Thursday, April 23, 2015

Achievement Unlocked: Tiny Bag Living

I'm horrendous at keeping things to a minimal, probably because I had a lot of room and closet space when I was growing up and things just kept piling up. That certainly extended to my daily bag which had everything I needed - my wallet, a set of meds and my inhaler, toiletries, powerbank, facial tissue and extra this, extra that. My cardio has been scolding me for many, many years about lugging around a huge bag. Carrying heavy stuff is bad for me, so since my surgery in 2013 I started to reduce what I bring around.

A few weeks back I read an article which basically said, "When you don't need it, don't buy it". For some strange reason it struck a chord in me and pushed me to try tiny bag living. I knew that I was bringing too much stuff with me and I don't really get to use everything in my bag everyday. So for a few days I did a survey of what I really used daily and here's a list of what I use -

some cash, a few coins
a piece or two of tissue paper
my MRT card
lip balm (I don't like using lipstick since it makes my chaps my lips)
Chinese balm (for headaches)
oil remover face paper
Ricola (one or two only a day)

I certainly didn't use the following -

comb (yeah I comb my hair just once a day!)
alcogel (I wash my hands often since that's better actually)
cables (I don't even know why I have cables in my bag)
big pack of tissue paper
pens in a pencil case
small notebook (I've been using Google Keep!)
and a gazillion other things

So from big heavy bag I drastically reduced it to this -

Honestly, I was really nervous about doing this since I was taught to always have everything you need on hand. I waited awhile before I blogged about this move because I wanted to do it for a few weeks first to prove to myself that I could do it and well a few of my friends were skeptical that I would survive (old habits do die hard!). But alas! I've been living daily with just a tiny bag for three weeks now and I'm really proud of myself (it's seriously an achievement!).

The last few days I've made a move to reduce unnecessary clutter in my room and desk here in Singapore. I discovered that I had too many supplies. I had too many pens on my desks! I had at least about 20 pens on each desk (office and home). The pens were mostly left behind by colleagues who'd use my desk whenever I was out. I was shocked to find out that I had about 7 Stabilo pens on my desk and I don't even like using highlighter pens (I prefer dermatograph, the crayon like thingy). I had about 4 cutters, 3 scissors on and several markers. At home the pens piled up from collecting hotel pens and giveaways. How many pens can you dry out in a year anyway?

My Dad lived his life without focusing on material things. He had what was essential and this was evidenced by the fact that his only earthly possessions were his clothes and his favorite law books. I realized that with just what he needed my Dad had managed to focus on what was essential and I would like to strive for that.

It's just a start and I know it's going to take time before I become a pinky of what my Dad had managed when he was alive, so tiny bag living is my mantra for now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mama Lola and her Arroz Caldo

Philippine Airlines brought tears to my eyes during my flight to San Francisco.

It was happy tears actually.

I woke up disoriented half-way through the flight. The cabin was quite dark and it took me a few moments to realize where I was. After awhile one of the flight crew approached me and asked if I wanted some arroz caldo. I hesitated since I wasn't really hungry and well I only really liked the arroz caldo my Mama Lola made whenever I was sick. I eventually agreed and was promptly served a bowl of piping hot arroz caldo.

A familiar scent wafted to my nose and memories of my Mama Lola cooking arroz caldo came back to me. I immediately got a spoonful, blew on the spoon to cool down the arroz caldo a bit and took a mouthful. Wham! I was brought back in time and I felt I was once again having a bowl of my Mama Lola's arroz caldo.

I also promptly remembered the times I spent with my Mama Lola. She went to heaven when I was 12 years old. Being the youngest in my generation she was the only grandparent I got to spend time with (I didn't say "met" because I met my grandfather in a very surreal manner). I was a big headache to my lola because I always kept her helpers from working because I always wanted to play "teacher" and they were my students. I don't remember though if she scolded me for it, but I was told that I was the favorite apo.

My Titos and Titas say that I got a lot of my Mama Lola's quirks, eccentricities and weirdness, haha. I guess they're right. If you eventually find me watching TV with shades on and beach swimming with an umbrella then those would be just some of the things I got from my Mama Lola. On the other hand, I've also inherited her love for sewing and the one thing I inherited from her is her sewing kit. It's inside my closet at home with the pins untouched and with her heavy scissors intact. It's one of the things that I keep dearly close to me.

I miss you Mama Lola. I'm sure you are having a ball up there with all of my Titos and my Dad.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Trip to the Mothership and More

I thought I would have time to blog in the US since I was spending 2 weeks here. That obviously didn't happen since I'm only blogging now. During my first week I was so badly jetlagged I just used whatever energy I had to make sure I was up and lucid during our summit (a.k.a. trying not to look like a zombie). I would wake up so early I'd do my Asia-related work during the wee hours of the morning so I wouldn't be behind with my mail. Things go really bad by lunchtime and it took every drop of caffeine I drank from the coffee to stay awake.

I was happy to meet my new team-mates and glad that to see the other half of my team again. Being alone in the region all these years (and well in the Philippines before) can get really sad. To not feel so homesick I then collected hugs!

I managed to clock in 12 hours of sleep Friday night, Saturday trip to SFO though was cancelled so Philip and I just went to our favorite place, the gigantic Great Mall in Milpitas! That place is dangerous since you could really go broke. Ate some merienda at Chipotle, shopped more and capped the evening by eating at Jollibee!

On Sunday I met up with my good friend, Rey, who I have not seen for 16 years now! We both got so busy with work and well he moved here (and well aren't we all bad staying in touch after college?). We went to hear mass, eat lunch at a Mexican place and bored Philip to death with our college stories.

I was planning to see another college friend, but then I injured myself -- scratched my leg on the trash can! Grrrrrr!

As always my second week at the mothership got busier with meetings, catching up with fellow Pinoys, more meetings and trainings. By Tuesday my head was already spinning with too much information, but all is well and I would just take late afternoon walks around my hotel (yes... to the nearest Target! Haha). My luggage is now full of too much chocolate! I just kept remembering friends and would go back to buy more chocolates (very, very bad stress relief activity!). Anyway, I ended up buying a new bag because of that (hmph).

I spent my last night in the US in San Francisco and just working out of the SF office. I'm glad I also finally met Fumi in person and she was so nice to walk me back to my hotel on her way to the train. I also managed to squeeze in some time to meet a childhood friend -- Maan (he now calls himself Marnie!). He made sure I ate some good ol' American burger and walked me around Embarcadero which talking about our crazy teenage years!

My trip ends tonight and I'm finally going back home! I've been away from my boys too long and I seriously need family time before I head back to my assigned ship in Singapore.

And no, I am not leaving my heart in San Francisco because it's in Manila.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Singapore, my second home

Today is a sad day for Singapore with the passing of it's first prime minister, Lee Kwan Yew. I feel sad as well since Singapore has been my second home in the last four years and I have so much to be thankful for what Singapore has given to me - work and an extension to my life.

Much as I try to stay in home in the Philippines as much as I could, Singapore is where I am employed and my second home. I've been sharing an apartment with my childhood friend for the past 4 years, I just travel a lot that's why it doesn't seem I'm around much. I do a lot of brain calisthenics when I'm in Singapore and so normally keep to myself and I'm probably busy hanging out over Hangout in the evenings with my boys.

I remember Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew when I was taking my degree in Political Science. I had a class on International Relations with Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta as my erstwhile professor. We had discussed about Singapore a lot in class and the work PM Yew did for Singapore. He built the country and brought it to where it is today. He was a selfless leader who made sure his countrymen would get the best.

I am thankful for PM Yew for all that he did for Singapore. My move to Singapore just happened which on the hindsight I think was pre-destined since my cardiologist is Singapore's best cardio (yoohoo Dr. Koo!!!) and the most expert surgeon for my condition (Dr. Shankar!). My doctors said that I probably would not have survived surgery if it was done elsewhere (but that's another story, just back-read my old posts). So I would forever be thankful for this beautiful, efficient, clean city Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew has built (the health care industry is so far the best!!!).

Thank you Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew for building Singapore. <3

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Off to the Mothership

March 15 post The quarter is almost over and usually I don’t travel as much in the first quarter of the year because it’s spent assessing the previous year, planning and preparing for the new year. I had spent most of the last 3 months in Singapore. It gave me time to rest, relax and do some thinking.

A lot of the colleagues I’ve worked with in the past 8 years have moved on. I pretty much feel like the last living dinosaur at work because I’ve been around even before we had offices in the region. There’s so many new faces at work, many new things ongoing. One of the thoughts I had was whether it was time for me to go to since a lot of my contemporaries have moved on. This thought plagued me for a a few days until I had lunch with my new director. He said he’d been around for 13 years already and have not thought about moving on because he always had something challenging to work on and couldn’t think of any other place to move to.

Early last year I was presented with a fork in the road. Follow the road where a lot of people wanted to travel on or take a leap of faith and join a team that was still on a rough road. I chose the later despite the protests of my then VP. He was just worried that I would get buried in the region and my talent wouldn’t get recognised at the mothership. I fought my case and showed that I wanted to take the unchartered course. It was what I was originally hired for anyway.

A year has passed since I made that decision and I thank God my Kuya gave me guidelines on how to make my decision. The last 12 months was certainly challenging, juggling multiple programs with limited resources. I am always thankful for the opportunity, the trust for the responsibilities given to me. I am also always humbled with all the voluntary help for the programs that’s thrust on me.

I am off to the mothership again to learn new things. I look forward to the new challenges and hopeful that as in the last 8 years I would be navigated by God to the right path. =)

Thursday, March 5, 2015


A Lenten Reflection

In the last few years I have lost many loved ones. In my family my Dad and my second-Dads (my uncles) have gone to heaven (the women have proven to have longer lives in our clan). I have several friends who have also left.

Yesterday I was so happy to hear from a friend who is going through a very rough time with his health. I knew he was undergoing surgery and I was so worried all week since I have not heard from him for awhile. I've been praying so hard that he would be okay and I breathed a sigh of relief when he pinged me. My joy was short-lived though because he said there's been a recurrence in what he's going through.

After experiencing complications with my surgery (my cardio later on admitted that they were very, very worried), I honestly did not know what to say to my friend. There's a huge difference between undergoing surgery for repair vs. surgery for recovery. It got me thinking, how come I survived two life-threatening episodes? I almost gave up those two times, but I held on to the idea that my family needs me and I need to survive.

And then I remembered what my Dad kept telling us, "You are here for a purpose. When your mission is done, that's the time that you will be called home."

Prinum Regnum Dei.

Now I understand why my Dad requested to have that engraved on his tombstone. It means, "First the Kingdom of God" from Matthew 6:23 which ties up to what my Dad kept reminding us on about our purpose.

I must say the last 2 years following my surgery has been a test of faith. I buried myself in work, probably to prove that I could still do things and I am alive. I've moved teams recently and the last few weeks have given me time to breathe and reflect. I have had time to do things I like doing and spend time engaging with friends. It's reminded me to enjoy life as well and not just spend it working hard (hopefully at my purpose).

The reminder though does not ease the sadness I am feeling over my friend, but it has renewed my quest to fulfil my purpose.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Starting Off my Yoga Diary

After surgery my doctor recommended that I do yoga. He always reminded me about this during my post-surgery check-up. I tried yoga once 4 months after surgery, but I got traumatised because the instructor (who is btw a former dancer of Britney Spears) did a mixed yoga-pilates class. You can imagine how disastrous that was for me.

After that incident I got myself a DVD and a mat and told myself that I could probably study on my own before I join a class again. I have been procrastinating for almost 2 years now and the DVD is still sealed to this day. I even bought Miguel his own mat so he can join me. Nothing happened in that department for many disgraceful reasons.

I told myself early this week that I really had to get things going since my weight loss have reached a plateau (for about 6 months now...) and my cardio told me that I needed to lose some weight (I think he gave up on the idea of bringing me down to my original weight). I really need to lose weight since my heart valve is unfortunately leaking mildly again.

Last night I dragged two of my office buddies to accompany me to the yoga class in the office. It was conducted by a colleague. One thing that really reassured me was when she said that if we felt off with breathing we should just stop for awhile until we could get back up. She mentioned also that we should listen to our body and do poses that we can manage and not push too hard. I think I managed to practice for about 70% of the 60 minute class. It was an advanced class and at the end she reminded us not to judge ourselves for our practice.

I hope to join the class again next week and hopefully find another pose I would be comfortable with aside from the savasana pose (haha). And who knows maybe in a few months I can do more challenging poses. I wish though they would offer beginner classes soon.

And how can I not be motivated? The Pinoys at work waited for us to finish class before heading to dinner.

I decided to write about it to really commit myself to this journey :)