Alaska in My Mind

Norwegian Joy in Skagway, Alaska

March, 30, 1867: What Started it All

The United States bought ALASKA for 7.2 million dollars from the Russian Empire. It officially became the 49th state of the US on January 3, 1959. Alaska is the largest state of the USA by total area at 663, 268 square miles. It is over twice the size of Texas, the next largest site.

Alaska is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It has its own kind of magic that can effortlessly put one under its spell. I was very fortunate to go in and out of this place for five weeks. In total, that was five Alaskan cruises that gave me enough time to see its lakes, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. The ports that we visited were Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, and Skagway. We also went sailing around Glacier Bay.

My Ship of Joy

April 6, 2019: Goodbye Singapore

My long day just finished and I was alone in my cabin. I remember looking at a special set of small things that in the last few weeks have served me very well. A map, a few left-over coins, a fridge magnet, and a train ticket. These things took me places and rewarded me with the best memories.

That was my last day in Singapore. I was aboard Norwegian Joy. We were going to Japan and then after just a day we would sail for Vancouver, Los Angeles, and finally Seattle which will be our new home port. From there we will start doing Alaskan cruises in time for its spring and summer seasons.

As the next chapter began to unfold, I remember not being able to contain my joy. My excitement just overflowed. I kept thinking about many beautiful tomorrows.

Where I can smell cherry blossoms. See good friends I haven’t seen for so long. Touch and feel the snow. And witness the most magical light show of all.

May 7, 2019: Hello Tomorrow

After a long dry dock, we finished strong. A month just passed. It was Norwegian Joy’s first official cruise. I was out with friends in the cold. We were following a long line of people waiting for the shuttle bus that would take us to downtown. We were in Juneau, my very first Alaskan port.

I bought two precious things that day. A beanie and a nice pair of boots. You see, I didn’t come here prepared. The whole time, I was thinking I’ll be spending half of my contract basking under the Caribbean sun. It was a good switch though brought by an unexpected detour. Alaska is a place full of pretty things far too many for me to count. Here’s a short list of the places I visited, the things I did, and the lessons I learned.

Oh! The Places We Go

May 8, 2019: Railroad Dock (Skagway)

White Pass train in Skagway, Alaska
The White Pass Train in Skagway

The rain went hiding. Your blessings remained. My hands were freezing because of the cold air. My eyes were filled with awe and wonder. My heart leapt with joyful prayer.

The snow-capped mountains were amazing. I saw a long train left to go there. I wish next time my friends and I can go hiking. It’s a long walk they say. It takes many hours and certainly tiring. But that’s okay. I imagine the view will take my breath away.

I walked around the town and immersed myself in shops filled with delightful products all locally made. I bought another fridge magnet to remind me of moments I wish to keep.

I couldn’t help but smile. Thinking how great are Your plans and how marvelous are the work of Your hands. Some months ago, I was under the heat of the Caribbean sun. Now I’m here on a completely new land. In a few hours, the ship will be surrounded by ice. I’m excited to see orcas, otters, and all things divine.

May 10, 2019: Creek Street (Ketchikan)

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska
The vibrant colors of Creek Street

You give beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair.

The historic Creek Street is one of the most popular things to see in Ketchikan, Alaska. Known as the Red District in the past, the place is now home to restaurants, shops, museums and public dwelling.   

Unexpectedly, I found this charming place in the company of two kind strangers who instantly became my friends. It’s been a fun day Lanie and Blessel. I’m glad the crew drill was cancelled and today’s weather was perfect.

As we find our way through the colorful houses, wooden stairs and bridges, I can’t help but think of how things were here before and how they changed. The beauty lies not just in the structures but in all the stories they told. Because from mud it transformed to gold. From a fool’s paradise rose a fountain of hope.

I guess that’s my story, too. Thank You for bringing me to You.

May 14, 2019: Lumberjack Show (Ketchikan)

The Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan, Alaska
Spruce Mill vs. Dawson Creek

In praise of rugged woodsmen and a rowdy good time! Lumberjack is a person who falls trees, cuts them into logs, or transports them to a sawmill. A female lumberjack is called a lumberjill. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is a tourist attraction in Ketchikan. It honors an industry that was the backbone of Ketchikan’s economy from the late 50s to the 70s.

This morning, my friends and I treated ourselves to an action packed and laughter-filled show that featured the great lumberjacks of two rival camps – the American Spruce Mill and the Canadian Dawson Creek. They competed in various events that involved saw, ax, rope, chainsaw, and of course wood.

The whole time, the athletes’ skills and strengths were put to a test. The crowd has been great, cheering for their favorite teams. After an hour of intense fun, the American loggers were declared winners.

Thank You for free tickets to an amazing show. Lumberjacks!!! We salute you all! 

May 15, 2019: Mount Roberts Tramway (Juneau)

View on top of Mount Roberts in Juneau, Alaska
View on top of Mount Roberts

What a beautiful day! The woman I met and walked with early this morning said, “You are never alone.” Thank you Vicky.

I rode a tram that took me up to the mountain. The view took my breath away. And indeed, I met strangers who became friends. Kind people who shared in my joy as I capture photos of moments I may never have again. Thank you Ate Baby and Kuya Romeo.

The sun shone bright and I thought it would be hot. The temperature changed and it was chilly at the top. I was welcomed by a lovely sight. There was still snow that I can finally touch. The feeling was wonderfully weird as I hold them in my hands.

Thank You for another heavenly surprise. Before my stay here ends, I pray You also make me see the lights.

May 15, 2019: Holkham Bay Glacier Fjords (Glacier Bay)

Glacier Bay, Alaska
This one’s for the countless ooohs and aaahs. The bliss in freeze. The unforgettable magic.

From 5 pm until 9 pm, we were cruising around Holkham Bay Glacier Fjords. I was in awe and was lost for words. I have never seen something like this before.

I saw many waterfalls, giant mountains and countless icebergs. It was a sight I will never forget. The floating ice, small and big, had their own rhythm and seemed to happily dance with water and wind. The sound of them breaking was like a soothing music.

And there was that giant glacier. The name, I am trying so hard to remember. A wild beauty that brought me to tears. For You’ve been gracious and faithful to Your promise. You’ve showered me with favors and blessings I do not deserve. Thank You for Your love that never ends.

May 21, 2019: Totem Bight Park (Ketchikan)

Totem Pole in Totem Bight Park (Ketchikan, Alaska)
Totem Pole of a man wearing a hat

Totem Bight is a historical park that houses 15 totem poles and a native American Indian community house. These poles were never worshipped. Some served to record family stories and histories, proclaim wealth and status, or honor the dead. Others graced house fronts or served as posts to support the clan houses.

In the 1900s, native villages in Southeast Alaska were on the decline. People migrated to towns to work and the totem poles they left behind were soon eroded by weather. In 1938, a program aiming to salvage these monuments began. Skilled carvers and young artisans were hired to repair the poles and to learn the art of carving them.

Red cedars are typically used for the poles. More than the desire to build with the intent to finish, the carver’s willingness to wait for the log to take shape is also the subject of a laborious test.

Today’s lesson is about being patient. To try to understand even when one’s upset. To shut the mouth rather than utter words that can hurt. Because people make mistakes. Family, friends, strangers, myself

May 23, 2019: Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid’s Waterfalls (Skagway)

Reid's Waterfall in Skagway, Alaska
With my new friend Fam

Two giant sister ships met – Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss. I was hoping to see an old friend but found two new friends instead.

My feet were heavy and my shoulders were down. I was walking a little bit sad. There I was in between two ships devising a new plan. The people I know were all gone and I wanted to do more than just eat and shop.  

There were doubts in my head yet forward I marched. My steps were unsure, slow and unsteady at the start. I convinced myself along the way, I’ll meet someone. Imagine my joy when two angels showed up. I was beyond happy and grateful to have met Fam and Dang!  We went to see the Gold Rush Cemetery and the Reid’s Waterfalls nearby.

For You shielded me and cared for me; You guarded me as the apple of Your eye. Thank You for a fulfilling walk. The world is my playground.

May 30, 2019: Nature Trail (Icy Strait Point)

Icy Strait Pont in Hoonah, Alaska
Rebel – a sister and a friend

Today we went to Icy Strait. I didn’t see whales nor seals at the beach. But I saw other things much to my heart’s content.

We went into the forest where we were welcomed by gigantic trees. I sensed fear in me with a grounding joy attached to it. Because I realized that there will always be something bigger than myself.

This simple walk took away my conceit. And replaced it with peace. That soon turned into bliss. For I was walking with a friend/sister dearly missed. Thank You for today’s gifts.

June 6, 2019: Lower Lake Dewey (Skagway)

Ship crew members hiking the Lower Lake Dewey in Skagway, Alaska
Crew Club activity. We went hiking after the weekly crew drill.

Today my feet and legs are aching. But my heart keeps rejoicing. Thank You!!! I went hiking earlier. The 3-hour walk was exhausting. But the wait and the sweat were worth it.

The picturesque scene lingers. I cannot take the view of the lake off my head. I don’t even have to close my eyes to imagine it. That was rare beauty we saw. It was pure and real. Truly mesmerizing.

I was in many different states of peace and bliss. I wish we stayed longer. With no cameras to click. Only sit and look and feel. Admire something so wonderful that I can’t help but give praise and thanks.

Thank You for taking my feet there. Thank You I walked with new friends. I look forward to many more travels that lead me to people and places. All those wonderful feelings and moments that make me feel Your loving presence. And make me see Your beautiful face.

June 12, 2019: Nugget Fall and Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau )

Mendenhall Glacier visitor center in Juneau, Alaska
Last cruise

Amidst the rain, You were my sun and shield. You covered me with Your grace and glory.

This morning I rode a blue school bus that took me to Alaska’s most accessible glacier, the Mendenhall. It was huge and wide, ultimately beautiful. I walked the shore of a lake and followed pathways that led to the thundering Nugget Fall. It was a sight to behold.

Everything went fast. I only had a few fleeting hours. But I’m certain the memory will last. Until another marvelous surprise comes. And what I thought was the greatest and most lavish will be surpassed.

Thank You for this happy adventure. I can’t wait to see the future. The rain showered me with Your favor. Give me more and more and more.

The Milk with The Boy

When I was a little girl, I remember looking at a cute young boy. His blue eyes were piercing and his hair was brown, almost gold. He has that happy smile on his lips that was infectious and pure.

The boy’s angelic face became a familiar brand icon of a milk product in the Philippines that flooded many grocery stores. Above his head was a red rectangle with white letters that spell the word ALASKA – big and bold. That milk product became famous and so did the “Alaska boy”.

Some years later I found out he was nothing but fiction. An artist’s mere rendition of someone from another place, another world. Another world which I’m grateful to have explored.

Who would have thought? That one fateful day my feet would walk his world. Almost unbelievable. But this I know is true. With God, all things are possible.

Follow your dreams.


PNG’s Conflict Island

Filipino Sea Woman in Conflict island

I found peace in Conflict Island. Ironic, isn’t it? Well, don’t get fooled by its name. I first came here last August 4, 2017. It was a Papua New Guinea cruise then. For me it would eternally be one of the most stunning corners of the world I’ve ever seen.

A Little Background

Conflict island is a group of 21 picturesque islands that was first spotted in 1879 by HMS Cormorant. In 1880, Bower who was the captain of HMS Conflict gave the beautiful paradise its name.

The islands are surrounded by a bluer than blue lagoon that is home to what marine biologist consider to be one of the most biodiverse reef systems in the world. Whenever someone would mention PNG to me, this is the first image that would come to mind. Kiriwina, another place in PNG, is also a favorite of mine.

Conflict island is an idyllic island haven measuring 375 hectares and located just north of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Region. It’s about 80 kilometers from the nearest points in PNG. Because it’s very far, it’s impossible to get there on your own terms. Cruise ships are the perfect way to see the island.

The Australian businessman Ian Gowrie-Smith and his family privately own Conflict island. P&O cruises are the destinations’ exclusive partners. I came here aboard the lovely Pacific Aria.

Can We Go Now???

I remember waking up very early that day. Well, weeks ago my good friend and I already made plans to go out. Unlike her, I’ve never been to this place and I was excited to see what it’s like.  In total, I only had two short visits here. The second time, which was also the last time, was in November 2017.

I didn’ t have a proper breakfast. I was in my room and I only ate cookies that time. I met my friend and we went straight to the gangway, hoping to go out fast. Surprisingly, we found lots of crew members crowding in corners while waiting for a tender boat ride. The ship’s security officers were very strict that day. The captain released an order to make sure the guests can go out first before the crew members.

two cruise ship workers in conflict island
Waiting at the top deck just behind the Kids Club

After waiting patiently, my friend and I realized it’s pointless to stay. It’s going to be a waste of time. Instead, we decided to go to the top deck at the back of the ship. There, I had a tantalizing glimpse into an enchanting picture that I will forever keep.  We both agreed to go back to bed and try again after lunch.

Sun, Sea, Sand

I was awakened by a call. “We can go out now,” my friend said. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my bag and proceeded to meet her. We were beyond excited.

A few minutes later, we were already in the tender boat. It floated and gently sailed through an incredibly calm water. It was a very hot day, but I remember taking off my sunglasses. I wanted to see its beauty up close despite the very bright light that pierced my curious eyes.

Finally, we reached the island – a special place I only knew from other people’s stories and pictures I viewed from the Internet. To be able to see it for real was such a great blessing I will never forget.

We alighted from the boat and were greeted by an endless white sandy beach. The aqua colored water was sublimely clear that one can see what’s underneath. There’s no need to use goggles. We had a leisurely walk while taking pictures. We wandered around and then ran. We ran to the water like kids ready to have fun. The water was refreshingly warm. It soothed our skin and relaxed our minds.

I didn’t take so many pictures that day. Actually, we brought two cameras with us. We took a few shots with the first one before its battery died. We weren’t able to take quality pictures with the second camera because we just borrowed it from another friend, and we couldn’t change its setting. My phone, on the other hand, stayed idly inside my bag the whole time. Despite all that, it was perfectly fine. I remember paying attention to every single thing around. I was glued to a “perfect moment” that certainly touched my soul and warmed my heart.

Final Bow

We went back to Conflict island in October of 2017. I was three cruises away from going home. I was fortunate I was given the chance to go out again and took better pictures.

girls in conflict island
October 2, 2017. Fun times with the girls. Thank you Mary, Luv, and Edel 🙂

That was my last contract with P&O Australia. Pacific Aria was my last ship with them. Undoubtedly, it was a happy end to an almost 6 years of experiences, lessons, and memories that had gifted me in so many ways. Thank you P&O for everything that you gave me and made me become. Thank you Edel for the gift of friendship and being part of my life.

What blessings did you receive today? Count the big things and the small things. Remember what Aesop once said. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

Follow your dreams.



After a 30-minute boat ride, we were finally off the tender that took us to the port. It was a Papua New Guinea cruise. I have very few memories of this country as we didn’t dock there often. The first time we went to PNG, I was sick and couldn’t get off the ship.

Beach in Kiriwina, Papua New Guinea

But there is one special place in Papua New Guinea that’s very close to my heart. I’ve only been here once yet my short stay gave me so many lessons worth remembering. The island was called Kiriwina.  

Girls on a Mission

We were carrying bags of used toys and other school materials. I even managed to squeeze in a box of chocolates, toiletries, and some clothes. They were heavy. My heart was excited, my hands numb. It was very hot with the royal sun shining so bright. We were welcomed by a thin old man wearing a long-sleeved top. He wore his tie that day. His shoes looked worn-out. It seemed like it’s a special occasion for them whenever a ship was docked. The old man was welcoming. He shook our hands and politely greeted us. His eyes told a story of a hard life. The smile on his lips told a grander version. That he fought hard. That he would never give up. I wish I remember his name. I wish I paid more attention to what he said.

It was a busy day. There were many guests all eager to see what beauty this island can offer. The locals were happy to see us. They were all smiling. We continued walking along the pontoon. The old man called a friend much younger than him. The young man helped us with our bags. He also became our guide.

When we finally reached the end of the pontoon and started walking on their land, we saw lines of people selling different kinds of stuffs. Most of them were hand-made souvenir items. They didn’t have tables to put their things on. Everything was displayed on mats lying idly on the ground.

Finding the School

There were fans, key chains, bags and many other pretty things carefully made by magical hands. For in adversity, creativity can thrive. These items were sold for a very cheap price. There were many children selling with their parents. They looked happy without much care about tomorrow or what the future holds.  

After passing through their mini-market, we finally reached the school, the reason why my friend and I went out. We saw more children inside. There were many of them because it was their break time. They were playing games outside their classrooms. The noise they made was more amusing than annoying.

Then we went to see the school principal. We were led to a tiny room that served as her office. Her name was Teacher Fiona. She was thankful for the gifts we brought. They’re not too much. Most of them were old toys from the Kids Club where my friend and I both worked. Teacher Fiona was very glad to see us. She was one of the locals. She had to leave some years before and go to the city to study. When she finished school and finally got a degree, she decided to come back to teach. To generously shared what she learned.

Teacher Fiona in Her Classroom

Teacher Fiona showed us the other rooms. They were similar to what we have in public schools in the Philippines. There was the green board that one can write on with chalks. There were charts on the walls for the children to remember the lessons. There were other decors scattered to brighten up the room and I guess lift up the students’ moods. And there were those desks. Those long ones where my classmates and I used to sit on. It’s usually just for two people. Although three can fit if the place was crowded. I remember cleaning them with a special leaf called “pakiling.” We scrubbed those old and dirty desks so hard to give them a new look. After a few minutes of cleaning, those desks transformed.

Classroom in Kiriwina, PNG
The Classroom

We said goodbye to Teacher Fiona and the other kids we met. Before we left they gave us colorful fans to show appreciation for the gifts we gave. My friend promised to go back and see them again. As for me, there was no more chance left because I was about to go home.

Native fan in front of a cruise ship in Kiriwina
The Gift

Dreamy Distraction

Since we still had some time to spare, we decided to go for a walk and see the beach. We had no plans of swimming that day, so we didn’t bring our swimmers. And then something happened. We saw the water. And we didn’t expect to see something really amazing. We stood from afar, but we can see how lovely it was. Then we sat in a small cottage and debated whether to just look or go for a quick swim.  A mom who happened to be a guest saw us and offered her sun screen. Without thinking twice we took and thanked her. It was really hot that day and the beach was calling. Oh it was calling so hard we couldn’t afford to ignore its screams.

And so we made a silly choice. We took off our clothes and left only our undies. We ran straight to the beach and went skinny dipping. It felt so good. The water was a good mix of cold and warm. It was very clear and you can see what’s down under. It soothed our skin, refreshed our spirits and slowly took our worries away.

The Boy and His Boat

Then we met a young boy. He was riding his boat and his hands were tightly holding a big paddle. His name was Amos. He offered us a ride in exchange for 10 dollars. My friend and I both agreed. Soon enough we were out there farther into the open sea, entrusting our lives into the hands of a captain we just met and who happened to be just twelve. We took pictures while the young boy told us stories. Simple stories of a teen-aged boy who had to work at an early age to help his family.

A young boy in a boat from Kiriwina
Amos’s Boat

We went farther and farther. The water got deeper and deeper. My friend and I took turns in paddling to help Amos move the boat. The paddle can no longer reach the bottom. We were away from everybody, with just water surrounding us completely. I felt fear gradually creeping into my body. But the clarity of the water distracted me. When I looked down, I saw my reflection in the sea. I knew I was happy. Happier than scared. Less worried and more excited. Thankful for the gift to be in that place I never even knew existed. Grateful to be with friends. Awakened by the heat. Calmed by the gentle touch of the wind. Inspired by the waves and everything around me that quietly spoke of peace.

When our time there was up, we slowly started paddling back. We went around a big rock to see what’s on its other side. We went to the shallow part of the beach and got off the boat. We stood in the water that was high above our waists. We can clearly see our legs and feet as they played and made fancy movements. Amos left to buy us some coconuts to eat. My friend and I transformed into fish. We danced with the water and chased the small waves.

Feet under the clear water of Kiriwina's beach
Happy Feet

Amos came back with some coconuts. We drank the sweet juice and ate its flesh for lunch. We almost forgot we were hungry. We were overwhelmed by Kiriwina’s unexplored beauty.    

Coconuts from Kiriwina
Coconuts for Lunch

Press On

It felt so long ago. But whenever I would see our pictures it seems as if time doesn’t really matter and it just happened yesterday. In my head everything still looks real. And I can still feel the love we gave and the love we received that day. We went there to give gifts. But in the end, we were the ones greatly rewarded. Not with material things. But with a humbling experience brought by witnessing how others live the simplest lives and work so hard to make both ends meet.

We may always complain about life’s smallest nuances, yet in the end we are still blessed in so many ways. May I always remember this day, this place and all the kind people we met. When troubled by many and trials don’t end, may I look back at this experience and not forget.  To feel greatly blessed. To not get discouraged. To always give thanks.

If you find yourself losing battles take a step back, breathe and take time to think. Do not be tempted to whine or feel sorry for yourself. You are not alone in your struggles. On another side of the world, people are fighting their own battles, too. Their problems can be bigger than yours. But they don’t lose hope. They press on even when winning is uncertain. They just keep trying and believing. We should do the same.

Follow your dreams.



Isaiah 60:22 in Fiordlands

New Zealand is one of my favorite countries in the world. All because of one enchanting place it boasts. Never mind the three rocky sea days when we leave from Brisbane. And of course, the three-hour time difference. Sadly, I’ve only been here twice. And although it was 6 years ago when I first witnessed its beauty, instantly I fell in love. The strange thing is we never even docked here. It was only scenic cruising. We only looked but never stopped. But time seemed to stand still as I gazed around me in wonder.

Fiordlands is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking parts of New Zealand. It has achieved a World Heritage Status for its stunning natural features. Fiordlands is the country’s largest national park and is home to the beautiful Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds. I first came here in 2012 while I was aboard Pacific Dawn. I was still with P&O cruises.

Whenever the ship would pass through this magical place, everyone on board (passengers and crew members including the night workers) will wake up really early and rush to the top deck. We are all eager to find a good spot. I would wear my gloves and put on my jacket and bonnet to protect me from cold. Yes!!! It’s extremely cold for someone like me who is used to the scorching heat of the sun of the tropics. And despite the many layers of clothing I would wear, I’d still feel vulnerable with the chilly air piercing my bones.

But then I wouldn’t mind freezing for a few minutes even for hours in exchange for a magnificent view that never fails to leave me in awe. Like an excited child, I would marvel at the snow-capped mountains that seem to cast a spell. I would see gigantic waterfalls that seem to glitter from where I stand. I would watch some really lucky people kayaking the luminescent and calm waters with dolphins that seem to jump with joy. Truly, it’s a sight to behold. And everyone around me is overwhelmed with joy, happily soaking in the beauty and basking in the glory of Your wonderful creations.

Thank You Lord Jesus for the special gift to travel places I never thought I would see. I will forever be thankful for everything You’ve shown me.    

If you are reading this, I pray that your eyes too will see all the wonderful things I’ve seen. Hopefully even more.

Follow your dreams.