Month: January 2015

The Highway 1 in my Head

It’s funny how memory works, or doesn’t work, in some cases. On non-working holidays like this, for instance, when I have to write a throwback travel piece about that California road trip we did in 2009, I beat my brains for details to make up even a half-coherent story, and my memory fails me. Where did we stay? What was that park? How many days, exactly, were we on the road? How many miles was it? Why did I take that picture—was that tunnel important? The drive along the famous Pacific Coast Highway, or California State Road 1, was a spur-of-the-moment decision—this much I’m sure of. My roommate, a Filipino nurse in San Francisco, learned that he would not be on duty the first few days of the year, my then-fiancé could take a day off, and my cousin, a teaching assistant, wouldn’t have class till the following week. I, well, I was soon headed back to Hong Kong—my home base then—and was looking for an awesome trip to end my six months in the …

Carmel Dream

There are few things in this world that support our belief in the fairy tales we loved when we were little. I used to secretly dream of being in faraway castles and magical towns and royal balls and gingerbread houses — happy things that reality slowly but surely clawed out of my heart. Growing up is sad like that. Today, a rather pensive Sunday, my thoughts go back to another day in January, many years ago, when I first set foot on Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was one of the stops in our hastily planned New Year (2009) drive along the famous Highway 1 in California — just me, my then-fiance now-hubby, my cousin, and a roommate in San Francisco. It was in Carmel that I found the stuff of fairy tales again. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the inside of those quaint cottages, and this picture here is the only decent one I got of the 300-year-old San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. But I remember how everything was achingly pretty. I would give anything to go back there.  #adreamisawishyourheartmakes

How Skyjet Screwed Us

It’s two weeks to my sister’s wedding in Batanes. Like most weddings in that northern tip of the Philippines, it’s meant to be an intimate affair, with just the closest family and friends. More than the wedding preps, we spent the last 11 months on travel preparations–negotiating deals with hotels in Basco, arranging tours, attending travel expos in Manila, doing whatever we can to ease the cost for our guests. Our biggest concerns — until three days ago — were final gown fittings, table setting and what extra desserts to bring. Everything was easy breezy. And then Skyjet, that “boutique leisure airline” peddling “a better way to fly” decided NOT to fly to Basco this month. No warnings, no advisories, no explanations. My sister’s wedding is on January 27, and 21 of our 55 guests are flying Skyjet on January 26-28/30. They paid for their tickets as early as September last year, and yet, as of January 6, they had no flights. If we’re going to be glass-is-half-full here, then I suppose we should be thankful that we got the shocking news more than 24 …

When the Fog Clears in Kalinga

The journey to Tulgao began the night before, with a decision to not go to Tulgao, a small community tucked in the highlands of Kalinga in northern Philippines that should have been famous for its rice terraces but isn’t—at least not yet. The weather forecast for the following morning was thunderstorms, so a detour was necessary. Thankfully, there were more than enough photo shoot-worthy rice terraces in the Cordilleras. I pondered this as I found myself precariously balanced on the edge of muddy terraces the next day, trying, successfully, not to slip—three of the men I was with had already kissed the mud—but failing, unapologetically, to keep my temper in check. “We should’ve stuck to our earlier agreement. This is not a wise call. What if somebody gets hurt? We’re in the middle of nowhere. And this project does not even come with insurance!” I rattled on, all the time keeping my eyes on the trail. I was NOT going to fall. By the time we crossed a narrow gap that has been transformed into …

Yellow Burst

This time last year — that sounds so far away already — the husband and I welcomed 2014 in a quiet mountain lodge at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, a mystical place considered sacred by the locals in Quezon, about two hours south of Manila. For three days we had no Internet or cellphone signal. We spent hours and hours reading, sleeping, talking about our dreams, and picking raspberries and mushrooms. We ate locally grown vegetables and drank water sourced from a nearby spring. We did whatever people did when they had time. We would walk in the morning and in the afternoon, chatting with friendly neighbors along the way. I saw this yellow flower on one of our morning treks on January 1 and thought, “This thing’s just bursting to be!” And I suddenly couldn’t wait to live 2014, which ended six days ago, with family and money games and a lot of eating. I wonder how nature will inspire me this 2015.