October 20 – 21, 2013
It took a few turns before it dawned on me that I was lost in a complex labyrinth of rock. I could not even retrace my steps to where I had entered. People who could help me could not understand me; those I could ask were just as clueless. I broke into a sweat despite the autumn aftie chill. I didn’t mind losing my way, but I did mind missing the appointed time given by our tour guide to regroup. I couldn’t be the idiot that held up everyone’s schedule. Finding the exit was a fluke after I had been running in circles like a hamster on a wheel. By then, what I had feared happened. I was the last tourist on the bus. As I got on panting, the whole group erupted into applause and cheers. I turned redder than Chairman Mao.
TTT and the Prettiest Photobomber @ Lion Grove Garden, Suzhou
General Santos City, the Philippines
March 27 / 29-30, 2014
Land as far as the eye could see – that was the view from the plane making its final approach to General Santos City. In an archipelago, it is uncommon to see so much land, such horizon-hogging terrain uninterrupted by the sea. It stretched out beguilingly, unending and inexhaustible. No wonder then that my mother’s uncle had claimed a slice of this vast open country long before I was born. Mom and I made this trip to Mindanao to visit his descendants, most of whom we had not met.
Touchdown @ General Santos International Airport, Tambler, South Cotabato
Manila, the Philippines
May 18, 2014
My grandfather must have turned in his grave. He was the first Filipino Baptist minister in my hometown in the 1930s; fast forward to about 80 years later and his daughter – my mother – declared she wanted to do a visita iglesia in Manila. As a PK (pastor’s kid), Mom could count with one hand the times she had been inside a Catholic church. Perhaps because of this blog, she finally caught on to my fondness for religious art in these colonial era churches.
Wedding @ San Agustin Church, Manila
Tarlac, the Philippines
May 1, 2014
My friends and I had to count years before we found the time to take this road trip. Our plans for a rustic R&R in the lupain (farmland) of our haciendera friend Perfy always fell through, our free time never in synch. Conflicting schedules aside, there was never a reason urgent enough to drop all other plans – until my BFF, Danson, came home for a month-long vacay after seven years overseas. Thanks to a non-working holiday, all five of us crammed into Vang’s car and drove to Victoria, Tarlac on Labor Day.
Bestie and TTT @ Isdaan Floating Restaurant, Tarlac
February 23 – 28, 2013
The red brick terminal exuded that retro vibe. In the absence of connecting tubes, passengers deplaned onto the tarmac. Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport was decidedly quaint, a throwback to the airports of old before the age of glass and steel. I had landed, not only in a remote kingdom, but in the distant past.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal
Singapore, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
November 21 – 25, 2011 / February 29, 2013
Singaporean cuisine is certainly not bad; it’s just not distinctive. The city is a melting pot, so is its kitchen. The dishes call to mind other Asian cuisines. Rather “reductive,” to borrow Madonna’s vocabulary. Still, I relished all its familiarity, more so its sweets. As the most universal taste, sweetness doesn’t demand uniqueness.
Ice Cream Sandwich
Ice Cream Sandwich (Phia Ice Cream) @ Singapore
Puerto Princesa City, the Philippines
March 24 – 26, 2013
Ten percent of the Philippines lies on hard yet soluble bedrock. For millions of years, water, aided by tropical heat, has carved out a large swathe of Visayas and the entire length of Palawan into a karst landscape of sawtooth peaks, whitewashed cliffs, and rocky mountains undermined by a network of caves.
Mom @ Karst Mountain Elephant Cave, Puerto Princesa, Palawan