Travel Diaries: Lake Apo, Valencia Bukidnon

One thing I love about living in Cagayan de Oro City is that it is near the beach and the mountains. Last weekend, my boyfriend and I felt like going away to the mountains so we packed our bags and went to Bukidnon. Our main itinerary was Lake Apo.

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Lake Apo is a crater lake located in Brgy Guinoyoran, Valencia City, Bukidnon. It’s about 30 minutes from the town center. It used to be a volcanic cone that later on widened into a basin and filled with water. The name comes from the bisaya term “apo” which means grandson or granddaughter. As legend would have it, a man living in the mountains was said to have assaulted his granddaughter and was punished by the deities by flooding the area with water, forming Lake Apo.

lake apo valencia 3How to get there:

From Valencia, log in to Google maps and follow the Guinoyoran road. Or you can hire a tour guide to take you there. Some parts of the road a not cemented so bring a pick-up or elevated vehicle.

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Why We Struggle with Purity

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Photo from buzz.eewmagazine.com

Remaining chaste and pure before marriage has become even more of struggle in todays world were sex outside of marriage has become the norm. Nowadays it’s accepted in most cultures to engage in sexual activity outside the marriage bed. I know that this is a sensitive topic to most people but I’ve chosen to write this post because it’s very real and it won’t go away simple by sweeping it under the bed. Keeping ones purity is a genuine struggle and I’m the first to admit that I struggle with it just as much as the next person.

According to C.S Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, to maintain our purity, we should either be completely faithful to our spouse or if unmarried, be totally abstinent. Now this is so contrary to our basic nature and that’s why it’s so hard to do.

He goes on to say that there are three main reasons why we struggle with sexual purity.

First, we have been led to believe by the devil in the lie that sexual desires are “healthy” and “normal”. And like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth – sex in itself (apart from the excesses and obsessions that have grown around it) is “normal” and “healthy”. God intended sex to be enjoyable so we would derive pleasure from it. It’s one of the greatest things you can experience with someone – but that someone should be your spouse alone. The lie then consists in the suggestion that any sexual act is healthy and normal. That’s it’s ok to give in to all our sexual desires. However, to achieve real happiness, quite a lot of restraint is necessary. If you do not have any sense of control then you’ll end up ruining your whole life.

Second, many people think that remaining sexually pure is so impossible, they don’t even bother trying. As a result, many give up before they even started. But think about it, when you attempt to do something thinking that it’s impossible, will you achieve it? With that mindset, I think not. It’s like answering a test. You may get some marks for an imperfect answer. But you’ll get nothing if you leave the test paper blank. You can be sure that achieving sexual purity – chastity – is impossible if based on your own efforts. But you’re not alone. God is there to help you. It’s only through his grace that we can hope to surpass this. Sometimes, it can feel like no matter how hard you try you just keep on failing. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but the power in trying again. For this process teaches us to depend on God and not on ourselves. We learn that we can’t trust ourselves even in our best moments and that we need not despair even in our worst, for we are already forgiven.

Third, psychology teaches us that “repressed” sex is dangerous. On the contrary, those who are seriously attempting chastity are more conscious, and soon know a great deal more about their sexuality than those who simply give in. After all, like other appetites, the sexual appetite grows by indulgence. It is in learning to control it that you conquer yourself.

This desire for heart purity is a creation of the Holy Spirit at work in the heart. ~ Duncan Campbell

Physical intimacy between husband and wife is sacred and beautiful. It’s an expression of love reserved for marriage. Chastity isn’t easy to achieve but with God’s help, we can overcome anything. Let’s depend more on him.

All things are made beautiful when done according to God’s perfect timing.

Go live a Truly Wealthy life.

-Alex

The Purpose of Free Will

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Photo from reclaimingthemind.org

What is the purpose of free will?

When I was new to Christianity, I’ve wondered why God gave us free will in the first place. If God wants us all to be good, why did he give us the freedom to decide between right and wrong? Being God, he could just have compelled us to follow him whether we want to or not.

In his book Mere Christianity, I like how C.S Lewis put it. “Free will, though it makes evil possible, is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automa- of creatures that worked like machines-would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for his higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared to with which the most rapturous love between a man and woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently he thought it worth the risk. Satan’s lie is in having us believe we can be happy apart from God. It is only in being united fully with God that we can achieve real and lasting happiness. The reason why we can never find happiness apart from God is because God invented us. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn on. There is no other. That is why it is no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without Him. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

Yes, God can compel us to follow him. But he has chosen not to. He wants it to be our choice.

According to most philosophers, God in making the world enslaved it. According to Christianity, in making it, He set it free. God had written, not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play he had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who had since made a great mess of it.” -G.K Chesterton

God has given us the freedom to either follow him or follow ourselves. I’ve chosen to follow Jesus because I know that apart from him, there is nothing. But with him, I have all I’ll ever need. Everything else is just a bonus. He is enough.

What about you? You alone get to decide who to follow. God or self.

What is your choice?

-Alex

The Hopeless Romantic

love-book-and-a-rose-wallpaperPhoto from http://www.funchap.com

I’ve been raised on a steady diet of salads and novels. Books have always been a huge part of me. My mom loved to read and she passed on that same love for books to me. One of my favorite past times was reading romance novels. I love fairy tales and happy endings. Dashing dukes and beautiful maidens. The romance, the glitz, the promise of forever. I’ve always dreamed of finding my prince charming.

When I was in college, I described my ideal guy to one of girl friends. And she said, “You know what, you’ll never find him. He doesn’t exist! There’s no such thing as Mr. Perfect.” At the time, I was adamant that, yes, my Mr. Perfect did exist!

Then I did meet him. My ideal guy. He was perfect on paper. He was handsome, fun to be with, smart, knew all the right words, a good speaker, rich and he even had abs. But when I got what I wanted, I realized that it wasn’t what I really wanted. Yes, romance is important. But it’s not all that matters.

You really want someone who will stick with you through thick and thin. Someone who makes the effort to care about the things that interest you. Someone who will make time to be with you despite his busy schedule. Someone who will take the time to read the books you share and watch the videos you send. Someone who will comfort you when you’re down and help you find a solution to your problem. Someone who will lead you, love you and provide for you. Someone who loves God more than you.

A true Prince Charming is someone who will love you no matter what.

Sometimes women have crazy notions about what love is. But really it’s about commitment. The promise to be with each other for better or for worse. Yes, I’m still a romantic at heart. I love moonlit walks on the beach, fancy dinners and flowers. But I know now what truly matters.

Love is about creating the kind of relationship where both of you can be honest with each other and grow together.

What about you? What are the things that you look for in your ideal man?

There is no one size fits all Prince Charming. Because they come in different packages. There is no “perfect guy”. There’s just the guy that’s perfect for you. Your best match. The one who’ll accept you for who you are, grow with you and truly commit to you.

One day, out of darkness, they shall meet, and read life’s meaning in each other’s eyes.”
-Susan Mara Spalding

Go live a Truly Wealthy life.

-Alex

Canyoneering in Badian, Cebu

I love traveling and trying new, sometimes crazy, things. I’ve been dying to try canyoneering ever since I saw videos of it on the net.  Last April, my friends and I were finally able to do so. And it was AWESOME!

canyoneeing in badian cebuCanyoneering is the sport of exploring a canyon thru different activities such as waterfall jumping, climbing, swimming, walking or sliding. Canyoneering in Badian was discovered by a couple of tourists about 5 years ago and has been gaining popularity ever since. The trek starts at Canlaob river and ends at Kawasan falls. There are about 6 jumps and 2 slides.

Height of jump:
– 7 feet
– 10 feet
– 35 feet
– 45 feet (Running Jump)
– 75 feet (Waterfall Jump)
– 100 feet (Waterfall Jump)

I was able to jump all the jumps except for the running jump (there were too many people) and the 100 foot jump since it’s not allowed anymore. For those who are adrenaline junkies, you’ve got to try this! It’s just crazy awesome!

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Route:
Bus from Cebu-Badian (South Bus Terminal)
Time: 3 hours
Fare: 200

Canyoneering Rates
>10-14 pax: 800 php
>8-10 pax: 850 php
>8-9 pax: 900 php
>5-7 pax: 950 php
>4 pax: 1,000 php
>3 pax: 1,200 php
>2 pax: 1,500 php

Inclusions: Tour guide, helmet, life vest, dry bag, transportation, lunch
What to wear: leggings or shorts, rash guard, aqua shoes
What to bring: water, Go Pro
Timeline: 5-6 hours

canyoneeing in badian cebu 6Jumping from a height of 75 feet is scary. But here’s how to jump at ANY height 😛

Step 1: Decide to jump long before you’ve reached the jump point.
Step 2: Upon reaching the area, count from 1 to 3. Don’t spend more than 5 seconds there or fear will take over and it will take you forever to jump. Trust me, the longer you stand there staring at the edge, the scarier it becomes.
Step 3: JUMP!

canyoneeing in badian cebu 5 canyoneeing in badian cebu 7canyoneeing in badian cebu 3 canyoneeing in badian cebu 4The more I travel in our country, the more I’m struck by it’s natural beauty. I can’t wait for our next adventure!

For those who want to try canyoneering, contact Lyka at 0933 604 1516.

Check out our canyoneering video here, courtesy of Stef Uy :)

The Running Man

maxresdefaultPhoto from i.ytimg.com

There’s this new craze that’s been trending online called “the running man challenge”. I’ve noticed a lot of people posting videos of themselves doing this. Maybe one reason why this is so popular is because just about anyone can do it. And it seems like fun :) But aside from this dance craze, what comes into my mind why I thing of a running man is Jacob.

Jacob is a character in the bible in the book of Genesis. He is the second son of Isaac and Rebekah and the brother of Esau. God did a lot of great things through Jacob. Not because Jacob deserved it, but because God is gracious. Jacob is far from perfect. In fact, even though he is one of the bible’s great characters, he had many faults and made a lot of wrong choices. Just like you and me.

When Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau (they’re twins by the way), God promised to build a nation through Jacob. But even with this assurance, Jacob still chose to take matters in his own hands. At the prodding of his mother stole Esau’s birthright by exchanging it for a bowl of lentil soup. When it was time for Isaac to bless his first son, Esau, Jacob also stole his blessing by disguising himself and pretending to be Esau. As a consequence, Jacob had to run away to Paddan Aram to escape from Esau’s wrath.

It was at Paddan Aram that Jacob married and started his own family. Through the years that he worked for Laban, his father-in-law, God blessed him generously and his wealth increased. Eventually Laban came to resent him for this and started to treat him differently. So Jacob did what he did best. He took his family and all he had and ran away again, back to his fathers land.

Jacob was a man blessed greatly by God. And yet many times in his life, instead of trusting God to work, he ran away. I can relate to Jacob because there were times in the past that I’ve been tempted to run away from my problems. There were times that I just ignored them which is equivalent to running away. But running away wont solve anything. Sooner or later, it will come back to you. Wouldn’t you rather deal with it now rather than later?

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Dealing with your problems head on takes courage. But you don’t have to deal with it on your own because you can always call on God to sustain you.We are never alone because God is always with us wherever we go.

Facing problems can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, but at least you’ll have peace of mind. I can’t imagine staying in a foreign land for 20 years because I cant go home for fear that my own brother might kill me. This is exactly what happened to Jacob. When you refuse to confront your problems, you rob yourself of a peaceful life. Imagine spending your next 20 years having to continually look over your shoulder. That’s not the kind of life I want to live.

Anyone can run away. But facing your problems – that’s what makes you strong.

What problems are you running away from now?

Remember that no trial is bigger than our God because we have a great God. The best way to face a problem is to find a way to solve it. Let’s do our best and trust that he’ll take care of the rest.

Go live a Truly Wealthy life.

-Alex

 

La Vie Parisienne

la vie parisienne cebuWhen I first saw blog posts about this restaurant from my favorite bloggers, I just new I had to come here. It was such a pretty restaurant! The cherry blossoms, the furniture and the decors were like a dream. It didn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, we almost missed it. But the inside was like a different world altogether.

la vie parisienne cebu 2La Vie is the first French Boulangerie, Pastry Shop & Wine Library in Cebu. It has an array of french pastries and wines to choose from. What I love about it is it’s relaxing vibe and cool atmosphere. You can enjoy a glass of wine while listening to chill music. And the best part is, it’s just in the middle of Cebu City!

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La Vie is definitely a little gem in the middle of the city. You may want to try it out for yourself!

Go live a Truly Wealthy life!

-Alex

 

Toastmasters District Conference 2016: Cebu (Day 2)

IMG_8370Day 2 of Discon 2016 was just as fun and exciting as Day 1. Despite the lack of sleep from last night’s Fellowship Night we had to go to the venue early for the judges briefing since my friend, Stef, was a judge in the International Prepared Speech contest. The morning started off with learning sessions about Leadership and Branding. Then came lunch. Afterwards, it was contest time!

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discon 2016 cebuToastmasters of the Day

discon 2016 internation speech contestContest Chair DTM Dulce Ranosa

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The International Prepared Speech Contest started at 1pm and was hosted by incoming District 75 Director Dulce Ranosa. All the speakers were true story tellers and I had a great time listening to one story after another. I’m sure the judges had a hard time picking their top 3. From climbing Mt. Apo to killing to a giant python to growing up in jail – their stories had me captivated from start to finish.

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discon 2016 internation speech contest winnersInternational Prepared Speech Contest Winners
Champion: Amy Pagdanganan, Division A
1st Runner-up: Nedo Sasing, Division L
2nd Runner-up: Chris Dao-anis, Division G

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After the contest, there was an election of the  next district officers and then we were given time to prepare for the District Directors Ball. The theme for the District Directors Ball was Casino Royale. The ball is usually held on the last night of the District Conference. This is where we honor our district officers, past district governors, give out awards and bond with our fellow toastmasters. I see it as a grand conclusion to every discon. And this years ball was grand indeed. We were all dressed in either black or white and the room was set up like a casino with giant cards as the centerpiece of every table. I felt like I was in a James Bond set.  We were entertained by different production numbers. There was singing, dancing, gravity defying acrobatics, singing again but this time on hoverboards and a whole lot more.  IMG_8419 IMG_8421 copy IMG_8423All in all, it was a great district conference. I commend Discon Chair Benzon Lim and his team for all their effort and sacrifice in making this conference possible.

The 2016 Midyear conference this October will be in Davao. See you then!

-Alex

Photo credit to Ed Fabonan

Toastmasters District Conference 2016: Cebu (Day 1)

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This years Toastmasters District Conference was held in the Grand Convention Center of Cebu. The event was opened in true cebu fashion with the marching of colors and various cultural presentations. For those who are not familiar with Toastmasters, it’s an international organization that helps develop your communication and leadership skills. There are different clubs all over the Philippines. A group of clubs form an area, a group of areas form a division. We have 11 Divisions in the Philippines and they form one District – District 75.

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We have 2 conferences a year. The District Conference in April and the Midyear Conference in October. The highlight of these conferences are the speech contests.

There are 4 Speech Contest Categories in Toastmasters:

  • International Prepared
  • Humorous
  • Evaluation
  • Table Topics (Impromptu Speaking)

For this Discon, the 2 contests were the International Prepared and Humorous Speech Contest. The Table Topics and Evaluation Contests are scheduled in the Midyear Conference.

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toastmasters discon 2016 3District Director Boy Archie giving his welcome speechtoastmasters discon 2016 4toastmasters discon 2016 7Toastmasters of the Day

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toastmasters discon 2016 2Past District Governor Noli Espina announcing the winners for the Humorous Contest

toastmasters discon 2016 12Humorous Competition contestants receiving their certificates

toastmasters discon 2016 9Humorous Speech Winners

  • Champion: Joanna Katrina S. Magalong (Division B)
  • 1st Runner Up: Jinnelyn O. Li (Division C)
  • 2nd Runner Up: Leonilo S. De los Santos (Division D)

Fellowship Night – Coachelladiscon 2015 coachella

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In the evening was the Coachella-themed fellowship night. I loved the decor and the relaxed feel of the venue. I especially enjoyed the Tawag ng Tanghalan – the Toastmasters version of a Karaoke showdown. We got to witness a representative from each Division showcase their singing prowess for all 3 rounds. That is, if you don’t get gonged during the first round.

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Congratulations to our Tawag ng Tanghalan winner – Joanna Katrina S. Magalong! We’ll be expecting to hear wedding bells soon.

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All in all, the first day was a blast! I met some old friends, made new ones and generally enjoyed myself. Learning can be fun. And it’s fun learning here in Toastmasters.

-Alex

*Photo credit to Ed Fabonan

 

Travel Diaries: Siquijor 2016

Siquijor is the third smallest province in the Philippines and is associated with mystic traditions. It was originally called Isla del Fuego or Island of Fire by the Spaniards who first sighted it in 1565 because of the eerie glow the island emitted due to the large swarms of fireflies on the island. I have heard of stories about witchcraft and sorcery that’s been said to be practiced on the island. But when I visited Siquijor, all I saw was the clear blue water and the pristine white sand that enveloped the island. There were a lot of local and foreign tourists too.

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We took a ferry from Dumaguete to Siquijor. We bought tickets at the port on the day and took the 7am trip.

Dumaguete-Siquijor Ferry Schedule:
Cost: 130php
Schedule: 7am, 10am, 4pm, 6pm
Travel time: 1 hour

Upon reaching the island we met a tour guide on the port, Kuya Irvin, that offered us a day tour of the island for only 1,000php. We decided to take the Day Tour since we weren’t familiar with the island. But if you know your way around Siquijor, another option is to rent a motor cycle at the port and use that to drive around the island. The rental rate is just 350php for the whole day.

Here’s our itinerary for our day tour:

  • Paliton Beach
  • Capilays Spring Park
  • Enchanted Balete Tree
  • Crocodile Hill
  • San Isidro Labrador Church
  • Cambugahay Falls
  • Salagdoong Beach

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Capilays Spring ParkIMG_8127

Enchanted Balete Tree
This 400-year old Balete tree is believed by locals to be enchanted. It’s the said to be the oldest and biggest Balete tree in Siquijor. Water flows out from the roots of this massive tree and pools around it. Aside from admiring this majestic force of nature, you can also sit on the edge of the pool and enjoy a fish spa for only 5php. It’s a huge contrast to the 250php I paid for my fish spa in Ocean Park. Initially, it feels very ticklish but then you get used to it.

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Crocodile Island
From this spot on the island, you can see Crocodile Island. It’s named as such because from this vantage point, it seems to take the shape of a crocodile. At the suggestion of Kuya Irvin, we had our mandatory jump shot with Crocodile Island in the background.
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San Isidro Labrador Church
This is said to be the oldest church in Siquijor. It was built in 1887 making it more than 100 years old. According to our tour guide, the stones used to build this church have never been replaced. That’s something to be said about the architecture of this edifice! 129 years and still standing. Not bad.

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Cambugahay Falls
One of my favorite stops on the island was Cambugahay Falls. It takes you about 100 steps to reach the bottom. Coming from the City of Waterfalls – Iligan City – I’m hardly amazed by other waterfalls that I see. But I still liked this one because of the clear blue waters that seemed to beckon to me. It was a sweltering hot day and I was more than willing to oblige. There was a rope from where you could swing and then jump into the water just like Tarzan. The falls itself had 3 levels. We hung out here for about an hour, swimming around and jumping off from the waterfalls.

Siquijor tour + Cambugahay falls

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Salagdoong Beach
Salagdoong was my favorite stop in Siquijor. You can’t go to Siquijor and not drop by here. Aside from it’s gorgeous white-sand beach, it has one attraction that keeps tourists coming back. Cliff diving. There are 3 levels you can jump off from. I was able to try the first and second level. I’ll definitely come back for the third. It can be quite scary from up there but after the first jump, the adrenaline rush is like no other. You’ll keep coming back for more. 

salagdoong cliff jumping 2Photo from http://www.outofofficefortravel.comSiquijor tour + Salagdoong beach Siquijor tour + Salagdoong beach 2

DCIM111GOPROPhoto from mingjamoves.com

Siquijor tour + tour guide

Here’s our tour guide, Kuya Irvin, who brought us around the island. Siquijor is so small you can tour the entire island in about 2 1/2 hours. If you want to visit Siquijor, you can contact Kuya Irvin at 0915 890 3286.

Siquijor has one of the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely a go-to summer getaway, especially for beach junkies like me!

Life is too short to be spent working all the time. Enjoy your summer. Eat. Have fun. Travel! Visit Siquijor.

Go live a Truly Wealthy life!

-Alex

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