2020 was life-changing, it was exceptionally challenging that I can’t even put in a good word.
It was unremarkably heavy, a burdened weight unnecessarily shouldered for the past 10 months.
Suddenly, everyone had to forego with comfortable, we did not have a choice and that was frustrating. Life had to hide behind the mask.
Loss was a daily constant. The existential need to be seen, to be heard, to be held, was abruptly stolen by uncertainty and time was not on our side.
Anxiety continue to grow and you find yourself writing down turbulent thoughts on a fleeting lucid moment at 2 am.
I had to deal with so much the last year, I couldn’t cope. Gone was the strong facade I so easily wear, replaced by a throng of vulnerability and unrest. I feel like the chemistry in my brain fucked up.
2020 did not turn out how we hoped it would be, it was a cruel surprise. But somewhere in between the pandemonium was a window of realization that human as we are, we will instinctively survive.
If there was anything that I learned from the longest year of my life, it was gratitude, gratitude from the smallest of things: from keeping a job despite the economic collapse, home-cooked meals, discovering a hobby, appreciating my small circle of family and friends, new-age technology filling in the gap from being socially distant, waking up alive, healthy and somewhat sane.
May we leave the dust of the year that was in the past and may we learn that we could choose to drop these heavy loads and walk towards hope, no matter how small a speck, with empty arms making room to carry much better things.
It’s been a very busy year but we managed to squeeze in some time to get together despite the chaotic schedules.
Annual getaway with my forever dates!
Photo set | Manggapuri DSB
Whole place to ourselves! Manggapuri is located at Prk. Mangga, Brgy. Igmayaan, Don Salvador Benedicto, a little over an hour’s drive from Bacolod City. Arrived late afternoon, settled in and munched on a lot of junk while waiting for the sunset.
There are 7 cabanas I think, good for four or two people. Very spacious and comfortable. The rooms have floor-length windows with spectacular views of the mountain, the shy Mt. Kanlaon, and of course the flood of sunlight in the morning.
The place also boasts of this more than a thousand LED tulips, perfect for that romantic night stroll.
Beautiful place indeed, perfect for that long overdue staycation.
And while waiting for our sumptuous dinner, prepared by their in-house Chef, happy hour by the Jacuzzi.
S’mores by the bonfire and late night gossip with crickets as background music.
Woke up the next morning to sounds of chirping birds and buzzing bees. So in love with quiet nature, I seriously wanted to extend my leave.
And these babies! Say hello to Daisy and Donald, these huge, Pyrenean mountain dogs.
Day trip to Danjugan on our 2nd day and since it’s habagat season, the waves were seriously crazy. I was just waiting for our boat to be wiped out.
But we made it!
Ramram, our guide briefed us about the island. It’s a 43 hectare island and marine sanctuary that is made up of 90% limestone forests. It was once a threatened and over-fished area but with the efforts of The Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc., the island has been restored to maybe it’s purest form, providing asylum to many wildlife species.
Me and Jobelle trekked while Miel and Pam took the boat to Moray Lagoon.
And we went snorkeling! Saw some sea snakes, moray eels, giant clams and lots of different fish and corals.
We had a slight scare when it was time to go back when our guide told us that the winds were really strong and just to wait for advise from the boat operator if we could actually dock at the resort or divert to somewhere else. I thought we’ll be stranded. Thank God the waters calmed.
I’ve been best friends with these crackheads for almost 3 decades now. They’ve seen the best and the ugly and the great and the nasty parts of me. They have suppressed strangling me countless of times because of my stubbornness and my twisted way of thinking because we are all weird somehow, but I know despite, they will always have my back. They hear my silence, they see my shadows, and they never judge.
We may not always see each other or talk to each other, but we’ll always have August. (CHAROT!) Virtual hugs!
As I’ve said, I stopped celebrating my birthdays when I turned 20. And ever since family and friends would throw me surprise parties where, for the most of it, I would come under-dressed or unprepared, obviously. I am not really big on surprises but I’ve always appreciated their efforts, even when it’s also finding a good enough excuse to see each other and get drunk.
Every year, on my birthday, for the past couple of years, I leave and go on an adventure. This year, I was gone for 12 days so when I came back, friends were planning to get together as we haven’t seen each other for months. Honestly I was still so tired from all the hiking and chasing missed flights that I did not respond to text messages or calls. I seriously just wanted to lie in bed. They kept planning and I kept ditching, I had so many excuses.
But then, they know me too well. They asked me to have dinner at this new ramen place, Nezu, and I caved.
Went to get some drinks at Urit after dinner and the waiter blew their surprise (hahaha). He was like, “Ipagwa ko na maam ang cake or karon lang na i-surprise?” (Maam, do I take out the cake now or later as a surprise?), while I was sitting there and Elaine was like, just take it out.
Thank you friends for letting me blow my cake! Group hug!
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.
Was supposed to be a week-long vacay in Sydney but this momma had well, responsibilities so I caught a later flight in the week and actually just stayed for 4 days. Too short!
And the hell I had to go through before getting on that SYD flight. It was the same day that typhoon Ompong made it’s landfall in the PI. First time I had really bad anxiety. My 2pm flight to Manila got cancelled and they moved me to a 7pm flight. And to make matters worse, my Syd flight was at 11pm. I felt like throwing up.
Fortunately, I got on the 6pm flight and there was no delay. I was praying nonstop for good weather and the heavens heard me. The rain stopped and the skies cleared. This is it!
Arrived Manila early, paid my travel tax and lined up for bag drop.
Good thing immigration was not packed and arrived at the boarding gate just in time.
It was an 8-hour long flight but I had a good seat and slept the entire time.
Arrived Sydney for Maryrose’s birthday!! Took the airport link to Merrylands to meet the rest of us for her lunch celeb. Got a train map, bought my Opal card and prayed that I don’t get lost (since I did not have wifi and travelling alone).
Caught up with some high-school friends in Mascot for dinner afterwards.
Where we went:
Apart from Kmart, Woolworths, Westfield, Target, Costco and Metro (which we just coincidentally end our everyday with lol), we actually went to a couple of places around Sydney.😂😂
Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge
Mandatory. Strolled along the harbour so to get that Sydney feel. Another case of expectation vs. reality. It was packed, maybe because it was Sunday and maybe because it was the same day of the Sydney Marathon.
Three sisters turned to stone.
Wild Life Sydney Zoo
I realized I don’t like Koalas and Tasmanian Devils are so cuuuuute!
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
Coffee break and this view!
Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building
Felt like I was warped into a different place, something like out of the books I read. Totally mesmerized by the architecture of these more than a century-old buildings.
Came a little too overdressed for the beach. It was cold out when we left Guildford.
Time moved too fast for me and suddenly, it was time to go home. Will definitely be back. The always running after the bus and missing the train paid off, will know our way around the next time. 😂
No dull moments here. Hopefully next time we’d be complete.
Scorching summer heat but still fun nonetheless especially with the company I was with. Seriously nonstop laughter from the littlest, nonsensical and most random things.
First stop – North Park for breakfast since our flight was not until later in the evening.
Left for Taipei around 7pm and arrived past 9pm. Our hotel is in Ximen, we checked in at Diary of Taipei, (very conveniently located near the Ximendeng shopping district, Taipei main station and is only 5 km from the airport), and walked around to look for dinner.
The famous Hot Star Chicken. There was still a queue even when it was already late.
Day 2 | Taipei
Went early to see the changing of the guards but apparently it was closed.
Shilin Main Presidential Residence
The former residence of Chiang Kai-shek and his wife turned into park and tourist spot. Did not finish exploring this area though as it was a scorching 40C but still decided to climb up a long stretch of stairs to go to a pavilion that wasn’t even impressive and got myself unnecessarily drenched lol.
National Palace Museum
Houses 8,000 years of Chinese history. Some pieces date back to the 10th century and are still amazingly very well preserved.
Shuangxi Park and Chinese Garden
We just passed by this park on our way to the museum and decided to check it out after. Built in 1974, park features different types of bridges, pavilions, courtyards and lots of lily pads, the place is so beautiful!
Baishihu Suspension Bridge
The first long span suspension bridge in Taipei and on the other side is a strawberry field.
Shilin Night Market
Fun finds and lots and lots of street food.
Day 3 | Northern Taiwan
When sea erosion form beautifully shaped rocks.
A mountain town in Northeastern Taiwan, packed with tea houses, narrow alleyways, street-food shacks and souvenir shops.
Was supposed to go the Shifen Waterfall but it was soooooooo crowded. So here’s a picture by the bridge going there lol.
Went to Shifen old street, lit a sky lantern and let our wishes fly.
Day 4 | Ximen
Woke up late yaaaaay! Lunched at the popular Modern Toilet. Food is surprisingly good, generous servings too.
Tried out the street food around this area. Did not try the stinky tofu.
A little tricky to find, we got lost a couple of times looking for this place but it was so worth it. Place is small but cozy and they make their cocktails very meticulously. Their playlist also included a couple of OPMs lol.
Known to be one of the poshest and most sophisticated chill-out spots in Xinyi District, this was a really pretty bar. Thing is, it was a Tuesday when we went so we were like the only ones (and a few tables) there. Stayed until closing, they close at 2:30am.
Day 5 | Home bound
Did a little shopping for some goodies to bring home and well, never ending milk teas.
Refreshing break indeed despite the summer heat thanks to these awesome ladies.
On another note, best time to go to Taiwan is between December to May, weather is much cooler they say.
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!