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All the Water Forms in Bolinao, Pangasinan Philippines (2019)

Are you in the Philippines, particularly its center Manila, and you do want some R&R but have limited time, budget, distance, and energy to spare? Also, are you feeling all the blues and you just want to soak it all in the sea (or by the beach, at least), but you’ve also seen this vlog with a gorgeous waterfall that really got you crave for a cliff-jump (because you’re one heck of an adventure soul), but then suddenly you just want to enjoy a calming river cruise while chowing on a big plate of seafood because you’ve realized you’re not into swimming in the rain at a beach with your best-kept swimwear? Then, I’ve got a place for you. I now sound like advertising it, but no, I’m not paid to do so. I just had the same questions to myself some weeks ago, with the answer YES to all of those questions. And if you feel a YES, too, then you’re at the right reading place.

Sea. Falls. River. If you are a water junkie (not sure if there’s such a term, and argh, such a hippie word), Bolinao, Pangasinan might be the one you should be heading to right now. Imagine those three bodies of water in just one town? Sure, other places have them, too, but not in a very close distance to each other, especially being close to Manila. Well, a 45-minute plane ride to some other provinces is technically, 45 minutes only, but we know the entire travel (and hassle, plus plane jitters) is not just 45 minutes.

So, Bolinao is a six-hour bus trip from Manila ( Victory Liner or Five Star Bus; the latter having more schedules). You can basically sleep through your journey if you want to miss the provincial scenery. Upon arriving, a tricycle ride (sorry, no taxi/Grab/Uber or what-have-you here) can take you to your resort. You may want to pay a visit first, though, to one of the oldest churches a few walks away from the terminal and eat in one of the eateries at the back of the church if you fancy a hot (really tasty) bulalo (beef soup?). Then, voila. you can now sleep at your resort! Kidding. Of course, no time to waste, start exploring!

You may ask the trike driver to have a quick sidetrip to the Patar Lighthouse on your way to your resort or when you’re heading to Patar Beach. The area and structure doesn’t look old and the facade is cleanly maintained.

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So, the first water form– the beach. Patar Beach doesn’t boast of a fine white sand beach or an amazingly blue-green sea, but the colors the sunset brings is magnificent. You can just sit on the sand and wait till dusk swallows all the reasons why you’re here in the first place…if you’re in the emo mood.

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The morning after, you should be more refreshed and energy-packed because you will really need some energy to climb up and down some trails to your next water destination: falls. But no worries, it’s just a five-minute trek from where the trike is parked. And when you finally see them, yes them, as there is a set of three nearby falls to swim your heart out or cliff-jump if you really must.

 

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Once you get all the feels now from that waterfall love, you may want to eat. Eat seafood. And eat the best calamares and addicting chicharong shrimp and fat-in-belly-fat bangus/milkfish, and oh, crabs. Where? Just by a river. Your third body of water. On a floating resto or a cruise… while a live acoustic singer is patronizing your senti feels doing When You Say Nothing At All (again, if you’re in the emo mood). Sungayan Grill is the name of the place, by the way.

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Now, if you still crave for some water after all that and a relaxing swim to end the day before you head back to the metro, you can book a semi-budget bed-and-breakfast accommodation at Casa Almarenzo. The catch? Infinity pool. Now you decide.

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All in all, Bolinao is truly a smart weekend trip for anyone, whether Manila-based or not. Aside from those bodies of water I mentioned, there are other worthwhile places to see and activities to do here, like caves and coral reef sanctuaries. You can even head to the nearby town of Hundred Islands if you have a little more than a weekend to spare.

For some video about Bolinao, basically a summary of this post but live, you may want to watch this:

You’re welcome. And feel free to get back to me when you get there. 🙂

Hello Osaka! (March 2019)

yet another late Japan post.

this time, it will just be more of a photo blog. hope you see something interesting. 🙂

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osaka museum of housing and living. a recreation of old japan. i love the mood here, with all the lights changing as per season.

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of course, i got to try wearing a kimono. kimono rental is not cheap, but this museum offers the most affordable.

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kaiyukan aquarium. i was half-hearted here coz i felt for the sea creatures. done with aquariums, though.

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dancing jellies. not sure if they were happy.

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hogwarts @ universal studios. one of the main reasons why i chose osaka. and the only reason why i visited universal again. the crowd and lines were crazy. dream fulfilled. done with amusement parks.

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butterbeer! tasted like… opps, will not spoil.

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this udon-tempura combo i had right outside universal made me so full. but i learned here that in cafes and fastfood in japan, you clean your mess after eating and bring back your dishes to the pantry or kitchen area. cultural discipline indeed.

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the infamous glico man. not sure what is all the fuss about.

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another landmark in dotonburi.

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takoyaki!

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yes, hot! and very filling.

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i tried one of the gashapon vendos. and i was scammed. dropped 400Y expecting a dragonballz toy, but i do not know what i got here instead. i have not opened even until now.

the most fun before leaving the city, though, was the shopping part. i wanted to hoard stuff at daiso and don quixote but did not have much baggage allocation on my way back, and budget, so i controlled my hardest.

writing about this trip now makes me wanna go back again to this country soon. like others, i was definitely charmed by the land of the rising sun.

So little time, Kyoto (March, 2019)

Everyone who got a taste of Kyoto surely was captured by its charm. Although I felt more of traditional Japan in Shirakawa-go, Kyoto still has glimpses of it.  I visited Kyoto only for a short time, but it gave me a jam-packed day of history and culture plus I got to overcome a little of my introvert self and actually socialized.

I saw Fushimi Inari Shrine first, which is very accessible from Kyoto Station. I forgot now, but I think it was two to three stations away, and when you get out of the train, the main gate of the shrine will immediately greet you. I didn’t reach the top, and I almost got lost on my way out. It was a crowded Saturday, but I still got to feel the place where Memoirs’ young Chiyo ran through. The word surreal has been overused now, but the experience really was (although this happened in every place my feet stepped onto when I was in this country).

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a ceremony was being held at that time.

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wish cards.

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the mazy path.

 

After resting in one of the gardens inside and crazily finding my way out, I headed to the subway station (some walk from the train station in front of Fushimi) to go to my next stop, which was the Gion area. Here, I took the Kyoto free walking tour to also gain some historical learnings about the place. And I did. Plus I got to stretch my social skills a little, chatting with some of the joiners. Moments like this that my introvert self was forced to get out of her shell. I even got to have a longer talk over a McDonald’s lunch with one older tourist from Israel, who even offered hospitality if ever I travel there.

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the Yasaka Pagoda. my only disappointment was I didn’t get the chance to have the photo I wanted with this background. Next time…

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the infamous cherry blossom tree in this park. i was too early for it.

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The tour ended almost late in the afternoon, so I didn’t have time to see other places here. I went straight to Kyoto station to head to Osaka that night. Thankfully, I was able to locate where I dropped my luggage in the station after a few back-and-forths.

It was short indeed, but the experience was full. I promised myself to come back here.

 

a lovely place to be in: shirakawa-go, japan march 2019

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sure, i had read much about this lovely old-world village as part of the pre-travel must-dos. but it’s true what they say. nothing really compares to the actual experience. my dream of setting foot in this country was even made dreamier as i entered this town. i traveled from nagoya with combined nervousness, excitement, and literal coldness. i had not expected it to be this cold in winter here, even if it was already march. the cold wet air slapped my face the moment i alighted the plane, and i continued to shiver every time i went off the train or the bus. but as cheesy as it may sound, the view during the journey to this place warmed my heart.

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the last travel moment i remember that made me teary-eyed was in hundred islands, seeing a gorgeous, almost within-my-reach sunset while on a boat. being a sea-lover, i didn’t expect that next moment to be under a cedar tree. it was fleeting. i wasn’t prepared. my camera wasn’t prepared. i looked up, and i witnessed this magical, movie-like drizzling of these tiny white dots from up above to this tree down to the already ice-filled ground as i could barely contain my hyped-up, crying face. i live for these moments.

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the traditional houses in shirakawa-go made me reminisce the philippines’ bahay kubo. i used to live in one. now, i don’t know which of the two countries inspired the other, but it’s great that japan has a place that highlights this aspect of their identity.

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i didn’t get inside any of the houses. i contented myself strolling and feeling the place despite how cold i already was. since i had only few hours on my trip, i didn’t also get to eat in a traditional restaurant there. i just bought this tasty, minty hida beef bun as i went back to the bus station.

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my purpose of coming here is the snow. but the place surprised me and allowed me to feel a time of calm, a moment of escape from the sometimes overwhelming hustle-and-bustle of daily grind. i picked up my luggage from the old fellow in the storage room and said my sincerest thank-you to him.

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Realizing Japan.

Japan had not always fascinated me until I was forced to teach a history subject in a high school and learned a week, or even a day before, the thing I was going to teach. I did not really like history, overall, but when I started reading about these countries, I got a sense of exploring new worlds and the eagerness to actually know more about them. Asian history and culture became my instant favorite, and Japan stood out among those countries.

I’m no longer teaching history. And I’m not anymore a teacher. But the desire to know more and actually experience Japan has remained. And just this year, I had the chance to finally realize it, thanks to my hard work that has allowed me to save a little and have a job that gives me some paid vacation leaves. I would like to share some of that experience and learnings out of it in my next posts.

I do not want to go into details of how as a Filipina I was able to get a visa, pass the immigrations, and whatnot because there are a lot of blogs and articles about them, which helped me a great deal. However, if you are a Filipina and a new traveler and really want to know about how I did it, you can leave your query in the comment box and I would gladly reply to it.

It wasn’t my first time to travel out of the country, so somehow, I had that little confidence to do it again although it has been a while (because life, and many things, just so happened). This time, because of that confidence, and because my usual travel companions already have life happened to them, too, and amazing lives they have gotten, so I’m happy for them, I decided to do it solo, the backpacking way.

To sum up my pre-travel steps, the key points are:

  1. impulsive booking on Jetstar one October afternoon in 2018, only one-way (because I was not really sure it would push through)
  2. started thinking “well, maybe I can do this”
  3. started computing if my current finances could bear it
  4. actually believing I could do it
  5. booking my return trip in December
  6. applying for visa before Christmas (c/o Discovery Tours, Makati, the cheapest and no-hassle)
  7. getting visa approved after Christmas (what a gift, yeh!)
  8. getting anxious about the solo thing
  9.  reading and reading and lots of reading and writing down
  10. and then flight.

In summary, there is really nothing you can’t do if you believe in it and actually do it. I did.

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Reviving it!

that’s right.

a lot happened. good. bad. all made drastic changes to my life, to my soul. i gotta continue. reviving the drive. re-living. #melove.

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more posts soon. hopefully. hehe.

 

I Am The Goal

Good Friday.

The street next to where I live doesn’t have its usual honks and screeches. All food stalls nearby are closed, except for the bakery, making me go into forced fasting or being okay with bread. I should be going to a cousin’s house to spend the three-day break and maybe, have a swimming outing with the kids, but the non-service of metro trains and construction of major roads just make me choose home and bed. And although I have cable now that would keep me company during this time that the major local channels opt to shut off, I still can feel in the air that peace and calmness everyone agrees to have once a year– because it’s the time of the year again where you go into introspection and express your devotion to God, or be guilty for your lack of show of it.

And I am guilty.

When you’re a grown-up and assume responsibilities, you tend to have more problems to deal with and goals you focus yourself into hitting, and you make excuses for not being or for being less religious, or even spiritual. Well, if you don’t make excuses and you believe you are religious and/or spiritual, then I salute you. And that makes me question myself more- why can’t I be the same?

I used to have no goals and just allow my God to take control of my life. For me, it was always the minimum standard that I should attain for. I didn’t dream much, didn’t care if my career was lackluster, if my romance was zero, if my family would not get a better life. But my spirituality and personal show of it was somehow strong.

Then, God suddenly decided to make most things better, financial-wise. I’m still not rich but doesn’t anymore need to save up for a year just to buy the cheapest meal at McDonald’s and to have my mother take any job just to get us through. I began writing down plans and setting targets, and some of them, I have already hit. And since that fuels my belief that I can achieve anything I want to if I put my 100% into it, I work even harder for those goals. But I have to admit, I’ve become withdrawn from my religion. I have my faith, but I rarely go out there and proclaim it. And I reason that I don’t have enough time. Good thing that my default religious affiliation doesn’t fine me for it, because if it did, I would have been in serious debt now. But still, shame on me.

That’s why I’m thankful for Holy Week, not only because I get to rest from work, but also because it is something that pinches me and reminds me to think and feel His Power, to make me realize that life is not all about what I want to have, what I want to happen, but is also, and especially, about the Him in me. This day makes me think of being stripped of material possessions, desires, and ambitions, and putting myself into nothingness once again and just feel what it is to be nothing and only have faith.

I might not have the same excitement I used to have when I was a child awaiting all the TV programs about the Bible, the history of the Catholic Church, and Jesus. I might be that someone now more interested in expositions about the mysteries of the religion and its untouchable ideas.  But I will always be into fully understanding (although I know I will never) the value of faith to my existence and my existence’s value to I-don’t-know-what-yet. Some of the traditions might have died down in most places, but the significance will always remain in me. And sometimes, a moment like this is what we need to go back to humility and acceptance that not everything can be fully grasped, can be answered… not every goal is “I.” Sometimes, all we need is just a moment to pray.

Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…’  — John 14: 6

 

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why i hated the ‘how i met your mother’ finale (but not among those who hated it)

I hated that it ended.

the final episode aired in my country three days after it did in the US., and being bombarded by all those “hate” articles and blogs, i couldn’t help myself but to just read it already: how the most awesome and legendary ‘friends’ show on TV (a friend who is a big fan of  “Friends” and watches it up to now even at work would totally disagree) ended.

it was the ending i have fought against other fans. it was unexpected in a way that the writers could have gone with the more expected, predictable, and condescending one. many said they felt cheated and that they didn’t deserve the ending. but i think the series deserves more than such an ‘outrage’ because for nine long years, there’s something fun, witty, dramatic, and homey piece of entertainment we looked forward to in one of our week’s nights and that saved us from most of the crappy shows in its generation. sure, there were low moments, but it is in itself, life. it gave birth to the most memorable adjectives in TV history, and it breathed life to a unique character that was not even in the show until its last episodes but hooked us until the very end.

still, i hated that it’s over.

i hated that the show made me see a part of me in each of the characters. i hated that i have lily’s cranky and emotional strands, marshall’s sometimes passive streak to avoid hurting his friends or others, barney’s lack of commitment and egoistic air, robin’s occasional indifference (to patrice), tough facade, and love for extreme independence, and ted’s overly romantic way of seeing life. but these were also the qualities that were endearing about them.

i hated that there were various sad but real truths about friendship presented, especially toward the end and especially about how you made a friendship last or not. in my own reality, i have had friends and many of them have drifted away. maybe because of my effort or lack of it, and theirs, too. maybe because of age, of growing up. i know, there should be no excuses. but it happens in reality: not all happy friendships last. i hated that i am wishing that i could have the kind of friendship, or family, the gang in the show had.

i hated that the finale made me cry the most (and now, dawson’s creek’s finale comes second). i hated that lily did that, or how allyson hannigan made it look like real sadness and tears when she and ted did that E.T. goodbye and when she gave that ted’s-wedding-eve speech making me forget for a second how i hated how the wedding gown was so unflattering on the Mother. i couldn’t stop my tears even at the end where the younger selves of the cast were run down. oh, barney, i mean NPH, looked so young in blonde and adorable.

most of all, i hated that it will take a while before another show of this calibre comes out, before another one hooks me again and makes me laugh and cry at the same time. perhaps, the kind of friendship depicted in the series would never be duplicated because the kind most of us have today and most of our children might have in the future would be facebook-or-Internet-based, with less-to-none interaction and with self-serving purposes at most points.

no matter how much i hated this nostalgic feeling though, i am still glad i’ve met this show. it wasn’t as exciting and story-worthy meeting to tell my future kids about, but i can tell them “you know kids, in my generation, i knew this group of friends that has stayed in my memory, and this is how their story goes…” but of course, i am betting on whether kids could still be fooled to have a sit-down talk with their parents at that time and age.

all in all, as lily put it, “Thank God we finally got here.” the finale is not really the ending that we have craved for; it is merely a tribute. we wanted more only because, just like other goodbyes, it’s hard to let go, or we (including the writers) don’t exactly know how, especially of something good and happy. but the last episode’s title sums all that is about “how i met your mother” and the kind of experience it brought us along with the lessons and gags: it definitely “lasts forever.”

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(P.S. Favorite moment from the show is still “Highway to Hell” Season 8 episode, when Ted surprises Robin with dancing and singing christmas lights. Very emotional ep. I included a video of it in my previous post, but the video apparently got deleted because of YouTube’s copyright rules. Here’s another link but unclear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9O28Ewf1Do. Want to share, too, your favorite moment in the entire show or in the finale?)

 

The Lonely

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He lies down in the middle of a cold sea. He is separated from most of the islands who seem happy being close to one another. They call him “The Lonely.” His face doesn’t really show he is lonely. It is just a normal, peaceful look with his eyes gently closed. But he was already tagged as lonely, when what he really is is only alone.

It is the usual morning, and my inbox is again full with his messages the past night after I signed off for sleep. He says the past three weeks of my companionship has brought him joy and taken him back to life. I don’t quite get what he truly meant by that– back to life. How can anyone be dead and go on with the daily routines? But he says for eight years, he has been coping with depression after the love of his life died of a tragic accident. That depression causes him to leave his family behind and wander in a land where he is a stranger and everything does not remind him of her. He has also developed illnesses that until the present, he is struggling with. Now, he wants to gain his happiness back and start looking forward again to a bright future.

She, on the other hand, feeds on loneliness. She had happy times, too. The peek was when she fell in love with a boy whose interest in dark-toned stories and songs she thought reflected her. She went to places that she had not imagined she would explored– with him. She left her poems, let go of her pen just to be with him. The guilt of it she tried to endure. She let her frail heart be contained in the hand of somebody she thought the coolest guy in town– for the fact that he discovered her. Until the expected happened. He found someone else totally different from her. But she loved the experience. She is again able to write pieces that she can, only when she’s at low. She is singing sad songs to the point that she dances with them. She’s happy when she’s lonely. Only during this state that she can be true to herself. And she hates it that loneliness is underrated, for the greatest writers, scientists, and music makers were able to create the best when they’re at their loneliest. She believes lonely breeds crazy, and crazy breeds the best works that change the world.

People have a negative feel toward loneliness. Everyone seeks ways to avoid it. In pursuit of happiness– that’s the mantra of most. But the lonely creeps in them almost so often that they already manage to fake it. It can be because of a painful past that they haven’t let go of. It can be because of the present that they want to escape from. Or it can be because of a future that gives them only uncertainties. For those who embrace the lonely, though, it’s their comfort zone, their fortress. Only that sometimes, they get addicted to it that they prefer to get into its depth that kills them, instead of controlling it and benefiting from it.

Life is better when there’s balance. Embracing both the lonely and the happy is seizing all the best that there is in life. And the craziest thing about life is living all of it.

I left him a message that I unfortunately cannot continue being his companion. She is scared to be happy again. And the people do not know that The Lonely island is not anymore. He’s dead, only that he refuses to perish.

(The Lonely by Christina Perri)