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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Archie starts to knead my bare back. I partly bury my face into the cushion to shield my eyes from the refracted glare of sunlight against a swath of white sand before me. As Archie untangles every knot of stress below my nape, so I throw each care to the sea breeze gently ruffling my hair. Such is la dolce vita. Stretched out luxuriously in a wooden cabana, I close my eyes to savor the moment before it becomes a memory all too quickly.
San Fernando City and San Juan, La Union, the Philippines
April 11 – 12, 2015
It is high time for La Union to step out of the shadow of its more popular neighbors. Its day in the sun has come, and the beacon that shines on it emanates from Poro Point, an erstwhile American base on a peninsula within San Fernando City. The province does not lack in sights and delights, after all.
That indie romcom That Thing Called Tadhana – Tagalog for destiny – inspired me to trek the mountains of Sagada (sorry, not sorry to the recent “spare Sagada” online movement). As our group emerged from the rock art-adorned Latang Underground River, the guide pointed at a vertical wall of limestone we would be scaling up. Wooden coffins protruded out of niches seemingly beyond reach from any direction. It left to the imagination how the Applai tribe had hauled unwieldy log coffins up steep rock faces to inter them into narrow crevices.
Airplane turbulence aside, there had been very few instances, if any, in my travels when I feared for my life. I usually perished the thought of perishing on my journeys; otherwise, I would never embark on one. That sense of trepidation, however, came over me as I stood transfixed at the jagged jaws of Sumaguing Cave, aka The Big Cave, in Sagada. Stalactites and chiseled boulders protruded like menacing teeth around the black hole that dropped deep into the mountain. Would I offer myself to get swallowed up by this monster of rock?