By popular vote

Hola amigos!…If you’re in a social network such as Facebook, pretty much the usual the routine is liking and commenting on a post (status update) of your friends, or reading trending articles and watching videos. And from time to time, you’ll also bump into photo contests…and that’s what I caught myself into recently.

I joined a small photo contest of an english magazine here in Guatemala, with the theme “Architecture in Guatemala”, for their September issue. Looking at the first few entries already posted at the magazine’s Facebook page submitted by professional photographers, I felt quite hesitant to send mine. I mean, with my simple digital camera and not so smart smartphone, my photos are simply for fun by a shutterbug like me. However, I wanted to share some photos I took during my travels around the country to a wider audience, images of the intricacy of every buildings I’ve seen so far in Guatemala. The architectural influences reflected in every building and in every municipality  that captivated my eyes and truly admired.

And there it was, I submitted my entry and landed myself as an official participant of the contest. To be honest, I was quite unsure whether people who will see my photo will get what exactly the subject of my entry. Will they appreciate my interpretation of “architecture” or will they ever get it at first glance. But what the heck anyways, as they say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Detailed architecture from Xela's City Hall. Taken from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Detailed architecture from Xela’s City Hall. Taken from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

So there are 2 categories in the contest, one is “by popular vote” and the second  is “by editorial decision”. Initially, winning the contest came only second but as the contest approaching to its end, I found myself bitten by the “like” bug of Facebook.  Thinking, how cool will it be to see my name and photo in print.  I knew that my chance of winning the “by editorial decision”, is quite vague. Seriously, so many amazing photo entries, therefore, the “by editorial decision” is out for me and I aimed to get the other category instead.  The competitive genes in me were raging and told myself, “I can convince (or harass 😉 ) my 400+ Facebook friends to like my entry, I can win this”. And yes, it was an adrenaline rush to lead against the other participants…Game on!

To my surprise as well, my close friends commented that they sincerely liked my picture and even those whom I barely talked to appreciated my entry too.  That was a treat, to know that other people see and appreciate what you consider to be interesting and beautiful. And voila! I won the “by popular vote” category. With 382 votes with 50 votes lead cut off time and still counting up to the next day. To see all photo contest winners and read more about the magazine please check-out this link


Aside from winning, of course there are some realizations that came out of this contest. I was reminded of few life lessons along the way.

1. Courage. I mentioned to one of my friends that I joined a photo contest, as well as my preoccupations about it. Me, being shy and hesitant about the idea of sharing my interpretation of what is beautiful and interesting. I was concerned that my work will not be validated the way I wanted it to be, or the approval I was hoping to get. I was concerned what other people will think about it, about me. You know what, people will always have an opinion about you, might as well do it anyway. The fact that you put yourself out there is already an act of courage, expressing yourself bravely. If it something positive, will bring out the best in you and will inspire others, go ahead do the things you’ve wanted to do. As the saying goes “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”.

2. Hardwork. Gathering “like” votes is a work itself. Sharing the link on your wall doesn’t do the magic you wanted to be. Analyzing Facebook algorithm is quite tricky, you have to understand how often and when your friends will see your post. You need to have a game plan on how to guide your friends, on how to like the photo and have their like votes be counted. Serious stuff, isn’t it. Aside from sharing the link on your wall, you might want to consider posting it on your group pages, private messages, and tapping your close friends to do you a favor by sharing the link as well to their friends. Believe me, it is crazy! If you want to achieve positive outcome, you have to work hard and smart to get the result you wanted. But remember that win or lose, what matters most is that you played the game well and clean. You’ll reap the fruits of your labor or in other form eventually.

3. Gratitude.  Out of the 414 friends I have on my Facebook account, I asked maybe half of them one by one for their like vote. People whom I have really close relationship with. Friends from grade school, high school, college, my family and relatives.  All of them who helped me gather those “like votes” and happily joined my craziness. And I thanked them one by one as well after winning the contest. It may sound silly but you have to celebrate those simple triumph, I shared that simple happiness as well with the people I know by heart.  Be grateful for those real people in your life who helped/helping you, either in big or small things and don’t forget to value their time and effort that they extend to you. They are all your real winnings in life.

4. Reconnect. While I was talking to my friends about the contest, I actually was able to catch up with them as well. It was sort of way to update myself about my friends. It gave me the chance to know more on what they are up to nowadays, that even they post pictures and updates on their Facebook, I found myself missing out a lot about them still. I learned the real deal, stories behind every updates they posted.  Somehow, it reminds me that to maintain a friendship even in a long distance you have to improvise your ways to keep that closeness burning you have among your real friends.

5. Have fun and chill. If you decide to participate in a contest like this on Facebook, have fun! I laughed a lot during those moments I was talking to my friends about this photo contest. Joking around about the possible “30 days of fame” I could get by being featured in a magazine, the acceptance speech, and the story behind my entry. It was a hilarious moment.  Don’t be carried away with all the hype of work. Enjoy, laugh, and relax. Whatever you’re doing, as you put all your heart and effort to carry out things, never forget to have fun. That makes the journey and the reasons behind joining a stint like this extra special.

Thank you for reading my thoughts and come back again and again. If you have something to share….please, please feel free to leave me some comments below.

Hasta luego!



My top five travel memorabilia: Bringing home a piece of culture.

Kamusta mga kaibigan!!! I bet everyone aside from tremendous photos you took during your travel, you picked up some knickknacks to bring back home. Some memorabilia of your amazing trip, to remind you of the adventure, fun and stress free time you just had. Others buy t-shirts, others caps, magnets or key chains. Aside that they are common and easy to grab, most of us simply just didn’t have the time to give it some thought and almost forget about it. At some point, I was like that. To break the bad habit, I started to choose differently.

travel memorabilia

I made a conscious effort that, when I visit a new place may it be local or abroad, I’ll bring home with me a piece of culture of that amazing place (it doesn’t have to be expensive all the time). Something that I will use everyday or if it will be for the people I love, I’ll make sure it is something that will tell them that I thought about them as well while I’m exploring, learning, experiencing new places and culture.

It is also the same concept that I’ll tell my friends who are travelling and asking me, what I want them to bring back home as a souvenir for me. I’ll ask them to get me something local, unique, a piece of culture. After giving it so much thought and serious deliberation in my head (nah), I’m happy to share to you all my top 5 all time favorite travel treasures to date, things that I picked up along the way and other amazing gifts from friends from their adventure. Every piece tells a story of adventure and fond memories. May you start bringing home a piece of culture as well on your next escapade.

5. You got mail

Anywhere in the world

Oftentimes neglected  in a souvenir shop today, postcards. Affordable souvenir with photos of beautiful places & culture, professionally taken and fits in your bag…beat that! It may be old-fashioned, but, I still believe that handwritten message in a postcard still have its charm to melt the recipient’s heart. Aside from social media, I still enjoy sending postcards to family and friends to communicate. The effort to write something on it and the magic it brings upon receiving it in the mail is priceless. I just love random old-fashioned catching up in a busy and modern world. So, to spice up that randomness, I use postcards I got from places I’ve been. Whenever I’m out there somewhere, I make sure I’ll grab a couple of postcards.

 4.  Bookworm’s bling

Handpainted bookmark
Huehuetenango, Guatemala

I love to read. When I saw this bookmark with hand painted mayan art, I knew I have to buy it. It is just a perfect bling for my books and as I turn the pages, it automatically reminds me of my alone time in the western highlands of Guatemala. I bought it while I was visiting the Zaculeu Ruins in Huehuetengo, Guatemala and on that day, I was interviewed by the local television channel about travelling. Detailed bookmark with lots of travel stories attached…winner!.

3. Divine intervention

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Mexico, Guatemala & Canada

I pray the rosary and I also carry one with me wherever I go. It wasn’t intentional to collect rosaries, it was more of a habit to get one every time I visit a church and then I realized I accumulated a lot already. The habit started back home when I’m about to leave the country in 2006. I wanted to have pocket rosary with me as I travel and begin a new chapter in my life. I also give it to dear friends of mine. I believe in miracles and the power of prayers. For me, faith/religion is a big part of any history & culture in every nation. So, when I’m  in a church visiting for the first time, I’ll get a new rosary and have it blessed.

2. Writer’s delight


It’s like Christmas in May when I received this beautiful notebook by mail. A dear friend of mine Samuel, a certified globetrotter got me this special notebook with a Warmun artist’s masterpiece, whose works are made of natural ochre and pigment on plywood from Australia (and it smells so good!!!). He knows that I write and what a perfect souvenir to give to a friend who writes…a notebook. Imagine this, Samuel bought it in Cairns, Australia, then wander around the country, later, he hopped in to Asia with it, continuing his adventure in Singapore, Thailand, then en route to China & New York on his way home to Montreal and then before leaving again to continue his journey, he sent it to me here in Guatemala. Whoah…what a ride for this notebook. But wait, mileage is not over yet for this special notebook, I told Samuel that I’ll bring it with me wherever I go. Therefore, the story of  the travelling notebook is still on. Notebook on the move (should I give it a name?). And where is Samuel now? you got it…he continues to discover the wonders of the world (and saves it as well 😉 ).

1. Dainty treasure


To date, it is the most expensive but worth it travel memorabilia I ever got. I can proudly say that I own a piece of Philippines natural treasure. When I visited the Philippines in 2011, I bought a pair of South Philippine Sea pearl earrings while on vacation in Palawan. Aside from its worth, I thought that it is something that I can pass on to my children and the beautiful stories behind these beautiful pearl earrings.

I am Imelda, a traveler, I cherish travel memories, and I bring back home a piece of culture with me. I dream to learn and experience more cultures from all around the world.

What do you cherish and what is your dream?

Hasta luego…..