Friday, November 25, 2016

FANGIRL by RAINBOW ROWELL

Cath had been a Simon Snow fan ever since she could remember, she and her sister actually, but she was not just any fan. Her fan-fiction had a huge following.

The shift to college overwhelmed Cath with a lot of new things including a new school and an advanced class. Then there were also her dad’s health issue and her sister who wanted to distance herself from Cath to selfishly enjoy college. She was stuck with her roommate and their resident pesky friend who would later turn out to be trying to be pesky on purpose. Cath would struggle to juggle real life matters, but worse, even her escape which was fan-faction would also prove to be a challenge.
“It means...I really like you.” “Like, really like you. And I want that kiss to be the start of something. Not the end.” – Levi

Fangirl is a major chic-lit. It is all that one would expect from college – the adjustment drama, the boys, the social anxiety. Beyond all these though, it could still be labeled a good read for a good rest.

As already mentioned, Fangirl was bits and pieces coming from different aspects. Despite this, one would not lose focus as to what the story was really about. It didn’t have a complicated plot which made it such a breeze to go through. There was not much frowning moment for me.

I would’ve appreciated it more if the Levi development had not been tackled a bit late in the story. I was thinking time spent with Cath dealing with Nick could’ve been used wisely for Levi instead. I didn’t appreciate Nick’s role in the story. I didn’t understand his character. I’d even go as far as saying maybe if Nick had been left out, it wouldn’t have any effect on the whole story.

"I mean, I spent four months trying to kiss you and the last six weeks trying to figure out how I managed to fuck everything up. All I want now is to make it right, to make you see how sorry I am and why you should give me another chance." – Levi

I loved how the romance between Levi and Cath was all bright lights and soaring hearts. I would say this book wasn’t all cheesy content, as I figured it was only a bit later in the story when cheesy Levi and Cath happened. I loved how refreshing it was to read romance on a wholesome, plain-hearts level. You know, just the basic handholding, hugging, kissing, and cuddling. Just cute. It was so nice to just feel the sweetness through straight-from-the-heart metaphors, genuine conversations and meaningful little actions.

“Don't make me angry-kiss you.” – Levi

Being a story extracted from this modern day was among the things that made this one for the entertainment. The new plot concept allowed me inside two new worlds, that of fandom world and fan-fiction writing. I enjoyed how it made me see the way fangirls actually feel and act. I mean, I already had an idea, but I didn’t know how extreme it could get for them. And as for the fan-fiction part, it was really interesting to learn how it works. I mean, wow, really admirable and hardcore stuff going on right there. I dig all those geeky things. Also, it was like Rowell was working on three stories in this book alone. Wild!

Since I’ve already brought up the fiction and fan-fic topics, I enjoyed the passages taken out of the two alternatingly. The bits would sometimes be cliffhangers or something that would put questions to bed altogether. Simon Snow and Baz Pitch were both such interesting characters. Although, I have to admit that I was always more excited to read the fan-fic spinoff since it was more intriguing with the Simon-Baz affair.

“The ultimate act of heroism shouldn’t be death. You’re always saying you want to give Baz the stories he deserves... So you’re going to kill him off? Isn’t the best revenge supposed to be a life well-lived? The punk-rock way to end it would be to let them live happily ever after.” – Wren

The ending was a bit hanging for me in aspects relating to both the main story and the Simon Snow fiction. I felt like there wasn’t any sort of resolution or closure as per Cath’s mother. The maternal issue was brought up but to no avail. As for the Simon Snow series, I was hoping there was a bit more to it not just in the end but in general, so I could have had more background and have better differentiated. But with the fan-fiction, I was contented with that clip where the story closed. It was short but gave me all that I needed to read.

Aside from being hanging, I felt that the ending had also been quite uneventful than expected. The final book launch was a goody. That winning piece from Cath was really nice too, but I just really wanted more from Levi and Cath.

“But there’s nothing more profound than creating something out of nothing.” – Professor Piper

What really confused me most of the time was the third person point of view. I had no idea why the author decided to narrate through this person. From time to time, I would be lost mid-sentence as to who was being talked about. It also somehow made the characters feel detached and far from the reader.

All in all, I would say I still had a nice time indulging myself with sweet romance and college life drama in this book. It was something I decided to read to get out of my reading slump, something not too intense but still not boring.

Are you done reading this book? What are your thoughts? I’d like to know them! Feel free to share them below!


Friday, November 11, 2016

Alibijaban, Tinalisayan and Sombrero Islands 2016: Low-key Amazing, That’s All They Have To Be

As if your unconscious rawness isn't already a turn on
As if your cloud and sea's seamless melding isn't a miracle on its own
God so wished to show us what it’s like in heaven
He made you, said for now you’ll do, safe haven
He let me experience you with the other halves of my soul
Now no other could ever say they had you better than I did
Cos they'd never ever have you like I did
Cos they'd never ever have soul mates like mine
Who would’ve thought desertion could feel this divine?
Tinalisayan Island, Burias Group of Islands

I know I haven’t been to so many beaches yet, so I can’t tell for sure. But based on all the beach destinations I’ve been to, Tinalisayan may be the best island as of yet. I’m still torn because Lord knows the islands of Caramoan can give me a run for their money too.

Tinalisayan may be the most beautiful of all for it owns up to a bunch of things.
We were dropped off on a round sandbar which was an awesome welcome idea. The sand was basically fine white with a mix of pebbles. The good thing was they were small, so they didn’t really hurt the feet. From the sandbar, we walked through the cold, waist-leveled water until we reached the curvy shore. It was the perfect hue of turquoise water I’ve seen in my life. For someone who’s very particular with beach gradients, I was the happiest. It was beautiful. Swimming for a bit felt good too, as I didn’t feel any itchy or prickly skin sensation while in the water. It was usually unavoidable when in saltwater.
As if the sandbar and the beach weren’t already enough, a small plateau filled with palm trees may also be found. It was meant to serve as a chill spot for whoever needed shade and a place to stop and stare. Standing there, it was different seeing the beach from that vantage point, like everything was perfectly placed. The sand, the water and the sky were so perfectly blended that I couldn’t tell anymore where the sand ended to meet the water and the water ended to meet the infinite clouds.
                               
Sombrero Island, Burias Group of Islands

Sightseeing from near and afar, people would obviously get why Sombrero Island is named as such. Sombrero (hat in English) is the form the island takes.
I couldn’t tell for sure if they were once just one, but there were two islands. The one where we had lunch was at the bigger island. It was yet another pretty place of escape, a tad bit more commercialized too. There were little cottages and other accommodations. From here, a good view of the small, hat-looking island may be seen. They were being separated by meters and meters of water, not sure if the distance was swimmable though. Also, I’m not sure if the latter’s privately owned or not. What was weird was it was shaped so much like a hat that it made us wonder whether it was natural or was just artificially made to look like that. It was uncanny, too good to be true, but definitely an eye candy.
We also passed by Dapa Island, another part of Burias Group of Islands. It didn’t seem much like an island to me, though. It only looked like a flat rock formation that emerged from the waters. We went around it via boat but never actually stepped foot on it. As much as we would love to do so since every new place is worth discovering, we took a pass, so we’d still have time to visit Animasola Island only to be disappointed in the end.
Animasola Island, yet another part of Burias Group of Islands, was supposed to be our final destination on our first day, but due to the strong winds and waves, the boatmen decided against going anymore. It would be risky they said. We were really excited to see the rock formations that the island’s most popular for, though. We had been talking about it since the beginning of the island hopping. Too bad there wasn’t anything that could be done about it anymore. Aww. Next time perhaps?

Alibijaban Island

A small hut, a couple of tents, a make-do monoblock table – the only things that made up our lodging in this island where we kept our things, prepared food and rested for the night.

For your information, Alibijaban is still located along the borders of Quezon province. This residential island was the first to grace our eyes, but it was the last we explored since we had to prioritize Masbate. If there was any good that this yielded, it was that we got to spend all of our second day enjoying this place alone.
On the one hand, the residential area is still raw, still isn’t inhabited by too many locals, still a modest place. Electricity is only available from 6PM onwards. Decent water is scarce too. There isn’t much to do but swim, but even that wouldn’t be so incredible because of the seaweeds. On the other hand, the island’s a long stretch that its other end is something else; at the other end of the beach was where all the magic was.
Alibijaban’s isolated portion is pure nature. It is where another fine sandbar may be found, but it is best known for its mangroves. Though they may not look that appealing at first (big thanks to horror/suspense films for using them during creepy scenes), they are actually nice to look at collectively. They are not that tall. While the stems are not that chunky, the roots are the opposite. They are huge and swarming. Their look during low tide kind of adds to the raw vibe in the tropics. Low tide also means us being able to wander and play around, come close to and actually go through the large beach forest.
Our restless feet even brought us to this abandoned, elevated and worn-out hut which was the coolest hangout spot after so much walking done. It was shaded and had a table. We would’ve eaten lunch there except we left our food in the boat, which as it would later turn out, was not a bad thing too.
One and a half days, three islands and no proper swimming just yet – because island hopping was just really island hopping, more about taking all the view in, appreciating the colors, feeling the air, not wanting to miss anything on the itinerary of islands. We couldn’t let this be all there’d be, so we asked our boatmen to take us in the middle of the sea where we could enjoy some sun and swim our heart away. It was our adventure capper. We just floated there then snorkeled a bit. Lunch, even though just made up of some canned goods, boiled eggs and dinner leftover liempos, was still awesome because we had it on our boat by the water, and that doesn’t happen everyday. Lunch by the boat was made more fun by my friends’ antics, as I watch them struggle, slip and eventually fall off the boat in an effort to actually get on the boat. Mantra at that moment was laugh first before helping, and they didn’t get mad about it at all.
As with our island hopping experience, I had been so accustomed to the idea of hopping as something stress-freejust quickly and smoothly sailing from one island to another.  Oh, how wrong was I to think that this time. Gratefully, the somewhat harrowing boat rides for hours lost their impact on us the moment we were off the boat and onto the sand. Clichéd? You could say that, but honest to goodness, it really was what happened, and I couldn’t come up with any other way of better putting it. There could be no better compliment to an island. From Alibijaban to Tinalisayan, it took us roughly two hours; from Tinalisayan to the other islands, travel time was more or less 45 minutes to an hour each. The waves weren’t so friendly either. Then there was also the high heat.
If I’m not mistaken, there are two routes from Lucena travellers can take to get here. The one we followed was the one where, from Turbina, we were dropped off at Lucena Grand Terminal where a van picked us up and took us to San Andres Port via the Pagbilao-Catanauan route. Travel time from Turbina to Lucena Grand Terminal was three hours; from there to the port was another three to four hours sans the traffic. From there, we rode a boat for less than 30 minutes to get to Alibijaban Island.
Even with these beautiful photos and high praises, I still somehow feel that I am not even halfway close to describing how heavenly these islands truly are. So what if they are pretty in photographs, they are 10 times better in the flesh.
Special mention to our organizers this year, Nhika Marfil and Sarah Danao, for putting this trip together! You’re the best! Also to Joeyleen, who, despite being the birthday celebrator, found joy in preparing food for everybody. With this in mind, we couldn’t let all her efforts be for nothing. We did our part by surprising her with gifts as she welcomed her birthday with us! We could tell she was more than surprised; she was thankful and content. We were happy with her happiness! Happy birthday again, Juwie!

Bottom line of this post: Why did I only learn about Masbate just now?!

Well, better late than never.

Now I’m ready for Christmas!

Watch our adventure video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lFV4B39bgo

Fees and fares:
P320
two-way fare Turbina-Lucena Grand Terminal (Bus)
P540
two-way fare Lucena Grand Terminal-San Andres Port (Van)
P8000
island hopping fee for Burias Group of Islands and Alibijaban Island
P200 (2 pax)
tent rent in Alibijaban Island
P1000 (6pax)
hut rent in Alibijaban Island
P100
entrance fee
P60
cost of water per drum in Alibijaban Island

Photo sources: Catherine Nhika Marfil & Antoniette Pulutan

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Happy List: Random List #11

Writing this one right here right now because I have been aching to do this in a long while, and I’m feeling laidback today!
  1. That broke-but-happy attitude #thanksAlanisMorissette
  2. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, Penny, Amy, Bernadette, Stuart!
  3. Narcos S02 and having a crush on the Steve Murphy actor
  4. Another mini-writing feat (which happened a while back but still makes me happy to this date so…)
  5. Seasoned fries
  6. Levita’s pork sisig, my all-time favorite
  7. Lanterns on display in front of our house making me look forward to going home every night and to CHRISTMAS
  8. Giving poetry a shot, not caring if my poems sound elementary, but still hoping deep inside they don’t sound like that at all hahaha
  9. Coffee by Miguel / Breathe by Rhodes
  10. Realizing that I’ve been to the beach seven times this year; that's major!
  11. Surprising a dear friend
  12. Trying even when there’s a low chance of getting that something. It’s the trying that matters. :)

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”
Charles Spurgeon

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

                                                                                                                                   – Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Laiya 2016: Years Later, What Changed?

Some places strike me as ordinary
To me, it was all this was before
Yes, it’s the beach, but nothing about it’s noteworthy
Some sand, some shore, nothing more
A little bit fine, a little bit pale, that’s all
I know I’ve been to prettier places
Too proud, too smart, too tall
But that was no excuse to be savage
Looking at you now, things have gotten better
Regretful, I was just blindsided
All these ill remarks, blandness a-waiver
Much was left unexplored, undiscovered
By me, who deemed herself tall
Sorry I looked at you small
Sorry I looked at you small
Laiya is different from the one I’d been to before.

Laiya is coastline pretty, but what good is its long strip of sandy shores if not for some leisurely stroll? We went a number of times during those two days, first upon our arrival early in the night, then a couple more on our second day. We happily went resort hopping, but that was just as far as being able to see the facades from the shore would go. I mean, of course we wouldn’t be let in. Lol! 
The high-end resorts’ frontages really got me wanting to enter them. They were fancy, decorated with deluxe benches, hammocks and lifeguard stations. They were inviting, taking on themed ambiances per resort.  They were intriguing, because if the facades were already that pretty, imagine how much more the rooms and pools could be.
I am not sure how many we were then, maybe around 40 people?! That was a lot. Imagine all of Jason’s clan adventuring together. This was also why we stayed at the budget-friendlier side of the beach (I couldn’t remember the exact name of the resort though), because of the expenses, which was not a problem at all because none of us were finicky. Besides, we weren’t there for the accommodation; we were there for the beach, and the beach was the same anywhere we looked out there.

Well, actually, not really.
I mentioned a while ago that we went resort hopping, right? And since we couldn’t get inside the resorts because we didn’t pay one dime for anything, we just dipped in the saltwater (now that’s free stuff haha, priceless even haha) in between walks to forget the fact that the resorts could stay a mystery forever. So while swimming, I observed how the sand underwater in front of and near our accommodation was fine and a bit rockier on the farther side of the beach where some expensive resorts were located.
And since the last time I had been to Laiya was way back six or seven years ago, I couldn’t help but notice how much has changed. I remember how limited the things we could do around the area were. Aside from swimming and sunbathing, there wasn’t much of anything else to kill time. But that was long before. Right now, an evident improvement in the area is the availability of other activities. Boatmen offer island hopping, parasailing, flying fish, kayaking, and banana boating packages, the last of which we excitedly availed.
Renting a banana boat, we divided our group into four to five batches to accommodate everyone and all our different riding conditions. You see, the oldie aunts and uncles didn’t want to make the boat flip, but us younger ones so wished to fall off it many times. It was already my second time doing this, but the adrenaline rush was still so high. But know what was even nicer? More than the thrill and action, it was the landscape. You might say, “Again?!” But what can I tell you, landscapes are pretty! Some spots in Laiya can only be seen and/or reached by riding a boat. We didn’t land ashore, but we didn’t have to just to appreciate the beauté.
Even without stepping foot on these new shores, I’d still even go as far as saying that maybe the parts I saw could be more beautiful than the common strip of shore where most of the accommodations are situated. Why? Two things: because some look like they are as is, you know, not yet exploited by commercialization, while the others look like they’ve already been bought exclusively and are now undergoing development – two opposing conditions but both promising.
By the way, one can take either of two roads to Laiya: via San Pablo, Laguna then Quezon or STAR Tollway then Ibaan Exit in Batangas. We followed the former which took us about three and a half hours, more or less.
With all that I have experienced in this trip, I feel a bit regretful. Not for this trip but for the past years that I had lived underestimating this Batangueño gem. I was so naïve to think so little of this accessible paradiso. I wouldn’t get so hyped whenever we’d visit here. Conceited me would just go, “Uh, uh-kay.” Wow.

So what if Laiya was a bit raw before? A beach is a beach, something one doesn’t get to see every day in the life.
This getaway wouldn’t have been possible if not for Sir Ronnie and Tita Nida’s outpour of love. You see, it was their 23rd Wedding Anniversary, a feat truly worth celebrating. And since this couple has been in servitude of the Lord for many years already, it’s no wonder they're lasting this long. I can even attest to this couple's being #goals, and not just in the cutesy and superficial criteria but the real deal, as in the quality kind. They put God above everything else. They value family so much. They help. Selflessly, they share, take this outing for instance. Thanks to them for sponsoring and for having us to celebrate their marriage with them.
This has been my second trip this “-ber” season, and I’m just overjoyed because I didn’t expect to have an extra outing in Batangas this year. What’s more is this will not be the last for me this season. Yes, another beach trip is in the works.

*Photos by Ann Alcaraz, EJ Dela Cruz, Ronnie Dela Cruz, and yours truly!


Thursday, October 6, 2016

THE WKND SPECIAL Vol. 9

This is a late post but whatever. :)

September 01, 2016 | Phillip’s Birthday

Family time!

There’s no easier and faster way to gather the family than by the mention of *you know it* FOOD. It always works! Haha!

It was my cousin Phillip’s birthday + we also really wanted to visit his family’s new home.

The new home is huge! And pretty! And near ours so that’s great news! I’m so happy I got to visit! It has plenty of rooms and space, manicured lawns, a large balcony, high ceilings, nice furniture. Aaah! #GOALS Hahaha!

It was a pretty intimate night with mostly just us relatives there. Dinner was simple but complete with pasta, pork, beef, seafood, fruits, veggies, and desserts. The rest of the evening was mostly spent by the front yard. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and even dogs came and went sporadically. School activity, work, social life, and household chores could get in the way of people’s schedules, but we would always try to make do.
Happy birthday again, Phillip! He’s 26 now I think? :)


September 03, 2016 | Isaw Date/Spontaneous Road trip with College Friends

So this was supposed to only be just a simple and quick meet-up with friends. We were just really missing the isawan.

If you live in Tanauan or Sto. Tomas in Batangas or anywhere near this place, you’ll know which specific isawan I’m referring to! In my personal opinion, this isawan has the best street food out there. And the vinegar sauce, I can’t even explain how much I love this food spot’s suka.
This isawan played a great part in helping us survive college life. This place witnessed some crazy hilarity among friends, the coming and going of people in our lives and the stress eating caused by school deadlines. Hahaha, crazy!
After eating stick after stick after stick of chicken intestines and other innards, we had nowhere else to go, no plans. Since Aileen Mame was Lipa-bound to buy some lippies, we thought we should go with her for some road trip fun, so we did. We were, as usual, laughing the whole time, the laughter mainly brought to us by Mame, her driving skills and candid funniness. We were laughing out our nerves 70% of the time while she was driving because she is still new to this whole driving thing. It was even her first time to drive at the expressway which was nuts! Hahaha! It isn’t the safest road trip I’ve had but surely one of the most memorable ones, what with our lives on the line. At least it became an interesting story. LOL


September 16, 2016 | UPLB Fridate

Jason and I always go on our LB dates on Fridays because they serve as our simple workweek capper. Dates are always a good idea, and UPLB’s the nearest place that can get us going for a long time without boring ourselves out.

And finally, Big Belly’s again! Remember that last time in July that we were here? That time when it was *gasp* closed? Thank heavens it was only temporary.
We got there around past six after work, so we got to order and finish our plates of Cheesy Garlic Chickens in peace – no whiners, no panicky waiters, no long queues, very few occupied tables! I’d say it was a good time to recapitulate the whole workweek. :)
We then went strolling around the area, like we always do. Going in and out of shops to check out whatever, we were just basically killing time. We were enjoying ourselves too much that we didn’t notice the time. It was already 9, so we started looking for this particular food trike. I chanced upon this food trike online when my cousin posted a photo of it. It got me feeling intrigued, and it so happened to be in UPLB so win-win for us!
Interestingly, this food trike only comes over every 9 or so each night. The idea is the driver/server sets different menus every night, so it’s always something else every time. What manong offers is cheap, ranging from P10-P40, and pretty unique for street food fare. On that particular Friday, there were macarogna (obviously a play between the classic baked mac and lasagna), yema cake NHN (NHN stands for “na hindi nakakataba”) and pizza! They are good enough for what you pay for.
This food trike is perfect for students who are on the go and down to their last straw of allowance for the week.


September 24, 2016 | Antoniette’s Birthday

It was Antoniette’s or, as we so fondly call her, Tegs’s 24th birthday! How come she’s only 24? Boo, haha!

This has become a yearly thing for my college best buddies and me. How would this not become a yearly thing when the celebrant/celebrator knows how to cook so well and does not just prepare enough but floods the table with too much food goodness? Feel us?
Since it was also Zhello’s birthday last September 14, she, along with Antoniette, received quirky gifts from us too. When I say quirky, I mean something I’m not comfortable showing here and something they wouldn’t wanna use in public! Haha! Btw, Roc’s also a September baby, but he didn’t make it. He still contributed to the party, though. :)
We were all just either in Antoniette’s room lying around and making fun of each other or at the big table munching on food the moment we already felt hungry from too much laughing. Yup, laughing can be tiring. How can you not laugh too much while watching friends struggle to do sit-ups?! Imagine their crumpled facial expressions every rep? Haha! Aaaan yuuup, we were living the boss life for a day.

As for Roc, Zhello and Antoniette, I wish happiness and light and love for them!

Belated happy birthday, friends! xx

Photo sources: Antoniette Pulutan, Aileen Malbataan, Justine Dador, yours truly!

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