Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia in northeast Spain, is a popular destination during the summer. Between May to October, when the sun shines bright, it has perfect beach and sightseeing weather. But what people are starting to realize is that Barcelona in the winter is beautiful too, and offers a different experience from the more popular warmer months.
For one thing, there are fewer tourists. The city is still alive and packed with people, with stores open until late and restaurants serving diners in the wee hours of the morning. Winter in Barcelona means temperatures that range from 14° to 5° C, shifting from mildly chilly to quite cold as the day wears on—an excuse to bust out your winter gear.
The city is an art and architecture lover’s dream. While architect Antoni Gaudi and artist Joan Miro are the two that first come to mind when you mention Barcelona, the city is also home to sculptures by Frank Gehry and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as lots of interesting street art. It is also full of galleries and boutiques, as well as access to both beach and mountains. No matter what time of the year you find yourself in Barcelona, there are some places that are worth visiting.
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Taipei has been touted as a dining destination for years now. Taiwan’s capital is full of restaurants and coffee shops that serve excellent food and drinks—so much so that it’s almost come to the point where you can just enter any random restaurant or coffee shop or stop by any food stall or cart and you will be guaranteed a good meal.
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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.