Sunday, July 29, 2012

And the Games Have Begun

      After much hype and anticipation, the London 2012 Olympics (officially known as the Games of the XXX Olympiad) are finally underway. Delegates from 204 countries have come together to compete in various events that include well known sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and track and field as well as lesser known ones such as trampoline and canoe slalom. Some countries' dreams of Olympic gold have already come crashing down, but for others these have either become reality or are still in the running.

     The opening ceremonies for the 30th Olympics seemed to have a lot to live up to after the show four years ago in Beijing. Whether you liked it or not, the show the Brits put on for the world had its memorable, comedic and at times poignant moments. I personally liked the way the cauldron was lit. I think having it made up of individual flames representing all the participating nations fittingly symbolizes the coming together of all these countries regardless of whatever existing conflicts or tensions for three weeks of sportsmanship and excellence. Well done, and let's look forward to the rest of the events as well as the closing ceremonies.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Two Favorite Doggies

     So they are actually the only dogs we have right now, so they automatically gain favorite status. I'm not their main human, that honor belongs to my sister in law, but I'd like to think that in our "pack" I do rate a niche in the hierarchy. And although my most favorite animal is feline, not canine, I do love these dogs in all their silly, playful, sometimes neurotic glory.

     Snoopy is the full blooded beagle who arrived as a rescue at the age of three. From what my husband has told me, he was seen by hubby's coworker at a pound or store (I forget which) and being drunk at the time he took pity on the puppy and brought it home. This coworker apparently already had a houseful of cats who were pretty territorial. This sounds bad for the cats but they bullied Snoopy and used to swipe at his ears. For one reason or another, Snoopy couldn't stay with them any longer and hubby, on hearing the story, decided to take him in. Snoopy is now a very confident, rather spoiled eight year old. He's grown obese and is now on a diet that keeps getting sidetracked. But he absolutely has to lose weight so his joints won't get any more damaged. He's actually had one knee surgery already and the vet says he'll need another one later on if he doesn't slim down. He has tons of toys and other equipment that's been lavished on him over the years. He loves to eat, sleep, then eat some more (sounds kinda like Garfield the cat, hehehe). He was pretty stand offish at first when I arrived five years ago, but by now we have formed our own bond based on food and play. He's not the clingy type in relation to me, and he definitely tries to assert that he's the boss. Like when he sighs and fidgets in his sleep to let you know you're disturbing him. Or muttering and grumbling during our meal time to let us know he's getting impatient for his treat. He's one smart doggy for sure, knowing how to open cabinet doors, getting at peanut butter jars, luring you away from food so he can get at it, jingling the bells to let us know he wants to go out - those are just some of the antics that amuse and exasperate us in turns. Sometimes, the things he does makes him seem like a small human - burping after eating, snoring while sleeping, trying to sit at the kitchen table to eat. Braver than our other dog, Snoopy is also pretty chill for the most part. Just don't let him hear thunder, cracks of lightning or fireworks going off; that sends him scrambling under the bed, cabinet or into a closet to hide, poor thing.

     Our other dog, Nonee, is a mix of unknown breeds. We think he has some beagle in him, with perhaps some whippet or jack russell terrier. He is also a rescue that my sister and mother in law saw when they went to a dog show. About two years old at that time, he was shivering in his cage and looked so pitiful that my sister in law's heart melted and took him home. He was very stinky when they brought him home so they gave him a shower. Unfortunately, this seemed to aggravate a kennel cough that he already had. Coughing and wheezing, he was brought to the vet and had to take meds for a while. I guess Nonee just has a relatively weaker immune system compared to Snoopy, since he's been to the animal hospital more than Snoops. But in general, he's a happy, healthy doggy who also loves to eat and play. Thankfully, he's not like Snoopy who will do everything he can to grab any food that's within his reach. He tends to be more clingy, always preferring to be in the company of any of the humans at home almost all the time. One of his favorite things to do is lie across your legs while on the bed so you can't move without him knowing it. Although a little less playful than Snoopy, he does have his silly side, like when he rolls around the bed like a canine pinwheel til his body has turned a full 180 or 360 degrees. He can be a bit neurotic, as he will bark and his body will shake when anybody comes to our house whether it's a friendly face or not. It also doesn't matter if you've been here more than once. If even a short amount of time has passed since he last saw you, he'll bark and shake again. But he's also smart in his own way - he'll bark so you'll open a closed door for him, he'll wait and see where you'll enter the house before standing there to wait for you, he'll sound the alarm then come to get you when he sees any strangers approaching the house.

     Two dogs with different personalities, both lovable in their own ways. Life sure is livelier and more interesting with them around. Now if only we can somehow add a cat to the mix.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


     I recently had a chance to take a quick trip to the Philippines, a place I still call home. Though the circumstances were less than ideal, I was still glad I had the opportunity to see what it's like after being away for five years.

banks at the corner one block away from our house

     Though others may disagree, I was glad to see that at least in our neighborhood there weren't any substantial changes. The people and places have essentially stayed the same. I could still get around without feeling lost and bewildered. Some establishments may have closed, but a lot more have opened. I was happy to see a lot more eateries, a few new grocery stores and a new bakeshop or two. I only wish there were a few more banks in the area, since one major bank has already closed. Farther afield, I was surprised by the various developments for high rises that seemed to be popping up everywhere. I was to learn later on that a major tycoon is the one behind most of these real estate projects. And it's not just residential but commercial development as well. I guess the rich really keep getting richer.

a new grocery store where a bakery used to be

     I felt proud of my ability to still travel like a native, using jeepneys, tricycles and fx vans. I even rode the MRT a couple times, but didn't feel brave enough to ride the buses. But I never had to take the taxi, unless it was truly called for. Oh yeah, I still got it, hehehe. One thing I do know I will never be able to do back home is to drive. Filipino drivers follow their own rules on the road, and I'll be too nervous to compete for space. One needs to be both truly confident and aggressive to drive there.

jeepney and tricycle

     No visit back home would be complete without meeting up with friends, however quickly and briefly. I am very happy to say that I got to touch base and reform bonds with those who are closest to me. In spite of feeling tired and sleepy at the wrong moments, I truly enjoyed and cherished having those overdue conversations that no amount of emails, messages, chats or phone calls can fill. It's very nice to know that no matter long the absence, these friendships remain strong and enduring. You all know who you are, and I definitely miss you guys already!

     On a side note, I was amused to find out that Marikina, the city where I live, seems to have captured the fancy of the entertainment industry. My town of Parang has become a go to location for some tv stations when shooting their soap operas. I actually got to see one particular shoot for GMA 7's "Luna Blanca" while I was there. Ah, the perks of living right across from the town hall. Hollywood has also come avisiting, as the latest Bourne Legacy movie shot some scenes in the city proper. Apparently, a long stretch of a main road running along a major wet market there was closed to traffic during filming. I can just imagine how annoyed commuters got from the traffic jams this caused. But anyway, for those of you who might watch the movie when it comes out, know that those scenes with jeepneys and tricycles were filmed there.

Jeremy Renner on location in Marikina City, Philippines

     I don't know when I'll be able to go back again. Whenever that may be I hope it'll be for a real vacation where I can relax and enjoy myself to the utmost. Until then, I'll keep these recent memories foremost in my mind.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.