The Strangers We Meet

Six days after getting back to Manila, I hopped on a bus and went to Baler, a small surf town in the north-eastern part of Luzon. The weather wasn’t perfect, I just wanted to get away. It was definitely unplanned and I had no place to stay or anything. I’m glad I had friends who covered me for the first few days, who also kept me sane and company. I moved to a hostel on my third day and kept pushing my stay. I ended up spending a lot of time in the cafe of the hostel, working or just hanging out and having beer. One local called me out on it as when we met the night before I had a bottle in hand, and when he saw me the following day, I have one again.

Being alone actually felt nice, of course some days are shittier than others and the nights are the loneliest, it’s when I miss TinderBoy the most. But also, being alone allowed me to meet and talk to people. As I was having a conversation with someone I met one evening, he asked, “Do you always talk to strangers?”, and I realized I have been talking to a lot of strangers. I met a really nice Burner, a Filipina – who by the way we’ve already interacted through FB, the stranger who asked me that question, and a group of friends from Manila.

I’ve been to Baler so much but that last trip was by far the most interesting experience, believe me when I say that, I’ve stayed in Baler for a little over a month, but this two week trip beat that. One extremely busy night in the cafe, I had no place to hang out since I no longer have a room to stay in, and I intend to travel back to Manila that evening, I ended up bussing tables, talking to customers, handing out utensils, calculating tabs, and even taking and serving small orders, all the while I was downing bottles of beers. As I was having a cigarette outside after what seemed like a very long night of just trying to kill time, someone greeted me and talked to me. We ended up having more beers, and he thought I was working for the cafe as he said I gave the menu to their party. We had a couple more beers and he invited me to meet his friends, all were very nice. They were concerned when they found out I had plans of leaving at midnight and insist on me staying in their room. Such sweet kids they were, I asked why they trust me so much. I ended up staying two more nights and hitching a ride with their group back to Manila.

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Be Where You Want To Be

The world is your home, there are tons of opportunities everywhere, you just have to find something that suits you.

 

 

After living in an island for almost two months, which let’s admit, it’s a pretty short time. Something I’ve learned is you have to find a place where you’d rather be. I’ve repeatedly said this, but most of my time in Siargao, I was unhappy and have had on and off bad episodes of depression and anxiety. But then, some moments, I was thinking that I should be grateful because no matter how miserable I felt, I was surrounded by the beauty of nature and of people. Then it hit me, I’d rather be lonely in a place I choose, over being miserable in Manila.

 

 

I get asked if I even have a job and how I’m able to travel for weeks or months at a time. I do, I have a full time job, a part time job and a few responsibilities in between. One thing about ‘digital nomads’ is the continuous self improvement, getting new skills, learning new things, and sometimes, especially if you’re just starting out, you do it for free – as training. Which is what I’m trying to do, learn new things and earn experiences. I don’t have it easier, actually, when I was still working in my corporate job, it was waaaay easier. I go to work, finish my 8 hour shift, be done with it, and earn a lot. Now, I have to work my ass off, having two to three jobs is normal (and sometimes, not enough), so I can sustain my life of travel. I can stay at home and not have to worry about paying rent, but when I’m elsewhere, I have to pay rent, my food, the usual living expenses. I am on my own when I’m not at home, which makes it more liberating.

 

 

People have been telling me how rich I must be or I must have a shitton of money because I’m able to travel around and stay in places for long periods, but it’s not even about that. It’s really choosing what you’d rather spend your money on. In Siargao, my source of income was my full time job. And, I realized I could save more money if I’m wise with how I live. I could take more jobs to get an accommodation. There are millions of opportunites for you, you just have to know where to find them.

 

Right now, I’m feeling very undecided and uncertain as I can get another job in Manila, I’m getting that job to expand my skill set, and I’d really really love to get that job, however, that will tie me to Manila for an indefinite period of time. Another job opportunity is in Siargao, which I’ll be honest, I’m very tempted to take. But, same sentiments, I’m not sure if I want to live in Siargao for a little longer period. Maybe I’m still feeling heartbroken over what happened, and I don’t know if I want to return to Siargao. A small part of me does, and maybe this is the heartbreak talking, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.

 

Being around the ocean calms my soul. And that’s where I’d rather be. How about you, where would you rather be?

 

The People I Met in Siargao

I have been writing, rewriting, deleting, and leaving whatever I started for the past x days. It seems that I have no words to actually describe what I want to share. I was asked to share about my life in Siargao but I feel like it’s really nothing worth sharing. I didn’t have adventures nor toured around the island. I guess if I were to share what happened, it would be about the people I met.

I spent most of my time in Siargao either working or holed up in my room, to the point that the owner of the place I’m staying at got concerned that they only see me during meals, but then I’d disappear into my room again for three days straight. I have had bad episodes while I was in Siargao, where I had to force myself to do mundane daily tasks, which is why I’m almost always in bed sleeping or just laying around. If I didn’t make it clear enough, I broke up with my boyfriend of almost four years, along with some decisions I should or should have not done.

So, being the (ambivert) (forced) solo traveler that I am, I had to find ways how to socially charge, and I’ll introduce you to the people I met in Siargao. I may have given a background through my last entry, but I may or maybe giving more details here so I can introduce them properly.

Island boy reintroduced me to the hookup culture, something I knew back in the day (LOL), before I became in a relationship. My relationship with Island Boy was nothing but alcohol and sex. To the point where I had to go to a bar cause his ass was high and drunk and he booty texted me. My adventures with Island Boy was fun and crazy, nothing more. We barely talk, and I don’t think we really know each other. There are some quirks I noticed, Island Boy likes his eggs sunny side up with runny yolks, he mindlessly ‘claps’ his feet together before crawling in bed, I noticed him doing it quite a few times, he’s left handed, and he likes the perfect amount of cuddling, which isn’t too annoying, quite a good kisser too, I must say, he also like Adele’s Hello to put him to sleep. He snores heavily, and sometimes would talk in his sleep. I don’t regret being crazy with Island Boy, he taught me how to loosen up, and he’s the boy I wish I met when I was younger, who I made out in bars without care and who held me close when someone tries to flirt with me. He made me feel good when we’re together, but makes me feel like shit when we’re apart, the mind games, push and pulling was something I’m reminded of. And, like any fuckboys, Island Boy moves from one girl to another. And it’s not something I did or didn’t do, it’s just who he is.

Manong (I’d like to call him that, even tho I’m older than he is) was introduced to me by Island Boy. I didn’t truly mind him, he seemed nice. He’s the only one who didn’t tease me with Island Boy, and he’d say hi to me when he sees me. We bonded over bottles of beer talking about whatever, existential crisis included. I’ll be honest, I’m not all too sure if I lead Manong, but I don’t think so. I mean, I treated him as a friend, didn’t flirt with him or anything to my knowledge. I treated him as a really good friend, I enjoyed his company. One evening on a party, Manong became ‘touchy’, which I feel like is out of character. Somehow, I let him be. Maybe I enjoyed the attention. I feel a little betrayed as I started questioning his intentions, I feel like the ‘friendship’ was just to get in my pants. Manong was my wakeup call, I felt like my bad decisions were snowballing.

My wifey, is this lovely German lady who loves dancing. When she’s feeling bummed, she would dance the night away. She became my ‘wife’ as it was the easiest way for us to get rid of guys who just can’t take no for an answer. I remember telling someone, ‘Yeah, I’m sorry we’re married’. And that’s when the wife thing became a thing. She lives with her friend, and both ladies are lovely. Good listeners and have so much to say, too. They’d constantly remind me to not think about the problem, rather think about the solution. They kept me sane when shit hit the fan with Tinder Boy.

I want to talk about Tinder Boy but I don’t think I will, yet. We’re still kinda in each other’s lives and I’m uncertain with what we have, so until we get that shit together, I guess I’m not gonna talk about him fully, yet.

Of course, I met locals who are more than worth mentioning, people who’d annoy and tease me all the time. Would ask for cigarettes during parties. They’ve been nice to me (but would annoy the life out of me. CONSISTENTLY.) and my life in Siargao wouldn’t have been as interesting without them.

mari_fotor

 

Beauty in Being Lost

I told a good friend of mine how I’m feeling lost and she said I’ve been lost ever since I left the corporate world. I honestly don’t know if I agree with her or not, but then again, I guess there’s beauty in being lost.
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My three weeks here in the island is almost coming  to an end, a whirlwind of happenings and emotions. So far, I lost a boyfriend, got a tattoo, lost a friend, gotten to realize the people who truly love and care for me, met new people along the way and I lost myself, oh, I also found out I last longer in hard drinks vs beer.
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I’m very much tempted to ditch my flight back to Manila as I’m too scared to fly back. I’ve always complained how much Manila makes me miserable, and I’ll be honest, I’m not having the time of my life here in the island, and I’m feeling lonelier as ever. Yet, the idea of going back to Manila dreads me so much. I’ve thought of escape routes, like Cebu, Davao, and even Palawan, just anywhere except Manila. My family has yet to find out what happened to me and I’m really just tempted to send them a Viber message, just because.
I’m looking for opportunities and so far, the universe has given me an unconfirmed one. And I’m taking this as a sign from the universe that maybe, and just maybe, I need this. Maybe it’s for my sanity. Or something else. Or maybe, just maybe, this is just the beginning of something more beautiful, scarier, and a fulfilled life.

Don’t let your Filipino mother stop you

… from emancipating. From living your life how YOU feel like you should live it. From traveling. Or even having a travel life. Okay, before I begin. Let me just explain first. I am not in anyway encouraging you to be rebellious towards your own mother or anything.

I’ll introduce you to my mother and I’ll explain my living set up so you have an idea how I live and why I’m saying this. People have been telling me how lucky I am that my parents are supportive, and I’m not gonna deny of that fact. I will say how truly blessed I am.

My mother, Elsie, was born in a strict family. Her mother, my grandmother, almost entered a convent, “escaped” (that story was told very vaguely to us), married young and became a housewife. A traditional Filipina housewife, back in the day when their role was to take care of the family and isn’t allowed to meddle in her husband’s business. Elsie, born in 1938 (please do the math), was the eldest of 12 (?) children. My mother would tell me stories as to when she’d be invited in the party, her father would have one of her sisters, ask her to go home after 30 minutes. Elsie grew up in a strict household.

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Elsie moved to Manila and was a working student in college. She had her fair share of suitors, being the beautiful that she was (and still is). My mother met my father when she was 30+. They were in a relationship for 3 months (this version varies, sometimes they’d say 5 months), and married after. She had five children, two of which were miscarriages. And I am the youngest and the only girl.

My mother raised me as if it was in the 1930’s. I wasn’t allowed to go out, my curfew was before the sun sets. As I grew older, my mother and I would fight – mostly she’d get mad at me, I never answer back. When I was 18, I stopped schooling and took a part time job in a call center, I worked in the mornings and I get off work at 1PM. If I am not home by 2 or 3PM, she’d send me an angry message asking where I was. Even at the age of 20, I am not allowed to sleep over elsewhere, I had a curfew of 10PM. If I get home later, I’ll never hear the end of it. I’d still be grounded at the age of 23. I’d push my limits sometimes. She’d allow me to travel, but I have to ask permission two weeks in advance, and a constant reminder to her a week until the day of my travel. She’d always say, “I can’t sleep well knowing that not all my children are home”, and yes, that includes my brother who’s 13 years older than I am and has his own family. I really believe that if my mom CAN keep us all under her roof, she WOULD.

Only a few months ago, she was so pissed off at me for wanting to go out at 8:30 in the evening. Yes, only a few months ago, I’m 26. I talked to my dad about it (crying and complaining) and he told my mom to stand down.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I truly had to gain her trust. She’d be less mad if I text her every hour or so, or if I actually ask permission (sometimes, this doesn’t really work). At some point, I had an opportunity to work far from home, she put some thought in to it, let me took the job, but at the last minute, she told me – using her loving, motherly tone not to take it.

Now, I still have to have a few days notice when I’m leaving Manila. And when I’m away, she’d text me everyday when I’m coming back. I have come in to terms that it’s who she is, and how she expresses her love to me. She’s not out to make my life miserable. She’s just concerned.

At the end of the day, I had to understand where my mom’s coming from. Why she’s always so strict with me. She’s worried, she doesn’t trust this world. She’s concerned for my future and she only wants the best for me and my life. But, I have to make her understand how I want to live my life. And with that, we met halfway. She lets me go out now. She lets me travel a few weeks at time. And every time I come home to her, I would tell her stories and I see how she appreciates them and I feel she’s happy when I’m happy. Any mother would be, any mother would. Your mother only wants your happiness, and when they see it, they’ll trust your decision.

Now, I know you’ll tell me. “You don’t know my mom, she won’t listen to me”, I’ll ask you, have you talked to her and have you listened to her side?

mari_fotor

 

I once was a corporate slave

PAINT AND PAPER

Let me talk about something I’ve always been open talking about, my “career choice”.  A brief history, I started working at the age of 18, I initially worked as part time in a (huge) BPO. At that time, I skipped college wanting to earn money and the company wasn’t hiring undergraduates, a year and a half in to it, I worked full time. Stayed for three years before leaving. Took a six month break, moved to a different company, stayed there for eight months – I didn’t like the commute, the “stress” of the work and being drunk everyday wasn’t helping me either. Then I moved to another call center – not a BPO but the job was the same, job security and the pay was great. A year or two in to the company, I felt that it was becoming repetitive and it made me unhappy. It was only on my third year when I actually had the guts to leave.

You read an article, you follow a blogger and you see them living their lives. You get envious. It makes you wonder, how there’s so much more to life than taking in calls and resolving other people’s problems. How what you’re doing shouldn’t define your life. And that the work-life balance they’re claiming at work is all bullshit.

I get questions here and there as to why I left the corporate world and why I left such opportunity to be working in a company that pays well with great benefits. My generic answer would be, cause it made me unhappy. It’s the truth. No amount of money can actually compensate my happiness, plus working at night really took its toll on my health. Some people would raise their eyebrows when they read that. How impractical it is. And how idealistic I can be. Imagine this, if you’re earning xxx amount of money, but you’re always buying medicine for xxx amount cause your body is failing you, does that sound practical?

I am earning much less, I have a part time job and a few on the side (which is seasonal), but for the past 8 months, I’ve only had a few fever and colds, nothing that seawater can cure. I feel better. My wellness, my body, my mind, all feel well. I may have moments of sadness – only because Manila makes me so sad, but I get a good night sleep – and actually sleep at night. I can schedule beach trips at any time without having to worry about filing for leaves and having them approved. I can stay in the province for days or even weeks at a time.

People would ask, when are you applying again to xxx (previous company). Or where do I plan to apply next. My answer for now is not anytime or any company soon. I don’t intend to work at a huge corporation anymore. I work for a startup company now. I work directly under the CEO. And it makes me feel important. Working for a smaller company made me feel valued. I am not someone indispensable (at least that’s how I feel). My tasks and my projects are my own. My opinions and inputs are taken with so much consideration. There’s this sense of responsibility and accountability working for a smaller company. (Okay, enough gushing – my boss may read this. LOL)

We all have decisions to make, we all have responsibilities, we all have mouths to feed or others that rely on us. We’re all fighting a different battle. I am not in the position to dictate you to leave your job. I am not encouraging you to do it. But I am gonna say, leave something that makes you unhappy. If you can’t do it yet, then wait it out. You know when the time is right. You’ll know. You’ll feel it. Don’t do it cause others did. If you’re the kind of person who has to have a plan, then have one. Set a timeline, have a goal. Cause everything will fall in its proper place at the right time.

mari_fotor

Five weeks.

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Five weeks seemed like a short period of time, looking back, it actually flew by faster than I hoped. Two weeks turned three, three turned five. It wasn’t my plan to stay in Baler for five weeks. On my fourth week, I was contemplating if I should extend or if I should go back to Manila. I decided to leave, I said I wanted to miss Baler. I wanted to keep coming back for more. It’s only been a few days and I’m finding myself regretting that decision.

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Miserable Manila is back.

I don’t know whether it’s the air, or the traffic, or the hustle, or the people that’s making me miserable in Manila. I have not left the house ever since I got back last Monday evening, only because I don’t feel like going out. The thought of the crowdedness and all the vehicles and whatnot stresses me out. It’s only been a few days and I already can’t wait to leave.

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On the simple rural life.

When I got back, my dad and I were catching up and he remarked “Maybe that’s what you prefer, maybe you like the rural life”, and I do. I really do. I love going out on trips to different surf spots, going on picnics, being able to swim in the ocean whenever I want, walk to places, ride motorbikes, hangout on a friend’s house because they’re your neighbours, playing with kids. I mean, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies in the province, but I like how I don’t have to rush. I like how everything I need is accessible, and I don’t mean the luxuries within reach here in the city, but my necessities – like food to cook, water to drink, ocean to play on.

Indefinite plans for the future

I have this strong feeling of wanting to go back, but I feel like I would on the time (?). I’ve yet to plan it, but in my head, Baler is one of the places I would want to settle down in.

mari_fotor