Surprises in Manila


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.

12 years in Metro Manila yet I found myself stepping on this church for the first time.

A post shared by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

 

Continue reading “Surprises in Manila”

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”.

Continue reading “New Year and Philippine Waterfalls”

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.

Continue reading “Thoughts and Singapore”

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.

Continue reading “Managing How to Work, Study and Travel Simultaneously”

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.

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 “(Travel Diary) The Historic City of Silay”

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.

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.

Continue reading “Photo Essay: Baler (Part 2)”

(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.

Continue reading “(Seoul Diaries) Discipline is a Way of LIfe”

Reward


I am not into parties, branded bags, shoes, clothes, jewelry etc. etc. So, how do I reward myself?  TRAVEL!

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Somewhere in El Nido.

As this quote says: “I would rather own little and see the the world than own the world and see little of it.” 🙂

In the outskirts of South Korea.
In the outskirts of South Korea.

See how others define “Reward” at Daily Post.

That Place Called El Nido


El Nido is probably in the travel bucket list of every Filipino, if not at least on the list of hardcore travelers. And it is for a variety of reasons: it’s the Philippine’s last frontier, it’s gorgeous, it’s untouched by urbanity, etc. etc. Despite these, El Nido remains an elusive destination for most us due to rumors that it’s an expensive destination, it’s very hard to reach and so on. Is El Nido too good to be true then?

El Nido: too good to be true?
El Nido: too good to be true?

I had the chance to test how true these rumors are when  my friends and I booked a ticket to Palawan during the Cebu Pacific Independence seat sale last year. With sufficient time to save and plan, I realized El Nido is a very manageable destination for a budget traveler like me. Two weeks ago, the dream travel finally came true, and my friends and I saw ourselves in the fine white sands of El Nido.

Never say no!
Never say no!

Continue reading “That Place Called El Nido”

Palawan and the Rule of Thirds


Of the basic photography techniques, the “rule of thirds” is my favorite. It’s one, if not, the only technique I bother to familiarize, practice, and painstakingly try to polish. If perfectly executed, it can bring a photo into a whole new dimension.

For this week’s photo challenge, I did not take new photos (when did I, anyway?) but instead share some of my old shots where I tried to employ “rule of thirds”. These photos were taken during a travel to Puerto Princesa, Palawan last December.

One of my stops in the city was a butterfly garden but it was not the butterflies that caught my attention but a dragonfly. I rarely saw dragonflies now in Metro Manila. 😦

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Rarity.

Puerto Prinsesa is known as well for its beaches. I had a chance visit the islands around Honda Bay, one of which is Starfish Island where I took these:

Waiting is the name of the game.
Waiting is the name of the game.
Freed.
Freed.

The “rule of thirds” is a such a joy to practice right? I could probably post tons and tons of practice portfolio. Hah! But for more astounding photos employing the technique, check out Daily Post.

2014: Impulsiveness and Adventure


These words properly sum up my year: impulsiveness and adventure.

And both are double-edged swords. If handled improperly, these can produce effects contrary to the expectations of the doer of the action. So, did my impulsiveness brought something good? I guess. Because if not, I would not have reached the places I went  to or did the things I really wanted to do. I realized sometimes courage is not only trait one needs to dive into a goal, a certain degree of impulsiveness is also required. For me, it’s the latter that brings out the “now or never attitude”. I know  my impulsiveness will take its toll sometime and I have to control it as I grow older. But what better time to experiment, make mistakes and enjoy youth than now?

So, cheers to a year full of adventures! I might lie low for 2015 because  I have big plans for 2016. But who knows where my impulsiveness and wanderlust can take me next year?

2014: Baler, Rizal, Bacolod, Iloilo, Guimaras, Cebu, Bohol, Dumaguete, Siquijor, South Korea, Tagaytay, Palawan. 

Happy New Year everyone! I hope the year worked out according to your expectations. If not, high five to another year and chance for creating a difference!