Tag Archive: Musings and Ramblings



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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 ♥


Thought I’d stay home today. It’s Friday the 13th.  So. Where’s Freddy Krueger?

“When the joints ache,

when the hips break,

When the eyes grow dim,

Then I remember the great life I’ve had,

And then I don’t feel so bad.”

The other day, I thought of my favorite things.  Feeling “Julie Andrews”.  More so when I had to fetch my granddaughter from swim school with my red umbrella. 😀  But really, just thinking of all my favorite things busts any lists.   Even thinking of my favorite “travel-related” things or events or moments can easily fill up a list. No Top Ten list for me here.  It just wouldn’t be fair.  There were far too many random acts of kindness here and all over the world that I still vividly remember to this day.  And these were random acts of kindness from strangers.  Complete strangers.  I did not even bother to get their names.  The ones I got, I promptly forgot. Quick kind acts;  instant good deeds. As the good book says:   ASK, BELIEVE AND CLAIM!  You guys pray for angels before and while traveling? I do. All the time.  And it never fails to amaze me the many shapes, forms and “colors” of the angels sent my way.

No Top 10 List.  But 2 stand out, worthy of mention.

Back in 1986. I was in Scotland for a weekend. Right in the middle of winter.  Trained in from Bradford, England.  Walked around Inverness and decided to join this local tour around Loch Ness.  You know, that famous monster the size of a dinosaur that claimed a whole lake as its official residence?  Well, Nessie the Monster that was. Or is.  The local tour cost me £7 back in ’86.  Not cheap ,  based on my cash-starved pockets at the time.   I was sleeping in pension houses for only £8 a day (low season), and that goes with that very heavy English (or Scottish)  breakfast which is about the only proper meal of the day for me.

The local tour is like a family outing.  The driver cum tour guide with his blue van, and all 8 of us “kids” at the back. Yeah, that’s how he called us.  He, without a name.  Lol. Sounds like a Lord Voldemort line from Harry Potter. 🙂 But he was really a nice guy, acting out like a dad to us “kids”.  He made 2 stops before proceeding to the lake.  He also divided us into 2 groups of 4 members each.  Each group was given a grocery list.  I was with the 1st group, and promptly took over the shopping assignment.  Bread, cheese and some cold cuts.   The 2nd group was assigned to take care of the drinks.  Hot choco, water and orange juice.  We were having a picnic by the lake………IN WINTER!

Have I managed to bore you with all these details?  Alright, I’d get on with it.  The local tour guide finished his job. We who paid £7 each were satisfied.  When it was over,  he who has no name invited me and another Fil-Am, and a Brazilian to his house for lunch.  Not one to pass up a free meal (cheapskate!),  we accepted the invitation without thinking why we 3 were singled out and the other 5 were not invited.  It was a simple but filling lunch. Some kind of meat loaf dished out by his charming, hospitable wife who was just as surprised as we were to be invited to their home. Over cups of steaming hot tea (with milk),  he who has no name told us a story.  He used to be with the army.  Had stints in the Philippines and somewhere in South America (not Brazil).   He said he met locals who have shown him random acts of kindness which he will never forget.  Not much details.  But there it was, pure sincerity.   And then, he fishes wads of bills from his pocket and told us not to take offense but he would be returning our payment of £7 each.  He said it was the only way he knew how to return the “favor”.   Imagine that!  I got a free tour, a picnic and a free lunch.   Yet more than that is what stuck in my mind. All these years,  I have been conscious of the chances, the opportunities to “return the favor”.   Let those random acts of kindness roll…………all around the world.

Nanjing Misadventure

The 2nd random act of kindness happened in Nanjing, China.  Yes,  that’s where I had this freaky accident.  But I don’t want to spoil my Scotland monologue with this 2nd story.  Perhaps you should read it another time.  Dwell on the Scotland story and he who has no name.   If I can sketch,  I can illustrate every facial feature of this kind charming man. Think about it.  He was my angel.  The girl who has the knack for ending up with her last US$20 in her pocket back in those days.  Or take weekend trips at the height of winter because lodgings and tours are way cheaper then. A sucker for low-season deals.

When you’re done and care to know the 2nd story,  come read about my Nanjing Misadventure.  

P.S. Back in those pre-digicam days, I took very few photos of my trip because having the films developed cost a fortune.  I also had with me the cheapest camera you can find, as these blurry photos show.  But I wrote my travel journals even then.  Diaries. That’s what they were called.  Not blogs. After many years, I am now able to publish them! What’s that? I should keep it private? TMI? Who cares? I’m too old to keep secrets.   🙂


 

It has been a week since my encounter with the whale sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon. Called “Butandings”, swimming with these gentle giants never prepare anyone for such an awesome experience. A week later, and I still dream of that animal experience. I still get a high just thinking about it .

 

 

For sure, I will be bringing my family to Barrio Dancalan in Donsol. To meet their butandings and mark that memory in their minds. A diesel attends into the vintage. The Butanding Festival in Donsol will be this April, but it won’t be till May before we get there. Let’s pray those sea pets are still there. I bet they would be. After all, those Donsol folks have been most kind to them, treating them like their pets.

 

Check out more photos in my TravelBlog site.  

Europe: Then And Now


Back in 1986,  I traveled to Europe for the first time. Alone.  At the time, I was still smoking and it was sheer torture to be in flight or around airports and train stations all of 21 hours.  Every chance I got, I filled my lungs with nicotine like it was the last stick I’d smoke.  I read the instructions over and over, matching them with the signages I passed, hoping I’d find my way to Bradford, England without a hitch.

 

 

The London stopover ended with my safe landing in Heathrow airport.  From there,  I took the train for Bradford.  Not an hour or two to check out the London sights  That had to wait for much later. I was expected for dinner somewhere within the halls of Bradford University.  From the tropics,  I had my first taste of snow when I got out of the train station in Bradford.  I wanted to run and throw my first snowball.  That had to wait too.  At the time, I was simply too eager to get inside Charles Morris Hall and sit by the fire to warm my fingers which were threatening to freeze.   As I “thawed”,  I met my new friends from Saudi Arabia, Italy, Finland, Brazil, Ethiopia, Burma, Solomon Islands, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan,  Poland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Cyprus.  I have lost touch with all of them.  Hopefully, with this blog I can find some with greying hair but with the same smiles I still fondly remember.  These friends introduced me to varied flavors of the Orient, African, Middle East and Western cuisine:  from the Indian tandoori to the Italian pasta (back then, I only knew the spaghetti with meatballs), to Sudanese cabbage with rice stuffing yummy dish, to Brazilian beans and more beans!  Oh my,  too much beans.  Where are you guys?  Zeze, Raoul,  Rebecca, Lita,  Salik, etc.

 

 

I nearly cried when I saw Buckingham Palace.  I saw Big Ben at sunrise and sunset with coffee in a paper cup ,  seated on a bench somewhere. Always, I would be found reviewing a map.  I would imagine  myself taking the “Tube” as Londoners call their subway,  and visiting the popular London sights.  I also imagined which subways to take to go to the West End to watch Les Miserables and how to find my way back to our hotel.  When I crossed the English channel to go to Paris for the first time,  I was dripping with excitement.  Eiffel Tower was not really much to see the first time i saw it.  I was more awed by the Champ Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.  By the time I reached Italy,  I could hardly sleep ……… spending my nights planning on how the next day would be spent.  There was just so much to see and so much food to try. I was young then,  and my taste buds were still waiting to discover new cuisine. I can relate to Peter Mayle’s first adventure with  French food.  Even freshly baked bread was new to me then.  I discovered wine and cheese for the first time too.  I even learned which wine glass is for what……..a far cry from those days when my wine glass was good for any wine, red or white , sparkling or not.  More than that,  I discovered what life is all about.  I turned many pages since then.  And my life, as a book,  now counts many chapters and sequels.

 

 

I visited the same sights over and over again. I worked, and worked hard. I saved, and saved good.  I traveled,  and savored every minute.   Through the years I have taken pictures of some favorite sights and found how they now compare.  I will throw in more recent pictures here from time to time , if only to lay down a better comparison between then and now.  The unwanted pounds. The unwelcome lines.  But who cares?

 

Check out the photos and see for yourself.

 

[Read also my TravelBlog site.  ]