Once Upon an Interview, Part 2!

Dear Future Cabin Crew,

During college I became somewhat outgoing but only within and propped by the support of my block section. Wrapped in the safety and acceptance, and fueled by the friendship of probably the greatest collection of people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling friends, I felt I could do just about anything. With this single block section behind me, I could take on the world!

But in my seat now waiting for my turn to be interviewed while watching one applicant after another being grilled by the panel, I felt lost and bewildered in this strange world outside the safety and familiarity of my college building and the love and support of my classmates.

Some of the applicants did very well. They were impressively dressed and the English language flowed effortlessly from their lips. I knew I couldn’t speak as well as they could and this fact racked and bombarded me with crushing insecurity.

I felt dizzy and lost. And when my turn came, it was as if I had entered a strange dream-like alien dimension. I made a short introduction. I had already found out from the first few interviews that surprisingly, the head of Inflight was actually the nicest and friendliest among the interviewers! One of them however was extremely scary, and threw very stressful questions.

I was unaware of people skills, and I had absolutely none! I would always answer questions from an intellectual standpoint. The scary interviewer asked me “How do you see yourself 10 years from now?” I grasped for an answer. It seemed like ages before I could open my mouth. Finally I replied, “I’d still be a flight attendant. With lots of money in the bank.” I saw the scary interviewer’s eyes roll! I thought to myself “OH NO! I’M DEAD!!!”

To be continued ☺

Once Upon an Interview (Part 1)

Dear Future Cabin Crew,

Have you tried being interviewed for a job yet? I vividly remember one of my own interviews a long time ago.

I didn’t have anyone to coach or prepare me for an interview. I didn’t have any good business attire to wear. I borrowed my shoes (a pair of shiny black penny loafers) from a neighbor. I didn’t know how to put on a tie and had someone else do it for me (He put it on a bit loose and as time wore on, it sagged shabbily around my neck). I stood 5’10” tall and weighed a pathetic 125 pounds!

I had failed a similar interview from a major airline company just months before. I was so nervous I felt like barfing all morning! There were 4 interviewers at the back, with the rest of the applicants occupying most of the room. I found out that one of the interviewers was the head of inflight herself! Her voice boomed with confidence and authority, and her smiling eyes were piercing! I thought to myself, where am I going to dig up the confidence to see this through?

I wanted to walk out of the room and go home!

To be continued 🙂

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 7: About Me


While walking along the shoreline of a beach tucked in the western part of Palawan (but is actually quite near its commercial hub), I saw fishermen hauling nets full of something other than fish. I walked over to take a closer look. Lobsters. Lots of lobsters. The fishermen made a line and off they went to work on the tasty-looking, squirming, creatures.  A lady would deftly grab one and dip it in ice cold water to “put it to sleep”, then pass it to on to a guy who quickly and neatly wrapped it in newspaper , then pass it to another fellow who would arrange them in neat rows in a cooler.. I asked a guy who was still dripping seawater, “How did you catch so many lobsters?” He said they went about it all night diving after them. I recalled that in one trip to Catanduanes off southeastern Luzon, I witnessed fishermen armed with spear guns who would dive deep into the ocean biting hoses connected to noisy compressors for air (they say the air they breathed out of it tasted like diesel). So I asked “Did you use compressors?”, He quickly looked at me and defensively said “No that’s against the law here”. I dropped the subject and asked him if he had caught any fish along with lobsters. He replied “oh, no, sir, around here, we ignore the fish. Lobsters sell better.”

lobster line

I noticed that they would separate lobsters missing a limb or had an antenna broken. I asked what they were going to do with them. One of them said “they’re for the police”. I said “ah”. (I think I get the picture).  I thought maybe I could have a nice lobster for lunch later if I could drive the price down to perhaps at least 300 pesos.  I asked them how much they would charge me for one.  The fisherman who did the most talking earlier looked thoughtful, and after a while said, “ah.. sir.. I’ll maybe sell it to you for 50 pesos”.


lobster kid


So off I went with my lobster and a big smile on my face.

I shared stories with the caretakers for the rest of the morning and they offered to cook my lobster for me as they set off with their daily activities.

lobster served

Well what do you know. A nice big lobster for lunch

The place was beautiful, and as the morning wore on, foreign tourists slowly trickled in; all their faces smiling in wonder and delighted awe of the peaceful charm of the place.

Some of them were solo acts. Even a couple of women.

I picked a spot with a nice sweeping view of the area and dozed off.

Perhaps because I am as graceful as a song in solitude’s beautiful wide open spaces, I may at times waltz like a bewildered bear in the company of people I’m not that familiar with. There have only been a few people who have tried peering beyond my unintentional veil to see what’s inside, and for them I’m deeply grateful. I have long since made a promise to myself that my friendship with these people shall ever abide. I am certain they are all heaven-sent, and perhaps by virtue of this, some of them are my biggest influences.

Needless to say, I count my family as my best friends. I genuinely feel that I have the best family anyone could ever have and they are a constant source of love and light in my life.

Though I’m no longer in contact with my first romance, what and how I am now is in large part because of her. She gave me my first taste of confidence, and it had opened up everything else for me long after the last time we ever held hands.. and the last words we ever uttered to each other.  I will remain a friend to her echoing constantly from years past, though she may not hear.

I have found much inspiration from my conversations with a friend from college from the time we met until now.  Though I had been much influenced by a lot of the things she would say, some of my most powerful and profound moments in her company were ones where she didn’t even say anything. She is the wisest person I know. Every after single talk we have, no matter how long, no matter the subject, I always come out of it a better person.

I have a friend who although her professional services would normally cost an arm and a leg, would gladly accept a live chicken or a hamburger for it. At times she would accept nothing at all. She keeps me from the oppressive temptation to embark on a wild goose chase for fulfillment by way of riches, glamour and vanity. She is one of the most accomplished people I know. Not only is she a healer of people, she is soothing balm to this ailing world.

A fellow from my childhood unknowingly taught me the blissful freedom simplicity and honesty can afford you. His unusual disregard for trappings and glitter is a constant reminder for me to keep things simple, and thereby focus on the truly important things.

Passion for life is the hallmark of another friend from way back. She is a pulsing, gleaming celebration of life. “Carpe Diem” might as well be something she originally coined.

I must have laughed two lifetimes worth of laughter with a fellow with whom I may have also downed enough alcohol to set a whole village on fire. So much mirth that if I never ever laughed again, it would probably be okay. I’ve been blessed with much more than my share already.

I owe my constant attempts to nurture a spiritual side to my mother. During my teenage years, when she had discovered that I had strayed from going to church, she emphatically gave me these unforgettable words of wisdom: “Magsimba ka! Unggoy!!” (Go to church, you fool!). This initiated me in a serious search for God and meaning in the world early in life. Though nowadays I no longer care much about which is which when it comes to religion and doctrine, I believe that this life was meant to be spent in kindness, truth and Love and not to be squandered chasing illusions or meekly succumbing to conformity.

These are but a few people among others that I ought to mention here, though they are the ones that stood out in my mind as I wrote. Writing about others seems to be a strange way of talking about myself, but right now it’s the only way I know how.

The first ever post I made was an offshoot of a conversation with a well-traveled poet- friend who had been all over the world as well as locally and had decided that if she were to keep travelling, she would probably forget about the rest of the world and keep exploring the Philippines instead. The subject of writing came up and a couple of weeks later, I clicked that enter key and sent a bunch of nonsense hurtling into cyberspace and have found it quite fulfilling.

My trips to places unspoiled and un-pressured by hype and my encounters with local folk are my most memorable, and consequently are the ones that have found their way in posts. My vacations in resorts and popular tourist spots are usually spent with friends and one of these days I hope to post something about these as well. I am scared of the day I grow tired travelling. I don’t know what I hope to get out of it. I’m not sure why I keep doing it. There is always that feeling that I’m off searching for something or someone whenever I haul my pack and make that first step out my door, though I’m not all that eager to find it or them, whatever it is or whoever they are. It’s the trip and the uncertainty that I find rewarding.

with the Tobiases

With my gracious hosts, Mr and Mrs Tobias. I hate goodbyes

The lobster, by the way, was delicious!

Tawi Tawi

Tawi Tawi

In what may be the southernmost market you can find in the Philippines, I met a friend who invited me to his house by the beach. We had some beer much later in the afternoon and that’s when he confided that he had been sizing me up all day wondering whether I was a covert agent sent by the government. I wanted to say that I had been doing the same thing, wondering whether he was somehow connected with the Abu Sayaff.

I didn’t.

Instead, I said, “This ocean is strange. It’s so clear and still, it’s difficult to tell where it ended and where the sky began.”

Then we drank some more beer.

(More on this after my seventh and last Palawan installment, and as soon as I recover the rest of what a friend likes to call my “buwis-buhay photos”)

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 6: In Search of Crocodiles

I managed to save only 3 photos from this trip, and only because I was able to upload them in my Facebook account years ago

I managed to keep only 3 photos from this trip, and only because I was able to upload them in my Facebook account years ago

It’s my second time to spend holy week in Palawan. The first time around, I had been riding all day in the general direction of the south and by afternoon had decided to call it a day and spend the rest of it in an inn by the main road.  I usually went for accommodations by or near a beach or ones that had some kind of peculiar charm, but considering the time of the day plus my general physical state, I couldn’t afford to be choosy.

And so I ended up reaching as far south as I had ever been in Palawan only to spend the rest of the day and evening in an unremarkable inn by the road with nothing to do. I went outside to see whether there were any small stores with a bench where I could loiter and perhaps chance upon anyone to talk to and indulge my fondness for local stories and anecdotes. But I could only see the long stretch of road and a sporadic line of middle-class houses lining it in either direction.

My room was in the attic and was the cheapest available. After unsuccessful attempts to get any sleep, I went down to the canteen and sat by a corner. One of the lady attendants was sobbing over a particularly violent scene in The Passion, which was playing on television.

I got into talking with the place’s visibly bored security guard who I asked for some information regarding this neck of Palawan. He said that before becoming a security guard, he used to work at Tumarbong River catching stuff in the night (I have forgotten what exactly). But then his sudden brush with death made him leave the river for good. “One evening”, he recounted animatedly, “I was hunting near Tumarbong Falls, when I noticed a creature just several feet away”.

I asked, “What did you see?”

“A big crocodile!”

That really caught my attention, “Really? How big?”

He held one hand at eye level like a salute and the other hand palm-up at knee level.

I said, “Oh, that long. A young crocodile”

“No, sir! This was how thick it was!”

I succeeded in suppressing a spontaneous laugh. I wasn’t sure whether he was joking. I said, with unintended skepticism “Really?”

 His reply was immediate and emphatic, “Of course, Sir! Why else would I be a security guard now??”

Much later, After gulping down a cup of instant noodles and a Gatorade at exactly midnight (I had been staring at both since 11pm), I went to sleep with my mind filled with giant sunbathing crocodiles. I did not have any access to the internet where I could check on the guard’s story, though I vaguely recalled news stories of crocodile attacks in a river somewhere in Palawan.  I was also aware that the rare and endangered Philippine Crocodile could be found in the wild in this province.

At sunrise, I went on the road holding a crudely drawn map courtesy of the security guard and missed the entry point to the river at least 3 times. It was thanks to the left-right-right-left directions of a boy I met near a small wooden house where I left my motorcycle that I eventually found myself lost in the forest for a couple of hours;  as clueless to the direction to the falls as I was to the way back where I came.

I decided at that point that I would have better luck at finding the river than the road, so I wandered some more, keeping my ears on the alert for the sound of flowing water.  Instead, what my ears picked up were the sound of leaves rustling and the agitated barking of a fast- approaching dog. I ran around in circles in frantic search for a stick to defend myself with, and ended up picking up a long, pathetic branch no thicker than my pinky with some leaves still hanging from it. Great. Maybe I could tickle or fan the dog to keep it from attacking me. The dog’s crazed barking was interrupted by a man’s authoritative shout from afar and they emerged up a slope seconds from each other. The white-brownish dog barked at me again fiercely, with raging animosity in its eyes. His master scolded him and its face instantly transformed into what bordered on angelic, with tongue hanging limply and wearing what seemed like a big smile. It was as if a switch had been flicked that made him pop out of demonic possession. He actually looked quite adorable. What a relief.

The old man had thinning hair that he wore long past his shoulders. He was very gaunt and was wearing jogging pants cut off at the knees. He was dripping wet. If I remember right he told me later on that he was in his mid-fifties though he looked much older than that.

Good morning, I’m looking for Tumarbong Falls, can you tell me where it is?”, I asked.

Tumarbong Falls is way over there”, he said, moving his hands behind him in a shooing motion to emphasize the distance.

“Can you show me?”

“Come, I’ll accompany you”, he said, as he bade me to walk down the river.

When we reached the water, I saw a half-naked, old woman, with 2 teenage girls bathing.  “We were all bathing together when our dog ran away to meet you”, He said.

We proceeded to walk away from the group. “Did you see my wife?”, He asked.

I said, “Yes, I saw her”. I tried not to look behind me to avoid having to see the old woman’s breasts glistening in the sun again.

He added, “She’s the young girl to the right”

That made me turn to look behind suddenly, and a few yards from the old woman, I saw his young wife looking back at me.  She must have been 15 years old. She was quite pretty.

Pride was written all over the old man’s face when I turned to him again. I looked at his wife again. Then I looked ahead at nothing in particular while I tried to switch to a different topic in my head.

The Scream

The Scream

“A lot of land around here is for sale”, he said. “If you want to buy any, I can talk to the katutubo (indigenous people) who own it and arrange the sale.”

I said, “Yes, it would be nice to own a place by the river”

He said, “The main reason people buy property here is not to build a house. They buy property here because of the gold.”


“Isn’t that why you’re here?”, He asked

I said, “No.  I want to go to Tumarbong Falls and maybe see a giant crocodile”

“Who told you there were crocodiles there?”

I said, “A guy I met yesterday”

“That’s a myth.”


He said, “That was just a myth spread by Bruno to keep the locals away from Tumarbong Falls where a huge cache of gold was hidden.”

Oh. The plot thickens.

“Who’s Bruno?”

“He’s a Spaniard who had a map of the gold treasure left at the falls during Spanish times.”

I said, “The guy from the inn said he saw a giant crocodile here with his own eyes. I was thinking maybe I’d see some wild ones or ‘the’ crocodile itself.”

He said, “Maybe he was referring to a dummy they put there to keep the locals away”

I wanted so badly to vigorously scratch my head. But decided against it.

I said, “And the treasure is still there?”

“No, they’ve already taken it. They brought a boat here all the way from the mouth of the river and hauled it away”.

The dog had been stalking us running by the riverside above and sometimes at our level, disappearing and reappearing out of rocks and the woods to catch up. Sometimes he was compelled to wade into the water so he wouldn’t lose us. He kept a wide berth between us and himself like a Secret Service agent.

“But!”, He added , “If you can give me P50,000 to ‘rent’ a piece of land I know, I can pretend to work that land while actually looking for gold I know is stashed there. I’ll give you half once I find it.”

“What makes you sure there’s any gold there?”, I asked.

He replied, “It’s a secret my father told me. We have a map.”

I was beginning to think he had been watching way too many Hollywood movies on pirated DVDs (quite abundant and ubiquitous in the Philippines).

We rested for a while by the riverbank. The dog watched us from the other side, half-submerged in the clear water.

The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard

I asked, “Have any outsiders taken interest in the gold here?”

He said, “Oh, yes, Robin Padilla (a popular actor) himself had visited this place on account of the gold.”

The old man liked to talk. He said that he was originally from Pampangga, a province in Central Luzon, and that he and his father had moved here years ago and settled with the indigenous people in the area. We hiked the rest of the way and his stories revolved around land, gold and Spaniards. He was quite entertaining.

I eventually found myself standing in a very small clearing beside the river where Tumarbong Falls could be seen. It was not an especially remarkable waterfall. Looking around the area, the place we were standing on seemed to be the only spot on that side of the river where you can view it. The area was lush; And you’d have to swim across to get to the other side. The river seemed deep and inviting, but not having checked the place in the internet before coming, I chose the security guard’s story over the old man’s. I wanted to see a crocodile. I didn’t want to be inside one.

Nope, I didn’t see any crocodiles nor gold that day.  Just the oldest pair of naked breasts I’ve seen in all my life.

(To be continued)

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 5: The Iwahig River; The Attempt to Eat a Snake



For some reason, I would always feel as if I owned the place I am currently at, especially when there was no one else around. What does it matter who owned the title or rights to the property. I’m there. They’re not. So for the few hours that I spend in any magnificent place, it’s absolutely mine for as long as I’m there, even more so than the legal owners who aren’t even around at the moment to enjoy it.

The past two days, I have so far owned a couple of hectares of beach property and a piece of forest with a waterfall. And looking further back I have been the owner of several mountains, countless coves, caves, forests, islands, coral gardens, lakes, rivers and a few houses. If you think of it, no possession is permanent anyway. You will most certainly have to part even with your legal possessions one way or another. By virtue of what others would probably consider a delusion, I’m therefore one of the wealthiest people I know. Mere pieces of paper are no match against the deep-seated sense of ownership I would feel over a place. My feelings are my proof of ownership.

I don’t know how long I had been staring at what looked like a Begonia which had grown from a rock moistened by perpetual spray when I was dislodged from my reverie by a bird announcing itself with a wild call that sounded more like the howling of a monkey in heat.

It’s just as well. It was time to move on.

Back to the road.



I have grown used to the curious looks I get from other riders, which I’m sure are on account of the conspicuous armor over my legs, arms and hands, which look inordinately paranoid in provincial outskirts where a lot of riders don’t even bother to wear helmets, and where you would often see a family of four in a motorcycle (sometimes with one of them clutching a dog or a couple of chickens). I owe all of it to  my rather memorable introduction to the motorcycle years ago…

“These are the brakes. This is how you change gears, try it..”, The tricycle driver demonstrated. He owed me driving lessons. After all, this was all his idea. He hurriedly drove to this motorcycle rental before I could say anything; And I never said I knew how to drive a motorcycle.

“Ok, try driving a few blocks”, said the tricycle driver. My motorcycle lurched like a startled horse and I drove in circles in front of them in quick hiccups of uncertainty as I kept squeezing on the breaks to make sure they’re working and to keep my speed down. The tricycle driver and the attendant watched me with expressionless faces.

“Will you be able to manage to drive all the way to Sabang, Sir?”, asked the tricycle driver.

“Sure”,  I replied, with all the confidence I could manage to feign.

The following day, I returned the motorcycle badly broken and scratched; And although the damage were for the most part cosmetic, involving side mirrors  mudguards and paint, I still shelled out at least 1,000 pesos to compensate the owner. “Sir, ano nangyari sa inyo? Ok lang kayo?” I was glad that the attendant seemed genuinely more concerned with how I looked than how their motorcycle did. I had a severely bruised knee under my muddy jeans. My grotesquely skinned palm was hidden under a bloodied handkerchief tied around it, and I had abrasions and gashes over my arms. I had crashed in every possible way over the course of my trip. I crashed when my bike stalled uphill, causing my big bag to drag me sideways, making me hit the pavement with my right knee bearing most of the brunt of the fall. I picked myself up and performed a Jim Carrey-esque little dance on account of the pain before I walked the bike to the side of the road and give myself time to contemplate how utterly stupid I must have looked. In another instance I hit the front breaks while speeding over gravel, sending me and my bike sliding side by side over the road for a few meters on my arse and one hand, bloodying my right palm. Several kids who witnessed the whole thing, rushed to me and made an excited inventory of the damages incurred by my bike. “Hey, look, the side mirror is broken.” “Hey, look, the mudguard is broken”. “Hey, look, this footrest is bent”, and so on and so forth... “Ang galing!”, one of them exclaimed. In my mind, I was like,” Ano kaya magaling dun? Dagukan ko kayo isa isa dyan e.” 

I could more than hear their recounting of the spectacular accident while I picked minute rocks that have embedded themselves all over my bleeding palm.

These were just a couple of incidents among several, involving a couple of shallow ditches, and the need to remind myself in ensuring I’m already ON the motorcycle BEFORE starting and hitting the gas, if I don’t want to be dragged by the arms by a lurching bike without me on it and look like an absolute idiot in front of people (although they seemed to find it quite hilarious and entertaining). I decided against the initial impulse to take a bow before my delighted audience after picking my bike and myself off the ground at a food and souvenir area at Sabang.

And so I will endure a thousand stares and looks elicited by my outfit if it will keep my blood inside my body where it belongs, and save me a trip to the hospital or the morgue.


All mine

After riding over dirt roads gently winding through forests, I’m back on the main road. I noticed a tarpaulin sign offering ‘Firefly Watching’ and ‘Mangrove Tours’. I severely doubted if I would see a single firefly under the blazing sun, but I had always enjoyed riding on small boats , and I desperately needed distraction from my growing hunger.

I was told by the quide that they fought for the preservation of the mangrove forest that flanks this river

I was told by the guide that they fought hard for the preservation of the mangrove forest that flanks this river


I am told that this place is quire a hit with tourists in the evenings when the place is lit up by nothing but the stars and thousands of fireflies

My guide said this place is quite a hit with tourists in the evenings when the place is lit up by nothing but the stars and thousands of fireflies


Hah! Just as I had predicted. Not a single firelfly in sight

Mmmm, flowers. I wonder if they’re edible


snake pwn 11.22.11

What the park lacked in fireflies during daytime, it made up for with quite a number of these bright-colored snakes lazing over branches of mangrove trees

According to my local guide, these snakes are called Binturan. They ate small bats and lizard eggs. My stomach groaned at his passing reference to diet and nutrition.

I said, “It sure looks tasty. Can I eat it?”

(To be continued)