Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I've been in the middle of "money talks" with peers a couple of times, trying to explain how my parents did the disciplining when it came to expenses and saving up, since we were kids. Yes, kids. My brother and I used to have a Solid Bank Fun Savers Club Passbook. There's no more Solid Bank now, but I am proud to say every single peso in that account is still in my current passbook- without the ITF, of course!

During those adult conversations, I would stress that it is ALWAYS possible to save. Forget the amount, it is about the discipline. A P500 may mean nothing, but pool all those gold bills you save every payday and you'll surely end up with an amount that may take you somewhere farther than Starbucks or your local movie house. As my dad would say, 'It is not about saving for the "kapag may asawa and anak ka na" future. It is about saving up for experiences, for opportunities and for things more meaningful than avoidable daily expenses you forget about the next day. When something comes up, you want to have the resources to grab it." (Like when I finally meet the perfect Euro trip buddy, yes? ;))

The bottom line is, we were taught early on how important every single peso is.

Cara Manglapus explained the HOW part very well in this piece:

How It Pays To Be Hungry

From the 4th to the 7th grade, I was given an allowance of 30 Pesos a week
In high school, that allowance was upgraded to 100 Pesos a week.
In college, my first two years saw 500 Pesos a month,
with a raise to 1,000 Pesos for junior and senior year.

I wore the same two pairs of jeans to school every other day,
the same sneakers,
carried the same book bag.

The same two pairs of jeans, the same sneakers, and the same book bag,
bought with the same 500 Pesos.

When I got my first job 4 months after receiving my diploma, I was elated.
I haven’t asked my parents for a single Peso, since.

And it feels awesome.

Thanks, mom and dad,
for putting me through school,
for your kindness and generosity,
for allowing me a sense of self worth.

Thanks, mom and dad,
for always giving me enough to do something,
but never enough to do nothing.

With the joy of every earned Peso,
you have given me the world.

Cara Manglapus
Age: 24
Hungry for success


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sugarcoat Sunday no. 6

Same time last week, I was in Ho Chi Minh, doing some last-minute shopping and dropping by Trung Nguyen (no. 1 coffee shop) before finally heading to the airport. Well, not exactly "same time", since Vietnam is behind by an hour. 

Tonight is different on so many levels.

Surprisingly, I do not feel like being too clingy and wishing Sunday night would last forever. I am not looking forward to workday tomorrow because I'm in love with what I do, though. I just regained being passionate about why I do it.

Let these pictures do the talking:

Pantai Sanur
Pantai Dreamland
Pantai Lovina

Those are from 3, just 3, of the many, many wonderful beaches in Bali! You are my next goal! Ahhhh, I want to see you!

So what's the point?

The point is, my job doesn't pay much, makes me work too much and drains all the energy out of my system, yes.  But on good days, my boss is very lenient in allowing us to exhaust vacation leaves. I get to take a couple of week-long breaks during the year to do what I love: traveling.

Money is an important factor. I need resources to book plane tickets, pay for accommodations and all the expenses that go with traveling. But sometimes, when we're too caught up in accumulating money, we forget that we also let one important factor slip out of our hands: TIME.

Right now, I am taking advantage of being in a situation where I sort of have a balance. Just enough money, with enough time. I am not saying I can see myself staying in this place for long. But while I am here, I will face my responsibilities and savor the perks.

Bring it on, Monday! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Side Stories part 1: Beyond Angkor Wat

Besides memories, something I look forward to bringing home from a trip are stories from strangers I come across with. A big chunk of what made my recent Siem Reap - Ho Chi Minh adventure a memorable one are exactly that: STORIES.

Here's the first of the many I intend to share:

We only had one whole day to tour the temples in Siem Reap. It being the most famous one, we decided to explore Angkor Wat first. The temple was undeniably beautiful; the story behind it made its beauty shine even more. But before the day ended, we met a man named Ben, and he made Angkor Wat slide down from my most favorite to a second placer.

Ta Keo Temple

Ben is a caretaker of some sort in Ta Keo Temple. When our tuktuk drivers dropped us off in front of it, we had no idea we were in for a surprise. This temple is huge compared to the last couple of ones we visited and has a ‘heaven’ (i.e. tower) similar to Angkor Wat. The major difference that concerned us was the absence of the man-made staircase to reach it. We had to use the original path with steps that are too steep and narrow. Our group thought about it at first but eventually decided to climb up. Reaching the top wasn't that difficult. What scared us was the thought of climbing down.

Way up to (the temple's) Heaven

We were in the middle of exchanging nervous laughter when Ben approached us. He spoke English surprisingly well, and that was the beginning of a story worth sharing.

He told us about his job in the temple that pays a dollar a day. He's been doing it for 8 years and never gets tired of it. He said the he find the temple 'beautiful'. It was older than Angkor Wat and could have been as magnificent had it been finished. The King who wanted it done died in the middle of its construction. And even though his successor attempted to continue it, lightning struck one of its towers. This being perceived as a bad omen, the new King halted the construction. Hence, Ta Keo was never completed. But the way Ben talked about it, it was as if he looked at the temple and see what it could have been and not something abandoned. It's his favorite, he shared with us, among all temples in Siem Reap.

Even without asking, he told us about his father, his siblings and how difficult life is in the countryside. We asked him why he stick with this temple job if it pays too little and requires him to ride the bike an hour everyday to get here. His answer was simple:

It's beautiful; I like being here. When I'm alone I stare at the rocks and think how difficult it could have been for the people to bring them here, to build this. But they did.

That was enough to break my heart.

The way he chooses to look at life is beyond admirable and I couldn't help but feel shameful of all the little things I complain about back home.

Photo WITH Ben

Photo BY Ben. :)

Experience may be the best teacher. But if we limit our understanding with things we have dealt with, we'll go through this life having learned so little. Sometimes, the best lessons come from teachers in the most unexpected form.

So listen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dear future son/daughter

You reading this means you've reached a certain age. 18 maybe? Or perhaps earlier than that.

I am riding a bus to Ho Chi Minh as I type this. I saw the Angkor Wat yesterday and every bit of prickling sunburn pain I got from touring was worth it. Anyway, I haven't met you yet; I'm not even married. So as I write this letter to my 'future son/daughter' (that's you), I am also channeling my future mommy vibe.

So, what do I badly want to tell you that I am sacrificing sleep and bearing with the ipad keyboard just to get this done?

At this stage in your life you're probably rushing to do EVERYTHING. You are young, invincible and still have that soon-expiring license to make stupid decisions.  You want to make the most of your youth. But since 'maturity' is a concept that bores you, EVERYTHING for you may mean going out, getting drunk, falling in love with the wrong guy/girl and being friends with people who don't care about you. That's perfectly normal. Trust me, I've been there. You probably think these things help you discover who you are. But this seemingly rebellious stage will not last. It's just a phase, sweetheart. You have to know that.

There will come a time when you can truly know yourself, when your inner voice is much more powerful than those of people around you, even mine. I am in that stage right now, and I am telling you, this part in your life is worth looking forward to. That sums up what I want to tell you. That there is a stage beyond immaturity that is liberating and painful and exciting and carefree, all at at the same time, and it is not because you are clueless but because everything is starting to make sense. You may want to travel far and wide, or paint portraits or make music or live in another country or completely shift careers and you are allowed to do that. This is a time when you are only accountable to yourself. Savor it. There is no better time to get to know who you are and what you are passionate about than now. Staying true to those is a completely different battle. But at this stage, you should aspire for at least knowing with certainty your place in this world.

You have to know that the years between being a teenager and finally becoming an adult are precious. I don't know what it's called exactly, but between you and me, let's call it years of becoming. During these years, you will be confused. You will feel old. There may even be instances you'll go through a quarter-life crisis. You will feel like drifting away or drowning. Seeing friends who seem to know what they're doing frustrates you. But you know what? Being an adult doesn't happen overnight and it sure doesn't happen through merely the passage of time, either. You have to go out there and figure out what matters to you. Years of becoming, buddy, are exactly for that. I should know because I am currently in that stage, doing my best to be aware of who I am and who I want to become. It is not easy, but there wasn't a time when everything was clearer than right now. 

I know I can be the most protective mom in the world. But when it comes to you living your own life, trust me, I'll be on your side.

I will do my part as long as you do yours.
I will let you go as long as your journey is towards the center of your being.
I will worry about you incessantly, but when you ask for my blessing, all you'll hear is :

'It's about time you grow some wings, baby.'

With all my love,
Your currently-caught-in-the-years-of-becoming mom

*written on May 18*

A note from flight 5J571

2++ hours in midair.

I positioned myself comfortably in my seat while I breathed in the anticipation that a plane ride brings. When the seatbelt light turned off I put out the best weapon to fight boredom: Love, stargirl (a book). I was entertained by the obvious uniqueness of the character in the first book, Stargirl, that I had to buy the sequel. I giddily removed it from my unread pile  knowing it would be a treat to read this while on board.

18 pages into the story, I met the chatacter named  Betty Lou. She had agoraphobia or fear of the marketplace. But her fear is far beyond that. She is afraid of everything behind her front door. It wasn't explicitly explained what she feared about. DANGER, that was the only word used to describe it.

How ironic for me to read about this at the exact moment I am leaving the comforts of home.

Betty Lou is a woman who hasn't left her house in 9 years. 9!!! While here I am, undeserving to be called a woman just yet, but with overflowing eagerness to witness the hustle and bustle of this world.

I am in page 33 as I write this. Far from the ending. I still have more than an hour to kill in this flight. But I hope Betty Lou finds a way to get over her fear in the end. I hope she leaves her house. 

I hope she lives.

At the same time, I hope I love what I see when I land. I have a great feeling I will. :))

*written on May 16, 12:30AM*

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I wish...

...but since I couldn't, exhausting my vacation leaves and travel funds to take short trips to anywhere will do for now. 3 years ago I promised myself I'll be seeing more of this world, making use of my own resources and well-earned independence. One more sleep and I'll be hopping on a plane again to a foreign land. Trips, for me, have never been about rest and relaxation. I leave to wander, to learn, to grow and to look for new ways to hurt myself, oh I meant 'adventures'. Ha!

Tomorrow will be my 14th plane ride, since I started on my installment plans of seeing the world (which includes discovering every inch of our beautiful country, too, of course). It's going to be too difficult to focus on my Monday workload, for sure, with excited cells raging in my bloodstream! (Sorry, boss:)))) )

I can't pin-point exactly what it is about discovering new places that makes me spend hard-earned money without feeling even a little pain in the gut, considering how 'kuripot' I can be. What I know is I have always felt a sense of belongingness in places I know nobody, except for the few people I hopped off the plane with. Traveling makes me know more, most especially about myself. It makes me more aware that I'm just a tiny speck in this vast universe, that there are places more beautiful than what my imagination can come up with, that there are stories, too many stories to appreciate and learn from, that you can never really tell you know this world like the back of your hand because this lifetime isn't enough for that; I can only learn as much, and I'll do that.

In a word, traveling makes me aware.

And I believe that this Universe rewards people who recognize its beauty.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I love you everday

I’ve been keeping all these thoughts in my head the entire time we were in Sagada. I need to write this down before I get to sharing unforgettable memories made in that paradise.

This one’s for you, love. 

I fell in love with you, AGAIN, even before we got to witness the magnificence of the Banaue rice terraces, even before you made sure I was making the right steps and hanging on to the right rocks during that very dangerous spelunking, before you insisted on giving up your jacket because my hands were freezing while we walked back to our hotel at midnight, even before you dived into the falls to save my slippers the time I lost a pair and when you washed it clean after I stepped heavily into mud. I felt overwhelmed with love even before we were experiencing new things, discovering a new culture, laughing at unfortunate circumstances. I fell in love with you again way before I got to witness how good you were with my friends that they even wanted to drag you along in our next trip- in 2 weeks.

I fell in love with you when we were just there, trying to sit comfortably in a limited space, bearing the 9-hour travel to get to our first stop before hopping on to another 4-hour drive. I fell in love with you while you generously offered your shoulder and insisted I lean on you so I can get enough rest, caring more about my comfort than worrying about your arms never having circulation again. I fell more in love with you while I was fake- sleeping and you showered me with forehead kisses. Amidst the comfortable silence we shared, I fell in love with you. Again.

I fall in love with you everyday, in the most mundane moments, and I’ll never get tired of it.

Falling in love in highschool IS rare. I still get some weird, envious looks from people when I tell them I’ve been with the same guy for 8 years. But this feeling? This love? THIS ISN’T RARE; I refuse to believe so. We need to save ourselves from the tragedy of seeing beauty only in rarity. More so, we should never settle. We need to believe that there is true love out there and the only way to find it is never settling for the similar or the almost.

It is love or nothing.

And this, with absolute certainty, is love.

Sometimes I feel scared that I might be loving my idea of you because you are much more than what I feel I deserve. Seeing how you are with other people, especially with people important to me, validates that you aren’t too good to be true. I’m just one helluva lucky girl.

 Ily. :))

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