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The Eye-Popping Street Art of St. Petersburg

Mural by Ricky Watts

St. Petersburg is a millenial’s paradise. It has a vibrant community of artists, skateboarders, surfers, and young entrepreneurs and professionals, making it (arguably) the hippest neighborhood in Florida. If you were to ask me, I’d like to live there too. It has everything I’m looking for in a place–the beach is just a stone’s throw away and there are plenty of museums, galleries, gyms, quaint novelty shops, and cafes to explore. But perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when talking about St. Pete is the street art….

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South Carolina Stopover

Our first stopover on the way home to Tampa, Florida was South Carolina. While I was taking my master’s degree at the University of the Philippines, I studied American culture and literature, and the African-American history is one of many topics that fascinated me. And so, Chad and I decided to have a quick lunch in the historic town of Charleston and check out the nearby places while we were in the area. We drove through the amazing Ravenel Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge over the Cooper River in SC that connects downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

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Topsail Beach, North Carolina

Everyone has that one place where they can just go and be happy. For me it has always been the beach. I can sit in the sand for hours and never get bored. There is nothing like watching the waves roll in and feeling the wind blow through my hair.

That’s why I never felt so happy and excited when my US visa finally arrived. I simply couldn’t wait to check out the beautiful beaches in Florida! My arrival to the United States was perfect timing because I made it to the annual family vacation in Topsail Beach, North Carolina, which is about 10-hour drive from Tampa, our city….

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Calaguas Islands, Camarines Norte

This year is probably the most pivotal time of my life. Having been born and raised in the Philippines for more than 25 years, I’ve only seen very little of my own country. I didn’t get to travel much until Chad, my soon-to-be-hubby who likes to call himself my dreamboy (hahaha!), came along. I used to be very stingy when it comes to spending, especially since I only had enough for my daily expenses. Traveling is a privilege many people, particularly in the Philippines, do not often get the pleasure of doing.

So before leaving the country, I decided to check out two places, one of which I already blogged about early this month. I’ve been meaning to visit Calaguas for a long time, even before it got really popular. It’s only 4 hours away from my hometown and pretty accessible.

I wanted to have the best experience since it’s going to be the last trip I’m going to make before finally leaving the country (more about that in a separate post), so I enlisted the help of an old friend from college who is now managing Beach Bliss Travel and Tours, a tour company that provides all the services you need to enjoy Bicol gems like Calaguas and Subic Beach in Sorsogon. You can contact them on Facebook for booking details.

The Beach Bliss Team with Kuya Eking (rightmost), the head bangkero

The standard rate per person for an overnight stay is Php 2,500 but always check their Facebook page for promos. Sometimes, the full package only costs Php 2,000! The amount covers transportation from Naga City to Calaguas Island and vice versa, three meals, tent rental, island hopping, and entrance fees to the nearby islands. To put it simply, you only have to bring your essentials, and some cash for tips to the boatmen (we gave a hundred pesos each). They offer personalized services and throw in some corny jokes for good measure (haha!)  so I can assure you that you will have an awesome experience with them–my friends and I did.

Look how clear the water is! My best friend Mav took this while on the boat.

As soon as we docked, Beach Bliss started pitching the tents and preparing lunch. All we had to do was wait and explore the island.

The famous white sand of Calaguas. Reminds me of polvoron! 🙂

Afterwards, we went island hopping and hiked the hills around Calaguas that greeted us with a magnificent view.



This trip is probably the most memorable one I’ve made so far. It’s my first out-of-town trip with my besties after being friends for almost 15 years. I don’t know where I’d be without these two. They’ve been my constant companions in good times and bad. Even though we don’t see each other as often as we used to, they always make time for me when I come home. When we’re together, it’s like high school all over again. 🙂

Anyway, I still have more photos to show so scroll away!

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Incantatus Festival, Zambales

Two weeks ago, my friends and I went to Incantadia, Zambales in Talisayen Cove to have a one-of-a-kind summer experience. We’ve all been really busy with work and life preventing us from seeing each other, so this trip came at the right time. Also, social media has become unbearably toxic lately so an island getaway sounded like such a good idea. And boy, it was.

It’s my first beach fest ever so I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. Incantatus is not just a music festival–it also offers poi lessons, yoga sessions, and a cleanup activity. We’ve all seen how much trash such events produce and it’s really nice that the organizers thought of incorporating a cleanup activity during the two-day event. I only wish everyone participated. But… baby steps.

Incantatus was attended by mostly foreigners from all over the world. Some of the people I got to interact with came from Poland, Denmark, the UK, Spain, France, Nigeria, and Japan. I’ve always been curious about other nationalities, so it was a perfect opportunity to learn more about their culture.

Waiting for our bus to Zambales. We were supposed to leave at 7am but we left at around 8am.

I guess the only “negative” thing I can say is that the organizers weren’t too “organized”. There were certain things they failed to tell us before the event, such as the lack of network signal (as in nada) and boats to take us back to the mainland. No one knew exactly how many and what time the boats were gonna arrive–everyone wanted to go home and none from the staff approached us nor managed the crowd. Apart from that, it was an awesome weekend with friends. Definitely one for the books.

More photos after the jump!…

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