The original plan was just to get a haircut and then head to the mall for lunch and a little shopping with the kids. But then Tonette’s stylist (as in nobody touches her hair except him), Ambet Sagum of Salon de Timog, mesmerized us with his dazzling black metallic nails and we were hooked.
Patmei, Ambet, Pia and Tonette show off their nail art
So naturally we have got to have nails as cool as Ambet’s, too. No matter if we’re already past our teen years and that my friend Tonette is actually Atty. Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, the Executive Director of the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) and 2009 TOYM Awardee for Human Resource Development.
Everything in Beijing is huge and grand. So naturally if I wanted to make a big deal out of my 40th birthday, I should do it here. And I did, thanks to my generous mother, who shared some of her retirement savings to give Neil and me a birthday made in China.
Patmei and Neil and Chairman Mao
Neil was born on July 20, 1969, that is why he was named after the first man on the moon. I was born a year later on July 19, 1970 and nothing as remarkable and historic as the “giant leap for mankind” happened at that time. Unless you consider the fact that my mom’s water broke while watching the movie “Patton,” that famous World War II general. Thus, my name, Patmei. A tribute of sorts to General Patton.
If you are from Davao and it’s your first time to go out of the country on a vacation, I wouldn’t recommend Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. You see, it’s like going to Manila without the megamalls and we know how Davanoeños find Manila dirty, noisy and inconvenient. The streets of Saigon feel so much like strolling in Mabini and Binondo, except replace the jeepneys with motorcycles – lots and lots of them.
Neil and Vietnam’s motorcycles
Unless you take a reputable and reliable taxi (we liked Vinasun), you wouldn’t like the taxi drivers there. The travel guides and Internet are full of horror stories about taxi drivers in Saigon. We got to experience it not just once, but twice. The first one was immediately upon landing which we shrugged off and charged to experience but the second one really traumatized us.
They say life begins at 40. And we say nothing beats beginning your 40th year than going inside the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam.
Neil, Patmei and Mayie playing Viet Cong
As I wrote last week, we celebrated our friend Mayie’s 40th birthday in Vietnam. Mayie, Neil and I have been friends for more than 25 years now (we were classmates in Davao City High School class of 1986). We are part of a generation that thinks of Vietnam only in terms of that-war-that-America-did-not-win. Although we were tagged as Martial Law babies and grew up at a time when Davao was still known as the “killing fields of Asia,” when our city was the laboratory of the urban guerrilla warfare of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) and later as the base of the anti-communist vigilante group, Alsa Masa, we were still relatively sheltered from the horrors of war compared to our parents who experienced World War II. So we were all excited to go on a field trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Vietnam is not on my top destination choices for a vacation simply because for someone born in 1970, it is not really a place but a war. But one of my closest friends since high school and my “kumare,” Anna Marie “Mayie” Monteverde Sencio, wanted to celebrate her 40th birthday (and her first real vacation in years) there and she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. You see, we promised Mayie we would go anywhere with her for her 40th birthday (thinking it would be in one of the restaurants in Metro Manila where she is now based). So off we (Mayie, her only child and my godchild Alexie, Neil and I) went on Cebu Pacific’s midnight flight to Ho Chi Minh and marked Mayie’s 40th up in the air.
Patmei & Mayie, both turning 40 in 2010, start their new life in Vietnam
We arrived in Saigon (yes, they still call Ho Chi Minh by its old name) around 1:30 in the morning, Vietnam time, and although Mayie’s sister, Ailee, agreed to be our host for the duration of our stay there, the deal did not include airport pickup at such a ridiculous hour. And so our adventure with Vietnamese taxi drivers began.