quick escape back home

July 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tired of the usual Batangas trip as one of the nearest options from Manila, I decided to explore the things to do in the Laguna and Quezon area.  This was the first trip for leisure that we took as a family ever since Inay passed away.  And since the task of planning itineraries for family trips was always done by our mom, this time I had to do it.

Upon picking me up from the airport, Mamow, Fubz and I headed straight to our accommodation in San Pablo (Laguna) – known for its seven lakes.  I chose our hotel from Google Maps because it was the only one sitting right beside a lake.

IMG_2222Tahanan ni Aling Meding


Tahanan ni Aling Meding is actually an ancestral home converted into a hotel because all but one of the 11 siiblings who funded it are based in the USA.  Instead of wasting away the property, they decided to have people rent it instead so that at least the maintenance cost for the place will be covered.  One of the owners, Mr. Wilson Borja, lives there and we had the pleasure of meeting him during our stay.  He told us about their family as well and how they all together migrated to San Francisco as a family back in the day.  I guess comparing other options in the area, this was the better choice.  But being a house to begin with, the facilities weren’t that great – specifically the low water pressure in the shower.  Breakfast was bare minimum also.  But the saving grace of the place is the really nice owner and staff, as well as the unobstructed view of Sampaloc lake (which wasn’t as good as I expected since they’ve been raising tilapia in the lake and the perimeter is congested with houses).  After dropping off our things, we headed to our first stop: Lake Pandin.

IMG_2224walking to Lake Pandin






Lake Pandin is one of the seven lakes in San Pablo, where they offer the option of having lunch on a bamboo raft.  It was a 15 minute drive from Tahanan.  The lake is not that big, but it was well maintained thanks to the cooperative of women operators who see to it that they keep the beauty of their surroundings.  We left our car in the parking lot and had to walk 15 minutes to reach the lake.  Upon reaching the main shore, we were greeted by the serene view of the lake.  Several bamboo rafts floated by the shore, and the local people politely invited us to take a seat as we waited for them to prepare our raft.  They move the bamboo rafts by pulling ropes they have tied from one end of the lake to the other.  At the opposite end of the lake, there is a grotto where a small spring also produces fresh water.  We we’re lucky as there was no one else when we arrived and so we had the lake to ourselves.  The food was also excellent provincial food – pako salad (my favorite!), ginataang small shrimps (really good except for the fact that the shrimp heads were scary to eat as I felt they might pierce my tongue or throat), and grilled tilapia (not a fan of tilapia, but I missed this).  The shrimps and tilapia are raised in Lake Pandin itself, but the pako is bought from the market.  People can also swim in the lake, but the water is cloudy and you can’t really see the bottom.  It was daunting to get in, but since my brother went in, I also followed suit.  I tried to placate my fears of suddenly getting attacked by some lake monster from below and lasted around 15 minutes in the water.     Ate and Kuya who manned our raft were also very pleasant, always reminding us to be careful of slipping in the bamboo raft, and not to swim too far out (as if I would even dare).  There was a cool breeze in the lake, and after an hour idling at the far end of the lake, we decided to go back to the hotel.  The rest of the afternoon was spent sleeping, and we had dinner at a nearby restaurant, Clyde & Josh Grill & Restaurant, which was also by the perimeter of Sampaloc Lake.  Since I missed gata a lot, we opted for ginataang kuhol, and this traditional ginataang tilapia recipe in the area which I forgot what they called.  We also had ensaladang talong and Gab wanted grilled squid.  The food was good and the staff were very polite.  We were the only ones again in the restaurant since we woke up late for dinner.  They closed soon after we left.  On the way home, I noticed that the area around the lake wasn’t that clean to be honest, owing to the fact that it was full of establishments and houses.  But it wasn’t that dirty either – signifying they’re probably implementing a cleanliness scheme which, although prevents total chaos, can be made better.  Gab ate balot on the way home.  I, on the other hand, waited until we reached the hotel wherein I ate a kilo of ripe mangoes by myself.  Philippine mango heaven. :3

The next day, we left around 9am for Tiaong, Quezon.  The goal was to go to Ugu Bigyan’s Secret Pottery Garden – a place my mother had always wanted to go to.






I had only ever heard of Ugu Bigyan from her, but apparently Ugu is a renowned potter.  The place lived up to its name of being “secret” as there was not a single sign pointing to it.  Thank goodness for Google Maps.  We reached Ugu Bigyan’s secret enclave after a two hour drive and we’re very much delighted at the beauty of the entire area.  There was something to adore in every little corner, and I especially loved the embedded ceramic fishes on the pavement.  Ugu Bigyan’s store was situated inside, and there we were greeted by Ugu’s sister, Heidi.  I bought a blue ceramic coaster for myself, while my brother got a mug.  Then we choose this pretty plate with fishes in memory of my mom.  After that, my dad suddenly went into a shopping spree for our relatives since it was very hard to go to Ugu’s place and the novelty and pride in owning an Ugu Bigyan piece was also something to take pride on.  It’s just tricky to know if people will appreciate it though since pottery can come across as something abstract and commonplace to some.  Especially if they’re not aware of how it’s made and how long it takes to make.  We got to see Mr. Ugu Bigyan himself on the way out as there was a delivery guy looking for him.

After Ugu Bigyan’s, I checked the map and suggested to my dad that we can either return the same way, or complete the circle around Mt. Banahaw and pass by Kamay ni Hesus on the way home.  There was also this dampa-style restaurant, Kamayan sa Palaisdaan, that I wanted to try near that area.  Since we weren’t rushing and everyone was in a mood for a road trip anyway, we took the longer route circling Mt. Banahaw.

IMG_2346Kamayan sa Palaisdaan – where I ate Pako salad once again


Gab, at the peak of Kamay ni Hesus – sadly, the place was too commercialized to be a sacred place.  It was more of a tourist place already.  

We passed along the main national highway for the most part of the trip, and the fact that it had one lane for each direction was both frustrating (traffic was a procession), but also a good deterrent from commercialization of the provincial beauty.  The lack of proper and correct road signs was completely annoying though.  There was one point we encountered a sign saying “to Manila”, and thanks to Google Maps (once again), I saw it led to Lipa which led even farther away.  We got home around 9 in the evening, and I was once again able to sleep in my own room.  The rest of my 5 day vacation was a whirlwind, and I left Manila missing my family even more.  Nevertheless, it was 5 days well spent with people who matter.

P.S. Oh, I should also mention here that since I took Tiger Air this time, which meant having to go to NAIA Terminal 1, we went into this place called Salem Complex where we found this carinderia which served lutong bahay food.  Since I wanted to eat vegetables, I opted for that rather than the other fastfood restaurants in the area.  I ate 4 pieces of tortang talong, bopis and tortang ampalaya – and my dad was rather happy that I ate a lot. haha.  Gab had grilled pusit again, it seems like he has a fixation for that these past few days.  We just paid 235 for 5 different viands – oh how I miss the cost of living in the Philippines.


July 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Even before I read this work of Murakami, I had already been captivated by its content.


I bought this book on impulse almost, but not quite, a year ago.  It had to take a back seat while I was consumed with my exam, but I’ve finally taken the time to finish it.  The review of this book has been surprisingly mixed.  Only when I read it to the end did I understand why several of Murakami lovers have found this work deviant from his usual masterpieces.  To be honest, there were a lot of times I used speed reading just to get through some parts that were repetitive in content. Here are a few of the striking lines that I marked as I was reading.

And it was the kind of thing that loses the most important nuances when reduced to words. *

If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life.  Even if you can’t get together with that person.

“In this world, there is no absolute good, no absolute evil,” the man said.  “Good and evil are not fixed, stable entities but are continually trading places. A good may be transformed into an evil in the next second. And vice versa…The most important thing is to maintain the balance between the constantly moving good and evil. If you lean too much in either direction, it becomes difficult to maintain actual morals. Indeed, balance itself is the good.

It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.*

People need things like that to go on living – mental landscapes that have meaning for them, even if they can’t explain them in words. Part of why we live is to come up with explanations for these things.

Maybe we shouldn’t meet again…Wasn’t it better if they kept this desire to see each other hidden within them, and never actually got together? That way, there would always be hope in their hearts. That hope would be a small, yet vital flame that warmed them to their core – a tiny flame to cup one’s hands around and protect from the wind, a flame that the violent winds of reality might easily extinguish.

I think that* about illustrates how repetitive it can get – although the fact that I underlined that thought every single time anyway symbolizes how much I agreed to it.  Nevertheless, it was a unique kind of fiction.  It didn’t fail to give that signature stillness that one gets whenever you read Murakami’s stories.  It unearthed new ways of looking at things, simplified complications and complicated simple things.  I felt the ending was abrupt and lacking, but I am still left with a marked impression of this alternate world that the story has weaved.  I would also have to consider that the repetition is part of the style of writing – something that the patient Japanese culture is familiar with.  In a very watered down description, it is a story of how love triumphs in the end against all odds.  However, Murakami gives that common theme more than just a twist.  He gave us Aomame and Tengo.

thank you :)

July 1, 2015 § 1 Comment

I’m finally done with my oral qualifying exam.  If anything, it has been an extremely humbling experience.  I was in a sombre mood for an extended time, especially when my exam was nearing.  I broke into tears every few days, and thank God for my Dad who listened to all my fears, calmed me down in between sobbing long distance calls and helped me remember what was important.  Though everyone thought I’d do well anyway because (and I am deeply humbled by this thought) they think it’s easy for me to do well in academics, I knew myself the best.  And knowing myself the best, I was beyond unprepared.  PhD has nothing at all to do with intelligence.  And I am not even intelligent.  It’s all just plain hard work, just like what every other person has to do in their own occupation.  I own up to all the laziness, negligence, doubt and escapism that I allowed to settle in with me at times.  But thank God I didn’t stop trying.  I just couldn’t dare do that and waste my mom’s dream and this opportunity.  People say you shouldn’t fulfill your parent’s dreams and I’ve been in denial of that fact up until I sank into a state of panic.  But I’ve finally owned up to the fact that me finishing a PhD is in fact my mom’s dream.  It wasn’t mine and it isn’t mine.  And for that, I will damn finish this and not let that dream die.  On so many days, I silently wished my mom was here to comfort me and tell me I can do it.  What overwhelmed me was on the night before my exam, God sent my friends to let me know I can do it.  And at that moment, I knew I wasn’t alone.  Thank you guys, you know who you are. :) I really appreciated it. :)


I drew my biggest inspiration from this child I don’t even personally know.  This is just a reminder that no matter how small or big the task you’re doing is, don’t ever give up because you never know who you’re inspiring.  (you got that right, crabby ;))

See you soon, home! :)


June 21, 2015 § 1 Comment


Mamow when he surprised me with a visit on my birthday last year.  He missed seeing my messy room.

He’s always been the proudest during the high points in my life, but more importantly, he’s always been there for me during the lowest ones.  Those days when I felt the world caving in on me, my dad has always been the one to reassure me that no matter what I do, how I fall and if I fail, I will always be loved by my family.  When I lost the gold earrings that my mom ever so reminded me to take care of, it was Mamow who took my side and forgave me.  During that one time I cried because of my academics during college, it was Mamow who drove all the way down to Makati from Cavite on a Saturday morning just because he knew I just needed to cry it out.  When I felt my first taste of failure in one of my students who failed to improve his grade after I tutored him in Math, it was Mamow who told me that it’s not my fault but  that I should bravely deal with it.  During those times that Gab and I didn’t know if Inay was going to make it, it was Mamow who constantly reassured us that prayers will make everything alright.  And especially now when I’ve been having the bulk of my breakdowns in a place not that easy to go to, it has always been Mamow who has reassured me that I can do it and that no matter what, I can always come back home.  It’s funny because my parents have always been proud of the fact that I never cried when I was a baby.  It was my dad who trained me as such.  I can imagine he threatened me in some manner as an infant to make me stop that reflex of crying. Haha, well we were raised in a very strict manner.  It’s probably why now that I’m away from him, tears have been coming more easily every time I have really bad days.  And it’s only Mamow’s voice on the phone that can calm me down and remind me that I am not a person who gives up easily.  Mamow, you know I’m not really the stereotypical daddy’s girl.  And most of our disagreements have only been those instances when you didn’t allow me to do what I wanted.  Although I may have seethed in apparent anger during those times, I would never do anything without your consent (if I ask, haha) not because I fear punishment but because I value your approval.  Happy Father’s Day, Mamow.  Gab and I miss you so much.  Distance, whether physical or metaphysical, will never dampen the spirit of love and faith that you have worked so hard for in imbibing in our family.  Thank you for giving us the privilege to have a reason to celebrate Father’s Day. :) We love you.


our social networking presence

May 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

As with most fortunate (or unfortunate?) people with internet access these days, I have been using my only social networking site (you guessed it, Facebook) as a means to get news…be it from my primary school friends I have not seen in ages or from entities I choose to “follow” because I think the things they post are either relevant or downright amusing.  And because my network provider somehow charges less within Facebook versus when I use my browser, I find myself reading comments most of the time if I want to assess if a link is worth pressing or not.  If you’ve been doing the same, you would have likely noticed the obvious trends in these so called “threads”.  There are people who give affirmation, and people who express their disagreement.  Now affirmation is almost a neutral comment, except in cases when you offer additional insights and it so happens that the issue at hand is controversial.  You will probably get your share of “haters”.  On the other hand, expressing disagreement can either earn you affirmation by fellow dissidents or people telling you to “shut the fuck off if you have nothing good to say”.  Personally, I have never been one to add my own personal comments on public posts, save for a few exceptions.  And in those exceptions, I’ve noticed that I leave those positive neutral ones.  Perhaps other than the fact that I do not want the bothersome notifications, I honestly see it as a waste of time to embroil myself in online public discussions.  As I usually see it, I do not waste my time mocking grammatical errors of other people, nor do I see the need to challenge other people’s opinions especially when they are working on completely flawed premises.  In addition, I find it so foolish when people comment on something obviously without reading the article first, verifying its veracity, or even simply basing on previous comments.  These days everyone wants to give their two cents, and self-proclaimed “netizen” police will gladly take you down when they deem you stupid or out of line.  Me thinks I will spare myself from possible online slaughter.  BUT, it was in the middle of reading one of these comment threads that I realized (the obvious) that social networking sites have become a microcosm of reality…if not reality itself.  “Experts” may insist on so-called social media ethics, but the truth is, some people online are literally extensions of what they are IRL.  And in this realization, I suddenly thought that there is actually a fine line between apparently following the unspoken etiquette and just being plain apathetic.  The way I see it, there are two prominent ways to be “cool”…become totally inactive online, or to be too active online.  The latter one has always been deemed as damaging, I think most people would agree to that.  But the former one usually gets the positive light.  However, historically, extremes have never been solely good.  There is always something beneath that fold, which is why the safest place has always been the middle ground.  Not that I’m espousing living a life of boring safety, but my only point is that being totally inactive may actually be encouraging apathy.  Those times that I think I am merely being neutral and open and “cool”, I might actually just be exercising a new form of social apathy.  And though I would have loved to explore this theory in more depth, the quagmire that my mind is currently at implores me to save it for next time.  This argument actually opens up further discussion about our responsibilities in owning social networking sites.  But I will leave this to social scientists.  After all, I am just another person expressing my unsubstantiated musings…just like so many other people out there.

letter to heaven.5

April 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Dearest Inay,

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything of worth. I miss you a lot. I was imagining addressing you in poetry, but I’m afraid my thoughts are all in prose.  Rhymeless prose.  The only song in my head when I think of you is the last song you ever heard.

I finally asked Ama that question that I’ve always wanted an answer to.  It was a selfish question that I could not bring myself to ask for quite some time until after you passed away.  But I wanted an answer, and I wanted it in words.  I asked him if you missed me when I was away.

You see, I know there’s an obvious answer to that, but there’s a difference in answering my own questions to someone else answering them for me.  Especially when the question is independent of me, but whose answer I am dependent on.  He told me you were always crying and you thought that you’d never see me again. To say that I felt a pang of guilt is an understatement. Yet it was a stark contrast to the neutral, brave front you always showed me whenever you called me in Skype.  Sometimes I recall you with silent longing – a memory that performs a brief waltz in my head.  Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night when I wake up in tears – succumbing to the treachery of my dreams.  Sometimes, it is exactly as now – when tears still well up from my eyes and all that can comfort me is writing.  Truly, there is nothing like going home to a mother, to a mom, to a nayoti, to a naychi, to a baby buddha – to half of everything that stood for all the past and present and future strength I had, have and will ever have.  When the going gets tough, it’s easier to be tough and get going if you know your parents have your back.  I miss knowing I have someone to tell my fears to, without being embarrassed about it.  Ironically though, I rarely did that with you.  In truth, we operated with a constant buffer to maintain emotional normality.  If I count the number of times we both broke down in tears at the same time, I can only even remember two.  The times I broke down, you always consoled me with your firm trust and resolve.  The times you broke down, I always encouraged you to have faith and stand right back up.  But I always believed that you felt my thoughts and knew my feelings.  You probably just denied me of the superficial comfort derived from wallowing in self-pity; and wisely at that.  It’s how I learned to follow suit.  But now when I find myself breaking down, it’s hard for me to look for the same solid ground that you always made sure I stood on.  I’m stuck in this limbo looking for you.  Floating among old memories and flashbacks. Immobile and overwhelmed with an inconsolable loneliness. It is a brief paralysis, but it is a stroke of reality.


March 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

I was sorting through my laundry awhile ago when I suddenly had the epiphany that most of my clothes are either black, dark blue, or white.  I literally walked to my dresser and opened the doors to check and was flabbergasted that indeed most of everything I had here are in those colors.  I used to like wearing prints.  Deadly flower prints.  They were so deadly I cannot forget my brother’s remark one day that my clothes look like curtains because of the flowery prints.  To my defense, they absolutely did not look like curtains (how narrowminded can boys’ descriptions sometimes be) – but yes, I did love flower prints.  And I used to love yellow.  It was the color I received the most compliments for.  I even wore pink, and baby blue always caught my eye when I go to stores.  My favorite swimsuit was orange and green.  Now my existing wardrobe’s majority is the embodiment of the absence of color – black.  I wondered when my wardrobe started changing, and I think it was the moment I  started living here in Singapore.  I swear I wore lively colors up until when I was teaching.  If it was because of the fact of living away from home, doing a PhD, my mourning for the loss of my mother, the practicality of having such a straightforward and timeless fashion, not to mention dark colors does wonders in slimming down (hmm this might actually be a huge factor) – I can only guess.  No wonder when I went home last December, I couldn’t find anything I was comfortable wearing.  All the clothes I left behind were lively and seemed too loud.  It made me queasy wearing them, and so I even bought a few more black tops when I was there.  Looking back, it just seems queer.  I didn’t plan a conscious transmogrification of my wardrobe to black, but somehow it seems like I gravitate towards that color as of late.

But I don’t want to die in black.  Not that I am a firm believer that fashion is deeply connected to personality (because really, black does wonders in slimming down…and it’s always classy to be in black), but because I simply miss being able to pick green, or yellow, or pink, or daisies, or ducks, or or or watermelons, or whatever.  It might be symbolic, that I will now make a conscious effort to buy colors the next time I go shopping.  And the fact that of all the trite things I can write about, I chose this as deserving of a public entry.  But whatever it is, let me just say that black is utterly boring.  I hypothesize that the moment I get back my colors, doing the laundry will be much much more therapeutic.  As for now, I will have to make do with the yellow on the center of that white flower print I have on a sheer black tank top.

full time baby

January 31, 2015 § 1 Comment

It’s quite a hassle to be treated like a baby when you’re turning 30 soon, but sometimes it’s also amusing. I wonder when my Dad will think I’m at least a toddler already.


Whatsapp conversation with Mamow

the compassion in people who have lost

January 25, 2015 § 7 Comments

I keep remembering this sentence I saw once in Humans of New York.  It was from a story about a widow who lost her husband of so many years.  When her husband was dying, she asked him How am I supposed to live without you?.  And her husband answered, Take the love that you have for me, and spread it all around.

To this day, those words reverberate inside my shell, filling my core with both sadness and wisdom.  Of course, that is absolutely the right thing to do.  But for some reason, the idea leaves me with a heavy sense of heartache.  It was an order to give away to whoever else something you have allotted to someone special.  It was the gentle pushing away of hands that yearn to hug someone.  It was the last forehead kiss of a lover, who refuses you to kiss him back for the last time.  It was when I took down my mom’s clothes from their hangers, laid them out on the bed, sorted them out through wafts of familiar memories that dusted out of them, folded them and decided to whom they should go instead.  It was painful, it was generous, it was the right thing.

Perhaps this is why people who have lost someone can sometimes show the most amazing compassion.  Look at them, look at those who suffer silently for people who have long gone.  Perhaps they too want to say, no, I’m not kind.  It isn’t me.  It’s just that, I don’t know what to do with all the love I’m left with.

This post is dedicated in loving memory of my mom, and to my dad who continues to serve others. Happy 32nd Wedding Anniversary.  This is also dedicated to every beautiful person I have been lucky to know.



January 11, 2015 § 1 Comment



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