Roussillon la Rouge

Roussillon, Vaucluse, France

June 15, 2019

There was truth in tourist advertising that touted Roussillon as one of the most beautiful villages of France. From a distance, the hilltop town bloomed like a rose in the verdant vineyards of Luberon under the deep blue sky of the Mediterranean. What set it apart from all the postcard-pretty Provençal communes was its perch on a rock as red as blood and as orange as a flame. The rouge of Roussillon jazzed up her small-town charm.

Roussillon @ Vaucluse
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Coasting Along the Coastline of Churches

Argao / Dalaguete / Oslob / Santander, Cebu, the Philippines

March 24 – 26, 2018

I was smitten by the rustic charm of Boljoon. Back in 2011, Ki and I were on a road trip tracing the southern coast of Cebu. We hopped off the bus in the rain and ran for shelter in the town’s church by the sea. The visit was brief but the fond memories lingered. Seven years later, we found ourselves traversing the same coastline from Cebu City to Liloan Port down south. This time, we gave Boljoon’s neighboring towns a peek by stringing together quick stops at their Spanish-era churches.

Fray Julian Bermejo “El Capitan Parroco” @ Oslob, Cebu
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The Promise

Wadi Musa and Madaba, Jordan

October 8 – 9, 2019

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

Deuteronomy 34:1-4

Almost but not quite. The Promised Land was within sight, yet God barred Moses from finally leading the Israelites into it after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. At the final approach to the finish line, he was taken off the race. I could only imagine how the finality of God’s punishment must have weighed heavily on Moses, elderly by then, as I surveyed the panorama of the Holy Land atop Mount Nebo.

TTT @ Mount Nebo
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What’s in a Name – The Prequel

Legazpi City, the Philippines

November 23 and 25, 2015

My unusual name – both given (Aniano) and family (Poliquit) – had always been a matter of curiosity. In a stroke of serendipity, I found the origin of my first name in Cairo where St. Anianus was regarded as Egypt’s first Christian convert. Four years prior, I thought I was about to crack the mystery of my uncommon surname’s origin and meaning in a trip to Bicol.

Mayon Volcano and Ligñon Hill from Legazpi Airport
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Contemplating Sky and Sea

Casablanca, Morocco

June 18, 2019

Jutting out of the skyline of the densely packed ancienne medina, the world’s second tallest minaret beckoned us. Ki and I walked to the direction of the newly-invigorated Boulevard de la Corniche along the Atlantic coast. We followed an elderly man with a walking cane crossing the scenic highway toward Casablanca’s architectural jewel – Hassan II Mosque. As if emerging from the ocean, the majestic place of worship marked the western tip of the Islamic world.

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Armageddon Ground Zero

Megiddo, Israel / Palestine

October 6, 2019

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

Revelation 16:16

The drone of a distant fighter jet reverberated throughout Jezreel Valley as I stood at Armageddon, the name derived from Har Megiddo, Hebrew for Mount Megiddo, an actual place located in a kibbutz called Tel Megiddo in Northern Israel. Tel referred to a mound of land, many of which dotted the entire country. In modern times, the historic hill had become a protected archaeological site, Tel Megiddo National Park, containing remnants of ancient settlements dating as far back as 3,500 years ago. Of course, the place was more famously known as the prophesied ground zero of the apocalypse.

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Living Paintings

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

June 7, 2019

Maids and mothers working at home, nature in action or inaction, food and flowers on the table. Whatever the scene, tableaux vivants and still life paintings were the photographs of 17th-century Netherlands. Dutch Realism rendered these static and silent paintings as “living pictures” evoking movement and texture, sound and smell. A visit to Rijksmuseum, particularly the Gallery of Honor, provided a peek at a time in history we would otherwise only see with our mind’s eye.

Rijksmuseum @ Amsterdam
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The Way of the Cross

Jerusalem, Israel / Palestine

October 5, 2019

The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20

Despite the scant biblical description, Via Dolorosa stretched to about a kilometer through Old Jerusalem marked by nine of the 14 Stations of the Cross. The main reason for a trip a la sainte terre – to walk where Jesus walked – took a literal meaning on this cobbled path that may or may not be the one Jesus trod as he carried the cross to Calvary. Like most sacred sites in the Holy Land, geographic accuracy took a backseat to the event commemorated. Traditionally, the Friday procession route had been taken by Christian pilgrims for centuries.

The Bread of Life @ Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem
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Enter the Dragon, Exit the Tiger

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

December 26, 2019

Entering a dragon’s throat and coming out of a tiger’s mouth symbolizes turning bad luck into good fortune.

The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at the southern shore of man-made Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung came with that written instruction. It was simple enough yet so fierce: Enter the Dragon and exit just below the Eye of the Tiger. I carbon-dated myself with those retro references, but I couldn’t help it. As products of their time, the pair of pagodas evoked the technicolor 1970s when they were built.

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Wadi Musa, Ma’an Governorate, Jordan

October 9, 2019

At first I was amazed, I was Petra-fied. The ancient city carved out of rose-red sandstone was both a marvel of nature and architecture. A deep and winding fissure that cut through the rocky desert landscape was awesome in itself. That it led to the cliff-sculpted classical façade of an ancient tomb put the wonder in wonderful. Petra had been voted – rightfully so – as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Who will bring me to the fortified city?

    Who will lead me to Edom?

Psalms 108:10
TTT @ Bab as-Siq (Outer Siq) and Obelisk Tomb, Petra
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Manila in the Claws of Light 2

Manila, the Philippines

November 30, 2020

No pandemic could put a damper on the development of our capital city. The good mayor of Manila, Yorme Isko, had kick-started his revitalization initiatives at the area around Manila City Hall before the world ground to a halt in the first quarter of 2020. While I spent months at home on self-imposed lockdown, public works in the city hardly paused.

Ki @ Lagusnilad Underpass, Manila
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O Come Ye to Bethlehem

Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, Israel / Palestine

October 3 – 4, 2019

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

A non-believer once argued with me, “How can you believe that Jesus is God? Man cannot be God!”

I countered, “Yes, man cannot be God. But God can be man.”

That was how I distilled the foundation of the Christian faith in 140 characters or less, a communicative length that millennials understood. The young man conceded with a seemingly enlightened smile. A couple of years later, I would walk the town where the divine was made flesh. The words I had sung in countless Christmas cantatas took on a geographic context. 

TTT @ Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem
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Dome of Light

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

December 24 – 28, 2019

Was it an art museum? A grand cathedral? An alien starship? Ki and I collected our jaws off the floor when we emerged from the subway platform. A dome of stained glass backlit to dramatic effect encompassed the lobby of Formosa Boulevard Station. Kaohsiung supposedly had nothing going for it if I were to go by my former students’ opinion of their hometown, but the city went all out to impress us in our first hour upon arrival. And we had yet to step out of the train station.

Formosa Boulevard Station @ Kaohsiung

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See Cebu

Cebu City, the Philippines

October 18 – 21, 2019

Only when I threw plans and itineraries to the wind did I make our real-time discoveries. It paid that Ki, an honorary Cebuano by virtue of his affinity to the city, led the way around Cebu. We spent three days urban trekking in both old and new sides of town.

TTT @ SM Seaside City Cebu
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Good Things Come in Trees

Marrakesh (Marrakech), Morocco

June 25 – 27, 2019

Marrakech lent itself well to urban trekking. Ki and I explored this walking city exclusively on foot. Wide sidewalks shaded by trees, tall and short, were irresistibly welcoming. But a stretch of Avenue Mohammed V along gentrified Gueliz had a surprise up its sleeve: a row of tree sculptures. It was a genre of public art that we were not familiar with.

TTT with Tree Sculpture by Moulayhafid Taqouraite @ Avenue Mohammed V, Marrakesh

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