2016 Best Nine

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Instagram friends have posted theirs yesterday and this became an idea for my first entry. 2016 wasn’t a favorite to some of the people I know but it was a different story in my case.

#1 I learned to snorkel without a life vest. This was a big deal to me because ever since I started snorkeling, I couldn’t do it without wearing a life vest. Guests have told me in past trips that one could float with the help of fins.

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I can fly! I can fly!

I doubted them at first but in January last year, I decided to face my fear. In the Big Lagoon of El Nido, I put on my rented fins and reluctantly went into the water.

I panicked a little but later on, I found myself floating! It felt like discovering the power of flight–except you’re in the water and you’re not really flying. 😉  This song plays in my head whenever I remember that experience. In the next trips, I became more confident to try going deeper to know how long I could last underwater.

#2  First time to be hired for a function by a top global brand. I told the story of Intramuros in front of 20 fit and determined runners and local celebrities for the Nike Women Leap Year Day in February.

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NTC stands for “Nike Training Club”.

The participants had to overcome mental and physical challenges within the walled city to finish the race. It felt great to be part of this event with Nike and I hope for more opportunities like this. It’s just cool!

#3 The wisdom in removing an impacted tooth. When I was about to turn 36 last March, I felt a sharp pain on the right part of my jaw. It was my wisdom tooth moving! I went to see the dentist and she recommended a minor surgery for its removal.

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I had to take a photo of my X-ray film just to remember.

I hesitated because it would take days for it to recover and the wound might affect my performance for an upcoming trip. I was given a bunch of painkillers to make it through the two weeks and for some odd reason, the pain was gone on the second day of the trip.

My next appointment with my dentist was a long one because she had to dig deep and shatter my tooth. My jaw swelled for a couple of days but thank god, it’s done. Good riddance.

#4 Seeing Whang-Od of Kalinga Province in action. I’ve been seeing her photos and works on social media and I’ve been waiting for a chance to see her. I wanted to have a tattoo before but it seems like almost everyone I know has one.

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Enduring the pain for beauty.

It was a challenging trek to reach her place in Tinglayan but we found her in the middle of work with her apprentices. I heard that she’s been invited to visit exhibits as far as Canada featuring her work but I could probably understand the difficulty of leaving her home.

#5 Visiting Catanduanes. If there’s one place in the Philippines that gave me a surprising and enjoyable experience last year, it would be this lone island in the Bicol Region. Catanduanes is eventually shedding off its reputation as a doormat to typhoons and has embraced a better monicker as the #HappyIsland to its visitors.

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Talisoy Beach facing the Pacific Ocean.

The island’s untouched natural beauty and warmth of its people are its selling points. Catanduanes is not yet commercialized but one might have to rough it up a bit because one won’t find their creature comforts readily available (READ: No brewed coffee!) yet. Last year, its local tourism board has trained eco-tourism guides to handle visitors. I wish them well. There’s so much potential in this place. Typhoons come and go but the people of Catanduanes shall remain strong and tourism will become a big source of jobs.

#6 Finally, a tour around the islands. This has been my goal since I started working in the industry. One of our greatest strengths as a destination is our beautiful islands. To local tourists, it’s nothing new but to foreigners, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Island, Palawan and Ticao Island are examples of the best in our country.

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Tasting freshly harvested tuba from the coconut tree in Olango Island, Cebu.

We have started last year with our maiden voyage covering these islands. If we play our cards right and if infrastructure vastly improves in the coming years, I can imagine more people seeing the best places in our country at a more convenient pace. I can’t wait for that to happen but of course, this should be done in a responsible way.

#7 More young blood in our growing industry. We now have a core group of tour guides who embrace the same passion and standards as our company. We’re from different backgrounds, have different strengths and views but we all come together for the love of the craft.

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People of Earth, we are waiting for you!

We are hopeful that our efforts will bear fruit and would encourage smart, talented, responsible and professional individuals to join us. We are waiting for you. It will be amazing!

#8 London baby! I was in the United Kingdom for a week to attend a trade show. It was my first time to be outside of Asia but had difficulty adjusting to the temperature. I never knew the meaning of “cold” until I experienced it in London.

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I still can’t get over the fact that I saw a dinosaur!

There were a lot of highlights during my visit but the image I picked for this post was the photo of a stegosaurus in the Museum of Natural History. The experience was like stepping into an encyclopedia!

I can’t wait to come back and this time, for a holiday with my wife. That’s my goal within the next three years.

#9 Married to an amazing woman for 10 years and counting! Aimee and I were married in December 2006 and have been through difficulties and triumphs just like any couple.

She continuous to be my source of strength and inspiration. They say that things tend to get corny when one becomes honest with their feelings. I don’t feel any shame in sharing my feelings here. I am thankful and at the same time determined to pursue a wonderful life with her. All it takes is a little energon and lot of luck.

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My girl, my everything.