Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happiness in a Tube

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to take a shower, I decided to play songs from my ipod to occupy my mind as I bathe. I find myself thinking at a million miles an hour each time I step into my daily ritual. I think of the day ahead, how to improve on the business, what other opportunities we could get into, how to generate more income and how to maximize the personnel's skills, etc. etc. Since it was my day off, I decided to simply not think...about anything. And so I played songs that are at least four years old and set the ipod on shuffle. As I clicked the play button, the song "Bring the Rain" by Mercy Me was blasted through the stereo. I didn't even know I had this song in my ipod.  Something about it caught my attention. The words "Bring me Joy, Bring me Peace, Bring the chance to be Free, Bring me anything for your Glory," just washed over me. As I stood there stunned and transfixed, and admittedly struck, I realized just how far I've strayed from my faith.  I don't remember the last time I've gone to church or been to confession (even though I don't believe that priests have better access to God and can therefore offer absolution). I can't remember the last time I've done something nice for my fellow man that didn't benefit me, nor the time I gave to charity. In my over focused desire to achieve all the goals I've set out for myself, I realized I have become a monster. I forgot how it was to be compassionate, merciful, patient and kind. Bottom line, I've turned into a major bitch. As I laid there listening to the song, a plethora of emotions just came crushing down on me. I cried for the person I once was, and the person I long to be again. And for the first time in a very, very, very long time, I surrendered. I finally admitted to God and to myself that I cannot do everything on my own. That I'm nothing without HIM. That everything I have is due to HIM. I felt ashamed for my arrogance and pride. As I thought of how I've treated others lately, I was mortified by my behavior. And so I decided to change. I realize its not going to be easy. I'll probably go through so many trials before becoming that sweet, kind and selfless person again. But dammit, I want to change. And I want to change for the better.
So I decided that from this day forward, I will count all my blessings. I will look at the cup as almost full rather than half empty. I will start each day by consciously reminding myself to be patient and kind. And most of all to strive to be selfless. As I listened to this song over and over again, I realize that my prayers are being heard. Sometimes guidance come from someone advising us, or through a song, or through something we read, or through people we meet. I truly feel blessed and humbled. I don't know what I've done to deserve a million second chances. Because I truly don't deserve anything. Not with the way I've been behaving. But nevertheless, I want to say thank you, Lord for everything. And I'm sorry for that I have done.
By posting this song, I hope that it will move someone's life in a similar fashion as it did to mine. This song brought me back to earth. And I hope that it will serve a similar purpose in someone else's life.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taking the First Step into Adulthood

I was going through my old blog posts from a different site which I haven't visited in months. As I read through it, it came as a reminder of what I was struggling with 2 years ago. And how that struggle has reared its ugly head again. I'm bored and dissatisfied with my life. I've always felt afraid of taking a leap. At failing at something and regretting risky decisions. But as I sit here in my office, "secure" with a job, a family who supports me, and friends I enjoy traveling with, something is still missing. And that is fulfillment in oneself. Not having the ability to call the shots in my own life has left me a little bitter towards the controlling factors. I have always struggled with authority. And now I realize its because I feel helpless and trapped, choked and shackled in chains, imprisoned in a gilded cage. I live in a beautiful house, drive good cars,  have bodyguards, money to travel, everything a person could possibly want, I've got. But what I don't have that most people take for granted is freedom. The freedom to pave their own path. It's not because my parents stop me from doing these things. It's because I stop myself and chain myself into a golden prison of my own making. Because I'm too cowardly to pursue an independent life and to face all the struggles that come with it.

The other night, my mom and I got into another heated argument. I've always felt she treated me unfairly and dealt with me more strictly than she does with my brothers. And the other night, she finally admitted the reason behind it. And that was because I hurt her while I was in college. I spent over $30,000 on shopping sprees, on items I no longer have. They either got lost in transit or probably sitting in boxes some place I've forgotten.  She paid for all that with hard earned money, and because of this, she has a lingering resentment towards me. It's unfortunate. I've apologized to her for the first time since it happened. But somehow, I know it's something she can never forgive me for.

I always tell others that its never too late. To grab life by its horns and ride it into the sunset. But I hardly ever mean it. I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I'm running out of time to do everything I've set out to do. I'm on a mission to see the world before settling down. But now I realize that life never follow what we plan. It's got its own agenda. It's hard for me to keep an open mind about it, especially when I've got goals locked into my sights. I never fail. Ever! Once I see something I want, I go for it with a tenacity that sometimes astounds me. And I never take no for an answer. I keep at it, and keep at it, and I hold on to it like a dog would to a bone, until I get the answer I want. And I always get that "yes." But afterward, I feel deflated and realize that the only reason why I wanted it so badly, was because I couldn't have it. And once I get it, I realize that I never really wanted it to begin with. Its a vicious cycle I go through all the time.

I've always believed that we meet people for a reason. And you meet them at a specific point in your life to teach you lessons that you wouldn't normally learn in your everyday life-setting.  Two years ago, I met a guy named Chris. And he taught me a lot of things. He is unaware of this, because I never  informed him of the positive lessons he unwittingly taught me. He shared the struggles that he went through in his life that any person with a weaker will, could not have accomplished. He told me that he was pretty much on his own since the age of 13. I couldn't imagine what that could have been like. I don't want to go into details since its his story to tell, and not mine. However, he basically went through some extremely difficult times and was able to pull himself out of the rut and make a better life for himself. And because of that, I have respected and admired him since. I remember him telling me that we always need to make sacrifices in order to get what we want. "Nothing is free in this world," he said. "Everything has a price." I never really understood what that truly meant, until now. Those words never left me. It stuck to me like glue. I've asked myself, consulted friends and family and I've even prayed about it. I've prayed for guidance and strength. As I find myself pondering those words, it makes me think...am I ready to make the sacrifices needed in order to get what I desire most in life? Am I ready to leave the comfortable prison I have chained myself to, in order to be independent, be my own person, and do things my way? Those words keep looping around my mind, over and over again.

Had I asked myself this question a week ago, I would probably have a different answer. But as I ask myself this question now, I realize that the answer is a very scary and resounding yes! Yes! I'm ready to make the sacrifices needed in order to live my life the way I have always wanted. And yes, I'm scared as hell about leaving my secure and golden castle, I'm even more scared about unlocking my jeweled chains. And I will falter, fall on my knees and even cry over the upcoming hardships but I've decided that its time for me to take the next step.

Wise men say that the first step is always the hardest one to take. Now I know why that is so.

My Bucket List
  • Backpack South America
  • Backpack Europe & Africa
  • Move to a different country and start over
  • Find my soulmate
  • Have beautiful babies
  • Short trips to other countries w/family
  • Live Happily Ever After
  • Die Happy

Friday, June 11, 2010

Puerto Galera Weekend

This was my first visit to Puerto Galera. Despite many invitations to dive there, I've never had the time until recently. My friend Jayvee, invited me to go with his dive group. And being the social butterfly that I'am, I immediately said yes. I wasn't sure what to expect at first. Joining a new group of strangers always makes me wary. So when Jayvee called to ask for confirmation, I said yes and we met at the Petron gas station in the Southern Luzon Express Way at 5:30 am to have a quick breakfast at McDonald's. I didn't know anyone, except for Jayvee. So I was glad he was there on time. Some of the others took a little longer getting there and one in particular held the group back for 3 hours! Everyone was irritated, but were too polite to say anything. I was considering giving the guy a piece of my mind, but decided to hold my tongue, because it was my first time joining this group. And I felt it was inappropriate to give a stranger a tongue lashing without knowing the reasons behind his tardiness.  However, once he caught up, we hurried to the pier, where our hotel's boat was waiting to transport us to the Dolphin Bay Resort where we made our reservations for the weekend. I didn't know what to expect at first. Most of the dive resorts I've been to around the Philippines aren't exactly 5-star accommodations. Most are owned by foreigners married to Filipina women. And most of these places are...shall we say....rustic to say the least. Occasionally you'll stumble upon a few that are reasonably priced, clean and well maintained. Dolphin Bay Resort exceeded most of these expectations. They had a quaint bar, a nice pool and a working jacuzzi. The rooms could house up to 4 people. The room assigned to me and my roommate had a king size bed on a marbled dais, a double decker bed, cabled tv, ac and the bathroom was big. I was in bathroom heaven (up until I noticed that it wasn't as clean as it initially appeared). But overall, it was a great resort. We spent P6,500 or $135US for an overnight stay, inclusive of all meals, boat transfers and 5 dives. I thought it was pretty reasonable. And I was really happy with the place.
Delicous Mozarella Crepes (Jayvee's idea)
Our Room was directly in front of the Jacuzzi
Pool View from the Bar
After a long day, everyone relaxed in the jacuzzi and had cold draft beers.
Our King-sized bed on a raised marble platform.
Double decker beds. This room is great for groups of 4 to 5 people on a budget.
Puerto Galera's reputation has taken second fodder to Boracay. I was told that it is the poor man's Boracay. Since the sand isn't powder white like its party-destination sister, despite it holding a reputation of a party town itself. Unfortunately, I didn't stay in Sabang where the main strip of bars and hotels are located. So I can't really make a comparison between the two. We opted to stay in a secluded and private resort.  But from what I could see from the boat, Sabang doesn't look anything like Boracay. I had its own charm and personality.
Diving Puerto Galera was pretty amazing. It's the best I've seen since Tubbataha minus the sharks, mantas and eagle rays, but nevertheless, pretty damn good. I was told that it is at the heart of the world's marine biodiversity triangle. I felt like I was swimming in a giant aquarium. Everywhere I looked, there was something going on. I didn't know whether to put my camera on video or picture mode. I kept switching back and forth. Every few minutes, you hear someone making noises to get your attention and point at something. On more than one occasion I felt someone tugging at me to pull me toward a direction where a triggerfish was hunting for food, another time, where an octopus popped out of nowhere and a small school of Sweetlips were feeding and swimming near a school of jacks. I don't have enough words to describe how glad I felt to have gone with Jayvee's group. Not only did I make new friends, I had a blast! And I discovered a really good and affordable diving destination.
Can you tell what this is? It's a Black Frogfish. Notice the eyes and open mouth?
Dive Log
  Dive 1 - Sabang Wrecks
Dive 2 - Night Dive in front of Dolphin Bay Resort
Dive 3 & 4 - San Agapito Wall

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dive Photos of Anilao and Coron

Diving Anilao never ceases to surprise me. It always has a great photographic potential. Some of the best underwater photos I've ever taken were in Anilao. The coral reefs are healthy and bursting with marine life. I never tire of diving here. It's a no-fail dive. Each time you go underwater, its guaranteed that you'll see many interesting things.

I've had friends who didn't care for Coron, and I understand why. It's an entirely different landscape. Instead of coral reefs, you have underwater granite formations, a thermocline dive site and deep wreck diving. It's not for everyone. However, when you look close enough, you'll discover the macro world of Coron. There were many exotic nudibranch species that I've never encountered before. So don't swipe Coron out of your diving itinerary until you've tried it. Be open and see for yourself.