Sub-Zero in the Sub-Tropics

Shanghai and Hong Kong, China

February 19 – 20, 2012 / January 31 – February 4, 2018

I went to bed fully clothed: padded jacket, sweater, scarf, shirt, jeans, thermal undies, socks, gloves, beanie. The works. Only my shoes were off. The wintry chill crept in through the tightly-shuttered windows and into several layers of my clothing. I threw the comforter over my head and curled up in a fetal position. There was nowhere to take cover from the cold. My only source of precious warmth was a portable heater, just slightly bigger than a computer speaker.

Wintry Trees @ Shanghai

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Boost and Bust in Busuanga

Coron and Busuanga, Palawan, the Philippines

May 1 and 3, 2017

BAM! That DC Comics-style thought bubble exploded in my head as we all bounced off our seats. The bumpiest landing ever was more a slam dunk than a touchdown. Perhaps it was that way for small planes with propellers. Or not. The landing gears slammed on the runway like dead weight; I expected the aircraft to break apart. But it was just my heart. I gathered my wits once the plane was taxiing toward the terminal in one piece. Welcome to Busuanga!

TTT @ Francisco B. Reyes Airport, Busuanga

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Something Fishy Too

Tokyo, Japan

January 31, 2017

Two-na, too-na, tuna! I went the way of chilled tuna that had traveled up the Pacific rim from the warm tropical waters of my archipelago to this chilly fish port in Tokyo. My early morning visit to Tsukiji Fish Market was a sequel to my tour of General Santos City Fish Port Complex three years prior. Yellowfin tuna from Celebes Sea were prepped in GenSan before they turned up sashimi-grade in Tsukiji.

TTT and Taka @ Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

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Homestay and Hotel @ Yangshuo and Guilin

Yangshuo County and Guilin, China

September 3 – 8, 2017

The next best thing to living abroad was staying at local people’s homes. I never wanted to crash on anyone’s couch, though. I put a premium on comfort and privacy – both mine and my host’s. Houses that doubled as B&Bs and hotels owned by local families were as good as it got, and both were a dime a dozen in Yangshuo and Guilin. Language barrier considered, I could stay at such accommodations only with the help of my Chinese friend Quinn. He took charge of searching and booking homestays and hotels, many of which had non-English websites. It gave me an up-close-and-personal experience, not only of the place, but of its people and culture.

Quinn @ Riverside Retreat Hotel, Yangshuo County

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A Trip Down Mommy Memory Lane

Xingping and Yangshuo County, Guilin, China

September 4, 2017

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Grief got me to Guilin. My trip was a pilgrimage of sorts in the hope of tracing Mom’s footsteps in southern China back in 2002. I could not join her in that trip then. There would not be a second chance. Mom went home to heaven in 2015.

Mom @ Yangshuo County, Guilin (October 2002)

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Out of Africa into Calauit

Calauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan, the Philippines

May 4, 2017

Bizarre on a Marcosian level. In a tiny island in the Philippines, African wildlife roamed freely. No wall contained them other than the sea. Giraffes, zebras, and several species of antelope had come to call Calauit Island in Palawan their new home. The safari park was one of the legacies of the Marcos dictatorship. The official story told of a conservation collaboration between Kenya and the Philippines circa mid-70s to establish a wildlife sanctuary away from war and drought. But of course, some quarters begged to differ, believing it was a front for the hunting hobby of Marcos’ son. In any case, decades after the strongman’s ouster, some of the species, now in their second or third generation, had survived the habitat displacement.

Giraffe Feeding @ Calauit Safari Park

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Food and Ninja Moves in Yamanashi

Fujikawaguchiko and Oshino, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

January 31 – February 1, 2017

Ninja called. I came.

Seriously, what could top my first snow experience and first ski lesson in Yamanashi? Practically none, but other treats this prefecture near Tokyo could offer were more than charming. That turned out to be food so oishi and some ninja moves so out of the blue.

TTT @ Oshino Ninja Village, Yamanashi Prefecture

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Tour of Luzon

Tarlac and Ilocos Sur, the Philippines

February 25 – 28, 2017

It started out as an out-of-town sleepover, not the epic road trip it ended up to be. Friends and I drove to Tarlac at Perfy’s behest. She had just arrived from the US on her dad’s birthday. The bienvenida-cum-birthday party was to be held at the newly-built Limpin’s Farmhouse, her mom’s pet project. It was the resort’s soft opening as well. The triple celebration was a family affair.

Limpin’s Farmhouse @ Victoria, Tarlac

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Bluetiful and Greencredible

Coron, Busuanga Island, Palawan, the Philippines

May 2, 2017

As above, so below. From the plane window, Busuanga Island gleamed like the bejeweled paradise that it truly was. The bluest sapphire wrapped its entirety; the greenest emerald adorned each cove and every inlet. Such was nature: spectacular at any perspective – bird’s eye view or sea level.

Bird’s Eye View of Busuanga Island, Palawan

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My Japan Home

Tokyo, Japan

January 28 – February 3, 2017

Ah, to be in a small town trapped in a big city. In just a week’s stay, I felt in the zone in Taito-ku, one of Tokyo’s more traditional wards encompassing the quaint districts of Ueno and Asakusa. It had the best of both worlds. I could live here, I thought. Having been welcomed so warmly by friendly, familiar faces accounted for that sense of home. My student-turned-friend Taka came by within minutes of my arrival.

TTT with Takafumi @ Asakusa, Tokyo

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Yokohama, Japan

February 3, 2017

Like a moth to a flame. That was how I had a night of light with my naughty friend Yuka. She suggested we saw the annual extravagant LED light display, commonly known in Japan as “illumination.” The word effectively lured me to scenic harbor city Yokohama. A walk on the boardwalk certainly delivered. The skyline was wholly lit-up with a galaxy of colored pin lights outshining actual stars.

Cosmo Clock 21 @ Minato Mirai, Yokohama

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Reunion Tour

Antipolo City, the Philippines

July 10, 2017

Squad goal achieved! Way back when the world was not yet a wide web, I lost touch with grade school friends Ramir and Antonieto, one of my first beshies (best friend in non-millennial speak). It took the invention of Facebook to reconnect us. And a road trip through Antipolo, where Tony (three decades had cut his name) relocated in the intervening years, to regroup our squad, long-disbanded before the Spice Girls’ swan song!

With Tony and Ramir @ Hinulugang Taktak

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3W for a Salaryman

Tokyo, Japan

January 30 and February 2, 2017

3W was shorthand for three sales a week. For us put-upon salespeople, though, it meant work, work, work! That was my ancient past as a life planner for a Japanese insurance company in Manila. Our big boss, Sawaki-san, demanded nothing less than Japanese-style work ethic. I had never looked back on it as fondly as I did in Tokyo Metro 20 years later. I fancied myself as a salaryman for a day.

TTT as Salaryman @ Tokyo Metro

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Tale of Three Towers

Seoul, South Korea / Tokyo, Japan / Guangzhou, China

October 31, 2014 / January 29, 2017 / September 8, 2017

With a little help from my friend, I snagged a photo op with the 236-meter tall Namsan Tower in Seoul. I mounted a ledge for maximum exposure. And raised both arms to be sure. Cindy clicked the camera.


She did get the entire tower within the frame. I was not as lucky. At least I could spot my forehead!

A Bit of TTT and Namsan Tower

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