Strange Escapes

I went to Las Vegas over the weekend. I've lost count of how many times I've made that trip. For the millions in Los Angeles, Las Vegas is sort of like our collective vacation home. An extension of LA culture, like Big Bear or Catalina Island. A lot of tourists, from all corners, don't often envision Vegas as having its own identity or community or culture, we see it for its function: a playground for people to let loose until the 12 o'clock check out.

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Road Cure

In 2009, I quit my retail job because I wanted my fucking soul back. It was a long time coming, and I had saved up enough to support me for an extended job hunt or unpaid internship. I turned in my 2 weeks notice, and when those days passed, I was overjoyed. Almost immediately, a good friend of mine offered a chance to tag along with him on a road trip to the very edge of Washington state. There's a storied romanticism surrounding the road trip: the new lands, the car bonding, and, of course, the mythical rebooting of the soul. The choice was easy.

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Balikbayan, pt. 4: Epilogue

Three years is a long time by most standards. For life milestones and other significant events, it almost seems too soon. When I came to the Philippines for the first time as an adult in 2007, I found it to be a significant and confusing experience. It was awe inspiring at times, depressing at others, and generally lonely. I left motivated with new knowledge and life experience that would fuel my years to come. I did not expect to come back again so "soon."

On the last day of November, my grandfather passed away at the age of 92. My parents packed their things to be with the family in early December, and my Sister and I followed on our own a week later. His name was Nestor. I did not know this basic fact until I came here. Everyone referred to him by his second first name, Virgilio, but legally his real first name was Nestor. How do I go for 23 years without knowing that? I never got to know him on a personal level. I knew and admired him mostly by reputation.

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Video | The Empirical Highway of Life

Our roadtrip up to Oak Harbor, Washington as well as some excursions to Anacortes and Seattle. Obviously, I'm running out of ways to make footage-from-the-backseat-as-we-drive look interesting. This will probably be the last music video/travelogue i'll attempt until I have the know-how & equipment to do something different. Song: Efterklang - "Modern Drift"

Essay | Wander

College has, through its friendships and connections, given me the good fortune to once again take up travel. Travelling used to be a big part of my childhood. It was a point of pride. When the Mrs. Marquez would make each kid stand up and say something about themselves, my interesting fact would always be the amount of the world I had seen.

By elementary and middle school standards, it's an impressive resume: Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the Philippines, London, New York, Vancouver and more. I wasn't old enough to appreciate the sights much, or fully grasp the new worlds I was entering, but I still had a bigger sense of the planet and its diversity. More so than the other 7-year olds sitting cross-legged on a multicolored carpet.

By 22 year-old standards, that resume is not as impressive. The world turned and travel became less and less of a characteristic of my life. My youth was extraordinarily jet set, but my adolescence was spent staying still. The occasional drive to Las Vegas was the closest I would get to road trips, though it's more of a long-distance wander. I wouldn't get to feel that horrible/wonderful rumble of a plane taking off for years.

Years, until college, which gave it back to me in some small part. We weren't going to Europe or even Texas, but we were travelling again. It was always good, even if it was short-lived or not the life-affirming, answer-finding game changer we always expect from the road. But sometimes the little bites are enough to nourish you. Sometimes the little bites feel like a main course.

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Balikbayan, pt. 3

One of the things that I miss the most about the Philippines is that everything was interesting. It took me back to a time when looking out the window of the backseat of a car was a viable entertainment option. Wherever we went, be it the crawling pace of the rain covered city or the speeding, winding roads along the tropical hills, everything was interesting. Not pretty, not vibrant, not even infusing any particularly good feelings. It was just always stimulating to thought, giving you, the outsider, something worth examining. The titanic billboard for Coca-Cola has you concocting sociological theories. The rural unfamiliarities have you picking and prying at who you claim to be. The pile of electrical wires, hanging precariously overhead, has you wondering what big ideas are to blame for the shape of things.

Act three of our trip to the Philippines had the most to see. It's a story that starts off with lots of gleaming tourist attractions, funnels down into a complacent sense of family, and ends as all good stories do: A conclusive finale where the characters are changed and exit stage left. Curtains drop.

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Balikbayan, pt. 2

The first three days in Metro Manila were an exercise in privilege. A big city, with American franchises, air conditioning and pavement. The next week or so would be a few steps towards the other end of the spectrum. This was Angeles City in Pampanga. We had experienced what the successful in capitalism had to offer. Now it was time to see the rest.

Angeles, and the surrounding areas like Dau, are not minor villages full of living-off-the-land types. It is still a city by every means, but not a major, highly developed, nicely planned out one. They don't build their structures to the sky, they don't put lines on their roads, they don't paint over every cement wall. But it's not the province. The air is thicker with smog and nothing looks like it was ever new. It is urban decay bustling with activity, but not wealth.

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Balikbayan, pt. 1

Filipino immigrants always return. Like an annual ritual, they come back regularly to family and familiarity. For American-born Filipinos, they are brought along for the pilgrimage by their parents. I could call it a rite of passage, or an exposure to one's roots, but it's a part of Pilipino American culture that has many different meanings and indications for many different people. Some hate going, some never see more than their Lola's house, and some go every other summer.

For me, it had been at least 12 years since I last set foot on Filipino soil. As the years went on, another trip to the Philippines became more and more inevitable. You could only go so long without visiting. So it was decided that in the summer of 2007, that we would spend over one month immersed in the Philippines. We wouldn't just be visiting family and hanging out in the province. We would also see the sights, from the tourist destinations to the historical landmarks that defined the country's history.

It's been three nights here in the Philippines. I'm enjoying it, but it still a little bit daunting to think that I'll be away from the familiar routines for over a month. It has been, and will continue to be, much more than a vacation.

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