It’s funny I am talking about New Year when it’s almost mid-February already. The other day while humming to a tune, I went back to a conservation I had with a friend during New year’s eve. She asked me what I will be doing while waiting for 2020 to come. I told her I will just sleep, like what I always do. She then told me that by sleeping on a New Year’s Eve, I am missing a lot. But apart from the changing year, what is there really to miss?
I have always slept on New Year’s Eve for as long as I can remember. I am not really the type who waits for the midnight to come, review how my year went by and come up with resolutions. During the long Christmas-New Year vacation, I literally shut down as it is the only time I get legit rest from all the craziness in Manila and from work.
Growing up though, I loved waiting for the year to change. My dad loved setting up fireworks and my brothers and I always look forward to the bright lights. My dad also loved singing ( I actually got my singing talent from him!) and because the Christmas-New Year vacation was also his longest vacation, he would usually set-up the karaoke during New Year’s Eve. We would sing our hearts out until the wee hours of the morning. We never got tired of singing Cascades, James Ingram, Carpenters, Air Supply, and the Beatles songs. Until now, they are still my go to songs in karaoke.
But New Year’s after my dad’s death were never the same. Even my mom just usually sleeps on Dec 31. To me, sleeping became an excuse to grow taller until I actually stopped growing and started to use the excuse of much needed “break”. We are still thankful though for the year that went by. We still hope for a better year. Awake or not, personally, I feel this is still the perspective that matters the most.
While planning for my Korea trip (yes, again! ^^ 4th time!) last May, I made sure to include Jeonju in my itinerary after reading somewhere that it’s the motherland of bibimbap. Who doesn’t love bibimbap? It’s such a healthy and fuss-free meal!
There are a lot of highly recommended restaurants to try bibimap in Jeonju but we decided to ate at Gogung since it was just near the hanok we stayed in and it was the nearest in our vicinity where were already hungry. To make sure we get to try different bibimbaps, my friends and I ordered a set meal that comes with a serving of the Jeonju traditional bibimbap, Jeonju dolsot bibimbap and Yukhoe bibimbap.
Of the three, I still liked the Jeonju traditional bibimbap the most as the other two were a bit too spicy for my liking. All were delicious though! Even the side dishes (the soup!!!) were great. It was definitely a worthwhile dining experience!
I had the chance to visit Japan in October 2018 for free (thanks to a cancelled flight to Busan!). Knowing how beautiful Japan’s naturescape will be, I already had high expectations for its “sereneness”. There were four cities on my itinerary: Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and Nagoya.
Osaka has beautiful parks and castles. The cleanliness of the city (much the rest of Japan) is impeccable. Nagoya, on the other hand, is architecturally stunning. It will be a haven for people who love modern structures. Kyoto is a mix of old the new. It’s city center is modern but as urban as Nagoya and Osaka. Then, interspersed in the city are the reminders of what makes Japan, especially its history and culture, so distinct.
Nara, on the other hand, was quite a surprise for me. Deers were the only thing that I know about the place, only to find out that it has a lot of charms. By Japanese city standards, Nara is small. In fact, one can visit the major tourist sites in one day and access them all by foot. For a small city though, structures in Nara are astounding and are spread out horizontally.
There was a time that I was able to write a travel diary after every travel. I even managed to write one entry per day of a travel! Wow! Where did I get all the time?! But then life and wanderlust happened. I planned travels faster that I could write about them so now I have 4 years and 22 trips worth of backlog!
In those years of traveling, I’ve only booked a tour package thrice: during a trip to Bohol in 2014, a trip to Northern Vietnam in 2015, and a trip to Sagada in 2016. The only reason I did so was because I was travelling with a large group and the public transportation option between our target destinations was not very convenient. More often that not, I prefer planning my own itinerary because I usually set a maximum budget per trip. I then adjust my itinerary, accommodation, food and transportation options according to that maximum budget. And how do I manage to do this? It’s through everybody’s best friend: GOOGLE!
Yeah, Google has been pretty much my travel planing bff in addition to Booking.com. There are so many travel apps around but I always go back to these two for a seamless travel plan. Below are some of the Google hacks that I love and use a lot in planning my travels:
Looking for cheap flights through Google Search
The best way to know about flight promos is still to subscribe to the alerts of plane companies. But there’s also a feature in Google Search that allows you to search for the lowest flights. Just type the IATA code of your origin and destination airports, then Google will give you the different flights available. You can further refine the search according to price, travel period, etc.
I patiently waited for the next bus that will take us back to Busan, South Korea. It a was cold night back in April. I was in Jinhae Bus Station, happy and contented after experiencing my first cherry blossom festival.
We were not the first persons in line so I thought my friend, Ate B, and I might not be seated together. True enough, when the bus arrived, the window seats got filled quickly. We ended seating across each other in aisle seats. I glanced at my seatmate and noted he was probably a European based on the language he was speaking while on a phone call. A few seconds after his call, he was sniffing and he took out a roll of tissue. I thought to myself he probably has colds due the weather.
I love kaya toast. Did I say that? Yeah, I love kaya toast…specifically Ya Kun Kaya’s toast. Who doesn’t love Singapore’s national breakfast? I am drooling just thinking about the sweetness of the kaya and a serving of a perfectly soft-boiled egg. Here in Manila, I usually get my fix of kaya toast in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 branch of Ya Kun Kaya. When I am flying from NAIA 2, I make sure always drop by Ya Kun Kaya before heading to the boarding gate. Sadly, this year I had less work-related travels (though I am not asking for more) compared to 2017, so less kaya toast for me.
Thoughts about kaya toast always brings back good memories. I recall when and I two friends were in Singapore, being the aliens that we were, we went all the way to Chinatown just to get our kaya toast fix. The Ya Kun Kaya branch we went to did not even have its own stall. It just a had a small counter and several tables and chairs in the food court of a mall. We sat there in the middle of a humid afternoon, sipped our coffee, and spread out a map of Singapore in our table to figure out where to go next. What was so funny was we belatedly realize there was Ya Kun Kaya store just a flew blocks away from our hostel in Bugis.
Yesterday, after a very toxic day at work, I ran somewhere. I met up with a friend and we had a bowl of ramen for dinner. Because I was pretty much not myself anymore, I managed to spill a lot of sesame seeds in my ramen. Imagine what my tonkotsu ramen tasted like! It wasn’t very bad but it was definitely crunchy. Afterwards, we each bought a scoop of ice cream and walked around the streets talking about random things.
I told my friend, “This is possible, huh? Take a break in the middle of the week and let some steam out?”. She nodded and replied with a smile.
When people ask me these days what I fear the most, my answer would always be “to belatedly realize that I have already become part of the system I abhor”. In the Filipino language, it’s better known as “nilamon na ng sistema”.
It’s not only me who have this fear. After meeting with high school and college friends lately, I realized most of us have this fear or worry. Our common denominator is we are all in our late 20s or early 30s, struggling to climb our respective career ladders and general “in between” either in our respective communities and workplaces.
I got out of the van and looked at my wristwatch. It was 8 pm already. I had a very long week and today was no different. I also barely slept the previous night.
I can see the mall from where I stand. I crossed the street and debated on whether I should still eat dinner and buy some groceries. I was too tired to do both. I decided to just go home.
It was still quite a long walk…12 mins I think. On my way home, I thought about the things that need to be done for work. There are a lot. I cannot even fathom where to start and I cannot imagine if there is an endpoint.
My brother arrived in our apartment a few days ago exclaiming he is going home over the weekend. I asked him why he is going home again when he just visited a month ago. He replied, “Because I am suffering from homesickness lately.”
I often forget that my brother has only lived in Manila for 3 years. To date, he has lived most of his life in Bicol. On the other hand, I am more of stranger and occasional visitor in our family house, being away since I was 11. That’s almost 17 years.
I tried to recall what it feels to be homesick. Missing your pillow and beds at home? I don’t have those. I don’t even have a room and a cabinet in our house. The local neighborhood? I barely even know who lives in our street now.
Earlier, I had the same thoughts again while looking at the Christmas lights that decorate the trees on the way to my apartment. I said to myself, “It’s almost Christmas again. I can finally have a long vacation at home.”
Home will always be an interesting concept for people who have lived in so many places. What defines it? The physical structure, the people, the memories? As for me, home… is a place where my mom and siblings are, where I can enjoy my favorite dishes, and exist for a while without caring what the world demands from me.
I guess I am homesick after all and I am not even making any sense.
I’ve been living in Metro Manila for almost 12 years now yet I realize there is still a lot I do not know about it especially its capital, Manila. It actually took an invite from a friend from Cebu to go out of my apartment on a rainy day and realize that…
…San Agustin Church has a very dramatic altar. I’ve passed this church several times but it was only yesterday that I sat inside the church for awhile and absorbed its altar’s beauty.