It’s June!

It’s June!

I want to write more this month.

I’m flying off to Hanoi first thing tomorrow. It’s my first overseas trip in over two years. I’m giddy! A friend from the United States is visiting Southeast Asia and I thought of making a quick backpacking trip out of it. I’m excited to try the egg coffee, visit the museums, and take in a vibrant scene. It’s also to get myself comfortable again with putting myself out there. The pandemic has not ended. But life must continue.

By the way, this song and accompanying music video is brilliant:

What else is happening?

Our company shifted to a new office space yesterday. We’re now taking space inside an actual WeWork. When they announced we were moving into a WeWork, I couldn’t help but smile. No, don’t get me wrong, Anne Hathaway has nothing to do with it. It’s because a few years ago I was attending these networking events at WeWork. They had talks, workshops, you name it. WeWork is a subtle step back into this glossy tech-ish world. I remember my days at LinkedIn – free beers, snack attacks, colourful walls, hi’s and hello’s – and here it is, again.

It’s also an upgrade from our current office space. Here’s a ✨ before and after ✨ for you. I welcome it. I think it’s time to add colour again after two years of white and grey.

I’ve moved forward with the lot purchase in La Union (which I mentioned in a recent post). We’re now working on paying for the survey and getting the right-of-way completed. I don’t think we’re going to have it paved. It’s too soon. But I’m excited, really. I own a piece of land!

Lastly, Hanoi isn’t the only destination I’m going to. I’ll be in the Philippines at the end of the month. After two and a half years away from my family, I’m coming home. ❤️

Time for… a haircut

Time for… a haircut

Where do you get your haircut?

I’ve been getting my haircut at Sultans of Shave since we moved to the east. It’s one of the things I allow myself to splurge on. Other men can get a haircut for only SGD 12.00 to 15.00 at a ten-minute haircut shop. But here it’s SGD 45.00 to 55.00. It’s guilty pleasure. I like the scent of sea salt being sprayed into my hair. I also love that rich lather while getting my hair washed.

I need to make changes to my spending habits after this piece of news. I’ll eventually have to say goodbye to the hour-long haircut ritual (yes, the barbers take their sweet time… I sometimes find myself falling asleep!). Hello again vacuum suction thingy at the MRT haircut shop. Hello… again.

Also been fiddling with the ‘image compare’ feature on WordPress. Here’s a before and after of today’s haircut. I love keeping my hair short these days.

I feel fresh!

Sultans of Shave has branches across the city. But the one at Jewel Changi Airport is on the fourth level (#04-240) near Mellower Coffee and LeNu.

I bought a piece of land

I bought a piece of land

I’ve started the process of owning a piece of land!

My friends in the Philippines took photos of the lot

One of my life goals is to own a piece of land before I turn 40. The paperwork will take about a year. If there are no problems, I’ll be 38 when I hold onto a title.

Where is it? It’s in La Union, a hilly coastal province in Northern Philippines. It’s about 20 minutes away from a popular surfing enclave facing the West Philippine Sea. The coast is facing the west which means it has postcard-perfect sunsets. I couldn’t stop from scanning through people’s Instagram stories of the sunset in the area. It’s glorious to think that I can own something that’s 20 minutes away from that kind of view. I wouldn’t be lying if I said this was like a dream coming true.

What happens next? There’s much to get done including paving a right-of-way and installing a proper drainage to the area. I’m thinking of putting up a small wire fencing around the lot. If I can afford better, I’ll put up a proper wall to secure the perimeter. I’m already studying possibilities including which architects from my personal circle to work with. I’m also part of a group so it’s really about saving and helping pay for common area expenses (right-of-way, drainage, etc.).

What’s my motivation? I like the feeling that I’m responsible for something tangible beyond saving up for another iPhone or going on a vacation. I like the feeling that the money I’m earning from my career can now slowly be funnelled into things that are more future-oriented like retirement. To think, I’ve been paying rent for twenty years. I want to put aside money that goes into something that I can build a house on in the future. The idea excites me. And in hard times, it’s good to envision a future.

What’s my plan for the lot? It’s residential. Perhaps a vacation house up north. Or in this era of teleworking, an actual house to live and work from. It’s near the beaches and near the planned extension of a popular expressway that links up to the ones leading to Metro Manila (about 5 hours away). I’m studying the roads that will be developed in the area. The group is treating the area as a retirement commune.

YouTube already knows the kinds of videos I enjoy watching since this pandemic started. I’ve been obsessed with watching videos about tiny homes, country houses, tropical villas, and life living off-the-grid. I don’t think I’ll be living off-the-grid, but I’m happy an idea is being planted today.

We have to start somewhere. ❤️

I’ll write about my experience buying land and I’ll document that journey here.

Thank you heaps to my friends T&M, R, TJ&M for helping with the initial paperwork in La Union this month (May 2022). Thank you to my parents and my brother for their support.

Shattered.

Shattered.

I’ve a list of places, food, and happenings to write about. Staycations, restaurants, and some cycling adventures the past few weeks. However, I’ve been bogged down with other matters like the Philippine national elections.

I’m heartbroken it’s come to what it is.

My manager let me take a day off (medical leave) to clear my mind. I took my bike out to Changi Beach to catch the sunset.

I don’t want to think too soon, but I worry this will affect if I’ll decide to settle in the Philippines eventually… or stay out of it… perhaps only coming home for vacations. I might be dramatic. I don’t know. I’m disappointed. Many others are furious. There’s jubilation. People are crying. There’s hope, fear, apathy, and grief. History is eroding, people are buying history books in fear they’ll be taken away… it’s… I can’t.

I’m not religious, but God… please bless the Philippines.

In the news: After Philippines election triumph, son visits dictator father’s grave

Run Route: Singapore River (2022)

Run Route: Singapore River (2022)

I’ve had this on my bucket list for a while! A run along the Singapore River.

The starting point is Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) which is just a short walk from Raffles Place MRT if you’re entering the downtown area.

The run goes in the direction of Clarke Quay on the side of ACM. You’re opposite the shophouses and restaurants that line Boat Quay. On this side, you’ll pass by the nation’s Parliament and you’ll make your way to two pedestrian underpasses to emerge on the Clarke Quay side.

If it isn’t crowded, you can jog along the side of Clarke Quay’s blocks and pass by the restaurants and bars. I’m happy they’ve allowed music to be played again. If it’s crowded, the alternative I think would be to run along the side of the road on the edge of the restaurant blocks.

Continue running along the shared cycling and pedestrian paths and you’ll pass by the demolished Liang Court. I was surprised to see this already taken down. I used to do my groceries at Meidi-Ya a few years ago here. The area is being redeveloped into the CanningHill Piers. Fancy name, huh!

Further down, it’s Robertson Quay and the rainbow-coloured Alkaff Bridge. This bridge was painted by Filipino American Pacita Abad as a “gift to Singapore” before she passed away in 2004. I’m biased here, but it’s the prettiest bridge on this stretch.

Also, restaurants and cafés in this area look extra special at sunset! I really want to try Botany. I spotted one or two izakayas too.

I wanted to turnaround from Great World City but got distracted by a rowdy family of otters near Jiak Kim Bridge. A group of people were gathered around. I honestly thought there was some type of accident. But they were all gathered around watching the otters.

By this point the sun had already set and I turned back towards Boat Quay from the opposite side of the river. I can’t emphasise further… but this route is a dream for the urban runner. I couldn’t help but stop a few times to take it all in. I’d say last night’s run was for familiarisation. I wanted to see which side of the river made more sense so I can do a proper run without any scenic stops next time. 😛

The quieter side of the river is obviously opposite the side of the restaurants and cafés. I noticed they upgraded the sidewalks and added more markers to direct cyclists and runners.

You can find my route on Strava below. The start and finish was from ACM (rightmost side). From right to left, it would be Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, and Robertson Quay aka Kampong Martin (I’ve never heard of that before!).

It’s a great 5km that’s an alternative to doing a loop around Marina Bay. I’m doing more of these runs in the city since I’m back in the office at least twice a week. I try to make it a point to enjoy the downtown area more… since I’ve been cooped up at home in Pasir Ris for far too long.

Definitely recommend this route for those who enjoy running in downtown areas.

What keeps me inspired to work harder

What keeps me inspired to work harder

A few months ago I wrote about how I started my first condo investment back in the Philippines. I’ve been getting most of my updates from YouTube videos (like the one below) and Facebook group photos. I also occasionally peek at Skyscraper City. It’s where I get my chismis (gossip) about the latest developments of different infrastructure back home.

The 1-bedroom unit I got is almost like a shoebox. But I pride myself in having a creative eye and will partner with an interior designer who understands my vision and will know how to maximise small spaces. I’m excited by it. It’s like a pet project.

Will I be living in this unit? It would be odd to answer that since I don’t know if I’ll be based in Manila again in the near future. What matters is that I put a plan in place like renting it out.

Based on the video above, it looks like both towers are progressing side-by-side equally. Tower 1 will be completed by October 2024 and Tower 2 by January 2025. I’m also curious to see the road they’ll build which will connect EDSA Northbound to Pines Street, which would serve the condo communities behind Light 2 Residences. Did I mention that the ground level will house a small shopping mall? This plays to the profile of the weekday warrior renter (or myself). Everything needed is downstairs already. And if you want peace, go home to the province on a weekend.

Separately, and rather ambitiously, I’m looking for a small plot of land in Cavite to put up an inspired house. I’ve no leads right now. But it’s something I’m working on. Is this normal for a gay person in their late 30s… wanting to set up base?

For this one, I’m inspired by these terrace houses I’m seeing from Malaysia. They’re on a narrow plot of land which means they build upwards to three storeys. But it’s not done in a copy-and-paste way. Minimal walls almost. It’s more like two towers linked by a bridge over a central courtyard (or air well – shophouses!). I just love looking at these videos. I wouldn’t be able to afford these but I dream.

I think it ‘s the dreaming that keeps me going.

PS: I’ll provide updates on the SMDC condo (and my search for a small piece of land in Cavite) as I go along.

TV shows I’m watching (March 2022)

TV shows I’m watching (March 2022)

I mentioned earlier that Singapore has been recording over 10,000 cases per day in the past few weeks. It’s also greatly discouraged me from leaving the house to socialise with friends. I’ve been at home trying my best to cope.

Being stuck at home is not good for my mental wellness. But that said, there’s actually a long list of things that I can do while at home. Make videos, write, read, play video games, record a podcast episode, call family, or watch TV shows.

Here’s a list of the TV shows I’m watching this month:

  • The Gilded Age (HBO Go)
  • Severance (Apple TV)
  • The Amazing Race 33
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK vs the World (WOW Presents Plus)
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race 14 (WOW Presents Plus)
  • The Walking Dead 11 (Disney+)
  • Star Trek: Discovery 4
  • Downton Abbey 1 to 6 (Netflix)

The current favourite is The Gilded Age which is Julian Fellowes’ (Downton Abbey) take on old vs new money in 1880s New York. It stars Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City / And Just Like That), Louisa Jacobson (who I just learned is Meryl Streep’s daughter), and Carrie Coon (The Leftovers / Fargo) who plays “new money” Bertha Russell. I’m obsessed with the way Carrie speaks. What do I love about it? It’s 1880s New York… brownstones that house elegant families, horses and carriages on the streets of New York… history, greed, costumes, the quick banter that fans loved from Downton Abbey.

Severance is cut temporarily short since I don’t have an active Apple TV subscription. I was watching the free preview. It has Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) in it. The premise is wack. It’s about people who sign up to work in an office on a floor where your memories are “severed” from that of your personal life. It’s work-life SPLIT instead of balance. It’s kind of disturbing and I only got to episode 2.

Two editions of RPDR ran side-by-side in the past two weeks. The flagship RPDR in the states which is on its fourteenth season… Willow Pill pulling in as my favorite. Then there’s the aptly titled UK vs the World which finished last week and had Pangina Heals and Jujubee in it. It was a “lipstick” season – or in the “all stars” format where the queens vote themselves out… to RuPaul’s amusement.

The Walking Dead is back for its final walk. The 2nd half of its final season started. I’m watching it “for the sake” to see what happens. It’s a show I enjoyed in its first five seasons. And then I skipped everything until this 11th season… using YouTube to recap everything I missed. Sorry to TWD fans but it’s like I didn’t miss anything. It’s back-and-forth tribal warfare. TWD was always about humans, not zombies. I am excited to see how it’ll end. And what other shows are being developed in this TWD universe.

Question: What TV shows are you watching?

My topic for this week’s Saturday Uncut is how more than half of my career was about getting paid to watch TV shows. I’ve worked with five companies in the past 15 years and three of those were in the business of writing promo More about that below.

Planning a staycation for my mental health

Planning a staycation for my mental health

I need a mental break. I’ve served two back-to-back Health Risk Notices (I’m a close contact of a few positive cases) and I’ve had enough of staying at home. While each notice is 5-7 days and you can technically leave the house as long as you test negative on your antigen rapid test (ART), I felt a strong need to be socially responsible and just cancel any or all social engagements. Plus, the local case count remains above 15,000 daily. We’re a small country for 15,000 daily.

But I’ve reached my stay-home limit. Cabin fever is taking a toll on my mental health. I’ve noticed I feel down every morning, afternoon, and evening. It’s like a grey cloud that follows you everywhere.

I’ve decided to book another staycation. Previous ones were tied to birthdays, anniversaries, or Valentine’s. But this time I’ve booked a staycation which is purely for improving my mental wellness. I enjoyed staying at Heritage Collection Boat Quay last month. I remember how happy I was to be a few steps away from everything. Good food, great views, museums to explore… and it costs a fraction of staying at the pricier hotels in the vicinity. I don’t have the runway to spend much these days… so I have to choose carefully what fits my budget.

Here’s a soft checklist of what I want to do for my mental health staycation:

  • Do nothing. 🙂

But me being me, there has to be an actual checklist so I don’t end up paralysed over being indecisive once I’m in the hotel. Here’s a better list.

  • Cafe hopping. No Instagram photos needed. Enjoy coffee and aim to finish more chapters in books I’m reading (Ikigai, Sex and Vanity, The Bees).
  • Run the Singapore River route I originally planned for last month. I only got to do the Marina Bay portion. It would be nice to complete the quays this time. Boat Quay. Clarke Quay. Robertson Quay. Grabbing kopi C on the way back to the hotel. That would be niiiice.
  • Revisit that Vietnamese restaurant around the corner. Sorry I forgot the name but it brought me back to Ho Chi Minh City with the seating out front. They have set meals and… Vietnamese coffee.
  • Check out the new basement concourse area at the National Gallery. Check the gallery if I missed any exhibits since my last visit. More importantly is to do this on my own. Museums and galleries are great when done at your own pace, right?
  • Have a few skewers at an Izakaya nearby. Also forgot the name… but spotted it last month along Boat Quay.
  • Hike up Fort Canning – if I could squeeze this in. This sounds like a stretch but who knows where the feet will lead us.
  • In the hotel room it would be nice to cozy up by putting on any of the Oscar-nominated films this year. I’d like to see CODA.
  • Speaking of films, maybe it would be worth checking out The Projector X at Riverside Point – during an off peak time since my staycation is on a weekday. Maybe I could get an early show where there are less people?
  • Absolutely disconnect – no work laptops, no checking work emails!
  • Spend time writing and blogging from another cafe or from the hotel. It would be nice to reconnect with writing…

Putting it out there. Let’s hope I could do at least a third of these things.

What do you suggest I do?