Friday, January 31, 2020

Jarring January

January has been a pendulum of emotions, more because of external factors. I think I have reached the objectives I set for my break.

Kuya taught me in one of the NLP sessions he did for me that to move on from pain you need to realize what you learned from it. After you turned the bad memory into black and white, crumple it and throw it away. I left everything I didn't like in 2019. January though was jarring. If I was going to describer January as a sound, it was jangling, like a child hitting random piano keys.

Just keep swimming!

It's just a few more hours before Fabulous February rolls in. I'm really hoping it would be a fantastic month. Before the clock strikes midnight I thought I'd list down some of the realizations I had in January.

1. Be always prepared. Calamities happen and one should always have provisions at home (I have two homes, plus Mom's! Arghhhh). I need to find the girl scout in me again.

2. You don't need to do everything. Don't beat yourself up if you don't finish something within the day.

3. When you don't want to, just say no.

4. Relax, everything will be alright.

5. Do the things that make you happy.

6. Stop just planning for the week! It's time to plan for the future.

7. Dream even if you have physical limitations.

8. Be grateful every day.

9. Love yourself. Don't feel guilty when you need to take a break.

10. Always remember to let God navigate your life. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Backstreet Boys in Singapore 2019

After Menudo took my heart when I was ten years old I told myself I wouldn't love any other boy band the same way. I was in college when the Backstreet Boys came into the scene. I liked their music, but OPM bands were also very popular at that time and I chose to fangirl more on local music. I never even followed the news when BSB took a break. I only listened to BSB when their songs came up on the Spotify playlist I listen to.

Fast forward 25 years later, BSB re-grouped and announced a world tour. When tickets started selling in Singapore I asked Sweetie whether he wanted to watch. He said no because he thought that they were going to sing mostly new songs. He changed his mind a day after the Manila concert when he heard that they sung all their famous old songs. I got a frantic call from him asking if I had plans for Wednesday night. I said, "None." Next thing I knew he booked tickets to watch the BSB DNA World Tour concert. 😅

I'm so happy that Sweetie booked those tickets! I super loved the concert especially their awesome 90s dance moves! The boys are now men and I think they are better performers today. I love that they indulged their fans with their old songs and just sang their newer songs sparingly. I think it's the best concert I've watched after a long time and grateful they still have all that energy in them!

 Thank you Sweetie for the fabulous last minute concert date night! ♥️♥️♥️

PS I took a lot of video clips, they're at
PPS my photos were taken with a Pixel phone, the others I made nenok from Sweetie haha

***I originally wrote this post on FB the day after the concert. Wanted to report it here because it's a great memory :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Dear 2020

Dear 2020,

I know we started off on the wrong foot, but things got better on the second week. A page turned and I felt I was ramping back up. It took me a month to get to that level. I was so happy about it I made an effort to go out with my son for a fun Sunday date. After hearing mass and having lunch I read about the Taal volcano eruption. I thought about buying additional supplies, masks and an air filter and actually passed by those stores to check, but it did not occur to me that the ash would reach us.

Things started going downhill when the mall had a brownout while we were waiting for our ride. Then ten minutes into our ride I had an asthma attack. It was when I looked at the sun when I realized I should have focused on preparing for what was going to come. When we got home we immediately harvested our laundry from the roofdeck and closed all the windows. We even covered the aircon to prevent ash from coming in and Miggy said we shouldn't use the aircon that night.

The ash started falling just after sunset. We had settled in the living room to listen to the news and I called my Mom to warn her about the ash fall. I couldn't sleep because I was having a hard time breathing. I wore a mask and eventually dozed off. I woke up early the next morning and immediately checked our balconies through the glass door.

The ash fall wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (I experienced the 1991 Pinatubo ash fall). Checked the news and Phivolcs announcements, looked for ways I could help and checked on Mom. I had to remind her not to go out because she mentioned she did some gardening that morning! She mentioned that the roof was cleaned up already and they only got a pail-full of ash (it was 5 sacks in 1991).

It was a huge struggle for me since I have severe asthma, but I can't imagine the pain of those severely affected. I had to find other ways to help since I had to retire from doing crisis response because of my health. It was frustrating, but I knew I had to take care of myself so I don't get sick. That same week news about the novel corona virus was ramping up. I also started monitoring it since we were due to fly to Singapore. The issue blew up the week we were set to go back to Singapore. It's a huge concern for me because I previously caught the other virus back in 2001 (passed on to me by family who flew in).

Prior to the eruption there was the issue in Iran, the worst locust invasion in Africa in the last 70 years and many other issues. January hasn't even ended yet and it feels like the whole year has passed already. I've been doing a lot of reading and I can't help by compare how other countries have been managing issues. Sadly in the Philippines the leaders are more focused on other things and they have been making decisions that are not pro-Filipino. It's truly heartbreaking and I pray things will change since a lot of Filipinos depend on the government for help.

So dear 2020, I hope things will be better in February because honestly I'm looking forward to 2021 already. Please help pray also for all the doctors, medical personnel, police/military, volunteers and everyone helping in these calamities. That they may have strength to help more people. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Now Let's Drink Some Flowers

Sweetie loves drinking tea. I prefer to drink milk tea so my experience with drinking tea is limited to the usual ones - oolong tea at Chinese restos, lemon & ginger when I have a sore throat, grean tea and peppermint. Sweetie though has a huge collection of tea at home (it spills over to his office desk) because I always buy for him whenever I travel. I'm not allowed to buy any for now since he still has a lot to finish for the next two years (hahaha).

Last December I headed up to Baguio City with Miguel since I needed some fresh, cool air to clear my head and kick off my rest journey. We spent a couple of days there just eating-sleeping-eating-and sleeping some more. I caught a cold so had to rest more hehe. My friend, Vince, saved us from just hibernating at the hotel.

This time around we got to try a few new places in the city: (1) Chaya Japanese restaurant; (2) The Barn; and (3) Flower Cafe. The food at Chaya was absolutely delicious and filling. The servings were huge and I ended up having to take away some of the food. The Barn is situated in the outskirts of Baguio. It was a bit of a trek for me to head down to the restaurant (and back up after eating!), but the food was amazing and the place was so pretty. Vince said it's usually very cold there in the evening since it's situated on a cliff.

Baguio travel diary 2019 (please watch!)

We had a great experience at the Flower Cafe. We tried out flower tea. I was too fascinated watching the barista I missed hearing what flowers we tried. The tea was tasty and very refreshing. Aside from the tea I tried the coffee with cherry blossom. The beverages I tried at Flower Cafe can be described as "happiness in cups". There's just something about drinking flowers that freshens up your soul. I hope Sweetie still has some of the sakura tea I bought for him in Japan heehee.  

Monday, January 27, 2020

Cooked a Veggie Dish for the First Time

Last Christmas my friend Buddy from the Online Palengke surprised me with a box of beautiful vegetables. I must admit I haven't really cooked that many veggie based dishes so I took this as a challenge. I research through Google Search what kind of dishes I could make based on the vegetables Buddy sent to me. I chose to make pinakbet (recipe here). Here's how I made it -

I hope to cook more vegetable dishes this year. What would you suggest I make?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

My Funny Way of Cooking Bacon

I am a selective cook. I hate frying especially when oil splatters all over the place. I got over frying hotdog because I eventually learned that you can use water to cook it! So because I don't like frying I don't cook fried fish or fried chicken. That's what the over is for and I might say it's healthier haha.

In Manila I have a nice range, but in Singapore I make do with an induction stove and the landlord has provided a portable oven. I'm actually thinking of downgrading what I have in Manila since I realized I don't need a fancy range to do all my cooking and baking. It's also faster to cook using an induction stove, so when my electric stove in Manila conks out I'll downgrade hrhr.

So last night I thought I'd make carbonara. I only used half of the bacon for the pasta so I started frying the other half. Fairprice was closed so I ended up buying bacon from Cold Storage. The bacon had more fat than what I usually buy at Fairprice, so oil started to splatter while I was frying. Ahhh, but I usually still manage to fry bacon safely. Here's how -

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Happy Chinese New Year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai to all our family and friends! It's the lunar new year and we're celebrating it this year in Singapore. It's a busy time for many of our friends who celebrate it. I have Chinese blood from my paternal side, but we never had the opportunity to learn the traditions that come with the lunar new year. My friends Marcus and Shirni described to us that it's a very busy time for them because they have to visit all the family elders to give respect and just like us Pinoys during Christmas, non-stop eating too!

Last year's Chinese New Year was eventful for us. We spent it in Tagaytay with our parents, but then Sweetie had an accident and we ended up spending the rest of our vacation in the hospital. It was followed by 2 months of recovery time post-knee surgery. So this year we decided to just rest at home so I can also get back on track before I start work again.

Happy new year everyone! May the Year of the Rat be a better year for all of us! 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Recipes for My Son, Let's Start with my Spaghetti

When our family got together to celebrate Christmas my cousins started talking about their favorite dishes in our reunions. One was my Dad's corn casserole (aka shepherd's pie), Tita Olive's spaghetti and my Kuya's spaghetti, Titay's lengua, my Spanish adobo and many other dishes. I realized we never learned to make those dishes and we can just all wish someone makes it again.

My son is now 25 years old and I started to teach him how to cook a few years ago. I think he has his Papa Lolo's touch because he's more experimental than me. I learned to cook only after tying the know. We had cooking class in high school, but I was scared of cooking with fire. I'm also scared of oil splatters ("wisik") until now so I draw the line at frying fish (fish is meant to be baked!). Anyway, I learned how to cook to survive since at some point Mom didn't have left overs anymore to send us and ordering food delivery can get expensive. And thank God for the person who invented electric stoves!

I now have a nice collection of recipes my family loves. I store it old-style handwritten on index cards and kept in a box. Sweetie started taking photos of the recipes to make sure they don't get lost (the beef stew they loved never happened again because I lost the recipe) and shuttling between countries require me to cook sometimes. So I've started to take videos of cooking my family's favorite dishes so that the next generation can learn.

The Spaghetti

It was my seatmate from work who taught me how to cook spaghetti. It was the only dish I knew how to cook for a decade (haha). Family and friends said they love it so I thought it should be the first recipe I should teach Miggy how to cook. Here's a video how to cook the sauce -


2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/2 kg ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
Del Monte Italian spaghetti sauce
1 can mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup sliced black olives (optional)
1/2 cup grated cheese

How to cook:
1. Saute garlic and onions with basil, oregano and rosemary
2. Once onion is translucent add ground beef, salt and pepper.
3. When beef is a bit brown add the spaghetti sauce. Let cook for 10-15 minutes.
4. Add mushroom and mix then add the sliced black olives.
5. Mix in cheese and then turn off the heat.
*Make sure to cook your noodles before you cook the sauce.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Playing the Gamelan in Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta in Indonesia or Jogja as locals fondly call it is one of my favorite
places in Indonesia. I have visited this place a couple of times mainly for work,
but one must always find beautiful things to see during business trips. 

Back in 2013, six months after my heart surgery I managed to go up Borobudur.
It’s a 9th century Mahayana Buddhist temple. Back then they allowed tourists
to go up the temple. It was a slow process for me to go up the temple since it
was still dark when we started heading up and the steps were huge and
uneven. I safely got up with help from my friends from Pangasinan, JR and
Vanj. We reached the top just before sunrise. I reveled at the beauty of
watching the sun rise atop the temple. 

Six years after that trip I got to visit Yogyakarta again. This time we went to
Gunungkidul where they made me feel like a mayor! Students lined up the
street and gave a warm welcome when we arrived. 

My friend, Pak Ganis, always talked about his home in Yogyakarta - the
Joglo Biru or the Blue House and he promised to bring me there to visit
and have a truly local experience. I was honored to experience playing
the gamelan with the artists from SK Sanggar Seni Karawitan Gempo.
The awesome evening was organized and hosted by Pak Ganis at the
Joglor Biglu (Blue House) which is ancestral home. I was originally scared
to play since I couldn't figure out how they could play so harmoniously.
Eventually I got the rhythm and was able to follow the notes.

I heard that Yogyakarta also has beautiful beaches. I hope to visit again for a
vacation some day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

That Time I Went to Yeosu

I had a crazy travel schedule from August to November and one of the countries I visited was South Korea. I had the chance to visit Yeosu, a port city about an hour away from Seoul by plane. I enjoyed my trip because I was able to figure out how to get from Incheon Airport to Gimpo Airport for my local flight.

Yeosu was a sight to behold! Here's the view from my hotel window -

View from my original hotel room.

View got upgraded when they transferred me to the upper floor because smoke was seeping into my room from another room.

I loved the beautiful scenery. It was calming and so peaceful. I could have spent all day just looking at the view, but alas I had work to do. Aside from the beautiful scenery I enjoyed the food. I got to experience eating raw octopus that was still moving. Here's what I ate -

I dropped the poor thing in soy sauce so it was really salty when I ate it. I was so scared it might get stuck in my throat if I chewed it so I swallowed it whole. It was just like regular sushi so I had a few more pieces. I'm always game to try things to experience local culture. I've also tried scorpion in Vietnam and brain in Pakistan.

Dolsan Bridge.

The next evening I finally got to try real beef bulgogi. It was cooked right in front of us and we ate it in three forms: (1) original beef bulgogi, (2) beef bulgogi with rice, and (3) with cheese! Wow! The ingredients were so fresh and tasty. Looking back at the experience is making me hungry right now and I just had dinner.

My trip to Yeosu was short, but sweet. I hope to spend more time there if I have the opportunity to visit again in the future. I'm grateful for my new friends who gave me a great experience of Yeosu. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Favorite Pinoy Bread

I love bread. I'd be absolutely happy if I lived beside a bakery. During my elementary years we always visited Moderna Bakery (now called Casa Moderna) in Naga City. It is the oldest bakery in Bicol and is now run by my cousin and niece. When we would stay overnight there we would usually stay in the room beside the bakery. It was absolute heaven, but the bakers would start preparing bread in the wee hours of the morning. To this day they still bake in the original pugon my Tito built over 60 years ago.

Here's a list of my favorite Pinoy bread:

Pandesal, best eaten during breakfast and fresh out of the oven. I learned how to drink coffee when my parents would dip a piece of pandesal in coffee before giving it to me. Absolute love.

Spanish Bread, oh my, just thinking about it makes me want to go to Bag of Beans for some delicious spanish bread. The best one has a well-balanced amount of butter and sugar in it. This bread is also usually available in neighborhood bakeries.

*It's the one at the back.

Panbonete, the home of the best panbonete is Casa Moderna in Naga City. Be sure to be there just before sunset because it's usually gone within an hour.

Marquina/Markina, this bread was made by Casa Moderna way back when I was a kid. They rarely make it now. This bread is quite heavy on the tummy and doesn't really need any add ons to be eaten. I'm not sure if the term I used is correct, but this is one of my super favorite in the list. (Sorry no photo available since it's been years since I last got to eat this. It looks a bit like the French Baker monay below but the consistency is very different).

Monay, I prefer the gigantic, pillow-like ones. I don't see this often anymore so I make do with what's available at French Baker.

And this is why I can never go on a keto diet. I can't live without bread! What about you what's your favorite Pinoy bread?

Monday, January 20, 2020

How I Blog

I barely blogged in the last two years. Life got in the way and I just didn't make time for it. I know writing is good for me because it helps me calm down and allows me think more clearly. They say to develop a habit you need to do that same thing for about 30 days. I started doing the 30-day blogging challenge every January a few years ago.

I started this year's blogging challenge here in Manila. When I started it on new year's day I didn't really know what I wanted to write about. I know I've been a mess, but I know writing is the best way to bring me back on track. I think I'm slowly getting my groove back and I'm writing this post to guide me in the future in case I fall in a rut again (haha).

So how do I blog?

Honestly I don't really plan what to blog daily. I just go with the flow. Sometimes I get a brain fart during the day and if I remember it by the time I blog at night I write about it. I have a list of topics I loosely follow, but what I really hope to do through my blog is to inspire my readers to be the best that they could be. We all struggle in life, but remember God only gives us trials we can bear.

I try to stay positive as much as I could on my blog because there's already so much negativity out there. I have other blogs and hope I'd be able to resurrect them also this year. For now I'll focus on this blog so I can discipline myself to write every day first.

What about you? Do you prefer to blog or to vlog? 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hello Guardian Angel

We finally ventured out today to hear mass. We had to walk slow since my breathing hasn't been good the past week. I'm thankful though I haven't gotten sick and pray that those nearer the Taal Volcano are coping.

The priest asked us a question during his homily, "Will your guardian angel be proud or ashamed to report to Jesus that you've allowed him/her to take care of you?" I thought his question was going to be about being naughty or nice haha. I've always allowed my guardian angel to take care of me. "H" probably has been having a hard time with me because I sometimes ask him to go watch over Sweetie or Miggy when I'm worried. Double duty!

It was my Mom who told me I had a guardian angel. In fact "Angel of God" was the first prayer I learned and I still say it every night before I sleep. My Mom used to stay beside me until I fell asleep and we'd pray together before I went to sleep. It's one of my most cherished memories and that's probably why I rely on my guardian angel until today.

Now I have a full battalion of angels watching over me from heaven - Daddy, my titos and titas, and friends. Here on earth I also have a lot of angels watching over me. One special one recently sent me a N95 mask when she found out I didn't have any. Miggy has been my angel also since he was born and he's been making sure I'm okay (and well fed) everyday. I am grateful everyday for the love they give.

What about you? Do you allow your guardian angel to take care of you?

*Today is my Daddy's 9th death anniversary. Please say a short prayer for him.
**The photo above is one of the angels lining up the path to the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Do What Makes You Happy

This post is inspired by a bag. Yup, a bag I got from my favorite fabric place - Spotlight.

Since I was a child my Mom always kept me busy. Every summer she'd teach me a new craft. I'd spend afternoons under a tree in her garden, sewing, making straw bags, quilting, painting boxes etc. So in school my favorite subject was home economics (limited to sewing/crafts -- I hated cooking back then). I drew the line though in sewing clothes. My Mom too. It was my Mama Lola who was great with the sewing machine.

I could stay home for many days without getting cabin fever as long as I can keep my hands busy. I have a number of hobbies that I work on. The past few years I've been focusing on quilting. I quilt by hand, but lately since I've been making larger projects so I've started to use my sewing machine more.

Here are some of the projects I've worked on -

Wonder Woman quilt blanket as a wedding gift.

Baby quilt for a friend who had a miracle baby.

I made a number of this (customized) as a Christmas gift.

One of the first pillowcases I made for home use.

A Wonder Woman bag for a friend (purely hand quilted!).

I haven't sewn anything this year yet, but I have a project I'm progressing on. I'll probably start on it when I get back to Singapore. 

Quilting is one of the things that make me happy. I bring projects with me whenever I travel and sew inflight. I realized that I want to do so many things, but have limited time so set aside some of the projects for now. 

What about you? What do you do that makes you happy?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Daddy's Retrospect

Nine years ago I lost my Dad and I miss him every single day. I've always been Daddy's little girl since everyone would say I look more like him than my Mom. I always rejected that thought because I always wanted to look like my Mom. Eventually though I realized I'm probably the best mix of both of them among us (haha). I could claim that because I'm the youngest and can always flash my "youngest privilege" with my siblings (hrhrhr).

A few years ago my Mom gave me Daddy's Retrospect. It was a note he wrote in Naga City on May 19, 1959 at 2 in the afternoon. It was his 26th birthday and here's what he wrote on the first page -

"Today is my birthday - my 26th birthday - so I found it convenient to look back in retrospect and retrace the steps that I have taken so far. 

"This therefore is a re-examination. The question uppermost in my mind is who am I? What am I worth? Where did I come from and where am I (sic) going?" 

He wrote the retrospect in a small notepad. The 15-pages traced back where he came from and the struggles the family went through after Nanay passed away. My grandfather, Tatay, was the buntal magnate of Quezon at that time. Exporting to Hong Kong and Japan, unfortunately he was duped by a partner so he lost everything. The family then moved from Lucban to Surigao, but because they were being chased by the Japanese they went back to Lucena via batil. Dad completed his education because of his sister, Tita Emer who took care of him after Nanay passed away.

At the end of his retrospect my Dad said that he missed Nanay very much, but his sweetheart had become his guiding light. In the end he said that at that point he was still nobody, but he noted that he would strive to help farmers since that's what he had always wanted to do. And he did. My Mom has told us stories that when they were newly married and my Dad was a young lawyer he'd help farmers. They always received farm goods in their doorsteps as payment for his services.

My Mom gave me Daddy's retrospect because she probably thought I'd need it the most (plus I'm the only one who understands my Dad's handwriting!). Looking back now I could say that my Dad definitely became someone. He is respected by many. Even until now I would hear people talk about him and they would think of how he would resolve an issue (like What would Joe do?). My Dad navigated his life where he always wanted it to go - to be of service to many.

Dad said in his retrospect that no one would really understand how hard it is to lose a parent at a very young age. In the last few days before he passed away he told my Mom that Nanay was picking him up already. He said he was finally happy to be reunited with Nanay. I understand Dad's pain because it's the same pain I carry since I lost him.

I miss you Dad. I know it's not a coincidence that your retrospect magically showed up today. You are reminding me to remember where I really want to be. Perhaps it's also time for me to write a retrospect for myself and share this retrospect to your grandchildren. Please watch over us up there and say hello to Tito Ben since I found one of his notes to me also! <3 <3

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Overcoming Trauma After a Disaster

I finally started to open the boxes that housed some of the items I managed to salvage from Typhoon Ondoy. There was a major change in my life after Typhoon Ondoy -- I got married. Both Sweetie and me were affected by the typhoon and we scrambled to finish preparations a month before our wedding. The only thing I was able to keep dry was my desktop computer, everything else went under water.  

Whatever we were able to dry under the sun I kept in a few plastic boxes. It moved with us whenever we moved and it has been there gathering dust.Yes, ten long years. I opened one box today because I was thinking about what I can say about moving forward from a disaster. I know the eruption of the Taal Volcano will leave many people traumatized, just as I was after Typhoon Ondoy.

My brother, Jojo Apolo, is a NLP programming expert and master trainer. He shared through this video how to overcome trauma. He has done this exercise with me to help me move on from trauma. If you have family/friends or would like to help others get over trauma please watch this video so you can help them.

When I opened the box earlier today I realized that I kept those items because I wanted to preserve happy memories. I was ecstatic to find one of Sweetie's cards for me from 2008. I thought I lost all his love letters during the flood. I originally thought that I would be sad opening the box, I was more miffed that I didn't open it earlier because of the dust. Looking back though I guess I kept those mementos I saved because they're part of my happy memories and just as my Kuya taught in the video, one must always anchor on happiness to move forward. That and have a Dad who would give you marching orders to rebuild immediately after a disaster. I'll save that story for tomorrow.

I hope and pray everyone will be okay and that the Taal Volcano will lose steam and just go back to sleep. Donations are still needed, please refer to this list to see where you can help.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Learning More About the Taal Volcano

Taal holds a lot of beautiful memories. Back in college an org mate brought us there to visit her grandma's place. It was where I tasted the best coffee in the whole wide world. We arrived early in the morning and her grandma boiled freshly picked coffee beans. After breakfast we spent the rest of the day by the lake where we attempted to swim, but discovered that the bottom of the lake was mud so we just hung out at the shoreline.

Photo of the Taal Volcano I took in-flight in 2011.

For many years my family would also go to Tagaytay for rest and recreation. The last time was last year for CNY which didn't end well because Sweetie dislocated his knee. I like going to Tagaytay because it's peaceful and they have a lot to offer. I always like to stay and eat at places which overlook the lake. I have a a lot of photos of the Taal Volcano, but I just learned this past week that I've mostly been taking a photo of just one of its 47 craters. The Binintiang Malaki. i just one of the visible craters which is near the main crater.

Taal Sunset during one of our trips.

I've never had the opportunity hike to the crater because it requires stamina. Maybe when I was a child, but I have no recollection. I always had in my mind that all volcanoes are just like the beautiful Mount Mayon. I know some are underwater, but I always thought they only had one crater. I was so surprised to learn that Taal Volcano has 47 craters. I also learned from Phivolcs while watching the news that volcanoes can erupt horizontally.

To understand the situation better and all the terms they've been using in the news I've been doing a lot of reading the past few days. I just normally search the terms on Google and read materials published by reliable sources. There's so much available content online there's no excuse not to learn.

I hope and pray that things stabilize soon. There's thousands of people displaced now and lots of help still needed. You may refer to this list if you want to donate.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Understanding How Ash Fall Affects Asthmatics

I'm writing this post to appeal to those people who have family/friends who have asthma. This will also help you prepare how to take care of your elderly family and babies.

Many people have not been bothered by the bad air quality we have right now in Manila, but for people like me the last two days have been a huge struggle. Asthma can be triggered in many ways, most commonly by dust, the food you eat and beverages you drink (too much acid in your tummy triggers asthma), allergies and other health conditions.

Little did I know the dark clouds was ash on it's way to Manila. 

I did not have asthma growing up. It was developed after years of exposure to haze (bad air quality). At work they know me as the haze human indicator. They test the effectiveness of our air purifier through me. I've had this issue for a few years now and my heart is actually much healthier than my lungs. To cope I've had to make adjustments with my lifestyle and living arrangements.

How do I know if the air is bad/dirty?

Let me explain this how I understand it. Governments normally measure air quality through particulate matter. PM10 is the larger particles that's in the air. PM2.5 are the tiny particles in the air which is toxic and really bad for your lungs. In the Philippines, this hasn't been established yet by our government. A friend brought to my attention this app which provides great info on many cities in the Philippines.

Here's how it looks:

It is important to note the PM2.5 level because this indicates if there are many tiny bad particles in the air that you can inhale. For me, an asthmatic if it's above 10 it triggers my asthma already. To understand about this more, please visit the Singapore haze page.

How can I protect myself and my loved ones for bad air?

For sensitive people like me wearing a N95 is very important. I have been sleeping with a surgical mask on the last two nights beside a portable air purifier. Also, seal your home from getting the dirty air inside. We covered doorways with wet mats to keep dirty air out. Despite these precautions the bad air has given my lungs a very bad beating and I've been very lethargic. I really needed an air purifier.

Air purifiers help with cleaning the air inside a room. I use a Xiaomi one in Singapore, but had to make do with whatever was available at Ace Hardware today. I immediately plugged it in when I got home and started to feel better.

I read that googles are also useful. I wear glasses so I've never tried using googles when I go out.

Most importantly, stay indoors if you can.

What's the difference between an air purifier and air humidifier?

Air purifiers are meant to clean the air, humidifiers improve the moisture in the air. They have different uses. For our current weather condition you need an air purifier.

Is it really important to have these tools?

If I had known early on that I needed an air purifier I could've prevented my lungs from deteriorating. Unfortunately there's no turning back for me anymore and I have to live with this condition. Investing in an air purifier will be useful especially if you have elderly family or a baby in the house.

Please take care of your loved ones who have asthma/lung conditions. And if you can, please send N95 masks to those people severely affected by the volcano eruption.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Pray for Philippines

I couldn't sleep last night because I was worried especially for my Mom. I was also checking updates throughout the night. By afternoon today I had to take a nap since I was feeling unwell from exhaustion and another asthma attack. I know the best I can do for now is pray and stay stable so that my family and friends will not worry.

I have faith that we will all pull through this. I've been through so many natural and man-made disasters (i.e. the 80s coup d'etats) and I'm stronger because of it. Growing up I saw my parents manage disasters with cool heads. I never saw them panic. The only thought they always had was to keep us safe. Remember, God only gives us trials we could bear.

My heart goes out to all those severely affected by the eruption. I'm unable to physically help so I'm just helping through other means. Please pray for all of us here in the Philippines and if you can send help there are many organizations you can send them through. You may also consider sending help through De La Salle Lipa -

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Taal Volcano Erupts

Taal Volcano had a phreatic eruption this afternoon. Miguel and I were out to hear mass and buy some supplies so I monitored the situation. On the way home I promptly started having an asthma attack. Before Miguel locked me in the house we collected our newly laundered clothes from the roof deck. I remembered back in 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and we experienced really bad ashfall in Metro Manila.

View from home around 6pm just before the ash started falling.

My lungs are already a mess from years of experiencing haze so please, please stay indoors and wear a mask. If you do not have a mask (like me!) you may use a a wet towel (or clothing) to cover your nose and mouth. Do not mouth breathe because you may be breathing in smaller particles that are really bad for your lungs.

Our balcony around 11pm. This is nothing compared to those 
who are in the surrounding areas of Taal.

Here are important reminders from the Philippine Red Cross -

Back in 1991 we only got information from TV or radio, we have a lot of sources now but please make sure to get information from the right sources. Here's a list -

PHIVOLCS Twitter, Facebook, Website
Philippine Red Cross Twitter, Facebook, Website
*Always handy to have an old radio which can work with batteries

If you are feeling unwell and cannot breathe, please go to the nearest hospital/clinic.

And don't forget to pray.

Take care everyone. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Have you been Watching "The Witcher"?

I've been watching "The Witcher" the past week with Miguel. I have no background about it and was just curious after reading posts from friends who watched it. Honestly the real reason why I thought it would be good to watch is Henry Cavill. Haha! I remember watching him on Superman and liked his rugged looks (the boys slept through the movie though...).

Anyway, we started watching early this week. Two episodes straight and I told Miguel we should just watch two at most per day because it was quite overwhelming. I think I need to watch the whole season one more time since there were so many elements to take in. Good thing Miguel was there to explain things to me. We looked this way while watching (this photo is from Reddit) -

We went out yesterday because I wanted to go to the bookstore. I also wanted to buy the books behind "The Witcher" too, but they are unfortunately out of stock. After finishing all the episodes today we've been watching videos about "The Witcher" on YouTube. Aside from the cast and director interviews, episode explanations, more details about monsters, what was interesting to watch also were the back-end scenes and how they did the VFX. It's fascinating to see the many elements needed to put together a huge undertaking.

I read there's an ongoing debate on the period where the show is set. So I'll say that it seems to be set in the medieval period/dark ages. I've always been fascinated reading fiction from that era so this show definitely piqued my interest. Sword fights, knights, mages, sorcerers, monsters, castles, warrior queens, dragons... there's so much to see from this show. And I repeat, I need to watch it again to take it all in better.

So what are you waiting for? Go watch "The Witcher"!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Crossing Over

My doctors are right, stress really wears down my body and I really got a bad beating the past two years. I've been on break for a month now and I'm happy to say that I think my body finally had a much needed rest. I'm still fragile (I sprained my thumb just moving empty boxes!), but I've been able to do my back exercises everyday. I hope I can ramp up a bit with my exercise regime so I can be stronger. 

Writing has also helped me calm down a bit. My brain was mush last week. When I was a child my Mom gave me a hardbound notebook. She said I should write in my diary whenever I was happy, sad or angry. The activity always calmed me down and I figured towards the end of 2019 that I needed to write again. It's been ten days and it's working like magic. Yay!

Still have a lot of things to sort out, I hope and pray that things will improve more soon. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Finding Dad, Finding Me

I've been starting my day with my back exercises and it's been better for me to keep moving around than just sitting all day. I'll probably conk out in a bit since I did quite a lot of laundry and chores today. In between though I've been watching "The Witcher" with Miguel and transferring loads of photos and old writings from super old CDs. I found three (yes THREE) boxes of CDs at home and Sweetie's homework for me is to transfer them to an external HD.

I came across some videos from 2004. I found videos of eating at Wendy's with my Mom and Dad. My Dad was still so healthy and was his usual jolly self. I was interviewing them about how they found the food. I don't even remember I took those videos and luckily I took the pains to save them on a CD (the proper term is "burned them on a CD"). The videos are very grainy, but to see my Dad moving, smiling and talking made me miss him so much more.

I opened only a few random video files. The video with Dad was the second one I clicked. I guess it's his way of reassuring me that things will be okay. My Mom said that since Dad passed away he never let himself felt. For me he usually pops in whenever I need him. I guess my friend Juned nudged my Dad because he's been popping in all over the place since November. I always thought it was because he wanted me to check on something, but I only realized the other day when his business card just popped out of nowhere that he's probably telling me that things would be okay. He used to do that a lot for me. 

Last year I made myself so busy to bury the pain of losing a good friend. I realize now I never gave myself time to grieve the loss of Juned. I've always been a warrior. I cope with pain by being productive. I was trained to be that way growing up. Finding Dad in an ocean of data reminded me that he brought me up to be a strong person. Not the wimpy, morose person that I've been the last few months. I know there's still a lot of struggles along the way, but I will hold on to this reminder while I rest and rebuild myself.

Love you Daddy.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Why It's Important to Check Your Name Online

It was already past midnight last night when I went to bed. Bagets tucked me in and turned off the lights already. I usually take one last look on stuff before I turn off my phone's wifi connection (yup I do this every night). Since I blogged I wanted to check if the format of my latest post was okay on my phone. I got lazy to type by blog URL and just typed "aileenapolo" on the search box. As I was scrolling down on the search results one result caught my attention since it seemed to have my contact numbers on it.

It did.

The website listed my contact info posted without my permission. I immediately searched for a way to remove my profile since they had some really personal information on it. I managed to remove my profile, but it will take time before the search result will be removed. A friend told me that this unscrupulous website mines online data and even emails to get the information. This is just really wrong.

It's been a long time since I last checked my name on Google Search. I realized that I should do it more often to protect my privacy and security. I used to do this often but I didn't give it much thought anymore since I haven't really been active online. Sweetie said to also check to know which sites I've been using that have had security breaches. This also means you must change your passwords often.

So lesson learned, always check your name online and make sure you don't put any of your contact info out there. Afaik I don't have any of my contact info published publicly so this website (and other bad websites) have been finding ways to mine private data. Do check your info too.

To also learn how to protect yourself online, do check out Google's "Be Internet Awesome". It has a lot of content on how you can protect yourself online, starting with how to create proper passwords. This content is very useful for families .

Update: Last night when I checked my profile was already removed, but when I clicked on the "Claim Your Profile" link again the website had my name and work title on it again. So I removed it again. Grrrrrr.

PS A few friends have reached out to me and asked how I removed my profile on Here's how:
1. Go to your profile and claim it.
2. You will receive an email, verify it.
3. Click on "remove profile".
*Better to check again 24 hours after since they had put back my name and work title when I re-checked. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Travel Diary: Bohol Bee Farm

After Christmas we headed to Bohol to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. One of the places we missed visiting the last time we were in Bohol in 2010 was the Bohol Bee Farm. We were always curious about it and set it as a must visit place.

We headed to the Chocolate Hills first in the morning and had a hefty lunch at Too Nice to Slice in Tagbilaran. We were still so full when we got to the Bohol Bee Farm, but we arrived too late for the last tour so we just walked around.

We discovered that you can do so many things at the Bohol Bee Farm. You can stay there since they have rooms for rent, eat at the cafe, buy goodies at the store, have a massage at the spa and so many other things. Check out the video above for our most memorable experience :)

Monday, January 6, 2020

My Plan for a Spectacular 2020

Now that the holidays are over I'm now more relaxed and have had a chance to think about how I'm going to make 2020 a spectacular year. Last year was not a good year for me. I was in and out of the hospital for check-ups almost every week and that was the reason why I decided to take an extended leave to allow my body to rest fully. I've been away for a month now, but I'm still far from being my normal self. I decided to blog and resurrect my vlog again because historically it's been the best way to stabilize me (read my blog description above to understand).

I wrote a blog post the other day about what I'd like to focus on this year. Thought it would be a good idea to write specific goals and activities for the year.

Health - ramp up on back exercises (meaning exceed what my PT has pegged for me to do on my own while I'm not in SG), swim 3x a week, lose weight, reduce dependency on meds, eat better, sleep earlier to complete at least 8 hours of sleep, fix work set-up

Home Management - get more help from the boys in managing the household, reduce clutter by removing things that don't bring me joy

Work on Financial Freedom - my Kuya clarified with me that being financially free means you have income coming in monthly that can cover all your regular expenses. Right now I only have 5% of what I need to be financially free so I have a long way to go! (Suggestions are very much welcome).

Reading and Writing - I have so far been consistently writing everyday this month, I've yet to start reading a book. I should set-up a daily schedule so I can discipline myself more.

Breaks - work out break schedule with Sweetie. I'd very much like to make sure I'm always home for the holidays.

Travel - given that I need to limit my travel, especially long travel because of my health condition I still want to see the world more. I want to explore Japan more and I haven't been to France yet. I belatedly realized that I should have signed up for that La Sallian retreat in France I saw a few months ago. Hopefully another one comes up, but I'm looking at this other retreat to attend later this year.

Learn - learning something new is top of mind. I'm still choosing between cooking classes or sewing classes.

Hobbies - I want to create so many things, but time is limited so I'll limit my hobby to quilting for now.

Play - I need to remind myself that I don't need to be productive all the time. I promise to use my Switch without feeling guilty! And I have a couple of Lego projects I haven't started on yet.

Special Projects - there's two special projects I want to do. When I met up with my cousins the other day they said that they missed my Dad's special potato and beef casserole. I realized that we have to find a way to preserve our family recipes. I've started to take videos of regular dishes I cook and will soon post it as a vlog project. There's another project I have in mind, but I'm still figuring out how to make it work.

I've listed everything I want to do, but of course family is the priority. Things will adjust as needed. I need though to discipline myself from distractions and make sure I'm in good health. So far I'm proud to say that I was able to fight off a cold I caught while in Baguio and my body held up against catching Sweetie's flu (sorry Sweetie but this is truly an achievement for me). I had a sore throat for a few days, but I worked hard to make sure it didn't develop into something more serious. Whew!

For my dear friends who have been wanting to meet-up, sorry I haven't been participative in planning and showing up. I just need this time to rest and recover. Introverted me got a really bad beating in 2019 and I need more time to recuperate.

What about you? What are your plan to make 2020 an awesome year?