Women at work

Powerful yet gentle. Strong yet soft. Resilient. Patient. Humble. Beautiful inside out.  Smart. Wise. And with a servant’s heart. These are a few to describe these women I had privilege to photograph at random, spontaneous moments when I was India. Here’s to the women of the world!  Happy International Women´s Day!!!


When you are burnt out, frustrated and unhappy with work, will you just quit? When you are not motivated any longer, uninspired and lazy, will you just abandon it?  Will you find something more interesting?  Do something fun.  Start something worthy.  Life is anyway short; and they say you have to live life to the fullest.  Do what makes you happy.  Celebrate your life. And wear your passion.

But when you know that the very thing you are doing is the one real thing you are supposed to do… when the very position you are now is the only place you ought to be, is leaving it all behind a crime?  When you know that the coveted spot you are sitting on today is assigned to you and entrusted on your judgement and ability, is renouncing it wrong? Is quitting a sin?

Sand landscape

When the weight of the winds mould and paint the loose sand and dirt canvas, sand dunes are beautifully crafted. Sand dunes of La Paz in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, the Philippines.

Just Drive

Go for a road trip and just drive.  This was the highlight of my recent vacation in the Philippines.  I have always loved driving. To be behind the wheels and to take control is always thrilling.

I learned to ride a motorcycle at a very young age.  I remember my parents brought us (me and my siblings) a scooter when I was in elementary. It was our daily ride to anywhere in our area.  I also learned to drive my father’s bigger motorcycle in high school; the time that I even can not reach the ground with my short legs when riding it. But I learned to ride it anyhow.  I remember the feeling of excitement when cold winds kiss my cheeks and blow my hair when driving.  And this has always been true until today.

I also had a fair share of misadventures with driving.  Accidents happen all the time especially with motorcycles.  Scars all over my body are reminders of those not-so-exciting motorcycle adventures I had had.  But that did not stop me from driving.

When I was older, my father taught me to drive our old jeepney.  But I was not always allowed to drive it.  When my parents bought a new SUV car last year, I also learned how to drive it, but then I did not really get to drive it by myself, that is, without my father next to me.  And not the least long distance drive.

Our faithful carrier

So I planned a road trip recently.  A 500-mile drive.  And this time I was the designated driver.  I was successful in convincing my father to let me drive all the way through!  It was a lot of fun!  And a great learning experience.

That´s me behind the wheels!

Above:  This is the scariest drive I had.  We need to cross a very old bridge with 2 metal panels where one should manuever the wheels on.  A single mistake and your car falls to the river down below as the supporting wood panels were fragile and weak.  Whew, I think I did not take a single breath driving through it.  Oh, thank you Lord for keeping us!

So, tell me.  What is your most exciting/thrilling or scariest driving experience(s) ever?

Road trip route

My family and I went for a road trip last Dec 26-27, 2011.  Five souls, 1 SUV car, 1 camera. And oh, the tripod.  Don’t forget the tripod because no one wants to be left out in the photos. 😉

It became a tradition that whenever the whole family is reunited, we go for a trip.  Only the five of us. This doesn’t happen always as I’ve been living abroad for more than 5 years now.  I go home once a year, and whenever I go home, we plan the travel. This time, it was basically my idea to go for a road trip.  The family have been living in this region eversince, but we have not really visited the gorgeous places several miles up north.  This time, we visited and explored the province of Ilocos Norte.  The trip was a blast.  We all had fun together. Laughed together. Ate together. Sang and danced together. Discovered things together. And enjoyed together these wonderful places God had showered this part of the world.

Dragon fruit  garden by the beach in Laoag

Sand dunes of La Paz, Laoag

Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag

Light House in Burgos

The coast of Burgos

Kapurpurawan rock formation in Burgos

Sunset at Pagudpud

Rainbow-kissed Saud Beach in Pagudpud

Windmills along the coast of Bangui

The 300 yr-old church of Paoay

“It’s overwhelming. We didn’t expect these many dead,” Benito Ramos, head of the disaster-response agency, said.

Last Friday night, when many of the victims were sleeping, devastating flash floods happened in Northern Mindanao area that caused many casualties.  The flash floods were set off by the tropical storm Washi (local name Sendong), which brought heavy rains to the said area.

As of this hour, 652 were reported dead, and 900 others are missing but toll keeps on rising by the hour. Rescuers are still searching of more dead bodies as they begin to rot in the mud.  Thousands of people have been displaced, temporarily seeking shelters in church buildings turned into evacuation centers.  In this nation constantly ravaged by about 20 typhoons each year, even many were shocked by this sudden calamity coming close to Christmas, the most anticipated holidays in the Philippines for family reunions and gatherings, parties and fellowships.

For me, this is almost surreal.  I was not even aware that a typhoon was beating Mindanao as we were having perfect weather in northern Luzon at this time.  My heart sank when I heard about this nightmare.  Many similar catastrophes have been happening in the Philippines, and around the world, recently, and yet I know hope is still there.  A hope and sweet assurance that God will deliver us from all adversaries this world may inflict upon us.

The Philippines is in mourning this holiday season.  Many people have cancelled Christmas celebrations; to many the reason for Christmas was lost; to the victims, the meaning of Christmas was washed by the flood that wrecked their homes and families; to most, the hope and joy died and buried in the mud together with their loved ones.

Please help us pray for the victims and their families; pray that they may find hope in the midst of grief and sorrow; pray that they may find comfort in their tears and heartaches; pray that they may experience healing through time; pray that they may see light through this darkness; and pray that their hearts may be touched by the holy spirit and allow God to change their hardened hearts.

To help and donate, visit http://definitelyfilipino.com/blog/2011/12/18/typhoon-sendongs-victims-need-you/ or


30-minute colors

As a PhD student working in a plant science laboratory, I don´t often get to go out (especially) when the weather is just great, the warm sunshine inviting, and the colors of autumn outside are just so tempting. I am often confined in the lab doing some awesome and not so awesome experiments. In the lab, I am not the master of my time. Experiments prevail. They are the bosses of me, and they dictate when I get to pee, when I get to eat and when I get to go home.

So whenever I find extra time – the most coveted free time – to do more interesting and awesomer things, I grab the opportunity tightly. I usually run or bike around the neighboring village and fields in between experiments, during incubation times, electrophoresis, etc. And today, experiments have been good to me and have granted me 30 minutes to stroll and capture some of the beautiful colors of my first autumn.

I will not tell the story of how it unfolded, but I will tell you that I did learn something today.  

And I wrote down what I’ve learned.

And before this day ends, I contemplate.

My day may not have turned out the way I want it to be.

I may not have gotten any good data today.

I may have messed up my experiment.

And I may have experienced, once again, the pain of failure.

But that’s okay.

Because even if  I’ve not been productive today,

I know I am drawn closer to God a little bit more.

And may be I have understood His ways a little bit better.

On our second day in Udaipur, we got up early, had an Indian breakfast and went on our service car and toured the city and its outskirts.  We had enjoyed the view and sceneries while we drove around the city.  And I guess I learn much better through observation than to listening to a tour guide with a difficult accent 😉  Here are what I had learned through the day´s travel.

It came to me that at this part of the world, clay pots are popular to locals for kitchen use.  And it is a very popular vessel for storing liquids and drinks. Drinking waters stored in these containers have a specially sweet earthy taste and refreshingly cold perfect for India´s hot weather.  I know that people in the Philippines, especially in rural areas where refrigeration is a luxury, (if one has any access to electricity, that is), use clay jars too to store and cool drinking water.  It is also the perfect cooking pot to cook acidic local viands like fish/pork soup cooked in tamarind or guava fruit, and I bet people here in India use this as well for similar purpose.

I was also pleased with the sight of women and children alike bathing and washing clothes and sheets by the river…

And by the colorful fabrics hanging on rocks and bushes around waiting to dry.

I love the rustic feel of the place- the peaceful view of cows grazing on the grass, the brown mountains peppered by green shrubs and trees, and I wondered at the dryness of the soil of this semi- dessert area, while the wetness of the ponds and swamps in the vicinity brings forth an elixir to the flora and fauna flourishing around.

I just love the simplicity of life here.  I reckon that washing clothes together in the river is part of their daily lives, their routine contentment.

It was also my first time to see a full grown cacti in their natural environment. I haven't been to a dessert nor to a place as dry as this place.

We drove still a few more kilometers until we arrived to an old old gorgeous temple.  This temple is my favorite of all the temples I had  visited so far.And I had enjoyed photographing it I guess, as I went a little bit more creative on the angles of shots I made.  On our way back to the city, I enjoyed looking through, jumping from photo to photo, staring at these pretty shots! 🙂

After our mini tour in the morning, we decided to go to a local market by lunchtime.  Oh wow!  Spices and tea galore were what welcomed us.  I really had fun photographing this marketful of colors and and enjoyed educating myself with the different spices and teas.  Educating myself means I have employed all my 5 different senses- I took the oppurtunity to see, touch, smell, and taste these different spices on the spot, and I swear tried so hard to listen to the vendors´expertise on the subject.  I bought myself some red gorgeous chillies and some aromatic black tea.  I even found myself a friendly tea vendor you have lectured me a bit on how-to-prepare-the-perefct-masala-tea 101 🙂

And I found myself marveled at the size of that pumpkin- the biggest I´ve ever seen!

At late noon, we went to a mountain peak through a red cable car and reveled at this wonderful sight of Udaipur city, the City of Lakes.

After a long night on The Slow Train to Udaipur, we finally arrived the city.  We were picked up by our second driver, and drove us into our hotel by the river.  And guess what?  We got a room with a view. 🙂

We freshened up and ate a hearty Indian breakfast composed of an Indian bread paratha, deeply fried potato and green pea mix, a homemade yoghurt, tea masala, and a refreshing mango juice. Yum yum. It was the best breakfast I had in India. On our way to the city, this kind of scene got me curious.

I had then learned that these stainless containers carry fresh cow´s milk being sold to the neighborhood every early morning in India.  Nice noh?  Fresh creamy yummy cow´s milk. Perfect for a freshly brewed coffee or a homemade curd or yoghurt. 🙂  I remember me and my mom used to make yoghurt back at home in the Philippines using fresh milk from Philippine Carabao Centers. This just got me miss home so badly 😦

The first stop for the day was a Hindu temple. We got a bit of educational tour about their religion and beliefs, their gods, and their ways of worship which I must say I could not comprehend.  However, we were impressed with the engravings on the marble blocks which made up the temple.  Marbles are one of the hardest stones- just imagine how painstakingly they had carved these impressions on the stones without using machines but simple tools, their hands, their ingenuity and patience,  and a lot of adenosine triphosphate or ATP 🙂

On our way out of the temple, I caught this guy up on the temple fixing a banner to the elephant’s trunk.

We then went ahead and visited a local park where we saw children playing with the water fountain 🙂  What a lovely sight (!).

These children are adorable! Aren’t they the cutest?  And they’ve let me photograph them while they play and threw me some of their cutest smiles!

Inside the park lies a mini science children’s museum where we entertained ourselves with some puzzles. I should say this is not the place for me.  What the heck?!  I am a scientist and I can’t even break a simple puzzle!  I’ve sweat it out trying to solve them. Well, I’d solved some, but not this one.  Stupid me 🙂

While the tour around the city was lovely, it was hot.  I reckon hot enough to fry an egg under the sun.  It’s amazing how much water one can drink in a day and don´t even look for a toilet to pee.  I mean, where do all those water go?!! Do they just evaporate from our bodies?  The heat can even drain all the energy you’ve stored in every fat of your body, and so we decided to go back to our hotel rooms and get some rest.

Later that day, we went out to the city by ourselves (without any guide or driver).  Wow, this is what I’ve waited for.  I really want to go out and just experience the real India- the present day India.  After all, we’ve experienced too much of the old India already- the kings and the prince, and the palaces, etc.  So I thought this is it.  I’m gonna go out there as a traveler, and not as a mere tourist.  And so I did.

At the top on my list is to experience the streets and the markets, so we roam around and I had enjoyed every second of it.  These are what I saw…

This taxi is pretty much alike with the Philippines´ pedicab or tricycles, only that this has the reverse gear. Pretty cool huh? Taxi anyone?

And if you are not up to a taxi or pedicabs, you can also hire a camel for transport 🙂

The streets are just full of stuff that entertained me, just like these group of old ladies chatting the afternoon away.

The market is full of stores selling textile and colorful saris.

And I also caught a curious girl staring at the lad in a lovely blue sari.

There are colorful bangles hanging around for display which lures ladies into buying them.  Ha! It almost got me 😉

And of course, the wet market is full of vendors selling fresh vegetables.

And policemen were patrolling around to maintain peace and order even in the markets. How reassuring, noh? 🙂

While these babies caught my eyes,  they look lovely and classic I wanted to ride them.

I also braved to taste some of their street foods and I was glad I did.  It was yummy!  I just love street foods.  Who doesn’t?This was our first glance of the city, and it was a fine one.  Coming up next is our adventure on our second day in Udaipur, the city of lakes.