Palanan Isabela via Tuguegarao – The Wait Is Over


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?

But we were excited despite the financial tradeoff and physically draining travel arrangements. When we got there, we still had to cross a river and climb a 140-step staircase. But deep inside all I could think was, “Finally, Palanan, here we come.” I couldn’t be more hungry for something that is absolutely the opposite of city life. In Palanan, I heard, there’s no electricity. Life may be hard but thank God there’s no Internet, malls, pollution, and traffic congestion. I’d take that for sure. Thankful that the plane came even though it came late.

How about you? Are you also desperate to go somewhere no one can track you down? Where was the last off-the-beaten-track place you went to? 🙂

By the way, here is the first batch of photos (from take off to touchdown on Isabela). More in next post.

Check out the Google Map for a better picture of the area’s topography.


Cargo Tuguegarao to Palanan
Cargo of fruits and other commodities, Palanan-bound

Trivia: You can find few fruits and vegetables in Palanan due to the disastrous typhoon that struck them last year. Trees and vegetation were destroyed so most of the fruits and veggies there were flown from the city or nearby provinces…


Palanan Isabela trip
First hour waiting. We had no idea this time that we had four hours to go!
The 20-seater that really had 14 seats
pilot in small plane
Trust the pilot
Aerial view of Palanan, Isabela from the Pacific Ocean
Going inland
The curvy river
The river and the valley
Palanan Valley up close
Coming down
The typhoon-stricken, under-construction airport in Palanan
Palanan Airport. Don’t worry, it should be rebuilt already by the time you head over here.
“Welcome to Palanan”
“We’re here!” Sort of. – Outside our host’s house, on a tricycle
First meal. Ate Julie, our host (left) and Ate Ruth, my companion (right)
Ate Gloria. She cooked the delicious lunch we had. It was really delicious.
Burning wood.

After lunch at our host’s place, we went straight to crossing the river to get to the venue near the mountains…


We took a tricycle and then walked with some young people
By the river
Ate Ruth and Masui
All smiles
P. Arnold, our other host
Obligatory wind-blown hair photo
Following the current to the sea
Carabaos and landscapes
Another one posing for the camera
Where we docked
This stairway used to be just rocks and dirt and they trek all the way up. They built it just late last year! Boy were we grateful!
The river, up close
_DSC0509 copy.JPG
Oh, someone’s doing some laundry…
And Ate Ruth had to take some photos
Heading up!
Looking down
Finally, we’re here.

Continue reading to Page 2 of Palanan Trip.








The Little Girl Who Fell In Love With The Game

If you are young, promise me you will not turn your passion into an obligation. If you are old and have lost your fire, promise me you will do everything to get it back. If you are on fire and doing what you were created for, promise me you will influence others to do the same.

I think there are two ways to die before you leave this world. One is to stop doing work that you’re passionate about (in the positive sense of the word, e.g. you’re not doing drugs or selling it), two is to turn it into an obligation and eventually lose the fire and joy in doing it. I don’t know which one is worse but I think I’ve experienced both.

From the movie “The Cutting Edge”

When I was 13, I fell in love. I watched a move and I fell in love, not with the actor, but with the sport of figure skating. I thought it was the most captivating thing I’ve ever seen. Speed, agility, grace, poise, artistry and athleticism all displayed simultaneously and in sync with music – watching such an ensemble gripped my heart with excitement. What is this sport? How come it’s art too? How so it takes my breath away?

That same summer, I asked my parents to enrol me in figure skating classes. For someone who’s the epitome of shyness and lack of initiative in life, this event was rather unusual.

Weeks before the classes were to start, my sister and I went on a vacation at our cousin’s place in Iloilo. We were to go back shortly before my classes were to start. Our aunts, uncles, and cousins there encouraged us to stay longer, my parents did too, I said I had figure skating classes waiting for me back in Manila, they said I can always do that later. My sister stayed but I went back home and had to insist ‘parting ways’ with my sister even if my parents were hesitant with the idea. I didn’t want to postpone my lessons. There were very few things (or hardly anything) I was determined to do as a teenager, this was one.

Me (left) with my sis and cousin, before I started taking lessons

I went to a group class. I wasn’t ‘top of my class’ but I did rather well. After much training and practice, I started doing the jumps, and the spins, and gained speed and agility on the ice. It felt like in the movies. It felt wonderful.

I will never felt that one time when I worked so hard on a new jump, the axel. My butt had two black (not blue, not purple) bruises, the size of a big coin during the time when I kept doing it the wrong way so I kept falling hard on my butt each time too.

After some proper coaching, I finally broke through and started getting the height and speed I wanted (or my coach wanted). I will never forget that one practice time when I felt like I was flying, like I was spinning slow-mo in the air and landing softly but powerfully on the ice. I had been so afraid of this jump. And to have conquered it was like a truly magnificent thing.

However, I soon lost that jump. I wasn’t well informed then about how crucial off-ice training was. I knew it was ‘important’ but I didn’t understand how much. I didn’t go to the gym nor did exercises that helped strengthen my weaker muscles. I also struggled with self-doubt, a feeling of wrongness, fear of failure, fear of bruising myself too much, and the other perks that go with these. I lost that jump. I kept losing it. Especially whenever I’d get busy with school and not be able to practice as much. Lessons were also expensive so I didn’t want to keep on doing lessons on the same maneuvers I’ve already learned before.

On my first international competition

The more I struggled with that jump, the more fear crept in. Or was it the other way around? I stopped skating on and off and so I kept losing my ability to do the harder spins and jumps. I didn’t realize then yet that muscles need to be conditioned and strengthened and that some gym exercises probably would have helped. (I generally have weak core, back and knee muscles if not for the constant practice.) The more I struggled, the more the sport became like obligation. At practice, I would enter the ice concerned that I would not be able to land my jumps that day, or get the form right for my spins. Gradually, dissatisfaction and doubt replaced joy and exhilaration. One day I woke up and realized that I’ve lost the wonder I used to have. I still loved the sport. But I had lost the fire of first love.

I used to see figure skating moves and choreography in my head whenever I hear music. I couldn’t do that anymore. I tried once, but there was a lump stuck somewhere along the circuit that led to my brain. My fears, doubts and familiarity with the sport had killed my fascination. It was heartbreaking to attend its burial.

play-for-herI stopped figure skating a long time ago. For practical reasons. Tonight, I watched a basketball game live. I couldn’t help but remember how good it felt to be an athlete. I was rooting for a friend’s team. I couldn’t help but pray every once in a while to ask God to help them win. I asked God too what to pray for. Throughout the whole game, their opponent had at least a 9-point lead and at most a 30-point lead. It was a tough fight. God told me to pray against fear and intimidation and to release love and joy. Love for the game.

I saw this quote from Mia Hamm many months ago… It says, “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back.. play for her.”

When we’re pressured to deliver during competition, it’s easy to fall prey to fears, doubts, and a sense of inadequacy. Opportunity to shoot the ball, something which used to be filled with excitement, suddenly becomes a dreaded moment. The fear of failing has overtaken the love of playing.

While searching for that image I posted up there, I saw a quote by Olympic figure skating champion Gracie Gold. It says, “You have to love it and just let go of the fear.”

gracie-goldPerhaps, this is the key to winning – that we should cling to love and the reasons why we’ve chosen to spend a lifetime doing one thing, that we would choose to love what we do rather than fear losing the praises of the world.

Failing to make that shot, falling on that jump, losing a game or missing that medal – these are not our greatest enemies. Fear is. It is what robs us of something we can really keep if we choose to. In the first place, probably none of us athletes fell in love with our game because of a medal. So promise me, whether it be in sports, business, or career, don’t lose that sense of wonder, “play for her.” For the little girl who fell in love.

Three Kinds of Prophet: Which One Are You?


12.01.13Prophets.jpg - Photo (c) by pederk / Getty Images
Photo (c) by pederk / Getty Images

The Lord showed me three kinds of prophets we have today in terms of how one handles a word of the Lord. All three have a prophetic gift and receive words from God that are meant to be released as a rebuke, correction, encouragement, or what-you-have. But what makes them different is not God’s word but how they handle it. Some of us prophets sometimes jump from one to the other.

First one is the JUDGEMENTAL PROPHET. This prophet is quick to rebuke people that are in sin or are doing something that is wrong. No, they don’t sugarcoat their words but neither do they rebuke in love as the Bible commands us too. It is not that they do not love God or that they do not love people but pride (or lack of humility), lack (not absence) of love and compassion, and laziness keep them from seeking out a better way of saying God’s word. YES, laziness. So instead, they speak out as they see the wrong that’s going on. And they are often right in discerning what is wrong but they are wrong in simply speaking out what’s wrong instead of first asking God what words to speak (what to prophesy!) in order to turn the situation around because they often forget that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities that wage war against God’s children.

The second one is the TOLERANT PROPHET. This prophet, outwardly, is the opposite of the first one. This prophet feels so much compassion for people who are in sin. They want to win sinners with the love of God so they are afraid most of the time that if they rebuke people, they will not reflect the love of God and therefore might repel them. They are too afraid to offend to the point that they keep their mouths shut even if God’s word already wants to explode inside them. If the first prophet is guilty of pride and arrogance, the second prophet is guilty of disobedience and fear of man because delayed obedience is still disobedience. Because they do think that they will speak up but they keep on delaying it. They are also guilty of pride because a lot of times they fear for their reputation that is why they keep silent. They fear being labelled as proud or self-righteous for releasing a word from the Lord.

The third prophet is the PROPHET FROM THE CRUCIBLE. This prophet used to be like the first one or the second one, or probably even used to jump from being judgmental to tolerant to judgmental but after having been refined in the crucible of God’s purging, this prophet knows and understands that prophets are called not to seek out man’s approval or a good reputation in the eyes of the world but a prophet must be of no repute, willing to lose face and lose friends. This prophet has the strength of the first prophet – boldness minus the arrogance because this prophet also has the strength of the second prophet – love.

Boldness must be motivated by love. Thus, this prophet is not only bold but compassionate. This prophet does not blurt things out of a discernment of what is wrong or what sin has been committed but this prophets seeks God for wisdom how to speak God’s heart because in the first place, prophesying is not about the prophet’s emotions (whether anger or affection). This prophet is willing to pay the cost. And the cost is not just losing face but falling face down in the presence of God to first truly receive the heart of God. When a prophet comes before the Lord to seek God’s heart on a matter, God reveals the WORD that has the power to transform sinners into saints. God reveals the WORD that speaks life instead of death. This prophet is willing to stay and die in the presence of God in order to be able to transform his/her judgmental heart into a heart that prophesies the glorious thing that the Lord is brining forth out of the hopelessness and negativity that our eyes see for we live by faith and not by sight.

Let us all learn from Nathan, the prophet. And may God give us boldness and compassion to speak His Word – only HIS word.

Nathan Rebukes David (2 Samuel 12:1-13)

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as theLord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”


What Can’t You Go Without?

Image credit:

Warning: This is a post for me and my Christian brothers and sisters. You may or may not understand parts of it if you have not yet surrendered your life to Christ.

Can you go a day without coffee? Can you go a day without tea? I know there was a time when I can’t. When not drinking a cup of tea seriously messed up my internal balance and I had to drink at least a cup or else I experienced the following:

  • Shortness of breathe
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness
  • Inability to focus

Can you go a day without Facebook? Can you go a day experiencing the high of somebody liking your social media post? Can you go a day without your ego being stroked. What determines you internal temperature and balance, the praises of man or your identity in Christ? Imagine a day without the following. Will you survive?

  • Your favorite drink
  • Facebook
  • Entertainment from the Internet
  • Your cellphone
  • Worrying about the GREAT WORK you are called to do

Can you go a day without prayer? Can you go a day without reading your Bible? Of course not. You’ve already made it a habit to go through the motions. But can you go a day without God reaching deep into your heart and gripping it with a fresh new Word that is just for the day? Fresh. Pure. Gripping. Tearing your heart at the seams. How many times have you gone without that daily bread we were meant to ask and receive each day? Can you go a day without that? Are there days when you survive without it and choose to be comforted by coffee instead?

I have a grave concern. And it is that coffee culture is subtly taking over our Nazirite vow. It is that Facebook culture is subtly taking over our Esther call. It is that we have allowed our yearning for caffeine to replace our yearning for God, once in a while. It is that we have allowed our affinity with Facebook to replaced our ability to linger in His presence. How many times have we hurried our prayers to check on social media? How many times do we cap our bible studies in time for catch our fave TV series?

I have a grave concern. And it is that, like Samson, the longing to be in (Delilah’s) affectionate arms provides so much instant gratification that we now refuse to grow our hair long, so we just cut it short because coffee, Facebook, electronic games, movie marathons, are always there to provide us quick fixes.

Today, I dare you to wrestle. Wrestle for your heart. The heart He purchased with no small a price.

“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. – Numbers 6:5

I Want to Wake Up

child and plane playing
Image via lotus pocus focus

I want to wake up to the sound of waves slapping against the shore
On and on like a soothing rise up call

I want to wake up to the sound of rushing seas
It reminds me of the children’s zest for life
Tugging at my sleeve, giggling playfully
Like waves they run to-and-fro with Ocean’s energy
I want to wake up to this sound
To the sound of joy unquenchable and eyes that never lose their sparkle, that wonder…

Wake me up to the wild blue’s invitation
To the bold and simple, to a dauntless adventure
That children have mastered
And we hope to learn again


Enter a caption

Some things are never learned at home.
Some things are not taught in church.
At some point, you have to step out, step up, and spring forth.
Things given are just stepping stones and launching pads.
Your purpose in life is on the other side of the zone you grew up in, the place you perceived to be “the world,” but is in fact a place bound by limits set by people, not God.
Your life, your coming to life happens when you leap off that ledge that used to be a wall of security, that used to be what marks the edge of the world.

Are you a risk taker? Is there something that you need to “take a leap” for this year? What is keeping you from taking that leap? 🙂



Image via

this time of the day is yellow
your colour is most intense before it disappears

“this time of your life is mellow
you turn to him for ardour
by watching him paint the skies you’ve turned your back on
your face beholding pseudo-lights and glaring pages of a life-decaying manuscript-to-be
is this the story that you want your future to look back to?”

remind me
that i’m not mellow
or shallow
or sullen
or forgotten
remind me
before the blushing sun covers its cheeks
before a silence sets in
before the shadow descends again

remind me how a slow breeze washes dirt like a river
remind me how a soft sunshine ignites a flame
remind me how a pelting rain cannot wash away your fragrance
remind me how a chilly night cannot overpower the embers of this heart

this time of day is fading
I reach out for your arduous colours before they’re gone
I rage, rage, rage for my life to bleed
let my colours bleed before the night that numbs could come