How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

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Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

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Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

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On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

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On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

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An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

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My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

16 of 30: ATV - 4 Gorgeous Punks on Dirtbikes

While in Boracay with my friends, we decided to brave the budding storm and ride ATV’s. ATV’s or “All Terrain Vehicles” look like these awesome dirtbikes with 4 wheels. It’s basically a gocart on steroids is what it is. And why shouldn’t we ride it? So what if it looked like it was going to rain? It’s just water…

Besides, it was something all four of us have never done before. We were on vacation and we were determined to make the most out of it.
Plus it looked super badass.

There’s really nothing much to write about it, so instead, I’ll show photos.
The good news is – it didn’t rain. And the better news is that because of that ATV tour, we were taken to some of the most breathtaking views of the island, which we wouldn’t have seen or known about otherwise!

It turned out to be such a great day, riding dirt bikes with my 3 best girls in the beautiful island of Boracay. <3

15 of 30: Horseback Riding Fidelio

When I signed up for horseback riding classes, I half expected to come out of it riding a horse like Arwen from the Lord of the Rings… You know, with grace and speed, and my hair flying behind me…
Once again, I was a more than a little disappointed. Maybe it’s my fault for having high expectations to begin with. I suppose you can’t really get much out of a one hour introductory lesson purchased from groupon for 20 bucks. But I thought if I told them that I have ridden horses before, they might ‘promote’ me to the advanced level! I was going to elaborate on this big horse ‘ranch’ up in the mountains of Baguio Philippines… where they literally just throw you on a horse, and ride like the wind!

But no. These guys were big on fundamentals. At least I got to pick my horse though! I requested for a big black stallion – and that’s what I got! His name was Fidelio.
The instructor taught me and my friend, N, how to put the reins on first… so we could walk the horses out of their stables to the “grooming area”
Then she taught us how to brush and brush and brush and brush their hair… and clean their hooves and feed them hay. She didn’t really say it, but I think she wanted us to sort of have a ‘bonding’ moment with the horse too… and grooming was the best way to do it.

I have learned that in order to get love, you need to send out love! So I gave Fidelio all of my best lovey dovey thoughts… Seriously, if I had a braided hair that day, I would have attached it to his tail like in Avatar.

Maybe it was the love, maybe I just got lucky, or maybe Fidelio was just a loving horse to begin with… Doesn’t matter. The point is, Fidelio and I had a pretty good time! I mounted the saddle and climbed up on his back. It felt like I’ve been doing it for years! If only we could have shaked the instructor off, we could have been in business… But that lady had a tight hold on her ‘boyfriend’ as she called him, and never let him out of her sight!

Bonding with Fidelio was cool… but I can’t say the same for the lessons. It has to be known though that I am a very impatient person. When it comes to learning new skills, I like to jump the gun right away, expecting to be a ‘natural’ at it. So obviously, with the horse, I’d have wanted to run – not gallop or strut, on an open field or meadow or a beach on the first day! Maybe hold a bow and arrow and shoot targets at the same time like a heroine in a movie.

Ugh. Instead, we were stuck there… learning how to move 0.005 miles an hour, moving Fidelio to the left, moving Fidelio to the right, turning him round and round. I had to endure that for a whole hour… and it was painful.

I don’t know if this whole equestrian thing is for me. I mean – I loooove horses. I think they are some of the most beautiful animals ever! It’s just – living in a modest apartment in Los Angeles, I can’t really afford to own a horse. And if I continued to take lessons… errr what am I going to do with it? Maybe I would have been a great rider, had I been born in an earlier century? Or if I lived in Ireland or something… where the only means of transportation could very well be a horse, because of how vast and beautiful the lands are…

It was nice making friends with Fidelio though. At least now I know how to groom horses… right?


Thursday, January 19, 2012

14 of 30: Parasailing and Feeding My Breakfast To The Fish

Once upon a time, my friend, K and I decided to go Parasailing.

Before we could parasail, we had to ride a boat, far out into the sea.
Boats and I don't get along very well. I get nauseous, and very, VERY sea sick.

But I kept going. Took a deep breath and smiled through the pain.

Pretty soon, it was time to fly! I was still smiling but I was dying inside.

At this point, I wanted to jump in the water and swim back to the shore. But it was too late. We were airborne and won't go back down for another 15 minutes.

It took all of my willpower not to throw up on myself up there. But I really, REALLY wanted to. 

You cannot imagine the relief that I felt, when we were pulled back down.

It felt like Christmas morning.

I ran to the edge of the boat and positioned myself to hurl.

But it didn't come. So instead I just sat still. The boat was still moving. My stomach was in knots.

It was the worst I've ever felt. 

10 minutes later when we got back to the wooden plank where the boats parked, I fell flat on my stomach and threw up. I had a heavy breakfast. 
Just as soon as my 'breakfast' hit the water, I noticed a school of fish swimming up to receive it. 
And they looked really happy indeed.

The end.

13 of 30: Hot Air Ballooning - Because Sisterly Time is Love

The Hot Air Balloon Ride. A photo journal.

My sisters and I woke up at the break of dawn and traveled to the mountains (or is it a valley?) of Perris, CA. There, we were to experience our very first hot air balloon ride.

We watched as the gigantic colorful balloon was inflated amidst the field of hay.

Then, we went inside the balloon and took a picture!

And then when it was completely inflated, we took more pictures!

And off we flew. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere, these three dudes decide to jump off the balloon to skydive!

And off they went.

To hide my jealousy, I concentrated on the lovely view.

Not long after, we landed safely back to Earth.

The end.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

12 of 30: Arnis - Because I'm a Proud Filipino

When I was in Fifth Grade, I was in a school play called Rajah Malakas and Dewi Maganda. I played Dewi Maganda’s father, Rajah Daraya (I went to an all girl school)
We had a really elaborate fight sequence, and our stunt coordinator (read: P.E. teacher) instructed us to use ARNIS to practice with, instead of the swords our characters were supposed to have. I remember having a lot of fun with it, but I never thought of that ‘weapon’ ever since.

Which is why when I found out that Arnis is technically a Martial Art being practiced in the Philippines, I was more than shocked. Turns out, my good friend R and her boyfriend G train with a “Master” every week!

Initiating Arnis Background Research from Wikipedia…


Modern Arnis is the system of Filipino martial arts founded by the late Remy Presas as a self-defense system. His goal was to create an injury-free training method as well as an effective self-defense system in order to preserve the older Arnis systems. The term Modern Arniswas used by Remy Presas' younger brother Ernesto Presas to describe his style of Filipino martial arts; since 1999 Ernesto Presas has called his system Kombatan. It is derived principally from the traditional Presas family style of the Bolo (machete) and the stick-dueling art of Balintawak Eskrima, with influences from other Filipino and Japanese martial arts.
Escrima  is the umbrella term for the traditional 
martial arts of the Philippines, which emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, knives and other bladed weapons, and various improvised weapons. It also includeshand-to-hand combat
 and weapon disarming techniques.

So apparently, Arnis is the Philippines’ national martial art and sport! For some reason I thought it would either be boxing or cock fighting. I know…Shame on me. 
To make ammeds with my country, I decided to try it out… Train with the “master” and see if I have what it takes.

I tagged along with R at 7 in the morning on a rainy Sunday in Manila. G was hammered from the night before so he couldn’t join us, and it was a good thing he didn’t because I got to use his arnis. Oh, and those sticks aren’t actually called arnis – they’re called batons. 

Guro Alan teaching me good form

I got introduced to the Master… His name is Alan. Master Alan. I don’t have my facts straight but he’s either a descendant of the founder, Remy Presas, or he was one of his students. Either way, this guy is legitimate.
Master Alan or Guro Alan (Guro means teacher) has a scar on his left cheek. A long one that starts from the edge of his lip all the way to his ear. 
G thinks (with all his heart) that he got it from a knife fight (Arnis training involves knife fighting too), and if he’s right, then Guru Alan’s battle scar definitely makes him more interesting.

Anyway, he was nice enough to demonstrate a few moves for me because I was new. He probably wanted to show off a little bit to encourage me to keep going back for the training. He asked one of his star pupils to ‘spar’ with him, and once they started, I couldn’t keep my eyes away from them.

They looked like they were dancing. It’s so hard not to believe what they were doing wasn’t choreographed, but it really wasn’t. The sound that the batons make when they hit each other, and the way their hands sway to their back before they make an attack – it’s all very graceful. 

Bigay Pugay
Before we even started, Guro Alan taught us “Pagbibigay Pugay” – which means, giving respect. It’s a little bowing movement you make to give respect to your teacher.
Afterwards, we did Sinawali exercises. It refers to a two-person, two-weapon exercise using double batons, with offensive and defensive maneuvers. I think it helps develop hand eye coordination and body positioning.

Then when that was ‘perfected’ – in our case, this meant when we stopped poking each others eye out, Guro Alan taught us 14 offensive and 14 defensive moves to use on each other for practice. I can’t really describe it properly… the best way I can explain it is that R and I looked like we were dancing the tinikling with batons.

Me and R

The uniform with Alibata writing

It was a fun way to spend our Sunday morning… It wasn’t so much of a workout, but it was nice to learn about all that from Guro Alan because he was so passionate about it. I also loved that all of it was or is SO Filipino. From “pagbibigay pugay” to their uniforms, which had Alibata (Ancient Filipino writing language) writing in it.
I hope this martial art kicks off and makes its mark all over the world. It’s a graceful and beautiful sport, that could be deadly as well… and hopefully it could be another one of those things that could help my country get recognized. :)

Guro Alan’s scar, as it turns out, was not obtained from a knife fight. It’s just a birthmark. :)
G, if you’re reading this… SORRY!!! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

11 of 30: Muay Thai - Because Boxing Isn't Aggressive Enough

I have been boxing on and off for almost 10 years. I was first introduced to it by my Personal Trainer back in College. After I started, there was no turning back. Boxing is like a drug! It’s aggressive, extremely satisfying, and so much fun!
A few years after I moved to LA, I scouted for boxing places around my area. All of them were really expensive, and the trainers ask for too much money. 35 -50 dollars per hour is way too much, compared to paying 200 pesos (5 USD) for a whole day in Elorde Boxing Gym at Katipunan.

Luckily, I found out about Wild Card- Freddie Roach’s Boxing gym. I’ve heard about it for a while, but never considered going because I assumed that since Freddie Roach, the greatest boxing coach in the world, Manny Pacquiao’s trainer, owned it, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.

But I was getting desperate, so I went in to inquire. I drove there after work, and climbed up the famous stairs I always see on TV when HBO covers Pacquiao’s fights. And at the mini reception desk, lo and behold, I was greeted by non-other than Freddie Roach himself.

Coach Freddie took an immediate liking to me upon learning my ethnicity. He patiently explained the rates, walked me around his gym, and asked me to fill out a form. I have to say I was more than a little intimidated in that tiny little gym. It’s not because of what it looked like – as a matter of fact, it’s one of the grimiest gym’s I’ve ever seen in my life! Completely raw and manly. Nothing first-class about it at all!
It was the people that intimidated me! The guys working out – they all looked like Mister T! Big and sweaty brute men! And being the only woman in the testosterone infested room, I felt like I was going to be eaten alive.
But with Coach Freddie and his spiky hair and little boy glasses by my side, I knew I was in good hands! He talked to me about the Philippines and how he loves it… and he asked me about the boxing gym’s I’ve been to. He lit up when I told him I went to Ala Boxing Gym whenever I was in Cebu… he said it was his favorite boxing gym ever!

At the end of my 10 minute tour and conversation, Coach and I were best friends. J He recommended his training assistant, Paul, to be my trainer. He must have really liked me!

I came in the next day right when they opened at 7am. Coach said it was better to come before work, because there were less people. I was just sitting there, all nervous as heck because Paul was nowhere to be seen, and there were about 3 big men staring at me.

Luckily, a really jovial man approached me and said – “Can I help you today?”
I explained I was waiting for a certain, “Paul” because Coach Freddie said I should train with him. He said, Paul wasn’t going to be in for another half hour, but if I wanted to, I could start training with him. I said okay!
Then the one-eyed receptionist/trainer, Shane, came up to me and said – “Do you know who dat is? Dat’s Freddie Roach’s brutha, Pepper!” (All of them had Bostonian accents)

“Yep, he’s my brutha!” Pepper chimed in.
I wouldn’t have guessed! I was embarrassed to confess I didn’t even know Freddie had a brother! I just said, “Cool!” and went to grab my wraps and gloves.
It was probably fate that brought me and Pepper together, because I have never had so much fun boxing! Pepper is a riot! I met Paul eventually, but he trains his students in groups. Pepper gives me one on one action! And he is HILARIOUS! Everyone at the gym loves him – he is the easy favorite in that place!

For some reason, no one at the gym could ever remember or pronounce my name. So they just gave up, and started calling me “Manila” or “Thrilla from Manila”
Pepper sometimes calls me, “Hey, Filipino!” or his “Filipina Wife”
I don’t mind. I love that he gave me nicknames!

OK. So I realize that I’m supposed to be talking about Muay Thai and not boxing. I’ll get there – I promise. I am merely giving you a long introduction of my boxing history, because I wouldn’t have gotten into Muay Thai without it.

Anyway, so when I’m in LA, I box at the Wild Card Gym. And when I’m in the Philippines, I box at Elorde in Katipunan, and Ala Boxing Gym when I’m in Cebu. I box at Punch Out in Makati too, every now and then.

I spend more time in Manila than I do Cebu, so I can call myself a regular at Elorde’s gym in Katipunan. I’ve been training with the same guy, Edward, since January of 09! I’d recommend sticking to one trainer as much as possible, because when you do, you establish a kind of rhythm when you spar. It’s like finding a good dance partner… you learn to move gracefully with each other, and its fun! But there’s also a benefit to different trainers. I should know – I have one trainer for each location! LA, Cebu and Manila! You learn different techniques from each teacher too, and that could be advantageous as well!
Anyway, Elorde evolved from being just a boxing gym, to a more diverse fitness center that offers not only boxing, but Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu as well! (There, see? I got to Muay Thai eventually!)

Edward noticed me staring at the guys training in Muay Thai. I have to admit, I was fascinated – but scared at the same time. I have a really huge and annoying knee problem that I’ve been battling with for years. I try not to do anything that impacts my legs too much for fear of aggravating my knees. I have a torn meniscus, and a condition called chondramalacia patella. I can’t do anything too strenuous on my legs or else I end up in crutches. This is why I’ve avoided Muay Thai for so long, because Muay Thai in Eartha terms is boxing, with LEGS. Not that you box using your legs, but you box with your hands, and you use your legs in the fight as well.

Edward suggested that we try it, as he reckons I’d be pretty good at it with my boxing background. I explained my concerns with my knees, but he said he’ll go easy on me. He’s a Muay Thai trainer too, so the thought of training with him was a little more comforting. We’re used to each other, so that would make it a lot easier, I thought.
And so the next day, we went ahead and Muay Thai’d!

Edward kept true to his word, and took it easy on my legs. We were careful with the kicks, and stopped whenever I felt my knees hurt. But overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Training was easy because we skipped all the boxing parts, and concentrated on the leg work. There were different hand movements too that required attacks using the forearm. And because he couldn't torture me with leg exercises, he trained me full force on the arm movements!

Sparring was really instinctual for both of us. We did about six 3 minute rounds, and we both did pretty well. It was oddly satisfying to hurt in different areas of my body, using muscles I’m not used to using. I really liked it!

The art of Muay Thai involves your whole body. There’s a lot of low kicks and high kicks, knee attacks (or as I’d like to call em – groining!), elbow strikes, and hand to hand combat action! You train barefoot, but with boxing gloves on. It’s really sort of like an amplified boxing session.
After about 2 hours of intense training, I found big bruises on my arm. Battle scars!!! I loved it!

I will continue to train both Boxing and Muay Thai with Edward as long as I’m in Manila. And when I get back to LA, I'm definitely going to find a Mixed Martial Arts gym so I could continue.

I have a tendency to gravitate towards exercises that feature strength rather than agility. Maybe because I’m big and am more comfortable using my size to my advantage.  I also love the feeling and satisfaction it gives. I’m hardly a violent person, and I don’t go out looking for fights… But boxing (and now, I guess Muay Thai as well) allows me to release a controlled aggression that I never get to experience in real life.

Bottomline? I LOVE doing this stuff, and I'll keep training for as long as my body permits!