Ayala Mall, Cebu City

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Are we going up or going down?DSC00167

The Yellow Cab Pizza”s lunch box – slice of pizza, alfredo pasta and chicken wings  less than $5.DSC00165DSC00161

“Riders In A Storm” (below)DSC00158

The outdoor Children’s Playground…what parent would not love this?DSC00155DSC00154It’s not often you will find this traveler writing about a shopping mall, but in the Philippines malls are the center of attraction for both visitors and locals alike. On the elongated island of Cebu, and in the country’s second most populated city, Cebu City hosts several shopping malls. However, Ayala Mall and its landscaped terraces in the upscale neighborhood of IT Park, Cebu City warrants a visit.

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Great restaurants, indoor and outdoor bars, fast food, slow food, movie theaters, grocery store, retail stores of shoes, purses, women’s clothing, mens clothing, watches, an attached Marriot hotel  and even a enormous children’s playground. Built on 6 levels (above/below ground) and outdoor terraces, I found it a great place to walk, relax and people watch.

Not all Filipinos can afford to shop at a mall, yet all Filipinos love an air-conditioning reprieve, open artistic landscaping, chat with friends and strangers, not to mention their love for snacking.

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Into the Woods

Out on the island of Bohol, up into the coastal mountain range, and 20 kilometers outside of Tagbilaran, is the “Manmade Maghony Woods” and the habitat for the world’s smallest primate, the Tasier. The Tasier is only 3-4 inches tall and easily fits in your palm. Bohol is the only place in the world where it is found.  I felt privileged to have witnessed this cute mammal in its own habitat.

In the 1950’s, the mahogany  trees  were planted by the Boy & Girl Scouts of the Philippines on both sides of the mountain road. They soar up towards the sky and then bend over the road for over 3 miles.  A quiet place for a hike…

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Friendly Filipino Ferries

Although the Philippines is spread across 7,000 islands, that’s right 7,000 beautiful sandbars, getting around the country is both affordable and adventurous.  The mode of transportation can be a wooden longboat with an outboard motor seriously hanging on the aft or to and from the bigger islands offers modern, high speed CATs (or catamarans). No matter the transport, you’ll find you can navigate between the islands for around $6-$10 USD one way. Cheap!  Along the way, you are sure to be treated to panoramic views, be rocked to sleep or engage with the friendly Filipino culture…perhaps even a stray foot will fall onto your lap.

Thankful on Festivus

Today begins the annual Festivus holiday, designed to air grievances, challenge each other’s raw wrestling skills, pit power against power, feast on over-cooked meatloaf and liberate oneself by erratic pole dancing. It is quite a celebration. Ha! However, this holiday has made me reflect on what I’m thankful for in this chaotic world. A world we call living…

I’m thankful for…

  1.  A sound mind and able body
  2. A good sense of humor
  3. Childhood lessons and awareness of racial inequality in the Los Angeles Unified School District
  4. Attending public schools, not segregated by race or religion – aka private schools.
  5. Food on my table each and every day
  6. My friends of all walks of life that support my wandering, show caring and tolerate my edgy, blunt observations.
  7.  All the careers along the way, which shaped my business knowledge as well as provided deeper understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.
  8. Each and every employee who diligently worked for my strategies and beliefs, enabling all of us to shine even in times of darkness. Without others, we are none.
  9. Freedom to wander about the world in search of my own selfish happiness.
  10. Each breath each morning, reminding and renewing my soul to BE THE CHANGE.

Festivus is indeed quite a celebration!

Alona Beach, Panglao

On the southwestern side of Bohol floats a small island of Panglao. Only two bridges connect it to the mainland. On this island are small treasures of Filipino life unspoiled by overcrowded tourists. In fact, the most developed beach area is frequently referred to as “Little Boracay, but without the crowds” – paying a tribute to a much larger island in the Northern Visayas, which has become a magnet for tourists. The beach  is called Alona Beach.

It boasts as a springboard for divers and snorkelers, beach bums (yours truly), and is readily painted with wooden longboats eager to host underwater enthusiasts. Along its small white sand shoreline are small cafes serving up delicious intercontinental cuisine.

I stopped for brunch at Buzz’s Cafe and was quickly greeted by friendly staff as well as local Filipinas…. who chatted endlessly with this wandering man. The coffee was served with crunchy nut ‘n honey clusters (fresh sweet honey from the local organic Bohol Honey Farms) . While the homemade fluffy waffles and crispy  bacon satisfied my hunger.

Among the palm trees, dive shops, open air bar, mango juice stands and  two-story proprietor-run hotels stood intermittently.

Along Beach, Panglao is quaint, restful and friendly place to visit.DSC00344DSC00349DSC00350DSC00351DSC00356DSC00357DSC00359DSC00360DSC00367DSC00370DSC00369

Discovering Gems

One of my daily wandering actives is, well, just wandering. Off the beaten path, away from other tourists, and into the local side streets. Here in Cebu City, Philippines, I stretched my legs one morning by walking away from Cebu’s popular Fuente Circle, and headed towards the tin roofs on the horizon.  Several blocks inside, I came across a beautiful Chinese Buddhist Temple – which discovering two temples in this city seems like a miracle, considering over 90% of the country’s population is Roman Catholic.

As I hiked towards no known destination, I reminded myself that when given a choice always follow the unbeaten path.  Over time, it’s been my experience that new, uninhibited discoveries – some beautiful, some ugly, many downright authentic – lie down these rough roads.

Triking Tagbilaran

A small seaside city on the island of Bohol attracts locals and visitors alike. Though the island is a wonder of natural wonderlust, the city itself is typical Filipino town. Both large and small “mom and Pop” stores line the street alongside makeshift kitchens and more formal restos cooking up delicious local dishes in the front of their homes.  Of course, there’s a Jollibee in every town in the Philippines. Trikes buzz around, motorconchos skirt death and old military Jeepneys carry Filipinos to and fro. I’ve always liked the rawness, hustling and the friendly, approachable Filiino lifestyle. Tagbilaran is a 90 minute ferry ride south of Cebu City via a ferry.

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The Chocolate Hills of Bohol

Out in the middle of nowhere on Bohol lies an amazing outcrop of hills – in dry season they turn brown resembling chocolate kisses. These beautiful limestone hills shoot several hundred feet high from the jungle’s grasp, and were not formed by volcanic eruption rather by the evolution of rising and falling sea levels.  It was 237 steps up to the top of one chocolate hill to get these inspiring photos.  (Double click on any photo to enlarge)

On A Healing Hill

One thousand feet above Cebu City, in the affluent and appropriately named Chinese neighborhood of Beverly Hills, lies an impressive spiritual healing temple. The Taoist Temple. Recently, I spent a few lengthy meditation sessions inside. It’s brightly colored walls spoke of the following The Path of Enlightenment. The stoic golden gilded dragons adorning the corners of the terraced rooftops encourage bold moves and self-confidence. The beautifully lush and manicured gardens throughout the hillside indicated that beauty is never far behind. Just follow the steps up, and up and up…

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I stepped off the stoned paths and onto the bamboo mats. Kneeled and surrendered to silence and thoughtfulness. In order to find the answers I needed, I had to empty my mind. Purge any preconceived ideas of judgements, and just let space be. It took several attempts, and many deep exhales, but eventually the peace “in knowing” came to be.  I knew what I must do. Several intense afternoon visits sitting in stillness and absence cured me of my anguish.

You see, inside this Buddhist temple of mindfulness, clarity is always unveiled. This temple is truly one of the treasures of Cebu City.

Who’s Protecting Who?

While holiday shopping in the Philippines, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend.  This trend involves breathing masks…everything from surgical masks to high tech pollutant-free detox gas masks.  It is quite common to see individuals donning this face wear in China, Thailand, Japan and now, the Philippines.

The fact people are wearing them in big cities with unregulated high levels of air pollution doesn’t disturb me. However, I’ve noticed more and more people donning the masks inside international airports and public transportation, and recently within the air-conditioned shopping malls of the Philippines. I understand they are trying to protect themselves from airborne illnesses (eg flu, MERS, TB etc).

I understand the fear, and the public health concern. However, the trend I’ve noticed is the removal of these masks upon the beginning of a sneezing or coughing attack BY THE PERSON WEARING THE MASK!

I witnessed this on my 90-minute ferry ride on the Bohol Sea. The woman across the aisle from me lowered her mask several times to cough and sneeze into the cabin airspace. She was perfectly at ease at sprewing her own snot and spit unrestricted by mask, tissue, handkerchief, hand or arm out into the public.  Public airspace is not your dumping ground.

Twenty-four hours later, I have been brought down by the flu virus. It made me realize the exposure we face from those with masks, but using them as they selfishly see fit.