Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

I admit I’m not a hi-tech person. This is 2020’s greatest irony, I know. I may have worked with computers and smartphones but believe me, for the most part I’m scared of trying new technology. This pandemic just made me realize there’s a boomer living inside of my millennial shell.

One of the things I hated trying was online payments. Maybe because I was fed up with stories of being scammed. I don’t know. I guess I just love the feeling of holding paper bills and seeing them gone in sixty seconds at the grocery counter. Actually, it’s a technology that’s not well marketed among Filipinos as most people would line up at banks to pay monthly dues. But the pandemic changed that.

In a blink of an eye, COVID-19 closed almost all banks, all stores, all restaurants and all government offices. If one has much time, one can go for more than a kilometer or two to the nearest open bank. I just did that twice. It nearly killed my legs and my sanity. I had false hopes that the rest of the banks would open a month later, but my bills were rising like the next Hawaiian wave.

When I first used an online payment app, I was scared. Really scared. But it changed my life. In fact, my first transaction blew me away. I later realized that some of my friends, even those older than me, have been using it for a long time. I just have to tie my fingers with duct tape so I don’t have to rave about it on social media, then.

I began to make online orders, too. I used to rely on my former officemates taking orders for milk tea every payday but now, they’re gone. My innermost being was like my nine-year-old self jumping for joy over Christmas gifts when I received my first meal ordered online – chicken with rice and French fries.

It’s not only me who has this kind of stories. I’ve heard of others who have struggled to learn kind of technology after Manila went into lockdown. With no private cars, people have to gain new means to meet needs, refresh necessities, and most of all, survive. It helped lessened risk. It helped open new business opportunities, especially small ones. And I hope, it also helped Filipinos upgrade their technological skills.

If there’s a good thing gained from the quarantine period, that’s the realization that we can improve through technology. We’re just hesitant about it. Most of us have hung on to tradition, which were mostly outdated. Paper bills, coins and checks are about to be taken over by credit and debit cards, as well as by online payment services, but we were blindsided to that fact. Cities like Melbourne and Sydney prefer cashless payments, and businesses not accepting those kinds of services are dodgy for them. Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan have been using cards to pay their travel fares. If we’re willing to go to a new normal, we have to upgrade our processes and our ways. But I hope those who have the capability would also help those who do not have the access to technology, especially the vulnerable ones. Most of us still do not have access to smartphones or computers. If others cannot shift their skillset because they lack these capabilities, let’s not leave them out. Education is key to improvement.

So far, upgrading my rusted techie self with a new software ego must be my greatest achievement during the lockdown. Looks like online services will never go away even after the lockdown. But I need to stop myself from ordering too much but…hey look! I think I buy that bag online…


Visiting Mermaid Dreams

School of jacks

The school of jacks was twirling in a slow dance before us. I was captivated, but I set myself into action to join in. They gave way the moment I did, breaking their oceanic rhythm with grace. Perhaps they were giving me the stage to be proud of myself for my one in a million perfect duck dives. This is just one of my many attempts at my first freediving experience.


I was back at Binukbok, Batangas after a year with a few friends from my old swim school. I would like to think the beach was invincible to the ashes of the sudden and disruptive Taal Volcano eruption last January as its marine life did not seem to be affected by the ashfall. Fortunately, there were only a few visitors, despite us coming on a Sunday.

I’ve been here when I was just learning how to survive in the middle of the ocean. That was also the time I was envying the divers who were able to come closer to the corals. This time, it’s my turn to take a little inspection of them.

Let me tell you that it’s harder to sink than to float. I’ve been struggling so hard to get that perfect duck dive. The water was just about eight metres deep, but I felt like a rubber ball bobbing back to the top.

Down below I could see the parrot fishes gliding before me, the clown fishes playing hide-and-seek among the corals, and the sea cucumber seemingly sleeping on the seabed. My problem is that I could not stay beneath for more than a minute. I could hear the fishes snickering when I go up to catch some breath.

But worst of them were the jellyfishes. They sting wherever they like to sting. At least, the sting was quite bearable. It’s just strange that I did not see any of them, although some of my companions did. My googles might need some replacement.

The afternoon dive was more challenging. The current was strong and the water below was a bit blurred. We managed to see a few more fishes while the jellyfishes were gone. It was at this point of time that the importance of the buddy system dawned upon us. One of us got missing but in fact, she already got ahead of us because she got lost in the middle of the sea.

I learned how to freedive because I wanted a little more fun in my life. Seeing the beauty of the earth was a fulfillment of this dream, albeit I need to practice this skill more. However, I felt that the area around this resort was already a bit small, maybe because I already came here a year ago. It dosen’t matter. As long as they keep the marine life safe, that’s good.

Our swimming coach is planning another fun dive at the end of the month. This time it’s in another part of Batangas. Maybe it’s not bad to explore wider oceans then.


My sunburn is worth all the adventures for the day.


The station tower seemed to welcome me the moment the train stopped at Quezon Avenue station. Hovering above the small buildings on Mother Ignacia Street, it still stands proudly as it did during the time I walked away from the media industry. Now, every step towards it was like pure torture. I had some unfinished business to do. I had some fears to face.


The ELJ building, the company’s main headquarters. My workspace was in a smaller building which was in another street corner.

ABS-CBN (which is a merger of Alto Broadcasting System and Chronicle Broadcasting Network) has been running since 1956. It’s considered as the Philippines’ biggest broadcasting station, with its media technology evolving while bringing forward new content for decades. Anyone with big dreams in the media industry would like to be a part of this company. Of course, I was lucky to be here five years ago.

I came straight from a small, religious broadcasting station with great ambitions. Since I already worked as a reporter and segment producer, I was lucky to become a segment producer in one of its TV programs. But working here is not all glory and prestige. It requires more than hard work.

I’ve sacrificed much of my time and social life. Most of the time, I’d work for 14 hours in a day just to work on an episode. That’s the danger of working with a flexi shift. I’d work on my script right after taking interviews and shoots on the field. Sometimes, I would sleep beneath the desks when we have to go out-of-town shoot because the crew had to leave early in the morning. Usually, I’d finish my work until midnight or early dawn. I knew this would happen when the theme music of the late night news begin to blare on air.


This coffee was my best friend during editing. Editing rooms are really, really cold. I could not have survived there without a cuppa.

The people I’ve worked with were nice, but the pressure of this industry would bring out the demons from within us. I was having anxiety attacks whenever my phone rings, but I’ve had to muster whatever strength I have to cop the high-pitched, stressful voice of my executive producer. Her voice was so high and powerful, my mom was able to hear it from my room one night. There’s no room for any mistake in this job. One glitch could bring me great disgrace.


This place is called the Loop. This is where I usually spent my lonely hours Maybe it was called as such because it has a circular design. In other words, it’s a canteen given a posh name.

Six months felt like ten years for me. I’ve met interesting people, my knowledge and career experiences widened, and my horizons broadened. Some of the stories we’ve gathered were eye-opening and some of those we’ve met became our lifelong friends. But running this rat race became traumatic for me. By the time I decided to leave, I felt a wave of peace from within.


Mother Ignacia is usually lined up with food stores, a relief for the tired workers in the media industry.

It’s weird that it took me years before getting the documents I needed from this company, but I guess I just didn’t have the courage to see the old ELJ building again. It still carried that strong, electric vibe of pressured and excited people when I returned, contrast to the quiet, relaxing lane of Mother Ignacia. The rain momentarily stopped when I dropped by, perhaps tipping its hat off to give some reverence to my visit. I could not help but roam around a bit, my heart harboring both anxiety and awe at the same time.


Once again, I felt the same wave of freedom while passing along the lane towards the bus stop. It’s the same sense of freedom I felt when I decided to leave this industry and move on to a new career. The sun, in its gleeful audacity, gave a short cheer at me while briefly pushing the clouds away. Yes, the past is gone and dead. I hope that whatever fears I’ve had will be fossilised into stories that I can face and smile at.

My 2019 In A Nutshell

Greeting 2020 was a blur. I was choking in my tears as Mommy was wincing in pain. Her body was aching after falling down the stairs the other day. She was having severe headaches since last week. I’d tell her to go for a checkup, but she kept on saying she’ll be fine. And there she was looking sad and lonely while lying on the sofa.

I hate to see her like this. For days, thoughts were running in my head like annoying mice scampering to and fro on those newly installed cable wires. Add it with the situation that I am in. I feel so miserable.

The year 2019 has been a struggle to me. Financially, mostly. I’ve sacrificed my passion for travelling and my savings while trying to survive on what have. I have so many plans like fixing this little, old house that we have, buy an induction cooker, an oven, and a coffee maker and own a small car, but my budget was too limited for these big dreams. I felt so limited. I felt hopeless.

But this sense of hopelessness is deadened by some of the things I’ve gained. One of them is going to the gym. I’ve developed a new habit of improving myself and my health. I’ve lessened eating too much food. I’ve practiced drinking lemonade in the morning and having banana and yoghurt as my breakfast. I’ve made new friends, some of them famous, some of them just fun to be with. I’ve improved my social life. Sparta is one of the things that I don’t want to sacrifice. If only I can bring it back to my hometown. Maybe own a calisthenics gym here one day, if God wills.

I also developed the sense of improving my style. Treating myself at online shops made my life fulfilling in a way. I realized I need to make a wardrobe makeover because most of my clothes were about ten years or older. I don’t have to limit myself to almost nothing. At least, I can make some improvement to myself.

I started cutting plastic off in my life. I began owning my own collection of straws which I replaced when they got lost. I started buying shampoo and conditioner bars. I kept on telling fastfood tellers not to put a plastic spoon and fork in my takeaway. I made it my mantra never to buy bottled mineral water and brought my own tumbler at the gym. I brought my food container at takeaway shops. Greta Thunberg must be my patron saint haha. Kidding aside, I changed my habit little by little after being so fed up with videos of turtles and whales ingesting plastic. Plastic could have been a good thing if humans know how to dispose them well.

But most of the time I’ve been sleeping too much. The weight of ageism must have caught up with me. Lately, I would try to stay away from home from time to time. Some of the people in my hometown are annoying and bothersome (especially when they ask questions like “Are you married?”). More so, the situation at home only made me more depressive. But my mom is the only reason I’d go back home. She would always say she’s fine being alone, but I could sense she’s happier when all of her children are back home.

Because of some of the sacrifices I’ve made, I was not able to some of the things I’ve planned at the beginning of 2019:

– GoPro
– New fridge and washine machine
– Coffee maker
– Microwave oven
– Air diffuser
– Renewal of passport

I was not also able to buy blinds for my room at the boarding house. Adding up to the stack of this wishlist is a new phone. This one I have is driving me nuts.

I haven’t planned my goals for this year, and I still have a backlog. But I am claiming financial breakthough this 2020. I believe that the good Father in heaven has heard all my prayers and saved all of my tears. I believe that 2019 has been a test of my patience and a disruption of my pride. I believe 2020 carries a clear vision that is as hopeful as the daylight that looms ahead the horizon. I believe this new decade will bring about new dreams that will come into fruition sooner than I expect.

Burning Excess Baggages

I’ve finally let go of an old flame. The courage to block him on social media sites came on late, though. But doing so gave me the feeling of liberation.

We have parted our ways a long time ago, but I kept on stalking him from time to time. Unfriending him was not enough to keep me from doing so. The foolish me was hoping to see if he still wants me…or at least, misses me…as he did in those text messages.

They were just fleeting words, but my heart was trapped in a web of lies for a year. The jerk in him was unmasked when I confronted him. “All I want is to be a good friend,” he faltered, and suddenly all the empty promises came fleeting like ashes in a violent wind of emotions. This is not a man worth my time or my hopes. I’ve decided to let him go…but I was deceiving myself.

But as always, his social media plied no trace of his humanity, just a reflection of his religious fanaticism…dead and emotionless. His page glared at me as if it was a death mask that would never be removed from the face of its master. Four years from this hopeless romanticism, I have to gather the courage to shatter my obsession. I’ve realized there are more people worth my time, my emotions, my being. New friends who show me there’s more room to grow and love. New promises that enlighten my perspective. A future that’s brighter and lovelier than my past. The past is not worth mourning anymore. I need to burn it. Bury it. Forget it. Along with his memory.

Now, that he’s gone, I’m free from such a heavy load. I have to walk weightless because the journey towards a better tomorrow will never be easy. But leaving this baggage of bitterness and hopeless will help me move forward and run towards the sunrise.

Enjoying the Boring Essentials


The cheery ringtone echoed in the bathroom. I was trying to finish scrubbing my floor mat when the anticipated call came. Finally, after enduring months of scattered clothes in all glorious disarray, I have purchased my own cabinet.

I have lots of priorities, but this one suddenly jumped into my list when my old clothes rack just gave up (it seemed to have abhorred my fetish for clothes, but it still managed to endure a year of forced servitude under my fashion obsession). I initially planned to buy my own desk this year, but I (and my budget) have to adjust. In the light of this tragedy, adulting suddenly hit me hard to the core.

I used to brush off household items and other boring essentials. All I cared for were books, CDs of anime OSTs (whoops, try not to guess my age 🤔), dresses, stylish bags, and more books. But as I grew older, I started to shave off some of these fancy things as I began to see what I really need.

Living away from my parents’ home taught me how to be responsible for myself. Reality sank in days after I realized there was no mom to cook breakfast for me and there’s no parental daily allowance. I had to learn how to make plans, budget well, and weigh my priorities. If not, I might not survive in this crazy, concrete jungle.

All those boring essentials I thought I didn’t need became my objects of desire once I got into my thirties. The department store’s home section turned into a wonderland. I could not believe I was converted into a homemaker. *Sigh*

I’ve noticed that as we grow older, our priorities change. They adjust according to our needs. In time, these needs are sifted well, leaving only the most valuable things in life. We are soon leaving this world anyway, and we would not be needing them as we journey away from this life.

But as for now, I’m still overjoyed at the sight of my drawer sitting near my bed. The best thing with these boring essentials is the extra joy that tags along with it…like some nice, fluffy bubble wrap. 😉


A Watery Rendezvous

Part of the adulting stage is the requirement to stand as a chaperone for a parent going to a party. My mom, who’s forever young at heart, wanted to join the other ladies at her zumba class for a reunion. I easily obliged because I had another agenda in mind: the pool.

The party was held beside a swimming pool. Believe me, I missed swimming for quite a long time. I did not mind whether the visibility of the water was almost terrible to none. I just wanted to feel the warm waters around my body and float on it like I was on air.


I already had taken a few laps when some of the kids playing there said “Hi, tita!” (“tita” is the Filipino word for aunt). Being shy around kids (except for my nephews and niece), I only greeted them back and swam again. But when I returned, one of them brazenly asked if she can borrow my shower cap. “Nope,” I said, “it’s already stuck on my hair”.

That’s one problem when swimming in a public pool. I couldn’t do my laps properly because kids playing ball were blocking my way and some of them were trying to talk to me. This same girl was telling me she knows how to dive because she took swimming lessons. Being a good adult, I fought the urge to reply, “Yeah, me too.” As if all adults are automatic swimmers.

I ended up looking up at the half moon pinned on the dark sky. I soothed myself with the warm waters enclosing me like an old friend who missed me. The blaring dance music felt far away as I submerged into the deep, something that I missed doing for a long time.


I wish every place would a have a pool of their own but is something considered as a luxury to some. It’s sad that many people deem that only the rich can take up swimming lessons. That should not be the case. Every Filipino has the right to take up swimming lessons. I think it is a vital life skill, especially the Philippines is surrounded by bodies of water.

I left the pool at dinner. I guess only food can stop me from swimming haha. I hope I’d be invited to more parties at the pool. 🙂



I can breathe in pure freedom as the salty air of the sea brushed off the city dust from my worn out shirt. The tossing of the waves drowned out the clicking sound of the keyboard in my head that has been whirling within me for a week (and for months, actually). I have returned to Baler for the second time around just to take a break and be with a friend who wanted to enjoy my company before she migrates to Europe.


The scene was thrilling as a few surfers were seen riding along the feisty waves from a distance, but the scorching sun waned that out. I realized I was already exhausted after that grueling seven-hour bus ride from Manila. My friends were just as tired. But the trip did not seem to faze seven-year-old Liam who kept on asking, “When are we going to the beach?” Or “When are we going to surf?”


Crispy corned beef with egg as breakfast. Trust me, it’s good. 🙂

One of the best things about going to far away places is the food. I never hesitate to enjoy a plateful of sumptuous dried fish paired with an egg or a giant glass of pure, authentic mango shake (trust me, no preservatives). Some locals would drop by the cafe to sell pearls or jewelry (I don’t know if they’re real at all), but I’d rather support this guy who sells rice cake doused in honey. It’s perfect for the afternoon coffee.


Surfing is always the highlight of Baler. An hour of surfing lessons only costs about Php300 (US$5.7) for local tourists. But my Php300 was washed away in the waves because I could never, ever master this craft. I don’t know why my balance skipped away during the surfing class. At least, I looked good for a fraction of a second.


I’m impressed with my friend, Marie, because she could handle Liam well while having fun with us. There were times they would argue badly, but she always made sure he’s in safe territory no matter how far he went. I guess this is one of the reasons why moms are superheroes.


Vacation, as old folks say, is one of the perks a single person like me can have anytime because I don’t have kids (or a partner) to worry about. But I guess this norm does not apply to my friends, who are both mothers, because their family gives them time to go out, relax and enjoy. Fun is not limited to single people because everyone has the freedom to choose and break out from their mundane routine from time to time. This was what the waves have been telling us for the past two days. Even as we left, they kept on inviting us to come back and share to our children the freedom we’ve tasted back in Baler.


On a sidenote:

Baler could be a bit far from Manila, but it is easy to access because there are buses going straight there. Joybus is one of them and a fare costs about P720 (US$14).

SMART Beach House is a recommended stay for tourists. It’s quiet (especially on weekdays) and clean. The hosts are also very friendly.




Scramble (pink shaved ice topped with powdered milk and chocolate syrup) is a childhood favourite. If they are scarce in Manila, they now abound in Ilocos.

Food is something the Ilocanos are known for. Among the most popular are the Vigan longanisa (chorizo-like sausage), chichacorn (a popcorn-like snack, except it is crunchier than popcorn), empanada (pastry stuffed with meat) and bagnet (deep fried crispy pork belly). I love bagnet especially if it’s paired with pinakbet (a viand of mixed veggies). Our tour guide does not want us to miss that, so we headed first a pasalubong store to hunt for some nice, crispy bagnet.

I was so excited for the pasalubong, I wanted to go home to sort them out (especially the ref magnets haha). But more things were lined up in the last day of the tour because there are more to see in Ilocos.


Baluarte is something that tourists would never miss during their visit to Ilocos. If Ilocos Norte is the abode of the Marcoses, Ilocos Sur is home to the Singsons, another political clan. Chavit Singson’s name gives a ring to most Filipinos as he became the governor of the province of Ilocos Sur. Oh, he was also the sponsor of Miss Universe when it was held in the Philippines in 2016.


Singson’s love of the game and wildlife gave birth to this place which was located just beside a golden structure which they say was his house. It’s like a shadow of Ocean Park in Hong Kong, but some animals could only be viewed through a shuttle ride. By the way, the entrance was free, but the shuttle was not.


There was also a museum for taxidermied animals caught and hunted by the politician years ago. Beside them are pictures of Singson holding a rifle beside a prized animal that he caught. I must honestly say my stomach fell when I saw the collection of animal heads mounted on the walls. I felt so sorry they had to end up that way. 😞


We returned to Vigan for a calesa ride. It cost only P150 for four people per hour. The sun was so hot, but it did not stop us from touring around the city to see the church and the pottery house.


I was quite disappointed that Vigan has a lot of modern establishments. It’s like Intramurous forced into modernization. The romance of the quiet glow of streetlamps is gone and the sun was raging above our heads. The roads were filled by tourists who only ate their fill at fastfood chains.



We opted to simplier meals along the street. Imagine our joy when we discovered sinanglaw, a soupy meal filled with beef and goat meat. It looks so simple and unattractive, but the Ilocano vinegar gave it a superb taste.


It’s good to pair sinanglaw with the sweet taste of barbeque.

We left the city before the parade started. Today was Ilocos day and roads will be blocked once the street dancers step in. We’d rather not risk our time staying there because of the seven to eight-hour travel.

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The trip did not end without stopping by the La Union grapes farm. La Union is almost three hours away from Ilocos. The fruits there were small and not so sweet, with some a bit sour, but I enjoyed the experience of grape picking.


51095749_329816040971629_5483897703337295872_nI’m so glad that we made friends with our fellow tourists during tour. The tour guide was so kind to us, I assured him we’d be joining them again. I’d definitely join them in another destination, but my wallet needs to recouperate. 🙂



My mom greeted me a “Happy birthday, darling” the moment I woke up. That realization did not sink in as my brain was still a bit fuzzy at 3 o’clock in the morning. All I wanted was munch on some churros we bought at a mall last night and hopefully, some coffee later in the day.

We left at 4:30 am for Pagudpod, which has a good two-hour distance from the hotel we’re staying in Laoag. I once thought that going around Ilocos was easy because I mistakenly had the impression the tourist spots in the region were only a few meters away from one another. Taking this tour with a travel agency was a wise idea then. We don’t have to get lost and pretend we’re listening to Waze’s monotonous voice.

Our driver first let us see Bantay Abot Cave. The wind was still viciously cold even though dawn was breaking beyond the Pacific’s horizon. What we came to see was not completely a cave but a rock formation where the blue waters could be seen rolling over the rocks and the beaches beyond. It’s unbelievable I am able to see, feel and experience such a beautiful place. What’s more unbelievable was that my mom was quicker than me in going down the rock formation. Looks like I’m too slow for a 34-year-old. 😞


Pagudpod Beach was just a few meters away. It’s amazing the waters were completely blue, even near the seashore. I was more thrilled when I felt the fine, white sand hugging my toes. Indeed, it’s a dream come true. Here’s the beach I’ve been asking for. Thank God for such a birthday treat! 🙂


We had a breakfast of longanisa, egg and fried rice courtesy of King and Joy Travel Tours. I rushed to the shore after drinking coffee (can’t live without it) and took a dip. I tried swimming away from the shore, but the waves kept on pushing me back. The waves were good for surfing, but I don’t have the guts to do so and endure the pain later.


There’s a zip line above the beach, but I find it too expensive (P900 for one person). I’d rather try to make some sand art, but the waves kept on washing it away. Except for this one. 🙂


The sun was already prickling our skin. We had to leave the sea and dust the sand off our feet before we reach our next destination, including the Patapat Viaduct, the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines.


Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.


The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is running for more than 150 years.


This lighthouse is powered by renewable energy, the main power source in Ilocos. They have solar farms and wind generators which is powered by the famous Bangui windmills.


Seeing them in real life made me awestruck. One of the tourists told us she cried when she saw them for the first time because she could only see them in postcards before. I gaped at the size of one of them. It’s almost as tall as a 20-storey building (or 23 storeys as some blogs suggest) and the wind sails made a low and loud whoosing sound every time it turned with the wind. The wind from the Pacific coast is powerful enough to keep a bunch of them running and the sails were attractive enough to keep the photobombers from getting away our pictures.



Everything was so sunny and blue in Pagudpod, I wish I could stay for even one day more (or maybe until my next birthday haha). But seeing my mom having fun was the real treat for me. Nothing beats a good memory as a gift for me. 🙂


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