Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. — Gandhi ||
We’re back! And yes, we brought back that #Filipino tan! (at LAX)

We’re back! And yes, we brought back that #Filipino tan! (at LAX)

Our trip wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t go here: the Mall of Asia (MOA). :) #mallofasia #philippines #shopping #megamall

Our trip wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t go here: the Mall of Asia (MOA). :) #mallofasia #philippines #shopping #megamall

Last full day in the Philippines. Only made sense to go shopping. :) We got pedicures & manicures and bought Filipiniana attire.

Day 6: The Magical Island - 04/19/14

The first five days here in the Philippines has been emotionally and physically challenging. From slums to GK Villages to mansions. We’ve seen in all. All, but one last thing: the magical island.

Rumor has it that this magical, private island has white sand, clear waters, clear skies, and most of all… no mosquitos! It’s one of the top private islands in the world according to one of my fellow travelers. And to get there, you have to take a 45-minute boat ride.

Well, my friends, I was there and all the rumors are true.

Kalanggaman Island, Leyte: the most beautiful island I’ve see in my life.

We spent the whole afternoon at this magical island. It was a beautiful, reflective and relaxing day. Many of use drank beer & rum. We swam and laughed way too hard. I had a chance to use my water-proof Kodak camera to record our silly songs and hilarious gestures in the water. It was well-rewarded day of relaxation. So much has happened these past five days. And all I wanted to do at this point was swim and do jumping poses off our boat.

Magical island… Thank you. I love you.

Amazing photos of our trip in Tacloban by Darrell Justin Bautista (aka ‘Princess’)

Day 5: Good Friday - 04/18/14

Wow! What. A. Day!

First and foremost, we started off the day visiting our fourth GK Village. As we got closer, the only path to take was a dirt path surrounded by rice fields. Being on a bus with 22 people trying to make way through these fields was like being on the Disneyland Indiana Jones ride. So, so bumpy. The view was beautiful and I found our journey through the rice fields quite comical.

We arrived at the St. Augustine GK Village. This particular GK Village was heavily affected by the typhoon. But no one died. The villagers found safety in the bathrooms under the sinks. (Here, they call bathrooms ‘CR’ or ‘Comfort Room.’) The village is already set to create a lot of new homes. In the meantime, they live in wooden homes. Some of the homes had the roofs torn off and the top of the homes in rubble. The typhoon must have been horrendous considering how they live in an open field.

We did introductions. Kuya Rico had the SDSU students and me introduce ourselves. The villagers sang to us. First, the kids. Then the adults. After the formalities, we were offered food. My favorite item was the chocolate-flavored rice snack wrapped in leaves.

At that moment, I had a reality check: these people are real and living here. They all have loved ones. They have likes and dislikes. They know that if they had an opportunity to live a better life, they would. I can understand why religion is so important here. In America, I have many options. I have the luxury to choose my religion. But the majority of the rural areas in the Philippines are catholic.

After we said our goodbyes, we decided to check out the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park in Leyte. The memorial was simply monumental. MarArthur and his soldiers positioned as though they are walking toward the shore. The trees tell you that the typhoon passed by, however, the monument still stands. The view of the ocean felt romantic.

My attention of the view shifted when I noticed a girl next to me with her hand sticking out. She spoke in Tagalog but I knew that she was asking for money. I apologized saying I don’t have money and walked away. Sorry… I don’t carry cash.

After taking a bunch of tourist pictures,we drive toward a beautiful, lush area near the water in Leyte. The home we arrived to was a ancestral family home that the current resident changed into an orphanage. Walking to this home was like walking through a jungle with a tiny path. Also… We all sweated horrendously. Haha But the view from the home was gorgeous. You can see all the trees, ocean and islands in the far distance. We met the resident there and exchanged gratitude and comradery to one another. She said that GK members played a big role restoring their town and so we’re always welcome to visit.

I took notice of the 22 members part of this trip. All of them are established business and community leaders. Most of them are from California. Two of them are SDSU students. It’s such an honor and privilege to be part of such an influential group. I’m nothing but grateful to be part of this experience with them.

So we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel, Granda Manor. But first, we took a pit stop to a nearby park where Willy skated with some local fans. With much excitement, we all had our smart devices and cameras out to record the experience. Willy has been doing such a great job spending time with his local fans. Right when we got the best filming in, it rained heavily. We all ran to the bus and headed back to our hotel. One of our drivers said, “In Tacloban, there was two types of weather: wet and more wet.”

During our down time, Tony, Willy, Rico, and a couple of Willy’s fans went to the mayor’s place and asked to build a skate park. At a time where Tacloban is rebuilding, this had to be the perfect opportunity to have a say in what’s to be built.

The evening had to be the most emotional part of the day. For the first time on this trip, we all met in the dining room and shared our PI experience thus far. We laughed, cried, listened, laughed some more. It was a beautiful evening of opening up, learning more about each other, and understanding why we are on this trip. I’d get I to detail but many stories were very personal and emotional.

I’ll remember this beautiful evening for a long time. Your stories will remain in my heart. It has truly been a Good Friday.

One of the memorable GK Village visits. Palo in the Visayas, Philippines.

One of the memorable GK Village visits. Palo in the Visayas, Philippines.

Deejay’s face. Hahaha #easteregg #chocolateegg #happyeaster

Deejay’s face. Hahaha #easteregg #chocolateegg #happyeaster

Big chocolate egg from Ate Perla! I couldn’t believe it was chocolate till I started biting into it. Haha

Big chocolate egg from Ate Perla! I couldn’t believe it was chocolate till I started biting into it. Haha