BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Postcards from Maldives

Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone. - The Dhammapada

A week before Maldives:
Jes: Alis tayo next week...
me: tara, sa Bali. 
Jes: Hindi, sa Maldives.

at the plaza in Male. Photo by me.

on a ferry to Guraidhoo. Photo by me

beautiful misty morning at Island Way. Photo by me

by the beach. Photo by me

Holiday Inn island resort. Photo by me

perfect time for a swim. Photo by me

waiting for the speedboat to the airport. Photo by me

my ootd, Male. Photo by Jes Aznar

Sexy Beach, South Male. Selfie by Jes Aznar

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Sunny Side of Life: Maldives 2014

SOUTH MALE, Maldives - Here in Maldives, dubbed as the sunny side of life, you master the art of doing nothing. You just enjoy the sun, sea and the sand, the paradise that it is. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I am honored to be able to tell the story of Ana Arce for The Philippine Star's #28StoriesofGiving, a compilation of stories of hope, change and love. Let her life inspire the selfish individuals in this society, those who care only about themselves and those who refuse to give back and share their talents to make this world even just a bit better than it was yesterday or the day before. 

Removing Barriers, Bridging Gaps for Deaf People

This is a story of love, hope, courage and sheer determination: the life of Ana Arce, a woman who relentlessly pursued her dreams despite being born deaf.

She is the first Filipino to be awarded the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship at the Gallaudet University in Washington, where she completed her master’s degree last May. She is back in the country to share with the deaf community what she has learned. She wants to teach and help them become empowered individuals.

“I was born Deaf. When my parents discovered this, like most hearing parents of Deaf children, they felt that the only way for me to survive was if I learned to speak, and so they enrolled me in different oral schools where I had to wear hearing aids and learn how to lip read. I tried my best in these schools but still it wasn’t easy for me to adjust,” 27-year-old Arce told The STAR.

Eventually, her parents thought of moving her to another school for the Deaf where sign language is used as the medium of instruction.

“I quickly adjusted and started doing well in my academics,” she said.

But still, life wasn’t easy for her both in school and at home. Arce recalls struggling to find her place in college. She went to a school that mainstreamed Deaf and hearing students.

“In this format, teachers would be speaking, alongside an interpreter for the Deaf. But the classroom atmosphere for me was quite difficult, not because most of my classmates were hearing, but because we didn’t know how to communicate with each other, and there was some sort of discrimination. My hearing classmates would opt not to include me in class projects and activities even though I want to participate. I felt stuck and disappointed,” she said.

At home, during her younger years, she felt out of place when family members spoke to each other.

“My family members spoke with each other, and as a Deaf person, I could not understand what they usually talk about so I often have to ask them about it. I then hoped that they could sign whenever I was present. But over time, some of my family members learned some Filipino sign language. Yet, outside of those experiences, I am still happy to belong to a very loving family,” Arce says.

Arce would later move to the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.

“At St. Benilde, which I call a second home, not only did I find an academic institution, but I also found an environment where teachers and other members of the community welcomed us. I felt loved and cared for and I felt that the school was like a family. I learned the true meaning of a Deaf person and that the word Deaf is spelled with a capital D which means that I am not only a Deaf person but I am someone who is part of the Deaf community, partaking in its unique language and culture,” Arce says.

After graduation, Arce worked as a graphic artist with hearing colleagues for almost three years. It was during this time that she realized she wanted to pursue a master’s degree.

“I realized the Filipino Deaf community’s need to improve their lives and empower them, which led me to pursue a master’s degree. It had always been my dream to study at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C., an academic institution known for its prestige as an institution committed toward excellence in Deaf education. It is also the first and only Deaf University in the world where I experienced a truly signing environment,” Arce says.

In 2012, her dream came true.

“I am the first Filipino to be awarded the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship to study at Gallaudet in 2012. I completed a master’s degree in Deaf Studies: Cultural Studies in May 2014,” Arce says.
Still fresh from completing her degree, Arce is already planning to “give back” by teaching Deaf undergraduate students in Benilde this year.

More than teaching, she hopes to help society become aware of the needs of the Deaf community.

“I hope to not only help them go through college, but also make them good researchers, and active advocates in their respective communities. In my advocacy, I’m looking at opportunities to bring the needs of the Deaf into the consciousness of society, especially the hearing people. I aim to help integrate the Deaf and the hearing together in unity, bridge the communication gap, increase awareness of the Deaf culture, and raise the respect for the natural sign language of the Filipino Deaf - the Filipino Sign Language,” she says.

To put it simply, she says, she wants to tell the world that Deaf people can do just about anything that hearing people can.

“I want to let the world know that the Deaf people can do anything, except hear,” Arce says.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bon Voyage

In the end, we just have to say goodbye. Curtains close. The lights go off and people leave to walk toward the rest of their lives.

And there's nothing else to say but a great big thank you. May you have a wonderful life ahead, mi dear amiga!

 Dinner at Escolta, Manila Pen

Lunch at Anvil

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Misibis, the Moon and Me

One of the pools

Stopping over at the amphitheater during the ATV drive

this is the relaxing Balinese style spa room where I had a very soothing massage

sunset cruise on the last day

Right after snorkeling.

family villas

Misibis, the moon and me

When one has been under the weather for nearly a week, turning down invites to exhibit openings or to endless bantering over ice cold pale, pale beer in the favorite watering hole, an invite to a pristine white sand beach will sound as ridiculous as ice cream on a cold rainy night.

But when that sick one spent childhood summers in a secluded resort in Palawan, under its emerald blue waters and mesmerized by the amazing kaleidoscope of underwater life, the chance to go back to a similar paradise will be enticing enough, come hell or high water.

And so I gave in, never mind that I could hardly sleep because I've been impossibly sick.

Of course, as expected, the invite got me out of bed in an instant. I suddenly recovered at the thought of another trip because as Jes likes to tease me, traveling is my drug, my barbiturates, my cannabis. The only one that can cure me in an instant.

And so after an hour on the plane and an hour on the road of rolling hills and hanging bridges, I found myself in the abyss of the underwater life once again -- cough and all -- after a long, long time.

There I was under the cold water, the noonday sun seeping through the deep blue sea, at the famed Misibis Bay.

Misibis Bay is my kind of resort . There's no wild crowd or noisy parties. It's for people who want to really enjoy the water and not to be seen or to see others.

Here, you can lounge all day on a chair by the beach all by yourself -- no noise, no nothing -- just you and your dreams, the waves and the deep blue sea. Go ahead and order your favorite single malt or have some margarita. Or you can simply give in to the stupor that paradise brings.

At night, you can swim in the villa's pools or have a soothing massage of your choice at the resort's spa as the Red Priest's symphony wafts in the air.

You can wind sail alone or enjoy the view of the crimson sun setting behind Mt. Mayon while eating kropek served with vinegar and chopped red onions. You can conquer the hilltop on an all terrain vehicle or you can go on a Hobie Cat sail, my favorite. Lie down on the trampoline style deck and lose yourself in the ride as the big waves splash on your face while the relentless sun roasts your skin.

It's not as perfect as the Puka Beach that we know or our beloved Palawan, but Misibis Bay is the paradise that people say it is.

Here, the wind whistles gently, the sand is tan and pink and the water, clear blue. The air smells fresh, as fresh as sage and mint, and violets, too.

And at exactly 6 in the evening when I strolled on the beach, a perfect round yellow full moon -- the first of three full-moon super-moons for the year -- turned the evening sky into an unfinished version of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

It is as close to heaven as one can get, at least when one is in this corner of the world, here in an island called Mibisis, somewhere, somewhere out there between my heart and a volcano named Mayon.