Friday, November 12, 2010

Mont-Tremblant - the Famed Ski Resort in Quebec


A trip to the village of Mont-Tremblant in summer reveals a very different character of the town in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec.

Of course. The fact is Mont-Tremblant is famous as a ski resort, which means that when snow covers the area in winter, the greenery is transformed into a vast whiteness.

Driving from Toronto was quite a tiring experience; it took a whole day, or approximately seven to eight hours, including meal stops and gas-ups, to negotiate the distance of about 700 kilometres.

But once in Mont-Tremblant, there's an instant feel of relief and relaxation. The greeneries quickly re-energize the body and freshen the mind.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Montreal - Canada's Second Largest City

Downtown Montreal as seen from a distance.

Montreal, Canada's second largest city, takes its name from the hill (Mont-Royal) with three peaks right there in the heart of the city. It is also the largest city in Quebec.

The Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, a Catholic basilica,  is situated in one of the three peaks.

Physically-challenged devotees make a sacrifice of climbing this steep staircase in hopes of a miracle.

French and English are the official languages. With more than 50 percent of its population speaking French, Montreal is, according to Wikipedia, "the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris".
The Notre Dame Cathedral.

The architecture on this street is a study in contrast.
A view of Montreal with the Olympic Village on upper right corner.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beauty . . . the excuse for being

Spring it was. And so the season of flowers brings these tulips to a full bloom in Ottawa.

“If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.”

That's from the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. It comes to mind as we wandered through new landscape and new territory that our eyes had not set upon.

The long drive we took from Toronto to Ottawa and then to Montreal and back was not quite as scenic if one goes the same distance in California. Again, it's the geography.

The Notre Dame Basilica, the oldest surviving church in Ottawa.

But as soon as one nears the place, as in Ottawa, a whole new world emerges. I felt the same feeling of awe in Montreal. And rather than put them in words, I defer to the pictures because they speak eloquently about what we see.

The basilica's main glory is its painted interior (as shown above).

Ottawa, 428 kilometers northeast of Toronto, is Canada's capital and fourth largest city. The parliament is located there and most of the country's federal offices.

Parliament of Canada on Parliament Hill, Ottawa.
Being in Parliament Hill and in parliament itself was quite an experience. The chamber evokes respect not so much for its solemn appearance as for its noble occupants -- the representatives of the people who make the laws.

And as is true anywhere around the globe, the chance of meeting a compatriot is likely as this picture shows of these young ladies touring Ottawa from other parts of Canada.

Tourists try to keep warm around the eternal flame.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Variations of 'Canadian Experience'

Everybody -- jobseekers, workers, employers, managers, business owners, anyone who dreams and dreams big -- talks about "Canadian experience" as if it's the bible from where bursts bits of wisdom to guide the quest for a new life in Canada.

Well, I've had my Canadian experience in a way that broadened my understanding of parts of this "kanata", to which First Nations people called their village, and later referred to as Canada by white settlers.

February was perhaps the most inopportune time to come to Toronto from the summer paradise called San Diego, California. It was the height of winter, yet those in the know said that month and the next were milder than previous winters.

I wasn't going to argue that. I was freezing. My speech was a stutter of keywords. My ears were numbly crisp. My hands were forever buried in my outsized pockets. Despite all those, I let the soft and tiny snowflakes to fall and cover my face.

Quite a dramatic change. Over in the Philippines where I was born, and in America where I stayed for 16 years, it's the rain, raindrops, grains of water, that dropped on my face. And when Mother Nature deigned to be generous, she let out a splash, then an inundation.

The images of people shoveling snow, of motorists struggling to drive in mountains of slippery white, of people garbed and covered with layers of clothings, of parched trees wrapped in white powder -- I've seen them all from a distance as wide as the oceans.

In my eyes, they're images, not reality that one can touch and feel. My arrival in Toronto on that cold February night changed all that.

In one sudden moment, the phrase "Canadian experience" took a whole new meaning. It meant not a quick immersion in everything Canadian and try to live it; it meant being totally in a new environment. The weather, the people, the culture, they're all different from what I knew and learned.

My first Canadian experience was in Niagara just a week into my arrival. The falls was pretty much archived in my memory, my scant knowledge of it gained from readings and from films. And here I was, transposed in time and space, savoring its beauty in the harshness of winter.

My only idea of water being frozen was from refrigerators and freezers. Niagara changed that too. The entire length of the river where the water flowed was all ice, fragile ice, white non-transparent ice.

The trees that once had verdant plumage now looked like skeletons of white, so eerily beautiful, so fascinatingly charming.

Suddenly again, images of white Christmas trees from my youth evaporated. I smiled knowing now. Then, artisans covered shredded trees with coats of white paint to simulate snow. I never really imagined how trees could turn white. But now I know.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

San Diego, California: Home Is Where the Heart Is

SAN DIEGO, also called America's Finest City, is the eighth largest city in the United States, and second largest (after Los Angeles) in California.

It is also popularly known as Navytown being the homeport of over 50 US Navy ships, including aircraft carriers and submarines, whose total number of personnel matches that of the entire population of National City on which half the base is located.
                                                                 Hall of Justice on Broadway st., downtown San Diego.

Asians comprised about 15 percent of the 1.5 million population, the third largest ethnic groups after the Hispanics (27 percent), which land second after the Whites (about 48 percent)

The city shares a border with Mexico to the south. Downtown is about 15 miles from the Mexican city of Tijuana. Quite a number of San Diegans live in Mexico because of the relatively cheaper cost of

The bridge links San Diego with Coronado.

living. The border is easily reached by public transport (bus, trolley) either through secondary roads or through the main freeways (Interstate 5 and Highway 805).

The aircraft carrier USS Midway, now converted into a museum.

An estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Filipinos call San Diego home. And these are mostly from the generations that joined the US Navy in the post-Second World War years.

In recent years, doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals, including ITs, chose to settle in the US from the Philippines, swelling the ranks of the Filipino community with university-educated immigrants.
A source of enormous pride for the thousands of Filipinos is the promotion in 2008 of a Filipino police officer, Cesar Solis, as Assistant Chief of Police, making him the highest-ranking Filipino American in the history of the San Diego Police Department.

Solis's singular achievement came at a most opportune time. The shameless scandals in the community's top umbrella organization had been uncovered, thus shattering the Filipino image.

Solis gave a fresh, new face to the Filipino. Being at the helm of America's Finest comes the perception of being incorruptible, respected, responsible -- qualities which, without doubt, Solis exemplifies.  

Assistant Police Chief Cesar A. Solis

San Diego is a favorite destination for new immigrants. One major reason is the tropical climate that mimics the Philippines.                                                 

Its neighbor, National City, enjoys the distinction of being called America's unofficial capital of the Philippines, mainly because of the huge presence of Filipinos there (17 percent of the population).

The largest concentration of Filipino business is in National City. Business establishments owned and managed by Filipinos are mostly located in the city, such as car repair shops, restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and other food outlets.

This is also the city where one finds the only bakery in the United States, and perhaps, throughout the world which honors and celebrates the 44th US President, Barack Obama (being the first African American to be elected to the highest and most powerful office in the world), with a distinctive bread popularly known as the Obama Pan de Sal. The bun is made from whole wheat flour and is stuffed with chicken adobo, sweet peas, carrots and cream cheese.

                                                      Wilma F. Ventura displays a tray of freshly-baked Obama Pan de Sal.

Since its launching on the day Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, the bread continues to be a big hit at the Original Richard's Bakery (in National City, San Diego County), prompting its creator, Ms. Wilma Fernandez Ventura, who also owns and manages the bakeshop, to come up with more inventions as her way of marking individual accomplishments and milestones by a select few. Video at:

Thus the Pacquiao collection (Brazo de Pacquiao, Siete Coronas de Pacquiao, Pan de Pacquiao and Pacquiao Punch) commemorating the many victories of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao. (Video at:

San Diego's proximity to Mexico has rubbed on the way of living among Filipinos.

They share a Spanish heritage and language, which Filipinos are very adept at, and the food. The "adobo" and the "litson" have their Mexican equivalent.

Fiestas are practically the same except for the mariachis which provide music for Mexican events. In contrast, the rondallas are a mainstay of Filipino fiestas.
                                                                    Dressed as "katipuneros", these men prepare for a flag-raising ceremony in remembrance of Philippine Independence Day on June 12, 1898.

Filipino folk dances are heavily influenced by Spanish and their Mexican counterparts. Even the neighborhoods close to the border has taken a Mexican or Spanish ambience.

The Filipino community has about five newspapers competing for the patronage of San Diego residents. Some journalist-pretenders have taken to putting out their publications mainly to pursue personal agendas and boost their political stock.

The most notable of the papers in terms of content and coverage is the hard-hitting, tabloid-sized Philippine Village Voice, successor to the equally fearless Diario Veritas.

Those two had been the only papers ever to engage in adversarial journalism by continuously publishing investigative articles about the San Diego Filipino community, rather than stories happening in the Philippines, which is what most of the papers do.

Diario Veritas was most proud when it succeeded in driving out of office a known Filipino lawyer (who has since been disbarred) who had lied, duped and mulcted his clients of thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, the Philippine Village Voice, had its full investigative attention on the still-unsolved disappearance of $27,000 from the coffers of the community's umbrella organization -- one of the many stories that put many Filipinos and the Filipino community to eternal shame.

San Diego is a tourist destination as well. Sea World, San Diego Zoo and the bigger San Diego Wild Animal Park, Legoland, Balboa Park, Hotel del Coronado, San Diego Bay and a host of other spots thrive on out-of-town visitors.

But the biggest draw is the climate. People come to San Diego to escape the harsh winter in the East Coast, for example.

Those from other states like Arizona or Nevada visit the city for the gentle sea breeze and the long stretch of beach facing the Pacific Ocean.  

Being close to Los Angeles (about 120 miles north, or approximately a two-hour drive) makes San Diego a nice rest and recreation area minus the traffic and the pollution . . . if one's planning a visit to Hollywood and takes a chance to meet with famous celebrities.      

The Filipino community has its own home-grown talents, the most notable being the two dance troupes, namely PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company managed by Ana Maria Labao Cabato, and Samahan Philippine Dance Company founded and managed by Dr. Lolita D. Carter.

Aside from the cultural, many Filipinos prefer involvement in community politics. Organizations proliferate either led or headed by the same old faces with questionable credentials. A common joke is that some of the organizations are merely fronts for a thriving cottage industry, i.e., fund-raising.