Saturday, October 17, 2015

When drivers can't (don't) read

It’s happening again. I flash my headlights at the car in front of me to get the driver’s attention. We’re on the STAR tollway where the speed limit is 60 kph minimum and 100 kph maximum for private cars. The car ahead of me is hogging the passing/overtaking lane or the leftmost lane of a highway at a steady 80 kph.

There is no response. We go steady and slow until I follow other drivers and just overtake on the inside or on the right lane, which is considered dangerous and designated as a driving offense in some countries. Here, it’s just considered passing.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A little help goes a long way

Librada De Castro Acuzar is not one to take things for granted.

A teacher at the Ambulong Elementary School (ES) in Batangas City, Teacher “Ada”, as she is more popularly known, has worked hard for every break that has come her way.

Life was not easy growing up for the second of 11 siblings. “My father was a farmer, and my mother did not have a job,” she said. They ate off the land and from the proceeds of whatever produce he was able to sell, she added.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Braving Sumaguing Cave

I’d seen pictures and read accounts of experiences at the Sumaguing Cave in Sagada. After a severe muscle cramp made walking torture at the Batad Rice Terraces and made itself felt the day before when we went up and down a hillside to view the hanging coffins, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to go to Sumaguing Cave.

But I was the “promotor (promoter)”, a label my husband and sister-in-law had given me for getting them to walk kilometers up and down mountain trails to and from the Batad Rice Terraces. I was invincible. I had grit, adventure and spirit – which was slowly sinking at the thought of maneuvering over rocks in the dark, getting wet and rappelling up and down inside the cave.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sagada, here we come

Noooooo. I did not go to Sagada because of that Tagalog movie called “That Thing Called Tadhana”. Please. Sagada isn’t about a movie. It’s about slowing down to the pace of a simple town, discovering practices and traditions, exploring caves and other natural attractions, enjoying gustatory delights in the cold mountain air, and finding out things about oneself and one’s family that you would otherwise miss in the hectic pace of urban Manila.

It took us almost three hours to drive some 66 kilometers from Banaue to Sagada using this route:

Nature's Mist in Banaue to Masferre Country Inn in Sagada

Our muscles still aching from the walk to and from Batad Rice Terraces the day before, I was rather dismayed yet amused to find that the initial part of the drive to Sagada was dotted with view decks for tadadah … the Banaue rice terraces. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Our North Luzon Adventure

I am 47 going 25, if the activities of the past few days are anything to go by.

My family just came back from a trip that took us from our home in Batangas City to the town of Banaue in Ifugao Province, the town of Sagada in Mountain Province, the City of Baguio in Benguet Province and the City of Antipolo in Rizal Province before we headed back home.

According to the route I plotted in Google Maps, we drove a total of 1,102 kilometers for some 21 hours.  Of course, our odometer registered differently because of the additional driving that we did in the sites we visited: some 1,126 kilometers by the time we returned home.

Getting to Banaue

I have always wanted to see the Banaue rice terraces. I cannot imagine having something so amazing in my country and not seeing it even once before I die.  So when I found myself living in Luzon, the prospect became more real. It was now accessible via land travel. According to Google Maps, it was some 485 kilometers from Batangas City or some 7.5 hours away.

Here is our route, starting from the NLEX toll barrier in Balintawak:

NLEX Balintawak toll plaza to Nature's Mist in Banaue, Ifugao


  • Make sure to eat or go for a toilet stop along any of the gas stations along NLEX since there are no adequate toilet facilities along SCTEX and TPLEX.

Batad Rice Terraces

I know, I know. You do not have to go to Batad to see awesome rice terraces. But if you are staying the night in Banaue anyway, go to Batad even if it kills you. The rice terraces in Batad are among five inscribed clusters that have been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.  The four others are:  the Nagacadan terrace cluster in the municipality of Kiangan;  Hungduan terrace cluster, the central Mayoyao terrace cluster and the Bangaan terrace cluster in Banaue. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Of aswangs and sigbins

In a recent exchange of emails with my sisters, two of them mentioned this “aswang”, a label they had given a grey-haired woman who used to own the huts on a beach which our family frequented during our childhood days. I was amazed that I did not share this memory. I certainly remembered the woman, but not that we had ever thought she was an aswang.

Manananggal by hydeist17
According to Philippine folklore, aswangs are shape-shifters. They are humans by day but transform into creatures (most often a dog) at night. They supposedly eat unborn fetuses and small children, favoring livers and hearts. I have a feeling that my sisters confused her with a manananggal, another mythical creature who is a woman by day and transforms into a winged monster-like creature at night. When darkness falls, her torso splits, allowing the upper half to fly away and hunt humans.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentine memories

Last Valentine’s Day, hubby and I repressed the urge to go out and celebrate. We decided that we finally had enough of being stuck in traffic to get to our restaurant of choice for Valentine’s Day.

Though I had been determined to ignore Valentine’s Day, I had been stricken with guilt the night before, when hubby came home late after being stuck for hours in Makati traffic, with a bouquet of Ecuadorian roses for me, and three pretty long-stemmed roses for our 11-year-old.  If my busy, harassed significant other could go sappy, so could I.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Early morning blues

It’s 5 a.m. and I wake my daughter so she can have enough time for breakfast and to get herself ready before the shuttle service arrives to take her to school.

Image from
She groans and snuggles deeper into the covers. I tug at the blanket. “C’mon darling. Time to get up.”

It’s getting harder and harder to rouse my daughter these days. She is now at the stage where she wishes she didn’t have to go to school.