance, my first impression about it is like being in Baguio while in Bukidnon but with fresher and more defined scent of pine trees and scenic views. I hope this park is preserved for posterity. It gives every visitor a very good reminder of that old romantic Baguio vividly remembered by our grandparents.

Dahilayan Adventure and Forest Park is pristine without any trace of informal settlers. It has everything the old summer capital can offer. We saw strawberries being sold outside the park. There are also horses for horseback riding. Pine trees are also abundant. I think most visitors would remember Baguio once they are in this park.

Pine Grove Lodge
We momentarily stayed at its Pine Grove Lodge, where we can hear the shrieks, shouts and thrills of those on the zip line. This lodge is somewhat similar to a “log cabin” with glass walls showing the very beautiful views of pine trees. It has high ceilings with a loft making it a perfect escape during summer. This lodge has a café or restaurant with reasonably priced food. We opted to take a few bites from this café while looking at the pine trees outside and those who are risking their lives at the zip line.

The park has an amazing view of Mount Kitanglad and its high elevation ushers that cool, crisp and fresh breeze reminiscent of Tagaytay. With scenic views, it is nice to just sit on the bench and look at the vast expanse of the land and be lost at the soliloquy of your thoughts. Think only of what bring good vibes and try to forget what you cannot change at the moment. Sometimes, being in a beautiful place such as this park is enough to release one’s soul from the stress of our everyday struggles.

Dahilayan Adventure Park claims to own the distinction of having “Asia’s Longest Dual Zip line”. We tried this attraction and the experience is comparable to  actually flying amidst a forest canopy. It is scary at first but I soon got the hang of it literally. This zip line is definitely a must-try. While there are zip lines in almost every park even at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, a zip line as long as this gives an exhilarating experience like no other park can give.

A good weather is essential as most of the park’s attractions are outdoors. As such, this park is best enjoyed during the summer season. The scorching heat, felt usually in Metro Manila, is not as intense in this park. Thanks to its high elevation and trees surrounding the area.

Before trying this longest dual zip line, we first tried as a sort of a warm-up activity, the park’s zip lines of lesser length but not necessarily of lesser thrill. After which, a four by four vehicle brought us to the top of a mountain to experience Asia’s longest dual zip line. At the launch deck, I can see how far this zip line would take us. The view is spectacular. The whole park can be seen at this point. 

We then got ready for the experience of zip lining in Asia's longest. The staff emphasized safety. He assured us that the zip line is safe as long as safety gears are worn properly and instructions are followed. After a brief reminder of what should be done, we got ready for the experience of a lifetime. As I said, it was scary at first but after the zip line began its descent reluctance turned into a thrilling ride.  Flying is the best word to describe the experience of this zip line. Trying this zip line is indeed "getting ready to fly". 

Dahilayan Adventure and Forest Park is huge and a full day is not enough to enjoy its several attractions. If however the rides and activities of this park are not appealing to you, walking is one great activity. In the afternoon, before the sun sets, try walking on the park’s almost borderless expanse and feel the health benefits of this activity.

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