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.

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