Radiant smile so enthralling
Beguiling eyes like turquoise water
With thoughts denser than the Amazon
Embraces as warm as ocean zephyr
Saccharine mango kisses ever addicting
Vivid sunbeams taking dark clouds overhead
Alluring oasis so promising
You plague my thoughts
Oh summer dream!
Nothing like a quiet drive around Siargao Island to clear the mind and reconnect with nature!
This is one of my favourite things to do when in Siargao. The minute I arrive in General Luna, I pick up a semi-automatic motorcycle from a local shop. They already know me well that I just send them a message and they already prepare the board rack and my essentials.
WHAT ABOUT MOTORCYCLES?
As a teenager, my mother never wanted me to learn how to drive a motorcycle because she knew I always did insane stunts from climbing our balcony, sliding down trees with the use of a bamboo pole and even standing on hammocks pretending to surf.
LEARNING TO DRIVE
I followed my mother’s advice and stayed away from driving motorcycles but growing up seeing Jessica Alba as Dark Angel looking all cool, the idea never left my mind. During my volunteer trip to Tacloban, I was riding at the back while we visited different spots. One of the unforgettable and probably the most painful in the butt was when we decided to go to Biliran and chase waterfalls. The trip took more than 3 hours being on the motorbike however the scenery and the perfectly paved roads. I have been at the backseat most of the time enjoying the breeze, and checking out the scenery. I love the feeling I get from adrenaline rush that speed gives me. After I ended my volunteer work, I had a relationship with a guy who also loved weekend adventures and it was with him that I decided to stop being fearful and learned to drive.
Luckily I knew already how to balance and ride a bicycle so I started learning basics driving an automatic scooter. It has been three years since I mustered the courage to drive and it was at Camiguin, then I tried again in Siquijor and Southern Leyte. My third time would be in Siargao alone. My first trip to Siargao, I was just riding with people from the hostel but I realised how limited I was. I decided to rent a scooter on my own. I was driving at 30KPH, slowly and surely, I got the hang of it. After that trip, I returned with more confidence and with the supportive locals, I was encouraged to try the Honda XRM. It was not as intimidating as I first imagine it to be but definitely exposure to rough terrain and the need to see more of the island forced me to toughen up!
I am a worrier and it usually does not help you. I remember my first bad turn, how I drove to the other end of a street just because I was so bad with turning on sharp curves. I would give up driving the scooter and asking my bf then to drive but after we broke up, I had no one to drive for me! It was May 2017 when my first main accident happened. I ended up with several burns in my right leg after a bad turn on our way to Magpupungko Rock Pool. I noticed the junction late and tried to turn quickly but I ended up in the rocky portion and panicked so instead of slowing down, I revved up! The worse part is that I have high pain tolerance so I thought when I fell over it was just a bit warm from the metal absorbing the heat from the sun, it turns out, my leg was against the engine! Fortunately, I was with my good German Couchsurfing friend Yasha who was also a nurse so we drove a couple of meters to find ice and guess what? I still surfed that day!
The next motorcycle accident that spooked me well was the recent one earlier this year, I was driving on my way to Salvacion a surf spot in Pilar. I decided to go ahead of everyone to save time and just wait for the rest there. Everything was going well until I reached one rocky area and the board rack snapped. The surfboard was starting to go up and my reflex was to hold on to the board, I ended up hitting my head on the ground and having a couple of scratches in the legs. It reminded me of my stupidity of not only putting more concern over the board than my own safety but also of not wearing helmets. It was a good location for the board rack to snap though because there were several locals on a break from the road construction. They helped me pick myself up and tie the board rack back to the motorcycle. Despite this I still decided to drive ahead despite terrible road condition. It was my last day in the trip and I wanted to leave the island stoked. The locals who saw me driving to the spot would look and think how crazy I am to be bleeding and still want to surf.
On Being A Mermaid on a Motorcycle
It was in Siargao where I learned the most because of the offbeat trails that have either mud or huge rocks. It was because of my love for the island life that I conquer my fear given to me by my mother after here motorcycle accident. I do understand the dangers that comes with it but it does come also with freedom. The freedom to breakthrough terrible traffic or even just simply the feeling you get while driving through beautiful landscapes. Women riding motorcycles is still uncommon in the country. I had one chat with an Angkas driver and he told me out of all the drivers in Cebu there were only 2 female Angkas drivers. There is still a stigma about women doing dangerous stuff. For decades, riding motorcycles have been considered more of a guy thing. However, we are not at a period where the disparity between men and women as growing thinner.
Despite the accidents and norms involved in riding motorcycles, I bought my electric scooter just last year. Now, I not only drive around the island but also through Cebu City. I learned how to drive in between cars and other hacks for driving in the city just like how Angkas drivers do.
To me being an autodidact is quite rewarding, I went from noob to confident rider and knowing that somehow when I drive a motorcycle men will turn their heads and think:
” She can definitely drive.”
I am indirectly changing norms that motorcycles are just for men and encouraging more women to do the same.
In the end, you can basically learn and change anything in this world with the right motivation and a whole lot of grit.
What have you pushed yourself to learn or change recently?
There are periods in life where you make a beautiful connection with a stranger or a place, something inexplicable and mundane.
A jolt of the extraordinary that leads you ricocheting from your normal.
A brief moment where you feel invincible and different.
You cruise through days and nights worry free and with unlimited smile.
Everything seems perfect and you feel that the universe is with you.
Until you fall into the abyss of uncertainty and awaken back to reality.
These places and people are just passing by, just like you.
Like flickers of light and shadow over a screen.
You realize that it is but a motion picture.
Everything continues to move through time.
Waking up, you begin to crave for that happenstance.
You find yourself jumping from one cliff to another to collide with someone or some place again.
You seek to recreate the explosion of life you witnessed weeks before.
Just to feel the same exhilaration.
Travel does that to you.
From the first step you take out of the door to the last one as you enter the plane to go back home.
Those journeys are incomparable.
We travel to find ourselves.
We go home to get lost once again in the promises of the past and future.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From childhood until adulthood, I did not escape bullying. Here are some of what I was bullied for:
In a world where perfection is the goal and not individualism, we all go through ordeals for not fitting in.
I saw a recent post on Facebook about bullying and wanted to share a bit of my experience.
I have been bullied on several occasions:
- Being taunted for not being rich enough to buy new toys while attending a private school
- Being called stupid for not knowing how to play badminton because I was never exposed to it as a child
- Being called a weak CAT officer r having fainting spells in high school because of migraine
- Being treated as less intelligent just because I come from a smaller city and was defending our group’s science project from someone who never contributed to the creation
- Being called ugly for not being white enough, not having fake nose and not having veneers while joining Binibining Pilipinas
I remember writing a blog entry about the haters during Binibining Pilipinas and here it is:
I know joining Bb. Pilipinas would mean allowing everyone to have a say on your beauty and I am not new to getting negative comments on how I look.
I found out at an early age how most of the Filipinos prefer fair-skinned and those who are half of something.
Here are just some of harsh words that some people told me.
1. You are ugly.
2. You don’t have the face to make it to a pageant.
3. You look like our maid/katulong.
4. Your teeth are ugly.
5. You look like one of the girls who are out at night looking for foreigners.
6. You will never make it.
7. You are just intelligent, join a quiz bee not a pageant.
8. You are weak and useless.
9. No guy will ever love you.
10. Why did you make it to the final 50 candidates, there are prettier girls than you.
What do I say to them?
I say nothing. I am the type of girl who would never let other’s judgement put me down. I have been dealing with negativity since I was young.
After being told I don’t have the looks to make it to a pageant, I trained hard and won First Runner Up in Bb. Ormoc 2009.
What I do is simple, I use those negativity to push me further up. It makes me work harder and I always see it as a challenge to prove them wrong.
The only mistake one can make in this life is to allow people to get the best of you and ruin your life.
Always think past the negativity, being positive in yourself and the people around you are the only options to make the most out of life.
Be happy, not everyone will like you but make sure to live a life that will make you into someone you yourself will love.
For me, beauty will always be more than a physical attribute. People can judge you on how you look.
Beauty from within will always be eternal and it’s the kind of beauty that makes this world livable and beautiful.
So don’t fret and ditch the negativity.
My looks, behaviour and belief and priorities are really not that of Maria Clara. Here is my humorous speech about the “Maria Clara” stereotype!
I never thought I could ever pull of a humorous speech so when it was announced over our Cebu South Toastmasters Club meeting, I saw it as a good challenge!
Here is my piece that I wrote for the humorous competition this year:
The last time I was here ON STAGE, I was certain I would win THE SPEECH CONTEST but then I got beaten by Taipan’s polar bear OVER THERE! Well guess what! I am not here to win the best speaker but I AM HERE TO WIN Miss Universe AND YES, I AM STILL CERTAIN THAT I WILL BRING HOME THE CROWN! I am actually on stage in Las Vegas, and Steve Harvey just read my question. “What is the essence of a Filipina?” Yes, I only have a minute to compose myself and come up with a winning answer because Miss Colombia is right there wishing my doom!
Anyways, what is indeed the essence of a Filipina? Hmmm… Oh I see my mom right in the crowd. She is holding a sign that says the answer is Maria Clara.
Come on mom it is already 2017. Why on Earth will I answer that? Would Pia Wurtzbach even agree to this? Yes, I do remember Maria Clara mom, she is known in Rizal’s novel to be shy, demure, modest, religious, obedient and subservient but is the essence of being Filipina fitting to the stereotype of Maria Clara?
Does the stereotype of Maria Clara even apply to me? I know I have three traits that are clearly Anti-Maria Clara, which might disqualify me as a true Filipina.
First, looks. Would you think I look Filipina? My height? No! On the way here, I was on the jeepney and two boys sitting across me were giggling, so I ask them “Why you laugh ha?”. You know what they said? So the guy told me I looked like a tranny, ladyboy, bayot. He said I was taller than average 4’11 Filipina and even the average guy so I probably really am a guy. Anyways, I also thought my skin colour was enough to make me Filipina. I went to SM the other day because you know, “They have it all for you!” I just wanted to buy sanitary pads because the bloody days are coming, when the sales lady approached me she said, “Hi Maam, this product is good for you maam.” She was speaking in fluent English which I enjoyed but she went on talking for 15 minutes, trying to sell me papaya soap! I know my mother would say, “No to papaya soap, yes to papaya (pause) be mestiza like Maria Clara”. Nope definitely not! She also spoke to me in English thinking I was a foreigner. I have already been mistaken for Indonesian, Thai, and Japanese good thing it still Asian
Secondly, behaviour and beliefs. My mom will clearly attest! With conviction she will say, “Paula is the black sheep of the family.” Alright, I know what you are thinking, not my skin colour how dare you!
Back in college, I did not really want to be a nurse so I found ways to escape classes I signed up for dance palabas, track and field and basketball team! A day before Intramurals, I lost consciousness while running by the activity hall in front of a crowd and woke up with blood all over, my skirt had a high slit, my sleeves were ripped showing my unshaved underarms and my professor went to check. She asked if I am okay and I told her, “See what drugs can do?” Luckily it was before Duterte otherwise that joke would’ve gotten me shot. Since then my mother would confuse my large appetite for drug addiction. She would ask me always, why is your allowance gone? Are you doing drugs? Definitely Maria Clara was never accused of such and I hope you guys do not “tokhang” me by the way.
When it comes to belief, I am an agnostic, during high school, my mom went on stage for the first time bringing me a bouquet of flowers on stage as our class valedictorian just looked at me in envy. It was my mom’s proud moment. She thought finally she is turning to be Maria Clara, devout and pious. Why did she think that? Because I won the bible quiz and I received a medal from our parish priest. As she was putting on the medal, I was laughing in my mind because she did not know that I joined to escape classes again! How did I beat the other contestants? My cheat mate no my seat mate gave me a tip. He told me the golden rule for multiple choice! When in doubt choose C and so I did and won. Maybe you should try it, perhaps you will C.
Lastly, priorities. At 30, I am not married. In China, they would call me leftover or what we call the Filipino piece just like that last piece of Chickenjoy nobody wants to take not like Maria Clara she was in demand. Sometimes I feel bad and try to find matches in Tinder but my aunt’s words are making me hopeful. She said I should be happy to be single and morena because I can attract more foreign men and you know what they say… With foreign men comes better currency… Think personal ATM, enough dollar and euros for pasalubong for the entire clan! See getting married is not my priority unlike Maria Clara who was okay with being a second class citizen, I want to be a Queen B! I want to run my own business and perhaps rule the world.
My looks, behaviour and belief and priorities are really not that of Maria Clara but more of Gabriela, strong, opinionated, motivated and of course fierce. Despite not fitting in the Maria Clara, I do love my country this is why I stay despite being a registered nurse so I can defend it against every Facebook troll!
Clearly we should stop questioning people’s nationality just because they do not fit the typical stereotype.
We should not define being Filipina based on the height of our nose, our karaoke skills or our ability to eat 10 cups of rice more than what we should look at is love for culture and fellowmen.
I am definitely no Maria Clara, I am a modern Filipina, your Gabriela. How about you? Are you living the stereotype? Break out of it, I will still see you as a Filipino, or Filipina rather.
Anyways back to the question and answer. Thank you for that wonderful question Steve! I believe that the essence of a Filipina is being confidently beautiful with or without papaya!
Back to you contest chair…
Making people laugh is definitely difficult I found out the minute I delivered my first ever humorous speech. Not only do you have to come up with jokes that the audience can relate to all your actions, vocal variety and pauses matter. I was lucky enough to win our Club contest and made it even farther than I ever did when I first competed. This time, I made it as an Area 23 representative and the competition was far from easy.
For the second time, I competed with guys who already placed in the international arena. There were 5 of us for our division and unfortunately, I did not even make it to top 3 but it was a good experience. I learned that I needed more experience in finding the right mix of material to relate to a bigger audience beyond the millennials.