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My favorite places

Intramuros: Sustainable creative urban heritage districtEvery time a new year starts, I always look back at the happy and beautiful things that happened to me the past year and thank the Almighty for them. This time, having been a world traveler all these years, I decided to take a closer look at the many places I have visited and choose my favorites.

For the longest time, I have been proclaiming to all and sundry that Santorini is my favorite place on earth. I have been to that beautiful Greek island three times, and every time I’m there, I feel like I’m in heaven.  

My favorite places
Always in awe of the charming, and almost magical, island of Santorini.
There is something magical about the place that, every time my visit ends, I leave my heart behind. It could be the dainty white-and-blue-painted houses that cover the entire island, or the fact that its hillside location facing the calm blue waters of the caldera (crater) offers a most soothing antidote to stress.  

The island has captivated my inner being so much that I told my children, in jest, that when I die, I want my ashes to be scattered over the island in the hope that, in my next life, I will be a Greek native!

My favorite places
Taken during my first visit to Santorini, with the caldera and my cruise ship in the background.
Santorini is one of the islands in the Aegean Sea and is approximately 200 kilometers from the main island of Greece. About 3,600 years ago, the island was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. This gave the island its rugged landscape. 

The eruption left a large caldera, surrounded by volcanic ash deposits. In fact, the beaches on the island are covered with black, red, and white volcanic ash pebbles. The caldera in front of the island is actually the crater of an underwater volcano.  

It is believed that such eruption wiped out the Minoan civilization which inhabited the area, and the resulting gigantic tsunami killing thousands gave rise to the legend of Atlantis.

My second favorite destination is a place I learned to love from watching it in the movies and on television.  

I have always been captivated by Tuscany, the northwestern region in Italy, every time I see it on the silver screen. I associate it with love and poetic serenity. I don’t know why I feel giddy every time the visuals take me there. Since I’ve never been to that place, I added it to my bucket list.

One day, my Portland-based younger sister, Esperanza, invited me to join her on a trip to Italy.  My dream was to spend my birthday in Tuscany and, by some stroke of luck, the region was part of her intended itinerary. You should have seen me jumping in jubilation, ecstatic that I could finally be in what I think is the most poetic place on earth!

So, after going around the many scenic cities of Italy, there I was in the charming hilltop town of Cortona, right in the middle of Tuscany, with its magical hills draped in miles and miles of vineyards and lined by those tall, majestic cypress trees.  

My favorite places
TYPICALLY TUSCANY. A mere mention of Tuscany reminds one of its rolling hills draped in vineyards, lined by tall cypress trees, and dotted with peach-colored houses.
I found myself doing exactly what I had dreamed of—sipping my favorite red wine, on the veranda of a peach-colored house on top of a hill overlooking lush vineyards, with the cool breeze flowing from all directions, and just enjoying every minute of being alive in such a tastefully artistic locale. 

The town was where the movie Under The Tuscan Sun was filmed. In fact, Frances Mayes, the author of the book on which the movie was based, lives in Cortona.

Even if that trip has made me tick off that item on my bucket list, the engaging memory of that delightful interlude will continue to live on. And, every time I feel the weight of the world’s burden, I just think of that visit, then a smile slowly forms on my face!

Although I can truthfully sing The Carpenters’ “I’ve been to so many places in my life and time…” you might be surprised at my choice for my third favorite destination.  

Every time I go home to Cebu, it’s like coming back to my cocoon of safety, love, and the tender care of family. Friends from my childhood years are still there and, when we see each other, we enjoy ourselves and talk like we haven’t been separated for so many decades!  

It is in Cebu where I do not feel the unkind pressures of the world because I am insulated from all that by the nurturing love of family and long-time friends. 

Of course, the feeling of being protected could also be due to the “proximity” of my heavenly patrons whom I have enjoyed paying homage to during my growing up years—Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the Redemptorist Church on Wednesdays and the Señor Santo Niño at the Basilica on Fridays.

My favorite places
The facade of the Basilica Minore del Señor Santo Niño in Cebu.
The first 28 years of my life were spent in this lovely city when life was so simple then. Even after having been exposed, during most of my adult life, to the ultra-modern conveniences of the Americans, the luxurious lifestyles of the Europeans, and the La Vida Loca of the Latinos, there is nothing like coming home to Cebu.  

I don’t care about Cebu’s traffic being worse than Manila’s because its roads are narrower. I don’t mind that it is usually two to three degrees Fahrenheit hotter than Manila because it’s closer to the equator.  I don’t worry about having lost my sense of direction in the city because the streets I used to be very familiar with have now been redesigned to accommodate tall buildings, malls, and parks.  

I will always love Cebu. Home is indeed where the heart is. Sugboanon ako.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

YOUR weekend CHUCKLE

A guy arrives late for work and his boss noticed it, screams at him, “You should have been here at 8:30 a.m.!” to which the guy replied, “Why?  What happened at 8:30?”

Topics: Santorini , Tuscany , Cebu , Redemptorist Church , travel
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