Blog : Travel

A letter to Ideas Island

Ideas Island is a project by Fredrik Härén, an international speaker on business creativity and author of The Idea Book. He owns three islands (two in Sweden and one in the Philippines) and rents them out for free to creatives to help them in developing their ideas. Last week, I got to stay at Ideas Island #2 Vifärnaholme in Stockholm. This is a letter of thanks to the island, for inspiring me during my stay.

Angel Ideas Island

Dear Ideas Island,

I miss you already. I dream about you since the last time we saw each other: the moment I first saw you, shining in the distance. Waking up to peaceful mornings, the sun shining on my face (“I woke up in paradise,” I thought to myself.) The ever-present birds keeping me and my boyfriend M company. The lake, the trees, the bluest sky.

It was like a dream, but it wasn’t, and for that I am grateful. There are indeed places on earth that feel like heaven, and they truly exist. During my stay, time and space didn’t seem to exist, what only mattered was the here and now. My worries weren’t present (maybe I should try to live more like how I did on the island..) For the week that I was there, the purest of thoughts came to me and I just simply felt alive.

Time flies when you’re at the island. I first thought that I would be bored, but there was no single idle moment. I was either thinking of my project, writing an article, cooking a slow meal, having extended fika breaks, or trying to sneak up on the baby seagulls. And everything was enjoyable, even washing the dishes (with a view of a luscious lake, and the sun reflecting thousand of tiny diamonds on the water!)

While on the island, I read an article on on why quiet time is essential to a full life and a quote by Cheryl Strayed struck to me:

“The useless days will add up to something [because] these things are your becoming.”

I liked the idea of “becoming”. What a beautiful word it is in itself, too (Becoming: gerund or present participle “become”, grow to be, develop into; adjective, looking good on someone, attractive, flattering) I like that some things take time and during that time, we learn, we grow, we develop, we shape ourselves and we become, even without being aware of it. I remember thinking of a similar thought a few winters ago: looms are always spinning. Things are happening in parallel to what we are experiencing personally, things always change (and that is good!) Don’t despair when things are not going your way, for you don’t know the whole picture and many things are already happening that will lead to a new situation.

I thought of the creative process and how truly difficult it is. I thought of all the doubts, the second-guessing and the countless hours of writer’s block: which often lead me to think that I am “not being creative” or “not doing enough”. When in truth, it is part of the process and without it, we are not really being creative. In line with this, I should also let go of being a perfectionist.. I need to learn to be gentle to myself.

I am grateful that I am still on the path that I want to be in. A few years ago I had a plan and a picture of who I want to be, professionally and as a person. It wasn’t an easy road, but I stuck to it and now I am becoming that image: I live in Europe (I even have lived in my dream country, Sweden) and I am working in the fields I am most passionate for: the arts, culture, writing, nation branding and promoting Scandinavia and Holland. Somehow I found a way to shape the things I love into a career.

I am also glad that my professional and personal life are not two completely separate entities. I hope I will continue to be close to my passions, and that opportunities will open up so that I can live as close as I can get to my true, authentic self. The one I am happiest and at peace living with. 🙂

Becoming, idyllic, dreamy. That’s the best I can describe the time I was there, and at the same time that is what you are, Ideas Island! May you continue to inspire many others to breathe in ideas, create things for the good, and live out their dreams.

With love,

Send my love to the three baby seagulls!


Notes from Stockholm

Greetings from Stockholm, my current home until the end of the month. It’s been great so far, as expected. I inhale and savour past memories and make new, colourful ones. The smell of Pressbyrån coffee and kanelbullar, the tingling sound of “Nästa Slussen” in the tunnelbana, the feeling of fresh summer rain.. some things never change.

And some things do, and that’s okay! I loved seeing my friends again – all of us now doing different things and “growing up” as working adults, reminiscing about our student days. But then again, we still do the same things: hanging out at Andy’s place eating candy and watching series, having fika outside, drinking loads of coffee, and just walking in the city, goofing around. I love being around their company. I love the awareness that there is always someone that I can just call to have dinner or coffee with. An awesome time is just a tunnelbana ride away.

I love that even if Stockholm seems like a bubble up in the North, with it’s hard habits and seemingly uniform culture, there are things that change in it too. New discoveries of a cafe by the lake (coffee with a new friend!), a food-court extravaganza smack in the middle of town (burrito fun times with Frida!), and the ultra hip new mall at Hornstull tunnelbana station (dumplings in the sun with Nat!)

I also met the nicest new people: colleagues of mine from the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, Dutchies who live in Sweden now. I love how my two worlds collide in their cozy, little spot in Götgatan. Plus, I got to watch the Holland-Spain world cup game at the Dutch Embassy. A glorious win for Holland!

But above all, I love that my feelings for Stockholm are also changing and growing up with me. I love that I have not two, but three places I consider “home” now, and that my heart expands to accommodate them all. A few years ago, I limited myself without knowing. Now I understand that there is always room: that a life is not contained, but extending.

A perpetual note to self: The good times are always now and yet to come.

Song: Bouquet’s Cave Life – a new favourite. My friend Natalie introduced me to her old band The Finches, where the lead singer is now making music as Bouquet. It sounds like falling in love.

A letter to Bilbo

Dear Bilbao,

Thank you for meeting me again, it has been a pleasure, like the last time. Nothing has changed, the puppy Guggenheim still stands, the mountains are still mighty, and the Basques ever so warm. In Bilbao, the air is always golden, and the rain falls gently upon your face like a warm embrace. In Bilbao, summer is forever.

Last time I was here, four years ago, I learned that light always comes after darkness (after watching a Lord of the Rings marathon in my student room). Maybe that is why “Bilbao” is Bilbo in Basque. This time around you taught me to be easy on myself. Cross that bridge when you get (t)here. Maybe that is what Bilbao’s many beautiful bridges are for.

Thank you for my (proxy) family, since my own is half a world away. I loved being a daughter again. Thank you for best friends (both near and far). Thank you for Arrate, the wonder that she is. Thank you for: meluza Bilbaina, glorious red peppers, never-ending pintxos, and my favourite pastry of them all – the Napolitana.

Thank you for keeping all my golden memories safe, and making me smile in my heart knowing that I lived here, it happened, I was happy, it was real. And that I am free. A gentle step on those green fields, a wink at Zubizuri, a small nod at the ice cream shop. A faded dream, a salute to the once-was-there. Dreams burn but in ashes are gold.

I never thought I’ll see you again, but here I am, wishing I could stay longer, wishing I could bask in your warm, drizzling embrace for one more day. But here’s a promise: I’ll carry your sun wherever I go.

Hasta pronto, Bilbao. Eskerrik asko. Until we meet again, and again.


The fields

Back when we had it so easy
I would surrender completely
I built a shelter from green leaves
In the sun, in the sun

Around the fields we’d run
With love for everyone
Dreams we saw with eyes open
Until that dream was done

Truth Thursdays: I am here


I am here!

Last month, me and M went to Portugal, and I saw the ocean again after two years. It felt really good. The Atlantic ocean is cold, not like the blissful waters we have back in the Philippines, but I jumped right in and felt free the moment I hit the water. “You’re in your element!” M shouted from the coast. “You Europeans are sissies! Haha!” I shouted back. Being in the water, with the sun shining on my face is one of the best feelings in the world.

I was at the edge of Europe, and it felt like I was also on the edge of everything. In any given moment, my mind is in three countries and four issues (at least) like a computer trying to run simultaneous applications. Worrying 7.0 is taking up lots of memory, combined with I Am Sick Again Oh No!, The Future and Home. It took more than a week for me to slow down, but by then we had to go back to our life in Holland. I wish I can stay longer in the ocean, sipping strawberry sangrias, basking in the sun, able to let go of everything.

I am here, trying to learn this lesson of letting go of worries. And I am still with you, and I am just here! Don’t forget me.

Part of Truth Thursdays

Ask Me Anything: A favourite travel story

Ask Me Anything is a series of questions given by my friends and answered by me, Angel! If you have any questions that you would like me to answer, or if you’re just plain curious about me (because I am such a superstar), feel free to send me a message!

You are a true world traveler and this may be an impossible question to answer but can you tell me one of your favorite stories from your travels? First one that comes to mind!

I am very tempted to tell a Sweden story, but I’m not going to for more variety. Hehe! First one that comes to mind is my first time to travel abroad alone.

I was eighteen, young, free and obsessively in love with a Taiwanese pop boyband! I skipped my Friday classes and jumped on a flight to Hong Kong to attend an autograph signing, haha! It was incredibly fun, but now that I look back on it, the best bits are the moments I was exploring alone in the city, and how amazing it felt (and not really the moment when I met my favourite boyband member).

I remembered checking in alone at my first hotel, smack in the middle of downtown. It was a bit dark and scary, but who cares! I remember roaming the neon-lit streets, pretending I was in a Wong Kar Wai movie, as if everything was in slow motion and I was in the middle of a melancholy love story. I remember buying high top Vans sneakers with pink and black skulls all over it. I remember The Sundays’ My Finest Hour as the soundtrack to that trip.

And of course, I remember meeting up with my good friend Camille and traversing the city streets with her! We discovered an underground video arcade in the middle of the night, we were so happy! We played Guitar Freaks and Dance Dance Revolution (I am the undisputed queen of DDR in Robinsons Metro East! LOL!) I remember us singing Stars’ On Peak Hill together while climbing up a busy shopping street. Cold wind, blowing hair, arms raised up, hearts full of love.

It was almost ten years ago! I hope that sense of wonder, openness to the world, hunger for discovery and the wildness of my heart would never leave me.


This question is brought to you by my good friend Natalie. Natalie grew up in a warm place by the ocean and now lives in a much colder place by an archipelago. She’s working on a PhD at Stockholm University and her project focuses on early color film’s impact on the costume department. She also runs an amazing blog about waiting dogs.