DESIGN: organza + opacities + white = love

jacket: my design, pants: my design, leotard: American Apparel shoes: Jeffery Campbell

I designed both the pants and the jacket separately from one another - a long while ago - but I think they make a great pair. The normal shoulder seem in that jacket is transferred into the jagged design lines and the sides are vented.  My love affair with silk organza is apparent here. Hope you like it.  kisses -mwah

DESIGN: new leather jacket that I designed + new hair

jacket: my design, tee: my design, tights: Ohne Titel, shoes: thrift find

A lot has happened in the last week - sorry for the lack of post guys... but, I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON THE NEW COLLECTION! am i excited enough for you, hehe? 

I designed this jacket in the process of draping the samples. I figured that the weather is changing and soon the leaves will have all fallen from the trees and therefore, I might need a new jacket to cope with the cold. I haven't even finish putting in the lining, I've been too busy wearing it.

The hair story is that I am going natural, so i decided to get extensions to help with the in-between period.

Backpacker: Santa Ana, Cagayan

Previously on Souljacker

Third Part: Royal Snub at the Eastern Hawaii

Backpacking presents two ways of learning from a road trip: One is to be immersed in the local setting and enjoy - first hand - the hospitality of ordinary folks. The other is to get the same kind of treatment most locals receive when entering a place strictly for tourists who have the influence, and money to spend. 

Life isn't fair.

We learn, and in my case, I write my experience.

At a sari-sari store a few steps away from Jotay Resort:

"Manong, may mga alam ba kayong resort dito na okay?" I asked the storekeeper while lighting a stick of Marboro Lights. I couldn't tell exactly that I'm looking for a place with Internet connection.

"Diyan sa Jotay, ayos diyan." was his quick response.

I puffed my stick and then replied "Kagagaling ko lang po doon, wala daw silang available na room." His wife joined us to help me with my dilemma.

The storekeepers mentioned a number of jolog-sounding resorts, which I didn't bother to remember. After all, I did my homework back in the city and what I needed was a name recall. When he mentioned Eastern, I found my next option. Read from travel blogs that it is a high-end resort and I'm expecting they have my only requirement. 

After getting instructions on how to reach the main road, I left the store with a flyer in hand.

A flyer listing all the expensive places a tourist should see in Santa Ana.

Main Highway, Santa Ana, Cagayan

Of all the things I immediately picked in town, it is that the locals are very helpful and deal situations in a leisurely manner. In another store along the highway, the lady storekeeper instructed me how to ride a trike going to my next resort, and pay the correct fare. I was duped the first time kasi.

Inside the trike, a passenger beside me forgot the keys to her house (for the nth time according to her) and the tricycle driver didn't even grumble when we had to turn around and get it from her house. I didn't rush either. For aside from receiving a very sincere apology, I was having fun seeing how such small gestures are common here. Good vibes are everywhere and I don't want to spoil it. 

However, things began to sour after the trike dropped me off in front of the Eastern Hawaii Resort.

I didn't know that the resort villas are separated from the main hotel which is just across the street. It took me some ten minutes of walking to get from my drop-off point to the side gate where the guard told me to wait, while the front desk decides whether to let me in or not.

By then, I was running out of options and had to call JC to tell him my situation. It was past 8 in the morning and the partner has not heard from me since the night before. I had to reveal my surprise and I need to.

Because I am:

Exhausted from my 15-hour trip. 
Frustrated because my idea is crumbling right before my eyes
And by being told to wait when all I ever wanted is to ask about the hotel's room rates.

I am pushed too far.  

Really hate it when I snap.

And because I felt that I was receiving that kind of treatment simply because I walked from the main road to the gate, and because I was wearing jeans and shirt, with a huge backpack on my back doesn't mean I can't pay.

I fell victim to trial by first impression.

"Sampal ko sa kanila yung credit card ko eh," I was telling Baabaa while walking away. The guards didn't allow me in simply because I have no reservations. 

Like the cool breeze from the mountain caressing my face and my partner's stern voice on the phone urging me not to make a scene, my temper dissipated the moment my eyes caught up with the open countryside. And like a flip of a switch, I changed topics with my partner and described instead the sights and sounds of the small town.

"Ay wait picturan ko yung cow!!" The cow was on the other side of the road, grazing in a patch of grass next to the highway.

Cow and Cattle Egret

"Hangkyut nung mga kambiiing!!!" I passed by a goat and behind her were her kids. I received a barrage of bleats, while trying to approach them.

The empty road stretches on to the horizon and instead of turning back towards the Centro, I took a hike going to that part of town where talahib grasses grew everywhere. I'm sure my intention was not to get raped. its almost 9 in the morning and the partner was still on the phone, checking on the Internet what other resorts were available.

I didn't know either what was going on in my head. Maybe I was trying to reach on foot that newly opened, glitzier resort the bus passed by on our way to the town center that morning. I think its called Avalon Beach Club, and as far as I know, no blogger has ever written yet about the place.


"Baaboo check mo ito," Suddenly my stream of thoughts were interrupted. "Country Inn by the Sea. I think its near your location."

Country Inn, yeah I think it was supposed to be my alternative lodging. It's not as expensive as Eastern and it has Internet connection too, like Jotay.

I walked a little further until I passed by a group of farmers heading towards the opposite direction. I asked if they knew where Country Inn was, but instead of giving me answers, all I received were smiles.

"Ask mo Baaboo saan sa Centro." Tamang tama naman a trike stopped in front of me.

"Manong Country Inn po tayo." I sat across an old lady who smiled at me. Maybe she knew I am an outsider and was lost.

The trike raced towards the town center while inside the passenger carriage, my eyes were fixed on the road to trace back my footsteps from Eastern to the very spot where I stopped. It was a half kilometer walk I think. I also caught glimpse of the snotty hotel and the villa across, where I learned that a cemetery sits nearby.

"So much for a night dip at the infinity pool." I thought.

"I don't want to have close encounters with the living dead.

- tobecontinued - 

Backpacker: Santa Ana, Cagayan

Previously on Souljacker

Second Part: The Jotay Boylet

It's past six thirty and Tophe was taking too long to arrive. 

The bar where the guard at Jotay resort urged me to stay was filling up with people. The problem is, their get-up suggest that they are not stay-in guests. One was already well-groomed, and was wearing pants and collared shirt. 

And while the other wore jersey shorts and sando, his very casual chat with the guard made me look like a total outsider. Either the guy lives outside the resort, or he must have booked himself for a week. 

What kept me from snapping was my pre-occupation. Inside the bus on my way to Tuguegarao, I was able to compose the anniversary entry - on my phone. I copied the jumble of paragraphs on Word and by the time I was able to find a table overlooking the beach, finishing touches were already being done to my work.

As a plan B, I borrowed my neighbor's Sun Broadband USB in case there's no Internet. It didn't work in Santa Ana during my second attempt (I already tried it at home, but couldn't connect online) but stubbornness prevailed. On my third try, bytes of data finally trickled. But it wouldn't hold to a video chat. 

Not even publishing a blog post.

Doon pa lang I knew that if the Wi-Fi didn't work, I will be in big trouble. A big, big trouble. To be able to video chat with my partner was the highlight of the trip, and I cannot afford to miss that chance. So either someone press the reset button of the router or I'm moving out. 

While contemplating my next move, one of the attendants arrived.

It was Tophe.

I didn't try to paint a picture of Tophe when I spoke to him the day before. He appeared unsure of the answers when addressing my inquiries and besides, I felt a tinge of uncertainty that my reservation might not push through.

I was the one asserting my sure arrival.

With such lukewarm response, I didn't feel excited to meet him. I wouldn't mind if he just hand me the keys to my room, and off he goes to attend to the other guests. But the moment I stood up that morning to shake his hand, man, I was telling myself if he could be my personal attendant.

Imagine a six-footer, brown-skinned guy. Fit, curly hair, chiselled jaw, a slightly pointed nose. Just ignore the floral shirt, which reminded me of Lito Atienza and focus on his smile, his youthful, naughty smile that let my imagination fly into the realm of Brazilian porn clips I see on XVideos.

I told him the problem and immediately, he walked to where the router clings and reset it. I could have just tilted my head upwards to freeze at the sight of his sexy torso, but by then, my eyes were glued to the laptop to see if his tinkering worked.

It didn't.

"Baka naman sir, kaya hindi maka-connect sa Wi-Fi namin kasi nablo-block nung settings ng Sun Broadband niyo?" Tophe has a point.

So the next thing I did was to take out the Sun Broadband application and try connecting again to the resort's Internet. Again it didn't work.

After countless tries, reboots and even complaining again to the host that I could still not surf the web, thoughts of finding another resort had taken hold. It didn't help too that a couple of ladies, wearing heavy make up and colourful dresses passed by to hang out at the bar.

At seven in the morning.

I overheard them talking to the host about some matters I try not to be privy of. What happened after the ladies had left hints of some business between the attendants and the outsiders.

"Bigyan nila ako ng P500, papagamit ko yung banyo." Tophe was laughing his ass off while talking to a colleague about the ladies. Somehow the surreal sight reminded me of old Chinese men with young ladies in tow.

Truth or just plain fabrication it didn't matter. The fact that I could still not connect to the Internet and there's no one to help me, not even show a little sympathy that I came all the way from Manila was enough reason to leave.

To hell with the P1,300 room rate.

The sky's the limit, I can afford a much more expensive place.

After speaking to a nice Chinese lady (who is a guest) and learned that I was the only one having problems with my Wi-Fi, I told the guard that I would get some fresh air and just return after the one occupying my room had left.

- tobecontinued - 


Hearing is Living; Don't Deprive Yourself

Experts from Total Hearing Care in Monroe Township will give a FREE educational program on hearing, hearing loss and the importance of baseline hearing testing. In addition to the program, a free hearing screening will be offered to all attendees.  The Program is scheduled for November 30, 2011 from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. in the Octagonal Program Room off the Children's Department (Program Room 2).  They will have literature and information to give out, so registration is recommended so they can be sure to have enough to go around.
In the literature they sent ahead of the program, they included a few articles of interest.  Did you know that symptoms of untreated hearing loss can mimic symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?  In fact, a 1996 study of memory disorders by the University of South Florida found that 94 percent of respondents suspected of having memory disorder actually suffered from untreated hearing loss.  The study found strong evidence that hearing instrument use, combined with effective follow-up care, helped alleviate many of the symptoms commonly attributed to Alzheimer's Disease.  Some of the symptoms that are present in both conditions are depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation or disorientation; reduced communication ability; reduced cognitive input; reduced mental scores; inappropriate psychosocial responses; denial, defensiveness and negativity and distrust and paranoia or distrust of other's motives. 

Another article on hearing describes auditory deprivation that can occur if a hearing loss goes untreated for too long.  Auditory deprivation is a decrease in an ear's ability to understand speech clearly and a crucial part of every hearing exam involves measurement of word discrimination.  It is unclear whether auditory deprivation is reversible, so it is important to detect hearing loss in the early stages so that you can preserve word clarity with the use of hearing aids.  the research supports the "use it or lose it" theory. 

Come to the library on November 30th to hear about the latest findings in audiology research and get a FREE individual hearing screening, either at the end of the program or later in their Monroe offices.

Fifteen Minutes | Dream Journal Twenty Four

It was almost midnight and for some reasons, everyone at home was still up. I even remember asking the maid to get me Tortillos at a nearby store.

Checking my watch, the time was 11:45. Suddenly, like a snap of a finger, like blood rushing towards the head, I knew I had to buy something - a cake for my mom. All this time we followed tradition and here I am forgetting it. 

Feeling the sense of urgency, I changed my clothes while letting my memory access its vaults to find the nearest Starbucks still open. I'm absolutely sure that all Red Ribbon bakeries were already closed. We were in Santa Mesa, in our old house, and I was thinking maybe there's a branch near UST. There was no time to think of other locations. 

I was on the verge of panic.

The maid returned not with a Tortillos but with a plate of pretzels. The pretzels, thick in brown syrup and sprinkled with croutons was something I didn't expect. I hesitated to get a piece.

"Masarap yan!!" The maid insisted, She was right. The croutons turned out to be bits of cheese.

I left the house to start walking. I was about to make a turn to a narrow passage that leads to the main road when I saw a table at the middle of the alley in front of me. On the table were gifts stacked on top each other while party food were laid out around it. 

"Someone's having a birthday party," I said to myself. What's surreal is that the table, and all those gifts were there but the celebrant and the guests were nowhere to be found. But there was no time to take a closer look. My surroundings began to dissipate and by then I knew the reason why.

I woke up in my bed with the sun high outside the windows. Feeling relieved that I still have fifteen hours to buy the cake, I got up, opened my laptop and started writing this entry.

A Taskmaster's Prayer

Tonight is the start of my work week and I deliver my accomplishments to the Great Maker so that in the face of daunting tasks, I will never dare resign or surrender to the delightful temptations of defeat.

Backpacker: Santa Ana, Cagayan

First Part: A Traveler's Tale

"Baabaa! I have something to tell you ..."

It's past 7 in the morning and I was standing outside the Eastern Hawaii Hotel in the town's Centro district. Robbed of sleep, I was waiting for the security guards to let me in so I could speak at the front desk and ask about their room rates.

"Balak sana kitang i-surprise at sabihing nasa Cagayan ako, kaso I'm in a bit of trouble."

"Cagayan what!?!" I am paraphrasing our conversation.

"Santa Ana, check it out on the map."  

After a brief pause, JC blurted "Ang layooooooooo!!" My partner couldn't believe where my feet had carried me. "Grabe ka haaaaa!"  

"Gusto ko sana mag Skype tayo habang iniingit kita na nasa tabing dagat ako, kaso the resort I booked the previous day has problems with their WiFi connection."  

"Now I have to look for another place to stay."

There was no doubt that I am out of the city. Even the cool breeze suggest I am in a place never before touched by smog and fumes that I have grown accustomed everyday.

The Florida bus arrived at daybreak, and it stopped right in front of the town market. Unsure of where Jotay Resort is, a trike volunteered to take me there. Not knowing the place was only a few blocks away, I paid thirty pesos when it should have been fifteen. I could even walk if not for the stray dogs and the unlit unpaved roads along the way.

First thing in the morning and I was hoodwinked. Even the guard at the resort told me to come back because their rooms are fully occupied. Apparently my contact didn't tell him about my arrival, despite sending an SMS while in transit to confirm my reservation. 

Talk about hassle. I couldn't imagine this is the treatment I would get after coming all the way from Manila.

15 Hours Earlier

"Pilyo punta akong Cagayan. Ikaw muna bahala sa kanila ha?" I was referring to the Encantos.

"Ay putanginamu, hindi nga?! Seryoso ka?" Even my closest friends wouldn't buy my story.

Kasi naman, never in Encantos history did I show up with a huge backpack before lunchtime. The guys couldn't even convince me to join their out of town trips. And here I am, telling Pilyo that I'm going solo and that, it would take an entire day (and night) to get to the tip of Luzon.

"Ano namang naisipan mo at bakit pupunta ka dun?" I had to explain the wisdom behind the pilgrimage. It was my heart leading the way. Lol.

"Ikaw na bahala magsabi kay Dadi ah. Hindi ito dapat malaman ni JC." 

"Iba ka rin mag-trip no?" I know. For someone who climbs the ledge of a dance floor out on a whim, my mind is wired quite differently.

"Siyanga pala, I gave your number at home. In case lang magkaproblema ako dun." And with that, I disappeared from Pilyo's view.

Little Spot of Paradise (Ako lang ang nagkumot sa loob ng bus!)

The bus ride is a story in itself. Like a collection of tapestries adorning a wall, each piece tells a part of the journey.

It began in Espana shortly before 1. The bus lurched forward despite the disarray of cars along the road. A stow-away missionary preached the good news to ambivalent passengers. Her sympathetic voice eased the troubled spirit. Envelopes were passed after her soulful performance. Lacking spare change, guilt struck while returning my donation coupon with three pieces of silver coins.

I should have given her a twenty peso bill. But I had none.

"Babawi na lang po ako ate." I could not even look at her in the eye.

As the bus merged with the sojourners heading north, I put on my ear phones and listened to Jam 88.3. I forgot to bring my Nano's charger so I had to ration the use of the gadget. The two-lane expressway stretched on forever, with rice fields - some still under flood waters, while others appear like a giant green carpet - went as far as the eyes could see.

In Tarlac, mats of palay were laid along the sides of the national highway. They were left there to dry. The pink bus would occasionally overtake a kuliglig with sacks of rice stacked behind its trailer. It's harvest season and everyone in the plains made themselves useful. Even the year-long tambays. If only I paid more attention to the naked, ripped and sweaty laborers I caught glimpse at the warehouses, I would have lasted the entire night without dumping anything on my tummy.

But one thing I found truly amazing was Jollibee's long arm stretching out to the heartlands of the small towns. Who would have thought the fast food chain has branches in obscure places like Guimba and Talavera. Heck, I don't even know they appear on the map. For all my expectations of a rural poblacion, the signs of civilization are truly heartening.

Pitstop One, SCTEX Tarlac Exit

It was getting dark when the flower bus began its ascent towards the treacherous Dalton Pass. At 3,000 feet up in the mountains, this is the highest portion of the Maharlika Highway. Flanked by the Caraballo in the east and the Sierra Madre in the west, the road follows a brook that drains into the Manila Bay.

But this wasn't the stream the locals knew just a few weeks ago.

The mountains glisten under the low sun like pale emeralds in the distance. But as you go closer, only weeds and flimsy shrubs grow on some of its brown slopes. Gone are the massive trees cut down to build houses. Even newly planted seedlings are uprooted to make firewood.

No wonder, when strong rains come, mud slosh down instead of water. Even parts of the highway disappears as stones tumble from the peaks. The dry riverbed - once littered with boulders as big as dump trucks - are now covered with silt. With the river much shallower, the water that should have merged with the bay in days lingered in Bulacan for weeks.

The nerve of us to complain about the mess we made.

I felt sorry for the mountains, and the trees that used to hold the earth with their mighty roots. I felt sorry for the fields, inundated, with crops swept away instead of being harvested. I felt sorry for the rain, that began to fall and made the winding road more slippery. For instead of sprinkling life, the rains are feared for being the harbinger of death. I wish I could have done something to the destruction around me. But I was reduced to being a silent witness as the bus push back to the lowlands, on the other side of the mountains. 

Hot, Spicy Mami and C2 Green, Dalton Pass, Nueva Vizcaya

By nightfall, everywhere I look, the roads are deserted. The poblacions themselves become ghost towns as the bus continues to roll towards the tip of the island. I dozed off in Nueva Vizcaya, and was stirred back to lucidness in Santiago, Isabela. I should have left the bus, according to my press release to my mom. But instead, a passenger who took a leak at a gas station almost got left behind.

Lucky for him, his wife alerted the bus driver.

At past eleven, habit follows that I should have arrived home. G-Talk should have recognized my name and Baabaa, who is busy at work should have received my hello message. But instead of following the routine, I was in the middle of nowhere, where even distant, lonely lights refuse to shine.

As the final ploy unfolds, a single SMS message covered my grand deception:

"Baabaa, hope u are doing okay. I'm having problems with my internet connection." Notice the absence of the word home. "Online na lang ako when my connection returns. Labyuu!" The partner didn't bother to reply.

It turns out, he would surprise me by calling my phone at the strike of midnight. Weasel. We agreed to follow the Atlantic time instead of mine. Siya rin pala magbre-break ng agreement.

Good thing, I was drowned in my own alternative music and the thoughts of the sea that I didn't hear my phone ring. He sent a text message which I refused to reply. Even the missed call with his number, I pretended not to see. Let JC think his Baaboo fell asleep. It would buy me some time.

Florida Bus Station, Tuguegarao, 2 am

The clock is ticking as my destination remains a full sleep away. In the cover of my own fabrication, the last leg of the trip would be best remembered with a lower back pain from staying in the same sitting position for hours; a male seatmate tossing over and over because of the cold air blasting from the overhead AC, a runaway tooth ache threatening to spoil my getaway, sleep or any semblance of it as the road signs tell that we are still more than a hundred kilometers away from Jollibee Aparri.

Like the very long blog entry you are reading right now, I was beginning to feel that I went on a road trip any sane person would refuse to go. Unless he got days to spare or is a travel writer by profession. I should have known better, it was different on the map. One look, and there you are in the coast, while in real earth, it took more than an hour from Aparri before we spotted the sea.

The hippie bus, that left Manila the day before accelerates like it was chasing darkness. The sky, while being lit by the moon hints that it was giving up the night. The fluorescent lights inside the bus were switched on, and the welcome arc outside says "Welcome, Santa Ana, Cagayan." Finally, we have arrived. A few more minutes and we would carry our bags, step out of the bus for the last time and embrace our destination.

Fifteen Minutes After Arrival:

"Sir kung gusto niyo, intayin niyo na lang muna si Topher dumating. Nandito na yun ng mga 6:30." I checked my phone and the clock tells its 5:20.

"Upo muna kayo dito," The guard lead me to the porch in front of the beach.

First thing I did was to open my laptop to see if the Wi-Fi really worked. I also got hold of my contact's personal number. It didn't matter if I had to wake him up an hour before the start of his shift.

A deal is a deal.

Having been initially denied entry to the place I sought refuge, I also learned that a password was required before I could access the resort's Internet connection. Tophe would still have to send me the access codes and I was growing really impatient.

Rather than get depressed, or let the feelings of exhaustion sink in, I left the resort to cross the street. The sound of waves lapping up against the shore was too hard to ignore. There, I let my sneakers feel the fine sands beneath my feet. As I look up in the sky, the horizon breaks revealing a crimson delight. While across the channel, the scenic Palaui Island emerges behind the mist like a curtain is being lifted to bring to view the town's main attraction.

"At the very least, I am standing on a beach, right at the beginning of the world." I consoled myself while taking my first picture of the sea.  

After risking my mind and body to leap out of the box, my journey at long last, comes to an end.

- tobecontinued -

DIY: Alexander wang fur sunglasses

diy fur: rabbit
coat: fox
black sunglasses: YSL 
off white glasses: armani

Basically Mexican

The very first time I had Mexican food, I made it myself.  From scratch.  Including the tortillas.

Why?  Because, at 17 years old and coming from a background where the only ethnic foods I ever ate were pierogis or pizza, I had no idea you could buy tortillas pre-made at the store.  So when one of my friends suggested that I make tacos for our group before we went out, I said okay.

I found a taco and tortilla recipe in an old all purpose cookbook my Mom had (was it the 1950's Good Housekeeping Cookbook?  Wish I still had it...) and proceeded to make tortillas from water and cornmeal, and pressed them out as thin as I could with a rolling pin (not very), and then baked them on a cast iron skillet.  Not bad, but certainly NOT what my high school friends expected or were used to.

Since then, I've eaten lots of different kinds of ethnic foods, some more, some less authentic, but I still enjoy making foods from scratch, even when they're readily available.

This week I made a supremely easy and delicious Fresh Tomatillo Salsa, from tomatillos we picked at Honey Brook Organic Farm - better than anything you can buy in a jar.

Two authors come to mind immediately when researching Mexican food:  Diana Kennedy, and Rick Bayless.

Forthwith the recipe I adapted from Bayless' Mexican Everyday.  I'm also going to try the Salsa Verde from From My Mexican Kitchen by Diana Kennedy - I've still got a lot of tomatillos!  I highly recommend both of these authors and books.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

8 oz. tomatillos, (I used about 6, each about the size of a golf ball) papery husks removed, and rinsed
1 large garlic clove, quartered
1 jalapeno or other hot chiles, stemmed and quartered (or 5 more, if you're like my son)
1/2 cup cilantro

Blitz the garlic in a food processer first.  Add the rest of the ingredients along with 1/4 cup water and process until chopped but not pureed.  Serve with tortilla chips (don't have to be homemade!).

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian

DESIGN: drape Tee

jersey top I draped today. took about 20 mins to construct because I hand sewed it together while it was still on the form.

Backpacker: Secret Blueprint

At first, it was a toss-up between Baler and Casiguran. Both towns nestle behind the humps known as the Sierra Madre, right at the eastern fringe of Luzon and whose balconies open to the Pacific Ocean, where the first rays of the sun cast its soft light over large swathes of mist-covered rain forests and remote white beaches. 

It must have been the result of watching too many episodes of Lonely Planet on Discovery Channel, but my idea was to pick a place less flocked by tourists. The anniversary was fast approaching and to celebrate our milestone, I was bent on surprising my partner by greeting him "Happy Anniversary" with the ocean behind me.

I cannot recall when the first plan was conceived. All I know is that I was already checking the departure schedule of the Genesis bus when Quiel pounded the eastern coast. The province of Aurora was directly hit. Damage was minimal but it was enough reason to change my mind and step back from pursuing my expedition.

Except that instead of picking a spot closer to home, I was aiming for a destination far distant and inaccessible to city dwellers like me.

And so what I did was to look for a suitable location at the northern tip of Luzon. Tutal naman, my true intention was to be as close to my other half - who is in North America - as possible. It didn't matter if I have never seen the place or know anyone there. I am entitled to indulge myself in some kind of adventure once in a while.

There was no excuse to pick another point on the map after I spotted the jutted land on Google Map. Searching the web was my next step after identifying what town to make landfall. All it took was one hour to learn what bus to ride and what places to see during my stay. Had I gone further, I could have booked the resort before my web surfing was over.

However, Ramon threatened to spoil my weekend getaway. Much as I would like to transform my abstract plans into something tangible, weather became my biggest worry. It didn't help too that I was beginning to suffer from my anniversary jitters. Made-up nightmares consumed what should have been my fervent drive to learn much about my destination.

The blueprint began to take shape one week before my departure. The bus company was a mere block away from Pilyo's place. After Papa Tagay's birthday inuman that Saturday, I lumbered my way towards the station to check the schedule. The first bus leaves on Friday at 12:30 pm. 

There was no time to go to work. I will have to sacrifice my leave credits.  

Between the ceaseless rains that made the landscape duller, and the Larawan and Bentusi projects which kept me busy during my rest days, a series of deceptive maneuvers made the plan a reality:

"My mom told me this evening that a friend of my dad sent a text message informing her about a property he left in Cagayan." I wrote in a letter. "This property is unknown to us and it is possible that he indeed had left something there as my dad was secretive in nature.

Being the eldest, I was tasked to investigate the matter and report everything to my mom."   

The boss didn't answer my email. After all he was out of the country busking for clients and was expecting me not to be absent at work. His non-response didn't stop me from putting a break on my plans.

By Wednesday, I already bought my bus ticket. The fare cost P600 pesos, one way, which was a bit cheap considering the distance of the province. By then, not even a bout of flu, muscle pains, or a typhoon could stop me from leaving the city. The next step would be to come up with a believable excuse I could tell at home.

Having the raketship immediately resolved my worries. I told my mom that a mayor in Isabela commissioned us to write an article about his town. You see, at this age, it is still difficult to secure a pass going to far places. Mom worries a lot, and though she hasn't turned down my vacation plans before (because I had none) instincts tell to shorten the distance to easily get her permission.

By Wednesday night, the issue was finally settled.

Between the constant weather monitoring at the Pag-Asa website (adik lang) and the frantic pursuit to finish writing the "Larawan" series on time, I was able to squeeze finding a place to stay before my "flight" out of Manila.

I only had two conditions for my accommodation. It doesn't matter if the place has an infinity pool, hot water coming out of the faucet, or even complementary meals to sweeten the deal. As long as the room rate never goes beyond my P1500 budget and that it has Wi-Fi connection, reservations could be done in an instant.

Besides, It was already Thursday and I'm running out of time.

The first resort to answer my text inquiry didn't have an Internet connection. The second, whose container-van inspired cottages that cost P250 a night was fully-booked until November. "Sun City" hit the ceiling. It was also too opulent for my taste. And while the other inn, which has rates slightly higher than my budget seemed a good choice, I settled with Jotay Resort, whose P1,300 room rate and free Wi-Fi connection already suited my requirement.

Advanced booking was done over the phone.

Once this final huddle had been crossed - to find a place to rest when I get there, it was easy to breathe slowly.

I was even able to put hundreds of new mp3s on my Nano without being rushed. Post the numbers of Pilyo, Rocco and Fox on my cork board in case I went missing, and write the pin of my ATM, which I also left inside my drawer in case of emergencies.

The next morning, I asked Baabaa to set our nightly (Atlantic Time) Skype session at an earlier time. I was all smiles and our casual talk masked whatever I was planning to do the next day. What he didn't know is that on my bed spread a pair of undies, a couple of shirts and shorts, and a small towel that would go inside my bag. On top of the heap was my blanket, the one I used that night to cover my body wherever I find myself in.

After saying goodnight, Dymion the laptop went inside my backpack. I took a long bath and slid my toiletries inside the backpack last.

Parting is a sweet sorrow and my mom was all tears (drama lang). Told her, I would be back before she feels my absence. Strict instructions to look after the matriarch was relayed to the household. They asked where I was heading and my happy answer has always been Santiago, Isabela.

Florida Bus Terminal, Espana

What they didn't know is that on my bus ticket, which was safely tucked in one of the small pockets of my bag showed my real destination. More than five hundred kilometres away from home, I was off to Santa Ana, Cagayan for my first solo, long-distance land trip ever.

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Backpacker: Crawling Out Of The Bag


When I was a kid, the favorite aunt would take me to places everytime she gets invited to attend a fellowship. I remember scooping my hands under the sea to catch blooms of jellyfishes in Zambales. Its because the annual gathering of surgeons was held at a beach resort there.

At Subic a few years later, I went home with a bag full of PX Goods. At a time when a dollar is equivalent to 25 pesos, I made sure everyone at home got a pasalubong. That's where all my pocket money went. More than the duty free shopping, I learned that Subic then had very strict traffic rules. One must stop at all times when crossing an intersection. Throwing trash on the street exacts a heavy price.

It was also the first time I had a face to face encounter with wild monkeys trooping at our cottage to scavenge for food. The big bats flew overhead at night making strange noises that made me scamper inside the house. Before we left, a guide taught us how to survive in the jungle. Up to now, the image of cooked rice inside a bamboo trunk remains as vivid as when I saw it during the actual presentation.

These events were always sponsored by drug companies. It's part of their promotion, I guess. And since these pharmaceuticals go to great lengths to wine, dine, and accommodate the doctors and their families, expect high-end lodging and entertainment once you arrive at the venue.

And so as I grew up, I was able to enjoy going around the country in style only kids with rich parents could afford. When I went to Davao after getting my high school diploma, I wasted no time keeping my belly full at the buffet table. We stayed at the Grand Meng Seng Hotel and toured the city to our heart's content. It was also the first time I rode an airplane. It would also be the last. For in the years to come, my mind grew weary of flying. 

Blame it on the Cebu Pacific crash of 1998.

Same goes with my third visit to Baguio City. The first one was with my family (aunts, cousins and uncles, without my parents). The same group was there on our return. The third was an invitation from the favorite aunt a year before my graduation. We stayed at the Baguio Country Club for a weekend. My cousin was supposed to join but changed his mind at the last minute.

Since the favorite aunt would be busy attending the conference, I was left exploring the city with another kid. His mom too would be attending the conference so he was stuck in his room watching television. Eager to leave the confines of our hotel, it was easy to convince the boy to tag along even when the skies heaved with icy rain.

The afternoon stroll would become my first walking trip, a pursuit which would remain an essential part of my getaways every time I leave the city.


It was the turn of the new millennium. I'm done with college and with the family business in full swing, it was difficult to leave my post for a little rest and relaxation. However, there was this one occasion when my mom had to meet her community organizers in Isabela. Realizing the thrill of seeing the countryside, I volunteered to join even when she already got company.

Hopping into the back of a pick-up truck, we left Manila at past midnight. Partida, nagka-minor stroke pa yung dad ko hours before our departure. I didn't tell my mom about this and instead, let the mistress do the nursing. After all, I had instructions from my dad not to breathe a word. It was not life-threatening in the first place.

And I don't want him to spoil the fun.

It was an all-night, 10-hour drive to Santiago City. We hardly had any stopover along the highway, and my mom barely slept to keep the driver awake. Sitting behind the driver seat, I plugged my earphones and let Goo Goo Dolls and my assorted alternative tracks on my discman accompany me on the road. My butt ached from the bumpy ride. I couldn't even stretch my limbs, but my music and its soothing melodies carried me to our destination.

The cool crisp wind blowing from the Sierra Madre offered little to ease my discomfort. Yet for someone who breathes smog and fumes everyday, the fresh air was a welcome respite. What made the trip truly unforgettable was the sleeping landscape bathed in a silvery glow. I recall, it was full moon and the silhouette of Mt. Arayat loomed over the horizon. A handful of farmers were in their fields. Lit by gas lamps, they hunt for rats eating their crops.

Somewhere near the Caraballo, I rolled down the car windows to let more cool wind in. It was very dark outside with not a single house or lamp post in sight. I let my head out and after turning my sights into the sky, I saw the heavens lit with a billion suns. So moved was I with the spectacle, I still feel a pinch on my chest every time I look at the evening sky now and find only a handful of stars pinned in the heavens.


The cosmic parade would never happen again, and we, the travellers, would just stay in Isabela the next day long enough for the driver to get some sleep. Just before sundown we were on the road again - back to Manila. Same bumpy ride going home, with the same winding mountain passages and the same rice fields exuding an eerie white glow under the watchful eye of a full moon.

We would repeat the pattern when we went to Pangasinan that same summer. Stayed in Lingayen just to get a dip in its murky beach while my mom attended a meeting. We're back again on the road three hours after we arrived. Since then, I learned not to stay in one place for more than a night. I don't even find it strange or exhausting to have longer travel time than stay-over once I embark on a trip.

To immerse myself in two ways of travelling have shaped my ideal vacation when it was time to go solo. Knowing that I cannot uproot myself from home for too long, I learned to pack lightly. The very Spartan and sometimes unforgiving time on the road had suited me for long distance travel. And my earlier classy accommodations had nurtured my discriminate boarding choices. To keep my spending in check, I prefer to make an escape when nobody wants to leave the city.

These experiences I have to go through from all these past travels would eventually prepare me for my land journey all the way to the very tip of Luzon.


(re)DESIGN: From skirt to 2 piece

I found this skirt a little while ago and fell in love with the print. I'd worn it a few times before but nothing really seems to do it justice. That is why yesterday I decided to cut about 12 inch's off of the hem and used the fabric to make a basic bodice top to go with it.

Finding Your Fire Pit

As the weather turns colder, the wanting to be outside inevitably diminishes. The grill goes into the garage, the tarp goes over the pool, and the jackets, mittens and hats come out. Still, for some the winter changes very little and if the Polar Bear Club isn’t exactly your speed (I am a proud member), a fire pit is one of the more relaxing and simple outdoor projects you can undertake to still enjoy the outdoors in the wintertime. Some people just like having a simple unit to sit around while others prefer to devote an entire section of their yard to create a solid mood for the activity. Here are some choices for everyone.

  • ·         Copper: This is the most popular option, as copper’s melting point is quite high and the orange hue of the copper is eye grabbing. Copper fire pits also blend in nicely with a good, well-designed backyard garden. The problem is that the material is far more expensive than other options and to be honest, the design of most copper fire pits is a bit boring.  

  • ·         Cast Iron: If copper will put a hurt on your wallet, cast iron is a good, cheap second option. They tend to come in black, which is dull but blends with nearly any backyard design or configuration. They also come in more varied designs. But with the noticeable difference in price comes a negligible difference in quality, as cast iron has a far lower melting point and therefore cast iron units wear out a lot quicker than Copper. So, if you’re looking to remodel your backyard and you have no plans to sell your home, it might be worth it to save and go with copper.

  • ·         Chimenea: Now, here’s an interesting choice. The form of the unit is like a small chimney with a tiny hearth at the bottom and it looks absolutely beautiful. They’re also conducive to smaller areas, if you don’t have a big backyard. On top of this, the chimenea can be made not only out of copper or cast iron but can also be made out of terra corra, a clay-based ceramic. The only bad news is that for those who like to look at the fire, it is near impossible due to the design of the chimenea. It’s a matter of taste but I’m fond of this because of its beauty and longevity.

  • ·         Gas-Powered: Full disclosure: I’m not fond of this choice. If you’re going to have a fire pit, I think part of the fun of it is building a fire and having the smell of wood. That being said, some areas restrict wood burning because of said smell and suddenly Gas looks like a good option. The good news is that they are easier to clean than wood-burning pits. If you are considering this option, talk to a plumber, handyman or home improvement specialist about connecting a propane tank or any natural gas connections to the pit. Be sure to notify your utility company about your pit installation as well.

  • ·         Stone: Stone fire pits are the most aesthetically pleasing but they are also a bit more of a project and are better suited for bigger spaces. Still, it is wise for you to hire a contractor or call up a buddy to help you to put one together. Palletized stone is preferred but you can get pretty creative here. There is also the matter of need for regular cleaning but at the end of the day, stone fire pits convey an aged, naturalistic feel to the surrounding area. The price will run you around what a copper pit would cost you but, I think you will find that it is worth it, in my opinion.

The portable option is also up there but that can be handled largely by browsing through your local home improvement warehouse, though, in that case, I would still recommend the chimenea above anything else. Chimeneas and stone fire pits are my personal favorites, as I’m sure you’ve picked up by now, largely do to their classic yet unique designs.  But if it’s a matter of having a good reason to go outside and enjoy your back yard even in the winter, there is no such thing as a bad choice.

More Organization Help from an Expert

Now that the weather is turning colder and the days are shorter, we will begin to spend more time indoors making it a good time to clear out some of the clutter and waste we have in our lives.

Sangita Patel of Kalakar Interiors, a life coach, interior decorator and professional organizer based in West Windsor will be here in the library on Tuesday, November 1, at 7:00 p.m. in the Meeting Room. Her presentation is titled The Magic of Thought Logic: Clearing and Connecting Your Mind-Space and Home-Space. According to Ms. Patel, “our body and our home are connected in many ways. Our home reflects who we are. In our homes, we need to plan, organize, and harmonize for a peaceful lifestyle. In our body, we need to have healthy intentions, attention to ourselves, and an active mindset to achieve our goals in life.” In her presentation, she will tell us how we can “customize and maximize our Mind-Space and Home-Space connection” so that we will be able to “deal with our yesterday, plan for today so tomorrow will be organized and harmonized.”

The South Brunswick De-Clutter Club requested that we bring in more speakers and organization professionals to talk about managing clutter; Ms. Patel will not only share her ideas of integrating your life and your surroundings to create harmony, but she will also give some pointers on maintaining a clutter-free life once we succeed at the process of clearing out.

Because we already have this de-clutter program scheduled in the first week of November, we will not have our regularly scheduled De-Clutter Club meeting on Thursday night, but there will be some information for the club members (and others who might want to join) on the December meeting and our donation project.

You can also read the blog for the De-Clutter Club at

Novelty: hi there lover

the new Calvin's, i love the heel!

Wandering Mugs

The technological means may have changed. But as I have learned halfway through my roadtrip this weekend, the desire to take people with me as I cross the countryside remains an ever-present calling.

Pinoyexchange Wireless Journal.
circa 2002

circa 2011

Consider this as the prelude of the story about my journey to the north.

Final Distance

I wanna be with you 
Someday even this distance 
We'll be able to embrace 

Utada Hikaru
Final Distance 

It is half past midnight and I am on a bus heading to a place I have only seen in the front page of a daily newspaper. As to why my feet lead me there, only the heart could tell.

Beyond the glass window is a sea of darkness. Who would have thought that after living so long in the city, my soul would grow weary of the wilderness.

The mind is second guessing whether to proceed.

But the sea is calling in words I cannot refuse. Not just the sea but that jut of land at the edge of the landmass. My heart tells me to be there. I need to. There is a desire to shorten the oceanic distance.

A flash of lighting in the horizon, and then I remembered. A few days ago I was hard-pressed to pick the last location for the Larawan set. Must I choose the airport, where partings and eventual reunions take place?

I was there when JC left not just for abroad but at times when his presence was needed in his hometown. Two months ago, I was the last person he saw before boarding the plane. Come to think of it, he may end up in my arms should his plane lands at odd ours of the morning. 

Should I choose Contis instead, that fancy restaurant at Serendra? It is where Baabaa treated me for my birthday. To this day, the sweet aftertaste of the Mango Bravo lingers in my mouth. Like that memory of December when we strolled around The Fort, took pictures of big dogs and went shopping for my Christmas presents.

But in the end, what I chose was the most inconspicuous of places. The very spot where my heart was reborn and my words became one with the assembly of candles.

Monasterio De Santa Clara, Katipunan

“And I lit this second candle for the one who would come, so that in happiness and defeat, someone already cares.” And that one would be the Notthewimpykid, two years later. My life has remained in blissful recluse ever since.

If there is one reason I am temptation proof, and whose near-infinite patience can rival those of a monk despite my suppressed madness, it is because I gave my word while I was there – at the monasterio – and for all the times it was broken, my union with JC is my atonement.

Seldom are we given third chances.

Kapag nangungulila si kabiyak at magkausap kami sa Skype, he would joke around and tell me to buy a plane ticket so I could go to Ottawa and meet him at the park. He would sneak me inside his room so we could be together.

What he didn’t know is that I play with my imagination too. For someone who loves giving surprises, I would like a replay of what I did the first time we met.

“Baabaa! Grabe mamamatay na ako dito! Didn’t know the weather is a killer!”

“Huh asan ka ba?”

“Go out of your house, I’m trying to find a raccoon. Ayaw mo mag-take ng pictures eh.”

And then when he opens the door of his apartment building somewhere along Loretta Avenue, bigla ko na lang siya susurpresahin at sasabihing, 

“Happy Anniversary!”

Yeah Mugen, in your dreams.

But you know what, I am not the kind who would settle for anything less. Especially on special occasions. Maybe it is in my nature: to spring out of the box when nobody thought I could jump. I really don’t know. I guess I’m just saying that love can make people fly.

Conceived without anyone knowing; drawn without revealing the artist's true blueprint; executed precisely, hopefully, to the last detail, this is my resounding response to Baabaa’s wishful thinking:

Pacific Sunrise, Santa Ana, Cagayan

I know my feet won’t get me there, across the vast ocean, but let these currents carry my heartfelt words; no matter where you are, I will always find a way to walk after you.

Larawan Last Part

And so we have come to the last part of the Larawan series, where, in my attempts to trace back our footsteps, I have gathered my strength to return to the places that serve as milestones of my long and fruitful journey with JC.

Twelve images. Twelve places. Twelve months. Sino ang mag-aakala na sa nilayo-layo ng aming nilakbay, nandito pa rin kami at hindi napapagod. 

The first four pictures tell the story of our beginnings, while the previous four became the crests of our union. For the final set, the photos whisper in hushed tones the sublimity of our relationship. For love cannot stand alone by going out and seeing places.

It is the simple things that let your bond take roots.

Paco, Manila

JC sometimes complain about our "uwian" arrangement. It is because he always leave the cab first. Kunsabagay, we always come from Makati and his place being nearer, it is natural for me to drop him off the cab before I do.

What he didn't know is that there is a reason for it. I often choose the hang-out spots closer to his place so that I could see to it that he leaves the cab right in front of his house. Siyempre, when the hang-out spot is nearer to my place, he insists on the opposite. Para nga naman equal kami.

Ang hindi niya alam, meron akong counter proposal. Instead of him travelling to his house - alone, at night - I see to it that he sleeps over. I'd rather have him by my side than let him off the streets.

Jomanian Homeworld

There was this one time I got so drunk that I had to take a detour to my partner's place to take a leak. Akala ko na hanggang sala lang ako makakaabot knowing the security risks once he get caught bringing a stranger inside the house. To my surprise, he allowed me to make weewee at his toilet for me to see his room. I was even able to lie in his bed, kaso sa sobrang hilo, I had to get up. Besides I couldn't stay long.

I wouldn't talk much about the great things that happen when he stays over my place. Besides, we all know what happens when two men share a single bed. But to see him leave after staying in for the night is a different story. For all my tough and independent posturing, at the end of the day, I am left hating the feeling of finding myself suddenly and abruptly disconnected.

Salcedo Park, Makati

I have already written scores of narratives about this patch of greens behind the towering monoliths of Ayala. The park was once our tagpuan, The open space had also become my tambayan while waiting for Baabaa to call it a night when he was still working in one of the office towers there.

But this is not what made Salcedo Park special. Sure there was the friendly cat I carried in my arms, and the cute kid who waved at me while serenely sitting on a bench. It was the kind act, the unprecedented gesture from JC that made this place something worth remembering.

It was past one in the morning and the partner wasn't done yet with work. The happy camper in me was willing to wait, kahit na pinapapak na ako ng lamok sa tabi ng puno. Nabusog naman ako sa food na bigay niya sa akin earlier that night. A short conversation with mahal and then an idea was conceived. He asked me to meet him at the lobby.

He would let me stay in his office.

He introduced me to the guard on duty as his cousin. I in turn played the act. While he was busy resolving the problems with his codes, I was there seated beside him playing Angry Birds on his iPhone. Soon we realized it was already past 2.

Baabaa was able to accomplish his tasks that morning, while I went home happy to see that the partner is slowly acknowledging my presence. Just a few months before, I asked him to accompany me at work just for him to see my office. He returned the idea with a dreaded stare.

It was raining when I went back to the same spot a week before this entry was published. Gone are the cats who made the park their home. Gone also are the kids and their attendants who often held picnics at past midnight. What welcomed me was an empty park and a heavy heart knowing the place is bound to dwell in my memory.

- to be concluded -