Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

The Outliers

Heading up the green highlands we toyed with the notion of moving. From our secret spot behind the brush, an island within one, close to the beach, to the ranges not too far from the late president Magsaysay’s C-47 plane crash site at 1,003 meters above sea level.

At around twenty kilometers from the city, going up, thatched houses along the circuitous road sold fruits and vegetables displayed on bamboo tables, where travelers occasionally stopped by to purchase the rich produce of the mountains. On these same tables, in the afternoon, on a good day where there is none left to display you’d likely find someone lying down on it, blanketed by the shadows of trees, enjoying his time for the rest of the day.

It was a grand sight, from the roof deck of the first café we stopped by for lunch.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Zip line area at Adventure Cafe.

“I would really love to live here, and why not?” Mark asked. It’s a sparsely populated town and it gets real cold when the evening is nigh. We thought about living a simple life in a house like the El Camino, close to the cliff, that’s sheltered with Pine trees around it.

Mark dreams of working on his articles by the fireplace, and outside the window one sees the mountains looking down a steep valley thickly covered with foliage that runs toward the edge of the sea. And the sky looked so grand from our dining table, as I finished up my share of the Pochero, nibbling on soused corn.

We love our life in the island, and living close to the skies could be a great idea too, one foolish thought a couple like us would be attracted to. It’s a perfect place to paint, and we’d still be outliers, living in a house that’d appear floating on a cloud at dawn.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Exploring the town of Balamban.

I walked by the side of the road lined with tall and slender Pines. Mark took pictures of me from the other side, while he kept saying how lovely the day was for poor people like us. We’re poor enough to learn to truly appreciate the food on our table, to spend evenings together watching movies at home instead of being out in a doggoned corporate meeting, to be walking on a beautiful day with our Chucks soiled instead of riding a fancy automobile, to be stopping by a quaint café in the middle of nowhere in the mountains to buy a soft drink, instead of having a waiter come to us for room service in a fancy hotel, or something like that.

It’s a humble and noble life, he likes to say.

As soon as we reached the entry to a colorful hanging bridge I read the sign board that said, “No running, no playing, no jumping.”

It was the perfect cue for Mark to go running, playing, and jumping. Of course, much to my distress.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Colorful hanging bridge connecting the hills.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Enjoying the view.

We rode a cable car that crossed above treetops, and mid-way to the next station we saw how the hillsides graded deeper to hundreds of feet below. It was a vast country all right, and far out to our left was Toledo, direct on our line of sight was a large shipyard, and the blue sea, and the city of San Carlos.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Cable ride.

In the afternoon when the sun was about to set, and us, now, going uphill we saw how the faraway land had been transformed into gold. It’s how El Dorado would’ve looked by the Amazon River, not just gilded but also fully converted into one magical city of gold, I supposed, and it was afloat, suspended in the cloudy sky where the largest ships glided out with the wind and the force of our imagination.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Pathway to the cable car.


Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

ClairelyHappy: Islander’s life with a twist

We had planned on taking a week off work to roam places across the Visayas region both by land and sea, envisioning a final stop at Bohol after a short visit in Kalanggaman sandbar, but instead found ourselves unexpectedly stuck for a fortnight in Bounty Island, now known as Malapascua.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Pump Boat going to Malpascua Island, Cebu City Philippines

We had our prior inter-island commitments cancelled, including a dive at the Monad Shoal, where thresher sharks and manta rays are regularly sighted. We were way off target, a week over our budget, and woke hungry.

The sound of the pounding of the shore instantly flooded our ears, the wind blowing past the light green curtains- blowing it hard as if caped behind an invisible super hero. Below the hotel an orderly had trouble lighting a match to start a fire. The second staff watched him closely, amused. I stood on our porch in my nightgown and heard a long whistle.

On the settee was a bird lying on one side, stiff, with lifeless eyes glaring. The gale must have collided her against the window, killing it in an instant, even with the typhoon exiting the archipelago. The whistle. It reminded me of Bruce Lee’s shrill.

We were running very low on cash. Prior to Malapascua, we traveled to Bantayan Island first and stayed at the Beach Placid. We were the only guests there, so its charm was accentuated in our isolation. Outside our shack was a hammock. Straight ahead is a perfect panoramic view of the ocean, where there was practically no one around, save for a few staffs.

Phoro Credits: clairelyhappy

With Mark at Beach Placid, Bantayan Island Cebu City Philippines

The past days we’ve dined in the cheapest diners in Malapascua island, got tipsy on the shore, and sometimes skipped meals. There was no way of drawing cash anywhere, except yonder the rough seas, but the cost guard had called off all trips to and fro for days now.

We lolled along the white beach in the morning. My knees were a bit sore from the climb to the grand lighthouse atop the mounds, across the thick, thorny brush. But the sand was so fine it encouraged us to walk onward and take in the view.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Shore at Bantayan Island, Cebu City Philippines

I love how the locals have balanced their business with the environment. We walked past some bars with colored bin bag chairs by the foreshore, ordered drinks at the Ocean Vida & Dive Resort that sold them at half the price during Happy Hour. It’s only one of two establishments there that accepted our cards, and so we practically sat there each day we were there for food and drinks.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Daquiri Cocktail at Ocean Vida Beach Bar, Malapascua Island Cebu City Philippines

We were now getting used to our sunburns. A dog had befriended us, and we sat by the shore, staring at the mainland, thirsty. The sun shone brightly.

“It’s a beautiful day to be alive,” Mark said. “The fun at the outset, now, the inconvenience, the longing, the sun teasing up above, and for some reason this dog keeps following us. Life is strange, I swear.”

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Stroll along the beach with my friend Doggy.

With our pockets practically empty we revisited Angelina’s Pizzeria Restorante Italiano, the same restaurant we had dined in for the past couple of days, and charged our favorite seafood pasta. It’s settled at the back of the island, by the alcove, safe and beautiful under the shade.

Are you ready to face the storm today? I asked.

“You mean the monsoon? Typhoon is past us now.” Mark replied.

“The current is just as strong today. It’s making me nervous. You know I can’t swim. I heard the Coast Guard has approved our trip, but I wish we could stay one more night. Let the weather mellow.”

“But we don’t have the money to pay for our hotel. I’d gladly box anyone for money, if I could. The weather has teased me enough to make me want to hit something so hard.”

“There you go again about life and boxing. OK we’re going.”

Embarking on the big pump-boat to Maya we only had enough with us to pay for our trip back to the mainland, and for our fare down to the metropolis. No sooner than we left the beautiful island of Malapascua did the boat started to pitch from side to side, fighting the brewing current.

On the trip with us were Korean tourists, grouped together at the back, ensured with life jackets ‘cause they must have paid the tour guides extra. It made me sick to the stomach, and poor as a local tourist can be.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Korean tourists.

The waves were coming in stronger, crashing at odd angles. My senses were heightened, that I could hear every creaking sound the wooden boat made, and my legs were stretched against a middle fixture, as if trying to keep it from breaking down. Mark was smiling like the devil, telling me to relax, but the Koreans were panicking too, shrieking every time we nosedived.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Pump boat to Maya port. Image/video capture using our sports camera.

It was the longest 30-minute trip of my life. The rain came, and the heavens thundered each time we crashed against the undulating sea, so it was hard to tell between the rain and the seawater that soused us. My arms were feeling tired now, holding on to whatever I could hold on to. We were all wet, sea sick, scared, and Mark was laughing like the devil.

I thought I was going to die that day that I never felt so alive.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Pump boat preparing to dock at Maya port.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Bantayan Island shore.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Along Beach Placid Resort. Bantayan Island, Cebu City Philippines

Phoro Credits: clairelyhappy

Free-swimming jelly fish.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Cool fresh water in Ogtong Cave, Bantayan Island Cebu City, Philippines

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Water bikes at Kokay’s Maldito Dive Resort, Malapascua Island Cebu City Philippines

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Major Lighthouse, Malapscua Island Cebu City Philippines

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Souvenir items. Thresher shark wood craft, Malapascua Island Cebu City Philippines

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Sumptuous food during our stay at the islands.


One Lovely Blog Award

It’s been two years since I decided to move out of the metropolis to settle in a calm, balmy life in the island of Mactan in Cebu, Philippines, where I started a small printing and advertising business.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Cordova, Lapu-lapu City Cebu Philippines

I guess one may say that my decision to live in considerable isolation, “far from the madding crowd” is much more in line with my pursuit for the arts, a better quality of life, rather than climbing stuffy corporate ladders.

Perhaps from this standpoint alone, much might be gathered about my personality. I have a zest for life, but I’m also quite discreet, and I pretty much value my privacy.

I have been through a lot pains and bad experiences, but my positive outlook in life helps me a lot to overcome all the bumpy rides I’ve gone through. I created ClairelyHappy so I can share and inspire people to go on with their lives, and forge on despite the snags along the way. Move on. Dream big. Live life. Do what makes you happy. Sharing happiness through a positive and creative lifestyle. That’s what Clairelyhappy is all about.

Photo Creidts: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

My suite.

I love good food, and regularly visit Keeping Busy with B. Much to my surprise, Ms. B nominated my blog ClairelyHappy for the One Lovely Blog Award. Needless to say, I never expected to be nominated for being a newbie to this wonderful blogging community. This is something I greatly appreciate. I am exceedingly happy and honored. Thank you so much!

I would also like to thank all the amazing people who appreciate what I do, liked my posts and keep coming back for updates… and most importantly to my partner Mark for encouraging and supporting me, for making ClairelyHappy possible. I am very grateful.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

With Mark at Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant, Cordova Lapu-lapu City Cebu Philippines

You all inspire and motivate me to continue with my work.

I love watching movies, and sometimes find inspiration for my work from it. That said, I consider my crafts: drawing, design, and painting my passion. I love happy colors, cute stuff, music and travel.

Writing things about myself signifies my acceptance of the nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award. Now it’s my turn to nominate some blogs I believe are worthy of such accolade.

Here are the rules for accepting your One Lovely Blog Award nomination:

  • Write a blog post accepting your nomination.
  • Show the blogger who nominated you how much you love them by thanking them in the post and linking to their blog.
  • Tell us seven things about yourself.
  • Nominate other blogs that you think are totally rad.
  • Let the bloggers you’ve nominated know about they’ve received an award.
  • Post the rules again to let those bloggers know how it works.

I nominate:

They inspire me and bring me new things to contemplate every time they blog. I hope you’ll visit them and enjoy them as much as I do.

Photo Credits: Claire C. Fiel/ clairelyhappy

Resilience through Art

We did not sleep all night at the wake, and sauntered at dawn past the grove of mango trees to sit under a tree. The wind was cold in the first break of morning and you could see the sun spray a touch of yellow on the glassy surface and the sides of our faces, and I felt grateful for art in my life.

Photo Credits: Claire C. Fiel/ clairelyhappy

Cabadbaran River, Agusan del Norte Mindanao Philippines

Mark leaned on the tree and fell asleep. Sleep is like art, in a way, like a blank canvas your mind flicks paint at; it makes us stronger inside and resilient, and I was glad he got to rest his weary mind for the first time in two days.

I examined the flow of the water inland and examined the colors on the opposite bank. I painted a childhood memory superimposed across the body of water with a hanging bridge I remember crossing with my cousin Dharyll when we were kids.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Cabadbaran/ Kauswagan Hanging Bridge Agusan de Norte Mindanao Philippines

We were just kids. We only wanted to play, but we didn’t really have friends. Anyway, we never complained and I was happy to be alone with my craft, with Dharyll, and I was always up drawing things, creating; living in art.

That afternoon we went to Caasinan beach just before sunset and I smiled when I saw the foreshore with stones red like molten spews spread across the sand. I was still smiling and Mark asked, what’s up? But I knew I didn’t have to answer, and he’d understand, sort of, what was going through my mind.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Caasinan Beach, Agusan del Norte Mindanao Philippines

We faced the ocean and let stones skid, and they would disappear underwater in the golden sunset. We’re old souls, he always tells me. We like to keep our lives simple and free, and I squatted on the sand to sketch an old picture of my cousin and best friend Dharyll when we were just kids playing at the beach.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Caasinan Beach circa 1980, Agusan del Norte Mindanao Philippines with my cousin Dharyll