My Happy Places at home – Dumaguete, my second home

As I start my travel series, I’d like to begin with my happy places in my home country, the Philippines. Home to over 7,600 islands, there is so much to discover.

The charm of this City of Gentle people is felt as soon as you step into the city. You’re welcomed by century-old acacia trees surrounding the Silliman University campus, the university beside the sea, touted as one of the 50 most beautiful Christian College and University campuses in the world and the only one from the Philippines and only 2 in Asia that entered the list  ( I call it my second home because it was from this esteemed university that I finished my Psychology degree and it is in this beautiful campus that I spent my wonderful four years as a dormitory resident for 2 years and in a boarding house (in the next 2) which is also considered part of the campus because of its proximity to it.

The Silliman Church at the heart of the University with century-old acacia trees surrounding it speaks of what the Christian Values the university stands for.

Whenever I visit the city (which I do a couple of times a year both for work purposes and for personal reasons; my sister and her family live here), I always ask the driver to pass through the highway by the seaside. It just gives me such a warm feeling. In most of my visits, I always choose to stay in hotels by the boulevard which is also lined-up by century-old acacia trees. An early morning run that starts and ends at the boulevard is my regular routine and I would always cap my run with the best hydration treat – fresh buko (young coconut) juice from a regular peddler who goes to the same spot at the boulevard. Rizal Boulevard is one of the busiest in the country both in the morning with joggers, walkers, Zumba work-out all happening at the same time and in late afternoons when the boulevard converts into a street food park selling squid balls, balut, tocino and tempura (that’s why it’s called “tempurahan”).

The Rizal Boulevard is a beauty to behold.

There is so much this beautiful city can offer with so many options of good food that are at student price. My friends who visit with me from Manila are always amazed whenever they see the bill after a hearty meal. My favourites are Bistro Sansrival, Kri, Esturya, Tinto’s, Lantaw and Mamia. Their food are so good at very fair prices. Get a glass of wine to complete your fine dining experience! But for sure, it’s the company of friends and the stories of everyday life plus the endless laughter that make every meal a beautiful moment to cherish.

What is most exciting with Dumaguete is the fact that you do not need to travel long to see more beautiful places. Just 30 minutes away is Twin Lakes Balinsasayao Natural Park – a picture of serenity with exotic plant-life surrounding it. Driving to this natural park always leaves me awed with breathtaking views of the ocean, the mountains and plant-life that Mother Nature endowed it with.  I am so fortunate that I can visit this place anytime as my best friend built their retirement home in the area. Their home will be a subject of another story but it is one place that truly inspires me. Whenever I feel I need to get-away from the stresses of daily life, I could retreat to her beautiful place and be renewed! The unencumbered view of Tañon Strait and watching the sunrise and sunsets are simply magical they take my tensions away!

Just another hour drive is the Manjuyod Sandbar which is referred to as the Maldives of the Philippines. The short boat ride to the sandbar in the middle of the sea is a treat in itself as the boatman brings you to where the dolphins are. The times we went there, throngs of them showed up to the thrill of my teenage daughter and her cousins! We brought marinated fish and chicken which our boatmen cooked for us while docked at the sandbar. Locals also offer various seafoods like prawns, squid and sea urchins to add to our lunch table. Just writing about this experience makes me want to go back again…soon!

On the other side of Dumaguete are various tourist spots as well. Just less than an hour away is Valencia with equally beautiful sceneries. Pulangbato (red stone) Falls is known for its healing  waters due to sulfur deposits. Casaroro Waterfalls is another place for the adventurous. There are many resorts in the area and for those who want to commune with nature, Forest Camp will surely be a delight. Its cool pools with water flowing from the mountains (there’s even a river with a hanging bridge) and lush greenery make it perfect as a get-away place. There are other activities for those who want some adrenaline rush or get a massage in one of their well-appointed massage rooms.

Oh I can go on and on with so much more this happy place offers and since I cannot get enough of it, I have started to make plans to build my retirement home there too. And you guessed it right…not too far from my best friend’s place so we can exchange food creations and I can teach her simple yoga routines while I devour her most-sought after Negrense fare. 

Make sure you bring home some sansrival and budbud kabog this city is famous for.

Where do I start?

Your life goals is the best place to start. Defining what you want in life – not where you are now but where you want to go.

First, Envision the future you want

How does your retired life look like? All your children are settled down and have their individual families and you are empty nesters with your spouse. What would you be doing by then? Maybe you envision yourself to be living with one of your children or maybe you choose to live alone. Whatever it is, visualise what kind of lifestyle you will have then. Maybe you want to live in a farm with a couple of relatives, travelling once a year abroad and being able to visit your children wherever they are once a quarter; being able to continue doing your healthy lifestyle with regular yoga exercise and visits to the salon once every 2 weeks and socialising with your “amigas” and “amigos” on a regular basis.

How many years from now will that “future” be?

Since such future assumes your children are all settled down, it also means that they have all finished their college education (which should be part of your financial plan and I will write about this in another article). Bear in mind that preparing for the “future that you want” once retired should go side by side with setting-up the education fund for your children. One cannot be set aside and wait for the other to be finished. Lest, you lose your build-up stage.

Here’s a simple template to start your mind thinking.

Start with your long-term goals…then work back what it should be in the medium term and the short term.

Know the price tag of the future you want (then assess what you currently have)

The next step is to put a price tag to the future that you have envisioned for yourself. You want to live in a farm, so when are you buying the property (if you haven’t inherited one)? How much will that cost? What investments can you make now that can provide you the passive income later? For example, you might want to build a 4-door apartment or buy a condo that will give you rental income later. Have an estimate cost to buy or build it.

The other big ticket item to prepare for will be the money you need for your daily expenses and/or the source of passive income I mentioned above. Start your mind into thinking using this simple My Personal Financial Plan template. If you want to build a vacation or retirement house 20 years from now (long-term goal), how much money should you have in 20 years? Using the template, work back how much you should have in the medium-term and in the short-term. Regularly review this.

As you may have realised by now, living the future that we want requires long-term planning that’s why the earlier you start the better it is as it affords you a growth period – the longer this is, the smaller is the amount required to put it up. You will be surprised how small an amount you need to set aside if you have the discipline to do it monthly while you are young. That’s what I call paying for the future that you want on instalment basis.

Start paying for that future now.

What is “Quality Life”?

By: Bing Ledesma – De Los Reyes

Everyone wants quality life but what does that mean?

How do you define quality life? What is quality life for one may not necessarily be quality life for another as it is really relative. A common definition though is this – when we are able to do what we want to do for ourselves and for others…that is quality life.

Being able to do what we want to do for ourselves and for others…that is quality life.

That’s how I define quality life and it does not happen like magic. You’ve got to work for it. Of course there are those who were born into affluence which makes the process easier but for most, it needs to be planned and worked out.

Mine is such. Born to a poor family, my parents had to work very hard to make both ends meet. I’m grateful for having parents who believe that being born poor is not our fault but to die poor, we only have ourselves to blame. We can work ourselves out of poverty.

Putting value in education is my parents’ way of giving us, their children, a chance to live a better life. Being diligent as a student was my way of honoring them; ensuring I utilize my capabilities at work is my way of glorifying God who made it all happen and incalculating good values in my family is my way of paying it forward.

So how do we ensure that we live our kind of quality life? That is where financial planning comes in. I firmly believe that no one can live a comfortable life at every stage without planning for it and if you start early, there is so much you can do. If you do it right, you increase your chances of having your kind of quality life.

So start planning and start early.