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.

Thud.

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

Squish.

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 water 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 aqueous settlements 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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Eastern Charm

Shanghai, China

October 19, 2013

In the wee hours of October 19, 2013, China Eastern Airlines landed on Philippine soil for the first time. The maiden flight arrived on schedule from its hub, Shanghai. Airline officials and staff were on hand to welcome both passengers and crew with bouquets and photo ops. I would soon have the same privilege of being among the first passengers from Manila to board flight MU212 departing for Shanghai at 4:55AM.

China Eastern Airlines Flight MU212 from Manila arrives @ Pudong International Airport

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The World is Square

Kathmandu / Patan, Nepal

February 24 – 25, 2013

For centuries, life in three ancient kingdoms in Kathmandu Valley – Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur – has revolved around their respective royal and religious centers: Durbar Square. These kingdoms have since become cities, and each of their squares is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The squares are not kept at arm’s length from the public. No velvet rope, only an entrance fee for foreign visitors. Nepal citizens (I heard they prefer this term over “locals”) go about their daily life in and around ancient temples, palaces, courtyards, altars, and marketplaces in these squares that remain as vibrant today as they may have been in 15th-century Malla Dynasty.

Patan Man

Patan Man @ Patan Durbar Square

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Lightning Visit to Bacong

Bacong, Negros Oriental, the Philippines

June 25, 2011

“Fierce as a lion, quick as a lightning bolt” – that was Leon Kilat (lion and lightning, respectively). The nickname may suggest the stuff of legends, but the man was a real revolutionary hero, a Katipunero named Pantaleon Villegas. He led a successful revolt against colonial Spain in 1898, the first Katipunan uprising in Cebu, or perhaps even in the Visayas. Shame on me; I had never heard of him and only learned about his place in history when I visited his hometown, Bacong, with my family. The world is indeed my classroom.

Pantaleon Villegas aka Leon Kilat @ Bacong, Negros Oriental

Pantaleon Villegas aka Leon Kilat @ Bacong, Negros Oriental

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Touched by a Goddess

Kathmandu and Patan, Nepal

February 24 – 25, 2013

Today I saw the highest point on earth and met a living goddess. Just your regular day in Nepal.

So went my Facebook status. Nepal occupies not only a sliver of land high above the rest of the earth, but also the earthbound dwellings of deities. Mysticism pervades the rarefied air of this Himalayan kingdom, where ancient idols at street corners have been smoothened by centuries of veneration, enduring and unchanging through time that seems to have stalled.

Namaste! Sporting the tika applied by no less than the Living Goddess of Patan

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How Red is the Valley

Valencia, Negros Oriental, the Philippines

June 25, 2011

Baffling plumes of smoke were rising from the rocky mountainside by the zigzag highway. It couldn’t have been a swidden; the slope was too steep for crops. The van driver claimed it was sulfur emanating from hairline fissures in the rocks. True enough, a slightly sulfuric scent hung in the air when we stopped for some snapshots.

Solfataras on the Slopes of Mt. Talinis

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