Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bilbao, Red Wine, & Mng. Emma

The visit to Bilbao was a wonderful trip. Three days in Bilbao is enough time to experience the flavor of the city. Bilbao is a good sized city in the heart of the Basque region of Spain. During the Industrial Revolution, it was a shipbuilding town. Now, it is known for the Guggenheim Museum with its architecturally impressive Frank Gehry designed facilities. The opening of the museum revived this town. There has been a lot of new construction around the area. The museum is now the anchor to the tourism industry that has blossomed since its inauguration in 1997.

The food and rioja wine was great. We sampled a few of their tapas or as they are called in this region, pintxos, pronounced “pinchos.”. Our hotel was centrally located -- near the museum, Old Town area, and the newer part of town. Guggenheim Museum can be seen from the hotel and it was less than 5 minutes walk from the hotel. Although we had a rental car, it stayed parked on the street for the duration of our stay. The central part of the city can be traversed easily by foot. We used public transportation once; we took the subway train to get north of the city to see the port area.

The photos below show the Guggenheim Museum from the back side taken from the entrance bridge to the city, and the colorful tulips or lollipops are some of the artworks displayed outside the museum.

The following is a short video taken in the early evening, just after dusk, outside of the museum.

The next two photos show scenes along Bilbao's riverfront.

As an aside, I have always had an aversion to red wine. It’s probably due to the migraines I had suffered on the few occasions I have had a red wine drink. I was not sure if the migraine was from the quality of the red wine (cheap red wines) or the sulfites in the red wine. No matter, I was not ever going to touch red wine again until recently. I went out to dinner this past New Year’s day with Ron, James, and Kris at Tango, a Spanish restaurant near Ron’s place. We enjoyed a magnificent dinner with red wine that was recommended by the waitress. I was apprehensive about the wine, but I indulged anyway. I waited 30 minutes after dinner, no migraine; I checked again each hour, still no sign of migraine; waking up the following day, I expected some other type of headache, if not a migraine – still no sign. I was elated, but this was only the first time after about 20 years of staying away from this drink. Late last month, I traveled to the Azores Islands for work. The Azores is a territory of Portugal, a country known for its port wine. While at the Azores, I had meals, in two occasions, with Porto wine. Both times, I did not experience any signs of migraine. During the Bilbao visit, we enjoyed most of our meals with rioja wine. And again, there was not even a slight symptom of a migraine. I may have overcome my fear of drinking red wine.

Best wishes to the organizers of the 222 show this coming Friday evening. I hope the show is a success. I would like to order a t-shirt, size XL, from the FRESH kids. Send it to my APO address and I will reimburse for the shirt and the mailing cost.

A few more random pictures from my travels...

Vienna in October 2006 in front of the Concert Hall. "WienMozart 2006" was the slogan used by Vienna that year to promote and showcase the music by Mozart.

The next picture is of Mek and CJ on a slingshot ride in Paris, taken June 2002, as they are prepared to be propelled into the netherworld of the Paris night sky. A few others (Ron, Kris, Donna, and Mika) lived through this ordeal. Neither Jimmy nor I wanted to experience the thrill, or in my case, the agony. I am a big fan of many types of amusement park rides, including all types of roller coasters, but this ride is not for me. It is pretty much a bungee ride while inside a steel cage.

The last picture was taken during a road trip to Baguio, in April 2006. In the photo are Mng. Edgie, Mng. Evelyn, Ate Christy, Emilyn, and Mng. Emma. Mng. Emma, a first cousin on my father's side, recently passed away. I will share some happier moments with her. She was always a willing companion to us during our visits in the Philippines. As you can see from the picture, even in the confines of the cramped, fully loaded back side of the vehicle, she was willing to join us on our trip. This is in addition to the fact that she was prone to motion sickness – she knew that the trip to Baguio included a long, uphill, and winding passage to our destination, and obviously, the same conditions on the way down. This was on my last trip to the Philippines. Coming back from Baguio, we had stopped at a coffee shop similar to Starbucks. She asked me what I was having. I told her latte - cafe nga ado ti napudot nga gatas na. "Coffee with lots of hot milk." She said she wanted to try it also. So I ordered her one. She found the drink not particularly tasteful -- I think she said it was too bitter or needed a lot more sugar. Anyway, she said she will still drink it and not throw it away because it was probably her only chance to drink a coffee worth about 100 pesos - between $2 and $3. I still laugh every time I remember this experirence.

She had a tumor like growth in her head, and because of its proximity to the brain, her condition was essentially terminal. I say “essentially” because of the medical technology has not readily caught up to the Western standards, and also because of the immense cost to deal with such a medical issue. Several procedures had been performed to no avail. I had extra prescription painkillers from late 2005. We ended sending them to the Philippines for her to use. She was so thankful for the relief that these drugs were able to provide temporarily. I could not stop thinking about the pain the she must have been suffering for a long time prior to her passing. I also think about what a person or a family must endure because of limited means. Mng. Emma and her family live a poor life, but they managed to eke out a living. They do get some assistance from us, as most of our relatives in the Philippines. Mng. Emma has been lucky because Mng. Eden became very close to her. Mng. Eden ensured that Mng. Emma always got a share of the monetary assistance and the packages of goodies that we send to the Philippines on a regular basis. Mng. Eden provided her and her family with many other amenities to help make their way of living more reasonable. I will miss her because she has been a constant presence in most of my visits to the Philippines. I will always remember her with a smile. May she rest in peace.


  1. Uncle Alban-

    I'm taking a break from studying for my biology midterm and reading your blog (I must say it's quite entertaining, and I don't want to go back to studying..). I'm glad you're enjoying yourself over there; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao looks amazing. I hope to someday go over there and witness it in person :) Keep up with the blogs, I love hearing about all your adventures and seeing the pictures of all the places you visit! Love you and miss you!

    - Joyce

  2. Joyce - I think you are just using the excuse of reading my blog from studying for you midterm. I appreciate your comments. And wow, you're actually reading my blogs that late.

    Uncle Elvin