The problem with writers

“Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” – Pico Iyer

Writers are selfish creatures, master manipulators of the mind.

When you first meet them, they will hook you with their intense curiosity.

Do not mistake interest for friendship. Or romantic interest.

They’ve been known to keep people and relationships in their lives longer than they should– just because they make interesting character understudies for their next book.

They will look at you with inquisitive eyes, boring into your soul, trying to figure out your place in the plot.

They will shower you with attention, and soak information like a sponge–what you do, what you wear, what you say, and the inner workings of your mind–your drive, motivations, your dreams, your soul. What ticks you off? What makes you feel alive? 

Oysters open completely during a full moon, and when a crab sees one it throws a stone or seaweed so it cannot close again and becomes the crab’s ready meal.

Just like the oyster, be careful with the words you express when in company of a writer—they will hold on to every word you said and quote you on that, at that. They will then decide to be brutally honest, or cunningly deceiving–or both.

They will read between the lines, and if nonexistent and purely innocent, invent the words between the lines. Heck, they may even try to predict your future actions, or create and recreate plots and denouements. 

They’ve got you all figure out in their head. And if they’re wrong—isn’t that what the fiction genre is for?

You might find, in the middle of the date, the author paramour lost and elsewhere—sometimes lost in reverie; and sometimes, lost in the next table’s conversations.  They are notorious eavesdroppers who take mental notes of interesting lines and plot lines.

They will study the neighbors in question: they will take note of the man’s sweaty palms, and the texture of the woman’s hair and when it’s been last washed, the gaze, the body language—and conclude whether it is the first or the fifty-first date.

They will usually end up having their soup cold.

They have tendencies to exaggerate for dramatic flair; and exclude unimportant details because they are boring. They will paint the day with descriptions—they can skillfully describe a cheeseburger like they would describe sex, and in turn describe sex like it is the last meal of their life.

And yet, oddly and selfishly, writers do not reciprocate.

They refuse to give back as much as they take in. They are fiercely private, putting up glass walls to protect themselves; to keep control of their identities; to protect their stories. They do not wish to be at the mercy of the listener, unwilling to be subject to another storyteller’s liberties.

No other human finds comfort in ambiguity than a writer. They live for the ‘what-could-be’s and ‘could-have-been’s. The notion that there is no current conclusion is very beautiful; it gives us hope that we can always rewrite a better ending in the future. That’s how writers feel a sense of control in our lives, how we make sense of the world, by tricking ourselves that we take charge of the stories.

Filipino, elsewhere

Hey all!

I’ve got a new published column in Sunstar that comes out every month. Please check out my blog to keep updated with personal and collected stories and information on Filipino culture, heritage and identity with Filipino, elsewhere. Find my first blog post here! via Filipino, elsewhere

Suggested Itinerary: 4 days in Taipei, Taiwan

For Filipinos, Taiwan isn’t something we typically think of as a ‘tourist destination’. When it comes to traveling abroad, we dream of going to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore or Thailand–we often forget about visiting Taipei, Taiwan, which is only 1,000 km from the Philippines.

This is why Taipei is so beautiful in its own way–an underrated and unassuming city that has a lot to offer. Cebu Pacific now offers direct flights from Manila and Cebu to Taipei thrice a week, which will get you to the capital of Taiwan in two hours.

Before booking that ticket, read my post on what to expect in Taipei, Taiwan.

Here’s what you can do in Taiwan for a short 4-day stay.

Day 1: Chiang Kai Shek, Taipei 101, Presidential Building, National Palace Museum

Cram all the usual touristy stuff on day 1. Most of them are within easy access via transportation (train, bus, walk). Taipei transportation is very easy, reliable and accessible so you can visit all the main sites within the day.

The Presidential Building is one of the most remarkable buildings in Taipei, houses the most important man in the country, of course: the president of the Republic of China.


The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial is a national monument built in honor of the former president of Taipei. The square is wide, beautiful and historical–plenty of panoramic photography-worthy shots.


Taipei 101 is a magnificent architectural wonder magnificently located in Taipei’s skyline. Taipei 101 used to be the world’s tallest building until the title was usurped by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in 2010.


Finally, the National Palace Museum is a magnificent museum that houses 700,000 ancient Chinese art and artifacts dating back 8,000 years ago from the neolotihic stone age. The art pieces were transported from the Forbidden City to Taiwan under the leadership of Chiang Kai Shek in 1945.

Day 2: Go on a food trip!

Foodies will love Taiwan; because they have a great love affair with their food. You can’t talk about Taiwanese culture without mentioning their street food cuisine. Food should be the main highlight of your trip so go all out and don’t think about dieting! Some of the famous Taiwanese food include: pearl milk tea, stinky tofu, oyster omelette, steamed dumplings, crispy chicken cutlets… everything. Most times, I don’t really know what type of animal or animal part I ordered–they surely don’t waste any animal part, and I’m too chicken to ask. #ignoranceisbliss

Michelin-star restaurant Din Tai Fung originated here, so make sure to try their world-famous xiao long bao while in Taiwan. You can go themed cafe or restaurant hopping. They have restaurants dedicated to Hello Kitty, the toilet, hospital, and more.

Day 3: Jiufen and Shifen

If you are looking for a more cultural and historical experience that Taiwan can offer, there are two beautiful towns near Taipei that you can visit. Located at Pingxi District, you can easily access these picturesque towns via train.

Jiufen is best known as the inspiration of Hayao Miyazaki’s famous hyperrealist animated film Spirited Away. Shifen is most known for their sky lantern festival. You can write down your own hopes and wishes in a sky lantern and watch it fly and reach to the heavens (but not really–apparently the village people hire a dedicated workforce to retrieve the fallen lanterns in the next mountain).

If you want to know more about Jiufen and Shifen, read about it in a separate dedicated blog post here.

Day 4: Exciting Taipei Nightlife: Night markets and nightclubs

Saving the best for last: Taipei nightlife. Of course, if you have energy for day and night you are welcome to savor the nightlife every night! There’s tons of things to do at night: karaoke, night markets, clubbing… the city’s nightlife is exciting and vibrant after dark. Like most Asian major cities, this city runs 24 hours, so there’s always something to do in the wee hours of the morning.

Taiwan is most famous for their night markets–there are more than 50 of them across the country. In these markets they have all sorts of food and merchandise.

Karaoke (KTV) is also a big hit in the city. KTVs have private rooms where you can order food and drinks and sing to your heart’s content.

If you’re into clubbing, you’re in for a treat: the Taiwanese party hard. Like insane. I can recount a few times where I had to hold hair of poor female strangers in the toilet because they had too much alcohol.

people taiwanese
The random and great people you meet in Taipei.

The most famous and biggest nightclub in the city is LUXY,  bringing in renowned and billboard-topping DJs from around the world. 1001 Nights is an eclectic mix of latin, hiphop, reggaeton and international music (and I love getting shisha here). Chess is great for hip-hop lovers, Room18 for a fancy lounge scene and LAVA for a more casual night. For salsa lovers, I love the friendly vibe of Salud! Salsa Party.

Finally for some post-party replenishment needs, there is always a 7-11 a block or two away to cater to your hunger and hydration.2 4-hour convenience stores are an indispensable way of life in Taiwan. In fact, the country has the highest mini mart density in the world. They sure love their convenience, and you will too. If you’re hungry post-party, you’re sure to get your fill, there’s bound to be a restaurant or shop open for you.

Features et. al.


  • TV Features

    • PostcardPretty has been featured in GMATV’s travel show ‘I Juander’ with Susan Enriquez for the Road Trip show to Tarlac, Batangas and Pampanga


  • Fashion Show

    • Caleb and I were fortunate enough to be invited to represent Petit Bateau for the 2015 Style Origin Fashion Show in Ayala Center Cebu with professional models, Cebu personalities and #Kathniel Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla.
  • Magazine Features

    • Zee Lifestyle Directory – Dec-Jan 2016 issue for Cebu City Guide, shot at The Outlets Pueblo Verde. Read more about it, and see more photos here.


    • Sunstar Weekend – Mother’s Day Issue (May 10, 2015) – see article by Fiona Escandor in Sunstar Weekend website here. Read about it in my blog post here.


drift stories rachel arandilla postcardpretty

    • GetGo & Cebu Pacific
  • Newspaper Features

    • Canon Photomarathon

article on canon


  • Talks

    • SWU Forum with Young Cebuano Entrepreneurs

swu talk 2 swu talk

  • Go Negosyo Top 10 Young Cebuano Entrepreneurs

Go Negosyo


Cebu’s sizzling salsa scene

You get tired of the night club scene after a while: same crowd, same scenario, same cliché dance moves. I’m not really a creature of habit so after a couple of recurring same-old, same-old  nights I was ready for a change of scene one evening of 2015.

So I got hooked. For the next three months I came with my girlfriends once a week to dance salsa and bachata. The community was then so small and closely knit. But it was a great change of scenery, where stranger bodies just don’t grind on you and touch you in inappropriate areas–you actually get to meet a lot of great friends through salsa!

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It’s so easy to approach someone and ask them to dance with you–no matter the language you speak, dance is universal. When I find myself alone (traveling/living), I reach out to the local salsa community to meet new and friendly faces. This is how I met some great people in Taiwan and US. I’ve never been to Latin America, but that’s next on the list!

Take note that everywhere in the world except New York dances ‘on 1’, whereas NY salsa dances ‘on 2’. You need to know these technicalities else you will feel lost like an idiot if you find yourself in a latin club that dances a different style than you do.

Still, nothing beats like home. I have moved several times over the past three years, but whenever I am in Cebu I always try to attend the socials were organized by Cebu Salsa Club. Essentially, it is part of the experience of ‘coming home’.

The Cebu salsa community has since then has grown by leaps (kudos to Jilly and John!). I don’t recognize most of the people now. Everyone is getting better each visit. It’s impressive! They have salsa nights three nights a week now, too!


Every Wednesday
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Bacardi Mojitos all night
Maya Mexican Restaurant
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata | Merengue | Reggaeton

Every Friday
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Cuba Libre
Maya Mexican Lounge
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata

Every Sunday
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Tequila Cazadores Margaritas all night
Maya Mexican Lounge
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata | Kizomba

If you’re new to the scene and would like to learn social dancing (maybe as a dare, maybe as a new year’s resolution, or maybe to impress a date?), Cebu Salsa Club also offers classes on salsa, bachata and kizomba! Classes start in February, advance registration here:


If you want to keep connected with fellow enthusiasts and keep updated about salsa socials and events, join the Cebu Salsa Club FB group, Cebu Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba Dancers FB group.

Still haven’t convinced you enough? I’ll try to with 5 more reasons as to why everyone should dance salsa. Read the post here.

How to Apply for DSWD Minor Travel Clearance in Cebu

I remember the feeling of traveling alone when I was only 16. Well it wasn’t technically a solo trip–the rest of the family were already in Hong Kong and I had to follow after my finals–but I still remember the thrill of going to the airport, checking in my luggage, going through immigrations and finally arriving in one piece–all alone.

I was in college when I first applied for a DSWD travel clearance for myself. Now that I’m a single mom, I had applied for Caleb’s travel clearance so he can travel accompanied by other guardians (e.g. his grandparents).

dswd travel clearance for minors

Who Needs A Travel Clearance?

By Philippine law, all minors below the age of 18 are required to have a DSWD Minor Travel Clearance for the following:

  • for minors traveling alone
  • for minors traveling with companions other than his or her parents parents.

Even if a minor is traveling with a direct relative such as their own adult siblings or aunts or uncles, they are still required by law to travel with the DSWD document. This requirement is to ensure that children on transit are protected from child kidnapping or child trafficking.

Minors traveling with the legal guardians or parents are not required a DSWD clearance. However, illegitimate children traveling with father are still required to have a DSWD clearance.

When Should I Apply?

Once you have finalized travel plans, it’s best to apply as soon as possible, around a month or two weeks before the travel date. This will get you ample time to collate all required documents before the travel date.

Once you have all the requirements, it only takes around thirty minutes to an hour to get your DSWD document (at least in Cebu!) The people in the Cebu DSWD office are very efficient and accommodating (thanks, Ligaya!)

Where can I apply in Cebu?

The DSWD office in Cebu is located in MJ Cuenco Avenue cor. Gen. Maxilom Avenue, Cebu City. Office hours are on weekdays M to F, from 8am to 5pm.

What are the Requirements?

As of July 2017, here is the updated list of requirements for minors traveling abroad unaccompanied by parents:

  • Filled up DSWD application form
  • NSO birth certificate of the minor
  • Marriage certificate of minor’s parents (if legitimate); no need if parents are unmarried and child is illegitimate
  • Notarized affidavit of consent from parents . This must include:
    • destination,
    • date of intended travel,
    • purpose, and
    • name of companion/s
  • 3 pcs. passport size photos of the minor and companions
  • Photocopy of the passport and visa (if necessary) of the minor
  • Photocopy of the passport and visa  (if necessary) of the companion
  • 300 PHP payment per minor applicant.
  • If parents are not applying; you also need an authorization letter from minor’s parents to process application

Once again, if the child is illegitimate, it will only need requirements from the mother (sole parental authority) and not the father.

Also, the minor does not need to be present in the DSWD office to file for the clearance. The officer will only

Once you have everything, it only takes 30 minutes to process your travel clearance valid for one year. Always check the spelling of the names before you leave.


How to Apply for US F-1 Visa in the Philippines: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Prior to graduate school, I never dreamed of getting a chance to study or even be inside the prestigious Ivy League universities in the US. Yale, Princeton, Harvard… those were elite names a third-world student myself could never see or experience in my life.

MBA in the Asian Institute of Management opened up possibilities; business school made my dreams more concrete and my whole world smaller. Not only were we able to work with people of different nationalities from Kazakhstan to Brazil, but I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to study programs and experiences in Yale University School in New Haven, Connecticut for General Network of Advanced Management last March and now to the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia.

wharton school rachel arandilla exchange f1 visa AIM.jpg

I’ve been to the US a few times for travel, but to actually study and live there is a completely new experience. I already have a valid US tourist visa, but as a student you still need to apply for a US student visa (either a J-1 or an F-1) to study in any American university.

Applying for a student visa is definitely more complex than the standard tourist visa, and it took me at least two months to get the whole thing sorted. There are a lot of websites you need to coordinate with, so to help you future student applicants sorted, I’ve compiled all resources you need in one blog post. (thank me later!)

This article will focus only on how to apply for the F-1 visa. If you intend to apply for J-1, I have no experience and won’t be of any help, sorry!

What and Who Needs a US F-1 Visa?

To study in the USA, you need a student visa–either a J-1 or an F-1 visa. You need to know which visa type is eligible for you.

  • F-1: all non-immigrant students are eligible.
  • J-1: students who are either:
    • students with non-personal funding source that accounts for more than 50% of the total study costs–either via scholarships and grants from non-personal sources: e.g. government, foundations, international organization, etc.
    • Exchange students in a program pursuant between the US & your home country government / foundation

I had the option to choose between the two. While both visas allow you to work while studying, there are long-term implications with J-1. J-1 visa students require you to return to your home country for at least two years before you can come back to the US.

For F1 visa, you can remain in the United States up to 60 days after the end of the program. You can opt to stay and work under the OPT program (not applicable for students under shorter stay)

US visa F1 student philippines

How about for short study programs?

For short recreational studies that are non-credit towards a degree or certificate, visitors can come on a tourist visa. Otherwise, all students in academic institutions need the necessary student visa.

For more information regarding student visa, you can check on the US government website here.

I. Preparation

When should I apply for a US F-1 Visa?

Again, applying for a student visa is a lot more work than expected. It’s also a lot more expensive! You need proper coordination with your school’s international student services office for proper documents. To be safe, you should apply 2-3 months before the start of your program. The earlier, the better!

List of Requirements

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, this is the checklist of documents you need to acquire for your US F-1 visa:

  • Valid Philippine passport – make sure it is valid at least six months after intended entry to the US
  • I-20 form
  • SEVIS FEE receipt
  • Proof of funds – either your or your sponsor’s proof of financial support. Your sponsor can be your family or any sponsoring institution.
  • Ties to home country

How much?

You will need to show proof of sufficient funds for the duration you will be in US for education–whether you will be there for one semester or for four years.

II. Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Get accepted to a US school; get the I-20.

The school will help you obtain a temporary social security number (or a 9-digit Admission ID) and I-20 to initiate the visa process.

You will need the I-20 before moving forward. Prior to that, you need to send to your school a copy of your passport and financial documentation. You will then need to fill up some details via online form or email. Processing times can take up to one month, so plan accordingly.

Once your I-20 is ready, you should receive an email from the school’s international services office guiding you the next steps, e.g. paying the SEVIS fee and shipping request form, and payment of shipping. Shipping would probably cost around $60-$100 USD, your I-20 will be sent to you via snail mail from the US educational institution, e.g. DHL, UPS or FedEx. Your I-20 Form should look like this:

f1 visa i20 form.jpg

Step 2: SEVIS Fee

All international students are required to pay the SEVIS fee which costs $200 USD for F-1 applicants. To pay, you can do so via Western Union or via credit card on See links for more details.

For a better overview and more information on SEVIS fee, see this website.

Step 3: DS-160 Form

Once you’ve obtained your I-20 and SEVIS, the next step is to complete your DS-160 form to book your US Embassy appointment. You can fill it up online on the US Consular Electronic Application Center website.

When you start the application form, make sure to keep note of the following:

Application ID. Write down the ID located on the right corner. You will need this to retrieve application later just in case you don’t finish the application or need to get back to it.
– Your passport and travel history information. Information of your international travel history from the past 5 years.
Study information and arrangements. You must have information on the school’s program, address, contact info, living arrangements, etc.
SEVIS ID. This is printed on your I-20.
Digital passport photo. In my experience, I had a lot of technical problems on this one. Pls test your photo beforehand by using this online tool provided by the website.

Step 4: Schedule Visa Interview

Once you completed the DS-160 online application, now you can go to the Philippine embassy website and create your profile by going to New User.

Once you are logged in and on your Dashboard, go to New Application / Schedule Appointment and select the Visa Type, Post (Manila), Visa Category (Student) and Visa Class (F).

You will then need to pay $160 (Consular Exchange Rate is PHP 51 = USD 1 valid through 08/01/2018). The only way to pay it is through bank transfer at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or online through Bancnet.

You need to print and present the US visa deposit slip when going to the bank. The deposit slip can be found here. It looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 11.42.55 AM.png

For other information on bank and payment options, see this post here.

Once you’ve paid, you can then book an interview 4 hours after payment. You will need: your passport number, BPI deposit receipt number, and the 10-digit barcode number from the DS-160 confirmation form.

Select the date and time of your preferred appointment on the Schedule My Appointment tab on the Dashboard.

Step 5: Appear at Embassy

Whew! That was a lot of paperwork. Now it’s finally time to visit the embassy. The Philippine US embassy is located in Pasig, Manila.

You might not get the interview date and time you want as the US embassy is always booked with so much visa applications to reject/approve, so make sure to apply as early as possible!

Be sure to bring a copy of your DS-160 confirmation, ID photo that meets the US visa requirements and taken within 6 months, your current and previous passports, financial documentation (and other proof of ties to home) and a copy of the appointment letter.

Always bring photocopies and originals. Although not stated in the requirements, just be prepared as additional documents may be requested.

The complete address:

Embassy of the United States of America
1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila, 1000, Metro Manila

III. Embassy Day: What to Expect

The preliminary work is done, but the real deal is the embassy appointment day. Come to the embassy an hour to thirty minutes before your appointment time, just in case there are any unexpected mishaps.

Prior to coming to the embassy, please bear in mind that the following are not allowed inside: phones, cameras, audio or video recorders, music players, and anything with batteries (I wasn’t even allowed to bring my powerbank).

Outside the embassy there are several people waiting to offer keeping your phone for you at a negotiated fee. Just be discriminate on who you deal with–or better yet, leave your devices at home!

It’s my third time in the US embassy but I still feel that feeling of dread when I’m inside. Even if I knew chances of a denial is slim, I still get that state of stress–either because the embassy is evilly designed to promote fear to all applicants; or all the applicants give off the unsettling energy.

The queues are long and you always seem to be assigned to the sternest consular officer. Just keep calm, listen to the questions and answer truthfully. Most of all, make sure you have sufficient proof that your intentions are truthful and you have ties to your home country.

As an MBA student I was wondering why the US embassy still has not opened a deposit service-it would bring great business to them. They sell souvenir shirts inside but can’t even provide a deposit service to applicants.

Anyway, getting the US visa approved still feels like winning a lottery; especially since you get to see the people in the queue receive different colored slips.

As far as I remember, in the Philippines the green slip requires request for more information; pink means administrative review and the blue one is what you want: it means you’re approved.

IV. Other Important Information

IV. Waiting Period and Results

When you’re approved, your passport should be returned to your address via 2GO, or pick up the visa at the nearest 2GO branch. There is no need to return to the US embassy to pick up the visa. Processing times is 3 working days to one week.

Once you have your passport, you’re ready to fly off to America!

V. Upon Arrival?

It’s not the end yet though.

As soon as you arrive and get settled in the US, make sure you ‘check in’ to your school. Present your I-20, F-1 and passport to the school’s international student services office.

When you intend to travel, bring around your I-20 and F-1 visa with you at all times.

So that’s it! Admittedly, the process is very tiring and cumbersome and you need a lot of patience to go through all this on your own. But good luck, future international students and make us proud!






I remember this two-hour train ride somewhere from Connecticut to New York. I was talking to this guy about Philippine cacao beans and da Vinci’s mood swings and weighted-average cost of capital, and there was a moment when he was looking at me with this silly expression of ‘this person is really cute’. I kept thinking about it because I wouldn’t understand how someone would look at me that way, especially that I just spilled coffee all over this stranger’s suit a few minutes ago; and more so because he was listening with great intensity as I was talking about something so mundane as corporate finance.

I collect stories of spontaneous encounters and treat them like fairy tales. Once I got up the train, I knew I would never encounter the soul again; but there is something so romantic about fleeting moments. It makes me feel more human; brief reminders that I will never be in complete control of life and fate. At the same time, fleeting moments make me feel immortal; I would be forever entrenched in someone’s memory when I taught them something, when I was young, curious and feisty.


“People are impermanent. Remember this and you’ll be just fine,” is well tattooed on my mind; something I say to delude myself.

What a naive way to protect myself. I don’t think I believe in it, anymore. Having been around the world and back–in solo travel and spontaneous trips–you meet so many people but realize that authentic connections rarely happen in life.

People come and go, but that’s alright. Every human encounter touches another’s life story–whether they stay or not–you will never be the same again. Maybe it’s okay to be a little selfish and want them in your life for a longer while.


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The Runaway Bride Stigma

‘If you’re so bold, jumping on cliffs without a flinch, why do you hesitate at love?’ 

That statement from a friend sounded more like a mocking dare. Like, ‘I bet you can’t do that!’

There’s nothing quite as painful as suppressing a much-needed eye roll. I know he means well, but with equal weight I also feel he deserves more like a punch in the face.

I wanted to be more mature and philosophical as I recalled Art of Stillness.

‘Look at the household cat. By the look of his constant look of boredom, he portrays to the humans a life of monotony; if not for the occasional betrayal of evidence in the form of mutilated bird and rodent corpses here and there that tells us of murders our feline friends in their daily lives.’

‘And—that’s why you never want to get married.’

I will always be the villain in their eyes. I’ll always have that runaway bride stigma carried with me. I don’t blame that it’s not so difficult for people to forget that time when, a month before the wedding day with all the preparations set, I did a 360. No wedding is going to happen.

Not my proudest moment. But my friends bring it up occasionally, just to make fun of me . I’ll always be that ‘runaway bride’, ‘girl who’s afraid of commitment’, ‘guarding her freedom like her life depended on it’.

And then there’s this urban legend about me bringing ‘bad wedding luck’ to couples.

Hmm. maybe that’s why despite all the wedding posts on Facebook, I never get an invite.

Ten years ago I was that annoying manic pixie dream girl with paint splatters in her clothes and rolls of film in her bag. You know, the type who used to poop fireworks and rainbows as well.

I was always in a relationship. Jumping from one long-term relationship to another; the kind that lasts for years and years that people start thinking we’re going to eventually end up together. And then I jump the gun and surprise everyone. At the last minute, I realize that it wasn’t really something I wanted. For some reason, when my relationships get close to marriage, I bail out. Queue in intense disappointment from family, friends and loved ones.

The caveat with labels and stigmas: Oh, she’s the straight-A’s stellar girl; that one’s the problem child and this one’s the alpha female. The problem with assigning people (or your own children) labels is that they will tend to live up to that label, until they fall short of your expectations and you assign them a new one.

And probably that’s also my issue with boyfriends and girlfriends: they assign you to their version of a ‘perfect mate’. But in the end, people don’t truly get to know their loved ones’ souls. They dream of ‘perfect’, but perfect is shallow. They have no interest in knowing your complexities, and they pay the price with heartache.

Look at Tom and Summer.

‘You overshadow me and don’t give me a chance at the spotlight‘, an ex said. What a big amount of bullshit. It’s been a recurring theme in my relationships, men make it out like it’s a sprint marathon; and their expectations are as lofty as their egos.

I remember years ago, I got into a bad fight with one of my exes. I got a business award and he surprised me with a large bouquet in the awarding ceremony. I thanked him, but was really busy talking to other people all day. When we got home, he went all out on me because I didn’t ‘thank him enough’. I think he wanted me to swoon and keel and maybe cry a little.

That was one of the early red flags that it wouldn’t work; but unfortunately I let it pass and it ended up to be a toxic three-year-relationship with constant validation and insecurities. It’s shocking to see he started as being supportive and encouraging at first but ended up with so much resentment.

Somehow, it still had to be about him. He assigned me his concept of what I should be–and frankly, I can’t just be benched to the supporting cast.

You outgrow people. People understand, but unfortunately most exes don’t.

It’s always hard to break up with someone, more so your long-term partners. I never break up with someone unless with good cause. You started pushing them to become better versions of themselves and years down the line you end up pulling most of the weight. Most of the time, you realize that you have outgrown this person you once thought would be your life partner.

The older you get, the shorter the relationships become because you finally realize what you need; and what you can and cannot tolerate.

Maybe there will come a time when we meet that person who doesn’t make it like a competition. A person that, as Pico Iyer put it, a companion that is strange and familiar all at once; with enough change to quicken my mind, and enough steadiness to give sanctuary to my heart. A soul who feels like home and adventure all at once. Someone who gets your impulsiveness and fosters your curious spirit; a partner-in-crime who is as steady as a rock and with the same brand of crazy.

Until then, the world has enough curiosities to keep me fascinated — and a four-year-old boy who made me feel what unconditional love feels like.

home and adventure in love.jpg

2016 Cebu nightlife guide

This blog post was written on 2016.

For a lot of travelers, nightlife is ineluctably part of their itinerary. Sure, sightseeing and tours are a great way to see the city–but how do you truly know a city unless you’ve seen the night lights… unless you’ve mingled with the locals?

To upcoming tourists and travelers to Cebu, this is a comprehensive-as-possible guide on nightlife in Cebu, and on how, where and when to party when in the Queen City of the South.

party in cebu

Mind you, this guide features bars and clubs that I personally frequent–bars great for socializing, drinking and just having clean, good fun. So, this isn’t exactly the guide on bars that can help you ‘score’ some girls… sorry, not an expert in that department. Although

How to Drink and Party in Cebu?

There’s this widely known credence that Asians ‘can’t drink’… but this does not apply to Filipinos. The men have beer as drink accompaniment with their meals–breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether you are in the city or the province, you can walk around and will see groups of men huddled in a table, drinking together. They will often invite you to drink with them.

Filipinos love their beer and alcohol. Beer is the poison of choice for most Filipinos. In more formal occasions such as family gatherings where the titas and titos are sure to make an appearance, then they will take out their wine glasses. Otherwise, gin, rum and beer are a safe bet. Filipinos drink to get drunk. Period.

It’s amazing to see how many activities Filipinos can do intoxicated–they can drive, cook, go to work, and do their errands while under the influence of alcohol. It’s not something we’d recommend though.

Tagayan‘ is popular especially among Vis-Min area, a manner of drinking wherein instead of separate glasses for every drinker, only one cup is used and passed around. I know, it sounds very unsafe and unsanitary, but this is how Filipinos bond and show camaraderie.


Filipinos like to drink with some food, known as ‘pulutan‘. These are often fatty deep-fried foods like chicken skin, sisig or nuts.

Karaoke is another popular nightlife activity, as majority of the Filipino population aspire to become famous singer-celebrities someday.

In Cebu, EDM or electro dance music is the preference of most partygoers, although the hiphop/r&b scene is slowly gaining momentum lately. A lot of visitors complain that Filipino bars and clubs tend to be ‘too loud’, where you can barely hear or speak to each other.

Cebu parties start late and end late. The clubs start getting packed by midnight. The party usually starts to subside by 3AM, although on high peak season party could last until 5-6Am.

It’s customary for partygoers to eat after-party, to regenerate some lost energy. Cebuano’s favorite post-party food of choice is bulalo. Other favorites include siomai and puso, ramen or noodles, silog (breakfast) food at Gian’s or fast food like Jollibee or McDonald’s. Cebuanos don’t care much about eating healthy…

When to Party in Cebu?

There seems to be an annual trend in the party scene in Cebu, with a high peak and low peak season–plan your trip accordingly. The night scene is pretty dead during the summer school break, around on April time, before it starts to pick up again during July when school season starts and tourists coming in. It gets even busier during ‘-ber’ months, peaking on December and January, before winding down again on February.

The best time to come to Cebu to party is during December to January, which is holiday season leading up to Sinulog season. Cebuanos are on ‘party mood’ during this time, as many balikbayans and overseas relatives come home during the holiday season. This means an endless string of christmas parties, reunions, homecomings, family parties, and more. Lechon, lechon, lechon. And plenty of Jose Mari Chan.

Sinulog is a different experience on its own that i would like to immortalize in a separate future blog post. But it’s definitely something one needs to experience, to get to know what Cebu party life and hospitality is all about. I met the best people and had the best experience every Sinulog!


Off-peak season is a bit trickier. Unlike major Asian cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong or Manila where something’s always happening every day of the week, Cebu City still has some sleepy days. Nightlife is pretty good on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Saturdays being the busiest time of the week.

On Wednesdays, the most popular activity is Salsa Nights at MAYA, a Mexican restaurant of the Abaca Group in Crossroads, Banilad. Salsa night is every Wednesdays from 9PM to 12PM every Wednesdays. The crowd is hip and international, sharing the same love for latin music.

Where to Party?

Cebu nightlife is colorful, lively and loud. Filipinos  always have energy to go out and mingle.

  • LIV Superclub

LIV is the biggest nightclub in Cebu offers a club experience set at international standard. Famous local and international EDM DJs have played here, including Otto Knows, Dirty South, EVO-K and more. Even the Maria Ozawa has graced her presence here!

LIV Superclub is located at The Times Square, Mandaue City, Cebu. There is usually an entrance fee of Php300.

(photos grabbed from the LIV Superclub FB page)

  • Distillery

distillery crossroads cebu

Distillery is the default drinking place of choice for the people within my crowd. Distillery is located in the Crossroads, Banilad Cebu City. I could easily go there any day of the week alone, not make plans with anyone, and still find a friend or acquaintance lurking by (looking at you, Jedd and Alvin…).

The problem with Distillery is it can get a bit… clique-ish, because everyone knows everyone in here. It’s still a nice place to have drinks and listen to good music though.


  • The Sentral

The Sentral is Cebu’s first all-hiphop bar and lounge, providing the best of hiphop and R&B music in Cebu.The Sentral is located at Norkis Cyberpark, AS Fortuna, Mandaue.

  • Maya

Maya Mexican Restaurant is part of the Abaca group of restaurants and located in The Crossroads, Banilad, Cebu City.

Come to Maya at Wednesdays, when the second floor transforms into a salsa dance floor! Wednesday salsa nights attract a lively and international crowd. Maya Restaurant the best mojitos in town–which is 2-for-1 on salsa night! Starting mid-2016, Maya also has Salsa Sundays with 2-for-1 margaritas!

maya mexican restaurant cebu philippines

  • The Social

The Social is a restaurant and cafe by day, and a bar lounge by night. A lot of expats and foreign tourists prefer The Social because of its location and convenience, located in the 4F Ayala Center Cebu. They have Havana Nights on Tuesdays and one can also easily make friends by just chilling on the bar and watch football.

  • Ibiza

Ibiza Beach Club is a chic bar and lounge located in Movenpick Resort, Mactan. Modeled after the actual Ibiza in Spain, it offers a unique drinking and dining experience with a breathtaking ocean view. They have happy hour everyday from 3-5pm where drinks are 2-in-1, and have a lovely view of the sunset too.

Ibiza is one of my favorite spots in Cebu and would be here more frequently if it wasn’t so far away from the city central.

  • Morals and Malice

Morals and Malice is a posh and stylish lounge bar located about the Tinder Box, and right beside The Crossroads, Banilad. The interiors are a work of art, masterfully crafted by the famed Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue himself.

The bar’s interesting namesake is based on the two-part, yin-and-yang concept nature of the establishment. Half of the place will be serving coffee and brunch (Morals), whereas the Malice part serves drinks and cocktails.

Image from The Inquirer
  • Mango Ave

I am not an expert when it comes to the party scene in Mango, but I’ve stumbled here on rare occasions when I already had that much to drink to make it ‘okay’ for me to venture out here. Something’s always going on in Mango–popular bars are J-Ave and Alchology. Things always seem to get weird here, one way or another… It’s definitely not boring though.

  • Other Chill Drink Areas

For wine nights, La Vie Parisienne and Ampersand are personal favorites. La Vie is affordable, while Ampersand is the more high-end choice with great food choices. Marriott Hotel offers unlimited wine on the evenings for only Php699/head, and is conveniently located beside Ayala Mall. Gusto Urban Deli + Cafe, District 53rd and Planet Grapes are also good choices.

Cebu has a growing number of pubs around the city to accommodate the growing population of expats and foreign visitors coming in. Aside from The Social, Marshall’s Irish Pub and Emerald Isle are recommended pubs to watch football or rugby (or your sport of choice).

For cocktails, I think Bellini is beautiful and underrated-this champagne lounge is located beside Anzani Restaurant in Nivel Hills, Lahug and offers a nice view. I’d recommend this place if you want some privacy or a quiet date night.

Bellini (image source: Zee Lifestyle)

Other Nighttime Activities

Not really a party animal? There’s still tons of activities to do in Cebu when the sun goes down. If you enjoy singing as much as most Filipinos do, karaoke is a good nighttime activity. There aren’t many hookah bars in Cebu–although I’ve seen some in IT Park (Figola) and in Times Square, Mandaue City.

If you’re a self-proclaimed geek, you will enjoy trivia nights, slogos nights and board game nights which happen on various days of the week. Cebu Trivia Night is every Wednesdays at Alejandro’s and every Thursdays at Politics. Slogos Night is every Wednesdays at Monkey’s Belly and every Friday’s at Handuraw Kasambagan. Tabletop Nights allow you to play board games with fellow enthusiasts, held every Mondays at Bubble Bee Tea House Escario Central.