Aug 302015



I am travelling again.

I sit here in my teenie-weenie hotel room and try to trace the threads of life that brought me to this physical space, right at this moment. This time last year, I was closing a chapter in my life I did not think would end. The year before, my life was coasting along, with barely a hint of the tremors to come. Since then I have been on multiple airplane rides and just as many emotional upheavals. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:24 am
Jun 092011

On our way to the Chocolate Hills, we passed a beautiful stretch of road.  It was lush forest on either side. Aaaaaahhhhhhh….just lovely! I commented on it and our driver said the forest was man made! Whoa!

I realized I was of the thought that man damages the environment.  I had never seen such a positive expression of man’s contribution to it. This was awesome. If I remember correctly, our guide said the trees were planted some time in the Eighties.

This is what we noticed about Bohol, in general. People tend to live with an awareness of going with nature rather than against it. Of course there are pockets that show otherwise, but for the most part, there is a good healthy blend of man and nature.

What a hopeful stretch of road.

 Posted by at 1:11 pm
Jun 012011
photo by DALE DIAZ

This part of our trip was a little sad.  We saw this little guy right on the Loboc riverbank. I’ve seen photos of tarsiers perched on shoulders and arms before and I’m glad that human beings are no longer allowed to touch them. They feel totally traumatized, actually, and there are stories about them banging their heads to induce death because of all the stress tourism brings. That’s just heartbreaking.

There was a baby tarsier where we were and the poor thing was just curled up and huddled, all alone on a branch.  I could feel his fear so I told the kids to go quietly into the next hub where the adults were. On the upside, the tarsiers are free to roam. Their caretakers say they always come back, but I’m not sure that is a measure of their health or happiness.

Our guide said that they are not endangered. He claims the reports are false and the tarsiers are still everywhere.  His tone suggested that all the new guidelines about the care of tarsiers are a bit over the top. My experience with them tells me the opposite. Wouldn’t it be kinder to just let them be so that future generations can flourish in the wild again?

 Posted by at 3:28 pm
May 302011
photo by DALE DIAZ
Anything that requires helmets has never been my thing. I thought about that as I painstakingly navigated my very first ATV (all-terrain vehicle) through the Bohol countryside.  It occurred to me, out in the middle of nowhere, that my automatic shunning of any activity that needs head gear might be traced to the death of a much loved uncle, one of my mother’s favorite cousins. 
Tito Benny was young, warm, funny, and father to gorgeous twins.  As a child, I remember the bottomless grief that surrounded us during his funeral and the strange siren sound that filled the chapel on the last day. It was his widow’s wail–an ethereal sound I will forever associate with pure pain. That was my first lesson on loss and it was a hard one.
But our children lead us to untold destinations and on this particular trip, my boys brought me to this place of reckoning:  a vehicle that required a helmet.  I suppose it can be described as a motorcycle with four wheels and that gives some kind of consolation when that’s all you have on your side. I tried to scan the place for any other kind of vehicle that didn’t require me to learn a new skill or don the dreaded metal head wrap, but the only tandem ride they had was under repair.  I wasn’t about to lose sight of my boys or hand them over blindly to the locals just because I didn’t like the idea of helmets and rides.  So, at the ripe middle age of 44, I donned a smelly helmet and got on the thing with wheels.
The first thing they make you do is drive the ATV on a little practice trail. Of course I drove straight into the grass and knocked down a wooden pole;  I forgot that brakes are useful things.  You press them and then you stop, hopefully before you destroy property or body parts. I use my feet for brakes, but for this particular vehicle, that doesn’t work. Once I got my hard-wired brain around that detail, I was okay. D thinks I held everyone up with my lack of speed and skill, but I don’t think it matters. Our boys had a grand time. No one else complained.  All they care about is that they got to drive their own ATVs. I saw a lot of butterflies on the way, too, and I don’t think anyone who zips through life for the sake of speed sees all the lovely details. I did.
So I finally did the helmet-and-wheels combo, but I did not forget to take in the sights, the lush and lovely Bohol countryside, its mud and manure, but also the birds, butterflies and dragonflies, the children who waved at us, unaware of the threshold I was crossing, and the grandmother who flashed me a smile of solidarity.

I’m thankful that the helmet, ATV and I had a life-giving experience.  It made me remember Tito Benny and his wonderful laugh.

 Posted by at 6:59 pm
May 292011

D and I took our four boys on our first ever summer trip together.  At first I explored bringing them to Misibis Bay but the cost was so prohibitive and went against my goal of showing them how to travel simply. We checked out several resorts, but in the end we went for this little 12-room resort on Panglao Island, The Ananyana. We loved it.

I love that it isn’t a concrete structure, but a series of huts that blend with nature. It’s simple and nicely done.  The resort is over a decade old and could do with some sprucing up, but the rooms are still clean and comfortable.

D and I took a regular room. We put our boys in a family room.  The upstairs area of their room could use renovating. Though I appreciate the capiz doors and windows, there were holes in them that were taped over. They ought to repair that or change the finish.  Our room had plain white walls which gave the room a welcome brightness.  Our boys, who like to read, could have used some of that.  We asked for better reading lamps for them instead, which the staff readily provided.
I don’t know about you but I like to be able to fully close the bathroom door.  Our bathroom had swing type little doors that belong more to a bar in a Western; it didn’t give much privacy.  The kids had a large floor to ceiling curtain as their bathroom door, which gave some coverage but still not enough privacy.  That would probably be the one thing I would change.  It would also be nice if all resorts started using earth-friendly soaps, shampoos, cleaners, etc.  This one uses Safeguard.  On the upside, I discovered that Safeguard removes mud stains! Whoa! Still, I doubt it’s good for earth, foliage or sea. Other than that, we were all more than comfortable and enjoyed the simplicity and charm of the place.
I loved the hammocks.  The minute I saw them I knew I came to the right place. There are 5 of them in all.  Even the kids enjoyed them.  They spent a lot of time reading and swaying in the breeze. Sarap!! No beach trip is complete without the requisite “duyan” and I love Ananyana for making sure they had it.
The service is good. We got to know our waiters Coro and Danny and one of the boat men, Eric, and the very helpful manager, Ruela. We joked that they might have thrown a party after we left because we had so many requests. They made every effort to grant them. I asked for my meals without rice, but with a salad instead. We asked for fresh juices without sugar. The menu could use more good salads with lots more greens,  because you start to look for variety if you’re staying in a lot and for more than 3 days (we stayed 5 nights). We love the place anyway! And we loved it even more when we discovered there were no TV sets in the rooms. YES!! They have a small one near the dive shop with dvds to rent and the kids enjoyed Yogi Bear one afternoon. But that was it.
One of the reasons we chose the resort is its proximity to the beach.  Though the water is very, very shallow for a long stretch,  you can rent the resort boat to bring you to deeper waters for better swimming and great snorkeling. We booked tours through the resort and they were well organized and priced very well.
The kids want to go back and D. and I wouldn’t mind it either. It’s harder and harder to find little places that are simple, clean, comfortable, nice and well run. The Ananyana is one such place.  If you’re thinking of visiting Bohol, make sure you check it out.
 Posted by at 9:24 pm
May 112008

We had our last Baguio dinner at the restaurant of The Manor at Camp John Hay. It felt kind of Old World and I loved it. I’m getting tired of sleek interiors and cold lighting, and have long dreamt of the death of too-loud, recorded music. Here, live piano music wafts in from the adjoining bar and all you can hear in the dining room are the hum of human conversation and the tinkling of dinnerware as meals are shared. How enlivening! Isn’t this how it ought to be? Wasn’t this the way it was when we were growing up? It’s such a luxury to be able to converse with your partner without raising your voice one decibel above normal. Of course this moment of perfection lasted only through dinner. Bedtime was a different story. There was a party that night and women were screaming along with the band downstairs until midnight. Ayayay. You can’t have everything. Still, I was thankful for a perfect dinner–a gentle way to end a much-needed break.

 Posted by at 6:29 pm
May 092008

I rode up to Baguio with a heavy heart after a traumatic text exchange.  It weighed so heavily; I could not get over how cruel adults can be towards children. The road ahead seemed interminable, but my spirits slowly lifted as the air changed.  That first night, we were treated to several cups of traditional hot chocolate at Chocolate de Batirol–a lovely little place at Camp John Hay. We had different blends, even strawberry (yum!), thanks to the generosity and passion of the owner.  Indeed, there is nothing quite like chocolate made with love to calm and comfort the heart. Ang sarap!

 Posted by at 9:44 am
May 082008

I am on the second day of my Baguio vacation. I panicked when I woke up at 8:30 this morning, until Dale reminded me we were on vacation. Vacation! Imagine that. I have been feeling places and events closing in and suffocating me these last few weeks. I have truly needed a healing change. Now here I am, re-discovering this lovely city. We walked around this morning and images and smells of my childhood came rushing through, warming my heart.

I first returned to Baguio in the early 90s, at the threshold of a love that would reshape my heart for life. That trip ended in my first (unfortunately, not my last) automobile accident. Then I came back again a few years later, now a mother of a chubby little baby. That was the last I saw of Baguio as a young woman.  That little baby is now 10 years old, kuya to a 7 year old!

My first trip back as a fully-grown, now awake adult, was last February, as part of the PAGASA team, answering a call from a group of Baguio residents who love Baguio so much they want to preserve and restore it, because Baguio is no longer what it was. It is a city ravaged by modernity, politics from hell, and the usual materialism that has invaded all of humanity. I was never able to see the city during the workshops because of our perennially hectic schedule, but felt the need to reconnect again, and I am so glad I did.  The Baguio of my childhood is not totally lost. I see and feel it still, though much has to be done to keep the city from dying.

I have met many special people here and was privileged enough to have had a meal at Eve’s Garden (thanks to the generosity of our homegrown guides, PAGASA graduates Grace, Prudence and Chastity)–a place actually outside of Baguio, but as owner Eve puts it, “…is like Baguio in the 50’s.”  We overstayed our welcome by taking our fill of this breathtaking view of pure, unadulterated nature.
We sat with the family and had a most beautiful, tasty and healthy meal. Have you ever seen a salad this beautiful? Organic, life-giving and simply delicious. It’s in the quality of the food and the love with which it was prepared. Thanks Eve, Anna and Ed!

Baguio has many secrets to show me still and I am glad and enlivened to be here again, after all these years. And the best part is, I didn’t even need to get on a plane and get stuck in an airport to get here. Yahoo!
 Posted by at 11:27 am