Showing posts from 2007

In sum

The first 51 weeks of 2007 was all about love: finding it, having it, and settling into my happy ever after. The final week is still all about it. But I no longer want to be married or engaged in 2008. I simply want to be ready for love, when it finds me.

Here's something nice that leaped out at me from the newspaper today:
Maybe that's what Advent is all about: a constant forward looking. Maybe that's what Christmas is all about: a constant hope, fresh start and new beginning.
- Fr. Jerry Orbos
Merry Christmas, people!

Happy birthday, love

I haven't been a good girl, and I didn't send the present I was so excited to give you because I thought it wouldn't be welcome. But this song's for you.

MFA Saturday

Ever since I started taking my MFA, I've had plenty of fun Saturdays to look forward to--and then look back at. We don't have classes anymore--we haven't had any for two years now, I think--but the fun hasn't stopped.

Jonathan was in town for a seminar and the Philippine PEN fiction anthology book launch this weekend. Of course we couldn't let that pass, even if only four of us were able to make it.

We pulled another all-nighter: Barbara's in Intramuros for the launch (I love the cream puffs); some place in Malate for beer, sisig, mussels, and garlic mushrooms; Bed for a quick peek (there was so much cigarette smoke, I couldn't breath after half an hour watching all those yummy gay men dancing); Starbucks Malate for coffee (my favorite toffee nut latte, yum) and for some lazy picture-taking; and then McDonald's in the United Nations Avenue (thus called because the UN office is there) for breakfast.

We had an average of four beers between us at this place at this makeshift sidestreet bar. I can't recall what it's called, but it's right across Friendly's Guesthouse.

One of the pictures we took of ourselves as we lounged in the comfy chairs of Starbucks, waiting for sunrise.


Northgate Cyberzone's been decorating, and I've been seeing giants these past few days.

I was surprised to see a row of evenly distributed pots. They line the walkway I pass through on my way to work and back home. They're made of concrete, but painted to look like clay.

I'm hoping they will be filled with nice little trees for natural shade--and to help keep the fresh air that characterizes this part of Muntinlupa City.

I like Northgate Cyberzone because it's a relatively new area, and there are still empty lots. But there's a lot of construction going on, and it won't be long until the suburban feel is replaced by the hustle and bustle I associate with (and dislike about) the bigger cities.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas too! Aside from the usual sort of Christmas lights, Northgate Cyberzone has balls--

--giant Christmas balls.

You can't miss them.

I was hoping they'd be all lit up at night, but no. They just have little spotlights trained on them.

Unfortunately, I haven't mastered my Samsung digicam yet, so I don't know how to take good pictures at night.

Oops, I did it again

I never learn. First, I try to be uninvolved. I run through my responsibilities, trying to keep my heart out of the whole business. But a nip here and a nip there, a little nuzzle, and I fall. Hard.

I'm in love. Again.

Her name is Diwata. She's a Belgian Malinois puppy. She's not mine.


Diwata with my slipper

She's tiny, but tough.

She makes me happy

Strawberry milkshake + strawberry Champola = Pure bliss.

Keona tasting strawberry milkshake for the first time.

Happy birthday, Lolo!

Years later, now

There was a boy I used to love who was always in love with somebody else who, except for a few fleeting exceptions, never loved him back. He pined after them as I pined after him.

There is a decade-old picture of us and friends that I don't even need to see again to remember: he stands apart from us, wearing his tie-dyed shirt, looking at his watch. I remember this picture because we weren't on good terms that night; the camera had captured him hurting and wanting to go home.

I don't remember why we weren't on good terms, as I don't remember at all any of the tiny little fires that went between us. I suspect it is because I, being in love with him the way I knew how then, blew more meaning into these tiny little fires than were worth smarting about.

Ordinary love is biased, and while I was so convinced back then that what I felt for him was the most beautiful wasted thing in the world, I know now the way I loved him was ordinary. If it hadn't been, I wouldn't have hurt him over trivialities.

But while the love was ordinary, the boy was--and is--special.

Two or three years ago, he wrote me a strange letter. He'd been reading our old letters, he said, and finally, after all these years, the message of love I'd cowardly penned into my friendly letters had reached him.

His letter was long, written on yellow pad paper and enclosed in his trademark long letter envelope, the faded kind that brings to mind dusty, sleepy sari-sari stores and Skyflakes and 6 oz. Pop Cola. Like his other letters, it was bursting with beautiful words and images that all spelled out, "I had no idea!"

At the time, I was crazy in love with somebody else, and his letter was, more than anything, a blast from the past, something to giggle about, to feel nostalgic about, something to remind me how silly I'd been at 19, so convinced my life was cursed forever because I couldn't even get my college love to love me back.

It was also something I could touch base with old, loved, lost friends about: a postcript to a beautiful, tragic, dramatic, magical period of our lives; an epilogue to a love story I so wanted to be true because he-was-a-poet-and-he-knows-it and I wanted my own Orion and my own clichés. The magic was back for a second, and then--

I was sucked back into the current love, and his letter, no longer relevant, went to my forgotten memory box. There was slight scorn, I have to admit. What to do with a boy you loved who only realized it eight years later, the darling dear idiot, who's now married and a father, and seeing the past with clearer and yet nostalgia-clouded eyes?

And then--

This year's letter, crammed among bills in our mailbox. It was a few days after my birthday, I was figuring out a present love. I was on my way to work, and I saw the long letter envelope, still the faded kind, peeking out at me. I knew instantly who it was from.

He's still reading old letters, he says. He quotes some of them. He is more self-aware now, and he is thankful. He misses me, he misses our old perfect little universe of friends, and, in his missing, allows himself to be sometimes slayed by old feelings--the only lingering proof that the past was real.

He feels guilty about something, and I know him well enough to understand that it's the same thing I'm feeling guilty about when I think of our picture--he wishes he had treated me better, as I wish I had treated him better now that I know our time together was meant to have been a short chapter in our lives, and that the time we had dreamed about when we were college friends, that of staying really close friends as adults, would likely never come.

And he sends me a message that I need to hear from an old love, years later, now that I'm in the middle of the story of a new one:

"I am more than thankful I met you. And the love I took for granted before, that didn't go to waste. I hope, as Newton's Third Law of Moving Bodies say, it is still bouncing off somewhere but it will never fade."

He mentions several other clichés, calls them such, and tells me not to puke when he says the love I gave or the love he gave wasn't ours; it has been there even before us. He ends his letter saying he has ran out of clichés, so he just says he loves me--and I understand him well enough to know exactly what he means.

I read it again one particular sad evening, and in that moment I got from him something I'd forgotten I'd wanted so bad when I was 19: my own version of a friend's night, up in a rooftop in Quezon City, where she's reading his love poem under a constellation which, right then, she called as theirs. It's different, and yet the same. We now have our own moment, and I know now that I am special to him, as he was, is, will always be special to me.

Just as my love reached him years later, his love bounced back to me even more years later. For both of us, it wasn't the kind of love we'd expected from each other, neither was it the kind of love we'd wanted at the dissonant  points in time we actually wanted anything from each other. But it is exactly what we both need.

He needs his dead stars to create the dreams that make him beautiful; I need to know someone at the other end of love, unrequited or otherwise, can still see beauty after a star dies, no matter how long it takes--and be grateful for my part in it.

The end we think it to be is never the end that is. In fact, as he says, it's never even the end at all.

Everything works out, hurt fades, only beautiful things remain, and they come back to you if you were sincere in your struggle to be true, no matter if you failed--if you loved with your beaten, broken, fallible, stupid, selfish, but truest heart, someday this ordinary love can gift you something extraordinary.

Cleaning up online clutter

I'm back!

For those who read this on Blogspot, you may be wondering why the reordering. Sorry it took so long. But there's a reason, and part of it is because I turned 30 and took stock of my life, and part of taking stock of my life involved some vanity searching on Google.

When I really think about it, I already have too much going on. My online presence is a complete mess. Not good for obsessive-compulsive me.

And I really did think about it, and I was bitten by the streamlining bug again.

A little over eight hours a day, I'm in front of the computer, connected to the Internet. I have the following open all the time: (for work), MSN messenger (for work), YM (for the feeling of connectedness to the "outside world"), Yahoo for the news, and (for the daily boost of positive energy).

In between lessons and lesson reports, I yield to the compulsion to check my three email accounts (two on Yahoo Mail, one on Gmail; it used to be four, but Hotmail has been deactivated) and my social networking accounts (I had Friendster, MySpace, Multiply, and Facebook). I also maintained two blogs, one for my Channel Surfing archives and one for my personal stuff.

And then there's Flickr, which I'd forgotten about since I reached the 200-image limit, Twitter, and all the other sites I signed up for on a whim, like some productivity sites like those owned by Basecamp.

I can't just have an account and not organize it--I can spend days just making sure it's as I want it to be. Even if I lose interest right after it's exactly as I want it to be.

So I've decided to yet again reorganize everything. I've deleted old, dead blogs (, and I'm keeping two (this one, and the Multiply clone), I've disabled Facebook (sorry guys; it was just too much for me), and I've deleted MySpace as well.

I'm keeping Friendster only because of the size of my network, and Multiply because of the quality of my contacts and the ease with which I can post pictures.

It was tough to delete old blog entries from 2005, but I've somehow convinced myself that it was a record of my old life, and I have no use for it anymore now that I'm creating a new one according to what I really want. Besides, I need to cut down the time I spend online to increase the time I spend offline.

My goal is to have only two email addresses: one on Yahoo and one on Gmail. This will take a lot longer to organize (I have a lot of Yahoogroups, to begin with), but it's getting there.

Now if only offline life were as easy to manage.

Because I wannabe popular

I have given in to invites and opened a Facebook account. Add me up at :)

Saturday magic

Last Saturday was yet another one for the books. I am still in the process of getting my digicam, so I don't have pictures of my own, but it was very much well-documented by my friends, and loads of pictures and a couple of videos are up in their Multiply accounts. If you're among my Multiply friends, look for the pictures in Candy's and Razel's accounts.

Our fantasy selves; photo taken by Louie.

I wanted to write a lengthy post about the triple birthday celebration of Heizel (she turned 32 on October 21), yours truly (turning the big 3-0 on October 29), and Louie (turning 27 on the same day as mine) with the guysguys (my MFA classmates; that's our unofficial name, yes we have an official one and it's a long story), but it's 2:04am and I have gym at 8am tomorrow, and I can't do that magical, fun Saturday justice writing about it like this.

A quote from that day, from a suddenly fatherly Dr. Cirilo Bautista to Heizel, who sort-of-lamented her age: "32 ka pa lang, hija!" You're only 32.

I'll write about it soonest. In the meantime--

Send me a little love and a lot of white light and really, really see me in this situation by 2008:

I'm in the process of being in my ideal relationship!

Letter from an English Trainer

Dear Learner,
By the way, this amuses me no end: the French cow says “meugler” and the English cow says “moo” and the Filipino cow says, “unga.” That's pronounced [oo-ngah], in case you're interested. :)

Apparently, animals have their own language too. ;) I first learned this in my Spanish lessons. The American dog says “bow-wow,” the Filipino dog says “aw-aw,” and the Spanish dog says, “gua-gua” What does the French dog say?

(It's either we're becoming friendly, or I'm running out of things to say!)

Perfect day

We don't have these a lot. In my case, most days are vanilla (I like vanilla just fine, though), but once every so often, I get to sit back, settle back in my chair, or hug my pillow in my bed, and think, "Wow, I've just had the perfect day." And I'm satisfied like extra-creamy, but miraculously sugar-free, choco-strawberry-banana ice cream laden with also-sugar-free chocolate syrup.

Yesterday was one of those days.

And again, it all happened because of a single yes from the heart, even if my mind was already in the running for a "No, you'll be too tired."

A couple of weeks ago a batchmate in the Advanced Leadership Course (ALC) I took last June sent out text messages inviting people to help out in an orphanage in BF Homes, Parañaque. He needed people to step in for the houseparents while they took their Foundations of Leadership Excellence (FLEX).

I'd been wanting to staff for FLEX and ALC for a long time, but my work schedule is always in conflict with the weekday evening meetings of people who train to staff. I'm still on probation, so I don't know how to work around this yet, short of requesting (or begging!) those in-charge to schedule their meetings on weekends.

Russ's invitation wasn't exactly for staffing, but it was the closest I could get. So I forgot all about wanting to just "relax and watch a movie" for the weekend, and decided to give my time. Truth be told, I'd been struggling on some personal issues as well, so I opted for a potential feel-gooder. My non-Miss Universe answer.

On Saturday, one of my best friends, Emily, joined me. After the first break, Russ called me and asked me to buddy up with one of the participants because he didn't have one. It was instant re-audit! But soon after, I soon realized the purpose of my being there was to hear all over again the part I didn't pay much attention to during my own FLEX, the part about effective communication--something I need more than ever this time.

On Sunday, my best friend Sherwil found herself joining me by virtue of, er, serendipity. Emily followed after lunch. My buddy had a new buddy (they were an even group again because someone was absent), so this time, I could help take care of the children. Which was just lovely, because there were all very sweet and loving children.

Marshmallows ...

The orphanage is inside a compound, and, like most residences in gated villages, was surrounded by high walls. And as the entire country knew, whether they cared or not, yesterday was Pacquiao-Barrera day. But because BF Homes is BF Homes, and we were in the chi-chiest part the gigantic residential development, there was no overhearing the next-door neighbors. We texted family to ask who won, nobody replied, and so we braced for the bad news. Late into the day, the guard told us that Pacquiao had won yet again.

... candy sprinkles with a smattering of mint flavor (for green) ...

What a run for the Green Archers! I've never been prouder of my almost-first and soon-to-be second alma mater.

Emily, Sherwil and I were in Alabang Town Center for a quick snack before parting ways. As we passed by CPK, I noticed that the restaurant's television was showing the last 60 seconds of Game 2 of the UAAP Championship. DLSU was leading! :) I begged my two friends to stay and watch the final moments with me.

We stood there outside the restaurant, watching the game through the glass walls. It was worth it, though. :)

... and the cherry on top!

Again, quite by accident, Sherwil and I ended up hearing mass at my church. It was a beautiful service, and we both were touched. My personal struggle was instantly shifted into an opportunity for growth.

The past few weeks, I've been hearing the biblical quote "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart" over and over again in my mind. Last Saturday, it was part of the reading during the orphanage's devotional period. Yesterday, it was the Responsorial Psalm again.

Message received. :)

On my way home tonight

I usually enjoy my midnight, half-hour trips home. This is one of the things I love most about working in Alabang. In fact, this is precisely why I chose to work near the suburbs of Manila, when most other exciting things are happening nearer to the heart of the city.

I like that I can take my time, linger half an hour more or so in front of my computer, walk to the jeepney stop at my leisure, and still feel rested when I arrive home. I like that I don't feel sticky from the city smog, and that my hair still smells like the shampoo I used in the morning.

I like that there's no traffic, and that sometimes, I'm all alone in the jeep all the way to the 7'11 that marks the entrance to my village.

It can be midnight, one or even three in the morning, and still I feel safe. I've lived here all my life.

This is probably why I didn't know how to react when I saw a man masturbating behind a post along the same walkway I pass through every night. He was hiding, but not exactly hiding, watching everyone passing by as he did his thing.

I could see his body, his hands, and, if I had stopped to look closer, god-knows-what-else. He was standing in the light, a few of the bright spots in front of a building that is still being constructed. I have the impression of an all-brown get-up, no shoes. His hair was big, matted. I don't remember anything else, except the blur of his furiously moving hands.

My first instinct was to pretend I didn't see what he was doing; my not acknowledging it a safety measure, an offer, that all could still be well.

I walked as far away from him as I could on the walkway. Considered looking for one of the security guards to report the man. Reconsidered it. Considered the likelihood that the man was missing a few bolts in his head.

And now I'm home safe, telling my best friend about it on YM, blogging about it, wondering if there was anything more precise that I should have felt, aside from the urge to just blot it out and pretend it hadn't happened.

I'm never good at this

I said goodbye to someone whose acquaintance had brought a small, but unmistakable brightness into my life for the past few weeks.

I enjoyed speaking with you.
It was a pleasure to have met you.
All the best.

But really, what I wanted to say was:

I'll miss you.


Is it Christmas already?

I got home past midnight. These days, it has been my routine to open the inflow valve of our water tank before going to bed. That way, I don't have to wake up at 6am to make sure we collect enough water to last the day.

The house next door is being renovated and the workers are practically living there, so I decided not to switch on the light.

I snuck outside in pitch dark, scared myself by stepping on a piece of coiled wire that sprung back at me like a snake, and dampened my shirt because it was drizzling.

But I was happy to be out, because there it was, on the part of the wall near our water tank: a solitary firefly!


Dragonflies were a huge part of my childhood in the suburbs of Manila. Our house stands at the perimeter of our village. Behind the wall is a squatters area. A little over twenty years ago, it was a grassy field we could go exploring in.

My cousins and I actually went once, and I still have fragmented memories of a huge mango tree, dried snake skin, drinking water from a banana tree trunk, a small rice paddy with snails. I think we brought home muddied slippers and cow dung for my mother's roses that day.

Back then, we would know it was already summer when one of two things happened: the dragonflies would come buzzing, or cogon grass seeds would be floating about.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned this to my mother. I lamented that I'd probably never see anything like that in our village again.

But bless the universe--as I was walking to the back entrance of Southmall last Wednesday, I saw hundreds of them flying near the trees in the parking lot!

If they'd been flying a few feet closer to the concrete, I would have tried to catch one!

I must be doing something wrong

Because it feels a little like last year all over again.

I am searching for the perfect word for this thought that came to me while I was having a shower: as I move forward into love (and loving), I discover that it always takes a form of unraveling. Sometimes disentangling frees you into clarity; sometimes it pulls the rug from under your feet and you come undone.

I think I've experienced both, but neither from the persons I expected them from.

My countdown to 30 has officially begun.

What do you do with a B.A. in English?

Perhaps another reason why I enjoyed Avenue Q was that while I couldn't relate anymore with the angst and "bothers" (the main characters were in their early 20s after all), there were plenty of references to familiar struggles.

As mentioned in Ghostlightning's blog, one song asks, "What do you do with a B.A. in English?"

Not much, according to Avenue Q. But yes:
"Somehow I can't shake,
The feeling I might make,
A difference,
To the human race."
So what have I done with my B.A. in English?

1. Write showbiz articles and The Buzz and Martin Late@Night transcripts for defunct ABS-CBN websites. I suppose this makes me one of the earliest entertainment transcriptionists in the country, because this was way before outsourcing became a trend.
2. Write and edit press releases, feature articles, and marketing copy for The Philippine STAR.

3. Write a teleplay that won me a literary award, but is now like Avenue Q's Gary Coleman: it has already served its purpose as a written text. It will never become a film, which is what gives the teleplay its real value. The subject is passé now. It's high time I write a new one.
4. Write extremely boring and aggressive-by-Filipino-standards copy for IT marketing collateral for a BPO company.

5. Beef up my degree with an MFA in Creative Writing, which I am finishing up. I'm tempted to say it was like adding another useless degree to an already useless one, but it's not, really. Really.
6. Write and a deliver a testimonial to Dr. Cirilo Bautista on his retirement tribute. It was quite funny, even if I should say so myself.

7. Write SEO articles and press releases for extra money. It pays less than peanuts, and I'm not doing much of it anymore. But it was also fun.
8. Write a weekly entertainment column that is published by The Freeman in Cebu. I'm no critic--and I have no plans of being one--so it's all just light-hearted content that has earned me a small, but I guess appreciative, following.

9. Teach English to Europeans. And it's so much fun!
10. I'm now working on my first collection of short stories. I'm now working on my first collection of short stories. I'm not working on my first collection of short stories. :P

I'm not rich yet, but I intend to be. :)

In case you want to hear the song, below is a nice video of someone singing it well. He uploaded it in YouTube. Ghostlightning has the lyrics.

A fine line between love and a waste of time

Saw Avenue Q last weekend. It was wonderful. This song really resonates with me, especially now. It was so hard to find a nice video of it that, at the same time, had a good version of the song.

Fine, Fine Line

There's a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend;
There's a fine, fine line between reality and pretend;
And you never know 'til you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb.

There's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time.

There's a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a lie;
And there's a fine, fine line between "You're wonderful" and "Goodbye."
I guess if someone doesn't love you back it isn't such a crime,
But there's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of your time.

And I don't have the time to waste on you anymore.
I don't think that you even know what you're looking for.
For my own sanity, I've got to close the door
And walk away...

There's a fine, fine line between together and not
And there's a fine, fine line between what you wanted and what you got.
You gotta go after the things you want while you're still in your prime...

There's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time

Do you remember...

That very first time in September? Sorry, I just couldn't resist. But it just so happens that when the year hits the -ber months, I really do get sentimental, and I start evaluating recent life thus far. It's a little bit tricky, because most of 2007 is, shall we say, life after Juan, whom I last talked to on September 5, 2006.

All in all, though, I think I'm in a good space this year. I haven't blogged much, because I've just been really enjoying my work and enjoying my time off during weekends.

I did so many things. I tried to join Toastmasters Alabang (I had to back out, though, because of scheduling conflicts), I took the whole OCCI seminar trilogy (which really did change the way I live), I splurged on a trip (which was something new for little old homebody me, who used to be content--and happy, actually--with doing most of my travelling in my mind), I signed up for a gym membership, I found a full-time job I love, et cetera.

There are still a number of things I'd like to accomplish for the remaining months of the year: buy a laptop and a digicam, finish my thesis, have a talk with Juan (we're still in touch, but only through text), lose 30 more pounds or so.

And then there are the goals I'd like to attract for myself, like having a weekly column with a national readership, falling in love... you know, stuff. :)

The way I see it, the remaining four months of 2007 is all about getting myself ready for what's going to happen in 2008.

I just know it's going to be great.

Vicious sleep cycle

My body clock has been off lately, and it has been difficult for me to wake up in time to go to the gym. It's a bummer, because while I haven't gained weight, I haven't lost as much either! It's my fault, I know.

I fall asleep around 4am, watching replays of my favorite television shows. After a couple of weeks of not being interested in the TV, I'm hooked again. What makes it more difficult is that I don't feel sleepy at all--until the clock hits four o'clock, at which point I almost automatically doze off.

I wake up exactly 8 hours later, not counting zombie-like trips to the bathroom, or the doggie wake-up calls. I absolutely need 8 hours of sleep!

Early this morning was extra surreal. I'd left the television on but I was already trying to make myself fall asleep earlier than 4am. I was halfway there when I heard Mary, one of the "Las Vegas" Montecito girls say something like, "Suspicious Minds sounds different when sung in Tagalog."

I opened my eyes, thinking, "Did I just hear her say Tagalog?" And of course I had to watch the rest of the episode.

In it, a couple whom I had previously taken for Chinese were actually sweet, but down-on-their-luck Filipino-Americans, Mr. and Mrs. Cosme and Leonor Calyang. Cosme had just been laid off from his job in Fresno, and they were in Las Vegas to try to change their luck. He's a big fan of Wayne Newton, and Mary scores some tickets for them to Mr. Las Vegas' sold-out concert.

During the performance, Wayne Newton invites Cosme to sing Suspicious Minds with him, and he turns out to be one hell of an amazing singer. (And the actor is!) In the end, the Calyangs land jobs in the Montecito--Cosme as a singer and Leonor as a waitress.

Ten billion Google searches later, I find out that Cosme Calyang is critically-acclaimed Jon jon Briones, who has portrayed the Engineer in Miss Saigon all over the world.

"Am I on the right path?"

How often have I been sidetracked--or completely sideswiped--by this question? I am, by nature, a worrier. Worse, a guilty worrier. I think it's my Catholic upbringing that brought in the guilt.

But I don't worry about small things.

I worry that I am not as good a person as I should be. I worry that I am not contributing real value into my life. I worry I cannot ever contribute enough in the world. You know, things like that.

Usually, I base most of my life decisions on an imagined end--me on my deathbed, surrounded by people who love me and whom I love. Do they love me? Have I loved them enough? The ideal end is that we're all laughing--celebrating my life well-lived--and crying--mourning a light that will soon be gone.

My question is: Is the path I am on leading me there?

I read a nice post on Paulo Coelho's blog this week. And I quote:
The warrior has already heard comments of the type: “How am I to know if this is the right path?” He has seen many people give up the Quest because they did not know how to answer that question.
The warrior, however, has no doubts; he follows an infallible formula. “By its fruits you shall know the tree,” said Jesus.
He follows this rule, and it never fails. I'm looking at my life right now, and, again, really, I have everything I want. What I think I lack, are just the bonuses.

I think I'm doing a good job. :)

In Italy we eat ...

Yesterday, an Italian student was telling me about donkey stew. He asked me if I'd eaten donkey meat before, and I said I hadn't, but that in the Philippines we eat goat meat, and I'd tried that once.

He asked me what a goat was, and I said, "It's the animal that goes (and I make the goat sound)." He said, "Oh, I know!" And he started describing lamb.

I had to correct him, and I explained that the goat has a little tail and short hair, is sometimes black or brown, and has a tiny horn. He finally got it. "We eat goat products," he said, "like cheese and milk, but in Italy, we prefer to eat shit."

"You eat what?" I said. We're supposed to ask learners to repeat themselves in a more polite manner, but I just couldn't help myself.

"Sheep, I mean." He said, a little frazzled. "Sheep!"

I think we ended up laughing for five minutes.

"I know Italians can be strange," he said afterwards, "but we're not that strange!"


Something's up. Or, some issue or another is waking up inside me, and is demanding its due process of being settled. I'd been sick recently, first with colds and later, cough. And when I was finally better by Friday, I started getting these dreams about people from my past.

The first two were about Juan. In both, we communicated and both dreams ended with conversations on already pointless things still unsettled. My third dream was about an older guy I used to like when I was 16. He's married now (saw him with his wife December last year). In that dream, we were talking and flirting in a playful manner. I was teasing him about his wife, and he was joking about it being a pity we hadn't ended up together.

After all those dreams, I surprisingly woke up pained that the dreams had to end. For some reason, I actually spent the entire weekend on the-first-half-of-Sonnet-29 mode. Drama, drama.

Now, I'm a little annoyed at myself for wasting so much time feeling for a past I can't erase nor change--a past that, in fact, I am still grateful for. And I'm even more annoyed at myself because I already know how to handle this; I just let myself wallow.

And it didn't help that I caught Kailangan Kita on Cinema One last night. Just what I needed--a melodramatic Filipino film! With Dante Rivero on it! As a blind old man estranged from his son! Who is famous in their Bicol province for his laing! Which, he says, is only good because he thinks of how much he loves his estranged son when he squeezes out the coconut cream!

Okay, I'm laughing now. Off to work.

I'm a bad journal-keeper

A couple of days ago, I took out the journal I bought as 2007 rolled in. It was dusty. The last gratitude journal entry there was written in April. So much for keeping tabs about things I am grateful for. :P

Seriously speaking, though, I've been trying to live in the now. It's not always easy--but it has gotten easier ever since LEAP. And it's not like I've forgotten to be thankful for all the blessings that have been coming my way. As a matter of fact, I'm always in a space of gratitude. Hell, I skip home from work at 2 a.m., happy for another long, but wonderful day at work teaching English to ten or so Europeans!

But living in the now has made the past a little bit, well, more past. As a result, my journal-keeping (and, to a great extent, blogging) has suffered. I often feel it's pointless to write in my offline journal about my life, when my life is no longer in the past, nor in the future.

It shouldn't be the case with blogging, which I do because it's a way to keep the people who make up my small world updated, among other things. But once again, I'm feeling the urge to delete every word I've ever written, as if it will erase whatever's happened in my life. But I won't. Precisely because the past isn't my life. :)

In any case, the best remedy to this is always to stop thinking about blogging and just freaking do it.

(It's still a struggle not to be too cerebral.)

Working girl

I have been working as an distance learning English trainer for over a month now. I must have had more than 150 classes already, most of them with French professionals. July and August are lean seasons (most of the learners, as we call the students, go on vacation during these months), but it can get quite hectic, especially if you're a little bit obsessive-compulsive, like I am. All in all, though, I'm loving my new job. It provides me with enough challenges to keep me interested and I'm learning new teaching skills. Plus, I also get to speak with interesting people from a different continent.

I may be speaking to soon, but I think I've found the perfect job for me at the moment. It's structured enough for me to not lose my wits (I've realized that I'm not one for a free-wheeling work place, no matter how deliciously fun working for Google looks like), but it's never routine because anything can happen. I'm still having fun, and I guess it's because I'm still learning something new everyday.

One other thing I like about my job is its location: Northgate Cyberzone in Alabang, which is a mere 30 minutes away from my house (less if I have my own car, which I don't!). It's not just the proximity that I love, though. It's the actual place itself. Northgate Cyberzone is home to a lot of call centers, but, like the rest of the South, it's a little laid-back 24/7. I've seen night shift people in Makati and Ortigas, and they don't look as relaxed as the Alabang people do.

I wonder if it has a lot to do with the fact that there's only a handful of accessible nightspots in the South?

One more thing I love about Northgate Cyberzone--and my part of Manila, for that matter--is that we don't have that many tall buildings here. I know this is going to change sooner than I would have liked, but for now, I like rushing out for a quick purchase at the 7'11 and seeing a full view of the moon.

I think I'm staying here for a while.

LEAP graduate

We are all lepers now, quipped Jing. Yeah. We've leapt! I said I'd write about whatever realization I'd come across during our weekend graduation. There was nothing profound. Everything was startlingly simple. I went home with a song in my heart. I will never be the same again. ;)

The final LEAP

I am graduating LEAP this weekend. I'm 100%, I guess, but I don't feel it. Or maybe it's really just me, not knowing how to celebrate my own victories?

I'll be back Sunday night. Will have some realization again by then. See you all!

Or, as my French students say, "Ciao, ciao!"

The difference now

What a difference a single shift makes. Coming from my realization last Saturday, I decided to not run away from him, to not fight whatever I'm feeling, but to embrace it. All it really says about me is that I'm a person capable of unconditional love. And how can that be bad?

My LEAP declaration anyway is, "I'm a shining reflection of God's love."

That single shift in my own perspective has already started some changes. Yesterday, he surprised me by sending many texts, which has never happened in the five years I've known him, the cheapskate that he was. Before it would just be one text now, and another one weeks later.

This time, we were able to hold some sort of discussion, talking about things I'd wanted to ask him when I was trying to call him to slay the dragon that was keeping me from moving on. I got several answers.

He said he still loves me, would love me always, would never love another. But he wants me to move forward; he doesn't want me to get stuck because he loves me. And he's proud I still love him, even this way.

This is a good start. And I'm not even feeling the urge to go and have my head shaved bald!

Dragon alert

I heard from him again. We'd been texting--120 characters every month or so, and I could handle that. This time, he emailed. It was a long one, considering.

I'd wanted to call and he had avoided me, and he sent me email to explain. Yesterday was horrible; I suddenly had a headache. I felt a down slide, like every good thing I'd been building was starting to show cracks.

To cheer myself up, I went to a neighborhood salon because it closed late. I got a pedicure; I asked about relaxing. The manager was rude; he said from the couch that I couldn't get a "relax" because my hair was "damaged." He just took one quick glance at my dry hair, assumed I'd been having it straightened and all without even touching it, and announced to the whole room it was damaged.

I was rude back. He didn't speak well: he ate his words and spoke like his tongue was too short. My dark side--the snotty one that puts people down--pounced. I was able to control my words, but perhaps not my energy, because he for sure felt it. After I spoke (neutral words, like, "Can you please repeat? I don't understand."), he looked like a cowering pup.

Of course I felt guilty. The service was bad, but there's no good enough reason for a personal attack.

I got an "aroma" hair spa treatment instead. In the middle of it all, as I was reading a sorry-looking Cosmopolitan magazine from 2004, the electricity went out. The power went back on after half an hour, and I got my pedicure. My nails are colored "Silver Sands" now.

I went home, tried to write, felt deflated. I fell asleep in the clothes I wore out.

Yesterday definitely wasn't my day. And all because I heard from him.

It's amazing how much power I'd given to this person. It's enough to turn my life upside down. I remember Sharon Stone's character in Casino. I should be moving on with Robert de Niro, but I just can't completely turn my back on this one guy.

But I had a beautiful realization. I'd written my reply to him and sent it before going out, and sitting in the salon in the dark, and, later, while the lady was pushing out dry skin from between my toenails, I had time to think about what I'd written.

I wrote him that for the longest time, I'd been questioning why my love for him is still as strong as it was before. I'd been willing it to go away. But now I see that it will never go, because it's mine. It's of me. I chose to give it to him.

Thinking about my email, I found a nugget of empowerment I had known all along. That I love him--and not just romantically--is my choice. That I chose to love him is my power.

Thus, the power he has over me, I have power over it.

There won't be any bad days anytime soon.


I think I've said it before here, that my whole OCCI Seminar Trilogy experience has all been about openness and surrender. But I also noticed that this openness also, well, opens me up to other people's energy.

To begin with, more people are drawn to me. And not just the usual slew of con artists ("I need money to go home to Mindanao!" or "My son is dying and I need a gazillion bucks!") or beggars or lost people who somehow always pick me from the crowd (I always thought it was because I looked either harmless or stupid).

A side story on that: when I was a student in UP Diliman, a guy came up to me, chatted me up about Jesus, and sold me a plaster of Paris bust of the Savior for P100. A couple of months later, I was accompanying my brother to his enrollment in UP Los Baños and the same guy picked me again!

Ever since I started to really open up, I've had people introducing themselves to me. I've had more people telling me they love me. I've had people jokingly flirting with me--both men and women. It's crazy how a little openness can go. If I had only known it was so easy, I probably wouldn't have been such a wallflower in high school.

The drawback is that I'm also easily drained by negative talk or negative outbursts, so I tend to ignore people when they start to whine. And everyday, I'm easily moved to tears (though I've realized that if I just let it flow, it does feel better).

I should learn to start conserving/protecting my energy now. What color bubble was that again? Pink?

Shifting perspectives

It took me a while to realize this, but what has really held me back in my writing career is that I focused more on being liked--by my teachers, my mentors, my bosses, the general reading public--than on sharing my talent by using it to spread the truth.

And so I trapped myself with drama, freezing any progress whatsoever I could have made early on, when UP accepted me as part of the Creative Writing program; when I graduated with my CW degree; when I won 2nd place in the Palanca Awards for my teleplay (now a defunct category, by the way) many years ago, when I worked for a major network's dot com; when I worked for major broadsheet; when I had a stint as a marketing writer that taught me so much more about writing in 6 months than I learned under my direct superior in that major broadsheet in three years; when I started pursuing my MFA in CW in DLSU; when I had supportive teachers like Doc Bau; when I heard of so many contests, workshops, open submissions, et cetera, et cetera.

All the opportunities I allowed to pass me by because of my drama: I told myself I wasn't ready. That I'm not yet as good as I want to be (and considered this with pride, even, successfully convincing myself that since I knew I could be better, it said something of my good taste). That I wasn't even sure I was supposed to be writing.

It's all crap to me now, I have to admit with much embarrassment. I had no idea I was pretentious about my gift. I knew I could write the minute I set my pen on paper in grade school, that very second I submitted that first winning essay, I felt it in my heart that writing was something I could do for a lifetime. And I do know this without question.

Last weekend, for LEAP's 2nd intensive, it became clear to me that I have been holding back on my thesis, despite it still having the ability to excite me with its ambition, because I wanted the perfect little story in my trademark contemporary and occasionally lyrical and playful and blah blah blah writing style. I wanted the perfect opening lines. The perfect characters. The perfect titles. I wanted it to blow everyone away. And this all seemed so daunting.

But right now, looking at it from a renewed perspective, it just hits me: Write the truth you see. Share your gift. It's as simple as that. All the rest is background noise. And crap you tell yourself.



As part of my personal goal in LEAP, I had my hair cut yesterday at Piandre Libis, right after my last day of training. It rained when I went home, so it doesn't look too different now, but last night, it was blow-dried straight, and it looked all neat and pretty. I'm actually considering getting it straightened permanently--but it's really expensive, so I'll think about it first. Besides, I do like my wavy (ondulado!) hair, even if in the Philippines, long, straight, and shiny locks are on top of the "Beauty" list.

I tried to make it straight this morning--just in time for LEAP's 2nd intensive, so my coach and my teammates will at least see the difference--but my Revlon straightener, a gift from the US, won't work, either in 110v or 220v. I suspect it was mistakenly plugged into a 220v socket. Do you guys know where I can have this little thing fixed?

Maybe I'll just have my hair treated with something? Or have it colored? I've never done anything to my hair before, so I have zero ideas. I like the thought of it completely black, instead of blackish-brown, but I can't decide if I want it dyed.

Just bouncing off ideas! My hair has always been an issue for me, ever since my dad cut it really short when I was 10 and it didn't grow back straight anymore. I've kept my hair long since college because of this.

Any suggestions on what I should do? I'm hairstyle-impaired, but I'm working on it.

Day 1 at work

Day 1 was a long day. At some point, I was panicking at the thought of all those binding legalities--but I guess that's what an entire day of lectures about methods, and rules and regulations can do to you. Seriously, I've never sat that long and listened to lectures in my entire life--not even in college.

But it was all good. Just information overload, I guess.

Around the time I was having this panicky feeling, I remembered that it's part of my LEAP goal to joyfully and excitingly start my job because this will allow me to pursue a writing career without having to worry *too much* about the corporate rat race. It calmed me down.

There's a Hawaiian-themed party in the pantry on Friday. I am working on not thinking about all the other things I have to do... but I find it so hard because I want to make lots of money to buy me a pretty little laptop... which will enable me to make more money!

Isn't life just great!

Taking a deep breath

I start training with my new job tomorrow. I'm going to be an online English trainer--something new and exciting for me. I'll be based in Alabang, but I'll have three days of training in Libis.

My schedule has been packed but erratic lately, but because of this job, it's going to stabilize for sure soon. I'm welcoming this, actually, because while I hate routine, I like structure!

I'm a little scared about having full-time work again--but I'm also looking forward to it because it's going to bring new people in my life. And God knows I need those right now.

More news

Happy birthday, baby Keona!

Keona turned one yesterday, May 21! We had a simple dinner at Congo Grille in Westgrove, and coffee and dessert after at Cafe Breton across it. Her real party's this weekend, but I won't be able to attend because I'll be having my second intensive for LEAP.

I'm sad about it, because
the theme is Neverland and she'll be dressed as Tinkerbell. But I'm consoling myself that LEAP is helping me to be a better person, and a better auntie for her.

Keona enjoyed her evening in Congo Grille and Cafe Breton, because of the decor, which, apparently, was exciting for her. She kept trying to reach the mobile in Cafe Breton. Last time she was there, she was only six months old, and she grabbed a flower from one of the vases. She also got a monkey stuffed toy from Congo Grille, and she was very pleased with it.

Weight goal!

I've been going to Fitness First Southmall for two weeks now. I've lost 5.6 pounds. Slow and steady, is what my weight management trainer tells me. I have till June 22--my LEAP deadline--to lose my first 15 pounds. Slow and steady.

My week in the Visayas

On the ferry to Dumaguete

Talk about hitting the ground running! Ever since coming home from my short adventure in Bacolod, Cebu, and (a surprise sidetrip!) Dumaguete, I've been living an active/hectic/full life towards the pursuit of my LEAP goals. It's scary and exhilarating and overwhelming all at the same time. But before that, here's what happened during my trip--or, what I've come to call ...

My Amazing Race

I left Manila via Cebu Pacific on April 30 at 8.30am.

Bacolod Leg

1. Arrived at the airport 7.30am for my 8.30am flight. Long lines. Labor day weekend. Made it. :)
2. I arrived in Bacolod 9.45am; my friends (Ana, Mich, Louie) picked me up shortly.
3. Checked-in and had lunch at the Sunburst Resort in Silay, owned by Ana's uncle.
4. Visited the almost-hundred-year-old Bernardino-Jalandoni House. It was closed but we begged the guy cleaning it to let us in.
5. Rode bus to Victorias Milling Company to see the church with the The Church of Saint Joseph, The Worker (otherwise known as the Church of the Angry Christ). The mural's really beautiful, and Jesus doesn't look angry, just stern.
6. Had dinner with Ana's dad, uncle and aunt. Had chicken inasal, as planned, and Silay's famous and super-delicious lumpia ubod, buko pie, and an amazingly easy-to-make and delicious fruit punch.
7. Swam in the resort pool.
8. Slept way past midnight. (Snored.)

Day 2

1. Had breakfast with Mich, Ana, and Louie.
2. Left for the airport the next day for my 9am Cebu-bound flight.
3. Bought piyaya outside the airport--for Jonathan, who was already waiting for me in Cebu with Heizel.

Cebu Leg

Day 1

1. Arrived past 11am. My flight had been delayed. (I saw Christian "Suportahan Taka" Vasquez in the Bacolod airport!)
2. Arrive at the Jasmine Pension house around 11.30am, only to be whisked away to the cheaper pension house next door, Verbena Pension House, by Heizel, who was wearing skimpy shorts and sporting a tan from her trip to Bohol. Hehe.
3. Had lunch with Jonathan, whom I hadn't seen since December last year, and Heizel at the Verbena canteen.
4. Went to the Lapu-Lapu Shrine in Mactan Island, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, Magellan's Cross, that short stretch of road with cheap but pretty borloloys, and the Cebu Cathedral, where Nathalie met up with us!
5. Took a taxi to the CNT Lechon restaurant in Guadalupe--only to find out that there was no more lechon. :(
6. Ate at AA Barbeque instead. :D
7. Had a few beers and sang videoke (for the first time!) at the place across our pension house.
8. Slept early. (Snored in a duet with Heizel, according to Jonathan!)

Day 2

1. Woke up with lechon in mind.
2. Had breakfast in Verbena. Checked out, but left our stuff.
3. Original plan was to go to the beach, but Heizel and I had some work to do, so we hung out for a while in my favorite internet cafe in Cebu, the name of which I can't recall.
4. Went to Ayala Mall (of all places, haha)
5. Ate at the Food Choices branch of CNT! Finally, we got our lechon. :)
6. Heizel and I waited for Jonathan in Starbucks (again, of all places!) while he met up with a friend.
7. Went back to the Capitol area to have a one-hour massage, because it was cheap. (I fell asleep, for the first time ever during a massage. And snored.)
8. Met Nat again; she treated us to this nice, homey place for dinner. I wish I could type the name here, but I can't because it's in Cebuano and I can't remember. In Filipino, it's like Kainan ni Kuya Jay. (Nat, help!)
9. Had coffee at Bo's. Got stood up by an Air Force guy who was supposed to meet Heizel.
10. Picked up our stuff, and went to Nat's house to sleep.

Dumaguete Leg

Day 1

1. Woke up around 5am, got ready. Nat's dad took us to the bus station for our Dumaguete-bound bus. Which was already full.
2. Took the Liloan-bound bus, which left at 6.30am.
3. Arrived in Liloan around 11am. Boarded ferry to Dumaguete.
4. Arrived in Dumaguete around noon. Nat's friend Mark picked us up and brought us to the Silliman Alumni Center, where we were staying for the night.
5. Had lunch at the canteen. Toured Silliman. Had sansrival and silvanas at Sansrival. Watched a cultural presentation. Dinner at Jo's Chicken Inato by the Sea (upon which overlooked a huge statue of Mother Mary that looks like an apparition at night).
6. Coffee at San Antonio Cafe, perhaps the most beautiful coffeeshop I've ever been to.
7. Had oysters, pizza and beer at Hayahay Tree House Bar & View Deck.
8. Slept. (Nobody told me if I snored.)

Day 2

1. Woke up really early, like 4am, for breakfast before Heizel and Jonathan's early bus back to Cebu. Ate at Qyosko, a 24-hour restaurant. Had arroz balao, which I loved-loved-loved. It's like fried rice with bits of dried fish. Just thinking about it now makes my mouth water.
2. Went to the market to have sticky rice and hot chocolate at Loreta's Painitan, and bought budbud kabog from this nice old lady selling it there.
3. Went back to the room, sans Jonathan and Heizel. Freshened up. Because...
4. Nat and I were Mark's radio show guests for a whole hour! It was my first time on radio, and I had a great time after getting over my initial nervousness. The show was aired on Killerbee 95.1 (DYSR), heard in some parts of the Visayas, including the part of Cebu where Jonathan and Heizel's bus was at that time. We talked about being writers for the entertainment industry, and we answered questions from a lot of people who texted in.
5. Mark brought us to one last stop, the Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage (NOAH) store. Bought a nice ethnic necklace.
6. Took the 12.30pm ferry back to Cebu, this time just with Nat.
7. Arrived in the city around 4pm; visited The Freeman office.
8. Left for the airport to catch my 9.30pm flight. (I was in the same plane as Bits, a friend from UP, but we had different seats, and I didn't see him again after we landed in Manila.)
9. Got to the final pit stop, my home, before midnight.

This trip was more than just travel for me. It was an exercise in openness and surrendering to the spirit of adventure--as part of my "Yes Experiment," where instead of deflecting the opportunities that come my way as I used to do, I embrace everything that's in line with my highest good.

What's really amazing about this trip is that I experienced so much and yet I didn't even have to spend much because a lot of the things we did (and the food we ate) were courtesy of the generosity of people--Ana's folks, Nat, and Silliman University through Mark.

The power of one simple word: YES. :)

You can read my piece on the show we watched in SU here.

There's still next year

I am so busy with my freelance jobs, I didn't make time to work on my Palanca entries. No excuses, just a rearrangement of priorities... that wasn't well thought out, but still ended up rewarding.

I like making money. But I sure would like to get that medal once and for all.

With that said, I congratulate Louie in advance. (And this entry will be proof I was the first to do so in public, because I believe in him and because I love my friends.)

More news below--

1. I'm leaving for Bacolod on Monday, April 30, to meet up with some of the guyguys, including Jonathan, who's joining us from Zamboanga City! I'll stay in Bacolod overnight--to check out those old houses from Bacolod's Spanish haciendero days, eat chicken inasal (recipe here), buy piyaya, and do every touristy thing I can do in a day.

Just kidding.

I'm actually just curious about the old houses, because in between job exams and interviews a few days ago, I read a Mabuhay Magazine article about the old houses of the old rich in Bacolod, some of them still displaying family crests from their Spanish ancestors. Interestingly, it was a French guy who married a Chinese-Filipino mestiza who brought the sugar to Negros Occidental.

May 1, Jonathan and I will fly to Cebu. Heizel will meet us there, coming from Bohol. I don't know what to do in Cebu City that I haven't already done, but I still intend to eat lechon at least once, buy trinkets near the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño or Magellan's Cross, eat/drink as many mangoes/mango shakes as I can, and meet Nathalie of course.

2. In less than a month, I'll have a full-time job. It's still unofficial; I have yet to sign the contract. But it's an interesting one I can do that won't take too much away from my creative writing. I'll be an English Trainer for Europeans (clients right now are German, French, and Italian). I'll be working on European time too.

(Hey, Fer, if you're reading this, this reminds me of the time we *tried* to do voice chat, but failed because my connection was bad or something. I was studying Spanish at that time, and you were studying English, and we figured that it would be good practice for both of us. Apparently, it's a lucrative industry now!)

It's a pity I haven't bought my dream camera yet.

3. I start LEAPing tomorrow. I have to wear business attire. High heels! Ugh.

My personalized browser

I have my browser (Firefox) arranged so that it's an instant picker-upper. The moment I sit in front of the computer, I'm given a jolt of positive energy.

For starters, I've changed the default homepage, which used to be Yahoo, then Google, to The Daily Motivator, a page by a man named Ralph Marston that posts short motivational and inspirational words on a daily basis.

Today's words hit the spot for me.
Someday has arrived

Life is now. Stop waiting for your opportunity to fully live and realize that it is already here. Perhaps you have always thought that someday you will follow your dreams. The fact is, someday has now arrived. Your authentic purpose is calling out to you. Now is the time to be fulfilling that purpose. Go now in the direction you've always known you must go. Allow the unique and beautiful person you are to come fully to life. Let go of the excuses and rationalizations that keep you mired in disappointment and frustration. Move quickly forward by continually reminding yourself of why you are doing so. This is the moment for bold, yet sincere action. Someday is here, and the richness of life is now yours to experience.
After I read what's posted on The Daily Motivator, I click on the Google icon on my Bookmarks Toolbar, which opens to

My personalized Google page looks like this:

The theme is a fairly new feature (I chose Cityscape), and what I love about it is that it changes colors depending on the time of day. I still haven't gotten it to follow Manila time, though.

I have several useful widgets in my page too: my Google Calendar, RL ToDoList, Word of the Day, Seize the Day (a widget that tracks your goals), and a Bloglines Notifier (I used Bloglines as my blog feed reader). I used to have a separate page for fun reads (widgets of, Reuters' Oddly Enough, et cetera) but I accidentally cleared the cache, and they're all gone.

My favorite feature is a Daily Affirmation widget from Affirmation Planet. It's a lot like The Daily Motivator, except that it only posts affirmations, which are usually only a sentence long.

One of these days, I'll put the fun reads and games back. :)

I ♥ Firefox
I ♥ Google 

Gratitude journal

Life seems so easier, I've realized, when you always come from a space of gratitude. To keep me in this space, I've started to keep a gratitude journal, where I list five things I'm grateful about.

I first heard this from Oprah, years back. She started this long ago, she said, and her life has changed dramatically since.

I think it's also because when you're grateful for the things you have, you are free from all that whining and griping and complaining and hating and criticizing.

And you are in a better position to see the opportunities that keep coming your way.

My gratitude journal is a resurrected 2007 daily diary. At the beginning of the year, as usual, I bought two planners, one for appointments (a weekly) and another for my thoughts and illuminations (a daily).

I realized soon enough that to keep a daily diary was too ambitious for me. But because I wanted to keep at least one of my New Year's resolutions, I said I would fill up those 366 pages, even if I had to play catch up with all my entries, or even if I only write one-sentence ones.

I have entries that read, "Keona was here today. We played."

There are days when I have to write a full week's worth. Sometimes, I can't even remember what happened two, three days ago! And it's not just because nothing much is happening in my life--it's also because despite my blog entries sometimes being this way, I am actually averse to writing detailed accounts of what transpired in a day. I only do if I really want to remember a day in my life.

As you know, of course, not every day is worth remembering. My days are mostly vanilla! Haha.

So now my daily diary is a gratitude journal! Nothing to it. I just write, "Today I'm thankful for the following things." Then I write five things. That's easy enough.

I've been building a freelance writing career since, I don't know, a month ago? Three weeks ago? The other day, I had an item on my list that said, "Getting my first check from [client]."

The next day, a classmate said she was building up a pool of four writers, and asked me if I was interested. That was on my list last night.

I wonder if this is what Oprah meant? If so, she's on to something. I'd love to be as wealthy as her--and feel good about it, and use it, the way she does.

My schedule cleared up, and I'm even happier

This Law of Attraction thing is really amazing--I'd been looking forward to my fully-booked week, but then in the middle of all the things I have to do and traveling to Pasig City (that's four to five hours of my day already), it suddenly dawned on me that the deadline for the Palanca Awards is twelve days away. I looked at my calendar and wished more at-home time for myself ASAP because I already have a story revision brewing in my head.

But just when I thought I'd have to work on my entries in between income-generating work and long bus rides, my schedule cleared up--without any opportunity sacrificed.

As early as last night, Tuesday, I was already fatigued. After meeting Jing on Sunday, I slept over at her apartment (and of course we talked the night away). I got home Monday noon, having hitched a ride with my brother from Port Area.

On the way, we picked up Keona, whom I babysat with pleasure, so I didn't get enough sleep (it was worth it, though, because she started walking!). Tuesday morning I had errands, and then a 5.30pm meeting and the ALC 51 7.30pm reunion in Pasig. When I got home around 11pm, my mom was preparing for a 5am flight. I helped her with some last-minute stuff, and slept again at 4.30am.

I woke up Tuesday 8am with a really bad migraine. And remembering from FLEX that all agreements can be renegotiated, I called up ITI Consulting to postpone my 10am interview.

I hesitantly moved my interview to Friday, although what I really want is for this week to be dedicated to writing. Later this morning, I got a call from them and my interview is now Wednesday next week. A few minutes later, I also got a call from my Thursday appointment in Manila, moving our meeting to Saturday, 2.30pm, in Makati, where I needed to be anyway for a 4pm birthday party!

That gives me today, Thursday and Friday to recuperate and revise. And then a couple more days next week to revise some more.

I have no excuse not to join the Palanca Awards now. :)

Fully-booked week ahead, and I'm feeling so happy

I have a busy week ahead, which actually started since Sunday, when I went to the OCCI office in Pasig, but that's good. Most of my appointments are income-generating projects, so I'm happy.

I'm also looking for a steady part-time job (or a not so demanding full-time one) that will give me time for freelance writing, creative writing, and thesis-writing. I'm looking into teaching ESL. I saw this ad looking for English trainers for Europeans, and they're opening in Alabang soon. I have an interview and test at their Libis office on Wednesday.

Leave me a comment if you're interested, and I'll give you the name and email address of the lady I sent my resume to.

I'm a little nervous about going on job interviews again--

but I've always done okay, so I choose to be powerful, courageous, and committed to earning money to finally be independent.

My first FLEX enrollee

My first enrollee, Jing, a friend and former officemate at The Philippine Star, just graduated from the FLEX (Foundations of Leadership Excellence) seminar. She's part of FLEX Team 78.

We had dinner with Louie, my enroller last Sunday, and I was happy to hear that Jing thoroughly enjoyed the experience too. I've always seen Jing's light--which is why we're still friends even if I left the newspaper four years ago--and I've always wanted people, especially her officemates, to see it too.

I'm excited for her because she's taking the ALC (Advanced Leadership Course) beginning Thursday this week. Louie's staffing too, so I'm sure they'll get to know each other better.

Personally, FLEX was great for me, but it was with ALC that I really experienced a transformation. Louie even tells me I have a different aura now--and I feel it too. In fact, these days, I feel *kilig* (what's the English word for this?) without any special reason at all! It's like I sing the body electric. :P

I'm also looking forward to the last of the seminar trilogy, LEAP (Leadership Excellence Achievement Program), which will begin on April 27. Jing will be joining me, along with some of my ALC batchmates, and, I believe, a batchmate from FLEX.

But first, our ALC 30-day reunion, tonight at 7.30pm. :)

P.S. Dear Readers, if you're interested to know more about this amazing seminar trilogy, please contact me, and I'll tell you what I can about my own personal experience.

The shorter road to getting another book

Remember that Las Piñas book I was looking for back in February? Well, I picked it up today--also for free! My signed (by Congw. Cynthia Villar, I believe) copy of "Las Piñas: A City with Heritage" is now sitting right next to my "Captured Culture: An Interpretative Portrait of Parañaque City" on my study table. That puts the Villar Foundation on the list of people and groups I'm dedicating my thesis to.

My Las Piñas book experience wasn't as eventful as my Parañaque book one. It was still fun, though. Partly because it came so easy.

I'd been hunting this book down since I first read a press release that the Villars were publishing a book on Las Piñas City. The article said it was going to be in bookstores early 2007, and so I looked for it in all the bookstores I went to. I turned up with nothing.

After getting the Parañaque book, I realized I was too desperate for the Las Piñas book. So I let it go and just imagined myself having it, and for free too. And then I acted on it by first finding out how to reach the Villars' office. I sent an email to the Pinoywriters Yahoogroup, figuring that if anyone was to know how to reach the private office of the Villars (since the book was funded by their foundation, and not their public offices), it would be freelance writers, journalists, and the like.

A few days later, I got an email from the Villar Foundation. One of the members had forwarded my email to them, and they wanted to know my contact details because they wanted to send me a book. I told them I lived in the city, and I offered to pick it up.

The main highlight of my getting the book was when I decided I was too early (I'd texted the contact person I'd be dropping by in the afternoon, and by my standards, a little past 2.30pm is still closer to noon) so I treated myself to a stick of banana-que before heading for Congw. Cynthia Villar's District Office at Masibay Street, BF Resort Village in Las Piñas City. It was yummy, as expected. I mean, how can one seriously mess up deep-fried bananas?

Actually, buying the banana-que was also a way for me to chat up the vendor.

"How do I get to Masibay?" I asked her, as I paid P8 for my snack.
"There," she replied, raising her arm to point somewhere.

I turned to the direction in which she was pointing, half-expecting a moderately tall building, like most of the structures in my city, bearing a sign proclaiming it as Congw. Villar's office. I saw nothing. Well, actually, I saw a huge campaign poster of her reelectionist husband, Sen. Manny Villar, but no office.

"Where?" I asked her again. "You mean I can walk?"
"There!" she said, this time pointing clearly to the tricycle station. "Take a tricycle."

She told me the fare was P12. That's already like a ten-minute trip in my village. So when I got on the tricycle, I settled in for the ride. The driver asked me, "Masibay left or right?" pertaining to which direction of an intersection he was going to have to turn and I had to say, "I don't know" which I hate saying to anyone who's driving me anywhere, but I figured they'd know the Congresswoman's office, so I told him that was where I was headed.

I had only started to think about getting lost in my thoughts when he stopped in front of a gate in the right side of the intersection. So much for left or right.

I only got as far as the office entrance, because Jewel, my contact person, happened to be there too. As she fished out a form for me to sign, I took a quick look around and saw that it looked more like a house than an office. It looked pretty, from the outside. The happy transaction was over in three minutes, maximum.

Going back to the village entrance, I took another tricycle. I expected it to bring me back to the station, so when he stopped in the middle of the road, before the short island that divided the road into exit and entrance lanes, I stayed put. I must have been sitting there two minutes--during which he must have assumed I was gathering my things or rummaging through my purse for money to pay him--when he said, "Ma'am, this is as far as I can take you."

I got out, paid the driver, and walked to the jeepney stop--which I promptly found out was not in front of the barbed-wire wrapped balete tree that seemed so huge and frightening when I was a child and now only looks sad and confined. I took the book out from the brown envelope it came in and opened it as I was walking. I read the dedication. Closed the book. Smiled.

And then I lived happily ever after.

Until I start actually writing my thesis.

Wish me luck--and power, courage, and commitment! :)

Visita Iglesia

My mom and I went with my sister, her family, and the in-laws to their Visita Iglesia for the Holy Week. I'd never done this before, but I had such an interesting time, and I think I'd like to do this again next year. We didn't do the Stations of the Cross, though. We just prayed and lit candles. A lot of candles.

Here's a list of the churches we visited.


The University Belt churches, all of which are within walking distance to each other. The path to all those churches were lined with vendors hawking all sorts of things, from food, like calamares (I'd never seen calamares being sold as street food before! Lucky U-Belt kids!), all-sorts-of-balls-and-the-like (chicken, squid, fish, kikiam, and kwek-kwek), to bottled water and flavored beverages, to candles and religious paraphernalia.

1. The San Beda Church, which I loved for the gilt of gold on the statues and the ceiling, and because once a Bedan, always a Bedan, though I didn't go to San Beda College because, first and foremost, I'm not a boy.

2. San Sebastian Church, "the only neo-gothic steel church in the Philippines and in Asia" (UNESCO's words, not mine).

3. Saint Jude Thaddeus Church, about which I can't find anything on the internet. I'm not surprised, because it looked like a new, very functional building. Nothing very striking, except that you have to go through heavily-armed guards before you can get to St. Jude because this church, and the school that it's associated with, is inside Malacañang. But this is where I prayed longer for all my loved ones, St. Jude being the patron saint of lost causes.


The one Chinatown church we went to is a special one for me. And not just because when I go there, I make a quick side trip to Ongpin Street to go to Eng Bee Tin to buy hopia and Lord Stow's to buy my favorite egg tart.

4. Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz. I like this particular church because when my sister was still pregnant, and was looking at a tough pregnancy, we went to this church while touring my aunt and my cousin, and I lit candles for my sister and my other petitions, and all of them came true.


The churches here have a special place in my heart, because when I was working for The Philippine Star, I used to visit them a lot. I always thought I'd get married in San Agustin Church, and then have a reception at Father Blanco's Garden. And have sampaguita ice cream from Ilustrado as my reception dinner's dessert... But that was then, when I had a specific groom in mind.

Walking from one church to the other was like touring a Wow Philippines! display! The short road was lined on both sides with more native street food, including fresh coconut juice, roasted bananas slathered with margarine and coated with sugar, boiled Japanese sweet corn, roasted corn, green mangoes and bagoong (shrimp paste), and other products like malongs, native carvings, native bows, cheap but pretty shoes from Korea that's currently a rage in bazaars, and the usual sort of accessories.

5. Manila Cathedral, or the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Rosales was holding a mass when we arrived. The place was so crowded.

6. San Agustin Church, under which, they say, Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi is buried. Like I said, I used to fancy getting married here. But not anymore, because I already have a non-negotiable church in mind, the church where my sister got married.


The last church we went to, and which gave us a hard time in terms of traffic.

7. Malate Church. It's a beautiful 100-year old structure that stands on where the original church was built sometime in the 1600s.

That's all. :)

Lenten overview

It's now Holy Week, and I've officially refrained from red meat and chicken for 40 days. But that's the only Lenten resolution I pulled off successfully. That, and abstaining from resentment and bitterness. The rest, I broke, even the going to mass daily. Strangely, I don't feel so guilty. In the middle of Lent, I had what's called a paradigm shift in terms of my Catholic practices.

When I took the ALC, which I wrote about here, I realized that my energy is better served if I focus on goodness and pursuing my happiness. Really, the time to mourn is over; now, and always, is the season for joy.

Which is not to say I don't respect Catholic Lenten practices anymore. Maybe I'd been doing it all wrong, and I now understand it better. I always thought if it didn't hurt, it wasn't a sacrifice, and that that was all there was to it. Now, I understand that it's not about hurting for a while, it's about hurting for a while and then getting better. It's not deprivation, it's actually empowerment.

My failures

I had difficulty going to church everyday, because I went about it all wrong. I did it out of duty, and so I never got out of the struggle. (And of course, there was this whole matter of leaving for Pasig early and coming home late during the four days I took the ALC--but that's my victim story). If I had done it out of joy (and I had had that kind of experience before, when I was praying for Juan to recover), then maybe I would have enriched myself and my spirituality with 40 days of going to church.

I had difficulty abstaining from refined sugar, because I also went about it all wrong. I was thinking "diet" more than abstinence.It was hard to fast from anger and hatred, because I kept fighting with Ray. I was frustrated with his behavior (as he probably was with mine), but I guess... well, I still have no realization here.

It's just difficult to talk to people when they're more committed to protecting themselves or making you calm than resolving the situation and coming to an agreement. Then again, it's difficult to talk to people (and this time, I'm referring to me) when they're easily frustrated, and, generally just possess really evil temper. I'm currently in the process of uncovering what I contributed to the state of our friendship now, in the chance that we can still save it.

My successes

I managed to stay away from red meat and chicken because it was the only abstinence I was really committed to. Red meat was easy to quit, because I needed it for health anyway (we have a family history of arthritis, and at my age, I *think* I'm feeling it). The chicken was a challenge, because I had to impose it (at least in terms of restaurant and combined menu choices) on most of the people I dined with, but they were all very understanding. All in all, this particular sacrifice was one that I held up to God, because I knew it was good for me. And I was successful at doing it because it made sense for me to take care of myself to better reflect God's glory.

I'm not sure if I can still continue not eating red meat (already there's a kilo of frozen Ilocos bagnet waiting for my decision in the fridge), but I'm surely going to eat chicken again. Maybe I can do a weekly schedule thing (like no-meat Fridays, no-meat weekends).

I also managed to abstain from resentment and bitterness. The ALC helped immensely in making me see that there's more joy to be had than ever. Part of being bitter or resentful, I believe, is that you think you're never going to have it as good as you did. But I leave that all behind me now, and know that the best is on its way.

I therefore conclude

That while my Lenten fasting and abstinence was more of a failure, I don't really see it that way anymore. In fact, I think what I did (considering how I did it) was totally unnecessary. Next Lenten season, I should just focus on things that I should do to reflect God's glory. Like write. Or do 40 days of volunteer work. Some Lenten project that's better served by my energy.

The short and long road to getting a book

I first heard about the coffee table book, "Captured Culture: An Interpretative Portrait of Parañaque City" via the ABS-CBN News Channel. The project manager was telling program host Daphne Oseña all about it, that they only printed a thousand copies, and that it was being given for free by the Parañaque City Hall.

My mind, warped by horror stories of the bureaucracy, was already telling me, "Oh no, only a thousand copies, and you're not even a Parañaque resident!" But I told myself to give it a shot. I took note of the lady's name, and googled her. I found her name in the online community, and sent her an email explaining that I wanted the book because I was writing short stories about Southern Manila for my graduate school thesis. She promptly replied.

She told me to write the Parañaque mayor about my request. I then googled the Parañaque City website, found a "Dear Mayor" email form, and sent them another request, explaining, again, that I needed it for my thesis. I received an email from the mayor's executive assistant the next day, telling me I'd be getting a copy of the book, and to just text him before I pick it up.

Last Friday, I braved a surprisingly easy commute I'd never taken before, despite having grown up in the area: I took a tricycle from Toyota Alabang (which is actually in Las Piñas) to McDonald's Sucat (along Sucat Road in Parañaque), paid the P38 fare, and asked the driver to tell me how to get to the City Hall.

"Manila City Hall?" he replied. I had to laugh. Even he did not have a concept of Parañaque City Hall.
"Parañaque lang po!" I said.
"Ah, sa munisipyo!" he said. Then he told me to cross the road, get on a jeep, tell the driver to drop me of at "Baliwan" (which I found funny, because baliw = crazy and baliwan can mean "where the crazy people are"), then get on a tricycle and tell the driver to drop me off at the munisipyo.

I did as told*, and thirty minutes later, I was on my way from the fourth floor of the Parañaque City Hall, clutching my copy. The elevator man told me that it was a very nice book. I nodded happily. I was extremely grateful to the local government of Parañaque City, especially to executive assistant Benjo Bernabe, and my mind was dancing with ideas for my thesis.

Still giddy (a word that aptly describes me these days), I decided to meet up with Emily at the Figaro branch outside their village, the one beside the Mitsubishi Las Piñas building. I figured that would give me time with her to also talk about my ALC experience. Feeling extra adventurous, I decided to explore Sucat more and find another way to get to her part of Las Piñas. I thought back to our trips to and from the airport by car, and chose the Evacom route. Surely there'd be a tricycle there, I told myself.

And I was right. Only, the tricycle would have to traverse a long, sleepy road lined with open grassy lots on which goats fed. And the fare was P50. I keep noting the fare because it also gives a hint as to the length of the tricycle trip, ergo the distance. The fare to the village entrance to my house is only P17.50.

Before getting on the tricycle, I asked the dispatcher how to get to Alabang-Zapote Road, and he told me to just get off at the entrance of Casimiro, another village. I'm not quite sure how long it really took me to get there, 30-45 minutes probably, because half the way, I was happy with my little suburban adventure, and the other half, I was just plain noontime sleepy, despite it being a little past three in the afternoon already. I chalk it up to the summer heat.

By the time I realized I had left the book inside the tricycle, the tricycle was already a speck of green dust in my vision. For at least five seconds, I debated with myself on whether to try to even retrieve the blasted book or not. I listened to my intuition. I then asked the people at the Casimiro tricycle station (their tricycles were either painted white or orange) where the green Evacom tricycles would go after delivering passengers there. I was told that they would have to go back to their own station.

And so that's where I went.

It was a good thing the Evacom dispatcher remembered me on the merit of my asking him how to get to the Alabang-Zapote road. He even remembered that I got on tricycle no. 29, and that the driver was Rico. Another man, an old, white-haired one, took pity on me and said he would ask around if anyone had seen Rico back. One driver replied, saying that he had seen Rico, but that Rico had picked up another Casimiro-bound passenger on the way. The general consensus was for me to sit at the tricycle station, because Rico was bound to turn up there eventually, as all Evacom tricycles are wont to do.

"Baka magkasalisi kayo," the dispatcher said.

I planted my butt on the station bench, and pulled out a book. I couldn't read much, though, because of the heat and noise, and because I kept my eye open for tricycle no. 29. The old man sat beside me and said, "You know, our tricycle drivers return things passengers leave behind, even cellphones, so don't worry. Just pray that a passenger won't take your book."

Strangely, I was certain the book would turn up. Or, I was making myself certain. I practiced the Law of Attraction, via thought and prayer. After half an hour of waiting, I got a text from Emily, asking me what time we would meet. I checked my watch. Then I both prayed and imagined that I would be getting the book by 5pm.

I was on the phone with Ray, who had called to comfort (and maybe scold) me about losing the book, when Rico approached me and said he had it with him. It was a few minutes before 5pm.

Before I left, the dispatcher asked me to write my name, address, and Rico's full name and tricycle number by way of recommending him for some award for his honesty. Props to the Evacom tricycles for this system. Obviously, it works to encourage drivers to return things.

And before I boarded yet another tricycle, I went to a nearby bakery, bought pan de sal and ensaimada, and went back to the station. I approached to old man, reported that I had my book back, and asked him to distribute the bread especially to the people who helped me. As my tricycle was leaving, a woman who had been privy to my little lost and found drama called out, "Don't forget your book, okay?" I replied by grinning and tapping the book on my lap.

Back in Casimiro, as I paid the driver, he also checked my seat to see if I had left anything behind. Then he smiled at me, and said something like, "Just checking if you left anything." I laughed.

When my stories get published, I'm now dedicating it to Ray (for having always backed me), the Parañaque City Hall, and the tricycle drivers of Evacom.

* The tricycles in "Baliwan," which I later realized to be "Valley One," where my MFA classmate Razel lives, have back-to-back seats. I used to enjoy riding in tricycles like this, and would choose to sit at the back. It's a testament to how little I know about my area that I'd always thought tricycles like these to be rare in Manila.