Friday, January 30, 2015

My Work Dads and How they Saved My Life

I have had a lot of work Dads in my job, work Moms have been sparing, but I could say that I have thrived more with my work Dads. I thought about writing about them today since I had to say goodbye to two of them today. For us Filipinos we always see our boss/leader as our parent as well. My former managers would probably find it weird that I think of them as my work Dad, hahaha (they don't read my blog anyway!).

I love my work Dads because they usually just left me run my programs on my own. They allow me the freedom to do things the way I want it to work and they never shot me down whenever I encountered hiccups along the way. It was very much like how my Dad was with me, he only stepped in when I really needed help.

I had been struggling with my health in the last five years and my work Dads knew about it. They probably have not realized it, but Julian, James, Juergen, Nelson and William were all instrumental in prolonging my life. My blood flow had dangerously gone very low at 30%. It was only after my surgery that my doctor informed me about this and they said that they were really worried that I would not make it if I had not had mitral valve surgery. I was also still running at full speed at that time working on my programs.

I was really lucky that Julian and James looked out for me. It was serendipitous that James met Juergen in a trip to Indonesia and he recommended me for a role that has changed my life. It was a blessing in disguise that they insisted I move to Singapore since it was then that I began to see my cardio more regularly and he worked on convincing me to have surgery.

With Jules at the Malacanang Museum.

With my scout brothers and sisters and our Daddy James.

My biggest worry back then was how I and family would be able to pay for my surgery. Our fallback was to sell a property in Bicol, but it would probably had not been enough. I tried to save as much as I could, but it was not enough. It was the move to Singapore that saved my life because unlike health insurance companies in the Philippines they actually cover pre-conditions.

That's not Antonio Banderas, that's his older brother, Nelson (just kidding).

It was my work Dads Nelson and William who saw me through my surgery and recovery. I probably gave them a fright because it took me 6 weeks after surgery before I could finally pick up my phone and say hello. William even had to come to Singapore to check if I was still alive. My surgeon also said then that he was surprised how much my company cared because they were calling twice a day to check on my progress.

Me with my team mates, as healthy as I could be.

It's again a new chapter in my life as I take on a new work Dad, so I thought I'd write this little piece on how my previous work Dads saved my life.

Thank you Julian, James, Juergen, Nelson and William. I may not be working directly with you anymore, but you are always all in my prayers <3 <3 <3 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Seatmates are your instant friends and aside from my usual circle of friends I try to keep in touch with them every so often. I'm fond of my seatmates since you spend a lot of time with them - either you're just stuck with them because you have been seated in alphabetical order (hello seatmate Rica Arevalo!) or because you were late for class on the first day of school and there was no available seat elsewhere. When I was in university since I was de-blocked (that's what happens when you take a double degree) I purposely cross-enrolled to other colleges so I can experience other "cultures" (and well they said the cute guys were in engineering haha). I've picked up a lot of learnings from my seatmates, so let me recall some of them:

My seatmates/lunchmates 25 years ago.

Rica, was seatmate all throughout high school because we were seated in alphabetical order in some subjects. Also ended up as my science laboratory partner for all 4 years of HS. She did the experiments (I hate blowing up stuff!) and I did the nerdy reports. She's now a multi-awarded film director. Ottie, my seatmate in high school, my lunch mate too and a dear friend. She's a math whiz so she always tutored me whenever I didn't understand stuff and she always shared her homework (yeah!). Chare, also my kabarkada, sat beside Ottie. In front me us were Seema and Mercy who bickered to no end (haha), but we always had lunch together all 4 years of high school.

I had a lot of different seatmates in university, my first seatmate was Alain who came in late for class. He was an upperclassman and was seriously makulit. Rico Yan sat behind me in civil law class. When our professor asked us to change seats we ended up sitting together, but because Rico was so makulit our professor had him transfer to another seat. My son and I almost ended up on showbiz news because Rico got a copy of Miguel's photo and so people thought he was his son (argh!).

The most fun seatmate I've had so far at work is Shannon. His desk was a "tourist spot" in the office because it didn't have anything on it. Seriously spotless and clean. I made the mistake of telling him "When I grow up I want to be like you", so he started to mentor me on getting rid of stuff on my desk. Sorry Shannon I'm back to my old self now and I just can't let go of the gifts best kept on my desk from friends. I miss feeding you with chocolates though!

And then there was Sam, but he was always out traveling. He would always bring home some souvenirs for me though and he's getting married next week (woohoo!!!). Oh, I was also seated amongst guys (surfers!) and they always pranked each other and well because there was a large concentration of guys where I was seated I always got a lot of visits from the ladies.

I have had very interesting seatmates throughout the years. One is now in congress, one designed the Pope mobile used during the recent Papal visit, one is a famous LGBT writer, and many many more who are out there having the time of the lives. My current seatmates now are Philip (when in Manila) and a mystery seatmate (whoever's traveling) and Franz (when in Singapore). I must say that sitting with these two is a different experience altogether.

Cheers to all my seatmates!

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Day with Stars at Madam Tussauds

During our vacation in Japan we planned to visit Legoland in Odaiba. I'm a big Lego fan and my son grew up playing with Lego. We booked tickets online a week before our trip so we can get discounts. Sadly we were turned away by the staff of Lego because we didn't have a child with us. They refused us entry even when I told them that Miguel was my son. I think they took the pun in their policy that "Adults must be accompanied by a child" too seriously. They just gave us a small souvenir and said that the refund should be received within 3 months.

Disappointed we ended up in Madam Tussauds where the three of us split up since we were interested in different celebrities. Being a political science graduate most of my photos were with politicians (haha) and a smattering of cute Hollywood guys.

Welcomed by Johnny Depp.

Photo op with Sweetie's big boss.

Must have photo with Mr. Nelson Mandela.

With my handsome prince.

Didn't get to see them when I was in London last year so this would do.

Helping Mr. Beckham.

This is my Madonna look.

It's quite obvious now what generation I belong to.

Would have loved to have Einstein as my professor.

One of my Mom's favorite actresses.

Holding on to Tom.

One of my all-time favorite movies... ET!

Had to accompany the Sweetie to meet his favorite band.

I had a big crush on him before (but he aged haha).

With papi Mr. Clooney

After fan-girling a lot for the Menudo I never really fan-girled for anyone else (well except Leanardo DiCaprio). I was only 8 then and collected their albums, magazines and had a poster up inside my closet and nagged my Dad to accompany me to watch their concert. I must have used up all the fan energy in me because I was never the same with anyone else. Anyway, I enjoyed our trip to Madam Tussauds in Tokyo. It's a great alternative to Legoland when they turn you away. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My 2 Year Old Heart

It's #ThrowbackThursday today and I just finished my semi-annual check-up with my favorite doctor, Dr. Koo. This was me 2 years ago --

Me just before I was wheeled into the operating room.

Taken a few weeks after the second surgery. I had this photo taken because I could raise my arms again. I tried on this blouse the other day... I almost couldn't get it off anymore hahaha.

And this is big healthy (a.k.a. fat) me today --

See I couldn't even close my coat anymore!

8 years in between! I've over-achieved my Google 15. Gained it twice.

For those I've just met recently I had mitral valve surgery back in January 2013. The initial surgery was fairly successful, but I had complications after so they had to drain water from my heart. Instead of spending just 5 days in the hospital I spent a total of 30 days. I recovered really slowly and I don't think I'll be the same again. I feel much better now though and my quality of life has vastly improved and well let's not talk about how much weight I've gained in the last two years!

I got a little scolding from my doctor for miss my second check-up last year. My nose is very sensitive so during the haze season in Singapore I really have a difficult time staying (and well I was trying to lose some weight... it didn't happen!). The findings were positive, I just need to watch what I eat and lose some weight (that's the trending topic for this post!).

Ahh, but let's see what I've achieved in the last year:

- Traveled 116,562.5 kilometers, a lot were domestic travels but I managed to go to London and Cambodia for the first time and visit the US and Japan again after a long time
- Biggest adventure of the year: hiking through 7 falls in Mambukal in Negros Occidental. I couldn't walk for a week after!
- Slept on my bed more this year! Just 69 days in hotels.
- And a special Christmas gift, my first grand nephew arrived via Jet!

This is me barreling down the mountain. I could barely walk by this time.

It was a very busy year at work, but looking at my photos I'm happy to see based on my photos that we managed to slip in a few getaways. Boracay in March, Palawan in August and thanks to zero fare promos, Japan for New Year! I also met a lot of awesome and very passionate people in the last year, it's really overwhelming since I want to get to know each one of them better (that's really hard to do when you are an introvert though).

As I told my friend Rose, "I'm a walking miracle." My sun almost set two years ago, but with faith and really good doctors I pulled through, probably because my mission here isn't complete yet.

Thank you so much to my family, my friends, colleagues and everyone who's been watching out for me. All of you are my angels here on earth =)

Happy second birthday my repaired mitral valve!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Future President

Last night I had the chance to have dinner with some of our former student ambassadors. It was great to catch up with them since it's interesting to see what the students eventually do after they finish our program. One was already working for a dev company and the other is graduating soon. Our conversation though revolved around culture differences, family, their plans, population issues (some serious conversation!) and many other things.

Since we were talking about future plans my ultimate dream for my students popped in my mind. I told them that it is my uttermost wish to eventually have a country president from one of them. Their jaws dropped and they looked at me in shock. They probably thought I was loony.

We go through gazillions of applications for the program and one of the things that we look for is the ability to make a huge impact and instil change. The youth today is after all our future leaders so I cannot help but wonder if there's one among the hundreds of students I've had the chance to work who would eventually become a country president. I know it is far-fetched, but who knows?

Last weekend one of our students had the privilege of speaking for the youth to Pope Francis. When I met him in person I took note at the back of my mind that he had the qualities that may fulfill my dream someday. He's not the only one, there's a few more I've met in the last few years that have that potential so I'm really hopeful.

Pope Francis said to keep on dreaming so this will stay as one of my dreams and hopefully one of my children will take it on in the future :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

For Dad

Dad, you've been gone for four years now. I remember the day that Mom said you were very sick and that the doctor said it was just a matter of time. You had been suffering in silence for a couple of months. Refusing to go to a doctor and you kept saying you were fine. It was Mom who finally forced you to go for a check-up and by then it was already too late. I was inconsolable that day. I just cried and cried.

I had asked permission then from my manager if I could work earlier hours so I could get off early and walk 100 meters from my home to sit with you in the afternoons until Jay would pick me up to go home. We would watch TV and I would show you photos from my trips. You were always interested in the tomes of content I would put out (yes I know you used to ready my diary as well!). You wrote non-stop and that inspired me to "study writing". I know I'm not as talented a writer as you are or your apo, Miguel, but I strived to learn how to write because of you. It's Kuya though who's managed to publish books and not me (but I think I'm a better writer than he is hahaha).

Watching you lose your strength through Christmas and undergo so much pain signaled to us that we had to let you go so you won't suffer any longer. You held on when I had to leave for a week-long trip to Singapore because I told you to wait for me. And wait for me you did. Mom said that in your last few days you kept calling out to Nanay and Tatay. They had been trying to pick you up already, but you held on and waited.

You were doing quite well days before you passed. Mom said you just kept sleeping and even told her on the 19th night of January that she should get some sleep and rest. You passed away in your sleep. After Mom called me we rushed to the house to check on you. You still had a slight pulse when I arrived. I hope you heard me say "I love you Dad" just before your pulse dwindled and stopped. It was the most heartbreaking moment of my entire life.

Mom was very much composed. I was a huge mess, but I had to be the one to break the news to my siblings. I thought it was unfair that I had to do that since I'm after all your youngest child, your padaba, your latak. You brought me up to be a tough cookie though and you always told me to be strong and hold on to what is most important.

I cry a little every single day Dad because I miss you very much. It happens at the most random places, but I manage to hide the paid well because that's what you taught me. I would've probably made a good lawyer as you wanted me to be, but I'm too much of a scatterbrain to be one and it would've hard to fill the shoes you've left as a lawyer.

Thank you Dad for loving me, for being patient with me, for being strict so that I may learn, for being stern so I will become tough, for bringing me to all those tagalog movies and for accompanying me to watch Menudo even though you had to cover your ears all night. I would never have it differently, but I should have asked God to extend your life after your first bout with cancer until after you get your first great-grandson from Miguel and not only until you manage to walk me down the aisle. I honestly thought I wasn't going to marry anymore so I made that deal with God (well He had other plans apparently).

I miss you Dad. I know you are having a grand time with Tito Tony, Tito Mon and Tito Ben up there. Please say hi to my grandparents and all my friends who have gone up there to party with you. Please watch over us as we fulfill our mission down here. <3

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Keep Dreaming

The last few days saw Pope Francis win the hearts of Filipinos an reinforce our faith. I could not be there to see him in person, but even far away I felt his presence and heard his message. I am so glad that his visit was available for viewing on YouTube through RTVMalacanang (a project I worked on back in 2011, remember this?). My deepest gratitude to the team who worked on that because I managed to take part of the visit online.

I had been very active in our Parish in the past. I used to produce our parish newsletter and was active in our choir (for more than 20 years), but primarily due to my health and work I had to give those up so I could use whatever energy I had to care for my family. I've been feeling quite better in the last few months and have been thinking about how I can serve again. It's difficult to commit though since I'm always on the go. I think how I'll get to fulfill that personal goal will be revealed in the coming months.

Pope Francis said, "Don't lose the ability to dream."

I have been living with short term goals in the last decade (yes, decade). Wherever I am today is because I have just followed where I've been navigated to go. I am in my happy place. Things are going well in many aspects of my life and I couldn't ask for more. I had asked for better health so I can provide a better quality of life for my family when I got sick in 2008. It took a number of years before it worked out, but now things are so much better.

When I read the quote from Pope Francis it made me realize that I should be stronger in my faith that I should dream and dream more. I've been so fixated on getting well that I had not made any plans on what to do after my health problem got ironed out.

"Don't forget to dream, because when you do, you forget the capacity to love."

I think I've live too realistically in the last decade, that's what happens when you get so hurt. I'm glad though I did not become jaded because I was able to forgive, somehow forget, move on and allow myself to love and be loved. Now what I need to work on is my dreams and the dreams of my family.

Thank you Papa God for sending Pope Francis to my country and for making me realize that one must continue to dream.

Here is a song that I learned to play on the piano when I was a kid. My piano pieces perished during Typhoon Ondoy, but last Saturday I finally got a new copy of the piece and look forward to going home and playing it again.