Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘animals’

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (Day 3)

Let kids be kids but don’t let adults be adults. Our Hong Kong experience would never be complete without unleashing the kid in us. But that cheeky side does not stay in Disneyland forever because it continued to live on when we visited Ocean Park.


From left: Rachel, Em, Lans, and yours truly.

We opted to visit Ocean Park despite having its counterpart in Manila. I heard it is a recommended tourist site and I already had the impression it is more hi-tech and impressive than Manila’s Ocean Adventure. By the size of the place itself, I had the impression Ocean Park is more than what I had expected.

The Marine World At the Summit

Filipinos like our OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) friend, Em, would suggest to start at the far end section of the theme park, The Marine World. One could get there by express train or by cable park, whicb was a good choice because it gives a view of the Hong Kong scenery.

We started the tour by visiting aquariums like the Sea Jelly Spectacular and Shark Mystique. What I like most here were the state-of-the-art interactive modules that give interesting trivia about these sea creatures.

Inside the Sea Jelly Spectacular.

At the Shark Mystique.

The dolphin and sea lion show is held at The Marine World and the first one starts at 12nn. Encountering these animals would require another fee so we’re just happy to see them flip and wave at us.


What surprised me was that Ocean Park has loads of thrill rides…and mind you, some of them are not for scardy cats. Of course, I had dared myself to take The Abyss. But I ended up as the only passenger screaming after the ride was seemingly dropped from the air.

Darn, my friends left me here alone…

We would have tried the other rides like the roller coaster and the ferris wheel but they were closed for scheduled maintenance when we got there. I admire the staff for taking extra precaution by doing so. Too bad, we were not able to return to those rides when they had opened because we wanted to maximize our whole-day visit by not wasting our time through waiting.

The Ocean Park Tower was the most relaxing ride we tried. All we did was just sigh (while taking pictures) because it gave us a breathtaking, 360-degree view of Hong Kong and of the whole Ocean Park.

Part of the view was the top of the Thrill Mountain, which I’d talk about if you bear with me. 

The Thrill Mountain

The most memorable ride for me would be the Hair Raiser. If you could see the twisting, yellow line from the picture above, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s almost located at the edge of the mountain but don’t worry about it because it is safe…except that it will give some of you goosebumps.

Since no loose items like bags or cameras were allowed, just imagine the screams were made when our carriage began to twist, turn and go upside down in less than a minute.

The Animals

My favorite part of the tour. Since we don’t get to see sea lions, pandas and koalas everyday, we did not miss the chance seeing them. Guess what’s the story behind these two sea lions at Marine World.

Insert sea lion story caption. 😃


A real, live walrus at Polar Adventure!

If only I can dive with the seals.

Most of the furry animals are located at the lower part of the theme park like the Amazing Asian Animals and Aqua City. I never ever get to see a real panda, especially a red panda, in any zoo in the Philippines! Some of my friends said we were lucky to see them both hanging around. Although the red panda quickly scuttled into the bushes when people started to flock in. Who would have thought I’d get to see Master Shifu and Po entertaining guests at their lovely abode?

Kung Fu Panda fans would immedietely recognize Master Shifu.

At last, I have seen the Legend of Awesomeness.

Guests entering these places, including the Adventures in Australia, are required to be quiet and are banned from using any cameras with flash. Too bad, koalas are not meant for hugging here (looks like I need to go to Queensland to hug one). Signs around the place warn koalas are nocturnal animals sensitive to light and sound. We don’t want to stress out our sleepy, cuddly mate so we just said a quiet hello as we passed by.

Animal mascots are also everywhere. We don’t want to leave without taking a picture with them, of course.

I find Ocean Park bigger than Disneyland. Looks like one day is not enough to visit all attractions there. Maybe I have to return to Hong Kong next year to tour the whole place and visit the ones we have missed. There’s more in our itinerary but we only have one day left to check everything in our bucket list.

​Breathing Adventure: Swimming With The Whales (Lost in Cebu Part 3)

The roar of the sea waves was like a bewitching song entertaining us as we dined on crunchy danggit (salted, dried fish), fried rice and fried eggs. It was our breakfast on our first day, rather night, at Oslob. We had arrived at the southern tip of Cebu after a long ride from the city, a trek from the mountain and a wandering search for our guest house while riding a tricycle. Locals seem wary of foreign visitors who curiously poke their noses into their laid-back, rural lifestyle while children were the first to jump in to guide oblivious tourists like us. Just like any other barrio (little town), eateries would close as early as 8pm expect for Paul and Madz which served a satisfactory meal paired with orange juice and hot chocolate. 

A meal of danggit with friend eggs and rice, paired with hot chocolate and orange juice.

The roaring sea waves made me more thrilled to see whale sharks or the butanding the next day. These gentle giants have made Oslob a popular tourist destination as tourists are allowed to see them up close and personal (but no touching is allowed). I love animals and the butanding itself is a fascination to me. However, the weather, gloomy as ever, was threatening to cut operations early. The caretaker of our guesthouse has told us the Coast Guard has called off the whale watching operations by 9am that day due to dangerously strong currents. Supposedly, operations end by 12nn.

We were hopeful, still. After a strong downpour during the early hours of the morning, we headed to the whale watching station before operations start at 6am. Foreign tourists outnumber local tourists in jam-packed queues which was beginning to grow longer because cashier windows were not opening yet. An operator told us the Coast Guard was still checking if it’s safe to hold operations today because the winds and the waves were strong. By that time, I was already assuring myself there’s always a next time to go back to Cebu.

Boats gathered at the whale watching site.

It was past 6am when operations were allowed to begin. Before I’d forget, whale watching costs about Php300 while swimming with the whales is at Php500. That’s for the local rate. Foreign rates are more expensive. You can go for the first option if you’re seasick (which one of us did not realize until we were at the sea). The second option will provide you not only a close encounter with the butanding but with other sights hidden in the sea. We thought we’d miss the opportunity of capturing moments with the butanding because we do not own a GoPro camera. We were able to rent one at the whale watching station at Php550.

Me, along with my friends, swimming with the whales.

I’m not a good swimmer, but I would love to take a dive into the sea. I admit I was scared of diving especially when the boatmen told us to remove our life vests so we can sink into the waters. Non-swimmers are advised to hold unto the rafter so we would not sink. But these guys are ready to save you before you float away into the sea. 

A fisherman feeding the butanding which was swimming beside his boat.

The fishermen were feeding the butanding with a breakfast of alamang (krill) when we came into the sea. I was fascinated by how its huge mouth was slurping the waters and munching its food as it moved towards us. There were about five six boats with us and some of the tourists were already taking pictures in a short distance away from the whale (because as I’ve said, touching is not allowed). I guess there were two or three butandings that were swimming among us. Thirty minutes were the only time allowed for each group so we had to jump into the waters to meet the whale!

The butanding ignoring me as I wave behind its back.

When I peeked into the sea, I was marvelled at the size of the whale which was about 5 to 6 meters long. The boatmen told us it was just a baby whale and the mother whale has not visited the area for a long time (hmmm…she might have flipped our boats by then). More fascinating were the fishes called alumahan (a type of mackarel) that were following the whale wherever it swims. The waters would have been clearer if the sun was shining by that time. But we were fortunate to see the whale that day despite the low pressure area that was threatening Cebu for a week. Besides, we were not burned by the heat of the sun. The wearing of sunblock or sunscreen is not allowed because these might become toxic to whales. 

The alumahan swimming with the butanding.

By the time we left the waters, the rains outpoured again. I believe the Lord has favored us by letting the rains stop for a while so we could see the whale. We were thinking of a plan B because this does not seem to be the right time to visit a nearby falls.

Yours truly posing at one of the restaurants by the sea.

Another breakfast of danggit.

The view of the sea at the restaurant.

I was languishing myself on a breakfast of danggit and mango juice because we only had a few hours left in Oslob. Check out time at our guest house, Chateau de Tan-awan, should be at 12nn. Even a night of staying in this place was memorable because it’s clean, quiet and peaceful. As it stood beside, the sound of the waves had lulled me to sleep.

The lounge area at the guest house.

The little souvenir shop at the guest house.

So we had to travel again to find another tourist spot. We barely had two days left in Cebu so we were not leaving without seeing much of the island. We got options though. We’re willing to risk for these options for the sake of collating beautiful memories.

Living out Christ in Christmas

If you could come and visit our house hours before Christmas, you might think of it first as pathetic: no Christmas tree, no nativity scene, not even Santa and his reindeer or a lone snowman adored the house. All we had were a few bells paired with a few shiny garlands that we did not remove from last year.

Unlike most families today, we did not cook much. With the house filled with only two souls, my mom and I, we wouldn’t do much for ourselves.

And yet the holiday music brightens the whole space.

Turning to facebook friends, I tried to greet the world one by one, and hoping I have brought a holiday cheer to those I’ve greeted (and an ounce of remembrance to this little soul).

And yet, I felt satisfied. No decor, no gift, no lavish feast did it. It’s the very love that brought a Savior to this earth. The epitome of heaven’s glory sent down to die in our places. The King who thought of nothing but you and me.

Christmas should never be brought up because of tradition. It was never there from the beginning of earth. But the very reason for its celebration has always celebrated the very existence we are.

I remembered the Christmas parties the past few days. There were a lot of laughter and noise, gifts and raffles, dance and song numbers that made them livelier. And as I now sit quietly in my room, I realized it’s so much different. None of these things were in our house now…but that’s not the reason to moan and covet for a grander party.

Should we be brought back to the moment the Savior was born, it was very dire…even more pathetic than our almost decor-less house. Instead of dining with family and good wine, Jesus came into this earth surrounded with animals. It sure was an unlikely state of being born, but none of them whined. His birth was a joy in itself to his parents and to the world.

The parties are just temporary and sadly are a cover up to the real joy made for us. I’m not against them, but on the moment we depend on them to be our source of celebrating. Taking Christ away from Christmas is never Christmas at all.  The material things that we garner from these parties will fade away. But the Lord and His love for us is steadfast and new forever.

And so I’m glad for the very reason for Christmas. This is one reason we feel joy…Jesus is the joy of the world itself. His coming is an indication of His love for us. And we should always remember how He loved us, though we can never measure it out.

I wouldn’t worry with having no visitors at this point in time. His presence alone is the One Thing we’ve always wanted to be with. It’s more than having ten kings visiting your home to dine at our noche buena. As I wait for my mom to cook our little dinner, I am thankful and hopeful. Christmas never changed. Most of all, Christ never changed. He fills us up. He draws us near to His heart. He shows His love and grace to the two humble souls of this little house.

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