Monday, 28 December 2015

The Boat Trip To Loloata Island, Papua New Guinea

In a sudden twist of event, the management in the company that I work with has come up with a decision from the accumulation of mass suggestions to hold our annual managers’ party at Loloata Island Resort. 

This was a news like no other news to us, and since our little shuttle bus can only accommodate a few partying hearts, the managers were separated into two little groups comprised of 11 and 13 persons.  I happened to be with the former group full of excited people.

Truly, this is an era where mobile phones go beyond the prestige of being just a basic necessity. I took this photo with my Samsung Galaxy S4 and coincidentally, the scene came out with much similarity to infinity mirror of which principles are derived from geometrical optics.  I pointed the lens at my friend, he took a photo of himself and someone else was taking a photo of us; a cycle that repeats itself in a never ending manner.

I like to be standing at the stern of the boat as it glides above the water. This way, I can have a splendid view of the part whence we have left.  As it turned out though, I wasn’t the only one with the same preference around.

As the voyage continues, this scene will come to pass. On the far right was the Lion Island. I could see some houses built on the island that was closer to us. I didn’t see any sign of white sand but rather a fortification of mangrove trees tucked in the crevices of rocky edges.  The Lion Island, on the contrary, was said to have white sands. 

Surprisingly enough, the voyage doesn’t take that long and it ends shortly at this long wooden structure that serves as a footbridge for travelers. Each pole was installed with LED lights that I guessed, would look exquisite at night. At the end of this footbridge was an arc to welcome the visitors. 

Or rather, a street sign that welcomes us and at the same time points us to two directions: one goes to diving stall which is fairly visible behind and the other to where the reception is.  

Within the reception, one can be forgiven for expecting a majestic setup of dining tables and chairs. This can be followed by a dose of reality that it wasn’t your typical hotel-restaurant setup.  The whole dining was decorated and arranged, however, in such a way that you will literally feel the essence of having retreated to an Island and being served the islander way. 

Each group will be assigned a table. We got the number 4 table which was long and sturdy and was just perfect for our group.  On the tables, cookies were already waiting for us. 

And there’s this area with these wooden tables and a more comfy chairs. Here’s kuya Lito enjoying his first order of ice-cold SP beer which he bought from the in-house store for a slightly higher price. 

The dining was at a very close proximity to where the land and waters met.  This island really reminds me of an island off the coast of Costa Rica where scientists from InGen once bred giant dinosaurs from genetic materials belonging to frog and fossilized dino blood, only there was no dinosaur in Loloata.

If dinosaurs are responsible for making Jurassic Park famous, Loloata is augmented by interesting animals like this blue peacock. I saw a couple of them roaming freely around the island. Scientists say that while dinosaurs may resemble an animal of reptilian structure, they are most likely the predecessors of the modern birds that we see around.

Talking about birds, they have real birds too. While birds-in-a-cage photos are not the best thing to depict these animals, I commend the management of Loloata for giving them a nice and big cage which I would rather call a shelter in which they have plenty of space to move around. It also protects them from predators. 

In addition to birds and peacocks, Kangaroos are everywhere. They didn’t seem to be intimidated by my presence. While its buddy was exhibiting camera-shyness, the Kangaroo on the right was all set for a photo shoot.

A typical island scenery is not without coconut trees. These trees covered most of the areas and give us a nice shade… and something to watch out for. 

Lunch is served in buffet-style at 12:30 in the afternoon. Guests are welcome to indulge themselves with a glorious serving of coffee or tea before and after that. A variety of souvenir items are available for the tourists as well.

Next to the dining area are the stairs to the highest point of the Island. We named it “100-steps” just to give a name to it. We did not actually count the number of steps although we resigned to the idea that it was 100 to make our lives easier.  

Once you get on top, you will be treated with a majestic view of the neighboring islands, but not without heavily catching up on your breath. Parabolic antennas are installed here to sustain connectivity. One should be careful when climbing this area at night because of the limited visibility. Steep cliffs are dangerously waiting for any single mistake.

If climbing up was a challenge, going down on it was the same for acrophobic. We did not name the stairs “100-steps” for nothing. But we enjoyed the experience.

There was not much to do until the free ride to the next island so we ventured out to the farthest side of this footbridge and tested the depths.   Here, kuya Arnold is seen admirably jumping so high while executing a near-perfect dive in the presence of accomplices turned spectators. 

An hour before lunch, we were ferried on a small dingy boat to another island called Lion Island.  We were requested to wear life vests for our safety. Along the way, while the small boat rocked back and forth through the big waves, the vests have imbued us with greater chance of survivability of which we were so grateful afterwards.  Here’s Hernan, a co-manager who is seemingly happy enough to keep the whole ocean for himself.

As promised, the Lion Island was a nice spot.  It has white sands and shallow waters to swim around, although what we did was more of tip-toeing around than swimming.

The writings on the rocks suggested that we were not the first party to have landed here. Whoever they are, they must have purposely left these messages indiscernible enough to be considered by future populace as a subject of hieroglyphic importance to study.

While there were so few of us in Lion Island, the small boats that transported us lingered around for most of the time at a safe distance. Although they occasionally vanished from our sights, they just magically appeared when we needed them to, especially when our hungry stomachs started to growl.

Back at the dining table, we were served with gracious amount of freshly prepared foods.  Our group has paid for K180 (kina) each and it was sponsored by our company. With all these amenities and activities, I conclude that it was worth it. 

While a small percentage in our group has expressed a bit of disappointment on their experience,  the majority, including me was more than happy with it. If I were to rate this resort from 1 to 10, I would give it a 9. 

In rating this resort, one must bring to mind all the effort being given to run this Island. From the systematic ferrying of guests from point A’s to B’s, to its being a self-sustained island capable of giving electricity 24 hours a day to its guests and inhabitants. And while giving my opinion, I am quite glued to the fact that it takes a lot of effort to keep this Island Resort rolling for us to enjoy it.  I still have a few notes to share like how accommodating the staffs were and how good they keep the place clean but I will leave that part to those who may want to visit this resort.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Snapshots In Papua New Guinea

According to Albert Einstein, happiness becomes true if it is associated to goals and not with something else. An object, or money, for instance, do provide happiness at some point in time and pretty much they make living our lives easier.Yet at the end of the day, only us can tell if it's hollow or not.

For me, as being a man who is always in pursuit of happiness, I do think that my happiness is simple. But purely, as a result of my imagination, I am always inclined to believe that anything that makes me happy is tied to a simplistic goal.

Take my photography hobby for example, although I am not blessed with an inborn-talent that turns anything crap into a framed art, I persevere to learn the trend but I don't exhaust myself to the point that it's no longer a hobby.

My goal in photography is really simple, and that is to be able to capture a scene into a frame that can stir mine, or somebody else's emotions when I look at it again a couple of years later. Being simple as it is, I don't quite belittle the effect of setting a realistic goal because the reward of joy that I instantly get every time I hit it is repetitive, sort of a Dopamine boost that gives a positive impact to my everyday life.

And with that being said, here are some common scenes that I managed to capture from various locations in Papua New Guinea with a hope to spark a recollection of similar events from our memories.

A wet star-spangled banner of Papua New Guineas flag flaps as the wind blows after a sudden rain. Unless I'm mistaken, I remember to have taken this shot somewhere in November when everyone around is preparing for the Independence Day celebration. When I was around 7 or 8, I remembered seeing a Philippine flag of similar size with its plastic pole filled of tiny spherical candies in different colors. I used to buy those flags just for the sake of it. 

Mother Theresa had once said that "peace begins with a smile." Such a smile from this lady "Meri" (Tok Pisin) brings about a warm feeling and it was difficult not to smile back. 

Remember the days when we're toddlers? Friendships could form without even knowing when it started. It's easy enough to conclude that curiosity is what brings about an undeclared friendship among little children. And for adults? I think it's games and sports. The man in this photo is Graham. Although he was more adept in playing soccer, he had tried his best, in several occasions, and played basketball with us. I took this shot at the end of one of those games. 

Once or twice a year, we would find ourselves visiting our boss' house. They have this nice overview of the surroundings. I honestly think that it's a perfect location to observe how this country is growing forward from day to day.

An affordable pocket watch from City Pharmacy and a chess board that was on sale at RH Hypermart. Both can make a good combination in depicting time and action. No matter how crude it is, I think it will be a nice prop if one wants a shot about explaining the idea of Time Dilation in Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.

The famous 1 Kina coin with a hole in the middle is seen floating here along with the other types of Papua New Guinea's currencies.

One thing worth nothing for in Papua New Guinea is that the eggs sold around here are produced in brown color. While some may argue that brown eggs contain more nutrients than white eggs, I seriously believe that they are both the same on the inside. 

While we occasionally encounter a decrease in water pressure at some point in a day, the water service in Port Moresby is excellent in providing water to its residents. 

Sometimes, even the little things of less significant value is an art to the beholder. A small thing I found lying on the ground after a downpour at Gordons.

Stove with multiple burners is a common thing to see in everyone's household particularly in expats' accommodations. This is probably due to the fact that most accommodations dedicated to expatriates are shared and that includes the things you find in the kitchen.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant In Port Moresby

Glen Villar Blog
In the eve of the Chinese New Year Holiday, the management of the company that I work with sets a dinner at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant which is located in the heart of Vision City Mega Mall in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

I actually never had a chance in my life to say Kung Hei Fat Choi to somebody during this celebration since I mostly grew up in a place where majorities of business owners are also the locals.

In Manila, where there is a prevalence of Chinese businessmen, Chinese New Year are actually being celebrated particularly in Ongpin where the community of Filipino-Chinese population is highly concentrated. Wandering there might actually feel like being in Hongkong,

But here in Papua New Guinea, I can see too that a number of business establishment are owned by Papuan-Chinese businessmen and this company is just one of them. I happen to be an employee so--luckily--I had the chance to get invited for this celebration.

The dinner was set at 7:30 pm sharp, but we came in 5 minutes late. I guess that's a Filipino time for you. ^_^

At that time, customers roaming around Vision City were getting fewer and fewer which explained why there were not much people around when I took the photo of the entrance below.

Glen Villar Blog
The entrance to Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
The restaurant is at the second floor and just above the BSP (Bank) outlet. The escalator is located at the East wing which is a bit far so you would have to climb a 20-step stairs to get up there.

Glen Villar Blog
Classy lanterns with soft light are meticulously hung all-over the place inside.
The company booked for a private room. Each private room may have two or three round tables inside--all of which may depend on the size of the room. In each room is a powder room where everyone can freshen up a bit.

The table setting is very inviting. Each round table is carefully set with complimentary setting of all-white ceramic utensils with a pair of dark-menacing wooden chopsticks. Everything is just plain clean and the yellow table cloth with gold lacing is kind of a dust-proof itself.

Table setting #1. Well, I called this 1 because the other setting just beside it is different.

Glen Villar Blog
Table setting #2. Oh now I see that it's the table-napkin that makes the difference
When we get there, we waited for another 30 to 45 minutes before our foods were served. When the foods are finally served, we were like in beast mode as we were hungry from the not-so-long wait.

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Food #1. I wasn't able to get it's called but it's just the head part of the fish with slices of pork and potatoes with some vegetables.
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Food #2. Crabs, no lots of crabs! No, make it lots of large crabs. ^_^

Glen Villar Blog
Food #3 & #4. Noodles (Pancit) and Cinnamon bread. 

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The staff are great as well. They are neat and will always serve your food with a smile particularly this lady that is serving SP Beers to the boys. SP Beer is the leading beer in PNG for the record.

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For non-alcoholic drinkers, they also serve a variety of drinks ranging from ice cold tea to commercial soft drinks like coke. Name it and they have it, I think. ^_^
The interior is surprisingly alluring when viewed from within. The designs from the floor to the ceiling is fitted with a Chinese touch and when I say "Chinese touch" I mean to say a race of rich culture--and colors. This is just perfect for a photo-rampage.

Of course, as a photo-hobbyist, I cannot just let the opportunity of taking photos of me and my colleagues pass so we started taking photos even before our meals are served.

Glen Villar Blog
The markings on the wall are nice too and that's me there trying to blend in. 

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Ate Dess with a Burmese girl on the red carpet.

Glen Villar Blog
The incandescent lights and the flower arrangement add to the melodramatic ambiance inside.

Chinese New Year, I think, is not complete without the Ang Pao or ampao in Filipino. For a little trivia , an ampao is a red envelope which is a monetary gift given during holidays like this. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

The amount of money contained in the envelope ends with an even digit, in accordance to Chinese beliefs as Odd-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. Also, the amount should not be given in fours nor any amount with four such as 40 or 44 because it was believed that word "four" resembles the word "death."

Each of the managers was given one and when I opened mine, I was like, "wow!" :)

Ang Pao (ampao). A traditional gift from Papuan-Chinese Company Owners.
If you are in Port Moresby and you wish to visit Dynasty Seafood Restaurant in Vision City at Port Moresby, Papua New Guniea, please look at the map below. You may also call them ahead for any reservation (+675) 3028538.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Drawing Comic Strips With Adobe Photoshop

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up. - Pablo Picasso

As an IT Manager in my company, I'm more exposed to handling computer stuffs 80% of the time as opposed to managing staffs. My day to day job includes driving around Port Moresby when purchasing IT supplies, supervising the computer-related technical side of the operations, programming new and maintaining existing software, attending to various problems and occasionally finding myself doing some artwork for the marketing side.

Starting this year (2015), I've decided to hone my drawing skill, which I should have been doing years ago. Anyway, I always believe that it's never too late to start doing something you dearly miss. So that's why barely a week ago, I made up my mind to try and draw Peanuts comic strip every night if possible.

I strongly believe that by forcing myself to draw one comic strip a day, it will improve my drawing skill and my story-telling as well.

My favorite tool for drawing digital arts is Adobe Photoshop. Not that it's everybody's tool of the trade but I find it easier to use than the industry-standard MS Paint. I chose Peanuts Gang for my subject of interest because I found Schulz' artwork to be clean and simple. Here, we can see a capture of a comic strip that I was working on.

To draw this comic strip: first, I created one elongated empty square with a thick outline to serve as a panel. Then I replicated that panel to create 3 more panels to complete a 4-panel comic strip. Then I added a new layer on top of them and set the brush size down to size 5 with 20% opacity. That layer would serve as my pencil layer in which I could sketch my idea. (See the gray color sketch).

After completing my sketch, I would add a new layer on top and set the brush opacity to 100%.  That would serve as my ink layer to trace over or correct disproportions in the pencil layer. Using the brush tool, I'd draw over my sketched lines or made some changes.

The thing I love about drawing in Adobe Photoshop is that I can zoom into the level that is comfortable for me draw. Another thing is that I can just copy a rough sketch from one panel to another and drag the corners to make it bigger or smaller. Then I can erase some parts of the pencil sketch and draw changes to depict actions.

Coloring the finished drawing is easy too.  Just add a new layer underneath the ink layer and color away with a brush tool. Change the brush size into a bigger size to color the subject and erase anything that goes over the lines later with an eraser tool. It's easier that way.

Comic strips in newspapers have no colors except for Sunday issue. I can leave my drawing without color to get that newspaper comic strip feeling. 

My stories vary from what I currently feel when I'm drawing. Such as in the case of these two episodes.

Of which real life situations are depicted in a manner that it is safe to make fun with.

Or I can play a bit with stories from my own childhood experience. I've been posting my artworks in my other blog and I would be honored if you visit it. Here's my other blog: Villar's World

Here's the tool that I use for drawing. It's the Hanvon ArtMaster 0806 which you can connect to your computer via the USB port. If you don't have this kind of art pad yet, you can use Adobe Photoshop's pen tool to ink over a scanned pencil sketch which you drew on paper. Although it's a process that requires more time to master than drawing with an art pad, it's more likely to give you crisp lines than using the brush tool alone.
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