It’s the first day of June. Time sure flies so fast. Summer vacation for most students ends today as classes open tomorrow. Summer, my most favorite time of the year, will soon be over. 😦
This year’s summer had been a very memorable one. I got to meet my adorable niece Emma for the first time! I made it a point to take some time off from work to spend quality time with my family, especially because my cousins from Canada came home for a vacation.
I love going home to the province, even on short vacations, because I get the chance to watch the sun go down everyday at the beach near our house. I could just sit there on the shore or take a dip in the inviting water to cool down the sweltering heat of the summer sun until it had finally set. But mostly, I love going home because I miss home cooked meals and the comfort of being with my family.
Even at work, the past two months had been quite busy. I was mostly out on fieldwork gathering stories, capturing photos, facilitating workshops, meeting people, organizing events. I rode motorbikes, walked in the sugarcane farms under the scorching heat of the sun, and traveled from one island to the next. I’m not complaining. I love my work, actually. Because at the end of the day, in the few hours before I head home to Manila, I get to see the beautiful sights in the area.
As I was browsing through my summer photos, trying to relish the fun memories, I realized I had on this one top in a lot of photos! Yikes, I need some serious wardrobe change! I badly need to buy some pretty beach dresses online. And new swim wear, too (maybe something that could hide my growing curves). Besides, summer may be over but it’s always good to be ready with the outfit. There’s so much picture perfect places waiting to be explored all year round.
Anyway, check out these pictures to see what kept me busy this summer:
Thank you, summer, for the great memories and the darkened skin! Til next year.
A sweet, soft voice filled the humid air as I made my way through the cluster of houses ahead.
“Ang kailangan mo’y tibay ng loob kung mayrong pagsubok man
Ang liwanag ay ‘di magtatagal at muling mamasdan
Ikot ng mundo ay hindi laging pighati’t kasawian
Ang pangarap mo ay makakamtan basta’t maghintay ka lamang”
It was a fine Saturday morning, a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered the Visayas, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of people homeless and hungry.
“Magandang umaga po,” I greeted the group of people ahead. A mother was washing clothes in the nearby well and men were trying to repair their damaged houses. My Filipino greeting must’ve caught Nicole’s attention that she stopped singing, looked out their window and smiled warmly at me. She had been singing her baby sister to sleep. An uprooted coconut tree lay beside their small hut. I stopped beside it and scanned the neighborhood.
I heard someone call out to me. It was my colleague. I remembered I was there for an important purpose. I took pictures and asked questions. In that small coastal community, many houses were also either washed out, roofless or heavily damaged. The community wasn’t as heavily devastated as Tacloban, Capiz or Northern Cebu but they were just as affected. Families now lived with relatives and neighbors or in makeshift houses made from what remained of their old houses. Sources of living were destroyed. Food was scarce. Classes were suspended because of damaged classrooms. Children had school supplies no more.
A mother sorted through soiled clothes and household items while her two sons tried to salvage wet books and notebooks. A single father gazed at his 3 children after their day’s work in the farm. His little girl told me she wants to be a teacher someday. A boy clung to her mother’s side beside the empty space where their home had once stood.
These images spoke of unspoken struggles and uncertainties. Amid silence were brief blank stares. These images made my heart heavy. But their smiles, though awkward at times, brought a glimmer of hope in me… that despite the grim circumstances, they were slowly coming to realize all hope was not lost. This hope I found in a Christmas star which hung among whatever was left of a home. On the bus going back to the city, I closed my eyes and remembered Nicole’s cheerful and hopeful voice singing a song of hope.
Courage is found in unlikely places – J.R.R. Tolkien
My toes tingled as I dipped it into the chilly water. I hesitated for a bit but my excitement persisted. The sea was relatively calm that day compared to the previous days. I heard a splash a few meters away from where I stood and I saw my friend Jay already in the water. I waded forward slowly, resisting the urge to run back to the warm embrace of the white sand covering the shore. Behind me, my friend Rocky suggested I dive in the water just before he did so.
The sun was a few minutes shy from kissing the horizon. I took a deep breath and plunged into the cold water. I swam and swam thinking I needed to produce energy to keep myself warm. After a couple of minutes, I was tired and breathless but I felt warm. I closed my eyes, laid on my back, spread my arms wide and floated. As soon as my heartbeat calmed down, I opened my eyes and saw the dark blue sky above. A faint orange glow decorated my peripheral vision and I knew that the sun has finally set. A star slowly came into view above the horizon where the sun had set. I swam towards the shore until I could stand upright and only my head was out of the water. I stood there silently, hypnotized by the sight before me. The sea gleamed of iridescence, an evidence left behind by fisher folks that have gone out to sea. Before the night claimed the sky, I got out of the water, took a few pictures of the last traces of the New Year’s Day sun and headed home.
“May rainbow din po ba sa heaven?”
I woke up with a terrible headache, having barely slept that night. It had rained hard all night and dark clouds loomed the horizon that Saturday morning, dispelling all my excitement. The day hasn’t even started, but I felt it was going to be bleak. At 6 am, I groggily set out for my early morning class excursion.
I stood beside a puddle of rain water at the side of the road. I looked down at my muddy red sneakers and noticed the rainbow-like effect created from the thin film of oil on the puddle, which probably leaked from the trucks that came and went through that narrow road leading to the dump site at Pier 18. I dipped the tip of my shoes in the puddle and watched the ripple spread, my mind dreaming of hot chocolate and pancakes.
“May rainbow din po ba sa heaven?” Her tiny voice jolted me from my daydream. I lifted my gaze upward and saw her looking at the iridescent oil slick. She wore a shabby shirt and shorts, a frail body underneath. Her slippers needed replacement, her feet were covered with mud and dirt. Her eyes were wide with amazement at the rainbow. She looked at me with tired, sad eyes and smiled. I smiled back and nodded my answer. Then, she ran off before I even got a chance to ask her name.
On our way back to the university, I thought of that little girl again. Her sad smile haunted me. Young as she was, I felt that she was already exhausted and tired of life. I prayed that she would find hope in that seemingly hopeless place, even in simple things such as that rainbow in the puddle.
The vicious cycle of poverty traps many poor families and pulls them deeper and deeper into a world of helplessness. If people in dire conditions lose all hope that they may one day be able to break out of poverty, the next generations are the ones who will truly suffer. Seeds of hope, such as what rainbows after a rain create, can be seeds of dreams and seeds of a better life. Let’s all try to plant seeds of hope and dreams. Let’s not get tired to do so, even when we feel nothing is getting better. Let’s not forget to hope and hopefully, one day, our world will truly be filled with joy and life.
Today, I’ve decided to take part in Sue’s A Word A Week Challenge and this week’s theme is OLD. I rummaged through the albums from my recent trips and found these:
A 600-year old Balete Tree
Old clay jars
Church bell from the Baler Church in the 1800s
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte,The highest elevated still original and active Spanish era lighthouse in the country. (Wikipedia)
But my most favorite old photo is…
My mom’s photo in her 20s. I wish I was as pretty as her. 🙂
Early this year, I went to Malaysia alone – not that I wanted to be alone, but my friend who was supposed to be on the trip with me had to cancel because of unforeseen circumstances. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity so I still pushed through with the trip. Anyway, a former officemate who worked in Kuala Lumpur offered to be my tour guide during my stay there. (Thank you, Ochie, for being such a great host!)
Here are some photos from my trip:
I loved the food and architecture in Malaysia! I didn’t have enough time to visit all the famous tourist spots but someday I will go back and explore the countryside, the islands and the beautiful beaches.
Kota Kinabalu, I will see you in May. 🙂
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~ Leo Buscaglia
Her heartwarming smile greeted us as we made our way through the row of little huts along the village’s main road. It was almost midday and the sun was blisteringly hot in that almost arid place. It was so hot but she didn’t mind. She just flashed the most sincere smile I have ever seen. It was a smile that had the potential to move the hearts of anyone who cared to notice.
That bright smile shook my lethargic heart. She, whose future was uncertain because of intergenerational poverty, looked so happy while I, with so many choices and opportunities, felt so troubled. It amazed me how she could still smile when her stomach was empty and her tiny feet were bare and full of scratches. All throughout the day I saw her running around and playing with a younger girl and her smile rarely left her tiny face. Each time I saw her, I was reminded that I had no right to complain about how hot it was or how my feet ached. I felt ashamed that I, who had so much, still whined about petty things. Her innocent smile shamed me.
I remember the quote that was written in a coffee mug I bought a few years back. It said, “Happiness is not in things, it is in us.” May the smile of this little girl always remind you and me to look for happiness not in material things but in real, genuine relationships.
I pray that this child will grow up well and make a positive mark on this world. I pray that God will usher in good people to help her and the rest of the children in their village be provided with better capacities and opportunities. I hope that she won’t ever forget to smile even in the face of difficulties in life. God bless you, dearest child.
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit Cavite’s Marine Turtle Hatchery in Labac, Naic. I was thrilled when Mr. Antiojo, the project leader, told us that there was a batch of newly hatched sea turtles waiting to be released to the sea. Thoughts of Crush and Squirt, the super cool father-son sea turtle tandem from Finding Nemo, came to mind and got me excited some more.
Check out these photos of our Sea Turtle releasing experience:
It is said that in extreme cases, female sea turtles come back to the beach where they were hatched. I hope at least one of the hundreds of sea turtles released at the Labac Hatchery would come back one day and lay their eggs there. As I watched the little sea turtle crawl its way to sea, I prayed that it would live long and not get eaten by a marine predator or get caught one day by a fisherman only to be eaten or be butchered for its shell.
Crush: Okay. Squirt here will now give you a rundown of proper exiting technique.
Squirt: Good afternoon. We’re gonna have a great jump today. Okay, first crank a hard cutback as you hit the wall. There’s a screaming bottom curve, so watch out. Remember: rip it, roll it, and punch it.
- Watch the miraculous journey of infant sea turtles as these… (thekidshouldseethis.com)
- Saving sea turtles from extinction (sciencealert.com.au)
Magalawa Island, Palauig, Zambales
The quiet sea always has that calming effect on me. I know that it isn’t always like that, that there are days when the wind is strong and the waves are raging. Yet, I know that each storm will eventually come to pass and the sea will become still again. Despite knowing that toxic days are ahead, I somehow feel at peace knowing that everything will be alright. Thank God for the short but wonderful break last weekend. It helped clear my mind and calm my anxious heart.
Disappointments. Stagnation. Mediocrity. These three words pretty much characterize my life at the moment. My pride is having a hard time accepting this but it has no other choice. It worries me that I, who dreamt big dreams and had grand plans, would let my life reach this point without making a bold move to change the course of things even when I had the chance to. I fear that I have changed so much, sadly, not for the better. Day after day, I disappoint myself with mediocre ideas, plans and outputs. At night when I wait for sleep to take over my anxieties, I wonder what happened to the person I thought I was and wanted to be.
As I slowly come to terms with my present self, I cannot help but feel anxious of the seemingly bleak future ahead. I know it’s time to step out of this debilitating state and rise up to new challenges. Yet, I feel the familar string pulling me back inside that already comfortable hole. It’s a viscious cycle that’s been eating up the remaining hope in me. Everyday is a struggle to break free and it’s tiring and frustrating. I’m tired of disappointing myself over and over again. I’m tired of being a mediocre. I’m tired of being the dispassionate person I’ve become. I am desperate for change. But where do I start?
Today is a very special day for my parents. It’s the day they vowed to spend the rest of their lives loving one another before God. So today, I honor that love that brought me to this world… a love that saw beyond age (my mom’s a decade older than my dad)… a love that transformed their lives and mine. I pray to God for that love to grow stronger each passing day. I pray that someday soon, I will also find and experience that same kind of love. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! ❤
My blog has been silent for almost a month now. There’s so many things I want to write about, stories I want to share, photos I want to show…but I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and put them into writing. Well, I did try. At night before I’d go to bed, I would open the WordPress App on my phone and I would try to write something. Sadly, due to exhaustion, I’d fall asleep after a few minutes. Right now, I have about 5 draft posts, all half-finished. I’m not sure if I can still remember what I really wanted to say then.
I can’t wait for September to end. When the campaign I’m working on is over and classes for this semester has ended, hopefully by then I can find ample time to just write.
Thanks to everyone who continue to check out my blog, even liking posts from the not so distant past. I shall return with more stories and more photos. Until then.
Yesterday was a bright and sunny day. Before dusk, I took my dad’s bike and rode to the beach near our old family house. I wanted to sit on the sandy shore while I waited for the sun to set, just like I used to when I was younger. The sunset yesterday was worth the wait. It was really beautiful. Aside from that, I also got to see fishermen coming home from a long day at sea, with their families and relatives eager to see the day’s catch.
Today, I woke up to the sound of the rain softly falling down on our roof. I look out my window and see dark gray clouds hovering over our town. I still hope I’d get to see the sun before I leave for the city tonight.
Remember Jaja – the little girl I met on the bus going home to the province? I still think about her sometimes and wonder how she’s doing. I hope she’s well and happy and enjoying her childhood.
On my trip back to Manila after that vacation, I met Joy. What really got me interested in Joy was that she reminded me so much of Jaja. It was like I was seeing the adult version of the little girl I met a few days earlier.
I arrived early at the bus station, which was just a block away from our house. Mom and Dad walked me to the bus, as they always do. The long vacation was over, and a lot of people – both tourists and locals – were on their way back to Manila. Good thing I was able to reserve a seat, although the seat I got was already at the second to the last row.
It was almost 8pm, and the bus was about to leave, but the seat next to me was still empty. I took out my iPod and book and began reading while the light was still on. A few minutes after 8, our bus still hasn’t left the station. I guess they were waiting for some more passengers who reserved seats. My seatmate was one of them. I was almost getting drowsy when finally, she arrived. She sat down beside me, catching her breathe. She must’ve raced her way to the bus station to catch the last trip going to Manila that day.
“Hi, are you heading to Manila, too?” she asked me. “Yes,” I answered. “I’m Joy,” she smiled at me. “Mae,” I smiled back.
I stowed my book and iPod and readied myself for a conversation with Joy. I wondered what her story was and I was eager to know. I didn’t get disappointed because Joy was very talkative. In fact, we talked until 1 in the morning. Her high-pitched voice floated inside the bus, along with the soft snores of the passengers.
For 5 hours, I listened to Joy unfold her life. She just went on and on with her stories. As I listened to her, I noticed how similar her story was with Jaja’s. Like Jaja, she was orphaned at a young age and was left to the care of her aunt. Since college, she had been living independently while her aunt went abroad to work. She has learned to live on her own and look after herself. She told me about her past relationships, and how her ex boyfriend left her for another woman. She told me about her work, her colleagues and struggles. She shared that she wanted to try her luck overseas, hoping her life would be much better. She was only in her early twenties and she seemed be very enthusiastic about everything. I felt how strong a person she was, probably because of the circumstances in her life.
Joy travelled alone during that trip, her first time to do so. She was supposed to travel with her friends but her schedule didn’t permit her to join them. This didn’t hold her back from getting the most of the very long weekend so she decided to explore Ilocos on her own. She recounted her adventures to the different tourist destinations she visited, places I myself haven’t even been to considering I lived almost half of my life in that province. She excitedly showed me the photos and videos that she took from the places she visited.
Joy had a positive outlook in life. I envied her and wished I could have that same confidence and positive attitude. I thought of Jaja and wished she’d grow up with the same positive outlook.
At 1am, she must have noticed that I was so sleepy so she finally told me to sleep. I slept thinking about Joy and Jaja and prayed that they both have a bright future ahead of them.
I don’t normally talk to strangers on the bus but God allows us to meet other people to let us realize and learn things from them. Tonight, I’m headed to the province again for the long weekend. Before I leave the house, I just had to finish this post I started two months ago. I’m looking forward to hearing more inspiring stories from strangers!
Late last year, I went on a trip to Pangasinan with friends. I already posted about our HUNDRED ISLANDS tour but I haven’t been able to share about our second destination – Bolinao. So, here are my favorite shots from our weekend getaway in the beautiful town of Bolinao.
We weren’t able to fully explore the tourist sites in Bolinao but if you’re planning to go there, check out this site – THINGS TO DO IN BOLINAO