When you ask people about their goals and desires in life, chances are you’ll receive a lot of responses related to travel. Whether it be a trip to one of the thousands of islands in the Philippines, or an exodus abroad, travel is one of the things people have in common. And they travel for a variety of reasons–to explore, to learn, to experience, among many others.
If you’d asked Johanna Michelle Lim why she began to travel, you’d get an interesting answer. It’s an impulse that paid off though. Her eight years of traveling across the Philippines birthed her desire to write her first book What Distance Tells Us: Travel Essays About the Philippines.
“All of it, I think, stemmed from a suffocating need to escape,” Johanna shares in retrospect. “I had come from such a sheltered upbringing, and was already naturally introverted, and so there was always that emotional curiosity to find what’s uncomfortable and unrecognizable, what lay beyond my own milieu. I clamored for material and stories that were vastly different from mine.”
When she had the chance to travel after graduating from college in her 20s, she made sure to take whatever opportunity she could. Most of these travels were for social development organizations that Johanna was involved with, those that tackled issues like education in rural areas, poverty alleviation, and fisherfolk livelihood.
“In that sense, this might be why most of my travels are less touristy, less sparkly. A lot of people might even call them mundane,” the 30-year-old adds. “But I’d like to think I tackle what Joan Didion called ‘the ordinary instant,’ stories from people that are misunderstood or underrepresented.”
On some days, Johanna says that she finds travel hedonistic and unnecessary. And on other days, she finds true purpose in it. She’s been to far-flung provinces of the country, but says she’s never been in the habit to count just how many she’s visited. “For me, it’s never been about the numbers as travel, more than its physical manifestation, is about the internal miles,” she divulges.
Johanna is a fan of slow travel, saying that she’d rather see less to see more. To her, traveling is like doing a personal ethnographic study where you more or less know how different everybody is, but essentially how everyone is the same.
Her most memorable trips are the quiet, nuances ones from Mindanao, including Tawi-Tawi, South Cotabato, Zamboanga, Siargao and Misamis, among others. She’s seen firsthand the suffering and discomfort in these areas, but she’s also seen extreme joy.
“I like places that are multi-layered and unapologetic,” she states. “Places like these have the capacity to be inclusive and generous with their joy. They share it with travelers like me who have far more comfortable situations than they, and yet it’s often these places that have a bigger threshold for diversity, a bigger heart for humanity.”
What Distance Tells Us was curated in a way that represents the North, South, East and West of the Philippines. Each compass point has three essays; the North tackles Batanes, Sagada and Benguet. The South tackles Tawi-Tawi, Lake S’bu, and Zamboanga.
“More than the physical distance though, the book tackles my tracing or retracing the route from where I started this very act of estrangement to my here and now,” she says.
What does distance tell us? Johanna says we’ll have to read the book to find out.
What Distance Tells Us: Travel Essays About the Philippines is available in bookstores nationwide.
Tea with Coralie
When a basket filled with tea goodies of macaroons, delicate cakes and sandwiches was delivered, it came in the signature purple color of this iconic brand. “Very Charriol”, as Coralie , the CEO of the Swiss brand, might have put it. She didn’t actually use that term to describe the savories. Rather, she was describing the cable bracelet that makes their products distinct. Avid Rustans Cebu shoppers will find the Charriol boutique just off the main entrance of the department store, near the familiar scented hall at the first level. On display are an array of earrings, bracelets and watches enticing to those looking for retail therapy with pieces that are timeless and yet not overtly breaking the credit card limit.
The tea Zoom party, as arranged by our host Ginggay Joven, and Luzanne Manlapit who is the brand manager of Charriol in the Philippines, was as good as any press-do from pre pandemic normal times. And an intimate peak at lifestyle editors’ lives as most of us were zooming from our living rooms, including Coralie who was answering our questions from her home in Geneva. Like most of us, she readily says, “I have a travel bug, and on weekends, I dream of where I can go!”.
Philip Charriol, Coralie’s father who started the brand in 1983, was a frequent visitor to the Philippines, making Manila (and Cebu) a side trip to his rounds of Singapore and Hong Kong. He made many friends in Asia and it was a sad day when everyone heard of his passing more than a year ago in a car accident at the Le Castellet racing track in southeast France.
These days, the company is in good hands with Coralie. She is set to debut a series of new collections building upon her father’s vision, including a reimagined Celtic collection, a line of watches first introduced in the 80s. The latest Celtic Legacy watch has a more striking face with two dials and bigger bezels available in gold or rose gold. The cable bracelet is made up of 6 strands of steel and titanium alloy that are flexible and durable. It comes in an elegant 30mm case, making it an equally perfect accessory for both a lunchtime affair as well as to a glitzy night on the town.
Also new are their ocean-themed pieces. The Forever Starfish watch comes in two iteration of stainless steel or rose gold case with a white mother-of-pearl dial. The second one is the Marina bracelet collection — the Charriol signature cable tied around a porthole and clasped together by a Charriol dial, it’s a fresh and young take for an everyday jewelry.
As a contemporary business leader, Coralie shared cautionary tales of polar bears and melting icebergs. Through their Charriol Living initiative, Philippe Charriol is a partner of the global organization Lonely Whale. It is a community of international businesses cognizant of the harming effects of disposable stuff in today’s world. Particularly single-use plastics, which are harmful to marine life when they end up in our seas. She co-produced a compelling documentary titled The Story of Plastic (www.storyofplastic.org) “a searing expose revealing the ugly truth behind plastic pollution and the false solution of plastic recycling”.
The company is committed to being socially conscious. Pretty soon, all Charriol packaging will be made of paper and sustainable materials. “We are interconnected tru our oceans”, she explains. In addition, part of the proceeds of selected ocean-themed Charriol pieces like the Forever Turtle watch, the Forever Waves and Ocean bracelets, will go to the Lonely Whale organization.
Philippe Charriol comes up with new design for watches once a year or once every two years to keep it fresh. Their jewelry line is much more frequent with bracelets and earrings. When asked if the company will be coming out with smart watches, Coralie was quick to reply that although other prestige watch companies have tried it, Charriol will not be producing one. “But I am coming out with something by October which is a kind of an accessory to a techie watch. To connect Charriol to technology.”
Coralie Charriol, the CEO of Charriol showing the Forever Starfish collection using mother of pearl face and their entry level cable bracelets in bright colors.
Screenshot of the Zoom tea party attended by top Manila lifestyle editors
The tea goodies for the tea party delivered by the Charriol team
The Charriol boutique inside Rustans at Ayala Center Cebu
PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later
Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202
AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.
We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.
We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.
Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.