Square One

 A new year is always a reset for almost everybody—people, organizations, countries—because the calendar literally turns a new leaf. Personally, some of us strive to wrap up issues, start anew or perhaps finally pursue that something that we have been putting off.  I find it hard to do these things the past two years the pandemic has been ongoing. It’s like I could not paint where I want to head to with all the uncertainties happening around. Until when will the situation be like this? How long is this tunnel? At what point will we see the light?

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I Speak My Mind

I speak my mind. There have been instances, too many in fact, that this habit has been frowned upon. I have been told “why do you ask so many questions?”, “why can’t you just accept the instructions?”, “why must you raise those concerns?”. And every time I am told these questions, I ask myself, “why can’t I?”.

I cannot help it. I was raised by strong women. I grew up in a family where the opinion of the women are equally considered in decision making. My grandparents and parents, especially my maternal grandmother and mother, encouraged curiosity. As a kid, they never shot down my questions. They were always patient in answering them. They would engage me in random debates even in the most mundane topics such as why do majorettes wear long sleeves when practicing under the sun. Growing up, my parents never imposed their choices on me. They asked what I preferred, allowed me to make my own decisions, and be responsible for them.

I cannot help it. I was educated in institutions that encourage critical thinking. An education heavy in Science, coupled with Pisay and UP’s environments and culture, trained me to never accept things at face value. We were taught to be curious, how to be curious, why we should be curious and what to do out of those curiosities. More importantly, we were ingrained with the expectation that we should do something good and relevant out of what we know and learned.

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Foodie Throwbacks

A year has passed since I last posted. It’s astounding that 2021 is about to go into its last quarter yet the pandemic shown no signs yet of dying down. It’s getting harder to find reasons to be be optimistic but to me, at the least, travel memories and the drive to be able to do so again in the future somehow keeps me going.

One thing I really miss about travelling is getting to try local food. I wasn’t always a foodie but travelling and having friends that are foodies opened my eyes and taste buds to the beauty of trying local food. In our travel itineraries, we make it a goal to visit local and night markets and to eat only in fast food restaurants as a last resort. It’s especially wonderful to travel in Asian countries as there is so much variety in the food that can be tried. In this post, I will share some of the food I miss the most or found interesting, and I most definitely would love to eat again.

  1. South Korea

South Korea is the first country that I’ve been to aside from the the Philippines and it remains to be among my favorite destinations. Despite being a developed country, prices of food in Korea is relatively affordable, especially if you know where best to get or buy them—local markets and traditional Korean restaurants. Bibimbaps are now accessible in most countries, but it’s a joy to eat them in Korea especially with different sets of banchan. My favorite bibimbap dining experience would be when we tried the three (3) traditional bibimbaps Jeonju.

Korean fried chicken is also among my favorites. Apologies, Jollibee. I love the different flavors that Korean fried chicken are marinated into. My go to store would be Dang Dang Chicken when in Haeundae area in Busan. When we are in Seoul, it’s a go to food especially when going into noraebang or just having a shot or two of soju.

Every city or town in South Korea have its own local markets and such kind of market is a heaven of local cuisine and street food. Pictured below are some of my favorites…sannakji wrapped in perilla leaf, hotdogs, cheese hotteok and kimchi jigae.

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“Living” Memories

I grew up in an ancestral house. In the Philippines, it means growing up with your grandparents in a house with rooms originally owned by your aunts and uncles. The room would automatically be the one that will be used by their families when they visit for long holidays like the Holy Week, All Souls Day and Christmas.  For me and my siblings, our set-up meant growing up with no room to call our own and having minimal personal space. My brothers and I slept in the same room with our grandmother. The “room assignments” changed when I started living in a dormitory when I was 11 and my father had to have his own room as he was immunocompromised.

I semi-moved away from our hometown during my high school years. Pisay Bicol was 2 hours away so I and my fellow students all had to live in the school’s dormitory. I was excited at the prospect of possibly having my own bed and sharing a room with a few roommates. But since Pisay Bicol was still in its wee years back then, it did not have “real” living facilities. A big hall was converted into a dormitory and there were probably more than 40 of us who shared the hall. We were provided with double decks and mattresses but everything else from cabinets to pails were ours. Somehow, I managed living through all of those for four (4) years…sleeping with lights on since many people are using the hall, listening to variations of sounds and snores, and waking up at 4 am to take a cold bath to avoid competing for the shower at 6 AM.

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And so, I wonder…

I find peace in airports.
In watching people come and go
In wondering what are their reasons for coming and leaving
In waiting to be teleported to another place.

I find peace in plane rides.
In watching sunrises or sunsets from up the sky
In appreciating how the world can be so small and big
And of how traffic lights look like twinkling stars.

I find peace in long train trides.
In being amazed how fast scenes change outside the window.
Of how some rides can be so fast, while some so slow.
Of how stations differ, of how many people come and go.

I find peace in long bus trips
In shutting off my brain and thinking about nothing
In cuddling in the comfort of my blanket.
In listening to soothing music to kill time.

And so I wonder…when can I find peace again?

Dear Person in the Government Who Have Served for a While

I loved JR Santiago’s “Dear Young Person in Government” post in Facebook that I was inspired to write this version of “Dear Person in the Government who have Served for a While”. “A While” is relative…It could mean 10, 15 or even 20+ years in service. But I’m drawing from my own experience from year of service (10 years, 7 months, 5 days to be exact). Here it goes:

Dear Person in the Government Who have Served for a While,

Congratulations! You have made it this far. You’re still in a sector that has a very direct role in improving the lives of our countrymen. Here are some things I’d like to share with you which I hope you can keep in mind as you continue with your public service:

1. Be a mentor and be open to new learning. There are young ones who have the right heart and mind for service. They just need mentors who will be willing to guide them and show them by example the right values. They may also have fresh perspective which you do not have. I hope you will be willing to still learn.

2. Be humble and listen. Higher positions, better educations and awards should not be used as an excuse to power trip or frighten young ones. Rather, these achievements should be used as means of illustrating how your work can impact others and make a change. Also, young ones are colleagues whose inputs deserved to be considered for whatever output your team is supposed to deliver.

3. Be kind. Just be kind and the world will become less suffocating.

4. Be patient. Young ones do not have the same understanding of the processes and system as you do. They may not be efficient as you are. They will have a learning curve. Be patient and teach them. See coaching and training as a long-term investment.

5. Learn from young ones. They know a lot about technology that can make jobs easier. They can make your presentation visually more appealing. They can make data analysis more efficient. They can make your life simpler in so many ways.

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It’s 4 am. I got thirsty. I stood up to get a glass of water. I then went to the bathroom. The water in the pail was about to spill. The faucet was not closed properly.

I stare at the clear water. I thought…how lucky am I that despite the pandemic and the lockdown for 2.5 months now, access to clean water was never an issue.

But how about the rest of Manila? How about the rest of the world? How about those who were already deprived in life even before all this chaos occurred?

More thoughts crossed my mind. In 20 or 30 years, how much would the world have changed? Can the underground fresh water be replenished at a rate faster that humans use it? Will kids in the future still get to enjoy the beautiful world I saw? And if, but hopefully not, a pandemic happened again, would we be more prepared? Would I still see clear water trickle from the faucet?

Those of us who are privileged, what selfish beings we are.

What is Business as Usual?

What does “business as usual” mean? Does that mean we should not be wasting time? Does not that mean we should be less demanding?

Depending on a person’s line of work, a day or two means life and death. For others it could mean a few days to breath and take some reprieve.

How can we tell people it should be “business as usual”? People are getting sick and dying left and right. Some are at the tip of their sanity thinking how to fend off for themselves, for their families, how to have access to hospitals, medicine, etc.

Sleeping on New Year’s Eve

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.

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Jeonju: Beyond the Bibimbap

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.

Three kinds of 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!

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Nara’s Charm

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.

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Google Hacks for a Breezy Do-It-Yourself Trip

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:

  1. 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.

Flight search from Manila to Bangkok.

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That Day in Spring

I patiently waited for the next bus that will take us back to Busan, South Korea. It was a 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.

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An Ode to Kaya

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.


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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.

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