My travels with Twink
Twink’s stamina surpassed mine, even at high altitudes.
My travels with Twink
CITY SENSE - Paulo Alcazaren (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2020 - 12:00am

This is the third week of our Philippine quarantine. We are essentially imprisoned by a virus that will spread and infect anyone within its reach. We need to hunker down and fight this existential threat and the only way is to stay home. Our forced homestay has given us opportunities to bond with family and friends (albeit digitally), as well as given us a lot of time to look inward and assess our lives.

One thing we all miss is the ability to freely travel and enjoy journeys with loved ones. Travel and adventure defined my last four years with my wife Twink, who passed away from cancer just last January. She was diagnosed with stage four cancer in early 2016, after 10 years of an initial stage 1 diagnosis of breast cancer.

Twink had a bucket list for travel — well, actually, food and travel. This was part of her therapy. Every four months we would travel somewhere in the Philippines and every year we planned at least one overseas jaunt. She was addled by a body brace and had to use a cane eventually, but this did not deter her from trekking in Sagada, or climbing up the temples in Bangkok and Cambodia.

The preparation for each trip was handled almost wholly by Twink. She loved to pore over reviews of places to stay and restaurants and cuisines to try. She eschewed tour packages for all our trips except for one trip to Tokyo and Fuji three years ago. She preferred the adventure of discovering things on our own.

We travelled most of the time with our two boys, Wham and Juancho. We also took trips with a travelling barkada made up of half a dozen couples, friends who made up part of Twink’s book club. We enjoyed the travel because of the people we travelled with, and often the destinations were secondary.

Travel with the larger group was mostly local, a seasonal highlight for us. We preferred island destinations, or destinations in larger islands — Siargao, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Davao, Camiguin, Panglao, Coron, Dumaguete, staying in a wide latitude of resorts from 5-star (Dedon in Siargao, and Pearl Farm in Davao) to Airbnbs. Being a group, van rental was our preferred mode of travel. Try not to ride these rentals though on long motor trips. We had taken the bus up to Sagada but decided to rent a van back to Manila after and ended up with a maniac at the wheel.

Travel with our group was made more civilized by the presence of a few chefs and many wine connoisseurs. Twink and her mates loved to scrounge the local markets for ingredients and local delicacies. “Food and friends maketh the journey,” was always our battlecry.

Travel overseas was mostly just the two of us or with our two boys. We were able to visit Japan, Thailand, Sydney, Bangkok, with short trips to Singapore, where I first met Twink over 20 years ago. She had just gotten a contract with CNBC and a friend asked me and another buddy to introduce her to the life in that island state. We met at Kopi Tiam, a restaurant at the Raffles Westin, and Twink ordered laksa, which became her favorite dish. We would become friends first, as she was already in a relationship then, but our love blossomed after this and only after we both had returned to Manila in the 2000s.

Twink had a tendency to cram every minute of our itinerary with places to go and food to try. Our boys and I would complain, but eventually enjoy her programming. Museums were another favorite of hers, and we overflowed with this in our last trip to Venice in 2018. I was covering the Venice Architecture Biennale, and we took the opportunity to travel to Florence, Padua, Pizza and a few other Italian historic cities to imbibe the local culture and the cuisine, of course. There’s a museum at every corner in these destinations and Twink loved all of them.

Twink would also find the best walking tours, many of them free or off the beaten track; sort of the type Carlos Celdran used to give. Many of these were manned by university students or docents, who were not the mass-tourism type of tour guide. The best tours she loved were the food tours. Our favorites were the walking food tours in Florence, Hanoi and Siem Reap, Cambodia (actually a tour on a tuk-tuk).

Our last major tour was actually a Visita Iglesia last Lent with Twink’s best friend Rhona and husband Gus. We made our base at Cheche Lazaro’s wonderful Lotus Pond resort in Bae, Laguna, and motored all around seven towns and cities for the churches and the cuisine. Our favorite meal was freshwater fish and local veggies on a bamboo raft on Pandin Lake, near San Pablo.

Twink was planning a food tour of Taiwan when her health made a turn for the worse late last year. She had found a tour organizer who provided tours for the wheelchair-bound. But God had other plans for her.

The events in February and March have not given me ample time to grieve for Twink. She managed to fill our remaining four years since her diagnosis with all the opportunities to be together with us, and it will never be the same without her. The boys and I miss her terribly. No words can express our loss.

Twink had suffered much in the last few months of her illness, so hospital scenes in daily reportage of the virus is something I avoid. But she fought to the very end. Travelling was part of the fight but she also had another battle she wanted to pursue and egged us on to pursue — the scourge of bad governance and lack of leadership in our country today.

She drew parallels with her fight with cancer and the social and political afflictions of our country today in her last article for the Philippine STAR in March, “Why I fight,”  (which you can access on philstar.com’s archives).

I quote the end of her piece as it echoes our ongoing battle with the virus: “Because not fighting would ignore the very real option that still exists: the handful of brave, honorable souls putting their lives on the line on the firm belief that the Filipino people can get better; can choose to get better; deserve better. They represent, if not a cure, the lone path to a cure too late for my benefit, perhaps, but for the next generation. While family and friends, their family and friends, keep praying rosaries for my healing, or send chakras and incantations my way; while my husband continues to move me with his sweetness and my son doesn’t run out of silly jokes, magic tricks, and funny anecdotes of his daily exploits; while the very heart of me — that chamber that stores my conscience and conviction, love and dreams, memory and self-respect — remains unbreached, I will fight.”

I fight in Twink’s memory. We need the strength that she brought to her battle. Let us fight for all of our loved ones together.

 

TRAVELS TWINK
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