Looking Back, Looking Forward

There’s no denying that the last part of 2017 pierced me like a dagger.  Just as I thought that 2017 inundated me with lots of good memories spent with family, friends, colleagues, and students- what do you know- out of an issue that was blown out of proportion and a decision which compelled someone to label me with unimaginable terms I could hardly swallow, I almost capped off this year with a broken soul.  But NO. I didn’t let that dagger get in the way of looking back at the best memories, and in the same way looking forward to a brighter 2018.



ig202017 made her graceful exit, but left me lessons which I continue to learn from.  It taught me to be grateful for the blessings I receive in life and in return share that blessings to others, be it in the form of talent, time, and material resources.  The more blessings one receives, one has to pay it forward, and I am thankful and happy that I get to share it with people who matter to me the most, without counting the cost.  It taught me to be kinder, it taught me to disregard what other people say out of that display of kindness.  Unfortunately being kind to others became my hamartia (In tragedy, it is commonly understood to refer to the protagonist’s error or tragic flaw that leads to a chain of plot actions culminating in a reversal of their good fortune to bad.-wikipedia.com).

2017 let me appreciate the people around me.  I think I have adjusted well enough especially with my relationship with  colleagues, and most especially, with  students.  Handling The Young Netizens Club (TYNC) this year with more than 40 members made me realize that I’ve got hands and arms to hold on to in pursuing my vision. I must say that these members have been a great part of spicing up my year.  We have encountered a lot of bumpy roads, but there’s always an opportunity to teach them lessons and values about life.  Each encounter has let me discover about myself as well as I discover something in them.

It sounds cliche, but this year has been a roller-coaster ride.  At least 2017’s better than the previous year.  I became grounded and resilient, which I think helped me in overcoming certain issues that I encountered this year.  I became passionate with certain individuals, I discovered secrets, I confronted people, and forged friendships with them.  I realized that you don’t need to leave home to experience all of these.  You don’t need to leave home to find yourself.  Just as Santiago in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist learned in his journey: “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” I have found my treasure here. At home. I couldn’t wish for anything else.

My wish this 2018?  Probably not for myself but for other people.  Not that I’m being selfish or what. My wish is that my friends would be kinder and more appreciative as they already are. I’m pretty sure that this year would be a blast and whatever is in store for me, let it be a surprise.  Carpe Diem!



#Yearender 20 FB posts that prove my 2016 was all about DRAMA.

Because 2016 is all about staying, leaving, and letting go.  Here’s a recap of my 2016 as “told” by my FB posts.


Enduring the long hours of travel going back to Manila with my friends.  The vessels were fully booked because everyone was returning from vacation as well.



Some trolls really loved to make this year a living hell for me. And I’m glad it was over.



Yeah, right.



Not sure if this post was meant for me or for someone else. I don’t know. Can’t remember really.



Happy Easter post is happy easter post.



This really happened.2016 and still the memories lingered.



I lived in a scary house. Strange things were happening there. Or I may be plain stupid and clumsy.



I have friends who are like that. And I’m so grateful for them.



This is the best thing that happened to me this 2016. No doubt.



Went back to teaching this year, and yes, lots of teacher post. This is one of them.





My longest birthday post to date.



First post about “crush”.



When Papa was in the hospital, I never really took pictures of him/with him. Probably I didn’t want to collect these kinds of memories. So this device just simply reminded me the struggles Papa had to deal with throughout the times he was in the hospital. Those times were the saddest times of my entire life.



One of the “Dear Crush” posts. Can’t remember the reason behind this post though.



Papa’s tragic passing was and will always be the saddest moment of my life. Here’s a post about reminiscing him and everything that he has done to me. I will always miss him.



When dear crush became a disappointment.






First Christmas without Papa. But still, it’s a merry Christmas.



Happy Birthday Papa! Grant us an awesome 2017.


11 Things People Don’t Realize You Are Doing Because Of Your Anxiety — Thought Catalog

Roberto Tumini1. Decline invites even when you really want to go. Sometimes, anxiety can be so debilitating, that you can’t muster enough energy to go out. No matter how excited you were for the event beforehand, when the day actually comes and your anxiety is in full force, you say no. You don’t want to be…

via 11 Things People Don’t Realize You Are Doing Because Of Your Anxiety — Thought Catalog

What If?

Keeping in touch with my friends from Manila makes me realize how much I miss the urban jungle.  And with all the fucked up events and little disappointments happening right here at home, I keep reconsidering all the choices I made.  Sometimes I wish I was still in Manila.  I’m encumbered with what ifs and I need to escape.


Still Breathing…

It’s been ages since my last blog entry.  Sundry compelling ideas have been running through my mind lately which I couldn’t put into writing. From summer escapades to my homecoming. Like a lot. Guess I was too busy on social media and I got no time to write longer articles.  And I was having a blast as well.

So there.  Speaking of blast, I promise I shall post regularly (or at least if time permits). For now, I just wanna tell you guys that I’m still here.  Having the best time of my life. 🙂



It wasn’t an overnight decision. It wasn’t a consideration that’s completely out of the blue. It has been crossing my mind for a long time. I guess, everything is all about proper timing.

Yes. I am coming home. For good.

You know the feeling when you wake up from this strange dream and you suddenly realized that you’ve been encumbered by sundry emotions and the only choice is to wake up? Not that you’re having a nightmare, but having the wisdom to realize that the essential things in life are not found in the urban jungle called Manila. But for the record, I have no regrets. Manila has taught me a lot of lessons and discoveries about myself. Those two years have been, cliche as it is, a roller coaster ride. I enjoyed it. Totally.

I could cite instances and circumstances that somehow made me who I really am. Imagine St. Augustine’s life at Carthage (forgive me for the comparison, but yeah, it’s in Manila that I experienced a lot of firsts and not-so-firsts–experiments and exploits and all). I loved my jobs. Despite the stumbles here and there, I somehow learned from what Manila offered me. These made my decision more difficult. But I knew I had to make a choice. A choice I have to make sooner than I expected.

I am thankful for the opportunities. I consider myself lucky because it’s easy for me to land a job that helped me survive (eww, I sound like a gasbag). Maybe because I’ve always been an optimistic prick who never expects a lot. So there, the confusion arises from choosing between two opportunities. Should I stay or should I leave?

Weighing up the pros and cons between staying and leaving, it seemed that the decision to leave leads the race. The sacrifices that I have to make are so minimal. Of course, I’m gonna miss my friends, my “gig” at the Broadway open mic, my visits at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, etc. On the good side, I’m gonna leave behind my struggles of traveling and beating the traffic every day.

I choose to return home. The home that I always long for in my almost two years of exile.

I’d like to think that I’m the prodigal son who wanders and struggles until he realizes that there is only one thing he needs to do:

Come home.

Of Rays and Rainbows

No religion or belief can help you if you don’t, as Rainier Maria Rilke wrote, ‘look deep into your heart’.



This evening, I made a little confession to a friend. Although it did not concern me at all, I told him about our friend’s, well, real sexual preference. Good thing about my friend is he’s so open minded, and our other friend, being gay, is not a big deal to him. Well, to us. It really doesn’t matter. Then, the chat segued to another revelation and the reason why I told him that is because at some point, our friend and I kind of bullied someone on Facebook. Although it happened years ago, I just felt that I needed to tell him the truth because I knew all along that it wasn’t right. Yes, I told him that at that time I was battling with homophobia.

I had this experience when a student tried to invite me on FB and was asking questions that were kind of personal. At first…

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#Travel: Lost In The Wonders of Mt. Pinatubo


The tourist bus bound for Zambales leaves at 1:30 AM and I caught myself in dilemma when my companions have not arrived yet.  It was 12:45 AM.   For a moment, I doodled in my journal while I waited for them to show up.  No signs of them still, despite texting my friend.  No reply (I only read the FB message the day after the tour. My apologies).  The group’s supposed to meet at a fast food chain in Ortigas.

Feeling that something’s wrong, I checked my travel voucher to see if I was really at the right assembly area.  Oh, geez.  I was actually at the right fast food chain.  But at a wrong branch!  I thought I mastered the streets of Ortigas Avenue, but when I got a bit panicky, the whole place suddenly became new to me.  Then, I headed right to Emerald Street after walking for several minutes and even riding a taxi which lasted for like 45 seconds. Talk about short and free ride.  Still, I wasn’t able to reach the exact place (for one thing, I suck at following directions). I was at Doña Julia Vargas. Lapit lang naman…pala.  To make the long story short, I spotted the fast food chain and found the other tourists and my friends waiting for me.

So there.  Before the trip took its kick-off , I got lost already.

No. Even more, I got lost in the wonders of Mt. Pinatubo.


Literally “biting the dust” was all worth it!

 “Another one bites the dust”

We arrived at Mt. Pinatubo Base Camp around 4:00 AM.  The place was already alive with tourists, locals, and kids scampering around selling hiking canes.  We waited for our tour coordinator’s cue if it’s OK to alight the bus and look for our guide and the driver who would take us to the drop-off point (that’s one and a half hour-ride from the base camp).

A little later, our guide Kuya Joy, approached us and led us to our vehicle.  The 4×4 vehicles are the only off-road transportation going to Mt. Pinatubo since the terrain is incredibly bumpy.  No wonder, our own 4×4 got this ala Mad Max design.  Right there and then, we knew we’re in for a thrilling ride. The driver told us that his 4×4 is one of a kind among the other vehicles.



The road to Mt. Pinatubo is a field of dust and rocky streams.  But looking around, it seems that this almost barren, moon-like terrain, enwraps you with awe and enchantment.


The Mad Max feels upon riding our 4×4.  This truck is one of its kind among the off-road transpo here in Mt. Pinatubo said the driver.

It was indeed a thrilling one and a half hour-ride going to the drop-off point. It was still dark when we left the base camp so we couldn’t really see anything except the dust rolling up in the vehicle and the long shadowy grasses along the riverbed (which reminded me of the trail followed by Baldo in Manuel Arguelle’s How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife).  As we approached the drop-off point, the terrain became more and more challenging.  We had to pass by rocky streams which made the ride even bumpier.  Precipitous trails compelled us to hold on to our dear lives.  Imagine braving the terrain with no seat belts or anything to prevent ourselves from falling. Nevertheless, it was one hell of an adventure.

A long but never a tiring trek

After the ride, we finally reached the drop-off point at around 6:00 AM.  As the day slowly started to seep in, the view became more and more ostensibly mesmerizing.  We were surrounded by lahar walls, some even formed like temple pillars from ancient period- something that you see on dystopic fantasy flicks.  One word: SURREAL.


The guide said that during rainy season, the terrain changes because the lahar deposits become soft which create erosion and massive land slides.


The gray and green combined create such a metaphorical breathtaking view.  I’m not yet talking about the caldera.


Stopping by for a pose with these kids who were building fire to warm themselves.

The trek could last about two hours depending on the hiker’s pace.  But really, who would mind?  Despite crossing rocky streams and sandy soils, we felt like we were walking on the best gift nature has given us.  Knowing the catastrophe that formed this majestic ground, we moved forward blissfully. We survived!


On our way back to the drop-off point after the trek to Mt. Pinatubo.

 Caldera not crater

Apparently, the main highlight of the trip is the “crater” itself.  However, Anne, our trip coordinator, emphasized that the word “crater” is not the right term for the giant hole which was made by the eruption.  Scientifically, it is called caldera, a large, basinlike depression resulting from the explosion or collapse of the center of a volcano (dictionary.com).  Crater, on the other hand, is the depression caused by an impact of a celestial body hitting the earth.  So yeah, after an hour or so, we made our ascent to the caldera.  Not crater.


After an hour and a half, we finally reached the starting point of the trek to the caldera.  Before going there, there is a rest area and two washrooms if you like to pee or take some refreshment.  Some locals sell energy drinks and ice candy.

The climb to the caldera is quite different from the previous trek.  As we took our ascent to the much anticipated summit, we were greeted by mossy boulders, mini-falls and interesting plant species along our path.


As we got closer to the caldera, we were soothed by the sights and sounds of nature.

I don’t even know how to begin describing the lake.  Sure, most of us have heard about Mt. Pinatubo or how beautiful it is as we have seen it on travel shows or magazines.  But having a first-hand view of the caldera and being within the caldera of the volcano is magnificently beyond words.  This breathtaking view just proves how something disastrous can turn into something majestic.  Instagram-worthy in every angle.  The verdant slopes and the serene lake seemed to have been painted by a great artist.  As you gaze at the view around the caldera, you could almost feel that you are in a  foreign land, perhaps in New Zealand… even in a fictional world of Harry Potter.


Finally reached the caldera!  From this point, you need to descend through a man-made staircase going to the lake.  


Behold the Mt. Pinatubo caldera.  It will remind you of The Black Lake from Harry Potter.


Now I am lake. A woman bends over me,/Searching my reaches for what she really is./Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon./I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.                      -Sylvia Plath, “Mirrors”


Ms. Anne, the trip coordinator and owner of TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures, provides the guests with information about Mt. Pinatubo.

 A perfect Valentine getaway

One might ask, what did you do when you reached the crater?  There are a lot of things to do along the lake, actually.  Although swimming and boating are prohibited, feeling the presence of an unknown energy can give you a sort of relaxation.  You gaze at the sky, the slopes, and the lake.  You can take pictures with your friends.  The whole place is just so apt for pictorials.  Just bring someone who can  really take good photos.


With my equally adventurous travel buddy and soul-sister Dawn


Passing by these Aeta kids enjoying their bath made me miss my childhood.

We stayed along the lake for roughly two hours fighting the cold that enveloped the whole caldera.  We partook lunch and celebrated Valentine’s Day over a bottle of wine and some chocolates.  We watched different tourists doing different things. Everything around the caldera was beautiful that day. My heart was filled with gratitude.

I don’t mind being lost…at all.


” How I wish you were here/We’re just two lost souls/Swimming in a fish bowl/Year after year…”        -Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”


Do you want the trek to Mt. Pinatubo be your next adventure?

Visit TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures website for bookings. It’s http://tripinas.com.ph.


Photos by: September Noon Macahilo