Saturday, August 22, 2009

Writing for Examiner

After a long hiatus, I've decided to pick up the quill and call on the muse. I've finally added the last punctuation mark for a Sun.Star Travel story (nearly a year in the making, whew!), and wrote my first story. is a one-stop site for all that's dazzlin' and happenin' locally across the States. In true Diva-wears-nada fashion, I opted to write on shopping and style trends. My job, as I'd like to believe, is to be a personal-shopper and stylist for the local fashionista.

And since school is back around here, my salvo piece is aptly on school bag shopping. My personal pick are Vera Bradley bags, not merely for its kaleidoscope of colors and patterns, but more for the practicality of its material. Made of fabric, they can easily be washed and re-used. Now that's easy maintenance!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Packing lean

There’s something about leaving and escaping into an unfamiliar place that stirs panic in a luggage-toting traveler’s heart. Forget unplanned expenses when happily “lost” in the confines of souvenir markets or late-breaking weather reports that all too often dampen the adventurous spirit. For the modern nomad who can’t board a plane without dragging an entire closet behind, it is the packing part that is most painstaking.

I have been raised in a household where traveling light is elevated into an act of science – precise and uncompromising. “If you can’t wear it in at least three different occasions, it shouldn’t have any place in your luggage,” my mom advises, like a no-nonsense camp leader, each time she hears me brew a weekend jaunt.

Before I could even think of decidedly over-stuffing a carryon or two, I’d mechanically find myself filling out the “to-bring” list, weeding out the “can-live-without” column and mixing and matching pieces until the gamut of possibilities run dry.

Sure, like any other girl with an affinity towards hair-setting gizmos, giving up a blow dryer is always heartbreaking. But between an untamed crowning glory and a nagging back pain, I wouldn’t have any qualms showing up for brunch with an unruly, tousled hair.

So who can condemn this hapless girl, able to hop on a cruise ship with a mere paper bag in tow, for failing to empathize with those whose definition of weekend packing equates three wheeled suitcases and a pair of zipped-up duffels?

Like most light backpackers, I am a lonely minority among a throng of travelers who would need divine intervention to get the rigorous business of packing done. In fact, seeing friends who shudder at the mere mention of light packing, I’ve always felt there must be some sort of comedic cosmic force that draws an excess-baggage traveler to an easy, no-nonsense backpacker like me.

I’ve been tormented by desperate friends who would endlessly nag me how in the world I have survived Boracay with only a couple of swimwear to wade me through. “I’ve tried keeping your advice, but there are just too many seaside occasions that might arise during this trip,” a friend complained, trying to justify a pile of resort clothes she deemed necessary.
In fact, with all the pieces spewing out of her trolley bag, this girl can accidentally win an Oscar, and she would still have the perfect red carpet outfit to slip into.

Whether it’s that “packrat syndrome” where giving up familiar comforts become unthinkable, a case of obsessive compulsiveness where over-preparation is never “over” or, just simply a lack of skill in the art of packing, the young, well-traveled and adventurous is well aware that some things can never be zipped in a luggage nor thrown and tossed into a carousel.

For one, how do you pack a delightful souvenir called memory? Where do you stash emotions – bliss, thrill, exasperation, amazement – that usually define an experience? Can you possibly stuff in your berry-dyed Samsonite duffel the names of acquaintances who, like you, sought momentary refuge in some unknown shore?

In the end, whether we travel light or drag along a trolley massive enough to fit an heiress’ closet, one thing is certain: we come home towing more than what we had when we first set off to discover unfamiliar grounds. All too often, we return with a beautiful baggage of excesses – cherished memories, newfound friends, and a fleeting reward called “sweet solace”.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lost gypsy

When it comes to directions, I’m Jack Sparrow’s compass: broken, north-challenged, pathetic.

I’ve resigned to this conclusion after the 13th interstate trip I’ve ventured on with a group of road trip junkies while on a nearly three-month stint in the States. Never out on the road without a travel “bible” (read: Map Quest), we often appeared armed and ready like a bunch of cookie-peddling girl scouts each time we march out for a road adventure. And yet, we still find ourselves naturally lost somewhere at some point.

Perhaps the most lingering experience was when we headed for King’s Island, a popular theme park at Ohio. Unable to stick to the convoy plan, we ended up somewhere but near the amusement park – maneuvering barren fields, stopping over secluded park by the lake and circling roads that looked too familiar after the 8th U-turn.

What would normally have taken three took us six exasperating hours before we finally saw a glimmer of Son of the Beast, King’s Island’s most “dangerous” attraction and the world’s longest wooden roller coaster. If there was any saving grace to being completely oblivious of where we were then, it was that gorgeous and buffed hard-hat worker in tight white shirt who graciously offered us directions.

Despite being conspicuously far off the right highway, I would never dare decrypt a Map Quest, unless of course my life depended on it. I once did it while lost in Atlanta, and I ended rattling off street names as if these were Da Vinci’s cryptic codes. But who could blame this poor diva from drifting between “Take I-75 N” and “Slightly turn right on exit 29“ when, to begin with, I could hardly recall street names?

For someone who is inflicted with street-name amnesia, I usually end up hyperventilating in the passenger seat each time a road-savvy taxi driver asks me which street, road or corner to take. “Would you rather that we take Bag-ong Dan and head to Hippodromo or turn along Escario to proceed to Archbishop Reyes?”

It is at this moment that everything seems to move in slow motion. Sarao jeepneys that usually whiz by suddenly appear to crawl at snail’s pace. Pedestrians who often rush to the other side of the road seem to leisurely stroll on the yellow lane. And as the driver continues to mechanically recite street names while my head spins from desperately trying to make sense of the barrage of unknown places, I hear nothing but Greek.

Neither does it help that I have been blessed with a paranoid family who, perhaps reading on the daily news too many cabbie assault stories that usually take place anywhere else but in Cebu, have long warned me never to drop hints to a stranger about being clueless and lost.

But when salvation is required, I usually slick my way out of my navigation dilemma by calling a human GPS.

“I’m standing in front of a street post next to a ‘No urinating’ sign,” I’d inform my cousin in between panic attacks.

“Do you have any idea how many street posts with ‘no urinating’ signs are there around Cebu?” my cousin would shoot back, clearly exasperated at my poor choice of landmark. “Can you be any more precise? Anything else that may help hint where you are?”

I would pause and look around. “There’s a two-storey green house.”

Despite the fact that my compass magnet needs a bit of tweaking, I remain undaunted. If Jack Sparrow can travel to world’s end with a compass that doesn’t point north, what’s to stop this navigation-challenged diva from conquering the world?