Grassroots on the road to a beautiful life

Grassroots on the road to a beautiful life

This is a flashback of what life has offered me so far.

I guess it is written in my book (and i can’t escape it boo).. others call it a calling.. others call it destiny. I call it my passion.. passion of Christ? Hrmmm I’m not yet at that level, knock on wood!

I never intend that volunteering to help the grassroots and the disadvantage of our society has become a huge part of my life. I even thought volunteering whether local or abroad can only be done by those who are rich or who are from the first world country.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Reading my old blogpost when I was in India as a VSO Volunteer made me more prouder that I’m not born privileged.. so I can genuinely relate to those who I am helping. Here’s the picture of me and the young moms.. I’m small but they are smaller.. I wonder how old they really were..


And not only that, so much of my logic and perceptions of life has been broken since I went to the road less traveled. And although my beliefs has been broken, in a sense, I was set free.. sort of like that ^_^

Here’s a concrete example, during my 2nd placement as a VSO Volunteer in the Thai-Burma border, I thought I’m gonna be like real poor since we have a wee allowance. Apparently, the wee allowance which is half of what I’m getting from my corporate salary is actually big enough for me to travel to neighboring countries. 750 Baht (around 1000 pesos) via bus from Bangkok will get me to Cambodia! I’m reading my old article on how life surprised me in Chiang mai and couldnt help but chuckle.. Every volunteering experience is different though.. but for those who is preparing for change, you never know what life’s surprises will bring you.. just prepare to be awed ^_^

And of course I didnt just travel :P

I planted rice once and got impressed that a farm can have WIFI and can have international volunteers at that. I met invisible people who are outcasted by society and by their own country. And because I was a volunteer at a regional organization, I worked with Asians from different countries in the Asia Pacific and because VSO is an international organization, I made (facebook) friends from all over the world.. And lastly, I just have to pat myself at the back to have maintained/created/trained people with not just one website but seven (!!).. I was burnt out after that :D

Read more of what have happened during my volunteer days in Thailand on my old blogpost. Here’s me teaching the ladies from different parts of Asia Pacific, Australia and Canada… on how to do the korean frog dance. Really.

I’m not sure how this calling began.. it may have begun during college days at my religious organization.. or it maybe when I quit my job after finishing my Masters so I can go have a long retreat in the mountains of Tagaytay. Long retreat or formation also means cross stiching, cooking and cleaning of bathrooms :)) but I also got to experience how it is to live with other nationalities like Koreans, Vietnamese, French, Austrian, Visayans, Mindanaoans.. yeah we all cooked and cleaned bathrooms no favoritism :P

I’m not really sure how this calling began.. but all I know is that I’m happy fulfilling my purpose. I maybe clumsy at doing it, I may not be as serious like those who pursue the calling and made it a career, I salute these social workers and development workers nevertheless. But all I know is that it is written in my book of life.. Like the Alchemist’s life, there is a word for this – Maktub.

I’ve got current local volunteering projects at the moment..

Senior Citizens in our village are quite happy, dont you think?

Most of these projects are self funded but I’m partnering up with funding agencies to help mobilize resources. More info of activities is at, this site was meant to be a collection of freebies, discounts, sales and charity events

At the end of the day, its not really about me.. I’m doing this for the grassroots communities who have become invisible in the eyes of society. I know because I’m one of them. But hopefully, I’m breaking that stereotype so together, like the African word Ubuntu, it will not just be me but we.. working together towards a beautiful life..

What to do in Laguna

What to do in Laguna

I’ve been staying in the province where I grew up for a couple of weeks already.. It’s around 1.5 hours down south of Metro Manila and the province is called Laguna.

I’ve written a few articles about Laguna but lately I’ve discovered more of what it offers. Guess the past few years of me living here revolved on  routine school and work that I haven’t really explored this side of the country. Aside from traffic and growing population in major cities, here’s the beauty of this province that people also need to discover:


Where and what to eat in Laguna

If you are on a budget, eat buko pie and other native delicacies instead. Lots of buko pie vendors and shops that you can choose from specially if you are at bus stops in Calamba and Los Baños.  And while you’re at it, try espasol as well.

But if you have budget to splurge, dine out at Isdaan, Calauan, Laguna. You don’t need to go to a Buddhist country such as Thailand, you can actually see buddhist and lanna art in that restaurant. Prepare a budget of around 200 pesos and above for this posh restaurant.

Oh, its not only lanna art, you can also get to dine in a floating restaurant and hear waiters sing too! Here’s a sample of their food.. kind of oily for me but I’m there for the umbeyonce~


Speaking of umbeyonce err ambiance..


If you want more challenge with exotic foods, try snakes and snails at Exotik, Kalayaan, Laguna. I’ve tasted exotic foods before like bugs, worms, and balut is like a normal exotic food in the Philippines.. but snakes and snails is a milestone *pats self at back*


Then, if you want to chill, drink coffee at Kape Kesada Art Gallery and coffee shop in Paete, Laguna. Paete is known for its brilliant wood carvers and while viewing wood arts, you may want to sip great coffee too.

These are some of the wood carvings displayed at the coffee shop:


Now you know where to fill your hungry tummy, explore what else there is to do in Laguna. 


If you are on a budget, try to visit these places where entrance is free or just have minimal cost

Visit the house of the national hero Jose Rizal… and wonder how this small man moves thousands of souls and proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. I’ve been inside the house a couple of times since I’m from this province.. favorite part is to pass by it at night time after late mass.


Chill out at the grounds of University of the Philippines, Los Banos. A picnic on a weekend and just reflect on life is a perfect getaway plan.

Visit the Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan. It’s the only one of its kind in the Philippines where the burial is located underneath a church. This awesome national historical landmark must be on top of your list when visiting the province


Stare at beautiful churches. You can see these churches in every town of Laguna.. whether its old, historical, or newly created.. each has its own unique beauty to marvel at. I specially loved the church in Paete because they got an all male choir. And i love the one beside the house of Dr Jose Rizal.




Now if you have enough money to splurge, why not do the following

Disneyland’s counterpart is Enchanted Kingdom at Sta. Rosa, Laguna. So if you’re into adrenalin rush and fancy rides, check that out.

Swim at the many hotspring resorts in Los Baños. Laguna has a lake and lots of hotspring pools to choose from for those who are fond of having fun in large bodies of water.

Visit Pagsanjan Falls. I do think the entrance fee is a bit expensive. But you can still check it out if you dont mind spending money to see waterfalls.

Shop for shoes and slippers in Liliw. All kinds of shoes, sandals and slippers can be found at that heaven for shoe lovers.


So, that wraps my (re)discovery of this province called Laguna. For those coming from Metro Manila, ride the bus at LRT, Buendia to Sta Rosa, Calamba, or Sta Cruz depending on where in Laguna you want to go.

I still have to research on what routes to take when you go to these places using public transportation because we went around with a car, a big thank you goes to a wonderful lady named Lee.. may the angels give her a wonderful boyfriend for a good karma ^_^ yeeeeheee~


And you know my most favorite of all things to do in Laguna? It is to walk from our house and see the cows and goats graze in the greens.. and to look forward to eating my mum’s prepared food.. Life’s simple pleasures are sometimes bliss.

I’m sure there are lots to discover more. What about you? What have you discovered in Laguna lately? ^_^


Frugal Travel Tips Series on the Road #11

Frugal Travel Tips Series on the Road #11

Mehmet Ali Özçobanlar Hadjidakis, or Mehmet, is an addition to my collection… of people I interview on Frugal Tips Series  :))

I met him last year together with DJ Yabis whom I also interviewed for Frugal Travel Tips and his partner Michael when they visited Bohol. I get jealous of his travels in Europe and other countries so I decided to interview him on how he is able to afford his travels. And since he wants to go back to the Philippines so much, we have come up with an exchange deal. He goes here, I go there xD


Like many people that I have interviewed, he travels the local way. His parents can afford to fund his travels, soooOo I really should ask if they need an extra sister xD..

Read more on what we talked about:

[grasya] Can you tell me something about yourself? Occupation/hobbies/etc
[mehmet] I am a doctorate student at University of Warsaw in Poland. After my post graduation at the same university I started to continue my PhD research about Cross Culture. Although I am Turk and part of my family also Greek, my friends are so often used to call me that I am a world citizen. It is because I have a passion for travel, meet people and learn about new cultures. All those desires make me to follow the way of life which is travel.

[grasya] How many countries have you been so far? Which is your favorite and why?
[mehmet] so far I have been almost 35 countries in 4 continents. Each of them has got their own beauty in itself. I rather prefer being a local in all my trips instead of pretending as a tourist. When I visit a country I go there to discover and to learn more about life style how it is. Therefore like most of local people who are living in their town I find many places interested. I love the sea I love the sun and I love the sand. This three ‘S’ Sea, Sun and Sand all complied in Sitges which is a town about 35 kilometers southwest of Barcelona.

[grasya] How do you fund your travels?
[mehmet] When the subject is travel of course one of the most important issue is the funding your travel costs. After my first trip to abroad this was Malta for study purpose for couple months I learnt how to make a budget for living and saving money for short trips. All my travels are supported by my family because they believe to travel is an education as well. I just try to live as a local in all my trips so therefore my travel costs get lower and I enjoy more to feel being as a local more than as a stranger in a new town.

[grasya] What are your plans in the future?
[mehmet] Of course to Travel  I am the most happiest when I travel. It is no matter either a short trip to neighborhood or a long distance travel. I enjoy in each time when I get my luggage ready to move somewhere. But I try to combine my trips and my educational carrier goes along with. For the near future I plan to go and discover many other countries such as U.S.A., India, China, Jordan and Israel.

[grasya] How can you make the world a better place?
[mehmet] How we can make the world a better place? the point is that to work together and the subject is ‘we’ after we know in which conditions we want to live then the answer comes itself out. We can make the world a better place if we do not have the borders. Let the people know each other, meet each other, understand each other then the world will be the place where people would like to live in a peace and happiness.

[grasya] Lastly, any frugal travel tips you want to share?
[mehmet] First of all know where to go. This will make a big discount in your trips. Always try to use public transportations although I rather prefer to walk. Choose an accommodation in center of town but remember not in fancy and luxury conditions because you travel to new towns not new shelters. The most important is that try to be a local. I wish to every body to have a life with full of travel.


So that’s it. If I can be reborn again, I would choose Mehmet’s life and wouldn’t mind having late booking holidays just so I can travel to countries and places I wanted to go..  but since I live in a tropical paradise, I’m still happy with what I got.. until my itchy feet itches for me to travel again.. which is real soon xD



My travel expenses in Indonesia

My travel expenses in Indonesia

As I said in previous posts, I spent an average of 15-20 dollars a day when I was traveling in Indonesia. I can get it lower if I didnt eat out in posh restaurants and minimize my caffeine fix actually ^_^.. but then some of you might not couchsurf or might not meet angels like Jeff so this is a safe estimate of the daily expenses if you travel in Indonesia.

So for those who wants to backpack around Indonesia, here’s a glimpsed of some of my expenses. At the time I was there, 1 dollar is 9700.00 IDR

My plane ticket: P5384.50 (around 135 dollars)
Travel tax: P1690.00 (around 42 dollars)
Taxi to the house of my host- 85000.00 IDR
Coffee shop expenses – 18,900.00
Adapter – 1,1500.00 IDR
Dine Out food – 15,000.00 – 35,000.00 IDR depending on how posh the place is. I treated my hosts for dine out food and I paid 60,000.IDR for 4 people, isnt that awesome?
KFC – 33,000.00
Train Ticket from Gambir train station in Jakarta to Bandung – 70,000.00 IDR
Bandung Zoo Entrance – 15,000.00 IDR
Water Falls Entrance – 10,000.00 IDR
Dine Out food – 15,000.00 – 130,000.00 IDR coz we have eaten in real posh restaurants
Karaoke – 10,000.00 contribution
**then i lost my shopping wallet and that’s a lot of moolah :((**
Train Ticket from Bandung to Yogyakarta – 205,000.00 IDR
Budget Hotels in Yogyakarta – 100,000.00 IDR – 150,000.00 IDR (there are actually backpacker hotels that offer as low as 50,000.00-75,000.00 IDR, unfortunately all of them are full when I got there). I’ll blog about my accommodations in another post
Borobodur Entrance – 30,000.00 IDR
Prambadan Entrance – 171,000.00 IDR
Iced Tea – 7,000.00 IDR
Dine Out food – 15,000.00 – 33,000.00 IDR
Coffee Shop – 60,000.00 IDR
KFC – 33,000.00 IDR * 2 coz ive eaten there twice
Contribution to transportation cost – 200,000.00 IDR
Train Ticket from Yogyakarta to Pasar Senen – 185,000.00 IDR
Habal habal (or Ojek) from Pasar Senen to Gambir – 50,000.00 IDR (negotiable)
Dine Out food – 15,000.00 – 33,000.00 IDR
Damri Bus from Gambir train Station to Airport – 20,000.00 IDR
Airport Fee – 150,000.00 IDR

Hrmm.. this is the most updated one, hope you get some idea on how much you’ll spend in Indonesia. ;)

My next trip will be in Tagaytay, then Antique again for Bayani Challenge, then might visit friends in Samar, then Hongkong in June, Thailand afterwards and hopefully another continent after.

Hopefully all my travels will be frugally executed so I can inspire others out there that travel indeed need not be expensive. ^_^

Before I end this post, I am in sincere gratitude to the person who introduced couchsurfing to me. Tada! That is kuya Fred. Hunt him down in Africa coz he is a great couchsurfer ^_^

Memories of my travels in Jakarta, Indonesia

Memories of my travels in Jakarta, Indonesia

Here are some snapshots moments of my travels in Jakarta.. they are not significantly touristy but I valued the moments of knowing interesting people and eating interesting foods. I spent most times working online at coffee shops though.. kudos to restaurants and cofee shop’s fast WIFI xD

Ate different kinds of Indonesian foods (I’ll make a separate post on this one) and learned how to make Nasi Goreng.. let me know if you want me to do a cooking experiment with you… But I cant promise you’ll be delighted with the outcome :D

Quick tour in the city. It was great to see parts of Jakarta even for a fleeting moment

Thanks to my great couchsurfing host Anna

Slept at an NGO house and went flood watching. Really! Well.. do you really want to see pictures of floods? xD I’ve met the interesting NGO crew though.. You can learn more about them at their website

There are lots of coffee shops in Gambir train station.. I think it was designed for busy travelers who work on the side while waiting for their train schedule to depart.. I have spent considerable amounts at coffee shops there so I think its the highlight of my Jakarta memories xD

Near Gambir train station has lots of interesting tourists spots.. so if you find yourself bored while waiting, try to roam around the vicinity to find museums, churches, and other places of interest

It is also from Gambir train station where you can find the bus to the airport so you dont have to pay for expensive taxi. That’s my short and sweet post about Jakarta… So what’s your best memory of the city? ^_^