All posts tagged: Published

14 Creative V-Day Dates

Not all couples celebrate Valentine’s Day. Some feel too old and too tired. Some think fine dining is too expensive, too fussy and too conventional–and they’re damn right. So why don’t you Valentine believers dump the boring dinners and try these things for a change? You have two weeks to prepare. Be kids again. Think of the things you loved to do when you were children, and do them. It can be as simple as going to the park, flying a kite, spending hours on a swing, visiting a museum/planetarium, or playing at an arcade. Learn to cook/bake your favorite dish. First, do the grocery, then clear the kitchen and drive everyone away. This is your date place. Now get to work. Play some music if it gets you in the mood to slice and dice. If you feel like flirting through a flour fight, go right ahead. Just remember you will eat what you cook. Take a walk or ride a bike. This is good for the heart, literally. Follow bike trails that will …

Kyoto’s Eternally Old Soul

Everything in Kyoto is old. Our private guide, Shihoko Hirooka, was 73. My entire family’s jaw dropped when she entered the hotel lobby and introduced herself as the one who will shepherd our group of nine, young, hyper-excited tourists. “This is our guide?” my sister Abbie whispered as she pulled me aside and cast me a worried look. “That woman is older than Ma and Pa! We’ll be walking the whole day…” Shihoko’s website boasted of her more than 30 years of experience as a tour guide in Japan, so I knew our guide wouldn’t be young. But I didn’t imagine she would be this old, either. “So, are you from Kyoto?” I asked Shihoko as we walked to the train station. It was a lame attempt at conversation but somebody had to talk—my companions were still in shock that our guide was as old as my grandmother. “Well, I’ve lived here for 40 years, but I can’t really say I’m from here. In Kyoto, for you to be able to say that you are …

A speck of white, a sea of blue

The big boat dodged the big waves, the rest it just rode out. It’s been almost an hour of rough seas, and my companions were turning green, trying hard to keep from grumbling. I, however, was lost in my memories. Our big, bouncy boat was taking us to my favorite secret place of all, and no seasickness can bring me down (besides, I am the granddaughter of a fisherman—I dig waves). The grumbling stopped before the boat’s engine did. Isla Arena’s white sand glinted from afar. Everyone forgot the dicey trip and focused on the best color of bikinis for this immaculate backdrop. “Welcome back!” bellowed no less than the owner, Roland Rodriguez, who everyone calls Mr. Fuji (his features are Japanese but his burnt brown skin is undeniably Filipino—he enjoys confusing people on his nationality). My husband and I were his first media guests on the island two years ago. To our companions, he said: “Please treat this as your private island for the next three days. It’s all yours.” That sent the boys …

The Search for Soul

They said it was a place where witches still practiced, a land that cast spells. As a child, I quivered at stories of Siquijor’s black magic. Three decades later, jaded and approaching pre-midlife crisis, I needed magic–of any sort. I headed for the Island of Fire. “Be nice,” my mother reminded me, knowing my penchant for returning cold food and not-so-well-done meat in restaurants. “You don’t know what those people can do.” I packed my most pleasing personality–and my husband, who is niceness personified–and flew to Dumaguete. Siquijor is an hour by ferry from Dumaguete City, the gateway to visitors from Manila. Being the Philippines’ third smallest province (it used to be part of Negros Oriental) with only around 91,000 inhabitants, Siquijor does not have its own airport. Except on Holy Week, when the media and tourists descend on the island for its curiosities, human traffic could not justify building one. At the pier, visitors are welcomed by a sign that immediately tries to douse the quest for whatever dark mystery the tourists came for: “Siquijor is just perfect for relaxing and recuperating. …

Trains, Planes and Mobiles: Notes on Cellphone Photography

Just before I left the travel magazine where I worked in 2011, I tagged along on an ABS-CBN interview with renowned fashion photographer Jun de Leon, a very passionate–and very elusive–artist. I’m not sure if this ever saw print, but in this age of smartphones that can do practically anything, I think his thoughts are too precious not to share, so…   Cellphone Photography, according to Jun de Leon  He has one rule in photography—there are no rules. And this is why Enrique “Jun” De Leon can move from being a photojournalist to a fashion photographer and now, an advocate of cellphone photography. His book ‘Tracing the Wind’ is the world’s first coffeetable book using purely cellphone photographs. Today he runs a Facebook page dedicated to mobile-age photography with more than 30,000 members from 40 countries. In a rare interview, he sits down and talks about the evolution of his passion. Why take on cellphone photography? According to research, the no. 2 aspiration of Filipinos is to own a digital camera. That’s why I’m changing …

10 for the Road

I will always remember January 1, 2009. That was the New Year’s day I found myself on Highway 1 in southern California, with my cousin Ice and my San Francisco housemate Athong. Being the only one who had zero driving skills, I had the privilege of enjoying the scenic view of the Pacific and quaint houses you only saw on storybooks. The picture remains perfect in my mind.  In this age of promo fares, road trips may soon become a lost form of travel. But for those who still prefer the romance of feeling the breeze on their face and holding a map in their hands, I have these 10 helpful tips for land travel. (NOTE: The photos were actually part of our engagement shoot three years and 20 lbs. ago, when we decided, on a spur of the moment, to go with a Road Trip Gone Wrong storyline)   Have a plan. It’s great to be spontaneous and just go where the fuel takes you. But if you don’t have unlimited resources and time, the one …

Tent for two, please

  It’s a lot like marriage, this glamping. I mulled the comparison as I watched Henrich, our guest services officer, unzip–yes, unzip–our room for the next three days. Sleeping in a tent was not exactly my idea of a romantic anniversary getaway but it was my husband’s dream adventure, and like I said, marriage–it’s all about compromise. “This is it! Welcome!” Henrich says a little too cheerfully, it made me nervous. Is there a catch? I entered the tent and did a quick survey: bed, check; comforter, check; fluffy pillows, check; bedside lamp, check; carpet (sort of), check; electric fan, check; electric sockets (for charging gadgets), check; wardrobe drawers, check; toiletries, check; mini bar with cold drinks, check; mini-bar, check (plus it transforms into a desk). Oh and yes, windows, check! We’ll be fine, I thought. We were in Bluewater Sumilon, the first resort to offer glamping in the Philippines. This 24-hectare island off the southern tip of Cebu has the bragging right of being the country’s first marine reserve, having been under the care of …