As I lay me down

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” -David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)

Just some thoughts lingering in my head. On some days, it feels like waking up to a heavy heart. When I’m feeling somewhat generous and equally pensive, a simple reward to some caffeine on the side, in moderation of course, to usher in a thorough, easy, cathartic flow of thoughts greatly helps. Journal in hand. Every stroke of a pen is an extension of the heart, I’ve always believed. Putting on some good, mentally stimulating music and for a brief moment in time, confining myself into a bubble as a quick escape from the rest of the world. Sometimes, I truly wish I could afford the luxury of enjoying these to my heart’s content. But time’s a tickin’, and every second involves some pondering as to how it shall be properly utilized. Then I snap back into the real world that consumes me on the daily grind.

I find myself listening to this Sophie B. Hawkins song a lot lately, hence the title. Often times deciding to play it at the drop of a hat, without putting much thought to it as my idle hands would take me to this 90s pick in a long list when it hits me: this song perfectly encapsulates my current state of mind, and here I am wishing it were, the very least, “empire”. When the times just catches up, I simply zone out, iPod in hand, and just play this song, just as I literally lay me down and take a quick break.

I believe I am at that phase in every person’s life where one would constantly crave for something big for themselves, and much as it pains me, I sometimes don’t even know what it is exactly I’m looking for. At times, it feels as though the ways of the world just catches up and weighs me down, to a point of feeling immobile, trapped. Maybe it’s what some would commonly refer to as the “quarter life crisis”, which I’ve been experiencing since four years shy of 25, immediately plagued by it just three months post graduation from university at 21. The times do change so rapidly, and you never get to realize it until you take that strong leap of faith to enter the so-called “real world”.

Getting together with college friends every once in a while, we would laugh as we note that during those nights of endless merry making and overflowing drinks in between school work, looking back to the glory days of university years and we just sigh as we relive them in memory, even opting to spend quiet evenings over a cup of coffee or a good meal. Times have changed as fast as our priorities have. But don’t get me wrong though, we still love to bounce back to that kind of life, but not doing so without taking a peak into our wallets running dry and reassessing our finances before deciding to spend a night out on the town. To most instances, it could even make any 20-something quip in terror, “que horror!” Well, reality check. Times are tough kid, and you’re earning for yourself now.

Here I am, often times consumed by so many thoughts that I just simply wish to escape every so often. I believe that I have always been somewhat nomadic, but nowadays given all these, I can never seem to equate “travel” to a mere vacation. It’s beyond that at this point. Though it still connotes to the same thought of wanting to have a brief time away from it all, I refer to it now as an escape from everything (again, sometimes not knowing what “everything” is, but there is just as much weight as there is to knowing what it means), every trip is a much needed time to reset. Reset. There you go. That’s the right word for it.

The countdown to my birthday (gasp!) is fast approaching, and as I would tweet every so often “God knows EXACTLY what I want for my 24th”. Only those dear to me know of this, and I pray that it be written in the stars for me this year. I’m taking each day one step at a time. Baby steps mean so much more now despite the obvious change in age.

Reset. I need that much needed reset in my life. Perhaps now is the best time to start over with myself.

Caffeine and poignant thoughts

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First of all, I’d like to believe that this post is heavily caffeine driven. Though my doctor warned me about my personal consumption due to acid reflux (not that I am a regular literally bordering on “substance abuse”), I can always rely on coffee’s comforting warmth like that of a good hug and a gentle yet encouraging pat on the back. In some instances as a source of solace, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper would commonly quip, “when people are upset, the cultural convention is to bring them a hot beverage”. Though I would whisper Bazinga! but just out of habit following a Sheldon Cooper quote, I’d say this is pretty spot on. In moments of repose while in desperate need of some jolt of inspiration, I reward myself with a good cup to help clear my head. It just, somehow, allows the thorough cathartic flow of thoughts onto my medium of choice, be it on my blog or on paper. Hence, this post.

Of Answered Prayers…

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready” (The Devil and Miss Prym)

Against all odds, I have always firmly believed that happiness is truly a choice, that there would always be something to be thankful for, something to smile about. I have been experiencing overwhelming euphoria since last year, one that I have not felt in so long that it feels new to me all over again. For the first time in so long, it feels as though a void has been filled. For the past months, life has been so good to me. Opportunities poured in, dreams came true, prayers answered, relationships reassessed and rediscovered. It could be the law of attraction working in full force, this overwhelming happiness completely changing my outlook in life. I don’t know for what reasons they may be happening, but as I would always say, I am utterly grateful.

Back in my Multiply days where I used to blog religiously, a friend once left a comment in one of my life updates/ wish list type entries, saying “read through this in a year’s time. You’d be surprised”. On one cold November evening, I felt a sudden strong urge to take a much needed trip through retrospect and open my journal. Lo and behold, it took me by surprise seeing an entry I had written a year before and discovered how it seamlessly connected to the present. What I had longed and prayed for during those difficult times were answered in the present, without me even knowing it. To simply put it, great things happen and just take you by surprise. Expect the unexpected. I never even counted the months that had elapsed before I had gotten what I had wanted. It just happened, and in a year’s time, which I could neither define as too short or too long. I am just entirely overwhelmed by how it has come to fruit, and how it has taken me by surprise just makes me feel complete. The time frame no longer mattered. Everything indeed happens for a reason.

…and Separation Anxiety

“Goodnight, goodnight. Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow” (Romeo and Juliet)

Along with this relatively “new” feeling of utmost joy, I also feel a strong sense of separation anxiety. It’s not that I’m afraid of letting go of this but rather, everything that has happened recently has also placed me in such a vulnerable state, which I have come to regard as one of my most challenging phases to date in all aspects. It must be one of the trials that comes along with age. Since last year, I count down the days till my 24th thinking that all of this is actually preparing me for something big, something that will soon take me by surprise again. At times, I worry about the crossroads and the decisions that I make. What will become of me if I took the other way, I would think to myself. It both amazes and scares me, thinking that if I had taken the path I was set to journey through back in 2006, I know in my bones that all of this would not have happened. I am at a point in my life where I actually feel at ease, holding close to my heart the thought that everything right now is exactly where they should be. I was completely struck watching the film Cloud Atlas, which I had decided to catch at the cinema alone. I pondered deeply at the thought of how our lives and decisions are interconnected, through time and through different people. Looking back into the past almost seven years ago proves that all of the heartaches and life changing decisions have eventually prepared me for where I am now. Things are exactly where they should be, and the past now feels worth it. Different things become clearer each day, and they make so much sense now more than ever.

Amidst the joy, I am also afraid of how the coming days and months would progress from hereon. How would things hold up for me, and how would I hold up to all these challenges coming my way. Yet despite these realities that I am set to face, I keep close to my heart that very memorable quote that complete struck me while watching Cloud Atlas, and I know in the end everything would be worth it. All I need to hold onto dearly now, aside from hard work, is faith and patience, and constantly remind myself that “I believe there is another world waiting for us. A better world. And I’ll be waiting for you there”. Maybe I am just preparing myself for you, whoever you maybe, and whoever I would end up to be in the near future. In the end, everything should be worth it. Patience, young Padawan. It really is everything.

Reigniting Passions

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“It was almost like falling in love.” (500 Days of Summer)

In the recent months, I find myself truly singing again, and not just the mere act of it in the literal sense.  Coming from a family of music lovers, singing has always been so close to my heart since time immemorial, which I regard not only as a great form of release (I have this strange habit of singing out loud, belting high notes at 2 in the morning before hitting the sack. Don’t judge me, it helps), but in its purest form, a medium of self expression, of love and passion. For the longest time, I have never felt the soul in every song I choose to sing, thoroughly grasping every word of it leave from my lips and seemingly breathing a life of its own. It’s more than just the act, it’s a complete and total experience in itself. More than just simply listening, it moves me. It compels me to think, to feel. I started writing again too. For the longest time, I’ve never had the urge to religiously pen down even the most mundane of things I encounter on the everyday, which is pretty evident in the large time intervals between posts in this blog. There are just so many thoughts that just need to be forever immortalized that I could constantly revisit at a whim or whenever I’m in a rather forgiving mood to take that much needed trip through retrospect for some self assessment. At times, I dread the day that the next generation would altogether nix the notion of penning down thoughts, memories on paper. Every stroke of a pen is an extension of the heart, so I make it a point to make everything count. Everyday is special and carries a gift in itself. I’d like to be in touch with whatever comes and goes in my life, to keep things in perspective. One day, I could look back into the past and remember how life treated me when I was 17, how I had a rather early quarter life crisis and recount the very liberating adventure that helped me cope with all the trials at 21, how relationships turned around and nurtured me into a greater sense of maturity, how I was able to rediscover myself at 23.

Slowly but surely, I shall take everything a day at a time, pen and paper or laptop in hand, and in some occasions, a cup of coffee on the side. I’ve been off to a good start. True enough, it almost feels a lot like falling in love… all over again.

Noir, Blanc et Rouge

Hola!

Yes, its been a while, and this’ll be a first for the year. I promised myself that, apart from exploring through different fields of knowledge through constant reading and watching films/ tv series, I would blog/ write more religiously than ever from now on. This entry should jumpstart that resolution. First and foremost, despite being four weeks into the new year, allow me to greet everyone a peaceful and prosperous 2013 ahead of you!

Last January 19, the Ateneo Photographers Society (APS) of the Ateneo de Davao University, organized a photowalk together with our friends from the Director’s Guild of the San Pedro College. Though the gloomy weather may have caused some delays and hesitations, it was a great way for us to experience the street life around the busy Chinatown area, which was only a walking distance from the university. I felt a little rusty with photographing street life, my last one probably being around three or four years ago, so it felt rather refreshing for me to capture an ordinary, everyday life around the city than photographing on the fly in a high fashion shoot.

Here are some of my takes. I hope you enjoy these.

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Team APS-DG at Ateneo
Team APS-DG at Ateneo

 

Ending the photowalk at the Magsaysay Park's Breakwater
Ending the photowalk at Magsaysay Park’s seawall

Madayaw!

Oh, hello there.

I see you’ve noticed my sudden hiatus from the blogging sphere. I’ve just been caught up with traveling and work that I’ve never realized that I momentarily put this on hold for too long. Now that I’m back, I’ve got so much backlogs to work on, especially from my recent travels so please do bear with me. In the mean time, let’s get back on track shall we?

About 3 weeks ago, we celebrated the annual Kadayawan Festival here in Davao City. Being born and raised a Davaoena, and not just counting the fact that I’m a photographer, I’ve been making an effort to attend the Indak Indak sa Kadalanan(street dancing parade) for the past few years, as to take part in the celebration of the rich culture, heritage and bountiful harvest of the 10 tribes of our city. Despite braving the scorching heat (and I must say, this year has been the hottest for me so far), it’s always an amazing experience getting up close with the harmonious beating of drums and dancing, while enjoying the company of great friends and treating ourselves to a few cones of ice cream in between. Allow me to share my takes not just for this year, but in the previous year as well.

Madayaw!

Downloading, copying and reposting of photos is strictly prohibited

© Dominique P. Milan   2007-2012   All Rights Reserved



               

My dearest friend Ayie Hernandez, who is such an amazing photographer. I’m such a fan of her work

The Masquerade Ball

Seven years ago, a “classic” me was in a rush to prepare for my Junior – Senior Prom. Hence, I did not have time to have studio photos taken as a remembrance to mark this important event in my high school life. Private photo shoots were not as common at that time as well.

Last February 17, my cousin Chin requested that I take photos of her along with some friends before they went off to their Junior Prom at Grand Regal Hotel. Photographing 5 girls in about 2 hours was quite a challenge, but it was a wonderful experience to have been part of the “behind the scenes” preps, in helping these girls make their important night one they’ll happily look back to years from now, especially with memorable photos taken in the great company of friends and family.

Special thanks to my aunt, Isabel Tecson-Pacana, for the warm accommodation and support. Photos taken at Chateau del Mar Resort & Spa, Lizada Beach, Lanang, Davao City.

Allow me to share some takes of these lovely young ladies:

Alex
My cousin, Chin
Miho
Toni
Tricia

 

Up, up and away!

Would you like to ride my beautiful balloon?

The song constantly rings in my head as I recount the glorious moment when the hot air balloons started taking flight along with The Fifth Dimension playing in the background.

Anyone nearest and dearest to me would know of my incorrigible fear of heights, which I had accidentally discovered in the middle of a photo shoot when I carelessly scaled to the top of an oil tanker and froze for a good 20 minutes before I was forced to be assisted in my descent. From then on, I had been plagued with acrophobia, and most activities that made me experience heights head on would always send a chill down my spine. This year, although not from above, I was finally given the chance to take a different perspective in experiencing the great beyond, realizing how massive and at the same time, puny, the rest of the world is from up above as I, a mere measly speck, stood below giant hot air balloons billowing in the wind, riding towards the sun and slowly disappearing into the horizon. Maybe I should challenge myself and try riding a hot air balloon one day. One day.

It was from a few years back into my passion for Photography when I discovered the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival in our local forums. Seeing photos of people standing in close proximity to those massive balloons seemed so surreal for it to be happening annually in our own shores, that I constantly dreamt of seeing it with my own eyes one day. Now barely two years post graduation (ahh the bondage has finally been broken), I finally got my chance thanks to a bit of luck (got our plane tickets at the cheapest promo fare), good timing, and parental support, with the help of my dearest uncle Butch, who happens to be one of the events’ organizers (ok, so add that last note to my lucky streak too). At 4:30am of Friday, February 10, 2012, we made our way to Clark in time for the opening at 6am. After all these years, I was finally able to witness this incredible feat, made even more breathtaking as they took flight into the sunrise with the majestic Mt. Arayat in the background. Another check off my wish list, which is yet to be completed nor named since I cannot really call it THE Bucket List. Nevertheless, I feel fulfilled to have experienced this.

Here’s to taking wanderlust and scattered footprints to greater heights.

Of course, the quintessential tourist photo

Flying cake, for the win!
Flying cake!
Adorable! Makes me remember Plants vs. Zombies whenever I saw it. Braaaains.

He's looking at my camera. Hello there! 🙂
Night Glow

Up, up and away

My beautiful, my beautiful balloon

The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon

City of Smiles: Footprints in Bacolod

Gong Xi Fa Cai! May you all have a peaceful and prosperous new year!

I know 2012 shall usher in more travels for me than in the previous 2 years, and I’m kicking it off with my first trip of the year to the Visayas. It has been more than a decade since my last visit to this quaint city. With hardly any memories of the City of Smiles, I felt like starting off with a clean slate as we made our way via fast craft from Iloilo (which had a direct Davao – Iloilo flight) to Bacolod. Although I could recall some old names of places we’ve visited back in the day, Bacolod still has a unique, laid back, Spanish colonial charm that I just couldn’t shake off. It was so stunning to see remarkable old structures preserved in all their glory from their prime years still standing to this day. Having that rustic, old world feel makes this city even more interesting knowing of its rich history of elite families, well preserved ancestral homes, rich colonial architecture (especially in Silay City as I was told, which sadly was no longer added to the itinerary due to time constraints), wide array of delicious local delicacies and their famous haciendas.

Of course, apart from experiencing the culture and seeing the sights of a new city, is having a fill of their most mouthwatering gastronomic delights, and I kicked off the Bacolod experience with the freshest seafood from Aboy’s. As it came HIGHLY recommended by a dear friend, I finally had the chance to eat diwal (angel wing clams) since my last visit to Iloilo brought bad news that it was not in season at that time in June last year, so I was feeling pretty lucky when they served this. I must say, I instantly got hooked! Loved how they served this in Aboy’s with some garlic and a dash of chicken oil I believe, that gives that distinct orange-y color, same stuff they put in some Inasal joints. It tastes absolutely divine! I love its creamy texture. I’m still hoping I could find some here in Davao but from the reactions of friends and family who heard my raves of this delightful dish, they were unfamiliar to this and could only relate my descriptions to our local imbao. That’ll be another reason for me to head back to Iloilo and Bacolod and have my fill of their native diwal!

Scallops and diwal for lunch, best paired with garlic rice. Happy tummy! Photo I took with my BlackBerry, since I was so ecstatic to eat these I totally forgot to take photos. Quality's not bad at all!

Next stop was another homegrown name, Cafe Bob’s along Lacson street, when my dad invited me for some coffee after a sumptuous chicken Inasal Sunday lunch. I absolutely love the homey interiors of Cafe Bob’s, and how they managed to put up the coffee shop, a gelato corner and a small restaurant area together without it looking forced. It had a harmonious, tranquil feel that really sets off the laid back Bacolod lifestyle. This should definitely be a stop over whenever you’re in town. My grandma swears by and constantly raves about the piyaya that we bought there, just because mum remembered that she asked for some while we were having coffee. Their take on piyaya I find is way better than the usual. Seemingly rolled flat to give a distinct crisp, with the typical muscovado filling that isn’t overpoweringly sweet at all. It’s a definite winner!

Having a taste of the sweet life in Bacolod, with Cafe Bob's Chocolate Peanutbutter Frappe and Double Chocolate cookies. Great way to cool down on a lazy Sunday.
Cafe Bob's Pizza Margherita. Delightfully light and flavorful.
Cafe Bob's best seller: Linguine with Chorizo Bilbao. I highly recommend this! Love the hint of spiciness of the chorizo sauteed with succulent tomatoes, garlic and herbs.

After a hearty carbo loaded feast of Pizza Margherita, Pesto Pasta (mum’s order) and Linguine with Chorizo Bilbao (which I personally recommend) at Cafe Bob’s, our host Jonah arrived to accompany us to our stops, which we had frugally minimized to only one from a list of about five landmarks due to time constraints and uncooperative weather. After making a quick stop at the Negros Showroom, which I kept begging my mom to include in our itinerary to check out their local handicrafts, furniture and trinkets, we made our way to the famous Ruins of Talisay.

Bacolod’s allure had captivated me immensely the moment we made our way through a labyrinth of residential areas and ended with vast lands of haciendas left and right that lead to the famous Ruins of Talisay City. Hidden among sugar plantations, a solitary structure stands, like an oasis in the dessert, beaming with so much history in its distinct Italian architecture amidst traditional Bacolod haciendas that still encapsulate the city’s rich Spanish colonial past. A land once “ruled” by sugar barons and elite families, the Ruins still stand as a testament of the grandeur of this era in Negros.

Taking a cab on the way to the Ruins. Fare was not as bad as we expected it to be, but we had to ask the driver to stay and wait for us.
This tarp welcomes guests upon entering the vicinity. I found the first and second titles interesting, I just had to ask the tour guide about these. The third one, of course, is a given. 'Nuff said.

The mansion, owned by Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, a sugar baron, and his wife Maria Braga, a Portugese from Macau, was built in the early 1900’s and took three years to construct. It was surrounded by a vast 400+ hectare land area, literally as far as your eyes can see, and a sugar mill within the vicinity still owned by the family where they manually processed muscovado. The pillars of the doorway had a noticeable sheen that mimics the look of a perfectly polished floor. Our tour guide Roger explained that this comes from the egg whites that were mixed with the concrete used to build the house, hence skipped the need to use water during the construction. Just like in the olden Spanish colonial age where churches used egg whites in the construction of their massive structures is actually the reason why some of these still stand in tact or in perfect condition to date. It was however burned during World War II with the consent of the family to prevent the Japanese from using the mansion as their headquarters. The inferno, which lasted three days, had totally consumed the roof and all wooden parts of the Lacson house.

No words could describe how beautiful this house is, or, what’s left of it I should say. One could only imagine it’s grandeur back in the day, complete with its 2-inch thick wooden floors, gardens and imported furnishings from around the world. Despite the unfortunate blaze that consumed this mansion, I feel that this adds more character and history. It probably was the best option at that time, rather than risking attacks on the family or possibly bombings that would threaten to totally destroy the house. Just a thought.

For the best photographs of this place, our friends highly recommended that this is best visited at dusk, when they slowly turn on the lights that gives an incredibly majestic look to the mansion. Sadly, because we anticipated rain as seen in the photos, we had to head back to the hotel early to catch our trip back to Iloilo the next day.

Breathtaking view of the Ruins. There's an amazing trick to this photo, and I'm sure photographers would be thrilled to get a similar shot. Clue: this is actually not a body of water, nor is this photo edited 😉
The quintessential tourist photo
Portraits of the Lacson family
Imported tiles from Portugal, the most expensive and most durable tiles at that time. Our tour guide Roger said that they once tried to smash those tiles and constantly failed. They're so durable they still retain their rich colors and designs amidst the massive fire.
More Portuguese tiles at the foyer.
The BEST tour guide, Roger! Lovingly referred to as Roger the Ruins by some (haha, because his shirt had both his name and "The Ruins" printed so close to each other that it could be read as his full name), this incredibly funny guy would explain everything in great detail while making you laugh your heart out at the same time. And he takes the best photos of guests with the stunning mansion in the background. Look for him whenever you decide to visit!

Bacolod is such a wonderful city to visit, even if we had too short a time to go sight seeing. The next time I come around, I’ll make sure that we’ll be able to visit Silay and see the other heritage houses and historical landmarks and of course, have my fill of diwal while I’m at it.

Here’s my first travel entry for the year. I hope this would inspire you to find your own adventure as 2012 starts to unfold. I wish you all safe, memorable, adventurous travels this year.

Here’s to more wanderlust and scattered footprints.