They told me about the ravens, how they gathered on the streets, staring at you from the trees and parking lots, how they darkened the sky with their shapes and cawing.
They told me about the cold, how it reached inside you and entwines itself around your bones, grabbing at your heart, attempting to steal your soul.
They hinted at the fear that runs underneath, a current of loneliness and uncertainty, insidious and electrifying, drawing strength from old stories, old dreams, hiding underneath beauty and calmness, an ancient terror that knows that it is stronger than light.
What I love about Sweden are the windows. Clear panes of glass unfettered by bars, always lit by a lamp nearby. Vicky calls them ‘signs of life.’ They tell you that the house or apartment or condo is inhabited, that it is warm inside, that it is loved.
He told me a strange, sweet thing during our last conversation before I left. “Bring the sun with you.”
I smiled at him through Skype, my heart swelling at the thought that I was the light of his life.
“I’ve aways hated winter,” he said. “You will be the light that gets me through.”
“We will have each other,” I said.
“Yes, we will.”
This is the thing about being in love: You forget everything. You forget yourself. Your thoughts are reserved only for your beloved, planning for the next time you get to see each other, the next time you can hold each other in your arms. This longing is worse if you live far spar, the distance a killing thing, even with the internet, no matter how fancy communication apps get. Even as you stare at each other through your compeer screens, your hands itch, knowing that if you reach out to touch him or her, you will find no one there.
The most dangerous thing about being in love is letting it make all your decisions. Unfortunately, this is also the most beautiful thing about it.
You know how your mother tells you never to accept food from strangers?
I broke that rule during my first time in Laoag, the capital of Ilocos Norte.
My companions and I were checking out Dap-Ayan ti Ilocos Norte, the hawker food court where you can get fresh Ilocos empanadas and other provincial treats, but mainly Ilocos empanadas, which are quite tasty. A mixture of meat, shredded green papaya, and other vegetables, and hopefully an egg are stuffed into an orange-colored flour-based casing and deep fried so that it’s crisp on the outside and piping hot on the inside. It is street food at its best, and the Ilocanos are very proud of it, as they should be.
We stopped at the first empanada stall in Dap-Ayan and my companions struck up a conversation with the vendors. I noticed that one of the proprietors was having dinner. She was spooning tiny fish swimming in a cloudy liquid onto a plate of rice and eating everything with gusto.
My friend asked what the lady was eating and the lady said it was kilawin na dilis (ceviche), and would she like some? My friend declined, but jokingly asked me if I wanted to try the dish.
Not being one to back down froma challenge (and from the offer of food), I said yes. The lady handed me her spoon. I scooped a few small fish with some of the vinegared sauce and put it in my mouth.
The dilis was salty and a bit bitter, not my thing at all. I’m happy the lady was nice enough to offer me a bite of her dinner. Now I know that kilawin na dilis isn’t for me, and that the way I found this out is a story in itself.
Just don’t tell mother.
A few years ago, I found myself in Rafel Farm in Leyte. The farm is a beautiful events place where one can hold elegant parties and host casual but classy lunches.
After such a casual yet classy lunch made up of Filipino favorites, we were left to explore the breathtaking surroundings.
I was looking at the garden near where our van was parked when one of the guys on the trip, a seasoned news photographer, tapped me and surreptitiously pointed to a nearby rock.
“That’s a Buhay na Bato,” he said. “If you look closely, you’ll notice that the crags make it look like a human face, but you’ll only see it if the elemental that lives in the rock lets you.”
Buhay na bato means “living rock,” he explained, and refers to rocks inhabited by earth elementals. You can tell th by their vaguely humanoid features, which come from having been inhabited by an elemental for so long. He learned about living rocks durung one of his many trips to Mt. Banahaw, one of the most mystical places in the Philippines. The mountain is rife with them, he said, one of the reasons why travelers in the wilderness must always watch where they step.
“Can you see its face?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“Look closely,” he urged. “I’m sure it will show itself to you.”
I waited, wondering just how crazy my companion was to be talking aboy stuff like that, and how much crazier I was for believing him.
And then, I saw it. Two shadows for eyes, a sharp jut of nose, the ridge of a knitted brow, mouth set into half-frown.
Maybe I imagined it. Maybe my brain willed my eyes to see what they wanted to see. All I know is that my companion told me to snap a picture, which I did (he said the rock wouldn’t mind), and whenever I look at it until now, I can still see that elemental’s slightly annoyed face posing for me.
Aside from the surprise and delight of finding a quote from a science fiction writer in a tourist hotel, the quote is also a reminder that the best stories, even if they are couched in genre, are ultimately about the human condition, something that he was big on. I loved Starship Troopers, both the book and the movie, even though both were very different from each other. But it doesn’t matter. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’ll know that it’s more than just about people going off to space. It’s about finding love and friendship, despite the rockets and aliens thrown into the mix.
I’ve been a fan of Leyende’s handmade, organic skincare products ever since I heard about the brand sometime in 2008. This Easter, Leyende is giving away some notebooks that I made from their old catalogues.
This collaboration happened by accident. I had given the notebooks to Leyende’s founder, Neva Talladen, who decided to give them away in a contest because people kept asking her about them (pats self on back).
You can find out what the notebooks look like and how to join the promo on Leyende’s Facebook page.
I’m proud to be the voice of one of the main characters in Arnold Arre‘s upcoming short animated film. It was exciting to be the voice of someone completely different from who I am. I was also touched that Arnold thought that my voice would fit his character.
I’ve always been slightly insecure about my voice because it’s an alto. I grew up in a family where high pitched = feminine = valued, and anything else was worth less than pond scum. In school and in church, it was always the sopranos who were the stars. Nothing musical seemed to have been composed for soprano 2s and altos. To add to that, my mom used to tell me to talk in a higher pitch and once, I overheard my grandmother tell her sister in a sad, resigned voice that I sounded like a boy.
It wasn’t until later that I was exposed to wonderful artists like k.d. lang and Joni Mitchell and Diana Krall, whose lovely altos were powerful and sexy and stood out on their own, not relegated to the background of the choir. And it also wasn’t until later that people began to tell me that they actually liked my voice, that it was soothing and could work well in media. One of the best times was when my professor in Broadcasting class asked if I wanted a career in radio.
So working with wonderful people aside, you realize why this is such a big thing for me. I’m excited to be part of Arnold’s project. He’s a wonderful storyteller, one of the best graphic novelists in the country, and an all around nice guy. He and his wife, graphic designer Cynthia Bauzon Arre (who is also the producer) are the most delightful couple, not to mention super talented. The other main character is director, writer, and character actor Mihk Vergara, also another nice dude. Other characters to watch out for are voiced by Esquire Philippines Editor-in-Chief Erwin Romulo; entrepreneur and TV personality RJ Ledesma, photographer Miguel Nacianceno, director Chris Costello, and the ultra-creative Denise Mallabo.
The recording session was fun, and we finished faster than expected. I’m very excited to see the final result. Arnold uploaded a dialogue test, so you can see what he’s up to. Just so you know, I’m the girl. I can’t seem to post the video so click here to hear the dialogue test.
I don’t go to Boracay very often but when I do, I make sure to stop by Lemoni Cafe, my favorite restaurant on the island. I only order two things: A cup of brewed coffee (Php75) and a Classic Lemon Tart (Php150). I love the tart because it’s quite sour, enough to make your lips pucker just a teeny bit. The dense lemon filling is enclosed by a sturdy crust with just enough flavor to balance the tartness without diluting its flavor.
I get my love for tart desserts from my mom, who I took to the Cafe during her first trip to Boracay. She was a bit skeptical at first, because aside from Earnest Bakes’ calamansi tart, she’s never tried a tart dessert that’s met her asim requirement. I ordered her a tart and a cup of coffee, then watched as she spooned a bit of pastry into her mouth.
It’s true what they say about a person’s face lighting up during a moment of pure joy, because that’s exactly what happened. She had been feeling down because of the heat but when she tasted that tart, a smile appeared in her eyes and the rest of the tart was gone in an instant.
We ended up dropping by once a day during the duration of our trip (and on one day, we went twice), always ordering the same thing. I tried another lemon-based dessert (I forget which) but it didn’t come close to the lovely tang offered by the Classic Lemon Tart. My mom asked about it after we got back, and was disappointed to learn that it can only be found in Boracay.
I may not be in Boracay a lot, but every time I’m there, I have a list of go-to restaurants, and Lemoni Cafe is right there at the very top.
Lemoni Cafe and Restaurant
D’mall Square, D’mall D’Boracay
Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan, Philippines 5608
(+63 36) 288 6781 to 288 6782 ; email@example.com
Monday to Sunday from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm