WIN A DONSOL HOLIDAY PACKAGE FOR THREE PERSONS: 3 Days / 2 Nights stay (with free breakfast) at Amor Farm Beach Resort and swim with the whale sharks, an experience that Lonely Planet dubs as the “quintessential Philippine underwater adventure.” Then cap off your holiday with a firefly watching tour.
Read the rest of this post to know how to win this package 🙂 Do not delay love.
This month, I was on the receiving end of so much love it’s like I have a new lease in life. I feel like a new person embarking on a totally exciting new journey. This light was made possible by a lot of people.
I had my Jollibee Kiddie Party with my UP Baguio family. I have been with this family for seven years now and most of my enduring friendships I’ve developed through this family. I was told once that we should keep three kinds of friends: mentors, peers, and protege. My workplace allows me to have these types of friends.
When I went to El Nido, my lawyer-friend D surprised me with my first Juanderkid cake. It will be remembered forever. D is that kind of friend who really pampers me when I am in Palawan. Free dinners, free massage, free everything. I am one spoiled friend, really.
And then, there’s my dear friend D, who is now a dive master in El Nido. She does not know how proud and astonished I am of her accomplishments and the many ways by which she reinvents herself. She invited me to El Nido because she wanted me to try diving, her gift to me.
I had a panic attack during my second dive but knowing the kind of friend and Ate D is, I know she will not let anything bad happen to me. During my third dive, she took me at a depth of 14 meters so I can marvel at the huge school of Spanish mackerel which rhythmic performance was just mind-blowing. She was holding my hand during the entire dive.
The day after scuba diving, my lawyer-friend D (with her friend J) visited us in El Nido and we all went island-hopping. I just had my birthday cakes two days in a row and that was already enough for me. Imagine my surprise when, during lunch on Star Island, they appeared behind my back with this cake that said “Do not delay love.” I was speechless.
Before I left for Manila, lawyer-friend D and her friend J took me to Ka Lui for lunch. Ka Lui is my favorite Filipino restaurant outside Manila (next to Amor Farm Beach Resort’s Kawnkita Restaurant, of course) and my Palawan trip is not complete without dining here. One of the restaurant’s food attendants remembered me and upon learning that I was in Palawan for my birthday, came up with this one-of-a-kind present, which is Ka Lui’s surprise to guests celebrating their birthdays.
Once in Manila, I went straight to Delish in Maginhawa St., where a “surprise party” for me had been organized by my best friend A. It felt so good to be with friends I have not seen for a while, like my childhood friends and former students who dropped by Delish in spite of their busy schedule.
While all the birthday cakes that I’ve received were special to me, this cake was extra memorable because it was given to me by my former students who like to call themselves the Pepe Squad. I believe that a teacher’s greatest achievement and biggest compliment is to see his former students do well in life.
The other gifts that I’ve received came not in the form of friendship or cakes. I met highly interesting people during my travel around Vietnam and Cambodia, it is so hard not to think the Universe conspired to make this trip one of my most meaningful journeys abroad.
The presents started to trickle in the moment we stepped out of Hanoi airport – come to think of it, even before we got out of the Philippines! My best friend A didn’t have a copy of his plane tickets and since the Immigration requires proof of return flights, we had to find a way to produce his tickets ASAP. The Airphil Express counter was closed already (it was 10:15 pm and our boarding time was in 45 minutes) and there was no office at the airport which could print his return ticket.
I later learned he went to Baclaran just to find an Internet cafe for his ticket. I was left behind since he reasoned out it was my birthday trip anyway, I should go on with it even when he does not make it to our flight to Hanoi. I searched for ways to help him, until I got to the Information booth on the ground floor where a lady named Cherry (sorry, I forgot to get her full name because I was starting to get panicky already) patiently looked around for someone who could help me with my concern even when she was about to end her shift.
The help came from Aris (again, sorry I forgot his last name), a Cebu Pacific employee who allowed me to print A’s ticket even when it meant we had to access their competitor’s website, which was obviously a company no-no. Aris, if you’re reading this, thank you very much! 😀
A was apparently running late for our trip, I had to beg Cebu Pacific’s ground staff to wait for him. We were the last passengers to get on board and our take off was delayed for almost ten minutes because of us. I just have to commend and thank the staff of Cebu Pacific for extending their compassion to us! I hope they are reading this. 🙂
In Hanoi, and just when we were to take the $35-cab ride to the Old Quarter, Thuy, a Vietnamese lady who was on the same flight from Manila, asked us if we’d like to share a cab with her. We were on a budget and instantly said yes and saved $20. Thuy told us a lot about her country and even saw to it that we got accommodated at the very vibrant Backpacker’s Hostel before heading home. We asked her why she helped us. Her reply, “Because my parents taught me kindness is the best way around. I am hoping that when I get to another country, I will get the same kindness that I have shown you.”
The next day Thuy (beside me) met us over lunch at Pho 10, arguably the most unassuming restaurant in Old Quarter which serves the best pho!
I wasn’t really keen on seeing Halong Bay since I am in love with El Nido and I was thinking paying Halong Bay a visit would be cheating on El Nido, but since Thuy recommended that we see the limestone mountains of Halong, I joined A for a Halong Bay day tour.
I am really glad I made the trip because I met Lolo, a former US Navy man based in Subic in the ’70s. He instantly connected with us when he learned we are from the Philippines and eagerly took our pictures from his numerous cameras (he has a lot!). He was everywhere, engaging in friendly banters with us, and having his pictures taken against the most interesting backdrops.
When I turn 78, I want to be like Lolo. Young, energetic, and so full of life.
On the train from Hanoi to Hue, I met Bas, a Dutch traveling around Vietnam for 16 days, and together we toured Hue and Hoi An. I am glad I met Bas not because he willingly assumed the role of a cameraman during our travel but because I have known a person whose character I should aspire to become.
When we got to Da Nang International Airport (where I took the plane to Ho Chi Minh and he flew to Da Lat), we learned that the travel agency in Hoi An which he had paid to book his Da Lat flight didn’t purchase the ticket. In that one hour when the airline’s agent was trying to fix the problem, Bas was a picture of calmness. There was not a single time when he got irate, raised his voice, and became anxious, which I would probably be displaying if the same thing happened to me.
Also in Hue, I got a flower from a group of students who were selling flowers in time for their celebration of National Women’s Month. They tried to talk to me in Vietnamese while I was taking a photograph of an old church nearby. When they learned that I was traveling alone for my birthday, they instantly gave me a rose, which I eventually gave back to them when I learned that they’re raising money for a school project.
I just said that since they’re celebrating National Women’s Month, they should have the rose instead. Everybody had a good laugh.
Between prolonging my stay in Hoi An and meeting Ate A, a friend I had not seen since 1999 and is now based in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia with her family, I chose the latter. I can always go back to Hoi An. Seeing Ate A, who acted as my sister back in UP Baguio, however, cannot be delayed for some more years.
I met Ate A’s adorable family and finally interacted with Tow, her cute little boy who is the main star in Ate A’s Facebook updates. Needless to say, Ate A took care of my stay in Phnom Pehn. The conversation that we shared while we were on a tuktuk around the city was life-changing and for that, I will be forever grateful to Ate A.
When I got to Siem Reap on the night of my birthday, I was surprised to know that A extended his stay just so I can have someone to celebrate my birthday with. At this point, my budget was almost depleted, A was just heaven-sent!
He took me to Khmer Food House, where we had a sample of mouth-watering Khmer dishes and then tried the Fish Spa which is quiet popular in Siem Reap. We biked around town until the clock struck 12:00. By 2:00 am, A left for Bangkok.
On my birthday, I decided to have ice cream and was thrilled to find a Happy Birthday sundae in Swensen’s. I got one for myself and was even more thrilled when the staff of Swensen’s gathered around me and sang happy birthday, complete with this green balloon.
I asked them afterwards if they usually do that. They said no. My happiness was just so contagious they had to sing for me, volunteered Hat, one of the food attendants.
When I went on the Floating Forest tour the next day, I shared the boat with three other people. They were initially charging us $30 each for the tour until we managed to bring it down to $20 each. In our group were Marjo, a dentist in Holland who will be volunteering soon for an orphanage in Phnom Pehn and was traveling with Denny, her boyfriend and a store manager in Amsterdam, and Delph, a French lady touring Laos and Cambodia.
Volunteering is something that I also like doing in the Philippines and while Marjo’s advocacy was highly remarkable, Denny’s love for Marjo (they’re on their seventh year now and he’s sending off Marjo who will stay in Cambodia for one more month) was admirable. Delph’s passion for traveling (she’s the one with the camera), was infectious.
I felt like this blog’s mantra of Dream. Travel. Love. has been personified on that boat ride. I emerged out of the short boat trip with new acquaintances and perspectives in life.
Before I left Siem Reap, I had lunch at Sala Bai Hotel Restaurant and School which trains young Cambodians coming from underprivileged families for free. After trying to book a table for myself for three consecutive days, I finally managed to get one. My dessert came with a “Happy Birday Amer” design. I was blown away.
And then, there’s Sovan (+012227423 or +0979688373), my tuktuk driver, who was just so kind and honest, he was my angel during my stay in Siem Reap.
When I got to Siem Reap, I only had $5 with me. I initially approached another person at the terminal but because he had trouble understanding me, Sovan came to the rescue. I asked him if we can drop by the nearest Western Union booth but it was almost 7:00 pm already, Sovan knew none was open during that time. Without a thought, he offered to pay for my Angkor Day Pass.
On the second day of our tour, I got an upgrade. Instead of showing up in a tuktuk, he dropped by my hotel with a car. Sovan was polite and really took care of me during our tours. He would remind me not to buy anything from anyone inside the temples and helped me negotiate for my floating forest tour. The amount I paid him for driving me around was a bargain.
When I asked him why he was so trusting of me, he said, “Because you are a kind person, Amir.” I gave Sovan my hat and my sunglasses. I was happier than him, though it does not show in our picture.
Of course, my family back home is a great source of happiness and inspiration. We are not really that expressive when it comes to our feelings but I know that they support my endeavors. I went home to attend Baby Pancake’s baptism, the newest member of our family, and to celebrate my niece Z’s birthday.
Life has been really sweet for me and it is even more meaningful now. I am blessed in so many ways, I know everybody is. I’ve been showered with so much love and light when I turned 30 this month that it is so hard not to pay it forward.
On the night of my birthday, I bought a small piece of cake, not for me, but for Chomroung, the young food attendant at the restaurant where we had dinner the night before. She celebrated her 20th birthday this October and we learned that she never had a cake because her family couldn’t afford one. She was so happy with the surprise and thanked me endlessly.
I have to thank her, and the numerous people around me, for bringing wisdom to my life and for using me as an instrument of love.
Win the Donsol Holiday Package for other people. 🙂 Win it for your friends or for that hardworking officemate you only know by name, or for your younger sibling who is raring to go on vacation with his friends. Win it for an old pal who recently finished his second degree, or for that sari-sari store owner in your neighborhood who stays up late for that additional income, or for your parents who need time together.
Leave a comment on this post. Name the person/s you want to win it for and state why you want them to enjoy the Donsol Holiday Package. It is that simple. You have until November 16 to do this. The winner of this promo will be announced on November 23.
Package can be availed from January to April 2013, except during Holy Week and all weekends of April. Room is subject to availability upon request. Juanderkid shall be informed of your wish to avail of the package one month before your target date.
So, do not delay love, alright?
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 🙂
- Photographs with Thuy, and A with the birthday cake taken with a Sony RX100 digicam.
- Photographs with Bas, students with flowers, Ate A, and lunch at Sala Bai, taken with a Nikon Coolpix AW100.
- All other photographs taken with a Canon 550d.