New Year, New Me?

I’ve been doing a lot of my blogging over at Kikay Runner these days as that persona has evolved to become my public face. But I still keep this blog around. Why? Maybe to remind myself that regardless of how much running/triathlon/fitness is a big part of my life, there’s more to me than just that.

However, when a dear friend asked me once “What is it you do for fun?” all I had to answer him was the stuff I currently do anyway: running, racing, blogging, reading, traveling. I’m not sure if I have more bandwidth to do other things. Sure, I do indulge in everyone else’s pastime of binging on series over streaming services; it’s a way of unwinding for me. But that’s basically it for me aside from spending time with family and friends. (I blame Metro Manila traffic for draining away what other time I have.)

I feel like there’s huge pressure to do, and do, and do, and do. “Turn hobbies into hustles. Ensure every minute is productive. If you work from home then you surely have more time to come up with new ideas or to implement them.”

This sort of mindset has choked me so much that I end up pushing the other way. I spend entire days doing “nothing” too mentally drained to use my brain so I just put work off until the next day. Thankfully the nature of my job allows me to work in short sprints when motivation and energy is high, but everything I understand from productivity books tells me this is unsustainable and unreliable. And yet the downtime is the space I need to “clean house” so I can work undistracted.

So just to make sure I stay on track with work things as well as stay sane, at the start of the year I did tarted doing something I haven’t done in a long time: I wrote my to-do lists down.

As someone who has redeemed countless Starbucks planners and have only gotten as far as March in each of them, I’m reusing an old planner, scratching out the dates and just using the paper as somewhere to write down ideas and keep track. (Something about writing stuff down for specific dates always made me anxious and averse to my old planners. I guess the hipster inside me likes not actually using weekly calendar pages for their intended purpose.)

I don’t have to look at this everyday, but in general it’s a way to set goals and make thoughts concrete.

I’m about to open this “planner” up again after two weeks and know I can cross some things off certain to-do lists. I will also start some new lists for the next month, and next, and next. So hopefully this is the beginning of an actual system I can use consistently. It gives me space to unwind and recharge but still helps me stay on track.

Will check back in here in a few weeks just to stay accountable and see if this works. LOL. I do need to start writing about things other than running, and it’s nice not having to promote my posts on here. They’re still public to read, but not really part of whatever livelihood I earn.

/end word vomit

My Facebook Info Was Stolen by Cambridge Analytica

I woke up this morning to my friends checking if they were one of the over 1 million Filipinos whose data had been stolen by Cambridge Analytica. The Philippines was the second hardest-hit country in the data leak. With news reports investigating if CA had a hand in influencing the Philippine national elections, many people came to the (largely incorrect) conclusion that if your data was leaked, you were then “brainwashed” into voting for a certain candidate.

It’s not that straightforward. Here’s how I understand what could have happened to our data (and yes, I was one of those whose information was scraped). Check if your Facebook account was affected.
Facebook shows you if your info was shared with Cambridge Analytica

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Battle of the Pepper Steaks

BattleofPepper Steaks

I enjoy fast food every now and then. What I like about the Pinoy fast food scene is the focus on rice meals, which are closer to home-cooked meals that give people the feeling of satiety and satisfaction. (A lot of Filipinos don’t feel a meal is complete without rice; a burger sandwich, then, is just a “snack”.)

The latest battlefield in the Pinoy fast food wars is on the front of burger steaks. Read more

The Aging Millennial Goes to a Rally

I have gone to protest rallies only twice in my life.

The first time was in 2001. I was 17 years old, in my third year at the University of the Philippines. I had not had the opportunity to vote in the recent election, having been too young. Yet President Joseph “Erap” Estrada in his two years had attempted to bury the disgraced deceased dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, then committed flagrant corruption. At that point, he was in the midst of impeachment hearings, but with senators voting not to open a second envelope of evidence against him it looked like he was about to get away with impunity.

We weren’t about to let that happen. And so I trooped with my batchmates and other fellow students from Diliman on foot to the EDSA Shrine to join what would be dubbed as People Power 2 or EDSA Dos. That evening, my parents, sister, and I rejoined the rally. The next day, Erap resigned and his vice-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in to replace him.

This rally was an object lesson to me about the power of peaceful uprisings, a gift that the Filipino people had shown the world was possible during the first EDSA People Power.

(Of course, several years hence we see that Arroyo was in her own way corrupt. Politics is dirty business, after all.)

The second time I joined a protest rally was last Wednesday, fittingly on Bonifacio Day commemorating the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, a national hero who led the revolution against Spanish oppression. I am now 33 years old, university a distant memory. I’ve had opportunity to vote in three presidential elections. The last one was the most contentious and most toxic one, given the extremist rhetoric of the man who was eventually elected president, Rodrigo Duterte. I have since distanced myself from friends who supported him, given his favoring of summary executions and his unholy alliance with Ferdinang “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who lost the vice-presidential election to Leni Robredo.

November 30

“Andres would have been here.”

This rally was not a call to oust Duterte; rather, it protested his collusion with attempts to rehabilitate the Marcos name and image, revise history, and depict the Marcos dictatorship as the golden years of this country. The end result the Marcoses seek is their return to the highest seat of power in the land so they can rule with impunity once more.

November 30

Millennials taking up the cudgels

November 30

“Temperamental brats”

November 30

Lighters now replaced with smartphone lights

Truth be told, I found it bittersweet that those who had once been student activists back in the 70’s to 80’s were now saying they were passing the torch of resistance on to the millennials. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” it is said — and apparently we have not been vigilant enough with the Marcoses once again knocking on the doors of Malacanang.

The first rally I went to, I was the age of those who now populated the second rally. I’m still what they call a “millennial” albeit one of the older ones. (Market segmentation would call me an “aging millennial”.) Still young enough to rock a funny sign that formed part of news coverage montages about youth involvement in the rallies, but old enough to remember the decades of recovery and unrest that followed after toppling Martial Law.

I grew up enjoying the human freedoms and rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, which was crafted as a safeguard against dictatorship. Yet now we’re on the precipice of losing those once again because the propaganda goes, “EDSA wasn’t effective in changing Philippine society so maybe we should just go back to the Marcoses.”

I attended the rally because I still believe in the legitimacy of People Power in deposing a dictator. Whatever happened in the years after, the freedoms and rights that People Power returned to us must be defended. Oppression must be resisted.

I just can’t believe we’re still rallying against this shit.

Don’t Panic: My Quest for Coldplay Tickets

I don’t normally write about music because I am not as much of an aficionado as music bloggers out there. I also don’t really have a diverse range of artists I listen to. But when I do listen to an artist, you can bet I have listened to most of their back catalogue of songs and would love to see them perform live.

Coldplay is one of those bands I’ve listened to over the years. While I can’t say I’ve grown up with their music (I was already in my late teens when they broke out with their album “Parachutes”), their songs were the soundtrack to much of my adult life. So when they finally announced dates for the Asian leg of their “A Head Full of Dreams” tour, I knew I had to get on the ticket train.


In the same vein that I listen just to music, I don’t follow music industry news nor gossip columns — which is why I failed to pick up on the fact that “A Head Full of Dreams” is said to be Coldplay’s last album and this could be the last time the band goes on tour. This, aside from the Coldplay drought in the region for so many years, has driven demand for tickets sky-high.  Read more

How to Waste 9 Hours at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

By a sheer stroke of (bad) luck, my flight to Germany a few weeks ago was booked via China Southern Airlines and had THE WORST layover times: 9 hours in Guangzhou, and 9 hours in Paris Charles de Gaulle. This turned what could normally be a 21-hour trip into a 36-hour nightmare that seemed never-ending.

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Hello, Paris Airport.

I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad to be stuck at CdG had I not had to go through the 9-hour layover in Guangzhou before boarding a 12-hour flight to Paris. Free wifi at the airport but stuck behind the Great Firewall meant it was a huge ordeal trying to browse the internet or even blog, which was what I had planned to do. No Google, no Facebook, no Flickr… I ended up subscribing to a VPN service just to Facetime my family back home in Manila.

China Southern to Paris

so much legroom!

cloudy landing in Paris

cloudy landing in Paris

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Air France planes at Paris Charles de Gaulle

The flight to Paris was uneventful: I was knocked out even before take-off in a great window seat that had tons of leg room. We landed around 7am Paris time and my onward flight to Munich was scheduled for around 4pm.

While you might think that’s a decent amount of time to get to the city center and maybe see the Eiffel Tower or the Arc du Triomphe, I had these things to consider…  Read more

Noelle in Bavaria: Munich

Because I took so long to write this next post in the series, I ended up going on a second trip to Germany this year! Let’s see if I can keep things straight while trying to write about the previous visit to Munich, though.

I arrived on a train from Regensburg into Munich Main Station (Hauptbahnhof). It is a MASSIVE rail transportation hub with trains coming and going not just from Bavaria, but all over Germany and even to other cities in Europe via international high-speed trains. The main platforms contain the regional and international trains, while another subterranean area contains the S-Bahn city trains. A few steps outside the door and you’ll find the U-Bahn (tram) and bus lines.

a panoramic view of the main platform Munich Train Station

a panoramic view of the main platform

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Noelle in Bavaria: Regensburg

Regensburg is just a train ride away from Nuremberg, so the day after the Roth festivities I boarded the S2 from Roth to head back to Nuremberg Main Station, where I would change to get on a regional express. I had already pre-booked my Bayern ticket, so all I needed to do was show my printout and the credit card I’d used to book it to the ticket inspector.

(While there are no turnstiles at the train stations, it’s really not advisable to travel on the German trains without a ticket — the fines are punitive!)

It took about an hour to get to Regensberg, which was earlier than the estimated time shown on my DB Navigator app. Apparently, I had boarded a different regional express that had less stops. Happy accidents 🙂

My lodging in Regensburg was a bed-and-breakfast called the Castle Hotel. No it wasn’t a castle, but it was located right next to the Palace St. Emmeran house of Thurn und Taxis. It was less than a kilometer’s walk from the train station, although dragging my luggage on the cobblestone streets the last few hundred meters was a bone-jarring experience.

The reason I chose the Castle Hotel is that it was right on the edge of Regensburg’s Old Town, the reason Regensburg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Culture Town. The Castle Hotel is a refurbished old house, and as such it had no elevator and very steep stairs. But the good thing is my room had an en suite bathroom instead of a shared bathroom you might see in other European hotels. The bed was comfy, the pillows soft, and the air through my shuttered windows cool, so after walking about my area of Old Town to familiarize myself with it and find dinner, I crashed and slept well.

The next morning I woke up to a great breakfast spread. I had my choice of eggs, yogurt, cold cuts, and breads prepared by Castle Hotel’s proprietor.

breakfast in Bavaria

I was relieved to bite into a soft croissant — most breads in Germany are a bit harder. (Notice the Bavarian emblem on the decorative bowl.)


An omelette is a great way to start the day and stay full until lunchtime.

I had mistakenly brought along the keys from my homestay in Roth, so I needed to find a Deutsche Post office to mail it back to them. (Lucky I discovered my mistake while I was still in Germany instead of halfway home to Manila!) I used the Castle Hotel’s fast WiFi to do my research on DP branches and found that it was right across the Regensburg Cathedral (or Dom St. Peter). So off I went on two feet to explore.

The post office staff were very helpful even if they said they spoke “only a little English.” They helped me choose which kind of box to package the keys in and gave me a small envelope as an extra layer of protection for the keys. So into the mailbox that went, and I headed out to explore the rest of Old Town.

The thing with coming from the Philippines is, most of our “old” structures are only a few centuries old. Regensburg has been around since the time of the Romans, and even has a stone bridge from the 12th century. The Steinern Brücke and the Dom St. Peter are the two iconic sights Regensburg is famous for; unfortunately when I visited it was during what they consider the off-season for tourists. The bridge was under repair, and half-covered by scaffolding.

I headed back into the center of Old Town for a little more sightseeing. I was fascinated by all the narrow streets with the old buildings hunched up against each other. Most of them are now shophouses and hotels thriving on the tourists Regensburg draws in.

Regensburg began as a Roman fortification on the Danube, and ruins are all over the city integrated into more modern buildings.

Because of the mild climate, food doesn’t spoil as easily; it’s kind of like being in a giant crisper. Fruit was sold in open-air markets like this one.

fruit market, Regensburg

Just don’t mentally convert from Euro to PHP. You’ll end up starving 🙂

Oskar Schindler once lived here. I nearly missed the marker of the house and only caught it when I stopped to take photos of some bicycles parked in front of it.

Oskar Schindler's house Regensburg

took photos of bicycles in front of Oskar Schindler’s house

plaque at Oskar Schindler's house Regensburg

“Oskar Schindler [saved over 1,200 Jews from the Nazis]. From November 1945 to May 1950 he lived in Regensburg in this house…”

Walking through Regensburg was like walking through history that I had only previously read about in books and online. I ended up walking 11 kilometers on my one full day there just looking at everything. I lamented what the Philippines had lost in cultural heritage when Intramuros was bombed, and what we continue to lose every day with the razing of old buildings to make way for new developments. Preservation of heritage houses and architecture, and simply placing plaques where historical figures resided and events transpired goes a long way toward preventing national amnesia. The Germans seem determined not to forget both the good and the bad, as I would see in my next stop: Munich.

Noelle in Bavaria: Nuremberg and Roth

From Munich I took a train to Nuremberg Main Station, where I would then switch to a smaller train line heading to the town of Roth, my first actual stop on this trip. The total land travel time was around 3 1/2 hours, but at 23 Euro I can’t really complain (versus 100+ Euro to fly from Munich to Nuremberg).

the town of Roth

the town of Roth

I wrote in length about my Roth stay and Challenge Roth spectating on my running blog. Continue to read here if you want more travel-related insights instead of triathlon 🙂 Read more