Faith. Travel. Relationships.

 

A trip to remember!
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Now I know how does it feel to experience something that you’ve just been thinking about for a long time (almost 6 yrs in the making). It has been a dream for me to go to a place where you just only see it in movie scenes. Well, for me its New York City and also Chicago (the theatre and the bean).

 

Since I met a friend who works and lives there it gave me a vision of visiting her and have that desire to finally see those movie scenes by myself. Then when I took Events Management class we discussed about the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. It made me more excited and eager to pray about this trip. Few years after (2013) I applied my visa and thank God it was really an answered prayer. I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving since its the most celebrated season in US and I used to watch films that they serve turkey during this time. This happened few months before my mother passed away. I still remember that she is so happy for me to have my US visa. She said, you will never know why God allowed you to have that visa.
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I have plans to go there last 2014 but a lot of things happened. My mother passed away, got busy with work and some concerns. I didn’t have the time to go and after three years (last 2016) I decided to push through with my trip since it is my birthday gift to myself because I just turned 30 and I wanna do something new. Ironically, I did have some hesitations to go (fears, doubts, personal issues, etc.) and this never happened before. Then I realised if I’m going to delay this trip, when is the best time i’ll gonna do it? Do I still have the time to go there? Too many questions but then I made a decision that i’ll step out in faith and just do it anyway.
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Then finally, I got a ticket (another story) and was able to finalised my schedule. Informed my friends there that I’m finally coming. By the way, people are asking if I have relatives there and I said I only have friends and an aunt in Chicago. Going there is just a surreal feeling. It felt like it was a long overdue trip that I’ve been praying for. I thought of my mom and my dad. For sure they are happy that I get to fulfil my dreams and faith goals. God has been so faithful ever since the beginning. Took EVA air and I have a layover in Taipei. While waiting I said to God that Lord, I hope that the seat beside me is vacant so that I can move easily. As I board the plane and saw my seat (window side) the middle seat is empty. Yes! It made me smile but what’s more surprising is the lady seated in the same row. She looks like my mom!!!!!! Her height and built is just like her. I said Hi and asked her name. She is Bich, from Vietnam and migrated in New Jersey. Few minutes after I settled down my seat, tears fell from my eyes remembering my mom and reminded that God has been so mindful of me. Small things like this encounter made my heart in awe of Him.
As the plane lowers its altitude I saw an autumn foliage right outside of my window. My jaw dropped (not literally) because I really wanna experience autumn in New York. Again, its an answered prayer.
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Friends helped me out for me to have a place to stay. A friend helped me to find a place to stay for my first four days. After that I’m about to do Airbnb for the first time but God is so faithful that a friend offered her lovely home to me. It’s an answered prayer. Suddenly I felt so at home and have that morning routine that we used to drop her daughter in her school. I’m so grateful for their generosity.
Fast forward, my friend who is also a public servant in New York (the one i met 5-6 years ago) invited me to a “Friendsgiving” dinner (they usually do this before thanksgiving). Of course, I said yes because I get to finally spend time with her and meet new friends as well. It was one of the best experience i’ve ever had. I felt like I’m in a movie scene. It was a surreal moment for me. I’m forever grateful. Then finally, five days after its the Macy’s thanksgiving parade. Braved the sea of tourists and was able to get a good spot (thank God for my MRT skills. haha). I am so overwhelmed with the gigantic / building size balloons. It was a festive mood and a cold day too.
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This trip is really one of a kind. The people that I reconnected with and the new friends I met made this trip so memorable. They are far more beautiful than the places i’ve seen. I wasn’t able to see a lot because I decided to meet with them and get to listen to their stories. I am grateful that apart from spending time with my friends I had the privilege to witness autumn and winter at the same time. Such a great way to visit US for the first time.
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It made me realised that when you take a leap of faith, it is the only way you get to see the other side. It exposed me that there is life apart from what I am doing. There’s gonna be more when you go beyond your self and limitations. God will always be mindful and will never let you down. During this trip I really felt God’s favor and grace. It made my faith grow and believed that God can do great things as we allow him to take the lead. Now, I’m more excited where God will bring me and I just know that its gonna be better and bigger.
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Thank you Chicago and New York City for being so wonderful to me. I shall see you next time.

Why solo travel?

Why solo travel? It’s always part of my bucket list to do a solo travel. Actually, I’ve scheduled it last November 2013 but due to Yolanda I chose to cancel my trip to Taiwan and I’d rather help in whatever capacity that I can through our office. Back then, my mother knew about my travel but I think mentioned to her that I’m going solo (confused… Haha). Few weeks after, my mother passed away and felt like I don’t wanna do it again. Felt so stressed out and I just wanna forget some of the things that I want because I’m still mourning etc. etc…. Making lots of excuses for myself but deep inside of me tells me to pursue that goal. Two months after, I saw a promo going to Taiwan and now I stepped out of my comfort zone again and told myself that I think I have to do this esp I want to breathe fresh air and new environment might give me some encouragement as well. I end up booking myself for 6 full days solo trip to Taiwan. No travel agency but a DIY itinerary. Thanks to trip advisor, air bnb, Google and to my friends who are also solo travelers who inspired me to continue this 1st ever solo trip. Then my much awaited solo travel begins… Timely because I want to rediscover myself, re-align my heart towards God, be grateful of the creations of The Lord and appreciate life in spite of difficulties. So why solo travel? Especially for a woman is it worth it? Is it safe? Is it worth the risk? What are the disadvantages? I’ll try to answer one by one (in my own capacity… haha). 1. It feels LIBERATING Liberate means (from Merriam Webster): > to free (someone or something) from being controlled by another person, group, etc. > to give freedom or more freedom to (someone) Yes! “Sometimes” it feels good not to be controlled by a group or a person esp when you’re on a vacay. You get to decide things on your own. What time will you wake up? Where are you going? What to eat? And what kind of transportation you’re going to take? Well, if you get lost or if you woke up late there’s nobody to blame but yourself.:) you can walk slow or even rush just to see the sunset (like what I did in Taipei). Cowboy style or not? You get to decide alone. I think it takes courage (esp when there’s a language barrier) and maturity to decide esp when you’re in a foreign land. DSC_0106_Fotor_Collage selfiesss taiwan This solo trip liberated me from being to hard on to myself. If I wasn’t able to do everything that I planned in my itinerary, I just let it go easily and resched it. I learned how to slow down and savor each moment by appreciating up to the smallest details of the place. 2. You still need to BE CAREFUL and WISE

National Palace Museum

Solo travel might get you so much excited but it requires you to be more careful and vigilant esp if you’re in a crowded place or maybe if your going far away from the city. Not to the extent of you being paranoid. Just enough for you to be proactive. Don’t forget to have a soft copy of your visa, passport and id. You can also photocopy it. Bring an anti theft bag or pouch that will protect your cards and you can secure your passport as well. If you’re going to visit a province, like when I visited Jinguashin, Jiufen, and Taichung it took me almost 2-3hrs away from Taipei. You need to check the schedule of buses and their trains to make sure that you’ll not miss any of it. I advise esp for the women to take the 3rd or the 2nd to the last schedule in case of any changes and for you to be safe as well. Not to leave after sunset so that you’ll avoid getting lost and most of the people doesn’t speak English.

Visit the famous Shilin Night Market.

3. Be FRIENDLY and POLITE During my trip, I felt like that I can easily adopt to a certain culture. Tho, I still need more immersions just to confirm this. Haha Being friendly is good but not to the extent of sharing your life. You still need to know your limitations as a tourist and always be reminded by our parent’s basic rule: “don’t talk to strangers” might help too. Always be polite in asking the locals some questions, where to go? What to ride? Where can I find this? Etc… It’s good that you learn their basic expressions and always smile to them.

One thing in common: we Love to travel!

I stayed in a hostel and what’s good about staying in a hostel is that you get to meet fellow nomads. Great cross cultural conversations, learning from each other’s trips, history of your beloved countries and they would even give you tips what are the best places to visit and how to go there (first hand experience). Remember, you are an ambassador of your own country and you reflect what kind of country you’re living in. It might change their perspective about Filipinos as well.

Met some kabayan in Taiwan

  4. Will make you more COURAGEOUS This might be a real challenge for a faint hearted or for people who are dependent but I say, it’s really worth it. Doing solotravel, will make you more courageous and be more independent. For sure, your first concern is, who will take my photos???? My ootd? And how can I bring all my bags? Etc… Haha Funny questions and for sure you thought of it too. People can take a photo of you unless you ask them in a nice and friendly way. We say it in Filipino, “kapal ng mukha” haha. Don’t miss the chance of having your portrait in a nice view or maybe you can bring a tripod / go pro if you want.  I brought my happy pod all throughout my trip and would also ask some tourists or locals to take my photo. Eating some delicacies or food during their night market can be super fun. Since I’m not that adventurous about food, I chose not to eat their stinky tofu or other exotic food. Haha that I’m not courageous enough!;) IMGP2240_Fotor_Collage 5. Be ready for a fun filled ADVENTURE You can still have memorable adventures even if you’re on a solo trip. I will never forget when I went up the elephant mountain, it was so steep and took me around a thousand steps just to watch the sunset and the skyline of Taipei I’m the evening. It’s sooooo worth it even if I need to bring the stuff that I bought from IKEA with my backpack. Kinda heavy but it didn’t hinder me to do that one of a kind adventure. Such a magnificent view and time to seethe sunset. It was breathtaking!

Don’t forget to go up the Elephant Mountain to have a breathtaking Taipei skyline.

Sipping a cup of coffee in Jiufen was a great experience too! You can see the overlooking view of the Pacific Ocean, clouds right in front of you, and mountains are so refreshing. All you can think of is, God thank you for this wonderful experience that I get to witness your creation. DSC_0329_Fotor_Collage Taiwan foods Countless stories on how people approached me and talked to me in Mandarin because they thought that I’m also Taiwanese. Funny that I can get to disguise like them but after saying Nihao and Xiexie, they realized that I’m a tourist.:) Solo travel can also reaffirm if you have a sense of direction. Well, you can try not to look at the map all the time and check if you’ll get off the right train station. When people give you directions, do you still remember it or not?:)

People are kind enough to take your photo

****** For me, it brought so much inspiration that Taiwan is one of the nicest places to visit in Asia esp for a first time solotravelers like me. Thanks to my friend who encouraged me to “launch” my first solo trip in Taiwan.;) no regrets! It inspired me to dream more about Philippines. I guess, the patriotic inside of me would always say, I hope we have this kind of bus or train system in our country, etc… They’re very systematic, simple, and efficient. I admire all their signages and information that they provided not only for the locals but to the tourists as well. Solo travel will renew your perspective about traveling. Sometimes it’s also fun to be alone. Take note, “sometimes”… Haha It could give you a time to think, recharge, discover yourself more, make new friends, appreciate life and God even more. So take that leap of faith and check it to your bucket list. At least, once in your life you can proudly say to yourself that you did something different. It’s worth the risk!;)

Mavid Batanes 2014 (Day 3)

Our last full day in Batanes… Sad but excited! Tho, the weather is different from yesterday bec it’s a cloudy day. This didn’t stop us from enjoying our day.

We left our hotel around 800am and our itinerary is to go to the Southern part of Batan.
First stop: Chawa View Deck
Beautiful waves from the Pacific Ocean greeted us early in the morning!
Beautiful waves from the Pacific Ocean greeted us early in the morning.
Great way to start our day! With a strong cold wind we still went down and watch the waves in front of our eyes.:)
Don’t come closer bec you’ll get wet unless you wanted to…;)
No filter needed for this awesome cliff!
No filter needed for this awesome cliff!
Don’t be tempted to jump bec the rocks are quite rough ESP for cliff diving. Haha;)
Then time to do some road trip and our destination: Mahatao
Mahatao Old Church
Mahatao Old Church

When you visit Mahatao, don’t forget to visit the Blank Book Library beside the Mahatoao church. You can choose any of the books and maybe write a letter or message that you can also check when you visit Batanes again. Remember the book number.:)

DSC_0890_Fotor_Collage Oldest house in Mahatao
House of Dakay (One of the oldest house in Mahatao)

Me and my friend Mylene doing some PlanaForma pose while waiting for the other tourists to finish their picture taking but it seems like they’re taking forever to finish. Thats why i wasn’t able to take a photo of the whole house… Pfffft!:)

DSC_0890_Fotor_Collage HONESTY CAFE
The famous HONESTY CAFE

Finally, we get to visit the one of the most famous attractions in Batanes, the Honesty Cafe. You just choose what to buy, write it down the log book, drop your payment. Take note that you need to give an exact amount bec no one can give you a change.

You can buy some local products but not too much. Im quite surprised that they don’t offer more local food there and homegrow coffee but Cong. Abad explained it to me why when I was able to talk to her during our flight back to manila.

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View from the cliff. Ruins of a house due to the tidal wave years ago.
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This is the house where Ms. Iza Calzado stayed for the movie “Batanes”.
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Friendly kids welcomed us

You will be amazed on how hospitable the locals are even the kids would say hi or greet you anywhere. It seems like they’re trained to do that but I guess its their nature to welcome the tourists with a happy face…

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Jump for joy!!!

Traveling makes our hearts beat faster and even jump because of so much happiness!

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Quick stop for this beautiful rock formations!
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Lighthouse again!!!:)
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Such a breathtaking place: Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro County)

Time for lunch and when we knew that were going to eat in Marlboro Country, we can’t help it but to be excited…

The sun is hiding from us but I still love the view!:)
The sun is hiding from us but I still love the view!:)

Cant resist to stay for couple of minutes even if its kinda windy and super cold!:) I can hear the wind blows and thank God that I’m not too thin because I might be blown away! LOL

Windy and cloudy?!!! Naaaaaah! hahaha:))
Windy and cloudy?!!! Naaaaaah! hahaha:))
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Very picturesque view of this light house!

Its more FUN in the Philippines!!! Yes! you’re in the Philippines and not in Switzerland or some other country…

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port
Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

For our last stop, we visited the Boat Shelter Port, wherein the boats can dock during bad weather. It provides a safe place for them to keep their boats from being ruined by the waves and wind.

Mavid Batanes 2014 (Day 2)

Whoooot! All set for our second day. Woke up around 430am to prepare for our island tour in Sabtang. We had breakfast in our hotel and left at 615am to go to the port since we the boat will leave around 700am. I told to myself that I will drink a medicine (bonamine) but for the sake of being sure I took one.  The waves are not that strong but if you have motion sickness just be ready since it might get a lil bit rough in the middle of the sea.

We arrived in Sabtang almost 800am (30-45mins boat ride). Were fetch by our own cute lil van like a surfer chic van and ate Juliet our tour guide accompany us as well.
Tip: you can wear your swimming attire in case you want to have some dip in the ocean but be cautious with your time ESP when you’re doing a day tour only. You don’t want to miss your boat since they only have one schedule going back.;)
FIRST STOP:
Nakabuang Beach and Arc
Nakabuang Beach and Arc
Oh! Helloooo white sand and this natural arc made of stones will welcome you right away!
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Chavayan community tour (UNESCO Nomiated Site)
Chavayan community tour (UNESCO Nominated Site)
Were amazed on how they preserved this community.
It made me feel that I’m in a different time. Their traditional house are built in a way it can stand a storm or even a tidal wave. Their main house, kitchen and even bathroom is separated to one another.
Lola Marina, 88 yrs old (Ivatan local)
Lola Marina, 88 yrs old (Ivatan local)
We’ve met Lola Marina, she’s 88years old and she weaves Vakul (women’s traditional head gear to protect from sun and even rain). She said that it’s the only thing that she can do since she cannot go up to the mountains.
Locals are helping with each other as they build a house
Locals are helping with each other as they build a house
The people in their community are hospitable even the children get to smile whenever you’ll ask them that you’ll take their photos (I guess, they’re also used with a lot of tourists asking them to smile to the camera)
Chamantad - Tinaian View Point
Chamantad – Tinaian View Point
Fresh Buko Juice
Fresh Buko Juice  (perfect to refresh us from the heat of the sun)
Our tour guide made sure that we’ll enjoy this place that’s why we let other tourists go here first and we made this in the middle of the day. And we said to her that it’s a good decision bec were able to savor the place as a group alone! We bought some buko juice for the store along the road before going down and up to see the whole view.
Chamantad - Tinaian View Point
Chamantad – Tinaian View Point
We didnt mind the trail again even if its quite high. Its all worth it! One of the best place ever!!!!!!! The very picturesque scene is unbelievable coz I feel like I’m in a different part of the world but the more I felt so in love with the place. The cliff, mountains, cool breeze, white sand, and the sound of the waves are really taking my breathe away. I can’t get enough of this kind of view. One of a kind experience!
No Filter!!!:)
No Filter!!!:)
Thank you ate Juliet for our wonderful photos (group and solo)…;) you made our trip more memorable!;)
LUNCH
Fresh Lobster and lovely view over lunch
Fresh Lobster and lovely view over lunch
We left Sabtang by 1:00pm bec they’re monitoring the weather and glad that the coast guards are there to check the boats and made sure that everyone is safe. Again, I took my medicine since I don’t wanna risk being sea sick (tho, I don’t have one. Just to be sure…). The waves are different since its kinda rough unlike in the morning but still manageable. It’s funny that some of the elders get to scream like they’re in an amusement park. Hihi we just slept in the middle of it.
We went back to the hotel early and rested for few hours. We went to the town proper bec my friends will attend church and I get to have sometime alone. Went to the canteen near the church (in the capitol area) and tried their famous noodles.
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>>>Dinner we tried this new italian restaurant few mins away from our hotel. They only serve pizza but I say it’s delicious but the service is quite slow bec I think they only have 2-3 staff in the restaurant.
Such a beautiful SUNSET!:)
Such a beautiful SUNSET!:)
I’m still excited for what is in store for our last full day in Batanes….;)
***TIP: plan your Sabtang tour on the 2nd day of your trip since they only have one boat trip everyday. It will be safe for you in case your boat will not be permitted to go back due to some bad weather situation.

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