Crouching Lion, Leaning Tiger

Suzhou, China

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

TTT and the Prettiest Photobomber @ Lion Grove Garden, Suzhou

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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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