A Little Glimpse of Heaven

It was a trip planned a few months in advance. Upon finding out that there is a long weekend sometime in June, a few office mates (Ca, Imee and Darlene) and I decided to plan an out-of-town trip. See, we were influenced by my office mate Ca (pronounced C.A.) who is a travel aficionado (check out her blog here: http://adventurousfeet.blogspot.com) to explore and travel around the Philippines. She has been to various places here in the Philippines and I thought that it was a good idea. A few days before the trip, we decided that we would be going to Calaguas, a small group of islands in Camarines Norte with white sand and emerald-turquoise waters.

At first, we were leaning towards getting a package instead of a DIY trip because it would be less of a hassle for us. But after several discussions, we decided to plot out a DIY trip just to see how much it will cost us. When we saw that the price difference is considerably large, we decided to take our chance and do it DIY style. Boy did we make the right decision!

There were 7 of us (Me, Darlene, Ca, Imee, Jason [Ca’s boyfriend], Paps, and Mark [both of which were Jason’s friends]) on the trip but we actually needed more so the expenses would be lower. To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive at first to have other people I don’t personally know included in the trip, but I just kept quiet and decided to go with the flow. Turns out, the 7 of us were just the perfect mix of people for the experience, an experience I will never forget.

We left the office Friday at around 6:30 PM because the bus would be leaving at 8:30. The bus station is somewhere in Cubao and our office is in Technohub, so 2 hours for travel and dinner is just about right. We took a cab to Jollibee near Philtranco station and took our dinner there. Darlene and I seated next to each other, Ca next to Imee, Mark next to Paps while Jason sat with somebody else. We were told that the trip would take around 8 hours, which was fine with me since I was able to survive a 12-hour trip before going to Sto. Domingo, Albay.

We alighted at Talobatib junction at around 6AM (2 hours late) and rode a tricycle going to Paracale where we will meet our boatman Roberto. It was raining and I could’ve sworn the tricycle ride took forever! When we finally arrived at Paracale, we waited for our boatman to pick up our stuff (we had a lot since we chose DIY – cooking utensils and the works) and headed off to buy ingredients at the market (the girls) while the boys stayed to guard the bags and eventually looked for somewhere to eat breakfast.

It took us a while to leave Paracale since we had to wait for our lunch to be cooked (we decided not to cook lunch and just bring packed lunch instead) by the local carinderia who was very gracious and accommodating. We were eventually able to ride our bangka and was en-route to Calaguas island via a 2 hour boat ride (with matching rain).

The journey was boring, sleep-inducing, but at the same time fantastic because of the amazing view. The surrounding islands were a shade of lush green and was incredibly breathtaking. Neither words nor pictures could ever justify how beautiful the scenery is. I thought Calaguas couldn’t be any more beautiful than the first islands we saw, but I was dead wrong. A few kilometers apart, we could already see a silhouette of green mountains (or were they hills? I’m not sure) and powdery white sand. Everyone’s jaw dropped as soon as our boat stopped and anchored on the island. There they were, everything we heard about the island and more. It was gorgeous on photos, but it pales in comparison to how it really looks like in real life. Everyone got excited as soon as we stepped on the sand. Darlene and I called it Polvoron sand because of its color and softness. Every step you take leaves a huge mark on the sand, that’s how soft it is.

It was probably around 12PM when we took our lunch. We had fried chicken, ginataang pusit (which tasted divine!), rice, hilaw na mangga, bagoong, and bananas. We had a lot of leftovers surprisingly, which was better than coming up short right? We gave our leftovers to the dogs lingering around the island which we affectionately called the ‘royal dogs’.

It was still raining but we decided to swim already since we doubted that the rain will stop soon. The water was really clear and you could even see your foot below. We still weren’t very close that time since we swam in groups; Darlene, Imee, and I while the other group consisted of the guys, Ca was alternating between the both of us. 3pm came and it was time for us to cook dinner. We cooked dinner this early because I will be cooking adobo which takes around 2-3 hours to cook, but is very low maintenance. Mang Roberto lent us a small pogon which really came in handy since we didn’t bring any burner or the like.

Did I forget to mention that there is no electricity on the island (or where we are staying at least) so we had to resort to candles and flashlights as soon as it got dark. We finished cooking at around 6:30PM, just in time for dinner. Our dinner consisted of Adobo, grilled fish (I don’t know which fish since we just asked a local to buy it from the local fishermen fresh), itlog na maalat with kamatis, bananas, mangoes (both ripe and raw), and bagoong. As usual it was a fiesta, there was an abundance of food which we really couldn’t finish so we had a lot of leftovers.

During this time, the wind was really getting stronger, so we had to make some adjustments to our settlement surivor-style. We were eating in a kubo which doesn’t have doors so we placed a black trash bag (unused of course) in front to block the wind. Our tents were also getting soaked by the rain (it was absorbing the water!) so we had to cover the top part with trash bags as well; we also had trouble cooking since the wind was putting the fire out, and you guessed it, we covered the cooking area with more trash bags. Haha! Basically our place looked like a dumpster because of all the trash bags lying around.

After settling our place, we went back to the kubo to start the inuman session. Side note: Darlene and I do not drink. But you guessed it, we ended up getting drunk and tipsy. Haha! What’s surprising though is that Imee, who really drinks booze, was the only who didn’t drink, so she acted as our guardian angel when Darlene and I got drunk. We had 1 large and 1 small bottle of Emperador light and coke and iced tea as chaser (which Darlene called choker). The taste was bearable since I think(?) I got the hang of drinking it: put the booze in your mouth (but don’t drink it yet), put the chaser in your mouth and drink it together with the booze. Darlene didn’t do this at first so she thought that it tasted terrible, but after suggesting this to her, she found the taste to be bearable already. I have extremely low tolerance to alcohol, so after the first shot (one shot consisted of 2 tansans) I started feeling red and hot in the face already. This is the time that we really bonded and enjoyed each other’s company. One time when we went to pee, I thought I’d test myself to see if I was already tipsy. I told them that I’d do the ‘walk test’ which you often see on American movies. I ended up passing the test albeit for the first try the wind blew so I got off balanced (I swear the wind really threw me off balance because I was using an umbrella as well). 😛

And then I felt it. I couldn’t handle another drop of any liquid anymore, I was on the verge of puking already. Good thing the booze ran out and Darlene was the last one to drink. I was saved! The girls and I went to the CR, they had to pee while I had to puke. Haha! Okay, I admit I’m really weak when it comes to alcohol. We took a photo after (see picture below) and I was sooo red. Hahaha!

After resting for a bit it was finally time for us to sleep. Since it was still raining hard and the wind was blowing harder it took us a while to get settled down. Imee, Darlene, and I slept on the smaller tent while Ca and Jason slept on the bigger tent. Paps and Mark slept outside (they slept on the benches) because they were getting wet inside the tent. I woke up around 1 AM and saw that the wind was incredibly strong already. It seemed like our tent will get blown away if we didn’t do anything about it. The wind was akin to that of a typhoon signal no. 3! It was that strong! Eventually, everyone got up because the other campers were panicking a little and the locals were going to all the campers to check if they were okay. They were really concerned about us and they were very helpful in assisting us in moving the tents and packing things so they won’t get blown away. It really made me feel proud to be a Bicolano. 🙂

It really felt like an episode of Survivor because everyone was helping each other to get comfortable and to take care of each other’s belongings. I think we eventually managed to sleep around 3AM but I kept on waking up because I was getting a little bit suffocated inside the tent, so I had to occasionally open the tent’s cover to breathe. 🙂

When I woke up at 6AM, I saw that some of our clothes got blown away by the wind. I had to cook breakfast already since we asked mang Roberto (our boatman) to pick us up. We had leftover adobo (we had a lot of leftover adobo – more than half I think), corned beef, tuna, and scrambled eggs. We rejoiced as soon as we saw the sun shine! Now we can finally take pictures. Haha! After eating we then went on to take pictures near the beach since we barely got to do it the day before because of the rain. At first we thought we would get stuck on the island because the boatman won’t be able to sail through the storm, so we were very happy when mang Roberto came.

And so there it ends, our journey to the beautiful islands of Calaguas. One might think that typhoon Egay would make this trip a disaster, but it actually made the trip more fun and more memorable. It’s the adversity that actually brought us closer and made the whole trip work. If I were to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Truly it was as if we had a little glimpse of heaven. 🙂

Watch out for part 2 of our weekend getaway at Bicol! 🙂

Venturing into Plastic

Just a few minutes ago, my first ever credit card got delivered. The application process went by surprisingly fast. My officemate Darlene messaged me last May 10 to bring one month pay slip, company ID and government-issued ID if I wanted to get a credit card from CitiBank. My previous online application with HSBC got declined because my ITR wasn’t signed by a company representative, so when I noticed that the requirements didn’t involve and ITR I obliged right away.

I signed the application form the day after and even got a free bag. We were told that processing may take a few weeks so I was expecting around a month for the whole process. CitiBank called me last Thursday to verify my personal information and told me that they will be notifying me if my credit card application is approved. I received a text yesterday saying that my application was approved so imagine my surprise when it got delivered to me a while ago.

My mom is clearly not a big fan of credit cards and thinks I’m going to end up in jail sometime in the future. I understand her apprehensions though since I used to be like that, but that was before I understood how credit cards work. I researched on how credit cards work before I even attempted to apply for a credit card.

The annual fee is a fee that you pay the credit card company every year (well duh, that’s pretty self-explanatory). I guess you can treat is as a fee for having a credit card. The annual fee is usually waived for the first year, and in order for you to waive the annual fee for the succeeding years, you have to purchase a certain amount for a month (the amount depends on your credit card company – call them up to ask the amount). The interest rate is the rate charged to you by the company if you fail to pay the total amount due on the payment due date. Say you bought a TV that costs P15,000, your total amount due would be P15,000 (assuming that it’s your only purchase for the month), if you fail to pay the amount in full (say you only paid P10,000), the remaining balance will be subject to the interest rate.

In order to avoid paying the interest rate, well the obvious thing to do is pay in full. Keep in mind to never buy anything that you won’t and can’t normally buy in cash. Charge your expenses as much as possible to your credit card BUT make sure that when the due date comes, you’ll have money to pay for it. That way, you’ll be able to earn points while avoiding to pay the interest rate.

Another advantage of having a credit card is for purchases that allow installment. Say you bought a TV that costs P12,000, and it says that you can buy for it 0% interest payable within 12 months, it means that your total amount due (assuming again that the TV is your only purchase for the month) is P1,000 and not the whole P12,000.

With my credit card on hand, I’ll be able to purchase the piso fares or any flights easier since payment will just be via my card. In order to take advantage of the piso fare of Cebu Pacific, I had to choose the bayad center option and pay for the flight by going to Metrobank. This became a problem because that option only allows you to pay within the day (not 24 hours), so when you purchase it at around 7pm (like I did), you’re doomed because the bank is already closed that time. Piso fares don’t come very often and seats really get taken so fast so it’s hard to pass up those opportunities.

So now, my only challenge is to control myself in spending and not buy anything that I don’t need and I can’t pay in full by the end of the month. I’d be using my card for grocery and bills since the money to pay for those bills is always there since my Mom is the one paying for them. That way, I’d be able to earn points and hopefully when the free movie pass promo comes back, I’d be able to get free movie passes every month!

Facing the Music: I Look Twice My Age

I don’t know if blogging about my face is a good topic to have as my first blog, but I went shopping earlier and bought some facial products because my face is looking like a train wreck. I saw the proactiv commercial a few years ago and didn’t really pay mind to it, but after seeing it last week and seeing Alicia Keys endorse it, I thought I’d give it a try. So when payday came, I went to Watson’s and bought the 60-day kit which costs P3,995.00.

proactiv 60-day kit

It has 4 bottles inside namely Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner, Repairing Treatment, and Refining Mask. It’s called a 3-step system wherein you first use the renewing cleanser (day and night), followed by the revitalizing toner, then the repairing treatment. The last bottle, which is the refining mask, is only applied 2-3 times a week.

I also chanced upon this Garnier eye roll-on which is supposed to reduce dark circles under your eyes. This has been a perennial problem for me ever since high school, so when I saw it, I didn’t hesitate to buy it and try it out. It says at the back that results can be visible within 14 days of use so I’m really excited to find out if it’s going to work out for me. This one costs P199.00.

Garnier Brightening Eye Roll-on (Light)

Apparently it has caffeine which is supposed to energize your skin and relieve tiredness by simulating micro-circulation. I’m not even gonna pretend I understand that so let’s just leave it as it is. It didn’t have any directions so I guess you just apply when desired, although I’m inclined to applying it at night.

I’ll post the results of the Garnier and proactiv after 28 and 60 days respectively.