One full year isolated from friends and loved ones.
One full year out of work, out of school.
One full year of faces hidden behind a collection of masks.
One full year of life as we know it, thrown into complete disarray.
Exactly a year ago when the world went into a standstill, locked down and boarded up as we were thrown into a wave of uncertainty, unprepared and caught off guard, spiraling into a state of disequilibrium, a life characterized by fear and anxiety.
One full year since the day everything changed and away from a reality we will never get back.
Can we ever grasp the new normalcy we struggle to live with?
Will we ever become comfortable in the daily uncertain?
Will we ever see through the shadows of a dream draped with looming obscurity?
Will freedom be less defined?
Endless questions with answers held by a future that remains dimly vague,
With tiny slivers of hope only few seem to recognize, rejected by most as distrust blind their discernment.
Out of this chaos, may we realize that everything can end in an instant so focus on what is important and always be grateful for somehow, we are still surviving.
I stopped celebrating my birthdays when I turned 20 for silly reasons most people wouldn’t really understand. Not that interesting so don’t be curious.
Every year, on my birthday, I leave and go on an adventure and for the last leg of this quarter life crisis, I went to Middle Earth. 12 days full of missed flights, stairs, bottles of wine, herds of cow, flocks of sheep, steak, steep trails, fish and chips, broken luggage, sorting baggage, magnificent views and loads of fun!
Flew Qantas. Flight from Manila was delayed so I missed my connecting flight and was stranded in Sydney airport for a few hours. Booked the next available flight to Auckland. Fortunately, my Wellington flight got moved to a later schedule so I did not miss it. Good thing there was also free booze on board, good enough compensation to the exhausting sprint I had to make to my connection only to arrive to a closed gate.
After 13 hours of flying…
Northern Island winter road trip
The places we went to on our 10-day road trip from Wellington to Auckland.
My cousin and her husband cooking me up a feast at their new home and what a coincidence that a friend of mine from way back also lives in the same suburb as them! She saw my Instagram stories arriving in Wellington and messaged me. Chance meet up of course and she also brought me 3 bottles of wine haha!
Road to Cape Palliser, such picturesque views outside my window!
We passed by some wild seals too! Stopped by the side of the road and took some pictures of these cuties. Careful enough not to get too close as some curious pups were growling at me haha.
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Mount Victoria lookout
360-degree scenic views of Wellington. Always chasing sunsets.
Te Papa Museum
Did not finish exploring and will need to go back!
When you love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you just have to visit this place. Home of the talented people behind these amazing conceptual designs and visual effects.
Passed through this town going to Castlepoint. The town features over 20 wineries, most within cycling and walking distance of the village square.
We stopped here for late lunch and some wine tasting. I am not a wine person but this place is definitely a must go to. Wine and food, superb.
This small beach-side town on the Wairarapa coast is just beautiful.
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Road crossing to Ruapehu district. Landscape of the Northern Island is so diverse. Majority of the road trip, all I see is lush green forests and cattle and sheep ranches. Then we come to this. Both sides covered with low scrublands and snow capped Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe as backgrounds.
It was snowing when we arrived and first snow fall experience for these kids in the 7 years they’ve been living in New Zealand haha! Pretty winter wonderland.
Parked our car by the hotel. We took a bus up to Mount Ruapehu as the road was very slippery and we did not bring chains.
The Huka falls—largest falls in the Waikato river. The flow rate from the water drop of the falls could fill up 8 olympic size pools in roughly a minute. Amazeballs.
Relaxed in the silica enriched thermal pools as we were dead tired from all the walking and hiking. There is also a walk where you get to experience a recreated Maori settlement, said to have settled some 1,000 years ago, drawn by the thermal activity and the abundance of food. They believed that the hot pools contained healing powers and therapeutic benefits. Amazingly, the houses are so small and considering that most Moari are largely built people.
Wai-O-Tapu (Māori for sacred waters) is an active geothermal area by the Taupo volcanic zone, some 27 kilometers south of Rotorua.
Whakarewarewa Forest – The Redwoods
Magnificent stands of towering native and exotic trees in this beautiful forest.
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
Lake Tikitapu is also known as “Blue Lake” because of its gorgeous sapphire waters.
This magnificent structure used to be an elegant spa retreat called the Bath House in 1908 and was later on converted into a museum and art gallery. Sadly, this beauty closed in 2016 for seismic strengthening and remains closed til now.
Where else to celebrate the last leg of my quarter life crisis but at the lush pastures of the Shire in Middle Earth?
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
I swear we went. They just did not allow us to take photos. According to our Maori guide, the glowworms are sensitive to light and sound which is why they prohibited use of cellphones and cameras and also, said gadgets are expensive and they do not want to be spelunking the caves just to retrieve these.
Grabbed some pictures from Google Images (maybe back when it was still allowed to take photos, I dunno).
The only photos we were able to take — exit of the cave and the entrance to the souvenir shop.
What an awesome day! Ate truffle burgers and truffle fries for dinner, lazed at our Airbnb by the lake and downed 2 bottles of wine. Happy birthday to me!
It was really nice that the guy by the escalator going up the tower told us to check the skies first before deciding to pay more than $20 and just be disappointed. It was raining nonstop and was really cloudy. We did not go up. We went shopping instead lol.
Went shopping at Dress Smart and had dinner at Ramen Takara because it’s my last night and everybody knows how much I love ramen hahaha.
Arrived around 10pm in Manila, stayed at my best friend’s place, was so exhausted fell asleep the moment I went to bed and was snoring. Went to church the next day (thank you LORD for my awesome vacation), had lunch at Soru (always) and flew home to Bacolod in the afternoon.
And I feel like I’m still hungover.
Thank you to Krissy and Alvin for my room (haha) and for going on this trip with me, Micmic for seeing me in Wellington and bringing vino, Aubrey for meeting me in Auckland, Ching and Patrick for letting us stay at your ginormous place and Ilaine and Bambi for coming out for ramen and dessert. 12 days is tooooo short! I wish I was on vacation 24/7.
This world-renowned tourist destination was closed last April of 2018 for rehabilitation due to irresponsible tourism and reopened on October of 2018, 6 months after, accompanied with lots of drainage constructions, demolished establishments and investment restrictions.
Side trip from work and even if I was feeling sick, I decided to tag along, just really curious to how this beautiful island looks now.
Such a busy route, trips to the island are 24/7.
Although there are a lot of construction still going on on the island, it’s generally clean. Haven’t swam in these waters for the longest time as it was infested with algae, it’s like green muck all over.
Water is really clear! I certainly took a dip despite the scorching heat and my runny nose.
There are still lots of tourists coming in but I guess it’s more controlled, no longer congested like before where you walk shoulder to shoulder with everybody else. It’s also really dim and quiet at night now.
Lots of leg room here.
And of course, the island still boasts of its pretty sunsets.
No filters needed.
Lots of sneezes but no regrets. Going to the beach was a good idea.
There’s so much to see in our province honestly. Day trip bonding sesh with my cousins the few days they were home.
Photo set | Murcia & DSB
Lunched at Mambukal Resort, one of the popular mountain resorts in Negros Occidental located in Murcia and rests at 1,200 meters above sea level. It’s been the go to if you want a feel of the mountains since I was a kid. Can go hiking up to the seventh falls, kayaking in the lagoon, camping, watch the gigantic fruit bats or go dipping in the sulfur pool.
Passed by the viewing deck going to DSB overlooking a wide stretch of terrains and plantation.
Coffee at La Guada cafe. It’s a cafe resto with a marvelous view and guests can also stay overnight. They have a variety of rooms that could accommodate just you, a couple or family or you can opt to bring a tent, set up camp, make a bonfire and grill some barbecue. Can also go river trekking with their local guides.
Capped off our day at this pine tree haven in DSB.
Quick getaway for me and my munkeys before school starts.
Weather was not on our side, gods must’ve been smoking a ton of clouds nonstop but still, the foggy pictures looked eerie beautiful.
If you want to opt for a day hike with a magnificent view — Mayana Peak. It is located at Sitio Punod, San Carlos City, only an hour and a half travel from Bacolod City. Getting there you could take a public bus or use a private vehicle. A 4WD could go up to where you start your trek (I’m saying a 4WD because on a rainy day it is really slippery, but a 2WD could do depending on the weather condition); or if a private vehicle is not available, from the entrance of the Sitio, you could take a habal-habal for P100; or if you are the more adventurous type, you could walk from the drop off, takes about an hour to reach the peak but more time to take in the feels and the sights.
At the bottom of the peak, there is a tourist lodge where you log your information and from there they will provide you with a guide. They don’t charge any fees for the hike up but donations or tips are very much welcome.
It was really foggy when we went and it would have been a pretty view if the skies were clear but well, June is the start of the rainy season and we took our chances.
It’s a short trek up to the peak, about 15-20 minutes, depending on your pace but it’s kind of steep.
On our way to Hinoba-an, we passed by Campomanes bay at the Amity training camp. Thinking of letting our kids join the second batch some time in May, training on basic survival skills.
Juancho also got to take a picture with his favorite fire truck and ambulance!
Included with the camp is this view.
Arrived at Nabulao Beach and Dive Resort just in time for lunch. We booked the Master Suite, very roomy with 2 queen beds, a sofa bed, clean bathroom and a terrace with a view. I could just live here lol. Rate is P5,000 per night (peak season), room could accommodate 6 people.
Time for a swim!
The resort has 2 swimming pools, one where they have their diving lessons and one where kids could swim. They also have a mini bar by the pool, billiards and foosball. Other activities include water sports such as jet skis, banana boat, paraw sailing and island hopping.
Lazed by the shore to wait for the sunset.
Kids writing names on the sand, playing volleyball and building sand castles.
It was a Good Friday indeed.
Day 2 | Black Saturday
Went Island hopping and the kids enjoyed! You could rent boats from the resort — big boat that could accommodate 25 people is P3,500 for 2 hours and small boat that could accommodate 10 people is P1,500 for 2 hours.
The little kids were not scared, I swear (hahaha!).
First stop was Obong caves.
There are many entrances to the Obong caves, 2 of which are dry entrances, the caves where we took the kids to and one that is only accessible by boat or by swimming as the entrance is from the sea. That cave we did not get to see because it was crowded.
Arrived to people cooking lunch by the shore (lol). Sad that the cave walls are full of vandals and some leave their trash behind.
Went inside the caves with the use of our cellphone flashlights and was greeted with stalagmite formations.
The caves played a role during World War II, when the Philippines was occupied by the Japanese. The American Forces landed near Hinoba-an and used the town as their island headquarters. So glad to have the kids explore a little bit of Negrense history.
So there was a little bit of confusion with our boat booking that we ended up joining our friends on the big boat. All good.
Next stop was to a friend’s private beach where we were able to just relax and sip on some fresh buko. The place was awesome child friendly as the beach has shallow and very clear water.
Kids were paddle boarding, riding jet skis and building sand castles while we adults were all talking about random stuff like young living oils and gallstones (hahaha).
Went back to the resort to have late lunch, napped for a bit and waited for sunset but it started to rain really hard. View was still beautiful.
Can’t diet in this place. Food is really good and sold at a very reasonable price. Overall experience at Nabulao is great! Very courteous and accommodating staff, very clean rooms and facilities, good value for money.
Day 3 | Easter Sunday
Beautiful sunrise to cap the holy week.
To old ends and new beginnings.
Grateful to have spent the long weekend with the most important people in my life.
You have the option to take the RORO or the fast craft when going to Siquijor Island from Dumsville. We took the RORO, takes about an hour — Montenegro Lines cost P145.00/person (P130 regular fare and P15 terminal fee).
Siquijor is known as the Mystic Island because of its mystic traditions such as black magic and sorcery. But in all honesty, those are like — ancient. Mystic Island because the place is truly magical in all its sense.
From the pristine waters of the port to the emerald green shades of the waterfalls to the beaches with powdery white sand.
Not only that, the people are generally very friendly and accommodating.
We rented a multi-cab to take us to places for the day. Rate was P1,800 and our driver was a former councilor of one of the towns, I forgot which one. Very simple people.
We only went to 2 of the popular spots on the island because we didn’t really have much time (and we all woke up late haha), we were only there for the day. Going to Cambugahay falls, you actually pass by the Fish Spa, it’s under a 400-year-old Balete tree somewhere in Lazi but we skipped this one as it was really crowded.
135 steps down.
Normally, the water is the shade of emerald green but since it had been storming the whole week, water was kind of murky.
It was really crowded that day and waiting time for lunch is one hour, perfect excuse to swim in the sea and laze on the shore. Amazing that despite being a public beach, it is very well maintained! Water is crystal clear, shore is clean. Food is so so but we were so hungry we devoured everything.
Took us 45 minutes from the beach to the port and the scenery was so picturesque, staying on the island for one day is not enough.
Boarded the 6pm RORO back to Dumaguete. Forgot the shipping line but regular fare was P100. We were pooped.
Napped at the hotel when we arrived and went to Sans Rival (again) for dinner.
We stayed at Sierra Hotel in Dumaguete City. It’s very conveniently located near major commercial hubs and tourist destinations, and is only minutes away from the airport and seaport. It’s fairly new having opened 5 floors in 2016 and the 6th floor in January of this year. Rooms are spacious, comfy and clean. We stayed in a deluxe twin room for P2,900/night.
Took us 4 hours to arrive in Bacolod City and we went straight to Silay City for friends to catch their 9pm flight back to Manila. But first! Capped off our trip with inasal pandesyosa, isaw and pork barbecue at Golden Food Park.
Always a riot with my forever dates. My whole face hurts from all the nonstop laughter. Thanks loves!
If everyone should know, my birthday falls on a month dubbed as tiempo muerto meaning dead time. August is that time of the year where your funds are low, harvest season is months away and skies are always gloomy. Chinese even believe it’s not the best time to move to a house, start a business or get married. I’m not Chinese though, but still..
I always have a hard time planning what to do on my birthday because what I usually want can’t be done during this time of the year BUT I always end up spontaneously doing something fun. 😄
So anyway, me, my sister and her husband booked a flight to Manila for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and since I like to hike every once in a while, I signed us up for a Tinipak River trip with Jeron Travel. So timely that we will be in Manila during the trip and I’ve always wanted to visit the place.
Day 1 | August 3
Since I’m with Chinese people, dimsum and congee in Binondo and of course can’t miss Masuki’s mami, yum!
After that feast, we went to Banawe to my BIL‘s friend’s store to buy us some car parts to bring back to Bacolod then chill for a bit and from there we were talking about if he wanted to join us in our Tinipak River tour. Last thing I know, we booked a trip to Mt. Pinatubo for tomorrow.
For this year’s birthday, the original plan was to go to Masungi Georeserve but they have a minimum number of people per group and it was only three of us. If we wanted to pursue, we have to pay for the minimum number of people so it was quite expensive. Next option was Mt. Pinatubo but a couple of tour operators I inquired with do not book tours from July to mid October because of the rainy season. They wouldn’t want to risk because bad weather would mean sudden landslides and flash flood so those two were off the list. Tinipak was a blessing and I was like–I get to do something cool for my birthday this year.
While we were talking about Tinipak and other plans, Pinatubo came up and RC, my BIL’s friend’s secretary said that she knows someone who could give us a tour. I was like I’m game, is everyone else game? And wow, they all said yes. 😂Lucky me! Imagine, Pinatubo and Tinipak back to back! So we parted ways, got things prepared for the hike and slept early.
Note: These people haven’t exercised for a long time and it would be my sister’s first time to hike in her entire existence. 😂
Day 2 | August 4
Left for Capas, Tarlac around 3:30 am, stopped by 7/11 for coffee and Mcdonald’s for breakfast then headed off to Tito Danny’s place.
Registered at their tourism office, signed a waiver and off we go.
Trek to the Pinatubo crater consist of an estimated 1 hour jeep ride and 2 hour hike.
And the views were just awesome!
There is an aeta community living in the area, they usually watch cattle of ranchers who bring them there to feed. Our guide, Kuya Ricky, told us that some Koreans have set up a church and school to help them out.
After the more than 1 hour jeep ride, we start the 7km hike to the crater.
Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, making it the 2nd largest eruption of the 20th century. The eruption produced high-speed avalanches of hot ash and gas, giant mud-flows, and a cloud of volcanic ash hundreds of miles up. Volcanologists said that this eruption had a worldwide impact and has caused global temperatures to drop temporarily.
Trail up the crater was lahar covered, soft and rocky (lahar is a mix of volcanic ash and rocky fragments) and mountain walls showed traces of landslides. I remember slipping a couple of times because it was raining. Crazy weather because well, it’s rainy season. One minute it’s scorching sunny (yes we got sunburnt) and next thing you know, it’s pouring.
This was our first stop. There is a little hut of an aeta family and they sell food, drinks and souvenirs. I asked Kuya Ricky what they do, if the children even go to school since I notice a lot of little kids running around. Our guide said they are different from the aeta community we passed earlier with whom the Koreans helped out, these ones usually harvest wild bananas to sell. They sell really cheap and since Mt. Pinatubo has become a tourist spot, they set up their little tiangge where hikers/tourists could rest and buy food, drinks and souvenirs. Other than that, they live a very routinary life. They wake up, sit, laze or play around, sleep. They don’t have electricity. I’m not sure if they have support from their local government. There’s an ongoing dispute between the locals and the military from what I’ve heard.
This was our second stop. They set up portalets and cottages where you could rest. From this point, it’s just 20 minutes to the crater.
My buddies brought with them a ton of food hahaha. Like literally too much for a day hike, can’t go hungry. I was even joking to sell some at the crater since everything costs a hundred bucks.
The trail up isn’t lahar covered anymore, more of river streams.
Just some of the flora we passed along. I didn’t really see many flowers.
Then steps to the crater, not sure how many steps there were.
Pictures just can’t do justice to what my eyes saw. It was magical even if it was raining. What more on a clear day?
You can actually go down to the crater but you are not allowed to swim. Wanted to go down but the fog was setting in and they advised against it because it might start pouring and we could get stranded.
I was so happy that I got to hike up a volcano on my birthday weekend! Been wanting to since last year hahaha. And so happy everyone was game despite the crazy weather.
* We paid P2,000 per person for the Mt. Pinatubo trek, that’s already inclusive of the Jeep rental, guide and permits.
Reward! This place was featured in Rated K so we decided to try it out. Sisig did not disappoint.
Day 3 | August 5
We missed our Tinipak trip the next day because everyone was sore and feverish. Sorry! ✌️✌️✌️ We roadtripped instead to Tagaytay, had breakfast at Breakfast and coffee at Starbucks, the one on Calamba Rd.
That mandatory Taal volcano photo. Would’ve gone volcano hopping if weather wasn’t bad haha! 😂
Foggy view but at least they spelled my name right (because the barista asked how it is spelled 😂).
Stopped by the Marcos Mansion for some buko juice on the way back. It’s actually become a sort of bike rest stop.
Then for dinner, thank you Arnold and Christine for my salubong feast! 😂😂😂
No plans are the best plans. Thanks for an awesome birthday weekend!
Day 4 | August 6
Flew home for my birthday. Had lunch with the most important people, blew my candle and spent the rest of the day lazing around with my boys. 😊