Tag Archive: Musings and Ramblings



A fellow blogger once asked how many countries I have visited. A friend once “humble-bragged” by advising I should start planning to cover all 7 continents to “round up my travels”.  Unfortunately, I don’t keep count. Why do they, I wonder? Nor does it matter to me what others think I missed or should have done. I go where it pleases.  And beyond the sights, my memorable experiences are always characterized by the people I interacted with. That includes the people I traveled with. I have the good fortune of traveling with many, varied circles of friends outside of family. The foodies, the sightseers, the adventurers, the history buffs, the art and culture vultures, the hikers, as well as those who just long for some R & R. Not stuck with any single group, I relish the company of each. That includes a peculiar group I’d call the “losers” — people who don’t care getting LOST, seeing the ”mishap’ as another opportunity to explore! 






In Bhutan, I found a very admirable tour and hiking guide. My friend Beth and I “adopted” Sonam whom we referred to as our godson. We are still in touch, thanks to Facebook. We were updated with Sonam’s adventures from a young man to bridesgroom to young father, moving from Bhutan to Australia. I credit Sonam for making it possible for me to hike up to Taktshang Monastery aka Tiger’s Nest. The hike is quite dramatic considering you see the site high up in the mountain from the base where pilgrims and tourists commence the hike or horseback ride for the first 1 hour. I chose the latter to conserve my energy for the hike and met Tring, the old man whose horse is likewise called Tring. Don’t ask why. Meanwhile, I left my friend Beth with our driver who grew years older (again, don’t ask me why 🙄) accompanying my friend up to the Halfway Station. Tashi Delek!





Still on Bhutan, I have to say I’ve been so impressed with how kind and caring their people are. Whenever I stopped for oxygen breaks, there were locals eyeing me as if asking if I need some help. They’d only stop staring and got on with whatever they were doing when I smiled to reassure them I’m still alive 😊 Also, I never found a race so detached from material wealth as these Bhutanese. Sure there were poor people around, but I never once felt that money mattered most to them. I sure hope that didn’t change over the years since I’ve been there. 






Because I run a blog site, one of my followers learned I was staying in Madrid for nearly 3 months back in 2013. He messaged to invite me to a good Cocido de Madrileño lunch plus an afternoon tour of the city’s hidden gems. The best tour I ever had! Under the tourist radar sites included trespassing on strangers’ apartments to view better preserved medieval walls of Madrid. Well not exactly trespassing — Marco actually knocked on strangers’ apartment doors to view the walls from their porches!  And these locals were most accommodating. 




Because I made many solo trips in and around Spain, I met a lot of new friends and interacted with many locals. Before getting off a bus, I’d ask the driver which is the best way to reach the Plaza Mayor. Invariably, the bus driver will advise me he’d be back on that dropoff by a certain time for my ride back. Better than riding a cab! On that New Year’s Eve I was in Madrid, I jumped up and down with the locals,shared drinks with them, and even hugged them as the clock struck 12. My niece and them locals were family 😘




In Mongolia, my friends and I had a chance to visit a ger, eat an authentic lunch, and observe how a typical Mongolian family lead a nomadic lifestyle. I parted with my locally-crafted necklace to give to the “lady of the ger” who cooked and served us some dumplings and tea right inside the ger. We didn’t sleep in a ger. I don’t think I could unless one goes to the gers put up for tourists with modern conveniences 😜 






In Hanoi, I found children playing “sipa” which literally translates to kick. It’s a native game in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries. I joined those kids for a game in my wedged sandals while carrying my bag. Beat that! Then in India, I strayed from our travel group and found ourselves in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple where they were preparing to feed a long line of devotees. The volunteer cooks looked tired but friendly. And locally? I remember spotting a fellow blogger in a Masskara festival in Bacolod City. I approached Enrico and here’s our photo before the parade started! Listen to the drum roll… 




For more photos and details, just click on the links/highlighted headings. 

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The Gift of Time



Please do not grieve

For I have truly lived

Every single day & second

Not one moment wasted. 


I was born with some gifts

But later learned more tricks

To detach from wordly stuff

Love and harmony enough. 


I’ve seen snow-capped mountains

And far too many ancient fountains

Sunrises, glowing sunsets & moonlights

As pretty as the skies at twilights. 


Solitary walks my pleasures

Nothing fancy by any measure

In touch with myself, alone with my thoughts

While adding up all the naughts.


Yet there’s that time with you I relish

A memory I cherish 

Just as my hair turned gray

Unmindful even when things go astray.


I have gifted you with experiences

Plus memories & all the time I could give

Continue on, my loves, and understand

How precious is the gift of time.


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Minimalism is the best idea I’ve come across of late. Tough. Not in any way easy. A friend of mine laughs every time I tell her I’m looking at my closet, agonizing which to give away. Indeed, we accumulate so much in this very material world. When I retired 16 yrs ago, I found shoes, bags, blazers, clothes still unworn, collecting dust in my closet. I saw JOY in the faces of those I gave them away to. I felt JOY seeing them wearing my stuff which I’ve ignored for months & years since I purchased them.


But minimalist-wannabe that I am, I confess the temptations are so present in this mad, mad world of consumerism. It helps that I dislike shopping. I find no joy in it. Neither do jewelry impress me. I bought a set before which cost me an arm and a leg, but wore it only 4 times that I even forgot I still have it! I buy what I need, rather than what I want. When I was still working, I remember a few of my managers teasing me — “Ma,am, your Jurassic phone is crying out to be replaced.” Or “Ma’am, this bag brand suits you better” followed by a look at my favorite, semi-worn-out bag. Once, I advised one of them to get an economy car that’s reasonably priced. He balked and joked “That (car model) isn’t even a car!” I was tempted to say I had one and I believe my pay is way higher than his.
Listen. I am comfortable. I eat well. I have several experiences tucked under my belt. I don’t Christmas-shop, but I can be generous. I travel light, and I don’t mind wearing the same wardrobe all the time. I spend on adventures and love sharing my experiences. I’ve convinced some of my friends to donate rather than exchange gifts. In my family (with the exception of the kids), we gift each other with “experiences” — a dining sponsorship, an adventure. I still have an unclaimed Sydney bridge-climb and a trip to Tasmania. If ever we shop, we prefer buying from small stalls rather than big malls.


I still have too much stuff. When I travel, I like the idea that I’m limited to a few wardrobe items, 2-3 pairs of footwear and a fixed budget. The less I can do without, the better. I discovered that we accumulate NOT for ourselves, but to please or impress others. How about pleasing those who may NEED the stuff that we only WANT?


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Seventy Odd Years

 

We recall the early years
And thank God for these blessings
Such a delight this life
With triumphs and a few fights.

 

 

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Ten years of separation and a whole ocean apart
Love spans many miles and travels over ebbs and tides,

Sisters at birth; joined at the hearts
Survivors, as our sisterly love endures.

 

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What’s there to celebrate at 70?
God’s precious gifts of love & life

Family & Friends

Come, help us celebrate!

 

 

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An Autumn Glow

An Autumn Glow

A YABU LUNCH

A YABU LUNCH

Just a day short. Waiting to pick up my elves today and then, just one more day. Tired from a week of exams, but giddy with excitement over the summer break. The chapel in school is where I wait for them. A good spot under the trees which by now seem to have an “autumn glow” after a couple of hours of rain. Kids even had fun standing under one tree as it sheds off its tiny orange-y flowers as the wind blows. 

 

Summer beckons. What’s the plan, the elves ask? Well……

 

 

 

 

 


I’ve long left an 8am to 8pm stressful job to do the things I WANT to do. Not that I didn’t enjoy my banking career. But 27 years is enough, with the last 2 years not as exciting nor enjoyable as the first 25. Besides, I have long planned an early retirement. So I worked like a horse, burned myself out, and decided to quit at 47 years old.

 

 

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“Married Man’s Trail” in Ketchikan, Alaska. Allegedly, the path taken by men seeking “pleasure” after a visit to the town’s brothel.

 

 

Two weeks after my self-imposed retirement, there were offers to tempt me to make a 2nd stab either in the same field or in a career completely different from what I used to do. It wasn’t in the plan. Nor in my destiny. It’s been 13 years now. And I’ve since made journals of my travel adventures, musings and ramblings.

 

 

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Batanes. The northernmost island province of the P hilippines!

 

 

I have travelled. Slept and got off the bed way too late. Enjoyed my breakfasts. Met my friends more leisurely and more frequently. Read more books. And blogged. I like blogging if only so I keep “records” of my adventures. For me, it’s no different from my diaries. Reminders of what I’ve enjoyed and the stuff that rendered me nostalgic. Sentimental, even.

 

 

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Bromance? Mai Khao Beach. Phuket. Thailand.

 

 

You can say blogging allowed me to express myself. Or remind me of the trips I made, the food I ate, the new friends I’ve met. They’d be my reminders when I’ve grown tired of walking mindlessly, seeking adventures or just growing weak on the knees to navigate a few meters. BUT IT IS MORE THAN JUST PRESERVING THE MEMORIES. Cliche that it is, you can say it’s the journey more than the destination.

 

 

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Corregidor. Philippines. The rock fortress island packed with history and war memories.

 

 

Let me explain. I have been writing since I knew how to use a pen. The best childhood gifts for me consisted of diaries, books and fancy stationery. My mother found a penpal for me since I grew tired of playing with my dolls. BUT I NEVER EVER HANDLED A CAMERA, NOR OWNED ONE, TILL I WAS IN MY 40’s. My earlier travels went undocumented. Visually, that is. My family cannot understand how I can visit Europe to spend 6 months there on a borrowed camera. Worse, I scrimped on the shots and only had a few to show. Mostly of landscapes without moí.

 

 

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Victoria Falls, sandwiched between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

 

I still don’t take as many shots, especially of myself. Nor do I own any of those humongous DSLRs. But I do enjoy snapping photos now. With pen and camera, I AM NOW MORE APPRECIATIVE OF DETAILS I WOULD HAVE EASILY DISMISSED BEFORE. A rainbow. Children at play. A bubbling brook. An insect. Flower details. I am happy with my amateurish photography skills. Just a bit jealous whenever I find stunning photography especially of places I’ve been to. “Why didn’t i take a shot from that angle?” ….. I ask myself.

 

 

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Don Salvador Benedicto. DSB for short. Negros Occidental.

 

 

I don’t take shots to display any photography skill. My earlier blogs will tell you that. Modesty aside, my more recent blogs have better photos. The “journey” made me pay more attention to details. I enjoy human interest shots best, but I’m too slow to capture many lovely moments. Thank God my iPhone is ever-handy and takes quite decent shots, or I would have missed a lot more. So yeah….. I blog to express myself. To chronicle my “highs”, and to capture those memories too.

 

 

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The Cotton Castle of Pamukkale. Turkey.


I’m a “waiting” expert. A “time-killing machine”. I can go many hours waiting in airports, bus terminals and train stations. And that was so way before the advent of internet and the many available gadgets. When I made friends with iPads, iPods, playstations, Wii etc., I discovered I can go many hours without saying a single word. Like when i stayed in Madrid for 10 weeks with an average of 1-2 hours of daily human interaction. No, I am NOT a geek. Nor a NERD. In fact, I can be extremely chatty to a point of annoyance. 😉

Humor Me:  While enjoying my music, one of my grandchildren asked why all the artists on my iPod are mdead.  

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Lifeisacelebration.

 

Humor Me: “On my 59th birthday, I got my best ever gift. When my godson asked his mom what he can buy as gift for me, he was told to get something he thinks I need or something I’d enjoy. He gifted me with a bottle of Vicks Vaporub.”

But WAITING for me is never wasted. I love to write. It doesn’t sound modest whenever I say “I’m a writer”. But that’s what I am. No attempt to glamorize that “writer bit” —- I only meant I write when I’m happy, sad, grieving, celebrating. I write from the heart, without need to use big words to impress. Just had this need to express myself. Can you imagine how annoying it could be if I expressed myself verbally each time, rather than using pen and paper (or iPad and fingers)?

Humor Me: One of those lazy afternoons when I couldn’t care how I looked, I fetched the grandkids and was rewarded with this very well-thought out, diplomatic for his age remark — “You look better with makeup”

Long before it was called blogging, I filled out way too many diaries. My mother would always gift me with nice diaries and stationery to write on. The habit came with being the youngest child whose 2 older sisters were already in college when I grew aware of my surroundings and started having crushes. Also while my hardworking parents were busy with their careers and business, and kept long hours. As a teen, I remember sleeping under my mother’s table while she busied herself cutting patterns while all the sewing and garter-binding machines were buzzing in factory precision. The noise never bothered me. I only needed a mat to lay out and I’d lie down like a shrimp and snore the after-school hours away. Maybe that explains why and how I can so easily will myself to “shut off” in a snap. It’s both good and bad ……… as ignoring things and sometimes people, come in handy for me. These days, they have a word for it. Therapy. While others shop (retail therapy), I “shut off”. A bench in a park overlooking a lake, armed with a cup of coffee, comes to mind.

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Humor Me!

 

Humor Me: The time my eldest apo from OZ land arrived, she asked “Are you the mom of my cousins?” Flattered, I started “No. I’m actually ……..” But she cut me short and said so matter-of-factly “You must be the yaya then…..”

I think this trait was passed on to my grandchild who shared my bed all her nearly 16 summers. In her case though, she paints. Many times I observed how she grew frustrated over some things and then indulged in her art. Like me, she comes off relieved and cheerful after the “episode”. Different folks, Different strokes.

Humor Me: I was particularly proud of a pair of satin pants and black nylon blouse which set i bought in a store catering to young ladies. Thought I’d wear it for my breakfast date with the kids in a posh hotel. When the bell rang and I opened the door, one of them said….. “I thought you’re still in your pajamas”

 

But I have the advantage of many comic breaks in my past. My personal history counts more years and, more memories. Like channels in an old-style television set, I only needed to turn a knob to recall them. Come and laugh with me as I recall a few …….

 

Humor  Me: Once  i asked my apo where he’d take me when he is old enough to drive And he answered “Mercury Drug”. 

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Time-Killing Machine.

 

Humor Me: One of my OZ apos asked me to wash his butt after a “session”. When his older sister saw us, she asked “Have you seen many little boys’ butts?” To which I answered “Yes, including your dad’s!” Touché !

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Waiting. Shutting Off.


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I earlier planned to throw a big party but at the last minute decided against it. I’m NOT really into parties, anyway. Perhaps I should do that when I turn 65 instead. I would have more wrinkles then, and my double chin and jowl may be more pronounced. Or the big party can wait till I turn a full 70. Then, I’d give a really LONG speech. By that time, not too many would be willing to listen to an old hag so i’d make them suffer! All in good humor, folks. Honestly? I’m thankful — and proud — to turn 60. Forever 60 you say? Well, why not?

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At my age, I’m allowing more spontaneity, more randomness, more “irresponsibility” into my life. Like when we went on a roadtrip with kids with no hotel reservations. Or when I hopped on the next train in Atocha Station in Madrid just to go somewhere out of the capital. Or riding a horse, trekking 800 steps to an isolated Bhutanese monastery in 9 degrees celsius, or spelunking in Sagada with a guide who would have carried me if he could, rather than wait every time I stopped for oxygen breaks. Heck, I’m having fun!

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Yet I can’t help working on a travel bucket list. There are plenty of new places I long to visit, and just as many to revisit. And the list keeps getting longer. Maybe I need another lifetime to do all. Hopefully more trips with family and friends. Now, let’s hope those walking legs would hold 😉

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My Bucket List

Macchu Picchu + Iguassu
Santiago de Compostela+San Sebastian
Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana
Uganda (mountain gorillas?)
Finland (Aurora Borealis)
New Zealand

Myanmar
India
Luang Prabang, Laos
Hanoi and HaLong Bay

Budapest+Slovenia+Dubronik, Croatia
New York+Niagara
Tibet. Guilin. 3Gorges.
Canada
Galapagos
Iceland
Greenland

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No travel plans, really. I came for personal reasons and for my OZ family. Specifically for my older sister who fell ill. Last time I visited was back in 2004. Yes, a long time. I grew complacent as it was always THEM visiting me, rather than me visiting them.

 

 

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Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
(An afternoon in Mt. Annan Botanical Garden)

 

 

One overseas call and I dropped everything to secure that OZ visa and get on a flight to Sydney. Took a while and it felt like decades just waiting. Just when the visa was issued, the weekend flights were all fully booked…. except for one. I got the last seat on Qantas for a direct flight. Just in time to be around for the pre-operation medical procedures, the surgery and hospital stay, and another “decade” waiting for the pathology results. All of 4 weeks in Sydney and we finally heaved a collective sigh of relief.

 

 

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Lissa and Levy are 2 years apart. I was the “baby” in the family.

 

 

Three Sisters. Two Survivors. We terribly miss our middle sister — the talented one in the kitchen who baked breads, muffins, blueberry cheese cakes, strawberry tortes and the finest-tasting sans rival cakes and other pastries. She was only 37. Levy and I took turns at the hospital watching over her. It’s been 30 years since. All 3 of us must have inherited the dreaded C disease from Mama who passed on at age 55. Papa joined Mama in 1991, some 22 years back. Levy and I — 9 years apart — survived. But we were continents apart, and Ate (older sister) Levy has yet to fully embrace this internet technology. [Once she called me and forgot to turn off her mobile. Her bill could have covered nearly half of my airfare!) 🙂

 

 

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Mama with Ate Levy and Me in Baguio City back in the 60’s.

 

 

 

Family and friends prayed and prayed real hard. We lived from day to day until Week 4 when we received the good news that Ate Levy beat the odds. To amuse ourselves and keep us off the worries, we made family trips here and there. Ate Levy’s children took turns taking leaves from work to drive us around. I only managed ONE DAY with college friends who came by and took me off on a day out to Berrima — a wonderful break from family duties. (Thank you Lin and MA) My other friends based here and around do understand I simply wanted to be around my sister and family. Others I decidedly didn’t get in contact with as I realized it’s not a good time for “first meet-ups” (my apologies, my TravelBlogger friends). It’s just ME —- eager to make up for lost time with my OZ family. Besides, I was just too busy keeping the worries at bay. 😦

 

 

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The “kids” posing in front of the ancestral house, with their grandfather’s namesign behind. Once I heard my grandnephew Xion say … “We’re cousins. We should love each other.” Makes me proud these babies are being raised as good kids as these nephews and nieces are.

 

 

But winter’s over. And that’s true literally and figuratively. At the beginning of spring and on my fifth week in Sydney, we made so many unplanned day trips. Our hearts overflowed with joy and gratitude. The first trip — from the surgeon’s clinic to the first church we passed — was most significant. Like we remembered every single step towards the church smiling ear to ear, not even missing each melodious note from street buskers nor the aroma of food delicacies from a neighborhood Filipino store. God in His mercy blessed us with a good sense of humour to survive adversities, a grateful heart for Him and the many prayer warriors, a keen sense of family and unity, and above all, a strong faith that our “winter” will soon be over.

 

 

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Rookie took many of these shots in Mt. Annan Botanical Garden. Flowers abloom to welcome spring. In our hearts, it was all time-spring.

 

 

In our trying times, my sister and I nearly forgot the children have grown. THEY took over. And I’m mighty proud of them all. I have no doubt our grandchildren will all grow up as responsible adults. Like their moms and dads. Knowing that, I don’t mind growing old to welcome more “springs”…….

 

 

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Here’s an amateur’s video of “Levy Beating The Odds”

http://youtu.be/ASHK8WmpOd8

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MARAMING SALAMAT SA INYONG LAHAT. Thank you so much for all the prayers.

Adieu, My Dear Friend


Imagine that
We’ve been friends for over 30 years
Through many sports
And many wine bottle corks.

There were dark breaks
Heartaches and pains
But will remember many good moments
All the laughter and cheers.


Of cheer we were never wanting
We certainly knew what fun meant
All those good times we had
Often carefree, other times careless.

Wish I hugged you tighter 
The last time I saw you
A more lingering buzz on ur cheek
To bid you adieu.

Rest now, my friend
You are in a better world now
Gone are the pain and sorrows
With our good Lord, you bask in joy ♥