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Poverty

I came to the Philippines wanting to serve the poor, but I also came to the Philippines knowing that I’m not going to solve any of their problems. If you read the beginning of my blog (www.bulaysayshi.com), I wrote that I came to the Philippines in order to learn how to love. I wanted to learn how to fully give myself. I had this theory that the poor have a more genuine joy than the rich, and all I had to do to share in that joy was to love them. So I went into poor neighborhoods and loved as much as I could and because of it, I have experienced that joy. It’s the joy of simplicity and the joy of pure human connection. It’s hard to find that in well-off countries, so naturally, I wanted to show that joy with my friends and family back home—and with the entire world (as far as my videos can reach).

The best way I thought I could do that is through creating videos and sharing them online, but I always felt a bit uncomfortable filming my friends who live in true poverty. I’ve created a few vlogs where I go into poor neighborhoods, like I did almost every day, simply because that’s part of my life, but I always tried not to highlight the poverty because that’s simply not what defines these people. I wanted to make videos about their simplicity and the joy that comes from it. I wish I could go and just make videos with my friends from these neighborhoods without having to think about what kind of attention their living conditions would bring. Their living conditions would horrify many people of the more developed world (I know, I’ve received some interesting comments about it in the past). Basically, I don’t want to highlight their poor living conditions because that’s not who they are. They are real people with personalities and skills, with faults and failures, with problems and successes. They are my friends. They are not my content.

Since I arrived in the Philippines, I would often reflect on what and who I should film and what and who I shouldn’t film, and even today, I still have the desire to show the world this other side of life, but I want to do it without exploiting these peoples’ lives—without turning my friends into subjects of poverty porn for YouTube views or monetary donations. The goal of my videos aren’t to make anyone feel sorry for the poor simply because it’s not a dignifying role to become the face of poverty. My goal is to show that people who live in poverty possess a beauty different from the beauty found in people who live well off lives. I really wish poverty could be taken out of the equation, but poverty is the reason why this beauty is able to shine through. To me, it’s a more natural beauty, one that can’t hide behind the masks of materialism. I guess it’s an example of God bringing something beautiful out of something ugly.

I’m also not trying to say that poverty isn’t a problem because it is. It’s a real problem. But it’s one of many many many real problems in the world. And although donations can really give people living in poverty a break from their struggles, material things aren’t going to solve their poverty.

What I want from my videos is for people to see this beauty without judgement, without people giving their uninformed opinion about how many kids a family should or shouldn’t have, or about why they think these people live in poverty in the first place, without placing blame on anyone for their poverty, without people giving their uninformed solutions to their living conditions. None of that is going to better their living situation. Unless a person has met the families and spent months getting to know their situation, hopes, dreams, desires, virtues, and vices—only then will a person be able to make a judgement on how to give any lasting help. But that person will inevitably find out that there’s really no solution that can come from abroad.

After four years of liviung in the Philippines and becoming family to some of those living in poverty, I’ve found that the very thing that I came to do in the first place is indeed the only thing that I can do for these families—to love. It’s not a solution. It’s more important than a solution.

What’s in a Name?

For years, I’ve been called “Bulay”. It has become my identity. I don’t really identify with my legal name. With the exception of 1 or 2 people, only strangers call me by my legal name. I go around introducing myself as Bulay—that’s just what makes sense to me, but when people learn my actual name—Maria Gizella Espinosa Miñano—they’re surprised at how far it is from my actual name.

I’ve been asked what the meaning of Bulay is for years and years and I have had no answer. Today, I bring you the answer straight from my mother’s mouth. Watch this video! And then subscribe to my channel 🙂

2017 Cafes with Fastest Wifi in Cebu City!

I made a list over a year ago with cafes with wifi and their speeds and some notes about the cafe. I’ve been having trouble with my home internet provider, so I decided to ditch them and go back to cafe hopping. Here’s my ongoing 2017 list! It’ll be updated every time I try a new or revisit an old cafe. Hope it helps!

Current favorite place: Bo’s Cafe Baseline

Bintana Coffee House
Download Speed: 3.86 Mbps
Upload Speed: 0.78 Mbps
Date visited: December 13, 2016
Notes: Still my favorite place.

Bo’s Cafe Baseline (Near Redemptorist Parish)
Download Speed: 41.72 Mbps
Upload Speed: 46.53 Mbps
Date Visited: January 24, 2017
Notes: Now with Fibr! As of today, there’s no time limit. But I spoke to the manager and they will be putting a 2 hour time limit for every purchase. Not bad!

Michael Angelo Coffee & Tea (Duterte St., Guadalupe, near Capitol Site)
Download speed: 3.78 Mbps
Upload speed: 0.46 Mbps
Date visited: December 11, 2016
Notes: Small place. Few power outlets. Regular cup of coffee P110. Cheapest thing on the menu: Special Pork Sibut or Century Chicken Arroz Caldo, both P85 (didn’t try them. not hungry).

Seattle’s Best Coffee (Ayala Terraces)
Download Speed: 2.16 Mbps
Upload Speed: 0.64 Mbps
Date visited: December 16, 2016
Notes: I think 2.16 Mbps is an over statement. The internet barely works here.

“Do What Makes You Happy”

Disclaimer: Everything mentioned in this article is outside the context of mental illness.

This might be the most overused empty one-liner in the history of social media. I may have thrown it around a few times here and there, but I repent. If I’ve ever said this line without any explanation, please accept my apology.

Most one-liners are empty phrases that only sound meaningful and profound—that’s no surprise, we see them every day on social media (and hear them from politicians, celebrities, etc.). Today, I want to tackle this one because it’s one that when it is thrown out there, people overwhelmingly respond with how “inspirational” it is, and I’ve probably heard it a million times these past months. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against happiness. The problem (like most problems) is not that the statement is wrong. The problem is that it’s too shallow. It needs more depth.

Here’s why the phrase “do what makes you happy” is empty.

It can mean pretty much anything you want it to mean, which means it has no meaning. Nah mean?

It’s intent is usually to inspire someone to be happy, but it can also be an encouragement to do unhelpful things. Extreme examples? Drugs. I’m so happy when I’m high. Divorce. I’m in an “unhappy marriage” and I need to leave it to be happy. Quitting my job. Work stinks. There’s no encouragement to do anything noble or heroic. The only encouragement is to do whatever you want to do. I don’t know about you, but “whatever I want to do” is more often selfish than heroic, and we don’t need anymore selfishness in the world.

Also, I just don’t understand why people react to it as if it’s some new outlook on life. Everyone in their right mind already knows this. Everyone in their right mind is already trying to do what will make them happy. It’s natural. It’s good. No one grows up thinking, “hmm.. what should I do today that’ll make me sad?” This “do what makes you happy” adds little to nothing to our lives.

In our search for happiness, there are two main problems (at least that I can identify): 1) our constraints in life and 2) that we might not know what makes us happy.

Let me explain.

Our constraints in life

Our life situation is mostly uncontrollable. We don’t get to choose what family we’re born into, if we even get born into a family. We don’t get to choose whether we are a boy or a girl (believe it or not). We don’t get to choose our initial poverty level, our culture, our location, our appearance. A LOT of aspects of our lives are uncontrollable and they can act as constraints that stop us from doing what we think will make us happy.

Sometimes the cards that we’re dealt don’t allow us to do what we think will make us happy. And the “do what makes you happy” phrase doesn’t solve that problem. It could even make it worse!

Unfortunately, some people are born into extreme poverty. So a YouTuber getting in front of a camera showing his or her travels around the world spouting the mantra “do what makes you happy” may look wonderfully inspiring to some, it might just make happiness look even more unattainable to those living in extreme poverty.

Which brings us to the 2nd problem: We often don’t know what makes us happy.

We tend to think that if it feels good, it’ll make us happy. The problem is that things that will make us incredibly miserable often feel really good at the beginning. In short, we tend to do the things that will make us miserable because we think it’ll make us happy. Need examples?: drugs, alcohol, eating unhealthy, etc.

Also, I’ve come across so many fellow young men and women who just don’t know what they want in life. What if there are more than one option that we think will make us happy?

“Should I choose the job that will allow financial security to my family? Or should I choose the job that I will enjoy more?”
“Well, do what makes you happy.”
“They BOTH will make me happy!”
“Sorry, can’t help ya there”

And then there’s that feeling that “I’ve done everything I could think of to make me happy, but something is still missing” feeling. (Who can relate?! Anyone?)

“Well, do what makes you happy.”
“I DID, and I’m STILL not happy.”
“Sorry, can’t help ya there.”

I thought about it for a few days, and I actually can’t think of a situation where “Do what makes you happy” is a solution to a problem or at least helpful, but I came close to thinking of one: Maybe if someone wanted to do something, but is too scared to do it.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the violin, but I’m scared I might fail”
“Do what makes you happy”
“Hey, you’re right! I’ll do it!!!”

That sounds pretty good, but… I think a better one-liner for this situation would be something like, “Don’t let fear stop you from doing what makes you happy.” Now THAT has a bit more meaning.

Pretty much, the phrase “do what makes you happy” doesn’t mean anything, so why don’t we start thinking of new mantras that will actually bring some good to our lives. How about this one as a substitute:

“No matter what situation you’re in, you can always find some happiness.”

I believe this is true for every single human in the world. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, no matter your location, no matter your origin, there is always something to be happy about. And I can give you two right now: 1) You are alive and 2) God loves you. And THAT is all you need, but I’m sure that most of you out there can find even more things to be happy about. Someone once told me that God shows us ten-thousand times a day how much he loves us, but if we’re really attentive, we’ll probably only see it once or twice. At the end of the day, happiness is a choice.

So when you’re not feeling happy and you really need to get out of it. Try reminding yourself of the things that you are grateful for—the things that make you happy. Happiness isn’t a reward you get for accomplishing your life goals. Accomplishing life goals might make you happy, but what I’m trying to say is you don’t NEED to accomplish anything to be happy. It may sound pretty harsh, but there are people out there who may never accomplish the goals that they set for themselves, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a way to be happy.

 

Here’s a video I made as sort of a teaser to this blog:

Fastest FREE Wifi Internet HotSpots in Cebu City, Philippines

I’ve been searching for good wifi spots in Cebu City for almost 2 years now. I compiled a list of cafes with their internet speeds and some comments on the experience. So far, the most comfortable spot to work is at Bintana Cafe. Nice staff. Quick service. Fast(ish) & reliable internet. Comfortable table heights. Nice & quiet. Affordable food. But I’ll keep looking around.

Ayala Mall Cebu
SSID: AyalaMallsWIFI
Password: (none)
Speedtest on 10/22/2015 at 2:30pm: 0.17Mbps Download Speed / 0.01Mbps Upload Speed

Barako Haus (M. P. Yap St, Cebu City, Cebu)
SSID: GlobemyBusiness_A7E0_1
Password: The router prints out login info (limited to 2 hours)
Speedtest on 11/18/2015 at 10:50am: 3.88Mbps Download Speed / 0.44 Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: Cool ambiance. Free refills on coffee americano if you dine in (too bad I gave up coffee). Table and chair heights are awkward. Can’t get comfortable. Service water is from the tap. Few food options. Kinda pricey for what you get. (I ordered the chorizo spaghetti thing. It was just normal spaghetti to me). No other customers at this time. Opens at 7am. Can’t find any reason to come back here.

Bintana (181-K Elizabeth Pond Street Camputhaw)
SSID: PLDTMyDSL-Bintana
Password: civetcoffee
Hours: 10am-9pm
Speedtest on 10/28/2015 at 2:30pm: 2.73Mbps Download Speed / 0.4 Upload Speed
Notes: Only one other person at the time of the speedest. Nice ambiance. Food was good quality for the price (I ordered fish & chips). Update on 11/18/2015: still my favorite spot.

Bo’s Coffee (Active Zone Ayala Mall)
SSID: BOs Coffee
Password: (you have to buy something, and they give it to you)
Speedtest on 10/27/2015 at 11:34am: 1.87Mbps Download Speed / 0.08 Upload Speed
Notes: They only let you use it for 2 hours and then the password expires. You have to buy something again if you want to use it longer. Accepts Credit Card.

Bo’s Coffee (Jones Capitol)
SSID: Bo’s Coffee
Password: (you have to buy something, they give it to you, it’s valid for 2 hours)
Speedtest on 11/24/2015 at 3:26PM: 2.15Mbps Download Speed / 0.26Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: Their credit card machine didn’t work. There’s nothing wrong with my card. Usually accepts credit card.

Brown Cup (St. Patrick’s Square across from St. Theresa’s College)
SSID: The Brown Cup
Password: MATTHEW633
Speedtest on 10/29/2015 at 11:55am: 2.27Mbps Download Speed / 0.32 Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: Parking is limited to 3 hours if you buy P150 worth of stuff. The Brown Cup charges 10P/hour to use their outlets. Food kinda stinks. Table height is not comfortable. No bathrooms inside. This place is just an all-around uncomfortable place to work. At least they accept credit card.

Cafe de France (inside Robinson Mall)

SSID: PLDTMyDSL

Password: fujidenzo

Speedtest on 12/10/2015 at 12:50pm: 2.01 Mbps Download Speed / 0.43 Mbps Upload Speed

Notes: Food quality is kinda bad. Overpriced for what you get. They accept credit card.

CafeTalk (Escario)
SSID: CafeTalk
Password (on October 26, 2015): k567856789a
Speedtest on 10/26/2015 at 10:00am: 4.91Mbps Download Speed / 0.84Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: I did the speed test a few times while I was there, the speed fluctuates between 2Mbps and 5Mbps. Also, the service is extremely slow, and if you order a sandwich, you only get half.

Coffee Bean $cent (Mango Ave)
SSID: CBSGround1
Password: cbspresso
Speedtest on 11/3/2015 at 12:00pm: 4.56Mbps Download Speed / 0.56Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: The wireless router must have some firewall that isn’t allowing me to visit sites (like www.tvids.net) or my Adobe Creative Cloud account. Comfortable place. Lots of natural light. No food. Just desserts and drinks. No cheap drinks. P120 is the cheapest drink you can get… and it’s a cup of hot water and a tea bag. Update on 11/18/2015: I came here once at 8pm because I was planning on working as late as I could, and the place it was filled with students. The wifi speed slowed to .5ish.

Coffee Dream (Paseo Arcenas in Banawa)
SSID: PLDTMyDSLCoffeeDream
Password: (they change it every day)
Speedtest on 10/23/2015 at 12:38pm: 1.25Mbps Download Speed / 0.51 Upload Speed

Degree 9 (F. Cabahug St)
SSID: Degree9 Coffee Wifi
Password: No password, you just have to fill out a form with some personal information
Speedtest on 11/2/2015 at 10:12am: 1.49Mbps Download Speed / 0.49 Upload speed
Notes: Ran out of filters for pour over coffee, so I thought I’d try the aeropress instead. The barista discouraged me from getting it because it’s small (quantity over quality… very filipino), so I just got an Americano instead. Beans taste burnt. Wish I got the aeropress coffee at least just to try it out. The table I’m at has an awkward height. There are other tables that look like they have a better height, but I don’t see any electrical outlets near them.

Fujinoya (Wilson St., Apas near St. Therese Parish)
SSID: FUJINOYA
Password: yukifurufuyu148
Speedtest on 12/4/2015 at 11:16am: 5.86Mbps Download Speed / 0.36 Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: So far, so good. Looks like there are 11 other people using their laptops in here and the download speed is still good. Comfortable seating. Prices are pretty high. P150 for a mediocre hot chocolate. Accepts credit card. (P200 minimum for credit card.)

Gentlemen’s Cafe (Raintree Mall at Mango Ave)
SSID: PLDTMyDSL-GentlemenCafe
Password: wintermelon (but it probably changes every day)
Speedtest on 10/28/2015 at 10:00am: 1.97Mbps Download Speed / 0.77 Mbps
Notes: I was the only one in the cafe when I did the speedtest. No food, except for Ramen. No bathrooms inside.

Globe Store (Active Zone Ayala Mall)
SSID: Globe Guest
Password: (No password, but they make you check-in on FB)
Speedtests on 10/27/2015 at 10:34am:  0.74Mbps Download Speed / 0.2Mbps Upload Speed
I did the speedtest a bunch of times, it fluctuated a lot. It got up to 2.5 Mbps download speed, but wasn’t stable. It averaged at about 0.7Mbps.

Juicyfied Health Cafe (Unit 10 TAA Center Building F. Cabahug St. Kasambagan Mabolo Cebu City)
SSID: GETJUICYFIED
Password: organicjuice
Speedtest on 11/2/2015 at 2:35pm: 4.03Mbps / .99Mbps Upload
Notes: This is my second time here in the afternoon. Empty just like last itme. Very comfortable. Food is kinda pricey (but healthy!), cheapest meal is P175 and portions are tiny.

Mr. Coffee (One Mango Ave)
SSID: PLDTHOMEDSLMr_Coffee
Password: simplicity (probably changes)
Speedtest on 11/3/2015 at 3:00pm: 0.92Mbps Download Spped / 0.06 Mbps Uplaod Speed
Notes: Awkward table heights. The speedtest timed out a couple times before working. Ordered the chicken sandwich. Didn’t like it. Probably will never come back.

Oppa Cafe (Junquera St. Across for San Carlos Downtown)
Looked cool from the outside. Upon walking in, there was a sign that said, “No Standby, 1 hour limit.” Then I didn’t see anything on the menu for less than P100, so I left. Not possible to work there.

PMG Car Wash (Happy Valley)
SSID: PLDTMyDSL
Password: pldtwifiD0816
Speedtest on 10/22/2015 at 3:30pm: 2.55Mbps Download Speed / 0.67Mbps Upload Speed
Note: Very stable, but you can’t really stay here much longer than it takes for them to wash your vehicle. And obviously, there’s no food or drinks.

Tazza Cafe (Wilson St., Apas, near St. Therese Parish)
SSID: PLDTHOMEDSL_TazzaCafe
Password: tazzacafecebu
Speedtest on 12/7/2015 at 11:20am: 1.57Mbps Download Speed / 0.11 Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: Good atmosphere. Accepts credit card, but P200 minimum.

UCC Coffee (Ayala Terraces)
SSID: UCC Cafe
Password: cafelatte
Speedtest on 12/8/2015 at 12:04pm: 3.55 Mbps Download Speed / 0.43 Mbps Upload Speed
Notes: Super duper expensive. A pandesal with pork inside is P230. I got the cheapest food item on the menu. Cereal and fruit. It was P229. It was about 1/4 cup of oats, 1/2 a banana, 1/8 of an orange, 1/4 of a mango, a couple pieces of cantaloupe, and one of those nasty fake cherries. Also, the internet keeps cutting out. Super annoying. I’ll probably never come back here again.

The Real Missionaries

I haven’t written in this blog for a long time. Also, I haven’t written about any mission-related stuff in this blog for a long time.

There’s a reason for that.

I’ve been thinking about intentionally getting away from allowing people to see me as some super holy person who left everything to follow Jesus. First of all, please never think I’m a super holy person. From time to time, I may look holy, but that’s just because the not-so-holy part of me is just hiding, but trust me, it’s still there, and when you see it, please don’t be surprised or scandalized, just keep praying (hard) for my soul, thanks.

In a way, I did leave a lot behind when I moved to Cebu, but I want to take all focus away from that because that just has little significance anymore. It’s like growing out of my favorite pair jeans. I left my old ones because they just don’t fit anymore, but the new ones are great. At first it felt like a huge deal because I’ve been wearing those old jeans for a long time and they were my favorite, but after a while, leaving those old jeans isn’t something that needs to define me.

Anyway, that was over two years ago. Those were the “honeymoon days”. It was fun and exciting for a while when things were changing so rapidly, and I really hope my life was/is able to inspire a few people, but the truth is I want to get away with being labled a “missionary in the Philippines” because I am just as much a missionary as you are, fellow Christian. And honestly, I think many of you fellow Christians who are working in the world, are way better missionaries than I am.

I was reflecting on life recently when I realized that my life now isn’t much different from my life before when I moved to the Philippines. I do some things differently, but at the end of the day, I do all the things mostly everyone else does. I have a job, I hang out with friends, I pray, I sin, I travel, I exercise, I watch movies, I struggle 3 times a day trying to figure out what I should eat, my room is a mess, my life is unorganized, I ask for advice from friends, I’m happy some days, I’m depressed other days. I’m just like you, fellow Christian. I just live in a different culture than I did before.

I’m dedicating an entire post about this because I think it’s important. If people consider me special because I’m a “missionary in the Philippines”, I feel like it takes away from all those people back home and here in Cebu, who ARE missionaries in their own culture and in their own homes—which, in my opinion, is way more difficult.

I always look up to people who have full-time jobs & families and STILL dedicate time to do ministry. Those who work all day at stressful or mundane jobs, dreaming all day about serving the Lord, excited to be volunteering at some event or outreach to the poor over the weekend or after work, and then after a long day of work, they find time to spend with and take care of their families AND to go do some volunteer work. Now THAT is impressive, and THAT is something that shouldn’t be left unnoticed.

I know what it’s like to work at a totally secular job (or be in school) all day and dream about leaving it to serve the Lord full-time. I only worked in the world for a good 6 months before I went into full-time ministry, and the working in the world part was hard. After 3 months, I already wanted to quit. Being a missionary in the workplace is not an easy job. People who are living that life deserve way more credit than they’re given. In my opinion, it’s way easier to bring Jesus Christ to a poor barrio than it is to bring Jesus Christ into the office. Pretty much all of my friends here in Cebu are living that life (except for the brothers and sisters, of course), and they’re all holier than I am (including the brothers and sisters), more in love with the Lord than I am, more willing to give more of their lives than I am, more willing to love until it hurts than I am. A lot of my friends here live really simple lives, work so much to send money back to their families, and every free moment they get, they’re doing some service or evangelization project, joyfully and selflessly.

It’s truly an inspiration, and I’m realizing that God put me here so my friends can evangelize me. I don’t really have much to offer here anymore, but I have much to receive.

I read in some other foreign missionary’s blog a long time ago that there’s a saying about missionary life. It goes something like.. Your first year is for you to do the evangelizing, and the second year is for you to be evangelized. Something that like that… and in my experience, it’s true. I’m usually the one who tries to prove all generalizations and sayings wrong with my experiences, but in this case, I can’t.

So friends, thanks for being an inspiration to me. The love you share, and all your sacrifices aren’t left unnoticed. It may feel like your job is super mundane or stressful, but the way you carry Christ with you to the office and after work is an inspiration, and if no one else notices it, at least you know two people do, Jesus and me.

How to do a 3-day Juice Cleanse in Cebu for cheap!

Eating healthy in the Philippines isn’t easy. You pretty much have to cook every meal yourself or spend a ridiculous amount of money. If you want to get ready-made healthy food, it’s gonna cost ya. I just did a 3-day juice cleanse for the first time in my life, and I feel so good. I was inspired by two things: 1) my blubbery and perpetually tired self and 2) Joey Graceffa’s (a popular YouTuber) recent vlog about his juice cleanse. Healthy people really make me want to be healthy.

Just to put things in perspective, ready made juice cleanses aren’t cheap. Juicyfied’s juice cleanse program in Cebu costs P1200 for a 1-day recharge (6 bottles, 2 detox tea bags, and a thermal bag), P2400 for a 2-day power-up (12 bottles, 4 detox bags, and 2 thermal bags), and P3600 for a 3-day Reboot (18 bottles, 6 detox bags, and 3 thermal bags).juicified-cebu-day-2

Last year, Groupon had a deal where you can get a 1 day cleanse for P948 (a P3160 value!)

mooshi

Juju Cleanse has their 3-day cleanse for P7100.

juju

Obviously, doing things yourself makes it so much cheaper. Now that you have an idea of what a ready-made juice cleanse costs, here’s how I did a DIY 3-day juice cleanse myself for only P1205, with enough juice for 2 people, so if you do your shopping right and not buy too much like I did, you can probably do it for a lot less.

I went to Carbon Market, a huge 24/7 market in the City where everyone and their momma goes to sell everything and anything. It’s especially nice to go there for fruits and vegetables. Everything there is usually super cheap. The best time to go is actually in the middle of the night because the vendors fill the streets at night, (some say prices go down at around 4am to encourage people to buy before many of the vendors head home to sleep) but I was waaay too tired last night. Luckily, my roommate seemed to have a free morning, so I asked her to come with me to carry stuff. (I drive a motorcycle to get around, so it’s nice to have someone carry the groceries on the back of the bike.)11196226_10100178149953410_2465164496787367952_n

I followed the juice cleanse that I found on Susan Shain’s blog (http://susanshain.com/3-day-diy-juice-cleanse-for-travelers/), but some of the stuff on there, like kale, spinach and romaine lettuce, aren’t really available in Cebu, and if they are, they’re super expensive. So instead of kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, and parsely, I used locally grown leafy green vegetables: agbati, kangkong, the leafy part of the celery, and malunggay. Also, since lemons are super expensive here, I just use lemoncitos or calamansi. And again, green apples are super expensive in comparison to the more common Fuji apples here. So, I only used green apples for two of the drinks, for the rest I just used Fuji apples.11178334_10100178152827650_89841700487372149_n

I went to Ayala Supermarket to get all the things that you can’t get at Carbon Market. So that meant honey (at least, I didn’t see anyone selling it at Carbon), beets, mint, green apples, and if I hand’t forgotten it, I could have bought almond milk from there. I really wanted to get the super fresh honey from the guys selling it with the honey comb on the streets, but I don’t know where to find a that. I’ve only seen them selling it in far-away places. Buying the almond milk is probably cheating since it has all this added sugar and stuff, but I can’t afford to buy a bunch of almonds and get my own milk out of it. The juicer I have is the Kyowa 600W Juice Extractor. I bought it last year for my roommate’s birthday and today, it totally paid off. This juicer cost about P3500, but there are cheaper ones that you can get for P1500. If you can’t afford that, just find someone with a juicer that you can borrow.

11139418_10100178172702820_6814455787860830893_nFor each juice, I made enough to cover the 3 days, reused plastic water bottles or glass jars from Nata de Coconut, and put it in the fridge for storage. They probably won’t taste as good and fresh tomorrow, but it’s way better than spending the time juicing every meal + snacks.

11138684_10100178173067090_7359430565250479928_n

I spent P772 at Carbon Market and P274 at Ayala Metro Supermarket and P159 at Shopwise in Basak (or is it still Labangon?) for the Almond milk, totaling to P1205. I probably have enough ingredients to make this 3 day cleanse for 2 people, so technically, I could have done it for about P600 if I knew how much all this stuff makes!

1-day down, two to go!

Low-cost Traveling in the Philippines: Siargao, Surfing on Cloud 9, Magpupunko, Island Hopping

Because I started making a little bit of money working part-time for Corazon Puro, and because traveling can be really low-cost in the Philippines, I was able to go to Siargao for a few days with a friend just for some fun, exercise, and exploration. You can watch the video I made above to see how that went, but I just wanted to make a comment about how affordable it is to vacation in the Philippines. So here are some tips on how to travel on a low budget!

My entire trip including airfare, transportation, surf rentals & instruction, motorcycle rental & gas, food, room for two nights, parking & entry fees, tips, etc. all added up to about P5635 (~125 USD).

Here’s the breakdown:
Shuttle from the Airport to the Resort P300
Plane ticket from Cebu to Siargao P1200
2 nights at Point 303 Resort P1500 (P750 each for the 2 of us)
Surf board Rental P300
Motorcycle Rental for 8 hours P500 total (P250 each for the 2 of us)
Gas P45
Parking Fee P20 at Magpupunko total (P10 each for the 2 of us)
Island Hopping Boat Rental P1500 total (P750 each for the 2 of us)
Entry fee to Guyam Island (P10)
Shuttle from the Resort to the Airport P300
P100 Airport terminal fee
P200 Tips
P1420 Food (3 meals at resorts, 3 meals from the town, a couple of snacks)

1) Plan your trips early & wait for promo fares.

We initially got the idea to go to Siargao because I saw a promo fare on Cebu Pacific Air and I really wanted to go. By the time we finally set a date, the promo fare was gone, so we just kept waiting until Cebu Pacific Air got another promo fare to Siargao. They have promo fares all the time, we just had to wait and check back every day until we saw a promo fare. Normally when there’s a promo fare, you have to buy your ticket at least 3 months in advanced, so if you don’t give yourself enough time to plan, there probably won’t be any promo fares. We ended up getting our tickets for P388 each way totaling to about P1200 after taxes and fees.

There are cheaper ways to get to Siargao. We could have taken a boat to bring costs down, but my friend could only take a few days off from work, so we didn’t want to spend that time on a boat.

2) Travel on weekdays.

This was really awesome for two reasons. 1) plane ticket prices are usually cheaper on weekdays, and 2) there were few people at the touristy places! We were literally the only ones at Magpupunko when we got there and there was no one there to charge us an entry fee. I think there was 1 other person surfing while we were surfing, and we were also the only ones at Naked Island for a time, but a few people ended up coming to the island as we spent more time there. It’s “summer” over here, but it wasn’t crowded anywhere we went.

3) Don’t forget to book your lodging

We did all the research on the cheapest lodging and we were actually going to book a room that was P200 per night per person (which would have saved us P350), but we found that place 3 months before our trip, which they said was too early to put in a reservation. And, when it was about 2 weeks before, all the rooms were occupied. I think we should have checked back more often to reserve our room. Anyway, our stay at Point 303 for P750 a night was fine. We had a ceiling fan room. The bathrooms were quite clean. The manager was very helpful. The food was pretty good.

4) Buy your food at the market

We had 3 meals at the resorts, which I think hurt us the most financially. We probably spent P325 per meal at the resorts. The food was good, so I didn’t mind paying so much, but if we wanted to save a little bit of money, we could have done a little extra work and gotten it for a lot cheaper. If you buy your food at the local market, resorts normally will be willing to cook it for you for a small fee. For example, we spent P135 on ingredients and the resort charged us P50 to prepare the kinilaw. So for the both of us, we had a nice simple and healthy meal for about P65 each. Also, on the menu at the resort they had a deal: P120 for either grilled chicken, pork, or fish. We got that the first day, but the second day, we went to the market and bought 1 kilo of fish to be grilled for P140 add some rice and we had a nice grilled fish meal for about P75 each. More food, less money. If we did all our meals this way, we could probably have gotten very luxurious meals for P125 each (saving us about P875).

Also, we went walking around to buy some water. The sari-sari stores near the resorts that were filled with foreigners were selling their water for P60. When we went maybe 20 meters down the road, they were selling the same bottle for P30.

5) Travel in small groups

For this trip, I only traveled with one companion, which was great because we had a lot of flexibility and quality time! However, if we wanted to save more money, we could have gone in a group of 4 instead. That way, we could have split the island hopping fee by 4 instead of 2. (That would have saved us P375)

 

In conclusion, if we had followed all of these tips, we would have saved a whopping P1600! But, I don’t really regret spending a bit more for some things. On vacation, you’re allowed to splurge a little.

Living in the Philippines: Here’s why I think some foreigners hate it and some love it.

During my stay here in the Philippines, I’ve met a lot of different people, mostly locals, but I’ve also met a lot of foreigners: a few Americans, a lot of people from France, and some from Latin America, Korea, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, India, Netherlands, Italy, Japan and probably other coutries that I can’t think of right now. It’s really interesting to see the foreigners’ different opinions of the Philippines.

I started thinking of their opinions on a spectrum. On one side are those who are absolutely loving it here, and on the other side are those that are just putting up with it. The spectrum can go even farther to those who hate it here, but I haven’t met those people yet (and hopefully I never will!). Let’s not forget that a person can move around on the spectrum; one person can one day be loving it, and the next day be just putting up with it. For some, the change in food, weather, language, etc. make it really difficult to adjust, so they really struggle to survive and fall into the “just putting up with it” side of the spectrum. Normally, this changes and this person floats towards the “loving it” side of the spectrum as they get used to the different conditions here.

For others, everything just abhors them and they’re simply here to complete a job settling themselves into the “just putting up with it” side of the spectrum. And for a certain type of person, I get it. The Philippines isn’t perfect. Some parts of the culture here aren’t on par with the western world or are lacking in charity (especially with the business culture here. I mean, last night Chowking had available Large halo-halo, but the small one was out-of-stock. Really, Chowking? Just use a smaller bowl!). So, I get it.

The Philippines is such a beautiful country, but for some it’s just so hard to love because they’re distracted by their suffering and expectations. However, I think there’s a way to get on the other side of the spectrum. I think I’ve found the biggest factor in one’s stay here that can drastically move one person’s opinion from one end of the spectrum to the other, and that one thing is simple that it might be overlooked. It’s friendship.

It seems to me that the truer the friendships you have with locals, the happier you are to be in the Philippines.

I’ve noticed that those who are just putting up with living here haven’t ventured out to make a single local friend. And I when I say friend, I mean someone with whom you can pleasantly share your joys, sorrows, dreams, and aspirations and he or she can share his or hers back. That’s as simple as I can get with defining friendship. Those whom I’ve talked to that spend the entire converstaion complaining about everything and showing that they are absolutely miserable and would leave as soon as they could if it weren’t for their obligations, usually surround themselves with other foreigners when they want to relax and socialize. They only allow locals to be acquaintances, or just people they have to work with. Whereas, those who have totally fallen in love with this country have close friends with whom they work and hang out.

This realization makes me understand just how powerful Friendship can be. It can really make or break one’s experience. The crazy thing about Friendship is that it can transcend all those different little sufferings that newly arrived foreigners tend to experience. When you have good friendships, a little bit of sweat and heat becomes simply insignificant. A difference in culture is no longer annoying, but something to comtemplate. And you start finding ways to fit in rather than hoping others will become like you. God did a good job when he created “friendshp”.

I can’t imagine never going to visit my friends in the barrio just because their house might be less comfortable than my own. I mean, if I never shared a meal because I was afraid of the sickness I could possibly obtain from the food and/or water offered to me, I would have never discovered the generosity and kindness of Filipinos. If I never taught tutorial because of the heat and humidity of the crowded classroom and the way the kids sometimes misbehave, I would have never known the joy of these children who have dreams and aspirations despite their level of poverty. If I had never gone to the province because I’d have to pee in the grass while squatting behind some tin walls because they don’t have toilets out there, then I would have never see the beauty of the people who are surviving and who insistently welcome me in no matter how much of a burden it may be to welcome guests.

When I was trying to decide whether I should stay in the Philippines or avail my plane ticket back to the United States, it brought me to tears thinking about all the people I would have to leave. I had the choice to go back to my cool and comfortable life or stay and continue to do mission work.

Well, at the end of the day, it’s the friendships that keep me going. I’m not a very strong person. Actually, I’m easily depressed, I’m a huge complainer, and very cranky most of the time. But when there are friendships that are worth fighting for, all the things that make me depressed, complain, and cranky lose importance.

Many of you probably know that when I came to the Philippines in 2006, I hated it and never wanted to come back. Well, after some reflection, I realized I didn’t make any friends in 2006. I stayed with my brothers and sisters in our comfortable air conditioned rooms. But now here in the present, I have some good and beautiful friendships. I now really see the beauty of the Philippines. And if and when I leave the Philippines, it’s not going to be easy. THAT’s how powerful friendship is.

Stand up!: What I would say if I could address the entire population of the Philippines

A few days after Christmas, I took a little trip to Bohol for what we planned to be a day trip with a couple of friends, but to our dismay we got stranded there for two nights because of a ninja typhoon. One of those two nights, we played a “game” to pass the time. I thought the game was called “20 questions” but I googled “20 questions” and discovered that it’s a totally different game. The game I’m talking about is easy (it’s actually not even a game). You take turns asking questions and everyone has to answer them (until 20 questions are asked, I thought). Anyway, the whole reason for this game was that I just wanted to get to know my friends better, so we played it.

One of the more thought-provoking questions that was asked was this:

If you could address the entire population of the Philippines, what would you tell them?

At that time, I had an answer that had something to do with cherishing your country because it’s freakin’ awesome, but after a few months of reflection, I think there’s something more important that I would want Filipinos to hear.

So, if I could address the entire population of the Philippines, I would also tell you Filipinos this:

Stand up for yourselves.

You as a culture have overcome so much. You are strong. You can make a difference in the lives of so many.

So, stand up to your government, stand up to your employers, and stand up to businesses. Stop masquerading this fear of confrontation as the virtue of patience. There are times when patience isn’t patience. There are injustices going on, and in order to stop these injustices, you Filipinos need to tell your government, your businesses, and/or your employer what the injustice is, threaten to take action if they don’t fix it, and—here’s the biggie—take that action if they don’t fix it. This isn’t the solution to all problems, but it’s a start to what seems to me to be the most fundamental problem. If you Filipinos don’t stand up to them, you’re not only allowing injustice to prevail, but you’re hurting yourself, AND you’re hurting those who cannot stand up for themselves.

It seems you Filipinos have over the decades allowed your culture to become a one that lets the “big people” walk all over them. But if you Filipinos would begin again to stand up and take action, the government, businesses, and employers would have incentive not to commit those injustices—and it’ll help everyone.

I know a very poor family where the father’s daily wage is much lower than minimum wage. It’s a classic story of a poor man and his family, except it’s not just a story—it’s real life, and it’s all too common. If he complains to his employer, he will most likely lose his job since it’s a job that doesn’t require any special skills, so he is easily replaceable. Therefore, he allows the company to continue to under pay him. This man cannot stand up for himself because for him, too much is at stake—being able to provide for his family. In his case, low pay is better than no pay. However, if the employers were decent, honest, and just, he would be making at least minimum wage, and his quality of life would be a bit more decent. Right now, his employers have no reason to be afraid of treating him unfairly. This family needs someone to stand up for them. This family needs his country to stand up for them. They need you Filipinos to stand up for them.

If, as a culture, you Filipinos start working towards making a change—if you Filipinos started holding accountable the government, employers, and businesses—they would be afraid of treating you Filipinos poorly because they know that there will be repercussions and because you Filipinos have showed them that you can and will stand up for yourselves.

Filipinos, you are the only ones that can hold the government, employers, and businesses to a higher standard—a standard that respects the dignity if the Filipino people.