Photo Wanders | Mt. Pinatubo Day Hike in Photos: The Crater

the beautiful Mt. Pinatubo crater
It was almost 29 years ago when one of the world's largest and most explosive volcanic eruption happened. I was then a part-time sewer in a small garment sub-contractor in my hometown. I, together with my co-workers, were stay-in sewers; that is, we live in the same building where we work. The night before June 15, we slept leaving our windows open, just as we normally do. In the morning of June 15, we woke up having sands (ashes) in our mouth. I looked out the window and saw thick ashes in our window sill and on the streets below.

There's no cellphones (smartphones) back then so we don't know what's happening. We went down and check out newspapers. Then we found out that Mt. Pinatubo, a stratovolcano located in the mountains of Zambales erupted. This hometown of mine is in Bauan, Batangas; around 172 kilometers from Mt. Pinatubo. Imagine that! Actually, it reached as far as the Indian Ocean (source), that's how explosive Mt. Pinatubo eruption was.  This wrath from Mt. Pinatubo and the Baguio earthquake (earthquake was felt in Batangas, too) are the two most unforgettable disasters I've experienced in my teenage life.

Mt. Pinatubo crater, at another angle
Fast forward 2015, I was with friends who are into mountain climbing, when I finally saw with my own eyes Mt. Pinatubo, a magnificent beauty created by a catastrophic disaster. It's such a beauty that it lures many tourists, both local and international alike. With the onset of dry season here in the Philippines, I'm quite sure Mt. Pinatubo will again be one of the top tourist destination in Northern Luzon. Most likely, blogs and IG posts will again be flooded with Mt. Pinatubo photos.

For those who are into nature tripping and photography, Mt. Pinatubo is a place to be. Going here is kinda pricey but it's all worth it. It's also quite an adventure riding a 4x4 along lahar-laden field surrounded by ash/sand walls and then concluded with a 2-hour trek to the crater. Come and see this beauty that is Mt. Pinatubo. 

By the way, in this post are various Mt. Pinatubo crater shots I took during our 2015 adventure. I hope these photos inspire you to go visit and see Mt. Pinatubo, too.

Welcome to Mt. Pinatubo
Mt. Pinatubo crater and my hiking buddy
foreign tourists, enticed by Mt. Pinatubo beauty
Mt. Pinatubo crater and TPW,
emotera sa pinatubo :P

Photo Wanders | Chasing Sunset in San Jose, Tarlac

Sunset at San Jose, Tarlac

“Because the sunset, like survival, exists only on the verge of its own disappearing. To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.” ~Ocean Vuong



These photos where also taken during our Monasterio de Tarlac roadtrip last 2015. These were taken, if I'm not mistaken, along Lubigan Road in San Jose, Tarlac. We were passing by a road with empty open field everywhere when I saw the beautiful sunset. It's kinda late so we're literally chasing sunsets here. Shortly after we stopped, a truck came by with men aboard that somehow made me a bit nervous. We're in the middle of nowhere with no houses nor people nearby so I can't help but feel a bit scared. Thankfully, nothing happened and we reached home safe.

If you're going to Monasterio de Tarlac, make time for sunset photography in Lubigan Road, it's really beautiful (not my photos, though :P). It's worth the stop, just be careful and be mindful of the environment around you. If you're alone, be in a hurry if you still wanna stop and take photos; or better yet, don't stop at all. Don't take unnecessary risks. :)


Photo Wanders | Monasterio de Tarlac: Statue of the Risen Christ

Photo Wanders will be a new section of this blog. It will consist of photos I took during my travels that I haven't posted in this blog yet. It may contain a short description of the photo and the place where I took it. I'll try to do this weekly, whenever I don't have a full-blown article to post. I hope you'll still enjoy it.


~ oo00oo ~

The Risen Christ at Monasterio de Tarlac
The Risen Christ at Monasterio de Tarlac
Monasterio de Tarlac, Church of the Risen Christ
The Risen Christ at the Monasterio de Tarlac
tourists admiring the view at Monasterio de Tarlac

These photos were taken during our road trip to Monasterio de Tarlac in San Jose, Tarlac last 2015. I just started my new job then so I wasn't able to create a post about it. Anyways, in the photos is a 30-foot statue of The Risen Christ, the most-photographed part of the Monasterio de Tarlac and the view around the Monastery. Aside from the famed colossal statue, Monasterio de Tarlac houses the Relic of the True Cross, a remnant of the physical cross where Jesus was crucified. Monasterio de Tarlac, located on a hill overlooking Tarlac, surrounded by greens and hills, is a beautiful and peaceful place to be. I hope to be back here again, someday.

What about you dear readers, have you been to Monasterio de Tarlac? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. I'll be waiting... ^_^

Financial Wanders | Easy Investing For As Low 50 Pesos with GCASH Invest

GCASH Invest
from GCASH Invest

My GCASH journey started as a game with office friends last year (2019). Although I'm a GCASH subscriber years ago, I didn't actually use it. Last March 2019, we chanced upon this GCASH promo wherein you just have to send 1 peso to 2 of your GCASH friends and you could win a cash prize (currently on-going Ang Pao promo has 202,000 Php as major prize). Actually, every subscriber who joined this promo is already a winner because GCASH gives you 3 pesos as the minimum prize for every successful Ang Pao transaction. Anyway, my GCASH investment journey started that way. 

Since then, I continued using GCASH and availed most of its services, mostly those that would give me savings and/or investment. One of the services I availed of is the GCASH Invest facility. GCASH Invest is a GCASH feature that allows its subscribers to make an investment with its partner provider for as low as 50 Php. By the way, GCASH and ATRAM (investment product provider) are both authorized/supervised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to offer financial investments. In case you're interested to start your investment journey, too, download the GCASH app, available on IOS App and Android Play stores.

In order to avail the GCASH Invest facility, GCASH subscribers MUST BE a fully verified subscriber. In case your account isn't fully verified yet, follow this instruction from GCASH on how to make your account fully verified. Once your account is fully verified, you may now start using GCASH Invest. To start GCASH Invest, look for the Invest Money icon/button on your GCASH app and register.

How to Register to GCASH Invest

1. Click the Invest Money icon/button to register. You will then be prompted to confirm your personal details (extracted from GCASH profile). Confirm and submit your details.

2. After confirming your personal details, you will then be asked to answer a survey/questions regarding your risk profile. This step is a must. Your answers to this questionnaire will determine what type of investor you are - conservative, moderate or aggressive. Conservative investors are those who prioritize security and liquidity of their investments. Conservative types of investment are low risks but poses lower returns. Moderate and aggressive investments poses higher risks (possibility of losing money) but also has the greater chance of earning more from the investments. Currently though, GCASH Invest only offers conservative type of investment which is ATRAM Peso Money Market Fund.

Once done with step 2 above, please wait for the approval of your GCASH Invest registration. You will be notified via SMS and email when registration is approved. Once approved, you may now start funding your GCASH Invest.

How to Fund GCASH Invest

1. Click the 'Invest Money' icon.
2. Click 'View Investment Products' button (currently, it only has one product available which is the ATRAM Peso Money Market Fund).
3. Click 'View Details' of your chosen product.
4. Click 'Subscribe' button.
5. Enter amount (50 Php minimum) to be invested then click 'Next'.
6. You will then be prompted to confirm your agreement on the product's Terms and Conditions. Click the checkbox beside 'I agree' then click 'Confirm'. You will then receive a text message confirming your subscription transaction.

I haven't yet done withdrawal or redemption of my investments but in case you want to redeem or withdraw your money, choose and click 'Redeem' instead of 'Subscribe' and then follow the app instructions. 

As of this date, my GCASH Invest money earning is around 1.4% of my investment, better than bank savings which is usually around 0.25%. Considering that I only made small investments every payday, 1.4% is already a good return for me. ATRAM's rate of return on Peso Money Market Fund is 3.2%, year on year.


~ oo00oo ~

This post was triggered by a gift I received from GCASH last Wednesday. Earlier that day, I got a text message from Entrego (a logistics company) informing me that my package will be delivered that same day. I've never purchased or ordered anything so I'm not expecting any package to be delivered to me. I then called Entrego and inquired them about the text message. The CSR told me I got the correct message and that I do have a package for delivery. I asked who the sender was but the CSR couldn't provide me an answer. I went out that same day and when I got back, the guard handed me the package, no sender information outside. When I opened it, I was surprised it came from GCASH. A simple gift; but it encourages me more to continue saving/investing and work my way towards my dream of financial freedom. Thank you GCASH! 

2020 GCASH Invest gift
2020 GCASH Invest gift,
yes, I'm a certified GCASH investor! :)

Gadgets | Garmin Venu: Thoughts/Opinions/Review

Garmin Venu
Garmin Venu, black/slate

I'm not an athlete or a sports-minded person. In fact, I'm a couch potato. But recent developments in my health prompted me to go out and move more. This 2020, I renewed my #sitlessmovemore mantra once again. And my companion in this endeavor is my new Garmin Venu smartwatch. Thanks to my very dear BFF who sponsored it. Otherwise, I would have to be contented with my phone's fitness app. BFF knows that I like smartwatch with fitness tracker so instead of buying some other gift last Christmas, he gave me the money to buy the wearable that I want.

I initially wanted to have Samsung Galaxy Fit but reading through lots of reviews made me end up with considering a full-blown smartwatch rather than just fitness tracker. Last December, I checked out and read and viewed lots of reviews about the 4 smartwatches (Samsung Active 2, Fitbit Versa 2, Apple Watch 3 and Garmin Vivoactive 3 element) I'm considering. I'm an iPhone user so Apple Watch is really recommended but they're really not my type, not because of anything but more so because of its shape. I'm not a fan of square/rectangular shape watches. Fitbit Versa 2 was also eliminated from consideration because of its shape. Also, Fitbit Versa doesn't have a GPS so it does not fit with my requirements. So there, it's Samsung Active 2 vs Garmin Vivoactive 3.

Samsung Active 2 is not available in most stores I checked until early January this year. Same with Garmin Vivoactive 3, it's out-of-stock and sales clerk don't know if and when they will have it. Besides, she said Vivoactive 3 is an old version and will not be released anymore, though they have the updated version Vivoactive 3 Element and Music. I went to several stores of both Samsung and Garmin several times to try the models that I'm considering just to decide which one I should buy. In the end, I bought Garmin Venu, one of Garmin's newest smart/sports watch. Following are my opinions/thoughts/review on my new Garmin Venu.

Garmin Venu Sleep Tracker

Of the many features of Garmin Venu, its sleep tracking is the most inaccurate in my experience. I set my usual sleep and wake-up time at 12MN-6AM but I usually am in bed before 12MN browsing and reading  online. The next morning, when I wake up and sync my watch with my phone, Garmin Venu registered my sleep time way too early than my actual sleep time. Since I'm just lying in bed reading and not actively moving, Venu misinterpreted my activity and included my reading time as sleep time. Even when I woke up in the middle of my sleep and couldn't get back to sleep at once, tossing and turning in bed for minutes, sometimes hours, Venu still registers it as sleep time. Another thing, Venu shows very little deep sleep time, normally less than an hour, which I think is not correct since I usually wake up well-rested and energized. Garmin, in their forum site, mentioned to correct and set the correct sleep time through the phone app and it will eventually learn from it. So far, my Venu hasn't learned from it, yet.

Garmin Venu Heart Rate and Respiration

In terms of heart rate and respiration, I couldn't compare Venu with other wearables out there but I have a BP monitor which I usually use every morning to check my BP and the readings are not that diverted, just a few points difference so I guess it's somehow accurate.

Respiration on the other hand, registers a pretty normal range except when I was doing exercises and while I'm sleeping. By the way, although my Venu doesn't report my actual sleep time accurately, I find my respiration data quite right. (I wouldn't say "accurate" since I've no other basis but the normal range I read online.) During sleep time, my respiration goes below normal range, which I guess is correct, since I normally snore loudly during sleep causing my breathing to go slow or stop maybe. During the day, the respiration readings are within normal range again except on times that I'm active and doing my exercises when respiration shoots up.

Garmin Venu Smart Notification

Venu's smart notification feature is a handy feature specially during busy times when I couldn't always check my phone or when I accidentally left my phone's sound alert turned off or when it's in my bag or pocket. With this feature, I could immediately get on to my phone when there is emergency. But actually, the best thing for me is that I could read the messages and ignore or delay responding to them without letting the sender know I've read his/her message. Sorry peeps, I'm just quite busy sometimes. But I eventually turned off this feature after a few days as it eats up on Venu's battery life. My Venu lasts only for about 2 days when smart notification is turned on. Please note that my notifications get pretty crazy during work days as my work (and work mates) uses online communication pretty much.

Garmin Venu Fitness Tracking/Steps Tracking

For health reasons, I'd like to track my movements/steps on a daily basis. My goal is to at least do 8K steps a day and eventually get it to at least 10K a day. And this is one of the reason why I bought a smartwatch or sports watch. Although I can use my phone to track my steps, I couldn't always bring my phone wherever I am so a wearable is my best option to keep track of my movements. Based on my phone's data (using a different app), I could say it's pretty correct. I also like that this watch alerted me to "move" every time it detects that I'm not moving in quite a while.

Garmin Venu VO2 Max Estimates

Last September, I had a check-up in a clinic because of chest pains. I'm quite a worrier when it comes to my health so the doctor ordered a full cardiovascular check-up which include ECG, 2D-Echo and treadmill stress test. Thankfully, the results are all okay except for my stress test which pretty much shows how poor my fitness level is. I actually was able to reach maximum heart rate for my age and gender without a hitch. The thing is, I reached it just after 3 minutes of treadmill workout, just a few seconds after the warm-up stage. I felt like a weakling that time haha.

Good thing that this Garmin Venu has this VO2 max estimates which shows the fitness level of its users. For me, this is the best feature that Garmin Venu has. Venu's VO2 max is just estimates, but it helps me in my fitness journey and it somehow encourages me to continue improving my fitness level. So what does Venu tells me about my fitness? Venu told me my fitness age is 58 and that I'm at the bottom 25% of people of the same age and gender. Gosh, it's so shocking! I really need to move, and keep on moving. Anyway, I'm doing this sort of VO2 max training (my version) so hopefully, my fitness level will eventually improve.

Garmin Venu VO2 Max estimates

Garmin Venu Battery Life

Garmin website says that Venu battery could go as long as 5 days on smartwatch mode. And this is one of the reasons why I bought this watch, the longer battery life compared with Samsung Active 2's 2 days. I intend to use it 24/7, at least during the first few weeks or months of use to establish data accuracy. However, in my experience, the battery only lasts for about 2 days with 24/7 heart rate monitoring on and smart notification turned on (as I said above, I get lots of notifications during work days). I also noticed that the Venu battery drains pretty quickly after using on GPS-tracked activity even though I'm actually done with it. I searched online and found a recommendation to turn it off and reset the watch. So now, every time I'm done with my GPS-based activities, I turned it off for a while to reset (I don't know how to reset it without turning off, didn't do some googling yet) and then continue to use it, as usual. 

Connectivity, Watch Face, Etc.

I'm glad that Garmin watches, Venu in particular, can be used with either iPhone or android phone so it's a plus feature for me. It can also be connected to other third-party apps like MyFitnessPal and Strava. I'm not using Strava but I track my calorie intake using MFP so this is another plus feature. I also like that there are so many third-party developers supporting Garmin that you have an array of watch faces to choose from. Just download Connect IQ and look for the watch face that matches your style and personality. Another thing, if you like to share your stats on social media like instagram and facebook, you can use any of your photos as background of your statistics. Overall, though there some features that need improvements, I would say I'm quite happy and satisfied with my Garmin Venu; and this is now my everyday watch.

Garmin Venue Watch Face
my everyday watch face
Garmin Venue Watch Face
Valentine Watch Face
Garmin Photo Stats, for social media sharing


There you go, my personal thoughts and opinions on Garmin Venu after using it for more than 2 weeks. Take note, I'm no expert in smartwatch and I don't have other smartwatch to compare it with, I just want to share my thoughts and opinion on Garmin Venu as an ordinary user, that's it. 'Til next time... (hopefully, I can post more articles this year).

Random | 6 Things I Realized About Life In My 40s

It's been a while since I wrote a story here. I posted a short one last August about a quick tour in Intramuros and another one in January and that's it, nothing more. Two posts for 2019, 3 if only I was able to finish this one (I started this post last December). But I didn't! I've always wanted to update this blog and write a new article but I also always find a way not to do it. Does procrastination comes with age? 'Cause it seems that way for me, nowadays.

Anyways, I'm writing this one as my way of releasing my worries and sharing the things I realized now that I'm halfway through my fifth decade in this world.

Eat and Drink Right

I used to think I eat and drink right. But that was before! Most of the time, I skip breakfast. If I do have one, that would be late, around 10AM and mostly consist of just coffee or hot chocolate. I don't drink water that much (usually less than a liter a day). 

And since I can afford it, I usually eat out, too. By eating out, I don't mean eating in fancy restaurants. It's more like having lunch or dinner in fastfood chains. And this includes weekend meals, too. So yeah, I don't eat and drink right. But 2019 has been an eye opener for me. I visited the clinic almost every quarter last year when before that, I only went to clinic for mandatory annual check-up. My blood pressure is elevated, cholesterol and uric acid above normal range; conditions that if not treated immediately, could lead to more severe illnesses. So starting third quarter of 2019, I eat and drink right again. Less red meat! Less sodium. Less fatty foods. Definitely just occasional visit to fastfood chains. More veggies and fruits. And I drink lots of water now, too. I make sure I get at least 1.5 liters (my initial goal is 2 liters) of water everyday.

my kind of healthy food: bulanglang tagalog, recipe on my food blog

For my few readers out there, eat and drink right. Don't wait for your blood pressure to shoot up. Don't let cholesterol and uric acid level go beyond normal range. Unless you want to take maintenance medicines for the rest of your life, eat and drink right, now!

Get More Sleep

For the past 10 years or so, I only get an average of around 5 hours of sleep. There are times I go to work with just 1 or 2 hours of sleep. During my younger years, I'm more than fine with 5 hours. Nowadays, I feel so sleepy even in the early hours of the morning. It affects my job because I'm always late. Lack of enough sleep also contributes to my elevated blood pressure which leads to absences. I'm now not at my one hundred percent.

This 2020, I promised myself I will sleep early. So far, I'm still good with my promises. My internet connection will be cut down this January 26 so I hope I can keep this promise. I need to anyway, or else, I'll be forced to take maintenance medicine (for elevated BP), which I hate. For the past few days, my BP is back to normal level, so yeah, sleep pa more! ^_^

Sit Less! Move More!

This one I'm really struggling but I know I need to do it.  I need to lose weight. Everything I'm experiencing right now (elevated BP, above normal cholesterol and uric acid level, back and shoulder pain, GERD) was worsen by my being overweight. Okay, I'm still in denial stage, let's change it. I'm obese! There, I said it.

I used to work on my laptop with me lying in bed. I also play games and watch movies lying down. Now, I'm writing this post with me sitting on a chair, posture in check (bad posture also contributes to my pains). It's a start right? Mall-ing is better than lying in bed and playing games isn't it? After this, I'm going to the mall and window-shop and walk around. I'd love to enroll in a gym but I can't afford it right now so maybe, I'll get back on going to parks and walk around again. They're just stone's throw away from my place, anyway.

forest in the city @ Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center
this park is stone's throw away from my place

Limit Use of Gadgets


I got my first laptop (got a PC before that) in 2008, I think. That was the same time I got exposed to online games, too. I used to play Dekaron with officemates until the wee hours of the night so yeah, it worsen my bad sleeping habits. Around that same time, I got my first smart phone, too. By then, I learned to read ebooks instead of actual books. I started surfing the world wide web a lot, too.

For the past 2 years, my gadgets have become my life. I stayed on my bed the whole day; watching movies, playing games and just browsing the internet. And what has these gadgets brought me? Pains! Lots of pains! I now have chronic back and shoulder pains that extends to my neck and head, too. My shoulder and back hurt so bad that I have to transfer my bag (with just 2 phones, some coins and keys) from one shoulder to another several times during mall-ing. The connection? My excessive use of gadgets leads to bad posture, bad eyesight, bad eating and drinking habits, bad everything actually.

Now I'm planning to cut my internet connection at home. Steady and stable internet connection has contributed so much to my gadget and games addiction. And since I couldn't cut my fingers to stop this addiction, then I'll just cut my internet connection. I still have my cellular data connection but signal here at home is not good and and is unstable so it would definitely limit my time on games and online stuff.
 
Stay Debt-Free

I got my first credit card way back 1999, if I remembered correctly. I got several credit cards from different banks since then. During that time, I buy things I can't afford buying in cash and use my family obligations (I help support my brother's studies, buy things my family don't have) as a justification.  Back then, I always maxed out my credit card limit. Imagine having 2 or 3 cards at the same time and maxing out all of them. I also have loans from other people and institutions. So yeah, I'm in deep shit!

In 2013, I was able to pay all my credit cards and personal loans. Except for my housing loan, I'm almost debt-free. I still use my credit card after that but I always pay in full, no roll-over balances. Then came 2015 when I lost my job. I couldn't pay my purchases in full so my outstanding balance started accumulating again. Of course, I found a job also in 2015. But I transferred to a more convenient apartment which led to bigger expenses so I wasn't able to pay my outstanding balance. In 2018, my father was hospitalized and I have no emergency fund to use so I rely on my credit card, too. My outstanding balance has accumulated once again. I used up almost 50% of my credit limit.

My not so good health last year made me realize that I shouldn't just live the moment, that I have to be debt-free so I would be worry-free, too. Since last quarter of 2019, I never made any big purchases, even if I'm tempted to. All new purchases (groceries, personal necessities) through credit cards, I make sure to pay in full. I also availed of installment plan for my outstanding balance to ease off on interest. I'm struggling but I know I'll be debt-free again. Soon!

Save and Invest

Before I left my stable job (in government) last 2013, I'd always say to myself that money is not everything, that money can't buy me happiness. Now I realized, money may still not be able to buy me happiness but it can certainly buy me (and my family) a comfortable and less worrisome life. 

Don't get me wrong. I love my job in the private sector. I learned a lot, and I mean A LOT, in my field of work. I also get good exposures, things that I'm sure I would never experience had I stayed in the government sector. So yes, I don't regret leaving my stable job as I really am bored with it. But I regret not having saved money back then. I used to be that kind of person that live in the moment, without regards to the future. I buy things that I want when I want it, things that I would just give away after some time. I never think of saving up. My thinking was that I am skilled and I can always find a job that can support my living. It's wrong, very wrong thinking!

Last 2017, I started my stock investment journey. I used my small savings to open up an account in BDO Nomura. I thought investing in stock market will easily pave the way for my financial freedom. But I'm wrong, once again. In my more than 2 years stay in the stock market, I realized it's not easy.  On my first year, I gained around 10% of my capital so I thought, 'yes, I can do this'. In 2018, I was proven wrong. I lost my gain from my first year plus around 10% of my capital. At the end of 2019, I'm down 27%. But I'm not giving up. Miss Market is telling me to study more so I will study more so I could make wise trading choices this time.

credit to the owner, click the image for my post on starting stocks investing

Also, I will make sure that I save a portion of my salary, even if small, to build up my emergency fund and add-up on my investments. With God's blessings and provisions, I know I can do this.


~ oo00oo ~

What about you dear readers? How was your 2019? Was it good? I hope it was. But whatever your circumstances are, let us make this 2020 a better year for us all.  Let's improve and make ourselves worthy of all the blessings that God has given us, through the years. And let us all be grateful always, blessings and trials, for our Lord Almighty will never leave us and will always be there for us. Happy and prosperous new year my dear readers. God bless us all!

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