Friday, December 30, 2011

from the City of Pines

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays 


Friday, December 23, 2011

Bubble

Friday, December 23, 2011

Only you can make me forget everything else. Daily worries fade; the heart’s cries of despair are replaced by contented silence; happiness sinks in and nothing else matters except the small bubble of time we have together. Is it too much to ask for it to last? I am used to a life in solitude, and that makes each moment I spend with you more special. 

I yearned for the simplicity of routine - An evening walk, arm in arm, in fine weather... Time for idle talk. Preparing a meal together. Thank you for giving me that and so much more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Become a stranger in a strange land

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One of the paradoxes of otherness is that in travel, each conceives the other to be a foreigner. But even the most distant and exotic place has its parallel in ordinary life. Every day we meet new people and are insulted or misunderstood; we are thrown upon our own resources. In the coming and going of daily life we rehearse a modified version of the dramatic event known as first contact. In a wish to experience otherness to its limit, to explore its nuances, I became a traveler…. Non-travelers often warn the traveler of dangers, and the traveler dismisses such fears, but the presumption of hospitality is just as odd as the presumption of danger. You have to find out for yourself. Take the leap. Go as far as you can. Try staying out of touch. Become a stranger in a strange land…. 

 ~ Paul Theroux, Fresh Air Fiend: Travel Writings, 1985-2000, 2000

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dazed and Enlivened

Monday, December 19, 2011

The flurry of activities in the past several weeks has left me cheerfully dazed and enlivened. I am now trying to find my bearings before I get swept up, yet again, in a whirlwind of holiday madness.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vacationing in Pattaya

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I am too busy enjoying my vacation to write a sensible blog post.

loving the waters, the people, the sun, the sand in Pattaya, Thailand

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wish Granted

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In the past few days I have been reading a lot about wish lists, gift ideas and everything Christmas. I am happy to say that with the unexpected arrival of a certain houseguest, I don't need to make a list anymore: my wish has been granted and I could not ask for more. Great things do happen when you least expect it. It just suddenly arrives and comes knocking at your door.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

mad ones

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!' 

 ~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road, 1957

Monday, November 28, 2011

Indie Travel: Wanderlust

Monday, November 28, 2011

Share a photo or video that just makes you want to GO. RIGHT. NOW (Wanderlust - Day 27 of  the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project)

Mt. Kilimanjaro: Let's GO. RIGHT. NOW.

Image Source: Yosemite (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Seeing what others have – and don’t have – around the world often helps us appreciate our own good fortune. What are you thankful for this year? (Giving Thanks - Day 24 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel)

I am thankful for: 
  • The love of my family
  • My good health as well as that of loved ones
  • The love of my partner
  • The lifetime of friendship with my girl friends
  • The books that keep me company every day
  • This blog and the friendships it enables
  • A laid-back, stress-free career that allows me to do what I want
  • All those situations that toughened me up
  • The opportunity to do what I love and be financially rewarded for it
  • An education that upholds intellectual freedom and critical thought
  • The beautiful ordinariness of each new day
  • Being able to keep my mental faculties in order
  • The misery and splendor of travel
  • TV, Torrent, Facebook, Google and all those things that make life more interesting
  • The diverse richness of culture in the places I've been to and in those that I have yet to visit
  • The beauty of words and language
Happy thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Indie Travel: Budget

Monday, November 21, 2011

Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher of lower than for others. What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for? (Budget – Day 18 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

If I had enough funds, I would travel around the world. Who wouldn’t? But just like everyone else, my funds are limited for all the traveling I yearn to do. It takes me a year to save up for a major trip, and there is always the need to keep my travel expenses within a tight budget. While on the road, I learned several things that not only save me money but also add flavor to the whole travel experience:

Traveling by land 

I believe in slow travel, and traveling by bus or train is the best way to see the countryside as well as those places that we miss when flying from one tourist destination to another. The routes are often so dramatic that I hardly ever notice the ride’s bumps and jolts or the fact that I could have arrived 10 hours earlier if I paid three times more for a plane ticket. 

It was during a 12-hour bus ride from Cuzco to Arequipa when I experienced the most terrifying yet thrilling moments of my life away from home. The grandeur of century-old ruins, the sumptuous taste of chupe de camarones and the splendor of colonial architecture would soon fade from memory but how I felt during that unforeseen evening will remain. 

Scrounging for online airfare sales 

It pays to keep track of airline sales. Most of the local airlines give as much as 50% discount on airfare. Taking advantage of these online sales and booking early save me a lot of money. Joining organized tours Organized tours can be really blah. You are herded like cattle and forced to listen to a tour guide who speaks in some form of English that you can hardly understand. Because of economies of scale, however, joining tours oftentimes entails less cost and trouble than the taking-a-cab-and-getting-lost way of exploring a city. A couple of years ago we decided to join a multiday tour from Saigon to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat and then back to Saigon. The tour price included all meals, transportation, entrance fees and accommodation. Some friends of mine followed exactly the same route but they did it on their own. They ended up spending four times the price we paid. 

Traveling independently 

Employing the services of a tour agency where every single item on the itinerary is subject to order and uniformity curtails spontaneity. The ease and luxury we pay for in organized tours substitute for the thrill and adventure we get from independent travel. We may save more by joining tours, but we lose the freedom and excitement that comes only with independent travel. 

Staying at boutique hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts and backpacker hostels 

I prefer to stay at boutique hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts. They possess that certain vitality lacking in the boring sameness of expensive chain hotels. We once stayed at a dingy backpacker hostel in Kuala Tahan: The toilet was horrifying; the sheets were unwashed, the air-conditioning unit works in spurts; the whole place stank of durian. Yet we had the best time there compared to all of the places we stayed at during our three weeks in Malaysia. 

Eating where locals eat 

I enjoy the breakfast buffets offered by most hotels, but aside from that we rarely eat at hotels or upscale restaurants. It’s more fun to eat where the locals eat - market places, side streets and corners, neighborhood stores, nondescript shops. It’s where we can sample authentic local cuisine without paying an exorbitant price.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

They cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self

Sunday, November 20, 2011

They don't go into what is the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop? If lewdies are good that's because they like it, and I wouldn't ever interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop. And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of the brave malenky selves fighting these big machines? 

 ~ Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, 1962

Friday, November 18, 2011

Indie Travel: Baggage

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mental baggage can weigh us down as much as physical baggage when we travel. How do you travel lightly - either emotionally or physically? (Baggage - Day 16 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project)
                   
Who says I travel light?


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holiday Plans

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Because of my travel partner’s inability to come home for the holidays and our thwarted travel plans, I thought I’d end up with an uneventful monthlong vacation.  Things are starting to look promising with several activities planned for the next few weeks:
  • Weekend climb to Mt Pinatubo with colleagues
  • Trek to Mt Pico de Loro in Ternate, Cavite
  • High school reunion at a beach resort in Bauang, La Union
  • A visit to our grandmother in Baguio and, if time permits, onwards to Sagada
The holidays won’t be spent in melancholy seclusion after all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Feedback

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The feedback came as a surprise.  I was expecting bad reviews for the instructional materials I developed, but the users apparently did not agree with my assessment.  Ratings with respect to adequacy, usefulness, approach and effectiveness were unexpectedly high.  But what really made me happy was their response to the question, “Did you notice student learning as result of using the materials?”  It feels great to know that my efforts resulted to something.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Exercise in Eloquent Reportage

Friday, November 11, 2011

…The truth is I have always been suspicious of travel writing, of attempts to establish that elusive element that might or might not be national character, to say in sweeping and general terms, this place is like this, that place is like that.  One always thinks: But I’ve met French people who weren’t at all droll.  Or, But I’ve been there and didn’t find it at all romantic/squalid/interesting.  Or worse still: How long has this author been there, anyway?  Two months, three? How can he possibly know anything deep about the place? How can he tell us about anything more than the casual phenomena any traveler would notice, conversations in bars and things only half understood on the street.  At which point it all becomes no more than an exercise in eloquent reportage…

~ Tim Parks, An Italian Education: The Further Adventures of an Expatriate in Verona, 1995

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Indie Travel: Celebrate

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joining in a local festival, holiday or special event is a great way to learn more about a local culture. Share the story of a celebration that meant something to you on your travels. (Celebrate – Day 7 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project)

The tiring 12-hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City did not prepare me for the jubilation I saw in the streets of Saigon. As the bus entered the city, we caught sight of hundreds of joyous revelers waving huge Vietnamese flags, obviously rejoicing for something that, at that time, I had no idea about.   Amid those red flags and the medley of car horns and festive chanting, I felt a dawning sense of wonder.  I was witnessing a nation in spontaneous celebration.

At the hotel we found out that earlier that day Vietnam won a football match over Malaysia, one of the events in the 2009 Southeast Asian games being held in neighboring Vientiane. The celebrations lasted well into the night, and from my room I could hear sounds of euphoria reverberating around the city.  Its resonance I feel till now as I try to recapture how an event spontaneously brought a city—or perhaps a nation--together.

Coming from a country where basketball and boxing reign supreme and all other sports are relegated to the margins, I marvel at the football fever that has swept countries in the region but managed to skip the Philippines. It is one of several things that, regrettably, separates us from the rest of Asia.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indie Travel: Kindness

Monday, November 7, 2011

One of the greatest joys of travel can be the random acts of kindness you’ll receive from total strangers. Have you ever found kindness from strangers in unexpected places? (Kindness - Day 5 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project)

At the Pisac market, treasuring the kindness of locals over a glass of chicha de jora  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Indie Travel: Embracing Change

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Change can be exciting and bring new joys into our lives. But it can present challenges that frustrate or annoy us. How has travel changed you in the last year? Did you welcome these changes or resist them at the time, and how do you feel about them now? (Embracing Change - Day 2 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project)

People talk of moments of epiphany while on the road.  Mine came when my legs could no longer move and I have to let the group finish last year’s hike up Bukit Teresek in Taman Negara without me.  The climb took less than an hour, but halfway through my legs were already leaden and I was grasping for air. I wanted to keep going but knew that I won’t make it; I had to stop and rest. It was then, in the middle of that rainforest in Malaysia, when I understood how ill prepared I was for the things that I want to do in life.  How can I climb mountains when I can’t even manage this hill? I asked myself.

It was very humbling. That hike, short as it was, showed me the full extent of my limitations. I realized that I needed to get in shape for the Inca Trail trek we planned to do next.  And so I did.  It took me months of training to achieve the body that I wanted. Those months of training afforded me the luxury of enjoying the beauty and arduousness of the trek.

Because of my love of travel, I now maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s the most important change, I guess.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Kind of Idea are You?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.

~ Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 1988

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Speech

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I don’t like speaking in public; it’s like performing for an audience who expect tricks or virtuosity that I do not possess. And in instances when I am cornered to do presentations I realize that I am constantly editing myself. It is easy to say that my profession as an editor makes such thing forgivable. It doesn’t. I have to learn how to say what I want to say in the exact way that I want to say it. 

Speech does not come as naturally to me as writing. The ideas in my head that I can effortlessly pour out through writing become fixed and motionless when verbalized. When I write I can always pause and think of the right words, alter them or turn them around in order to express myself perfectly. But when I speak there seems to be no time to gather my thoughts. I find myself starting to say a sentence and then revising it according to the principles of grammar and style and ending up making the entire sentence simply incomprehensible.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

El Misti

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

El Misti is a 5,822-meter (18,860 ft) volcano in Arequipa, Peru
I have never seen "Volcanoes" -- 
But, when Travellers tell 
How those old -- phlegmatic mountains 
Usually so still -- 

Bear within -- appalling Ordnance, 
Fire, and smoke, and gun, 
Taking Villages for breakfast, 
And appalling Men – 

~ Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Clouds of uncreativity

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It seems that I cannot find the right frame of mind to write about the things that interest me. Just to get things moving, though, I made a list of those things: 
  1. Backpacker culture 
  2. Self-sabotage 
  3. My grandmother’s imperious wisdom 
  4. The lure of the wild 
  5. Resigned dread 
  6. Baja
  7. Rational madness 
  8. Accepting of contingency 
  9. Homilies about hope 
  10. Equivocation as a survival skill 
  11. False courtesy 
  12. Fluidity of desire 
These billowing clouds of uncreativity will soon clear.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Preferment

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I don’t want to turn into one of those people who bitch about their jobs every chance they got, or those who are so enslaved by their work that they thrive on stress and cannot imagine a world without it.  That is the reason why I fought hard to stay in the position that I am right now. I like my job as it is, and I love the freedom that goes with it.  But it’s now time to take on more challenges in life. It’s just plain stupid to prefer stagnation over advancement or to keep on declining something that will probably do me good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Live More

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I do not wish you much happiness—it will bore you. I do not wish you trouble either, but, following the philosophy of the peasant, I will repeat simply 'live more' and try not to be much bored; this useless wish I add from myself. Well, good-bye, and good-bye for good. Don't stand at my door, I will not open it. 

~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons (The Devils or The Possessed), 1872

Friday, October 14, 2011

I wonder what it would be like to travel alone

Friday, October 14, 2011

I have nine days of vacation leave left before Christmas break and I don’t how to spend them. It would be great if I could be on the road again, but there seems to be a dearth of travel companions these days. Climb mountains, walk for days and days, leave the comforts of home - those are the things that I want to do, but I don't know of anyone who would be willing (or able) to do those things with me.

I wonder what it would be like to travel alone. Will it be scary? Exciting? Lonesome? Or all those at the same time?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yearbook

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It’s been 12 years since we graduated from college, yet the yearbook that’s supposed to capture our college experience remains to be an idea, a wish, a topic of conversation. Some paid for the yearbook, some did not, some got their payments back, but we don’t even have complete records of who those people are. We don’t have our graduation pictures any longer. And we don’t even look like those pictures anymore! Some say that the yearbook’s been printed and delivered, but nobody has seen a copy of it, if there ever was one. And it’s only now that the batch has started digging up the facts. 

As part of the editorial team, I am also to blame for the whole fuck up. But as part of the entire graduating class, everybody is to blame for what happened. We never cared enough to finish the yearbook before we graduated and start building our lives outside the university. And if we did not care enough before, do we—or could we--care enough now? Years have passed, everybody has changed. We cannot even remember what happened then. Can we, as a batch, put together a 12-year old yearbook from scratch? What’s the point? Should we still? Perhaps, out of principle, we should. 

I was one among those who cannot afford to pay for the yearbook then. I didn’t mind because the idea of a yearbook seems like a lot of nonsense to me, expensive nonsense at that. But through the years that yearbook has become more meaningful because its nonexistence reflects our nostalgic yearning for those carefree days in school.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Winter is coming

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spending the entire Saturday glued to a computer monitor sounds like such a waste of time. But as we sat spellbound by the world of Westeros in the first season of Game of Thrones, my brother and I paid no heed to the ticking of the clock.  We were having too much of a great time to notice how we’ve been squandering the day away.  Oblivious to everything else, we knew only that winter is coming and we have to be there when it arrives.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Her Femaleness

Thursday, October 6, 2011


An all-containing will in her for complete independence, complete social independence, complete independence from any personal authority, kept her dullishly at her studies. For she knew that she had always her price of ransom—her femaleness. She was always a woman, and what she could not get because she was a human being, fellow to the rest of mankind, she would get because she was a female, other than the man. In her femaleness she felt a secret riches, a reserve, she had always the price of freedom. 
( D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow, 1915)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unmoved

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The blues usually set in this time of the year. Yet, surprisingly, I remain unmoved by the lure of the dark depths. As the holidays draw near I hope this resistance would hold. It will be the first time if it does.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Glaring, garish, rattling

Friday, September 30, 2011

Growing up brought responsibilities, he found. Events did not rhyme quite as he had thought. Nature's logic was too horrid for him to care for. That mercy towards one set of creatures was cruelty towards another sickened his sense of harmony. As you got older, and felt yourself to be at the centre of your time, and not at a point in its circumference, as you had felt when you were little, you were seized with a sort of shuddering, he perceived. All around you there seemed to be something glaring, garish, rattling, and the noises and glares hit upon the little cell called your life, and shook it, and warped it.

~ Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure, 1895

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prayers

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I don’t believe in prayers but there are times when I wish that I still do. 

A friend is suffering but I cannot find the words to express my sympathy or alleviate her pain. How can I say that I will pray for her—whisper those words that capture the most earnest supplication for her good health--if I don’t believe in prayers? Saying that I wish her the best, though heartfelt, seems hollow compared to the panacea of prayers. Everything I say feels ineffectual because I’ve lost belief in the divine. All I can offer are my wholehearted hopes, thoughts and wishes for her mind to stay strong and her health restored.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

After a Storm

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yesterday I woke up to the sound of the rain coming down in torrents punctuated by strong winds hurtling against the windows. Like a thunderous orchestra, the raging storm cast an eerie echo not so different from the one that devastated Metro Manila a year ago. Now we can show how we’ve learned from past mistakes, I thought. With the country capital’s present state floods are inevitable, but deaths are not – or shouldn’t be. Its rage spent, the typhoon hurriedly moved on and unleashed its fury towards the North, leaving not a single area in Luzon unscathed. 

They say that there is a calm before a storm, but there is also a calm after it. Amid the ruins left by a storm, there is a sense of renewal. Like an intense argument where anger, hurt and frustrations are vented out, a storm clears the air. It makes the obscure plain and the hidden visible. The plight of the poor, the lack of urban planning, all of the country’s interwoven problems are brought to light once more.

Friday, September 23, 2011

to inherit the responsibility of one's own life

Friday, September 23, 2011

She became aware of herself, that she was a separate entity in the midst of an unseparated obscurity, that she must go somewhere, she must become something. And she was afraid, troubled. Why, oh why must one grow up, why must one inherit this heavy, numbing responsibility of living an undiscovered life? Out of the nothingness and the undifferentiated mass, to make something of herself! But what? In the obscurity and pathlessness to take a direction! But whither? How take even one step? And yet, how stand still? This was torment indeed, to inherit the responsibility of one's own life. 

~ D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow, 1915

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the absence of that noisy, black box

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My television has recently died of old age. I am thinking of replacing it with one of those supercool LCD TVs that are of fashion nowadays. But when I rearranged the furniture to make up for the space the TV left, I realized that the place looks much better in the absence of that noisy, black box, with its flickering images and everlasting chatter. Its absence made the room delightfully still.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The price we pay to lose weight

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Frustrated with her weight but doesn’t have the time and energy to work out, a friend of mine has decided to take Orlistat, a drug that manages weight loss by preventing the body from absorbing dietary fats. With Orlistat taken thrice a day, 25-30 percent of fat from the food that she eats is blocked from digestion, and the unabsorbed fat is excreted instead. After five months of taking this lipase inhibitor, she’s lost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and spent PHP 20,000 (USD 460). That’s like paying a hundred dollars to lose a kilo of body weight. 

With lipase inhibitors, it looks quite easy to lose weight without doing anything or restricting our food intake. Though it assures weight loss, taking these drugs does not make us healthy as exercise and good eating habits do. The amount we spend on these drugs may not only be the price that we have to pay for weight loss. Weight loss drugs make us look great while inflicting harm on our bodies. The long-term, potential side-effects of taking lipase inhibitors include liver failure, kidney injury and lesions in the colon - the price we may have to pay for the pounds we need to lose.

Friday, September 16, 2011

a woman's wits and a man's temper

Friday, September 16, 2011



...Any woman who is sure of her own wits is a match at any time for a man who is not sure of his own temper....

...No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman.... 

~ Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White, 1860

Scars of Pride



Like tattoos that carry deep meaning for people who wear them, these scars from insect bites on my legs I wear with pleasure and pride. These indelible marks will remain a testament to those days of adventure in the Andes when, leaving behind all vestiges of vanity, I felt more alive in the discomforts of the wild than in the comforts of anywhere else. Those days of embracing physical torment, of not having any right to make illogical fusses, of not caring about how I looked, of being too tired to be bothered with pesky insects I endured and uncharacteristically rejoiced in. And from those intrepid days I earned these marks, my scars of pride.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book to Movie Adaptations

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Last weekend I spent in joyous solitude, watching movies that fed my lust for books. I started with the 2010 movie adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre followed by that of Jose Saramago’s Blindness then of Alex Garland’s The Beach. The gothic rendering of Jane Eyre placed me within the gloomy confines of that time and place and simply left me mesmerized. With the other two movies I was unsatisfied. The social underpinnings and absolute misery and degradation depicted in Saramago’s novel and the superficiality and consumerism in backpacker culture in Garland’s I found lacking in their respective cinematic re-renderings. 

Being the shameless literature nut that I am, it thrills me whenever a literary work gets transferred to the screen. The characters that otherwise only existed within the pages of a book or in my imagination are brought to life on film. Not entirely believing the adage that great literature makes terrible movies, I am fascinated with the intricacies of cinematic adaptation: how can a two-hour movie render the full complexity of a novel whose every page is replete with delightful details and nuanced insights? Its allure lies on whether or not the film stays true to the novel – its atmosphere, narrative contour, tonal shadings and internal coherence. 

Can something that has already found its definitive form be transported to another medium without getting diluted or turning into a travesty?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Enfeebling Fatalism

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I felt shame - I see this clearly, now - at the instinctive recognition in myself of an awful enfeebling fatalism, a sense that the great outcomes were but randomly connected to our endeavors, that life was beyond mending, that love was loss, that nothing worth saying was sayable, that dullness was general, that disintegration was irresistible. 

 ~ Joseph O’Neill, Netherland, 2008

Friday, September 9, 2011

Napababayaan (Unattended)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bakit kaya ang ilan sa mga sinusubaybayan kong blog ay tila nawawalan na ng sigla? Ang dating napakasigasig sa pagsusulat ngayon ay nagsihinto na. Ang dahilan marahil ay ang pagkaabala sa mga intindihin na mas mahalaga. Napakaraming bagay na nais nating gawin, ngunit sadyang hindi sapat ang oras para sa mga bagay na nagdudulot sa atin ng saya, tulad pagsusulat. Kung minsan ang mga bagay na ito ay ating napababayaan hangga’t tuluyan nang mawala. 

(Why is it that some of the blogs that I follow appear to be losing their vitality? Those who used to be brimming with zeal in expressing their ideas have now ceased writing. Preoccupation with more important matters is probably the reason. There are so many things we want to do, but there isn’t just sufficient time for those that give us joy, like writing. We sometimes leave these things unattended until they are lost to us completely.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Saluyot and Camote Tops

Monday, September 5, 2011

I don’t know what got into me when I decided to eat just plain saluyot (jute leaves) and talbos ng kamote (camote tops or sweet potato leaves) with steamed rice every day for thirty days. I thought I’d be fed up with such modest fare after a few days, but the steamed green leafy vegetables dipped in fish sauce, chili pepper and calamansi (calamondin) appealed to my taste buds so much that I enjoyed every meal. I started the saluyot and camote diet on a whim, unaware of the plethora of nutritional benefits such greens can provide. A few days ago I learned that saluyot and camote tops contain antioxidants and are rich sources of dietary fiber as well as vitamins A and E, calcium, folate, iron, niacin, phosphorous, protein and riboflavin. 

Thirty days have passed and my diet still consists largely of beans, greens and grains. It’s not that I’m turning vegetarian or something. I simply realized that I can live without meat of any kind. Preparing all my meals at home makes me in control of what, when and how much I eat every day. I can choose to eat mostly vegetables yet not completely do away with meat. In fact after several weeks of pure greens, barbecued pork and fried chicken sounds really great. They must taste extra good after a monthlong self-induced meat deprivation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

the fear of becoming a joke in others’ eyes

Thursday, September 1, 2011

For all these years he had bumbled around and shilly-shallied about writing because of fear: the fear of becoming a joke in others’ eyes, of messing up his life without getting anywhere, of abandoning the useless, burdensome part of his past in order to create a new frame of reference for himself, of moving toward the future without looking back. It was this fear that had him to look for inspiration elsewhere other than in his own heart.

Ha Jin, A Free Life, 2007

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So this is what SEM is all about

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I spent the day researching on search engine marketing and optimization for our company. I realized that it’s an entire universe of advertising that I am ignorant of. Pay-per-click, backlinks and search analytics are concepts I am not interested in until today. I have been blogging for more than four years, and it’s only now that I learned all these.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

On Foot

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors...disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it. 
(Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, 2002)

Friday, August 26, 2011

What dullness may not red lips and sweet accents render pleasant?

Friday, August 26, 2011

It IS the pretty face which creates sympathy in the hearts of men, those wicked rogues. A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dullness may not red lips and sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. O ladies, ladies! there are some of you who are neither handsome nor wise.

~ William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1847

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pag-asa na Dulot ng Bawat Umaga (Hope that Each Morning Brings)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tuwing gabi, bago tuluyang pangibabawan ng antok ang aking katawan, sari-saring bagay ang pilit na sumusuot sa aking isipan. Nandiyan ang bulong ng pangamba, ang kurot ng kalungkutan, ang lambong ng kawalan ng pag-asa – mga kaisipang matagumpay kong napipigilan sa maghapon ngunit mariing humuhulagpos sa paglubog ng araw. Pagsapit ng dilim tila mas mahina ang aking diwa. Ngunit sa pagdating ng bukang-liwayway, ang bigat ng aking kalooban ay matuling napaparam. Ang liwanag na dala ng umaga ang siyang bumubuhay sa aking pag-asa, at bawat araw ay nagpapahiwatig na maari akong muling mag-umpisa.

(Every night, before my body is engulfed by sleep, various thoughts invade my mind. There is the whisper of fear, the pinch of loneliness, the veil of despair – thoughts that I can block during the day but run wild as the sun expires. As darkness falls it seems like my spirit gets weaker. But as dawn comes the heaviness in my heart vanishes. The light that morning brings raises my hopes, and each day suggests that I can start once again.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What’s the point of writing?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is the point of writing when nobody reads what you write?

I think that writing in itself can be its own reason for being. It feels great to know that there are a few who read my work, but the mere process of stringing words together already provides me with tremendous satisfaction. Writing has ceased to be about my wanting to be read but has become indistinguishable from living my life.

Maybe the point is to continue writing as if—or although--no one is reading.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peru in Color (2 of 2)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Continued from Peru in Color (1 of 2)

aji amarillo, Peruvian shrimp dish, Mancion del Fundador in Arequipa, Cusqueña beer, churros

graffiti in Miraflores, Mancion del Fundador, building in Lima, flowers along the Inca trail, corn varieties

the Pacific Ocean along Costa Verde, Plaza de Armas and Mirador de Yanahuara  in Arequipa, building in Lima
These photos were taken during our trip to Peru in June and July 2011.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peru in Color (1 of 2)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peru means ‘land of abundance’ in Quecha, a remarkably appropriate name for a country whose diversity and incredible beauty are beyond all my words to express. The country’s myriad colors signify the richness of its culture and the exuberance of its people.

Peruvian ceramics, locals at the Inti Raymi Festival, dyes sold at the Pisac market, a weaver in Arequipa 
corn farm in Calca, an alpaca, rooftops in Cuzco, buildings in Machu Picchu, mud and adobe house in Huaran
Urubamba market, a Peruvian lady, a blue vase on a blue window
The above photos were taken during our trip to Peru in June and July 2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

At Random

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting only three hours of sleep doesn’t help when one’s trying to finish a proposal.
Some people have twitter-sized attention spans.
Can I get away with skinny jeans, hiking boots and a sleeveless top at work on Friday?
…not a comment about religion but how society treats things we idolize.” He didn’t know he’d end up crucified, too.
I have to buy a new swimsuit. A bandeau this time.
It seemed as if the world had drained itself of all possible topics of conversation. The only ones left are babies, bellies, parenthood and pregnancy.
They say postmodernism is now dead. Hasn’t it been for some now?
Maybe I should try that new Vietnamese restaurant around the corner.
People always say mabait when they mean mabutiKind doesn’t really mean good, does it?
Three sets of twenty repetitions of plank with alternating leg lifts do not sound very inviting.

I will enjoy the present, and the past shall be for me the past


I will no longer, as has ever been my habit, continue to ruminate on every petty vexation which fortune may dispense; I will enjoy the present, and the past shall be for me the past. No doubt you are right, my best of friends, there would be far less suffering amongst mankind, if men—and God knows why they are so fashioned—did not employ their imaginations so assiduously in recalling the memory of past sorrow, instead of bearing their present lot with equanimity.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, 1774

Monday, August 15, 2011

Excited About

Monday, August 15, 2011

A friend said that life becomes boring if you don’t have anything to look forward to. And it does, indeed. Life’s dullness will be intolerable without these to be excited about:
  • The four-day long weekend at the end of the month. The government has declared August 29 and 30 as non-working holidays. This means that I can bum around with my family for four straight days. Hallelujah.
  • A bed-and-breakfast jaunt with girl friends in September. We rarely see each other and what little time we spend becomes truly precious.
  • Season 2 of The Walking Dead in October. This apocalyptic blood and gore zombie galore of a TV show got me hooked after watching its first episode. There is something captivating about its story line despite–or because—of its graphic portrayal that is not recommended for the faint of heart.
  • D’s longer visit
  • A short trip to Thailand, maybe. A return to the Chao Phraya river, our favorite hotel in Bangkok, Thai cuisine and lots of sun, sea and sand – it’s like going back to the things that induced my love for travel.
  • All the books that I plan to read for the rest of the year. A Free Life, The Mayor of Casterbridge, A Tale of Two Cities, Billy Bathgate, Lord Jim, Sentimental Education, Vanity Fair, The Princess of Cleves, Call it Sleep, The Woman in White, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love… The list is endless.
  • A trek to the Himalayas, if the gods permit

Friday, August 12, 2011

Detox

Friday, August 12, 2011

I have started weaning myself off Facebook. It is not a complete disassociation from the world of social networking but more of a conscious attempt to remove Facebook from my daily routine.

Facebook has enabled me to keep in touch with friends all over the world, but reading or responding to friends’ status updates is not a substitute for having a real conversation with them. I feel as though what I see or read on Facebook is trivial and superficial. It doesn’t tell me what is truly happening with my  friends’ lives. It merely gives me a false sense of connection with them. I love reading friends’ witty quips or looking at their travel pictures, but I realized that I don’t really have to know that much detail about things that should not be shared at all, shared by an indiscriminate mass of ‘friends’ whom I barely know.

The ability of social media to surround us with constant chatter and fill in life’s idle moments has made them habit-forming and time-consuming. Through the years, I probably spent more time on Facebook than I should have. It is now time to realign my day-to-day routine. Like mobile phones that, for several years now, I have managed to live without but to some people are indispensable, Facebook doesn’t have to be a staple of my existence. By limiting my visits to Facebook, I could devote more time to things that deserve my prolonged attention; by denying myself of its transient pleasures, I could concentrate more on the  enduring rewards of life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The open road, the dusty highway

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


...There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!

~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Salineras de Maras

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Maras Salt Mines is located in Peru’s Sacred Valley, 10 km NW of Urubamba

What looks like a patchwork quilt of white and various shades of brown cascading down a hillside are in fact thousands of terraced salt mines that have existed since pre-Inca times yet are still operable till today. Fascinated by its beauty and astonished by the fact salt can actually come from ancient mines and not only from sea water, I was left speechless by the sprawl of salt encrusted ponds before me. My ignorance was evident: As I looked at the workers standing ankle deep in those ponds I could not comprehend how salt is produced. I needed to look it up. And here’s what I found out:

“Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth. All are necessarily shaped into polygons with the flow of water carefully controlled and monitored by the "farmers". As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the water becomes supersaturated and salt precipitates as various size crystals onto the inner surfaces of a pond's earthen walls and on the pond's earthen floor. The pond's keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom, puts it into a suitable vessel, reopens the water-supply notch, and carries away the salt.” (Maras Salt Mines)


Monday, August 8, 2011

the comforting clutch of family

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nothing compares to the comforting clutch of family especially in times when you need it the most. The sadness that you harbor and rarely show the world is evident to the few who have been with you through the years. Words are superfluous for they know without you telling them. Their mere presence comforts you and makes you want to believe in something, anything. You leave home soothed and defiant, geared up for another battle with life.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Consciousness

Friday, August 5, 2011

I am sick of listening to my thoughts. Is it wrong to yearn for silence once in a while? The longing to relinquish consciousness at times is simply too strong to ignore and too precious to succumb to. Why can’t this incessant noise find its tranquil voice?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

the love of accumulating money

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Do we not wile away moments of inanity or fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial movement or sound, until the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit? That will help us to understand how the love of accumulating money grows an absorbing passion in men whose imaginations, even in the very beginning of their hoard, showed them no purpose beyond it.

~ George Eliot, Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, 1861

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The need for another preoccupation

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

That which for several months had been the overriding passion of my life is now completed. I need another preoccupation or, as some would prefer to think, a new obsession that deserves my prolonged attention: anything that would divert my mind from this ruminating--and oftentimes self-mutilating—habit. It is disheartening to admit that as we develop a deeper appreciation for the world around us the more we are compelled to look for distractions to keep life’s horrors at bay.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

the world obscured in white

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How is it possible that when I look out the window I see the world obscured in white? Thunder rumbles on and the rain continues unabated. I want to go home. That is, if I can.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Capacity for Destitution

Monday, August 1, 2011

That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be…

~ Marilynne Robinson, Home, 2008

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Inca Trail in Pictures

Friday, July 29, 2011




Related Posts:
Surviving the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Best Experiences in Peru

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Surviving the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

As many as 3,500 people visit Machu Picchu every day but only 200 reach it on foot. Almost all travel by train, and I am proud to say that I am one of the foolish few who chose to walk through the Andes for four days to get to the Lost City of the Incas. It’s been exactly a month since we first walked on the legendary Inca Trail, or the Camino del Inca, the footpath that leads to the gates of Machu Picchu, yet until now I cannot believe that I, an inexperienced hiker, made it. Surviving the trek seemed impossible until we finally did.


High altitude passes, steep stairs and sore knees

The trek involves long ascents along precipitous hand hewn stone paths and stairs that strained the lungs and made me gasp for air and arduous knee-jamming and toe-jamming descents that felt like an eternal downward spiral into agony. I had to focus on where to put my feet in order to maintain my balance and not fall off the cliff in those sections that hug the mountainside. The high altitude, which made breathing even more difficult, didn’t help either. There were moments when, desperate for more air and my legs already beyond exhaustion, I felt that each step was the last that I could take or the most that I could do. Yet I trudged on.

descent from Sayacmarca (Day 3)
I was so determined not to falter that it appeared believable: The other hikers in our tour group mistook me for a college student hardcore trekker. People would definitely see me as what I really am—33, wimpy and inexperienced--if not for the months of rigorous training and days of acclimatization that I went through. All through those months of preparation, I had this in mind:

"Make no mistake, the Inca Trail is a fairly difficult trek and you should be well prepared and healthy prior to starting it. You have to be fit and take regular exercise. Try walking 15 km in a day or go to the gym in the months leading up to the trek. It is also important to be well acclimatized to the altitude." (Peru Treks FAQ)


our tour group
Comfort amid discomfort

The toilets, as I expected, were indescribably nasty. All camping sites have toilet facilities with running water, but some trekkers probably do not have enough respect for their fellow trekkers to keep the facilities clean. Those who can’t put up with such unpleasantness do their thing hidden in the bushes, away from the stench and excrement.

Temperatures varied from 21°C (70°F) during daytime when the sun is out to 1°C (34°F) come night time till the early hours of the morning. And because of this variation in temperature, we had to dress in layers – layers that, when taken off, added more weight to our daypacks.

The Inca Trail gets its most number of visitors from June to August because these months coincide with Peru’s dry season. Sunny skies with chilly yet clear nights were expected during our trek, but it rained on the night of the third day and the morning of the fourth. On the last day, we woke at dawn to a heavy downpour and after a hurried breakfast put on our ponchos and headlamps and started hiking down to Machu Picchu. Walking for hours in the rain, in the dark and within inches from falling off the mountainside was scary, annoying and uncomfortable – all at the same time. Yet the fright, annoyance and discomfort disappeared when we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu enveloped in mist.


Amid all the discomfort is the unexpected luxury of waking up every day to steaming coffee and coca tea served in our tents. Every meal was thoughtfully prepared by the trek team. It is amazing how the crew came up with such delicious three-course meals with their equipment and mobile kitchen tent assembled on-site. How they managed to set up our tents and prepare everything before we arrive in camp is an amazing example of efficiency, organization and excellent service.

A world of beauty

The Inca Trail is part of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, a 325 sq km national park designated as a UNESCO World Heritage natural and cultural site. It traverses high passes, rushing rivers, tunnels carved into rocks and cloud forests inhabited by rare orchids, ferns, hanging mosses and different bird species. Against this dramatic landscape are several Inca ruins that showed the architectural sophistication of the Incas and their utmost regard for nature.

The dazzling mountain scenery was simply breathtaking. I gazed and stared, stupefied by the world of beauty around me. The Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu gave me the greatest wealth of experience any individual could ever know in such a short time.



(Click here for more pictures of the Inca Trail.)
 
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