Family · Life · Relationships

Survived and thrived in SG

It’s the 28th of March today and today marks the anniversary of my first out-of-the country trip…a trip to Singapore!

Singapore’s Harbourfront

The main reason why Singapore was my first out-of-the-country trip was because I needed to go to Singapore. I will elaborate more on why it definitely was a need in my next posts. In a nutshell, I went to Singapore last year to see Coldplay, my favorite band in the world (woohoo!). Of course, I originally wanted to watch Coldplay in Manila with my kababayans but…well, let’s just say the concert industry here in the Philippines needs major revamping. 🙂

To be honest, I was not even planning on going anywhere abroad last year. But, like I said, I needed to go because…hello…Coldplay! The best band in the world!

And so it was set. I will be seeing Coldplay on the 31st of March 2017 in Singapore. Since it was my first time to leave the country, I did not want to go alone. And because I suck at directions, I had to drag someone with me, should I get lost in Singapore. This someone had to be cool, should be really awesome at directions, should never be boring, should be able to take lit photos, and most importantly, should appreciate Coldplay as well.

I couldn’t find anyone who fit these descriptions I required, so I brought my brother instead.

Just kidding haha! Of course, my first choice was my brother! I just know we were going to have loads of fun, not just because he likes Coldplay too, but because he is that annoying, cool kid whom everyone wants to be friends with. So I just know that I will really enjoy our stay in Singapore. Plus, did I already mention that he also likes Coldplay? And he is so much better at directions than I will ever be?

It has been a year since our trip and today, on the anniversary of my first trip abroad, let me give you some of my narratives.


 

Below are some tips that we would like to share to all of you who have not been to Singapore or who would like to reminisce the times when they were in the Lion City:

 

1. Choose an awesome travel buddy and try something new

Try something new. This was our mindset when we went to Singapore. And I am glad we stayed faithful to ensuring that this remains our mindset all throughout the trip. But sticking to this mindset would have been impossible if your travel buddy is not as awesome as you would like and need them to be.

We are SO gonna get lost!!!

I vividly remember my brother telling me this the moment we confirmed that we really are going to Singapore. And, fast forward to the trip itself, and to the present time I am writing this, we DID get lost…a lot of times actually. Unsurprisingly, we got really lost on our first day. I complained a lot about how hungry and tired I already was but I am glad that I got a chill brother who kept winging it and before I know it, we were already in the places we wanted to visit. I’ve always thought I would’ve been an annoying travel buddy and during our trip to Singapore, I think my brother would agree when I say that this hypothesis has already been proven haha! I guess this is because I am such an obsessed planner and changes make me crazy, which is why getting lost drove me insane! But, like I said, I am favored that I have an awesome travel buddy in my brother. Okay so maybe this number 1 tip is starting to look more like that of an appreciation post for my brother haha! But, really, for someone like me who is always reluctant in trying something new, my brother was the necessary push for me to enjoy Singapore despite being out of my comfort zone. It was also his first time in Singapore, but because of the adventurer that he is, he was a lot cool and patient during our whole trip. I think, eventually, his fun spirit rubbed off on me a little haha! So, yes! Your trip is going to be a whole lot of fun when you have an interesting travel buddy with a mindset to do interesting stuff too! Let loose, have fun!

 

2. Changi Airport is REALLY one of the best airports in the world

Okay, I am not sure if I even have the right to say this, since I have only been to two international airports (Changi Airport in Singapore and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand) as of this writing. But, I am gonna say this anyway…Changi Airport is SUPER AWESOME! Our flight got delayed and when we landed in Singapore a little past midnight of March 28th, despite having traveled for only 4 hours, we were still so tired. But when we saw Changi, we were so captivated by how clean and fancy it looks! We didn’t even get to roam around but we just know that the Changi Airport is HUGE! Before our flight back to Manila, we had 4 hours to waste and we were still unable to cover the whole vicinity. Maybe next time! The best part? Its McDonald’s has a vegetarian burger!!!! Of course THIS is the best airport to date for me! Haha!

3. Take the MRT/LRT or the bus over cabs and Uber

Image Source: https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/mrt-and-lrt-trains/train-system-map.html

While cabs and Uber are available in Singapore, I would really highly recommend that you take the metro or the bus when going around as much as possible. The only time we hailed an Uber was when we arrived in Singapore. Our flight got delayed so we arrived at 1:00AM and the metro and buses were no longer operational during that time. But for the rest of our stay, we either took the metro or the bus, or walked around. We would usually be on the East West Line (the green line), because this line has a station near where we were staying. The SG buses also have distinct numbers that will only stop at certain bus stops and will only go to certain destinations. This is actually convenient since, they will not be stopping on bus stops that do not include their route, which will really allow passengers to actually predict their travel time more accurately. Whether we were in the MRT/LRT or in a bus, we would keep thinking about how efficient Singapore’s public transportation is. At some point, we would pray that someday, the Philippines will achieve this kind of efficiency too.

4. Walk, walk, walk

While you can get to point A to point B faster through a cab, the metro, or a bus, we really encourage everyone to try walking around this city. Honestly, a huge chunk of our walking sessions during this trip were because we got lost. But it was through our walking that we got to discover places that were not even part of itinerary or were rarely documented by other travellers online. We found great food, cool graffiti-ladened walls, and instagrammable spots. The unhurried pace that walking requires from you will get you to appreciate the city even more. So, go, walk, and explore!

 

5. (Some of) the best things are free!

We were on a very limited budget so our itinerary was carefully crafted to ensure that we were working within the budget that we have allotted for ourselves daily. I guess it really helps when you are on one page with your travel buddy (shoutout to my brother hello!) when it comes to your daily expenses, because on our last day in Singapore, we found that we still have money to spare. Our itinerary included places that do not require entrance fees, which is something we did not regret at all. Sure, we could’ve also enjoyed going to places that had entrance fees, but to know that we still got to enjoy so much given the limited amount of money we had was way more fulfilling. This actually made us even more excited to come back when we already have a larger budget, because we know that we were able to have fun even with little. One really important tip that we’d like to share is to utilize the Singapore Tourist Pass . This is Singapore’s initiative that allows its tourists unlimited rides on Singapore’s public transport (MRT/LRT and bus) for the duration that it is valid. The pass was so much useful because it allowed us to go to a lot of places, switch to other train lines, and even ride buses just because we want to. One late night (after the Coldplay concert wooohooo!!!), we were lost in Kallang and we did not know how to get back to our place, so we just boarded a bus and hoped that it will take us to somewhere familiar. We got to a familiar place I think only after 3 tries of boarding 3 buses, so, thanks Tourist Pass! We would’ve been a lot broke if not for you! Haha!

6. Hawker centres give you HUGE value for your money

Again, given that we had limited budget, prior to our trip, we scoured the Internet using these keywords: “how do a vegetarian and her annoying brother survive in Singapore?”. Hahaha! Fortunately, helpful netizens swore to the awesomeness of hawker centres and just like that, my brother and I became convinced that we can actually survive for one week! Hawker centres are EVERYWHERE in Singapore and I guess they are similar to what Filipinos know as food courts. Food in hawker centres are very affordable and the choices are almost endless! The most amazing part of it all? There are vegetarian-friendly stalls in hawker centres that actually offer awesome vegetarian food. My brother got to try vegetarian food from one vegetarian stall (in a hawker centre near the National Library, I think) and he actually LIKED the food! His vegetarian sister is proud, of course!!

7. Forgo unnecessary splurging on your accommodation

I guess this a well-known travel tip already but now that I’ve had my own share of travelling, I can now strongly agree with this. However, take note that I said “unnecessary splurging”. Still, you have to ensure that all the essentials are in your chosen accommodation or host’s home. In our case, I emphasized that our place needed two separate beds, a decent aircon, Wi-Fi, and a clean and well-maintained bathroom. All other amenities like swimming pools, hot shower, and TV were things that my brother and I agreed we can do without in our stay. Of course, this will not be the case when we’re staying in a cold country like somewhere in Europe or in Japan, for example, where a hot shower is definitely a must! Prior to our SG trip, my brother and I actually fought about this before booking for our accommodation. I wanted to stay in the best hotel or Airbnb we could find. I was even thinking along the lines of “the more ‘instagram-worthy’ it was, the better”. I didn’t even care if it was far from the train station, or far from the heart of the city. Haha. But thank God for my brother who talked some sense into my delusional self. In the end, we managed to find a place that we both like and has the non-negotioables that we needed.

8. Bring a travel adapter

Image source: http://www.iec.ch/worldplugs/typeG.htm
Image source: http://www.iec.ch/worldplugs/typeG.htm

This is one tip that we wished we found in the travel blogs and sites that we’ve read. Note that Singapore’s power sockets (compatible for type G plugs) are different from those in the Philippines. Though we were able to buy cheap adapters that we can use during our stay, I guess the next time we will be able to use these is when we go back to Singapore.

9. Buy and use a local sim to utilize Singapore’s incredibly-advanced Internet connection

Unlike most of the tips here, this is one tip that we actually failed to do ourselves. Local sims are readily available when we landed in Changi airport, but because we were extra stingy, we didn’t bother getting one. We noted that we can just use the access points in various establishments to connect to their Wi-Fi. However, it turns out that we couldn’t use the Wi-Fi connection in establishments too, since they would require…you guessed it!…a local sim. While it was a bit of a bummer at first, we eventually let it go and just settled with our place’s Wi-Fi. And since our place had Wi-Fi anyway, we could just do everything that required an Internet connection before we leave for the day and then just take screenshots of our searches (e.g. maps, roads, places, etc). Because my brother and I are cool people, we managed to survive using this intelligent hack! Hahaha! We survived and thrived using old-school navigation (i.e. screenshots, bickering with one another, street signs, stock knowledge, asking Filipino-looking people for directions), but, a local sim capable of mobile data (that can allow us to use and enjoy Singapore’s FAST connection) would have been a huge help too!

10. Need gifts for loved ones back home? Go to the supermarket!

It was an easy decision for me to choose to go to a local supermarket to buy gifts because most of my loved ones like food and coffee. So as pasalubong, I decided to buy Singaporean snacks, candies, chocolates, coffee, and tea from supermarkets such as Sheng Shiong and FairPrice. Wide variety of choices and affordable!


 

Looking through these pictures made me miss Singapore even more! As I celebrate the anniversary of my first ever out-of-the-country trip, I pray that these pictures and this post will make you excited to visit Singapore too! I’d like to use this post to honor my brother as well, for if not for him, I would’ve probably failed to survive in Singapore. I would also like to thank some of our friends who are currently living in Singapore who went out of their way to meet us and to show us around. Thank you for allowing yourselves to be used by God to convince us that we are favored beyond measure (e.g. We weren’t even planning to go to Sentosa and eat fancy food priced at 10 SGD and above, but thankful for friends who chose to treat us to fancy dinners and lunches and to bring us to tourist spots that have entrance fees hehe). May God continue blessing you tremendously!

This 7-day stint in Singapore made us realize how much we truly are loved by God. I am documenting this here so I’d remember always. 🙂

Finally, please bear with the slight incoherence of this post. I was too excited to blog this experience that has been one-year delayed already. 🙂

Family · God · Life · Relationships

Aunt Maine to Nephew 1

Ate is a new Mom, I’m a new Aunt

I think this will be the first time that I will be talking about this in public.

(DISCLAIMER: After reading this, please spare my Ate of your questions. Not because she doesn’t want to answer them, but because she’s really busy at school right now. She doesn’t owe anyone an explanation (she has explained it to us already), but she allowed me to make this post public. At least honor this request. My hope is that this post would suffice. Otherwise, if I discover you guys probing into this, it’s going to break my heart and we are seriously going to have a problem. Thanks.)

Yes, you have read that right.

My Ate Apple is now Mom to Matthew Alfonso, the most gwapo and heaviest 11-month old I’ve ever carried.

Most new aunts would be delighted. Others would be nervous (but eventually, be excited). I was neither.

I was broken. I felt betrayed. I became angry. Everytime I’d remember my sister, my thoughts would shift from reminiscing the days when she was still here to dreaming of the day when I get to show the guy that he just messed with the wrong family.

To say that I wanted to make the guy’s life miserable was downplaying it. In my mind, he made my family suffer. In my mind, he was the most disrespectful person I have yet to meet. Oftentimes, I would find myself stunned and paralyzed because of the weight of what was happening. And while occasional messages from my Ate would tell us that she’s okay, I didn’t believe her.

Sometimes, to ease my sadness, I’d just let myself think that my Ate was just a clever spy, telling us she’s okay so she wouldn’t blow her cover. In reality, she may be hurting, but at the same time, she’s strategic. And that for everyone’s safety, and that given the fact that she’s in a foreign land,  she chooses to withhold what was really happening. When she comes home to the Philippines, things will be different, and then I can justify my plans of RKO-ing the guy.

I’ve let myself believe this up until the day when she finally went back to the Philippines last year.

And to my disappointment, I was wrong. She wasn’t a spy and she wasn’t being strategic. When she told us that she was (and still is) okay,  SHE WAS BEING HONEST.

Well, that’s what she kept telling everyone the moment she landed.

But I wouldn’t go down without a fight because come on, I had to be right. I NEEDED TO BE RIGHT.

The cuteness that is found in Alfonso

I have known for more than a year now that I’m already an Aunt but it was only during Dec of 2014 that I got to meet my first nephew in person. Of course, I know what he looks like. I see him when Ate sends pictures of him, which was very seldom, given how busy her days are now that she needed to take care of an infant. I have to admit that he is really cute. I mean, all babies are cute, of course. But Alfonso was different. Okay, so this may come with a bit of bias, but Alfonso’s cuteness did more than just triggering smiles from everyone he encountered.

alfonso2
SERIOUSLY. Look at all that cuteness!

 

This little guy was so cute that my dad, who’s so firm with his stand of never allowing what has happened to continue on, melted at the mere sight of the little fellow’s smile. Alfonso smiles at anyone, even at me. And believe me, I was at my most maldita during those days.

One time, Ate asked me to carry Alfonso because she needed to go to the bathroom. Probably understanding that I’d finally get to spend time with him, Alfonso smiled at me. Quick to foil his enjoyment, I shuddered, and then I proceeded to my room.

So that was the drill. He smiles, I’d roll my eyes. He chuckles, I’d stick my tongue out. No matter how cute Alfonso was (is), I resolved to stick to my plan, because succumbing to Alfonso’s cuteness is gonna do me more harm than good. Besides, if I did admit during those times that he is indeed cute and if I said yes to invitations to carry him, I might as well have given up with my strife. And I thought, “no way in the world will that happen!”.

Far from Merry

My Ate, the guy, and Alfonso arrived here in the Philippines on the 15th of December 2014. But it was only on the 25th that I surrendered to Jesus all the hurt, all the pain, all the unforgiveness, and all the uncertainty that I felt. It was only after 10 difficult days that I finally realized that my stubbornness was getting me nowhere.

From Dec 15 up to Christmas Eve, I shunned people away. I’d only go downstairs early morning and in the middle of the night, just so I wouldn’t get a chance to talk to people. I didn’t want to talk to my Mom and my brother because I felt that they betrayed me. I talked to my Lola, but after 5 minutes into the conversation, she’d cry in front of me, begging me to talk to Ate already. That became my cue to leave for my room again. Well, not actually MY room. For the 10 days that I’ve shut myself out, I stayed in my Kuya’s room. Staying in my Kuya’s room made me feel closer to him, because at that time, it was only he who understood what I was feeling. (Well, that was what I thought, because I didn’t really bother asking what other people thought.)

Christmas Eve was the worst. It was so bad that I thought of just staying at a coffee shop instead of spending Christmas Eve at home. It came to a point that I was crying out to God to take me anywhere but our home. My pillows were drenched in tears as my Papa and Kuya pleads with me to remember what Christmas means. And when I keep telling them I don’t want to remember because I’m too hurt to forgive, the tears continued to flow. Because in reality, I knew that I am breaking my God’s heart, but I don’t want to stop, because I was too hurt.

What me even more mad and hurt is the fact that she’s happy and I am not. She isn’t supposed to be happy, but she is.

And at the end of the night, when people were exchanging Merry Christmas-es to their loved ones, my only prayer was to be able to sleep. I was begging God to let me sleep. That was all I asked, to just be able to sleep off everything, so I won’t be jealous of the tweets and statuses I read, and the pictures I see.

Well, I did sleep. But I slept off my Christmas Eve with so much anger, bitterness, hatred, and confusion in my heart.

And come the morning of the 25th, I woke up feeling more angry, more bitter, more hateful, and more confused.

 “Neither do I condemn you

“Why won’t you talk to her?”

“God, if I talk to her, she wouldn’t even listen. So what’s the point?!”

“How do you know she wouldn’t listen?”

“…but…okay…let’s say she did listen. She has clearly made her decision. What is my purpose in explaining, then?!”

“Well, what do YOU think is YOUR purpose?”

“To make her realize how stupid her decision is!”

“What about Alfonso? He clearly likes you. Don’t you want to play with him?”

“I need Ate to  tell me first that she’s staying for good.”

“Well, she’s going back in a few days. What do you plan to do for the remaining days that she’s staying?”

“Make her realize how stupid her decision is!”

“Not to remind her of John 8:1-11? That I love her, and that you love her, and that I do not condemn her?”

“Well, I love her but her decision sucks.”

“Then anak, YOU MISSED THE POINT.”

BOOM.

It was the most painful rebuke I’ve had in years. I missed the point.

“OKAY WAIT. God, what do You mean, ‘You missed the point’. I clearly am the only sane person left here. I am the only one left who understands how foolish Ate is. If they have given up on trying to talk some sense into Ate, I WON’T.”

“Then talk to her. Talk to her and let her know how foolish you think she is.”

And I did. I talked to her, asked her all the questions I’ve been wanting to ask, and probed into everything I’m confused about. It was a long and emotional talk, which I won’t detail-out here. All I can say is that, I think that was the first time I hugged my Ate with a hug so genuine and full of love. The moment she opened the door, I ran to her and hugged her. She hugged back, which made me sob. I’m not a hugger, which is why it was that big of a deal. During that time, I forgot my well-rehearsed sermon. I have practically thrown away my invisible notes which outlined all my reasons why I thought she was foolish. All I cared about was to show her how much I missed her and how much I desired to make her stay with us again.

“Maine, I’m sorry for failing you. Tulungan mo ako bumangon ulit (Help me get back up again).”

When she said this, it was as if God gave me glimpse of how ugly my heart has become.

I thought I was helping her. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was making it difficult for her to get back up. I was giving her a hard time to right her wrongs. Dare I say it, I was condemning her without even telling her I’m condemning her. My, how sicker could I get?! 😦

She didn’t need me to rescue her. She needed me to remind her of who she is in our eyes, who she is in the eyes of Jesus.

And this is who she is: always beautiful, never condemned. But I failed at showing her this, because I was so consumed with my game plan.

MY game plan.

I was too preoccupied with executing the strategy that I’ve so carefully crafted that I have completely forgotten that God, the maker of the universe, the creator of all things and all people, the Father of my beautiful Ate, has His own strategy as well. I may not know what His strategy is exactly, but I am certain that because He is sovereign, His strategy is the best there is.

After finally reconciling with my Ate, I felt God telling me, “Okay, I’ve let you do your part. Now let Me do Mine. I Am sovereign, anak. Let go and let Me do My part. Let Me do it My way.”

The Christmas miracle

For some reason, in the morning of the 25th, I left my door open, which led my mom to enter the room I was staying in. At first, I was mad at myself for forgetting to close the door. But eventually, I was thankful, because my mom who’s so patient with my tantrum-induced self, carefully explained what went through during the days I’ve shut myself from them. And my eyes began sweating profusely, as I start realizing how extremely disobedient I have become, and how much pain I have been causing everyone in the family, just because I refused to forgive. After this talk with my Mom came my intense conversation with Ate that I just recounted above.

Jesus nailed it when He rebuked me that Christmas morning, “Anak, do I hold it against you when you make a mistake? Do I clench my fist when I see you disobeying Me again? Do I un-love you when you’ve done things that aren’t okay with me?”. Rebuked, and stripped off of my pride, I humbly said, “Onga no, when I mess up or when I choose to do it my way,  You, in Your sovereignty, remain patient”. Then came the waterworks again, because finally, I understand.

It was indeed a Christmas miracle. Christmas Eve of 2014 is the worst Christmas Eve that I’ve had ever. But at the same time, I think it will probably the most memorable, because it established in me what Christmas has made possible:

Forgiveness. Peace. Joy. Love.

Christmas Eve of 2014 also reminded me why Jesus had to come to earth in the first place: to save us from all the hurt, pride, bitterness, anger, and sin…which we ourselves have caused.

To the lady whom I will forever look up to

Ate, you probably know this already, but let me say this again: You will forever be my idol, someone I will always look up to.

From your passion for fashion to your love for London, I think I will always be that little sister who is so fond of copying her Ate from head to foot.

Recently, people have been tell me that I am “blooming”. I’d give Pond’s and my constant trips to my derma the credit, but I realized that, the reason why I am probably blooming is because I’m starting to look a lot like you. And I have nothing to complain about it, because to be compared to you, to be told that I look like you, are some of the most wonderful compliments that I can ever receive in my entire life.

You and mommy are two amazing women whose beauty is timeless. And to be given the privilege to be even just as half as beautiful as you both are will be a chance I’d take any day.

Ate, thank you for teaching me by being an example. People may never understand, but I believe that you espouse what a “woman after God’s own heart” is. My daughter/s will be so blessed to have a wonderful Aunt in you. I know you will be someone they will boast about, because they’d get the rod if they don’t boast about you. Hehe.

I love you Ate, now and forever.

Right after my cryfest. Ate looks pretty, as usual. Alfonso is the cutest.
Right after my cryfest. Ate looks pretty, as usual. Alfonso is the cutest. I, on the other hand, look like I need to sleep some more.

To Alfonso:

I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. But I know you have forgiven me already, because the first time I carried you, you smiled so brightly at me, as if you didn’t feel that I didn’t like you at first, as if you have known from the start that I’d come to my senses eventually. You are the cutest (well, next to my future kids, of course)! You haven’t even reached a year of existence, and already you have captured my heart! You really are a gift from God. My prayer is that you will grow up loving the Lord, loving your family, and loving other people. And may I be an Aunt who will always point you to Jesus, even if we’re miles apart.

I can’t wait till the day that I get to tell you these things in a way that you’ll understand.

For now, “cooooo coooo”.

To Mac:

It’s hard to forgive, and I know you know why.

I vowed that I can never bring myself to call you “Kuya”, because you do not deserve it. In fact, in my mind, you don’t really deserve a lot of things. You don’t deserve Ate. You don’t deserve our approval. You don’t deserve our kindness. You don’t deserve to drive our Everest. You don’t deserve to be forgiven. You don’t deserve my love.

But, as I recount all these things that I think you “don’t deserve”, God shoots down my pride and tells me, “Anak, you didn’t (and still don’t) deserve my love. But YOU ARE LOVED, now and forever, despite what you do or don’t do. You have been loved much. You know how true love works. How is loving Mac any different?”.

And just like that, I am humbled, because I have been reminded again that those who have been loved much, love much. I have been loved (and is still being loved) by an amazing God, and this love that He has for me is so beautiful, so transforming, so unchanging, and so unconditional. It might take a while, but allow me to offer this kind of love to you. Only by God’s grace can I love you with no conditions. And hopefully, I will be able to do that very soon.

My prayer is that you will lead your family the way Jesus leads His Church, that when everyone is forgetting about God’s greatness, you will be the first to shout His praises. I pray that you will decide everyday to make Jesus the center of your family, and that you will always be reminded that when you surrender to Jesus, you can never go wrong. Finally, I pray that you will always love your family the way Jesus loves them. Because if you don’t, well, you don’t want the King of Kings to strike you with lightning because you made His daughter cry, do you?

 

To my Papa, Mommy, Nanay, Kuya, and Ton:

Thank you for keeping up with my stubbornness, and for always patiently rebuking me when I’m already going too far.

You are the strongest bunch I’ve ever met. I will always be thankful to God that I am a Centino. I am surviving and conquering this adventure called life because I have you all.

I love you guys.