Home for the Weekend

I flew to Manila last Thursday to be with the family. My cousins based in the US and Kuwait were vacationing so it was a good time to have a mini reunion. Before I boarded the plane though, I received an alert from my BBC app saying a Malaysian Airline plane was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists and crashed in Ukraine. Not another MH flight, I said to myself. Close to 300 innocent lives gone in just a matter of seconds. While walking towards the boarding gate, I thought of my family, our upcoming family reunion, and the families of the passengers on board that flight- they will never be reunited with their loved ones. I hope their families find comfort and solace in God's tight embrace.

My mom fetched me at the airport and we went straight to Aristocrat for breakfast. It was only four in the morning, I had my usual beef tapa meal and native hot chocolate, while mom had daing na bangus and coffee. I missed moments like this with my mom- when we just eat and talk and not care about anything. In the afternoon, I had my regular routine- Browhaus eyebrow threading, basic mani-pedi. I haven't had the courage to enter a salon in Taipei for threading and haircut, so I wait six months or so to do both.

The next day, we flew to Cebu. My dad's twin brother is from Cebu so we didn't have a hard time coordinating this trip, all thanks to our family members there. My cousin Mic met us at the airport and brought us to our hotel. We stayed at Movenpick Hotel, formerly Hilton. We rested and enjoyed the scenery for a bit then headed out for lunch. The second batch of cousins will be arriving the day after, so we had time to dilly dally. We decided to try the nearby Zubuchon, a restaurant featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Bourdain said their lechon was "the best pig ever." Indeed it was (but… I reckon all lechons in Cebu are the best pigs ever). After lunch, my cousins decided to take a nap, while I went for a short swim. My aunt picked us up for dinner to celebrate my cousin's birthday.

We were finally complete by Sunday. We rented a van that will take us to the city and visited some famous attractions. We went back to the hotel after dinner for a night swim and catch up talks. I'm so glad I took a leave and decided to be with them. We only get to see each other once every two or three years, but our bond remains the same. My cousins saw me grow up, and now it's my turn to see their kiddies well into their teenage years. My achies (ate-s) taught me many things and have continuously inspired me to be the best I can be. Our moms are sisters,  and we live almost next to each other, with only four or five houses in between. We have always been there for each other especially during those trying times. My achies are my source of refuge- I remember those days I cried from pain and frustration, and they send me messages to lift me up. I wish someday I can also be like them. They have their own lives now with their own families, but they never forget us.

Before leaving Manila, I requested my mom and my brother to take me to Toby's Estate. We visited its branch at the new Century Mall in Makati. We passed by a Pandora shop and I ended up buying a Pandora set for myself and a pendant for my mom. I've been wanting to get one for years already but I know it would cost a lot. Then I asked the sales lady if they have a St. Basil's Cathedral charm- I was sold. I bought 4 charms to go with the bracelet- charms that symbolize my life's little milestones. I'll post a photo when it gets filled up with more milestone charms. Kailan pa kaya yun?

Right before boarding the plane to Taipei, I refreshed my Twitter feed and read a news update regarding another plane crash. This time, my heart sank and I started to panic. A TransAsia flight flying from Kaohsiung, Taiwan to Penghu Islands crashed around 7:00pm. I was in the middle of sending bilin messages to my mom when suddenly I thought of asking her to pray for my flight. I landed safely at 12.25am but we left the plane only at 1.30 am. Everyone in the plane was getting furious and impatient. I breezed through the immigration using e-Gate, but got my luggage at 2.30am. I was running out of patience and was so tired the moment I went out of the airport, only to see the long line at the taxi bay. Then I thought of the two planes that crashed, the pain and grief that the families had to endure. I said I'm lucky to be alive, to have spent time with the family. I thanked God because even though the flight was tiring and unpleasant, I was okay and I'm now home. Praying for the eternal rest of everyone onboard MH, TransAsia, and just yesterday- Air Algerie. Also praying for the families and loved ones of the passengers.

Thankful Thursday

Happy first week of July! We're now into the second half of the year- what have I accomplished so far? Just the mere thought of saying goodbye to June gave me enough reason to panic. I don't know if I accomplished something worthy of being called an "accomplishment" over the last six months, but I have another 6 more months so I hope it'll be okay.

Here are some of the things that are giving me good vibes the past days, things that I'm extremely thankful for. I hope this signals a good start for the next 6 months- fingers crossed.

1. 2014 Savings Challenge

I'm halfway through the 52-week Savings Challenge! The piggybank I stashed with bills and coins was filled up and getting quite heavy by the day. I had to set it aside and hide it somewhere else, while I use another piggy bank for July onwards. I'm so hoping I'd be able to finish this until the last week of 2014. I'm doing the challenge in NT$ (New Taiwan Dollars) and opted for the increments of 10, instead of 50 and 100. It will be easier on the pocket that way. I still don't know what to do with the money I'll be able to save- I'm thinking of using it for me and my mom's plane ticket to Bali next year. Or add it to my COL account.

2. Midweek Dinner and Coffee Date

It's been some months since I stopped going to yoga classes, so I often find my weeknights boring. I usually take a leisurely stroll after work before heading home, but lately I feel so tired. My other circle of Filipino friends decided to meet last night for dinner and coffee, and it felt so good to take a breather in between work days. Our couple friends Ferdie and Joyce are expecting a baby boy- Joyce is about to pop in just a few days- so they are taking every opportunity to dine and spend time with us. We ended the night at Starbucks, where the barista wrote my name in English- first time ever I encountered a barista here in Taiwan who wrote "Jackie" :) I was so moved I just had to take a photo.

3. Weekend Escapades

Martin, who's also in the same circle with Ferdie and Joyce, invited us to Addiction Aquatic Development (AAD) last weekend because his girlfriend Corina was in town. It was my first time at AAD and was so overwhelmed with all the sushi, sashimi, and all-Japanese food goodness available at the indoor market. The photo above was our lunch that day: Beautiful trays of sushi and sashimi, and scallops!

4. Room Makeover

My friend Krisan and I bought some pretty wall decals at the night market a week ago. Since I'm not the artsy-fartsy one, I asked her to help me decorate my empty walls. And it did turn out lovely! I cant stop staring at them, specially when I turn on my lamp at night. It lessens the loneliness factor of living alone, and provides a great backdrop when Skype-ing with family and friends haha. (And yes those are Matryoshka 'nesting' dolls I got from our trip to Russia.)

5. Friends and Farewells

I hate goodbyes, but since we're having a whole lot of parties to send off some friends (which have been keeping me busy too), it's a good opportunity to get together and look back on the not so distant past-our early days in Taipei. My church friend Fleur will be leaving Taiwan soon after her 3-year stay. We've been having various parties for her, the last one hosted by the Apostolic Nunciature, since the attache assigned here is a good friend of our youth group in church. We had a very nice set up overlooking the garden. We talked about the first time we went to Holy Family Church, the many friends we've made, the coffee breaks, the youth group meetings. We all look forward to seeing each other again after this sad goodbye. I just cant help but imagine the day that I will finally leave Taiwan. I don't know when but my heart tells me it has to be soon.

How about you? What are you thankful for?