10 Shopping Lifehacks in Metro Manila

10 Shopping Lifehacks in Metro Manila

I don’t like traveling to Metro Manila that much.. the traffic and sea of people don’t want me to go there…

However, because I got a client that pays me to manage a nationwide audit of a tech brand, I got the chance to go and travel around Metro Manila. I took advantage of it to observe different classes of society from the super high end where elitists hang out to food tripping in a place where poverty and tokhang activities are “normal”.. the economic gap in Metro Manila is so high between super rich and super poor, yet they still manage to live near each other.

I also gathered a few tips here and there so you won’t feel ripped off afterwards when shopping. The money you save from this lifehack can make you travel further.. or you can pay it forward as you wish.

shangri la

Here they are. Enjoy and feel free to forward to your frugal minimalist friends too.

1. When you’re a small built, try to shop at the kids section. I do this when buying branded posh clothes with the excuse of buying for my nephew or niece but in reality, I’m actually buying for me. The price there is half the price of the adult counterpart.. sometimes you get to save 50% even without the announced discount.

2. Speaking of announced. Sometimes stores doesn’t announce their sales. This is specially applicable in posh stores. They do offer discounts or sales, just don’t be shy to ask. Because if you don’t ask, they won’t tell.

3. Use rewards points from credit cards, SM Advantage, Robinsons rewards cards or any other similar reward cards. I was able to reduce the price of the stuff that I bought because I got some rewards points.

4. If you have a senior citizen or PWD friend, bring them to grocery shop with you and get 20% discount. There was a time when seniors and PWDs are not treated well by society, now I see families bringing their oldies in the Mall.. good behavior change.

5. Take advantage of free makeups at some cosmetic stores… I did this once because the saleslady took pity on my oily skin so she did some charity work on me and gave me free makeup.

6. You think an item is expensive online? If you’re in the boondocks and can’t go to the city immediately, try to ask a friend if it’s more cheaper in her location.. then you can ask her to buy and ship it to you instead.

7. Mystery shopping to get stuff for free. Sometimes I get expensive stuff for free in exchange of being critic to some branded items. It’s fun and you get freebies in return.


8. Bottled water in the restaurant costs 25 pesos, but if you buy in the grocery section of the mall, or even in the vendor outside the Mall, it will only cost 10 php. So tiis ganda until you reach the grocery section, grab the 10 peso water, line up for 15 mins, and hope you still have your senses by the time you finally pay the drink. Sometimes, there are free water in food courts. Better bring your own water bottle to minimize the use of plastics.

9. 1 whole chicken is 160 pesos, 2 pc chicken at a fastfood has the same price. So sometimes, I’d rather buy a whole chicken at the department store then cook it at home.

10. KFC shots is cheaper and sometimes has more meat than 1 pc chicken with rice… not a sponsored post.. Although I wish it is.

Move to Paradise – a must read for city dwellers

Move to Paradise – a must read for city dwellers

I have lived in different far flung rural areas in the Palawan, Bohol, Antique, Laguna in the Philippines. Aside from that I also lived 5 months in rural Kolkata in India, and a few weeks in Bhakatapur and Heutuda in Nepal, and a few days in far flung rural Laos.

I don’t just travel and take pictures.. I try to partake in the way of life and hopefully get a lesson or two to share to people. Some of you, especially those who lived in the city, would want to make the move to rural life because of – Clean air, fresh food, peaceful life, low cost of living.

Paradise right?

These are carabaos staring at me when I visited a small island in Laos:


Stop the music playing in your head. Can I burst your bubble this early?

Here’s the harsh truth – You might be in the honeymoon stage of travel where people usually see the brighter side of things. Try to live in rural areas for a few months to confirm if it’s indeed paradise coz I don’t want you to start cursing me silently by promoting rural living yet when you tried it yourself, you just can’t fit in.

If you ask me personally, it is indeed great. Benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Usually, people paint dreamy descriptions of rural living, like what I said:

Clean air, fresh food, peaceful life, low cost of living. Paradise right?

This was in a lesser touristy area in Palawan.


But those in marketing with properties to sell, vacation spots to promote, will never tell you the negative side of things. But I’m not biased, take that to your advantage. Now, if you’re really keen on living the rural life, here’s a few things that you need to take note.

Sometimes, rural means, far from everything.
Like malls, schools, stores, and hospitals.. So when there is an emergency and hospital is like 2 hours away and you don’t have your own vehicle, well, good luck. On the brighter side, when the air is clean and you eat veggies regularly, there’s less probability you’ll get an emergency concerning your health. And what is there to spend when you don’t see anything to spend on? And that’s how you accumulate wealth dears :D.. don’t forget to share it with the less fortunate ok?

There’s abundant greens which means less pollution.
It also means less transportation to and from your area. So if you don’t own a private vehicle, your mobility is compromise. Example, I have to make sure I take the 5pm jeep going home from the town because it’s the last trip. If you can’t make it, you’ll have to wait for the trip next morning. Or hire a tricycle (because there’s no taxi) but you’ll have to pay more than the jeepney fare.
Aside from that, because all rice fields looks the same, you need to make sure you go down on the right rice field.. coz once you go down and you realize it’s not the way to your home.. then you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.. pray that there is no mumu.


antique road less traveled


If you want to live in rural areas, you will need to empathize with traditions. Your old folk’s tradition believes there exists such monsters, aswang, kulam, etc. Ask them if they saw an aswang and they will say not yet.. If you talk back, you’ll be considered an ingrate so shut up ka na lang. I was actually joking with a friend from the city whom I told, we don’t usually go to trial courts in the far flung province, but people there use kulam or witchcraft on their enemies.

Limited internet signal, and sometimes limited electricity too. The irony of living with abundant natural resources is limited technology. Bad move for digital nomads who needs internet like they need coffee to live here, unless they are writers or other creative who needs offline moments to produce work output. Oh I have to correct myself on abundant natural resources – because you know, sometimes I need to burst your bubble that even in Paradise called Bohol and Palawan, there’s limited water too. Are you pouting already? Oh yeah locals only experience that so no need to worry if you’re a tourist.

This was in the border of Thailand and Myanmar when we did some ICT training:

stoop low. aim high. grasya in Burma

There’s a possibility of cultural clashes and misunderstanding. Many people think that only foreigners and locals have clashes in ways of living. But actually city dwellers and rural folks, even if they are both of the same nationality, still have misunderstandings. The difference in dialect from each province and ways of living is a point of confusion from each side. If you’re not speaking the dialect of the local folks, it is understandable to get a bit paranoid that they are talking about you even if you are in front of them.
Another example of misunderstanding – city dwellers think these rural people are lazy for always chitchatting and spending time doing nothing.

They don’t actually see the behind the scenes of how the muscles of these people are developed by tilling the land all day so we can have unlimited rice. Unless of course if you are a haciendera/haciendero where you can sleep all day and still get unlimited rice and veggies, if you are, ask me how to make your life productive. :D

On the other hand, rural people think city dwellers are also lazy for always traveling and staring at the computer.. that’s my personal experience btw. They can’t comprehend that I work with different clients in different countries while I’m just in my bedroom “staring at the computer”… Struggle is real.

On the plus side, there’s a sense of community when you live in rural areas. It’s difficult to have that in the city where you don’t even know your neighbor. People in far flung areas know almost everyone living in the area and almost everyone is related to each other. So fiestas and reunions are interesting activities. Imagine being introduced to your third cousin’s uncle’s mother from another grandfather.

Also when there’s trouble, there’s a big probability you will get a helping hand.. sometimes for free too.. just don’t be a bitch to always ask for help. This also goes when the community sense that you have money, be careful not to let them look at you with $$ in your eyes or you’ll encourage dependency. I remember one time, a big healthy person from a rural area asking me, a frail small skinny lady for donation. See the difference?

Be careful though coz since it’s a community, when you get into an argument with a member of the community, you have the whole community against you.

This picture was taken while we were traveling in Myanmar:

grasya in motorcycle

Feel my frustration? Thank you ^_^… I just want you to know both sides of the coin dear, I’m sure you’ll thank me somehow. You’re welcome.

Rural living is bliss to those who are adjusted to the slow yet healthy lifestyle. You can’t have everything but if you’re tired and stressed from the hustle and bustle of the city, then you deserve to escape to the province and let the clean air, fresh veggies, beach, forest heal you.. Be warned that you might want to stay forever..

How Forests Heal People from Nitin Das on Vimeo.


Either that or get bored and want to go back to the city again ^_^…


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So you want to work online and have a travel lifestyle? Read on.

So you want to work online and have a travel lifestyle? Read on.

I sipped my iced coffee in a coffee shop somewhere in Palawan while having this view as a live wallpaper. Oh what a wonderful life you must have thought..



Then the phone rings, after that, there’s a skype notification from another client that asks if we can talk.. after that, there’s a report I need to write..

Then there’s another call.. then email.. then chat..

Time flies (or fries) and I get my task finished and my brain exhausted, hardly having the time to look and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings. Oh yeah, I forgot I have a website project to build too..

I must be proud to have this multitasking ability and mimicking that Hindu God with several hands.. but when I glimpse into those tourists who do nothing but leisurely chitchat, I actually feel more envy at the same time.

So yeah dear friends, this is my lifestyle where I travel and bring online work with me. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies but I chose this way of life, and despite the downs, it’s still great to be able to take control of your life. And I’m still grateful.

For those who wants to embark on a similar travel lifestyle, here’s more rants.. not to discourage you but instead to paint the reality that at some point in your online career, a similar situation might happen to you.. so you should find a countermeasure of how to solve discomforts head on.

Here’s some points to ponder if you want to work online and have a travel lifestyle:

1. Most people will always wonder how you’re able to spend, travel around HongkongThailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc and stay in hotels.. Here’s me in Indonesia:

working online

Most people still think that to have work is to go to an office or have a boss. Otherwise, they’ll think you’re just lazy, have a rich boyfriend, or you are selling your body online. And it’s such a difficult effort to explain. The struggle is real.


2. If you work online, you can do work in whatever time you feel like it. True if you get a client that allows flexible time. Also flexi time means working at midnights, weekends, holidays too :D.. ok so you still want to work online? This was taken in a hotel when me and my mom was traveling to Thailand.. i think you’ll know where my part of the bed is.

temporary office in the hotel


3. Working online means you’re always online and you will love it. But you will always be online until you hate it. This picture was taken by my Colombian friend Maria.. sums up my online journey xD

reality online work


4. If you chose to work at home, you can have the time to be close to family. At some point, you’ll even bring your work to the mall, to the beach, do client chats while eating dinner, and taking point number 1, some people will have a hard time thinking that you’re actually working while eating.

Here’s my temporary office in Laos:


5. There is no security of tenure, and add to that you’ll get to pay for own tax, health insurance, etc.. unless you hire an admin staff to do this for you..

Well never mind the hassles. If you don’t like to be confined in the same box every working day, if you love creativity, if you love doing what you do, why settle for security of tenure if working from anywhere and be whatever you want makes you happy? Possibilities are indeed endless.. This was a temporary office.

temporary hotel office

When I was doing the 9-5 job, I still felt vulnerable to lay offs, so what is there to loose if my current work doesn’t really feel like work? ^_^



As a personal experience, I’m keeping track of this lifestyle redesign at my Miss Chief section, and the achievements are way beyond my expectations after I left the cubicle.. It’s a roller coaster ride but I’m happy and grateful.

In the future, I will need to reduce my online working hours because I love my offline moments too.. Increasing passive income streams and doing offline projects is a goal as well… let’s see what the future holds ^_^

10 exotic dishes to try in South East Asia

10 exotic dishes to try in South East Asia

For locals, most of these are ordinary dishes eaten every meal. For travelers and non locals however, these are rare dishes that you can’t eat anywhere else.

If you are the adventurous type that eats anything, you should try these when going on Asia tour packages and visiting the countries that offer exotic food. Be careful though and check that you are not allergic to those dishes so your tummy can take it. It is also wise if you get hepa shots to make sure you get back to your country healthy.

As I said, this is only for those with strong tummies. Eat at your own risk, make sure you have hepa shots, condition your tummy, and lastly, have fun.

Exotic food 1. Balut

For locals, this is a regular snack. Balut is a poor little unborn duckling cooked prematurely for humans. I know I’m guilty of eating this too but I only eat the yellow and white part and not the baby inside.. You can eat this in the Philippines and I discovered last 2008 that you can also eat this in Vietnam. The soup is specially delicious to be honest.




Exotic food 2. Snails

This is very difficult to eat coz you have to break the shells to eat the soft part inside. I remember when I was younger, my neighbour use to eat these kinds of shells from the rice fields but now the land has been developed into industrial zones so no more rice fields, no more snails too.. However, you can still eat these in far flung places in Laguna, Antique and Kalinga in the Philippines

snails and veggies


Exotic food 3. Frogs

The first time I ate this was in China town in Binondo. But you can also eat this exotic food in places such as Antique and Kalinga, Philippines. Taste like chicken with smaller bones.




Exotic food 4. Bugs

Bugs similar to the picture below are headache to farmers in the Philippines specially when they attack coconut trees. However, in Thailand, they solved the problem by eating them… not sure if they are the same species of bugs though.



Exotic food 5. Tamilok worm

They are called woodworms but they are not exactly worms. The slimy thing is extracted from wood.. tastes more like mollusks or oyster.. yummy if you dip it in vinegar. If you’re curious to try it, head over to Palawan, Philippines.



Exotic food 6. Crocodile meat

I tasted this in Palawan too. Kinda expensive but it’s worth a try since you’re there already. Does not have a distinctive taste because the garlic and onions in the dish overpowered it. Sorry no decent picture, but imagine a sisig style dish.

Exotic food 7. Donsol Seaweed

This is actually the poo poo of a seaweed creature called Donsol. Taste like seaweed, I didn’t know they were poo poo until someone told me.. You can find these in local carinderias in Bohol, Philippines. Want to know what it looks like?

Exotic food 8. Sea Urchin

This is very expensive in Japan. But fisherfolks just get them for free in Bohol and in other places in the Philippines where it’s offered. I love the taste when you mix it in vinegar.



Exotic food 9. Rat

I have eaten this in Vietnam and I tried not to puke. Besides we are at an expensive restaurant and I’m treating all my Vietnamese friends in this posh place so I must stay brave. You know the smell of rats? That’s what it tastes like except that it’s sautéed with garlic and served elegantly.



Exotic food 10. Ants

Although ants are regular critters that invades your food in the tropics. I never knew, you can actually mix this ants in your rice as a dish too.. hence my latest discovery.. You can find locals selling Ants in Kalinga province, northern part of the Philippines. The ant eggs have an interesting taste but the adult ants have a psychological effect on me.. I squeal a bit every time I put these critters in my mouth.. I also need to make sure they are all fried dead coz I don’t want them biting my intestines.




I’m off to discover more of these unique dishes around the world, hopefully my tummy won’t give up on me. ^_^

How about you, have you tried an exotic food and would like others to discover it too?

Realities on the road: Behind the scenes of glittery travel stories

Ok, so you’ve read travel guides, travel blogs, magazines, etc raving about a place.. And you spend your entire savings just to see this place, because everyone was raving about it.. the only problem is, once you get there, instead of raving, you feel the opposite.. and you shot back at these guides/blogs/magazines for not telling you about overcrowded people, smell, overpriced everything, very spicy food, and uncooperative weather.

Don’t worry, I have my fair share. And instead of making these annoying experiences secret so I can paint a perfect picture of my travels and make people envious, I cut the fairy tale and be honest from my point of view instead.. want to know more? ;D I’m sure you do.. Here are some of them:

So you think Thailand is heaven here on earth? Well at some point, specially if you are new to the country and is undergoing the honeymoon phase of travel, you will agree that it is indeed paradise.. every thing is beauuuutifuuul..

beautiful Thailand

But will you still see the beauty of everything if you arrive on the wrong monsoon month?

flood in chiang mai

Apparently, I did. Good thing I was with beautiful people at that time of chaos :P

Sometimes you need to travel to see the beauty of your own place.. and so you can miss your old familiar pillow..

I realized that when I was traveling in Hong Kong and Macau.. People are serious and mean.. even the boat dispatcher and bus driver are mean! and then there’s this Korean guy I just met didn’t pay back his share of bus fare because “he didn’t have coins”.. seriously dude? and you have the guts to go to the Casino after?

I met mean people and everything is crazy expensive.

I don’t even know why people from my country had fun there.. or maybe they just confined themselves in Disneyland and didn’t go outside and mingle with the locals.. or maybe I was just unlucky that time.

This is me in Macau.. with a fake smile xD

me in macau

Did I discouraged you from traveling? Oh no, I might loose sponsors XD

Not everyone was mean though, I’m lucky to meet few people who didn’t treat me like I’m some kind of a maid.. this includes my American couchsurfer host who even gave a ceramic porcelain for my aunt and my Italian friend whom I have not met for many years.

Sometimes we just have to be open minded when we go to a new country or a different culture.. sometimes what we see on tv and what we read in magazines or blogs are different from what we will personally experience.

Perfect example was when I traveled in Mindanao.. everyone thought it was a dangerous place. But when I got there, I actually thought it’s much more dangerous in the dark alley streets of Manila.. You’ll see the southernmost tip of the Philippines here – Tawi Tawi.

Tawi tawi, Philippines

I guess I was lucky… but I do hope in the future that the whole of Mindanao will indeed be a safe place to travel. Coz its a beautiful place not to be explored.

Another example is what happened to me in Nepal.. I was always seeing expensive touristy stuff while researching about the country online, thank you SEO companies, you did a great job.

But once there, I never thought I could live with what I consider luxury on a very small budget.. This is my room.. and guess what, I got it for free ;D

couch surfing in bakthapur

I went to Nepal knowing only 1 person whom I haven’t met for years… but while traveling to the wonderful country, I gained friends from all over the world.. Japanese, Swiss, Indian, Germans, Americans, Italians and of course the locals with beautiful souls… and I always thought I was antisocial! I have traveled to different places, yet not one single moment I felt afraid. My experience can never be measured with money, because it is priceless.. and I will forever be grateful.

Himalayas, Nepal
And that folks is the reason why I travel. To experience life as it is. Because reality.. in every aspect of life, whether travel or not, always involved not so good moments. Nevertheless, keep calm, and enjoy what Mother Earth has to offer. ^_^ Keep on traveling!

This is my contribution to the Philippine Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for the month of April 2014 with the theme “When Fact is really Fiction” hosted by Kaiz Galang of http://www.missbackpacker.info