By the La Trinidad Bonfire


There was nothing more delicious than the taste of marshmallows roasting on an open bonfire. Liwayway took a bite and the sticky sweet melted into a sugary blanket across her tongue.

“Is it Christmas in Australia already?” Liwayway’s younger sister was tugging on the hem of her woolen sweater.

Liwayway scrunched her eyebrows together. “I think so, Ningning. It’s around 10pm here. It should be already past midnight over there.”

Ningning pulled the bonnet with the words “Baguio City” tighter over her forehead. “Is it cold over there, like it is here?”

“No, Ningning. Tito Pacifico said that it is summer.” The little one was snuggling closer to her. Reluctantly, Liwayway put her arms over the child’s shoulders. When she looked at Ningning, two eyes as round as Jeepney headlights were looking up at her.

“Summer??? How can it be summer???”

Liwayway shook her head, exasperated, but only a bit. “It’s because they’re… down under.” Tito Pacifico had sent a greeting card through email earlier that day. It had a drawing of Santa Claus wearing shades and shorts, drinking lemonade by the sea. There was a red-nosed kangaroo beside him. “Merry Christmas from Down Under!” It said. Liwayway wasn’t exactly sure she could give a lecture about Northern and Southern Hemispheres just yet.

“So, does that mean… we’re up over?” Ningning began humming a portion of the Benguet Hymn. “Dear land of mine underneath the starry sky so close to God…” She thought to herself as she wriggled out of Liwayway’s arms. Surprise lit up her windburned face. “We are up over!”

Tita Maricor, who overheard the girls’ exchange, let out a hearty laugh. “Now what are you two talking about? I think you’re just too hungry, waiting for the Noche Buena. Come, let me pour some Tsokolate for you.”

“Yehay!” The two girls scrambled towards their aunt in excitement. But then Tita Maricor saw Ningning’s eyes cloud over slightly.

“What’s wrong, balasang?”

Ningning tried to smile. “Tito Pacifico won’t be able to enjoy Christmas as much us. It’s too hot for Tsokolate over there.”

“Oh, Ningning…” Liwayway chuckled as she took a sip from the piping hot drink. Hmm. Actually, there was something more delicious than roasted marshmallows. Tsokolate. And the tender love of her little sister.

Assignment 1 (Coursera: Writing for Young Readers)

Second Time Around

You know the feeling when you watch a movie the second time around? How that sense of familiarity sinks in and you suddenly realize, Ohhh, that’s what it was all about…? I feel like I am watching things the second time around.

Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth. Or the nth.

One time you took me to Makati and we spent a good portion of the night looking for an open coffee shop. The rain was drizzling on our cheeks. We paused. I told you the story of that one time we ran through the rain, when you sent me off to the bus going back to my hometown. You didn’t really remember. We walked on and settled on the café across the street from your office building.

I almost got lost the next time I tried to go there. Then by the next return, it was like coming home. And now as I roam Ayala’s pavements, I feel like I am watching this movie the second time around.

Ayala by late PM.

Oh, Hello

Perhaps you are wondering if this blog is still alive. It is. It has fallen asleep these past few months. But stick around and maybe you’ll see it coming back to life.

It will soon be eight months since my homecoming. Just eight months, but I already feel like I have been here since forever. Still, like cross talk, what was in Malaysia crisscrosses into what is in Metro Manila now.

We go through the tunnel near Ayala in EDSA and I feel like the Petronas Twin Towers will emerge anytime. I walk through Greenbelt 5 and I think I’m just lost in a new wing of IOI City Mall.

I have an ex-colleague from Malaysia working here. I’ve also been connected to a Filipina who has been attending Malaysia’s Midnight LG but has now come back home. I’ve started wearing my black office work dresses again.

I’m teaching now. I do distance education. In other words, I have a long distance relationship with my students and we do most of our interactions in cyberspace.

Adrian and I have, thankfully, graduated from that. As of blog writing time, I’m sitting with a view of the sun setting over HV Dela Costa Street, waiting for him to pick me up for our dinner date. I think back to our 1am once-a-week Skype dates. I don’t ever want to go back to that.

I’ve gained weight again. I think it’s because I eat so much when I’m with Adrian, when I’m with my friends, when I’m with my colleagues, when I’m with my family. It’s fine. I’ll go jogging tomorrow, or, like Elizabeth Gilbert said, I’ll just “buy bigger pants.”

I’ve been writing poetry sporadically. You’ll see some of them in this space here. But life here is more rushed, busier, I think. The week has flown by, I haven’t even realized it will already be Friday tomorrow.

I’ll do my best to keep this blog updated. Besides, it feels good to be back here writing again.

That old school webcam selfie.

4 Colly Birds: 4 New Places

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 4 colly birds, 3 —

Oh, don’t get excited, don’t get too excited just yet. If you’ve been singing along, you know this is the part of the song where it begins to pick up more speed. But again let’s linger upon them colly birds and —

What on earth are colly birds anyway?

Well, they are birds. They fly. They are technically European blackbirds. So on my fourth day of Christmas, I’d like to disclose to you the four places I’d like those four colly birds to take me to next year:

  1. Myanmar. I’m going to complete getting the immigration stamps from the different nations here in Southeast Asia if it kills me. Even if it’s just one stamp a year. This year, I was able to go to Vietnam. Last year it was south of Thailand. The year before it was Cambodia. Thank You, Lord, for the ICPM family. Well, soon, I’d love to be able go to Europe, too. But first, Asia. Southeast Asia.
  2. Penang. Since I can’t go to Europe yet, I think a European style town in Malaysia will do. I want to go to Penang! We had plans to make monthly visits there next year, but… no buts. We have to go to Penang! Even if it’s just once next year.
  3. Langkawi. I just realized something. I’ve been living here in Malaysia for 3.5 years already but I’ve never been to a Malaysian beach. Seriously. I’ve been to the highlands, I’ve been to kampungs, I’ve been to historical cities — but I’ve never been to any beaches. Not even Port Dickson. But next year — Langkawi — lezgo Langkawi!
  4. Lego land! I love theme parks. I wanna go to Lego Land — I promise I’ll ride the big kid rides. Else — does anyone want to go to Singapore’s Universal Studios with me?

I’d have loved to add more non-Malaysian places to my colly birds list. Like some beautiful places in the Philippines. Or, again, Europe. Or the States. But for now — priorities. I’ve got to get my finances lined up for some certain priorities. So I’m just going to make the most of my stay in Malaysia Truly Asia.

Well, that’s it. And oh — it’s Christmas Eve! Happy Noche Buena everyone! :D

This year: Vietnam. Next Year: Myanmar.
This year: Vietnam. Next Year: Myanmar.

P.S. I would love to write more about the places I’ve been to, or will be going to. I’m planning to write about the adventures and misadventures in my new blog, Stories from Distant Shores. Wanna drop by and pop in for a cup of tea? ^_^


(Day 27 – Photo of your city)

It’s 6:18 PM here in Kuala Lumpur. 6:18 and the sky is still relatively bright. I’m used to it. I’ve been living here for 3 years and 5 months now, thus the Malaysian part of me now finds sunsets between 5:30 to 6:00 PM strange.

My cubiclemate sent me an IM during yesterday’s afternoon lull: “You should find a Malaysian BF and marry him so that I can see you forever!” (Implying that I should stay in Malaysia until I met face to face with my Maker.)

My reply: “Can not be, somebody will get angry.”

That elicited an, “Oooh! I didn’t know you had a boyfriend!” response from her (I didn’t know that I had one either, lol). I just chuckled and messaged her, “Look in my photos page.”

I glanced over my shoulder and saw her browsing through my Facebook profile. Her eyes must have been turning round and round like the wheels of her Myvi so I stopped messing with her. I slid my office chair closer to her and pointed to a picture of a lovestruck couple posing at a bus station somewhere.

“My parents will get angry if I do that.”

Poor cubiclemate. Hehe.

But seriously. I love Malaysia and will stay here much longer. My car’s under a seven year loan, thank you very much (as if that doesn’t speak loudly enough).

But the world is big, far, far too big. There are many more cities to discover.

But for now, this is the city which I have yet to explore. This is the city which I have yet to conquer.

This is the city which I have yet to conquer.

So who’s in this with me? ;)

On Walkathons

(Day 18 – Something that you miss)

One step. Two steps. Three steps. Four. My feet go thump-thump-thump-thump as I weave around the neighbourhood. As I walk, twilight is planting its kiss on the pavement, on the streetlights, and on the houses that I encounter along the way. It paints a serene picture, calming me down, dispelling the anxious thoughts that have made their way into my mind during the day.

I missed doing this. Going out on a walkathon. I had wanted to do some runs on one of the condo’s treadmills but the lights were out – the gym was probably under maintenance – so here I am, walking, just going wherever my feet decides to take me. I am unconstrained by time, unhindered by walls. Simply unrestricted. I had left my wristwatch at home and I will only cease walking once my strength has given out.

Walking has always been therapeutic to me. As a child, I used to “make-dabog” across the wooden floors of our house when my parents didn’t let me have my way. As a teenager, I took it out on the concrete pavements of Los Banos when life didn’t.

“Okay lang ba kung mag-lakad-lakad nalang tayo?” “Okay lang. Saan?” “Kahit saan. Sa Sta Fe. Sa Agapita. Sa may EBC. Sa Umali. Hindi ako makapag-isip eh. Kelangan kong maglakad.” “Sige, tara.”

Walkathons are always so much better though when you’re walking it out while talking it out with someone. Or certain someones. I miss those people who took walks with me, you know, once upon a time. Like when I had my heart broken in high school. When I had tantrum attacks in college. When I faced crossroads after graduation.

I wish I had someone to walk it out with me right now.

But solitude is sweet. And though I walk these roads alone for now, I know I won’t be doing so for long. Twilight brings in darkness, but dawn will bring forth newness and light, soon enough.

So I will keep walking through the night.

Twilight plants its kiss.

How to get an OEC from NAIA 3

Okay, I don’t usually write “how to” posts. But I promised myself that I would write this post out because of the frustration that I felt two days ago having found no substantial information in the Internet about getting emergency OECs. So. Bear with me. This might be useful for some OFW who might find himself or herself going back home to the motherland for a very quick visit. Specifically, a visit that lasts only five days or less. I thank my friend who provided useful information through SMS, but I want to save future “Balik-Manggagawas” from having to go through the same frustrating ordeal that I went through. (Okay, I am exaggerating).

I am tempted to turn this into a long elaborate post, but I’ll be merciful and just cut to the chase. If you are reading this post, I am assuming that:

1. You are an OFW;

2. You are already an OWWA member (i.e. you have already gone through the costly process of processing POEA papers, you’ve already attended the PDOS, etc.);

2.  You’ll be going back to the Philippines as a “Balik-Manggagawa” (i.e. you are simply on leave and, after your vacation, you’ll still go back to the same job and to the same company written in your POEA papers);

3. You’ll be staying there for a mere FIVE DAYS or less;

4. You want to know how to get an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) so that the immigration guards will let you go back to your country of employment in peace (oh, and so that you won’t have to pay the airport tax and the terminal fee anymore);

5. You don’t have time to go to the main POEA office in Ortigas;

6. You don’t have time to go to any other POEA regional office;

7. You didn’t have time to get an OEC from your country of employment’s Philippine Embassy (or the Philippine Embassy there doesn’t issue OECs);

8. You are going back to your country of employment from an airplane departing from NAIA 3. (This post is specifically for NAIA 3 users – NAIA 1 and NAIA 2 are all foreign entities to me, unfortunately); and

9. You don’t have friends who’ve gone through this process before so you’re resorting to good ol’ Google instead. That, or you don’t trust them. Hehe.

If my assumptions were correct and you are still reading this, here’s what you have to do:

1. Go to the cluster of POEA kiosks near that corner where everyone else is paying for their travel taxes. There should be a booth next to the OEC validation booth where you have to line up to get a form so that you can apply for an emergency OEC. To get this form, just present your passport and your ticket. They’ll ask you when your arrival date was. If the number of days add up to five or less, they’ll hand you the form, tell you to go to the OWWA booth once you’re done with the form, and then you’ll have to go back to that booth to claim your OEC.

2. DO AS YOU ARE TOLD. When you get to the OWWA booth, you should have proof of your OWWA membership with you. A previous OEC that reflects that you have paid your membership fee will do. Your OWWA membership is valid for 2 years, so I guess the oldest OEC/receipt that you can have with you is a two-year-old one. If your OWWA membership has already expired, then I guess you should be prepared to pay the $25 fee here. I am afraid that I am not sure with this one. But you should be safe, money-wise, if your membership is still far from expiring.

3. Go back to the OEC processing booth with your accomplished form. Be prepared to show proof of your employment (your contract, payslip, or ID). They didn’t ask me for any proof, but it is always good to be prepared. They’ll ask you to pay Php 100 for the processing fee when they’re satisfied.

4. You’ll get an OEC that has a 24 hour validity (meaning you should only attempt to get this OEC if your flight is already on that day). Proceed to the check-in counter. There’s no need to validate this OEC, it’s already good to go.

The whole thing takes less than 30 minutes if there’s no queue. If it’s the peak season and every one is making emergency visits, then I should expect the processing time to be longer.

Update (since lots of people are asking whether the booth is open 24 hours or during weekends/holidays):

A reader gave this comment last 2013:

Joseph | June 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm

To share my piece of the cake, this morning when i was [travelling] back to hongkong from the philippines I passed by the OEC counter to get mine validated. I confirmed with them that you can request an OEC from them anytime of the day as long as [you’re] within the 5days travel. Happy trip! :)

So there. I hope you (whoever you are) found this post helpful.

Happy flying!


P.S. Did you find this entry useful? A bit out of date? Let me know. Leave some love in the comments section. I won’t bite. 

Feel free to subscribe to this blog as well (follow through WordPress, subscribe through email, or RSS). I mostly write whimsical and literary entries but if you can find more entries like this in my travel blog: Stories from Distant Shores (

That’s it. Thank you for stumbling upon my lil ol blog. :D

A Stranger

(Day 8 – A place you’ve travelled to and where else you want to travel)

I met a stranger yesterday*. A fragment of my past. A glimpse of a probable future.

She was wearing a flowered sleeveless dress which fell stylishly just past her knees. Her shoulder length hair was set in a perm and her almond-shaped eyes and porcelain skin showed that she was of Chinese descent.

A lady sporting shorts and a casual boycut introduced me to her. I don’t know, however, if the brief exchange that we had was even a proper introduction.

“Hello,” The sporty lady greeted me. We were at the Putrajaya KLIA Transit station and I was on my way home from work.  She spoke to me in Malay, thinking that I was a local.  “Awak pergi Bandar Tasik Selatan?” It was a good thing that I understood what she said. Was I going to Bandar Tasik Selatan?

I nodded as I fed my ticket into the machine at the station’s entrance. The gate opened and I hurried in.

“Dia nak pergi Bandar Tasik Selatan,” she said, motioning to the girly stranger. “Tapi, dia dari Sydney so dia tak tahu macamana.” She said some other words in Bahasa Melayu which I couldn’t understand. But I was getting a distinct feeling that she wanted me to escort the woman, if not show her the way. “So can you please tell her where to get down later, when you reach the station?” She finally asked.

I didn’t think that I really had that much of a choice. “Okay, okay,” I replied.

“Thank you ah,” the lady in shorts said as she fed her companion’s ticket into the machine and waved goodbye.

“Which platform do I take?” My new travelling companion asked once she walked through the gate. She looked a little lost.

“This one,” I said, pointing to the one we were already making our way towards. I was thankful that she spoke to me in English. That meant it was okay for me to speak to her in English too.

We made our way down the escalator and to the platform where the usual commuters were already waiting. “We still have six minutes,” I told her. She nodded.

“Thank you, ah. So, is Bandar Tasik Selatan the next station or…?”

“Yeah, it’s the next station. After that is KL Sentral. Bandar Tasik is around ten to fifteen minutes away,” I informed her. “I’m Mari, by the way. Where are you from?”

I neglected to ask her for her name, and she neglected to give me that information as well. But she replied to my question promptly. “Actually, I’m from Sydney. But I actually just came there 25 years ago. I’m from Ipoh, originally. But now so many things have changed here. I don’t know where to go and how to get there.”

My eyes widened at the revelation of two significant details. Number one, she was from Sydney, Australia (her friend did mention that earlier, but that important fact became lost in the jumble of Malay words that I didn’t understand) and number two, she had stayed there longer than I had even stayed on planet earth.

“Oh really?” I said, trying to hide my surprise. “I’ve actually been to Sydney. Do you know Armidale? I lived there for a couple of years.”

That got the conversation rolling. In the span of six minutes, we were able to talk about Aussie weather, schooling there, outback schools, the rise of mamak stalls in the city, and the rise of the cost of living as well.

It was funny because I had been thinking about Australia for the past days. And there I was, conversing about the Land Down Under with a stranger whose name I still didn’t know.

“Do you ever think of going back there for a visit?” She asked me at some point in the conversation.

“I do. I’m not sure about the visa though. I was a kid when my parents processed them and everything.”

“Oh, it’s very easy,” she said. “You can just do some applications online.”

That made me think. Occasionally, I did imagine myself walking up O’dell Street again. I’ve had thoughts of the bike track, of the Armidale Town Centre, of the town library, of UNE and of Point Lookout. It would be nice to go back to those childhood memories again, one day.

Our train arrived and interrupted my reverie. “Train’s here,” I chirped. We made our way in and found a seat. I told her she could sleep since she mentioned that she still had jetlag.

She closed her eyes and I, tired from a long week, tried to doze off. I peeked at her through half-opened eyelids. In her, I saw a traveller and a settler. How she managed to stay put in a foreign land for such a long time was beyond me. I guess it helped that she had her husband and kids with her. Plus she was able to go back to Malaysia from time to time.

As for me, it has been barely three years since I have been in this foreign land. I’m betting that I’ll be staying here longer, but how long exactly, I know not. Will I be a settler like her as well?

Of course, I’d still like to go out and about, hop from one country to another. I want to travel to Vietnam. I want to travel to Europe – to France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and England. I want to go to India, to Africa, and all the other nations that I type out every Friday. And yes, perhaps I want to go back to Australia, back to the US, back to Hong Kong, Cambodia, and Singapore. Travelling runs in my blood.

The train slowed down and Bandar Tasik Selatan came into view. I opened my eyes and smiled at her. “We’re here. After this, I’ll escort you to the taxi stand. It’s also on my way, so it’s okay.”

We joined the sea of commuters and weaved our way through them. We continued to make small talk, this time about Malaysian public transportation.

When we arrived at the taxi stand, she said, “Good thing I have you, or I would have been lost.”

I laughed.

She patted me on the shoulder. “Alright, goodbye ah. Thanks again!”

As she walked towards the line of taxis, I just shook my head and smiled.

I had an encounter with a stranger – a fragment of my past, a glimpse of my probable future.

The Stranger.

*Yesterday being a Friday, since I wrote this down on a Saturday.