Oh, Calgary

Toni and Me
With my soul sister, Toni, while having dinner at Taiyo Restaurant at Symons Valley Rd, Calgary

The first week of February 2017 saw me landing in the new Calgary International Airport.  Every time I visit I get excited weeks ahead of my flight.  You can’t blame me, really.  My family is there – my mom and dad, my sisters and their kids now all live in Calgary.  This time, I came home to attend Thea’s debutante party (18th bday) and make her cake.  This will be a bit nostalgic for me and Thea’s mom – my bestfriend Toni, because we became good friends when Thea was only about 2 years old.  As the years went on, we got to be really close, like sisters, and I am so happy that she bonded the same way with my other two sisters. So, I will say that Thea’s coming of age is definitely a milestone for her mom and me.

In 1996, Toni’s family, myself, and most of our friends’ families all arrived in Canada as immigrants at the same time.  During those years, Calgary was already a cool city what with it being the oil and gas hub of the whole of Canada. Downtown boasted of oil corporate headquarters – PanCanadian, Chevron, Shell, PetroCan, Suncor, Talisman, etc., their buildings stretched high up to the skies.  But even tho the city was bustling enough, it was still lacking in variety and diversity. There was a limited number of restaurants with just a few choice for assortment.

Back in the heydey (I wonder where Toni was when this was taken)
Back in the heydey (I wonder where Toni and the others were when this was taken)

There was the usual Chinese restaurants because, luckily, it has its own version of Chinatown, plus one or two other Asian joints, not much European cuisine places and that was about it.  There were not too many places to go to or hang out in either.  But my group of friends still enjoyed what we had and we had the company of each other.  It was all that we needed.

So fast forward to 20 years after and here I am, this time coming out of the new and bigger international airport meeting up with my mom and dad who’re picking me up.  They then drove me to my sister and her husband’s new house higher up the northwest quadrant Calgary in Citadel.  I was telling my parents that the places we were driving on used to be boonies and empty lands.  And now they’re slowly being filled up with beautiful subdivisions.

At Thea's debut with me, Toni, Lani and my two sisters
At Thea’s debut with me, Toni, Lani and my two sisters, Pis and Gretchen

Not that these improvements just happened.  Eversince I started working in the US and got married to my husband and settled in Maryland, I try to come home once a year, at the least. And every time I do so, looking around the city always gives me the impression that this city is changing so fast and for the better.  In the past five years, I’ve seen sooooo many restaurants serving so many different cuisines, it’s a haven for a foodaholic like me.  Name a specific county and you’re sure to have a taste of their food in a restaurant somewhere.  And the constructions – new bridges, a diverse group of establishments offering an endless variety of service and goods, a now extensive +15 skyway connecting all the buildings in downtown, new malls and shopping areas – so worthy to be called a bustling metropolis.  But what city wouldn’t be?  The population of Calgary when we all first came was about 768,082.  It has now doubled to 1,571,100.   And despite the slight downturn of Calgary’s employment rate in the recent year, it is still the fastest growing metropolitan area.  It ranks 4th after Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal with the highest immigration population, mostly coming from the Philippines, China, and India. Immigrants constitute 20% of the city’s total population.

Black and white rendering of Calgary's downtown skyscrapers along Stephen Avenue, a popular pedestrian mall on 8 Avenue SW.
Black and white rendering of Calgary’s downtown skyscrapers along Stephen Avenue, a popular pedestrian mall on 8 Avenue SW.

To see a city as diverse as Calgary is a breathe of fresh air.  To see all these people going around the city, without a fear of being prejudiced against their race, appearance or gender gave me a sense of security.  They welcomed one another.  They were interacting with one another.  Not minding the color of their skin, all just working harmoniously together.  And as I immersed myself in the crowd, amidst all the steel architectures and new towering buildings, I felt the same way I did 20-something years ago – I will always be in love with this city.  I will always be proud to be a naturalized Canadian citizen.



And before I say goodbye for now, here is my niece and one of my nephews enjoying the almost 1 meter of packed snow in my sister’s backyard.  This is the snow we got while I was there and I enjoyed it so much!


Bermuda In A Heartbeat

Wanderlust Date:  April 2012

Bermuda.  I would pack my bathing suit and go this instant if I could.  The clear, blue seas, the fine, white sand.  This is a little piece of heaven here on earth.

Being spoiled by the beautiful beaches in the Philippines, this is actually the first country I’ve been to where it felt like home.  I know I haven’t been to a lot of places like this but when you’ve seen the beaches in the US (and maybe even Canada) and they’ve all disappointed you,  this place is a breath of freshness for me for a long time running.

My husband, Fuji, and I took a 5-day cruise on the Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Sea from Baltimore.  It was my first cruise trip and I enjoyed it tremendously.  We left Baltimore on a Sunday, cruised at sea for two days, landed in Bermuda on Tuesday morning, stayed on port overnight, left Bermuda early evening of Wednesday, cruised the open seas Thursday and was back to Baltimore on Friday noon.  It seems quite hectic listing it down this way, but it was a very laid back trip.  The days we were at sea, I thought I was going to get bored, but there were so many things to do and watch – live bands, theater plays, shows, games, karaoke, the time flew fast.  There was also an abundance of food that I think  Fuji and I both gained a few extra pounds when the trip was over.

At the upper deck getting reading to dock in Bermuda.
At the upper deck getting reading to dock in Bermuda.

The accommodations were sufficient.  We only got a stateroom.  A tad small but we were thinking, what do we need a big room with a balcony for when the action was outside?  You don’t go on a vacation like this and just stay inside your room.  That would be a waste of time, money and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the place.  So whatever money we saved, we spent it on booze (the lush that we are, ha!) and some went towards our next trip somewhere else after.

This is a huuuuuge ship!  And to think they said, this is nothing compared to the other cruise ships the RC has.  Excuse my ignorance, but once we got in, it was like I was in a huge hotel somewhere on the strip of ‘Vegas.  It was that huge!  So many floors, about 3 pools, one of them almost olympic-sized, an outdoor theater.  Man, the works!  I swear, I got lost the first time  we boarded.

The main lobby
The main lobby

There were a lot of Filipino staff aboard the ship.  They were working everywhere – engineering, housekeeping, the restaurants, the bars, the bands, the entertainment casts.  It made me feel proud of them because they’re proving that Filipinos are world-class professionals and at par with the other international staff on the ship.   It’s no joke going thru the rigorous hiring procedures/auditions and being part of an international working crew like the Royal Caribbean staff.   So hats off to these kababayan’s.

Our Housekeeping Supervisor, Peping
The Housekeeping Supervisor on our floor, Mang Peping, became Fuji’s buddy-bud.

There was a bit of an overcast when we docked and the breeze was cool.  It wasn’t bad, it was just not the humid temps of the tropics.  The naval dock was full of character.  With the tall walls and old windows and stately doors, it felt a little like Vigan, Ilocos Norte, but not quite.  Maybe the huge cinder blocks reminded me of the Vigan houses.  This place had a charm that was really enticing. I am a sucker for vintage places.  We went around for a bit, took some pictures, walked towards the market side where the little shops were located at. Then we took a bus going to the beach.

This white cinder blocks and huge walls
These white cinder blocks and huge walls

The beach, like I said, was something I would not tire of being at.  There’s something about beaches that I will always be drawn to.  Nevermind that I don’t know how to swim.  (I tried to learn, was good for a few months, and then I had a relapse and now I don’t know how to anymore.  I’m sticking to that story.)  The natural rock formations on the background reminded me of gigantic marble quarries of Romblon when my family used to visit relatives during my younger years.  The water was a little cool, that’s because we went in April.  But it didn’t matter much to Fuji.  He just went on, dove head first into the water and came up… with a huge smile on his face.  I, on the other hand, decided to take a short dip then went to get a light tan line.  Too bad we only had a few hours to spend here.  I’d love to wake up to this view in the morning.

That white powdered sand
That crystal clear water

I have to admit, Bermuda, tho, is not the most frugal of places to go to.  The items they have for sale at the tourist shops were price-y.  Even the food prices were not cheap.  But then again, Fuji already told me about this.  And he knows that since, did I tell you, he used to visit this place when his sister, Edna, was still living here with her family.  So going there via a cruise ship is actually a smart thing to do since you don’t have to worry about accommodations and food as opposed to going there by plane and looking for a place to stay and paying for all the food you’ll be having while you’re there.

The Port-of-Call, King's Wharf, Bermuda
The Port-of-Call, King’s Wharf, Bermuda, where the ship was docked

Would I do Bermuda again?  In a heartbeat, I would.  Most specially if I only have a few days left in my vacation time and just want to get away from it all.  Royal Caribbean Bermuda cruises sometimes go on sale for less than $500 per person for an interior stateroom.  I’d grab that anytime.

Altho… there’s so much of the world I still want to see with Fuji.  And schedule-permitting (his more than mine) and vacation-days-allowing (mine more than his) and budget-non-restricting (ours, both), our suitcases shouldn’t be kept downstairs in the basement for long.

Till next time, Bermuda...
Till next time, Bermuda…

For more pictures, please visit my facebook page www.facebook.com/TheGigiLifestyle