Maximize and Goodbyes: Tot Ziens, Philippines!


So how would you feel if you’ve learned that you have three months to live — in your home country?

Relief. Ecstatic. Panic.

I started listing all the things* I will miss!

Spontaneous weekends with tantanmen ramen, movie theater evenings with sour cream double butter popcorn, salted caramel ice cream, double cheese milkshake, walnut crumble apple pie, crispy fried wings with garlic parmesan, sweetened avocado, ube halaya, buko shake, buko salad, munggo with malungay and chicharon, lechon kawali, hainanese chicken with unlimited rice, lechon belly. I can add more, but you get my point.

  • I guess I meant food that I’ll miss 😉

Maximize. Three months may have felt too short to sort everything, but it’s still a lot of time and so I thought the best thing I can do is to maximize… and that’s exactly what I did.

I scrapped my South Korea plans and spent the year-end holidays with my family. I started planning meetups and short trips with friends in different circles.

My February weekends were fully booked, but I still had to work on weekdays because maximizing time isn’t cheap.

  • Ilocos: Long Overdue Trip with Bikolana Friends

I started building strong and lasting friendships during my teenage years. I may not see them very often, but they are some of the few best buddies I have in this lifetime. I’d been planning to take the long trip (10 hour bus ride) to Ilocos to visit Ocel who’s currently running a Bistro with Bel, but I didn’t get the chance to do it. Finally, Yani and I decided to pack our bag and visit Ocel.

Turns out, Ilocos is such a beautiful province rich in history, culture, yummy food and nature. We didn’t intend to do anything but we ended up driving around the nearby towns. We went to beaches, rock formations, historical sites, food markets and much more in two days.

  • Pinatubo: Mini-hike and reunion with Diana

About two and half years since we’ve met in Japan in 2014, Diana from Austria finally decided to visit The Philippines and I’m really glad I’m still there to meet her. We decided to take a weekend trip with her partner to Mount Pinatubo, an active volcano around three hours away from Manila.

I was amazed by how stunning the landscapes were when we drove towards the crater. I felt a bit ashamed that it took me this long to come here, considering I live nearby during the past 10 years.

After a scenic ride and an easy hike, we were greeted by the magnificence of a huge lake surrounded mountain edges. It was hard to imagine that this was a by-product of a major catastrophe that claimed the lives of hundreds of Filipinos couple of decades ago. Nowadays, it’s a tourist destination and the major source of income for some locals who were once victims of the historic volcanic activity.

  • Tagaytay: Staycaytion with Travbuddies

During the recent years I became active in Travbuddy, an international group for people who love to explore this tiny pale blue dot we call Earth. In here I’ve met interesting people from different cultures and ethnicity. I became particularly fond of hanging out with strong, independent Filipina women who are always up for satisfying their own wanderlust at any cost.

The ladies and I decided to do a short roadtrip in Tagaytay. I had a wonderful time with Ime, Judith and Cathy, a weekend full of laughters, girltalks, selfies and food trip. And because they’re the ladies who love to travel, I know sooner or later I’ll meet one or two of them somewhere nearby and we’ll share new memories, good food, great talks and wonderful travel experiences together.

  • Boracay: Last Days of Summer

This was my last weekend escape in the Philippines and it felt a little bit sentimental for some obvious and few personal reasons. It’s only the beginning of summer in the country but for me, it will be my last getaway this season. The Netherlands doesn’t have the sun and the beaches we have in 7,107 islands in the Philippine archipelago so I know in my heart that this is something I will be dreaming of as soon as I leave.

Boracay, arguably the most famous island in the Philippines, has never really appealed to me due to the idea of sharing the waves and the shores with thousands of tourists. I’m all for crowded cities and tourists spots but not on my beach getaways. For me, beaches and rivers are places to experience harmony with nature, and having thousands of tourists surrounding you kind of spoils that connection.

Anyway, since I didn’t intend to do some intensive planning and only wanted to have a relaxed beach moments with two of my closest friends, we decided to book our flight to the island.

Half of the fun during travel is your company, and with Joan and Lorie with me, it was a guaranteed fun travel. We watched the sunset as we took a long trip trough a Roro ship, because we missed our flights. We sang songs from our university days and struggled to remember the lyrics few times. We dined in an Italian restaurant the night before and ate Spanish bread the next day because we were out of budget.

Despite the mediocre island hopping and missing our flight back home, this trip was one of the most memorable weekends I had 🙂

So, it has come to this….

No matter how endless it may have felt, I know my tropical life will soon come to a long pause. The sun will still shine above me, but it won’t give the same warmth, I may still walk in the sand, but not along the shores of a turquoise beach, I might still go out for some dinners, but not with my friends that I’ve grown comfortable with after some years. It will be different. It will be challenging. It will be colder.

I have to admit that I appreciate my life in the Philippines more after I’ve learned that I will leave soon. But maybe leaving won’t be so bad.

I’ll finally be with the one I love. I will be part of a culture where I can learn a lot from. I’ll discover new things. I’ll eat plenty of food that I’ve never had before. I will go to new places and have new experiences. I will have opportunities to meet new people, and hopefully new friends.

I know It will depend most on how I handle things. I hope I’ll be able to focus more on good things, because surely, there will always be a brighter way of looking at stuff.

And so all my bags were packed, and my family took me to the airport.  I parted with my family before my mother even got her chance to cry. I didn’t feel like I’m leaving for good, nor I will be away for a long time, so I was surprisingly not feeling sentimental. It just seems like I’m gonna go for another overseas travel for few weeks, except this time, I don’t have anything on my itinerary.

Finally, the plane took off. How fitting it is to leave your country at dusk. Paalam Pilipinas, hanggang sa muli. A glorious dawn awaits on the other side of the world, in The Netherlands.

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