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Filipina Explorer is a travel blog that believes in the power of stories to connect us to the world, shape ideas, and move us to action. Read these stories from the archives.
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About Filipina Explorer
Hi! I'm Gretchen, a travel writer based in the Philippines. I created Filipina Explorer in 2009 to document my journeys through places, parenthood, and word weaving. This blog is a collection of those stories and everything in between.
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The 4 Most Beautiful Beaches Around the World

Traveling around to see the best beaches in the Philippines can be an enjoyable experience. However, have you ever thought about going to the top-rated beaches around the world?

While the Philippines has many beautiful beaches to offer, like the gorgeous ones in El Nido, you should also travel out of the country and see what others have to offer. Here are the top four beaches that you can start with.

Pantai Merah, Indonesia


Pantai Merah is more commonly known as the Pink Beach. It is one of few beaches in the world that has pink-colored sand, which is absolutely beautiful to look at. The striking color of the sand mixing with the turquoise waters truly makes it a place worth seeing.

However, the real attraction at the beach is the marine life. You can see much tropical fish, manta rays, and other aquatic life. It is also perfect for a range of water activities, like snorkeling, kayaking, and swimming. If you get tired of the water, head into the Komodo National Park to see a whole other world.


Miyako Island, Japan

If you are looking to go to an unspoiled beach, then Miyako Island should be at the top of your list. Because of its remote location, one-of-a-kind ecosystem, and no inland rivers to erode the reef, the island is well-preserved.

Unlike most beaches around the world, you will find nothing but peace on the island. The sweet sound of the waves flowing and ebbing will be the only things you hear while you are on the island. Check out Maehama Beach. It’s gorgeous and perfect for swimming. You will even be able to snap fantastic pictures of the sunset against the waves.

So what are you waiting for? Get your visa from www.japan-visa.net/japan-visa-philippines and head over to Miyako Island this summer.


Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI

If the Caribbean has been on your to-go list for quite some time now, then this beach could be final push you need. Truck Bay is situated in the Virgin Islands National Park, and it is among the most photographed beaches in the world. If you are big on snorkeling, Trunk Bay should be perfect for you, as it has a 225-yard long trail that leads snorkelers underwater. There are also many hiking trails that lead to greenery.

There are many places for you to stay in the area and many lovely restaurants for you to enjoy.


Reethi Rah, North Malé Atoll, Maldives

The Maldives is a wonderful place with hundreds of beautiful beaches, making it very challenging to pick a favorite. However, the Reethi Rah and North Malé Atoll are something else.

If you want to have a relaxing and peaceful holiday, then this is definitely the spot. There is only one resort here, and it is fantastic. While the eight perfect sand circles around the island are filled with couples on their honeymoon, the place is ideal for family fun.


Waiting


On a barren patch of earth a few steps from where our dog was laid to rest, we planted a young golden shower. A wooden swing from where we can tilt our head back to bright yellow blooms bursting in the summer, their dark seedpods hanging over us like precious heirloom jewelry - that was always the dream.

The man who sold it told me to wait five years. But to wait is tiresome. To witness without expectations, to allow for stillness, to simply be present as the tiny gears inch to full circle is much simpler, less heartbreaking, and sometimes, even fruitful.

As the pandemic-induced quarantine unfolded, I've become less concerned about waiting. I've stopped counting the days. They all look pretty similar to me – bare, often quiet, slow-moving as fog. Counting - anything remotely connected to mathematics, if I'd be honest - is not only my weakest suit, but it's futile to me and the work that I do.

Everything right now is a matter of uncertainty. The years seem like a nameless face, and anxiety a dull, redundant pain. I decided I will not participate in its mechanisms any longer, more than I allow myself to. I recognize the privilege in being able to say that, because millions of people around the world have no other resort but to wait – families who need test kits, the people who are waiting for their affliction to subside, essential laborers, healthcare workers stuck in hospitals for a week at a time. I am beyond lucky to be in a position where I can choose not to wait.

Right now, we live our days mostly in the short term – except the part where we isolate for long-term gains. In a world where no one knows an absolute, exact solution; where even scientists can only estimate the number of days, weeks, months, years we need to bear to fight an enemy we cannot see, how do you keep counting the days and making elaborate plans only to be told “not yet” over and over again and not lose a thread of hope each time?

With many liberties taken, life has changed shape. Oft-overlooked simplicities have become valuable. I work 12 to 16 hours a day including weekends, and a bike ride to run errands is now a godsend. Pre-quarantine, I viewed it mainly as exercise; a way to reduce transport costs. Now, with freedom of movement largely restricted, without access to sights outside our home, our rickety bike has become the only means to keep everything up and running in the house.

It is liberation.

At sunset, I'd stomp on the pedal full halt and just spend minutes looking at the Sierra Madre Mountain Range from afar. I'd lean my head against the wind to marvel at birds flying in Vs. I don't even bother to take photos most of the time. Eternity in seconds. That's how sunset bike rides feel to me these days. They haven't been for a very long time.

For a long time, I was always in a mad rush to work. It's an innate characteristic that's hard to get rid of. I've yet to learn the art of doing nothing. Labor is an act I take pride in. One that I can be happily immersed in for more than half of a 24-hour period. But I've also rediscovered the meaning of and the joy in slowing down, even just for an hour three times a week. I've learned to let go of expectations of an uncertain future and not be taken out of the now by gripping fear of ifs and whens; of possibilities that I am not sure will happen. I've learned to say “We'll see what happens” instead of “This is how it should happen”. And it's fucking priceless.

Letter #20: Eight



Hello, Lia.

It's unbelievable to me that today, I am saying to you, “Happy 8th”. I don't even notice the years. Wasn't it just yesterday that you were swaddled in that newborn jumpsuit? That you walked your first steps? Sped off on your bike on your own? Wasn't it just yesterday that I let go of another year?

Today, I do so again. I bid goodbye to a girl in second grade go and welcome someone who will be in third grade. Each year I let go, knowing the clock doesn't tarry or rewind. Knowing I will never meet that same person again in my life. We simply march forward, meeting many different and constantly growing persons that we call our daughter.

How bittersweet, exciting, poignant, life-changing, and humbling experience that is all at once.


Lia, I don't think there is anything else I could tell you now that I haven't said in my other letters to you. But the thing I want you to remember the most is that no matter how many persons you become in your lifetime, no matter how the tide shifts and changes you, one thing remains constant: I will forever be your Mama, and you my daughter. I will always love the many new yous that are born each year. And all those yous will always have warm arms to come home to, no matter how cold and bleak the earth turns.

Here now and always,
Mama

Grieving, actually



In nursing school, we learned about the great's Elizabeth Kubler Ross' five stages of grieving. When faced with loss, Ross' says, first there is denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

It took me three weeks to acknowledge it, but I was grieving. For the first time in my 36-year existence, I am living through a pandemic. It has altered every normal that I had - the normal freedom of movement, the normal hours of waking up and going to bed, the normal way to hope, the normal way of looking at a future, at days, months, years; the normal way of feeling and dealing with anxiety and panic while making sure there will still be food on the table and money to pay the bills.

If anything, that is the only constant I have: I still have a family to feed and clients who demand only the best service - which, in these times, is largely a blessing and an escape, though at times also a crux. It doesn't afford you a reason or the time to process feelings the way everybody does.

I tried to learn how to appropriate time. I began minimizing social media consumption. It brought me crippling anxiety and fear for weeks. The less exposure there was to it, the more manageable my anxiety was; the greater clarity available for work and family. Whatever I needed to know, I already know by now. Whatever I still need to know, I can obtain by browsing news on the web.

_____

Last Wednesday, we decided to have our senior dog put down. She had cancer and liver and kidney damage. I cried inconsolably while the vets were injecting her heart with lethal drugs. As she struggled to breathe her last. As she was being laid down to a grave next to a tree nearby.

I sat with that feeling. It didn't feel good, but it was necessary to move forward. It was necessary to accept that this dog was company day in and day out for nine years, and now she is gone. That shit is final. You can never go back to normal, because normal is relative. This is the new normal.

I deal with the pandemic the same way I dealt with the death of our dog. I allow the feelings to take place. I accept that nothing can ever be normal again.

Can we go back to our lives like this pandemic never happened? The answer is, we can't.

We are forever changed. What this pandemic teaches is that the only normal, really, is the uncertainty of the future. If we want to stay sane, we have to embrace it, not fight it. Stop trying to bury our fears and anxieties in busyness, and start accepting that it is okay to be fearful and anxious. To be afraid is human. To be afraid and still tread each day is to live. Stop and ruminate on what living truly means. Stop counting the days to April 14 and start living day by day - slowly, gently, kindly, lovingly, with compassion for yourself and others.


“Grief breaks you open and it lives with you in silence...the wisdom of that silence is: Hold your tongue, sit, be present, and bear witness...The only way through is the way through.”

- Marc Byrd

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