Uphill Reconnection

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Climbing Shek-O Peak and doing Dragon’s Back Trail is one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Hong Kong alone. That was actually my first ever major hike (if that was even considered a major hike), scaling 284m above sea level, and an undulating 8.5km hike under 33.3 celsius of summer heat. Although it may seem relatively easy, which really was, I still thought to myself that it was a huge mistake coming to Hong Kong for this during summer.

Like Reese Witherspoon in her 2014 film Wild, I wanted to go on a hiking journey alone for rediscovering, and healing – despite my non existent experience in hiking, which was very apparent with my attire. However, part of my visit to Hong Kong as well was to see my friend Venim. And luckily that day that I intended on doing the hike was also her holiday from work; so, I asked her to come with me. I can’t imagine how that it was been two years since she left for her mission, and went home straight to Hong Kong to be with her family. And during the time she visited here in the Philippines, I was too pre-occupied with work that I did not find time to see her. I remember mostly of my after choir nights are spent with her, and other choir friends, doing silly things around Manila, and Quezon City at night.

It is crazy that it has to be in Hong Kong where we met again. We met at 9am in North Point station and grabbed a quick breakfast before taking another MTR ride to Shau Kei Wan, took almost a 40 minute bus ride, and went down to To Tei Wan. We started our hike roughly around 10:30AM and reached the peak after an hour. It was an easy trail, but the sweltering heat at exactly 12 noon, and the amount of stories we need to catch up on was just both extreme that we have to take quite long breaks in between. Interestingly, we also met cool people during the hike – mostly tourists, and shared our mutual hate for the summer heat in Hong Kong.

The most rewarding part of the climb, was the end point of it. There’s food. More water, and beach. We actually did not plan on taking a dive in Big Wave Beach because we are obviously not prepared for it – but the heat was just so unbearable that we felt the need to plunge ourselves in the water. Water was surprisingly cool, just as we needed it – so we stayed in the water, catching up more with life, longer than the time, I think, that we spent trekking.

Although counting the years that we have not been physically present for each other, Venim is this one good friend you can always turn to when you need someone who will genuinely lend ears – without you feeling any slight hint of hesitation or judgment. Initially planning this whole trip just to be alone – especially doing this hike alone, would, perhaps, be very unforgettable and great memory to tell my grand children in the future; but, the exhaustingly long walks under the heat, the breaks in between, and our first time swimming in Hong Kong’s sea while catching up how life has been after two years, is actually my most favorite part of the trip.

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Run Solo

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It has always been in my bucketlist to travel alone, because for once in a very unfamiliar place, I can finally ask myself upon waking up what I want to do today, and just do it without asking for anyone’s approval.

“It will be fun” that was my usual reply whenever some friends gave me a confused look when they ask me why I book myself a flight alone to Hong Kong. Sure that I can go with someone else, and it totally would be fun as well, but there is always this greater itch in me that I want do it myself. Alone.

Albeit sounding exciting and fun, it can actually be scary traveling alone, especially when you have not done it yourself. It was honestly a terrifying move because I always wonder if I’m doing things right – staying in the right place, eating the right food, and talking and trusting the right people. However, it is true that how else would you learn such thing if you do not experience it first hand, and taking the risk of doing it is the first step to do.

My decision of flying to Hong Kong for my first ever solo trip was actually just a spontaneous incident – or, perhaps, it is better to think that it was just accidental. I was only scrolling through my skyscanner app one night, and saw a very cheap flight to Hong Kong. How can you not say yes to a less than 3,000php of two-way ticket, right? Besides, Hong Kong is a great pick for a first solo travel since it is also an English speaking country, and it is easy to navigate around because they have excellent public transportation system. So, I tried using the app, while calculating possible expenses in my head, and little did I know, I already went through the entire booking process. This spur-of-the-moment lead me to another impulsive move to book a hotel, and other stuff (mtr card, disneyland ticket, etc – because I do not want to stress myself out once I get there) with the help of klook app. It was fun, until I received all my bills.

I stayed in Hong Kong for four days, and I actually just have four simple agendas in my head: 1) have the best wanton noodle, 2) climb Dragon’s Back Trail (which I’ll be sharing photos in a different post), 3) see my friend, Venim, and 4) have drinks in Lan Kwai Fong. I initially planned on not having any formal itinerary so the trip will not be that taxing and demanding, but it’s always good to have at least three major things you really want to do, and the in betweens can all be just unplanned and spontaneous – that is where all the fun actually comes in.

I still find myself chuckling as I try to recall how the entire trip went, and how frightened I was especially in my first night of getting lost, and almost completely having nothing to stay in (had issues with my first hotel booking – and that was a lesson learned). I honestly wanted to come home. But things got better and more exciting eventually, and I think it is because I learned to look at things differently, despite the struggles I had to go through alone. I’m glad that all my simple four agendas coming to Hong Kong happened, especially that I did climb Dragon’s Back Trail with Venim (and also swam in the sea after the exhaustingly hot climb), and met new people from Hong Kong while drinking in Lan Kwai Fong – as we turned strangers to friends while finishing up our bottled liquors and staying up until sun rise near the bay.

Doing this trip alone was probably the most satisfying decision I made, and I feel like if I did not do this trip alone, it would have not helped me remember that I am capable of depending on myself, and that I can always chase what I want if I face it valiantly. Sure that the experience of becoming a complete stranger in an unfamiliar place may be tough at first, but you will always come home learning a different perspective.

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Hidden Paradise

Two hours away from the mainland of Vinzons, Camarines Norte, there is this hidden paradise you will discover in the middle of the ocean. This is one thing my college friends and I are always excited about because we annually try to travel together amidst all our crazy schedules having to pursue different careers after college.

Interestingly, Calaguas Island became really more popular this summer, and I’m quite surprised with how many the visitors were there given that our visit was in the latter part of summer already. With its’ white, pristine, fine sand, and absolutely clear water, you definitely will not mind almost half a day of land travel, and you would wish to come back in this secret paradise, and take your break from the grays of the city. And my favorite part from the trip, it gives you a break from internet and social media – because cellular signal is not available in the island!

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Getting this weekend getaway is very easy, since there are a lot of local travel agencies who can accommodate you to reach this island. From van rental and boat ride, you wouldn’t have to worry with almost everything – even your food and tent, they will take care of it. (That’s right! You will really have to stay in a tent, but if you wish to stay indoors you can check out Waling-waling). Food that they serve are prepared by the locals, and they are mostly seafood, so if you have food allergy like me (crustaceans), be prepared with your meds so you can also enjoy the fresh food they serve.

Since it was my friend’s vacation that time, he was the one who booked us a tour from Zero Two Travel. This travel agency offers the cheapest, yet gives the best service so far. They really made our three days and two nights stay one of the best summer escape! Zero Two Travel offers two days and one night stay as well. They also gave us a side trip surfing to Bagasbas Beach of Daet, Camarines Norte which wrapped up the the fun weekend trip.

Homecoming

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It’s been three years since I flew back to my parent’s humble hometown.

Aside from it’s known to be the Marble Capital of the Philippines, and its’ secret gorgeous beaches, what I really love about Romblon are the happy people living there. I love how Romblon gives me the feeling of “tahanan”, although I was born and raised in the city. It’s always this place I feel like I can run to whenever life calls for an urgent pause. It’s my perfect home for meditation, and reflection.

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With it’s tranquil beauty, and hidden paradise, my stay in Romblon is always worthwhile. Coming home would usually mean there’s a family a gathering, or an urgent event we have to attend to; but Romblon’s arms are always open to welcome me home whenever I just feel like taking a break.

I always opt to travel Romblon via 2Go from port of Batangas, because they have excellent customer service, and the ferry is bigger and very clean. Also, aside from the fact that traveling via ferry is cheaper, I love staying in their open bar area while feeling the salty breeze, and watching the waves of the sea. Albeit travel time would be so much longer since I still have to take a bus travel from Manila to Batangas, plus the 8-10 hours of ferry ride from Batangas to Romblon, I always make sure I bring a book in hand to keep me sane.

The Province of Romblon is a group of several beautiful islands, and has three major islands (Romblon, Tablas, and Sibuyan). My family is from Tablas Island, exactly where the port of ferries are located which they call Odiongan. There’s an hour road travel from Odiongan to my mom’s town, Alcantara, which is my most favorite part of the trip. We used to take this very unusually long jeepney whenever there’s no car to pick us up from the port, and this jeepney will be packed with very joyful passengers, and even the roof of the jeepney has passengers – which only, I guess, happens in the Philippines! Although risky, I’d love to try that in my next travel to Romblon.

My favorite go-to resort near our town Alcantara is Aglicay Beach ResortWith its’ white sand, and clear water, Grean and Nayeli definitely enjoyed their beach trip. There are so many things to do as well in the resort – or even in Romblon in general, and what I enjoy most doing is climbing up for a short hike, and catch a bird’s eyeview of our beautiful hometown.

From where sit when I started writing this, I can see the sea sweeping in and out of the shore, and it’s just a perfect day away with my family, yet still feeling home.

 

Her

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It was almost time for a good night sleep, but for a medical student, it’s crunch time to inhale all that is left on what to know to survive tomorrow’s exam. Until my phone buzzed loudly, and an international number appeared on my screen. I knew it was my sister calling from the other side of the planet.

 

She was in London that time for work, and she habitually connects with me whenever she’s bored, or has some irrelevant news to share. It still marvels me how technology has made the world becomes smaller, that although we’ve been miles away from each other for quite some time, I felt that our relationship grew stronger. Perhaps, what they say is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We got a little bit clingier; although we don’t annoy each other at home anymore.

 

I, on another side, was alone in my dorm room, cramming, when she called. But I was excited to hear from her too because it was her first week in London that time. I was excited to learn how was the weather in London, and how she’s keeping up with her outfit, if she has seen lots of eyecandy Brits around, and how every beautifully built architectures took her breath away. But when she uttered her first two words, I knew that something was wrong.

 

That was the time I learned that her husband was cheating on her.

 

That was one of the very moments when you don’t exactly know what to feel. It’s one of those very moments when your heart shatters not for yourself, but for someone else, and you just don’t know what to do. But one thing is for sure, I was very worried for my little nephew, Grean, who was almost 5 years old that time.

 

I listened to her, and she shared some snaps as proof of how much of an asshole the man was. My initial reaction that time was just to travel all the way home to see my nephew, and give him a long warm hug, making him feel he has me no matter what happens.

 

I was so mad. I wanted to punch that man in the face. I wanted to shave that woman’s head. I wanted them to suffer all the consequences they did to my sister, and to my little, innocent nephew. My heart was so broken for both my sister, and my nephew.

 

We had quite a long pause during the call. I was stunned as well with the news and unsure of the right words to say. I let myself listen to her breathing and her sobbing, and a few minutes later, she spoke again. After I let her vent out, I asked “What do you want me to do with him?” But as a strong woman that she is, she said in her own tagalog words “Let him be. I’ll handle this. I can do this.”

 

I have always admired how strong and brave my sister is. I remember when I was little, I was bullied by some old lady in the neighbourhood. I went home crying, and she whispered “ I’ll handle this. I can do this”, and immediately ran to speak to that old lady. That moment, I knew, that there’s a brave woman inside her pretty face, and that I matter to her just as much as she matters to me.

Confession

I’ve always been so insecure.

 

For some reason, I really find it quite difficult to speak to someone you’re close with, and share a very intimate fragment of yourself to them. It’s just so common to me to feel I’d be judged by the things I share. Perhaps the reason why that almost seven years ago, I created an avenue where I can share fragments of myself in a space where strangers can hear me, without knowing my entire identity. Without worrying if you’d be judged by somebody, at least not someone you care about.

 

Trust. That is one difficult thing to give.

 

Albeit the risk, I have opened myself to quite a number of unfamiliar eyes, and ears. Interestingly, made friends with some in real life, who seemed to just appear at the very perfect moment of my becoming. I’m lucky that I’m still friends with most of them in the present. Still learning to grow, still trying to create, and still reckoning the best of our selves in this life. In fact, most of them are the ones who give fuel to my creative side. They help me explore the areas I never knew I would enjoy doing – some areas I never knew that would help me unravel profound pieces of my being.

 

Yet, still, I’ve always been so insecure. And some of the people who may know me in real life, would, perhaps, beg to differ or raise some eyebrows. They would usually tell me how blessed I am to have different talents or skills, but the truth is that I have struggled so much in the past in trying to improve myself in those things. Blessed to make ends meet in the family, and lucky to have this and that – which are mostly superficial stuff that wouldn’t actually matter in the long run. However, my insecurity doesn’t just lie on the surface. It’s an insecurity that digs down your skin, and lingers there for a long time.

 

I’m insecure of the freedom of others. I’m insecure of how they can be their best self in a world where you’re dictated to be someone else you’re not. I’m insecure of how one can easily just pour their heart out, and not mind what others may think. I’m insecure of their honesty, and of how bold they are in this planet.

 

Trust. I still find it difficult to give.

 

This is, perhaps, my third attempt to re-create a space where I can be more. And this is the time to stop building walls, and create more bridges. The time to be more of myself. This is Another Alvin you may not know yet – with more mundane life stories to tell.