Season 2 of quarantine birthdays and my eldest turned 17. Away from the usual Shakey’s, we went on a day trip out of town to relax and chill.
Refreshing break from lockdown.
Refreshing break from lockdown.
I had my whole year planned before this pandemia broke out.
I was going to South Korea with my girls to set crawl all the Kdrama locations we’ve watched, we had a long list and even rented a traditional Korean House (Hanok) to level up the feels, was also contemplating on extending my stay to catch that BTS concert.
I was looking forward to singing my lungs out at Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill tour in Manila with my best friend.
I was really excited to celebrate my birthday with my boys in Singapore, it would’ve been our first international trip that’s just the four of us.
I was booked to go back to New Zealand, together with my sister and brother-in-law this time, to see our cousins and we had half of a month’s worth of road trips and hiking mapped out.
And along with the rest of the world, my life’s been on pause since March.
The country was put on quarantine and it was a scene out of a dystopian movie. The streets ran empty. A daily dose of deafening silence. There was little to no movement at all and police and military visibility made it a little bit more intense.
Businesses started closing, a chunk of employees were retrenched, a number of companies filed for bankruptcy and every morning, on my way to work, passing by boarded up stores, closed down shops, countless checkpoints and empty roads, I would feel my chest tighten. It was so disheartening and frustrating to sit with a government unwary of what to do, a total shit show run by a couple of clowns with misplaced priorities.
Even when the quarantine was lifted, whenever I see people wearing masks and face shields, I get emotional. It’s just so different from how life was and it gets depressing.
Claustrophobia slowly choking, I’ve somehow developed really bad anxiety and it doesn’t help that we’re surrounded with so much negative noise and slammed with constant uncertainty. We are made to tread on thin ice, waiting for some sort of disaster to surface and it’s suffocating, sometimes a little too overwhelming, other times a too little heavy it might crack.
Never imagined I’d be dating Melatonin on weekend night outs instead.
It has always been “my month.”
I’m supposed to be somewhere unexplored doing something crazy or borderline stupid enough to scream what the fuck did I get myself into, and those have always been the best times.
But I have to settle with home for now. And surprisingly, the slow pace is kind of refreshing when the calm sets in. I have so much time on my hands that I run out of time, if that even makes sense.
And to those who understand my need to get away, thank you for taking me out even if it was just a quick flight up steep stairs to a cold dip in the pool under the rain with a foggy view,
or a short drive up North to grab coffee,
or a brisk 10-minute hike to the Twin Falls…viewing deck.
Those brief moments really meant so much to me in more ways than you know.
U2 | The Joshua Tree Tour 2019
The Joshua tree, which in fiercely adverse conditions, was seen by U2 as a symbol of faith and hope in the midst of aridity. The tree was named, by early Mormon settlers, after the Old Testament prophet Joshua as its branches reminded them of Joshua raising his arms to pray. — Valentina Magli
After four decades, U2 has finally found its way to the PH.
I literally cried when they sold out 2 nights in Singapore. I mean these are legends, and it might be the only time I will ever get to watch them perform live and I missed my chance.
Blessed by the universe, they decided to add a PH leg closing their tour and I was so so so happy. I was like, GOD thank you for listening to me! And what was interesting, their VIP floor tickets sold cheap! It was like the universe was saying okay go on, watch and have fun.
Dec. 11 – Concert Day
Woke up at 3am to catch my 5am flight to Manila, it was pouring but I was too full of excitement, it didn’t really bother me. What turbulence? lol.
After lunch, we drove through the almost 2-hour traffic up north to Bulacan, to the Philippine Arena where they will be holding their concert and was greeted by the blaring pipe-in of Where the Streets Have No Name on repeat for the next 4 hours. The crowd was very diverse, from Boomers to Gen Z, it was a picnic at the parking lot with all the collapsible chairs and coolers of beer, while waiting to queue.
Started queuing at 4:30ish to claim our tickets and get into the venue.
We finally got inside after queuing for more than 3 hours and was welcomed by a 200 ft × 45 ft state-of-the-art 8K video screen that flashed a loop of varied poetry from acclaimed poets and novelists from around the world, even featuring poetry from our very own Bino Realuyo, Eric Gamalinda and Dr. Jose Rizal as a prelude to the concert that started a little past 9pm.
After The Whole of the Moon played by the Waterboys, I knew it was cue that the concert was about to start and we made our way through the mosh pit to the front of the stage. Just as the lights went out, Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam took the stage and kickstarted the show with Sunday, Bloody Sunday and everyone was up on their feet, hands swaying, singing, screaming.
After a couple of songs, Bono paused to greet the more than 45,000 people in the arena “Mabuhay!” And likened to a church service, Bono made known his prayers for an epic night of rock n roll transcendence.
Then they started singing Bad from the 1984 album Unforgettable Fire, and I got so overwhelmed, I started crying. How wonderful that one of my favorite songs was being played live by legends right in front of me.
As the concert progressed into the Joshua Tree album, the ginormous wall morphed into a backdrop of American deserts, endless highways, emblematic mini movies and a play of psychedelic visuals towards the end.
At one point, U2 dedicated the song Ultraviolet (Light My Way) to pay tribute to women game changers, to women who came together to rewrite history. To quote Bono: “When women in the whole world unite to rewrite history as her story that is a “Beautiful Day.”
This included Filipinas Lidy Nacpil, Cory Aquino, Lea Salonga, and Maria Ressa. And so much blah has been thrown at U2 being political and shit. The band’s been playing freakin punk rock since 1976. For those unaware of the genre (and are so called fans up until..), it’s supposed to be political, look it up. They’ve always had a reputation for their strong humanitarian conviction and activism, so get over it.
Playing their encore, some songs were accompanied with Tagalog subtitles, just shows how inclusive this band is.
After thanking everyone who came and stuck with them throughout the show, expressing their admiration of the indoor stadium, making mention that the Philippine leg is their 2,050th show, that not having come sooner, they have no excuse, and Bono saying ”from our single island to your thousand islands, thank you for making us feel so welcome on your islands, you’re making a new history for yourselves but the truth is, none of us are really an island and what happens in one country affects the other side of the world. From typhoons to drought, the way we live in one country affects life in every country. There is no them, there’s only us. We are…,” they closed with One, from their 1991 album Achtung Baby.
The concert ended at almost midnight and up to leaving the arena, I’ve been singing love is a temple, love the higher law, we got to carry each other, carry each other, some serious case of LSS.
And through the grueling exodus exiting from the car park that lasted around 1am to arriving BGC at almost 3am — took a shower, ate a bit of breakfast (dint realize I was starving from the concert) and went to the airport at around 5am to catch my 7am flight home and straight to my seminar.
Literally no sleep for more than 24 hours, but having endured the traffic, long queues at the ticket booth, food stalls, comfort rooms and the arena, and coming down with fever and all, just to experience an impeccably choreographed 2-and-a-half-hour show and hear the uncannily seamless voices of the band performing live and up close, was golden. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Here is their PH setlist:
Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
Pride (In the Name of Love)
The Joshua Tree:
Where the Streets have no Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for
With or Without you
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared
Even Better than the Real Thing
Every Breaking Wave
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
Love is Bigger than Anything in its Way
Thank you U2 for the once in a lifetime experience and thank you Poi and Jobelle for sharing this epic night with me! Truly magical.
It’s true when they say that the best laid plans are no plans at all. This very spontaneous trip for us first timers and I swear, I had so much fun!
Only high tides and good vibes!
Photo Set | El Nido
Pretty sunrise outside my window.
Woke up at 4am to catch my flight to Manila, transferred to Puerto Prinsesa, endured the grueling 5-hour van ride to El Nido, arrived at 8pm feeling nauseous and sick. Planned to just stay at the guesthouse we checked into because everyone was not feeling well but damn we needed to eat.
For budget travelers, we stayed at Sophia’s Beach Guesthouse in Corong-Corong, El Nido. It’s a beachfront accommodation, can accommodate families or groups, ours was a room good for four with free breakfast, free wifi, a/c and hot and cold shower. Quiet place just a few minutes away from the town center.
Decided to go to town to have dinner and maybe a few bottles to knock ourselves out. We went to Happiness Beach Bar for light food and some drinks. They serve a delicious variety of healthy vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food.
The manager also gave us free shots! After a few beers, we asked where most people go on Saturdays and they suggested Sava Bar or Pukka Bar. Yep, this was the plan of people who were feeling sick and wanted to stay in, lol.
Ended up in Pukka Bar and Pangolin, met a few friends and wasn’t really expecting to have so much fun!
Went back to our accommodation at 3am, swam under the moonlight, and was locked out (hahaha).
Pretty much lazed in bed half of the day, only time was forced to get up was to buy Jampong from the convenience store across the street, will be our best friend every morning for the next few days, so good for that “mild”hangover.
They say Corong-Corong has the best sunsets so in the afternoon, after we decided it was time to really get up, we went to Panorama Beach Club for happy hour. Actually, being our cheap selves, we brought a bottle of scotch we bought in Puerto Princesa and just paid for corkage, lol. We did buy pica pica.
Then this spectacular sunset.
Finally woke up early for our island hopping tour. We took Tour A, the popular one. It’s P1,200 per person inclusive of lunch and features 5 islands. You also have to pay for a P200 environmental fee and entrance to the Big or Small Lagoon.
So this is how El Nido town looks like in the morning, lol.
Seven Commandos Beach
I love that the white sand here is fine and the water is not that salty, crystal clear too. Picturesque beach lined with coconut trees against the dramatic backdrop of limestone cliffs. There is a resort on the island, has quite a few stores and beach volleyball.
A little bit of history or maybe folklore, the beach got it’s name because of the 7 soldiers who got stranded on the island during WWII.
As they say, the highlight of Tour A — a wide stretch of emerald waters dotted with dark limestone cliffs. Such a beauty. We had to rent a kayak to go in. There’s also a hidden tunnel inside the lagoon.
Simizu Island (Shimizu Island)
The island was named after a Japanese diver who was trapped in an underwater tunnel while exploring the waters of El Nido. Tragic.
Anyhow, the island is a popular lunch spot. Good thing we arrived late so it was just us and another group on the beach, not that crowded. There were lots of monitor lizards and snakes too! Totally harmless, just don’t go near them.
South Miniloc Island
One of the popular dive sites in El Nido, our fourth stop for some snorkeling. But the waves were quite strong and the water was too salty.
Our final stop for the tour.
The entrance to the lagoon was quite challenging, it was really rocky, like sharp rocky that you would definitely need aqua shoes. As you approach the cove, there is a small hole on the left that you’d have to crawl into that would lead you to the secret lagoon. It’s a hidden pool of water inside a limestone cliff.
And on the opposite side is just this surreal beach paradise scaled by towering limestone walls and dusty white sand. THIS was the highlight of my tour. I swear I could not stop saying how beautiful this place was.
Thank you Kuya Nathan and Kuya Blondie (guy far left) who lost 2 environmental fee receipts resulting to us leaving town to start the tour really late and baking us under the noon sun (hahaha). Good fun!
After the tour, we were famished and ate for a bit, rested for a bit then went to this full moon party at The Gardens in Nacpan. Was not really the greatest experience. The ticket was for P1,000: entrance, 1 free drink and free round trip shuttle service. The transfers were chaotic, with everyone pushing to get into the van that supposedly leaves every hour. Take note that it takes around more than 30 minutes to go to Nacpan and they only had a limited number of vans. They had to hire random ones just to accommodate. We left around 11pm and arrived at the venue quite late, I was expecting it to be like at the beach or something, it was not, just literally by the pool, lol. The music was not that great either. Like a jumble of rave, house, rnb, pop and budots. The 35 foot slide was kinda cool though. Wasted 1 grand, should’ve just went on that date instead, might’ve been much more fun, hahaha.
This is the effin highlight of my trip. Kept going back to that store behind Pukka bar.
Chaolong (Beef Stew)
Our last full day on the island. Spent the afternoon at Maremegmeg Beach Bar in Vanilla Beach.
Such beautiful sunsets.
Capped off the night at Havana Beach Bar with Mike and the Wolf and freakin 280 shot tequilas.
Exhausted and home bound lol.
Thank you so much El Nido! I seriously enjoyed this super fun and spontaneous trip with the best girls!
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: P600/pax inclusive of entrance and lunch, can stay until 5pm
Overnight: P5,800/cabana good for either 2 or 4 people inclusive of fresh and delectable breakfast; P450/pax for a 5 course superb lunch/dinner
Magnificent view, exceptional service, overall great experience: free
Til the next vacation or staycation!
I feel like this has become an annual August thing and I love it!
Finally some quiet time with my best friends. Well, not so quiet.
Photo set | Punta Bulata, Danjugan
Just the four of us. Road trip!
Arrived at Punta Bulata and felt like we owned the place. No one here and yay long weekend!
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.
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!
No dull times with my soul sisters, always.
Photo set | Northern Island, New Zealand
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.
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.
Martinborough – Poppies
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.
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 Thermal Wonderland
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.
August 6th, BIRTHDAY!
Matamata – Hobbiton
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!
These familiar scene out of Narnia. Shorter way by boat, Longer way by hike. We took the latter. Even found a few blooms of Sakura. View was worth it.
Hot Water Beach
An underground river of hot water flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at this beach, thus it’s name. Visitors can dig large holes and soak in the thermal water.
Disney on Ice
Because we are never too old.
Last stop for this trip. Met up with friends who are based here and was so happy they celebrated my birthday with Korean food and ramen!
SEA Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium
Killed time and went to the aquarium while waiting for our Korean dinner.
Thank you for indulging my Korean obsession!
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.
Last day (huhuhu)
Breakfast at Kreem
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.
Krissy & Alvin of Knotting Wong Photography
My DJI Osmo Action camera (yes I switched from GoPro)
Photo Set | La Castellana
Somewhere in La Castellana, this just a little over an hour road trip from Bacolod City will lead you to the Garden of Luisa, a farmhouse turned resort, surrounded by lush greenery and a scenic view of the very active Mt. Kanlaon, for your perfect staycation.
Since cousins are home from abroad, we decided to spend one weekend out of town and we ended up here. The perfect excuse to laze, have coffee with a view, and even celebrate a birthday.
The garden is home to a wide variety of flora and you could even find propagated ones, truly a haven for plant lovers (like me). They also have a pool with a diving board, the kids loved it! Swam the whole day and were totally baked. Juancho still sporting his toddler’s life vest, the one he used when he was just 2 years old (hahaha!), poor kid.
We also celebrated Lily’s birthday in advance. Happy 5th little girl! Perfect excuse for cake and spaghetti.
And even if it rained… Rain is rare in UAE (lol). Nothing is gonna dull this experience.
It was fun that we were able to relax and enjoy each other’s company, bonding over good food, excellent coffee, a magnificent view and of course, bottles of soju (lol). Definitely indulged everyone with my Korean obsessions.
Family time is always the best time!
Kids knocked out on the way home. Too much fun.
Garden of Luisa is located at Bagonawa-Isabela Rd., La Castellana, Negros Occidental, Philippines, a getaway home destination located just an hour away from Bacolod City. Day rate is P5,000 for 10 pax and 300/pax in excess. Overnight rate is P8,000 for 8 pax. Rates are for exclusive use of the facility. Perfect for your next staycation!
Weekend at the mountains. Mahjong sesh leveled up 😂
Hearty lunch, happy hour started at 12:00 noon and even if I lost at mahjong, twas a really good weekend away from all the noise of the city.
Photo set | Boracay Island
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.