29 June 2014

El Nido, The Happy Little Town of Limestone Reveries

Everyone else was leaving, but I wanted a few more minutes by myself to take everything in. I pushed my head back and floated, there, in the middle of the lagoon. The view towering over the waters was a surreal beauty you'd usually only see in films. The limestone cliffs of the small lagoon circled above me, clusters of green sprouted here and there through the rocks, the cloudy sky fixed at the center. Sunlight peeked every now and then into my face. “This is the life,” I said to myself. But I must have said it out loud because just as I did, a kayak passed by. A traveler was sitting on it, a Caucasian guy, and he looked down at me with a smile and said: “Yes. It is.”

I laughed at what just happened, but still I knew, as he did, that I was right. This is the life.

08 June 2014

The salvation in sunsets

Puerto Galera, Philippines Traveled many miles south, sitting alone on a bus which went down roads never have I seen before. When I see the ocean, I'll know I would be close, I would tell myself. And so I waited. Dozed off a bit, and then waited some more. After an hour or so, we came to an elevated road, and there it was. A few kilometers away, I could see a pristine vast of blue stretched ahead. My heart fluttered at the sight of it. It's funny because I'm a terrible swimmer, but I love the sea anyway.

I hopped on an hour-long ride on a boat to get to the island. This boat broke down exactly at half-hour, which meant I was stuck in the middle of the ocean. Took a long while to fix. Tried to suppress the boat-sinking horror stories unfolding in my head. After another hour, I finally reached the island. But then I got lost. I found our room, but then I got locked out. I was dehydrated and exteremely hungry. Eventually, I found out that the inn-keeper was mistaken; I had been knocking on the wrong door the whole time. My friend found me. I got in. But due to some act of dull-wittedness, burned a part of my hair.

"We need to turn this day around," I told my friend who went through even worse, an unimaginable fiasco, just to get there.

And so we did.

We took a stroll along the beach. Talked. We found consolation in each other's misery. We found a nice spot by a quieter end of the shore and settled there, feet buried in the sand. The sky was growing faint. Yellow was becoming orange, orange into purple, purple into blue. We sat there waiting, watching as our worries faded away—just like the daylightinto a sunset we knew we would never forget.

30 May 2014


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I had just bought the most perfect pants with beautiful indochina elephant patterns. I got back to our hostel dorm and quickly put it on. I was so happy, I was dancing around in front of the mirror hanging on the wall. Our roommate, a middle aged Korean who barely spoke English, was lying on her upper bunk bed, watching with a smile on her face. She asked me where I got it. In Chinatown I said, for 30 ringgit. She said she has the same pants. She pointed at a piece of cloth hanging at the foot of her bed, which she said she bought from Thailand for half the price. “Thailand, very cheap, very cheap,” she said.

I crouched on the floor to get something from my backpack. CREEEAAAK. My new, beautiful pants ripped wide open—at the crotch. I was so bummed. I didn’t want to take it off; I wanted to wear it everyday. I wanted to wear it that night when we went out for drinks. Ahjumma (as we call her) peeked from her upper bunk bed again, probably to see what all the fuss was about. I took my pants off and was holding it in my hands and showed it to her. Look, I said. It ripped open. Run back to the store and have it changed, she said with her broken English and acting it out as best as she could. She talked with her hands because she couldn’t speak English well. I can’t, I said. I love this design and they only have one piece per design. Then you should sew it up, she said, acting as if she was sewing something. But I don’t have a needle and thread, I said. “I have! I have!” She got up and hurriedly went down the bed (not an easy feat for her, we wanted to exchange but she didn’t want to) and bent beside her luggage which was always sitting open on the floor. She handed me the needle and thread, and I inserted the thread into the needle. My friends poked fun at me. You can't do anything, they said. Do you know how to do that? Of course! I said. They taught this in home economics in high school, I bragged. And so I started. “No no no no!” Ahjumma stopped me, waving both her hands in the air. I was doing it all wrong, apparently. So much for Home Eco. Ahjumma took the thread, needle, and my pants from me. And she started sewing.

19 April 2014

Kuala Lumpur: An Honest Account

Two months have passed since my trip, and that is the same length of time this post had been sitting in my drafts. Countless times I tried to find the right words to talk about KL. But words evaded me. Perhaps there simply are no right words. Only the truth. And so this will be exactly that.

There is this photo I took of a side street in Kuala Lumpur. Probably my favorite shot of the city. There was something enigmatic about the way the sun was hitting the vandalized walls of the sidewalk, and the arched beams were aesthetically nice. So I took a photo. It wasn’t until I was back in the Philippines when I was scanning my shots that I noticed something I didn’t see there when I took the picture. On the ground, lying there in the middle of the sidewalk, was a person. I was surprised and for a moment I had the goosebumps. There was an actual human being there on the floor. How could I have not seen?

31 March 2014

To the people we meet

They say traveling is all about the people you meet.

I remember the first night I met some people in Langkawitravelers from different corners of the globewe went down to the beach however dead and dark it was there. We found a nice spot near a lamp post, and everyone settled, sitting cross-legged on the sand. We each got our own plastic cups, and one by one filled them with the bottle of alcohol we were all sharing. 

"Cheers?" one guy raised his cup initiating a toast. "No, no," said this funny, charming girl from Amsterdam. "Let's all say it in our own languages."

Raising our cups, I mustered my best "tagay!" as five other languages rose to the midnight air at the same time as mine. I looked around to see everyone flashing a warm smilethe kind you wear when you know you're in a special momentand I know they're thinking the same thought as I: this, this is the best thing about traveling. Meeting people so different from you, only to find out that you're all the same.

I drank up, and I barely could hear myself underneath all the joy I was feeling.