Monday, December 22, 2014

You can see the heart of a nation through the eyes of their children

This will be framed in my house someday
Day 2 of Secret Lang Honeymoon Part 2 trip is what we are going to call: Filipino Children Day. 

We started the day on our surf boards and after lunch we loaded up our van and headed to our next destination: 100 Islands. 

Halfway through the drive we pulled off at a gas station for a bathroom break and a bunch of kids were playing in the neighborhood. As we were getting back in the car we were high fiving them and being our usual outgoing selves when it comes to kids. They're just so cute and those eyes and smiles when they look up at you are just irresistible. 

As we were piling back in the van we were passing around hand sanitizer and I had a group of kids immediately run up to me for high fives. The hand sanitizer had not quite set in yet and rubbed off on their hands, something they had never really felt before I'm sure. 

Their reaction was priceless, their faces lit up and they just kept saying, "It's coooool, it's coooool" over and over. I thought this was adorably cute and decided to add hand motions and a dance to it which they repeated with glee.

For the duration of the rest of the trip, everything that was 'cool', was now associated with a dance and a hand motion sing song voice. 

Children have the tendency to do that, turn the simplest of matters, give them life and put a song to it. Life is much happier when you're dancing and singing. Filipino children may not have a lot, all the children we became best friends with are running around either barefoot or in flip flops with oversized t-shirts. But they do have the gift of optimism and fun. 

One look in their genuine eyes and one shared smile is all you need to start building a friendship.

A four hour car ride later we pulled into the town of where we would be staying. By this time the sun had set and it was night time. As we were passing through the town we noticed a local basketball game was taking place under the lights.
Basketball under the christmas lights
 Being that it was Christmas time the entire surrounding of the court was decorated with beautiful colorful lights, calling to us. On a whim we decided to stop and check out what a typical Tuesday night held for the locals of this small Filipino town. 

Throughout the next few hours we went from becoming spectators of a basketball game, to being time out entertainment, to making new friends with little Filipinos and starting spontaneous dance parties. 
Who's happier? It's a draw

Deciding if we want to warm up to each other

Making new friends

We're not very good at staying on the side lines, put us in coach! 
We carry a jam box around with us, and in this little box, once the play button is pressed, a party can be started anywhere. And we all know how much Filipinos love music; any excuse to dance is a good one. 

Shortly the basketball game, why we originally stopped, was no longer the center of entertainment. We had made new friends and I'm not sure who was having more fun. 

I had brought my big Canon camera out and had a blast capturing all of the fun that we were having. And the kids absolutely loved having their picture taken and then running over to see the play back on the camera. It became a fun game.
The Filipino "Isa pa"

"show me show me!"

Da boys


After we warmed up to each other and had successfully attracted all of the children at the basketball game to our crew, the real fun began. 

Everyone picked a dance partner

The dance circles began

And then the lessons began

We tried to match it, but these boys had skills

Look at those moves

The dance parties then turned into group singing and we came across an idea that we knew everyone would love; it didn't matter which language you spoke. 
Think Disney...
Everyone was in to it...

The excitement was real

The movie 'Frozen' is a personal favorite and it just warmed my heart that it was for the Filipinos too, I think they knew more words than I did and they belted out each one from the bottom of their little Filipino hearts. 

After saying goodbye to our new found friends we continued on to find our hotel for the night where the dancing and singing didn't die down. The little kids had passed their lively spirit into our hearts.

Who knows what Day 3 would hold for us all, each day so far was already full of unplanned spontaneous events. 

What was behind door number 3.. only greatness I can tell you. Anything that starts with exploring 100 islands has to be fun. You have 100 chances to find fun, and we were pretty good at that. 

Hammock swinging and hanging out with our idol po's.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to not let a Typhoon disrupt your vacation; Part 1

I unwrapped the silverware and pulled out a fork and a knife. Seated at the table in front of me was a German group of girls playing cards. At the table to my right was a couple reading books sitting in silence, the table behind me was a couple wearing matching shirts; one saying 'Soul', the other saying 'Mate'.

It was in that moment, day 10 of Secret Lang HoneyMoon Trip 2, dining at a restaurant on the main strand of Boracay beach, that I knew I was meant to be a traveler not a tourist.

To anyone else those things sound ordinary, if not extraordinary; surrounded by culture and with eating utensils. Those are important to dine with right?

But after the past 10 days of traveling the Philippines from North to South, uncovering magical lands taken from scenes of unwritten Disney movies that include waterfalls, cliffs, oceans, and more, sitting at a touristy restaurant surrounded by other tourists checked into their vacation modes, was not for me.

I want adventures, activities, discovery, culture; eating with a fork and a spoon as my knife (being Filipino).

And the group of humans that traveled the Philippines these past 10 days fit this mold as well.

7 Americans and 2 Filipinos all came together to conquer an island of 7,000 islands. My favorite part about this group of humans is not only their love for life in general but the spirit of spontaneity that lives in each one.

We began making travel plans for this trip about a month ago. We had all of the destinations picked out, the map outlined and itinerary organized. As December 5th drew more near, so did our excitement.

And then Typhoon Ruby happened. Oh Ruby, Secret Lang group is not a fan of you. Ruby is a stubborn one. I don't know why you would name a storm that destroys everything in it's path, but so be it. I prefer the Filipino name, Hagupit, meaning 'Lash'. Much more fitting.
Ruby lookin all ruby ish 

As news about Ruby's arrival started to surface and the concern for damage upon her arrival was intensified, our group remained optimistic.

We had flights departing Manila on December 5th; first destination, Cebu. Whale sharks, waterfalls, private islands and more were awaiting us.
Sumilon Island, our original destination on Itinerary #1 (pre Ruby)

We remained in constant contact with the resort we were supposed to be staying with the entire day of the 4th. Every few hours they reported the same thing, that the weather was sunny and great. The news was telling us something different, that Cebu was in Ruby's path.

But until we heard that our flight was grounded all lights were green on our side; we were pushing for Ruby to change paths from her original predicted one.

With our flight leaving at 4 am, we waited until 1 am to make a final decision and came to the conclusion that it wasn't smart to continue forward. Us Americans were pretty gung-ho on continuing but this was a tropical storm we were dealing with, which none of us had any real experience with. So we eventually listened to our local Pinoy friends and decided that even if we were able to get to Cebu, we didn't want to be sitting in rain and/or get stuck.

After a long night of sending members of our group to the airport, making phone calls and canceling flights, we concluded to all reconvene in the morning to decide our next move.

Spontaneous Spirits; Exhibit A.
By 9 am, with a few hours of sleep under our belt, we all met with bags packed, positive attitudes still in tact; Hagupit was not going to rain on our parade. Only the actual destination was missing. We all piled into a van and chose the direction furthest away from stubborn Ruby...North.

Four hours later we pulled into our beach bungalow in La Union, Flotsam & Jetsam, chosen after making phone calls mid drive for suggestions.

We fell in love with it instantly, every detail about it. Simple, artsy, creative and complete with well thought out decorations. We were greeted warmly, the only way Pinoys know how, and shown to our room complete with 4 bunkbeds and a mattress on the floor for our 9th member. No air con and a community bathroom; we were back at summer camp and just as excited at the ages of 27-33 as we would have been when we were young kids.
"happiness... Market Price" <3

Flotsam & Jetsam greatness

With the day not having much daylight left in it upon arrival, we didn't have much time. Everyone threw on their swimsuits and we headed to the beach. We were going to learn to surf.
Headed to catch a wave and ride it off into the sunset, just another ordinary day in the life of Secret Lang

Spontaneous Spirits Exhibit B.
Surfing wasn't on our original itinerary, although it had been something we all were trying to get to all season but just never quite found the time. Charo, Angela and Kaylee all had experience from last year and Lindsay had tried once before in California this past summer but other than that we were fresh meat to the waves while having a board attached to our bodies.

The next couple of hours unfolded in a very surreal matter. It all happened so quickly and intensely, but not without being able to soak in all of its glory.

We walked up the beach to where surfing lessons were being provided. There were boards lined up, we were thrown shirts to put on and assigned an instructor Kuya.

After a literal 2 minute lesson:
"Lay on the board"
"Push up"
"Left foot first"
"Then right foot in front"
"Bend knees, arms out"
"Good? Ok let's go!"

Wait, what? Yea, that was it. Our Kuya's wrapped the board around our ankles and carried them as we trailed behind trying not to trip over the chord and replaying the lesson in our heads.

As we walked in the water, the waves were not exactly calm. It was as if Ruby knew we had successfully avoided her and she was going to make our first surfing lesson one to remember. We wanted to have fun and learn to surf huh? Well, she wanted a say in that.

We were walking towards big waves, and my pulse was rising. Each Kuya would hold on to the back and push us through the incoming waves yelling, "Hold on!!" when the wave was approaching and even "Duck your head!!" when our boards were basically vertical and the wave above our heads.

The next hour we proceeded to battle the waves, being thrashed around, swallowing large amounts of salt water but determined in every way. We would go out, come back in trying to stand. Falling many times but picking up the board each time and returning to our Kuya for another run.

After awhile I was getting close but just not able to quite get it, I asked Kuya, "What do you see?" Being an athlete I wanted to be coached, given tips. I wanted to get it.

Kuya responded with a smile, "I see you fall." Oh really? Well there was some help haha, but it sums up the experience perfectly. These young kids probably ranging from 14-20 with limited english were our instructors. So it mostly came down to trial, error and watching what worked for one another.

And eventually, we all got up. It was such a freeing feeling to get beaten and abused by these waves and fall time and time again but then finally mount the board to ride it in to shore. As well as to see each other succeed. We would whoop and holler for one another as each one got up, wiped out and returned to the ocean for another try.
What a rush

Did I mention we did all of that with a gorgeous sunset taking place in the background? Pretty magical and surreal.
We're sunset kind of people, with a splash of an occasional sunrise

We surfed and surfed until the sun dipped behind the horizon, we couldn't see anymore and were forced to return our boards. While walking back in, Kuya said to me, " So sorry for rough waves." sounding about exhausted as I felt from pushing my long body up wave after wave.

You could tell our Kuya's were impressed and we set a time and place for the next morning with a promise from them that the waves wouldn't be quite so punishing. Take that Ruby, you can't stop us!

The rest of the night we sat around candle lit tables outside our beach bungalow stuffing our tired bodies with fish and rice then retired to bean bags to star gaze and continue reliving our surfing stories, excited for more.

Straight out of a story book I tell ya. Day 1 in the books and a great deal accomplished after a quick turnaround from the obstacle Hagupit created.

So far the score card read:
Secret Lang: 1  
Ruby: 0

Spontaneous Spirits conquering obstacles. Check.

GoPro hard at work catching the me on the wave ----> Thank you random Kuya surfer who was kind enough to let us use his bored, he probably envisioned 10 minutes little did he know we were a group of 9, we'll pay it forward some day I promise :) #GoProlove

Stay tuned for more adventure story telling, that was just day 1...

We were able to see our Awesome Cignal teammates one last time at the Cignal Christmas party last night, what a treat! They are the gift that just keeps giving back to us. Only in the PH can you wear white pants to a Christmas Party #alwayssummer #notlookingforwardtotradingmyswimsuitforaparka

79 days. That's how many days it took for this beautiful country and it's beautiful people in it to fully steal my heart. Leaving today on a jet plane and my emotions are all over the map.

I am absolutly overwhelmed by the people in this country and the sights that I have seen and not to mention what I have left to see. I have merely scratched the surface. I can not thank you wonderful Filipino people enough for opening your arms and hearts to us imports these past few short months and showing us what it is like to be Pinoy.

I feel so inspired, alive and grateful here. Not to mention brown and happy in the sun :)


I'm taking back love, photos, videos and memories to share with the rest of the world. Because as much as I would love to keep this place a secret and all to myself I have been so lucky to experience all that I have and I just want to share it with the world. I love the Philippines. Salamat po's, you are all my idol po's.


Thursday, December 4, 2014


Question of the day: What do you do when you have a hotel room looking like a typhoon just ran through it, on your hands?

You go to lunch, pedicures, meet with friends, work out...and then when there's nothing else left, you blog.

At least that is what I do when I have to pack. My nemesis; packing.

I feel like I just walked in to this hotel room I was to call my home for 3 months and now it's time to pack it all up and go home home. It went by in the blink of an eye, and somewhere during that blink typhoon wreckage was created. Quite fitting as Typhoon Ruby is heading our way as we speak.

So while I avoid the typhoon in my hotel room, let me tell you about the awesome people in my life, because right now there are quite a few.

A group of us have been planning Thanksgiving for awhile. It started out as the traditional #Thanksgiving, then we officially named it #Friendsgiving and then it morphed to #FriendsgivingwithJasonMraz. We had big plans, big.

We had pumpkin pie ingredients, cranberry and fireball being brought from the states to make it as American as possible, and it just so happened Jason Mraz was in concert the night before our set date for the feast.

It was perfect. Jason needed an American Thanksgivng meal and we needed tickets to his show. How could this not be the best Thanksgiving ever? So we set off on our social media ways and commented and hashtagged every post trying to make #friendsgivingwithjasonmraz a reality.

Shocking I know, but he never responded. Tragic really, I mean come on Jason, you lost a few points in my book on this one.

So we were back to just #friendsgiving. Then the week came and it coincided with the last week of the PSL. Last league games, semi finals, finals. There was a lot.

Suddenly we went from the most epic Thanksgiving ever to nothing. Talk about build up.

Thanksgiving week came and went with a lot of excitment to keep our minds off the fact that our stomachs weren't being stuffed to their maximum capacity and beyond like our other fellow Americans:
-we finished the league 4th
Pocket size not looking so pleased I'm trying to put her in my pocket

-Petron was crowned champion
-our very own Lindsay Stalzer Stunner recieved best Outside Hitter for the league

-Erica Adachi was named #PSLphaseoff Champion, taking victory over Kristy Jaeckel Jkill's butt

-Import send off dinner; complete with karaoke (B. Wise stealing the show), thanksgiving food and good company
We love our new jackets! Taking the Philippines with us back home and always in our hearts! <3

-We had many team bonding experiences to wrap up the season and make us wish we were staying with this group of Awesome Cignal people longer
Speech speech speech. Words aren't enough to express our gratitude, but we tried

Hanging with some Champions..congrats Cignal Men's team! 

And in the midst of all of this Filipino fun, we managed to squeeze in a FRIENDSGIVING!

It was set up Top Chef style. Each team representing, was responsible for a dish.

RC Cola: Mac n Cheese and Stuffing
"Butter can burn, milk can burn" mac n cheese was officially dawned the most difficult dish to make for Friendsgiving

Cignal: Sweet Potato Pie and Pumpkin Pie
Teamwork makes the dream work

Sweet potatoes look a little different here on the outside and on the inside, but oh they don't taste any different! #favoritedish #notbiased

Mane n Tail: Mashed Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole
Everyone hard at work (fireball spotting)
Filipinos: Drinks, chicken (turkey substitute) and the mashing of the Potatoes
What is the result of a swimming go pro in sangria? Really awesome smiles
Showing us their creation..and then.. 

Mashed potatoes on the floor! 

That's love.

We showed up to our gracious host's Charo's humble abode at noon and within 4 hours and a lot of kitchen madness that did not involve burning the house down, we managed to cook every dish and be eating by 4 pm. It was a fantastic day.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..well it has been for awhile since OctoBER, but now it is DecemBER! Almost there!
After stuffing ourselves silly and marveling at how many leftovers there were, we made enough food to feed a village I'm pretty sure; very American of us, we had a very special movie showing.

Bonita Wise is one talented human ladies and gentleman. She has spent the last few weeks since our Puerto Galera trip, gathering music, photos, videos, notes and combining them to make a...wait for it... yes, a ONE HOUR long video complete with Character Casting and Trailer. And every single second rocked. Pure talent.

This is a link to her trailer to our movie, check it out! Puerto Galera Trailer 2014

Wow. What a week that was!

And you thought I was having fun now, wait until you see what is to come next. I'll give you a hint, 2 words... island. hopping.

Go home typhoon Ruby, no one wants you here. According to weather reports the typhoon is scheduled to hit in the next couple of days but we will find ways to rearrange our trip if need be. Let's be honest we're on the land of 7,000 islands; Ruby surely can't hit all 7,000. Mother Nature isn't that mean.

Stay tuned for more of this beautiful country to be revealed... in the mean time I'm back to tackle the typhoon that hit Manila, and is in and around my feet as I type now.

Wish me luck..

Monday, December 1, 2014

Which most embarrassing moment caught on film is the funniest? #PSLphaseoff

Over the past week we have watched our PSL players grow up before our eyes as we have gone through each 'phase' of their life.

We are now down to the FINAL FOUR. The final stage in life. Baby, elementary school, awkward teenage years... now we are at present time. 

All the pictures have been tipping the scales of very adorable so far of each athlete, so let's mix it up a bit and throw in some fun. For the final phase, choose which most embarrassing photo is funniest to you! '

The pictures were submitted by the final four individuals themselves!

Here is the ranking for Awkward Teenage Years:
And your Final Four contestants! 
Vote here--->
The winner of #PSLphaseoff will be announced tomorrow at 4 PM. VOTE VOTE VOTE!