Southern Frontierland

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

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Three Weddings and a Breastfeeding Virgin

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

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The Fruit of Our Labor Day

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 Me @ Isdaan Floating Restaurant, Tarlac

Bestie and TTT @ Isdaan Floating Restaurant, Tarlac

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A Throwback Trip

Kathmandu, Nepal

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

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Street Food to High Tea

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

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The Backbone of Palawan

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

Mom @ Karst Mountain Elephant Cave, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

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Lord of the Animal Kingdom

Kathmandu / Patan, Nepal

February 24 – 27, 2013

In one fell swoop, a hawk glided down the busy street and dropped the prey dangling from its claws.


A huge rodent bounced off the trunk of a parked car.


The furry corpse, flattened by the impact, did not even merit a glance from fellow pedestrians. It was a scene straight out of Animal Planet played out in downtown Kathmandu.

Hawk over Kathmandu

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The Spirit of the Houses

Bagac, Bataan, the Philippines

August 10 – 11, 2013

“What if there’s mumu (ghost)?” Mhel posted in our Viber thread her concern – or maybe excitement – about visiting old houses. Old does not necessarily mean haunted. I spent my childhood in a creaky old house across from a cemetery and not once did I witness any paranormal activity. Perhaps that’s why I dig the old world charm and long history of heritage houses and none of their supposed spirit dwellers.

Casa Bizantina @ Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Casa Bizantina @ Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

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Gud AM

Tanay, Rizal Province, the Philippines

October 6, 2013

What could be better than sleeping in on a Sunday morning? An early morning road trip, if you were my friend Ki. Though it didn’t feel that way as I was dragging myself out of bed, the vistas of mountains and valleys of the Sierra Madre Range were worth waking up early for. With the light weekend traffic, it took less than an hour to reach the highlands of Rizal Province. The gentle mountain breeze rippling through olive green cogon-covered slopes whispered in our ears, the tranquility broken only by the vrooming convoys of motorcyclists that zipped past us.

Mt. Tarangka from Marcos Highway, Tanay, Rizal (photo taken using Samsung Galaxy Pocket)

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Grace Like the Underground River

Puerto Princesa City, the Philippines

March 25, 2013

Youth, large, lusty, loving – youth full of grace, force, fascination.

Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?

Walt Whitman wrote the words that my mother seems to live by. Her dream of visiting the Grand Canyon came true the previous year, but she ain’t done yet. She still had Puerto Princesa Underground River, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, to check off her bucket list. She had just turned 80, not an age for dilly-dallying. We flew to Palawan that summer with my eldest brother and nephew.

Underground River

Sailing into Puerto Princesa Underground River, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature

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Drawing Inspiration from a Water Town

Zhouzhuang, Jiangsu Province, China

October 20, 2013

Picturesque towns dot the waterlogged Yangtze basin between Shanghai and Suzhou. Collectively known as “Venice of the East” for their capillary network of canals, gondolas gliding through stone bridges, narrow cobblestone alleys, and riverside houses directly accessible from the water, these water towns are ancient, of which Zhouzhuang, established almost a millennium ago, is the oldest.

Postcard Pretty Zhouzhuang: Illustration by Wang Chong Zhou

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Sculpting Singapore

Singapore, Singapore

November 23 – 24, 2011

It’s said that public art reflects the identity of a place. In the case of Singapore, its strict rules, economic progress, and antiseptic sheen could gloss over the city’s intangible heritage and unseen realities, but I had the chance to get acquainted with the city-state through the many sculptures that defined it for me.

Hanging Out with the Boys of the First Generation @ Singapore

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Keeping the Faith and Heritage

Kalayaan, Laguna, the Philippines

November 13, 2011

The church in Barrio Longos stands as a vigilant sentinel of centuries past; its baroque stone facade and belfry, blackened by the elements and overgrown with weeds, bear witness to the ravages of time and circumstance. The church appears forgotten, yet additions such as a wooden main portal, a door awning, and latticed windows – palliative attempts to evoke its lost grandeur – show that it has not been completely abandoned.

Fr. _____ , Parish Priest of San Juan Bautista Church, Longos, Kalayaan, Laguna

Fr. Gabriel Ma. Delfino, Parish Priest of San Juan Bautista Church, Longos, Kalayaan, Laguna

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Merry Mom

Quezon City, the Philippines

November 9, 2013

What could be more fabulous than ushering in the Christmas spirit with lights and music? Dazzling lights dancing to yuletide carols beckoned Mom and me to Ayala Triangle in Makati a year ago. This year, we didn’t have to go far. The first light and sound show in Quezon City recently opened at TriNoma, Ayala Malls’ premiere shopping-dining-entertainment center in our home city. I had received an invite to attend the launch of Merry Musical Lights Show, an event made for a mommy date.

Amazeballs Mom @ TriNoMa Merry Musical Light & Sound Show

Mom @ TriNoma Merry Musical Light & Sound Show

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