Sunday, December 6, 2015

Taiwan and my Grandma

I have been thinking about my paternal grandmother a lot in the last week that I've been in Taiwan. I did not get a chance to meet her because she passed away when my Dad was very young. He was only 7 years old when she went to heaven. I knew very little about her. They always said that she was very sweet and a gentle soul.

I was very close to my material grandmother. She was the only grandparent I grew up with. She was the one who piqued my curiousity about the craft of sewing. I spent many afternoons watching her sew clothes on her Singer sewing machine (for the life of me though I don't know how to sew clothes!). And that's why there are times I wonder about my paternal grandmother.


The only other info I had about my paternal grandma is she's Chinese and had eloped with my grandfather (he's a hunk!). So we had no idea about her family since she ran away with my grandpa (how romantic!).

The first time I went to Taiwan last September I felt right at home. As much as I don't understand the local language I have not been stressed about it. It may be also that the country is easy to fall in love with (LTE all the way!) and I blend in (I'm never mistaken to be a foreigner). And today the thought occurred to me, "Did my paternal grandmother's family come from Taiwan?"

I wonder because...

I love the food here!

The taste of food is very familiar, possibly because Taiwan is pretty close to the Philippines and may have influenced our food (and vice versa). I love everything I tasted so far and the pork dishes are heavenly (please do not check my waist line as of the moment). Most of the food I tried tasted like the dishes my Dad used to cook (sniff).



Everyone is so nice here!



I've been to some countries where people are not so patient with foreigners especially stalls where you buy tapao food/beverages. Last September I tried out several brands of milk tea and the staff always went out of their way to find someone in their line up who could communicate well in English. The friends I now have here always go out of their way to help and always check if there's anything they could help with.

Laid Back


Ahhh I like the fact that time seems to move a bit more slowly here in Taiwan. Hustling and bustling seem to be absent even in very crowded places, i.e. the busy Taipei Main (train) station. I seem to be able to do more in 30 minutes here than in Singapore (hehehe).

So I wonder... did my Chinese grandmother's family come from Taiwan?


Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Teachers Day!

In early 2014 I made the big leap of shifting full time to work on education. I left what could have been a lucrative career working with developers and entrepreneurs. I probably would have been more known for what I would have done and would probably have easily leveled up in the ladder. It was not an easy decision and I fought with my VP so I could transfer to education. I had to cry so he would understand that it's what I wanted to do. He explained to me that he was just worried that my talent as a program manager may be overlooked if I followed that path.



It's been almost 2 years since I made that leap. The leap left a huge gaping hole in my heart since it meant I would not work directly anymore with devs and entrepreneurs. I miss a lot the friends I met when I was building those communities, but I have gained a gazillion new friends and all of them are educators! And as I work with them I cannot help but feel envious with the power they have -- the power to change lives, the power to make a huge impact on the lives of children.

Teachers have fun in Taiwan!

Last year I made a post to thank the many teachers that made a huge impact in my life. I can never thank them enough for helping shape who I am today. The only way I can really thank them is to do better at what I do and do more cool things that matter! And hopefully one day I will be able to join the academe once again so I can have the opportunity to teach again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Debut

I celebrated my debut last Saturday, 22 years too late. It was worth the wait though and was magically perfect.

Being an introvert I see-sawed between wanting to have a party and not having a party. There were days I'd be gung-ho at celebrating and there were days when I just wanted to hide in a hole on my birthday. I didn't actually want to be stressed out about worrying if people would actually go to the party and entertaining a lot of people in one go is just really hard for me. It was Boss (yes that's the name of my friend) who swayed me to celebrate. His winning statement was, "You don't just celebrate a birthday just for yourself. Your friends also want to celebrate it with you." And so I said yes and promptly emailed Jigs to book a room at AIM Conference Center.

A lot of people asked me, why at AIM? AIM is a core memory I have with my Kuya. When he was a student there I would hang out at the SA Store all day, decorating the window, selling stuff, generally being a nuisance at the school. I think I was just 10 or 11 then, but I spent a whole summer at AIM learning retailing and getting to know students and professors. I naturally chose AIM because it's a comfort zone for me and they already know what I like.

After booking the place I promptly left for Singapore and apparently left Sweetie and friends a lot of time to scheme for my party. You see, I was kept at the dark about what was going to happen at my celebration. I had no idea who was actually organizing the evening and I had no idea what was going to happen. Sweetie wouldn't even give me the list of organizers because I wanted to buy gifts for them. I managed to get a list though using Google Calendar! Sweetie forgot that his calendar is shared with me and so I saw the list of the mafia scheming to organize my party.

I wanted to be at the venue before 6pm because I wanted to welcome the guests, but Sweetie insisted that we come at 6:30pm. I kept tripping on my long dress on the way to the room and was nervous about falling flat on my face. I had no idea what to expect. When we arrived at the room I saw familiar faces, all smiling and excited to greet me. I was welcomed by my Mom who exclaimed, "Are you really now 40? But you're still my baby!" Mom then hugged me tight and whatever nervousness I had went away.

I had no idea about the program so when I arrived I went ahead and went table to table to greet everyone who came. It was overwhelming to see all my loved ones in one time! When I finished greeting everybody I was ushered to my seat and the program started with a very beautiful prayer by Ate Edith. After that Ate Neysa and Harry did their rendition of some of my favorite Disney songs. Then we had dinner and a few speeches from my Mom, Sweetie, and Miguel (finally broke his silence!).

After that the Gaylas Filipinas  (Gab, Iosif, PX, Sephy, JK, James, JD and Philip + Rose) marched in and transformed me into a fairy (watch at 22:45 on the vid)! After dressing me up they did a fabulous 80s dance number. It was then followed by my best friend's, Darwin, speech (who I had a huge row with a month before my birthday). You have to watch his speech (at 27:55) to hear about his big revelation (we're good now, row forgotten). And then I was surprised with a sharing from my favorite brother, Kuya Jojo, who described by turning my name into an acronym. He made everyone laugh and cry and everybody thought he was on a live hangout (he was good at anticipating my reactions too!).



And as we always do in work events I run, we had a breakout session! Each table was asked to work on a craft project. I managed to read through and appreciate the projects made just before I left for Singapore. I'm still trying to figure out how I could best preserve and make the projects easy to re-read (haha). So I thought the evening was over with the craft project, but there was still another huge surprise -- a flash mob!

I was talking with TJ about crisis response when Gab pulled him away from me. And then I saw Sweetie approach me and he just suddenly started dancing (35:05 on the vid), the gaylas joined in and then almost everyone in the room was also dancing! It was a feast! I'm glad we have it on vid so I can appreciate the gesture again and again.



The evening capped off with me blowing my birthday candles. Jay really wanted me to use his 40th birthday candles but he left it at home (haha!). I just made a simple wish and heartfelt gratitude to everyone who tirelessly prepared for my birthday celebration (the list is very, very long!).



Thank you to all my family and friends who prepared to make this the happiest birthday I ever had! I've been working on this post for over a week now and I'm still very much overwhelmed, happy, joyful, galak, on cloud 9 (insert all happy synonyms here)... Thank you to everyone who travelled to come -- Marcus, Shirni, Andrew, Darwin, Mica, JR, Jas! And thank you for those who braved the traffic (and the INC protest) to come over, your presence was much, much appreciated!

My debut came 22 years too late, but I must say the wait was well worth it.

And now let's wait another decade when I become a golden girl.

Life begins at 40! Weeeeee!


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Road to Four-Ever

Introspection.

Pag-mumuni-muni.

Something I've been doing in the last few weeks leading up to four-ever. This is likely because I've been stuck in Singapore for a month already, by choice. My body has been telling me to just stop and rest. I've also been wanting to settle down and put in some roots and actually have friends to spend time with (aside from my family).

I started blogging ten years ago (on Friendster) around the time of my birthday and I remember listing down 30 special things I've done in my life (ugh but please don't read it na!), the last from that list is joining a search engine. The last ten years of my life has simply been extraordinary.

On Love

Ten years ago I was heartbroken, became an ice queen (Elsa isdatu?), eventually started dating again, kissed a few frogs and eventually found my prince (there is a lot of hope!). I had actually given up, but you know you just really need to trust God and allow Him to write your love story. How Sweetie found me was an extraordinary experience even though we met at an event and I ended up fan-girling when I found out that he was the founder of Titikpilipino.com.

Friendship though was key. We became best friends even before we thought about love (we were actually dating other people!) and things just rolled up nicely. We've been married for 5 years now and ten years ago I never even thought I'd eventually get married (busy sa career at bitter ocampo!). God would really find you the right (and the best) one if you allow Him to.

When God Writes Your Love Story (part 1)
When God Writes Your Love Story (part 2)
The Perfect Proposal
The Wedding Day

On Parenting and Family

Ahhh, one of the most difficult roles I play in life is being a parent. Ang hirap! It's really hard since there's no manual for it and each child is different from the other. I will not have it in any other way though and I'm happy that I over-achieved and had Miguel at the young age of 17 (while all my batch mates are slaving away for their kids I'd be retiring in a few year!). It's not been easy though since you really have to work on things all the time.

I realized that my family is quite small. I just have two siblings and they both live faraway. Lost my Dad four years ago and I've been feeling disjointed without him in the last four years. Tears always come to my eyes whenever I think of my Dad (and that happens everyday). After my Dad I also lost two of my uncles, so my family has been getting smaller and smaller. We realized though that we all have each other when needed. And I'm happy that we have a tiny boy in the family now, my grand nephew Jet!

On Friendship

The last ten years has been a struggle on staying in touch with friends. I've been traveling so much that I've lost touch with my "offline" friends and I miss then a lot. Some of them have just slunk away into oblivion, but I realized that I've made a gazillion new friends across the globe and they are just happy to be there when I ping them. I'm still much better though at talking 1:1 than being in a big group (hey I'm an introvert!), but I think most of those who stuck around understand and accept me for my quirks. I've learned to accept the fact that there are those who you try to stay in touch with but don't. It hurts but I realized there are other people out there who are willing to open their hearts for you.

On Working

Ahh, I've been working since I was a student. I started out as a student assistant at Yuchengco Institute, then worked part time as a writer at Pilipinas Shell. When I graduated I started work at Smart, left Smart when work conditions became weird (I knew early on I didn't really like sales), became an entrepreneur exporting furniture and houseware and then eventually joined the Cyan group of companies where I worked at One Hundred Services, the Yellow Pages and Dream Satellite TV. After that I spent some time doing consulting work for DMCI Homes while I was waiting for my papers to be finalized to join Google.

Looking back I never really had a break except when I had heart surgery and where I am today is because of all the hard work I do. The companies I joined were carefully picked because I wanted to learn as many skills as I could. I never said no to any project or task because I feel I should help whenever I can. I always also pray for guidance especially during tough times. I'm lucky now though because I have very nice and caring managers, my bosses in the beginning of my career are ones you would not want to have but I learned from them as well.

On Faith

Who I am today is complete because of my faith in God. I always seek guidance from him all the time and I am very thankful for all the blessings he continues to give me and my family. Thank you Papa God from the bottom of my heart.

To everyone in my life, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my friends in the community, thank you very, very much for everything! Love you all!




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cranky and Averting a Crisis

I'm feeling really cranky today, so thought I'd vent on my blog to ease off some of the negative energy from my system.

I'm cranky because I didn't get a good night's sleep (which is apparently a requisite to my good mood and perkiness). Last night the haze in Singapore hit 99 PSI. Hitting 50 PSI is already a bad indicator for me since I have a heart condition. By 9pm last night I felt like being choked. I used the nasal spray my EENT gave me, but that only helped a little. I tried to calm myself down by quilting since one of my friends advised me that I should let my body adjust. It helped a little and I eventually fell asleep around midnight.

Part of the reason I'm cranky is stress. The last two weeks have been extremely stressful since I had to work on a crisis situation. I do enjoy figuring out how to get out of a crisis, but part of it includes getting stressed.

So how does one get out of a crisis?

1. Audit the situation - a crisis usually happens when someone messes up. It may be work-related or something in your personal life, but usually it's because someone did not fulfill their responsibility (on or off-work). Before diving in to solve a problem it would be best to assess the situation. Check who are involved, the status and know what needs to be done.

2. Listen and ask Questions - one of the beautiful things I learned from the coaching course I took was the importance of listening and asking questions. Before making any pronouncements listen to what people have to say and ask questions. Ask more what, how, why questions and you'd be surprised with the answers you'll get. (We were forbidden to ask yes/no questions at coaching class).

3. Ask More Questions - I learned that it's better to ask than to make assumptions.

4. Check Resources - as you listen and as you ask questions you will get a lot of information. Assess the data and counter-check available resources you may have. It's very important to get all sides so you can make the proper recommendation.

5. Make a Recommendation - with the appropriate data, counter-checking resources and matching these to objectives (and maybe adding more goals) you can then make a proper recommendation to make things work out.

[Hmmm... I think the above recommendation works for love as well].

Nothing like writing to make me less cranky. =)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Acceptance

Acceptance can mean a lot of things. It can mean it's suitable, adequate, tolerance, and perhaps to some it may mean defeat. I started thinking about this word when I read about a friend experiencing some health problems and he's been having a hard time about it.

Back in 2008 I contracted pneumonia which resulted in heart failure. I was constantly coughing for about a year because the water in my lungs just wouldn't go away. When it did my immune system had deteriorated a lot and all my allergies were activated. I couldn't eat chicken, chocolate, couldn't drink Coke and cockroaches (even their smell) made me feel like I was dying. There's no cure for heart failure but there are ways to help ones allergies. So I saw an allergologist, Dr. Canlas of Makati Med. Being the best allergologist in town the line was long and I waited for about 3 hours before I could see him. I thought I was going to pass out while waiting for him, good thing Sweetie was there for me and told me I would get better after I see the doctor.

So after getting pricked 40 times to test for allergies the doctor rattled off the stuff that would trigger my allergies. He said though that the first step to getting better was accepting the fact that I have allergies and that I would need to adjust how I live. I was feeling sorry for myself then because I was so weak, I could barely eat and I couldn't do anything anymore. I thought then that I was probably dying a very slow death.

That was the first and the last time I saw Dr. Canlas, but the advise he gave me on that day made a huge impact on how I live today. Acceptance doesn't mean defeat. It means that you can face challenges in a mature manner. It means being flexible and adjusting to what you have. I know I have a lot of limitations because of my heart, but it doesn't mean I cannot do anything anymore. It also means I just really need to be smart about the choices I make so I can still do what I want and like doing.


Monday, August 3, 2015

The Top 10 Things I Learned in the Last 3 Decades

A few weeks from now I will be leveling up to the next decade of my life. One of my Kuya's told me when I sent my birthday invite was, "How time flies!" Indeed time flies so fast since I met him when I still an undergraduate student.

A few years from now I'll probably be having a mid-life crisis, or I may have gone through it early this year. I remember going through quarter life crisis quite early as well. A few years back I read a question in a magazine, it said, "If you were to relive your life, would you rather go back to your 20s or 30s?" My 20s was quite turbulent and things just stabilized in my 30s, so I'd much rather relive my 30s than my 20s.

Here are ten things I learned along the way:

1. Be content - the more you want, the more you get frustrated. Be happy with what you have.

2. Unload those baggage of expectations - if you do things with loads of expectations, more often than not there would be things that would not meet your satisfaction and you'll just be frustrated. See #1.

3. Save - and live within your means. Rainy days are sure to come.

4. Be realistic - you will never get everything you want. Manage your expectations and plan ahead (remember the 5Ps of preparation!).

5. Be flexible - I had to adjust to a lot of situations, primarily my health. There's a lot I want to do, but I can't anymore because of my condition. I've found ways to channel my energy to something I can do.

6. Listen - a lot of misunderstandings happen because you don't listen.

7. Love like there's no tomorrow - #there'sforever

8. There will be bumps in the road - life is not perfect and there will always be bumps in the road. Just take a deep breath and meditate and don't hesitate to ask for advise/help if needed.

9. Always pray - and meditate.

10. Enjoy - you live only once, so enjoy as much as you can too. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Live Life, Take Risks

"Life life."

"Take risks."

Today I bid goodbye to a friend who has been battling cancer in the last seven months. My friends told me, "Be brave" when I told them I was on my way to the wake. I told myself I should not cry (it's very bad for my heart). God sent an angel after I arrived at the wake, he accompanied me to see our friend. I was relieved to see that he was smiling and looked very much like the times we spent chatting during lunch and at airports.

I've had very meaningful conversations with this friend of mine. I miss my Dad a lot and chatting with him about politics made me feel that I was talking to a younger version of my Dad. We'd also talk about family and discussed his dream about building a very nice house for his family. He would excitedly share with me his plans for his dream house and he'd always say that he'd like to show me his house when it is finished.

He taught me how to dream again. And to enjoy living. I shared to him that I've been very prudent about spending, investing and just getting what I wanted because I want to make sure that if ever something happens to me (knock on wood) that my family would be cope and be financially stable. When I told him that he smiled and said, "But you are alive, you should just enjoy what you have now."

I only knew him for a few years and had these meaningful conversations at least once quarter. I'd bump into him randomly in the cafeteria or at airports. Unplanned. Unexpected. I can only hope that I provided some relief to him and for his family when he reached out to me to ask advise about what was going through. He swore me into secrecy and I kept it as he wished. I never knew though what kind of sickness he went through until yesterday. It was exactly the same disease my Dad had suffered through.

They say the people you meet, the people who become your friends come to your life for a reason. Life is so fleeting, but as my friend taught me. Live it. Take risks and enjoy your life and love, love, love.

Thank you Claro (Lalen to many of his local friends) for teaching me to live again.  It was an honor to be your friend. Pa-hug na lang sa Daddy ko ha.

PS Bakit nga ba wala tayong selfie noh?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Araw ng Kalayaan!

Nung nasa kolehiyo pa ako naisip ko na dapat matuto rin ako magsulat sa ating wika. Nagpaturo ako sa isa kong kasamahan sa org at nakapag-lathala naman ako ng ilang kwento. Iba ang kinalabasan ng mga sinulat kong kwento nun, mas mababaw at nakakatawa kaya malaki ang aking respeto sa mga manunulat na magaling magsulat sa ating wika.

Marami akong kaibigan na kahit nasa Pilipinas eh Ingles ang ginagamit sa pagsasalita. Aaminin ko natuto ako mag-Filipino sa school bus dahil sinanay ako ng magulang ko nung ako ay maliit pa. Mula nung ako ay matuto mag-Filipino yun na lagi ko ginagamit. Hindi masyado masaya magulang ko kasi sabi nila eh yun daw ang "language of business" and makakatulong sa akin kapag may trabaho na ako. Eh matigas ulo ko at mas komportable ako magsalita sa ating wika. Hindi naman ito naging hadlang sa pag-usad ng aking karir at ang mga kaibigan at katrabaho ko na Pinoy kinakausap ko pa rin sa ating wika kahit Ingles sila ng Ingles.

Bakit ko ito ginagawa? Sanay naman ako magkwento sa wikang Ingles (kaso sabi nila sa opisina makapal daw ang aking Pinoy accent). Dedma lang kasi sila rin naman ay may accent (at mas mahirap maintindihan yung mga taga-Europa), hehehe. Sa tingin ko malaki ang naging impluwensya sa akin ng kanta ni Florante noong ako'y bata pa --

"Wikang pambansa ang gamit kong salita 
Bayan kong sinilangan 
Hangad kong lagi ang kalayaan. 
Si Gat Jose Rizal nuo'y nagwika 
Siya ay nagpangaral sa ating bansa 
 Ang hindi raw magmahal sa sariling wika 
Ay higit pa ang amoy sa mabahong isda."

Kaya naisip ko na kahit na "English is the language of business" eh ang paggamit ng ating wika sa pang-araw-araw ay importante dahil kahit dito man lang mapakita ko sa iba na ako ay Pilipino at ipinagmamalaki ko ito.

Sa araw na ito, sana bawa't isa sa atin ay maipahayag natin sa kahit ano'ng paraan na ipinagmamalaki natin na tayo ay Pilipino... sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa.

PS Aaminin ko gumamit ako ng Google Translate sa ibang mga salita hehehe (mahirap talaga magsulat sa ating wika!). 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My First Quilt Project After 20+ Years

When I was a kid I would spend my summers with my Mom teaching me how to make crafts. I went through sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls, making bags using straw rope, making crochet coasters, creating Christmas trees using pistachio nut shells and one summer in high school she taught me how to quilt. My Mom would get retaso from Tita Maming who had a clothing export business and should would cut them into square patterns. My school bag and lunch box in my high school senior year were my hand-made quilt products. I still have them and use them sometimes (yes they're still alive!).

Mom never stopped quilting and eversince she would make blankets for her grandchildren and me. I was looking for a hobby to revive early this summer since I didn't really like creating loombands (I wanted to be offline while crafting and making loombands require you watch online vids). I wanted to go back to reading, but my eyesight has deteriorated (probably coz I use gadgets too much!). One day I realized I wanted to try quilting again, so I found myself in Spotlight buying some fabric and thread.



It was a journey for me to create my first project because I realized that my Mom only taught me how to stitch together square patterns. My quilting lessons didn't include how to put everything together -- the batting, the backing and the piping! My Mom used to finish my projects for me back then. To practice I made a small wallet first (project zero) to figure out how to finish a whole project.



I guess that's how life is as well. Your parents will teach you as much as they could, but you would need to figure out the rest. It took me 2 months and 20,878 kilometers worth of travel (I lugged it around with me) to finally finish this project - a sleeve for my Chromebook - and I must say that it's an achievement for me since I made it on my own. It's not perfect -- all the stitches are uneven, and ugh don't even look at the underside! But I think my Mom would be proud that I finished this without her help.



For my next project I'm going to make a sleeve for my tablet and after that I hope I can have the courage to veer away from solid colors and follow a simple project from a quilting book.

Aja!

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
keys
phone
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)
iPod

I certainly didn't use the following -

comb (yeah I comb my hair just once a day!)
mirror
inhaler
alcogel (I wash my hands often since that's better actually)
powerbank
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

Purpose

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 :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

29 Years After the EDSA Revolution

Wow! I can't believe 29 years have passed since the EDSA Revolution. I still remember that week quite vividly. I was just in fourth grade then and I remember my parents explaining to me why we had to stay home and why they were so worried that my Kuya decided to go to EDSA on his birthday. There were a lot of things happening during that time and I was told that it was dangerous to go out.

During that week I learned how to ride my shiny red bike. I didn't really like the color of my bike because red symbolized Marcos and, of course, I was pro-democracy so I was hoping to get a yellow bike (I eventually did when my red bike got stolen). Back then before we had our freedom my parents were very strict with my Ate and Kuya about coming home late. "Delikado ang panahon" they would always say. We only went out during special occasions and only went to the supermarket when we needed to buy groceries (there was no such thing as malling back then). We stayed home often and family trips was limited to going to our hometown in Bicol, but we had to stop going for awhile because of the NPA.

I guess I'm in that generation that experienced Martial Law, but didn't understand it that much since I was too young then. I did experience coup d'etats during the first Aquino administration, blackouts during the Ramos administration and the disgrace that was the Estrada and Arroyo administration. We acquired the freedom we wanted and there were a lot of improvements after, but we were bogged down with bad leaders and their personal motivations.

As much as the media keeps saying that it's all bad in the Philippines, it's not (they just love to sensationalize things). We're just culturally very sensitive people and we absolutely love to rant. For me though I like to see a half-empty glass as a glass half-full rather than half-empty. As I mentioned in a previous post, things have to go through a tedious process in order to become perfect (e.g. glass goes through fire to be formed, diamonds need to be processed to look beautiful). I am sure that our country did not have an easy time to recover after the Battle of Manila and that's what we are going through currently.

Back in 2008 my Dad wrote a blog post about "Moral Discipline" and he mentioned that in 1939 President Manuel L. Quezon formed a "Moral Code Committee". President Quezon eventually issued Executive Order No. 217 (Moral Code, 1939). The code points out very sensible things we can do on our own to help in nation building.

Let's all do what we can to build our nation and I hope that by the 50th anniversary of EDSA we would have learned how to manage our freedom.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Tadhana

"There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sweetie and I finally got to watch "That Thing Called Tadhana" the other day. I loved the movie since it was simply realistic and the dialogue was engaging. It reminded me of the movie "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" which was an all-dialogue movie as well.

All the hugot lines from the movie resounded so well with so many people because it's what people go through everyday. We all go through the cycle of falling in love, getting betrayed, breaking up, healing and then falling in love again, but as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "... but never the same love twice."

We each have our own story, probably as unique as our thumbprints. I went through the same cycle and I must say that I had to go through all of it because I had to learn a lot of lessons before I found my one true love.

If you are still looking for your one true love, do not worry, God is still probably looking for the leading man or your great love story.


Friday, February 13, 2015

The Test for Peace

"Peace cannot be kept by force, it can be only achieved by understanding."
- Albert Einstein



Last night just before I went to sleep my thoughts again went into the issues happening back home. We were all euphoric when Pope Francis visited the Philippines and everything was calm after that. Slowly things went bank to normal, but everyone was still in cloud 9, happy to have felt loved by Pope Francis. Our faith re-energized, putting everyone on a positive mood.

And then, BAM! We all faced the bad news about the murder of 44 special action force policemen.

Our faith shredded once again.

The peace that had settled in after the Pope's visit burst like a bubble and reality set in. There was noise, a lot of noise after the news broke. Finger pointing. Accusations left and right. We were all looking for someone to blame. Facts are being revealed really slowly.

I remember a team building exercise we had to do a few months back. Our team is composed mostly of A personality people and meetings would run to no end because each person had an idea and always had to speak. My boss would complain that I never really shared my thoughts. I didn't because I wanted to listen and not jump in the foray.

So we failed the first run of our team exercise because we didn't communicate well. There were so many cooks in the pot. There was some physical requirements in the activity I couldn't participate in so I stood back most of the time and just helped where I could. Instructions were given left and right by different people. There was a lot of great ideas on how to finish the task, but there was no process to identify the right way. During our debriefing I shared that the biggest problem was everyone wanted to lead, wanted to share their ideas, but no one wanted to listen and follow just one leader. We did the same exercise again after the debriefing and exceeded our targets. After that day we became a much better team and we became a family.

Being away from home I just get my news online. I sometimes watch TV Patrol on TFC, but I read mostly. I see a similar problem as what our team had. Investigations are happening left and right and I'm not even going to point out anymore what our politicians have been doing since I'd like to believe that everyone involved has the objective to bring justice and peace.

I think this is a test of peace for us. Our generation is very lucky because we did not see war. My parents did and my Dad used to tell us the story of how they escaped Lucban during the war. How they had to flee in the middle of the night so they would go undetected by the Japanese. How they had to go by sea hiding between war ships to go to Mindanao to stay away from the war. My Mom, on the other hand, shared how they had to move places everytime my grandfather (then in the Philippine Army) was re-assigned. They didn't have the freedom to move around like we do back then and they had to endure the time when Papa Lolo had to go through the death march in Bataan.

We recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila and after watching the documentary I realized that our parents had to endure a lot to be liberated, to have peace. The Battle of Manila lasted from February 3 to March 3, 1945. A month long battle where forces started to march from Pangasinan to fight to free our people. One hundred thousand men, women and children died and Manila was left in a rubble. The anniversary comes at a good time where we should remember that war is never a solution.

That was the process that our forefathers had to go through to attain liberation and peace in 1945. And what is happening today is the test we have to go through to attain peace. There is a lot of issues. A lot of things to work out. Justice to be served. Peace to be attained. I hope there would be a way where we can all take a step back, assess the situation and steer towards the process for peace.

I really pray that the Mindanao peace process will work out and that justice will be given to our brave SAF policemen who sacrificed their lives so that others will not suffer.


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

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!