Author: Blanche R. Fernandez

The Stuff of Storybooks

Weeks before our family’s spring trip, a battle ensued. Which city should we drop from our must-see list? We had only 21 days to spend in Europe and 25 places we wanted to see. “Take out Rome,” I said. But my sister reminded me we were flying out from there—it had the cheapest fare to Manila. “How about Salzburg?” No. Our father was joining us because of the von Trapps and their Sound of Music. We couldn’t take out London either. It was our mother’s pick, and it was her birthday, the main reason were on the Europe trip in the first place. “Paris? Edinburgh? Florence?” I asked. Cities were crossed out from the itinerary one by one, but nobody dared touch Prague. The capital city of the Czech Republic is on every bucket list: Places to See before You Die, Best Destinations for 2016, Most Charming European Cities, World’s Best-Preserved Medieval Cities… The hyperbolic lists were endless. According to Euromonitor International, Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome. …

Wholesome Amsterdam

Cannabis, canals and carnal pursuits pretty much sum up the tourist’s image of Amsterdam. And you really can’t blame them when Google serves up “Tips for Getting Stoned like a Pro” or “Best Places for Cannabis Shopping” when you type in “Amsterdam travel.” In the capital of the Netherlands, you will learn the big difference between a coffeeshop, which sells weed, and a coffee shop, which sells coffee. You will see prostitution in a different light at the, well, Red Light District, and realize how everything is strictly business in this part of the world, just as it has been hundreds of years ago when the merchant city was built. But Amsterdam has Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Anne Frank, too. If, like me, you have little interest in smoking joints, fret not—you can still experience a high in Amsterdam. The city is loaded with interesting streets, colorful flea markets, great museums and cool places to just chill and watch those happy folk go by. Despite what people might think—with Amsterdam’s anything-goes attitude—safety is not an issue …

Undoing Old

It has been so long since I’ve been to my own website that I have had to figure out how to manage the menu. Still, that’s better than forgetting the password, which is what happened to the wedding blog I put up seven years ago to keep me sane during our wedding preps. But back to this. This blog has grown old; I have grown old. During my absence here, I buried my beloved grandmother, supported a presidential campaign, wrote countless stories, loved people, hated people, forgave people, hired someone to design a house, applied for a loan to build such house, returned to the province of my childhood, realized how different it is (or I am), finally took that trip to Europe with my 60-something parents and sisters… I’ve become such an expert at being adult that I think I have forgotten the joy of just being. Of wondering and giggling. Of dancing in the rain. Of taking chances. This photo, taken in Cesky Krumlov, reminds my heart not to grow old. It tells me to dream, and to imagine beautiful things from God. I …

(Just a little) Love, Actually

Sometimes, we really should listen to friends. Like when they say, “Bring an umbrella because it always rains in London,” you MUST grab an umbrella even if the sun is bright and shining when you leave the apartment to explore. Because those Londoners are right – it always rains in their corner of the Earth. Another thing that’s always in London are tourists — all 17 million of them spending £11 billion like London wasn’t the sixth most expensive city in the world. Last year, London ranked the second most visited city, after Hong Kong.     At Heathrow alone, prepare to queue an hour or two for immigration clearance. It’s nothing like that famous opening scene in “Love Actually,” when Hugh Grant says in his perfect Love-me-I’m-British accent: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that… If you look for it, I’ve got …

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.