Nepal: Drive to Memory Lane Part 2

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Ten days of noble silence in Dhamma Kitti (Kirtipur)

Note: This article is based on personal experience and understanding of the retreat not meant to be used as reference.

Aside from the Himalayan dream as well as the opportunity to taste a life of being a local, one of the most important experience  that Nepal surprised me was the ten day meditation retreat. Meditation was not new to me, my first experience was last year in Koh Samui learning Anapana which was mind concentration through observing and following the breath that goes in and out of the nose. With full of eagerness and pride, I decided to sign up for a ten day noble silence meditation course in Nepal. I told myself, “common, it’s just additional three days and it will be easier than my previous experience.” To which I found myself in total shock just after three days.

So you might ask, what is meditation? Merriam-Webster defines it as the act or process of spending time in a quiet thought. For me, its the process of peeling my ego and learning how to deal with my mind in a calm and objective manner. This retreat taught a new technique which was called Vipassana and had a taped discussion of a great teacher, SN Goenka. Vipassana is an ancient meditation that can be traced back to the life of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. The daily schedule included almost ten hours of sitting meditation, 2 meal breaks (breakfast and lunch) and an hour afternoon tea time. This sounded easy and so with confidence, I came to Kirtipur to savor it.

Daily Schedule for Ten Days Photo by: Carmen

Daily Schedule for Ten Days
Photo by: Carmen

Kathmandu View from Dhamma Kitti Vipassana Center Photo by: Julia

Kathmandu View from Dhamma Kitti Vipassana Center
Photo by: Julia

Three days of silence, waking up early and almost thirty hours of mostly sitting, I came back from the afternoon tea exhausted and in pain (severe headache for the past three days),made a decision to leave the retreat the following day. But as I was so ready to pack my bag, a beautiful disaster happened. On the third night while watching the taped discussion, something came inside my left eye and got stuck there. It was one of the most painful experience I had, or so I thought. Something small and invisible to the naked eye but my eyeball could feel it. Help came rushing from both meditators and volunteers. By morning, the management rushed me to a nearby hospital and was referred to a specialist as the ER doctor could not see anything as well. With so much fear and uncertainty, I left my life to the hands of the wonderful volunteers who brought me to an ophthalmologist. The doctor then scrapped out (from my eyeball) what seemed to be fibers from a caterpillar. How unlucky me. But that incident, allowed me to practice what the teacher has taught us for the previous sessions, equanimity. Observing body sensation as it happens, no reaction (by that time I stopped crying lol) just being aware that there was something inside my eyeball. And when the teacher visited me in my bed, he assured me it was impermanent.

Our Vow for Ten Days Photo by: Julia

Our Vow for Ten Days
Photo by: Julia

And so I returned to the meditation hall just before the technicalities of Vipassana was discussed, physically half blind but mentally ready. The breathing, focus and concentration continued. And so was my struggle, not in physical form but in a psycho battle. I was in constant war with my mind. How in the world was this possible? So many thoughts and things flowed out from somewhere. In every consultation with the teacher, there was only pain or sometimes no sensation. It was horrifying, seeing my evil egoistic self unfolding while scanning the body for sensations. There were also the good ones. Those that the mind lingered. It started to hold on to these tiny and auspicious wraith, and as these  went away, sadness came. It was the mind that controlled me. Yet there was an assurance that whatever I was facing, it was in fact impermanent. Life itself is impermanent. Anicca. Just like the hail storm on that day, it was so harsh and loud. I was amazed by it (first time ko eh) but as soon as it stopped, I also had to move and go back to the hall and sit.

Every single silent day, there was always a reason to be happy. The beautiful sunrise just after the early morning meditation. Or the sumptuous meals prepared by the volunteers. Be fascinated with our daily visitors, the birds and the monkeys strolling around the compound. Sometimes, during the five minute breaks, I found myself admiring the sky while humming, in silence of course,  my favorite Ed Sheeran or The Corrs songs. In some sitting sessions, laziness just killed me dozing off to dreamland and next time I knew, the session was over. The nightly course discussion was also simulating. The way Mr Goenka treated each session was very practical, addressing the issues of the meditators without even talking to us (taped discourse of his previous sessions)! It was as if he was also sitting with us and had the same dilemmas. It was such a relief, that whatever happened during our sitting sesh were in fact part of the practice. It just differed from each of us and “from moment to moment.”

Co-meditators during our last day Photo by Noa

Co-meditators during our last day
Photo by Noa

In that span of time, spending it in silence, made me appreciate the people around without the use of words and physical action. It was as if a bond was suddenly created. I had a discussion with a teacher and told him about my pain. When I came back to the room, there was a unopened bottle of Advil and another bottle of Ibuprofen capsules in my bed, hahahaha! Or when I was half blind, someone offered to wash my utensils and then someone lend me a headband so my eyes wont be irritated further with my hair. Co-meditators helped in providing and putting medical eye drops. And the moment the silence was lifted, all the different voices and accents emerged! Since then we never stopped talking, until this very day. Some of us even traveled with each other. Some went back home but we kept contact. Those short ten days converted strangers to sisters and brothers in this lifetime. And wherever this journey will take us, as we progress in our practice, we might find each other again, in the same road (hopefully not in silence).

Fanie and Annie (my roommies) in Agra after meditation retreat Photo by: Annie

Fanie and Annie (my roommies) in Agra after meditation retreat
Photo by: Annie

Carmen and Chiara (both my roommies lol) in Pokhara after the retreat Photo by: Carmen

Carmen and Chiara (both my roommies lol) in Pokhara after the retreat
Photo by: Carmen

Carmen, Chiara and Olga after the retreat in Boudha Photo by: Carmen

Carmen, Chiara and Olga after the retreat in Boudha
Photo by: Carmen

As my rumblings continue, the knowledge and understanding of my existence from this course will be my guiding light. Even the word love changed. It was far from what all the beautiful words a human can speak of. Love… one that is unconditional and one way. And with the love we have, compassion and kindness overflows extending it to all sentient beings.

For more information about Vipassana please visit http://www.dhamma.org

Nepal: Drive to Memory Lane Part 1

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#PharpingRumblings #OverpoweringDeathlyCliffs

Its been a month since that 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit my beloved Nepal and 38 days since I crossed the border to India but “the heart can’t forget what the mind may.” So here I am, reminiscing the beautiful six weeks of being Nepali.

After enjoying the hustle of Kathmandu, it felt that a much needed stillness was my next destination as preparation for the ten-day Vipassana noble silence retreat. Which means, non-touristy, quiet, localish yet interesting but not too far place. Pharping. Just one hour drive from the capital where the definition of mountains suddenly became hills with at least three Buddhist monasteries that made the place known as the Buddhist village. Organic cheap food, cool weather (hot by day, cold by night), friendly locals and with unexpected infamous personas.

safe and sound in my room

safe and sound in my room

Yes to the personalities who surprised and star strucked me. In ways that my mouth dropped and my brains stopped. Heard of Tibetan medicine? It is almost equal to Dr Sherab Tenzin who has been practicing for more than half of his existence. Bhutanese by origin, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer (which required operation) when he was a teen (16 or 18, forgot the number) by the Indian doctors in Delhi. Went back to Bhutan after refusing to undergo operation and met a Tibetan doctor who prescribed him capsules for his disease. A year after taking these capsules alone, he went back to the same hospital and was declared cancer free. This life-changing incident inspired him to study and practice Tibetan medicine. In between his occupation, he went meditating in the cave for a time where a team of National Geographic researchers found him. Now, he is running a healing center and clinic to help people through his profession and personal experience. The same place where the kind staff allowed me to use its wifi without anything in return. Who would have thought that while we were looking for internet, we found a life teacher. And yes, even though I am nobody, and there were two people interviewing him and that he just came from Russian business trip, he was kind to answer my biographical questions (which is available in his website –that I had no idea at that time! #nakakahiya).

dr sherab

my only memento from him

Sometimes, the web is useless when there’s one person who can answer all the doubts in our mind without even knowing the specifics. It was like mind reading kinda thing with the Swiss Radical Buddhism monk conversation, in one lazy afternoon that lasted until night. He was just saying the answers to my inquiries as if talking to my consciousness. He was drinking beer, smoking and was wearing the robe of a monk while i was in complete awe. He has been studying Buddhism for a long time and from all of the things he said, one that struck me was “perfect timing.” “Do not look for whatever that is bothering you, not even enlightenment, it will just come with your practice. Stop looking and enjoy the moment. Live now, don’t worry about the past its gone and the future will never come. And when your time is over, do not be afraid to follow that light and leave your body even if the path is unknown.” Needless to say, he does not believe that Buddha existed. hashtagNgaNgaMode

first cliff

first cliff

one wrong step and im...

one wrong step and im…

And the best way to apply the knowledge from previous meetings came as a surprise from an unlikely activity—-trekking the hills (I swear those were mountains!) to get a good view and meditation spot. My friend Ville told me it was an easy trail as he has done it already (at least  half of it). Being naive made me decide to take the risk. Halfway through the trail, the cliffs emerged. And he assured me that it will be smooth afterwards but it was getting even harder and steeper. “Few more cliffs, common it will be better then,” were his words. Until that moment when I was slipping down, crying and seeing my almost deathbed. The faces of my loved ones emerged, shedding tears and in pain,holding to whatever I can grasp. I was going to die, but not at that instance. Fought back and reached Ville’s hand for help. My body was shaking, but I was alive, I was breathing. Living at the moment, not the future nor the past. I was just there watching the grass, observing my heartbeat while munching carrots and apples. Alive and happy. But no more trekking or more of a rock climbing with no safety gears. Thanks to the wall climbing training from sushi kitchen , it saved my ass. And so, how did we make it back? Guess what, there was a trail on the other side with no cliffs to conquer!

think of...miracle

think of…miracle

look, my almost deathbed...

look, my almost deathbed…

so we reached almost the top...of the hill!

so we reached almost the top…of the hill!

It has never occurred to me how happiness can be so simple. The sweet hello from strangers who turned out to be our kind friends. Help was unlimited and overflowing with compassion from the passersby to the guesthouse owners, even to the restaurant and fancy hotel workers. My heart was crushed as the earthquake hit home. I am praying for their safety and strength in this unlikely event. Stay strong my dear Nepal!

food prepared with love and compassion from the locals!

food prepared with love and compassion from the locals!

the culprit and the owner of all the photos used in this article

the culprit and the owner of all the photos used in this article–Ville K (while going down in the known trail) while enjoying the view of Pharping Valley

Kathmandu: The Ninja Geste

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#FreeTouristStuff #EatLocalPayLess

Okay, so landing in Kathmandu after days of being stranded in KL felt like, whew totally unfamiliar zone. Some things were common to other countries I’ve visited like the old local city buses reminded me of Indo and Burma. The faces of the strangers in the street, smiling with red dots in their forehead felt like a warm welcome to this wanderer with a coward smile lol. Then all of a sudden headache came in, fever followed. Another disadvantage of a traveler with bad lungs and heart that came from a low altitude world (the beach life), who flew to a place at least 1000m above sea level. Altitude sickness.

with my dear brothers

with my dear brothers

Anyway, stayed in a local family, the Sharmas made it easier. Instant love, compassion and kindness to these people I only met for the first time. I was thinking, they liked me so much because of my cuteness, lol.But as the days and weeks went by, it was not really about me, it was just them. Every Nepali was just so nice and kind. My brother Saurav, walked us around his village which has a local market that sells cheap fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and even clothes and jewelry. Just the perfect place to be for a poor packer.

tea time with local friends

tea time with local friends

On the second day, despite being sick, Daddy Sharma brought me to a big and one of the most important temple in Kathmandu, Pashupati Temple. This is sacred place to Hindus but also very touristic which reminds me of, entry fee for foreigners, priced at 1000 Nepali Rupee or $10. Well well well, not at that moment. Daddy brought us to a secret (but not so secret) passage that saved us that money. We went backdoor, avoiding the guards but walking to not so clean path. After a few minutes, we were already enjoying the good view of the temple, watching the Hindu cremation from afar. Something new in my freaking brain, dead bodies being burned in the open just beside the river. Few days later, Saurav brought me back to this sanctuary where another holy tradition took place that involved singing and dancing from the priests and at that moment, we were seated in the main temple. It was in this adventure that I had to pretend to be Nepali (easy for me) by wearing a mask, my UP jacket but showing the other side, and not talking to Saurav and his friends. When we were seating, his friend pointed to me an area, maybe three meters away from us, where sick people were waiting for their last breath, something like a death bed. Only for Hindus, and they can stay there as long as they want or died. Slowly, my consciousness fading away, no way. Anyhow, it came back after a few seconds when our group decided to leave. As we were exiting the area, I experienced something new. Getting a face to face encounter with a dead Hindu being brought to the cremation area. She was an old woman, and her sort of deathbed was decorated with beautiful flowers and her hands were folded facing down to her chest. She looked so alive. Saurav explained that she might have died few hours ago. Yes, they do cremate the body after death, no wake what so ever. And there were tons of police cars, so we assumed that she might either be a dignitary or her family plays an important role in their society. But as we walked farther, her face did not fade from my brain. Never had a nightmare though.

Pashupati Temple death bed on the left  side

Pashupati Temple death bed on the left side

Pashuati Cremation site

Pashupati Cremation site

Pashupati with daddy

Pashupati with daddy Sharma

The advantage of staying and acting like a local, is saving so much unnecessary expenses but still enjoying the touristy stuff. For example, going to a big Buddhist temple, Boudanath using again, the backdoor. I went here the first time with Saurav and Chitis to meet another local friend, Peter for dinner. The place has various restaurants, shops and then a holy temple for Buddhist to meditate and worship. The second time I went by myself to get some free wifi. Used the backdoor passage again to save entry fee and looked for the restaurant where we ate dinner. Unfortunately, I can’t find it, so decided to walk around with some tourists and monks. After half an hour, my legs were so tired and it was time to sit in a comfy place. Chose a decent one with a roof deck for some good view and wifi. All the money I saved for entry fees though, went to the food I ate, a glass of Lassi (local sweet milk/yogurt drink) and french fries all at $5. Later that night, Saurav gave me the name of that restaurant we visited to meet Peter, Tibetan Kitchen which had Lassi for $0.90 and plate of onion rings for $1.5 that comes with a fast wifi too. So much for unnecessary expenses.

the five dollar view

the five dollar view

Boudhanath temple

Boudhanath temple

Chabhil, the area where I was staying has everything. From the local market, to the bus that goes around the city, banks, supermarkets, cheap restaurants and even cinema. One late afternoon, I was walking back home, passed by a new building and saw this Cinderella movie poster. Wow, coincidently, I had a facebook conversation with one of my friends about this movie. I inquired and the next show time was in 15 minutes, no time to go back home and asked Saurav to go with me. So, well, just watched it by myself. Just like watching any other movie back in Manila, in a cheaper way, $3. Hahahaha cheaper than what my friend paid!

One of best thing about living in Kathmandu is the foooooooood! It was easy to find vegan menu in almost all restaurants and cheap. Start with rice and dal (beans) or for breakfast toast, omelette and coffee for $1.5. Or for detox, grab some fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. Carrots for $0.40per kg, bananas $0.08 per piece, grapes and apples for $1.20-$1.50 per kg, and oranges for $0.80 per kg, not to mention that these are in good quality. Meat meals are a bit expensive, minimum $2. Cold drinking water is at $0.25 per liter, canned juice starts at $0.50, milk tea on the street in a small glass $0.15 while in restaurants $0.50.

fried vegan momo (Nepali dumplings)

fried vegan momo (Nepali dumplings)

My favorite buttered Tandoori

My favorite buttered Tandoori

Most of all, Kathmandu has given me a sense of home. The love I have received in this place is much more powerful than the dust, crazy traffic and dirt that the city is known for. Crossing the streets is always an adventure, or just even walking. But nevertheless, just like Leo, Raphael,Donatello and Michaelangelo this is also home for ME.

Mommy at the nearby Hindu temple for the early offering

Mommy at the nearby Hindu temple for the early offering

Nepal to ME: Bazingaaaaa!

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#TheSkyRoadLifeToNepal #TheMartinTheory

More than one year ago, the idea of getting to Nepal emerged through the crazy experience of this eternal dutch optimist named Martin. He was off to Bangkok with me to catch a flight to this country that did not blink any interest to my brain at all. He was going on a trek to the Annapurna circuit, that never sounded familiar to my small ears. Days after completing the trek, he showed us pictures and shared his journey to this amazing country of the Himalayas.

Annapurna Trek Photo by: Martin Wevers

Annapurna Trek
Photo by: Martin Wevers

So there, the little beating heart fell in love with the idea of experiencing the beauty of the Himalayas. But how, when? Very soon.Now.

Months of surveying flights and accommodations, finally, Nepal was about to happen. Booked the flight, made some friends and then packed a small bag from the diving course in Anilao with all the beach outfit. Off to a cold country, with 24hour stopover to Malaysia. Perfect plan,almost 100% execution then there it went.

Petronas and the public pool Reminds me of mother Alma

Petronas and the public pool
Reminds me of mother Alma

Minutes before leaving my host’s place in KL, the unlikely message from the airline came in. Fight has been cancelled and moved two days later. There was an accident in the Kathmandu airport and it was closed for some time. Saurav, my Nepali brother confirmed this and there, where now? Still in KL as my host agreed to take me in with so much kindness and offered me to visit Batu Cave, finally. Luck was just inside my pink backpack. But the anxiety  was just building up. Can’t even go out and enjoy the night life of KL, thus ended watching previous episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Yeah, if there’s one man, my little heart would fall, that would be Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and just the right distraction to this unwanted surprise. All those two nights stranded in KL were just Dr Cooper nights. Sigh, temporary relief, better than getting stuck at the KLIA 2.

Batu Cave, finally

Batu Cave, finally

The big day came, time to fly to Kathmandu. Can’t wait to see the Himalayas and my Nepali family. The airport scene was astounding. No way. In denial. Closed counters but the flight was still at 9:30pm and it was just 7pm. What?There was no way the plane left nor was it cancelled again (called the customer service hotline and confirmed my flight and online check-in). Right into my face, the associate confirmed this confusion, flight has been moved indefinitely as they are accommodating earlier flights than mine. BS with furious voice. There were more people waiting. But I needed to go, I had to. Fear came rushing, backup plan, zero. What now? It was an assurance that I was not alone. There were at least eight people with mad voices and faces. One was asking for the manager. The other one a confirmed seat in the next day’s flight. ME: I need to fly to Nepal.

Maybe walking away was the best thing to do and just come back the following day, with no assurance though. Or stay at the airport and sleep in my yoga mat with free wifi and food. Getting a hostel was not an option, with 35RM left in my pocket. Called up my host but he declined, he was hosting a family. Too bad. Messaged my friend Kla all the way from Penang to ask for help, he has friends in KL, for sure lol. After hours of talking to some passengers and friends in facebook while secretly praying for miracle, the guy from Malindo Airline asked for passports. Too bad my hands were fast and there in a matter of seconds, he was holding my maroon book. Still confused,  along with some passengers we followed him. After 10 minutes of running, walking to and from the check-in counter to the departure gates, I finally had the nerve to ask him, “ what are you going to do with my passport?” And he replied with an irate voice while looking at me (I noticed he was cute, lol), “you wanna go to Nepal, right?” Okay, accepted the fact that we are at the mercy of this man. Whatever, this must be the miracle I asked earlier. Then I found myself, some passengers  with empty boarding passes and crew of the airline running towards the departure gate, through the immigration and the final checks. No time to check in my luggage which included toiletries for two months (bottles with more than 100ml). Darn, these stuff will be confiscated at the final checks. The Malaysian guy who was scheduled to do a trek to Mount Everest base camp had more issues, he got a bigger bag, even heavier than me and my luggage combined. At the final scan, I was ready to let go with my J&J baby milk bath and lotion, conditioner and toothpaste. But lo and behold, the scanner was silent, though the guy had to give up two bottles of something out of possible 5 or 6. Not bad and he was smiling while giving it to the airport staff.

Poshy flight with Louie

Poshy flight with Louie

Still confused and blank but smiling, I was running towards the boarding gate. I can’t believe we are flying to Nepal with empty boarding passes. Maybe we will be sitting at the aisle for five hours, no idea. Then there, at the boarding gate, they filled out our boarding passes, guess what, Business Class seat! Whew, found myself smiling like a monkey with my seatmate Louie. This was my first business class experience and my first flight longer than three hours. God, I almost cried. All I wanted was a normal flight, but this was too much. So after fixing our seats, we enjoyed the posh way of traveling to Kathmandu. Free movies,games, series and songs. Delicious food and unlimited drinks with Haagen-dazs ice cream and assorted nuts, just feeling every breath of the moment. And yes, another Dr Cooper night for me. Now I wonder, “is Sheldon following me?” Bazinga!

Another Sheldon night

Another Sheldon night

Spell BLESSED

Spell BLESSED

More than five hours later, we were passing by the Turkish airline plane that crashed the runway few days ago, the culprit (but in a good way for me). Lining up to the immigration with other passengers from five airlines. Yes, there were more and more plane landing, which means more people. It was not too bad, so I thought until the baggage area emerged. OH MY GOD. It was like a small pond with overcrowded fishes trying to find luggage. Some people had been waiting for 12 hours, some two.Total chaos. Honestly, I felt bad for everyone. It was mere coincidence that my baggage was with me. But my seatmate Louie had to look for his along with the hundreds of passengers. There out of chaos I met this girl who flew from Oman but her accent showed she was from the UK (just guessing). We shared our experience and opinion about what was happening. But the best that we can do was just wait and help our respective seatmates who became our friends. We became like a team, us the girls, guarding all the found luggage and the others looking for theirs. Buying water for each other. Showed support and assurance that those stuff were not lost. From midnight to early morning, then it was time to give up. It was in that chaos that foreigners and locals were helping each other. It was such a misery but a good one. A beautiful nightmare.

Kathmandu Airport Scene with new friends Photo by: Ville Kananen

Kathmandu Airport Scene with new friends
Photo by: Ville Kananen

Wandering and sleeping despite all the chaos Photo by: Ville Kananen

Wandering and sleeping despite all the chaos
Photo by: Ville Kananen

Then it was broad day light, still nothing. So we decided to give up and just come back later. Take some decent rest and maybe another miracle might just happen. As we walked out of the airport, the cold breeze reminded me, Nepal. And in that sleepy chinky eyes emerged the beautiful portion of the Himalayas that awakened my being. Time to get up from a beautiful disaster, coffee time and then the welcoming smiles of my brother Saurav and his friend Chili. And so Nepal was happening, then the song came in “And if I didn’t see that the joke was on me.” I could hear his voice shouting with his funny face : BAZINGAAAAA!

Finally, NEPAL. Love Photo by: Helene

Finally, NEPAL. Love
Photo by: Helene

Crossroads: Clark Kent and Superman

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#PsuedoRomanticStuff #HalongBay

Note: This is not a romantic story, just one of those crazy happenings on the road. Different time and place but related occurrence.

Caffeine addiction can lead to heart failure. Not that kind of scientific health issues, yet it’s also deadly. The heart did not fail, but someone failed somebody’s heart then it stopped pumping blood. Real tragedy.

It all started with coffee, looking for another unique caffeine exhilarating experience. Vietnam. The plan was to discover this neighboring country through its coffee and tea products, maybe a little bit of beer? No expectation, merely there to be involved and blend in. Not too hard to do. Started with Halong Bay tour booked through Hanoi Backpackers Hostel at  $75 which included transfers, food and overnight stay in the boat a.k.a cruiseship (Asian style). To which I almost failed to catch, thanks to the nice hostel attendant who helped me take the last coaster to the jump off point for the Halong Bay cruise.

With not enough sleep, its time to chill and experience the one day not so cheap escape with all the free tea and coffee along the way. Halfway through it, I have already made three friends who are very eager to listen to the comparison I have made between Vietnam and my beloved motherland (newbie mistake,should not compare one country to another, all places are unique in its own beauty). We can’t just stop talking until we reached the port. That was when the tour guide announced that I am not part of this group but with another team. Sigh, another adjustment to make and my body was just drifting to insanity. The choice though was not mine to make.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

So there I was with the new group, looking around, trying to fit in a younger crowd. It helped that one Australian family made the effort to reach out. Whew, that was enough to keep my feet back on the ground. Time to board the ship and take some lunch. There it happened, my first glance of Clark Kent.No he was not Clark Kent yet. He was one of those tourist who wants to exploit the Asian natural beauty. He was with his friend, David, both  were Swiss exchange students. David, was assigned in South Korea while him, China. Both were doing the big Southeast Asian trail just before they go back to their homeland. We were all in one table along side with a British History student and Architecture graduate. It was a smart lunch as we discussed the Asian economy like the GDPs, GNPs, population in relation to income and marginal advantages of each country. Almost nosebleed.

Was it the greenish water of Halong Bay or was it the sun? Or it was his green boardshorts and slender physique paired with normal eye glasses, Clark Kent emerged. Why Clark Kent? He reminded me so much of Smallville’s hero, oh my can I be Ms Lang? That moment when the world started moving slow and hearing him speak about Asia’s growing population and emerging markets just made me fall…back to my senses. He was actually talking to me. iiiiiiiiiiink speechless and looked stupid. Sigh, wish I could just turn back that time. I could have done better.

Part of the tour was to visit a nearby cave which was included in the seven wonders of the world. It was when we (me and the Swiss friends) started talking again, about how beautiful Philippines was. Imagine that shame when they actually told me how magnificent the Underground river was, compared to this cave. Clueless and just smiled my way out. It was a short trek and we were brought to the kayaking area. This also came with the package. I paired up with the Aussie kiddo who was actually a super athlete. No need to do some paddling, just pointing the areas I would want to see. Boss. If the water was more clear, I could have enjoyed the activity. Nonetheless, the scenery made up for what the water lack. More to say, the one hour conversation I had with my partner entertained me the whole time. Surfing in Aus, football, school and basketball.

Caught on Cam: The Clark Kent

Caught on Cam: The Clark Kent

Back to the ship, we were given time to soak in the sun at the roof deck. Watch the sunset with our drinks, mostly beer (mine was water). Trying to get to know everyone, as preparation for the night party. We were offered to do either night fishing or bbq party. We opted for the latter. And there came the inevitable,swim time. Everyone was so excited and were running towards the diving spot. Yes, swimming meant jumping from the ship to the water. Something I was not prepared to do, nonetheless, geared up to try it. Imagine the humiliation when I realized I was the only one with life jacket, oh my, I felt like I wanted to disappear  at that very instance. No backing down as most of my cruisemates jumped already and there I was still standing. Our tour guide, who did not have the plan to swim had to jump so he can catch me when it was my turn. But still, nothing from me. Everyone started to chant “jump jump jump, you can do it.” It was so nice of them, but I was frozen. Not until, Clark Kent, stood beside me, our eyes met and that little voice came out of my mouth saying, “will you jump with me.” There again, slow motion of his mouth that said, “ yes of course,” while taking my hand. It was almost perfect when all of a sudden a Vietnamese crew grabbed my hand and asked me to jump in 3, 2,1. I was still lingering in that moment when I felt the splash of the water and hands pulling me as if I was drowning. And there he was, Clark, jumped by himself. I had the chance but it was not meant to happen. Sigh.

By dinner, we had different companions. I was with a bunch of Brits who have been traveling for six months. They could not believe I was a banker and worked in a multinational company. It was a humbling experience hearing how they admired me for getting such a job. But my brain was admiring them, for being unemployed but still happy. We had rooftop party, but I did not join. Alcohol was not my thing, so I ended up with my ipad and John Green’s TFIOS again. Until the Vietnamese crews hangout with me and we talked about, surprise surprise, Gay community. To which I was proud to share that my country accepts and respects the members of the LGBT. That sad look on their faces when they told me how terrible it was in their towns. We ended the conversation by midnight.

The following day, we were off to Hanoi again, where I planned to stay one day before my flight back to Manila. It was another chance to hangout with him and David. But it never happened. I woke up with severe headache and the entire journey back to Hanoi was unbearable. By the time we all got off the coaster in front of the hostel, I had to rush to the reception to check-in, just when everyone was getting facebook contacts. I had to go, otherwise, I’ll throw up in front of them. I eventually did, inside the room of my hostel. Relieved to have done it by myself, not in front of anybody. In exchange of not getting his facebook. And I have never seen him again until this very day. My Clark Kent.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam (in front of my hostel)

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam
(in front of my hostel)

One year after, I was in Laos. In the capital city, Vientiane, I met someone. He was not the superhero kind of person. He was just normal traveler who loves beer, weed and party. He stayed in the same hostel as me. We hangout with some other tourists, mostly his friends. He was a volunteer in a farm in Vang Vieng and has been staying in Laos for more than a month. The first time I met him, I did not like the way he spoke with authority. We were having dinner by the Mekong River with three Italians, one Eritean, one Canadian girl, two American-Japanese girls and me. The dinner was fun, just listening to their travel stories but we (me and the AJ girls) went ahead to check the night market and eventually slept. Kotone and Motomi went to Luang Prabang the following day,and I decided to stay to check the city center with the Canadian girl. We had one day cycling adventure in the temples of the city, but we never saw the big golden pagoda I was looking. She went ahead and booked her bus ticket leaving at night going south of Laos. I was left behind. So I hangout with them, Jemal (Eritean) and Anatol (Swiss). He was, at that time seeing someone, a Pakistani teacher working in Laos who I met in that same day. We hangout the whole night with some other people from the hostel and the owner of this Japanese Restaurant. We went to see the nightlife and got some unwanted attention from the ladyboys waiting on the road. It was past midnight when we head back to our hostel, me and him. He asked if we can hangout, like talk. I said yes. There I knew what happened to him and his passport. He lost it a few days ago and was coming to the city to get some help from the consulate office. But he was unlucky for two days in a row. First day, he went but the office was close due to Swiss public holiday and was advised to come back the following day 9-11am, and so he did but the officer was not around. So I agreed to help him out the following day. We both woke up and went with the plan, he was able to talk to the consul officer and got the instructions for his temporary passport which involved going to the police. It was one week of hell, just going to and from the police station, until the day he finished everything. The same day that I broke my itinerary (not going to Vang Vieng), and went with him.

Where it all started (Vientiane, Laos)

Where it all started
(Vientiane, Laos)

It was in Vang Vieng that superman came to life. From the crazy river tubing, to not forcing me to drink (alcohol and mushy) and smoke, I felt safer. Always ready to respect, help, protect and appreciate me and my ideals. He was there to make me feel these emotions that I failed to enjoy from the corporate life. We barely have anything in common except the idea of respecting each other’s opinion. We had our bad days too, endless arguments that would end in our “pacute” faces. Which led to, me asking God the purpose of this meeting, like it was such a perfect plan. I never saw myself falling in trip. I made sure all my walls were up and sturdy. I have been traveling by myself for years with no such issues. I can’t seem to fathom what was happening. Until the day we went biking to the blue lagoon.

The tree slide with Superman (not the tree jump yet)

hang time with Superman
(not the tree jump yet)

Superman, til we meet again :-) (Bangkok, Thailand)

Superman, til we meet again 🙂
(Bangkok, Thailand)

There I was, standing on top of a tree, with tourists cheering for me to jump to the river. I tried but I always stepped back. There he was,waiting in the cold water to catch me ( I was not wearing a life jacket and I don’t know how to swim). The tourists started to go and the sky loosing light, but still nothing. The two friends we went with, both were already discovering the nearby cave, yet there I was, still standing. Just below, I saw him braving the cold water, waiting for me. And with all might, I asked him to just jump with me. Like a real superman, ready to rescue, he climbed the tree and whispered some words of encouragement. He gave me the liberty to signal our jump and assured my safety. But I refused his offer, instead, I awarded him the authority to control our jump, me letting myself go and entrusted him my life. He held my hand tight, kissed me as I closed my eyes and in 1,2,3 allowed myself to be pulled by gravity towards the embrace of mother nature with his warmth. He pulled me up and made sure I was okay. I have never felt safer with our eyes full of laughter.

St Joseph Cathedral (Hanoi, Vietnam)

St Joseph Cathedral
(Hanoi, Vietnam)

The universe has its own way of making things happen, unanticipated. Everything made sense, as if things were bound to unfold and it was just me who did not know. With all its imperfections, life has never failed to surprise the wanderer in every step, jump and roller coaster ride.  Story of my life.

Shenanigan: the Limited becomes borderless

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#FearsNoMore #MapThatAdventures

The anxiety arises when the unknown creeps out of nowhere and surprises us. Caught off guard, losing balance, then it’s a choice between falling or to redeem that being. Or falling then comes redemption. The choice is yours to make, more than that, reveling in the moment engender the experience. Ready to take that leap?

Say YES and regret not. And yes to anything that does not counter the non negotiables of this life. Yet, don’t be too insensitive and act with responsibility. Face that fear with caution. Life is short, and it’s bound to be cherished every given instance but this is not a reason to suicide. Though at some point I felt I did. What’s there to do while on the road?The usual, selfies taken in all the interesting areas listed in the lonely planet guide book. Break free.

The Eternal Optimist (Martin) and the eye witness (Ella) after that crazy bike ride to the Killing Fields

The Eternal Optimist (Martin) and the eye witness (Ella) after that crazy bike ride to the Killing Fields

So here I am, non swimmer, sports enthusiast and just this ordinary human trying to get some adrenaline rush going. And a little bit more as I wander around the unfamiliar territory.

bike

Bicycles are my friends, thanks to my childhood spent in learning how to ride and enjoy it. Growing up, more and more vicious terrains became the challenge to me and my brothers. Add to it the dogs that would run and chase us. Not in my wildest imagination that I would experience cycling for 25km in the roads of Pnom Penh with trucks, buses, tuktuks and motorbikes everywhere. Imagine being squeezed in the dusty road under the heat of the sun. Not to mention taking the road less traveled and still being discovered. I was about to kill Martin, and Ella was there as my witness. All we had were our courage and smiles that lured the Cambodians to give us the direction back to the city center. There he was smiling like insane, the eternal optimist Dutch! While me and Ella had to wash our feet and legs full of mud and dust. Not to mention, the hunger sinking in as if our body was about to float (which actually prepared me for another cycling adventure in Siem Reap around the temples of Angkor Wat). Or at least fly like how cycling in the dark with a sh*tty road was such a miracle in Vang Vieng. Along with three guys, braving the road from the Blue Lagoon back to the city center, with just the moon as the guide, pedaling in total darkness paired with fear of hmmm unwanted beings slowly appearing, my soul started praying for greatness. Lo and behold, imagine that feeling upon seeing the light post in the bridge just before the left turn back to the city center. Sigh, relieved to survive the ride. More to say, the adventure never stopped. What about making it bigger like taking a bigger bike? More than ten times heavier than the human body? All matic, just a little bit of balance and body strength to hold it. Motorbikes. For sure anyone have taken a plunge to this but not maneuver the ignition and brakes. It has to happen. Transpired, finally with no scratch and damage. With a professional motocross rider as a teacher and three gorgeous roommies as cheerios, with a bit of peer pressure, it was breezy ride  in the island of Koh Phangan. Good stuff 🙂

Teacher Adri in KP Photo by: Noy Lavi

Teacher Adri in KP
Photo by: Noy Lavi

Non-swimmer wanderer trying to paddle and ride the waves of the Philippines and Indo. Oh, taking it to the extreme by going under as deep as 30M (almost 100ft). Plain insane. The first ride was at home, just a few blocks from Gram’s place while watching my cousin Aggie Boy practice his moved to the upcoming surfing festival. I was with a chaperon, yep, was not allowed to go to the beach alone (Gram’s order). Just there to watch my cousin, not to play with him. Unfortunately, that order became null and void. Since that day, it had been a rhythmic, dance with the biggest playground on Earth, the ocean. From Lanuza to Elyu to Baler to Zamba and just recently to Bali. Every paddle and dance became a testament of strength and weakness. The body being constantly challenged and treated with so much passion by Poseidon. The death-defying trips that allowed me to experience momentary weakness due to panic and stupidity, a.k.a drowning story! Who would get drowned with a surfboard attached to the ankle? ME. The ME who forgot to pull the leash to get the board. The same ME who did not try the survival float to get to the shore. But nevertheless, nailed it, otherwise, you won’t be reading this story lol. Though drowning doesn’t just happen to non swimmers (being defensive).

Baler surfing that almost killed that wrist

Baler surfing that almost killed that wrist

La Union Surfing trip Photo by: Janine Jose

La Union Surfing trip
Photo by: Janine Jose

From riding the waves to taking the cavernous home of Nemo and Ariel. Okay, I once dreamed of being a mermaid and thought that it could be real. Who didn’t sing the songs Part of this world or Under the Sea? Such a cliche. Thanks to an old friend I met in Cebu who introduced me to scuba diving. He believed that I can do it, even without swimming skills. Tried and enjoyed through the services of My Boracay Guide and its Manager Ms Jennilee Luces who happened to be my BFF and was forced to do it with me. As all scuba divers would agree, the underwater world is far better than the upland. No traffic, pollution and almost everything is real. What the eyes see, the heart and the mind feel.. It’s like being one with the residents of the place. Knowing and respecting these beautiful souls as if having a mutual understanding with each other. Mermaidness to infinity. Finally, after years of evaluating and (re)thinking, the mermaid ME took the shot to be an Open Water Scuba Diver through the knowledge and supervision of Jeroen Elout. After seven-skill-dives, PADI theory videos and long exam discussion with classmate Julian, my license  has been approved. Whew! But it didn’t end there. Crazier, it became PADI Advanced Open Water Course, a week after getting the other license. This…unimaginable. Night dive with the plankton, appreciating the bio-luminescence  glitter, seeing through the darkness and defying the creepy images formed by the brain cells. Or occasionally  getting a doze of “stoned” feeling manifested by underwater coma (or slow reaction) . Or the peacefulness of self through mindful breathing to control buoyancy so as to avoid damage to the coral reefs. And to top it all, the scary dark idea of going deeper than the usual without even noticing it (until the ears tells the brain to go up a bit). Beautiful madness.

Hello Nemo! Photo by: Jeroen Elout Diving

Hello Nemo!
Photo by: Jeroen Elout Diving

Is there such thing as fear of gravity? That nauseous feeling up there seeing the image of Earth swallowing a dense body? or seeing the blood and broken bones just below the summit? Yes, the fear of falling. I know what you’re thinking. Yes it’s both. So what do you call a person who tried to take a free fall ride from Lotte World (Seoul, SK), or zip lined in Danao (Bohol, Philippines), or the cable car in Sentosa (Singapore) or jumped off a dive board without life jacket in one of the islands in Palawan and a tree in Vangvieng? Nonsense. It’s a liberating feeling of being human. Tangible and fragile. It did not come easy, more to say, it came with the urgency to do it because, for once, it has to. It’s like the future, you know it will come but the element of surprise keeps it more unfamiliar. And about falling…in love? It’s about the same, face it and let it be.

Puerto Prinsesa, Philippines Photo by: Ate

Puerto Prinsesa, Philippines
Photo by: Ate

Fear made me do the unimaginable. Sometimes its a happy ever after but other times, its worse. However, this is not a reason to stop taking action and making things happen. The mind is limitless, not to mention that faith strengthens what the mind cannot conceive. Realizing that the universe becomes smaller and smaller in every leap and step.

The Southeast Asia Wandering (Route 3- The Flashpacker)

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#SURFYOGADIVEbike #IndonesiaSingaporePhilippines #BikiniKindOfLife

Flying from Malaysia to Jakarta, train to Yogya just to reach Bali for less than $100. Only because I failed to book a promo round trip ticket from KL-Bali for the same amount  last August and by the time decision has been finalized, it was already $100 one way. It’s not too bad, after all, it was fate that brought me to Java before setting to Bali.

Bali, the budgetpacker lived a flashpacker’s life. Enjoyed the familiar in the uncharted zone.

One week of this :-)

One week of this 🙂

The familiar face having fun with something close to my heart! Photo by: Adri Assmarra

The familiar face (victim of my convincing charm) having fun with something close to my heart!
Photo by: Adri Assmarra

There are many ways to reach Depansar from Jogja like taking an expensive flight or some cheap stake bus/train ride for 18 hours. I chose the latter (before flashpacking starts), train to Banyuwangi then bus to Depansar (with ferry connection) with total expense of 90000IDR ($9). It was not a journey for the weak but those who’ll risk it are rewarded with a magnificent countryside tour of Java. Maybe I was lucky too, got seated to a bunch of kind locals who fed me with chips for the entire trip. Food was also available from the train’s restaurant. My seatmates talked to me in local language, of course I looked like one of them. But the moment my mouth started to move, they were all surprised and started interviewing me, instant celebrity feels, lol. Anyway, everything went well until one of my seatmates asked me to follow him to his house. I thought it was kind but didn’t realized it was something else. duh. He was so persistent that it felt awkward already. Although I knew that nothing worse can happen to me, declining it in a nice way repeatedly was my manner  of shouting NO WAY and just GO. He got the message and apologized then left. Whew, that was close! It did not end with that man, there were others too who helped me first then tried to take advantage. Bali, sadistic. Despite the series of mishaps upon my arrival, surrender was not in my vocabulary. Arrived in Bali around 4am with no transportation heading to the airport except a $20 cab ride. No, not yet. Asked around and some guys gave me directions to the terminal where I can get a local bus to the airport to pick up my surfmate, Janine. So I did but there was nothing yet. First trip to the airport was scheduled 6am. Instead of waiting, I just slept. Yes, slept in the street of Bali, who cares, nobody knows me there. My body was too harassed,so off to dreamland in a few minutes. Woke up to the honking of the vehicles and the sun was up! Went directly to the airport, that for the record was a better place to relax. Enjoyed the free wifi and comfy seat to sleep.Airports are my favorite accommodation,almost everything is free except food.

Yes this is BALI kind of Life

Yes this is BALI kind of Life Photo by Janine Jose

BALI (Indonesia)–where everything is more expensive except surfing items (yep with outlet stores for brands like roxy, quiksilver, billabong, volcom etc). All my expenses skyrocketed. But no regrets, every penny spent was worth it. All because this trip was for a dear sister. She owned this time. Yes, her name is Janine Jose, the culprit, lol. A chance for some luxury after living in budget-conscious life on the road.

flashy

with the Flashy Janine Ann Jose at the Monkey Village. Photo by: Janine Jose

Sunrise activity in Kuta Beach Photo by: Adri Assmarra

Sunrise activity in Kuta Beach
Photo by: Adri Assmarra

This is an island that most of its places to see are crowded with tourists coming from different parts of the world.Best to rent a motorbike/car to explore the entire island. We opted to do it with style, get a tour company to see some of Bali’s best for one day at $50/each with free buffet lunch and plated dinner. We wanted to go to Ubud but when we were passing by the center, we saw a huge crowd of tourists and I just said NO. We went shopping for some surfing items like bikinis, boardshorts and shirts. We also asked our driver to bring us to a traditional healer (aside from Ketut) but when we arrived at the place, she was no longer practicing.

Bali 1

Legian for a romantic sunset view with acoustic music

Bali 2

Cute Kuta street art

Bali 3

Part of the flashy tour, to see this legend. Just see because it was expensive to avail his services ($20)

Bali 4

Traditional Balinese temple

Bali 5

Why did I come to Bali? Surf!!! one week of surfing life in Kuta

Bali 6

Flashy Bali Tour Lunch with this view Photo by: Janine Jose

The best part of the Bali Flashy Tour--Coffee and Tea free taste

The best part of the Bali Flashy Tour–Coffee and Tea free taste Photo by: Janine Jose

Bali 7

Definitely flashpacking at Bali Chaya Hotel, comes with free breakfast and near Legian beach and shopping area. Yep thats me doing some Yoga Photo by: Janine Jose

Surfing– $10/hour with board and guide. Board rental $20 for whole day. The main beach for surfing is Kuta while Legian and Seminyak are better for hangout and drinks. According to some friends, Uluwatu beach is good for intermediate level. My surfer friend Wayan Sneper and his brother teach surfing for beginners and can serve as guides too.

Food/Drink– Warung vegan rice meals are cheap for $1. Fried rice would cost $1.5. A bottle of beer in a bar $5. Steamed/Grilled Corn $2. Plate of onion rings with big portion at $3. Fruit shakes ranging from $3-5.

Accommodation- no comment, lol. $35 for twin bed AC room with free wifi, welcome drinks, dryer and all demands from my surfmate 🙂

Transportation- everything in the beach and shopping area are walking distance. Going to the airport, best to take bluebird taxi or hassle yourself and take the public transport. From Airport to Kuta, we paid $5 whereas Legian to Airport $8.

Foreign Exchange Etc– Most establishments accepts Visa and Mastercard but with minimal fee. For the money changers, take extra caution as most of the smaller shops have better rates but with a dirty scheme. I tried this. Went to a smaller shops and asked if they can give me 100000 bills but most of them refused and asked if its okay to change with 20,000 bills, of course no. Its harder to recount the bills so when one shop agreed to change with 50000 bill I agreed. When he was preparing the money for $100 in front of me, I was checking his hands. And when I told him to put all the bills by twos for faster checking, he refused. And I insisted that I recount the bills before completing the transaction, he then asked if I can wait and he’ll talk to his boss. When he came back, he told me he can’t change my dollar because it was an old version. I just smiled and walked out of the shop.Their trick is to count the money in front of the client then by the time they hand the money, its not the same amount as what they were previously counting. Just go to the licensed money changers for safer transactions.

One week with this flashy tripper

One week with this flashy tripper

Then we have to part ways again. She had to fly back to Manila while I decided to stay for one day then proceed to the Gili Islands. Just one day, because I refuse purchase the ferry ticket in advance.So there I was, walking away from Legian trying to find my way to another hostel in Kuta, where I was meant to meet someone who would be part of my future life (nothing romantic, okay?!).

GILI AIR (Indonesia)-One of the three Gili Islands closest to Lombok, the other two are Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. Trawangan is known as the party area while Meno is a place for the green turtle sanctuary. So why go to Air? It was just some random thoughts, lol. The idea came from some friends’ plan to visit the Gilis on 2015. As of this writing, this remains to be a plan, right Gwen? Moving on, the journey to Air was posh, instead of taking the public transport, took the shuttle ferry for $25 (250000IDR) for an hour ride. As this island is small, it was just a few hours of walk to see the entire silent and chill hideaway. After fixing stuff at 7SEAS Backpacker Hostel (70000IDR fan bed in a mixed dorm), it was time to explore and eat. Thirty minutes of walking led to a beachside restaurant (Warung) with a beautiful view of Meno and cheap food, it was time to feed the hungry soul with vegan rice meal and Mango shake without milk and sugar at $3. Then it happened, again, food coma, off to dreamland under the cold breeze and whisper of Gili air. Life is better in bikini. The sun was not happy about this so, it hit the sleeping body with a powerful kame hame wave, boooooom time to get back on track. It was almost sunset when the trail was completed, back to that dorm bed, dinner and meeting the roommie.It’s a four bed mixed dorm with only me and a Belgian banker named Amaury who had a heavier bag. What a mix, really, bankers in one room. So the entire night was about, darn, corporate professional life and so on.

Amaury, the other banker

Amaury, the other banker

Snorkeling in front of the hostel

Snorkeling in front of the hostel

It was supposed to be a one day layover, but then, the last boat to Lombok and Bali left just before we decided to stop snorkeling (gear rental at $2.5). We can’t stay in the same hostel though, so we moved to a bungalow for $15 with fan, double bed, wifi and breakfast. Like cash and stock transactions, we both had to go our separate route, him to Bali, me to Lombok.

Senggigi beach (Lombok, Indonesia)– bigger than Bali and the Gilis with an International airport that has flights to nearby SEA countries, also multiple domestic fleet.  Lombok is less touristy as compared to Bali with popular trekking and surfing areas located away from each other. Senggigi beach is none of both. Another brain freeze decision. From Gili Air, take the public boat to Lombok for $1 for an hour cruise. From the port in Lombok, follow the locals, as they will be walking towards the bus terminal 300 meters away. From the bus terminal, there are public buses, mini vans and private cars that go to Kuta, Airport, Senggigi and other destination within the island. Always bargain as the fare highly depends on this particular skill. Nothing spectacular except the peace from the beach next door. Another two days spent swimming, reading and meditating. Birthday blues.

lombok 2

just me, the beach and ebooks

while waiting for the bus to the airport

while waiting for the bus to the airport

Two books.two nights and an early two hour trip to the airport. Yes, it could have been shorter if I had stayed in Kuta. Sauce. Anyway, originally, the first trip was scheduled at 6am yet the bus came ten minutes before 7 and ETD of the Airasia flight was 9:50 AM. Another chasing flight story. Nothing serious, made it just before the check-in counter closed. Went directly to the departure lounge passing through that cute Indonesian Immigration officer, who greeted me with, “happy birthday and enjoy.” Blushed, too much anxiety erased the fact that its almost the 27th year. Sigh, flew to Johor Bharu, Malaysia for $15, crossed to Singapore on the same day.


Singapore– the safer home. Not to mention, the more expensive city life. With one heck of a story! Been here before, with my beautiful familia, cousins Andrea and Ello, grammy Lola Hely. We did the usual, Sentosa, Orchard and Little India. Another opportunity to reconnect with the past. The catch: staying at a friend’s (former boyfriend) place for four nights, enough time to celebrate the 27th. No, don’t try to judge. Not being defensive, it was purely platonic. Nothing romantic. I know what you’re thinking: ITS IMPOSSIBLE. I say, it’s possible. At least for me it was staying at a friend’s house shared by his other friends. Who wouldn’t stay in a posh condo unit with Olympic-sized pool near the beach and the airport. The swimming pool that confirmed something: panic can either save me or end my bikini kinda life. Yup, ME almost drowned, on the day of the 27th year. Beautiful almost disaster. Other than hanging out at the pool, it was the chance to meet with a good friend and chat the day away. It was a memorable reunion that started in HarbourFront Center that culminated in the Christmas themed Orchard road. Until that day, for the first time, I got kicked out of a house, without a fight, nothing but these words: my girlfriend is upset/crying. Good sh*t. Brokenness appeared like a ghost of the past, smiled and it went away. No time to waste, packed and booked ready to leave for Melaka where Nacho mucho was waiting to rescue a rain-wet soul.

we were kids again in Singapre

we were kids again in Singapore

Birthday treat from my angel Malou

Birthday treat from my angel Malou. Photo by: Malou Gatus

Yuh, flashpacker me before the big event

Yuh, flashpacker me before the big event. Photo by: Malou Gatus

who can say NO to this?

who can say NO to this haven?

Pardon for not talking about the kick-out issue, may be soon.


After a healing week in Melaka with Nacho, the inevitable was bound to happen. Flight back to Manila, for more bikini life. It was a pseudohomecoming, the comfort zone.

Anilao (Batangas, Philippines)- Got this post from Couchsurfing that someone wants a diving buddy, signed up. From the airport, went straight to the bus station to meet this stranger named Celine and her friend. Didn’t really understand that she was not Filipino but Malaysian working in the Philippines, hahaha clueless. Turned out, she’s a mermaid trapped in a human body. Her friend’s name is Abi, who became my buddy under the sea until upland. This acquaintance led to many more like our Padi instructor Jeroen Elout (Dutch by passport), classmate and self-defense teacher Jerry (German by nationality and language but a Filipino blooded skater) his cousins, our Dutch classmates Kuya Mauricio,Kuya Koen and Kuya Mark with one more Pinay power Aileen.

The powerhouse diving class Photo by: Abigail Lazaro

The powerhouse diving class
Photo by: Abigail Lazaro

Anilao is known for its beautiful underwater world. We had to do it, no I have to do it. They were all doing it, me, undecided. The non-swimmer me was scared. Not of the uncertainty but of drowning. Nevertheless, tried it for one dive (that eventually led to more dives) at P1800 which included beginner open water skills, equipments,dive log,lunch and free use of shower facilities. The experience was beyond words. Can I actually breathe underwater, more to say hangout with the corals, fishes and creatures I have never seen before. Being a non-swimmer, the support of my classmates made a difference. They all got their licenses except me and Abi, we were not ready to go down some more. Until recently, completed my Padi Open Water Diving course under Jeroen Elout.

with forever buddy Abi

with forever diving buddy Abi

From self-defense to diving to longboard, THE JERRY Photo by: Jeroen Elout

From self-defense to diving to longboard, THE JERRY
Photo by: Jeroen Elout

Describe Anilao: A for awesomeness

Describe Anilao: A for awesomeness

Cebu (Philippines)– For the infinite time,I am back. Still, reconnecting with the past. Met with a few good friends from previous job, Crissy, Franzel and Kuya Onat. And my parent by forced choice (dated seven years ago in Busan, South Korea), Ramces. What’s there to do? Babysit my parental while exploring Cebu like going to Mobydick again and hiking another waterfall. Plus the Mactan and Cebu city tour with my onscreen partner, lol, Daniel. That Kathrine Bernardo feels. Oh Cebu, with so much love from Dungog family, sigh. Oh Cebu, you made me feel insecure too. Those strolling escapades with Daniel that led to “you’re so lucky to have him,” conversation with strangers that crushed the ego of this wanderer.

Spending time with Mobydick in Oslob Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Spending time with Mobydick in Oslob
Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Crazy Beautiful Mactan with Daniel Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Crazy Beautiful Mactan with Daniel
Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Aguinid Waterfalls, Samboan Cebu

Aguinid Waterfalls, Samboan Cebu

Enjoying the local favorites ngohiong and puso with Lysa D Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Enjoying the local favorites ngohiong and puso with Lysa D
Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Cebu, totally still in love with you. For all the imperfections and beauty, you have been surprising this soul in every visit. Temporarily ending this trip with your embrace, see you again.

Too much drama. Who says its over? No, just had to take another flight down south. Back to the comfort of a simple life. To that warm embrace and infectious laugh. The existence that is forever ME. Spirits who look like ME. As I walked out of Tandag airport, a banderole in the form of a green kia SUV emerged and three angels came rushing to welcome this tripper with smiles and unique dialogue (their own version of Surigaonon). There at that instance, the flashpacking and volunteering continues with Sir Ninoy and Tatay Fuds, crossing Lanuza to Madrid Surigao del Sur. Never-ending traipse of a rambling life, covered and no bikini sighting this time.

back to this imperfectly perfect lafamilia

back to this imperfectly perfect lafamilia