A tale of (two weddings in) two cities

It was my own (un)doing. Somehow I ended up attending two weddings in two far-away cities on the same weekend. I could’ve chosen one or the other, and it would’ve been alright.

“Did you really need to attend both?”, I’ve heard a few times said in different ways from different people. To be honest, I did not need to. I did not really want to do both 100%, but since I’ve gotten myself into the situation already, I decided to just go through with it just for the heck of it.

It began when a good friend of mine from college told me she was getting married, and was inviting me to her wedding. This is someone whose love life I have somehow tuned in to since college. I left the country a year ago and had no idea how her love life would turn out a year after. She finally found the love of her life, and she’s getting married. I truly wanted to show her I am happy for her and I support her. And since the flights were on sale that time, I bought plane tickets to come home to attend her wedding.

Two weeks after booking, I realised that I had a friends here in Sydney who were getting married the day after my friend’s wedding back home. A wedding in Manila on a Saturday and a wedding in Sydney on a Sunday. I really wanted to attend this wedding too, because since I have moved here, these are friends that have happily welcomed me with open arms into the group. This was my present and my future. And yet the one in Manila is also a big part of my past.

It was very tough to decide, to go to one or the other. Another consideration was the flights I have already booked, I couldn’t really cancel them because they were on promo. And I wanted the chance to go home too. But I had to decide, because I can’t really cut myself in two.

By some stroke of genius or stupidity, it dawned on my that Cebu Pacific flights from Manila to Sydney departed at midnight and arrived at noon. Both weddings were scheduled in the afternoon until the evening. If I took the flight, I could just make it in time for both. I just had an eight-hour flight in-between.


Side story. Since I decided to do the very short Manila trip, I also figured I could use the time to do some errands and see some people. One friend who has been very hard to track was a professional makeup artist. What a great chance to multitask. I was lucky that she was still free that time so I booked her to do my makeup for the wedding. Although my true intention is really to have a good chat with her after a long time. I also warned her ahead that I was planning to make my makeup last more than 24 hours. She said it could be possible with airbrush.

I did my own hair, thanks to my sister’s robotic curling iron (highly recommended!), and used my old fancy headband (which I have recently realised are actually fascinators). Turned out quite better than I expected.

It is honestly the first time, and maybe I’d also have it a last time, that I would ever do something like this. For all its worth, I documented how my makeup did through it all.

img_2354 fresh makeup at the first wedding in Manila

img_2368 on board my flight

img_2373 when I arrived home in Sydney, before retouching

img_2374 after retouch

img_2379 at the second wedding in Sydney

And yes, makeup and hair survived. I am actually quite surprised, especially with the hair. I reused almost everything, dress, shoes and bag and all.


Truly, it’s an epic story that I can recount to friends over and over again, and maybe even to my children and grandchildren in the future. I attended two weddings in two cities within less than 48 hours. If I have chosen one or the other, the story would’ve been just like any other. I am happy to be there for both my friends. And I also am fortunate to be able to do the things I was able to do during my short Manila trip and be able to see the people I saw. My heart overflows, I am recharged again.

On the downside, I really don’t think I’ll be doing anything even close to something like that ever again. That (mis)adventure revealed my limits. I’ve been a zombie and needed a week of catching up on sleep before I could really recover. That’s why it took me a week before I could write this.

I probably won’t be going home to Manila to attend weddings of my friends, unless they coincide with my other longer trips (e.g. Christmas holidays). I may need to reserve my energy for my best friends (two of whom are already married, hehe) or my closest family. I hope my other friends will understand.

Congratulations Ana and Robby!

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Congratulations Nau and Dali!

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Surviving the Cebu Pacific Manila-Sydney Flight

The Cebu Pacific flight from Manila to Sydney isn’t so bad. I think they have five flights a week, direct between the two cities. Tickets costs an average of Php20,000 round trip, much affordable compared to the other carriers which average at Php40,000. Sometimes you can also get lucky and find really cheap promo fares (as low as Php6,000++ according to a friend). But of course, one should still remember that it is a budget airline and one should not expect red carpet treatment. Here are some tips to maximize the comfort of your ride.

  • The leg space on this flight is not bad, especially for a 5’2″ girl like me. There is enough wiggle space. If you’re much bigger though, it may be good to book one of the exit row seats for a little premium fee.
  • Considering that it’s not peak season yet, the plane is relatively full. Perhaps I got lucky with my seat (or maybe it was strategy), I got an aisle seat and have only one seatmate occupying the window seat – the seat between us is vacant. The strategy is not solid though, its still a hit or miss, depending on the occupancy of the flight.
  • I recommend that you bring the following:
  1. Small blanket or a warm shawl, so you would not need to purchase a Php350 blanket onboard
  2. Neck pillow and eye cover if you plan to sleep; Ear plugs may be useful too, especially if you’re on a flight with a noisy baby (or adult)
  3. Full socks, so you can kick off your shoes and relax
  4. Lotion and lip balm, to keep moisturized
  5. Loose change (maybe 20s, 50s and 100s) for purchasing drinks and food onboard
  • I would not recommend purchasing their onboard meals. They’re really not worth it. I personally think I would’ve been better off if I just bought their cup noodles. Anyway, there is really no point in eating a rice meal at 2am, and breakfast can be as simple as getting some pastries and coffee from them. Onboard food and drinks (not the meals) costs around Php50 up.
  • For flights from Sydney to Manila, make sure that all your carry-on baggage totals 7kg (somehow they can be quite strict)

I should also mention that it really pays to look out for budget fares on this carrier. If you wait around for the right time, you can usually get tickets for 1/2 or even 1/3 the price. And it’s not necessarily accomplished by booking a long way ahead of time. It’s really just about timing. 

I’ll most probably fly Cebu Pacific between Sydney and Manila in the coming years, unless by some good fortune I strike it rich here and I’ll fly Qantas instead. ;p

The long road that leads to Oz

I’m set to move to Australia in a few weeks time. Somehow, I find it amazing to look back and realise how slowly things fell into place, and how the timing was on spot. I’m guessing that the long road started in 2012…

I worked for The Mind Museum for 4.5 years, and it was finally created and opened to the public in early 2012. I left the team in 2012, and while in between jobs, went on a vacation for a month with my family in Australia to visit my brother who was working there. We were able to visit Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Gold Coast, and meet up with our other relatives.

There was something about Australia that captured me during that very first trip. Something that somehow felt like home, and I truly felt that it was a place I would love to settle in. Perhaps there’s a lot of things and factors, not just one reason, why the place seemed more welcoming than most other places I have been to.

When I went back to Manila, I still had two pending tasks to work on – find a new job, and prepare for an application for scholarship for a Masters Program in Europe which I have been planning for the longest time. I took my IELTS for the scholarship application in November 2012, and got good scores. I put together my application for the scholarship and submitted it in December 2012, and again in December 2013, but I was out of luck. There were only 12 slots while there were hundreds of applicants. I was not offered the scholarship both times.

In December 2012, I was accepted by an Australian company operating in Manila to work under a project of AusAid (now DFAT). I started with them January 2013 and had an initial one year contract, but I decided not to complete one year and left in June 2013. I moved to a retail company and worked as a business systems analyst, a work which was much more closer to my qualification as Industrial Engineer. I stayed with the company for an entire year, until I found an irresistible opportunity and was offered a position under USAID.

During this entire time with these three different companies, I was already researching and preparing documents for my application to Australia. The plan was to apply as a skilled independent immigrant, as an Industrial Engineer. I was finally able to put together all the requirements for the competency demonstration report and submitted it to Engineers Australia in September 2014. The IELTS I took in November 2012 was the same IELTS results I used for this.

While waiting for my Engineers Australia (EA) certification, I already created an account on SkillSelect. The only remaining requirement to complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) was the certification.

My passport was expiring in mid-2015, so I decided to renew it around middle of January 2015. I was still waiting for my EA certification, and was expecting that it will take a few weeks to a few months upon lodging my EOI before I get an invitation to apply for a visa. Before the end of the month, I received an email from SkillSelect:

“You currently have an EOI in draft status in SkillSelect. If you complete and submit the information in your EOI, you may be eligible to be invited to apply for a visa in the next invitation round.”

Immediately after receiving this, I emailed Engineers Australia to follow-up on the certification, since I was expecting their response by late December or early January. The next day, I receive a response from them saying that my certification is actually already in the (snail) mail, but they also sent me in the same email a scanned copy of the same. Since they already gave me the scanned copy, I uploaded it on SkillSelect and finally completed and submitted my EOI.

Two days after, I get an invitation from Western Australia to apply for state nomination. On day three, I get an invitation to apply for a skilled independent visa 189.

Things were like on steroids since then. Can you imagine, I get an invitation to apply for a visa just days, not even half a week, from the time I lodged my EOI? The timing was indeed perfect. The I realised, I was still waiting for my new passport to be shipped to me, and I can’t submit my visa application until I have it.

Two weeks after, I receive my new passport. I prepare all the documents required, have them certified as true copies again, scanned and uploaded them, and lodged my visa application. That was the first week of February 2015. They say it takes around 3 months processing for these types of visas.

I receive a request for more information by the end of March 2015. I quickly worked on getting the additional document requirements that was needed, I was given only 28 days to provide a response to their request. I was able to complete everything and have them certified as true copies exactly on the 28th day, and submitted them immediately. That was the end of April 2015.

Just a little over a week after, I got my visa grant notice. It was finally time to start planning and working on the big move.

I’ll just be completing my original one year contract with USAID. Just in time, I’ll have just one week to pack before I fly out. Also, I’ll be leaving my room in the condo just right before the start of the next school year for my cousin, and just a good time for someone else to replace me when I vacate the condo.

It may have been a relatively long road to get here, but it was a rollercoaster towards the end of the ride.

Loopy

I find it quite strange and amazing to realise that I was also in Cebu during the exact same days just two years back. The previous trip was also for work, albeit I’m working for and with an entirely different organisation now. But just the same…

This realisation was thanks to Facebook, which now shows you what you posted on the same day in the years past. So, I saw my mirror selfie with the Cebu shirt on, as well as my close-up shot of the lechon (roast pig).

I also remember not being able to stay at that particular hotel last time. My then-assistant booked me in a different hotel despite the fact that the venue of the activity I was attending was there. But this time around, I was finally able to stay there, after two misses. I got a good rate too, one within my official allocation. And I got a great room, a corner unit with a king bed. Super.

And did I mention the lechon? With all my trips to Cebu, no matter the purpose, I make it a point to bring home lechon, or at least eat some during my stay. But usually it’s really take home lechon for me, and this time is no exception. Five kilos of sumptuous Cebu lechon in the box. Yay.

Aside from lechon, there’s the danggit and pusit (dried salted fish and squid), and some dried mangoes. That’s about it.

No touristy trips this time. There was none the last time too. I’ve been a tourist in Cebu several times before and I’ve seen most of the tourist spots, so no problem. It was mostly just work this time, as with the last one.

Interesting when life loops in on itself every now and then, no matter how simply or profoundly.

The stranger in a familiar place – Bangkok trip 2014

While in Bangkok for a one-week training for work, I remember one of the new people I met asking me, “so how do you find Bangkok?” My answer to that question was equally memorable. I think Bangkok is a lot much like Metro Manila, in so many aspects. Spending a week in BKK did not feel like I was in a strange place. It felt very familiar, for a lot of reasons:

  • Almost all of the locals look like Filipinos. If you would just pass them by and not need to talk to anyone, I could easily forget that I was not in the Philippines. Well, most southeast Asian people look very similar due to the fact that most have very similar ancestry. A number of times I was also thought to be a local.
  • Infrastructure, at least in the city area, looks very much like it would have been in Metro Manila. The only stark and obvious difference are the many ornate Buddhist temples and altars that are around almost every-other corner. Being where I was, the hotel that I stayed at and the training center nearby, it felt like just being in another area of Metro Manila.
  • The weather and temperature is almost the same, the tropical heat that I am very acclimatized to.
  • Money value and the cost of money is not too far to my daily pesos. Grabbing lunch for THB60-THB150 feels just so worth it.
  • Shopping. ‘Nuff said.

Well, aside from that, I still had to remember that it was my first time to visit Bangkok. However, most of my week was spent inside the training room, and I had very limited time to go around and see places. I had a few things in my list that definitely had to experience though:

  • Thai food. Tom yum, Tom ga, and what not. I was trying to avoid eating at fast food, other cuisines (e.g. Japanese or Italian), or at the hotel (except for the default free brekkie, of course). I was able to taste some local food ranging from the “turo-turo” (or side-street) eateries, mall food courts, and good restaurants. Would have loved to get to eat more though.
  • Thai massage. I am familiar with the style of Thai massage compared to other massage types, but I have only tried the “Manila” version of it. I just had to try the authentic Thai massage, the real thing. I was not disappointed.
  • Shopping. I had such limited time to go around to shop. I was only able to go to MBK twice, and once to Platinum, Pratunam, and Palladium (but just as the stores were about to close for the day, huhu).
  • Sightseeing. Of course, I needed to do even just a little bit of sight seeing. Fortunately, on the afternoon after the end of our training, I was able to go around some key places with our trainers and some co-trainees. We went to Grand Palace, rode a boat around the Klong (canal boat tour), and ended at the Wat Arun. There’s probably much more to see around BKK, and even in other places in Thailand, but that’s about all that I could fit in my schedule.

I must admit though that my BKK trip was really mostly about the training. I do wish I had more time to go around as a real tourist. Perhaps this warrants scheduling a trip to BKK next time on a personal adventure.

Some photos of the limited “touristy” activities below.

IMG_6217 IMG_6220 IMG_6137 IMG_6138 IMG_6142 IMG_6146IMG_6157 IMG_6159

IMG_6161 IMG_6155IMG_6160 IMG_6174 IMG_6175 IMG_6185IMG_6179 IMG_6183 IMG_6193 IMG_6205 IMG_6206 IMG_6216 IMG_6196

The end to a dry spell

I think two years is much too long for me to have not traveled abroad. The wanderlust is much too strong, but there were unavoidable circumstances that prevented me from going around. 

It’s also been 2.5 years since I’ve been to Singapore. That is after a few straight years of going there at least twice a year. There is probably a lot of new things to explore. So happy to be at it again. Time to rediscover the great food and go shopping.

Perhaps in the next months and years there will be chances, time, resources, and opportunities to be back to my world-wandering self again. This is me. I feel happy and alive when I travel. Somehow I am a different version of myself when I explore the world, in the literal and physical sense of it. I may have chances to travel for work, but I will still long for my personal adventures, whether it be with friends, family, or just on my own. I’d continue to travel both locally and abroad, but farther travels to new places and different cultures bring a different kind of fulfillment, and much more learnings.

More travel -> more realizations and inspiration -> more things to write about… More content for the blog, hopefully, as I get to go out more.

A movie throwback: Before Sunrise

before sunrise“Before Sunrise” was a 1995 movie starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It’s a movie I have not watched before, until tonight. I’m trying to catch up as much as I can on movies, trying to explore some recent, old, or ancient movies that I can get my hands on. I got a copy of this movie whilst searching for the “before” series, including “Before Sunset” (2004) and “Before Midnight” (2013). I would probably try to watch the two sequels in the next few days or weeks, but for now I only know of the first movie.

To be completely honest, I found the movie a little bit dragging somehow. Perhaps because of the constant tone and feeling to the movie throughout, from start to finish. It was not bland, though. There were no highs or lows during the entire movie, just a constant sense of romance, a simple story-telling of an exciting kind of “love story”. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful story and movie.

Quite interesting, too, to be familiar with that kind of story, that kind of romance. It did remind me of something, of someone. To be traveling in a strange place, to meet people, to fall in love with someone who you’ll never know if you’ll ever see again. That perfect situation actually rids you of the fear of falling in love – the fact that there are no rules or expectations, that you take everything in at that very moment, not thinking about the past or the future, not considering the “realities” of your life.

Let me not get into details. What I can only say is, I can relate.