Losing Sight


I frequent a massage shop called “Vibes” in a mall near my apartment. I usually go there twice a month to relieve myself from stress due to work and life, in general. One interesting aspect of Vibes is the massage therapists are blind. Unlike other regular customers though, I don’t favor a specific masseuse. I am fine with being assigned with the available masseuse because (1) I am generally impatient, and (2) it enables me to differentiate the massaging styles of the masseuses.

In the past three years of frequenting Vibes, I’ve observed a lot of things about their staff which often amazes me more than not. The massage therapists have very keen sense of touch and hearing. Even without saying a word and just by touching my back, they can tell if it’s me, if I lost or gained weight and if I am more stressed than usual. They also know my voice very well. They would say, “Oh! It’s Ma’am Melissa.” even if I just uttered, “Good evening”.

When they are in a light mood, some masseuse also share their  interests. There is one instance when I had to wait for the masseuse for a while. When she arrived, she apologized profusely. She mentioned she was just replaying the episode of a drama she missed the previous night. I asked her how she replayed it. She replied she listened through the YouTube application in her smartphone. She further shared that sometimes she replays TV shows on her Acer laptop. I was simply dumbfounded.

Their stories are not always happy or inspiring ones. I also got to learn how some of them became blind or almost blind.  Some were born blind but there are also those who lost their sight during their late childhood. One masseuse shared that she was diagnosed with cataract an early age but because her family could not afford the surgery, she eventually became blind. I could not help but think that her future could have turned out differently if she was able to undergo operation.

While the massage therapists at Vibes are generally happy people and very friendly with each other and the customers, you know that behind their smiles are sad stories to tell.  But one can never guess because despite losing one of the most important senses, they never lost sight of themselves.

At times when I am questioning the track of my life, of whether I am making the right choices, or simply when I want to succumb to all the stress I experience, I think of the blind massage therapists. They could have  surrendered to a literally and figuratively dark life, but they chose not to. I could not help but feel embarrassed because despite being blessed with five senses, I am still not  contented on a lot of aspects of my life. I still  have so much to learn from them on accepting my limitations and making the best of of what He has given me.

New Year and Philippine Waterfalls


It might be too late to greet everyone a “Happy New Year”, but hey a happy new year to you! :) How was your new year? Mine was pretty uneventful. I spent it in my hometown in Bicol, waited for the clock to strike 12 on the the 31st of December, then I slept. Even my blog was uneventful. For the first time, I did not write a year-end post.

Anyway, to start this blog’s year and to lessen my travel diary backlogs, I thought of sharing some of the waterfalls I’ve been to in the Philippines. The Philippines is not only blessed with beautiful beaches but with bodies of freshwater such as lakes, waterfalls and rivers. It’s a good  idea to check these out and include them in your must-visit list this 2016:

  1. Hagimit Falls 
Gentle slopes
Hagimit Falls

Hagitmit Falls is found in the island of Samal in Davao del Norte. One interesting feature of this body of water is that it actually a series of falls. The falls above is just one of the more gently sloping falls. The one below is more “rugged”.

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We’re All Mad Here


As Alice in Wonderland has established, to a certain extent the best people are mad. If not, how does one one survive this world which on its own is chaotic?  Similarly, who says Christmas can’t be mad and be celebrated ala Wonderland?

Our office has taken Christmas decoration to another notch this year! We transformed our working spaces into the world of Alice through the use of recycled materials. And guess what, we are battling for the “best decoration” title! So, friends, I am asking as small favor. If like me,you believe in madness that does not need to be outlandish, do me a little help and win our division (RDMD) clinch the title. Please click the photo below and hit the like button!

Thank you and Merry Christmas! I am sure your madness, like RDMD’s’, will certainly help you tackle difficult challenges with a fun and bright perspective. :)

 

Eye Spy


Manila is home to the world’s oldest Chinatown located in Binondo.  It’s funny though that despite living in Metro Manila for almost 10 years now, I only got to visit Binondo last October. Apart from being a historic place, Binondo is perhaps is better know as a food lover’s heaven. One of the cheap dining options there where one can try a variety of Chinese dishes is Estero Fast Food Restaurant. I wondered if the  place is called “estero” because it is literally located near a big canal a.ka. estero in the Filipino language.

Apart from the variety of food options, I learned that part of the dining experience  in Estero is a battle with cats. The cats roam around the tables waiting for leftovers. Some of them were even aggressive enough to attempt an eye to eye contact with me. LOL.

Staring contest.

A photo posted by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

Check out more entries for “Eye Spy” at Daily Post.

Ornate


It’s no secret that I am very interested in Korean history and culture. This is the primary reason why in my travel bucket list, South Korea was the first country I listed that I want to visit. Last year, I was able to cross out that item off my list. That trip to South Korea marked my 1st overseas travel and what a gamble it was considering I had to apply for a visa.

South Korea has a very rich in history and it has done a very good job of preserving its historic places.  The presence of several palaces in the heart of Seoul amidst modern infrastructure is a testament to that. Of the five (5) palaces found in Jongno, my favorite would have to be the Changdeokgung Palace. The  palace complex is especially lovely during autumn.

While walking around, I chanced upon these quarters with a very ornate roofing. Imagine the detail placed in designing them.

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Check out  this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge with the theme Ornate.

Thoughts and Singapore


As an ASEAN country, it can’t be helped that the Philippines is often compared to Singapore. After all, Singapore is an epitome of a success story from its efficient government, transportation system, sustainable development strategies, etc. Considering it is such a young nation (at 50 years old), one can’t help but be amazed at how fast they have progressed.

Marina Bay Sands: one of the icons of SG.
Marina Bay Sands: one of the icons of SG.

I had the opportunity to visit the country last September for a training on the co-benefits of climate change and health. It was my first time to go there and it was great because part of my training was on the policy process of Singapore for environmental protection and air pollution management. I had nothing but admiration for how they do things in the country. At least from the training alone, I got the impression that the local leadership is strong and has good vision. Policies were evidence-based, and properly implemented and monitored. Pride is imminent not just in the manner our speakers, who were government officials, talked about their work but even in the way ordinary Singaporeans whom I had a chance to interact with speak of their government.

SG: Cultural melting pot
SG: Cultural melting pot

One does not even need to be in a formal training to learn a lot about the country. I realized from my daily encounters that the citizens are highly aware of their history particularly of the reforms Lee Kuan Yew carried out. They are also very knowledgeable on laws from housing, waste management, energy efficiency to air pollution and of the heavy repercussions for violating the law.

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Finding Possibilities in Difficulties


Earlier during the recognition program of the Faculty of Management and Development Studies of the University of the Philippines Open University, I was given the opportunity to give the message on behalf of the graduating students. 

I will be forever grateful for the chance given to me. I hope I  live up to the expectations for an Iskolar ng Bayan. :) 

Allow me to share the speech I delivered earlier: 

FMDS officials and staff, dear professors, fellow graduates, families and friends in attendance, good morning. 

It’s fascinating to be here, standing before you all, particularly my classmates and professors whom I only interacted with online for the past two years. It’s funny that we only get to meet and bond on our day of recognition and graduation. A few weeks ago we were just joking among ourselves in our FB group what award we would give each other. I got the “Master Procrastinator award”. One had the “Master Crammer’” and another had the “Comments only during school season” award. Such is the testament that today education and establishing relationships know no boundary. And we are blessed that UPOU and our professors are here to help us take advantage of how modern technology can revolutionize education. 

Two years ago, when I first learned that FMDS already offered DIH, I did not hesitate to apply as distance learning can provide me the most flexible environment in pursing graduate studies while having full time work. I think most of you would agree with me that when we say we are in UPOU, we would often be asked, “What is it? How does it work”? And when we say ‘distance learning’ and ‘online classes’, we get a reply of ‘it must be easier then’. Probably. After all, we can access our lessons online while waiting in an airport, write a paper while waiting for a pregnant mom to experience contractions, or squeeze in some readings on our way to a remote health service facility.Upon careful scrutiny though, behind these “fascinating” scenarios are the stories of people who chose to exhaust every possible means to advance further even it means coming at the expense of sleep, bonding time with family or simply by choosing the less paved road in learning.  

So contrary to what most people think, distance learning is a lot more challenging. In OU, because we “own” or determine our pace and study time, more than intelligence, it’s more of discipline, resourcefulness and time-management that will eventually determine how far we will come as a UPOU student. I know that the knowledge we learn and the skills we develop in such a unique learning environment will not only help us become better versions of ourselves, but also be more capable in our respective careers and in fulfilling our roles as “Iskolar ng Bayan”. 

As graduates of FMDS, we are among those in the best position to improve processes, develop capacities and initiate changes that can benefit our society. As graduates of UPOU, we are even expected to be more innovative, as we know the grip and feel of utilizing technology and alternative learning tools. Tomorrow, as we stand with our fellow UPOU graduates, I hope we do not only become experts or advocates of the respective fields we are pursuing, but also in pushing how open university and distance learning are among the most crucial tools in addressing gaps in access to education. 

In closing, I would like to cite a saying that all of us are probably familiar with: “if there’s a will, there’s a way. “ I’d like to share my better version of it: As long as there is a will, there will always be a way. For most of us here who probably considers time and opportunity to be already fleeting concepts, I hope I, my fellow students and the very existence of UPOU always serve as a reminder of finding possibilities amidst difficulties.
Thank you once again for this opportunity. It was not an easy two years but it felt so fast thanks to the guidance of our brilliant professors, the support of my crazy classmates and the understanding of family and friends of our eccentric lifestyle. I hope next year I would be in this hall earning my masters degree in international health. 

Magandang araw po sa ating lahat. 

Managing How to Work, Study and Travel Simultaneously


The other week, my classmates and I were joking on our Facebook group what we would award each other for our upcoming graduation this July 25. One classmate said he would give me a “Master Procrastinator Award”. I was appalled so I asked him why.

He replied, “Because every time I am cramming for our paper or an exam, I would see in your posts that you are either in Korea, El Nido or some random beach. You don’t seem to be bothered by school or work at all”.

Am I one?? (Image credits to keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

I was surprised that some of them had a perception that I am a “procrastinator”, so I clarified that when I am on travel, I bring my iPad and laptop. I study while waiting in airports and ports. I write papers at night or during the wee hours of the morning. I always put my phone on roaming to make sure I don’t miss anything work or school-related while I am overseas. Simply said, I multitask.

I always get questions related to this: How do you juggle things? How do you manage to keep up at work and school and still get to travel? So I thought I’d share of some of “tactics” of how I managed to do all three for the past years:

1. Multitask but do so efficiently. This is inevitable. I am not someone who can let go of my day job just to prioritize school or travel. I don’t have someone who I can say I can lean on  in case I get into financial trouble. I don’t want rely on scholarships either because in the Philippines, more of often than not, stipends are delayed. I also still send money to my family back home every once in a while. Multitasking is not ideal, but to be able to do all things I want to do and have to do, this is the compromise I make.

I am lucky enough that my classes are online. So while on travel, I can still participate in class discussion late at night or write papers at dawn. When I have something important for work that coincides with my travel, I usually check my email at least three times a day to make sure my workmates would still get the information they need from me.

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Door


It’s so hard to blog these days. I don’t  know if it’s a matter of my busy schedule or simply because I don’t have the drive. Anyway, for some “I am alive” post, here are some “historical” doors I want to share with your guys. Most of these are doors in old Spanish houses across the Philippines.

Tested by time.

A photo posted by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

I like lines, symmetry, history and contrast.

A photo posted by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

Take time to realize… The unknown.

A photo posted by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

See a variety of doors at Daily Post.

Enveloped


Hi everyone! How’s your summer (if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere) so far? Mine has been hectic and arid! I’ve been in delulu the past few weeks which pretty much explains my absence in the blogosphere. I turned a year older (yes, I’m now 26!), entertained a bunch of foreigners for a week due to an international conference our office is arranging, and completed my requirements for my post graduate diploma degree. Hurray! I am now graduating! Next semester, if I still have the drive, I will now enroll as a Masters Degree-proper student. One more year till that coveted XX X. XXX, MIH.

Anyway, for this week’s theme “enveloped”, I am sharing this interesting rock structure which I came across in one of the islands of El Nido:

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Seems like I’m inside a fossil, enveloped by hollow structures of bones right? :) Check out more entries at Daily Post.

Early Bird


As the saying goes, “the early bird catches the worm”. I say, the early bird catches beautiful sunrises. :) Here are some astounding sunrises I was able to witness when I was in Dumaguete City:

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These were taken from the city’s Roxas Boulevard which has a very good view of sunrises. Hence, I made sure to book at a hotel facing the boulevard. Imagine having this view every morning. :)

Check out Early Birds at Daily Post.

Peaches and Friends


While waiting for our train ride to Hanoi, Vietnam in a restaurant somewhere  in Lao Cai a few days ago, my three friends decided to go out for a bit to look for peaches. They’ve been craving for peaches since we saw some in Bac Ha market earlier in the day. They asked me if I was coming, I told them I will just stay in the restaurant   since I don’t like peaches that much.

While waiting for them, I noticed that a Vietnamese girl in the next table was fidgety. She kept glancing around while holding her phone. So I asked her, “Are you looking for an electric outlet?”

She replied, “Yes. I need to charge my phone.”

I noted someone charged his phone near my table earlier  so I told her, “There’s one near my table. You can use it.”

She smiled and thanked me. She then asked me if I am from the Philippines since I speak good English. I responded affirmatively and thought finally someone guessed my nationality correctly. I was still mistaken as a Thai by some in Vietnam.

We then talked about her job, my job, her country and my country. She was very curious about the Philippines and certain places she wishes to visit. She even knew about Cebu Pacific’s piso seat sale.

After conversing for about 10 minutes, she excused herself . When she got back she offered me a peach as a sign of thanks. I almost said no but thinking there was no harm in trying to eat a peach, I accepted it. My friends arrived shortly, epmty-handed. When I asked if they were able to find peaches , they sadly replied they were not able to find a fruit vendor that sells them.

The Vietnamese girl probabaly heard our conversation so she went back to our table and gave each of my friends a peach. She said she bought a kilo in Bac Ha market and couldn’t finish it all by herself. My friends looked so happy and  enjoyed    their peaches with big smiles in their faces.

I smiled as well astounded at how the situation turned out. Fate? Coincidence? Whatever it was,  I was just glad to be able to make friends. :)

(Travel Diary) The Historic City of Silay


I usually try to schedule an out of town trip during summer. In the Philippines, school break falls on the months of April to May so I have come to associate summer = vacation. Now that I am working, I maintain that association by going on vacation trips during summer.

In the summer of 2014, I went to the provinces of Negros Occidental, Guimaras and Iloilo in the Visayas area of the Philippines with my high school friends, Cez, Thomas and Galembs. Our trip lasted for four days. Our entry point was Silay City in Negros Occidental, then our exit point was Iloilo.

The next travel series I will share are what I have to come to call as “BIG trip”. It stands for Bacolod-Iloilo-Guimaras.

Balay Negrense, one of the famous old houses of Silay.
Balay Negrense, one of the famous old houses of Silay.

1st stop: Silay City

Bacolod is the capital of the province of Negros Occidental but its airport is located in the province of Silay, which is about a 30-45 minute ride from Bacolod City. Silay City is one of the two museum cities in the Philippines, the other one being Vigan City in Ilocos Sur. It has been referred to as  such due to the number of preserved Spanish houses in the city. In the airport, we were even given a map which detailed where all the Spanish houses were situated.

From the airport, we decided to proceed first to El Ideal Bakery, of the most must try’s in Silay, to eat breakfast. The restaurant-bakery is is also housed inside an old Spanish residence! (more…)

Refreshing


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Wading in a stream.

Walking in the fi

Walking in a field.

Simple life is refreshing.

Check out “Fresh” theme at Daily Post.

The Walls of Ancient Seoul


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The old walls of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

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Living quarters at Changdeokgung Palace.

DSC02375Getting lost in Bukchon village.

Stunning photos of “Walls” at Daily Post.