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.



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 if 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 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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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.


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:


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:



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! Continue reading



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


The old walls of Gyeongbokgung Palace.


Living quarters at Changdeokgung Palace.

DSC02375Getting lost in Bukchon village.

Stunning photos of “Walls” at Daily Post.

Finding my Footing

I was browsing thorugh my drafts and I found this unfinished post. I wrote this in May 2013. I wondered why I never got to post this. So here’s a sort of flash back Friday post:

Last night my brother told me, “Should I go out of the country next year?”. He then followed up with, “What should I do about the promotion offered by the company?”

I just replied, “Do what you think will be best for you. If you feel you like doing something, then try it.”

There was a time when I have also been bothered so much by such questions. I was very envious of my peers who are already leaving the country to get their PhDs. I felt bad seeing pictures of people who  were able to travel to different places. I was jealous of people who already know what are the things they are good at. I was too consumed by the so called “quarter life crisis”.

I don’t know how  but thankfully I am slowing easing out of the stage already. These days, I am less bothered by how far my peers has achieved, how many places they went too and whether they are now rich by mastering their craft. Instead, I have diverted my energies on trying out different things such as finally booking a ticket to go the place that I want to and enrolling in a course even if  I am not yet sure if it’s the track I want to pursue. I now don’t feel so bad that I haven’t achieved yet the things that I want to do when I was 23. I have now appreciated the investments I have made to secure not only mine but my brothers’ future are as well. In short, I have finally found my footing and I am now in betters terms of myself as far as capacities and experiences are concerned.

The path towards this state was not easy and I am not even sure how I came to such kind of peace and understanding. However, one thing I have always acknowledged is that every one of us is unique but at the same time share certain universal traits. By understanding individual differences, I realized that is no point in competing with anybody. When we strive to improve, it should not be because you want to beat someone but because you know you are lacking in certain areas. And by acknowledging that we share certain universal traits, I realized that despite status differences, people still seek the same thing… happiness, acceptance, contentment.

Whoa. I was thinking  of these things when I was 23. But I feel happy that I still feel the same way I felt two years ago. You  don’t compete with anybody but yourself. :)


A Thoughtful Paper turned 5 today and WordPress was kind enough to remind me!

Achievement unlocked!
Achievement unlocked!

So, it’s been five years of blogging at WordPress and eight years of blogging for me! Hurray! It’s been difficult to sustain this  blog particularly with all the activities for school and work. But blogging has been a very good way for me to de-stress and there isn’t a better way to document all my experiences! I didn’t intend for A Thoughtful Paper to be a travel blog and I still don’t intend to. But since travel occupies a third of my life today, the blog sort of turned into my travel diary.

Blogging at WordPress has been and is still a good experience. I get to meet a lot of people though  admittedly, I am guilty of not visiting my followers’ blogs as often as they visit mine. But thank you my dear readers and friends for constantly dropping by and for leaving comments. I may not voice out  my appreciation as often as I should but you guys make blogging a lot more fun and insightful.

I look forward to more years of blogging, sharing experiences and meaningful discussions!


Photo Essay: Baler (Part 2)

If photos and travel stories were food, mine were probably moldy already. Thankfully, travel stories never grow old! I talked about my Baler trip earlier last year. Allow me to finish my photo essay before my memories go down the drain.

Day 2 in Baler

My friend agreed to wake up early to catch the sunrises. Unfortunately, it was raining so bad in the morning so just went back to sleep. At around 9 AM, the tricycle driver who toured us around the town fetched us again for our visit to the Ditumabo falls. The falls is about a 3o-45 minuted drive from Sabang beach. From the tricycle stop, we had to trek again for another 30-40 minutes.

Waiting ares of drivers.
Waiting ares of drivers.

It was one of the most difficult treks I experienced. We literally had to cross very rocky streams. I didn’t get much photo because  I requested our driver to secure my cam. As we got closer the the falls, thankfully the trek became easier and there were fewer streams and rocks to conquer.

Hello, rocks and streams.
Hello, rocks and streams.
Easier trek.
Easier trek.

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(Seoul Diaries) Discipline is a Way of LIfe

Upon arrival in Seoul last October, the first places/things my friend Me-an and I agreed to look for was food and money changer. So upon depositing our luggage in hour hotel in Jong-no, we went straight to Myeong-dong. Upon getting off the subway station, the first restaurant we saw was McDonalds. We agreed to just eat there because we were already so hungry.

Thankfully, ordering was a breeze. The staff at the counter understood basic English and I was still decent enough to understand that “in-here” means “dine-in”. Ha! I was also amazed at the presentation of the cheeseburger. It was a far cry from the way cheeseburgers are served here in in the Philippines!

After I was done eating, I immediately stood and about to head to the door when Me-an stopped me. She said I have to pick-up the wrapper of the burger and the glass where I drank from and throw it on the garbage. I looked around and realized there was a “self-service garbage disposal counter” and people were indeed throwing their own garbage. I thought what a neat practice it was, something I was not used to seeing in the Philippines.

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