Tagged: Travel

Ode Em Gee: The countdown continues

My futurama

So here I am.

One more week to go before school ends, which means my facing the inevitable. It has been real for awhile – this idea that I will leave the life I know to give my dream a real chance. 🙂 But nothing prepares you, not one bit. When that moment arrives where you have one week left before it all changes. Nobody tells you how to deal with that.

So yeah, one more week.

I haven’t been able to fully articulate what all this means; how it’s making me feel, and my goodness, what still needs to be done in terms of packing up my life in Manila to move to Singapore.  I have covered a lot of bases in terms of  contracts, legal documents and such but looking around my pack-rat apartment right now, just surveying my two gargantuan bookshelves bursting with books bought throughout the years (oh, plus my freaking classroom!!!), I have some work cut out for me.

Anyway, even if that’s top of mind (I keep thinking the month of June will be enough to sort all that out), I know I need to stay present in the here and now, to not miss a thing.  I am about to leave not just one family, but two, and I can’t say goodbye without knowing what that means.  I need to acknowledge it today that this is a very big deal. Case in point, last week. I wasn’t ready last Friday, when the school surprised everyone leaving (there are four or five of us)  with a small token and a certificate of appreciation. They asked us to go up on stage one at a time and man, it took everything from me not to weep in front of the entire school (plus some parents.) I remember watching the Middle School students get on their feet to cheer and express what they were feeling, which was also when I went momentarily deaf.  I watched the headmaster mouth words at me in slow motion, words I couldn’t hear.  All I could think of was, ‘why am I wearing shorts today and don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.’ I smiled uncomfortably for the camera then hopped off the stage. I felt the President of the Board  give me a big bear hug on my way out.  And that did it of course. Once I hit the ground, I was weeping into my scarf.


I have many future entries already brewing  for this drama queen; pieces slowly piling up in my drafts folder devoted to this farewell but they have to wait.  For now, in order to stay present, I have to finish marking papers, reading students’ blog entries, assessing spiels for an Egypt fair, recording numbers and writing reports. (I am already done with all that actually, which is how I am able to finally post this entry).

I have to focus. This is part of getting it right.

Anyway, until then, here is a video, a poem by Neruda and a cover of one of my favorite Smith songs by Death Cab. Special things that have made this working Sunday special.

A lot of people have asked me why I would leave Manila and Beacon when I am  perfectly happy and content where I am.  MM, my good friend and mentor, shared this video on Facebook recently and I think it captures a lot of my why.  Not that staying in Manila, where I was born and raised, or staying in Beacon, where I learned how to become the teacher that I am today, the antithesis of #makingitcount.  I guess, it’s staying put (regardless of sentiment and attachment) when you know you have to move; perhaps that’s the first brick sealed in place that becomes the foundation of a house built on regrets.  I’ve loved and given my all to where I’ve been the past seven years.  I guess making it count means, packing my stuff and finding a new adventure some place else because it’s time.

So here’s the video and a poem by Neruda. They both have been able to capture my response to why.


He who dies (Ode to life)
by Pablo Neruda
Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit,
repeating the same journey every day,
he who doesn’t change his march, he who doesn’t risk
and change the color of his clothes, he who doesn’t speak to he whom he doesn’t know.Slowly dies he who makes of the television his guru,
he who avoids a passion dies, he who prefers
black on white and dots on i’s rather than a togetherness of emotions
exactly those that make the eyes shine,
those that make the heart beat
before error and feeling.Slowly dies he who doesn’t overturn the table,
he who is unhappy in his work,
he who doesn’t risk certainty for uncertainty
to follow a dream,
he who doesn’t permit himself at least one time in his life
to flee sensible counsels.Slowly dies he who doesn’t travel, he who doesn’t read,
he who doesn’t listen to music,
he who doesn’t find grace in himself.
he who destroys his own love dies,
he who doesn’t allow himself to be helped.

He who passes his days lamenting
about his own misfortune or the incessant rain dies.
Slowly dies he who abandons a project
before beginning it,
he who doesn’t ask questions about topics he doesn’t know,
he who doesn’t answer when he is asked something that he knows.

Let’s avoid death by small doses,
remembering always that being alive requires a much larger effort
than the simple act of breathing.
Only burning patience will bring within reach a splendid happiness

taken at the MOMA by my bro, April 2010.

And here is Death Cab’s cover of  There is a Light and it Never Goes Out.  Um, warning: the video is a little creepy.  (And nope, Morrissey did not sing this during his concert last week. Boo.  Post on that later. )

Thanks for passing by.

grateful slice: time, reflection and yes, one more week

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through (and some Mary Oliver)

I miss writing.  So I promise to do it soon.  And more frequently.  Photography, it seems, has seized all of my attention the past few months and I can’t seem to unlock my gaze at the world; this life I constantly crave to document one snap at a time because it’s the fastest way to express my love and gratitude.  Love for a life peppered with extraordinary moments. Gratitude for each and every breath and step I take.   I am extremely blessed and photography has allowed me to say thank you often and quickly.

But I know I can do both. Write and shoot and continue to tell my truth bit by bit.   So, that’s the plan.  🙂

In the meantime, here are some recent snaps of my looking/passing/peering/gazing through something.  Tell me what you see…thanks for passing by.

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by Mary Oliver


Understand, I am always trying to figure out 
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –

and so, last week,
when I found on the beach 
the ear bone
 of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought 
maybe I was close 
to discovering something –
for the ear bone


is the portion that lasts longest 
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
 like a squat spoon
 with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters 
in the house of hearing,
it was only

two inches long –
and thought: the soul
 might be like this –
so hard, so necessary


yet almost nothing.
 Beside me
 the gray sea
 was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over 
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything 
through its dark-knit glare;

yet don’t we all know, the golden sand 
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it


lest we would sift it down 
into fractions, and facts –
certainties –
and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know 
our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.

(from Why I Wake Early, 2004)

 Photos taken by my Nikon D90 or my iPhone4.  Snaps taken in Tagaytay and Batangas.

grateful slice:  appreciating the obvious and seeing what’s  beyond

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual (catch up)

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

– Ray Bradbury

Most memorable moments are unusual.  Here are some recent snaps of moments truly unforgettable.  I haven’t written in a while but that doesn’t mean nothing much has been happening.  On the contrary …

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Time is flying at light speed and sometimes, I feel like I can’ t keep up.

So, thanks G, for the gadgets that allow us to document, remember, share and tell our stories.

grateful slice: being back on the grid and nature’s gold

Music … makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel

Two songs on replay on my Igadgets  right now.  (Thanks for the recommendations, SC).
Nothing like creating several playlists for a long road trip.  I can already hear the scoring for this trip’s movie in my mind.  LOL.

Now back to marking papers.

grateful slice:  music and long road trips (and work breaks)

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Possibilities

It’s a good day to turn a year older.

There are many things on my mind

but I can’t complain.

I am in a beautiful place. (Adelaide,Australia)

Doing some of the things I love to do.

(working, talking about a program I love, collaborating, taking risks, learning, writing and taking photos)

Big picture, I am totally stoked and wouldn’t have spent my birthday any other way.

I do have to admit,

that I need some time to mull over all that has transpired these past few days.

Right now though, it’s enough that I stop for a moment and acknowledge that a year has just ended.

So here’s to the best of possibilities and what’s next.

To a brand new year ahead…my room with a view of central market

To possibilities of Abandon

Photowalk in an unfamiliar place

Going with the flow ...

Wondering how the three days will go…Happy Feet in Adelaide.

Counting down the days till I face a new year...


By Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

From “Nothing Twice”, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

grateful slice:  the promise of possibilities

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

India 2.0: Eat (1/3) …and notes from a procrastinator

People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”  – John Dee , in SANDMAN #6:“24 Hours”

Sometimes it takes another trip  to a completely different but familiar place, and for some time to pass, to wedge the distance necessary to write about the experience of other people’s culture, space and rituals unfamiliar. This is what I have been telling myself the past two weeks upon arriving from India, of course.  Needless to say, Mumbai’s intensity left me breathless and overflowing with rainbow colored stories and tastes, I wrote at length about the futility of knowing where or how to begin while I was still there.  So I let my photos speak for me, swirling then in the ennui of leaving for the second time.  I’ve  been home for awhile now though, and so far, I’ve worn my kurtas and my bangles, rings, told many stories, gave away my presents  and uploaded a thousand pictures, and have gone to the beach and back. But still no three part post.

And just like the overzealous disclosure of a lucid dream, the specific details and the emotions and the logic, even the order of events, are slowly slipping away with every imperfect description, inadequate word said, and  funny tale told.   Which brings me here…EAT!  Finally, the first installment of my three-part India post because I am deathly afraid of forgetting.  So, here goes…

Let me begin by saying, OMG, I love Indian food.  Full stop.

Anything anyone suggested I try or quickly pop into my mouth, I willingly did, without hesitation or remorse.  I loved how chicken tikka and palak paneer melted as I ate one spoonful after another, loved how chana’s textures and flavors exploded in perfect harmony leaving my palette never the same again, and appreciated how warm naan with a bazillion different dips and sauces in little containers to choose from something that suited my eating style. All my hosts and hostesses, whether in Ahmedabad or Mumbai, would watch me furtively at first, each time I stuffed myself with whatever they gave me but all anxiety disappeared as I oohed and aahed at the different flavors assaulting and devirginizing my taste buds. I told myself that my “diet” would need to take a backseat and start when I got home because there was no way I was going to deprive myself of the food ecstasy extravaganza.  Thinking about it now, I have absolutely no regrets, even if I had to be  bikini clad just a week upon my return.  Fact is, I lost like four pounds even if I thought  I had gained yes, a bazillion. Please don’t ask me how that happened because I ate everything I could while I was in India. Must be G’s grace.  LOL.

Anyway, I did have a couple of things going for me from the get go which made me an easy India foodie,  1. I am an adventurous eater, 2. Except, I don’t eat red meat or pork, 3. I love spicy food.  I am also very good at listening to locals’ advice regarding street food, so I waited until my last day (with Kinneri in Juhu Beach) to try some.  Again, no regrets and no infamous India tummy ache soon after or the next day.

Wow. Right now, I am longing for the many choices, the different smells and the firecracker flavors. Since coming home though, I’ve had every single meal made more spicy than usual or just made spicy even if it’s not meant to be. 🙂  I do miss a lot of things about India and the food and surprise attack flavors, some of the most.  🙂 Of course,  I also miss eating out with my sis, Sacha, having tea and comparing photos with her at the end of a long day, and gushing about just how lucky we both are.  Boy, would I kill for half a serving of kulfi right now.  Think you can do something about that, G?

Anyway, enjoy the food snaps.  There are plenty to make your mouth water and lips smack.

Drooling is allowed.

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Until part two, friends: India 2.0 Pray (2/3), have an amazing day full of gratitude and love love love.

grateful slice:  Indian food, the nature of dreams and cliches like, ‘Better late than Never.”  

Weekly Photo Challenge: Worn

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All photos taken with a Nikon D90.  Western Railway, Haji Ali Shrine and Bandra Fort, Mumbai.

A Well-Worn Story

In April, in April, 
My one love came along, 
And I ran the slope of my high hill 
To follow a thread of song. 

His eyes were hard as porphyry 
With looking on cruel lands; 
His voice went slipping over me 
Like terrible silver hands. 

Together we trod the secret lane 
And walked the muttering town. 
I wore my heart like a wet, red stain 
On the breast of a velvet gown. 

In April, in April, 
My love went whistling by, 
And I stumbled here to my high hill 
Along the way of a lie. 

Now what should I do in this place 
But sit and count the chimes, 
And splash cold water on my face 
And spoil a page with rhymes?

a poem by Dorothy Parker


grateful slice:  history/ies and surviving to tell the tale