After finally listing down all the places I went to in 2011, I still couldn’t believe how I have managed to go to so many places given my load at work and in grad school. Indeed, 2011 was a year of great blessings! I haven’t blogged about many of these trips yet but let me share with you some of the highlights of the year.
The year started off on the right, err.. feet in January as I welcomed the year by celebrating the Ati-Atihan Festival in my hometown of Ibajay in Aklan. Ibajay is the birthplace of Ati-Atihan and the best place to celebrate the Feast of Sto. Nino.
After the festivities, The Hubby and I visited the Katunggan It Ibajay or Ibajay Mangrove Eco Forest. The forest is home to 28 mangrove species or 80% of the 35 mangrove species in the country. It is a worthwhile place to see and certainly a welcome change from the notoriously tourist-y Boracay.
In the summer, I found myself snapping photos for the 2012 JesCom calendar. During the Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria in Cavite in February, I was mesmerized by the hundreds of Cavitenos who danced their way around the small town of Silang as they paid tribute to Nuestra Senora de Candelaria. Their tribute is called “karakol”, a dance uniquely Caviteno and proudly so.
In May, I was in Quezon Province for the Pahiyas Festival. I ate pansit habhab off a banana leaf and munched on traditional sweets…
And albeit the rampant commercialism—imagine seeing logos of telecom companies stamped on kiping or pahiyas leaves! The horror!—I thoroughly enjoyed the artistic displays that adorned Quezon’s ancestral homes.
In between these two festivals, The Hubby and I have somehow managed to take a quick trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan in April. In the five days that we were there, we were able to visit a Unesco World Heritage Site, the world-famous Subterreanean Underground River! We also checked out a local shop that produced native products, a bakery famous for their wonderful pastries and restaurants that served local delicacies. But perhaps the highlight of the trip was when we went to Iwahig Penal Colony where The Hubby got inked by an inmate manu-mano (manually, by hand).
I have always wanted to celebrate my birthday in a heritage site, particularly in Angkor Wat. So that’s exactly what I did with The Hubby towards the end of June and first week of July. First, we flew to Thailand where we spent one night in a really cool hostel in Bangkok, before going to Cambodia by bus. In Siem Reap, we met up with an old friend who gave us a personal tour around the former French colony, fed us Happy Pizza and brought us to a watering hole called Miss Wong.
On the morning of my birthday, The Hubby and I visited the magnificent Angkor Wat and two other temples around the area. Aside from being such a wonderful experience, it was a great photo opportunity as well. I was sure it was going to be my first and last time in Siem Reap so I snapped hundreds, if not more than a thousand, pictures. When we got back to Manila, I didn’t realize that I left my DSLR in the cab going home. The DSLR was never found, so were the photos I took. I was devastated and promptly succumbed to a state of “photographic” depression for a couple of months (i.e. I didn’t want to touch a camera). Hard lessons learned: 1.) always back up your photos and 2.) when it comes to keeping memories, don’t rely too much on the camera and let your head and heart do the remembering, too.
September gave me a pleasant surprise as JesCom sent me and a couple of colleagues to my beloved Vietnam to conduct a workshop on media ethics. Sans a camera, I just did what I love doing most in Ho Chi Minh City: drink coffee by the roadside, eat Ban Mhi and play patintero with the motorcycles.
October was the highlight of my year—and my spiritual life, for that matter—as my colleagues and I joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to shoot a documentary for JesCom. Our point of entry was Amman, Jordan where we visited Mount Nebo, the mountain where God has supposedly shown Moses the view of The Promised Land or Israel and where Moses was supposedly buried by God himself.
In Israel, we not only documented the pilgrimage but went on a pilgrimage ourselves. We took a sunset boat ride to the Sea of Galillee (over which Jesus Christ was seen walking), were baptised by Archbishop Chito Tagle in the Jordan River, fell in line for more than an hour just to see Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem and walked the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem. Oh and I also had a cold one in a bar overlooking the Dead Sea, so that was pretty cool. I will blog more about this soon, I promise.
After spending 10 days in the Holy Land towards the last week of October, I welcomed November in the United Arab Emirates as I made a 3-day stop-over in Dubai and Sharjah. I stayed with my sister who owned a salon in Sharjah so not only did I tour the place, I also had my hair colored and treated and my eyebrows shaped. By the time I got home, I was spick, span and newly made-over!
And just when I thought I was done travelling for the year, an opportunity to visit the hometown of National Hero Jose Rizal came up in December. So somehow, Hubby and I were able to take a quick drive to Calamba, Laguna and see Rizal’s ancestral home.
And just down the street, we also met Calamba’s new local “hero”:
Finally what better way to cap the year off than to become a Finalist at the Philippine Blog Awards, Best Travel Blog Category. It was an unexpected gift and somehow, a reaffirmation of what I’ve been doing with this little blog for the past 3 years. As expected, I didn’t win. Nonetheless, I am so humbled and honored to be among the thirteen best travel bloggers in the country.
So what’s in store for 2012? I honestly don’t know. As with 2011, I am certain things will just unfold by themselves. The truth is, only 30% of my travels last year were planned. And I’d rather have it that way. So to 2012, this I say:
“Bring it on!”
But first, gotta work on all those backlogs! Wish me luck!