A warrior in BKK

Editor’s note: This is supposed to be published upon my arrival from BKK , March 2019, but unfortunate series of incidents have happened to me and this article was kept private. Sharing it now and I will be sharing very soon the reason of my hiatus. Get ready for a new article by first week of November. I hope it will inspire you all. Love lots. -ian

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To journey to places somehow inspires me to stay healthy. That feeling of excitement that you have something to look forward to just gives me oozing energy in being consistent and religious with medication and treatment. After my recent trip from ICU, I promised myself a zero trip to hospice this year. It’s quiet a challenge to live up to the pledge but nevertheless I had to take courage in making such bold steps.

I filled my 2019 calendar with all my travel wish lists and recently I’ve successfully accomplished list No. 1. I was thrilled knowing that I haven’t traveled abroad since 2018 due to Lupus flares. Blissfully, I’ve been remarkably feeling phenomenal the past weeks and just like a balloon pop, I started the first of the series of my travel adventures in Bangkok, Thailand.

I was traveling from Cebu with a group but when we reached Bangkok I decided to make a gala on my own. I totally drifted away from the planned tour as I wanted to feel more like a local than a tourist. I was also gauging my body’s pace and limit so doing my own itinerary resulted best for me. Like Philippines, Thailand is a tropical country so I had to be extra ready. Here’s how I did it during the 5-day trip:

  1. Got a hotel in Pratunam. Pratunam means “water gate” and this place is widely known as a prominent shopping district. It’s very strategic due to the availability of shopping centers, department stores and food stalls around the area. It’s also one of the most important transportation routes in Bangkok. It is easy to go to anywhere. Amost all buses pass by the area.
  2. I arrived early dawn on Wednesday. It was a long trip so I had to rest the entire day. I only went out by night when I felt like my body has fueled up some energy.
  3. Thursday, I started gallivanting the city through hopping on one bus to another. I had my codigo which I didn’t follow after all.  I was enjoying going around, hopping on wrong buses, walking to and fro and speaking to Thais for direction.
  4. Friday was a whirlwind checking all shopping centers and going around the city in the hope to discover its treasures troves. Some has shocked me especially the “Ping Pong Show”. Some has mesmerised me in discovering how much they value their culture and identity.
  5. Saturday was another gala day. A Thailand trip is never complete without seeing the floating market so I had to do it. Almost a 2-hour journey going to Talin Chang Floating Market just to find out that it’s only open on a weekend. What can I do but just live the moment with silver lining!
  6. Sunday was dedicated to buying presents for loved ones. I only bought few, enough for all of them to taste the flavours of Thailand.

Tips:

  1. Travel extra light since you’ll be buying items once you get there. Yes, you can’t say no to the wholesale prices of shopping items. You wouldn’t want an excess baggage, right?
  2. You don’t need a lavish budget, 5000 baht as pocket money for a 5-day trip is more than enough. I was able to work my way out with these numbers and I was on a cloud nine.
  3. You don’t need to buy local sim with high speed internet, 300 baht is just too much. Save that for something else. The hotel always has a wifi  service 24H. Just consider it as a social media holiday should you not be able to share your My Day or ATM Stories. Just wait until you get back to the hotel then you can share your beautiful clicks with friends.
  4. Before you go out, ask for the calling card of the hotel indicating its complete address. In case you get lost or wanting to go home, you could always show this card to anyone and you will be directed on where to go or what to do.
  5. Tok tok and taxis are overrated. Some do not even turn their meter on. I had to ask several taxis before I can get a metered one. Best is to ride a bus. Safe, within the budget and comfortable.
  6. When speaking in English, say it slowly so they could understand. English is not really common in Thailand. Be patient especially when haggling. You can also act what you are trying to say for better understanding.
  7. I don’t recommend going to Ping Pong Show if you’re a conservative chap.

Good to know:

  1. Their food is fantastic.
  2. Their mangoes taste like Papaya. Zero acerbity at all. Must try.
  3. Coconut in shell tastes like gooseberry. Its true.
  4. Juices are really fresh. You must try all sorts. You won’t regret it.
  5. They’re fond of putting sesame seeds on a fried banana and sweetened dried fish.
  6. There’s a customised plastic for juices.  

Memories:

I just felt like picking all the leaves and bring it back home.
Can’t get enough!!
A selfie with the golden figures behind
Their folk dance is a challenge for me.
Literally didn’t know what to say.

Crazy beautiful ride to Osmena Peak and Kawasan Falls

I was hobbling for few days due to swollen joints. Yet, today, I am sitting on this precipice that is 1042 meters above sea level. It’s early morning so click looks so foggy. You cannot see what’s really down there. I tell you it’s deep and the strong wind sporadically makes you off balance.  Who would’ve thought I could make this journey. 

Osmena Peak. Being our first ever trail trip, my friends and I left Cebu at 12 midnight journeying to Dalaguete where Osmena Peak springs. Osmena Peak is Cebu’s highest summit I describe as having clumped green grotesque hills clutching the shorelines of Badian .A lot of tourist flock to this trail spot to behold the spectacular beauty of Mother Earth.

To enjoy a 360 view, it is best to trail in the afternoon as early morning can be too foggy with zero visibility – – which was not our case! We left too early and started moving from Dalaguete junction to Osmena Peak at 4am (Landmark: Seven Eleven and Julie’s Bakeshop). By the time we reached the peak, the anticipated view was impeded with mist, fog and haze (they’re synonyms so whatever you call it anyway).

Good to note:

At the entranceway to Osmena Peak, you’ll have to sign up at the Osmena Peak Hikers’ Center and pay an entrance fee of 30 pesos. Local guides may also approach you and you pay their service at a courtesy rate. Normally 150-200 pesos per guide will do.

Entranceway to Hikers’ Center. 

Hikers’ Center is open 24 hours, therefore, you can trek any time you want. By midway of the journey, you will find campsites and cabins. You can bring your own tent and set it up at the campsites or rent a cabin. For cabin reservation, you can contact Manang Willy at 09332887208 or 09226801623. Cabin is good for 2-3 person with water, lights and free use of restroom. 

Cabin and Campsite

It is advisable to get support from a stick or pole for the track can be too slippery. You can rent one at the entranceway at 10 pesos per stick or pole.  

The Magic Stick.

You will also meet these captures below making the trip even more entertaining.

Congratulate thyself for reaching the top, and don’t forget to photo-record such success. 

Couldn’t be any prouder. 
He is one of the best tour guides in town. He also takes good care of capturing good angles of me. Those are some bird whistles by the way. 

Dalaguete. On the the way back to Dalaguete proper, make time to pass by Mantalongon Public Market. You will lament if you don’t do so as this is the kernel to finding very affordable fresh goods (such a steal!). I was even surprised that cannon ball cabbages only cost 3 pesos a kilo.

These are same vegetables brought to Carbon Market and to some of our supermarkets. By the time it gets to those stores, prices are already doubled even tripled. 

I bought quiet a lot so I need some reinforcement. A little thank you paper bill will do. Look how stuffed my car is. 

Kawasan Falls. You can also make a side trip to Kawasan Falls, Badian. Kawasan Falls is one of the famous waterfalls in Cebu where you can swim and relax around turquoise-azure waters.

Using a private car, it would take around an hour drive to reach San Vicente Church where you can park your car. From the church, you gait for 20 minutes to reach Kawasan Falls. Entrance Fee is 30 pesos per head and Life Vest rental is at 50 pesos per piece.

Varied food stalls will greet you along the way. I tried everything. 

There are also rooms where you could stay overnight. Room rate ranges from  1500-2500 depending on the amenities. If you choose to stay only for a short while, you can rent table and chairs at 300 per day.

There are more packages to avail from. You can go for canyoneering at 1500 per head, trekking to see all 9 falls (you would need a guide at 200 service fee for 4 hours), or simply just have a free back massage from the surging water. 

Ready, set, dive

Molave Milk Station, Barili. En route back to Cebu City via Barili,you can make a pit stop at Milk Station where you can buy fresh cow and goat’s milk. The place looks like a romantic resto go-to for lovers to enjoy a glass of fresh milk . There are also ice cream gelatos and some candies made available for tourist bon vivants.

A trip is never fun without your crazy friends and I’m glad I made this journey with these two long-time love birds. Shall we go for another crazy ride? Yes, crazy indeed because from Dalaguete en route to Osmena Peak (traveling at 2am), environs suddenly became too dark and hazy because of heavy rains. We were all so scared yet we still continued moving. However, when we only need to travel at about 2KM, we unanimously and suddenly decided to turn back due to our eerie imaginations (what if we’ll fall on the cliff; what if terrorist attacks us or a white lady will just appear). By 4am, we went up again and found ourselves laughing at our own foolishness. Crowd of tourist awaits had we chosen to conquer the remaining 2KM travel. Nonetheless, it was a crazy beautiful adventure. Thank you lovies. 🙂

The Expectation Gap

Curious to see one of the most instagrammable sights in Toledo, Mo and I plummeted on a trip to South to also share our own version of the famous Labyrinth snaps. Pretty much enlivened, we used Waze to ensure not to miss the beauty spot. After a 2-hour odyssey, we finally reached our destination–only to find out that our expectation didn’t match with the reality.

Our funny tête-à-tête:

“Where is the Labyrinth?”

“This is the Labyrinth.”

“No, this isn’t the Labyrinth”.

“Ian, this is the Labyrinth. Look up!” I looked up and saw labyrinth inscribe on wood.

“This is it?”

“This is it!”

While Mo was taking candid shots of me, I cannot help but laugh out loud on the milieu. Both of us were expecting an elaborate, confusing green structure we see in Greek movies (or as we imagined from reading novels). We were even ready to get lost and then find each other under a gigantic tree.  But reality sank in. The Labyrinth is just a small garden of green plants constructed next to a private catholic chapel.  Then, we learnt that it was actually designed for meditation or praying the Holy Rosary– a symbolic form of pilgrimage which one can walk the path ascending towards salvation or enlightenment – NOT A MAZE TO GET LOST. Hence, the expectation gap.

Just like LIFE.  We paint our lives with too many colours and write lofty goals only to uncover the epilogues are nothing like what we expect them to be  – either we lament on how unfair life is  or we  rejoice for such pleasant turn out of events. How often did we cry over bad investments in stock market, fiasco relationships, or even birthdays un-celebrated with loved ones? How many times did we jump for joy for every hard work recognised, successful project proposals or even just when Mr. Crush finally says its sweet “hello”.

If only we can predict every outcome, right? Yet, we can’t. We do not have the ability to see in full accuracy what the future holds for us. We can only make decisions based on knowledge, information, sometimes intuition but we can’t control life’s unknowns and detours. Perception is not the reality.

So it was not a maze to get lost, and like me, you may have exclaimed this-is-it-! twice or more (at some point in your life) but it is how you enjoy this kind of life’s fireworks and hiccups. Mo and I had our share of an epic fail expectation-vs-reality moments but it didn’t stop us from from having fun learning that perception and reality don’t always match up. Live the adventure and be resilient in taking on life’s beautiful strides.

 

The door to Labyrinth. Prep your hundred peso to enter. 
Bombshell: Look Up! you have finally reached the Labyrinth.
Passionate paparazzo: To get this shot, Mo has to climb a makeshift steel ladder.
All embracing.
A drop curtain we didn’t expect. This is the private chapel beside the Labyrinth. It showcases all religious collections from EU. A total holy moley. 
Taken aback. Surely adorable antiquated miniature. 
Pardon me. I only wanted a click next to the Pieta. Didn’t have any idea I was sitting on the tomb of the owner. However, he has my sincere obeisance upon knowing the story of why the Labyrinth was open to public. Every hundred-peso entrance fee to see the Labyrinth goes to the schooling of the less fortunate children in the community. In same building, there’s a dedicated room where children attend classes.

From Sole to Soul in Seoul

Soon as the plane landed, I immediately posted a video of my ‘juiced-up face’ in one of my social media accounts – Welcome to Korea! Promptly, I received gibberish comments and PMs… 

“Good luck on your plastic surgery. Hope everything goes well.”

“Do well on your K-Pop audition. We are proud of you!”

How much I wanted to lob stern remarks to these “social homophobes” but chose to remain silent and left them on a seen-zone. Yes, those are real messages from real people. 

Why such messages, I pondered. Is there something wrong with my feat or am I really that talented to likely earn a spot in the Korean stage. LOL! I was not informed by my very self that I am going under the knife. I am blest with this Jollibee-face feat. And no offense, I don’t hate K-Pop but I am not a fan either. I embrace Philippine folk songs and folk dances as Tininkling and Singkil – both would remain the closest to my heart.

Is South Korea only known for plastic surgery and K-pop? Or there’s this clandestine beauty we still yet to unearth? Perhaps, there is no need for another discovery since these treasure troves have been there for so long, we’re just oblivious and too focused on beauty and fame.  It was not like it until the birth of Friendster, Facebook and IG – the social media craze! The beginning of vanity where people find solace in the number of likes and reactions pinned.

Are you conscious on how people look at you? If your face looks symmetrical or if your skin is fair and flawless? Are you worried whenever you post a selfie and nobody notices? Are you rooting your self- worth on tip-top comments which seems sincere but are actually a mockery? Do the fragmented moments you spend on social media make you feel depressed and lonely – comparing self to friends, envying folks traveling often, enormous jealousy seeing a family happily having a get together and more? Do you also get easily affected when people flaunt their outrageous comments on your posts?

I was then…..that’s why I let go of the debauchery. I was completely consumed by such nonsense and my trip to Seoul saved my poor Soul. I started taking control and took regard on things that verily matters. I went back to my books. I started writing again. I spend more quality time with my kith and kin – simply having great moments which are not curated and not publicly posted but are forever cherished.

Was it easy giving up the drill I was used to for quite some time? Sincerely, it was not and the first 2 weeks were the hardest. I was always tempted to re-download FB and IG app – open it and just start browsing recent activities of friends. However, I kept the discipline. I called some good friends to help me be on track. I prayed well not to be tempted too.

Today I am enjoying my freedom. I worry less. No more distractions. No more scrolling up and down. No more wasted time. I expunged my accounts but I jumpstarted this personal blog few months back. I lost a thousand FB and IG followers but gained real friends. I no longer have that strong connections to the virtual world but I am very much attached to the real world – real people with real stories. 

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“How long are you going to stay there?” Frankly I don’t know. Perhaps, until my sole is jaded gallivanting Seoul or when I can finally feel the revival my Soul.

palace

Changdeokgung Palace

Myeongdong Cathedral
The national cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul –  Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception also known Myeongdong Cathedral

Itaewon St
A night of drink and fun with friends at Itaewon.

the wall

Deoksugung Stone Wall Road where I’ve finally revived my soul.

Editor’s Note: I am not saying I will completely shun myself away from the social media sites. Perhaps, one day I will start reopening it so my blog articles could reach a lot people.

A month sojourn in Incredible India

I am taking a vacation for a month.

“Where are you going?”

I N D I A!

In a split of milliseconds, people appeared whammy as if a thunderbolt just flashed before their eyes. Myriad of cynical reactions are blabbed out.

“It’s dirty there.”

“You might get rape.”

“You are going to call home and regret it.”

“You won’t survive the food.”

Even some mainstream news remarked it as one of the worst go-to countries of the world.

For some reason, I did not listen to the claptrap. I was stalwart with my plans and I was ready to prove them wrong.

I left for India and wore my windbreaker of valor. The courage came from the thought that my Spiritual Father and Reverend Sister were waiting for my visit. The truth is… India is idiosyncratic. It’s one of a kind like other countries and it takes an ardent eye to see that. To flaunt fairness, here are my candid scrutiny:

  1. India is a beautiful country rich with terra firma and crowds of people.
  2. It’s a very big country that it takes at least an 8-hour drive to go from one state to another (Kerala to Bangalore).
  3. Indians are beguiling and it’s pleasantly amusing how devoted they are to their religion. I was staying in a foster loving Indian family and they were all just so hospitable.
  4. You see monkeys, swines and elephants not on cage. There was this incident that a monkey was peeping on my window. Little monkey wanted to come inside and mug my food.
  5. People are just good singers. In Kerala, the catholic masses go for 2 hours with all the croons and chants.
  6. Their doctors are first-rated. Exceptional! I had my diagnostic there at St. John Hospital and I got scolded for being stubborn with my medicines.
  7. I love their food. I love eating with hands, and now I suddenly miss eating biryani and hummus.
  8. For a shoe-girl like me, you will love Bata and Moochi.
  9. Wearing Saree will make you feel like a princess.
  10. They speak good English so it’s easy to ask for directions when lost.

It was a ravishing one-month stay. I enjoyed farming, the monastery visit, the short stay in the hospice, the long travel, the weather… EVERYTHING. Perhaps, because I have a heart that finds pleasure in simple things and a mind that is not shaken with anything. Huge caveat though, always bring skinnies or pants with you. Never show off your legs since Indians find it repugnant.

There is no bruise in exploring new places even being terror-stricken by friends before you could pack your luggage. Just be careful.Traveling can be a life’s greatest teacher. You will never know the veracity of people’s assertions if you will not check it yourself. Go and make a discovery!

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Truly an Incredible India!

3 of 10: Leyte getaway to amble Philippines longest bridge – San Juanico

I woke up one morning and decided to go to Leyte. I phoned J right away and informed her of the unpremeditated getaway. Without uncertainty, she agreed to my impetuosity. Our intent on the journey is merely to walk on Philippines longest bridge –San Juanico Bridge – as we often read this coinage in history books back in grade school.

While I was at work, I asked J to buy the tickets. We rode Roble Shipping, 10pm schedule. Arrived in Ormoc 4am the following day. Attended the 6:15 am mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish where we were amused with its Architecture and ID. It was a perfect blend of old and modern art.

We stayed in Travelers Suite, an affordable hotel located at the downtown of Ormoc. We took a brisk nap and washed up. By afternoon, we were bestirred to conquer the City of Beautiful People.

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The most hospitable steward of Roble Shipping. Salute to you, John. Until our next trip. 

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Right here. Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church

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C’mon gents, follow me. 

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Made it to the longest bridge of the Philippines – San Juanico Bridge. 

Item #3 unlocked.

1 of 10: Divine Mercy Shrine, Del Monte Plantation, Ma. Christina Falls, Tinago Falls

J and I are celebrating our 10 years of being besties this year so we made a promise to each other to do 10 things we haven’t done together. It could be doing a pilgrimage, beach combing, visiting historical places, traveling abroad, trekking, attending concerts, dancing… the list goes on, whatever kooky ideas we can think of. Old stuffs, antiquated ones, also attract us. Yeah, we’re both antediluvian and seeing archaic places is pretty much part of the list we haven’t finished figuring out.

To jump-start our 10 bestie activities, we decided to journey to Cagayan De Oro. The only goal is to see and attend mass in the Divine Mercy Shrine. The rest, we kept the spontaneity. June 02, 2018, we’ve finally laid a check mark on item 1.

We left Cebu 8pm on a Friday night via TranAsia Shipping. Cruised the ocean for almost 12 hours. Arrived in Cagayan at 7 on a Saturday morning. We believed it was too early yet. On the spur of the moment, we decided to go to Del Monte Plantation, Bukidon.  Riding a Motorela (Four-wheeled trike), we headed to Agora Bus Terminal. This bus terminal has two kinds of buses: The Super 5 and Rural Transit Mindanao Inc (RTMI). The Super 5 comes in different colors while RTMI in red. You can ask a native which bus is passing through Manolo Fortrich. Fare is around P145.00. As for me, I was equally dependent to J and her mobile map app.

Once we reached Manolo Fortrich downtown, we rode habal-habal going to the plantation. Fare was around P100 one way. That’s a haggled price already. We asked the drivers to wait for us since we won’t take long. In between, we made quick stops to take good clicks of the sceneries along the way. It’s breathtaking.

J and I haven’t really gotten the chance to enter the building when we reach the field since we didn’t know anyone there. However, we found ourselves in love with the ravishing beauty of pineapples sold by merchants-on-trucks outside. There was already an add-on to the price. I didn’t mind. I just wanted to take home some for my loved ones in Cebu. I bought a dozen. Oh boy! It was hefty but thanks to Kuya habal habal driver for being kind in helping us out.

After Bukidnon, we went to our hotel to drop our heavy loads. Then, straight to Divine Mercy to attend the 3pm Mass and confession afterwards (By far, I had the best confession moments here).

From Cagayan proper, we rode Motorela going to Gaisano Mall. Got a ride with route going to Bulua Terminal. From Bulua Terminal, we mounted on a jeep going to El Salvador. We were just dropped off at the corner road going to El Salvador Divine Mercy. From there, we took habal habal going to the Shrine. (Normally, habal habal drivers would give their contacts and you can just text them whenever you wanted them to pick you up already).

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Taken right after mass and confession. Reason for the bulgy eyes. 

Huge Caveat: Since the Shrine is the House of our Lord, no one is allowed to wear revealing clothes.  It is encouraged to wear long skirts and shirt with sleeves while inside the shrine premises.

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You can wear something like this. 

The following day, our brain cells had again made an impulse that we check out Maria Christina Falls and Tinago Falls prior to going home. We went to the trip unprepared. We even had bamboo rafting on our undies and collared-shirt. Who cares! Seize the moment.

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Fun Fun Fun. Not in suit but who cares?

It was short but sweet journey. I am just exuberant we started our 10 years with a Pilgrimage (with side trips). We left Cagayan on the evening of Sunday, 8PM. We reached Cebu 9pm the following day. I went straight to work while J went to her first day of TESOL Class, bringing all memories from Cagayan.