Thursday, May 26, 2005

Caliraya Quiet Time

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That is the view from the upper deck of Cat's house in Caliraya. Last weekend, I saw it for the first time. After many failed attempts at joining her for her many famed Caliraya weekends, I finally made it up. And even though I spent less than 24 hours there (what Sly called "the condensed Caliraya experience") it was still filled with numerous simple pleasures.
The weather was balmy, the water warm. The food -- if I say so myself -- was delicious. Isa and I even managed to have a very brief but productive heart-to-heart talk.
It was the kind of weekend everybody would appreciate. Where the simplest of pleasures gives the greatest of joys.
What have been your recent simple pleasures? I find that it's a good exercise to end each day thinking of at least 5 things you are thankful for in the day. And if you can't seem to get started, Oprah (yes, Oprah!) once said "then first, begin with your breath."
P.S. TO CAT: Thank you gwapa, for inviting me up... I needed the quiet time. TO EVERYONE ELSE: Thanks muchly for the excellently chill company.

For Photos go to THIS LINK

Monday, May 23, 2005

To Everything, turn, turn, turn...

A year ago something happened that changed my life completely. It rocked my foundations. It shook my world. A year ago and so much has happened... to not only my world but to myself as well... and I dont know quite exactly how to finish that sentence... so I leave you with this: to the man who was my harshest critic and my most loving supporter I miss you every single day that God creates for me... but I am learning to think of my loss as a gain because now you are everywhere around me... as Cookie told me the day you passed on ""life is one long roda. and now your dad will always be part of your axe." and i know you wait for me around every turn of my life's roda...

Last year during his mass, we showed a video that chronicled his life... I picked out "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles to be the accompanying music to the video... because my dad loved The Beatles... and also because while we mourned his passing, we also chose to celebrate his life.

Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun
And I say
it's all right

Little darlin'
it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darlin'
it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun
And I say
it's all right

Little darlin'
the smiles returning to their faces
Little darlin'
it seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun
And I say
it's all right

Sun, sun, sun,
here it comes
Sun, sun, sun,
here it comes
Sun, sun, sun,
here it comes
Sun, sun, sun,
here it comes
Sun, sun, sun,
here it comes

Little darlin'
I feel the ice is slowly meltin'
Little darlin'
it seems like years since it's been clear

Here come the sun,
here comes the sun
And I say
it's all right

Here come the sun,
here comes the sun
It's all right,
it's all right

I will always always always love you. Thank you... for 27 years of your you-ness... which has, in turn, helped me become who I continue to become.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Manifesto

May 17, 2005/July 1998

As some of you know, my room just underwent a major facelift. Everything I owned had to be moved out and now we are in the tedious process of moving everything back in. I took the opportunity to do some summer cleaning -- and found this: an old essay I was asked to write in my Senior year in college for a philosophy class. In it, we were supposed to come up with our own manifest for how we lived our lives... what we thought we were made of... you get the drift. Seven years later, I find that not much has changed inside my head... so here it is.
i am child of light
the dreamer, sky-watcher
head turned to the brillinace of
the waking world
the setting sun.
poet, dancer
creating from the world
i move in.
I am not random. I will never be mediocre. I will live my life in awe of the universe. I am my most powerful weapon, my most creative tool. My identity and integrity are sacred to me. It is my firm belief that we all matter because we are human, regardless of creed, color, race or religion.
I believe in honesty, even at the risk of losing something. I believe in love and immerse myself in it wherever I can. I believe in friendship - a friend is a luxury gift you give to yourself... and conversely, a gift you give to others.
And I believe in happiness. If you know yourself, see that you are flawed but are okay with that, you can be happy. If you have your integrity and will not back down on the non-negotiables of your life, you can be happy. If you can kick your heels at the oncoming tide and dance barefoot around the edges of your life, you can be happy. Happiness comes to those who pursue life.
*We now return you to the regular broadcast of travel stories... *

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Malapascua, Cebu

May 12 - 15, 2005

Regine and I landed in Malapascua after a three hour FX ride to the Maya Pier and a 45-minute boat trip across calm waters. When we got there, we looked at the shoreline and realized... there was none. Every inch of shore was taken up by a fleet of boats. Apparently, we had arrived right in time for the island's fiesta. Party on!
By the next morning, the party was over... and the boats were gone. We could now reclaim the beach for human beings in need of some sunshine. Which is exactly what we wanted to do - be in the sun and have no agenda beyond these things: 1) snorkel... 2) eat seafood... and 3) maybe go diving.
Snorkeling: We hooked ourselves up with masks and snorkels and a boat for Friday morning. After breakfast we headed out. And had a blast. We saw blue coral. I saw my very first banded sea snake that wasn't on some nature show. Regine drifted with the current and ended up in the 'land of big and colorful reef fish.' Neither one of us had a waterproof camera with us.
Eat Seafood: This was tougher than we thought it would be. We couldn't find good crab. And resorts were running low on shrimp and squid. This is what happens when you visit during a fiesta. Most fishermen dont go out because they are inland preparing for the festivities... so there is a steep decline in the amount of fresh catch that ends up in the market. The upshot of this was we never did have crab... BUT we did eventually have really good seafood dinners (fish in gata for me and squid & shrimp in teriyaki sauce for Regine).
Maybe Go Diving: became Really Went Diving. On Saturday to be exact. With the great people at Divelink Cebu. We hit the Lighthouse for an hour... leisurely gliding and finning. Regine kept floating up... hahaha. And it was kinda funny to see her keep holding out her hand to our dive master so he could pull her back down.
And somewhere in the three days we also: walked around the island's perimeter... got familiar with the baranggay area (fondly called 'the favela')... found a way to ignore the karaoke bar behind our resort (no song repeated!) ... pretended that Exotic Resort was our real home... found ingenious ways to to maximize Wet Wipes (great for cleaning your feet)... nearly stole a Brasil sarong ... ran into Xabi (our friend from EBC) and his girfriend (actually joined them for a dinner filled with really interesting and enlightening conversation... cooed and giggled over beach dogs and tiny brown children...
See, so if you think about it, for two girls with no real agenda... we actually got a lot done.

For photos check out My Gallery

Monday, May 09, 2005

I've got the music in me...

There are books that travel with you. Books that help you travel when you are couch-bound and ticket-free. We've discussed this before haven't we good friends? Tonight, while the rain beats staccato outside the window and the air is filled with the day's escaping heat... let's talk about music.

In the advent of iPods and other mp3 players, we bring entire collections with us. But there are only a hanful of songs that take truly us back to places we've been... or times in our lives.

I can't listen to Djavan's version of "Vamos Fugir" without immediately being taken back to February 2001... sitting at the LibSteps hangin' out on sunny afternoons. The ubiquitous pop phenom "Mr Suave" by Parokya Ni Edgar is not on my playlist... but it does take me back to Siargao's September evenings in 2003 with Tals and Ana, dancing to a loud showband of questionable talent... having the time of our lives. And there's the memory of Paolo shouting "we're driving straight for the sun" along the Sierra Madre footpaths as U2's "Beautiful Day" came right on cue. And, as some of you know, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles will always be the song that brings back everything about my dad.

Music. Gotta love it. There is a power there. I know most of you would agree.

And with that I leave you with one of my current favorites... beautifully written by a surfer-videographer-musician who knows what it means to put memories to music.

Lie back in the grass with me. The air brings comfort to an otherwise humid night. The crescent moon hangs in the sky. The stars are out... and bright. And the only sound is a single guitar strumming... can you see it?

Jack Johnson

The light was leaving

in the west it was blue

The children’s laughter sang

And skipping just like the stones they threw

Their voices echoed across the waves

It’s getting late

And it was just another night

With a sunset and a moonrise

Not too far behind

to give us just enough light

To lay down underneath the stars

We listened to Papa’s translations

Of the stories across the sky

We drew our own constellations

The west winds often last too long

And when they calm down,

nothing ever feels the same

Sheltered under the Kamani tree

Waiting for the passing rain

Clouds keep moving to uncover the sea

Stars up above us chasing the day away

To find the stories that we sometimes need

Listen close enough and all else fades

Fades away

And it was just another night

With a sunset and a moonrise

Not so far behind

to give us just enough light

To lay down underneath the stars

Listen to all translations

Of the stories across the sky

We drew our own constellations

What music brings you someplace else? Maybe we can compile a playlist together. ;)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


April 23 - 27, 2005

I am going to quote myself again… because I think I hit the nail on the head the first time. “Among the numerous reasons why I love to travel is this: seeing more of the world changes the person that you are slowly becoming. Meeting new people, seeing new things... it opens your mind and your eyes... and, if you meet new experiences with the right frame of mind, you come away from traveling a better human being.”

Never has this been proven more to me than every time I set foot on what I have to think of as “my island.” Yep, Siargao baby!

While it was my sixth time on the island, this trip still gave me a many firsts:

My first time to travel and hang out with so many women! Like Cat said, the island never smelled and looked so good. Beginning with seven of us (myself, Cat, Millie, Mocca and new girlies Revic, Isa and Amanda) traveling from Manila to the island together to hooking up with the girl surfers who were joining the competition, this trip was definitely one for the ladies.

I surfed Jacking Horses for the first time. And while it was small enough to be thought more of as “My Little Pony” than an actual horse, it was still a huge first for me. Especially when I realized that I am going left more and more consistently now. (woohoo!!! snaps to me!!!)

We went to Mam-On Island for the first time as well. Granted, that wasn't our original plan but still... take what you have and roll with it right? We had intended to go to Suhoton Cove & Bukas Grande but, an hour into the boat ride, the second engine refused to start. Now, without that second engine, it would have taken us four hours to get to Suhoton... and a contingency plan had to be made. Paolo discussed things with our boatmen... and we ended up at Mam-On Island. A first for all of us. And the true birth of the Siargao Tribe. As we walked from one spot on the island to another, following our boatmen/guides past houses and livestock, Amanda remarked "What if there's a resort at the end of this no?" which led to the creation of the mythical Aman resort "Aman Mamon" or "Peaceful Pastries" where every room has a pool table... a personal masseuse and unlimited uni.

And most importantly, we were in Siargao in April instead of the usual September because it was the first ever Siargao Girls' Surfing Challenge. The six women who entered the competition charged Cloud 9 like seasoned pros. You would have never been able to tell just from watching them take off that, apart from local girls Nilde and Manet, the other four had never set foot in Siargao prior to this comp. (As an aside: Nilde, Manet, Daisy, Mickey, Marie and Mocca -- you ladies rocked so hard in the line-up! I am sooo stoked for you guys.)

Other highlights of this time 'round include:
- A crab feast at Paolo's house, followed by a crazy night at the newly opened Boulevard where Paolo danced the Ocho-Ocho for a measly P2.00 while Lui volunteered to sing to pretty much anything that was already being sung at the nearby karaoke hut.
- Lui saying "Don't touch the hot sauce and then touch yourself" to a table full of women.
- Millie's "He doesn't even need a wave" comment.
- The birth of "Swell Bear" aka local charger Usot.
- Waking up with the day and catching the sunrise at the Tower. The light was too harsh to really shoot anything well but it was nice to just sit there quietly watching the early sessions... then later joining the competitors for a short photo session.
- Swimming over 400 meters from the boat to the pristine shores of Mam-On Island. The first of many challenges for the cast of "Survivor: Aman Mamon." (Other challenges: hack a coconut in two, cook kilawin and, most importantly, get a tan!)
- Spending the night at Paolo's house. Oddly enough, my first time (ooh another first!) to sleep over at his place even though we've been to the island together several times. We watched the Bikini Babes competition at Cabuntog Resort for bit before heading over to his house. Bottles of Red Horse and Tanduay Rum were passed around... a bonfire was tended... fire was spun... and at some point, I fell asleep despite (or was it because of) the surround sound snoring of Lui and Sly.

- Which led to the late start of my Tuesday morning. The boys (Pao, Pino, and Sly) were supposed to be on their way to Manila then but they didn't quite make the ferry. And of all of us, only Lui really got anything productive done before lunch that day. The rest of us slept, read books, and lazed around... finally rousing ourselves when our hunger could no longer be ignored... munching companionably on Peanut Butter granola bars and nutrionally rich ripe mangoes.
- Sitting around Ocean 101 with the girls talking about boys as only a table full of girls can. (By the way... maybe you'd like to be involved in the "Save A Wave, Ride A Surfer" Foundation? Inspired by a bumper sticker I saw before.)
- The sight of Lui in girls' boardshorts. Too bad we dont have photos.
- After four days of wondering if I would ever get my board in the water, I finally did. Isa, Amanda, and I, (led by my surf dad Alex) headed into the aforementioned Jacking Horses for an afternoon session while everybody else hit another surf spot. Millie yelled instructions from the shallows. And Cat splashed around beside her, deflty avoiding renegade boards that came hurtling in her direction. The ultimate highlight of this session was having Pete (a tiny 11 year old local grommet) yell encouraging words at me while he surfed rings around the rest of us. He also hassled Amanda and Isa a lot but I'd like to think that it was Pete's way of welcoming them to the island.
- Nilde threw a victory party/dinner at her place and the troops all came down to share in the good vibes. (Daghang salamat Nilds! Lami kaayo imong handa!)
- Being called an "adopted Siargaonon" by the former Mayor.
- The awards ceremony at the Boulevard which started with the "Biyahe Tayo!" video of the DOT... a video that makes me proud to be living is such a beautiful country. After that were a video of the Caraga Region (which makes me want to explore more of the area) and a slideshow of the photos Pat Mateo took of the girls' surf session over at Stimpy's (a boat trip I continue to regret not being on). Awards were given out... a full moon hung in a starless sky... the air was filled with the sounds of people clapping and cheering... bodies danced to the beat of whatever band was on-stage... more fire was spun (Cue Isa yelling at Pino: "That's my Roxy Bitch!") ... more photos taken... more good vibes enveloping happy travelers and locals... all of us enjoying the evening.
- The trip back home to Manila was somber... everybody tired from the last night's party and on my end, already feeling "homesick" for Siargao. (Amanda actually stayed behind an extra 6 days, making her the winner of Survivor: Aman Mamon)
So... to end... I'm going to try to answer a question somebody asked me about why I keep going back to the island... why most of my longer blogs are about Siargao:
"a tropical paradise unspoiled by the feet of over-commercialization, a vacation where time is measured by the changes in the sky... basking in the sun while warm water laps at my feet... every sunrise treasured, every sunset a gift from God... every photograph only a fraction of what you really remember from the island..."
Ta-dah! That ought to do the trick. ;)
For photos Click Here
post script: I do believe that some thanks are in order -- to the DOT and PSF for hookin' us up and helping us out with our transfers and tickets. to millie for being an excellent Siargao roomie yet again. to mama cat and li'l pao for workin' out the boat trip and the crab feast. to pino for letting me spin some fa-yah - and filming it! to sly for the d70 bonding & being nice about sharing pillows/banigs (but not blankets). to isa for the non-stop laughing, the chari concoction (and, sigh, the attempts at murder). to amanda for all the 'tv shows we watch' moments and promising to build a tightrope in her garden. to alex for not getting mad when i did that stupid thing with my board (ssshhh!). to lui for the invaluable life lessons concerning hot sauce, perching your butt and the way to stage a photoshoot. to kathy for the loan on the 500mm lens (too bad i never did sort out using it sans tripod). and to every single local surfer that continues to charge and rip and spread the good vibe!