Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SEMPER FIDELIS: Jubilee Evangelical Church Powercamp 2011

For the first time in Jubilee Evangelical Church's history, Powercamp - a camp once for yuppies, but now for all ages - was scheduled in the third quarter of the year. The big jump from the hot summer days to a rainy, potentially typhoon-filled August was considered a big risk, yet I think it was a risk worth taking.

Even though the powercampers had met (typhoon) Mina in Hotel Kimberly, Tagaytay, the camp was as my cousin says, "rebuking, refreshing and renewing." It was fully-packed with faith-invigorating messages and fun bonding activities. And in between those two were three buffet meals, two snacks and loads of laughter and heart-felt kwentuhan.

The first night was all about make-up and make-believe. We all got dressed up in classic storybook outfits. I was Nancy Drew for a night.

L-R: Wendy, Alice, Snow White, Nancy Drew, Maid Marian, Another Detective

I was invited to solve a mystery in an old English library. Believe it or not, someone had the guts to kill/kidnap King Henry VIII! I quickly dressed up in my black trench coat, cowboy cap, tights and long socks and brought with me my handy-dandy magnifying glass. There in the crime scene, I met Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and her three bear friends, Dorothy from Wizard of Oz and many more!

L-R: Evil Queen, Goldilocks, Dorothy, Juliet

I was surprised to find Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and also Crocodile from Peter Pan too. Oddly, they were not included in the prime list of suspects.

The Alice in Wonderland Cast

The next day, we started the morning with a devotion. I loved my counseling group of three ladies. Not only did they come prepared, they were also very open and honest about everything. The make-up and make-believe ended the same night when the mystery was solved (Cinderella burned the king by the way. Gasp!). They also understood my indecisiveness and my inability to expound on the word, "generative." There was a time I had felt that I was not worthy to be their counselors. I was not mature enough, knowledgeable enough, nor experienced enough. But praise God for making me realize that this drowning thought came from Satan. As a counselor, I can't change lives, nor can I make them grow in their faith. I could only listen and encourage them through God's word. The time and ability to listen as well as the words and ability to speak all come from God.

The praise and worship made jumping to the beat very tempting. I could see our praise and worship leader's and the band's passion in leading the campers to sing praises to the Lord. The success was apparent 12 hours later, when I caught myself still singing, "Home is heaven, one day Lord I will live in your courts.." I hope in the next Powercamp, there would be more slower, reflective songs in the though.

The messages in one word was, POWERFUL. Perfect for POWERcamp. We toured the ancient days when Noah and his family were the only people in the world. Followed by Abraham's willingness to go out of his homeland.. travel to wherever God leads him.. and give up his "one and only, beloved" Isaac. Then came Joseph who had undergone severe trials in His life, being sold by his brothers, being accused for something he did not do and yet remaining faithful to the Lord. These biblical characters were not perfect like you and me, but they were faithful. It was their faith in the Lord that had counted them as righteous. (I haven't actually touched the gist of the messages yet. This is simply a minute tip of the iceberg that killed Titanic.)

"Are you willing to commit to be semper fidelis?" That was asked of us. Many of us said yes, yet we knew at the back of our minds that it's not possible, especially to do it 100%. This made me appreciate God even more, that no matter how unable we are, God is and will forever be faithful. Although Noah got drunk and lay naked and Abraham knowing full well God's promise still agreed to sleep with Sarah's servant, Hagar, God was faithful to them. He did not forsake them. Instead, He still fulfilled His promises.

The highlights of the camp for me were the heartfelt sharings and teary prayers. Those were the times of sincerely lifting "Isaacs" up to God. Another were the sudden commitments to do something for the Lord (which I hope and pray will not die down). There were also springing up of accountability partners and prayer partners. There was the sudden surge of love for the brothers and sisters in Christ. There were biblically-guided decisions made, i.e. to forgive and to accept, to be still and wait for the Lord. There were those who acknowledged and appreciated God leading them through a painful, yet wisdom-filled, journey.

All these only God can do. All the praises and glory be to God indeed.

Semper fidelis, because God is Faithful!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Singapore Adventure Day 2 : A Titanic Experience in Raffles Hotel

Titanic has been my favorite movie ever since I was 12 years old. I don't think it was the love story that tangled my finger to click the play button of our dvd player for 36 times on that memorable summer of 1998. Nor was it Leonardo Di Caprio's good looks that dazzled my young eyes. I have been thinking about it for years.. could it be the true and tragic story? Probably. I'm quite biased towards true stories. Pearl Harbor happens to be on my top 3. Could it be the massive theatrical effects of the sinking ship? Not so. Could it be the little details and subtle nuances that added depth to the story? I think so.

Titanic Interior

Titanic Grand Staircase

I noticed how the movie brings out the western culture of a century ago so vividly. I saw how the women wore their clothes, suffocated in their tight corsets and still managed to walk daintily in their long lacy gowns. I noticed the classic architecture of the ship, the type of beds they used in the olden times, the china plates that adorned the first-class tables, the carpeted floor on balsa wood. I saw a piece of history that time can never bring back. It was rich. It was full. Because of my intense liking for Titanic before, I placed "to visit Titanic" on my Bucket List. I wanted to taste their culture.

I think I'm ready to tick "to visit Titanic" off my bucket list now that I've experienced Titanic in Raffles Hotel. Raffles Hotel is one of the most luxurious and comfortable places to stay in when you get to Singapore. Royalties, actors, singers, scientists, writers from different parts of the world have set their foot inside this 124 year old structure. With its wooden staircase, red carpet and gold embroideries, it looks like Titanic. With its tall ceiling and massive structure, plus the string ensemble playing in the background, It feels like Titanic. I was blessed enough to stay there with my family for free during my recent adventure in Singapore. (Thank You Lord for sudden blessings!)

Raffles Hotel Exterior

Queen Elizabeth II in Raffles Hotel

When we entered a butler led us to the Writer's Bar. There we were given Singaporean's most popular drink, the Singaporean Sling! It tasted like punch but with more alcohol (15%).

Singaporean Sling, green olives and cashew nuts for a warm welcome

My taste buds do not appreciate alcohol much so I just took a few sips.

If you are interested to make your own sling, here are the ingredients:

I truly enjoyed my short stay in the Writer's Bar. I would definitely love to make this my writing space.

We then headed up to our room. This is part of the Raffles Hotel grand staircase. I preferred to walk up and down this elegant staircase that to use their gold-ladened elevators because this made me feel like one of the Titanic passengers who had walked through the red carpet on their way to the banquet hall.

Raffles Hotel Staircase

Minus the colored TV in the Raffles Hotel Room, I could've easily imagined myself in one of those posh cabins in Titanic. When you enter the room, there's a seating area with freshly picked fruits on a bowl as the centerpiece. Few steps further you reach a ceiling high curtain that leads you to the room.

Seating area

Inside the room are two queen sized beds with wooden frame poles. Think royalty. They face an old-fashioned wooden make-up table with an oval mirror. This reminds me of the scene where Rose was combing her hair and Cal suddenly entered the room bringing with him the heart of the ocean necklace.

Make-up Table

Beside it is a wardrobe closet quite similar to the one in Beauty and the Beast.

Wardrobe Closet

The switches in the room are old rubber buttons that require more energy than ordinary plastic or wooden switches.

Light Switches

We had room service for breakfast.

Breakfast menu door hanger

I had a complete American breakfast. What a treat!

Fruit Salad

egg benedict on ham, spinach and toasted pancake, ham, chicken sausage, bacon slices, hashed brown with cherry tomato on top

If you would like to see the whole spread, hold your horses, you'd be very surprised!

This is a meal for two!

the whole breakfast spread

If I were to rate my stay in the Raffles Hotel, it's probably 4.5/5 stars. The missing 0.5 is because my stay was way too short!




bedroom clock


A mini library under the staircase


This is how I summarize my stay.

Like Titanic, The Raffles Hotel has hosted people having the same classic British culture. But unlike Titanic, The Raffles Hotel has survived and passed through time. The furniture and walls that surrounded me have witnessed lives that come and go. They have kept stories of famous and ordinary people alike. If only they could talk, I'd probably hear about people who've slept on the same bed, who've pressed on the same hard black rubber button and who've probably longed to ask the same questions that I have.

Perhaps people pay a premium to stay in this hotel to sleep like a king. Or maybe like me, they long to experience a hundred-year-old history. Or maybe, they also keep their own bucket list that includes "to overnight in Raffles Hotel." Who knows? All I know is that being in Raffles Hotel allows everyone to be part of its history that is continually being made richer and fuller.

This is yours truly, Mitzi Uy, reporting her adventure for the day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Singapore Adventure Day 1 : Oodles of Noodles

Gooooood morning from the sunny land of Singapore! Today has been a tiring, yet fun and fulfilling, day with the family. The day opened beautifully with the warm sun greeting me through the bedroom window. After calculating if I had already gotten my 8 hours of sleep, I finally got up and spent some quiet time on a 5th floor balcony overlooking a not so busy TG Katong neighborhood. The stillness, greenness and cleanliness of the place was refreshing.

We headed to Marina Square for Lunch. We tried a place my brother and Momo frequented to, the Putien restaurant. We had some cold hand-pulled egg noodle for appetizer, seafood noodle in taro soup among others.. Unlike the usual coconut cream based soup we have in Manila, this restaurant mashes taro or eggs for their one-of-a-kind specialty dishes.

We sauntered along a bridgeway linking to Suntec City Mall. Momo pointed to me a quaint place that looked like a coffee shop / library but was actually Food Republic, Suntec City's food court.

These seemingly studious students were actually Singaporeans having a hearty meal at Food Republic.

A few food stalls, a soya milk kiosk and an egg tart stand later, we saw A Gantea, a Taiwanese Milk Tea stand. Now that I'm hooked to milk teas, thanks to Serenitea and Happy Lemon, I had to try one. What's nice and different about A Gantea is that they treat each drink as a work of art. They create colorful medleys of flavors and seal them in a cup. I found their drink a little bit too sweet for my taste. Even if I ordered less sugar (80%), the black pearls and jelly were just over the top.

While enjoying my milk tea with pearl and jelly, I spotted another very cute place; this time it
was a shop selling unique clocks. They have clocks made from something like cooking pans, robots and even guitars.

Then we headed to my mom's favorite grocery in Singapore, Carre Four. Make sure to pass by Carre Four when in Suntec, you might just enjoy some great bargains! It was like a glimpse of heaven when I saw tables and tables of new, unused, wrinkle-free books on sale. I bought a number of books for just SG$ 5 each. My parents told me "Remember we're on a budget flight and we cannot exceed luggage weight. That's enough shopping for the whole trip." Little-miss-bookish-me doesn't mind. :)

By 6pm, it was time for dinner (already?!). How fast the day has passed. We decided to have it in Crystal Jade Restaurant -- the one that originated from Hongkong, and yes, the same one that you might have seen in Greenhills, Philippines.

For our appetizer we had bamboo shoot slices in sweet oyster sauce (SG$ 6) and fried tofu cubes (SG$ 6). My dad and I both loved the bamboo shoot dish! It was delightfully sweet and crunchy. The tofu although may have that melts-in-your-mouth softness, its crunchy breaded covering was a bit too salty.

Their Pork Dumplings, a.k.a. Xiao Long Bao is a must-try! Many of us who are used to the Western taste (with all the pasta, burger and steaks in town), must learn to decipher a good dumpling from the rest. We can only do this when we take a bite, sip the sauce, and swallow the rest of a high quality dumpling such as the ones in Crystal Jade Singapore.

And more dumplings were served during dinner. The shrimp dumpling (SG $ 6.5) and vegetable dumpling (SG $5.5) were beautiful to look at but yummier to devour. I haven't tried these in Manila's Crystal Jade yet, so I can't do any objective comparisons.

Below is a picture of me enjoying a bowl of hot and sour noodle soup (SG $7.50). Let me tell you something interesting. This hot and sour soup is literally hot (hot in temperature and quite spicy in taste) and literally sour. It tastes different from the hot and sour soup I've tried in Chinese restaurants where the sourness overpowers everything. With this bowl, I could taste and differentiate from each other the spiciness of the soup base, the sourness of its star ingredients, and the calmness of the noodles. What a medley!

This shrimp wonton noodle below is Momo's favorite! When I tasted it, I thought it's one of those dishes that you could just place on your list of comfort foods. It has no extreme taste or texture that the adventurous tongue might seek. It's simply warm, savory and filling.

Time for dessert! Why not have a small piece of mooncake and take part in Singapore's mooncake festival celebration while you're there?

Now, time to curl up and read a few pages of "An Illustrated Life." This is Mitzi Uy once again reporting her adventure for the day.