The Queen's Funeral: My Personal Experience

Thursday, 29 September 2022

I have been quite lucky to have seen The Queen and the Royal Family three times in the last few years- first during the Queen's Golden Jubillee and subsequently twice in the last five years at Trooping the Colour. And having lived a few minutes walk away from Buckingham Palace for over five years, I had the immense pleasure of running past one of the most famous buildings in the world on most weekends during my morning runs. No matter how many times I have seen the Palace, until now, I still can't help but take a snap of this momentous building whenever I pass by. The Buckingham Palace became my favourite subject when I was trying to experiment on photography, taking photos of the building from different angles. Needless to say that this place has become a very special part of my Central London life. 

That's why when I heard of Our Majesty's passing, I knew that I had to pay respect one way or another. Hence, that Saturday following her death, I went to the Palace at sunrise to do just that. I intentionally went there very early to avoid the crowd and so that I could run after. The experience was quite surreal. There were already people outside the Palace, laying flowers for The Queen. By this time, the tribute area has been moved to Green Park. They were no longer allowing the public to leave flowers outside the Palace. There was chillness in the early morning air, but the sadness in the surrounding was more perceptible. 

Four days later, The Queen's Lying-in-State commenced. I was very tempted to go, and wished that we still lived in Central London so I could have gone at midnight. However, the queue went longer as the days passed, so I decided not to go at all. But I was not going to miss her funeral. 

The last time I saw The Queen in person, it was at the Trooping The Colour (The Queen's Annual Birthday Parade) in 2019. I was finishing my morning run but decided to hang out at The Mall and waited for the parade. I waited for at least three hours at that time, so I knew I was going to wait longer at her funeral.

So, I arrived in Constitution Hill around 0715. I chose Constitution Hill because I knew that there would only be single barricades in the area unlike in The Mall. This meant better view of the procession. As expected, the area was already largely packed. Luckily, I found a good spot midway to Wellington Arch, where the procession would end. Three lovely ladies were kind enough to allow me to join their group. 

From 0715 to almost 1200, the crowd waited patiently for the procession. Some people brought their breakfast at the venue. I spotted people who brought a box of Kelogg's cornflakes, some waffles and a bowl of porridge. But that morning also opened my eyes to a lot of different breakfast habits. As early as 0715, some people were eating crisps, French fries, cookies and cakes. Some people brought hot drinks, others queued up for two hours to get a cup of coffee in Green Park. A lot of people came prepared of course (someone even brought a box of tampax), however there were no signs that people slept in that area overnight. All of the overnighters slept in The Mall I think. I was in my running clothes and I had nothing to sit on. I thought I was going to manage to stand up for five hours, however, my feet started to feel numb after two hours. Luckily, the ladies were kind enough to share the coat that they were sitting on. So, there I was sat on the ground, on my mobile, chatting to a friend who didn't believe I actually went to watch The Queen's funeral procession.

At around 0730, the members of the Metropolitan Police started marching to their posts. People cheered on them. The atmosphere at this point was light and kind of joyful. I could hear people talking fondly of The Queen like they knew her personally. Some shared their experiences in meeting The Queen many years ago. Some talked about the hats that the Met Police was wearing and what they meant. Others were videocalling with their families, wishing that they were there.

When the Westminster Abbey finally opened at 0800, people tuned in to BBC to watch The Queen's coffin taken in procession from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey, and subsequently the funeral service. The radio in Green Park was turned on. One of the ladies I was with connected her mobile to a power bank so we could all watch on her mobile. The mood suddenly changed. People became silent and somewhat reflective. Some people started to tear up. There were so many "awws", "bless" and "this is sad" comments.

Then the British National Anthem, "God Save The King" played on the radio. Everyone around me sang with emotion. Soon after, the service finished and the procession began. At this point, everyone was back on their feet. We were lucky to be behind of only two people. The Met Police in front of us served as our onlooker, at times, other people's mobile phones. As soon as we heard the beat of the drum, we knew the procession was approaching. 

March music was played by members of the Irish and Scottish regiments, the Bridage of Gurkhas and the Royal Air Force ahead of The Queen's coffin. Minute guns were fired from the nearby Hyde Park. Soldiers marched with their rifles reversed as a sign of respect.

Approximately 142 Royal Navy Sailors pulled the gun carriage that carried The Queen's coffin. When the carriage approached the area where we were standing, everyone became emotional. It was surreal seeing the Queen's coffin draped in The Royal Standard Flag, her crown, sceptre and orb on top. The coffin was followed by members of The Royal Family, grief evident on their faces. 

It was a privilege for me to have witnessed a moment of history. Growing up, I only knew The Queen through the television and the nursery rhyme, " Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat Where Have You Been?". To physically be there at her funeral procession, sharing my grief with strangers, is an experience I will never forget. Her Majesty, who in 70 years has shown nothing but resilience and grace despite the many uncertainties she experienced throughout her reign- war, recessions, a global pandemic, family scandals and personal loses. She was indeed an epitome of a remarkable leader. We will never have a Queen like her ever again.


My Month-Long Celebration For My 46th Birthday

Monday, 29 August 2022

Over a month later, I am writing about how I celebrated my 46th birthday because after all, it was my first month-long birthday celebration since 2019. I managed to keep some traditions this year, however I was not able to celebrate with my friend Pearl and didn't dine alone because life took over. Regardless though, I thoroughly enjoyed my birthday month and started my journey to 47 (and many years to come) with a hopeful heart and a positive mindset. 

My birthday month celebration kicked off with a much needed date with Ethan. I have not seen this boy since last year and it was very nice to spend some time with him, although it was palpable that sooner or later, he will no longer go on a date with me and his Mum. He is growing very fast and will be a teenager soon that's why I am making the most out of it whilst he still can put up with his Tita Cristine. And what was a better place to have our date than his favourite Shake Shack?

A few days before my birthday, my Ate Nonia and I went for a Hammam Spa at Crystal Palace in Marylebone. It was our first ever Hammam experience and we both absolutely enjoyed it. This unique experience left us re-energised and rejuvinated- definitely the most unforgettable massage experience I've ever had. Essentially, we were treated to a goddess-like bathing experience. To start, we spent 15 minutes in the steam room, followed by 90-minute treatment in their Marble Wet Room. Everything was done in gentle and graceful synchronised manner, from pouring warm water over us, to the exfoliation until the soap massage. Our treatment ended with chocolate care full body mask and a cup of tea after.

On the day of my birthday, J and I had lunch at our favourite restaurant in London, The Ivy in West Street. Like always, we had the best dining experience. J kindly took a day off so we had all day to spend together. After our sumptuous lunch at The Ivy, we went to get some ice cream from Udderlicious, also in Covent Graden. Then we walked to Watch House for coffee and some carrot cake- our third dessert in like- 3 hours. We ended the day with a trip to the cinema- our first cinema date in three years. It was definitely a Happy Birthday- just the way how I wanted to spend my day and in fact, more- because the movie that we watched had very strong messages that I absolutely needed to hear at that time.

My birthday celebration certainly didn't end there. Two days after my birthday, my friend Claudia and I had lunch at one of the restaurants that I've always wanted to go to- Marcus at The Berkeley. It was a dream come true for me, and I will tell you more about this experience on a separate blog about my favourite restaurants in 2022.

Of course, my birthday tradition for a few years won't be complete without a trip to a flower field. One of my work Ates took me to a sunflower field in Esher- it's the same sunflower field that my friend Pearl and I went to last year. The sunflowers were not in full bloom yet at that time but there were enough flowers for us to pick. We also went to the lavender field that my friend Damaris and I visited in June. Then Ate took me to an eat all you can Asian restaurant- my first eat all you can experience in a very long time. It was indeed a day very well spent with one of my biggest blessings this year.

Two days before the end of my birthday month, Kuya Dennis and I had lunch at the Little Social in Mayfair. I am very grateful for him, because since I met him, he has always gone out of his way to make sure we celebrate my birthday together. After our wonderful lunch at the Little Social, we walked to one of my favourite cafes in Piccadilly area for coffee. I was very happy to have spent this day with Kuya Dennis as we had so much to talk about after not seeing each other for a few months, and Little Social and Maison Assouline were the perfect places for us to catch up and celebrate my birthday.

And what better way to cap off my long-month birthday celebration than with an Afternoon Tea with my dear friend Damaris, who would not let my birthday month pass without celebrating with her. Fresh from her holiday in Kenya, we went for an Afternoon Tea at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. It wasn't the best Afternoon Tea experience in terms of the food and the service, however if you are with Damaris, everything becomes a better experience. There is never a dull moment with her. The exchange of stories and the laughter never end. And of course, not forgetting the videos and photos that will last us both a few months. :)

This year's month-long birthday celebration was different in a lot of ways in that the people I celebrated it with, except for J, Ate Elvie and Ethan, were people who just recently became a part of my life. When I say recently, I mean from the last two years. This is actually a reaffirmation that it is not how long you've actually known a person but the connection you make that matters. I believe that these people came into my life at the stage where I needed them. Each and every single one of them has definitely helped me in one way or another, in big and small ways. And there is no doubt that they made a huge impact on my life. 

It was indeed a happy 46th birthday and I am very grateful for everyone who made it special. I felt all the love and I am blessed beyond words.


On Success And What It Means To Me

Sunday, 24 July 2022

A recent situation albeit disappointing, inspired me to reflect on success and what it really means to me. If I were to define success based on what was fed into me when I was growing up, I would say that success means having a degree and a title (i.e Doctor, Engineer), earning lots of money, getting married to a rich man, having children, owning a big house and a luxurious car, and acquiring expensive clothes, shoes and handbags. But that was and I believe still is the society's definition of success. Definitely not mine.

As I grew older, I learned how to look at success more subjectively. Hence, I redefined my definition of success. For me, success begins with intentions. When I was a little girl, I wanted to become a doctor so I can put up my own hospital and work for the UN. I can vividly recall telling my mother I wanted to build a free hospital for the least fortunate people. I remember my mother asking me how would I become rich if I did that?! But God knows, becoming rich was not my intention at that time. Then I took up nursing because I wanted to help other people, and I believed that nursing was the easiest way for me to help my family.

I wasn't born rich, nor did I grow up with a lot of money. In fact, there was a time when my brother and I were young, we ran out of rice to cook for dinner and our mother had to ask from our neighbours. That night is forever etched in my memory because I saw my mother cry so hard because she was refused help. Seeing my mother so helpless and worried that my brother and I would not eat that night inspired me to study harder. I promised myself that this situation will not happen to my family ever again. 

Of course there were people who doubted me and looked down on me. There were people who refused to help me attain my goals. There were people who wronged me along the way. But my intentions remained the same- to help my family and least fortuntate people. Never did it cross my mind to get back at those people who belittled me and didn't want me to succeed. Promise. Instead, I tried very hard to help the least fortunate ones. Through my mother, I helped fund some kids' school fees- from grade school to secondary school, some even to college although not fully. Our house was always open to anyone who needed help. I remember my mother lending money to some people and never getting her money back. Although this may not have been a big deal for some people, I was happy that my family was able to help other people when they needed help the most. And this to me, has been one of my successes in life. 

As a nurse, I worked my way up to becoming one of the many senior leaders in healthcare. At first, I thought that I would only be successful in my career if I moved up the ladder. Until about five years ago when I realised that my success should not merely depend on what I have achieved, but on the person that I have become in achieving my goals. 

I am successful because I love what I do- not just for my patients, but most importantly for the people I work with. Through the years, people have said how I inspired and motivated them to be better, not just as nurses but as people. Just recently, someone told me that she aspires to be like me. Being able to influence people positively is more important to me than titles, positions and material posessions. 

I am successful because I remain grateful to those who were instrumental in getting me to where I am today. Those people who lent money to my mother when she ran short, so she could pay for my tuition fees. The people who bought vegetables from me when I was a little girl, even if they didn't need them. My uncle who edited my thesis. The person who provided me with shelter when I needed it the most, even if it meant I had to sleep on the floor for months. My relatives abroad who gifted us with imported goods- because if it were not for them, we would not have known how spam or hersheys tasted like. Those people who pushed me and continued to believe in me even if I didn't believe in myself. The people who provided me with words of wisdom, who gave me hope when all I wanted was to give up and those who simply praised me when I was doing well and encouraged me when I was failing. Words are sometimes more helpful and powerful than anything tangible. Those things, no matter how small, were very helpful to me. As Tesco's theme says, "Every Little Helps". I can go on and on with all the little help that I received throughout my journey in life, however one blog entry will not be enough, so perhaps I will stop here for now.

I don't think I would be able to call myself successful if I didn't fail multiple times. Failure has been a big part of my success. Because if I didn't fail, I wouldn't have learned how to rise up. I wouldn't have learned the most valuable lessons that helped me become the person that I am today. 

Success, I learned through the years, is also measured by the kind of people you choose to surround yourself with, and the people you choose to influence your life. I am confident to say that I am successful in this aspect because the people around me are the people who infuse positivity in me. They are the ones who influence me to become a better person. They are the people I know will never condone my wrongdoings.

Lastly, I believe that I am successful because wholeheartedly, no matter how far I go, I will never forget where I've come from. Humility taught me how to be more compassionate, kind and empathetic towards others. Besides, I've always believed that there will always be someone better than me and more successful than me, so what's the point of being proud and arrogant?


My Thoughts At 46

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Yesterday, I woke up to birthday messages from friends and family who never fail to greet me on my birthday, year after year. And as the day progressed, more messages came through my inbox and through social media. I had mixed feelings because if I can be honest, I was not in the right frame of mind to celebrate my birthday due to some challenges in my personal life that I am dealing with right now. However, as much as I was and still is disheartened with what is going on, I am determined to continue a tradition that I have started almost 10 years ago. So here I am, writing what is on my mind as I begin my journey to 47.

1. On Being Unmarried and Childless at 46
- Having come from a country where having a family is seemingly the measurement of every person's success (apart from being rich), I was and still is often caught up in an awkward conversation about being unmarried and childless at my age. Some people show compassion, others nothing but insensitivity. I know people do not care about my business, but right at this moment, I feel like I need to say something- something that I probably have not had the courage to tell even some of my family and closest friends about. 

In 2017, after J and I came back from New Zealand, we decided to see a specialist for a work up as we were seriously considering having a baby. It was then I found out that my eggs were not reaching maturity, making it difficult for me to conceive. We considered IVF, however we were only given 15% chance of success. With my age, financial implications and the potential emotional and physical impact, we decided not to go ahead and instead, we kept trying. Five years on, we remain childless. I guess it is fair to say that J and I have accepted our fate in parenthood. This, and my fear that perhaps I am not meant to be a mother because that opportunity has been taken away from me when I lost Keith. But as a firm believer that things happen for a reason, I know from the bottom of my heart why I have not been blessed with a child- because there are other children out there who need me.

Now, on to marriage. I have been married once and it ended in divorce, so can anyone blame me for not wanting to get married again? For me at my age, marriage is no longer important because I believe that it is not a true reflection of any relationship. I am with a good man who makes me happy and that is all I need. Period.

You may ask why I am sharing this to the world. Only for one reason- for people to be more compassionate and sensitive when asking why someone is not married or has no children. Everyone is going through a battle you know nothing about as they say. Be mindful.

2. On the Power of Words
- A week ago,  I had a random conversation with a colleague and without realising it, I was giving her my "Ted Talk". She left the room saying that she will never forget that day. Oftentimes, when I share something on social media, I receive private messages on how my words have impacted them in a positive way, on how I eloquently expressed exactly how they were feeling or how my words gave them the comfort that they needed at the time. And when I am having conversation with poeple face to face, I try harder to be more positive, encouraging and motivating because I know that words have power. People may totally forget about the whole conversation, but they will always remember some if not most of the words that were said. 

It is often difficult to find the right words to say, especially when you are feeling upset, frustrated or angry. However, if you have the self-awareness and if you listen to yourself when you are talking, perhaps you will realise the weight of the words you are about to say. As much as words have the power to comfort and heal, it also has the power to hurt and harm, therefore you always have to think before you speak, or shut up na lang. No, but seriously, some people must be more careful with the words they say. That is all.

3. On Giving and the Rule of Reciprocity
- My mother's disability has taught me a great deal about giving and reciprocity. I mean, we give because we want to give and we don't expect anything in return, but reciprocity should be given. If you google the "rule of reciprocity", it will tell you that it is "one of the basic laws of social psychology", and that we "pay back what we received from others." I mean, where am I coming from and where will this lead to? I can be completely honest right now and say exactly how I feel, but I am starting my journey to another year so I don't want to be so negative. But I am sure of one thing- I am completely done with helping and will now only focus on my family. Because you know, growing up, my mother helped every person that came to our door begging for help, whether she had everything or nothing. But that was when she was able. And now that she is bedridden, I mean, where did these people go? I am not even asking so much, perhaps just to visit her every now and again and say hi. There is so much that I want to say, but I'd rather leave this here.

4. On Opportunities
- Until a few weeks ago, I got this feeling of instability whenever I thought of my professional life in the last two years. I say this because since I was made redundant in 2020, I never settled in one job. I had at least three jobs since then. And whilst I thought this was not good for my CV, some of my work mentors reassured me that sometimes, it is actually good not to settle. It's not all about longevity, it is about what you can bring to the workplace that matters nowadays. In the last year, a few opportunities came my way and although I was not successful in some, I gained some valuable lessons and experiences by merely attending an interview. I am writing about this because I have been underestimating myself, and to be asked to apply for a higher position by leaders I respect and look up to was such an honour. It was only then I realised that perhaps other people can see something in me that I can't see myself. And that is very reassuring to me.

5. On  Connecting with Other People
- I recently met up with an old friend that I have not seen since 2017. Within our conversation, I mentioned about one of our common friends and how they have been doing. He was surprised because he didn't believe that I would stay in touch with people. I was quick to defend myself and said to him that if I say I will keep in touch, I will be in touch. And this is true, except that recently I decided to limit this because I realised that I have been overdoing it. I guess I have been consistently generous with my time and I am starting to experience what they call "Generosity Exhaustion". In fact, in all aspects of generosity- time, effort, money. For now, I just want to focus on myself, my family and those who are really close to me. I will no longer insist on maintaining connection with people- because real connections should not be forced. It should come naturally, from both parties.

And those are just my thoughts whilst I wait for my washing to finish. And oh, last night J took me to the cinema to watch a film called "Everything Everywhere All At Once". It's a comedy-drama about the multiverse, but what I really loved about the film is that it touches on family relationships and the conflicts that they face. I came out of the cinema wanting to search for the lines as they really resonated with me. And for this, I would like to share some of my favourite lines from the movie:

- "Every new discovery is just a reminder...we're all small and sstupid."
- "The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. Please, be kind. Especially when we don't know what's goin on."
- "Every Rejection, Every Disappointment has led you here to this moment."
-  "When I choose to see the good side of things, I'm not being naive. It is sstrategic and necessary. It's how I learned to survive through everything."
- "You are not unlovable. There is always something to love. Even in a stupid universe...."

I must admit, I cried watching the film. I realised that whilst this universe I currently live in is dysfunctional, challenging and chaotic, I would still choose to be here.

And as I start my journey to 47, I express utmost gratitude for another year and for all the blessings that I've received and continue to receive, big or small. I hope and pray that God will continue to bless myself and my loved-ones with good health, peace, love and prosperity.


London In A Day With Me

Friday, 6 May 2022

The world is officially open and things are definitely back to normal. No, not even new normal. Just normal. Masks are long gone and PCR tests seemingly no longer exist. I walk around our neighbourhood and see numerous tourists dragging their luggages between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. This scene is exactly as it was two years ago, pre-pandemic as we prefer to call it now.  I see the "TootBus" parked along Coventry Street, tourists queueing up to get an open-air experience to see the famous sights of London, apparently at discounted price of £27.90 (original price £31). It reminded me of that one time that I took a tour bus around London as a newbie in the city. It was fun, however when I realised that I could actually see most of London sights on foot and on public transport, I never mentioned the Tour Bus to visiting family and friends ever again. This was almost 20 years ago.

The idea of this blog entry came about because a couple of people asked if I could help them with their London itinerary. Whilst I am always willing to help, I really would rather not impose on my itinerary as I am aware people have different priorities. This is the reason why I decided to share my itinerary here instead, hoping that some people may find it useful when they travel to London.

For your information, this itinerary is merely a taster. If you really want to immerse yourself in London's British culture, in my opinion, you have to spend five days here. London is a great city and there is so much to see and do. This is why I took offence when I heard that London was not in some people's bucket list. I mean, how could it not be? Anyway...

Since I started taking family and friends around London, I've always suggested meeting at Embankment Tube station around 9am. From Embankment, we would walk over the Golden Jubilee Bridge for panoramic view of the River Thames. In fact, this is one of my favourite morning run routes. I enjoy the clear view of the London Eye and the Big Ben from this side. Perhaps, one of the most photographed part of the River Thames and I am not surprised.

From the bridge, we go down the stairs towards the London Eye on the Southbank to get up close and personal with one of the most famous landmarks in London.  This day trip does not of course include riding the London Eye- this can be done another day.

A few steps away is the Westminster Bridge. To get a full view of the Palace of Westminster (or informally known as Houses of Parliament) and Big Ben, we go under the bridge through the p*ss alley. I must warn you that the smell is very unpleasant, but it's worth it for the view. Haha.

We then go up the stairs and the cross the Westminster Bridge. Here, you will see a different perspective of the London Eye, and you'll see the Big Ben closer. 

Close by is the Westminster Abbey where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton took place. We can drop by here or go straight to Buckingham Palace. It will be your choice of course.

The relaxing walk from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace through the tree-lined Birdcage Walk is approximately 15 mins. 

I suggest watching the Changing of the Guards because it is a traditional ceremony and a very joyful experience. I have watched this countless times and I still get excited whenever I watch it. Majority of the time it starts at 1100, however it is better to check ahead of time just in case there are changes for some reason. I'd say aim to be at the Buckingham Palace area around 1030 to get a good spot. Just be warned that it will be very busy. The Changing of the Guards takes approximately 45 minutes, however we don't have to stay for the whole ceremony.

We then walk through St James's Park to the Horse Guards to see the two mounted cavalry troopers. They are normally at the front from 1000 to 1600 daily.

From here, we walk towards Trafalgar Square to see the Nelson's Column, the Landseer Lions and the water fountains. The National Gallery is also in the area, so if you are into museums, this is a good place to go back to on another day.

By the time we finish this circuit, it would be lunchtime. Unless you have a restaurant in mind, there are plenty of really good restaurants close to this area. Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, Soho and Covent Garden are all nearby so you'll never run out of choices. If after reading this blog, you would like to follow this route when you visit London, I suggest you find a restaurant in these areas so you can save some time. It's also a good area to explore. Having lived in this neighbourhood for more than five years, I know that a lot of people from all over the world visit this area. But then again, people have different preferences. If, however, you decide to explore this part of London, I would take you to these places as they are close to each other:
Piccadilly Circus
Leicester Square
Covent Garden

Alternatively, we can take the tube or bus from Charing Cross near Trafalgar Square to Tower Bridge and have lunch at Borough Market. This would be our last destination for the day.

Assuming you visit in the summer, I would like to take you for a walk along the Southbank from Tower Bridge. In my opinion, this is also a good route to St Paul's Cathedral via the Millennium Bridge. But of course, this is if you still have the energy to do so. Otherwise, we can call it a day and you go back another day. 

If you come in the winter though, it would be better to stay in the West End area after Trafalgar Square as the sun sets quite early. It would be better to see the lights in Regent St and in Mayfair than travelling all the way to Tower Bridge. But then again, this is just my opinion. 

Regardless of what season you decide to come and visit London, there are plenty of things to see and do in one day. I believe that London is better explored on foot or by public transport. We have a very good transport system and whilst you're here, you should experience the tube and the double decker red bus. 

It's always my pleasure to take family and friends around because I am proud of my city. It is also a good opportunity for me to spend time with them and catch up on each other's lives. I want to make it clear however, that history is one of my weaknesses, so please do not expect me to tell you the history behind buildings and statues. Google and Wikipedia are there for a reason. Haha.

Of course when I thought of this itinerary, I took into consideration the walking pace, the time spent to take photos and the rest times in between. Having done this route a few times already, I believe that it can easily be done in one day without feeling too tired. In fact, we can even squeeze coffee somewhere after lunch, or towards the end of the day.

I know that there are better itineraries out there but I still hope that somehow my one day London itinerary will be helpful to those who are planning to visit London sooner or later.


My Short and Bittersweet (Five-Day) Trip To The Philippines

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Some people thought I was crazy to go back home to the Philippines for only five days. However, my sole purpose in going home was to actually see my parents and my family whom I have not seen in five years. It was not a leisurely travel, it was more of a self-vindication if I may call it that. 

With the quarantine rules still in place at that time, I spent majority of my time in a hotel room and at home to complete the isolation process. Therefore, the time I spent outside of this was all in between important appointments or when my parents were sleeping (in a total of five days). My mother does not sleep well at night, hence she was asleep most of the day. My father also took naps in the afternoon, so I took this opportunity to spend some time to explore.

Thinking about it, despite the short five days that I spent back home, juggling between caring for my parents and running errands, I managed to visit a few beautiful places in my home town of Zambales and the capital. Luckily, I didn't have to travel far and to spend loads of money to see beautiful things. My town has evolved really rapidly in the last few years that people will no longer run out of places to go to. Unfortunately, five days was obviously not enough to visit all of them either. Regardless though, I am still grateful that I managed to see a few of the places that often get mentioned by my niece and nephew during family video calls.

1. Venice Grand Canal- McKinley Hill, Taguig 
- Having been to Venice in Italy twice, I appreciated the idea of the Venice Grand Canal in McKinley Hill. It gives you the essence of one of the most romantic places in the world. The canal, the gondolas and the makeshift of Rialto Bridge gave me a little bit of the Venice vibes. It's actually a good opportunity for some people who may not be able to travel, to at least experience how it's like to be in Venice. Well, sort of.

As much as I enjoyed walking along the canal, I was not impressed with the choice of restaurants- probably because I had other restaurants in mind that were unfortunately not within the area. We opted for a Chinese restaurant which was okay-ish. 

2. Bonifacio High Street -  Bonifacio Global City Fort, Taguig
- After Venice Canal, we headed to Bonifacio High Street for a short stroll. It's always an advantage to have a bestfriend who lives in the capital and knows the ins and outs, because we were able to optimise our time. I loved the tree-lined Bonifacio High Street because of its lively vibes and the good selection of cafes and restaurants. In fact, we regretted not eating here, but there is always a next time. But at least I was able to buy my Baked Purple Chizu from FRNK Milk Bar - one of the things I wanted to try whilst in the country. The kids however, preferred Starbucks.

3. Casa San Miguel- San Miguel, San Antonio, Zambales
- Since Keith passed, every vacation to the Philippines is no longer complete without visiting Casa San Miguel. This is the place where Keith and his Adings spent most of their weekends when Keith started painting and learned to play the violin. This time though, my visit to Casa San Miguel was extra special because I was able to visit with Keith's friends. It was really heartwarming to see them all grown up and working towards starting their professional careers. I was very happy listening to them exchange stories, reminiscing their time in Casa. They would say things like, "this was where we used to play". A lot of things have changed since my last visit, but it is still a beautiful and special place. They now have the Cafe Virtuosi and also Bed and Breakfast. So, if you are reading this and looking for a place to visit and stay in Zambales, I would recommend Casa.

4. Subic Bay Yacht Club-  Rizal Highway, Subic Bay, Zambales
- On the day of my pre-departure COVID swab, I took the opportunity to explore Subic Bay a little bit more. So, after my swab, we headed to the Subic Bay Yacht Club for lunch. Actually, this was our second choice because the other restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. To be fair, the view was beautiful and refreshing, but our experience at the restaurant was unforgettable for the wrong reasons. The service was unbelievably slow. We opted for the à la carte menu instead of the buffet, which perhaps was a mistake. Our food came after an hour only to be informed that they actually didn't have the salmon that my nephew ordered. So, we had to wait for another 30 minutes for his food to arrive. Although the restaurant experience was not that good, at least we got to enjoy the view.

5.  Linasin Trapsi Resort - Linasin, San Felipe, Zambales
- I am going to say this not because the family who owns the resort is our relatives, but because it is true. Linasin Trapsi Resort is a must visit in San Felipe, Zambales. This was the first time I actually visited the resort and I was very impressed by how beautiful it was. They were still doing some improvements when we went, but I saw new photos of the resort recently and it is now even more beautiful. At Linasin Trapsi resort, you get everything you need to relax in one place, especially if you love the water- they have a pool, the river and the sea. I will definitely go back and perhaps stay the night next time. It would also be nice to bond with my father's side of the family- one thing that we have not done in decades. At least this time, I was able to see my Uncle and Auntie, and two of my cousins. So, if you are now planning for your summer escapades, think of Linasin Trapsi Resort. You will not regret it.

6. Coastal Road- Sto Nino, San Felipe, Zambales
- Perhaps one of the best things that happened in my hometown in the recent years is the development of the Coastal Road. I really enjoyed running there and watching the sunrise. I know I am biased, but we have (some of) the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets and I have some photos to prove it. 😉

7. Seoul Sky 100 Revolving Restaurant - Eastwood Ave, Quezon City
- I love the fact that my niece and nephew also love food just like I do, and they love Korean food. So, on the day of my flight back to London, we dropped by Seoul Sky 100 for lunch. I have not dined in a revolving restaurant before so this was a new experience for me, and it was a very good one indeed. The view from the restaurant is to die for. We booked the perfect time as we were able to watch the beautiful sunset. The food was great as well as the service. Actually, the owner of the restaurant was very gracious that he went to every table and asked if everything was okay and if the food was good- a gesture I always appreciate.

Five days indeed was very short but to be honest, it was one of the best five days I've ever spent back home. I guess the essence of this short trip was knowing my purpose and sticking to it, prioritising things and spending time wisely. 

I am very grateful for this answered prayer and I feel better that I have seen my parents, although I would have loved to spend more time with them. God-willing, I will be able to go back again this year.


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