TRAVEL: Keeping Your Memories Alive (Philippines/Bali Recap Video)

Traveling is truly one of the most transformational things people can do for themselves. Whether you travel near or far, there’s a guarantee you won’t feel the same or be the same. It’s been two months since I left Bali, and I still think and dream about it every day.

Thanks to technology, I have all my memories saved as a constant reminder every day to keep my transformation alive. Combined, the boys and I have thousands of photos from our trip and hours of footage recorded on Alvin’s GoPro. In addition, I have a day-to-day diary of my trip that I’ve documented via this blog, with very detailed (sometimes redundant) descriptions of what went on and how we were feeling.

So coming home, I made sure to do two things. First, make a photo album with all my favorite photos from our trip (which was really hard because I had so many pictures of monkeys and bowls of curry that I wanted to include). 200 photos definitely didn’t feel like enough to capture 6-weeks worth of travel, but my album turned out absolutely perfect. Second, make a travel video. I hadn’t dabbled in any video editing in years, but I was ready to tackle the project. I sifted through hours worth of footage and Alvin selfies, and was able to condense our trip into twelve minutes. Watching the video was like reliving a dream. I wasn’t sure it really happened or of the places we visited were real.

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Back to transformation… I’ll admit, it’s really easy to forget. I wanted to travel because I intended to find myself and recreate purpose within me. A month after being back home, I found myself already lost in my own confusion and self-doubt. Luckily, I took the time to put all the things I’ve learned and all the memories I’ve made into an album and a video. Every time I find myself in my own pit of negative thoughts, I come back to the great memories I made, not dwelling on the past, but using it as a reminder of how great my future can be.

For anyone traveling or planning on traveling, I highly recommend taking the time to put together an album with your favorite photos, or recording footage for you to show your friends and family when you get back home. And don’t procrastinate! The longer you wait, the more likely you’re never going to do it. So this should be the first thing you do when you get back from traveling. I promise it’ll be worth your time.

 

TRAVEL: My Day in Teresa, Rizal (Philippines 8/28/2016)

I knew my trip wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t spend any time with my family. I had the blessing of seeing my nephew, Joshua, even just briefly when I was in Manila. God blessed me with one more day in the Philippines and a wonderful family who gathered to see me that day.

Alvin and I arrived in the Philippines from Bali at 2:30AM. Exhausted, we made it to Z Hostel at around 3:30, and were in bed by 4AM. A few hours later, my Kuya Jun and Kuya Bing picked me up and took me to Teresa, Rizal where my family is from. We stopped by a flower shop in Antipolo first where I picked out flowers for my Lola and Lolo’s bouquet. He showed me the church nearby that was celebrating mass, with people pouring out of all sides of the church. Supposedly people come from all over to celebrate here on Sunday. We walked around the mall that was right across the street, which was also filled with people enjoying their day off.

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When I got to the house in Teresa, immediately heard my Tito Boying chanting “Holly! Holly! Holly!” I hugged and kissed everyone. It was about a year and a half since I’d last seen them. My nephew Chino was just a small baby when I first met him, and was now talking, playing, and walking. My nephew Sancho was incredibly taller than both me and his mom, Ateh Sheila. And Bianca who is only ten was just as tall as me now. We ate lunch precisely around 12. They asked if I was vegetarian and I joked (partially) and said I loved meat too much. Good thing I’m not vegetarian because we had the most delicious menudo, barbecue, fish, and gulay for lunch. After we ate lunch and then ate a little more, we went to visit my Lolo and Lola at the cemetery. I always get really teary just thinking about her (as I am while writing this), so I braced myself and was just happy that I could be there again. It was raining so we didn’t stay long, but long enough for us to adorn her with flowers. say a prayer, and sing a verse of Amazing Grace.

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On our way back, my Ateh Ting had us stop by a food stand with Filipino street food, which I had been wanting to try but weary because of my previous case of Bali Belly. The food was delicious! We bought cheese sticks (my favorite), deep fried quail eggs, and fish balls. We devoured it all at the house and shortly after bought even more food for me to try.

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Of course, I had to hit food coma eventually, so I took a nap in the living room sitting with some of my nieces and nephews. I woke up to the sound of more food! Pili Pili, deep fried yam things, are supposedly my mom’s favorite and are definitely my new favorite now. Ateh Melinda was making them fresh in the kitchen. My mouth is watering thinking about them right now. I sat back at the dining room table chatting with Ateh Dang, Ateh Jojo, and Ateh Ting about their travel ventures and about all the wonderful destinations there are in the Philippines.

I completely forgot it was Sunday but was happy when Ateh Sheila said they would be attending the 6PM mass. We walked about five minutes to St. Rose of Lima (who is also my patron saint) and attended mass. The music was beautiful and most of the mass was said in English. The gospel and homily were in Tagalog and I tried really hard to understand – luckily Ateh Sheila helped me out with that. We went back to the house for dinner and ate more cake. I had lots of pasalubong and snacks waiting for me. I’ve been snacking on all day on my way back to Los Angeles. They packed me some baon for the road, and I said goodbye to all my family and my Mama Ellen next door. We went back to Makati and stopped by my nephew Josh’s house to pick up more pasalubong and say goodbye and happy 20th birthday to him too.

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My Kuya Jigs, Ateh Jojo, and Ateh Ting dropped me back of at Z Hostel. I thanked them for arranging the wonderful day that I had with my family. It really was the perfect way to end my trip. Although I had loads of fun traveling and moving around the Philippines and Bali, seeing my family provided some much needed grounding and love for me that prepared me for going back home.

I spent the rest of my night on the rooftop of Z Hostel, where there so happens to be a rooftop bar with a stunning view of Manila. Alvin introduced me to his new friends that he ended up spending the day drinking with. They were super nice and told me that I was Jennifer Aniston with a tan (which may possibly be the nicest compliment I’ve ever gotten). We all stayed up until 2AM drinking Red Horse and listening to amazing acoustic covers. It was like my last day of traveling couldn’t have ended any better.

TRAVEL: From Siquijor, to Dumaguete, to Manila, and Our First Day in Bali (8/4-8/5/16)

Traveling from Siquijor, Philippines all the way to Denpensar, Bali was the longest trek we’ve done and will do on our trip. Yes, traveling through Southeast Asia is very cheap, but the cheaper you go, the longer the trip usually takes. To go from Siquijor (an island south/central Philippines) all the way to Bali could have been just two plane flights away. However, “ballin’ on a budget” means that we had to find the cheapest route possible.  

We started our day bright and early at The Bruce in Siquijor Island. By 9AM we took a tricycle (that we previously arranged to pick us up the night before) to the port. Anticipating sea-sickness, we bought a ticket to Dumaguete which cost 130 pesos. Lucky for us, we were on a large cargo ship instead of a small boat, so we had a comfortable ride there. The ride was less than two hours, and by 11:30PAM we were already there. 


Next, we had to catch a plane back to Manila. We had a lot of time to kill before our 4:40PM flight, so we asked a local where the best spot to grab lunch was. He took us to Lantaw, which had authentic Filipino food at a reasonable price. We had delicious bangus (fried fish), BBQ chicken, lumpia, baked scallops, lechon kawali, and fruit smoothies. I definitely recommend coming here if you’re ever in Dumaguete! After lunch, we still had lots of time to kill. We played cards, wrote for my blog, read, and killed time until our (expectedly) delayed flight. 


We finally got to Manila by 7PM that day. Josh and Alvin got dropped off at their hostel and I went back to the city to stay with my nephew who lives in Makati. I didn’t get there until after 10PM since we got lost dropping the boys off, but I was still so happy to see my nephew and catch up with him. We talked about how school was going, his rapid-growing talent with Photoshop, his brother, and life in Manila. 


The next morning, we FINALLY set off for Bali. I remember being at the airport that morning unable to control my excitement that we were going to another country, especially one that I haven’t experienced yet. We took a four and a half hour flight to Malaysia, where we had another four hour layover. We got really full off of beer in the airport, and Alvin had some good Malaysian curry while Josh and I enjoyed some Cajun potato wedges (I have no shame!). 


Our flight from Malaysia to Denpensar, Bali was about three hours long. It was late, already passed 10PM, and I was ready to sleep for the entire plane ride. To our dismay, we ended up sitting right in front of a snobby French family who insisted they were too tall for us to lean our chairs back. Hands down, I had the most uncomfortable plane ride (or ride in general) that I’ve ever had. Even in my attempt to sleep, I could still hear them talking loudly in French over my music. At the time, I was ridiculously bitchy and crabby, but I knew the ride and rude people would all be worth enduring once we got to Bali. We finally got to our Airbnb in Kuta at 3AM and went to bed by 4AM exhausted but so thankful for our safe trip. 

We started off our first day in Bali sleeping in. We woke up that morning and finally got to take a look at our accommodation for the next two nights. The villa was adorable, with a simplistic yet Balinese vibe. Tired from our travel so, we didn’t get out of the house until 11AM to get some authentic Indonesian brunch.My first meal in Bali was some yummy vegetarian noodles, while Alvin got beef rendang, and Josh ordered chicken skewers with peanut sauce. 


After getting adapters for our chargers so we could charge our phones, we went straight to Kuta Beach in our motor-scooters to see what this famous beach was about. Immediately we saw that the beach was full of restaurants and massage stands lined up one after another. On the shoreline were hundreds and hundreds of tourists in the water, sitting on rented chairs under umbrellas in the sand, and eating at the restaurants or getting a massage. A little put off by how many people there were, I sat in the beach chair we rented and watched while Josh and Alvin tried surfing. Josh came back eventually and nudged me to go boogie-boarding. He quickly taught me how to catch the perfect wave, and eventually I sifted up enough courage to try surfing. I fell off the surfboard almost immediately just trying to lay myself on the board. We tried again, and I actually caught my best wave on my first try! All the other times I either fell off or hit a child (not purposefully). After a while, I really fell in love with the beach for what it had to offer. The waves on this beach were so abundant, consistent, and beautiful that it was hard not to have fun while there. They were challenging to swim through but so rewarding when you caught that perfect, epic wave. 


We ended our first day having dinner with Josh and Alvin’s friend, Helen. After our BBQ dinner, we all showered and headed to find the best massage spa that was open late at night. Josh and I got fully body massages with aroma therapy while Alvin and Helen both got hot stone massages, which sounded really hot but is something I’ve always wanted to try. We went to bed exhausted but the most relaxed we’ve been during our trip. 

Bali is beautiful. Althoug our first day there was doing the “tourist” thing in the most tourist-heavy area, we were still overjoyed with how much culture thrives in this island. Left and right are statues,  everywhere is adorned with Balinese art, and prayers are left outside every door on every street. 

TRAVEL: The Mystical Island of Siquijor (8/2-8/3/16)

We admittingly found out about Siquijor because of a YouTube video we watched. We fell in love with two of the island’s destinations, and decided we had to see it for ourselves. Siquijor is the second smallest island province in the Philippines. You can circle around the island in a motorbike in approximately four hours. We spent three days and four nights on this island, which was an abundant amount of time. Before coming here, we talked to some locals in Cebu about going to Siquijor. Turns out the island is known for being “magical” and has a reputation to be the island of voodoo magic. I took that with a grain of salt and wanted to see what the island was about myself. 


The boys and I spent our entire first day just relaxing and recuperating from all the activities we have been doing. The next day, we set off to see the island’s treasures. 

The Century Old Balete Tree

About four centuries old, this tree has withstood the test of time, much like a lot of things you’ll find on this island. The tree is about 400 years old, and there’s a fish spa located right in front. The fish loved Josh’s feet, Alvin was a little freaked out by the bigger fish, and I was terrified at the thought of fish nibbling at my feet. A lot of the tourists there seemed to enjoy it though, and the locals were excited that a lot of people were there to visit. Although I didn’t enjoy the fish, I did make the most adorable new friend! One of the locals working in the shop had a baby monkey wearing a tiny blue shirt. I asked if I could see it, and they let me hold him. Needless to say, I absolutely fell in love with the little guy. 



The Lazi Convent

This is another one of the island’s treasures that has withstood the test of time. The large, old church was built in the 1800s by the Spaniards. By the looks of it, mass is still held there till this day. The church had a certain aura that made the hairs in the back of my neck stand up. People were trying to sell us candles in the front, but there was nowhere to light the candle and say a prayer in the inside. A little boy with no shoes greeted us as we entered the church. He led us upstairs, through a nearly broken staircase up to the dusty attic-like area where the bell tower was. Very old and broken, I was afraid the floor would collapse any second. I went to bed still thinking about how strange the church and aura was. I talked to my mom and she said maybe there were “spirits” lingering still. I wouldn’t be surprised. 


Cambugahay Falls

This was our #1 destination spot here in Siquijor. Cambugahay Falls is like a little gem hidden within the island. It’s located very close to the church and is very easy to find. After walking down a few flights of man-made stone stairs, we found ourselves greeted by locals who guided us through the falls. There are three levels to the falls, the top being the most abundantly flowing with water and lush scenery. At the top is also a giant swing made of wood that lunges you into the pool of water. The locals help you grab on and swing into the water. While it’s fun to watch the locals flip and do tricks into the water, it’s also fun to watch tourists belly flop themselves into the water. The falls are beautiful, mystical, and the water is so cool and clean to swim in. Seeing these falls is definitely going to be one of the highlights of my trip. 



Salagdoong Beach
 

This is the island’s most popular beach. When we went, the water was blue and the tide was high. It’s not comparable to the beaches of Palawan or Boracay, but what makes this beach really cool is the diving platform built on a cliff in the middle of the beach. Josh jumped off the highest platform right away. Me on the the other hand, started staring down at the water for way too long. Nerves started to kick in and it seemed like we were up on that platform forever. The local boys would run of the platform and do flips like it was nothing. Finally, I decided to jump off the shorter platform, irritated with myself that I had waited so long to do it, but happy I finally did.

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St. Francis of Assisi
 

One of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church is St. Francis of Assisi. I was really excited to visit this church because the book I’m reading called There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, has St. Francis’s prayer on the back. His prayer is also one of my favorite songs to sing at church on Sunday: 

Where there is hatred, let me show love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is undying t self that we are born to eternal life.

The church was beautiful and antique, as most churches built in the 1800s are. It had the usual big altar crested in gold paint with saints and Mama Mary on both sides of the church. 
On our last day there, Josh and I drove around the island the explore the coast. On our way to Lugnason Falls, we rode through what was more inland countryside and were greeted by almost every person we passed by. We drove through lush green and beautiful fields of rice patties. We didn’t get to see any falls, but the scenery, sunset, and view of the coast was worth it. 


On our last day there, Josh and I drove around the island the explore the coast. On our way to Lugnason Falls, we rode through what was more inland countryside and were greeted by almost every person we passed by. We drove through lush green and beautiful fields of rice patties. We didn’t get to see any falls, but the scenery, sunset, and view of the coast was worth it. 


Three full days was definitely enough time for us to be on the island. Siquijor is an island that someone could get around in about one day and see almost everything the island has to offer. Although I did get a small case of island fever, I loved our accommodation, The Bruce, and the time we all got to stay and rest there. Alvin laid in a hammock for hours every day, Josh spent a lot of time reading, and I finally got in some yoga time. I guess it’s just God or the universe’s way of giving us the time we needed to rest for our next adventure, Bali! 



My Tips for Visiting Siquijor: 

*Come after rainy season. We came in the middle of rainy season, but because Siquijor doesn’t get hit with too much rain as oppose to the other nearby islands, there wasn’t a huge abundance of water at the waterfalls. Rainy season falls from the beginning of July until the end of August. Cambugahay Falls was still epic, but other falls we tried visiting like Lugnason Falls had no water at all. Also, the tide was very low, leaving black seaweed all over what are usually white sandy beaches with clear blue water. 

*Motorbike is the best way to transport yourself. Of course, you can try and take a tricycle, but there aren’t as many around as there usually are in bigger cities. The island is small and doesn’t see too many tourists. Lucky for me, the boys both learned to ride motorbikes. Try riding a scooter or motorbike, or makes friends with a local who will be willing to take you around the island for a day or two.

TRAVEL: Saying Goodbye to Cebu, and Hello to Siquijor (7/31-8/1/16) 

Leaving our little home in Cebu was bittersweet. After spending a few days and getting used to our little spot over the sea, it was time to say goodbye and pack up for our next destination. Matutinao Resort was such a warm place to stay with wonderful hospitality. Before leaving, we went to mass at (insert church’s name here), which was a beautiful, upbeat celebration said in Tagalog and what sounded like a little bit of Cebuano. 
Matutinao Resort, Cebu, Philippines 

We took a yellow Ceres bus to the Bato bus station, and from there we took a tricycle to the ferry terminal. The ferry took us from the Liloan Port to the Sibulan Port. We took a tricycle from there to Dumaguete, where we finally took a ferry to Siquijor. In a matter of minutes, all of us realized we were tired and seasick. Josh, Alvin, and I tried sleeping the sickness off. One hour and forty minutes later, we finally arrived on Siquijor Island.

Sibulan Port, Cebu, Philippines 

Low-tide in Siquijor. 

As we were walking from the port to the city, we noticed that the tide was extremely low. Green seaweed and moss covered floors encompassed where the water used to be. We were quickly greeted by a few locals who asked if we needed rides via tricycle. We took a tricycle from the port to our hotel, which cost about 400 pesos. When we arrived at The Bruce, there was still a lot of daylight left. We all quickly agreed that this was the nicest accommodation we were going to stay at so far. We spent our first night in a two-person room since they didn’t have our room ready. Hungry and tired from the day’s journey, we went across the street and had burgers that Josh and I didn’t like very much. 


The next morning, the boys and I were all still very tired and hit by some lazy island vibes. We ate breakfast, read books, took naps, spent time in the wifi room, did some yoga, ate some more, and caught up with my blog. It was actually our first REAL “chill day” where we sat and did absolutely nothing and went absolutely nowhere, and it felt great! The only place Josh and I went was to the doctor. His stomach had been bothering him for about a week and he was still having irregular bowel movements. Josh’s visit to see a doctor was free since he saw a government doctor, and his antibiotics only cost a few hundred pesos. 

I ended my day with some light yoga, which I hadn’t been doing since I got sick. I noticed my body was both physically and mentally weaker than it was before I caught my fever. Poses that I can normally do on a daily basis were hard and intangible for me at the moment. It was frustrating, but also very humbling for me to take a step back and try and rebuild my strength again. 

Alvin and I ate instant noodles that I had leftover while Josh ate bread and a banana. We went to bed early and got well rested for the next day’s adventure. 

TRAVEL: Repelling Down Waterfalls and Jumping Off Cliffs – Canyoneering in Cebu (7/30/16)

Learning I had tonsillitis wasn’t going to stop me from doing one of the activities I was looking forward to the most on this trip. Not only was it by far one of the most fun experiences I’ve had so far, but it helped me get my mind off of my sore throat. Canyoneering was a completely unforgettable experience!

We started our day at 10AM, getting picked up a little later than that because our tour guide got a little lost while picking us up. We took a “motor-taxi” (three people on a motorcycle) to the canyoneering site in Montaneza. We went up and through the mountain, where we met up with the rest of our group. To our surprise, our entire group was made up of friendly Europeans. We spent the day with our new Danish and English friends. 


Before starting our adventure, we had a mini workshop on how to properly scale down a waterfall using a rope tied to a tree. We walked a little bit through muddy slopes until we got to our first waterfall. I was in the back of the line, and the anticipation until it was my turn was killing me. It was finally my turn, and to my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all! You feel very safe while repelling down the waterfalls. The trick is to trust your own abilities and stay calm. The guides know what they’re doing and they talk you through everything.

The rock formations were encompassing us left and right, with a little bit of skyline peeping through. We knew we were deep into the canyons. The waterfalls were abundant and the plants all flourished. The canyons weren’t as colorful as I expected, but I was still very impressed by the natural habitat of it all. 

Going through each waterfall was its own experience. Some waterfalls were easier than others. There was even a little bit of zip-lining involved for one of the waterfalls. Each waterfall gave what the guides would call a “full body massage”. Getting slapped in the face with large amounts of water didn’t really feel like a massage, but it sure was fun! 


One milestone for me was finally being able to conquer my fear of heights. This canyoneering tour involved repelling down three waterfalls, and jumping off two of them. I had never jumped off the edge into water from such a high distance before, but I was eager to conquer my fear. I landed funny each time, the first on my butt and the second on my thighs, but it didn’t hurt too bad and it was definitely an awesome adrenaline rush. 

After our last jump, it was time for us to give our bodies a rest. We ended the adventure at Montaneza’s natural hot springs. The springs varied from about 32 and 42 degrees Celsius. They were extremely hot, but after immersing yourself in for about five seconds, felt so good. The air smelled like sulfur (which smells like rotten eggs, if you haven’t smelled it before), but the free natural mini spa treatment at the end was worth it. 


For our lunch, we had delicious Filipino BBQ meal with the usual chicken, squid, fish, and more, that was included in our canyoneering package. We got to know our canyoneering mates better, and talked about the different countries we were from. One of our canyoneering mates was on a trip with her family, and just finished up a medical mission in the Philippines. Something about her presence was very warm, motherly, and friendly. An old woman approached us asking for money, and our new Danish friend had such a wonderful way of talking to her. Her Godly and loving presence is one I surely won’t forget. 


By the end of the day, the boys and I were way too tired to do anything else, and we were okay with that. Sore and beaming from the day’s adventure, we called it a day and spent our last night in Cebu, Philippines. 

TRAVEL: Taraw Cliff, Crazy Rocks, and an Epic View (7/25/16)

On Monday morning, boys and I woke up at 5:15AM to book a tour guide to Taraw Cliff. We had to wait a bit, but we finally started our journey around 7:30AM. During the first 5-seconds of our hike, I was already thinking, “This is definitely not what I was expecting.” I read reviews about the hike being difficult, but I way underestimated the strenuousness of this trek! Strenuous is the one word I would use to describe this hike, but definitely, definitely worth it as well.

The hike up to Taraw Cliff was about an hour long. The entire trek is rock climbing through the mountain. What was a bit scary at first was that the rocks were almost all sharp and jagged, which made it easier to grip, but was something you definitely wanted to avoid falling on. Lucky for us, our guide was great at explaining how to get through the rocks safely and efficiently. He let me take breaks whenever I needed it, and checked up on us frequently to make sure we were okay.

One-hour later, we finally made it to the top of the mountain. The view was breathtaking. In one glance, we could see the island that has been home to us for the past five days in full. To the left was the mountainside, the middle was vast oceans and more islands, and to the right was more lush mountainside. It made everything feel so small and attainable for just those moments.

Going down the mountain was more difficult for me and the boys than going up. A lot of balance was required. Unlike our super professional tour guide who was able to swift through it, I found it safest for me to walk through like a monkey the entire way back. I felt a lot safer knowing my butt and face was closer to the ground. We finally made it to the end, and I couldn’t have been more relieved that we all made it back in one piece!

My tips on prepping for Taraw Cliff:

Practice climbing at your local rock climbing gym. A few weeks ago, Josh took me rock climbing for the first time. It helped immensely during my hike, because I was used to using my leg strength and a little bit of arm strength as I was climbing the rocks. I highly recommend dabbling in some rock climbing at your local rock climbing gym if you plan on tackling Taraw Cliff.

Bring lots of water. It seems like a no-brainer, but the boys and I failed to do this. By the time we got half way, we were already parched because almost all of our water was gone. Hydrate!!

Wear shoes with good grip. The boys and I all wore our Chaco water shoes, and we’re all glad that we did. The grip made climbing so much easier. We saw people along the way wearing flip flops, and I don’t know how they managed to make it to the top, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy! Be safe and wear good shoes.

Be fearless. Trust me, you’ll be so proud of yourself by the end of this hike. Trust in yourself and your capabilities. Don’t look back, and keep moving forward!