Whang-Od

There is so much we want to say about this lady named Whang-Od and her little village in the mountains of Buscalan in Kalinga province. But there will be time for lengthy writing; today is not it. Because though we are back home, our minds are still deep in the mountains, looking at her as she tattoos a visitor for the nth time today.

TWO2TRAVEL | Portrait of Whang-Od, mambabatok of Buscalan, Kalinga, Philippines

~
Photo © Owen / Featured Image © Nikka

El Nido, finally

Sleeping on the floor of a hut on an uninhabited island was a new thing, and we did it in El Nido.

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

Earlier that night, our group of five tourists and three boatmen dined on an assortment of grilled and fried things; our only source of light was a piece of cloth stuffed inside a bottle of Coke filled with gas. There was a guitar, and the guys who were steering our boat earlier were now belting out Freddie Aguilar songs over copious amounts of rum coke. One of them was marrying the love of his life soon and seemed jittery about it; the other one kept poking fun at him. Our guide also told eerie tales from the islands (“May araw talaga na mangunguha ang dagat“), and one of my friends got help finding her way to the bathroom from somebody who looked like one of our other friends.. who happened to have been somewhere else at that time. We stayed long enough to see the moonrise, until the sky went completely dark and we decided it was time to retire to our hut. That was Owen’s birthday salubong, the end of the only sunny day we would have in El Nido.

And we didn’t have a single photo to show for it.

So it probably did not happen, depending on your life’s beliefs. After all, this was fabled El Nido, where anything from the mundane to the magical to the eerie can happen.

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

TWO2TRAVEL El Nido, Palawan

You may also want to read:
Drenched Tales from El Nido
Moody Bacuit Bay
Also check out:
Hotels in El Nido

~
Words by Nikka, Photos by Owen

Quiet Holy Week moments

Religion has always been complicated to grasp, or we were probably just taught to memorize too many prayers.

Right now we can hardly remember any of those from 10 years at Catholic school, but we’d like to think we’ve kept the essentials.

It is Holy Week in the Philippines. It’s mostly church services, afternoon processions, and days on the beach with family. It presumably gets louder as Maundy Thursday gives way to Easter Sunday, and then it’s back to the grind, in the middle of the scorching summer heat. These are quiet moments in between, from our little corner of the universe.

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippinesaundy Thursday, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Maundy Thursday, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

Good Friday, Philippines

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines

Easter Sunday double exposure

Good Friday in La Union, Philippines


Words, photos by Nikka

WithLocals: A new travel experience comes to the Philippines

We’ve been to quite a few places around the Philippines, and whenever we think about our most memorable experiences, it’s often our encounters with locals that are the most memorable. So we were very excited to find out about a new travel initiative called Withlocals, a marketplace connecting travelers from all over the world with locals in Asia.

Withlocals photos

Locals from the current roster of seven Asian countries—Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Vietnam—offer their favorite experiences on the website. These experiences are subdivided into three: Eats, Tours and Activities. So if you are an amazing cook and would like to show off your cooking skills, you can offer a home-cooked dinner to travelers at your place. If you are the adventurous type, you can offer an exciting activity like rafting, surfing—anything you really love and are extremely good at! A great walk through your hometown and nearby sights can also be an amazing tour for people who have never seen the country before. This way, travelers can experience your place just like any other local. You make new friends, you get to do what you love, and you earn extra money from it—a win-win situation if you ask us.

Withlocals photos

There are fruit carving workshops in Thailand, a healthy home cooking class in Malaysia, and a batik workshop in Indonesia. Being the tea picker of the day in Sri Lanka sounds really cool too!

WithLocals is definitely a great alternative to taking packaged tours since you can select only the activities you want. And while it’s perfect for travels abroad, here’s another piece of good news: Withlocals is coming to the Philippines this summer, which means that you (or we!) can sign up as hosts and start offering our favorite activities and home-cooked meals to travelers all over the world. What experiences do you think are worth offering? Share them in the comments below!


*All photographs courtesy of WithLocals

Smokey Mountain: A day in Manila’s slums

We approached her and asked if we could take her picture.

“But I look filthy,” she said in Filipino, looking embarrassed.

Her face was covered with soot and so were her hands, her clothes, and her feet.

But she wiped the soot off her face with her hands anyway, looked directly into the camera, and smiled.

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

We were at Barangay 105 in Tondo, Manila, more commonly known as Smokey Mountain, where people like her live in the middle of thick black smoke and garbage—two things that also mean cash for their families on a daily basis.

At Smokey Mountain, Manila’s largest dumpsite, people scavenge for garbage and make charcoal for a living. Scavengers can take home as much as P300 or as little as P150 for putting in eight to 10 hours of work a day. Charcoal-makers can rake in just as much (or as little), but it can go up to P500 on a particularly good day.

But this is not without hazards: pneumonia is the leading cause of death among residents in the community, says Nympha Flores, our guide for the day.

Smokey Tours

Nympha is also a resident of Tondo. She works for Smokey Tours, an organization that offers experiential tours around Manila’s slums, cockfight areas, and markets. It also offers bicycle tours around the city.

“Smokey Tours are not just tours. We offer experiences, believing that deep experience equals deep insight,” the organization says on its website.

Proceeds from these tours go to the Bahay at Yaman ni San Martin De Porres, an NGO providing food and education for kids and livelihood for mothers of impoverished families in Tondo.

The San Martin de Porres building—a tricycle ride from Smokey Mountain—is brightly painted in green, pink, and blue. By noon, the ground floor is filled with the chatter of kids having their lunch. The upper floors have classrooms, dressmaking rooms, and craft rooms. The top floor offers a sweeping view of colorful Manila covered in grey urban haze. Paper cranes made by the kids hang from its walls.

It is a far cry from the neighborhood of Smokey Mountain—at least at face value—with its open drains and narrow, dark, and garbage-strewn alleyways. The shanties are clumped together—a maze of wood, GI sheets, tarpaulins, and electric wires. People eat pagpag, food scraps from fastfood outlets recooked and sold to residents.

It is a very busy place and everything can get overwhelming fast–the smell from the garbage, the thick smoke from the ulingan, the hot summer sun; garbage trucks coming in and out, people pushing sikads containing pieces of discarded wood.

But although Smokey Mountain is far from ideal, there is a semblance of a typical neighborhood: there are sari-sari stores, day care centers, police, and NGO offices interrupting the garbage dumps. There is also karaoke.

People greet strangers with warm smiles, and some scold their dogs for barking at what they call are visitors. There are handwritten signs offering haircut, and women have their pedicure right outside their homes. There are children everywhere, and at least one monkey in a cage too. And perhaps because of all these, Smokey Mountain didn’t strike us as unfamiliar.

Nympha is also very keen to point out that the community is safe and drug-free—a distinction that we think needs to be made in order to separate it from the stereotypical Manila neighborhood that is as poor as it is dangerous.

Smokey Mountain also happens to have a beach—a garbage-littered one, just behind the ulingan. Here, boys in their underwear take turns jumping into the waters, coaxing and cheering, unmindful of anything else. It looked just like any other scene from any other beach with any other group of kids trying to take a break from the heat.

That’s when we realized that although there are a lot of things Smokey Mountain is not, there is one thing it is: a home where people live, work, and probably even dream big dreams. Whether that involves getting out of its carpet of garbage and cloud of smoke, only time—or the government—can tell.

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

Smokey Mountain, Manila

Smokey Mountain, Manila

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

TWO2TRAVEL: Smokey mountain

~
Thank you to Smokey Tours for making this visit possible. For more information on their tours, please visit their website.

Words by Nikka; Photos by Owen & Nikka

Faces of Batanes

The winds and the seas have perfected the Ivatans of Batanes.

We see it in their lined faces, wrinkled hands, and bare feet. We see it on the veined, muscular arms of men as they pull fishing boats back to land. We see it in children’s sun-kissed skin and their legs so adept at biking hilly terrain for hours on end.

Despite living so far away from the rest of the country they belong to, Ivatans find it easy to give away smiles to strangers. They open their homes, they share their stories, they oblige with a photograph. Sometimes they also say I love you when they are drunk.

We spent 12 days in Batanes this year. And on those days, we went to four islands and met countless people. We hitchhiked on a truck, walked in on at least six homes to eat, and downed brandy—the province’s preferred liquor—with a few men.

Each encounter with the people was different, but somehow they all fit together to help us understand, through photographs, who the Ivatans are. This is our retelling of their stories.

FACES OF BATANES

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

The life of the Ivatans revolve around their vast lands and rich oceans. People farm their own fields and pasture their own cattle, men and women both. Most of the men also go out into the sea to fish. Those who fish also build roads, as in the case of Itbayat, so it’s not unusual to find men on a tataya one day and by the roadside the next.

Faces from the fields

Nanay Fely was coming back from her farm on the hills very early in the morning. Slung on her head was a basket of wakay, a root crop the Ivatans consider their staple food.

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines

Outside Batanes, wakay is synonymous with Ivatan, at least among the locals. “When I tell you Wakay ka, I mean to say you’re Ivatan,” tells Jun, a fisherman at a village in Batan.

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

The women—or at least those in Itbayat—use the vakul, a protective headgear made from dried vuyavuy, a wild palm endemic to Batanes.

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Ivatans produce garlic, their cash crop, as well as an assortment of other root crops and yams. They do not grow rice, so whatever supply comes all the way from the mainland. This is why rice remains largely a luxury, and for most Ivatans, it’s still wakay all the way.

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

We met this woman by the roadside as our group of three, accompanied by our land lady, made our way up the port (yes, in Itbayat, you need to climb the hill and then descend rather steeply to get to where the boats are) to wait for returning fishermen.

The woman, upon learning we are tourists, tells us quite eagerly that her children are in Manila and abroad. “I go and visit them in Manila when I get the chance,” she tells us. “I don’t get to exercise there though, because I only stay inside the house.”

“I love it better here in the fields,” she adds.

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Faces from the seas

“Life here is simple. When you learn how to fish, you will never go hungry,” another man, also named Jun, told us a few months back.

He is from Isabela who married an Ivatan woman in Sabtang. They live in a two-storey concrete house right at Sabtang’s sentro with their little boy. Jun fishes most times, when the waters are friendly. Apart from ridiculous airfare prices—which prevents the rest of his family from visiting, he says—he seems to have no complaints about his new home.

Batanes’ waters are as rich as they are violent, and fishing is something the men learn from an early age.

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Jun, a fisherman from Diura, a fishing village in Batan, tells us, “When we were kids, we would sneak on a boat to fish before everyone else was up. We would return with a big catch and the older ones would be left speechless.”

Conditions are harder in Itbayat, where men sometimes stay on islands for days to bring home substantial catch, most of which are only for sustenance.

TWO2TRAVEL: Vuhus Island, Batanes, Philippines

There is also the continuous competition with poachers, who have bigger vessels and far more advanced fishing equipment.

Of course, there is always the matter of coming back home from sea—which in Itbayat isn’t as easy as docking on the shore, because it doesn’t have one to begin with.

Cargo boats—three of them—connect Basco with Itbayat daily except on Sundays and when Mother Nature (and the Philippine Coast Guard) says no. This is also the cheapest (P450) way for visitors to get to Itbayat—a journey which, many fondly and laughingly recall, will ‘let you remember all the saints’ names you learned in school’ while the wooden vessel navigates perhaps the biggest waves in the Philippines.

Take the cue from the crew, most of them would also say. “If they look relaxed, if they’re lying around, there is no need to worry…”

Getting from the boat to the port is another matter too, and depends again on the waves. Itbayat, a contiguous coral reef, has no coastline. Ports are built sloping sharply from the mountains to the seas, so that boats have to wait for the waves to propel them up to the edge —

before a passenger can jump—

before cargo is thrown—

into the waiting hands of people on the other side.

Everything—mattresses, a stack of Monobloc chairs, sacks of cement, and large LPG tanks get transported this way —

one by one.

TWO2TRAVEL: Ibayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Page 1: Faces from the fields Page 2: Faces from the seas Page 3: Life under construction Page 4: Faces of the future Page 5: Faces from everyday

Life under construction

Although most native Ivatans farm and fish, not everyone does—at least not anymore. Batanes is changing, and with it, the way people make a living. With it, their lives. Roads are being built, little by little, one faluwa trip at a time. And those who are fishing one day are the same ones shoveling the next. When it is time to plant, they will ride their carabao to the fields.

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

Just the day prior, we saw these men helping their neighbors get back to land at one of the ports, unloading the fishing boat and pulling it up foot by foot for hours. Here they are building their island home’s roads.

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes, Philippines

This man, Mang Eduardo, works for the local Public Works office. He was cleaning up dead leaves and burning them by the roadside.

ATWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Tourism is also picking up, giving birth to jobs that pay directly in cash. Tourists now have guides, drivers, caterers, boatmen, and even dive masters.

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes

two2travel: faces of batanes

two2travel: faces of batanes

Tourists also have places to stay, from vernacular homes to brightly painted concrete hotels with tiled floors and air-conditioning.

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes, Philippines

This is Faustina Cano, a retired schoolteacher who now manages a homestay in Itbayat. Most people in Batanes call her Nanay Cano. Immediately after arriving, she gathers her guests at her yard’s al-fresco dining area where she has plastered a framed illustration of Itbayat’s map, covered in shiny plastic. Over repeated offers of coffee, she spends the next 30 minutes delivering a well practiced litany (in English) of Itbayat’s history, mysteries, and tourist spots.

two2travel: faces of batanes

Inside one of Nanay Cano’s rooms, where beds are comfortable, walls are thick, and sleep is always pleasant and mosquito-free even without the nets.

two2travel: faces of batanes

This is Mang Felix, who works on benches that come in the iconic blue color we have come to associate with Batanes. He works for the only (and most expensive) hotel in the province.

two2travel: faces of batanes

Inside a typical vernacular house in Sabtang — a wooden divider separates one small room from the rest of the floor space, where tourists sleep on mats and pray the wind doesn’t blow too hard during the night, when all power on the island would be turned off.

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Woven baskets, placemats, and hats from Ivatan homes make their way into shelves, ready for purchase. That, and wakay chips and vakul, both neatly packed in clear plastic, ready for air transport.

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Page 1: Faces from the fields Page 2: Faces from the seas Page 3: Life under construction Page 4: Faces of the future Page 5: Faces from everyday

Faces of the future

Ivatan kids are another matter altogether. Some are shy, others are game. Some stare at strangers squarely, others hide behind windows and curtains. All of them had been a joy to photograph. All of them also knew how to ride a bike.

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang Island, Batanes

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TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

SGB_9581 copy

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL Batan Island, Batanes

Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

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There is one encounter though that would stick with us long after we’ve forgotten their names and faces: It was just 7 in the evening, but most of the lights at the town plaza were out. Hardly anyone was around.

It was Valentine’s Day, and we were in Batanes, on an island called Itbayat, where the northernmost community of the Philippines lives. And tonight was their prom night.

We walked uphill to the local high school and saw what appeared to be the whole community in attendance. The girls were wearing silk dresses—white for the juniors and pink for the seniors—looking like they came from a single tailor. They formed a square on the grounds, and at the back were their parents, and on some parents’ arms were younger children. All of them were wearing jackets. It was a chilly Valentine’s night, and the moon was full.

And then they were lighting candles and singing Miley Cyrus’ The Climb, which, according to them, was symbolic of many things: conquering mountains, keeping the faith.

With hardly a stable Internet connection, Itbayat was the last place anyone would have expected to hear pop music. It’s less than 200 kilometers from the southern tip of Taiwan, nearer that country than its own. But times seem to be changing—the Itbayat National Agricultural High School, it turns out, has a Facebook page, albeit the last post was from three years back. Its first post was the lyrics of its loyalty song:

“We’ll travel our ways for your side
To seek the golden shores that await
I-N-A-H-S, we leave you behind
With memories so dear, we shall keep”

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TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

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Page 1: Faces from the fields Page 2: Faces from the seas Page 3: Life under construction Page 4: Faces of the future Page 5: Faces from everyday

Faces from everyday

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

Ship crew of MB Itransa take their day’s first meal onboard. Can also be taken as a good sign for an uneventful passage.

two2travel: faces of batanes

two2travel: faces of batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Cockfight in Ivana, Batan Island, Batanes

SGB_0838

TWO2TRAVEL: Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Itbayat Island, Batanes

SGB_1036

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Batan Island, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

TWO2TRAVEL: Sabtang, Batanes

two2travel: faces of batanes

Meanwhile, all over the islands, people drink brandy on cold nights. On Sundays, they watch cocks fight.

They wait for their brothers to come home from sea before sundown. They till their lands, they wait for a big one to take their bait.

They bike to school most days. On other days, they get a haircut.

Life goes on.  

Page 1: Faces from the fields Page 2: Faces from the seas Page 3: Life under construction Page 4: Faces of the future Page 5: Faces from everyday


Words by Nikka, Photos by Owen and Nikka

Taipei Walkabout: Shilin Night Market

Taipei’s way of welcome was a chockfull of fried things on sticks or bowls, most of which we knew nothing about. We had no problem about it though, since they were both cheap and tasty, two characteristics that are always welcome in our books.

Apparently, Taiwan has this love affair with night markets; a quick Google search will tell you as much. The one nearest where we were staying was Shilin Night Market, which, it turned out, was about 20 minutes away by cab.

But of course, our first purchase had to be a rip-off: a small plastic of measly sliced fruits worth NT200 (PhP280, NTD1=PhP1.4)

Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
Continue reading “Taipei Walkabout: Shilin Night Market”

Drenched tales from El Nido

So how is El Nido, that fabled place north of Palawan, when it decides to rain?

First, it doesn’t, and you are hopeful.

After all, you did sit through the eternity that it took to reach this place. You’ve read all there is to read online about it. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone who’s been here wants to return. A lucky few who visited have never left. So yeah, you’re damn optimistic and you can blame everyone but yourself for it.
Continue reading “Drenched tales from El Nido”

Snapshots from Albay: Pinamuntugan Island and Bacacay

Although it is home to one of the Philippines’ most recognizable landmarks, Bicol still has way too many secrets. This island in Albay is one, despite being next-door neighbors with the ritzy Cagraray Island, home to Misibis Bay. We’re talking about Pinamuntugan, an hour’s boat ride from the town of Bacacay in Albay. Our stay on this island was short, sweet, and (relatively) cheap, since there’s really nothing to do here—dolce far niente, ladies and gentlemen.

TWO2TRAVEL: Bicol - Pinamuntugan Island, Bacacay, Albay
Continue reading “Snapshots from Albay: Pinamuntugan Island and Bacacay”

On happiness

To be happy—that’s too complex to stereotype. We can perhaps agree though that it is quite easy to spot a happy moment when it’s staring back at you, difficult even to resist taking part in it.

Browsing through this year’s photos, we see beautiful sunsets and sunrises; we see turquoise seas and brown earth—for all these, we are thankful. But we also see people looking unequivocally happy doing everyday things—getting food, sitting under a tree, doing a day’s work. No uncomplicated I’m-going-on-an-adventure-today shiz.

This has been one of the best things about traveling to new places—it reminds us, time and again, that happiness comes in the simplest, most uncomplicated, and sometimes unexpected packages. To meet complete strangers and have them teach us this lesson on gratitude has been among the most incredible things about going out there, where, as Cesar Pavese said—

Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky

2013, it has been an amazingly happy journey.

Portraits from Malapascua, Cebu

Portraits from Malapascua, Cebu

Portraits from Malapascua, Cebu

Sunset - Malapascua, Cebu - Photo by Nikka Corsino

Malapascua, Cebu

Malapascua, Cebu

All photos taken August 2013 in Malapascua, an island in northern Cebu province, Philippines, devastated by typhoon Haiyan.