Letter to my child: Me at 26.

Dear Little One,

Today, I am 26 years old. It would have been timely to write this on my birthday but as with most things in my life, I chose to defer this. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me, unfortunately. Hopefully you don’t get that from me.

Let me tell you a few things about myself:

1.      I’m not working.

No, don’t think that I am unemployed or self-employed. I have come to love my job. They say that when you’re happy with what you do, you are no longer working. It would appear to be a hobby of sorts. I am fortunate to be in this state and it took a while to be here too. I didn’t start out where I wanted to be. I had to dip my feet into other jobs which were also enjoyable, but this one is the best one yet.

 2.      I’m in a relationship.

I always thought (or planned) to be married by 25. Obviously, as the title and first sentence suggest, I am not yet married. P is my first boyfriend. We were friends at first but we got together when we were both 23. I always thought that college would have been a great time to be in a relationship. But I was wrong. Speaking for myself, it was a good time to be in a relationship at 23. I reaped the rewards of my career for the first 5 years and shared it with someone for the next couple of years. It basically means that I was able to explore new things by myself without considering someone else. Now, it also feels wonderful to uncover lessons with a person you love.

 3.      I have a few friends.

I remember having a popularity contest with a classmate of mine in college. We would each get points for every person who said ‘hi’ to us. I won back then. But it was only now that I have realized that all those ‘friends’ were very superficial. I am now more cautious as to who gets branded as a friend. I only have a few good friends. But these friends are solid and loving. These people won’t sugar coat the truth and they would give you honest to goodness advice.

 4.      I am restless but not reckless.

The phase of being reckless is over. I spent my college life being that way. Most of my decisions are more calculated. I’m not saying that all calculations are correct but I now take my time before I decide which road to travel.

 

Speaking of travel, it has made me more restless. I have been fortunate to have travelled to 8 countries. I am not as rich as I had hoped to be but there is no greater investment than experience. Travel teaches you open your mind and see things from a different perspective. It uproots you from the usual and shoves you into a new world. In a nutshell, it is wonderful.

As mentioned, I’m not really much of a writer. So let me close this abruptly.  I’ll see you in a few years and I’ll show you pictures. 

 

 

Call it Stupid…or Brave?

I’ve been watching The Newsroom (2012) for the past couple of days. Though I have no background on the economy or politics, the show has made me reflect on questions that needed to be asked.

No, I’m not talking about the Pork Barrel Scandal. It’s a more personal experience way back in college.

My friend and I take the Zapote bus to school in Taft. Our arrangement was simple. She would sleep en route to school while I stay awake as I am unable to sleep on while on the road.

By the time the bus exits Zapote on its way to Coastal Road, it becomes packed. Most people would get off Baclaran but they are immediately “substituted” by other folks who board there.

One day, a group of rowdy men boarded the bus. I knew there was something dubious about these men as they were making such as huge fuss out of the crowded bus. If you commute on a daily basis, this wouldn’t have been new.

By the time they entered, they must have noticed that my friend was asleep. As they moved to our portion of the bus, one of the men pretended to have been pushed thus held on to the seat right in front of us. He covered his left arm with a sling bag. I noticed that his left arm was reached for something inside my friend’s bag.

While he was rummaging through my friend’s bag, I spanked his arm. You know, the type of mild spanking that some mothers do. The man was shocked. He screamed at me, “Ano ba?!” (What the hell?) and immediately scrambled off the bus.

Right after this incident, some people on the bus asked me, “Ninakawan ba kayo? Mga magnanakaw yun eh.” (Did they steal anything from you? Those men were thieves.). My friend and I checked her bag and noticed that everything was intact. Unfortunately, we later found out that they were able to get her allowance from her wallet. I guess they could have taken more if I didn’t do anything.

So was I stupid or brave? What the hell was I thinking?

Well, I was considering one thing: My friend’s mom worked hard and sacrificed so much for her allowance and cellphone. No one is going to get it just like that.

I guess the problem was, that was the only thing on my mind. I had a few seconds left. My judgement was seriously clouded that I forgot to think if they were armed.

Then again, there’s still that part on moral obligation – to right a wrong. Stealing is bad. Did my values get the best of me? Or was I simply young, foolish and, dare I say, idealistic?

It was brave to right a wrong but the method in doing so was stupid. I guess there could have been a better way. Getting her bag, taking a photo of the men or not letting my friend sleep on the bus in the first place! (hehe!) The list could go on.

All these are preventive measures, as warned by parents and fellow commuters. “Always be alert for pickpockets” they say, but shouldn’t it be the other way around? There shouldn’t be pickpockets if they revered the law. There shouldn’t be pickpockets if everyone was given a livelihood. There shouldn’t be pickpockets if taxes went to the right projects. There shouldn’t be pickpockets if the elected government officials weren’t so greedy to engage in the Pork Barrel Scam.

Uh-oh, I just said this post won’t be about that. Now that, was stupid. 🙂

The Mandatory Sorry Post

Ugh! I hate this! So many eventful things in my life and yet I have “nothing” to write about. The “sorry” isn’t for my readers (or lack thereof) but mostly to this dear, wonderful blog which I supposedly started as my pet project for the year. Shame on me for even trying out a “to be continued” post which was well, never continued. So to my dear blog, I’m so sorry. I’m not even going to try that hash tag #sorryimnotsorry because I am. 😦

Travel: Cross-country Turkey (Day 1 to 3)

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I’d be able to go to Turkey. If I’d be able to save enough money to go to a place as far as Turkey, I’d go to the usual Euro places like Paris, Spain, Italy etc. But what’s great about this Turkey trip was that I didn’t pay for much. Just my pocket money. It’s all unexpected and I can say that I am blessed with this opportunity. 🙂

I was in transit from Manila to Istanbul for about 16 hours – the longest I have ever experienced in my lifetime so far. We went from one city to another and this meant being on the bus for several hours and staying in different hotels. This totally debunked my perception that cross-country touring was cool and glamorous. I experienced high levels of Loren Haggarda but it was all worth it! 🙂

Here are some highlights of the trip:

Day 1 – Istanbul Grand Bazaar

We only stayed in Istanbul for a few hours to get a head start on our road trip to Cannakale where Troy is. It was a 6 hour bus and ferry ride (read: RORO!).

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Pretzels, textiles and lamps sold around the bazaar area

The Grand Bazaar, for me, can be likened to Greenhills. Expect the items to be a bit pricey as it’s a tourist place. Haggling is most welcome but I would suggest going around the bazaar to see which merchant can give you the best offer. Pasalubong: Evil Eye Bracelets, Ref Magnets for collectors, Tea, Baklava, SCARVES, SCARVES, SCARVES! :p

Day 2: The City of Troy

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Lethargic dog, Replica of Trojan Horse and Interior of Troy

Day 3 – Izmir & Denizli

This, I admit, was the highlight of the trip. We went to Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary and my favorite – Pamukkale or Cotton Castle.

Ephesus was surreal! Most of the ruins were preserved and I noticed that there was so much effort put into restoration. We walked through the entire city where we saw the public toilet (yep!), Celcius Library, Amphitheater and so much more.

The House of the Virgin Mary, was discovered by a blind nun, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, who kept on seeing the house in a vision. Outside the Shrine is a “wishing wall” where pilgrims would write their petitions and leave it there. One will also find healing drinking water which my mom and I collected as we were both feeling quite ill during the trip.

Going to Pamukkale, my favorite, gives me two trips in one. We passed by Hierapolis before getting to the terraces. The terraces are white as these were formed due to the carbonate minerals of flowing water.

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A store in Ephesus that’s brutally honest, an ancient toilet, Celcius Library,

Amphitheater, Wishing Wall and Pamukkale

to be continued…

Fly Fly the Multiply(.com)

Just learned today that Multiply will permanently close shop shortly after transitioning from a social networking site to an online shopping destination.

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I joined the Multiply bandwagon back in college but later on ignored it when Facebook came along. After announcing that they will become a full blown online shopping site, I was a bit upset because I had to back up all photos on the site.

Shortly after the transition, they’re now closing shop. It’s a same though because it has gotten much easier to get things shipped because it became free if you hit a P400 – even through different sellers. The same goes for the payment as it’s a onetime processing.

However, looking at the market here in the Philippines, it might be too difficult to compete with other prominent eCommerce sites such as ZALORA, Sulit, eBay or AyosDito.ph. As with all things online, the environment changes ever so quickly.

The face of eCommerce has also shifted. As mentioned by a friend, more and more people use Facebook and even Instagram to sell items (I personally don’t like shopping through the above-mentioned sites)

I’m not an eCommerce of business expert but perhaps it was also the timing. Multiply was used for eCommerce even before 2013. Maybe the transition for the site was delayed?

Others have commented that it was the transition that made people lose interest. With their assets (e.g. photos, blog posts etc.) taken away from them, there was no use to have an affiliation with the site.

What’s more was that the Marketplace had so many bugs. I tried transacting but they wouldn’t let me. Perhaps I’m not the only one.

In any case, it saddens me that Multiply is gone as with any other business that closes shop.

Word Vomit : EOLO

I am here at the hospital, looking after my Dad who was confined since Monday. I have a ton of time on my hands since he’s back in the room knocked out from the anesthesia.

While waiting for Dad’s procedure to finish, I was reading this article about people wanting to be in two places at the same time because they didn’t want to miss out. I forget the term but it was somewhat similar to Y.O.L.O. (You Only Live Once).

I think this is something I’ve starting to live by. I say to myself “I’ll never be young again.” so I do my best to go out, try new things, travel, conquer my fears etc.

The new experiences are there for fresher perspectives and more creative ideas. But with this obsession in trying the new, am I forgetting the “Constants” in my life, particularly my parents?

My dad, being in the hospital, is a scary reminder that my parents are vulnerable. The people who I believe are strong and invincible have moments of weakness too. Though this does not diminish my admiration, the idea of them leaving me behind scares me so much that I am close to tears while typing this.

I guess this whole experience is an eye opener with the way I am with the “Constants.” There should be less grudges, bickering and placing the blame on someone. More affection, forgiveness and empathy. Because the truth of the matter is it’s not just me living once – Everyone Only Lives Once and making the most of your time with anyone is just as worthwhile.

Travel: Hong Kong Take 3

I recently joined some colleagues to a trip to Hong Kong. While it has become my third, I was happy to go back because of my new found love for it.

As with most Filipinos, my first overseas trip was Hong Kong. I was in high school then and had no touchable savings to speak of. I didn’t enjoy that trip that much because I had too much financial dependence on my parents. I couldn’t walk around, explore, shop etc.

That all changed when I went to Hong Kong for a second time. I had been exposed to Cotton On and H&M. With enough money to blow now that I am working, I enjoyed going around on my own. Since our hotel was so close to these shops, I could check out bargain bins for four straight days. I even got the shock of my life that I was able to get 10 outfits for only P3,000.

My third trip was different. It was more of exploring food and areas outside TST, thanks to colleagues who knew the place so well. We ate at the Michelin Star restaurant, Din Tai Fung in Silvercord, partied at Lan Kwai Fong and shopped in Ikea Causeway. It was also the first time I rode the MTR! :p

Here are some highlights of my trip:

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is a Michelin Star restaurant with several branches all over the world. From what I’ve read, they known for their Xiao Long Bao so don’t leave the restaurant without trying it. 🙂

We we almost ran the other way when we saw the waiting line. Note that we came there even before dinner so people really line up to experience their food even at off peak hours. However, our group was lucky to be accommodated as there was a table good for 7 that was available. For the first time in my life, a restaurant gave us a deadline to finish eating. We had to be out by 7:15pm as the table was reserved for another customer. Who were we to say “no” anyways?

In a matter of minutes, food slowly came out of the kitchen and on to our stomachs. Hehe!

Our group tried the Xiao Long Bao, Drunken Chicken, Tossed Shredded Beancurd with Seaweed, Deep Fried Pork Chop and so much more. It was our first real meal of the day so you can imagine how much we’ve devoured!Image

Our bill was almost HKD 800. What’s clever about the bill is that they also show the cost if divided by the number of people. In our case it was 7. So we each paid around P800/person. Not bad for extremely good food. Would I go back? Yes! Would I recommend it? Yes! Do I dream about it? AMEN. Hehehe!

Symphony of Lights

If you’re one to enjoy cheap thrills, then the nightly light show is a must see. Here, you’ll find buildings from the Hong Kong side switching their lights on and off to the beat of the music which you can hear at Ocean Terminal by around 8pm.

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Lan Kwai Fong

If Cambodia had it’s pub street, Hong Kong would have Lan Kwai Fong. It’s an entire street peppered with a bunch of bars. There are also stores that close a bit later than usual such as Cotton On (woohoo! more shopping!)

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Avoid Compulsory Tours

Availing of tours through travel agencies come with packages of course. As part of our package for the second day, we HAD to join a mandatory City Tour. If you can help it, I would suggest you avoid it.

Our tour took us to:

  • Hong Kong Convention Center – Would have been better if we went to the Avenue of the Stars.
  • Hong Kong Jewelry Factory – They’ll share a bit of trivia but they’ll keep you there for a long time so they can sell you jewelry. My friends just tried stuff on. :p
  • Outlet Store – Surprisingly this outlet store sells goodies made in Indonesia and Malaysia so I’m not so impressed. The price? HKD 140 for 4 different crackers, biscuits etc.

So those are the highlights of my HK trip. Hopefully the fourth will be better. I’d like to go to Victoria Peak, Stanley Beach and of course, shop some more! 🙂

Music: Bloc Party Live in Manila!

I’d pay for you, anytime! – This Modern Love, Bloc Party

I’ve been a fan of Bloc Party since I was in college. Whenever I’m asked what band I’d spend my life savings on, I’d say Bloc Party. So just to get it out of the way, I’m a HUGE Bloc Party fan. 

When I found out that they will be going to Jakarta, I immediately checked online websites to see how much the flights are. Of course, apart from the expense, it would mean that I needed to take all my leaves. That being the biggest hurdle, I kept messaging their Twitter account if they would be coming to Manila.  I guess if there’s something in the works, then they won’t disclose it to the public.

With the help of social media, teasers of their album art with the date 3.22.2013 surfaced online.  

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After a few months of waiting, 3.22.2013 finally arrived. The opening act was Up Dharma Down. As usual, they were amazing. At 9:05pm, members of Bloc Party arrived onstage. Here are the songs that they played:

  1. So He Begins to Lie
  2. Mercury
  3. Hunting for Witches
  4. Positive Tension
  5. Team A
  6. Waiting for the 7.18
  7. Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
  8. Banquet
  9. Coliseum
  10. Day 4
  11. The Prayer
  12. One More Chance
  13. Octopus

Encore 1:

  1. So Here We Are
  2. Ares
  3. This Modern Love
  4. Flux

Encore 2:

  1. Sunday
  2. Truth
  3. Helicopter

So Here We Are was a surprise, considering they didn’t play it in other countries. When I researched on their setlists in other countries, they played my favorite Bloc Party song – Like Eating Glass. In any case, I’m a happy, happy girl.

 

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1st Photo: Courtesy of Warner Music Philippines (Facebook Account)

Travel: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Welcome to “Hi! I’m J!” I’ve had a couple of blogs before but I’ve later on decided to keep them private. Some I’ve even deleted. Hopefully, this is something I get to keep for the long haul.

I’m starting off this blog with a travel post – Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s also my first time to travel a group of friends (we were 10!), along with P, the boyps (hehe!).

We managed to book our tickets around October and our trip was scheduled in February. We later found out that February was a good time to visit Siem Reap since the weather was still relatively cooler compared to the summer season.

While Siem Reap is starting to become a more popular destination, thanks to Cebu Pacific, I have only managed to ask a few of my friends on travel tips. Hopefully, you may find this post helpful. 🙂

Here are some of my Siem Reap FAQs:

What do I have to bring?

  • Clothes – The weather is Siem Reap is close to what we have in the Philippines. It can get very hot at certain hours of the day. Most of the temples allow tourists to come in shorts and sleeveless tops except for Angkor Wat. So to be on the safe side, I would recommend that you bring shorts that fall below the knees or capri pants. Shirts should also be sleeved.
  • Footwear – The steps in temples are uneven and the paths you will be encountering are not cemented. If you’re the type who hates getting dirt under your feet by wearing flip flops, I would suggest that you wear sneakers or rubber shoes. Otherwise, hiking sandals are your best friends 🙂
  • Mosquito Repellent – Some parts of Cambodia have malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Though Siem Reap is not one of them, it would best to protect yourself. The mosquitoes are quite large compared to the ones we have here in the Philippines.
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Headband, hairpins or hair ties

Where should we stay?

Always find a location that is close to Pub Street, Old Market or Night Market. These three are the hubs of activities whenever you’re in town. It was helpful to search through Agoda but we booked directly with the hotel so that we didn’t have to make a down payment.

In terms of “stars” or ratings, I’ll leave it up to you but my friends and I were clear from the get go that we just wanted a place which had a good location, hot & cold shower, air conditioning, WiFi, free breakfast, airport pick-ups and a nice bathroom (girls will be girls). That’s when we decided to book King Angkor Villa. As shocking as it may seem, we each just paid $20 or roughly around Php800 for all 3 nights.The stay was comfortable, yes, but there were some amenities which weren’t available when we arrived – hot shower and cable TV. Luckily we survived because it was warm in Siem Reap and were didn’t stay much in the hotel.

The breakfast was nothing spectacular but it’s worth trying. They serve this bread that looks like a baguette. It’s sold on the streets and is probably the counterpart of pandesal. 🙂

Also, I would recommend booking a hotel that has a pool. We were all itching to jump into a pool after temple hopping. There are a lot of hotels offering this and you’ll just need to shell out a few more bucks for that.

What should we do there? What are the sights to see?

  • See the Temples – Since there were 10 of us set to explore Siem Reap, we decided to book a tour for two and a half days. The group paid $220 for everything – tour guide, van, airport drop off, unlimited supply of water and wet towels. Just note that entrance fees to temples and other sights are not included. 🙂 Here’s a summary of the places we saw:

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Day 1: Arrival with Tuktuk Pick-up
Day 2: Sunrise at Angkor Wat , Angkor Thom (Bayon, Dead gate, Elephants terrace), Ta Nei, Ta Promh.
Day 3: Prah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, East Mebon, Banteay Srei,
Banteay Samre, Sunset at Phnom Bakheng with sunset view
Day 4: Floating village on Tonle Sap lake at Kampong Pluk village with flooded Mangrove forest

My friends and I booked that through Angkor Guide Services. And I STRONGLY recommend that you book them as well. I’ve asked quotations from other guides and they are one of the cheapest. Our tour guide, Chhay, was one of the reasons why we loved our trip so much. He was pleasant, accommodating, engaging and FUNNY!

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  • Shopping – If you’re planning on buying unique pieces, you’re sure to find that in the Old & Night Markets. Branded items are scarce in Siem Reap. Remember to haggle very well and don’t buy immediately. Go around first and canvass if you have time. I made a mistake of buying almost all my souvenirs from one store and ended up paying more than my friends did. Also, store attendants can sense if you’re buying an item or not – even if you pretend you don’t want to. So just try and hone your acting skills while you’re there. If in case you end up paying more, don’t feel too bad!  Charge it to experience – like I did! 🙂

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  • Get a massage – Where can you find a deal better than a $3 foot massage for 30 minutes? That’s not all, you can enjoy free WiFi and beer!
  • Ride a bike and a tuktuk – Our hotel was so close to the market that we just walked to  et there. We were lucky enough to try the tuktuk on our way to the hotel. As for the bike, you just need to pay $1.50 to rent it for an entire day. 🙂

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  • Go around Pub Street – The place comes alive at night. You’ll come across popular bars such as Angkor What? and Temple Club.

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  • Try Street Food – There’s nothing more authentic than a country’s street food. So try the pancakes ($1), spicy pork sandwich ($0.75), noodles or porridge (congee/goto).

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What’s the food like? Any restaurants you can recommend?

The Khmer cuisine is similar, in my humble opinion, to Thai or Vietnamese food. I just noticed that they rarely add salt to their food. I’ve seen other tourists request for salt shortly after trying their orders 🙂 Their food is not super spicy but there’s a bearable zing.

As for the restaurants, we’ve tried eating a pre-selected or booked ones. That’s because our tour guide did not want to bring us to restaurants that just set up on streets. I don’t blame him as we were under his watch 🙂

How much should I bring?

This was my biggest dilemma before leaving. To be safe, I spent about Php12,000 for the tours, food, pasalubong/souvenirs and hotel (excludes airfare). So depending on the things you’re planning on spending, the Php 12,000 should be a good benchmark.

The temple pass is $40. Also, if you will be heading to Tonle Sap Lake, prepare to shell out $18. You’ll be spending an average of $5 to $6 per meal should you decide to eat at the more popular restaurants or tou-booked restaurants.

Did you tip?

Yes, we did. I’ll be honest though. I’m not so sure what the standard tipping rate is. It’s not like here in Manila that is should be around 30% of the value of the service. In our case, we tipped our tour guide $35 and the driver $15. Whenever we ate out, we tipped waiters/waitresses $1. Hopefully anyone who has been there can shed light on this. 🙂

What attraction should we skip?

We tried the $12 buffet with cultural dance. We were able to get fantastic seats thanks to our Chhay but getting around the buffet was stressful. Also, the food wasn’t that good. It reminded me of the quantity vs. quality buffets we have here in Manila. What’s also important to note is that the drinks were more expensive than usual. If you’d like to catch a cultural dance, you can always try Temple Club. They have free Aspara shows down there.

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That’s it! Hopefully this helps you on your Siem Reap adventure. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll to answer them 🙂

Have a happy trip!

Love,

J!