Street Photography in Dirah: A Prologue to the “Top 5 Spots for Nature Lovers in Riyadh”

I got into a no blogging phase after my last post (“Calaguas Island Tour’s Day 2: The Time of Our Lives“) on September 12 due to working on some higher priorities so to speak. 

A few days ago, I tried so hard to get back into blogging after the long pause. It was foiling…I wrote different blog titles but none of them reached the draft stage. Tonight, I just dived into it and―look there―this prologue to the post (“Top 5 Spots for Nature Lovers in Riyadh”)  that I had tried to finish long before the hiatus.

The title was actually a suggestion from Ms. Laura Alho of the Blue Abaya. She commented on one of the photos I posted on my Instagram last July 25. I was star-struck; nonetheless, got more motivated and inspired considering her reputation. Subsequently, she sent me an email  about guest posting. I did not fully understand it was about that until my long break. When I was in the mood to compose it though, priorities crept in as stated earlier. I was unable to get back to her on time so I now decided to have the post on the blog instead. Thankfully, my writing mojo is back and there is no stopping it (at least for now).

But before I publish that post, I would like to share with you three of my most favorite snapshots―which were all taken along Al Thumairi Street in Ad Dirah during my first (“The Very Colorful And Nitid Land Of Golden Souqs“) and second visits there to do street photography with my housemates (Alvin and Marwin), officemates (Ace and Charles), and Onel (thechinitowanderer).

Doing photography for almost five years now, I still consider myself an amateur because the only “science” behind my technique is trial and error―pressing the shutter countless times only to pick just a few in the end.


That said, there were a lot of things that I learned from the experience of being a non-pro photographer. One of which is that there is something beautiful out of the mundane. That I have the power to make something boring interesting rather than trying to capture something interesting in a boring way. I believe this is what matters most in photography. It has become my social media platforms’ catchphrase as well as a guiding principle in this craft ever since.


Those two visits in downtown Riyadh made me realize that, beyond question, street photography is all about capturing beauty in the mundane.


Learn to embrace the ordinary things around you because once you do, your true potential will be unlocked.

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Calaguas Island Tour’s Day 2: The Time of Our Lives

After our fun-filled hiking and relaxing wrap-up on our first day in Calaguas Island, we were promised a very mobile second day by Lisa and Anthony. We all entered our castle tents with a smile and crashed out with so much anticipation for the next day’s activities. The overflowing vigor and enthusiasm enveloping us didn’t wane just yet. Not in a place like this.

In 2013, the Isla Lipana & Co., a Philippine member of the London-based PricewaterhouseCoopers—a multinational consultancy firm, conducted an online survey showcasing 175 of the country’s pristine natural tourist destinations to increase the awareness and appreciation for these spots in order to upheave the tourism industry. Every Bicolano, adopted or native, stood proud after voters posted their choices. Calaguas Island in Camarines Norte emerged as the number 1 “tourism gem” of the Philippines…The other must-visit sites that made it to the final 10 were Lake Sebu, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Biri Island Rock Formation, Mt. Kanlaon Nature Park, Danjugan Island, Panglao Island, Apo Island, Apo Reef Natural Park, and Batanes Island. This was the very gist of the travel article from Philippine Daily Inquirer that compelled me to add Calaguas Island to my bucket list three years ago.


At about 4:30 in the morning, we were awakened. Our tent was shaking because CJ and Algend were prompting us to go out and jog on the beach, repeatedly, but we were still so sleepy. They only gave up when they saw our languid demeanor. The last thing I remembered before I dozed off again was Ms. Wonderwall handed my camera to Algend. Roughly thirty minutes later, we got up and invited, Teyshaun, Harry, Lisa, and Rosh to come with us and go after CJ and Algend.

With all the things that had happened that day, Ms. Wonderwall and I still consider spending a night at the beach the most romantic time ever.


We caught Algend and CJ, along with other visitors, doing a photo shoot at the far right side of the beach where volcanic outcrops dominate the lanscape. Good thing I had my camera phone. I was able to capture the views that were molded into sublime beach scenery.


There’s a subtle difference in the kind of beauty the views around exhibit when the sun is at its peak and when it’s just peeping in the distance.

Then I felt the cold wind from the sea hugging the entire place. I thought a little warm-up was necessary before dipping in the water again. I then suggested to do another hike. Right then and there, my optical organs got magnetized by a signboard to my right boasting another trail to the peak. It sealed the deal despite the entrance fee.


The trail started off right from the beach area and it was indeed facile compared to the one we treaded before it. There are man-made steps and markers on the bushy trees are also visible along the way. After more or less 30 feet down the trail, we saw a nipa hut. The first hike didn’t give us a convenient place for Take 5. The nipa hut did. From there, the peak could already be scaled somewhere in the region of 55 meters. One can also get a decent view of Calaguas Island’s densely populated yet picturesque area.


We took a few usies and aerial shots of the island before we did the assault. Another set of group selfies and pictures of the scenery atop were framed. When the sunshine started scratching our skin, we prepared for descent. Nevertheless, the day was too charming to just spend it inside the tent or under the trees. An idyllic, vigorous day of kayaking in this paradisaical island was what I anticipated. 


By the time we were conditioned for swimming, the entire Mahabang Buhangin was already crowded. We dillydallied for a while until we came up with the idea of sneaking into the private area of Tinaga island, which is the one that can be fully seen at the peak and is located straight down the hill.


For the record, we hesitated but upon knowing that there was literally no one but us in the place, we went it. Thank goodness, no one appeared to drive us away. I had to sing  one of my favorite travel songs, “Pure Shores”. We did all sorts of fun we could do and we instantaneously turned into the younger versions of Harry, Teyshaun, and Rosh. We ran here and there as if we were playing Hide and Seek. We jumped. We yelled. We tumbled. We shouted for joy…It was like a total time warp of our seven-year old selves. It was a fantastic way to kill time and definitely a great segue to the kayak that’s going to come any moment.


The four elements seemed to be in unison for providing us the perfect atmosphere. We were not to waste a second.


We relished the summer’s warm temperatures, clear skies, and epic views of the whole private spot of Tinaga Island with requisite boats that either currently crossing or transporting visitors, who can afford scuba diving, at the smaller islands nearby. Owning the entire spot during that day was way more awesome than doing any of the other activities included in all the available island tour packages.   


In the middle of our frolic, Lisa and Anthony came over—with the kayak. It goes without saying it bolstered the amusement we were already having all the more. Trust me when I say we needed that kayak. 


We decided to take turns on kayaking. CJ and Liza set out first. They were able to propel really far. I could barely see them in the next photo. What I didn’t know was the paddling part was insanely difficult. Liza showed no tinge of that adjective until our turn came.


I wished I didn’t take the paddler. I should have given it to Algend. So my ignorance of the sport, kayaking, was revealed. I thought paddling was as easy as posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook. It wasn’t. It isn’t. I was utterly stripped of my all athletic abilities the moment they noticed the difference between flapping and paddling. Picture me doing the walk of shame. That’s what they did to me. But my happy self didn’t falter so I took all the insults in. That’s where the friendship’s breath rides on. These people, with the inclusion of Ms. Wonderwall, are the kind that turn me into a handsome, playful monster. The same is true for the rest of the group. It’s worth swallowing the embarrassment not to mention pride.


We were so having the time of our lives I must say! The last time we were exactly in the same position was at the beach in Batangas near our friend’s house—16 years ago. It didn’t matter how brown our skins got in broad daylight, we weren’t going to our tents and nipa hut for lunch until our knees weakened and our facial muscles contracted. I wanted to freeze every minute of that moment.


We only became immobile when our energy had been zapped and our mouths were already craving savory and authentic Bicolano victuals. It was already quarter past noon when we got once again to our designated nipa hut. Time to gorge ourselves on the meals courtesy of the couple, Lisa and Anthony. They really know how to take care of their guests. They served up fantastic meals, and thank God they gave in to our short-order requests (fried fish and Bicol Express with Gulay na Santol) on our last day.


All these wonderful moments wouldn’t have been possible without Liza and Anthony of Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours with their two sidekicks, Melo and Jiero, of course. I couldn’t help but already feel nostalgic when I was finishing my lunch. It was only there that I felt the sad part of good times like this: waving adieu—to this paradise that had been our sanctuary for two days and one night.


I used to be terrible at dealing with this kind of situation until I got to where I’m at now, working overseas. I now fully comprehend the incredibly painful yet hopeful part of life: dealing with the inevitable farewell. The easiest way of coping with it is knowing that you’re never alone at this and only a call away just in case. I couldn’t be any happier my friends manifested the same kind of coping mechanism.


On our way back to the reality so to speak, we had nothing but smiles on our faces. It looked like we have all reached maturity now that we can turn sentiments into cachinnations.

“The best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart” (Alan Alda).

I heard you loud and clear, mga Parekoy! See you around.

#bicolbloggers #itsmorefuninbicol #calaguasisland #Phoneography #kayak #kayaking #mahabangbuhangin #gemofthephilippines #PhilippineBeaches #PhilippineImages #tinagaisland

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Catching the Rustic Sunset in Calaguas Island

One thing I adore about my college friends is their adventurous nature. There’s no dull moment whenever I’m with them. They can always awaken that dormant humor in me or expel that spoilsport from me. But when it comes to outdoor adventures or anything that requires strenuous activities, I take the lead.

I was the first to get out from the water when Melo reminded us of the next activity in our itinerary: hiking. That’s one of the most motivational words in my dictionary. I take every chance to exercise so I was so glad when my super travel buddies and Ms. Wonderwall followed what I did and showed enthusiasm for hiking. We’re already on our early 30s. Opportunities for us to exercise should be a priority.

We immediately took a shower in an open area of the island where a bucket of water is equivalent to five pesos. Our bodies were just too hungry for adventures that we didn’t even feel hungry after swimming. After changing our clothes to something less revealing, we waited for the Exsagged Team (CJ, Algend, Liz, Rosh, Tayshaun, Harry, yours truly, & Cy) and Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours‘ (Lisa, Anthony, Melo, & Jiero) to be in complete attendance. At that point, I couldn’t contain my excitement to hike the nearby hill, which loftily stands towards the northern end of Calaguas Island when directly facing Mahabang Buhangin. After a couple of minutes, I began counting heads. It’s a standard operating procedure I learned from my mentors during mountaineering days. There were 12 of us who enthusiastically went on an extended walk for exercise and pleasure—to witness the most supernal nature feat in my book: sunset.

When I asked Lisa about the name of the hill, she told me the hill has no name or that there’s one circulating yet. She enthused, “I’ll call it Tralala for now.” Then everybody laughed.

On our way up to the hill, we felt so delighted to see cows grazing on verdant herbage. Such is an amusement for city dwellers who only get to appreciate simple things when in a rural area. I also grew up looking at cows grazing in our neighbor’s backyard almost every day yet I was completely one with my urban, college friends at that moment. I guess my immersion in the city for more than a decade now has taken its toll. Nonetheless, the good thing that comes out of it is my now urbanized life enables me to see value and beauty in the mundane. The wide and open extent of healthy trees was also noticeable.


A few minutes later, the trees gave way to a glade—which opened a better view of the beach and the rest of the islands—and eventually to the hill’s crest. It was just past five o’clock in the afternoon by that time. The sky was still clear.


Below the cliff is an aerial view of Tinaga Island’s beach that is equally picturesque as Calaguas’.


That moment reminded me of my Bagolatao hiking experience because that was how I and Ms. Wonderwall wrapped our summer escapade’s first day at White Pebbles Beach Resort in the summer of 2015. We also hiked the nearby hill to catch the sunset and to frame the circumambient view of Bagolatao shoreline (“Bagolatao Trilogy’s Part 1: Basking in the Natural Scenery“).


When I was at that vantage point where I saw the ever captivating view of the horizon showing the sky kissing the sea, I suddenly felt nostalgic.


The tear duct of my optical organs silently broke for the feelings I came to crave after my first summit experience. The overwhelming silence (“The Playground Of Demigods And Nephilims: Tarak Ridge“). The exquisite feeling of amazement when you see the world at a higher level. The exhilaration of being able to walk miles away from the mountain’s foot (“Why Do I Love Mountain Climbing?“). The thrill of holding on for your life that made me realize how alive I can be when I’m  at the brink of losing it (“Embraced By The Labyrinth’s Trail Of Mount Marami“). The happiness of carrying an eighty-liter backpack, which contains my vittles and camping gear, for hours (“Tirad Pass’ Historical Trails in Ilocos Sur“). The chance of meeting people from different walks of life and become friends with them (“Mount Maculot’s Irony“). The acts that cut life down to the basics: get up, move, eat, sleep, get down (“Weekly Photo Challenge: Simple“). The life lessons that only the mountains can teach (“Where The Four Great Amputees And Mountains Led Me” and “To The Mountains”). And, of course, that chance to witness the sun setting at that thin silver or golden lines shooting across the horizon.

In all my travels, specifically nature trips, I consider watching the sunset the ultimate experience.


Standing on the edge of the hill’s crest at that incredible moment made me feel I’m indeed part of one of the most spectacular sights in the Universe—of something important.


Once again, I was stunned at how the unique harmony of colors starts to seep through the rustic sky of Calaguas Islands. While I was marveling at the sunset, I realized just how it mirrors life’s cycle of duality. The sun must create a space and time for darkness. Think of the hard times and the good times or the dark tunnel and the light at the end of it. Funny how natural wonders like this make us realize how, without a doubt, connected we are to nature.


I read an article about sunset on a few months ago. Based on the article, the beauty of sunset is something that the painters have been trying to capture, the poets have been trying to describe, and the scientists have been trying to measure.


I agree. Looking at it deeper, there’s really no description or measure that can truly capture the sunset’s mysterious majesty but only a few words can express its beauty. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to grasp that beauty and truth, which is held within a sunset.

The main reasons why we took this Calaguas Tour were to recharge our batteries, disconnect from the hurly-burly of our urban lives, to catch the sunset up a hill, to be reunited after four years, and to celebrate the milestone of our friendship. It’s been 16 years since we became friends. Now that we’ve successfully passed the seven-year expiry date on friendships, friends should be definitely changed to “super friends or travel buddies”. There was no better way to commemorate that milestone than to have the sunset as witness. Here’s to our 16th year, to never growing old, and to our unconditional love, mga Parekoy!


We all descended with big smiles on our faces, and we ended the day by standing again on the beach, gazing out over the ocean to the golden horizon.


“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart” (Elisabeth Foley).

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Calaguas Island: A Perfect Microcosm of Paradise in the Bicol Region

It was 02-03 April 2016, and the world smelled of ocean breeze and salty air. I was, once again, at my happiest!

A few months before I went home to the Philippines for my vacation last April,  my forever friends in college (Algend, CJ, & Liz) had informed me that they will be visiting Camarines Sur (CamSur) for the group’s yearly reunion. In addition to that, they’d be joining  I and Ms. Wonderwall’s planned summer getaway to Calaguas Island. I haven’t really given much thought about it, to be honest, considering that they said the same to us—a lot of times—when we were still based in Manila. The fact that we’re now extra farther from their respective places in the metropolis, put my expectations in a quiet corner. Guys, I have a free pass for saying things like that to you here, right?

Until I received a text message from my younger brother from another mother, Algend, that they were already aboard a bus bound for CamSur. I lied when I said I wasn’t expecting much from them. One of the many preparations I and Ms. Wonderwall did was we bought special bottles and finger food. We also cooked plenty of their favorite desserts not to mention stuffed the fridge with something edible. They’re not special. They just have big sacs that don’t get filled up—easily.

Receiving visitors like them is no pressure even though their confirmation only came a few hours before their arrival. Until they also signified their intention to join us in the getaway. No. The right words were “confirmed their attendance”. Thank heavens we had such a flexible travel and tour agent, Liza Concordia, of Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours. The last-minute changes were quickly settled, with a mild headache.

The next thing we knew was we (Algend, CJ, Rosh, Liz, Harry and Tayshaun) were setting out to the getaway in the early morning of Saturday, 2nd of April. That was just a couple of hours after their arrival. We needed to catch the first van going to Daet, Camarines Norte otherwise we wouldn’t be able make it to the agreed pick-up time and place (i.e., 8:00 AM at Jollibee).

It’s suffice to say the agreements fell into place so we had a very smooth travel via the jeepney in Daet, where we met Liza’s husband (Anthony) son (Melo) and right hand (Jiero). They’re the commendable team behind Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours). From there, we were transported to the penultimate destination, Vinzons’ Port Logpond, which impressed me with its amazing panoramas. The smooth cruise transformed into a challenging one—at least for some of us—during the two-hour boat ride to the ultimate destination, Calaguas Island. CJ and the son described their experience as one hell of a ride. She couldn’t stop screaming whenever the boat resists the violent moves of the sea. We were literally riding the waves. The Cyclopean slaps of the waves made the boat succumb to the moving ridge’s course. For someone like me who already had countless, for lack of a better word to describe it, waves’ experience, I was just like watching a pair of dancers gracefully moving to a pelagic tune.

A few minutes later, I started seeing a strip of white beaches nearby. I wanted to plunge into the water and swim my way through right then and there.


I was that excited! For a year of being confined in a desert scenery, this kind of reaction is expected of me, a beach lover since birth.


You could just imagine how my feet itched when we were finally approaching Calaguas Island.


The sight of Mahabang Buhangin beach on Tinaga Island, which is now the one being promoted by the provincial government of Camarines Norte as Calaguas Island, made my heart skip a bit.


The beautiful scenery during the stopover at Port Logpond proved that it was a just a prelude (“A Sneak Peek At The Astounding Landscape Of Vinzons’ Port Logpond In Camarines Norte“) to this perfect microcosm of paradise. The port reminded me of the Amazon River while the island reminded me of the movie, “The Beach”, and one of my favorite songs: “Pure Shores”. I, Ms. Wonderwall, and the rest of our forever friends couldn’t stop exclaiming beautiful adjectives to describe what our optical organs were feasting on.


The sun was directly overhead by time we reached Calaguas Island. The paradisaical scapes were overpowering that we didn’t mind being toasted.


How cool it is to watch the water mimicking the color of  the sky, to hear the hypnotic murmuring waves of the pulsing turquoise sea, and to gaze out at the offing that seemed to have been stitched with a silver line. The picture was a far cry from the scene described earlier on our way to this place.


And when we started walking on the island’s long strip of white powdery sand—the finest of its kind—we were completely swept away. The beach looks like a well-scythed sward one would die to play on. Our toes were happily sand kissed.


We became all the more invited to immediately settle in our spot upon hearing the laughs of children and adults frolicking in the crystal clear water simultaneous with seeing fellow weekend sightseers wearing tanned but joyful faces passing by.


When Anthony and Liza were cooking for lunch, they prompted us to go lollygag in the sun or swimming.


We chose dawdling the hours away as the sun was already too unforgiving by that time.


An hour passed and we were eating three authentic mount-watering Bicol viands. Great local food and an atmosphere of humming waves accentuated the scene. By time we finished lunch, our accommodations were already pitched, waiting for us right under the trees in front of a lush vegetation. What a perfect hive.


We let the kids roam around a little bit later so we could finally catch up. The countrified environment may have been too persuasive to make us sleep but our conversation was far engaging then that of nature’s force. We didn’t notice that we had consumed almost three hours talking about everything under the sun. Time flies faster when you’re having a good conversation I must say.


When the sun’s rage began frittering away, the sea began casting it’s spell. It was about time to give in to the serenading calm, azure water.


This is one of those extremely rare moments when the least that I could think of is holding my phone let alone pressing the shutter.


I took that very moment to look at the ineffable natural wonder that is Calaguas Island.


It’s now all clear to me why most of the blog posts I saw on the net used this word to describe it: paradise. I say, indeed!


For the nth time, I noticed the tides ebb and flow languorously.


I got fascinated by the way the waves gently crashed against the rocks and sands of the beach, their curling fingers painting the big and tiny stones with a gentle caress as the wind ushered them softly towards the shore.


When I looked at Ms. Wonderwall with our great friends merrily swimming, it gave me a sense of satisfaction with life in the moment.


Then I found myself floating in the turquoise ocean with them like there’s no tomorrow—free of gravity.


I realized that my affinity with the water element is intrinsic. No wonder I’ve always turned to water for sense of calm, clarity, and rebirth.


Our swimming chortles got  stirred  when Melo came over. He was yelling, “Kuya, ate, dudes, magha-hiking na daw po tayo para sa sunset” while cheerfully telling us to get out of the water as soon as possible. I wouldn’t mind being interrupted from my woolgathering if the reason is the same as Melo’s.

The next activity on the list is something I wouldn’t want to miss for the world. It’s been ages since I last hiked. My feet itched earlier because it wanted to get soaked and tickled by the fine sand. Now, it is itching to hike the nearby hill where visitors can witness the most supernal nature feat in my book: sunset! (Stay tuned for the sequel.)

#‎storiesofthewanderingfeeandmind‬ ‪#‎travel‬ #‎nature‬ ‪#‎wtnadventures‬ ‪#‎bicolbloggers‬ ‪#‎travelph‬ ‪#‎daet‬‪ #‎camarinesnorte‬ ‪#‎itsmorefuninbicol‬ ‪#‎traversephilippines‬‪ #‎thewanderingstenographer‬ ‪#‎iphoneography‬

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Why A Travel Blogger Like Me Writes About Grammar, & A New Batch Of Pet Peeves On The List

The English language never runs out of “tricks”. That latter word sums up all the difficult to comprehend rules to common mistakes I’ve learned about the language since schooling days. A large number of them comes from the ones I’m yet  to learn. I never stopped “self studying” the technicalities  behind the tricks. I’m travel blogger. I write. I’m a writer one way or the other; therefore, I’m expected to be mindful of grammar. Having said that, my proficiency of the language, is still a work in progress. It’ll be the case as long as I’m writing, I believe.

Writing about each of the grammar pet peeves here is a means of retaining the knowledge more than anything else. It’s really been a very effective way to keep the learning intact so please bear with me. After all, the grammar posts still hold a high percentage of the blog’s traffic nearly every day. It just dawned on me that I’ve not written any article about grammar for more than a year now. The last article I wrote was “The New Kind of Technocracy To Be Learned“. It’s about time to add something to the Grammar Pet Peeves Series.

A big thanks to a concerned citizen who’ve recently called my attention regarding an email I sent him; it “osculated” my muse. The email has metric symbols — such as “min” for minutes, “kg” for kilograms, and “km” for kilometer — in it. These were his concerns. He assertively pointed out that each of the symbols I used should have “s” — followed by a period — at their respective ends as in, mins., kgs., and kms. because they were used in plural sense.

What went really wrong there? He simply thought metric symbols are similar to regular plural nouns, which means you can add “s” to form their plurals. They are different unless the respective units (i.e., minutes, kilograms, and kilometers) of those symbols are the ones being used.

Now, to my dear fellas who are not yet familiar with the rules surrounding said issue, make a note of this: In the International System of Units (SI), the units don’t have “abbreviations” but symbols such as  “g” for gram; “k” for kilo; kW (not KW) for kilowatt; and W for watt. These unit symbols don’t follow the grammatical rules for abbreviations because they follow the mathematical rules for symbols instead. Hence, km, kg, or min will stay as it is — and is never followed by a period. The exception to the latter is when any of the given examples falls at the end of a sentence.

Another important rule to remember is that the (metric) symbols are separated from the numerical quantity they follow by a space. Therefore, 7 kilograms should be written as 7 kg — not 7kg.


Whenever my optical organs catch a beautiful view, I find it hard not to write my thoughts or feelings about it via the blog.

When someone directly points out your mistake, you get offended. This is generally true. In my case, I rarely get offended when it’s about grammar. I would feel sorry though for the person who’s doing that without doing any homework. And, I’m most grateful if someone does that — provided it’s accompanied with an explanation or citation.

I started doing “homework” when I was directly corrected by a fellow blogger, Sir R. Luis Flores of the Liquid Druid’s travel blog, in 2012. It was about the word “infamous”, which I used to mean “not famous”. If you’re interested to know the details, check the comments section of my post, “Rediscovering One of the Country’s Historical Treasures”. I was also refrained from using “big words” by a random reader in 2014 (details are here: “Mount Maculot’s Irony“). According to him, my English is mediocre. His comment made me watchful of my diction. What topped these “correcting incidents” was my verbal tussle with Sir Paeng del Rosario, Definitely Filipino Blog‘s regular critic, in my blog post titled “Masteral and Some Very Common Filipino Concoctions” in 2015. He brutally butchered my grammar. In the end, I thanked all of them. I took all of their constructive criticisms to heart, and I still cringe each time I remember those mistakes. The best thing that came out of these experiences: I always see to it that almost every word, phrase, or idiomatic expression I use is well-researched.

On a lighter note, there was a colleague who sent me a thank you note a few months back. It was about, of course, expressing his gratitude to me for consistently using the common idioms such as “My apologies.“, “Congratulations!“, and “I have no plans.” in my emails and social media posts. He admitted that he had always used “My apology.” as an expression for acknowledging his mistakes; “Congratulation!” for saying that he’s happy about somebody else’s good luck or success; and “I have no plan.” for implying that he doesn’t have a plan to do something or to go somewhere. He also acknowledged that the aforementioned expressions I’ve been using are grammatically correct regardless of number and that he wouldn’t have doubted the correctness of the ones he used.

We, non-native speakers, all have our fair share of grammar mishaps because, in large measure, English is our second language. Be that as it may it shouldn’t be a reason for us to hesitate about writing or studying the language more. If that isn’t convincing enough, put in mind from here on out that communication is today’s most important skill. “It has become fashionable to say that our present epoch is an information age, but that’s not quite right.  In truth, we live in a communication age and it’s time we start taking it seriously” (“Why Communication Is Today’s Most Important Skill“,, 06 February 2015).


Pursuing a passion during your leisure times is an inherent right. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for it.

As for me, I’ll definitely write more travel stories, and I’ll not stop studying the language not only because I’m a travel blogger but because I’m a natural philomath. I fess up: I can’t excel at everything I do. I’m but limited to barely countable modalities of intelligence. I get to experience failing miserably at times no matter how hard I try. That being said, I make sure that I’m still doing something to step up in my chosen endeavors regardless of the outcome and in spite of the contrary. This is one of the best lessons I learned in the corporate world. It’s how white-collar workers roll. And, all of these sentiments disappear whenever I think of writing just an article or two amid a hectic schedule. I have been cutting back on blogging so If I did publish, like I said, one or two articles in a month, the feeling is priceless! It gives me a genuine smile thinking of facing every workweek.

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CamSur Watersports Complex is Still Bicol’s Most Modern Destination

Now that my current life entails having only a month to spend for holidays every year, mountain climbing not to mention catching up with very good friends and relatives became really difficult. The main reason is my new location’s proximity to where my life used to take place. Embracing its wonders such as the beautiful people, delicious (spicy) foods, and irresistible travel attractions became my very coping mechanism.

The day Camarines Sur became my new base, the sensation seeker, which possessed my body the day I climbed a mountain, became more dominant than ever. This is the reason why visiting the CamSur Water Sports Complex (CWC) situated at Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur is a must each time I go home for vacation. The hot season is perfection for my wandering feet that are designed for roaming around and seeking adventures outdoors.

So when our very generous neighbor invited our family to join his in their excursion to CWC on the 20th of  April 2016, I did not hesitate to drop the task at hand and indirectly force Ms. Wonderwall and the two busy little men, Brad and Ethan, who were both playing in the sala.


It is now obvious that one of my favorite activities during summer is to check CWC in Cadlan for the mind-bending tricks of professional wakeboarders. I am talking about those daredevil spins that give me that feeling of carefreeness and being extremely alive. Imagine a rider on a wakeboard doing a 360 degree rotation while up in the air. I never considered it uninteresting but thrilling.


On the one hand, climbing mountains gives us different life-changing lessons such as the need to connect with nature and the value of solitude. On the other, extreme sports feed my hunger for that strange yet nice sensation of adrenaline rush. Seeing the family in complete awe while they were witnessing wakeboarders do their stirring tricks brought a big smile on my face. It is absolutely a heavenly feeling when the things that make me ecstatic are appreciated more so reciprocated by my loved ones.


The relaxing environment, made of modernity and natural scenery, is always the bonus for this kind of spectacle. This was already my nth visit but I still get a different vibe each time (“CamSur Watersports Complex And Its Eco-Village“, My Chunk of Extreme Sports At The Best Cable Park In The“, and “Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree“). The stunning views captured in the next photos articulate that statement. Looking at each of them makes me understand why I keep on coming back.


My every visit to CWC reinforces my belief that no place is ever really done. Besides we, people of the earth, will always be attracted to water sports because they give fun and they are probably the best activities during summer. And, water sports complex such as this one in Camarines Sur will always be patronized no matter what because it is natural for us to crave wonders that the water element provides.


There are always something new to see and memory to reforge especially at CamSur Watersports Complex that offers diverse activities and attracts local and international tourists.


It gives me pleasure to reannounce this good news from the World Wakeboard Association’s website ( The Philippines will host the “2016 Wake Park World Championship” on the 29th until the 31st of October 2016 at the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC). Last year, the competition was held in Cancun (Mexico).


This world championship will surely boost Bicol Region’s tourism and the Philippines as a whole considering that CWC’s management has already signed on for a three-year agreement for this event.

Click here for more exciting details of the event that include special tour packages and a Halloween Party on the 31st of October.

#camsurwatersportscomplex #cwc #cadlan #pili #camarinessur #bicolregion #bicolandia #itsmorefuninbicol #bicolbloggers 

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Wadi Namar And Its Hidden Paradise

It’s no secret that yours truly is a licensed nature lover. My social media platforms, full of nature photos, can attest to that.

Yesterday, July 5, I was extra cheerful — secretly — knowing that July 6 was declared a public holiday. Since this happens only once a year, like really once a year, an hour or two (or more) of escape from the city walls is imperative. Well, at least for me and my housemates. During our dinner last night , I suggested the idea of making the most of the holiday, Eid al-Fitr’s first day, by taking a breather somewhere. Deviating from the everyday urban blares, increasing pleasant feelings and creativity, feeding the optical organs with green color, and simply making up for the lost times in the natural world are the main objectives — not de-stressing. Here in the Middle East, Ramadan days in business establishments are generally equated to easy days. This holds true in our workplace.

It goes without saying that all four of us came to a predictable agreement. This is how we got to what I now call the New Zealand of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), “Wadi Namar”, early in the morning today, July 6. The thirty-minute drive from Al Izdihar to Namar gave us surprising treats. Surprising because the objectives mentioned earlier all seemed to have been met by the time I was writing this post.

A few kilometers away from the main entrance, a long stretch of Wadi Namar Dam’s watercourse is actually visible. The point is, that stretch looked dry when we were approaching. Thank goodness there’s no sentry in the area and we’re on a one-way road. We just drove through until look there, we reached the wet part of the dam after about a kilometer.


The place showcases nature wonders similar to New Zealand’s in my book.



The word “panacea” is not only formed but created each time I see the elements of nature converge — coming together to form spectacles that serve as food to the eyes and soul.


This is usually how I describe every moment spent with nature.


By the time I brought my camera out, the mighty sun rose from its seat. The air went wild with the leaves.


The sky highlighted the harking birds with its blue delight. The river moved with majesty while the fish and ducks headed to a beautiful oblivion.


Then the massive escarpments gently hugged the entire place.


Wadi Namar is definitely a worthy addition to the list of the best nature parks in Riyadh and the whole KSA.



Aside from the indispensable nature treats it provides, it’s a great place for a picnic. Fishing, swimming, smoking shisha, and indiscriminate photographing though are not allowed.


We were on a weekday which was conducive to our ideal respite. There were only a few people around, parking lots are there for the taking, and there were less women and children which makes photographing a lot easier. My and Riyadh travel bloggers’ friendly tip is, don’t go there on Fridays or Saturdays but weekdays. Unless, you enjoy waiting in queue for parking lots, listening to crowd’s noise, or getting a chance to shoot the sights without people as distractions in the background.


Also, if you want to take awesome overhead shots, you just need to go on top of the other side’s hill.


The way should be easy based on the the lay of the land but you can ask the utility workers in the park or the locals for direction if getting lost is not an option.


A trip down this place is a perfect “seize the day” moment.


Wadi Namar is an absolute haven for city dwellers.

#landmark #riyadh #saudiarabia #wadinamar #namarlake #riyadhdestinations #naturepark #riyadhdams

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From Travel Pleasures To Gastronomic Pleasures

When I was chatting with a work friend from the Philippines a couple of years ago, he told me that I should consider writing about something that never really crossed my mind. I got curious about his reason. I’ve always admired his brilliance. We’re both into writing but there’s a big difference between him and me. He writes for a living; it’s his passion ever since. I, on the other hand, blog for fun and to break the monotony of my routine; it’s my accidental passion.

I was about to ask him why but another message popped up. The message complimented my photos and writing style but part of it shook my creative juices: “Your blog will never be complete though without food stories.” I gave it a long careful thought. For a blogger who’s become quite comfortable with travel stories, making a sudden turn was a real challenge. It took me two months before I finally posted my first food review, “A Perfect Estival Treat” last June 18, 2014.


Prior to that I actually had an innumerable trial posts, which I didn’t publish. The reason being was I didn’t know if they were okay. Work is still my priority at the end of the day which makes it harder for me to make time for the new endeavor. I hadn’t much time at all actually. But it was sort of journey of a thousand miles; I needed to make the first step. The posts I came up with were a lot similar to my first travel blog stories that came in the form of notes or two-liner comments. At least I came up with something, but I didn’t hit the publish button like I said. I figured out  how to make a better food blog post as I went along. Two months later, I published another one, “Heaven On A Plate“, on August 13, 2014.


The blog’s content has always revolved around my stories. Rather than concentrating on making a technical review, I did personal approach. Nothing is as powerful as the instinct; it told me to write from the heart. From then on I settled to what I do best just like how I wrote my kind of travel stories. I told about how I came across the place; narrated what I did upon entering or while waiting for the food, what I felt when I was eating, what captured my optical organs inside the restaurant, who I was or were with during that moment; and shared the memories and realizations a food or restaurant evokes. These reveal a lot about my enthusiasm towards food and disposition towards life. The pleasure I get from feasting on it more so blogging about it made me realize just how much readers love being me in all of the posts.

smoky chipotle-glazed top sirlon steak and shrimp combo

When I started the blog in 2010, I named it “A Tunnel to My Murmurs: Desultory Thoughts Spoken and Unspoken”. I wasn’t much of a reader and researcher during that time. I juggled from one topic to another. I didn’t know a lot about direction and consistency. It took me two years to find my niche. I owed this to one of the Philippines most decorated travel bloggers, Ms. Jona Branzuela Bering of Backpacking with a Book“, for believing in me. In April 2012, she recommended me to become a member of Pinoy Travel Bloggers: a group comprising the Philippines’ most elite travel bloggers. My first attempt was a daunting experience. I got rejected by the group’s Administrator because my blog failed to meet the criteria. I was advised to write more articles about travel. I then worked my ass off for three months and I was formally welcomed to the group in July 2012.


Eventually, the food stories got tied to restaurant’s. Both of which officially entered the scene two years later or when I was looking for a solid complementary stories as opposed to occasional grammar articles. It’s still surreal to me how I managed to make a separate section for these food and restaurant stories up to now.


Being a photography enthusiast is a prerequisite of being a food enthusiast. One good thing about it is that I find it hard to say no to capturing a frame-worthy scene or moment when it presents itself, especially inside a restaurant or any food establishment. In 2015, I wrote seven food and restaurant stories. I only have three (four after this) so far in the current year and I’m planning to beat last year’s total.


I’d like to believe that this humble success come from each of the posts that I’ve already blogged and will blog about. There’s no blogger out there who has my exact level of skills and knowledge as well as my kind of life and work experience. I’m aware as well of the fact that there’s a multitude of bloggers out there who are way better at what I do. This endeavor asseverated that blogging is a very personal thing. My comments or opinions are essential to my every blog post. I’ve turned subscribers into loyal readers primarily because I’ve shared my very thoughts and what’s keeping me busy, with them. The secondary part comes from the inspiration and pleasure they get from this passion and their idea of learning something new. The latter is actually the part I’m still fervently wishing were true.

We’re all a work in progress. This section of the blog may have now been established but I know that there’s still a multitude of things to work on. Until then, I’ll push on pitching relevant stories to give a gastronomic pleasure to you dear followers—my major inspiration—to satisfy your visual hunger.

Bob, it’s certainly a pleasure yielding to your suggestion! To the owner of the two of the photos (i.e., the first and the fourth) in this post, thank you for letting me use them.

#piatto #steakhouse #javatime #foodreviews #restaurantreviews #riyadh #ksa #pleasure

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Raise Your Glass … Of Coffee!

I hated coffee when I was younger. Every time I drank coffee, an unbearable headache kicked in. It was only when I stopped drinking it that the headache disappeared. That was sophomore in high school.

A decade later, I set foot on the challenging corporate world where I got to work as an assistant to a lawyer. She’s stunning, very kind, tough, and exceptionally smart. Stressful times only crept in if I was juggling between school deadlines and work’s. I was a part-time instructor.


One day, I was in the middle of a very stressful situation; I needed to pause. Then my feet dragged me to the kitchenette where I smelled the hypnotizing aroma of a freshly brewed coffee. I had forgotten about the younger days. The first thing  I wanted to do upon looking at the decanter was to fill up my mug. My kind of office break got tied to that scene since.

Coffee time in the corporate world is a given. It helps us make it through the hard days, like a friend. At present, I still see it that way. It even penetrated my personal routine. What I want upon waking up other than sending morning greetings to special people back home is a cup of coffee. I never really drank this much to the point that I usually catch myself in a coffee shop when I need to get something off my chest or to spend an alone time.


One of the best lessons that the mountains taught me during my climbing days was we cannot grow at a soul level without solitude. We should see being alone as a gift because it enables us to transform moments of loneliness into moments of awareness. That we are truly never alone. Thank God I get to seek solitude every once in a while.

Recently, I was again in that kind of moment when the best companies I had were a cup of coffee and silence from the familiar. How comforting it was to sit by myself like a solitary bottlenose dolphin thrusting its fluke into the ocean. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a cup of coffee this way.


That said, sipping a cup of coffee with friends sure gives a different pleasure. After all, the best things to douse a night with are a cup of coffee and a real conversation. Don’t you just love looking forward to going home spending time with family or friends, meeting any one of them for a coffee?

Lucky me! Java Time, Starbucks, and dr. Cafe are accessible to me. Now, I have all the reasons to celebrate the wonder that is coffee. It’s the perfect time to think about all of the times when coffee, like traveling, somehow became the answer in some of my life’s challenging moments, which typically take place when the rest of the world dozes off.

Now I’m raising my glass … of coffee for a friend that’s always there!

#riyadhdestinations #saudiarabia #travelstories #solitude #reflections #coffee #javatime #starbucks #drcafe #boysnightout #iphoneography

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