Diving in Anilao, Batangas

When one thinks of diving in the Philippines, Anilao is the first place that comes in my mind. Considered as the birthplace of scuba diving in the country, Anilao is the top dive destination for its accessibility, cost effectivity and extensive biodiversity (being close to the Verde Passage which is the center of the center of the Coral Triangle).

I first visited Anilao on November of 2013, I was still working my way to get my Advanced Adventure Diver license. It is easy to go to Batangas from Manila, you just head over to LRT Buendia station where most of the buses headed for Batangas are. I took the BLTB, fare costs around P150 and the trip takes roughly 3 hours (it might be more these days with the ongoing road construction). I reached Batangas City bus terminal and took the jeepney bound for Mabini which cost around P40. I got off at the round about and hired a tricycle to Scuba Bro Dive Resort for P60.

Scuba Bro view.
Loved the view.

Scuba Bro is a native inspired resort which is located in a picturesque cove. The architecture offer rooms and terraces overlooking the sea.

View from the deck.
What a view!

The perks of staying there is that their room accommodation already includes the buffet breakfast, free use of kayak and snorkeling gear, unlimited coffee and tea at the resto and free Wifi at the Resto. Another thing is that you do not need to go far, their next to the resort you can do a shore entry and see a good number of sea creatures such as nudibranchs, the emperor shrimps and frog fishes.

Sunset at Anilao
If you stay for the night, you will get to see a great sunset too.

 I did a dive with a group of advanced divers from Shark Bait Huhaha (I felt a bit pressured because I was still having issues with my trim and buoyancy). Luckily they had underwater cameras to show how beautiful it is under, here is a video by Meg:

Amazing Anilao from Megarroo on Vimeo.

It was the longest dive I ever did to date (60mins. thanks to the school of jack fish that made me calmer underwater). Twin Rocks Marine Sanctuary did not disappoint, it offers a bit of everything from macro to pelagics. This site got its name because of the two big rocks underwater that is less than a meter apart. It is teeming with marine life and it is even dubbed as the number 1 dive site in Anilao. This is good for divers experienced dealing with currents, they said that the site is usually for advanced and skilled divers, that they do not really recommend it to beginners.  You can dive with just a 3mm suit, some even dive with just their board shorts (like my instructor) but there are thermoclines so if you have cold intolerance better to suit up.

Average depth: 15-20 meters/45-60 feet
Visibility: 10m.-20m./33ft.-66ft.
Current: Slight – Moderate

Anilao is a great diving escape for people tired of the metropolitan life in Manila who are itching to have saltwater in their skin. There is a good number of dive centers and resorts for you to choose from and it is one of the cheapest places in the Philippines to get certified.

Here are added commuting directions from http://www.ph-commute.com
From Caloocan:
Route 1: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Las Pinas:
From Alabang-Zapote Road, ride a jeep/bus to Alabang, and get off at Manuela Metropolis Alabang (Metropolis Mall).
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Makati:
Route 1: MRT/Jeep-MRT/Jeep-Bus
Go to LRT-1-Gil Puyat station along Taft Ave. corner Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia). In order to get there, you can either:
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station. Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station. Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
From Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia), ride a jeep to Guadalupe, and get off at Buendia station. Take the MRT to Taft terminal station. Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station. Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
From Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia), ride a jeep to LRT/Taft, and get off at Taft Ave.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Mandaluyong/Pasig:
Route 1: MRT-LRT-1-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 2 blocks along EDSA following the MRT track, past Farmers Plaza, Aurora Blvd., and Monte de Piedad. The bus terminal is just beyond Monte de Piedad.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
Route 4: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Kamuning station.
Walk 2 blocks the way you came along EDSA following the MRT track, past 11th Jamboree, GMA Channel 7, Metro Manila Commission, Timog Avenue/South Avenue, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (East Avenue), Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (It’s not as far as it sounds.) The Tritran bus terminal is just beyond Trinity Lutheran Church.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas Pier (every 30 minutes, PHP 154 fare).
Route 5: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 1 block along EDSA the way you came, following the MRT track, until you get to Gen. McArthur Avenue.
Turn left at Gen. McArthur Avenue, and walk 5 short blocks past Session Road, Farmers Market, Gen. Araneta, Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue, Shopwise, Time Square Avenue, and Ali Mall, until you get to Gen. Romulo Avenue.
Cross Gen. Romulo Avenue. The bus terminal is just beside Auto Centro, across Ali Mall.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Manila:
Route 1: LRT-1/Jeep-Bus
Arrive at LRT-1-Gil Puyat. In order to get there:
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a jeep to Buendia/Taft, and get off at Gil Puyat station (Taft Ave. corner Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. [Buendia]).
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1/Jeep-Bus
Arrive at LRT-1-Gil Puyat. In order to get there:
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a jeep to EDSA/Taft/Baclaran, and get off at EDSA station (Taft Ave. corner EDSA).
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: Bus
From Plaza Lawton, ride a JAM Transit bus to Batangas Pier.
From Muntinlupa:
From Manuela Metropolis Alabang (Metropolis Mall), ride a bus to Batangas.
From Paranaque/Pasay:
Route 1: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Quezon City:
Route 1: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-LRT-1-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: LRT-2-LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-2 to Recto terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-Doroteo Jose station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 4: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 2 blocks along EDSA following the MRT track, past Farmers Plaza, Aurora Blvd., and Monte de Piedad. The bus terminal is just beyond Monte de Piedad.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
Route 5: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Kamuning station.
Walk 2 blocks the way you came along EDSA following the MRT track, past 11th Jamboree, GMA Channel 7, Metro Manila Commission, Timog Avenue/South Avenue, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (East Avenue), Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (It’s not as far as it sounds.) The Tritran bus terminal is just beyond Trinity Lutheran Church.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas Pier (every 30 minutes, PHP 154 fare).
Route 6: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 1 block along EDSA the way you came, following the MRT track, until you get to Gen. McArthur Avenue.
Turn left at Gen. McArthur Avenue, and walk 5 short blocks past Session Road, Farmers Market, Gen. Araneta, Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue, Shopwise, Time Square Avenue, and Ali Mall, until you get to Gen. Romulo Avenue.
Cross Gen. Romulo Avenue. The bus terminal is just beside Auto Centro, across Ali Mall.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Taguig:
Route 1: Bus-MRT-LRT-1-Bus
From Market! Market!, Net2, or the Fort Open Field, ride the Fort bus/shuttle to Ayala.
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: Bus-MRT-Bus
From Market! Market!, Net2, or the Fort Open Field, ride the Fort bus/shuttle to Ayala.
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.

Warrior Wednesdays: Do Not Assume

How many times do you judge people in a day? I admit enjoy observing people and assuming things. I am not certain if it is really part of human instinct to judge people. We have created stereotypes and used cues to formulate conclusions without clarifying it to the person involved. We hate being judged and yet we like to judge.

Assume Nothing
Steer clear from prejudice.

When I was a kid, I used to judge the candidates of Binibining Pilipinas a lot. I would assume that they do not have much besides their physical beauty and that what they did was easy. Things changed when I decided to see things from their perspective. After joining several competitions, I had to get used to the label “beauty queen” among my friends. There was one incident where I was talking to a woman and she bluntly told me, ” I did not expect to have a good conversation with you. I thought most beauty queens did not have substance”. I felt insulted and wished that I had my academic records so I could show it to her face that I knew more things beyond looking beautiful. It then hit me on how similar I was to her.

Everyday we seek an audience, we want people to understand us. We assume too much and understand too little. We think we know everything and we categorize it according to how we think. How often do you get hurt and hurt others from assuming things? Avoiding conflict, keeping things to ourselves always ends in conflict.

You Know Nothing.
Be like Snow.

Always bear in mind this famous line from the Game of Thrones series, this is how you should program your mind daily. Try to see things like it is your first encounter, Just as how a newborn sees the world. Do not convince yourself that your guesses are fact, they probably are not. We think too much, and thinking leads to assumptions. Assumptions lead to nothing but disappointments. Follow Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice:

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Sharing Happiness: Where on Earth are you?

If you want a free letter or postcard from the Philippines, say Aye!

I recently started to ask people in Amazers (an awesome a social network that enables users to connect with like-minded individuals, participate in challenges, and draw inspiration) if they wanted a letter or a postcard from the Philippines and I realised it would also be great to know who reads my blog (I have no idea why my writings would be interesting but I am thankful).

snail-mail
Let’s revive snail mails!

I am offering to send letters and postcards to anyone who reading this. It would be great to know the people behind the views and send you gals and guys a personal thank you.

Message me if you want one. I repeat this is free and I will not ask for donations or credit card details but if you offer me a trip to Galapagos who am I to say no (half-kidding). I would be more than happy to send you a bit of happiness. Just visit the contact page for details on how to reach me.

Monday Musings: Catfished

So you met a cute guy from Tinder, is he for real? Don’t be catfished.

Everything is virtually possible online, from reading scholarly papers to dating. Connecting to different parts of the world are now almost as fast as the speed of light. This new convenience, however, have left us disconnected with the physical world and vulnerable to an alternate reality. So what is catfished?

Catfish is an American slang that means luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. This video below is about a lady who was catfished for 12 years. I find it hard to comprehend how it took her that long before she found out the truth but I guess there are professional liars lurking around the worldwide web.

http://embed.live.huffingtonpost.com/HPLEmbedPlayer/?segmentId=55b291042b8c2a2f6f000665&autoPlay=false

When internet became mainstream in the Philippines, I was still naive. I thought that everyone was honest online. I became a victim to false friendships. I have learned from my mistakes and have grown more of a cynic.

Nowadays, you can easily fake who you are according to what is generally likeable. If you have Tinder, you would understand how most of the photos showcase the best looks (I have a profile photo of a zombie) It has been an avenue for people with insecurities to feel more brave in approaching people and to feel appreciated . Some go as posting private intimate photos and end up destroying themselves. This is just desperate.

Be careful. Do not believe everything online specially when they become too affectionate in such a short time without really showing their real lives offline. Get to know them beyond the internet.

Monday Musings: The White Rabbit

Anyone who has read or watched Alice in Wonderland would remember the White Rabbit. He is the first character that Alice meets. Manic and frantic he is always on a rush. Most of us are like the White Rabbit.

Worry

How many times do you go through a day worrying about time, about the past or the future? I sometimes wonder why is it part of our nature to be so concerned about controlling life?

I am one of the control freaks. I like to plan things out. Although I appreciate surprises, I would prefer to know what will happen next. Maybe being a girl scout is partly to blame for it. Always ready, this is never leaves my mind. I end up worrying about everything. When I travel, I search for every detail and oftentimes I end up frustrated. I spend so much time worrying that I fall into a pit. Every detail has to be thought out, nothing to be left out of consideration. 

Age does things to you, it teaches you to be patient and accepting of life. As the year passed by, I eventually became laid back though there are instances where I would still want control over things.

Here is a thorough lecture on our addiction to control. by Alan Watts

We want our forever to be good but reality reminds us that forever is never here. It always avoids us and as we spend our seconds looking forward or back, we miss out on life. Everything in this world has a function. When we give up controlling life, we end up gaining it. Trust life to have power over it.

Now could be your only forever.

What is known is known, and there is no use worrying about it. One can accept it, reject it, work to change it, or try to ignore it, but what is, is. The true field of freedom is in consideration of what is not, what might be, what we think.

-Eric Rabkin

Warrior Wednesdays: Don’t Take Anything Personally

You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you.

“You are charming but you do not have the face to make it to a beauty pageant.”

“You look like a maid and you should not be part of Bb. Pilipinas.”

“You are damaged, no one will ever love you.”

Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in.

I will never forget these exact words. Even if I wanted to forget them, these have left a mark on me.

How did you do last week? Was the first agreement easy? Here is the next challenge from Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Everyday we receive judgements from people who would rather seek perfection than kindness. Damaging words, yes, but only if you allow it.

As an awkward middle child, I always felt uncomfortable being in the spotlight because I knew that I would be vulnerable to others judgement and I admittedly allowed them to limit me. Despite my mother’s constant encouragement, others made me feel insecure and uncomfortable in my skin. I would avoid wearing clothes that I liked just because I felt that I had fat limbs (when in reality, I was underweight).

When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

I tried to break free from it and prove others wrong by joining my first pageant 6 years ago. Admittedly joining a pageant in the Philippines when you are 22 is quite late. Most of the girls start really early! This country takes beauty pageant seriously. Some girls go as far as giving up a year of study to prepare for a national pageant!

not listening photo tumblr_m57t1xMTJn1rnvlqy.gif

Even the opinions you have about yourself are not necessarily true; therefore you don’t need to take whatever you hear in your own mind personally…

After my transition from a normal tomboy to a beauty queen, I became more vulnerable to judgement and criticisms. I can’t even begin to list all the harsh comments I got the minute I made it through the final screening in Bb. Pilipinas. From my teeth to my overall look, everyone had a lot to say. My primary purpose for joining pageants was to go against ideals of perfection.

Au naturale!

I got sucked in and began to care so much about how I looked and what I wore. It got crazy that I would feel incomplete if I did not have my eyebrows done! Unconsciously, I was follwing the pattern, the stereotypical Filipina lady. I felt uneasy and ugly without make-up and had to be refined with my actions. I did not let the words affect me directly, it got under my skin slowly as I allowed myself to swim into the pool of expectations. I decided to break free.

It became easier when Bb. Pilipinas ended, I can leave the room without wearing make-up and be back to my boyish ways. I also become lenient with people that I do not expect much from them.

You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you.

When I went to Malaysia, I was relieved to know that the Ms. SCUBA International organisers preferred the girls wearing less of the chemicals. They preferred a more natural look (one reason why I think it is probably one of the better pageants that exist to date) focusing more on the cause.

I started feeling a huge amount of freedom once I started not taking anything personally. Those comments that used to stop me lost its power.

I am not completely free from it though, there are still times when I become upset over a lie, a gossip or a label but I am getting better at it. Once I understood, and refused to take things personally, I can’t hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others. It does take a lot of strength to brush things off specially with social media has these days. A little mistake or imperfection could spur a major lashout from online trolls. All you need to do is to practice it daily, it becomes easier with each day.

You are a superstar.
Remind yourself this.

 The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune.

I admire people in the fashion and entertainment industry who can put up with such, my non-conforming nature will never be able to survive. I am in awe of how they are able to go through it daily. The media is unforgiving most of the time.

This is why I will never be a mainstream beauty queen, it takes a lot to be able to put up with such tall order and I would prefer to use my time to do other things ( having perfect hair and make-up not being part of it).

Words cannot express how much I don't care.
Care more about people.

If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need.

I am in a much happier and carefree state now. I have learned to stick to what is good and not to spread poison. I find it a bit easier to be vulnerable now (though there are still moments that the manhater in me is revived). I have less fears. More open to love people and embrace their imperfections. I dare you now to start the habit of not taking anything personally.

Happy
Who cares if I am a bit fluffy as long as I am happy!

P.S. I will be adding more challenges for next week asides from the agreements, I assure you that it will be good for your physical health and the environment.

Monday Musings: Dancing Through Life

Do not let life drown you out. Dance!

One sunday afternoon while catching up with the things I missed over Facebook ( You are not Filipino if you do not spend at least 10 minutes in a day, which I am occassionally guilty of.), I saw a feed from success.com about how Hawaiians managed to live happy lives.

Steve Rizzo said in his article that the secret for this was this:

Don’t wait for the storms of your life to pass. Learn to dance in the rain.

“Dancing in the rain” is an attitude that truly happy and successful people live by and few dancers come by it naturally. Can you learn to dance in the rain when the storms of change and misfortune are pouring down on you? I believe the answer is yes. It’s a matter of shifting your focus and way of thinking when times are tough that make the difference. “

I then recall how my life turned out last year, of how I wished for everything to leave me but then things got worse. I guess it is human nature for us to want things to stop. We are not the kind who would easily embrace difficult situations. There is always that instinct in us to resist change and close off.

I met a couple of people who have helped me learned to dance instead of remaining in the abyss like a drift wood. It is amazing how a change of perspective can do so much in one’s life.

How are you going through your life? Are you drowning or dancing?

Wednesday Warriors: Be Impeccable with Your Word

How far we can go with our freedom of speech? With the social media built into our everyday routine, it is a daily struggle to find boundaries on what is acceptable and what is not. Exposed to a massive influx of internet trolls, our tolerance for bullying and written hatred has grown. So I challenge you to go against this, for this week, make it a point to think before you speak.

Be Impeccable with your word.
First Agreement

This challenge is the first our of the four agreements from Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. In the book, he wrote, “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use your power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

We should be more responsible with what we say to others because they can damage. Let us stop spreading the poison of negativity. Being impeccable never hurt anyone.

Monday Musings: Beauty in the Now

We want not only to be loved, we want to think of ourselves as lovely. Rather than see ourselves as we truly are, we see ourselves as we would like to be. Self-deception can be more comforting than self-knowledge. We like to fool ourselves.

-Russ Roberts

Does the quote strike you? Yes? Then sadly you have fallen victim to the pressures of the dumb majority. But hey no worries! You know why? What was in the past and what is yet to come in the future does not matter ( really it does not). No need to deceive yourself by hiding underneath all those cosmetics, undergoing drastic surgeries or cover yourself to please others. There is no need to fake smiles. Trust me when I say, you are beautiful as you are now. Embrace you!

My Untold Tacloban Story

January 5, 2015 started with the sun slowly beaming over the mountainous horizon. I woke up to the sight of Allen Port, the ship has finally reached Visayas. After 30 hours of travel by land and 2 hours on the ferry, I knew that my life has reached a full restart. I kept repeating “Tabula Rasa” in my head.

Traditional Costume

I will never go back to Tacloban! I swore myself this 4 years ago out of scorn. It was after I joined Ms. Pintados and lost. It was such a big dismay, I felt that I deserved at least a spot in the top five. I felt cheated and clueless. I did not know of the reasons for my exclusion in the final five.

Photoshoot at Rafael's Farm
Swimsuit Shoot at Rafael’s Farm

I felt that my performance was flawless, that they had no real reasons. It was impossible for me to mess up. I tried to see the logic behind my defeat. Perhaps because I was not a local or politics.

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I felt humiliated that night, after all, I already had enough experience. As the night ended, I was certain that I would never set my foot in Tacloban again.

I buried all that in my past til Typhoon Haiyan came. I could not help but put myself in the same situation. I almost perished during the Ormoc Flood of 1991, one of the worst natural calamities with more than 5,000 people dead. I was one of those children who would queue up for food and clothes.

As news broke of the terrible devastation, I donated half of the clothes I owned and my camping gears ( it was nothing major, I had a yearly tradition of giving away half of the clothes I own as to be a minimalist). I headed to Red Cross to join the other volunteers in the repacking but I felt I could do more.

Repacking at Red Cross Boni
Repacking at Red Cross Boni

After a couple of days, I ended up in Villamor Air Base as one of the head marshalls over seeing the flow of evacuees from Tacloban. When I went home, I was also an online volunteer, encoding all the names of the survivors of several baranggays. Although, I was doing a lot and barely getting any sleep, I felt that I needed to do more.

They called us Team Avengers after receiving 3000+ evacuees working as head marshalls for 100+ volunteers.
They called us Team Avengers.

After Miss SCUBA International 2013, I decided to use the prize money to fund my own volunteer activities. I became close friends with the fellow Villamor Air Base volunteers (we ended up being collectively called “Team Avengers” for managing to organise the simultaneous arrival of 3,000+ evacuees with only 50 volunteers).

Bantayan group
Bantayan group

We decided to support the Bantayan Back to Sea project by DAMGO Inc. As we planned our trip, I realised that the C130 plane will drop us off at Tacloban City. The place I swore to never visit again.

Of all the moments I was growing up with a military officer for a father, I have only tried taking the C130 after Yolanda.
Of all the moments I was growing up with a military officer for a father, I have only tried taking the C130 after Yolanda.
First trip back to Tacloban.
First trip back to Tacloban.

Despite the promise, I swore to do more. After a couple of checks, we boarded the C130. Without proper ventilation or seats, it was like being inside a flying sauna.

Sweating!
Sweating!

Me and my fellow volunteers managed to meet other groups also on their way to Tacloban.

Together with volunteers from other organisations.
Together with volunteers from other organisations.

The flight seemed longer than I thought perhaps because I was feeling the sweat dripping from my forehead.

Fell asleep while on the plane despite the heat.
Fell asleep while on the plane despite the heat.

It was a spur of the moment trip, we had no idea what was before us. It took a lot of effort to reach Bantayan.

Heading to Bantayan.
Heading to Bantayan.

We had to take the van to Palompon but the ferry did not leave until the next day so we had to spend the night in their terminal. I slept on top of boxes of stuffed toys that someone from Manila donated.

The next day we took a ship to Cebu then another bus to Daan Bantayan and another hour-long trip on a ferry to Bantayan.

On our way to board the ferry for Bantayan.
On our way to board the ferry for Bantayan.

When we arrived at Bantayan, I realized how most of the locals thought they have no power to change the situation.

At the port of Bantayan
At the port of Bantayan

I was lucky enough to meet the people changing the current status like Mr. Allan Monreal, Michelle Lim and Mr. Francisco Pacheco Jr. I was all smiles when I heard all their projects because I have wanted to see more sustainable changes that would empower Filipino communities. Damgo sa Kaugmaon Inc., started from a grassroots project focusing on rebuilding the lives of fisherfolks by giving them back the livelihood that they lost.

Building boats
Helping out with the Bantayan Back to Sea program

After spending days in Bantayan, you get a feel of how it would be like if every Filipino see that they are not powerless, that they can change and make things better for themselves and for the community. I left Bantayan with lots of good memories and lessons learned. It reminded me of what I dream for this country and why I have not given up on it.

We can learn so much from children.
We can learn so much from children.
Temporary shelter in Bantayan
Temporary shelter in Bantayan

After that trip, the vivid images of Tacloban haunted me. It made me wonder if what I did was enough and if I could still do more. Luckily, I met some friends from Couchsurfing who were implementing a programme in Tacloban and they asked me if I wanted to volunteer. I could not make any commitments then being tied to contracts and commitments.

A sad reminder

A sad reminder

Resillience is innate in every child.
Resillience is innate in every child.

As months dragged on, I slowly forgot about Tacloban. I got side tracked by personal issues, to the point that city life became toxic for me. My life fell into a full paralysis. I was alive and yet dead from the inside. I would spend the money I earned to amuse myself with food and sights but it was an unquenchable thirst for significance.

10580039_10203036599570850_8055695129581708513_nAs December 2014 was ending, I meet the same friends who invited me for volunteer work in Tacloban. I remembered my unanswered question. I had lost everything in Manila and felt totally helpless. I needed to find a way to feel in control with my life again. I needed an escape.

January 5, 2015 started with the sun slowly beaming over the mountainous horizon. I woke up to the sight of Allen Port, the ship has finally reached Visayas. After 30 hours of travel by land and 2 hours on the ferry, I knew that my life has reached a full restart. I kept repeating “Tabula Rasa” in my head.

“Football for Life” was the name of the programme teaching children football as a for of psychosocial support.

A photo posted by Paula Bernasor (@happinas101) on Jan 20, 2015 at 2:55am PST

I lived in the staff house and received living allowance.

At the start, I felt useless and clueless but as the days passed, I found my niche in the programme implementation.

Finding a place in the field of dreams.
Finding a place in the field of dreams.

I met the coaches, the children and the rest of the people who were working to rebuild the city. Their stories were equally vivid and it inspired me a lot.

Football is Life
Football is Life
We are all in the same boat!
We are all in the same boat!

Life was simple, everything closes by 9p.m. and there were not much to do after work. For someone living in the city for years, I was a bit in a shock ( no Family Mart, Coffee Bean, Divisoria or even 7 Eleven ).

Sunset over Tacloban
Sunset over Tacloban

The things that I got used to in Makati, nowhere to be found (like my favourite whole wheat bread or fresh basil, definitely first world problems).

At the sidelines.
At the sidelines.

Being used to living the metropolitan life, I ended up drowning in all the materialistic cravings. Day after day, I slowly managed to get used to things (except for the slow internet which I will never get used to because they are abusing consumer rights and charging to much).

Girls stick together.
Girls stick together.

I met new people who shared the same ideals and as January ended, I knew I had to stay longer. I planned to spend my birthday in Sagada and the idea of being in the office on my birthday did not bother me at all. I felt that I was where I needed to be. February came to an end, unknowingly Tacloban seduced me into staying for almost 6 months.

With the Pintadas!
With the Pintadas!
All smiles with these kids.
All smiles with these kids.
My loyal stalker Sandra
My loyal stalker Sandra
Those solo nights at Jose Karlo's
Those solo nights at Jose Karlo’s
Fun moments of Wizard and crazy talks at Naning's!
Fun moments of Wizard and crazy talks at Naning’s!
My usual order of tapsilog from Rafael's
My usual order of tapsilog from Rafael’s

The simple routines: walking to the shared office arriving with excited Sandra (the resident dog who pretended to be my pet) running towards me, staying until midnight in Jose Karlo’s while listening to a confusing playlist, and hanging out after work or taking random trips with friends during weekends, brought happiness and contentment.

Jumping at Calvary Hills with the guys of A World of Football

June came and we had to face that the programme is about to end. During the assessment, I was confident that the programme will get another year as there is none like it in Tacloban.

F4L Kids with their new jerseys!
F4L Kids with their new jerseys!
Traces of devastation remains.
Traces of devastation remains.

Everyone was rebuilding physical structures, we were rebuilding dreams. I always joked around when some of my friends from university ask if I do not want to practice my profession as a nurse. I would respond, “I am nursing dreams here in Tacloban.”

Fun time with the kids
Fun time with the kids

I never planned on staying long but I felt it was necessary. The time spent in Tacloban was not only to help the children recover but to help myself as well. The city reflected the turmoil that was hidden in me.

A dream of freedom.
A dream of freedom.

It is now funny when I remember those last few days of December where I would cry out of hopelessness. Tacloban served as my totem. It reminded me daily of life, its fleeting moments of defeats and triumphs. Moments of destruction is often followed with rebirth, a delicate balance we all need to accept. We too often forget life’s duality, not worry too much because everything falls into place.

During the CAC coaches training.
During the CAC coaches training.

We all have to embrace our nomadic nature, it does not have to be changing places but in constantly changing our minds and hearts for the better.

Leave footprints that cannot be erased.
Leave footprints that cannot be erased.

To always be open to life’s challenges and adventure, to set foot into the unknown with full trust that good things will happen.

On to another journey!
On to another journey!

I was a lost nomad with an unset direction and unclear vision. What Tacloban gave me was the priceless gift of clarity and hope.

Build your own bridges and roads to get you where you want to be.
Build your own bridges and roads to get you where you want to be.

“Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demi-gods which would carry you across this river; but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose. There is in the world only one way, on which nobody can go, except you: where does it lead? Do not ask, go along with it.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations