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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter/holiday banner 2012

A New Year's gift to all Viajeras: Book a cheap flight to Atlanta by using the promo code FL15 on CheapOair!

A page from Griffin and Sabine's extraordinary correspondence.

My husband is absent for the holidays. His mind has already gone off for vacation, more specifically, to the Philippines where we will be in about a month. I on the other hand am still trying to get through the holidays, what with the gifts to wrap, my son’s birthday, and figuring out how to layer on as much without looking like a mummy. But then again it’s not fair to say that I am just trying to “get through” this season like it was a chore. Christmas is a magical time for this family. Not only are we celebrating the coming of Emmanuel, we’re also commemorating my mother’s and my son’s birth.

A page from a Pienkowski book from

This season’s banner is an ode to the birth of the babes, represented by the Jan Pienkowski book on the banner. I’ve accumulated several Christmas books since the arrival of our son. The collection came in handy when my husband declared a new Christmas “rule”. No gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. This way, our son will wake up in wonder to see all the presents laid out for him by Father Christmas.  I couldn’t stand the sight of a bare floor under the tree, so I surrounded the base with the Christmas books.

No gifts under the tree before Christmas Eve. Christmas books then!

Christmas, the King James Version, is beautifully illustrated. Also an illustrator, Pienkowski retold the nativity story with the use of silhouettes, ornamental gilding, and a shimmering background. It sort of reminds me of the Wayang Kulit, Indonesian story telling through shadows and puppets. It is a whimsical and enigmatic way of revelation-  because you cannot see the expression on the faces of the characters, you are left to imagine the feelings evoked.

The Griffin and Sabine double trilogy

Another literature I’m featuring here is the Griffin and Sabine trilogy, another wonderfully illustrated set of books where the idea for my son’s name came from. If we are to have a girl, then you already know what her name will be.  The series is about two artists and dreamers, and their story is told through the letters they’ve exchanged: stunning handmade postcards and gracefully written letters with beautiful drawings. Each page is a work of art, either a postcard or an envelope which you open to pull out the folded epistle.

Every year we buy a train ornament for the tree until it is surrounded by steam engines! 
This one is from our beloved Aunt Tracy.
What does this trilogy have to do with travel? Well for one, it takes the reader back and forth between England and the South Pacific, but more importantly, it takes the audience with the characters through their journey to the stars and their dreams. 

Another one for our train tree from Poland in four separate cars.

The books were a gift from my husband, also a star-struck dreamer, when we were dating. They say you can tell a lot about a man by what he wears or more specifically his shoes. I say, you can tell a lot about a man by what he reads (and the books that he gifts – the fact alone that he gives books as a present tells a lot too!).

The big ones are obviously for the little one.

Mostly, he enjoys travel books, Paul Theroux being one of his favorites, and he also reads the new voraciously.  Apparently, New York Times limits views from a specific IP address to a certain number every month. He always exceeds the limit, so I got him a subscription for his birthday (yes, we get more excited about a newspaper subscription over an iPhone 5).

Thanks to because I'm too lazy to take a pic of the cover.

Included in the subscription is the T Style Magazine which I appreciate not only for content but for the elegant layout. It presents itself as a style publication but offers more substance and quality reads. Its first winter issue, Travel, features a not-so-popular destination: Nicaragua.  T and I have made it there before “the rest of the jet-set arrives”. I featured one of the issues on the desk. Unfortunately you can’t really see it under the Christmas book, but I still think it’s worth the mention.

Like my banner, my corner of nostalgia changes with the season.

I had this holiday desk all set up when I realized something was missing, a representation of our homecoming to the Philippines in the next few months.  A few minutes later, the friendly postman (who always dispenses a smile or a pleasantry along with the mail) delivered my son’s first passport, the beginning of his life as a little world explorer. We already travelled to the east coast and nearby states in Middle America with him, but it will be the first abroad. This should be a fun experience and it will be such a great gift to have my family and friends experience him for the first time.

This is the kind of clutter that I don't mind on my desk.

 Finally, my birthday and Christmas wish for my son is best expressed by the last page of Pienkowski’s Christmas:

“And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, 
filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”

May the Star of Bethlehem shine bright for you the entire year of 2013.


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, December 13, 2012

On Your Birthday

In celebration of my son's birthday, I'm sharing my first love letter to him published by Total Fitness Magazine 2011.

Everyday, I celebrate you.

Dear Finn,

First, let me get this out of the way – “Finnegan” is your dad’s idea. I prefer Griffin (from the Griffin and Sabine series that he gave to me as a present when we were dating). Finnegan won out in the end. I guess as long as “Finn” is in there somewhere, I’m happy. And so I dub thee Finnegan O’Hara: a strong Filipino-Irish brew. And just like your dad, who is also an “O’hara”, you will probably be a beer snob, pining for San Miguel or Guinness wherever you are in the world.

You can always have your cake and eat it too!
 19 December 2010
 11:02 p.m.

I can’t believe that in a few hours, we will finally get to hold you. I’m writing this in the hopes of soothing my nerves. This and a little Hawaiian lullaby. Every morning I play Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s Somewhere over the Rainbow medley. It’s a myth they say: playing “smart music” to the womb won’t make the child a genius. Maybe, but a little bit of ukulele in the morning won’t hurt now, will it? 

hello, little wonder!

I’m going through my playlists for OPM. Sadly, I don’t have a lot. I need to play more tagalog songs for you. Yes, you will be bilingual, whether you like it or not. Studies say that bilingualism has been linked to a variety of positive cognitive benefits including exceptional mathematical skills. Thank God for that, because your parents are poor with numbers. So I’m starting early. “Isa...dalawa...”

20 December 2010
4:00 a.m.

Of all the advice that I’ve been receiving, there is one constant thing that stood out and will probably be the only thing that I will remember once all the craziness starts. One word: epidural. Forget about the wonders of natural birth. Once the pain starts, you’ll forget even your breathing exercises. What? Breathe? Oh yeah – ha hee, ha hoo. Ha hee, ha hoo.... Can I have my $#%&...epidural now??!!!

Freedom is a scent. Like the top of a newborn baby's head.

6:45 a.m.
The anaesthesiologist just came in to explain all about the wonder drug. He went on and on about the side effects.  By then everything was a blur and the only thing that was real was the intolerable iron-like gripping around the abdomen that came every few minutes. It seemed like there would be no end to his spiel, so I seriously thought of grabbing the needle from his hand and stabbing it on my thigh myself. What? It goes through the spine? Did I tell you that I’m afraid of needles?

my boy! that smile!

Just when I thought he would go on forever until I lose it completely, Dr. Barki walked in, suggesting a C-section. We could either continue on with this, waiting for me to dilate enough, or we get this over with now. She said the decision was all mine. I said, strap me on now. Did I tell you that I’m petrified of needles?

9:30 a.m.
I’m in the delivery room. My hands are tied, so I’m writing this in my head. I can’t feel my legs. It’s disconcerting yet comforting at the same time. You dad is holding my hand, looking silly in his blue scrubs and cap. It brings out the color of terror in his eyes. 

such a happy boy

I can hear the doctors through the curtain of analgesia. They are talking shop like they are in a cafe while working on a slice of cake, not slicing me. “There’s going to be a little pressure,” said Dr. Barki, my no-nonsense Taiwanese OB. Slight pressure? More like heavy tugging and pushing. I think I’m going to fade out. There is no pain really, but the idea that they’re messing with my organs – and the fact that I can actually feel it - is not what sweet dreams are made of.

the birth of a miracle

Before long, I hear a concerto of gushing. “Aww...” “Ooohhh he’s gorgeous!” “He’s perfect!’ A tear trickled down my cheek before they lay you on my shoulder. Then I think, oh my God. Is this my baby? He looks like an alien!

25 December 2011
You are starting to fill in in the right places. You no longer look like Jedi Master Yoda. It would have been nice if somebody warned me about this, but it doesn’t matter now. 

our first family photo

We had already opened our Christmas present. It’s bright-eyed and beautiful.

27 December 2011
I miss you terribly. I miss feeling the flutter in my tummy. The little hiccups in the morning. The heaving and kicking like there was a party in there that I wasn’t invited to. You are no longer mine completely. I have to share you to the world. After all, how can somebody so beautiful not be shared?  

I can hear you stirring. Soon the fussing will start. Ahh right on schedule. There, there. Take my hand. I love how your little fingers curl so tightly around mine and how you look at me like I am the only person in your universe. But soon, sooner than I am ready for, you will be letting go. But for now, hold on tight and let our adventure together begin.