Zamboanga

The laconic escort wearing an orange vest marked Policia tucks the Baby Armalite between his legs. Using a camera retrieved from his pocket instead to target his subject, he aims the screen high in the air to capture presumably the approaching island of Santa Cruz. Yet he calls my attention, shouting through the waves, “Ma’am, … Continue reading Zamboanga

Bohol : Dauis

Chady woke up to his bed shaking that Tuesday morning. He waited for the movement to stop, but instead, it took away his sense of balance. It disarranged sundries neatly lined up on his dresser. It made its way to his feet, until he couldn’t ignore it. He got up and walked out of the … Continue reading Bohol : Dauis

Islas de Gigantes

A boat that had gone all too soon, and an on-the-dot appointment that called for Option B. The overnight ride would’ve been a leisurely 12-hour sail from the port of Cebu straight to the arms of sofstpoken Ilonggos. It would’ve allowed this sleep-deprived to find comfort in an air-conditioned cabin. The bags tucked at the … Continue reading Islas de Gigantes

Bantayan : Sitio Evacuation

Kaliskis sa buwaya. Small flits of clouds that altogether look like they’re mounted on a crocodile’s back was what Louie Rebamonte saw the day Yolanda came. He watched the horizon on his shack just about 10 meters from the shore of Bantayan. Louie knows too well the dangers of being too close to water, or … Continue reading Bantayan : Sitio Evacuation

Daanbantayan

“Okay ra jud mawala among mga balay.“, says fisherman, Virgilio Jemina. “Basta dili lang unta among baroto.” He says this in the middle of an islet called Dawis passable only by a narrow footbridge. What the footbridge actually is, is the right wall of a salt bed. Walking on it is tantamount to walking on … Continue reading Daanbantayan

Bohol : Sagbayan | Clarin

“Linog nasad daw sa Japan”, is how a talkative taxi driver greets his dried mouth passenger still adjusting to the chills of dawn air. After finding out the destination, Pier 3 please, for the first trip to Tagbilaran, he rattles on more details like a cheerful morning newscaster. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake has hit the … Continue reading Bohol : Sagbayan | Clarin

Siargao

A place doesn’t necessarily belong to who loved it first, I once wrote in a now-lost journal, but who loved it most. Then, it was written with such surety, short scribbles on a nondescript shore. But tides, it turns out, have a tendency to befuddle even the surest of sentiments. I often wonder constantly, who … Continue reading Siargao

Apo Island

 There it is. A sudden jolt. An undefined sensation. Quickly, you try to grasp the missing fragments like a computer scanning for misplaced files. Is something amiss? Wasn’t I supposed to remind myself about whatnot? And even before hands touch space where mass should’ve been, the mind has already realized it. You’ve forgotten. Something. The … Continue reading Apo Island

Naga City, Bicol

There are two things Naga seems obsessed about. One calls out through the church bells that ring at strategic times throughout the city. The other has his name plastered on the Coliseum. It looms above almost as soon as stepping out of the bus terminal, a monster of circular concrete, shiny metal and cut letters. … Continue reading Naga City, Bicol

Biri Island

“Mahirap ang buhay dito.” Noynoy tells me. We sit on a small crevice in Magasang, waiting for the wind to die down. In the distance is Nalangoy, a displaced chunk of rock in the middle of the open Pacific. It stands there like a sentinel, in constant battle with the waves, unafraid of their wrath. … Continue reading Biri Island

KK : Tanjung Aru to Papar

“Are you going to cover that Aegis thing?” was a friend’s question when he learned where I was bound for. He was referring to a controversy where a neighboring country’s business outlet, in an attempt to get more investors, released a video tallying a list of wrongs with the motherland – “inadequate infrastructure, unfriendly climate, … Continue reading KK : Tanjung Aru to Papar

KK : Mari – Mari Village

He’s not ashamed to say that after Mari-Mari should follow Money! Money! Mari-Mari means Come! Come! It is the invitation of the Mari-Mari Village, a settlement that combines the five almost-extinct tribes of Malaysia– the Dusuns or Kadazan-Dusuns, Rungus, Lundayehs, Bajaus and Muruts- to tightly fit one area for a tourist’s easy access. Preserving age-old … Continue reading KK : Mari – Mari Village

Sagada : Sumaguing | Bomod-ok

It is a pain to take a bath in Sagada. “Mamaak ang kabugnaw!”, says a companion, who served as a congenial alarm clock to an early itinerary. At dawn, when most Igorots, are still beginning to awaken in their metal-insulated houses, sipping Mountain coffee with the insouciance of someone who doesn’t know any less, we … Continue reading Sagada : Sumaguing | Bomod-ok

Sagada : Lake Danum

The stars were still out when the comfortable coolness of our room was replaced with the biting cold of Dawn in Sagada. Stars are a little different here, I think. They’re nearer, brighter, most of them with surrounding orbs of light that give the illusion of depth and closeness at the same time. I look … Continue reading Sagada : Lake Danum

KK : Gaya and Sapi

“Wala kang kasama? Gusto mo samahan kita?” he called out in a language I thought I had left behind. He hollered again in the middle of the open-air fish market with lines of freezers and coolers that easily fit in hundreds of kilos of bounty staring back with glassy, unseeing eyes. Dawn air was just … Continue reading KK : Gaya and Sapi

Mountain Province : Sagada

“Are you planning to bring a puppy along?”, asks my companion, eyeing the fur-lined thermal jacket I was holding that looked like it hocked an extinct animal or two. It is a week before a trip to Sagada and a companion and I are raiding the Ukay-Ukay stalls Downtown, the smell of chemical on our … Continue reading Mountain Province : Sagada

Bohol : Cortes | Anda

In my travel journals, the ones slowly filling a part of the shelf, there is this mandatory entry: Dear Portia. They make up a collection of letters written to a 5-year old whom I have left, and will continue to leave behind, in search of things still unnamed or unknown. The letters are littered all … Continue reading Bohol : Cortes | Anda

Questions on Home in Malapascua

This is a story of displacement. Barefoot and bareback, she wanders around the different resorts, dancing to the Gangnam Style on her mobile phone. She skews her face alluringly and shimmies as though she were playing with an invisible hula hoop. She likes to talk, it seems, to anyone who would listen even to a tourist … Continue reading Questions on Home in Malapascua

What was and Is in Camiguin

Darkness may well be an instrument of courage. So is the influence of a different kind of spirit. In the middle of a human chain, fumbling through crackling leaves and things that slithered, we crept slowly down a coastal wall. The structure was a feeble attempt to separate our resort from a collection of trees. … Continue reading What was and Is in Camiguin

Sagada: Bokong Falls

WE don’t like the taste of development,” says Lester, curator of the Ganduyan Museum. He says this in front of tourists, myself included, who have become walking symbols of the development he loathes. Never mind that he continues to depend greatly on the very same outsiders to keep the legacy of his family alive. His … Continue reading Sagada: Bokong Falls

Palawan

It is 2010. The van winds through snakelike roads on its way to Sabang, cramped with strangers, a carsick child and an overwhelmed mother. The mother fancies herself a traveler, so the child supposedly, should be too. They are on a mission, these two, to prove that motherhood, accidental or otherwise, is never a hindrance … Continue reading Palawan

Guihulngan

Guihulngan was a fishing village with most of its establishments – the mercados, parks and government offices just alongside the sea. And like the rolls and heaves of its waves, people there talked in soft, lyrical Bisaya as if reserving their voices for better future use.

Lake Sebu

“Labindalawang kabayo.” my Skylab driver assesses. This was the value in livestock, the T’boli’s accepted currency, if he bought me as wife. I would be his sixth; the latest in a collection he hopes will equal that of his father’s, who had 39. As a joke, I demand the herd to be all white. Pure, ethereal … Continue reading Lake Sebu

Singapore

Singapore is like being introduced to a more well-dressed relative, the one you are secretly envious of. Perhaps too the relative is looking at you, at your lack of a clear structure, at the bohemian lifestyle he wished he’d had. You forget where the connection lies, but you bow your head and pay your respects to each other anyway, knowing there is a certain kinship there.

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