A Pocketful of Countries’ Memories

Having been to several countries because of my work, and some personal trips, I realized that, oftentimes, it’s not the grand things that you remember. It’s not the lavish meals, the important meetings, the sense of accomplishment after finishing outputs, and the sense of pride in meeting notable personalities. Rather, it’s those little things that make a mark, those people who made the day memorable and those situations that made you feel strongly about things. Most of my work trips lasted only from three days to at most five days but some memories remained.

When I went to Koh Samui, Thailand (June 2017), what I loved the most was the beach which is a few minute walk from the hotel. Other members from the Philippine delegation and I usually went there around 6am so we had enough time to walk and jog or simply enjoy the sea breeze and the view before official meetings started. I also loved the Chaweng Street Market and the local restaurants in the area. I remember my hotel, and how pleasant it was—with wooden panels, relaxing music playing, and fresh spa-like scent. I recall the hotel cleaning lady who was around 7-8 months pregnant. We had a small talk and I wished her a safe delivery and reminded her to take care.

Walking along the shore at 6AM
The path from the beach to the hotel which reminded me of a scene from “Memoirs of a Geisha”
Excited to enjoy my coconut milk shake
Wonderful view from my hotel’s verandah

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (May 2016), the most memorable were visiting the Twin Towers, going to Bukit Bintang, and sampling food in a street market. We took several photos of the Twin Towers, angling the camera in such a way that the best view could be taken. The local Malaysian food was delicious. I had noodles (I can’t recall the exact name) and fresh kiwi juice. There were many people also out to experience the enthusiastic evening vibe. I remember there were several beggars, dressed peculiarly, singing and asking for alms. I was with two other delegates from the Philippines and we had a fun conversation under the evening sky.

With my fellow delegates from the Philippines, after the meeting
Happy to be out under the evening sky, waiting for our dinner of Malaysian local dishes
With the radiant Petronas Twin Towers behind us.

What I recall most from my trip to Hyderabad, India (July 2017) was the feel of the place. It was an area undergoing development with infrastructure projects being done, particularly buildings being constructed. Some things that I noticed were the practice of shaking heads of the locals every time they speak—the guards, the office personnel, the people in the hotel, the police. I think they’re not conscious they are doing it. I also remember the black cover of the water dispenser in the breakfast area of the hotel; I was dying to ask the crew why that was necessary, but I didn’t. (I prefer it uncovered so I can see the clear water). I also remembered Shilparamam and the wide array of crafts to choose from. Also, our trip to Charminar reminded me of Quiapo (a place in Manila). We stayed later than planned so I had to ask assistance from the police officers in the station when we couldn’t get a ride back to the hotel. My fellow Philippine delegates also had a bonding time during dinner; we shared food in the dining area and talked about fun things. Another thing that’s so vivid in my mind was the transportation we were provided—it’s a public bus with dark-colored upholstered seats, with a really pungent smell, and the driver drove so fast, bordering on being reckless.

Feeling glad in Hyderabad
The huge crowd speaks of the charm of Charminar.
Shilparamam is an arts and crafts shop; a haven for an art lover like me.

In Semarang, Indonesia (April 2016), I met a very able liaison officer. She oriented me about the meeting details, places to go in the area, the local cuisine and others. Once, she picked me up using her own car apologizing that the driver assigned can no longer pick me up from my hotel. I also remember one kind colleague from the Department who invited me to her place, to be able to rest. Also, I remember one from the PhilDel who was arrogant and hot-tempered that at one point, I felt I was ready to walk an hour just so I wouldn’t be in the same car with that person. I recall the oldest restaurant in the area and how one of the waiters reminded me of Quasimodo. I remember our tour to the dam, how knowledgeable our speaker was, and how approachable the head of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) was.

A wonderful performance during the opening program
Established in 1910, Toko “Oen” is one of the oldest restaurants in Indonesia.
With two officers of the AHA Center

In Incheon, South Korea (October 2017), I attended a meeting with my fellow ASEAN colleague, Rhea. I remember being amazed at the clean, wide streets and the public smoking areas with glass panels. I had the opportunity to wear a Hanbok and write my name in Korean characters. I recall our walk to NC Cube (it was colder than expected) and the nice design of the place—a blending of a commercial establishment, nature’s beauty, and art (sculptures and varying themes per area). We also found a small restaurant (one of the few still open late) and discovered that the owners (a husband-wife tandem) stayed in the Philippines for many years before establishing their business in Korea. Aside from that, the thrill of trying the first Korean street food (fish cake), commuting to Myeong-dong and going around the area stayed with me. Also, I almost lost my passport, the first time such a thing happened to me. (I unintentionally left my pouch when I freshened up in the restroom after lunch.) Thankfully, Madz, a fellow Philippine delegate saw my pouch and returned it to me at once.

Where’s my Korean prince? ^_^
Does this hat look good on me? 😉 (at NC Cube)

Singapore (January 2018) felt modern and progressive—its buildings, busy streets, commercial establishments, and crowds. My hotel was a 20-minute walk to the venue where I passed by small restaurants, a small alley, a busy street, a mall and some buildings, it felt like a maze at first. I recall the kindness of the Consul there, whom I was meeting for the first time, but has communicated to a few times from the time I was still taking the FSO exam. (He was my Ate’s acquaintance way back in College.) One of the highlights of my Singapore trip was the “Century of Light” Exhibit in the National Gallery of Singapore. The museum featured the works of Juan Luna, a painter whose works I greatly admire and whose talent is unmatched by most painters.

I loved that huge screen at SunTec.
Proud to be standing beside one of Juan Luna’s most famous painting, the “The Death of Cleopatra”
The National Gallery of Singapore

As for Abu Dhabi (November 2016), I went there with three batch mates (Cecelia, Boj, Jake) plus two mentors from the Department as part of the Basic Apprenticeship Program on Consular Practice for Foreign Service Officers’ Cadetship Course (FSOCC). We were kept busy by the assigned tasks we had at the Embassy—writing reports and speeches, processing Consular documents, attending Embassy consular activities such as weddings and dual citizenship oath takings, and attending Filipino community events. The Ambassador and his wife were really nice, and the officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy were helpful. To make our experience of Abu Dhabi richer, we also visited some places during our free time; these were the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, Al Ain (Oasis, Museum), Jebel Hafeet Mountain, WTC Mall and Madinat Zayed Shopping and Gold Centre. I remember being so awed of there Mosque. There was also a time we were so worried because we couldn’t find the other group (we split in two because of transportation service) in Jebel Hafeet with no way to communicate at that time. So we were overjoyed when we finally reunited on top of the mountain!

Fun time with the wonderful people of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi
Reunited atop Jebel Hafeet
In the luxurious Emirates Palace
Al Ain Museum
At the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Travelling enriches one’s mind and soul indeed. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work and travel at the same time, when I can meet my fellow delegates from the Philippines and from other countries, learn significant things, and be part of the voice of the country in international events/endeavors.

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