Archive for September, 2012

An Unfinished Business – The Makiling Botanical Gardens

It will almost be a year now since I first went to this place and I’ve been wanting to come back ever since. Although this forest is brimming with tales of the supernatural where unsuspecting visitors could wind up lost for days, I managed to come out unscathed. Maybe it was the stories but shooting alone here was nothing less than surreal. It’s not difficult to imagine fairies and ethereal beings appearing in the steps or a windblown sound calling your name coming from the far distance. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience and a true shooting challenge. I remember how the sound of the birds can be heard all over the place when you first arrive and how later on you will forget when everything became silent. Was the forest striking a pose? or was it pondering what to do with us measly outsiders. I was on the edge because of the place’s legend and it won’t take much to throw my thoughts to full blown fear, I had to carry on because I’ve  never been to a place with such mystery.


It was only this month that I was able to drag myself and my wife to come back. The last I was here, the river alone consumed most of my time and prevented me from venturing out further than I originally intended. Taking photos along the river was a challenge in itself as you scamper for the best angle you can think of and then there’s the rocks that you have to step on to. There’s also a multitude of opportunities with the insects living on a world of their own. I never would have realized this if not for my wife who’d occassionally sit down to observe them.

Not only did we enjoy taking photos while we were there, we also enjoyed the time just being together and not being bothered by anything. I recall the tranquility of the place seemed to amplify our conversations as if they were echoing in a dream. Some may find it romantic, some may find it eerie but I found it nostalgic.  Although I can’t exactly tell what compels me to come back again and again, it could be the scent of mystery in the air or the thrill of conquering my fears.

…or was it the sound of my name blowing in the wind?

The Makiling Botanical Gardens is approximately an hour and a half drive from Manila.  The Gardens is within the grounds of the University of the Philippines Los Banos and has an entrance fee of Php 20.00.  Legend has it that the Spirit of Mariang Makiling lures outsiders to the depths of the forest confusing them until they lose their direction for days.  The well-known cure for outsiders experiencing this was to remove their clothes and wear them inside-out.

Missing Mycaela

It’s been a while since I last posted. It’s not that it was a dry spell for me between those periods but it was actually the opposite. A couple of long travels here and there and some revisits to old sites and cooking were among the many things that occupied me.

But the truth is… I am suffering from a case of Writer’s Block eversince.

For the past weeks I’ve been trying to get the creative juices flowing but I was unsuccessful. Trying to figure this out, I realized that there was no way I can get the old momentum back with such emotional load inside me. The first phrase that came to my mind was “to unload” but that is not what I really want because no matter how difficult this is for me, I will never give this away because I know the only way memories will remain with me forever is for me to cherish both the smiles and tears that came to our lives.

I was thinking of “sharing the load” perhaps and tell you the story about what happened.

As you may know, me and my wife are married for 8 months now which basically means barely enough time yet for a baby to be arriving. However, my sister who was married 5 months earlier gave birth to a beautiful baby girl a few days after me and my wife were married. For a few days, our honeymoon plans were stalled as I attended to my sister and because we were so excited about the baby. Mycaela Amber or “Plum Plum” as she was called was my first niece and the first grandchild in our family. For me and my wife, we saw Mycaela as if she was ours. It was a very long time ago when our household was once reeking with our childish shrieks and squeals. As me and my sister grew up those noises eventually faded and was replaced with the monotonous of grown-up voices. Everyone had best wishes for Mycaela’s arrival and we were so eager to be with her as she goes through her toddler years.

For 6 months, our family was all about Mycaela. My work schedule became more bearable as I eagerly waited to get back and visit her, my wife who wasn’t a whiz on carrying babies became such an expert as she like my mother and father were guilty of monopolizing playtime with Mycaela.

Conversations once dominated by “what-I-want’s” and “what-I-want-to-do’s” were replaced by “Mykaela-needs…” and Mykaela-must-have’s”. Not so long ago, everytime I go to malls, my eyes were instantly fixed on the latest gadget while now my eyes playfully trailed on stuff toys and trinkets wondering if they will bring a smile on Mycaela. It was amazing to realize how something inoccent as a baby can turn our lives around at the snap of a finger while for years we’ve consistently failed one New Year’s resolution after the other about being more selfless and less materialistic.

I never thought that the words “All good things come to an end” had so much truth in them at that they can happen even in the most unimaginable of circumstances. When it did happen it was so tragic that it felt like our hearts were shattered a thousand times over.

On August 27, 2012 Mycaela the angel that she was made her way back to heaven and left us beyond sadness, struggling to understand that it was God’s will.

Plum Plum knew it wasn’t her time yet to have an ice cream so she pretended having one in her hand.

Plum Plum loved mirrors. She always breaks out a laugh when she sees her reflection.

Here’s PLum PLum with my dad. They bonded well together.

At the back of my mind I felt how this event was so unfair that something as innocent as her deserved this. I was consoled when somebody told me that Mycaela could be having a hard time herself right now letting go of us because she knew she was going to a better place – a much better place than where we are right now.

I was not wrong when I told my sister that Mycaela was a Gift from God because she blessed our lives and changed it more than we could ever imagine. She showed us our Hearts and taught us that it can be broken whoever we are or whatever we have. She taught us Love knows no bounds and that Life is finite.

Most importantly, she thought me that when answers to questions begin to lose meaning and everything else fails…there is Faith.

Plum Plum loved our sofa. Here she was a bit anxious with my wife showing her an iPhone