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Desperately Seeking Sagada

“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.”
― Ray Bradbury

Baguio and Sagada calling: Happy Feet

February is here and it didn’t come as a surprise. I know it feels like we just spent New Year’s Eve/Day half awake and full of hope but February walked a few steps behind January all month long, looming, peering over my shoulder, getting ready to pick up its pace and race ahead.  True enough, February has arrived.  It has bulldozed my To Do lists and has threatened me with deadlines front, back, side and center. I am taking it all in though. No sense in pressing the panic button.  I don’t want to feed the allostatic load and get wrinkles and heart disease in my thirties.  I’ve been here before.  We’ve reached the crazy season of being a teacher. But everything will work out, I know it, so I take it all in; even if I have the annual trip to the North with the kids staring me in the face right smack in the middle of report card season.   Yup, it’s Sagada time once again, which means, February is HERE  all right, exactly where it needs to be.

Conversation with trees

There’s a lot to be said about these trips to Sagada.  The first time a bunch of the teachers went up to do an ocular inspection six years ago, we ended up attending a local baptism where the traditional thing to bring home was a plastic bag of bloody pork. It was an amazing thing to be invited into the locals’ homes, to sit and chat and celebrate and hang out.  The multitude of tourists swarming the streets of Sagada that year  had no idea what was right under their noses.  Then year in and year out ever since, by the time February rolled in, the students and four to five teachers got ready to get on a bus, travel all night long and a day to arrive in one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines.

This year, as tired as I am and as overloaded with deliverables as I am, I don’t care. I can’t wait to get on that freezing bus.  To take a break from all major cities and bond with the Grade 8 kids.  To take pictures with my prime and my new wide angle lens.  To breathe in fresh air and eat yogurt churned with butter (I just found that out) slathered on top of big fat strawberries and granola.  I can’t wait to wear fleece and gloves and funky bonnets and warm vests.  I can’t wait to spend time with Tommy and Vixenne, Mr. Fau, and the humblest of highest chiefs, Pulat.  I can’t wait to see the mouth of Sumaging cave, trek down Echo valley to see the hanging coffins and watch the sunrise from St. Jo’s with a hot cup of Sagada coffee. I can’t wait to see the kids interact with this unique community and learn something new about a place that’s part of where they are from.  I can’t wait for the bonfire and the s’mores and the Aha moments, new friendships the kids will make and the many little discoveries this place provides opportunities for.  I am harassed with work but I can’t wait to get to Sagada where the trees know so many of my secrets.   There’s so much in my heart I want to whisper  to them  right now.  Ssshhh…

The road that’s been traveled many many times

Anyway, ironically, at the end of the day what I am really  grateful for right now is time. It’s my last year to go to Sagada with the Beacon kids and I am glad I have this time to take it all in.  After that, five months and some left.  That’s just enough time to fall in love (again) with my complex city, time to say goodbye to my home and say see you real soon to everyone who matter (because Singapore is not far and I predict many visitors often); just enough time to pay attention, to take photos, write and document life as I am living and leaving it.  Enough time to sort, pack, throw and give stuff away.  Enough time to say it’s been super, but I have to go soon; no matter how bittersweet, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how scary and exciting. Yes, just enough time to know and cherish what I am leaving behind because I am certain I will miss all of it to bits.

Well, thanks again, G.  Sagada always manages to make some kind of statement every year, without fail.  Welcome, February.  I know you will go by fast but I also know you will be unforgettable.

grateful slice:  time and reflection

Back to School Album

I am super in love with this album right now.  Thanks for getting it for me, L!

And this song is currently on repeat.

Anyway, here’s to going back to school after a long break.

I have reflected. I am rested. I have recovered.


grateful slice:  joy

Question of the Year

Where to?

What began as a reluctant conversation with my sister on a cruise ship to Alaska three years ago has brought me here

 to this question.

There are many things that can already be said about it because the wheels are turning and turning quickly


right now, all I ‘m ready for is this question.


show me the way, G.  I am right behind you.

In the meantime,

I stumbled upon this awesome video, MOVE, by Rick Mereki two months ago

and have been looking for a moment to be able to share it more meaningfully.

This felt like the right moment.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Anyway, here’s to everything that inspires us and sharing what those things are to pay it forward.

I feel extremely grateful right now. Thank you, G.

grateful slice:  inspiration, sharing and my next move

Pinky Promise

Before this, there's one more thing left to do ...

Yes, it’s true, there’s a lot to think about and decide on very soon but first thing is first. I remember there was this one terrible end of a bad day where a really good friend of mine and I were talking about the tragic state of affairs.  At the end of our conversation, we made a pinky promise to always remember why we are where we are, why we love the things we do, why we are so committed, and that we would choose happiness and health over anything else.  We said that it would not be enough to just not be unhappy; we said we would choose joy instead of negativity every single time.  Because that we have control over. And placing ourselves as part of the solution instead of anything else, is well part of what solves, contributes and collaborates, instead of what is divisive, destructive and dysfunctional.  So, today I wanted to reiterate that promise I made months ago. To choose positivity and happiness every time.  To be clear about why I am here, exactly where I need to be.  To be grateful, to be humble, to always seek/pursue the healthy perspective and to be a blessing instead of a burden.  I will also do my best to live by and hopefully emulate the very attributes we hope our kids will imbibe as they traverse through our classrooms.  And to be a friend and colleague/partner people can trust, turn to and count on.  I am claiming it right now — the awesomeness of the coming school year and the success of our MYP evaluation visit.  Final answer. Pentel Pen. Period. No erase. 

The IB Learner Profile

Hear, See, Speak No Evil

Taking the red pill

Is it worth it?

Seek and you shall find...

Ah, we meet again.

Sooooo, hello school year 2011-2012. I know it’s still too early to greet you since you aren’t officially here yet but welcome. A part of me is really glad you are coming soon. Another part, still catching up with this thought (summer hangover). Nevertheless, I just wanted to say, please be kind. 🙂 Am looking forward to a year of learning and teaching and facing 21st century education issues and challenges (nature of the beast) and I promise to do my utmost best.  Remind me to focus on what matters most always and also to take time to rest, recharge and recover so that I can stay balanced and always be at my best for G, the kids and well, anyone else who needs me. Thanks in advance.  See you soon.

New beginning

grateful slice:  fresh start, a new school year and pinky promises I intend to keep

Surrender with a capital ES – (India 2.0: 3/3 and a bunch of other stuff i.e. my first half of the year and summer review)

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”  – Alice  (from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis  Caroll)

And just like that, July has arrived like a ninja, which means it’s also the middle of 2011 and the tail end of our not-really-summertime-summer-vacation.  I’ve been working on wrapping my head around this fact for a week now and it seems to be working because it’s almost 3am and I am still tweaking something for work (read: for upcoming induction workshop in school. Very excited.).

Wow.  Six months.  Really?

It feels like just yesterday when I was deciding on my WFTY 2011Focus.  That’s my word for 2011.  And so far, I think it has done me a lot of awesome; well, as much as a word can do someone good, in spite of her ADD anyway.  I know I have some ways to go in the consistency department (hence, the need for the word) but I have managed to avoid all extreme anythingS since deciding that I would dodge drama at all costs.  This is a good thing.   Surrender  though, has found a way to be a subword the last two months. Which brings me here, exactly where I need to be. Yup. I seem to have been focusing on surrendering to, well, whatever recently and it’s been great. Surrender traveling doesn’t allow for mediocrity and more recent experiences and a trip to a rainy Boracay, have been far from mundane.

Now, surrender here doesn’t mean giving up or quitting or throwing in the towel or raising some white flag, leaving you with a woebegone look and a deflated spirit. No. Surrender here means simple acceptance; a profound letting go of things that can’t be negotiated, manipulated, controlled or changed. It’s making the conscious decision to gladly take the path of least resistance because absolutely nothing cooler can come from resisting the inevitable.  The inevitable unfolding of learning new things borne from living at the edge of the box I have been placed in; the one I have placed myself in.  The slow walk away from what I thought I already knew has made surrender the riskiest thing I’ve done but also, the one of the best things I’ve done.

Experiencing India with a heart of surrender made my time there textured and gritty and unforgettable. It allowed me to enter a world different and the same from my own, with an open mind and a traveler’s heart hungry for more.


Goofing around with S at the Westin

It allowed me to understand what S sees and loves about her maximum home. Why she looks at it with fondness, compassion and love.

S taking photos of Kinneri's newly renovated apartment

S taking photos at Bandra Fort

Behind the lens, I was able to try and capture a city’s strength, vulnerability, part of its culture, a little of its history, some of its personality, quirks and dysfunction.

Reviewing snaps on a train. Photo by S

 And really, what I did was I allowed myself to fall in love with a place I wasn’t sure I would have liked as a younger, more narrow-minded person.  Smitten with everything I saw, ate, felt, heard, smelled and experienced every time I rode a rick (Haha. Like tricycle rides on crack), I felt grateful for an older, more grounded and more humbled version of me because otherwise,  I might have missed it all — the people, the city’s pulse, the photographs,  the point.  Mumbai is not perfect, mind you, but what place is?  And sure, I’ve allowed myself to romanticize a bit of it (read: like never mentioning that I forked over a lot of money for overweight charges (I had an extra suitcase with a lot of stuff) at the airport which made it seem like I shopped in NYC instead of Colaba but that’s just me being an amateur traveler. Fail.), but who cares.   At the end of it all, after waiting for the “intricate maneuverings of the expert hand with a loom patiently stitching together a pattern for a silky Indian shawl” to be done, what I am left with is a work of art unique only to me; wrapped in my heart, unforgettable to my senses and lodged in my memory to be retrieved repeatedly, over and over again. Naku. Indian fever na ito.

Back Home: Clearly still have Indian Fever (with Sabine at my brother's in laws) Photo by my brother, Mon.

Katas nang Colaba. 🙂 Sabine's ring though, came from her cousins. Photo by my brother, Mon.

Anyway, Rilke was right about not seeking the answers and just living everything instead. From embracing the questions to the unlearning and the melting away of the edges of the claustrophobic  box I’ve carefully crafted to protect whatever I thought to be true, the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.“  Win.  It was a month yesterday since coming home from my trip and the ‘distant day into the answer’ hit me while sitting in church, waiting for service to begin.  I realized that surrender of this type has suited me well because at the core of it is gratitude. Gratitude towards the many opportunities to travel, learn, unlearn, to be wowed, to be moved, to be with friends in different parts of the world, to experience life in such a layered and lovely way.  If the ultimate outcome of embracing the unknown promises more of this, well, I am determined to surrender as often as I can. 🙂

Which takes me from the beginning of my not-really-summertime-summer vacation to right now, near its end point. Sigh. Looking back, it seems I have a grabbed a number of other opportunities to just live by relinquishing all illusions of control.   India apparently, does not have the monopoly of abandon. 🙂

Here are more random summer-of-surrender highlights.

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From accepting that rainy Boracay is just as fun as its sunny version (read: the ironic arrival of the sun on our last day on the island), to crawling through EDSA traffic at the height of rush hour to make it in time for the Kylie Minogue Aphrodite Live in Manila concert (read: good friend, Y, got awesome tickets last minute, like literally he called me an hour before the show) to catching the Virgin Labfest 7 (six plays and a number of serendipitous snaps of the Harbor), it’s been a wonderful last few weeks because of surrender with a capital S.  (Even if I, *sniff*, missed my parents’ 40th wedding vows renewal ceremony because it was so last minute and I was in India. Boo.  Some snaps of our family lunch at Antonio’s Tagaytay post their ceremony are in the slideshow too.)

Speaking of productive alone time — Yay! I  have increased my 50 book challenge 2011 list by a chunk.  Also caught a slew of movies (including Tree of Life, Water for Elephants, and soon,  Transformers), spent quality time with family and friends and worked bit by bit here and there to build up to a fresh start for the coming school year 2011-2012.  I’d have to  say it’s been a productive seven weeks especially since I’ve been able to mind map what’s next in terms of my career as well (I’m tenured! Woot!). Future posts on that, fo sho; on being tenured and the steps that need to be taken  in the remaining months of 2011 towards the coming chapters of my life. 🙂

So, wow, thanks for everything, G.  It’s been a great summer and first half of 2011. And you, thank you for passing by.  🙂  I do love your company. Make sure to come by again.

grateful slice:  distant days, time, surrender and melting box edges