Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This is Where it All Started

I am Karen Raagas. 26 years old who recently found my penchant for travelling and taking photos while on it. Now, I decided to write them down.I do not claim to be a travel guru nor a photographer. I travel as such as my meager call center salary could take me and I own a Canon 1000d DSLR and use it. That's just about it. This is a story of how WanderGirl came to be.

When I was a kid, the farthest I have been to was Baguio . During this trip too, we passed by Manaoag church in Pangasinan as it was believed to be very miraculous. I developed this fear of statues and big religious pieces that I went back to the jeep that we were riding. Mama coerced me for several minutes to come down but no amount of her words persuaded me. She stopped bugging me when Aling Anching (our neighbor) asked her to just allow me to stay in the jeepney. That was my first genuine chill-- without opening the refrigerator. We didn't have A/C back then. I had my first and last horseback ride. I wasn't sure if that was my first strawberry experience too.

In Manila , Taft Ave and Binondo are districts in Manila that are almost impossible for me to get lost. On the 15th and 30th of each month,to get Papa's Salary, Mama and I would ride the ferry in Pasig and get off at the Escolta Station or ride the Guadalupe-L.Guinto jeeps then Divisoria bound-jeeps to get to the China Bank Main Branch in Binondo where Papa worked as a security guard. Sometimes, when there's no one to look after me at night, I would tag along and sleep in the bank's benches at night. I would write on the deposit slips and go over different types of old school typewriters. That's where I learned how to type. CBC, I'm so sorry about this. While you can no longer fire Papa (since he doesn't work
with you now), I hope it's comforting to know that I now bank with Chinabank.

I grew up having weekends in Luneta, marvelled at how stiff the guardiyas in Rizal's Monument for being able to stay stationary for a looooong period of time; played at the stinky Children's Playground where I also caught "isdang kanal" or guppies which I brought home to be my pets; I dove, believe it or not, in Manila Bay-- and rode the bicycles in CCP Grounds. That's also when i started my blossoming emo self,
watching the sunset along Roxas Blvd.

On weekends, starting when I was in grade 2, Mama would bring me along to New york (Cubao), where she worked as a caregiver. From Estrella on a bus, Mama would always ask me to sleep on her lap, always telling, "malayo pa ang byahe", even if I just came from siesta. We would pass by Camp Aguinaldo and would tell me, "jan, sa mga bilog bilog na yan (referring to the walls of CAmp A) nakatira yung mga sundalo,sa loob niyan.", of which I took seriously and quite literally, that I thought soldiers and their families would turn to small beings and would slip through the ball-like concretes on the wall when they are ready to retire at the end of the day.

The morning after Mama's work, we'd wait for Uniwide Sales to open up. If not, we'll sit by the sidewalks of now the Gateway mall, waiting for National Bookstore Superbranch to open. Then I'd start hoarding magic pencils and pretty intoxicating erasers which I would brag later on to my classmates.

In grade school, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to go to field trips-- in Cavite, Laguna, Tagaytay, Subic etc. I queued up with my Coleman to get free coke in their plant, drank Yakult to my heart's content, and understood the meaning behind, "field trip sa may pagawaan ng lapis, ay katulad ng buhay
natin, isang mahabang pila--mabagal at walang katuturan". But everything was magic to me at that time. Even the disapointing papier mache tigers in Malabon Zoo.

Imagine the night before the field trip when you can't sleep and every now and then would check on the "baunan" to see if all the chichirya were already packed by Mama. And surprisingly, no matter how late I have slept, I managed to wake up in just one "Anak, gising na..."

I was allowed to go to every girl scouts encampment-- in Camp CRG (Concepcion R Gonzales) in Novaliches, Ating Tahanan in Baguio, and later on in high school, MYVPRTC (Marina Yulo Vargas Program and Training Center ) in Cebu. I was always the best Patrol Leader. (naks)

In high school, I was able to join the only field trip that year in National Teachers College-- in the now defunct Expo Filipino in Clark, which used to boast the biggest Amphitheater in Asia. Now, everyone says, "saan yun?". It was by the way, constructed as one of FVR's project for the Centenary of the
Philippine Independence.

My high school, The National Teachers College was in Quiapo and among the schools of probably the biggest University Belt in the country. In the afternoon, when the students of these campuses would be dismissed, Recto and Legarda would be a tapestry of colors-- blue checks for NTC, Navy Blue for La
Consolacion, Brown and yellow for San Sebastian, Green Checks for FEU, Pink for AvanceƱa, Brown and Red for Siena, Maroon for Arellano, Quiapo Parochial, and NU; White and Pink for CEU, Red and Beige for UE, Blue and White for St. Rita. I don't know the rest--TIP, San Beda, College of the HOly Spirit, etc.

I would ride the FX service from Echague to Guadalupe and while waiting for the vehicle to be filled with
passengers, I was witness to a number of snatching and even shooting incidents in Quiapo. Pirated DVDs were not yet the thing back then, so we only had fake shoes and bags, clothes of different sorts lining up the streets of Carriedo and Avenida. The Quiapo Church is surrounded with vendors selling concoctions of varying "Pam-"suffixes-- the more famous was the "Pamparegla".

When I transferred to Biliran, rides became a bit bumpy because of uncemented roads. But those were what added to the excitement of riding a habal-habal. My high school trips were 4 hour drives to Tacloban, Tongonan, Ormoc, Basey Samar. etc. I saw how the Tongonan Hydrothermal Powerplant Works, crossed San Juanico Bridge, Mc Dougie's Leyte Landing Monument in Palo, and marvelled at how clean Ormoc City is.

Back in college, in UP Tacloban, I had a privilege of travelling to the nearby provinces of the Eastern Visayas because of my job at the University Student Council. That's also how I learned to understand and speak (a bit) of the major languages in the region. Cebuano, as an example, is a widely used language in this country. Only the people of the island of Luzon are not, by roots, speaking it. My mother's mother tongue is Waray by the way.

I relied on my allowances and donations from the relations (relatives) for me to be able to go. Cebu was my most favorite and frequently visited place in the Visayas. My tiya who has a weekly Masters class in UV would tag me along. While she was having classes in Colon, I was in SM City Cebu or in Ayala Center Cebu watching all the films I can. :)

I was elected Consul General/Vice Chair for the UP Visayas SC so my post's perk is to travel to Iloilo every now and then. that's when I got to visit Miagao taste batchoy and to die for Revel bars and listen to their distinct accent only a true Ilonggo could do.

I visited Davao during a National Convention of the Councils in UP. Swam in the waters of Samal Island and met durian for the first time.

Then there's the Humanities annual field trip to Iloilo with a side trip in Boracay. But as it turns out, nobody paid attention to the Churches and other public and private Art Museums. Everyone was actually just thinking about Boracay. That was my first white sand experience.

Then I went back to Manila after college to find a job. My thing for travelling didn't start immediately because I didn't have enough money for me to. Although when I started to find my would be "family", that is the Transition Team, that when I started roaming around the Metro and nearby provinces in Luzon.

That's how I started. I may be writing from my memory from time to time, and definitely I would write about the new things I have experienced, share it and hope that others may learn or draw something from.

I am WanderGirl. And these are my life's journeys.

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