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!
My sister-in-law’s (Irene) sister, Esper picked me up from the airport and we were lucky that we bypassed the gnarly traffic that Manila is known for. Despite my late arrival, I was greeted with food. Filipinos love to eat and Irene’s youngest sister, Hilda has already vowed to make me fat by the time I leave the Philippines and at this rate that will more than likely be true. My late night meal consisted of rice, upo (squash) and some yummy or in Tagalog, sarap Shanghai rolls, kind of like small lumpia and fresh mango. Quite delicious and then it was off to bed. I was grateful that I arrived at night because I was able to sleep pretty well on my first night as it’s 16 hours ahead of LA.
The next morning started pretty early with of course some breakfast, fresh coconut, rice, eggs and pork. Not my typical breakfast like LA which usually consists of almond milk, flax cereal and a green vitamin drink. LOL My stomach is holding up well despite it expanding each day. Here’s a helpful plug for travelers, definitely invest in Ortho Biotic probiotics, it totally helps in making sure your gastrointestinal system is healthy. Okay enough of that. 🙂
We were then off to Tagaytay. I was joined by Esper, Hilda and their cousin Ate Zin. Ate, pronounced as A-teh is used in a respectful way for an older female relative or peer. It’s about 2 hours south of Manila and it was then that I saw the true madness of Manila traffic. I will snap a photo of it when I have the chance later today. I’ve never seen this type of traffic madness in any other city and talk about skill for not having multiple dents in their cars or taking people out on their motorcycles, the jeepneys and trikes as well as pedestrians walking wherever they please. LA has nothing on Manila when it comes to traffic. Our drivers here certainly have a special talent.
After escaping the day traffic of Manila, we arrived in Tagaytay. This city is known for it’s amazing views and you’re able to see down into the Taal Volcano that is still steaming. In the main photo of this entry, you’re able to see it on the right hand side. It’s behind the crater that you may see at first in the front. That main body of water is Taal Lake and we had the pleasure of eating at a restaurant called Josephine’s for some authentic Filipino food along with being able to enjoy the view.
My hosts were apparently told that I wanted to get up close and personal with the volcano, when in reality I just wanted to see the view since it was marked as one of the 1000 places to see before you die. I had to reaffirm them that I wasn’t planning on riding a horse to the top of the steaming volcano but when they told me that was something I could do, it was an activity I started to entertain. Esper and Ate Zin said that I was going alone and that they would stay on the other side of shore. LOL
Before we made the trek down to the shore, we visited a honeybee farm called Ilog Maria, that made some great soaps, shampoos and various products which of course featured honey. After that we briefly visited their family home in Tagaytay which when my brother Kevin visited here came across a huge monitor lizard. No lizard this time.
We then were finally on our way to the shore and after some convincing to Esper, we all boarded a boat to get closer to Taal Volcano. Our boat was called Ocean Lucky and I of course had my handy recorder with me. 🙂 It was definitely worth trekking to the other side and hearing about how it’s still so hot below in the water that other spots in surrounding areas still steam aside from the crater itself. The water in the crater apparently still bubbles up because it’s so hot. Yeesh! Yet the water was pristine and so blue, they also had several fish traps that farmed milkfish and talapia (photo will be posted later). Our boat driver showed us the trail that the horses go up to and as tempting as it was I opted not to as we got there around 4pm and hadn’t docked on the other side. It takes about an hour round trip and by that time the sun would begin it’s descent. It did kind of freak me out that it might be getting darker as I headed back down the crater. But regardless, the sights were beautiful and I would certainly return to this area and next time plan for an earlier time to ride the horse up the Taal crater.
As we headed back, what took us about 2 hours to get to Tagaytay it was like double that to get back into Manila. Holy crap was traffic insane! I thought we were originally going back home but of course we made a stop to eat – ha! We grubbed at a place called Frankie’s that served some yummy chicken wings and of course I accompanied that with some cold beer. I ended the night with a full-body massage which was the perfect way to end the long day.
After a good night’s rest, I’m able to kind of just relax this morning and get my mind straight from jetlag, food, more food and food. LOL I’ll be joining my brother’s mother-in-law today for lunch and then will be taking a tour of Intramuros, which is a walled city that was the heart of Spanish Manila. It’ll be good to take a dose of history today. Till next time, “Paalam na.”