February 13, 2020

Plastic Bag Ban in the Philippines

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February 7, 2020

View from the Dome: Vatican

Vatican City from Saint Peter's

It was the day before Christmas and we were so blessed to be part of some kind of a miracle. Imagine, on the day before the birth of Jesus Christ, the most important figure in Christianity, there was very scarce people all across Rome. The whole country of Vatican City is located in the heart of the Italian capital of Rome. Yes, this 'city' is also a whole country which is entirely independent even if it's landlocked inside the realms of Rome.

We took the City Wonders tour and availed of their Saint Peter's Basilica and Dome Climbing Experience for €29. This includes a very informative tour guide that went with us from the meetup place near Porto Angelica all the way to the entrance to the elevator that took us all the way to the Dome's entrance. Aside from the Dome experience, it also includes a tour on your own inside the Saint Peter's Basilica.

Facade of Saint Peter's Basilica

We were waiting for our guide before 8 in the morning by McDonald's near Porto Angelica just across the 'border' of Italy and the Vatican. Aside from my family of four, we were also joined by a group of other pilgrims and travelers from New York, Australia, and Denmark. It was very cold that morning at about 5 degrees Celsius but we were very excited. The audio guides that connects us directly to our guide's lapel were distributed and we started our short walk to the Vatican City. 

As you walk along the halls and corridors outside the basilica, the mighty and handsome Swiss guards will greet your sights. Dressed in bright and colorful uniforms, these Swiss men are employed to take care of the Pope and of the Vatican. Up until now, this is a coveted position which is only open to single men with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces. Recruits must have at least a high school diploma or a professional degree and must be at least 174 cm in height (5 feet 8.5 inches).

Swiss Guards

We passed by the facade of the Basilica which is painted with a very soft glow of sunlight. And just as I told above, there were very few people that morning despite the holidays and more to it, a day before the birth of Jesus Christ. The security line was very short than usual as per our guide. we then walked a few more hundred meters until we reached the entrance to the elevator. 

The elevator ride will take you straight to the roofs of the Basilica but not all the way to the top of the dome. On our way, we were taken by our tour guide to a place where we can see the whole interior of the church from above or we can say the base of the dome. It was quite scary especially for people like me who quite have this fear of heights, but for safety, the walk way is enclosed by welded wires which let me take this photo below without falling.

Above and Below the Dome Entrance

It was a sight to behold. The interior of the dome is just so grand with so many intricate and artistic paintings of different saints. It's vast size is just a marvelous sight that will leave you staring at it for quite a while. When we looked below, it was quiet and solemn and there were no visitor allowed during that time yet because officials are busy preparing for the Christmas Eve mass that is about to happen that evening where the Pope will preside the celebration in front of thousands of people.

Before we started our ascent, our tour guide from City Wonders took back our audio receivers and bade us goodbye for we will now be on our own going to the top of the Dome.

Note: For self-guided visits, the fee to visit the dome via the stairs is €8, while if you wish to take the elevator, the fee is €10.
"Ladder of the First External Railing"

If you wish to start your climb from the ground, it will take you a total of 551 steps. But since we already took the elevator, we only needed to climb the remaining 320 steps. 320 narrow steps that are made up of a variety of materials from metal steps to wooden steps to marble and also concrete platforms. One should be extra careful in climbing up to the dome because there are parts wherein the stairs are steep and the roof above you is irregularly shaped due to the dome's structure.

After all the 320 steps, we arrived at the viewing deck of the dome's top. the view was magnificent! 

Me, Cousin Carmina, Uncle Carlos, and Aunt Vicky

Seeing almost the whole of Rome is breath-taking especially in that beautiful quiet morning of Christmas Eve. To share this experience with my cousin, aunt, and uncle is very much memorable and I feel very grateful! Thank you Lord Jesus for this peaceful and heart-warming morning that I get to spend on top of the most important church in the Catholic faith.

Winter Sun over Rome


The sun was shinning beautiful over the golden and grandeur of Rome. The hills are truly alive at the embrace of the winter sunshine. Rome is a sight to see, no matter which way you may view it.

***

Below is a VLOG Episode from my YouTube Channel - "Steven's Queue". This 85th episode is all about this experience that I and my family had memorably shared at the Vatican. Feel free to watch it and also visit my YouTube channel for more of my adventures captured just for all of you!


Never Give Up Climbing Ladders!
Steve

This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/

January 31, 2020

Saint Peter's Square

Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City

This was taken in the morning of Christmas Eve, just a few minutes after 8:00 am. It was unbelievable that the square was almost empty when this pilgrimage place for Catholics around the world is usually packed with crowds from different countries, especially that it was the day before Christmas. My cousin said it was really a blessing for us that we decided to take the tour that day - clear blue skies, very minimal crowd, and no rain marks a perfect winter day in metro Rome. Though it was a chilly 7 degree Celsius, the walls and pillars that were lit by the welcoming sunshine is just a view that uplifts.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/



January 30, 2020

Holiday Dinner at Lo Zodiaco, Rome

Me with the Viniegras at Ristorante Lo Zodiaco, Rome, Italy - Christmas Day 2019

Just as most of you know through my past posts, I spent three weeks of my holiday vacation last December, which includes Christmas and New Year's in Europe on a dream trip that took me almost 3 weeks. Since I still wanted to celebrate Christmas with family, and one of my favorite cousins, Carmina, was assigned to Rome for a special project by her company, I asked her if I can spend Christmas with her. She has always been supportive of my dreams and aside from saying yes, she also brought her parents to Rome to celebrate the holidays with her!

That night of Christmas Day, we celebrated it with a delicious and romantic Italian Dinner at a special place called Monte Mario that has an amazing view of Rome since it's situated on top of the mountain. Ate Min chose this place, Ristorante Lo Zodiaco because of the amazing food and spectacular night view of the whole city. This bar and restaurant serves traditional Italian food and drinks which will color your night with vibrant flavors!

Here are some of the dishes we ordered as we celebrate the birth of Jesus with delicious food and happy smiles.

Spaghetti Cacio, Pepe, e Menta (€12)

I ordered this dish as recommended by Ate Carmina (Filipino 101 - Ate means big sister or a Filipino term added to the beginning of a name if you are talking about an older lady. Kuya is the male counterpart). Cacio e Pepe is one of the traditional roman pasta flavors simply made with pepper and different cheeses. Sounds very simple but it's the way they make it that makes it very special. Asking me about it's taste? Rich and very flavorful! I am devoted to cheese as one of the best things on earth ever been made and this one is a perfect match for me!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Tartufati (€12)

This one was what my Aunt, Mama Vicky's ordered for herself. Carbonara is another one of the roman basics which is also famous in the Philippines. Although the Filipino version is very saucy and is actually close to Pasta Alfredo as compared to this authentic Carbonara which is not cream based but actually flavored with cheese and eggs. This was a little bit salty to my taste but of course, the cheese makes it golden!

Risotto ai Fruitti di Mare (€25)

This one was a special dish that was offered to us by the server lady which was not on their menu. It is a very colorful and flavorful seafood dish that can either be served over pasta or risotto. Ate Carmina opted for the Risotto since almost all our dishes are pasta. Not much of a fan of seafood, still I tried to taste the broth which was very flavorful, perfect for seafood lovers.

Bistecca di Manzo (gr. 300) alla Griglia (€25)

Papa Bogie, my uncle, wanted a beef dish so he opted for this sizzling grilled beef steak. It was a big slab of meat, seasoned and cooked perfectly. It looks very pretty with the colors of the sides it was served with but my camera phone was poor in low lighting conditions hahaha

Full Window View of Rome inside Ristorante Lo Zodiaco

We had an amazing meal inside the Lo Zodiaco with an amazing view of Rome. It was a very chilly evening outside since it was winter plus the fact that Monte Mario is a mountain and the restaurant is situated near its peak so make sure to bring a jacket, especially if you wish to do sightseeing outside the restaurant. I think it was 5 degrees Celsius, but of course, inside the restaurant it is heated and very cozy.

Special thanks to my cousin Ate Carmina for this hearty dinner, for my amazing Roman Holiday, and for always being a supportive sister especially to my dreams of circling the globe! I'll never forget these memories.

Photo Taken from Ristorante Lo Zodiaco Website

Ristorante Lo Zodiaco
Viale del Parco Mellini,
88/92, Rome, Italy
+39 06 35496744
info@zodiaco-roma.it
https://ristorantelozodiaco.it/


Never Stop Tasting Authentic Food!
Steve

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This post is part of Our World Tuesday that features different versions of their everydays around the world. Visit Our World Tuesday and go on a virtual tour of different places and the stories behind them. http://ourworldtuesdaymeme.blogspot.com/

January 29, 2020

Social Media and the Educator


Chinese Student in Fuzhou, China (2014)

As a Filipino millennial, I am blessed to be born on this generation. A generation that is not just empowered by technology, but also living at a time where the prior means are still existing and available despite its near defunctness. I have a few pen pals from around the world and technology introduced me to other people who are also interested in learning about other cultures just like I am, and at the same time fascinated with the traditional style of mailing and correspondence. Also, I still enjoy reading newspapers through the traditional early morning printed copies but also checks on news sites for the freshest happenings in and out of the country.

But despite the benefits that we get from social media and how technology brings us closer not just to our loved ones but also to the infinite pool of knowledge that is just waiting to be clicked and accessed, there are detrimental effects that social media has towards netizens like almost all of us. One of which is addiction. Through the Internet Addiction Assessment online quiz that we took on SLE9 (Psychology Tools, 2019), the set of questions are very relevant not just to myself but also to every person nowadays. Usually, younger Filipinos are being pinpointed to internet usage but it goes to show that 99% of internet users in the Philippines have at least one social media account (Gonzales, 2019), that’s almost every single internet user in the country. Addiction can be traced to different sources but one of the most prevalent on these times is Internet Addiction because most individuals that suffer from it does not know that they have it or mostly in denial of it. It is a very serious case that causes not just broken relationships and unproductivity but even neurological complications and psychological disturbances (Cash, Rae, Steel, & Winkler, 2012).

As an educator, social media is a very powerful tool that can promote learning not just inside the classrooms but more so beyond it. The perfect example is the use of Facebook Groups in facilitating classroom announcements and even disseminating lecture notes and handouts from the teacher to the members of the class. SurveyMonkey.com is a powerful site that does not just help researchers gather survey data but also help teachers in creating online graded tests based on the teacher’s requirements (Survey Monkey, 1999). But with all these benefits, how can we balance these benefits against the dangers that social media and the internet in general has in store for our students? One innovation on DepEd’s K to 12 is the introduction and imposing of the Media and Information Literacy subject (Department of Education, 2013). This subject talks about not just the history and processes of media and information dissemination but when I was teaching this subject for a semester last year, it also has a certain topic about social media awareness. I was able to create activities with my students that helped them see the importance of the internet, what kinds of information they can extract from it and what are their responsibilities as a netizen.

Social media has enabled me personally to learn more about the society and the culture of people who are living in a world that is very different from mine. With the internet, I was able to get in touch with family and friends and even led me to knowing a few life-long friends through the years despite me never seeing them in person yet. With proper and responsible use, internet and social media can bring us a wide pool of benefits that can make our lives not just easier but better. That’s what we as educators should share to our students and what we as elder family members should promote and impose in our respective homes.

References

Cash, H., Rae, C., Steel, A., & Winkler, A. (2012, November). Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice. Retrieved from National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480687/

Department of Education. (2013, December). K to 12 Senior High School Core Curriculum – Media and Information Literacy. Retrieved from Department of Education: https://www.deped.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/SHS-Core_Media-and-Information-Literacy-CG.pdf

Gonzales, G. (2019, January 31). Filipinos spend most time online, on social media worldwide – report. Retrieved from Rappler: https://www.rappler.com/technology/news/222407-philippines-online-use-2019-hootsuite-we-are-social-report

Psychology Tools. (2019). Psychology Tools. Retrieved from Internet Addiction Assessment: https://psychology-tools.com/test/internet-addiction-assessment

Survey Monkey. (1999). Retrieved from About Us: Survey

January 23, 2020

Half a day at Amsterdam: A Self-Guided Tour

Me on one of my favorite cities in the world!

From your favorite movies to those deep song lyrics, Amsterdam is a favorite setting. I was so blessed to be able to find out how beautiful this canal-connected city is. Located at the north of the Netherlands, this capital city is home to the most scenic cityscapes that have been preserved of its distinct architecture for hundreds of years. A city I fell in love with despite going around it all by myself, a city I would love to share with you through this Self-guided walking tour that I did last Winter Break.

Hotel Kooyk at Leidesplein

Since I started my first day by going straight to my hotel from Amsterdam Sloterdijk station (I rode a 7-hour bus from Paris via Flixbus), let me start of my guide from Leidesplein where my hotel, Hotel Kooyk is located. Leidesplein is famous for it's bars and busy nightlife but the place I stayed at is located by the river bank 400 meter walk away from the busy bars which makes it quiet and still even at night.

Since it was winter, you can see how dark the sky was on the photo at my hotel but that is already 8:30 am. The people there were very accommodating and I thought I'd confirm for myself my reservation just to be extra sure. A few of the staff were Filipino and so the welcome was extra warm.I would definitely recommend Hotel Kooyk not just for its location and amenities but also value for money. You can contact them through phone or email but I booked my stay via Booking.com.

Hotel Kooyk
Leidsekade 82, 1017 PM
Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 623 0295

Tuna Sandwich for Breakfast (€ 3.00)

From Leidesplein, I took the Tram 2 going all the way to Amsterdam Centraal, the city's main train station that connects Amsterdam to major cities not just in the Netherlands but to Europe's interconnected rail system. Since I will be staying at Amsterdam for two full days, I purchased a 48 hour public transport ticket that entitled me for unlimited tram, bus, and metro lines around Amsterdam (do note that some buses that goes outside of Amsterdam are not included on this ride all you can fare so better check if the bus you are riding is included). 

The tourist tickets are available in 24-hour or multi-day tickets (2-7days) on the GVB Website and ticket offices. For more information, you can visit the GVB Tourist Tickets Page. With its unlimited rides, I can really say that this is a very good deal. I just paid €13.50 (Php 763.00) to purchase the  GVB 48-Hour ticket at the bookstore in Sloterdijk Station once I arrived in Amsterdam and rode the Tram 19 to Leidesplein at ease. Hour counter starts at the first time you tapped your card.

Now let's go back to our walking tour! First stop, Amsterdam Centraal.

Amsterdam Centraal

The last and first stop of Tram 2 is at Amsterdam Centraal. This is the largest railway station in Amsterdam and serves a lot of cities not just in the Netherlands but also has direct links to other western European countries. Aside from being the second busiest transport station in the country (Utrecht ranks first), it is also the most visited Rijksmonument which is a list of Dutch heritage sites.

To be honest it was funny when I went inside because I thought that only those with the train ticket can access the place but I found out through the cleaning guy (Thank You Sir) that there is a passageway at the middle lined with fragrant shops that goes to the back where most of the buses are located. Also, if you wish to use the restroom, there is a pay restroom at the backside of the station (€0.70). Yes, it is quite costly to poop or pee in Amsterdam, not much free public restrooms.

Damrak

From Amsterdam Centraal, walk southeast through the famous avenue Damrak. This may just be just a simple street with neatly laid cobblestones divided by tram tracks but I'm telling you, this part of Amsterdam has some great scenic spots to take that tourist portrait of Amsterdam. 

Below is a photo I asked a dutch guy on the street to take of me. Those beautiful dutch residential towers looks so peaceful and strong above the quiet canals of the city. This part of the city is also a good jump-off point if you wish to take the canal cruises and see the city from a different perspective! Quite romantic, I'm sure. Maybe on my next visit.

Steve at Damrak

Walking along Damrak was an experience. That morning at around 10:30am, I can see the city beginning to wake up. Bicycles cruising, bistro doors opening, and locals leisurely walking to their workplaces. This city is just so laidback, not just because businesses open so late at 11 am, but mainly because you can see it in the way they move. Of all the European cities I have visited on my winter trip, I can say that Amsterdam is one of the friendliest, locals are not very frugal with smiles.

Continue walking south until the road starts to widen.

Dam Square facing the National Monument

Another important place in the city is Dam Square. It's not really square in shape but this part links Damrak to the other street called Rokin. And yes, the name is derived from what this part of the city really was, a dam on the Amstel river. Which I think also is where the name Amsterdam is being derived.

Across the town square's open space is the National Monument that was erected at 1965 to commemorate the sad happenings and victims of the second world war. You can see the National Monument on the photo above.

Me in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is another important building in Amsterdam. It is the only non-religious building that remained from the Golden Ages and is still the official reception place of the Dutch King Willem-Alexander. You can visit the inside of this beautiful and historical building for 10. If you are interested to know more about this palace or purchase tickets, visit the Royal Palace Amsterdam Website.

Rokin Street

Once you passed by Dam square, that is also where Damrak ends and the next street begins, Rokin Street. Another important street that stretches all the way south and passes by hotels and attractions such as Amsterdam's Madame Tussaud's and another global chain, The Dungeon.

The street stretches and part of it will lead you to an open canal on the left side if you are walking south, another picturesque spot which I thought was truly unforgettable. This is when the sun started to really shine and greet me good morning (although it was close to noontime already). And since I was close to the waters while I walk, it was extra colder than the 6 degrees Celsius that was noted on the weather app.

Muntplein and Munttoren

Literally, "Mint Square", Muntplein is another important square located at the heart of the city. Rokin street passes by this important spot which is actually a bridge and Amsterdam's widest bridge. It is in fact named after the Munttoren tower, right photo above, which is a tower with a carillon above that plays music through its medieval bells.

Walking further will lead you to more shops and also to the flower market district which was sleepy since my visit was in the middle of winter. But do not fret, the views are still spectacular without the leafy foliage of trees and gives you a full view of the canals and the buildings that line up its banks.

A canal at Amsterdam

If you head east of Muntplein, Amsterdam's red light district is a walk along it. But since I'm not very much in the mood for something naughty especially I was alone that  afternoon, I decided to just spend the next hour waiting for my museum tour time. Time to visit and commemorate Amsterdam's most famous citizen, Anne Frank.


Anne Frank is an immigrant from Germany who fled with her family all the way to Netherlands to escape the claws of Nazi Germany. Being jews, they were forced to go on hiding in the hopes of staying alive before the day of liberation comes after the world war. Here in Amsterdam was her home and also their hiding place, Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam. A museum has been built in memory of her, right in the very place where their hiding place still stands and can be visited by people worldwide.

Prinsengracht 263

To get there from Muntplein, walk 300 meters to Koningsplein, take the Tram 2 towards Amsterdam Centraal and hop off at Dam and board Tram 17 towards Osdorp Dijkgraafplein and get off at Westermarkt (These Tram lines are included if you purchase the GVB ride-all-you-can tickets).

The only way to enter the Anne Frank Huis or Ann Frank House museum is through tickets that are purchased online. I got mine from the Anne Frank House Website a month in advanced because the tickets ran out fast. Time slots are given so you have to plan your trip in advanced to get the perfect time that you will enter the museum. Tickets are priced at €10 per person with a €0.50 online payment charge. Aside from this entrance fee, you can also join a special introductory class (which I am very thankful I took). For just for an extra payment of €5, you will be part of a special lecture class which takes about 40 minutes and will give you an introduction to the Museum and of Anne, and also some unseen information.

Anne Frank Museum

Do note that the entrance to the Anne Frank Museum is not located at the main door of the hiding place (Prinsengracht 263) but at the corner of the block just behind the Westerkerk Church. Having read about Anne Frank and her life, it was a very solemn and moving moment for me to be in that very place where they hid for two long years. A lot of artifacts are there including photographs of the people who hid with them and the pure hearts who helped them in their hiding. It took me about 2 hours to complete the whole museum and it also has a souvenir and cafe that you can spend more time at while you reflect on Anne's life.

Amsterdam is quite a small city, not to the point that it's boring because there's just so much to see every step of your trip! It's one of my favorite cities not just because of its beauty and distinct character, but also because it is very traveler friendly to the point that you can get around on your own without sweat.

Below is a step by step Google Map I made of this walking itinerary that you may find useful. 


Amsterdam is colorful yet firm, rich yet with a heart, strong yet flexible. Canals divided the city into portions but the soul of the Dutch is as strong as they stood together. After a life of wanting to see it, I feel really blessed to be under Amsterdam's embrace. It waited for me, it waits for you too!


Never give up on waiting!
Steve

This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/


January 21, 2020

Charles Bridge of Prague

Around half a kilometer stretch across the Vltava River of Czechia is a stone bridge that is called Charles Bridge. It was built for almost 50 years under the orders of King Charles IV, King of Bohemia and the first Bohemian King to become Holy Roman Emperor. Let me share some of the shots I took while I was on the bridge and around its area.

Charles Bridge / Karlův Most

Ever since I saw Linkin Park's Numb music video when I was in late high school, I already grew curious about Prague, specifically this beautiful bridge where some of the video's scenes were taken. I was dark and eerie and beautiful. Since then, it has driven me to dream about this magical bridge and last December, I was there, walking along its path and wandering in awe.



Known to be one of the most famous symbols not just of Prague but of the whole Czech Republic, Charles Bridge or Karlův Most features 30 statues and statuettes which depicts religious personas of the Catholic Church including Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, and other biblical figures and Catholic Saints. What we see now are just replicas of these Baroque statues that are mostly made from dark stones. (Left photo by my cousin Carmina)



Installed in 1683 was the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk. He is the patron saint of Bohemia and even has patronage in some cities and towns in the Philippines.Saint John is known as the first martyr of the Seal of Confessional. On this site at the Bridge, he was drowned by the orders of King Charles or Wenceslaus, King of the Romans and King of Bohemia, after he refuse to expose what the Queen has confessed to him.

Aside from his statue, a specific pilgrimage spot has been dedicated to Saint John of Nepomuk which serves as a shrine where he was believed to be thrown away to drown and die. A brass sculpture is rubbed while the pilgrims pray and remember the Saint.


Walking along the Saint Charles bridge on a -2 degree Celsius morning was a beautiful and unforgettable experience. I know all of the European cities are big dreams that came true on that trip but this specific memory is just so vivid because of the feels I have felt while I was there. Let me thank my cousin Carmina for being with me on this beautiful city and walking along the historic stones of Karluv Most. I'll forever be grateful!


Never stop crossing bridges and leaving marks
Steve