Flip Floppin’ Traveler goes to Siem Reap

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November 4 to 13, 2014. The flip floppin’s traveler was able to answer the strong call of wanderlust that he had been hearing for almost a year now.

Yes, I had 9 days to travel! And how my soul was doing cartwheels the sooner it arrived. And now, I’m going to write about it.

Now 9 days seems fairly short but for me it was actually long already. This trip was intended to be one week only but since I absent-mindedly booked additional two days since there were no more flight seats on sale for the 1 week trip. I just said “go with it!”. The call for wanderlust was just that strong.

What is different with this trip is that I will be doing it SOLO for the first time ever. Well, I have travelled locally to prepare for this but hey, it is still a daunting thing to face. But then again, you will never know when you are ready unless you do it. So I packed by backpack with clothes and soaked up on the online information and was ecstatic to go.

My destination: The Kingdom of Cambodia through the city famous for their ancient temples, Siem Reap.

I arrived in Siem Reap, instead of November 4, but on the 5th already because of some delays. I was sort of bummed out for it but just thought otherwise as I am now on explorer mode. My initial stay in Siem Reap was with The Siem Reap Hostel, the highly recommended one based on online resources. I met two Filipinas also heading for Siem Reap in the airport in Manila and they were also going to stay in the same hostel. So we were picked up by our tuktuk driver, and arrived at the hostel past 12 mn. We checked in and called it a night, or rather a morning.

This is the first part of my stay in Siem Reap.  I spent two days then decided to take the bus and head for Bangkok and spent another two days there then headed back through train to the border then bus back to Siem Reap and Stay in Jasmine Family Hostel and stayed three more days before heading back home.

Did I mentioned that I had no planned itinerary for the entire 9 day stay? Yup! I figured I would just wing it each day passes confirming this trip as a #YOLO (you only live once).

Now these are the things that I did in the small town of Siem Reap in the days that I was there:

1. Angkor National Museum

Soak up on Cambodian culture and on history of the temples. This was recommended by my good friend, the footloosefoodie, who did this travel a year back. Solo as well. He mentioned that this museum will help you understand the temples, why it was created and the stories that are inscribed in its walls.

I spent a total of 4 hours here skipping lunch an emerging from the museum at almost 5PM. And you guessed it correctly, I am a museum junkie.

They have a number of exhibits that show their religion Buddhism, Hinduism, and King worship, as well as how and why the temples were built.

Museum entrance cost USD 12. But if you would like to have an audio guide with you, you need to pay additional USD 3. The audio sections of the museum are a bit limited but the additional information are just OK. No need also to take the tuktuk, you can easily walk it from where ever your hostel is located. Or better yet, take a bike with you to get there.

2. Temple hopping at the Angkor Archaeological Park Cambodia

Entrance to the Angkor grounds costs you per day:

  1. 1 day pass = USD 20
  2. 3 day pass = USD 40
  3. 7 day pass = USD 60

They may appear costly, but believe me they are worth it! I only took the one day pass and hired a tuktuk to take me to the temples. Your local hostel will most probably have packages available for you depending on the temples you would like to visit. They have the small circuit (consisting of about 5 to 8 temples) and the big circuit (consisting of 8 to 12 temples). Apart from that they also have sun rise and sun set packages where you can see the rise and fall of the sun on selected temples.

I opted to visit Bantay Srei, Pre Rup, Ta Phrom, Angkor Throm (Bayon), and Angkor Wat . The trip cost me USD 25 which I think was worth it because Bantay Srei was really FAR. I took us almost 2 hours to get there but it was worth it! Bring a bottle of water to quench your thirst. It can really get hot

TIP: the tuktuk drivers will tell you that biking to the temples is really far. But in reality it is doable! I’ve met a number of tourist who did it. So I decided to do it. I made it to the place where you buy tickets but was stopped mid cycle by police (afraid!). Apparently, anyone can pass through the road 5:30 pm onwards. But since my bicycle didn’t have lights for night travel, I had to turn back. So if you bought the 3 or 7 day pass, you can go biking and you will save up on your tuktuk fare.

TIP: Share the tuktuk to be more cost effective. If you meet people in your hostel that would also like to visit the same temples you would like to visit, it is worth it to share.

TIP: as you might have read on other blogs, if you purchase your tickets at about 5:00 to 5:30 PM, you can have get in the temples for free to view the sunset and come back the following day for a full day of temple exploration!

3. Bike around the town

Siem Reap is a really quaint town and very picturesque at that. Especially, the park along the river with several benches along its banks. I was there during the Loy Kratong festival but was not able to witness the festivities that happened along the river mainly because it was a bit crowded with tourist and locals alike. A big mistake on my part as it was by chance that my travel period coincides with the festival. Well, maybe I’ll just come back next year for it.

There are also a number of Wats or Buddhist temples that you can visit around town. Some of the Wats are really old and you can see monks within the compounds doing their daily routines of praying, cleaning the temple grounds or tinkering with their smart phones and tablets (yes, they also live in the 21st century).

All the Wats are right next to schools and had a chance to get to see Cambodian students in school. Make sure to ask permission first and check if you can walk around. Be mindful also not to distract children and the teachers in their class. You might get lucky and a class might take a break during your visit.

I actually took a bike and just rode around town. I followed the river and got to see how everyday life for the locals are. I highly recommend doing it also. The town is a bit small and I am sure your can find your way back into the city and your hostel.

Bike rentals at your hostel can either come for free or would range from USD 1 – 2 per day. Yes. That is per day. So this is the cheapest mode of transport there is.

TIP: as always, double check the tires and breaks of the bike that you are renting. Some bike rentals may offer cheap rates but will charge you USD 1 for any damage.

TIP: bring your own bike locks. I read somewhere that there are cases that the bike locks provided have duplicates and are stolen by people and returned to their rentals while you are hassled looking for it and would have to pay for it. Better sure than sorry.

4. Go on a shopping bonanza at the Old Market

The Old Market is the place to buy souvenirs, live produce, exotic food, silver ware and antiques. Yes! You can find them there as well as fried crickets or fried black beetles while you shop.

You have the tank tops and t-shirts that have different designs of either “I love Cambodia” or elephant designs or cultural designs. There was even a tank top that I bought that reads “SAME SAM” in the front and reads “BUT DIFFERENT” at the back. Apparently, this design is popular with tourist. I bought two tank tops actually. Well, I think I got what the wordings meant. Now the tank tops and shirts costs about USD 5 to 8 per piece.

There are also wallets sold of different designs where you can buy USD 3 to 5 for 5 pieces (these comes in packs); while there are ones that costs USD 1 each.

There are also pajama like pants (I don’t know what they are called but you will get it when you see them) that comes in thin fabrics that you can use to sleep in or walk around in. these items are generally unisex (well, it depends on your preference). BUT the absolute things to get here are the pajamas that are triangular when spread out. It looks like a skirt when you wear it but it is actually a pajama too. It is kinda hard to explain but again you will get it when you see it. These stuff also costs about USD 8 to 10 per piece

There are also silver trinkets that you would might want to take home with you. I believe that Siem Reap have amazing artisans around the city who make these stuff. You can get bangles and figurines of elephants or apsaras or little silver boxes where you can put stuff in. Really pretty. I was not able to ask how much they cost.

TIP: HAGGLE! Yes! As with any market place you can haggle for prices specially if you are planning to buy more than 3 pieces of the items. Now, call me cheap (by all means, I accept this comment well), but I haggled my best here to get stuff for people back home. The tank tops I was able to get USD 3 a piece for two pieces; the shirts, I was able to get USD 24 for 5 pieces; the triangular pants I was able to get USD 5 per piece for 3 pieces.

TIP: If the seller would not budge on what you want, the ultimate technique is to slowly walk away. Then count to about 3, and the seller will call out to you and give you another offer or your desired price.

5. Party at Pub Street

There is a fairly decent party scene in Siem Reap by the Pub Street. Don’t worry about not locating it. You will find it. Just follow the neon lights. You won’t miss it promise.

Like in every city, the Pub Street is where you can let loose and party the night away. The hippest place seems to be Temple Bar and Angkor What? which are situated in front of each other.

A new found friend went out with me to the pub street and we checked out Angkor What? The place just stood out for me because of all the graffiti that you can see from the outside. While Temple Bar was just a bit the same as a sort of posh bar. For me Angkor What? had   more character.

Now a glass of draft beer cost USD 1.50 for Angkor Beer and Anchor Beer. Don’t be confused with the spelling now! But either way, they are both local beers and it would not matter anymore when you get drunk now would it? Eh? Now cocktails are also available. But if you want a bucket of beer or cocktails, you will be literally be given a bucket with the alcoholic concoction with straws to sip. Seems hygienic enough plus the bucket contains alcoholic beverages some of which are known to be disinfectants too so I would not worry about it too much. Again, all of this would not matter if you are drunk.

There are other bars and pubs along the street, but the Temple Bar and Angkor What are the, let’s say, happiest and there is a time that the crowds pour out on the Pub Street and the party pics up from there.

CAUTION: there would be locals offering you marijuana. I was SO tempted to try it but the image of me being locked up abroad in a foreign country didn’t appeal to me as much so I begged off the drugs.

6. EAT

Yes eat! There are a number of restaurants lining up and down the city. Cafes, restaurants, pizza joints, ice cream parlors litter the town. Everything is just walking distance from the Old Market. There are actually Thai, Mexican, Western, Indian food joints also. Meals range from USD 5 to 18. A bit pricey indeed.

Now since I am on a budget, I only ate at USD 1 to 3 places. But I would recommend this joint run by Wan and she specializes in stir fried noodles Cambodian style. Each order is only USD 1. You have an option of using Cambodian noodles (short stubby ones that kinda looks like bean sprouts) and Vietnamese ones (these comes in pack). Each order also comes with a sunny-side up egg. Wan’s Cambodian Noodle joint is located at almost the end of the airport road. It is this small food cart next to a school on the left side of the temple. You won’t miss it. And Wan is just an amazing person to talk to. Please give her place a visit and eat her noodles and you will be coming back for more.

If you are into the exotic, you may chance upon a person who would sell fried crickets and fried beetles. I personally tried the fried crickets and it surprisingly tastes like small deep fried shrimps. It is was surprisingly good. The beetles were a bit daunting for me so I skipped it. But I would have tried deep fried tarantulas and scorpions though.

7. Learn to cook Khmer food or make pottery.

Some restaurants offer Khmer food cooking classes. These are located in the alleyways within Pub Street. It is not dingy as you might think. These one are legit though I forgot that name of the restaurant. But for sure, you can check with you hostel.

Pottery classes are also offered.

8. GIVE BACK

Based on history, we know that Cambodia went through a lot. And they need all the help that they can get.

You can research the best possible way that you can give back but I recommend visiting Life and Hope Organization online or go to Wat Damak in Siem Reap and ask the monks to volunteer. They would be able to assign you.

The monks of Wat Damak together with Life and Hope Organization are working hand in hand to teach English to their students, build houses, provide food to remote communities, teach livelihood programs to locals. Robert Pattinson (yes, the hot vampire LOL) donated shelter for female students who were taught how to sew.

There are other organizations definitely but please do select carefully.

 

Siem Reap has definitely a lot to offer same as with any other country. Because of the locals that I met, the small town grew close to my heart honesty. I would have stayed longer if I had the time. But alas, everyone has to go back to reality right?

Do proper research and plan accordingly to make any trip organized. Or you can just wing it like I did.

flippin’ out!

 

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Mascardo Boys

InstagramCapture_cb64f388-5c95-4bd8-badc-1df19a701a08[1]January 2012. i have gained my quasi independence! yey me! and i am finally am renting.

nope, i am not that rich to get a place by myself. well, yet, that is. so i ended up joing two of my friends from college. we knew each other since our third year and we have been co officers in our college’s student council for two years and have been friends ever since. and despite pursuing diffent careers, we’ve kept in touch.

they were already rooming for two months before i came in after discovering that their place was walking distance from a previous employment. i asked themif i can join in and they said yes! there was the matter of convincing my folks but i eventually got their approval after a lengthy discussion might i add. i moved in January of 2012.

we called ourselves the mascardo boys after the street of our rented place although they were the boys and i was otherwise.

the 1st few days consisted of adjusting to each other. who would wake up first to take a bath. who would do the chores what time they’d arrive and what time we all would turn for the night. since they already had a double deck, i had to bring my matress and set it up every night which was ok by me.

i actually tookthe reaponsibility if cleaning. well youknow how boys are: unless it is really dirty or if there would be guests coming over, that’s the only tine to clean. i was more than willing to do the cleaning and tidying up. i even bought an apron to feel the part (LOL). then if the schedule permits, we would wait up for each other and have dinner together.

it was like were a family looking out foreach other and sometimes it would seem like i was in a relationship with them. yeah, a good brotherly one at that.

it was awesome!

it went one for almost 2 years for me and a full two years for them.

alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end. two months ago, we decided to give up the place due to some changes in life and career.

i am sad in all honesty. it feels like in breaking up with this two people whom i’ve had an amazing run with for almost two years. call me clingy but in reality, it is what i feel right now.

but instead of being sad about it, i’d rather share how happy i was to room with them as well as the things that i would miss about them. here are the list:

1. Ma-Ling nights
what the heck is Ma-Ling you might ask? it is chinese luncheon meat best fried to a crisp and enjoyed with rice and ketchup plus soup. this was one of our bonding nights. i would normally cook it, somebody would buy rice and somebody would do the dishes after we’ve eaten. we used to do this every week but due to changes in work, we haven’t done it in a while

2. Movie nights
this would normally coincide with ma-ling nights. so we have this contraption what allows us to watch movies on the tv so long as the file is saved in a USB. we’d watch one or two movies sometimes during midweek and sleep late. the genre normally is horror, suspense or action

3. Biglaang Dine-out
when ever we find ourselves together and have cravings, we would satisfy it by eating out. it could be as simple as twister fries, jolly spaghetti, savory tapsilog or awesome burgers, we’d do it. provided if we had budget that is.

4. Talking ’til when ever
this is what i’ll miss the most. all the talking about future plans, what happened in the past, what’s happening at work, the cartoons we uaed to watch, some funny memes we cames across on facebook, what’s in the news. well i think it already establishes what type of relationship we had. sometimes we’d forget the time and realize that it’s two in the morning then we would turn in for the night or rather the morning

5. The Best in ______
we had this thing about awarding what we are best at. no rewards just the title. we still have an on going battle for the best in workaholic (im not in the running for this) but normally grab the best in science and best in conyo all the time. LOL

6. Playing hookie/ staying at the dorm
we only did the hookie thing on our 1st year. there was a sudden attack of tamaditis and we just thought to skip work and just hit the mall. we had to choose one far from makati where we all worked that time. it was good. though there were also a couple of times we were stuck in the dorm during typhoons. so we spent those days either sleepibg, talking or staying at a nearby mall.

7. Let’s VOLT IN
no, we are not robots that converge to form a bigger robot to save the world. but, when somebody needs help in work, we would putour heads together and help each other out. three heads are better than one right? where it is a marketing plan or an promotional essay, you name it, we can do it.

admittedly coming home after work was something to look forward too. need less to say, we were stress buster for each other.

but again, the reality is kicking in.

before getting to the dorm was a delight. it was like my space that was i share with two other guys despite the clutter of all the stuff. now, it’s tidier. some items are already packed for pick up. not like what it was before.

i honestly cried a bit when i noticed it. it really feels like i’m breaking up with two people whom i was with for a two year fun filled smooth ride to somewhere that didn’t matter because of all the fun that we were having.

things will never be the same

to the mascardo boys, you know who you are. I WILL MISS YOU by this MMMMMMUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHH! i understand that this has to happen and i’ll come into terms with myself in time. we’ve gotten to know each other better in those two years. i wish you all the best in everything.

i love you guys, seriously

Things to do to combat “Petsa de Peligro”

What does “petsa de peligro” mean?

Well, this is a term that I have heard in the course of my professional life. Literally, it translates to “day of danger”. But it is not like danger as in danger in life that will eventually lead to pain, injury or death.

This phrase is commonly used during a period wherein your wallet or ATM or cash on hand is running low and payday seems so SO far away and it gets you wondering “how will get through?’. So you got it? I hope so.

I think almost every young professional at one point experienced petsa de peligro. Heck, I am still experiencing this even now that I’ve been working for more than 6 years now. I know what your thinking, I should have had some sort of savings from all those 6 years but unfortunately, I have nothing. I even have to make “katok sa ginintuan puso (knock on the golden hearts)” of my parents at times when all else fail. In short, I borrow money from them to be paid off or to be compensated by doing errands or helping them out for something they need. I know, I should be self sufficient by now. But like i said, I have nothing. Well, I think I’m richer in other aspects.

So what are the causes of petsa de peligro?

1. Spending beyond your means – Yup. You might have not budgeted your cash on hand well to a point that you over spend and leave nothing for your day to day spending.

2. Emergency cases – Well, there are things that happen unexpectedly that will mess with ones budget plan.

3. You got less than what you were expecting – What I mean by this is that what you saw in your pay slip was less than the usual you got for that cut off. Reasons may include deductions from tardiness, increase in taxes or monthly deductions.

4. Absence of Budget plan – Let’s face it, majority of us have no budget plan. Or rather, the discipline to stick to that plan. Am I right or am I right?

It is really not sure if I covered it all but am sure that I got the major ones.

So, can you relate?

You might be asking, how can we prevent entering petsa de peligro.

1. Be in the KNOW – Simply put you need to know the following things:

  • What you EARN – know what is your income and how often it comes
  • What you SPEND – daily, weekly and monthly spending is crucial. What I mean is daily is as in every thing you spend on a day: from a transpo expense, a pack of cigarettes, your snack. EVERYTHING. Tally everything up so you know where your money goes
  • WANT or NEED – from your list of expenses, identify what is a necessity or luxury

2. PLAN – given the data that you have, you need to determine expense that you can afford to cut off or at the least, trim down.

3. Put SAVE in your equation – you can put money from the trimmed down or cut off expense into savings. I know finance people say that the proper equation is INCOME less SAVINGS is EXPENSE. But I think this only applies to people who have enough income to cover their expenses. Don’t you agree?

4. Stick to the PLAN – this is the difficult part honestly. Sticking to it. I have problems on this area. I always say ” Stick to the PLAN or the world will STICK you up”. I wouldn’t want that believe me.

But if you are already in the “petsa de peligro” phase, then here are the things that I recommend doing:

1. COUNT your pennies – I know it sucks but you got to know what you have remaining. So take a look at your last withdrawal slip. I would also recommend scouring your bags for spare change. It will help believe me.

2. PAY DAY – Oh yes! The much awaited day! One needs to know how may days left you have till your cup will be full again. Divide it with what you have to know how much you have to spend each day.

3. Know your OPTIONS – More often than not, the resulting everyday budget is a big STRETCH! So adjust your spending particularly on your necessities like food and transportation cigarettes (they’re one of mine). Go for the cheaper ones For example, food from a carinderia/ food stall/ jolly jeep (if you work in Makati) are cheap! Convenience store like 7-11 and Ministop have options too. Oh, and eat slowly. It will make you feel full longer. As for transportation, go public or if you can walk to your office, the better Just remember to adjust your time though to factor in.

4. Make and stick to the PLAN – this is really crucial. It is hard to do it but it is not impossible.

And if all else fail…

5. Borrow with the INTENTION to PAY – borrowing entails a responsibility. Make sure that you also plan for this and commit to settling it.

I’ve been through a number of petsa de peligro days myself and have no sufficient fingers to count for it. And to be honest. I’ve learned the hard way with the help of some of my friends’ and parents advice.

Yes, I acknowledge that it is a reality but it can be over come and ultimately preventable. I am still fighting to be debt free at the moment.

Now, I do take these steps to heart but have lapses of my own due to lack of discipline and that “bahala na si Batman” attitude. But at the end of the day, I always say to my self, Batman won’t pay for my dues as he is a fictional character. Plus I don’t want to live by the pay check.

I hope this was of help somehow.

flippin’ out!

#DengueDiaries

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November 4, 2015

It started out as my normal day. I woke up at 7AM, Slept some more, Got up at 7:30AM and franticly rushed to get myself ready for work. By 7:50, I was out the door and squeezing my way in to a tricycle to get to my bus stop.

Now my normal commute takes me about an hour or two to get to the office. It was a bit traffic (as usual, when was it not traffic?!). But by the time I passed MRT Taft Station, I suddenly have this feeling of hotness. No, not hot as in va-va-voom. Literally, hot. Since it would take me about 20 minutes to get to the office, I had to hang in there.

I arrived in the office at around 9:20, I dropped my bag, fired up my laptop and email then when directly to the clinic where I found out I had a 37.7 °C fever. I was advised to take a paracetamol and go back to the nurse after an hour for another check of my temperature. It went down to 37.1 °C and I decided to go on with my BUSY (when have I ever been not busy?).

The previous week I was already having stressful one. To top that off, I have been feeling under the weather also. Such is life I guess? When you have SO many things to do, you get sick. So I was… What was the operative word? Hanging in there… Yup that’s the one. I was hanging in there. I was doing a pretty good job but then lunch came and I feel my fever progress. I decided to take the rest of the day off. After doing all the important ones, I packed my stuff, then hailed a taxi to take me home.

The cabbie who took me in noticed that I was sick. He mentioned I need to take in water always and keep hydrated, We also chit chatted about other stuff that I barely recall.

When I got home, my mother took my temperature and it was a whooping 39.9 °C! I immediately crashed to the sofa and snoozed off. The rest of the day was me sleeping, being roused to eat or take meds, going to the bathroom to pee the sleep again. And repeat.

 

November 5, 2015

My temperature was fluctuating like crazy. It would dip to 37.9 °C then rise to 39.9°C in a span of an hour.

I was just thinking that I had flu primarily to the high temperatures that I experience as well as migraine, stomach pains then numb limbs. Yup, sure felt like flu. But boy, I was wrong.

The rest of the day was me sleeping, being roused to eat or take meds, going to the bathroom to pee the sleep again. And repeat.

Around midday, I was feeling a bit itchy. Rashes were forming on my face. I panicked a bit. I was guessing I had dengue.

I asked my mother if she can accompany me to the ER at the nearest hospital. We took a tricycle and 30 minutes later, I was in the ER for the first time. Well, I’ve been to the ER a few time. It would be first time that I will checking myself in. Since my case was not fatal, it took a while for the doctor to take a look at me. It was just cold in the ER and I did not expect it. It was a good thing my mother had a scarf. After waiting for 2 hours for the blood test results, it was confirmed, I have dengue fever.

Dengue fever is caused by a mosquito bite where in the dengue parasite enters the blood stream then attacks your platelets inhibiting the blood’s ability to coagulate. Hence, if you encounter any bleeding, your blood will just continue flowing.

Based on my blood work, I still have 272 level of platelets, very far from the critical levels.

I was given two options: one was to go home and go back again the following morning for another round of blood work or two was have to have myself confined for monitoring. I initially wanted to be confined so that I can be monitored by professionals. But unfortunately, the hospital was full and I cannot be admitted. Since I had no choice, I need to go home. It was another ride to get home and it was a doozy.

When we arrived home, my mother used her connections to secure my a room at another hospital. Fortunately, there was an available room the following day.

Spent the rest of the day sleeping, taking meds, peeing and repeat.

 

November 6, 2015

I woke up the following morning, still with fever. I felt like shit but I had to muster all the strength I could and took to the jeep and got myself to an ER again. I went to the University of Perpetual Help Hospital.

I presented my results, but unfortunately, the hospital wanted to do their own test. I was dizzy from the commute from our house to the hospital to care. The doctor who attended to me was a stern one and direct to the point. She asked what meds I took. Mainly paracetamol and antibiotics that my mother insisted I take too. She was not impressed and told us about the danger of self-medication. Was designated a bed in the ER to wait that was supposed to be for pregnant women. I would have smiled but I was again too dizzy to care again. After about almost half an hour, a med tech came in an took my blood while my critic mother and physical therapist brother observed. They didn’t like how the blood was drawn because she poked around my vein as if looking for something. I saw how their eye brows raised but thankfully, they did not comment. It would take about an hour for the blood test to arrive. In the meantime, I was fitted with an IV and got paracetamol and something for nausea through it. Then I also got an anti-histamine shot on my arm afterwards. The nausea drug was given too late I think as I had to find the rest room and puke. When I returned to the ER bed, I dozed off.

After an hour I was roused, to find a doctor, a new one, to discuss the results of my blood work. They confirmed that I have dengue. If the doctor was the same one as who attended me earlier, I would have said “I told you so!”. The new doctor seemed kinder so I shut my mouth. She mentioned that my platelets dropped to 180 level and that I have an option to get myself confined or go home and just return again for the blood work. I told her I wanted to be confined and that we have reserved a room already. She left to confirm my confinement.

Now you might find it weird that I was a bit happy when I said that I wanted to be confined. Well, because in my 29 yrs of existence, I have never been confined nor had dextrose attached to me. It was on my bucket list to be honest. So when they attached a dextrose to my IV and they got me on a wheel chair to be wheeled away to my room, I wanted to do a cartwheel and a high kick of joy. But I couldn’t. I can’t even muster the strength to take a selfie.

I was wheeled to room 326 of the hospital at a time that I was not able to note down. It was definitely in the afternoon. I’m sure of that. I was laid on the bed and my dextrose was placed on the mount and the ER nurse left after us thanking him. I was happy to be confined.

My younger sister volunteered to stay with me over night together with her husband. After bidding my mother, brother and father goodbye, I decided to open my laptop to check up on emails.

Yeah. Yeah. Call me a workaholic, I wouldn’t mind. I also asked my sister to go out and but pizza from a pizza joint. I was thinking that seeing pizza might boost my appetite since pizza (all the meaty ones) are just good. Since I had fever, I lost my drive to eat. So she left and returned with a box of pizza together with their dinner. It took her about 30 minutes to get back. I was on my laptop until she returned. I was dizzy again. I would have thought myself pregnant but how the ef will that happen right? LOL. So I shut down my laptop and decided never to open it again whilst I was still confined.

I was famished and asked for a slice but my taste buds seems to have left for vacation. I was not even able to finish an entire slice! Something was wrong. Really wrong. I knew there was supposed to be dinner to be served from the hospital so I decided to give it a try.

The dinner lady arrived a few minute earlier with hospital food wrapped in cling wrap. It looked OK. But when I took off the cling wrap and got a whiff of the food, my stomach turned. It didn’t smell bad really. But my system didn’t want anything to do with it at the moment I guess. I tried to eat some. But after about 5 spoons of viand and rice, I have had enough. I laid down and slept.

My assigned nurse also came and gave me a urinal as well as a sheet of paper to monitor my liquid intake and outtake. I was like “seriously?”. But as per her, I need to be well hydrated and to monitor it properly, I have to log it. I was told I can’t brush my teeth and have to check my poop if it was black (indication of bleeding) and I can’t eat dark colored foods. I was to expect another blood drawing by tomorrow morning at around 6:00 am. She also gave me oral meds that I had to take. It was a good thing the nurse was nice.

I laid down and waited for On The Wings of Love to start. I guess that was to only good thing being confined brought: I would be able to watch my shows. Well, I didn’t have any other options. After the show, I tried to sleep.

I was able to sleep for about an hour but was awakened by the nurse who was monitoring my liquid intake and outtake, my temperature, my blood pressure, my pulse and how I felt. After the checks, I would doze off only to wake up again either to pee or to deal with the nurse or just lay on the bed.

 

November 7, 2015

My interrupted sleep was yet again interrupted by a med tech who came in at about 6:00 AM who was supposed to draw my blood for testing. I offered up my right arm. Apparently, they have to draw blood from the free arm and not the one with the needle so as not to stress the veins. Fortunately, I was never queasy with needles and blood. I slept again after she left.

I woke up at about 8:00 AM. The food tray has arrived and it still puke-inducing. But I had to eat something. Same as with yesterday, I had about 5 bites, I had enough. I took my meds from the nurse. Then dozed off again to wake up at around 10:00 AM. I had sponge bath and got dressed in them hospital gowns. It seemed impossible for me to think of a way to get my t-shirt off without cutting it but apparently, there was a way to remove them but removing it through the IV. Thank God the nurse knew the way. The hospital gowns were cool. The ones they had were tied at the back. I thought, I’d die because of dengue or pneumonia. LOL

Having spent a night in the hospital was kinda like staying at a hotel but with a nurse monitoring your vital signs every hour or two. The dextrose was also an indicator.

Oh! I forgot the share, that I had like a backflow scare (that rhymed) ! Backflow is when your IV stops and your blood flows through the tubes. Here’s the story. As of this morning, I have consumed about 2 gallons of water already. I thought of myself as part camel because of all the liquid intake. I didn’t have the hump so I discarded the idea. So if you intake water you have to pee a lot. I had like a lot of pee trips that entailed me dragging the IV stand to the bathroom and doing the deed. I did it all by myself (cue in Celine Dion please). So there was this backflow that happened when I was peeing. I had a lot to drink so it was a long pee session to a point that my blood flowed almost the halfway length of the tubes and I only realized it when I got out of the loo. I was like, “call the nurse” to my sister in a calm voice. She was like “why, what happened?”. I showed her the backflow then she dialed for the nurse. The nurse came and fixed it. While she was doing her thing, I asked her, what was the worst thing that can happen because of back flow. As per her, there was no danger. But we have to press the oozed blood out of the tubes and back to my veins. Then we had to make sure that the IV was dripping again. Apparently, even if I successfully tweak the IV to flowing again, I still need to coordinate with the nurses because there is a timing for the flow. Whatever that means. Afterwards, it was a normal day. I watched Eat Bulaga’s Kalye Serye and got my afternoon doze of kilig (yes, AlDub fan right here! #noshame), ate a little (still had no appetite), slept some, got my vitals checked by nurses, took meds, had sponge baths to combat my fever, drank and peed a LOT! And repeat!

Later that afternoon, my older brother came as he would relieve my sister from hospital duties. It was also his birthday so I was a bit guilty of him accompanying me in the hospital as he was supposed to celebrate his birthday. But he insisted as he was the medical practitioner of the family. He insisted of also monitoring my temperature every hour plus sponge baths after wards.

I watched OTWOL again. Then repeated the same routine.

Oh, BTW, my platelet count dropped to 60! Most people would have panicked but, I felt normal.

Also, I got my first visitors. None other than the S.T.A.R.S of Las Pinas! My besties. All 5 of them. They brought stuff for me. Including a container of papaya leaves extract.

I have tried some of the papaya leaves extract from my dad and it taste terrible! It was vomit inducing, swear! I tried it when I got confined but decided to skip it at that time. Well it was yucky for one (argh!) but I thought of drinking it when my platelets drops to less than 50.

Now, I was told that the best way to bring the platelets up was to take two table spoons a day of that hideous papaya leaves extract. Despite my family insisting I take it, I did not budge and I stuck to my decision. I’m stubborn as hell.

About the visit, it was the normal “how are you?’ questions from them. After me letting them know what happened, the jokes followed! The best one being “Ok lang na ma-dengue basta wag lang ma-denggoy!”. I laughed hard at that joke. Then it was back to our normal programming of day to day life, politics and counseling sessions. That was what I was thankful for. That the conversation did not linger on me being sick but rather it went back to what we really like to discuss. I kinda dozed off for about 30 minutes though (my bad STARS!). When I woke up, they said their final “get well soon” and they were off. I felt better after the visit and dozed off with a smile on my face.

 

November 8, 2015.

They day went on just as normal as it can go. Same same as I would say.

By now, I think I have consumed about 4 gallons of water since I got confined. I was beginning to get bored really. I’ve watched Capt. America Winter Soldier thrice already as well as SpiderMan 2. Urgh! If I didn’t have IV stuck to my hands, I would have insisted my family to bring my yarn and knitting needles for something to do. I was thinking about a lot of things. And it was a doozy. I was getting paranoid with work stuff and I was day dreaming of traveling again. Mainly because a year ago on the exact dates, I was out of the country for my first solo backpacking trip to Cambodia and Thailand plus I still had no out of the country travel for the entire year. Bummer for a person who receives and answers the call of wanderlust!.

BTW, from my left hand, my IV had to be transferred to my right. My left hand was a bit swollen. And as per the nurses, it means that the vein is already irritated and the fluids are not received by the vein. The nurse had to go back to their station and come back with new needles. Initially, she got the blue one. But after poking for my veins, she was not able to fully insert it. So we opted for the yellow ones which were a bit smaller. I didn’t mind being poked but it was a bit painful but thank fully, she was able to transfer it. She got me a warm pack to reduce the swelling of my right hand which helped a lot. I guess the maximum time per arm to accommodate IV was two days. Me and my sensitive veins LOL!

I got my second visitor at around 4:00 PM. Ms. Che from my previous employment who lived in Las Pinas also and we still work together for Microsoft. She got me lakatan bananas (she knows I love them bananas LOL). We chatted a bit about work and what was her experience when her son Kiro also had dengue. It was nice to chat with someone who went through the same thing. It was kinda like passing on knowledge of the entire ordeal. She asked if I was taking tawa tawa tea (it’s a local herb that she had Kiro drink to bring up his platelets). I told her I was taking papaya leaves extract and she volunteered to look for tawa tawa and make the tea and bring it back to me at the hospital. I didn’t want to bother her too much but she insisted. She went back after two to three hours and brought the tea and two small bags of quail eggs which also helps. I was eating dinner when she got back. She said that the tea was only good to consume until 12 hrs from when it was made. The tea was still hot so I had to wait for it to cool down. I thanked her for her donations and went to eat the quail eggs together with my dinner.

I ate really slow for some weird reason. It took about an hour for me to finish my meals when normally, I can finish eating 15 minutes tops! Appetite was returning and my tolerance for hospital food was sort of getting stronger. I had to wait for like 15 minutes to get rid of the puking sensation. It was torture. Maybe that was just the effect of being sick.

Before turning in, I decided to have a go at the tawatawa tea. I asked for half a glass. That was me trying to be strategic just in case it tastes foul. LOL. It was a good thing I did that. As you all know, we taste through smelling. Tawa tawaa tea smelled to me as dried up sea moss. If in case you have been to Boracay and smelled the dried up sea moss on it shores, that was how it smelled. With my sense of smell being sensitive, I knew it was gonna taste disgusting. Sure enough it did. I said, I can take the bitterness of the papaya leaves extract but I cannot take that tea. I’m gonna have to pass. I would have to stock up on the papaya leaves extract and quail eggs. The eggs I can handle. The papaya leaves extract requires a bit of strategy.

What I do to get it down is to pinch my nose to eliminate that smell. Then would ask for someone to feed me two spoonful. One after the other. After downing them, I need to pop on two pieces of candy in my mouth. In my case, Frutos Lemon flavored candies works the best to combat the bitterness after releasing

So platelet count dropped to 53! I still felt normal and strong in fairness to me. I was not panicking at all. And comparing the changes of my platelets, I took it as a positive note that I slowed down. I took it as a sign that it could go two ways: 1. it might go up already or 2. it could go down still but it should be less than 10 decrease. Since I am an optimist, I believed by first theory. It was doctor’s orders to have blood test done every 12 hours. Because of all the blood tests required my veins felt violated already being poked at every 12 hours. Well, I had to hung on.

 

November 9, 2015

Twas my 3rd day in the hospital. Still had 38 °C temperature with occasional 39°C. I was still taking meds. I was bored. I felt dirty (not dirty as in dirty). It was just that feeling of not bathing for a while. I felt the oil build up on my scalp, the oiliness of my face and that sticky feeling that you get on a humid day despite being in an airconditioned room. It sucked. I wanted also to step outside the room to walk around. Or at least feel the sun on skin despite the sticky feeling. But the nurse and my brother would not allow it. They said I might faint. Well, I think I never fainted also in my entire life so I tried to push my luck that I can do it. But the iron hand of medicine was put down. I was like “fine” then I rolled my eyes. LOL

I was allowed to walk within the room. Which was a welcome activity because I felt bloated. So after meals I would pace in the room dragging my IV stand. It did sort of help pass gas through my system! LOL.

Since my veins felt violated, I asked the med tech who drew my blood if there was another way of getting blood. They said they could prick me, I said let’s give it a go. So pricking entails the nurse pricking the ends of your fingers and collecting the little blood that oozes out of the pricked skin. I thought it was better to be pricked mainly because it requires less blood to be drawn. I was already loosing platelets and using the syringe was taking more blood from me including platelets. So less blood was helpful for my overall platelet count. I didn’t know where that idea came from. Maybe being confined in a hospital room made your think differently. I guess so.

Well, being confined anywhere would definitely let you think about a lot of things. Mainly things that is happening at the moment and what may happen in the future. I guess the experience allowed me to look in to certain aspects of life that I thought was important but it turned out it didn’t. Those kinda deep stuff.

Then I also had thoughts of what was happening in the office. I tried to get snippets of what was happening in the office from my colleagues.. They would reply to my messages then I IM-ed them or texted them but when I ask about work, they would turn me away. I was currently working on a project and was asking my boss who would be taking over while I was sick but was not answered.

It was a lot to take in but my optimist surfer-like thinking that everything was gonna be OK prevailed than my paranoia. Well, I decided to drop asking questions on just focus on recovering.

Platelet count didn’t turn out as I optimistically expected. It dropped to 40 in the morning then to 38 at night. When I found out the results. I started to panic. I honestly thought I was going to die soon. Everybody seemed to panic when we sent out the report that my platelets dropped to 38. My “everything will turn out OK” attitude kicked in when I noticed that my family and friends were on edge. Some were saying I need to transfer hospitals others were calling me up and expressed their concern. I was like “don’t worry. I’m made up of tough stuff and I’ll survive this ordeal”. They sort bought it but not whole heartedly. Well it was enough to shut them up. I really appreciated the concern but I would rather not hear them panicking as it add up to my stress level. I had to tap my chest and say “all is well”.

I prayed. I chanted. Then went back to sleep.

 

November 10, 2015

The doctors, the resident and the HMO, both paid me a visit and told me they were surprised that I was still able to move on my own and seemed jolly even with my platelets plummeting to nothingness. They told me the same thing: “We are not requiring transfusion yet. We will do that if your platelets drops to 10.”

They checked there were bleeding. I told them there was a bit of bleeding. I picked my nose and the booger turned out to be coagulated blood and I suffered my sort of first nose bleed! I was excited than scared. It was another first! Well, I imagined I would get my first nose bleed from speaking English with the international people I speak to in con calls from the office. But NO! I would get it from dengue! LOL. It bled when I stick tissue in my nose but there was not enough to drip out of my nose. I still consider it a nose bleed though!

The only good thing was that my fever as completely gone! I think it would have been gone faster if John Lloyd was giving me the paracetamols LOL!. The HMO doctor told me that I can actually take a bath. I looked at her with my “you’re kidding” look. She looked at me with dead serious eyes and uttered a “yes”. I wanted to take a bath but with my IV, I decided to stick to the sponge baths.

As I know, this was the period of dengue that my platelets would really get low. Since I was clinging on to the little platelets that I have. I was dead serious in getting them up. That would mean extra doses of papaya leaf extract and more quail eggs than I can tolerate. That means two tablespoonful of the extract after every meal (which I am not consuming with gusto) and three to four pieces of quail eggs. Now, I am not a fan of quail eggs or any hard boiled eggs at that because I am allergic! But then, the motto now was “whatever it takes!”.

Platelet count dropped to 36 in the morning ensuing more panic! Then it increased to 42 then to 54 then to 52. The increase made everyone more calmer (finally!) but more insistent in feed me the remedies. I took them all as long as my stomach and my petite mouth can accommodate.

 

November 11, 2015

The next day, I was feeling much better. My appetite was also back! And it was awesome. I asked for Mc Donalds for breakfast. When I got it, I was in HEAVEN!

I have also been smoke free for a week now! And based from what I have read, I would have had my proper smelling and tasting prowess back. I guess it showed in my appetite. The only weird thing was that I didn’t even crossed my mind or craved for my nicotine fix. Must be the dextrose or the fact that I was in an enclosed space. Well for whatever factor, my lungs were celebrating!

Since I was a lot better the boredom was at its maximum level. I was just in the room watching movies on cable channel. Imagine how boring it was. I would have died of boredom. I was pacing inside the room. I was able to get out of the room but was scolded for walking out. I needed sunshine.

I was snacking on pugo and papaya leaves extract every time I eat. I was actually waiting for the results of my blood work. I don’t get it why it takes so long. Well, the nurses told us that the entire floor of the hospital were all dengue fever patients apart from one who was an car accident victim. Must be the reason why it took so long. Their med techs were stretched to their limit.

When I did get the results, it was a whoopin’ 194 platelet count! Ah the joy! I would have cart wheeled if I didn’t have a needle in my arm. But I also don’t know how to cart wheel… LOL.

This meant that I can be discharged tomorrow. We just need to finish some paper works and am out of the hospital.

I have arranged my documents with my employer (health card stuff and government forms) to be picked up by my father the following day.

I slept feeling happy!

 

November 12, 2015

Discharge day!

The nurses came and took my dextrose off. It was a joy to have full control of my arm though it was a bit swollen and bruised.

We were slowly packing our stuff and it was quite a lot. The biscuits, the empty water bottles, pillows, clothes and so on. I ditched the hospital gown and took a bath! Ah the feeling of water and soap on my body was just heaven!

My dad came and the paper works was done and I was out of the room! Ah, sunshine! I missed it despite it being noon, I did not care.

I was supposed to wheeled out to the hospital lobby to wait for my ride home but I said I can manage. I was freakin’ happy to be going home and back to the regular programming of my life. The nurses at the station were surprised to see me walking out but didn’t stop me.

When I got to the lobby, I was slightly dizzy but managed to stand. And the car came and we were homeward bound.

The entire experience was a first. I hope it is the last! But all in all I still learned a lot. I posted it on Facebook and it went like this:

“as you all know, I always share my realizations in life. Can I indulge you with some from recent events?

  1. I can finally tick “confined in a hospital” and “get an IV” from my bucket list. Yes! They were part of my list since I have never been. Don’t judge me please. LOL… I just made one entry of each and have NO plans of doing them again.
  2. Being in a hospital and stuck within the confines of your room sucks. Yah, it’s kinda like a hotel but it is not. It’s a big patience test of “when can I get back to my regular life?” and patience was and is never my strong suit. I tried to work but dengue stopped me with dizziness. I tried to walk the halls but dengue stopped me with shortness of breath. Hence the stuck part.
  3. Woes that comes from the smallest of things sometimes have the BIGGEST impact. The dengue parasite came from a tiny mosquito bit and it cost me (well my HMO) php 40k for hospitalization, lab tests, and others. Never underestimate the tiny mosquito. It may have killed more people than lions, buffalos, sharks, snakes killed combined. Well the rat still holds the title because of the bubonic plague. SPRAY YOUR MOSQUITO REPELLANTS NOW!
  4. I have a deeper appreciation of nurses now. They were very accommodating, patient and entertaining. It does takes guts to have to deal with sick people on a daily basis. It’s no ordinary feat. If you are a nurse, KUDOS to you!
  5. Getting texts and FB well wishes and get well soons are really touching. But getting visitors was something else. So to all who visited me and gave me pasalubongs, tawatawa tea, papaya leaves extract, twinkies, fruits, citruses and others, thanks a bunch! You know who you are. I love you to bits.
  6. To my family, specially my brother, thanks for looking after me. I really appreciate it! I will make bawi to you guys and we can have dinner.
  7. Life is uncertain. I honestly thought I might die but decided to fight for my life. We have no idea what will happen along the way, so SIEZE each day. Do what makes you happy at nobody’s expense. Say thank you, I love you and sorry. And always ask for the Lord’s guidance.

Flippin out!

12244850_10207642863888191_7702918891355467075_o

bruised

12191931_10207893181745401_5381981213311517124_n

tried to work but it was a doosy!

10984638_10207633018482062_7124397253552515373_n

each drop is hydration

12244462_10207643593946442_2321504583208889472_o

waiting… it almost killed me

first time to get an IV! Off my bucket list!

first time to get an IV! Off my bucket list!

my veins can only cooperate with the yellow butterfly needles which are apparently for kids (LOL)

my veins can only cooperate with the yellow butterfly needles which are apparently for kids (LOL)

first temperature check at home.. i was hot... really hot

first temperature check at home.. i was hot… really hot

STARS!

STARS!

since both my hands were swollen, my IV was inserted at my wrist area

since both my hands were swollen, my IV was inserted at my wrist area

 

Talastasan ni Andrew at Aya

This started out as a conversation in our Facebook Chat among friends. The rhyme was good so I am sharing it. It is in Tagalog though so if you have any Filipino friends, ask them to translate for you. Special thanks to Andrew for agreeing to post this. Some of there words were from him.

Si Aya at si Andrew, parehong sinisinta ang isa’t isa

Ngunit sa pag-iisip, sila ay magkaiba.

Mula sa tuksuhan sa loob ng barkadahan

Ang ating dalawang bida’y nagkapalagayan.

Ang binata, masipag sa pag suyo

Sa dalagang sinisinta na ng kanyang puso

Ang dalaga nama’y tuluyan na din nahulog

Dahil sa pagkapursigido nang kanya nang irog

Isang misyon mayroon ang ating binata

At ito ay ang maglapat ng ngiti sa kanyang sinta

Subalit ang kanyang mga pambatong banat

Sa ating dilag minsan ay hindi sapat

Tunghayan ang kanilang talastasan

Nang sila na ay nagkalabuan:

Andrew:

Pag ako nakabawi di na ako hihirit pang muli

Mahirap na magsimula sa umpisa

Baka di na abutan sa dulo

kapag nagumpisang muli

Patawarin na ang pusong minsan nawawala

sa pagtibok dahil napapagod din sa paghihintay

Aya:

Kung ang nararamdaman ng puso ay totoo,

hahamakin ang lahat masunod ka lamang,

ngunit sa aking wari’y wala na ang apoy

Andrew:

Kung ganon man ay walang magagawa

kundi pabayaan kang lumaya.

Hindi na rin ako sasaya

kung pipilitin ang pagsinta

Aya:

Ngunit kung buo na ang iyong desisyon,

ano pa ba ang magagawa kundi sumangayon

Mula sa malayo ikaw ay tatanawin

at mapapabuntong hininga na lang sa hangin

Andrew:

Oo. Ngunit wala nang magagawa.

Ang apoy sa iyong dibdib ay nawala na

Siguro balang araw kapag nagtagpo,

ang pagtitinginan ay muling mabubuo

Ngunit di ba ang sabi nila

ay dapat napapatawa mo ang sinisinta.

Pakiramdam ko ba’y

hindi na talaga mapapasaakin pa

Aya:

Sa iyong unang sinabi ako ay umaasa

Sana maging ganun sa ating susunod na pagkikita

Ako din ay umaasa

Na tayo ay magkakabalikan pa

Ang pag ngiti sa labi ay isang indikasyon

na ikaw at iyong sinisinta’y sa pagiisip iisa ang hubog

Subalit ako’y naniniwalang

ang pag iisa ng isip ay napapatindi ng panahon.

Paano tayo uusad kung susuko ka na ngayon?

Kung ako ay iyong bibitawan,

Hindi lang ikaw ang mawawalan.

Maari ding maglaho

Ang ating mga pangako

Katahimikan

Tinginan

Yakapan

Ang kanilang mga kamay ay naghawakan

Ngunit sila ay nakatingin sa magkaibang daan

Journey to Meet the Last MASTER Mambabatok of Buscalan, Kalinga

Apo Whang-od, the last master mambabatok, in action

for the last 3 yrs, i have celebrated my birthday by traveling solo to a local destination. and all two of my previous birthday were a surfing trips. yes, my affinity for the sea was strong. i am actually considering that i came from the ocean as a dolphin in my past life. LOL

for my 4th solo trip for my birthday, i was supposed to embark on another solo trip to Real, Quezon, but plans were changed.

wondering why?

it was because of the last master mambabatok or traditional tattoo artist of Buscalan, Kalinga.

for some weird chance, i came across Ms. Kara David’s documentary in YouTube of Whang-od, the last mambabatok of the Butbut tribe in Buscalan, Kalinga. She was, at that time, about 92 yrs old and the only traditional tattoo artist still living. To tattoo, she mixes water and soot from under a cooking pan and uses the mixture as her ink. She then stencils the design using a blade of grass on to your skin. To embed ink in skin, she makes use of two bamboo sticks, one with a thorn and the other used to tap the thorn through the skin. it looked painful as hell with some accounts of people fainting from the pain.

when i finished watching the video, i knew i had to scratch my surfing trip to Real. and i was hell bound on meeting Whang-od and getting my first ever tattoo the “batok” way. it was in my bucket list to do so and i just had to make it happen. and come on, who would want to be tattooed the traditional way and by a LEGEND at that? Huh?

so after reading what i can gather from the internet which was really few might i add, i decided to embark on a journey, a pilgrimage if you may, to see Whang-od, the last master mambabatok.

 since there are few references on the net, am writing this blog post about my experience so that if you would like to embark on the same journey, you would be able to do so, even solo.

the first thing that you would need to do is to get a guide. i was able to research Francis Pa-in’s (he is the most famous guide) number online and get him to be my guide but at the last minute, he referred me to his brother in law, Kuya Romy. You can contact him through the following means:

mobile: 09164031208

email: romievaldevaron@yahoo.com

it is best to reach him through mobile phone so that you can communicate instantaneously. if in case he does not reply, he might be in Buscalan guiding guests (there are no mobile reception in the village). but if he is available he will reply automatically. just text him about your expected day or arrival in Tabuk or in Tinglayan or in Bugnay junction. He will be able to help you out. The advantage of having a guide is he can arrange for your accommodation. plus he knows the trail and can interpret for you. If you are traveling solo, you can ask your guide a lot of information about anything you would like to know about the tribe.

second thing that you need to bring are food to be shared with your host family for the duration of your stay. two canned goods would be ok for a meal. the woman who owned the homestay where i stayed liked Century Tuna over corned beef. also opt to bring candies for kids. they will be asking for it as other visitors before gave them. if you decide to bring, give them out individually. if you ask them to share, they would fight over the goodies. matches can also be shared to the elders. they won’t ask but you can offer them.

on the day of my trip, i went under time on May 12 and left our office in Makati City at around 4:00 pm and hailed a taxi to take me to Victory Liner in Earnshaw, Sampaloc. It was a bit early but i factored in traffic. The first bus bound to Tabuk, is set to leave by 7:00 pm followed by an 8:00 pm one then a 10:00 pm. i took the earliest and i was targeting to arrive in Buscalan at around lunch time. I got to the terminal at about 5:45-ish and the 7pm bus was almost full. I got a seat and waited for bus departure.

If you are kind of religious, you can walk on over to two churches a few meters from the terminal and pray for a safe journey. they say that if it is your first time in a church, you get 1 wish. luckily for you, these are two churches side by side. LOL.

once on the bus, it was an 11 to 12 hrs bus ride to Tabuk. There are about three stopovers during the entire trip so you have plenty of time to stretch your legs unless you have already dozed off for the entire duration. Prepare about php 5 for toilet use for each stop over

we arrived in Tabuk, Kalinga at around 7:00 in the morning. You know when you are there then you see the White Carabao landmark and the Cathedral (I forgot the name). You can actually get off the bus there as it is just a short distance away from where you can ride jeeps which they call the “paradahan” (literally means area where public transport are parked while waiting for passengers). There are no land marks to identify it but you will know it because the jeeps and buses will be there.

based on the blogs i read, from you can take the jeepney going to BONTOC but alight at the BUGNAY JUNCTION where you can begin the 2 hour trek to get to the Turning Point. After the Turning Point, it would be an hour more to get to Buscalan.

Kuya Romy, being the awesome guide that he is, told me that there is a van from Tabuk that can take me to the Turning Point and spare me the 2 hours walking in the sun. He gave me the number of the driver called Dal-oy so i can contact him when i get to Tabuk. I found Dal-oy a few minutes after arriving in Tabuk but found out that we had to wait for the van to fill before we left. The fare costs PHP 150.00/person. I said yes that i can wait but it took us about 2 hours to fill up the van. I almost decided to get on a jeep to get to Bugnay Junction instead but the thought of walking under the sun in the middle of the day was just too much daunting so, i decided to wait. And it spelled SKIN CANCER! Duh?

Majority of the people in the van are from Tinglayan, a nearby town and Buscalan. And they have with them supplies for their family or the town. I was riding at the front of the van with Moises, from the neighboring village and was chatting with him about things here and there.

I learned from chatting with them that they all belonged to the Butbut tribe and that they were the most wide spread tribe in the province of Kalinga. From our driver, Dal-oy, i learned that the van that we were riding actually belong to Whang-od. I guess her artform had help her and her village a lot. I couldn’t help but ask the men whom i was speaking with this question: why they were not tattooed? Moises answered, that for them getting a tattoo would mean they would not be hired for work because of an unfair misconception of people who have tattoos. Moises explained that he was studying to become a teacher and he would not be hired if he had tattoos, I blame media for this really, because tattooed men and women are depicted as drug addicts or ex-convicts. I found this really sad as I was more than willing to travel 12 hrs just to get tattooed but they, who just live nearby choose not to. Well, to each their own.

The road to Buscalan was really a long and winding one but the views are nice. The trees are all green. Rice terraces here and there. The view were stunning! Plus you get to hear the forest sing. Yep, sing because of the insects that make this high pitched buzzing sound. But landslides sites are also present. Primarily because a storm passed by the area a week before my trip. Fortunately, the local goverment acts fast to clear them up. what i am trying to say is, it was such a nice difference to seeing tall buildings, polluted air and traffic jams. I believe, I was entering paradise.

We arrived in Tinglayan, the last major town, at past 12 nn. This is the last place where you will get mobile phone reception so would recommend, letting people from back home know you are almost there. We got dropped off a small restaurant that served local food. I was famished and got lunch together with the other passengers. I had a soup dish called “tinola” with a helping of rice for about php 60 which is really cheap already. This is where i met Kuya Romy in person.

Kuya Romy turned out to be cool. He was originally from Pangasinan and was a former police officer who got assigned in Tinglayan decades ago. He found the love of his life there and he never left. Hi started guiding guests to Buscalan some years ago. His brother in law Francis, got him into the business to help him financially. Now, I asked Kuya Romy if he had a tattoo from Whang-od also. Then he showed me his centipede tattoo on his arm. Based on what I read online, the centipede is considered a mythical guide for the Butbut tribe. He also had some tattoo with fern design. The tattoo was sponsored by one of his guests who wanted to see how batok was done but didn’t want to get one. I knew right then and there, I was with good company.

I got excited as we boarded the van again for the final stretch of the journey. We reached Bugnay Junction then we had turn to a rough road. Based from Dal-oy, there is a plan to have the road to the Turning Point paved but they are having difficulties getting the equipments as the road is narrow and the have to start from the top.

When we got to the Turning Point, at about 2:30pm, we got off the van and had to go on foot not after smoking a few stick (yes, a quick nicotine fix is a must!). I just had to prepare a bit as it is my first time to trek. I was excited but was a bit anxious of the things that i read about the trail being difficult and that one miss step would end up in disaster. I had to see it for myself and just thought that i was already so near that I couldn’t bail now, eh?

In reality, the trail had two parts, one through and down one part of the mountain and the other is an uphill climb to the village. The 1st part of the trek is easy. There are walkways about a foot and a half wide that are cemented. You won’t be able to notice that you are walking alongside a cliff because of the plant life on the edge. Just focus on where you are walking and it is not bad to hold on to the wall face. The trail ends at the foot of the mountain which has a bridge as there is a waterfalls nearby. If you do want to take a bath at the falls you could do so. Just tell your guide. The second part is the tough part for me. Being a smoker I easily to get winded and out of breath. It is about 200 to 300 steps to get to the village and thank fully, majority of it was cemented. But did I mention it was uphill? There are no big trees to block out the sun but there are portions of the uphill climb where there is shade. Remember that you walk in your own pace. It would be OK to take a break. Did I mention it was uphill? Yes, I had to repeat that for emphasis! LOL. Now your enemies here would be definitely be the sun as it can really scorch. Fortunately, the “ready” traveler that I am, I have my trusty umbrella with me. So for this part of the trail, I opened my umbrella. No shame here as the shade made the climb a wee tad more bearable!

So after what about almost 2 hours of walking, Kuya Romy and I reached the town of Buscalan. Fronting the town is the school for primary education. Then comes the houses. You would be greeted by two friendly dogs who will sniff. Also you would be eyed by the people since it is obvious that you are a visitor. I was directed by Kuya Romy to Grace’s house. Grace is the grand niece of Apo Whang-od and she has been her apprentice for years. She has actually made a name for herself already as a batok practitioner. When I arrived at her house, I actually saw Apo Whang-od sleeping on their couch made of bamboo. I was awestruck and resisted the urge to take a picture of her! Her fragile frame was sleeping peacefully but the aura around her was just indescribable! You will know what I mean when you meet her in person.

I was taken to the tattooing hut which was specifically made so to be the area for tattoing. I was presented with a cup of coffee. I was never a fan of coffee and prefer tea actually but I could not refuse. I took a sip and it was SO good that I finished the cup! The coffee was made in the village from the trees along the edge of the hut. It was really nice that they produce their own and with my unexperienced coffee palate, I believe their coffee can rival that of Starbucks (heck ye! LOL)! The hut was a nice place to stay as it was a good vantage point to the trail and the mountains and the terraces. I was greeted by Grace’s parents and was asked where I was from and other pleasantries. They actually told me that they already saw me walking down the trail but they thought that Kuya Romy’s guest was female because of the umbrella. I just smiled and kept my thoughts to myself together with my giggles. I was then shown the room above the house where I will be staying the night. So I dumped my backpack and stuff. I haven’t bathed yet since I travelled directly from the office so I took a bath first. That long travel plus the heat plus sweat from all the walking made me really smelly already.

After the bath and a change of clothers, I went to the hut again to find Apo Whang-od awake and tattooing another person. They were a group of 3 from Laguna. Two have been finished with their tattoos already and the friend had to wait a bit as Apo Whang-od needed to rest. It was initially discussed that I would be tattoo the following morning but Kuya Romy said that I can have the tattoo done after. They told me that for the day, I would be the eight person to get inked. There is a queue actually depending on your arrival in the village. The longest one was a 4 day waiting period. I was shocked that it was that long! But may be because of the documentaries done about traditional tattooing, the village became famous but still pretty much off the beaten path. Which was fine by me as the actual charm of the village was that it was not part of normal tourist trade. I hope it would be kept that way for cultural preservation.

The guy before me was getting the scorpion on his thigh. He mentioned that the pain was managable. I was actually nervous at this point as this was going my first tattoo. I had no idea how it would hurt but I didn’t want the travel to go to waste of just me taking pictures of people being tatttoed. I was like, screw it! Even if it would be an issue with my parent, I didn’t care. I had to do it for myself. I was chatting up with Che, a friend of the person being tattooed on the pain levels. She also said it was managable. She actually got an eagle design tattoo below her collar bones and it was bad ass! They showed me two books of traditional tattoo designs and asked me to pick what I wanted.

I already knew that I wanted to get: the malu, or crab design. It was a symbol for a traveler. But looking through the book, the interesting designs were the hawk, meaning overseer, lightning, centipede. You can also read up on placements as it had meanings also. I wanted to get the malu on the left chest or rather boob (I’m kinda chubby LOL) as traveling is a passion for me. I know it is a common passion for almost everyone but by placing it on my left side would mean an increase for travels based on what I read from the book. I actually made a budget of PHP 1000 and was considering to get two tattoos done (I was debating to also get the hawk and another circular design) but thought that I would just go back and get one from Grace some other time.

The scorpion tattoo was finished in about an hour. Then, it was my turn.

I told Apo Whang-od what I wanted through Kuya Romy and she immediately set to work. She already had a new thorn ready and have mixed soot and water to be her ink. She used a blade of grass that was pre folded already so that she can make a stencil of the design. Mine was like a diamond shape so she started with the outer diamond. Then she took the thorn and applied more ink to it, then place the thorn over the stencil then started tapping. The first few taps sent shivers down my spine and had my nervous system on alert because of the shot stabbing pain caused by the process. For those who were wondering, on a scale of 1 to 10, the pain level for me was at 4. Just imagine getting your blood drawn but in rapid succession. That was what it was like. However, the rhythmic tapping actually helps on managing the pain. I imagined it being like a drum beating. So the process had to be repeated countless of times to get the ink in. I kinda bled a bit but nothing to worry about.

She was quite the whole time entirely focused on what she was doing. Each of the lines were passed on twice I guess to get the ink deeper into my skin. I could not help but look at her while she was tattooing her. Her focused eyes, her delicate hands and her arms adorned by tattoos also. I was in awe of this 96yr old tattooing legend, a cultural emblem of the art of tattoo, the last master mambabatok. I could come up with more title but these three pretty much sums it all up.

She then dropped her tools and looked at her work. The tattoo was already done. I was too busy observing her to notice that she was done. She wiped it with water and put some coconut oil over it. I thanked her and asked how much does it cost. She made a 5 with her hand and I paid her 500. After the session, I had to get a photo me and her as a remembrance and Apo Whang-od went to rest.

In a span of an hour, I became a “pintado” meaning tattooed person.

it was about 5pm when we finished so i had a bit of time to explore around the village. The houses were built close to each other with pathways located in between. There were kids playing on the free spaces as pigs and some dogs walked around in their own pace. Yes, the pigs roam free here. The old houses were made of wood while the new ones were made of concrete and galvanized aluminum. Some were adorned by dream catchers others has water buffalo horns. I walked around together with Che and we found her friends drinking beer with their guide. We joined them but i skipped the alcohol. i didn’t think it would go well with my new tattoo wounds so i just smoked near small satellite dishes for their cable t.v. Yes, i was surprised also! how come there’s no mobile reception in the entire village but they have cable tv?? LOL. But from that area, we have a clear view of the surrounding mountains. Our group was asking the local if it is possible for an outsider to buy property in the area. They said that we would have to get approval from the elders first then we have to go with the legalities of owning a land. I would have been nice to buy land there and build up a hut. The place is really gorgeous. We chatted a little bit more but when I noticed it was getting dark already, I bid everyone good bye and when back to my host family’s house.

When I got back in the house, they were watching a movie on the cable TV and preparing our dinner from the canned goods that I shared with the family. I hanged out at the hut again and was joined by Kuya Romy as well as three other men from the Butbut tribe and we began a discussion on what it mean to be part of the tribe. Based on customs, once you have been welcomed in the house of the your host, you are already considered as a member of the tribe. So I guess that makes me an honorary member. They also discussed how to government has reached them and how they would like to stick to their own tribal rules. We also discussed about the head hunting and inter tribe peace pact and the peace makers (particularly on how expensive it is and how hard of a job it is). They also discussed how they celebrate birthdays (since they were expecting me to stay for my actual birthday). They also answered my questions as to why there were carabao horns on the walls of some houses. It meant that there is an old person who is living or who lived there. I learned that the oldest person who lived in the village lived to be 126 yrs old. In all honesty, I really appreciate their points of views and ideas. I am honestly in awe of how they have managed to marry their customs with the government legalities. I hope they would be able to keep their traditions despite the outside pressure.

We burned a lot of topics as well as cigarettes. Although it would have been nice to have beer but we haven’t had dinner yet.

We were called by our hosts that dinner was ready. We all shared the meal (corned beef and Century Tuna) while watching The Wolverine on Star World (remember satellite dishes for cable TV? Yah?). After eating, I decided to turn in for the night as I have had a LONG day and it was already 8:30pm. It was actually my plan to wake up early to see the sun rise in the mountains and see the rice terraces. I have seen the sunrise from the sea but I think the sun rising between the mountains would also be breathtaking!

The room was a big one that was separated with two cabinets in a line to make two rooms. They had banig or hand-woven mats and insulations (about half an inch of styro with silver coating) as beddings. Pillows and blankets are also available. You have to make your own bed and pack it up afterwards.

Kuya Romy and I were up at around 5:45 am and the sun is already up but the moon is still visible in the sky. And it was even cold enough that you breath condenses when you speak! Westerners would be like, it’s nothing special but for people from the tropics, it’s a WOW moment! From the tattooing hut it was quite a sight already but I asked Kuya Romy if we can go up see the nearby terraces. He said yes and led the way. We went through the entire village and ended up on a basketball court at the very top of the village. Then went to the end to get to the rice terraces. At this point, the light has shown the terraces but the sun has not quite peaked from the mountains. I was breadth taking! And when the sun did rose, it was magical! I cannot describe it in words really but I can say this: I thought I was a “beach” person, now I know I am not.

After taking pictures and videos, we decided to head back for breakfast, and to pack our bags. I decided to just stay the night and travel to Sagada. When we got back, Apo Whang-od was already awake and approached me. Smiling this time and was motioning at my chest and spoke something to Kuya Romy. He said that she wanted to see my tattoo so I showed her and then she smiled. It was a beautiful moment but I was not quick enough to snap it. I was in awe and was just smiling back at her. Kuya Romy then mentioned that she was pleased that the tattoo was healing already and that I need to take care of it as I would any wound to avoid infection. I promised to take of it and said, “Manjamanak, Apo” meaning Thank you Apo in local dialect. She just smiled again and went her way. Talk about #honored #respect #awestrucked!

I went up my room to pack my stuff. I gave the candies that I bought for the kids and the matches for the elders to Grace’s mother so that she can distribute it when I arrived. When I was ready, I went downstairs with my backpack to find breakfast ready which is chicken noodles and rice. After finishing the meal, I bid goodbye to the my host family and thanked them for welcoming me to their home. After a last thank you with Apo Whang-od, Kuya Romy and made our way out of the village back to the Turning Point to wait for a jeep that Kuya Romy arranged for me to get to Bontoc.

It was a short stay but believe it or not, I think I made the most out of it.

Having narrated my entire experience. I have the following tips:

  • Get a guide. Kuya Romy is a really good one so I recommend giving him a call or text. There was a blog that I read where he made it to Buscalan on his own but I would not recommend it. It is better to have a local correspondent.
  • Say no to skin cancer and bring SUN BLOCK! Yes, there are trees but the sun is unforgiving. Your older self will thank you, definitely.
  • Bring canned goods. It is not necessary but your host family would appreciate it. Their rice is actually really REALLY good. Don’t bring food just for yourself. Share.
  • Don’t ask for the cost of the tattoo before getting it done. Wait after the session is finished before asking. Just budget PHP 500 to 2000 I think.
  • Perhaps the most important tip I can share are some of the local dialect that I was able to ask Kuya Romy and some of the men of Buscalan. Here they are:
  • Manjamanak – thank you (singular speaker)
  • Manjaman ami – thank you (group)
  • Fayu – maganda or beautiful
  • Fayu fikfikat – good morning
  • Fayu erkaw – good afternoon
  • Fayu lafi – good night
  • Sidga – yes
  • Faun – no
  • Piya – good food
  • Lamnaw – sweet
  • Managkulinak – I will be back

I am including these two words so as you are familiar with them:

  • Chaker utin – big dick
  • Chaker ufoy – wide vagina

There is a guide that teaches the last two phrases as a greeting. You have been forewarned. LOL!

Now, fortunately for us, the “batok” style of tattooing will not end when Apo Whang-od passes. Her grandniece and apprentice, Grace is now a full “mambabatok”. But I still believe it is a privilege to be tattooed by the master.

I was planning to make a glorious gallery of pictures that I took during my trip but unfortunately, technologiy is not working with me at the moment. So please enjoy below thumbnails!

flippin’ out!

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