My trip to the Philippines (Feb-Mar 2023)

My trip to the Philippines (Feb-Mar 2023)

It’s the last day of my two-week trip to the Philippines.

I’m feeling exhausted.

I’m missing my bed at home (in Singapore) and my boyfriend’s hug. It’s like I’m running on 9% battery and that bed (and his hug) combined is a MagSafe charger.

The past two weeks have been a success.

Boarding for SQ912 to Manila

It started off on my mom’s birthday when I flew in and jumped right into the middle of our family’s first party during this pandemic. Relatives from both sides were at our house. Tables were set up on the street to host dad and his drinking buddies. My aunt was wearing a plastic glove and hauling chunks of pancit malabon for someone’s takeout. They now call it “Sharon” here. My brother and I led what felt like a delegation of relatives coming to take a peek at our Mango House. It’s what we’re calling the house we’ve just built to replace the old bodega and gym at the corner of our lot. Of course, this was how I got my first peek at the Mango House outside of the CCTV view I’ve been looking at.

Mom’s birthday cake… one of what looked like at least 6 or 7 of these on the table πŸ™‚

The Mango House is about 80% done I guess? It took three months to build it from the ground up. They are working on electricity and painting it. Plus, the lanai… which was completed while I was in Makati.

Ongoing construction of our Mango House – named in memory of the mango tree that once occupied that spot

The next part of my Philippines trip was the work portion. I checked into a hotel in Makati to work Monday to Friday last week. A few of my colleagues from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta flew in. Why? Because of our “first-ever Philippines media mixer” which happened last Thursday at a bar-restaurant in Poblacion. But every day of that week was also spent huddled together in-person at a WeWork in Makati. This is where the visiting team and my local team got to meet and train together. I also had time to meet at least two journalists in-person. One from The Manila Times and the other from Bloomberg. Both, as I had shared on my Insta, had a twinkle in their eyes as they described their work as journalists.

Our media mixer was a success. We hit our goal of getting at least 80 to 100 people from both the media and communications industries. My favourite part was meeting with the journalists I had been in touch with for years. Most of the major publications and media outlets had representation at the mixer. I was also very proud of my local team. Our visiting colleagues also looked like they were having a good time.

A room filled with media and communications professionals

As my visiting colleagues flew off on Friday, I took lunch break to get a massage at the hotel onsen. It was pretty good.

BTW forgot to mention I did squeeze in some meet-ups with good friends in Manila

The third and last part of my trip was saved for leisure. After enjoying some family time at a pizza place and meeting my brother’s friend T (actually we met before the work week at Din Tai Fung and then briefly again after delivering takeout pizza to her condo last Saturday), I spent time in La Union with my college bestie.

Elyu twice within nine months!

Nominees for this leisure portion of my trip included Dumaguete, Siargao, and Bacolod. But I was feeling iffy about squeezing myself into an airport terminal. Plus, I was super happy with Elyu last July. It didn’t need a lot of research too.

My friend U picked me up in ParaΓ±aque and we drove up to Elyu which takes six hours via multiple tollways. We started off at Alpas in Bacnotan (which became U’s favourite) before checking in at Alon & Sandy at Urbiztondo. I stayed at Alon & Sandy last year during the solo backpacking portion of that trip, and couldn’t stop raving about it to U. The staff Ate Virgie gave us a different room from what I thought I had booked… and it had a semi-private balcony facing the sea from our vantage point on the hill. Swear, it was fucking perfect. U was so happy with the place and I was just enjoying the view. We had unobstructed sunsets for two nights.

My first road trip with U after … how many years!
Checking out Alpas in Bacnotan

I won’t go much into the trip. But I’ll say that the whole time, U and I couldn’t stop chatting. I also had a bit of a depressive episode after being triggered by a photo I saw in an Insta story.

It took me into a tailspin.

Like everything I had built new for myself in the last five years came tumbling back down.

I felt ugly. (Is this PTSD?)

I switched off.

Luckily, U was there… and we literally just talked about some of my experiences through the years. We literally talked about the sexual assault I experienced from a schoolmate. And the traumas I found myself stuck in. I can grin about it now since it was two days ago… but that night, I shut down. I had to call my boyfriend but didn’t want to bog him down about my depressive episode. But it was good to see him in a WhatsApp call, waving my whaleshark stuffed toy at me, in cheerful fashion.


It’s 11:45am and I can hear hammers and the voices of the construction workers further polishing up the Mango House which sits outside my room window here in Cavite. I’m craving for one more round of pork sisig before I fly back to Singapore later this afternoon. Dad suggested Mesa at the new SM City Tanza in lieu of Gerry’s Grill which closed at Robinson’s Place Gen. Trias.

I didn’t get to declutter the boxes in my room which was my original plan. I’m on a mission to simplify my Cavite room. I want to have the walls and ceiling painted white. I want to have the old VHS tapes of Disney movies thrown out. They finally removed the Kenwood cabinet which housed those speaker sets from the 1990s. There’s still an office desk, one that would blend into a government building, sitting next to my bed. The office chair next to that looks like it can crack in half.

My luggage isn’t packed yet but it’s the return trip so I can basically toss everything in and zip it up. I don’t know where my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale is, I think I left it on the front porch.


I’m feeling exhausted but I guess I did my best to enjoy this trip.



Valentine’s was very simple this year. PJ and I met up on the sidewalks of Raffles Place and walked to Pasta e Formaggio, what is now our afterwork pasta place. We ordered some of favourites… bolognese for me, aglio olio for him… plus margherita pizza. Tbh, we didn’t want to spend much. I can’t speak for PJ obv, he literally just got back from a solo trip to Japan last week. But for me, I’m at the tightest I’ve ever been with my budget. Which sounds kind of ridiculous since I live in a downtown apartment and I’m here… having pizza not mixed veg rice.

Sometimes I don’t know how I’m able to stay afloat.

I’ve had to pull some strings to be able to pay for my upcoming bills. I’m trying to make sense of it since I don’t spend luxuriously. But if I were to face the music, I’m spending beyond my means. But I’m being stubborn as I don’t want to downgrade my lifestyle which is already sakto lang (just exact). What I’m thinking is that I need to find the ways, means… to earn exactly what I deserve to be earning by this point. And to settle for any less, would be an insult to what I’m capable of doing.

That wasn’t the topic of our Valentine’s dinner date though. We were pretty chill and eating our pasta.

Oh? And the rose on my table? It’s the one I got for free from WeWork.

No one dies from love

No one dies from love

Been a while since I last listened to Tove Lo. I remember “Talking Body” which for me is a mid-2010s anthem. “Now if we’re talking body, you got a perfect one, so put it on me,” she sings over a pumping beat. “If you love me right, we fuck for life.”

Couldn’t be any more direct than that. I think it’s beautiful. Sex is beautiful.

I saw the video to “No One Dies From Love” when it first came out. It’s heart-wrenching. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

I’ve added “sex” to things I tweet about including pop culture, infrastructure, journalism, LGBTQ+ rights, and gaming. I think not many people talk openly about sex. Or at least, maybe some people do, but it’s still a hush hush topic for many. (Or maybe I’m missing out on following some profiles). I’m not talking about alters okay, that keeps sex in the background. It’s not that I’m going to start a sex column or anything like it. It’s more like how I want to live more authentically. I’m a sex positive person and it’s something I want to be more open to talking about.

If you want to follow me on Twitter (it’s safe for work!) I’m at @GeorgePutong

What now?

What now?

I’m financially flat.

That’s the truth entering 2023, my eleventh year in Singapore. While I’ve invested in real estate in the Philippines, my projection for this year and the following years is… flat. I think this will have to govern some of my decisions this year. How to earn more as the cost of living increases. Rent has more than doubled for me. Even if I live away from the city, I’m expected to pay higher than what I had been paying for rent five years ago. I do not want to compromise my lifestyle. I’m not going into a corner to eat cup noodles. I don’t even eat out at expensive restaurants. I think I’m right in the middle. But it’s getting frustrating.

It’s getting more and more frustrating.

I’ve been working in corporate for almost two decades and I’m looking at furniture that won’t make sense to own because I’m on a work pass. I’m starting to loathe these expat videos “how much I spend in Singapore in a month” and they so casually say they’re spending SGD 4,500 on rental while the domestic helpers are earning… what, a fraction of that. I saw an expat post for sale her pre-loved furniture set for SGD 3,500. Really. It’s not wrong, but they’re on a different field.

A good friend of mine has been reminding me that I can earn more in the United States. Yeah, I admit that’s a truth. It’s also an unfair advantage. I can move to the states, find a job, and make a living too. But I enjoy my time in Singapore… I love it here. It’s how to resolve thoughts about a sustainable future where I can earn more than enough… versus living pay check to pay check.

So that’s what this photo of coffee really means.

Welcoming 2023 from Marina Bay, Singapore

Welcoming 2023 from Marina Bay, Singapore

Happy New Year! We welcomed 2023 from the lawn at Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC). πŸŽ‰

It’s the first New Year’s Day countdown without restrictions on gatherings. Joining us were our former housemates from Pasir Ris. We met up at our apartment in Tanjong Pagar and walked over. That simple 😍

There was a Japanese fireworks event called “STAR ISLAND” happening but ticket prices were in the hundreds, so we skipped it. While making our way to Marina Bay around 11pm, we could hear the fireworks show. I think it’ll be fun to watch with parents or young kids. To learn more about STAR ISLAND, here’s a link.

Grateful we’re at this stage of the pandemic where people can go out safely. Singapore is adamant on moving on from the pandemic. After seeing the crowds, I think it’s a sign that citizens and residents are moving on. Families, people young and old, pets, migrant workers, everyone was out on the streets.

I can’t vouch for the best place to watch the fireworks since this was my first time. Obviously, it’ll be ideal to have a hotel room that is facing the fireworks. However, since I used to work at MBFC, I was familiar with the lawn on that side of the bay. It’s also elevated from street level. That’s where I brought the group.

It was already packed with people around 11:30pm. But there was a rare cool breeze in the city that night. It’s normally sticky and humid! There was a drone show (is that what they call it?). You can see the MediaCorp countdown stage at the Promontory but the speakers were far so we couldn’t hear the hosts do the countdown. I also couldn’t get a signal on my cellphone since… well… jam-packed. So watching the countdown over MeWatch was impossible.

The drones formed an “analog” clock which served as the countdown in the final minute of 2022. What a year it was (we always say that). I wrote about my favourite moments in 2022 here. The analog clock was also backwards from our vantage point, so when we counted 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… nothing was happening yet. And then, the fireworks.

We hugged each other and shared best wishes. I’ll say this… great to welcome the new year with the same group of friends I’ve been welcoming the new year with in 2020, 2021, and 2022. We are the pandemic gang (yikes) – these were the faces I spent most of the pandemic with.

Afterwards we walked back home and played The Werewolf Game for a couple hours. PJ and I were hosting our friends for the first time in our Tanjong Pagar apartment. PJ prepared “mango float” (an icy mango dessert in the Philippines), tuna pesto pasta, and some fritters. Our friends brought over carbonara, spaghetti (wow, we had three types of pasta) plus some desserts.

Happy New Year, dear readers and followers! ❀️

πŸ”Ž How did you spend the new year countdown?

Related: After 2 years of ‘boring’ New Year celebrations at home, crowds flock to Marina Bay to ring in 2023

Best moments from 2022

Best moments from 2022

This past year I celebrated my tenth year in Singapore. I also moved houses, got promoted, bought land, and voted for the next president of the Philippines. I’ll remember 2022 as the year that, for me, was a step back to normal. The pandemic isn’t over. But many people are over it. As for me? I think I’m okay now. Here are my best moments from the past year.

❀️ Seeing my family again after being forced apart by the pandemic. Clearly the highlight of the year was coming home to Manila in June to reunite with my family after more than two years apart. TBH it was anxiety-inducing and I tested religiously before arrival and after arriving. The homecoming was perfect. We also got to spend time together at a beautiful airbnb in San Juan, La Union. Best birthday trip ever.

πŸ‡»πŸ‡³ Going overseas for the first time during the pandemic. Before Manila, I was actually backpacking briefly in Hanoi. It was my first overseas travel since 2019 and I wanted to spend it exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter. I met up with my friend E and together we went on a street food tour. I also got to visit the infamous Hanoi Hilton as well as check out the city’s many coffee shops. It also led to the other highlight which is…

🎯 Getting my first tattoo while in Hanoi. I wanted to make my trip to Hanoi extra memorable so I researched what’s a good place to get a tattoo. I found Silver Ant Studio on Instagram and made an appointment for a consult. It happened quickly but I left the place a happy customer. It’s a simple but meaningful tattoo: “Press continue”. Never a game over.

πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­ Voting in the Philippine national elections for the first time. I thought we had this but we didn’t. I voted for the first time in the Philippine national elections since I gained Filipino citizenship in 2019. I made the absentee vote at the Philippine Embassy in Singapore. I remember I wore neutral colours when voting because I didn’t want to roughen up with folks. But lo and behold, people went in blood red.

🏞️ Starting the process of purchasing my first piece of land. What was on my wish list before I turn 40 came (somewhat) true, three years early. I started the process of purchasing land in San Fernando, La Union. This is together with a group of friends who are purchasing adjacent lots. As of this writing, we’re already applying for the title paperwork and expect to make the 2nd half payment in early 2023.

🧳 Enjoying a promotion at work and shifting our office location into a WeWork. I got promoted to Senior Executive earlier this year and I’m also the de facto Philippines lead for the media team at my company. I’ve never been promoted in all my previous roles. So this is a victory I’m celebrating in 2022. We also relocated our Singapore office to a new space that is one block away. We’re now in a WeWork opposite Lau Pa Sat.

πŸ“¦ Moving to Tanjong Pagar. With our two-year house contract in Pasir Ris expiring in August, we wanted to evaluate our living situation since the cost of rent in major cities around the world has increased tremendously. Our rent in Pasir Ris, one of the more distant locations to live in for those of us working downtown, was increasing. We felt that paying more and staying far didn’t make sense. We went on the most difficult house hunt in memory but landed a very central apartment in Tanjong Pagar.

πŸ’» Working remotely from Manila and La Union. I think another highlight was being allowed to work remotely from Manila and La Union during my homecoming visit in June. My work can be done almost entirely digitally and remotely. In La Union, I got to work from a co-working space with a view of the surf. In Manila, I got to work from a hotel which afforded me opportunities to meet with journalists in person.

πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬ Welcoming the family back to Singapore for holiday. My family also wanted to enjoy their first overseas travel during the pandemic. They picked no better place. I welcomed them in Singapore back in November. We had a carefully-planned itinerary which included buffet food, shopping, and sightseeing. It also didn’t involve a single MRT or bus ride. We took the Grab six-seater vehicles which were really comfortable!

😷 Surviving Covid. I got Covid in October and documented my experience here on my blog. I think I got it bad (too). I had a sore throat, a bad cough, and fever. I don’t know how I got it. I say that because I’m the kind of person who has avoided crowds, who has opted to continue wearing a mask in crowded areas, etc. But I still got it!

πŸƒπŸ» Racing again in-person. With virtually all pandemic restrictions lifted by December, I joined an in-person race again. The last one was in 2019. I think this was a personal turning point. Most people are already living “normally” in the pandemic. Some people aren’t. I’m now comfortable again to go out there, meet, and mingle.

🚲 Featuring in a Multisport article about cycling in Singapore. I was featured in Multisport (a sports publication under Inquirer) and this included a video feature. I had fun sharing with Multisport my cycling path. You can read the article here.


Happy new year, everyone!

Song of the year (2022)

Song of the year (2022)

I wrote yesterday that I was struggling to pick a favourite song for the past year. Both Spotify and Apple Music have the same artist (Beyonce) and same song (ALIEN SUPERSTAR) as my most played. However, I felt that another song (not in any of my top lists) kinda fit the vibe for 2022. And that song is…

✨ Succession Main Title Theme by Nicholas Britell ✨

I moved to an apartment in Tanjong Pagar a few months ago (Tanjong Pagar is part of Singapore’s central business district). I also got promoted at work and went on an overseas business trip. I started paperwork to…

Nicholas Britell is also the musical composer behind Andor. One of my favourite shows in 2022.


πŸ”Ž What’s your favourite song from the past year? And why do you think music matters?


Here are my previous picks for β€œsong of the year”:

  • 2021 – One Last Kiss – Utada Hikaru
  • 2020 – 3-way tie: Play (Chungha), Stay Tonight (Chungha), and On (BTS)
  • 2019 – LALALAY β€“ SUNMI
  • 2018 – All the Stars β€“ Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA
  • 2017 – Flame β€“ Tinashe
  • 2016 – The Life β€“ Fifth Harmony
  • 2015 – Talking Body β€“ Tove Lo
Revisiting Haar Attic at Keong Saik

Revisiting Haar Attic at Keong Saik

Two months ago I got my ✨ first perm ✨ at Haar Attic in Keong Saik. How was it? It was a great experience! (Just that I needed to adjust as I was used to QB House all this time omg πŸ’€). I’m not used to spending so much on hair treatments!!! But I thought it’d be worth it. My family was visiting from the Philippines the following week and I wanted a #newlook for our group photos.

I also needed to get my hair coloured. I loved the result! ❀️

I’ve rethought what getting a haircut means to me. I’ve upgraded it to one of my “three pillars of self-care”. What are the pillars?

  1. Haircuts. A good haircut = a good mood.
  2. Massages. Loosen up those knots!
  3. Fitness. Get out and be active.

I used to think SGD 12.00 haircuts were enough. But I’d leave unsatisfied. It affects my mood if I’m having a bad hair day. At least now, with the right salon and the right stylist to counsel you how to maintain a great haircut… it’ll help me mentally. 🀠

Anyway back to today’s haircut. We were half-day at work today (30th December) so I made an appointment with Haar Attic via their online portal. It was an easy booking to make (3 days ahead). I opted for the senior stylist or director, his name is Kelvin. I wanted to get a great consult in. I also checked out Google reviews and he was highly recommended.

When I got to the salon I was a bit of a humid mess (anyone walking in Singapore’s humidity at 12:49pm will understand) so I got a 5 minute breather to settle in. I also realised later on that it’d be better to take the train to Outram Park and walk a shorter 5 minutes than to walk the full 15-minutes from my apartment in Tanjong Pagar. πŸš†

Kelvin was fantastic. Nothing felt rushed. He was snipping away and answering my questions about my hair. He explained how I could maintain a perm for a longer time (avoid dry hair, choose a better shampoo). He also re-shaped my haircut and gave tips how to keep the hair fluffy not flat.

Anyway here’s a before and after (side view):

The hair rinse was so nice that I couldn’t help but ask about the shampoo. It’s a Japanese brand called “N.” and the product is called “Shea Shampoo”. Kelvin says that shampoo choice is important if I want to prolong the lifespan of a perm. The budget guy in me agreed?!

Investing a little more on shampoo 🀝 prolonging a perm treatment

The shampoo is SGD 68.00 at the salon, but I got a “returning customer” discount and got the bottle for SGD 60.00. (Ouch?) I found out it’s about SGD 50.00 on Lazada. It’s okay, I guess this is my show of support for Haar Attic after all these years. I’m told a 20-cent coin size of shampoo is all that’s needed to form a nice lather and that the bottle can last up to two months.

Okay, we can do this:

😎 Verdict

No regrets coming here twice in two months. In both instances, the service was great. I’m not sure if I’m choosing the best time to go to the salon… it’s not crowded, but it has a loyal following I feel. Masks aren’t required to be worn inside. It feels comfortable, there’s nice music playing.

πŸ’° Costs

  • My haircut with Mr. Kelvin is called “Men’s Cut with Kelvin (Keong Saik)” and cost SGD 55.00 (booked and paid online). There’s an alternative “Men’s Cut with Anyone (Keong Saik)” at SGD 40.00.
  • My perm and hair colour treatment in November 2022 was about SGD 256.00.


Haar Attic, 18A Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089125 (πŸš†Nearest MRT: Outram Park)

πŸ”Ž Question for youuu

Are you happy with your current hair salon / hair studio?