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.
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.
They say that one of the things you need to do before settling down is travel with your best friends. Well, none of us are settling down (me is atotally different story), we just like doing stuff and going places together, that’s all there is to it. Seascape before summer ends and getting that much needed vacation.
Jobelle, Joyce and Reggie were coming from Manila and taking the last flight to Cebu so me, to avoid waiting for them for too long, took the bus since most of the flights from Bacolod going to Cebu are really early. WRONG MOVE.
Weather was crazy and I swear, I’m never taking the bus again! It took almost 9 hours to get to Cebu! My ass and back was literally hurting from all the sitting.
So anyways, I hanged with my friends who’re in the city while waiting, did some catching up and grabbed me a few beers. Manila flight arrived round 3am (last flight from Manila is 11pm so they were supposed to arrive a little past midnight), I met Jobelle, Joyce and Reg at the airport and we left to go straight to Moalboal. Passed out the moment I got in the car. I think I must’ve been awake for almost 24 hours, don’t ask me why.
We stayed at Blue Orchid Resort. The place is really nice with really friendly and accommodating staff.
While me and Jobelle were passed out, Joyce and Reg did some sick drone action. The things you do when jet lagged (lol). All things pretty.
Some sun finally!
Rented a boat in the afternoon and went on to search for Dory. Brought with us some cold beer too. The boat life, the good life.
We got back to the resort at just around sunset, chilled by the beach and just enjoyed the scene.
Joyce and Reg went to see the Whale Sharks in Oslob and left really early while me and Jobelle just hanged by the beach.
When they got back, we went on to do something new: Intro Dive. The things Jobelle make me do.
Steve, the dive instructor, actually gave us a booklet about diving the previous day which we were supposed to read and answer in advance. Lazy me only got to read it that morning and found it quite confusing. Having to go through all those underwater signs and stuff made me anxious, I wanted out. But when he taught us the basics, it was rather easy. I just did not like all the stuff hanging on my back though. I had to like carry 25 kilos to the shore.
Down we go…
It was totally different from what you see when snorkeling, this — you get to see super up close. Quite an experience! Felt like singing the little mermaid song. Thanks Steve!
After dive happy hour!
Kiss from a sea hare. Bill said it squirts beautiful purple ink as defense if it feels like it’s being attacked. Hmmm…how to make it squirt.
Then this amazing sunset. Makes you just want to ditch life and get lost.
Decided to have dinner outside the resort so we took a pedicab to Panagsama. It was rather far.
It was a strip of food stores and bars. The most popular one being Chili’s. But it was really crowded so we ate at the resto right beside it. I forgot the name of the place but it was empty so we had it all to ourselves, the food was really good, super busog! And the music from Chili’s was loud enough that we could sing and dance to it.
Wouldn’t mind waking up to this every day. But then all things must come to an end. Jobelle, Joyce and Reg will be going to Boracay and Palawan after here. If I extend, I might not have a job waiting for me when I get home (haha).
Went back to Cebu round 1pm, stopped by Carcar to buy some chicharon and checked in at Allure Hotel; went to Ayala to buy some drone batteries and hung out at John’s vape shop. It’s just opened recently, bout 3 weeks ago. Rcos Vape Shop. It’s at I3, where Bean Leaf used to be.
Grabbed us some dinner at Sugbo Mercado. Lechon, Scallops, Siomai and Tipsy Pops!
Slow night, no alcohol, just vape and lotsa laughs in between.
And yeah, I took the plane home. I didn’t care that I had to wake up really early to catch the first flight as long as I am not taking the bus.
That’s the majestic Mount Kanlaon, still spewing smoke and ash. Can’t wait for it to calm down so I could climb up this baby.
Belle, Joyce, Reg, thanks for having me guys! It was awesome!