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Blog: At Terra Manna Before January Ended


January is a day shy of leaving. And yet this served as the first entry for this year. I realized that I actually started this journal on New Year’s Eve 2012  with a list of goals I desired to achieve before the year ended. I achieved some. Others remained as goals.

This very entry can be taken as a sign that my undiaried, unwritten—perhaps Facebooked—life  replete with necessary and unnecessary busyness. Instead of dropping a line or two here, I targeted three essays published or written before January ends. I somehow accomplished them together with an essay bound for a competition. But the quality, which I obsessively desired, might have suffered.

I dropped a line here since I recently read Virginia Woolf’s take on diary keeping. —Excerpt from my diary entry (the rest might be embarrassing to share since it discussed self-humiliation, self-berating, self-defending.) 



The wind and rain hushed the afternoon. But I was perfectly cocooned in Traveller’s Palm while breeze occasionally found its way through the open door.

Aside from the modest task I had to accomplish, I was primarily here to read and take a break from writing. Coming to Terra Manna is a valid reason to stay in the room and read with silly  love songs playing on TV (yes, on TV! Cignal Cable can catch FM signals!).

I chanced across three highly readable writers from my pile: Francine Prose (I already forgot when and where I got it); Orhan Pamuk (I have a hard time crossing the second half!); and the amazing Chang-Rae Lee (a gift from P’s parents). December, except for Orhan Pamuk, was a month of trial and error, and so was January.

So I found my afternoons punctuated by the witty, funny, whimsical, quotable characters from Francine Prose’s The Peaceable Kingdom and my wee hours in the morning with Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered while Mango slept on my chest. Ah, life!

I’m grateful for the well-crafted, pensive dialogues and soliloquy, humor amid decadence, and surprising and truly wowing endings. But I might reread the last two stories. Perhaps Prose placed them last since they are the most difficult to read? Or perhaps I was in haste to finish the book since I already found the story that zestfully prompted me to narrate it to someone. Poorly so.

This is the first collection that I have ever finished. Finishing a short story collection is the kind of achievement that I desire an applause for myself. And I did, silently so.

And let me reserve Orhan Pamuk and Chang-Rae Lee for later. And, yes, let me expound and detail The Peaceable Kingdom later too.



January welcomed its last day with the morning sun licking the dews of yesterday’s rain—a  good day to end the month. I took a walk at the private cove. I found the fence erected by the neighboring villa unsightly. It cut the beach in two.

A group of locals scoured the shore. I trailed a guy with a bucket and a machete who joined the rest by TM’s platform.

Terra Manna is nestled on a plateau overlooking the Tañon Strait with the distant Negros ranges teasing the sea and the horizon. Except for the accidental private cove, Terra Manna does not have a wide stretch of  sandy shore, it has rather a rocky cliff.

Once the sea recedes, locals hounds the hunasan. I never thought that TM’s hunasan was rich in marine life. Sawaki’s spines come in different colors: pink, purple, white, and the common black. It was not as monstrous as I thought it was. Starfish in different nude colors.


The guy with a machete and another man stabbed the muddy and weedy shore incessantly, when the tip of the machete hit something hard, they dug it. Perhaps the act was ordinary for them, but I felt eurekaed when they dug out a huge cockle, which they called bug-atan.  I weighed it in my left hand; indeed, it was heavy.

When I pried into the man’s bucket, it was filled with white bivalves, their mantles as tight as they should be.

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at Find me somewhere else!

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  1. ellen says:

    2012 was the first year I didn`t listed what I wanted to accomplish … so I guess I will have to write the list of what I actually accomplished. Not sure if it has the same effect though.

  2. paw says:

    cool starfish pic! that’s as close as I want to get to them though.

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