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.**

Cebu Weekend

One of my dearest and closest friends, Kaymee, tied the knot in Cebu few weeks ago. The Cebu-based event organizer she hired was amazed at how all guests were flying in from Manila, Japan, Australia and the US. They didn't have any Cebuano guests, except for my good friend Hana. I introduced them to each other last year and Hana was very kind to help Kaymee find local suppliers. Hana didn't make it to the reception, but was present at the church ceremony.

I loved how intimate the celebration was. Kaymee did a fantastic job organizing her big day. She prepared games for the kids and adults, a Japanese & Pinoy snack station, and origami sheets so guests can relax while enjoying cocktails. My favorite was her first dance with Mori, which Kaymee 'choreographed' :)

Their wedding served as a reunion for me and my dear college barkada. Sad that Joy was not allowed by her doctor to travel, but at least we got to have a barkada shot inside the bridal car.

Love you so much, Kayms. I'm always here for you! :)

How to Clean Your Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

Hi! Sorry for the lack of posts. I was recovering from a recent minor surgery (will write about this soon) and drafted this entry on my phone after getting bored from listening to audio books. Let's call this a "best practice sharing" post :)

Just a little back story before the how-to part...

I have always dreamed of having a Tiffany & Co. jewelry when I was a little girl. I remember falling in love with my older cousin's Tiffany bracelet and necklace with her name engraved on them, the pretty little blue boxes with dainty white ribbon. I had no idea it comes with a hefty price tag... but I told myself  I'll have my own Tiffany someday.

Fast forward to 2011, just before I completed my master's degree, my dad came to visit me in Taipei. I brought him to Taipei 101, and to the Tiffany & Co. store inside the mall. I told him how I would frequent the store just to admire this particular open-heart necklace from the Elsa Perreti collection. I told him I was saving money for it, but each time I got around to saving enough amount, Cebu Pacific would have a seat sale and I would use that money to book round-trip tickets to the Philippines in advance.

I lived on a monthly stipend before from the government scholarship program and the amount was more than sufficient to cover my tuition, housing, living allowance and little luxuries. However, I can't bring myself to buy the necklace because I cant justify spending my savings- how little it might be- for this piece of jewelry. And so, my dad gave in to his little girl's whim and he bought me my very first Tiffany & Co. necklace. My heart still wishes for someone special to give perhaps the last blue box that I'll ever own- you know, the classic Tiffany setting, but for now I'll leave that up to the Big Guy in heaven :)

So here's a trick I learned online to help you clean your Tiffany & Co. sterling silver. I used to spend NT$700 (Php 1800) to have them cleaned in Taipei each year. This trick costs only NT$ 100 or less than 100 pesos!

What you'll need:
A bowl
A rectangular piece of foil
Few spoonfuls of baking soda
Boiling water

1. Line your bowl with aluminum foil.
2. Place your sterling silver jewelries on top of the foil.
3. Put in few spoonfuls of baking soda on the jewelry.
4. Pour boiling water over them. Watch slowly as the tarnished jewelry turn into shiny, silver pieces again!
5. Remove the jewelry from the water using tongs. Rinse under cool water and lay flat on a soft cloth. Wipe the pieces to remove the water and lay flat to air-dry completely.

Before and after photo. They look brand new!

El Yu

There was a time a year or two ago when my Instagram feed was filled with photos of La Union- its beautiful sunset, big crashing waves, and all those cool hipster places that lined the beach. I never have thought that I'd find myself in one of those cool hipster places a year or two after.

Thank you, dear colleagues for planning the entire trip from booking bus tickets, finding accommodations to scheduling which restaurants to have brekkie, lunch and din-din. El Yu has turned us into millennial titas who would rather stay at a cafe than watch younger millennials get wasted in Flotsam & Jetsam.

We all badly needed this trip to get away with things. 

Happy weekend everyone!


Oh how lovely it is to just stare at the lush greens and fluffy clouds, take in the fresh smell of pine trees and feel the cool gentle breeze...

I went on a spontaneous trip to Baguio over the weekend. The goal was to unwind and not think about a single thing. Well the unwind part was successful, but not the latter. Things have been super dooper crazy lately but I'm glad I have my "rainbows" after the rain.

Before heading back to the MidEast, my second brother had to fly to Manila from Cagayan to pick up his things. My brothers and I had three days to spend together, such a rare occassion because the two of us have worked overseas for so long.

In this photo, they picked me up from work and we had dinner near my office. Since I cant remember the last time we sat down and had breakfast together, I also made sure to prepare a home-cooked meal for them. It was a nice sight to see my second brother washing dishes after meals, while our eldest wipes the table clean.

Monica's family invited me for Mother's Day dinner since I was all alone in Manila at the time. It was great to catch up and enjoy a fun conversation after a very cruel first week of May. Another friend also dropped by my workplace last week and we had coffee together. Being able to vent everything out to people who are soooo willing to listen is just the best feeling in the world.

I was looking for an instant pick-me-upper for the past days, and my favorite fries and green milk tea never fail to deliver. I had also some free time to quiet down and gather my thoughts recently at a coffee shop. I used to do this a lot in Taipei as can be seen from my posts before. Cafe relaxes me and helps me keep my calm- which I'm afraid I have been losing a lot these days.

June is just around the corner. I hope it'll be good to everyone!

Missing Things, Missing People

I miss my church community in Taipei. Friends often hear me complain about my tasks every Sunday in the last two years- waking up extra early to be at the sacristy, coordinating big to small things, buying cakes etc etc- but now that I'm not doing any of it, I'm starting to miss 'community' life.

To somehow make up for it, I sent messages to church mates last week and asked how's everyone doing. I know they have their regular Sunday posts on FB but it's different if you send a message directly to check on them. I also attended The Feast a few Sundays ago (photo above) to see if it'll have the same 'community' feeling. Although The Feast is a big group divided into several smaller committees, it was so nice to see young people serving together and building their own communities anchored in faith.

Speaking of serving, I now spend most of my free time (not a lot, sadly) preparing dishes at home to serve my brother. My goal is to feed him healthy meals and to make him stop from ordering fast food.
I like to think that I'm quite successful in my mission. I no longer hear the doorbell ring for any Jollibee, Mcdonald's or KFC food deliveries.

... And can I just share how I'm in love with this half-baked madagascar ice cream from Mad Mark's? It was my reward after finishing a project at work.

Mom and I watched The Lion King at The Theatre (Solaire) few nights ago. I can't believe it was my mom's first time to watch a musical. She was very impressed with the A Circle of Life performance and kept saying "Ang galing, ang galing!" The show was really good but Les Miserables will always be my number 1. I have yet to see Miss Saigon :( I hope someday we'll get to watch it on Broadway.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! May the peace and joy of the Risen Christ be with you and your loved ones! 

It was the first time that I spent Holy Week in Manila. Imagine my shock when I saw the streets practically empty. I went to 3 different churches for the Paschal Triduum. Such a huge difference from last year, when I was running back and forth coordinating with readers, assigned apostles etc. I was happy being just a regular parishioner this time around. 

I had no time to write anything last month, so here are some quick updates and photos. 

I didn't know International Women's Day is a big thing here, well at least for the company I work for. Women were given cupcakes and a pen to celebrate the occasion.

Catch up sesh with Joy and Mary, my fellow Ortigas girls. Joy used to live in Makati, but moved to Ortigas after getting married. We take the same route every day and spend the same amount of time on the road. Mary on the other hand works somewhere in Pioneer. Happy to share that I've quite gotten used to Manila traffic. BUT I have not erased my TPE metro and bus app on my phone because I miss their public transpo sooooo much. Bus 311 was my life.

Date with Auntie F. Last I saw her was in late November so it was definitely time to catch up before she goes on a month-long solitude. I'm truly grateful to have her in Manila because I know people in Taipei are missing her soooooo bad and will do anything just to see and talk to her. She has a special way of making people feel better if they are down, she knows what to say, how and when to say it.

Trip to Dagupan and Manaoag with my mom. My sister-in-law gave birth a couple of weeks ago. We went to visit her and my tiny baby niece. We can't get enough of her! My mom wanted to bring her back to Manila. On our way back, we passed by Manaoag to hear Mass and light some candles for thanksgiving and prayer intentions.

Wishing you all a happy month of April! :)

Taipei Series: Notarizing and Authenticating Your Diploma or Transcript of Records

So you have finished school and is almost set on packing your bags (or boxes) before your scheduled flight? Don't leave Taiwan just yet without having your diploma authenticated! This will save you from headache once you return to your home country and your "new employer" asks for an authenticated diploma (in case they find it quite unbelievable that you studied in Taiwan, or for formality's sake).

The process is easy but is a little time consuming.

1. Go to a district court or a notary public office to have your diploma (or transcript of records TOR) notarized. 
What: Required documents include passport, ARC, original copy of your diploma (or TOR)
Where: If you reside in downtown Taipei, the nearest place to have your diploma notarized is at
The Lin Chih-Yu Notary Public Office, Taiwan Shihlin District Court.
9F-1, No. 48, Section 1, Chéngdé Rd, Datong District Taipei City, 103 (short walk from MRT Zhongshan Station Exit 6)


If you reside close to Xindian area, it might be wise to have your documents notarized at the
Taiwan Taipei District Court Xindian Division.
No.248, Sec. 1, Zhongxing Rd., Xindian Dist., New Taipei City 23146, Taiwan (short walk from MRT Xindian Station Exit 1)

Fees: NT$750 for a document in English (max 5 copies for each doc)
Processing takes 1-2 days.

2. Go to the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) to have your documents authenticated. 
What: Required documents are passport, ARC, notarized documents, and an application form for document authentication (may get from BOCA)
Where: Bureau of Consular Affairs
3-5 Fl, No. 2-2, Section 1, Jinan Rd, Taipei City, Taiwan
台北市濟南路一段 2-2 號 3-5 樓
MRT National Taiwan University Hospital Station Exit 2.

Fees: NT$400 per document
Processing takes 5-7 working days.

Hope you find this helpful!