Young and Happy

Everyday, every second is a blessing. Today I was blessed even more being given a chance to volunteer for Kythe, a foundation that supports children with cancer. It was originally scheduled when I was in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, but was rescheduled to today due to a typhoon that hit Manila at the time. I took it as fate arranging for me to be able to go, and for that I am grateful.

En route to the event I was sucked into a bit of extended family drama, and for a while I was distracted. When I got to the venue I immediately saw the children and their parents at the registration line, and my focus shifted to the more important things in life. I tried to control tears as it dawned on me how trivial my extended family drama was, and seeing the children who woke up early in the morning to commute with their parents, yet readily having a smile on their faces was enough for me to remember that a couple of years ago I promised to live purposefully. This was a way to live that promise. How easily I faltered.

I admire how the children of different ages, from as young as 3 years old to sixteen, easily warmed up to me and talked to me as if I was a long lost friend. No pretenses, no judgment. And when I attempt to crack a corny joke, or just give them my full attention and listen to their stories about their favorite hobbies, color, or dance – they easily giggled and grinned back. They were present. They focuse on the NOW. And their energy and friendship with one another are so inspiring, I wish I can be like that once again. I looked on, feeling a bit envious, at them laughing out loud, hugging everyone and running wild as they played the game of tag. I asked who was playing “it” and a five year old confidently answered “everyone”.

Oh how the world must be better if we all kept our inner child.

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. 

VegFest 2018

Vegan

Yesterday was my first time to go to the Veg Fest held at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig City. A couple of years ago I skipped this. I remember seeing the booths when I used to work in Eastwood in Quezon City, and I was just so busy I couldn’t spend time checking it out. This year, after volunteering at PETA I had the chance of not only being able to go to the 3rd annual Veg Fest, but also taking part and manning the PETA kiosk for a few hours. I started at 8AM and helped distribute the Vegan starter magazine, some stickers and flyers; talked to people dropping by inquiring about the animal adoptables, and the different animal campaigns; and putting on temporary tattooes. PETA

I’ve cut off all kinds of red meat from my diet since 2011, after watching the movie Contagion (there was a short scene there that pulled my heartstrings – big time). Lately, I’ve transitioned to a more plant-based diet and it’s getting kind of boring because I keep making the same food over and over again. One of the challenges I have is the distance I had to go to be able to get some of my ingredients. They are not readily available at our neighborhood supermarket or at the nearby convenience stores. If I opt to skip cooking and just buy my meals, I’d also have to go far because not all restaurants nearby offer plant-based food. Sometimes I would daydream about the vegan burgers I’ve eaten in my travels abroad. We don’t have that many options here in the Philippines. Yet. So I was so happy when some people at the Veg Fest approached me asking me to sign a petition to include plant based options in Philippine fastfood chains and restaurants. I signed the petition of course, no questions asked.

Man, I was overwhelmed by the food options at the Veg Fest. They were so many, how was I to choose, knowing I get so full easily? I had to walk around two times to be able to decide – every time I go to a new stall I see something that beats the one/s I initially thought I’d get for my lunch. After much deliberation I ended up getting laing (dried taro leaves stewed in coconut milk) and veggie barbeques. I also got a bottle of Diwa Kombucha (strawberry flavor this time), some veggie chips and a scoop of dairy-free and sugar-free ice cream. For my takeaway, I bought frozen pizza so I can pop them in the oven before binging on Netflix. Stalls

In the Veg Fest there were also some stalls by animal welfare groups just like PETA. I was able to go to the CARA booth; and the ARF (Animal Rescue Family) Manila. There were also activities like talks and yoga.

I’m so glad to being part of the Veg Fest and look forward to more of these. This motivated me to check out the Mandala Park which is done Sundays at Mandaluyong – I was told there’s a lot of food options there too. What I saw from the Veg Fest also inspired me to learn more recipes so I can add more variety to my homecooked meals.