How wonderfully you have grown since May of last year. – Morgan Harper Nichols

I believe it’s a fairly universal emotion for young adults to feel like we’re running out of time to accomplish our aspirations in life. Society glorifies the ‘30 under 30s’, painting these outliers are the vantage point for success.

Deadlines are important in keeping us accountable and productive. However, based on how I’ve planned my life (so far), everything has to be done by the time I’m 30… and that is where it stops.

If my recent encounter with a fairly serious injury (on my face) has taught me anything, it’s that time is the key to everything.

Time heals, and time is a great teacher.

Time heals

The deep wounds that a bacterial infection inflicted on my nose took three weeks to heal. Deep scars took the place of these wounds, and day by day I noticed they are getting smaller, slowly lifting up, and generally getting less ostentatious. I am still healing.

I was so incredibly stressed during these three weeks because I had an upcoming trip to Spain. In addition to reasons grounded in vanity, I was nervous because I might be considered a potential health hazard by the Spanish government. However, prayers and a week-long course of fairly strong antibiotics worked, and the final scab fell off on the plane ride from Dubai to Madrid.

This experience taught me that healing takes time. It simply cannot be expedited and this applies wounds both physical and emotional in nature.

Time is necessary for us to heal from the habits, and mindset that hinder us from being completely ready to step up to the demands of our goals and dreams.

Time is a teacher

Much like the week-long, pretty strong, antibiotic + regular cleaning, medicating, and gauzing course that I had to do for the infection, healing habits and mindsets require proactive intervention.

Forming new habits (physical and mental) takes effort and commitment which might take weeks, even months. And as we go through these processes, we learn not just new and better ways of doing things, but also new dimensions in our identities.

Our greatest stumbling blocks,

Our threshold for pain,

Our grit levels,

Our creativity,

Our why power,

How desperate we are for our goals,

What we really want out of life

Allow yourself some time to grow into the person needed by your dreams.

Time makes us worthy of the goals we’ve set out for ourselves.

Time makes us worthy of the person we aspire to be.

(Here are some photos from Thailand, taken on November 2018. Loy Krathong festival, Ayutthaya, and the incredible Wat Arun)



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I am not great at Tagalog which is embarrassing. I’m one of those Filipinos who, as a child, learned English first then Tagalog second. Speaking and writing in straight Tagalog requires great effort on most days, and this is why I’m proud to share this short story (a dagli) which I wrote for a class in college.

Inspired by Geena Rocero, this is the life story of a transgender person who had the opportunity to finally live her truth.

Si Geena at ang Kanyang Paglipad

Siya ay kasalukuyang nasa himpapawid, nakatingin sa mga tala. Habang ang kanyang mga kasama ay nahihimbing, siya ay nag-iisip. Ang katagang “self-made woman” ay nabibigyan ng kakaibang kahulugan kapag iyong nakilala si Geena. Si Geena na ang buhay ay halos puro paglalayag.

Ang una niyang paglalayag ay para makalayo. Makalayo sa ama na ang tingin sa kanya ay kahihiyan. Makalayo sa pari na ang tingin sa kanya ay makasalanan. Sa mga kalye, café, at bar ng Amsterdam at San Francisco siya nakahanap ng pagtanggap. Sa mga beach ng Rio de Janeiro niya nagawang mag-bikini at sumayaw nang malaya at walang panghuhusga. Sa Greenwich Village sa New York niya natutunan ang ilan sa kasaysayan ng kanyang mga kauri. Mga lugar na bukas sa mga tulad niya. Sa piling ng mga katulad niya na malayang nakakapagpahayag ng kanilang katotohanan siya nakahanap ng kaligayahan.

Ang ikalawa niyang paglalayag ay para sa kanyang anyo. Galing Kalibo, lumipad pa-Maynila para sa estrogen na galling Estados Unidos. Sumunod naman ay sa Alemanya para sa kanyang balakang, sa Belgium para sa kanyang suso, at Sa Thailand para sa kanyang puke. Sa kanyang paglalakbay, unti-uniting tumutugma ang kanyang panlabas sa kanyang kalooban. Unti unti niyang nakakamit ang katotohanan.

Ang ikatlo niyang paglalayag ay para sa kanyang pagkatao. May isang pagkakataon na limang oras siyan pinaghintay sa NAIA dahil ang kanyang hitsura ay hindi tugma sa kanyang gender marker. Siya ay tinawag ma ‘mister’ kahit siya ay mukha nang ‘miss’. Nakakapuno at nakakainsulto. Lumipad siya pa-San Francisco at pagkaraan ng ilang taon, dito tuluyang namatay si Gino, at ipinanganak si Geena.

Ang ikaapat niyang paglalayag ay para sa pag-ibig. Para kay Oskar. “Your name would look better with two letter e’s”, sabi sa kanya ng Aleman nang siya sa wakas ay naging babae na. Hinawakan niya kamay nito habang ito ay natutulog sa kanyang tabi. Malapit nang lumapag sa New York ang eroplano. Sa makalawa ay ikakasal sila sa siyudad na ito, bagay na hinding-hindi niya magagawa sa bayang sinilangan.

Maaaring ito na nga ang huli. Ang huling paglalayag ng isang babaeng mistulang buong buhay niya ay lumilipad. Hinahabol ang katotohanan, kalayaan, at kaligayahan. Maaaring ito na nga…


*Ang pangalang Geena ay hango kay Bb. Geena Rocero, isang Pilipinang transgender na ngayon ay isang model sa New York. Siya ang tagapagtatag ng Gender Proud, isang NGO na naglalayong tulungan ang mga transgender na maging totoo sa kanilang mga sarili at magpakalap impormasyon tungkol sa karapatan na malayang pagpili ng sekswalidad.



I leave for Europe in five days to visit Italy for the first time. This is another trip of many firsts: first long haul flight, first time to experience connecting flights, first time in Italy, and first time in Europe actually. And I am travelling alone again. 

I’ve had less than a month to prepare for this trip, and it’s been incredibly nerve-wracking. This post is a documentation of the unglamorous side of travel that I’ve discovered and learned from (still learning more) these past few weeks.

  1. Visa application is a chore. Over-prepare, do not cram, and most importantly, do not take it lightly.
  2. Take the time to really study the public transport system. Uber is not always available. Private transport is expensive.
  3. Plan out your accommodation properly. Things to consider: proximity to your itinerary, food places, airport, the transport system, WiFi, and the PRICE.
  4. Budget honey, look up the entrance fees for the museums you intend to visit, plan out where you’re gonna eat, take advantage of tourist transportation packages.
  5. Google translate is a gem. English is not as universal as they make it out to be. Also, studying the local language makes you more cultured.
  6. Waze and Google maps! Take screenshots! Prepare the physical maps as well.
  7. Wear a watch.
  8. You will have to invest in wardrobe. But this is a one-time thing, if you invest properly and take good care of everything.
  9. You will have to invest in luggage. But this is a one-time thing, if you invest properly and take good care of everything.
  10. Credit cards are a necessity, it turns out.
  11. Sew invisible pockets everywhere. 
  12. Have two toiletry bags. One for check in, one for your carry on.
  13. Newly discovered essentials: whistle key chain, mini flashlight, extension cord, universal travel adaptors, emergency numbers, extra copies of your travel documents (print and digital), monopod, water canteen, notebook and pen, and data package (tourist sim?).
  14. Those giant belts for luggage are a thing. Always have one.
  15. Don’t get distracted by picture-perfect instagrammers and their instagram posts. The glitz distracts you from the hard work prior to travel.

Right now I am all nervous-scared-excited-challenged. I look forward to, and am grateful for, all the adulting and growing up that this new territory will force me to do.

Future self, I know you are a much better traveler now, but take time to return to this post and remind yourself of some lessons forgotten, laugh at your naivete’, discover how far you’ve come and be grateful for the opportunity to literally journey through life.

A reminder


Hello older Daniella,

Littler you was at the peak of frustration when she was writing this, toeing the line between depressed and deranged. You’ve got 10+ pending job applications and have yet to receive a response. Given you’ve only been unemployed for a week and a half but for some reason your stress-level is that of someone whose thesis defense is tomorrow but hasn’t finished writing the actual paper yet.

I want to remind you of how you felt at the time that this was being written. You were demotivated and demoralized, tired, sad, scared, jealous, perpetually hungry, and somewhat angry. You faced much rejection, and the people you love doubted you. You were starting to think about compromising your goals again.

Right now I want you to think about where you came from and where you’re headed. Don’t fall in love with smelling the flowers that you forget you’re headed for the mountains. I want to remind you of what you love. Photography is often the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning and that means something. Never forget how blessed you are to have found something you’re incredibly passionate for and have the resources to pursue. To give it up is an act of ingratitude.

Yes, you need a regular job to sustain yourself, but living in pursuit of just that is not really living, but merely existing. Life is too grand a gift for one to be contented with mere existence. Remember what you consider as a life well-lived: a life devoted in pursuit of one’s passion, and a life that is in service of others.

Remember what you live for, where your heart truly lies. Every decision from here on out should be in service of that. Keep creating, keep sharing, and never lose the spark that genuinely optimistic people have. One day it will all fall into place, and the pain you felt will be useful to you.

And one last thing:

“My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.” – Imam Ash-Shafi’i


Littler Daniella


Makiling alone


Last Thursday, I hiked Mt. Makiling alone via the UPLB College of Forestry Trail. I went to celebrate Earth day one day in advance, to deal with pent up feelings, and also to tick off a pre-21 bucketlist item.

I was running away from heartbreak the last time I was here. Mountains have always been a source of comfort for when things get a little difficult. When you’re at the peak everything looks much smaller. That one person/thing/event that’s bothering you is nothing but a tiny dot in the vast artwork that is the universe. Suddenly you see the wider scheme of things and eventually one realizes that one day this pain will be useful, and that it’s all part of a much bigger plan that has yet to unfold. Also, you’re much closer to the God who lives in the sky.


I’ve been feeling very lost lately and what better way to deal with figurative “lost-ness” than risk getting physically lost in a mountain famous for lost hikers due to a fanciful diwata.

I felt like I’ve lost my sense of self and sacrificed my identity in favor of belonging and being liked by people, whom I eventually realized, don’t really matter in any way at all. But in the mountains I realized that even trees and flowers of the same species don’t look exactly the same. All of creation is not meant to be the same, for every nuance is a puzzle piece that fills a specific slot which completes an overall picture. I’m weird, idealistic, and overly optimistic, for a reason and I will continue being so even though the reason why is still unclear. Though there is a certain appeal with being a “mean girl”, I will continue being kind, even if it means being the underdog every once in a while. I will continue being an idealist, a patriot, and a lover, for people who never lose hope always remain in the light.





My mantra has always been the same in all the hikes I’ve done and this has proved useful in life in general as well:

Strong heart | Strong back | Strong legs | Strong mind 

Hiking has taught me self-reliance to the extreme. Though sometimes someone will help pull you up, you can’t rely on them completely for they’re battling their own exhaustion and self-doubt. Heart,mind, legs, and back, strengthen these and all uphill battles will be won.



No, I didn’t hike all the way to the summit. The trail gets a little challenging for a solo hiker around station 15, and peak moments should be shared with people who matter. Also, mum would kill me if she found out I hiked alone all the way to a summit. When I got back down, the proprietor asked why I didn’t go all the way. After I told him why, he decided that my hike was an unsuccessful one because I didn’t “finish”. But I disagree, I was able to do to what I came to do and I went back down feeling much better, and much more sure with who I am and what I will do next.



I decided to live my truth here on out. Do what is right and what feels right, in all ways, always. Be like the forest, never worrying, always self-sufficient, and always helping sustain others.


Photographs taken using the Nikon D200. 

Three days in Kalinga


I had the privilege of attending the 29th Cordillera Day in Guinaang, Pasil in Kalinga last  April 2013. Kalinga is better known as the home of the last mambabatok tattoo artist Fang Od. However, I did not visit Kalinga to meet Fang Od (also, she lives in Buscalan, another town) but to spend three days learning about the plight and situation of Indigenous Peoples all over the world.

We lived in tents for three days, met activists and advocates from all over the world, and listened to sessions discussing the continued exclusion of Indigenous concerns in decision-making processes, how mining debilitates indigenous communities to their very core, and how collective action and awareness can effect change. The experience was a testament in the power of international solidarity and cooperation.


I will be back soon, this time to meet Fang Od, and get permanently marked with a piece of the Filipino culture.

Taken using the Nikon E8400

nope not dead no


I’ve been gone for the longest time with nothing but the ‘hello’ post on this page. You see, what happened was

  • I got a corporate job 6 months ago.
  • I will be leaving the same corporate job in approximately 13 days.

and nothing remotely fun happened in that 6 months. My camera lay untouched for weeks, my hiking boots started to peel, bucket list items for the first quarter of the year remain unticked and my skin actually got fairer.


like every other young adult (I assume) who was suddenly thrust into the real world from the (comparatively) safe arms of the university and liberal arts education, I learned a lot of things; one of the most important ones perhaps is that one can only survive without a creative outlet for so long.

So yeah, the hippie in a pixie is back.

And I can’t wait to share stories and friendships with you.