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Weekly Photo Challenge: Textured

Sampinit is probably the rarest and most unpopular fruit in the Philippines that you will only hear it from either the mountaineers who had already climb the abundant Mount Cristobal or the locals in the provinces of Laguna and Quezon, where said mountain stand. In addition, the most popular search engines show only a few articles or posts talking up sampinit.

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This fruit is only available in a short period, specifically during summer so it is kind of expensive compared to other tropical fruits. Plus, due to the way it is being harvested; it requires extra effort. In Mount Cristobal, enduring the scorching heat of the sun and and getting past the thorny trees surrounding the mountain are more than enough of that extra effort.

The locals prefer to gormandize this fruit straight from the bush which I also did when I ate some during our “take 5″ on that part of the mountain where these wild raspberries sprout like weeds. According to our guide, sampinit is actually tastier when it is added with a bit of salt or when you let it sit on the salt for a few minutes. The reason is, the salt penetrating through its textured skin brings out more of that berry juices–slowly. The latter is a common way of eating sampinit in Laguna.

Sampinit tastes a bit sour like a ripe tamarind yet saccharine. It is smaller and more delicate compared to the commercially available raspberries.

I was fortunate I got a photo of this wild raspberry, which I now consider one of Mount Cristobal’s  most precious treasures, last 06 March 2011 when I and my hiking buddies summitted said mountain.



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Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

The day was 23 March 2008 when we were tasked to do a project in one of our subjects in the Graduate School. The project was to verify with the old locals the truth behind the death of Philippines’ first president, Emilio Aguinaldo. This was brought about by the off-the-record pages of history so to speak. Anyway, I am not here to present matters that are based on opinions but tangible facts at how monumental my entry entry is for this week’s photo challenge.

I, together with five of my classmates, headed to the place I regard as the center of Philippine Independence: the Aguinaldo Shrine, a national shrine, located in Kawit (formerly Cavite El Viejo), Cavite.

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Upon arrival at the gate of the house, we were greeted by a quadragenarian tour guide. When he asked us about what brought us to the place, we immediately told him what we needed. So he he brought us first to the old St. Mary Magdalene Church to seek information with a certain Mang Carding, who seemed to belong in a geriatric community. After an hour of interview, we decided to go back to the shrine to take pictures of the surroundings, the old mansion turned museum, and the Freedom Park.

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Among the pictures in the archive that I find most monumental literally and figuratively is the enormous marble stone topped and highlighted by a bronze equestrian statue of Aguinaldo, which was captured in a unique angle. There was a century old poem carved on the base. One noticeable thing about the horse  is that one of his legs is in the air. According to the cicerone, the position of horse’s legs signifies how the rider died. With one leg off the ground, the rider was wounded in battle and died later. When two legs are raised, the rider died in battle. Once the four legs are on the ground, the rider died of natural causes.

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However, this is not what the military heroes statue says. There are two prime examples which refute those explanations. The well-known statue of Andrew Jackson in New Orleans (duplicated in Nashville and Washington, D.C.) in which the horse has two legs raised, yet said hero died of old age in 1845. Another one is the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, also in New Orleans, in which the horse has one leg raised, yet said general also died of old age in 1893.  Both of said heroes dressed in full military uniform. Undoubtedly, there are instances where the position of the horse’s legs might seem to confirm such significance, but these are merely coincidental–not a rule.

So what makes it monumental? This statue reminds us Filipinos that Gen. Aguinaldo was not only the first elected president of the Provisional Philippine Republic but the very pioneer of Philippine Independence from Spain when he proclaimed it on 12 June 1898 in Kawit, Cavite right on the very balcony of his mansion. It also through him that we have a national anthem, which was first sung on the same day while he was slowly raising the Philippine flag…The very tableau of what I can always recall from my history classes in my elementary days.

This statue will forever serve as a symbol of our right to be free and independent.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument (

Visit to Aguinaldo Shrine (TripOyet)

Aguinaldo Museum (


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

“A threshold is a point of entering; that point just before a new beginning—that split-second moment in time, full of anticipation…” (Krista Stevens).

One of my most memorable–life enriching at that–travel experiences is visiting the historical village of Ushaiger in the far country side of Riyadh City. (Click here if you want to read the story.) Passing through the village’s threshold a year ago helped my wandering mind pull the stash of good words that have been hibernating in me. I have never been confident in my story-telling sleight since. This is the threshold that gave this blog a new beginning.

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Related Post: Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold (

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I Got Shot But I Am Alive!

One of the things in my bucket list is to try paintball because I was really inspired by a good friend’s, Paul Basco, interest in said sport. It is something that I didn’t really plan to do anytime soon though.

Last January 16, I and an equally good friend, Jake, received an invite from Ameen, a Saudi national, to join his group, MKT Dudes, in their next battle on January 22. Ameen, just like Jake, is a colleague who became a friend because he loves to blabber during free time. Isn’t it funny how three different souls get along so well because of prattling?

Giving in to the invite wasn’t easy. Both Jake and I were really hesitant because of money issues, but when we found out later on that Ameen will shoulder everything, we gave in right away. Moreover, he will fetch us from our place. As for me, I have to stress out that in addition to that grand-in-aid, my acceptance was borne out of my quest to find new distractions from the everyday grind and to activate my body’s already dormant adrenaline.

Unlike Jake, this was my first time to play paintball, which, according to, is a combination of combat play and survival hunting game with the use of guns shooting balls of paint. I had to learn the elementary concepts and stuff through Mr. Google three days before the battle day.

At round 7:00 in the evening on January 22, we left the office in Exit 07 for 1stPaintball Arena in Al Thumama. There were still players on the three fields by the time we’re done with our gear—mask, makeshift bullet armor, etc. It was perfect time to see how the battle goes. Seeing the players mightily display their tactical skills on the fields heightened the excitement. Each field, by the way, contains specific boundaries, barriers behind where players can hide, zones that are neutral as well as two officials whose primary role is to determine if paintball hits are legitimate. This means that they are large enough and were not made within the 25-foot shooting boundary.

A few minutes later, we’re up to our turn. We were ten all in all divided into two teams. Happy to know the facilitator was a Filipino, who enlightened us on the dos and don’ts of the first challenging round: Slab Wood.

Slab Wood is an elimination game where players will exterminate the opposing team starting from the home base. The obstacles are in the form of vertically erected slab woods equally laid out for the teams. Any player who gets hit on the chest, abdomen, shoulders, or back needs to raise his hands, as a form of surrender, and leave the field immediately.

Before our team finally entered the arena, Salman, the one who knows the ropes, imposed a strategy that we will be using for all the rounds. He called it finding cover—a critical defensive strategy where a team member has to cover for one who needs to move near the opponents’ base, especially when he is peppered with enemy fire. This doesn’t mean sticking together because the critical key in this kind of defense strategy is for us to spread out evenly to several directions and ensure that we are keeping an eye on one of our team members, the one who is moving. Furthermore, he told us to be really patient and be hidden well.

The game began when the referee shouted “Game On”. Adrenaline rush took over my senses and once again, I felt so alive.

In less than six minutes, we successfully derailed our opponents. I wasn’t the best player; it was Jake, who really impressed me with his daredevil like character in the battlefield. What I got was a little praise from Ameen, whom I covered for, for doing such a great job and, above all, I didn’t get even a barely missed shot. We were all feeling commandos after the official declared who won the game.

During downtime, our teams converged while having our refreshments at the waiting area to be reminded to stick to the strategy. Immediately after that, we went in the Speedball—the second course—which is still an elimination game, the rules are the same except that there are two added body part targets (i.e., the head and neck). The playing field is composed of bunkers, of the same location and number on each side of the field, that provide an equal playing area for each competing team.

We were able to play well in this round but we didn’t win. We lost by just a point. The worst thing for me was I got my first taste of paintball on my chest, right “there”. I got shot and it damn hurts. But, of course, it’s far nothing compared to the real bullet.

Determined to nail the third round, Conquer the Flag, we had to make a thorough review of the strategy. According to the referee, there is the fourth round, Death City, but that is just for emptying whatever paintball left in our pellet guns, and that this will be the concluding round. So during downtime, we discussed the previous round to get feedbacks on how our fieldwork went. This paved the way for us to adjust the tactics based on the mistakes. Suffice to say we had carefully planned this time around.

Our goal now is to take the flag first in the middle of the arena by shooting anyone who will stand on the way. A team wins by eliminating all the players of the opposing team and, of course, when the flag is captured. Whoever gets hit on the stated body parts will have to leave the arena right away.

The battlefield in this round resembles to a dense forest and follows a sinuous path. You can barely see where the targets are unless they fire. What I can recount from here is I just did what the leader told me to do: to cover my war buddy, Ameen, who will be moving toward the flag from the right side of the base no matter what. The other two members will take the left side and the leader will take the middle. Ameen was able to advance for 10 meters from his position while I was covering him but got shot very soon. I got a bird’s eye view of how it happened. I realized I had to really hide at something enough to cover me and to be patient at taking a peek at where fires are coming in order to aim the gun at each of them with precision. That is the very technique I read on their website. So I took very quick peeks at different spots from a perfectly sized lump near the flag instead of a long glance around. Fortunately, there were three, my very targets, of them who seemed unaware of that. Therefore, getting ready to take them down after they fire was pretty easy.

In the middle of this round, the somewhat harmonious exchange of paintball fires for a few minutes was amusing until I noticed Jake already crawling his way to the flag. By that time, there was just one player from the opposing team and four from ours so covering him was a ducksoup. Jake displayed another risky ball of steel moves, which fortunately ended heroically. To cut the story short we won. That was one hell of a victory. The intensity was overpowering; we had to yell and wave the flag repeatedly and boastfully.

photo 2 An hour later, I left the building all sticky but with a new found appreciation for paintball. Before I went to bed that night, I reflected on the experience and extracted some nuggets of wisdom from it. Behind the reputation of being a pastime for hicks, paintball is absolutely fun and thrilling with an undercurrent of intellect. I may have a little understanding of the physics of the game but I am sure being a team player is a precedent just like in any other sports. We stayed positive by encouraging each other no matter what error was committed so we had much better time on the field. That’s why we won.

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On the whole, I find it really amazing just how easy it is for enemies to become comrades off the battlefiled. (Thank you gents for this experience.)

As you are aware I’ve only played one game; howbeit, I wish this post will spark some interest in those who haven’t played it yet.



Romanticizing the Ruins of Cagsaua Church

The Cagsaua Ruins, just like the Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna (“Shooting the Roughly Blazed Paths to Pagsanjan Falls“), in the town of Daraga is one of those tourist places I had only seen in postcards, stamps, and textbooks during grade school. A place I only dreamt of visiting when I was a kid. I never thought I will get there one day. And that day has come–when I embarked on my fifth solo travel to Albay’s most recognizable landmark in April a year ago.



It took almost four hours for me to reach the shallow river via a lonely-looking bridge on the threshold of this historic spot from Pili, Camarines Sur. The environs radiate so much ataraxy that standing there for a few minutes gave me an ineffable relief—until I learned from the tour guide that there were more than a thousand people, including those who took shelter in the church believing that they would be safe from the raging flow of lava and volcanic rocks, who died from Mayon Volcano’s most annihilating eruption in February 1814. I got chills up and down my spine upon hearing the tragic news, which I hope will never happen again. The said eruption has made Cagsaua what it now looks: desolate, historical, placid, and very much treasured.


I sauntered through the foregrounds. I noticed how different the scene is compared to its darkest day as narrated by Father Francisco Tubino of Guinobatan. The sky is grinning; the gentle wind roams around like a refreshing bath in the morning; the greens are dancing; the rays of the sun are joyfully streaming into the huge rocks and trees around; and the souvenir stalls swarming at the gates herald a beautiful day.


What I saw after stepping at the gates of Cagsaua Ruins a few minutes later were plenty of sightseers flocking around. Summer has something to do with the vast crowd nevertheless there’s a comforting feeling in the middle of a crowd oblivious of me.


There is nothing more eye catching than the church’s belfry majestically rising in the middle of the place. In fact, I read that the Berlin-based International Tourism Bourse, the world’s leading travel trade show, even cited it as one of the best places to visit in Asia. This tower is another example of a baroque architecture and is as imposing as the Mayon Volcano, which was then concealed by the cruel clouds in the distance. Its facade is festooned with carvings made from volcanic stones.


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On the flip side, this place also showcases Albay’s countryside scenery that will surely please visitors. A few meters away from the backyard you can see a very New Zealandish stretch of verdure.


IMG_2825Aesthetically, the ruins of Cagsaua Church may not be iPhone 5S beauty but they tell important tales of our times, exude high cultural significance, and remain as a very popular subject for creative photography. The belfry is an attestation to this; it serves as a hint of what the church have been like and as a metaphor for the volcano eruption’s havoc to the town and for the agony of the victims.

Related Articles

My Meaningful Cagsawa Ruins Visit by Karl Ace of Turista Trails

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Cagsawa Ruins of Visit Legazpi


What Is The Name Of This Plant?

On 06 March 2011, my hiking buddy, Paul Basco, and I photographed this stunningly alabaster fruit during our climb at Mt. Cristobal in Quezon Province.

I posted the photo on Facebook the following day and questions pertaining to the name of this particular plant ensued. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer.

I have already consulted Mr. Google a million times not to mention asked the botanists of Palanan Co Sierra Madre Trek and some of the highbrows I know three years ago but to no avail.

Please help!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

My mug on top in the photo below is a tangible object–adorned with simple but profound reminders.


“Our photographs tell stories, big and small. Some of our images are landscapes, offering wide and sweeping views of a scene; these pictures might tell the tales of an entire city, or a tapestry of stories of many people. Some photographs, like portraits, focus on individuals, while still-life moments capture the beauty (and often treasured stories) of belongings and found objects” (

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

The subject of this particular picture was supposed to be the blurred little boy, who was looking all convivial watching the gentle waves of the pacific ocean, in the backdrop. However, my eyes suddenly noticed the subtle appeal of the day hut’s bamboo bed. My interest was fenced in; I had to capture it.

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The other entries for this week’s photo challenge are in this link: Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition (


The Camel Corral in the Desert

Revisiting a place is a not so welcomed idea when I was still trying to amass the number of my travel blog posts to meet Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ requirement. However, going back to Callao Cave in Cagayan to rediscover its charm (Click  here for the full story.) and San Pablo Church in Isabela to uncover its historical significance (Click  here for the full story.) a couple of years ago changed my perspective. I am now aware that no place is really ever done, and no travel experience is ever entirely complete; there is always something new to forge, meet, or see.

Hawk's Feather

This featured place forged a peculiar memory I had shared with four of my closest friends—one that was flourished by energetic laughters and adventures in the desert and escarpments.

The first tourist attraction I set foot on in Saudi Arabia is the Ad-Dhana Desert, more popularly known as Red Sand, in Dirab. Making a trip down memory lane I see beautiful sights. Sands in red-orange snake everywhere; bright, perspicuous, and pulchritudinous. Tweiqs provide an imposing appeal to break the monotony of the place. Hawks swoop around to provide an aerial spectacle. Tourists on quad bikes circle the area to proffer that needed zing to go on a race.


Then the time machine schlepped my feet to my second visit several months ago at the desert. The weather was perfect and the sky was as clear as blue. The plateaus and tall cliffs took the place of skyscrapers in the city. I saw five people busy talking and moving around the place on foot, pausing at times to share stories and stuff they were able to frame by their respective cameras. They rolled in the aisles atop the well-packed dunes like there is no tomorrow.

Steel Towers

At the farther side of the desert was me standing on one corner not for punishment but for that visceral feeling. I was blown away by how the pendulum swings slowly this time around. The fusillade of new impressions did not come like lightning in the rain.


Slowly, things got through my head at that vantage. I was able to recognize more sights while walking around even until I was resting from working my ass off to get to that point. Hiking the hilltop was more propitious; physically boosting than being assisted by a quad bike. It was after all not that hard as I thought. Doing that made the whole experience tastes more saccharine.

Vantage Point

And the scene that was undoubtedly etched in my memory is that merriful encounter with the camels. We literally bonded with these dromedaries who were really, really sweet and gentle. We were dumbstruck at how docile they are.

Close-up DromedariesI actually dreamt of watching a graceful caravan of camels passing by, but who cares now? The echt hilarity the five of us shared in the corral is more than enough. Since then, remembering this place conciliates everything in times where the inevitable misunderstanding occurs among us.

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Riyadh Red Sands (

Thanks God

Stop Saying “Thanks God” When…

Grammar pet peeves such as cope up, mails, masteral, return back, with regards to, attached (as a noun), fill up (as a verb phrase for supplying the missing information on forms), and “Hi gentlemen, or Hello, Youh,” (as salutations), that are commonly used in the workplace have been discussed in my previous posts. This time around, there is one grammar pet peeve (i.e., Thanks God) that has been shaking my Facebook newsfeed lately. Hence, the blabbermouth was once again compelled by The Originals to correct the misapprehension.

Thank God has been existing in the realms of English Language from time extending back beyond my memory and so its nonstandard counterpart, “Thanks God”. With social media in the way, the latter as well as so many other grammar pet peeves could not be more visible than ever. The bad thing is, those who are part of the so-called Generation Z (Gen Z), at least in my country, continue to be persuaded by the impetuous spread of nonstandard English. As a result, their collective English proficiency is sliding. This statement is supported by the continuing dominance of Malaysia in the English Language Proficiency Level in the Entire Asian Region (as of 06 November 2013) amid the fact that we are still the country to beat in Business English as of April “2012”. I also have a clear picture of how the Gen Z people use the universal language in the most challenging way when I was in the academe almost two years ago.

Up until now, it feels demurring to correct a colleague, even students, straightly. Thank God social media, through WordPress, is here to assertively offer a helping hand in reaching out to the concerned. (I would like to reiterate that doing this is not a way of blowing my horn. I pride myself on my knowledge of the language but I always know that I still have a million things to learn about English too. Grammar mishaps, like bad diction, of yours truly are also everywhere.)

Anyway, let us now exscind the idiom under dispute: “Thanks God”. The presence of such on Facebook, even on Twitter and Instagram, worries me much already as the younger Gen Z people are all over the place.

Guilty party, please do not clench your fist yet. Read on and make a note of this instead.

Thanks God” is not actually an error when used in the right context. That is, the vocative expression or direct address where the identity of the party spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence as in, “That is incorrect, John.John is the vocative expression because it indicates the party being addressed as opposed to the sentence, “That is incorrect.

Relative to the foregoing, “Thanks God” becomes correct if it is used in the same context as in, “Thanks, God.” This way, the subject idiom is a sentence which implies that you are either praying or directly conversing with God–the very case in a direct address. And, it should be punctuated.

However, “Thanks God” is grammatically unacceptable when used as an idiom for being thankful that something good happened in a bad situation or if you are relieved of something (e.g., Thanks God the weather is fine today.)—which is definitely and often the case we come across on various social networking sites most especially Facebook. So stop saying “Thanks God” when you want to express relief or thankfulness. “Thank God” is the correct expression to use as in, “Thank God the weather is fine today.

Let us have a little detour into the etymology of the idiom.

Thank God” is a shortened version of “Thanks be to God.” or “I (we) thank God.” which means you are telling others that you are thankful to God. In the same way, people would say, “Praise God!“, “Thank goodness!” or “Thank heavens!

All right. Do not be hornswoggled the next time around. What you just need to do is remove the “s” from the word “Thanks” to make it grammatically correct. I would thank God if you succumb.  *LMHO*

 References: and


Weekly Photo Challenge: Window


“Through the window, I saw the beautiful world outside: the sky, the sun, the cacti, the rocks, and the dirt. How I longed to return to it! I licked at the air, trying to smell the desert’s delicious dusty scent, but could not. How was I able to see it without smelling it? Did humans control scents as well as the temperature and the waters? Is that what windows were for, to keep out scents? Why did they wish to put invisible barriers between themselves and the world?” (Patrick JenningsWe Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes).

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Window (

Mother and Daughter

The Joy of Summer

In the sunny morning of 02 April 2013, two vans sped along the quiet roads in Albay. These are the only roads that give tourists a privilege to snap decent pictures of the majestic Mayon Volcano.

Mayon Volcano

After the vehicles past a cradle that covers the long stretch of beach in the bucolic and charming town of Bagacay a few minutes later, they stopped. My loved ones, together with some relatives, and I were osculated by the ocean breeze upon debarking.

Cerulean Ocean

Slowly, the fine debris of molten rocks shook by time into minuscule black quartz on the tip of the Pacific Ocean ushered us to Viento de Mar Beach Resort.

Black Sand Beach

As the welkin dispersed the cotton clouds to bare its ethereal blueness, my optical organs surrendered to the placid surrounding of this rising black sand beach, made primarily from the natural erosion of volcanic rocks. One doesn’t need to fly to that place famous for this kind of attraction in Hawaii as you can just head straight to Bagacay where jet-black sand beaches are swarming.

My visit to this place is one of those countable travels that I didn’t use my camera much. I considered it a rare opportunity to just savor the revolution of time with “them”. Instead, I only gave focus on the things I want to remember about this special moment.

The four of us later clowned around tirelessly for hours on the well scythed sward—playing tagging…The scent of her midday sweat lingers on me; it still brings that exotic sweet smell into my nares. The seemingly unending laughter of the two little boys while I was chasing them still brings music to my ears. Watching the sun give life to the entirety of the place and reminiscing the chilling days of making promises together evokes that incomparable longing for summer. On the other side of the coin, espying other families merrily preoccupied with making the most of that day still reminds me of the good old days we never had. This is why I now do this kind of trip—for them.

There was this point where I caught a sight of a mother and daughter cooing together in a day hut a few meters away from where I was sitting. In conjunction with hearing the wind blowing in my ephemeral solace is seeing the smiles of the two. Their smiles were like whirlpools that got me drowned at once, when the kid struck me with this Kodak moment.

Mother and Daughter

The joy radiating from them was just too riveting to ignore that I gave these two beautiful souls an oeillade. It dawned on me at that very instance that the joy we get from our children’s smiles never fades.  I saw the same in the two little boys beside me.

The Greens

At this juncture, I’m still in a place where winter is indomitable so I can’t help but just drivel in the thought of enjoying the estival fete in the tropics very soon. The furlough’s bridge is already looming anyway. But right now, the vivid memories of that one fine summer day almost a year ago still keeps me excited. Memories that were snapped by my eyes and kept in my mind to serve as pelages in times where apricity is very much missed. Memories made from the redolence of green grasses, sturdy trees, black sands, fine clouds, sea breeze, blue sky, cerulean ocean, and the mighty sun. Memories that summon me to wake up with a smile on my face knowing that I will soon be reunited with them to redefine this story. I wouldn’t see myself holding my camera more by that time again but my three precious. That is because I realized that, sometimes, picturing a special moment through the head makes the sound of the recollection more metaphoric and profound.

The Sea Breeze

This is my most joyous memory of summer so far. A summer trip well spent at Viento de Mar Beach Resort, with the three of the most important persons in my life. I have always been a summer person because summer is just the way to go. An opportunity for me to be reunited with loved ones to go out and play, swim in the beach, climb mountains and hills, camp, take vibrant pictures, and a whole heap more. There’s absolutely no lack of options for activities with summer.

For more information about the place, please click these blog sites: and


Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Nothing symbolizes the word “beginning” better than a sunrise. This nature feat reminds me of this quote from Bernard Williams: “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” A quote that always awakens that sense of optimism in me in times of despair.




2013: A Milestone Year for Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind

December is quite a demanding month for travel bloggers not only because of the holiday season but because of that special composition we have to make this time of the year: A Year End Post.


Last year, I have shared about my best pictures, photographed in some of Saudi Arabia’s tourist spots, that have somehow marked my improvement at taking photos. These are the ones that brought in the highest number of views and comments. (Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures)

This time around, I will look back on the lessons I learned in my visit to the special places I was able to set foot on and on what I had achieved this year.

1. Every place holds a treasure trove of insights.

The Tweig (Red Sand-19 October 2012)

When I was starting this site as a travel blog, what I do was just narrating how I got to the place or how I made it to the mountain’s summit. Furthermore, I tend to copy information from other bloggers’ stories for my backgrounder or, worst case scenario, for the most interesting part of my story. I can only write about the literal sense of making it to a particular destination. But then, as I hit the road more and more, not to mention land to another country here in the Middle East, my eyes developed some kind of x-ray vision, which enabled me to look beyond the things around. I have learned to dig that treasure. I have learned to apprehend the significance of a place, what it mirrors to us; it made all the difference.

The Ushaiger Heritage Village paved the way for that lesson to be infused into my blog posts this year. The village made me realize how ruins exquisitely serve that road to transformation. It made me understand that, indeed, all things come to pass. The blow of that fleeting moment was visceral. (The Doors and Mud-Built Houses of Ushaiger Heritage Village)

2. The best gift that we can give to our loved ones is time.

IMG_2129Leaving the country more than a year ago was an epoch in my life. So many things took place from then till now and the most noteworthy is I was back for vacation last March to April. A few days before flying home to the Philippines, I prepared an itinerary where I included scaling five mountains, meeting special friends, and embarking on a solo travel for the fifth time. What I saw at home, after a couple of hours from the airport, soon turned the big plan into a minute plan. Before I went to bed later, I reviewed the itinerary and made a long, fixed stare at the part that underlines putative climbs, meeting friends, and solo travel. I realized one thing: The 30-day vacation was for no one but my family. Hence, climbs, meeting friends, and solo travel were crossed out. There’s only one palpable course on the piece of paper since: To wisely spend my time with family no matter how banausic it may be. I must say there was no tinge of regret in doing that.

3. The more you travel, the more your horizons expand.

One of the most remarkable things that happened to me this year was going on a blogging hiatus—unintentionally—from March to June. This later introduced me to trying something new.


Truth be told, one of the primary reasons why I went abroad is for the heck of traveling until budget constraints struck me for some time. It’s where I embarked on a new endeavor. And I couldn’t be happier I did. I am talking about getting into a sport: badminton.

Badminton taught me a lot of equally life-changing lessons: humility on top of fame and victory (“The Tournament: The Culprit for My Hiatus“), cheerfulness amid defeat, being a team player, and sportsmanship. Writing about my experiences for the tournaments I became a part of fueled my muse more. (The next tournament is already around the corner and I couldn’t be busier by then.)

The good thing is, it transcended my travel narratives. All my regular travel accounts contain more than 500-1,000 words this year. Those may not be excellent but being able to execute my evocation of a journey now with a theme or a lesson is already more than enough. The links below will help you out just in case. 

Urban Spelunking (First Episode: Water & Fire)


Urban Spelunking (Second Episode: Earth & Air)


Urban Spelunking (Final Episode: Night & Day)


Let There Be Light!


A Hideaway Amid the Slaving Corporate World


Revisiting the Most Famous Cave in Cagayan Valley On A Whim


When Things Are Bright and Beautiful


The Playground of Demigods and Nephilims: Tarak Ridge

Through Earth and Sky

4. If there’s a will, there’s always a way.

ScreenshotI never truly understood what that means until October–when I pulled all the possible strings to get one of my sports articles published in Arab News‘ print and on their website. Let’s not dig the details but it’s suffice to say, “Just when you thought you did everything you could to realize a dream, think again and this time, double the efforts, triple by the third, then follow the sequence.” Click this link for the full text of the article: Indians dominate the 1st CFO Badminton Tournament 2013.


On the flip side, I should not forget to make mention of the recognition given by the Bicolano Writers when they featured one of my travel blog posts titled “When Things Are Bright And Beautiful” last December 17 on (a reputable website that showcases the musings of prominent Bicolano writers and the soliloquy of lesser-known but equally-gifted Bicolano wordsmiths) via its Bicol Travel Destinations page.

5. It’s damn good to experience new things.

Traveling in groups with close friends–with the exception of a few from the office and my mountaineering buddies back in the Philippines–more than 24 hours is something I’ve never done before .

Recently, a close friend and I traveled with a group of people who are new to us and I was surprised with what was unraveled: Traveling bonds people quicker before we know it. Sharing stories; singing Jason Mraz’ songs; throwing cerebral jokes and mind-bending trivia; and exchanging spontaneous pranks and intelligent remarks while on the road…How can you resist that?

I am, by nature, a rigid person, but traveling in groups helped me loosen up. It showed me how liberating it is to break out from my comfort zone when I immersed myself in the world of the younger crowd (i.e., riding the Waveswinger) even just for a while.

Blog Carnival Badge

This post is my entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December 2013 titled  “The Pinoy Travel Bloggers Closing the Curtains on 2013: Love, Learn and Living” hosted by Ms. Brenna Bustamante of The Philippine Travelogue.


Urban Spelunking (Final Episode: Night & Day)

Our third destination was at Corniche, back in Khobar. Corniche is basically a green strip facing the gulf. It stretches from Azzizia Beach to the Tarot Islands and, undoubtedly, the city‘s most popular recreational area as far as the number of visitors is concerned. It is positioned in the middle of a wide semi-circular bay.

When we passed by the seaside part in the evening of 06 December 2013, Friday, after our excursion to Cobra Amusement Park, we saw see a lot of people, mostly families, doing this “BBQ experience” right by the coast.

It is worth mentioning that Saudis, in general, have a seemingly undying love for modern arts. The pieces of evidence for that in this part of the kingdom are the lavish installations of the same interspersed and lined along the coastal road of Corniche proper. These modern art installations are best viewed in the evening, when the city magically transforms into a luminous ground.

featured photo

Credit for this photo is from Mr. Leonel Mark Tuscano.

This place is fitting for taking a stroll or sit on a bench to enjoy the exquisite views of the bay that looks quiet and shimmering at night but loud and stunning during daytime. Hence, we had to recapture Corniche’s grandeur the following day, December 07, before we bade congé.


The long palm lined promenade along the area is the home of the previously mentioned lifestyle centers, traditional malls, world cuisine restaurants, coffeehouses, and the like. But wait, there’s more. Sports facilities are also available at a spacious spot between Dammam and Khobar. Furthermore, it is teeming with amusement parks and custom-made public toilets, which are strategically positioned for convenience. Merging PhilippinesLuneta Park and Baywalk creates a replica of the place.



We were also fortunate to catch a glimpse of the curving causeway that links Dammam City, particularly its northern part, to Bahrain.

Greenery Glimpse



The causeway is also a site to lay eyes on because it brandishes green shrubs, trees, and grasses thereby making it an ideal spot for picnic, merrymaking, tag or chasing games, or enjoying the panoramic views. Talking about an icing on the cake for weekend revelers and trotters like us.




Our stay in Corniche was not actually filled with running around in trying to snap pictures of the impressive cityscapes nor gape at the architectural wonders. Instead, it was filled with gastronomic adventures complemented by group photos and goofing around–which made the whole experience a lot more fun and satiating.


Weekly Photo Challenge: One


When it comes to bakeries in Riyadh, there is only one that comes to mind. That is, the Wooden Bakery on Kurais Road in Salah Al Deen Street. This bakery has four specialties: Arabic and European breads, French pastries, Arabic sweets, and, of course, the excellent coffee.

But did you know that there is an interesting scuttlebutt about the bakery’s sails? The original one has four blades only. Until a high-ranking pious member of the constabulary deemed that the four blades resemble to a cross. He then asked the company to reconstruct it and–voila–the five-blade sails you see now.


Urban Spelunking (Second Episode: Earth & Air)

After the upbeat endings of our watching-the-sunrise and swimming experience at Half Moon Bay, we proceeded directly to the city proper to check in at one of the most economical hotel suites in Khobar and to have lunch at the most patronized Filipino restaurant nearby. Thereafter, we headed to our second destination: Cobra Amusement Park. The said park is the equivalent of Enchanted Kingdom in the Philippines and is located at the heart of the Saudi oil industry, Dammam. It took us an hour drive to get to the place from Khobar.


The city of Dammam is largest in the metropolis and it is the commercial hub of the whole Eastern Region. Several government offices as well as judicial and administrative bodies are found in the city.


On the other hand, the Cobra Amusement Park is, of course, a place of entertainment—primarily for kids. This park lies along Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Road in Ash Sharqiyah. It has a land area of 130,000 square meters that can accommodate 15,000 visitors at one time.

Howbeit, for some reason the “young goats” in us seemed to have possessed our consciousness that we suddenly craved feeling the rides. After paying SAR 10 for the entrance, we then ambulated the colorful ambiance of the park until we got magnetized by this Waveswinger at 15 SAR.


“The Waveswinger premiered in Germany in 1972 as a park model designed by Zierer, built by Franz Schwarzkopf. In 1974 the first transportable Wellenflug (as it is known in its home country of Germany) premiered under the same partnership. Since this time there have been over 150 units exported worldwide by Zierer who later went on to be the Waveswinger’s sole manufacturer. The rotating top is raised via 4 sets of cables linked to a hydraulic ram inside the central column. The ram then retracts to pull the cables that hold the center ring (and attached carousel) upwards; eventually tilting over a curve in top of the central pole, which rotates in the opposite direction to create its unique motion. This moving center-pole remains ingeniously hidden under the decorative paneling. The carousel is rotated by 2 motors in the roof, while 2 motors in the base turn the curved center pole in the opposite direction” (

Seeing a group of youngsters that got in the swinger before us being thrown up in the air like happily yelling boomerangs was quite inviting, not to mention thrilling. Everyone got tremendously pumped up.


So when the ride began to move in an oscillating wave-like motion, our bodies’ adrenal medullas were instantly filled with epinephrine. Our heart rate and blood pressure heightened when its central pole slowly tilted at its peak more so when the carousel telescopically rose and rotated simultaneous with flinging our limping yet agog bodies into the petrifying breeze. We stayed waving like flags in the wind at multiple revolutions for straight 15 minutes. All we could do during that moment was succumb to the overpowering joy and excitement by loosing our loud, bursting screams—inarticulate and piercing.

Before we finally returned to Khobar, we snapped a group selfie and photo of the Waveswinger that looks startling at dusk. 



In retrospect, breaking free from the monotony of our, for lack of a better word to describe it, adult routine by immersing ourselves in the world of the younger crowd or doing something that truly excites them (like riding the Waveswinger) is a liberating and overwhelming experience even just for a while. I now believe that there’s indeed no point being a grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes. Simply put, the experience was absolutely a blast!

For more information about the place, please click this website:


Urban Spelunking (First Episode: Water & Fire)

After several months of hibernation, the free-spirited traveler in me was once again on the loose. It’s been a while since I felt that jolts of excitement when going on an excursion—explained by the fact that it’s my first time to step outside the walls of Riyadh. We are fortunate to have lived in this day and age for giving us the unstoppable access to consumer technology, with regard to Global Positioning Systemssocial networking, and photography. Our hunger for travel keeps on growing. This compelled me and my friends more to do urban spelunking in the active, inhabited sites of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region last December 6 to 7, 2013 for some time off—to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. This part of the kingdom is the counterpart of Bicol Region in the Philippines.


Our first stop is at the pearl of the east coast, Al Khobar City (Khobar). This vibrant city is swarmed by a plethora of lifestyle centers (Al Goasiabi Center and Rahmaniah Center), world cuisine restaurants (Copper Gandhi and TGI Friday’s), traditional malls (Khobar Mall and Al Rashid Mall—the largest and fanciest in the city), fast food outlets (Burger King and McDonald’s) and coffee bars (dr.Cafe Coffee and Starbucks). On top of it, the city is favored and famed for its two crowd pleasing tourist spots: Half Moon Bay and Corniche. Together with two other cities, Dammam and Dharan, they form the Dammam Metropolitan Area.


Amid the city’s slaving streets that are frequently gobbled up by business operations and flights is its unparalleled tourism. We were fortunate to arrive in this part of the region at the crack of dawn.


As we were nearing the arguably loftiest beach, Half Moon Bay, in Azizzia Area in that fine Friday morning, the freshness of the scentful, salty air greeted us. Our arrival at the beach was perfect time to watch the dawn breaks into a beautiful sunrise while being hugged tightly by the sea breeze.


This is beyond question one of the greatest feats of nature: the rise of the sun. This is that time of the day when nature is painted in incredible colors. You can’t sure avert your optical organs at how the day slowly gets brighter, how the breathtaking colors start to seep through. Being able to witness such scene is a heavenly feeling.



Half Moon Bay, which is lying on the Arabian Gulf 20 kilometers south of Khobar, is totally on the cuff. Its name was derived from the bay’s man-made semi-circular shape.


Half Moon Bay is a perfect site for outdoor fans, alfresco adventures, or sea sports. It has quite a captivating azure waters. Add to that the off-white powdery sands on the shoreline that paint a more charming view for sightseers. The credit goes to the local government for their sustained efforts to ensure the bon ton and cleanliness of the beach.



No wonder we found ourselves indulging in the beach the next day in spite of the deterring cold climate of the winter. We all felt the urge to become one with the water element I must say.



On a side note, there is an artificial reef for divers to explore in the very core of Half Moon Bay. According to what I read, this reef offers little coral growth for divers to appreciate; nonetheless, the waters boast plentiful marine life.


Half Moon Bay also has an amusement park, made especially for parents. Needless to say the park was built to keep the kids engaged while their parents are busy gamboling in the beach.



And if you are booked in at any of the private resorts like Movenpick along the area, you can do sea sports like jet ski, surfing, sailing, etc., even riding on motorboats. We didn’t get the chance to enjoy any of those though because of money constraints. Nevertheless, frolicking in the beach will still be more amusing and fun if not enough.

For more information about the place, please click this website:


Weekly Photo Challenge: Community


This photo was snapped through the car’s window a week ago whitherward at the Cobra Amusement Park. This intersection along Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Road marks the entrance to an exclusive subdivision–forming a community that obviously belongs to the higher echelon of society.

I am giving you a glimpse of I and my friends’ weekend excursions last 06–07 December 2013 to the Eastern Region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Let There Be Light!

Christmas remains as the most celebrated festival, if not the most important holiday, in the world without much of the cultural, regional, and religious barriers to date. No wonder, all roads lead home at Christmas.



To herald the yuletide just around the corner, we should put some Christmas adornments particularly colorful lights on our trees, buildings, and homes. Besides, Christmas is also known as the “feast of lights”. This compelled me to reminisce the times I and my family partake in this kind of handiwork this time of the year, and, of course, share the story I have for the now most anticipated annual lights show in the Philippines: the Ayala Symphony of Lights. I was able to witness the show at the Ayala Triangle Garden in the Philippines’ finest business district, Makati City, last 18 December 2011.


The show starts at 6:00 PM but I can vividly remember setting foot on the place as early as 5:15 PM. There were just a few people roaming around. Nevertheless, when the digital countdown timer appeared on the ceiling of the Philippine Stock Exchange‘s  arched walkway a few minutes before 6:00 PM, people were already flocking around the esplanade adjacent to the garden where these special trees are standing. The trees give form to more than 800,000 colored LED bulbs that are connected to 45,000 meters of cabling and with almost 500,000 digital channels synchronically moving to Christmas medleys, which are composed to orchestral and native tunes.

Let there be light!


At exactly 6:00 PM, the Ayala Triangle Garden transmogrified. The motley of lights dancing in unison took over. IMG_1982The lights always have this exquisite beauty that provides a festive illumination after dark. The inspiring and colorful sight they emit is just amazing. Like flaming stars they bustle in the murky night, sparkling brightly–giving such a spectacle for sightseers. Each person turned aphonic–in awe of such. The night looked so alive with these thousands of scintillating, diminutive lights.  No one who has witnessed this scene in the triangle garden will ever forget it.

Using Christmas lights (a.k.a. holiday lights, ferry lights, or twinkle lights) to decorate trees, homes, and buildings during the holidays has already become generic. This tradition did arise out of a variety of winter traditions; therefore, making use of Christmas lights to celebrate the winter holidays is no longer about a particular religion.


The Ayala Symphony of Lights is now on its fourth year and it still baits applauses from the public. As we celebrate the holiday season, let’s set down that Christmas lights are not only for drawing the public into a festive celebration nor a show. They give a deeper meaning. They remind us about the good tidings that Christmas brings. They provide spirit-lifting light and opportunity for gathering and socialization in our rustic and citified communities. Above all, they remind us that Christmas is a perfect occasion for gift giving, that we really have all the reasons to be joyful, kind, and forgiving, and the best time to spend quality time with people close to our hearts.

So now I say, “Let there be lights! Christmas lights. Because at Christmas, all roads lead home.”

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