We are a simple family. When we travel, we avoid staying at expensive hotels or resorts. We prefer to stay with family, friends, or at AirBnb places. Our two-week stay in Dumaguete in January 2016 was no different. There are many choices for staying in Dumaguete. One can stay in the city itself, in one of its many hotels, BnBs, and hostels. Most of the AirBnb places are not in the city center though and we think that’s well and good. After hours of looking on AirBnb and actually driving around on our rented motorbike, we found a small farmhouse in a town outside of the city, and it was the perfect place to stay for the New Year and the days after. We played many games of Dobble, Fabio’s Christmas present for Lia, and watched movies. On New Year’s Eve, all three of us laid on the hammock, covered with a warm blanket, and watched and counted shooting stars in the night sky – the distant sounds of firecrackers, and fireworks a faint glint in the far horizon.
As a mother, I know enough not to judge anybody else’s parenting or mothering skills or approach. I always say that we can only parent the way we know how, and in the way we know best. No one can teach you to become a good mother or parent. We all just do the best we can. And this is a story of how I did it, at least in all the past seven years. Last year, I embarked on this two-month journey on my own to find myself and thankfully, I did. I came home with the realisation that I must prepare my daughter for a life without me and I came home with a journal. In this journal, I write letters to her when I can, for her to read in the future when she is much older and hopefully, much wiser. Let me share with you what I wrote on the very first page…
The past three years have been a whirlwind of airports around the world, visiting friends, relatives, and close family members all scattered in different parts of the world. I have given myself the title of “serial entrepreneur” after having had or started 8 businesses in the past 5 years: a rock and artists bar, an educational tours company, three online retail stores, a local travel agency,a boutique, a milk tea shop, a beach resort, and a beach bar. I am not stopping. I am a writer at heart. I love art. Art inspires my writing, as does music and performances. I used to think that in order for me to be an artist I had to be full of angst and desperation. After many travels and much contemplation, I realised that I am an artist powered by joy. I make art when I am happy.
And I am happy. Despite many wanderings, and many attempts at putting roots somewhere and anywhere, I have finally accepted that “home is not sticks and stones”. I have found home where I have found love. And there is love everywhere. And love is with me.
Capo Caccia is situated a few kilometres from Alghero, on the southern point of a huge limestone triangle that wedges out into the sea. There are characteristic, impressive cliffs (nearly 300 m high) on its west side. It is renowned for the underground labyrinth of mysterious caves discovered in 1700. The most famous one is Grotta di Nettuno (2500 m long) that can be reached by sea or on ground climbing the 656 steps of Escala del Cabirol that lead to the cave. Although we did not venture to these caves or the grotto because of Lia, the view itself was enough for us. And I guess for others too.
So off to France we went, even if it was just Briançon, because it is an hour’s drive from Bardonecchia. We passed by skiing resorts and towns with die-hard skiers still racing after the very last remnants of winter snow. Briançon a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. It is the highest city in France with an altitude of 1,326 metres (4,350 feet).
The family arrived in Italy on April 6th and spent some days in Torino before going for a 1-hour drive to Bardonecchia – one of Italy’s original alpine skiing resorts. Bardonecchia is located in the upper part of Val di Susa in the Alps, with the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The resort is situated on the French border, due west of Torino (Turin).
Lia almost always does not want her photos taken – unless it is of her making bubbles – then she is all up for it! Here are some photos I took of her blowing home made bubbles in the garden using a Nikkor 50mm lens.
I have been meaning to write this post as this happened three and a half months ago but I have been extremely busy. I used to blog everyday. Before I moved to El Nido, I posted something twice or thrice a day. One would think that with my moving to El Nido, to live in a native cottage that is roughly 15 square meters, with just the most basic necessities, without air conditioning and television, far away from the city, I would have more time to blog. As it is, I have barely written anything noteworthy since I sort of officially, permanently, moved here half a year ago.
Anyway, my 4-year old daughter and I went to an afternoon party at a beachfront restaurant along Corong-Corong Beach where we live. At the party, my daughter found one of her best friends, our 5-year old French neighbor, and together, they went swimming. They were out on a paddle board, while two Filipino boys ages 10-12 were on two surf boards following along and keeping watch. I was sitting on a bench on the beach, watching all of them from a distance.
I saw my daughter waist-deep in the water, as she had probably fallen off the paddle board, and heard her screaming “Help! Help!” while making frantic wading motions in the water. I ran towards her as fast as I could. By the time I got to where they were, my daughter Lia was already lying face down on one of the surf boards with one of the local boys. One of the boys had managed to fish her out of the water and up on the board. She was quiet but breathing heavily. I called out her name, and she slid off the surf board. She ran towards me. I was unsure of what was happening and I immediately took her into my arms, and felt the stings on my arms and my stomach, where her legs had touched my skin. “Ah, jellyfish!” and I put her back. There was no way I would be able to carry her myself back to shore so I borrowed the surf board from the boy and paddled us both back to shore.
On the shore, I walked towards the restaurant and calmly asked for a glass of vinegar. I poured the vinegar all over my daughter, all over her stomach, arms, hands, legs, chest, as well as on her face and ears. The owners and the staff came running to assist. She still had a lot of tentacles wrapped around her hands and legs. We picked them off of her one by one. We used two full glasses of vinegar on her.
My daughter was crying but not screaming. She was very brave and strong. I kept asking her if it hurt and she kept saying yes but she was very calm. She kept asking me to take her home and give her a bottle of milk that she takes as comfort food. I rushed her home up the path to the road, into a tricycle, off again into the street, down the path at the back of our house and all the way home to our cottage by the beach. I gave her a quick bath and gave her some paracetamol for what I expected would be a quiet night of applying hot water on the stings every now and then.
The locals said she would be fine, that there was nothing else I should do, that the stings would start to get itchy the next day but everything would be okay.
That’s when I took a photo of her right leg.
The first time I was here was eight years ago and I have always felt that this place was “home,” but when I decided to permanently move back to El Nido this year, I was not as prepared as I thought I was. The first month was truly difficult as my daughter and I went through the tedious process of looking for a house where we both could live peacefully and happily, and feel truly “at home” in all meanings of the words, and the adjustment to the weather, to the flora and fauna, and the new environment took its toll on our health.
For me, it was not so much about location, as I was not too keen on living by the beach front, but was most concerned about cost AND the speed of the internet connection. I have said this often to anyone who cared to listen, “The two things that make me happiest are, 1. really good coffee and, 2. really fast internet connection.” So I was looking for houses near where I knew, from experience, internet connection was fast enough, if not the fastest, in all of the town; but my daughter had an entirely different perspective about this new home of ours.She, of course, did not care about the cost, being four years old, and cared only a little about the speed of the internet connection. Lia was most concerned about comfort and her own idea of happiness – the beach, and being a child, lots of space to run around.
I was not too surprised when, going around houses in the middle of El Nido town, Lia did not find anything she liked enough. She only liked one house, its old paint made pale pink through neglect, because it was really big, with its three rooms and spacious living areas and a garden and yard going around the entirety of the house, that I was told rented out at Php20,000/month. There is only me and my daughter so we did not really need a three-roomed house, and so I started looking farther out of town where I thought it was going to be cheaper. In the end, we found the house a friend of mine was living in last year empty and available, and it sat directly on the beach. Lia, exclaimed exuberantly, “We’re home!” When your 4-year old child declares you are home, you just have to believe that and trust in her instincts. After, of course, checking out how fast the internet connection is. Never mind if it is an expensive bahay kubo! You are paying more for the view – and the opportunity to walk barefoot on the sand everyday, than the house itself.
For my part, I was paying more for my daughter’s happiness. Because as long as she is happy, then I can be happy. And I am saying that realistically. My daughter and I live alone, just the two of us. I have to be able to work, and take care of her, and do all of the house chores all by myself, and all these depend on whether or not she is happily skipping about, or digging sand castles in the yard, rather than clinging to my legs or walking about with a dour face, ninety-seven percent of the time.
I have not been blogging in the past months because between trying to make a home for just two people and trying to make a living, I just had my hands full. The first month was the most difficult as we both had to deal with adjusting to the weather, the island fauna, maladies of all nature, and just getting the basic necessities inside the house. I know I have been living in this little town on and off through the years, one week to two months every year in the past seven years after the initial ten months in 2005-2006, but there is nothing like leaving one home to another that was completely empty. When, after a full month, I went to Puerto Princesa to buy a stove, a rice cooker, a coffee maker, dishes and bowls, utensils and water glasses, brooms and dust pans and trash cans, non-slip bathroom mats, laundry baskets and clothes racks, hooks and hangers, and all kinds of foot rugs, was I ever truly able to breath and exclaim, “Oh, what joy!!”
Our first month was spent getting to know the neighbors, and acquiring a dog, in the process. Elvis, the black Labrador-Doberman mix dog, is our neighbor’s. But he spends the entire day with us while his “dad” goes to work diving during the day. He is Lia’s play mate, and they are almost best friends.
The SM City Fairview Annex Atrium was jam packed with moms, dads, kids, kids-at-heart, babies in strollers, mascots, as well as all kinds of cartoon character goodies this Friday afternoon. We quickly circled the entire area to find entrances, and to get an idea of the event’s general lay out, so we knew what we needed to do in that sea of people. Stage and audience area on one end, the booths and play centers in the middle, and the gift shop on the other end, next to the registration booth and main entrance to the cartoon fest. Check!
We went around the booths as the characters were being introduced one by one onstage and the booths were still empty. We found a booth that Lia loved at first sight: the Barbie Ballerina booth, where there was a table for coloring pages and activity books, as well as a table where she could get her nails painted. My 4-year old daughter did not like the idea of having her nails painted, but took a seat without a moment’s hesitation on the activity table and started coloring Barbie pages.
She had to stop coloring when Spongebob went onstage and shrieked with delight upon the explosion of the confetti. Confetti that kids would love throwing onstage, up in the air, and at each other, afterwards.
At five o’clock, the characters went to their respective booths one by one so kids could come meet them, or have their photos taken with them. Lia, upon going through all the booths, also one by one, and overwhelmed with the mascots’ sizes, said they were all scary so we went around the shop instead. And here is where she found the most joy, amidst the Barbies.
The SM Cartoon Fest is launching this coming Friday at SM Fairview from 4pm onwards. Go and bring the kids and the kids at heart!
Expecting a deluge of kids and kids-at-heart with their families at the SM Supermalls this summer, the country’s largest chain of malls is launching the biggest and only gathering of 38 cartoon characters in 44 malls nationwide on April 12. Dubbed “ SM Toonfest”, the summer-long festival that ends May 31 will feature a never-seen-before number of activities and cartoon-related toys and interesting finds for the whole family and the cartoon-lover to enjoy.
It was a really fun Easter activity for the kids last Sunday at the Greenhills branch of Young Artists’ Studio.
Lia had been really looking forward to this egg painting activity and she was delighted to see the venue. The Young Artists’ Studio is located inside Sound Learning Therapy Center on the 3rd floor of the Promenade Bldg. at the corner of Wilson St. and P. Guevarra St., Greenhills, San Juan.
“According to his family, the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo loved writing them letters. When he was in Germany for official business in 1992, he wrote this letter to his oldest daughter Aika, who was four years old at the time.
Photo from Aika Robredo/Robredo family via GMA NEWS”
I was in El Nido when news of Jesse Robredo’s plane crash reached me and I spent days, agonized, hoping, praying, wishing for the best but bracing myself for the worst, on standby for the latest news and updates by the minute, by the hour, like he was my own father. And I wondered how I could be so distressed about someone whom I have not really known.
Born in Naga City and raised in Pili, Camarines Sur, I only spent four years in Naga as a student at the Colegio de Sta. Isabel. I saw him around a lot, and his family, as I was schoolmates with one of his nieces; but being young and carefree, I never really knew him for the great man he was.
But I have been a witness to how this man transformed the city and everyone around him through his words and actions.
And I wept and wept with the rest of my fellow Bicolanos at his early and unexpected demise. And maybe, we were also weeping for the loss of the country. He was a great man.
And he was great, not only because of what he has done, but what he stood for.
Public servant, friend, uncle, husband, father.
I still wept when I saw this letter, as if I was his daughter, and understanding the pains of being separated from one’s child because you have a job that a lot of people need you to be a better person for. And perhaps, I still will when I reread it. Over and over. This sadness just does not stop; but we all have to move on, whatever it is we are going through at this moment, or this day, or even tomorrow, we just have to keep moving forward. Stand on your two feet, put a smile on your face, and most especially, do not spend your time crying.
I just feel that this needs to be shared.
Having finally decided that Lia and I will never come back to live in Bicol, we embarked on a road trip to haul all of our stuff back to Manila. We used to travel together every two weeks when Lia and I were both based in Bicol in 2011 but this was Lia’s first return trip to Bicol after leaving nearly ten months before. We allotted two out of the three-day long weekend for just driving the 900+ kilometers back and forth, and only one day to stay and roam around the area. This mainly meant having coffee at Starbucks Magsaysay, dropping by Bigg’s Diner and Red Platter, having kinalas and puto bucayo. Of course we could have done more but with the limited time, we had to prioritize the ones I missed the most.
I have always wanted to go up and visit Stonehouse Gardens, and because we had no plans of ever coming back, it was imperative that we go this time.
We arrived a few minutes before four in the afternoon on the first Saturday of December. The sun was nearly at the horizon and behind the clump of trees by the fence. After refreshing ourselves with glasses of juice served by the resort and take-out food from Bigg’s Diner, we went on a walk around the place and took photos. The setting sun gave just the right light for what would become some of my favorite photos for the year 2012.