While they say that a language is best taught during childhood, there’s really no age limit in learning a language. It isn’t too late to l...

While they say that a language is best taught during childhood, there’s really no age limit in learning a language. It isn’t too late to learn something new. In fact, experts say that learning a language delays and prevents possible dementia in later life.

Spanish is perhaps one of the easiest foreign languages that can be learned by Filipinos. I can see 2 main reasons why. First, for the many Filipino words loaned from Spanish, Filipinos have the edge in the vocabulary part. We’re more familiar with Spanish words because a lot of Filipino words mean actually the same in Spanish. Second, most syllables in Spanish are pronounced the way they’re spelled and consist of very few silent syllables, which are characteristics of the Filipino language too. Not to mention that Spanish isn’t as nasal as other languages like French or German, so it’s easier to learn it in general.

Also read: Filipino Phrases Borrowed from Spanish that You May Find Amusing

If you plan to learn Spanish, or have started learning it, here are some tips that may help you learn Spanish in a snap:

Do not be afraid to ask

Filipinos are very timid. We have questions in mind, but we don’t ask it out loud. We tend to compromise to get the answers on our own, but that isn’t the best way out all the time.

In learning a language, when in doubt, ask a question. Never keep a question to yourself. What if something you thought was right is wrong all along just because you don’t ask? It might remain wrong not until you ask to check if it’s correct or not.

Commit mistakes, and learn from them

Before you can master a language, remember that mistakes are part of the way. It's very expected, so don’t feel down if you'd be corrected by someone. Don’t get ashamed, even with the small mistakes. Remember that you’re still learning. But you'll get there, for sure!

If you’re learning Spanish through an academic institution, the classroom is the best avenue to commit mistakes. The teachers are there to correct you. Meanwhile, if you’re self-studying Spanish, try your best to talk with the natives. Speaking with them helps you absorb the native accent, which is something that you might not be able to learn if you’re only reading or using an app to learn Spanish. Don’t feel intimidated that you aren’t as fluent as them. Instead, feel proud that you’re trying to speak their language (and may even know more languages than them!).

Stay away from memorizing

Filipinos tend to memorize everything, a habit that we got from the memorization-driven learning system in the Philippines. When you memorize all the time, you get stuck at what the learning material says, thus learning becomes limited.

In Spanish job interviews, for example, some Filipino applicants memorize the interview questions and its corresponding answers instead of practicing how to confidently respond in an interview. The chances are, if the question changes or gets rephrased, they get lost because they just memorized.

Instead of memorizing, try to think and answer straight in Spanish. When you read a sentence, for example, avoid translating it in your mind because it only delays your comprehension and response. This takes time to master, but it would help a lot to start the habit early.

Write as often 

Writing helps you master spelling in Spanish. The fact that Spanish orthography consists of tildes (symbols used to note the accented syllables in Spanish) makes the structure a bit different from Filipino or English grammar.

Also, writing helps you master the gender of nouns, another aspect of Spanish language that’s hugely different from Filipino or English. There may be a set of rules on gender of nouns, but sometimes, these rules don’t apply. It would be better to get familiarized with it.

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Spelling the Difference

Tip: When answering fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice type exercises, rewrite the entire the sentence instead of just writing the answer. It’s a good way to recall Spanish words as you write them. The idea is similar to muscle memory in sports: when you write often, your brain remembers and recalls it easily.

Using usted / ustedes is a similar idea with using po in Filipino

In Spanish, there are 2 ways to address a person: the formal and informal way. Knowing its difference particularly helps you conjugate the verbs correctly. As general rule, the formal way is used when talking with someone you give respect to or someone you don’t know. The informal way is when you speak with people you are close to, such as friends, siblings, and other people you know very well.

In Filipino grammar, it’s a similar idea with the use of po, a Filipino word attached before or after the subject pronoun that expresses respect. Similar to usted / ustedes, po is used when speaking with someone you give respect to.


SpanishDónde vasDónde usted va
FilipinoSaan ka pupunta?Saan po kayo pupunta?
EnglishWhere will you go?
Notice that from informal to formal, the subject pronoun changes as the verb changes too. This applies to both Spanish and Filipino, thus making them a lot similar compared to English.

Do you have other tips to Filipinos who are learning Spanish? If you're a Filipino learning Spanish, what struggles do you face in studying Spanish? 

Shelly C. Dimaculangan is a language translator in the Philippines. She finished AB Journalism at University of Santo Tomas in Manila where she took her first Spanish classes. After college, she continued learning Spanish at Instituto Cervantes de Manila. 

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The Sigiriya Lion Rock is probably the most visited tourist site in Sri Lanka as it holds a rich historical significance, named as on...

The Sigiriya Lion Rock is probably the most visited tourist site in Sri Lanka as it holds a rich historical significance, named as one of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.
Found in Matale district in central Sri Lanka, the Sigiriya Lion Rock is a visibly enormous rock plateau that's 370 meters above sea level. It's said to have formed from a magma of an extinct volcano. The monks first created a monastery on top during the 3rd century. Two centuries later, former Sri Lankan ruler King Kasyapa turned it into an ancient kingdom that consisted of a palace, fortress, several gardens, and a complex hydraulic system.
As it's obviously elevated, getting on top of the Sigiriya Lion Rock requires some climb. The first part is on cemented paths and stairs, followed by climbing the narrow and spiral-shaped metal staircase leading to the western wall of Sigiriya Lion Rock. The west side is an important area of the complex, called the frescoes, that display ancient paintings on the rock wall. All these paintings are creative representations of female art. As to who these woman were, they're said to be the wives and concubines of King Kasyapa.
Photo from
Taking pictures isn’t allowed at the frescoes, regardless of whether it's phone or professional camera, with or without flash. The authorities take the no-photo policy seriously as the entrance is tainted with big signs. Rumors even said that past violators got their gadgets confiscated and were brought to the police.
After the frescoes, the detour leads back to continue the rest of the climb. The next significant attraction is the feet and claws of the lion, which marks the entrance to the palace. Back then, it had a complete carved image of a lion, but only the feet and claws have survived the test of time. It's so significant it's where the name “Sigiriya” originated. The Sinhalese word “sighari” actually means “lion rock” in English.
History aside, Sigiriya Lion Rock is also well-visited as it's a testament of an awesome ancient water engineering. The complex had several pools, canals, dams, and fountains that collected and kept water especially during the rainy reason. Back then, these were distributed throughout Sigiriya, proving early innovation in building and running a complex hydraulic system.

The Sigiriya Lion Rock is surrounded by lush green, which is why a visit to the rock, despite the difficulty in climbing, offers relaxation and a breathe of fresh air. At the top, the province of Sigiriya can be seen in 360-degree view. The beauty at the top is beyond amazing, and makes the climb all worth it.
Climbing the Sigiriya Lion Rock should take around 45 minutes, but depends on the volume of visitors. At times, it could get very crowded you cannot climb the stairs. The best time to climb is early in the morning at 7AM to avoid the crowd.

A challenge I experienced was the strong wind situation. Note that the windy season in Sri Lanka runs from May to September.
I have to mention the very friendly Sri Lankans who made the climb fun and well-accompanied! Thank you so much!

What to bring

Make sure to bring bottled water before you climb. Ambulant vendors aren't allowed in the climbing area, so nothing is sold along the way. Also, wear sunscreen and insect repellent. Sri Lanka has a very humid temperature, especially in June. Unlike other tourist sites in Sri Lanka (especially in temples), there's no dress code to enter Sigiriya Lion Rock so just wear modest comfortable clothes and shoes.
Entrance fee: USD 30
Paying in local currency (LKR) is allowed. The amount depends on the day’s conversion rate (I paid LKR 4470).

Hours: The site is open from 7AM to 7PM, but the ticket counter is only open until 5PM daily.

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Sigiriya coming from Colombo where Bandaranaike International Airport is at. The cheaper (but longer) route is to get a train at Colombo Fort station in Colombo, and then alight at Habarana station. Note that are only 2 train schedules daily (6:05AM and at night) of this route, so make sure to be at the train station early.
Once in Habarana, Sigiriya is around 30 minutes away with a distance of less than 20 km. There are buses with a Habarana-Sigiriya route, but not all the time. Tuk tuk is a more frequent transportation that can bring you to Sigiriya. The rate varies (haggle as much as you can!) but for reference, the rate is around LKR 50 per kilometer for cities outside Colombo.

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Tbilisi is a real pearl hidden among the high mountains of Georgia. This ancient yet modern city has so many exciting opportunities to offer...

Tbilisi is a real pearl hidden among the high mountains of Georgia. This ancient yet modern city has so many exciting opportunities to offer to its guests. Here on the crossroad of Europe and Asia, the Eastern culture intertwines with Western. As a result, Georgian culture has become so unique and diverse. In this article, I want to introduce you to the top 4 exciting ways to spend your tour in Georgia, namely in the capital Tbilisi.

1. Get lost in the old town

Georgia is a country of incredible contrasts. I believe that the charm of any city is hidden, first of all, in the part that brightly represents the greatest historical value and is usually referred to as the Old Town. It is in the architecture, old winded streets, and colorful wooden houses with carved balconies that the real ancient soul of Tbilisi is hidden. All these fragile and old buildings are full of charm.

Tbilisi Old Town, being once the historical center, is abundant in fascinating sights that should be included in any must-visit list. "Abanotubani" is one of such places. According to legend, this place was indicated by the falcon of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Subsequently, hot springs were discovered here, and it was decided to found a new capital. Bath Quarter is perfectly preserved. In public baths, curative sulfur waters are used. Baths are located under the ground and on the surface, the only visible part are the hive-like domes.

Tbilisi Old Town is the most attractive and touristic part of the city. Kote Abkhazi Street, more known as Leselizde, is the main and longest street of the old city, which starts from the Freedom Square and stretches to Vakhtang Gorgasali Square (another name is "Tatar Meydan"). Shardeni Street is the liveliest and most buzzing street. Resembling those cozy Parisian lanes, Shardeni Street is literally filled with plenty of cafes, restaurants, comfy wineries, souvenir shops and galleries where you can buy amazing pieces of Georgian applied arts such as minankari jewelry or fashionable clothes from Georgian designers.

2. Visit the ruins of Narikala Fortress

The ancient ruins of Narikala fortress are one of the exciting places from where you can admire the breathtaking views of Tbilisi from bird’s glance. Narikala Fortress is considered the heart and soul of Tbilisi as from its construction in the 4th century, the history of Tbilisi has begun. Being situated on the Silk Road, Narikala Fortress had constantly been invaded by numerous enemies during the centuries. In the 19th century, it was destroyed as a result of an earthquake. Visiting Narikala ruins is a must: you can reach the fortress by a cable car from Rike Park, enjoying astonishing views of the city on the way (one-way ticket costs only GEL 1 or EUR 0.4).

3. Visit Mtatsminda Park

Mtatsminda is a holy mount for the Georgians. The first thing that comes to one's mind when imagining Tbilisi is the funicular leading to the top of Mtatsminda Mount. Being situated at the height of about 800 meters above the city Mtatsminda Park offers panoramic views over Tbilisi. If you want to have fun and relax, you should definitely visit Mtatsminda amusement park especially when travelling with children. The way to the top is easy and full of joy: you only need to take a cable car and admire the stunning views on the road.

4. Try national cuisine

Georgian national cuisine is probably one of the main attractions in the country. The local dishes are so various and appetizing that one will not be able to remain indifferent. So, what I do advise to try first? Of course, khinkali and khachapuri. Khinkali are like dumplings: they're stuffed with spicy meat. Khachapuri is a pie with hot and viscous cheese. Don't forget to try different kinds of local barbecue with spices and of course the most famous Georgian sweet called churchkhella which resembles a sausage made up of various nuts and grape juice.

That was the most interesting things you can do in Tbilisi. After your Georgian tour, I advise you to continue exploring the South Caucasus and to visit Armenia, a no less beautiful and attracting country. You can also book Armenia and Georgia combined tours and discovers for all-the-hidden-secrets of these countries in a short period of time. These countries are also very popular among extreme lovers. You choose among adventure options and enjoy cycling, jeeping, paragliding, trekking and hiking in Armenia and Georgia.

I went solo backpacking in Sri Lanka and got truly amazed by its rich natural resources! I was able to visit the the provinces and cities ...

I went solo backpacking in Sri Lanka and got truly amazed by its rich natural resources! I was able to visit the the provinces and cities of Colombo, Negombo, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy.

Watch my Sri Lanka vlog below:

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Laos or Lao People's Democratic Republic is a small country in Southeast Asia landlocked by Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Chi...

Laos or Lao People's Democratic Republic is a small country in Southeast Asia landlocked by Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and China. It's known for its rich natural resources and a backpacker haven for its affordability and friendly environment. Also, Laos is said to be generally safe, thus recommended to solo and female travelers.


I spent 5 days and 4 nights in Laos where I was able to cover 2 cities, Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Here's a rundown of what I did and the recommended places:

Day 1: Vientiane
While very few speak English in Laos, the street signs are reliable and so you won't get lost in the capital. As general tip, Lan Xang Avenue serves as good reference point in the city center because it's where most tourist attractions are at.

Patuxai Monument
At the end of Lan Xang Avenue is a very noticeable Patuxai Monument, a memorial for all the heroes of war during the French colonial period. Its Europe-inspired architecture highly resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Entrance fee: 3,000 kip (PHP 18) if you want to climb the monument to get a 360-degree view of the city.

Presidential Palace
At the other end of Lan Xang Avenue is the Presidential Palace where all important ceremonies and events of the government are held. Though not open to public, the exterior is a sure standout thus a good stop for taking photos.

Entrance fee: Free

Sisaket Temple
The Wat Si Saket or Sisaket Temple is one of the oldest temples in Vientiane. It's distinctly known for the striking and yellowish color of the pillars. Several bronze and stone Buddhas can be seen around. Try going in the morning to catch the locals and monks praying in this temple.

Entrance fee: 5,000 kip (PHP 30)

Day 2: Vientiane

Pha That Luang

Seeing Pha That Luang was the highlight of my short trip to Vientiane. Also known as the Great Sacred Stupa, it's the main religious monument in the capital. Buddhists believe that it contains relics (a breastbone) of Buddha. Pha That Luang is also a national symbol of Laos. In fact, an image of it is depicted in their banknotes.

Entrance fee: 5,000 kip (PHP 30)

Mekong River
What's good about Vientiane is that despite being a city, the riverside provides a relaxing suburb feel. If you've been around Southeast Asia, you probably heard of Mekong River already. It's a long river that flows throughout the Indochina peninsula. The side of Mekong River in Vientiane is a perfect spot to catch the sunset. Then, stay until nighttime to chill at the riverside bars and restaurants.

Entrance fee: Free

Chao Anouvong Park
Next to Mekong River is this small park featuring a huge bronze statue of Chao Anouvong, Laos’ last king from the Lan Xang Kingdom. A short stop here is nice for taking photos and marveling at the size of the statue.

Entrance fee: Free

Day 3: Luang Prabang
On the third day, I left Vientiane at 8:30PM then took an 11-hour VIP sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, a province north of the capital and was named a Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich cultural heritage. Here are a few places that I visited in the province:

Mount Phousi

From downtown, you can climb for 20-30 minutes to Mount Phousi, a 150-meter hill with a total of 335 steps. It sits between 2 rivers, the Mekong River and Khan River. The view from the top is breathtaking and a good place to catch the sunrise or sunset.

Entrance fee: 20,000 kip (PHP 122)

Luang Prabang Night Market
Starting at 6:00PM, the stretch of Sisavangvong Road gets closed for the Luang Prabang night market. Vendors slowly pull out and spread different products for sale, which are mostly souvenir items. Similar to other night markets in Asia, it's very common to haggle for the price here. Cheap and delicious local food are also in the night market. (The Lao baguette is a must-try!)

Entrance fee: Free
* Prices of items at the night market vary. Make sure to bargain. Fridge magnets, for example, usually start at 30,000 kip (PHP183) but I was able to bring the price down to 15,000 kip (PHP 91).

Day 4: Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls
As said, a trip to Luang Prabang won’t be complete without seeing the natural gem Kuang Si Falls, a huge 150-meter waterfall with 3 tiers of strong and rapid water. Looking at it is like a painting that came to life, which is truly a gift from nature. A 30-minute trek to the top can let visitors swim in the mini pools located at the peak (Tip: Two trails are available. The easier trail is at the left when facing the waterfalls)

Kuang Si Falls is far from downtown Luang Prabang, so a cheap way to get there is by joining a half day group tour that's usually composed of 12-15 participants. This tour is convenient since an air-conditioned van fetches you from your accommodation. The rate usually starts at 50,000 kip (PHP 305). Another way is to get a group of 6 travelers and negotiate a two-way ride with a tuktuk driver.

Entrance fee: 20,000 kip (PHP 122)

Day 5: Luang Prabang

Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is a long street of ancestral buildings preserved through the years. Looking at this street is like traveling back in time. It's a cool place to meet backpackers as most of the restaurants, bars, and guest houses are in the area.

Entrance fee: Free


At the moment, there's no direct flight from the Philippines to Laos yet. With that, the cheapest route I found was from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and then Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane. On the way back, instead of returning to Vientiane, I departed in Luang Prabang to save time and money.


I managed to spend only PHP15,000+ for this Laos trip including air fare, airport taxes, accommodations, food, transportation, and other basics. Overall, I can say that Laos is cheap especially the food. Here's a breakdown of the expenses:

Expense Details
PHP 1620
Philippine Airport Tax
PHP 700
Manila to Kuala Lumpur flight (promo fare)
PHP 2990
Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane flight (promo fare)
PHP 3300
Luang Prabang to Kuala Lumpur flight (promo fare)
PHP 1125
Kuala Lumpur to Manila flight (promo fare)
207,000 kip (PHP 1258)
Transportation in Vientiane for 2 days
105,000 kip (PHP 638)
Accommodation in Vientiane for 1 day
13,000 kip (PHP 79)
Entrance fees to attractions in Vientiane
100,500 kip (PHP 611)
Food expenses in Vientiane for 2 days
150,000 kip (PHP 912)
VIP sleeper bus to Vientiane
60,000 kip (PHP 365)
Transportation in Luang Prabang for 3 days
163,645 kip (PHP 995)
Accommodation in Luang Prabang for 3 days
50,000 kip (PHP 304)
Kuang Si Falls half day tour
40,000 kip (PHP 243)
Entrance fees to attractions in Luang Prabang
189,000 kip (PHP 1152)
Food expenses in Luang Prabang for 3 days
65,000 kip (PHP 395)

TOTAL: PHP 16,687

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It's hard to weigh which is better between Coron and El Nido in terms of beauty. Both are naturally beautiful and rich in marine life. T...

It's hard to weigh which is better between Coron and El Nido in terms of beauty. Both are naturally beautiful and rich in marine life. They've both set the bar high, which makes Palawan a top destination in the Philippines for past few years. 
But what's good about Coron is that it's less touristy than El Nido, making it a more relaxed site in Palawan. It's composed of several small islands and beaches, so tourists are scattered and they don't tend to congest one place all at the same time. 
To move around Coron, a motored boat is needed. Joining an island hopping tour, which is a group and package tour, is the most common way to explore Coron. If you're solo traveling, this is probably the best option because it's cheaper, safer, and fun because you go with a group. You can simply book one day before your intended travel date at any travel desk there, which most probably is offered in your hostel too. For a tailor-made tour, you can book a private boat for a day, but of course this tends to be more expensive. 

To give you an idea of the must-see relaxed beaches and islands in Coron, here are some recommendations:

1. Banol Beach

As most of the beaches in Coron are white sand, Banol Beach is distinguished by the amazing rocks in big chunks, which are naturally scattered on the seashore. They're so big you can pass through them and go underneath. Similar to most areas in Coron, this beach is also surrounded by tall and dark-colored limestone cliffs. 
This area is perfect for snorkeling and kayak for its calm surrounding water. Also, it's a good place for lunch as there are several huts present in the island. It's usually the lunch area of the island hoppers 

2.       Malcapuya Island

Around 1.5 hours away from Coron town, Malcapuya Island is a hidden gem. The beach is a stretch of fine sand that I noticed is finer and whiter than the rest of the beaches in Coron. 
Its fineness goes at par with the sands of Panglao in Bohol or Boracay Beach in Aklan.
The color of the water is so vibrant! Now you know where Gatorade comes from =p
Tip: If you aren't on a group tour and you have the time in your hands, I suggest you stay longer at Malcapuya Island. This island makes the long boat trip worth it. I find this island the most relaxed I've been to in Coron. 

3.       Banana Island

Banana Island got the name not for its abundance in banana tree (there were none!) but rather, for its shape. Though not visible, the island is said to be like a banana leaf from an aerial view.
It's best to go snorkeling in this island especially the newbies. Why? Because even if you don't go too far and deep, the coral reefs are very visible. You can even touch some of them. It's also home of many clown fishes. This is probably Nemo's humble beginning before he went to Pixar! =p

Mind the sea urchins though. It's advisable to wear aqua shoes. If you don't have any, make sure to rent a pair of aqua shoes before leaving Coron town since there's no shoe rental in the island. A pair costs around PHP 150 for a full-day use.

4. Bulog Dos Island

To maximize and appreciate the beauty of this island, make sure to catch the sand bar. This island is known for its long sand bar that usually shows up when it's low tide either in the morning or before sunset. 

The rocks rest on one side of the island, bringing a variation in the perfect picture. 
Not all parts of this island are open to public, which includes a restricted beach front meant for guests of 5-star hotel Two Seasons Resort. Nevertheless, whatever is open to the public is enough to make it a beach worth visiting.

5. Black island

Black Island may be quite a distance from Coron town as it may take 3 lingering hours of boat ride to get there, but it's definitely a priced island. Aside from a beautiful beach, this island houses a cave that they call the Black Island Cave. 

When in Calauit, the Black Island is truly one of the most visited beaches. Some people make this a side trip especially when visiting the Calauit Safari

Have you been to Coron? Which island / beach is your favorite?

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