Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BigGirlMoves: Two Years of Independence

30 NOV 2016. Exactly two years since I moved to Kuala Lumpur and started a new phase in my career and life overall. I often make fun of it calling little things #BigGirlMoves. From paying all the bills, washing my own clothes (call me a princess but I've never washed my clothes for 29 years), cooking all my meals or starve to death, to changing light bulbs.
My key takeaways?
1. There's no victory too small to celebrate. So feel free dance when you assemble that IKEA furniture perfectly, or cooked your first decent meal. How about learning how to fold fitted bed sheets properly after simply hurling it in the closet for years?
2. You'll find a reason to be grateful every damn day if you only know where to look. Oprah's 'What I Know for Sure' suggests that you list three things you are grateful for every day and I've been doing that for a while now - sometimes literally, often just in my mind. I take time in the mornings upon waking up to look out my window and just say thank you for three (most of days more) things. It can be for a bright day because I don't like the rain, a comfy bed sheet, a loved one's good morning message, a migraine-free day, an exciting pitch presentation, or completing an 8-hour sleep. Nothing is too big or too small to a grateful heart.
3. Change is the only constant thing. It can be good or bad, depends on perspective, but what's for sure is that it will lead you to the next stage of your journey. People are often scared by change, and I used to be until I stopped looking at it like a death sentence. Sure, change can mean an end of a beautiful relationship, closing an exciting era at work, or even loved ones going away. But change can also mean opening loads of opportunities that otherwise you won't get by maintaining status quo. New people, relationships, experiences, places, challenges - these and more can happen after going through major changes in life. Have faith that the Higher Being has a master plan for each of us and that it is nothing but great. So just keep on moving!
I often get asked how moving overseas has treated me. Well, it wasn't all easy nor fun. I've made mistakes. I've missed a lot of important moments and people back home. I've repeatedly doubted my decision to live solo. I've been sick, lonely and stressed to the brink. But at the end of the day, when all the emotions (maybe hormones too) subside, I'm convinced that I am where I am for a reason, and that it's all worth it. I lost some, I gained some. I feel like I've grown 10 years in 24 months and I'm not exaggerating a bit. I'm a different person. Wiser, kinder, more grounded. Appreciative of various people and cultures. Stronger and more stern of my personal beliefs. More sure of what I want in life.
So to answer directly, it was one hell of a scary ride, but it's an exciting and liberating one! So cheers to a city that's been good to me, to clingy homies who became more like sisters, to an amazing team at work, to new friends and to old friends and family who always support me and welcome me back like I never left.

It may sound cliché but I'm one blessed girl, and I wouldn't deny that.

YOLO photo from my recent trip | El Nido, Palawan, Philippines


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

#BirthdayGirl 2016: Of Temples & Freedom

I have a confession. I'm a Grinch for birthdays. My own that is. For some silly reason, I feel less sunny rather than festive so it takes a little more effort to make this day count. I'm not huge on gifts either. I'm a sucker for quality time and conversations and experiences. So I've long abandoned throwing birthday parties and would rather spend my moolah on traveling. New places to see, experiences to remember, people to meet, lessons to learn. Sounds like a good way to celebrate another year of life and blessings.

Birthday travel tradition:

2011 - Hong Kong
2012 - Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
2013 - Boracay
2014 - Hong Kong & Macau
2015 - Break for my dear lola's passing. Traveled home to Philippines instead.

For 2016, I've set my eyes on one destination alone - CAMBODIA. And boy, it didn't disappoint. Aside from the unforgiving drought that turned the fields brown, Cambodia is everything I expected and more.

1. Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap is a great pre-temple destination to learn about Khmer history and the context behind the intricate art, monuments and carvings that you will see in the temples. It's a bit costly at USD12 (plus USD3 for audio device), but well worth the money. The artifacts are well-preserved and in good condition. There's also audio-visual presentations that you can play in several languages which is cool. The whole building is also air-conditioned and has a mini cafĂ©. With Siem Reap's temperature reaching 40 degrees Celsius, a few hours in the museum is a welcome respite.

Photography is not allowed inside the exhibit halls, hence.

2. Angkor Wat Temple is as grand as I imagined it to be. In scale (the largest religious monument in the world), detail and history, it will leave anyone in awe. Aside from the famous Angkor Wat temple, the Angkor Complex also includes symbolic sites like the Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm which was made famous by Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider movie. A sunrise tour which consists of sunrise watching (of course!), visit to five temples, English speaking guide and round van transfer is only USD13, which to me is a really good deal. You only need to pay additional USD20 for a day pass to the temples.

3. Khmer cuisine is much like a fusion of everything Asian. Mix of Thai, Malay and Indian dishes. Not the most distinct to be honest, but there's two Khmer dishes that you should try. The Beef Lok Lak which is the Cambodian version of beef stewed in tomatoes and onions, usually served with rice and egg, and the Khmer Amok which basically is meat (often fish or chicken) cooked in curry and rich coconut milk. Both are flavourful, though having been living in KL for quite some time, I'm lacking on the spiciness so, extra chili please!

4. If you're a history geek, you'll know that Cambodia has been through a horrific war in the recent times. In fact, the war only ended in 1999! Spare some time and read about the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and decide for yourself if you want to include the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields in the capital city of Phnom Penh. I was content to visit the War Museum in Siem Reap instead. Here we met Moun Sinath, a war veteran who now works as a guide in the museum. He's known to many as 'the cat', as he survived multiple shots and a landmine injury before finally retiring from the army. Visiting the war museum is a natural eye opener and made me realize how fortunate I am to be born in a time and place of peace. I'm sure the rest of the tour visitors felt the same.

"The Cat" showing us shrapnels still inside his body

5. The rural life in Siem Reap reminded me of my mom's province in the Philippines, Pampanga. Spent the afternoon riding water buffalo cart, biking around and waving to kids, bullying the baby cows to take photos with me and just watching the sunset, magnificent as always. It was also the perfect spot to say a prayer of thanks for another year of life and the freedom that I've been enjoying immensely.

Channeling my inner yogi

Other important stuff to remember:
  • Beer is hellah cheap at USD0.35/mug. Cocktails are not bad either at USD1.50.
  • Contrary to my expectation, Cambodia is not a cheap city. Aside from alcohol and accommodation, everything else is a little pricey. Each meal will cost around USD4-6.
  • They accept USD everywhere, but conversion rate is up to the store. =P I came to a point when I already gave up computing my change.
  • Tuk Tuk is expensive at USD 2-4 for walkable distance around Pub Street and Night Markets. So start walking. It's healthier too!
  • It's hot. It's sticky. Be prepared with sunscreen, water, towel and hat if you may.
  • Wear sleeved top and pants/skirt below the knee. Otherwise, you cannot go up the Angkor Wat temple. Scarves/sarong won't make the cut.
  • Begging and garbage on the streets are quite common. Also, milk scam is still happening, unfortunately. Be aware and alert, especially if you're a solo female traveler.

And that folks, sums up my week in Cambodia. I'm one happy #BirthdayGirl indeed.

Love and light to every one,

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Ode to Bali


I haven't been traveling as much as I should the past months. Life happened in 2015. A whole lot. A quick, 3-day getaway to Bali may not sound much, but it's all I needed to align my stars, lift my spirit and indulge in the wonderfully odd feeling of going somewhere unfamiliar, doing something new, smelling the air and everything in between.

Bali, I raise my glass to you, with  warm, sweaty skin and sandy hands!

For the opportunity to see more of this amazing world, indulge in its culture and nuances
For meeting new people, hearing differing thoughts, getting inspired by innocent displays of bravery and free spirits
For helping me understand myself more, convinced that I can be alone and not lonely - but that I'd rather be with someone: a friend, a lover, a random stranger, an island dog 
For making new friends, lending a helping hand, receiving one in return, learning a thing or two however, whichever way possible
For letting me rebel in my independence, my freedom and complete control
For willingly letting go of that control
For celebrating friendships, of both days and decades
For learning how to follow lead and for the unfamiliar feeling of warmth and protection
For failing,understanding and waking up still bright-eyed and wanting
For realising that I needed something more, someone more, than my seemingly efficient, sometimes oblivious self 
For painlessly pulling my guards down, and for finally accepting that there's nothing wrong in receiving