My new passion project: Out and Abroad

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After mulling about this for the longest time, I FINALLY started my passion project – a blog collective called “Out and Abroad” for all those like me who are already living and working abroad or thinking about making that big move.

Ever since I moved to Singapore I’ve noticed the lack of blogs or articles that chronicle real stories of real people (especially Asians) about this topic. Culture shock. Intercultural relationships. Work permits. Landlords. But so many people, both friends and strangers, have always approached or emailed me asking for advice. My vision for Out and Abroad is to be a blog collective and a platform to broadcast stories for like minded individuals. 

The reality is that more people are becoming ‘global citizens’ but no one is really talking about what that means on a personal level. The struggle is real. Haha.

Don’t worry. I’ll still be using ForeignFilipina as my personal blog (it will never go away!) My sister has asked me what’s the difference. My reply is that Out and Abroad is not about me. It’s about the community I want to build.

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Anyway, I hope you guys can help me out in two ways.

1) Like our Facebook page

2)  I’m looking for contributors, particularly Asian women. Please let me know if you know someone who might be interested or write to us at outandabroad@gmail.com.

Thanks :)

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Letting go and lighting the way at the Yipeng Lantern Festival

SAMSUNG CSC Over time we become attached to people and places, beliefs and burdens, things and trepidations because they become our markers for meaning. A point of reference for us to gauge who we are.

But what happens when we evolve? Do our attachments hold us back or enable us to grow? Letting go is one of the hardest things to learn. 

This was how I felt after releasing 1 out of 3,000 paper lanterns, which lit the sky on fire when I went to the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai last year. What started out as something to check off my bucket list became an exercise in letting go. Yipeng5It all happened so fast.

My journey to Chiang Mai started as a spur of the moment decision. I’ve always wanted to attend the Lantern Festival, but I wasn’t available for the international festival date. Luckily my sister who was already in Thailand messaged me the local date, which was happening only a few days away!

After some internal debate about the cost I ended up booking anyway just one day before my departure. And even though buying 4 airplane tickets for a 2 day trip and sleeping overnight at the airport might not be practical, I knew that once-in-a-life-time experiences never are.

Afterwards, every moment leading up to the festival was about waiting.

We waited underneath our makeshift tent of scarves, in the scorching sun, for more than 6 hours. SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSC We waited until the procession of monks indicated the start of the ceremony. Yipeng3 Even when the speakers blasted, “Do not light your lantern until we give the signal,” we waited some more.

Our patience was growing thin so we passed time by chanting along with the monks while shifting our weight between kneeling positions. Then finally the loudspeaker blasted the signal. We could finally spark our lanterns. SAMSUNG CSC I was so engrossed in the moment of trying to light my lantern that I almost forgot to look up at the sky. But when I did I was speechless yet overcome with awe and rapture. YiPeng One-by-one the lanterns floated into horizon, like messengers of goodwill delivering our wishes to the universe above; a surreal sea of floating lanterns; a sky burning at the seams with positive energy. I felt so alive witnessing gratitude and hope multiplied by the thousands of wishes floating in the sky.Yipeng4 Me? Well, I held onto my lantern long enough to channel all the people and places, beliefs and burdens, things and trepidations that no longer mattered to me into the fire. Yipeng2 Then I let go not only of my lantern but also of all the parts of my life that don’t serve me anymore. Because I realised that if we don’t let go, hope will never be free to light the way. And if I didn’t let go, I wouldn’t have felt so alive.

Beyond the skyline – A Singapore beach getaway

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On the not so distant islands of St John and Lazarus, just off the coast of Sentosa Cove, we discovered a place where the Singapore skyline meets the sea. An anonymous piece of city paradise to actually dig our toes into the sand and wade in all shades of aquamarine.

The beach isn’t decorated with sun-kissed locals who live off the sea. No bangkas nor wooden boats delivered coconut juice or San Miguel beer up to our boatstep. Instead we found city folk kickin’ back their Havaianas for a day trip of frolicking in their bikinis, with tan lines leaving a mark on their air con weathered skin.

For my friends it was a welcome break from the concrete corporate playground we know Singapore to be. While the beach doesn’t compare to those back home in the Philippines, it was lovely to actually be able to jump off the boat and melt into one of the untouched coastlines in the city. Even until now, after 3 years of living here, Singapore can still surprise and delight. Two islands – St. John’s and Lazarus island – beyond the skyline and a beach getaway just a short ferry or boat ride away.

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Tips and Tricks for Managing Your Money While Traveling

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 4.14.06 pmI’ll be honest. Managing money is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Yes, I can easily save and spend. But it’s being aware of my spending habits and understanding how to make my money really work for me that takes a lot of trial and error.

Luckily, traveling is the best teacher for stubborn people like me who learn best from experience, both good and bad. I call it baptism by fire, especially when you find yourself shortchanged with almost a week left in your trip in a country that doesn’t really accept credit cards. Trust me, it happens and you too can survive.

In the last couple of years I’ve traveled in groups, pairs, alone, for the weekend, over a week, on business and for pleasure. I’m not an expert, but hopefully you can learn from some of my tips below.

Managing your money starts before you trip

Research. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but researching the costs and expenses will give you less of a headache on the road. You don’t need to budget for everything. After all, the best part of traveling is being spontaneous.

But you should know the basics and set aside money for it, like the cost of a hotel and hostel, and most importantly, any airport fees that will potentially prevent you from flying back home or to your next destination.

I freaked out once when I was traveling alone because I was looking at a guidebook that said I needed to pay airport tax, which I didn’t have enough money set aside for. Luckily, that book was outdated and I got home just fine

Tip: Always have a contingency plan. If you can, set aside an extra hundred dollars as an emergency fund. Don’t change it unless you absolutely have to.

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Plan for what you like to splurge on

You should be able to enjoy yourself while traveling and sometimes that means spending a little bit more on the experiences that make you happy. Whether it’s food, shopping, massages, tours or museums, don’t feel guilty about spending that extra dollar or two.  Plan for it. When is the next time you’ll be in that country? The chances of running into the same store with that adorable handicraft again are slim. Also, be conscious about what other people in the group don’t like spending on (like tips) to prevent any potential disagreement.

Tip: Check what’s the custom in the country that you’re visiting. Is it normal to tip and if so how much is the going rate?

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When to use your credit card

It’s best practice to always have cash on hand but don’t carry everything around. Predict and only carry how much you will need for that day. This helps to prevent you from spending too much all at once.

But your credit card is a safety net and security blanket. While I try to charge as little as possible, be practical and assess every situation. Charge if you have a big expense and need the extra cash because you’ve just begun your trip. I do find charging a good way to keep track of expenses especially when you’re in a big group and need people to reimburse you later on.

Tip: Remember to authorize your card for overseas transactions or use a bitcoin wallet like Xapo that helps you spend money in a secure and convenient way while traveling.

Have a tracking system when in big groups

When traveling in groups of 3 or more set up a kitty or a pool of money that’s contributed by everyone. This can be used for shared expenses like food and transportation.

Tip: Not all countries or activities give you receipts like taking a tuktuk for transportation in South East Asia so make sure you consciously note down all your expenses.

What are your tips and tricks? Share in the comments.

For the love of food, travel and social

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Hello! I just wanted to drop in and say that I’m still alive. My vacation is over and I’m getting into the full swing of the New Year. After spending the holidays in Manila, and 1 week back at work in Singapore, I flew to India for my friend’s wedding – my first ever Indian wedding! It was one week of color and chaos, aloo and masala, poverty and palaces. I can’t wait to write more about it but in the mean time you can check out my instagram @senorica where I’m still spamming pictures from my trip.

Work has been crazy busy, but the good kind. I’m handling social media for new clients in two of my favourite industries – food and travel. It’s a lot of work but I’m learning a lot and having fun. It’s hard to get off vacation mode when I’m writing content about beautiful destinations and crafting content strategy! I feel incredibly lucky to have this chance for my interests to intersect. I constantly look back, trying to connect the dots, but I realised that you need to have experience and exposure in order to form those dots in the first place. Then suddenly all the confusion, restlessness and hardships of the last few years makes sense because it has brought me here to this junction.

Anyway, I can’t believe January is over already. I hope the first month of the year has been a good kind of busy for you too.

SOLE SISTERS: The Bali Life at the Tjendana Villas

I haven’t set foot in Bali since I was a kid. The name triggers fond memories of my beaded rastafarian braids, punching the waves and transforming into a sand mermaid.
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But when I recently went back for a weekend escape from busy Singapore I experienced Bali in a different light. I soaked up the beach in the day, got some vitamin sea and retired to the beautiful and tranquil villas for some alone time at night.
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Ah, this is the idyllic ‘Bali life’ my 7-year old self had yet to experience when she grew up!

I stayed in 2 of the Tjendana Villas, a collection of 6 different villas scattered in various locations in Bali. While each experience was unique and caters to various travelers, I was pleasantly surprised at how all the rooms were still part of the same Balinese way of life. Dampati for big groups of friends and family. Lembongan for a peaceful escape from bustling areas of Kuta and Seminyak.

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Nirwana for a tranquil ocean view. Tjendana for a convenient yet comfortable place near to the airport. For my weekend trip in Bali, the Kunti and Club villas made the short stay worth it.
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The Kunti Villas – a stylish and tranquil sanctuary

The first thing I noticed after settling in after a late flight was the cozy veranda next to the private pool. This was perfect for lazing around and reading a book while eating my complimentary breakfast of Indonesian mi goreng noodles.

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It was thoughtful of the Kunti Villas to decorate the four poster bed inside the room with yellow daisy petals. The layout of the open-concept bathroom was a little unusual, with the toilet slightly hidden from the sink and the bath tub.

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While I’m fond of getting a massage by the beach, the private one given in the comfort of my own villa changed my mind because it was fuss free and relaxing.

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The Club Villas at the heart of Seminyak

The Club villas is perfect for those visiting Bali for a short weekend, but longing for somewhere private yet convenient. The airport is less than 30 minutes away, so you don’t have to rush for early morning flights. If you want to shop, dine and go clubbing, all you need to do is step outside of your villa. While the street side is busy, everything turns quiet once you’re inside the premises.

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The room is more modern than Kunti, but equally as comfortable and luxurious with a bigger room. The veranda and kitchenette is just outside with a couch and table for entertaining friends or kicking back after a swim in the private pool.
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The staff were extremely accommodating. They helped me book a car for the day so that I could go swimming at Canggu beach (a good surf spot), visit a traditional coffee plantation and Tanah Lot (a temple by the sea).
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A new Bali experience

For more than 10 years Bali was nothing more than a childhood memory. As a popular destination to escape the city life among working professionals in Singapore and for weddings, I always wondered what my next experience would be like. Thanks to my weekend getaway at the Tjendana Villas, I could get used to the Bali life – a laidback surrounding to indulge my every desire.

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Bali Dreamin’,
Sole Sister Rica

View original post here.

The different phases of Ikea

"I didn't know I needed all this stuff until I went to Ikea."

Buying furniture is the first step in making your apartment feel like a home, but it’s practiced in various phases of an expat’s life.

Bare basics:  “I need to stop eating my dinner from the floor.”

Storage: “How can I store all my crap?!”

Settling: “I might be in x country longer than I thought I would be.”

Nesting: “I need to make a home away from home.”

Ikea noob: “I didn’t know I needed all this stuff until I went to Ikea!”

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Moving, 2012

Last weekend my sister and I made a trip down to Ikea to buy new furniture for our home. It was somewhere between settling and nesting. We’ve been to Ikea a few times in the last two years, but this time was kind of a big deal. When you live abroad the concept of home is always temporary. How much time, money and effort you put into furnishing a home shows how long you envision to stay. The less you invest, the easier it is to move on, both mentally and physically. Buying a table is not only about buying a table. It represents roots, having something to leave behind or bring along depending on the next venture in life. Traveling teaches us to pack light for the transient ride but migrating makes it necessary to unpack the boxes even if you’ll eventually end up leaving again.

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Settled in, 2014

Buying furniture makes you think about how serious you are with where you are. It’s not something we take seriously within the first year because we’re still experimenting and having fun. But I guess after you pass the 2 year mark it’s only natural to start deliberating, planning and in this case, start decorating.

A weekend stroll in Penang (Part 2) #Coffee shops

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After spending a day strolling around in the hot sun you reach for something cool: a mug of beer, a can of soda, or a glass of water. Your choice of drink is convenient at the moment, just a few steps away to the nearest bar or street vendor. When my sister and I were in Georgetown, Penang, our oasis from the heat was coffee. The cafes were everywhere.

Honestly, we were surprised. Café hopping was not part of the itinerary. We were here for the street food and street art — what Georgetown is known for. Maybe the wave of hipster coffee is finally hitting this town (like in Singapore). But secretly I’m hoping that the scene will stay true to the joy of discovering our beloved coffee shops by chance. Our trip to Penang was exactly that kind of serendipitous encounter. These were 3 of my favourite café’s.

Purrfect for relaxing

The cat café was my sister’s idea. Proof that there are other ways to relax in a café beyond reading a book or Instagraming the whole afternoon away.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of cats. Unlike dogs I feel like they are too slinky to cuddle with. But admittedly spending around an hour with these furry felines was not a bad idea. The trick is waking them up or catching them before they run away.

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Got coffee? 

B&W café is literally a cardboard coffee shop. Everything is made out of cardboard with black marker scribbles. It reminds me of playing make believe as a kid. Instead of forts and barricades were coffee tables and chairs assembled from boxes.

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Out of all the coffee shops that I have visited and reviewed B&W is definitely the most unique concept. And the coffee ain’t bad too, especially when they come in these adorable coffee cartons.

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Later that night we took the same route back to our hotel. To our surprise (we really shouldn’t be at this point), some café’s came out of hiding from their hole-in-the-wall. There was no façade, no pretentiousness, which usually accompanies new coffee shops these days.

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Bikes and coffee

For our late night cap we dropped by Wheeler’s Coffee. Nowadays cafe’s are not only about the coffee anymore, but your hobbies as well. Cafe cum bike shops are not that uncommon in Singapore, but Wheeler’s coffee in Penang was my first taste of how the scene is evolving. Even at night this place is bustling with energy and despite our exhaustion, my sister and I ended our last night on a high.

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This is the second part in a photoblog series about my weekend in Penang. Watch this space. Some pictures by Pia Facundo.

A weekend stroll in Penang (Part 1) #StreetArt

Georgetown is a quiet, charming town in Penang, Malaysia where time slows down. A place for art, coffee and food – the perfect ingredients to relax excessively without guilt. Thankfully, it makes a short weekend trip with my sister feel a lot longer than 2 days.

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We take leisurely walks under the hot sun, following the street art trail left by Lithuania-born Ernest Zacharevic and other artists. Zacharevic’s style is playful and distant. Unlike Banksy, whose satirical drawings provoke, Ernest’s paintings feel like an almost forgotten childhood. Memories that restlessly linger in the streets of Penang.

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We also shoot snippets of every day life along the way. A mundane street is like that quiet person people say you gotta watch out for. Detached from afar but infinitely interesting up close.  Every sight, sound, and shadow is a window to the city’s soul.

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Scribblings on a wall can tell you about the city’s hopes and dreams,

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struggles and frustration.

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Or give you a glimpse into their daily grind.

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As a tourist, I can either blend into the background,

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Luckily, in Penang I can be both.

This is the first part in a photoblog series about my weekend in Penang. Watch this space. Some pictures by Pia Facundo.

SOLE SISTERS: Life Beyond the ‘Life Changing’ Solo Trip

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It was the last night of my solo trip across Saigon and Siem Reap. The late night breeze at the airport kept me company while I drifted in-and-out of sleep on the cold, metal bench with only my backpack as a pillow and shawl as a blanket. I was thankful for the down time to finish my book and muse before my flight back to Singapore or in other words, reality.

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When I first started this journey I was liberated from a corporate job that wasn’t necessarily for me. But (over) thinking my next step made me anxious. You know that quote by Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both?” That’s the story of my life. Every crossroad is paved with opportunities, I know. But if you’re like me, the hardest part is deciding which dream to chase and forego.

Sometimes passion has multiple lovers.

Subconsciously I expected my first solo trip to change my life; to ironically give me both a temporary escape from reality and a magical eureka moment that I was looking for to help me take the road less traveled by – a path in pursuit of my own human truth. Because 10 years later, I did not want to feel ‘wasted’ or ‘regret’ about the choices I did not take. Yes, I was restless, which is why I was excited to use that pent up energy for traveling instead of worrying about my future.

But what I discovered was not typically ‘life changing.’  

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The adventure began in Saigon, Vietnam, a place that’s a mix of being rural in the city. It’s simultaneously chaotic and slow paced from the mob of motorbikes to people literally just chilling and drinking coffee in the middle of the road. 

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This grit and chaos reminded me of what I loved about my hometown of Manila, but it was also my first indication of how I have changed since moving from third to first world. I realized that Vietnam and I were both in the verge of becoming, more refined, structured, and globalized, yet still raw, uninhibited and dynamic at its core.

I was witness to both Saigon’s progress and my own. 

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On the other hand, driving 100km out to the Mekong Delta on the back of a Vespa was my much needed break from the city, away from the chaos to be comforted by nature’s solitude. To be still with the murmur of the bike in motion put me at ease. It was midway through my trip where I could finally hear myself clearly. 

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So by the time I arrived in Cambodia, the next leg of my journey, I was lost in my own reverie. Despite the 15-hour bus ride from Saigon to Siem Reap, I woke up at 5AM the next day to catch the eternal shades of the Angkor Wat sunrise. I spent the next 3 days and 2 nights, exploring the temples in solitary bliss. –

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Indeed I felt free, happy, and at peace, but surprisingly it wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling.

While I wasn’t intending to socialize during my trip, my ‘me time’ was interrupted when I met this wise French backpacker whom I kept crossing paths with. It was a timely encounter, as the conversation we shared over a few rounds of beers concluded my not-so-life-changing-epiphany during this trip. 

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“What’s contentment?”, he asked me rhetorically. 

Before I could answer, he said that happiness is contentment. But nowadays, people forget what this means, he said, because we always want more — money, power and success. 

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The conversation stayed with me for the rest of my trip as I reflected on my impending crossroad, the dreams that I wanted to chase and the life that I envisioned for myself. I’m a free spirit at heart, someone who would rather spend on experiences than designer labels. I knew that it’s the simple pleasures, and not money, that makes us happy and content. But on the other hand, I’m also an ambitious and idealistic person who wants to make a name for myself, and change the world.

Can I be both?

By this time I knew that my first solo trip wasn’t typically life changing. Rather, the long days of solitude gave me the space to be honest with what I already knew to be true. It was the kind of self-actualization that persists over time, yet did not surprise me once it arrived. 

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I love to travel, but I can feel free, independent and content even when I’m not on the road. My solo trip re-affirmed the decisions that I’ve already made in my life so far, like leaving Manila to work in Singapore, and joining the corporate world instead of becoming a journalist. It was tough at first, but the decision was always mine. Ironically, I started this trip free from the corporate world only to cut it short to rejoin it. The difference? The next job was something I looked forward to doing.

Now that I’ve transitioned back to reality I feel more at ease. I don’t need to be on the road to experience freedom or independence. I know that life beyond a ‘life changing solo trip’ is to keep making it life changing.

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The adventure doesn’t have to end when you get back to reality. 


I need to continue exploring the uncharted and often challenging territories of my life with the same sense of wonder and mindfulness that I have while traveling. I know that it’s ultimately my choice to pursue what I really want: to balance my love for traveling and ambition to succeed and constantly learn in my career. It’s possible to have both.

So wherever I go, whatever I do in my next career move— I will be happy and grateful. I will find the simple serendipities during the daily grind that will keep me balanced and happy.

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Read original article on We Are Sole Sisters here.