Journeys Part 3: The Narnian Chronicles

*The last of a three-part series.

Long overdue. That's all I can say about this blog post and about having only read CS Lewis' seven-book series just now. Being a fantasy and mythology nut, Narnia has always been in my periphery but I have never ventured there. I remember the first time I even heard of it was sometime between 7th grade and 1st year high school when Pog and Duffie were talking about it. Of course I couldn't relate.

Fast forward to a decade later and the movie version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe came out and blew me away. Since then, I've always wanted to read the books but it's either I find loose volumes that would be missing a book or two or the complete boxed set would just be too expensive.

Then Prince Caspian came out and I loved it.

Then Voyage of the Dawn Treader came out and I loved it.

After three movie adaptations, I finally thought it time to play catch up. Funny thing is I made a spontaneous decision to finally buy all seven books when I spotted them at National Bookstore Santa Mesa while doing some Christmas shopping last year. I wanted to get my oldest niece started on building her library and I thought Narnia would be a great place to start. But when Dawn Treader came out, well, my niece got the complete Hunger Games trilogy instead.
She finished those books in a week's time!
My journey through Narnia started early December and lasted until late January. Narnian fans would chastise me for this but I read the books in the order of how the edition I bought were numbered - chronologically. Yep, unlike die-hard Narnians I know, my travels began with the Magician's Nephew.

What I discovered was a world that was as familiar as it was mysterious. Here was a fantasy world that was a welcome break from all the grim fairy tales of modern high fantasy series like the Sword of Truth, A Song of Ice and Fire, and (yes, I admit) even the Wheel of Time! I keep wanting to explore more and more of this land that Aslan the magnificent lion created every time I close a chapter. More so when I finish a book!

Narnia was also the last in a list of things that I missed growing up and made up lost time for last year. That list includes playing Final Fantasy I and 2 and reading Weiss and Hickman's Dragons of Autumn Twilight - both similar works of high fantasy! Also on the list is reading Watchmen and The Catcher in the Rye.

I don't know how or why I missed these things, but I guess that explains how I managed to hold on to every bit of youth I have left: I still have a lot of stuff to make up for and so many experiences to try! Case in point: My recent trips to Ilocos and Clark with some very close friends elicited moments of pure, seething unadulterated enthusiasm on countless occasions! Like being transported through Calormen, Archenland, the Eastern Ocean and the northern realms of Narnia, I often found awe wherever I went. Thankfully I still have the energy to wander and explore.

I'm glad I didn't grow up soon enough. Else I never would have appreciated Narnia at my age. It would've been nice to have cheerful memories of growing up with the books but that's okay. That just means I still get to be a friend of Narnia. Afer all, I actually like my trip there better than my travels to Middle Earth or Hogwarts.

One last thing about my trip to Narnia was that even if I didn't pick up the Christian themes as much, the books have given much to think about faith. I have to believe that there must be a reason why fate brought me on that journey only recently. If I didn't miss out on this great adventure growing up, I probably would've never thought to introduce Narnia to my nieces and nephews.

That's right. Having finally finished The Last Battle as soon as I got home from my Ilocos trip, I finally gave my books way to their rightful owner: My niece who would later share it with her younger siblings and cousins. They get to grow up having read the books and I can only hope that they become better persons for having read such an insightful and (most importantly) magical story!


Journeys Part 2: The Ilocos Chronicles

*The second of a three-part series.

A week ago today, I was either soaking up the sun or was soaking wet at Pagudpud. It was a trip hatched early in the year through a Facebook exchange between me, Mark, Jay-R, Jovan, and Densio - we of the impromptu Tagaytay road trip early last year. We invited a few other folks to come with us but sadly, only Rej and Oneal made it.

The idea was to take another road trip but with Densio presently stuck in Germany, she requested that we take a photo of her with us wherever we went. I can't exactly remember how we settled on Pagudpud but we could've easily gone to some other destination and it would still be a great trip. The thought of traveling to such a remote location with my friends was something I just couldn't pass up. I was actually more excited about the traveling than getting there.
Some Twitter updates from the trip.
Thanks to Globe's Twitter mobile service, I got my followers updated on the trip. It also made it easier to recall the progression of events as they transpired - except that Twitter lacks time stamps. In addition, I had my trusy photo and video cams with me!

Anyway, we left Thursday night around 11am and had reached Tarlac around 1am where we had a brief pit stop at a McDonald's. By 3am, we had reached La Union and by 6am, we finally got to Ilocos Sur at the outskirts of Vigan. The entire time, we were guided by two things: Traditional maps and a GPS care of Oneal's Samsung Galaxy Tab. Jay-r was driving and Oneal was navigating.

Calle Crisologo
 Our first day was pretty much spent exploring the Ilocos region. We got to Vigan around 6am and left the area around 2pm. In between, we had breakfast and lunch plus visited some key sites courtesy of our callesa ride:
- Calle Crisologo
- Bantay Church and Belltower (Got up to the bell! It's friggin high!)
- Hidden Garden
- Syquia Mansion (They didn't allow me to shoot a lot of videos! Blah!)

Bantay Church and Belltower
 Afterwards, we were supposed to be headed to Laoag but made a wrong turn and found ourself at Juan Luna's house in Badoc. It was a happy accident and they allowed me to shoot videos while exploring the place.
Lost but found ourselves some place nice.
Off we went to Batac to visit Marcos' corpse. Unfortunately, while waiting for the mausoleum to open, we heard gunshots so close to where we were waiting and had to run away from the commotion. We don't know what happened but it was nervewracking just to know a crime had occured nearby.

Updated tweet from that scary incident.
So we decided to go visit the sand dunes and rid ourselves of the bad vibes. While following signs, we chanced upon the Church of Paoay, which is possibly the oldest church I have ever seen! Another happy accident. Sadly we didn't find the sand dunes so just made our way to Laoag where we stocked up on supplies before heading straight to Pagudpud.
Church of Paoay
When we got to Pagudpud, it was so dark that we can't see anything of the waters. Waking up the next day though is another matter altogether. Our resort was close to the water and we were within eyeshot of the windfarms, which was another welcome surprise. It was so cold that morning though.

The rest of the morning was spent swimming, nay bouncing, along the South China Sea. The waves were high and really aggressive. There was no point in really swimming. You just had to ride the waves and roll with it. It was also a bit freaky when the undercurrent drags you back to the open water after the waves deposit you to the shore.
In the afternoon, we went to visit the blue lagoon at Maira-ira beach. The way there was warm and sunny but it was cold, really windy and drizzling when we got there, it was ridiculous. I didn't risk my camera's lens so I didn't shoot anything.

Next we went to the Bangui Wind Farms where I had the most spectacular experience of my life. It was just as cold and wet when we got there but for me it just added to the majesty of the experience. It was like nature unleashed defying these towering manmade structures. All the while I was standing at this stretch of land with sparse vegetation, which was actually a small portion of the sand dunes. I didn't risk snapping a photo here either but I'd like to think I'll remember that fleeting moment forever!
Notice the droplets on the lens.
By night time, rain had reached our last night at Northridge.

We had to leave early the next day but I managed to snap a few photos and videos of the South China Sea in the early morn. Our adventure didn't end there though. Thankfully, the rain had stopped and we were treated to a nice sunshine as we made our way up to the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. It was really windy though, which added to my agoraphobia.

After that, we were on our way back to Manila with a stopover once again at Vigan for lunch and some pasalubong. We amused ourselves in the car by playing Taboo and spotting funny business signs (Ilocoslovakia Auto Repairs, anyone?).

By 9pm, we stopped over at Gerona, Tarlac for some dinner at the Isdaan, which was an incredible place. There's something for you to do or look at everywhere you turn! I even tried my hand at that Tacsiyapo wall where you get to let out your anger by throwing cups and plates and even TV sets!
The Smashing Tacsiyapo Wall!
We got back to Manila around midnight on Monday. It was a great trip and I wouldn't mind doing it again just to see the longer stretch of the sand dunes!


Journeys Part 1: The Thomasian Chronicles

*The first part of a three-part series of stories.

One morning exactly a week ago, I made a spur of the moment decision: Instead of going directly to work, I opted to go the other way and back to school to UST. I hadn't intended to go but a huge part of me was dying inside because I wouldn't be there that evening to celebrate with my fellow Thomasians our alma matter's 400th year anniversary.

As a die-hard growling tiger, I thought it only proper to visit the grand old place even with the lack of pomp and pageantry (and quite frankly - people). Armed with my camera, I played like a tourist at my own school. Upon reaching the EspaƱa gate alone, I could already feel something was up in the air. The place was more festive than usual at 9am and having had my share of Paskuhans and college weeks during my time, I know how busy the place really gets. Last week's was ten times more amplified.

The other thing I noticed was that I wasn't the only "tourist" there. Everywhere I looked, there were groups of people - no doubt families and old gangs - from older batches and I could hear them talking about their time as students. Often the remarks were how things have changed since their time. Some older folks were even with who I assume are grandchildren who were appropriately dressed for class that day. It was amazing!

I guess the best part for me was being able to go inside my home in UST - the Faculty of Arts and Letters. I didn't think I'd get in what with the lack of proper identification and all, but I did! Just the flood of memories alone was overwhelming. I remember running along the halls for a variety of reasons - catching up to a professor or a classmate or an orgmate, rushing to the photocopier, meeting deadlines, all of it. It was so vivid in my memory it may as well have happened yesterday.

It was a good thing I caught Mam Faye at room 211 - my very first classroom in UST. That's where I met my friends at Saunos and where I had a couple of embarassing moments. Yes, I will never live down that time I was late and crashed into 1Journ1's class thinking it was our class. I kinda did it again when I barged into Mam Faye's class (2CA5) but it's all good.

Another overwhelming moment was when I came across CASA's bulletin board. I didn't think I would be emotional about it but I was. Even if I'm in regular contact with the current batch of officers, it still beats seeing again the part that you had to leave behind when you graduate. It's that legacy you leave for someone else so that they might have the chance to experience what you have.

Of course every Thomasian experience is different. Mine was riddled with constant stuggle and a lot of growing up. I went from over-the-top student to student council slave to mediocre debater to president of one of the biggest organizations in campus. Every now and then, I got to write and dance outside of any class requirements. Yes I was the guy you got sick of after one encounter too many. Evidence here.

Hey, I live less than 30 minutes away! What'd you expect me to do with my overly free time? Study?
This was from my junior year.
Yet for all that, I believe I was one of Communication Art's most promising students (If my mentors could just see me now, they'd wonder "What happened?") I owned my subjects like they were yesterday's news. My approach to academics has always been more relaxed. I never really bothered about grades. They're just numbers. I passed. I learned. End of story. Move on.
Grad photo with the UST quadricentennial emblem.
So many more stories I can tell about the college years but for now I leave with this: I was never really comfortable with uniforms primarily because I have never been a conformist and I grew up practically not wearing one. So I would find ways to deviate - like wearing a printed shirt underneath or wearing my trademark earrings. Oh, and when they stopped for the 3pm Angelus, I moved. I still think it a waste of time.
My school ID pic resurfaced.
Despite such lapses, I am and will always be proud to be called a Thomasian. Not because we have the best academic program ever (Hell no!) but because the place left an indelible mark on me. For one thing, it helped me gain the courage to defy convention, which is something you'll need if you're in the creatives industry.

After only spending about an hour that morning last week, I did feel fulfilled that I have honored my den, my alma matter, and was at peace with myself. I did great during my four years there. Only thing now is that I have to challenge myself to do even greater.

Thanks for the mentors and the memories, UST.