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, November 29, 2011

Global warming: Hands of the Wrath of God?

Oh yes, environmental issues have everything to do with travel. After all, if we don't take care of our planet, where else can we travel to?

Published by Speed Magazine, 2007

Haunting image by Lisa Cruz

I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on land or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea.” Revelations 7: 1-2

Prophetic literature or apocalyptic babble? The end of the world may be closer than you think. It has been reported that several states in America experienced their worst wildfire seasons in history. In other parts of the States, drought ravaged the lands and caused severe dust storms. Then came destructive floods and the shortening of the winter season. Heat waves are causing thousands of deaths in Europe and India. Over at the artic, the polar ice cap is melting at an alarming rate.

A beach desert is not a pretty sight.

Is this the fulfillment of the prophecy of the book of Revelation? The religious fear it to be the Armageddon; the more logical ones name it “global warming.” Is it time to get down on both knees and pray as the end of the world draws near? Fear not, mankind. Our learned masters of Science and men of wisdom say there is still hope. The hands of global warming are slowly suffocating the very life out of Mother Earth, but emerging environmental technologies maybe our saving grace.

“A third of the land was burned up, along with a third of the trees and all green grass.” Revelations 8:7

Is the world really burning up?

Reports say that over the past fifty years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. The trend is increasing at an alarming pace. Since the start of the nineties, we have experienced the ten hottest years in history. Unless we do something about this evil named Global Warming, we may soon experience average temperatures three to nine degrees higher.

Global warming will trigger sudden shifts in the earth’s climate. This sudden shift is known as climate change wherein parts of the world dramatically cool down or heat up in a short span of time. It won’t be long till we see the fulfilment of Revelations 8:7, and sadly, we are largely to blame.

Shhh... Can you  hear Mother Earth's silent plea? (Image by Cherie M. Del Rio)

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, and methane that collect in the atmosphere. It is like a thickening mantle that traps the sun’s heat in the environment. Because there is no window in the sky for the heat to escape, the world warms up. Greenhouse gasses are important because they make the earth warm enough to be livable.  However, the greenhouse effect has lately made the environment hotter than it should be.

Where will these little ones go? Image by Cherie M. Del Rio.

It is reported that coal-burning power plants are one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide pollution, producing 2.5 billion tons every year Vehicles are the second largest sources of CO2, spewing out 1.5 billion tons of CO2 yearly. So yes, you dear reader, you are partly the culprit. Even if you do not own or drive a car, you have at least once taken a ride in one of those gas emitting monsters.

So what should you do? Should you step out of the car this instant? Not necessarily. Instead of stepping out of the car, take the first step towards awareness.

“By these three plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur that came out of their mouths a third of the human race was killed.” Revelations 9:15

Can it see the damage more clearly from above? (Image by Cherie M. Del Rio).

It is important for people to realize that if the issue of global warming is not addressed, we can expect more droughts, heat waves, floods and the rising of sea levels. Tropical storms and winter temperatures will be deadly. Severe droughts will lead to startling water shortages. Melting glaciers, early snowmelts and the increase of sea levels will cause floods that can rival that of the deluge. Warmer sea surface temperatures will fuel powerful hurricanes. New pests and mosquito-borne diseases will plague towns and cities. Coral reefs and alpine meadows will be destroyed and lead to the extinction of plant and animal species. In other words, chaos and destruction, the end of the world as we know it.

Now is not the time for half measures. It is the time for a revolution, in the true sense of the term," says French President Jacques Chirac in an interview by Gerard Wynn and Alister Doyle. "We are in truth on the historical doorstep of the irreversible."

We can expect more droughts, heat waves, floods and the rising of sea levels.

“Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God.” Revelation 12:10

As the concern of global warming heats up, heads of state and green minds are now urging nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol was put together to bind 35 industrialized countries to lower their combined emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008 - 2012. The international agreement was signed in 1992 based on principles set out in a framework convention.

 Unfortunately, the US, the largest contributor of the world’s emissions, backed out of the agreement. The president, George W. Bush, reasons that capping emissions would seriously harm the US economy. Instead, he focused on huge investments in hydrogen and biofuels.

With or without America’s cooperation, will Kyoto be enough? Climate scientists fear that this agreement is not enough to cool down the pressing issue. Studies say that in order to escape the wrath of global warming, emission cuts in the order of 60% across the board are necessary.

“Then I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven wrapped in a cloud, with a halo around his head; his face was like the sun and his feet were like pillars of fire.” Revelation 10:1

Is humanity to blame? (Image by Cherie M. Del Rio)

Swooping down from the thickening blanket of clouds is another possible saving grace that humans can look up to: technology. The first savior may come in the form of a game. A Sim City-style game may give us the answers, says Scientist Myles Allen in The Sunday Times interview. “I suggested that we run a simulation of climate many, many times, as they do with weather,” he shares in a conference at the Oxford University. With this in mind, Allen launched the project, the most detailed climate projection ever undertaken. The project signed up thousands of people to leave their PC on non-stop for six months to run the climate model.

Another angel of the planet brings a solution in the form of an umbrella. An orbiting sunshade can protect the earth from the devastating heat. The inventor, aptly named Roger Angel of the University of Arizona, says the sunshade will be made out of trillions of transparent, platter-sized crafts flying together in an elliptical formation. These spacecrafts will be like cirrus clouds that will block the light. About two percent of the sun’s heat will be diffused by Angel’s flying shields.

The winters feel more harsh and biting.

If a flying protector may seem absurd, how about giant mirrors and reflective dust? They sound like last ditch efforts to save the planet from the burning sun, but with the prospect of a second deluge, anything sounds good. If we can reflect at least 1% of the sunlight back into space, we can curb the effects of the greenhouses gasses. A reflector in the sky may come in the form of tiny shiny balloons. Microscopic sulphate droplets can also be pumped into the high atmosphere to provide the cooling effect similar to the effects of a volcanic eruption.

“For the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5

Some of the proposed technologies are still speculative and uncosted. The potential side effects are also unknown for these solutions. Scientists and environmentalists are suggesting more practical or simple answers. These solutions may be as simple as saving and recycling paper. A paperless society may be a long way off, but electronic papers are already underway.  By saving paper, we save trees. By saving trees, we can hope to reduce the harmful effects of carbon dioxide. Greens absorb CO2 and give off oxygen. Plants are also used for Bioremediation to clean up contamination. To help in the green campaign, experts are recommending roof gardens.

Where will the buffalos go? (Image by Cherie M. Del Rio)

Scientists are also looking into other sources of fuel and energy that are less harmful to the environment. Power can be harnessed from waves and tides. The ocean also absorbs heat from the sun that can be converted to thermal energy that equals that which is contained in 250 billion barrels of oil each day. Then there’s Hydrogen fuel, a pollution-free alternative to using fossil fuels. 

Ironically, the source of what we’re trying to protect ourselves from - the sun - can shed some light into our bleak future. Many are harvesting the sun’s energy as a source of heat and electricity. A little closer to home, turkeys may hold the key to the answers. Yes, turkey and used tires. Any carbon-based waste can be turned into oil through the process of thermo-depolymerization. To solve the problem of drought, experts are suggesting desalination. Salt and minerals can be removed out of seawater to make it potable.

Don't forsake me. (Image by Cherie M. Del Rio)

Most of these technologies may take years to perfect, but we’re hoping that when the dark angels of destruction swoops down on us without mercy, we will be prepared. We should not wait and tarry though. Today is the day of reckoning. Today is the day to start living simply and living wisely lest the wrath of the heavens swipe the very soul of Mother Earth.

Don't let the sun go down on me.

One Small Step for you, One Giant Leap for Mankind 

Putting mirrors in the sky or making fuel out of livestock may sound like a walk on the moon for one mere mortal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to save our precious planet from burning up. Here are a few steps that you can take to save the world:

1. Take a walk -Your car emits 20 pounds per gallon of gas burned. Get out of the car and enjoy the sunshine while it’s still friendly.

2. Plant tomatoes on your roof - Roof gardens absorb heat, reduce carbon dioxide effects and give off oxygen. Greens also absorb storm water and lessen air conditioning usage.

3. Don’t use too much toilet paper - If you can’t plant a tree, at least save one. The more paper you use, the more trees you cut down.

4. Shower together - Save water. Save soap. Global warming sees water supply shortages in the future.

5. Recycle old news - According to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), recycling saves a lot of energy used to make new products. Recycle glass, aluminum, plastic, cardboard and newspaper

6. Give your PC a break - Turn off your computer overnight or put it into powersave mode. This can save the planet 950 pounds of CO2 a year.

7. Turn up the heat - Opt for a programmable thermostat. You can save on your electricity bill by giving your air conditioner a break while you are asleep or out of the house.

8. Go shopping – Not for shoes, but for the most efficient refrigerator. Look out for energy efficient appliances.

9. Light up - Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. They last up to 10 times as long and use 1/4 of the energy.

10. Fill ‘em up - Always make sure your tires are filled. This will make your ride smoother, and you’ll save up to 5% on gas.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

TravelOkcity: Oklahoma through the Eyes of a Child

TravelOkcity is my weekly travel column in Oklahoma City's The Tribune. Read about my recent travel tale in the Saturday paper. Below is the introductory/debut story.

TravelOkcity's debut story.

“What’s in Oklahoma?” is the question that I am always assaulted with when I tell people where I am moving to. I use the word “assaulted”, because the question is often asked with an incredulous tone,  like I’ve gone out of my mind, because I’ve decided to leave my  supposedly fabulous cosmopolitan life to milk cows and sleep on hay.  One even went as far as saying “what’s there aside from cows and tornadoes?” 

Buffalos roaming in the wild by Cherie M. Del Rio.

There is a big Filipino diaspora in the United States. Philippine immigrants are usually found nesting in big cities in the east coast or west coast, particularly in California. Most of these people are used to the glitter of L.A. or the Big Apple.  The idea of Oklahoma is as foreign to them as say, Granada, but sadly, not as interesting.

Guthrie is like a backdrop for a scene from the Wild West (Photo by Cherie M. Del Rio). 

So in a way, this column answers the almost insulting inquiry, because that kind of question cannot be answered in a sentence or two, not even a full feature can. To know what Oklahoma has to offer aside from the cattle and the fickle weather requires a lifetime. And I hope that we have that so we can go explore your beloved state every Saturday.

A prairie dog on a yellow field by Gerard Azel Villanueva.

Your tour guide won’t be an old local who has the veins at the back of his hands for his map. Rather, the guide will be yours truly, a relative stranger to the place who will take everything in and tell you all about it with childlike awe.  For instance, I consider seeing prairie dogs sitting on a yellow field, while wandering through the Buffalo Wildlife Refuge, an experience akin to a unicorn sighting. Then there’s the monthly art walks in the city which is probably common in every state; I look forward to  these exhibits because they allow me to view art not in a spot-lighted glass case but up close and personal enough to shake its hand.

Walking the streets of Guthrie by Cherie M. Del Rio.

While some outsiders see ghosts and tumbleweed haunt the streets of Guthrie. I see the vibrant town as it used to be. Towns like Guthrie or Medicine Park take me back in time, teaching me things that no journey to any continent can impart. I mourn the closing of the neighboring cafe like the departure of an old friend.  A visit to the OKC National Memorial and Museum is not only a lesson in history for me, but also a revelation of the kind of people that I now live with, a people of pride, compassion, resilience, and courage.

Guthrie, the first capital of Oklahoma by Cherie M. Del Rio.

I believe that sometimes it takes a stranger to reveal your home to you.  Often, we fail to visit the museum next door or the park around the corner, because we know it will be there when the time comes. Then a visitor comes to town, and suddenly we become tourists in our place.

You shall be missed (Photo by Cherie M. Del Rio).

Let me be your stranger. Let me be your guest.

Allow me to introduce myself briefly to you that I may not be too much of a stranger any longer. I am a freelance editor and a widely published feature writer and fictionist from the Philippines.  I was the editor in chief of a travel magazine distributed in Asia and some parts of the United States (east coast and west coast, of course). My wanderlust has led me to my favorite tour guide. Point any area in the world map, and he can tell you the exact place and a little trivia about the spot. After being stationed in three different continents, he returned to his birthplace to start our little family of three. And home is where the heart is - Oklahoma City.

Let me show you what I've seen out there so far.

Although we had planted our roots in the Midwest, we continue to branch out. Restless feet have to keep moving after all. As we explore new places, we invite you to join us. Just as this column endeavours to show you Oklahoma, Travelokcity will also encourage Oklahoma  to see the world beyond, the world that I’ve seen so far and the many wonders it offers. If you have a minute or two to spare every Saturday, come travel with me. You won’t need a passport, only the wonder and curiosity of a child.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Seven Stones that make up a Home (Boracay, Philippines)

Published by AsianTraveler Magazine, 2009

The season of Habagat -when the prevailing winds from the west came with a force that shook the palm trees and the beach huts, rattling them from their base - was the time when we arrived on the shores of Boracay, supposedly a sunny tropical paradise at the Northwest tip of Northern Panay in the Philippines. The sun abandoned us on the day we docked, and the wet winds soaked our flimsy clothes. But there it stood, the 7 Stones Boracay Suites, strong and unfazed amidst the tempest, promising us shelter and so much more - the 7 stones that the resort is known for.  

Don't rain on my paradise.

Upon arrival, I immediately picked up the first stone, the stone of impeccable service. Several attendants in shorts immediately came with umbrellas, sheltering us uselessly from the torrent of water. At the receiving area, they were apologetic, as if the gloomy clouds were of their own doing, as if the sun had never forsaken them before. They fussed about and ushered us in our rooms and closed the drenched world behind us. Suddenly there was great stillness, warmth, and comfort.

Why, hello, sun! I'm so glad you finally showed up.

What is a strong foundation for a successful establishment? What is it that made this hotel stand resilient in the midst of a storm? For a luxury boutique hotel situated along a secluded beach in Bulabog, the strong foundation consists of 7 stones. It is from this concept of a strong foundation that the 7 Stones Boracay Suites got its name from.

 General manager Danny A. reveals the Seven Stones secrets.

In Inuit cultures, the man made stone landmark, also known as the inukshuk, is used as a point of reference, a navigation device, a marker for hunting grounds, and even as a food cache. From this idea 7 Stones was built by the beach as a landmark of luxury and more importantly, as a sign of home. The 7 Stones stands upright, much like a lighthouse, guiding travellers to its open doorway, welcoming them home. The inukshuk, several stones piled high, looking much like a figure of a standing man, comes from the word inuk, meaning “person” and suk meaning “substitute”. In a way, 7 Stones Boracay Suites stands as a substitute family for the traveller who is temporarily away from home. “The totem shows you your way home,” says Dani Aliaga, resort manager.

7 Stones was to be my temporary home in a season of unforgiving weather.  In the few days that I stayed in the resort, I was able to gather the remaining stones, one by one, that made up 7 Stones Boracay Suites. The second stone was green.

It's fun to go on assignment with a good photographer friend (Don Oco).

Nestled in what seemed like a fishing village along the Bulabog Beach, 7 Stones cannot ignore its neighbours. It recognizes its responsibility to the environment and to its community through its daily operations, evident even in my bathroom sink where coasters brandish the reminder “green initiative”. It was a subtle suggestion for me to be mindful of my water consumption and usage of amenities. If I needed my towels and sheets changed every day, they would. But through discreet and courteous notes, I was encouraged to reuse and therefore contribute in their “green initiative.”

The second stone that I collected was a representation of how traditional Filipino elements meld harmoniously with the modern in this boutique resort. The stunning suites are contemporary and spacious with a Zen like appeal. Each room is accentuated by Filipino handcrafted art from mixed media paintings made by local artists from Mariit Artworks. In my room the canvass paintings are simple – a goldfish in one, a hull of a boat in another – yet powerful, evoking the stillness of the sea currently ravaged by the Habagat wind.

Healing hands in paradise -with a beach side masseuse before the therapy.
On a rare moment when the wind abated and the sun coyly took a peek, I took a walk outside, out to the beach where I picked up the next stone, a gift from nature itself: the beauty of the sea which opens out in great magnificence at the entrance of 7 Stones. Here is a private cove, visited only by fishermen in their boats, away from the mad revelry of the White Beach where all the resorts and commercial establishments are. Here, I was protected from the hateful Habagat wind. Here the water was calm and inviting. Without hesitation, I took a dive.

 After my dip, I lounged on the cushy deck chair that faced the shore, taking in all the splendour about me. The sky, hanging low, was a weak blue, still mourning the sun’s absence. It brought about a serene feeling in the air, the calm before the storm. I breathed in and closed my eyes. This was the stone of indulgence. The fifth stone. I held it close to me like a child holding a precious marble and allowed the soft sea breeze to cuddle me to sleep.

I could live here.

After my nap, I headed back to my room, but along the way, I couldn’t ignore the call of the crisp 
water in the pool. It was a 25 meter lagoon type swimming pool with a Jacuzzi at one end. At the other end was a sunken bar where I was able to soak in crystal coolness while I refreshed myself with a tall cocktail. This was the stone of luxury, the sixth pillar to 7 Stones’ strong foundation.
Soon the sky became jealous again and opened up a drizzle of rain. I started to shiver and ran back to my room, a cozy shelter. The discreet beep of the sensor-controlled locks welcomed my arrival and automatically turned on the power. I took a shower, patted dry, and burrowed under the softest covers. While listening to Ian Wright traipse through Bolivia through my LCD flat screen TV, I slowly drifted off to sleep. But before I completely succumbed to oblivion, I thought, this was home, my temporary home, the seventh stone.