Davao, Philippines with Beach Volleyball Republic

I never actually played in a competitive beach volleyball tourney before and this was the perfect time for me to start. Beach Volleyball Republic is a beach volley organization here in the Philippines that strives to grow the game without all the crappy politics that come with sports. They travel to different places and hold clinics for different towns as well as hold tournaments so that other islands are exposed to the sport, and most importantly because they’re so passionate to help people.

Davao, Yes President Duterte’s Hood, Where I FLEW IN AN ULTRA-LIGHT!!!

Basically the only way to describe this “plane” is a go-kart, mixed with a fan as an engine, mixed with a glider. Totes trustworthy, I know. I got to fly during the sunset, but unfortunately my flight got cut short (about 12 min instead of 15 min) because the sunset really does happen fast in the Philippines. When I was up there I couldn’t even speak words because I was just awed and amazed at how beautiful life is- just get the tissue box out already! But really though, I hope you guys experience this at least once in your life.

The Tourney.

Day 1… Bre, my teammate for Pocari Sweat, was my beach partner. She had plenty of experience before, thank goodness! Our first match was supposed to start at 10:00 am, but we did not play until 2:00 pm, which delayed our second and final match of the day to 5:30 pm when the sun sets quickly! We were playing beach in the dark, no extra lights around hahaha. But honestly WE KILLED IT! Day 1 in the books, celebrated with good food and we acted like the young 20-something-year-olds like we are. Day 2… Thanks to Dzi and Kate’s amazing beach game combined with my lack of experience, Bre and I got our butts handed to. But we became the real winners because we got to sit in the shade and eat yummy food, chill out, and not stress about not having to play next- HA!

Island hopping

Guys… The waters and white sand beaches of Davao took my breath away. I’ve never seen such vivid bllue colors of the ocean and I could not believe my eyes at all! It took a while to get to most places, boat rides to different islands ranged from 30-60 minutes. We took lots of pictures, got some color in the sun, and just lived the beach life. I’ll link a video of my Davao adventure right here, you just gotta travel there to see all its beauty!


Adventure Awaits.



Hong Kong Travels


I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with my team to Hong Kong, but unfortunately the trip felt too short! We stayed in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong at the Silka Far East Hotel. I’ll be honest with you, this “room” my roommate and I were booked was the absolute most uncomfortable hotel room I’ve ever stayed in… IT WAS A ROOM FOR ANTS. Seriously, you walk in the door, take one more step, and BAM you’re standing at your bed (sorry, I didn’t save my snapchats about it). The good thing about the room was that it was clean.

Food. NOW.

20160923_123255.jpgI cannot translate the restaurant name for the life of me, but we went to this small, yet amazing place along the sidewalk on Castle Peak Rd just before the Circle K convenience store. It was only about a 5 minute walk from the hotel and I had the best ramen I’ve ever had! Granted, I’ve only had Top Ramen, but still! It was amazing. It was called the Beef Brisket Ramen with Special Sauce. I’m not sure what the “special” part was, but I’m guessing it’s magic because I did not let my ramen go to waste. The beef was so tender and seasoned well and just fell apart and melted with each bite. I also had mango juice, which is basically a mango shake there and that was delicious too.

Garden of Stars

The Garden of Stars place was pretty cool, and I got to put my hands in Jackie Chan’s handprints woo hoo! It was fun to walk around and see how they arranged all the stars’ names and some awesome statues. I was only starstruck for Jackie Chan’s hands and Bruce Lee’s statue though.


Ocean Park

Ocean Park was THE coolest theme park I’ve been to in terms of location and things to do! It has everything you want in an amusement park- FOOD, rides (dry & wet!), an aquarium & other animals that sadly belong in the wild 😦  , places to chill and watch shows, kiddie areas, etc. My breath was taken away by the gorgeous scenery especially going to the top of the mountain where the rides were. WE TOOK A HANGING CABLE CAR TO THE RIDES!!! The rides were so fun, but I really could not stop looking at the scenery. At one point I rode a ride similar to Drop Zone 4 times and changed what side of the ride I was on because when you get to the top you can see all around you, then it all goes away when you’re screaming so loud because you’re, well, dropping really fast from the ride. You just have to go experience the place for yourself!


Nightlife & Final Thoughts.

A few teammates and I took the train to Lan Kwai Fong and I was completely shocked at how cool the nightlife was! All of the lounges, clubs, and basically parties were on a huge strip that went uphill; and at the top of the hill there was another strip- so it was a huge street party on a road shaped like a T. Everyone was so chill & fun at the same time, and there were so many foreigners. The best part is you don’t actually have to get all dolled up unless you wanna go into the high-class lounges! Casual wear for the win!

Overall even though I had to stay at a hotel I would never recommend, I absolutely loved Hong Kong and I really look forward to going back and exploring more of the scenery and more food!


Qatar Travels

Some teammates and I were invited to play in another exhibition match in September, this time in Qatar! Never in a million years did I ever think I would have the opportunity to travel to the Middle East, especially to play some volley! Here’s what our schedule looked like on our arrival day :

Land in Doha 2 am, get to hotel 3:45 am, press conference (yes) at 4 am (yeah, I know), sleep until 9, breakfast, practice 10-11, lunch, free time, game time 5 pm.

My body has never been so angry at me. Oh wait… Then Mr. Food Poisoning made its appearance for the first time in my life at a very wrong time. The day before we left Manila I now recall eating a cheeseburger that smelled different than normal, but I was a silly hungry hippo and ate it anyway. Although I know you’d all love to hear about how I had to run to the restroom about every hour or every time I consumed anything, I’ll save the lovely details for myself. Bummer, I know.


Mel and I decided to explore the area around us before we had to leave for the game. We were so excited to explore and look at beautiful buildings all around us. We even got so serious about it that we borrowed an umbrella from the hotel (shoutout to our awesome Melia Hotel), you know, looking like Asian tourists. We took some awesome pictures even though we were sweating profusely, but we kept saying it’s all for the experience and it was so worth it! We headed back to the hotel and obviously the very next thing we did was ate some delicious food at the buffet! I personally was trying to be careful about what I was eating, but let’s get real, you can’t turn down the imported cheese & cracker table- and you definitely can’t turn down a cup of sangria! Let’s not forget about dessert…


Unfortunately one of our outside hitters was not able to make the trip, but that left an opportunity open for someone else to step up to the plate… the little Setter in me jumps with joy every time I think of doing serve receive and attacking… Michele, who’s our opposite, started playing OH for the first half of the match, while I played OPP. Personally I love playing OPP AND I’ve done it before in recreational games, but never in an actual match. The second half Michele and I switched and we freaking killed it hellerrrr! Shoutout to all the coaches who taught me how to be proficient in all positions of volley hahaha. I mean we lost for the first time against this team, but that will never take away a huge accomplishment from me!


We were supposed to go camel riding at 4 am the day after playing, but our organizer of the event wasn’t there to pick us up so… no camel ride… we ended up touring some of Doha and going to the Vellagio Mall, which reminded me of the Venetian Hotel in Vegas! It was cool, but I was only able to afford groceries and souvenir goodies at the supermarket. Although the Americana in me wishes I could’ve stopped by Starbucks to buy a Qatar or Doha mug like I usually do when visiting a new place. Anyway, we buy our stuff, head back to the hotel, scarf the Dominoes pizza down, and rush to the airport.

OMG Iris. Another Random Trip to Baler?

Baler, Aurora is my go-to escape place. As of right now it is my favorite spot in the Philippines because it is a wonderful place full of adventure. Seriously, I have been able to do something different every single time I’ve been there.

After practice on Friday (9/9/16) I found out that our scheduled practice for Saturday was cancelled, so I naturally thought of going home to Baler (parents retired there, mom’s province). I got home, packed my stuff quickly, and took a cab to the bus station in Cubao. It was a holiday/long weekend so I was sure there would be many tourists traveling to Baler because it is becoming more and more popular. Luckily I was able to get on a 1 am bus, although traveling at 1 am does not sound so great… In the Philippines (I will abbreviate it to PI form now on, known as “Philippine Islands”) it’s better to travel long distances at night because the traffic is insane here.

Saturday morning I arrived in Baler around 5:30. Usually I ask my dad to pick me up from the bus terminal, but this time my phones, pocket Wi-Fi, and portable battery charger all decided that I didn’t need to come in contact with anyone… so I took a tricycle. (Personally, tricycles are actually fun to ride in the province- there’s no way I would ever ride one in Manila). It took me about 7 minutes to get home from the terminal since the town is so small. I then proceeded to have small-talk with my dad who greeted me at the door, although I’m pretty sure we were both just sleep-talking to each other. I knocked out until 12:30 pm. Oops. The rest of the day consisted of catching up with my parents, my cousin and her hubby. We also had great food cooked by my cousin, Ate Nimpha (ah-teh nimp-fa). We had my favorite sinigang na hipon (shrimp with broth and veggies), giniling (ground beef with veggies, usually with raisins also), shrimp with veggies, adobo squid, and adobo sitaw (green beans in a soy/mix sauce… I’m actually not completely sure, but something along the lines of that).

SUNDAY FUNDAY!!! This has been one of my favorite days in Baler by far. We had a delicious breakfast- I made pancakes and Ate Nimpha made the bacon and eggs. After breakfast we got ready to go to my favorite place- THE BEEEAAACCCHHH!! Yassss, da beach. When we arrived it started sprinkling, but it was fine because I jumped in the ocean to go surfing. If y’all know me, y’all know I absolutely love surfing now- it has been officially dubbed as my second favorite sport- sorry, basketball. The waves were tiny, but my instructor helped me successfully paddle and stand woot woot! Then after I got the hang of that he helped me work on choosing waves and timing. I think after volleyball is done I will become a surfer. Muahaha.

After we got home from Sabang Beach my dad got a text from my tita saying she’s in Diteki so we tagged along and found this place to be a hidden gem! My parents were reunited with a lot of my mom’s side of relatives and I got to meet new family members as well as reunite with others. I forced my mom to go tubing down the lazy river with me even though we didn’t have our swimsuits on anymore since changed earlier we didn’t know what this place was like. So we did it the Filipino way- go in your regular clothes LOL. The water was cold, yet relaxing. It was cool to see all of the people, especially the kids, enjoy so much of the beautiful simplicity that nature provided; I was humbled and thankful to see it. We ended the day at home feasting on leftovers and for dessert we had none other than Dialyn’s famous brazo! It’s a delicious rolled cake of whipped eggs whites with sugar (going off of my taste buds and what I know about baking), and a creamy custard filling baked to perfection. A sweet tooth lover’s dream.


If you ever want to visit a place where there is always something new to do, go to Baler!


Adventure is out there,



Tagaytay Trip 9/3/16

Today we went to one of my places on my “Philippine Travel Bucket List”, Tagaytay! On the way there we stopped in Nuvali to wake board at Wake Park, which I had never done before, and it was pretty fun. We were pulled by cable machines instead of speedboats and obviously we started at the beginners’ pool. Eventually we became decent wake boarders and had enough courage to go to the advanced area (lol). I was too scared and intimidated to use a wake board, especially after seeing a couple of my group members face plant hard into the water after being whiplashed/dragged by the cable which I happened to catch on video! J Anyway, I ended up using a knee board and actually enjoyed it about the same as a wake board. I was only able to ride one straightaway because when it got to the turning part the cable stopped and all of a sudden whipped me to ride again and I definitely was not mentally or physically ready for that. So after being dragged sideways with a mouthful of disgusting, but possibly-definitely-absolutely-dirty water, I figured it was best to swim as fast as I can with my board to the side and did a walk of shame back to the deck where I decided to be camera woman instead. Then after my group and I figured that we can’t hang with the pros (there literally were pros there, most likely judging) we figured we’re better off returning to the kiddie pool. By the end of our wake board time we were actually able to start jumping off the deck and we made it all the way around the kiddie pool woot woot! *Applaud for the small victories*

After wake boarding we drove to Tagaytay and ate at a delicious restaurant with an amazing view called Buon Giorno. I ordered the seafood pasta and a minestrone soup, so I can get my veggies in my system obviously… In the menu, the seafood pasta sauce was described as spicy, but my sauce was not even close to spicy and I cannot handle spicy foods very well. The sauce had a beautiful color to it, a good mix of spices and veggies, and the seafood mix was delicious. The minestrone soup was good, I thought it had a really good balance of flavor and the veggies and noodles were cooked well. I also tried a Dalandan shake that came in a huge glass mug with a flexed arm as the handle- perfect for me! Dalandan comes from kalamansi, which is basically a lemony-limey thing in the Philippines (yeah, that description doesn’t help much). We use it as a lemon or a lime in our food and drinks; just order the dang shake, okay??? The only bad part was that a gigantic fly also wanted to try my Dalandan shake and ended up falling into my shake when I was only halfway done with it. Normally my insectophobia and germaphobia side would have freaked out and left the shake alone after that. But the starving side of me said to scoop the fly out as fast as possible and drink the shake until you feel like the steroid fly’s leftover germs are about be consumed. Then again, I did accidentally drink gulps of the wake boarding water, so I don’t think fly germs would’ve been that bad…

Did I mention the amazing view we had? It looked like a painting was in front of my eyes and I couldn’t stop staring at it. It was absolutely breath-taking and I will definitely be returning to this site to eat and try out the other restaurants around Buon Giorno. After our fairytale lunch we stopped by the most beautiful Starbucks we had ever seen (channeling my inner-American here). I didn’t order anything because I was so full from all the delicious food I had just consumed, but the view was just ridiculous. On the way back to Manila we stopped by Rowena’s which is famous in Tagaytay for their buko pies. The crust was thick and flaky at the same time and the buko with the filling they used was dense, moist, and sweet. I highly recommend stopping by here!

I also made a short travel video on my YouTube channel in case you guys wanna watch some wake boarding action and see a human being fly… hahaha




Obligatory Intro

I’m just going to throw out that I’m not great with introductions and I’m not close to being an amazing writer, so bear with me. I thought about starting a blog for a long time now, specifically when I started playing volleyball overseas last year. Oh yeah, I play volley, and most overseas players I know have blogs and I completely understand why. Being away from family is tough (I got lucky because my parents traveled with me back to their homeland), having different time zones is difficult for maintaining communication, and when you’re in a different country you just feel like there’s so much to say and everyone asks the same questions, so why not just put it all out there for everyone to read?

Okay, enough of the awkward intro paragraph, time for the boring flashback paragraphs for those who don’t know me. My name is Iris Tolenada, I just turned 25 on August 25th (yes I’m awesome), and I live the volley life. I grew up in a place called Antioch, which we Antiochans like to call “Yoc-Town” or “The Yoc.” Yes. I played high school volley at Deer Valley High School and played two years of club at Diablo Valley Volleyball Club and two years at Golden Bear Volleyball Club. I played all four years at San Francisco State University (GO GATORS!), graduated after five, and played for the Northern California Volleyball Association’s former team Dream Team. Yes, let’s cringe together. In February 2015, I played for Philips Gold in the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference where my team and I won a third place finish and where I obtained the Best Setter Award. I was also given the opportunity to travel with other PSL members to compete at the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship 2015 in Tianjin, China. Soooo that was a pretty cool experience to have the flag on my back!

Oh yeah, I coach too. When I played high school vb I attended the Stanford University camps and enjoyed every camp I had there because of the coaches. That was what I always remembered. When I got to college I actually wanted to give back to the program and people I’ve made great connections with, bless your hearts Stanford staff. Every year I coached at Stanford I fell more in love with coaching, then I coached club. I started at Slainte VBC in San Francisco, CA, then eventually I was given a huge opportunity to coach at Vision Volleyball Club. This past club season was my third season with Vision. Speaking of huge opportunities, I was the Volunteer Assistant Coach for Santa Clara University in California (GO BRONCOS!) for the 2015-2016 season. That in itself was an experience I will truly be thankful for, for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to today- I am not coaching at a university at the moment because I’m back in my second home-land, the Philippines to play another season! I say second because I have dual-citizenship (which I highly recommend) lol. This year I’m playing with most of my teammates from last year, and we are playing for Pocari Sweat in the Shakey’s V-League.

I think this concludes this introductory blog. I’m still adjusting to this “online diary” type of thing, hopefully it becomes something enjoyable for you all. I promise to add pictures, vlogs (I loooove editing videos and finally have good internet!!!), things not only volley-related, and any other suggestions you guys have.