Category Archives: Adventures

Having my Period, and how it’s like to be a Woman in India


About a week ago, I had my period. 

I knew it was coming soon, so a few days ago, I told my host mother, ate Diana, that I needed period things.

We happened to be out in the busy business district of Jaigaon, in one particular street with all kinds of shops and restaurants. We had just finished shoe shopping when I told her of my need, and so we set out looking for a pharmacy. Because, as I have come to learn, the only shops that carried period things were pharmacies. And also some big grocery stores or supermarkets.

23484560_10214841651214512_1595942762_oPeriod Products from the local pharmacy

As I’ve said before, these South Asian countries are the strangest I’ve ever been in, so far. The food, the clothing, the language, the culture… I have never been exposed to such South Asianness before. But this lack of availability of feminine products was baffling.

In the Philippines, even the smallest sari-sari store would almost always have feminine products. Here, they do have sari-sari stores, but period products would only ever be found in pharmacies and supermarkets. In these West Bengal parts of India however, there are no supermarkets.

[UPDATE: I am told that this is not the case in other parts of India.]

I wonder why they didn’t make it more common for more stores to sell period products. Periods are already not fun. A woman on her period is already on tiger mode stress level – why stress the tiger out even more? (Or maybe I’m just talking about myself haha.)

On the other hand, now I always remember to buy painkillers whenever I buy period products… and medicine here is insanely, amazingly cheap! Win!

This very minor inconvenience , however, is only one of the things I had to adjust to. I already had an idea of the status of women in South Asia, but experiencing it first hand and hearing about it from actual Indians and Nepalis was an altogether interesting experience.

The caste system still has very deep roots in many communities, sometimes even in Christian communities. In India, pregnant women are forbidden from taking ultrasounds, in an effort to reduce abortions of baby girls. Girls are generally seen as burdens at best, while boys are a blessing. Parents who have girls are deemed unfortunate, because the dowry system requires parents to shell out huge amounts of money to ensure the girls’ marriages.

Girls are also less likely to be educated, because “they will get married anyway,” so investing in her education is seen as a waste. It is therefore not uncommon for women to be employed in low-paying manual labor jobs, while men take blue-collared jobs. One of the shocks I had was seeing women doing heavy manual labor (mixing cement and carrying gravel at construction sites, for example).

It’s easy for a 21st century, western-influenced, egalitarian-leaning young woman like me to think all this to be “oppressive” at worst, or “restrictive” at best, but if there is anything I’ve learned from studying cultures, it is that culture is not easily changed, especially in a place such as India, where certain societal systems are deeply entrenched in the culture, and there are certain people in power who are actively working to keep the status quo.

It is a complicated problem, one that needs to be addressed at the worldview level. And the fact that people do not find it to be a problem is, I think, an indication of how big the problem. It is especially a sad and sobering realization for me that even some Christians do not think it to be a problem.

It was especially interesting for me to discover how Christian women are in South Asia. But that’s another blog post for another day.



Film with Surf


It’s about time I wrote about Surf and the Film Workshop I’ve been attending the last few weeks. It’s been weirdly awesome.

“The Weird became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

Let me tell you about Surf, my teacher.

“Have you heard of the saying, ‘The Weird became flesh and dwelt among us’?” Surf asked us at our first session. “That’s me.”

He is like no one I have ever met, and is therefore by far the most interesting character I have ever met in my life so far. He is an artist through and through.

I went to CCP with him last Saturday. It was for the 100-year celebration of Gerardo “Gerry” de Leon, National Artist for Philippine Cinema.


At the Dream Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines

There were esteemed guests – most of whom are veteran filmmakers, actors and producers themselves. Surf Reyes, my teacher, was invited at the screening, and he thought it a good idea to bring his students with him.

During the screening, Surf was recognized in public for the fact that Surf actually worked with Gerry de Leon back when Gerry was still alive! The Screening was in celebration of Gerry after all, so they gave Surf some time in front of everyone to share a bit about his experiences working with the esteemed Gerry.

That was when it hit me: Surf is the real deal.

It was a special moment for me when Surf pointed at us, introducing us as “his students”. I felt honored to actually learn from this unself-conscious (is there such a word?), crazy, weird, and extremely talented 69-year old man.

I didn’t mind that nobody knew us. The fact that I had a right to tag along Surf and stand nearby while directors and cinematographers and whoever in the film industry shook hands and chatted and took pictures with Surf were enough.

That was when I had the second hit of the night: everything that Surf is doing to us, with us, and for us – everything! – is no less than discipleship.

Indeed, Surf takes every moment as a teaching moment for filmmaking – whether it’s in the technical aspect, the creative storytelling aspect, or artistic / mystic philosophy.

With my film teacher, Surf Reyes

With my film teacher, Surf Reyes

On that note, let me just say: Surf is prolific evangelist of his own philosophies and beliefs. And while these are beliefs I do not necessarily agree with, his boldness and strong proclivity to share his faith is a characteristic I respect.

Surf practices what he teaches. At sixty nine, his passion to keep mastering, re-mastering and improving in his craft still consumes him. I love that about him. I am impressed that he is neither daunted nor intimidated by technology. He sees technology as a means to “better tell his story through images”. In fact, he is currently finishing up a documentary he’s been working on for about three months now.

Surf is a mentor forever – lifetime discipleship. At yesterday’s session he told us so: “You can come to me for consultation! All we need to do is schedule it.” I just love how devoid of snobbery he is.

Our ceiling crashed and our landowners found Jesus.


Yesterday we had dinner with our land owners.

REALLY fun and swell time — Mr. Landowner is such a funny guy, and Mrs. Landowner is so cool. The best part was when they were recounting story after story of how they have been experiencing God the last month.

I rejoice with them. I rejoice that for four consecutive Sundays, our awesome landowners have been going to church with us (and even when we weren’t there). I am happy that they are motivated to know God more because of a recognized longing and emptiness in their own hearts. I am glad that every little thing, every recent event in their lives are being interpreted and viewed through the lens of Christianity.

As a matter of fact, Mrs. Landowner came dropped by again tonight (we had some minor electrical glitch and she brought the electrician) and she shared, yet again, how a long-lost relative got in touch with her. She said she was so excited that she blurted on the phone, “We have to talk! I need to tell you something. I found Jesus!”

SO REFRESHING to see new believers.

And, would you believe it all happened because our ceiling crashed?

Because, as Ate Jenny (my housemate) put it, our landowners would not have visited if the ceiling didn’t crash. That day, Mrs. Landowner came over to supervise the ceiling repairs.

When she came, she saw ate Jenny reading some book.

Recognizing it to be some kind of Christian book, Mrs. Landowner asked about ate Jenny’s faith.

The result: a very good spiritual conversation.

Which ended with ate Jenny extending them an invitation to go to church with us.

Which Mrs. Landowner accepted.

And like I said earlier, they’ve been attending for a month now. Yesterday, Mr. Landowner expressed that he was beginning to think of joining a discipleship group in church.

God’s got some humor. The joke was one us. 🙂



Hey, wanna pray with us?

Pray that our Landowners continue to see and experience God ever more deeply. Pray for our missionary household, that we never forget to be ambassadors not just to our Landowners, but to people around us.

Why I love Baguio: They give exact change.


This morning, upon arriving at my destination (finally got home, yay!), I handed the taxi driver a hundred peso bill and a twenty peso bill.

The meter read: Php.107.00.

Without hesitating, he reached for his glove compartment, took the appropriate number of coins, and handed me my change: Php.13.00.

THEN I knew I was really back in Baguio.

For sure, there are lots of reasons I love Baguio (oh, and when I say Baguio I also mean La Trinidad, lol), aside from the fact that staying here for more than 5 years has let it grow on me.

One of those reasons is THIS: They give the exact change. The exact change, man!

I used to take it for granted, but it was one of those little things I suddenly loved about Baguio when I moved to Quezon City and the taxi drivers, for WHATEVER REASON (“Oh I don’t have change, ma’am”) would actually demand (“Dagdagan mo na lang ma’am.” Oh, the nerve!) that I freakin’. Pay. MORE than the what the meter dictates. 

What irks me more is how the driver actually thinks he’s entitled to keep my change. Wow, I sound stingy.

The truth is, I don’t mind doing this. I don’t mind paying extra. I understand this is how it’s done down there. Upon moving to QC, I learned to accept that when the meter reads Php.89 and I only have a hundred peso bill, I should not expect to get back the eleven pesos I own. I don’t hate it either. I dislike it, but don’t hate it. I’m not expecting things to change anytime soon either.

TAKE NOTE: I most certainly am NOT romanticizing Baguio, and I’m most certainly not naive. Honest and dishonest men abound wherever in the Philippines.

It’s just things like these that let me appreciate my home city.

When the Roof Crashes Over Your Head


This morning, as in, in the wee hours of the morning, at around 2am, I was contentedly finishing some chick flick movie when I heard a dull thud coming from outside my door.

Now, had I been NOT wearing earphones, I would’ve heard a terrific crash, but I didn’t.

About thirty minutes later, I went out of the room… and found out what the commotion was all about. The ceiling in ate Jenny’s room had literally CRASHED DOWN, creating a nasty, uneven hole.

The first things that came to mind were:

-Oh man, this is the most exciting thing that’s happened since Monday (we were trapped indoors because of Typhoon Maring).

-Good thing ate Jenny didn’t get hurt. How did she dodge all that ceiling?!

-Tsk tsk tsk, poor craftsmanship. Poor materials.

-Oh NO. Ate Jenny is just plain pissed. Understandably so. You would if you were sleeping soundly and the roof suddenly crashed over your head.

-I must have had the volume turned up really loud. How could I have not heard all the commotion outside?

-I wonder what’ll happen now.

-We still have a lot to thank God for. We have food, and water, and at least we still have most of our roof intact. Others don’t even have a roof.


But just this evening, when I went home, I arrived to find the older adults (which is, all of them) seriously discussing whether or not to move out and find another house. Sigh, but I like it here. 😦 Easy for me to say, of course, didn’t have the ceiling fall down on me.

Tomorrow we shall have a household meeting and decide the next steps. I’m kinda nervous.

One Step at a Time: I Conquered Mount Mayon!


Yes, I endured days of swollen legs and feet. Every step was torture (from over-exhaustion I’m told, a syndrome called DOMS or something).

Sure, my shoulder muscles still cringe.

My skin now has an uneven tan (I actually have a tan line in the middle of my arm. I look like I’m wearing a brown, skin-tanned glove).

And yes, my wallet’s a little more lighter from the expenses.



Oh yeah I did!

I’m back from Bicol, from our Operation Jabez (OJ) local mission trip (which I promise I’ll be writing about very, very soon, promise). And I don’t know what came about me, but I suddenly had the crazy idea to join the Mount Mayon hike with some of my OJ teammates.

The hike from jump off point to Camp 1 and Camp 2 was manageable, almost like Mount Pulag, except a little longer. We arrived at Camp 2 after several hours of hiking, where we set up camp and had early dinner.

The real challenge was the Summit Assault.

The average Filipino would know from basic Philippine geography lessons that Mount Mayon is known for its “perfect cone”. We immediately recognized it… we were practically climbing a steep 45-degree wall. Would’ve been fine, except that it went on for hours.

The view from Manito, Albay. What we dared to climb.

The view from Manito, Albay. What we dared to climb.

We started the Summit Assault at around 2am. Very dark, but in retrospect I guess it was better that way. Every once in a while I kept flashing my flashlight up to see how much longer we still had to climb. There, as far as my flashlight beam could reach, were still rocks. Rock, rock, rock. And more rock. Seriously, it seemed to go on FOREVER.

We wanted to reach the summit in time for the sunrise, but with our pace sunrise came about 3/4ths to the summit. It was still a majestic view, though.

Watching the sunrise hundreds of feet above the ground. My point and shoot camera couldn't give it justice, for sure.

Watching the sunrise hundreds of feet above the ground. My point and shoot camera couldn’t give it justice, for sure.

Up and up we go. Brings to mind Frodo. Oh, how Frodo suffered. I'm much more sympathetic now.

Up and up we go. Brings to mind Frodo. Oh, how Frodo suffered. And he climbed for days! I’m much more sympathetic now.

Four hours later, we finally detected the distinct smell of sulfur. We are told to prepare gas masks or any cloth we could wrap around our faces to keep out the smell.

“The crater’s 15 minutes away!”, Bayron Cepria, our head tour guide, says.

And finally, what we hiked hours for…

What we hiked hours for.

What we hiked hours for.

Mayon Crater 2

Then, it was time for the dreaded descent.

I never knew how smooth, slippery and uneven weathered lava rocks could be. Nor how cruel they could be to our already battered knee caps.

I am EVER grateful to kuya Ronald,one of our guides, who literally held my hand going down and went ahead of me, scouring for “easier”, less slippery paths. This is also the part where I put in a word for kuya Bayron Cepria, our head tour guide.

He and his team were very meticulous in ensuring our safety, and at times, our convenience. When going to Mayon, he’s the man to call. I actually tried googling him, and was quite surprised that he has made a name for himself with regards to Bicol / Mount Mayon tours.

One word to describe this climb: CRAZY. Wait, maybe you didn’t get it. IT WAS CRAZY!

And finally, my very poignant reflection from this experience:

As in all difficult experiences in life, it helps when you have with you someone who has already been through the circumstance.

Deep, right? Heh.

I actually prefer ate Kerren’s reflection:

Going up, I felt like Frodo.  Going down I felt like Gollum.