Adieu 2011

"If you think back, and replay your year - if it doesn't bring you tears of joy or sadness, consider the year wasted." -John, Ally McBeal

2011 was all about laughing, crying, dreams, frustrations, and realizations.  It was about traveling and discovering what the world has to offer.  It was about taking risks.  It was about waking up, not knowing if you have been making the right decisions.  But more than that, it was about embracing your choices whatever the consequence so long as they're yours.

It was about discovering my inadequacies and appreciating my strength.  It was about asking questions and discovering unexpected answers.  It was about endings and beginnings.

It was about friendship and betrayal, trust and forgiveness.

It was about family.

What 2012 will be about, I honestly have no idea.  But I do hope it will involve bigger dreams, higher leaps and grander adventures.  I hope to discover myself some more and learn new things about the world we know.  I want to be surprised, swept off my feet either by love or by dreams beyond my imagination.  I want exhilaration.

A good friend once told me, "Moving forward is scary.  But scarier is standing still."

So adieu, 2011. And thank you.  You have simply been AMAZING.

Namsangol Hanok Village, Seoul, South Korea--My last out of the country adventure for 2011.
(Photo taken by Ket Zaide)

Seoul cafes

One thing I love about Seoul are the local cafes.

I found it impressive that while there are a couple of Starbucks franchises scattered across the city, both Koreans and tourists flock to the more unique and charming local cafes.

We made it a point to visit some of them :)

The CNN Cafe


"Managed by YBM, Korea's largest English education company in conjunction with Turner Asia Pacific, CNN Café opened at the Jongro branch of Young Poong Bookstore this week. 
It aims to attract the growing number of the self-employed seeking a coffice (cafe-office) and students who use coffeeshops as a place to study or hang out. As well as a study-distracting CNN ticker, the café offers free Wi-Fi, computers and printing services."

Months before the trip, I was aimlessly Googling through the net when I came across an article about the CNN Cafe in Seoul.  Being a media practitioner, it definitely spiked my interest so, of course, I made sure it was part of our itinerary.

There was nothing spectacular about the coffee nor the food.  I just found the idea that there's this cafe dedicated for news-mongers totally cool ;)

Magical Seoul

Autumn in Seoul.

I've always wanted to go to Seoul.  Something about South Korea's megacity has always fascinated me.  Maybe it's the mixture of old and new, of traditional and modern.

Ironically, this is the first trip that I have not been able to fully plan for.  Days before our flight, I found myself panic-shopping for winter clothes. (Coming from a tropical country, I have very low tolerance for the cold!)  I didn't even have time to research about the must-go-to places nor learn a bit of the language.  (To date, I only know two Korean phrases:  Annyeong-haseyo or hello; and gamsa-hamnida or thank you.)

During our first day, my friends and I were shocked by the cold, had difficulty communicating with cab drivers, and, ultimately, got lost.

Yet, I fell in love with Seoul.

The colors, the vibe...everything is so alive!  Naturally, I couldn't help but take a gazillion of photos which, I hope, captured even a bit of Seoul's magic :)

If the shoe fits

"There's this guy I met after college.  We got along really well but every time I flirt with him, I'd feel icky after. Like, what was I thinking?? But there would be moments when I'd think, why not?  He's not so bad. Then I'd flirt with him again then I'd feel icky again," I said.

"Well, it's just like seeing a pair of shoes at the mall--you try them on, they go well with your feet, but it doesn't have that 'oomph' factor so you put the pair back on the rack," Kel mused.  "The next day, you see the pair again, think it is cute, try them on, but put them back on the rack again."

It was raining hard, the winds were howling, and it was the worst day to be at the beach.  But Kel, Mitch, Mike, Ami and I were, and the only thing keeping us warm were thin sweaters, sarongs, and a bottle of brandy.  Thus the start of an amusing conversation about boys and shoes.

"Talagang ikumpara ang mga lalaki sa sapatos?" I laughed.  ("You really have to compare men to shoes?")

"Well, isn't looking for the right guy the same thing as looking for the perfect pair of shoes?" Kel said.  "Sometimes you see a gorgoeus pair of red pumps but when you try them on, they don't fit at all."

Shoes, a girl's bestfriend.  Carrie and her Manolo Blahniks.
"Or sometimes, you see a pair that's far from your style but when you try them on, you realize they fit you well and they actually look good on you," I concluded.

Mike, being the only guy in the group had no choice but to laugh and safely stay out of the conversation.  Good thing too because his fiance, Ami, was sitting right beside him haha.

"Sometimes, you wear the same pair of shoes everyday for years then one day, you look in the mirror and realize you've been wearing the wrong pair all along--they make your feet ugly and make your legs short," Kel said.

"Can relate?" I laughed.  "So how do you describe this guy that I had a crush on years ago but when I finally met him, I lost interest?" I asked.

"Well, he's the shoe you've been pining for for months," Kel replied.  "And come payday, you finally tried it on only to find out you don't like how it looks on you."

"Hahaha, nice!"

"Wait, so why did you lose interest in him?"  Mitch asked.

"He was too nice," I replied.

"Aha!" Kel quipped.  "So you like bad ass shoes with killer heels!" And we burst out laughing.

"Well, I like different types of shoes," I said. "Right now, I'm obsessed over ballet flats.  Last year, I was into sandals."

"So you think you've found the right shoe yet?"  Kel asked.

"I'm a size 9.  It's hard to find shoes that fit!"  And we all burst out laughing again.

How long the talk lasted, I forget.  All I know is by the time the bottle of brandy was almost finished, we've covered just about every type of shoes (or boys? :p) there is.

We all agree though (in between boisterous laughter and funny retorts)  that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what kind of shoes you find--wedges, stilettos, boots, strappies, sneakers or plain ballet flats.  They may be from the department store, a high-end boutique, from the U.S., from a garage sale, or they may have just been hiding under your bed the whole time.  All that matters is if the shoe fits ;)

If the shoe fits.  The scene in Sex and the City where Big proposes to Carrie with a pair of Manolo Blahniks.


The leap

My failed attempt at a graceful leap during our 2009 Donsol trip.
Okay so remember that post where I talked about my experience jumping off a cliff in Puerto Galera?  When all the time, what I was really talking about was taking a leap and taking risks?

Well, I finally did it.

I took a risk and leaped.

The place where I'm about to land is not as far as I originally intended to (or still intending to) but it's a start.  What was that saying by Christopher Columbus again?  You'll never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.  Let's just say the shore ain't that far away from where I'm going but at least I've already removed my anchor.

I know, I know, I'm talking in circles again. I have a knack for that haha.

Bottom line is,  a big change in my life is about to take place.  But not without the birth pains.  I've been sleepless for three weeks now--learning the ropes, acclimatizing myself to the new environment. (No time for errands, to update my Project365, even to bloghop!) But hey, I ain't complaining (Well, sometimes I do rant  haha but generally, I'm grateful).  And there's also that nostalgia bit.  It's hard to leave something you've been accustomed to for years.  There's a reason why they call it the "comfort zone" you know.  And while the friends you've made will still be around, it's still different when you see and talk to them on a daily basis.

NEVERTHELESS, I'm facing this change head on.  Because this might just be the very thing that will encourage me to take bigger leaps in the future.

Do I hear Singapura?  Maybe.  We never know :)


*Photo taken by the talented Peter Emmett.

Shipwrecked!

Coron, Palawan has definitely earned its tagline as the Philippine's new tourism wonder.  It has always taken a backseat from Puerto Princesa and El Nido, the two more popular tourist destinations in Palawan.  But over the years, Coron has begun attracting more and more tourists not only from the archipelago but from around the world as well.

Just recently, my aunt from Brazil decided to treat the whole family (Read:  Our family plus all my uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces from the Rodriguez side of the family!) to Coron.  

We were awed.  I mean how could you not be when you see this?







But while Coron is popular for it lush mountains, majestic rock formations, and clear waters, it is also a major attraction among divers because of its wreck dive sites.  In fact, in 2007, it was included in Forbes Travelers' "The World's 10 Best Scuba Spots".

Mount Pulag: A walk in the clouds (and some first-time tips and blunders!)

Prince Henry:  "You swim alone, climb rocks, rescue servants, 
is there anything you don't do?"
Danielle:  "FLY."

Yes, I'm channeling Drew Barrymore's character in one of my all-time favorite chick flicks, Ever After.  I don't know when it started but, ever since, I've always had this thirst for adventure and inkling to always try out new things.  Currently, I scuba dive and I've revived my interest in surfing.  Years back, I've done spelunking, wall climbing, and wakeboarding.  Generally, activities that I like involve the beach (Isn't it obvious? :p) So this time around, I decided to try something new:  MOUNTAIN CLIMBING.

Considering that this is a far cry from my usual lounging-in-the-beach-and-getting-a-tan hobby, I knew I was in for a new challenge.  While I had a dozen bikinis stored in my closet, I had zero climbing gear and clothes!

But, I thought, what the heck?!  I should try this now while I still have the stamina.

So, in a very un-Koryn fashion, I, along with my sister, brother-in-law, and our friend Fritz, signed up for travelfactor.org's Mount Pulag expedition.  Mount Pulag is the second highest peak in the country.  Ambitious for a beginner, right?  I was actually nervous days before the climb.  More because I have extremely low tolerance for cold and I've been told by friends who've been there that Mount Pulag is freezing especially in the early morning.  I went on panic buying mode and visited  my doctor the last minute to make sure I'm in tip-top shape.

Then after days of nervous anticipation, we were finally off to a new adventure.

And adventure it was!

We left Manila around 11:30 p.m. and arrived in Baguio City around 6:00a.m.  There were 30 of us in the group.  After a quick breakfast, it was a one hour ride to Ambuklao dam where we stopped for a short photo op.



And after that, it was another two-hour ride to the DENR office where we were to undergo a brief orientation.  It was a bumpy ride but sleep-deprived me was snoring the whole time (even during the orientation haha).

After the orientation (which I told was hilarious because the DENR lady was really quirky!), it was another one hour ride to the Ranger Station--our final stop before we make our ascent.

Point and shoot

Before I acquired Bono (my trusty DSLR) in 2009, Ixy (my now-non-functioning Canon Ixus point-and-shoot cam) was my trusted companion for more than three years.  I was actually a bit sad when he went kaput last year.  Aside from him being my first ever major purchase (thank you Christmas bonus of 2005!), I was never without him.  During out of town trips, gigs, parties, and even on ordinary days, people always expected that I had Ixy with me.

Ixy also became the "camera ng bayan" (everybody's camera).  He went to Germany with PJ, to Beijing with Cecille, to Hong Kong with Madel (Was it really HK? I forget), and to Sanya with Ate Ains and Con.  Really handy chap, if you ask me!

Anyway, browsed through my old photo files and came across some of my favorite shots taken with Ixy.

The Royal Kiss

Amidst all the stress and angst that overwhelmed me this week, this made me smile, swoon, and feel giddy all over:

The Royal Kiss.  The now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge kissing on the Buckingham Palace's balcony. (Photo courtesy of TheInsider.com)

I've never been infected by the Royal Wedding fever until I saw Kate Middleton, a vision in her Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown, walk down the isle.  The ultimate heart-stopper was when Prince William told his bride, "You look beautiful."

Sigh.

Like Mommy Gladys tweeted, Kate's love story is every girl's dream...fulfilling all our wishes to someday find and marry our Prince.

And I believe I will.

Because just the like the rest of the hundreds of millions of people around the world who watched that fleeting  ceremony, I'm a sap who believes in weddings and happy endings :)

And the fool sayeth...

Celebrating my 29th with some of my
closest and dearest :)
I was born on April Fool's day.  Coincidence? I think not.  It must be some kind of cosmic sign saying that I was bound to grow up with a few inanities and a lot of quirks.

But I'm not complaining.  It's been a fun-filled 29 years for me and the future is shaping up to be even more exciting. 

It hasn't always been peachy, true.  I've had my significant share of lows, frustrations, heartaches, loss, and pain.  Would I go through them again?  Maybe not.  But I don't regret the person they shaped me into.  I still have my not-so-glorious moments every now and then but I kinda like me right now. 

Am I where I am supposed to be?  Honestly, I don't know.

It's still a work in progress.  And while it can sometimes be frustrating (largely due to the fact that I am oh-so impatient and will probably fail the Marshmallow Test because I'm terribly EQ-deprived), the process is one whole learning experience.

And I can never stop thanking The Big Boss Up There for it.

In fact, I am making this whole entry all about being thankful (taking a cue from Julia, The Thanksgiving Girl!).  I made a list of things I'm thankful for--from the most trivial to the incredibly consequential things--that made this quite a colorful lifetime for me :)


Family.
Friends.  The ones I've lost, the ones I've gained, the ones who stayed.  Those who tolerate my craziness but pull me back down to earth when I'm becoming too self-destructive.  Those who hold my hair up when I've had too much to drink and I just gotta get all those alcohol (and angst) out of my system (cue:  scene from Sex and the City!)
People who came into my life and changed it forever.
A fruitful career.
Career mentors and life coaches.  Them who pushed me, believed in me, and staked their own rep for me. (You guys know who you are! I'm forever grateful.)
My nephew and niece.  My real sanity breaks :)
An adventurous spirit.
Money to buy both my needs and wants.
A curious mind.
Love for photography and the means to practice the hobby.
Discovering my love for scuba diving!
The means to travel.
A resilient body.  I've been bad and haven't really been living healthy and I promise to take better care of myself.
Music.  I find that listening to songs that match my mood keep me sane ;)
The experience of loving and being loved in return.
Hugs.  
Dreams.  And the prospect of making them come true.
A tough spirit.
A good education.
A happy childhood.


When my mind has a little too much free time, I have this stubborn tendency to wonder where I would be had I taken different roads and met different people in the past.  Whenever I do, I go back to that line from one of my favorite movies, Serendipity:

"Life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, it is a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan."

And again, I appreciate life for all its wonderful and exciting possibilities.

So again, a big shout-out to the Big Guy:

THANK YOU!!!

Now let's see what else is out there for me ;)

Torn

Between gifting myself with this....


A 160GB iPod video classic.  Because my 4GB iPod Nano just isn't enough to hold my entire music collection.


Or this.

A pair of Mares Avanti Quattro fins.  Because the ones I have are too small and short and, well, buying all these dive gears is part of the excitement.

I have a day to decide! *Think, think, think*

"The point is, I JUMPED."

 "You can't leave everything to fate, boy!  She's got a lot to do.  Sometimes you've got to give her a hand."
-Leonardo Da Vinci, "Ever After"

No, no, that's not me jumping off the cliff.  But I DID jump off that cliff some nine years ago when my orgmates and I went to Puerto Galera.  Of course being the ever-clumsy me, the jump came out less graceful than I intended (Read: DISASTER).  I planned to do a cannon ball jump but I reached for my knees a little too late and halfway down, gravity took control of my body and I landed on the water on my side with a whopping splash. (I think everybody felt how much it hurt judging from their reactions when I surfaced!)  Hours later, the whole of my left leg was covered with an ugly bruise like I was paddled.

With an attempt to pass off the disastrous jump as a humorous learning experience, my friends and I coined up phrase, "The point is, I JUMPED" making an allusion of the life lesson--"You will never know unless you try."  (Well, I tried, and I now know what free-falling feels like...As well as the pain that comes after haha.)

Later on, I would forget about the jump, the bruise, and the lesson it supposedly entailed.

But years later, I find myself thinking about that jump, and again, about the life lesson we forcibly connected it to.  As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not as aggressive as my other friends when it comes to getting the things that I want.  I'm lucky. Some things that I wanted in the past, they just happened without me exerting too much effort.

But I'm about to turn 29.  And while I'm not the type to worry about age, I've come to realize lately that if I want to accomplish more in this lifetime, it's high time I become more assertive in pursuing the things that I want whether it be about career, travel, love life, or life in general.   I think now I'd rather fail because it was not meant to be rather than fail because I didn't do anything at all.

So while I'm still not immune to fear of failure and humiliation, starting today, I am reviving that phrase we coined from that catastrophic attempt at adventure in Puerto Galera years ago.  In the process, my pride might get bruised and the outcome might disappoint me but, at the end of the day, the point is, I JUMPED.  And who knows, I might get something better in the end :)

Amazing Angkor Wat


Ces and I woke up real early just so we could see how even more magnificent Angkor Wat is with the different hues of sunrise as its background.

Breathtaking.  Just breathtaking.

Vietnam: Death by scooter, love by caffeine


Imagine Taft Avenue but instead of buses and jeepneys whizzing by, there are scooters.  Hundreds and hundreds of scooters.  That's Ho Chi Minh City for you.

We spent only one day in HCMC but 24 hours was enough for us to savor the energy of the city.  (That, and do a LOT of shopping! Haha.)  Here are some of tidbits about the city that got my attention.

A foreigner calls the Filipinos monkeys

I AM SEETHING MAD.  I HAVE NEVER FELT THIS ANGRY BEFORE.

You see I thought this would be an ordinary Monday morning.  Like I usually do, I hitched a ride with my sister and brother-in-law from Laguna to Mandaluyong City.  When we reached their condominium compound, I got down and went out to get a cab going to Quezon City.  When I exited the gate, I saw this foreigner in a nursing uniform (I'm not sure what her nationality is) waiting for a cab near the usual tricycle/taxi loading and unloading spot by the right side of the gate.  Knowing better than to join the long line of commuters, I walked the opposite direction until I was at least three houses away and waited for a cab.  Finally, I was able to hail one and got in.

I was about to close the door when suddenly, the foreigner appeared, pulled open the door, and started screaming!  "HEY! I WAS WAITING WAY BEFORE YOU! THIS IS MY CAB!  YOU...YOU...YOU...STUPID FILIPINOS!  MGA..MGA..UNGGOY!"  ("Hey! I was waiting for you! This is my cab!  You...You...You...Stupid Filipinos!  You're...Monkeys!")  And then she slammed the door and walked away.

I was stunned. And so was the driver.  When cab moved forward and passed by her, I rolled my windows down and told her, "There was no line you dumb ass!" And when the cab drove away I could still see her screaming profanities and insults.

It definitely wasn't my finest hour.  And I knew it neither the smartest nor the most civilized retort.  But I was caught off guard.  And this is the first time I've experienced this kind of racial slur.

I felt every blood cell in my body boiling.   My hands shaking, I called up my sister.  I was so mad and insulted I felt like crying.  Insult me, my personality, my looks, whatever, and I would be fine.  But insult my race...God! I can't even begin to describe the varying degrees of anger that I'm experiencing right now.

All throughout the taxi ride I was muttering profanities. 

I know, being seen as an inferior race is a battle that we Filipinos have been weathering through since time immemorial.  But to experience it in our own land...!  Call me naive, call me idealistic, but no one has the right to do that to me or to any other Filipino for that matter.  If you think you're so superior then what are you doing here--taking advantage of the education my country has offer? Enjoying the privileges my government provide for people like you?

I've been to other countries, some of which have habits as distasteful (or sometimes even worse) as some of the traits we Filipinos aren't proud of.  But if there's one thing I've learned from traveling it's that to respect each nationality's idiosyncrasies and appreciate the values that they encompass.

Something that that girl, apparently, with all her first-world attitude, hasn't even begun to comprehend.

I only hope, for her sake, she doesn't come across one of them "tambay sa kanto" people. Let's see how far her superiority complex will take her.
"The world is full of unexpected twists and turns.
And just when you've gotten the lay of the land, the ground underneath you shifts and knocks you off your feet.
If you're lucky, you'll end up with nothing more than a flesh wound.
Something a band aid will cover.
But some wounds are deeper than they first appear and require more than just a quick fix.
With some wounds, you have to rip off the bandage,  
let them breathe
and give them time to heal."
-Meredith Grey

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