The details of my 2013, sort of

Places I’ve been to: Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Bacolod, Davao

New dog: Easter

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Books I’ve read in 2013 [those not required in Grad School or for work] = 23

Terry Pratchett: (9) Mort, Eric, Interesting Times, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, The Wee Free Men, The Colour of Magic, The Truth, Moving Pictures

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Good Omens

Neil Gaiman: (2) The Graveyard Book, American Gods

Dave Barry: (4) Dave Barry is Not Making This Up, Dave Barry Does Japan, Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need, Tricky Business

Markus Zusack : The Book Thief

Frank Herbert: Dune Messiah

Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game

Jeffrey Archer: A Quiver Full of Arrows

L.M. Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables

Georges St. Pierre: The Way of the Fight

Haruki Murakami: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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Moved to new house. New room.

My old laptop (BruceLee) gave up on me just as the first semester was about to start. So I bought BruceLeeto, my new overworked laptop.

And then, there’s the same old chubby/macho me.  Cheers to 2014!

2013 by Monthly Themes

I recently bought a Slate 2014 planner where each month has its own color as its theme. For my 2013 review, I’ll have one theme for each month. This is going to be quite a reflection.

[January] Cliché

January is the most cliché month for me because of all the “new me” things I have planned every January of almost every year that I can remember. I did not plan for a ‘new me’ this month. I just woke up and it’s January and then it’s February. But I did buy a nice planner. Now that’s one cliché move from me I won’t discontinue.

[February] Laro

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There’s much to celebrate about February but as I had to choose only one, I’ll opt for this month’s Palarong UPLB. I got to become a ‘commentator’ where I just mostly babbled about and where my comments drew the ire of those who were sweating and grinding it out in the sack race. Haha. I love sports. I love sports fests but I don’t want to be in the coordinating committee again. I just want to play. With that said, I also hope UPLB strengthen it’s sports program. Like for reals.

[March] Cross-country smiles

I have already blogged about this. So there. Tipid space.

[April] Graduation

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My sister finally marched at the green, green grass of Freedom Park! As for me, it has been 5 years since I received the blank paper which was supposed to be a diploma. 5 years since I stood at the Freedom Park feeling free albeit feeling awkward and uncomfortable with my high-heeled shoes. Hopefully, one year from now, I’ll once again be bored to death by the super long valedictory speeches and commemoration speeches of guests as well as stand shoulder to shoulder with my kapwa Iskolar ng/para sa Bayan as we sing UP Naming Mahal. Hopefully.

[May] Kids

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For my 26th birthday, I started Project26.

This is my proposal to my friends (I PM’d them this exact thing. I just had to delete my bank details):

As I turn 26, I want to remember my day by celebrating with 30 kids from Sta. Rita, Batangas City. Kids whose families do not have much but who would always go to our church on Sundays (my Nanay gives them breakfast every time). Some of them do not go to school and a number are malnourished.

I would like to give them a birthday party, to play along side them, to feed them, and to give them school materials (books, pens, pads, etc). But beyond the party and the material things, I just want to encourage these kids – through you – that they can hope for something bigger than their everyday existence. They can dream and they can hold on to the hope that God gives.

Honestly, I have longed wanted to do something like this but I’m always reluctant because of my own limited resources. Being a teacher in the Philippines doesn’t give much in terms of financial rewards but that’s just one side of the story. So to finally put this dream to fruition, I decided to tap my network (now, I’d like to believe I’m rich in this aspect).

And this is where I ask for their help in cash and in kind. So to my friends who helped me raise almost 20,000 for the event, thank you and thank God for you!

To cap my small project proposal to them, here’s what I told them [and I wholeheartedly believe every word in it]:

Final note: I’d like to believe that I have many friends who would also like to bless their immediate communities and I’d like to encourage you to start planning on it now and to tap your network of friends and get it done. We may not have the millions that the celebrities who do these kinds of things for the ‘least fortunate’ have but we do have millions of friends who would definitely want to bless others too, after all we are blessed to be a blessing.

[June] Relax. Chillax.

I went to Bacolod and La Carlota City, Negros Occidental [about 500kms from LB] for 3 days. I have been to Bacolod before but not on my own. I think the trip was more about the traveling alone part than the destination. Though I truly love Bacolod City and La Carlota City mainly because of the people and the quiet provincial spirit which is much like LB, the lesson was more on the going by myself. I’ve been traveling quite a lot since I could remember but always with a group. Being myself, hailing a cab at 4am and waiting alongside men in the airport at 4:30am made me feel a little grown up. I met with a friend over at Bacolod City and, honestly, I did not go sight seeing much. I mostly talked with them, sampled local food, slept, read a book, played along side the little girls there. It was right before the first semester of classes so it was a very welcome relaxing pre-classes travel. To the Alubog family, thank you ever so much.

[July] GSP

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The month MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre officially took over the throne held by basketball player Mike Cortez… but then, not really. They have separate thrones. One for the local and one of the International dude. Hehe. After watching one of his fights, I have since been a fan of the French-Canadian welterweight champion [even as he announced his hiatus from MMA also this year – December].  My Instagram account can attest to this.

[August] Friends

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I went to Davao City [about 1200 kms from LB] for 4 days. This is the first time I visited Davao. It was mostly to visit another friend and to see Kadayawan in person. It was the middle of the semester and was another welcome mid-sem gala. I was extremely glad to see my co-Kawayan Camper (2006). The last time we saw each other was in 2011 when I went to the airport to see her as she was about to go back to Davao. Friendships are never deterred by distance.  To the Javier family, thank you so much!

[September] English in all its versions

I went to Bangkok, Thailand for four days to work. I was tasked to document an international conference on smart innovations in agriculture. Speakers were mostly Thai, Indians, Japanese, and a few westerners who are not native-English speakers. Hence, the theme ‘English’. My nose bled and bled as I tried to decipher the language they are actually using [they claim it’s English, I’m not so sure]. It’s a documenter’s funny nightmare, if there ever was one. Oh, but I enjoyed the food, the hotel, the nice people, and the food. Have I mentioned the buffet? Oh yeah, the food.

[Oct] Tears of frustration

I’m working on a department research with funding from the University and I have cried tears of frustration over it – not over how difficult the research is but how difficult the administrative stuff is. I can’t seem to get my head around these things – budgets, vouchers, etc. Plus the not so noob researcher-friendly system that the University has or maybe it’s just that there’s too much on my plate already that I have been viewing this research as a burden already. I just want this to end study to already. Oh wait, it still depends on me now. I have to write the report already.

[Nov] Parents to Palawan and Sister is 23

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I love the feeling of seeing my parents enjoy their much-needed vacation. My Tatay was also recognized for his more than 27 years of serving the ministry. My heart swelled with so much joy that even if all my family members have all gone to Puerto Princesa, Palawan except me, it’s all good.

November also is my sister’s birth month. I still don’t believe it. For me, Hannah is still 18. But she’s all so grown up now. Working in Makati, wearing corporate world fashion, and dealing with grown up problems [while reading her Mangas in her phone]. She’s still my big baby sister no matter what age. But, really? She’s 23? I feel old.

Here’s a video I made for her.

[Dec ] Letting go

We had a small party among friends with the theme Letting go. Oh how apt. As for me, here are the things/notions I’ve to let go:

  1. I’m good at multi-tasking or even of the idea of multi-tasking
  2. GSP fighting in the cage again competitively
  3. Money squandering ways
  4. Unhealthy habits (too much FB, sleeping late, eating junk, etc)

Of course, all through out the year, teaching and thesis-ing had been the macro-themes of work and love and contentment, the macro-themes of my heart. There’s oh so much more that happened, so much I have to write about but I might not be able to do so in the coming months as my theme for this year is: FOCUS. Primarily in the context of my thesis and work.

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee

Travel: What I got from my 14-day SEAsia trip

Recently, I , and a group of friends, went on a 14-day trip cutting across four countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore).

Highlights of the trip include: experiencing various modes of transportation in crossing borders (ferry boat, bus, train, and plane); feeling the warmth and hospitality of our new found friends in Thailand; practicing our Thai, Bahasa Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, and even our Singlish (Singaporean English); and getting used to spicy food (well, this was a major highlight for me).

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New Friends. Riverside restaurant, similar to our Palaisdaan chain of restaurants. Delicious, delicious (and very spicy) food.

New Friends. Eating roti  (egg crepe with curry and condensed milk dips) and drinking cha yen (iced milk tea) along the Narathiwat highway.

New Friends. Eating roti (egg crepe with curry and condensed milk dips) and drinking cha yen (iced milk tea) along the Narathiwat highway.

It was a budget trip. We traveled on a tight but workable budget. Buying of souvenirs and pasalubongs were well planned. I honestly did not buy much (I ate as much local food as I could, though). I might not have bought much pasalubong but I brought home lots of kwento! So who wants kwento? Like it or not, here I’ll share what I got from the trip (mostly on the level of what can be considered ‘share-able’, as many of my learnings were also very, very personal).

Heightened directional skills. I’m not good with directions, left or right, north or south or whichever. I would probably just try to remember building or street names but that’s just one part of the skill we call ‘getting-from-point-A-to-point-B’. In this recent travel, the added dimension of points A and B being in a foreign country and the street or building names in a foreign language and script made going around quite a challenge.

Maps are very useful, only if you know how to actually look at them. GPS are equally good but once your battery goes kaput, bye-bye high-tech map.

We traveled in a group and sometimes the urge to just depend on only person who knows how to ‘go around’ is strong. “So where are we going? How do we get there? Do I step my left foot now?”

So I really had to try and try real hard to understand directions and understand which way the sun sets, which way is left, and other out-of-this-world directions. I wouldn’t want to be the annoying travel-mate and so I have to hone this skill if I want to continue on my ‘traveling Theia’ days.

However, on our last day in Singapore, this new found skill left momentarily and I found myself lost. At 4pm, walking along Bishan Park, I thought I was in one of those Walking Dead episodes – not a soul in sight, the sun was high, the air was humid, and I was lost (with a friend who was as lost as I was). But we still managed to get home after a few bus rides (which cost us a fortune, unfortunately). So there, save the being lost for last. Despite that, I still like to believe that somehow this travel had heightened by sense of direction (even for just 2 centimeters. Ok, not funny.)

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Mode of transportation in SG? Walking.

Polished administrative skills. It would be helpful to have someone fix everything for you, from travel tickets to the hotel bookings to the itinerary but a time will come when you have to do it for yourself (especially if you have dreams of doing solo backpacking trips or just go on a vacation by yourself).

The Internet offers a wealth of information and convenience – discovering what other travelers have to say, searching for the most delicious local food, keeping up to date to money conversion rates, and booking reservations earlier. [Agoda.com; Tripadvisor.com]

Our group had our very own Ate KC who did most of the admin things (she has an events organizing business so she’s that good) and we don’t really need to kill ourselves planning and poring over all the details but I still tried to be in the know and I believe this skill will be a real lifesaver in traveling and in life in general.

Managing my own travel would be easier but managing for a group requires a higher level of admin skill – something I hope to learn.

Related to the admin skills, going to four countries is a test of my eye for details, from the conversion rates, the most efficient mode of public transportation, the time difference among countries, as well as the important notes on culture and customs that one has to keep in mind (wearing long sleeved shirts in a conservative Muslim community, bowing head to show respect, etc).  For all taking note of and remembering  all these, I had my trusty notebook.

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the PODS: a really nice place for backpackers in KL

Strengthening relationship with traveling buddies. Traveling 14 days with 6 other people is a test of my patience and people skills. I’m not really known to be a very patient person and would not really win the ‘Miss Congeniality’ award so it’s a challenge traveling with me (I actually find traveling with myself a challenge too).

It takes a conscious effort on my part to still smile despite the headache (‘It’s just waay too hot’), the confusion (‘Wait, how do we say ‘which way to the airport’ in Bahasa Malay?’), the personal hang ups (What?! You guys don’t want to go check out the library?), and all other things that might otherwise ruin the trip.

If your friends are photographers also, expect lots of crazy photos.

If your friends are photographers also, expect lots of crazy photos.

I prayed for extended grace and for the coolness to deal with things and I’d like to believe I did well (I have to ask my travel mates on this, though. Haha). Traveling with a group brings out the best and the worst in a person. True enough, this experience brought out both in me and with that awareness comes the ability to channel the ‘best and the worst’ to usefulness or to something else which is not detrimental to the trip and to my other traveling buddies.

The traveling gang

The traveling gang

All in all, I went home darker, fatter (admittedly), and richer in experience and learnings. I missed home terribly and I was just away for 14 days. I could only imagine how our overseas workers feel – the longing for home and for their countrymen and for everything familiar. I saw with my own eyes the differences, the similarities, and all the in betweens – all that connects us, all that makes us humans. I’ve become more appreciative; my biases were erased. I’m re-appreciating the Philippines and taking note of the fine points among the countries I’ve visited (while keeping in mind ASEAN 2015).

Near the Merlion Park, Singapore

Near the Merlion Park, Singapore

The other half of Southeast Asia waits. Soon. I will be writing about each country (hopefully), soon also.