LOVE LETTER I

In empty moments, quiet moments, my mind wanders off to you. I envision what could be when we meet again and you end up loving me in return. The conversations we would have, the life we would live, the places we will see, and the adventures we will share, together, side by side, constant and unfaltering.

I think of you everytime I hear Coldplay’s Amazing Day. I hope you like the song as I see us slow dancing to it in evenings at our garden, lit all over by fairy lights hung on out trees. I hear the song playing softly in the background as we curl up in a cabin, up in snowy mountains while waiting for the Aurora Borealis to bless us with her magnificence.

I love you, my heart yearns for you. I long to see you again and stare into your hazel eyes, see if the pupils will once again pulse when you look back at me. I love you so much that it terrifies me, scares me enough to think that I should stop loving you because there is no guarantee of you ever feeling the same way. You don’t know how much I feel for you and I’m terrified that if you do find out, you decide that I am someone you could never love in return.

But tonight I realized, as I listen to Amazing Day, that love must be freeing. That I am free to love you, and my love for you should not be in pursuit of possession, but only of liberation. It is not really love if I can only love you when there is a guarantee. It is not love if it must adhere to a strict timeframe that is not designed by God.

And so, I decided to keep loving you, keep waiting on you, despite my fears, despite my doubts, for those who live in love evenually discover that love has returned to them in a multitude of ways .

I will live in love, and in hope, for you and for what could be.

D.

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SALTWATER HEALS

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They say saltwater heals, whether in the form of tears, sweat, or the sea.

It’s starting to become a tradition, a beach escape in March.

Escape is not being used lightly since it was technically an escape. There was no Wi-fi, nor phone signal and nobody heard anything from me for two days.

I began composing this at two in the morning. Apart from the sound of waves kissing the shore and the crickets chirping away, the world is quiet. My mind is quiet as well, an anomaly, but definitely a welcome change. In the quiet of the night, I let it all come, the truths I have been ignoring and forgetting amidst the vicissitudes of daily life.

Your superbrain is killing you, superbrain. 

Overthinking has been taking out the joy in everything lately. Overanalyzing and overplanning every task to ensure efficiency, assuming what another person is thinking instead of asking him/her directly, and diving straight into the worst case scenarios (in the guise of preparation in case things go wrong) has been incredibly draining. Tonight I am reminded of the fact that we need to live in the present, in the actual world, for this is how we determine what could be.

It’s okay not to know everything.

The beauty of Schrodinger’s cat. What is meant for us will always come and what is withheld from us is oftentimes for our own protection, and this includes information. Similar to the way spoilers work in movies and novels, life would be incredibly boring and pointless if everything is made known to us prematurely just because we wanted to know.

Communication isn’t always the key to a good relationship

Because sometimes, letting go is. I have always been the type to talk it out, but as life went on and my circle widened, I have come to meet people who don’t really prefer to discuss conflicts and its possible resolution. I made the mistake of pushing for the talking solution with a dear friend last February when we had a minor disagreement and it only made the conflict worse. What could’ve been resolved in a day (if only I had let it go) ended up lasting for a week and a half, and that week and a half could’ve been filled with happy memories. I did realize eventually that letting go is the only solution, and that if we are truly secure in our relationships and we know the heart of the other person, it’s okay to leave things unsaid.

Mental health breaks are a privilege

I realized this when I informed my mother of this trip. She wished me safety and that I get the equilibrium I am seeking. But I ended up thinking about her life which probably became overwhelming multiple times, being a single parent and all, when I was a child. She never once took a “mental health break”. Falling apart is a privilege. If you can afford to be broken down by difficulties, because it’s not a life or death situation, or there’s no child that will go hungry, or you can afford to go soul-searching, you are still better off than a large number of people.

Tomorrow I go on a boat ride and a snorkel trip with two of my best friends. Looking forward to being reinvigorated by nature so come Monday, I can face the world anew.

MORNINGS

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Excerpt from the journal that I hope is helpful:

“It’s already kind of sad that that you have to wake up at 4:00 AM five times a week. You don’t have to make yourself even more miserable.

No snooze buttons. Get up when the alarm rings and make it your first achievement of the day.

Stick to your lemon-in-warm-water-before-anything-else habit because you know it did wonders to your digestion and energy levels in the two weeks that you were consistent.

Prepare breakfast and enjoy it with french-pressed coffee.

Listen to some really upbeat tunes that have a positive message. A really good one that you recently discovered is “Good Morning” by Mandisa & Toby Mac.

No social media and emails until you’ve settled into your commute.

Enjoy the view of the sunrise on the left and the Manila Bay on the right.

Decide that it’s going to be a great day and remind yourself of that decision everytime something adversarial comes up.”

STUCK IN A FUNK

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January 2018 will be over in six and a half days and it failed to be the big bang month of greatness I (and society) wants it to be.

I’ve been stuck in a funk these past few weeks. Emotionally challenging situations keep popping up and the internal turmoil that follows is omnipresent. I also failed to accomplish some of the goals I set for myself this month and disappointing oneself is probably the worst feeling of all.

These gray clouds have been incredibly difficult to deal with as I generally live life on the bright side. My coping mechanism has always been to avert my eyes and focus on what’s good and golden but this time, the clouds are too hefty that they’re all over the place. This time there’s no escape and I’m learning to be grateful for this growing experience that taught me that the only way out is to go through, and not around, the deep dark tunnel.

Perspective

is the answer, I realized, as I came across the famous optical illusion of a duck that is also a rabbit one evening.

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We expect too much from January. Everyone preaches that in order to have a fantastic year, you must have the best start. I realized that though this thinking has its merits, it distracts us from the fact that we still have eleven more months: three hundred thirty four more chances to try again, to have the best day ever, and to have the “day when everything changed”.

I do want to make 2018 the best year (so far), and this funky January will be the perfect starting point. When one’s at the bottom, the only direction one could go is up, hopefully better informed, better armed, and more prepared to handle the funks of life.

 

SI GEENA AT ANG KANYANG PAGLIPAD – ISANG DAGLI

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I am not great at Tagalog which is embarrassing. I’m one of those Filipinos who, as a child, learned English first then Tagalog second. Speaking and writing in straight Tagalog requires great effort on most days, and this is why I’m proud to share this short story (a dagli) which I wrote for a class in college.

Inspired by Geena Rocero, this is the life story of a transgender person who had the opportunity to finally live her truth.

Si Geena at ang Kanyang Paglipad

Siya ay kasalukuyang nasa himpapawid, nakatingin sa mga tala. Habang ang kanyang mga kasama ay nahihimbing, siya ay nag-iisip. Ang katagang “self-made woman” ay nabibigyan ng kakaibang kahulugan kapag iyong nakilala si Geena. Si Geena na ang buhay ay halos puro paglalayag.

Ang una niyang paglalayag ay para makalayo. Makalayo sa ama na ang tingin sa kanya ay kahihiyan. Makalayo sa pari na ang tingin sa kanya ay makasalanan. Sa mga kalye, café, at bar ng Amsterdam at San Francisco siya nakahanap ng pagtanggap. Sa mga beach ng Rio de Janeiro niya nagawang mag-bikini at sumayaw nang malaya at walang panghuhusga. Sa Greenwich Village sa New York niya natutunan ang ilan sa kasaysayan ng kanyang mga kauri. Mga lugar na bukas sa mga tulad niya. Sa piling ng mga katulad niya na malayang nakakapagpahayag ng kanilang katotohanan siya nakahanap ng kaligayahan.

Ang ikalawa niyang paglalayag ay para sa kanyang anyo. Galing Kalibo, lumipad pa-Maynila para sa estrogen na galling Estados Unidos. Sumunod naman ay sa Alemanya para sa kanyang balakang, sa Belgium para sa kanyang suso, at Sa Thailand para sa kanyang puke. Sa kanyang paglalakbay, unti-uniting tumutugma ang kanyang panlabas sa kanyang kalooban. Unti unti niyang nakakamit ang katotohanan.

Ang ikatlo niyang paglalayag ay para sa kanyang pagkatao. May isang pagkakataon na limang oras siyan pinaghintay sa NAIA dahil ang kanyang hitsura ay hindi tugma sa kanyang gender marker. Siya ay tinawag ma ‘mister’ kahit siya ay mukha nang ‘miss’. Nakakapuno at nakakainsulto. Lumipad siya pa-San Francisco at pagkaraan ng ilang taon, dito tuluyang namatay si Gino, at ipinanganak si Geena.

Ang ikaapat niyang paglalayag ay para sa pag-ibig. Para kay Oskar. “Your name would look better with two letter e’s”, sabi sa kanya ng Aleman nang siya sa wakas ay naging babae na. Hinawakan niya kamay nito habang ito ay natutulog sa kanyang tabi. Malapit nang lumapag sa New York ang eroplano. Sa makalawa ay ikakasal sila sa siyudad na ito, bagay na hinding-hindi niya magagawa sa bayang sinilangan.

Maaaring ito na nga ang huli. Ang huling paglalayag ng isang babaeng mistulang buong buhay niya ay lumilipad. Hinahabol ang katotohanan, kalayaan, at kaligayahan. Maaaring ito na nga…

__________________________

*Ang pangalang Geena ay hango kay Bb. Geena Rocero, isang Pilipinang transgender na ngayon ay isang model sa New York. Siya ang tagapagtatag ng Gender Proud, isang NGO na naglalayong tulungan ang mga transgender na maging totoo sa kanilang mga sarili at magpakalap impormasyon tungkol sa karapatan na malayang pagpili ng sekswalidad.

SOMETHING TO ASPIRE FOR – TURIN 2017

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Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.” Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world.” – Pico Iyer

It was love at first sight. 

I never believed that it’s possible for a  moment of contact to be enough to make one fall head over heels, and be willing to do anything and everything to pursue the object of their immediate insanity.

Turin however, was unreal and otherworldly. Love at first sight, as it turns out, is possible when one travels. The entire city is a Baroque exhibitremnants of the old Savoy-ian wealth and grandeur expertly preserved throughout the centuries. What I saw only through documentaries and mama’s collected National Geographic clippings on Italy was suddenly all before me and it was overwhelming.

I visited two palaces turned museums: Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama, former homes of Turin’s fallen monarchs, the Savoys. I was also able to see the Shroud of Turin, as well as the Egyptian Museum. The most fun I’ve had however, was at the National Museum of Cinema. It was nirvana for a lover of film and imagery, as Maria Adriana Prolo’s collection was extensive and authentic. As souvenir, I bought a postcard of Audrey Hepburn to remind me to live an elegant life. The museum was housed inside the Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s “La Tour Eiffel”, and whose panoramic lift allowed me to see the entirety of the old city as well as the surrounding Italian Alps.

The various piazzas were moving displays of the typical Italian life. Street performers playing and dancing to classical music could be found in every corner. Water fountains with steel busts of a Bull bring forth an endless stream of perfectly potable mountain spring water. The street graffiti were incredibly poetic, calling one’s amore “alleluiyah” like it’s nothing.

The locals were never in a hurry. There was always time for a stroll or a chat with a friend and an Apéritif. The only hurried thing I saw was the drinking of coffee, as “café” automatically means “espresso” and is consumed right at the bar in one to two gulps. I ate authentic pizza and lasagna, and had Sauvignon blanc with dinner followed by a shot of espresso, and then a shot of Amarre. Oh, and I also had Gelato every day.

This visit was a privilege afforded to me at work, and it was a game-changer. Turin gave me something to aspire for. I was reminded of the dream of working at the UN level I had since university. Those dreams could be translated in to a concrete plan now, with a specific UN Agency in mind, and motivated further by the desire to live in this beautiful city.

Turin cleansed me of the  distractions that have been sabotaging my goals for months. I was made to realize the importance of letting go (of people, activities) even if we might like them very much. I realized further the value of one’s mental energy, and how necessary it is to choose one’s battles in order to make sure that we are investing ourselves properly.

Most importantly however, I realized that maybe I am good enough for this dream and that someday (a foreseeable someday), maybe I could make it.

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All photos were taken using an Oppo F1s+. My first full mobile photography set. 🙂 

SOLEDAD

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Adulthood so far has been a continuing journey of learning how to be alone, or more appropriately, how to be happy when alone.

Growing up has been marked by companionship. My first school was chosen because I had cousins who already go there, and could therefore keep an eye on me. Nanay is also always at every Kumon and violin lesson, every play date, camping and learning trips, extracurricular classes, everything.

This sheltered upbringing has been incredibly comfortable, but I was also robbed of independence. I was afforded with more freedom when I reached my teenage years, but somehow I rejected it. Life, since then, has been an unconscious, yet relentless, pursuit of relationships, friendships, and companionship.

The tables are starting to turn however. Nanay’s age is starting to catch up with her and I am starting to take on the caretaker role more and more each day. My friends are also feeling the sting of adulthood, and we have less time to get together and talk. And in a bid for independence, the boy I loved also decided to leave.

Travel however, has been my greatest teacher. Solo trips to Thailand and Italy has taught me the value of solitude. Being left alone to navigate foreign environments with people, languages, and cultures completely different from what I am used to are priceless experiences.

I have learned to be grateful for the opportunities to get to know myself better, what my likes and dislikes are, the extent of my capabilities, and how I respond to adversity.

These are growing pains that I have learned to love and actively seek. I learned that I could function and be happy on my own, and that the companionship that I used to yearn for could wait and that they come on their own anyway (and when they do, it feels much better).

Weightlessness is a treasure, a freedom not afforded to many. I realized that there are a multitude of things I would like to do on my own for now: career pursuits, personal improvement, adventure, further education, among others.

Suddenly, I am grateful for all the friendships that ended, for him leaving especially. I realized that maybe, he too needed to do things on his own at this time in our lives.

For now, I would like to be left in my lonesome, enjoy the weightlessness and be free to pursue the future I desire, full steam ahead.

LESSONS RECENTLY LEARNED BY A ROOKIE TRAVELER

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I leave for Europe in five days to visit Italy for the first time. This is another trip of many firsts: first long haul flight, first time to experience connecting flights, first time in Italy, and first time in Europe actually. And I am travelling alone again. 

I’ve had less than a month to prepare for this trip, and it’s been incredibly nerve-wracking. This post is a documentation of the unglamorous side of travel that I’ve discovered and learned from (still learning more) these past few weeks.

  1. Visa application is a chore. Over-prepare, do not cram, and most importantly, do not take it lightly.
  2. Take the time to really study the public transport system. Uber is not always available. Private transport is expensive.
  3. Plan out your accommodation properly. Things to consider: proximity to your itinerary, food places, airport, the transport system, WiFi, and the PRICE.
  4. Budget honey, look up the entrance fees for the museums you intend to visit, plan out where you’re gonna eat, take advantage of tourist transportation packages.
  5. Google translate is a gem. English is not as universal as they make it out to be. Also, studying the local language makes you more cultured.
  6. Waze and Google maps! Take screenshots! Prepare the physical maps as well.
  7. Wear a watch.
  8. You will have to invest in wardrobe. But this is a one-time thing, if you invest properly and take good care of everything.
  9. You will have to invest in luggage. But this is a one-time thing, if you invest properly and take good care of everything.
  10. Credit cards are a necessity, it turns out.
  11. Sew invisible pockets everywhere. 
  12. Have two toiletry bags. One for check in, one for your carry on.
  13. Newly discovered essentials: whistle key chain, mini flashlight, extension cord, universal travel adaptors, emergency numbers, extra copies of your travel documents (print and digital), monopod, water canteen, notebook and pen, and data package (tourist sim?).
  14. Those giant belts for luggage are a thing. Always have one.
  15. Don’t get distracted by picture-perfect instagrammers and their instagram posts. The glitz distracts you from the hard work prior to travel.

Right now I am all nervous-scared-excited-challenged. I look forward to, and am grateful for, all the adulting and growing up that this new territory will force me to do.

Future self, I know you are a much better traveler now, but take time to return to this post and remind yourself of some lessons forgotten, laugh at your naivete’, discover how far you’ve come and be grateful for the opportunity to literally journey through life.

TURNING 22 – BORACAY ISLAND

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I turned 22 in my grandmother’s hometown last May. It was a much needed change of pace, quite literally, as people there are able to walk slower and cars are able to drive a lot faster. For a week, I wasn’t forcing my brain and body to get up and properly function at 4:00 AM so as to not get caught in the maniacal traffic of Manila.

It was a much needed week away from work (which had become quite draining at that time). We had just wrapped up two conferences and most of us were still trying to get over the residual bitterness and trauma left by a toxic former colleague. The quality of my work and my work relationships were starting to suffer. I needed to get away and be reminded that there are other aspects of life.

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It was also a time for family. The last time I was able to visit was 12 years ago, and it was lovely to find that our extended family has grown quite a lot. I have new aunties and cousins that I needed to get to know. Talking to my cousins is always a fun experience as most of them don’t speak tagalog. My cousin Jullianah made it her mission to teach me Aklanon during our stay. She failed however, but mostly due to my hardheadedness.

I celebrated my actual birthday in the island of Boracay. I was a child the last time I visited and I was taken aback by how much a party city it has become. It is still beautiful however. The sand was powder white, and the ocean was startlingly blue. At sunset we were treated to a hundred shades of mermaid colors. There were green mountains at the distance, lined with hundreds of wind turbines. It was awe inspiring. God is the most incredible artist, and I am grateful for the opportunity to document the nuances of his creations.

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I finally got my tattoo in Boracay, my first and last. I’ve wanted to get this design on my wrist since I was sixteen, over my pulse, my lifeline. God is greater than all the highs and lows. The summary of my relationship with the Lord.

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My 21st year has been marked by people stuff. Friendships ending, truly toxic people, and challenging personalities. This year (and beyond) I promise not to sweat the people stuff, be more communicative and always come from a place of love and understanding. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. We can’t control people but we can control our response.

I also promise to get to know myself better this year, the strengths that needs to be reinforced, and the points for improvement that needs to be remedied. I also promise to work on my relationship with the Lord and get back to a place of complete dependence and trust.

I’m grateful to have a hometown. A place I can visit anytime healing becomes necessary. I’m grateful for family, for eyes that can see, and for the opportunity to document everything beautiful in this world.

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Photos taken using a Nikon D200 and an Oppo F1s+