Lonelygirl’s amazing adventure

[travelogue] Coming Out of My Cage (And It Feels Just Fine)

A/N: Submitted this as an entry to World Nomads’ travel scholarship competition. I didn’t win, but it felt like a piece of travel writing worth sharing.


It’s June.  The night is humid, glowing amber in the lights of Armenian Street.  I’m twenty-three, and girls much younger than me have done this before—wandered off at night in search of adventure—but I’d always been the “tame” one.  At home, they call me tita (aunty), lola (grandma). The girl whose idea of partying is having tea in bed after work.

Certainly not the girl who’d be rounding the corner of a graffiti-covered alley at half-ten at night, the remnants of a sangria buzzing in her blood.  But it was my last day in Singapore, and I’d found myself wanting to live a little.

Emphasis on a little.  There would be no shared drinks with strangers.  Instead, I was looking for new music, and Timbre at The Substation was supposedly the best place to find it.

Back home in Manila, I balanced a responsible, serious job as an agency strat planner with a self-proclaimed “career”—profitability be hanged—as a singer/songwriter for a rock band.  When my bandmates heard I was traveling to Singapore, they’d filled my head with stories of underground gigs with inspiring acts.  It was this promise that got me to wander a foreign city at the oddest hours of night.  I’d tried to find it in Clarke Quay, but the bands there sounded professional when I was looking for raw.  A quick Google search for “indie music gigs Singapore” pointed me in the direction of Timbre.  


Several attempts at a cab ride later, I’m elbowing my way into the dark, open-air club, dodging a bunch of finance-looking bros nursing beers.  I grab a stool near the bar and, just as I catch my balance, there’s that familiar screech of an electric guitar being sound-checked.  Then, the mics crackle to life as a raspy mezzo-soprano (just like me) launches into the familiar first line of The Killers’ hit, Mr. Brightside.

Soon, it’s midnight. Though the sangria’s worn off, I might as well be drunk. I’m dancing in my seat, shout-singing along with those finance bros through a series of pop-rock hits. Later, I’ll notice my phone battery is dead.  Later, I’ll catch my first ever bus.  Later, I’ll huddle, scared, at a deserted taxi stand in a different part of town (How did I get here?!) until an off-duty cab takes pity on me and brings me back to my hotel.  

Later, I’ll wonder what possessed me to wander around at night, in an unfamiliar city. But, with rock music blasting from crackling amplifiers, later hardly matters.

For the first time, I’m coming out of my cage, and right now, it feels fine.



Roaming In Place

In a few months or so, it’ll be my one-year work anniversary–one year as a member of the productive work force.  When I realized September was nearly over, I had to stop and wonder: how did I get here?

A year ago–well, over a year ago–I had come home from Brazil ready for the next trip.  I’d made plans to skip town as soon as I was able, longer-term this time: whether on an AIESEC GIP or a foreign scholarship or simply taking the plunge, pulling up my roots, and applying in parts unknown.  I’d even started uprooting, had begun a transition where the friends I had pre-Brazil were not necessarily the friends I had after it.  I’d been loosening (if not cutting) some ties I felt were holding me down rather than holding me steady.

One year later, some of my AIESEC friends are traveling the world or planning to again.  (My Brazil-blogging “rival,” the much-fêted Ciarán, has moved to Melbourne.)  Some of my MScM classmates are packing up and trying to move on–to South America (c/o Coca-Cola) or else the United States.  And I, I’m still here.  By choice.

If you’d told me a year ago this was the choice I’d make, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I had bought fully into the millenial cult of finding yourself by losing yourself–solo traveling, backpacking, booking piso fares and plane tickets to anywhere anywhere anywhere.  I believed my destiny was wrapped up in a maxed-out passport and a beat-up suitcase full of old clothes.  And I have to admit that, sometimes, reading the travelogues of my contemporaries, the wander-blogs of my wandering generation, I wonder why I chose to stay.

But it doesn’t change the fact I chose to stay.  And it doesn’t change the fact that as much as I talk about heading out on another grand adventure, given the option of packing my bags right now I’d probably say no.

On one of those long days we would laze about Maringá, Ciarán once told me about a friend he’d never agreed with–C wanted to travel the world; the friend wanted to stay home and pursue an art form.  At the time, I’d agreed wholeheartedly with Ciarán.  Why stay homestuck when the world was out there?  But one year later, I find myself understanding that unknown-and-unnamed friend.  I’m happy for my friends who get to travel.  I think what they do–the courage it requires and inspires–is amazing.  But I don’t feel the need to go do it myself, not right now.

People say it’s because I’ve found a reason to stay, but I find that hard to believe.  I move around; I’m a fidget by nature.  I have so much difficulty finishing what I start, or keeping things going (*coughLost In Thoughtcough*) without help.  I need to be constantly in transit, need to feel a degree of freedom of movement, so much so that I have difficulty committing to dates and invitations that are more than a week away (and when I do I look upon the commitments with mounting dread).  I don’t think I’ve stopped being a “roaming” Tsinay.

Instead, I think I’m roaming in place.

In one year I’ve found so much I’ve yet to do and try and wander around in here, where I least expected to find it.  When I got on that plane to Brazil, I could think of nothing but walking away from a life I (at that point) couldn’t stand, with attendant emotions it felt so good to leave in Manila.  But after two months I picked up that life again, a little different than when I left it, as if it, too, had been adventuring while I’d been away.  It is that life, now, that has taken me on tangents–Virus, Stories Told, #DesignHerStory, Lost In Thought–that I never imagined I would take, while leaving behind things–theater, radio–that I once felt I could never give up.

I still feel like I’m in motion.  I don’t feel like I’m rooted to anything.  In fact, there are moments I feel the same way I felt in Brazil–wide-eyed, uncertain, both exhausted and excited by the adrenalin rush.  And, the same way it was in Brazil, there are times of profound loneliness, when it’s like I’m drowning in a sea of strangers, lost on a journey whose destination is one big question mark.

It’s those feelings that tell me I’m wandering at home.  I’m roaming in place.  And for now, that’s okay.  For now, that’s enough.  Maybe a year from now, I’ll have different answers.  But right now, so much is happening that home doesn’t feel boring at all.  Sometimes it feels terrible.  Some times it feels amazing.  But mostly, it feels like another adventure, which, all things considered, isn’t a bad place to be.


Day 17


Has it really been nearly three weeks already?

I’ve been back in the Philippines for seventeen days. No, seriously, count them: seventeen. I still feel like I’m fresh off the plane, though I’m pretty sure everyone else would chalk it up to me putting on airs, pretending to be well-traveled when, “Seriously, girl, it was seventeen days ago. Move on. Get over it.”

I’m not sure I could, though.

It don’t feel quite at home yet, to be honest. Well, I do, but it doesn’t feel like the same home I left, even if, in many ways, it is. And maybe that’s a good thing, because didn’t I go on this adventure to make a change, in the first place? (Clicking that link directs you to the blog entry I wrote when I was planning to get up and go.)

For the most part, though, I’ve managed to settle back in, even trade out my more laissez-faire Brazilian body clock for the fast-paced Manila one–the one that thought twenty-four hours in a day was twenty-four hours too few?–hauling my miraculously still-tanned self out of bed to run errands, meet friends, and basically cram days full of activity. The past couple of weeks have been a montage of meetings, planning sessions, lunches and coffees with friends, and extracurricular obligations (even before the curricular ones have started!).


I kicked off the beginning of my “homestuck” Tsinay status with three days of Ignite, Every Nation Philippines’ national campus conference, which happens once every two years, and always entails packing Cuneta Astrodome to the rafters with young people from all over the country. This year we were 9,700 strong: that’s 9,700 high school and college students from all over the Philippines (and, this year, some countries in Asia) shouting, jumping, cheering, dancing, and committing to a counterculture life of radical worship. Sound intense? You have no idea.


The crowds at Ignite 2013, showing off their campus colors.


Me with fellow UA&P Dragon, Glo Anne Guevarra.


Me and fellow guitargirl/Dragon Paula Belo at Ignite Campus Night. Note the funky facepaint! (That totally melted off during worship.)

Of all the things I missed about being home, it was my church community I missed most, so to spend three amazing days immersed in the Spirit with them was probably the best “welcome home” this LonelyGirl could get. The lot of us Dragons got especially excited, especially us older ones like me, Esther, and Glo Anne, who had been at Ignite 2011. When we were last at Cuneta, there were probably only a handful of us scatter-shot around the dome. This year, we turned up as a respectably-sized, if still a bit small (compared to the other campuses) delegation, full of young blood: a sure indicator that the ministry is growing. Glo Anne is now working, but Esther and I have one year left on campus to help get the fire burning. Reaching people may prove more than a bit of a challenge, but one it’s one we’re all personally excited for.

(Get ready for full-on Dragon fire at Ignite 2015!)

After Ignite, I threw myself headlong back into org work, since keeping busy is the surest way to ward off “sepanx.” I’m now acting as a social media management committee member for both AIESEC in UA&P and Reverb (our music performance and production org), as well as dabbling in a few potential theater/writing projects, which when put together accounts for the aforementioned meetings, strategic planning sessions, and frantic scurrying about. Last Thursday (June 6; incidentally also known as Barricade Day to fans of The Brick and the (Les Mis) musical) was our Freshstart org fair, so I spent the better part of four hours sweating in a panda suit, trying to convince incoming freshies to join AIESEC. Discovered that talking to people, boys in particular, is much less awkward when dressed as a cute endangered Chinese mammal, though the probability of being taken seriously does go down a bit. (Someone asked to pet me in the middle of my spiel. I agreed. The things I do for the love of AIESEC.)

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a bit on how busy I’ve actually been. After the Freshstart org fair, I pretty much had my days to myself, though inevitably to fill them I’d end up running an errand, taking a job (I acted as a voice over talent for the annual SAP Forum, along with a couple of my fellow Mellow 94.7 Student Jocks.) or going to an informal meeting. What free time I had after all that I spent sleeping–which I did a lot of due to a crippling case of jet lag–or trying to stay in touch with my co-interns via Facebook and Twitter.


Also, I got a haircut.


Also, I ate loads of yoghurt. Couldn’t help it, though. My favorite brand of Greek yoghurt, Fage, finally came to the Philippines.

In short, I’m settling in. Ish. Whether or not I completely “settle,” though, remains to be seen.

Erratum: June 5, not June 6, is Barricade Day. Celebrated by converting my FB Profile and Cover photos with Les Mis fanart. 🙂