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.

A Day Trip to Pulau Ubin

We went to Pulau Ubin over the weekend. Pulau Ubin is a small island off the northeast coast of Singapore. It’s accessible via a 10-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

What I love about Pulau Ubin:

  • It’s a great place to bike on trails.
  • It has a countryside appeal that’s opposite of urbanised Singapore.
  • There are camp sites for people looking for some adventure.
  • There are rocky beaches to quarries to explore. There’s also hiking on hills.
  • It makes for a perfect day trip on a weekend.

I share more in this week’s uncut video.

Have you been to Pulau Ubin? Tell me about your adventures on the island.

We met up with our friends S and E at the hawker center in Changi Village. The place was packed with cyclists. It had a happy and energetic vibe. I ordered butter toast with kopi C — tbh, it can’t get better than that on a humid morning.

Afterwards we walked over to Changi Point Ferry Terminal to meet up with our other friends. We went straight down to queue for the boats. There was a long queue already as many people wanted to take advantage of the long weekend.

The bumboat cost is S$4.00 per head, one-way. Cash only.

It was a perfect sunny morning and the ride to Pulau Ubin was smooth. When we arrived, we headed straight to the bike rental shops. Mountain bikes were going at S$15 for the older ones, $25-30 for the newer ones. We went for the old ones. Make sure to try them out near the rental shop before you take them.

This mountain bike costs S$15 to rent for the whole day (until 6:00 PM).

If you’re asking why we didn’t bring our foldable bikes, I thought it’d be better to rent for a few dollars than to spend on repairing our bikes which aren’t quite built for rough trails. I also didn’t want to go through the hassle of cleaning my foldies… as they’re expected to get dirt and gravel on them from Pulau Ubin.

Soon after we followed our friends’ itinerary and rode westward from the main village area. The route had numerous cyclists, fisherfolk, and people who opted to go trekking. Unlike our first visit in 2020, we were now allowed to keep our masks off during the entire time while outdoors.

We reached the quarry at the furthest end on the west… where we also wanted to take a trail up a hillside but had to turn around since the ground was muddy. We reckoned it wouldn’t be worth it and instead headed back towards Puaka Hill to enjoy the signature overview shot of Ubin Quarry.

By this time the sun was high above and we were hungry. We made our way to the main village and got a table at a seafood restaurant. There’s only a handful of eateries to choose from which adds to the appeal of the place. We ordered sweet and sour pork, sambal kang kong, cereal prawns, and fried rice.

It felt like we were there for two hours since the food took forever to serve (given the place was packed with customers and it appeared they only had two cooks in the kitchen?). I was enjoying this “holiday” feeling so it didn’t bother me much to wait.

After eating we got back on our bikes and rode towards the east side of the island. We didn’t get to see this side in our visit in 2020. I quite enjoyed this route more because of the many trees. The route is more within the island than the eastern side, which is slightly more coastal. Also, I wouldn’t like to be here after dark omg.

When we got to Chek Jawa Wetlands, you could already hear a thunderstorm coming. I was worried but thought there were shelters at different parts of the route in case of a lightning storm. We walked towards the wetlands area and noticed many monkeys and wild boars.

Shelters you can find throughout the island

It started to drizzle so we headed back to the main village afterwards. I’ll say that the right side (eastern side) is my favourite. We unfortunately didn’t have enough time to do actual trails. I think I’ll visit the island again soon to do some type of trail.

After returning the bikes at the shop

Overall it was a great day trip, save for the thunderstorm that arrived right as we got on a boat back to Changi Village. Overall on my Strava, we covered just above 12km on roads. I’d like to double that next time!

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)

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.

I’ve starting cycling again!

I’ve started cycling again! I’m behind on some updates but I’d like to quickly put this news on my blog. PJ and I decided on getting folding bikes for its portability and easy storage. Plus, I liken us to leisure cyclists. We’d like to “look and see” if we can make cycling a regular lifestyle before we get something that would last longer like a Brompton :P. We picked a HITO A16 Rifle from Tai Seng-based Passion Gadgets.

The HITO A16 Rifle (March 2022) – 16″ wheels, 7-speed Shimano gears, 10.9 kg weight

So far we’ve gone on three “shakedown rides”. We’ve taken the bikes out for a short ride around nearby Pasir Ris Beach Park. Our second ride was to Waterway Point in Punggol via Lorong Halus Bridge – picturesque until we encountered some stray dogs on the way back! And then yesterday we took the bikes from Pasir Ris to Bedok Reservoir via Tampines.

That happy face 🙂

The sunsets are always beautiful from Bedok Reservoir.

Hello again Bedok Reservoir!

I’m stopped short of going all-out in buying accessories such as the right kind of bag for a folding bike or a bike computer to measure speed and distance (instead of fiddling with a mobile device which is a big no-no while riding). I’ve received recommendations from friends who regularly cycle already in Singapore.

I hope to write more about my new cycling adventures. I’d also like to recommend subscribing to another Filipino fellow who does remarkable videos of cycling paths in Singapore. His name is Emjae Fotos and I follow him zealously – to help me plan my upcoming routes.

Also, last week’s Saturday Uncut video:

Do you enjoy cycling? Got any tips for me? Please share!

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)

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

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?

“You speak English quite well.”

I won’t say I’ve been frequently on the receiving end of insults. But when it does happen, it becomes instantly memorable. I remember I was in Dublin a few years ago and someone made that comment: “You speak English quite well.”

I didn’t know how to feel at that moment. I remember I smiled. Lol. Was I flattered? Or was I somehow being put “into my place” in this person’s experience of the world? The other person meant no harm. But that line did stick with me.

A few years further back I was sitting at a table with my friends outside of a restaurant near the Botanic Gardens. I remember we weren’t even loud or anything. But my friends and I spoke a mix of English and Tagalog. What’s memorable here? It was the adjacent table and what appeared to be a Caucasian family staring at us. Like, lol, just staring. Being the introvert I was a few years ago, it made me uncomfortable but I didn’t bother to ask them what was their problem. But I remember that stare. I looked around my own group and nothing looked off. Unless perhaps, it was we spoke English together with our Tagalog. It might be peculiar to those uninitiated.

I don’t know, have you ever felt what a racist stare could look like?

I’m ashamed to admit that I fear I’m privileged as I tend to blend in with the majority race in this country (until I speak… lol). Why I say this? It’s not the same for my partner who looks like he’s not from here. My partner shares that he often gets stopped for a bag check at the MRT stations. Yes, he’s unfortunately handpicked more often than not. Because he looks like he’s not from here? It doesn’t bother him. But I think would it be different if we were walking together side-by-side?

(Recently my partner had my favourite stuffed animal in his bag en route to our staycation hotel room, and feared that in an event of a sudden MRT bag inspection, the stuffed toy would be cut in half during some time of inspection!)

As for “you speak English quite well” I can let it slide because it makes the other person look very, very silly.

This week’s uncut video:

Ten years in the Lion City

March 1, 2022

It was love at first flight with Changi Airport. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I didn’t know an airport could be so clean and efficient that it would make visiting most other airports feel offensive. Changi Airport was delightful and it planted a seed in my mind during a family holiday in 2005. “If an airport can be this good, it must mean something great is happening here. I want to live and work in this city one day.”

I started that journey on March 1, 2012 when I deplaned from a Cebu Pacifc A320 and entered Singapore’s budget terminal. For some reason I remember the music that accompanied this triumphant moment. It was Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die. 😛

Stamp! 90 days social visit pass. 90 days to find a job. 90 days on a tight budget. All I had was a large red luggage and a backpack as I made my way to a hostel in Joo Chiat.

The city felt massive back then. And my heart would race at the thought of exploring every corner — from hawker stalls to the gardens, from the five-foot ways to pontoons and park connectors — the idea of meeting new people with diverse backgrounds and cultures. Excuse the romance of it, if it hasn’t been obvious in the thousands of stories and imagery I’ve shared with you these years. I’ve enjoyed every single bit.

Taken today, March 1, 2022 – ten years to the day I moved to Singapore

Thank you for being my love and my home. What started as a seed has grown beyond anything I’d have ever imagined.