Wednesday, 30 December 2015


The only place where I would love to fast-track time is at work. Outside, I wish for time to be suspended. Or I think of childhood when a day seemed to run to eternity. This is just a concept nowadays. Not having thought of it as luxury then, I would now pay for one to be boxed and opened at my convenience. 

I'm keen to have that box now. The thought of ringing in the New Year in a couple of days is like the dreaded sound of my alarm clock after I have snoozed it at least five times when I wanted to declare it a duvet day. Don't you also sometimes wish you can stop the clock as in those game shows? 

But 2016 is just around the corner, and as with the rest of the human race, I have no other option but to usher it in. As a personal tradition (and sometimes affliction, depending on the memories), I always look back at the year that was. If you've been with me in the last three years, you've seen my year-ender posts and have exchanged holiday greetings over them. This year, I'm sharing with you collages of my travels and other snapshots that have marked my 2015 calendar. 

Time flying is now an understatement. It zooms past us, and the least we can do to hang on to it is to create memories.

Paris, Sligo, Kilkenny Castle, Bewley's Ballsbridge Dublin, Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal, and W.B. Yeats' resting place in County Sligo, Ireland

Portraits of spring and summer trips in Spain, Ireland, Philippines, and the Freud Museum in London

Exhibit in East London; Victoria and Albert Museum; Jamaica Inn in Bodmin, Cornwall; my new friend, accessory designer Ken Samudio at the International Fashion Showcase 2015 London; and my new Canon EOS 100D camera that's now an indispensable companion in my travels

A visit to my grandmother's ancestral home in Batangas, Philippines; beautiful sunset in Roxas Boulevard, Manila; Costa Pacifica in Baler, Aurora, Philippines; and halu-halo dessert with my friend in Manila. P.S. I'm not a fan of those two hearts on the lower left, but this is a collage template, hence I can't get rid of them.

Summer visit to the V&A, and a stroll in London

Lough Gill and Mullaghmore in County Sligo; sunset at 9pm in Ireland; the house of Sigmund Freud in North London; Freud's original Psychoanalysis couch; and a writing on the wall which prompted me to ponder on what entails doing what we love

A white wedding and early Christmas in Ibiza

The last quarter of the year was spent visiting the Old Town of Ibiza and enjoying indulgent watermelon mojito and sangria while there. I sneaked in an early winter trip to the V&A

Later in 2015, I've finally relaunched my blog as Pen Photo Passport ( from the former blogspot handle Chinwags and Tittle-Tattles ( I feel that the name change reflects my posts and direction. At the same time, going dot com makes me feel I've achieved something over my nearly three years of blogging. Some readers via my Facebook page say they receive a security warning when they click the link on a new post. That's now history. It's taking time for the new URL to crawl up the radar of search engines, but I'm in no rush. I'll get there.

Thanks to all you for another year of sharing and exchanging stories and tips! 

See you in 2016!

Thursday, 24 December 2015


I told my friend earlier today that I'm so mentally exhausted, I cried for about 30 seconds in the work toilet just out of sheer tiredness. Instead of a long sigh and a deep breath to release the relentless stress due to the peak season at work, I just burst out into tears.

I said that I'll be having a quiet night and will catch up with the holiday fever on Christmas day. I finally had some downtime and managed to go through my overdue readings.

I hadn't planned on having a Christmas post, but reading all of yours inspired me to write a short one. 

So, let me share my 'Natale look' (as I described it to my Italian friend who's such a nutter) kindly art-directed via an app by a friend and colleague the other day. I then showed this to my boss and asked him if he would hire me had he met me looking like this. He looked closely and said, "we have the same hair!" Turns out my colleague had done the same look for him --but with glasses. 

So, here's the official holiday post from the blog.

Merry Christmas to y'all!

Hope you're all fattening yourselves up as I will be doing until the New Year celebrations.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015


Fashion can either be underrated or overrated. My judgment toggles between the two extremes depending on the value I place on a fashion piece, collection or concept, but I generally tend to overrate to justify the guilt behind the purchase and the price tag that comes with it. One thing's for sure, I'm never irreverent.

The Age of Fashion Revolution. The likes of Mary Quant, André Courrèges, and Emilio Pucci produced luxury ready-to-wear clothes and accessories for the younger market, and produced traditional couture techniques.

I did some window shopping at the Victoria and Albert Museum the other week, but as there was no intention to shop as nothing was for sale, and even if there was I'm skint anyway, I'd rather call it fashiongazing.  It was delightful to have a viewing --for free-- and  not to be prohibited from taking photos. 

I usually go the logical way, presenting everything in chronological fashion, but I thought I'll take you around the exhibit the way I woke up that morning: all over the place.

So here are my favourites.

Hand-painted paper and wood advertising fan, France, c. 1950-55. Tulle and satin Roger Vivier shoe, Paris, 1954.

VOGUE, Great Britain, November 1954

Mirror mirror on the wall, who's taking photos of them all?

'Zemire' evening ensemble (jacket, skirt, bodice, and under-petticoat) by Christian Dior, Autumn-Winter 1954. This was called the 'New Look', launched on 12 February 1947. This new silhouette is based on its distinctive hour-glass shape. 

VOGUE, September 1949

VOGUE, March 1949

BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, 1920 - 1930. Dominated by the garçonne look: simple, straight, and waistless. Fabrics are lightweight, worn with strings of beads made of plastic. You will see fringed shawls, Chinese-style embroidered dresses, and fur-trimmed evening coats. 

I'd say this is my all-time favourite dress style and cut. Even the colour is timeless. It's quite a struggle though to let the fabric hang loose around my ample hips.

Printed crepe-de-Chine dress by Mainbocher, c. 1935

Crocodile clutch with silver hardware by Hermès, c. 1931

Sequinned net evening trousers; silk chiffon with lace and mother-of-pearl blouse, both by Coco Chanel, c. 1937 - 38. Donated by Diana Vreeland, who is dubbed as The Empress of Fashion.

Evening dress made of silk chiffon and gilded kid leather by Jeanne Lanvin, c. 1936

Gilded leather shoes by Jack Jacobus Ltd., Great Britain, c. 1930. Worn and given by H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

Choker made of silk and velvet ribbons with gilt pine cones by Elsa Schiaparelli, from 'The Pagan' collection, c. 1938

A printed silk dress designed by Jean Cocteau for Charles James Couture, probably made in Paris, c. 1938

Love this!

A quirky hand belt clasp by Victor Linton for Charles James, c. 1935

Bracelet with gold, pavé set with turquoises and brilliant-cut diamonds, c. 1860

I'm quite an avid fan of fans, so these two didn't escape my eyes. They're too dainty I wonder if they have ever been used. But then again, the upper class and socialites would have servants fanning them, so these gorgeous pieces would serve as accessories.

For more on fans, click HERE for a feature on The Fan Museum in Greenwich.

Fan made of horn sticks, gouache, and metal, made either in England or France, c. 1820 - 1830

Pierced ivory fan, made in France, c. 1820 - 1830

A group of girls in school uniform came in with their sketchbooks, and that's when I decided to head off to the Garden Cafe to sit and have a flat white. I thought I could squeeze in a visit to another museum, but it's on another side of town and a bit cumbersome to reach. Next time. I brought out my notebook and started writing notes about future posts. Hope you stay around for them. 

Thanks for visiting with me. See you around!

Thursday, 3 December 2015


Just a couple of years ago, I could devour a good book for a week. That's taking into consideration that I have a full-time job and all I want to do is turn on the telly for white noise when I get home. I used to make at least two trips a month to my local library to borrow and return. I can't help but notice that nowadays I can barely get past the last few chapters of a bestseller within a three-week period. 

Where has my free time gone?

Or am I just mismanaging it as I'm more distracted than ever at any point in my digital age adult life?

Muted colours of Autumn-Winter by the pond of the Victoria and Albert museum in London

Glorious in Spring-Summer; gorgeous in Winter. The Garden cafe at the V&A

Longer hours at work; some weekends. Wider circle of friends --a positive thought rather than the opposite-- but constant virtual and face-to-face contact with several people at once and at length, spread over different schedules and time zones, does take up a considerable amount of time. Subscription to a couple of independent  publications, both online and by post, eat up some reading time as they're just as good as reading books.  Some new exercise regime? It's worth missing out on a chapter or two.

The other week, I checked my mobile service provider online account.  News flash: I'm up for a phone upgrade.  When I swapped my Blackberry for an HTC smartphone two years ago, the only reason I did was the phone kept stalling. I paid roughly £80 for an early upgrade.

Then came all the apps. Before Whatsapp, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, mobile Facebook, mobile Skype, Pages Manager, and the like, I only had the humble BBM and occasionally the old Yahoo Messenger  to stay in touch with those who didn't have a Blackberry. This inanimate object, whose aesthetic features override its utilitarian attributes, toggles between giving me a well-rounded digital life and draining myself of the real one.

via Brain Pickings' Facebook page

I thought that my personal life needed some clean-up job at the same time as my MacBook's start-up disk. 

I screen-grabbed the above from Brain Pickings' Facebook page a couple of weeks back. If you don't follow them yet, please do. It's a perfect space for picking up inspirational and philosophical morsels from celebrated writers and philosophers that can justify the time spent browsing Facebook. This poster sums up the very same things I have been unknowingly neglecting as being digitally and virtually connected in every way possible becomes even more enmeshed in our lives.

My corner

"Feed your inner life," Jane Kenyon says.  Mine is undernourished at the moment. I pumped it with nutrients by spending time in one of my favourite museums during one rare weekday off. It was bustling with tourists in summer which made the grounds more like a public park. This is my cup of tea: slow, unhurried pace, and the crowd was nowhere around. I bought a flat white and a bar of dark chocolate from The Garden Cafe and sat outside. I put on my jacket when the wind became chilly. I make sure that whenever I can, I bring my camera for any photo opps --not of myself but my surroundings. I revel in the silence and people-watching. I tried taking a selfie (yes, because I was wearing one of my favourite red lipstick shades), but decided against it as I looked silly. I wish I can experience more of this and not feel compelled to post every single photo in real time. After all, I'm not a news bureau. I wish I could draw and make some sketches. I wish I can do this more often. Sometimes all I need for company are my thoughts. 

I popped into my town centre's branch of my mobile service provider to enquire about my options for an upgrade. I don't need one, but it's our way of life now to be told that we do. Either the sales rep employed a reverse psychology on me, or he was already 100% up on his like-for-like sales, he didn't need to push. He said that as I own an HTC One, I was clearly a leader of the pack, so why be another follower and buy into the hype of an iPhone 6s Plus? Needless to say, the only thing he made that afternoon was sense. 

Ultimately, I think Jane Kenyon was leading us to break bad habits. That to me, is an upgrade.

How do you feed your inner life?

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Hello. Hi. Hola. Ciao.

Gotta reference Adele here, as even she made me sing 'Hello'. Ok, fine, thanks to Lionel Richie, too.

It's barely a month that I haven't posted anything, but it felt like at least a quarter of the year. I did say on my last post that I will be gone while I sort out some technical issues on this blog. Or did I mention technical?

via my Instagram account, a screenshoot of the first page of Riga-based bookazine 'Benji Knewman' , beckoning readers to get lost in words

I've been lunching and tea-breaking on Googlebots, robots.txt, sitemaps, webmaster tools, pings, new Facebook plugin formats that I can't figure out yet, among other techie terms that I didn't have to deal with when I started this blog almost 3 years ago on a blogspot platform. I didn't think it would be a cumbersome and frustrating process to go dot com, but here I am, still in the middle of it, but ready to face the blogging music again.

It is like being born again, but more in a philosophical sense rather than religious, for I never believe in changing religions to renew my soul, which is totally another story. I am aware of losing traffic (not that I have an exceptionally big following --at least not yet), but it will take time for the new name to crawl and be indexed and picked up by search engines. Even I don't recognise the new blog name and URL. I liked a photo on Instagram and wondered who on earth had the audacity to immediately pirate my username?! 

As with most blogs, I initially had no specific purpose when deciding on the name, so I ended up with a random moniker that I came up with while having tea one morning, which also inspired my very first post entitled 'Have I Got Mugs For You' in March 2013. The last couple of years have more or less defined my identity and direction, hence the new blog title of PEN PHOTO PASSPORT. These are my essentials for musings. I would love to share more of my thoughts as inspired by these tools. Whether those thoughts will endear me to you or will crucify me, or bore you and may even piss you off will be a revelation. I may even try to titillate you. Stop me.

So, yes, I missed you all. Looking forward to commenting back and forth with all of you again. Will be heading over to your pages soon. See yah!

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Friday, 30 October 2015


Holidays come with lazy days, when nothing concrete's planned for the day. We had some down time and used them to wander around Ibiza Town, have some San Miguel beer and paella, and meet up with our friends for mojitos (watermelon preferably, but turns out the poolside barman in our hotel just invented this concoction probably as hair of the dog for punters), sangria and churros. I sampled some ensaïmada (ensaymada in Filipino), which is a type of brioche pastry. The Balearic original is flaky which makes the Philippine variant of Majorcan origin my preferred version as it's doughy and topped with sugar and grated cheese.

Via random photos, I'll take you to Passeig de Vara de Rey, the main street in the shopping area of Ibiza Town, Placa des Parc, and the marina lined with restaurants and bars.

Ensaïmada from a local bakery, dusted with caster sugar. I normally would have this for merienda or afternoon tea, but it was a breakfast fare in Ibiza.

Not many would know that San Miguel Beer originates from the Philippines where it was first brewed in  1890 in  San Miguel, Manila. San Miguel Brewery in the Philippines and Mahou-San Miguel group, Spain's largest brewer, have an agreement for the beer's global promotion. 

Paella is a standard dish in the Philippines and not considered exotic

Watermelon mojito and shellac nail gel go together

A special welcome drink was mixed for me by a group of Filipino barmen at the Grand Palladium Hotel where my friend's bridal party stayed

This walkway reminds me of a convent school that I attended, and many other hallways of educational institutions and buildings in the Philippines inspired by European architecture

Miercoles Cerrado (closed Wednesday) is Miyerkules Sarado in Filipino, although we instinctively write signage in English . It was a Friday though when we were in Ibiza Town, I thought that was a long siesta.

A row of cocktail bars along Placa des Parc in Ibiza Town

An indulgent sangria: this is how I take my fruits on holiday

It's been more than a month since this short trip to Ibiza. The clocks have gone back for European DST. Winter's just around the corner. As with some animals that hibernate during this season, I may briefly take mine, not to abandon this blog, but to polish up on ideas I have in mind for a while now. I have reached a cul-de-sac and can't turn back until that light-bulb moment has come to collect me. 

In the meantime, go and have a look at the tabs on top of the page, where most of the entries have been organised in specific categories for easier navigation. If you like what you read, please share. Thanks to all who've been visiting, reading, commenting, and sharing.

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