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


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!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Borawan, Puting Buhangin & Dampalitan 2016: Quenching That Pinch of Wanderlust & The Best Thing About Travelling

show me your eyes
all your inside lies
come undone
get gone
nothing to be scared of
there's only the beach to strip you off
no one's here to judge
maybe you just need a little nudge
it's just the bitchy waves and whistly air
with you here, all is fair
It had been three months since the last time sand graced my feet. It felt too long, and I was missing the breeze. I was actually supposed to go someplace else, not the beach but a relaxing one too. Long story short, things got in the way; it got cancelled. I was already feeling blue until this escape plan came into being. Ah, thank God I live just a few hours from some really pretty beaches.

Puting Buhangin Island and Kwebang Lampas

Puting Buhangin (White Sand) was the first island we visited as per the advice from our boatmen that we start from the farthest island to save time and be more efficient with the tour. This little paradise may be found after boating for 45 minutes from the drop-off point in Padre Burgos.
Personally, I would say Puting Buhangin is the nicest of all the three islands we visited. It’s best to go swimming here. It has the clearest water, that which is a play between the green and green blue gradient, so fresh to the eyes on a sunlit weekend. Its sand, as its name suggests, is fine white but that which becomes compact, the kind that doesn’t break or loosen under the feet.
Locals warn swimmers about the risk of salabay (jellyfish) in the area. Actually, all the islands have this. Good thing it is off season this month, so we got to swim quite freely while still being watchful. No one wanted to get stung.   
This is how you shower island-style!
It’s not that huge, though. Okay, it is actually huge, but there’s this Kwebang Lampas, a small cave/tunnel that divides the island in two. One needs to go through it and out to make it to the other side. I think it’s passable when tides aren’t that high, but I didn’t even consider trying when we were there. To me, the cave was already a treat in itself.
Kwebang Lampas consists of rocks and stalactites that add mystery and subtle beauty to it. More than anything there, though, is the fact that it has the beach inside and outside; water goes through it. From inside it, one can watch the beach through a huge opening with uneven borders and edges which form a dark silhouette that makes the water outside of it stand out more – dramatic and picturesque.  I’d say it’s the best spot to sightsee and take it all in, everything while swimming. Aaah, yes.  

If anything though, I wish we could’ve stayed here longer.

Dampalitan Island

After more or less 25 minutes onboard the boat, we caught ourselves in yet another pretty island, Dampalitan.
Setup-wise, Dampalitan is obviously the rawest among the three. What you see is what you get in this island. Everything looks as is, as though there’s not much effort to maintain and make it look inviting to tourists.
Based on observation, this has the best sand quality. It is white, soft and loose. So yeah, the best sans some natural trash found. There are dry leaves and seaweeds scattered ashore. Well, I guess it comes with being a raw island.
Dampalitan is filled with shrubs and trees, some of which resembling the ones in Anawangin Cove, Zambales. They provide natural shade and comfort since there aren’t much shaded portions near the water.
Lunch time was apparently not a good time to get here, as this is when it’s low tide. Also, the heat was insane at 12 noon, so we decided against swimming even for a bit. Our time spent here had been divided into strolling around, stopping here and there for some picture-worthy shots, resting on torn down logs, and eating lunch before we left again for our last destination for that day.

Borawan Island

Based on what I’ve read from other blogs, people who come here in Borawan often end up feeling disappointed because they make this crazy expectation about the place. I mean, I guess I get it because what else is anyone supposed to think when the island’s named from Boracay and Palawan, the two arguably most beautiful beaches here in the Philippines? (Sadly, I haven’t been to any of both beaches yet. Someday soon maybe!)
Borawan’s name is such because people compare its sand with Boracay’s and its rock formations with Palawan’s. I’d say this is bad advertisement, and people should give it credit for its own beauty. Its sand is of the color cream and in fine, loose form while the huge rocks are such a sight to behold from near and far. Strolling around is a great idea because of the island’s long stretch of greens, creams and green blues. People are not going to run out of scenic views to ogle at.
Our boatmen told us that people couldn’t land ashore this island in the past, as the water was always really high that its sandy shores were buried deep under it. Looking at the rock formations, some still have lined marks that tell just up to how high the water used to get. Time and again, the sand would disappear and appear until it stayed visible making the island visitable.   
Of the three islands, this has got to be the most developed, but that’s still not saying much about it. There are a few kubo-style cottages that can be rented if tents are not preferred, but I’d say it’s not really fit for sleeping for big groups. There’s a table and built-in seats inside each, but it’s not a closed unit. The shower and comfort rooms are decent and clean for an island. There’s even a protective net around a small portion of the beach to prevent swimmers from getting stung by the jellyfish. Some say water can sometimes get murky inside this part, though.
We spent our time here swimming within the net’s limits, sunbathing, snacking, exploring other parts of the beach, and people watching different sorts of other guests.

It was a rather short trip but a good one.

Was the money worth it? Considering that we didn’t actually spend a lot but still got to check out three nice islands, it’s safe to say that it was!

We were happy campers!

There are a lot of bests about travelling. The most fundamental of which is discovering oneself. People often think travelling means discovering new places, but subtly and actually it is a revelation of oneself. It is a chance for us to re-create or, better yet, modify ourselves. Travelling is adventuring. Adventuring is surprising ourselves because we get to surpass our own limited estimate of what we are capable of because finally we get to jump off cliffs, chase waterfalls, dive from the sky, swim with whale sharks, rough-ride 4x4’s, free fall, and so on. And none of these things we thought we could do. Until that moment we let our feet take us somewhere. Travelling is proof that we can
Borawan Island
One can be a whole new being out there - free and unafraid. He/she is not scared of acting silly. I know this is something I take advantage of many times because how often are you given the chance to be someone else you want to be? Or at least try to tweak something about you? Without judgment? It’s not pretending. Maybe some people just find this to be a way to completely detach themselves from everything.

Or you know, if you happen to fall on the other side of the coin, you can be just you, the real you.
Puting Buhangin Island
Because many days, for some of us, we have to put on a face of strength, determination, control, power, of whatever it is that our daily life requires us. Travelling lets us let our hair down. And where else is the best place to do that but when you’re away, where no one, again, is there to judge or exploit you.

Travelling is a lesson in motion.

Don’t do it because it’s the “in” thing; do it because it naturally occurs to you.

Extending my thank you to: a) Ate Vanessa for quickly attending to all our concerns and arranging the tour for us and to b) Tatay Omeng and Kuya Dino who had been such accommodating boatmen.

Should you wish to visit the mentioned places, feel free to hit her up at 0915-106-7594. I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to assist you. :)

Fees and fares:
two-way fare Turbina-Lucena Grand Terminal
two-way fare Lucena Grand Terminal-Padre Burgos
P1500-P1800 (1-8 pax)
island hopping fee for Puting Buhangin, Dampalitan and Borawan
P800 (1-8 pax)
island hopping fee for Borawan only
entrance fee in Puting Buhangin for day tour/overnight stay
entrance fee in Dampalitan for day tour/overnight stay
entrance fee in Borawan for day tour/overnight stay (with unlimited use of shower and CR) (discounts for senior citizens and students also apply)
tent rent in Borawan/Dampalitan
tent space fee in Borawan/Dampalitan
cost of water per container in Dampalitan

*All photos by me!

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Ever since their childhood, Lochan and Maya had always been the closest among the five siblings, for they had gone through all the ups and downs of their lives together. The moment their dad left and their mom slowly lost interest in them, Maya and Lochan took it upon themselves to raise and look after their younger siblings which led the two to become even closer. This closeness would turn into something more intimate revealing a deeper feeling, that which was beyond fraternal love, that they had for each other all along.
Seeing you, being with you every day but not being able to do anything – it’s like cancer, it’s like this cancer growing inside my body, inside my mind! – Lochan Whitely

Upon reading Forbidden, not to brag or reduce my impression of this book, first thing I realized was how this book was mainly intended for a much younger audience. One could easily tell this by way of the themes, the characters and the writing. This caught me a little off in the beginning, but it’s worth pointing out that this was also why it became such a breeze for me to read. I may have thought this was a little too young a writing for me, but it eventually got me wanting to sink deep in Lochan and Maya’s lives.

It’s always nice being fancied. It’s always nice being wanted. Even if it’s by the wrong person. – Maya Whitely

Finding out what the story was really about made me feel uncomfortable and unsure because incestuous relationships don’t particularly make for an appealing topic. It was sometimes harsh, sensitive and complicated reading this story. I would even catch myself frowning. It didn’t quite feel all right. Of course, it didn’t. As the story progressed though, I became a more open-minded and accepting reader until the awkwardness paled and paled while other emotions broaden and prevailed. 

More than love or equally, Forbidden is also about family. This aspect made the story a whole lot more interesting, relatable and complicated. It got me boring a deep sympathy for Lochan and Maya. Anything and everything in it that has an effect to the familial aspect surely had a great impact and was really heavy.

It’s horrible, being ashamed of someone you care about; it eats away at you. – Lochan Whitely

The buildup until the climax was really nice. It had gotten to the point of all good things, and bam – a major heartbreak. It had been progressive. And when it finally peaked, the emotions stayed for a while longer. It had been a long-enduring pain, as the details and events unfolded. And as with the mentioned heart-wrenching scenes, they absolutely were! Some pages of agony never failed to give me that pinch while bigger scenes effectively showed the incomprehensibility of the situation.  

I couldn't come up with my own theory as to how the story was going to end for both characters. It was too complicated a situation. But when it ended the way it did, I was taken aback. I wasn’t expecting it to take that path for a conclusion. But the more I think about it, what other possible ending could there have been?

There are no laws, no boundaries on feelings. We can love each other as much and as deeply as we want. No one, Maya, no one can ever take that away from us. – Lochan Whitely

Forbidden is a balance between an easy read and a serious page-turner. It leaves something to the readers – an invitation to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and be lost and confused there.   

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

Photo source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabitha_Suzuma

Thursday, August 25, 2016

birthday blues

I was far from excited about my birthday. The closer it came, the more anxious I felt.

And every birthday since I hit 20+ has been like this. It’s like a formula. Every nearing of a birthday is reason for self-evaluation, one which clings more on my negative side.

I don’t like where I’m at right now.

It’s official. I’m literally in my quarter life, and it’s not looking cute. It’s easier to say age is just a number, but that number hits you like rock – because with that number comes a long list of dreadful life issues.

I know I’ve already ranted talked about this a couple of times here and here, but it’s only now that I can say it’s been most real.

I was petty, and I’m being petty again. But what can I do?

I begin with the trivial physical differences. I was used to being the youngest one anywhere I go, may it be in school, at work, in cliques. But not anymore. Even with the artists and musicians I follow on TV and social media, the ones who are my age are now either getting married or having children. The popular it-girls and bands of today are years younger than me. Everybody’s younger than me. Yuck me. To think that this nonsense celebrity blah-blahs never used to bother me one bit.

Then come the youth of today. They are the walking and talking reminder of how much I’ve already been left behind. I can see them girls running around in their school uniform or hanging out in their ragged attire, with no or not much makeup on, still looking sparkly and full of life. Then there’s me. I have to exert so much effort on my face putting makeup on, fixing my hair, myself just so I can at least come close or, if luck would have it, match their effortless freshness.

I see wrinkles forming, and I am all like, “Where did that come from?! WTH?” Add to that some grey hair popping up here and there. But what’s worse, you know what’s way worse? Get this, flaaaaaabs! Ever since I hit my 20s, bloated-ness has been an issue for me when my tummy used to not endure three cups of rice before. There’s apparently this slow metabolism thing. Don’t ask me about it. All I can tell you is it eats away my self-esteem one lumpy fat at a time.

It’s all dawning on me now. I’m recalling just how many times I have taken my own youthfulness for granted. Okay, maybe I didn’t really neglect it. I had an awesome time, but it is a regretful feeling now that this youthfulness is slowly walking out on me.

I’m not being stupid and shallow. This loathing of physical aging is normal, comes first in this crisis most of the time. Don’t dare tell me it’s just me. Are you going to be that hypocritical?

I don’t know where to fit. There’s this constant struggle of having to weigh myself using the age scale.

“Am I already being childish for still doing blah-blah?”

“Is this not cute for me anymore?”

“Girl, you aren’t supposed to do that just yet.”

“Grow up!”

Everything’s revolving and evolving faster than I want. I am just unable to control and slow life down, and that scares the hell out of me. I’m scared. Aren’t we all?

But then again, above the obvious physical change lies the more crucial change, that of priority setting.

I have to take care of everything about myself now – from taking over the basic chores at home, taking care of my own expenses, making my own big decisions. I can’t depend on my mom and dad anymore because that would only make me look irresponsible, and I’m just not up for the sermon. Even when this didn’t happen instantly (I had the time to make gradual adjustments), I still felt loaded.

Then again, it can’t only be just myself.

Now, I must also look after my family. Not because it’s payback time, but because now I think I can. Don’t get me wrong. I want nothing more than be able to serve my parents. I’ve never loved them more than I have now. But my question here is, am I really capable now? I’ll tell you what, NO.

Now this next one’s a favorite recurrence.

Everyone enjoys expecting so much from me – to get promoted, to get married, to bear children, to get my own house. Guys, is there a formula which equates to me getting all these things at once without losing my sanity? And do they all have to happen now? How about, can I work on them at my own pace? Time here is the enemy, but sometimes it’s hard not to confuse time with people especially when they’re acting up like mad dogs on the loose.

Every damn time.

What follows is another string of questions affecting each other. It just makes me question just how much I’ve already done (devaluating what I’ve already accomplished in the process of course), contemplate what else needs to be done and examine self if making enough. Because all these things just really get in your head, believe me.

This, of course, leads me into comparison with other people. You know, because that can’t be avoided. And that’s when I eventually sink into a tiny piece of human being because I’ll get blindsided and all I’ll see is their good life and my pitiful situation.

So now you see what I mean?

All these things are why I was hating on my birthday.

Apparently, this is a good thing.

Can you believe it?

It’s a good thing – not the feeling bad part but the spilling of emotions part.

Apparently, this is a sign that I’m growing old, instead of just getting old.

It’s a reminder that my observations, the changes are all a part of progressive transitioning. And based on what I have written now and what I had written before, there have actually been changes as per my dilemmas. I have learned to let go of some, improve on some, embrace some, completely solve some. Some new struggles have surfaced, but there are also some from before that have been resolved and forgotten.

If anything, if there’s a good that adulthood has caused me, it’s that I’ve learned to let go of physical things. I’m not being literal, just saying I’m at that point where I’m old enough to not lust over much material stuff. Maturity is finding happiness in what’s intangible. This I’d say is a bigger deal than I’m letting on.

Just on my birthday, I asked for two things – one for me, the other for my family. Both are non-material things.   

I’d like to think that this so-called crisis is eventually going to lead me to maturity, and that should be a good thing, right?

Besides, there’s no escaping adult life.

This is not to say though that I’m already over quarter life crisis, not yet.

What? You’re just 19? Oh, you just turned 20? Wait until you hit 25. Good luck!

*I began writing this days before July 1, 2016, my 25th birthday, when my emotions were in need of an outpour. And even when it’s already August and I’m feeling better now, I thought it would be a waste not to post this. I am leaving this here with an open heart and mind for future reference.


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