MoCo Museum: Banksy Laugh Now

His face may not be known to the public but his work has spoken volumes. Graffiti Artist Banksy first emerged into the underground scene in the late 90s with his unconventional stencil work painted all over London and Bristol. In 2010, he joined the likes of Barack Obama and Lady Gaga in Time’s 100 most influential people despite his anonymity.

Banksy uses political satire and humor as a basis for his craft. He allowed his work to be the voice rather than having to explain himself to the world. And though we may never know the man behind the canvas, the mystery beneath only draws us closer to his art.

The MoCo Museum, located in the heart of Amsterdam, has a permanent display of Banksy’s work over the years as well as temporary expositions of other contemporary artists.

 

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Dank Je, Amsterdam!

In the opening chapter of this journey of mine, I, the protagonist had one fear and that was making friends. Despite my somewhat extrovert personality, this anxiety clouded my judgment. Only to realize I was a fool to even fear this once I had moved.

In the 9 months since I left Manila, I had countless experiences of meeting pure souls along the way who all taught me a lesson or two on love and life. One, in particular, happened in the city of Sin.

It wasn’t anything romantic or cheesy at all. It was just two strangers who oddly enough had never crossed paths in the past despite our similar circumstances and having mutual friends back home.

The moment we met at the hostel, it was if we knew each other. No awkward hellos only endless conversations on anything and everything under the sun.  It also felt good to have someone who has the same humor as I do.

Though I didn’t take much from the city’s history or culture and I might have even missed a few of the city’s main attraction, I felt a sense of relief strolling around Amsterdam with this stranger who I now can call a friend.

If you know me well enough, you know I believe that friends come into our lives either for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And it’s only after a passage of time do you realize what that person has meant to you.

I can’t thank the stars enough. It’s not just the wonders of the world that take my breath away anymore, it’s those pure souls and genuine hearts that make me appreciate each city and country even more.

Goodbyes are never easy but lucky for me we both got Manila to call home and come back to. Till then Amsterdam, Dank Je (Thank you!) you made me fall in love with life’s unexpectedness once again.

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Basque-ing in all its Glory: San Sebastian

San Sebastian or Donostia sits on the Bay of Biscay, part of the Basque Region of Spain. Well famous for its golden sand beaches that stretch from end to end and dubbed as Spain’s culinary capital having the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world. I wish I had my family with me to experience this exceptional culinary cuisine, but it just gives me another reason to bring them here in the near future.

Friends and peers who have lived and visited the city all gave me their personal recommendations plus a few more from the experts. The result, a long list of all the must-try in town and the subject of most of my photos.

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Though most would visit San Sebastian for a day trip (only a 12 euro roundtrip bus ticket from Bilbao), I suggest staying for at least two more days if you truly want to enlighten your palette.

Mornings would be spent in one of the three beaches, soaking up the sun that was gone for 5 months (at least on this side of the world) with a bowl of Açai, Cafe Con Leche to wake me up and catching up on a month’s worth of “The Newyorker” issues that have been laying around my apartment these past weeks.

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Lunch is where the adventure begins. I do make a habit to pre-plan where I hunt for the best pintxos in town the night before and make the hop as strategic as possible. If a bike ride is necessary, so be it. It is also the best way to see the city from inside out. The bike trails are convenient, easy to navigate and safe. Also, an interesting way to meet people along the way, plus its only 7 euros for a half day.

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The sun doesn’t set till 9 pm. The days are long enough to see much of the city’s main attraction. But just before dinner, I make it a point to change out of my swimwear and dress comfortably for a long night of conversation with strangers that have come from across the globe to devour Pintxo after Pintxo (local Tapas) and enjoy the local sparkling white wine Txacoli.

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The tropical girl in me felt rejuvenated after three days worth of being a beach bum.

Photo Diary:

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Basque-ing in all its Glory: Bilbao

Choosing Bilbao and San Sebastian to spend my Spring break was exactly what I needed: a change of pace, a warmer weather, the beach and loads of delicious food. But I was surprised to embrace the more rebellious culture this side of Spain has to offer. I fell in love with Bilbao the moment I first stepped foot into this beautiful Basque country. It was oozing of vibrant energy, not what I remembered from the Spain I first met 6 years ago. Not that I didn’t love it the first time around.

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I came in with little knowledge of their history and culture, and the longer I stayed, the more I “un-learned” and learned about the vast disconnect of the Basque country to central Spain. They had a culture of their own and a language unique to the Basque region called Euskara.

I was obsessed with the streets of Bilbao, indulging in all sorts of art at every corner. There’s even a graffiti tour available, but even if you opt not to join, just simply get lost and take a hike outside the city center to see the masterful facades.

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When most of the establishments close for an afternoon siesta, I found myself strolling along the park with the rest of Bilbao. Basketball courts turned into a makeshift dancefloor, young clads show off their latest tricks at the skatepark and children on the streets playing good old football.

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Fortunately, I had two old friends whom I’ve met in different parts of my life living in the city. We sat on the ledge, overlooking the Nervion River and enjoyed a few of their local drinks before dancing the night way to Reggaetón music. We all shared stories of how life has been like living away from home and finding ourselves away from our comfort zones.

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Prior to any trip, I always make it a point to catch a local production or at least any show that is currently on tour whether it be in theatre, dance or music. Lucky for me, one of my all-time favorite bands was in town. However, I was still unsure whether it was practical to see the same concert twice in a span of a month. (I first saw them in Paris exactly a month before). But I did it anyway.

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Jared Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars

I can’t say that this was the highlight of my trip, but it definitely sits on top of the list. The venue was a lot smaller, a capacity of only 3500 people. For a band like theirs with such critical fame and success, how often do you get a chance to experience such an intimate setting? The band toured 3 cities in Spain: Madrid the capital then on off to Cataclan’s Barcelona before concluding in Bilbao.

Spain will always have a special place in my heart, maybe it’s my heritage or ancestry rooted in this culture or simply because this was the first country I traveled to alone when I was 16 where I have profound coming-of-age memories.

Photo Diary:

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Iceland, the land of Fire & Ice 

There’s something quite humbling being one with nature. In my five days in Iceland, I was left with more than just two memory cards filled with scenic photographs but rather an indescribable sense of awe and appreciation for our world. With all the BS aside, I now understand the hype of this country and why it should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list.

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We flew in from Paris to Reyjavick and enjoyed a night out at the city center. A quaint town, with polychromatic painted houses that go uphill to the Hallgrímskirkja church.

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The day after, we headed south of the country’s capital to the town of Hella in search of the northern lights. Our cozy cabins were strategically positioned to have the best view of the clear pitch black sky. Its always best to get further out of the city, where there are minimal light and pollution. It took an all-nighter stake out under freezing temperatures to catch the Aurora Borealis dancing through the constellations. Oh, what a testament to one’s patience it was but worth all the shiver and time.
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The forecasts were relatively in our favor but mother nature is unpredictable. For our second night, unfortunately, the sky was quiet. Our bodies gave in and we all called it a night.
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The 5km glacier hike was a reality check of the disheartening truth of climate change. Before we even began our trek up, we stood by a lagoon that only recently formed due to the melting glacier.The hike lasted for a total of three hours. We had crampons clamped to the sole of our shoes, a trusty harness in case of an emergency and a pickaxe to keep us upright throughout the hike. There’s no distinct path and the route can change day by day. Sometimes the guides will have to create a path along the way to help the climbers in steep areas.
The brown ground situated on top of the ice (as seen in the photo below) isn’t dirt or soil but rather remnants of volcanic ash. Iceland still has numerous active volcanos that erupt roughly at least every five years. Most notably the Mt. Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 that caused havoc due to the cancellation of flights in major European cities.
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As we reach further to the top, the sun was at its highest. We were sweating instead of freezing. We couldn’t help but deviate from the single file line to take in the moment. How often do you get a chance to hike up a glacier?
I consider this trip as a sequel to our first Game of Thrones adventure in Croatia last year. (Unfortunately, I only started writing about my trips this year).  After seeing King’s Landing first hand, we set off to go Beyond the Wall.
Another interesting location was the Pingvellir Park where the Vale scene was shot. If you’re not geeking out like we were, don’t fret, the view was still as breathtaking. In between the end of winter and the start of Spring, all caught in one photo.
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Food will and always be part of the adventure. With the country’s harsh weather conditions, crops were not always part of their staple meal. But they do have a lot of protein, specifically seafood. I loved having the “fresh catch of the day” meal on a daily basis. But I opted for the lamb whenever it was available. (My all-time favorite viand). The only downside is how costly the food can be. Especially for a family with large appetites like mine.

 

 

Everyone says that Iceland is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but I’ll be definitely returning to this country. Maybe next time it will be just in time for Summer.
Photo Diary:
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Un Printemp Aux Philippines

I’ve encircled the date 21st of March with a red marker on my calendar and added a little flower on the side to mark the first day of Spring. The tropical girl in me was eagerly awaiting for double-digit weather and sunny days.  Though we’re probably still weeks away from the spring bloom, I had a taste of it at Agence Le Bon Mot’s Pop-up event “Un Printemps Aux Philippines”.

IMG_1702It felt good to be home. I was surrounded by my fellow kababayans (countrymen), engrossed in deep conversations where the Filipino language could be heard from across the room. The event quickly turned into a mini soiree where they served a splash of Don Papa rum mixed with ginger Beer together with the Filipino spring roll Lumpia and our very own take on the Chinese dumpling  Siomai. 

The event took place at the small decor and accessories concept store “Storie” situated at the 14eme arrondissement. The curated selection from Aranaz, Beatriz, Buntal, Ethnique, Filip + Inna, Natalya Lagdameo, Otsirave and Zarah Juan will be available for sale until the 2nd of April

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Paris in White

Imagine my excitement when I awoke to this city all dressed in white. Although the howling gales kept me up all night, I couldn’t be more thrilled to brave the below freezing weather with my trusty camera on hand and capture this ephemeral moment. This was recorded to be the highest snowfall since 1987. I have always lived in tropical weather so anytime I get a chance to play in the snow I am going to take it.

 

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