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.

Success!

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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Bare Back, Full Frontal, Inside Out

Narusawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

January 31, 2017

When in Japan, get nekkid as the Japanese do! It was time to get the hang of letting it all hang out in full view of friends and strangers alike. In the (un)dressing room, I was still bundled up in winter wear, less for warmth than for self-consciousness. My Japanese friends Taka and Koji, comfortable in their own (bare) skin, approached to inquire what was taking me so long. I peeled off my gloves and sweater ten…ta…tive…ly as in an awkward striptease. I stopped short at my skivvies. Then I uttered a sheepish admission, “I’m shy,” before doing a 180 and unwittingly mooning them! I caught their impish grin and, just like that, I was cured of any qualms about public nudity.

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Yuyari Onsen @ Yamanashi Prefecture

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While They Were Sleeping

Tabaco, Albay, the Philippines and Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

November 22, 2015 and February 1, 2017

No kissing of the ground here as I wouldn’t want to wake these sleeping beauties. It didn’t mean I was less smitten at first sight by iconic Mt. Mayon (2,463 m or 8,081 ft) in the Philippines and Mt. Fuji (3,776.24 m or 12,389.2 ft) in Japan, both seductively conical and dangerously active stratovolcanoes. At times spewing fire and brimstone but mostly notoriously shy, these badass beauties were known to hide their graceful form behind a veil of clouds.

Mayon Volcano

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My Snow Angels

Narusawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

January 31, 2017

To a tropical boy, snow was as real as Santa Claus. I knew which was fictional, but snow was just as much the stuff of children’s literature and my childhood dream. Then “adulting” cured me of my boyhood fascination with frozen precipitation.

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Flanked by my Snow Angels, Koji (L) and Taka (R), with Mt. Fuji in the background @ Fujiten Snow Resort, Yamanashi, Japan

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Hamming It Up @ Hamilo

Nasugbu, Batangas, the Philippines

January 5 – 7, 2017

When we could not take a vacation at an exclusive resort, we borrowed it. Without a condo unit at swanky Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club to our name, Ki asked an old friend for an overnight stay in her furnished studio. It trumped paying at the resort hotel or Airbnb rental. No sooner had she given the green light than we drove a few hours south of Manila to posh Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu.

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Sunset @ Pico de Loro Cove, Hamilo Coast

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Digging Digos

Digos City and Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, the Philippines

March 27 – 29, 2014

A city without an airport – that meant it was far from touristy. That was exactly how we found Digos, capital of Davao del Sur. Mom, sister, friend, and I flew in via GenSan in South Cotabato. Davao City was half that distance, but my brother who planned this trip thought otherwise. In the age of Google, we relied on assumptions. Well-played.

TTT @ Leling Beach, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur

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Paradise In My Eyes

Sipalay and Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

November 2 – 4, 2016

We started on the wrong foot. We were just a party of three, but one woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Actually, he did not even sleep a wink. At our 7AM call time, he was just about ready to turn in. Never mind that we had a bus to catch for a 6-hour ride to a remote beach, and that we could miss the last boat ride to our resort. Alas, the majority had to acquiesce to the lone game-changer.

The Splendor of Sipalay

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Gross to Gorgeous

Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal, the Philippines

November 20, 2016

From ewww to ahhhh. And vice versa. A road trip on a whim one Sunday afternoon ran the gamut of vowel-sound exclamations. After church, what was left of the weekend was enough time for an adventure. Or at least a joy ride. Ki drove aimlessly, eastward, until we stopped by the main church of Montalban (now called Rodriguez).

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The Selfie Lord @ Wawa Dam

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Through the Wilderness

Murcia, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

October 31, 2016

Sometimes the wilderness was your own backyard. Born and raised in Bacolod, I was perhaps the last person of my generation to visit the town next-door. It took almost half a century and a change of city to get me to step foot on Murcia.

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TTT made it through the wilderness @ the 7th Waterfall of Mambukal

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Touting the Tout

Daraga, Albay, the Philippines

November 21, 2015

You know the drill. Pretend to lean on it, rest your elbow on it, lick it like a lolly, strangle it like your ex’s neck. The funnier the pose (but who’s laughing?), the better (arguably). These done-to-death touristy photo ops seem to be the be-all and end-all of Cagsawa Ruins. The sobering history of how it came to be is reduced to photo effects. It has gone down the pathetic road of the Tower of Pisa.

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Bicol Expressway to the Heart

Legazpi City and Tabaco, Albay, the Philippines

November 21 – 25, 2015

Pardon the pun, but the (Bicol express) way to the heart was through the stomach. We never imagined our trip to southern Luzon would take a delectable turn. My sojourning squad found that it was viand, not only volcano, that put Bicol in the map.

Bicolano Cuisine Spread

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Bicol Playlist: A Musical

Camalig / Daraga / Legazpi City, Albay and Gubat / Barcelona, Sorsogon, the Philippines

November 21 – 25, 2015

What was it about Bicol that unleashed my inner balladeer, so much so that I would break into song mid-tour? The voice kept under my breath quite suddenly broke out so exuberantly, and without shame. I captured some of those off-the-cuff (and off-my-rocker) musical moments on video for Instagram posterity.

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Mayon Volcano @ Quituinan Hill, Camalig, Albay

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Las Mujeres de Malolos

Malolos, the Philippines

October 17, 2015

A woman’s place was at home. Their role in society was limited to performing wifely and motherly duties, and they most likely opened their mouths in public only to say prayers. Such was the life of the spice islands’ girls during the Spanish colonial era. But a group of 20 young women, many of whom still in their teens, in Malolos, Bulacan was ahead of their time. They insisted on education in place of domestication. Exactly the kind of progressive idea that the Spanish friars denied Filipinos, more so women, to maintain their abuse of power.

"The Women of Malolos" by Rafael del Casal @ Uitangcoy-Santos House, Malolos, Bulacan
“The Women of Malolos” by Rafael del Casal @ Uitangcoy-Santos House, Malolos, Bulacan

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Pine-Scented Memories

Baguio City, the Philippines

September 1, 2015

Redolence could evoke memories as vividly as imagery. In an overnight visit to Camp John Hay in Baguio, a midnight walk shrouded in fog and darkness jogged pine-scented memories. Ki and I could sniff the scent of our childhood trips when the city was largely under pine cover. There had been less trees in the city of late, yet patches of forests remained in and around the Camp. Hours later, sunlight pierced through the pine grove by our hotel window and drew us out to take in the crisp morning freshness.

Pine-Scented Morning: Benguet Pine @ Mile Hi Inn, Camp John Hay

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Food for the Gods

Bhaktapur and Kathmandu, Nepal

February 23 – 27, 2013

Namaste, literally “I bow to the divine in you,” was a word I often heard in Nepal. A greeting between gods, if you will. I had the chance to manifest the god within when I tried Nepali traditional food for lunch: the Newari khaja set, a solo-size smorgasbord of root veggies, meat, and spices. The dish included samay baji, a blessed food offered to the gods during festivals and family gatherings. The occasion was neither, but our guide decided on the dish as a worthy introduction to Nepali cuisine.

Newari Khaja Set / Samay Baji and Aaloo-Tama (soup) @ Bhaktapur, Nepal
Newari Khaja Set Meal: Samay Baji and Aaloo-Tama (soup) @ Bhaktapur, Nepal

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