Photo Hunt #18: Metal


My entry for this week is — drum rolls please — our wedding rings! My husband and I decided to have our wedding rings handmade to our own choice of design, and both were made by the same person. Our rings were made of silver and gold – crafted by a local jeweler here in Cambodia. We chose gold and silver because we thought it is a significant symbol being in a mixed race marriage. Each one coming from a different worlds and cultures, each one bringing a new and different dimension to each other. It’s like the ring – two different metals molded into one.

Happy Birthday, dearest Mama!

Today is my mother’s birthday. She is now 54.
Like in the past years, I am away from her, and could not share this happy milestone with her. This year is especially quiet for her as three of her children (including me) are away, working in other cities.

I remembered watching a lot of Oprah episodes and a lot of times, Oprah would ask her guests who among the many women in their lives, influenced them the most. So on this day, I pretended that I was in Oprah’s show and she asked me the same question, and my answer would be my mother. She was, and still is, our Giving Tree.

Happy birthday, Ma.

Photo Hunt #7 Long – Elongated shadows

our shadow copy

Hi. I am currently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and will be here for 8 days to attend a series of workshop organized by IDRC as well as participate in the Global Knowledge conference. Luckily, there is free internet in the hotel where I am staying so I was able to post this week’s photo hunt entry even if it’s a little,err, late.

This photo was taken in Kep town, Cambodia in September 2006, while my husband and I were walking up to our hillside guesthouse. It was nearly 5pm and the sun was minutes away from setting. While we were walking, I noticed our shadows. The sun was behind us that our shadows were elongated, making us look taller and skinnier. I have been fascinated by shadows since I was little and loved the times I spent playing and stomping on shadows with my playmates. Ahh those were the times 🙂

Photo Hunt # 3 – Classic

I’m back for the Saturday photo-hunt and this is my entry for this week’s hunt for something classic:

bg and me 2

I’m not quite sure if the photo belongs to the classic category – but just because it is old so I am posting it. *lol*

That’s me (right) and my younger sister, taken during the 80s in Manila. A weather-beaten photo I found stashed in my files, the photo reminds me of our childhood in Manila. When we were little, my father used to travel a lot as a salesman. He’s been all over the country to, well, make sales calls and close deals. At that time there were only two of us, and on weekends, my mother would take us to the Manila Zoo, Luneta Park, Araneta Center, Quad (in Makati), Baclaran, Divisioria, etc. almost every weekend.

Notice that I wore a skirt while my sister in shorts? At that time, my father wanted a son so much that when my younger sister was born, he brought her (my sister)up like a boy… and thus the clothes, the toys, and the haircut. And oh, how she looked and acted the part!*lol*

Peace, sister. 😀

Our Super Hero

I was chatting with my sister this afternoon and she sounded amused and trying hard to suppress her laughter when she made sumbong about her little boy’s antics.

Little boy is turning three this Sunday and my mother bought him a superman costume for his birthday. For those who don’t know, little boy is so in love with Superman. He’s got a lot of Superman stuffs – shirts, baby briefs, stickers, etc. And just like Superman’s super sense, little boy sensed that his Grandma (my mother), in cahoots with his parents, were hiding SOMETHING from him. So one afternoon, my sister told me, while they were all chatting in the living room thinking the little boy was sound asleep, little boy was secretly raiding their cabinets, searching for that something…and….


Ayus!! Kahit walang sapatos basta naka-pose… hehehe. Sabi pa ni sister:

He was running around the house happily in this outfit. He never took the costume off for two whole days, except when it’s bath time, and, demanded he wears it again. He was only persuaded to take it off when MamaGirl promised to wash the costume… and let him wear it again. Sigh.

Happy birthday, little boy. We love you, our little super hero!

Huli man daw at magaling..

… ay huli pa rin.

But am still posting this, anyway.

To my dearest niece, the second borloloy and self-appointed muse in the family:

bopbop bday pink
From all of us here, with love. I feel a pinch in my heart every time I see her on the webcam blowing kisses to me whom she has never seen in person yet, and I missed the chance of holding her when she was still an infant. Oh well, this is what I get for living away from family: missing family milestones. *sniff* I hope to see her soon before she turns 18!

I borrowed Toe’s, term, borloloy, and, like her, I use borloloy with much endearment to refer to my nephew and niece, offsprings of my brother and sister.

On a hot summer weekend in Phnom Penh…

… so much happened (no work Monday, yipee!). Shopping, cooking, entertaining friends, and tidying up the house. Phnom Penh was unusually quiet, much to our liking, as perhaps most Phnom Penhers went to their hometowns to exercise their democratic right – the right to vote.

foodthe skeltons

The weekend also brought me to a surprise encounter with two long-lost friends (we haven’t seen in 3 years!) in CityMart, Sorya Mall. R and I invited them over for dinner last night.

R and I prepared the food ourselves. Nothing fancy, just menudo*, lumpia, (the ever-present) pansit and steamed mackerel and red snapper. The foods were our labour of love 😀 I could not show you any pictures — they were all gone before I could get my camera!~

I was glad to see old friends Dali and Betty, true-blooded Davaoenas, who have been working as lay missionaries here in Cambodia for the past 6 years or so. Dali and Betty are a team of nurse and midwife, respectively, providing health and maternal care to underprivileged Cambodians in Boeung Tampouen. Joining us, as usual, were the Skeltons, the Baughans (pronounced as bones yan ha!), my brother, friend E from Oxfam America, Rey (another missionary from Davao who is a social worker but his expertise is in agriculture), Father Dennis from Quebec, and of course Max who was chased all night by the terrible tot and my inaanak, Jake.

Oh, and at some point over the weekend, I turned a year older :D. Some people do get depressed on their birthdays, perhaps it’s the social pressure. I am glad that I don’t get depressed on my birthday, or over any matter. It’s true, I am one year older — but who isn’t getting older everyday anyway?

The past year has been one swell of a roller-coaster ride, and also the most satisfying year so far. I have truly never been happier that I am alive and kicking. This year I have had so many ideas, but not enough time to act on them all. Still, I am more excited about what this year holds for me. This is one present so good that it cannot even be put in froogle wishlist.

Now, if for some reason you would want to get me something on my birthday, my wishlist is available for you to check it out 😀 😀

*For menudo, I used the recipe of food blogger Ms. Celia, the rest were my father’s. Thanks, Ms. Celia, you make cooking easier and enjoyable. If you are looking for yummy and easy-to-cook recipes, please visit Ms. Celia’s blog

Goodbye Y2K6… Hello Y2K7!

It’s 2007!
Can you believe it?

Another new year, another year to live. This also means another year to correct our wrongs in the past, to plant more trees, to blog more often, and so on and so forth. For some, the new year brings another chance at life and love.

It’s the new year, and of course, most bloggers answered the call for a recap of the year that was. While the whole blogosphere has already published its 2006 highlights, I have been quiet for a while, trying to remember the highs and lows, the good days and the bad days, and the twists and turns my life has taken here in Cambodia. Like a warehouse, my brain is filled with memories all waiting to be retrieved at my bidding.

With that in mind, I am jumping on the bandwagon and here are highlights selected from my warehouse of memories – my recap of 2006 — three weeks later.

2006 for me was great in some levels.
After being noticed by blogher Beth and after landing on the pages of Global Voices, visitor traffic increased and my list of blogger-friends grew longer. I have made friends with most of them, and in the process, met some of them in person. Toe holds the distinction of the first blogger-friend I have ever met, followed by Kazumi in Tokyo. I do hope to meet more this year.

On the homefront, our family has grown in numbers too. This year we were blessed with a healthy and beautiful baby girl. She’s so adorable, and although I have never seen her yet, she is such a source of joy for everyone in the family. Now with two grandkids my parents are as doting as ever, giving in to (most of the time) their whines and whims. One of the downsides of living away from the family, and the one that saddens me the most, is that one can not witness important family milestones – births, birthdays, baptisms, graduation, or simply seeing how family members grow up.

Two months later, we had another addition to the family. She was barely a month old and had distemper when we got her, but with TLC she survived it. Now she’s about 8months and a picture of a happy, healthy, friendly, albeit excitable pet.

Although my travel in 2006 was not that much compared to previous years, I am ecstatic that it was still part of my schedule. Japan is such a beautiful country. I was fortunate enough to see and experience rural and urban Japan. Nothing beats the excitement I felt when I braved the streets of the pulsating metropolis that is Tokyo. My eyes widened as I stood in awe when I saw the snow-capped Mt. Fuji – it was a breath-taking moment. In Tokyo, I finally found Hachiko, Japan’s most popular dog, whose story I read about when I was younger.

I also met new friends from Bhutan and Mongolia who gave me standing offers to visit their countries, isn’t it great? It is not that easy to enter Bhutan without an invitation, so R and I are seriously considering the offer, perhaps for our honeymoon! Although my 2006 trips to Nepal and China were canceled, there’s always a next time. Who knows where will I be traveling to in 2007?

This year R and I became members of Warm Showers, and had our first visitors. They were a young, French-Canadian couple whose journey kicked off in Canada, passed through Australia and New Zealand, jumped off to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Kazakhstan, Iran, and will end somewhere in Europe. Warm Showers is a voluntary association, or brotherhood if you like, of touring cyclists providing accommodation for touring cyclists worldwide. R did the camino pilgrimage on a bicycle two years ago, and brought up to me the idea of doing the camino together. Hmm, why not?

Careerwise, 2006 gave me another lease of professional life. My contracts with two local NGOs (I work two part-time jobs) were nearly up in the middle of 2006 when I was offered a new job with an international organization and with a new career path to boot.

Because of the new job, I had to leave the comforts of Phnom Penh and this house to make Kep my base. For both R and I, living in Kep was all the more interesting.

2006 started with a wonderful weekend in Kep. With the new job, I prepared myself for a three year stay in Kep Pilot Project area but as things turned out, it wasn’t to be, much to my disappointment. R and I fell in love with place, liked the people instantly, and enjoyed the work that I had started there. It is such a waste that the friendships we’ve made there have to be cut so abruptly. Anyways, I may have returned to live in Phnom Penh, but I will still be traveling to the pilot project areas to oversee the research activities.

All of these times are now neatly arranged and stored in my warehouse of memories until the time comes that I need another memory shakedown – that’s when my brain cleans itself in time for the new year and makes space for new memories.
New Year’s resolutions, you ask?
I don’t have any.
I stopped making resolutions; resolutions are bound to be broken anyway.

2007 has already begun and I am looking at a full year ahead.
Project and research activities will be in full swing this year. The project is significantly behind schedule, there are major acquisitions pending, and there is one major change in the project that requires serious discussion and probably re-focusing. I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get things started.

On the personal side………..

…..let’s just keep it personal… hehehe.

Here’s to the new year… another year to continue being good, happy, and healthy. May we make and blog lots of good memories.
Hope 2007 will be our best ever.

A Weekend in Kep – 7 days later

I could have opted to stay at home in our apartment in Phnom Penh and indulged in watching cable TV like I always do at the end of the year.

I didn’t want to go to Krong Kep… again. My first time there proved to be, well, a disaster of sorts. There were few guesthouses, and unfortunately, where we stayed there was no electricity and the bed was infested with dust mites so badly that when I went back to Phnom Penh I had skin allergies.

The thought of that happening again made me cringe.

However, this time it is different.
Rob and I would be together to greet the New Year. And the thought of R and me together in this sleepy seaside town tickled my fancy, especially since we would be witnessing the last sunset of 2005.

After batting an eyelash, I said yes to R.

Guidebooks, travel websites and magazines dub Kep as Cambodia’s forgotten beach. Kep used to be the resort town from the 19th century till the 60s in Cambodia. Seaside resorts and villas used to dominate Kep’s landscape in the old days. Now, these structures are left in ruins and disrepair as a reminder of its golden days. Kep now is more known for its array of fresh seafood, than its beaches, which are stony and not quite as pleasing as the beaches of Sihanoukville.

To me, the beach of Kep is not enticing.
I’m used to the pristine beaches in the Philippines, but Kep is a nice place to go, the kind of place where things are still left untouched by the claws of commercial tourism. Unlike Sihanoukville, there is a “primitive and unyielding” feel to Kep.

3-4 hours away from Phnom Penh, Kep is 24kms from the town of Kampot, 49kms from the Vietnamese town of Ha Tien, and surrounded by the Gulf of Thailand . Small in land size, Kep is swallowed by its neighbor Kampot. Several hills dot Krong Kep on one side, where the vegetation is still thick and green. Leading to the crescent-shape beach that is frequented by local visitors, the road zigzags along the coast. On one side are the hills, and on the other side is a magnificent view of the sea.

Distance: 172kms from Phnom Penh

Travel time: 2.5hours (our drivers to and back transformed into madmen once we were out of the city limits and on to the national highway).

Private taxi rental, there and back. The better you haggle, the lower the cost of the taxi – $53

Hotel No 4, Le Foit Rouge, a double room, ensuite toilet and bath, with fan and 5 local channel-TV (huge black spiders, crickets and other bugs free lodging in the toilet)- $15

For all meals during our stay we ate fresh seafood caught locally (includes softdrinks and water)- $20

Motobike rental- $3

two bikes by the curve
2 Bicycles – $2
Grand total $93

What we found:
Kep's muse
Kep’s muse

behind the sunrise
Behind the sunset

three boats and a sunset
Last sunset of 2005

rob and the sea
My man and the sea

P r i c e l e s s.

For everything else, there’s mastercard.
*mastercard logo here*
(Except there are no credit card facilities in Kep)

Ooops… take 2…

For everything else, there’s greenbacks.
*picture of a dollar*

More Kep photos in my photoblog.

Have a great year, everyone. May we make/blog lots of good memories, enough to last a lifetime.

The idea of spending the weekend/end of the year in Kep was an idea I could not let pass for two reasons. One is that this was the first time that Rob and I went out of town together for more than a few hours. Great for bonding time.

There is a superstition, or whatever you call it, that whoever you spend the New Year with, you will be with for the whole year. Isn’t it sweet? Finally, after 5 years of quiet (or the absence of) Christmas and NY celebration, I had someone special to celebrate it with.

Second, our aim was to assess the place. Before the year ended, I was offered the possibility of a new job in a new place, Kep. It may uproot me from Phnom Penh and transfer me to this seaside town. More on this later.

Rob and I decided that we should see the place first, have a feel of the town and the people, and then decide later. So we went around town, exploring the area, asking questions and getting some valuable answers which will help me in deciding whether to accept the offer or not.

*I was told that the project needed some re-negotiations with the relevant government ministry, and so is not expected to start ’til the start of summer (April).
So stay tuned.

Originally posted here.

Mama’s A Year Older

On January 4, Mama turned 52.
As she celebrated her birthday this year, as in the previous years, I got a little sad that I was unable to celebrate it with her. It’s been 5 consecutive years now.
I feel that as she grows older, I am unable to be there.

So to celebrate Mama’s birthday here in Phnom Penh, I cooked my version of chop suey. It’s one of Mama’s favorite dishes to cook. To those who aren’t familiar, chop suey is a Filipino dish (borrowed from the Chinese) of mixed vegetables – cauliflower, young corn, carrots, cabbage, sweat peas, etc. – sautéed with garlic, onion, tomatoes and pork and shrimps.

People often associate something — for instance a particular memory — with a particular object, odour, taste, or sensation. And when this object, odour, taste or sensation is felt or experienced again, it reminds them of that particular memory.
That’s what we, my brother and I, experienced when we were having lunch today.
The smell and the taste of the food transported us back to our kitchen in Roxas City.
It reminded us of our dear Mama.

Thank you, Ma. We love you for a gazillion reasons.

Dakulaon ang pagtao ko nin pasasalamat sa imo, Mama…
… sa pagtukdo mo samuya ning marhay na ugali…
… sa imong pagpadangat asin pagpadaba samuyang aki mo maski na ngani na matagason an samuyang mga payo…
… na dae nindo kami pigpabayaan kang mga tugang ko, na mayong makulog samuyang mga hawak kan kami aki pa…
… na dae nindo kami pigpabayaan dawa na nasasakitan na kamo ni Papa…
… sa pagtao samuya ning pagkakan, pagbado asin edukasyon…
… sa imong pagtubod sa samuyang kakayahan…
… sa pagtitiwala mo samuyang mga desisyon…
… sa saindong padagos na pagpadangat asin pagpadaba samuya…

Ngonian na haloy na akong mayo dyan asin dae nakaka-celebrate kan birthday nimo, sakuyang hinahagad sa Dios asin sa Mahal na Penafrancia na tauhan kamo ni Papa ning good health tanganing ma-enjoy pa nindo an maabot nindong mga apo.
I always pray to Them to take care of you both the best way and not to take Their eyes off you…

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Marhay na salamat, Mama, sa gabos mo na ginibo samuyang mag-tugang…
Happy Birthday. Thank you for always being our Giving Tree.