TAOYUAN, Taiwan — An old woman and two suitcases have become the great divide between impatience and emptiness. Confused and frazzled, the petite lady unintentionally blocks the aisle to the Economy Class of that KLM flight to Amsterdam. The pressure from the growing line isn’t helping. She doesn’t know where to put the bags. The man…

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ZHANGJIAJIE, China — He looks at my passport, and I know something is not right. The bank teller stares at my currency exchange form and gives me a look I can’t decipher. My stay in Zhangjiajie is ending, and I need some yuan to catch the last train out. His fingers tap the desk anxiously,…

Train Scene Lizhou

Noodle Soup for the Soul

LIUZHOU, China — The train from Liuzhou to Guilin was packed that Saturday afternoon. I was pushed to endure the two-hour ride standing at the space in between cars — by the toilet, next to the garbage bin, beside the smoking area — with the other passengers who booked a ticket too late. I shared…


Five-Hour Connections*

MALACCA, Malaysia — We stepped out to the garden almost at the same time. And almost at the same time we placed a bottle of softdrink on separate tables. “Would you mind if I smoked?” I asked politely. “Absolutely not, I’m here for the same reason,” he smiled and introduced himself. His name is Aurelian,…

The Kind that Makes You Forget


SIEM REAP, Cambodia — I do not remember just how many mugs of beer I have emptied into my belly but I am sure I’m not stopping any time soon. I dive into the mob, get lost in the pumping music, and vanish under the phosphorescent lights that move as if trying to put me…

Lights and Sound Show Corregidor

Twice I Heard Death

I was 10 when I heard it for the very first time. No one would look after me at home so my mother brought me along with her across the street to a neighbor’s. My mom offered a crying shoulder and a helping hand to the family. As she did some chores in our neighbor’s…


The Man Who Lost an Ear

When he wakes up that balmy morning, he fears he lost a part of him the night before but he is not sure what exactly. All he knows is that there was big mob, there was a screaming tune, there were drinks – potent cocktails of various colors – and they were overflowing, there were…

Forest Trail

Godless Course

BATANGAS, Philippines — Every Friday she came to our school, a public school, and taught the Catholic ways to pupils whose families shared the same faith. The non-Catholic kids would then move out of the room and play outside. The catechist, as our teacher would call her, always began her lesson with a story. All…

Nagsasa Cove

Ashen Uncertainties

ZAMBALES, Philippines — “Summer is coming.” His excitement equalled the dread the Starks felt toward winter. Randy, our boatman for the day, looked forward to the peak of the dry season, which was sure to bring hordes of tourists to the shores of Pundaquit, Zambales. He would wait a couple more months. February had just started.