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!

14925733_10155312338844947_2944807511394824196_n 

Congratulations Nau and Dali!

 img_2412

 

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 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.

Half-a-lifetime worth of conversation: Before Sunset [A movie throwback]

before sunsetSpent another Thursday evening watching an old movie, and I did choose the sequel to the last one I watched – Before Sunset. So this movie is set nine years after the last one, with the same characters and the same actors playing them. Amazing how they really did do the movie nine years in real life after. The characters did really age naturally. And after nine long years, it was finally revealed that they never got to see each other again six months after their beautiful first encounter.

The story set their second encounter. He has written an entire novel based on what transpired between them nine years ago. He tours Europe with his book, and does his last stop in Paris. She finds out about the book and realizes that it was written about their one night together, she shows up at his book signing event. They spend the entire afternoon together.

I would say that the entire movie is like an entire afternoon full of half-a-lifetime worth of conversation. Everything that was left unsaid for almost a decade finally poured out in every moment and minute of this new encounter. I love this movie much more than the first, because it captured one complete, continuous, flowing conversation of two people who have waited for so long to see each other. I do love the ending too, because it is left open ended again – you can never tell if they kept in touch after then. Perhaps I’ll find out what happens in the future when I get to the third installment of the series.

This movie stirred up different feeling in me this time. I miss having long, never-ending conversations like this. It’s a treasure to find people with whom you can spend long hours, even an entire day just speaking with, and not ever getting tired or bored, or running out of things to say. I miss being with those people who I can spend time with like this. Has it been so long that I can’t even recall right now the exact people I have spent time with like this?

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.

Stars

I haven’t been with my poetry muses for quite some time, but I did have a visit lately while I was aboard a plane. I just had to write down the words that flowed out…


STARS

Flying in the purgatory of the night sky
There are stars below me, and stars on high
And not quite do I comprehend why
The farther one is from me
The less its significance seem to be
Yet billions of light years away
A thousand times brighter than the sun
Those stars seem to shine through
And no matter how distant I am from earth
Things remain what they are made of

Come to think of it, from stardust we are made
Remnants of those old explosions of long-forgotten stars
Same soup from which the universe is made
So far apart and yet the same
Beauty, magic, and wonder combined

The Climb

We went on an adventure two weeks ago, set off early morning to Capas, Tarlac to embark on a hike to the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

The base camp in Tarlac was about 2.5 hours drive from Quezon City (northern part of Metro Manila), sans the traffic, because we left before daybreak. At the base camp, we registered with the tourism office, with the help of our tour organiser. The payment to the organiser and the tourism office are usually paid separately. Once everything was arranged, we set off on a 4×4 military-style jeep across the lahar-laden terrain.

IMG_3291

After a 1-hour ride on the 4×4, the vehicle parked about a large open area, and we began our 7km hike on foot. Indeed, 7km seems not so very far, but if you consider that the terrain is all volcanic sand and rocks along the banks (or rather, criss-crossing) of a mountain river, and all uphill, you will realise that it is not a walk in the park. It took us about 2.5 hours to hike the entire 7km uphill.

IMG_3348

The climb was all worth it. The crater lake was a beautiful sight to behold. We arrived at the crater lake mid-morning, and was still fortunate to find some shade made by the rim of the crater along the banks of the lake. We had about an hour just to sit there in the shade, look out at the lake, and just relax.

IMG_3314

Just recently, they have already disallowed swimming in the lake. I think they just imposed it this January (2013), for a good reason. According to stories, someone died a few weeks (or months) back, not because of drowning, but because of poisoning after ingesting water from the lake. Besides the usual sulfur, the lake is also high in other heavy chemicals, especially Arsenic, which is well known as an instant poison.

Near noon, the sun caught up with the crater and we had to seek shade, and then have lunch. There’s nothing to buy there, except for drinks which are P100 per bottle (about US$2.5, but honestly x3 of its regular price at the city). We brought chicken and rice meals with us for lunch, and different snack items we’ve been munching on throughout our climb.

After about three hours at the crater lake, we already decided to start our descent. We went down the same way we came up, and somehow the descent seemed a little bit more difficult in terms of traversing the terrain. But speed and effort was not the problem, just the balancing while shifting your weight downwards on the rocks and stones. It was one hell of a leg workout.

The return ride on the 4×4 was extremely dusty too, mainly because the terrain was a lot drier than during dawn, and there were a number of other vehicles ahead of us. It is good to have a shawl to cover the mouth and nose, and shades to cover the eyes. Covering for the head/hair is helpful too.


Some advise to those who intend to go on their own Mount Pinatubo adventure:

  • Try to look online for discounter vouchers. Or just research online the different groups and companies that organise trips to Pinatubo. Sometimes, the packages can include the transportation from Metro Manila, and even the meals. As for us, we chose to bring our own vehicles and bring our own food.
  • Keep your bag light. The most important things to bring/use are the following:
      • food – lunch; some snacks to eat along the way, such as sandwiches, cookies, and chips; candies and some sweets
      • drinks – water will do, but better to bring some hydrating drinks too such as gatorade. Best to bring at least two liters worth of fluids, unless you’re willing to spend money on the P100 drinks along the way
      • scarf, shawl, bandana or sarong – useful for a lot of instances, such as for keeping warm during the early morning, a covering for the face and mouth during the ride and the climb, and something to sit on at the banks of the crater lake… and perhaps a lot of other uses
      • hat or cap – to cover the head from the heat of the sun
      • trekking sandals – better to use this than rubber shoes, because there’s a lot of instances that you will need to cross the river
      • breathable clothes – I would advice to wear shorts or short pants, and sports shirt or singlet; bring additional clothes too, just in case you will need to change
      • light jacket – not sure if this is always applicable, but our January trip was very cold during the morning, and so the light jacket was really useful
  • Put all your stuff in a backpack

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.

I <3 Gold Coast

Gold Coast is one of the best places I’ve ever been to. It was paradise for me. The beachfront extended long beyond what your sight can reach. They say beach extends more than 53 kilometers, that’s so much more beach than I’ll ever need in my lifetime. There’s a lot of beautiful sand to lie on. The seawater was still cold when we were there, but it had good waves worthy of a little swim or a nice surf. The main segment of the beach is even called Surfers’ Paradise, and the place is very worthy of the name.

Gold Coast, of course, boasts of its exceptional coasts and beaches. In addition, there are a lot of other recreation places and attractions in town. There’s Movieworld, Dream World, Sea World, White Water World, Wet n’ Wild, Australian Outback Spectacular, Paradise Country, among so many other attractions around.

While we were in Gold Coast, we stayed in the Surfers’ Paradise area, in the Q1 hotel. Q1 hotel is the tallest building there, and one of the tallest residential buildings in entire Australia. They had a viewdeck at the 77th floor from where you can see almost the entire Gold Coast area, and maybe even nearby areas. There is also an option to go up even further on top of Q1 to its spire, but it requires an additional pay, and you will need to be strapped to a full body harness to step outside the building at that height.

We had a VIP pass, which allowed us unlimited entry to Movieworld, Sea World, and Wet n’ Wild. We had limited time though, so we just got to go once to Movie World and Sea World, but no longer had time to go to Wet n’ Wild.

The Movie World was something similar to the Universal Studios in Singapore, both in content and in size. Would’ve been nice to stay for an entire day in Movie World. There were a lot of nice rides and shows, rollercoasters, and such. There was also a parade of their characters in the late afternoon. We got to ride the Superman rollercoaster, but we didn’t get to experience a lot of other rides because lines were so long and we only had one entire afternoon there. I enjoyed the place nonetheless

The Sea World was amazing. I’ve been to Sea World in San Diego before, but that was more than ten years ago that I can barely remember how it was. Sea World in Gold Coast was big, and it had a number of big enclosures for different marine animals – dolphins, manta rays, sea lions, and sharks, among others. There was also a huge place for some polar bears. We did watch most of the main shows, but didn’t get the time to ride the rollercoasters again.

We went to Paradise Country too, a good place to see a bit of Austalian wildlife. Of course we didn’t want to miss the chance to see koalas and kangaroos. There were also horses, sheeps, and other animals. It was just a good morning visit, and you can opt to have lunch there too. The place is just a kilometer or so from Movieworld.

We also took good time at the beaches. How can anyone not be drawn to spend time at the beaches of Gold Coast? How I wish I knew how to surf though, because it seemed a wonderful place to surf. A good place to bake under the sun to, and I love sunbathing.

A lot of people say that Gold Coast is the vacation capital of Australia, and I would totally believe them. There is so much there to enjoy, and a week is not enough to get to do everything. Perhaps you’ll just keep coming back. And yes, I plan to come back again someday.

Life, the train ride

Living life is like traveling on train. You take a train to get you from where you are to where you want to be. You wait at the right station, on the right platform, for the right train to come around.

But it’s not as simple as just riding a train from end to end. You need to know when it’s time to get off. If you do too early or too late, you’ll end up in the wrong station and may not be able to immediately transfer to the next train that will take you closer to your destination. Sometimes, if you stay on a train for far too long, it will take you back to where you started.

I may have stayed on in my last train a bit too long. Maybe I got too comfortable and too used to it, that I failed to get off at the right stop. Now I’m waiting at a station wondering which train to ride to get me back on the right track. It may take some time, and maybe some additional train rides, but I know I’ll be able to figure it out soon.

Also, notice those people in the train with you? Most of them did not come from where you came from, and are not heading to the same destination as you. Don’t compare your travel to them, don’t make any of them a benchmark. Strike a conversation with them if you wish, but do not let yourself get attached too much. Don’t you ever let them make you forget where you intend to go.

Nonetheless, no matter how far you plan to travel, or how many trains you need to ride, just remember to enjoy the ride.


After years of listening to songs and watching movies about trains and train rides, I finally experienced and realized the real train system in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s not as simple as the usual metro rail or light rail systems I’ve seen so far. Perhaps it would be more interesting to see and explore the train systems in Europe. 🙂