Saturday, June 2, 2012

Beware of "Cheap" Air Fares.

Friends, we have a guest blogger today, David Silverman. He's a retired lawyer and engineer, and now a math tutor.  He often travels with his wife (that's moi) and here's his latest misadventure with travel agencies.

  I went online and attempted to book a flight through and agency called Kayak.  Advertised Airline fares are now supposed to be the total charges.  Kayak advertised a fare that appeared  $200 lower than other fares, yet when I went to book it, $400 in additional taxes and charges were added on.
      I tried another company, Travelocity, and booked a reservation through them at a reasonable total price.  I got a confirmation that my reservation was booked, however the next day I got an e-mail telling me my reservation had been cancelled.  I called and spoke to three different idiots that worked in their call center, and was told only that my credit card information didn't match up. None of the bozos there could tell me exactly which of the details didn't. I've used the credit card for years without any problem and all the information I put down was exactly the same information I'd always used.  I asked them if they could hold the reservation for a day until I could get the confusion straightened out and, I'm sure you already guessed it, they told me they couldn't provide that service, although they were quick in charging me their service fee!  I As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.  "Cheap" airlines are a good example.
       I re booked the reservation directly through the airline later (for $20 more) and didn't have any problem!

There's  more to this. They've put a hold on Dave's credit cards (yes Mastercard and Visa, as Dave tried the other one  when the first one was rejected) and calling them is not toll-free at all.  Below is Dave's letter to them:

Travelocity, is the outside-of -the-U.S. number you gave me toll free? If it is not, it will cost me $2+ per minute and from what I can perceive of your company's way of doing business, I doubt if I will get it back. What is the problem releasing a hold? You see that the reservations were cancelled. There's no reason for maintaining the hold, except your company's inconsideration. You can take the holds off (both Master Card and Visa debit card for the approximate amount of $2196) with a couple keystrokes.
Do I have to call to discuss this? If this is the thoughtless way your company does business, I'd be afraid to book a reservation for a hotel around the corner, with you.


There are more complaints, here, here, here, there and it has lots of other problems too. I hope that Google does not ban my blog because of this post ....

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Paradise

How fast time flies.  We moved here in 2007, and I always refer to this place as the Paradise.
The facade at Del Pilar St. (Formerly Montelibano St.)

I am easy to please: as long as I am with my loving family and   the place has a nice garden and a swimming pool, it is paradise for me. 
The poolside where the socializing always take place

My Paradise was called Marmont Resort Hotel before, and according to this site this was a wonderful place in the '80s,  "This was the biggest, most modern hotel in the area,  it was hard to get a room here! The building is just off the National Highway in Barrio Barretto, outside Olongapo."  In fact until now the place is always fully booked. We had to wait for several months to get a hold of a small room, and waited again for couple of months to transfer to a bigger place.

 I have met  many retired service men who reminisced of fabulous parties and grand weddings held here in the 80's.  This was the place to see and be seen before, with its beautiful rooms, some with circular velvet beds and classy paintings.  There is even a helipad to accommodate helicopter landings of the officers from Subic base.  I've heard that only the officers were given accommodations here at that time.  This was the hangout of movie stars and Generals before.

Later it was called West Bay Apartelle, I guess  when part of the complex was owned by the bank, although most of the taxi and tricycle drivers still refer to it as Marmont.    Last December,  the bank sold its part of the complex to a new co-owner, Mr. Bong Sangco, and Marmont is now named Bella Monte Hotel. 

Mrs. Maritess Sangco, Mr. Bong Sangco's wife gave a surprise birthday party for him recently, and we tenants were invited and enjoyed the celebration. 

The buffet

Mixed-raced kids are common here

Tons of yummies
Ground meat for tacos

For Tacos

Fried Prawns
Lumpiang Shanghai
Chicken Lollipos
Yummy Mamon or cupcakes
Yes, Happy birthday Mr. Sangco

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Romance of Firefly Watching

I can't show you pictures of the fireflies, I'm sorry. Their luminance on the Mangrove trees can't be captured from the boat.   But I assure you, there's no place and time more romantic than firefly watching at Iwahig River, Puerto Pincesa, Palawan, Philippines.  In fact our boatman/tourist guide related how some of their guests proposed while they were cruising the river watching the fireflies. 

What are fireflies?

Fireflies are also nicknamed as Lightning Bugs. Do you think that they are in the family of flies?  No, Geleena, they are nocturnal luminous insects of the beetle family Lampyridae.  This beetle family consists of about 1,900 species that inhabit tropical and temperate regions. The common glowworm is a member of this family.  Fireflies are actually soft beetles which sizes range from 5 to 25 millimetres in length. Look at the underside of their abdomen:  it has a   special light organs that glows in luminous flashes.  The flattened, dark brown or black body is often marked with yellow or orange. Most of the fireflies feed on pollen and nector but for adult fireflies they do not eat. They like to live in Mangrove trees.
How do fireflies flirt?
What are their mating calls? The female fireflies will produce a short rhythmic flashes that attracts the males fireflies. The females will sit on the ground in the high grass to flash to certain male only. See, they don't flirt mindlessly at all.  The female chooses the males based on their flash pattern. 
We know how fireflies flashed is because of biomechanics, but we did not know why they flashed.

Though both males and female flash, it’s the male who make pattern in the air.   Females are either short- winged and stationery’ attached to the tips of plant stems or leaves as they carry on a flirty dialogue with roving males, trying to draw them in to mate.

However, others feel that the flashing is not to attract the opposites but as a mechanism of warning to advise predators of the fireflies bitter taste. Unfortunately, some frogs like to eat them.

How do fireflies produce their light? 
They are produced under a nervous control within special cells which are richly supplied with air tubes. Only the light from the visible spectrum is emitted.  Fireflies do not bite, do not have pincers, do not carry disease and in fact are quite harmless. They cannot even fly fast. They have a life span of two months.

Why do they flash?
Fireflies “cold light’ is made by a process known as bioluminescence or chemiluniscence, in which a substance called luciferin comes in contact with enzyme luciferase and oxygen. As air rushed into the abdomen, it reacts with this compound and a chemical reaction gives off the familiar glow of a firefly. Fireflies can regulate the airflow into the abdomen to create a pulsating pattern.
Fireflies are alone among bioluminescent insects because they can flash; other glow constantly. The process emission of the light from living things, without significant heat sometimes called “cols light”. Bioluminescence is found in species of bacteria, male and female of fireflies are used as species- specific signals for mating.

The light stick has two separate compartments with two chemicals join together. As molecules from the different chemical bind to each other they give a kick of energy to some of the electrons. But electrons never hold on to extra energy for long.
That molecule then needs to get rid of its energy in some way. It can sometimes do it by colliding with other molecules and losing it through collisions, but arrange system in a careful way, the excited product might have no other way to excite except by physically releasing the energy as photons and the photon comes out as a fire of light and we see that as the burst given off by a firefly.
Though both males and female flash, it’s the male who make pattern in the air.  Females are either short- winged and stationery,  attached to the tips of plant stems or leaves as they carry on a flirty dialogue with roving males, trying to draw them in to mate.

While each firefly species has its own pattern of flashing, some female imitate the patterns of other species. Males land next to them only to be eaten alive. So keep in mind that its flickering isn’t just a wonder of the night, it’s also a language of love.


How to go to Iwahig River:   
Iwahig river is located at Highway km. 20 Barangay Iwahig Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.  You may ride a bus from Villacorta and ask the conductor to let you off at Iwahig.  Or you may have a travel agency set up a group tour with you.  We went on a group tour at P1,100 per person.  The firefly watching is for P900 only, but it's a good value for your money to include a dinner as the dinner is a festive affair at Skylight Hotel. It's a sumptuous buffet dinner. In fact I will treat you to some food pictures as I don't have pictures of the fireflies.

I cant' show the over 100 dishes to choose from the buffet, but this is my plate with my faves - kangkong, Sushi, tofu, fried okra, sweet & sour pork, lechon, pork asado
I even went for a 2nd helping (What a pig I am :) Fried quail eggs, fried breaded mashed potatoes, lumpia, pudding and cake

If firefly watching won't awaken the romance in you, maybe the tranquility of the river  would at least relax you.


Includes FREE planning and background information. You can never escape it. Everywhere you look there it is. Whether it-s the Sulu Sea to the east or the South China Sea to the west, as much a highway as a source of sustenance, nothing defines Palawan more than the water surrounding it. The proverbial island paradise with seascapes the equal of any in Southeast Asia, wildlife, both terrestrial and aquatic, this, the Philippines- most sparsely populated region is also its most beguiling. Historically, it was always an outlier, an island apart. Known as Pa Lao Yu (island of beautiful harbour) before the arrival of the Spanish who later referred to it as paragua (umbrella) for its shape, control of Palawan was contested by the colonisers and Moros from Borneo for over a hundred years. These days the struggle is overdevelopment versus maintenance of the largely untouched environment. Gaisano, Robinson-s and SM - the signifiers of urbanisation elsewhere - have yet to make inroads. Because of its silhouette - a long sliver stretching 650km all the way from the Mindoro Strait to the tip of Borneo - there-s a certain liberating logic to travel in Palawan. Centrally located Puerto Princesa, the administrative and culinary capital, is also the transport hub. To the south, where there-s little government footprint, populated by indigenous tribal groups and Muslim communities, it-s rough but potentially rewarding travel for those with reserves of endurance. The majority of travellers go north, without question the highlight. Watching the sunset standing on El Nido-s ramshackle beachfront with a glorious view of Cadlao Island, or skimming along in a bangka around a maze of uninhabited islands in the Calamian Group feels somewhat post-apocalyptic - like the morning after the proverbial flood. 

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