The Great Escape

dreaming of a simple life in Palawan

It’s a Long Way from Canada

Let’s Fly

I didn’t know which was worse – the young, tattooed Asian dude constantly being smooched by his thickly eye-lashed girlfriend in front of us or the little kid crying sporadically behind us. In the end the little kid won when he threw up and peed during our decent into Tokyo. I can’t say much about the airplane food either which also almost made me want to throw up.

After a painful 22 hours of travel we arrived in Manila bleary eyed but excited. We were a little behind schedule but going past immigration and collecting our bags was a breeze. The exit doors opened and our Philippine adventure officially began. Our first task was to try to pick out my aunt from a sea of waiting faces. Fortunately, ‘the Chef’ stands way above the height of the average Filipino. Even with his eagle eyes and circling the waiting area a dozen times we could not find her. We had our ‘Philippines’ cell phone with us but without a load it was useless. Eventually, we found her. I’ve discovered given enough time things always seem to iron themselves out. The hardest part is you need patience.

It feels like a sauna

It feels like a sauna

I knew we would be coming during the hot season but I didn’t realize just how hot it was. We arrived smack in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures hovering in the 32 degree celsius range and humidity making it feel like 40. ‘The Chef’ and I would be sitting around my aunt’s kitchen table and I would see the beads of sweat build on his forehead. Good thing we brought lots of handkerchiefs. Meanwhile back in Toronto we found out there was a frost warning!

Our sense of time was already eroding. It didn’t help that clocks here never seem to be set to the exact time. We were staying with my aunt in Laguna before heading down to Coron, to acclimatize and get a few important tasks accomplished. We were ready for bigger challenges waiting for us in Palawan.

Leaving on a Jet Plane – Philippines Here We Come Again


Cruising the Lagoons of Coron Island

Sometimes you just don’t fully appreciate the beauty of a place until you step back and leave it for a while. Palawan is one of those places.

When I look at our travel photos I’m always in awe of its beauty. It’s a place so spectacular it totally commands your senses and envelopes you in the moment. Here, sitting in my living room I’m able to reflect. Frozen in time, the photos on the big screen T.V. allow me to see the details, the lush green of the trees, the vibrant colours of the sea. I can hear the incessant rumble of a boat engine, feel the warm wind pass over my body and feel my heart grow lighter from happiness.

Island Friends

Island Friends

It’s not just the scenery though. People are what make the experience remarkable. Unlike a big city it’s easy to make friends here if you make a sincere effort. It’s these factors and the laid back lifestyle that make us long to return. We’re excited to see ‘the Captain,’ the ‘Fisherman’s Son,’ and the ‘Danes’ again. We know we’ll be ordering the Crab Fried Rice for our first meal at our favourite restaurant, Winnie’s.

The Road Less Taken

The Road Less Travelled. Will we find our piece of land?

Our pasalubong (gifts) are tucked under our snorkeling gear. There’s barely enough room leftover for our clothes and other essentials but we’ve managed to cram everything in. In a few hours we’ll be in the air for the long, exhausting flight to Manila. After such a cold Canadian winter we’re looking forward to that first blast of heat and humidity when we pass through the doors of Nino Aquino International Airport. I wonder what Coron has in store for us this time.

Life is easy. Why do we make it so hard?

Slowly our friends and family are beginning to take notice. Back in 2012 when we started talking about moving to the Philippines we got a lot of “let’s just humour them” nods. I think most thought it was just a novel idea that would pass like a highschool crush. Now as we get ready for our next visit to Palawan we get another type of look, the slightly surprised “Oh, they’re serious” look.

I don’t blame them. It’s a pretty big lifestyle change we’re proposing. We’ll be going from Executive Chef and Designer to organic farmers. We’ve already begun to simplify our lives and shift our way of thinking.

‘The Chef’s’ cousin and wife dropped by the other day and as we talked about our ideas for the farm they told us we had to watch this TEDxTalk.

The speaker, Jon Jandai, talks about his journey from the rice fields of northeastern Thailand to the big city of Bangkok and back again to the rice fields. He talks about his hardship in the pursuit of success. What he concludes is so simple but so provocative.

It reminds me of ‘the tourist and fisherman parable’ a story about how an enterprising tourist tells a local fisherman how to improve his life (you can read the story here). The only difference is Jandai’s story is real. To watch his talk just click on the video above.

I’m Canadian, Eh? 020

Random photos and thoughts about Canada.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for thought-provoking images about Canada, the country I grew up in.

Maple Jello @ Cabane à sucre au pied de cochon

Sugar Shack Snack

Maple season is finally upon us. Quebec is home to hundreds of the best cabanes à sucres (aka sugar shacks) in the world and supplies about 80% of its maple syrup…..Martin Picard is the mastermind behind Au Pied de Cochon and since 2009, he is also the brains behind Cabane à sucre Au Pied De Cochon. This sugar shack is unlike any other. Not only does it elevate traditional sugar shack cuisine to an uber gourmet level, it also does so with an untamed imaginative flare. Pea soup with foie gras, mackerel omelet, pancakes fried in duck fat and smothered in the cabane’s maple syrup are just few of the dishes that have been featured at Picard’s sugar shack. ~ The 5 Best The 5 Best Sugar Shacks (cabanes à sucre) Around Montreal

Pillow Fighter

Pillow Talk

If you’ve ever wanted to hit your fellow citizens, then International Pillow Fight Day is for you.…..You can smack and whack your friends and strangers with a pillow until your arms go limp…..Of course, your opponents also have to be holding a pillow. And they can hit you back…..This pillow whacking free-for-all is how hundreds of Torontonians spent their Saturday afternoon on Easter weekend, as they converged at Nathan Phillips Square, pillows in hand, taking fluffy swings at each other during the Toronto segment of International Pillow Fight Day. ~ ‘Massive’ pillow fight takes over Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square, The Globe and Mail, April 4, 2015

Kettle Valley Rail Trail

Riding the Trail

You might want to quit your job after reading this…..Outdoor gear company Woods Canada is hiring two people to take a five-month trip across Canada this summer and document their adventures hiking, swimming, canoeing and climbing along the way……Each person will be paid $20,000 plus all travel costs, accommodations, food and a full Woods wardrobe…..They will travel as a team along the Trans Canada Trail and work six days a week from May 12 until Sept. 30. Those worried about tenting with a total stranger for five months can apply in pairs. ~ Dream job alert: Get paid $20,000 to travel, camp across Canada, Metro, April 1, 2015


The Land Where I Was Born 019

Random photos and thoughts about the Philippines

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for thought-provoking images about the Philippines, the country I was born in and which I am now rediscovering.

Filipino-American grocery

New Home

The year was 2008. I was 24 years old when I left the Philippines for the United States to marry the man of my dreams, who left the country right out of college. When I arrived in the States, I had nothing but two suitcases and the clothes I was wearing. Everything else—my family, my friends, my job, my home, everything that defined me, everything that I knew, everything that I loved—was left behind. Most people who move from one country to another only have one reason for moving: the pursuit of the good life. ~ The truth about chasing the American dream, Manila Bulletin, July 6, 2014


Sweet, Sour, Salty

At Maharlika, a number of foreign condiments await use on the table before diners: bright yellow and red bottles of patis, a fish sauce, suka, a coconut-sugarcane vinegar, banana ketchup, a blend of bananas, sugar and vinegar, and Maggi calamansi seasoning, a citrus based liquid. Bright sour, sweet, and salty flavors jump out of traditional dishes like crispy, sizzling pork sisig, oxtail kare kare with peanut butter, and fried chicken slathered with macapuno syrup. Head-on prawns decorate a number of dishes and fried chicken skin is offered as a pre-meal snack. ~ Filipino Fare for American Palates, Huffington Post,  October 16, 2014


The Whiter the Better

My attitude was a bit different before, because I was socialized as a young child to think that I’d be prettier if I was light-skinned. I actually have trauma about it. At a preschool Christmas pageant most kids were cast as angels or elves, and I couldn’t help but notice that all the light-skinned girls were angels. I was just like, “But I want to be an angel… I’m an angel!” In a lot of places it’s still more common to think of light-skinned as being pretty. Actually, the last few times I visited the Philippines I couldn’t even find sunscreen – just skin lightening products. ~ How to Be Pretty in The Philippines


Always Be Thankful for the Amazing Moments in Your Life


There are alway people who cross your path for a brief moment in your lifetime who make an imprint in your mind. This is Hover. He was the cook on our boat expedition the first time we were in Palawan. For five days as we cruised over the South China Sea, he slaved on a tiny stove in an incredibly small space to make sure we were well fed.

Not surprisingly he and ‘the Chef’ got along wonderfully. ‘The Chef’ even surprised him one night by taking over the stove to do the cooking. It was during this trip that we got the original idea to move to Palawan and open a resort. Half jokingly we asked Hover if he would work for us. With a big smile he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Two years later we found out he was one of the casualties of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Never take for granted the moments that pass by.

This post is part of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral

From Chef… Farmer?!


Pigs = Bacon

Something funny happened on the path to our future island paradise. Our dream of turquoise waters and swaying coconut trees has surprisingly given way to visions of earthworms, leafy greens and plump pigs.

Originally, we wanted to be resort owners. It only makes sense. ‘The Chef’ has been in the hospitality business for over three decades so serving guests comes naturally, but meditation and introspection over the past few months has changed the game plan. By delving deep into ourselves we brought to light ideas that had been veiled by fear, a fear of starting something completely new.

'The Chef' likes to experiment

‘The Chef’ likes to experiment

‘The Chef’ is not keen about his current job prospects. He doesn’t want to go back into a kitchen especially if it’s run by another flaky restaurant owner. He’s tired of always missing out on family events and special occasions. I’m tired of never seeing him. Will running a resort be any better? Since our idea is a very small scale development we will have to be directly involved in all aspects of running the place. Sure, it would be all ours but we will need to be available 24/7 to fulfil the whims of our guests. The idea doesn’t sound as appealing as the first time we thought about it.

Have you ever had a crazy idea? We started toying with the thought of becoming farmers. I’ve always had romantic notions of living off the land and being self-sufficient and even living off the grid. While ‘The Chef’ doesn’t quite share my extreme vision we do share a love of being outdoors and nature. We’re not afraid of working hard or getting our hands dirty. Over time our thinking evolved into the idea of running a small organic farm.


The hunt is on

The biggest obstacle we face now is finding the right piece of land at the right price. Palawan is hot and there’s a scramble to buy land. We’ll be flying to Coron again at the end of May 2015. Hopefully, we aren’t priced out of the market and we find what we’re looking for.

The future is full of hope and uncertainty. It’s both exciting and terrifying but whether we succeed or fail, don’t you think it’s better to try than to live a life full of regrets? Now is the time for us to grow.

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