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29 Jan


The photo above is of the stamp Philippines immigration gave me upon leaving the Philippines…. What a country!

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that I was more excited to be going to Singapore than I had been to go on trips around Philippines. I fear i have been here too long, have become too accustomed to the beauty and hang around with too many expats who love to be cynical about this beautiful place in which we live!

Nothing like a trip to somewhere like Singapore to make you appreciate the place you live. Didn’t hurt too that finally I got an overnight bus from Manila that didn’t throw any drama at me. Got home in 12 hours, the time they say it should take. Hooray!

Our dear friend Aun lives in Singapore with his wife in a hipster neighborhood called Tiong Bahru. Singapore is beautiful, clean, it works, they have amazing food and it is a true definition of cosmopolitan. However, I felt there was something missing. Everybody was just a little too well behaved, it was all a little too perfect, everything was just a bit too easy. I don’t mind a little drama and grit to make things exciting which then makes you appreciate more moments of stillness.

However, after plenty of drama in Philippines life, it was exactly what we needed for 4 days. Aun was an amazing tour guide, people watching at Singapore laneway people watching still has be bursting into sporadic giggling and I got to spend plenty of time with my fave K Lo.

Happy birthday my friend, or as some would say “saltwater wells in my eyes”



“i’d see your eyes in my eyes suddenly”

25 Nov


This time next week I’ll be in apparently sweaty Darwin for a week with my man. I am unbelievably excited – like staying up late at night in excitement and dreaming about the reunion excited – but I am also really scared.

When Dan and I decided to long distance, we originally thought we would just be seeing each other once, in November when he came here to visit. But new romance got a bit much and within 6 weeks he was here in my arms, with plans for future rendezvous in the works.

They say love conquers all and I believe the feeling does trumps all other feelings (like annoyance over miscommunicated feelings and subsequent reactions in text messages). but it can’t conquer contracts with standard 4 weeks annual leave pro rata or volunteer allowances or immovable committee meetings so this Darwin trip came to fruition. Darwin was selected not only because it is romantically right in the middle, a 4 hour flight for both of us, incidentally newly home to a friend of his and 2 friends of mine with their own loves, a place neither of us have visited and both wanted to and a place with sale flights when we were booking… It was selected because it would feel a bit like a dream like holidays always are, not like real life and not reinforcing the normalcy of Melbourne I miss so dearly. It was picked so I wouldn’t have to say hello and then goodbye to home again so quickly.

But alas, in addition to the 3 friends between us we already had there, 3 more of dan’s friends are visiting, plus another friend of mine, the original Li Li. No more holiday anonymity, this is a proper group of friends, ala the tv show ‘friends’. To add a bittersweet cherry to my bittersweet passionfruit frozen yoghurt sunday, just a couple of hours ago Li told me husky would be playing on Saturday night – only my favorite band, no biggie.

I followed these guys all over victoria to consume the feeling their music stirred in me, dragging a bevy of semi-unwilling friends along for the ride and whose album let’s me feel the homesickness I suppress whenever I feel brave enough to play it and feel everything my body so desperately wants me to feel.

So the reason my excitement is overshadowed by fear is that the week in Darwin will be more like Melbourne than I thought it would be, which means I’ll have week long a taste of this pseudo-Melbourne. I’ll get to talk to my girlfriends Kahlia and King about work and life and Melbourne and love. Li and I will talk about music before we realize 3 hours has passed. Someone will cook me a vegetarian dinner which I won’t have to pay for. And of course, I’ll get to spend 7 days looking at dan’s face in high definition, with his mouth moving in sync with the words coming out of it and not saying “what??!!” every second sentence…. Real Hugs and kisses will be more amaze balls than I can handle too of course, compared to “xoxo” action.

But I’m scared that I will come back to Gubat and feel that hole again I felt when I first arrived and that sometimes sneaks up when I wanna share my life here but have no one to share it with.

As you may already know, I don’t like to place attachments to feelings. BUT as you would definitely also know, I feel everything and sometimes, when it gets a bit much, I like to share these feelings with the people I love at home…. Just say everything on my mind, dwell on certain things for a second or two longer than a yogi should (BOYS!!!) and then let it go. I am SO excited to have a week of this, but so sad it’s just a week and I’ll have to let that comfort go too.

I didn’t come here expecting to always be comfortable… In fact a big part of why I came was to feel uncomfortable a lot and to observe in myself the reactions to these moments and learn from them. I also don’t want to reneg on all the things I’ve said in previous posts about loving my life here – you know I do!!! But I can love life here and still miss life back home. The love I have for Gubat is different for the love I have for Melbourne, for my Gubat friends different than for my Melbourne friends and my love for my counterpart is EXTREMELY different than my love for Dan. Oh and my “love” (kinda a little like hate at the moment” for videoke is very different from love for listening to beautiful, lyrical, thought-provoking, poetic live music with a crowd similar stirred…. A a week can’t come quick enough! But please, don’t go too fast !

“eff you mother nature” and other tales from the road

4 Nov

I’m at the airport waiting for my first of 2 flights to get home from a long weekend in Dumaguete with Alex to visit Claire. The second flight today will be the appalling 18th flight in 7 months of overseas living and even more appallingly will be followed by 12 more (booked so far) flights for the next 5 months. Stimulating local economies and enabling 2 way cultural awareness don’t even begin to curb the guilt I feel at participating in such a carbon intensive industry and throwing pesos at… But when you live on the second largest archipelago in the world (7100 islands) and you have wanderlust, you gotta do what you gotta do and make up for it in other ways.


This weekend in Dumaguete was characterized by adventure … We joined a local barkada group through Claire’s connections on a birthday camping weekend on Apo island, a 30 minute banka ride from a port off Dumaguete. Before island party times, stopped abruptly by power going out at 9pm, we spent the whole day swimming with giant sea turtles, the wisest looking of all animals, interrupted only by lunch on a cliff perched restaurant. We were shown to our accommodation for the night… It was one of those pop up wind shelters, which could maybe fit 2 adults sitting up, but 3 girls we were so 3 we must be sleeping like sardines with nought but our body heat to keep us warm and the sharp assuage of coral pieces under our backs since the birthday guy had passed out on our sleeping mat.


I ended up on the outer edge and my internal monologue throughout the night sounded like “eff ants biting me, eff mother nature, eff you Alex taking up all my room and pushing me out of the tent *roll over and see beautiful clear sky with stars above my head* oh man this so beautiful! I’m having so much fun”. This ebb and flow was punctuated by alternate fists curled in frustration and hands behind the head relaxation. The most exciting moment was when a dog peed on the side of the tent and I was seriously contemplating sleeping either on top of 2 guys squished into a 1 man tent next to us or getting in with a 16 year old kid 2 tents over… Deliberating over this conundrum eventually sent me off to sleep and I awoke around 4am ready to get on a boat at 6.30am. Overly attached boat passenger am I.

I appreciated this experience more after some Bircher muesli and a hot shower at Claire’s and remembered fondly too many other amazing moments we are so lucky to have the chance to experience on our adventure here in the Philippines…. Here are some of the highlights.

Racing down a mountain in antipolo on our first tricy ride during an amazing race challenge in our training week when we first arrived in the Philippines. We originally thought it was a race but when we realized it wasn’t, we took our lives back into our own hands and went “Dahan Dahan Lang po” (slowly slowly) the rest of the day.


Kayaking on lake bulusan at 8am and crashing into an exhausted, food coma sleep at 11am at a private cold springs with Alex and Tania on a tour of the province arranged by the LGU just for their visit.

Failing to see whale sharks but having a whale of a time in Donsol with most of the intake 33 crew and riding 7 in a tricy back to our resort.


Feeding fish at Matnog fish sanctuary before a lazy afternoon island chilling on subic beach enjoying a tropical romance with my hot guy.


Walking slowly for 5km in runners way too small in a fun run in tobacco city and grabbing a Taho to give me strength for the last km with Kristen, before bestowing awards to real runners along with Marly and Mark.


Getting marooned in antipolo for the second volunteer intake training for the year and sleeping in a bed wet from a water leak over head with only a little bit of blue body paint left on my face from earlier antics.


Visiting endless kilometers of malls in Makati with Mum and Jen and doing an all nighter at a gay bar before getting a 6.30am flight to legazpi to get home.

Alternating between formal titles (mr jäger, mr Bacchus) and friendly intimacy (*points out sleeping tarsier* check out this guy) on holiday around Cebu with maganda Skanda from down under and getting my drunk ass thrown off some guys lap after I tried to pass out on him in a club while Skanda flirted with locals and enjoyed dance floor drink service.


Visiting Bacolod for the masskara festival, where floats in parades apparently need 20 minute gaps for observers to take in all the glory of electric masskara. I soberly participating in many “conversations” with my drunk friends until 3am before getting up at 4.45 for a 6.30am flight back to leggaz.


Swimming in a hot spring while a tropical depression froze the air around me at 10pm at night in Irosin to celebrate Gubat’s success in the Kasanggayahan festival in Sorsogon.

Right now I am listening to my favorite Filipino song performed by the singer/guitarist in the waiting lounge of Dumaguete airport at 8.30am and I feel less guilty (for now) about all that carbon and more grateful for all I have seen, experienced, smelt, tasted, heard, enjoyed and hated in my travels thorough the experience.


“all good trips are, like love, being carried out of yourself and deposited into the midst of terror and wonder” (“why we travel“, Pico Iyer). Indeed, with every terrorizing long haul ride in a minivan going way too fast down the national highway and every wondrous waterfall stream pounding my back while I float in a stream, I feel myself more open to every new
experience I might encounter and more fond of all those that are now memories.

Maganga Skanda from down under (feels like a chunder)

4 Oct


Not another goodbye! This morning I said goodbye to my holiday and my dear friend Skanda after an amazeboobin’ holiday in Cebu, Bohol and Malapascua. I am happy to be home after so many hours in transit every couple of days, but I miss Skanda already and laughing with him many many minutes over 10 days made me super homesick for my friends at home. Weird I know, considering I was surrounded by white sand, unbelievably clear waters and delicious vegetarian food, but that is the tyranny of homesickness unfortunately.

But way way way more good than bad! My highlights? So many hilarious and awesome moments but here are a few:

  • Learning about butterflies reproductive systems and habits in Bohol
  • The Mr Bean movie coming on tv at Bohol Bee Farm after an already amazing day
  • The opening number of the CPDRC dance program “do the hustle”, then many amazing dance numbers including of course GANGNAM STYLE
  • Following the lights in Cebu near Ayala to a “KTV” bar, which was actually a titty bar with a midget dressed as Robin Hood on the door
  • Our triumphant return to the club after getting kicked out for Skanda wearing shorts and thongs, this time with slick jeans and lace up shoes
  • Sitting on a guys lap in a club because I didn’t see him there, him throwing me violently off him
  • Arriving at Evolution beach resort after a massively seedy, long, hustling trip to Malapascua from Cebu to paradise and a vegetarian menu
  • Learning about shrimps hitching rides with sea cucumbers and fish contracting lobsters to build burrows for them (hung out with too many divers)
  • Constantly referring to things as “mr” or “this guy”, especially mr jager and his friend mr coke. Related, reminiscing Michael Bluth and George Michael Bluth and their Mr Manager dialogue….
  • And the look on Skanda’s face after he got sunburnt, somehow, yet again, every time.

Oh maganda Skanda, real good times my friend. So sad to say goodbye !

It was weird to come home to my silent apartment after 10 days of constant stimulus in the form of free wifi and cable tv and jeepney routes and restaurants and hustlers and malls…. but the peace came to an end when my downstairs corner store started playin techno remixes of popular christmas carols at the end of my yoga practice. Apparently it’s Christmas already?



Oppa gangnam style!!!

1 Oct

Best thing I have ever ever seen!!!

click here to see video!


Bohol -not a hole

29 Sep

Maganda skanda from down under and I are currently sitting in plastic reclining deck chairs being serenaded by a three-piece guitar band playing the chicken dance… One of many great moments on what has already been a great trip.



What a reunion it was to see my best non-gal pal from back home! We picked him up from the airport in leggaz where he had made many a friend with porters and waiters and drivers and other airport personnel who, after finding out he was here to see his unmarried Filipino female friend, taught him how to say “maganda ka” (you’re beautiful) and “mahal ka na” (I love you). Oh skanda, was my response… They’ve assumed you’re a sex tourist here to visit your future wife you’ve met on What a start!



Onwards and upwards from there! Skanda laden with many a package of dive gear and a liter bottle of mr jäger (skanda: party times tomorrow night… Mr jäger says yes *makes the jäger bottle nod*) and myself with my more manageable 10kg backpack and this time only 1 extra backpack containing my sexy new iPad (thanks Dan xoxox) and my trusty old kindle got in everybody’s way on the jeepney to start the long commute to Bohol. After just a jeepney, a tricy, a flight, a cab ride, a night in Cebu, a dance walk out of resident evil 5, a shuttle bus, a ferry and a private ride van ride, we arrived at the floating restaurant on a Bohol river, to be awkboobsly played a sexy love song by a singer and even more awkboobsly dressing up in the “traditional” garb of a local river “tribe” and taught how to shoot arrows like Catniss Everdeen.


We visited the chocolate hills which some would say were amazeboobs. We learnt all about the reproductive habits of butterflies from a tour guide who succeeded every hilarious anecdote with a somehow even more hilarious anecdote about butterflies (“see this butterfly with uneven wings? It’s a ladyboy butterfly… You know, like lady gaga?). We cooed over the cutest part monkey part rat part frog part owl part bat animals, the tarsier and we headed to Bohol bee farm to spend the next 2 nights in the best hotel room I have ever seen in my entire life.



Skanda dived yesterday and when he came back to the resort, he asked me what I had done all day. “well!!!” I replied, “after you left I sat by the pool for an hour reading. Then I went to the restaurant and had a mango ginger shake. Wasn’t super hungry so I thought I’d get an hour massage. Then I had lunch overlooking the sea and read some more. After that I walked slowly around the resort to the jacuzzis where I sat for an hour, alternating between dipping in the water and reading in the sun. Then I felt tired and went up to the room for a nap, but I ended up watching half of dream girls then I rode with the driver to pick you up, eating an avocado ice cream in a cassava cone on the way”. “did you have fun?” he asked. Bah… Silly question. BEST. DAY. EVER.


Near perfect conditions

8 Sep

The view from my doorway

So apparently it’s been nearly a month since I have blogged??!! This is turning into a terrible habit. Often I have an idea for a blog post, then I wait until the conditions are perfect – it’s quiet, or it’s raining outside or I have a whole hour window to focus or I am on a strong enough internet connection. As you can imagine, conditions are rarely perfect and if you want to be a writer then you should just write! So here I am writing. Just between you and me though… the conditions are pretty perfect. A storm is rolling in slowly according to the view from my deck chair in my doorway which means there’s nobody except the odd tricy and the polite pinoy street dog on the street. I have no plans for the weekend, so have more than an hour’s window to write and I am feeling inspired. But I promise, even when the conditions are not perfect, I will write.

The flooding in Antipolo, nowhere near as bad as Manila

So August was a big month for me. It started with the in-country orientation of the new volunteers. A lot of people think I am a social butterfly and love meeting new people and all that jazz, but in the last few years, I have consolidated close friendships and enjoy working on those more than I do meeting new people every week. So I went to ICO at a resort in the hills outside Manila ready to direct all my energy at making the new volunteers transition. Lo and behold, this was the least of my problems, for a typhoon north brought 4 days of non-stop rain to Manila and surrounds and subsequent flooding to many areas of the capital, leaving a wake of chaos in it’s path. There was little we could do in the hills – we were marooned. So with a combination of fear, cabin fever and reaching out to each other in the midst of all this uncertainty, new and old volunteers got pretty close over those few days whether we liked it or not.

Winning prizes at the nerd con

I was pretty happy to get back to Gubat after that week, but because of the way the Filipino information notification system works ie: not at all really, I found out at the last minute we had a 4 day weekend the following week, so after just 5 days in Gubat, a little bit of cooking, cleaning and laundry, I jumped on the overnight bus back to Manila for a readers convention (the NERD convention) and to meet my mum and sis, arriving a few days later.

Epic reunion

As sisters, we reunited like crazy, then fought like crazy, then made up several times, not so much crazy for the making up, more subtle and quiet, from Manila to Gubat to Legazpi City. All of this on the back drop of a chit chatty mother so used to doing things for us and used to constant iphone, laptop and tv stimulation, not sure what to do with herself but loving it! When they left, I felt sad and knew that I would miss them. but also knew that I would be fine because at this stage, 4, nearly 5 months into this adventure, I feel at peace.

I still miss Melbourne, especially all the people that I love, but after so much turbulence in Manila, with new people in our lives and reminders of home, it feels good to be sitting quietly in my apartment in Gubat which I call home now. I have a lot more travel and visitors and fun to have in the future, but the next 2 weeks and 3 weekends will be spent in Gubat, where I am making grounds on my volunteer assignment, doing an online course, practicing yoga, writing for magazines and touching base with loved ones back home. Constant movement in my life is good for me if only to make me grateful for these weekends of stillness in Gubat, which when I first arrived scared me almost to the point of sending me on a plane home. I’m meeting my best pal on 25 September, which inspires me to take it easy now in preparation for dance walking and directing traffic like a boss, but I am also enjoying taking it easy just for the sake of taking it easy, because in my Melbourne life, which seems so far away now, when do we ever really get to do that, without feeling guilt or pressure.