Not all who wander are lost.” This quote, attributed to JRR Tolkien, is written on a keychain left at home by my wandering daughter Raya, who now stays put in Los Angeles with her husband Ben and son Ewan Gregory. We used to visit each other, alternately, every Christmas. Almost every day, two-year-old Ewan tells me on FaceTime: “Mama Millet, I want to ride the plane and go to Pilipinas.” So when all this is over, I wish they could take the plane to Manila. Or I want to go to LA and embrace my grandson. My mind may be wandering, but I know I am not lost.
Bobby Cuenca: New York, because it chastens you
The always witty, funny and cerebral businessman Bobby Cuenca says: “To keep terminal boredom and insanity at bay during the last three months, I’ve stuck to work, exercise, books (one down and hundreds to go), Netflix and YouTube. I watch travelogues and take virtual visits to museums.”
At night, Bobby says his mind wanders to all the places he would love to visit when this is all over. “My impulse is to scour every nook and cranny of the Mediterranean, but invariably I always end up in New York.
“There are all the plays, museums and musicals in the flesh, the sensory experience of which Netflix and YouTube cannot match. It is a cornucopia of desire. It is the end of every dream. It is a siren song. It is the mother lode. But it is also gritty, difficult, brash, gruff and impersonal. It can chasten you. It can exalt you. It will test every fiber of your being. But one thing is for sure, New York will always make you feel alive.”
Vivian Yuchengco: Singapore, to laugh again
The feisty Philippine Stock Exchange stalwart Vivian Yuchengco has only tender dreams related to family.
“When things open up, my first stop will be Singapore to visit my daughters and my grandchildren, whom I miss. It’s where I like to unwind and just eat the food that I like and do some shopping.
“In Singapore, I wake up early to have the best congee in my favorite spot in Tiong Bahru with my Singaporean friend, who used to be my neighbor here and we go walking all the way to Marina Bay. It’s a good walk and a good exercise.”
Vivian adds: “I’d also like to head over to Malaga to visit my adopted children, who are friends of my older daughter but have become family to me. I am relaxed around them and I have fun because they enjoy making fun of everything and everyone. It’s always good to be able to laugh at life, and sometimes, even ourselves!”
Isidro Consunji: Africa, to smell stinky seals
If you look at the shoes of DMCI president Isidro Consunji, you’ll see that they’re worn out and not shiny at all. They match his simple and ruggedly handsome looks, defined only by nondescript shirts and loose pants, which he wears with confidence. They reflect this tycoon’s humble, unpretentious and down-to-earth lifestyle.
But those shoes have traveled far and wide — from the Philippine mountains to the African deserts.
“I’d like to revisit Africa and enjoy the open, wide expanse of the Kenyan grassland and its wildlife, as well as the incredible Masai tribesmen. Feel the cool mist of the mighty Victoria Falls in your face under the hot African sun. Acknowledge the power of the elephants as they slowly walk past you. See the discipline of the African dogs, and the kilometers-long lines of zebras and wildebeests walking through their annual migration. Observe the brazen behavior of the baboons trying to ambush an easy meal from anywhere. Smell the stinky 60,000 seals off the coast of South Africa. Be amused by the distinctive walk of penguins.”
Sid shudders: ”The pandemic sometimes gives me the creeps. Life can be so fragile, so unpredictable. Friends who were are no longer. So might as well enjoy life and its treasures — friends, family and nature — while we can.”
Ben Chan: Bangkok, because it immerses you
Friends of Ben Chan like to joke that he travels so often, Manila is just his stopover. His travel calendar is busy with all the fashion weeks, furniture fairs and business, cultural and exploratory trips he makes. He has done practically all his bucket-list places, though he humbly denies it.
No wonder this retail prince — the chairman of Suyen Corp. and creative director of Bench — always knows the next big thing in the retail universe.
So the lockdown period must have been truly oppressive and stifling for this citizen of the world. Travel has made him global, yet it is precisely what has made him the extremely patriotic, “Love Local” proponent.
And guess what place he is aching to visit after lockdown? Not another bucket-list destination, but simply reachable Bangkok.
Ben explains: “Visiting Bangkok is an immersing experience. It’s an easy city to live in. You can walk the streets and discover some grilled plantain bananas at Soi Suanplu, browse at the line of antique shops along Lumphini, enjoy a coffee break with a view of the city at either Rosewood, Waldorf or Park Hyatt hotel, buy candles and oils at Karmakamet (a shop that started at Chatuchak Market), join the queue at Fire Tiger Seoulcial Club for an order of Creme Brulee Brown Sugar Milk Tea, have dinner at Ma Maison in the midst of lush Nai Lert Park or try some provincial cuisine at Sri Traf. Cap the night and be amazed at the locally cultivated flowers sold at unbelievably affordable prices at Pak Khlong Talat flower market.
“Bangkok is constantly evolving thanks to sound urban planning, pockets of urban redevelopment and maintaining a good balance between rapid development and green architecture. One of my favorite stops is Siri House, a leafy urban oasis that I discovered through its outpost of the House of Fritz Hansen. There, you can have your own mix of the iconic Scandinavian design label, a Thai bespoke tailor, a Mediterranean brunch at Quince and drool at precious objects such as the jewelry art of Sarran.”
Ben says he began to love Bangkok when good friend and travel buddy, architect Ramon Antonio, introduced him to sites beyond the temples and tourist trails. ”I found hidden markets, amazing street stalls frequented only by locals, became friends with residents, and have come to understand the culture.
“Bangkok is a constant reminder of how Manila can become if we have good governance, and when national pride and love of country is instilled in the heart of every Filipino.”
Therese Coronel-Santos: Lourdes, to pray and give thanks
For gourmet and retail maven Therese Coronel-Santos, cities are memorable for both their scenic and historic value, as well as for their food. The vice chairperson of the Cinderella Group board says: “One thing I realized during the ‘stay at home’ season is that I haven’t fully explored my own country. It would be amazing to discover the many beautiful cities and local cuisines in the Philippines with my family.
“Meanwhile, I pray for the day when we can visit Lourdes, France, and give thanks to Our Lady for blessing me and my family with good health and enabling us to live through the pandemic. The serene, quiet town of Lourdes has many great family-run restaurants that serve traditional French food.
“Any trip to Lourdes would not be complete without a drive along beautiful Biarritz and San Sebastian, where we could spend a few days walking around La Playa and the old town, where we could go pintxos-hopping and visiting the mercado.”
Another place that Therese misses the most is San Francisco, which feels like her second home. “We love doing the mundane things like walking along the Bay Area, enjoying the numerous restaurants in the city, and tending to my garden.”
Emerson Yao: Japan, to run again
Emerson Yao has been traveling — or, should we say, running — around the world ever since he discovered the joy of being a marathon man.
The managing director of Lucerne — who keeps time using the world’s best watches, of course — has joined several marathons.
“The first place I will visit is Tokyo,” says Emerson. “Just a short plane ride. And I’ve been missing its food since the lockdown. I want to explore Japan through biking and hiking in the countryside, something I’d been planning to do pre-COVID.
“I am also very eager to participate in the next marathon that will be held anywhere in Japan. They have a lot of races organized all around the country, and I’m looking forward to when all these virus problems will end.”
Trickie Lopa: Venice, where my feet take me to art
Art and running make up Trickie Lopa’s travel essentials.
“I find that both enrich my experience of new places, adding a different dimension to how I see a city. I have run alongside the East River in New York, taken on the treadmill at a converted wine cellar in Madrid, counted off the bridges that cross the Douro in Porto. Last winter, I risked my ears falling off in the sharp November air with early morning sprints along the Seine, crossing into the Tuileries one day, heading towards the Grand Palais the next.”
“After this pandemic is all over, and the world turns right side up, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by heading back to Venice for the Biennale. Dubbed the ‘Olympics of the art world,’ La Biennale happens every other year, from May to November. The whole city serves as a backdrop to contemporary art: palazzos open up, the museums mount blockbuster shows, and public spaces convert to exhibition sites.”
Trickie says she likes to go in September, when the crowds have thinned, and you don’t need to line up for tickets. “For last year’s edition, a group of art-loving girlfriends and I rented a flat with a view of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Guidecca, in the quieter area of Dorsoduro. We lived right on the Zattere, the promenade that hugs the lagoon, arguably the most picturesque running trail in the city.
“Jet lag would see me up early. I would warm up right outside our door, and complete my 5K by going up and down the boardwalk, take a turn by Palazzo Grassi, and finish on the steps of Santa Maria della Salute on the Grand Canal, right before the sun shone too bright.
“When I think of Venice now, I feel both gratitude and disbelief. Immensely thankful for those wonderful moments, even as I can’t quite believe that the world has fallen on its head in the nine months since that last visit. Venice itself has gone through the wringer. I can’t wait for the world to put the coronavirus behind us.”
Her plea? “Please, by the next Biennale, may the only masks left in Venice be the papier-mâché ones sold as Carnevale souvenirs.”
Dindin Araneta: Swiss Alps, because it's warm with music
Dindin Araneta says that when it becomes safe to travel again, she would love to visit Verbier, a village located in the Swiss Alps.
“Every year for two weeks from late July to early August, the town hosts the Verbier Festival, which was founded in 1994. Set amid inspiring mountain vistas, the festival features great master musicians, revered concert artists and exciting talents on the rise who collaborate on performances, events and training programs. The founder, Martin Engstroem, was formerly connected with music organizations EMI France and the Opera National de Paris. He worked on artistic development for Deutsche Grammophon and was responsible for the recordings of superstars such as pianist Lang Lang and violinist Anne Sophie Mutter.
“Many programs for artists, students and music lovers of all ages who come from all over the world are held alongside concerts and performances. ‘Storytellers’ is a music, art and reading workshop where children discover classic tales such as ‘Three Little Pigs’ set to the accompaniment of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. There is also an Experimental Sound Garden where toddlers and parents are exposed to and learn to play classical and contemporary instruments. Opera Dahu is an opera workshop that introduces children to an imaginary world of legends and myths where they act, sing, dance and also design costumes and backdrops. Apart from the main stage, there are concerts held in the mountain slopes, streets and public spaces. There are conversations, discussions and interviews on music, culture and related fields, such as about composers’ lives and music. There are film screenings on themes such as Beethoven’s love of nature, his string quartets, or the music of Stanley Kubrick’s movies. In the evenings, secret concerts are held where the identities of the artists are revealed only when the performance begins.”
Dindin’s plan to visit the Swiss Alps remains on hold. This year, like all other live events around the world, the Verbier Festival is cancelled due to COVID-19.
Lisa Periquet: London, because it's a calmer world
Lisa Periquet misses London.
“I really do miss London; it’s a second home of sorts for me and my family. It is where my husband and I started our married life and raised three children into their early years when we lived there all throughout the decade of the ’90s. We left 20 years ago but we still do long visits once or twice a year, initially because my husband continued to do business there, and then lately for R&R in the familiar place it has become for us.
“London is a city with a rich and fascinating history, with so much to explore in the realms of culture, lifestyle and the arts, it also serves as my happy and safe place.”
Lisa says that in London, she spends her time puttering around her home space and the shops, exploring the huge, cosmopolitan, and diverse city, especially the cultural spaces such as galleries and museums.
“Using public transportation, preparing my own meals and doing household chores become second nature in no time at all. One of my indulgences is reading the Sunday papers from cover to cover, which can take several hours, as well as watching the news and regular television programming in order to enjoy the articulate expressiveness, sense of humor and literary flair of the English. I even somehow manage to appreciate the gloomy, drizzly weather London is famous for, even if it used to depress me when I lived there, knowing that this time it will be a fleeting experience, rather than seasonal drudgery.
“London is a place where I can step into a calmer, slower and simpler life; stop and smell the roses and recharge my batteries for a limited time, until I parachute back into my Manila world.”
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