Sunday, January 29, 2012

Boom Boom POW

Hostels are probably the most famous lodging option for backpackers and travellers. In my recent years of travelling, I always end up in some established hotel or in a foster home. I have never lodged in a hostel--closest would be a B&B in London back in 2010--until I went to Singapore this month. 

For the longest time, I have been nursing the idea that hostels are dodgy transient homes where travellers either get skinned alive or dismembered in ways unimaginable. Thanks to gory slasher films that have been part of popular culture in recent years. 

Truth be told, I didnt feel iffy about the idea of staying in a hostel when my friend told me that we will be staying in one. In a more positive note, I felt that it will be a rewarding experience since that's another box ticked in my travel bucket list. My main concern, however, is the fact that there will be shared bath. I detest sharing bathroom with random strangers just because. But lo and behold, shared baths aren't too bad either. 

So we stayed in a hostel called Prince of Wales which is located at the Boat Quay district of Singapore. The moment I laid eyes on the street nestling our temporary home, I knew that Im gonna love it! We even celebrated Chinese New Year here!

Prince of Wales
The Penny Black, the first establishment along Dunlop Street. Oh how I miss English pubs

Chinese New Year! 
There are three things that I really loved about POW. 

1. They have an in-house pub which serves Pimms, Stella Artois, and Hoegaarden. Their pub is a perfect way to socialize with both backpackers and locals alike. Drinks aren't cheap though, but its a description that fits aptly the goods in Singapore.

Pimms and Lemonade, not that cheap but it can make a lonely person happy. 

2. It is somehow expected for staff of lodging establishments to be nice. But the staff of POW overdoes it. If you stumble upon this blog and decide to stay at POW, you will never regret it because their people are genuinely congenial, not to mention smart. Irish, a permanent resident of Singapore hails from the Philippines which probably made the connection happen in a heartbeat.

Melissa serving XXXX beer. Usually, it is sold at 10SGD but its half the price for POW backpackers. 

3. Lastly, just as expected, POW houses backpackers from all over the world. We have met some interesting and "gorgeous" backpackers. On our first day, we met a 'gaggle' of Swedish eye candies. We didn't get much time to interact with them but seeing them prancing shirtless should suffice. 

Mimi, my friend, most likely enjoyed the company of two Russian backpackers who reckon that rhum, vodka, and beer are non-alcoholic drinks. But hey, one is a lawyer and the other one studies International Economics. 

I also met a very interesting kiwi named Blake who just recently participated in a charity event in India named Do the Needful. They were able to raise an awful lot of money for the people of India by riding rickshaw. 

Blake wearing his rickshaw shirt.

Over-all, my stay was a pleasant one and I will definitely consider going back. Friendly staff, great drinks, cheap nightly rates, and a plethora of interesting people--what more can I ask for? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I find it really amazing to receive birthday greetings from people all over the world two hours before your actual birthday and eight hours after. I guess that is one of the perks when you are globally connected and this reminds me of how awesome it is to be an international youth ambassador. 

So, I am now 23, a year older and I could not complain. The past year has been interesting, a got myself a job, met a lot of interesting people from the world over, traveled a bit and what not. There were moments of intense happiness but there were also low points, see: abyss-like, but I managed to get through. It starts with making that decision that you want to get out of it and no matter how many times you plummet, there is that option to get up and keep going. 

That kind of attitude is something I would like to harness this coming year. I somehow like to be an Anna Oposa, an ambassadress of good vibes, or like Junica Soriano, a woman of overflowing positivism. But apart from this, there are other things I would like to achieve before I turn 24.

1. I need to be more organized

I admit, I am not the most organized person in the world. Sure, I keep my planner with me but more often than not I end up doing things that are unplanned and neglecting those that are. I know that I am very spontaneous but striking the balance will sometimes spell out the difference. Besides, there are things that I have to adhere to, schedules to follow, deadlines to meet and those "one-miss-you-die" commitments and being unorganized will not render positive results. 

2. Become a one-day vegetarian

When I was in Swizterland last September, I met a bunch of students from the Netherlands who are advocating the "Meatless Monday" campaign. The idea behind the campaign is simple, the meat industry is one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems, meat production is the number one cause of global warming and is polluting our air and water.  

The whole idea of vegetarianism is something I find hard to live with but this campaign makes it easy. I cant see any problem giving up meat for one day. Imagine the impact it will create if more people commits to this lifestyle, it would be equivalent to planting more than 83 million trees in your garden and letting them grow for 10 years or it would save as much CO2 emission as taking 1 million cars from the road! Sounds like a great plan to me and I vow to encourage more people to do the same. 

3. Read more books

I said the same thing last year but sadly, I was not able to keep up, partly because of my job, and partly because of my job. There, I said it. But there's no giving up this year. GOAL: Two books in a month. Not a lot but I know it will significantly add up. I just finished The Art of Travel by Alain de Boton and 1984 by George Orwell. Reading next: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

4. Save

I was never good at this bit but I know its never too late to try. I need to start saving. Im not getting any younger and since I am now working, it wouldn't make much sense if I don't get to save up for the future. Now, I appreciate my Tita even more since she placed a great value on saving. Next pay day, I will be opening another bank account intended for emergency purposes. I do not hold the future in my hands and it will be wise to save as much as I can. 

5. Travel

I know traveling will entail spending money but it doesnt equate to costing a fortune. Yes, plane tickets might be a little expensive but there are always budget airlines. Accommodation can cost a lot sometimes but nothing beats a well-researched itinerary and researching includes looking at your list of friends on facebook and asking them if they can host you for a night or two. 

So far, I have three international trips scheduled. First will happen on January 22-25, 2011. I will be visiting a friend in Singapore and will also try to squeeze in seeing Malaysia again and visit the orphanage I volunteered at two years ago. 

I will be flying to New Delhi the month after to see India and be mesmerized by its rich and colorful culture. I would like to see an ashram and if possible, spend a night in it. And then, in March, I will be exploring Bali, Indonesia.

6. Study Portuguese and/or Spanish
Learn a new language is something that will complete the list of the things Id like to achieve for the next year and even in the coming years. I think its essential especially because I meet a lot of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Eventually, I would like to learn Thai, French, and Arabic.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Next year, I will be traveling to New Delhi, India and Bali, Indonesia and I am very excited. Somehow, when I made that decision, I was thinking about Eat, Pray, and Love. The movie reinforced my desire to visit India, which I believe is one of the most historically and culturally rich countries in the world. Everything in India seems to be in high-definition and everyone likes it high-def, right?

If you asked me a couple of years back about countries that I would like to visit, Indonesia was not part of the list for several reasons. Some of them were too controversial to disclose and were due to close-mindedness. I apologize. But over the past years, having the opportunity to work with Indonesians who are doing great stuff for the world and seeing more about the country has to offer in magazines and films, I think I will enjoy my stay in BALI!!!!!

But we will reserve the stories for next year. Have you noticed that Indonesia and India are the pray and love parts of the novel? When I traveled to Switzerland last month, I saw the opportunity to fulfill the first bit of traveling, Elizabeth Gilbert-style.

Together with three people I met in the conference, we head to the Italian side of the world. We met at Zurich's HB train station after lunch. We initially wanted to go to Germany but we decided against it since we want to go somewhere un-German.

With Angela and Reese at Zurich HB
The train ride from Switzerland to Italy was reminiscent of the movie Before Sunrise. Matter-of-fact, it was the peg of our in-train photoshoot, it was just that no Ethan Hawke to feed our fantasy.
Philippines represent.
Why are you looking so pensive? Dont worry, he loves you.
What we saw during the two-hour train ride was phenomenal. Europe has always been lush with greens and browns. It was my third time in Europe and the feeling of happiness never gets old whenever you see the magnificence of nature.

We arrived about 6 in the afternoon and decided to get dinner. We went to this Pizzeria called Soave10 and it was really inexpensive. It was a welcomed change from Zurich's everything-here-is-fucking-expensive nature. 
I made a major major mistake, however, during the dessert part of the meal. 

Anchovies and olives, good food, great serving. This was like a thousand pesos, not bad at all.
Uh oh. Major major fail.
As planned, we got gelato, at least my companions did. When asked for what flavor I'm getting, I said "chocolate", not realizing that we were in Italy and chocolate is different from ciocolatto, at least in comparison between ice cream and gelato. So, I ended up getting a chocolate ice cream, not an authentic ciocolatto gelato. Bad times. 

We left around eight in the evening and arrived in Zurich about 11:30, and that meant I had to take a cab back to the hotel which cost me about 30CHF. Not so good, but I couldnt whine about it considering that I had a great time over the Italian side.

As Alain de Boton said in his book, The Art of Travel, "Journeys are the midwives of thoughts." In Italian, its translated as Viaggi sono le levatrici del pensiero. I like it better in Italian.

Till my next journey. Ciao!

Desert Flower

In 2009, I went to Malaysia as a Development Trainee under an international organization called AIESEC. I volunteered in a shelter for abandoned and neglected Indian children called Rumah Shalom. Up to this day, I still consider that the turning point of my life as a development worker. 

One scorching afternoon, after having vegetable curry and papadam for lunch, I randomly picked one of the Reader's Digest magazines sitting on one of those burgundy shelves near the study. It was dated June 1999. 

The face of a Desert Flower
I was captivated by the woman in the cover. Her face, undeniably beautiful, radiated with an aura of an empowered woman. I started to flip the pages and was immediately drawn to her story. It was one of those stories that you know you will never forget and can tell everyone in a heartbeat. I was moved and more importantly, inspired. 

Two years later, I was sitting on the floor amongst thousands of young people from the world over. I saw Waris Dirie for the first time. It was surreal. It was one of those moments when you try to reconcile bleakness and reality and you get consumed, so much so that all you can do is stare blankly at the object of utmost interest. 

From my bed in Malaysia to the floors of Switzerland, two years have gone but the feeling is the same. Incredibly the same. 

Waris during the Environment Plenary of One Young World, Zurich Switzerland

I think I have amply expressed my admiration for this woman. I mean, who wouldn't? So when that moment came, it was sheer madness. 

I was waiting for my turn to open the plenary on Global Health backstage when I saw her pass by. My response was quick. I walked up to her and told her that she is one of my personal heroes. I requested to have a photo taken with her.

One of the highlights of my trip to Switzerland

As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I downloaded her biopic, Desert Flower. I watched it during my layover in Qatar. I even purchased her book of the same title.

I dont know when I will see her next, our brief encounter in Zurich maybe our first and last but it was surely worth it. 

World, this is your Wake Up Call

Sir Bob Geldof delivered a powerful speech during the opening ceremony of the One Young World summit in Zurich, Switzerland. More powerful than his speech last year in London if you were to ask my opinion. His speech has been the inspiration of One Young World ambassadors to come up with a global campaign called Wake Up Call which was launched during the closing ceremony of One Young World. 

Daniel Buritica from Colombia, urging South American delegates to take action. "This is our wake up call!"

Being part of the core six ambassadors this year, assigned for Global Health, we introduced the movement when we were filmed by One Young Newsroom. 

About Wake Up Call

The Wake Up Call is a project initiated by young people, not aiming to be heroes, just a normal bunch of people like you, that had the opportunity to meet somewhere in the world and discuss the issues that they face.

They realized that they had much more in common than was different and decided that it was their responsibility to make something happen. The decided that it was their job to take forward their commitments and Wake Up their people and their Governments.

The project is simple: Getting as many people as possible peacefully demonstrating/calling government officials/flooding social media sites, all over the world on the same day, spreading the slogan: this is a Wake Up Call!!! 

Mark the date. 21.2.12. 

Visit our facebook page here.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Lets make some news in Zurich

Hello from the lovely city of Zurich, Switzerland!

After a long hiatus, I am writing again to let you know about my adventures and misadventures here in Zurich.

I am here to attend and once again represent the Philippines at the One Young World summit. The past two days have been really wonderful. It is truly inspiring to meet new people and see friends and familiar faces. But One Young World isnt all about free travel and adding people on Facebook. It means more than that. One Young World aims to engage the leaders of tomorrow in taking steps to effect significant change. It has to be done NOW!!!

And that is something we are trying to do here at One Young World with the help of our counsellors who figure highly in our history.

At the moment, apart from preparing for my speech on Saturday that will highlight what we have done for the past year, I am being filmed by the One Young Newsroom team along with five other ambassadors who have tremendously engaged themselves with various causes.

And just last night we have filmed our very first real time documentary amidst the magnificent Lake Zurich.

It made its debut this morning during the opening ceremony of One Young World.

All in the hopes of inspiring more like-minded young people to act upon the issues the world is facing today.

The summit will be ending in two days but the real work begins after the summit.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Home is where the sand is

Everyone needs a dose of spontaneity.

After missing the Panagbenga this year, I had to talk myself through the idea of having a replacement trip. I was basking upon the thought of going to a lush island like Caramoan or Camiguin when an opportunity presented itself. The only problem was, it was too tooooooooooo soon.

I was having my lunch break at work when Junica and Eduard texted me saying they were scheduled to go to Anawangin Cove in Zambales that night. They asked me, or rather obliged me to go with them. My heart palpitated with excitement as Anawangin belongs to my To Visit list this year. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I decided to leave an hour early from work and schlep my way home to pack.

By 12 midnight, we were already riding the bus to San Antonio, Zambales. According to Eduard's research, it will take five hours to get to our destination but he was miserably wrong. We arrived at 3:00am  and it was frickin' nippy! We had to wait for an hour just so we can buy stuff from the wet market which opens around 4:00am. In Anawangin, there are no posh restaurants to eat at, not even electricity so we had to buy everything we need to sustain us for two days. Back to basics is the name of the game. 

By 5:00 am, our 45 minute sojourn in the night sea began. It was breathtaking being embraced by the cold sea breeze. We were welcomed by nothing but darkness, well, also by some flickering lights coming from the other campers. 

We rented two tents which became our humble abode for two days. 

Home is where the sand is.

We had to rent the tents for Php350.00 each so it wasn't bad at all. Staying overnight, each person needs to pay one hundred pesos. That is probably the cheapest accommodation you can ever find. 

Eduard, Aiz, and JM, all from GX Team 76
There was an LGBT Group named G4M: Gays for Mountains.

The funny thing was, even Anawangin has its own "Upper East Side" where you need to pay an extra fifty pesos just to take pictures and marvel on the beauty of pine trees and mountains. We thought of transferring to the Upper East Side but decided to stay at the Bronx cause its where the party was. 

Sunset in Anawangin was lovely, especially when you witness it with the people you love, CHOS NA CHOS!

Just before we head home, we went to two islands--Capones and Camarro. The lighthouse in Capones is a must-visit landmark overlooking the vast majesty of South China Sea. I can see Vietnam from there, JOKES! 
Capones Island from afar. There you can see the lighthouse already.
Closer photo of the lighthouse.
Finally, was able to dock at Capones Island.
The blueness of the sea is a reminder of how beautiful our world is. 
Built during the Spanish occupation, this parola is a work of art.

We only spent about ten minutes in Camarro Island since we were scheduled to return to Pundaquit at 12:00 noon. Bitin ang ten minutes but it was really worth it. 

Enough has been said about the beauty of the place but I should also mention how beautiful the people of Zambales are. They were very helpful and warm. One of the French guys we met had the same observation and even said that he appreciates that there were no hard-sellers in the place, people who will keep on pestering until you buy their goods. The people of Zambales do not take advantage of tourists, locals and foreigners alike.

If ever you decide to visit Anawangin, try looking for the tricycle driver named Arvin, he will help you a lot and make sure that you get the things you need at a low price.

Now who would have thought spending a weekend in a glorious paradise can be as inexpensive as Php1,200?