Getting to know my wife more in her pregnancy

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It was a beautiful sunny day for a garden wedding. While waiting for Mavi, my wife, to walk down the aisle, smiling faces all around with a few tears of joy rolling here and there, I was sure and beyond any doubt that I am marrying the right woman. She is God fearing, hopeful, positive and bright. I love her and we were ready to face what life has to offer with God in the middle.

The wedding fiasco eventually winded down each week that passed. We finally left to ourselves and went on our honeymoon as we celebrated our new life together. I enjoyed all our conversations and it was nice to have her alone for once after those busy weeks prior to our wedding.

Straight out of a story book, God blessed us and I brought home a pregnant wife. I was so ecstatic when she showed me the result and instinctively shared this wonderful news to our elated families. Full of excitement, I started to read What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

I wanted to know and take part in everything Mavi is to go through. The first three months are to be special, I read in passing. Special is an understatement. Special does not even come close. While she is going through her first three months, one can imagine all those changes happening inside her body. All those hormones fluctuating in her body translate to severe mood swings, difference in her usual preferences, and my favorite, the desire to always be together.

It was difficult at first. We stay at home all day because nausea (the enemy) attacks unpredictably like a thief in the night. I was guilty of being physically there while my mind wanders off to all the opportunities of the outside world.  One day, after having memorized, cleaned, organized and reorganized the four corners of our room and everything in it, I decided to observe my wife and her struggles.

I discovered this new person who suddenly does not enjoy chocolates. I learned how to take part in her love for Cinema One, or her new habit of waking up later in the morning. We held hands for support or a gentle arm massage when it permitted. We rush to get dressed and eat out on those blessed moments she felt good, only to rush home, when the enemy makes its presence. But what I found that I enjoyed most of all, is to bask in the glorious feeling of just being wanted to be next to her.

In her first three months, I am learning how to just spend time with Mavi. I now consider this a special time to bond with Mavi before we welcome a third member and become an official family. Thanks to this serendipity, I now know and love this new side of my wife even more. What I thought was a sacrifice on my part turned out to be a blessing.

To God be all the glory!

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9 things you will experience only in Delhi.

This Fernweh

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(Picture: I was just strolling in CP. This man cared to strike a pose as his comrade looked back to see what was happening. He then smiled, jumped into the scooter, waved and disappeared in traffic)

  1. The Forts affair.

New Delhi is the UNESCO World Heritage City of India with three UNESCO world heritage sites and about 174 monuments, dating back to the era of Tughlaqs, Lodis, Mughals, British and others, who mastered architectural intellect and attempted legendary contributions. As you would sit inside the edifices, or gaze at them from the outside, you might just feel some mystical power grabbing your collar-backs and gently placing you in a time machine.*Bam* and you are in history, when the rhythm of ghungroos of dancers adorned with heavy gold jewels, wearing floor length and frilly lehengas, took over the mind of the kingdoms, when the horses and elephants were majorly used for…

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What you have to know about India

Its the most dazzling, puzzling, beautifully disorganized, and irresistibly chaotic set of places I’ve ever found myself in. From the ethereal and omnipresence of honking 21st century caravans to since-the-time-of-age camels in Delhi, my James Bond dreams in Udaipur, the withstanding merchants of Jaipur, the holiest place in Varanasi, and of course, to that postcard, desktop image, and posters we’ve all seen, the majestic Taj Mahal.

Hardworking but happy DelhiitesDSC_1377James Bond was here!
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You’re no longer just a desktop background!
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Breaking presumptions about India

1. It doesn’t stink and they don’t all wear Lungis

I took the metro in Delhi basically everyday, except when I’d get home late and its closed. I don’t want to sound unpatriotic, but to break our racial discriminative ideas about India, our MRT smells worse than the metro in Delhi. I’m not saying people from Delhi, or the rest of India, doesn’t reassure me once in a while of what I used to think about it, but its not any worse than the metro in Paris, infact most of them smell great.

They dress ridiculously well. No short pants here and the rest of India lest you want to look like an overgrown boy who never outgrew his age. Dressing up is a form of respect here, partly more for self respect really. You wear short pants/shorts in India and you’re literally looked down upon as an eight year old boy.

Metro in Delhi during rush hourDSC_1257People dress up well here
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Its sweltering hot and they don’t mind

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2. They are scammers

Only if you’re a fool. Scams in India are not so much worse than seasoned frauds in South East Asia. Agree on a price, check the quality, and count your change. Its not so different from Binondo or Bangkok when it comes to getting short changed, hustled or pick pocketed. Like the rest of the world, common sense rules. Which is not so common as I would find out as I got out of the airport, 12:30 am, bought a prepaid cab ticket, short changed by an innocently smiling cashier, hopped in the cab, counted my money, didn’t feel right, got out just before my cab left, got back to the counter and the cashier instantly gave a smile that says “you’re not as stupid as you look after all” and gave me the rest of my change. I arrived in NAIA once and got hustled by a cabbie who wanted to charge me more than what I knew was a generous fee, I got off in the middle of EDSA, not paying him a miserable cent. Sometimes its more about the principle. To be honest, next to Japanese folks, Indians are the nicest Asians. I’ve met the nicest people I’ll probably ever meet in life in India.

3. Food will give you constant indigestion

I love Indian food, I love street food wherever, even so, I experienced a tolerable Delhi belly. Okay. Most indigestions come from unfamiliarity with the spices used in your food than from hygienic reasons, even if you eat in fancy looking restaurants. So when I developed a tolerance with the spices, I had the best time eating whatever I wanted, so long as I see Indians buying food even from the dirtiest looking places, I grab the opportunity and reap rewards. Let me tell you one thing, Indians know how to eat. Follow their trail, never eat in any restaurant or food stall that only serves tourists (its the dirtiest food you’ll eat, trust me), apart from that, have the guts to eat along with white and blue collars, homeless people, holy men and the rest of them. I had my best meal in India from a stall that opened up at 8pm, a 15 minute queue, and worth 10 rupees, about 7 Philippine pesos.

I see a queue and I know I’ll eat well

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My 10 rupee meal!

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A plate of food here looks like an artist’s palette

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What you should know when visiting India

1. Book trains way ahead

Its not easy to get tickets from the Indian website called IRCTC. You have to provide a local Indian number, which, guess what, you can only get in Indian land, even then it still won’t be easy to get one. They start selling tickets 2 months ahead of your planned date of departure. Trust me, its worth setting up an alarm in your calendar for. You don’t want to take a regular class ticket traveling by rail in India more than once. So I suggest you spend a little more for getting a 1/2/3 AC berth when traveling long distance. I missed my train from Agra to Varanassi for a ridiculously rookie mistake, the only way to make it was to get a general class ticket. It was one of the highlights of my trip to India, but I would probably never do it again. Its masochism.

Traveling around India through rails

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Bed for the night

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Mornings in general class compartment

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2. Stay in guesthouses owned by Indian families

For me, the best way to do it is through Airbnb. Read the reviews, if most of the reviews mention anything related to food, book the damn place. I’ve never met an Indian mom who doesn’t cook well, with recipes at least from 3 generations past. Indian moms would never let you out of the dining table without a bursting tummy, so a word of advice, bring bigger sized jeans. if you ever plan on eating your way through India, with all the generous use of Indian butter called ghee, carbo loaded flat breads and those sinfully succulent sweets eventually take its toll.

3. Its all about romance

I made the unfortunate mistake of visiting India alone. PDA is an understatement in India. People make out in every dark corner, an alley, Vishnu knows what’s happening down there. I stayed in an apartment in Delhi and the newly weds on top of my room kept me from ever having a peaceful sleep the moment the husband gets home at around 3am from his call center job. I’ve concluded that Indian structures are earthquake proof because that couple would give it a definite rocking night after night.. I can easily tell you the sequence from my deduction. First there would be loud noises from water pipes, shower time! Then there would be closets opening and closing. A few minutes of gentle but audible movements, then its bring-the-house-down, wake-all-the-fucking-neighbors time. I feel a little bad for the new bride though because from the moment of audible rocking, 5 minutes after, its all silence.

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They say “There’s the rest of the world, and there’s India.” I cannot agree more.

On dealing with pain and forgiveness

If you may allow me to digress from my usual posts about my travels, I would like to talk about what its like to aggravate, be aggravated, and the most important thing, to forgive.

The aggravated:

No matter if you’re buddhist, christian, hindu, muslim, agnostic and atheist alike, when you’re hurt, there is no meditation, confession and self reflection that can take you away from that burning feeling within your heart.

You lose sleep, appetite (although it might not be the worst thing), and most important, trust. They say trust, when broken, can never be repaired. I would agree perhaps at the first instance, forgiveness will be talked about later on but for now let’s talk about that ugly, self defeating feeling you get in those harshest of moments.

The first question is why? Did you deserve such blow? Some do some don’t. If you do deserve it, its a learning experience and most probably, you deserved it douche bag. But personally, its worse if you don’t. You give your heart to someone you thought you could trust and then what do they do? They fuck you up anyway. So let me tell you something about pain, for those fortunate enough not to have experienced it, and trust me, you will. Pain feels like a heavy object laid on top of your chest (not surprisingly, its a symptom of a heart attack), it lingers regardless if you’re the emotional or detached type of person. With heart racing, it becomes worse, your mind seems to connive with your heart who, in my opinion should be on your side and practice laissez faire. But no, your mind makes it worse, you cannot stop thinking about it. Its like asking someone to stop thinking about dolphins, eventually, they think of one to negate one. Your mind fills your heart with nothing but anger and sorrow, while your heart gives you the most painful of sensations that you would prefer to beat yourself up physically, crash your car, or worst, just end it completely by jumping off a building.

There is no going around it. Your mind and heart know when it hurts and that’s the reality of it. Psychedelics and alcohol are no escape either, they only make your feelings bolder, hence more pain.

If you’re on this side of the world, you will have better appreciation of Anna Karenina, especially the side of Alexei Karenin.

The aggravator:

On the other side of things, being the aggravator doesn’t make it easier, if you truly love the person you hurt, it actually hurts more than the aggravated side. If you truly love the person you hurt, the pain is exponential compared to what you’ve done to the aggravated. You feel so guilty, and guilt, albeit self imposed, it kills you. It kills the humanity out of you, you start asking yourself how you have been capable of hurting the most important person in your life. Unfortunately, none of us have the portrait of Dorian Gray, who can suffer all the bad things for us, while we continue to live forever young, undamaged by life and its mishaps.

Sometimes, out of guilt, the aggravator chooses to leave because the pain in seeing how much pain you inflicted is too hard for you to accept. Sometimes its the most honorable thing to do, the Japanese have a word for it, Harakiri.

Remember the line “Oh when a heart breaks no it don’t break even, even” That’s true for you. No matter how much guilt you feel, and how much more pain you experience from your mistake, its always harder for the aggravated. Regardless of sides, the most important thing is the next part.

On forgiveness and acceptance:

My advice on either side of that regretful moment, is that if you can manage to forgive your partner, and yourself, please do. If you have more happy moments in life, focus on it, remember the good times more than the worst. Happy moments count more than bad memories, besides, if you have more bad memories than good ones, then you’re stupid to hang on to your relationship.

For the aggravated, forgiving means so much to the person who hurt you, if anything, the forgiven one will truly appreciate it, and will know how much you love him/her by giving another chance. It might not be easy to forgive, and forgetting is out of the question, but if you believe that the future means more than the past, you will reap more than you sow.

Oh, and please, revenge is just out of the question. If you’re thinking about vengeance as a form of justice, then just end the relationship then and there. Its just going to add more pain than good. Justice is just a form of sugar coated vengeance. If you cannot forgive, there is no point in staying, but I’m not saying its going to be easy. So think about it, decide, and stick to it.

For the aggravator, what you do from now on matters most. You have to exert effort. If you feel tired from explaining yourself, assuring your partner, just ask yourself how you would feel if tables were turned. Its that easy. Yet some people are just incapable of empathy, so let me give you a list;

– Never fucking do it again.

– Never ever fucking do it again.

– Make promises that you dare not break, its reassuring.

– Assure them more, action means more but words are truly comforting.

– Understand that you have to stop doing things, hanging out with those people, that your partner used to trust you with. At least temporarily.

– Give your full effort, its gonna take so much. If you’re unwilling, then just leave the person alone.

– Lastly, and the most important thing, FORGIVE YOURSELF.

I hope this will reach people who are in dire need of it. Forgive, accept, and move on to a better future. The past will always be a lesson, and the future will always be another chance. And if you can, give more. Besides, “He who has not sinned cast the first stone.”

The rice terraces of Ifugao

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I have always had an interest in quaint villages perched on high lands. Regardless of border, they all seem to share an identity of mysticism and spirituality. People who live in such communities seem to have a better understanding of the nature that surrounds them, like a secret has been passed on from past generations that they can easily trace. The simplicity of their cold bitten faces, their skin, tanned, wrinkled and hard from agricultural labor, in contrast with their enigmatic animist beliefs . What lies underneath that simplicity, there seem to be mystery. Like that universal image of a wrinkled old woman, sitting by the window overlooking the street, staring blankly ahead while smoking a tobacco as her lips move as if in chant or giving a curse.

So when I was bound for the mystical rice terraces of Ifugao, I was determined to ride on my idea of simplicity while giving respect to the spirit of nature that surrounded us. We all know what it looks like, we grew up with that image from our history books, always from that angle which is even printed in our recently replaced 1000 peso bill. So upon ascending the road to Ifugao province, every turn is a hope that the outing would be those green auditorium like rice terraces. And every time it isn’t, disappointment is instantly replaced by awe for those valleys between mountains, the steep drop it would make for a small miscalculation. Driving here, you know you do not get the slightest margin for error.

The road to Banaue

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Roadside view

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A miserable attempt at trying to piece them together

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After a few small villages and many blind corners later, we arrived at Banaue, a thriving town funded by tourism from its world famous two thousand year old rice terraces. Albeit a little commercialized for mountain standards, it still gives a quaint feeling, with a few homestays, some restaurants catering for tourists from most parts of the world, and a very helpful tourist information center from which all travelers must register upon arrival. Its the sort of town where you pick up most of what you need, from food and water, to hiking shoes and transportation, before you delve deeper into the region. Staying in Banaue View Inn for a night, nobly located at the top of the town, we had an overlooking view of the happenings down below. The unofficial bus station occupying half of the street, blocking the occasional flow of traffic, while their waiting passengers have only road railings to lean on for comfort, and those last minute shoppers from the busy town square, with everyone seem to be moving about in all directions, we watched over them until everything slowed down as the sun set, giving way to the slowly glowing moon. At night, the town gives a totally different atmosphere. With hushed conversations from obscure faces overcast by dim light, tracing distant foot steps, the feral barking of a dog, it feels like something straight from a Scorsese movie.

The town of Banaue from our balcony
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Lording over Banaue from Banaue View Inn

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An hour drive deeper into the province is Batad saddle, the end of one of the toughest roads ever. The strenuous incline to this point is still under construction, but its muddy and rocky tracks are open for vehicles who dare. While other travelers have no choice but to rent a jeep with fortified suspension, luckily, our vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser from the 1990’s, with its tall vertical clearance and armed to the teeth, is hungry for such a terrain. My driving partner offered to take the wheel, while my girlfriend and I dared to top load. White knuckled from our industrial grade grip on the railings, we were definitely rewarded with spectacular views that will haunt our memories for a lifetime. Upon arrival to the saddle, we gladly parked our tank and refused every offer of a guide for the single track human pathway down to the terraces.

Meet Elsie, our tank

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The road going up to Batad saddle

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Top loading going up to the saddle

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Risking it for views like these

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View of a lifetime

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Single track from the saddle all the way to Batad

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Unlike Banaue, Batad rice terraces is smaller in scale but offers more interaction by being able to hike around its amphitheater like terraces that is individually riprapped with rocks and cement. You can circumnavigate as you watch the locals tilling parches of land. We were advised to hire a guide to take us around the area. He was a short, thin and single middle aged man who lived in one of the few houses that stand on the terraces itself. Needless to say, he outpaced us in our desk job trained mid 20s bodies. Much to our desire to do this on our own, the guide proved to be very essential. With every information he disposed, we gained a better appreciation of the land. He told us that the communal process of planting starts by everyone working on the chief’s land, afterwards, they proceed to the second biggest owner of land and so on until everyone’s land is tilled and planted. It is then time for an end of plantation festival which includes a flooding of rice wine and ill fated live stock. Against common belief, whatever rice that is harvested here almost never gets out, its made for local consumption, and some that do are for souvenir material only. For entertainment, he explained to us that his reason for being a bachelor at his 50s is because in a small community such as this, the slightest imbalance of men to women ratio is a real problem.

Hiking Batad rice terraces

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Interaction with the village

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Smiles of achievement

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After a short swim on the extremely cold water around the mighty waterfalls, we headed back to our home stay. To say that our room in Batad Homestay is simple is definitely an overstatement. There is nothing in that spartan room that you do not need. There’s the luxury of a ceiling lamp, two beds, 4 pillows and a cozy Ifugao made blanket. There are no 20th century power outlets. You stay in Batad for a couple of nights, and it is impossible not to find yourself regardless if you are lost or not.

Ice cold gush of water

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That humbling feeling

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Spartan room from Batad Homestay

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Do you really need anything more than this?

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Waking up to a morning covered with fog offering zero visibility, we opted to let it clear out by having breakfast on the restaurant balcony that should be over looking the terraces on a clear day. After all,  our jelly legs were not in a hurry knowing that the 30 minute strut going down here converts to a 90 minute tongue-sticking-out trudge going up. After filling up our tanks with our hefty breakfast, we packed our bags and bid farewell to our reserved but generous host, and to those foreigners who we shared this home with. As hard as we tried to speak French, German and Spanish, a wave of hand was all we could muster. Laughing in our doomed attempt, it was the last thing we had to smile about as we made our ascend, barely making it to the top.

Prologue

To my readers,

My lust for life is a platform from which I intend to share my favorite, most passionate, and eventful moments in life. Be it my travels, my restless hunt for good food, my moments of deepest inspiration, and almost always frozen in time with every captured photograph. Basically anything to break away from the superficial, constant, day in day out kind of life. It is my intention to rekindle the flame of those passions buried deep under the burden of responsibilities, or simply to take you with me on my search for the extra ordinary.

It will be fulfilling to be able to share to a wider audience, my experiences as I paint them with my words. And I hope that you may find as much pleasure in browsing around, as I have in writing them.

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      If in any way you felt moved, elated, encouraged, inspired, dissatisfied, or *bleep*, feel free to post comments. I impose a strict democracy in my website, will tolerate foul language as long as you hide a few letters in @#$%^. Now let me take you in to my adventures of past present and the future and hold on for the ride.

Rocky