Mi Último Adiós 

By what cannot be called anything other than a random series of events, I’ve just had my second solo exhibition in Jyväskylä, the 5th largest city in Finland.

Completed over the course of 17 days at the Ratamo Center for Printmaking and Photography–widely regarded as one of the top printmaking centers in Finland if not in the world, the exhibition, which was originally intended to be inaugurated in Barcelona, was held at Äkkigalleria–an award-winning nomadic gallery started by a Canadian-Finnish couple–from the 11th to 13th of September 2017.

Below is the press release:

“Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. He was sentenced to death by firing squad by the Spanish empire for exposing the injustices of the Spanish in the Philippines during their colonization of the archipelago for nearly four hundred years. He wrote “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My Final Farewell) the night before his execution by firing squad. It was his farewell to his family, friends, his country, his life. The poem had to be smuggled out of prison in a lamp.

Nearly three years ago I said farewell to my loved ones and my country to try to make a life for myself in Barcelona, Spain. During that time I have experienced a little of what it is like to be an OFW (overseas foreign worker, who make up nearly 40% of the Philippines’ GDP, and Barcelona has 30,000 registered Filipino immigrants), a tourist (Barcelona is full of them), and at times, as an undocumented immigrant, without any security or address, without any chance of becoming part of the Europe that I had traveled so far, invested and given up so much for.

The exhibition consists of the lines from the poem “Mi Ultimo Adios” printed on posters I’ve collected from the streets of Barcelona over the course of 24 months. These were created at Ratamo during a 3-week artist residency.”

***

Jose Gamboa is a visual artist, comic & storybook illustrator, writer and teacher from Manila, Philippines. He is currently artist in residency at the Ratamo Centre for Printmaking”

The catalog for Mi Último Adiós is available upon request by sending an email to pinoyartista(at)gmail with the exhibition title for the subject line.

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Barcelona August 17, 2017

 

I thought that I’d share my experience of last Thursday’s terrorist attack on Catalunya, the 2nd in the history of Barcelona.

 

August 17, 2017 17.42 CCCB

It was around 14.30 and I was seated at the Arxiu at the CCCB, the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. Before that, I was at the library, another favourite hangout of mine, but I left as they close for the lunch hour. CCCB is in Raval, right next to Las Ramblas.

After doing some correspondence, I watched the Vice documentary Charlottesville: Race & Terror. Prior to this I had not read up much on what had happened, and needless to say, I was shocked.

Afterwards, I popped into fb and this was the first notification I saw:

Confused, I then opened the La Vanguardia website. And that’s when I realised what was going on. It was unreal, to first see video of a car ramming into the demonstrators in Charlottesville from a few days ago, to reading that a van had rammed into people, seeing the grotesque images that were taken not more than a few minutes ago, and not even a kilometre away.

Across from me, a girl who turned out to be an Italian architect doing her traineeship in Barcelona, asked me if I knew what was going on. I said I literally just read about it. She had gotten the news from her friends and family all the way in Italy. They were telling her so many details, and told her to stay put. She lived on a street perpendicular to Las Ramblas, not more than a minute away by foot, right on the street where the van struck some people and she was at a loss about what to do.

Being in the Arxiu, we were safe at least. Then security showed up and said that we all had evacuate, they were locking down the CCCB.

Considering she had nowhere to go, I said she was welcome to stay at my flat. She readily accepted, and we started walking, making sure to keep as far away from Ramblas as possible. All around, it was eerily quiet, and we could see people walking with their bags, like they were leaving the city.

 

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At Ronda Universitat, people were fixated on the television, and I saw one woman in tears on the phone.

19.30 Avinguda Diagonal

We walked past a crowd of people watching the news from the televisions in an appliance store window. I started to worry about the people I knew who were living and working in the area, which has a very large Filipino population.

We walked on for about 30 minutes until we reached Avinguda Diagonal, one of the main roads that cuts through Barcelona, and were met by this sight:

Cars were bumper to bumper. We wondered if they were all leaving the city. 

Then I saw something that made me stop. Four men who looked middle Eastern had their hands behind their heads, and in front of them was a man wearing what appeared to be a kevlar vest and holding a gun out and pointing it at them. My companion freaked out and said, let’s pass somewhere else. I wanted to snap a photo but they had led them away, I don’t know if they arrested them or saw that they were innocent bystanders.

We later learned that there was a second attack, and that the attackers had made it Sant Just, a neighbourhood just next to mine.

She looks happy but appearances can be deceiving.

We got to my flat as it was getting dark. A few hours later, my flatmates, who had been driving to Barcelona during the attack after spending a few days in France, arrived. We had been communicating and I had told them it would probably be best if they didn’t come back tonight. Fortunately, they were able to drive into the city, keeping to the outskirts, without incident.

I don’t think any of us slept well that night. I certainly didn’t.

August 18 11.00 Les Corts

The next morning, I woke up and took the dog for a walk. Around 13.00, the Italian said that her flatmates said that Ramblas was no longer locked down, and that they were able to get home. We took the bus to Plaza Universitat, and walked to her flat. We were both still shaken up from the day before, and it was surreal to be back in that area and to see people walking around like nothing had changed. We stopped at the corner, just to look out on the Ramblas. We saw police, media, signs and police cordons.

We bid each other goodbye, and I decided to walk on Las Ramblas.

20.30 Las Ramblas

There were crowds huddled here and there, candles had been placed, some flowers, stuffed toys, and someone had left some paper and pens for people to write notes. Some had written on post it notes. There was a young man with his head bowed, staring at the candles with tears in his eyes. Seeing the stuffed toys, I figured that this was a place where one of the casualties, perhaps a child, had lost his or her life. 

The tragedy, the injustice, of a life extinguished before its time, under such senseless circumstances began to hit me.

That’s when I started to feel the grief arise in me. I left a note, and decided to walk home.

August 19, 2017 16.00 Plaza Catalunya

The next morning, I began to make some signs. I had been thinking about the other attacks in Europe, such as the one in Paris, Belgium, Manchester, and I knew I wanted to make something to show solidarity with this tragedy.

Paying my respects to the #CharlieHebdo victims #JeSuisCharlie #memorial #shrine #Paris #RIP #sharpie #PinoyArtista

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

I came up with the following design:

‘Amar’ means ‘to love’ in spanish. The letters form the towers of the Sagrada Familia and the flower pattern from the tiles of Barcelona’s streets have the letters ‘BCN’

I wrapped the signs in plastic, then biked down to Plaza Catalunya. This was what I saw:

Free hugs given on Plaza Catalunya. The next day there was a muslim man with a sign, giving out hugs as well on Las Ramblas

Free 🤗 🖤 #notengomiedo #abrazosgratis #amar #barcelona #freehugs

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

It was a beautiful sight and a wonderful feeling. In highly developed societies, one of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of physical contact, and in a touristic place like Plaza Catalunya and Las Ramblas, you would very rarely speak to a stranger unless it was to ask them to take a picture or refuse a “cervesa beer.” And here, men and women, young and old, of different racial backgrounds were hugging each other. The antidote to terror, to fear, is love.

Yesterday there were just a few candles, flowers, and notes. Two days later, here is what the shrines looked like:

The shrine at Liceu, where the van finally came to a stop

It showed how much love and solidarity people felt for the victims of this senseless tragedy. Indeed, it could have been any one of us. I left my signs in different shrines and biked home.

Managed to snap some Mossos (the special forces of Barcelona) stopping and searching a car on Ramblas. I tried to be discreet but they shooed me away.

I saw photos and videos from that morning where thousands upon thousands had descended upon Plaza Catalunya, clapping and chanting, ‘No tengo miedo!’ (We are not afraid), and the the mimes and other buskers who lined Las Ramblas everyd, also paid tribute to the victims by joining the procession as the crowd made its way down the most famous boulevard in Barcelona. The Mayor of Barce, Ada Colau, posted this.

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August 20, 2017 17.00 Las Ramblas

On the third day after the attack, Ramblas was seemingly back to normal. It was more crowded than usual, or so it seemed. People took photos of the shrines, selfies even, and there was a procession of Muslims, then later, Christians.

Free 🤗 🖤 #notengomiedo #abrazosgratis #amar #barcelona #freehugs

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

“We are Muslims! We are not terrorists!”

 

Las Ramblas: 3 days later

 

As I write this, it’s been five days since the multiple terrorist attacks in Catalunya. Things have seemingly gone back to normal. But there are still people in the hospitals, not all the perpetrators have been accounted for, and there are many more whose lives will never be the same again. And that includes the families of the attackers.

And the authorities are left with the question, how do we keep our cities safe from this type of extremism? This level of viciousness? Especially since the attackers were not foreign, they were young men who were part of Spanish society, who were integrated into Catalan culture, what makes people become this way? 

These questions need an answer. And soon.

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Scar

 

This is one of my earliest memories of my father. Even though it didn’t happen to me personally, my mind’s eye created the scene when I first heard the story, and seeing that scar all the time growing up, engraved this anecdote into my memory.

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I’d like to hear your most memorable story of your father. Share it in the comments and I’ll choose one (or two) to illustrate.

A Side Hustle Isn’t Only Nice, It’s Necessary

Since January this year I’ve been listening to Chris Gillebeau’s Side Hustle School on my daily commute, walk, bike, etc. It’s a daily podcast with bite-sized stories about people who start an income-generating business while working a day job.

The podcast’s tag line is: A side hustle isn’t just nice, it’s necessary.

Chris, by the way, is the author of the The Art of Non-Conformity, and is one of the reasons I decided to leave the Philippines and try living abroad.

From a japanese candy subscription to professional snuggling, the stories are entertaining and inspiring. I try to recommend it to everyone I know who’s looking to earn more income. As an illustrator/visual artist, income can be pretty erratic. So I’ve always had to do other things, be it swim instructor, courtroom sketch artist (more on that later), and antique dealer.

Based on the the stories I’ve listened to, I’ve tried:

  • Opening Getty/Shutterstock images account
  • Walking dogs for a fee using the DogBuddy app
  • Posting portrait and personalised comic book services here and on Etsy
  • Offering photograph, videography, and massage services on craigslist

None of these have panned out so far. After listening about a man from Florida who made $100,000 from selling t-shirts without any inventory, I thought I’d give the teespring a try. Several times I’ve tried and failed on Threadless, which works on a voting system, which shows that I need to get better at of promoting and designing. With teespring however, there is no voting system, but you do need to meet a minimum purchase order for the shirt to be printed.

So here’s my first design:

I set the limit at 50 orders, and as of this writing, I need 3 more to be able to print.

A friend helped me come up with this one, and I promised to split the profits with her. If you have a tshirt design and want me to create it, send me a message at pinoyartista(at)gmail. The plan is to release 3 designs and see if they move.

The great thing about teespring that sets it apart from all the other tshirt platforms I’ve tried is they give you the option of donating a portion of your sales to several charities. 10% of So Very Sorry sales will go to Reach Out WorldWide which is a network of professionals with first-responder skill sets who augment local efforts during natural disasters.

The challenge is to move quickly, to quickly test different business models and determine which works best in terms of enjoyment and profit.

To date, I’ve been playing the copycat, trying to see which are immediately applicable. Although the best thing would be to come up with an idea that a) is original and b) helps people by making their lives better.

After each episode, Chris signs off with, “Remember, inspiration is good, but inspiration combined with action, is so much better.”

Star in Your Own Comic

Are you or anyone you know into the Golden Age of comic books?

Have you ever wanted to appear in one? Now you can make this fantasy a reality.

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Or the guy on the right. It’s totally up to you!

Beginning February I will be available for personalised comic commissions. As this is a side hustle, I will only be doing up to three a month.

With personalised comics you–or the person of your choice–will star in a vintage, black and white, classic comic scene. It could be an action pin up (as pictured), a romance, or a panelled page with a storyline that you provide.

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Ever dreamed of rescuing dogs in distress from a burning building? Now you can

You will receive the final product printed on a3 or a4 canvas, ready for display.

Order your Personalised Comic before the 29th of February and and get 15% off!

More details here.

If you would happen to know anyone who’d be interested, do share this with them before slots run out!

 

What Am I Doing Here?

It is with the appropriate amount of pleasure that I announce my first exhibition in Barcelona.

Spanning eighteen months and four countries, “What Am I Doing Here” is a retrospective of the works created over the past eighteen months since I arrived in Europe. It will include drawings, paintings, photographs, and screen and letterpress prints created in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, and Las Palmas.

The exhibition will be on the 15th of April, at l’Atelier, a small but cozy bakeshop in Carrer del Joncar 29, Poble Nou, at 19.00h.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/1100828233308657/

Exhibition catalog available upon request.

Tengo el placer de invitarte a mi primera exposición en Barcelona.

“¿Por Qué Estoy Aquí?” es la primera exposición individual de José Gamboa en España. Una retrospectiva que abarca dieciocho meses y cuatro países, que incluye ilustraciones, impresiones de pantalla y tipografía, pinturas y fotografías.

Con concierto musical de Guillermo Ayora
(https://www.facebook.com/ayoramusica)

Catálogo de la exposición disponibles a petición.
La exposición tendrá una duración de un mes.

Looking forward to seeing you there / Espero verlos a todos allí,

Jose


 

Above is the invitation text I wrote for my exhibit which is happening next week.

Below is a preview of some of the works that will be on display:

Aside from recently completed #BowieForever series, “What Am I Doing Here” will include:

Illustrations

#saturdayshorts: Trololo #Timelapse #barcelonabarrios #architypography

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Paintings

"In the Same Boat" (detail) #PinoyArtista #illustration #watercolor on paper 40 x 30 cm

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Photographs

#Windowshopping at #DeWallen #Amsterdam #PinoyArtista #travelink #tattoo

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Mono Screenprints

 

Portraits

Can you imagine who I am? #doinglineskeepsmesane

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Six days away, there is still a lot that needs to be done. And unlike other exhibitions I’ve organised before, this is my first solo show–literally: I have had to everything, from booking the venue, conceptualisation, curation, funding, promotion, framing, mounting, and more.

 

Let’s see how it goes.

 

 

#BowieForever

Back in December 2015, I had gotten it on (what I believed at the time to be) good authority that David Bowie was coming to Primavera Sound 2016. The prospect of seeing a creative genius of his calibre live so excited me that despite my source’s admonition not to spread the word, I could not help myself:

Is it true that someone major will be landing in BCN for @primavera_sound? #pinoyartista #doinglineskeepsmesane

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

 

Getting into the whole Bowie vibe, I started learning how to play his songs on the guitar, and began researching which day he would perform in Barcelona. Even my sister who was half a world away seemed to be channeling the Thin White Duke:

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 6.06.00 AM

 

Less than two weeks later, The Man Who Fell To Earth returned to the stars.

 

To be honest, I am not a hardcore Bowie fan, in fact, I was a new one. I didn’t realise it was his birthday or listened to Blackstar until after he had already died.

Then there was that series of highly-publicised deaths that first few days of 2016: Scott Weiland, Lemmy, Alan Rickman, Maurice White. Then Aaron Swartz and Dave Mirra.

But it was the building anticipation of seeing David Bowie live, that whole ‘you might not get another chance’ feeling, then to have it suddenly vanish, that made his death strike a chord. And to make things even more odd, here is where I spent the 1st of January (playing the guitar, to boot):

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Photo by Nicolas Riente

This inexplicable series of events compelled me to create what will be the #BowieForever series. The series will consist of six limited edition mono screeprints and shirts which will be released over the course of several weeks.

#BowieForever Screenprints

BowieForever

Each mono screenprint is numbered, printed on 300 gsm watercolour paper and signed by Jose Gamboa with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Order

We Could Be Heroes

31 x 49 cm Mono Screenprint
Edition of 7

Order

 

Bowie Forever

31 x 49 cm Mono Screenprint
Edition of 7

Order

 

Starman

31 x 49 cm Mono Screenprint

Edition of 7

Order

Spaceman

29.7 x 42 cm Mono Screenprint

Edition of 7

Order

Stardust

29.7 x 42 cm Mono Screenprint

Edition of 7

Order

#BowieForever Ultralimited Edition Tees

 

Available sizes are M and L and XL (depending on availability) and printed on 100% cotton tees. Each tee is signed by Jose Gamboa. Edition of Fifteen.

Order

As I created each design (while listening to the mournfully brilliant Blackstar) I could not help but contemplate the power and influence and creativity that could come from just one man, a man who will live forever through his work.

 

It has only been a few weeks since his spirit rose and stepped aside, and for now, it will be difficult to imagine anyone replacing David Bowie.

 


 

One more thing: Before I left the Philippines for Barcelona over a year ago, I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Although inspiring, the film was too cheesy and unrealistic for my taste (How can Walter Mitty’s phone never run out of battery? And downhill long boarding is no easy thing). Nonetheless, it was a good film. Anyway, I didn’t realise or remember (until recently) that David Bowie’s Space Oddity featured largely in that film, and I wanted to share Kristen Wiig’s more than decent rendition of it:

 

Paradise Found

 

Have you ever fallen in love with a place?

Like falling in love with another person, it is intoxicating, you want to breath them in, you can’t bear to be apart, and then you can’t help but start to imagine what it would be like to live together, to plant roots and grow old together.

That can be part of the reason why travel is so gratifying. Each time you step foot in a place you’ve never been before, the possibility is there.

But there is a distinction between Love and its often-confused doppelgänger, Infatuation.

Infatuation is a volcanic eruption: loud, intense, all-consuming. It can feel like the real thing, and sometimes, it could be.

Love, on the other hand, is a garden. It takes time, a lot of effort, quiet, and without fanfare, it blooms, and an entire field that once had nothing but dirt, is filled with life and beauty.

During some of my travels, certain places have aroused this feeling in me; places that have taken my breath away, places that feel like home.

My earliest memory of such a place would probably be Baguio, a city in the mountains in the north of the Philippines. I had spent almost every summer there as a child, and bathed in its cool air that smelt of pine. I rode horses, learned to bike and roller-skate (had quite a few injuries), and met a lot of interesting people. Unfortunately, rampant and uncontrolled development has destroyed the Baguio I once knew, and living there no longer appeals to me as it once did.

Another place I felt at home in was in Basco, Batanes, the northernmost island of the Philippines.

Batanes
Photo by Maria Ong

Closer to Taiwan than the rest of the Philippines, Batanes looks completely different from the rest of the archipelago.

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Fundacion Pacita. Photo by Victor Gamboa

Then there is Baler, Aurora, a city on the Pacific coast, six hours from Manila. Over the course of well over thirty trips, I grew to love surfing, the people, and the place.

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Photo by JR Teehankee

When I went to Bali, Indonesia in 2013, the perfect waves, friendly people, and cheap yet delicious food made me feel that I needed to–if not relocate–return here at least once a year.

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And then in January 2015 I experienced La Palma.

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Rainbows are gay. Unless they’re on La Palma.

All the places that have captured my heart have similar characteristics in that they have a lot of nature, are close to the ocean, the people living there are warm and hospitable, and economically are quite undeveloped, and certainly none are likely to be listed in the GOOD cities index anytime soon.

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The view from my flat.

It could have something to do with my having grown up in notoriously congested and polluted Manila.

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Although Manila will always be my home. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Like Thoreau, I longed to escape the concrete jungle, and time and again, had considered packing up and living on some seaside town where the pace was easy, and life was as it should be: Enjoyed everyday.

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I have always contended that sunsets were overrated…until I experienced the daily programming on La Palma.

But La Palma was on a whole another level. Its natural beauty was stunning, with its sunsets, mountains, flora, seaside, and climate being optimal for human existence.

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Caldera de Taburiente National Park

The entire island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

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Compared to Barcelona, the Spanish people I met here were so relaxed, friendly, and their features were likewise very different. Also, I was surprised at how many Germans were on the island. Hiking, apparently, is something Germans (and other Scandinavians) are totally crazy about. I met that rare breed–retired hippie Germans–who have made la Isla Bonita their home.

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If only I had a wing suit.

Even if hiking isn’t your thing–although if you are walking through trails like these–how could you not be, La Palma offers so many opportunities for cyclists, climbers, downhill bikers and long boarders, para and hang gliders, sailors, surfers, and so on.

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You need to register in the visitor centre before visiting Caldera de Taburiente National Park, and slots are limited.
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Fuencaliente

The island was formed and reformed by volcanic activity, and the most recent eruption was less forty years ago, and its raw beauty made me imagine that this is what the earth must have looked like when it was very young.

20150108_164529 Although I have never been there, I imagine that this is what Hawaii–one of my dream destinations–looks like.

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Los Guirres

Although Hawaii has much better waves, I was pleasantly surprised to see beautiful right handers and A-frames at Los Guirres, one of the surf breaks on La Palma and the one of the stops for the Gran Canaria surf circuit.

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If only I had a surfboard and wetsuit.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to paddle out because I didn’t have any gear and wasn’t able to find the board and wetsuit rental. Instead, I was able to watch a bit of the surf, bodyboard and drop knee competition that just happened to take place that weekend.

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At the competition I saw the most number of people I had ever seen in one place on the island. La Palma doesn’t have its own university and its industry mainly revolves around bananas and salt, which are its main exports. As a result, young people leave to study and find work, leaving an ageing population and not much economic activity.

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But this is what draws me to this place even more. Bali and Baler have started to become crowded as tourism has developed the area. In La Palma, with a population of less than 18,000, you can go to many places and not encounter another human being.

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Reventon trail

Before I came, I considered hiking to be a boring past time, devoid of any thrill or challenge. I’ve gone mountain climbing, cross-country skiing, and caving, and all the hikes I’ve been on had been unenjoyable. But La Palma showed me that I had not experienced extreme hiking. Every year, hikers die and sometimes disappear in these mountains. Towards the end of my stay we went on hikes that lasted for five hours, that rose and descended a thousand meters, and where nothing, not even the wind, could be heard.

Absolute silence.

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Los Llanos
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This park is designed by the island’s resident artist, the Gaudi of La Palma, if you will, renaissance man Luis Morera

Of course, it could simply be the people that have drawn me to this place. As I wrote in Terminal Illness, I went to La Palma to visit my aunt whom I had not seen in over twenty five years. She and my cousin made my stay absolutely wonderful, especially since it was such an ordeal to get there, and I will forever be grateful for their hospitality. My aunt rises up with the sun, which peeks over the mountain at around 9, she makes an impressive cup of tea, then goes to work in the garden. She has a macadamia tree. She and her husband are still gradually moving books and things over from Germany, and the house still needs constant work. Occasionally, she visits with other residents of the island (her neighbour, another German, spends seven days a week tending to his garden–which is beautiful) or drives into town to do shopping.

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Warm enough to sit outside, but at 20 degrees, the water was too cold to swim in. Summertime in La Palma is very warm, I am told.

My aunt had only moved to La Palma less than two years ago, before this she had devoted her life to running a bookshop which she owned for fifteen years, then sold when on their third trip to the island, her husband said, ‘Sell the bookshop, let’s get a place here.’ Just like that.

It sounds so simple, although of course, it never is. But at its core, life and love are simple.

It is for all these reasons that La Palma has captured my heart.

So we shall meet again someday, La Isla Bonita.

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This is how around how much I need.

During these seven days, the island also captured my imagination:

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Fuencaliente, 21.59 x 33cm, watercolour and graphite

 

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Tihuya, dimensions variable, wood, volcanic rock.
“Tihuya” was the name of the island before the Spanish invaded, renaming it and wiping out all traces of the indigenous people.

 

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Carcosa. Digital photograph.

 


If you would like to read more about everyday life on La Isla Bonita, here is the most popular blog on La Palma (in German).

 

Terminal Illness: Part Two

Continued from Part One

 

In terms of experience level, I would classify myself as a class 3 traveler (5 being the highest). I’ve been to three continents (Asia, Europe, Australia), have flown on flights lasting 22 hours, have traveled extensively around the Philippines, and when I have the means, I try to visit at least one new country every year. Despite having been granted a ten-year US visa thrice, but I have never taken advantage of it, and have never traveled above Economy class.

So I wouldn’t consider myself inexperienced when it comes to air travel. As a class 3 traveler I have had my share of mishaps. Compounded with my penchant for disregarding rules and regulations, I have had quite a few ‘incidents’ in airports.

But in this particular case, it could have just been sheer bad luck.

As I mentioned in Part One, I was bound for a flight to La Palma from Barcelona at 0900. After some setbacks, I had made it to the airport at around 0800, and was headed for the security check.

Like any experienced air traveler, I had checked in online prior to my flight, but–and here’s where the inner misfit in me reared its all too familiar head–didn’t print a boarding pass. Besides the fact that I didn’t have a printer, I figured, Hey, this is Barcelona, a developed country, not the Philippines, and nobody brings a printed boarding pass in the age of online check-ins and QR codes. For good measure, I sent the boarding pass to my cellphone and had the confirmation email of my online booking on my tablet.

While queuing up for the security check, there was a scanner for the boarding pass. I showed the airport personnel the ‘boarding pass’ link I’d received by SMS, but then I realised I needed the bar code for the machine. Now here’s my phone:

My #antique #nokia #phone #unbreakable #iphone #needanupgrade

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Cursing under my breath, I spent around 10 minutes trying to pull up the boarding pass on my iPad using the 30-minute free airport wifi. For some reason the site and link wouldn’t work so I gave up and went to the Vueling check-in counter (another five or so minutes in the queue) where I was told by the desk agent that I needed to try the last-minute check-in desk (had I known such a desk existed I would have gone there immediately) at the end of the bank of counters.

Now I was starting to panic. My heart racing, I dashed to the last-minute desk. There a lady was calling the name of some tardy passenger, indicating that I had to wait. When she could attend to me, I told her my flight details. “You are too late,” she declared matter-of-factly. I could only imagine the expression on my face. “The gates close in three minutes,” she stated flatly, and despite my begging and assuring her of my running speed, she said it was impossible for me to make it. Perhaps if I had come ten minutes ago (while I was copying the boarding pass link from my phone to the browser on my iPad), it would still have been possible, but since this was not the case she suggested I check the Vueling ticketing office for a flight change.

With a terrible knot in my stomach, I sprinted to the Vueling ticketing desk (which of course had to be all the way at the end of the hall) where I pleaded with them to help me. The first person I spoke to simply looked at his computer and said the worst words I have ever heard.

Besides ‘You’re going to live. Kinda,’ ‘I’m sorry, but your application has been denied,’ and ‘It’s not working,’ this is the worst sentence one could ever hear:

‘Your plane has already left.’

That’s when the sheer hopelessness of my situation struck me.

Until that point in my life, I had never heard such a sound escape from my lips. The groan of despair was punctuated by the thud of my forehead as I leaned it against the cold glass of the window of the ticketing office. I felt utterly horrible. I had been looking forward to this trip for the past weeks, the ticket had already been paid for of course, and my aunt Susan, whom I hadn’t seen in over twenty-five years, was expecting me.

Disheartened, I tried to call her to tell her the bad news. The call wouldn’t go through so I sent her a message asking her to call me, and that it was an emergency.

I went back to the Vueling ticketing office, deciding to ask another ticketing agent who might possibly be more resourceful. I spoke to a Jordi who said that there were no more flights for the rest of the week to La Palma, but that there was the option of taking a flight to Tenerife instead, then taking a connecting flight or a ferry to La Palma. The change would cost an additional €129, and I had to make the booking by 1005 and he couldn’t tell me how much the connection or ferry would cost.

That was it. Game over. No way was I going to spend that amount over the original flight. I crumpled to the floor in the corner of the terminal and sent out an email to Anja apologizing for fucking up so badly, and tried to breath.

That was that, I thought. I had just wasted a plane ticket–something I’ve never done before–and I was preparing myself to go back to my flat where I would proceed to lock myself up in my room for the rest of the week.

Then my phone rang. It was tita Susan. It was the first time in twenty five years that either one of us had heard each other’s voice. On the verge of breaking down, I explained what had just happened. Calmly, she said she would talk to Anja. A few minutes later, Anja called and I explained that there is an option to go to La Palma through Tenerife, and I heard her mother say that this was quite simple. But I didn’t think I’d have enough money to buy another ticket from Tenerife to La Palma, I said. She told me not to worry about this, that they would book the flight for me.

So I went back to Jordi and bought the 1200 flight to Tenerife arriving at 1420. Anja texted me that I was booked on a Canary Air flight at 1535, I just had to pick up my ticket at their desk, and that Tenerife was a small airport so there was a lot of time to make the connection.

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Exhausted but bolstered by the fact that they had not given up on me, I was on my way to Tenerife two hours later.

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The fat lady was still not singing though. When we landed two hours later, I checked the time and my heart stopped for the second time that day.

1520.

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Edvard Munch knows.

But Anja said it was a small airport, so maybe fifteen minutes was enough time to pick up my ticket, check in, and go through security. I was the first out the door of the plane and into the terminal. Unable to find the Canary Air desk, I asked the airport security with Guardia Civil emblazoned on his uniform. He indicated how to get to the desk, but I still couldn’t find it. It was ten minutes to departure, and I couldn’t believe I could be so stupid as to miss two flights in a single day.

Careening around in a panic–there were no escalators–I wound up back where I started, to the puzzlement of the Guardia Civil. Finally he understood what I was looking for. I explained that it was an emergency, that my flight was leaving in less than ten minutes. “Don’t worry, we are one hour behind Barcelona,” he said (I paraphrase). My heart started to beat normally once again. Mind you, throughout this entire ordeal–which had so far lasted several hours–I was communicating in nothing but Spanish. He led me to through security barriers and I found the Canary Air ticketing desk tucked away in a corner behind a pillar where they were sure to be difficult to find.

The lady confirmed my booking, then handed me a bill to pay for €59. Confused, I said that this was already paid for. She checked her computer and shook her head. After paying for the flight to Tenerife, I had €71 in my wallet, which thankfully covered the fare. So I approached the check-in desk with my boarding pass and €12 to my name. The airport officer then said that they have two bookings under my name. She cancelled one and told me to return to the Canary Air office to get a refund.

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Tenerife airport has paid video games and internet  (€1 gets you something like 20 minutes) and kiddie rides. It almost reminds me of my least-favorite airport, Manila’s NAIA 1.

At 1535 I was back up in the air, flying over the blue waters in a plane that was probably as old as I was. I noticed that with all my running that day, my left shoe’s sole had started to come off. These were hand-me-down hiking boots, and before leaving Barcelona, I had just had the right sole repaired. Looking around at the old plane, I thought, “Please let this be the last thing to go wrong today.”

And it was. At 1610 I walked through the arrivals gate of La Palma airport, hugged my aunt and cousin, got into the car, and drove through the most beautiful island I had ever seen.

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Touchdown.
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All’s well that ends in La Palma.

Epilogue

A few days later, I received an email with the subject, ‘Did you like your Vueling experience?’ (translated). In this case, silence was the best response.

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Did I learn anything from this ordeal? Two things: First, always print your boarding pass. Second, be thrifty in all things, except when it comes to air travel. This should likewise apply to medical care, but that’s a story for another day.