What Is and What's Not in Calaguas

Here's a little guide to help you manage your expectations on the island. Knowing what to expect, and not, will help you make the most of your trip to this paradise!

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Beauty Born Out of Destruction

As soon as I emerged from the trail, a magnificent beauty greeted me. Exhausted after a 1-hour-45-minute trek, the view was a pleasant reward. Who would have thought that this beautiful landscape was ironically created by destruction? It was simply beautiful.

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What is BRATpacking?

Everyone's familiar with the life of a backpacker -- those who live on a backpack to travel the world for long months, even years. They have the reputation of being grungy, spontaneous, friendly.

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Picking Our Way to Pico de Loro

I am not (yet!) a climbing enthusiast. In fact, this is my first real climb, as I consider my first two experiences of mountains as "treks" (Taal Volcano in 2005 and Sagada to Bomod-ok Falls in 2007). This is also my first camping trip as an adult, and I was worried that I wouldn't like it because of the absence of a toilet, shower, soft bed, nice linens, and all the other things that make life comfortable.

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

It was love at first sight. That kind of love that makes you feel lost, and yet you know you're home. That kind of love that overwhelms you with emotions, and yet you feel serene. That kind of love that makes you feel like a fool, and yet you don't care. This is my favorite spot on earth, where the place is enchanting and the people are endearing.

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Join The BRATpacker


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Great Traveler's Sale

Traveling is expensive, no matter how frugal you get on the road. While the learnings, knowledge and experiences are priceless, you need some moolah to get somewhere.

And to jumpstart a traveler's dream trip, We Are Sole Sisters initiated The Great Traveler's Sale and shared this opportunity to start saving up with their fellow travel bloggers (myself included)!

It will be on Saturday, Oct. 1, 9AM to 5PM, at 88 Payna St., Veterans Village, Project 7, Quezon City. Here's how to get there:

From South:

Just follow the MRT till you reach SM North EDSA Station. Continue to left and take the first U-turn. Take left to Bansalangin St. (landmark: MiniStop). Turn left at the first intersection till you reach the dead end then turn right. Count 3 houses and you're there!

From North:

Just follow the LRT till you reach Roosevelt Station. Continue straight till you reach Bansalangin St. (in front of SM Annex) and turn left (landmark: MiniStop). Turn left at the first intersection till you reach the dead end then turn right. Count 3 houses and you're there!

Here's the map:

Please join us and get some good finds from dreamy travelers! To see the other wanderers who are joining this effort, please see the Sole Sisters.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the Journey Ends...


All my life I had a "hate" relationship with my tonsils. My childhood, as far as I can remember, is dotted with play, hospital, home, hospital, school, hospital. Sickly and frail, I was a regular at the local hospital, being confined and treated for mostly upper respiratory tract infection and tonsillitis. An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist told me to snip the tonsils away when I was about 10, but my parents hesitated when another doctor told us not to.

Fast forward, 2008-2011. In the past three years, I've had bad cases of tonsillitis. So bad that I brought myself to the ER of The Medical City at one time, at 2:00 AM, because I couldn't bear to swallow even my own saliva. It was so bad that I was crying in bed, not being able to sleep. Not only were they painful, they were huge, too! I'm used to having doctors peeking in my mouth and balking at how big they are. Then they started telling me about tonsillectomy. Sometimes the inflammation goes away with a little help of Bactidol, but in most cases, I needed to see a specialist. And all of them, about 5 or 6, whom I met in either Megaclinic or MyHealth Shangri-la, all told me to ditch the 'sils. My last bout of tonsillitis in August sealed the deal. After seeing yet another ENT with heavy hands in Shangri-la (who I think had no other business but to squeeze money out of my HMO for prescribing procedures that I didn't really need at that time, totaling to almost P6,000. And he was even the one who "enthusiastically" [note: pun intended] followed up the approval from my HMO!), I made up my mind right there and then to have tonsillectomy.

So I've decided. The next step was to find an ENT specialist whom I know, I could trust and I'm comfortable with. I wouldn't just let Dr. Money-Hugger I've met three weeks ago touch the insides of my mouth again. I asked my friend's sister who's a fellow at St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City to give me some recommendations. But when I was checking the site of my HMO for accredited ENTs, I found a familiar name -- Dr. Frederick Hawson of St. Luke's QC -- someone I used to see for my ENT problems in the early 2000's, but unfortunately didn't see again when I moved out of QC. I remember him as a good doctor who would patiently answer my questions, and who did magic to my nose: suck all the mucus clogging it when I could barely breathe. And boy did I smell the flowers again right after that. I made a call to his clinic the next day, and saw him that weekend. 

After doing some lab work-ups, securing of clearance and pre-anesthetic risk consultation, we set the date: September 1, 3pm(I'm particularly proud of my ECG result, which says I have a slow resting heart rate -- thanks to my Brazilian Jiujitsu, running and outdoor activities for keeping me fit).

Electrocardiography (ECG) Center in St. Luke's Medical Center

I was feeling anxious about the procedure after reading some horror stories from people who bled and bled after a few days, but on the day I was confined, I just told myself I'm on a vacation. Below is the recap of my surgery and recovery.

Confinement Date: August 31 - September 3, 2011
St. Luke's Medical Center, Quezon City

August 31, Wednesday

Admission process was a long wait. Actually, the process itself was okay, but the waiting time for a room was long. We were there before 4pm and got into my room before 6pm. This was my "accommodation" with "free meals":

super cool thermal-whatchamacallit tray

I got some friends (Kenneth, Dr. Tess, Igme) who visited me on my first night. I didn't want to sleep on the hospital bed because it made me feel sick.

Day 0 - September 1, Thursday
Surgery Day, Pain Level: 100/10!!!

I started fasting at 6am. At 10am, I was hungry. At 12nn, I was starving! They put an IV drip on me while I was drooling over thoughts of steak and prawns and burger. At about 1:30pm, I was put on a stretcher and wheeled out of my room, and into the surgery section of the hospital.

A few doctors and nurses fussed over me, interviewed me, and made sure I was comfortable. At 3pm, I was wheeled into the operating room. I started looking around, noting the operating table, bottles of Betadine, and some scary instruments. Then Dr. Jose Torio, the anesthesiologist, injected something in my IV line that knocked me out in a minute or two. 

I remember shivering wildly during a brief moment of consciousness. I was saying, "cold, cold" but I couldn't hear my voice. Two nurses were attending to me at the Recovery Room. Then I fell asleep again.

I woke up at past 7pm (4 hours later). I will never forget the pain that I felt in my throat. It was like someone punched me in the throat, then shoved a pipe down and took it out again. No, maybe worse. The pain I felt was clearly beyond words. I never curse in any of my blogs, but it was so f*cking painful. And sore. I remember asking myself why I decided to do this. It was punishment, torture, hell. I found myself crying, but it only made everything feel bad. I couldn't stop the tears from welling up. I took off the oxygen mask and threw it to the side (yeah, like in a soap opera. I was a drama queen.). It was my most painful experience yet (100x more painful than getting a tattoo!), and I felt so alone in the recovery room. I motioned the nurse to come to me, and I told her "I wanna go back to my room" in a barely-there voice. I felt beaten, like I lost in an important battle.

When I got back in my room, I didn't want to move, talk, or do anything. I just wanted to lie still and feel sorry for myself. I had to use the whiteboard I brought to communicate because no sound comes out of my mouth.

Oh, in case you're curious, this is how it looks like during surgery according to Dr. Google:

Source HERE

Day 1 - September 2, Friday
Pain Level: 10/10

I woke up to a very sore throat. It was still very painful, but the nurse was injecting pain reliever in my IV line that it somehow felt better. I had about 3 spoons of ice cream. No, it's not true that you'll enjoy all the ice cream that you want after the surgery. For one, I was only allowed to eat vanilla (I would have preferred mango!). And two, it's just too friggin' painful to swallow. To the highest level. 

I hated that my mouth had a funky, horrible smell. Like rotten meat. But Dr. Hawson said it will eventually go away. He told me that I could be discharged the following day, to continue my recovery at home. He said he worked on the surgery for about an hour, then after 30 minutes I started bleeding so he had to stitch it up again (okay, I made that up, I don't know if I got stitches or he cauterized it).

Here's my diet on doctor's order:

Some more friends visited me today, and I'm glad that my voice went back to normal. My friend's sister, Dr. Tess, visited me a few times. My BJJ Coach Stephen suddenly popped into the door, then my teammates Dr. Ultra and Darren. My friends from the office, Mariel and MJ, came after work.

I also thought my cat Rue's photo will cheer me up so I brought it, and it sure did. It somehow made my room feel like home.

Rue's photo is the first thing I see when I open my eyes from my hospital bed

Day 2 - September 3, Saturday
Pain Level: 7/10

I got my discharge order today. I was discharged at 10:30am, but was only able to leave at 2pm. The billing was a looooong wait, but we didn't pay for a single penny, so who's complaining? Thank you, Maxicare, for taking care of me!

I was still feeling weak and looking pale, but Dr. Hawson was right: I will feel better when I get home. My Siamese cat, Qish, never left my side no matter where I go. Even when I do my toilet business. 

Day 3 - September 4, Sunday
Pain Level: 8/10 upon waking up; 6/10 midday

I just practically stayed in bed all day. My knees shake when I stand up, and I was feeling generally weak.

Day 4 - September 5, Monday
Pain Level: 7/10 in the morning; 4/10 midday

Pain is becoming more manageable, and I was able to eat mashed potato, fish and soup. I read that fluids hasten healing, so I made sure I drank a lot of water, milk and buko juice.

Day 5 - September 6, Tuesday
Pain Level: 6/10 in the morning; 3/10 midday

I feel generally better, and I was moving around better, too. The color on my lips went back to normal (I was as pale as those people in Twilight movie after surgery).

Day 6 - September 7, Wednesday
Pain Level: 6/10 in the morning; 3/10 midday

Since I was feeling better, I tried going to the mall with my mom. I'm not used to walking slowly but I had to. I was able to eat Chicken Parmesan from BreadTalk and Iced Kachang from Orchard Road. I felt weak, though, after a few roundabouts. 

Day 7 - September 8, Thursday
Pain Level: 6/10 in the morning; 1/10 midday

A week after the surgery, I am feeling well and good today. I wish I could go back to my usual activities right away, but I couldn't do any physical exertion (exercise and heavy lifting) for a month to avoid the risk of bleeding. There are so many things that I plan to do (Pulag-Ambangeg again in November, Pulag-Akiki in December, a few 10K and 16K races before my 21K in February 2012) and eat again (Som's Lab Gai, Kichi, spicy Lucky Me Pancit Canton, Nasi Goreng, Yakimix buffet, Uncle Moe's Kofta Balls and all the other spicy food I miss -- and maybe a glass of Coke) after my one month recovery period, but I'm taking my sweet time. Tomorrow I am seeing Dr. Hawson again, and I hope he'll tell me that I am recovering well and good.

Hopefully when I recover fully I will realize the great benefit of taking my tonsils out. But right now, I don't miss them one bit. 

I contemplated on whether to post this experience here in my travel blog, but I feel that my life-long battle against my big tonsils was a journey in itself. One thing I didn't find was blog post/s about tonsillectomy experience when I needed some information and reassurance, so I thought it's just right to share what I went through for others who may have to undergo this experience in the future.


Colors of Singapore 3: Heights, Lights and Sights

Travel Date: August 19-22, 2011

In the Colors of Singapore series, I try to show the faces of Singapore in quirky colors and funky look with the help of my iPhone 4 and LemeLeme app. I miss my DSLR, alright, but this little app just delivers some great, dramatic shots!

What Singapore lacks in natural wonders, it surely makes up for with its buildings in dizzying heights, attractive night lights and beautiful architecture.

At the 66th

I stayed at my expat friend's posh 1-bedroom apartment condo in the middle of Singapore's financial district. Peeking outside his floor-to-ceiling glass wall, I felt closer to heaven at the 66th floor. This is the tallest residential condo building in Singapore, built on reclaimed land.

Jungle in the City

As a nature adventure seeker, I found out that Singapore has a nature park in the middle of the city. We headed to Mt. Faber Park in Bukit Timah, only to realize that this trip is not entirely a commune with nature -- what with elevated walkways in the middle of the forest. Despite the disappointment, the views from Singapore's highest pedestrian bridge, Henderson Waves (more on this adventure in a separate post later), are still a pleasant surprise.

at the Henderson Waves, highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore
Jungle in the City?
Or City in the Jungle?

Marina, Marina

Perhaps the most animated, most colorful and most innovative district in Singapore is Marina Bay. I never grew tired marveling at the architecture of the buildings in this area, particularly Marina Bay Sands. Esplanade (that durian-like structure) is no longer the signature architecture in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands is -- with its three towers supporting a massive ship-like structure. Around it are some more interesting structures, such as the Singapore Flyer, Helix Bridge, ArtScience Museum and the still-under-construction Gardens by the Bay.

Marina Bay Sands

from afar
view from Helix Bridge

view from Helix Bridge

View from Marina Bay Sands Pool Area

view from the infinity pool
palm trees among skyscrapers

Foreground: ArtScience Museum
Background: Esplanade, Singapore cityscape
ongoing construction of Gardens by the Bay
ongoing construction of Gardens by the Bay

Helix Bridge and Singapore Flyer

Marina Bay at Sunrise

under the Helix Bridge


Colors of Singapore 2: Taste of Marche

Travel Date: August 19-22, 2011

In the Colors of Singapore series, I try to show the faces of Singapore in quirky colors and funky look with the help of my iPhone 4 and LemeLeme app. I miss my DSLR, alright, but this little app just delivers some great, dramatic shots!

Singapore is known for its culinary wonders. Among my favorite hawker finds are Cereal Prawns, Satay, Hainanese Chicken, Nasi Goreng, and Iced Kachang. Oh, and how can I forget my beloved Kaya Toast dipped in that golden glimmer of soft-boiled egg?

But this post is not about those glorious hawker food. This is about that gem of a Swiss restaurant called Marche.

Tucked on one side of Harbourfront Walk in Vivo City, it resembles an organized market where you get your fresh picks of the day. Upon entry, you are given a card (like a credit/ATM card) that is swiped everytime you order from the food stations -- salad, dessert, bread, roasted, rosti, drinks, etc. If the food is readily available, you get it right away. If not, like in the case of rosti or crepes, you choose your meal, give your card to be swiped, then wait in line while the food is being prepared. I wish I had tried the traditional Swiss food rosti (a meal of shredded potatoes served like a pancake) but I was too full to have one. 

What's good about this restaurant is the availability of fresh food, and the ease of choosing your meal as most of them are laid before your eyes. The thought of having all your orders "saved" in the card is just novel (although, correct me if I'm wrong, I think we used to have this kind of system in Manila in Streetlife Glorietta 4, right?). Upon exit, you surrender the card, and pay for whatever is recorded in it.

I wanted to take more photos, but there was a note on the wall that says photography is not allowed. So I did my best to snap some, paparazzi style!

Salad Bar -- market style

view of the Harbourfront Walk from our table
oh-so-juicy roasted chicken!
for sharing
strawberry panna cotta -- YUM!

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