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I will see the world with wonder, with gratitude, with respect.
I will strive to stay, though ever moving, right in the happy middle: the intersection of longing and contentment. I will not close my eyes to the harsh realities of life and will endeavor to respond with compassion and action, but I will keep my rose-colored glasses on hand, in my carry-on, and remember to count my blessings.

I will not count how many countries I’ve been to, though I won’t think poorly of people who do. I will try to resist the temptation to count because I don’t want the number to be my motivation. I don’t want to travel just to tick a place off a list. I don’t want to say: “My name is X and I have been to Y out of Z countries,” though there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I just don’t want to feel like I’ve left behind the rat race only to join the passport stamp race. I’m sure the number is much less than I would want it to be and much more than majority of the people in this planet will ever have the means to achieve.

I will travel because I want to, in the manner that I want to, and I will allow others the courtesy to do likewise. I hope never to catch myself saying those who can’t leave behind the comforts of home should stay home. I hope never to become the sort of person who thinks I have the right or omniscience to dictate who should and shouldn’t travel, and how. I hope never to get sucked into “traveler versus tourist,” a distinction that may have started as a well-meaning attempt to describe different levels of interaction with a place, but is now too often a none-too-subtle ploy to pat one’s own back: a traveler is me and a tourist is someone not like me. I will always endeavor to dive deep into a place, to hear the hidden drum beat to which it marches. But I will not judge those who rush from place to place, for it may be the only time they have, with the wealth they have or lack thereof, to see the places they’ve always longed to see with their own eyes. I will not be the sort of self-validating traveler who thinks he is better than people who have never been outside their hometowns. I believe — no matter what Mark Twain says — that a person who stays in one corner of the earth all his life can still be capable of “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men.” I believe a person’s passport does not define his character. And I believe people who have truly sucked the marrow of the road will have hearts too full to find fault in others.

I will challenge myself. I will talk to locals and fellow travelers even though I’m someone who usually keeps to herself. I will try to capture an experience, in words and in images, the best way I know how, but I will also take time to just savor the moment, that even if my notebook gets lost or my camera gets stolen, the memory will have been burned into my heart to keep forever.

I will not stop dreaming. Someday I will see Antarctic penguins, northern lights, Scottish highlands, cherry blossoms, sunny vineyards, gloomy cliffs, pink beaches, purple trees, glorious lions in the wild…. And I will encourage people to dream. I will never tire of telling them: someday you will see Antarctic penguins, northern lights, Scottish highlands, cherry blossoms, sunny vineyards, gloomy cliffs, pink beaches, purple trees, and glorious lions in the wild.

I will inspire by being ordinary. There are too many inspiring stories of people who leave everything behind in order to travel the world. I will tell stories of people who stay, who find contentment in what would seem a humdrum life, who work and go home and save $10 a month in their travel fund, most of the paycheck having already gone to milk for their kids and educational funds and utility bills…and who, after 10 years, finally go on a whirlwind 5-day dream trip to Paris. I will celebrate the courage of working with what you have, the heroism of looking at the banal and saying: “This is my life and I am happy with it.”

I will travel whenever I can, for as long as I can, and while doing so I will create a home worth going back to. I want to be excited to leave and happy to return. I will create such a home that when my children and my children’s children go out, in their turn, to explore the world, no matter where their feet may take them, they will always feel that the best place on earth to be is still home.


The SMALL-TOWN GIRLS, MIDNIGHT TRAINS Travel Manifesto” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.


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She took the midnight train going anywhere

SGMT train station

There’s nothing romantic about midnight trains.

Oh, there’s romance in the notion of stepping from a wooden platform onto a steel carriage, from solid ground to motion, to adventure, to the dark.

There’s nothing romantic about not knowing where, exactly, in the designated platform of a rather long train, two people with a ticket that says “CNL 1319, 2 Liegeplätze, Wg. 186, Pl. 55 56, 2 Oben, Abteil, Nichtraucher, inkl. Zuschlag” should stand to wait for their car; nothing romantic about expecting the cars to be ordered numerically all throughout, then finding out they’re not, then having to decide — fast! — whether to go forward or back; nothing romantic about deciding, at the last minute, to board a random car and searching from car to car for the right car and the right compartment; nothing romantic about dragging your luggage along narrow corridors and having to wait for rowdy groups of people to settle themselves into their compartments so that you can pass by to get to yours.

There is, I suppose, something romantic about the thought of going to sleep in Paris and waking up in Venice, as if transported by dreams in a drizzle of pixie dust.

In unromantic reality, you wake up when the authorities need to see your ticket and your passport, and again when they are returned to you. Or if the air conditioning is wonky, you wake up every 30 minutes or so: when it becomes too hot, and again when it becomes too cold. That is if you can sleep at all, in your cramped berth, your 1 couchette in a crowded car of 6.

And yes, it might be romantic: the idea of 6 strangers seemingly thrown together by fate, their life’s journeys interconnected for a time altogether too brief.

What’s not so romantic? Not being able to sit up in bed, having to creep into it, and staring at the roof of the train just a few inches from your nose, because a 6-couchette compartment in a 12-compartment 26-meter car does not a penthouse suite make.

So honestly?

There is nothing romantic about midnight trains.

Just the idea of them.

And yet…

I still love them.

I love that the experience is raw and real, not a smooth ride contrived for my paying convenience.

I love that they remind me of why I travel: to experience the unfamiliar, even when it’s uncomfortable.

And I love that they remind me of my favorite stories, the ones with happy endings. They give me hope that, someday, after the curveballs and the uncertainty and the discomfort and the pain, in the end I will be exactly where I am supposed to be.

(In Venice, sipping a latte.)

Caledonian Sleeper_15


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8 Things Doctors and Nurses Need to Do During an In-Flight Medical Emergency

Airplane wings sky_1200x630

In all the times I’ve traveled, I’ve only ever witnessed one in-flight medical emergency. A middle-aged businessman had temporarily lost consciousness but was okay within a few minutes; altogether, nothing too serious. Still, there was a moment of heightened alertness when we all heard over the airplane’s PA system, “Is there a doctor on board?” I wouldn’t want to get sick on a trip — especially not while 30,000 feet above ground! — but if I were to have an emergency, I would hope that a doctor (or two, or three) would be on board to help me out.

Here are the things doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals need to do in case of a medical emergency on the plane, as compiled from tips by the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) and two studies on in-flight medical emergencies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Before every flight, keep in mind that you may be asked to provide medical assistance on board.

In-flight medical emergencies are relatively rare — a 2013 study published in the NEJM estimates that 44,000 such incidents occur worldwide every year, or 1 every 604 flights — but you never know when that one flight will be the flight you’re in. Researchers found that during an in-flight medical emergency, assistance is often rendered by healthcare professionals who happen to be on board as passengers, usually doctors (48.1%) and/or nurses (20.1%).
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Yikes! That’s S$4 not S$5.

Bloopers in my Singapore article (shame shame shame)

SGMT Food Laksa

If you read my Rappler article on Singapore, you may or may not have noticed that one line had a horrendous bit of math in it:

Budget for food:
S$5 (₱175/meal) x 2 meals/day x 5 days = ₱1,400

Short story

That line should have read:

Budget for food:
S$4 (₱140/meal) x 2 meals/day x 5 days = ₱1,400

I was careless and now I’ve put all my Math teachers to shame.

* hides under blanket and never comes out *

Long story

For quite a while, I debated with myself on whether to set a budget of S$4 or S$5 per meal. It’s not a very big difference (just around ₱35) but if you’re a budget traveler, amounts like that matter, especially over several days. I went back and forth between “S$5 (₱175/meal) x 2 meals/day x 5 days = ₱1,750” and “S$4 (₱140/meal) x 2 meals/day x 5 days = ₱1,400” and eventually managed to muck up the equation upon submission to Rappler.

Sorry. 🙁

Why did I eventually go with a budget of S$4 per meal — or a total of ₱1,400 for 5 days?

First of all, S$1 goes to drinks, so that leaves S$3 for the food itself.

The Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry has this nifty online directory of budget hawker food. The list contains all the hawker center stalls that sell a particular dish (such as chicken rice) for a price at or below the 30th percentile price of that particular food. I shan’t go into a detailed explanation of what percentiles are but, roughly, the 30th percentile price of chicken rice means that 30% of hawker stalls would be selling chicken rice below that price.

In other words, it’s the price that us budget travelers would be interested in.

As of the second quarter of 2015, these were the 30th percentile prices of popular dishes in Singapore (this is according to the SG government, so you know it’s legit):

  • Roti Prata – S$0.80
  • Nasi Lemak – S$2.00
  • Vegetarian Bee Hoon – S$2.00
  • Char Siew Rice – S$2.50
  • Chicken Rice – S$2.50
  • Fishball Noodles – S$2.50
  • Lontong – S$2.50
  • Mee Rebus – S$2.50
  • Mee Siam – S$2.50
  • Minced Pork Noodle – S$2.50
  • Porridge – S$2.50
  • Wanton Mee – S$2.50
  • Economical Rice – S$2.70
  • Ban Mian – S$2.80
  • Duck Rice – S$3.00
  • Fried Kway Teow – S$3.00
  • Horfun – S$3.00
  • Laksa – S$3.00
  • Malay Chicken Rice – S$3.00
  • Mee Goreng – S$3.00
  • Nasi Padang – S$3.50
  • Nasi Biryani – S$4.50

As you can see, all dishes but two have a price of S$3 or less, including favorites such as chicken rice, duck rice, laksa, nasi lemak, and mee goreng.

That’s why I eventually decided on a budget per meal of S$4 including drinks. I figured it would make more sense to set a base budget of S$4 — anyway, that’s what most budget meals will cost — and then if someone can afford to buy more expensive food then yay!

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I did mess up the numbers in my actual article so…

Mea culpa!

I’m very sorry for the confusion. It’s still quite possible to go on a 5-day trip to Singapore for ₱9,500 — just fix the budget for food. 🙂


On my first attempt to get to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, being a bit of an idiot I ended up 40 km away, in Nara. But I found my way to the shrine later that day.

SGMT Japan Kyoto Fushimi Inari 03

The distinctively orange torii gates of Fushimi Inari are paid for by companies or individuals — their names are etched on the back of the gate they donate. Torii gates in Shinto shrines usually mark the entrance to the shrine. In Fushimi Inari, there are two parallel rows of gates going uphill, a long procession of orange and black, shadow and sunlight.

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Blue and Good

At this time last week I was with my family on a beach in Davao. 

My niece Syd, because I didn't do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

My niece Syd, because I didn’t do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

This week, right now, past midnight, my sunburned little nose is still stuck in front of the computer because I have to catch up on all the work I wasn’t able to do while on vacation.

It’s all good.

I don’t have much but I have a life that lets me do a little bit of everything I want and need to do, and, most importantly, lets me be with the people I love most almost all the time. It’s a good life. I am thankful.

Bless Their Hearts

Paris_Gaya_SGMTWhen I get negative reactions to something I write, I try not to respond in kind. For one, it’s likely to be a waste of time — people believe what they want to believe — but also, I don’t want people to know that they can get to me. When your work depends, at least in part, on public sentiment, it’s a risk to react in the normal human way, to show that insensitive and poorly thought out comments can hurt you, that you’re anything other than a good sport, that you care.


To be a writer you need to develop thick skin. Here in the WordPress community, it isn’t always necessary — people here are generally smart and open-minded and kind (or at least polite). It’s different in the outside world. You could write something totally innocuous and get a ton of negativity for it.

One time, I wrote an article about how to go on a trip to Paris for only ₱50,000. You see, I used to not even dream about European trips because I thought only the filthy rich would be able to afford them, so when I found my non-filthy-rich self there and learned ways to keep down travel expenses, I was eager to share everything I had learned. When Rappler published my article I was beyond elated…and then I saw the comments.

Only for the hotel

Why go if you don't have the budget

Filipinos are struggling

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Etihad Airways Global Sale — Up to 40% Discount on Flights!

Sale Dates: 22nd – 28th April
Travel: Until 9th May 2016 – 28th Feb 2017


Click on any of the images to go to the Etihad Airways website.

Etihad Airways is having a major sale — up to 40% off! — on its flights worldwide, including flights from the Philippines. Here’s a sample of the promo fares available:

Etihad Airways Global Sale

Flights from the Philippines

From the Philippines, the best (cheapest) destination seems to be Venice…

Bacolod City – Venice — from $ 828
Cagayan De Oro City – Venice — from $ 857
Cebu – Venice — from $ 866
Davao City – Venice — from $ 869
Iloilo City – Venice — from $ 828
Kalibo – Venice — from $ 828
Laoag City – Venice — from $ 828
Manila – Venice — from $ 719

…while the best place to depart from is (naturally) Manila.

Manila – Berlin — from $ 719
Manila – Manchester — from $ 812
Manila – Dublin — from $ 868
Manila – Amsterdam — from $ 874
Manila – Milan — from $ 887
Manila – Geneva — from $ 898
Manila – Abu Dhabi — from $ 914
Manila – Dubai — from $ 914
Manila – Edinburgh — from $ 916
Manila – Rome — from $ 926
Manila – Athens — from $ 940
Manila – Vienna — from $ 951
Manila – Frankfurt — from $ 957
Manila – Paris — from $ 967
Manila – Munich — from $ 979
Manila – New York NY — from $ 1078
Manila – London — from $ 1093
Manila – Madrid — from $ 1096
Manila – Chicago IL — from $ 1118

Fares for departures from Cebu:

Cebu – Venice — from $ 866
Cebu – Amsterdam — from $ 1016
Cebu – Edinburgh — from $ 1059
Cebu – Paris — from $ 1107
Cebu – Dusseldorf — from $ 1130

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