Monday, April 2, 2018


You are in for a treat today, fellow poets. Our friend Totomai, of has popped up again, after a move from Japan to Abu Dhabi, and he has sprinkled this visit with his breathtaking photos. Prepare to be thoroughly entertained as we catch up with him in his new location. As a special treat, we have included one of Totomai's videos of Bantayan Island in the Philippines, where we will be swept away to an island paradise!

Sherry: I am so looking forward to this visit! Would you bring us up to date with all that has happened since we last spoke to you in 2016 ? I know you had to leave your beloved Japan, and are now working in Abu Dhabi. We can't wait to hear all about it.

 Abu Dhabi

Totomai: Hi Sherry, I can’t believe that our last conversation was almost 2 years ago. Yes, as you may have known, I was out of a job at the start of 2017. I tried looking for  possible employment in Japan but I couldn’t find one. I decided to go back to the Philippines while waiting for my application results. After 10 months of being  unemployed, a company in United Arabs Emirates, located in Abu Dhabi, handed me a job offer. The position offered is the same as my previous position – a Process Engineer in an oil and gas industry.

It’s my third month now in Abu Dhabi, and so far the weather is not bothering me. But I am not sure if I can handle the temperature reaching 50 deg C during summer. 

Sherry: Goodness, that is way too hot! I know you loved Japan very much.

The Four Seasons

Totomai: Well, I miss Japan – the food, the seasons. But I believe I can adjust soon and very well here. 

Last photo in Japan

I am trying to explore the city during weekends and one thing I noticed is that there are lots of Filipino restaurants here, so I won’t be missing much the Filipino cuisine. Of course, lots of Filipinos too. It’s like a little Philippines near my apartment.

Sherry:  It sounds so beautiful there! And it's lovely that you have a Filipino community around you. What are the wonders of Abu Dhabi that you are exploring, camera in hand? Would you tell us the most amazing place you have seen there so far? Are there others you are keen to check out?

The Grand Mosque

Totomai: I brought my Nikon D7000, but I only have two of my lenses. Sometimes, I wish I have carried all of them. I went back the other day to The Grand Mosque, I blogged about it 3 years ago. I also joined the Desert Safari before  2017 ended. In Abu Dhabi, I want to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi; it recently opened last November.

I am also planning to visit Dubai, a 2-hour drive from Abu Dhabi. I heard that it has more tourist attractions than Abu Dhabi.

If time allows, I would like to visit the neighboring countries too.  Those countries which are only 2-4 hrs flight away from Abu Dhabi.

Sherry: I am so enjoying this armchair journey and look forward to your future travels. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us! You recently announced winning an award for one of your wonderful photos. Tell us about that, and let’s include the photo as well. 

The Winning Photo 

Totomai: It’s an online photo contest, and the topic was illumination. I appreciate the prize but what touched me is the comment from the judge.

“The reasons I chose his piece are because the photo is clear, the composition is there and I can feel that he is having fun. Believe it or not, I can tell whether the photographer was having fun or not by looking at his photos.”

I kind of agree in what he said. I don’t take photos if I am not in the mood. I tried before and I ended up not liking my shots. I was very frustrated scanning the photos I took. I even hid my camera for a month.

Sherry: I can't imagine you ever taking a bad shot. Your work is amazing. How is your writing going these days? Have you settled into your new location enough for the words to come?
Totomai: I have been struggling with my writing. Well, I have been struggling even with my photography too. I guess, I need more time to settle down in this new environment.

Writing one blog post per month is already difficult for me. Most of the times, I can only include a haiku on it. I wish I could write longer poems too.

This old poem of mine sums up the above question.

On A Poet's Desk During Winter
The raspberry candle
melts the web off the unexplored volumes,
warms the green tea in manila cup.

Paper balls fall from the desk,
but avoid the slumber of cigarettes;
the quill remains silent
its ink


Sherry: One does need time to settle into a new location. I certainly did for the better part of a year. Haiku and your photos are wonderful enough for those of us lucky enough to visit your blog.

You have a most beautiful book of poetry and photographs, entitled “filtered precipitates”.  It must have been so satisfying to see that book come together. Do you have plans for another?

Totomai: Thanks Sherry. I made one after that via flickr. I called it Colors. The book showcases the colorful photos I took. No poem was included on this one though. I only printed one copy for trial.

Sherry: On your sidebar, I see that people can also purchase your photos and t-shirts. Very cool.

Totomai: By the way, I just remembered one time, Sumana sent a message on Facebook informing me that my four seasons photo was used by a Facebook page with 16M followers without any credit. I sent the page a message and after some time they finally removed not only my photos but other photos they have used without permission.  I am fine to share my photos as long as I am informed.

Sherry: I am glad they complied and removed your work.  But 16 million people saw it! Wow! Do you have three poems you would like to share with us? 

"Japanese Doll" is for my ex-girlfriend, so I think it is self-explanatory. Honestly, This is one of my favorite poems.

Japanese Doll

The glass room protects your porcelain skin 
against the rays of the rising sun; 
bends them to my eyes. 
That rainbow halo, a magic of light, 
on your face begins my day.

Each morning, before traditional duels with the teacup, 
I crawl, over the futon, 
toward you to become enthralled 
by the kanzashi on your hair. 

The pink hue on your face mirrors 
the floral kimono you wear.  

How I wish I was the pillow on your back 
or the paper fan that your delicate hand holds

When the moon is out, 
your silhouette assures me of a good night's sleep.
In dreamland, I could be a Japanese doll too, 
with a heart-shaped forehead and a katana to safeguard you. 

Under the cherry blossoms, 
you whisper


that word wakes me up; 
now, pieces of glass and porcelain cover the wooden floor;
only the kanzashi, paper fan 
and kimono remain whole. 


Sherry: Oh my goodness, my friend. It is my new favourite of yours as well. So beautiful, and bittersweet.

Totomai: As you know, I love Japan and the cherry blossoms. This was the inspiration of the next poem.

While Lying Under the Sakura Tree

I paint the clouds carnation
invisible against the pink skies;
the tilted horizon frees
a feathered tribe 
to sing the songs 
of spring.

Petals fall
at a rate of 
five centimeters per second --

chase the transparent umbrella
I held earlier.

I watch an artist sketch
her dreams in color,
or was it mine?

Somewhere, a train 
hums, roars then fades
away with the songs
of springs;

bringing along
my dreams.


Sherry: So lovely!

Totomai: The last poem, "Madonna and Child", is based on an actual observation after I went to church in the Philippines. I am not sure if this is a common scenario in other countries too.

Madonna and Child

There is a painting
of a mother and child,
in black and white
leaning against the aged bricks
of the cathedral.

There is a painting
of a mother and child
with blank eyes and cracked lips,
stained by the changing seasons.

There is a painting
of a mother and child
outside the church,
yet breathing and begging.


Sherry: This is very moving, Totomai. Is it far for you to get home to the Philippines from Abu Dhabi? 

Totomai: I stayed long enough in the Philippines during the time of my unemployment. I think my family was very happy to send me away. Haha. During those times, I visited four of the popular beaches / islands in the Philippines. I have blogged about them as a way of inviting the readers to come and visit the Philippines.

Sherry: It is so beautiful there, my friend. Let's take a little tour right now!

How lovely it is, Totomai. Thank you for taking us there!

Totomai: Abu Dhabi to Philippines is a 9-hour travel. Almost twice than Japan to Philippines. I plan to go home in June or July after my 6-month stay here.
Sherry: What are your plans for the year ahead, Totomai?

Totomai: My friends here are pushing me to join a photography contest in Abu Dhabi but I haven’t registered yet. Maybe if I am in the mood.

I also found a poetry group that does an Open Mic per month. I would love to do it but I have a terrible stage fright, I may collapse on stage.

Sherry: I get nervous, too. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. 

Totomai: Of course, I would like to travel to the neighboring countries. If that happens, wait for it on my blog.

If you don’t mind, I also started my youtube channel for my travel, I called it Juan-Eyed Juanderer . Feel free to subscribe. 


Sherry: Yay! It looks like fun! We always love visiting your site, for your photos are a feast for our eyes. We see things we would never see otherwise. And we love your poems and travel notes too.  Personally, I think National Geographic should snap you up!

Mudpack Festival 

Totomai: Thanks Sherry. I feel I need to study more about photography before I can make it to National Geographic level. I am a lazy photographer, actually. Haha. One of my photos (Mudpack Festival) was chosen by a National Geographic editor as one of  its twelve photos of the day last year.

As I always say, I hope Poets United will outlast all of us. I mean, it may continue to be a source of inspiration to writers, poets of all levels. I keep visiting the site even if I don’t post frequently.

Sherry:  And we are always so happy when you do! Thank you for this lovely visit, Totomai, and for keeping on coming back to Poets United. We love it when you pop in! All the best in your career, both professional and photographic. And may all roads lead home.

Wasn't this a delight, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Thank you for an interesting and colourful interview, Sherry and Totomai! I really enjoyed the photographs and the poems, especially
    'On A Poet's Desk During Winter', which I have read before; I love the lines:
    'The raspberry candle
    melts the web off the unexplored volumes'.
    'the quill remains silent
    its ink

  2. What a wonderful post! I loved every word and every image. Thank you Sherry and Totomai!

  3. As usual, I drink in your images like cool water on a hot day, they are so completely refreshing whether in words or photography. I love "a feathered tribe," love the parallels in Madonna and Child, felt the break up in Japanese Doll--Oh! It is sooooo good to see you! (Even in the moment of shadow when I saw your hands holding the camera in the first video.) Too bad you still need the day job. Good stuff, Sherry!

  4. A wonderful post! Thank you Sherry and Totomai.

  5. I agree about the day job. I personally think National Geographic is missing a bet!!!! We are so lucky to enjoy your poems and photos, Totomai. Thanks for the heads up about the bloopers. All fixed now. Sadly, my brain now has glitches, lol. Goes with the territory.

  6. Oh this was such a delight Sherry and totomai.....I too love your photos and poetry, and look forward to seeing more as you get accustomed to your new surroundings.....and I agree with Sherry, NatGeo should hire you!

  7. What a treat! Thank you both. Totomai's blog is one I particularly treasure and delight in, on my journeys around the internet. Always such a complete work of art! I love your haiku, but it is good to catch up with some of your wonderful longer poems here, Totomai, and to see the travel videos. I wish you very well in your new surroundings. And congratulations on the photography win! I think you are one who knows how to have fun and savour the moment anywhere.

  8. Oh my goodness, Sherry and Totomai, what a wonderful visit! Totomai, your photos awe me; and I loved the poems you shared. Many of the poems you have shared in PU lately have been short ones, so these longer ons with so much depth and heart were a great treat. I will check out your you-tube channel too. You are so diverse in your talents! I am glad you always end up i photogenic places, and I look forward to seeing more photos and reading more of your poems! Thanks, Sherry, for all of the work you did in compiling this wonderful feature.

  9. What a terrific interview, Sherry! Totomai's posts are always a treat. His photography is breathtaking and I enjoy his narratives. He provides an often fascinating back story and gives insight to his pictures. Totomai's haiku are lovely ... though I agree with him: it would be wonderful if he could see his way clear to writing more longer poems, as well. The longer pieces that are featured here, are absolutely stunning. Great job on this, Sherry and Totomai.

  10. Totomai emailed me he is flying off to Thailand as we speak. I cant wait to see the photos he'll bring back from that beautiful ancient land.

  11. This is a real treat Totomai and Sherry!! It's so lovely to read your long poems Totomai. Hope to see such poems more from you here :) Wishing you my very best in your life's journey.

  12. What a wonderful treat today. Thank you, Sherry and Totomai, for this interview.
    Totomai's photography is always breathtaking. and yes, i would like to see more of his longer poems. there are so much depth and layers that might not be possible in a haiku. "Madonna and Child " is an example.

    All the best to you, Totomai! :)

  13. I've always enjoyed Totomai's pictures and poems. The ones selected here today are great. He is a true artist. I look forward to witnessing more of his adventures through his blog and I wish him well in his life and art career.
    Thank you for this interview Sherry.

  14. Leaving a quick thanks to al. I am still in Thailand for a business trip. Will reply to each one later :)

  15. How breathtaking these photos are. I think National Geographic should be knocking at your door! Absolutely stunning. Thanks, Sherry, for this amazing interview.


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