Getting to Know Phuket, Part 1: Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Promthep

Phuket

Phuket has been a frequent destination for me the past few years, but not really as a vacation destination. The first time I set foot on the “pearl of the Andaman Sea” I was there for a triathlon, and the next few times were work-related because the people who outsource writing jobs to me are expats based there.

After the initial novelty of traveling for sport wore off, I was determined to see more of the island than I had previously. Read more

Back to Boracay

Boracay March 2015

Cagban Jetty Port, Boracay Island

I first visited the legendary island of Boracay back in 2007, and by then it was already well-known as a party destination. That first time, though, I was only out-and-about in the daytime and really got to know the island as a place I could just lie on the beach, listen to the waves, and get a nice tan while sipping a fruitshake.

Of course, in the years that followed I got to know the island’s wild side. As I matured and wised up, I began to crave what I had first known and loved. But everyone who’s been to Boracay lately will say the same thing: unless a major upheaval happens, there is no going back. Big hotels have built right on the beach, and Boracay’s main road is congested with multicabs, tricycles, and service vehicles. It definitely feels like Manila sometimes, especially in the summer when everyone from the city heads there.

But maybe I could reclaim parts of the old Boracay, if I tried hard enough? Read more

Cheers to the New Year

Cheers

First of all, sorry for disappearing all of last year. I have been otherwise active on KikayRunner.com, but no matter how much I post on there, it can’t really contain all my thoughts as a person who loves travel, pop culture, and basically writing about other things that interest me.

And so I’m making a resolution that in 2016, I will write more here about the places I travel and the things I see. It will be a return to journaling, which is why I started this blog in the first place. It wasn’t about capturing and holding an audience’s attention by feeding them facts, making them think, or inspiring them — although those were great by-products of great writing. It was really about having an extension of my memory on the internet (or “in the cloud” as people now say) so that I could look back on these experiences fondly and perhaps learn how best to move forward.

I now think of In My Pocket as a scrapbook. Regardless of how long ago the things I will be writing about have happened, there will always be value in putting them down “on paper” — or, as it were, into the ether.

Scrooge The Musical — FINAL WEEKEND!

Ahh, Christmas in the Philippines. The time of good holiday cheer, spending time with loved ones and those you haven’t seen in a while, braving the increased traffic to get to the malls to finish gift shopping — all done to the ubiquitous sounds of Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas album. You know what I mean.

I never actually knew where Jose Mari Chan got those songs he covered in that album, so you can imagine my surprise when I sat down to the press preview of Scrooge The Musical at OnStage Greenbelt a few weeks ago, and the ensemble cast opened with the song “A Christmas Carol”.

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As the musical unfolded, it showed Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly treatment of all the people around him, including himself, the spooky haunting of Scrooge by his departed business partner Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future helping Scrooge see the error of his ways. The cast, led by Miguel Faustmann as Scrooge, was amazing and on point, and while the sound mixing still had kinks to be ironed out (Miguel’s mic didn’t seem to be catching a lot of sound), the OnStage theater was small enough for their voices to carry through.

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My familiarity with most of the songs helped me hear them with new ears. They are so overplayed from September through December and thus lose their meaning, but within the framework of the musical they are re-imbued with their magic and also bring back memories of wonderful Christmases past.

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I have always been accustomed to seeing A Christmas Carol as a non-musical film or TV special aired during Christmas time — I can still remember very vividly Bill Murray’s Scrooge film. I didn’t know that it was a musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. Being the cultural illiterate I am, the first time I heard of Scrooge The Musical was when Repertory Philippines sent me a press release about them staging it this time of year (more specifically, November 21 to December 14). When they offered tickets to the press preview, I jumped at the chance.

This is the fourth time Repertory Philippines has staged an adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The story follows the miserly life of banker Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey towards realizing the true spirit of Christmas through three ghosts: that of his past, present, and future.

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In my life I have only ever been to about ten plays, but I’ve never seen one with full production values. Scrooge The Musical takes you into the Victorian England setting from the book, with sets swiftly transforming from exteriors to interiors, from the street marketplace into an office, from the outside of Scrooge’s house into his living room and bedroom. As an adult I found myself marveling at the stagecraft. I can imagine the kids in the audience asking their moms and dad excitedly, “How did they do that?!”

This is the last weekend for Scrooge The Musical at OnStage Greenbelt. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do! Today’s matinee performance is already sold out. You can purchase Scrooge tickets via Ticketworld.

While Scrooge can be very entertaining, I think it also reminds us that Christmas shouldn’t be about material things. Rather, the giving of gifts should be from the overflow of gratitude and thankfulness in our hearts as we remember the Reason for the season. (It isn’t called “Christ-mas” for nothing.)

A Fashion Post

I haven’t been shopping in, like, forever, so last weekend I decided to make a trip down to Megamall to take a look at the new Fashion Hall wing’s offerings. I almost went home without even setting foot inside the mall because of the horrendous traffic and parking situation there, but thankfully I found a spot in the Fashion Hall’s basement parking.

Because I was there to shop more for clothes for dance and yoga, I turned up some great finds from Forever 21 (one of my favorite stores to browse around in), Old Navy, and the newly-opened H&M.

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Forever 21’s activewear section

But once I was done with that, I trawled the other shops around. Window-shopping is lovely and I can’t wait for when these brands go on sale at some point. Because I. Am. So There.

H&M only opened a month or two months ago and the hype around it was so huge that I actually avoided going in there because I didn’t want to fight for elbow space with the hundreds of other shoppers also in there. Last weekend, I couldn’t believe that even with three floors of retail space, there were still long lines for fitting rooms and cashiers. I found the women’s section a bit… grey.

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Maybe because it’s autumn/winter?

One of the shops I really liked being in was American Eagle Outfitters. Despite the fact that I could probably find some of their surplus items in the Surplus Shop in Megamall’s A wing, the store is quite hip. On that day, there was even a DJ (I later found out it was DJ Jujiin). Even better, he was actually playing music I knew — and I don’t listen to pop radio anymore, so that can be quite a challenge! But it was nice to browse inside AEO listening to “Rather Be” and then heading out the door singing along to “Call Your Girlfriend”.

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Am I your target market, AEO?

I tumbled across the expansive Fashion Hall atrium to Pull & Bear, which is a really large store that also has an entrance from the main mall.

I loved the selection of clothing for both men and women, but even more than that I was impressed with the way items were displayed. For instance, footwear:

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I feel a very strong pull towards this…

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stuff for him and her

The pricing I feel is a bit higher than at AEO and the strange thing is they were carrying a lot of heavy quilted jackets, thick sweaters, and the like. Unless you live in a freezer in the Philippines (or maybe work in an office with the AC turned up way high), those are impractical for our mild cool season.

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Pull & Bear storefront

I shop on a budget and I probably won’t be getting basic stuff like plain tank tops from these stores. But there are some really great pieces that can make your chosen outfit pop — or at least give you a peg to hunt for at thrift stores, bazaars, and local brands.

Oh dear, I think I awoke my inner shopaholic again…

Eight Hours in Changi

A few months ago I was heading home on a Tiger Airways ticket from Phuket to Manila. However there are no direct flights from Phuket to Manila especially on a Sunday, so I was on the next best thing: a connecting flight through Singapore with an eight-hour layover. My luggage would be checked through, so I wouldn’t need to pick it up in Singapore and re-check it on the SIN-MNL flight.

I had actually planned to leave the airport during the layover, because I would arrive at 4:30pm and fly out at 12:55am. This is doable; with a Philippine passport I don’t need a transit visa and can enter and leave the airport after going through immigration and security. Additionally, Singapore’s MRT system connects directly with the airport and you could very well get all the way into the city to meet up with friends for a nice early dinner and some shopping.

However, I was traveling by myself and my mom, ever protective, requested I stay inside instead. So, what do you do by yourself for eight hours in Changi Airport?

8 Hours in Changi

Read more

Destination: Races

I’ve been stamping my passport quite a bit the past year or so, but for this girl addicted to beaches and travel, the purpose of my trips hasn’t been to bum on a beach somewhere! Instead, my foray into triathlon has taken me to some pretty unexpected places to race.

I’ve been flipping through my photos and realized I’ve missed out on a whole lot because I was focused on competing in those triathlons. I never made enough time to go about exploring, and so when I enter a conversation with someone who isn’t into triathlon and we start talking about a place I’ve been, I’m at a loss for words on what else you can do there aside from the races.  Read more

1 Little, 2 Little… 12 Monkeys

(or the time a famous musician bought me a drink)

I’ve not been one to go for nightlife or the local music scene lately simply because I’m a morning person, a somewhat serious athlete, and there’s something about going to a dingy smoky bar late at night just to watch a band perform that makes my asthmatic throat constrict.

12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub at Century City Mall, Makati aims to change that attitude, and from my visit there last Friday I think it might actually work. 🙂

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12 Monkeys is on the 5th Level

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fully-stocked bar

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for the live acts

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for the DJs

This music hall and pub was set up by the who’s who of Manila’s music, social, and F&B scene. Read more

Hi, I’m Noelle and I write for a living.

Today, someone told me I had no right to call that someone out for writing something that may or may not be factual but had no official statement to back it up, just because I don’t write for anything more professional than my blog. (That someone also sent a few ad hominem attacks my way, but let’s stick to the merits of the argument.)

Whenever I receive any sort of criticism, I try to see if it has merit. Is there anything in my words or deeds that deserve such censure? It’s very much part of my personality to self-analyze and so I take comments to heart.

What is the definition of professional? According to Merriam-Webster:

  1. relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill
  2. done or given by a person who works in a particular profession
  3. paid to participate in a sport or activity

Anyone can set up a blog with all the publishing tools now available — you don’t even need to go into the source code of your pages these days. So you don’t really need any special education, training, or skill to start a blog…

…Ah, but to write a blog that helps you make a living is a different matter entirely. What if your blog is a showcase of your skill in creating that turn of phrase that is just so, that pulls on the heartstrings, that calls to action? That is something someone somewhere is willing to pay for. I know I have that because I have been paid to write in the past. I stopped writing for magazines because I was writing mechanically — you know how magazines are: they cover the same topics year after year with just a tiny change in spin. With other jobs occupying my time I decided I only wanted to write about what I was passionate about and truly interested me. Instead of chasing the freelance writing jobs, I began creating content for my own blog.

And you know what? People visit my blog because what they find there is compelling and takes them on a journey they could not otherwise have gone on. They read my blog to get informed about our shared passion, and they know if I tout something it’s not because I was paid to say so, but because I have used it or tried it out and believe in it. That’s a reputation I have worked hard at building and sustaining. (It’s really up to them if they trust what I write and pull the trigger on a purchase.)

And now the writing jobs — which pay money! — come to me. Because of my blog I have been able to travel, clothe myself, participate in an expensive sport. I get paid to write. You know what I write on my travel documents as an occupation or profession? WRITER.

I do not consider myself a journalist; most of what I write opinionated and based on personal experience. But I do pride myself in the training I received while earning my graduate degree in Media Studies (Journalism), which taught me how to write the difference between statements of fact and statements based on assumption. And that’s what I called that someone out on.

Really, at this point when print magazines are losing readership and circulation (and they are all coming out with online editions to get people to read them again), someone wants to say I’m less of a professional because I self-publish on a blog?

The reason I’m writing this is because I have to let all this word vomit out before it causes me writer’s block. Now that it’s off my chest, I’m going to go back to writing some commissioned work and earn my keep doing it.