Pagudpud Adventures

This was back in December 2016, but I thought it’d be a fun thing to share with you guys after all the recent unfavourable happenings. 

I’m a Filipino, and my parents both grew up in the Philippines. My mother lived in Pasig City whilst my dad lived in Luna, La Union, a province north of Manila. When we visit the Philippines for our yearly holiday, we would usually spend a good 1-2 weeks in La Union. Last year, we decided to take a roadtrip even further up north of Luzon island to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. It was about 6-8 hours of driving from La Union. 

We had a number of stopovers and detours to and from Pagudpud, mainly because there were really pretty beaches worth a quick stop to take in its marvellous beauty. 

The view of the South China Sea in the most beautiful form in Bayog, Burgos, Ilocos Norte. 

Our first stopover was at a beach in Burgos. The picture doesn’t do much justice, but the waters were so clear and the smell of saltwater was amazing. Not only that, the wind was super strong. Taking a selfie was practically close to impossible because my hair would just get blown over my face! 

A photo of the Bangui Windmillds in Poblacion, Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

This was one of our first detours on our trip to Pagudpud. My dad pointed out a sign that directed us to Kapurpurawan (otherwise known in English as white limestone). The Bangui Windmills were the first sights that greeted us on the way to Kapurpurawan. I’ve personally never seen windmills up close before, moreover so many of them in one place! It was honestly such a sight to see, and knowing the history behind the windmills made the sights even more enjoyable.

A closer look at Kapurpurawan in Poblacion, Burgos, Ilocos Norte. 

See those really white pile of rocks? Those are what we call white limestones. It was honestly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. To think that these beautiful rock formations occurred naturally truly opens one’s eyes on nature’s beauty.

A panoramic view of Kapurpurawan and Bangui Windmills in Poblacion, Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

A closer look of Kapurpurawan and its sheer beauty in Poblacion, Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

After our quick stop in Burgos looking at giant windmills and polished white limestone, we set back on track to our main destination— Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

The arc that separates the provincial city of Bangui, Ilocos Norte and Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

Seeing this arc was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. We made it! This trip was also really special for my dad, who has never set foot into Ilocos Norte. He mentioned that the farthest north he managed to get was in Ilocos Sur, so being able to reach this far up north must’ve been really exciting for him. After 47 years, he can finally check off one thing on his bucket list. 

On the road to Hannah’s Resort in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte with the view of the South China Sea right beside us.

We headed straight to this famous resort, Hannah’s Resort, and there was no wonder why it was so well-known. 

A panoramic view of Hannah’s Resort, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte from the entrance.

Hannah’s Resort was HUGE. There were so many different choices of huts and rooms we could choose from for our stay, many different pools and activities to do, and even a zipline across the very South China Sea! How cool is that?! We chose a small hut nearer to the ocean so that we were able to get to and fro quickly. 

Unfortunately, our stay was shortlived. A Signal #2 typhoon, locally known as Bagyo Niña, was about to make landfall that very same day. Rain started pouring right after we checked in, but soon it was just really strong winds. Trust me, even if you had pants and a jacket on, it would still be way too cold to brave the outside. Was that going to stop us? Of course not! We went out of our rooms when night came to grab dinner. Even though this was a resort, there was still plenty of street food available. Talk about keeping the Filipino heritage close to our hearts! We mostly stayed indoors, but the view and strong winds were more than worth the long drive.

Morning came, and it was time for us to leave and head back to La Union. I was really reluctant to leave such a beautiful place, but I know that there will always be another opportunity to go back (hopefully on better weather forecast!)

Morning skies against the South China Sea, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

We may have left Pagudpud, but we still managed to make a few stopovers and another quick detour on our way back to La Union.

The back of Malacañang of the North, Nanguyudan, Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

The detour we took found ourselves in the home of one of the most controversial President of the Philippines, Sir Ferdinand Marcos. This house was dubbed as the Malcañang of the North, because this was where Sir Ferdinand Marcos lived. The Malacañang Palace is known as where the President lives, and is located in Metro Manila. The Malacañang of the North has now been turned into a museum that tourists and locals alike are welcomed to enter and step into a part of history. 

A panoramic view outside the Malacañang of the North from the terrace.

Upon entering the house, it’s as if I stepped into a time machine. Everything was so well preserved and taken care of, it was almost as if it was brand new. 

The view from the centre of the living room towards the dining area, where portraits of Sir Ferdinand Marcos and Madame Imelda Romuáldez hang on the walls.

A portrait of Sir Ferdinand Marcos, the 10th President of the Philippines, inside the Presidential Office.

A collage of pictures depicting events during Sir Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency framed on the wall beside the dining area.

A panoramic view of the front of the Malacañang of the North from the garden.

After a tour around the grand house-turned-museum, we set on the road once more back to La Union.

Our nexr stopover was at Santa, Ilocos Sur. It has two bridges— one old and one new. In 2015, we took the old bridge and from there I snapped a photo of the sunset behind the new bridge. However, the old bridge was locked when we got there, but it was still a perfect spot to snap some shots of the turquoise water running below the bridges.

A panoramic view from outside the old bridge overlooking the sea and the new bridge in the distance in Nagpanaoan, Santa, Ilocos Sur.

Our next stopover was at a beach in Narvacan, solely for a short break from the drive and to just enjoy the view before us.

A view of a mountain and the sea from the viewing hut in Bantay Abot, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.

And to our last stopover before we got back to La Union— Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur. 

A panoramic view of the beach in Tagaoan, Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur. 

A closer look at the waters in Tagaoan, Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur.

All in all, it wasn’t just the destination that took my breath away. In fact, the journey was perhaps even more enjoyable than the destination itself. All of the wonderful views that we saw, and the history that I’ve learnt from the country I was born in, made this the most enjoyable roadtrip/vacation I had ever experience. Here’s to more adventures to go to, and to the places that have yet to be discovered! 


Work Struggles 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quite the naïve individual. I thought that looking for a job (and actually having one) would be a piece of cake. Heck, as soon as the holidays begun last November 2016, all of my friends seemingly got jobs overnight. Meanwhile, it’s been about 3 months since the holidays began and I’m still jobless. It wasn’t like I wasn’t looking everywhere for jobs, it was more of people not wanting to hire me. A few reasons include:

  • I was not a particular race.
  • I was unable to speak a particular language fluently enough to hold conversations.
  • I was not a citizen in the country.
  • I was a tad bit too young for some of the companies who were hiring.
  • I was a student.
  • They preferred to hire someone who wasn’t a Filipino.

And that is just a sneak peak of all sorts of reasons why people wouldn’t hire me.

However, last week, I got a call from a friend saying there was an opening where he was currently working at. To say I was happy was quite the understatement. I got the job and could start on Monday. One mistake I made was neglecting to ask what exactly my job was, but I guess my mind was too clouded with the thrill of landing my first job. Monday eventually came and I was up at 4:30am to get ready for work. I really wish I could say that I enjoyed work, especially when I found out that I’d be working as a hostess for a very reputable five-star restaurant. 

The day started off with a change in uniform, resulting in me wearing high heels for 7 hours. The weather was extremely horrible with a thunderstorm and I was unfortunately stationed outside the restaurant, where I showered in dreadful rain water. Instead of learning how to do my job as a hostess, I got pushed around doing other work. Not only that, my manager constantly scolded and embarrassed me over the littlest things despite being fully aware that I was new and unsure of what I had to do. In all honesty, I really wanted to cry because I felt so embarrassed and belittled from all the shouting in front of all my other co-workers. Sure, I accept that fact that it was partially my fault for not checking what I signed up for, but it doesn’t give my superiors the liberty to treat new employees like a bunch of maids. If he wanted everything to be perfect so as to avoid ruining the restaurant’s reputation, he should’ve thought of giving new staff some basic training instead of tossing them straight onto the bloody battlefield. 

At first, I told myself to endure the high demands of my job until the 15th of February (which is when I was supposed to get my pay). However, as time ticked by, I eventually came to the decision of quitting, despite only working for a day. I don’t have any regrets because I knew no matter how high the pay, it wasn’t worth sacrificing what little pride I had left for myself. I proceeded to message my supervisor and informed her on my decision to quit, but she begged me to give her another chance, saying that I was pushed around doing other chores because ‘it was a rainy day’. I’ll admit that that slighty infuriated me as it seemed to imply thay just because of unfavourable weather conditions, I, as a new employee, had to put up with the manager’s harsh words and snark remarks. This ulitmately led to an inner battle of morals, as I did not want to leave her hanging understaffed but I wanted to be selfish and leave. Of course, I chose the latter.

Not everything is all sunshine and rainbows. I guess this is just another wake-up call, for me to realise that I need to be more responsible in making decisions for myself. Now, I’m taking it into my own hands to once again seek for jobs. I have an interview later in the afternoon and I’m hoping things will go smoother this time round. Things may seem terrible at the moment, but I believe that better opportunities are coming. Don’t force yourself to do something that demoralises you. There is no shame in quitting as long as you use that as a learning point to get back up and continue on from your mistakes. 

Inspirational Struggles

Have you ever felt that sudden burst of inspiration on a seemingly mediocre day? It makes you feels so invincible, like you’re in every way capable of learning new things. I just had that feeling yesterday and it made me realise that I’ve given up a lot of things that I started because I lost the inspiration or motivation to continue. (Well, sometimes I just got lazy to continue on.) 

Here’s an example: A few years ago, I pestered my grandfather to get me a guitar so I could teach myself how to play one as a way to keep myself occupied in the province. I started off determined and excited, mainly because I thought I’d get the hang of it in a flash. I mean, I did teach myself how to play the piano, how hard could learning how to play the guitar be? 

Answer: Very hard. 

I struggled quite a fair bit and was getting more and more frustrated by the hour. I sounded like fingernails across a blackboard and my fingers were constantly cramped and bleeding. I ultimately gave up after a few days of struggling, especially when I saw younger kids play the guitar effortlessly. Simply put, I gave up because I felt that I would never reach their level of ‘expertise’. 

Now, here I am, years later, with an old dusty guitar on my lap. Stringless, pegless and full of rust. I really want to pick up learning the guitar again, but am still slightly put off at the thought that I might stop if I lose motivation again. But, I guess as long as I’m doing something I enjoy and genuinely like, there shouldn’t be any reason why I should give up, right? Same goes to you guys. Never give up on yourselves, even if it takes you years to get back up on your feet and pick up that dusty ol’ guitar. 

Educational Struggles

For majority of my life and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had my future planned out for myself. All I had to do was to follow my perfectly-formulated plan and I was good to go and venture out into the world. It served me well so far, until recently. Before I go into details of my current educational predicament, let me quickly explain how the education system works here in Singapore.

  • 2 years in Kindergarten
  • 6 years in Primary School
  • 4-5 years in Secondary School

An individual may choose one of three to pursue after Secondary School: Junior College (JC), Polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

I’ll be the first to admit that the system here is quite the puzzle to solve but I’ll try and explain it in the simplest of terms. After sitting for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in the last year of Primary School, students will get posted to Secondary School through 3 different streams, all depending on their respective scores for PSLE. 

Express Stream

Students in this stream will spend 4 years in Secondary School. After 4 years, graduates will be sitting for a national examination called the GCE O’levels. Once results are released, students can choose to pursue their education in either JC, Polytechnic or ITE. This also depends on the points a student gets, which is the lower the better. 

Normal (Academic) Stream
After 4 years, students will be sitting for a national examination known as the GCE N’levels. From there, students can choose to either go to Polytechnic or ITE (again, it depends on their score) or they can opt to go for a 5th year in Secondary School in order to sit for the GCE O’levels.

Normal (Technical) Stream

After 4 years in this stream, students will sit with the N(A) Stream for the GCE N’levels. However, they are not given an option for a 5th year in Secondary School but instead they can continue their studies in ITE. After graduating ITE, they can then choose to go to Polytechnic, provided that their academics are of standard and quality. 

Now that that’s all out of the way and explained, here’s my story so far.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a very academically-inclined person. Maths and Sciences are not really my forte, and I excel more to the Arts and Languages department. Unfortunately for me, Singapore focuses a lot on the Maths and Sciences of students. I knew from the start I was at a clear disadvantage. Algebra and whatever Polynomial functions are are a foreign language that I am unable to fathom even to the best of my abilities. So months before I took my PSLE, I made it a point to go through Direct School Admission (DSA) so that I was able to nab a spot in a prestigious school through my musical talent. Why worry about grades when I can just play my way into a good school? I went ahead for the audition and got a spot! All I had to do now was to pass all of my subjects and make it into the Express stream. Needless to say, I made it! I miraculously got a B for math and was off to a great school that will allow me to nurture my passion for music while receiving one of the best education. 

The first year went by okay, but come the second year, I’ve developed serious anxiety attacks. They occus so often that I was barely in school and my academics started to suffer alongside of me. My parents then transferred me out and into a mediocre neighbourhood school that was far closer to where we were living. There is where I spent the rest of my 4-year journey. On my final year of Secondary School, I was nowhere close to passing maths. I was in trouble for my O’levels. So I did what I had done before: I applied for the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) for a Diploma in Accounting in the top Polytechnic in the country. I went for the interview and surprise, I got the spot! Everything was nice and ready for the execution. In order to get accepted, I had to meet the Minimum Entry Requirements (MER) for my course and score less than 26 points (the lower, the better). Seems pretty doable, right? 

Fast forward past the O’level examinations and to Results Day. We were to receive our results in alphabetical order. Guess who had the luck of going first? This is a major turning point that I for one was not fully prepared. I had failed two subjects. I got 21 points and so I’ve hit the first target. I needed to pass my math to meet my MER and get into the course. But alas, I’ve failed my maths. That wasn’t the worst part. Because I failed my maths, I was offered very little courses for Polytechnic. There were still some good ones like Architecture and Creative Writing for Television and New Media, but the chances of getting into the top Polytechnics was slim as my points were very high. Usually, the ‘better’ Polytechnics would take in students with points from 7 to 15 max. I was nowhere close to that. To make matters worse, there is a chance that I might not get posted into any Polytechnic come the day when Posting Results are released. Going to ITE was off-limits as my parents want me to pursue my education in Polytechnic.

 What do I do when I don’t get posted anywhere? I have two choices: migrate back home and start college there before coming back to try and enrol for Polytechnic again or I could retake O’level Math to try and achieve a passing grade. I’m quite reluctant to do those two options for a variety of reasons. 

  1. I don’t want to be separated from my parents and my younger brother.
  2. I highly doubt that I’ll pass with the upcoming O’levels.
  3. Living alone in a somewhat foreign country isn’t exactly a very calming thought.

So this is where I am right now. Lost and unsure of my future. I’ve always been one step ahead of myself but now I feel like I’m miles behind everyone else. I feel vulnerable and exposed to the uncertainty of where my education will continue and what I will pursue. I hate feeling like this; so afraid and fearful of what the future will bring. I’ve shed so much tears, and I will continue to shed even more. It’s only been a few days and reality has barely settled in. Maybe one day I’ll be able to look back at this point of my life and just shrug it off as another bump on the road. Albeit I’m still filled with so much negative emotions and energy, but I’m hoping for the best come February 2,2017 when Posting Results are released. Maybe Accounting wasn’t meant for me. Till then, I have to brace myself for whatever is on its way. There will definitely be days that I’ll feel empty and hopeless, but I’m fighting to counter it with anything that makes me happy.  

This is not the end, not for now anyway.