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Photographing Seoul

It’s true what they say: We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

I have walked and wandered With only crumbs to guide the path In the end I found my way home Only to realize nothing would make me happier Than to get lost again

It was the end of the November and autumn leaves had just started to fall. The ground was covered with the color of decay, the soil moist from the occasional rain, the air heavy with scent of petrichor. I breathed in my first autumn and I sighed: there was poem in my mind I couldn’t seem to form. Or was I lost in translation?

Nature is more eloquent and here’s how she defined “transition.”

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No. 14 Bukchon Hanok Village

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10382877_10152515949150794_5900405231187863662_nPeople walk past each other everyday Never minding, never knowing Who they might collide into

Even the night held a certain charm, the leafless branches casting their long pointy shadows on the ground.

The N Seoul tower, originally built to transmit radio and television signals, houses a revolving restaurant, a viewing deck and thousands of padlocks from cheesy lovers all over the world.

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The night market, of course, was brimming with life. Everywhere I look was a new sight, and my eyes couldn’t seem to keep up with all the excitement.

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Myeongdong at night

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The morning stroll was not so bad too. The streets were filled with quaint coffee shops and Kitty invited me over. It cost me a few thousand Korean wons but I didn’t mind.

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I roamed the streets of Seoul like the usual avid tourist, keen to take photos and experience new adventures. But despite all the distractions, one story caught my attention: the story of how North and South Korea were separated.

This is the Demilitarized Zone, a military demarcation between two divided countries sharing a common language, history and ethnicity. The two countries have flagpoles built in their respective zones. Over the years, North and South Korea have been building against each other, raising the height of the poles a few meters above the other. The final score: 160-100 meters in favor of the North.

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On the first of December, the clouds decided to pour snow. It was my first time to see snow and I ran outside like a little girl without putting my stockings on. My fingernails were turning a pale shade of violet from the cold; good thing it didn’t show.

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For the first time in forever, there is snow in my hair.

Being the typical tropical islander stuck in a cold country, my favorite part of the trip was skiing on ice. I tripped and fell a few times, got a few bruises here and there, but it was all worth it.

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Goodbye, Seoul. You’ve been good to me.

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Your body’s amazing reaction to water

Featured image: Photo of freediver Hanli Prinsloo by Annelie Pompe.

Writer James Nestor explores the science of the “mammalian dive reflex,” the phenomenon by which water triggers an immediate decrease in heart rate.

In 1949, a stocky Italian air force lieutenant named Raimondo Bucher decided to try a potentially deadly stunt off the coast of Capri, Italy. Bucher would sail out to the center of the lake, take a breath and hold it, and free-dive down one hundred feet to the bottom. Waiting there would be a man in a diving suit. Bucher would hand the diver a package, then kick back up to the surface. If he completed the dive, he’d win a fifty-thousand-lira bet; if he didn’t, he would drown.

Scientists warned Bucher that, according to Boyle’s law, the dive would kill him. Formulated in the 1660s by the Anglo-Irish physicist Robert Boyle, this equation predicted the behavior of gases at…

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Bullies Everywhere

Confession: I was once a bully.

In my first year in high school, I used to put freshly-picked grass on my classmate’s desk and call him “Potro.”

Potro is a name of a horse in one of the stories I read in our Filipino class. I called him Potro after he was assigned to act as a horse in a class role play. 

I had a good laugh every time I see my classmate’s reaction each morning when he finds fresh greens on his desk: a perfect mix of horror, disbelief and a little bit of humor. I thought it was okay. After all, it was meant to be a joke, right?


Bullies take many forms. He might be that big stooge who’s responsible for broken underpants and walks of shame. Or the teacher who forcibly sells cured meat and pinipig polvoron for a “plus point” in class. He might be that colleague who constantly defaces your Facebook with unwittingly harsh comments.  She might even be the mindless name-calling classmate sitting next to you.


For my 10-year-old brother Kobe, he is the fat boy who eats his packed lunch. “Tani, don’t pack delicious baon kasi kakainin lang ‘yan ng classmate ko.”

It broke my heart. Saan napunta ‘yung mga niluto kong tuna & mushroom pasta, o ‘yung ginawa kong grilled cheese sandwich? Sinong uminom ng Chuckie? Sayang lang pala ‘yung Yakult at jellyace. Punyeta.

This is the reason why I wrote a report about bullying. (Watch:

Bullies are loud, egocentric and aggressive. They feel entitled, drawn to power and authority. They may have deep-seated issues that they can not release so they turn to their victims for some sick refuge.

Victims of bullies, on the other hand, are introverts–meek, perceived weak and have low confidence.


These are the generic, textbook characteristics as described by a psychiatrist I interviewed. But there are two crucial things that victims do not often know about bullies: 

1. The victims themselves are the bullies’ source of power. Walang mang-bubully kung walang nagpapa-bully. That is why the first step in overcoming bullies is to say NO.

Pumalag ka. Lumaban ka. Sabihin mong ‘di mo gusto ang ginagawa niya.

2. Bullies are afraid of authorities. They are afraid of people who have greater influence and power. ‘Wag matakot magsumbong. If you don’t have the muscle to fight, then look for someone who can back you up. There’s no shame in seeking help.

For some, bullying might be a petty problem. Biruan lang ‘yan. Mga bata lang ‘yan.

But that’s where they are wrong. Bullies, with their unstable temperament, flashes of anger, lies and manipulation are more likely to become criminals in adulthood. Sometimes they grow up to be the horrible bosses we know; or the racist, gender-discriminating scumbag we all hate; and even turn out to be the hot-headed, violent wife-beater your aunt talks about. (Read:

Victims of bullies, on the one hand, grow up with self-esteem issues like inferiority complex. If this isn’t serious enough, being bullied as a child can even raise the odds of having heart attacks! (Read:

So you see bullying is real and its effects are even more so. Bullying can scar children pretty bad, and it may take years, even decades, for the wounds to heal.


P.S. To my classmate, please consider this blog post as my apology. Sorry na po. 😦