The Challenges Of Freelancing

Still contemplating on quitting your job and starting your own business where the only investment required are your brains, your time, and your own brand of hard work?

Freelancing might seem too easy, most especially when you get all tangled up in destructive online literature that try to sell you the “Top 10 Secrets To Become A Successful Freelancer” ebook or, the “The Best Strategies To Earn Six-Digits As A Freelancer” course. Ha! So, be careful.

It’s A Whole Lot Of Sweat, Blood And Tears

I started freelancing in 2013. I was not contemplating on quitting my day job but just to pass the time and distract my mind from the very serious literature that came with my work in the world of social development. When I’m working online, I realized that I didn’t have to waste two precious hours debating the problems of the world with people who could hardly understand what  people on the ground really need. Working online meant completing a task, usually just one very specific task — in my case, that could be writing an article, a web copy, a blog or, an ebook, and delivering these on agreed timelines and to the specs provided by my clients. Simple, ain’t it?

Not. If you’re seriously courting the idea of working as a freelancer, whether as a writer, graphics designer, applications developer, accountant, virtual assistant, and what not, there are certain downsides of freelancing that you must become aware of and take into consideration before jumping ship.  Listed below are just the top five challenges of freelancing (well, from my perspective, of course):

Challenge No. 5: Dealing with difficult clients. Aha! Now, even if you don’t have to deal with annoying officemates when you’re freelancing, you still do have to deal with difficult clients. I am blessed, I guess, that in my less than five years of freelancing, I’ve so far been duped, unpaid (wawa!) by just one client. I had to really study the material. It was for a graduate school course work about tuberculosis. I got paid for the first milestone then, the client disappeared!

Unfortunately, freelancers do have to bite the bullet. You have to accept that, in most situations, you’re on the losing end of the table. Eventually, you will be able to find honest clients who hate to make their workers feel short changed. Even then, what I’ve found useful is to negotiate the terms of work and payment with your client beforehand. For example, request to be paid 50 per cent of the total amount when you’ve drafted half of the book, and the remaining amount upon completion.

Protect yourself from unfair requests for revisions too by defining how many times your client can send back the work with his or her comments for you to revise BEFORE you exert any effort on the assignment. Where there is anything vague, make sure to ask, clarify, and reach an agreement with your client — and document it by email or by chatting.

There are also online platforms for freelancers that help you stay protected and make sure that you get paid for your hard work. These platforms facilitate the work contracts and payments, some even making sure that the client has funded the work and holds it in escrow. The funds are released as soon as you and your client agree that a milestone has been achieved. The downside of these platforms is that they take a percentage of your pay which serves as management or facilitation fee.

Challenge No. 4: Meeting your deadlines. There’s all sorts of work opportunities online, and if you’re keen enough and have the drive to keep learning new things, you’ll never run out of services to offer other people. Thing is, your energy is a constant — you can only do so much in a day because you need to sleep, no matter how organized you are or, how diligently you fill out and try to stick with your notes on your Starbucks planner. That’s how our bodies work and there’s nothing that you can do about it.


I’ve found myself several times in challenging situations where I have committed to overlapping deadlines with multiple clients. The most number of clients I’ve had to serve at the same time was four. I find myself in these situations when my primary clients aren’t sending over work so, the remedy is to look for other work opportunities.

I would say I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to meet my deadlines in spite of the crazy requirements and timelines. It’s being familiar with my work pacing that I’ve been able to negotiate reasonable deadlines. Of course, I also made sure that each of my clients felt that my output was the product of blood, sweat, and tears — and sleepless days and nights. (Seriously, sometimes I don’t even know what day it is!)

Key takeaway: Negotiate. May I also add that you should keep your clients updated of how far and long you are to completing the job.

Challenge No. 3: Making yourself available 24/7. So, how do you make yourself available 24/7? It’s not possible. All it really means is that you are consistently online at specific times of the day and make sure that your client knows about it.


I have to confess I’ve been guilty with this point lately, mostly due to unreliable Internet connection — the biggest “no, no” when you’re doing online work. Unfortunately, my current residential arrangements neither permits a Fiber nor a DSL connection. I see this issue dragging on for the next couple of months or so. For now, the only track I can take is to let my clients know that I am on unreliable broadband and LTE connections. Nevertheless, I made sure I had redundant means to stay online, even though that still does not permit me to spend 24 hours on real-time apps, such as on Skype, because LTE and broadband are more expensive and do not give me unlimited Internet time.

There are some types of freelance work, like serving as a virtual assistant, where less than a DSL connection cannot apply. Often, clients will define their IT requirements, most especially when they need you online at specific times of the day or, if they have to consistently reach out to you.

Challenge No. 2: Keeping up with the “K’s” and “Q’s”(“Kings” and “Queens”) of freelancing. There’s no dull moment if you’re a freelancer. Heck! That’s why I couldn’t even post a single article on this personal blog for months now. I have to keep myself valuable to my clients by delivering valuable work. Unlike in a traditional 8 to 5 job where employees are protected by labor rights, including tenure, freelancers are highly dispensable. That’s partly because there’s so much talent all over the world.

So, when you do get all serious about becoming a freelancer or, if you are already freelancing, think about what added value (a value proposition) you are bringing to your clients. In my case, a lot of people can write but, not too many can connect with their readers, plus I also keep proving that I am worthy of my client’s trust not to plagiarize, to research my topics well, and to consistently deliver top grade work (Ahem!). They’re very smart and they will be able to tell if you are worth their money or not.

Challenge No. 1: It can’t be all about the Benjamins, Baby! If you’re really hardworking and have the  stamina to be the best of the best in your chosen field of freelancing then, you can literally see those Benjamins credited regularly to your account. Once you get the hang of it, you’re going to keep wanting more!


Here are just some of the situations where your interest for those Benjamins have to take the backseat:

  • When quality has to come first. Don’t turn in work just because you need to hit your financial targets for that specific period. Keep in mind that freelancing has a lot to do with earning a good reputation for delivering quality outputs which is not very common in the world of online work.

When you recognize how difficult it is to find a client who is as hardworking and honest as you are, you will learn to always put quality first, even above your Benjamins. That’s because you respect your client, and you know he or she is smart and will be able to tell good from bad quality of work. If you turn in less than stellar output, it’s likely your client will find a replacement. In the end, you lose big time.

  • You simply need to get offline. As a freelancer, you will be spending most of your time online, even when you’re the first person in your home to get up in the morning and still be the last to hit the sheets after midnight. You need to raise your monthly financial targets and that’s your reality. However, you do have to set aside time to do other things than just working on your tasks, negotiating with your clients, and looking for your next client.

You’re wanted by your clients any time, all the time but, your loved ones need to spend time with you too. After all, that’s one major benefit of freelancing that you do have to learn to take advantage of. Besides, when you get downtime, your productivity bounces back more fiercely so, find time to close that laptop and do something more personal.

Just last month, I had to re-learn the wisdom of taking a break. Normally, I would run my basic errands throughout the day — do the household chores, and fetch the kids from school, even pick up stuff from the market or the mall — but, always with my laptop in tow. I’m writing my articles while waiting for school dismissal. I type away during guitar class. I’m up before I prep breakfast, and I’m still online long after my family is in deep slumber. My body had to force me to stop for a full week with a terrible headache and flu that came with sore eyes, as if making sure I wouldn’t peek into my Skype or email while I’m on my flu meds! I’ve forgotten to set aside “me” time. We all need that constantly.

  • Your client is facing business difficulties. You must not offer your services for free or, at a bargain. However, when your relationship with a client has grown to become more personal, you also cannot help but care — it’s human nature. It also comes so much more naturally when you realize that your long-time, repeat client has been financing your freelancer lifestyle and paying for the bills.

You have to realize that when your client succeeds, you succeed with him or her too. That means you have to be ready to negotiate for a win-win situation, not just you winning on one end, even when that might mean getting lower rates. One of my clients re-negotiated my rate once. I agreed for a lower rate that was still acceptable to me which came with a promise that I will get higher volume of work which, in turn, translated to higher total earnings — win-win.

  • Humanity calls. Other than my recent bout with flu, there was one other time I remember when I had to tell my client I had to be offline for two full weeks. That was when I got involved in humanitarian work for Tacloban City which Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated in 2013. I was surprised how my client even thank me for putting in work for the people who badly needed help and relief. Sometimes, there are just some things that need to be on top of your freelancing business, and among those moments is when you have been given the power and the opportunity to help others.

What’s It Going To Be?

Still think you will succeed as a freelancer? You probably will. You’ve heard what entrepreneurs have shared about putting up your own business and making sure it succeeds? They say you need patience, a lot of hard work, and the heart to take the leap and risk it. The same is true with freelancing. It may or, may not be for you but, you’ll never know unless you try.

See also: What pros aren’t telling you about becoming an online freelancer

“Mom, Can I Have My Own YouTube Channel?” – Must You Approve Or Refuse?

Last night, my grade school aged son popped me this question.  Initially, I thought that he was being silly. My first reaction was a grin and a crisp, “Hahaha”.  Having realized that he was still waiting for a serious response, I said, “Why?”

“All Of My Friends Are On YouTube!”

According to the 2014 study, “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, <>, young people say they want to be on social networking sites (SNS) “to stay in touch with friends, make plans, get to know people better, and present oneself to others”.

The researchers were able to find evidence that adolescents participating in SNS benefit from advancing their social skills. Nevertheless, the study also found several negative impacts concerning social media and children, that includes comparing themselves with others in their network.

I Said, “No”

My son presented me with 100 other reasons why he needs to be on YouTube but, in the end, I said, “No” and it was non-negotiable. Of course, he asked me back, “Why not?”

I gave him these Top 5 reasons why I wouldn’t let him have his own YouTube account:

1.  There are too many bad people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t lost my faith in humanity. I teach my kids to trust people but, before I tell them that, I tell them to doubt others first. Unfortunately, there are too many bad people lurking online waiting for their next prey. Frankly, Internet privacy and security is not something most of us, not even our institutions including our children’s schools, are teaching our kids.

2.  There is an appropriate age to be on SNS.  Based on the US Children’s Online Privacy Act, that age is 13 but, in most territories, that’s really not defined. The bottomline is that, there is a certain level of maturity necessary to understand the benefits and risks inherent with having accounts on SNS.



3.  The inherent risks are real security risks for children and your entire family. I told my son, “You’re simply too young to know what kinds of information you should be sharing online and not”. Can you imagine a public post that reads, “Gone for the Holidays. Off to Hawaii!” That’s the same thing as inviting burglars to rob you while you’re sipping your piñacolada, watching the sun set on the other side of the world. I see many adults continue to post such information so, how can we expect kids to do any better?

4.  Younger children must learn to connect with others in more traditional ways first. It’s harder to feel empathy when you’re online. Online communication makes your child miss out on most of the more important non-verbal cues which, sometimes, say more than what is actually being said or typed back. Succeeding in life is always linked to how well somebody is able to connect with others and genuinely care. My son needs to learn those values first so that, someday, he may be able to contribute to the good, valuable content available online.


5.  Any information made available online becomes public property.   I don’t count on any SNS privacy and security policy because the truth of the matter is that we are all leaving footprints of ourselves whenever we are online. Of course, the audience settings on Facebook or, the non-public posts on YouTube videos are helpful yet, there is always the possibility of getting that “private” information out there, most especially when these are shared with others, even with just a handful of people very close to you.

Whatever my son posts on the Internet becomes part of his online footprint and can have an impact on his future. Before he creates his YouTube account or any other SNS account, therefore, I need him to appreciate the fact that owning and managing a social media account is a big responsibility he has to be able to keep for his sake and for the sake of others, including both the people he knows and not.

One thing is for sure, now is not YET the time for him to have any sort of social media identity. Well, but, that’s just me. Have your children asked you about creating a social media account? What’s your take on this?


What To Do When You Got A Full Week To Travel The Philippines

When you have a full week to spend in Manila, Philippines, don’t just stay in the capital! Make time to visit the nearby provinces.

Via domestic flights, you can opt to:

1. Catch the hidden natural wonders of Palawan. The capital, Puerto Princesa is alluring but, if you want more enchantment, go to El Nido or, click to see what’s in store for you in Coron.

Puerto Princesa
One of the hidden falls on the road south from Puerto Princesa.
On the way up and down to Kayangan Lake, Coron, Philippines.

2. Fly to Bohol. From Tagbilaran, arrange for road transportation to see the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals and the one with the largest eyes, and witness the grandeur of The Chocolate Hills of Bohol. See the old churches around town, although many have been destroyed by the 2013 major earthquake that struck the island. Take the Loboc River Cruise and have your lunch on a raft. Proceed to Panglao Island or, in case you don’t have premium budget for an overnight stay, choose one of the resorts by the shore and just take a day trip to the island.

Philippine Tarsier in Bohol, Philippines
When in Bohol, have your photo taken with a Tarsier on your shoulder. Don’t hold if you’re too afraid so as not to harm them. They’re cute but very fragile. They are highly endemic, endangered and bred in captivity.
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol, Philippines
Watch The Chocolate Hills of Bohol from a view deck. You’ll keep wondering how such a magnificent natural wonder was formed by the earth’s violent movements.
Loboc River
Have lunch on one of the rafts or, simply take a cruise down this quiet, still, and historic river of Bohol.

3. Catch the sun in Bicol. Misibis Bay is located on Cagraray Island, Bacacay in Albay Province. To get there, fly Manila to Legazpi City. Feast at the sight of the majestic, perfectly shaped cone of Mayon Volcano and take an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or even hike up before proceeding to Misibis Bay after lunch or, early the following day.

Mayon Volcano
It greets you the moment you step out of your plane and arrive in Legazpi City, Albay — Mount Mayon, best known as the volcano with a perfectly shaped cone.
Mayon Volcano
Get up close and personal with Mount Mayon. Rent one of these cool ATVs. You can also choose to hike up to the peak. Make sure to check in with the locals before heading to the top as this is a very active volcano and there are danger zones off limits to trekkers.
Bigg's Diner at Embarcadero
Don’t leave Albay without getting a taste of the local “good food” favorite, “Bigg’s Diner”. Make it the branch located at Embarcadero where there is a viewing deck with telescopes so you can view the peak of Mount Mayon and the port below.


If you’d rather travel on the road, Boy, Oh Boy, you’re in for a feast for the senses — yes, that includes a rather extraordinary experience for your tastebuds and tummy too.  If you got just 1 week to tour around Manila and the provinces in Luzon, here’s an itinerary that you can use.

Day 1: Arrival.  Check in to Sofitel Philippine Plaza or Hotel H2O for a magnificent view of Manila Bay and the sunset laid out in front of you. Make sure to get a bay side view. If you’d rather see the bustling night life of Makati City or, The Fort in Taguig City, there are also plenty of hotels, both posh and business style, that you can choose from.

Day 2: Drive Out South. Leave your hotel early morning to catch the early morning sunrise of Tagaytay, located about an hour up to 1.5 hours drive from Makati or Manila Bay. Have a cozy breakfast at Antonio’s to experience the ambiance of the glorious Spanish Era in the Philippines or, have a filling buffet breakfast with a full view of the Lake and Taal Volcano at Josephine’s. If you love your Starbucks and just want to take shots of your espresso, there’s a bar located in the area also facing the lake.

Taal Volcano, Tagaytay, Philippines
Catch a view of the Taal Lake on any of the establishments fronting the lake. If you want a closer encounter, take a boat ride and head to Taal Volcano.

From here, you can drive up to a beach in Batangas or, try the hot springs of San Pablo or Calamba in Laguna. Batangas is a diving site. If you’re into that, then you should make time to spend a day or two in Batangas. If you’d rather take a relaxing dip in a hot pool of water, head to Laguna where manmade pools are filled with natural hot spring water coming from the lakes and mountains in the area. You can choose to stay or, go back late afternoon to your hotel in Manila.

Day 3: Drive Up North. Drive back to Manila on to C-5 or via EDSA, all the way to the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX). Make Pampanga your first stop. If you love the outdoors, most especially when you are traveling with grade school aged children, you should check out the activities at Sandbox, located in Porac, Pampanga.

Or, you can also just go on a gastronomic adventure in Pampanga. After all, it is recognized as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. You can’t miss Aling Lucing’s Sisig in Angeles City. Don’t fill up because you do have to try nearby Mila’s for their Chicharon Bulaklak and Paco Salad with Salted Egg too.

Mila's Chicharon Bulaklak
Mila’s Chicharon Bulaklak — the crunchiest, juiciest pack you’ll ever have!
Mila's Paco Salad
Balance out the grease with this local salad served with salted eggs and tomatoes.

If you want to go full outdoor fun then, you should drive up all the way to Mt. Pinatubo for a rugged adventure. This mountain last erupted on June 15, 1991, which buried several towns in Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac, while the effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It continues to be the home of Aetas, a group of indigenous people residing in Luzon. Several tour packages are available which take you on a combination of a 4×4 drive and hiking to the mouth of this caldera for a view of the lake.

Stay a night in hotels inside or within the vicinity of Clark Field where one of two former US bases (the other one was in Subic) was once located.

Day 4: Head to The Hundred Islands. Former Filipina beauty queen, Charlene Gonzales, was asked during the Miss Universe Pageant, “How many islands is the Philippine archipelago made up of?” to which she wittingly answered, “High tide or, low tide?” The 100 islands in the 7,100 islands that make up the Philippines is located in Alaminos, Pangasinan. From Pampanga, it should take you half of the day to get there. According to Ms Gonzales it could go up to 108 or, experts claim, possibly more, on low tide.

Your target is to get to Alaminos by sundown because there are no hotels in the area. Instead, you should get a guest room from local homes of townsfolk. You need not worry as these are all registered by the local government. However, do not expect the convenience of a five-star hotel. You should also ask your host for a “bangkero” or boat’s man. It’s best for you to book your boat now and ask your boat’s man or host as well if they can market and prepare lunch for you on one of the islands the following day.

Hundred Islands
See one of the best offerings of Islands Philippines by visiting Alaminos, Pangasinan — your entry point to The Hundred Islands National Park.

Must-try food? Fresh Sinigang na Hipon or Isda (Shrimp or Fish in Tamarind Soup Base), Inihaw na Liempo (Grilled Pork Ribs), and Alaminos Longganisa — one of my most favorite sausages of all time!

Day 5: Sail to the Islands. Spend the early morning to around noon touring the many islands in the area. Take lunch and make room to befriend the locals. Dare yourself and your company to find your own island and practically really own it for several hours.

Make it back to shore by around two or three in the afternoon. Pack and drive farther up north to Baguio. You should be in your next destination by dinner time. To experience the best of Baguio, you should book a room in advance at The Manor or, Le Monet Hotel which are both located inside Camp John Hay. If you’d rather experience the city center, I personally recommend the newly refurbished Paragon Hotel on Otek Street just one block away from Burnham Park.

Warning: It can get really chilly at night so you better not be wearing the beach outfit you had on at Hundred Islands.

Day 6: Explore the best of Baguio. For a more detailed account of what you can do during your stay, check out this post and this post and this if you want to go all the way to Sagada. Baguio is only about four hours drive away from Manila so, you can either spend another night or, head out on Day 6.

Day 7: Visit Old Manila. If your plane leaves late evening, you can still catch the grandeur of Old Manila and go fully loaded on history by visiting Fort Santiago, Intramuros, and the National Museum.

Spoliarium by Juan Luna
Spoliarium by Juan Luna at the Main Gallery of The National Museum. Juan Luna topped other entries to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 held in Madrid with this painting. It was a defining moment for Filipinos where they beat the Spaniards, the colonizers, during the Expo. You should also take the time to go to nearby Intramuros and Fort Santiago or, even take a half day tour of Corregidor, a historic island just off the coast of Manila Bay.

Been to any of these places? Share your tips. If you found this guide helpful and actually used it to tour Philippines, whether you are a local or a foreigner, give your thumbs up, better yet, share the most defining moments of your trip with us! Happy vacationing!


Top 5 Reasons Why You Must Teach Your Children Filipino

Okay, so after all these years, I’ve really had it with Filipinos who don’t know how to speak in Filipino. As Philippines celebrates Independence Day, and with more Filipino kids not even capable of understanding or speaking in Filipino, I think it is high time to make a case for our mother tongue.

A Parent-Inflicted Child Disability?

Well, we’re not talking about a disease but, a crippled sense of culture. No, we’re not even going to talk about their sense of history (not yet, anyway but, I will soon), we’re just going to tackle more about children whose parents don’t teach them how to speak in Filipino. I don’t mean to be critical of how these moms and dads are raising their kids but, it has become very disturbing why these kids, being raised by Filipino parents, living in the Philippines, and attending regular Philippine schools are only being taught English.

Where my children attend school, kids like my son who know, live and breathe Filipino, are already finding the fact that majority of their classmates cannot even understand the language, absurd.  A friend of mine who teaches in the same school has also been complaining about their students who are making their profession doubly hard by parents who aren’t teaching their children Filipino.

As I wonder why these parents put their children in such an awful situation, I can only think of 5 reasons why every Filipino child “needs” to learn to speak and understand Filipino:

Reason No. 1: They live in the Philippines.  In case you missed, Filipino is the national language. If you’ve been to southern provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao or, have been colleagues with people who were raised in these areas, they would sometimes even hesitate to converse with you in Filipino because of the regional accent. They probably wouldn’t talk to your son or daughter who only speaks in English, although they will perfectly understand what he or she is saying.

In short, you are gravely depriving your children of the opportunity to connect, socialize, and collaborate with his or her own countrymen.

Reason No. 2: Filipino is part of the educational system. There is, in fact, a compulsory subject in school which is “Filipino”.  Your child is guaranteed to fail it if he or she hasn’t been taught how to speak and understand the language.

My son who is in Intermediate School tells me that some of his classmates don’t even know what the meaning of very common words like, “paaralan (school)” or “tumatakbo (running)” is. He says, “kawawa naman (how pitiful)”.  Whenever they have drills or exams, the teacher has to translate every word to these children every time.  Indeed, it is a pitiful situation, isn’t it? Besides, children who perfectly understand Filipino have to put up with the burden of spending more than enough time on one topic to accommodate their classmate’s “parent-inflicted disability”.

Reason No. 3: It’s best that they are capable of communicating in both Filipino and English. Our culture has very deep links with the English language. Even today, older people who were taught in the American system of education back in the days when American soldiers and missionaries taught in public schools would beat a college student when speaking in English.

Too much Tagalog is not the reason why our English is of a poorer quality now than it was about two or three generations ago. Still, we are the Number 1 destination for voice-based back office operations (including call centers) because we are very adaptable when it comes to learning, not only English, but also other foreign languages in general. Those people who are thriving in the industry grew up in an educational system that had both Filipino and English in the curriculum — they didn’t have to be taught English exclusively since birth to speak the language well.

Reason No. 4: Filipino is a uniquely beautiful language. If you know your history well, you must know that Filipino (once called, “Tagalog”) is a hodgepodge of many local dialects and foreign languages woven into a meaningful system of communication. It has a unique brand where not every word can find a proper English equivalent.

To this day, we still use words with origins that can be traced back to the Sanskrit, Chinese, Bahasa, Español, and, yes, even English. If there is “American English” and “British English”, we have “Taglish (Tagalog and English)” which, more and more people, even our institutions, including the media, have learned to embrace over the years.

The regional dialects are just as beautiful. If you have the chance to teach your children Ilocano, Visayan, Chavacano or, something else, you should. People appreciate it when you take time and exert effort to learn to converse in their dialect. Your child will be able to more easily connect with others.

Reason No. 5: Your child is Filipino. Don’t you want him or her to love and appreciate our Filipino heritage? Even my relatives who grew up in the US and friends with Filipino parents who grew up elsewhere understand Filipino, most of them can even engage in ordinary day-to-day conversations in Filipino. It will be a shame for your children not to know how to speak it most especially when you are raising them in the Philippines.

Our Filipino language is alive and continues to evolve. As Filipinos, it is our responsibility to keep our heritage alive. Part of that responsibility is to make sure that we enrich our national language and make sure it develops further. It is one of the most important links that connects us to each other, and, as parents, it is our responsibility to our country to make sure that our children treasure it as well.

If you are raising your children to embrace Filipino as their own, Hooray! Otherwise, I hope you give it another thought. It’s not too late for them to learn.


Touring the Oldest Chinatown

Thinking about what you can do differently with your family or with the gang this weekend? How about taking a trip to the “oldest Chinatown ever built outside of China? It’s right here at the heart of Manila — Binondo.

Binondo holds a special place in my heart. While everybody wanted a piece of Ortigas and Makati, Binondo is where I landed my first job. I put together training modules for one of the banks in the area, received a lame paycheck for doing that but, my cravings and tummy were satisfied all the time. Simple life — those were the days, indeed!

How To Tour Binondo

My everyday Binondo life happened some two decades ago but, I keep coming back  for the good memories but, most of all, for the good food and the cheap buys.  Here’s how you can most out of a Saturday or Sunday trip to Binondo.

First Stop: Sincerity Restaurant

Drive to Sincerity on Yuchenco St. about 10 or 10:30 am. There’s a good chance you can get parked in the vicinity on weekends.  The place gets packed easily around lunch hours and you want to be done with yours before everybody else comes in. Tour groups also frequently book the place so expect the place to be cramped.

What to order: Don’t miss the Sincerity Fried Chicken, half (Php 160) will be good for 2 adults while a full order (Php 320) will be good for 4. It’s fried chicken like you’ve never tasted one before. The chicken is spiced with ginger, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside. Ask for a kikiam sauce to dip in your chicken. Best enjoyed with bare hands. Always order the Sincerity Fried Rice to go with it. It will have tasty chinese sausage and eggs in it. Order extra. Make it Kikiam (Php 55) and Oyster Omelet (small at Php 240, big at Php 300).

Second Stop: Binondo Church

Walk to Ongpin towards the park to reach the church. The original facade of the church was built in the 1500s. Successive foreign invasions brought down the structure several times. This is also the church where San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was said to have trained as a missionary.

Although only the Bell Tower remains from the church’s original construction, being inside the church gives you some sense of history of the Binondo that was. It’s always good to find time to praise and reflect.

Third Stop: Marketing at Ongpin

From Binondo Church, walk towards Ongpin or Carvajal (which is a few steps away though several stores on this side street are not open on weekends). Go ahead and cross that bridge. Lines of jewelry shops and Chinese pharmacy will be on the side buildings as vendors park their carts on the side streets.


Help yourself to the best and finest quality of fresh vegetables and fruits. The only limitation really is how much weight you can bear. Last time I was here in February, a week after the Chinese New Year, I got 3 flowers (1 small, 2 big) of broccoli for Php 100. Help yourself to fruits in season too.

Fourth Stop: More Pasalubong Shopping

Walk back towards the church, you’ll find a grocery store there where you can buy dried meat (pork jerky) per gram, similar to the Bee Heng Chiang you love to pack when you’re coming in from Singapore. Across the street, make a stop at Café Mezzanine for a cup of coffee, and maybe fill up again with snacks. This café is run by the firemen of Binondo.

Just beside it is Eng Bee Tin where you can get your hopia, siopao, siomai, and tikoy to take home. I personally find Eng Bee Tin hopia too sweet though so, I head over to Holland which is nearer Sincerity Restaurant or, to Polland along Quentin Paredes St. instead. We also like buying our Oolong Tea here which we find good for enhancing digestion following a heavy meal.

Fifth and Sixth Stops: Lucky Chinatown Mall and 168

You can’t leave Binondo just yet! It’s time for thrift shopping! If you drove to Binondo, it’s time to claim your car and drive to Lucky Chinatown Mall. You’ll find several shops here both similar and unique from your ordinary SM or Ayala Mall. Ask where the bargain shops are and you can start from there.


If you don’t mind braving huge crowds, walk to the back of Lucky Chinatown Mall towards 168. It’s a building full of everything from toys to clothes to housewares sold at retail and wholesale prices. You’ll find something for everyone here.

When you’re tired shopping, take a break. I recommend Ho Bing near the bridge way inside Lucky Chinatown Mall which serves refreshing Korean deserts that are the equivalent of our local halo-halo. Don’t get 1 order for everyone. Share because the servings are huge! I’d say 1 order is good for up to 3 adults.  Recommended orders: Caramel Coffee which comes with jellies, Mango Cheese, and Strawberry. This store is not unique to Binondo but, it’s a good way to refresh before you drive home because, chances are, you won’t be craving for hot coffee after sweating it out shopping.

Other recommendations

You should also try jewelry shopping along Ongpin. Walk the entire street which should end you in Plaza Sta. Cruz (LRT-Carriedo Station). Visit the Sta. Cruz Church, the original structure of which was first built in the 17th century. I’m not sure if there is any part of the church that remains from the original structure though.

From there, you can walk back to Binondo by taking Escolta — the original Central Business District of Manila — one of the most historic places in Manila where the first local Chinese businesses trace their roots, where several scenes from local classic films were shot, and one of the first few theaters and cinemas in the country were built. It also used to be known for its posh shops and shoe stores. You’ll find several buildings originally constructed at the turn of the century still standing, including Regina Building and Roman R. Santos.

Beef with Thai Yellow Curry Sauce and Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

I love Asian cooking above all, I must say, and Thai cooking happens to capture my wild appetite for great food. For those times when I feel like my tastebuds need a serious switch from the usual to something more extraordinary, the blend of spices and fresh herbs of Thai cooking pleasantly exceeds my requirements.

I used to frequent this popular local Thai Bistro whenever my cravings are making me salivate for curry and fresh spring rolls. Since it’s been a while that I’ve gotten around my blog, I feel like making it up to you by sharing two Thai dishes — Thai Curry and Fresh Spring Rolls —  that I have just recently had the courage to cook on regular basis at home. Oh, but I should warn you that it may not be as authentic if that’s what you’re looking for. To put it more succinctly, these two Thai dishes are adjusted for my Filipino tastebuds.

Let’s get on with it!

First Recipe: Beef with Thai Yellow Curry Sauce



1/2 kilogram Beef Kenchie, diced (I recommend it for being tender but choose a portion that does not have too much tendons or, you can use any part of beef that you want)

deSiam (brand) Thai Yellow / Green / Red Curry Sauce (in order of sweetness to chilliness; I personally love yellow although I’d it any of these haha!)

Suree (brand) Thai Coconut Milk (optional; you won’t really need to do anything else with your deSiam curry but, if you need a little bit more sauce or natural sweetness in there, use this rather than adding water or sugar to your dish)

Mint or Basil Leaves (Don’t cook this dish without either of these! It won’t taste the same. Use both if you want to.)

Red and Green Bell Peppers, cut squarely

*Optional vegetables to add: Baby Eggplants, Young Corn (Check your deSiam, it might already have that in there already but, because those veggies have been soaked in the curry for a long time, they taste different. I take them out then, replace with fresh veggies.)

Ginger (a considerably big portion of it), peeled and cut squarely and pounded

Garlic, peeled and pounded

Salt and Pepper

Several pieces of Chili Peppers (What’s a Thai dish without them? Cut, if that’s how hot you want your dish to be. If the kids will be eating, just drop them in whole. Cut them up on your plate later.)

To cook this yummy Thai dish:

1. Heat pan. Add oil. Saute your garlic. Once brown, add in ginger and let it sweat.

2. Drop your beef. Salt and pepper. Give everything a nice toss. Put on the lid. Let your beef sweat off those juices. Start with high heat but, once boiling, adjust to medium heat to tenderize that beef and keep the outer surfaces from getting toasted. Add water occasionally to simmer.

3. Once your beef is tender, add your bell peppers and vegetables.

4. Allow some of that water to evaporate before adding in your deSiam Curry Sauce. Boil then, bring down to low heat to allow those flavors to be absorbed by your meat. I like mine dry so, towards the end, I open the lid and just allow those fluids to evaporate.

5. Taste and use your Suree Thai Coconut Milk at this point if you want more sweetness and more sauce in your curry. (Next time, you can even use this to boil your meat and veggies with because you’ll know exactly how much you’ll need with your deSiam.)

6. Add your mint or basil to taste. If you haven’t tried using these in cooked dishes before, just add a few because there’s a chance you might not like how it tastes.

7. Add your Chili Peppers.

8. Bring to a boil. Serve hot.

Second Recipe: Thai Fresh Spring Rolls



1/2 kilogram Medium-Sized Shrimps, sauteed, head removed, and body cut in half (lengthwise)

500 grams, Good Life (brand) Sotanghon, soaked and boiled

Cucumber, peeled and cut in lengthwise pieces

Celery Stalks, peeled and cut in lengthwise pieces

Carrots, peeled and cut in lengthwise pieces

Mint leaves

Thai Rice Paper (I’ve used the Real Thai and the Fat and Thin brands. The former breaks easily and may not be ideal if you’re doing this for the first time. Fat and Thin holds up better.)

For the Peanut Sauce:

1 small bottle of creamy Peanut Butter (I’ve used Lily’s and it tastes fine but, the problem is it will not incorporate well even after you’ve taken out the oil and boiled it with the other ingredients. So, let me know if you happen to try it with another brand of peanut butter that will hold up better as a peanut sauce)

1 can, Suree Thai Coconut Milk

2 tbsp, Grated Ginger

*Optional: You can always use a Thai Peanut Sauce if you can find one, of course!

To make the Peanut  Sauce:

1. Heat the Suree Thai Coconut Milk in a sauce pan. Bring to boil in low heat.

2. Add grated ginger.

3. Add Lily’s Peanut Butter devoid of the oil that sets on top.

4. Blend everything together. Keep your sauce from burning by mixing constantly.

5. Once sauce thickens, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

To make your rolls.

1. Follow the instructions indicated on your rice paper.

2. Quickly assemble your shrimp, cut vegetable ingredients, and sotanghon over it, leaving about a fourth at the bottom to fold later.

3. Fold the bottom end then, roll. If you know how to make Lumpia Shanghai, this should be easy, except you have to work faster or your rice paper will break. It takes a while to get used to wrapping your rolls but, you’ll get the hang of it.

4. Refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Enjoy with your family and friends — always the best way to savor Asian dishes.


How To Get Your Kids To Cook Almond Cookies

This weekend, how about having fun baking with your kids? You don’t need to enroll yourself and your kids to a children’s baking class to experience the joys of baking together. You can do this right in the comfort of your own home, by yourself, with this easy does it recipe as your guide.

Then, you can also, maybe, make a video of the same just like what I did in the video that my kids and I prepared, to show you how you can bake your own Almond Cookies with the little ones lending a hand.  For that, you will need a camera. A tripod will be nice to have too.

To start your good times in the kitchen, all you need to know is what’s outlined below.


2 1/2 cups Flour

1 cup Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

a pinch of Salt

1 Medium-Sized Egg, beaten

2 teaspoons Almond Extract

1/2 lb Butter

Whole and unsalted almonds

Aluminum trays, not greased

To prepare the batter:

1. Mix all the dry ingredients first.

2. Blend in your beaten egg.

3. Add the almond extract.

4. Incorporate the butter well into the mixture.

5. Drop a spoonful of the mixture onto your tray to form rows. Leave enough space for your cookies to expand.

6. Press one almond or two on top of each formed mixture.

01.001To cook:

Pre-heat your oven for 15 minutes on 350 F. Then bake each tray for about 15 minutes at the same temperature. Do not cover with foil. Transfer your cookies on to a screen and allow to cool to give it time to harden.

No fuss baking, right? It’s just the perfect activity that you and your kids can do on rainy days when it’s impossible to have a good time outdoors. Take the fun to the kitchen. I promise you, those bagets (kids) will be more than happy to help out.



A Tale of Fashion, Style and Three Celebrities

Fashion can be many things, depending on who’s designing the pieces but, style is how each of these pieces come together to create an outfit with the purpose of exuding a personality or an image that the wearer owns, no matter what time of the year it is.

Here are three celebrities we love to watch doll up:

1.  Emma Stone.  For her award-winning role and performance on “La La Land,” she once said, “This is a film for dreamers and I think hope and creativity are two of the most important things in the world and that’s what this film’s about”.  She has been a regular sighting on the most prestigious red carpets around the world, and what a sight to look at she has been. Here are her top looks:


  • Givenchy Golden Gown.  The Oscar Best Actress winner did not disappoint in this gorgeous gown that raised her glamor by several notches higher. The gown was laced with embroidery running from her chest down to the hips. From there to the ankles, the fringes swayed with Stone’s every move.
  • Valentino Dress in Nude.  Simply elegant, this star-studded sheer dress highlighted Stone’s beautiful, flawless face. If you want to ace a similar outfit, you should check out how Cosmelan can help you fade unsightly blemishes once and for all.
  • Chanel Dress in Pale Yellow.  The actress was vibrant and stylish in this classic and chic casual dress from Chanel as she attended her movie’s premiere night for the Toronto International Film Festival. She accented her outfit with a headband and a pair of Christian Louboutin ankle-strapped pumps.

2.  Gigi Hadid.  The top brass model has been giving everyone a good show on the runways, the covers, and the streets. Here are her top looks recently:


  • Miu Miu button-down khaki.  She wore this season’s biggest trend with a high-waist bikini bottom.
  • Gucci Classic Loafers with Fur.  She’s been seen comfortably striding on the streets in these comfortable and yet luxurious pair of soles.  Furs on shoes have become a common sighting this season, most especially with the still growing popularity of pompom shoes.
  • Miaou Plaid and Cropped Pants.  She wore this pair with a lingerie top covered with black leather jacket, and wore it with a pair of ankle boots.
  • Tommy x Gigi navy-inspired overcoats, pants and tops.  We started loving those navy blue and white stripes and metallic button details the minute the powerful fashion collaboration was announced last year, and we’re still loving the inspiration now.

3.  Selena Gomez.  This Latina is knocking out every look this season and all eyes are on her.

  • Coach bags and clothing.  She has been named the official ambassador of the world-renowned brand. Recently, she has been rockin’ Coach bags and toppers in her outfits.  We loved how she wore a rose-embellished Coach jacket with a plain, cream tanker underneath and a pair of black body hugging cropped trousers, worn with ankle-strapped sandals.
  • Maiao Tommy Jean – Pinstripe. She wore her pants with a knitted, cropped, high collar blouse in mustard yellow.  For her soles, she used flat mules to keep the look easy and comfy.
  • Vilshenko Giovana Layered Dress. Pastel printed with florals, this layered dress definitely embodies the feminine flair that we’ve seen still turned heads on the runways of Dolce and Gabbana, and Altuzarra.
  • Proenza Schouler with a three-tiered knot dress upfront. Quite a revealing, dress with layered details in black and white. Selena wore it with a pair of ankle-strapped heels.



Davao and my unsatisfied cravings

I miss hanging out in Davao. That was what I realized flying in and out for a conference a few weeks back. I miss Davao too but, it’s better when enjoyed with good friends.

I know what made me start to feel sentimental. It’s my unsatisfied cravings for the great food selections that I’ve had the opportunity to share with good people in my previous travels. It’s being in the company of somebody who knows Davao better than I do that was missing. Hay.

A series of unfortunate gastronomic experiences

With my flight from Manila to Davao scheduled for 7 am, Tuesday morning started really early and I’ve had just less than two hours of sleep! I had to wrap up a project for a client before flying out to deliver a presentation for a meeting in Davao. I didn’t have dinner the night before — toxic na.  So, you could guess how badly I wanted to be face-to-face with really good food first thing in the morning.

My half-closed eyes, my zombie skin and a quick snapchat at the backseat of a taxi.


I had second thoughts about taking my breakfast at the airport. “After all,” I thought, “I’ll be in Davao by 9 am and my presentation wasn’t due until 1 pm”. I’ll have plenty of time to find a nice spot to sit and polish my presentation before my time was up. However, I didn’t want to risk straining my body. Whenever I fail to give it enough sleep, I make sure I feed it well.

‘Chaikofi Xpresso,’ here I come! From my previous experiences ordering from this kiosk, I know it takes them a considerable amount of time to serve the food. There were only 40 minutes left before boarding time. I badly wanted to order a rice meal but I ended up asking the cashier what they would be able to serve in a few minutes. Well, sandwich, of course. I ordered chicken sandwich and a bottle of water.

As I scrambled through my external memory disk looking for some slides I wanted to add to my presentation, I almost lost track of time. After about maybe 20 minutes, the cashier delivered my order in a takeout bag. Less than five minutes later, she came back and snatched away the sandwich — me, still frantically searching my hard drives. “I gave you the wrong order,” she said. I didn’t mind.

We were down to the last 10 minutes before boarding time, finally, my sandwich (the correct one) was brought to me. My laptop bag was heavy! I wanted to keep my hands free. So, I started gobbling down my sandwich then, walked to my gate assignment. In my head, I promised myself, “Bawi ka na lang mamaya (make up for it later)”.

As soon as we safely landed, almost on time, at the Davao International Airport, my LTE was on. I was looking for a well-reviewed coffee shop near the event venue, the Waterfront Insular Hotel. Boy, I thought I got lucky! ‘Cafe Uno’ happened to receive really good reviews so I didn’t have to go anywhere else to get a good quality coffee.

Once there, I changed my mind about coffee and instead, helped myself to a full teapot of black tea mixed with hot milk and brown sugar. Yum! Then, I decided to order a Margherita Pizza, personal size. Barely 30 minutes after I sat myself down at ‘Cafe Uno,’ the organizer called to ask if I was ready to deliver my presentation — my slot was moved up! To make the story short, I didn’t get to spend my moment of calm, and I was sorry because the place had a nice ambiance to it even in broad daylight. Okay, I did quickly tore two slices of pizza into pieces and it was super thin and crispy. The pizza only cost Php 200 and ‘personal’ size meant family size in a local pizza joint. That voice in my head once again said, “Bawi ka na lang mamaya (make up for it later)”.

After I was done, lunch was served at the event hall. Let’s just say that I didn’t have high hopes because I generally don’t dig hotel food. Lunch lived up to my expectations.

When I decided to leave, there were still 5 hours left before my flight so, I decided to head to Abreeza Mall. It’s one place in Davao I haven’t gone to before. So, I went strolling with my heavy laptop bag on my back, my shoulders were already complaining. I was looking for a souvenir shop where I could get native goods because it was so hot I didn’t want to head all the way to Aldevinco.

I decided to try a local food stall. I was on my way to take my table at Margie’s but was beat to it by two friends who, turned out to have 10 other people in their company. “Goodbye, Margie,” I thought to myself.

I headed down to ‘Pastanni’ instead which had a nice, quaint corner squeezed next to where ‘Tinalak Home’ (absolutely a feast for the eyes, that store is) was.  I ordered Beef Risotto. When it was served, I was so speechless that I couldn’t even ask the waitress, “Where’s the beef?” I just surrendered — this was not a good day for my palate.

I got my 12 kilos of pomelos then headed to the airport. (I got a taste of that already and I can tell those beautiful pomelos will be my treat. Anyway, of course I checked them in. Once I made it to the gates, I was still craving for good food. I didn’t risk it anymore. I was done trying. This time, I helped myself to a Chips Delight Peanut Butter and a bottle of water — didn’t disappoint.

Memories of tasty treats in Davao

I may have to reserve the list of the good food I’ve tried in Davao for another post though. All I can say for now is that it’s not the end of Davao for my always hungry tummy. I’ll be back, and I’ll make sure to travel with a friend next time. Magkita unya ta pohon! (I will see you soon.)

I’ll be grateful if you happen to have any suggestions where I should eat and visit next time I’m in Davao. Let me know below.


Smart Drugs: Should we be excited or afraid?

Have you seen the movies, “Limitless” or “Lucy”? Wouldn’t life be such a breeze if there was a drug you can take whenever there is a problem that you cannot solve or, if you simply want to ace a presentation even with barely an hour of sleep?

Smart drugs, also known as “Nootropics”, are real.

Have you ever heard of smart drugs before? Whether you have or not, tried it or not, listed below are seven questions we should all be asking about these alleged brain enhancers:

1. What are smart drugs?

“Smart drugs” is a loosely used term that refers to a group of substances that are believed, some with scientific studies supporting their claims, to enhance brain activity, most especially those processes that improve memory, intensify alertness, enhance problem-solving skills, and boost brain and muscle energy. Many have legit medical uses for various cognitive-related dysfunctions, while some would rather be branded as supplements.

2. Are smart drugs legal?

Yes. Since many have medical uses, smart drugs are legal drugs. Although many are marked for prescription use only, users are able to access them easily, including via online transactions. When these are marketed as supplements, in the US, there is no proof of claim that needs to be reproduced, no stopping its distribution, and people can easily access them.

However, the use of a legal drug is another issue. Regulatory authorities would often rule that medicines are for sick people. That was what drove the US Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) to ban the selling and marketing of Piracetam, a category of smart drug, as a supplement or, without prescription, beginning in 2010.  Piracetam is formulated to enhance the brain function of stroke patients. In 2016, the UK Home Office also took a similar stance against the nootropic brand, Noopept, considered to be a drug that gave a legal high. It is formulated with a substance synthetically resembling Piracetam.

The American Medical Associated has taken a stand on the use of smart drugs, albeit indirectly. The body passed a consensus “discouraging the non-medical use of prescription drugs for cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals”.

3. Who are using smart drugs?

According to reports, up to 25 per cent of students in top universities in the UK have tried Modafinil.  It doesn’t stop in schools. Another report exposed that use of smart drugs have also become common among young employees of startup firms located in California, where Silicon Valley is located.

4. Do smart drugs really make you smarter?



Those who have tried them and are hooked claim that smart drugs do enhance their performance. Others who have tried them say it was a nightmare.

For your information, listed below are just some of the smart drugs in circulation:

  • Modafinil (Provigil).  This is a drug originally formulated to treat narcolepsy. It simultaneously enhances attentiveness and keeps the user awake. A study by Battleday and Brem confirms that Modafinil use indeed leads to these cognitive improvements.

Since the patent has expired, this drug’s formulation is now available as a generic medicine but, you will still need a prescription to get your hands on it.

  • Nicotine.  It (not nicotine from cigarettes) enhances attention and mood by re-energizing your cells. In turn, the changes make your brain function on overtime.
  • L-theanine and Caffeine. This combination allegedly enhances your memory and mental endurance (1, 2).  That means, you can solve much more complex problems with it.

5. Are there any side effects?

Smart drugs are playing with no less than your brain so, how can it not have side effects? These drugs influence how your dopamine levels behave. Its behavior, in turn, turns on or off several mechanisms in your brain and body.

Smart drugs with legit medical use are being taken irresponsibly, outside of their originally intended use, and are being taken without prescription. That means, the effects of these drugs have not been exactly observed when taken by perfectly normal and healthy people.

Worse, many are marketed as supplements. When such products get a “Generally Recognized as Safe” label from the FDA, the manufacturers need not provide any proof of medical claim nor is it required to disclose potential side effects. In fact, many of these so called smart drugs do not even go through clinical trials. The market implication? They can be openly accessed by whosoever wants to use it.

So, again, are there side effects? Although it’s hard to say for sure, what is certain is that the risks are high.

6.  How can you access smart drugs?

Prescription only drugs require you to go see your doctor first. GRAS-labeled varieties are available right off-the-counter.

Still, both kinds are widely sold on the Internet, even in the Philippines apparently as we found some websites that do offer them. Users also get them from their personal networks and street vendors. With more people buying, the demand is high and, from the end of the manufacturers and distributors, the dollars keep piling up.

7. Should you be using smart drugs?

Let us take the allegation that smart drugs enhance certain cognitive functions to be true beyond doubt. What they do then is give you a boost but not exactly make you learn new things or new skills to help you get ahead with your performance.

Even when we leave each other to choose for ourselves, smart drugs have more societal implications than you might think. It’s like giving one person steroid and asking him to compete in a race with another who does not have it. Who said that life was fair? Then again, is it just? Should governments give all of their citizens smart drugs then? What an outrageous idea that would be!

People who advocate for the use of nootropics namedrop young, top-brass CEOs of startups who have allegedly used smart drugs too. Impressive but, Einstein didn’t have a smart drug when he unlocked the Theory of Relativity. So, when you are seriously considering to take or, are already taking, smart drugs, think about this: Where will you be when the smart drugs are gone?

If you are a parent, you should be worried too about how smart drugs may be making our children less resilient and more reliant to external factors other than their own smarts.

Smart drugs take away the pain in the gain, the excitement of a long wait, and the thrill that can only come from sheer, unadulterated hard work. In the long run, smart drugs make you believe less in yourself and in what you can do on your own. It’s not the smart drugs that will solve the equation you cannot decipher — that will have to be you.

This article is not intended to provide medical advise of any sort. Seek professional help for any medical attention you think you might need.



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