Island Girl, Concrete Jungle

I Changed… Yet Again!

I’ve decided to rename my blog again–Postcardpretty.com is now IslandGirlConcreteJungle.com.

An ubiquitous source on travel with a third-world passport and surviving life in general. The reason being, I moved on to becoming more adult.

My current life goal: to be as productive as I can before my next mid-life crisis and finally decide to join the circus.

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‘The Green Man’ Matthias Gelber Comes to Cebu

Climate change is already happening. Global warming is no longer a myth. We have already felt the effects, such as recent climate idiosyncrasies that weren’t supposed to happen, but are already transpiring. A cynic would always say, ‘but… can we really make a difference?’ Well, can we?

I was excited to hear that fellow Climate Reality leader Matthias Gelber is coming to the Philippines’ two biggest cities (Manila and Cebu) in order to give talks on tackling environment issues and climate change. He will also be here as one of the presiding judges of Miss Earth 2016, happening tonight, June 11, 2016.

Matthias Gelber, better known as the ‘GreenMan’, is a professional speaker, green activist, eco-warrior and key advocate to pro-environment living. He is voted the ‘Greenest Person on the Planet’ on 2008 by 3rdWhale, Canada.

Gelber was born and raised in a small German village close to nature, and hence developed a strong connection with the Earth from a young age. Matthias is now based in Malaysia, where he lives without a car and a $10 USD/month electric bill. In Malaysia, he started Eco Warriors, a community movement on taking a proactive stance to fighting climate change.

Malaysia and Philippines are very similar when it comes to climate, geography and demographic, but our buildings are designed for purely aesthetic but totally inappropriate for our hot and humid climate. Gelber shares that the traditional houses, the Philippine bahay kubo and Malaysian kampung houses are more efficient in ventilation and designed for our tropical weather. Industrial progress does not necessitate cemented roads and concrete buildings. A progressive city can live communally with nature and thrive in it, rather than destroy the greenery.

We can all be agents of change through small, lifestyle changes that we can make in your own offices and homes. The first step to green living is assessing our electric consumption. 1kwh generates 600+ g of CO2 emissions. Hence, reducing our electricity bill not only saves money but also reduces our carbon footprint. Of course, making the conscious change of behavior is the biggest challenge we face as we try to live greener.

For more interesting eco-stories, practical tips and ideas, catch the GreenMan on  “A GREEN TALK at the Queen City of the South”, this Saturday, June 18, 2016 from 1PM to 5PM at the Greenery, Mabolo, Cebu City. The event will also feature fellow Cebu green advocates: Joseph Castillo of the JoeGreen Project; Rachel Arandilla of DAKILA & Climate Reality Project; and Archt. Joy Onozawa, Certified Green Design Professional.

To register and know more about the event, you can check their Facebook event page on this link.

greenman in cebu

214: Heart, Mind or Wallet?

 

For Valentines, eCompareMo asked me: If you could only pick one, would you rather have Unlimited Wealth, Immeasurable Knowledge, or Everlasting Love?

This is like a Miss Universe question… but at the least I can be honest about my answer.

KARUNUNGAN

Is knowledge still important nowadays–or has Google made it obsolete?

Even if you can pretty much wiki everything nowadays–immeasurable knowledge can still be very handy. Maybe a Silicon Valley mega-corporation will hire me for creating complicated algorithms. My math brain can probably crack the code on stock market analysis and get successful gains 100% of the time. On the other hand, Mozart and Socrates can tell you; genius won’t not warrant food on your plate.

Knowledge is definitely the most selfish choice. How can you share your brain cells? Sure, you can publish papers and give talks, but it will take more than a lifetime to spread out your knowledge to the rest. It can even alienate you to the rest of the ignorant masses (Lord knows why Bill Gates wouldn’t spend his billions on more luxurious yachts and sports cars)…

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Do you know that smarter people are more prone to depression and suicidal thoughts? Knowing too much can be your own undoing–the extra grey matter will get you to think more about deep and mentally exhausting stuff: like poverty, or the economical rat race, or afterlife, or the search for the cure of cancer… When these questions are left unanswered, intellectuals will feel unvalidated, rebuffed, ignored–over and over and over again. Immeasurable knowledge can sometimes do more harm than good. You know what they say, ignorance is bliss…

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KAYAMANAN

Unlimited wealth can buy you anything your heart desires.

Money may not be able to buy you IQ points, but it could buy you a good degree–and that’s kinda the same thing. In 3 Idiots, the real Rancho was a rich lazy bastard who hired a poor boy to go to college for him… In the end, he got the degree, poor boy got the education he wanted, and they all lived happily ever after… All izz well. Sure, I may be referencing a fictional movie, but I’m sure it’s happened in real life too.

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Money is a lot easier to spread out compared to knowledge. You can build schools, provide jobs and improve the well-being of state and society–as long as you don’t get greed in the way. (That’s a lot easier said than done, of course…)

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Let’s talk about love. Or in my case recently, the lack thereof.

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Knowledge and Wealth can be a double-edged sword. But how about love? Is there too much of a good thing?

But everlasting love does not exist, because it is only everlasting-until the mortality of a person. People aren’t permanent, hence love is just as impermanent.

And won’t it be a bit narcissistic to expect love without much effort to give love in return? It’s not that hard -you just need to give love and you will receive love.

That, or you can get a dog. At least you can get love and loyalty.

So what would I choose?

If I can only pick one, I need to make sure I maximize my choice. Which single option will help provide me with all three?

I am for Team Kayamanan. Wealth is the only choice that can give me three. Love can’t feed me, nor can it make me smarter. Knowledge can give me a decent job, but it can isolate me from others. On the other hand, wealth can buy me all things, and so much more…

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A fake education, fake friends, fake love… who cares? My bro Kanye speak the truth– ‘she ain’t messin’ with no broke niggas…’ 

This post is exclusively written for eCompareMo.com

Siargao Guide for Non-Surfers

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The act of riding waves on wooden boards has been recorded as a human activity for thousands of years. The first surfers were the ancient Pacific Islanders and Polynesians who fish for a living, and discovered that riding the waves was an efficient way to get to shore quickly.

One of the First Known Photographs of a Surfer, 1800s. Photo from: Bishop Museum Archive
One of the First Known Photographs of a Surfer, 1800s. Photo from: Bishop Museum ArchiveSurfing and Siargao

Eventually riding waves transformed from a daily activity to a favorite pastime. There have been written records about people riding waves, from Capt. James Cook to Mark Twain. We can only guess how and when the modern form surfing was established, but one day some madcap decided it was a good idea to stand in his board during a swell and see what happens. The rest was history.

Surfing is now a sport and lifestyle that has taken a life of its own. Surfers travel around the world to catch the ‘perfect wave’. This is how the story of Siargao happened. Twenty years ago, two pro-surfers came to the Philippines to catch the fabled waves on a tear-shaped island called ‘Siargao’. Now known as ‘Cloud 9’, Siargao is acclaimed for her large, smooth and hollow-tubed waves that bring an international crowd of surfers every year. Siargao is now known as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, and is the 9th Best Surfing Spot in the World (according to CNN).

But Wait! This Post is NOT for Surfers.

However, this post isn’t about surfing; I have no idea why I started my intro like that, but whatever. Of course, without surfing, Siargao wouldn’t be what it currently is now. Many surfers came for the waves, and fall in love with the island. Some never leave. The waves and the wonderful community is irresistible–making Siargao a little piece of paradise on Earth. I personally found the allure Siargao so seductive that I ended up booking another ticket to come back just a few days after I left!

In Siargao, surfing can be done all year round. There are different swells from different parts of the island, depending on the time of the year.

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So What if I don’t surf?

Siargao is paradise for surfers— and non-surfers, too. If you don’t surf, there’s more to Siargao then just surfing. Of course, I would highly recommend that you make ‘learn to surf’ a top priority on your itinerary, but if it’s really not your thing, here are some activities you can do beyond surfing.

1. Magpupungko Tidal Pool

Magpupungko is named such from a unique rock formation in the area. The large boulder looks like it’s sitting on top of another flat rock. The beautiful pool only unveils itself during low tide.

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Be careful when you jump! The rocks are razor sharp!

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There’s also a beach right next to the pool with massive waves that will wipeout any entity who dared swim in it!

Photo by Chester Baldicantos. Yes, this really happened to John.
Photo by Chester Baldicantos. Yes, this really happened to John.

From General Luna, it’s a 40 minute car ride to Magpupungko. Entrance is 50 per person.

2. Island Hopping

Go island hopping and check out Siargao’s three nearby islands: Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island. Depending on your negotiation skills, you can rent a boat to visit the three islands from P1,000 to P1,500.

Naked Island is just what you would expect–naked. On this island you would not find any trees or vegetation, just a stretch of fine white sand. Daku Island is, ‘dako’ or big, in terms of the other islands we visited. Daku even has its own barangay. (The ancestors were very literal and not very creative with naming their locale) We had our lunch in Daku Island before we went to our last stop, Guyam Island.

If you have the time, you can also check Sohoton Lagoon. Sohoton is famous for its jellyfish sanctuary and enchanting caves. Sohoton is three hours away from Siargao though and is closer to Surigao del Norte, so we decided to reserve Sohoton for another future trip.

3. Food Trip!

Food is affordable and good in Siargao. General Luna has quite a few restaurants and cafes that are good, interesting and not cheesy. Locals like barbecue, and they have barbecue stalls even in their disco bars! You can get great comfort food at Pleasure Point Cafe, three-layered pizza at Aventino’s, sushi at Lux Siargao Sushi Bar, great coffee and view at Cafe Loka, barbecue at Mama’s, and more.

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Food at Pleasure Point Cafe

Locals like barbecue, and they have barbecue stalls even at their disco bars! Siargao is not as touristy as Boracay, so you can’t find any big restaurant establishments here like fast food joints and international food chains. Heck, you can’t even find an ATM machine around GL!

Fresh seafood here abounds (it’s an island, duh). You can go spearfishing if that’s your thing and roast your catch, or if you’re more mainstream  just go to the local market and purchase their freshest catch and pay someone to cook it for you.

You can check out my blog post on some of Siargao’s Best Eats here.

4. Party

So you don’t surf–but you can at least hang out and party with fellow surfers and look the part! Surfers are among the most unpretentious bunch I know and will befriend just about anyone. Siargao parties here embody the vibe of the island–laid back and friendly. You can’t expect any EDM or hardcore parties here. They have great parties in Pagoda Beach Bar especially on Mondays (named appropriately ‘Monday Fundays’) so be sure not to miss that. Other local disco bars are Jungle Bar every Fridays and Stowaway Bar every Saturdays.

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Other bars around the island include Reggae Bar, Nine Bar, La Luna Surf Buddha Resort (they also have acoustic nights on Thursdays). There are quite a few places to chill and drink around Gen. Luna especially around Cloud 9.

5. Explore the Island!

Aside from surfing, there are plenty of water activities you can do in Siargao. You can go diving, snorkeling and paddle boarding.

SUP!

A fish out of water can find abundant activities on land, too. Hire a motorbike or bicycle and explore the island itself. I read that tarsiers are also present here, and unlike Bohol, these small primates still roam free in Siargao forests. Saltwater crocodiles exist in parts of Siargao — Del Carmen, Siargao is home to the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao.

There’s so much more to discover–General Luna is just one municipality! Fellow traveler and colleague Radel strongly insist I come back to Siargao and explore Siargao’s west and north side.

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Motorbike rentals are typically Php 500/day.

6. Caving

 

7. Relax

Relax! Don’t try to push in too many activities in one day. Tomorrow is another day in paradise. So yes, you deserve an afternoon’s rest in a hammock by the beach.

Relax! Tomorrow is another day in paradise.
Relax! Tomorrow is another day in paradise.
Kona is chillng like a German Shepherd boss.
Kona is chillng like a German Shepherd boss.

Postcard Pretty is now on Snapchat!

I finally have Snapchat!

Follow me @postcardpretty to get updated with stories from my travels in real time!


I know, I know. I caught on pretty late with this Snapchat thing. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a phone, either.

I tried to avoid it like a plague, but the more you resist the more it pulls you in. I thought that Snapchat is just an app for teens, and while it took some time getting used to, I’m already hooked.

With Snapchat, you can get live feeds or ‘stories’ from your friends and people you follow.

So follow me on Snapchat to get updated on where in the part of the world I am now! If you don’t have Snap, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @postcardpretty or like my page on Facebook!

Arriving to Paris on a City Lockdown

Our trip to Paris was eventful the moment we arrived at Gare du Nord from London. Upon exiting the Eurostar train and making my first step into Paris, a dozen French police stopped two men before us; told them to put their hands on the back of the head and searched them. I remember the anger from the men, voices starting to raise and the growing crowd of onlookers.

What a shock of a welcome. Bienvenue à Paris!

We would later find out that just hours before our arrival, the Charlie Hebdo shooting had just happened. The city is on a manhunt as they pursue the gunmen responsible for the terrorist-driven shooting that left 12 people dead. What a time to come to the world’s most romantic city.

For the next few days, we would experience Paris like never before: military and police everywhere on the streets, no tourist crowd, and the attractions almost all to ourselves.

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Whoa, wait–Paris without a crowd?!?

While that may sound far-fetched, we came to Paris on winter season heightened by the heinous act of terrorism. There was an odd sense of stillness in the air. Even going to the nearest supermarket was a little daunting.

Nonetheless, seeing the French police with their big guns on every block of the city made us feel safer. We can’t even see any police around our Sinulog festivals, so that was comforting to see.

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Here’s a comparison of our Paris photos on January 2015 vs. fellow CAFA colleague Carla’s photos on May 2014. If you want to know more of Carla babe’s Euro trip adventures, you can visit her blog here.

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If our photos really looked gloomy compared to Carla’s, that’s because it really was!
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No crowd, no problem
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The Hall of Mirrors

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It’s amazing how the French uphold in what they believe in so much. ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ – freedom of speech & freedom of the press. Throughout our trip, we would randomly walk into peace rallies held by people of all religions on the streets.

On our fourth day in Paris, Ejay and I along with a friend showed our support and attended the anti-terror rally in Place de la République, among the city’s busiest squares. An estimated 4 million people congregated in one place. Some were already climbing on to the trees and statues.

“Charlie, charlie, charlie”, the crowd chanted in unison. People were waving French flags, with placards, posters and banners in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic. They waved pens and pencils in the air, all the while singing ‘La Marseillaise’. It was mesmerizing.

Here are photos Ejay took of the said event:

I wonder how despite having such a large crowd, they could still remain orderly. No pushing or shoving or violating of personal space. Personal space means a lot to me.

‘The French are not afraid to speak.‘ What can you expect from the descendants of the French Revolution? They value their freedom of speech so much, and instill those values to the young to not be afraid to say what they think. In the rally, the parents brought their children (some as young as 3) to join in the chanting and sharing of experiences. ‘They are just as passionate for their freedom as they are with their french kissing’, I joked.

Speaking of....
Speaking of….

It felt good to be able to take part in such a historical event. The rally is said to have had the largest gathering in France (with 4 million people) since the nation’s liberation in 1944… Until of course, the following week we saw on the international news that a mass was held in Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines with Pope Francis and 7 million Filipinos. Kaning pinoy, di jud papildi. hehehe

I’ll talk more about Paris on my future posts and how we were able to travel there in less than P50,000 for five days (without missing the most important spots) Watch out for that soon!

Aside from Sand and Sea, what else is there in Bantayan?

 I admit, I’m a Bantayan newbie.

I’ve only been to the island three years ago. I’ve been back at least once a year since. Last year, we took my then three-year-old for his first out-of-town trip to Bantayan. I seriously never heard of Bantayan until we moved to Cebu from Mindanao. In a way, I think Cebuanos try their best to keep the virgin paradise hidden, like their own secret treasure. I don’t blame them for being a bit selfish–Bantayan is beautiful.

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Beautiful island, sand as fine as sugar.

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Still, I can’t say I know so much about Bantayan, it’s still mysterious to me. I have tons of friends who are from there (Nath, Cecille), and they’re very proud about their island roots.

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It’s easy to fall in love with the island. It may be very tempting to stay by their pristine white sand beaches all day, but what else is there to do in Bantayan aside from getting some vitamin sea?

Explore the Laidback Island

The easiest way to explore the island is to rent a motorbike. Bantayan is only 11km wide so you can easily go around the island via motorbike in half a day. For only P300, you can have the motorbike for the whole day. We explored the island’s three municipalities (Santa Fe, Madridejos, Bantayan) the whole afternoon with as many stopovers as we could. Take your time.

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Ejay and I both love the freedom a motorbike provides when we’re out on the province. We toss the map away and try to find our way back (or try to recreate a map on our own!). Sometimes I feel like we’re MMORPG characters obsessed with the need to explore every square inch of the magical realm in search for cool monsters to fight with awesome treasure and discover secret side quests. In the real world, we only find occasional carabao dung hidden beneath the long grass. Sigh. But that’s okay, it’s still fun.

Appreciate Bantayan’s Forts

A little trivia about the island’s name. Folklore says that Bantayan was home to 18 watchtowers, to look over incoming moro pirate vessels. During the watchmen’s vigil, they would say ‘Bantayan! Bantayan!’ or ‘Keep watch! Keep watch!‘, which is how the island got its name.

Many of the watchtowers no longer survive, but some relics remain. The best surviving one is the fort in Kota Park, Madridejos. It might look like just a bunch of stones to most people, but they served an important purpose centuries ago.

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These forts are around 200-300 years old! That’s so cool to me!

The old Spanish forts and churches were built so sturdily to protect the natives from kidnapping. Moro raiders and pirates used to come at night and steal girls and boys to be sold off to slavery. Slavery was the biggest and most profitable industry during its hay days. If it weren’t for these forts our folks might have ended up in Slaver’s Bay and be one of Khaleesi’s Unsullied. (I had to mention that because GOT is showing again soon!)
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It is amazing how Spanish walls and forts, made from stone or quicklime with egg whites as mortar still survive centuries after, despite constant visits from typhoons and earthquakes. Many of our modern buildings (like the CICC) weren’t as lucky.

Appreciate the old Spanish Houses

I marvel at the old Spanish plazas you can only find in out-of-the-way provincial towns. It’s amazing to see how Spanish colonial urban planning is like, how buildings and streets were organized into grid, and how it’s still being used centuries after the first plan was drawn out by order of the Spanish king.

The municipality of Bantayan is laid out in a colonial Spanish layout. Typically, there is a central plaza and heart of the city is the iglesia or church, the town council building, the residences of main religious and political officials, the residences of the city wealthy and VIPs, and the principal businesses were also stationed around the central plan. The less important people live further out of the grid.

Oldest Church in Cebu

The houses are typical 19th century Spanish colonial architecture known as ‘bahay na bato’. I like exploring ancestral homes and how similar they are in elements–typical two storey house, a mosquito net in the bedroom, a big heavy piano in the sala, massive door made of hardwood, and religious idols and crucifixes adorned in every room of the house.

‘Bahay na bato’ are modeled after the pre-hispanic ‘bahay kubo’, but bigger and made of more concrete materials. It is built to be suited to the tropics, with good ventilation, high ceiling, enough openings to let air and light in but at the same time provide enough protection from rain and heat of the sun.

This makes you wonder though, if the old Spanish houses were a symbol of Filipino identity and ingenuity, why don’t we build houses in this tradition to keep our heritage? Why do we allow the last of our ‘endangered’ houses to be destroyed and replaced by ‘modern Asian’ or minimalist building styles, when these houses were perfectly built for the tropical climate?

The Best Sunsets. Ever.

While I am the most un-sentimental person who cannot appreciate fireworks and babies and puppies, I swoon at the beauty of Bantayan sunsets; the pink cotton balls wrapped within the velvet blanket sky, the last of warm hues kissing the horizon, promising another tomorrow (eek. #langleav will be proud). Seriously, Bantayan sunsets are so possessing they made me poetic for a second there. I hope that won’t happen again hahaha.

Every time I’m in Bantayan there’s always something new to discover. What are some things I missed and places you can recommend for a Bantayan Newbie like me?

I’ve Moved to a New Domain!

I am now a proud owner of a domain, http://www.postcardpretty.com.

Postcard Pretty because I like featuring postcard-pretty photos taken by me or (usually) my photographer/partner Ejay. It’s a slight veer away from the vanity of my previous blog name (Rachel and the world) hehe.

You can now access my site here, but please be patient on a few rebranding, SEO and layout changes over the next few days.