If you need tranquil solitude, find a mountain. But if you need a home, find a loving heart.

By Lea Galimba 

Did you ever have that one thing you crave so much you cannot wait to have it?

Did you ever feel the kind of wanting so strong you could almost taste it?

I have been dreaming about this mountain for so long. Back then, I did not understand the strong desire to know it and to explore it. All I know is that I wanted it so much that I was willing to wait for months. When you want something so badly, you wait. No matter how hard it will be. You wait until it is ready for you. And the fact that I waited for months speaks volume.

There‘s just something about this mountain. I climbed mountains in the past and believe me, I love all of them but nothing draws me this hard before. It is maybe because someone told me I’ll love it and that I believed him or maybe because of its name.

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The author at the edge of a mountain as she watches the sun rays tear the blanket of clouds over the mountain ranges.

To see it with my own eyes, to feel its grass beneath my feet, to breathe in its pine-scented smell made me swoon.  To say that it was beautiful is an understatement because it was more than that. It was magical. Every single detail. Every slope. Every curve. Every edge. Everything about it is beautiful.

I still cannot wrap my head around how this mountain welcomed me with open arms, how I instantly felt I belong there, how I marveled the possibility of being lost and being suspended in time and how easily it made me forget all my troubles and my shortcomings while I was on it. Until now, after climbing more mountains than I expected, I still cannot believe that something can hold such power over me.

Lately, some people would come up to me and tell me they like to see me after a climb. They would say that I look happy and content. Maybe because I really do feel happy and content when I climb. Mountains are my hiding place. It’s their company I would seek when I want solace.  It is their embrace I would long for when I need silence. It is their whispers that I would like to listen to when I want to have a talk with my heart and my mind.

Total disclosure: I am a sunset kind of girl. I will never get tired of watching it for I like how the sun casts a soft golden color into the sky when it is about to set. I may prefer sunsets but when you’re in the mountains, the rising and the setting of the sun are equally humbling experiences. There is something addicting about it. It is like you’ve finally found the last piece of a puzzle only to realize that the image is more beautiful than what you have imagined it to be; more vibrant. More fitting.

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if getting through the pain is as graceful as the dancing clouds and as colorful as the sun casts golden rays as it take a rest for a new day? PHOTO BY LEA GALIMBA

And then, there came our first foggy night.

It was dark, chilly, and quiet. Lying awake, not saying anything and just absorbing everything has always been a favorite moment of mine. After a couple of hours, we opened up our tent and there it was – – displayed in a clear sky are millions of shining stars. I was, once again, blown away.

I was so into it; the stars, the stillness of the night, the chilly air, that it took me a few minutes to realized that I was holding someone’s hand. I knew that something‘s amiss. It doesn’t felt that way before. I never held someone’s hand that way since that fateful day. This time, holding that hand, I did not cringe. It didn’t remind me of the past. It, instead, reminded me of my present.

And then it struck me: it doesn’t hurt anymore. I don’t feel the pain from the past any longer. The realization was too abrupt, too sudden that I felt my head spinning. Wearing my heart on my sleeve in the open is something I promised myself not to do but in that moment, I was willing to break my own rule. I was more than willing to risk everything.

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I would always choose to steal this kind of sight — a sight of peace, a sight of happiness. PHOTO BY LEA GALIMBA

I stole one embrace just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.  Still, no pain. No punched-in-the-gut feeling. No guilt. And for once, I did not feel the necessity to flee as fast as I possibly can and hide. I stayed there, my eyes closed, still holding his hand.  My senses were so alive I can hear his heart beating. Listening to it was like draping an emergency blanket on myself when I cannot take the cold anymore. The sound was so comforting I thought it was the most beautiful music I have ever listened to. And then it dawned on me:

I am free. I am healed. I got through it. Not over it but through it. And it felt good.

Watching the stars, holding his hand and listening to the beat of our hearts, it felt like my whole life came in sync with the mountain’s breathing. It felt wonderful. It also made me want to burst into tears because now, I know I already have something to lose. For things don’t get lost if they don’t have value. And that, right there, is too valuable for me.

It not only reminds me that I am finally healed; it tells me that I can take risks again. It makes me want to break some of my rules and be happy about it because it meant I wasn’t scared anymore. That it doesn’t hurt where it was supposed to be painful before. And most importantly, I have found my right way home.

For home is not a place. Home is that one person who can make you feel whole while looking at the scars from your past.  Home is when your heart feels like on the verge of bursting because when you look into his eyes, you don’t see your broken and battered self; but instead, you see someone beautiful. Someone who is almost resurrected.

10 Life Lessons I Learned from Climbing Mountains

Even without speaking, mountains can be our friends or foes that can teach us life lessons.

By Jerome Balinton

I have already climbed a few mountains since I started loving this horrible idea in 2015. And I thanked my crazy, beautiful partner for introducing me to this outdoor activity. I have to admit that my eyes would always roll by just the idea of it. I really hated it even by just thinking about it.

But after a few times of joining Clydie and trying minor and even major climbs, I started loving it! To be honest I just tried it at first to pacify Clydie so she would stop bothering me. But when I was already at the summit of Mount Pamitinan, which was my first climb, and while overlooking at everything below, I suddenly realized, hell, I’m the one who was pacified. Why on earth did I not try it much earlier?

And so, in a few minor and major climbs I took I have learned so many life lessons that I summarized here. You know what’s the best thing about mountains? Aside from the bountiful fresh air they offer, they made me realize so many things even without speaking anything at all. You know that feeling that even though they don’t speak, you can find the answers from them. It’s magical. Nakakaiyak pero totoo, if you are one with the mountains, just sitting there in the midst of trees, fallen branches, hugging the fog while your eyes are closed, feeling the chilly air kiss your face, and start to be mindful, you will start to realize how your life has been. And it could even inspire you more.

So here, I would like to dedicate the first entry of this blog sharing the lessons I learned. Actually, there was a long list, but I limited it to 10 key lessons.

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Braving against gravity as we climb through huge boulders on our assault to Mt. Arayat. PHOTO BY KEN AGSAWAY

Aim for your goal. Whatever your goal is in climbing or in life, stick to it. No matter how long the trek would be, no matter how painful it is to your lazy muscles, no matter how many drops and cuts you get, keep an eye to your goal and reach for it! Always remember the reasons why you climb, why you are doing what you do; sometimes, it is not the summit but the journey itself that fulfills you. We are not in the world of fairies where wishes are granted, so if you want something, work hard or even harder to get it.

The trail is not easy, always. The way up and down will surely be not easy. I assure you that. The trek will be rocky, muddy, or thorny. You may get knocked down. Sharp branches and leaves may cut you. It’s inevitable, but don’t stop. Do some way to pass the hurdles without being hurt, if you can. Crawl or jump if you need to. Remember, they are part of the way up. Life is not a merry go round ride. We all face challenges, and the only thing we need to get over it is to face and win. If you have problems about #adulting, it is part of growing up, so deal with it.

Small steps are not bad. During my first climb, I was so nervous and anxious that I won’t make it to the summit even it was just a minor climb. But I learned that making the first steps, no matter how small they are, is more important than none at all. Don’t start with big leaps right away, it will just weight you down. Start with small steps until you adapt the momentum and learned your own pacing.

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“Rest should never be in any way be a sign of weakness. We rest because there’s a bigger battle waiting for us. We rest with the hope that tomorrow we’ll regain our strength and energy to face whatever it is that make us vulnerable.” — Clydie Pasia PHOTO BY JEROME BALINTON

Help yourself. If there’s one person who can help yourself, it is you. There maybe a few people who will be willing to help you, but remember, helping you will not be successful enough until you learn to get up and start helping yourself. Learn to get up when life knocks you down. It’s okay to cry, you are just human, but don’t just settle with that. Stand up, brush the dirt off, and continue. You are the captain of yourself.

Learn when to stop. When you feel exhausted and feels like giving up — stop, rest, and breathe. Knowing your limit, your boundaries, is important. Remember, taking time to pause won’t kill you. It is going and giving too far than what you have are the ones which will kill you. You cannot give more when you are drained. Just like in love, you cannot love more when your heart has started wearing off. So stop and rest.

Enjoy the way up. Sometimes, we are too blinded by our desire to reach our goals up to the point that we stop appreciating the world around us. You are not in a trail run, so slow down and look at the beauty around you. Every mountain has its own unique beauty, you are too lucky that you have the chance to enjoy them. Learn to live and appreciate life.

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Surrendering everything to the Divine Being that guides us all. Will go on with nothing but strength, courage and trust that You will be with me in every struggle. PHOTO BY LEA GALIMBA

Compete only with yourself. If there’s someone you should always challenge, it is yourself. Cliché as it may, but yes, learn to overcome your fear, learn to get out of our comfort zone, and you will start to realize the world is much bigger and more beautiful than the world you used to stay at. Never blame others for your misfortunes, because it is you who make your life choices, not them.

Trust and listen to the guides. Learn from people who were there first. They know the trail better than us who are yet to take that way. They know which way is dangerous, they know which way is the shortcut, and they know where you can see the beautiful view. Sabi nga nila, “Papunta ka pa lang, pabalik na ako.” Just like in life, sometimes we don’t completely understand the wisdom behind the pieces of advice from our parents, but they know what they are talking about. It pays to listen from our parents and the adults.

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“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer

Know the people to keep and trash. Surely, there are people whom you will meet. You will be together in a group you joined in, or would be a neighbor in the camp site you stay at. And mind you, there are people whom you will find interesting but not worth keeping, and people who may be not so approachable but worth keeping as friends. People will come and go in our life, be careful which ones to keep and to trash.

Enjoy the summit. Finally, you’ve reached the summit, you’ve got what you want! You have to congratulate yourself for making it to the summit, because you owe the success to yourself. Enjoy the moment you’ve worked hard for, but at the same time, reflect on how you get there. The summit doesn’t define who we are, it is the trail and the challenge we took that truly define us as a person.

Malaysia is more beautiful beyond Kuala Lumpur (Blog series 2 of 3)

Let us take you to Cameron Highlands, a perfect place for lovers and soul-searchers

By Jerome Balinton

Every travel must be memorable, that’s why we made sure to visit the highlights of our itinerary during our trip to Malaysia.

After spending overnight in Ipoh, we headed to another must-see place called Cameron Highlands – which turned out to be my favorite. Since it is located in the highlands, the weather is chilly and calming, the breeze is perfect for just spending the day reading or sipping coffee or tea, visiting its famous tea plantation as the sun goes down, and perfect for food trips and strolling around the city after dinner. It’s perfect for soul-searchers and lovers alike!

It took us about four hours by private car to reach Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands. The winding roads up to the mountain were all constructed with cement – this means no butt pain and sound sleep (if you choose to sleep and ignore the scenery around) on the long-way drive up. Our travel time already included stops for lunch, and a visit to the Green View Garden which is known for its own flower- and fruit-flavored ice creams and cakes, chocolates, tea, and flavored mushrooms chips. The place is a stopover of motorists and tourists going to and from other places in Cameron Highlands – so expect it to be packed almost all the time.

We tried Green View Garden’s fruit-flavored ice cream for 9 Malaysian ringgit (Php108, quite pricey in peso, but definitely worth it) – I chose mango flavor since it’s my favorite. The ice creams have low sugar level – I think – and are perfect for health-conscious people. The flavors are also real fruits and not just syrups.

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Assorted flower- and fruit-flavored ice cream for 9 Malaysian ringgit. Photo by Clydie Pasia (IG: @clydie_pasia)

We also spent sometime in the garden where different flowers such as lavender and daisies are blooming. We spent just a few minutes in the garden because we were told that our destination is still about an hour drive up.

My face lit up upon entering the town proper of Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands. The place is urbanized – tall infrastructures and ground works are everywhere, tourist buses and private cars come and go, but I still felt relaxed. Maybe because of the chilly weather? Maybe.

Cameron Highlands has maintained a certain level of being laid-back – that makes it calming – in the midst of urbanization. Despite so many buildings and cars, and of course people, I still felt that I can breathe without trying hard. I believe infrastructure development will keep coming in this area, but I do hope Cameron Highlands will remain the same, the way it was known – a place where people find clean air, calming breeze, and where people find solitude more than anything else.

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Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands has maintained a certain level of being laid-back in the midst of urbanization. Photo by the author.
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A commercial building home to different shops, bars and restaurants, and hotels in Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands. Photo by the author.

I asked our tour organizer why mid- and high-rise buildings are everywhere and are still being constructed in Cameron Highlands? It concerned me because I saw in the internet that the hotel we would stay at is mid-rise. Wouldn’t it too risky constructing these structures in mountainous areas? We were told that unlike the Philippines, which is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Malaysia is not prone to natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes. That’s why it’s perfectly safe to invest on tall infrastructures even in mountainous, touristy areas like the Cameron Highlands.

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The exterior of Century Pines Resort, the hotel where our overnight accommodation was arranged by our tour agency.
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Chilling outside Century Pines Resort . Photo by Neil Angelique (IG: nneilangelique)

Since the sun was still up when we arrived in Tanah Rata, we checked in first to the Century Pines Resort, the hotel where our accommodation was arranged by Malphi Travel and Tours, Co. Another thing that I loved and was impressed about Malphi Travel and Tours, Co. is that they gave us the best places to visit and best hotels to stay at an affordable rate. They can adjust or customize their tour packages according to the guests’/client’s budget and requests, though.

After settling down in the hotel, we decided to tour around the city while waiting for the sunset. We visited a school and a convent on top of a hill. And luckily, the hill gives an overview of the city, though not entirely. We enjoyed doing some photoshoots using the brick-buildings – which is common in Malaysia – as the background.

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Photo by the author.
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Photo by Neil Angelique (IG: @nneilangelique)
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Timeless love affair. Photo by Neil Angelique (IG: @nneilangelique)

The best time to visit the Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation is at sundown when it’s no longer too bright to stay out and not too bright to take pictures. The tea plantation is just about 20 minute-drive by private car from the city proper. It was gloomy when we visited the place, but there are still a lot of tourists – mostly Asians. It’s good to watch sunset from the tea plantation — the color of the sunset and sight of green leaves make the area a perfect spot for shoot for Instagram fanatics and photographers.

The plantation – which is government-owned – is so wide and massive, it covers mountains and hills. Entry to the plantation is free of charge, and plucking leaves is punishable. Tourists are everywhere especially in areas which are most accessible. But finding a perfect spot to look around the plantation and take some photos is not a problem at all if you are willing to take a few steps down the hill away from the others.

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The massive tea plantation is visible from the highway. Entry to the property is free of charge, but plucking of leaves is prohibited. Photo by the author.

At dinner time, we explored the city by foot, so we just walked from our hotel to the resto area. We looked for Indian restaurants – Clydie and our friends Lea and Neil were craving for naan and spicy foods. Being not a foodie myself – I had no idea what these foods are until they were served on our table. We ate at a curry house named Cameron Curry House – apparently it’s one of the famous curry house in the area and accommodates Asian and westerners.

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Exterior shot of the Indian restaurant where we tried the food in the next photo. Photo by the author.
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From top, left to right plates: Biryani rice and cheese naan with sodi (the dip). Middle plates, left to right: fish curry, chicken tandoori, and shrimp curry. Bottom plates, left to right: still cheese naan with sodi (alternative dip is susu), and Biryani rice. Photo by Clydie Pasia (IG: @clydie_pasia)

We were served nasi beriani, cheese naan with sodi and susu (condensed milk), fish curry, chicken tandoori, and shrimp curry. The food is great – especially the cheese naan dipped in sodi!  Though, I must say that no matter how many times I try eating spicy food – like the tandoori – to help my taste buds and intestines to get used to it, but it’s just not happening.

I’m open to trying out new food or cuisine, or unusual things in general. After all, I have nothing to lose to explore new tastes, right? And for me it’s the essence of travelling – to try our new things, new food, weather, earn friends, and learn along the way, and at the end learn more about yourself. Travelling is a way of – as I have posted in my recent Facebook posts –enjoying being in the moment, only mindful of what you see, what you hear, and realizing that life has so much to offer.

The following day, we visited the Lavender Garden on our way to Penang. The garden is in Brinchang area – where traffic jam was so crazy. The highway – two lanes for two way — is not enough to accommodate the surge of vehicles especially during holidays.

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Exterior of Lavender Garden, of the many flower garden in Cameron Highlands.
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Lavender from Hokkaido. Photo by the author.
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Fiery Begonia flowers. Photo by the author.

The Lavender Garden — as it is called — is a huge facility with tons of different flowers — some where imported from Hokkaido. It’s a definite must-see place for flower lovers, lovers, and family who want to see flowers of different colors and sizes, or to try strawberry and lavender flavored ice cream. Entrance fee is 10 Malaysian ringgit.

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Daisies everywhere! Photo by the author.
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Ice cream and tour at the flower garden at the same time.
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Lea (IG: @meadowonthewall), 1 of top 10 Instagrammers to follow in the Philippines spotted in Lavender Garden!
Our friend Neil who just finished eating a lavender-flavored ice cream.
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I don’t know what flower this is. Anyone knows? Photo by the author.
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Sea of Coreopsis flowers. Photo by the author.

There are other tourist attractions in Cameron Highlands that we didn’t see like some strawberry plantations and mossy forest. These are the reasons on why we should return — hopefully soon. What other attractions should we visit? Recommendations are welcome.

Malaysia is more beautiful beyond Kuala Lumpur (Blog series 1 of 3)

Ipoh Old Town, a must-see place outside Kuala Lumpur

By Jerome Balinton

Our neighbor country, Malaysia, has a lot of beautiful places to offer outside its capital city. If you are up for arts, ruins of history, temples, and a chilly weather to break free from the demands of life, stepping outside Kuala Lumpur is definitely the answer.

The long way drive we took to popular and less-known places outside Kuala Lumpur was all worth it. The destinations, the bonding with my love Clydie and our (crazy) friends Lea (@meadowonthewall) and Neil (@nneilangelique), and the hassle-free trip prepared by Malphi Travel and Tours, Co., the agency that arranged our itinerary made our trip really memorable.

Travelling to Malaysia is convenient, for as long as valid travel documents like itinerary, return ticket, and valid passport, and of course financial resources are available. Getting entry to Malaysia is easy because the Philippines has diplomatic ties with Malaysia. Being a member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Filipino nationals travelling to Malaysia can get tourist visa upon arrival which is really helpful for travelers – one factor on the boom of tourism industry in Southeast Asia region aside from the increased operations of budget carrier, such as Cebu Pacific, to these countries.

Thanks to Instagram, we knew that Malaysia is more beautiful beyond Kuala Lumpur – and our five-day tour proved it right! Big thanks also to our friend Lea (@meadownonthewall) who is one of the top 10 Instragrammers to follow in the Philippines, for finding and recommending the places that we visited.

On top of our list was the Ipoh Old Town in Perak. Located to the north of Kuala Lumpur, reaching Ipoh took us about three hours from KL by a private car.

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Reaching the old town of Ipoh takes roughly three hours; it would be good to leave KL early in the morning to have enough time touring Ipoh.

Ipoh is less-known for most Filipino travelers. Upon hearing Malaysia, top destinations in mind are the famous Petronas Tower in KL – which is majestic and beautiful – no argue with that, and the consistently-packed Penang Hill.

But, not so many people knew that there are other equally beautiful places, and worth the time and penny to visit. And Ipoh is one of those I highly recommend.

Ipoh is an old, laid-back town which is rich in history, and trade and commerce. It is distinct for its trail of century-old buildings, relaxing ambiance, shops and boutiques, and street arts. Ipoh is also known for its temples, and colonial-era castles like the Kellie’s castle. Of course, let’s not forget that being one of the cradles of civilization, Ipoh or Malaysia, in general is known for its rich cuisine – Malay, Chinese, or Indian, name it.

Ipoh is known not only for its white coffee. Ipoh also prides itself of a well-designed urban planning. It has embraced modernization to keep up with the demands of times, but invested a lot on keeping its heritage intact like in the case of a short, narrow strip called Concubine Lane.

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The marker that welcomes tourists upon entering Concubine Lane.
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This short strip was used to be home of concubines in the colonial-era.

It’s an alley of century-old, mostly Chinese buildings. These buildings were rehabilitated and now serve as different restaurants and hip boutiques and shops. The first thing I thought when I read the name ‘Concubine Lane’ on a hanging marker was that these could be the hang-out area of concubines so many years ago. And my guess was close to the real story behind the name.

I read somewhere that houses in this short, narrow strip was used to be home for the mistresses of rich merchants like the Chinese, and some elite British officers – thus, this street was called as such. And when the British returned to their country, these houses were just left standing on its old location.

Aside from the Concubine Lane, there are also other old buildings that were rehabilitated and turned to government or private buildings, or shops. We visited Plan B, a compound of restaurants and shops not so far from the Concubine Lane. Inside Plan B are ruins of old buildings – most part of the compound is already built of new structures, but you can still feel nostalgic upon seeing ruins that were integrated to new, modern buildings. We enjoyed doing crazy photoshoots using the ruins and ailing wall paints as background.

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This is one of the ruins frequented by tourists inside the famous compound of Plan B.
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This is our favorite spot inside Plan B — it is also ruins that is perfect for photoshoot. Photo by Lea Galimba (IG: @meadowonthewall)

I think I have a love affair with old buildings, or heritage in general – and it is only just now that it sunk on me. I remember writing a lot of heritage stories when I was still working as a print journalist for a national daily in the Philippines.

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Photo by Lea Galimba (IG: @meadowonthewall)

Going back to Ipoh – perhaps, I’m curious and enjoy thinking about the stories behind every building and structure, how it witnessed history unfolded, and how it became a part of history. These century-old buildings are the tangible manifestation of history – and I think investing on keeping their stories alive is worth the government and private sector’s resources. The Philippines has a lot to learn from Malaysia on keeping heritage alive in the midst of modernization.

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Photo by Lea Galimba (IG: @meadowonthewall)
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Our favorite street art in Ipoh where love of and for a mother is shown. Photo by Lea Galimba (IG: @meadowonthewall)
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Our friends Lea and Neil

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Ipoh Old Town is also known for its street arts that depict filial and romantic love, community spirit, and belief. The wall paintings are a few meters high, and clearly visible on the messages that the art is trying to convey. Every art is Instagrammable! Avid Instagrammers shall really enjoy posing and taking pictures. My favorite spot was where three paintings show a mother’s love to her children, and son’s care and love to his old mother. Malaysians are also family-oriented people.

We also visited Ling Sen Tong, a Chinese temple that was built at the foot of a stone mountain. I love seeing Chinese temples – testament of the Chinese rich belief.

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We tried to visit Kellie’s Castle – unfortunately we arrived late, that’s why we were not able to enter the premise. The site closes at around 6:00 o’clock in the evening. But the castle was visible from the highway – so we were still able to take some photos.

Kellie's castle

Next destination we visited was the Cameron Highlands – it’s my favorite. From the word itself, Cameron is located in the highlands of Malaysia. It has a chilly, truly relaxing, and laid-back weather which made it my favorite. More on this on the next blog.

We are planning to return to Malaysia to visit more places like in Ipoh. A five-day tour is really not enough.

Our trip to Malaysia would never be convenient without the assistance of Malphi Travel and Tours Co., a Malaysia-based, Filipina-owned travel and tour agency. Our trip was arranged according to our requests, according to the places that we wanted to visit. But take note also that they have standard packages available. One of the things that I really love about Malphi Travel and Tours Co., is that we were treated like a family starting on our arrival at KL and even up until now. It was never difficult to transact with them because being Filipinos we share the same culture, language, and common understanding. Thanks again, Malphi Travel and Tours, Co!

Behind the Smile

Even in the afterlife, a mother makes sure her daughter feels her love and care.

By Neil Angelique

I heard the buzz from my phone, once, twice, but I had no intention of uncurling myself from the comfort of my pillows. My head is aching. My eyes so puffed, they hated even a sliver of light. I did not know, not until now, that there will be a time in my life where the mere thought of opening my eyes from sleep will need a tremendous effort.

My phone buzzed again, and this time, thinking that it might be an emergency, I opened it. It was a message of my friend, Lea. She was asking if I can do a favor for her, no, she wasn’t asking; she was demanding. She was demanding me to write about you, Mom.  She said writing is therapeutic and that it would do me a lot of good if I can express all my pent up emotions if only in writing.

And so here I am, writing. Let be known, though, that I have no intention of telling the world things about you, or the things you went through….. or the things we went through together. It’s not because I don’t remember them because that would be a delusion, I remember everything, Mom. I remember every single thing.

You inspired me to follow my dreams. You gave me the courage to see the world and learn from my mistakes. Thank you for being so proud of me and of the person that I’ve become.

I don’t want to write about you because I fear that when the words are uttered, it may break some of the spell that binds us together; the magic and the mystery that only the two of us will understand.

But maybe my friend was right. Maybe this is therapeutic, because the moment my pen touched the smooth paper, I cannot stop. I cannot stop writing. And every memory seems to pour like the rain outside my window right now.

These past few days were very hard for me. They say that time heals all wounds, but Mom, did I ever tell you that they were lying?  Because until now, when I have accepted the fact that you’re gone, I can still feel my heart breaking. I still break down and cry during supper; when everyone’s asleep and the world seems to have a life of its own. I can still feel your presence whenever I close my eyes. I can still call your name when I’m hurting.


I was convinced that you became a butterfly because last night, when I cannot take the pain anymore, I drifted to sleep crying, crying so hard to the point of passing out, only to wake up in the middle of the night and find a butterfly on that space on my bed watching me as I sleep. I have no doubt it was you. Maybe you turned yourself into a butterfly to let me know that you were not really gone; that if I open my heart, I will find you there. I’m positive that you made sure to leave me with memories we made together, so that when I miss you, I only have to think of them to be happy again.

Remember, Mom, 4 years ago when you were diagnosed by the doctors to have a Stage 3b breast cancer? I was really shocked, I held your hand so tight, I have no doubt I was already hurting you. But then, just the kind of person that you are; you held on tight. You never, not even once, lost the spirit to fight. Thinking of that now, was it your intention to let me see how tough you were then, so that I can intimate it, now that you’re gone?

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I try to smile a lot these days, Mom. Because I know it’s what you have wanted. Because when I smile, I sometimes see you smiling too.

I love you, Mom. I love your courage, your ability to be selfless. I envy the way you make people around you at ease and comfortable. I love the fact that you left me with so much life’s lesson I am sure I will never run out of them.

And most importantly, I love that I am your daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I hope you are having a blast in heaven right now. We will surely see each other again soon, but until that time, I will try to live my life here on earth surrounded by the love you have intentionally wrapped around me.