Overnight in Mabini, Batangas

A few weeks ago, my friends and I drove down to Mabini, Batangas for an overnight trip. It was only a two and a half hour drive from Metro Manila, so there was not a lot of planning needed for the trip.

Side note: I’d forgotten how easy it is to do an overnight trip to the beach in the Philippines. Oh, yes, there’s Ocean Beach in San Francisco, but the water is cold and the waves are strong. Maybe somewhere in SoCal? But that’s another ~6 hour drive away. On the other hand, Batangas just south of Manila, and Subic north. (La Union is a little farther up, but I hear it’s an easy trip there as well.) And weather permitting, the beach is warm throughout the year. What’s not so easy: finding a weekend when everyone is available.

My friends and I rented a small place by the beach. It had a fully functioning kitchen and a porch with a nice view, which made for a nice stay. I spent a lot of time on the porch because I love a nice ocean view. I was up early the next day, and I watched the sky change as the sun rose. As for the beach on premise, well, it was rocky. This didn’t bother us so much since we had planned to have a boat take us to a neighboring island in the morning.

(I’m pretty sure) we went to Maricaban Island. The shore was rocky, but this time the rocks looked interesting: they were charred—was there a volcano nearby? Or maybe I just haven’t seen enough nature in my life.

My friends and I found a nice spot at the beach, laid down our blankets, and …fell asleep. On the boat ride back, we stopped for a bit to take a swim in slightly deeper water (not the real deep water—just far enough from the rocks). It was a pleasant swim. The water was warm, the waves were not strong, and it was easy to float in the water. (There were also life jackets on the boat just in case.)

Long story short we didn’t do much. But the trip was so refreshing! It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m looking forward to more of these. It’s good to be back.

Thank you, 2019

I’m feeling reflective.

2019 took me by storm—with lasting effects. Truth be told, the year did not end as well as I would have liked. But I grew up amidst resilient people. I know life will keep happening, so I will keep going. As I file 2019 away and close the books, I want to focus on the things that made 2019 special.

Travels & Events

Goodbye to San Francisco

I said the sweetest goodbye to the city/ies I called home for the past 7 years. Packing took weeks—months, actually. (It turns out it’s quite easy to accumulate that many things when you feel at home.) So many memories were made in San Francisco & all the cities by the bay, and I still made more with my friends before leaving.

I revisited some of my favorite spots and visited new ones, and I even documented some parts of my goodbye:

Grand Detour to Canada

In which I recharged for ~ two months and visited Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec and almost felt like a local. I tried specialty coffee shops and visited indie bookstores. I enjoyed my fair share of CanLit while I was there and even found a wedding peg for myself because a girl can dream, ok.

Here are some of my favorites from the grand detour:

Birthday with Family & Friends

I am a big birthday person. It’s not just a day—it’s a week (or a month if I can push it). So throughout the week, I was meeting up with different sets of people, and, no, it was not tiring at all. For the first time in seven years, I celebrated my birthday surrounded by family and friends, old and new. It was heartwarming; I feel so blessed with the people in my life.


A lot of 2019 was spent reading as well. 2019 was the year I’d committed to reading. I started the year conservative, setting a reading goal of only 20 books. Thankfully, I had some time to reset, and I hyped myself up and made time to read again. This was a record year, too: I finished 37 books for my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Here are some of my favorites from the last year:

Favorite Stories

Favorite Character

Favorite Nonfiction

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

Here’s another book that made me question my life decisions. Why on earth did I wait this long to read La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1), when I’d had it with me for two years? (My childhood best friend gifted this to me last Christmas 2017.) Here, a confession: I was scared I wouldn’t fall in love with The Book of Dust as much as I did with His Dark Materials, which I’d read more than ten years ago (and also which the same friend introduced to me in high school).

I finally took the leap of faith (dramatic, I know) after seeing The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) at a bookstore. What? There were already paperback copies of book two, and I hadn’t even read book one?! I actually had different books to read lined up at that time, but it just so happened that (1) I’d misplaced the nonfiction book I was currently reading, and (2) I’d left the fantasy book I was planning to read behind when I left for home-home for the holidays. Well, that worked out; I was already itching to read La Belle Sauvage anyway.

The verdict: there were not many books I’d read this past year that enchanted me as much as La Belle Sauvage did.

Perhaps it’s because reading La Belle Sauvage felt familiar. As I’d mentioned earlier, I read His Dark Materials in high school, and I still remember feeling taken by Lyra and her world (and Will Parry). Part of me feels like The Book of Dust was written for readers who grew up with His Dark Materials, for readers who hold Lyra near and dear their hearts.

Now that I’m older, I felt tension in their world more than I did back in high school. Knowing more about the world, I felt anxious for Malcolm, whose growing up was expedited by the circumstances he found himself in. I empathized with Malcolm as he discovered what it meant to love, and I felt proud of him as he used both heart and mind to make his decisions. And because the entire series is a prequel, I knew from the start that everything was going to turn out alright in the end. Still I couldn’t help but ride the same roller coaster of emotions as Malcolm did throughout the book. Growing up is never easy for anyone—I will leave it at that.

Someone please give Philip Pullman ten million gold stars and me a (hardbound) copy of The Secret Commonwealth because I am entranced. I know it will be a while before I read the second book (to be fair, I am making good progress with my stack of unread books), but I have been telling my friends to read La Belle Sauvage because I want to gush about the book and more to them already. Please appreciate with me.