Palanan Isabela via Tuguegarao – The Wait Is Over (Page 1)


Last April 22, 2017, my friend and I took a 10-hour bus ride to Tuguegarao City up Northeast of the Philippines. From Tuguegarao Airport, we waited 5 hours for a 45-minute, 20-seater flight to Palanan Valley in Isabela Province. We were early and the plane was 4 hours late.

Palanan is not a popular travel destination, more so the village we went to. I was jobless with savings slowly draining away. What on earth was in Palanan that we were ready to get Php 8,000 (almost US$200) poorer and some backaches richer just to be there?

Continue reading “Palanan Isabela via Tuguegarao – The Wait Is Over (Page 1)”

morning sprint in wan chai (day 2)

I don’t run. I don’t jog either. And though I am aware of the benefits of brisk walking, I think it’s way too boring for me unless I really am on my way somewhere “brisk walking.” But this morning, I tried to do a combination of these three. Exploring the streets of Wan Chai, and crossing several traffic lights, I did my version of a “morning run,” tourist style (meaning with a mobile phone and occasionally stopping to take a quick photo here and there while trying not to look foreign (as if that were possible). This was to compensate for my inability to do my usual workout this week due to our trip.

After the really brief “morning sprint,” I learned several more benefits of morning exercise for a traveler, namely:

1. Best lighting for your photographs. I’m no photographer but we all understand this. Natural light in the morning is perfect. Good for your health too (I mean, morning sun is)  – Vit D!

2. You get to scout the place (and find a thrift shop with neat items). So as not to get distracted from your exercise, don’t stop over unless you are on your way back, or else you’ll end up shopping instead of exercising.

thrift shop in wan chai hong kong3. It’s a great preparation for marketing. Yes, if you want to buy meat, fruits, or vegetables, it’s fun to do it without competition and while the goods are still really fresh ‘coz the delivery trucks are just unloading and the stores have just opened.

Untitled4. You get to see the city (or village) while the world is still asleep.

(I’m sorry sir with the orange jacket for taking a photograph of this playground while you are sleeping on the bench. Don’t worry, your face doesn’t show. 😉 )

sleeping man on bench5. You get to treat yourself to breakfast. A piece of advice (to Filipinos), if you’re buying hakao, just say “hakao”! I tried to say shrimp dumplings (‘coz that’s what’s written on the menu), then they said to point on the menu the item I want. They also asked, “hakao?” I said, “Yes, hakao!” Language barrier solved. There wasn’t any after all.

By the way, the shrimp dumplings (hakao) were perfect! I believe they would have tasted great still even without the soy sauce! The wrapper is firm but soft and yummy, does not fall apart. The shrimp/s inside are not tiny and difficult to detect.

dimsum stand in wan chaihakao shrimp prawn dumplingsAnd there goes the added benefits of jogging in the morning if you are a tourist.

However, more than anything, for a morning person like me who loves to explore new places, nothing beats just getting out there to see where my feet take me while savoring the intoxicating flavor of my favorite time of the day.


I didn’t wake up that early though. I was out by 8AM and was back by 9.

Back in Hong Kong

Hello everyone! I am back in Hong Kong, so soon! I’m here for a 247Prayer conference and to get some time off from work. I don’t really want to go shopping. Anyone care to recommend some cool stuff to do? I’m hoping to check out some running trails (to make up for the fact that I’ll be missing a whole week’s worth of workouts). We’d love some food trip in Wan Chai area and something culturally enriching yet not costly to do. 🙂 Have you ever been to Hong Kong? Could you share with some of your escapades? Thanks! ❤

Truly Madly Deeply Sink Me

Sunrise on a foggy coral beach

Photo Credits: Max Gerenata and Francis Manuel

I used to think that scuba diving was for movie heroes out to find some piece of evidence underwater. Or for treasure hunters like in the movie Fool’s Gold. For the life of me, I didn’t even know that some specialize in macro photography of cute little sea creatures that happen to thrive in the beach where I was scuba baptized just two weeks ago. I thought I knew Batangas well enough. My confession of that simple province had been blasphemous.

Anilao, Batangas. I was quite sure that there isn’t much to find there when it comes to sea wanderlust. They beaches are rocky and grey. Little did I know that it was the deeper parts of the sea that I needed to explore! For those of you know already knew, this is my embarrassing confession.

Anilao, Batangas is one of the top ten dive sites in the Philippines, and it happens to be just two hours drive from Manila, the nation’s capital, and where I live. From what I understood by looking at the map, Anilao covers a small portion of the Mabini Peninsula and some islands around the coast of Mabini. It has more than one dozen dive sites including a shark’s reef and several that are known to macro photographers for its insanely cute and colorful nudibranch and fish.

Crashing Into Maricaban Island Resort

I was asked to write a feature story about Maricaban Island Resort somewhere in or near Anilao Batangas. I won’t be paid much but I was happy to get to visit the resort for free. And yeah, maybe I would get to dive too. Fingers crossed. And that’s when it all began…

We arrived on the island after being tossed about by strong waves during our 40-minute ferryboat ride. Thankful though ‘coz it was way better than our land travel which had our asses and backs achy by the time we got to the pier. The sun set as we were in the middle of the sea. It was dark by the time we set foot on the island, but the strong lights revealed the water’s clear as transparent, showing the coral remnants underneath. Welcome to a coral beach. Fresh coconut juice in husks wait for us at the al fresco.

The island seemed dark except for the strong lights we had. After dinner, we settled in our rooms with no air conditioning except for the open windows and cool breeze. All the rooms faced the sea, literally a baseball pitcher’s stone’s throw away, and the waters splashing against the shore was our music that night. It was easy to forget Manila and all its anxieties. I could live here, I thought.

Ready for a dive

The following day we rose early (around 4am) to catch the sunrise. Well, the photographers had to and I thought I’d join them. Later after lunch, we finally got to head out into a dive site. Oh yes, the time has come for my skin and bones to submerge into the deep… with some help from weighty rocks that our diving instructor fastened around my waist!

Sink me deep, belt with heavy rocks…

Tell you what? I was scared of breathing the wrong way. Rule #1 was, do not hold your breath. Rule #2, do not panic. Based on my swimming background, you should hold your breath under water. Ha! Whatever happens though, I vowed to not panic. I put the burden of saving my life upon my teacher’s shoulder. Hahaha. Rule #3 in my head was relax forever and ever until you see daylight once again.

And so I dove it. Backwards, of course. I didn’t realize I had to get up out of water first so my teacher could give me instructions, so I just floated there with my head under the water, like a dead man. Hahahaha. They waited for me to lift my head. It took a while. My teacher said I was so relaxed I must have fallen asleep. Rawr.

Soon we were sinking. Oh happy day, it must be my birthday. And soon, the little fishies were swimming with us. I had to depressurize my ears a number of times because it was painful underneath. I don’t think we reached 10 meters. During the first five minutes, I felt like going back up already. It felt uncomfortable, especially with the ear pain going back once in a while. But after 10 minutes, I think I finally debuted. I was getting the hang of it. Waving at the fishies, staring at the corals, posing for a photo.

Underwater Fashion – Footwear for deep sea adventure seekers

It’s a shame the better dive spot had strong current that afternoon, but it was nonetheless amazing to see Nemo and his better looking friends. And to breath under water. A prophecy I had received said I will have that ability, and that I should not be afraid to go underneath. It’s a symbolic imagery of course, but I couldn’t help but compare scuba diving with going deeper into God’s presence. There’s much to discover there, if we’re willing to take a plunge.

Say “Fiiiiiish”! – A okay with diving guide, Ms  Josie




Beach Appétit: My Serene Date With The Baby Waves

So I think I owe it to everybody to let us know than my friends and I went “surfing” the other other week on the still beach waters of San Juan, La Union, a surf site that is located five hours from where I live. It was not surf season. The sea was more quiet than an infinity pool. I wasn’t kidding when I said the beach was “still.” :)))

Did I know how to surf? And I didn’t tell you? No. I don’t know how to surf! I held a surf board for the first time and we had an instant connection which later translated to feelings of me wanting to sleep on it. (Because there were no waves to surf on it.) So I think I am coming back to LU (La Union) in November during surf season, after I learn to swim better and perhaps try some surf lessons at a nearby club where they have a pool for surfing.

Paddling anyone?

Since I cannot sleep on the surf board all day… (It is not practical. Why would I rent them just to sleep on them?) I tried some paddling tricks. Well, maybe not tricks — just.. paddling. Haha! Boring. But apparently my arms did not get bored. They ached the whole night after that.

I also tried the paddle board and it I had the most serene bonding time with the sea. I learned to welcome baby waves and learned to let them teach me how to let the board control me instead of the other way around. I love you baby waves, don’t let your mama scare me when I come back.




By the way, this is what it looks like to paddle board. (How I wish someone had taken a photo of me looking something like this!)

Image via Caribbean Paddling
Image via Caribbean Paddling

Jane’s subduing the paddle board. Shhhh… she’s concentrating…


Vanni headed out to the waters earlier than the rest of us on day 2 and conquered a boat for two on her own!

My friend Vanni kayaking for the first time ALL BY HERSELF!
My friend Vanni kayaking for the first time ALL BY HERSELF!


Seafood by the ocean

Nothing beats Filipino seafood dishes — some grilled squid, liempo (pork), and eggplant — while in front row seats with the ocean on infinity screen. (Why do I keep saying “infinity”?)

front row seats
front row seats
Seafood Platter @ Sebay Surf Central LU


A bit more classy breakfast. Still with the best view.

@ Kahuna Beach Resort for breakfast
@ Kahuna Beach Resort for breakfast


Kahuna Beach Club
Kahuna Beach Club view

Rocking chair nap

At the “house” we stayed at, this is my favorite chair. It rocks. I mean, it literally rocks back and forth. Hihi. It has super plush cushion it instantly lulls you to sleep, that is if you are not talking to someone like another guest in the house, which happened to me so I did not fall asleep. I was insomniac the whole day after spending the night there. We only spent one night by the way. 🙂

We found this beautiful house that rents out rooms and it was the perfect homey place to crash in. Jump out of the gate, roll down the path and you are on the beach in less than 60 seconds. And yes, the house was really beautiful — spacious interiors, cozy native furniture, laid back couches, classy bathroom, sunny balcony, and good air-conditioned bedrooms.


Rocking Me Chair - My fave spot in the house
My fave chair and spot in the house

It was something to whet our appetite for the ocean. One of my friends stayed a few more days after the two of us left the afternoon of our second day. Well then, goodbye baby waves. Let’s get together sometime November. 😉


Group Selfie!

Photo by Vanni via Selfie Pod!
Photo by Vanni via Selfie Pod!

Some helpful notes:

From Cubao Partas Bus Terminal, take a trip to Laoag and tell get off at San Juan, La Union. Trips are scheduled every hour.

Going back, take a tricycle to the bus terminal. Get a chance passenger number and wait for a bus traveling to Cubao or Pasay. You may or may not get a seat going back to Manila.

Overnight stay: P500/person/night (approx. US$12)

Long board rental: P200/hour ($4.50)

Paddle board rental: P200/hour

Kayak rental: P400/hour for 1 to 2 persons ($9)

Surf Lesson: P400/hour (P350 if you are staying at a hotel that offers lessons.)

Food: P150 to P350 per head depending on where you eat

God Dreamed It Before You Did

Early this year or last year, a churchmate of mine prophesied that I would be going to a nation that I have been desiring to go to and that I have never been to. I was both excited and puzzled by the prophetic word. First, I wanted to go to Vietnam but I have been to Vietnam already at that time. Second, although there were many countries that I have never visited, there was none in particular that stirred my heart to visit! Could it be that the word was inaccurate? But my churchmate said he strongly sensed that word from God. Months passed and I had forgotten about the word… until this morning.

Could it be that God had thought of this city that would make me so happy to visit — a place that had I known existed, I would definitely dream of going to — and thought of bringing me there, and took the liberty of informing me through a prophetic word even before I knew that I would love to go to that city? In short, the prophetic word should have gone something like this, “Riza, God is brining you to a nation that you have never been to but you have been desiring to go to. You definitely want to go there, although you don’t know yet where it is, but God already knows that you will love it there and so He’s telling you that He is taking you there because IT IS A DESIRE OF YOUR HEART THAT YOU DON’T KNOW YET. But God already knows in advance because He knows you so well.” Wow. How crazy and wonderful and amazing is the God we serve?

I have been pondering on the truth that God knows me and the details of my heart, mind and life. But I never imagined that God would prove it to me in a way that flaunts His divine omniscience, omnipotence, and affection all at the same time.

To every poet, writer, blogger, bystander or stranger reading this post, let me assure you, you are never too intricate or complicated for God to know, comprehend and love. He knows what fulfills your deepest desires even before you could fumble for words to describe it. He has planned the best surprise for you if you will surrender your life to His hands.

By the way, the place I was referring to is Dublin City in Ireland, where God blessed me with the opportunity to travel to weeks ago. I wrote about it here. The churchmate who prophesied were actually churchmates or a couple named Philip and Lyra. God used several people to make it possible for me to go to Dublin. I am thankful for all of them!

20131031-002959.jpg(above) image credits: wendy andrews

20131031-003126.jpgthis is in athione, outside dublin city

20131031-003213.jpgat the 24-7prayer gathering venue, st mark’s church

20131031-003445.jpgat grafton street, my fave street in Dublin!


The city of saints and scholars.

My only regret when I went to Dublin was that I was not well-read as most writers are expected to be. Fail. But I made sure I have those photos that will remind me that I had at least once walked the streets where great poets walked!

The trip was quite a surprise on several levels. At first, the place especially interested me because a fave song of mine by Jason Upton was recorded there during his concert. Then, I soon discovered that it is known for a culture with a love for poetry, traditional music and the arts. And that they actually have literary pubs and traditional music pubs and storytelling pubs. It was later on that I found out that the most respected writers and playwrights came from Dublin or studied in Dublin – Burke, Joyce, Yeats, Wilde… Then, to my surprise, my favorite mtv by Lisa Hannigan was shot in a pub in Ireland, Dick Mack’s, which I contemplated on visiting but was just too far from where we were. And that Lisa is also from Dublin, which led me to conclude that her music is influenced by Irish music, which made me more excited to visit traditional Irish music pubs. I had also hoped she has a concert or gig scheduled there during our 1-week stay, but she had none!

But all these is icing on the cake. I was invited to Dublin to attend the 24-7 Prayer International Gathering. The story of 24-7 Prayer’s founding was something that had radically impacted my life. Ever since I read Pete Greig’s book, Red Moon Rising, I had been wanting to get more involved with that particular move of God and it’s vision that burns deeply for prayer and missions. But the thought of joining was initially an impossibility. Dublin is thousands of dollars from where I was. But when God gave me a strong sense that I will be going, I stepped out in faith and miracle financial provision just came – the event registration and lodging, the plane fare, the visa.

And there were so many other things that make it literally a dream come true. Unfortunately, I was not able to sit back, sip coffee (or should I say Guinness) and write a poem in one of many literary pubs where famous authors spent those many hours that led to novel price award winning masterpieces. It was such a short trip with friends who had varied interests — they spend hours in souvenir shops and more minutes looking for cheap Asian food (which is impossible to find in Dublin), while I dream of sitting back in a pub, listening to music, or walking in the park while counting the different shades and hues of autumn leaves. I kept coming back to Grafton Street for the free music, they keep coming back for Burger King and Ireland shirts. I wanted to try Irish coffee but I have to look for a special cafe to do that but my companions could not be commissioned to walk around and be willing to get lost. They also preferred that we stay together.

And so we (my other friend who also wanted to explore) were happy to steal some shots of interesting places from a distance, and the names of poets on walls. We dreamed that we were centuries back while seated in a tourist bus, we sniffed the scent of culture from behind windows. It was a dream come true, yes, but also seemed like a foretaste of the real thing. But oh, how we now love Dublin. And how it has whetted my appetite to read. 🙂

Then there was the conference that bleeds of the presence of God. God exposed my heart and I found myself shocked by what I discovered. First, the wound that never healed. Second, the call that will be fulfilled after the would is healed. It seemed that God is shifting my life through radical shaking, to make sure I walk into His greater plan for me. It is a mystery to how God always had to bring me somewhere far just to speak this way. I remember 10 years back, in Germany (which happens to be where I am typing this right now from a 6-hour layover), where he spoke about prayer and mercy ministry. Ten years hence, He reminds me of His word.

But why in Dublin? Is it because it is the city of saints and writers and music lovers? Is it because it makes me happy or nostalgic? Is it so random when it hardly seems so? Or is it because God knows how to get your attention when He wants to say something very important?


I Won’t Wait

This was quoted by Kara from her journal (check out her blog) in her winning entry to Pursuit of Everything blog’s  Once In A Lifetime Giveaway. I find it inspiring. I hope you find inspiration from it too. And in case you’re wondering what the “giveaway” is, it’s a round trip ticket to any destination on the globe.

(Italics mine.)

“I want to sit in the hot sun at a cafe along a dirt road, sipping beer from a sweating bottle and laughing with friends who don’t speak English. I want to feel sweat drip down my forehead and onto my cheek and not worry about whether my make-up is ruined. I want it to trail down my neck and disappear into the cotton of my white shirt. I want to watch as children run down that dusty street chasing a ball towards an unknown goal. I want to sit back and smile, not because of the number of children I have but because of the number of children I have helped.

I want to accomplish something greater than myself, my happiness or my contentment. I want to survive with what I am given and give as a means of survival. I want to live outside of what I know and engage the world, drink it up– every last drop. I want to be grasped by it, allow it to reveal itself to me, submit myself to its will. Not like a cult member who confuses a thing and contorts it into a god. I won’t formulate an equation that solves the longing and loneliness, or wander the streets wondering when I’ll meet someone who sees the wonderful being that is in me. And I won’t swoon over guys who tell me I’m beautiful while they are looking at my breasts. The promise of love is not a promise at all, and even when I think I’ve found it, it feels more like I am on lay away and my purchaser forgot to come back and make the final payment. No, I won’t wait for love before I start living my life.

Or success. I won’t wait until I’ve written that book or become independently wealthy. I won’t wait until my lotto numbers match the ones on the television screen or my house appreciates so much that I have no choice but to retire. I won’t wait until I’m 50 and paying for my children to live out the dreams I once had. I won’t wait until it’s comfortable or easy. No, I won’t wait for success before I start living my life.

Or knowledge. I won’t wait until I’ve learned the language fluently or grasped every intricacy of the culture. I won’t master any game of Trivial Pursuit or know all the answers when questioned. I won’t pridefully assume that I know everything or even pretend to know a decent fraction of the world’s knowledge. I’ll pursue life and gain knowledge, and more importantly, wisdom. No, I won’t wait for wisdom before I start living my life.

I’ll find my cafe and watch those children run along foreign roads, grateful for a meal at the end of the day, happy to have a diversion from life’s heartaches, running towards something that doesn’t make sense but satisfies, content to know that the goal of love and success and wisdom does in fact exist and even though no one is guarding it, scoring is satisfying nonetheless.”

If you want to follow Kara’s adventure, you can check out her blog for updates: