With Grateful Heart

Hello, world. (I love this photo I took this morning because it just looks so cozy and comforting… with my beddings bathing in the warm morning sun. Quite symbolic too- of a brand new day, new beginnings or semi-new- which is what this entry is all about.)  

I do not know where to begin. So I turned 30, let’s start with that. And I moved back to Taiwan. Yes, I hear your “WHAT WHEN WHAT HAPPENED?!” Well, a lot of things happened. Some worth telling, some better to be kept inside my heart.

My first year work anniversary in Manila was my last day at work. Let’s just say things didn’t pan out. I thought it’d be the last company I’d work for until retirement but nope. I’m still glad I was able to stick it out for a year.

I searched for other job opportunities, submitted my CV here and there. And then my former boss was in town and he wanted to meet and catch up. To cut the story short, I was re-hired by the organization I used to work for in Taiwan.

I took a short break before moving back. I went to Bali and flew home to Cagayan to see my parents and niece.

Then in the midst of it all, God decided to work His magic and bless me with someone special- just when I was about to give up, accept and embrace singledom. 

Days after I tendered my resignation, I kept on telling myself that my life in Manila was an utter failure. When I packed 8 years of my life in boxes last year, I thought “This is it! I’m never coming back.” But things do not always go our way. God likes throwing little surprises to disturb us... to move us closer to Him. 

My life in Manila allowed me to spend time with my family and people I love, organize bridal and baby showers of dearest friends, be part of their special day, undergo LASIK (hehe!), learn new things, gain new coworker-friends, and finally, meet this person who swept me off my feet. 

For all these and more, I am truly grateful Lord. 

Sharing these lines from the song “Blessings” by Laura Story:
"What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life 
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life 
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise" 

Bali On My Mind

Long before the book-turned-movie Eat, Pray, Love came out, Bali is already on my list of must-see places. Although it seems like a stone's throw away from the Philippines, it took sometime before we finally decided to visit this neighboring island.

Early this year, one of my high school bestfriends Monnette and I came across a Philippine Airlines promo fare advertisement and saw that Bali tickets were on sale. We checked our planners and agreed to go on a Bali adventure in August. It's now October but we still can't get enough of Bali.

We wanted a super relaxing vacation and heard from friends that the best way to make the most out of our stay is to rent a car with a driver and chill the day away. And so we did our homework and searched online for car rental services.

We stayed in Ubud and Seminyak, but I can't really say which I liked better. Ubud was cosy and quiet... its streets filled with so much art and culture, while its country side has lush greens and rice paddies... quite a feast for the eyes.

Seminyak on the other hand is a little more hip and youthful. This quaint side of town sleeps in the morning, and parties all night. I thought I won't like the place, but the shops and cafes which lined the street are so pretty, everything is actually Instagrammable.

There's a common notion that Bali is for lovers... Well, maybe. I think it is made for honeymooners- especially if you see the villas, spas etc., but the place is still perfect to be enjoyed alone, or with the company of great friends.

Our itinerary was very basic... I listed it down for those who might be interested :)

Day 1: Ubud Royal Palace, Ubud Art Market, Goa Temple. Lunch at Warung Babi Ibu Oka, Dinner at Bebek Bengil, and Seniman Coffee Studio, all in Ubud.

Day 2: Coffee Plantation + Ubud Swing, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Tirta Empul, Pura Lempuyang (Skip Pura Lempuyang if you don't have time, we waited in line for 1.5 hours just to have our photo taken at the 'famous gate'). Dinner at Naughty Nuri Ribs.

Day 3: Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Seafood dinner by the sea at Jimbaran (this is perfect for magjowa hehe)

Day 4- Seminyak: quiet walk by the beach, lunch at Angelfields, coffee at Revolver, 2 hour spa at Bodyworks (omg heaven!!!), and dinner at Bossman before heading to the airport.

Best Practice Sharing
The best place to get your USD changed to IDR is at the authorized money changer in front of Ubud Tourist Information Center. You can also have your money changed to local currency at the airport (inside the airport!) but the rates are lower. Some would suggest withdrawing cash using your ATMs. Do all these, BUT AVOID MONEY CHANGERS ALONG THE STREETS AT ALL COSTS. I wrote that in all caps, because we were almost scammed by this dodgy money changer in Seminyak- photo below. They will mislead you by giving you 50,000 IDRs instead of 100,000 IDR bills and will count the notes repetitively, in different batches. Glad we noticed it right away. We wanted to spend our remaining US$ 100, so we thought of having it changed at those stalls along the street because it was easier that way... but wrong move. Please be warned! Avoid this money changer called PT. Indoparita located right next to Havaianas in Seminyak.

My LASIK Story

I was seated on the second row back in first year high school (year 2000). I noticed that despite being seated in front, the blackboard looked blurry and I had to copy notes from either Monica (beside me) or Monnette (behind me). I told my mom but she brushed it off. I  can't recall now what made her change her mind, but she accompanied me to this optical shop near our place.

The optometrist was shocked that my prescription was already at -3.50 for both eyes. I was 11 at the time, and she said we have to start with -1.50 and increase gradually. Surprised and pretty much speechless, my mom had Harry Potter and the Sweet Valley Twins to blame for my poor eyesight.

My grade continued to increase but it stayed at -5.50 in the last 3 years. I wore contacts on and off, but have stopped wearing them last year (except if I'm attending formal functions) after developing frequent conjunctivitis with prolonged contacts usage.

July 17, 2018 was a life-changing day for me.

I woke up at a little past 5, whispered my prayers then headed to take a shower. I ate a big breakfast and left the house before 8am with my brother. My heart started to race. I gazed at the looming dark clouds and silently recited a decade of the rosary. The rain started to pour. I took off my glasses- my last day of wearing them- and savoured looking at the raindrops that appeared like pretty bokehs in my vision. I put them back on and took a selfie-- hopefully the 'last' selfie with specs on.

I was at the eye center by 9am. I registered at the reception and waited for my name to be called. We repeated the same tests from my screening (completed a week prior to the procedure), except for the retina exam.

The tests were finished by around 10:30. I signed the waiver and made the payment. A nurse then approached me and prepped my eyes with lubricant and antibiotic drops. After which I was asked to remove my glasses and wash my face before being led to the waiting area.

I sat still, trying to do some deep breathing exercises to calm my nerves. I couldn't see the faces of the people around me but I recognized my doctor, Dr. Alnette Tan's voice. Dra. Tan asked me how I'm feeling. Perhaps my face turned white and so she said "It's going to be okay!"

I was ushered into the LASIK suite and was told to lie down. Nurse Apple handed me a stuffed toy- a cute penguin- and placed a blanket over me. It was super freezing inside! I brought a rosary ring and clutched onto it from start to finish.

Doc Alnette went in and checked if I was comfortable. The nurse placed some eyedrop anesthesia and cleansed my eye lids before handing me over to my doctor. Doc started explaining what will happen step by step, what to expect, and how long each step will take. We will be starting with your right eye, she said, while carefully placing an instrument to keep my eye open (SCARY. Sorry if it scared you too).

She lowered down the machine and I saw a round lens-like part ready to be placed on my eye, or was it on my eyeball? I was not able to feel it anymore with the numbing drops. And then... I started quivering for a few seconds. I must have been really scared at the time, but there is no turning back. With a steady but gentle voice, Doc Alnette instructed me to look at the little red light and to keep still for 40 seconds. This first step creates a flap around the cornea. It will help if you count 1-40 in your head, Doc Alnette said, and that my vision will go black, and it did but it came back after a few seconds.

Doc did my left eye and checked again how I'm doing. My voice must have been so weak that she had to ask me twice. I heard her tell the nurse that she saw me quivering earlier. I tried my best not to move and after a few seconds, it was over- both left and right. Doc said that was the most difficult part and I did very well─ although maybe she said that to calm me down. But it wasn't really too bad. I was just so, so scared.

For the next part, which is the laser treatment, I felt the bed move to the left where the other machine is located. This time I had to look at a green light for 15 seconds. This was quite tricky as the green light kept on moving and I couldn't focus much because of the burning smell from the machine. I tried not to inhale it (hahaha!) and managed to breathe through my mouth after the nurse said last 5 seconds.

This time I felt my doctor brushing my eyes (my cornea?) and dropping something-- she later said it was water-- to wash it out. After a few minutes (which to me was an eternity already), Doc Alnette announced "We're done!!!" It took a while for it to register! She asked me to sit up and I remember smiling at her because I could finally see her, albeit my watery and hazy vision! I thanked her and she asked me to schedule my post-op check.

I met Doc Alnette again outside the suite and was given post-op care instructions by the nurse. She helped me put on a pair of protective glasses and told me I can rest for a bit and leave whenever I'm ready.

I left the center at 12:30, with my brother who patiently waited for me (and was working from 'home' daw). The anesthesia was starting to wear off by the time we reached home. I closed the curtains as my eyes were getting too sensitive to light and slept for 2 hours. I would sleep on and off, feeling some slight tugging or pressure in my eyes. I got up at about 3pm to eat my late lunch and slept again. I woke up at 4pm to instill the prescribed eyedrops. My doctor was right in saying that my eyes will feel a little sandy, like having a pair of old dirty contact lenses on. By 8:00pm, my eyes felt fine. A little grainy, but nothing too uncomfortable.

I called it a day at 9pm. I woke up to a clear, crisp vision the following day. And everything felt perfectly fine. :) Thank you Lord for the gift of sight, and for Dra. Alnette Tan! :)

Post-op Consultation 
It's an SOP to have the post-op consult a day after the procedure. However, my doctor is off every Wednesday so I asked for her go-signal to meet her Thursday instead. Good thing I did because it was raining heavily and most roads were flooded Wednesday morning. She advised that if I feel something unusual from what she earlier discussed and described, I should check-in with the center asap. Thankfully, everything felt okay save for my sensitivity to light.

I met my doctor Thursday morning. I excitedly said "Doctora I can see you now!!!" while she greeted me back with "Takot ka pa ba???"  Hahaha. She probably remembered I'm that patient who quivered with fear. After checking my eyes, she said both were clear and that my vision is an amazing 20/16! I went back a week after and she said I can go back to normal now but no swimming for up to 3 weeks! I had another check-up with Doc Alnette 30 days after LASIK and was told that  eyes are very good and are healing wonderfully :)

The world looks even more beautiful with perfect vision!

My LASIK procedure was performed by Dr. Alnette Tan at the American Eye Center in Mandaluyong. She is hands-down the bestest best :) For inquiries, you may call the center at +632-2360762 (Shangri-La, Mandaluyong) or +632-7293937 (Greenbelt 5, Makati). 

**PS. This is not a sponsored post.**