Debunking Stereotype: Zamboanga Edition

Debunking the Stereotypes as I set foot in the City of Flowers:

Zamboanga is also known as the City of Flowers when the Malay settled at the tip of Zamboanga peninsula and saw a group of ornamental plants that beautifully bloom in the area and called it as “Jambangan”- land of flowers. Other version was the “saguan/sambuan” also from Malay word means paddle or pole which was used by the locals to paddle their colorful Vintas.

  1. Security 101 – Let us be fair in all the cities and provinces across the country. Zamboanga is a huge if not big peninsula and ticking part of Tawi-tawi and drag it to the downtown gives an image of negativity for tourist. Every place has this so called “no to go” zones, perhaps the “no to go” zones of Zamboanga has been in the limelight of media and spreads the news up north. While it is true that you can see army and police visibly around every corner, but honestly,you will feel more secured, and I bet Zamboanga is relatively much safe than some corners of metro at night! Also, Zambonaga is an open city, like any pother other city here up north, the difference perhaps is the factor of insurgency and terrorism, no more no less.
  2. A City where Muslims and Christians lives in harmony – this one is debunking # 1 stereotype in my  head. I must say that not every corner has this so called “Islamic influence” but of an amalgamation of both Christian and Muslim cultures. So interesting isn’t?! Up North in the urban Manila, we always think that Mindanao is a place of insurgency and politico-socio- cultural conflicts, but I say nay. People live here in harmony, you would be amazed how two different cultures interacts with one another with no weapons, no hate and  etc. – so amazing!
  3. Know when to Harvest or forever hold your peace! – I just realized and based from the informal chats I had with the locals, the best time to do agri-shopping here is around September and not early August.
  4. Hablo Espanol? Va en Zamboanga – Zamboanga, being a peninsula, and the last battle front during the Spanish era is the best place to practice your Spanish speaking skills. They would really encourage you to speak the broken spanish (chavacano) and they would love to correct you with your phrase. I remember walking around the market asking the lady “cuanto” instead of how much and we end up speaking in English. 🙂noun_547541_cc
  5.  A  City Like No Other– as we had our mid-night tour around the city, you would feel as if you were transported back in the Spanish era, with a lot of Spanish influences around the corner from the usual set up of pueblo (town) having  the City Hall and other government offices near  with the Church out of brick, schools within the vicinity ruins of history could still be felt in this city a must visit by any history geek!

If I will be ask to go to this city again definitely I will! The 72 hour trip was not enough to explore and indulge this City! hasta luego Zamboanga!


Mt. Balagbag

Take the road less traveled and see the beauty lies beyond the skyscrapers and urban life.

It has been a month since we haven’t had any over the weekend adventure. Buddy and I were buzzin  for some adrenaline kick which a hike, a dive, even a little spice over our weekend aside from sweeping the floor and painting our flat could give.

2 July, just the right start for mid-year assessment,  in work, in  our plans for the year and a kick off for our 2nd semester series of #outofthebox and #extremeadventure, we decided to hike Mt. Balagbag in Rizal.

An almost 2 hours ride from Manila, and more or  less 2 hours of hike to reach the summit and you’ll be able to see series of mountains challenging  you to take the plunge and hike them out! On the North West was the Mt. Arayat in Pampanga (already hiked  in 2014), Mt. Pamitinan and a lot more to discover!

It was a usual hike for  buddy and I, but we were surprised with what  life has to offer- a group of students walked with and literally hiked with us as they did their case study for their documentary. It was a nice Saturday morning and in amazement, they’ve got surprised to know that  buddy and I were no longer uni students, instead working  for the public.

From the usual hike to a search for possible subject of a university documentary we ended up listening to the interview and IR skills were in hype to asked for answers to taboo issues (e.g. child labor, human trafficking, UN SDG, prostitution and etc.) We gave them the not so usual  advice-seek the reality world with questions for you to find the real answers.

The adventure did not stop with the  almost 2 hour hike, instead, we opt to take the adventure to a higher level, despite the  gloomy weather and high chance of rain, we chose to do waterfalls chasing. The initial plan was to have it at Mt.Maranat which was a bit easier and way to descend, but we chose the hard way,together with buddy, 3 students, 2 individuals we’ve just met,and  with our guide, we decided to go to  Odiong Falls. As instructed, it was a four hours hike (RT) and see a crystal clear water before you. However, on the onset and in search of real adventure, we were  descending in a jungle like ambiance as the heavy rain poured as if it has no plan to stop, we kept walking. We heard the usual first time hike jitters of leg pain , but continued to walk.


Unfortunately, since the rain  did not stop, the river turned into mud-like river. As if we were trapped in a secluded area (like the ones you see in Indiana Jones movie),  the adrenaline just started to set in. Our guide  has been a great help when we were about to go home (3pm). He assisted each and everyone of us to hike the steep and muddy part of the mountain since we were no longer able to cross the river. Some went dehydrated, others got hypoglycemic but  we had to move.


The road less traveled

After a couple of hours,  we reached the registration  area (starting  point) and just as any other hiking adventure we had, muddy, sweaty and dehydrated body welcomed the city. But such wont be a reason not to take the road less traveled – again. Perhaps it was a call to be on the road away from the demands of urban life and let ourselves soaked in the rain.


8am: Depart San Jose, Rodriguez Rizal

9am: Reached Brgy. Licao  Licao

10am: start trek

12nn: reached summit

1pm: descended, off to Odiong Falls

2:30pm: reached odiong falls (river, wasn’t able to reached the falls due to heavy rain)

3pm: start trek (going home)

4:30pm: reached registration (starting point)



Micro-Macro Where Am I suppose to go?

Which one do you prefer? A leader or a boss??

When I enter the workforce, I thought there is a very thin line between a boss and a leader. A boss and a leader for me is the one who gives instructions, taking charge of tasks delegations and gives appropriate recognitions with their staff.

8 months had passed and I have been too judgmental with how my supposedly utopian leaders must act, balance if not assess the gap between the millenials and baby boomers, with idealistic v realist and how to engage all members of the organization towards performance excellence.

I admit, and guilty beyond reasonable doubt that I judge people whom I thought were mediocre, complacent and sitting idle in the meadows. They might roam around, sit idle do more of thr talking but that is their way of ensuring that the nitty gritty and the small details are well accounted for.

Away for 5 Days

A 5 days under official business, made me think, I am with a bunch of idealist, realist, a micro and macro manager whom made me realized that micro and macro management (either way) is not bad at all.

Striking the balance between the two is the key to harmonized and engaged workforce.

3 Years over 3 Cups of Coffee

It has been 3 years of not seeing each other and I thought there would be strange feeling of being left behind from their routine and the topics being discussed; yet, I find myself in total awe- not because of being left behind, but because I found myself in total open discussion.

The Chatty and the ice breaker

When I was in university, I could count in my fingers the persons that I could share personal stories with. These group of people thought before that I was a bit conservative in my perceptions about life, career and etc; but it was not. Perhaps, I was not that open before about discussions about career and reality, what I’ve got was the utopia- like the republic of Plato.

After series of experiences that I had (in my work and exploring the other side of the coin), I just realized that life is not about the “big picture, but of the small details that makes it”. I was having this kind of discussion with a very chatty friend of mine as well, – by all means, chatty as I am; yet, as idealistic as I am(before). There was no dull moment, random things about life has been talked about, no more no less which I enjoyed the most – aside from the sumptuous meal that we shared.

Reality v. Utopia

Having the chat with these ladies (no longer little girls who roam around the university campus discussing about why the oil prices gone down, what’s next after Arab Spring, or practice speaking in Japanese); but more of having a chat about life, about careers, my volunteer experience (I am proud to share my volunteer experience with them) my work, their work, our moans, angst about life, our love lives, our goals, trips and a lot more.

We are no longer living on the ideal hype- I should be in this industry, or I should be working if not being engage or traveling, or just enjoying the NOW if not still searching for answers.

Keep the Reel Rolling!

There are still bits of something that pulls everyone back- and it differs, I don’t know the reason why, but I think it is more of the “norm” rather than the personal perception of how you live this life over 3 cups of coffee:

  •  Who cares if someone is working and the others are not? – no one really cares and no one does.
  • Step out of your own comfort zone- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (why bother dealing with the latter if you can enjoy the former?)

It is strange- and it will be for the next few days, weeks, months and even years, but what matters? It is not about the perception of the people around you; it is more of how you see things in different perspective – like a kaleidoscope.

Coffee Date at Bag of Beans

Coffee date at Bag of Beans

Worry Now Ruin Later

It has been days since I got a message from fam. The thought of having the bubble burst and the ‘reset’ button pressed made me realize that ‘oh! I am not living in an aquarium like a goldfish – subject to a lot of strange looks and attitudes’.

Worry now ruin later

I cried to a volunteer about my not-so-personal dilemma. The good thing about having friends at your side makes you a better individual, not because of their advises, but because you can see the smaller picture of what you perceive as ‘big’.

I can’t disclosed the reason why I worried toooooo much for that day. I am not sure as well if it is just a symptom of being home sick, or just an act of being childish?

A lot of volunteers(ICV’s) told me that: ‘worry now, and you’ll ruin your experience in the program’. Obviously, you can’t do something out of it, because you’re not capable yet of acting on it. Also, you’re not allowed to go back home and fix things for the fam; if you’re allowed to do so, what can be done?

Walk Theraphy

My HHC, noticed how stressed/upset I am during the day, and even noticed that I only ate 4 strips of banana and a cup of coffee for my breakfast-which is an indication that I am in disoriented mindset.

Proper Walk or just simple Stroll?

Since my HHC noticed how upset am I (and kept on asking for reasons, which I find awkward, because I don’t want someone pity me for a not-so-good/valid reasons to be pittied).

I thought it was just a simple walk to the market, I did not wear my trainer’s (rubber shoes in Phil.), but I had only my flops (slippers in Phil.). The walk lasted for 2 hours, approximately 15 kms. under the scourging heat of the sun. My HHC, talked about random stuff/s, from finding happiness in small ways/deeds/things to deciding for yourself. At the end of the hilarious walk, we ended up having the goal for the week: perfect-imperfect, the quest for positive impact (I am not sure about the word ‘quest’ 🙂 ). Aside from our action plan regarding our perfectionist-imperfect dilemma, we were burned by the tormenting heat of the sun.

End the cycle now and be free

After couple of days, I finally learned my lesson. It is better for me to feel this, to think about this(referring to the dilemma that I have), and work on it. It is not about finding answers in a snap but finding way out of it. It is not work against time, but working with time. Fear nothing, regret nothing.

Working in Random

Working while having fun is like enjoying your hot coffee under the heat of the sun.

Working and having fun are two entities which are at the opposite side of the world(if you are part of a linear/straightforward organization). Working and having fun are yep! Two entities from different side of the globe yet, you may do things simultaneously(trust me! You can, just tell yourself)!

While everyone is cramming about our activities, my work counterpart and I were just chillin and having a nice chat, with background music, even snack/s with us, just to be casual and informal does not make you lame/lazy, but a sign that you are an unconventional one.

It is hard not to compare

Flashing, dashing, beaming and striking lights will hit your eyes when you go out of your house to work; you will hear a lot of buzzing horns, noise coming to and from the hierarchy of cars upto the rushing workers who are late for their work. – that is a typical life in the metro where the biggest companies and branded goods were sold.

On the other side, you will hear  a ‘cry of chicken'(tilaok in Filipino), feel the cool morning breeze that will pass through the window, the chirping of the birds, smell the dish being prepared for your breakfast and packed lunch. – that is what me and my hhc (most if not all the time experienced), oh! Before I forgot! We also have the leisure of time to walk to our workplace (which is the Municipal Hall) and have the luxury to grab  a cup of coffee in our favorite coffee shop (note: it is not as fancy as Starbucks, nor as cozy as Coffee Bean) but, the lady is sooo kind and we even had the opportunity to have a nice chat with her during our ‘coffee break’. They even know our favorite spot, the time we mostly have our coffee and even the routine (I’ll gonna ask for some coffee for me and a hot water for my hhc 🙂 ).

What am I really doing here?

Well, to be fair, I want to disclose the information that I am working as a volunteer in the Municipality of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. I am working with other 19 volunteers (9 Filipino and 11 British)  with the community in making a 5-year Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan (DRRM-Plan) for the whole municipality.

Sounds good?

Pretty much, I would say that I am fortunate yet pressured to work on the plan. We were given a ton of appreciation, a lot of fun and relaxation time and of course the challenge to go out of your own box.

I just never thought that, in such Saturday (which was my A-day), would be the start of my ‘out-of-the-box’ experience. It was really an out of the box experience, I did not even told my mom about the A-day (I did not told her about my whereabouts which is unusual) and asked her what if I will go to a place in the country to do volunteer works?

Questions Overheard:

1.  The funding-where will I get my support for my daily expenses?

  1. The fragile health status- my parents in particular are really health conscious, they keep on telling me that ‘health is wealth’, they even worry about my allergies but rest assured that I am not having it (hypocondriac syndrome?)
  1. After the programme where will you go?- this question was raised by my big bro. I’ve been working in the corporate world, been in rushing things and I thought it is about career mobility and security (stepping up the corporate ladder) which made me believe that will give me happiness (but it is really the simple things).
  1. What will happen next?- this question was raised by my father before getting his approval for me to join the program. Basically, it is a normal parental instincts which made him a bit anxious of letting me do my own thing. But, I think, he is now a proud father for having me stepping out of my zone and explore more about myself.

This is just a cumulative list of what my family perceive what I am doing, no one is being hurt(hopefully my fam won’t). 🙂

In-Community Orientation

The Real Thing

It was almost a week since we land our feet in Cabiao. The past few days has been too accommodating and too friendly for all volunteers like we feel we were in a holiday.

Our supervisors break the leg in bringing us back into reality- the DRRM plan.

We had our Disaster Preparedness workshop wherein most if not all of us were mentally drained. For the next couple of days, or even weeks, we will conduct our baseline survey on how prepared the people are when a disaster hit their community. Next, we were introduced to various matrixes/tools that we should extract from each barangay (e.g. Social venn diagram, disaster timeline and etc.). In such span of more or less 9 hours of mental gruelling, most of us felt drained, want to hit our pillows and even ask for meds. By the way, we were also grouped into various clusters wherein steve and I will be working with pauline and ollie in clutser 4.

The stressful-yet-not so stressful counterparts

I was paired with Steve as my work counterpart. Steve is veerrrryyyy nice that he considers my opinion and we actually did our CRA program, right just on time before we had our precious break. The thing in cross-cultural teams is that, there will be lots of translation as if you are there (in my case in Cabiao) to be some sort of translator for the UK volunteers. This is not to offend anyone of anything, but this is my opinion though…

Good thing my work counterpart and my home counterpart are different people. On our way home, my hhc, ask me if I am okay; since I did not have much for lunch due to acidic reflux, a pile of nonsense stressors (e.g. Being stressed if I am a vital part in the group, stressing/thinking too much if I should stay or should I go)- very childish isn’t?

My hhc and I hit the public market to buy some shorts. When it is time to pay, I was surprised that my hhc is verrrryyy good at doing barter! She is! I never thought that she does that, and I even consider myself as poor at her standards :P.

Ladies and Gents, lend me your ears.

Tomorrow, we will be conducting some sort of symposium at Cabiao National High School in partnership with Engr. Hidalgo, and a representative from Department of Agriculture of the Municipality of Cabiao; wherein they will have a talk about climatye change and we’ll followed it up with a workshop.

The A-Day!

The time has come to an end that we need to face our fears. Well, almost, if not all volunteers are anxious if they’re performance will be good enough for the rest of the students of Cabiao National High School. Even my hhc, memorized and practoced her line to be perfect when she’ll deliver it to the students. To be honest (since this is my blog entry) this was the first time that I got an extraordinary attention from a school administration. We were even seated in a presidential table and had a chat with the principal and the rest of the science teachers.

Rude culture

My hhc and the rest of the UK volunteers find it rude that when the speaker did the talk or even the principal is talking the students are also busy with each and other businesses; for the UKV’s It is very rude not to listen to someone is talking as if you really donLt care on what the other person is saying or talking about.

I felt guilty as well when I heard that it was rude (for UKV’s) that we use our phones or even have some small chats while they are talking; it is soooo strange as well and I find it odd reminicing my uni years having a chat with my seatmate while my protocol professor gives us a lecture. Perhaps, one of the reasons why the country is not that well off yet, is because we lack DISCIPLINE in almost a lot of aspects of our society. Yes, we respect one another, but we pretty much enjoy if not abuse the liberty that is being laid out to us.