Worst Island Tour Ever

There are a million things we can do in the world.

And relocating to El Nido was one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

I met two new island folks — DJ Couscous and an acroyoga coach named Eugene.

We went on this guy’s partyboat, on the worst and least booked island tour.

The boat was a double decker, where you can jump into the water from the upper deck.

And the islands we went to were the least crowded.

But we saw the same gorgeous limestone islands of Bacuit Bay.

It wasn’t just the islands we wanted to see, or the ocean to swim in.

It was the DJ’s music we went here for, along with the growing expat community.

And his music played all day like we were in a beach club.

I met Eugene at a hostel one hour before the tour.

He was the first to speak to me and he asked, “How did you feel about love this morning?” What a pick-up line. Lol

When he said he was a yoga teacher I asked him to join me on a partyboat tour.

Others were skeptical about what we were doing on the side of the boat.

But we all had fun eventually, with some guys and gals also trying acroyoga.

None of these people practiced yoga, but Eugene was solid on his groundwork. Even with his recent motorbike injuries.

The sun was about to set and the music was getting even better.

When the day ended, it was the worst island tour ever, but DJ Couscous made it the best one for sure.

// 08 Feb 2024

The Omnivore Experiment

When I got out of the mental hospital in 2016, I committed to quit my addictions and replace them with better addictions. Hihi.

Instead of spending my weekends doing extreme outdoor sports, I did the unthinkable. I practiced yoga and learned how to sit still in meditation. Yikes.

(I can’t believe I am teaching yoga now. o_o)

Instead of drinking alcohol, I turned to smoothies and fruit juices.

Instead of coffee, I had jasmine, camomile, and green teas. Hibiscus tea was my favorite.

Instead of rice, meat, and eggs, I had a bowl of fruity oatmeal for breakfast.

Instead of hanging out with drunken friends and outdoor sports junkies, I hung out with yogis and writers. It was hard. This one felt like a brain reset.

Instead of depressing “literary” books, I read ancient literature and romance poetry.

And indie films? I quit them altogether. I stopped snacking on films due to the dying culture of piratebay.

Regardless, I missed the old internet, when I could download indie films on a whim. Now it’s just popcorn Netflix culture.

The internet was shifting rapidly. And what was once a safe and quiet haven for my thoughts, became littered with sharks and creeps.

Suddenly everybody was online posting videos, going viral, and creating spikes of growth in the deep interwebz.

Then after going vegan for five years, I realized I looked so much younger than my age.

People mistook me for a fresh graduate — I even looked younger than when I graduated.

In 2022, I made an experiment to go back to my old habits.

I started eating meat, sugary drinks, and chips again. I drank some coffee and a little liquor.

I hung out with my old drunk friends (they haven’t changed). I read Henry Miller and Anais Nin.

I tried social media, but no matter what happened, it still couldn’t replace real life.

I’ve had more water sports such as snorkeling and swimming, and was close to doing dragonboat again.

When my ex Vincent and I started talking, he noticed that I have “matured”. Lol.

In just three months of incorporating more fish, shrimps, squid, crabs, chicken, eggs, and sugar in my diet, I started looking older.

I mean, in just three months, I literally aged five years. And in one year, I probably aged 10 to 15 years.

It was interesting to notice how eating animals can make me feel older, look older, and even feel slow and fatigued.

I had slept more than usual. And my dreams weren’t so good.

By the end of the year’s omnivore experiment, I have started looking the same as the people my age.

Like those people who were battered by life. I looked like a mother, with kids, and I am not used to it.

Not to mention I felt crankier than usual.

I think the worse addictions that I reviewed were (1) COFFEE and (2) ALCOHOL. These are the worst — when you’re clean these two will fuck up with your system.

Anyway here’s me at my real age. I’m slowly going back to my plant-based diet, and I’m sure I’ll transform back to my younger self in no time.

// 14 Jan 2024

Ashy Sky

The 4pm haze felt like an early sunset.

I was on the way back to the island when I noticed that the sky was hazy everywhere.

People say a volcano erupted today in our neighboring country Indonesia.

The thick air from the secret island.

The atmosphere was so hazy I couldn’t see the islands around us.

The ashy haze was dense and heavy, like the pollution in Manila’s city traffic.

Hibiscus flower. <3

I’m feeling unwell today. I should steep some hibiscus and make tea.

// 10 Jan 2024

Yoga on the Secret Island

It’s our first time to host a yoga retreat on the island.

Sneak peek of the yoga sesh today. <3

Two people didn’t make it, so we only have 14 guests. They’re mostly from Russia, and they’re spending a week with the island all for themselves.

Food has been a bit of hell in the kitchen. But John the head chef kept getting better so quickly that every meal was like a come back from the few mishaps in the first two days.

Artem doing a back flip. He’s a recovering calisthenics junkie.

I’m supposed to have a weekend break, but I worked. Which sucks. >_< I should slow down a bit; I was producing my graphic design work too fast.

I guess I was too excited to finish them. I made a watercolor-themed catalogue of the activities and services on the island. :) I haven’t done graphic design since 2010, and it felt like a long-forgotten comfort zone.

I missed being an artist. I’m still an artist as a writer, but doing visual arts is an entirely different alternate reality.

Hand stand on the secluded beach.

On the second day, I showed the Russians a draft design of our offshore activities, which are island hopping and waterfall adventure.

Surprisingly, they booked both. They had so much fun doing the island hopping and feeding enormous turtles yesterday. They came back red and sunburnt and very hungry.

I haven’t seen the turtles yet, and the videos were incredible. :3 Martin, Philipe’s dad, said that the turtles weigh over 100kg each.

I wonder how old they are? What do they eat? Can I please pet them for a week? :3

Dmitri and his girlfriend at the hideout.

Today, I shared with our guests a great spot for sunset yoga — the secluded beach with the lovely cliff and shade.

We went by speedboat to the beach. It was so far away it took 45 seconds to get there.

I’ve been speaking with their retreat organizer and yoga teacher, Mark. He’s organizing so many retreats in exotic places in Asia and he’s only 21 years old. He showed me his sports cars and I was like, are you kidding me?! o_o

Mark doing a scorpion pose. #bucketlist

His life story was insane. I thought he was joking when he said he had anorexia two years ago, and that yoga changed his life.

He’s so tall, fit, and commanding, I wouldn’t ever think he was sick or that he was leading retreats in multiple locations in Asia.

Then he showed me his photo from two years ago. He was all skin and bones, and looked weak and malnourished.

I was testing the beach for yoga. The space was perfect. <3

His friend Dmitri kept butting in the story that I couldn’t understand Mark’s complex relationship with his mother, leading to the anorexia.

Actually there were three of them boys going back and forth translating the story from Russian into English just for me to understand. And I with all my honorable brain cells understood nothing.

More arm balances with Artem. He’s also 21.

But when Mark showed me his old photo, I understood everything. Damn right. :P

Not to mention, they were all over the floor of the clubhouse practicing their arm balances.

The view from the hideout.

I was telling Philipe today that we should have a yoga studio midway to the cliff. But he didn’t want his island to be associated with retreats, I’m not sure, but we’ll see.

When I turn Philipe into a yogi we’ll have 10 yoga studios on the island. :3

And their response to the food? “More, please.” <3

The sunset at the end of the day.

// 08 Jan 2024

Revisiting the Reefs

The arm of a whale lapped on the ocean surface, followed by a glimpse of what appeared to be the whale’s eye and then its water spout.

It took moments before I could process what was happening before my eyes. It occured to me that I was seeing a blue whale for the first time.

But before I could relish the moment, I woke up. I blinked and the interiors of my room came to focus.

I just saw a blue whale in my dream and it was so big and so real. It was lapping in the water right in front of my room!

Maybe, I told myself, maybe I should stop watching videos of wild animals.

The day before, Cherry and I went snorkeling at sunset time. She wanted to swim to the floating raft while I talked her into spotting the resident sea turtle at a nearby islet.

She had two beers that afternoon and we giggled as she burped while snorkeling.

Underwater, I saw the reefs thriving with corals, schools of fish, gigantic sea urchins, and huge starfishes.

I’ve never seen starfish that huge. They were over one feet wide and very thick like rubber.

It occurred to me that I could no longer see the umbrella structures where we used to plant baby corals.

Since five years ago, they have grown into communities of corals, with varying colors, fan structures, and complexities.

In the pockets between their branches and hidden spaces were various kinds fish seeking shelter and anchor from the strong currents.

There were striped fish, spotted fish, tiny fish 1 to 2 inches long, and large ones as long as my arm.

One some days, there are sightings of baby sharks and manta rays here too.

Cherry went ahead of me on the floating raft. While she may be tipsy, she had jumped from the six-foot high sea wall, while I chickened out and took the steps, before we headed out to sea.

Now there at the white raft, she used one foot to push against the raft and jumped into the water, just as she did from the sea wall.

In no time, she went back up, with bright red blood spreading on the white floor of the raft.

What happened? I asked.

She told me she kicked the raft as she jumped, and I thought it could’ve been the barnacles on the side.

She was whimpering and studying the cut on her toe, while blood oozed without stopping.

Oh no, I said, you still want to swim? We can go back if you want.

She just kept whimpering. Dip your foot in the water and see how it feels, I said.

She dipped it and pulled it back, and now opening the cut again.

Oh my God, I said. It was so raw and gory, she was practically dripping blood all over the white raft.

I said, it’s up to you if you still want to go snorkeling. I started cupping saltwater in my hands and washing away the blood on her foot.

No, she said, I think we can continue.

We washed all the blood with saltwater, put on our snorkel gear, and started swimming towards the islet.

The islet was a chunk of rock that Philipe said was home to a sea turtle couple, until one of them died.

Beneath the water surface, the islet had a skinny waist that had been eroded by tides, creating caves and caverns.

We went around the islet but couldn’t see the turtle. Maybe it was out exploring for a new sweetheart?

On the way back to the raft, I saw giant clams two to three feet wide. Their lips were bright blue and purple, with pouting holes that looked that eyes.

There were so many such clams, and even baby ones embedded on the corals. They were pouting like they were sucking on milk.

Other corals were glowing green, pink, and red, while others were orange and blue.

I was happy that the reefs have returned to health from all that dynamite fishing madness. All for a quick buck.

On the raft we watched the sunset, this perfect circle of majesty, and we were hypnotized for a moment until it dipped behind the mountains and disappeared.

On the swim back to the shore I told Cherry that I’ve never tasted raw sea urchins before. I heard they taste like oysters?

Yes, they’re delicious! she added. She said she’ll have one of the boys pick some sea urchins for us one of these days.

I felt my tongue already wanting to spit it out. But I’ll try, I’ll dare myself to. I mean, how hard was it to eat a raw and wild animal?

The sight of the ocean feels so homey. <3 I don’t think I ever want to be away from the ocean again.

// 05 Jan 2024