Bye 2012, Hello 2013!

Photo from Shutterstock

What better way to end the year and start a new one than cleaning your room? It's almost 3:00am, last day of the year, and I have just finished cleaning my tiny flat. I would have wanted to do my laundry but it is freezing outside, around 8 degrees (in Celsius) and weather forecasts say there's no Mr. Sun tomorrow and the next days. I want a clean slate, a fresh start, so I thought of cleaning and changing my beddings and saving some time for myself to reflect on the year that was.

So, what now? What are we going to do now that the year is coming to an end?

I'm trying to recall some great things that have happened this year, the places I have been to, the not-so-many days I have spent with the family, the work I have been doing.  It is indeed a quiet year, exactly what I have imagined after finishing graduate school. As I lay down in bed, I will be sleeping with a smile because I know I made it through another year again. I don't know how I fared this time, but I'm pretty sure I have grown a little bit more mature. I have learned to quiet myself down, to talk less and listen more.

And I hope this coming year, with God's grace, I'd be able to embrace whatever 2013 has in store for me, and to strive to be a better person in the likeness of Christ-- serving and loving others. Wishing you all a belated Merry Christmas, and a Bright 2013!


Ahia's Taipei Visit

Big meets tall: Ahia and Taipei 101

It was Ahia's turn to pay me a visit after I went to Chicago summer of last year. I was very excited because I find it odd that it's the little sister who is going to pick the big brother at the airport and to show him around the city. He had a list of request: no parks, no museums, no long walks (all these he made me do in Chicago under the blazing heat wave). There was nothing left but to shop and eat. 

First stop- xiao long bao

Hotpot at Taipei's finest DingWang Restaurant 

After lunch at 168  Steakhouse, Grand Victoria Hotel

Photo op at Le Meridien Taipei

Matching colors at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

Ahia celebrated his birthday on Dec. 4. It is normal for him to have a week-long celebration with friends, colleagues, and the family so I'm worried about how he has been eating a lot! I constantly pray for his success and good health. I am just so blessed to have a brother who knows how to spoil his sister so much. But apart from spoiling me rotten, he has the biggest heart and shares whatever he has to everyone. Every night when I'm in bed I think of him and the way he cuddles when I sleep beside him. He is so heavy but he puts his leg above mine until I grimace in pain and we laugh together. My dihia, every time he comes home, the two of them sleep in the double bed and even hugs each other to sleep. It's still a mystery how they fit in that bed. Maybe that's the reason why the mattress was already sagging the last time I was home. Happy birthday ahia, thank you for always being proud of my little achievements.

Rest


Day off how I long for thee! At long last, I had a day all to myself. As usual, it was a day well spent inside my room, under the covers. I stayed home for lunch, cooked rice and steamed the food I bought yesterday, intended for today's meal- because I'm lazy like that. The only time I left my room was when I had to leave for an hour of hatha yoga, some grocery shopping and bank errands. I felt refreshed and re-energized, after more than a week of running around and doing late pages for work. Funny thing though, this whole week I didn't feel cranky at all, despite the crazy cold and rainy weather Taipei's experiencing.

Yoga update: I'm on day 11. I have been doing asana pranayama which is mostly breathing exercises and some easy stretching; yoga therapy with sun salutation; and the hardest class I have attended is hatha yoga, it felt like parts of my body are being ripped off. I also tried hot yoga where we stayed in a 40deg-room doing basic gentle yoga postures. We were all drenched in sweat and chugging water after the session.


December First


My 30 days of yoga

Today is December 1st, the first day of the last month of the year. With 2012 winding down, we are left with just a few days to do some more things and tick those checkboxes in our bucket list. On my part, I have finally decided today to start my 30 days of yoga commitment. No papers, no signatures- just totally giving myself the power to do something I have never done before. I have been keeping a yoga journey journal after I purchased a Groupon promo for a four-day yoga trial. Hopefully I'd be able to jot down notes until I reach day 30. I'm not flexible, my body stiff as a stick, but I'm excited to see the difference yoga has to offer. Ommmmmmm.

Eater's Digest Column

Also today, we released our very first Foreign Community page. I call it a labor of love, still struggling to hear the final YES from our bosses. It sure is an added work on our rotation schedule, but something we will do out of sheer dedication. I'm still praying we get positive response because I can't wait to write and tell the whole island about how we Filipinos celebrate the most wonderful time of the year that is Christmas.

I haven't posted anything about my brother's visit. I'll do it when I get to have a "proper" day off- my kind of day off is just a day where I lie in bed the whole day in my pajamas and eat nacho cheese Doritos or double cheese Cheetos. It's been a long time since I had one of those days.


Happy Thanksgiving!


I may not be an American, I didn't grow up in the US, but today I'd like to join them in celebrating what I think is the second-most important day to Christmas- Thanksgiving day. It sounds off that they have only a day for Thanksgiving, when we all can give thanks everyday. But they make this day extra special by going home to their families and celebrating it together over a hearty dinner comprising of turkey and gravy.

There are so many things, and people who I have to be truly thankful for. And for all those things, all those names, I keep them in my heart and remember them in prayers. It has been a relatively silent year for me, despite all the quiet struggles I have. Still, thank You for giving me this life to live and for inspiring me to love everyone in my life. Thank You too for those challenges, for sometimes breaking me apart, then making me whole again by helping me stand up with my feet on the ground.

Thank you too to my family, my brothers, especially the eldest who has been very supportive all throughout (he visited last week by the way!); To my job that sustains me; To my colleagues who are very awesome; My friends here, back home, and those who are scattered all over the globe, you are my constant cheer-me-uppers; My church friends who taught me to grow in my faith; My favorite priests who give such inspiring homilies to reflect on, particularly one who has personally taught me to enjoy and live in His presence.

So with this, I greet you all a Happy Thanksgiving Day!


Walk in the Park


It was a bright and balmy Saturday in Taipei. I woke up from my afternoon nap suddenly feeling the urge to go out for a walk. I didn't want to waste such a beautiful weather by just curling up like a ball in bed finishing a book. It was starting to cool down so I changed into a pair of comfy pants and grabbed a sweater. I thought it would be nice to take a late afternoon stroll at the nearest park. Not. A decision I regretted for the rest of the weekend.









The air was chilly, the sun began to set. I saw people everywhere- people together, couples together, children together, angkongs together, everyone together. And there I was, right smack in the middle of one of the city's biggest parks- alone. Ninety nine percent of the strangers who walked past me stared, the why-are-you-alone-kind-of-stare. I stared back, the mind-your-own-business-kind-of-stare. My throat clenched. The whole feeling of aloneness intensified. God I never felt so alone. Not until I saw a sea of faces, of smiles, of laughter.

That day I made a pact with the world. Thou shall not take a walk in the park alone, lest your middle name is masochist.

So I walked back home. I bought a bag of double cheese Cheetos, lemon iced tea, and Skyped the night away with a friend. Swear it felt better than walking in the park, alone.

Peace and Quiet


There is an overwhelming amount of thoughts in my head lately. I had difficulty quieting down, but on days I feel awfully tired, I sleep a dreamless sleep, and it feels so good. I love how sleep can be a form of escape. Eight hours of escaping reality is so wonderful that sometimes I refuse to press that snooze button and continue my escape for a couple more hours.

Two weekends ago, I escaped my life's troubles and went on a silent recollection organized by our church group. I was surrounded by lush greens and beautiful flowers. I can't recall the last time I looked up the sky and sigh in admiration of the stars twinkling at night. I was reminded of those laid back nights in the province where the parents would walk around our backyard after dinner, while I gaze at the sky and breathe fresh air.

I woke up the next day right at the break of dawn, with the chirping of the birds as my alarm clock. No snooze button. I walked around basking in the early autumn sunshine. In silence, I marveled at how beautiful my surrounding was. I was lost in conversation with our Creator and with myself. I didn't know what to say, what to pray for. I enjoyed that simple moment of peace and quiet, feeling His presence.

I forgot about the thoughts that have been residing in my brain- the plans, the to-do's. It was refreshing to keep still and think of nothing. Those moments I felt at peace, with myself and with the world.


Bangkok "Business" Trip


When I was fourteen, my family and I traveled to Bangkok. I remember being left with the tour guide inside the car because my aunts and uncle will be watching a show that was strictly for adults only. Years after, I finally understood what that show was all about. And No, I didn't watch it during my most recent trip. Last September, I attended a meeting-conference in Bangkok. I was not so excited about this trip (except for the eating part!!!) because when they sent me the agenda, I knew there was no time for fun, and I was right. I dreamt of visiting the floating markets but as expected, we barely had time to have a look around.


Thankfully, our hotel was located at the "heart" of Bangkok, where there were huge shopping malls all over the place that I had a hard time deciding which one to go first. Renaissance Ratchaprasong is considered as a 5-star hotel and the room, amenities and services were superb. The bacon served in the breakfast buffet, however, did not meet my expectations. Five-star hotels should have those perfect hot crispy strips of bacon paired with a toast generously smeared with butter (I'm drooling as I'm typing this), but nah. They failed. Bacon and toast aside, I enjoyed the indoor swimming pool- no need to slather sunscreen. I squeezed in a 30-minute swim before the delegates gathered for dinner. The bath tub, was love at first sight. I miss my own pink tub at home, and on my last night in Bangkok, I poured several capfuls of bubble bath and sank my tired body and worries away.

Some pictures I took during the trip. My fellow delegates and I tried our very best to wander around the city even if we're already exhausted from the days' talks and meetings.




Birthday Blues

Blah- the only apt word I can think of to describe how I'm feeling the past days. Blame it on the so-called "birthday blues" or to the lonesome anticipation of adding a year to your age, and later on realizing you still haven't gone too far in your twenty something years of existence.

So I'm 24 and nine days old. I shiver at the thought of tick-tocking time, I'm nowhere near that vision I have of myself. But fine. I always try to bang my head onto the wall and remind myself of enjoying the present. After all, the present is the only thing I can hold on to. At this stage, or should I say, ''age,'' maturity speaks in such a way that every minute of my life is already something to be thankful for. I have stopped complaining over silly little things and have learned the values of gratuity and appreciation.

I don't know what else I should write about in this supposed-to-be birthday entry. I did nothing to celebrate, but I feel grateful for having people around me who remembered and made me feel loved and special, even for just a day out of 365 days. If there is something that saves me from insanity here, it is the group of people I am with every day for the last three years. Even if I have a lot to think about at night when I turn off the lights, I am still happy as to how life has been treating me. Sure it is far from perfect, million miles away from what I have envisioned, but as they say, life is not worth living if we do not go through rough times and learn from them. And having people to be with you, rough times or not, is already a joy.

I want to write more but I'm uninspired to do so. I feel uninspired to do anything- clean, do the laundry, head to the grocery, or even read. I have been downing antibiotics and other meds for my strep throat and nasty cough hoping I get better soon. The whole day was just spent in bed, napping, sipping soup like a sick little girl, hence the lack of inspiration. But yes, I had a happy birthday.



A Beautiful Encounter


It was time to face one of my greatest fears. There was no holding back. All those emotions came rushing in, raw and fresh as a slaughtered carcass. The night before was filled with tears, the pain and resentment long gone from my cold heart were knocking once more, but I slammed the door in their faces. There was no point in that anymore, or so I thought. I felt like a little girl, but a rather hopeful one, for someone will finally take time to listen.

I didn't know where to start. I haven't talked to someone like him, but when he reached out his hands, I knew right then it was going to be okay. I wanted to talk for the longest time, but I cannot find the courage to do so. I have always taken comfort of the fact that I'm safe handling my own life's crises and nobody else has to know. But as human beings, there is only so much our human hearts can contain. And so I took that giant leap.

We sat in a couch, facing each other. And like talking to a dear friend I've known for ages, I spoke and emptied my heart. At the back of my head, I was thinking never in my life have I imagined myself doing this. But I knew it was what I needed the most. And I was glad I did it. I talked for more than half an hour, he listened intently without interrupting. A packet of Kleenex after, I let out a big heavy sigh. To which he said, that should have felt good. I laughed because it sure did.

It was his turn, with all my heart and ears, I listened to his wisdom. I was introduced to my inner child, the care that she longs for. I saw images of twenty years ago. And for the first time in my life, I was asked how I felt, of what was inside me. I was grasping for words, but after that big sigh, I was certain I did feel peace.

The whole encounter was beautiful.

In the end, the hug was tight and comforting. I felt healed, blessed, shielded from what is yet to come. And before opening the door and guiding me out, he whispered, there still are beautiful people in the world. My heart smiled.


Kuala Lumpur

Last January, I was lucky enough to chance upon CebPac's piso fare for international flights. For only a little over Php6,000.00, I was able to book two tickets to Malaysia- for my mom and I. Having several months to plan the itinerary, there was "zero" moment of getting lost in downtown KL. It was also the first time that I traveled with my mom, and she trusted me and all other plans I had for this trip. It was a perfect mother-daughter bonding trip, well except for her not having the guts to try and sample spicy local delicacies! Some pictures from the trip:

Madam Kwan's Nasi Lemak
Istana Negara, home to Malaysia's king

Petronas Twin Towers

Batu Cave

After climbing a steep flight of 270+ steps, inside the cave

Calm



Steady

People come and go

Keeping still


Sunsets


There is always something so spectacular about sunsets. It's not just the burst of colors that paint the sky, but the rush of emotions that you feel upon seeing the fading daylight. Anticipation. Fear. Excitement. It then becomes a reminder that today will be nothing but part of a distant past, and we start hoping for something better that is yet to come; while some might choose to embark on a new journey, to start anew. And we all wait til the sun rises again.



Sunday Afternoon

Sometimes it's just nice to have someone to keep you company, for a walk or a talk, enjoying the pauses in between sentences, familiarizing yourself with somebody else's laughter, or just go people-watching, immersing yourself in the humanness of 'humanity'- our constant battle with sorrows and pains, love and joy.

Iced green tea latte for 蔡小姐

Girl in all-pink ensemble is the littlest among the bunch.

But she's the bravest. Encouraging me to take baby steps to success!

Love and togetherness.


My Person



Happy birthday to one of my best friends, Dra. Monica Madera ♥ 
Work hard cos I can't wait to be inside your pink clinic which we'll decorate with plenty of florals! "You're my person."- Cristina Yang to Meredith Grey.


Fly High

Taken at a recent family vacay in Shang Boracay
Dear Lord,

We both know it's hard. And I ask for forgiveness for complaining too much. I am grateful for the stillness of my life now and I promise to strive for the better, if not best, always. I hope you will fly high with me, and lead me to where you want me to go.

Escape

Wufengqi Falls, Yilan-Taiwan, May 2012

"You may not be where you want to be, but that may be where you are meant to be."

One Friend Less


Mylyn's last Sunday in Taipei spent on an eating spree

Chillin' in Maokong 


In the coming weeks and months (and maybe year/s) to come, I'd be one friend less. After three months of studying Mandarin, Mylyn (the sister of my close friend Monnette) will be going home on Friday. 'Going home' for her means going back to normal life- working, surviving Manila traffic, and being with the love of her life (that's apart from her family), and who knows, maybe starting a 'new life' soon but not too soon!

Sundays have been a lot more fun when Mylyn came late February. We would have lunch with another church friend before I head to work. She is way past "discovering herself" stage and is just enjoying every moment of independence she has here. The kind of lifestyle in Taipei where you just take the MRT or bus while flipping through pages of a book is something Metro Manila cannot offer. I believe it has been a good experience for her, and bringing her to some of my favorite places in campus and restaurants, including grocery shopping, has been rewarding for me. I'd be missing having a friend to text (I dont text a lot of people ever since I moved here), or someone to look forward to having lunch with during Sundays, but it will be nice to see Mylyn back to her "regular" programming- steady and all :)

Speaking of friends, my high school friend Lorraine was here in Taipei. Although the weather was truly unbearable with the nonstop rain, nothing beats catching up and reminiscing the good old days with somebody you've known for quite sometime.

Lor has been working for three years, and I'm on my third year here in Taiwan. You get the picture. She kept on asking don't I ever get lonely, or when do I plan to go back home. To her questions, I have no answer. But it'll be soon :) I have no idea what the Boss Up There is planning.

With Lor, chatting over potstickers and xiao long bao



Happy Mother's Day!


The world may turn its back on us, our friends may betray us, our relationships may fall apart, but there will always be this one person in the planet who will never stop from loving us- our mother.

I do pray that someday I'd be able to nurture my own children the same way my mom did to me and my brothers. I figured the "mommy" role only lasts until teenage years. When we're all grown up and mature enough to know right from wrong,  mom becomes your consultant, counselor, chat mate, text mate, dinner date, movie date, and best-est friend.

We love you, ma!  We are so blessed to have such a caring and loving (and yes 'nagging') mother. Happy mother's day!

Thank God for Days Off

Norah Jones' Little Broken Hearts playing in the background. Clothes in the washer. Feet up. Reading nonsensical stuff (e.g. "30 things I learned from my pet cat" - for real).

Ahhhh. Days off have never been this good. Thank You, Lord.

I really couldn't come up with words that will sum up how work has been these days. Well just imagine me working 7 to 8 days straight and trying to take Centrum nightly to combat stress. And staring at the mirror thinking how I badly need a diamond peel and a trip to the salon is not even helping.

But I really can't complain. Hard work has paid off after receiving some good news just the previous day and I'm glad things are working out just fine.

And because days like this give me enough time to waste online, I'd like to share some of my nice little discoveries.

Fried Oreos at Raohe Night Market (Yummy!)



Kopiko from my friend Erica

Mcdonald's and their eco friendly bags, wish we have it in Mnl

Boracay Bliss

Finally found time to put my feet up and do something not work related. Work has been driving me insane this week so it's a nice break to download and watch three movies, new playlists, and to just write something.

While waiting for my laundry in the washer, I thought of editing pictures taken during my recent vacation with the family. The brothers and I planned on treating our mom with an all-expense paid (*cough* *cough* says my wallet) trip to where else but Boracay. I know she has been dying to see Boracay, blue waters and powdery white sand in its finest glory, so the destination was just a perfect gift for her birthday. And since it was ages ago since we had a vacation with my aunt, we asked her to tag along too.

After dividing the tickets and accommodation into three, and the airline diverting our flight to Kalibo instead of Caticlan, we reached Boracay Island and the next four days was indeed pure bliss, in paradise.

It was a nice sight to see my mom smiling from ear to ear. If she thanks God everyday for having us as her children, we thank God too for having her and for guiding us all the way to be the person that we are now.