Philippines Trip 2017

Hey guys!

I’m sorry that it’s been a while since I’ve posted. But life has a way of taking over I guess.

The past year has been all about new experiences. So, while most of my time was used up working in an office as a Legal Assistant, I also had the opportunity to travel to a few cool places. I visited Stockholm before Christmas of 2016 and went back to the Philippines for my dad’s 50th birthday this summer.

I’m currently working on my Dumaguete post, which will be about my visit to this city in the southern Philippines. It is full of vibrant culture and gentle people! So it will be really fun to tell you guys all about it!

But until then, I thought I would share this video that I edited with my sisters. It basically captures our whole Philippines trip and summarises all the exciting things we got up to this time around!

I hope you enjoy it and see you soon – in Dumaguete 😉

 

Advertisements

Hello Malta 2014!

Because I am in the library buried in books, desperately trying to increase the word count of my dissertation. And because I have been sick of the bipolar weather here in London, which has consisted of rain, wind, sunshine, and rain. And because I am constantly day-dreaming of where I want to go next for my summer holiday. I thought I would share this short little video I edited (in the name of procrastination) of my trip to Malta two years ago.

Just a few quick notes, since I can’t dwell here long:

  1. Malta is beautiful. The culture, the sights, the people – just, all of it!
  2. The place is cheap. Seriously, we spent 7 days there and I had cash left to spare at the end, which is honestly very rare for me.
  3. The weather is amazing. We went on the first week of September, which is barely considered their summer season, but the sun was still scorching and the sky was still clear blue!

Anyway, here’s the video:

Until next time x

Hello Oriental Mindoro!

Guys, it’s December – the Christmas season and all things jolly! I hope you’re all as excited about the holidays as I am!

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to tell you guys all about Oriental Mindoro – the place I was born and where I spent the first six years of my life.

VSCO Cam-2-2

Like the rest of the Philippines, agriculture is the main source of income in Oriental Mindoro.


VSCO Cam-3-1

Crops of bitter melon.


11949287_10207478934162476_1831506703943968900_n

A man harvesting bananas.

But first of all, I wanted to draw your attention to the typhoon Nona, which struck Oriental Mindoro yesterday 15th December 2015, throwing the Island in complete disarray.

VSCO Cam-3 2

VSCO Cam-1-1

VSCO Cam-2-1

And so, I want to dedicate this post to all the Mindoreños who were affected by the typhoon. Let’s all pray for them this Christmas.

12009786_10207520817489533_4301119972942536331_n

Calapan port.

I want to start with the basics. The Island is split into two regions: Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro. The former, my province, takes up the right half of the Island and is about six hours away from Manila. To get there, you have to take a coach from Manila to Batangas port, where you get a ferry to Calapan city. There you have the option of commuting either via a van or coach. And here’s a fun fact: there is literally only one main highway that cuts through the region, which somehow passes through all the major towns. You’d think that this somehow makes for questionable traffic, but in fact the straightforward route makes the journey smoother and quicker.

12043069_10207563986048720_5713033021759770297_n

Calapan port.

So my town, Gloria, is about an hour and a half drive from Calapan city. Growing up I always thought the name ‘Gloria’ was so cool; its religious resonance just makes it epic somehow! There are then many smaller villages that are scattered at the edges. I, however, was born and grew up in the main town. Being the centre, it meant that it was a lot busier. It is where the Town Munisipyo is, which is the local administrative office, the main Church that everyone attends and the palengke, the town’s public market.

There are many things that I recall fondly about growing up in the province, like the carefree afternoons of playing parlor games* in the sun, or the midnight masses during Christmas, or even the small outings to the beach that I lived for. That said, there are certain fundamental things I will always miss about the province.

I miss the people. I’m not sure whether it’s because it’s the province or whether it’s just part of the Filipino culture in general, but whenever I go back I always feel this overwhelming sense of belonging. The community is so tightly knit that even though I’ve been away for years, I’m still remembered and embraced with such warm welcoming arms. I guess this accommodating and loving attitude is just part of the way of life here. Everyone grew up knowing everyone in the community and that’s how it’s always been, so naturally there is no reason to treat anyone like strangers. I never realised it then, but such closeness instils in a person this sense of security in its truest form.

603440_4397985558759_1794725776_n

526248_4397983478707_578093515_n

I miss the food. I always say that the food is different in the province. It’s just more delicious – seriously! 😉 My grandma once told me, this is because not only are the ingredients fresh, but also every province puts their own spin in the way traditional Filipino dishes are cooked. Hence, each develops their own original taste, and luckily for me, my grandma’s recipes are simply authentic and mouth-watering!

VSCO Cam-1-4

Ate Waning making espasol.


VSCO Cam-1-3

Home-made espasol, a Filipino rice cake. It is made from rice flour cooked in coconut milk and sweetened coconut strips, dusted with toasted rice flour.

Finally, I miss the sunrises. I’m pretty sure all Filipinos want to avoid the sun at all costs, not least because god forbid you ever catch a tan. This is why whenever I go back home and ask to go to the beach, my family always tells me either to go before the sun rises or just as the sun is setting. I’ve discovered that I love going during sunrise. The sky is so enthralling. It’s an experience in and of itself, watching the sun paint the sky in luminous shades of purples, pinks and oranges, while you hear the rest of the world waking up: the roosters crowing, the beeping of the bike selling pandesal** and the general ambience that accompanies a new day at a small provincial town.

11224004_10207495208209317_3444428061933425124_n

255452_4402048980342_486181306_n

528108_4395975828517_30327798_n

But most of all, what I miss and absolutely love about the province is its simplicity. Here, the agriculture, god-fearing, and family-orientated lifestyle seems to be more than enough. Here, people find happiness in the smallest of things. They find reason to be happy every single day in spite of any hardships they might be going through. And this is evident in every genuine smile and laughter, in every accommodating gestures and every helping hand they are always willing to extend. It takes a strong and loving community to shape its residents into such equally strong and loving people. So for that, I will always be proud to have grown up, even if it was just for a short while, in Gloria, Oriental Mindoro.

VSCO Cam-2 2

Motorcycles are the primary mode of private transportation in the province.


11145912_10207545361463117_6250949956545124171_n

The Gloria palengke.


VSCO Cam-2-3

Farming in Kawit, a smaller town just ten minutes away from Gloria.


VSCO Cam-1

A family showering in the river after a day of swimming.

*Parlor games are traditional Filipino games usually played by kids in school, during their spare time or at parties and fiestas.

** Pandesal is a traditional Filipino bread sold freshly baked traditionally in the early mornings, and is eaten for breakfast, often by dipping it in hot coffee. In many Filipino towns, it is common for this to be sold by a man on a bike that sounds a horn to alert people who wants to buy it.

Hello Palawan!

This was probably the trip I’ve anticipated the most to date. I’ve spent years dreaming about Palawan. Every time I would see it in the ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ campaign I’d sigh at its enamouring beauty – I’ve always found the blues and greens splashed across the pictures infinitely captivating.

You see Palawan is what I would call Philippines’ little strip of treasure. Placed precariously on the southwest of the Philippines in the MIMAROPA region, it is narrow and long and faces the South China Sea. It holds three of the household destinations in the Philippines’ tourism campaign: El Nido, Puerto Princesa and the Coron Islands.

The Coron Islands specifically, known for its crystal-clear lagoons cocooned in jungle-clad mountains, was where I was headed.


IMG_3195

In total we spent three days and two nights there. Restricted to a tight schedule owed to the demanding travelling experience in the Philippines (which most often includes at least three modes of transportation); I had my days filled to the brim with activities!

So let’s start with…

Day One

I guess I’m lucky enough to say that I was not subjected to a morning call at the crack of dawn. Rather, our journey started out gently. At noon, we got on a forty-five minute flight travelling from Manila to Busuanga, and from there it was a thirty-minute drive to the town of Coron.

coron two

coron two-3

coron two-6

When we arrived it was already late afternoon, which apparently gave us just about enough time to climb the seven hundred and twenty-four steps to Mount Tapyas! The steps were concrete and honestly you could take as much time as you wanted climbing it. So fear not, it is definitely a doable hike! Though it goes without saying that by the time you reach six hundred, you will have wanted it all to end! But through the moans and groans, the saving grace was this incredibly breath-taking view as you drew nearer to the top. The view of the mountains jutting out of the islands that seemed to envelope each other as it sat gracefully on this tranquil sea, was one to behold. In fact it was perfect timing when we reached the top because by then the sun was sinking into the horizon and all you could see was how it was painting the clouds, the sky, the ocean in this transcendent kaleidoscope mix of purples and oranges. The experience indescribably embodied the feeling of being on top of the world.

coron two-8

coron two-13

coron two-9

coron two-10

coron two-16

coron two-15

coron two-17

coron two-19

coron two-22

Once we were satisfied with the pictures we had taken, and could no longer resist the lack of light limiting our ability to take any more decent pictures, we climbed back down and headed for Maquinit Hot Springs. After the long trek up Mount Tapyas, there could not have been a more perfect destination. By the time we got there the sun had well and truly set and so it seemed like just the time to have a relaxing evening soak. The water I felt was hot enough to be soothing but not too hot to be uncomfortable. The great thing about this place was it felt very natural. Though they had constructed the spring in such a way that the water was flowing into three different pools, it was located right by the seashore and was surrounded by these trees that would sway with the wind and lull you into quiet meditation.

coron two-23

So after a day of travelling, climbing seven hundred and twenty-four steps and dipping into a hot spring, it was no surprise that by the time we came back to the hotel, showered and had dinner I was very ready to call it a night. But I do remember drifting off to sleep that night dreaming of the beauty that was waiting for me by the next sunrise…

Day Two

I remember waking up early that day purely out of excitement. We had all promptly gone down to have breakfast and waited by the gates for our tour guide. By nine o’clock we were happily crammed in one tricycle* headed for the pier down town.

coron two-25

By the time we were set to go, our lifejackets all fastened, the ropes pulled in and the engine rumbling, the sun was creeping up in the sky and the clouds, fluffy as they were, were merrily sweeping by. I sat at the front of the boat, crossed legged on my seat and took a deep breath. The air was cool and the water was deep blue and sparkling. The further we got, the closer I felt to the mountains that were beginning to cage us in. It all seemed surreal – like we were venturing into another world.

coron two-28

coron two-32

Our first stop was snorkelling. I geared myself up with goggles and flippers and jumped in. Our snorkelling site, Siete Pecados (translated: Seven Sins), consisted of these seven little islands. Apparently the legend goes that these islands were named after seven sisters who went to a party against their mother’s wishes. As punishment they were turned into these seven rocks. Well, that’s what our tour guide told us, but I’m pretty sure the details vary among the locals!

Anyhow, it’s a great place to snorkel, the current isn’t too strong and there are loads of corals and fishes to see. One particularly fascinating thing we saw was an Aurelia jellyfish, they’re completely harmless and almost transparent in the water. But of course my mum didn’t know any of that and screamed the moment she saw it floating by her. I personally thought it was cute; it was squidgy, and round, and transparent, and would dance in the water the way all jellyfishes do!

Eventually it was time to head to our next stop (the highlight of the day in my opinion): Lake Kayangan. It’s located almost in this cove, hidden by the larger islands. To get to the lake, you had to climb a little over three hundred stairs, which may not have been as many as the day before, but were definitely not as well-built. It was slippery and inconsistent so you had to walk slowly and carefully. When you got to the top, there’s a little clearing where you could take pictures of the dock. From there you could see just how bright and vividly turquoise the water was; complemented by the rich greens of the trees on the island, it was impeccably serene.

coron two-33

coron two-34

In order to reach the lake, you had to climb down another set of stairs. And there at the bottom you were met with a wooden dock that framed this expanse of water that was more teal than turquoise. It was crystal-clear and just so unbelievably natural. You could swim here to your hearts content because the water was deep but there were rocks near the dock that enabled you stand. You could even snorkel because it housed smaller fishes and occasional seahorses. In short it was the epitome of a tropical treasure.

coron two-35

coron two-36

coron two-37

coron two-38

coron two-39

coron two-40

If it were up to me, I would’ve stayed there indefinitely, just floating away. But the sun was suspended high in the sky, indicating that it was indeed time for lunch. So we all boarded the boat and headed to Atwayan Beach, a quaint little island with a modest beach. On the shore was a stretch of open wooden cottages complete with wooden benches and tables. There our tour guide unloaded our lunch and we took our time eating. I remember the sun being blisteringly hot so the shade was a welcoming relief.

coron two-43

coron two-47

coron two-48

coron two-52

coron two-53

Funnily enough, what was memorable for me about this island were the cats! They were stray and timid, and would wander about you while you ate. The two in particular that hung around us were adorable. One was white as snow with piercing yellow eyes, and the other black and white and sweet. My mum wasn’t specially amused by them but my sisters and I were smitten!

coron two-50

coron two-51

By early afternoon, we were ready for our final stop: Twin Lagoon. It seemed that we arrived quite early because the traffic of tourists that we were regularly bumping into weren’t there yet. And so, when we got to the lagoon, which was encased by these walls that were lined with trees, the branches hanging low on the water, we were all alone.

coron two-57

A quirky little detail about the lagoon was that you could enter it either by climbing over these wooden rickety stairs, or swim under in this small little opening just underneath. I wasn’t nearly confident enough to swim underneath, but the stairs were scary as hell! They were unstable and infested with giant red ants. Which was probably why going back I chose to swim underneath instead.

VSCO Cam-2

VSCO Cam-3

The lagoon itself was beguiling. The water was deep and placid. The walls were tall and imposing, and everything about it just gave you this sense of humanness. It rendered you in complete wonder, so much so that it felt appropriate only to speak in hushed voices, and even then they would echo above you – your own voice bouncing back, over and again. This lagoon was larger than the last and had no shores or docks to rest on, save for the small platform by the stairs, so you were almost forced to just float there and take it all in.

coron two-58

A corollary to that, I suppose, was that by the time we headed back to our boat, each of us opting to dive underneath than take our chances with those stairs again, I was completely exhausted. So you could imagine how thankful I was to our tour guide for bringing rice snacks and cold soft drinks, which I busied myself with as we called it a day and headed back to the mainland.

coron two-56

The next day we were up bright and early to catch a flight back to Manila.

And that marks the end of my trip to Palawan.

See you soon – in Oriental Mindoro, a place that holds meaning to me beyond what words can describe, but for now let’s call it my hometown.

*A tricycle is a three-wheeled vehicle essentially comprised of a motorbike attached to a sidecar, and is a popular mode of transportation in towns.

Side note: the pictures on my blog were taken and edited by my sister – she has an amazing Instagram account!

Hello Manila!

Hi guys! I hope everyone has gotten over their summer blues and are ready for the new season ahead. I know I am, kinda… 😉

Without sounding too cliché, I wanted to apologise for these overdue blog posts I’d planned on doing on my trip to the Philippines. I’m not sure if I gave you the impression that I would be blogging whilst I was in the Philippines, but if I did, I am very sorry. In any case, I am here and very much ready to tell you all about it!

First stop: Manila.

hotel view

I am sure most of you are aware; Manila is the capital city of the Philippines.

If I were to describe the city in one word, it would be dense.

Dense in population, atmosphere and traffic! The moment you step outside the airport your senses are assaulted. You hear the sound of traffic, people left and right offering to push your trolley for you, relatives shouting their loved-one’s names. You feel sticky from the humidity and the air you breathe is just thicker. You see lines of white taxis and people, so many people – some arriving with you, crowds of them waiting by the barriers and others scattered, just milling around.

road viewwalking

But that’s what you love and hate about Manila I suppose – everyone and everything is here. Like every other capital city it’s where the opportunities lie. This is where the universities are and subsequently where any significant employment is. It’s where your skin gets lighter because “the water is different here”. It’s where you hang out at the malls after school just to cool off from the heat. It’s where you learn what it really means to be stuck in traffic when you find yourself on EDSA* at rush hour. It’s where no one really knows their way around MOA**. And it’s where taxi drivers will refuse to take you anywhere if it’s raining torrents (absurd right?!).

guy on jeep

In any case, my encounter with Manila this time around was brief. When I first arrived I only stayed for two nights before I flew to Palawan. The next time I was there was to drop off my older sister who was flying back a week earlier than the rest of us. It was then I got to experience a slice of the nightlife Manila has to offer.

That Saturday evening, we (my cousins, aunty and uncle) left the apartment in perfect Filipino fashion: we set off without a clue as to where we were going. Eventually we found ourselves in Tomas Morato Avenue, located in Quezon City, northeast of Metro Manila. It is a street cramped-packed with restaurants, bars, comedy bars and more. It seemed to my foreign eyes quite the party central, I mean it was close to the Pinoy Big Brother House (which I got to see O.O) and the ABS-CBN tower – now that’s got to count for something! 😉 Anyhow there we were browsing the streets for live bands, and after sending our uncle to scout the places for good music, we spontaneously settled for an outdoor bar with a live band that played decent music.

Despite the place being quite empty and the singers mediocre, it was the company that made it a fun night. My uncle was handing out the beers and we were taunting each other on who would get drunk the fastest! Expectedly the best part of the night was the fact that I got to hang out with my family. To be honest, there’s nothing really to it when you’re in the Philippines. Where people in London chase the high from night outs through expensive get-ups and even more expensive drinks, in Manila all you need is good music and good company – you could be at home or at a bar and as long as you have those things, guaranteed it will be a fun night!

That said, on our final visit in Manila, the night before our own flight, we were treated to first class entertainment! This time around I insisted we go to a comedy bar, and so we ended up in Zirkoh, the Tomas Morato branch, where the entrance fee was five hundred pesos. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it was definitely worth it. Our Prime Time acts that night were the comedian duo Wally & Jose, who currently stars in the GMA hit Kalye Serye***, and the singer/comedienne Gladys Guevarra. One thing I can say about comedy bars is that if you can’t take a joke, don’t bother coming! >.< Comedians, particularly these ones, make it a point to pick on the crowd – especially those closest to them! In fact I was victimised myself because when Wally & Jose asked who were from abroad, my cousins, being them, pointed me out and for the rest of the night I was picked on as the frugal foreigner who wouldn’t request a song because I didn’t want to pay up! xD As you can tell it was hilarious!

So that’s all I have to say about Manila’s nightlife, and I’m afraid that is merely the tip of the iceberg because Manila has everything and anything you are looking for if you want a good time! Maybe you guys can discover them for yourself and tell me all about it! 😉

That’s it for now – I’ll see you soon…in Palawan! 😉

P.s. sorry for the lack of pictures, I promise there’ll be more from Palawan! xD

*EDSA is a 23.8 km long freeway that cuts through the most of Manila and is notorious for it’s traffic, especially during rush hours and floods.

**MOA stands for Mall Of Asia, it is the 10th largest shopping mall in the world (meaning humungous!) and is located in Bay City, Pasay.

***Kalye Serye (translated: Street Series) is a recently popular segment in GMA’s variety programme Eat Bulaga and features the most trending love team of the year: Aldub (Alden Richards and Yaya Dubs).

Hello world! Hi strangers!

Welcome to my travel blog! I go by Aireen and this space will be dedicated to my mini epic adventures.

In the spirit of context, I should probably tell you that I am writing this introductory post in the office of my summer job, where I can hear the pitter patter of the London rain against the floor length windows, which timely reminds me exactly why I had planned to start this blog not too long ago. I’d thought of documenting my travels so that during days like these (which happen a little too often for my liking), I would be able to recall, in vivid detail, where I’d been and where I could be.

Anyway, moving smoothly on to the purpose of this post – I just wanted to briefly let you all know what I’ll be rambling on about for an indefinite amount of time.

You see I have this holiday in the Philippines coming up (in three days to be exact – but who’s counting), and I just thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if people could see first hand what Philippines is like from the eyes of a local travel blogger’. I know, I know, there’s nothing new about this; Philippines has definitely climbed up people’s ‘must-visit’ list. But I’m a proud Filipino, so I thought it would be extra exciting to dip into this trend myself and see how well I can let you guys experience my experiences through this virtual connection! And so it will begin with this trip…

See you soon – or more appropriately, see you there! 😉