Monday Musings: Choice

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Helplessness and hopelessness, all spring from the perceived absence of choice.

For years, I’ve resigned control over my life to a lot of external factors. I grew up used to an oppressive culture that has long pervaded my country. It is the worst kind of poverty. Poverty of the mind robs you of the opportunity to live fully. As a victim of your own thoughts, you end up closing more doors than opening possibilities.

We were not well off when I was a kid. We had instances where we only had rice mixed with soy sauce. I could not get the toys that I wanted each time, I had to wait for birthday and Christmas. We were not extremely poor but back then even having a meal in Jollibee was already considered a luxury. My parents were earning just enough to sustain three children.

I had big dreams as a ten year old kid, I wanted to own a social enterprise so I could employ people and be able to support their children to get good education but to me it would only just be a distant dream.

The bullying during elementary also did not help either. It greatly affected my confidence and stopped me from taking a bunch of opportunities. I would always tell myself, “You are not good enough and you will just mess it up.” I kept on telling this regularly that it became a daily negative mantra.

It was not until I reached breaking point when I reached the age of 22. Yes 22! I was already a thesis away from finishing my masters degree in Medical Surgical Nursing and had just quit my mediocre job working as a company nurse where I got paid a measly net pay of P 7,500 per month. This job required me to spend almost 20 hours of my day including 4 hours of travelling back and forth without travel allowance.

I got tired of the repeating ordeal. I did not love what I was doing and it felt very much like being alive and yet dead. What I did first was go for event modelling, I remember by first gig in Bantayan where I got paid about P 6,000 per day, it was not the best promotional work either as it was for a cigarette company but this small change influenced me a lot. I started gaining more power on my own life.

The biggest decision came when I took the time to think about my past as a kid and constantly saw that I always had a knack for seeing opportunity and making a business out of it but I thought to myself that enrolling again in university is not only costly but also time consuming with this I came up with my own hack. Learn business in real time and in reality. I luckily managed to get a position for a start-up run by three expats and this has helped me gone from just another victim to someone who actual had control over her life. I stopped being influenced by circumstances and started creating my own realities. It is not a perfect journey though but I am glad that now I know that I always have a choice on whatever happens to my life. Getting much inspiration from the first few people who believed in me, led me as well to pay it forward to others. I am glad that I have also given opportunities to others to be captains of their own fates. I am nowhere near my biggest plan but I am moving forward, no longer a victim but a victor.

When did you last made a choice for yourself? Are you still a victim or have you already converted into a victor?

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Monday Musings: The Three Provincial Ladies

When I moved out of our HR officer’s flat, I ended up renting at Kalayaan area it was basically the outskirts of Bonifacio Global City.

Just a couple of meters away from the posh bubble lies a cluster of houses clumped together. This is where the middle class and slum people mingle by day and stay at night.

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Me with AJ, my HR Manager, at Karpot Office

My office, about 300 meters away.I rented a bunk bed in small room about 15 sq.m. Inside this little wooden room were three other girls. They, like me, were also starting out their careers in Manila. I would like to think of us all as predominantly provincial and naive girls, what we had in common though, is the need to change the course of our lives.

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Timid Jenifer!

 

Jenifer, was a working student from Bulacan, she worked for GIZ in the morning as an office assistant while taking up night high school in La Salle as a scholar.

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Ma ann

Meanwhile Ma-ann, a Bicolana accountant from Sorsogon was just starting out as a bookkeeper in Ford while saving up to afford finishing her course and licensure examination to be a certified public accountant. She stayed in the room together with her cousin, Elvie, who was also working for a different company.

I was the last addition to the group. It was my first time renting out a small bed in a humid room without any real windows. Smaller than 22 square meters, I remembered feeling still claustrophobic though lesser than the past year. See it was finally a month since I ended up living with our human resource manager after my talent manager deserted me in the apartment all alone in Quezon City. I doubt that I could get any more concerned about space after literally sleeping in one bed with our HR manager. She was the only person I knew after the only people I know left without telling me. They did not even give me the talent fee for the beauty competition. After finding this out, indeed, as a girl from a smaller city, I worried. I worried not only a little but a lot! I swore to my mother that it would be a great idea to learn business in the craziest city in the Philippines.

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After making myself comfortable in the small room, I started talking more to Jenifer and Ma-Ann. Since we did not earn much, we would spend our nights buying a small serving of friend noodles. I would get the one that comes with two dumplings and save the two dumplings to pair with rice the next day. As a new employee, I had a smaller salary which was just enough to pay for everything.

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I remember those times that with them, we would pretend to make it big. We would just spend our free time jogging around Bonifacio Global City, a bubble like no other in the Philippine. This place feels like Singapore to me always. I started founding groups that would give me part-time job as an event model. I tried to do as much side gig to supplement the income to cover all the expenses I had. The other girls were the same, we would do our own laundry and look for the cheapest meals.

 

Sometimes we try to imagine how life would be once we become successful. We went on sharing so many moments together. One day, I got tickets for a fashion show and knowing how extremely timid Jenifer and Ma an we’re, I knew it would help them be extra confident and courageous so I let them wear some dresses and made them all up. It was such a fun night with them. We felt like we were the girls from Sex and The City and I thought Carrie Bradshaw would’ve been proud of me.

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After all the bonding time and Ate Elvie left, we decided to rent a different place because we became fed up with the landlady. We all slept on the floor with mattresses that were too thin just like having a thin sheet of cloth over a wooden floor.

After a couple of months of living in one small room together, we parted ways. Ma Ann found a place with a relative, Jenifer continued her studies and me, after being robbed by a guy with a knife near the area, decided to move with other friends from Couchsurfing.

Fast forward to 2018, Ma Ann got married last 2017 to her long time boyfriend and is employed in a good company. I met Jenifer over coffee in Cebu, she is working for GIZ the German organisation who also got her to fly to Germany for some training. I on the other hand, ended back in Cebu running a coworking space.

I still get updates from them over FB, I haven’t seen Ma Ann since we partied ways while Jenifer have gone to Cebu a couple of times and we would play catch up on what’s new with her. It really is different when you live with people for quite sometime, they also become a part of your history and these two girls will always be part of my motivation and a daily reminder that ambition with passion can really get you far. It is always interesting to see people evolving and how persistence is paying off for those with dreams. We were just a bunch of naive girls who were brave enough to go after our dreams and rewrite our story from victims of scarcity to victors of opportunities.

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5 Changes That Would Make Travelling Around The Philippines More Fun

“It’s more fun in the Philippines” is over and now it is “Bring A Friend”.

Couple of years ago, I came across an article where it said that the Philippines is one of the least preferred country to travel in South-east Asia and honestly I was not surprised. Although being known for typhoon and crazy rebels, we have not really challenged our fellow Southeast Asian countries which are doing well in tourism. We are barely even a quarter to the number of visitors Thailand receives in a year and quite a far cry from Vietnam or Malaysia.

Sometimes I wonder why but being an active Couchsurfer and having foreign friends opened my eyes about the existing problems our country have and should work on to become a better tourist destination. I started this list couple of years ago in my old blog in frustration and decided to update it (still with frustration).

There are tons of things to improve on but these 5 listed are the most annoying for me as a traveler.

Here are my suggestions for the Department of Tourism and the Philippine government in general.

1. Reliable Cab Drivers and Public Transportation

The minute you get off the plane, your chances of getting ripped off is high. Most of the time, the airport taxis have broken meters. I fell victim once to one airport taxi. His meter went crazy that when we reached to our place it was already P1,500 when it was from NAIA Terminal 1 to Makati Ave. which should cost around P400.

Imagine if all the cab drivers in our country are making sure that we find the quickest and cheapest way to our destination? Luckily we now have Grab and Uber in the country.

Another thing, if you go to Hong Kong, you can easily go from one spot to the other thanks to the metro system and organised government-owned buses.

Think of it, if they work on improving this, make getting from point A to point B easier, it will definitely make travelling in the Philippines a lot more appealing with less time lost to commuting.

2. Affordable and Available Healthy Food

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Good food from Harana Restaurant

It has been one of my frustration when I walk around the city and other places in the Philippines. It is always easy to find adobo and other pork dishes but you rarely find a vegetable dish (without meat) or even a simple salad. With the rest of the world going for a healthier and sustainable lifestyle, it is sad that a primarily agricultural country is lagging behind. It does not cost that much to prepare healthy dish as I cook regularly. I have lost count of the travelers that I have met from Germany, UK, Canada and other countries that had no choice but to stop being vegan just because it was a lot of stress to travel and maintain such diet in this country. We should keep up and make more food options not only vegetarian but even Kosher and Halal ones.

3. Good Roads and Quality Accommodations

Muddy Road in Siargao
Muddy Road in Siargao

This year I have gone to Siargao a lot and one of the things that I wished they worked on before the stadium are the small roads that end up getting flooded and muddy during rainy season and same issues exist for Boracay and other destinations.

Another thing is compared to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, our accommodations are pricey for the quality we offer. If you book a bunk bed for P 500 you cannot expect much in this country. I had an experience where I booked a place in Agoda for a business travel in Batangas and on the description it said “Resort” so we expected it as a real resort but here in the Philippines, places labelled as resort are misleading. We arrived there to find out they have really old air conditioners, no hot and cold shower and the beds were quite uncomfortable and they were charging the same rate as a good hotel in Makati!

4. Equal Charges for Local and Foreign Visitors

Backpacker mode in Malaysia
Backpacker mode at Kuala Lumpur

I find it preposterous to see how they charge tourists according to local and foreigner be it in Taal Lake or Palawan. Where is the equality? It is bluntly showing that we want to make more money from foreigners. They already spend a lot more than most locals so we should not keep this practice. Just because they have a more powerful currency does not mean that we should milk them off. We should not be charging them double!

When I go to another country, I do not want to feel this way so why should a country who is known to be generally Catholic treat everyone differently? Go figure.

5. Convenient Travel Information

I went to Puerto Galera and it was our first time travelling so we wanted to find out information about the place but we found a closed tourist information center. I also tried asking some of the people in a tourist information center in Palawan and they were not fluent enough to entertain questions in English. Let’s not talk about those seemingly useless road signs.

If we want more travelers visiting our country, we should make sure that travelers will not have a hard time finding information about places.

Our official website also needs more apps that would be useful for travelers like bus and ferry schedules and online booking options and not just picture perfect photos.

They should create an app for travel assistance where chatbots can help customise their itineraries or give suggestions on places to visit.

Also, I hate to admit it despite having so many world-class social media influencers in the Philippines, our official tourism instagram sucks a lot!

There are definitely a lot of areas wherein we can improve to elevate the experience of tourists and travelers coming to our country and I know that we have a long way from being this raw to becoming a better tourist destination but we should not wait too long.

Yes, in general, this is a rant to the current system because they spend so much on superficial campaigns and forget that it is experience that will make people want to come back. We are lucky because Filipinos are one of the friendliest and welcoming people but we should not rest until these things are improved. It is time to change the current status of the Philippines for being one of the least popular destination.

Do you agree with my list? Share your suggestions.