I hope everyone is doing well and after returning to LA after my 2-month trip to SE Asia, I was busy settling back in and lining up audio work to make some money. 🙂 It was nice to be home and to catch up with family and friends. It was also nice to get back into audio too despite my love for travel and photography. It’s been about 6 months since I’ve been back home and I couldn’t stay put in LA long enough without venturing to the east coast for a bit.
I admit that part of the reason for traveling there was not only to visit family but to help out my cousin’s husband with some photographs. I just recently sold him a few of my photographs (several that I’ve posted here) and they will be on display at his Annapolis office. Mahalo SILA Solutions Group – most especially to Rohit. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to showcase my work. It means a ton!
You might be wondering where these photos were taken. I discovered the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge park and was amazed by it’s natural beauty. It’s stunning here and I was also very surprised and how empty the park was that I basically had it to myself. Though with this trip out to the Eastern Shore I felt that I was always a step behind with the light so I was worried about how my pictures would turn out. As usual, I end up surprising myself once I sit down and pull them into my mac. Needless to say I’m very happy with the results. I look forward to returning but on another note, I don’t miss the bugs that I encountered there. I kind of wish I had my GoPro mounted in the car as I was jumping in and out to the locations along with fighting all the nasty insects. Ick! But I survived and the results were better than I expected. 🙂
I also gifted a photo to my friend and colleague Chip Beamon who has graciously been promoting my photographs via FB and getting people to check out my website. Below is the picture that was taken at Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu in December of last year. It’s one of the few times in the year where the sun rises over the ocean. I know… weird right for many of us living on the west coast?! Well, I took a photography class and the instructor shared with us that from October to about February, the sun “rises” off the south facing beaches. So I woke up bright and early on a chilly December morning at 4am to check this out and see if it was true, this was also the time that I fell in love with the Nikon wide-angle 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Amazing and it was so worth it to capture the vibrant colors and also luck out with the pelicans flying in formation as if coming out from the sun. I actually was planning to leave the beach then because I felt the best light was done for the morning, but the clouds that I saw forming pulled me back and I decided to stay a little longer which I’m happy I did. This photo below was just recently purchased which I was very excited about.
Aside from audio work and getting my pictures shipped off, I also acquired a new puppy. Many thanks to my sister, Cindy for that one. It’s been over a year since Koa went to doggie heaven and my nephew and I drove up to Washington state last month to grab my new dog, Frodo! He’s a sweetheart and definitely great to have around. I hope to head off on a road trip or two before the end of the year but there are a few audio projects that I must attend to first. In the meantime, I’ll be continuing to go through my many photos from my SE Asia trip earlier this year. Yes, I have a ton more to get through and post. I’m planning to do a newsletter/blog update 1 or twice a month to keep my photography side busy along with doing some local excursions. Until then I hope everyone is well and have a great weekend!
Mahalo nui loa for reading and following!
The picture above is just a glimmer into what Batanes had to offer. Batanes is the northern most province of the Philippines and it’s where my maternal grandmother was born and raised. It’s a land of untouched beauty that reminded me of what Hawaii must have been like before tourism got a stronghold on it and it also gave me an insight to where my beloved Paga came from. Paga was our family nickname for my grandmother Matilde Alamillo, whose roots began in 1909 in the small, quiet, rural town of Basco.
It all started with a few key names that my Auntie Rose provided me when I mentioned to her that I was planning a trip to Batanes. She asked that maybe I could look into some of the civil records and also the churches to see if they had further information on her mother’s family. All it took was for me to mention that my grandma was born in Basco and was from the Abengana and Librero family and within 4 days, I had discovered and had been embraced by both families as if I was born there myself. This place is so small everyone knows each other and my guide Danny was key in helping me put the pieces of the puzzle together on my maternal grandmother’s side. By the end of the first day, I had met multiple aunts on the Abengana side and met the current matriarch of the Librero family. The native group in Batanes are the Ivatan and it was funny because as I met new people and family, they would look at me and say, “You look Ivatan.” Turns out that my family has a strong foundation back in Batanes and with the beauty of it’s landscapes meeting my new found family on this island definitely makes me want to come back.
Batanes is starting to get more attention from tourists, primarily local Filipinos with 90% being from the Philippines and about 10% of foreigners. They’re promoting eco-tourism and I’m a huge supporter of it because now that I know I have family here that live and enjoy this beautiful part of the earth, I certainly do not want it to be exploited in any way.
Life here is slow and simple where the living is made from farming and fishing. The airport is literally walking distance to downtown with no traffic and transportation is either a van for tours, motorbikes, a few jeepneys and by boat. The people here are so laid back more so than Hawaii I think and there’s no rush even when there are blackouts and water can’t be pumped. My last night in Batanes was spent with my Tita Petra and the Amboy family and as we were arriving at our host’s house, there was a total blackout. Back home people would be in a bit of a panic because so much of our world thrives on electricity, the family here just simply kicked back, continued on preparing dinner with flashlights and candles and offered me some beer to pass the time. It’s a world where disconnecting isn’t a factor because they’re still trying to solidly connect with the rest of the world. Cellphone usage and texts are easily attainable but internet and wifi is very spotty. Though as my days were spent, I loved disconnecting and just taking it all in. I could come back here annually to just get away from it all for a few weeks.
In terms of the family I discovered, once they found out I was in town to trace my grandmother’s roots and we were able to square away the connection between us, they took me in with open hearts and many dinners. 🙂 The closest relation I found was my Tita Petra Abengana Lizardo. She is the daughter of my great-grandfather’s brother, Juan who was the youngest of the family. She is an absolute sweetheart and have been told that when I return to not bother renting a room but to stay with her. She has 4 daughters and 2 sons, one of which is a tour guide on the island.
She’s a great cook too who made sure I had a bunch of food when I left the island to take back to Manila. I also connected with the Librero family where my great-great grandmother was from. I met my Aunt Leo and her husband Jose and I also met the matriarch of their family, Lola Valentina Enciso Librero who was married to Graciano Librero. Aunt Leo has a brother Ike and Rocopio. They invited me dinner on Wednesday night for authentic Ivatan cuisine and I have to say my meals in Batanes were the best since I’ve been here in the PI. Everything is organic, nothing processed, all fresh fish, vegetables and organic meats. For a girl from CA, this was awesome. 🙂
Aside from meeting family, of course I took in the sites. I toured the northern part of Batan Island, the first and last days, which also included an excursion into an old Japanese tunnel from WWII. I have a gopro video that I’ll post when I return.
The second day I took a boat ride to the nearby island of Sabtang which is even more rural that Batan. My cousin Malia would have probably freaked out that I rode on this boat but hey that’s traveling right? 😉 It’s just as beautiful with amazing beaches, ridiculously clear water and lush rolling hills.
Many of the homes in Batanes are made of stone as they are prone to typhoons. Here on Sabtang, most if not all homes are made of a combination of stone, coral and cement. Winds here on an average day can gust up to 20-30mph and at times hinders trips for boats and the few flights that come into Basco. My own flight was delayed about 3 hours because of winds.
My third day touring was of the southern part of Batan Island. The landscapes seemed more dramatic with the rock formations and outcrops of Alapat to the rolling, pasture lands of Malboro county. Batanes has been compared to New Zealand in many ways but I feel that Batanes will give NZ a run for it’s money in terms of untouched lands.
I plan to return here for sure and hopefully bring some family members to join me to not only enjoy scenery but to especially meet our new family. It’s totally worth it and also worth disconnecting for a few weeks and get down to simply living. Just take it from this dog I saw napping on the beach. 😉 I’m back in Manila for the weekend but my next blog will be from Chiang Mai Thailand next week. Mahalo for following and have a great weekend everyone!
It’s Sunday evening here in Quezon City and I finally have a decent wifi spot and time to catch up on my blog. It’s moments like these where you’re not moving around that are sometimes the best on a vacation. But I have to wake up yet again at a crazy hour for my flight to Batanes at 6am. It’s 8:15pm and I’m hoping to at least get 5 hours rest before I wake up at 3am. Oy!
Anyway, before I left for Cebu last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to take a tour of a place in Manila called Intramuros. It’s a walled city that was once the center of Spanish Manila. It was a walking tour with a guide named Carlos Celdron and he only does this on weekends. It was a really big group comprised of foreigners and locals. He puts on a bit of a show while doing the tour and his famous phrase is, “Walk this way!” Carlos marks himself by wearing a bowler hat like the famous painting, The Son of Man, by Rene Magritte. We started at the formal entrance to Intramuros and made our way to one of the main attractions of the tour, Fort Santiago featured above. With Carlos’s flamboyant nature he described the history of the Philippines and the various cultures that occupied the country, most importantly the Catholic religion. He’s a proud Filipino and he shows it through his enthusiasm and dramatics during his tour. He made sure to tell us about the many cultures and countries that occupied the Philippines, from Spain with the Catholic Church, the US and Japan and their military presence, to the Chinese. Should you go on his tour, he enjoyed emphasizing things with belting out various words in his description of the history and strong, silent pauses. 🙂
(Sorry for the funky stretch – still squaring away how WP works :)) All in all, he was very informative. Once we were in Fort Santiago, he got into the history of the national hero of Philippine history, Jose Rizal, which was also the site of his execution. He was an author, poet, nationalist and revolutionary. He was not only well-versed but well-traveled and educated with travels to Belgium and Spain. Upon his return to the Philippines, he was already named an enemy of the state by the Spanish authorities because of one of his novels named Noli me Tangere, which means “Touch me Not,” which criticized the Spanish friars and the Catholic Church. That of course did not sit well with them and was a driving force for his execution. He was killed at the young age of 35.
The next big site on the tour was San Agustin Church and Monastery, which survived the Battle of Manila. The interior was very ornate and opulent, as we arrived a wedding had just finished there. It’s the oldest stone church in the Philippines that was built in 1589. We then ended our tour across the way at a restaurant called Barbara’s, where we were served some yummy halo halo, a well-known dessert, which means, “Hodge-Podge,” where it’s a mixture of shaved ice, evaporated milk with a mixture of sweet beans, jellos, and fruits. Carlos made an analogy that Filipinos are like halo-halo, as the culture and people really are a mix of all the cultures that have landed here and influenced the country and people. Should you come here to Manila, it’s certainly worth it and maybe come here a little earlier too to explore things on your own as well. You can find Carlos on the internet and his number is also in the Lonely Planet guide book.
The next day was spent with my sister in law’s brother, Hyman and his wife, Ling-Ling. I was brought up to a nice club that overlooked the city of Manila. Ling-Ling and I enjoyed a nice brunch and then I indulged in yet another massage. 😉 I tell you I’ve received some of the best massages here for a really inexpensive price. We then hung out and went to a movie, Robocop, and enjoyed some delicious dim sum at one of the largest restaurants I’ve ever seen called Gloria Maris.
On Monday, I joined Esper, Hilda and Ate Zin to a beautiful resort called Anvaya Cove in Subic Bay about 2 1/2 -3 hours north of Manila. It was an early start but we enjoyed a zip line and basically hung out at the pool and relaxed. It’s certainly a place I’d go back to again. On the drive up, we passed by Clark AFB where my sister, Cindy was born. It’s now officially closed and is now a big airport here in the country but it was cool to see where my dad was stationed. Subic Bay was also a major naval shipyard and base but is now no longer a US military base but in order to reach Anvaya we had to drive through the base. I got to see what a huge impact and presence our US military had there. It was then back to Manila that night as I prepared for my trip to Cebu to meet my family on my mom’s side. Next entry will be Cebu. It’s about 9pm now and so I’ll close and post about Cebu hopefully tomorrow. I have some open time when I arrive in Batanes and so I’ll do my best to post if not I’ll post upon my return on Friday morning. Thanks again for following and now for my 5-6 hour sleep. Zzzzzzzzz…
This is my official welcome to my blog where I’ll showcase photos that I’ve taken through the year and throughout my travels. The photo above has become one of my favorites and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I plan to share more of these types of moments with you in the next few months as I embark on another trip of a lifetime.
As many of you know, I’ve been in the middle of packing up and I’m about to move out of the beloved Pacific Palisades and head out to Southeast Asia on February 4th for about 7 weeks. My apartment is stuffed with boxes but my audio side is amazed at how much of it is a handy form of acoustical treatment. 🙂 Yes I’m a geek.
Anyway, on 2/4 I’ll be traveling to the Philippines for 2 weeks and then head to Chiang Mai in Thailand for about 4 days. After that, I’ll meet up with my friend Betty in Hanoi, Vietnam and we’ll travel from north to south to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). We’ll then cross the border into Cambodia to discover the temples of Angor Wat and cross over to Bangkok where we’ll part ways. I’ll end my trip in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. I’m definitely looking forward to it and I can’t wait to see what I end up capturing both visually and aurally.
So keep posted via this blog, you can follow me through an RSS Feed which you can subscribe to but these posts will also be updated via FB and Tumblr. I hope I’ll have a good amount of wifi access throughout my travels but I’ll be checking in with my family to let them know that I’m okay. 😉
Mahalo for following and aloha!