SOMETHING TO ASPIRE FOR – TURIN 2017

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Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.” Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world.” – Pico Iyer

It was love at first sight. 

I never believed that it’s possible for a  moment of contact to be enough to make one fall head over heels, and be willing to do anything and everything to pursue the object of their immediate insanity.

Turin however, was unreal and otherworldly. Love at first sight, as it turns out, is possible when one travels. The entire city is a Baroque exhibitremnants of the old Savoy-ian wealth and grandeur expertly preserved throughout the centuries. What I saw only through documentaries and mama’s collected National Geographic clippings on Italy was suddenly all before me and it was overwhelming.

I visited two palaces turned museums: Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama, former homes of Turin’s fallen monarchs, the Savoys. I was also able to see the Shroud of Turin, as well as the Egyptian Museum. The most fun I’ve had however, was at the National Museum of Cinema. It was nirvana for a lover of film and imagery, as Maria Adriana Prolo’s collection was extensive and authentic. As souvenir, I bought a postcard of Audrey Hepburn to remind me to live an elegant life. The museum was housed inside the Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s “La Tour Eiffel”, and whose panoramic lift allowed me to see the entirety of the old city as well as the surrounding Italian Alps.

The various piazzas were moving displays of the typical Italian life. Street performers playing and dancing to classical music could be found in every corner. Water fountains with steel busts of a Bull bring forth an endless stream of perfectly potable mountain spring water. The street graffiti were incredibly poetic, calling one’s amore “alleluiyah” like it’s nothing.

The locals were never in a hurry. There was always time for a stroll or a chat with a friend and an Apéritif. The only hurried thing I saw was the drinking of coffee, as “café” automatically means “espresso” and is consumed right at the bar in one to two gulps. I ate authentic pizza and lasagna, and had Sauvignon blanc with dinner followed by a shot of espresso, and then a shot of Amarre. Oh, and I also had Gelato every day.

This visit was a privilege afforded to me at work, and it was a game-changer. Turin gave me something to aspire for. I was reminded of the dream of working at the UN level I had since university. Those dreams could be translated in to a concrete plan now, with a specific UN Agency in mind, and motivated further by the desire to live in this beautiful city.

Turin cleansed me of the  distractions that have been sabotaging my goals for months. I was made to realize the importance of letting go (of people, activities) even if we might like them very much. I realized further the value of one’s mental energy, and how necessary it is to choose one’s battles in order to make sure that we are investing ourselves properly.

Most importantly however, I realized that maybe I am good enough for this dream and that someday (a foreseeable someday), maybe I could make it.

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All photos were taken using an Oppo F1s+. My first full mobile photography set. 🙂 

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TURNING 22 – BORACAY ISLAND

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I turned 22 in my grandmother’s hometown last May. It was a much needed change of pace, quite literally, as people there are able to walk slower and cars are able to drive a lot faster. For a week, I wasn’t forcing my brain and body to get up and properly function at 4:00 AM so as to not get caught in the maniacal traffic of Manila.

It was a much needed week away from work (which had become quite draining at that time). We had just wrapped up two conferences and most of us were still trying to get over the residual bitterness and trauma left by a toxic former colleague. The quality of my work and my work relationships were starting to suffer. I needed to get away and be reminded that there are other aspects of life.

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It was also a time for family. The last time I was able to visit was 12 years ago, and it was lovely to find that our extended family has grown quite a lot. I have new aunties and cousins that I needed to get to know. Talking to my cousins is always a fun experience as most of them don’t speak tagalog. My cousin Jullianah made it her mission to teach me Aklanon during our stay. She failed however, but mostly due to my hardheadedness.

I celebrated my actual birthday in the island of Boracay. I was a child the last time I visited and I was taken aback by how much a party city it has become. It is still beautiful however. The sand was powder white, and the ocean was startlingly blue. At sunset we were treated to a hundred shades of mermaid colors. There were green mountains at the distance, lined with hundreds of wind turbines. It was awe inspiring. God is the most incredible artist, and I am grateful for the opportunity to document the nuances of his creations.

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I finally got my tattoo in Boracay, my first and last. I’ve wanted to get this design on my wrist since I was sixteen, over my pulse, my lifeline. God is greater than all the highs and lows. The summary of my relationship with the Lord.

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My 21st year has been marked by people stuff. Friendships ending, truly toxic people, and challenging personalities. This year (and beyond) I promise not to sweat the people stuff, be more communicative and always come from a place of love and understanding. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. We can’t control people but we can control our response.

I also promise to get to know myself better this year, the strengths that needs to be reinforced, and the points for improvement that needs to be remedied. I also promise to work on my relationship with the Lord and get back to a place of complete dependence and trust.

I’m grateful to have a hometown. A place I can visit anytime healing becomes necessary. I’m grateful for family, for eyes that can see, and for the opportunity to document everything beautiful in this world.

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Photos taken using a Nikon D200 and an Oppo F1s+ 

LOBO BATANGAS 2017

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The second weekend of March was spent island hopping in Lobo, Batangas. One of my good friends from work grew up in the city and she kindly let me, and two other friends, explore the virgin beaches of her hometown. I’ll never forget the various shades of blue that the ocean had, the mountains that grow nothing but coconut trees, the limestone cliffs and boulders, and the fresh sea breeze that carried away all of the tension built up from staying in the city for far too long.

It was also a trip of many firsts. We slept on a tent by the beach the first night and caught the sunrise. We visited a mangrove forest and climbed up a tree house and also jumped into open ocean from a boulder for the very first time. It was trip that solidified friendships and built trust and openness.

Areas visited are:

  • Malagundi Point – Beach is made up of medium to large pebbles. Two flip flops died in this beach.
  • Simbahang Bato – Only accessible by boat. Beaches are lined with Limestone cliffs and rock formations that obviously used to be part of the seafloor centuries ago. The beach is a mixture of pebbles, broken corals, and sand.
  • Malabrigo Lighthouse – Visited for the sole purpose of exploring the lighthouse. The lighthouse used to be an outpost for Japanese soldiers during the second world war. It is said that the decapitated heads of murdered prisoners were thrown down the wells (now sealed) and the bodies off the cliff. Also, you have to climb 100 steps to get to the lighthouse.
  • Kastilyo – A shallow area full of large black boulders. This is where the mangrove rivers meet the ocean.

Below is a music video I made for the trip. The music used is CRED1X’s “Can’t Find You”. Footage was shot using the SJCAM SJ4000 and Oppo F1S+.

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Gotta say, the SJCam is made for videos but definitely not for photos.

Misadventures and a Wedding: Tagaytay 2016

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Last October 8, 2016 I had the privilege of witnessing (and documenting) my boss/adoptive older sister marry her bestfriend in Tagaytay, surrounded by the people they love.

Their love isn’t a firework, there was no spark nor immediate chemical reaction that changed their lives in a snap. Their love is like a photo album that is built from each individual photograph of moments they lived and shared. Eventually the photographs changed its nature, and the love it contains demanded to be declared eternal.

The ceremony was a brilliant testament of God’s faithfulness, from the preparation up to its conclusion. I learned that those Mayad Studios SDE videos show only 0.008% of how weddings really go, and that there are a lot of things that can go wrong, but you really do have a choice in what you let ruin your day. A lot of preparation goes into weddings, it turns out, and a lot of money too. These things are definitely for full grown adults only.

However, I also learned that despite all the confusion at present, and all the confusion that is yet to come, indeed some of the best days of our lives have yet to come to pass.

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Of course, Shiela and I were able to squeeze in a few misadventures before and after the ceremony. It includes, but not limited to, walking along the dark Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway with our heavy packs in the middle of the night, sharing Bulalo and a decrepit bed-and-breakfast room, meeting a monkey, and killing time (and money) at the Hippiest cafe we’ve been to so far.

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Images taken using a Nikon D200, and an Oppo F1S+

The family we choose

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It turns out I only had to wait two weeks.

I found a new family mid-May in the form of a non-profit organization. After the fiasco that was the 8-month stint at a BPO, I am more than grateful to have earned a place at an organization whose work has national ramifications.

Fast forward 6 months, we’ve arrived to November. I’m still here and still very happy. Life is currently a paradox as I’ve grown so much in the past months yet I still feel so young, naive, and unknowledgeable. Every new thing I learn adds to me as a person, yet at the same time, it reinforces how much more I have to learn and how open I need to be.

Work itself is amazing, I’ve fallen in love with this field of study despite never being interested in it before. I’ve become more grateful to have been able to attend UP and be ingrained with resilience and flexibility. I’ve also decided to take up Law, not only for its usefulness at work, but also because I’ve come to witness that knowledge of the law, and learning how lawyers think has benefits that transcend the courtroom (people’s lawyering perhaps?) and that law doesn’t automatically translate to Annalise Keating type work.

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned relates to diversity. Prior to joining the organization, I have yet to meet people who completely challenged my understanding and patience. However, moments with them taught me the true meaning of grace. There are times when I witnessed grace abounding to people who do not deserve it, and I felt upset. Yet eventually I learned that I myself am not deserving, yet the same kind of grace applies to me when I am most unlovable. I’ve learned to recognize the subtle ways we become unkind, and I’ve learned to accept that ‘colleague’ does not immediately ‘translate’ to friend, which is good sometimes, for our own protection.

Most importantly, I’ve come to love the people. Yes, even the ones that are difficult to love and understand. There is an inexplicable feeling of belongingness, of being appreciated exactly for who you are, quirks and all. There’s a benefit to being part of a small-ish organization where everyone knows about everyone, and majority of the people are kind. My boss is a big sister after hours and during the weekends, I have two new best friends, and our legal services guy just set the standard on the type of man one ought to be entertaining.

I see no expiration date at this point. Every opportunity must be maximized and respected, everything, everyone is a gift. There is joy to be found in always performing one’s best, and being recognized for it. Uncomfortable situations help one grow exponentially. Respect begets respect. Recognition takes time, and is a reward that is earned.

Featured are photographs from our company trip last May at Casa Amara, Laiya, Batangas.

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(photos taken using a Nikon D200) 

Makiling alone

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D200. 

Three days in Kalinga

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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.

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

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A bit of Pinto

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I got to visit Pinto Art Museum in Rizal last November 2015 with one of my best friends. It is contemporary art heaven as well as a testament of love for Mediterranean architecture. Touring the entire museum requires an entire day and a lot of energy as there are 6 galleries,view decks, and sculpture gardens to explore. It was a day of appreciation: appreciating beauty that comes in many forms,  and appreciating the gift of sight that allows for that appreciation.

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Taken using the Nikon D200