20+ years of friendship in Cebu/Bohol

Since I was a baby until we moved to Sweden, we lived in an apartment within the campus of the University of the Philippines Diliman. My sister and I weren’t the only babies and children in the area, two floors above us for example lived two girls our age, the youngest only being 3 months younger than I was. As we were around the same age and lived so close to each other, we became best friends when we were babies until we were children, and remained so until I moved to Sweden.

After a few years in Sweden, we unfortunately lost contact. However after over ten years later, we reconnected again a few years ago. It’s funny how life turns out sometimes, as everyone were surprised at how alike we still are despite growing up apart. Some things just never change.

To celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship, why not go on our first vacation together to somewhere we have never been to before? Bohol it is.

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As the goal of my trip was to see as much of the country as I can, I was excited to visit a new place. I have heard a lot of positive things about Bohol, especially about its snorkeling on Panglao island. But before that, we decided to pass by Cebu because why not!

We had no plans when we were in Cebu, but somehow, we managed to see all the must-sees. Sto Nino church, Sto Nino’s mom’s church, Magellan’s cross, eat lechon and buy a ukulele. We just walked around with our suitcases and somehow we managed to do everything we wanted to do. Even if it included walking through basically ghetto with people lying in the streets to get my ukulele. It was worth it nevertheless. We were happy with our short few hours trip to Cebu, and all the friendly locals greeting us as sole two female young travellers. Short but sweet, enough to make us want to come back to see more! But now time for Bohol.

 

In Bohol, we stayed with my mom’s friend on Panglao island, who slowly but surely became like a grandfather to us both. He picked us up from the ferry in Cebu and took us first to Alona beach in Panglao for dinner. Let our Bohol adventures continue.

On the first day, we went island hopping on “grandfather’s” boat, with our boatman Joel. You know those National Geographic programs talking about fishermen who can dive deep in the ocean and shoot spears underwater? Basically that’s what Joel did for a living. Joel took us to Balicasag island where we – tried – to snorkel, but unfortunately owing to the strong waves, he ended up just pulling us all the time on our life buoy… But we saw a sea turtle at least! Afterwards he took us to the Sand Bar on Virgin Island, where basically they sell food in the middle of the sea on a little beach area. Really random, but interesting nonetheless! Lastly, he took us to Islo Francesco which is part of Virgin Island, a religious island dedicated to Padre Pio (who happens to be my favourite saint!). I’ve never thought I would kneel down to a shrine and pray while wearing only my swimsuit…

 

On the next day, we did our land tour of Bohol. We ticked off all the must-sees such as the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers. To be honest though, the other places like the Butterfly House and the cave were more fun. Mainly because of the guides that we had. Nevertheless, they are must-sees for a reason, and those Chocolate Hills are pretty cute in the end. Tired owing to the heat and all that walking touring around, we came back beached and napped, preparing ourselves for our night out in Alona. Which we did well, because as it turned out, Alona nightlife delivers.

 

While doing shisha, two Australian-Chinese sisters joined us where we bonded over being international. We decided to continue up to the bar, and there we met a group of medical students from Leeds in the year below me in medical school. You know it’s a small world when people you meet on the other side of the world are friends with your friends in the UK. Yup, they knew my medic friends in the UK. They even went in the same class as an acquaintance of mine. Crazy isn’t it?! It was a fun night being with international people, and I guess that’s the type of crowd this place attracts 🙂

 

On our final day, our “grandfather’s” niece decided to join us, and together we went to the mall to buy souvenirs and finally got to try snorkeling again. This time we were lucky with the winds, and managed to properly snorkeling. Wow, it really is this beautiful and calming under the sea. We ended the day by checking in to Bohol Plaza hotel, with a beautiful view of Bohol. We jumped in the pool, sat in the jacuzzi and just reminisced of the days past. What an amazing trip it has been.

 

Bohol you have truly been amazing, and we are in love with your beautiful waters and even more wonderful people. What an amazing way to celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship. We promise to return, but until then, stay beautiful. Until next time! ❤

It’s pretty chill in La Union

Last year, and all the times in the past, I’ve always been staying in the same areas: Manila, Iloilo, Subic… basically where I have family. I told my family this year that I want to see more of my country and so they decided to take me to places I haven’t been to. Somehow, my family had a feeling that I would be a surfing person, and luckily they were right.

Earlier in the week I visited one of the Philippine’s famous surfing spots, Baler. This weekend, my Titos and Tita decided to take me to another of the famous surfing spots in the Philippines – La Union.

We stayed at San Juan Surf Resort, a small hotel founded by, owned and run by a Filipino-Australian surfer, who now resides in the area. Already upon arrival, you could get the feeling of the sea, the sun and the warm summer breeze. I quickly changed to my surfing attire and went to the surfing school. I’m gonna work on what I learnt from Baler I thought, here we go!

I met my surfing instructor Ronnie from San Juan Surf School and hit the waves. Or well, what we could call waves at the time. Yup, as it turns out, there was no swell when we were there… Dang.

 

Nevertheless, I found new surfing buddies. The next day, my Titos and Tita joined us surfing and Ronnie grabbed his surfing instructor friend Jeff. Again no waves, so I decided to just be a cheerleader for my Titos and Tita as they were learning. I made my surfing instructor buddies promise to teach me tomorrow morning instead when there are hopefully waves.

In the evening, we tried the hotel’s salo-salo, and we were hooked. A mix of four dishes good for four, with different combinations everyday. In the end it was so good, we ate all our meals there… yum. Trying different combination of traditional Filipino dishes everyday. Like what my mom says, soon she will be able to just push me down a hill and I’d roll. Unfortunately, she’s not very far from the truth…

After dinner, we’d have drinks by the beach at a local bar, with live music. Did my Titos make me sing? Why yes of course they did. Because that’s what family do, always find the chance to embarrass you.

 

The next day, I woke up again early in the morning to meet my surfing instructors by the beach after breakfast. To my disappointment upon looking at the water… it was as calm as a cradled baby sleeping. Again dang. So instead, we chilled by the beach chatting, swam and Jeff even let me try his paddle board. Oh well, next time! 🙂

Owing to my constantly changing and fast-paced lifestyle, I’m starting to appreciate the peace of being out in the province. Especially by the sea. Meeting new people, and chilling with a drink at hand eating good food. Surfing or no surfing, I had an amazing time due to the people I was with.

Thank you Titos and Tita for bringing me to San Juan in La Union, and thank you to Ronnie and Jeff for being awesome! Until next time. Bawi sa waves. For now, let my adventures by the beautiful waters of the Philippines continue!

I fell in love with Baler and surfing

As the Philippines is surrounded by water, surfing is a relatively common sport to pursue here. My dad, as it turns out, grew up an area with perfect waves for surfing. At the end of my stay with dad, they took me to Baler in Aurora where I discovered my new found love for surfing.

 

Baler is a magical place. So magical I can even see myself staying here for a long period of time. Filled with relaxed, friendly, welcoming locals, who are really there to make sure you will have a good time. You’d see people of all ages on surfboards, from children doing crazy tricks on the waves (yeah, I felt super self-conscious with them around as a first-time surfer), to grandparents still rocking their surfboards in the water. If they’re not on their surfboards in the water, you’d see the locals on their bikes or longboards, cruising down the long boardwalk by the surfing beach. Their lifestyle really is sleep, eat, surf, party, repeat. Surfing 6am in the morning and again in the afternoon, eating and napping in between until you end your day with a beer. Surfers are my new favourite type of people. If medschool fails, I’ll retire to the beach with a surfboard and spread love to the world with my ukulele. Sounds like the dream to me.

It’s hard to describe the exhilarating feeling when you’re surfing a wave on a surfboard. The adrenaline kick of cruising on top of a wave, taking you to shore. Kuya Doods my surfing instructor from Baler Surf School was very patient but supportive. He was so good that he already managed to get me surfing on my third wave during my first lesson. By the end of my one hour session, I was already longing for my next lesson the next day. Really, I couldn’t sleep because of my excitement and even watched Lilo & Stitch in true surfing spirit. Nevertheless, I managed to sleep 4h and woke up at 7am again to go surfing. You can say I am now hooked.

 

The next day came and after the end of my second one-hour session with Kuya Doods, I am now ready to take on waves by myself. Bring it on!

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Thank you Kuya Doods for introducing me to my new-found love for surfing, and my family for bringing me to Baler. I’ll definitely be back. Next time I’ll bring more people and definitely stay for longer than just overnight. Next time I’m back, you’ll see me cruising the big waves, I swear!

Baguio for the weekend

 

When I was baby, my family and I lived in the US for a while owing to my mom’s studies. As it is common in the West to have cut down pine trees as Christmas trees, we had that during our time there. We wanted the same when we moved back but as the Philippines is a tropical country, they’re not easy to come by. Except for in Baguio. Therefore during one Christmas, we decided to make the trip to Baguio to get a “real” Christmas tree. So ever since I was a child in the Philippines, I have known Baguio as the “cold” city where Christmas trees grow. Which is basically what it is.

Baguio City is a city created during the American occupation for Americans to stay in to escape the heat of the summer, as it is high up in the mountains and is cooler. You actually see people wear winter clothes there. I visited for the first time after perhaps 20 years last year, and again over the weekend. The “cold” reminded me of home!

 

As Baguio is known for their cool climate, it has also become known as one of the few places in the Philippines where strawberries grow. Therefore, aside from their famous ube jam (ube is a Philippine purple sweet potato) from the Good Shepherd (a convent reknown for making and selling Filipino delicacies including this), strawberry flavoured everything is a delicacy here – I had to try their strawberry taho (a Philippine sweet street food composed of tofu and tapioca pearls in sweet sauce) of course! The streets were filled with small stores selling Baguio delicacies, and I came back with at least a whole bag full – we’ll see how many make it back to Sweden.

After dad’s Rotary Club induction for the club in Baguio (the reason why we went to Baguio in the first place), my little brother and I decided to visit the night market, where they sell secondhand clothes or more excitingly for us, street food. I finally got to taste my favourite kwek kwek (deep fried quail’s eggs in batter) and eat some sweet corn in margarine – yum!

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The beautiful garden at BenCab Museum

The next day, just before leaving to go back to Subic, my family took me to the BenCab museum, home of one of the Philippines’ national artists. I have been to several art museums in the past, but this one was different. Apart from the art exhibited by BenCab himself and other Filipino artists he promotes, there is an amazing garden in the back, which is a part of BenCab’s personal garden (he lives next door). With an amazing and serene location like that, with a view of the mountains of rainforest, it’s not surprising BenCab can be so inspired to create such beautiful art. ❤️

The news of Brexit is finally hitting me

Yesterday, my newsfeed was filled with news of my friends’ graduations from St Andrews (it’s graduation week over there), midsummer photos from my friends in Sweden and lastly of course, the EU referendum results. What was supposed to be a happy day, was tainted with sadness with the news of the UK leaving the EU.
 
I must admit however, my initial reaction to the results was a somewhat relief, as it further affirmed my decision of leaving the UK. But with the news following the result like the resignation of David Cameron and the crash of the pound, I cannot help but worry about the unpredictable future of the UK. However now that the results are set, we can only hope that the political leaders will steer this result into a mutual positive outcome for both the UK and the EU.
 
Two years ago, I graduated from the most amazing university in the world: the University of St Andrews, Scotland. St Andrews was a university filled with tradition and world-class teaching, attracting students from all over the world. From my time there, I believed that the UK was a welcoming country of opportunity, which valued ambition and talent. Please, let the future international students like myself and other professionals feel as welcome as I did. Please, don’t change 💔
me on my graduation day with a BSc Medicine (Hons) from the School of medicine in St Andrews Scotland

Me on my graduation day with a BSc Medicine (Hons) from the School of Medicine in St Andrews, Scotland

 

 

UK, you will be missed in the EU

Around this time year, I made the bold decision to leave my future in the UK, after four years of medical school there. While most who didn’t know the real story behind it (that’s a story for another day) told me this was a bad decision, I somehow knew my future was elsewhere. A few months later, my newsfeed was flooded with news of my friends on strike for better conditions for Junior Doctors. Today, the UK has now voted to leave the EU. 

If I had stayed, I would’ve had worse conditions as a newly graduate doctor than if I had worked in Sweden. However after today’s events, I wouldn’t even be able to work as a doctor in Sweden with a British medical degree. 

Earlier this week, I overcame my fear of officially leaving Manchester University (I’m currently on leave) and began the process of withdrawing my enrolment. Sure, I had to undergo a traumatic year to make me finally leave the UK, but somehow I feel that that was the universe/God’s way of directing me to where I’m supposed to go. If I had stayed, what would have I done now? 

To all my friends (especially those from the EU) in the UK, I hope the decision of the UK leaving the EU doesn’t affect your future plans in any way. UK, I wish you all the best in standing on your own two feet. Thank you for giving me a free BSc Medicine (Hons) from St Andrews when I could.

I’m on vacation!

minion vacation by the beach gif

Dear all,

I am now on VACATION! For the next two months, expect many vacation photos and lots of travel stories. My medical posts will be very close to nonexistent until August, and I apologise for this! Nevertheless, I am now about to board my final flight of the day. After a 10h stopover in Hong Kong, I’m about to board my flight to Manila!

For the first time ever, I’ve decided to travel solo around the Philippines, and finally see the sights I’ve grown up hearing about. Considering the amount of travel I’ve done in the past (taught English in Romania, hitchhiked across Europe in a unicorn onesie, been to a total of 46 countries and counting etc…), it’s really a shame that I haven’t seen my own homeland. I’m nearing the end of my medical degree, I’m single and I’m about to turn 23. If I don’t do it now, when would I ever do it? So here’s to my first solo vacation to my homeland the Philippines!

I will be visiting several islands and areas in the Philippines. Despite the monsoon season, I promise pretty photos!

After the Philippines, I’ll be travelling to Iceland with my family, and then finally to World Youth Day in Poland. Watch out for those posts after my solo three-week vacation (#samcation) in the Philippines.

Well, here I go. Wish me luck! Here’s to a well-deserved vacation!!

How about you, what are you up to this summer? 🙂

Thank God May is over – tenta-p!

May has been such a crazy month. Let me summarise my month in bullet points:

  • I got operated on at the end of April/beginning of May
  • I underwent post-op hell
  • I moved three times with my newly operated arm
  • My phone got stolen

Oh and of course, I’m a medical student + researcher on top of that. Now May is coming to an end which means soon summer vacation, but before that even sooner, EXAMS.

Normally during what I used to call revision week in the UK but here tenta-p, I would turn off all social medias (especially Facebook), pull all-nighters with the help of caffeine pills and stop eating. However it seems like it’s not the case here in Sweden. My friends even had plans to do things during the exam period. Much healthier I’d say.

Nevertheless, I have my game face on. I’m gonna study everything I need to know, and I’m gonna pass these exams. Until then, wish me luck guys!

How I developed radial tunnel and lost the ability to play the violin

Five years ago, possibly owing to my Type A personality and absurdly high expectations on myself, I lost one of my biggest passions at the time, which was the violin.

Starting at the age of 16, I decided to pick up the violin again after a hiatus of three years. I auditioned and started taking lessons and playing in an orchestra at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. I quickly picked it up again, and starting from playing in the furthermost row in Violin 2 in my orchestra, the following year I was playing in the front row beside the Concerto Maestro in Violin 1. The College also allowed me into their violin vault filled with priceless violins to pick one for myself. After going through several priceless violins, I picked a Danish violin from the beginning of the 1800s. That moment I chose my violin is a very special memory for me, which I can most closely describe as like when Harry Potter chose his wand from Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

Harry Potter chose his wand at the Ollivander wand shop

My teachers at school found out I play the violin, and so apart from the pieces I played at the College, one could see me with my violin at assemblies as well. For all these pieces I was expected to play, I practiced at least 4h a day, especially during concert season nearing the summer. People had very high expectations on me, and my expectations on myself even higher. I had my violin with me everywhere, we were inseparable.

Nearing the end of concert season right before the summer of 2011, I suddenly would start getting severe shooting pain and numbness/tingly feelings in my fingers in my right hand/arm. My doctor told me I needed to rest and was referred to a physiotherapist. But no. I was going to finish concert season.

I would hide my wrist splint prescribed to me by the physiotherapists every time I came to the College, so my teachers won’t know I’m actually not allowed to play. Eventually my arm got the best to me near the end of concert season, to the point I couldn’t move it for an entire month. I skipped exams as I couldn’t write anymore (I’m right handed and that was where I got injured), attended my medical school interviews wearing a wrist splint etc. It was very hard on me physically, but even harder on me emotionally. But somehow through it all, I managed all my concerts.

At the end of concert season, I told myself I need to rest my arm. I rested it until I moved to university in St Andrews. I started playing a little for myself there, but I still kept getting pain. Now the pain was persistent every time I used my arm. I lost the ability to play the violin.

The following years, I sought healthcare back and forth in the UK with no result. I started getting physiotherapy including ultrasound (or what my teacher calls whale song therapy) and was prescribed NSAID anti-inflammatories. I started getting tested in various ways such as X-ray, MRI, electrophysiological tests you name it. I was given different diagnoses all the time and met various doctors constantly. Carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, repetitive strain injury, tendonitis… but none of them were correct until I came back to Sweden after four years in the UK.

I was referred to see a hand surgeon who happens to be a lecturer at Karolinska (my friends remember him and said that when they came out of his lecture everyone wanted to be hand surgeons!) and within 30min of hearing my story and examining me, he decided that I was to be operated. I was finally diagnosed with the correct diagnosis – radial tunnel.

It has gone three weeks since my operation and right now I’m on my way to Stockholm to see my hand surgeon for the first time since. We’re finally removing the steri-strips (the protective layer applied on the surgical site during the operation) and I’ll be seeing my surgical scar for the first time. Or my battle wound as I’d like to call it. My violin battle wound.

Soon I can play the violin again. Soon I can return to one of my passions. Soon. ❤

girl with violin from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm

This is a photo of me and my precious violin from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm five years ago when my problems started. This was the last time I could properly play the violin. My violin was repaired in 1862 by a Danish instrument maker named G. Enger in Copenhagen.

Tonsillectomies are not just routine operations anymore

Sorry for the hiatus, but I am finally feeling better now. I have returned to my normal activities-ish. I now only have a plaster over the surgery site and wear a wrist splint every now and then. Thankfully, my recovery was quick! I promise to write about the surgery and put photos ASAP!

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I am currently on my ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) placement, now on my final week. Last week due to my newly operated arm I missed more than half the week. But I’m bouncing back now!

Yesterday I attended my first ENT operation (tonsillectomy) ever. This is the first time I’ve attended a surgery for almost a year, and almost two weeks after my own surgery. Suddenly, after being newly operated on myself, my attitude towards operations have changed. It really is different when you’ve been on the other side of healthcare.

Despite tonsillectomies being routine, a range of new thoughts popped up in my head that I’ve never thought about before during operations. Thoughts such as:

  • I wonder what the patient is dreaming about right now. Are they dreaming?
  • Would they remember being woken up and leaving the operation room?
  • How would they react now that their tonsils are gone?
  • How long will their pain last?
  • I wonder if they’d be able to go back to work/school with their throat – sooo painful…

I no longer only think about the long term effects of the surgery, but how the patient will feel right after the operation. I was there too. You enter the hospital with full control of your body and feeling okay. Then you go to sleep, and all of a sudden, you wake up and everything has changed.  

After my operation, I was in pain. I was in such excruciating pain in my arm, that I was dependent on strong opioids such as oxycodone and morphine. I remember how debilitating it was, and how one was so helpless and dependent on others. The pain took over one, and all one can do is wait until it passes – or until the opioids knock you out. But then you wake up several times in the night with the pain needing more. Then you take more painkillers and can finally fall asleep again…

When I see a patient get operated now, I can relate. I can relate to their fear, anxiety, and sympathise for the pain they will undergo post-op. I recall how it was for me and realise, even though this is one of the hundreds of routine tonsillectomies done, the bi-product of the operation itself is the same. All patients will experience a change in their daily lives, with its impact highly underestimated in the beginning. That was definitely the case for me anyway. Of course I think like myself too, all patients are willing to undergo it. Patients have so much hope and trust in the treatment, that its bi-products is long overweighed by its benefits.

After being a patient myself, I understand now why patients feel the way that they do before an operation – even one as common as a tonsillectomy. One is scared for the drastic change that is about to happen – both the good and the bad. One is scared because there is nothing one can do but accept the change, and be patient.