Summer Dreams 2014

coming soon

Granada Nicaragua

In Search or the Perfect Ceviche and other adventures out soon in my TravelOkcity column, Leisure+Adventure Magazine, and here.

Marshall Islands

Got Wasabi? (A deep sea fishing adventure in the Marshall Islands)

Prairie Dog Town

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Hefner Lake Park

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Huahin, Thailand

The warm hospitality of a boutique hotel in the beach resort town of royalty in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Summer Dream (2014)

It really does seem like a dream, this season, the way it quickly passed. Everything passes so quickly it seems. It is no surprise that I am writing this in the dead of winter under several layers of clothing. For now I will try to remember back to warmer days.

It was in the middle of summer when we returned from the Philippines, the fourth of July to be exact. And we were on the plane to Oklahoma City when everyone below started the lightshow. From 35,000 feet up, fireworks bloomed like little supernovas amongst a galaxy of stars.  Over it, the stubborn blue sky is burnt orange on the horizon. It was a wonderful homecoming that ushered in great things to come that summer, a season of sweet partings. 

During a short trip to Chicago to see an old friend.

One of the highlights of the season was my son’s first day of school. I knew it would happen someday, but I didn’t think he would walk out of my heart too soon. After we drove him to school, I shed a few tears. I cried for the time that we would never get back, back when he was a baby and it was joy to just smell his breath even if it was a little bit sour. I cried for the many moments when I was too tired to play with him. I cried for the number of times when I chose my computer over my son, because I had to get an article done or process a photo that couldn’t wait. Meanwhile he sat playing alone, waiting for me. These are the days that I knew I would never get back. These are the days I couldn’t do over.  I cried for the future, for the times when I will lose him over and over again, when he will let go of my hand to run to his playmates or when he’ll start to think that he’s much too old to hold his mommy’s hand.

First day of school Thanks, Dr. Seuss!

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn on the desk represents this major milestone in our life. It’s an Ed Press winner that I had bought way before my son was even conceived in our head, thinking that someday, it is story that I would like to read to my child. It’s about a mother raccoon sending her hesitant baby off to school with a kiss on the head, a reminder that he will always be safe, always be loved. 

The book came with heart stickers for the hand, a reminder of the kiss, of the presence of love. We had read this book several times in the past few years and had used the sticker each time until there were only two left.  I thought I would save the book and took it out for us to read on the eve of the first day of school, although separation anxiety has never been as issue with us. Earlier on, we try to raise him to be independent and to be able to explore the world even without us hovering, but knowing that we would always be around. 

Hanging out with new friends.

The book was a nice little ritual to share with him before he entered this new stage in his life. That night we used the second to the last sticker. The next day, when we were all set to leave the house for his first day of school, he piped out, “wait! My kissing hand!” It warmed my heart that even with all the excitement, he had remembered the kiss. We had that one last sticker to send him off with.

Summers are for playing barefoot on the grass.

Like in spring, summer was spent a lot in our backyard, playing (with new friends!), reading, and gardening. I never took an interest in gardening. I don’t have the green thumb my mother had (she could grow a garden in her bedroom window on the 15th floor right in the middle of a concrete jungle) and the only thing that I’ve really grown was a tiny eggplant that I had to planted for my home economics class back in grade school. I few cacti succulents have also died on me; that should give an idea on my gardening skills. But new friends had gotten me interested in gardening and the joys of harvesting things to eat from our very own soil. Sometimes, neighbors would leave a bag of produce picked from their backyard. Because we have such a huge backyard, I thought, why not engage in a little agriculture?

Shoot and play

Last spring, my son had sowed a few carrot seeds at the zoo’s Eggcitement event and soon as they started to sprout, we planted them in our backyard. To my surprise, they actually grew and by late summer, we harvested 2 tiny baby carrots that my entire family shared. Everyone must partake in the bounty of our soil. I also tried growing some scallions which also grew quite surprisingly, but I had left them out during one of the first frosts and died. Nevertheless I consider these few attempts a success and have then sworn to go full force come next spring. There is something very satisfying about the idea of just going out to my garden to pick a few sprigs of basil when I’m making my spaghetti or knowing that the onions I’m using come right out of our backyard. 

Moon over Granada

I’ve sort of lost steam in terms of enthusiasm for my Twitter account but it keeps surprising me. I’ve reached the 5k mark with over 300 fans (And as of writing – January – 12.4k followers and over 2.5k fans!). It also continues to open doors for me, although just a crack. Last May, a distinguished photographer and oral historian emailed about one of my photographs: Moon over Granada. He wondered how it would look like in black and white, adding that it reminded him of an Ansell Adam photograph. And he wrote:

Glad you see what I see; if you convert it, may I also see what it looks like?

It reminds me so much of that photo Ansell Adams took in the desert, I think the title was "Moonlight over (something - I can't remember), but you should look at it sometime to see how your photo has the same feeling...

I was beyond floored. For my work to be compared to an Ansell Adams’s photograph and to have such an established photographer take notice of my work (taking the time out to write to me) is such an honor and very encouraging. I have no illusions, of course. I know that I have a lot to learn, but every now and then a newbie like me needs some inspiration or encouragement. If you’re in the Connecticut area, Anthony Riccio has several book tours already scheduled in the next few months.

Nanay and New York (she went home also on September 11)

Since I am writing this several seasons too late, I am more than likely to forget many more milestones. And I’ve been trying to think back to remember the things that I need to include in the banner. But winter currently embraces me. The chill makes me forget. It’s all like a dream, so vivid but forgotten in the cold morning. For this reason, I decided to go with the actual look of my desk, so I don’t have to worry about items that I may forget to include on the banner. My desk is normally not as clean and organized. Usually it’s cluttered with mail, scraps of paper, trash, and my little one’s toys, but the pile of books, the box of cards sitting on the books, the votive candle holder, the bouquet of pens, the box of tissue, the little wooden jewelry box (a gift from a friend during her trip to Bangkok), the wooden cross, and the little shell are staples on my desk.

And right there, right where the sun’s arms had escaped through the window curtains, is my mother’s beautiful face, because the light had finally found her to take her home. Near the end of the summer came the answer to our prayers- the passing of our mother who had lain in bed, languishing for almost three years. We are comforted knowing that she can now be her old self: feisty, funny, and beautiful. 

My beautiful mother.

Whenever I return to my childhood home, I would try to bring back something with me as a reminder of my childhood and as a way of uniting my past and present homes. I also like to fill the house with things that have special meaning whether it be from travel, from a friend, or a memento from the past. I had brought with me one of my mother’s little tea sets, something she more than likely picked up from the Tokyo International Airport (I probably got my wanderlust from her, and my hoarding tendencies!). I also brought home some of her pictures, one of which is on the desk reminder of how beautiful she once was, and perhaps even more beautiful now that she is reunited with her Creator. I wrote a tribute for her published by You can read it here.

I always leave a post with a quote from one of the books I’ve been reading, so I think it would only be appropriate to leave one from The Kissing Hand, especially since this season was also about goodbyes between mother and child.

Chester took his mother’s hand in his own and unfolded her large, familiar fingers into a fan. Nest, he leaned forward and kissed the center of her hand.
Now you have a Kissing Hand, too, he told her. And with a gentle “Good-bye and “I love you”, Chester turned and danced away.

Monday, December 29, 2014

7 Sparkling Lessons from an Unconventional Mother

Published by
Read the complete story here.

I learned a lot about motherhood in the most unconventional way.

My mother is a beautiful complex creature like no other. She wasn’t like most moms, not prone to exhibiting sappy affections or wearing aprons. When we were newborns, she rarely carried us in her arms, afraid that we would accidentally slip off her fingers. The carrying was left to the nursemaids, but the nurturing she did herself in the most unconventional but still loving way. And she carried us through life this way. Even after she’s passed, she continues to carry us with her memory, memories that inspire and if nothing else, makes us smile.

1.       Make treasure out of trash

My mother was a packrat. During trips to the states to visit family, she’d return with balikbayan boxes of stuff she’d hoarded mostly from dollar stores. Amidst the packed towels and trinkets, I’d find pine cones. I simply dismissed it as part of her “hoarding” tendency, then I later discovered that they were pinecones that she’d picked up during her many walks with her grandkids. They’d collect pinecones, stones, and whatever “treasures” they could find, making an adventure of their walk. It was one of the things that my sister-in-law most remembered about her. I know now that the treasure was really in the memory. These seemingly insignificant objects that we tend to ignore have created a cherished memory for my family, more valuable than any precious stone. She had found joy in what had fallen or what nature had rejected. My son never had the privilege of walking with his grandmother, but he had “inherited” that interest in looking for treasures during our walks.

2.       Don’t let life bully you

“Be good,” “don’t start a fight,” are some of the usual reminders a mother would give her child when sending her off to school. Not my mother. What would stand out even to this day was: “if somebody pushes you, push back” and always, “fight back.” She is by no means a war freak but when it comes to her children she can put up a good fight. We are not to be pushovers, she said. She taught us to always fight back like she did, never allowing life to beat her down. Even on her deathbed, she wouldn’t let pneumonia beat her, holding on much longer than the doctors expected.

3.        Walk that extra mile

She loved to walk, whether it be for a religious pilgrimage or a shopping spree. She could walk the whole length of Nathan Road in HK till sundown and bring me to tears in exhaustion. And through all the miles covered, I never heard her complain. That kind of resilience she took with her to almost any life marathon she endeavored. No matter how hard life was, she kept on walking.
Dedicated to my beautiful Nanay.
Dec 25, 1935 - Sept 11, 2014
Read the complete article here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tips and Tricks on Traveling with a Toddler

Published by

It’s bad enough that you have to endure a long-haul flight with a crick in your neck, seated next to an overweight smelly passenger. Factor in a screaming toddler in the other seat next to you and you have yourself a 14-hour long nightmare. Oh, and the toddler belongs to you. 

Because I live abroad, flying back to the Philippines - without the hubby who has to work -is a reality that I deal with often. And I’ve managed to lug luggage and little one across the world a few times with no battle scars to contend with save for jet lag. Here’s how I did it without having to take out a bottle of Benadryl.

Published by

1.       Prepare now

Not days before. Not even weeks before. I mean NOW before you’re even planning the trip, because a well-mannered child is a great travel companion. My son is by no means perfect. We’ve had our moments. But we’ve never had to deal with a tantrum. We’ve either been lucky or maybe the following parenting technique works:

We never give him an audience. If he cries for no reason and we’re sure he’s not hurting or needing something, we let him cry it out. We explain why his behavior is unacceptable, and if he still doesn’t let up, we leave him alone for a bit.

I believe that trying to appease will only teach him that if he cries long enough, he’ll get what he wants. If you don’t believe in the “crying it out” technique, then try a little distraction (“I’m sorry we can’t go to the store now, but we can start packing instead, because we’re getting on an airplane! Should we bring Teddy?”). Be quick with the distraction before the waterworks start. Sometimes a change of scenery will help. Take him outside. The key is consistency. “No” means no, not yes after the 10th “no”. If you buckle, he’ll eventually figure out that persistence pays.

Read the complete article here.

2.       Use your golden ticket

Your child IS your golden ticket. In most cases, they give special treatment when you have a tyke in tow. Most airlines have kiddie meals and little toys for younger passengers. If the flight is not full, you may be bumped up to preferred seats which can give you and your restless travel companion more room. Other airlines also offer assistance at boarding especially when you have a lot to carry. You can also request for priority boarding so you don’t have to wait in line and get off earlier if you wish.

Read the complete article here.

3.       Pick the right location

When my husband once traveled with us, he had this idea of leaving one seat between the three of us. His rationale? Rarely does one want to sit in the middle. Besides who can refuse a request from a mother and child to scoot over to the next seat? The plan worked, because nobody dared to take the middle seat, giving our boy an extra seat to stretch in.

Like I said, you may have the option to take preferred seats for free, but I choose not to because they usually have arm rests that can’t be raised, so my toddler can’t lay on my lap and stretch over to his seat for a more comfortable sleep. I also prefer aisle seats so we can easily get in and out without having to jump over a sleeping passenger.

Read the rest of the tips here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We are currently under repair. Please bear with us.


We are currently under repair. Please bear with us.

Meantime, you can view:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Late Bloomer (Spring 2014)

Late Bloomer (Spring 2014)

Once again the seasons escape like water through my cupped hands. At the start of the year, I had vowed to put the spring banner up before summer comes. But summer is starting to pack up for the colder days.

I have no excuse. It is always the same story: busy, busy, busy, and life has a way of derailing you, throwing curveballs at you – mostly pleasant surprises, but still unexpected. We always plan one international trip and one local trip every year, but God saw it fit that I should cross borders twice this time.
Escape the Spring Break crowd in Tulum, Mexico.

Our first international trip was to Tulum, Mexico. It was a beautiful escape to kick off another exciting year. And as planned, I had my fill of ceviche, margarita, sun, sand, and sea. It also gave us a good dose of culture and history as Tulum is home to one of the best preserved Mayan ruins. Tulum is also the place to go to avoid the Spring Break crowd. While Cancun is overrun by American college kids, Tulum is quietly dotted by hipster Europeans who prefer to soak in the sun in silence. There is a price to pay to avoid the crazy crowd though as everything was pricey, including the shopping.  
Shopping is part of the joys of travel, hoo-hoo! Oh, I love owls too.

We like to fill our home with stuff we had picked up from our travels. For this trip, we bought a beautiful black and white Talavera water dispenser and the fish plate featured on the banner which I use as my ladle rest. I also got this gorgeous Mayan weaved necklace bib made from Chiapas. I like to fill my wardrobe with statement pieces that tell a story, and I’m excited to wear this one on a date night.
My Animo family: Reunited in the Philippines, 2014.

Our second international trip was to the Philippines to visit my ailing mother. Although we had come home expecting the worse, it was surprisingly pleasant in spite of the circumstances. It was the first time that we were reunited (save for my husband who had to stay home because of work) as a family in a long while as we all live in different cities now. We bonded once again as a family, gathered around the table, celebrating family and food (Because in Bacolod, all you do is eat and eat. And eat. And if you have nothing to do, you eat!).
Barber bonding between grandfather & grandkid: priceless.
I could have made the trip without my boy, but my husband had insisted that I bring my son along, knowing how important it is for the little one to spend time with his Filipino family. I am most grateful for that, for a husband who wants his son to form a strong bond with his Filipino heritage. And although we missed my husband’s birthday and our anniversary, seeing my son do everything with his grandfather, made it all worth it (In honor of our anniversary and my amazing life partner, I included the head wreath on the banner. It is my wedding wreath which I wore during our reception, handmade for me by our Marshallese friends.)
Snuck in a little bit of beach time (Carbin Reef, Negros Occidental)
Father and grandson went to the barber’s and the bakery together. Every weekday Tatay would drive my son to school although it was within walking distance. He would sit patiently while the toddler ran around the playground and while I paced, impatient and ready for lunch. We had been home for over a month now and every day, my son would say, “I want to go to the Philippines.”
My son's teachers at Creative Beginners.
And yes, he went to school for a couple of weeks. I thought I would deal with some crying once I left him at the classroom, but the moment the classroom door was closed between us, he forgot about me. I also enjoyed the whole experience as much as he did (because I knew the owner, every now and then I was allowed to watch unobserved even when parents are really discouraged to.) The letter F on the banner is one of his little projects at school, and of course, it stands for his name and “family”.
My Mother's Day backyard breakfast prepared by my boys.
Like the birds who had been banished by winter and returned at the last frost, spring also saw me tweeting to celebrate the blooming of life. Twitter was another time suck that I didn’t have the time or the interest for, but I joined it for a project which I later abandoned. Although the project was shelved (maybe for now), my Twitter account soared. As of today, I have over 9,000 followers and close to 900 fans. Not bad, for a fledging Twit, I think. And if you want to know how I did it, email me. I’ll be more than happy to share my secret. In fact, I might write about it soon.

Come travel with me aboard a different vehicle!
And just as @wwwAnaViajera took flight, it also opened some doors for me. First, it connected me to kindred spirits: writers, photographers, artists, and dreamers. It gave me the venue to share my photos and to earn some approval from fellow artists. I am overwhelmed and surprised by the number of Retweets and Favorites that my photos have been getting (the ones from fellow writers and photographers give me the most high). I also have a couple of established photographers emailing me to discuss my work. On top of that, my posts have been featured in a few travel sites like Geotravellers, Bluegreenresorts, and another travel site that currently slips my mind. In all the spring madness, there are so many things that have escaped me, and there are probably several milestones that I fail to include here.
My photo was featured on Blue Green Resorts and a few other sites.
But I digress. Through Twitter, I was also invited to write for Editorial IV, a news website for leaders and movers, a venue for intelligent debate. I was honored to be invited as guest contributor and thankful to be given the opportunity to share my thoughts on the equation of success.  You'll find the article here.
Another new writing opportunity presented itself to me through, a site that inspires Filipina women to shine. I appreciate how the site allows me to write about issues that are close to my heart. Read one of my stories here.
Easter is like Christmas for this family.
And as always, spring bloomed for us without fail. My son continues to blossom as he celebrated another Christmas in Easter. Yes, Easter is like Christmas in our household, which I figure is appropriate, because according to Christian teachings, Easter is a more important holiday than –eep- Christmas. Yes, you read it here.
After all, it is Easter that gives Christmas it’s meaning. Without the empty tomb, the significance of the cradle in the manger would be just as empty. Not many are aware that the Easter season is actually observed for 50 days until the seventh Sunday of Easter. And so it is that we would have several Easter egg hunts and treats throughout spring in our household. And looking at my son eye’s shine every time he gets his Easter treats makes me feel like a child on Christmas morn all over again.
The children’s classic Guess How Much I Love You, represents our Easter celebration. It was something I’ve always wanted for my child, even before I got married. It is a recordable book from our beloved Aunt Tracy. We also have a smaller travel version, a gift from friends during one of my baby showers (I had two!).
Another book on my desk is A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski in honor of - you guessed it – St. Patty’s Day, another important holiday for this family. I may have mentioned this before, but my boys are part Irish. I also love everything Irish. The first Irishman I met was a priest who officiated one of our masses in St. Scholastica’s Academy back in grade school. I can’t remember how he looks like. All I remember vividly was his ruddy cheeks, his engaging sense of humor, and his lilting accent. He also said the Irish loved to drink. I thought then that the Irish were the most interesting people in the world. Oh, and did I tell you that I love U2?
Almost everyone in my husband’s family has already been to Ireland, so our first European trip will more than likely be to Dublin and Galway to find Finnegan’s forefathers (just putting it out there in case the universe is reading).
Spring saw me another year older and wiser. I got my wish too!
And finally, Twitter got me waxing poetic and inspired as every now and then I would compose my own quips and quotes about travel and life. I know I am no Dalai Lama and I probably have no business composing inspirational rhetoric, but these are thoughts and observations that I’ve picked up along the way through my journeys, some I may have unintentionally and subconsciously picked up from enlightened beings and made my own.
I’ll be leaving you with a few lines that I think best suit this blossoming period of my life:
There is no such thing as true love. Love that is not true is not love at all. Love is love. There is no other kind.”
“Love is a travel story. Travel is a love story. What's your story?”
And because it is good to be home:
“The best destination is home.”
Some of the spring blooms in our backyard - Zinnias!

More spring blooms. A gift from a friend.

As the seasons change, so will my desktop banner. I will be adding little touches to it, moving the items around, and customizing it for the season. I will archive its transformation on My Desk. 

Read more about how I put the banner together and how my real writer's desk looks like at My Desk. And tell me how your desk looks like, and I will tell you who you are.