As they say, if there’s no photo it didn’t happen. But I have all the sights and sound in my mind.

September 17, 2022

My late aunt always wondered why I rarely took pictures of myself on my trips. She would read up what I wrote for newspapers or magazines, looking at the images that accompanied my stories.

I told her I was too busy taking photos that would go with my articles; that’s why I rarely have pictures of myself anywhere I go. If I was greatly moved by the place I went to, then I would take a snap of me there.

Good thing there’s now Facebook. When I had lots of free time many years ago, I took the time to scan the prints of trips to Spain and to the United Kingdom to share with my friends.

In one photo, I was standing beside the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree, the visual representation of Madrid’s coat of arms, outside the Spanish Cortés. It was my first long haul flight, and our writer insisted I take my picture there, because I share my surname with the Spanish parliament. (She was on a scholarship in Madrid, and she promised to take me around if I get there.) The only other images of myself on that trip were group photos of our lunch at the Philippine ambassador’s residence in Madrid. Otherwise, all other photos I had on that trip were of sheep in La Mancha, acorn pigs in Extremedura, a turrones assembly line in Toledo and a winery in Rioja.

I was so much more prolific when we went to the UK. First stop was in the Scottish Highlands and I have images of me attempting to play curling, sniffing my own blend of Scotch whisky, and dressed up in a kilt. In London, there are shots of me outside Covent Garden, the British Museum and backstage of The Lion King. Otherwise, you’d get bored looking at oak barrels, stately manors, a peat bog and gardens.

It’s not much different in Asia. No pictures of me in Manado, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu (save for a shot with the Buddha of the Year of the Monkey) in Malaysia, Seoul and Jeju, Korea and Tokyo.

Thailand is so much luckier with me. I have a photo with James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay in Phuket; my colleague who took the shot for me managed to cut in half the island just to fit me front and center of the frame. There are pictures of me on an elephant, also in Phuket, on a motorboat in Bangkok and at the Floating Village, and yes, a priceless photo with Takezawa “Tackey” Hideaki, then Japanese singer and actor and now a record producer himself, that is somewhere in my files. I’d never heard of him then, but one of the Indonesian writers we were traveling with said he was famous.

Tourist sites in the Philippines fare a little better. I have souvenirs of a zipline ride in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, boat rides and beaches and hotel rooms. All my other pictures came from friends, group photos mostly, from my travels around the country.

Why didn’t I bother taking pictures then? As they say, if there’s no photo it didn’t happen. But I have all the sights and sound in my mind. I can still remember the apple orchard we wandered into in Keith, Scotland, the botanical resort in Dhoi Ankhang in Thailand, the narrow streets in Seville, and so on. What matters is that I have so many stories to share about my travels. Take me out for coffee and a sandwich and I’ll tell you about them.

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