Thank you, 2016.

When a blogger friend asked me about a year ago if 10 years hence I could still see myself doing this — traveling, writing, and writing about traveling — my answer was an unequivocal yes. Travel is the food of my soul, I’ve said; writing is part of who I am. This blog was the perfect convergence of both and not in a million years (or ten) could I imagine giving it up.

Which answer perhaps does not explain why I’ve only published three posts in the last three months and traveled not even once.

Sometimes I suspect I’ve simply lost the will to write; at other times I think I’m just too busy. Neither is completely true, though both have a grain of truth in them. Even the most dedicated writers have times where they just don’t feel like writing, and I’ve definitely been feeling a lot of that lately. I’ve also found it difficult to dedicate sufficient time to the discipline of wordsmithing, now that I’ve taken upon myself a bit of additional responsibility at home.

But also…I like to think that 2016 has simply been a hiatus of sorts.

A break, that’s all.

I like to think I’ve simply given myself permission to, well, simplify my life: to let go of things that don’t add joy, to take it easy on things that aren’t urgent, and to focus on those that are necessary and important.

To take care of myself and those who rely on me.

And if the blog falls by the wayside a bit, so be it. I can always pick it up again.

2016 has been a year of regrouping, of learning, of being still and taking stock, of healing, of building strength. It’s been an opportunity to pause and absorb and break and recalibrate and ask oneself the really tough questions. But for me, it’s also been a chance to partake of the smallest, purest joys of life, and to bask in the joy of life itself.

It was a good year. It was. Many people don’t think so but I do. Oh, 2017 will be something, for sure — I’ve lots of plans already, can’t wait — but 2016 was something else. And for that, and for all that I have…

Especially this lot.

…I’m thankful.

Happy new year everyone!



No, I’m Not Always Traveling

And other common misconceptions about people who love to travel

Northloom_Passport Holder_Backpack

I’ve just finished preparing a rough budget for a trip I plan to take next year with my family, and against every fiber of yearning in my body, I’ve come to accept the inevitable conclusion: I can’t afford it.

I started saving for the trip last January. It wouldn’t have been till April next year, so I still have nearly 10 months to save some more. I found a really good price for the plane tickets (and it doesn’t even involve Sheremetyevo). And I actually earn an okay income for someone who works part time.

But despite all that, I still can’t afford the trip.

Just…can’t. Not next year anyway.

And so because I’m feeling really frustrated about it at the moment, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the most common misconceptions that people have about people who like to travel.

No. 1
No, we don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around.

Some people are born into money and go globe-trotting even before they are potty trained.

Most of us aren’t those people.

Most of us are able to travel because we save for it.

Sometimes we really, really, really want to go somewhere and we can’t because we don’t have the budget for it. Sometimes it takes us years to save for one trip. Sometimes we save for years and it still isn’t enough. And that’s okay — not asking for sympathy, but not gonna apologize either for those times we are able to save enough.

Travel, really, is just one of those things that you decide to do and then you try to find a way to do it. It’s like when you decide to buy, say, an iPhone or a car or a house — none of which I have, by the way — and you find a way to fit the monthly payments into your budget. It’s not something you just have, it’s something you work for.

It’s funny because sometimes, when you’re traveling, people will say, “oh, wow, you must have lots of money,” and they just don’t realize that at that exact moment, you’re actually feeling like you’re practically bleeding money because you’ve spent so much already and you know it will take you a long, long time to earn that money back.

There are exceptions, obviously, but most of us — we don’t travel because we’re worth a lot, we travel because travel is worth a lot. The experience is worth the money we lose doing it.
Continue reading

Blue and Good

At this time last week I was with my family on a beach in Davao. 

My niece Syd, because I didn't do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

My niece Syd, because I didn’t do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

This week, right now, past midnight, my sunburned little nose is still stuck in front of the computer because I have to catch up on all the work I wasn’t able to do while on vacation.

It’s all good.

I don’t have much but I have a life that lets me do a little bit of everything I want and need to do, and, most importantly, lets me be with the people I love most almost all the time. It’s a good life. I am thankful.

The irony of freedom

Reflections on the EDSA revolution and the ramifications of victory, thirty years later

Photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer / BOY CABRIDO

Photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer / BOY CABRIDO

It’s the sad irony of freedom that those who enjoy it have the full right to spit on it.

If it was within my power, I would happily resurrect Marcos, give him an entire country, and place there anyone and everyone who wants to be ruled by him — on the condition that they can’t leave.

Not even when they realize they should have been more careful of what they wished for.

Because that’s what dictatorship is.

You don’t get to say, “I’ve had enough now; I’d like to opt out.”

You don’t get to say, “I’d like the laws to be enforced but not THAT way.”

You don’t get to say, “You can’t punish that person — he’s innocent!”

You don’t get to say, “Wait a minute, this is getting out of hand.”

You don’t even get to say, “What are you talking about? I have the RIGHT to decide what I get to say.”

No, you DON’T have the right. In a dictatorship, you shut your mouth, keep your head down, and pray to the high heavens that the persons you entrusted with absolute power are not abusing it. And if you notice they are? You still have to shut your mouth and keep your head down — unless you want to join the steadily growing number of people who are taken in the dead of night and not talked about in the light of day.

I am honestly SICK of all the people who talk about the Marcos days like they were some kind of Golden Age of Philippine history.

The fact that you and your family did not personally suffer the atrocities of Macoy and his ass-kissers does not give you the right to deny, belittle, or whitewash the kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder of so many of your own countrymen.

The fact that the Philippines has many problems at present does not give you the right to say to Filipinos who suffered in the past: “I do not believe you.”

The fact that you don’t like the current president does not give you the right to question the heroism of his parents, of Lorenzo Tañada, of Joker Arroyo, of the elderly men who linked arms against the government’s water cannons and tear gas, of the COMELEC tabulators who walked out to protest the cheating in the snap elections, of the young nuns who stood in the front lines of the revolution armed only with flowers and rosaries, of the thousands who decided — those fateful few days in 1986 — that they have had enough of the repression and human rights abuses and were going to do something about it.

You know what DOES give you that right? Freedom. The freedom fought for by the very people whose legacy you are pissing on.

For better or worse, you have that right, and if I could, I would give you what you wish for — a Marcos-style dictatorship — if only to get you out of your YouTube-propaganda-paid-website-induced stupor.

But I can’t. I can only grit my teeth and declare, in the vein of Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Even if you damn well don’t deserve it.

Look who conquered his fear of flying!

SGMT children conquer fear flying 01

Yay! 🙂 🙂

I wish I could say it’s because we did everything “right” this time, compared to last time, but we didn’t. Last time, we showed him cartoons that featured flying. We prepped him on what the plane and the airport would be like. We went on a flight that coincided with sleeping time so he would be more likely to sleep through it. We brought milk and books and toys and an iPad full of his favorite song videos. Nothing worked. In the end, it took about two hours to calm him down, most of it with him in my arms as I stood at the back of the plane, rocking him gently and humming “Take Me Home, Country Roads” over and over again. (I don’t remember why I thought of that song but it turns out it lends itself excellently to repetitive humming.)

This time, all we did was bring a single book and a few packets of peanuts.

The truth is, there are lots of things we can’t control, no matter how hard we try. Kids are especially tricky because they can’t yet process information the way adults can. Things that seem irrational to us can seem very real and overwhelming to the little ones. And there’s no use saying, “Oh, but this kid can do that” or “that kid can do this.” We’re made of different stuff. Due partly to genes and partly to early experiences, some kids are better at handling stuff, just as some kids are more sociable, some kids are smarter, some kids are cuter, and some kids, you can tell as early as now, are potential axe murderers.

We’re all works in progress and kids even more so. Sometimes — many times — the best thing to do is to just let go and let each child develop at his or her own pace. It’s not a race. And just as victories are sweeter after you’ve tasted a few defeats, something so ordinary, a sight as simple-seeming, as a kid sitting calmly on an airplane seat can give much greater joy after you’ve tried humming “Take Me Home, Country Roads” for two hours straight.

Well done, little one! 🙂

SGMT children conquer fear flying 02

Look who conquered his fear of flying!
© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.