My Instant Family in Ho Chi Minh City

The Situation

I had a good job back in the Philippines, the pay was adequate, too, but I felt that there’s something missing, something I have yet to find. Purpose? Mission? Maybe. Love life? We’ll see. I have thought long and hard and decided to risk everything. So I quit my job and packed my bags for the “greener pasture.” There’s only one plan – that is, to land a job in Singapore before my tourist visa expires. 24 days later, I was still funemployed at the most expensive city in the world. You’ve read that wrong – it should be f’ing unemployed. But don’t curse, kids. Leave it to the adults, especially the jobless. Anyway, I needed to exit and so I booked the cheapest flight to Vietnam. I was all down, sickly and stressed the entire time I was in Singapore. I could easily say that was my lowest point – alone and far from my loved ones. To make matters worst, I learned that our puppy died back home mauled to death by her older sister and brother. Murphy’s law everybody!

There’s a famous saying from Mark Twain:  “…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” But why do I feel like the universe is really determined to break me? Why do I feel like I made the wrong decision? A massive mistake.

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As depressed as I was, I had to move forward and pray. And by forward, I mean out of the country, else I might get deported. I prepared everything from my flights, to hostel bookings and itinerary. This way, I won’t have problems in the airport. I also posted my travel plans in Couchsurfing. I wasn’t expecting much from that app since I wasn’t able to find hosts here in SG but I was shookt with the responses from Vietnam. I got 2 hosts and a handful of local travelers willing to accompany me on my impromptu trip. I decided to cancel my hostel booking and accept Ricardo’s offer to host, I figured I can save money while living with the locals and learning their culture. I also didn’t want to celebrate my birthday alone roaming the crazy streets of Saigon.

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S A I G O N

I arrived at Saigon in a humid, Thursday afternoon, 26th of October. I took a Grab Bike from the airport to District 9. Lakas maka Hunger Games. Saigon boasts a lot of skyscrapers, soon to rise buildings (perfect for my rooftop climbs), and vast highways catering to the progressing economy of the city. The streets were overrun by motorbikes, undeniably alarming to a point when you’re literally rubbing elbows to a fellow commuter. But the riders were just chill and reserved, so I wasn’t scared at all – documenting the 22km ride through my Instagram stories. District 9 is situated 21km away from the more popular, touristy districts which only means it’s way cheaper here. Guhreat.

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Easy English Community

Finally, I met my host Ric and he introduced me to his cousins and students. Apparently, he’s a full time English teacher who rents an entire building for his company – Easy English Community.

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And yes, that’s where he lives and teaches at the same time. How cool is that? Later that night, I joined his classes and got to meet more of his students. They’re all warm and welcoming. I really felt that I didn’t deserve their kindness. This was the first time that I traveled with no concrete plans whatsoever. I just wanna get out of Singapore and get lost in Vietnam. But the Easy English Community found and took me in like I was no stranger. The following day, Paul brought me to all the famous spots in HCMC with his motorbikes, offered to treat me drinks then took me to must try restaurants and coffee shops.

I got to visit some of them in the University of Technology and Education (UTE) c/o Ric where we had small chit chats, a few get to know you’s and exchanged Ph to Vn cultures. They even greeted me a happy birthday which I really appreciated.

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From L-R: Diamond, Sally, Maria, Roger, Eric, Kid, Michael, Lufy, Paul, Dylan, David, Sarah, Julia, Ricardo, May and Richard. Whew!

The one thing I will never ever forget was the fact that Ric and his dear students prepared a mini party for my birthday, they cooked and stayed up late just to celebrate my birthday. They even let me watch them play Football.

Motorbikes in the City

The next day, I got not only one but four tour guides. They volunteered to join me as we all explore District 1. As it turned out, they are tourists in the city. Most of them didn’t have the time to see the famous spots and I was so happy they got to visit these places the first time with me. It also made the trip into an adventure slash Waze and Google maps dependent ride haha!

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Kicking it off with one of the many pagodas here in HCMC. Viện Minh Đăng Quang pagoda is such a beaut!

And then, I found out that Kid (this kid in white shirt) skipped his class to accompany me. More so, he can talk and practice English. Not an excuse but I’ll take it. Here’s a sneak peak of our fun times in Saigon Zoo.

I arrived in Vietnam alone and lonely but in a matter of hours I gained friends, a family even, I never thought possible. That was the first time in a long time that I felt genuine happiness.

Hồng Ngự and Nong Lam

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Sally’s parents preparing food for the goats in a laid back afternoon in Hồng Ngự

Ric’s kindness is never ending – he brought me to Hồng Ngự, his hometown, which is a 5 hr bus ride from the city. I got to experience the country side of Vietnam. I will be featuring more of this on my next article.

His students were just as kind. Kid, Lassu and Yumi insisted on bringing me to another university – Nong Lam. We had photo shoots, long walks, a quick volleyball game, interactions with a few students, had some good street food finds and lots of laughs.

I Can Get Used To This

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Speaking time with Clinton

Thank you Ric for reaching out, for doing the extra, extra mile in making sure I am enjoying my stay, keeping me involved in your classes and to Diamond for teaching me how to make Vietnamese coffee. I love talking to your students, sharing a bit about myself, my hometown and helping them in my little way to be confident in speaking the English language.

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Typical Speaking night here in Easy English Community

To cap off my stay here, Ric decided to bring me in the early morning to the infamous Black Lady Mountain (996 masl) and later that night, I got to be a teacher to one of his classes. I really didn’t want to leave HCMC but I know I have to.

My first ever international students, we pulled it off guys and girls.

Ric, keep doing what you do best, who knows I might join you in the future! I know it’s hard doing everything all by yourself, just ask if you need help and always take it easy. Til our next adventure my brother from another mother.

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Ric and I hiking the Black Virgin Mountain before I return to Singapore

Thank you for accepting this lost stranger and kept feeding me baby duck haha!

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Not as instant as their coffee but here’s my instant family in HCMC.

I am still on the process of figuring things out, we all are. I don’t know where my feet will take me next. But I have a pretty good idea where I might be next month.

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For now, quickies out…

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Credits to Noob GFX for the Lightroom Creamy presets I used for some of my photos here. Follow them and see their awesome stuff!

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Long Weekend Laresio

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Looking for a quick, adrenaline pumped, weekend getaway? Hurry now and waze your way to Laresio Lakeside Resort & Spa!

Above is the ginormous slide for Slip ‘N Fly and on the far right of the photo is the intimidating 32ft cliff dive.

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So why did we end up here? Convenience,  budgetarians, and we’re thrill seekers, so. It’s just an hour drive from Manila! In order to meet the schedule of our balikbayan friend, Marcris, Cristina and I opted for a day tour. We just walked in and  booked a day tour from 7:00am -12:00am (the longest day tour I ever experienced).

Hello there, Alligator Lake!

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Yes, this lake used to be crocodilian’s home; but now, alligators and crocodiles have been extirpated. Sad. Would have been exhilarating to kayak with these wild creatures.

Laresio three-l seekers! Get it? lol

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So let’s have a run down of some of the activities we partaken that pretty much banged us up (in a good way):

The Blob (Jump and Fly) –  just lay peacefully in the blob, next thing you know, you’re 20 ft in the air.

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Ouch. But it was fun!

Zip line Lake – you get to see entirety of this lake. Surreal.

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Introducing the cheapest go pro pole ever  (safety of your go pro not guaranteed)

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Wall Climbing – we couldn’t care less climbing this wall even under 30 degrees. Nognog goals.

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Rappelling – you know what they say, what goes up must come down.

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Slip ‘N Fly – smile, slide then take don’t forget to take a selfie

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Kayaking – we got to see the lake from above, now we experience the lake itself.

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32 ft Cliff Diving – save the beast for last, yup, this one is the beast!

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Kuya Jomar, the best Laresio staff ever, was so generous he allowed us to party and karaoke our lungs out till the wee hours in the morning.

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We got Laresio all to ourselves!

The extreme activities Laresio has to offer aren’t for everyone. If you want to lay back and chill, you can do it too here. They have a spa for goodness sake 

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Itinerary:
Extreme Laresio for 1,500php/pax (2 meals included)

10:00 am – arrival at Laresio
 Overhang Swing️
 Vine Swing
 13ft Cliff Diving
 Blob (Jump & Fly)
1:00 pm – Lunch
 Slip n’ Fly
 Zipline Lake
 Kayaking
 Wall Climbing
 Rappelling
 32ft Cliff Diving
6:00 pm -Rest
6:30 pm – Dinner
9:00 pm – Comedy Bar & Live Band
12:00 – 4:00 am – Karaoke & Walwal

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Here’s our extreme, adrenaline pumped weekend where we paid to get bruises

Please watch in HD.

🎧🎶 Matoma & Becky Hill – False Alarm
🎥📷 GoPro Hero4 (no filter)

We had a great time! Well, zoom in to Mac’s face if you want proof. Hahaha!

I definitely recommend this place – great staff, value for your money & extreme water activities!

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Quickies, out!

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Baler Joiner

Dingalan view

I was browsing Byaheng Budgetarian facebook group on  a Wednesday night when I happened to come across a group looking for joiners in their Baler weekend getaway. I didn’t have plans, so I asked myself, why not? I messaged Ejay, the group organizer from The RunawayS Travel and Tour, if he had a spot for me. I got an instant yes. So it’s settled. I was bound for Baler in 2 days time. Just like that. No stir. No ifs. No bs. 😜

Can’t wait to surf these waves!

Hit the waves

If the event will push through, it would be the 2nd time I joined an event where I get to meet them on the trip itself. Pretty exciting and risky at the same time. But that’s the beauty of it – I get to lose myself around people who have no clue about me. Well actually, not all, I did invite Lex and Josh to accompany me. I can be paranoid too. 😅

Anyway going back, you can do it too. You can be as carefree as you want to be – even just for a weekend.

Fast forward to Friday night, Lex, and I were seated at the back of the van silently eavesdropping to our new friends, Ejay, Cielo, Cherry and Mark as they chatted away while waiting for Tim and Ruth. Fine, I was eavesdropping. Lex was sleeping. We hit the road at around 11:30pm. Picked up Josh and Jhune in QC and the rest of the gang, Ella, Sev, Marj and Mara in Bulacan. We arrived in Baler at 7am. Had breakfast at the eatery near Baler sign. Did some photo ops with a local kiddo photographer before heading to our rented house.

Aura pa

After settling in, the Baler tour commenced. We hiked for about 40 mins to reach the ever majestic Ditumabo Mother Falls. And mother dear, it didn’t disappoint. Matter of fact, her presence was overpowering borderline frightening.

Mother Falls

We weren’t able to hike further and see Father falls. I mean look how raging the water was.  After taking some photos, and by some, I mean hundreds, the group decided to descend and ate at the food stalls located at the base.

Mother falls side

Below is what I call the daughter falls. Now they’re a complete family of falls. Yes, ang mga paasa come in three’s!

Daughter falls :P

The next destination was Dingalan lighthouse. It’s just a 10 minute hike from the drop off point. Mid way to the lighthouse, I turned and witnessed why this is the “Batanes of the East.” How steep the trail may seem, I didn’t hesitate to capture these breathtaking views.

View from the top

Hello mighty Sun

Tower life

What made our hike extra special were these cute little tour guides who kept referencing us to Encantadia characters. Apparently that TV series was a hit here.

Hello there #alltoourselves

Of course, I had to take a selfie at the top. Who wouldn’t, right?

Yup we fit here

I’m pretty that was where all of us had sun burnt skin. Well, it was worth it.

Embracing freedom

Diguisit falls and Aniao Islets were the next spots in our itinerary. Compared to the first two destinations, these two were chill, less strenuous as we just strolled, took some photos and silently appreciated how jaw dropping these places are.

To get a better  overlooking view of Baler, head on to Ermita hill.
Why were we in Baler in the first place? To walwal. Kidding, that’s for later . Of course – to surf!

Lex,  Josh and I took turn in surfing for 1 hour over the same board. That’s 350/3 haha sulit! Hashtag kakuriputan unleashed. This is the sport I really want to pursue; well not professionally, i just wanna advance my skills here. Surfing was so much fun!

Surf <3

At last, our jam packed day came to an end. Beautiful sunset at Sabang beach!

Chasing Sunset
Well, not just quite yet. Ejay and our surf instructors prepared dinner then set up the karaoke and beer pong table with cards on the side. Idle time was not on this tour’s itinerary. The night is young and so are we, I said to myself. We sang, drank, played cards, and laughed out loud the whole night. Don’t even get me started on the vibrating chair only Jhune can do!
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By 9am, we already had breakfast and ready to hit Dicasalarin Cove. No room for curing hangover! In fact, let’s make it worse with the occasional bumps as we sailed the Dicasalarin bay. We set foot at this beautiful chunk of paradise at around 10:40am. We got the whole place to ourselves! Good thing, we brought surfboard and skim board.
Hello Dicasalarin!!!
Gateway to heaven
Well aside from the view, there’s just one thing that kept on catching my attention – that lighthouse! So I led the group and hiked to the top.

Yes, I didn’t let the opportunity pass, I climbed the tower with my wobbly knees and trembling hands. The view was perfect.

Adrenaine rush

Then we headed down and searched for the hidden cave in the island. It’s an enclosed sanctuary where soothing waves collided with the rocks. This was the view inside the cave.

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By 3pm, we headed back and had late buffet lunch at Picnic By The Bay (a Gerry’s grill branch) for just 200php. So sulit. Plus we got to enjoy the beachfront where kids surfed on the beach.

By 6pm where everyone’s freshened up, we set out for City tour (night edition). First on the list,  Donya Aurora’s house, then stood Baler church on the side.

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Of course, what better time to visit this infamous Balete tree – at night. 👻 Then, dropped by Hanging bridge for a quick photo op.

 

ITINERARY 
DAY 01
12:00mn – ETD Shaw to Baler
06:00am – ETA Baler and breakfast (pax account)
07:00 – Check in and tour preparation
08:00 – Start of Tour
●Ditumabo Mother Falls
12:00nn – Lunch (pax account)
●Baler lighthouse
●Diguisit falls
●Aniao islets
●Ermita Hill
●Sabang beach surf spot
07:00pm – dinner (pax account)
Free time, socials and walwal time
10:00 – lights out (not really, we walwal-ed til 03:00am)
DAY 02
08:00am – wake up call and breakfast (hosted)
09:30 – Dicasalarin Cove tour
10:40 – ETA Dicasalarin via rented boat (included in the tour fee)
03:00pm– ETD Dicasalarin to Baler
04:00 – Late Lunch at Picnic by the Bay 200 buffet
06:00 – Start of City Tour (night edition)
● Donya Aurora’s house
●Baler church
●Balete tree
●Hanging bridge
08:30 – ETD Baler to Manila
02:30am– ETA Manila
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Baler Aurora with Dicasalarin cove tour only for Php 1,999 all in na bes!

December 3-4, 2016 (weekends)

Inclusions
✔ Comfortable van transfers (Manila-Baler-Manila)
✔ One (1) night fully air-conditioned room accommodation
✔ All permits, entrance and environmental fees including Dicasalarin cove
✔ Roundtrip boat transfers for Dicasalarin cove tour
✔ Service of tour coordinator/ photographer
✔ Complete Baler tour with 10 tourist spots
✔ Exclusive mobile bar at night with fun games!
✔ Free breakfast on 2nd day
✔ Free use of gopro hero4

Optional activities and other exclusions:
Other meals not stated above
One (1) hour surfing with board and instructor (Php 350 per person)

EXPENSES
Tour – Php 2,ooo
Bottled water (2L) & Chips – Php 300
Breakfast (day 1)- Php 50
Lunch (day 1) – Php 50
Surf board rental – Php 350/3 (Php 117/pax)
Dinner, booze and breakfast (day 2) – hosted
Buffet Lunch – Php 200
Total Expenses: Php 2,717
Aside from the well organized event Ejay and the group organized, the all expense paid booze slash walwal party was what made me jump in and join hahahah! #KeepinItReal
I was really happy going back to Baler. I won’t mind coming over and over again especially with this group I just met but clicked right there and then.
What goes up must come down
Photo Credits to Tropang Lagalag and Frances. Hope to travel with you guys soon! Like next month soon?
Dicasalarin view
Bye for now, Baler.
No filter feet
Quickies, out x

An Open Letter to my Ex…Boss

We used to hang out, lunch outs, crack a few jokes out. We were friends. Or so I thought.

The moment you got that position, we celebrated you. We were with you. You were with us. Or so we thought.

We were okay for a few months, give or take. It’s in the succeeding months, the truth unfolded. We definitely thought wrong.

You changed. For whatever reason, you changed.

Maybe I was ill-thinking again. Maybe, you didn’t change at all. Maybe this is the real you to begin with.

You set-up a wall that we, your subordinates, were trying to climb. But no matter how hard we hiked, the peak was still nowhere in sight.

We got tired, exhausted, and burnt-out. The routine became unhealthy.

To protect ourselves – we erected a wall too. Over time, the walls didn’t just grow taller, it became thicker and farther than ever. Two continents drifting apart.

I sought answers from you. I wanted to understand you. I do, I really do.

I did get some answers, thank you. But I didn’t understand you. I tried, but I couldn’t.

You have everything figured out – all to yourself. Please remember, you’re not just working for yourself here. You have a team – for now.

Yes you have the passion to improve the team. You tend to accept loads of work even though you already have your hands full. I have no doubt with your work ethics. All of these were really commendable. What you lack though – it’s maturity.

Be mature enough to be sensitive to the needs of your team. Be mature enough to filter your sharp words thrown at the team. Be mature enough to handle people.

If you can’t do this by all means, be mature enough to step down. Be brave enough to go out or transfer somewhere else.

Do it. Trust me – it’s liberating. I know this for a fact because I just got out. Maybe I’m still not mature enough to endure you as my boss. And for that, I’m sorry. After all, we’re both a work in progress.

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Quickies out!

10 Selfish Reasons Why I Won’t Take You To The Movies

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  1. Movies last for about 2 hours tops and I can’t risk it having you get bored and cease interest in the film; or worst, in me.
  2. I don’t want you to see what others are seeing – I just want you to look at me.
  3. I won’t allow you be caged in the darkness; the theater that is, the whole world needs to witness how special you are.
  4. I’d rather spend the two hours arguing, get lost conversing about the gravitational pull, laws of attraction, and how the universe conspires than succumbing to silence with our eyes glued to the big screen and losing you in the process.
  5. I can’t allow you be seated with someone else and have the risk of your elbows touching, eyes meeting & popcorn sharing.
  6. Movies end period. I don’t want us to.
  7. Your precious name won’t be in the end credits – don’t worry this post is just for you.
  8. I know all about your inviting laughs, heavy hands and how shallow your tears are – we don’t need to see a movie for me to witness that in just one seating. We can do that everyday.
  9. I don’t want you to relate yourself in a particular character in the movie – I just want us to be us, you to be you and me to be me.
  10. Why take you to the movies? We are already in a romantic comedy flick starring you and me.