Remember what matters

In the time and money black hole that is December, sometimes we forget that urgent does not equal important. We get so caught up in the things we have to do that we forget the people we’re doing them for.

You’ve probably seen this video — it’s been shared a lot in social media — but if you haven’t, it’s only two minutes and very worth the time it takes to watch it. I’m still blinking back tears. A timely reminder, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

Remember what matters | © Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 


The old passports got dusted off yesterday because the UK visa application form asked for a list of countries I’d visited in the last 10 years. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t count the number of countries I’d been to — I just don’t want to feel, I said, like I’d turned my back on the rat race only to join the passport stamp race — but now I have a rough idea of the number because the application only lets you list 10. (I think. I didn’t count, but it looked like you could enter 10 before the “Add” button disappears.)

Anyway, this is from my first ever passport:

First passport_

And then of course nostalgia set in, and I sought out the stamps from my very first trip out of the Philippines.

First stamps

I’m not sure I can say I’ve been traveling since I was a kid. I’ve been hopping on planes since I was a kid, yeah — perks of having a father who fixes planes for a living — but they were mostly to visit family within the Philippines and although those trips introduced me to LRTs and rivers and pineapple fields, everything else was familiar. My first real I’m-not-in-Kansas-anymore moment was Hong Kong. And that was so long ago, they didn’t have a Disneyland yet.

I remember a lot of things from that trip. I remember walking out of the airport with my mother, father, and sister, and being greeted by a waft of cool air. We’d expected Hong Kong weather to be just like the Philippines’ and were totally unprepared for the much lower temps.

I remember staying in Booth Lodge, in a spacious family room that my father — the original fastidious travel planner — managed to find and book even in the toddler days of the internet in our country.

I remember being a brat for two days. hangs head in shame

I remember going to the Ladies Market and the Night Market and being most attracted to a street performance using traditional Chinese instruments. I do remember buying a fuzzy green sweater with multi-colored cuffs; I loved it and used it for years afterwards, and I think it’s still actually lying around the house somewhere.

I remember being pushed by people getting on and off trains.

I remember drinking my first real iced tea, with honey.

And I remember sharing all that with the people I love most in the world. That feeling, I think, more than anything, is my most precious souvenir from that trip. It’s something I especially cherish because now my parents are getting older and life has changed so much. That was a landmark trip for my family, an entirely new, different adventure, one that introduced us to the world outside our own, and it was my father’s treat for my mother, sister and me. Someday, I want to treat them, and bring them to a world they’ve never yet seen. Someday…

Firsts” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 


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Today, I Hate Traveling

Osmena Peak Cebu 02

There is one time when I really, really hate traveling: the day before departure.

I hate leaving my family. I look at my son and I can’t imagine going just one day without seeing him, can’t imagine not being able to hug him whenever I want. I feel such an acute sense of homesickness that I am sometimes tempted not to leave.

Fear sets in too. What if something happens to me? Worse, what if something happens to them? How could I ever live with myself? And yet bad things could happen on land as on the air, at home as away, while working as on vacation. A life crippled by fear would be a life wasted.

Then there’s a bit of guilt. While I’m going on food trips, my mum will be feeding my son. While I trek through rice paddies and lie on the beach, my son will be traipsing around our backyard, without me to tell him to be careful. While I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before, it will be just another ordinary day for my family. And yet…well, I can’t think of a way to justify the inequality, except that I know I would wish the same thing for them too, that they will also be able to see the wonders of the world, and I know I will do whatever I can to make that happen.

These feelings pass, or rather they are consciously pushed to the back of the mind. They are eventually superseded by excitement or — more often, in my case — a mind-occupying flurry of last-minute packing and repacking. But they are very real and rather ironic for someone who loves travel. Sometimes I think traveling is really an act of faith — in the pilot, in yourself, in your family, in the future. You trust that everything will turn out well, during and after, though there are aren’t any guarantees and never will be.

Today, I Hate Traveling | LSS | Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 



Candles in Notre Dame (Paris, 2011)

In the Philippines, this weekend, we celebrate the dead. Not for Halloween — that’s a fairly newly come affair in these islands. Rather, November 1 (All Saints’ Day) and November 2 (All Souls’ Day) are when Filipinos flock to the cemeteries to offer flowers and candles to their loved ones who have gone ahead. Those who have found work elsewhere travel home, filling buses and boats and planes and trains starting today, October 31.

These are days of remembrance and reunions; families who rarely get to see each other during the rest of the year congregate around graves and exchange updates on each others’ lives. It is as much a celebration of life as it is an acknowledgement of the inevitable crossover; to the dead, we say “thank you” — and “see you, sooner or later.”


Remembrance” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Zigzag


I stumbled upon the Frioul islands on my first visit to Europe in 2011. I was traveling with my sister, and we had boarded the ferry from Marseille to Frioul with heavy hearts: we’d learned earlier in the day that our grandfather had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital back home and was not expected to make it. The bare but beautiful atmosphere of the Frioul island of Ratonneau — where I took this photo of colorful seaside houses, their zigzag walls a sharp contrast to the curves of plant, stone and water — suited our melancholy and gave us solace at the same time. It was a beautiful place for a walk, a dip, a picnic; for thinking deep thoughts and thinking about nothing in particular.

Though I did not know it then, 2011 was also the beginning of a tumultuous time in my life. Far from the nice, straight line I had envisioned it would be, it’s become…a zigzag? A spiral? A random scribble in a heartless notebook? With the end not in sight. Yet. But I know — I know — that whatever the trajectory of my life has become, it’s going to go somewhere and it will mean something. I will make it mean something. Meanwhile, I refuse to let the melancholy blind me to the beauty all around me, to the kindness and friendship and love that is still there, whatever else may have gone.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Zigzag” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.