Travel Tales: Vigan

I’ve had antique-shop-and-cobblestone-street-filled days this first weekend of July. Even with the typhoon showing itself during the second half of our stay, that didn’t stop us from what we intended to do, explore, and see — tight schedule and all — which included walking (and looking like hipster fools) in the very strong rains.

Whether strolling around Calle Crisologo and its side streets meant the sweltering heat of the sun or getting soaked by the downpour, Vigan proved to be a city truly so charming, deserving of all its praise and world heritage recognitions. As my cousin aptly labels it to be, #stillhadfun!

I thought that arriving at three in the morning would sort of be a bad thing. But then, walking around the ancient streets in the early hours ’til sunrise turned out to be quite cinematic.


When in Manila: Get cultured at National Museum

Trips to museums never fail to make me feel like an artsy and cultured person I am quite not. Our visit to National Museum was definitely at a time so apt, as it fell on the day right after Independence Day! Talk about culture—and, well, freedom—depicted in the paintbrush strokes and intricate sculpture folds of century-old pieces of art.


It’s a shame that I’ve never paid the museum a visit all my life, but Anthropology class changed that, having had the chance to visit one of its buildings early this year along with my classmates. But then, never has a visit become so much more meaningful, as things feel so different when you pay a visit out of your own want and initiative, which is what happened two days ago. Nitch and I, with our itchin’, travelin’ feet, brought us to explore the museum all on our own—minus the mandatory two-page reflection paper as a course requirement and documentation meant for some lengthy, dragging slideshow for class—and I’m so glad we did!

With the huge chunk that National Museum occupies along the stretch of Taft Avenue, it’s hard not to notice such landmark, crisp white paint and all. A little reminder though—the actual entrance of the museum isn’t on Taft Avenue, so a little bit of walking is still needed to reach the place. When facing the landmark on Taft, walk left until the stoplight, and turn right to Finance Road. Fret not, sweat—maybe. Easy peasy.

May celebrates National Heritage Month, which meant free admission to the museum! Glad they decided to extend the no-pay visit until the end of June, which makes it absolutely free to enter the halls of National Museum and Museum of the Filipino People. Free admission is observed on Sundays as well, so really, there is no excuse to not come and pay this landmark a visit.


The first room carries the most recognizable and renowned piece of artwork found within the corners of the museum—no other than Spoliarium by Juan Luna! This is undeniably the main reason of mine of wanting to explore the place, which holds true for many goers as well. I actually thought that this would be found on the upper floors of the museum so that visitors can view other pieces of art first before seeing this in person, as it is easily the most known after all. Didn’t expect it to be literally the first one you’d see up close, so I was truly surprised to see it at a glance! It is massive, which I didn’t quite anticipate either. Wish they installed brighter, natural lighting in this particular room though—taking photos in low light, especially with a wonky point-and-shoot, is really a struggle. Grainy pics are the absolute party pooper.

It takes a good few minutes to just stare and let the true, deeper meaning of the painting sink in, and boy did it feel so eerie, as Nitch mentioned. Nevertheless, such a beautiful and thought-provoking work it remains to be.


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Several exhibits showcase portraits of known Filipinos, relevant personalities throughout Philippine history, and unknown, common folk citizens of the country. Was starstruck to see actual artworks that Jose Rizal worked on. Because this man—he’s everything (although the painting below ain’t no self portrait!).

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Grateful for friends who are always game to explore the beloved archipelago, near or far it may beand love to write all about it as well! A variation of this post can be read through Nitch’s writing here. Really curious to know what she thinks, as I’ve yet to read it (pretty sure we said the same things, haha, but essentially, one thing I’m certain about is how we share the same level of admiration for this place).

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Admittedly, what I really enjoyed looking at were the abstract paintings and ‘modern’ artworks. Was ecstatic to see works of Ben Cab (yep, the same Ben Cab of BenCab Museum in Baguio, which is a must-visit as well!), Fernando Amorsolo (hailed as a National Artist), and Guillermo Tolentino (notably sculpted The Oblation).

Nitch and I also share a favorite among all: the busts/sculptures! Truly mesmerized by the complex folds on the meticulously crafted figures that represented the person so well, as if our late presidents magically came to life as we stood a foot away from them. Because I’m stupid, I forgot to even take a snapshot of the said exhibit (was probably just too engrossed, really), but it is certainly a must-see.

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Wouldn’t know if it is a norm for museums to show what tools and palettes artists use as they paint, but I found it to be a feature so interesting! Look at that color explosion. DSC08779
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Just minutes before noontime we were able to finish touring the museum, which lasted for two hours. A few hours after, we spent some time touring its component museum just opposite of it. In between museum-hopping, we went to SM Manila to fill our empty stomachs. Dessert was no other than milk tea, my weakness. Tried ‎CoCo都可 for the first time (definitely not the last), and settled with the flavors of Salty Cream and Matcha Green Tea. Touring the two museums on one go can be very draining, so having a bite in between was a great decision.DSC08798 DSC08808 DSC08805

Right after some badly-needed catching up and discussion of life decisions over good grub, we walked back and headed to National Museum of the Filipino People. As I’ve already gone here for school purposes a few months ago, I still wanted to give it a try, in the hopes of witnessing anything new (note: none actually, quite a bummer). The component museum hosts archaeological and anthropological artifacts, so those fond of geography, war, and culture in general would want to give this place a try. Many preserved flora, animals, and insects over a hundred years old were also showcased.


Cue Jay Chou’s Qing Hua Ci. Some porcelain dating back from the Ming dynasty, made in the city of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, China. Of course, this I would remember. Haha.


Linnaeus books on taxonomy and nomenclature—ack! I may be a nerd, but not even one bit was the nerd in me happy to be reminded of school.

The museum carries a lot of indigenous and regional artifacts and symbols, which really proves how truly diverse the Philippines is. Regions in the country don’t fall short of their own distinct cultures and traditions, many of which I am unfamiliar of.DSC08535


Do not touch! The curator will not be so pleased.

Baro’t saya, so pretty. I read from somewhere that a country here in Southeast Asia (was it Indonesia?) requires people to wear their national costumes to work once on a weekly basis—something I would truly be an advocate of. We ought to do the same!


Doctrina Christiana, one of the earliest books printed in the Philippines.


Baybayin, an obsolete form of writing. Back in high school we were taught that referring to it as alibata was all sorts of wrong. Funny thing though, people lined up for a selfie with it but it can’t just happen (blame the sunlight) as you’ll end up being a silhouette on the photo. Well, art!


Art junkies would definitely want to pay a visit to National Museum, while a trip to National Museum of the Filipino People is meant for history buffs and those who want an overview of Philippine culture. I liked them equally, and I’d easily recommend both for a day’s visit.


Body aching and back breaking, our restless feet still managed to let us take a stroll around Rizal Park and Luneta Park, which again, proved to be another adventure, so much that it deserves an entry of its own! Can never say no to another adventure, especially in a city you need to get to know again.

When in Taichung: Stroll around Yizhong Street

Taiwan’s unequivocal charm revolves around its night markets. Capping off our stay in Taichung was an evening stroll to Yizhong Street Night Market, a happening place in the northern district of the city, for a taste of a few local eats.

Hard to be believe that it’s already been a year since visiting the dreamland came to be true! Snippets of this trip often come across my mind and give me a sense of ease and calm that I need on schooldays of stress and no-sleep. I was never one to take note of dates of memorable days, but I can’t help but scour my planner and realize how this was all exactly a year ago. And this time, the wanderlust blues hitting me are like no other. Taiwan, I miss you the most.


As we were still quite full from the milk tea and bread we had hours prior our trip to the night market, we only got to sample a bit of the night market’s many food choices.  With an endless array of dishes and drinks available, it can be overwhelming to know and decide what to choose from, especially when they all look and seem equally appetizing. But as they all say, eat where the locals eat! Or better yet, let’s put it this way—the long lines are worth it.


Minus the mayonnaise and oyster sauce, I’d like to think that this is Taiwan’s version of takoyaki. We also shared a meal of crispy salty-spicy chicken strips drenched in vinegar. Cheap and fulfilling, because one can never go wrong with street food.

I have a confession to make: I never got to know what stinky tofu tastes (or worse, smells!) like, and yes, that’s a regret. What. It’s like going to Japan and not eating sashimi! Still punching myself in the gut for not being able to do so (hehe, see what I did there).



Aside from the thriving food culture, the night market also has its fair share of clothing stalls. Many of the items sold are similar to what one can get at Divisoria or Greenhills, but even so, they’re heavily marked up, so you’re better off buying from the mentioned establishments instead. Perhaps, Taiwan isn’t exactly a shopping mecca when it comes to clothes, but really, I don’t mindthis country easily trumps others in many more significant aspects which I could make a list of, one of which is what else—food!



Clearly not the best picture with that unflattering angle and all that grain, but here I am browsing through the racks of NET, a local brand that happens to be Taiwan’s H&M or something like that. I remember seeing nice pullovers and sweaters, but they still lean more towards the expensive side especially for a cheapskate like I am (never have I been labeled such word until college camein this relatively short time of being a university student, it has already immensely changed my life in many ways possible), haha.

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Many establishments offer quirky, unique finds so browsing through them should not be missed. And SNSD—are they even allowed to use that name? Well, even so, it definitely caught my attention, as you can see.


This adorable pup paused our pace as we were passing through the alleys of the night market.


And earned a few new friends, too!


Oddly enough, we were always mistaken as Japanese tourists in Taiwan. It was quite hard to get by in Taichung (compared to Taipei) when conversing with others in English alone, so it was in this city where I had to squeeze all my linguistic Mandarin juices out (or lack thereof) to be able to get my message across! It was frustratingly fun ordering from this milk tea stall and it took us a good five minutes to be able to do so. The sellers immediately assumed we were Japanese, and kept on repeating the greeting of moshi moshi to us. They asked if I could speak Chinese, and did a hand sign signalling that I knew just a tiny bit. The only thing they understood from me was when I said, “一杯!“ to which they repeated in their delight. Ah, I actually said something right!, I cried. It’s like all the things I’ve known in these lazy years of learning just came to be, and wow, things never felt so real.


As shallow this might be to a lot of people, it was in Yizhong where I had a taste of what to me is ultimately the best milk tea I’ve ever had in my entire lifetime of obsession with cha (and I thought nothing could surpass Dakasi’s charcoal roasted milk tea). Funny how many of the great things we come across are those we find in places so unexpectedin unassuming corners, hidden alleys, or hole-in-the-wall stalls.

I actually still don’t know what it was made of, but that sip was definitely life-changing! That milk tea that changed my life is called 大岛奶茶, and according to translation is Oshima milk tea—a hidden gem, indeed.

And with that, Z Tea, I’m coming back for thee.


Awkward stand and sip. And what’s up with my bag being so low?


Two hours of incessant walking proved to be quite draining, so here we are masking our tired faces with pa-cute selfies, but what’s new, haha. Worry-free days like this I sorely miss.

I know how Fengjia Night Market gets much of the spotlight when it comes to Taichung’s evening places, but I do recommend taking a stroll around Yizhong Night Market—from my experience, it was way less crowded (considering the fact that Fengjia is located right next to a university of the same name), which really makes a ton of difference in the overall experience of shopping, nomming, and just simply getting by around! With it being easily accessible from Chung Yo Department Store, it’s not a very hard spot to miss.

Yizhong Street Night Market / 一中街夜市
Yizhong Street, North District, Taichung / 台中市北区一中街

Travel Clearance for Minors: A Guide


Obtaining a travel clearance for minors is definitely an easy, breezy task—no formal interviews, scheduled appointments, or daunting questions necessary.

If you’re under 18 years old by the time of your travel departure and not traveling with either of your parents, then you would need to secure one at a DSWD regional office. Their offices are scattered all over the different regions of the Philippines, and all you need to do is go to one within the proximity of your place.

Personally, I obtained mine at the DSWD Regional Office IV-A, located on Alabang-Zapote Road, which was literally an overpass away from Alabang Town Center. The office was modern and newly renovated. It was airconditioned as well, so it was pretty much a comfortable wait, having seated on the maroon benches for a couple of hours (fret not, it doesn’t need to take that long!), but more on that in a few.


The following is the list of requirements needed for minors traveling with a person other than their parents or legal guardian, as stated on the DSWD’s FAQ page (link):

  • Accomplished application form (downloadable from DSWD’s website – link)
  • Birth Certificate (PHOTOCOPY)
  • Written parental consent
  • Parents’ Marriage Certificate (PHOTOCOPY) or Certificate of Legal Guardianship of the minor for solo parents
  • Two colored passport size photos (taken in the last six months)
  • Passport of traveling companion (PHOTOCOPY)

For other requirements of specific cases, here is the link.

According to DSWD’s official website, those required to secure a travel clearance are:

  • A minor traveling alone to another country
  • A minor traveling to a another country accompanied by a person other than his/her parents

If you need concrete situations whether or not a minor traveling is eligible for such, let me share mine. I had to get a travel clearance for minors during a trip to Korea way back summer 2013. Neither of my parents accompanied me during the trip, and I traveled with my older brother who turned legal that same year. But since I was 16 years old back then, I was clearly still a minor, so I needed one.

In two months, I’ll be turning 18 years old, and will be a legal citizen of the country. This August, I obtained a travel clearance for a trip to Singapore in the same month  (it’s an all-girls trip, with my grandmother, aunts, and gal cousins joining—my mom not included). As of the date of my trip, I would still be 17 years old; therefore a minor. Even if no longer being a minor is barely a few months away from my scheduled trip, I still needed to obtain one. Maybe that’s quite unlucky and a waste of funds and time on my part, considering I’m turning 18 soon, but that’s how it goes.

The bottom line is: whether a baby is nine months old or a highschooler is 15 years old, and is traveling abroad without any of his/her parents, then a travel clearance for minors is needed. Simple as that. Regardless if your travel companion is an immediate relative other than your parents (say your grandma or sibling) or someone who is above 18 years old, and you’re still under 18, then you’d need to obtain one.

As mentioned earlier, no appointments are needed. DSWD offices are open on weekdays during office hours. The travel clearance is ₱300 for a validity of one year; ₱600, two years.

Procedure, in a nutshell:

  1. Sign the logbook at the entrance.
  2. Get the queued number and wait to be called.
  3. Submit all requirements to the officer in the assessment area. With the given form and the requirements, pay at the cashier’s office.
  4. Give the requirements back to the officer. Get the travel clearance at the releasing area.

Speaking from experience, obtaining one is not as ‘uncertain’ or risky as applying for a travel visa for a certain country, so there really is nothing much to worry about. I believe that it is unlikely for one to be denied of a travel clearance for minors (extreme cases can be doubtful, but with that, I’m not very sure).

Honestly, I also think it’s funny that actual documents related to the minor’s trip are not needed. What’s your proof that you’re leaving the country if you aren’t required to present a copy of your plane ticket or passport in the first place? Right? Haha. Anyhow, some tips:

The travel clearance is not given immediately, so you’d have to wait for the releasing time. The office opens in the morning, but the releasing time for travel clearances is still at a later hour, during noontime or early afternoon. If you plan to obtain it on the same day, then going around early morning would be a good idea; otherwise, if you go around late afternoon, it will be given the next day. Do give allowance for long lines and the like!

Bring a photocopied valid ID of your parent/s. This wasn’t stated on the website, but I was asked for one as I handed my papers and forms. An SSS ID, TIN or passport copy would do. It was a good thing I had one with me!

It’s a no-show procedure, so the minor involved doesn’t need to be present. Quite an opposite situation for me though. I originally intended to do it alone, but was accompanied in the end (which was good, because if not then I wouldn’t know where to get a copy of my parent’s ID!). The social worker will ask super simple, yes-no questions just to see if you’re aware. Questions like how is the kid related to the traveling companion (when it’s clearly stated on the application form) and have you obtained a travel clearance in the past aren’t anything intimidating, so you know it’s an easy, no-brainer procedure—guaranteed!

(written in August 2014)

Year-ender: 2014

I often forget how incredible, significant, and fateful the past year had been. I always swore 2014 will be my year (as annoying and overused that phrase was, and still is), and this is how I felt even before the year actually started. I knew I was bidding the longest chapter of my life goodbye, setting foot on new adventures, transitioning into the phase of adulthood—things just felt so right and everything seemed to fall into place, finally. Maybe this is the year I’ve been praying for and waiting for so long, I tell myself.

But that one thing I was looking forward to all these years—is the same thing that has kept me miserable during the latter part of 2014 (the -ber months, go figure). There are decisions I’ve made, well-thought through or on a whim, that still trouble me even up this very second; so many what ifs and whys that cross my mind. It is rather painful to talk about; however, I believe that the emptiness and gloom that certain days may have caused can never supersede a year’s most wondrous happenings.

And with that, here are some of the wondrous happenings that made up the past year:

Visited the dreamland.

The land of milk tea, the songs and shows I call familiar, Mandarin Chinese—Taiwan is the place I call my dreamland, after all. Such a timely trip that happened days after graduating from high school and months before turning 18 years old—talk about a grad gift and debut rolled into one—which makes it extra memorable. Ever grateful to our nicest, most gracious hosts, Ate Joanna and her husband, for welcoming us into their lovely apartment during the first half of our trip! I love Taiwan. Always have, always will.

Excited is an understatement. Months prior to the trip, I remember endlessly scouring through blogs for suggestions on what to eat and where to go, with the aim of having a perfect itinerary (I was going to the dream destination, must not put any second to waste!). I listed even the littlest of details, from train stations to alight at to survival travel apps to download. Finally, things were settled weeks before departure, and I was contented with and even quite proud of the itinerary I had come up with. As stated on my journal, Jiufen on Day 2, Longshan Temple and CKS Memorial Hall on the third day, Shida as the last stop before departure to the airport. Perfect!

And the funny thing is, none of that happened. Not that I mean that they didn’t happen on the day they were assigned on, but they just didn’t happen. At all. Because, apparently, something much bigger was bound to happen, and it was when I…


Saw my idol live and up close.

This is easily the biggest surprise that’s happened to me—ever! I don’t know how this story is believable at the least because it’s as if some kind of twisted fate decided to play on me during this particular time and it’s like one of those rare, genuine moments spurred by happiness where you tell yourself, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Thing is, I was able to attend a meet-and-greet of my favorite C-pop singer while I was in Taiwan. It was an event that was announced days before our trip, so imagine how coincidental that was. Having booked the trip in December of the preceding year, I could not even fathom how it fell right on our trip! And it was not just any singer whom I only know one or two songs of, whose name I often come across—it was an artist whose songs I sing the lyrics to, whose music accompanies me in my daily commutes, whom I call my ultimate idol.

This is why our trip to Taiwan didn’t go as things were planned. It’s still something I kick myself for, because of multiple destinations on the itinerary unseen; things on the bucket list still waiting to be fulfilled. But in the end, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream. With the time it takes to get to Taiwan, almost quicker than a terrible traffic jam, I’m always meaning to give it another go!

Talk about something totally unexpected and unplanned. As I wrote on an older post, maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s fate, but seeing Khalil Fong live was a dream. come. true.


Explored a bit more of the world.

Truth be told, I never would have even imagined that I would be able to travel again after Taiwan. Taiwan was the country set for 2014, no more, no less. Another surprise hit me again, having been given the opportunity to visit the United States last summer. Always thankful and grateful. And again, I never expected how much I would enjoy our stay there, with me who is farthest from being a ‘Western’ person and all that. I’m happy that quite a lot of places were squeezed in during a rather quick stay. It’s such a happening place where good vibes just surround you wherever you go. With the warmth and hospitality our relatives and family friends have shared with us throughout our stay, a country a thousand miles away easily still feels like home. I’ve grown to love the States and it’s a country I see myself going back to (definitely easier said than done; we’ll see how saving will go!).

And then there was the yolo-worthy jaunt to Singapore which happened during the first few weeks of university! I’m not one to skip school just because because it’s really not me—I may have taken that statement back when I agreed to go. But if you ask me, it’s not something I’m willing to do again (here’s to hoping I don’t take it back again, haha). Luckily though, I only missed a day of school (as opposed to supposedly two days) and it was of a non-credit subject. Yolo gone right, I say.

While I don’t think I’ll be able to go out of the country anytime soon, I don’t feel the slightest bit of disappointment. I’d like to think bigger things are in store, and other things can wait. Hoping that the adventures I’ve always wanted to have in the Philippines turn into actual photographs and stories this year.


Got a spot in an international video contest.

How this came to be was quite accidental and the most random thing ever, and it’s something I owe to this blog. I published a guide on how to get Korean tourist visas for students a long time ago. It garnered quite a few comments a year after, with people presumably my age asking for help on the requirements. Checking if the info I had written was still up-to date, I clicked the links written on the post, which led me to the embassy’s official website. There was a pop-up window minimized all the while, and only realized it when I exited all my window’s tabs. What’s this? I asked myself. It was about a video contest sponsored by the Korean government and Arirang TV, of all things! I was excited as I could relate, and immediately thought of submitting an entry. Storytelling and video-editing on the theme, To me, Korea is—count me in.

In September, I received an e-mail stating that I had won an award for my submission! What I felt was beyond shock and surprise, because of the submissions close to 800 entries. Wouldn’t have thought they’d consider some random girl’s annoying gabbing and blabbing, haha. But really, it’s such a humbling feeling. All the winners were also invited to the awards ceremony in Seoul last October, ah! I didn’t think it was necessary for me to go though, as I was one of the many who won the consolation prize anyway (of course, I would have loved to experience it, but priorities). It was broadcasted on Arirang TV (starts at 16:28).

Just today I received my prize and certificate (delayed, but still so thankful) and would love to write all about this soon (hoping school doesn’t get in the way…). I’m rather embarrassed to have my video posted up on here because to be honest, my work still makes me cringe even up to this day, haha. But if anyone’s interested, it’s very easy to find, I promise—just dig in deeper into this blog. It can be seen somewhere.


One word: college.

I now know the feeling of failing an exam in the first semester of college, having a terrible day because of a bad commute, wading in the waters of Taft River. I also now know the feeling of waking up to a day of school without being bothered and disturbed by many different things, being yourself and who you really are, and being injected with positivity and optimism. But here’s something I’ll be brutally honest about: college really wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, but I’m praying, just praying, that tomorrow will be a better day.