Category Archives: Travel

Sky Train, October 2014

Dear _____,

I remember seeing you at the National Stadium Station of the Sky Train in Bangkok. You didn’t have enough coins for the ticket vending machine. I offered help and found out that you were also on your way to the airport. (You spoke to me in Chinese first and I said that my Mandarin is too limited for any meaningful conversation. You smiled and said “your English is good.”)

During that train ride, I learned that you spent a few weeks in Thailand. You were about to go back to China, where you work as an urban planner. Every trip is a form of research, we agreed on that.

I asked if you’ve ever been to the Philippines. You said “no” and that you wanted to visit but got scared because of news in China about Filipinos killing Chinese people here. I wish I could tell you everyone is safe in my country, but personal experience prevents me from saying that until now. I just told you that I doubt Filipinos would kill a person just because of his citizenship, that there are safe places here, that I’m willing to show you around if you ever swing by. We said goodbye at the airport.

If you ever go here, I will give you a tour in my hometown first. By that time, I’m sure I’ve figured out how to say nicely that it’s the West Philippine Sea, as we watch the sunset.

Dahican Sunrise

I’m sure you’ll ask for another beach trip. I’ll take you to Dahican Beach, Mati City in Davao Oriental. It’s a sunrise beach, for a change. There’s a 7-kilometer stretch of white-sand there, but in the morning we can wake our feet up along the rocky parts. We’ll have scrambled waves for breakfast.

There, we will not argue about the name of the ocean.

Dahican wave2

I celebrated the Chinese New Year in Dahican weeks ago. Sure, there were no fireworks and lion dances. I spent time reflecting about the past years and planning for the new one. At the quiet shore, I could almost hear my heart’s rhythm like a steady beating of a drum.

Dahicanwave

It was also a weekend of skimboarding and surfing, spent in the company of talented but humble new friends. Vince, my surf instructor, works at the Philippine National Police. Based on his quick talk about crime rates, I’m sure we won’t have to worry about safety while we’re in Davao.

Dahican hatchery

Can you guess what I loved most about Dahican?

Mention the word “pawikan” and surely, whether you’re talking to older locals or one of the skimboarding kids, you’ll get a rundown of facts about the marine turtle. Someday, people will love that, too, about where I came from. That’s one of the main reasons why I was in Dahican that weekend. And I will be back for more lessons, both on conservation and boardsports. I wish you’d give the wonderful place a try.

Dahican tricycle

You wrote your e-mail address on a piece of paper before we parted ways. I’m sorry, it got lost during my trip back to Manila. I don’t even have your full name. But if you’re planning to come here, you’ll be searching the words “Philippines”, “beach”, and other related tags. Maybe you’ll be led to this blog. Maybe you’ll drop me a line.

Fat chance. Like how it was, seeing you at the train station when I had that one extra coin in my pocket.

Cheers,

A.

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Surf Village Hostel, Dahican Beach

Dahican hostel

When I was at Dahican Beach early this month, I stayed at the Surf Village Hostel. The place is about five minutes away from the shore, maybe three minutes, depending on how beach-deprived you are. Since it was a weekend of reflection for me, the location was perfect. The distance for walking was welcome.

The rooms are made of local materials, mostly wood and bamboo. I wouldn’t call it a cowboy place, because by my more hardcore friends’ standards, cowboy means making a home out of a hammock you brought with you. At Surf Village, you get a comfortable bed and free breakfast.

Dahican company

On my first night at Dahican, I had a few drinks with the Surf Village Team and guests from Finland. It was also a salubong for the birthday of Chris (former Team Captain of the DLSU Men’s Volleyball Team), who was on a solo trip that weekend as well.

That night, Skimboarding Champion Bayogyog (the Surf Village kids call him Yogi) showed me his training scars. We talked about figurative heart scars, too, and that’s how  I discovered that this board athlete’s alcohol tolerance is lower than mine. Yogi has been in the sport since he was six. I hope he gets more sponsorships and support.

Dahican surf and shoot 2

The owners, Harrison and Irene, stay at Surf Village and can easily be reached through info@surf-village.ph. You may also text them through the number above. Harry, Vincent and the boys at Surf Village will also be happy to help you out with surfing or skimboarding lessons.

Visit their website at www.surf-village.ph and Facebook page: Surf Village Hostel.

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Hello, 2016!

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Cebu sunset

When Tatay Cirilo (my Nanay’s father) was last confined in a hospital, he talked about a dream he had while lying in the operation room. In the dream, he was walking in a forest so deep he almost couldn’t see its end. That was one of the last few words I heard from him.

Months before that, he told me maybe I can already start thinking about building a family or a relationship, at least, because my career is already going well. That was the first time I heard him say that. Far from his usual authoritative voice, the suggestion was uttered softly. It sounded as if he was trying not to embarrass and pressure me in front of the other family members. But I stayed true to character and just changed the topic.

We lost him early last year. His life lasted for more than nine decades. Before 2015 ended, I found myself looking back and thinking of his words.

The past few months left me with the lesson that I should stop spending so much time stressing about the future and learn to value what I already have. That may sound like a cliche. But some time ago, I ignored that simple lesson and the hurt I caused was far from being predictable. It was not like anything that I imagined.

Tatay Cirilo handpicked the wooden foundation of the house he built for his family at Poblacion, Morong, Bataan. That ensured that the foundations were of high quality and would last a long time. I only figured out recently that at the hospital, he might have been dreaming of the time he was looking for wood.

Relationships – with family, friends and loved ones – require hard work. For someone who works in a profession that requires careful use of words, I can be careless when it comes to personal matters. This year taught me that in any area of life, I should always make sure that my words reflect my intent. More importantly, take time away from the noise of words and let my actions catch up with my promises. Take time to carefully and lovingly pick the foundations upon which I build relationships. What I want to remember in my last hours is the forest I walked because of love. For people who matter to me.

There are so many people to thank for what they shared with me in the past year. But as I said before, I will just make my life an expression of gratitude.

Thank you, 2015.

***       ***       ***

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River of my childhood in Morong, Bataan

Hello, 2016. Here’s my partial to-do list for this year.

  1. Help set up an art exhibit.
  2. Join the TNF trail run in Benguet.
  3. Train for the TBR Dream Marathon 2017.
  4. Skim and surf in Davao Oriental.
  5. Visit Palawan.
  6. Ride the Pasig River ferry.
  7. Donate blood.
  8. Get a new tattoo.
  9. Start a new business.
  10. Climb a mountain.
  11. Organize a free museum trip for kids from Bataan.
  12. Donate books to a public school.
  13. Finish a painting.
  14. Finish reading at least three of the books I bought pre-2016.
  15. Publish a literary work.
  16. Plant at least 10 native trees in my hometown.

Help me cross out each of these goals before 2016 ends. One by one, I will tell the stories of how these are connected with the lessons from the past year. This will also be a period of learning, collaboration and adventure. Happy new year!

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Salomon X Trail Run in Bataan, some reminders

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Salomon Philippines will hold its 2015 Trail Run in Morong, Bataan on April 25. Weeks ago, I registered and got myself a pair of Speedcross 3 to break in before the race. As far as I know, this will be the first trail race in my hometown, so I got excited to join.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to run this Saturday due to an injury. I wallowed in this sad realization. For about an hour. Then I thought of coming up with this little list of reminders for my fellow trail runners who will join the race.

Leave nothing but shoeprints.

Most trail runners I know care for the environment. Why would you go through the hassle of training, traveling to trail destinations, and enduring a difficult route (with horse shit, slippery rocks, insects you don’t recognize, etc.), if you don’t love the ground you‘re allowed to tread?

If you say you don’t care much about the lovely view and you’re doing this for your ego, then leave it at the starting line. It is sad that in the past races I joined, mostly way up north of the country, there were a few runners who littered the route with energy bar wrappers. I’m not sure if they were afraid that the weight of the trash could affect their PRs.

The Salomon X Trail Run Rules state that littering or defacing of the premises shall be a ground for dismissal. As a preventive measure, we have to demand that the organizers implement this rule strictly and that this be emphasized especially before the race starts. The e-mail address is salomonphils@gmail.com. Let’s drop them a line about this.

I remember that during the Khao Yai Trail Marathon in Thailand last year, the briefer in the race kit emphasized that aside from the high fine, which was in thousands of baht, spitting at the route can kill about ten thousand elephants. The statement was effective as I kept hearing about it from fellow runners along the half-mary route. It was a commercially sponsored event and the first trail run in the area. See? Just because we all get it that they’re doing it mainly for marketing purposes, that doesn’t mean race organizers have to be so careless.

Trust me, for I have seen Morong’s beauty by car, by boat, by bicycle, by carabao-drawn cart, by old farm-bound kuliglig and by foot. (If anyone offers to lend a chopper, I’d probably resist and say we’re cutting down on fuel.) The best way to fall in love with my hometown is a pie. Since this weekend’s trail runners have been given that privilege, I hope this affair won’t leave the town with scars.

Explore.

Here are some spots you might want to visit:

1. Vietnamese food joints at Barangay Binaritan. The town used to be a temporary home to refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. During their stay here, the refugees were able to pass on their culinary knowledge to the people of Morong. That is why most of us have concepts of hutieu and banh mi, adjusted to local taste and available ingredients.

If you ask me where I usually go, well, I’m partial to the taste of hutieu from Aling Solly’s. Back in high school, I’d put aside a portion of my allowance so that at the end of the day, I can join my friends for a bowl of our favorite soup, best enjoyed with chili and rauram. There was free broth refill to the delight of our teenage hearts. I can attest that the taste has been consistent through the years. You have to give it a try.  

Loleng’s Hutieu-an is also in the area. The place serves Vietnamese and Filipino food. Last month, I tried their bun thit nuong, spabok (which is a known Bataan dish) and halo-halo, all in one sitting. This will be a good place to go for your recovery meal.

2. Montey’s Buko Pie. According to friends who received this default pasalubong from me, the buko pie is good as it isn’t too sweet and the coconut used tastes fresh. I like it mainly because, with clear notes on what time I’m picking up the pie, I’m sure to get it packed right out of the oven. The numbers are 0919-702-4833 and 0928-254-4936. The store is located at Barangay Sabang, a few minutes from the Anvaya Cove where the starting/finish line of the race is set.

3. Pawikan Conservation Center. This is located at Barangay Nagbalayong. I was surprised, in a rather unpleasant way, upon reading from the race website that the Center is the official camping ground of the Salomon X Trail Run. I hope effective rules will be set as to where the tents may be pitched and how the campers should behave in the area. If you’re dropping by, please make it a visit for the purposes of information and conservation. Don’t stress out the pawikans by poking them as I witnessed some tourists do in my previous visits.

4. Resorts. The organizers have partner resorts listed on the race website. In case you’re still cramming for your accommodation, there are a lot of resorts in the town. ERC Resort is at Sitio Panibatuhan. Leave me a message here if you’d like me to connect you with the owners. Bucco Bali, on the other hand, is located at Barangay Sabang. You may check their Facebook account.

Enjoy your stay. Be a responsible runner. And maybe next time, when my injured foot heals, see you at the trail!

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These photos are yours.

Disowning A Decade

In 2011, I finished sending away torn pages from my 10-year-old journal, in a little project called “Disowning A Decade.”

That same year, and during our bar review (and against the doctor’s advice, sorry), I went on a week-long impromptu trip to what would later on become one of my favorite hideouts.

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I wasn’t able to bring a proper camera, so I ended up snapping photos with a 500-peso Vivitar film cam from Abanao Road. Visit this Facebook link. Be the first to comment on the photo that you would like me to snailmail to you and I’ll send you the printed copy at the start of 2015. One photo per person, in view of the finite nature of my photography fund. But I don’t care whether you’re in or out of the Philippines.

Happy New Year! Wishing us all good health, so that we can continue to work for the other wishes of our hearts.

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2014 Finds

Here are a few of the ideas, places and products that got us in 2014. These will probably get our support and interest in the coming years.

Pikul handmade watch

My field of barley

Pikul watches

While walking inside the shops at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre, I came across some handmade watches by Pikul Hoonkan. I got myself one that is made of maple wood and genuine leather. The barley design makes me think of two things whenever I look at the dial: that line from Sting’s Fields of Gold and one of my favorite alcoholic drinks.

My skin develops rash from wearing metal and I usually just put this on at the office, where the cold room temperature ensures my sweat and the metal will not cause irritation. Aside from the design – well, how do I say this? – you can only tell you got a good watch by testing it over time. Right now, I am happy with my affordable handmade watch. I will get other colors and designs when I go back to Bangkok or Singapore. The Instagram account to check out for this item is pikul_hoonkan.

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Note from my Scout’s makers

Bags by Rubbertree

In 2014, I began to try leather products made by local designers. These days, you’ll often find me carrying a hand-cut and hand-stitched XL Scout by Bags by Rubbertree. (I’m guessing this was derived from the names of Ruben and Trina Flores, the couple behind the leather goods.) It took us a few e-mails and weeks before my order was delivered, but it was worth the wait. They got the customized pocket that I specified works perfectly. Visit www.bagsbyrubbertree.com.

Holiday baskets by Local Love Philippines

Holiday baskets by Local Love PH

Local Love Philippines

My local travels this year included days spent in Ifugao, Baguio, Bacolod, Silay, Laguna, and Batangas. These are mostly trail running, business and class trips, which also gave me chances to explore locally made products. I would love to go around the country more in 2015, but there are budget and time constraints to deal with.

When my wallet and calendar prevent me from satisfying my craving for our local food and beverage, I’ll be relying on Local Love Philippines. The company helps us enjoy wine, snacks, jams, coffee, chocolate and other products from all over the country. These are sourced mostly by my Organic Agriculture classmate, Jacqueline Ong, and I’m sure she will be willing to tell you the stories behind the products if you’ll ask. Follow their Facebook page.

Instant pho

Instant pho from Vietnam

Pho-for-Two

I was born in the rainy month of August. This year, I turned 31 in a stormy Vietnam. (The fence of the Reunification Palace was damaged by a tree felled by the heavy rains that day.) While stuck inside the Ho Chi Minh Post Office, I bought instant pho, mainly because I liked its packaging. The container is reusable and woven from a local material. Inside are the noodles, vegetables (rau), soup powder (sup bot), oil (dau) and soup powder (sup set). The label indicates that this was designed by Products Simplified. The website is www.products-simplified.com. I would like to have an instant La Paz batchoy packaged this way.

Lamy Vista

Lamy Vista

Lamy Vista

After months of deciding on what will be my day-to-day fountain pen, I got myself the see-through Lamy Vista. Lamy is a German brand and this pen was designed by Wolfgang Fabian. I’m still testing the writing quality of the pen. The blue Lamy ink that I use with the pen appears a bit pale. (The words on the photo above are from Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”) So far, I am satisfied with the performance of the pen itself as it glides smoothly on my writing pads and the release of the ink is consistent.

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Nine questions: Prabda Yoon

PrabdaYoon

 

Let me put this out first: I love bookshops.

Last month’s weekend trip to Thailand led me to Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC), where the treasure trove called Bookmoby Readers’ Cafe can be found. If you’re staying for less than 48 hours in a country, why would you spend more than an hour in a bookshop?

My haul from Bookmoby included a few familiar titles and a shirt with the shop’s logo. While paying at the counter, I also picked up a CD entitled Naming of a Storm and asked the staff if I can listen to it first. The album had me at “Bangkok Blues” so I got a copy.

Days after Naming of a Storm became my staple driving music, I took some time to read the jacket and found out that the the lyrics were written by Prabda Yoon, who also runs Bookmoby, Typhoon Studio and Typhoon Books. Prabda won the S.E.A. Write Award in 2002 for his story collection, Kwan Na Ja Pen. He has written books and screenplays, produced music and designed numerous book covers. His writings have also been translated to Japanese and published in Japan.

So why would you spend an hour of your short vacation inside a bookshop? Because it could be the door to a nation’s mind. And when you walk through that door, your trip continues even when you’re already back in your own country.

A week after my trip to Thailand, I found myself exchanging e-mails with Prabda Yoon. I’m so thankful that the prolific and influential artist took time to answer a few questions.

***

The Typhoon Band, Typhoon Books and Typhoon Studio, Naming of a Storm. Is there a story behind the names and title? It’s just from my interest in meteorological phenomena. Also, it’s a word that is the same in Thai and English which makes it easy to use alternately.

The tracks in your band’s album, Naming of a Storm, has been my driving music for weeks now, since I picked it up at Bookmoby. “Cuba, Bollywood” is my favorite. Will you be releasing new album or music anytime soon? It’s unlikely because music is not my main thing and I don’t have time for it at all now.

The album was released in 2008. I understand that you wrote the lyrics for the songs. How different will the words be if you were to release a new one today? If I wrote new songs now the lyrics would probably be darker. I am feeling a bit frustrated with the political situation in Thailand and I think I would enjoy expressing that through songs. The music would also be more punk.

You’re a designer, writer, translator, publisher and musician, among other things. Have you always wanted or planned to do these? I’d always wanted to write and make art in some ways, but no, I didn’t really plan any of this. I never really believed that I could make a living doing these things. I tell myself often how lucky I am and how it’d be a terrible shame to waste it all by doing bad work. That’s my inspiration. I’m trying my best because I’m grateful I can do what I love.

Can you please tell us a bit about what makes you passionate about all these things that you do? I’m really no good at anything else. I feel that I’ve found my place in the world and I want to make the best out of it. For me life is about work, more than anything else, because I don’t have much passion for other things. So I just want to do what I do as much as I possibly can.

How do you see Thailand’s literary and art scene? It’s developing and at times it can be exciting. But Thailand still has a long way to go.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve been to the Philippines for some time. What brought you here? I have some good friends in the Philippines. And in 2009 I received a research grant from Japan that allowed me to stay in different parts of the Philippines for 3 months.

Do you have a favorite place in the Philippines? I love Siquijor. I went there twice. I would love to go back.

Is there any chance of you coming back? Yes, but not anytime soon. I know I will be back though.

***

If you’re planning to visit Thailand, pass by BACC and spend time (at least an hour) at Bookmoby. You may also visit its website: www.bookmoby.com.

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