Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Surprise

I always celebrated my birthdays when I was a kid at home. Being the baby of the family, my parents and siblings would prepare to celebrate my birthdays by cooking spaghetti, ordering balloons and Golidocks mocha cake, year-in, year-out. I think we only stopped hosting parties when I was in my 20s. I was always envious of my classmates who had parties at either Jollibee or McDonald's, so I told myself someday I'll do one of my birthdays there.

This year I was too lazy to do anything on my birthday. I took a 2-day leave to just rest, do the laundry, go to the dentist and spend time with my family. On my birthday I managed to get myself out of the house and had a lovely dinner with my boys. After that I obliged Anne's request that I meet this guy --



Twas great to meet Hugo and found out that we both worked under my favorite VP - Nelson Mattos!

The next day I went to my dentist with Miguel. I bugged him all day to let me know if there was a surprise awaiting me in the evening. He just kept smiling at me and said that his lips were sealed. Sweetie told me to dress up for dinner and said he needed to drop some stuff off before we had dinner.



So we ended up in McDonald's and I was surprised big time by friends and colleagues! I had no clue that Sweetie had been conspiring with them and that he had been secretly preparing for the program! As I entered the room I was given a crown and was directed to sit in front. A full program was then unveiled, starting with a short explanation about the surprise and a song number from Harry (who I have not had a chance to hear sing in person!).



Then the games came after.

ROFL.

Extra lang si Birdie dito. Hahaha!

And the biggest surprise of all was a dance number by Sweetie! I know he likes dancing, but I've never really seen him dance a full number! I have the video, but I think I may never get surprised again if I post it publicly. Haha.

Of, course, mandatory photos with Birdie!



Wow! It was a great evening, full of laughter, hugs and french fries! Finally my fastfood chain dream party has come true!


*Birdie needs a bath though. Haha.

Thank you Sweetie, my bagets Miguel, Little Princess Philip, the girls - Sephy, PX, LA, Gab and Iosif; the community reps - Jomar, Anne, Wayne, Reymart, Ros and Raffy; my furry colleagues - Gail, Casey, Jerjer; my sis, Anne and Harry. Wagas na wagas ang surprise ninyo! Thanks so much for making my birthday special and making me feel loved!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

18 Twice Over Plus 3 and the 8th

Thirty eight was such an odd number. I spent the last year proving to myself that I could still do the stuff I used to do before surgery. I think I did and did even more (well except the adventurous stuff like zip-lining, white water rafting etc.). I managed to go up Borobudur in Yogyakarta and survive hiking at Mambukal in Bacolod, very physical activities that I thought I wouldn't be able to do. On the other hand, stress isn't good for me since it manifests physically, so I try to avoid getting upset and stressful situations (that's why I always try to be jolly).

I'm just really thankful that I'm still alive and that the quality of life I have now is much better than it was in the last 6 years. Being sick really does change your life, but it's up to you whether you accept it and live how best you can utilize what you have or be defeated and just waste away your life. I do envy people who have the energy and have better physical health, but I always just think that God will only give you what you can bear and this has been my cross. I will continue to live and pray that what I do adheres to the mission that I must complete while I live.

My life changed drastically 8 years ago when I joined Google. I realized back then that I had been living in a hole and there was so much to learn, to experience, to do. I remember what my Kuya told me when I was on my way to my final interview in Hongkong, "You'll get the job if it's meant for you." I was very nervous, alone in an unfamiliar city, far from home and still worried about my Mom who had just been discharged from the hospital (survived aneurysm), and back then I was still nursing a broken heart. My brother's words calmed me down. I knew then that God's hand was working and that I would be put where He thought I would best be in for my mission. And back then I didn't even own a laptop and I just had a dial-up connection at home.

It's been 8 years and yes I co-celebrate my Google-niversary with my birthday. I originally thought it was August 21, but when I reviewed my contract I saw that the effective date was August 28. The last 8 years have been my happiest and the best thing about it is meeting so many amazing people across the globe who are now part of my life. I have learned so much, experienced so many things I never thought I'd get to do and I'm just happy to be part of a company that allows me to give back to my country and help many others in their own initiatives.

I feel like I'm just starting since they say that life begins at 40! It's still a year away, so I'm just going to enjoy what's left of my 30s. Some people might say I'm old (especially my students!), but I'm happy to say that at this age the things that bog you down when in you're in your 20s is gone. You can just let your hair down and do whatever you want to do (with flair!).

Thank you to all of my family, friends, colleagues, community-friends for loving me!

*Photo credit: Jerome Locson

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remembering Ninoy

Today is the day that former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino was shot at the tarmac of then Manila International Airport (now named Ninoy Aquino International Airport). I was only 7 years old when this happened, but my parents made sure I was aware about what was happening. This is what we would discuss during dinner. As far as I understood back then, government was doing bad things and that things should change and the death of Ninoy was going to speed up the process of change.

My parents brought me to the exhibit that displayed the clothes Ninoy was wearing when he was killed. President Cory Aquino and Kris Aquino where there when we went. That day is embedded in my memory and I realize now that Ninoy changed the course of Philippine history in a big way. I do not think we'd all be enjoying the freedom we have now if not for him and the countless other people who helped in the struggle against the dictatorship.

One of the things I admire about Ninoy is his bottomless optimism. Reading and watching documentaries on what he's been through has shaped me to be forever hopeful, forever helpful (in my own little way). In the few videos I've watched Ninoy speak I never saw him waver in his optimism that the Filipino people can do things as long as they put their minds into it.

In the last few years I've been able to visit other countries and I've seen the huge difference between living in a democratic country and a non-democratic one. We Filipinos enjoy speaking our minds anytime without fear of being jailed. Sometimes it's too much (haha) and in my humble opinion I think we can each use that energy (and brain cells) to help and improve our country instead of complaining left and right. My friends in other countries always tell me they are envious about our freedom and how things seem to be improving faster in our country.

Again, as I wrote six years ago, there is still much to be done. Don't just sit there, let's all do something to contribute to build our nation.




Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teaching


The other day at a meetup teachers shared how long they were in service, how they learned how to use a computer and how they started to use technology in the classroom. I had to get up myself and tell my story.

I told them that I was the youngest in the whole group when it came to academic teaching. I had taught a term in my alma mater. I was tasked to teach OrgCom. I had 2 major tasks: (1) Re-do the syllabus from scratch; and (2) test how to use Google Apps for Edu in the classroom. It was a herculean task for me since it was my first time to teach an actual class. The only other teaching experience I had then was substituting at my friend's nursery school and doing trainings at work. I realized then how hard it is to be a teacher since (1) you have to be at least 2 steps ahead of your students; (2) you have to study non-stop; and (3) you need to manage your time to a tee. Boy, it was really hard especially since I also had a full-time job.

It was my brother who taught me how to use a computer. I think I was about 9 years old then. He eventually enrolled me in logo programming class and gave me his old desktops as hand me downs. I was already in college when my parents got me my own desktop. I've been through the green-screen monitor and floppy disks. Hard drives were not available yet back then so you had to make sure you have at least 2 drives so you can run MS-DOS then replace it with the app and then use the other drive to share your files. Eventually my brother handed me down another computer so I had a monochrome screen which was later on replaced with a colored monitor (it cost a whooping PhP17K!!!). I learned how to use a Mac when I was doing a freelance job at Shell when I was still in college.

I was lucky my alma mater was the first school to get connected to the internet so that's where I learned. It wasn't really taught in class, but I learned mostly through trial and error and by asking questions from friends. I guess it was really curiosity that really helped me get through my second task when I ended up in the academe. And I found kindred spirits at the teacher meetup when they shared how they learned how to use the computer and how they eventually found a way to use technology in the classroom.

Spending a lot of time with teachers in the last year made me admire teachers more. It's a profession that's purely motivated by passion to serve others. It's also a huge responsibility to be tasked to shape the minds of students.

Hopefully someday I'd be able to teach in the academe again :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Achievement Unlocked: Mambukal

So it's my birthday/work anniversary month once again. I celebrated the last day of July by having this delicious cake at Calea -



August snuck up on me since I was in Bacolod for work when it rolled-in. I ended up spending most of the day indoors working and I realized that I hadn't recovered from the trip to Iloilo just a few days before heading to Bacolod, so spending time alone was a rare treat (would've been better if connectivity was better). I had a nice lunch by myself where I got to read since the rains affected connecting to the internet (perennial telco problem). Anyway I enjoyed being disconnected for awhile since I haven't had any me time for a long time.

The next day I had a #yolo moment and went to Mambukal with my colleagues. Mambukal is a popular tourist destination an hour away from Bacolod City. It boasts of 7 waterfalls (they say there's an eight but it's high up the mountains). Franz said that his grandparents managed to get around waterfalls 1-6 with no problem, so I thought it would be okay since I had been doing a lot of walking in Singapore.

I forgot about my 5 Ps.
*Proper planning prevents poor performance

I should've read more about Mambukal. I didn't know that it was a a huge park that required hiking. I told myself I would just take a look at the first and second waterfall and then head down so I don't push my body too hard. The guides though reversed the route and started with waterfall #7 (I didn't have a clue). Two minutes heading up the mountain the whole team already had left me behind so I ended up huffing and puffing up the trail with the guide and Jerome. The guide eventually relented and found a shortcut for me so we rode a habal habal to reach the area of the seventh waterfall and that's where we caught up with the rest of the group.

They only had stairs from #1 and #2.


It had rained the previous day so the trail was slippery and I saw a number of colleagues had already slipped. I'm flat footed so that meant I had to be extra careful. My guide though was an angel and made sure I was okay throughout the trek especially when we had to cross the river. I was really nervous, but I still managed to appreciate the beautiful falls. Waterfall #6 as really interesting since it had a cliff where you can jump to take a dip in the pool (sorry I didn't jump). People took turns to jump so it was quite fun cheering them on.

The dipping pool at waterfall #6.

Part of #6, make sure to try out the yummy cassava by Manang.

On the way down to the fifth waterfall we encountered a huge beehive. There were a gazillion bees in the area. My guide made me walk faster so we would avoid getting bitten. A colleague got bitten and 2 kids walking behind me got bitten. It was scary having to rush down the area but the reward was seeing another beautiful waterfall.


It was an amazing day. It was a huge achievement for me to survive the trek. I missed out enjoying the company of my companions since I couldn't keep up with them, but I realized since the trek up Borubodur last year very few people understand what it means to have my condition. I still couldn't walk properly and it's been 5 days since the trek, but I'm happy to say that the adventure did not affect my heart. Lesson learned though, do more research before doing a #yolo moment coz it will save you a lot of muscle pain.

Good thing my guide liked taking photos! GoPro is a bit hard to figure out though.

Special thanks to my guide (I was too shy to ask his name) and Kuya Raul for making sure I made it back (and to Jerjer for being there on the way up)!






Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hello from California

It’s been almost 7 years since I’ve last been to California. In the last few years my team’s hub was in Europe so I never had the chance to come back to the US. I am marking my 8th year in Google on my birthday this year (yup my work anniv is also my birthday!). I always tell my friends, “Tumanda na ako sa Google!”. 

People always ask me how I got my job. I got it because I took the chance (even though the job description was really intimidating) and applied online. I never expected I’d get a call from the recruiter. I actually almost back out of the final interview because my Mom was in the hospital. My parents pushed me to go through the interview. And during the final-final interview I was also very sick with a 41’C fever. I just remember they asked about stats that day. I must’ve rambled the right numbers despite my frying brain coz shortly after that they said I was in.



The last 8 years of my life has certainly been very eventful. I learned a lot and have been stretching myself beyond my limits. I never imagined that I’d be able to do the things I’ve been doing and I’m still in awe of the opportunities given to me. I still remember that manghuhula at the Ad Congress in Cebu in 2005 who said, “You have a big star in your right hand. You will have bigger responsibilities and will be known for your work.” I told him, “I just got promoted maybe that’s it.” I never expected what was in my future.

I look back fondly in my last trip to the US. I was certainly at the crossroads when it came to my love life during that time. I was praying hard to find the right one because my September 2007 deadline was near. I told God back then that if I didn’t find the right one by September 30, 2007 it was a sign that I should dedicate my life to service. I was already planning to take my doctorate back then. 

But lo and behold, as I was being shown the coastline of San Francisco by a friend, Jay (who was in Manila) kept SMS-ing me and saying that he missed me a lot. My friend was so pissed because my head was down reading messages throughout the stretch of the coastline. Ay sorry naman. When I got home, through my jet lagged brain Jay and I became a couple on Yahoo messenger (yes! Yahoo! Hahaha). And the rest of our love story is history. 

I feel this trip truly marks a new chapter of my life. I have a year old heart still ticking (sometimes noisily with the ring attached to the valve). There are a lot of challenges, but with my family, friends and colleagues, everything should be alright. 

Cheers! 

*Wrote this on the plane to SFO.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Tito Ben

Being the youngest in our clan I grew up dotted on by my Mom’s brothers and sisters. I was the cute little thing passed from one uncle and aunt to cousins during our Christmas reunions. I have many photos of this and notedly photos with my uncles carrying me. 

I particularly had three very different uncles (my Mom’s brothers). Tito Tony, the noisiest one who loved doing pranks and joke around. He was the most malambing of all and I remember always hugging him because he had a big belly. He would always send pistachio from Saudi Arabia when he worked there and I remember creating a Christmas tree for him using pistachio nuts (yeah I used to be very creative!). He believed on living on the edge and still drank Coke even when his leg already got amputated due to diabetes. I learned from him that you have to live life to the fullest and always keep your family close.



Tito Mon was the uncle with the moustache. He brooded a lot but also laughed a lot. He gave me a lot of advise and was a powerhouse marketing man back in the day. He lived with us off and on for many years and he would regale us with stories during meals. He suffered a lot being away from his family for more than 2 decades, but received forgiveness and reconciliation just before he passed away. I learned from him that even though you make mistakes you have to rise up and make up for it. 

The third uncle is my Tito Ben. My godfather twice over, in baptism and in our wedding. He was the quiet one and was part of the military. I was always in awe of him because he always stood tall. He looked a lot like my grandfather who I didn’t meet. He was was always concerned about my safety since I travel a lot and scolded me each every time we saw each other in the last 5 years for traveling by land in a part in the Philippines which he deemed unsafe. 

My Tito Ben, my second dad passed away last week. 

The last time I visited him in the hospital he was very jolly despite the pain he was probably experiencing having his lungs drained (I know I’ve been through that too). He finally explained to me why he was concerned for my safety. I didn’t know that was the last time I would see him alive. He hugged me and said he loved me. 

Tito Ben went through a lot of hardships for his family, but he faced all the challenges head on. I never heard him complain, he just always found ways to make things work. He is also only the second person I know who’s remained faithful to his marriage of more than 50 years (first one is my Dad!). And oh, I also just found out that Tito Ben loves to write and is great with communication and PR. (I always thought I got my love for writing just from my Dad, it really runs pala in the family!).

My Tito Ben was given full military honours last Saturday. I believe he truly deserved it since lived an honourable life serving God, his country, and most especially, his family. 


Farewell Tito Ben, now I know you’re with Dad, Tito Tony and Tito Mon. It was really strange dreaming about that a few months back. It was probably their way of warning me that you’d soon be gone too. Please watch over us from up there. Don’t worry about Tita Ming, Titay and Mom, they will be loved and cared for by the whole family.