Author: Blanche R. Fernandez

Knitting the Passions of Ifugao’s Women

Somewhere between the UNESCO-inscribed rice terraces of Banaue and Hungduan, the passions of one woman converged to make a colorful venture with a farming community. Candice Reyes Alipio, an avid knitter and mountaineer, runs Knitting Expedition, a social enterprise that aims to augment the income of women farmers in Uhaj, a little-known village in Ifugao that remains dependent on rice farming. Located half an hour from the drop-off point for visitors to Banaue, Uhaj itself is not much of a tourist draw. At best, it is a rest stop for trekkers on their way to Hungduan and a place to sleep for those who seek the comforts of a charming inn in the village. Work is scarce – if there is any at all, outside farming – and more and more women are abandoning their rice fields for the big cities, where they often end up as household helpers. The men work as laborers or miners in neighboring provinces. “The purpose of Knitting Expedition is really to keep them in their lands,” Alipio said. “Rice …

Hemingway’s Paris

Paris est toujours une bonne idee, said Sabrina. Even in the rain, even with the crowd — and yes, even with the dog poop — the idea of walking around Paris is always romantic. The Parisians know this, of course, which is why there is an overwhelming number of walking tours serving an overwhelming 89 million visitors to the City of Lights every year. We decided to go with The Original Paris Walks, which was founded in 1994 — long before walking tours were a thing — and who offer unique themed walks like The French Revolution, Paris Fashion Walk, Writers of the Left Bank, Medieval Latin Quarter, Village Montmartre and more. It was raining when we got to the Metro Cardinal Lemoine for the Hemingway’s Paris walking tour, but as Paris Walks had promised, “tours are guaranteed, and run rain or shine,” so off we went with our fabulous guide Jonathan, stopping at points of interest in the 5th arrondissement: Valery Larbaud’s apartment, 71 rue du Cardinal Lemoine. While Larbaud was himself an accomplished French …

The Beauty and the Beast that is Venice

Venice is one of those cities you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. Everything you’ve already seen in the movies is true — it is ancient, vibrant, dreamy, brimming with art and history. And then you add 28 million tourists. Suddenly, you get a different picture of the place: hostile locals, shoulder-to-shoulder human traffic, made-in-China souvenirs, and a sinking World Heritage City. It becomes clear that Venice’s unique beauty is also its curse, bringing in mass tourism that Venetians say has ruined their quality of life. Hence, the unsmiling, protesting remaining residents who don’t really want you there. So why still go to Venice? 1. Because it is, without a doubt, the most architecturally fascinating city in the world. The capital of the Veneto region in northeastern Italy, Venice is a 1,200-year-old city that stands on millions of wooden trunks piled underwater to keep the city afloat. Romans escaping barbarian invaders in the 5th century sought refuge in the marshlands of Torcello, Jesolo and Malamocco, where they built settlements on 118 islands …

La Maison: The beginning and the end

July 31, 2017: 9 months, 28 days since start of construction This is what building a house does to you: for the 98th time, you find yourself wide awake at 1:43 a,m., drinking some herbal concoction that you hope will help put you back to sleep, and wondering – no, screaming inside your head – “WHEN WILL THIS EVER END???” I know, that sounds like a line reserved for people who are in pure anguish, and I do not wish to trivialize anybody’s pain, but there is a kind of agony that afflicts homeowners (an optimistic term for when that house is ever finished) who, like us, have been given at least four turnover dates and yet find themselves in the same state they were in months ago: stressed, sleepless and exhausted to the point of breakdown. We began construction of our house on Oct. 3, 2016. In the description on the blueprint, it says “Three-Story Split-Level Residence” on an 88-square-meter lot, which was a generous gift from my mother. Except today, it’s not a …

The Stuff of Storybooks

Weeks before our family’s spring trip, a battle ensued. Which city should we drop from our must-see list? We had only 21 days to spend in Europe and 25 places we wanted to see. “Take out Rome,” I said. But my sister reminded me we were flying out from there—it had the cheapest fare to Manila. “How about Salzburg?” No. Our father was joining us because of the von Trapps and their Sound of Music. We couldn’t take out London either. It was our mother’s pick, and it was her birthday, the main reason we were on the Europe trip in the first place. “Paris? Edinburgh? Florence?” I asked. Cities were crossed out from the itinerary one by one, but nobody dared touch Prague. The capital city of the Czech Republic is on every bucket list: Places to See before You Die, Best Destinations for 2016, Most Charming European Cities, World’s Best-Preserved Medieval Cities… The hyperbolic lists were endless. According to Euromonitor International, Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and …

Wholesome Amsterdam

Cannabis, canals and carnal pursuits pretty much sum up the tourist’s image of Amsterdam. And you really can’t blame them when Google serves up “Tips for Getting Stoned like a Pro” or “Best Places for Cannabis Shopping” when you type in “Amsterdam travel.” In the capital of the Netherlands, you will learn the big difference between a coffeeshop, which sells weed, and a coffee shop, which sells coffee. You will see prostitution in a different light at the, well, Red Light District, and realize how everything is strictly business in this part of the world, just as it has been hundreds of years ago when the merchant city was built. But Amsterdam has Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Anne Frank, too. If, like me, you have little interest in smoking joints, fret not—you can still experience a high in Amsterdam. The city is loaded with interesting streets, colorful flea markets, great museums and cool places to just chill and watch those happy folk go by. Despite what people might think—with Amsterdam’s anything-goes attitude—safety is not an issue …

Undoing Old

It has been so long since I’ve been to my own website that I have had to figure out how to manage the menu. Still, that’s better than forgetting the password, which is what happened to the wedding blog I put up seven years ago to keep me sane during our wedding preps. But back to this. This blog has grown old; I have grown old. During my absence here, I buried my beloved grandmother, supported a presidential campaign, wrote countless stories, loved people, hated people, forgave people, hired someone to design a house, applied for a loan to build such house, returned to the province of my childhood, realized how different it is (or I am), finally took that trip to Europe with my 60-something parents and sisters… I’ve become such an expert at being adult that I think I have forgotten the joy of just being. Of wondering and giggling. Of dancing in the rain. Of taking chances. This photo, taken in Cesky Krumlov, reminds my heart not to grow old. It tells me to dream, and to imagine beautiful things from God. I …