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.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer 2012

For the first time, this banner was shot on my actual desk.

Just recently I met a Spanish dreamer in the Island of Little Corn in the Caribbean who believes that travel is a love story. As someone who lives to explore, I can’t agree more. I'd also like to think that love is a travel story. After all, love is a journey of joys and sacrifices, a trail of triumphs and trials. And I believe that my love story is an amazing continuing journey.  My husband and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary which explains the message in a bottle on the desk. It is actually one of our wedding invitations which we delivered in bottles. Read more on how the universe received our message in a bottle and granted our wishes here.

Our wedding invites were delivered in bottles. Photo by Bern Mejias.
Spring left us too soon; I think. Time passes quickly when you’re having fun. But I embrace summer. I welcome the sun and the chance to bare my shoulders again with my eensy-weensy yellow polka dot bikini. I’ve always wanted one just because of the song alone, and I got to wear the one featured on the desk in our advance summer adventure in Little Corn in Nicaragua. 

A farewell to spring.

Also on the desk is my pair of Jambu Vegan trail shoes. I wore them throughout my trip to Nicaragua, and they’re the most comfortable travel shoes ever.  They’re partially made of recycled material, so it makes not just my soles but also my soul feel good, knowing that I’m being kind to the environment. I also love the fact that they don’t look clunky like most hiking shoes. They almost look like ballet flats, and the mesh material allows my toes to breathe as if I’m wearing sandals. I heard Samantha Brown was spotted wearing them, so I guess I can say this pair has been travel tested well (it’s hearsay so don’t quote me on this).  Yep. I just might feature more travel gear in my next posts.

I highly recommend these Jambu Vegan shoes for travel.

You can read more about my Nicaragua trip in my TravelOkcitycolumn or in my travel memoir with Leisure+Adventure Travel out soon. The map on the background is a city map of Granada which served us well during our trip to the western part of the country.

Last night I dreamed that I was in a perfect world.
I woke up to find myself in the Caribbean (Little Corn).

It may seem silly to bring a book during a vacation. Why wander into another world when you are currently in an exciting new place that is waiting to be explored? But there are days when you are sitting on a little cliff overlooking the vast blue with a Flor de Caña rum coke in hand, and nothing feels better than to be rocked by the sound of gentle crashing waves and the song of a good book. For this trip, I brought The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, a debut novel that won the Booker Prize in 1997.

This is the life: rum coke and a good book by the beach.

At first the book seemed rather contrived. I found the language superfluous and meandering (like my own writing tends to be sometimes), but after I got over the hump of the first few pages, the words flowed and flowered for me. I almost liked reading the novel just for the utterance alone.  But it would not do justice to say that, because the story in itself is powerful. So powerful that it made me wonder about the characters after the conclusion.  It made me wish for them well, although they may be fictional, hoping that in their fictional world that they had found healing and that their childhood memories would finally bring for them joy.

~Spoiler warning~

As much as I hated for the story to close, the ending was something that I consumed ravenously satisfaction. The conclusion was a scene pulled from the middle of the story and ended in a hope and a promise. A promise encapsulated in one word: Tomorrow.

~Spoiler ends here~

One of the things I love about changing banners is that it allows me to blog. I know that sounds silly since Ana Viajera is supposed to be a travel blog, but in case you haven’t noticed, all of my content are my published articles. AV is really intended to be my professional portfolio (and so far it has helped me bag two more writing gigs). Secondly, I am a lazy blogger. Somehow the idea of writing and not getting paid for it (or the thought of it not being published) loses the appeal for me. But every now and then I would feel the urge to get more personal and even more self-indulgent (after all, travel memoirs, I believe, have a tendency to be so), and the banner essay allows me that. It gives me the venue to write about anything, including book reviews which I have taken a fancy to lately, because in between my travels, books afford me the chance to visit another world. Consider these mini book reviews as my ode to my quick round-trip tickets to different worlds.

Lovingly dedicated to my beautiful web developer and friend
in celebration of another year of her fabulous life.

I’m featuring 2 more books on my desk, Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves (you can read more about it here) and The Shack by William Young. The latter is not something I would readily pick off the shelf, but my Aunt Tracy asked me to read it, and how could I say no? 

Another addition to my growing collection of signed books.

At the risk of sounding like a snobbish reader, I admit that I have the tendency to look at the craft when reading a story. With the Shack, the voice and tone became a big distraction for me. I thought the language to be trite and a little corny. 
The premise of “what if God was one of us” is on one hand interesting (although this has been tackled numerous times in other stories), a thought provoking supposition, but again, I felt that the author stayed in his comfort zone of clichés. God or “Papa” is portrayed by a woman. Surely that is going against the grain of common belief, but she is also large, loving, cheery, nurturing. She has the air of someone whom you would want to run to for a hug. No surprise there.  If the author portrayed God, say, as a hippie who likes to sit by the porch with a reefer and addresses his children individually as “kid”, then  I’d be more intrigued. 

I was never a fan of Rick Steves, but here I am.
The lessons were almost forced. I use the word “lessons” because that is what the book seemed to be, didactic. This is one of the reasons why I shy away from stories that blatantly claim that it is a story about God or the search for meaning and existence.

I celebrate God in every step I take.

Clichés aside, the book took me to some interesting paths that I have never ventured to before. According to the book, everything in life is good.  It was our choice, our need for independence (eating from the tree of knowledge), that pushed us to label things as good or evil. Therefore even cancer or calamities, in its very essence, is not evil  (in a sense that they have a higher purpose that we cannot comprehend). It is only our separation from God that causes us to fear these supposed evils. If we returned to God, then we would be able to trust him fully and know that the Supreme Being only wants the best for us. It’s a thought that’s hard to swallow, especially when you’ve suffered from cancer or calamities, but somehow, I digested it well.

And so continues Ana Viajera's leaving of footprints.

The Shack also gave me the idea that God does not need us to prioritize him, to form hierarchies. He does not want an hour a day of our time. Not even two, or three. Instead, he wants all of our time, all of us, everything. He does not want an hour of devotion but a 24/7 relationship.

I translate this as taking him in with my every breath, lifting everything that I do to him, even something as mundane as doing the laundry. God does not want worship, he wants a relationship. The thought is liberating. It frees me from the guilt of not spending enough time on devotionals that I have to admit, can get boring. And as I breathe him in and praise him with my every action, I know  that I am worshiping him.

Why hello there, summer!
May this summer be all about fulfilled tomorrows and constant devotion. Oh, and ice-cold lemon water and sun kissed shoulders.


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.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Message to the Universe

Published by Action and Fitness Magazine, 2008.

Wrote a letter to the universe and mailed it via the South China Sea from Batanes.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Like him, I believe that if I want something bad enough, the winds will waltz with the waves to deliver my granted wish. But how do I let the wind know of my whims? How does the ground beneath my restless feet know where I want to go? Some may shout it out to the world at the top of a mountain. Others may sit in a space of silence and whisper their desires to God, while I, well, I send a message in a bottle.

This is why our wedding invites were in bottles.

While some people collect seashells from their travels, I collect bottles. It has been an obsession of mine since I first saw a green bottle on the beach of Obella. I like the idea of a lonesome bottle carrying a precious message, travelling through oceans and time to an unknown destination, and finally into the hands of a perfect stranger. He might or might not care, but for that brief moment, when he unscrews the cover, slides out the note, and reads my thoughts and enters my head, we’re connected. The anonymity of it all only adds to the romance, plus the idea that once you’ve thrown it out to the sea, it is no longer yours, the same way you surrender your dreams to the powers that be and wait for them to be thrown back, granted.

My first letter carrier came from the Marshall Islands,
washed up on the shore from the Pacific Ocean.

I don’t know what happened to the bottle I found by the bushes in the shore of Obella. It was colored emerald green with Japanese inscriptions at the base.  I figured it was washed up on the shore from the Pacific Ocean. Obella is a tiny island in the Marshall Islands in Micronesia, inhabited only by lonely sea turtles and old ghosts roaming the deserted cemetery at the heart of the jungle. Ironically, the cemetery is the only sign of civilization in Obella.

Answered wishes? We were surrounded by empty bottles
in our tiny hut at Little Corn (Nicaragua).
Surrounded by impossibly clear waters, Obella can be reached by boat from the nearby atolls that surround a lagoon. On low tide, you can literally walk from a neighbouring island to Obella. If you forge through the thick vegetation, you will find a small cove jealously guarded by a throng of pandanus and plumeria trees. Here, if you lie still for a moment, on a white stretch peppered with powdery crystals flirting with the sun’s rays, you will hear the breeze whisper secrets of old, when the Americans fought against the Japanese to claim ownership of this paradise several full moons ago. I’d like to think that the bottle was discarded by a Japanese soldier while hiding under the shelter of a plumeria tree, waiting for a G.I. to wander past. More than likely the bottle could have been thrown by a drunken fisherman tottering on a Japanese fishing trawler that came through the Central Pacific a few days earlier.     

Off to deliver our message to the universe.
Pacific Ocean

Choosing the former as my bottle’s origins, I wrote down my wishes on a piece of paper, put the paper in the bottle and screwed the cap tightly back on. On our way back to Roi Namur, the island where we came from, with the boat running at an even speed, and Tom Petty belting out "Into the great wide open”, I threw the bottle into the Pacific Ocean. The waves eagerly lapped at the bottle, wanting to know the wishes contained inside. 

My best friend lounging by Obella, Marshall Islands.

I wished that I would spend the rest of my life with my best friend who was driving the boat then. I prayed that we would have many adventures, travelling together. Just a few months later, after travelling to six provinces in twelve days, he proposed to me on top of Calvary hill in Leyte, Philippines with the statue of the Sacred Heart looming over us, standing witness to our whispered promises.

Photo by Bern Mejias

Since then, every time I travelled, I would look for an empty bottle on the shore, waiting to deliver another message.   A few years back I found a clear bottle with a rubber cap  hidden between rocks at a beach in Sabtang, Batanes in the Philippines. This time it had Chinese inscriptions on the cap. Batanes lies where the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea merge. I imagined the bottle came from Taiwan, Honk Kong, or China. When I opened the bottle, the sharp scent of gin escaped from the rim.

Roi Namur, Marshall Islands with my best friend. (photo by Kerry Young)

 As usual I wrote down my wishes on a paper, sealed it into the bottle, and then threw the bottle back to the sea. Later, a little commotion ensued by the shore. There was excited chatter from my caravan, crowding over something they found brought in by the tide. Some of them took pictures, excited by the fact that they found a “real” message in a bottle, perhaps cast by someone stranded on an island somewhere. Before they could open it, I ran and swiped my precious bottle away, ruining their fantasies altogether.

We are always surrounded by bottles.

I zealously held on to the bottle as our boat crossed the treacherous South China Sea. We spent a good twenty minutes by the shore as our boat battled against the waves, refusing to let us go.  We haven’t even left yet, but half of our group was already suffering sea sickness. We were finally released but not before a huge wave crashed over our boat, rocking it like a plastic toy and causing some of the passengers to scream and beg our boatmen to head back, but they ignored our pleas. It was an intolerable thirty-five minute ride as I braved the screaming wind blowing through my drenched clothes and the splashing seawater burning my eyes. Holding down the fear that threatened to surge from my throat, I looked out, never taking my eyes off the lighthouse from afar, a sign that land was close, then I realized I was still clutching dearly to my bottle as if it were a life saver. I threw the bottle into the dark waters, praying under my breath that I might live to see my granted wishes.

I believe there is no limit to the number of wishes you can make
In your lifetime. The universe is generous.

I have yet to see the bottle again. Often I search for it in the landscape of my dreams, around the edges of my adventures and on every crevice of the lands I explore, never once losing faith that my message will soon be delivered.

If you find one of my bottles washed up on your shore, will you email me at

The universe answered our prayers at the San Agustin Church, Malate Manila.