My 2020 Song: Fall On Me

Last year, my chosen song of the year that best described me was This Is Me by Paul & Pasek.  It was such a big hit it actually became the most preferred personal theme song last year of almost everybody.  It was about self-acceptance despite the private struggles and personal oddities that every one of us, in one way or another, possesses.

fall on me…

This year, I decided to have a personal theme song once again.  I actually tried pressuring myself by listening to a bunch of emotional and poignant songs that would best describe myself and my vision this 2020. 

It was actually quite easy to pick one from among the selection of poignant songs composed by Lauv or by Billie Eilish or by Troye Sivan.  But none of them popped my bubble. I actually ended up choosing one song with no intent of actually choosing it.  A song sang by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, it was a mere recommended video on my Youtube.  And once I heard it, I knew it was the one.

I fell in love with the vagueness of the song.  The song’s lyrics and dynamics actually needs quite a measure of wit and intellect to really absorb and understand its message.  Thus, this song’s imprecision, its haziness and its abstractness is so me!

Last year I was so clear and on point about my humility and self-acceptance.  This year, let me be a little odd with my value, be a little puzzling on being caring and a little baffling with my unselfishness because I want you to Fall On Me.

Catching Up with Super Friend Karen B.

William Shakespeare is so correct when he said that “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow”.

The beauty about friendships is that we cannot tell the exact circumstance and that it ensued and best formed before we needed it.  I am super glad to have been privileged to develop super friendships in these manner.

with super friend, Karen B.

One long-time, unpretentious and authentic friendship I obtained is that with Karen B. And after eons of seasons, I have been favored by luck and providence to catch up with this genuine and indisputable human being. 

My friendship with Karen B is actually older than a lot of readers and followers of this blog.  And for the last more than 3 decades that we know each other catching up has been very intermittent.  Catch up can sometimes be between seasons, sometimes annually and sometimes even lengthier than the sports Olympic meets of the planet.

comfy talk! frank, unpretentious and sometimes brutal, you can actually leave behind your pocketful of formalities when you are to catch up with this lady. hahaha!

But despite the irregular meet-ups the level of frankness, candidness and sincerity remains the same.  May it be silly, serious, brutal, momentous or wicked, I can essentially say anything I want to this lady.  And point in fact, she can actually do the same to me!  That is how deep the friendship I have with Karen B.  And I am just so glad to have met up again with this lady.

Bigger than present-day USA, Iran & UK is the Wrath of Taal Volcano

While Iran and USA are so busy hating each other and while Prince Harry and Megan Markle are so into each other that they turned down the opportunity to be United Kingdom’s royal role models who can inspire and help the needy, us here in the impoverished Philippines are in the process of surviving and standing up from the wrath brought about by the littlest and most active volcano in the planet.

now an iconic photograph featuring the scary wrath of Taal

grabbed this photo from Instagram account of my friend, Alex Villavicencio, a local of Taal and full-blooded Batangueño.

With this Taal volcano devastation, we are too busy that we no longer have the time to hate another country.  We too are too busy that we no longer care if royal highnesses Harry and Megan will live a normal quiet life.

How I wish we Pinoys can bring Taal Volcano to the negotiation table to achieve peace and harmony.  How I wish we Pinoys are called by her majesty, Taal Volcano, for an emergency meeting so as to finalize talks about our security and funding of her geography.

Filipinos has had so much when it comes to battling with nature – super typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, severe tropical storms, tsunamis, etc.  and “resilience” has been one genuine character among us.

i love Taal (my 2015 visit)

Now tell me.  Who among the Americans, the Brits and Iranians are facing the bigger challenge in this so called life if compared to the Filipinos?  The hardest battle a nation can encounter is the walloping clash against nature.  But guess what? We Pinoys chose to be tough and resilient despite the fact that our mood and spirit for now has been covered by thick volcanic ash!

Cutest & Bravest

At a very young age, I knew how it was to be very sick.  I was too sickly, I could be considered a regular “customer” of hospitals.  If hospitals and clinics would have a promo like Starbucks – earn enough points to get your free coffee on your next visit – I would be one who can easily earn the required hospital points to avail of a free confinement in the next visit. 

i remember this! my elder sister took this photo and i was just discharged from (as usual) the hospital.  too weak to smile! hahaha!

During my childhood, nurses and doctors are no longer surprised to find and see my name on their medical charts.  Nengkoy (my mother) in fact have loads of stories and anecdotes about her experiences in hospitals and during medical emergency situations that involves none other than, me.

I know how it is to be very very sick.  That is why every time I see a young child at odds and is battling an illness and medical circumstance, my heart would just melt.

I am in tears when I encounter this trending news about John Oliver Zippay, the young kid who battled and won a war against cancer.

The video washed my eyes!  I am super happy for J.O. (his nickname).  What is good to know is that aside from being sickly at a young age, both I and J.O. were tagged “STRONG” by our respective fathers.  The hashtag in J.O.’s GoFundMe page created by his dad was #JOStrong.  My Tatay (Dad) on the other hand named me after Neil Armstrong.

got this from cnn photos!  super happy for this boy! so brave, so brave!

There’s one big difference though between me and J.O.  Aside from his infectious charm, the difference is that J.O. is the cutest and the bravest!

Ten Year Anniversary of My Morocco Adventure

Ten years ago I clearly remember we were all praying and wishing to own the coolest Blackberry phone.  It was the time when lifestyle magazine editors were the arbiters of taste telling readers what to see, shop and do.  Now our lives are ruled by the social media influencers!

me 10 long years ago inside our budget hotel in casablanca

Ten years ago, Alexa, Bixby and Siri may just be the names of your neighbor’s pets.  Now they are your reliable artificial intelligence who can help you with your missions and commissions.  It was also the time when watches were simply used to tell time and you have to manually count the number of steps you had for the day and need to go to the doctor to monitor your calorie intake.  Now these 3 aspects are just minor features of your smart watch!  

In fact this blog, ten years ago was still being powered under Friendster Blogging site prior to my switching to WordPress!  I switched/transferred Nengkoy blog to WordPress in 2011.

Ten years ago was my first long haul adventure out of the country.  Ten years ago was my Morocco adventure!  Though I spent my Morocco exploits with Australian friends, this was my first solo airplane long haul experience!  This I guess gave birth to my loving going solo on travels abroad.

me with joesel, the travel-savant

sahara dessert adventure!

inside a tannery in fes

And can you just imagine how backward technology was during that time?  So solo travel then was more difficult and more challenging.  Internet info then was a bit limited. I can still remember the countless times I personally called Qatar Airways to inquire and ensure that there is no transit visa needed during my lay over in Doha.

I have no idea about the existence of mobile wifi then!  Though internet was existing already, I clearly remember that me, Joesel and Charles had to go the nearest internet shop inside a medina so as to connect online and message love ones from other parts of the world. 

My cellphone was okay then but the camera I was using then was the compact digital camera type! Chinese has not invented selfie sticks and gorilla pods during that time so can you just imagine how we take turns in taking our photos and smiling on camera multiple times so as to get the best selfie angle?

a rest day at merzouga

casablanca mosque

Ten years ago, my Morocco experience was the start of the expansion of my viewpoints of the world.  My learnings of the world were no longer just sourced from the pages of the book I read.  It was the time when my comfort zone was ultimately tested.  It was the adventure that made me realize that I can actually do and accomplish things I never imagine I could do.  It was the start of my different way of growing. 

Wow! It was actually ten years ago and no way will I forget my Morocco adventure!

Visa Application: The Expensive Way of Proving My Being a Human Being

My comment on a Facebook post by Business Insider “Hahaha! No need to read the article.  I know this so well… (Filipino here)” is gaining semi-popularity.  This article written by a Syrian was about how difficult it is to travel when you don’t have the power of a privileged passport.

And like Syrians, Filipinos like me has to face expensive challenges and time-consuming process of obtaining a travel visa.  Like Syrians, Filipino-world travelers has very weak passports.  We are not privileged to travel easily like the French, the Norwegians and the Singaporeans to name a few.

new zealand: visa fee usd 140

shanghai, china: visa fee usd 27.50

Belgians and South Koreans and other nationalities with powerful passport need not plan so much ahead of time.  They can easily go and hop on the next flight available to another country if they wish to.  But Syrians and Filipinos need months in advance of processing our visit visa.  We need to prepare a long list of proofs of our being human beings as well as present our capability to finance ourselves during our travel.

We have to pay the expensive visa fees which Australians, Americans and Canadians can already apportion to their room accommodations or meal expense during their travel.  We have to allot a separate budget for that. Hahaha!  And these pricy visa fees does not actually assure us of securing our needed visit visa.  We need to do loads of prayers to the heavens plus tons of luck!

mexico: visa-free entry if you have japanese or us visa

israel: visa free (yohooo!!!)

turkey: need to have US visa + usd 20 for evisa

As of this writing I have to pay 60 euros to secure a Schengen visa, 160 US dollars to obtain an American visa and 832 US dollars to acquire a 5-year UK visa.  And according to 2018 schengenvisainfo.com report, Schengen embassies and consulates in the Philippines processed 175,700 visa applications.  UK on the other hand processed 78,482 applications.  And these are just Schengen and UK, we Filipinos love USA so do the math on how much these embassies profited from travel-loving Filipinos.

Wealthy Malaysians, Japanese and Singaporeans has to pay nothing.  Zero.  Thus, Schengen, UK and US embassies and consulates don’t earn from them considering that they can effortlessly afford it. 

If for some people getting lost in a foreign country is the most tough, Syrians for and Filipinos on the other hand, the process of obtaining visa is the most difficult.  Hahaha!  It is actually the very element that hinders me from going to places I want to explore.  It is one sad truth that a travel lover like me has to endure and undertake.