My happy place at home: El Nido, Palawan

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

Charles Spurgeon

My happy place at home number 2 is El Nido.

I’ve been to El Nido several times and whenever I land in this island paradise, it’s as if Joy envelops me. It’s enchanting limestone formations and the secret beaches are simply magical and the endless blue seas confirm the fact that it is the Philippines’ last frontier.

Staying in those high-end resorts in the islands offers packages that include full board and tours. Imagine opening your balcony and you see the limestone formations that look like little islands in the vast ocean that is so quiet and blue. You can choose to stay in the resort and enjoy the amenities including a guided mountain trek (do this early morning or late in the afternoon) or go island hopping (which is a must).

The big lagoon is simply breathtaking and kayaking in the small lagoon is surely an unforgettable treat.

I do not know how to swim so I dread being in the deep but with such a persuasive and reassuring guide, I ventured into my very first snorkelling experience in the deep and I can confirm that indeed, you’re in another world when you see what’s under the sea.

I brought my family to El Nido a couple of years ago to celebrate my birthday and we opted to stay in a main island resort with a beachfront. We all loved it! I realise there is more adventures to explore in the main island. We did the canopy walk to see 360 degree-view of El Nido. It was a thrilling experience!

Nacpan Beach is another discovery for us during that trip. It’s long stretch of white sand with beautiful bars by the beach gives you the front view of the magnificent sunset as you sip your mojito and bite the slice of pizza in your hand…oh my…you want time to stop to savour the moment!

A trip is never complete for me if there is no shopping. I am a self-confessed shopaholic and a must visit for those who love artistic souvenirs like me is Kalye Artisano. The items there are so lovely and unique you will never leave it empty-handed.

A beautiful hand-painted memento from Kalye Artisano in Lio.

Indeed, El Nido is my happy place number 2. Definitely, one of the places I will visit with my family again…very soon.

The 3 Wallets we must Have (to be financially stable)

We always hear this aspiration in life: “I want to be financially stable” and oftentimes when we probe what this exactly means, we hear answers like: I want to give my family more than what they need, my children will be able to finish the degree they want and live a comfortable life now and in the future.

In a study conducted by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to define the “Life Filipinos Want”, an overwhelming 79.8% said they want a simple and comfortable life and by that, the study revealed, we want to live in a house we own, have a car, being able to have our children finish school, have money for our daily needs and being able to travel occasionally. Filipinos’ aspirations are very family-centered which even includes the ability to take care of our ageing parents reflective of our close family ties (https://youtu.be/WT1mXV8TqN4)

“A simple and comfortable life is the kind of life Filipinos generally want.”

NEDA Study, Ambisyon 2040

Sad to say though, a lot of us, never get to do all that we aspire for. In the process, we either delay or downgrade our plans and most often than not, it is because we failed to prepare. The good news is the fact that more and more Filipinos are improving the amount of disposable income they have as we progress towards an upper middle-class society. However, we need to change our attitude towards financial planning to truly enjoy the kind of simple and comfortable life we aspire to have.

For a family with children, I include their education as part of the daily needs especially if they are already of school age now and I strongly suggest that a College education fund be set-up while they are young that goes side by side with setting-up your retirement fund. One big mistake that a lot of Filipino parents do is to set aside saving for retirement in favour of setting up our children’s education fund and run the risk of running out of time to build-up enough to become self-sufficient in our old age.

Most Filipinos keep just one account, whether in the bank or investment funds for these 3 requirements so the tendency is we spend for daily or emergency needs what could have been for retirement. To avoid this, we should have 3 different programs for each and make sure you invest or save in funds that match your needs. Short-term needs should be in easily accessible funds while long-term needs (10 years or more) in aggressive funds that offer better returns. A rule of thumb is to set aside 5% of your annual (or monthly) income for education fund (if your children are still very young) and 20% for your retirement fund (to give you more options on what to do and continue to be productive in your golden years); build an emergency fund equal to 6 months of your cost of living and do not touch it unless it is for emergency and full-proof your financial plan by having income protection coverage (ie life insurance and health insurance) ideally 10 times your annual income (there are many insurance products that can give you the security of a big coverage that is easy on your pockets and the younger you are, the lower will your premiums be).

Think about it as having 3 wallets – each serving a specific purpose. You can never over-save or over-invest. Include funding your financial plan in your priorities. You will thank yourself for this.

TakeitfromBing

How I discovered running

I can say I had always lived an active lifestyle that includes visits to the gym and when it became boring, I moved to boxing and Muay Thai and then yoga. So, I juggled these work-outs and even did a combination at some point but never got into running. I got interested from the sharing of my office mate and close colleague, Div, after he participated in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2015 where our company is a major sponsor of. He related the gala night before the run held inside Angkor Wat with one of the temples as the back drop. It seemed so interesting and it was affirmed by two of my team members, Bimbo and Nicole, who participated in 2017.

The pre-run gala dinner with a temple as a backdrop lit by a thousand candles.

So on July of 2018 at age 52, I started training to run 10K in the same event that is held annually in the 1st week of December. I downloaded a training app and began my training. I realised running 5 minutes straight is challenging even if I was relatively physically fit. Indeed, one cannot join a marathon at whim as it requires months or even years of building endurance lest you either faint or get injured.

To keep me motivated, I encouraged my teenage daughter, my sister and her son and even our househelp to run too and I would register everyone in fun runs. I started with 5K then progressed to 10K just in time for the Angkor Wat run. I also encouraged a couple of my team members to participate so we can travel together. That’s how my “destination runs” started.

That’s how my “destination runs” started.

As a UNESCO world heritage site, what draws tourists to Siem Reap, Cambodia is Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world! Events held in the complex are limited and running with those amazing temples of almost a thousand years old is just so surreal. The run route is so amazing passing through a beautiful lake while the sun rises colouring the sky red orange is magical! You run through arches and bridges that are attractions in themselves which speak of so much history; you run surrounded by several centuries-old trees that grew on walls and structures like nature conquering what men made. There’s no wonder it is such a popular event with over 10,000 runners that year, over 5,000 are foreigners from 76 countries (www.runsociety.com).

Training for 10K requires at least 3 times a week of run days building endurance to be able to run at a good pace and after doing it for almost 5 months, I got hooked into it. I went back to run half marathon (21K) in 2019 with my husband and sister, Ging (in orange in the photo) and another officemate and team member, June, running 10K and would love to do it again! 

From the time I discovered running and started training in July 2018, I have never stopped. I continue to run at least three times a week and my husband has joined me in this passion which we have incorporated in our family travels. Oh yes, I am looking forward to run my first full marathon and I hope it will be soon.