Favorite Restaurants: Gourmet Garage

Friends who go to Subic end up usually asking us where to stay, where to eat or what to do when they’re here. So I decided to start posting about our favourite places in Subic. Disclaimer though: I am a creature of habit and comfort. So if you are a backpacker, an adventurer or just someone who likes hole in the wall places, I am sadly not your girl. People end up  really liking my recommendations however, so I guess I do have some credibility when it comes to these things. For my first ever favourite places post, I decided to do a feature on Gourmet Garage.  It’s one of the first places you’ll hit when you enter the Freeport. Because like I said,  we’re the kind people who don’t like having to scour side streets for a decent meal, Gourmet Garage was the first ever Subic  restaurant we tried (chains like McDonald’s and Shakey’s don’t count).  Honestly,  we weren’t really expecting much since we literally just hit the first place we saw. We had no idea that we would stumble upon a gem however. Who would have thought that our laziness would eventually pay off and lead us to one of our all-time favorite hang outs.

THE PLACE Gourmet Garage is a deli where you can buy well,  gourmet food. They have a nice selection of good quality meat, cheeses, chocolates, truffle oils and salts, saffron and all that fancy shcmancy cooking stuff that I know nothing about. To showcase their products, they turned a part of their place into a cozy, comfortable restaurant. So all the ingredients that they use in their food, you can actually buy in their deli.

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Watch out for the Gourmet Garage sign when you hit the Freeport area. It’s right across Petron, and in between Adidas and Starbucks.


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The restaurant area is small but comfortable.


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Their deli is well-stocked with just about anything fancy that you need. They even sell gift baskets that you can fill up with your goodies. A perfect gift for your boss, your significant other’s parents or just about any person you want to impress.

WHAT TO EAT  They have a small but really good selection of comfort food ranging from salads, sandwiches, rice dishes, pasta and classic desserts that is a bit more upscale than your usual family restaurant. So it’s one of those places that is classy enough to take your discerning not-so-easy to please Tita but is also simple enough for your picky nephew’s 3-year old palette. You can order straight from their menu or pick up a steak or pork chop from their freezer and ask the counter to cook them. They also like going for themed specials, so occasionally, they would add seasonal  all-Persian, all-American or all-Filipino menus. There’s even bibingka every Christmas season. MY  FAVOURITES: gourmet bacon and eggs, tapa and eggs for breakfast, the raclette spread for merienda and javier’s burger with parmesan truffle fries for lunch or dinner.

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Javier’s burger with parmesan fries. Disclaimer: This is not the actual portion of the fries. I stole a couple before I remembered that I needed to take a picture


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My all-time favourite burger. I seriously get hungry whenever I think of this cheesy, juicy, delectable goodness.


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Tender Tapa with scrambled eggs. (Another disclaimer: I did not eat the burger and the tapa at the same time okay? I was with my husband and he had this. #defensive)


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Their freezer is always stocked with different kinds of chocolates. They also have various imported ice-cream.. (Reese’s icrecream bar FTW!!)

PLUS POINTS

The ambience is comfortable, casual, quiet and cozy. The setup is perfect for nice, intimate meals with family or friends or even small productive meetings. I like bringing my laptop there and working alone too. (No wifi though so you have to steal from other establishments). Their smoking area outside is shaded and cool  so you can stay there for hours without feeling the need to sneak in for aircon. Servers are also really friendly, polite and efficient. They belong to the dying breed of waiters who actually anticipate your needs  before you can even  ask for anything. Even the manager is really nice and is willing to accommodate special requests and reservations. I remember recommending this place to a friend who wanted to have a special brunch for her barkada’s birthday. She called them and was surprised that the manager was willing to create a special menu just for them. Not only that, THEY SERVE ALCOHOL!!

PRICE POINT That’s the only thing. Food is pretty pricey especially when you consider portions. Most of the dishes range from 250-700, with steaks setting you back up to 1000++ php, depending on the size of the cut.

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More pictures of the pretty, homey interiors


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ALCOHOL!!


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The shaded dining area in front can be quite cool despite the overbearing heat in Subic

Gourmet Garage is located Rizal Highway cor. Argonaut St., Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo, Zambales. You can call 047 250 2672 for reservations.

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Living In Subic: My JEST and Aristocrat Adventure

I’ve been living in Subic for a little over a year now. And I always rave about how nice it is here. But the truth is, aside from a handful of resorts and restaurants, I haven’t really explored a lot of the area (quite unfortunate since I very smugly present myself as a local).

So when I got an invite from When In Manila to to participate in a Subic adventure, I grabbed at the opportunity. Ok. Grab is a strong word. Anyone who knows me gets that my idea of a good time does not involve exerting any kind of physical effort. But playing tourist in my new home seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up. Plus, they said we were going to eat at Aristocrat, so I was sold.

I met up with the rest of the group at JEST Camp. JEST is short for Jungle Environmental Survival Training. It’s one of the more popular tourist places here in Subic. The park is set up with various exhibits, demonstrations and activities to teach you about wildlife, and well, surviving in the jungle.

ON MY ORNITHOPHOBIA

Ok, before I talk about the birds and the exhibit, let me first indulge my narcisstic streak and talk about me. I am not an animal lover. I appreciate a cute puppy once in a while, but that’s it. I’m most especially terrified of birds. I blame this on two separate incidents in my life.

When I was in preschool, I was attacked by a goose. Sounds funny now, but it’s true! Our classroom was near the mini zoo. And although the monkeys were kept safe in cages, the turkeys, the goats and the geese pretty much roamed free. I was on a way back to the classroom with my friend, and there were bunch of geese blocking the path that we usually take. My classmate, who was infinitely smarter than I was, ran away and took an alternate route.

Because I was confrontational even as a child, I decided no biggie, and just started plowing my way through the flock. I must have triggered their protective instincts or something, because the next thing I knew, one of them extended its neck and started after me. I ran to the classroom crying like mad. (According to one of my closest friends, who was in the same class as I was, I was sobbing and wailing, “Kinagat ako ng oc-oc!” Ofcourse, turns out, I was unscathed. (Melodramatic child=melodramatic adult). It was terrifying anyway.

Decades later, with the wild goose incident safely repressed but not forgotten, I went to visit my old alma mater’s zoo. My old school had an environmental thrust and spent millions on building a zoo to raise wild-life awareness. It was then that I encountered the deadly cassowary.

For those who don’t know what a cassowary is, it’s a scary looking bird that’s almost the size of a respectable carabao. Its enclosure in the zoo was a measly mesh cage. Since it was grunting, growling and was clearly not in a good mood, I decided to keep a distance. My then-boyfriend (now sadly my husband) decided it would be funny to thrust me nearer the cage. It pounced and I was almost bitten yet again. So see, I have every reason not to be friends with birds.

Moving to Subic though somewhat altered my outlook on feathered creatures. One of my best friends married an avid bird photographer. And because I’m supportive, I would climb up the roof and spend hours stalking the ones that visited our backyard so he and I could compare notes. They were pretty. But I haven’t actually forgiven them for traumatizing me. It was only when I visited the Magaul Bird Park that I completely made peace with them.

THE MAGAUL BIRD PARK

Our JEST tour started quite pleasantly. Carlo, our our very entertaining tour guide, took us around different bird enclosures to show us their collection. And they had a lot! I later found out that the birds that they have cannot be seen in the Zambales forest. Infact, aside from a handful of local birds, most of these birds were imported from different countries.

We saw a variety of different species such as hornbills, parrots, cockatoos etc. We were also given helpful tidbits as we went from one birdcage to the next. (For instance, did you know that most male birds are prettier than their female counterparts? So the more colourful or “feathery” they are, the more the females will find  them cute.  This is their version of swag).

A lot of the birds were endangered. And collecting them and showcasing them to the public was not only their way of improving our knowledge of the various species, but also preserving them as well. Because our rainforests are slowly depleting, these animals stand very little chance of surviving in the wild. At least in a controlled environment, they can easily be fed, given the proper medicine and vitamins, and even be set up with a suitable mate. Sounds like a sweet deal.

They were especially proud of being able to successfully breed a type of hornbill called Kalaw, an endangered species found in the Philippines. Ok, so despite myself, I have to admit these birds were pretty awesome. Some of them were huge and colorful, some looked furry and cuddly. But more importantly, they looked like they weren’t inclined to bite my hand off.

One of my favourite birds from the exhibit. They look like fat and cuddly maya birds, but they're actually a type of sparrow. Adorbs!

One of my favourite birds from the exhibit. They look like fat and cuddly maya birds, but they’re actually a type of sparrow. Adorbs!

Curly-haired piegons!!

Curly-haired piegons!!

 

No bird exhibit would be complete without cockatoos.. :)

No bird exhibit would be complete without cockatoos.. 🙂

Macaws. According to my avid bird enthusiast friend, these types are very exotic and highly sought after.

Macaws. According to my avid bird enthusiast friend, these types are very exotic and highly sought after.

 

The Palawan Hornbilll.  This particular type can only be found in Palawan. See  that funky looking on top of its head? that's made entirely out of keratin.

The Palawan Hornbilll. This particular type can only be found in Palawan. See that funky- looking thing on top of its head? that’s made entirely out of keratin. (*Spouting out bird facts like a boss*.)

The toucan. I like this bird too because it has touches of Tiffany blue. :P

The toucan. I like this bird too because it has touches of Tiffany blue. 😛

THE BIRD SHOW

Admiring the pretty birds in their cages was one thing. But the true test of my tentative friendship with them was being able to sit through the bird show. And guess what? I loved it!!!

The show was done in an open auditorium. (Very important: you will not be allowed to eat during the performance since the birds might get distracted from their debut and decide they want to partake of your meal instead).

It was pretty interactive.When various species were introduced, they would walk/ toddle to the stage unassisted, or they would fly from the back of the auditorium so the audience could see them up close. Every so often, they would ask for a couple volunteers and the birds, assisted by their trainers, would fly off the arm of one volunteer to the next. Hosts would also share important facts about the various birds as they strutted their stuff.

Completely shocking, but my favorite part was the bird “curtain call” . They called on the other birds that weren’t introduced earlier in the show, and a whole flock of them came to the stage. They had exotic ducks, pigeons, chickens and yes, even (my sworn childhood enemies,) , geese. You can opt to come closer, hang out and take pictures with these birds. My new friends rushed to the stage excitedly. I kept a prudent distance.

These cuties flew right on to this kid's hands.

These cuties flew right on to this kid’s hands.

 

Mae with the Kalaw. This bird  recently became a proud baby daddy.

Mae with the Kalaw. This bird recently became a proud baby daddy.

 

Birds roaming free. Did not want to risk our tentative friendship so I took this picture while standing on a bench

Birds roaming free. Did not want to risk our tentative friendship so I took this picture while standing on a bench

Other bloggers having a field day with the birds. Missed the photo op because I was too scared to come nearer.

Other bloggers having a field day with the birds. Missed the photo op because I was too scared to come nearer.

For information on the Magaul Bird Park and the Bird show, click here

THE OBSTACLE COURSE

As you probably guessed, I am a total wuss. And, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t really enjoy sportsy activities. I am especially averse to extreme sports. In my practical and sensible mind, it does not seem like a good idea to pay for an activity that could potentially cause you physical injury. Seemed like a lose-lose situation.

But I was with a group of bloggers. And I didn’t want to be the newbie prick who refused to do anything fun. So I gamely said yes to the JEST obstacle course.

The JEST obstacle course is a 6-activity course that basically tested your ability to balance. You had to through a progression of elevated challenges that got more difficult as you go along. Each one was set a little bit higher than the previous one. By the time you ended the last challenge, you were more than 20 feet above the ground. (Yes family and friends, I actually did this).

The first leg started off easy enough. You had to cross a very thin tight rope but you had sturdy chords on either side of you that you could hold on to. Plus it was just around 10 ft above the ground. I went through this nonchalantly. And even when my safety harness started falling off and I had stop in the middle of the tightrope to wait for the attendant to secure me, I was pretty ho- hum.

Even the second challenge was a breeze. I just had to crawl through a couple of barrels suspended in the air. Sure, it shook like hell every time somebody moved, but still no biggie. My level of smugness was reaching dangerous levels.

The third challenge was what did me in. There was a tightrope again. But instead of of long vertical cords, there were ropes, distances apart, hanging from above, that you had to grab on to. So for you to be able to cross to the other side, you had to reach out and and grab one rope to the other until you the end of the challenge.

Holy crap. What did I get myself into?

Mae, my new friend, who was right infront of me, had this bright idea of crossing the tightrope sideways. That way, it would be easier to grab on to the ropes and keep your balance at the same time. I mimicked her style, and thankfully got through with my dignity intact.

So if that wasn’t hard enough, the crazy people in JEST decided it would be fun to make a challenge out of swings. So you literally had to move from one swing to another, suspended more than 15 above ground. This took a while because every time I hopped on to the next one, it would rock crazily back and forth so I had to wait for it to kinda stop before grabbing on to the next swing. Once I maintained equilibrium, I had go through the same thing. ACK!!!

If that wasn’t enough, in the middle of the challenge, I had to go through a couple of big swings, positioned diagonally. It would rock sideways if I moved abruptly.

Even harder, towards the end , the wooden swings were replaced by swing ropes. So you  just had a thin rope to step on. CRAZY! Anyway, I had no idea how I got through this without falling off, but I did!

The fifth challenge was a welcome change because at least it did not veer erratically back and forth. I just had to go through a makeshift bridge made out of rope that was a 20 feet above the ground. Believe it or not, that was a walk in the park compared to the the other challenges.

Finally, you get to slide down to where you started. Now that was fun!

For a non-risk taker like me, I found the experience oddly exhilarating! Now I get why people love these challenges. There is a sense of accomplishment that you feel when you’ve conquered something you though was physically impossible.  I actually want to do it again! (I probably lost 5 pounds from all the balancing, sweating and puffing, so that’s an added bonus:P)

I'm a totally wimp, so naturally I did not think of bringing a camera to the obstacle course. Thank god for brave, sensible bloggers who took pictures. This photo was taken by Nikko Panti. Check out his other awesome features and pictures at themisterbaks.com

I’m a totally wimp, so naturally I did not think of bringing a camera to the obstacle course. Thank God for brave, sensible bloggers who took pictures. This photo was taken by Nikko Panti. Check out his other awesome features and pictures at themisterbaks.com

The crazy 3rd leg of the obstacle course. Photo also  taken by Nikko Pantig of themisterbaks.com

The  3rd leg of the obstacle course. Photo also taken by Nikko Panti of themisterbaks.com

 

This part of  was totally cray. Probably lost 5 lbs trying to get to the end. Photo taken by another brave blogger, Josephine Arce.  Her cool blog is at josephinearce.wordpress.com

This part of the course was totally cray. Photo taken by another brave blogger, Josephine Arce. Check out all her cool posts at vivajosephine.wordpress.com

SURVIVAL TRAINING

OK, this was way cool! After we did the obstacle course, we stayed for a 30 minute demonstration on jungle survival. The Jungle expert of JEST showed us how you could make a makeshift plate, utensils and a glass out of one long kawayan.

Even more amazing, you could use the bamboo for cooking ulam, making rice and even starting fire without a lighter or a match. How’s that for badass?

They also showed us these branches called kuko ng pusa and ugpoy.When you cut them open, you could get cool, clean refreshing water! We even got to drink some. Our guide says these branches probably stored up to a liter full of drinking water. He also gave me an awesome bracelet from the tusks. What a handy tree! I think I will plant some in our backyard. 😛

JEST Survival expert showing us Baukuk leaves. These leaves can be found in the forest and can be used to cook sinigang

JEST Survival expert showing us Baukuk leaves. These leaves can be found in the forest and can be used to cook sinigang

Makeshift lutuan from bamboo.

Makeshift lutuan from bamboo.

 

They showed us how to make fire without matches or a lighter. Now we have everything we need for sinigang. ;P

They showed us how to make fire without matches or a lighter. Now we have everything we need for sinigang. ;P

Twinkle her second fill of refreshing water straight out of a branch.

Twinkle having her second fill of refreshing water straight out of a branch.

Check out my new bracelet. Very rustic chic. :P

Check out my new bracelet. Very rustic chic. 😛

THE GIANT SWING

For one of our last activities, our guide brought us to the giant swing. The idea is, you get strapped up in a swing and catapulted from 40 feet above the ground.

Sadly, after hearing my friends scream in glee and terror, I chickened out.

I figured I’d gotten enough street cred from the obstacle course to pass this one up:p  Regretted the decision though because everyone who tried it kept on raving about it. I made a mental note to bring my friends here the next time they visit. By then I would have gathered enough moxy to give it a go. Definitely a must-try for people who love the adrenaline rush.

Twinkle totally rocking the swing (corny pun intended)

Twinkle totally rockin’ the swing (corny pun intended)

Yes, it goes up that high.

Yes, it goes up that high.

The Jest Camp is located at Upper Mau, Cubi-Triboa, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. For more information on their rates and other attractions, visit their website: www.jestcamp.com

 

ON ARISTOCRAT

After our fun-filled day at JEST, we eagerly headed to Aristocrat to grab some grub. Truth be told, I was looking forward to this the entire trip. Infact, while I was swinging precariously back and forth in the obstacle course, I was thinking of the crispy pata I was about to order. I was determined not to fall and get injured, because they might end up bringing me to an infirmary and I’d have to skip the feast that lay ahead of us.

As usual, Aristocrat did not disappoint. Aristocrat is a household name in the country. They’re known for yummy, straight-up, comfort-foodish Filipino dishes.

The one in Subic had a special place in my heart. It was the first restaurant we visited when my husband was thinking of accepting a job here (we’re total fans of their restaurants in Manila, so it was a  no-brainer for us). It was also a dinner staple when we finally moved in and I did not know how to even work a microwave.

After the adventure we went through, we were famished! Luckily, Twinkle, one of the owners, who came with on our JEST adventure , was thoughtful enough to order some appetizers before we got to the restaurant, so they served the food shortly after we arrived.

We had lumpiang shanghai and calamares for starters. Those were wiped out within minutes. (Not ofcourse, before everyone started taking pictures. That’s the funny thing about eating with bloggers, everyone makes sure they take pictures of the food first before diving in. It took all of my self-control not to steal a shanghai while everyone was busy with their cameras).

Calamares is basically breaded, deep fried squid rings. The ones from Aristocrat were incredibly tender and did not have the over-gummy texture that the other calamares that I’ve tried. The lumpiang shanghai was also quite yummy. The crispy fried shanghai wrappers were generously stuffed with slightly sweet, juicy ground pork. They came with their respective dipping sauces, but they were so tasty you could eat them without any kind of condiment.

Despite having devoured the appetizers, we still had plenty of room for the main dishes. I shared an order of crispy pata with another new friend Greg, and ordered pancit luglog to boot. I also got bites full of fried chicken. (Feel free to judge me. No shame in the game, I ate like a starved refugee in front of my new found friends)

As expected, everything was wonderful! The crispy pata had loads of crispy, yummy pork skin. Normally, when I eat crispy pata, I hoard the skin and do not bother with the pork meat. But even the meat was deliciously succulent so I had a generous helping of that too.

The pancit luglog that I ordered was extremely flavorful and filling. The sauce was rich without being too overpowering. It was also served with a liberal mixture of eggs, shrimp and topped with lots of crunchy chicharon.

The others were also nice enough to share their food so I was able to try the fried chicken.  I’ve gone to Aristocrat several times, but I’ve never had their friend chicken. And, no joke. It was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Aside from being unbelievably juicy and crispy, the honey gave it a distinct flavor and sweetness. I loved my crispy pata, but this trumped my chosen dish big time.

After all that food, I I was understandably stuffed! Infact, I swore several times that I could not eat another bite. But the leche flan came and suddenly I was hungry again. 😛

The leche flan was worth the indulgence. It was sweet, light, creamy and surprisingly refreshing. It was the perfect way to end an incredibly filling and satisfying meal.

I also want to give a special shout out to their staff in the Subic branch. One of my pet peeves is encountering people in stores and restaurants who do not have a good grasp of their products. These guys though, knew their stuff. Not only could they identify their specialties by heart, they also knew which dish worked well with what. So it was the complete dining experience. Props for the excellent service guys!

After wiping out all our plates clean, the Manila bloggers were happily ready to go back home.  They were talking about heading to Aristocrat again for dinner. Truth be told, I was very tempted to leave my husband behind at home and jump in the car again. Another food trip seemed too good to pass up. But I was being greedy. So I reluctantly said goodbye.

Much to my delight however, they had one last surprise for us. Not only did they feed us, they gave goody bags with more GCs!! Yey!! Thank you so much for the treat Aristocrat! ( I already planned my orders in advance. Luckily, my husband loves chicken, so the honey fried chicken is in our definite must list).

The lumping shanghai and the calamares

The lumping shanghai and the calamares

The pandit luglug

The pandit luglug

The crispy para, pre chopped into bite-sizes pieces of heaven

The crispy pata, pre chopped into bite-size pieces of heaven

 

Honey fried chicken, the absolute star of the show

Honey fried chicken, the absolute star of the show

Best leche flan ever!

Best leche flan ever!

The Aristocrat Subic branch is located at Lot 2 Blk 2, Maharlika Grounds, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City. You can contact them through (047) 252 3910 for reservations. For other Aristocrat branches, you can click here 

So that was it for my Labor day holiday. I did a lot of stuff that pushed me out of my comfort zone (in front of people I have just met) and it was pretty awesome. Thanks for the adventure When In Manila, JEST, Aristocrat and new friends! I scored enough bragging rights to be insufferable for at least a month. Until the next adventure. 🙂

Life in Subic: The Tranny Robberies

99% of the time, my life in Subic is pretty suburban and idyllic. This tranquil environment is one of the reasons why I love it here. BUT there are still incidents that make up the remaining 1%.

It’s funny how things here can get rather extreme. When it’s peaceful, it’s eerily peaceful. Think Brady Bunch meets Stepford wives (the part before it was revealed that they were maniacal robots). Husband comes home from work, we  feast on the hearty meal I prepared for us, we have pleasant, after-dinner conversation and we’re in bed by 8, 9 at the latest.

Once in a while however, we go through crazy, surreal stuff that I don’t think anyone I know has ever experienced.

Among all the weird stuff, I think there is one in particular that takes the cake. Whenever we recount the story,  people have no idea whether they should laugh at us or be horrified for us. I was reminded of this incident again, when I had to narrate it blow by blow, to a fresh set ears (my aunts) last weekend. I’ve decided to write about this in my blog, because not only am I getting a bit tired from repeating the story, (at least when it’s written down I can just give my blog url and say, “Here! Read about it”),  I’m also afraid it will get turned into a sitcom without us getting royalties. 😛

Anyway, around June or July of last year, a couple thieves broke into our house. But they weren’t your ordinary, run-in-the -mill kind of thieves (Given our telenovela story, that’s just too much to ask for from the universe).

They were tranny thieves.

Fully made up.

In hot pink (and bright blue respectively), tight pants and wedges.

And here’s the clincher: We found one of them under our bed.

(I apologize to friends and family who have heard this story over and over. You can go ahead and stop reading now).

 

THE  INCIDENT:

So here’s what happened: Around 9 pm, my husband and I go up to our bedroom. Since it was a Friday, we decided to go crazy and stay up until around 12-1 am watching TV (Yes, we’re living on the edge.  Sadly, this  is now our idea of the  concept YOLO).

Around 4 am, my husband wakes me up, and asks if I went to the bathroom. I groggily answer “no”, slightly annoyed that he was waking me up for such a trivial matter.

Then he goes and says, “Minumulto ata tayo”. (Highly likely since we did have a phantom girl singing “A Pocketful of Sunshine” in the other house weeks before, more on that next time).

So I wake up with a jolt to find our bedroom door slightly ajar. The light from the hallway was streaming inside the room and we could hear the exhaust fan in the bathroom humming steadily, breaking the dead silence that usually pervades the house at that hour.

It’s funny how being befuddled can mix up our personalities. While my usually logical husband thinks ghosts, the first thing that goes through my usually more right-brained mind was, “baka nanakawan tayo.” Take note, past tense. It did not occur to me that the robbers were still there. I verbalize this thought to my husband and he goes out of the room to investigate.

He finds my oversized zebra bag that I usually keep in the spare room near the top of the stairs (I HAVE to mention my zebra bag, because out of all the bags kept in that room—my husband’s black nondescript luggage, my canvass and overnight bags and my other purse –  the tranny robbers were only interested in my animal print tote. That, and my black patent Kate Spade clutch). My husband then opens the bedroom lights and decides to look for his phone, which he usually leaves on his bedside table. He couldn’t find it. So he looks under the bed.

 

My zebra tote and black patent clutch the only bags that were given the tranny-theft seal of approval

My zebra tote and black patent clutch, the only bags that were given the tranny-theft seal of approval

For as long as I live, I will never forget the words that came out of his mouth.

“Holy mother of Christ, there’s a guy under our bed.” He says this in a tone that was completely deadpan so it took me a while to understand what he was trying to say.

“What?” I dumbly ask, completely confused.

In an effort to get through to me, he explains further in the same expressionless tone, “There is a gay guy under our bed”.

I have no idea what happened next, whether my husband shouted at the guy to come out (will refer to him as “intruder no. 1” or “the guy” alternately from now on), or whether he just scrambled out from under the bed. It’s also debatable who between my husband and I, had the more frightening experience– My husband, who had the first look and probably the shock of his life, when he found a tiny man in girl’s clothes under the bed, lying on his back with his arms forming an ex across his chest— or me who, after half peering down, saw the guy up close, with his pale foundation- caked face and wide mascara-streaked eyes staring at me as he tried to squeeze his way out from MY side of the bed.

It was nuts!

Anyway, I screamed. And intruder no 1 tried to explain himself. (How he thought he could get out of a situation such as this I have no idea). My husband and I were both panicking and listening to him at the same time. So there was a lot of incomprehensible yelling and pleading.

The thing was, our maid had a friend who lived a few houses away from us. He’s also gay, and although we’ve never seen him, our maid would fondly describe how he also occasionally wore clothes for women.

Apparently my husband and I were both thinking the same thing while we were listening to this guy stammer out his excuses: Could this potential intruder be our maid’s friend? Maybe he got drunk, wandered into the house in his dazed state and found his way to our bedroom by mistake. This sounds terribly dumb and sexist, I know. But when you find a transvestite under your bed at the crack of dawn, you try your best to grasp for a logical explanation.

It did not help that he was screaming “Ate!” half of the time. We thought he was screaming for our maid (later on, we find out that he was screaming for the other dude).

Anyway, the rest of the stuff happened in a blur. The next thing I know, my husband was chasing him down the stairs.

THE CHASE

This part I gathered from my husband’s version of the incident. Intruder no. 1 runs out from our room down the stairs. There is a moment where the guy almost trips and my husband thought of pushing him down. But because Moe is a lawyer not a fighter, all the criminal cases (describing how home owners were charged with homicide after accidentally killing their robbers) came rushing back at him. So instead of pushing him down, he actually pulls intruder no .1 back up and they continue chasing each other down the stairs to the empty room on the first floor.

My husband also wasn’t sure if intruder no 1 had any weapons on him so he keeps his distance. After a while, he corners the guy near one of the windows and was able to shove him up the wall.

Then remembers his missing phone. And because he had all his important information in that cellphone, he wanted to secure it first. (Sidenote: Moe has a love affair with his phone, I swear. In their law school Blue Roast, his classmates wanted to nominate him and his then-phone in the “sweetest couple” category.)

“San na telepono ko?” he demands from intruder no. 1.

The guy gives him the phone and takes advantage of the distraction to run out of the house. (He was pretty limber for someone wearing wedge slip-ons. He did lose one trying to get away though).

My husband thought of chasing after him. Then he remembered I was still upstairs. He immediately panicked and thought, what if there was another intruder inside the house? So he rushes up, only to find me gone. He went through a crazy, melodramatic moment, thinking I was kidnapped. So he was freaking out and shouting my name as he searched for me the second floor.

SO WHERE WAS I?

I’m tempted to make you all believe that I was the highly logical and capable woman who sprung into action in the midst of the chaos. But the truth was, I was in shock. I probably spent a good few minutes just staring into space trying to assimilate what was happening. When I finally came to my senses, my husband and the guy were well -immersed in the action.

I mentally go through the stuff in the bedroom trying to find a weapon or some magical concoction I could put together to help the situation a la Mac Gyver. The thing was, I’m not very agile and have the dexterity of a toddler, so physically helping quickly became a non-option. Neither am I a science whiz, so I could not come up with something that I could make explode (Why is it that when MacGyver gets trapped in a situation there’s always baking soda??? Mental note: Must keep baking soda in every room of the house from now on). Then it suddenly dawned on me that there was a police precinct two houses from our place.

I rush down the stairs to head to the police station (was berating myself for not bothering to keep their number on my cellphone to begin with). I could hear my husband chasing intruder no 1 in the spare room. I hurriedly shout where I was heading and leave (I guess Moe was too preoccupied to hear me).

I bump into our maid outside. She was awakened by the commotion and was coming to investigate (her room is outside the house and has a separate entrance) so we rush to the station together.

By the time we got back with a couple of policemen in tow, intruder no 1 had already escaped.

 

THE AFTERMATH:

The police went around the house and took our statements.They then inform us that the investigators from the main precinct were coming to check our place more thoroughly. Meanwhile , they made us describe intruder no 1 in detail and deployed some guys to go around the village to look for him. (It was a gated community, so they were able to radio the guards in the gates to seal all the exits. The problem was, our area is HUGE and we have a lot of forests. So there was still a big chance we might never ever find him).

While the police were there, we were able to go through the rooms for the first time. It was completely surreal. The living room was in disarray. Our cushions were on the floor. The drawers were open. And there was dirt everywhere.

Here’s the weird, creepy part though. I usually leave my cigarettes on the center table. I found that the intruder (s) had smoked a couple of my sticks and had left cigarette butts around the house. We found one on the kitchen floor, and another one on the center table. (There was even a burn mark on the table!) Our pack of Skyflakes was open and the butter was taken out of the refrigerator. Holy crap right? Best guess, they (although during that time we thought there was only one guy) hung out in the living room for quite a while, waiting for us to fall asleep.

How f***ed up is that??

 

The nasty burn mark left on our newly-made center table

The nasty burn mark left on our newly-made center table

 

Thankfully, because my husband woke up when he did, they were not able steal a lot things. Moe got his phone back and intruder no 1 was in too much of a panic to go for the bags he fancied. My pink laptop, which I left charging on the dining room table, was missing however (that and a couple of packs of skyflakes).

Stupid me, I painstakingly gathered all the cigarette butts and stray hair I could find thinking that we could use them for DNA later on. Ofcourse, I failed to take into account that we live a third world country. I blame this on my overexposure to CSI.

Several minutes later, while we were talking to the lead investigator, the other policemen came back with a potential suspect. We had mentioned to them earlier that intruder no 1 was male, possibly of “of homosexual orientation”. When I heard they had caught someone, I immediately rush out of the house, excited that they had found him so quickly.

The problem was, they had brought a different gay dude.

The police and my husband decided to detain him anyway (we shall call him intruder no 2).One because he was inside our gated village, a block away from our house at 4 am, with no ID (he also gave a fake name from what I recall) and two, because he was found lurking outside an empty house. He claims he was waiting for a taxi. But there was a waiting shed right across the street from where he was found, so it behooved anyone why he would opt to wait for a ride in the dark, behind a massive tree. Plus, as mentioned earlier, in his rush to get away, intruder no 1 left one of his wedge slip- ons behind. Intruder no 2 was wearing the exact same ones (Great minds have the same fashion sense?).

When asked what he was doing in our area, he claimed that a certain Robert, an American who supposedly lived inside the village, had picked him up in the Central Business District. They were doing the nasty until “Robert” found out that he was male and had sent him packing (This in itself was dubious. Even I could tell that he was dude and I’m blind as a bat. I was too polite to point out this fact however).

That was his original story, but he changed it many times in the next couple of hours. When pressed to show them where the American lived, he adamantly maintained that he couldn’t remember. He then changed his story and said that he arrived in the village in a taxi alone, and was just about to meet the American guy. When he got to “Robert’s” house however, it was empty.

When he noticed me looking at the grass stains on his pants, he changed his story again and suddenly blurted out that he got the stains because he and the American were having sex in one of the empty lots.

The only thing consistent was his insistence that he was nowhere near our house and he had nothing to do with the break in.

Intruder no 2 had balls though. He had the gall to ask me for a cigarette when he saw me smoking ( I willingly gave him one. I really thought we could match the residue with the cigarette butts found in the house. Was feeling pretty smug and clever when I handed my “evidence” to the investigator. It was then that he gently shattered my illusions about our police equipment. I’m dumbass, I know).

Plus, in an effort to distract me, he claimed that he would see my husband in the gay bar where he worked. (Husband says it took all of his self -control not to punch him when he overheard us talking). I went along with the story, thinking it would be best to glean out all the information from him (where he worked etc) just in case the police decide to let him go for lack of evidence (I watch Law and Order, all the different versions. I know how it goes).

When the sun finally came out at around 6 am, the investigators decided to go around the empty house where intruder no 2 was hiding. And surprise, surprise! All the stuff was there. My pink laptop was hidden under a bush, there was a purse with our skyflakes hidden behind another tree. They had even found the other pair of the wedge sandals intruder no 1 had left behind.

The little laptop that could. I've had this baby for years, and aside from this kidnapping, it has survived a bunch of bumps, falls and  even a couple of blue screen incidents. It retired with honour a few weeks after the incident.

The little laptop that could. I’ve had this baby for years, and aside from this kidnapping, it has survived a bunch of bumps, falls and even a couple of blue screen incidents. It retired with honour a few weeks after the break in.

That kinda sealed the deal. Intruder no 2 was charged and brought to the main precinct, despite his continuous denial that he had anything to do with what happened.

For the rest of the day, the police worked tirelessly to look for intruder no 1. I could see them coming in and out of the detachment, combing every corner of the village ON FOOT (our area is HUGE. As in hectares huge), since they did not have the luxury of having vehicles. Their superstar captain was also there the entire time, supervising the search.

Finally, after 12 hours, they found intruder no 1 hiding in another empty house.

Since we could positively identify him, intruder no 1 confessed immediately. He also confirmed that Romnick was part of the dumber and dumber heist. (Yes, we found out when 1st guy was caught, that 2nd guy’s name is Romnick. As if our experience wasn’t surreal enough, our robber had to be named after an 80’s teen star. 1st guy’s name is Michael, like my husband. :P).

Anyway, this entry is getting too long, so will save what happened next for Part II.

Could not emphasize enough how grateful we are to the Subic Law Enforcement Department though. They were all heart despite the lack of equipment and vehicles. Some of them even went to work (Captain included) even if they were not on duty.  Props to all of you!

On a final note, we could laugh about this incident right now, but at that time, it was pretty traumatizing. It took me months before I could sleep through the night again. Just the thought that someone could sneak in our house and creep into our bedroom while we were peacefully sleeping was enough to keep me awake for several weeks on end. Until now, I still panic when my husband comes home late from work.

Meanwhile, Moe still does a “tranny” check under the bed before going to sleep. And, every so often, he would wake up and do late night rounds, making sure that every corner of the house was intruder-free.

We have also made an effort to make our place more secure. (Will not get into specifics at the off chance that robbers are following my Desperate Subic Housewife blog and come up with ideas to  bypass our security measures. You can never be too safe. 😛 ). I have to admit, I let the suburban atmosphere lull me into a false sense of security. And before the tranny robbers, I would laugh at my husband whenever he would berate me for leaving the door unlocked in the middle of the day. But I guess you can never be too paranoid when it comes to these things.

We’re still grateful that this was the only thing that happened to us. At the end of the day, trauma and bruised ego aside, we’re both unscathed and unharmed. The universe still loves us  to give us just a slight boink on the head, maybe enough to teach us a lesson but definitely not enough to kill us.

 

Meet Michael, aka intruder no. 1. He managed to change his shirt while in hiding (talk about prepared).

Meet Michael, a.k.a intruder no. 1. He managed to change his shirt while in hiding (talk about prepared).

Meet Romnick, aka intruder no 2. we later on found out that he was the "mastermind" of this entire debacle. (When he does get out  of jail) the psychologist in me is tempted to give him advise on finding his bliss, and choosing a different career path., He's sadly not very good at thieving.

Meet Romnick, a.k.a intruder no 2. we later on found out that he was the “mastermind” of this entire debacle. (When he does get out of jail, the psychologist in me is tempted to give him unsolicited advise on finding his bliss and choosing a different career path.  He’s sadly not very good at thieving).

Moving to Subic… Finally!

 Fast forward from my last Subic post. We had finally gotten married! Yey!! We wed, we partied, we conquered.  Now it’s back to the real world.

We stayed an extra night in Kamana after the wedding then checked out the following day. The nice people in the resort offered to extend another complimentary night, but we were both eager to roll up our sleeves and get our moving on, so to speak. In hindsight, I regretted that over-eager decision. Another extra night in a sea view luxury hotel with ROOM SERVICE wouldn’t have hurt. Not one bit.

It was a 30 minute drive to Kalayaan Heights, our new village. The minute I stepped into our new house, reality sunk in. I was living with a boy!!! I wanted to cry.

Take note that my husband lived in this house for two whole years before we got married.  I was expecting to see some stuff but the place was completely empty!!! I could literally count the number of objects  he had inside:

1. There was an  old bed that was there even before he moved in  (which, by the way I found disgusting. That bed had been there for years! Who knew what action and mystery excretions were left in that mattress. He even used the same sheets!!!!!!!)

2. An old refrigerator (He did not have anything in the inside. Not even a pitcher of water. Okay, change that. There was one bottle of Yakult. It was 2 months expired. He told me that the refrigerator did not keep stuff cool anymore, that’s why he didn’t like using it. More on that later).

3. A rickety dining room set

4.  A couple of side tables

5.  A dying stove

6.  A center table (there were no couches or seats in the living room. Just a center table. Go figure.). 

7. An old, 90’s style television set (WITH CABLE!! Yey! This made our maid so happy).

He bought some kitchen stuff when he moved in, so we had plates that were in mint condition and some usable utensils.  There was also a  a kitchen knife, a can and a bottle opener and a rice cooker. (Okay, this is what I don’t get. We bought that rice cooker  prior to his moving. And he barely cooked. I had no idea how it had become worn out and why that kitchen knife was falling apart).

I knew the house was bare, but I didn’t really realise how neglected (for the lack of a better term) it was until I was about to move in. Don’t get me wrong. My husband is a pretty neat person, and the house itself wasn’t dirty. (Even though it’s probably only been cleaned four times in the two years he’s lived there.) But I guess that was the problem. He had left  it practically untouched that entire time.

It was obvious that he literally just stayed there to sleep. It had that musty, vacation-house smell that was characteristic of empty living spaces. There were also a lot of stuff that he did not bother to know about the house. For instance he did not bother to check that most of the plugs did not work ( if they did, they were 110 volts) nor  did he have any idea how certain built-in gadgets, such as the washing machine and the water heater, turned on. (Come to think of it, I don’t think he even knew whether they were working). 

Surveying the grounds brought even more dismay. The yard was filled with overgrown grass and weeds. Knowing that we were in the middle of a forest, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had a snake underneath that mess (Eep! We did have a snake! Our maid found one when  we finally got around to having the grass cut. Thankfully it was dead. Probably got suffocated by all the dead leaves).  And the bathroom and bedroom outside the house, which our new maid was supposed to use, was covered in dirt. (Truth be told, I was more concerned about our future maid’s welfare than I was about me. I didn’t want her to take one good look at the house, decide she can’t take our “minimalist” lifestlye and leave).

Needless to say,  I knew it was going to be a rough first night for us newlyweds.

Prior to moving in, I had asked our driver to at least bring a spare queen-sized mattress I kept in my room, some sheets and my bedroom pillows. (There was no way I was going to sleep in that decade old mattress!!)  But other than that, we had NOTHING. Minutes after dropping off our bags, we went out again. This time to buy stuff.

We slept in this mattress for a few days after we got married. It's actually comfier than it looks, so it wasn't so bad. My husband did not appreciate being on the floor though. I'd take this over a decade old bed any day.

We slept in this mattress for a few days after we got married. It’s actually comfier than it looks, so it wasn’t so bad. My husband did not appreciate being on the floor though. I’d take this over an unknown person’s bed any day.

Buying stuff in itself was a quandary and production.  Both of us had to figure out what we ABSOLUTELY had to have to make it through the next week or so.  Thanks to our generous family and friends, we were given some money to spend on new furniture and appliances.   But we had spent a huge chunk of both of our savings on the wedding so I personally didn’t want to spend more than was absolutely necessary (I may be a priss, but I’m a practical priss). Plus, we had also gotten some house stuff as gifts but not all of them have been delivered. It seemed like a huge waste to buy a lot of things only to realize that we were about to receive similar gifts later on.

After much deliberation we bought the following items:

  1. A new bed (An absolute must!! The cheapskate in me though, chose the cheapest,  decent  bed we could find. It cost us a whopping 9000 bucks! Mighty proud of that fact and would brag to anyone who would listen).
  2. A mattress (This was my idea of a splurge because we had my almost -new mattress at home. But my husband really wanted a brand new one, so fine. He slept in a gross mattress for 2 years anyway, so he deserved it).
  3. A small  oven that could microwave, grill and  convection (At that time, I didn’t know what convection meant. It sounded fancy though, so I was sold!  :P)
  4. A refrigerator (Ok, this caused a lot of debate. I was insisting that his refrigerator at home would suffice in the meantime. He said it hardly kept anything cool—it was only when we had bought the new refrigerator  and were installing it did we discover that it was plugged to a 110 volt socket. Facepalm).
  5. A water dispenser
  6. Cleaning materials like rags, disinfectants, deodorizers, soaps etc.
One of our first pieces of furniture. Yey! Ofcourse, we did not waste any time sticking our pictures on it.

This decent-sized refrigerator (Don’t ask me how many cubic inches) was one of our first pieces of furniture.  Believe it or not, sticking pictures on the refrigerator  was my husband’s idea, not mine. He even chose the zebra magnets. Good job!  (Photos taken and printed by our prenup photographer, Joshua de Guzman)

Our fancy microwave. It also has grill and convection functions. It took me a day to figure out how to even figure how to work the convection function, but it was a pretty good buy.

Our fancy oven. It took me a day  to even figure this thing out (prior to my getting married, I had never even opened a microwave,  I was that much of a princess), but it was a pretty good buy. By the way, I was making some ribs dish when this picture was taken. It was my first time to do anything kitcheny on my own, so I was freaking out. I actually stood guard in front of the oven until the ribs were cooked.  I called a tech service guy before I used it and he said it was perfectly fine to use aluminium foil inside as long as it’s on PURE convection function.  I did not believe him, but  did it anyway. So I took a picture of the oven  to show him that I was doing it the way he taught me just in case it exploded (for warranty purposes, you understand).

Our awesome 9000 php bed with our new mattress. Pillows were wedding gifts. Sheets bought from Royal Subic by my husband as a mini surprise for our boyfriend-girlfriend anniversary a few months later. I was coveting these sheets, but I was too stingy to buy them.

Our awesome 9000 php bed with our new mattress. Pillows were wedding gifts. Sheets bought from Royal Subic by my husband as a mini surprise for our boyfriend-girlfriend anniversary a few months later (at that time I was obsessed with sheets and was looking at this set for quite a while but was too stingy to get it).

The following day,  with the help of a couple of people that we hired, the house was finally clean.  (And yes, mom and relatives, I did not sit there and command my troops like you’re probably picturing in your head. I did more than my fair share of cleaning and scrubbing).

On a sidenote, our helper came a few days later, and we were also able to procure new stuff for her so she doesn’t think that we’re heathens Thankfully, our new maid was a trooper and stuck with us. We also gave her the one and only tv that we had in the house. Having access to all her telenovelas probably contributed to her staying power.

Anyway, believe it or not, we lived in that almost-empty house,  with just the stuff written above,  for quite a while. It took us months to be able to buy/transport all the things that we needed.
And this prissy princess turned reluctant housewife learned a few lessons from this first quarter of our marriage:

  1. All these “essentials” that I thought I needed didn’t really matter. You could live quite comfortably with just a few basics in the house. Everything else is fluff.
  2. It is much more practical to buy stuff as you go along living together. There were quite a few things that we thought we would need that we ended up discarding, and quite a few things (mainly kitchen things, we’re both duds in the kitchen) that we thought were just luxuries that we ended up needing.
  3. Don’t force yourself to have pretty decorations /furniture immediately. If you buy these things from the start, not only will your budget get mucked up with nonsensical, rushed, mediocre finds, you will end up having too much stuff as time passes.  I also realised that a house will look richer (and I mean richer in a non-monetary, interesting kind of way) if you buy these little things in unexpected places (such as flea markets when you’re traveling, hole in the wall places that you accidentally discover etc) instead of just getting them all in one generic department store.
  4. If you have the time and a trusty carpenter, it’s actually cheaper and   more enjoyable to hire someone to make or refurbish your stuff.  Most of the furniture we have now, were hand-me-downs from my old nailspa. We just had them reworked and repainted. The tables and some benches, we had made. It’s fun because you get to choose the dimensions, materials and the colors you want. Plus,  given the materials used,  it’s a fraction of the cost of even reasonably priced department stores.
  5. Living a near-bare house adds dimension to your relationship. This sounds cheesy I know, but we actually got closer because we didn’t have a lot of things to begin with. At its most basic, we lived with no television and no form of entertainment for quite a while. So we were forced to talk and talk and talk and talk. There’s also something about making lists of things that you needed, going around and checking at stores (at leisurely pace—not at a we’re -about- to -get married -we -have -nothing -pace) that makes you discover new things about each other.  You get to relearn and discover each other’s priorities and tastes. Plus, we got to practice compromising. So in hindsight, I’m pretty glad we did things the way we did. It wasn’t exactly how I pictured our supposed honeymoon period to be like, but it was a great much-needed first lesson on the reality of marriage .
Yes, you don''t need a lot of  things to make a home but moving day made us so happy anyway. My uncle hooked us up with a HUGE truck. We had more than enough space for all our stuff.

Yes, you don”t need a lot of things to make a home but moving day made us so happy anyway.  My awesome uncle hooked us up with a HUGE truck. We had more than enough space for all our stuff.

We finally have seats in the living room!  Yey! I had these couches repainted and had new covers made a few months later.

We finally have seats in the living room! Yey! I had these couches repainted and had new covers made a few months later. (And just incase you’re wondering, we gave my husband’s center table back to SBMA. :P)

Moving to Subic Part III: Seeing Subic as a Blessing

So far this is the third (and hopefully the last) post I’ve written about my upcoming move to Subic. I never really realized until I was writing things down how significant this is for me. I think this is the biggest change I’ve ever allowed myself to make in my whole 30 something years of sheltered existence.

But like I said in my last entry,  although I looked at the transition with impending doom initially, I’m actually at a point where I’m beginning to get excited about it.

Here are my reasons:

1. I’m beginning to love Subic

When my fiance first started working in Subic, he was telling me about the ” Subic Magic” that residents allegedly experience: Apparently if you visit often enough, you would never want to leave. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why.  But shockingly, this magic also started creeping in on me. The more I visited him, the more I loved life in the Bay.

I mean, activists, you could say anything you want about these “arrogant” Americans, but they sure know their urban planning.  Not only did they pick a perfect spot to build their base, but they also made everything so easily accessible. You have the central business district where you can work, do your shopping, have coffee with friends (I just really don’t have any at the moment) then a stone’s throw away you have the forests and the water. It’s pretty awesome.

I may be indifferent to the trees and the animals, but I sure as hell love the sea. So I’m kilig at the prospect of hitting the beach any time I want to. I can even imagine myself driving to Zambales and surfing  (must learn how to properly drive and surf first, but those are minor details).

Aside from the beach, there is also duty-free shopping (do you know that they have a Mango outlet store that sell clothes at 50% off?? 50%!! I almost fainted with joy when I discovered it) where you can buy those coveted PX goods for cheap. There are also a lot of great restaurants (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad meal in Subic).

To top things off, the roads are in great condition and there is no traffic!! I can get anywhere in minutes!!

So in a few months time, I went from whining about mumus and monkeys, to raving about everything else Subic has to offer.

 

Picture of the Subic Landscape. Entire area is surrounded by water. You can actually hang out in the Central Business District and still have a great view of the sea. (Photo taken from Wikipedia)

 

One of Subic’s most famous resorts/landmarks. Photo taken by me! 🙂

 

 

 

2. We were starting to be okay

I’ve mentioned quite liberally in the stuff that I’ve written that my boyfriend and I were pretty rocky for a long period of time (months, years depends on when you start counting). But miraculously, things just started getting fixed. We didn’t go through a dramatic a-ha moment where we ran into each other’s arms and vowed not to hurt each other again. Gradually, things just started stabilizing. We really just both reached a point, although not simultaneously,  that we were sure we wanted to be together. (I got to give him props for really pushing and fighting for it though, I was so ready to throw in the towel during the last stretch).

And take away the emotional drama that pervaded our relationship, I was able to think more rationally and clearly:

We were both sure we wanted to get married. His career in Subic provided us with financial stability. My business in Manila, because it was not close to stable, provided us with the ocassional mani-pedi. Umm… kinda a no- brainer.

3.  The stint in Subic is my chance to re-evaluate my career options

Unfortunately, my work life is pretty dismal. And I don’t think I have anyone to blame but myself. I’d like to think I’m an intelligent, discerning and introspective person. However, I’m a total dud when it comes to figuring out a decent career for myself. Ever since I graduated from college, I flitted from one job to the other without really thinking things through. And it’s not as if failed miserably in any of the work that I stumbled on, I actually did a fairly decent job in most of them. But I have to admit, I make a lot of decisions without thinking things through so I get very shaken when problems arise and lose all enthusiasm. I can be quite determined and resilient with personal matters, but I easily quit when I encounter difficulties at work.

And what makes matters worse, I usually find a legitimate excuse to give up. Whether it’s my dad getting sick or financial constraints, I find a way to squirm out of my latest endeavor.

The thing is, in as much as I pretty much have a stable personal identity, I don’t think I have a clear-cut career identity. If that makes any sense. I even wrote a Masteral thesis about it (finding your identity in your twenties). A thesis that I also never finished. Hehehe.

When the move to Subic becam a given, my then-boyfriend made the most touching generous offer: He told me he was willing to support me financially until I finally find my career-footing and figure out what I wanted to do. And if I end up wanting to just run the house and not find a job, then he was ok with that too.  I was dumbfounded. I always had this mindset that taking a break  from a job was not an option. I would always just plow my way through them, thinking if this particular one didn’t work out then I absolutely had to find the next one immediately.

Needless to say, I was incredibly moved by the offer, especially since we’re starting our marriage life with absolutely nothing- no financial help from either of our parents, no backups, just the two of us trying to really figure things out. It was really heartwarming to know that he was willing to support us while I try finding myself.

So here’s our gameplan: Once I move to Subic, I assess what’s there for me career-wise. Then I take my time, do my research on these options before making the decision. In the meantime, I play housewife to my very driven, very career-assured husband.

4. Subic could be a fresh start from both of us

In as much as I have a lot of love and social support in Manila personally, at least at one point, there was also a lot of negativity surrounding us a couple.

The ordeal that we went through left us with a lot of bad memories. Certain places, events, people were just a constant reminder of issues that we were trying to let go of.  Sadly, we also experienced some  backstabbing and gossipping and had to deal with strained relationships while we were trying to move forward.

And although I was far from blaming anyone for things that happened  (there were probably certain things that we did to contribute to the mess) and was determined to just roll with the punches, it was draining to deal with the constant bad vibes.

From being a place that I dreaded, Subic became a haven – a place where we could heal from the toxic things that happened to us in Manila.

It’s funny how the Universe works, a good friend and our future ninong told me that sometimes God doesn’t answers your prayers the way you want Him to because He has something better for you. And because as human beings we have a limited capacity to fathom His infinite plan, we don’t immediately  recognize these  blessings and sometimes even see them as obstacles.

That’s exactly how I felt about Subic. When I was praying for clarity and peace, my boyfriend was offered a job in Subic.  I initially saw this as another challenge that we had to go through as a couple. And another sacrifice I had to make as an individual.

But once I opened my heart to all the possibilities, I saw it for what it really was: An answer to my prayers.

Moving to Subic Part II: Making the decision

Just to recap: Boyfriend was offered a job in Subic. After thinking things through, I realized it was the perfect opportunity for him. So decided to not hold him back and support him.

Obviously, given the length of the time we had to make the decision, I still had a lot of misgivings about it. I was happy that he found his dream job. But it still left alot of uncertainties in our relationship.

I mean, he’s where he was supposed to be. But where did that leave me?

When this was all happening, we were far from being engaged. Infact we were in a make or break stage as a couple. But since we have been together for a decade, marriage was on the table.

Being in a long-distance relationship was never an  option. Especially if we were already thinking long-term. However, at that point, I wasn’t sure if Subic was for me.

Here were my reasons why:

1. House is musty

His job offer came with a house that he could use for the duration of his post. It’s actually a nice house. Probably an officer’s place back when Subic was still an American base. But it hasn’t been used for years.  I don’t mind the usual wear and tear (a leak on the roof, broken cupboards),  but it smelled unbelievably funky. His company had allotted budget to fix the place up, but I wasn’t sure if the moldy smell came from mildew growing in between the walls. If that was the case, the place needed a major overhaul and I don’t think they would shell out that much money.

I know I was being a priss, but I really am deathly allergic to dust and mold.   Just going through my closet for a bit of spring cleaning would send me into a sneezing frenzy. My allergies are so bad that I’m immune to alot of antihistamine meds. I only have one nasal spray that works on me, and I have to use it sparingly because doctor feels I might get immune to that too.

2. House probably has mumu

Behind the house is a virgin forest. Personally,  I believe in spirits, ghosts,  fairies, dwarves, kapres and all those  crazy other world entities. And although I’m from being a wimp, living right infront of an untouched forest for me is asking for trouble (watch enough Filipino horror movies and you’ll know what I’m talking about).  The last thing that I want is to be alone in the house while he’s at work, and I have some ghost trying to make nice.

Tree from the Subic forests (photo taken from Subichomes.com). Doesn’t it look like a luxury condominium for kapres and tikbalangs? 🙂

3. There are monkeys and birds and all sorts of animals in the  backyard

Like I said, house is surrounded by a virgin forest. And if you look out the window,  aside from flocks of birds, there are probably 100 monkeys (not exaggerating) climbing trees and going about their business. As a matter of fact, they’re so at home in the entire Subic area that you often see them crossing the streets, going through the trash etc.

I know of people who would probably clap with glee at just the thought of being this close to nature. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I’m so not an animal lover. I’d croon over a cute puppy, but that’s it. I don’t have the urge to own one nor take care of one (although in a weak vulnerable moment, I wanted a tiny furry shitzu).  Besides, these monkeys are not the sweet, docile, endearing ones you see on TV. They’re hooligans.

I was warned by someone from Subic that I should never ever make an attempt to feed the monkeys (as if I needed a warning!). There was a particular story of some guy who gave one monkey food. The following day, around the same time, monkey knocks on his door and asks for more food. Although utterly amazed, he ignores it and shuts the door. It kinda goes berzerk and tries to unlock the window.

Just thinking about them makes me nervous. Truth be told, I’d rather deal with an errant spirit than a hungry monkey.

Monkeys chillin’ on the side of a road in Subic like they own the place. (Photo taken by another blogger, vanou.net

4. Everything around Subic Bay closes at 12. Select establishments close at 1.

It gets eerily quiet at night inside the Freeport Zone. And although I think I’ve seen the last of my partying days, I am an insomiac. So it’s sort of disconcerting for me to have ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING close by midnight.  Besides, it would be nice not to pay for toll just to satisfy a midnight snack craving.

5. I just started my business and I was reluctant to leave it behind

My fiance was offered the job July 2011. My nail spa opened in March. It was my baby because it was the first thing I’ve ever put up on my own. So since it was super young and new (and nice, and perfect and pretty… :P), I was very reluctant to leave it behind and have someone manage it.

6. Family and Friends are all in Manila

All the other reasons were all workable. (even # 5. Yes, my nail spa was new, but I have trusted girls who have been with me since we had another spa.  They all  had the routine down to a pat, so  showing up for a few hours every week would be enough to keep me on track).  Some of them were even ridiculously superficial. It was obvious that  I was just making up excuses for me not to make the move. At the end of the day, this was the only reason that mattered to me. I really couldn’t bear to leave my friends and family behind.

Ok, for those who live overseas, you’re probably laughing at how dramatic I’m being. Subic after all, is just a couple of hours away from Manila. The trip from Makati to Alabang during rush hour is probably more taxing (except for the fact that you had to pay an outrageous toll fee to get to Subic), but I’m unbelievably attached to my loved ones.

I’m blessed with numerous great relationships. My family is pretty tight-knit and we actually enjoy spending time with each other. I have circles of friends who are all fiercely loyal and supportive.  I’m sort of spoiled that way. Every time I go through some kind of difficulty, I immediately whine to at least one of  them (I rotate talking to them, so they don’t get sick of me. :)). So not having them at close proximity at a time when I felt I was extremely vulnerable seemed like a death sentence.

Besides, to be perfectly upfront,  it didn’t seem fair that I was leaving the people  who were there for me through thick and thin, to follow a  boyfriend (wasn’t even my fiance then) and work for a relationship  that was, at that particular moment in time, causing me so much grief.

But God really has a way of gently prodding you towards a certain direction. Gradually, all my reasons for not making the move were fading as it made way to stronger, more sound reasons of why I should. But this entry is getting too long, and some of you are probably glazing over, so will save that story for another day..

Moving to Subic

A map of Subic taken from Wikipedia. Actually researched this when I found out about the job offer. 😛

 

Was browsing through my posts and I realized that I never really wrote about why we moved to Subic. Kinda strange, since it is the title of my blog. . 🙂

Anyway, my fiance has always been a government person. As early as college, when we first met, he was actively involved in student council (So was I actually, but he was hard-core.  I was,  like every career that I eventually got into, just trying out different stuff). Since being a first lady was a career option for me, we seemed like the perfect fit. Hehehe.

The decision to move to Subic happened very quickly. From what I recall, the series of events that lead to it came to pass  in less than a month..

(Week 1, Monday):

His college e-groups sent out an email asking for people in his course if there was anyone interested in working as part of the SBMA think-tank. He’s the sort of person who cannot just do one thing, and the very idea of a new project always tickled his fancy, so he sent out his resume. He thought it was a brief consultancy position and not a permanent one though.

(Week 1, Friday):

A couple of days later,  he received a call that the Subic people were interested in having him on board. BUT they were considering him for a permanent post. I think he was kilig at the prospect of being offered such a key position, so he revealed to me that he actually really wanted to go to the interview.

The thing was, before all of this transpired, we knew nothing about Subic. The last time I was there was when I was in seventh grade. My class took the nature trek conducted by the Aetas. Then we went to Duty Free and gorged on imported chocolates on the way home. That’s it.

Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled that he was considering the position. He assured me however, that he was only going because he wanted to see if he could convince them to give him one-time consultancy work.

(Week 2 Saturday)

Anyway, he goes to the interview and tells me that it wasn’t an option anymore because they don’t have anything for him that’s part-time. But then he also starts talking animatedly about all the exciting plans Subic has laid out for development.

Ok, I’ve been with him for YEARS. And I could read him like a book. I knew that despite his nonchalance, he was considering the position. So I decided to nip his enthusiasm in the bud. I told him flat- out that there was no way I was going to be in a long- distance relationship, and if he goes to Subic, I will break up with him.

Before you judge me, let me give you a super quick background of where we were when this was all happening. We were recovering from a series of really awful events and I was questioning whether it was right for us to stay together. We were in the process of rebuilding trust and establishing new dynamics as a couple. I seriously felt that putting a 90 -km obstacle between us will break our already precarious relationship.

In all fairness to him, he did agree with me.

Week 3, Tuesday

Just when I thought this Subic matter can be finally laid to rest,  he experiences a major upheaval at work that made him decide that the job wasn’t for him. I really felt for him because there were alot of personal relationships at stake if he quits the job, so  I knew he went through months of emotional struggle before he finally reached his decision.

Week 3, Wednesday

He meets up with his friends and he tells them about what was happening at work . He also tells them about the offer in Subic. They get all excited for him and encourage him to take the job.
He picks me up from a friend’s birthday to tell me about their meeting. Take note that I was a bit tipsy when he ventured the topic so I was feeling quite combative.  I spent a good portion of  the drive to my house ranting about how I felt backed up in a corner, and once again, I had to make sacrifices to make things work out. I remained staunch in my stand. If you take the job in Subic, I’m out.  But then, he tells me with the utmost sincerity that this was our decision, not just his. And if I feel that I won’t be happy with him in Subic, he’ll let the opportunity go.

Crap.

Here’s a secret trait of mine, I’m a very opinionated person. And I will not back down even if you huff, puff and scream at me. I will probably scream just as loudly until I get YOU to back down. BUT the minute you act all nice and considerate, my inner button for either guilt or compassion gets activated and I let you have your way (for friends who know me, please don’t use this information against me. I’m on to you!  That goes for you too, fiance).

After blustering and sputtering,   I told him with all clarity and calmness  my inebriated state could muster, that I would go with him to Subic so I could make a proper informed decision.

He was  ofcourse delighted.

Week 3,  Saturday

We take the trip to Subic and it wasn’t off to a great start. When we got there, we met his potential boss in Starbucks and he invited us to his house for dinner.  We were kinda not prepared to stay for that long. We thought we were taking a very quick day trip so we had no nice clothes to wear etc.  Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but, stupid me left the car keys inside the car. I had to sweet talk a mechanic to help us fish them out.

To add icing to this very rotten cake, a friend of his who was in the area also wanted to meet up. Take note that I had biases against this person. While I respect his friends encouraging him to move to Subic, I had sour spot for this particular buddy of his because he seemed to be pushing a tad bit too hard, totally brushing off the possibility that this move will wreak havoc on our relationship. It seemed like he was insinuating that career advancement was much much more important than our decade-long relationship. AND, he also didn’t seem to care that my keys were stuck inside the car. He wanted us to leave it where it was parked, in a place where we didn’t know anyone, so he and my boyfriend could talk. Humph (I was feeling sulky at that time. I’m over it though. I’m pretty cool with his friend now).

I wanted to throw a bitch fit. But I had to grit my teeth and endure the pleasantries while they talked about life in the Bay.

Needless to say, by the time the dinner with his potential boss rolled around, I was hot, sticky and cranky. I  tried to summon my inner Jackie O. But who was I kidding? I was never a Jackie to begin with. I was more of an Evita Perron or an Imelda Marcos— on my good days. So the series of events had me all Jackie-d out. I really didn’t want to be the shrew but given the circumstances, I was afraid my efforts to be reserved and gracious would come out as sullen and grouchy.

My apprehensions were dashed however, when I finally met his potential boss’ entire family. They were all so pleasant and warm that I didn’t have to pretend to be having a good time. The conversation flowed effortlessly.  What made things even better was the fact that they were all so genuine.

The thing was, ever since my boyfriend was in law school,  I was taken aback how pretentious his world was. I grew up in a relatively simple and straightforward environment. Although my family’s quite comfortable, we can never be considered rich nor powerful. And even though my friends come from affluent backgrounds, they’re more or less unassuming and authentic.  There are alot of good people in his circle, but  it was also filled with ambitious individuals with hidden agendas. I could never really be myself or speak my mind when I’m around them.

I didn’t have the same feeling with his boss-to-be’s family. They were far from being the Brady Bunch, but they were more or less like the normal folks that I was used to.

My gut told me that given the internal struggles my boyfriend was going through, this type of environment would help him grow and rediscover who he used to be. And it became crystal clear that to me that this was where he belonged, at least for this particular moment in time. In my heart, I just couldn’t deprive him of this opportunity. I mean, this was more than just career advancement that we’re talking about. This was the perfect place for him emotionally as well.

When we got to the hotel, I told him that I really, really wanted him to move to Subic.  I was now willing to support his decision, and will try my hardest to make the relationship work out. However, he also had to realize that if this proved not to be healthy for me, then he had to be willing to let me go as well. Maybe it was a sign that we weren’t meant to work out.

He thought about it and decided that it was the best thing we can do given the circumstances.

So.. there. Was mighty proud that we solved the problem semi-logically. Aside from my drunken outburst, we went through the process maturely and semi-painlessly. I think we even shook on it. 😛

Ofcourse, my resolve  to move to Subic with him is another story altogether. It took months of confusion and uncertainty before I got comfortable with the idea… Until now, the gravity of this choice  hasn’t fully sunk in.

But I’m happy that at least, after all these years, we’re finally learning how to make  decisions together.