Independence Day

Philippine flag

Today, the Philippines celebrates its 121th Independence Day.

On the 12th of June, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines’ Independence from Spanish rule. Technically, Spain did not recognize this and managed to grant the Philippines to the United States after the Spanish-American war, but that’s beside the point. It’s only recently when I started re-educating myself on my Filipino history and heritage that I started commemorating these significant events that molded the country to what it is today. Philippine flag

And because it’s Independence Day, I am dedicating this blog in appreciation of the Philippine Flag.

The original flag that was waived on Independence Day was sewn by Marcela Agoncillo. It was designed based on the Cuban flag. The colors were inspired by the US flag, and the sun was derived from the mythological sun on the flags of Latin American countries like Argentina.

Today’s Philippine flag has 3 stars symbolizing the 3 biggest islands: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. The sun symbolizes liberty, and its 8 rays stand for the first eight provinces that revolted against the Spanish rule. The colors represent equality (white), valor (red), and peace (royal blue). In times of war, the flag is turned over so that the red color of the flag is the one on top.

“Now, after ten years, let us look back over the road we have traveled. Let us take stock of ourselves. What have we done with that independence for which we waited so long? Let us look clearly and honestly at the record. I can tell you how I feel about it. I can tell you that I am proud of my race, that I am proud of the nation we created in so short a time and in the face of such tremendous odds.”

— Former President Ramon Magsaysay, 1956

A Forest Trek to Remember

Forest

A couple of weeks ago, we got up at 4AM on a Sunday morning and drove 188 kilometers (a little over 3 hours) to Subic, Zambales. We have enlisted in MadTravel‘s trek at the Bataan forest of Subic Bay – one of the last thriving rain forests in the Philippines. It was their first official trek with guests on this route and we were quite excited being part of this adventure.

After a quick Jollibee breakfast (we didn’t want to miss the call time), we drove from the Lighthouse Resort Hotel to El Kabayo, where we were welcomed by the elders of the Aetas of Pastolan with homemade Bataan coffee and sweet bananaQ. The aetas, the indigenous people who were the first race who inhabited the Philippines, were awarded ancestral land in Zambales. Five percent of the income of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) goes to the aetas. They use this funding for education, health, and providing allowances for their seniors.

As we began to walk through the forest trail, the aeta elders showed us the different trees and plants they use for medicinal and housekeeping purposes. The trees that stood out for me most were the cupang, tangisang bayawak and the lauan trees. These native tropical trees stood tallest among the rest of the trees and filled the path with their shade – hiding birds of different species and beautiful sounds in their canopies.Bamboo forest

We were told that the cupang tree’s parts had medicinal properties: from its bark, seeds and fruit. The leaves are small and clustered, and when they fall off the trees are quick to decompose, fertilizing the soil around the trees easily.

The tangisang bayawak (Ficus variegata Blume), is called such because of its bark’s smooth texture that lizards are unable to climb the trees at all. The base of the tree are huge, and they remind me of the trees that grew in the temples of Siem Reap.

The lauan, my new favorite tropical tree, produces flowers that are so fragrant. It was a breeze walking under the lauan trees as the scent was very good – it reminds of me potpourri that are sold in shopping malls.Forest

After about an hour, we reached the river and a small falls. Some of the folks in the group took the time to dip into the cool, clear waters. My small group walked up the stream and met some locals and their friendly dog, Lasing. Doggie

Sitting on the rocks on the stream and gazing up to the green foliage, I saw different colorful birds fly above us. It was at this moment that I said a little prayer of thanks for having been able to see this little piece of heave on earth, and being given the chance to be one with nature.NatureWater

Later on, the elders told stories under mahogany trees that were planted by the army. Mahogany trees are not really friendly to the tropical rain-forest as they consume the nutrients of the soil around them. Notice how there are no plants growing directly under the mahogany trees. I think this is one of the things that environmental organizations like Haribon have been communicating more on during tree-planting volunteering activities to increase the public’s awareness, as most of the trees in Metro Manila urban areas are not native tropical trees and do not really help in propagating rain-forests.Hearing stories from an Elder

The aetas make their own honey, and D and I had a taste of different sweet varieties: mango, lauan, and pamulaklakin. Because the latter two were so new to us, and to support the local livelihood, we got bottles of lauan and pamulaklakin. Now we are able to enjoy our tea with these sweet varieties of honey.

As we got back to where we started, I reflected on what our generation now can do to be able to preserve these rain forests.  I remember when I was a child, whenever I go to our backyard, I can see the mountains of Sierra Madre from afar, and I used to think that if i was able to cross those mountains, at the other side I will get to see my family in the United States (well, that was my then perspective on distance). Now, I am told that the mountains can hardly be seen because of the houses and concrete that block the view.

When we got back to the parking site, we spent another hour planting seeds of tropical trees like rambutan, marang, durian. When these seeds turn into seedlings, the aetas will replant them into the rain-forest so that the biodiversity can be enriched. To date, there is only two percent of rain forests left in the Philippines. The number is shocking, but I believe there is hope – if people become more aware and appreciate the importance of saving our earth – not just for ourselves but for the generations, of different creatures, yet to come.

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 8

Bellpepper

Today I will show you the very first fruit bearing tree that we planted in our yard: the calamansi. A little over a decade ago, D collected some calamansi seeds and planted them, carefully barricading the seedling that grew thereafter so that Rex, our labrador who was then a pup, wouldn’t destroy it. It has since then grown tall and strong, about two meters high. We trim it so that it will remain that way as it’s a bit harder to harvest the fruits if it’s taller – as the branches are filled with thorns. Other than its infrequent need for pruning, the tree is quite easy to maintain.

Calamansi

The calamansi is native citrus fruit widely used in the Philippines. It is small, green on the outside and yellow in the inside. On a hot day we would squeeze a bunch of fruits, add honey and water to make refreshing calamansi juice. It can also be used with soy sauce and chili pepper as condiments to dumplings and barbecued meat. For marinade, we use calamansi in the absence of lime or lemon. Of course, the skin of the fruit is added to our compost. Lastly, some people use the juice of calamansi as skin toner.

Calamansi

Chili Pepper

Next is the chili pepper. Now this one we planted from collected seeds. It sprouted within 15 days and in less than a month we already saw it flowering. It is also a low maintenance plant. The picture below shows our first harvest from this shrub. We would add it with the calamansi and soy sauce as condiment.

Bellpepper

There you have it, fruit bearing trees from our backyard. 100 percent pesticide free.

Watch out for the next parts of this series, coming soon (just waiting for my new seedlings to grow bigger).

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 7

Onions

Hello and welcome back to my sustainable living series!

Today I will show you two plants that blossomed from our kitchen scraps: the onion and mint.

Before I became a concerned citizen of the earth, I always thought that all plants came from seeds, therefore before they even grow, a load of effort is required from the ‘planter’. Imagine my delight when I found that the onion and mint that we set aside from our kitchen staples sprouted into seedlings.

MintOnions

The mint took about two weeks to start growing, while the onion took about ten days to propagate. We had to move the onion to out enclosed pot garden though, because one of the four hens started digging through it.

The perks of having these two herbs home grown include saving on trips to the supermarket, and running into possibilities of not being able to consume all that we end up buying (hence waste). More importantly we are sure we are getting fresh and organic produce.

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 6

Sprouts

I was able to stay away from rice for about the whole year of 2017 and started slipping back into the habit in 2018. So, this year I am mustering all my will power I try to cut off rice from my diet and replace it with greens.

Lettuce

It’s a good thing we are still in the cooler months, and I am quite pleased we are still able to grow lettuce at home. Here’s how the new sprouts look like. We cover them with screen because we found out that along with our mulberries, the lettuce are a source of joy by the birds that frequent our yard in the mornings. No wonder they sound so happy when I wake up. I’m happy to let them have a blast with the mulberries, but I need the lettuce for later…

Other than tossing them into salad, I also use the lettuce as a substitute for pita wrap. Sprouts

Gynura Procumbens

Another salad ingredient that we use are the leaves of the gynura procumbens. Now unlike the rest of the crops at home, I bought this baby from the local garden store. I thought they were ashitaba, only to find out months after that they’re not. I read that the gynura procumbens have medicinal benefits like treatment for cardiovascular and kidney diseases, constipation, diabetes, etc. While I am not sure if these claims are scientifically proven, all I know is that the leaves go well with salad – or soup. Gynura Procumbens

That’s all for now! See you again same time next week for the next part of this series.

Happy Tuesday!

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 5

Atis

Good morning, and glad to have you guys once again for a quick tour of my backyard.

Today I will show you 2 tropical fruit bearing trees: Kamias and Atis.

Kamias

The kamias, also known as bilimbi, is a short tree whose green fruits grow in clusters. The acidic fruit is juicy and is rarely eaten raw. When I was a child I would frequent the kamias tree that grew at a vacant lot behind my grandma’s house, and bravely eat the fruit raw, dipping it in salt. As I got older I came to realize that the fruit is best used as a substitute ingredient for tamarind, for sour soup dishes like sinigang, pinangat, and paksiw. I have also been able to have a taste of kamias candy and jam. Didn’t like these much though, so I stuck on just using kamias for home cooked dishes. Kamias

In olden days, elders boiled the kamias leaves and cool the water to be used for bathing mothers with newborns. I don’t recall what the ritual is for though…

Speaking of that old tradition, the next tree I wanted to show you is the Atis tree, whose leaves are also used for new moms’ baths.

Atis

Atis

Atis, also known as sweetsop or sugar apple, is a fiber and protein rich, custard-tasting fruit. A fruit has multiple black seeds. It is also ricg in vitamin C and B6, manganese, iron, magnesium and potasium.

Our atis tree was also a pleasant surprise. We were using the seeds from a consumed fruit as part of our compost, when all of a sudden a seedling emerged. The photo above capturesthe first 2 fruits produced by our atis tree – that’s six years in the making! So I am so excited it finally yielded fruit!

What fruit bearing trees do you have in your backyard and are they also easy to maintain?

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 4

Malunggay

Hello and good morning! I’m up early to check on my darlings (animals and plants), enjoying the sound of chirping birds this cool February Tuesday.

Over the last weeks we’ve had a short tour of what I consider treasures from my backyard: from the fruit bearing trees like mulberry, papaya, rambutan, coconut, lime, to our vegetable crops like eggplant, and ginger. We also had a look at my aloe vera, a medicinal herb, and lastly I introduced you to my four lovely hens that grace us with our organic eggs.

This morning let me show you 2 of our very reliable trees. They’re self sufficient, in fact they just grew at our backyard, much to our pleasant surprise. They’re also quite easy to maintain, don’t require much.

Banana

First up is our banana tree. It’s yielded several bunches of fruit already. I love having banana for breakfast. Sometimes, I add a fruit to my smoothies as a source of natural sweetness. The leaves also serve multiple purposes. We use these as wrapper for suman, a sticky rice snack. We also use this to wrap bibingka, a sweet rice cake that is a Filipino favorite during the cooler months.

As you can see the fruits are due to be ripe soon. And with this much fruit we are sure to share them with our neighbors. This is what I like about our community, people sharing garden produce every so often.

Banana

Malunggay

Next one’s our malunggay tree. In english it’s called moringa. We use the leaves as ingredients to home cooked meals like tinola or diningding. There are many health benefits from malunggay, in fact I have seen kiosks in the supermarket selling malunggay tea.

Our tree generously produces leaves. Every fortnight, before heading out to the market, my aunt would harvest bunches of its leaves and brings them to the early morning market vendors to trade with other crops like corn. I’m so happy when she does this – isn’t it how it used to be done ages ago? She gets approximately a good 100 pesos’ worth of crops in exchange for the bunches of malunggay stalks and leaves. It’s always a treat when I wake up to sweet freshly cooked corn on the cob – a trade she made for the leaves. Malunggay

Have you ever experienced trading your home grown produce in the market, or sharing it with the community?

I hope you liked our short tour. Next week I’d show you two tropical fruit bearing trees: kamias and atis.

See you soon!

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 3

Gynura Procumbens

Hello again, and greetings from my humble abode. This is the last part of the tour of my backyard. Over the last two weeks we checked out my muberry, papaya, rambutan, aloe vera, lime and eggplant. If you have not yet read about the first 2 quick tours I wrote about, you can click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Don’t mind me as I sip on my tea while I show you around today.

I have 4 hens in the backyard, and whenever they are not moulting, we get at least one egg per hen per day. So we hardly get eggs from the supermarket anymore, and these are certified organic. Whenever we have a surplus of eggs, my aunt makes leche flan for dessert.

I have two coops for my hens, and this is where they spend the night and lay their eggs in. During the daytime they frolic around the yard. And when they do, we keep a close eye on the compost bin because there was an instance we left it open and they happily dug into it.

The hens are quite easy to take care of. They eat vegetable cuttings from the kitchen.

Free range eggs
Free range eggs and sweets

Ginger

Our ginger grew from a ginger cutting (with the eye bulb)that we planted. We thought of growing our own ginger because of its many uses. I use it everyday! On weekdays I skip coffee for breakfast and start the day with ginger and honey tea. I find it calming my tummy and soothing my throat. We also use ginger for local dishes like tinola, sinigang sa miso, and tahong soup. We planted this back in April of 2018 and is quite low maintenance. It does not require too much water. I can’t wait to get our first harvest soon.

Ginger
Ginger

That wraps up today’s tour of my humble backyard. Hope you enjoyed this one. Next week I’ll show you some fruit bearing trees.

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 2

Eggplant

Greetings from my humble home! I hope you enjoyed seeing my mulberry, papaya, coconut and rambutan trees from my backyard garden in last week’s post. If you’re new to my blog, you can click here to read about it.

In today’s tour, I’ll show you a plant that I’ve been using since I was a child, and 2 fruit and vegetable bearing crops which we use frequently when we are cooking at home. Here we go…

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is called Sabila in Filipino. It is a medicinal plant that does wonders for the skin. Ever since I was a child I would rub the sabila meat on my face and scalp. It softens and calms my skin. Now I see a aloe vera in a several Korean skin care products, and I’ve even tasted refreshing aloe vera drinks. When we started cultivating our garden, the sabila was one of the things we planter first because it’s low maintenance and fast and easy to grow.

Lime and Eggplant

The reason we planted lime is because I could cook a lot of tasty food using it. Also, surprisingly, it’s easier to get lemons from the nearest supermarkets compared to limes (they run out easily). I was pleased that it quickly grew within a few weeks from planting seeds and I look forward to its first batch of fruits.

Behind my newly grown lime plant, is a row of eggplants. Eggplants are perrenials and also easy to grow plants. We have harvested quite a few of its produce already and used them in local dishes like pinakbet, tortang talong and diningding. Eggplant

Hope you enjoyed the second part of the tour of my backyard. Next week I will show you other crops and animals (aside from my dogs) that walk around my home. Happy Tuesday!

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 1

Organic fruits bearing trees

Organic food is harder to come by as compared to the commercially mass-produced food options in the market – those that are most likely clad in chemicals. Eating out exposes most consumers to these mass produced products, and here in Metro Manila, if I look for a restaurant that uses organic or free-range ingredients, I’d have a lesser and more expensive options. I’m glad healthy options are now more widely available – but they’re somehow concentrated in the CBDs. So for instance, if I was at my hometown at the south, or at my folks’ in the north of Metro Manila, and I’d crave for something organic for lunch, I will have to drive or commute to get to the next city where I can dine in at a selected restaurants that serve organic food.

Sustainable living is a lifestyle where I reduce my carbon footprint and limit the wastage of the planet’s resources. I can do this through Reducing, Refusing, Reusing and Recycling. This year, I’m doing more of the Refusing than Recycling. It’s part of the change that I wanted to drive starting with myself. So part of Refusing means using my own resources, and buying only as a last resort. One of the things I can produce on my own is by planting vegetables and fruits in my own backyard. In doing so, I can put my compost soil to use, and at the same time, I know for sure what I harvest are indeed organic. For the crops we plant at our backyard, we do not use pesticides and chemicals.

Let me give you a tour of my backyard garden.

Mulberry

e8fe302a-baec-4369-9d63-449cdfe1fcc6

First stop is my mulberry tree. Its seedling was shared to me by our parish priest last year, and in a matter of a few weeks it already started yielding the mulberry fruit. Mulberries are small fruit colored pink or red. They are tart and sweet. I read about their nutritional benefits and interviewed sellers of mulberry tea from the Legazpi Sunday market and was advised they are considered superfood rich in antioxidants. They help prevent cancer and aid in digestion. For more information about mulberries, click here.

Papaya, Coconut and Rambutan

Organic fruits bearing trees
Clockwise from left: papaya, coconut and rambutan

The papaya regularly produces fruit (or vegetable?) for us at home. The fuss-free, low maintenance tree quickly propagated from the papaya seeds that we planted. When it’s still green, we use this as an ingredient for tinola, a local dish. When ripened, the fruit turns yellow in color and we eat this for breakfast as it helps with digestion. On a hot day it’s also a good idea to make papaya shake. Yum!

I got the coconut tree from the plant nursery and have been waiting for months now for it to produce fruit. I’m fond of drinking coconut juice, and we mix the coconut meat with other fruits for salad. I dream that one day soon I can go to the backyard at any time and get a coconut fruit at my heart’s desire.

Lastly, the rambutan, is a seedling for now. Rambutan is similar to lychee in taste in my opinion. Its sweet fruit is filled with antioxidants, iron and vitamin C. I can’t wait for it to grow.

That’s it for now. Next week I’ll show you some plants in my mini pot garden and along the fence of the yard. Hope you enjoyed the first part of the tour. Til we meet again!

Taking a Stand for the Earth

Contribution

In recent years, I have become more conscious of the impact of plastic pollution. Tons of plastic end up in the seas, and these cause great harm to the animals who ingest them – hundreds of them dying choked or trapped by the plastic. Knowing how these animals suffer break my heart, and there was a time a couple of years ago that I had a break from Facebook because I was deeply bothered by animal photos. I appreciate that many countries have taken big steps to reduce the plastic pollution. In the Philippines, I know that some cities have already moved to paper bags in the supermarket counters, or switching to paper straws in cafes. I have also seen more effort in terms of waste segregation, where composting and recycling are encouraged. But we have a long way to go in this war against plastic pollution. D and I join coastal cleanups regularly, and I feel that the amount of trash in the oceans are just not getting any lesser.

As I  start this year, I made a pledge to go as plastic-free as much as I could. I locked in this pledge at National Geographic’s Choose the Planet campaign. The goal is to prevent 1 billion items from reaching the oceans by 2020. This initiative incites everyone signing to drive the change beginning with ourselves. So, hand on my heart, this is how I’m going to contribute.

Contribution
Little ways to contribute

Ditching the plastic bag

Now I’m so happy I’ve received several eco-bags from family and friends, more so over last Christmas. I have them neatly tucked in my bag so I can use them whenever I end up buying stuff from the supermarket. This should cut off at least 3 plastic bags from me per week. Annually, that’s at least 156 bags.

Bringing my own cutlery

When I eat out, or purchase food to go, I use my own cutlery. I won a set of foldable cutlery two years ago, and glad they’re quite handy. This helps cut off plastic spoons and forks.

Stainless over Single-Use Plastic Straw

Single-use plastic straw is smaller compared to the plastic bags and plastic spoons and forks – but these are one of the most commonly found items in the oceans. I remember picking up dozens from my coastal cleanups. Lately, big cafes in Makati and BGC have switched to paper straws, and some do not readily offer straws for folks taking out drinks. I’m not sure if paper straws are really plastic free (I read some comments in forums that they still have plastic linings), but one thing’s for sure: my stainless straws are. So, they’re also one of the items neatly tucked inside my bag. Last Christmas, I received around 3 of these from different friends. I hope it’s not just a fad and people will consistently use them.

Refillable containers

I’ve found shops where I can refill my shampoo, body wash, liquid castile soap, conditioners and laundry detergents. And since I am into DIY, I am also able to recycle the containers I use for my cologne, face wash, salt scrub, and linen spray. Another way to reduce plastic is through packing my own lunch using reusable containers.

I know that there are thousands of people in the world who are as concerned, if not more than I am, in taking measures on preserving our mother earth. I am grateful to them, for taking a stand and for not giving up in sharing their knowledge and passion to the people around them, sparking inspiration and change everywhere they go. #ichooseplanet

Plastic and Recycling

Ecobricks

The war on plastic is making headlines lately and I am glad more people are becoming conscious of their plastic footprint. I see metal and bamboo straws in shops nowadays, and a lot of the popular coffee shops are likewise switching to paper straws. I have likewise received some reusable items as early Christmas gifts. I hope this shift in consumer mindset is not just a fad, and people will consistently use the reusable items. I hate single-use plastic items. It pains me to see the abundance of plastic trash I pick up during coastal cleanups. I know they have polluted the seas (I hide photos from my Facebook feeds when I come across these). We have a very long way to go to reduce the world’s single-use plastic usage, but I’m glad many people are now taking their first steps.

Ecobricks
Ecobricks

I came across ecobricks and tried making my own. I read about them from a Facebook group and from some neighbors. How it works is I cut dry clean plastic in small pieces. Some examples are plastic wrappers, plastic bags, and soft plastic bottles. I stack and compress them in plastic soda or water bottles. For every bottle size there has to be a minimum weight. I was surprised at the time it takes for me to fill a bottle up – I think a 1L bottle can accommodate a sack’s worth of plastic. It takes me a couple of months to fill up a bottle. After filling the bottle to the brim and meeting the minimum weight requirement, I donate the ecobricks to our local community garden, who makes walls and other things with these ecobricks.

Sustainability
Ecobrick and compost bag

I asked some environment advocacy groups if they are supportive of ecobricks and I was told they do not because it does not reduce the plastic footprint, and some people would take that route to justify plastic usage. I understand this may sadly be the case for some, but for me personally I am not doing it to ‘offset’ plastic usage. I am still actively looking out for better alternatives. Every chance I can get to talk about it in the hopes of bringing awareness, I’m happy to grab it.

 

Solar Panels

Solar Panels

I first saw solar panels in 2010 when we were on a train ride from Prague to Munich. D was amazed at houses lined with them as we passed through German towns. We saw them again when we were in Osaka later that year, during a train ride yet again en route to Kyoto. Since then, D had been researching their availability in the Philippine market. At the time, it was still very expensive so he just kept it within radar.

Then an opportunity came knocking in 2014. Solar panels became more affordable, and D read about a distributor based in a nearby city. After making some calls, he was sold to the idea and easily convinced me to invest in them for our house. D’s primary reason was to save on our electric bill, whereas mine was to do our bit to help address climate change.

Solar Panels
Solar Panels

For the technical stuff:  before installation, we identified an area that is well exposed to sunlight. An analysis of the daytime electricity usage was conducted by the supplier to determine how many panels were needed for our house. One panel emits 250 watts, and we got a total of 6 panels. We also bought an inverter which is the device that converts the harvested solar energy into electricity. We applied for net metering so that any unused wattage harvested by the panels would be sold back to the utility company, which, in our case, is Meralco.

For the administrative stuff: we secured a permit for the solar panels from the city hall. The city hall’s technical team inspected our house prior to the installation, assisted by our solar panel distributor. As for Meralco, they were the ones that granted us net metering for a fee. The requirements we submitted to them included copies of the title of the property and electric bill.  It took 3 months for our net metering to be up and running because we were the first in our area who applied for such. At the time, net metering was so new, that they took a photo of the team once it was done – for documentation purposes I guess?

Meralco
Meralco

Investing in the solar panels was one of the best decisions D and I made. I’m glad when friends express interest in having them installed at their homes, and more so when they do. I wish it will be encouraged more in the Philippines (maybe even subsidize it for consumers). Sadly, as with electric cars, we may have a long way to go before this happens as more favor is given to the utility companies. On a bright side, some big companies are already starting to use them like shopping malls, farms, and factories. My dad, who had been dreaming about solar energy, was finally able to put up a solar energy company partnering with friends who share the same passion. It now keeps him busy, and I am happy to see him share the advocacy to a bigger audience and making it happen.

 

 

 

 

Daily Habits for a Blessed Day

oasis

It’s been more than two decades since I attended a recollection – if I remember right the last time was when I graduated from high school. Recently I have been serving in our community church and was gifted with an opportunity to participate in a recollection conducted by Reverend Father Lino Nicasio. His tips were somehow similar to what my acupuncturist shared with me (she also practices Reiki, a Japanese form of healing). They shared this with me within two consecutive days – so I took notes because I didn’t want to forget, and I took it as a ‘sign’ to reflect on my own daily way of living.

I’ll try to go back to this every time that I can until it becomes second nature. For now, I admit it will be a struggle to fully adhere to it, but I have to start somewhere. Baby steps. One foot forward, and hopefully not two steps back.

1. Today I will not strike back

I’ll see if I can count to ten when I come across anything that annoys me. Recently I was caught in the middle of family drama and someone bullied a loved one using social media. I had to muster all my willpower to keep calm, and focused my energy on more productive, meaningful work to distract me for that day. I

2. Today I will ask God to bless my enemy

Asking for blessings for my enemy may be a challenge, so I remind myself that bitterness will not only affect me in all ways: emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and physically.

3. Today I will be careful about what I say

Connected with the first habit, especially when I am tempted to say a sarcastic retort. Also, I will try to remember that words are very powerful, and the impact of good or bad words to other people can last years.

4. Today I will go the extra mile

If I reflect on the people whose services I go back to time and time again, they’re the ones that went above and beyond. It’s not just about doing a task or a project or a job. It’s giving it the best every single time.

5. Today I will forgive

I know, anger and resentment do no good for the soul. One of my favorite quotes about forgiveness is from Harriet Nelson: “Forgive all who have offended you, not for them, but for yourself.”

6. Today I will do something kind for someone (but I will do it secretly)

All good deeds, little or big, will not go unseen by God.

7. Today I will nurture my body

For me this means his means eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding the sedentary lifestyle through ten thousand steps a day, deep breathing, sleeping enough, aromatherapy, drinking enough water, stretching.

 

A Week in Bantayan

Sta Fe Bantayan

I’m not really a beach person, and I’d prefer to go to the mountains at any given time. However, this year, I had my fair share of the beach life: from learning how to surf in Baler, Quezon; to biking and discovering hidden beaches in El Nido, Palawan.

I was blessed with an opportunity to volunteer for a week in Bantayan, an island known for its white sand and crystal blue waters north of Cebu City. I was to support the preparation for the reopening of the SEACAMP.

So I packed light and flew from Manila to Cebu on a Monday morning. From Cebu, I commuted almost three hours by bus to Hagnaya port, passing along seaside towns and letting my mind wander and imagine how it would have felt like waking up each morning to the sound of waves and seagulls. The three hour ride almost felt like forever – I got off one town away from Hagnaya port because I shouldn’t have drank too much water before embarking a long ride (I realized that too late). I  took a tricycle to get to the port and hopped on a ferry to Sta. Fe, Bantayan. I got to the white house where I was to stay for a week at around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Yes, I spent my first day commuting.

LTE signal was weak, so I braced myself for a week without internet – I took it as a sign that I should just be one with nature. After dinner, we would have a short quiet stroll at the beach, and later on I would get to sleep early because it would be lights out at around 9 o’clock. For the first two days it was daunting but I eventually got the hang of it.

Before I get carried away with my memories, do you know what this shell is? My friend, Nadine and I saw heaps of this while we were walking along the shore. They have a star shape embossed on them, and they’re pretty delicate, really. They easily break, like eggshells. I think they’re so pretty.

Delicate little shell
Very delicate thin coated shell

What I loved about Bantayan are: the white sand, the singing and gliding birds, halo-halo, fresh air, clear waters, and the colorful picturesque sunsets.

hammock view
View from the hammock, Bantayan, Cebu

One night, just after sundown, we went to the beach to see the ‘dancing fish’. One of our hosts lit his flashlight and let the skim over the water. Lo and behold, hundreds of fish jumped up towards the light as the beam passed them – they looked like they were dancing indeed! Our host told us that it was a way the fish communicates back to them, as the stretch of sea in front of the SEACAMP is a marine-protected area. The fish were dancing to say thank you for protecting our home. While I watched that phenomenon, I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Who would have thought something so simple could be so powerful as to touch my stoic heart.

At the SEACAMP, I was able to learn and practice composting, which I later on applied at home. We planted malunggay trees, experienced fetching water from a well, fed fish in the kois, and prepared the newly built school. We also recycled plastic waste by grinding them. Later on they would be mixed with cement and be converted into what would become fish homes (I forget what they’re called). We saw the marine protected area up close when we got on a glass-bottomed boat. I am truly inspired by SEACAMP’s efforts to protect the environment.

I got to know some of the locals and my heart leaps knowing that they love Bantayan so much and would do all that they can to preserve it.

Church in Bantayan
Catholic church in Bantayan – Took me about 40 minutes (and 30 pesos) to get to the town by commute. The church is right smack in the middle of the plaza of Bantayan.