Year: 2015

Tacloban: The Tide Turns

  If you want to know how resilient Filipinos are, take the first flight out to Tacloban City in Leyte, an hour from Manila. By this time, everyone–Filipino and foreigner alike–knows the city by name. It is impossible to forget what happened to this place two years ago, during the strongest typhoon in history to ever make landfall. In November 2013, I was one of those who watched in horror, from the comfort of my living room in Metro Manila, as 300 kph winds and a seven-meter storm surge nearly decimated that historic city in Eastern Visayas. A few days later, as the winds blew another way, images of Tacloban revealed nothing but bloated bodies, ravaged houses, crying children, lost parents—the remnants of once happy lives—scattered on the streets. Imagine what I was thinking when a book project required me to travel to Tacloban, 16 months from that tragic day. “Do you think there are ghosts there?” I asked a friend, who knew that I feared only three things in life: big spiders, flying cockroaches …

The Struggle to be Still

In less than 24 hours, a tropical storm warning will be raised all over the country again, the alert level depending on where you are. I am in southern Metro Manila, hundreds of kilometers away from where Super Typhoon Maysak is expected to make landfall. BUT where I need to be in three days is exactly where that typhoon will make its second landfall in the Philippines. We had arranged a shoot in the Ifugao rice terraces and an interview for a book project that’s due later this month. The plans had been laid out weeks ago–and then this, a super typhoon. Once again, I am faced with things beyond my control. It’s a familiar feeling. I had similar thoughts last month, when a viral infection kept me house-bound–bedridden half the time–when I had a gazillion things in my to-do list. There was that first out-of-town shoot for the same book, a whole-day workshop to conduct, final papers to submit in graduate school and several stories for editing. Just when the deadlines are looming, you find yourself practically dead. What do you do? In …

Unwritten Scenes

I’m listening to Spotify as I work — I’m a late discoverer of this awesome app — and instead of focusing on the post offices I need to visit for a book we’re doing, I keep thinking of movies I’d like to make, stories for film that I’d like to write to match whatever is playing on my phone. Weird, because I’ve never written a script before. And yet I have all these scenes in my head. There’s one where this person’s walking, just walking, and this song by Susie Suh is playing in the background. There’s a story in my head, and oh how I’d love it if it would just put itself together while I work on projects that pay my bills. But it won’t. I’ll just have to reimagine the possibilities that come with the sense of being lost.

Made in the Philippines

Once in a while, we find surprising things in our own backyards. Digging up a bit around my own — the Philippines — I stumbled upon some superb finds that made me want to dig into my own wallet and hand over money to these people, who not only make great products but do good things for other people. Check them out. 1) The Tannery Manila (www.thetannerymanila.com) Good, authentic leather is hard to find. So when you stumble on something like The Tannery Manila, you start saving up for a piece. The leather goods store is owned and run by the Hermoso family of Meycauayan, Bulacan, which used to be the center of Philippine leather-making. The Hermosos were among the pioneers of the industry, having started in 1901. In 2014, sisters Mariel and Macy Lazaro, fourth-generation Hermosos, launched The Tannery Manila, their own brand of beautifully designed, handcrafted leather products. Their bags are the bestsellers, easily as good-looking as the big-brand leather purses Hollywood celebrities carry around. The Tannery Manila exports their products to Germany and …

The Highway 1 in my Head

It’s funny how memory works, or doesn’t work, in some cases. On non-working holidays like this, for instance, when I have to write a throwback travel piece about that California road trip we did in 2009, I beat my brains for details to make up even a half-coherent story, and my memory fails me. Where did we stay? What was that park? How many days, exactly, were we on the road? How many miles was it? Why did I take that picture—was that tunnel important? The drive along the famous Pacific Coast Highway, or California State Road 1, was a spur-of-the-moment decision—this much I’m sure of. My roommate, a Filipino nurse in San Francisco, learned that he would not be on duty the first few days of the year, my then-fiancé could take a day off, and my cousin, a teaching assistant, wouldn’t have class till the following week. I, well, I was soon headed back to Hong Kong—my home base then—and was looking for an awesome trip to end my six months in the …

Carmel Dream

There are few things in this world that support our belief in the fairy tales we loved when we were little. I used to secretly dream of being in faraway castles and magical towns and royal balls and gingerbread houses — happy things that reality slowly but surely clawed out of my heart. Growing up is sad like that. Today, a rather pensive Sunday, my thoughts go back to another day in January, many years ago, when I first set foot on Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was one of the stops in our hastily planned New Year (2009) drive along the famous Highway 1 in California — just me, my then-fiance now-hubby, my cousin, and a roommate in San Francisco. It was in Carmel that I found the stuff of fairy tales again. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the inside of those quaint cottages, and this picture here is the only decent one I got of the 300-year-old San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. But I remember how everything was achingly pretty. I would give anything to go back there.  #adreamisawishyourheartmakes

How Skyjet Screwed Us

It’s two weeks to my sister’s wedding in Batanes. Like most weddings in that northern tip of the Philippines, it’s meant to be an intimate affair, with just the closest family and friends. More than the wedding preps, we spent the last 11 months on travel preparations–negotiating deals with hotels in Basco, arranging tours, attending travel expos in Manila, doing whatever we can to ease the cost for our guests. Our biggest concerns — until three days ago — were final gown fittings, table setting and what extra desserts to bring. Everything was easy breezy. And then Skyjet, that “boutique leisure airline” peddling “a better way to fly” decided NOT to fly to Basco this month. No warnings, no advisories, no explanations. My sister’s wedding is on January 27, and 21 of our 55 guests are flying Skyjet on January 26-28/30. They paid for their tickets as early as September last year, and yet, as of January 6, they had no flights. If we’re going to be glass-is-half-full here, then I suppose we should be thankful that we got the shocking news more than 24 …