Steer Direction

Hello 2014. We finally meet. And just like the past years of my life, there shall be no new year’s resolution this time. Perhaps that was the only new year’s resolution I have ever fulfilled so far is the one to not make any more new year’s resolutions. Also, I believe that one does not have to wait for new year to make a resolution to change for the better. Each month, each week, each, day, and even each hour is an opportunity to effect a change.

Nonetheless, perhaps the new year is a good time to effect a theme. And for 2014, my life’s theme is to “Steer Direction”. All decisions and actions shall be deliberate moves toward identified specific goals and targets in my life. It’s not just about achieving something. It’s about reaching that one or few things that I have decided are the most important at this point in my life. Maybe one will say that this is how we should manage our entire lives. But this year is the time this theme resounds so much louder – a certain level of maturity has been reached, as well as a certainty of one wants to do with one’s life.

365 Days to get going.

Advertisements

The lessons of 2012

The year 2012 is another landmark in my 28-year life, because of achievements and travels, but most of all as a significant transition stage in my life. So many great life lessons were learned, and not the easy way.

I finished one of the most challenging goals of my recent life – to finish and open The Mind Museum to the public. But somehow, I had to move away and move on, because I am still meant for something else, possibly something grander than the world I moved in while still with The Mind Museum. My career was to take a big leap forward, towards where I ought to be.

However, I had to go through a rollercoaster, just to find the guts to keep on moving. At first I resisted the change. I was personally committed to the project until we finished. Everything after that was already a bonus. Then, something really made me decide to leave. Whatever that something was, it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in disguise for me.

I had about four months of “soul searching” after my resignation. Those four months involved a lot of staying at home, freelance work, travel, and job-hunting. The most challenging was the job-hunting, because there was so much possibilities, and I had to narrow down the choices and “sell” myself properly. At the end of it, I found what I wanted, and a company who seemed to want me for who I was and what I am capable of. Big career leap, I may say. We’ll see how it works this new year.

I got to travel around in 2012 too. Twice to Boracay for vacation, to Bacolod for a wedding, to Singapore for a conference, to Malaysia for a personal adventure, and to Australia for a vacation with the family. The Malaysia and Australia trips were after I resigned, and in a way it was good because I got to spend three weeks in Australia and go around a bit. We mainly visited my brother in Sydney, met up with a lot of extended relatives, and went sight-seeing. We also got to experience Canberra, Gold Coast, and visit other relatives in Melbourne.

That’s a gist of what happened in 2012. Some important realizations and lessons:

  • I am lucky to have a wonderful family who I can always rely on, and I am quite sure they will always have my back no matter what. And I also now fully appreciate when they say “mother knows best”.
  • Introspection is very important. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks about you. You can never please everyone. Just focus on the things that are important to you, and just be the best version of yourself. I am who I am. I cannot be someone else. There are parts of me that I cannot change, and I would like to be accepted the way that I am, fluff and stuff.
  • We should be careful who we trust, even with the “good friends”. Be careful how much you share with them. I’ve been burned twice before, by two people who I thought will have my back no matter what. Seems like they were the ones who judged me the most, perhaps because they knew too much. They thought they knew who and what I really was, but they were already blinded by their prejudice and their own biases.
  • Boys will be boys. I can never understand how some of them are so willing to cheat on their wives or girlfriends, but I have no plans of getting involved in such. I can’t stand to be someone’s number two or someone’s mistress, and I do not want to be the cause of hurt to spouses, partners, and children.
  • I’ve completely closed and abandoned my “hope” for my first love. Finally, first love “dies”, after 15 long years. I now understand why it was never meant to be. It never was, never is, and never will be. The book is closed.
  • I’m bankrupt. I’m almost done paying-off my liabilities though. I’m now learning a better way of managing my finances, saving on basic expenses, and eventually putting something away for the rainy days. The credit card is taking the backseat from now on.
  • I’ve found myself into Twitter. It is indeed one useful tool of communication.
  • Home is where the heart is. It is not a single place, but rather, wherever love (and family) resides.
  • Simplicity and calmness. Two wonderful things I’ve learned from yoga and meditation.
  • I know now where I want to be, and what I want to be. I’m going after that now.

Maybe the greatest lesson of the year is learning to let go. Let go of things that you don’t need anymore. Let go of things that do not work anymore. Let go of the negative emotions. Let go of expectations. When you learn how to let go of the right things, you’ll learn to travel lighter, with less baggage. Then, you’ll have more space for new things, and possibly for the best things that have yet to come.

I have all the space now for everything that 2013 will give me. I’m ready.

Tonight’s Dress / Happy 25th / My life, profound

Let me start with an anecdote. There is this story about two dresses…

Dress one, a wonderful floral dress I bought last February. I got it the same time I bought a cocktail dress for my uncle’s wedding. I had no urgent use for it but it was so beautiful and it fit me so well that I just had to buy it. However, there was no other formal event to go to during the first half of 2012, so the dress just waited in the closet for its time.

Dress two was bought in Singapore, during my trip there last March. I wouldn’t let a Singapore trip pass without going to Bugis, and there I was able to buy this simple teal dress, among other clothes. I’ve always wanted to wear the dress, but every time I attempted to, it always seemed too formal for the instance. I even brought it with me to Australia during my trip, hoping that there would be some kind of a dressy affair to go to, but still it never got used. Sensing no urgent need for it, I left it together with a few stuff to save on baggage weight for my flight back. It was sent back via box shipment.

I attended a formal event tonight and I needed a good dress to wear. I was keen on wearing the floral dress. With much excitement  I tried it on a few days ago, but it would not fit! Though I hate to admit it, I gained weight these past few months and couldn’t fit into the dress it anymore. I could just wear my other dresses, although most of them have already been worn to previous events. Then, I remembered the teal dress. I tried looking for it but couldn’t find it anywhere in my closet. I eventually remembered that it was still en route in a box, which we haven’t received yet after more than one and a half months. Oh well, I had to find something else to wear, maybe re-use one of the dresses I’ve worn before.

Wonderful news when the box arrived just yesterday! The dress was there, I tried it on, and it still fit well! Pretty interesting for a dress bought from Singapore to come to Manila, travel all the way to Sydney, and come back to Manila just in time to be worn for the very first time.


The event I attended was the 25th wedding anniversary of my uncle and aunt who lives in Sydney. My uncle is actually my dad’s first cousin, and their entire family was so wonderful and gracious when we visited them in Sydney, how I wish I met them a long time ago! They are also so caring for my brother who was living on his own in Sydney. They welcomed him and treated him like family.

Happy 25th wedding anniversary and re-wedding to Tito Bong and Tita Isa! It’s so beautiful to see a family like yours. Health and happiness to you, and your children Jomar and Steph.


Things are coming together for me in odd ways. The universe works its unexplainable magic. When it wants to give you lessons, it sometimes does in whispers. Sometimes the universe talks to you in Latin, or hieroglyphics. It’s a bit difficult for me to find a way to communicate it properly so that it can be understood. What’s there about this dress, the wedding, and the universe?

I’m guessing that the two dresses are two views of myself. One is a really wonderful view, which does not fit me anymore, and the other, a view that couldn’t find its place before, that it had to travel around first before coming back and finding its right place and time.

Indeed the right place and time. I write in metaphors again, like my post about reflections or my post about train rides. I was somewhere I belonged from 2008 to earlier this year, but I was not meant to simply remain a certain way, or in a certain place, or with the same people. I had almost half a year of trying to find myself, and trying to find where I am meant to be. I am not yet there, but I feel that I’m getting closer and closer. I’ve already realized where I want to be. I’m hoping to soon find who I would want to be with. Everything will fall into place eventually. Now I simply let myself be carried away by the waves of this mighty river that is my life.

Back to (a different kind of) normal

My life is back to normal. At least, it’s an entirely different kind of normal from the normal I’ve been used to for the past few years.

I’ve somehow chosen a different kind of life to live now. I’ve given up the luxury of driving to and from work five days a week. Gone is the 1.5++ hour drive (one-way) to and from work, and the thousands of pesos spent monthly on gasoline charges and other car maintenance expenses. I am back on the daily commute. I’m back to working in my comfort zone, my timezone. It’s about two-thirds of the distance I used to travel every day. My new work is a short walk from the MRT station. I take the MRT everyday now, going to work in the morning and coming home in the evening. I then take a shuttle after MRT in the evening, and take a leisurely walk (under the stars) from the village gate on my way home.

I try to pack my lunch everyday too. I make myself a yummy sandwich, enough to fill me at lunch. When I don’t get to pack my lunch, I buy a sandwich at a nearby convenience store. It costs a lot less than what I used to eat for lunch, and has a lot less calories too.

Work is both something old and new. I’m starting to get into the groove again. The project I’m doing now is pretty interesting and challenging, enough to give me just the right push to give my best, as I always would like to do with whatever I do.

My personal life is also warming up too. No lovelife yet, though. I’m just loving the time I have on my hands to write blogs, do errands, read books, study/review on some topics and interests, pamper myself, relax and meditate, and opportunities to do many other things.

There’s just something that feels really nice about the new kind of normal. There are less expenses, less calories, more walks and physical activities, more time to just look around and observe the real world, and more time to be me again. I guess I really needed this change.

A better me everyday, that’s the goal. Sometimes it happens in small moments, in baby steps. Sometimes it happens with long strides, or with some jumps. This time, it was a leap for me again. I’ve landed, and am back on the ground, but this is an entirely different land already. Time to continue walking.

The Traveler’s Dilemma

The Tourist vs. The Traveler

I’ve heard someone say that one should be a traveler and not just a tourist. What does that mean? Maybe it’s the difference between going on a vacation and going on an adventure. A tourist goes away to relax and enjoy as much luxury as one can afford. It involves a comfortable hotel, having recreational activities like lounging on the beach or going skiing in the mountains, and doing touristy stuff like sight-seeing and such. I am only assuming. Indeed I am partly a tourist. I’ve gone to the popular stops, joined tour groups, taken a lot of pictures of very familiar landmarks. One steps away from one’s own reality to relax a little bit, and see the things that most other people travel to see.

I do wonder if I can already consider myself a traveler. Every now and then I’ve tried to step away from the usual busy track, and try to immerse myself in what the real local scene has to offer. I usually do this by just taking a walk around. I still remember those baseball-sized buchi that we found on the side streets of Beijing. There was a time I’ve tried walking around the community in Vancouver with my little 5 year-old cousin who, turned out, don’t know a bit about where we were going. And of course my last trip in KL, which allowed me to go wherever I wanted, and as far as my body could bring me. I wonder how much of the city I would’ve explored and discovered if I had stayed a little bit longer. But that’s left to be done another time.

I am a “cowboy”, ready for anything, and perhaps that gives me the potential to be a good traveler. I’ve tried sleeping, taking baths, and traveling in certain odd and absurd ways from during my college days. Very strange to give examples now though. I may be able to take and tolerate a little below comfortable, if needed.

Maybe one should be both a tourist and a traveler. To see the usual popular things, and at the same time be able to immerse one’s self in the scenery, the culture, the people, and most especially the food. To be able to relax and be comfortable enough, but still go beyond one’s comforts to be able to discover what can be discovered.

Would you rather be a tourist or a traveler?

 

On taking pictures

I love taking pictures of beautiful places and beautiful things while traveling. I also am a frustrated photographer. But sometimes I am caught in between taking lots of pictures or just slowly moving around an soaking in the beauty. There is a certain beauty that one cannot completely experience looking behind the lens.

I tell people that when I travel and am not able to take a lot of pictures, it’s most probably because I enjoyed the trip so much. It’s true most of the time. There is that part of me that forgets about the camera when I truly enjoy what my senses capture. I forget about the camera when I am with really good friends, or having a great time with new people. I hate bringing the big, bulky camera to the beach or high up the mountains. It’s just so wonderful to experience the beauty of things around you first-hand.

How can one strike a balance between taking pictures and just enjoying the scene?

 

To travel alone / with a partner / with a group

There are pros and cons to the three possible scenarios: traveling alone, traveling with a partner, or traveling with a group. There is a beauty in each, and also a disadvantage. I’ve tried doing all, but I can’t say that I prefer one the most. Maybe the most important thing is to just enjoy the trip whether you take it alone, or with other people.

Never travel with people you HATE. You can maybe travel with people you have not yet decided on liking yet. Trips and being away from the usual hustle and bustle of life can actually catalyze any relationship. It can help jumpstart or develop relationships (not just romantic, but also friendships, work relationships, family relationships, and what-nots), or sometimes sour relationships if a trip does not go well.

Do you have a preference between traveling alone or with someone?

 

Finding one’s self while traveling

Besides catalyzing relationships, traveling and being away from the usual stuff can help one discover deeper into one’s self. When away, there are a lot of things which may be new or unfamiliar to you which can make you realize different things, both good and bad. Sometimes, the mere feeling of physically moving (while on an aircraft, ship, or land transportation) can also move your thoughts and emotions.

I love being away. It always gives me a chance to really think, to be introspective. I always try to bring a notebook and a pen when I travel (although lately the Evernote on my iPhone does the job), and I do scribble down thoughts when they come, even in the middle of my trips. There has been a time when I wrote an entire blog while aboard an aircraft (perhaps out of boredom, but also maybe because of a spark of inspiration). There was another instance I drove alone all the way to the nearest “mountains” (it’s just Tagaytay actually), to just sit and think, and then drive home at the end of the day.

How does traveling and being away make you feel and think?

The KL Adventure – Part 2

(a continuation of the last post)

Pavilion MallAfter the tour, I asked to be dropped off at Bukit Bintang. I had late lunch of Asam Laksa at Old Town, and then went for a walk around. As I was resisting all and every urge to go shopping (and my credit card was completely cooperating because it wasn’t working in Malaysia), I decided to leave the Bukit Bintang area and proceed to Central Market.

Kuala LumpurUhm, but then again, Central Market is also a shopping place, but at least it wasn’t a mall. Still resisting the difficult urge to shop, I just bought a few items for my folks back home, and just a single item, a batik sarong, for myself. After Central Market, I walked to the Chinatown nearby. I was thinking of buying a few more items in Chinatown, but nothing got my fancy. Yehey wallet, you’re saved again.

Jalan Petaling

Tired from the tour, the looooooong stair climb at Batu Caves, and all the walk, I headed back to the hotel to rest a while and freshen up. After resting enough, I set off again, but not too far from the hotel. I went walking around the area of the hotel, around Jalan Raja Laut.

LomiThat evening, I decided to have some authentic local food. I saw a number of side-street restaurants just outside the hotel, so I walked to one and ordered myself a bowl of Lohmi. Oh yes, it’s so similar with the Lomi I know from back home, but I had to try. Also, I got Lime juice with salted plum for my drink, which actually tastes like calamansi juice with kiamoy in it. It was strange but yummy. 🙂

It was good to have had dinner very near the hotel, because after that I headed back and just rested the entire evening.

Woke up on the last day of my KL trip feeling refreshed, although my legs were still a bit painful from the day before. I remembered that it was a Sunday (actually, my parents reminded me the night before), so I went online to find a Catholic Church nearby and attend mass. I showered and dressed up, had breakfast at the hotel, and then took a taxi to the church nearby. After the mass, I went back to the hotel and finished packing, and then checked out. I brought all my stuff with me to KLCC.

Suria KLCCI met up again with Daniel at KLCC. He works at Petrosains, together with Nensi and Melissa, and all of them I met during the ASPAC conference. Daniel and Nensi took me around Petrosains.

After going around Petrosains, Daniel took me to a food place nearby, to be able to try a few more Malaysian food. This time we had Indian-Malaysian food, consisting of biryani rice, curry, deep-fried bitter gourd, and some fried maggi. I really fell in love with that deep-fried bitter gourd, because I have never eaten amplaya that good. He also got teh tarik for my drink, and corrected me and explained that teh tarik is really taken hot, not cold (because I thought I have tried cold teh tarik somewhere in Sg or Manila maybe?).

After lunch, we had a walk around KLCC and KLCC park. There are wonderful views of the Petronas Towers from the park.

KLCC park

With time almost running out, we went back inside Suria KLCC and sat down for some coolers – ais campur and kedondong juice. Yumyum! Melissa came and caught up with us. It was wonderful to see Melissa even just for a short while.

Kedondong juice

After the snack, it was time for me to leave for the airport already. I bid goodbye to my friends at Petrosains, took a taxi to the Sentral Station, and took the train-shuttle connection back to LCCT airport.

Such a short trip, only a little bit over two days, but I had so many new experiences, new places visited, and new food savored. Everyone was telling me that a weekend is not enough to experience all that KL has to offer. I answer them simply, this won’t be my last visit to the city. Now that I have a taste or a teaser of it, I can plan my future trips better.

Many thanks to Daniel for helping me plan my trip and my destinations during this short trip, and also for the warm welcome and the wonderful food! Much appreciated. I’ll be at your service when you decide to visit Manila next time. It was also great to see Nensi and Melissa, and I’m hoping I’ll get to see them both again and maybe longer the next time I visit KL. 🙂

And because I couldn’t fit all the nice photos in the post, you can just check them out in my Picasa album.

The KL Adventure – Part 1

Perhaps it just happened that I’ve wanted to go on a personal adventure for the longest time; or maybe because I have new found friends (NFFs) in that city; or perhaps because I keep on seeing a lot of things about that place on cable TV. Whatever the real reason was, I booked my flights and my hotel, and though I hesitated and had thoughts of postponing the trip, I did push through. I’m so glad I did.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of August 24. It was my first time there, and I was alone, but eager and ready to start my adventure. I was really aiming for a budget trip, to spend the least I could but still be comfortable and safe enough.

Kuala lumpur LCCT Airport

Instead of taking the taxi from the (LCCT) airport to my hotel, which would have costed between RM80-90, I took the shuttle-train connection from LCCT to KL Sentral Station, and took a short taxi trip from the Sentral Station to the Hotel. I spent less than RM30.

I stayed at Citrus Hotel. It wasn’t in Bukit Bintang or around KLCC, but right within the city and not too far away. It was a 15min taxi ride from most locations around the city. Around the city, I did travel mostly via taxis, since I am not too familiar to feel safe taking the regular public transport yet.

First agenda for that trip fell on the evening of my arrival. I met up with my Malaysian friend Daniel at the Pavilion Mall along Bukit Bintang. He gave me a really nice welcome dinner, and immediately introduced me to Malaysian food. I particularly remember the beef rendang and the satay… and he did teach me how satay was traditionally eaten.

Early morning the next day, I was awoken by the ringing of my hotel phone. Ah, yeah, I was expecting some people. My friends Arnold and Wenna, who were based in Singapore, were also in town and they just arrived then in KL. Another old friend, Esti, was apparently based in Malaysia, and was also with them when they came to meet up with me. We had a quick breakfast buffet together, the four of us, before I had to fly off to my arranged tour for the day.

National Mosque

I pre-arranged a tour with the hotel, and this particular one had a number of key destinations around the city, as well as a visit to the Batu Caves, around 30 minutes from the city. First destination was the National Mosque (Masjid Negara), for which I needed to put on a cape and a head scarf before I can enter the mosque.

The next destination was the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery and the Merdeka Square. It was a good overview of the history and culture of Malaysia and the city of Kuala Lumpur. Also, it was a week before the National Day of Malaysia, and there were practices and preparations happening in the Merdeka Square, an important landmark and center of national activities.

Next was Istana Negara, or the palace of the Agong (or the incumbent national King) of Malaysia. Malaysia as a country has a number of Kings or Sultans, each of which reigns over specific areas or states in Malaysia. One of these sultans is assigned as the Agong, whereas this role is rotated around the different sultans. Unfortunately, the public is not allowed inside the Istana Negara, so we just took pictures outside.

The next is the most significant destination of my journey, in terms of mass, time, as well as energy and effort spent. We went to the Batu Caves. The Batu caves are a series of Hindu temples built into and around large limestone cliffs and caves. At the entrance is the 42.7 m high golden statue of Lord Muruga. There are 272 steps from the ground to the main temple, and yes, I did climb the entire thing. Inside of the cave was a wonderful mix of natural limestone formations from the 100m high cave, as well as the cultural and religious structures and images of hindu gods inside.

From the Batu Caves, we made our way to the Royal Selangor Pewter factory. They are the biggest manufacturer of pewter, which is an alloy made of tin, antimony, and copper. Apparently, the British were drawn to Malaysia especially because of the abundance of Tin in the natural resources of the country.

Last destination was Beryl Chocolate Store. Although I didn’t have plans of buying any, I had a taste of their special tiramisu milk chocolates, and they were superb! I ended up buying a bag of chocolates for me and the family back home.

(to be continued in the next post)