I am inclined to write more on Instagram than on this website mainly because it is easier to write short prose than lengthy ones. That is obvious. There are also days when my short attention span only allows me to write a few sentences.
And so Instagram has been the best receptacle for my snapshots and short notes in 2016. A friend actually suggested I compile the best of my 2016 Instagram photos. “Brilliant! So easy to copy-paste,” I jested. I am lazy like that.
Here’s what my 2016 is like.
1. Manila, Philippines– Japanese Emperor Akihito and wife Empress Michiko were in Manila for a five-day state visit. The Philippines had strictly followed the protocols laid down by the Japanese government. After all, it was the Emperor who was on the Philippine soil, the most revered figure in Japan. During the reception hosted by the Japanese embassy in Manila, the Filipino VIPs among them were a previous president, current officials and high-profile business leaders were told to turn off their mobiles phones, not to extend their hands to the Japanese royalties, and don’t talk too much. We, on the other hand, the low-born members of the media were cordoned off in one corner. (January 26, 2016)
2. Hawaii and California, USA– In February, together with 14 other journalists from Asean nations, I came to the United States for the first time for a two-week study tour. Among the highlights of the tour were the meeting of US President Barack Obama with 10 Asean leaders in California and our interviews with military officials at Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii.
We were rushing to catch our flight from Palm Springs to San Francisco, California right after the Asean summit, when I bumped into the then Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario. Instead of giving me further details about the meeting of Obama with the Asean leaders, Del Rosario, just like a grandpa, offered to give me a treat. “Can I buy you an ice cream?” Do I really look like a kid? Haha. (February 17, 2016)
3. Tikling Island, Matnog, Sorsogon– The story of the lost and found phone. I was enchanted. Its clear turquoise blue water was so radiant that I rushed to jump into it. I dropped and lost my phone in my excitement. This photo was taken by our dear friend Peewee after returning to the island to search for my missing phone. After scanning the area and asking the people, we gave up and thought it was gone. We couldn’t do anything but simply to enjoy the beach. But No! Three days later, a woman who works as a treasurer in a village in Matnog called my friend Jaymee saying she found my phone. (March 29, 2016)
4. After following Rodrigo Duterte on the campaign trail for more than three months, it took a while to sink in that he is the new President of the Philippines. The 2016 elections was the most divisive elections in recent years. After I’ve posted a status that the Filipinos should give him a chance but with a healthy mix of optimism and skepticism, I got an angry public comment from a senior reporter, lecturing me and questioning me what have I done. Oh well, I did my best. (May 11, 2016)
5. Dharamsala, India– It was a beautiful experience to sit beside Tibetan monks throughout their Friday afternoon chanting inside the Dalai Lama Temple. An elderly nun asked us to sit beside her. She offered us a cup for the milk tea being given freely to all. A Tibetan man afterward gave us bread. We felt home. (July 15, 2016)
6. It was overwhelming to see the Dalai Lama in person and up close. This photo was taken while he was delivering his public teaching in Leh-Ladakh in India. (August 14, 2016)
7. Ladakh, India– Surreal. This is how I describe this photo I took during our seven-day trek in Markha Valley in the Himalayas. (August 20, 2016)
8. Pokhara, Nepal- I woke up earlier than usual to catch the sunrise in Sarangkot in Pokhara, from where I can see the full glory of the Annapurna Himalaya. But the snowcapped mountain peaks were hiding behind thick gray clouds. I was still happy to get this view. (September 20, 2016)
9. Pokhara, Nepal–If you prefer not to trek in the Himalayas in Nepal because you are too lazy like me, why not fly? I made sure to do paragliding before leaving Nepal. The experience was exhilirating (October 9, 2016)
10. Vang Vieng, Laos–I felt like Tarzan doing the rope swing in the famous Blue Lagoon of Vang Vieng in Laos. After cycling 7 kilometers to reach the lagoon and then rope swinging for three times, I explored the cave nearby leaving me totally exhausted. (November 5, 2016)
11. Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi–It has been exactly five months since I left Manila. I am back in Hanoi taking traveling slow. And I am loving the cool weather, the hostel where I am staying and the people around me. (November 13, 2016)
12. Hanoi, Vietnam — Funny things can really happen on the road. My friend Nina and I were on a bike to visit some Buddhist temples on the outskirts of Hanoi last Sunday when an angry Vietnamese on a motorbike called our attention at an intersection. He was shouting at the top of his lungs words we could not understand. We thought he was some crazy guy about to harass or even attack us. So Nina drove at a full speed to avoid him. (I was a backrider to Nina) But we realized our mistake a couple of minutes later when we noticed that we were the only ones riding a two-wheeler on the road, which was completely odd if you have seen how bikes dominate Hanoi traffic. So it was obvious. We shouldn’t be on the highway. We pulled over, completely at a loss how we should go back. Then a group of Vietnamese on the parallel street motioned us to go there instead. But how? There was a metal barrier separating the two roads. Voila! They helped us lift the bike over the fence. Wow, how kind of them to help us, I thought. But my gratitude dissipated in an instant when the locals started asking for money. One man showed us a 100, 000 dong bill. We said: “No, we don’t have money to give.” We thanked them and rode the bike in the opposite direction, too afraid of what they would do. We continued our journey laughing the incident off. Come to think of it, we had actually thought the angry bike rider was a bad guy and the locals who helped us were good Samaritans when it could be the other way around. (December 10, 2016)
THANK YOU, 2016!