Early Stages

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I am scared. He has everything to make me fall in love. I am terribly scared. 

 

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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…

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*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+ 

RAMBLINGS ON HARDWORK AND WOMANHOOD

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I had a meaningful conversation with an old friend two nights ago about her current struggles in university. We met two years ago when she was just a freshman and I was a junior. I was tasked to guide her in her application as member in our major’s organization and now she’s running as chairperson for the next school year.

Our conversation reminded me of another reason why we must always work hard no matter the circumstances. I realized that even though we work hard to please God and to achieve our goals, we must also work hard and persist for the people that watch us and consider us as role models. The drive and ambition I have now would not exist if I didn’t have people who succeeded by the skin of their teeth while I was growing up.

I was reminded specifically of female role models. Those who rose up against adversity and surpassed the limits placed upon them by society. My mother is a single parent by choice and she received a lot of judgement for that decision. People doubted her ability to provide and to parent, yet here I am today, a full grown adult who had a happy childhood.

Though I would never dream of single parenthood (I’m not strong enough), my mother, in a way, has broken a glass ceiling for me. She rose through the corporate ladder by her own merit, yet still was able to guide me and inculcate in me values that have become incredibly important now that I’m an adult (though of course these pangaral sessions were greatly unappreciated when I was a teenager). She defied the “either-or”, she showed me it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too.

We have to be strong and persistent through , for every woman that decides to do so creates a better world for the women that are yet to come.

LOBO BATANGAS 2017

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The second weekend of March was spent island hopping in Lobo, Batangas. One of my good friends from work grew up in the city and she kindly let me, and two other friends, explore the virgin beaches of her hometown. I’ll never forget the various shades of blue that the ocean had, the mountains that grow nothing but coconut trees, the limestone cliffs and boulders, and the fresh sea breeze that carried away all of the tension built up from staying in the city for far too long.

It was also a trip of many firsts. We slept on a tent by the beach the first night and caught the sunrise. We visited a mangrove forest and climbed up a tree house and also jumped into open ocean from a boulder for the very first time. It was trip that solidified friendships and built trust and openness.

Areas visited are:

  • Malagundi Point – Beach is made up of medium to large pebbles. Two flip flops died in this beach.
  • Simbahang Bato – Only accessible by boat. Beaches are lined with Limestone cliffs and rock formations that obviously used to be part of the seafloor centuries ago. The beach is a mixture of pebbles, broken corals, and sand.
  • Malabrigo Lighthouse – Visited for the sole purpose of exploring the lighthouse. The lighthouse used to be an outpost for Japanese soldiers during the second world war. It is said that the decapitated heads of murdered prisoners were thrown down the wells (now sealed) and the bodies off the cliff. Also, you have to climb 100 steps to get to the lighthouse.
  • Kastilyo – A shallow area full of large black boulders. This is where the mangrove rivers meet the ocean.

Below is a music video I made for the trip. The music used is CRED1X’s “Can’t Find You”. Footage was shot using the SJCAM SJ4000 and Oppo F1S+.

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Gotta say, the SJCam is made for videos but definitely not for photos.

HOME

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So far I have only written about the big moments: my travels, euphoric moments, and moments of defeat and sadness. However, it paints an incomplete picture of the life I want to document and preserve. The plateaus and days where nothing remarkable happens also deserve to be written about, for big moments emerge from the little ones that melt together. One should never neglect the little things.

Today I want to preserve a portrait of our home and everything that is lovely about it.

I moved out for two months in 2016 to be closer to work. If you live in Manila, you’d know how deadly the traffic could be and spending a minimum of four hours everyday traveling to and from work becomes physically and mentally exhausting at some point.

So I moved out, but I had to move back home for family (in the Philippines it’s completely normal for adults to continue living at home until they get married) which was devastating at first but it ended up being for the best. Though I enjoyed the freedom and independence associated with living on my own, I definitely missed being able to decorate as I pleased (I had roommates in the apartment I lived in), our dogs barking and playing, my nana and her lush garden, my little aromatherapy corner, the way the sun enters my room in the morning, and the home cooked meals.

I did not appreciate our home this much before I moved out. Indeed some distance allows us to realize what is truly important and how the things we take for granted end up being the things we cannot live without.

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