ELY BLOGS: On the road in Dubai

Day 1: From a decrepit airport to the opulent

What’s left to say about Terminal 1 that hasn’t been said already? My main gripe, for now, would have to be that it’s alarmingly overcrowded, all the time.

When we land in Dubai International Airport around 10 p.m., the opulence slaps me in the face. I can’t shake the oppressive feeling, though. It’s probably due to the compulsory retinal scans (my bandmate Yani has a theory that it’s all for show) and the fact that I have already had far too many unpleasant experiences in this airport than I care to remember.

Once we get past customs, however, everybody’s mood picks up. Dubai really is a beautiful city. And, of course, it’s home to one of the most beautiful people in the world: Pinoys.

Day 2: There are 2000 Filipino schoolchildren in Dubai

After an amusing press conference at the Regency Hotel where we were conveniently staying, we hopped on the coaster and went straight to a school.

Other than the malls, the largest concentration of our countrymen anywhere in Dubai is at The Philippine School. A two-story complex in the center of the city, it is home to almost two thousand Filipino students and faculty. No wonder the concert promoters always make it a point to bring their talents there to promote the show.

Pupil rocks Dubai (Photo by Roldan Macahiya)

This sounds better on paper. The two groups (Pupil and Bamboo) stood on a stage and we tried our best to convince the students, mostly high school, to go and watch our show.

It was like a campaign of some sort, and neither one of the musicians were up to the task. Things devolved rapidly into a very unruly photo session.

Day 3: Bamboo and Pupil play chefs

It was almost lunch and I did not know what to expect when we were ushered into the very large kitchen inside the International Centre for Culinary Arts. All I knew was that I was hungry like everybody else.

Not really a fan of cooking ever since reality TV turned it into a boot camp freak show, I half-heartedly put on an apron and hat. I was even more horrified to learn that we were to make pizza and feed it to everyone.

So I obediently kneaded the dough and rolled it under the pin, momentarily appreciating the difficulty of flattening it into a round shape. The supreme challenge that this simple process posed was enough to multiply the fun factor a thousandfold.

There’s a deep satisfaction every time you fish out your handiwork out of the oven, plop it on a plate and top it off with arugula. By the fourth or fifth tries, all the participants were comfortable enough to start experimenting with the toppings.

A bunch of good culinary pupils. (Photo by Day Cabuhat)

I don’t like to brag but two out of three of my pizzas disappeared instantly (four cheese and one with tomatoes and oregano). We all agreed that this was one of the best Dubai trips ever.

Even the normally reticent Bamboo (even more so than I am) was loose and playful. Throughout the trip, I had really interesting conversations with him about a host of topics ranging from wine-tasting (he’s a budding connoisseur), video games (he likes RPGs), books (“Freakonomics,” Malcolm Gladwell), parenting, and of course, music.

We had so much fun playing master chefs that the show that night seemed anticlimactic in comparison. This feeling was short-lived, as the very receptive crowd made sure we remembered why we were there in the first place.

Ely Buendia has written for The Manila Bulletin and Esquire. He is the frontman of the rock band Pupil and co-author of "Against the Light: A Pupil Tour Diary," available now. His blog appears regularly on Yahoo! OMG!

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