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.

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Giraffe Feeding @ Calauit Safari Park

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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.

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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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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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Places of the Heart

Legazpi City, the Philippines and Yokohama, Japan

November 22, 2015 / February 3, 2017

My inner introvert would cringe at the antics of my camwhoring, social media persona. But there was no passing up an “instagrammable” pose on the letter block sign of Legazpi by the sea.

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TTT @ Legazpi City!

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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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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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