Category Archives: People

My Unforgettable Auschwitz-Birkenau Day Tour

I’ve never learned what the Holocaust meant in school. History lessons were very much compressed at my public elementary and high schools. My first exposure about the Nazi genocide against the Jews in Europe was the film Schindler’s List which I accidentally watched around 1997-1998. I’m not particular about the exact date but during that time, I was at the cusp of puberty. I was a very sensitive and emotional child and that film just touched something in me that stayed with me into adulthood.

I’ve tried learning more about it in high school, but the inept teaching and inadequate resources made me thirst for more until I went to uni where I finally got the scope of this terrible part of our history. I’ve read books, articles, news reels, film archives and tried to absorb as many information as possible. There were so many questions that I wanted to get answered but until this day, some of them remains unanswered, rather unanswerable. The whys and the hows are just too much and just unfathomable.

That is why this trip was extra special for me. To have the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, a couple of places amongst the thousands of Nazi concentration camps feels like a blessing somehow. It felt like it would answer some of the questions that I’ve had since I was a teenager and I feel that I’d be able to somehow connect with the victims of this horrifying human tragedy and most importantly, pay my respect by never forgetting about them.

For the record, I do not personally know a single Jewish individual but I do believe that as human beings, we have to acknowledge what transpired here and the rest of the concentrations camps around Europe because I believe that we owe it to the victims to keep their memories alive for all the time we have to be reminded what is at stake and what should be done to avoid such humongous tragedy in the human history ever happening again.

The tour started very early in the morning. It was freezing that day. I thought I was already accustomed to the cold but the weather that day made me lethargic for some reason.

 

Took this picture of the beautiful Krakow morning while waiting for the bus to pick me up.

Auschwitz is located in Oświęcim which is 66 kilometers west of Krakow or around 2 hours from Krakow.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” over Auschwitz gate is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holocaust. It means Work Makes You Free, a very disturbing reminder of the Nazi cruelty.
These are Zyklon B cans, which contained the gas used as a killing tool in the gas chambers.

The Museum collections include:

• about 40.000 m3 of shoes;

• about 3,800 suitcases, 2,100 of which bear the names of their owners;

• over 12 thousand kitchen utensils;

• 470 prostheses and orthoses;

• 397 striped camp garments;

• 246 tallisim;

• about 4,100 works of art (including about 2 thousand of which were made by prisoners). Source

Our group tour around Auschwitz took about 2 hours and we had a little break before heading to its adjacent camp, the Birkenau concentration camp.

Bought a copy of this guidebook and Viktor Frankl’s book about his time in various Nazi concentration camps.
Heading to Birkenau concentration camp.
I was able to go to the quarters and touch what remains of their bunk beds. It was heavy and sad.

It took me a while to share these pictures that I’ve taken when I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps last December 2019 because I didn’t think that it’s proper to post them at all. I posted the pictures of the exterior of the camps instead on my Instagram page instead but not these images because they just felt too personal then, but I realized that I wanted people to know, especially the young ones who have not heard or read about the Holocaust to be aware of this tragedy, to know its history and to see a glimpse of a dark past in human history that should never happen again and must never be forgotten. We should forever honor their memories for they’re a constant reminder for us to always treat each other with dignity, respect each other’s differences, learn not just to tolerate but to accept and view life as a gift. The victims – those who perished and alive up to these day gave their lives to be our social conscience and may we never forget that.

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Wiesel

Euro Vacay Day 8-9: Krakow In My Heart

I’ve arrived in Krakow at the crack of dawn and and I was still feeling a bit hazy from lack of sleep inside the bus. It took more or less nine hours from Vienna to Krakow, and I was just too giddy to sleep right away even though I was very tired from my day tour in Vienna. Who could sleep comfortably inside a bus though? Haha!

Arriving at the Krakow (Kraków) Dworzec Autobusowy MDA, I opted to use Uber to take me to the city center right where I made a booking for a couple of nights, after exchanging about 100 euros at the station for some Polish złoty. Just a little FYI –  although Poland is a European Union member, they still use their own currency.

As mentioned above, I’ve booked two nights at the Ametyst Hostel and let me tell you that it is absolutely my favorite hostel during my whole trip. For one, the guy at the reception allowed me to check-in right away, thank goodness because I still need a couple or more hour of sleep. I stayed at a six-mixed dorm room and everything was just perfect! I’ve got my own locker, the bed was warm and comfy and it doesn’t feel cramp at all and their bathrooms are always clean! And the most wonderful thing about it is that, it is just five minutes away from the main square! Like seriously, it’s smack dab in the heart of the city! I just know that I’d definitely go back to Krakow and will stay with them again!

I was assigned the top bunk near the window!

After getting some sleep for a few hours and feeling refreshed,  I embarked on my very first winter in Poland! Haha!

The weather was a bit overcast but thankfully, it did not rain. It was just too cold as usual!

Eros Bendato’ (Eros Bound) or The Head is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj (1944 – 2014). This sculpture in the western corner of the market square is a popular meeting place and is one of the most popular landmarks in the city.

The sculpture at night and up-close.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Kraków, is one of the best known bronze monuments in Poland, and a favourite meeting place at the Main Market Square in the Old Town district of Kraków. source
The monument at night.

Mickiewicz is counted as one of Poland’s’s Three Bards (the others being Zygmunt Krasiński and Juliusz Słowacki) and the greatest poet in all Polish literature.

The St. Mary’s Basilica

After the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica is the most important church in Krakow. It’s construction was started in late 13th century on the foundations of a former Romanesque church. The new temple was consecrated around the year 1320. Over the centuries, the church underwent numerous reconstructions of both its exterior and interior.

The whole ambiance at the main square was heartwarming! It’s still the holidays after all.
The view from the Wawel Royal Castle.
Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church and cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków, located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, Poland.
Saints Peter and Paul Church.
Or course, I had to take a picture with one of Pope John Paul II’s statues in Krakow. This life-sized monument of the former local lad turned Pope turned Saint John Paul II stands across from Wawel Cathedral near the entrance of the Cathedral Museum, which just so happens to have been opened by the man himself (then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła) back in 1978. Source
A clearer image in the morning. Source
Inside the Wawel Royal Castle
This looks unreal IRL.
Christmas just ended and 2020 is fast-approaching. How I wanted to go back to this day when we’re all still unaware of Covid19.
Food! Food! Food!
My dinner! Ugh! This was actually more than it looks here!
Dessert!!!
Souvenirs options!
Candies! Candies! Candies!
I’ve almost forgot about this but it’s good!
The artistry!
Heading back to the hostel here!
This was a couple of blocks away from the hostel! Ugh! Looking at this made me miss Krakow more!

I think I went back to the hostel past 11, I still need to wake up early the following day for the Auschwitz-Birkenau tour I availed via Klook!

Krakow will always have a special place in my heart. Ugh. Writing this part of the trip made me emotional for some reason. I hope to come back here real soon.

Euro Vacay Day 1-4: Berlin, Berlin…

I was very excited to finally set foot in Europe and with Berlin being one of my must-visit cities before I die. Haha! I’m really beyond thrilled! The immigration officials weren’t as stern as I expected them to be, due to the horror stories I’ve read and heard from some people. They just asked the purpose of my trip, the countries I’ll be visiting and it took less than a minute I think and I finally got my entry in Germany!

After planning this trip for almost a year, you would think that I was able to cover all of the bases already but no – my Qatar Airways flight landed in Berlin Tegel Airport around 10 – or past 10 in the evening. Lo and behold, most if not all of the stores are already closed! And stupid me was expecting there will be stores open 24 hours where I could buy a SIM card! I even bought a new phone for this trip! LOL. So my only option was to asked the airport staff on how to go about getting to my hostel for my four days in the city! There were buses that will take you anywhere in the cities, and tram too. I mean, this is Germany after all, but I was still totally clueless since I’ve not internet to Google where I am – so I just checked my accommodations booking and prayed to the gods that I got off the right station. Apparently I did not. Haha. I was literally lost and walking aimlessly. And there are only a few people out and about. Remember, this was winter time and I think it’s already past eleven in the evening. 

Thank goodness though, because I bumped into Norah – a local from Berlin who helped me find my hostel. She’s truly a godsend because I was just getting really cold by the time I bumped into her.  I told her the whole thing of me not able to get a new SIM card at the airport and I just showed her my booking and she took me to my hostel right then and there. 

I had my Berlin accommodation at the St. Christopher Inn Berlin-Mitte. They were very gracious and the hostel was actually kind of nice for a solo traveler like myself. One of the guy manning the reception asked me where I was from and I told her that I’m from the Philippines and he smiled and said that his mom is Filipina! Instant connection! LOL.  I absolutely loved the location of the hostel! It’s perfect because it ‘s all walking distance to all the tourist traps!!! I swear, I never had to use any transportation system within my 4 days in Berlin.  

The following day was not as eventful as I’d like it to be because I was still getting used to the cold! I just went our first to familiarize myself – saw the Berlin Cathedral where I went in for a mass on Day 3,  Altes Museum, Humboldt University, Alexanderplatz etc… It was just me being very fascinated and I still cannot believe that I made it here! For some people, this may just be nothing but from someone like me who grew up in the country – this is definitely a whole new world! A feat by itself!

Here are some of the pictures I took on my first foray in Berlin.

 

This was December 25th of last year! It was my first time spending Christmas outside of the country and alone for that matter. It’s kind of sad if you think about it because I’m usually with my family during this season but I was having the time of my life all’s good!

I joined a free tour of the Reichstag glass dome on top of the rebuilt Reichstag building! It was exhilarating!

Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. It feels so heavy visiting this memorial. I will be writing more about this in conjunction to my visit at Auschwitz-Birkenau the following days.

The Reichstag Building

The Berlin Cathedral

I actually got inside the night before but was not able to take pictures inside because one – it was disrespectful and second – it was not allowed I think but I still see some folks trying to sneak a picture or two…

The Urania World Clock is a large turret-style world clock located in the public square of Alexanderplatz in Mitte, Berlin.

Yep, it really isn’t Christmas without this big ‘old Christmas tree!

Of course, I ordered Currywurst!

8 euro ain’t so bad.

The beautiful Postdamer Platz

Humboldt University

The Lustgarten

The view on my way back to my hostel

At the Westkreuz Station early in the morning on my way to Prague!

ICYMI: Catriona Gray on the cover of PeopleAsia Magazine – January 2019

You can now buy your own copy of Catriona Gray’s first printed magazine cover as Miss Universe through PeopleAsia’s Special Collector’s Issue this month.

The inside stories will include her preparation for the pageant, her thoughts and analysis on why she won and PeopleAsia’s front-view observation during the coronation night!

This collector’s issue will also feature Catriona’s long-time collaborator – the Kapampangan designer Mak Tumang and our three previous Misses Universe – Pia Wurtzbach (2015), Margie Moran (1973) and Gloria Diaz (1969).

Reaching Greater Heights: Mt. Pulag – The Third Highest Peak in the Philippines!

I’m an amateur mountain climber. I’ve climbed a few in the past, yes, but my health and time didn’t allow me to really get into it. This year, as part of my new year’s resolution, I promised to climb more mountains.

I found myself already on my second climb this year at the highest peak in Luzon, the Mount Pulag which also happened to be the third highest peak in the whole archipelago of the Philippines (next to Mt. Apo and Mt. Dulang-Dulang – both situated in Mindanao).

I even trained for this because I was told that it’s going to be strenuous. I’ve tried strengthening my legs for about three weeks since I just started working out around the same time this Mt. Pulag climb came about.

I joined the Bokal Extreme event along with with my officemates – the Kaladkarins – for this little “expedition” lol.

Travel time from Manila to Baguio was very smooth and fast – thank you SCTEX! At least around 5 hours inclusive of a couple of stopovers.

We got picked up at the Baguio Victory Liner terminal by what they call the “Monster Jeep,” I don’t have the foggiest idea why they call it like that since it looks like a regular passenger jeepney to me, though a bit bigger (ding!) . From there, we went to the DENR office for the registration and orientation. The travel time here is about 3 hours. We had a 30-minutes stopover for breakfast and a little photo-ops.

(Side note: You can also buy hiking gears here which I thought are way cheaper! ‘Bought my mess kit here!)

Before you’re allowed to climb Mt. Pulag, you have got to present a “Fit to Climb ” medical certificate and attend the 30-40 minutes orientation regarding Mt. Pulag, a bit of its history and the know-how of climbing it.

After the informative lecture, we went to the jump off site to set up camp for the night.

We woke up at around 130 in the morning and started the trek at 2AM. It was really muddy since it rained the night before and it’s still drizzling throughout our hike.

My number one advise for newbie climbers of this great mountain is to wear appropriate clothing. I was stupid enough to think that I could endure the cold by wearing my favorite football jersey so I was freezing by the time we arrived at the “first summit.” It was such a foolish move on my part so please, just please, wear something warm during your climb here.

For amateurs like myself, Ambangeg is the preferred trail. The hike wasn’t that hard even if it’s all muddy so I think if the weather was real good at the time, I thought it’d be a way easier trekking for us. It’s a good thing we waited for the weather to clear up and saw the beautiful mossy plains at the summit and the sea of clouds which is the summit’s main attraction. Watching it is like being one with nature – just beautiful! I think the whole hike ascending and descending took us close to 12 hours. Yes, it was that long but it was all worth it.

I cannot wait to revisit this majestic mountain in the future!

(This was a long overdue post. Since most of my blog posts are pre-scheduled, I didn’t realize that this one didn’t make it to my published posts. It’s still on my draft folder which I’ve only seen today! Ugh! Anyway – here’s my adventure at Mt. Pulag)

Britney Philippines Presents ‘Intimate BPH: Let’s Talk About Britney’

Still not over the #BritneySpearsMNL high? Then join us for an afternoon bonding with your fellow Britney Army! Let’s talk about Britney Spears and anything else under the sun! We have also prepared fun games, souvenirs, and prizes for some lucky fans!

Hurry up! Send us a private message to reserve your slots and for more information about the event!

Official event page: https://web.facebook.com/events/840157099475956/?ti=icl

INTIMATE BPH 2017-1
July 29, 2017 (Saturday) | 1 PM
Redbox Star Trinoma
Door Charge: Php 170

#BritneySpears
#BritneyPhilippines
#BPH

Troye Sivan for SM Youth! #TroyeForSMYouth #WeAreSMYouth #SMYTH

All clothes by SM Youth Smyth. Photos courtesy of SM YOUTH

I was lurking around my Liked pages on Facebook and I stumbled upon what seems to be another “fake news” because there’s no way that Troye Sivan was actually in Manila! I mean, there was no publicity, not even a tiny bit of announcement from Troye himself but when pictures started to surface on the net – I was literally beside myself! It’s true!!! Troye was actually in Manila that day – I still have no idea how long he actually stayed here but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t that long!

See that first tweet from the the screen-grab of his twitter page – this article from CNN might be IT. Apparently,  Daddy Bean did a campaign shoot with SM Youth’s newest clothing line called SMYTH. Nicely done there SM!

I’m actually ready to go shopping in SM!!! Also, pretty please SM! Bring Troye back in Manila for a concert!!!!!

All clothes by SM Youth Smyth. Photos courtesy of SM YOUTH

SMYTH will be at the SM Youth section of all branches of The SM Store starting July 24. Follow SM Youth on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.

Britney Live in Manila: The After Party!

Three of the biggest Britney Spears fan pages in the Philippines are joining forces to celebrate Britney’s historic concert in Manila via “BRITNEY LIVE IN MANILA: THE AFTER PARTY”! Party all night with your fellow Britney Army right after the concert on June 15, 2017 at Centerstage Mall of Asia! Door charge is P350. Epic Britney merchandise to be given away during the event. So what are you waiting for? For reservations and inquiries about the event, kindly send a private message to @britneyphilippines, @teambritneyphilippinesofficial, and @pinoysheartbritney until June 11, Sunday.

#BritneySpearsMNL
#BritneySpears
#BritneyPhilippines
#BPH

My 65th Miss Universe Hot Picks #1 – Pre-Preliminary Competition

mariam-habach-no-1-for-paddylast-incs-first-hot-picksThe 65th Miss Universe fever is finally on full swing and the delegates from around the globe are trying  to out-stage each other while trying to play nice! Hah! Just this week, we’ve witnessed the Terno Fashion Show from some of the ladies who graced the beautiful historic Vigan to showcase the beautiful ternos created by Filipino designers. Then there’s was the Governor’s Ball, Their photoshoots from different historic sites in the metro as well as visits in the beautiful Boracay Island, Cebu and Batangas. With more press releases, videos and photos available for fans and pundits, let me present to you my first hot picks for this Manila edition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant!

paddylastinc-top-16

  1. Mariam Habach of Venezuela

At this stage of the competition, Miss Venezuela for me is the most ready to become the new queen – charisma and performance-wise. Her simplicity and unconventional beauty is refreshing from the usual brunette-filled Venezuelan delegates sent by their great national director Osmel Sousa to this pageant. Her posture and contagious smile is a thing of beauty that you can’t help but fall for her. Mariam came prepared to battle it out to the finish here in Manila!

  1. Maxine Medina of the Philippines

Admit it or not, Miss Philippines’ beauty is a beauty that is very hard to ignore. She exudes confidence and a hint of mystery whenever she struck a pose – until she opens her mouth that is, as per pageant pundits’ usual criticism. To be fair tho, I think we’re too critical of Maxine because we’re comparing her to Pia and whether or not she’ll be able to carry on the latter’s legacy. I still believe that there is a big fat chance for the host-nation to snag a back-to-back win equating Venezuela’s record back in 2008-2009. After all, Maxine has the hometown advantage and with a smooth performance, albeit, a most probably less than confident answers in the Q&A round – she could probably pull it off.

  1. Raissa Santana of Brazil

This Amazonian goddess is everywhere! Like literally every event! She’s such a stand out that you can’t help but be mesmerize by her modelesque bone structure and captivating smile! I’m only placing her as my third pick for the crown at this point because I’m still not sold with her overall presentation. It’s too finesse for me and I want her to be more vibrant and more natural!

  1. Kiran Jassal of Malaysia

Miss Malaysia may not be getting much hype compared to her ASEAN counterparts such as Thailand, Indonesia, and her roomie Miss Philippines but she’s definitely someone to watch out for. She’s a real stunner in pictures and in motion and it may look like she’s playing it under the radar for now but come preliminaries, I’ve a feeling that she’ll be in everyone’s list afterwards. I actually think that she’s way better than Deborah Henry – the most prominent Malaysian delegate in memories who got snubbed during the 2011 edition of the pageant. Like Deborah, she’s got an amazing personality, stunning looks (way better than Miss Henry, IMHO) and good communication skills to boot. Will her sash prevent her from entering the top 16? I hope not.

  1. Chalita Suansane of Thailand

Chalita is definitely a force to reckon with in the Manila edition of the pageant. She came prepared and ready to fight it out like Miss Venezuela and the other three in my top 5! She’s by far my ‘ultimate spoiler’ for the crown! She’s very polished, though not the prettiest candidate, she’s one scene-stealer that has a very likable personality to boot!

  1. Andrea Tovar of Colombia

Andrea Tovar is no Adriana Gutierrez. The latter is personable whilst Andrea has this superior air about her. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to project but at times, it’s almost as if she’s already won the crown when in fact she hasn’t even step up her game performance-wise. I was expecting more from her and so far she’s giving me such lackluster performance that I’m relegating her to 6th place. Why is she still in the top 10 despite non-personable aura I’ve mentioned? Well, she’s Miss Colombia and Miss Universe loves their controversy. She’s a definite shoo-in for the semis plus her beauty is truly undeniable that truly separates her from others. Thing is, she really needs to work the crowd. After all, nobody wants a villain queen.

  1. Deshauna Barber of the USA

Facially, Deshauna Barber isn’t the most conventionally beautiful delegate in the bunch but her background as US military and her subpar communication skills matching her vibrant personality makes her the most interesting girl to talk and listen to which I think is a big plus for whoever will win the Miss Universe crown!

  1. Kezia Warouw of Indonesia

Indonesia is up for the country of the year in 2016 and a win here will cement their newfound status last year. It’s not an impossible feat because the reigning Indonesian queen is a breathtaking beauty that is both relatable and personable! I am still waiting for her spark to go full on but I’ve a feeling that she will deliver when it matters most.

  1. Hawa Kamara of Sierra Leone

This debuting lass from the West African nation of Sierra Leone is already endearing a lot of pageant fans around the world as she struts with her natural hair on flick, she’s definitely stealing the spotlight from the more hyped candidates. She’s also very dear to Filipino pageant fans as the OFW’s and local fans helped her preparation for the pageant which include her flight to Manila as well as her wardrobe for the duration of Miss Universe. And she didn’t disappoint so far as she is both luminous in pictures and in motion. I’m not sure if Miss Universe is ready to crown another African queen after Leila Lopes’ victory in Brazil but if Sierra Leone delivers the goods come finals night, I’m pretty sure that everyone will be celebrating with her win!

  1. Caris Tiivel of Australia

It’s very simple how Miss Australia landed as my 10th pick. She’s the prototype of the Miss Universe Australia in recent years and I can totally see her eclipsing some of the powerhouse Latinas to make it all the way into the top 5. She’s beautiful, a good communicator and very polished. Although I haven’t envisioned her winning just yet, I’ve a feeling that if she step it up in the prelims – there’s a big possibility of that happening.

Bubbling Up…

  1. Stephanie Geldhof of Belgium
  2. Kristal Silva of Mexico
  3. Sal Garcia of Dominican Republic
  4. Camila Barraza of Kosovo
  5. Jaime-Lee Faulkner of Great Britain
  6. Le Hang of Vietnam

Sign The Petition Now! Say NO to Nickelodeon’s Underwater Theme Park in Coron, Palawan! #coronisnotbikinibottom

spongebob_coron

We call on the Local Government of Palawan, Nickelodeon (Viacom International Media Networks), and Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc., to junk their plan to build a 400-hectare underwater theme park in Coron, Palawan.

Why is this important?

Contrary to the press statement that the underwater theme park would “advocate ocean protection,” it will accomplish the exact opposite. By building artificial structures, you will undeniably damage and disrupt Palawan’s marine ecosystems — our Last Frontier. If you are sincere and serious about marine conservation, the money allocated for the underwater theme park should be invested in marine protected areas, sustainable livelihoods for local communities, and environmental education programs.

For a channel that targets children, Nickelodeon is setting a terrible example to the younger generation by taking away their right to enjoy our natural resources. We don’t need an underwater theme park — our underwater life is fascinating, entertaining, and educational on its own.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PEITION!
https://www.bataris.org.ph/petitions/no-to-nickelodeon-s-underwater-theme-park-in-palawan