24 May 2016

Why I'm Not Where You Are

Hit play.

All the places. All the people. All the roads winding, the trees singing, the songs humming. It’s been a long time, you. It’s been too long. The stories have been waiting to come alive. I, have been waiting to come alive.

How do I begin to tell you?

How do I begin to tell you about the euphoric freedom of that first time I ever jumped off a cliff—in a cave laden with bats somewhere where everything was emerald? Or that time I couldn’t hold my tears back as I stared upon the stunning view of old thatch-roofed houses quietly sitting between pine tree covered mountains in a Japan in autumn? Or that cold December night in Pattaya, where I had been feeling so terribly lonely, yet I found myself in the embrace of a complete stranger reminding me I was wonderful? Or perhaps the bliss of arriving in your favorite island again and again, always to be welcomed by the family you’ve made there and the wonderful echo in your ear as they tell you with an embrace—“welcome home”? And you melt a little inside each time because you know they are right. You are. You are home.

How do I simply begin to tell you all that was? All that continue to be? 

I have missed you. I have been missing. Whether literally or figuratively, I have been missing. That is the truth. Which is why I couldn’t return to you. I couldn’t face you half-assed. It was all or nothing. And I was nothing. 

I won’t sugarcoat it and tell you the past year and a half has been all rainbows and gardens. It hasn’t been. There were many grey days, clouded by fear, doubt, insecurities, loneliness, and longing. Longing, above all. There were many heartaches and heartbreaks. How do I even begin to tell you that rainy afternoon in Palawan and I was alone. So terribly alone. In bed, in my room, where it was raining just as much. 

I look everywhere, I whisper. I goddamn look everywhere.

And I have been everywhere. That’s what people tell me, at least. You’ve traveled so much without us, my friends as well would say. But what they don’t see is they’ve been together so much without me, too. 

For every bunch of new people I met, I lost a few special, very dear ones. Ones I previously thought I couldn’t imagine life without. Yet here we are. So distant. Like lifetimes away. I kept appearing in new photographs somewhere far and exciting, and kept disappearing from old, familiar ones. Us, wandering souls, we try so hard, but it seems it simply can’t be done. We cannot be everywhere, not all at once. 

For the longest time I couldn’t write. I couldn’t pick up my camera. I tried and tried and tried. I gave up and gave up and gave up. It was always the wrong moment, the wrong song, the wrong words, the wrong light. Inspiration wouldn’t pay me a visit. That bursting feeling in the chest I love when I am in the moment and I know a good story is coming, I didn’t feel that for a while. I’m not even sure I feel that now, writing this. All I know is that I want to write, and for now, perhaps that is enough.

Seek your triggers, my best friend told me. But my triggers are travel and pain and right now I have been keeping a watchful eye with both at bay. I’ve kept my passport. It's currently expired and I've intentionally haven't renewed it. I’m liking the lull I’ve purposely created, though I must admit—the road keeps tugging at me. My heart has been feeling unsettled here, but it’s not adventure I crave. Not anymore. When a place you’ve known all your life suddenly feels so uncomfortable and no matter how much you’ve downsized your belongings (in the name of living a minimalistic lifestyle) you still have no place to sort out all your things, it leaves you feeling restless. Like the road is pointing west but you have no courage yet to listen. You keep bringing back all this baggage from all the places you’ve been, from all the people you’ve met and momentarily had deep connections with, that you’ve ran out of closet space to sort every little feeling out to.

When this happens, does it mean your space is getting smaller or you, bigger? Is it time to find new good soil to water and grow a garden, I keep asking myself. It certainly does feel that way. My hair keeps being pulled in that direction. To the stars, to the stars.

It is a constant search, this life. Nothing ever ends. Just when you thought you’ve discovered the answer to one thing, you see a hundred new others staring back at you. Will I ever really be a good writer? A photographer? Will I really ever make a difference in this world? Will my stories, at least? Have I ever saved anyone, even unknowingly? Will I ever have the courage to move? To forgive? To change my life utterly and completely, the way I always imagined I someday would? To fall in love?

We ask and ask and ask, yet the truth is, we already know. We are infinite and we are divine, and within, we already know the answers we seek. We do. We always do. Perhaps the more important question to ask is: Do you believe yourself enough to accept the answers?

It has been a full past 18 months, and no matter where I go, I go with these questions constantly burning at the back of my mind. Looking. Constantly looking. I have not stopped looking. I look everywhere. 

I cannot promise I can still recount for you in detail all the wonders I have seen, but let it be known—there have been many. Do not believe the skeptics when they tell you the world is horrible. That people are. The world is full of kindness. And beauty. So much beauty. For not everything is black and white, and you will see all the bountiful colors not just if you know where to look, but how

And so here, in reversed order, from my latest to the oldest adventure I have yet mapped here, are the treasured breadcrumbs from all the magical places I’ve been. 

Look. Take a look. 

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. May 2016.

Nagsasa Cove, Zambales, Philippines. April 2016.

Casiguran, Aurora, Philippines. March 2016.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan. February 2016.

Ati-Atihan Festival, Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines. January 2016.

Pattaya, Thailand. December 2015.

Shirakawa-go, Japan. October 2015.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. August-September 2015.

San Narciso, Zambales, Philippines. August 2015.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. July 2015.
Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. July 2015.

Basco, Batanes, Philippines. June 2015.

Bangkok, Thailand. June 2015.

Baler, Aurora, Philippines. May 2015.

Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. May 2015.

Mactan, Cebu City, Philippines. March 2015.

Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. March 2015.

Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines. March 2015.

Clark, Pampanga, Philippines. February 2015.

Subic, Olongapo, Philippines. January 2015.

Pampanga, Philippines. January 2015.

Pundaquit, Zambales, Philippines. January 2015.

Tarlac, Philippines. January 2015.

Ilocos Norte, Philippines. December 2014.

"In a field I am the absence of field. This is always the case. Wherever I am I am what is missing.
When I walk I part the air and always the air moves in to fill the spaces where my body’s been.
We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole." 

—Keeping Things Whole, Mark Strand


  1. You are beyond good, both in images and in words. You have heart.

    I guess the more important question to ask in these journeys is that, are you home? In these tiny moments, in these little rays of light. If you are, that's all that matters. :)

    1. That is so sweeeeet, thank you.

      "I guess the more important question to ask in these journeys is that, are you home? In these tiny moments, in these little rays of light."

      This is so beautiful and perfect. You are right. Of all people, us wayfarers, should know that home is not a place to find, but something we bring with us. Thanks for reminding me. <3

  2. Also, you are only getting better and better at taking photos! Are you still using your 1000D? :)

    1. Yes! It's so old and beaten, it really needs replacement soon. But so expensive all these new cameras!