2013 snuck up on me. While 2012 was such a roller-coaster of emotions and events, 2013 seemed like it was nice and steady. But then, I look back and I realize that the aftereffects of the year have all been subliminal. I have changed because of the little moments that transpired throughout the year. And there were so many great moments that it’s hard to pick a favorite. I guess that’s what 2013 is was to me: moments stitched together to make up a whole—some small, some big, some inconspicuous—but all essential in a way.
I started the year with a day trip to see Mt. Pinatubo’s famous crater Lake. The weather didn’t quite cooperate that day and the turquoise colored promise of a lake didn’t quite deliver, but I met some really lovely people who ended up being friends.
At the tail-end of the month, I joined another set of strangers on a trip to swim with the whalesharks of Donsol, Sorsogon, with a quick side trip to Legazpi, Albay. I remember the anticipation and worry that went with that boat ride off the coast of the town of Donsol. Anticipation because of the excitement of getting to swim with the gentle giants of the sea. Worry that we might not even see one. After hours of waiting, we were rewarded with a sighting, and I got to swim alongside the beautiful creature for maybe a minute or two before it disappeared into the dark waters of Donsol. I still feel elated just thinking about that swim. I would definitely want to do that again.
The beginning of March brought me and my close friends to Puerto Galera to soak in some sun and attend a music festival in Mt. Malasimbo. I still remember the bongos and the dancing! And all the crazy (high?) people having a hell of a good time. And yeah, how charming was Joss Stone? I still remember something she said during her set, “Love music. It will love you back. Guaranteed!” Yup. *Nods head*
The end of March found me and a friend—and what would look like the whole of Metro Manila—up North exploring Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and La Union during the Holy Week holidays. It’s been a long time since I traveled during the Holy Week and the rush of tourists took me by surprise. I learned a lot of travel lessons during that trip. It taught me the importance of preparedness and patience, and never forgetting to have fun.
April found me and a group of travelers and friends on a backpacking trip to Romblon, with a quick side trip to Boracay. I will always remember Romblon as the trip where I got to ride the most number of types of transportations that exists in the Philippines. From a train, to a bus, to ferries, to jeepneys, to habal-habals, to outrigger boats, to an airplane, and finally a taxi cab. Also, the sand, the sea, and the sun. My triple threat combo. Best summer trip of 2013, I say!
The beginning of May of 2013 found me on an unplanned road trip to Bagac, Bataan to see old (and replicas of old) houses at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar with some good friends. How I remember it: uncontrolled fits of laughter, and relationship talk, and pictures—and more pictures.
The middle of the month found me and my two friends in the sweetest disposition as we watched Temper Trap perform in Wanderland Music Festival. I still get goosebumps when I remember Temper Trap’s vocalist, Dougy’s falsetto. *Shivers*
The next day, still a little sleepy, I joined another set of friends—this time from high school—on a ferry ride to Corregidor. This was my second time in Corregidor and I was expecting pangs of nostalgia to bring a dark cloud with me to the island, but none came and the trip ended up being extra fun, not to mention educational, for me and my friends.
June (+ July)
The tail end of June found me on one of my most memorable trips yet. Kalinga was such a revelation to me: the journey, the place, the people, the tattoo, the moments. F*ck! There are not enough words to explain what a good trip that was. It’s the first time I’ve ever described a trip as epic. And my favorite moment… please allow me to quote myself:
“I remember sitting in an old and battered jeepney we had hitchhiked after our hike back to town, lost in words exchanged that I could not understand… their local but foreign tongue. An observer granted access to a pure state of shared bliss. But also feeling that I belonged, as the men around me tried to explain in broken Tagalog what they were joyful about. Men offering me a swig of gin in a makeshift cup. Coca-cola to chase it down. I remember the beautiful rhythm and sound of the happy and drunken group that sang Salidumay. How odd it felt. How strangely euphoric. How I started to get a little choked up in the jeep, then digging through my rucksack for my phone because my camera’s battery died on me. How I wanted so bad to immortalize that event, because then, at that instant, while I listened to them sing, I knew I was having a moment.”
The end of July, I spent in Hanoi and Cat Ba in Vietnam. This is another trip close to my heart because of so many happy surprises. But I think, the most important one is a lesson: to not let plans ruin a good trip. And that “plans, while good for a jump-off to an adventure, is best thrown out the window.” I’ve become more lax with planning trips these days. It’s no longer about seeing the must-see sights, but really experiencing the place, people, and culture. It’s still not easy, given I’ve only got a few days off in a year, but I think on this trip, I have found a good balance and it’s made me a better traveler.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that my birthday is in July? I’ve turned 28 this year and I think I’ve done a bang up job so far.
September found me back home. I joined the entire family in Dulag, Leyte, for the town fiesta. The tradition of a Filipino fiesta was so incredible to see unfold with new eyes. And the food! Oh the food! That should speak for itself.
November is both devastatingly sad and hopeful at once.
Sad is Haiyan, or Yolanda as we call that fateful storm here. I am still driven to tears just seeing the damage it has caused, and the countless lives it took. I am relieved that our entire family is safe, but on the other hand, I still feel grief for the loss that surrounded a place I once called home. There are continuous rebuilding efforts, and any form of help is welcome. Please visit this link for more information.
Hopeful is because life is moving forward. My friends and family taught me that. I remember a good friend of mine and my own father, who was in Tacloban when Haiyan struck, advising me to push through with my plans and not stop living my life. “There will always be helping. It doesn’t have to stop. But there’s nothing wrong with celebrating life and living.” So I joined my friends to a trip to Angono, Rizal, to watch giants parade their streets.
November (+ December)
At the end of November, I went ahead with a trip that had been in the books for over a year: Malaysia. This trip reiterated something that I have been experiencing the whole year. “Solo” trips are hardly ever really “solo” anyway. As long as you keep an open mind and a good attitude, you will find that the road is full of people ready to share experiences with you. Some will be there for only a day, never to be seen again, and some will be in your life, for how long and how deep, will be entirely up to you.
2013 is almost over. Christmas parties are done. Gifts have been given. Food has been consumed. Life will keep going. I remember 2012 as the year that had so many “big”, life-changing moments. But 2013, I think, is life-changing too. It’s just that the changes are small—maybe, unnoticeable. But I also think that the small changes have the biggest potential to topple you over or push you forward to better days.
Farewell, 2013, and thank you.
This post is my entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December 2013, with the theme “The Pinoy Travel Bloggers Closing the Curtains on 2013: Love, Learn and Living” hosted by Brenna Bustamante of The Philippine Travelogue.