"My Life's Journeys" asianbelle's Profile
When this photo was taken in December 2011, I had 2 reasons for it: (1) I was into running so obviously, the signage appealed to me, (2) I was reeling from 2 disappointments --- came so close twice to winning a round trip ticket to Europe, but due to technicality was disqualified. Hence, I was trying to psyche myself that 2012 would be a better year.
And maybe it was "prophetic". The first half of the year were travel-filled --- Boracay in January for the Big VT meet; Bohol in March for our company outing; weekend trips with family to Hundred Islands Pangasinan in March; Zambales and Baguio in April; Thunderbird Resort La Union in June; plus day trips to Tagaytay, Pampanga, Batangas, Bulacan.
Halfway through the year, I made a career shift. It was a big move motivated by career advancement, financial gain, and travel opportunities. Barely a month into my new work, I traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a meeting. It was followed by a training in Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas. Then came the strategic planning at Anvaya Cove in Morong, Bataan. A surprise trip was the company's pre-Christmas outing at Misibis Bay, Albay. And, a week after came another trip to Kuala Lumpur to attend a convention.
Indeed, I was off to a great start!
The Big Philippine Meet During Claus’ (VT Cachaseiro) December 2010 trip to Manila, he broached the subject of coming up with a big VT meet in the country. The local members were receptive to the idea and soon, with Claus’ persistence, the project took shape.
The date was set: 14-15 January 2012 in Boracay with a pre-meet in Manila on the 12th. Boracay was the choice venue as, obviously, it was one of the country's top tourist destinations. In addition, a beach meeting is something that has not been done yet (or for a long time). The dates coincide with Kalibo's Ati-Atihan Festival to let the foreign VTs experience one of our major local fiesta. A pre-meet dinner in Manila was added as a welcome reception.
Announcement was posted in the events calendar and soon sign ups came pouring from members in other parts of the globe. They were as enthusiastic to be part of this milestone event in VT Pilipinas’ history.
Born and raised in a city suburb, I had my first trip to Zambales at 7 months old. Maybe due to my early start and being in a family with "itchy feet", travelling has become a part of my life. And while every family trip is memorable, the "all-expense paid" work trips welcomed, and the friends' out-of-town enjoyable, I still try to arrange a solo trip whenever my resources allow.
Travelling alone has its merits. It makes me more organized and budget conscious. It allows me to interact with strangers. And it gives me the space and time to be by myself.
My first solo trip was to Vienna in July 1998 to be part of a Science summer camp as a Counsellor. It was also my first long haul flight and my first time to set foot in Europe. Until now, I am in contact with my co-counsellor (a German lady) and one of the camp participants (a Malaysian girl). In June 2005, I went on my own to Kuala Lumpur to attend the wedding of the Malaysian girl.
My second trip to Europe was also my second time to travel by myself outside the Philippines. I was invited by our Dutch project partner to visit an international trade fair in Utrecht in February 2000. The fair dates fell on the week of my birthday, thus for the first time, I celebrated my birthday thousands of miles away from my family. Our Dutch partner thoughtfully arranged an afternoon champagne party for me.
Locally, I had been to Sagada and Puerto Princesa on vacation. It was my Sagada experience that encouraged me to be actively involved in VT.
It has been our family's silent mantra "to visit at least one place we have not yet been to" every year. Whenever possible, we live up to it regardless if we go together, with friends or alone.
Raised in a closely-knit family environment, I always find my travels with the family memorable and treasured ones. My earliest memory of family trips were to Zambales, Cavite, Laguna, La Union, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Batangas, Tagaytay and Baguio. The road trips to Ilocos and Cagayan regions in November 2004 and to Bicol region in November 2005 turned out to be the last I would take with my Dad and Mom.
My first trip to Hong Kong was also my first trip with my sisters outside our home country. Growing up semi-sheltered and always chaperoned, the first chance the 3 of us had in travelling together by ourselves was in December 1994 when we went to Hong Kong on a packaged tour. We spent 4 days shopping, sightseeing and just goofing around.
This "sisters-bonding" trip was repeated in May 2002 when, armed with enough savings, we went on a "do-it-our-own" 2.5 week 5-country European tour. It was a different experience as this time we arranged everything by ourselves - planning our itinerary, applying for visa, booking our flights, booking our hotels, buying our rail pass. We covered key cities of the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy and France. We selected the cities we would visit based on our "must-see-before-we-die" places. My personal choice is Munich as I want to step into the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. My younger sister has been trying for years to visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Fuessen, while my youngest sister would like to climb Pisa's Leaning Tower. Our common denominator is Salzburg as we are self-confessed Sound of Music addicts.
Twelve years after our first trip, in October 2006 we again found ourselves roaming the streets of Hong Kong and this time, we hopped to the neighbouring island of Macau for a day trip. It was also my first time to visit a Disneyland Park.
Being able to visit different places was a decision factor in my choice of course in the university. And later, the opportunity to travel became a consideration in accepting employment.
In my first job, I was into Market Research and that gave me the chance to visit key cities of the Philippines - Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Laoag. I remember, my first plane ride was to Iloilo and crossing over to Bacolod was my first ferry ride.
When I moved to Product Management, I had my first taste of foreign travel. It was a week-long pleasure trip to Singapore and Bangkok given as an incentive by the company.
My next work was with a non-government organization that promotes agricultural development. In particular, I headed a team that organizes trade exhibitions and conventions. It had let me travel to Bangkok, Utrecht, Hong Kong and parts of China to visit international trade fairs.
I enjoyed handling events such that after being with an NGO for more than a decade, I moved to an events management company that specializes in organizing bazaars. Though my only travels were to Clark, Subic and Bohol, my work enabled me to establish connections with the media and entertainment industry.
A career opportunity to handle marketing, events and promotions for a multinational direct selling company came my way and I grabbed it. Along with potentials for career advancement is travel opportunities, both local and international. It was like I have come full circle.
Going to Sagada was the first time I went to a remote area alone. Thus I wanted to arm myself with as much information on the place as possible. It was in the course of my search that I came across VT.
I consider stumbling into VT as one of my blessings. It came at a time when I was restless, looking for an outlet to channel my "excess" resources, and yearning for like-minded people who will share my travel interests.
When I joined VT in 2004, my only reason for signing up was to be able to ask questions in the Travel Forum. It never crossed my mind that time will come when I will be hooked to it nor more importantly, that I will discover a new set of friends... Friends who share my zest and passion for travel... Friends who have the same travel principle as mine - WORK, SAVE, TRAVEL... Friends who became my support group.
VT Philippines in particular has transcended being mere travel buddies. We have bonded like long-lost friends whose paths crossed once again. And we extend this friendship to our global virtual friends.
VT also became a venue for me to enhance my communication skills that luckily didn’t go unnoticed. My VT blog became my vehicle bringing me closer to realizing one of my dreams –-- to share my travel experiences through writing. I am now a4trip’s Manila travel guide writer.
To prove that VT is not just about sightseeing and out of the country trips, local members also organize or participate in historical walks within Manila. This way, we also become familiar with our history and culture that we can share with foreign VT guests.
We had our back-to-back Postal History and Chinatown tours in September 2007. As the name implies, the postal history tour was all about postal stamps. We started our tour in Intramuros visiting the pre-war post office and culminated at the Philatelic Museum housed in the National Post Office building. There, we viewed ancient-to-present collection of stamps issued by the Philippine government as well as commemorative stamps.
Right after the tour, we moved to Binondo Church which served as the meeting point for our Chinatown walking tour hosted by Carlos Celdran. We visited old residential and commercial buildings along what was once the central business and financial enclave of Manila --- Escolta. We also took a "calesa" ride to the heart of Chinatown where we paid respects to the oldest Chinese temple in the country. The tour ended with us sampling some Chinese dimsum.
Sometime in August 2011, a well meaning local VT member, Noel, suggested considering a visit to Malacanang Palace as part of the itinerary of the big Philippine meet in January 2012. It was well received by us that another member jokingly suggested that we conduct a dry-run ourselves first. Hence, Noel arranged a private tour for us in September. However, nature intervened --- a typhoon passed Manila on our scheduled date rendering offices and schools closed. Noel was able to get a new schedule a month after. Thus, one afternoon in October 2011, about 8 VT members with our friends & family gathered at St. Jude Catholic Church then proceeded to invade Malacanang Palace Museum.
In the 8 years that I have been a VTer, I had 6 out of town trips with fellow VTers.
The first was to Bohol in April 2005 with VT's scuba diving couple Penn and Aimees. We flew to Cebu and took a slow boat to Tubigon. From there, we did the countryside tour on our own - Chocolate Hills, Loboc River, Baclayon Church. We even went to Corella to see the tarsier sanctuary; unfortunately, we arrived after the park has closed for the day. We stayed in Panglao and hopped to Balicasag and Puntod islands. We also caught up with fellow VTers in Loboc and Panglao.
The next one was a day trip to Tagaytay in November 2005. We had McDonald’s Greenbelt as meeting point and from there took a rented van to Sonya’s Garden. After feasting on Sonya’s famous lunch of organically grown produce, our group of 11 toured the herb garden and spa. On the way back, we had a brief stop at Leslie’s for a view of Taal Lake and Volcano.
The third one was with my VT soulmate Arnie in January 2006 to Boracay. Our plane landed in Kalibo which gave us time to make a side trip to New Washington and visit Precious Moments at Sampaguita Gardens. Then we were off to Boracay where we spent 2 days just lazing around, swimming, shopping, and sampling the various cuisines available. We also watched the Chinese New Year fireworks with foreign VTers visiting the island at that time.
This was followed by a trip with my VT friend and "counselee" Lili to Tacloban in July 2006. We had Palo as our base where our hotel was next to the MacArthur Landing Memorial and to its back was the historical Red Beach. From Palo, we went to Tacloban and visited the Sto. Niño Shrine, some old buildings and other religious sites. We even spent a day touring the nearby province of Samar after crossing San Juanico Bridge. Using Basey as jump off point, we went caving and trekking in Sohoton, and then went farther south to Marabut.
Then there was the Mt. Pinatubo day trek in March 2008. Aptly called "Pinatubo... akyat... gapang", I joined 14 other VTers in scaling the summit of Mt. Pinatubo. We left Metro Manila very early in the morning to arrive in Capas in time for sunrise and immediately started our 1 hour ride and 3 hour trek journey. We were all in awe at the beautiful scenery that lies before us. Coming back, we took the 1.5 hour trek and 1 hour ride via the Skyway.
After passing up several opportunities to travel with the group, I was able to join them again in April 2011 to Mt. Pulag in Benguet. The Pulagers, as we call ourselves, is composed of about 7 VT members and 7 friends. We left Manila on a night bus and after a quick breakfast in Baguio, we were on our 3 hour jeepney ride to DENR's office in Bokod. We attended the mandatory orientation and then continued the 1.5 hour rough ride to the Ranger Station. From there, it was a 4-hour- drenched in the rain-hike in the forest. We arrived at the camp ground just in time for sunset and spent the cold, cold night under the stars. Early the next day, we continued our hike for 2 more hours and reached the summit of the 2nd highest mountain in the Philippines at sunrise. We were all in good spirits on our way back to Baguio, had fun walking through a hanging bridge, and stopped for some photos with Ambuklao Dam as backdrop.
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