Category: Personal

January Blog Challenge: Transmogrify 

This post is my entry to a blog challenge at work. Our blog challenge was inspired by this blog post.

Frog Prince in Taroko
Cihmu Bridge in Taroko, Hualien

Look closely. Can you spot the character from our childhood fairy tales? If you’re lucky, you might see it transform into a prince.

When I was little, my favorite stories were Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, and the Princess and the Pea. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a hidden self, which will only be revealed to the most worthy person. I guess that’s why I’ve always been a romantic — I’ve always believed that we can only bare our souls and connect to the right person at the right time. Hehe. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince, “it is only with the heart that one can see truly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

January Blog Challenge: Local

This post is my entry to a blog challenge at work. Our blog challenge was inspired by this blog post.

sunset over the West Philippine Sea in Masinloc

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “local”? For some reason, I think of an outrigger boat in the sea, with a fisherman balancing on the far end of the boat, preparing to cast his nets. I imagine the fisherman’s wife waiting for him on the shore, scanning the horizon for her returning lover’s silhouette.

Escolta, Manila

Why Philippines

I think we can all agree that 2016 is the worst year of the decade yet. In the Philippines, we just had ten stressful months where friendships and loyalties were tested. 

Conversations on social media felt a lot like a GE class where you had to listen to petty arguments by your know-it-all classmate, and watch your more intelligent peers fail to get through to him. (It still feels that way.)

I’ve read many posts by members of the intellectual elite, saying how they’ve given up on the Philippines after all the drama and the embarrassing display of stupidity. They’re very persuasive. But I refuse to give up on my fellow Filipinos. I still want to believe that we still have in us what Bonifacio saw when he chose Maypagasa as his nom de guerre. Besides, our solidarity with other human beings should not depend on where our national borders rest.

Today, I’m going to share photos I’ve collected over the past two years that remind me of why I’m proud to be a Filipino. 🙂

Coffee farmers
Coffee farmers from Atok, Benguet

For three generations, this family has been cultivating coffee beans. They still plant, grow, harvest, and roast the beans in the traditional way. (I still have some ground coffee beans I bought from this family. I keep it where I can see it every morning at home.)

Ifugao kids
Children from Banaue, Ifugao

These kids were waving at us before I took this photo. We were on top of a jeepney on our way to Batad, and they waved when they saw us. I thought Ifugao kids were friendly only to foreign tourists haha.

Atok, Benguet
Storytelling time with Igorot children

In 2014, I joined an outreach/immersion program in Benguet where we helped coffee farmers in harvesting beans. We also had a storytelling session for their kids in the afternoon. I know that at any time of the year, there are many ongoing efforts such as this, and it makes my heart swell.

Rosario, Zambales
Ducks in Rosario, Zambales

(No reason for this. I just like this photo because I took it during a time when I was overwhelmed with work. That trip convinced me that I don’t need to complicate my life. I can always pack up and leave the city behind. Life in the province is so much less stressful.)

T'boli children in Lake Sebu
T’boli children with my friends

We met these children when we visited Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. I’ve never met kids like them who are proud of their heritage and culture.

Masinloc, Zambales
Fisherfolk from Masinloc, Zambales

I took this photo last summer in Masinloc, Zambales. My mom and our family’s close friends were having dinner in a park while watching the sunset over the West Philippine Sea. It was an unforgettable moment for me.

How about you? Are you still proud to be Filipino?

 My Travel Bucket List

Last month, I started reading a terrific book: Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity! The main characters decided to travel the world in a week to cope with the death of a dear friend.

While I don’t have the money to waste on an impromptu trip to North Africa and the Balkans, I’m intrigued by the idea of getting on a flight to leave everyone I know behind and discover new worlds as the characters did.

If I had an immoral amount of money that I could spend on anything I wanted, I’d visit the following regions and countries, with a one-way ticket at each turn.

New Zealand

New Zealand landscape
Photo by Phillip Capper

I’ll start my journey with a flight to New Zealand, where I’d roll on the hills and run screaming after rabbits or whatever in Hobbiton. Then I’ll visit shepherds and roll down the hills with sheep. Sheep! Who doesn’t like sheep?

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Photo by Pedro Szekely

Then I’ll fly to Peru and get a guided tour of Machu Picchu. I have to see this place for myself once in my life.


Tasiilaq, Greenland
Photo by Christine Zenino

I think Greenland is everything the Philippines is not. They could not have produced a Bjork if they weren’t. If I could rank every culture based on how different it is from mine (as I see it), Greenland would be at the top of my list.

Northern Ireland

Photo by Andreas Haupt

Who wouldn’t want to see the Iron Throne? Well even without that, I’d still think Belfast is one of the most interesting places on earth because of its history.


Landscape in Scotland
Photo by Moyan Brenn

I don’t think I need to explain why I want to see Scotland. Just look at that.


Murakami painted a very inviting picture of Greece in some of his memorable works. I want to visit and experience Greece to see if I will also disappear into the night when I hear music in the streets of Mykonos.


Istanbul from the Bosphorus
Photo by Moyan Brenn

The Ottoman Empire has always fascinated me. I want to see the beautiful architectural pieces created in that era. Architecture and culture are also the reasons why I want to visit the city below.

Jerusalem, Israel

Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall
Photo by Peter Mulligan

Khyber Pass in the Hindukush Region

Located on the “Roof of the World,” this road used to be a part of the ancient Silk Road. I want to pass by the road that has been instrumental in the conquest and trade of ancient states. Then I will continue my journey to the next two countries, both of which I am dying to know more about.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Photo by nitsuga


Photo by Daniel

I think that my soul belongs in Japan. When I turn 40, I will move to Kyoto then travel to Sapporo every winter.


Photo by Eugene Lim

Then I’ll spend the rest of my days in Taiwan to learn Fookien and become this soybean vendor‘s wife. I’ll study classical Chinese literature and offer to teach English to the elderly in the mountains.

If money were no object, where would you go? What places would you visit?

Gen. Luna's birthplace

Celebrating Independence Day

I am a person who deeply values tradition and rituals. Every year, I celebrate Independence Day by taking a walk in Intramuros or Ermita. This year, I took a break from that tradition to spend time with my family and celebrate Father’s Day a week early.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani
Eduardo Castrillo’s monument at Bantayog

Bantayog ng mga Bayani

Together with my family, I started the day with a quick trip to Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City. We joined the silent protest against the president-elect’s decision to bury Marcos in Libingan ng mga Bayani.

About 500 people came to share stories about their experiences during Martial Law. Some brought sandwiches and lugaw for other attendees. A handful of people brought their children, which was very heartening.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani
Toym Imao’s sculpture

Marcos, Not a Hero

A personal note: I’ve always been very vocal about my views on the late dictator and how he terrorized and stole from his own people. In 2012, I even created a Facebook page to counter the lies about the Marcos regime that I read on the Internet. So to watch BBM’s brazen attempt to revise history is a bit depressing for me.

(If you love the Philippines, and if you agree that plundering megalomaniacs do not deserve to be called a hero, make your voice be heard and sign this petition.)

Lunch at Binondo

Binondo Church
Binondo Church

We had lunch at my favorite restaurant in Binondo, Lan Zhou La Mien, where we had a hearty meal for four for less than a thousand pesos. A bowl of noodles costs less than P200, and it’s already good for sharing. We also ordered a 15-piece platter of kuchay dumplings, which was basically a steal at P180.

Lan Zhou La Mien
Dimsum and noodles from Lan Zhou La Mien

Afterwards, we went on a short walk to San Nicolas, which is a few blocks away from Binondo Church. We paid a visit to Gen. Antonio Luna’s birthplace in Urbiztondo, right across Rajah Soliman High School.

Heneral Luna's birthplace
Gen. Luna’s birthplace in San Nicolas

Last on our list was the National Museum in Ermita. They don’t charge entrance fees on Sundays, so you can bring your whole family without worrying about your budget. Learn more about the National Museum on their website.

How did your family celebrate this year’s Independence Day?

Not an April Fool’s joke: fire hits UP’s Faculty Center

This morning, the University of the Philippines’ Faculty Center was gutted by a ravenous fire. According to news sites, the fire began around 1:15 AM and was completely put out by 11:25 AM. Investigators said that the fire was caused by the faulty electrical wiring on the third floor.

Designed by Carlos Arguelles, the Faculty Center houses the offices of most of the departments from the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP).

UPD Chancellor Michael Tan said that no one was hurt in the fire. He must have missed the sound of thousands of hearts breaking at the loss of such a gem. Thousands of articles, drafts, paintings, antique furniture, and out-of-print books are stored in the offices of the professors, and I don’t want to know how much that would cost.

Sic transit gloria mundi

When I shared a photo of the raging fire with my officemates (who are mostly from CAL), some of them cried. I didn’t, because I couldn’t imagine how such a tragedy could fall upon my beloved university. I still can’t wrap my head around what happened.

Faculty Center UP
View from the jeep stop

After all, this was the building where I first read about Marx and Socrates. This was where I discovered literature and languages, history and sociology. I remember the smell of the moldy walls, and the soft light of the setting sun filtered by the grimy windows as I waited for my turn at the photocopying machine. I remember the first forum I attended there, the first time I visited our department’s office, and the crushing dread I felt at the end of every semester as I checked whether I failed a subject or not.

I’m rambling. I’m still upset. But as Sir Jun Cruz Reyes said on his Facebook page,

Jun Cruz Reyes

If you have any idea how we can help the current students or our faculty, please leave a comment.

UPDATE: Reach out to the administrators of the following Facebook pages to donate old books and readings:

DAS Book Drive
Rebuild the UP Diliman Faculty Center
Sagip Readings