The Unconventional Trip Prep

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Guidelines

If there’s one thing I learned about travelling, it’s the value of creating guidelines. I only realized it this year after having traveled here and there for ten years. Better late than never! I figured this out while thinking of my upcoming trip and reflecting on what I did two years ago. These reminders are not hard and fast rules. They simply exist to guide me in the journey based on what I want to get from it and how I want to feel. We all probably have something like this in our heads. This is the first time I am consciously making the effort to create them.

  1. Have fun! 

    Even when things don’t go according to plan.

  2. Write at least 1 entry (at least 5 lines) every day.

    Reading my past journals have served me well over the years  that this is a no-brainer. I just have to get my lazy tourist ass to do it.

  3. Wake up early and get some quiet time

    Crucial stuff if I want to get some writing time and great shots before everybody wakes up to photobomb my pics.

  4. Engage

    With locals as much as possible!

  5. Exercise.

    Coz #abs. Coz #croppedtop. Coz #bikini.

  6. Be brave

    I always have to remind myself of this.

 

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Practicalities

Aside from making sure  I have something to wear, I try to ensure that I have done the following to make my trip comfortable, convenient and memorable:

  1. Unlock phone, research local sim and instructions on how to call, apps
  2. Prep Camera- batteries, storage space, photo list
  3. Learn the Language – esp basic phrases via  Youtube, Duolingo and Memrise
  4. Familiarize Self with  Transit – trains and buses

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Literature

I research writers of the country I’m visiting and download their works for me to read on the plane. Last time, I was able to borrow some books about Venice but I think they were not so good. My plan is to download a few short stories because as you may have observed, I am a lazy reader.

Music

To immerse myself in the language, I add songs from the country I am visiting. The more genres I have the better. You never know when you’ll feel like having a concert in the shower or when you’ll be in need of a slow jam for long train rides perfect for thinking about exes, boyfriends and whatnot.

Aside from that, I always have my staple playlist that I will listen to wherever I am. My non-FIlipino songs include those by Yuna, Mariah Carey, Sara Bareilles, BTS, 2NE1, Tofubeats, various artists of Reply 1988 OST and Rurouni Kenshin OST. Just so you know, I have a lot of OPM and KPOP songs on mine. My OPM list will have Eraserheads, Zia Quizon, True Faith and 80s/90s songs. Which reminds me, I need new OPM songs. Any suggestions?

Scent

Scents and smells increase the memory of an experience. During my last trip to Italy, I chose a solid perfume in Rose scent from L’Occitane. For next time,  I will opt for a lotion and body mist. The lotion so that the scent lasts and body mist for quick application.

Ang that’s how I’d plan my trip, IDEALLY.

 

Italy: Experiences and Discoveries

Florence, Bologna, Manarola and Venice: AirBnb
 
I’ve been eyeing AirBnb for a while and was finally able to use it on this trip. The accommodations we got did not disappoint or at least most of them. My favorite was the 800 year old apartment in Florence. Our host Paolo was gracious and very knowledgeable about the city. He recommended a really good restaurant and gelato place. I also loved that informative and interesting books about Florence and Italy lined his bookshelves. He has five other Airbnb listings which I would love to see in future visits. The one where we stayed was near Ponte Vecchio. All I can say is that it was simply lovely and if you ever need to go to Florence, book with Paolo.

Modena and Bologna: Amazing-Italy Tour
 

My trip buddy was such a good researcher and booked a Bologna food tour through Amazing-Italy Tours for our side trip. Our guide, Andrea obviously loved his job. He was so funny and always offered to take our photos. He explained everything from the process of making Parmigiano-Reggiano to curing pork for prosciutto. As for the balsamic vinegar, he recognized how passionate the owner, Romano was about his craft and family business and let him do the talking. After the tour, we had a three hour lunch of lasagna, tortellini, salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar, figs with parmesan shavings, stuffed tomatoes and gelato.

 

Cinque Terre: Limoncello

You might see bottles of this liqueur a lot around Italy and since I am not an expert, I wouldn’t know which you should buy. I do know however that the best one we had was the homemade limoncello that our host, Franco, poured for us on our arrival in Manarola, Cinque Terre.  If you are so inclined, there is a basic recipe available on Rick Steves website. There is also an informative article about the drink in this post from Walks of Italy website.

 

Venice: Fried Seafood

We were rewarded well in our effort to ditch the throng of day trippers to Venice and to find the best fried seafood. We got them to-go in paper cones from Vecio Fritolin. I think we got there by accident just trying to avoid the crowd. I don’t know how food writers do it but I am incapable of describing taste right now except by using the word YUMMY. I was happy to part with my 10 euros for it. There was also another hole-in-the-wall one called Frito Inn along Cannareggio which we found out about through Trip Advisor. I don’t know why but that paper cone just seemed bottomless with the fried squid.

image from VecioFritolin.it website

August Challenge: Reflections After Italy

I barely wrote anything for the month of August except a few notes and postcards. It sounds like a huge transgression not to journal everyday when you’re in one of the most popular countries in Europe. But I was busy dancing, partying, drinking wine, eating gelato and cherishing moments for the most part of the month. Nothing bad about that!

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Kababayang Pilipino Cultural Performing Arts Group NEWBIES!

Around a year ago, I made a decision to join a dance workshop. Amazing things happen when you get off your lazy ass to do something. Yes, things like finding yourself on a performance tour in Italy. I danced everyday at the Latium World Folkloric Festival. Our schedule was hectic. Mornings were spent on preparations, make-up, parades followed by afternoon rehearsals then application of make-up again, after which, we get shuttled to other towns for another parade and performance. We performed in Rome, Fondi, Bassiano, Paliano, Velletri, Capri and Cori. It was during this tour that I saw the Happy = High Energy Theory at work! We would sleep for 2-3 hours a day but we had enough energy to Morning da Nayt (that means to party) after an evening show! I tried catching my z’s on the bus most of the time. This  is probably normal to touring professional performers but it’s definitely new and wonderfully insane for a girl who once had two left feet!

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Tourists everywhere in Rome
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Capri

After the festival, three fellow newbies and I went on to Firenze, Bologna e Venezia! Our bodies had had enough of the craziness. We collapsed on the couch/bed and slept for the entire afternoon on our first day in Firenze.

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A lovely corner in our 800 year old apartment in Florence (Firenze)
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On our flight home, I was finally able to pen down some thoughts and here are some of them:
  1. It is alright to be an introvert (I’m supposed to know this already but try being in a tour with 25 other people!)
  2. As an extension to point 1, get at least a few minutes of alone time before “diving into” the day and enjoy pockets of silence
  3. Balance points 1 and 2 with enjoying the company of others and learning from them —FUN!
  4. Don’t be lazy with photos —debatable but when you’re with a bunch of Filipinos, you’ll be glad that you made an effort to pose well!
  5. Focus and calm yourself before the show
  6. Learning the language before going on a trip helps BIG time —Yaay! It really made the experience better for me that I was able to understand many words and knew how to ask for things. Asking for dentifricio at a farmacia in straight Italian … no problemo!
  7. Get lost and enjoy it
  8. Do what you’re too chicken to do if you were at home — For me, it’s to bike in the city. I swear you will feel glorious!

And that’s it for now. There’s more stuff but they are for me to mull over. Ciao!

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One of our meals in Bologna
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Venice

Curious About Chile

More than six years ago, I was in the General References Section of our University’s library most likely passing the time, I don’t quite remember. But I do recall that I picked up a travel guide about Chile. I did not know a lot about the country except that it was in South America. It was also around this time that I learned from Literature class that Pablo Neruda did not only write love poems, ones we often dreamily read in high school, but also wrote political ones. After browsing the guidebook, I decided that I would one day go to Chile.


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Yesterday, September 11 Vancouver time, I was in the public library browsing business books. A woman announced through the intercom that there was a free event starting in a few minutes. A certain mother and daughter from Chile would read from the books they authored. I decided to sit in. The room was already full and a presentation was already being shown: quotes from Salvador Allende, photographs of laborers protesting, photographs of the Desaparecidos (victims of forced disappearances). 
 
source: news.ph.msn.com
 
In the two hour event, I came to know about Carmen Aguirre, Carmen Rodriguez and their beloved Chile. Iturns out, September 11 was the anniversary of the military coup in Chile in 1973 wherein (letting Wikipedia take over here):
 
“The U.S.-backed junta was composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (police force) and the Army, though Augusto Pinochet eventually arose to supreme power within a year after the coup, formally assuming the presidency in late 1974. Pinochet later assumed power and ended Allende’s elected Popular Unity government, instigating a campaign of terror on its supporters, including the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Before Pinochet’s rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America plagued by military juntas and Caudillismo.”
 
It’s quite freakish how September seems to be a month for evil dictators (ok, that’s just me noticing the details and being weird). For those who may not be familiar, Philippine Martial Law was declared by Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972. He was also supported by US imperialists. Later on, during the EDSA revolution in February 1986, he would receive a call from the US Sen. Laxalt to “cut and cut cleanly”.
 
I almost felt Carmen Rodriguez’s character’s fear and pain when she read a the part of her book when the protagonist was longing to be home and safe in Canada.  I felt goosebumps when Carmen Aguirre read an excerpt of her book Something Fierce: The Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. It was about her life in the resistance, that and how it was being a teenager at the same time. Hmmm… sounds like something some of our parents or someone they know may have experienced in the martial law years. That is one book I have yet to read and must read this year! 
 
source: arts.nationalpost.com


The event ended with a question and answer. The last question was from an Ecuadorian-Canadian teenage girl. She asked what the authors thought about her generation and what they would say as the young generation seem to be self-centered and preoccupied with all things except history and such causes. 
 
Carmen Aguirre said that she was in fact hopeful for the youth:
 
 ” We do live in a consumer society where you are what you buy. I don’t know but I do feel hopeful of the youth here. I am very inspired by the Idle No More Movement which is youth-based, women based. I’m inspired by the Occupy Movement, by the Student Movement of Quebec. So I think there’s a lot going on and the mainstream media will do anything and everything in its power to pretend that nothing’s going on…When we look at alternative media we do realize that there’s so much going on in Canada and it’s not just that you are what you buy.”
source: threeoclockpress.com
 
I sincerely wish events like this be organized in high schools and libraries in the Philippines, as many have been disappointed by the younger generation’s (my generation still!) apathy and lack of knowledge about our history. People have this thing called collective amnesia, maybe that’s what happened to the older generation but let’s not go there. I just know that it’s time these stories are told but also in a way to make young people listen.
 
In any case, I’m still looking forward to someday going to Chile even more so now with these stories in my heart and mind.
 
 

Canada Day and Steveston Salmon Festival

The Steveston Salmon Festival fell in the same Sunday as Canada Day so my family and I went to Steveston, Richmond to take part of the festivities. And what’s my default post like when I get lazy? They say a picture paints a thousand words. Teehee!


*Edit: All the pictures were taken by Astrid of Superboink. She always brings her cam despite how heavy it is. Check out her photo blog pixelsandcelluloid.tumblr.com for more beautiful photos!


I just had to say that the ice cream guy looked at me for a good two seconds
after I told him what flavours  I wanted. “Wasabi and Butterscotch, what a combination.” He said.
 That was the first time I tried wasabi ice cream and it wasn’t bad at all!


Nothing better than messy and tasty pulled pork and slaw bought from the street!


Salmon, the healthier option.




Boats and “pirates” at the Steveston port!




Pirates serenade while everyone else scouts for the perfect seafood for dinner.


An exhibit shows the beauty and craft of boat making.

Davao

This was not intended to be a food entry but a general sharing of what I did in Davao. It seems though that nothing else comes to mind when I try recalling my Davao adventure but those of food and eating.

A trip to a Philippine city is never complete without sampling local street food. Coconut water with evaporated milk was my favorite thirst quencher. I’m quite a fan as it was only singko per cup! I had proben or fried gizzard on sticks and crispy fried chicken skin. They were delicious with chili sauce. There were also healthy options– sliced fruits such as papaya, mangoes, guavas and the refreshing root crop singkamas. M, one of my amazing friends and a most gracious host, took us to an unassuming kebab place in one of our dinners. It had an open air layout and plastic tables and chairs. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to worry about my money when ordering Persian food.

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Being a most hospitable/bordering on OCness friend, M also had her bedrooms all prepped with beautiful floral curtains and pristine white sheets. She had us munch on amazing durian pie which she bought from Koronadal. With durian, one can never be a fence sitter. It’s either you love it or you’re disgusted by it. I absolutely love the scent and taste of durian and I was in durian land! The pie was so rich. The filling probably consisted more of the fruit instead of the usual fluff: cream and sugar. Her mom cooked  pancit and I loved it with the squeezed calamansi and fresh celery. It was also my first time to taste durian flavored coffee. Really, I was in durian land. 

The next day, the whole barkada went to an old house turned fine dining restaurant  upstairs (Claude’s) and casual dining downstairs (Cellar de Oboza).  We ordered Filipino comfort food kare-kare, beef salpicao and the house pancit. We also had shrimps in crab fat. Mr. Leading Man* was a little disappointed when the iced tea he ordered turned out to be bottled Nestea. Of course we expected it in a glass at least. I tasted better rice too. I mean who goes wrong with rice? I did like how the kare-kare was presented and the fact that it had puso ng saging with the usual vegetables.

photo by E Sena

photo by ESena

We didn’t have enough time (and honestly no car and diminishing funds!) to go wakeboarding so we decided on going to the beach instead. Sam’s quick call to her cousin got us to a humble but very sufficient cottage in Kaputian, Samal Island. The caretaker made sure we had that videoke on and the refrigerator working. Of course, we made sure he had his favorite drink too. We had a great time singing our hearts out, night swimming and talking about all sorts of things. We slept soundly and comfortably in the cottage’s “attic”. Before our bus left Kaputian, we had buko and nangka iced candy.

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photo by ESena


We were famished upon our return to Davao City so we headed off to Hukad and had comfort food again but I really only appreciated the crispy pata. When it was time to order dessert, everyone opted to share a serving of halo-halo except of course Mr. Leading Man and I. It wasn’t surprising that we were both the only ones to finish our halo-halo either. We love halo-halo. Yes we do.

I know I barely scratched the surface of what Davao City had to offer. Good. A lot of my friends seem to be moving there so I have even more reasons to return. Until the next adventure!

*so i finally settled with this “screen name” for the boyfriend. haha. and he found out that im blogging. grrr. hehe.hi.

Sugbu

I just came from enjoying and living life under the tropical Philippine sky hence the long silence. Anyway, I am still hungover so I will tell a bit of my vacation story through pictures. These ones are of Cebu City.

I tasted Iba Shake for the first time at Zubuchon. It was surprisingly sweet and refreshing.
I’m making this one next time. I just can’t justify paying P90 for iba!
(Iba is Kamias in Tagalog. It’s a green sour fruit commonly found the Philippines)

Carinderia food! We paid P50 for the two meals plus drinks.
Faye and I had our usual warm brownie cup from La Marea and chamomile tea.
Colorful trinkets sold at busy Colon.
One of Cebu City’s beautiful views. It reminds me of a more graceful time in history.
Cokaliong! One eventually gets to be on this ship in frequent inter-island travels in Visayas and Mindanao.
Isn’t this nostalgic?