Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tis the season to be...Merry? or... Scary?

Happy Halloween weekend! I think...

Christmas music has been playing in the malls since September and the decorations have overtaken the front store windows with lights being sold road side all over the city. Christmas spirit, you think you've got it? Don't try and to match it with the Filipino culture, they're on another level.

I have learned that the Filipino people have very happy and positive attitudes. And the emotions that surround the holiday of Christmas are just that, happy, light, fun. Therefore, put two and two together and you get Christmas on steroids. I am excited to see the spirit build and build as the actual Holiday draws closer.

But first, Halloween.

This will be the first year in I don't know how many years I will not be carving a pumpkin. It's a tradition I am going to miss dearly, so I am coping by painting my nails festive jack-o-lantern colors.

And dressing up with my fellow American and surprising our team at practice with candy. Bringing the trick or treating to them!
A Butterfly and a Bee paid a visit to Team Awesome Cignal today
And we made a new friend! ADORABLE! <3

I will continue my coping of not carving a pumpkin by taking a Halloween weekend trip to Puerto Galera! I think that looks pretty halloween-y to me! Suddenly my pumpkin carving depression has diminished! #lifeismorefuninthephilippines

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's time to start a movement..

Alright Philippines, I have a bone to pick with you. I have been here exactly one month to the day and it is obvious I am pretty in love with this country and the people that inhabit it, but I officially have a complaint.

I know you're prediction is that it will be about traffic. Nope, I'm actually getting used to that, well about as much as you can get used to it; acceptance is probably a better word. I am accepting the fact that traffic is apart of life here and I now no longer get in a car without a snack, water and a book. Life goes on, just a little bit slower sometimes.

So if it's not traffic, then what is it?

Hint: it's apart of your daily life, multiple times in a day.

Food. More importantly, nutrition. There is not a lot of it.

Greens, my body is craving vegetables. And not the sautéed ones doused in oil, fried and then dipped in cream. As delicious as those things are every now and again, I have hit my limit on consuming them on a daily basis.

And then today, upon multiple recommendations from fellow Americans, I found my new favorite restaurant: Green Pastures. Farm to table!! Love.

This place is heaven for green people like me. Salad bowls bigger than my face and filled with not just ice berg lettuce. Real, green, crunchy, fresh kale and romaine leaves. Gloriousness.
I had the Detoxify Juice with the Farm House Salad:
Shredded kale, chopped romaine, konbu roast chicken, malagos goat cheese, hard-boiled eggs, dinelli bacon, corn, avocado, grape tomatoes, honey mustard dill vinaigrette
The most interesting part about this restaurant was not the menu itself, but the fact there was a wait list to get in to the restaurant. On a Tuesday afternoon at 1 pm.

Green Pastures is in the Shangri-La Mall in Ortigas (a GORGEOUS mall by the way), and there was hardly anyone there. But to eat at this place...a 30 minute wait.

That tells you one thing, people want MORE of this type of food!

So let's start a movement fellow Filipinos! And it starts with the color green; make your plate more colorful! I think I'll open a restaurant ;)

Can't wait to go back and try more!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to 'Stay Cool' in the Upcoming Seventh Wonder City of the World

-Ride a calesa, horse-drawn carriages, while eating empanadas
Chowin down on some delicious local empanadas during the motor cade parade throughout the city!
-Take selfies with the locals being a visitor

-Always wave back. The pure joy and squeals that would come from the locals when you would make eye contact, smile and wave back at them; judging by their reactions you would think they had just fine dined with a celebrity. And that's just what we were this weekend in their eyes; celebrities

-Go to the nightly Dancing Fountain Light show at 7:30 at Plaza Salcedo for a production of dancing fountains put to music with songs ranging anywhere from from, Queen "We are the Champions", to Katy Perry "Firework"; there's a music genre for everyone in the show

Governor Singson making his town a musical one, irony?
-Eat the local dishes while sitting on a rooftop overlooking the city, my favorite was the eggplant dish; poqui poqui.

-Walk the historical Crisologo Street with Spanish influence, unique to everywhere else in the Philippines. It reminded me of a mini version of being in the European streets with it's cobblestone pathways and architecture.

-Get outside the city center, about a 30 minute drive, and dive in to the warm, bath water, clear blue sea that is dawned "the Boracay of the North" at the Cabugao Beach Resort (to be determined). If you go during the day you will have a private beach because Filipinos like to keep thier skin white, unlike us Americans who disregard that risk of 'skin disease' and desire the dark brown color. Two days at the beach, and proud to say I am well on my way!
#thatfilipinowater #thatfilipinosand 1st Philippine beach in the books!

Beach babes
The imports who didn't have matches this weekend; getting our jumping fix in!

-Get a goat and tie it up on a leash to a fence. In Puerto Rico it was common to see goats tied up randomly on the side of the road, here it's goats. #randomobservationofthetrip

-Eat like a true Filipino on a farm just outside the city. Meals are served on real banana leaves and you get to use your hands as forks! The messier, the better! 
Awesome set up, eating fish caught right next to us probably that same morning!
Finger lickin good! Who needs utensils??

-Make sure you have plenty of ice packs to put on your head if you're playing in a volleyball match. If you're a spectator, fans to keep yourself cool. Or maybe even get creative; go straight over to the cooler full of ice and water and throw your arms in it and dowse your face; a tactic used by some of the players as the matches this past weekend got to the end and the heat verged on unbearable in the non air conditioned gym. But I would do that too if my name was Kristy Jaeckel, I had 85 swings in a 4 set match and 33 of them were kills. You go girl, dive head first into that cooler of ice!
It was a PACKED hot HOT!

-PLAY VOLLEYBALL! The town obviously has an overwhelming interest in the sport. At both of the PSL matches on Saturday night, there were 3,000 fans packed in the gym and an estimated 1,000 more outside the gym watching the match from a screen set up. 

At the youth clinic put on the previous day by the coaches and players of the PSL, there was a great turn out of girls and boys eager to learn more about the sport and meet their newfound idols from around the world. When in doubt, ito ang volleyball! Or as they say in Vigan; datoy di volleyball!
Adorable campers, they could hardly contain their excitement! 

People helping people #growthegame

Vigan may not be a town of very much; the locals live a very simple life with not a lot; they have one McDonalds in their town square, the historical city center street is a miniature version of what you would come across in Europe and their gyms may not have air conditioning or showers. But what Vigan does have plenty of are very big hearts, beautiful history that they live in and preserve daily from the 16th century. And a lot of pride. It was a great experience to see the Seventh Wonder City of the world before it actually becomes it! 

Thank you for opening your city, sharing your culture and food, and most importantly the heart of your people to us this weekend! We sure hope there are more opportunities for more people from around the world to experience 'staying cool' in your city and especially more volleyball fans in the future!
Coast drive on the way back to Manila
Bus window sunset capture #suckerforthesunset #always

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top 5 Moments in Philippine SuperLiga Opening Week

Opening week has come and gone with much success! It was a very busy week with press conferences, practices and the season launch party. Here are the highlights!
We were the first match to open up Superliga! It was great to get on the court and compete together after all of the build up of the festivities!
We <3 our Awesome Cignal teammates!

You could say Lindsay and I are taller than the average case you doubt that statement, here are a few pictures that capture it..
We call this one: 'Amazons high-five'

Me giving our pocket sized libero the chance to feel tall, how kind am I? :)
I enjoyed it too apparently!

"I got it I got it"
"Excuse me, nope"
haha sorry Royce!
During opening ceremonies they highlighted the imports, of course we got the chance to get creative and dress to show which team we belonged on..these are my favorite:
Bo and Emily from RC Cola Air Force
(their selfie sticks were a crowd favorite)

Alaina and Erica from Petron racing to success

Kristy and Kaylee from Mane n Tail, rocking it oh so creatively.

Once they introduced us in the stadium, we came out of the crowd and ran down to the court. They encouraged us to dance and have fun.

During walk throughs when Lindsay and I were discussing what we should do, she asked me if she should back flip.
Wait, what? You can BACK FLIP? Land. And not kill yourself?

I've known this girl for 5 years and had no idea, I was shocked. And you could only imagine the reaction from the crowd. She stole the show, hands down.

And is now giving instructional lessons to all who are interested, you can pay her in dance lessons or however else you may see fit.

In the middle of the week we had our season launch party. During the party there was a raffle; all of the players from 6 girls teams and 4 mens teams' names were thrown in to a box and prizes were given out. There were several minor prizes handed out, but the big suspense was the grand prize: a free trip to none other than Boracay.

For those of you who don't know what this place is, let me take a moment to prep you. I'll start with this image:
White sandy beaches and crystal clear blue water...yea it's real.

It's an island only 4.5 miles long!! And is topping the lists of best beaches in the entire world. No big deal.

It's basically the definition of paradise. And lucky lucky LUCKY me, won a free 2 night, 3 day trip to Paradise for free with one other person! (feel free to start sending in your resumes and bios detailing why you would be the best choice;)) I'm thinking December ish fits my calendar quite nicely!

It takes the cake for being number 1, I've got Boracay on the mind.. all the time!

Awesome week 1..can't wait for more SuperLiga memories!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Part of traveling the world and experiencing new places is trying the food each culture has to offer. I have never been an entirely picky eater and I am quite adventurous when it comes to trying new things. But coming to the Philippines has put that to the true test.

BALUT: is a developing duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. It is commonly sold as streetfood in the Philippines.  

Yup. Go ahead, go back and re-read that one. It's a tough one to wrap your mind around...also your mouth, if you attempt to chew this thing.

But it is common here in the Philippines, although I have found plenty of Filipinos who aren't a huge fan. 

So the challenge was set. The first American to try it was Bonita Wise, one of the seven Americans playing in the league here. Granted, she was born in the Philippines so I am going to go out on a limb here and say that she was the bravest to be first because she has that Filipino blood. 

Balut, in all it's glory...

After she took down her duck, she issued the challenge to the rest of us foreigners. And so it began...

For days after seeing this picture and knowing what balut was, I would get sick to my stomach just thinking about it. Then one day we were all together and that moment of sickness didn't was my day. I had to act fast. 

So we had some balut brought in special, and off I went.
Can you just sense the unsureness.. yea, bleh..

I have to admit, it wasn't as bad as it looked or sounded. But I do think it is safe to say I will not be frequenting this challenge. 

There were still Americans left on the board to accept their challenge and they decided to pull together and take it out together. Lindsay, Emily and Kristy were next. They took it like champs and their faces tell how the story went; quite perfectly.

Conveniently it was Kristy's birthday so it became her Birthday Balut. What more could you ask for on your day of birth?
Before, during, after. Captured.
We can now check it off our Philippine Culture To Do List. I for one am hoping more enjoyable food challenges are on the horizon.

I'll be okay with ones that fall in the fruit stand realm..

I accept any challenge in this box. Crack it open!
I've seen a great deal of fruits here this past week that I've never heard of, and they are all SO delicious! Mangoes here are unbelievable and come in different types, lanzones, durian, jackfruit, watermelon, pineapple, guiyabano...the list goes on and on!

I just discovered mangosteens and they are officially my new favorite fruit. After further research, apparently it is the "queen of fruit" and the health benefits are a mile long. 

Needless to say I will be cracking open more mangosteen shells than balut ones during my stay in the Philippines, and I think my mind and body will thank me for it in more ways than one. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Very Merry Filipino Birthday

Photo cred: Photographer Jheck 
After I decided to come to the Philippines late this summer, I suddenly began to hear a lot about just how wonderful this hidden gem is. But in the overall description of the island, the overwhelming responses included raving about the beautiful beaches and sights to be seen. 

I have been here for a week and have yet to see a beautiful beach, as the league, practices and where we are living are based in the capital, Manila. But the most valuable aspect that this country posses has come out in the people that live here; the Filipinos themselves.

Hospitality is a value that is highly valued in this culture. And when I say highly, that is an understatement. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome in their country as a foreigner. It is unlike anything I have ever seen. 

The best way I can describe this is by giving the example of my birthday this past week. 

Yes, I am in the social media capital of the world, but woah..I've never received so many messages, and from people I don't know to wish me a happy birthday and life. A crazy amount of genuine messages flooded my notifications on all forms of social media. #thankful

The night before my birthday, the Americans were invited over to a former teammate's of Kaylee Manns (who played here last year) house, for a seafood feast. And I was greeted with a huge chocolate cake, one of the best I've ever had. Talk about spongey goodness. 

My first birthday cake of year 27! 

Thanks Charo for an awesome night at your home with your family :)
The next day, the actual day of my birthday, we were in our room at the hotel and we got a knock at the door. When I opened it, one of the maids, with a huge smile on her face, was holding up a towel made in the shape of an elephant and a note attached to the front! The maids. At the hotel. Amazing.
'We wish you all the best in your life and more candles to blow!" Your Room Attendant <3

That night we had plans to get together with all of the other Americans for dinner but low and behold, another rain storm took the island by storm and caused the streets to turn into grid lock. Some of our fellow Americans playing on other teams, were stuck in traffic for 4 hours! Thankfully it was our day off and we did not have to get in the car that day. #happybirthdaytome

Lindsay and I went to a mexican restaurant by request from a friend, La Chupacabra, near our hotel. It was bursting with flavor, inside my mouth and belly, good! My favorite type of food on my birthday and quite possibly the best tacos I have ever had..real life. Happy happy! 
The best soft tacos, not an exaggeration. So good we went for lunch the next day. Must. Go. Back.

The next day we had practice and I was greeted with my teammates surprising me with another cake, gifts and singing me happy birthday about 12 times, I loved it. They are the sweetest. We literally met a few days ago and I already feel beyond welcomed. 
My new team with my second birthday cake! Go Cignal! Team Awesome! #justlookatthosefaces

The cake box with awesome notes from my new teammates :)
#coachingstaff #Cignal

The most special thing about the Philippines are indeed the people. 

After this week I am going to go ahead and recommend moving to a new country, adding a new passport stamp to the log, joining a new team and having a birthday all in one week. If you want to feel loved from all over the world, this is the way to live. 

Salamat (thank you) to everyone who made my birthday in a new foreign land a special one and to all my friends and family who sent me love from afar! You made me feel like a very special person, in a very big world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Living in the Social Media Capital of the World

About a month ago I was on social media, which you will find ironic in a second. And I came across a link that said: What Each Country Leads the World In.

Being the curious world traveler that I am, I immediately clicked on it. And being that the Philippines was my next upcoming destination I went to that part of the map first.

I don't know what I was expecting, maybe something island related like coconuts or most holidays for days off to enjoy the beautiful beaches...but what I found was a surprise; the Philippines is most known for Social Media.

The Philippines take the most selfies than anywhere in the world! 'Filipinos are using social media platform 53 hours a week. That is a whole 11 hours more than the global average of 42 hours!'

This was a pleasant surprise, as I am a social media lover myself; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, name it I love it. I love keeping up with my friends and family as I bounce around the world. It's a great way to stay connected.

The closer I came to arriving in the Philippines and as the announcements of foreigners began to be released here locally, the realization of the social media craze of my new "home" was becoming very apparent as I watched the fans reply in mass amounts to each post.

Aside from the friendly welcoming tweets and posts, that I have very much appreciated in my short time here, last night I got to experience the Filipinos in their element with social media; when a storm hit in the afternoon.

Lindsay and I were in the league's office getting fitted for uniforms and someone was supposed to be picking us up to drive us to practice (something I am very thankful for having here, personal drivers. There are some crazyyyy driving rules aka no road rules out here. I'll kindly take the back seat)

A storm had rolled in and it began raining really hard, our driver was late by about 45 minutes because it took him double the time it normally would to get to us. On the island when you ask how far something is you always get 2 answers; "without traffic time" and "with traffic time"...and it's almost always the "with traffic time". Filipinos love their cars.

After our driver arrived he told us it would take 2 hours to get through the traffic to practice, which meant practice would basically be over. So we collectively decided to go to dinner and enjoy an AH-mazing Greek meal with good company. Which ended up being much better than sitting in a car staring at the other crazy drivers for 2 hours.

Enter social media. I decided to tweet about it.

And the response was great.
After the league tweeted:

: What's your best tip to on how to survive her first Manila flood and traffic?!

I got these very helpful/funny tips:

The Filipinos are very familiar with this incident and took it in stride, we are in the rainy season I learned yesterday, until the end of October. 

Needless to say I think I am fitting in quite nicely in this new city of mine.


So we still have yet to practice. We're hoping, traffic and rainstorm pending of course, today will be our day to meet our team! But we couldn't be happier, everyone we have met has been beyond expectations on welcoming us and making us feel comfortable! There's a lot of joking and laughter here on the island, throw in tweeting about it, and you've got yourself a happy girl.