Travel, Just Empower!

Year is ending, consequently another year beginning!

And the usual scenario is always being on the run at work, more of brain-bled days. There are just a lot of thangs to organize, have a quick mind and to look beyond what is necessary for the next couple of weeks. Not to mention the holidays bustle! Well, the malls are getting festive as I had a quick detour last weekend to pay bills.

Watching sunrise from heights! Red eye flight is an advantage, in many ways…

Few weeks back, before I could get drowned over with my duties I went for an official trip to off-beaten Tawi-Tawi group! I wasn’t expecting to be back after nine years, what a joy! And again, with a smile shooting more birds with just one stone! This southern most province gave me lasting impression when I first came during Ramadan, to my surprise it was festive every day. They are to my mind are peace loving people. There has been much changes though after nine years.

Back for More!

Blue seas that meets the blue skies, in wide expanse at the Bud summit!

Why is it that wonderful trips are being challenged? Unperturbed, we touched down at Sanga-Sanga Airport after our flight from Zamboanga was cancelled, after booking last minute a flight from another airlines. So, we set aside official bustle when half of our workmates were left nowhere after the chain cancellations of many flights. Because coming to Bongao is not complete without the trek to Bud, we woke up the next morning earlier for the climb. It was surprising, being there is like a walk in the park – cemented steps got you, it was a lot easier with sheds and benches scattered as you go up. What was more surprising were the friendly macaque monkeys that came nearer interacting with the trekkers! Bud Bongao Forest Park was an experience. We lingered longer at the summit watching the horizon, feeling the warm sun and cool mountain breeze. We came down leisurely still admiring the monkeys, some came near for photos. It was overwhelming, we almost forgot our breakfast. We were famished when we got to our hotel. 😛

Quickie stroll at Panampangan Island!

The are more than hundred islands surrounding the province, with many beautiful unspoiled islets scattered in the open seas. Panampangan Island is one of them and was a far dream, the locals spoke well on its beauty but said it’s expensive for the speedboat hire. I was telling my buddy then – next time, who knows? Well, in our last day our hosts arranged for some water escapade for the group. Yes, to the islands of Panampangan and Simunul – I was smiling as if my face would split in half (okey, I am exaggerating)! 🙂

Bud Bongao floating on blue waters!

Riding on a speeding boat under the sun in the wide expanse of the ocean – all three speedboats, it’s engines sounding weird as it cruised over the waters intermittently bumping the waves. Our guide said, it would take at least three hours to the island on ordinary boats but we did it only in 45 minutes! It was a quickie hop, the waters might get rough later so it was all in a rush. The longest sandbar in the country during low tide, pure and exquisite!

Sangngy Siapuh (aka Laa Islet) Resort

Speeding our way to Siangay Siapuh (aka Laa Islet) for lunch, we raced with other boats! I love the warm sun, salt water spraying over us and the sight of wide blue seas. We lingered longer – food, laughter and fun – and we agreed that nobody would talk about work. A break is a break, we need to recharge bracing for the year end hullabaloos. 🙂

Changes, there has been lot. The Bud has been transformed to Forest Park complete with the cemented steps going up – but still the summit felt good. Laa Islet which was uninhabited before has lot of structures, now transformed to a resort. They call it developments, but I was thinking its effects in the surrounding waters of main island Simunul.

Joy of Passage

I never know when I could be back in the province, but it was another unforgettable trip. I admit the company of workmates from our rural development project is heart warming – well , the strength of our team is our relationship. 🙂 It was one happy memories just like in prior year’s Mindanao cluster travels.

Morning walk on town streets, those old acacia trees near the Bongao Doctors Hospital

If there was one I wanted to do again while in Bongao, it would be diving. The waters was so inviting, but I never took a dip. I just want it to be in the depths. Well, maybe next time! That night, as I close my eyes still wide awake I tried to recount the day’s hustle – bit of tan and much salt on my skin and hair. It’s been awhile, the pandemic have cut me off from the mainstream out of the blue.

Sailing for the night towards home

One more challenge as we went home, our final flight for Cagayan de Oro was cancelled! Whew – but never allowed myself to get distracted so we took the boat from Cebu, just right to arrive safe early next morning and still report to work on time. 🙂 A decade of spree travel thought me to grasp sudden detours with an open mind, come out victorious in the end with joyful heart. Travel is indeed empowering! And I’m now ready to be out again.

40 Days till Christmas

If there’s one present I want this Christmas, it would be one not in a box with an ornate bow! Yes, that’s my description of real gift. The one that fill my heart with real gladness. And as I have promised myself, I will definitely go for a dip in my go-to dive resort, that would be enough to brace myself for all the year-end intricacies. It would make me feel good, feel whole, like my healing process is not complete without the depths.

As I scribbled this, the boxes of decor came out from the storage, the Office would soon be with blinking lights, balls and wreaths. The season is all upon us with the festive mode before pandemic, almost back to normal. It’s like going home to Christmas!

Everyone feel brand new. Soon everyone will travel again!

Reef to Ridge Detour

Spilling few thoughts when my trip plans been shelved for awhile. Lately, there are few redirections to take on and I guess can not be taken for granted, mindful living is my new lifelong quest. To live in the present and be responsive to important matters that life threw at me. Of course, plans are still in my agenda because as they say, having plan (a good plan) is work half done!

Getting back in the mainstream after the pandemic is about catching up where I have left off, personal or official. And always, work duties get on the lead. It is necessary, very necessary. My trekking friends and I just accede without being disturbed or sad, we need to cancel the plan and stay grounded. Third quarter actually is critical, catching up is the general agenda of the whole force.

I was missing the depths, and so wistful about being in the great beyond. But before I could plan for another re-schedule, I got some injury. An ouch that can never be ignored. Diving requires fitness and balanced physical condition.

Nevertheless, there was an opportunity for a work trip – my first time to go outside the region after the pandemic subsided, just in time I got confidence to travel far from my abode. Again, it’s hitting two birds with one stone. Savoring nature’s best in the company of friends exploring new site without neglecting my responsibilities.

Trip to SOCCSKSARGEN was some breather. Actually, it was a reef to ridge detour.  Early trek and swim at Glan shores every morning was so relaxing.  Before we head back for an eight-hour drive to Cagayan de Oro, we spent a night in a farm at the foot of Mt. Matutum, a protected landscape. Indeed, peace and joy in the wide expanse of nature.

Last quarter would be more full I am so sure, but trips also comes with it I guess. I claimed 2022 as a year of healing for me so with the Lord’s blessing I wont let it end without getting into the depths. That’s my solemn promise!

Lessons from the Farm

During the pandemic I was one of those who left the city for the farm, to succumb to quarantine orders. It was grueling, for the many sudden changes that need to be adopted in order to dodge from the deadly virus. Pandemic indeed have changed us all. At the same time, living in quarantine for months has offered us a rare opportunity to reflect on our lives and, potentially, to reset them. It was about slowing down, spending more time with nature and growing own food – and that’s what I exactly did while in the farm. Admittedly, growing veggies and raising animals helped my well being, taking some grasp to be productive and occupied during the crucial period. Spending more time with nature gave me lessons, reminding some truths if to live a life driven with purpose and meaning.

I have few stories about lessons learned while living in the farm…

The Missing Hen

One morning while cooking breakfast, my sister handed me her hat filled with eggs.

Organic eggs from our hen

“Here are eggs.” She said with some hint of sadness. “My hen is nowhere for a couple of days now. I didn’t know it has laid somewhere hidden in the barrel.” I stared at the eggs neatly piled on the hat. Poor hen. ”I suspect it died, There has been an epidemic of fowls in the neighborhood in the past weeks.”

More than glad for the organic eggs, I felt sorry for the hen, it could have been sick all along, yet it continued to lay ten eggs, good enough for 1 hatch season. It continued to do its purpose as a hen unminding of illness. It continued to carry itself with dignity for the last ten days to her nest.

We lost the hen, but I learned a lesson, it reminded me to do our mission till the end of our days, even at the point of death. To live life with purpose, to remain useful and productive till the end. And it’s not for our own self, but leaving a legacy for others. That is to die with our boots on, like a good soldier.

The Patola

The routine of doing garden rounds was more of pleasure as I got to see new fruits, new flowers or finding something to harvest. Few days back, I went over the plot occupied with the patolas, it’s been more than six months since it produces its fruits giving us constant supply of patola in the

Patola continued to bear fruits

kitchen. Its leaves started to wither, there are more browns than greens. I took this as a sign that it would soon gone for good. Surprisingly, there

Butterfly on its flower

were still  new fruits and even flowers! Again, it reminds me that being fruitful and productive don’t depend with my age, our mission will extend until our last breath. To live until we die, as Fr. Orbos said, “Inspire before you expire. “

The Orchid

The front yard had few mix match of ornaments that we maintained to give at least color not only for the household but also for passersby. At the far corner are few collections of ordinary orchids, most of it I don’t even know its variety. Few months back, we gathered all and replanted them on anislag trunks to give the plants a permanent place of their own.

Orchid leaves almost gone

They seldom give blooms and I could easily ignore them as they are tucked in between other plants. Couple of days ago, some fuschia flowers caught my attention and to my surprise, was the orchid which all its leaves were half-eaten by Lala, our calf! I remembered I was bit disturbed when I saw it and feared it will die.

But what an inspiration! Unmindful of the pain, it continued to bear colorful flowers to all. Just like in life – we experience pain, sorrows, difficulties.  If plants able to withstand hardships and even continue to live and share beautiful blooms, why not for us humans? Let us rise above our storms and be an inspiration to others. We are all called for a mission – to be a blessing to others…

Yes, even in plants or animals we can learn a lesson. 🌱

Grace in Uncertain Times (Reflections amidst CoVid19 Pandemic)

I always believe that everything happens for a reason, or reasons for that matter. Philosophically, I keep in mind and heart the advantages, never allowing myself to dwell in the negative ones. And again, this can only be possible if we chose to think outside the box, chose to be non-conformist and have keen eyes to see beyond the surface.

The pandemic experience has taught me a lot of things, those that were basic and we’re taught of as young kids.  I guess we all need some revelations, perhaps an epiphany to serve as guide in this life’s journey. Admittedly, it was during this episode that I learned a lot about myself, the people around me and life in general.

I have understood that in order to cope up with the demands of dodging the illness, I need to step back and re-learn the ropes of simple living or I must say, mindful living.    I was aiming to put things in order at the beginning of CY 2020, believing I must get it done to start a new decade afresh.  There were personal issues by then, a lot of them. At the start of March, I breezed through a panel interview for some consultative job in a nephrology clinic, churning figures again though I made it clear it’s not a 9-to-5 fare. Unfortunately, before I could finish up reviewing their existing financial system, covid19 pandemonium have overtaken the country and the world, in general.

Leaving the city immediately was just logical and I guess the only option I had, as lockdowns and border controls have surfaced for safety measures. I left for the farm because for me, it was the safest place to hid from the imminent danger of the disease.  The global pandemic has immobilized the life as we know it.

Living at the Farm

When I left the city, I had all my essentials in a backpack just like going on weekend trip. While I was clueless when its gonna end, my sole concern at that time was to leave immediately for safety.

There was much peace and total immersion in nature, and the assurance that the virus could hardly caught me.  I didn’t wear mask in there – inside or outside the house, got fresh air to breath, picked veggies for kitchen needs, ate fruits from our own trees, etc. There was total freedom.

It was the perfect quarantine episode, there was no telco signal in our home and so I was out of circulation from social media, gadgets do not consume my day and I was more mindful and doing other things that are enriching both physically and mentally.  I realize that one can truly survive without being online or connected to the net. 😊

I was missing my hustle and bustle while in the city, yet staying in the farm was altogether a learning experience, it was like a reorientation of simple living and understanding more about agriculture.  And I was grateful that we have a place to come home to, a place to run for safety and a community that wasn’t difficult to fit in.

Life Support Systems

During quarantine there were lot that has to be given up, we were all immobilized due to travel restrictions.  Obviously, my diving trips plan was cancelled and I was pretty dried up longing for my grand element.  But then, I went to focus more on activities that I have grasp at the moment – plants, animals, environmental advocacy, reconnecting with old friends, household tasks that were deferred for some time, so on.

I guess it was about refocusing my mindset to be productive doing tasks that were at hand and just set aside matters that were beyond my control.  Indeed, there is a time for everything.

Most importantly, Maxine & Bronson were always there for me (“mother & son” aspin tandem) whose love and loyalty can never be outdone, I never expected them both to be sweet and endearing when they are ferocious and aggressive to other people.  I guess they just gave back what they received and more. We had walks in the afternoon when it wasn’t raining and it seemed they had body clock that made them bark at me for our afternoon rendezvous!

Lessons and Reasons

We can’t deny that the effects and aftershocks of the pandemic have affected us all, no one is ever spared and obviously we all have survived the test.  If there’s one important lesson I learned was that the Almighty carried us through and He has reasons for all of these.  Our views may be different from one another, but I always believe the Author of Life will reveal in due time when we are ready for more challenges.  No one has ever imagined that we will experience the global pandemic in our lifetime, definitely it is a lesson to be larger than life. In life’s storms, we can all rise with the waves instead of swimming against it.

In between, I realized that even with the catastrophe – our needs were provided – food on the table, good health, love and support from family. Even with our limited resources, we were able to share to others in need notwithstanding the possibility that the situation might get worse in the next days. In those times, I was only hoping for the best.

In the end, we become better version of ourselves after we overcome our challenges. The pandemic was not our own choice, it came to us unexpectedly but life continues. 

The hullabaloo had quieted in the past three months. Everyone is slowly, with caution and being very measured and very careful, emerging out their cocoons and looking around and figuring out what they can do.  And, I got back in the city a couple of weeks ago for some unfinished business at the workplace. I looked back with fresh eyes, understanding better that in life there is no certainty but we could always carry on if we believe that what happened is for good reasons and trusting that the all-knowing God has in store for us latent resources that could prod us to move on wherever life would lead us.  His promise of graces is overflowing for all of us. Yes, and that’s the way LIFE is!

Love from Cape Cod (Part I)

Cape Cod is hook-shaped peninsula of the US state of Massachusetts, is a popular summertime destination. It is characterized by quaint villages, seafood shacks, lighthouses, ponds & bay & ocean beaches. The bulk of land on Cape consists of glacial land forms, formed by terminal moraine and outwash plains. Its historic, maritime character and ample beaches attract heavy tourism during summer months.

CapeCodTownsMap

Cape Cod Map courtesy of Wikitravel

This beautiful destination aside from being historic dwelled so much at the back of my mind since time immemorial. My sister always told me stories about their summer trips – with her family tagging along the kids, with friends and their family, sometimes with friends of friends – they went there every year. Practically, it’s their second home. Setting foot at the Cape is a dream trip to me.

After much prayers and discernment, I scheduled a US trip to visit my Sister and her family and to offer myself a little consolation. Since the trip fell on summer, the Cape Cod dream was few steps closer. And, it happened since my sister’s vacation was scheduled just few weeks before I go back home!

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Typical scene on the beach during summer!

My blue heart was attracted to Cape with no reservations – the great Atlantic waters was for me un-chartered. It was playing a lot of thoughts just to get a glimpse of this large body with its rich marine life. Cape territory is divided into 15 towns with many villages all of which are practically have waterfronts. Beaches abound naturally…

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Breaks can create waves suitable for surfing!

The Nauset Beach in Orleans is just one of those pristine coast line that are too perfect for summer events – be it sunbathing, swimming, skim boarding or just sitting under beach umbrella and watch the horizons beyond. It was far beyond compare to our beaches, definitely it’s clean and free from structures and obstructions. It was naturally maintained.

When we got there, it was already filled with beach-goers we had to find a strategic spot with unobstructed view of the waters. The sun was already scorching and decided not to swim, my sister said the waters too cold for her even it is sunny. Lounging on my beach chair was comfortable enough. The sunny skies and blue waters were nothing different back home, I was wondering what was beyond the surface. At a distance, we saw a head or two of seals bobbing up the surface, its either getting away from predators or looking for prey in shallower waters. Few sea gulls flew over humans perhaps looking for food scraps while few also flew over the waters perhaps eyeing for fish.

Obviously, Nauset is part of wildlife sanctuary network in the Cape. Last July 18, 2018 swimmers and surfers fled the waters as shark attacked a seal just few feet from the shoreline, though no human injuries were reported. (https://abc7chicago.com/pets-animals/swimmers-flee-water-as-shark-devours-seal/3849325/)

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Pristine and so enticing for swimming or surfing!

Newcomb Hollow Beach is located at northernmost of Wellfleet, it featured a scenic stretch of ocean beach backed with stretch of sand dunes. It is pristine just like other beaches in the Cape and its blue waters were truly inviting not only for swimming but also for surfing as there are bars for waves breaks commonly for short boards.

It was just too interesting to try swimming in an Atlantic surface, the water is cold according to my sister but the blue waters with soft waves were just too enticing. The good thing was my nephew and niece joined me for the swim, being out of waters for almost ten weeks it was some sort of deliverance from sea sickness, I was like hyper ventilating! And again, its waters was also rich with marine life as sharks are patrolling the area for preys. There were times when closures of the beach is necessary if a number of sharks sightings were observed. There was a recent shark attack in this beach just when official summer was over. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/newcomb-hollow-beach-wellfeet-massachusetts-deadly-shark-attack-today-2018-09-15/)

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It was in Fourth of July when we visited Duck Harbor Beach, still in Wellfleet. You need to pass along a stretch of sand dunes, thankfully the parking was free though you need to be early before it gets full. It was dusk and we were in for a glorious display of colors of sunset, the sky was clear and we could saw faint image of the Pilgrim Tower in Provincetown from the horizon ahead of us. Just when the whole country was celebrating this big day we were out there walking along the shore and later sitting in our beach chairs watching the changing hues before us. It was just relaxing!