Bahay Kalipay

Imagine a place where you live in a bamboo treehouse surrounded by banana trees. In the morning birdsong gently lifts you out of a deep relaxing sleep, and you awaken to a warm, sunny day.

When I wake up, one of the first things I do is make a list, in my head or on paper, of 5 things that I am grateful for. Its effortless.

At 7:30 we convene for yoga at a beautiful outdoor space. There are many different teachers and varieties of yoga being shared: Sar leads Hatha, Tara kundilini, and Gerome presents Ashtanga.

For the first time in my life I can do a headstand, which for me is one of the hardest yoga poses. It requires core strength and balance, and lots of breathing and focus!

Breakfast is served at 9, which is papaya, mango, and banana sliced up in a bowl, topped with chopped nuts and shredded coconut and chocolate milk. All the food here is raw, and delicious. So far I’ve lost about 20 pounds, not kidding.

The rest of the day flows effortlessly. Perhaps I will go volunteer at the preschool, hopping on a tricycle and jeepney to get there. The journey takes 30 minutes and costs less than 50 cents.

Afterwards I will chill with the beautiful family who keeps the preschool running: Tatay Ems the flute maker, his wife Raquel the teacher, and his 4 kids, Aya, Banban, Dee, and Kaye, all musically talented.

We sit around the dining room table for hours, Banban drumming, Aya and I on the guitar, all three of us harmonizing… so beautiful. Sometimes Kalayo joins on the drums or whatever percussion he can find. Videos to come!

Maybe I will teach a class later. Soul Journal and Manifesting Your Dreams are the two I have been leading.

Or maybe I will just hang out and read in a hammock, walk to the beach, draw some pictures…

Its a hard life here! Hahaha. I would highly highly recommend this place, it is pretty affordable too when compared to other retreats in western countries.

Ill be coming back here next year, who wants to join me?

Manila

Normally I skip big cities, but fate had me stuck in Manila for 5 days. While I had to endure the pollution and traffic, lucky for me I got to visit my good friend from home. Sajira is doing her Master’s Degree on the urban poor in Manila. Her two-year program has her volunteering, studying, and living in an actual slum all at the same time. I’m so proud of her!

She showed me around her neighborhood in Quezon City in the outskirts of Manila. To get there, I took a jeepney to the metro, crowded into the women only carriage for an hour, and met her at a shopping mall. We hopped on a rickety tricycle to her neighbourhood. She has her own tiny room and shares the communal space with an older couple and their 3 daughters.

In my short visit, I thought the slum looked quite clean and comfortable, perhaps just a bit noisy and crowded. Sajira told me it is one of the nicest ones in Manila.  It didn’t seem dirty, and has electricity and running water.

In these communities, people really know each other and are prepared to help their neighbors. Kids play in the street with sticks, which in my opinion is better than the plastic toys we have in western culture. Visiting the slum definitely made me aware of how I define happiness, and how it compares to a ‘poorer’ perspective. Does money have any relationship with happiness? I’m beginning to doubt it.

I stayed at a great hostel called Our Melting Pot in Makati, the business district. There I met Jordana, an adventurous Canadian traveling solo who became a good friend. We climbed a volcano, went out for karaoke  and got foot massages together. She is one of those people who I know I will be in touch with for life.

Thanks, Manila, for an interesting yet smoggy 5 days. I will be back when I fly home in a few weeks… See you then!