A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Raindrop


A fish’s view of the rain…  Raindrops viewed from underwater as they fall down onto the surface.

This week’s challenge reminded me on the rainy season in the Philippines.  Here in Nepal, we have a rainy season here which is not without its dangers like mudslides and flooding, but Nepal’s downpours don’t really compare to the tropics.  Heavy rain, raging tropical storms, hurricanes…the Philippines has it all.

Jamaica has a rainy season, too.  I wonder how our next post will compare?

Travel Theme: Above Manila and Kathmandu

Every time I fly, its so tempting to take pictures out of the aircraft window, even though I know those pictures won’t be very good. I know I’m not alone as I see so many others whip out their phones and snap away through the glass. I guess we are just trying in some way to capture the extraordinary perspective that flying gives us, so my photo folders are full of not-so-great pictures of life from the air that never get used, but I can’t quite bring myself to delete them either. This challenge of “Above” inspired me to try a post on just this theme to see if, as a collection, the aircraft snaps take on a more interesting story of their own. Let’s see how it goes:

Aerial view of Manila

Manila from the sky. Its such a huge sprawling city. Because we hated to get stuck in Manila traffic, we kept driving around the city to a minimum. The aerial shots always gave me a reminder of how massive the city really was.


After flying over the sprawl of Manila for quite some time, you come Manila Bay.  It is an island after all.

Manila fish farms

Offshore are the fish farms that feed the 16 million+ of the city. They are huge and sprawling too, and quite a different reality from the romantic notion of freshly caught island fish.


Manila Bay fish farms

Hundreds and hundreds of fish farms

Aerial view of Kathmandu

Kathmandu from the air. Unlike Manila, the city is quite small. There’s very little development once you get outside the ring road. (This is changing fast though.) The city appears as a patch of red — from all the brick construction – surrounded by green and smaller cities close by. Eventually, of course, they will all merge.


Aerial view of Kathmandu

Just a short way outside of Kathmandu air space, flying over trees and hills, before we approach the mountainous areas.

View of Annapurnas

And of course, there’s the mountains. The first time I saw this kind of view my nose was pinned to the glass. After flying it 20+ times, its still magnificent, but I’m not so disappointed now if its cloudy.



Aerial view of Kathmandu valley

I like this shot because it really shows how Kathmandu is in a valley. Taken just as the plane lifted from the ground.

Aerial view of Kathmandu valley

The scattered outreaches of the Kathmandu valley. One day — not very far away — all the green rice fields will be gone, and the sprawl will be continuous, just like Manila

Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

Rappelling down a boulder with a rope.  The only caving "convenience" on offer during the whole caving experience.

Rappelling down a boulder with a rope. The only caving “convenience” on offer during the whole caving experience.

In the northern part of Luzon island in the Philippines is Sagada in the Mountain province. The town attracts a small amount of adventure tourism, including caving.   I had never done anything like it before. We were inside an underground cave for approximately 2 hours and descended about 200 metres.  What made this cave experience unlike any other was that it was left completely natural inside. No gravel path ways, signs, concrete steps or taped music.  And no lighting….save a kerosene lamp.  Just slippery limestone and marble pathways that needed bare feet to travel safely, lots of bats, even more bat shit, and the darkness!  Truly a descent into the unknown.  For the full story see my earlier post, Caving in Sagada.


See other entries for this weeks photo challenge here.




A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Traditional




I’m spoiled for choice with this week’s word “Traditional“, as tradition reigns in Nepal. But I think I’ll go for something Filipino to ring the changes… These adorable kids from a local school were doing the traditional hat and stick dance at our Embassy welcome party, and they lit up the room!

For the original story see Community Welcome Party.


tondo 023

One of the most amazing memories of my time in the Philippines was the attitude of Filipinos, especially those that had little but somehow managed to be happy despite all the hardships. These two kids were having fun, playing chase in the mud and puddles in Tondo–a garbage dump city on the outskirts of Manila–shortly after a major hurricane had passed through. Somehow they had fun anyway.

The visit to Tondo was eye opening and heartbreaking.  Here’s the full story.



This post participated in A Word in Your Ear’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

Final Glimpses of the City

Time to add the closing bracket on our experience of Fort Bonifacio.  From our initial First Glimpses of the City much has changed since the first few months of stepping precariously across empty wasteland plots.  However, in recent months the view of our kitchen window has changed little compared to other areas of the Fort. Documenting further progress involving going up to the roof on the 55th floor of our skyscraper. I put this off until the last day. The vertigo feeling is both scary and exhilarating, but mostly scary. Especially alone. But eventually… up I went.

Here is the view from our roof over the window-blocking new building:

It reveals more vacant grass patches, but not so many anymore. Every patch is really just the footprint of buildings to come.


Yes, that’s SM Aura in the background. Although the shopping center and cinemas are open, you can see the continuing construction on the tower as the offices are not completed yet. Here’s a close up of Aura, in striking contrast to the older, poorer district immediately behind it:


Lastly, the last patch of green grass – that WAS planted lawn not wasteland – that used to be our easy access into the center of Fort Bonifacio by foot – is now well on its way to becoming a car park. And that is sad. For me that was the nail in the coffin of my disenchantment in living here. Between the growing traffic, blocked sidewalks, noise, dust and pedestrian hostility, I have reached my proverbial shit limit on the construction story that I have tried to embrace whilst I lived amongst it. Perhaps its just human nature that when we know we need to make a separation from something the protective walls come down and we allow the negative in to help push us away. Or maybe I’m just sick of people trying to run me over!


Robert’s Farewell Party

How do you say goodbye to a large staff of almost 100 who have worked together as a team for over two years? With a big, slap up barbeque and video karaoke party of course!


Carpenters, painters, drivers and technicians getting ready for the big feast


Corn and fried tofu on its way


Smoking us out with bbq chicken


More food appeared from all over …along with more hungry guys


Part of the great team that is FM Manila. We will miss you guys!

And no goodbye party is complete without a tribute video.  With apologies to Psy!

OK Kids. Time to Put Everything Back in the Box….


Men at Work

Its surprising just how noisy 8 guys with tape guns can be.   The clunking, scraping and stretching sounds rip across the room like fervent roadscrapers, manically shoveling paths through snow.  A kind of Stockhausen-esque aleatoric composition with its own cacophonic melody.  Concerto for Tape Dispenser in G minor.    I could barely hear myself think above the din.

Drowning in stuff!

Drowning in stuff!

The more soft furnishings that disappeared, the more it echoed.  It took two days to put everything we own “back in the box”…some of it literally and some of it figuratively… and a third day to get it out of the apartment and out of our lives.  At least for a while.


As if enough wasn’t going on already, the window cleaning platform showed up. For the first time in two years they cleaned the windows properly. Great timing!


And then the boxes started to disappear

We are packed out and sort of back to square one with our home space, except now we aren’t  expectantly looking around imagining how the space with develop around us, we are remembering our lives in that space and in all of the things we did in the Philippines.





I never in my life thought of living in the Philippines.  Its just not on most people’s maps or bucket lists (unless they’re Filipino of course).  It has been both surprising, fascinating, frustrating, ugly and beautiful.  Its hard to even remember my impressions and expectations when I first arrived, and yet when I glance back at my own blog from the first few days, I really feel the extent of 2.5 years here, everything we explored, loved and hated about living here.  Despite the frustrations with traffic and food quality, it has been largely a very positive experience that I am so glad to have had the opportunity to experience.  It my own small way I feel ownership for the land, people and language.  Made in The Philippines will forever mean something more to me.

I doubt we will have the opportunity to return.  We have so many competing places and relationships elsewhere and only limited time to visit, but who knows?  Maybe one day?  I know that even five years from now it will be a very different place.


This post participated in the Daily Prompt’s Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move


A Last Look Around


I tried very hard to get us all away for Memorial Day weekend.  But there were just too many obstacles and in retrospect, although it was boring being stuck in the apartment, staying home really turned out to be the responsible thing to do.  But I wanted to take one more trip to see this country that is so much more than Manila, but so hard for us to schedule time to explore.  There’s so much I haven’t seen and wanted to:  Batanes, Bagio, Bohol… and the questions were:  With one more trip possibility left where would we go? Did we want to try to cross off from the wish list, or did we want to revisit something that we loved?  This question made me stop and think about all the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had over the past two years to explore the Philippines, but that recap really is a post for another day.  The bottom line is I wanted to be out in the Filipino countryside, away from the city, away from tourist traps and all the hyperbole surrounding them.  I really just wanted to go for a walk somewhere pretty.

Going for a walk in the Philippines isn’t always that easy.  In Manila I haven’t enjoyed walking city blocks.  The lights are out on every other corner, and even when they work the drivers pay no attention to pedestrian rights.  You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, which is not very relaxing to say the least.

We’ve had amazing hiking adventures here…some of my best memories.  But its not easy… not really a simple walk in the countryside…. and has usually involved a guide. Its hard to be a female foreigner walking around in small rural villages.  I end up feeling either vulnerable or voyeuristic.  But there was one place that I remember feeling very comfortable walking around and we never got to explore nearly enough – a pretty coastal stretch on Negros, near Dumaguete, where I was a Hammock Potato six months ago.  Now that was real countryside and walking territory without obstacles or issues, with a beautiful view and peace and quiet.  So it was decided that our last look around would be the familiar – Dumaguete and its peaceful cliffs and a little hammock swinging for good measure.  Here are some sights of the Filipino countryside that I will really miss.  I doubt we will have a chance to see them again:

Filipino Countryside

Starting off along the low grassy cliffs

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Past spiky "house plants" gone mad!

Past spiky “house plants” gone mad

With bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees

and bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees.

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows.

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows

Who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

 and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle

and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle