Philippines · Travel Tips

How Badly Does Getting a Tattoo Hurt?

If getting a tattoo isn’t a thing to do while traveling, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been in the Philippines for some time now and will be leaving soon, so this seemed like the perfect time to finally get one at the highly recommended Whiplash Tattoo parlor on Aguirre Avenue in BF Homes–my very own stomping grounds.

I’ve always been curious as to exactly how badly getting a tattoo hurts.

I’ll start by documenting the various levels of pain I’ve experienced in my life on a rough scale of one to ten so that I can see where getting a tattoo fits in. On this scale, one represents nothing more than a pinprick while ten stands for I’m literally dying right now.

For clarification, we’re talking about an entry-level tattoo here, on my thigh which is basically all muscle, so we’re not hitting any bones or nerves. Who knows, one day I might get one on the spinal cord or some other such sweet spot and rank that in too.

  • Laser hair removal: It’s just a pinprick: you can more or less pretend it’s not happening.
  • Practicing MMA with a bruised rib: When someone puts their full body weight on your chest and you already have an injured rib cage, you will definitely wince. It is equally unenjoyable when you get kicked in that same spot.
  • Sprained ankle: A fairly common sports injury, sprained ankles are no fun. You know you can’t get up and keep playing because it hurts too much.
  • Removal of wisdom teeth: Sure, I got anesthetics. I consider the needle the size of my hand they jabbed into my gums multiple times to be one of the most unpleasant parts of the experience but, then again, I do hate needles. Even after the numbness kicked in, the pressure and general discomfort of drills and tongs breaking up and forcing out bits of a tooth that hadn’t even broken the surface yet was not fun. Years later, my orthodontist said I could’ve kept them. Thanks for nothing, dentist.
  • Broken hand bone: This happened to me in high school and in the first couple of hours it hurt quite a bit. I think I even cried.
  • Frozen ear: Not fun. This was in high school as well. It happened when I rode my bicycle to school on -15 degree Celsius winter day and wore this little hat with barbed wire that I thought was so cool, only this hat did not cover my ears, at all. I barely made it through the first class before my ear and head started aching so much that a teacher got me a ride home. Laying on the couch that day with a frozen ear is one of the most uncomfortable things I can remember.
  • Phakic Intraocular Lens implant: So very worth it but definitely not fun for the first few days.
  • Reconstructive jaw surgery: More specifically, waking up after eight hours of reconstructive jaw surgery. I experienced pain of all sorts during my week-long recovery in the hospital.
  • Childbirth: Yes, giving birth to life feels like death. I have other no words for it, except that it was the only time in my life that I screamed in pain. The sound of it surprised me quite a bit, in fact.

I detailed the pain experiences above before actually going in for the tattoo, so it’s funny that it ranks in just below a sprained ankle.

On my way out the door for my booking, I missed a step and twisted ankle, which is still a bit swollen. It was only a light sprain but when I got home with my fresh ink and swollen ankle I was groaning much more about the latter far than the former.

And we have our finalized rankings:

  1. laser hair removal
  2. practicing MMA with a bruised rib
  3. getting a tattoo
  4. sprained ankle
  5. removal of wisdom teeth
  6. brokenbone in the hand
  7. frozen ear
  8. phakic intraocular lens implant
  9. reconstructive jaw surgery
  10. childbirth

So there we have it, getting a tattoo falls right in between a bruised rib and a swollen and receives a pain ranking of two: not exactly comfortable but certainly bearable.

What does it feel like?

I’d say it’s a little more uncomfortable than laser hair removal because there are actual needles burrowing into your skin, but the initial pain is mild, you get used to it quickly, and it only becomes unpleasant towards the end.

At that point, the artist is doing touchups on an open wound and the skin is already sensitive. Plus, I was getting quite stiff from laying on the table for three hours and I really needed to pee: much harder to deal with than the tattooing itself.

P.S. The tattoo artists at Whiplash are amazing; if you’re in town you’ll want to book them for sure.

P.P.S. You can check out my first ink here on their Facebook page.



My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 9: Casually Cutting Weight for Jiu-Jitsu

Generally speaking, it’s not necessary to cut weight for jiu-jitsu. Unlike other fight sports, it’s typically recommended that you go into a jiu-jitsu competition at your ordinary weight: it is an asset, after all.

If you are planning on cutting a significant amount of weight, it’s best to do so a few months before your match so that you can train for it at your new weight. Basically, if you train at 130 pounds and lose ten right before the fight, you’ll have ten fewer pounds of strength than you’re used to having when you roll and that’s something you want to avoid.

My reason for casually dropping a few pounds is that I happen to be just above the threshold of the leve or lightweight division. The next category after that is everything above, so if I compete in “No Gi” and I don’t cut lightweight I could very well end up getting crushed by someone twice my size–something I don’t particularly enjoy when it comes to grappling.

There are more weight divisions for competing with a gi but my problem in that category is that the gi I’m training in is too big for me. It’s quite heavy too, and you have to weigh in wearing your gi on the day of the competition.

Buying a nice light and well-fitted gi would be great, only they’re quite expensive and I’d only use it for two months or so before going abroad. Light as they may come, a gi is not the sort of outfit for which I have space in my ’round-the-world suitcase so it simply doesn’t make sense for me to buy one.

Anyway, with a gi on I’d be safely below light heavyweight and pass for medio but, in summary, I’m quite certain I’ll be going for “No Gi” and that brings us back to cutting weight.

I started at 130 pounds or about 59 kilos a week or so ago and I’ve since lost something like one kilo. The weight limit for no-gi leve (lightweight division) is 56.5 so with weeks to go I’ve got another kilo-and-a-half to lose. Crunch time.

Can I just say that I hate dieting?

I feel like the whole point of being fit and having a bunch of active hobbies is that you can eat and drink whatever you like, whenever you like. When you’re healthy, your body tends to crave healthy food anyway so that’s a pretty good safeguard.

As much as I’m long over dieting or losing weight just to reach some golden number, I am OK with cutting weight for a good cause. Thus, although I dislike the ordeal, I’ve had to get into some fairly serious casual dieting.

This has been my fairly successful three-pronged battle plan so far: counting calories, eating protein and plants, and doing fight form circuit training at my new favorite MMA gym in Manila. That is, of course, in addition to training jiu-jitsu, which I do about four nights a week, all right here at Fitness Unlimited.


1. Counting Calories

I can’t tell you how much I hate that I’m saying this but I’ve started counting calories.

It is probably one of the least pleasant things one can spend their time doing but, let’s face it, it’s effective. I’ve only done it once before and while it worked as far as dropping the pounds it felt entirely like not living.

To be honest, it’s been easier for me this time around, so there’s some luck. Regardless, I would never do it as a permanent part of my life. I do strongly believe that one’s life should not be controlled by a number of any sort.

So far, a little over a week of calorie counting has gotten me almost half the way to achieving my goal. I would consider a month of doing so plenty effective for hitting a weight target and walking away with a better idea of what calories mean and how they affect your body and weight.

What I like about cutting weight for a sport is that, even though you have to limit your calorie intake, you’re forced to seek out calories with the highest possible nutritional density.

You’ll be hungry after training and you won’t be able to load up on whatever food can make it to you fastest. (That’s you, pizza!)

Instead, you have to pick and plan your meals carefully and make sure you’re getting all the nutrition you need to stay strong without exceeding your calorie limit. Anything that’s full of sugar or empty calories will be a hard and easy no.

Figuring out how many calories you should be eating to hit your weight target is a simple calculation, by the way.

I weigh this much, I exercise this much, and I want to lose this much weight: how many calories should I consume per day? If you’re using an app like MyFitnessPal it’ll work it all out for you and there are plenty of online calculators as well.


2. Eating Protein and Plants

Now, please, let’s forget about calories for a minute and talk about nutrition.

I’ve always believed that the nutritional quality of what you consume is far more important than caloric quantity and when I’m done counting calories I’ll go back to making sure my food healthy and caring less about how much of it I’m eating.

When you’re exercising, the most important macronutrient is protein, so let’s talk meat versus vegetarian.

Having done small amounts of research that I’ve found quite conclusive to the forming of my personal opinion, I am of the persuasion that the ideal fighter’s diet is based on nuts and vegetables.

Call it hunter-gatherer, call it paleo, call it raw vegan, call it whatever: eating mostly unprocessed, mostly uncooked, mostly plant-based foods that our ancestors would have mostly had access to is the best way to eat.

I see no reason to be ridiculously strict with it though.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t have had access to vegetables because they didn’t farm? So what? I do and I’m going to eat them.

I can’t get a hold of nuts of some other healthy raw vegan or vegetarian protein? I’ll have fish. I’ll have chicken. Chill. (I eat beef and pork sometimes too but I’m not particularly into that kind of thing.)

Back to chicken for a serious moment: if you’re any kind of fighter, skin is way, way out of the question. There is no chill when it comes to chicken skin. Sorry; I tried.

Let’s get practical. How can you make your meals mostly unprocessed, uncooked, and plant-based?

Well, the other day I hit up Salad Stop and opted for an affordable and nutrition-packed salad bowl with tandoori chicken, chickpeas, and yogurt dressing for only 260 pesos (a little over $5). I think this met the brief quite reasonably and, for 300-some calories, it was quite filling.


Another time, I went for a proper vegetarian salad with tofu and soybeans for the same price, although it did cost me a bit more in calories.

I love seeing places like this open up in the Metro, by the way. We seriously need more options for healthy food around here.

Recently, I had dinner at one of the city’s timeless restaurants for the health-minded, Corner Tree Cafe in Makati, with a very fit and health-conscious vegetarian who reminded me why I once actually was vegetarian for a while: energy.

I don’t know how else to say it: meat weighs you down.

Well, me anyway, and other people too, but maybe not you in particular. You get to make your own choices. I know people who simply cannot be sustained on a vegetarian diet.

Anyway, I’ve even been inspired to go back to, over time, possibly, an entirely vegetarian diet and to learn how to do some of my own vegetarian cooking at some point in the near future.

I’ve long been privileged to have other people cook for me, which really is great. It’s not only because I don’t like to cook but also that I’m legitimately terrible at it.

However, whether or not you enjoy it, know how to do it, or are any good at it, cooking your own food is the best way to control your diet and that’s basically that.


3. Doing Fight Form Circuit Training

This is the final and most intense element of my fight prep but luckily it takes the least amount of time.

The Fight Form circuits at Fitness Unlimited Submission Sport Paranaque are genuinely awesome and I don’t like saying that about too many things.

The coaches there are legit and the circuits they put together every day are killer.

When I enrolled at the gym, I got one month of free circuit training with my jiu-jitsu classes so I started doing the two hand-in-hand.

The circuits are all day and every hour and what works best for me is to get the one right before jiu-jitsu to minimize travel time to the gym and back.

Since I’ve been doing fight form, I haven’t gotten injured while rolling–disregarding all the bruises of course. When I grappled and rolled before, my rib cage and lower back were in a constant state of distress but Fight Form has helped me build some serious core strength.

The other night my partner’s shoulder flew into my ribs as she was practicing a takedown and I was quite certain I would be feeling that for a while. Instead, the initial pain faded quickly and I wasn’t bothered by it a bit.

Fight Form is excellent for conditioning in general and for building arm and leg strength–the latter being especially important for wrestling takedowns, which are, in turn, quite fun to use in jiu-jitsu.


That’s all for tonight. I’ll let you know where I’m at in two weeks when it comes time to compete!


International · Travel Tips

Essential Dos and Dont’s for Travel: Pack Easy, Pack Light

Last week I moved into an apartment in the very south of Metro Manila and I’ll be staying here for the next three months before taking off to Australia.

As I packed for the move, I couldn’t help but think of how many times I’ve done this in the past few months.

In March, I packed for our first trip to Australia. Not long after our return in May, I began packing to move out of our house in the Philippines, which we did in the space of a few very long weeks in June.

In July, I packed for a month-long trip to visit friends in the mountains of Baguio and after returning to Manila in August we located a great little apartment in Alabang and moved there in the first week of September. That was just a few days ago so I hope you can excuse the fact that this blog has been a little dead for the past week.

What’s great, now that we’ve settled in, is that we’re walking distance from Molito Lifestyle Center–one of my and my daughter’s favorite spots in the city which I’ve written about here before.

All of this packing and moving around has inspired me to start a travel dos and don’ts series, which I’m kicking off today with packing easy and packing light.


Do pack light; don’t check luggage

Team No-Check-In for the win!

Earlier this year I packed for a six-week trip to Australia with my three-year-old daughter without checking any luggage.

How? Roll up enough outfits for a week and bring a bar of laundry soap to keep your bag smelling fresh and hand wash essentials (gym clothes!) as you go.

If you’re staying more than a week, all you have to do is find a place to do laundry.

Do roll up your outfits

To expand on this tip, I find this especially helpful for my daughter’s clothes. She likes to get herself dressed and occasionally picks some very odd and mismatched outfits.

Once she’s selected what she wants to wear, she is not to be argued with so I’ve had to be more subtle in arranging her wardrobe. Also, she tends to (or likes to) forget to put underwear on.

What I do is take the underwear, top, and bottom, fold them into each other, and roll up the entire outfit. Then I fill up a bag with these little outfit rolls and she picks out the one she wants for the day.

Do pack clothes in small plastic bags

I find it helpful to grab a pack of clear plastic bags or reuse bags from clothing shops when packing our suitcases. Packing sets of outfits in a small plastic bags ensures that they’ll stay dry and clean and keeps the suitcase more organized.

I’ll sort the bags into everyday clothes, swimwear, nightwear, park wear, etc.

Do let your kids choose their favorite (small) toy, book, and stuffed animal

For traveling with kids, let them pick one or two favorite small toys, a stuffed animal they like to sleep with, and possibly one or two favorite little bedtime books.

Beyond that, all they need are clothes. See outfit rolls above.

Don’t worry about wearing the same clothes twice

Seriously! Who cares? You’re a traveler! Be comfortable, be fresh, and wear clothes that you can do stuff in.

As long as your outfits are clean and fresh, you’re fine. Bring plenty of underwear and hand wash anything that gets stained right away. Pack outfits for a week, find a place to do your laundry at the end of the week and wear them again for the next.

Don’t pack for every single possible scenario

“I might go clubbing. I should pack a few dresses and these knee high boots, just in case.”

“I might go to a fancy restaurant or a formal function. I should pack at least one suit and a few ties.”

No. Don’t.

If such events do come up, chances are you’ll go with a friend and you can borrow something from them.

However, it is a good idea to pack at least one reasonably formal outfit that fits you well. For example, a multi-functional dress that could work for a fancy dinner and a night club. And unless you’re going to travel in those knee-high boots, pack a small pair of heels.

For men, a good sports coat will almost always do the trick and you can wear it while you travel so you don’t even have to worry about packing it.

Do pack for exercise

Yes, absolutely do pack active wear!

You can either pack a pair of gym shoes or travel in tennies, depending on what suits you.

Bring at least two sports or gym outfits so that you can handwash one after wearing and use it again a day later. That way you can exercise every day if you want to.

You can easily pack something simple, such as a jump rope or weight bands, to exercise while on your trip. Because come on, you’ll feel so much better throughout the trip if you take the time to exercise at least a little bit.

You might not be able to bring a yoga mat but I’m sure you can find a park or piece of grass somewhere. Download a few good yoga videos onto your phone and you’re good to go. How about a jog to a nearby park for some yoga stretches to start your day?

How about a jog to a nearby park for some yoga stretches to start your day?

Do layer up in your heaviest clothes on the plane

Earlier this year we went from summer in the Philippines to fall in Australia, which means it was quite cold for our standards.

To pack for the temperature drop, I had my daughter wear her biggest, warmest clothes on the plane: a long-sleeved dress, a cozy sweater, and a jacket.

In fact, I did the same: I wore my jeans and two sweaters while traveling so I wouldn’t have to worry about fitting them in my luggage.

Once in Australia, I was able to borrow warmer sweaters and for my daughter, I picked up some warm clothes at a second-hand store for a dollar a piece.

Don’t pack disposable items that you can buy on arrival

Let’s consider basic toiletries: toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, sun block.

If you have to use particular products that will likely be hard to find, pack what you’ll need for the trip in 100ml containers and don’t forget to pack them in clear zip-lock bags.

If it’s going to be a long trip, though, there’s a good chance you can find something good on location. Just buy small or medium sized bottles to use while there; now you don’t have to worry about liquids in your carry-on.

Don’t be picky; do consider simplifying your routine

Whatever your morning and nighttime beauty routines involve, you should consider bringing them down to the bare essentials.

For me, (and most of us, right?) that’s face wash, toner, and moisturizer. The latter is especially important when traveling from the humid Philippines to any cooler, drier country. I use a completely natural moisturizer that doubles as lip balm as well, which is wonderfully practical.

Don’t let a headache or a cold ruin your trip

I would recommend bringing a small assortment of vitamin C, painkillers, cough drops, cold medicine, or whatever you take when you start getting run down.

Don’t let something silly like a sore throat make you miss out on a fun activity. Be prepared.

Generally speaking, I would recommend resting over filling your body with meds when you’re feeling under the weather but I will make an exception when I’m traveling and I don’t want to miss any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

You can always rest up when you’re back home. Things like this shouldn’t take up too much space in your bag and in this case it helps to have them on hand as soon as you need them.

Do get a phrase book

On a final note, I would definitely recommend bringing something to help you learn key phrases in the language of your destination. This might mean throwing a phrasebook in your carry on or simply using your smartphone.

Those are all of my packing tips for now. Anything to add?



International · Travel Tips

Eat Well, Travel Strong

Or: How to Eat and Drink When Traveling to Feel Great and Not Get Sick.

For today’s Travel Tips I’m breaking down diet into seven categories: water, breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, alcohol, and last but not least, mindfulness to tie it all together.

1. Water

On the one hand you should drink a lot of it; on the other hand you have to make sure it’s safe and clean.

Salads too can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how the vegetables have been washed and cleaned.

2. Breakfast

Personally, I find that sticking to a fairly consistent breakfast is the best thing for my health. I’ll typically go with some kind of oats, preferably steel-cut or rolled but instant will do if it’s my only option. As always, though, the less processed the better.

Ideally, I’ll have my oats with yogurt since the probiotics are a great way to keep your stomach in good shape. Instead of sugar, I throw in some raisins for sweetness and texture.

Finally, to add protein and make the meal more filling, I like to throw in a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Typically I’ll drink a cup of black coffee with breakfast as well, but whether or not you’re a coffee drinker is of course completely up to you. As great as it is for some of us, it just doesn’t agree with others.

If you don’t have or enjoy eating oatmeal, try something else with fiber, such as whole wheat bread, with an egg or another source of protein and some dark leafies like spinach for an added super charge, if you have access to fresh greens.

3. Lunch

If you’re eating a solid breakfast with fiber, probiotics, and protein, plus drinking lots of pure water, then lunch is your time to be adventurous.

Try something new and exciting, as long as it looks like it’s been reasonably well prepared. Think about how it’s been handled and cleaned if it’s uncooked and if it’s something like meat make sure it’s been cooked properly.

Beyond that, the world is your oyster and it’s full of exotic street food. Get out there and try it!

4. Snacks

Pick up some of your favorite nuts at a supermarket, plus some dried fruit and chocolate if you care for such things, and mix it all up together. Grab some mini zip-lock bags at the store too so you can portion your DIY trail mix and toss one your backpack or purse whenever you go out.

I recommend doing this over buying pre-made trail mix because you control exactly what you put inside, your ingredients list is going to look better, and it will cost you less.

Getting hungry but can’t find a good place to eat? Don’t settle for fast food or processed snack. Have some trail mix to hold you over until you can sit down for a proper meal.

Another option is to buy seasonal fruit wherever you see it. In most tropical countries you can find fruit stands on many a roadside. Go with something that has a peel; it may be harder to eat in some cases, but your stomach will thank you when you don’t get sick.

5. Dinner

Since you’ve been snacking on trail mix, you should never get too hungry and that means you’re less likely to find yourself splurging on a heavy meal at the end of the day.

Instead, opt for a dinner that’s light and try not to eat it right before bed.

Go for a good source of protein–whether that’s animal-based, vegetarian, or vegan is up to you–plenty of vegetables, and enough minimally processed complex carbs such as red, brown, or even black rice, whole wheat bread, or pasta to satisfy your hunger.

If you’re not too hungry or you’re watching your weight, feel free to skip the carbs at dinner. Along those lines, if you must snack before bed, go with something light with protein: cottage cheese on multigrain crackers (easy to pick up at the supermarket) for example.

6. Alcohol

I like being healthy but, come on, I also like to drink. Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or business, there’s a good chance you’ll be having some drinks too. Here are some ways I (usually) keep myself in check and remember my health when drinking.

First, we’re back to water. Ideally, you’d drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed, whether that’s a beer, a glass of wine, a shot, or a whiskey on the rocks.

This will make tomorrow’s hangover a lot easier to deal with, by the way, since a big part of that lousy headache is dehydration.

Think of drinking alcohol as the opposite of drinking water: it dehydrates you. Balance yourself out with extra water consumption and you’ll be alright.

Second, try to have at least a few nights where you don’t drink (much) so you can get up early to exercise the next morning.

Give yourself the chance to sweat out any excess alcohol in your blood and feel healthy again. As a bonus, exercising should make you want to eat and drink healthy and make it easier to keep your alcohol consumption in check.

7. Mindfulness

Generally speaking, the best approach to eating well (and drinking responsibly) is mindfulness. This means thinking about where your food comes from and how it’s been prepared or reading the label before grabbing something at the store.

It also means eating slowly, paying attention to the flavors, and savoring each bite of food. When you drink, savor each sip and be mindful of how it is affecting you before it gets ahead of you. This way, it will take fewer calories to satisfy you and less alcohol to enjoy yourself.

Be aware of your hydration levels as well. By the time you start to feel thirsty, your body is already suffering from dehydration. Stay ahead by being mindful of how much water you should be drinking and making sure you have access to clean water throughout the day.

If you can do nothing but go slow and be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking, you’ll be less likely to have digestive problems or feel bloated after meals.

That doesn’t just go for when you’re traveling, by the way: it works great at home too.