Thoughts of a Dreamer


By Ire Ysabelle



“Living in defense mechanisms is just a mere façade. Pick yourself up, let go of harrowing things and gut-wrenched thoughts you are a failure.” Those were silent utterances at the back of my mind after realizing that everything in my life was an outright mess. These thoughts actually came by after listening to Jack Johnson playlist while I was in Vietnam.


I am Ire. I am just like other people who dream…who set one’s heart for good things, inclined to just live happy. At a little past 30, I had my fair share of rejections, elfin heat heartaches, even baffled instances that would lead to toil up my way with so much effort.


Looking back and before having a daughter, I was that slap-happy that displayed a nonchalant sort of disposition. I reveled in solo backpacking trips around the country and abroad, taking photos of temples, countryside, food, beaches and others that take my fancy. I took pleasure out of my savings while doing online English tutorial job. Shove my ass off working for several months then travel, after which I came back again to Mindanao after 8 years of living in Iloilo where I took up AB Psychology at the University of the Philippines in Miag-ao. Then on, I habituated myself to what living is here – simple, and everything just minutes away.


I gained friends…and, unfortunately, gained weight. I became a Psychology instructor at the Notre Dame of Marbel University (Koronadal City) where I reaped most of my good memories. In the academe, you get to be fulfilled but at times hated for giving failing grades. That was the beauty of teaching that amused me.


I woke up one day to a letter of invitation for me work in Hanoi, Vietnam as Academic Coordinator at Oxford English Academy. It was a challenge that I did not let go as the opportunity promised travel and fair wage. Several times in the past, I had been to Ho Chi Minh as a backpacking tourist but never been to the cosmopolitan city of Hanoi which purportedly has four seasons. The thought of experiencing “autumn” and “winter” got me excited, so that in no time, had me packing my things and finally booked for the first available flight. And, to make the story of excitement short, I got hired.


In the house where I stayed, I was with Portuguese, Vietnamese, and British nationals. Weekends would see us having dinners, wine with cheese on Tuesdays. We also enjoyed short trips to Thailand and Cambodia, but enjoyed most Vietnamese cakes and coffee that drowned our yearning for home.


From our home, I took two-hour bus ride to school, an opportunity for me to enjoy the patter of raindrops when rain caught me along the way, making me emotional at times. I was pregnant then, and I had to say “bao” (Vietnamese for pregnant) each time I took the bus hoping that a gentleman would give up his seat for me. I find Vietnamese autumn and winter not for me as I had to wear layers of clothes and boots to keep me warm.


I finally decided to go back home to the Philippines in time for the “arrival” of my pretty Martina. To sustain our survival, I worked as Behavioral Management Therapist in a hospital, giving occupational therapy to children with special needs. The job was so challenging and compensating, especially, when I see the happiness of parents whose children have gained improvement…a priceless reward for me as it manifested success on my part.


My love for food made me come up with Abrazo Rustico Resto-Café in Tacurong City. As I love challenges, it also gave me an opportunity to sort of test the waters of café business, as well as, provide a cozy nook for food trippers and coffee lovers like me. Initially, the café was located at the City Plaza building, and staffed with hardworking and eager team. Today, it is located along the highway, beside the Dragon gas station, a few steps from the NDTC campus.


Having still extra time on hand, I continued my behavioral management endeavor and came up with Little Hands Day Care, a small clinic catering to the needs of special children to help them overcome their disability. I knew it would entail understanding, patience…patience…and, more patience but I did not mind. My Martina has been giving me more inspiration that I could ask for. She has been helping me understand my purpose in life, thus, avoiding feeling emotionally kicked out of poor frustration and tolerance.


Today, as I recall my life inside a Vietnamese bus, tackling the 2-hour drive to my job in Hanoi makes me smile. Yes, I enjoyed my stay in Hanoi, what with the sight of long traffic of motorcycles that gave me fear in crossing the street, the bone-tearing winter, the smell of mint leaves, the super bitter coffee I still crave for, generous multi-national friends, and sunset viewed from Westlake. Despite the unexplained feeling of living in a strange place, I was immensely enjoying myself.


That is how it is with me…with my firm resolve in doing things despite failures at times. I must admit that I am a dreamer and this tendency even makes me forget my flights for Asian backpacking sorties…and, which happened twice! Well, that is life and I know that it can happen as I gain more maturity.




Abrazo Rustico Resto Cafe…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

Abrazo Rustico Resto Café

…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


When a facebook friend, Macmac Albenio Delfin referred to me a resto café with an Italian sounding name, I was intrigued. The name he mentioned was Abrazo Rustico Resto Café which when I checked, found it to be within what the Tacurongnons refer to as “Dragon area”, the name being that of a gasoline station-cum-convenient store-cum open-air café. But the Abrazo is an air-conditioned cozy enclave fronting the highway and a few steps from the aforementioned station.


I was hoping that after an unfortunate experience in another coffee shop with a name that I would rather forget, this time around, I would be lucky enough to have a better encounter. Just the same, as I had my lesson, I did not expect so much from the service crew of Abrazo.


Fortunately, I was more than satisfied when I opened the door and was greeted by the smiling guys at the counter. The café was unpretentiously simple, yet cozy. Compared with other cafes, Abrazo is small which however, has become an advantage as it made the atmosphere assume a homey ambiance. I immediately ordered my favorite coffee mix – cappuccino which came thick in consistency, with accompanying two tube sachets of branded muscovado sugar…another plus for health-conscious customers.


Looking around, I was impressed immediately by the miniature antique typewriter safely entrenched in a frame on the wall. Practically, the interior was Italian, even the food offerings. I found out later that Abrazo is popular among students of the nearby VMC, as in a little while, three students came to make an order of pizza and one of the joint’s popular mixed cool drinks. As I observed the satisfaction on the faces of the young customers, I asked their permission for a photo to which they obliged. During that quick visit I failed to meet the owner and resolved to come back in the afternoon to try my luck. At that juncture, I opened up myself to the café staff by revealing to them that I was a blogger, although, they have already permitted me to take photos of the joint without much ado, a show of pride for their coffee shop.


When I came back early in the afternoon, two of the staff were talking to a young petite and pretty lady, who I found later found to be the owner. My effort finally paid up! And, I was more than rewarded when I found out that the two gentlemen who just finished their coffee were officers of a reputable bank in Isulan and Tacurong City….proof enough that indeed, Abrazo was a class by itself. The gentlemen gave me their permission to post their photo that I took, but I opted to withhold their name.


The owner of Abrazo assumes a facebook name as IRE YSABELLE and I want to maintain her identity as such. What’s important to me at the time was my having touched base with her to express my admiration for her guts in venturing into an arena overflowing with cutthroat competition as the city is literally dotted with various kinds of food outlets from the traditional “pastilan”, carinderia, “batchoyan”, “barbecuehan” and open-air cafeterias.


I assumed however, that her courage is enflamed by her penchant for Italian foods, foremost of which is the pizza and java beverages that the joint’s barista yummily concocts. Simply put, she is fond of Italian foods, a variation of Mediterranean cuisine. Her fondness is shown by Abrazo’s various food and drink offerings that customers may not tire of coming back. By the way, customers who want to relax while tapping on their smartphone or laptop may be glad to know that wi-fi access is free!…check out “Abrazo Rustico” on fb to find more about this joint operated and staffed by energetic young-blooded Mindanaoans.