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A Caleruega Wedding

My mom and I attended a wedding last Sunday at one of the prettiest locations south of the Metro: Caleruega in Nasugbu, Batangas. It was the wedding of the daughter of one of mom's officemates, and turned out to be a very simple but touching affair. I know it was not my first time at the venue (I vaguely remember having visited it for a retreat way back in high school), but it certainly felt like so. It was like seeing the place with a new pair of glasses - one that allowed for the sight and appreciation of love, happiness, and all the other things couples promise each other.

I guess at 23, these are things you start thinking about. I'm going to be honest: when I feel stressed, frustrated, and anxious because of school (which is like 90% of the time), one of my guilty pleasures is looking at wedding videos. My blockmate Chrissa and I secretly love getting our fill of Jason Magbanua, Bob Nicolas, Mayad Studios, and all other Bride and Breakfast approved snippets when we're wide awake at 2:00 am finishing cases for class. It's funny, because we've never been the type to ever nag our boyfriends about it. We don't bring it up with them; we don't secretly affix our boyfriends' surnames after ours in the backs of our notebooks. (Although we've tried. Haha!)  It's not even something we can foresee ourselves doing in the near future. But, it's just fun. There's something uniquely satisfying about looking at pretty dresses, with nice color schemes, held in beautiful locations, featuring lovely, happy people. It's so pleasant. It's certainly not as daunting and terrifying as law school. It's kind of like an escape. We like what we see, we appreciate the aesthetic. We feel assured that there is still love and genuine joy to be found in some pockets of the world. And then we close our laptops shut and go back to reading about dissolutions of corporations (and marriages).

So yes, I was pretty excited about it. After three years in law school, you kind of look forward to practically anything that does not completely deplete the joy from out of you. You feel enthused about throwing out all can'ts and shouldn'ts out the window. Weddings are the enemies of the cynical. It's fun to be invited to an event that makes disbelievers unwelcome.

Anyway, I didn't take that many photos because I was too caught up in the flurry of everything (I had my jaw on the floor because of how quick all the wedding shenanigans were happening; I was on a pew a few steps away from the laptop and I swear I don't remember a word from the homily because I was busy being impressed at the same-day-edit guys), but the few ones I did get turned out to be pretty decent.

This is where my post turns into another satisfactory review of my HTC Re. I'm sorry, okay, but I'm still really impressed! Granted, I have zero-photography knowledge and a skill of absolutely nil when it comes to cameras, so you shouldn't probably take this as gospel truth. But I speak no lies: Once again, I was convinced. The Re is indeed the "action camera" for the everyman (aka noob) like me.

The ceremony was held at the Transfiguration Chapel on top of the hill. What a sight.

Look at that wide-angle shot! It's like straight out of a postcard. 
It helps that the place is picturesque to begin with.

These are the steps leading down to the bottom of the hill, where the reception hall is.

Granted, the Re still has major cons, one of which is the absence of a viewfinder. (If you're not familiar with how it looks like: here.) As such, most of the shots will be made primarily out of luck and wishful thinking. That is, you'll never know how good your pictures are when you take them. To be fair, there is an app you can download that allows you to use your phone or tablet screen as the viewfinder. But it was too cumbersome for me, because it isn't compatible with my budget phone and I found my iPad too bulky. So I just threw all caution in the wind, took shots like an old-school 90s photographer who won't see the photos until after I've taken them all, and prayed for tsamba.

Since the default setting of the Re is wide-angle, most of the shots will not end up perfectly framed. (Exhibit A: the pic above.) But that's fine, and if you're not too particular about that, or you have no problems cropping it a little later, it's all kosher.

On the other side of the coin, for non-photographers who can't really be bothered with the right angles and framing, it's great because the lens just takes in everything around your subject - you can't possibly screw up a photo. You're bound to capture something pretty good. (Exhibit B1 and B2: the ones below.)

Obviously, the lack of flash lessens the image quality when you are indoors or at night. But they didn't come out as terrible. (Like I said here and here.) Perhaps some phones can take better pictures than these in the same conditions, but I'm still impressed. Again, though, I'm not a photographer, and my threshold for photo satisfaction is kinda low but I would still give these pictures a decent score and the HTC guys a slow clap. I mean, sure some pictures end up with apparent noise - but considering that it has no flash at all and at night - how can these be so bad?

I swear, the following photos are #NOFILTER. I'm telling you.

Look at how blue the sky turned out! This was taken around 7 in the evening.
I have no idea how that happened, but man, what a lovely shade of royal blue! 

Everything looked glowing. Whimsical, even. Again, reminding you that this is no filter. 
Did I tell you already how blue that sky is!? Awesomesauce.

This is not as sharp as I would have liked, but the details at the back still stood out quite nicely.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to have my picture taken with the couple, because I'm not really well acquainted with both. I was just my mom's plus-one. But it was nice being invited inside their little bubble and be made to feel like a part of their story. Eight years together, man, that's no joke. It's really impressive. I hope this is only the beginning of even greater adventures for the two of them.

Okay, so all camera-gushing aside, I really did have fun at the wedding. Sometimes I get the feeling that events like this can be kind of clique-ish, that is, when you're not particularly close with the couple, it's easy to feel out of place. But that was not the case here. The wedding was intimate and cozy, very much like the venue they chose. Caleruega is stunning. And without doubt, it lent a very authentic and sincere feel, the kind that makes you believe that love is simple and easy and uncomplicated. Of course, at 23, one knows better. But, sometimes, if you're lucky, you get to grace a wedding such as this, with the thought of one person in mind, and hope against hope, you find yourself wishing for the best.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Olalia!


Notes on Hong Kong

That's a panorama of the Harbour Bay sunset, a view of the Hong Kong Island skyline from Kowloon. A lovely picturesque sight, for this city-loving (and thriving) girl. It's easily one of my favorite photos from the hundreds I took on this trip.

I went to Hong Kong with my mom about a week ago, a much needed vacation for the two of us, a pre-requisite to the tabula rasa of sorts we were seeking after the devastation that was the first half of 2015. We went to HK to kind of run away from our sadness, but ended up coming to terms with it, and accepting it with not much of a choice. We both had great memories of Hong Kong with my aunt - my mom last met up with her there when they were both on separate trips at the same time coincidentally in 2014 (mom was with pop; Tita was with her friend), and my first time in Hong Kong, in 2003, she was initiating me to the world of shopping. So you can say that this year's trip was not one without tears or long silent pauses while sitting in the middle of a hotel lobby, imagining what she would say if she saw us moping instead of shopping.

I remember coming across something written by Alain de Botton about the art of travel back in college, for a non-fiction class. 

“The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.” 

This rings truest for this particular trip, for Hong Kong is not a new territory for both my mom and I. It's not our first time (it's my third time and I believe it is her fifth), so we went there not as wide-eyed tourists eager for the place to thrill us. For the most part, we went there for the familiarity - the comfort in knowing that we're already acquainted with the place, that we won't get lost, but that there is also a lot more to be found: places, yes, but parts of ourselves too, apparently.

They say travel is many things: challenging, mind-altering, and even a panacea for some. And indeed, Hong Kong was a huge giant pill of mefenamic acid for us, in many ways.

I saw Disneyland again after three years, and even at twenty-three I can still say that I will never, ever get tired of such a magical place. Throw stones all you want, but Walt Disney is my hero, and for every single day I choose to believe in kindness and magic and love, you can say it's all his fault. I could only dream to write stories and ignite someone's imagination as vividly as he did (and still does.) I'm a child of his stories, and being in Disneyland - well, it's like coming home. I looked forward to this part of the trip the most because it's the one place in the world I could be a kid again, and never worry about the repercussions of acting like such. 

But navigating Disneyland was the easy part; I knew it like the back of my hand. It was going to new territory or visiting ones I have long forgotten that proved challenging. Here I was, at 23, riding trains and buses whose routes I've never tried before, and finding other means of getting to destinations aside from what's written in the books or my dad's emails. I was leading my mom to places we knew through ways we've never tried. We knew what the place looked like, but will we get there? It was exciting and exhilarating.

And we did. Every single day we relied merely on maps and lucky guesses (and a bit of Google research), and we got to where we wanted with no delay and no hassle. And in less cumbersome ways too, other than those proposed to tourists. In other words, we rode and traveled like locals. This is such a big deal for us, because it's our first time to be alone on a trip, without my dad or my aunt serving as our "leaders," and yet, there we were capable of being by ourselves. Granted, it's Hong Kong, a small island with very efficient means of transportation. But victories are victories, big or small. 

It's bittersweet, in many ways. My mom and I, we're both independent. As individuals, we can function separately - we are very different people and we have our own way of doing things. But when we are together, and especially in travel, we also enjoy "deferring" to the "alphas" in our lives, especially my aunt. I've traveled with my tita more (because Papa can't always go on leave from work), and she is the most perfect travel companion because she knows how to get to anywhere from anywhere. We trust her guts; we follow her itinerary with no complaints, simply because it's easier to be the fish following ger current. And so we miss my tita telling us where to go, we miss her shaking her head when she thinks something isn't a good buy. This time, we went to Hong Kong, I guess, to accept whatever independence we now have to deal with after my tita's passing. My dad can't always go on leave from work; and my aunt's now on a... permanent vacation from life. And my mom and I now have to come to terms with the fact that travelling may now be just the two of us. It's sad, but it's also freeing, in a lot of ways. It's nostalgic, to be going back to all these places peppered by the memory of my aunt. But it's also great to be making new memories in these places. Now we can look back on Hong Kong with pictures of us, just us; places only the two of us have visited; sunsets only our eyes have seen.

It's time to make new memories, that's what I'm getting at. I'm just glad we have those to keep us together until the next one.


(The other photos, I'll post in a while! Just let me get to arranging them all in my hard drive :P )