Of Trees and Huge Doors: Masasa Beach Adventure

It started as a way of escaping, but as it turned out, running away would not be the story that I’d be telling. Instead, I’d be writing about a dream-like sort of happiness that I would treasure in my heart for as long as I can treasure something.

The morning before I left for the trip, the atmosphere at the house was amazing. I woke up very early to clean the house, write a mother’s day letter and surprise my mom. When she saw our surprise, her mood was great and it lifted everyone else’s spirits. We even had a nice little chit-chat over breakfast where she said something I needed to hear (about a certain something I’ve been panicking about for the past few days).

Basically, the morning allowed me to calm the storms in my heart that would’ve been excess baggage if I didn’t have them sorted out. So, I guess I could say that I left with a light heart, ready to be filled with all the love the world would give me.

Gims and I met up at SM Lipa around 12:00 NN to buy groceries. Ate Jen followed later on after her church service.

Since the transient house we went to provided plates, utensils and cookware, all we really had to worry about was the food we were going to eat and some essential toiletries. With a budget of PHP 600.00 we were able to buy food good for three meals along with snacks.

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Lunch time! Let’s fuel our stomach before a long journey.

After our errands, we met at the terminal to eat. We were in a hurry since we wanted to beat the 1:30 PM deadline we set for ourselves. (Surprise! Surprise! Ate Jen was the one who packed the lightest among the three of us.)

We boarded the bus (PHP 35.00) to Batangas Grand Terminal for about 20 minutes. Coincidentally, during the ride, a shark movie was playing. Looking back, I’m glad that it wasn’t some sort of premonition! (We requested Kuya to play a certain Marvel movie next.)

When we got to the terminal, we rode a jeep (PHP 40.00) to Anilao Port next. Since a lot of people were going there, we had to squeeze in with the rest of the crowd. For me, that meant leg work since I was barely touching the seat and the ride took about 30 minutes.

After the jeepney ride, we had to walk a bit to get to the port. There, it was buzzing with people going to Masasa and people with cakes and flowers (who were probably going home to spend time with their moms). Our original plan was to buy rice and water there before boarding the boat but because we were so caught up with the excitement of everything and everyone, we forgot about it and just proceeded to line up like everyone else. We paid a PHP 30.00 environmental fee and then went into the Island Express (PHP 80.00) (going to Tingloy Port).

According to Ate Elvie, the landlady of the transient house we stayed at, there are boats that could take us directly to Masasa. But, since we didn’t ask around and we were caught up in the moment, we just followed the crowd and rode the boat they went to.

It was my first official long boat ride (I rode once already in Tuguegarao but that was barely 10 minutes long and it wasn’t in a big passenger boat). I prayed the I wasn’t the time to get seasick because I really love the sea and if I was a seasick kind of person, that would be horrible! Thankfully, I didn’t get dizzy and I even loved the waves crashing against the boat, rocking it to the rhythm of the music in my ears.

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Commemorative photo of my first boat ride! (Sorry Ate. I couldn’t get any other photo.)

The boat ride to Tingloy Port took about 45 minutes. Once there, we rode a tricycle (PHP 40.00) for about 20 minutes until we reached the area where the transient house was located.

The overall travel time was roughly two hours, not counting the waiting time.

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The three of us with Ate Elvie! Thank you for letting us stay.

The transient house we stayed at was Ate Elvie’s. We stayed in a room good for 3-4 people, ventilated by a wall fan. The house was very clean and spacious, with a kitchen, dinning room, living room, terrace (with karaoke), bathroom, outdoor kitchen and nipa hut. Ate Elvie was also very accommodating, giving us travel hacks and helping us with our food and water concerns (because we forgot to buy them beforehand).

After unpacking, we headed straight for the beach. It was late afternoon by then so the sun wasn’t too harsh on our skin and we had just enough time to enjoy the water before the sun would set.

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Tucking my glasses in my pockets 🙂

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Masasa beach in all its sunset glory

After swimming, we headed back to the house to clean up and cook dinner. Thanks to our teamwork *winks*, the night went on nicely. (Just as inside jokes I want to remember, I’ll be placing keywords here: water, cellphone signal and storytelling.)

We retired to bed soon after. Our room had a twin-sized bed and a twin-sized cushion so it was a good fit.

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Good night, loves!

The next morning, we woke up unbelievably early. Unlike what we were used to, the sun in Tingloy rose really early. It looked like it was 8:00 AM when in fact, it was just 5:50 AM. We got up because it was already bright out and we didn’t want to burn daylight.

After eating breakfast, we went snorkeling (PHP 100.00). Ate Elvie knew a boat man, Kuya Ariel, who guided us for that activity.

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Aboard Mr. Suave!

From the pre-boat ride photo shoot to the lagoon trip, Kuya Ariel had been incredibly accommodating. We went around the beach to look at corals, fishes and even sea turtles! (It was just saddening to see human waste there too. It didn’t belong there.)

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Snorkel away! I felt like a mermaid tbh.

After snorkeling, we had a few minutes to take pictures and enjoy the lagoon bay. Unfortunately, we had to hurry back because the waves were getting a little too strong for the boat.

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We’re on the edge. Anchors away!

Instead of going back to the beach, we went back to the house first. (Inside joke keyword: keys.) We then sang karaoke and ate our merienda/lunch. Time flew way too quickly so we had to pack up and travel back home.

Initially, I thought one long weekend would be enough. But, as we were getting ready to leave, I would find any excuse to stay one day longer. The two days, one night vacation, to me, was some sort of reverting back to nature and tapping into its energy. It was a moment free from inhibitions, worries and insecurities. It was, in essence, simple living and feeling.

All vacations end, and as I ended this one with me dragging myself home, I closed it with both heaviness and lightness. I have been shown kindness and wonder once again and so I look forward to when I’ll be back.

For reference: Total expenses per head (food, transpo, accomo, snorkeling) – PHP 1,100.00 | Transient house contact: Ate Elvie – 09171359977

 

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Visita Iglesia 2018: Laguna to Quezon

For this year’s Holy Week, me and my family decided to go out of town to visit churches we haven’t been to. Initially, we were going to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan but due to some circumstances, we figured that we couldn’t travel that far. I suggested that we should at least go around Laguna and my parents agreed.

Since I didn’t get off work until Wednesday, it was my siblings and my parents who planned most of the trip. Well, technically speaking, other than food, transportation and the first church we wanted to go to, there really wasn’t anything to plan. Dad was assigned to plan our itinerary which meant that we were going to wing it. All we knew was that our first church would be in San Pablo and we’d cap the day at Kamay ni Hesus.

Me and my siblings were in charge of preparations so we got up at 4:00 AM the day of our trip. I cooked while my sisters packed. Despite getting up early, we only managed to leave the house at 7:00 AM-ish. At that point, I got sleepy once again and, thanks to my trusty eye mask, I slept soundly in the car until we reached our first church – Church of St. Paul the First Hermit in San Pablo, Laguna.

Church of St. Paul the First Hermit | San Pablo, Laguna

When we got in, we didn’t start the stations of the cross yet. Instead, we prayed the rosary first. After saying our prayers, we had breakfast in the car. Then, we left for the next church.

Just as I predicted, dad didn’t really come up with a solid itinerary. However, thanks to Google and Waze, that didn’t become a major problem. We just went to the nearest church to our location. That turned out to be the Parish of Michael the Archangel in Rizal, Laguna, my favorite church among those we visited!

Parish of Michael the Archangel | Rizal, Laguna

There was something about this church – other than the comfort room being really clean – that made me like it. I don’t know. It just felt really nice here. There was something about its atmosphere and mood.

Me and my sister going towards a statue of Michael the Archangel

It was here when we reflected on station’s one and two. The reflection for the second one really struck me (read it if you want to know why – Matthew 26: 36-46). We also tried to figure out the story of Michael the Archangel and then prayed for awhile in the Adoration Chapel.

Afterwards, we journeyed to Nagcarlan. There, we found the St. Bartholomew the Apostle Parish. At this point, I was feeling the motion sickness and suggested that we stay put for a while before we head out again. (Me and my siblings were also craving sugar at this point which meant that we were all feeling light-headed.)

St. Bartholomew the Apostle Parish | Nagcarlan, Laguna

We reflected on the third and fourth station here. We also stayed for a while and even bought cotton candy to share.

We headed to St. John the Baptist Parish in Liliw next. (For some weird reason, this is the most forgettable church among the seven that we visited. I don’t know if it was because I was too dizzy to remember or we were going through churches way too fast.)

St. John the Baptist Parish | Liliw, Laguna

After our visit to St. John the Baptist Parish, we were starting to crave for lunch (even if it was just 11:00 AM-ish). We decided to visit one more church before eating. At that time, we were already headed to Majayjay. Thanks to Google, we found two churches but we chose St. Gregory’s because it was closer.

On our way, we actually saw a ton of signs to various waterfalls. If I was being honest, I really wanted to stopover to one of them. We didn’t have to swim (even if I wanted to). I just really wanted to see a body of water! Whether it be a lake, a river, a waterfall or the ocean, I’d be fine with it. I just craved for water! (But of course, our family still wasn’t on that level of spontaneity and we had a mission to accomplish.) (Fun fact: we passed a sign to Pagsanjan falls and my heart broke a little.)

Anyway, back to our Visita Iglesia…

St. Gregory the Great Parish Church | Majayjay, Laguna

We got to St. Gregory the Great Parish Church in Majayjay and spent quite a while there. We reflected on the seventh and eighth station and ate lunch inside the car.

Besides its beautiful antique exterior, I fell in love with this church because it was relatively cooler than the other churches. The atmosphere was visibly lighter and it was also more windy inside. I liked it (although it still doesn’t measure up to the second church. Hard to explain.)

That was it for Laguna. After St. Gregory’s, we traveled Lucban.

Now, maybe this is just because of nostalgia, but Lucban air felt more welcoming. The moment we passed through the familiar market LAVOXA and I used to explore during press con days, my whole body lit up. My sense of direction even worked. Imagine, I was able to go back to the spot where the most amazing fried donuts used to be sold based on vague memories and instinct!

Dad parked near the church and that allowed me and my sister, Ish to walk around for a bit. I brought her to a trinket shop LAVOXA and I used to go to. Then, we finally walked to the church.

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San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church | Lucban, Quezon

I remember passing by this church multiple times, even taking a photo in front of it during one occasion. But, it was only then that I learned of its name – San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church.

Ish and I went to the trinket area first before going in with our parents. Since I wanted to remember that I came back, I bought a cute keychain and a new rosary bracelet.

Then, we went in with our parents. We reflected on the ninth and tenth station.

Miniature of Lucban Church

It was still around 1:00 PM when we finished praying, which was earlier than what we anticipated for going to Kamay ni Hesus (we originally wanted to eat dinner there). We decided to go anyway so we could go home early.

A glimpse of the number of people at Kamay ni Hesus

We got there at around 2:00 PM because of the traffic. To us, that was still early so we had a power nap session in the car first. We woke up at 2:40 PM and that’s when we decided to get it over with. (It’s not that we didn’t want to anymore. As introverts, we have just reached our fill of being out of the home for too long.)

Just one level to go!

We told mom to stay in the church instead of climbing with us because she might not survive the heat and the people. With that, F4 climbed on our own.

The last time I climbed Kamay ni Hesus was in 2nd year college for a subject. This time, it felt easier (despite the crowd) because I honestly feel fitter for it. (Stony stairs have trained me well.)

This time also was more memorable for me and my siblings. When we last went there together, Kate (the youngest) still had to be carried around by dad. We also felt more tired because our bodies weren’t ready for the climb. Plus, this time, we were all grown up in our own way and I felt that kind of maturity.

F4 + Dad finished the Kamay ni Hesus climb!

We met dad at the summit. He was drenched in sweat but was satisfied that he reached the top.

We reunited with Mom at the church and then went to a shop to buy dad a new shirt. I also bought keychains for pasalubong. (Wait for it, friends!) We then bought drinks and then headed back home.

Travel time back home was 3 hours+ and by the time that we got back to Lipa, it was raining heavily. Usually, that was the time we’d do Visita Iglesia in Lipa. Maybe our trip was meant to happen so that we wouldn’t go around in the rain.

I said this a lot of times throughout the trip – I really like this – because I really do. I’m thankful that we’re able to travel together and make memories like this. I live with them and see them everyday, but it’s very rare that we actually have moments to just be with each other. I’ve realized how we’ve grown as a family through this simple experience and I am thankful to have them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MIBF2017: Second time’s a charm

This year’s MIBF felt different for a lot of reasons. (I’m still trying to decide if it was a good kind of different. Kinda overwhelmed still about the experience.)

For one, it’s been a while since I rode a bus to Manila. I didn’t miss the bus per se. I just missed sleeping in the bus (using my not-so swabe moves). Initially, Tiff and I shared stories about what’s been happening in our lives, but after a while, I fell asleep. The “sleep” involved a lot of head banging and me eventually relenting and laying my head on Tiff’s shoulder.

Bus ride @ 10:20 AM. We were supposed to leave at 9:00 AM.

When we arrived in SM MOA, it was a little after lunch already. Our main goal was to eat first (though Tiff insisted that “food is life but books are life-er”). We went around for quite a while before choosing to eat at Yoshinoya.

It was my first time to eat there so I challenged myself to eat stuff I wouldn’t usually order. In that case, it was steamed siomai and California maki. (I prefer my siomai fried and I don’t really like seafood unless, well, unless I like it.)

“For a change” lunch date

After filling our stomachs, we headed to SMX. When we arrived, we were welcomed by a ton of people. And by a ton, I mean 10x the number of people that was at MIBF last year. There were four layers of lines around SMX on both sides of the building. (I’m so proud of all the bookworms that endured the long lines. We’re so awesome!) It took us more than an hour to just get it. (I have never been more grateful for aircon when we reached the entrance.) (Note to self: Bring water and a fan.)

Hello, fellow bookworms!

Our initial plan was to go through everything per row. But when Fully Booked caught our attention, we just headed inside, disregarding said plan.

As expected, it was packed with people inside. It was really hard to find magic-y indie children’s books because of the crowd so I just stuck to my gut when it came to finding a book to buy. (But, in fairness, this year, their paying system was a lot better and faster.)

I bought Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur. Other than the aesthetically-pleasing blue cover, it said:

…where kindness can be a weapon, and children have the power to see what adults cannot.

The second stop was at National Bookstore (1st floor). The space was less crowded so my introvert self held up pretty well. It was there that I found the feel I’ve been looking for in children’s books. There, I bought Sharon Creech’s Walk to Moons.

I picked this up because 1) the author was the author of a poetry book Gianne gave me and 2) it felt right. (This is the problem with being an emotion-based spender.) Here’s a random quote from the book:

You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.

After going around the ground floor and not really seeing fiction books that we wanted to buy, we decided to go up. (I did see a lot of things I could give to a certain friend as pasalubong but I decided to just look around first before making a final purchase.)

Upstairs, it felt more fandom-y and for kids (which made it awesome!!!).

There was another National Bookstore there so we visited it just in case there were new books. Thankfully, the kind of books I couldn’t find downstairs were there. I found The Earth-Healers by Cyan Abad-Jugo and I just couldn’t not buy it because 1) it’s good Pinoy work and 2) Cyan Abad-Jugo! I read one of her books from my MIBF haul last year.

They looked at each other, unable to talk, for the spell of understanding had already faded. Still, what need were words among friends?

Afterwards, we wandered to the Make-a-Wish booth. There we donated for a cause and took a picture with Storm Troopers. Though I’m not really a big Star Wars fan (I did play the computer game though), I liked the experience because, not only did I help, but also, I was reminded of my childhood.

Yes, I look like a potato.

Just nearby was a HP-themed photobooth. It took us quite a while, lining up (we’ve been doing that the whole day) but in a fangirl sense, using the props and taking pictures was worth it. (My hair was deflated already though.)

Wearing a Hufflepuff cloak, I realized that maybe I am a Gryffindor.

It was already around 6 PM when we got out of there. By then, we just had a quick go-over of the rest of the booths upstairs. Adarna publishing quickly caught my eye because I’ve been trying to look for it downstairs earlier that day. From there, I bought Raissa Rivera Falgui’s Woman in Frame.

Perhaps what drew the young woman to this painting was the incongruity of a girl, grave and formal, set within the vibrant, flowing curves of the carved art nouveau frame. Perhaps it was the sense of kinship she felt. For the young woman, Ning, was the daughter of an artist, dreaming of becoming an artist. She knew nothing of the girl in the portrait, only that the intensity captured in the glimmer of its brush-stroked eyes reflected her own.

By the time I’ve finished paying, I started to feel the need to end the day. It was six something and we’ve visited almost all there was to visit.

By then, I’ve only spent PHP 768 for four books (which was not a bad bargain at all). I only needed to check one last booth for the pasalubong  I wanted to buy.

I went down to UP Press to check out a certain book. However, when I got there, I found poetry books that I wasn’t able to find the first time I scouted the area. I saw about five poetry books that I liked but the problem was, I didn’t have enough money anymore. (The struggle was so intense!) I also found a ton of books that I wanted to gift to people (but then again, I couldn’t afford to give a book to all of them).

After much internal debate, I bought three books (and went over-budget). I bought one poetry book I really connected to, Merlinda Bobis’ Accidents of Composition and two others as gifts. (Due to this single purchase, I spent almost as much as I did from 2:30 – 6:30 PM. MIBF just wouldn’t let me leave as a responsible adult.)

Book haul! Not a bad bunch at all.

After that, it was time to travel back home. Tiff had work so I went to Lipa on my own (and almost got lost INSIDE THE BUS TERMINAL).

I over-exhausted my introvert body and soul so I almost couldn’t feel it on the bus ride home. As expected, I was knocked out to oblivion when I fell asleep.

Overall, I felt more in control with my choices this year. I knew what I wanted and where I wanted to go. I didn’t binge-buy for the sake of remembering that I went to a certain booth (unlike last year). I also knew how to survive expos this time so I knew what to expect.

I just wish there were more indie publishers this year. I really looked forward to their books. I wanted to meet them again too.

You can read about my first MIBF experience here.

A quick escape to Tagaytay

Last Sunday, me and my girls had a quick get-together at Tagaytay. Though we all had our fair share of worries for the upcoming week, it just felt great to see each other again.

After our roadtrip to Tagaytay, we initially attempted to eat at Balay Dako. However, the place was booked and we were already hungry. (The view of Taal was spectacular though!)

We went to Carlos Pizza instead since it was just right beside BD. We ate outside with Taal just there.

Hello Taal!

Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take photos.

Before going down, we stopped over on one side of the road to take photos.

I loved that quick break. It was the first weekend that I just went out without really working on something. (The best part was, of course, being updated on each other’s lives despite not always seeing each other. Love you!)

Frames of Taal

Sometimes, we see things better when we have a limited perspective of the big picture. Maybe, it’s because darkness doesn’t only have a way of bringing out the shadows, but also, light.

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The games we play. These are two of my students playing chess in Tampuhan Cafe.

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Among a crowd of shadows. This picture highlights one of my co-teachers, standing outside the Taal Basilica.

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Secret passage. This one of my students posing at the Marcela Agoncilio museum.

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Taal Narnia. This one of my students, exploring the Taal Basilica.

 

 

 

Thoughts up on Manabu

Photo taken at Mt. Manabu summit

 

Last February 4, I joined a mountain climbing trip to Mt. Manabu with Team Tagaktak. It was a spontaneous trip (at least for me) since my sister notified me a night before the hike. Though I was tired from the work week in Manila, I said yes because I did want to return to Manabu after four years and I wanted to meet up with my Lavoxa friends.

So yeah. The hike happened like that, on a whim, but after it all ended, it felt like I needed to be there, like it was meant to happen. I won’t narrate the entirety of what happened. Instead, I’ll just write what I learned from the climb.

Travel at your own pace.

I started confidently, striding alongside those who have more recent experiences of hiking than me. I thought to myself that Manabu was the mountain of my childhood anyway and I conquered it before. But I was badly out of shape and I needed to realize that. It was only when I allowed myself to slow down and take breaks that I was truly able to experience the hike.

There are things you don’t give up on. (Find real motivation.)

At the time of the hike, I was on the brink of deciding to move on from something big. That was when I came to learn that I don’t need to put up with meaningless things. So maybe, it was by default that I also thought of giving up on the climb after my body gave away.

But the hike wasn’t meaningless. I just couldn’t understand what it meant to me initially. I needed to find real reasons why I should go on.

Partly, it was the team, specifically Sir Jun, who really pushed me to reach the summit (because they won’t leave me no matter how much I told them that I’ll be fine). But mostly, it was a bet with the mountain and a promise with myself. I told myself that if I was able to reach the summit, I’d be able to take the “next step”, face everything toxic and live meaningfully.

There is beauty in both knowing and not knowing your limits.

The hike was a wakeup call that I was so out of shape and that I’m not living a healthy lifestyle. Two stations in, I vomited and felt my spirit exit my body. My insides were shaking and my lips lost its color. Every cell in my body begged me to quit it.

I told Sir Jun this as he egged me to continue. Then he responded saying that knowing and not knowing your limits is equally important. Thinking that you still have it in you to walk an extra mile even when you’ve exhausted yourself, can push you to exceed your limits.

Take care of yourself.

One does not simply climb mountains. Despite being in bad shape, I was able to finish the course, yes, but if I want to do it regularly, I have to start taking exercise seriously. (I actually promised myself to return in a month with more fighting spirit and a better body condition but guuuuh. I’m sorry.)

People come together through labored breaths.

I’ll admit, I was pretty intimidated by Team Tagaktak initially. I’m not an outdoorsy person or someone who actively seeks to join groups like theirs. And I know that I often get mistaken for a timid introvert with different priorities in life.

But that day, I was just myself around them. Though I’ve been dragging the trip, they made it feel okay and encouraged me all throughout. They made stopping and resting normal and they stood by the code which is to never leave anyone behind.

I know I’d be fine if the left me alone in a rest stop or something but it felt good to experience their sense of loyalty and kindness first hand.

(A/N: Kinilig ako noong inadd ako sa FB group. First climb ko pa lang naman pero kahit pa.)

Away, you can be most honest with yourself.

As we hiked, everything was just fleshed out and real – the numbness of my feet, the mud inside my shoes, the thorns poking my skin. And then, the wind, the smell of grass, sunlight. In that setting, how can you resist admitting that you are in fact, just a girl trying to take a leap of faith?

You’ll find yourself in a different place just by turning around and facing the other side of the mountain.

When we reached the summit, I turned to the side facing San Pablo. The lights were dimmer, the wind was stronger and I felt magical.

It’s okay to depend on people.

(And it won’t mean that you’re necessarily a burden.)

It’s a matter of finding your own path, and being willing to dig deep in the mud if you have to.

This is my favorite part of the hike! We went down at night and I walked at my pace (which was slower) so of course, I got separated from the group. It was fine because I made paths of my own and led Lyka who was behind me. That really motivated me to do well and wow. It felt like I had a knack of finding my own direction.

The most rewarding thing is feeling sweat flow down your forehead.

(I’ve missed sweating that much for anything.)

There’s a certain song, rhythm you come to memorize in the dark, when going down.

(And because of that, you come to memorize the landscape.)

Bet against the mountain. Promise victory.

I finished the hike. I will return a better person and conquer it(myself) again.

Tagaytay: Seventeen on the 17th

To celebrate my sister’s birthday, my family went to Tagaytay for Mass. It was the perfect excuse for a road trip and a perfect excuse to indulge with the view of Taal Lake.

Initially we were going to go to Our Lady of Lourdes’ Church where my dad stayed for a while during his seminarian days, but the traffic congestion didn’t allow us. Instead we visited the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church that we went to, a few years back.

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Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church in Tagaytay

After hearing Mass, we went to Nuvali to window shop. Luckily for us, we encountered a setup for the Sikhayan festival and we got to see some native products and artworks. I didn’t get to take many pictures of the event center except for these:

Then after that, we had our photo shoot at Starbucks before heading to check out more stores.

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Next on the cover of Times magazine

There was one vintage store that pulled me in. Everything was either an owl, porcelain or something I couldn’t explain. It was like Narnia magic or something like that. And thanks to that beautiful experience, I got lost. Or to put it more precisely, my family lost me.

Instead of panicking, I let myself get lost. I wandered around.

But, before I knew it, I already went around the whole place twice. I even got back to the car twice and they still weren’t there. These pictures are proof of my boredom:

They found me after my third return to the car and apparently, they did some real shopping. But they didn’t shop for me because I wasn’t there. 😦 So I ventured for milk tea with the birthday girl and that was the most perfect thing.

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Birthday girl and milk tea!