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La Gota de Leche


Skipping Manila? I know …. the sun and sand beckons in the beaches of Boracay. There’s serious diving in Palawan. You long to breathe the mountain air in Baguio and Benguet,  or simply go completely rustic in the northermost part of the country in Batanes. Or maybe you want to try your surfboards in Siargao or even check out the tarsiers and chocolate hills in Bohol.  For many, it’s the heritage sites in Vigan and Laoag in the Ilocos region, where one is transported in time to a colonial era.  The air is cleaner, less crowded, people likely less busy and thus friendlier, and board and lodging even cheaper in the islands south of Manila and the provinces north of Manila.


La Gota de Leche

And Then There’s Manila…..


I can’t blame you.  Manila is so congested, dirty in many parts of the city, and traffic is so bad.  I live in the better part of  Metro Manila not too far from the shopping malls and fancy restaurants  lining the streets of Makati.  I hardly venture out of Makati. In fact, it has been ages since I last got to the center of Manila where one finds Rizal  Park,  Intramuros with its city walls and Fort Santiago.  Whenever I have foreign visitors who have a day or a whole afternoon to spend in Manila, I would invariably bring them to Intramuros and Fort Santiago, and simply point out Rizal  Park as we pass this park along the way.  These 3 are the likely top tourist attractions in the city, but I’d say only because not too many write or talk about the other interesting historic sites in the metropolis.



No, it is not a secret.  We have heard of some of these places, even watched documentaries on television about them.  But perhaps not often  enough. Nor enough.  Many history books hardly talk about them too.  And as soon as we hear the heritage sites are in Quiapo,  many of us would either lose interest or feel not too brave to walk the streets there.   Sad but true.  And I am ashamed to admit it.


Quiapo Church




QUIAPO is best known for the Quiapo Church, the official “residence” of the Black Nazarene. Around the Church, one finds many hawkers selling religious articles side by side vendors selling “anting-anting” (charms, herbs, amulets, voodoo items) . Crossing the plaza towards the Church, one would likely meet “traders” who would not too subtly whisper the  dollar-peso exchange rate for those interested to change their precious dollars to Philippine pesos.  Mixing with the crowd are likely predators on the lookout for “innocent victims”.   You find them too in the streets of Madrid, Paris, Prague and Rome.  The bag snatchers and thieves.  Sadly, these characters kept many like me from visiting this place more often.


All That Chaos Towards A Center of Spirituality!

Garden View from Inside La Gota de Leche

La Gota de Leche


Amidst all the chaos, it is a pleasant surprise to find this corner of elegance.  A kind of class that soothes the nerves.   Like some oasis which quenches the thirst for some degree of tranquility.  


Literally means “drop of milk”.  This place was inaugurated in 1907 by then Governor-General, later US President William Howard Taft.  Designed by Arcadio and Juan Arellano, fathers of Philippine architecture, inspired by the Hospital of the Innocents, an orphanage in Florence designed by Brunelleschi, a renowned  Italian Renaissance architect.  As if to indicate what this structure stands for, there are decorative reliefs on pediments with images of infants.


Established as a clinic to address malnutrition concerns among the indigents, it was run  by the La Proteccion de la Infancia, Inc. This outreach organization was founded by philanthropist Teodoro R. Yangco in 1907. Records show the construction was completed in 1917 so that makes this building nearly a hundred years old.  You can say this organization was the country’s very first NGO or non-government organization.  A charity project dedicated to infants and young children, its operations involved the distribution of milk to indigent children. It further evolved to champion women’s rights as it also houses the “Kababaihan Laban sa Karahasan Foundation” (literally “Women Against Violence”). The charity organization exists to this day, and must take credits for the restoration of this building in 2002-2003, for which it was awarded the 2003 Heritage Award of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation.


Located in 859 Sergio Loyola Street (parallel to Morayta Street), La Gota de Leche is very near the University of the East.  It almost sticks out like a sore thumb in the University Belt, in Sampaloc to be precise, in an  area hemmed in by sidewalk vendors, dilapidated buildings and smelly trash bins. But La Gota stands proud like an old contessa, with its cross-vaulted arcaded loggias, front garden and a non-functional water fountain.

Bahay Nakpil

Bahay Nakpil


Bahay means house.  This is the house of the Nakpils and Bautistas, built in 1914 Truth is the house should be called Bahay Nakpil-Bautista. Besides being a century-old house , its distinction lies in its being home to some of our heroes of the 1896 revolution.  Located in A. Bautista Street, just off Ramon Hidalgo Street,  the 2 Philippine flags and a marker in front of the house are the only tell-tale signs that it is a house of distinction.  Right beside it is another house, even older, which seems ready to collapse anytime. Both are of the “bahay na bato” architecture which literally means “house made of stone”, though structure is really that of an upper storey made of wood built over a stone foundation.  Typical of the bahay na bato, architect Arcadio Arellano incorporated Viennese Secession motifs into the making of the house. Oddly, the style was adopted after the family received a gift of Secessionist furniture such that the design of the house worked around the furniture motifs.


Street Scene @Bahay Nakpil


The house is owned and built by Dr. Ariston Bautista, a noted propagandist during the Philippine Revolution .  His wife was Petrona Nakpil, whose brother, Julio Nakpil, composed the secret society Katipunan’s patriotic hymns.  Katipunan was founded by Andres Bonifacio, who is married to Gregoria de Jesus.  Inside, there is a marker citing that this has also been home to Gregoria de Jesus, widow of working class hero Andres Bonifacio, who then married Julio Nakpil.  Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was also the place where the family operated its Plateria Nakpil which crafted many jewelry pieces highly prized by Manila’s elite at the time. As distinguised Quiapo families,  the house witnessed many social gatherings and concerts aside from being home to national heroes and artists. View full article »

Took me a few minutes to roll out Buduruwagala without stuttering. Budurugawala means “the rock with the statue of Buddha”. It is the largest standing Buddha statue in the island’s Wellawaya in Uva Province and is actually all of 51 feet. Easily 5 stories high. It is also one of 7 rock sculptures to be found in this ancient Buddhist temple complex dating back to the 10th century. A trio of statues stand to the left and right of the 15m central Buddha. With that streak of faded orange, one can only imagine how this set of rock statues must have looked back then. Impressive now, it must have looked truly majestic then.

(Trivia: It is the tallest standing Buddha statue now after the Taliban destroyed the one in Afghanistan in March 2001)

Our bus brought us to the complex gate, after driving past a lake and through this very narrow bridge. Certainly required skillful driving and in that instant, I forgave our driver for all the times he alternated between speeding, overtaking on curves (omg!) and suddenly stepping on the brakes esp while I’m sleeeping. Pheww!

(Trivia: Sri Lanka’s crime rate is largely comprised of road accidents/traffic infractions. That plus adultery, according to our guide)

The complex gate entrance is a short and pleasant walk through a park to where one finds the 7 rock statues. Very well-maintained with a “zen ambience”. The walkways are hemmed in by full grown trees that provided shade on that otherwise hot and humid day. You hear birds chirping and find many butterflies around in this very serene complex. Two resident dogs were found sleeping just before the rock. Took a photo of the pair while my pseudo Buddhist friends paid their respects. Hmmmm.

(Trivia: Other historians have actually dated the statues to the 6th century)

To the left and right of the gigantic standing Buddha is a trio of rock-cut figures all belonging to the Mahayana school of thought. The one on the left is believed to be a Mahayana deity Alokiteshvara, flanked by an attendant and his consort, Tara. The trio of sculptures on the right consists of Vajrapani ( the Tibetan Bothisatva) flanked by Natha (the future Buddha) and Vishnu. The rock on which these were carved look like a kneeling elephant with a head bent towards the ground. Tantric influence can be gleaned here as one finds Vajrapani holding an hourglass-shaped thunderbolt symbol of Tibetan origin. Of interest is the hole near the right foot of the central Buddha statue. Shaped like a flame from an oil lamp, it is always wet and smelling of mustard oil. There is not one explanation for this.

(Last photo: Thanks, Angel R)

Buddhists, Pseudo Buddhists, Buddhist-wannabees and non-Buddhists will all enjoy the serenity of this place. So peaceful, so quiet. You may visit way too many temples and shrines in Sri Lanka, but please don’t miss this if only for a few minutes of calming silence. Besides, you don’t need to take off your shoes here. 😊

It took 3 hours via train that meandered through mountain ranges, tea gardens and the occasional water falls.Nuwara Eliya is such a revelation. As is the entire Sri Lanka! We drove south from hot and humid Sigiriya and Kandy towards the largely Muslim Nuwara Eliya where temps dove to as low as 14 Celsius. We arrived late afternoon in this land of the Ceylonese Moors. Pretty, pretty. The lush green tea plantations blanketed this cool hill country as we zigzagged up just as the fog cleared. The aroma of tea gardens puts you into a mood that cocoons you off all negativity and hostility. The serenity embraces you. Trust me on this 😊

(Photo Credit: Topper R)

We only wish we could stay longer in this rather odd hotel with so much wasted space. Not that we’re complaining, but a room for 2 with a maid’s room, a powder room, washing machine, a kitchenette, three toilets, a massive dining table and living set? It may not be as tastefully done, but we felt like royalty. And the dinner buffet which included local food and our own chicken adobo (they must have Filipino kitchen staff?) plus the inviting spread of yummy desserts sealed a happy, sweat-free weekend in Nuwara Eliya. Back on topic though (how I digress…), we could have taken the 60 km bus ride in an hour instead of the 3 hour train journey but heck, why miss this majestic scenery, pray tell? The nearest train station is Nanu Oya, just 15 minutes away. By itself, the train station provided a glimpse of life here. Many European tourists joined us on this train ride, as did school children in their starchy white uniforms. Come boarding time, we dodged our way among the strawberry vendors and the resident sleeping dogs. In the first 30 minutes as the train chug-chugged out of Nanu Oya Station, all hell broke loose. There was a frenzy to slide down train windows to get better views of the gardens and falls. It was drizzling but no one cared. The more adventurous opened train doors to literally hang out of the moving train. The view, the entire scenery has that effect on everyone.

(Thanks Topper for this photo.)

(Thanks, Iyay, for these “hanging” photos)

Those 3+hours breezed by and we found ourselves with so many photos of the train, rail tracks, tea plantations, and more. There was a break among the hills and the trees as we waited to snap more good photos but the mist fogged out all the views. Before we knew it, we were already in Ella. Warmer now, but eager for more adventures. Oh, Sri Lanka — you pulled out so many surprises for us! 💕💕💕

If you are keen about piling up a list of visited UNESCO Heritage Sites, you’d do well going to Sri Lanka. We’ve been here only 3 days and our “scoreboard” is nothing less than impressive! From the sweltering heat of Negombo, Anuradaphura and Sigiriya, we sweated our way to Kandy.

Thanks, Topper R., for this photo!

Thanks, Topper R., for this photo!

I am very impressed with the Dambullah cave shrines that I had to write a separate blog on it. (Just click to check the link here.). But in Anuradhapura, one finds the biggest brick structure in the world, and 2nd biggest man-made structure from the ancient world, next only to the Egyptian pyramids. Built centuries before Christ, the Jetavanaramaya followed the designs of many stupas to be found in India. The bell-shaped dagoba is claimed to have its height equal to the depth of its footing. At an original height of 400 feet and being made up of 90 million bricks, that’s colossal. Another is Abhayagiri Dagoba, which is another huge ancient stupa. Truly, Buddhism flourished here.

Anuradhapura is a pilgrimage site because of the Bodhi tree, claimed to have grown from a sapling of the same bodhi tree in India under which Buddha found enlightenment. The pilgrims are dressed in white, barefoot, and ready with their flower offerings. It was more than a kilometer walk from where we got off our bus towards the Bodhi Tree site. Maybe 3 kilometers walking to and from, combined. Not a problem except that it was high noon when we walked to the site. Along the path, there were monkeys all around. At one corner, a tent was set up with tables on which flowers were laid out. On a couple more tables, volunteers handed out free drinks to the pilgrims. Men and women and children, all dressed in white.

There are many more in Anarudhapura whose names I can’t recall now. Like the white stupa near the Bodhi Tree. And some 2 hours drive from this ancient, heritage city is that iconic rock fortress called Sigiraya. I was daunted by its height and my readings assured me that climbing it is not for the fainthearted. With my blistered right foot, it was definitely some adventure I dare not even consider.

We likewise visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic. We didn’t see the relic itself as it is housed/enshrined on the 2nd floor of this temple in Kandy. Oh yes, weren’t we brave to visit soon after skirmishes between Buddhists and Tamil Muslims occurred here? In fact, the state just declared a State of Emergency but all we found was a police-controlled/secured Kandy. Very safe. The only sad thing about it is that many social media sites were suspended!

Sri Lanka is by and large, a Buddhist state. But in Nuwara Eliya, most local folks were Tamil Muslims or Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans who practice Islam. Also called Sri Lankan or Ceylonese Moors, they comprise the majority in the cooler hills of this tea country, and are the 3rd largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. In the capital of Colombo, we missed a visit to the grand-looking Red Mosque. In Galle, the Galle Fort Mosque is hard to miss. We found it while exploring the ramparts here one rainy noontime. Let’s hope this happy co-existence of 2 faiths are not muddled by political issues nor threatened by calls to secession. I so love Sri Lanka and pray peace and order prevails in this land of cheerful, smiling folks.

Thanks Beth for this last photo.

It’s our first time in Sri Lanka. And I confess that my personal knowledge of this country that used to be called Ceylon has been so limited before we got here. Oh sure, Sri Lanka or Ceylon evokes memories of that fragrant tea, spicy curry, and elephants. We’ve been here only 2 days but feel we’ve come to know so much more about Sri Lanka than those guide books will tell us. Like it’s a haven for bird lovers. I can only wish I knew more about birds as we spotted them in Minneriya National Park.

We just couldn’t pass up the chance to see Sri Lankan wildlife. Never mind that we didn’t expect much beyond elephants and deer and peacocks. No leopards here; the guide books say they are found in the Yala National Park. Other guide books say they are also found here, along with the sambar deer. I would have wanted to see one in the wilds, having missed this among the Big 5 in my African Safari some years back. But a big herd of elephants is good to watch. Elephants of varying sizes; the baby ellies with their moms. A couple of these huge beasts moved towards our safari jeeps and we promptly backed up. We were 3 jeeps in all. And we thought this entire spectacle is good enough for wildlife viewing today.

Formerly a wildlife sanctuary, Minneriya was declared a national park 20 years ago. It is located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and is claimed to be home to the biggest herd of Asian elephants that gather on the banks of the Minneriya Reservoir. Though the “gathering” peaks during the drought around August- September, we found a good size this early March. Wildlife activitists would be happy for this natural phenomenon. So would bird lovers and the environmentalists. Let’s just hope tourism advocates don’t get overboard promoting this place. At the time we visited, we were only 3 safari jeeps around The Gathering, but more such safari jeeps can block the paths of these elephants and agitate them. Speaking of which, Minneriya authorities can limit the number of visitors and safari jeeps at any one time. I don’t know, perhaps they do this already. I am no wildlife nor environmental expert. Just a happy spectator this breezy afternoon. 😊

(Thanks, Topper, for the last 3 beautiful shots!)

(Thanks for this group photo, Rick C. We had fun, huh?)

More photos (from Angel) below:

Five caves. Buddha images counting over 150. Standing. Reclining. Seated. Statues. Paintings. Buddha images everywhere. On the cave walls. On the cave ceiling. All over. As in all over. This is certainly the largest, and best-preserved cave temple complex cum Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka. A pilgrimage site for over 22 centuries, the caves are NOT natural caves but actually caves CARVED out of rocks. Try imagining monks working and carving these cave shrines! Over the years, arched colonnades were carved out, ceilings painted with intricate images of Buddha, some cave entrances gilded. Much were developed in stages. And present-day Dambulla is just breath-taking. I meant that aesthetically, and physically, physiologically. 😥Gawd, it’s so hot and humid in here!

You need to take off your shoes going into the cluster of 5 cave shrines. You may wrap a skirt or shawl around your shorts too. But be sure you get a fair price for having your shoes stored. The guy manning the operation seems to be quoting a wide range of storage rates. It was a good day for business for him. Then there’s the story of a king who hid himself in this cave temple where some statues and paintings date back to the first century B.C. When King Valagamba returned to his throne in Anaradaphura after a 14-year exile, he had this rock temple complex built to thank the Buddhist monks who prayed, meditated and protected him from his enemies.

Walking barefoot, I felt some discomfort walking on this hot, humid day. True enough, I went back to our hotel with a blister on my sole. And I’m sure the blister had nothing to do with the uphill walk to reach the holy rock complex. The hot and uneven ground we walked on must have done it on my delicate soles. Oh well. Meanwhile, this UNESCO Heritage Site continues to draw in curious tourists. The Sri Lankans are deeply rooted in Buddhism and this cave shrines prove it. The statues have not lost their color, and the ceiling paintings and murals are very impressive.

We were soaking, dripping in sweat by the time we were done. The downhill exit was most welcome because of the afternoon breeze. Monkeys were all around. The crowds just enough — to show homage, but without bumping each sweaty bod against another sweaty bod. Just be sure you bring wet wipes or better, a wet face towel to wipe all that grime, dust and sweat off your face and limbs. And bring a bottle of water! Having said that, be sure to wear comfortable clothes intended for a real humid afternoon. Only the magnificent Buddha images kept me from bailing out of this cave complex!

My 2018 Travel Wishlist

I have drawn up my bucket list back in 2013 and has since struck off a few from the list. Problem is, for every country ticked off, there’s 2 more to add. So yes, it is a growing list. Wanderlust. Why fight it? Well, for one — my travel fund is fast depleting while the list keeps growing. I am also starting to feel my age 😢 though I strive to shake off any such anxiety. Keeping in mind to travel safely, comfortably but not necessarily luxuriously I need to plan my trips more wisely. And resist visiting the same favorite destinations —God help me! 🙏🏻

Like an old truck seeking new directions, I am very happy with the places I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve shared with family and friends. Finally, I managed to travel to Peru, India, Halong Bay (Vietnam), Myanmar & Finland since the list was drawn. I have also managed to do not one but 2 caminos — the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, as well as from Viterbo (Italy) to the Vatican City. Plus the challenging first 24kms of the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port. Not bad for an old hag 😜

Yet the unchecked list remains. Galapagos. Northern Lights. The many lovely countries now comprising the former Yugoslavia. Hungary. Iguassu Falls. Canadian Rockies. New Zealand. Exotic Sri Lanka. Tibet. Other South American and African countries. Not to mention the list of domestic destinations waiting to be struck off! And perhaps another (longer) camino.

Photos from the Net

This March, Sri Lanka is it. Come April-May, my childhood friend and grandnephew should be free to travel with me. Destination yet unknown. Before my Schengen visa expires this year, I may as well do another trip to Europe. And in October-November, another trip to Sydney to visit family and meet up with friends who’d hop from Sydney to Kiwi land. I am very, very tempted to join them for the New Zealand leg too but we’ll see. This wanderlust is making me rethink my retirement. Not in the sense that I want to go back to work but more in terms of seeking other funding sources. (How????) In the same vein, I seriously need to plot my travel calendar within my travel fund in the next 5 years. Age is creeping in, and the “bolder, more adventurous, more energy-demanding trips” seek precedence over the more leisurely, relaxing, boketto-mode travels which can be dealt with once I (sadly) turn septuagenarian! 😫 — by which time, I plan to run a blog series on “Easy Travels for Seniors”. Wish me luck, I need it. 😘🙄🤪

The Joy In My Heart

Once, I waxed poetic

Nothing grand, nowhere epic

Wordsmith, surely I am not

Just speaking from the heart.

Every morn I ponder

Thinking aloud, still sober

What countless blessings You gave

So much more than I deserve.

It’s this joy in my heart

The cheer in that sacred part

Such a gift, so precious

Stuck in my subconscious.

Not everything is on fleek

God lets happen even if you’re meek

Your gift of cheer I seek

To live life’s joys at its peak.

(Photo taken more than 30 years ago)

Baguio Today

Many moons ago, our family would make the 6-7 hour long roadtrip from Manila to the country’s summer capital. Baguio: the city of pines. Those were the days when Baguio was cleaner, less crowded and the pine trees everywhere. It’s a shorter drive these days, but that feeling of “being in Baguio” seems restricted to areas around Camp John Hay, Baguio Country Club and the Mansion House. The Baguio you find today is no longer teeming with the scent of pine trees. And it’s a completely new Camp John Hay with its lovely Manor House and several new cottages and shops.

For this trip, we stayed at the century-old Baguio Country Club — still looking nearly like the grand dame it was many years ago. The old fireplace is still where it was then, and you can still take home those raisin and banana breads we’ve come to love. Over breakfast at the Verandah, I reminisced about the time when I’d wake up real early to tee off for a round of golf while other early risers watch me as they waited for their morning brew. I tried to join the earliest flight of golfers then to avoid being watched! Now, I sit and watch them while sipping my coffee and waiting for my eggs to be done. 😊☕️🥚🍽🥐🍳

In the many trips I’ve been here, I have only gone as far as the gated front of The Mansion House. We had the privilege of getting inside the Presidential Summer House this time. And sit/pose around the conference table. (Thanks, Meloy). I even stood at the rostrum as if addressing an audience 🙄

We did the touristy thing as we showed our US-based friends around. Apart from Camp John Hay and Mansion House, we dropped in at the Cathedral, Mines View Park, Burnham Park, dined at Rose Bowl at its new location. Some of them last visited Baguio 35 years ago so it was truly a nostalgic trip. A big plus was the Opening Ceremony for the Panagbenga Flower Fest!

I’ve never attended Baguio’s Flower Festival. Frankly, I don’t remember it as a child so I assumed it’s a recently-organized annual festivity. Other “new attractions” are the colorful houses in La Trinidad Valley and the well-curated Bencab Museum. I’m awed by the blooms from Baguio, and pleasantly surprised they now grow persimmons too! I love this fruit (along with Sagada oranges, lychees and longans) that I can’t even remember how much I paid for them!

The Museum and its garden is now a must-visit destination. I noticed they have rearranged and added more items. Nice. My balikbayan friends thought this museum is a great additional attraction in Baguio. I only wish they improve the museum guide’s spiel — I’m sure every Bencab artwork is laden with substance and meaning I’d be so curious about. Lunch was in Bencab’s Cafe Sabel, where we enjoyed every item on the menu from Strawberry Shake to pancit chopseuy to spicy tuyo pasta.

Our trip timed perfectly not only with the festival blooms display but also with the super blood blue moon. We craned our necks for a good half hour at the roofdeck of Baguio Country Club at 12 degree celsius just to watch this lunar spectacle. How I wish I brought a proper camera. The iPhone just won’t do for those zoomed photos. But good enough for those Baguio flowers!

In my next visit, I hope to see more colorful Trinidad Valley houses, more locally-grown fruits (cherries?), maybe watch the Panagbenga parade and eat more at Bencab’s Cafe Sabel. Who knows? I may even pick up the sport again!

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Busy Since I Retired

I kid you not.

My self-imposed retirement began in early 2001. I quit to have a life. And it’s been a life of adventures and nurtured relationships since.

I love to travel. And I travel with different sets and circles of friends. No better way to bond than enjoying their company 24/7. I’m one who easily gets along with most anyone on a trip. Perhaps because I’m in my elements when traveling. But I do realize it’s better to travel solo than putting up with bad company. I’m also hell-bent when I wish to be someplace and no one’s going with me. Guess it all started when I was a child standing in line to enjoy rollercoaster rides. I don’t do that now. Not because I’m afraid but more because I’m cautious not to break a brittle bone. I go visit family and friends whenever I can. I have always maintained that life is too short to waste it. As years pass, I appreciate more and more the value of relationship. I am happy I nurtured many since childhood.


USA Roadtrip

Beijing + HK


Spain + Portugal

Lourdes, Paris


USA East/West Coast


Roadtrip from Paris thru Tours,

Bordeaux, Lourdes, Provence,

Barcelona, back to Paris


St. Petersburg+Moscow, Russia









Alaskan Cruise

Vancouver+Victoria, Canada

Seattle+San Francisco+LA





Turkey & Greece


HK New Year



Siem Reap






South Africa+Zambia







Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam



Hanoi/Halong Bay, Vietnam





Berlin, Germany

Scandinavian Cruise

Bangkok, Thailand





Sydney+Gold Coast, Australia


Bangkok, Thailand








Paris, France

2018: (Planned, as of this writing)

Sri Lanka (March 8-15)

Malaysia (April)

Sydney (Oct )

Easily, 50 international trips since 2001. I’ve also covered much ground back home. I’ve been busy. Traveled with family and different sets of friends. Oh yes, I have no shortage of travel buddies. Outside of family, there are my camino buddies, foodie group, college buddies, travel blogger-friends, former work colleagues, dormmates, childhood friends, etc. My friends would always ask which trips rank among my Top 10. And I’m always stumped for choice. How do you choose from among so many trips you’ve enjoyed and wish to repeat? But this I say, the more memorable ones are those where I learned the most, interacted with locals the most, or simply where “something clicked” to change my outlook in life. Not exactly an epiphany; just a simple discovery or realization from a meaningful experience.

Abuela Con Nieta

Traveled with my nieta over the holidays — her first time in Europe. We based ourselves in Madrid but made 3 night trips to Paris, Barcelona and San Sebastian. Paris was at the top of her list but she ended up loving San Sebastian best and Barcelona second best. I wasn’t surprised.

She loves visits to the art galleries and spent lotsa time there. And I mean lotsa time! San Sebastian has no museos in the league of Louvre nor Prado, but she digs the vibe in this Basque city so much that I’m convinced she can live there.

Traveling as abuela y nieta, our pair must have invited some attention. Or at least we were marked. Or perhaps SHE was marked. More than once, I was asked “Donde esta la chica?” She’d always find a vacant seat on the train where she can more comfortably sit, or stray away from me while we’re in line. She’d get free admission to some museos when the man at the window would ask if she’s a student. No student ID nor passport copy, but she gets in free or at a discount while her abuela pays the regular rate. She’s out of her teens now but still acts like a child like when I couldn’t get a decent shot of her without her tongue sticking out or her crinkling her nose.

Our vacation lasted a full month. She’d tease we didn’t quarrel as much as expected and laugh. I was happy to show her around, much that museos and art galleries were coming out of my ears. She discovered she’s a good dishwasher and that she easily forgets things. I discovered I can appreciate street and urban art too. We share food preferences and love bubblies. She likewise shops like me — quick, decisive and wise. Ahem.

I am certain “art appreciation” was the highlight of this trip. I have seen how she spent for art materials and art books, more than she spent for those fashion stuff. For sure, she has set her sights on a return trip knowing how she has enjoyed this holiday.

While in Madrid, she found time to meet with her friends now studying there. It was amusing to see her playing tour guide cum photographer. Their photos speak volumes on how much they enjoyed each other’s company, sticking tongues and all 😜 She loves Spain. And judging by how she’s been painting lately, mi nieta is inspired. 💕👩🏻‍🎨🎨

Travels with #aponimamu:(Just click on the link)

Around Paris

Louvre and Centre Pompidou

Bohemian Paris

Touchdown, San Sebastian

Txikiteo in San Sebastian

The Playas of San Sebastian

Traveling Paintbrush of Anna

Museo Guggenheim (Bilbao)

Museu Picasso (Barcelona)

Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)

Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa (Madrid)

Gaudi and Ciutat Vella

To Montserrat and Back

A Pleasant Moorish Surprise

Not Segovia, But Alcala de Henares

Street Art In Spain

Some Musings and Ramblings:

Abuela Con Nieta

Happy Thoughts for Anna P