At the end of last year my boss had informed me that my company was pulling me out of my assignment in Binghamton, NY and sending me back to work in my normal office in Irvine, CA. Now this shouldn’t have surprised me given that my assignment was originally set for 6 months only and I ended up staying in Binghamton for about a year. Actually, everything about last year was such a shock, including the opportunity to work over on the east coast to begin with. Looking back, it is so amazing to me how so much changed in just one year and how it seemed to go by so quickly! I will never forget this turning point in my life.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A friend of mine was getting married in the Motherland (Philippines) over the winter holiday so I decided to combine going to her wedding with going back home to visit family and friends. At the same time, I was going through a bit of a first world crisis, not knowing if I should stay in CA or pursue another job in NY. The timing of this trip was perfect! I was hoping to get away from everything so I can find some clarity on what I really wanted. The soothing, relaxing white sand beach of Palawan seemed to be just the cure for my dilemma!
We started by going Island Hopping with our first stop being Starfish Island. Typically, Starfish island has little to no current and the water is so clear you only have to go about knee deep before you can start feeding the fish and seeing the beautiful reef and corals. While it was indeed beautiful, the current was pretty strong. This meant that we had to go in a little deeper because of visibility and at times the current would slam us against the reef…
Ocean – 1, Me – 0
Needless to say, I stayed on the shore after I realized what a bleeding mess I was. It was still beautiful though, especially seeing the starfish just hanging out.
Around the back of the island were these cool Mangrove trees.
The next island we hopped to was a bit of a wash, so I don’t remember much about it other than the fact that when we got in the water, we couldn’t really see anything because of the current. The “island” is basically a man made floating island over a really cool looking reef that you can see when the water visibility is good, which unfortunately it wasn’t. Oh well, it was a nice break, I suppose, and the weather was still beautiful. After a brief stop at that island, we went to our final destination, Cowrie Island, where we ate delicious food and finally got to relax.
The next day the plan was to go to the Puerto Princesa Underground River via a boat ride that my dad excitedly referred to as the MacArthur landing. My dad tells the story much better than I ever could but the reason this was significant is because during World War 2 the Americans wanted to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese and so trying to go to Palawan was very dangerous at that time. According to my dad, or at least based on my terrible memory, General MacArthur had already left the Philippines for safety reasons but had promised to come back to the Philippines despite the danger. He was advised against this but he had made a promise (to whom, I don’t know) and so to enter Palawan, he went via boat in this sneaky route that we were supposed to follow to get to the Underground River.
Because of all this hype my friend and I were so excited to experience this MacArthur landing as my dad described it! Alas, it was not meant to be because the current was so high no boats were allowed. But not to worry, there was an alternate route to the Underground River which was to hike the 3.3 km trail. Now that didn’t seem so bad at the time but given our unpreparedness (we were in flip flops), the storm, and the canceled boats, the trail was muddy and crowded. What ended up supposedly being the most chill part of the trip turned out to be the most adventurous! We were all troopers though, my mom especially, who repeatedly got called grandma so she sought to prove everyone wrong! Until it started getting dark and we had to get rescued…:D Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the cave (nor do I remember since I started nodding off while in the boat), but here we all are at the entrance:
We also saw some monkeys and a Palawan Monitor Lizard!
The next day we went to the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center where there was a defined trail and no more muddy adventures! We saw some pretty big alligators (or were they crocodiles?) and some baby ones as well.
We meandered around and just enjoyed nature surrounding us.
Now that we sufficiently recovered from the unexpected adventure of the non-MacArthur landing, we were ready for what was supposed to be the most adventurous part of the trip – Ugong Rock! Now here we were going to go through a mountain that had vibrating rocks (when you hit them, you can hear them vibrating), climb using ropes, go through thin crevices, then go ziplining.
It was not at all strenuous, especially in comparison to our unplanned hike to the Underground River! 😀
On our last night, we went on a firefly kayak tour where we went down a river and got to see a lot of fireflies in the trees. It was a full moon that night so we couldn’t see the fireflies as easily but it was still just so beautiful! As a bonus, we got a little lesson in astronomy as well while we gazed at the night sky.
This was by far my favorite part of the trip. It was at this moment I stopped churning about CA vs. NY and asked myself the following question:
Taking away your friends, your family, and CrossFit, what do you see yourself doing and do you feel happy thinking about those things?
The reason I took away those things from the equation is because regardless of where I find myself, I will always have those things. Yes, certain friends and family will be far away, but they’ll always be there for me regardless of where I find myself. So I took the time and envisioned what my life would be like if I stayed in CA and what it would be like if I moved to NY for good this time. From then on, I had my answer and now it was just a matter of following through and making plans. I will always go for what makes me happy. 🙂