TURNING 22 – BORACAY ISLAND

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

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.

DSC_6634aa

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.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with  preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Photos taken using a Nikon D200 and an Oppo F1s+ 

LOBO BATANGAS 2017

CAMERA

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+.

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERA

CAMERACAMERACAMERA

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

On Dreams – Bangkok 2016

sam_3155

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. My copy came from the trash as someone from my High School decided to throw it out on our locker-cleaning day in the final days of school. Indeed one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, ha!

The book follows the story of Santiago as he crosses the Desert to reach the Egyptian pyramids where treasure is supposedly buried. This was revealed to him through a dream, and he decided to follow this dream with burning passion. In his journey he discovers the Soul of the World and meets an Alchemist who teaches him how to understand and be one with this timeless truth. As expected, his journey was anything but smooth and there were moments where he lost sight of his dream (his personal legend). In the end, he achieved his personal legend but not in the way one would expect.

There are two truths I learned from the book, and these two will continue to guide me as I go about life.

There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.

When you’re on a journey to fulfill your Personal Legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.

Ever since junior year of college I knew that I wanted to work on an international capacity. This desire stems from a mixture of loving travel, exploration, and photography, and also wanting to do good in the world. I wanted to join either the United Nations or National Geographic, and just travel and explore frequently. I envisioned myself getting lost in foreign lands whose language I don’t speak, and whose people look drastically different from me.

I was ready for it, and after graduation I was determined to get a job at an international NGO. I blindly applied for various positions even though I was aware that I’m incredibly unqualified for all of them; and as expected I never got a call back.

Life happened and I ended up in a soul-crushing job at a BPO.

At that time, I sincerely thought my dream was dead. Life was a hard teacher and I wasn’t prepared for all its lessons. I’ve always seen the world as very Disney. My innate optimism has made me naive and the heartbreak became overwhelming.

I had given up.

But Life has other plans, and it brought me to my current job which has strong ties to various UN agencies and other international governing bodies.

I remember my interview vividly, especially the part where my current boss asked me if I was okay with traveling. I remember answering YES with a gigantic grin on my face.

Last year I was given the opportunity to visit Bangkok twice to represent the country, and our organization, to two meetings. It’s a great honor as I’ve only been with the organization for a few months.

Here are some of the photographs I took when I explored during my free time.

sam_3160Processed with VSCO with kk1 presetsam_3156sam_3163sam_3154sam_3168sam_3169sam_3173Processed with VSCO with kk1 presetsam_3175

Misadventures and a Wedding: Tagaytay 2016

15289186_1375336225810886_8459588952863675615_o

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.

dsc_4563dsc_4566-horzdsc_4582dsc_4607-horzdsc_4596dsc_4641aa-horzdsc_4740

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.

dsc_4764dsc_451515252702_1375335822477593_8391879289331832893_o15325353_1375335992477576_4403098376138384301_o.jpg

dsc_4910

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

The family we choose

dsc_4045

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.

dsc_4082dsc_4044dsc_4209dsc_4046dsc_4053dsc_4198dsc_4177

(photos taken using a Nikon D200) 

Makiling alone

DSC_3936

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.

DSC_3933

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.

DSC_3935

DSC_3899

DSC_3909

 

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.

DSC_3904

 

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.

DSC_3922

DSC_3916DSC_3931DSC_3907DSC_3925DSC_3940

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.

DSC_3951

Photographs taken using the Nikon D200. 

Three days in Kalinga

DSCN6525

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.

DSCN6485DSCN6526DSCN6511SAM_2882SAM_2870SAM_2901SAM_2866SAM_2907SAM_2895workplsDSCN6516

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

A bit of Pinto

DSC_3290.JPG

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.

DSC_3152DSC_3172DSC_3214DSC_3177DSC_3217

DSC_3169DSC_3168DSC_3191DSC_3222DSC_3248

DSC_3229DSC_3256DSC_3233DSC_3155DSC_3144

DSC_3251DSC_3137DSC_3240

Taken using the Nikon D200