Jakarta and Bandung, West Java

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20-24th August.
Jakarta.

It has been two years since I first stepped foot in this city. A city very much like Manila, sans MRT,  Jakarta is probably one of the places in Asia that I truly look up to, with so much respect, for inspiration on all things wedding and design. My trip prior to this was short-lived as it was work-related but it was one when I was able to meet wonderful and kind-hearted souls and seeing them again with the addition of their little ones, was a joy to see. I felt like there was so much growth and life in the past 600+ days that I wasn't aware of and the reality that people around me are either getting married or having babies is creeping fast up on me. I try to remind myself that I am different, as I have known so long ago, and that my route in life will somehow (hopefully so, in a positive way) be different from the direction everyone else is going. We all choose our own paths in life and though I am still figuring mine out, by God's grace, it will all be well in the end.

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This again is a work-related trip but less of body and muscle wasting and more of, on the task of filling my eyes and heart out with as much inspiration as I can find, to help me in my new role.
After having been immersed in all the beauty, it felt rewarding and I felt like I have so much freedom and creativity just waiting to be lain out onto the world.

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I spent 3 days visiting artisan cafes, interior shops, exhibitions and creative spaces around Jakarta. They all made my heart swell with happiness. Though the visits were fleeting, the stories I will be able to tell of it will be eternal. I posted some photos of those places on my Instagram.

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I got myself a room in Ibis Slipi and scored myself a lovely view beside the bed. It was overlooking a highway and despite the rather tall buildings surrounding it, it still felt foreign. Perhaps it was because of one building with Indonesian flags lining in front or the billboards that have Bahasa written all over it. It's nice to see a bit of culture in thriving cities where everything seem to look the same.

At night, when I'm all bundled up after a day of exhaustion, I turn on my music and stare out onto the city in front of me– engulfed in darkness, illuminated only by street lights and LEDs. As I stare rather deeply onto the sky, I felt it embracing me like an old friend, leaving me feeling like I have stayed in the city far longer than I've had. I love that familiar feeling. It's as if I wasn't in another country with a culture far different from what I'm used to but as if I am just back in my own room staring out of my window, sharing my thoughts out to the moon or patiently waiting for the stars to reveal their stories.

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On my last full day in Indonesia, I went on a spontaneous roadtrip up Kawah Putih (White Crater) In Bandung, West Java. It was a Saturday and my friend picked me up from my hotel around 6 in the morning to avoid traffic. We headed up and around 30 minutes off the main road, I could see from my side of the car, fog slowly covering parts of the mountains beside the highway. I didn't realize we were already up in the mountains until I saw rice terraces majestically bathing in the morning sun beside me, forming dreamy gradiations in the loveliest hues. There were farmers harvesting rice wearing the traditional Indonesian rice farming clothes that made the scene even more cinematic. It took almost all of my breath away, literally and figuratively.

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The car sped by like a hurricane, I hadn't had the time to pick up my camera and take a shot. But just like most of the things that inspire me, I could only tell and write stories and mental reference my work out of those moments. Sometimes, though not too often, words paint more beautifully than grains and pixels do.

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The beautiful, sulfuric mess of Kawah Putih intrigued me less than the journey all the way there. It was perhaps due to the fact that it was crowded with tourists and the highly acidic state of the lake that had me tearing up like a child (my friend had to suddenly buy me a mask to stop me from bawling without reason).

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The rainforest and the view from the road on the way to the crater was one I was so enticed by. There was a drastic change of scenery in a span of 45 minutes. One moment we were in a busy town with Saturday markets all up in bloom and school kids walking or pedaling pass us, then suddenly changing into mountains towering each other and tea plantations cascading in the middle of them. A little over a few minutes, we were then drowned in the vastness of the forests beside the road and coffee plantations springing everywhere in between. The cool breeze felt welcoming, we had to open all our windows because it would be a tragedy not to. I stuck out my head a bit and let my hair fall and fly in all directions whilst smelling the fresh scent of the earth.

 It was invigorating– both to the lungs and to the soul.

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There is still so much to see and discover in Indonesia, as with all other countries I have been to and that it aches to know that I will not have a lifetime to experience them all. But in all this, I am truly grateful that in a short amount of time, I was blessed enough to see this much beauty I wouldn't have seen otherwise had I hardened my heart and taken a different route in life.

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Archives: Oslob and Baguio, Philippines

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Mid-year, twenty fourteen.
June and July.

June was one of those months that passed by like a lightning– fast and without a trace. I couldn't recall anything remarkable apart from my weekend trip to Cebu City and Oslob, which,if you can tell, was not a good indication of how I am spending my life right now– nearing thirty and all. I have been procrastinating for most of the time and when I do not, I spend a part of it escaping by reading a ton of fiction books.

July was even worse. I couldn't recall anything remarkable in particular nor did I take my camera out during that month so I have none to share through pictures. As depressing as this might sound, I hope you will not stop scrolling from here for I have a few stories to share, henceforth.

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Third week of June,
Cebu City and Oslob

I, along with my illustrator friends Valerie Chua and Anjo Bolarda held a talk and a workshop in Sprockets Cafe, a lovely cafe in Cebu City owned by one of my friends, Rachel Arandilla. It was a truly wonderful and inspiring experience and I was so happy to be able to share about my life as an artist and I can only hope that I have ignited something in the attendees' hearts.

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A little over a few hours, around 4 in the morning after our talk, Jerome (Rachel's friend and now our friend too) willingly, despite the lack of sleep, drove us to Oslob, a small town just over 3 hours from Cebu City. My friends from work came here a few months before and told me it was one for the books. So the minute we decided we're heading for Cebu, I told Valerie and Anjo that we needed to spend a day in Oslob just to experience swimming with the butanding or whale sharks. It took a while to convince them both to join me out to sea but I was so glad I dragged them into this because, really, who would want to miss such an opportunity? Of course, I have no underwater covering for my camera so I was only able to take a shot of a portion of the whale shark's head. Valerie has some underwater pictures on her blog and I have one copied from her on my Instagram.

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After the rather short whale shark adventure, we found a spot overlooking the sea and stuffed ourselves with much needed food and some good shakes. We lingered for a while, talking about our every day lives and our future plans and quarter-life crises because what else is there to talk about when you're with single artists in their late twenties with so many wishes but with less time and money? None, apparently. So there we were in front of the most beautiful, depressing view of the sea, sighing and pondering for what felt like days. Ah, the curse brought about by the poignant beauty of the ocean.

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Along with those photos from my friends who went before me, I spotted a forest in the midst and thought I'd ask Rachel where that forest was and what it holds. She mentioned a falls and upon hearing that, I immediately took mental notes and asked Jerome to stop by at that place. It took us a while to locate but fortunately this falls was a popular one for tourists visiting Cebu. The rather steep climb from that almost killed my lungs wasn't worth it. The place was packed with people. And I hate going to places that are full of trigger happy folks. We took a few pictures for posterity and headed back afterwards.

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We headed back and arrived Cebu around 4 in the afternoon and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening eating and visiting cafes and artsy places before heading back to catch our midnight flight back to Manila. It was a short but well-spent weekend down south and I wish I had enough cash to do this every so often but alas I have none.

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August 11-15
Baguio City, Philippines

I went on a roadtrip up in the mountains with my colleagues/friends at work for a team building and a much needed R&R (rest and relaxation). This was perhaps the laziest week I've had this year. A good thing if you ask me. We spent most of the time eating and visiting a few places here and there. I've long missed the scent of the pine trees and the cool, comforting breeze since coming back from Canada so it was a bit of a treat.

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Sammy, my fellow film-loving friend/ co-worker took this lovely picture of me bathed in the afternoon sun in Mines View Park. I'm not entirely sure what I was doing here but either I was taking pictures with my phone or indulging in strawberry taho. 

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While the rest of my colleagues/ friends were killing themselves in outdoor paintball, Marga and I went for a walk. I played outdoor paintball before in a hill in Guimaras so I opted to just chill this time around and not join in on the fun. Marga on the other hand wasn't equipped with the clothes fit for playing so she passed on the game as well. We found this eerily beautiful house just a few yards from the playing site and despite the mid-day light, we took tons of pictures mostly in our phones because our rustic-loving selves couldn't help it.

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I'd be lying if I didn't say that I loved the nights I spent in those days. Some nights we spent playing board games– all 20+ of us, some were spent talking and catching-up in front of a coal-lit fireplace and some were spent lying under the stars using make-shift blankets out of table covers, drinking hot coffee and listening to folk music. It must have been the loveliness of Baguio in the evening or the warmth of friends beside me that made me think: If life's always like this, there will be no room for sadness in this world.

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*All photos of me by Sammy Magsino and Marga Koopmans