Tag Archives: adventures

Today is my birthday

1-25-2016. I’m another year older. Another year clueless. But, I have a more tangible insight as to where my life is going and how I’m getting there. 2015 was not glamorous by any means (besides my trips to the Philippines and to Baltimore with my girls). In fact it was probably one of the worst years of my life, if not the worst. Contrast that to the previous year, 2014, which was undoubtedly the best year of my life. The year of travel, freedom, soulful luxury and wholeness. I felt more sure of my identity than ever before. My end to 2014 and beginning to 2015 were magical. I was able to spend time with some of the people who mean the most to me. For my birthday last year, I got to see some of them in the same room interacting with one another, meeting each other. I love bringing brilliant people together. People I believe in, people who believe in me. After they left I thought about what 2015 would bring; I never felt more unsure in my life. Regardless, I was elated by them caring enough for me to come together and celebrate.

In 2015, I experienced an arduous job searching stupor (still kind of am) which featured very promising interviews and interactions, but outcomes that were only semi-fruitful and not enough. I often felt choked betwixt the layers of reality and fantasy. Doubtful about choosing the necessary evils that would ultimately help me reach my dreams. For the record, I still plan on pursuing an acting career. Where and exactly when I will actively begin my journey is unknown to me (currently leaning towards NYC, who’s with me?). However, I am super close to paying off my student loans and once that happens, I immediately plan on saving enough money to seek the life my soul aches for.

Other things happened last year that I don’t wish to disclose as I don’t wish to reflect on them any further. But I’m praying to God that 2016 is much better. Please God let it be. I now know though, that we’re all on a journey together. I’ve come to realize that I need to constantly work at being who I want to be. It’s not a dream anymore. I’m not a kid in school. It’s become my concrete reality and my youth is gliding on the ice. One of my resolutions for the new year is to say yes to things, invitations, people, I normally would say no to. My world has been too controlled by me thus far. I want to broaden it and my experiences, the depths of my senses and relationships. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.

Studying in Jerusalem taught me the importance of being open to opportunities. When I went to my first ever strip club in Tel Aviv, I initially refused because it wasn’t how I imagined my first experience to unfold. I was with two friends and we had just come from swimming in a gym pool- my hair was dry and unkempt, I was wearing the most basic jeans and a pull over hoodie. This was not how I wanted to feel or look entering a strip club for the first time! But I was convined to stay by one of my friend’s friends. As he introduced himself to me, he looked me right in my eyes and shook my hand, he kept his eyes on me and didn’t let go of my hand. I complained to him how crappy I looked. “You’re hot. You should see how the other guys look,” he replied. My jaw dropped on the inside and all of a sudden I felt ready to go 🙂

I guess this birthday blog post is basically about me using lessons I learned in 2014 and 2015 to guide my 2016. Which actually means I should relinquish some control. This year I want to work harder and stay more focused, but it’s time to let things happen! Let happiness happen. Let simplicity happen. Let love happen. Let friendship happen. Let boredom happen. Let it all happen. But then deal with it. Analyze it. Move on. Start over. 12 months to go. I hope I’ll see you there. xo

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Fantastical Girls

Leaves of Havana
Blessing skin in the morning
With the breeze and sunlight
Feeling free to touch.

Bells chime and signal
The turns of the sea
And the ending pages of summer.
God promised we were safe.
I believe.

Romantic failures subside. We get by;
There’s still more promise
In the fruits of the garden.
Bewildered, breath stolen,
In each other’s arms.
Lost in the streets in adoration
Of the magic that could transpire at night.
Moments that we least expect
Reflecting off of Rhinestones and Remedies.


You are the girls I’ve been waiting for.
Praying as if children,
As if drunken,
As if in love.
Romance radiating in our vibrating voices.
Collecting in pools,
Blue and grey.
Swirling throughout theories of misery.
Diamond eyes and sincere smiles
Never fade but the songs we listen to.
We forget the kind gestures of strangers at bars, who stare
Whimsically within what we present as our souls.
Be they enlivened and feverish from the nocturnal essence
We evoke. Hallucinatory yet not absinthe or leaves of grass.
But bitchy and Vogue, urban and glamorous.
We are free people,
But we choose the party and deny the cars.
Because only once in a while do we give real chances to people who don’t understand,
Nor could ever dance to our rhythms
Of who we are and what we want.

Gallivanting The Green Menagerie

Yesterday was probably my favorite day so far here in the Philippines. My mom, and sister and I went with our two cousins from my dad’s side to Danasan Eco Adventure Park in Danao City. It was literally our first time spending time with them and having actual conversations. We’re all in our 20’s and never connected until now because we were always shy when we were younger. Now that we’re more mature, it’s easier to let go of that and simply be real and connect. As I get older, I look to remove old layers of myself and my shyness that have prohibited me from growing and expanding my relationships with people and my place in this world. At times I forget that I am in control of my life. But then I have those periodic moments of soul rejuvenation where I realize I am in control of my destiny and that I have agency over how I want my life to pan out when given opportunities. When I’m at a celebratory family dinner and my relatives are in front of me whom I haven’t spoken to in a while, I realize I have the ability to speak and breathe life into those connections. I have a voice, I have a charm, I have a personality, as well as my family in front of me. We don’t have to stay mum and sit idly as time passes us by. We have a choice to make the most out of each day and every moment.

According to the Danasan Park website, it “boasts of 133 hectares of beautiful outdoors. The Park has three (3) caves, a waterfall with three (3) astounding drops, several fresh water springs, and a man-made lake. It also has a wide range of eco-friendly activities that will surely satisfy one’s thirst for adventure. All Park facilities are fully environment-friendly and were carefully planned so as not to cause any harm to the natural beauty of the environment. The Park leverages on nature’s splendor after all.” The activities offered include zip lining, wake boarding, caving, trekking, rappelling, tyrolean, ATV riding, horseback riding, 8×8 off road trailing, and you can also rent a bike, camp, and swim in their infinity pool. There was also a new activity called the SkyDrop, which was basically a launch swing where you’re hoisted high up in the air. I would have done it, but we didn’t have enough time. We arrived at the park at 1 pm, and had lunch at a cute and slightly fancy eatery within the park. We finished lunch at 2 and since the park closes at 5, we only had time to do the ATV trail and the joint activity of zip lining and horseback riding. It was a wild day of many firsts, including hanging with my cousins! It was my first time riding an ATV and my first time riding horseback! Unfortunately, my guide kept smacking my horse in the face with a branch of leaves, albeit lightly. My horse seemed tired and kept lagging off to the side of the path. I wish I knew how to say “Please stop hitting the horse.” [I think I could have said “Ayaw pak-pak si ya.”]

The ATV was our first activity and definitely the most adventurous. I’ve always wanted to ride one and own one myself, but during my first couple moments of riding it, I was scared I would be thrown off. The path was super rocky and seemingly unsafe, but thank God I never fell. We faced a few metaphoric bumps in the road: my mom initially tried riding with us, but after bumbling to the side only a few meters ahead and being stuck on a rock, she decided not to move forward. At one point, my vehicle uncontrollably veered to the right and I almost crashed into a fully grown albino horse that was eating. It jumped to the side in fear and I thought I would hit and that it would trample me, but I was able to swerve away and back onto the path. We all eventually got a better hang of our vehicles and were able to tear through the edgy terrain in amusement.

Although the park was fun and wonderful, the real adventure was getting there…
From Cebu, there are four ways of getting to Danasan Eco Adventure Park.
1. You can call the park and have them shuttle you directly.
2. You can drive all the way there.
3. Take a bus from the North Terminal to Danao and then walk 25 km to the park.
or 4. Do what we did and once you arrive in Danao, habal-habal, or ride with random dudes on motorbikes and pay them to take you to the park, which is the way most people go that don’t schedule a shuttle.

Riding on a motorcycle was another first. In Israel, many dudes have these cute little moped like bikes, but in the Philippines, we have actual motorbikes that many people buy because they’re cheaper than cars. Once we were in Danao and got off our little van, we walked in the direction of a sign that read “This way to Danasan Eco Adventure Park” and went to a sari-sari store, which is a mini convenient street store that sells packaged goods, foods, and hygiene sachets, owned by many families as a main source of income; you can see hundreds of them in cities here. The woman who owned the store told us that the park was far and that the only way to get there was to “habal-habal” and find guys who would be willing to take us there for a price. Soon enough, a couple guys rode up to us and asked where we were going. “Danasan Park” we said. One of them went off to find a third guy to take us and once they found him, we started to negotiate. It was a very interesting process because it seemed like the men were total strangers who banded together for this job. They said it would be a 2 hour ride to the park, which at first sounded so unthinkable to ride on the back of these bikes for that long, but it was our only option because there is no other transportation to this park. We finally agreed that we would pay 550 pesos per bike for round trip and that the three of them would wait for us at the park until we were finished.

After we did a quick gas fill up with gasoline that amazingly looked like red soda, we were off! I had no idea what to do with my hands when I hopped onto the bike except grab onto his shoulders, because that’s what I always see on screen of people being romantic and in love, but then he motioned for me to put my hands on his waist instead. I was initially scared I would get hit by a car and thrown off the bike because the way people drive in the Philippines looks so reckless and lawless, but there really is a method to it. On a more personal note, my cousin’s father died after crashing into a tree while riding his bike. In a strange way, it felt like all of us riding on the backs of these bikes was a weird step into adulthood and coming to terms with who we were all becoming, especially since we were traveling together.

We traveled winding roads with the island wind blowing in our faces. We ascended and descended upon mountain slopes with the sunlight beaming overhead. My eyes were transfixed upon the picturesque revealed in front of me. I was right in the thickness and glorious beauty of the Philippines. When I turned my head left, I saw elevated fields of green, hillside rice paddies, banana tree farms and young green coconuts crowning palm trees. When I turned my head right, I saw slender trees that stood tall and straight with loose vines that dangled down above the heads of children and delicate wooden bridges drenched with a provocative musk of rustic adventure I so desperately wanted to explore. I wanted to ask my biker to stop so I could walk along and take photos and touch and live inside the scenes I was viewing. The artful tropical landscapes set off fireworks in my mind and left me breathless. I couldn’t believe this was the adventure I was living. From being in the Middle East one year ago, and now returned to my motherland of the Philippines, riding on a mountain on the back of this dude’s bike, holding onto him and passing by the people on the street, life couldn’t be sweeter and I couldn’t have asked for more. My sister sat behind me, my mother rode with my cousin Clifford, and his brother Shane rode alone with his biker. Our biker was the best. He was always first and was certainly the fastest, although he never made it a show to be. He led without trying to lead, and the majority of our ride there and back, we were so far ahead of the others that they weren’t in sight behind us, so we pulled to the side a few times throughout and waited for them and let them pass us until we caught up and led once again.

Along the first quarter of the way, we passed under grey clouds and looked to the rain in the distance. Soon enough, we felt droplets of rain and I imagined we would continue traveling like this: swiftly darting in between the raindrops as the air cooled our skin, our senses delighted in the ever changing atmosphere as I pondered my life and how my cousins felt about our bike ride. But we took cover under a wooden shelter because our bikers sensed greater rains ahead. Then the rain really began to pour and the air cooled down and I was grateful for this shelter and for our bikers and their nuanced senses of travel and the weather. There was a house and sari sari store across the narrow road that housed whom I imagined built this protective space. Residing in the shelter beside us was a slender and playful goat that Micah fed with grass; it kept jumping above the wooden bench and crawling underneath it to come closer. We snacked on syrup encrusted banana chips and spicy chicharon [pork rinds] while we waited and drank water and apple juice wondering when the rain would end. It calmed me to watch the heavy rains pour on the greenery below. The rainfall was so thick, it looked as if massive nets of glimmering water were lashing in the air, pounding the trees and spreading across the fields. For a moment, I was worried that this was what our ultimate hangout with our cousins was going to be, sitting and watching the rain, asking each other questions and exchanging friendly, curious glances with our bikers. But thankfully, rain storms in the Philippines, despite being heavy, are relatively brief, comparable to thunder storms in New Jersey minus the thunder.

Eventually the rain softened and we hopped back onto our wet bikes. We raced through the light rain, as the water pressed against our bodies and into our eyes, momentarily blurring our vision, but never dampening the inescapable air of romance and adventure that soaked into this incredible sensory experience. The rain cleared and the sun was out again with skies of blue as we raced through barangays, or small towns, upwards into the mountains and towards this uniquely remote and isolated park with the weirdest and most unbelievable road leading to it. I felt like a high fashion model beyond the realm of Chanel, working an extremely extended, once in a lifetime, otherworldly photoshoot for Vogue or similarly exclusive ad campaign, proud to model in a stunning location in the Philippines; I wished Mario Testino was there to capture the whole thing. Only those who have habal-habaled to this park know what this was like. I knew once I hopped onto the back of the bike and saw the fields of green, that this was going to be one of the days I always remember. The entire journey was visually and physically stunning, and simultaneously tinged with an extremely personal and intimate layer of what it means to be family. Riding with my cousins on the very cause of their father’s death, truly being with them for the first time, witnessing the irreplaceable land of my roots and the pearls of my heritage, feeling like a world class model, latching onto to the back of a stranger, being physically close as he seamlessly guides us on an enchanting yet obscure road, cutting through rain and mud and mosquitoes flying into my eyes and me blinking them to their deaths, as my eyes lock with the dozens of residents throughout the barangays, wondering about their lives and who they are, them wondering about me and who I am. Yesterday was a blessed adventure I never knew I would have as well as a physical demonstration that life and living is about the journey, not the destination.

Header photo credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonicdao/

Days in Bora

A lot can happen in a few days, especially if you’re in Boracay, inarguably one of the Philippines’s most well known destinations. My mom, sister, cousin and I stayed from May 25 – May 28 booked through Airbnb. Besides spending major family time at this legendary location, I got sun burned, went parasailing for the first time, was propositioned every night by numerous transgender prostitutes and approached by countless vendors and activity guides, I consumed various delicious plates of Filipino goodness, strolled the sands at the death of most parties late at night and marveled at the twinkling stars accompanied by a boy I had met who deserves the world.

In short, I had a wonderful time and I wish I was still there! But I was only ever slightly disappointed. Many people have opined that Bora was a better place to visit only 5 years ago, a sentiment echoed by the people I met there. It was certainly a different place than what I imagined, which I felt intuitively the moment I set foot on the main pathway on the beach. It was an endless path overly saturated with the airs of the commercial and artificial. To be fair, there was a balanced mix of upscale restaurants and fast food establishments, convenient inns and high class resorts, and of course, bougie and trashy island bars, but the over commercialization was the last thing I expected Boracay would hold. Instead, I expected a dazzling beach escape with a more compact party area and much less noise and nightly distractions and vendors. However, some things were as fabulous as I had hoped. Though usually praised for its white sand, its true color was actually an extremely pale shade of beige and had the fun consistency of baking flour. It was as if some giant baker in the sky poured flour across the whole beach of Boracay. The water was blazing light blue with hints of bright green which ombred into darker, more mysterious blues; trademark tones of Philippine island water.

Commercialization was inescapable in Station 2– the center of Boracay and where we stayed. The quieter, more pleasant spots were located at the ends of the island, in Stations 1 and 3. As I traversed throughout, I realized Boracay possesses an energy,  environment, and scents reminiscent of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Universal Studio CityWalk, Atlantic City, and at its most ratchet, Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant. Boracay is pretty much the  “Jersey Shore” hangout of the Philippines, but with a luxurious beach, cleaner paths, less trash cans, more obvious poverty, and much better places to eat and stay. Due to the lack of a kitchen in our Airbnb rental, we ate out for every lunch and dinner, from super cheap places to more expensive, higher quality places, and one free buffet lunch provided by Astoria Resort in exchange for a highly irritating four hour time share presentation, which we ultimately denied. [My Kuya once told me to never get a time share because they’re a waste of money] For breakfast, we bought bread and fruits and jugs of water [we could only drink bottled water since we had no filter] we bought on our first day.

Titos

Every day went like this: Wake up. Eat breakfast in our room. Swim. Eat lunch somewhere. Swim again. Eat dinner. Stroll the beach or through D’Mall– a shopping/restaurant centre. D’Mall was my least favorite place and probably the most ghastly within Bora. It felt way too touristy and below the standards Boracay should have. I was appalled that it existed. Generally speaking, the whole strip of stores, restaurants, hotels, and bars on the beach felt incredibly tacky, perhaps besides the nicer places. One of the coolest things we saw on our walks was this brilliant queer fire circus comprised of dancers that wined to loud music, artfully spinning and throwing balls of fire into the air, one of them even rapidly climbing up a palm tree and according to my sister, “humped the tree.” They were an entrancing group of mostly transgender dancers called the Boracay Phoenix Firedancers. As I watched them, I kept wondering, “How did they find each other? Fellow queer performers that love to dance with fire?” A Philippine mystery.

I didn’t enter any bars because most of them had cover fees and I didn’t want to drink alone. So I spent my nights walking the beach with a guy I met on my second night; I’ll call him Jose. Jose was the first guy I have met so far in the Philippines. I wanted to meet someone in Bora and before I came here to the Philippines, I made it my goal to make friends because I never got to, besides family members. I want to meet people who can give me a different experience of the Philippines than what I already know. I want to be shown incredible things and taken to a level of living reality. My family here is my reality, but because of my age and where I’m at in my life, others can show me different parts of the country and culture that my family may not be willing or able to show.

People of the Philippines are known to be some of the kindest, heartwarming, and empathetic people around. Jose was possibly one of the kindest, open,and loving people I have ever met, all of which I was able to gather the night we met and sat on the beach and began to know each other. My experience with Jose, walking alongside peaceful waves, underneath black skies and diamond stars, having deep conversations and peering inside the mind and heart of another queer, but native Filipino, wrapped in his kindness and tickled by his curiosity made me wish I studied here for university. I was in awe of his presence and feeling how grounded he was into this country and the experiences he’s had here. He had such an outwardly pure, giving, beautiful, yet saddened soul. We shared many personal things with each other in our short time together. Sadly, I never met anyone who was as unaware and in denial of his own beauty. I wish I had more time to show him how lovely he truly is and I wish our goodbye ended on a more encouraging note. I hope he has something to believe in, even if it isn’t yet himself and that one day soon he’ll be able to see his true beauty for himself, inside and out; he’s a radiant boy who deserves the world and I’m glad I met him. I will certainly never forget him.

These are my days in Bora.

Back to the Philippines

What does it feel like to be back? It feels like I’m living inside a film and each second is a grain of sand that I can’t get back. It’s crucial for me to always be conscious of my time here and how blessed I am to be here after being away for two years. How do I maximize each opportunity, each moment? I’m going to try to keep my phone and internet use limited so I can spend that time with my family and rooting myself into the reality that I am back home! This time that’s been given me is so precious and irreplaceable, I need to spend it wisely. I believe that means limiting myself to the devices that I’m used to and garner a familiarity with the devices that I’m not as privy to. Limiting contact with people back in the states and increasing contact with people here. Because I’m here right now and I need to live in the moment.

I’m sitting in the kitchen while my uncle is chopping vegetables, preparing today’s lunch and dinner. I just played Mortal Kombat X with one of my cousins on the computer. His sisters are in the living room watching TV. My sister and mother are in our room (my Lola’s room), and the sound of motorcycles whizzing outside perforates the air. Sunlight is pouring through the skylight window and onto the kitchen floor; it is yellow light that I can feel, that has a presence, that provides an eternal sense of calm and serenity. Some girls are singing karaoke from their home in the houses behind us. My lola [grandmother] is basically a landlord and owns housing and people pay her rent. The fan is whirring in my face as I type and it feels so pleasant. I have honestly always loved the heat. Something about it feels so comforting. This may sound kind of repulsive, but when I’m constipated in the summer, it doesn’t feel as bad because the hot air provides a weird layer of comfort for my stomach.

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Boracay, perhaps the Philippines’ most well known vacation destination, for a few days. Yesterday I was mentally organizing a schedule of places we would be going during our trip and I realized just how short one month really is. I wish we were staying for at least 6 weeks! One month stay is not long enough especially when I’m in a country I consider home and when there are so many places I have yet to see here. I never had the chance to properly explore other Philippine islands, only Cebu, meanwhile there are 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines. I’ve only ever really seen parts of Cebu, and not even the whole of it. So tomorrow will be a new step into cracking the effervescent mystique of this magnificent place.

I will always love travel, I will always love adventure, and I will always be thankful for my family and friends that take care of me and embrace me. I am incredibly blessed to be able to have this chapter written into my summer of 2015. I’m a 23 year old graduated student from Rutgers University, a queer Aquarius, and a Filipino dude lustful of the wondrous world we inhabit and constantly seek to understand. Thank you God for this amazing opportunity. I pray I make the utmost of it while I’m here. xx

P.s. I made a snapchat to capture my travels, so follow me on that! @Nikkobae
And follow me on Instagram as well @seathelife.
Photo credit goes to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/25767209@N02/

Never Been A Passenger

Today is January 18, 2015. Exactly one year ago I was packing my shit to leave for Israel.

Last December 2013, I was in the TV lounge of my dorm, crying to myself in the dark while watching the Britney Spears’ I Am Britney Jean documentary on E! It was the last day before we were all kicked out for winter break. As I watched Britney undergo grueling preparations for her Las Vegas residency, I knew she would understand my wild flux of emotions. She’s someone who’s been through it all: from feeling wholly loved and rejoiced by the world, to feeling desperately alone; both polar emotions swirled in my head as I sat among the empty chairs.

I was finished with finals, my room was emptied and I was packed up. I wanted to hang with friends until my parents came to pick me up. A winter stream of uncertainty rushed through me and I needed to be alone and not alone at the same time. I waited to go home at the bitter end because I am used to it that way; I am a sentimental person who is usually never ready to say goodbye.

My thoughts were comprised of the future: flying to Israel by myself, studying and living in a land where I knew no one. I was scared to leave the home I embraced as robotic and repetitive at times because it was all I knew. I pondered my blessings and the people I met and worked with who shaped my life and molded me into who I was in that moment of strange solace. Anxiety blossomed within the cavities of my doubt as I wondered how my life would change abroad without the people I loved.

A few weeks later on the way to the airport, I texted my closest friends my final farewells, wishing they were accompanying me and my family. One of the texts read “Good luck! Have a safe trip!!! May God bless you! Write as often as you can please keep in touch! And enjoyyyy my love! Xoxo.” Perhaps it was the simplicity of it all that made me start crying. Nonetheless, it felt like God had dumped a bucket of love on me that he carefully collected from all of my dear ones. The night before, I stopped for a moment as I was packing and asked myself “Am I ready for this? I don’t have to do this. Can I do this?” The fear was silly but relevant. Was I truly prepared to embark on this journey alone, knowing all that I did? My heart always knew the answer, but the way it greeted me that morning just hours away from my departure was gorgeous and unforgettable. The Verrazano bridge gleamed bright as the tears fell fast and quiet; I tried not to make a sound so no one would know I had become a fountain of tears and snot.

After six months of living in Israel and traveling throughout the country, I look back at that moment of isolation in the basement older and wiser. That fear has long peeled away and I have never felt more of an adult than I do now. I am beyond proud of myself for doing the things that I’ve done and extremely grateful for my parents for working tirelessly to provide for me and my family and friends for being there for me whenever I need them. Thank you for all the love and support. Now let’s see where I go in 2015.