TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part IV)


It was a bittersweet moment, leaving Thulusdhoo atoll and the unhurried pace we have grown accustomed to (at least for a few days) in favor of the more urbanized city capital, Malé, where we will be staying for one night before flying back to Singapore in the afternoon.

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Thulusdhoo jetty. ‘Til we meet again!

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City of Malé as seen from the ferry.

I started the day still feeling out of sorts, but when Chris and I started our city tour, I began to warm up, little by little. Also, he was kinda clever, first, by offering to take my picture on the public artificial beach; then, buying me that irresistible chocolate smoothie; and just as my angry countenance started to melt away bit by bit, he maneuvered me into a conversation about Malé and some of the touristy sites he had marked on the travel map. And just like that, I was très heureux wifey again! Whew.

A bit of trivia: Malé is 1.7 km long and 1.0 km wide (shorter even than UP loop, can you believe that?!) and is home to over 100,000 making it the world’s densest city. Recognizing the serious lack of space to accommodate the growing population, as well as the tourists and visitors that flock to the island, the government of Maldives has started work on a new reclaimed island called Hulhumalé, just between Male and Hulhule.

The artificial beach, as the locals call it, is actually a small enclave of turquoise sea water adjacent to the jetty. It’s where the city dwellers swim and it being a public beach, wearing of swimsuits is strictly prohibited. That day, we saw some small children happily playing in the water as the parents look on and it was such a lovely sight to behold!

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Blue on blue.

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The artificial beach. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Here’s the public beach again from another vantage point.

From the beach, we walked the narrow streets of Malé in search of other famous landmarks. The city streets are congested with people, the ubiquitous motorcycles, and a few cars. You have to be careful when walking these narrow alleys to avoid getting side-swiped by the speeding vehicles. At this time of national elections, the whole of Malé is decked out with political banners, posters, and buntings. Pink symbolizes the Ruling Party and the Yellow color represents the Opposition. It’s interesting to note that the campaign posters are all of the same size and it has a uniform template – usually just a photo of the candidate, very few words, and the party affiliation. So unlike the complete state of disarray and pandemonium that Philippines is thrown into during national elections.

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Official color of the Ruling Party.

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Official color of the Opposition Party.

First, we went to Jumhooree Maidhaan or the Independence Square. It’s just a tiny park close to the market and it is marked by the giant Maldivian flag mounted on a towering flagpole. This is where political campaigns and demonstrations are held and it’s adjacent to the Police Headquarters and the Shaheed Hussain Administration Building.

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The Independence Square.

Close to the Independence Square is perhaps Malé’s most famous landmark, the Islamic Centre which has the largest mosque in the Maldives, with its eye-catching giant golden dome. The mosque is open to visitors outside of prayer hours of course but photography is not allowed inside. Plus, you have to be wearing proper clothes and absolutely no wearing of shoes and slippers inside.

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The famous Islamic Center.

The Fish Market is also an interesting place to visit. Here, you will see the day’s catch being sold or dried out in the sun. There’s a small lighthouse at the end of a narrow walk-path where you can have an unobstructed view of the Independence Square right across. It was rather off-putting seeing men relieving their bladder right on the sea next to the market. It reminded me so much of my home country where men can be quite imprudent (with) where they shoot their pee. LOL. But never mind that, the view, like I said is quite pleasant from this side of the island.

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View from the lighthouse. Behind Chris, you can see the Maldivian flag on the left and the golden dome of the Islamic Centre on the right.

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Catch of the day.

From the fish market, we went back to traversing the narrow alleys to look for the venerated tomb of the man said to have been responsible for bringing Islam to the Maldives, a Sunni Muslim visitor from Morocco named Abu al Barakat. According to the legend, young virgin girls in Malé were chosen from the community and left alone in a temple as a sacrifice to Rannamaari, a sea jinni. One night Barakat took the place of a prospective sacrificial virgin and drove the demon away by reading from the Islamic holy book, the Quran. The Maldivian king at the time was sold on Islam, and ordered that the whole country convert.

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The tomb of Abu Al Bakarat

Meanwhile, next to the mausoleum of Abu al Bakarat is the stately home of the President of Maldives. It’s gated, of course, but we didn’t see armed guards patrolling the area, however, there are CCTV cameras aplenty.

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Presidential House.

At 12:30, the three of us regrouped to have lunch at a local restaurant nearby. Chris and Eric ordered chicken and fish biryani and I got this ‘devil fish’ with roti. If the word ‘devil’ isn’t indication enough of just how spicy it was, the first few bites certainly set my tongue on fire. Eric, too, was unable to finish his biryani because it was on the spicy side as well. After lunch, we took the ferry to Hulhumalé, the reclaimed island close to the airport where we will be spending the night.

Thanks to Shaheem who made the arrangement for our last day in Hulhumalé, we found ourselves in this homey little beach house called COCO GILLI (contact numbers: +960 3350633 and +960 7 90633) which sits literally next to the beach! The hotel staff picked us up from the jetty (from Malé to Hulhumalé is about 20-30 minutes ferry ride) and took us straight to the beach house. Naturally, the three of us wasted no time in catching our last whiff of the Maldives sea. We dumped our luggage, changed into swimsuits, and ran to the beach all in under ten minutes! The island itself is fairly new, having been reclaimed only a few years, but the development is on fast track mode. Already the government has built several rows of housing blocks and are building more. The beachfront is also busy with a lot of beach house construction which, when completed, will certainly draw more tourists into Hulhumalé.

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There’s a lot of construction going on in the island so the beach here is not as well-kept as Thulusdhoo.

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I saw these children playing on the beach and I thought they were cute, so i asked if i can take their photo. Et voila!

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Playtime pour moi!

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…and ze Hubby!

Team Altaie.

Team Altaie.

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Christophe and Vicky. Maldives 2014.

And with that, we have officially concluded our first holiday in 2014 and indisputably one of the best trips ever! Maldives is such a beautiful country but don’t just take the travel junkies/bloggers/journalists’ words and photos for it. If you can, find a way to visit and no, you don’t (even) need to pawn off your home because there are now cheaper ways of enjoying the country and everything it has to offer. You just have to do your research well and make sure that you pack your adventurous spirit along with your sunscreen, after-sun cream (for both, I highly recommend La Roche Posay. It is the best product to protect your skin from the harsh elements of the sun and the beach. Of late, the combination of sun and the beach easily gives me painful rash attack but using La Roche Posay sun cream and after-sun cream prevents me from getting a massive rash breakout), and other swimming essentials. And in the event that you get all psychotic like me, hahaha, try to find your way back because Maldives is hardly any place for you to mope or get all worked up. I loved this trip for a lot of very obvious reasons but especially for the wonderful company. So to Emperor Eric and my hotsie-patootsie hubby Christophe whom I absolutely adore beyond words, here’s to us and the many more travel adventures we will hopefully have together! Ika nga ni Buzz Lightyear, ‘To inFIJI and beyond!’ Uuuuyyy, nagbabadya!  🙂

xoxox

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part II)


We were up early on our second day, brimming with excitement for our trip to ClubMed Kani in another nearby atoll – organised for us by the lovely staff of Dream Inn. After a quick breakfast, we made our way to Thulusdhoo jetty where our small speedboat is waiting to take us on the 20-minute trip to Kani atoll. The speedboat rate was US $125 roundtrip (if i’m not mistaken). On the boat, all three of us were ooohing and aaahing nonstop and almost in cadence while looking at the impossibly gorgeous blue waters. There’s the turquoise shade which reminded Chris and I so much of our Bali wedding theme color; there’s the pale blue color; and then, the dark royal blue tone which (probably) indicates the deeper side of the ocean compared with the other two.
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Endless blue.

ClubMed Kani

ClubMed’s very own private atoll featuring suites on stilts perched right on the turquoise waters, a garden path, swimming pool, beautiful white sand beach and of course, the French resort group’s all-inclusive travel package. Though we were only there on a day pass (usually until 5pm), we thought the US $108 per person fee is so worth it! Imagine this: Open bar for most cocktail drinks (the Mojito I got was bland to the taste but the mocktails were pretty good), beer, and house wine (I opted for the white variety and had about 4 or 5 glasses), an amazing buffet selection at lunch with a gourmet menu especially prepared by the Chef-on-duty, snorkeling, use of the pool and fun sports activities. They even had pool Zumba and yoga in the afternoon which we could have joined but didn’t because we were in our element taking photos (lots and lots of ’em!), tanning on the beach, swimming, checking out hotties (or ‘Tibets’ as Eric would call them), and getting deliciously wined up (in my case, that is).

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No-filter beauty.

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Suites on stilts at ClubMed Kani.

Swimming in the turquoise water of ClubMed Kani is as out-of-this-world as you probably imagined it would be – if not more. The water is pleasantly cool on the skin and it’s just the perfect backdrop for nearly all obligatory Maldives photos you could think of. Chris and I swam a bit before finding our sunbathing spots, fronting the beach – because, really, you don’t waste a fabulous view like that by being somewhere else. Meanwhile, Eric got busy doing his photowalk and taking hundreds of selfies before going into the water as well.

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Happy campers at ClubMed.

Spending a day in ClubMed Kani was one of the best calls we’ve made during this trip. It was the closest we could have gone to a five-star treatment close to Thulusdhoo without selling one of our kidneys in the black market. haha. Maldives was the cover story of this month’s Tiger Air inflight magazine and according to the article, some top-grade luxurious resorts in Maldives would charge around US $15,000 a nightC’est incroyable! But when you’re there and you see what Maldives is all about, a part of you would probably understand why incredibly rich people are willing to blow that kind of money for a few days of pure, unadulterated pleasure in one of God’s greatest island creations.

As for Eric, Chris, and I, we got all the fun and exhilaration we set out to achieve with our short trip to ClubMed Kani. Though it pained us to leave the island shortly before nightfall, we consoled ourselves with the thought of returning to Maldives someday. I have a feeling that Chris and I will be back, but probably not so soon as we still have more destinations to tick-off on our travel bucket list which seems to be getting longer and longer. And longer still. So here’s to us, mon amour, and the many adventures and wonderful memories we still have to make. Je t’adore!

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Mon amour.

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Yoga anywhere.

End of Part II.

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part I)


The idea of Maldives came to me one morning in November last year while I was checking my personal email and got an alert from Tiger Air announcing its maiden voyage to Maldives from Singapore beginning January 2014. Not too long before that, I remember asking the Emperor if he had already plotted his 2014 travel schedules, in case I would be able to join him in one of (possibly) many trips this year. As you know, the Emperor and I have been to a few international and local travels together and knowing how he can be very flexible with his schedule (if he wants to!), I thought I’d mention Maldives when I saw him go online on FB. Et voila, in less than an hour, I had already booked Chris and I on a flight and Eric had done the same!

Knowing that Maldives requires no visa application (it’s VOA for a lot of countries, including Philippines!) made decision-making a no-brainer. Of course, the impossibly turquoise water surrounding the atolls and the promise of earthbound paradise go without saying. I mean, we would’ve gone still even if there was visa required. Maldives is just something you never say no to. What followed after that was a fun hotel hunting/booking. We had a reasonable budget to work with which, the three of us agreed, need not require us to smash our piggybanks open or you know, rob a bank.

After going through a long list of hotels and reading a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor, we opted to book our stay at Dream Inn Thulusdhoo for 3 nights and then spend our last night in Malé so we can explore the city and not be worried about missing our flight the following day (it takes an hour and a half from Thulusdhoo to Malé on the public ferry).

Finally, Maldives!

And so on the 12th of March, the three of us boarded Tiger Air bound for Malé, the urbanized capital city of Maldives. The flight was about 4 hours and 20 minutes long and by the way, Maldives is three hours behind Singapore. Soon as we exited the arrival hall, the first thing we saw was the exquisite turquoise waters dotted only by a few speed boats loading and unloading tourists. We had to physically restrain ourselves from jumping right into the water given the scorching heat outside. Gorgeous (easily three shades of) blue ocean water everywhere you look – and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before! It took a while for our airport pick-up to reach us and we were starving so Eric and my husband decided to get us some takeout meals from Burger King. An idea which we all would come to regret IMMEDIATELY as one meal costs a minimum of US $10! (The chicken sandwich meal Chris got me was $15!) Definitely one of the most expensive junk food we have ever ingested and I wouldn’t recommend that you try it. Unless you’re even more famished than we were at that time, or just plain addicted to junk. Ewww.

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Welcome to Thulusdhoo

It takes an hour and a half to get to Thulusdhoo atoll from Malé. I will not give you the wikipedia description of this charming little atoll but instead, I will try to paint a picture of Thulusdhoo based on what we have seen, heard, and tasted of the island. First of all, Thulusdhoo is also known as the Coca Cola island because of the presence of a Coke plant which is supposedly the only one in the world that uses aerated water to manufacture the carbonated drink for Maldivian consumption (Please feel free to verify that as I am rather lazy to Google it up). It is no surprise then that there is a hostel called ‘Cokes Surf’ in the island that specifically caters to surfers and backpackers. And in case you’re wondering why, it’s because Thulusdhoo is said to have the best waves in all of Maldives during surf season. Tim, the-hot-Aussie-surfing-instructor-with-six-pack- abs-that-won’t-quit at Cokes Surf, confirmed that when we all had dinner on our last night on the island.

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The cozy little inn we called ‘home’ for three days, Dream Inn Thulusdhoo, is such a great find! At first, we were disappointed when Shaheem (awesome travel organiser!) told us two days before we were to depart SG for Maldives that he had to transfer the three of us to Askani Villa because they have about 20 youngsters from Denmark arriving the same day. But Askani proved to be just what we needed because it only had four very spacious rooms and we only had to share the whole place with a nice Russian couple. We had good wifi connection in our villa – at least for my iPhone but my Samsung phone totally crapped out on me during this trip so I was struggling a bit doing some work while traveling. 100 points for iPhone, negative 100 points for Samsung S4! – which made it quite convenient for the social media junkies in us to post occasional updates on FB and Instagram. The hotel staff were very amiable and always ready to help make arrangements for our island hopping adventures. And I love how their English is almost impeccable – and how beautifully they enunciate words!

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Thulusdhoo residents take pride in their ‘Sunrise Beach’ and ‘Sunset Beach’ and by right, they should, because these two places certainly give you an awesome sunrise and sunset views. Look!

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Sunrise at 5:50am.

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Sunrise Beach at 6am.

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Sunset Beach at 6pm.

But if you ask me, the real treasure Thulusdhoo has is its charming people. Easily among the friendliest, accommodating, and well-mannered people you will ever meet, the residents of Thulusdhoo will make you feel welcome at any time of the day. Always smiling and often ready to greet you ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’, some will even inquire about your day/health. On our first night at Dream Inn, we were lucky to have been treated to a lively cultural song and dance production by the young men of Thulusdhoo and we were impressed by the passion and energy they put into their craft. The Danish group, as well as the young lady from Kosovo, had a great time jumping around and gyrating to the infectious beat of the drums. Being an old boring fart, I just sat and watched the revelry. Kidding! We had to turn in early that night because we were off to ClubMed Kani the following morning and didn’t want to be sporting eyebags to go with our lovehandles. Not at all great for selfies, haha.

Oh, one more thing that we noticed in Thulusdhoo are the colorful doors and walls in every home which truly fascinated us. But apparently, this love for bold colors is typically Maldivian as we would see more and more of these colorful doors around Malé.

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One great thing about living literally next to the ocean is that you get to enjoy fresh catch for your daily meals. Being just a tiny dot of an island (with only a little above 1,000++ inhabitants), Thulusdhoo does not have restaurants (though we saw one or two bars near the jetty) so we were only eating mostly at our resort and on our last night, at Cokes Surf Villas. There’s not much of variety here but the grilled fish we were served a few times was truly divine! It’s so fresh and tasty you don’t even need condiments to enjoy it!

If you are looking for some sun, surf and sand adventure with a little splash of culture, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this charming North Malé atoll called Thulusdhoo. And oh, good news to the ladies who might be wondering if swimsuit is allowed in the beaches of Thulusdhoo at all – the answer is yes, my sweetpea, you can wear your swimsuit on the beach! But please don’t go around the village in those tiny stringy cloths as you are definitely bound to offend the residents’ sensibilities and conservative ideals. Keep in mind that Maldives is an Islamic nation and all tourists must respect that.

End of Part One

TRAVEL: SEOUL Asylum (Part I)


15 October 2012 — So, after months of waiting, Emperor Eric and I finally arrived in Seoul, South Korea for our third international (budget) travel together.  From Incheon Airport, we took the airport taxi to take us to our hostel somewhere in the heart of Seoul. When we got to the area, our airport cab driver could not point us to the exact location of our very posh and very expensive hostel (it was on stealth mode, apparently) – so he called for Police assistance. There we were by the side of the main road, looking every inch the turistas that we were, trying to figure out how to dial in on Eric’s phone so we can ask the hostel staff to give us clearer instructions on how to get to Elm Tree Guest House. The Police came and took us in for questioning, errr, I meant, helped us find the hostel which turned out to be on the corner right next to where we were standing.

Help, we’re lost!

We went to a lot of places in Seoul starting with Seoul City Hall and Seoul National Library which were both VERY IMPRESSIVE, architecture-wise! The City Hall ground was where PSY had the concert the night before and when we passed it, they were still dismantling the stage.

Seoul City Hall on my right; National Library on my left

Then we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace which was quite similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, except that Gyeonbokgung looks ‘refurbished to perfection’ it no longer has that truly ancient feel to it, you know? The paint was all very fresh, but I guess keeping the whole palace well-maintained will guarantee longevity for more tourists to enjoy and appreciate in time.

Gyeongbuk Palace

You can actually borrow these traditional costumes for free! Eric and I wanted to but the waiting time that afternoon was 120 minutes. uh-oh.

One of the palaces of Gyeongbuk

At night, we quickly freshened up and had a quick dinner at this quaint lil’ noodle place just outside our hostel street and I enjoyed my dimsum to bits but Eric wasn’t too pleased with his very cold noodles. From there, we went to Myung Dong for some shopping and I walked away with some nice stuff from Uniqlo and H&M. It was a beautiful night for walking around and appreciating the sights, sounds, and taste of that part of Seoul.

‘Sale’ shopper!

Follow the sign.

On Day Two, we found ourselves in standing in awe of EVERLAND! Not much of a theme park person myself (only because I am absolutely terrified of rides that go over 3ft above the ground – I’m lame like that), I had only ever been to Enchanted Kingdom (Phils.) and Universal Studios in Singapore in all 33 years of my life. So when Eric mentioned that we will be checking out EVERLAND on our second day in South Korea, I must admit I had my own reservations. I know for certain there’s no way I’m going to do any of the rides there but if there’s enough sights and people to take photos of, then surely it can’t be that bad.We took the train to Gangnam (Oppa Gangnam style!) where bus 5002 bound for Everland picks up passengers/tourists.

Allow me to digress a little here: Gangnam, apparently, is their version of Paris’ Champs Elysses where high-end brands are lined up on either side of the avenue. People here are visibly more fashionable and I suppose, affluent, than in some parts of Seoul.

Welcome to Gangnam!

So anyway, there we were, still nursing residual exhaustion from the activities of the previous day, sleeping soundly during the entire one-hour journey to Everland Theme Park at Yongin. Everland is HUGE! It’s a sprawling property featuring rides for both kids and adults, food parks, zoo, lush gardens with flowers which were almost blinding in their vibrance! What more, entrance fee of 40,000 KRW (one day pass) is a lot cheaper than that of Universal Studios or Disneyland.

PORORO in 3D!

Food is also reasonably priced at an average of 10,000 KRW which is about 370 pesos for a full meal.My favorite, aside from taking photos and gushing about how nice and sweet the Koreans are, was the 3D show of PORORO, this cute animated character who’s all the rage among Korean kids as we were wont to learn within a few seconds of the pre-show.

And yes, I love, love, love the gardens with all the October flora in full bloom!

Autumn flowers a-bloomin’!

Who’s up for some Columbus’ Adventure?

Colors of autumn!

Aesop’s Village

To be continued…

Postwithoutatitle.


Today’s Facebook status message: Experiment with life – constantly. Do things other than your job and be fulfilled. Balance, you will soon learn, is a matter of logistics.

Places. Faces. Friends.

Beautiful Christmas, Beautiful Philippines


See, the thing with blogging is that you have to be committed to posting updates, which, in this technology-driven age is not such a tough feat to accomplish. However, seeing as I have not exactly touched my blog since Davao, I’m a bit hesitant now to label myself a blogger. Nope, not simply as one who’d talk about having eggs for breakfast and picking up stuff at the dry cleaners after, but someone, I hope, who makes just the slightest bit of sense when she posts something. If not that, then at least someone the grammar nazis out there would not want to hang upside down and flog a hundred times until blood is spilt.

So where was I these past few weeks?

Vicky lands in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Christmas fever at the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta

Let’s see, there’s work and whole lot of it going on. There’s a bit of travel and a whole lot of fun both of it turned out to be. And then there’s Christmas, of course, and how over here in Singapore where I spent it, was quite sedate because of the gloomy and oft-rainy weather running a stretch of over two weeks now I’ve been told; but still, it was a lovely celebration punctuated by a dollop of excitement as the two of us ran around hunting for the elusive raclette grill and the cheese itself.

Christmas in Singapore

And then there’s the mad drive to raise funds internally, in our company, for the devastated families in Cagayan de Oro and nearby areas because of Typhoon Sendong. The drive which began in the morning of Christmas Eve, I am very proud to say, has come up to a 5-digit collective monetary donation — in greenback! There’s really no stopping the power of Jesus when he moves and touches the heart of people with such power as one cannot deny  or refute. The outpouring of pledges from nearly everyone at work was uplifting beyond words and I am proud to be in the company of such an amazing bunch of people.

So, what was Christmas like for you guys?

***

Speaking of Christmas, did you know that Epson Philippines Corporation (EPC) has recently launched its regional photography contest – the Epson Color Imaging Contest 2011? Themed “Beautiful Philippines, the contest encourages photography enthusiasts to explore the beauty of our country from various aspects – human, landscape, nature and architecture. The contest is open to all amateur and professional photographers aged 18 years and above who are residents of the Philippines.

For those of you who are interested to join the contest, visit www.facebook.com/EpsonCICPhilippines and submit your original and unpublished photos through the Epson CIC contest application, which you will find in the left hand column of the Facebook Page. A registered contestant may only make ONE (1) submission of up to a maximum of three (3) Entries.

I’ve heard that this is the 18th consecutive annual Epson Color Imaging photo contest, jointly organized by Epson sales subsidiaries in Asia, and the very first to be held online via Facebook to appeal to a younger and net-savvy audience.

The photography contest will last for eight weeks from November 7 to December 31 on Facebook, so if you happen to be in front of your computer now, cyberstalking your Ex and his/her new squeeze or just posting photos of yourself in various states of holiday drunken stupor, why not post your entry and actually have a  shot at the following VERY exciting prizes?

  • First Prize – All-expenses paid holiday to Taipei and the opportunity to attend the region-wide award ceremony and photo exhibition where your winning artwork will be displayed mong the regional finalists PLUS $1,500 cash prize PLUS an Epson Stylus R1390
  • Second Prize – $1,000 cash prize PLUS an Epson Stylus R1390
  • Third Prize – $500 cash prize PLUS an Epson PictureMate PM310.

In addition to the top three prize winners to be selected by Epson’s judges, fans are also encouraged to vote for their favorite so that the highest voted photograph wins a “Voters’ Choice award.” The winner of this award will get USD200 and an Epson PictureMate PM310.

Every week, Epson’s judges will also pick the top 3 photos. The winners of the Top 3 photos of the week each gets SM gift certificates worth P1,000 and their photos automatically qualify for the final judging.

Now this is truly a great way to showcase the beauty of the Philippines by getting the youth involved as they share their inspiring images with a worldwide audience – thanks to Epson who has been running this contest for a while now.

So what are YOU waiting for? Go on Facebook and join the contest. Who knows? You might find yourself on a flight to Taipei very soon! I have a very valid passport by the way and can travel as your companion, anytime and anywhere.:)

Travel: My Goodness, BATANES!!! (Part II)


Our FIRST DAY in Batanes, glorious as it were, did not prepare us enough for the feast of the senses that was DAY TWO. Ate Monica warned us the night before that lately, Basco has been experiencing scheduled brownouts which usually starts at 3am and lasts until about mid-morning. True enough, our AC went to sleep at about 4am and we woke up to a steam room. IT. WAS. HOT. After yet another delicious breakfast served by Ate Monica, we filed out of the hostel into the van that will take us to the port where we will be taking a motorized banca bound for Sabtang.

Day Two was going to be a day of exploration and as you can see, we wasted no time. None at all.

At the Port of Sabtang. Subtitled: Stating the very obvious.

There was another van waiting for us at the port and we have a new driver, Rudy, to take us around. We started our tour with a quick stop at the beach to take photos. Have you heard people who’ve been to Batanes say that you can use the crappiest camera you own and the photos will still come out superb? Well, LUMI is certainly not made of crap (oh, I would smack someone so good for calling my baby that!) but she’s also not of Lumix GF or Sigma quality. However, she certainly made me proud of the photos she churned out. The colors and contours were captured so beautifully that they bring me close to tears each time I’d rake a peek at any of our albums.

Miss Tourism - Batanes says 'Welcome Visitors!'

Before Batanes Busog Bodies, there was 'Batanes Best Bodies'

Only one of the reasons that make Batanes beautiful.

The legendary Ivatan houses of Savidug made out of stone and cogon roof.

Best Actors in a Still Photo. Yes, kami na nga yun.

From Savidug, we made our way to Chavayan where we had the greatest time walking on narrow streets lined with Ivatan stone houses. A must-do when in this area, we rented Ivatan wear such as Vakul – a headgear worn by the Ivatan women to shield them from the heat and rain when they go about their daily errands. To have your photos taken with these Ivatan items, you pay 20 pesos.

Lady GAGAh and the fierce Monsters

This is NOT how real Ivatan women carry the basket. Instead, they put the strap around the forehead before wearing the Vakul, so that the basket itself is sitting almost atop the butt.

'What's love got to do, got to do with it? What's love but as secondhand emotion...' Yes, Tina Turner, I'm a fan.

Ivatan Ambassador of Love and Goodwill.

Napagod din ang mga Curacha.

We also passed by the famous Chamantad Sanctuary which gave us the most fantastic view of the Sabtang coastline. We trekked all the way to the cliffside for more photo-taking. Kuya Jun kind of reminded us not to go down to the beach part anymore as we still have quite a few places to visit before heading back to Basco. Question is: Did we listen? Na-uh.

Cris C. immediately went planking. Cris B. continued to put all of us to shame with his sculpted abs and exposed body parts. Romy and Eric went deep into photographers’ mode. Uly kept trying to dodge the sun but would come out of hiding for photos. And I, well, did what I do best — jump around and look pretty for the camera. Pretty, of course, being a very subjective/relative term. Basta sa mundo ko, maganda ako.

FREEEEEEEEEDOM!!!

Ang Babae sa Damuhan.

Chamantad Sanctuary panorama.

Ang Babae sa Batuhan.

Beautiful beyond words.

Free as a bird.

Heatin' up Batanes

And finally, our last stop for the day: NAKABUANG BEACH. Here, we had our scrumptious lunch comprised of adobo, lobster, steamed fish, pinakbet, turmeric rice, and fried saba for dessert. We were so stuffed it was tough for us to get our butts off the monobloc chairs. For a brief moment we toyed with the idea of just staying right where we were – away from the burning heat of the sun as were were already burned to a crisp from all the walking of the past two days. But who can possibly resist the nakakabuwang beauty of Nakabuang Beach? Certainly not us. And so…

Yes, Loves, we are still in the Philippines.

Nakabuang Beach is famous for the natural rock formations studding the stretch of its sandy white beach

Solitude by Eric Cabahug.

Decadently happy. Or Happily decadent.

Taking a respite from the heat.

Bye Sabtang Island...'til we meet again...

Travel: My Goodness, BATANES!! (Part I)


I am one very lucky girl.

I may not be rich in the traditional sense of the word but God (has) most certainly blessed me in many other ways. I don’t drive around in fancy cars or fly business class, but I have traveled to some of the most remarkable places here and abroad. With the exception of my occasional leisure trips with my dear friends and boyfriend, most of my international travels are work-related. It’s quite rare to have a career that enriches you professionally and at the same time, gives you ample leg room for you to be able to explore activities that will, in turn, enrich you both physically and spiritually.

Until very recently, it never occurred to me to make my own bucket list – maybe because I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of setting a deadline on anything that has got nothing to do with my work deliverables. I guess I have gotten so used to be being on my own that the only pace I know how to walk or run is my own. I slow down when I want to; I go on full sprint when I want to. In retrospect, it all started with running.  Tried it once and got hooked for a while. From my first 5k, I found myself running a full marathon in less than a year. I didn’t stop there. Shortly after my first and only full-mary, I dared to do an ultramarathon and got even more hooked. Since then, I have tried my hand on so many other outdoor activities that I never thought I would have access to – let alone be genuinely interested in. Fishing, Trail running, Scuba diving, Surfing, Mountain Trail Biking — these are some of the things that I have now X-marked on my list.  Though most of them I have done only once – bringing to fore that I am indeed ‘Little Miss Will Try Anything Once’ – I wouldn’t mind giving them another go sometime in the near future. Surfing, especially. But first, I seriously need to learn how to swim already. Not just for that, but for my general knowledge and survival. You know, just in case someone tries to push me into the water and make it look like an accident. Hah!

And now it seems that my list had just gotten longer with the addition of rock climbing, scrambling and rappelling which I may be doing soon as I get back from my trip. I want to tell you about so many other MORE EXCITING projects we’re working on with some very good friends but I don’t want to jump the gun too soon. For now, let’s just say that we are going to conquer the world one step at a time. Right, Kas, B, and Marga? *insert smiley here*

Now, on to the main reason for this blogpost which I accidentally turned into a novela again because of my penchant for digression: BATANES.

What else can I say about Batanes except that the island is TOO BEAUTIFUL for words? My senses are still somewhat overwhelmed that I cannot even come up with adjectives good enough to describe the whole Batanes experience (that) my friends and I had just recently.

So, just like what Eric did in FB, I will let some of the photos we took do the talking. And maybe add some unintelligible description here and there if only to delude myself into thinking that I’m still some sort of a writer.

But first, I want to thank Emperor Eric Cabahug for planning the whole thing and booking our flights as early as March when Seair announced its promo fare for Batanes. Normal flights to and from Batanes would cost you around Php16,000 including taxes and that is quite steep for a local flight. But let me tell you now that it’s all worth every centavo – and MORE. If it weren’t for the locals that look and talk just like us, you wouldn’t think you’re still in the Philippines. The island is so multifaceted you would think you’re in Hawaii or Scotland or New Zealand — three places I have never been to, by the way, but the natural land and seascapes of Batanes may very well rival the vistas of these three countries on Google images.

Sleep-deprived and in my case, still under duress from work (very normal for me), we – Eric, Cris B., Cris C., Uly, Romy and I – took the 5:15am flight from Manila to Basco, Batanes on July 1. The flight was one and a half hours long but quite comfortable. Our airhostess, Frances, had the best natural voice I have ever heard come out of a woman’s mouth. It had a sultry ring to it and she enunciated every word to near-perfection!

The Batanesians.:)

Batanes Airport is small but you instantly feel the warmth and beauty of the island the minute you step out of the plane. At the airport, we were welcomed by Kuya Jun, our designated tour guide slash driver for the whole of five days. After snapping our touchdown Batanes photo, Kuya Jun drove us to DDD Habitat, our home during our stay.

Ate Monica, cook extraordinaire slash manager of DDD Habitat, treated us to a scrumptious breakfast of fish lumpia, veggies, and rice. Not wanting to waste a single minute of our Batanes time, we changed into shorts and tanktops and set off to explore the island – except for Eric who opted to sleep the first half of the day. That morning, Romy, Cris B., Cris C., Uly and I went to the lighthouse nearby.

One of the MANY jumpshots we will be doing in Batanes.

United Colors of Batanes.

San Marino advert gone dark. haha.

Paging mobile providers, you might want to use this in your marketing collateral. LOL.

When we came back just in time for lunch, we were all twice as dark as when we first arrived in Batanes. We did not really anticipate the heat to be that intense so we scrimped on sunblock. Lunch was fantastic and we all fell in love with the fern salad Ate Monica prepared. Thus began the Batanes BUSOG EDITION. Let me explain. The minute we arrived in Batanes, all we did was eat, walk, take photos, eat, eat, EAT! Hence the ‘busog’ look in all of my swimsuit photos. So much for ripped abs. The all went back into hiding beneath the layers of fat – many thanks to the sinfully delicious meals we would have five times a day! Such was the case for me, at least. Because Cris B.’s perpetually ripped! he ate as much, if not more than, I did but the abs stayed right where they are. I asked how it’s even possible for those pandesals to stay unfazed despite the amount of food ingested whereas mine looked, well, bloated, he said, ‘it’s all muscles, Vicky.’ So I guess I have to work harder than ever before to scrape the fat layers, eh? When did it get sooo hard to be a woman?!?

Living on the edge is good...sometimes.:)

At the viewing deck of one of the smaller lighthouses.

For Cris' Mom.:D

Binibining Yellow bell.

Inside one of the rooms at 'Fundacion Pacita'

According to the caretaker, Fundacion Pacita can be rented for around P7,500 per day. They are currently renovating the place but it should be open for business again soon. In the meantime, you can have lunch or coffee at this beautiful place with the stunning view of the rolling hills of Batanes and the great pieces of art on display inside the house.

And that concludes Day One.

Movies: 16th French Film Festival


Because I said I didn’t want to be the typical chameleon of a girlfriend who couldn’t wait to suddenly speak French, (I’m a non-conformist, indulge me!) I have decided to put-off learning the language for wee bit longer. But now I’m thinking it’s juvenile and rather stupid of me because French is a beautiful language and I could really use it when I go to Ivory Coast! ROTFLMSAO!

I still know only a few words and phrases, all of which are not meant to be uttered to anyone else but mon amour, but one day soon I will be speaking like an adopted Frenchie.

But for now, this just about how French-y I can get: The much-awaited 16th French Film Festival returns to the Philippines this month and delightfully bringing to Filipino audiences a mix of some of the best and latest action, adventure, comedy, drama and documentary films from France today.

Opening Night: June 8, 6:30 p.m. at Shangri-La Plaza Mall
Manila: June 8-19 at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall

16th French Film Festival

Except for that one time I watched Amélie a looong time ago, I don’t recall ever going to another French Film Festival after that so this one’s going to be special. I hope some of my very dear friends can come and watch with me, as they are usually more ‘cultured’ than I am. hahaha. Paging Noel, Gil, Mark, Cris, Eric, Abi, Kassy and Abby – tara lets! Wait, how do you say that in French?


Clutter Express: Reebok Bloggers’ Night, Total Fitness, and GAG-O


It seems to me that everything is running at top speed these days. There’s just so much going on – mostly at work – that I sometimes have to sprint in order to keep pace. And when that happens, I swear that I can see my heart beating through the fabric of my shirt!

First things first.

Two weekends ago, I introduced you to Purple Pippa, my second pair of Zig Glam who carried all 97lbs of me from the starting line of the Fuego Sunset Run all the way through the 5k finish line. A few days ago, Bruno, Basia, and Purple Pippa, welcomed another addition to the growing Reebok family — feminine yet tough as nails TERRA. Terra is the offroad/trail shoes featuring the Zig(Tech) technology which comes in sushi green and flat grey colours. Terra will be seeing hard action in the upcoming 50k Nuvali Trail Challenge organized by Ultramarathoner and frontRUNNER Magazine owner Jonel Mendoza. Wanna know just how lucky I am these days? It seems I will be the only one in the country who owns this pair as Terra won’t be released in the local market – at least (not) for now! I just love, love, LOVE Reebok!

Terrific TERRA

Incidentally, I will have Dennis the Running Pinoy running by my side in Nuvali. If you remember, Dennis was my rock when I dared to run my first ultramarathon last year at the PAU 50k Mt. Pinatubo Trail Challenge and landed second behind the unstoppable Camilla Brooks. He never left my side when he could just as easily have, at any given time of that harrowing – but very fulfilling! – 9 hours or so of trail running adventure. Because of that, Dennis is now officially the Batman to my Batgirl!  Fellow Team Reebok ambassador Titanium Runner will also be there running the same 50k distance.

Batman and Batgirl of Ultra Trail Running

With The Running Pinoy and Titanium Runner doing Nuvali 50k with me, how can I not cross the finish line in one piece? Now IF I land another podium finish, would it then be safe to assume to I am officially ‘made’ as a runner, nay, ultrarunner? Not yet? Okay then. Next stop: PAU 60k and BDM 102.

***

More on REEBOK. So last Monday, Reebok held the ZigTech Run Bloggers’ Night at Paul Calvin’s in Burgos Cirle, The Fort. Close to 40 runner-bloggers trooped to the venue, including everyone’s favorite The Bull Runner Ms. Jaymie Pizzaro, in a show of solid support to Reebok’s first-ever run to be held on the 5th of June. TEAM REEBOK was there, along with the official photographers, and of course, Ms. Yoya and Ms. Villy of Reebok Philippines – the two ladies responsible for making us perform and look good while running!

With Ayn and Beep Beep of Team Reebok

Flanked by Titanium Runner and frontRUNNER's Jonel Mendoza

Bloggerful of Fun at the Reebok Bloggers' Night

To all our runner and blogger friends, thank you for your love and support! And again, to all runners who have yet to register for the REEBOK ZigTech Run, you have until the 4th of June to register for the race. Don’t miss this one, okay?

***

Have you picked up a copy of this month’s TOTAL FITNESS magazine, yet? What the?!? We’re more than halfway through May, you should already have a copy in your home, car, office, and even your Ex’s bedroom!  Read my article on the Ultimate Wake Championships held last January and another feature on running.  Besides that, there are tons of interesting articles on motoring, sports, health, relationships and a few other topics of great interest.

Shameless plugging by the writer.

***

And finally, here’s something FIERCE, FABULOUS, and FUNNY from The Grupong Rainbow…

GAG-O’s SHANGHAI SURPRISE Day 1!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoBXxNvTAwE

Remember that time we went to Shanghai for a quickie tour? Well, we didn’t just go all touristy in the city labelled as the Paris of the East. In between train rides, coffee breaks, hunting down cuties and what-not, we actually shot some scenes for our youtube show GAG-O!

I watched the episode more than ten times already and quite frankly, I am getting sick of my face and my nasal voice, so can I pass on the viewing duties to you guys and make us even more famous than we already are? Great! And while you’re at it, why don’t you click on the share or email button and send it to whoever you think needs some major cheering up.

Okay. Now. I. Am. Good.

***

Oh wait. Happy birthday to my gorgeous boyfriend who is celebrating his 31st on Friday, 20th of May!  We have come  a loooong way, you and I. Here’s a toast to so much more in the coming years. ILY.

Happy birthday, Luv!:*